††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Tuesday, November 9, 2004 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: † We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of Marsh Lake Volunteer Fire Chief Dennis Levy
††††††† Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great honour today to rise and pay tribute on behalf of the entire House to the Marsh Lake Volunteer Fire Department Chief Dennis Levy and to congratulate him on his recent award.
††††††† At this yearís annual general meeting of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs in Saint Johnís, Newfoundland, Chief Levy was honoured with the award for the Canadian Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year. Nearly 300 of his peers from across the country acknowledged Dennis for his outstanding commitment and dedication to his community.
††††††† This is the first time a Yukoner has received this distinction, and I think we should all be very proud of his achievement. I know that Dennis would be the first to attribute his award of distinction to his entire volunteer fire team, and I, too, congratulate them for their efforts in the community.
††††††† As one of the founding members of the Marsh Lake Volunteer Fire Department in the late 1980s, Dennis has helped to build the department from the ground up and continues to contribute time and energy into the safety of the community.
††††††† His overall commitment to fire protection in the Yukon is equally commendable and is evident in his commitment as the president of the Association of Yukon Fire Chiefs.
††††††† Volunteer fire fighters are one of the most valuable and dedicated community resources; they give a remarkable amount of time and energy to their community. Not only do they spend time on-call, in response mode, and carrying out day-to-day business, they also dedicate countless hours toward training in structural fire fighting techniques, wildland fire suppression and in first aid.
††††††† I know that the residents in March Lake certainly appreciate the efforts of Dennis and his entire volunteer fire department for their hard work and the commitment to their community, and I join the fire marshal in extending this appreciation.
††††††† I wish Dennis well in his upcoming and well-deserved retirement from the position of fire chief at the end of November, and I am pleased to know that Dennis will remain an active member of the Marsh Lake Volunteer Fire Department to lend his support and 15 years of experience.
††††††† Mr. Speaker, I ask the Members of this Legislative Assembly to join me in welcoming Chief Dennis Levy and his wife Leslie. In addition, I would also like to introduce Fire Marshal Jack Holesworth, Whitehorse Fire Marshal Chief Clive Sparks, and the head of fire management, Ken Colbert.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
†Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
†Hon. Mr. Hart: † I have for tabling the 2003 annual report of the fire marshal.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to prepare an annual report to the Yukon Legislative Assembly on the state of Yukonís emergency preparedness and that the Emergency Measures Organization appear annually before the Legislature.
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the use of the B.C. VictimLINK help line does not adequately serve the interests of Yukon women and others in crisis, because it does not provide immediate crisis assistance; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to immediately honour its election platform to introduce and implement a territory-wide crisis line that will give counselling support 24 hours a day and will be staffed by trained people knowledgeable about the Yukon and its unique problems.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† First Nations, government relations with
Mr. Hardy: Yesterday I tabled a copy of a letter to the Premier from the TríondŽk HwŽchíin First Nation. From the replies I received, the Minister of Education was apparently unaware of the content of the letter, even though it involved negotiations with the First Nation around education.
The minister has had a day to read the letter, so Iíll try to get some reasonable answers from them today, because I didnít yesterday.
Does the minister intend to honour the TríondŽk HwŽchíin Self-Government Agreement and the workplan for negotiating education responsibilities with the First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: My position has not changed from yesterday. I understand that negotiations are in progress. If anyone on this floor or outside of this House believes that negotiations are like walking on a paved highway or a golden road, then Iím here to tell you that there will be disagreements through the negotiations. Itís a normal process. No one I know of has ever gone into negotiations and had a clear sailing walk in the sunshine.
Mr. Hardy: That was a fairly weak answer. I feel sorry for the minister opposite if thatís the way he thinks all negotiations work, because I can tell you that they donít. Yesterday and today the minister called the agreement a work in progress and said he was not prepared to discuss an issue that is in process on the floor of this House. Surely he wasnít serious. Weíre asking about honouring an agreement that is finished, completed, signed, sealed, but obviously not delivered yet.
The minister also said that this government does not break promises. If a signed agreement isnít a promise, then what is it? Will the minister now instruct his officials to retract the restrictions they have put on the negotiations with the TríondŽk HwŽchíin and follow the workplan that has been agreed to?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe itís within order to make comment that maybe the member opposite does know what it means not to negotiate, because they didnít negotiate. There were many years of opportunity for both governments on the other side of the House to begin this negotiation process with not only this First Nation but with all the other First Nations that have signed agreements.
In my opinion, this government is the one that has taken the lead in this issue. For example, this government came forward with funding for the TríondŽk HwŽchíin, which the federal government did not do. This government has demonstrated good faith; we are committed to making the negotiations work.
We have already funded the TríondŽk HwŽchíin† $80,000 to assist in their research. We have also committed another $50,000. If that isnít demonstrating good faith by this government, then I donít know what could constitute that.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Hardy: I would like to remind the minister that negotiations arenít all about money and giving money and expecting to buy people off. Now, a typical response that weíve heard in this House many times from this minister and the Premier and the others is to blame others, blame former governments, but not accept ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: On a point of order, the government House Leader.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, upon reflection on what the member opposite is questioning, ďbuy people offĒ is totally out of order.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, the government House leader is wrong. The leader of the official opposition accused nobody of doing such a thing. He merely stated a principle. He believed it was wrong to do that.
Speaker: I would ask the membersí indulgence. I will review the Blues and get back to you tomorrow.
The leader of the official opposition has the floor.
Mr. Hardy: As I was saying, it is very typical of this government to blame others, such as former governments, but not accept responsibility for the situations theyíre in today, not 10 or 15 years ago. Now how many more bridges does this minister plan to burn? The Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation is in an uproar over the ministerís take-it-or-leave-it attitude. That is his responsibility. The Na Cho Nyšk Dun First Nation is waiting for a response to concerns about education they expressed in a report months ago. Champagne-Aishihik is talking about its own immersion program. The Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations ó yes, Mr. Speaker, Iíll get to the question, but this is endless.
Now, has it been part of this governmentís agenda to provoke First Nations? Is that part of the agenda? Is that the message that this minister and this government is trying to put forward by moving along this collision course with First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I donít agree with the member oppositeís opinion. I think itís out in la-la land somewhere. I believe that this government is committed and will remain committed to work with First Nations, Mr. Speaker. Weíve demonstrated that more than once.
Itís like I said earlier: negotiations are a difficult process. The negotiations are between this government and the TríondŽk HwŽchíin. The negotiations will take place in Dawson, with all parties in agreement.
Again, I believe that this is an issue that is work in progress, and I do not and will not discuss a negotiation process on the floor of this House.
Question re: First Nations, government relations with
†Mr. McRobb: Yesterday the Yukon government issued a news release about todayís resource expo on aboriginal energy and resource development in Vancouver. The release contained some rather bold statements about how well this government is promoting the territoryís resources, including oil and gas. This government used the release as an opportunity to boast about how it is forming unique partnerships with First Nations toward achieving opportunities.
Can the Acting Premier reconcile that message with Chief Skookumís pronouncement that he is prepared to travel outside of the territory to various oil and gas conferences and expose this government for its failure to work honestly with First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Our governmentís commitment to restoring investor confidence here in the Yukon, rebuilding the Yukon economy and working with First Nation partners in this initiative is demonstrated across the Yukon.
You can only look at the current statistics about the current unemployment rate, the growth in population and the number of people in the workforce today. In fact, there is a labour shortage here in the Yukon.
In answer to the question that the member poses, we are working with our First Nation partners in developing the Yukonís economy, and oil and gas is part of the equation.
Mr. McRobb: Itís amazing how this government continually finds ways to demonstrate the attitude that it knows best. The release quoted the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources as saying these relationships, based on mutual respect and cooperation, open the door to many opportunities and without them the Yukon would not be able to advance economically. Those were his words.
Why is this government ignoring the concerns of Chief Skookum, who has warned that he is prepared to go to Outside conferences and speak the truth?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Speak the truth, Mr. Speaker ó I am very uncomfortable with the imputed accusation that the member opposite is suggesting.
What is demonstrated clearly by our government is that we are working on a government-to-government basis with First Nations across the Yukon Territory. Yes, as the member has pointed out correctly, there is not 100-percent agreement on 100 percent of the issues 100 percent of the time, but there has been a demonstrated effort on the part of our government to move forward in a collaborative way with our First Nation partners here in developing the Yukon economy, and that is amply demonstrated in a number of ways across the Yukon today. It is manifesting itself in more jobs for all Yukoners, more opportunities for all Yukoners, a better standard of living for all Yukoners, and that bodes well for the accomplishments of our party.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I think there is something else that has been manifesting, Mr. Speaker. Now, this government is notorious for talking over people and ignoring their concerns. Instead, it recites prepared messages that pat itself on the back. Take the Carmacks school issue: weíve witnessed how quickly this government let that issue spread from an easily snuffable brush fire into a wildfire that threatens much more.
The Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations has also expressed concerns about the escalating relationship problems and how they donít bode well for our ability to move forward in a cooperative way. Today, Chief Skookum called upon all Yukon First Nation chiefs to expose this governmentís misleading message. What does this government intend to do about correcting the misleading message it is giving Outside investors, or will it continue to ignore the concerns of Yukoners? Which one is it?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, there is no misleading message. There is a very firm commitment on the part of our government to move forward on a number of initiatives and in a multitude of areas with First Nation governments on a government-to-government basis. That has been clearly demonstrated by our government and, Mr. Speaker, we will continue on that same initiative in the same manner as we are currently proceeding. This is an area that we have recognized was stalling the Yukonís economy and stalling the development potential of this tremendous area called Yukon, and we want to leave something for our children ó all of our children ó and that means that we have to have an economy.
Question re: Emergency preparedness of schools
†Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the Minister of Education, and it concerns the emergency plans that are in place in our schools. First and foremost, I fully support ensuring emergency preparedness in our Yukon schools. I am deeply concerned, however, by an article that appeared Wednesday, November 3, in the Yukon News, and I am filing a copy of the article with the Clerk.
The article outlines the lockdown emergency drill. It states in part: ďThe teachers gather all students in the classroom, make sure they are accounted for and, if possible, lock the door. Then the curtains are drawn, the lights are turned off and they are to ignore any noise or call of alarm in the hallways.Ē
I received several calls from parents who are not happy about this form of lockdown drill, especially for elementary school students. Fortunately, the principals and other parents I have spoken with donít seem to practise the drills in this way; however, I would like to publicly reassure the parents who have called and school council members who have read the article. Will the Minister of Education commit publicly that lockdown drills in the way they are described will not be practised in Yukon elementary schools until such time as they have been reviewed with school principals and with school councils? Will the minister make that public commitment?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I will not make that commitment here today. I think the safety of the children is paramount in any school. Far too often the public at large ó the people involved with the children ó act after the fact. Itís very disheartening to listen to news across the country of people who walk into a school and shoot people. Those issues are real. They are as real as we are standing on the floor of this Legislature. At a time when people believe that it will never ever happen in their community, itís possible that it will. I think the administration is acting in the best interests of the children, and thatís the end of all I have to say with regard to this issue.
Ms. Duncan: I would encourage the minister to listen to the question. I fully support the emergency drills. My concern is the way in which these lockdown drills are being described. The article that describes the lockdown drills would have small children hiding in a darkened room behind locked doors and ignoring noises or alarms that they might hear. Thatís a frightening scenario for adults, let alone small children.
We live in a frightening world. We want to ensure that our children are well-prepared, that there is safety and there is emergency preparedness for our students.
At the high school level the students are very well-drilled and prepared in lockdown procedures. The lockdown exercises are not conducted the way they are outlined for the high schools. The lockdown procedures are not conducted the way they are outlined in some elementary schools.
All I am asking the minister to do is review with school principals and school councils the way the lockdown drill is conducted. I am asking him specifically to review the way the lockdown drill is conducted. Parents are very concerned about the manner in which the lockdown drills have been outlined in the public media. Thatís a fair question.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: For the member opposite, the EMO guidelines and procedures were developed in consultation with the RCMP.
I remember when I was a child and we had to do earthquake drills ó earthquake drills, of all things ó in the public school in Atlin. Itís all for prevention of people being hurt when something does happen unexpectedly. If there had been an earthquake, at least we would have known what we were supposed to do. Had those drills not occurred, we would never have known.
So this is all about preparing children for an emergency. Thatís all it is.
Ms. Duncan: It is not just about preparing the children; itís about how we do it. A local, noted criminologist had this to say about this form of lockdown drill, and I quote: ďI think we are taking really young children and instilling fear in them that can be really counterproductive to their psychological development.Ē
There is no evidence presented that the way these lockdown drills are being conducted is helpful to the children and prepares them. There is evidence that it is harmful. All I am asking the minister to do is two things, and they are very reasonable: will he review the way the lockdown drills are being conducted with the school councils and the school principals, and will he stop this draconian form of lockdown drills until that consultation has taken place?
Look at the way we are doing it. I fully support preparing our children. I donít support this way of doing it, and I donít think school councils do either.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again, I state that everyone is entitled to their opinion on whether something works or something doesnít work. I remind the member opposite that maybe her opinion is not always the right one. Students are always prepared for these drills and are made aware that the purpose of all and any drill prepared for them is in case there is an emergency. Thatís the important thing here.
I would challenge the member opposite to go to the school herself and tell everyone in the administration, ďYouíre doing things wrong here; Iíll tell you what to do here and what will make it better.Ē
This process, again, was put in place by EMO guidelines ó Emergency Measures Organization. I do not believe that I have the authority or better knowledge than qualified people in this area to go and tell them to change their plan, that it does not work.
Question re: Climate change
†Mrs. Peter: My question today is for the Minister of Environment. Yesterday the Arctic Council released a report entitled Impacts of a Warming Arctic: Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, which details how the Arctic is experiencing some of the most rapid and severe climate change on earth. Most of this change can be attributed to a tremendous increase in greenhouse gases. Most of these greenhouse gass=es are the result of the use of fossil fuels. Yet this government is falling all over itself to open up the Yukon to oil and gas development.
In light of this report, what is the minister telling his colleague, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, about the importance of renewable energy and the folly of increased reliance on fossil fuels?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite makes a very good point. There is a global warming that is taking place in our northern climates and in our southern climates. Itís caused by, in part, the use of fossil fuels by our southern neighbours and the industrialized world, including China, which has seen a tremendous increase in fossil fuels.
But the issue here is: how does Yukon deal with it? I would invite the member to make recommendations, because it is not just about global warming; it is about lifestyles everywhere, but the major impact is taking place right here in the north, Mr. Speaker, and in the southern Antarctic regions, and it is causing major melting of ice and major changes in climatic conditions.
Mrs. Peter: We made recommendations, and they have been ignored. We in the opposition have tried in the past without success to get the Yukon government to publicly commit to the implementation of the Kyoto accord. We have tried ó with no success ó to get the minister to take a clear position on absolutely no drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The minister refuses to take the issue seriously and waltzes around all the questions. Is the minister prepared to take the issue of climate change more seriously than he did the drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Kyoto?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is wrong on both of the assumptions she advanced here in the Legislature. With respect to Kyoto, Canada is a signatory to that agreement. With respect to the drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, this Legislature is on record ó on two occasions that I can recall ó as opposing drilling in those lands. Now that is a clear message that has come from this Legislature by way of two motions, and they were supported by all parties ó our party included ó and our position has not changed one iota, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, the reality is that global warming is having a tremendous effect on the land and on the animals in the north. First Nations have always known that fact. It is other governments that have been waiting for confirmation of global warming from scientists. The Premier in Charlottetown yesterday stated that climate change would bring the focus of southern Canadians to the north.
With that focus comes expectations. What specific resources is the minister prepared to commit to climate change, and how is the minister going to demonstrate leadership on this issue?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I will share with the member opposite and this House an excerpt: ďTimes of caribou scarcity were often accompanied by great human hardship. Records and oral accounts suggest that periods of caribou scarcity in North America coincided with periods of climate change.Ē
What that points out is that climate change is an ever-evolving situation and to the extent that it currently has accelerated, itís not unlike what has transpired in the past. With respect to the overall situation, most of it is predicated by what transpires in the industrialized southern parts and the effect is felt here. I believe our Premier has done a good job of raising awareness of the situation, and weíll look forward to hearing further as to how we will be dealing with this matter. But it is a major issue; it is a major concern, and global warming is a reality today. Itís impacting north of the 60th parallel and the southern hemisphere.
Speaker: Order please.
Prior to the member asking his question, the Chair is noticing a tendency for members to speak out while another member is speaking, and I would please ask that you respect the membersí rights while they are speaking.
Question re: Whitehorse Copper land development
†Mr. Cardiff: For the past two years, this government has failed to listen to and take seriously the concerns of residents in the south end of Whitehorse around the Whitehorse Copper land development. There have been many complaints since the start of the project that the environmental assessment process was tainted and that the outcome was predetermined. Residents havenít been satisfied with the answers they received, and they feel many of the issues have not been adequately addressed. Just last week, this governmentís own officials revealed that conducting a new environmental assessment would likely result in a different outcome. The Deputy Premier has briefed the minister, and maybe the minister could tell us whether or not he and the Deputy Premier share his officialsí publicly stated concern that a new environmental assessment would have a different outcome? If he does agree with that, would he commit to holding one?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The development in the area of Whitehorse Copper has been underway for almost 10 years. Officially, it came on-line in 1997 and it was approved in 1999. We went through the process of several consultations within that community and it was approved under the city plan in November of 2000.
So theyíve gone through the process and it is in the official city plan for that development to take place. The City of Whitehorse has asked us to develop that area and we have done so at their request.
Mr. Cardiff: I hope he listens to what the city has to say in the next little while.
A lot of what the minister has said ó what he left out was the fact that, in the last two years, this minister and this government havenít listened.
Last week, Whitehorse City Council held an open meeting with concerned residents of the area to listen to and discuss their concerns. The very next day, at the insistence of the Yukon government, a closed meeting about the project was held with the City of Whitehorse and the ministerís officials.
The question is: what is the government trying to hide by keeping the public in the dark and having a closed meeting?
Hon. Mr. Hart: That meeting was set up long, long before the next day, as he retorts. It was an arrangement with the city whereby they would visit with the area in question, and the next day would be set up for us to have a discussion on those events. There was nothing on that particular aspect.
We provided a YEA process on the development and we made that available on the Web site, and it is there for everyone to look at. We provided that information to the city; itís up to them to carry it forward.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the minister didnít answer the question. What are they trying to hide? What is the agenda? Why do they have to meet behind closed doors with the City of Whitehorse?
I attended the city council meeting and I listened to my constituents last night. I listened to what city councillors had to say. One city councillor characterized YTGís message in that meeting as a ďthreatĒ. This seems to be an increasingly common way for this government to deal with anyone who raises questions or dares to disagree with this governmentís actions.
The examples ó as we know, our time is limited, but my colleagues have pointed them out. The examples are too numerous to mention in the short time that I have available, so I will ask the question: will the government now retract its threats to the City of Whitehorse and ensure that it deals with the city and the concerned residents in the south end of Whitehorse and all residents of Whitehorse in a fair and open manner?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, we are not threatening anyone. Secondly, we have done what weíve done. Weíve gone through the process of that particular area. We provided an environmental screening of that project, the first one ever of its kind in the Yukon. Weíve had consultation meetings with the members of that community. We have done everything that we possibly can with regard to that development.
We have acted on behalf of the city; they have asked us to go in there. That area is designated as country residential in the official city plan. It is there. That particular area has been consulted on previously over the past 10 years in that particular area. We are in that area because the City of Whitehorse has asked us to go in there and develop that area on their behalf and that is exactly what we have done.
††††††† Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of government private membersí business
††††††† Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), Iíd like to identify the items standing in the name of the government private members to be called on Wednesday, November 10, 2004. They are Motion No. 335, standing in the name of the Member for Southern Lakes, and Motion No. 333, standing in the name of the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 48: Second Reading
††††††† Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 48, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Fentie.
††††††† Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that Bill No. 48, entitled Act to Amend the Elections Act, be now read a second time.
††††††† Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Health and Social Services that Bill No. 48, entitled Act to Amend the Elections Act, be now read a second time.
††††††† Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The purpose of this bill is to amend the Elections Act in accordance with the recommendations made to the House by the Chief Electoral Officer. Those recommendations are to be found in the report of the Chief Electoral Officer that was tabled by the Speaker in November 2003.
Prior to finalizing that report, the Chief Electoral Officer met with representatives of the registered political parties in July 2003 to discuss the issues under consideration regarding the conduct of elections. Those issues included incarcerated individuals voting, election financing, proxy voting and the use of special ballots.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to make it clear that the intent of this bill is to fully implement all the changes recommended by the Chief Electoral Officer. The government has not omitted anything recommended by the Chief Electoral Officer. The government has not added anything to that recommendation. The government has not modified the provisions of this amending act in any way that does not provide a true reflection of the recommendation of the Chief Electoral Officer.
A major change being made in this amending bill is to permit all incarcerated individuals held in Yukon correctional facilities ó not just those on remand ó to vote in elections of members to the Yukon Legislative Assembly. This recommendation is the result of the Supreme Court decision in October 2002 to overturn the provisions of the Canada Election Act denying incarcerated individuals the right to vote. At the federal level, all incarcerated individuals in any correctional institute in this country are now entitled to exercise their franchise at federal elections. As the Chief Electoral Officer states ó and I quote from the report: ďThe ruling of the Supreme Court cannot be ignored, and the restriction on voting by certain prisoners in Yukon facilities, including those in young offenders facilities, should now be removed.Ē
This bill removes those restrictions on incarcerated persons voting in our elections. A consequence of doing so is that incarcerated individuals will also be eligible under the Elections Act to put their names forward as candidates in the Yukon elections.
Mr. Speaker, two general elections have been held under the expanded election financing provisions that relate to candidates and political parties. The Chief Electoral Officer has stated in previous reports tabled in this Legislature that the current provision are not satisfactory and do not require compliance with the act. The intention of the amendments put forward in this bill is to ensure that registered political parties and candidates have a better understanding of reporting financial requirements and that they will comply with those requirements.
Mr. Speaker, this bill also addresses the difficulty faced by some electors who live in areas of Yukon that do not have road or postal service access. They will be given the opportunity to vote by proxy if they should so wish.
The process being put in place will allow them to register with the Chief Electoral Officer at any time prior to the issue of the writ for an election. At that time, they will name another elector to be the proxy voter at a future election. They will also be able to give permission to a candidate for a registered political party to obtain a proxy voter on their behalf.
This bill also amends the Election Act to permit electors who know that they will be absent during the advance poll and on polling day to apply to vote by special ballot at any time following the issue of the writ. Until now, such electors could not apply to vote by special ballot until after the advance poll. The use of special ballots is also being extended to include electors who are in hospitals and correctional facilities during a by-election. Those electors will now be able to vote if they are qualified to do so in the electoral district for which the by-election is taking place. These changes will ensure that fewer electors are disenfranchised by the administrative requirements of the Elections Act.
There are a number of other amendments in this bill. Many of them are for the purpose of improving miscellaneous administrative procedures. For example, one will permit returning officers, with the approval of the Chief Electoral Officer, to locate returning offices outside their electoral district when suitable office space is not available in their electoral districts. Others will correct provisions in other acts, including the Legislative Assembly Act and the Education Act that relate to the Elections Act. This government believes that these amendments fully respond to the Chief Electoral Officerís recommendations, and I urge all members of the House to give this bill their full support.
Mr. Hardy: As the minister has indicated, many of these amendments to the Elections Act are housekeeping, and a lot of them are to bring about conformity to the Elections Act itself.
Some of the points that the minister has made, I believe, are quite good; some of the changes that are made are quite good. The rights of incarcerated individuals to still be able to exercise their democratic right and cast a ballot is, I think, one that I can support.
However, as with any changes, you always have to ask the question: what other rights does that entail now? What other abilities does that allow for the person who is incarcerated? In this case, it is the example that was given. Does that mean also that they are allowed to run in any elections that show up? Are they able to get time outside of their incarceration to be able to campaign? Many questions are asked about that. Iíve already heard people bring those issues up. I would like to hear the minister expand upon the expanded rights of incarcerated individuals.
Current financial provisions and bringing them into compliance with the act is something that obviously should happen and is expected to happen. Again, itís an amendment; again, itís something that we are recognizing the government is doing its housekeeping on.
Voting by proxy ó now, proxies are interesting, Mr. Speaker. Often proxies do serve a purpose in ensuring that people are able to vote where they may not be able to attend the poll to cast that ballot. Having someone vote in their place is one method to use, but it also carries some challenges. That is to ensure that the proxy vote, of course, is a legitimate vote and itís not being tampered with in any way, shape or form. Those are the concerns that weíve always had. Proxies have been around in the past and there have been concerns raised.
Special ballots, of course, as well, have been used in the past and they also create a challenge.
But there are many, many other aspects of the Elections Act that may need to be looked at as well.
Again, as we said in the past, we believe this government could have done so much more in so many other areas. What theyíve brought forward is so shallow and so much housekeeping during a legislative sitting when you expect, I would say, substantive amendments as well as new bills brought forward. We donít see it.
Now thereís one section here that jumped out when I was just paging through the amendments ó Section 78(c) ó in that thereís an omission or not an allowance for Yukon government employees to be on the boundaries commission. We live in a small territory. When you say Yukon government employees, I think youíre talking close to roughly 3,500 to 4,000 people who are not allowed to participate on this commission. Iím not sure if that in itself is a good decision.
I wait for the minister to explain that insertion and give the reasons for denying that large group of our population the opportunity to participate on the commission. Itís a serious concern. We donít have a huge population. Itís not like we have a lot of people to draw from for commissions, boards or committees. This government is obviously very challenged in finding people to sit on boards and committees. Weíve witnessed it by their excuses for some of the people theyíve been putting on the boards and committees very recently, and the excuse weíre hearing is to find the appropriate person, the skilled person.
Well, I can assure you that Iíve never heard that argument used before by other governments. Theyíve reached out to all people of the territory and ensured theyíve had an opportunity to pull from all people to put on any kind of committee that is needed and havenít done it selectively, based upon obviously a very selective process that this Yukon Party government wants to identify people for. Now youíre eliminating, of course, Yukon government employees from this one. Thatís substantive.
That again is maybe denying very qualified and very good people with a passion for this type of legislation to be part of that commission. So I do have a concern about that, and I look forward to the government explaining that. There are other concerns in regard to the Elections Act, and we will get into them further down the road on this. I want to ensure that other people have a chance to respond to this.
Like many of the bills, of course, that have already been brought forward, we are finding that they are not overly well thought out, and we would have liked to have seen the government do a lot more work and bring forward something a little bit more substantive and more thorough so that we could have informed debate on this.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Act to Amend the Elections Act, Bill No. 48, before us is symptomatic of the Yukon Party agenda. They havenít done their homework on this particular bill. The consultation that the minister did was not enough. It was completely insufficient. What happened was that there was a luncheon with the Chief Electoral Officer, at which one of the registered political parties was not present. That is it. The political parties did not have an opportunity to review the draft legislation, as has happened previously. The previous report on the all-party committee with the Chief Electoral Officer ó the 1997 report ó was substantially discussed with the parties. There was substantial work done by the parties, and I can recall the individuals present. Particularly around campaign financing, there were many meetings, many discussions. There were many meetings, many discussions with all the political parties around before the Electoral District Boundaries Commission was formed. And as I said, the political parties did not see the draft legislation.
I do not believe the fault for that rests with the Chief Electoral Officer; it rests with the government. Itís the governmentís responsibility to ensure that legislation is well-crafted and meets with the support of political parties.
Another symptom of this bill and the Yukon Party not doing their homework is that there is complete lack of innovation or any discussion of innovation. This bill has sat on the Order Paper since we were recalled to the Legislature, and it was tabled in late October. Since then we have also had a bill tabled by the official opposition that addresses the issue of electoral reform and legislative reform. It may be ó miracles do happen ó that in a full and fair discussion of the official oppositionís bill and that discussion of electoral reform, there may be suggested changes to the Elections Act. There may be a discussion on the floor of this Legislature about such concepts as electronic voting; but there is no innovation in this bill and there is no room for innovation in that it is now on the Order Paper and anticipated for Committee of the Whole debate this afternoon and speedy passage by the Legislature.
I would suggest that it is incumbent upon all of us to allow this bill to sit on the Order Paper. No harm, no foul. To the best of all of our knowledge and statements by the members opposite, weíre not facing an election in the spring. There is no harm in this sitting on the Order Paper and giving parties an opportunity to look at it, sitting on the Order Paper while we fully and fairly debate innovations proposed by others. Who knows? There may be others coming forward.
I would like to suggest that we do that: allow this bill to sit on the Order Paper. I am fully prepared to debate it in Committee of the Whole. I have some questions around one provision in particular, the prisoner voting. Not all provinces have immediately changed their legislation. This is a Supreme Court ruling. I understand that. There are questions around the candidacy of prisoners. There are also issues that are not clear to me from reading the bill as to whether or not prisoners who may be sentenced to a term outside the territory would vote in a Yukon election or would vote in the provincial election in which they are serving their time.
The finances ó it was a recommendation in 1997. It may be cumbersome to enforce. Iím concerned that when it actually comes down to dealing with the housekeeping of an election that perhaps the way itís drafted ó given that all parties and the volunteers who will be administering it havenít had an opportunity to go through ó they may not be as comfortable with the changes as suggested.
I believe they should have the opportunity to take a look at it, and I have no difficulty with the housekeeping changes proposed with regard to section 408.
With that being said, I am prepared to debate this bill in Committee of the Whole this afternoon. I would ask that all members give consideration to debate of this bill and also consideration to allowing this bill to sit on the Order Paper until next spring session.
Mr. McRobb: I have a few comments I would like to put on the record. My relation with the Elections Act started rather in turmoil. You may recall I had to take the elections office to court for my name to stand on the ballot. That would be September 1996. Fortunately we overcame that battle. That was the first of many and, due to the good graces of the electorate in the Kluane region, Iím still here today, trying to serve their interests.
In that regard, I recall one of the main issues from the past election was problems relating to the enumeration and the voters list. Iíve had an opportunity, while the others have spoken, to quickly review the act and I was not able to spot any clauses that relate to any of those concerns. So if that is indeed the case, Iím wondering why the concerns of the voters in the past election have escaped this governmentís attention.
People in the Kluane riding and several other ridings in the territory were rather suddenly disappointed on election day, after showing up at the polling stations, to find out their name was not on the list.
There were several people ó long-time Yukoners, members of the Yukon Order of Pioneers, people who have grown up in the territory and raised kids here ó who were not allowed to vote. There is something wrong with the system when we see those examples.
We know that enumerators are maybe not paid to the level they should be. Some enumerators are new arrivals in our communities and regions. Under such circumstances, one can expect that new enumerators will miss people within a region whom they are tallying up to put on the voters list. That is to be expected. But there needs to be an escape clause where such people who fall between the cracks, due to no fault of their own, can exercise their ability to vote. It is their democratic right. If the Yukon Party feels differently, I invite it to stand up and put its concerns and its position on the record.
I am really wondering why this government has missed the boat on this matter, because there were plenty of people who were really disappointed and who werenít allowed to exercise their democratic right ó from Watson Lake to Beaver Creek to Dawson City to Ross River. All over the Yukon people were disappointed.
So that was the main concern expressed in the past election. Check the news transcripts, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure that will be proven. Here we are amending the Elections Act. Itís probably the only opportunity during the term of this Yukon Party government to make changes to the act, and here we discover that the most important concerns expressed during the election are missing.
Now, Mr. Speaker, why is that? Why havenít the concerns of Yukoners and past weaknesses in the legislation been identified and rolled up among the many amendments to this bill? And there are quite a few clauses that are being amended in this bill. I would venture to say there are dozens of clauses that are being amended. To my attention, not one of them deals with the problems related to enumeration and the problems experienced by many people about how their vote was taken away from them due to such circumstances.
So I think the government, the Acting Premier over there, the MLA for Klondike, needs to respond to these matters up front in his second reading summation. And, Mr. Speaker, if indeed these important factors have escaped the attention of this government, then we need to know that before voting on this bill, because I believe those factors will heavily influence the way I cast my vote, and I know my colleagues here are also concerned about the importance of these factors to their constituents.
So if the Acting Premier would indulge us, I would like him to address these weaknesses in the bill.
Mr. Cathers: It gives me pleasure today to rise on Bill No. 48, Act to Amend the Elections Act. I have enjoyed hearing comments from members opposite, although I must say that I am a little puzzled and somewhat disappointed that they seem to be concentrating more on what is a persistent theme from the members opposite of trying to suggest that this government should be tabling a whole bunch of new laws. That certainly appears to be the Liberal and the NDP agenda. This government has taken the position very clearly that we believe the Yukon has quite a number of laws in place. Weíre in favour of good legislation, of legislation where it is needed, but we want to get the laws right.
We do not feel that the Yukon is lacking in having enough laws. The Yukon laws fill up seven volumes, which take up about that much space on a bookshelf. The regulations take up almost another two shelves and the policies in place have never been catalogued in one place to my knowledge ó in fact, I know they have never been all catalogued in one place ó and no one even knows how many pages we have.
So the question that some constituents have discussed with me is a question of interest, which weíll never know the answer to, but how many pages of legislation, regulations and policy are there per Yukoner? We donít need to rush out and fill the pages of Hansard for the purpose of tabling new laws, as members opposite have urged us to do. Weíve heard consistently in this session them criticizing us that we have 30 days in a fall sitting so they think we ought to be tabling enough new laws to fill those 30 days with debate.
Mr. Speaker, as youíre aware, there was a dispute in the spring session. The House leaders could not reach agreement on the number of days for the spring and the fall sittings, so it automatically defaulted to 30 days in each sitting, but what the government was asking for was 40 days in the spring to debate the largest budget tabled in Yukon history, and 20 days in the fall sitting. We made it very clear to the members opposite that we felt that would be the appropriate division of time, considering the extremely large budget that had been tabled and the fact that we did not feel there would be a large amount of legislation.
Now instead what we saw were the members opposite spending a lot of their limited time in the spring sitting focusing on dragging up issues from ó I think the term I was about to use is probably unparliamentary, so I would say dragging up issues that didnít have much relevance to what I would submit the facts are, and it was not a very productive use of their time. We saw in the closing days of the spring sitting where we were passing millions of dollars an hour without debate because the members opposite were demonstrating a failure to debate the publicís business. They did not bring forward a single amendment to the budget, which they had full ability to do in Committee of the Whole ó not one single amendment. Yet they voted against it.
If they had a problem with it, where was the problem with it and why did they not make that amendment? They didnít have amendments. They just oppose for the sake of opposing. Thatís the conclusion that I draw and thatís the conclusion that Iíve heard from constituents who paid attention, because if they had a problem, why didnít they propose an amendment? There is the ability for any member of this House, during Committee of the Whole on the budget, to propose amendments, to propose moving money from one area to another and reallocating those funds. They didnít make any proposed amendments, they just voted against it.
For the Act to Amend the Elections Act, this government took the recommendations received from the Chief Electoral Officer, the person who has the most familiarity with the system from running it and who comes from an impartial point of view. These are recommendations from the Chief Electoral Officer on where we should make changes to make the system work better and to make it fairer. We brought forward those amendments and intend to pass them.
††††††† The leader of the opposition seems to be suggesting that we bring forward more. I heard the same thing from the leader of the third party. What do they want us to change? They want some big, massive change to our whole democratic process? We have a system that works, by and large, fairly well. There are areas that could certainly be improved.
††††††† The Member for Kluane brought forward concerns about the enumeration process. Enumeration is something that I know from experience, from being involved in territorial and federal elections and talking to people whoíve had far more experience in that than I do, that there is always a problem with enumeration. For federal elections, the federal government went to a permanent voters list with the intent of saving money on enumerations whereby under the new system, if you check the box on your income tax form, you are included on the permanent voters list. Instead of doing a massive and expensive enumeration process each time, they now have targeted enumerations where they know there has been a new subdivision development, for example, in a riding. Otherwise they rely on people coming in and doing revisions. That system has had its success, and it has also had its flaws. There are some people who are advocating getting rid of the permanent voters list and moving back to the old process of enumeration because of the huge percentage of flaws and voters missed from the federal permanent voters list or registered in the wrong area.
I would not for one minute suggest that there is no way that enumeration could be improved in the Yukon, but itís easy to stand here in the House and say, ďWeíve got to improve enumeration.Ē Well, how are you going to do it? At what cost? How do you make the process happen? Those are issues that I would certainly welcome hearing on from members opposite.
If the Member for Kluane has some substantive way by which he feels that the enumeration process could be improved, I would be more than happy to consider that suggestion and its merits and its downfalls, perhaps. But I donít hear that; all I hear is criticism from there. Hopefully, the Member for Kluane will bring this forward in Committee of the Whole. I guess we will have to see whether he does that, but I am suspicious that we will not see any amendments or proposals from the Member for Kluane on how to make the system better. We will just hear complaints about how members on this side of the House are not doing enough to make the system better, while he has no suggestions on what we ought to be doing.
Another thing that I heard in debate from the leader of the opposition is, again, the consistent theme that weíve heard of criticism of people whom this government has appointed to boards and committees. In this speech at this time, the leader of the opposition did not name names, as he has in the past, but there have been a number of people who have had their names dragged around through the Leegislature by the opposition, who have been criticized for allegedly having connections to the Yukon Party or for having been former members of this Legislative Assembly and appointed.
This is something that is not new in Yukon politics. There is frequently criticism by different political parties of the government in power for appointing people who are perceived as having connections to the government. Certainly, itís something that we have heard before, but I believe that it has sunk to a new level from the opposition and from the Liberals.
I find it of concern that we have this new habit within our system of apparently hearing the opposition trash-talking people who are appointed to boards and committees. These are people who either volunteer to serve, to spend that time in the public service, for either no remuneration or little remuneration. They are giving up their time to try to make the Yukon a better place and to serve the public.
Many of these people, of course, have been involved with public service in some way, with one political party or another or many different facets because they are involved in the community. And to get involved in the community, there are many different ways to do that, but all of them end up having some connection to something, to some board, to some committee ó usually or often, at some point, to a political party, if they have been involved in any capacity in working in assisting on election campaigns, or in running themselves and offering to serve for public service.
But if we get in the situation where any time a Yukoner is willing to put their name forward to try to make this territory a better place, the members of this Legislature stand up and start dragging their names through the mud, who is going to want to serve on the boards and committees?
We had the appointment recently of a former member of this House, Mr. Dan Lang, who was elected more times as an MLA than anyone else in Yukon history. It was obviously made clear by his constituents, by the fact that he was elected so many times, that they felt he did a good job. He has tremendous familiarity with the Yukon College and the board to which he was appointed, and was instrumental in setting up the institution, in providing them with their endowment lands ó a tremendous, tremendous record of public service. In fact, it was even noted by the Whitehorse Star in the editorial that the question should be in this case not why to appoint this individual, but why not?
But with this individual and with others, weíve seen consistent criticisms arise from the members of the opposition, playing their political games and running down the reputations of these fine individuals. We hear these people noted by the members of the opposition. They donít pay any attention and donít make any comments when we appoint people such as Patricia Cunning to boards and committees ó people who are known for connections to another political party. So this government does appoint people to boards and committees regardless of their political affiliation, and I do not feel ó and I would think that other members would agree ó that itís appropriate to drag peopleís names through the mud no matter what political party they are perceived as having affiliation with.
In this amendment to the Elections Act, the most significant change is probably the part in regard to prisoner voting, which does come out of the Supreme Court decision that someone should have the right to vote regardless of whether or not they are incarcerated. Certainly thatís an issue that is much debated, but I think it is important to recognize the Supreme Court decision in this regard. The decision was based on a Supreme Court interpretation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is the law of the land. So this change is being made to the Elections Act. I do recognize a concern that members opposite may have with this. I understand that concern. From a personal perspective, I actually agree with the decision. I think that theyíre putting the government in a situation where it or the system has the ability to deprive someone of the fundamental right to cast a ballot, which creates a far more dangerous potential that having a few prisoners vote. I think itís important than no one be deprived of that fundamental power in the system. I think thatís one of the safeguards against an irresponsible or totalitarian government; they do not have the ability to target individuals by putting them in jail and depriving them of the right to vote.
Certainly we are a long way from that in our system today, but it has happened in other countries throughout history, and they all start somewhere. The systems do not start out being bad necessarily; they do evolve over time. I think itís important that we do not start going down that slippery slope. Thatís my personal perspective but, ultimately, it was a decision that was made by the Supreme Court.
I have heard from the leader of the third party the suggestion that we simply shelve this legislation, that we put it aside because there is not enough meat on it from her perspective. Well, again, we have made changes that the Chief Electoral Officer has recommended be made. We have done that because there are flaws in the system or perceived flaws in the act, and we are trying to make it work a little bit better.
I do not feel that the Elections Act needs huge changes, as suggested by the leader of the official opposition and the leader of the Liberal Party. I think that these minor changes are exactly what is appropriate. Members on this side of the House have given this bill due consideration. We went through it clause by clause in the Cabinet Committee on Legislation. There was full discussion of every issue and every point with the Chief Electoral Officer and I would only hope that members of the opposition do not plan on their only debate on this bill being to stand up in second reading and complain about how bad the government is and how they think we should have tabled a new thick bill. I hope that they actually do debate some of these points, which can have significant effect, and donít in any way shirk or fail to fully perform what I believe is the obligation of every member of this House, which is to scrutinize legislation that is being put before it.
I would urge them to do their duty to their constituents and avoid any temptation to attempt to create a political theme that this government needs to table a whole bunch of new laws, and recognize the facts for what they are: that minor amendments to the Elections Act are in order.
Certainly that does not rule out the possibility of future amendments to issues such as that mentioned by the Member for Kluane ó for improvements to the enumeration process.
Again, Iíd welcome substantive proposals from that member on how to make these improvements. As I said, itís not a problem to be minimized. When I say that it is a problem that occurs in every enumeration process, I donít mean to in any way minimize the importance of having citizens enfranchised. That is an important issue; we should always look to improve that process, but rather than simply hearing complaints that itís not good enough, letís actually hear a substantive suggestion for once from the members opposite.
Iíd urge all members of this House to support this amendment to the Elections Act and I thank members for their attention this afternoon.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I rise today to speak in support of this bill and the changes to it: Bill No 48, Act to Amend the Elections Act. I have heard a lot of interesting comments with regard to this issue and I believe that the purpose of these amendments are recommendations made by the Chief Electoral Officer. They make a lot of sense to me. This basically will give an improvement on democracy, ensuring that every attempt is made to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to vote.
We must understand that everyone is at their own place in life. For example, the disadvantaged: do we ignore them because they cannot get to the polls on their own? Certainly not. Provisions must be made to assist the individuals. When it comes to prisoners, they donít have the freedom to walk outside of the gate and go to the polls. Do we ignore them as a society? Certainly not. We must make provisions for these individuals to vote because they have that right to vote, in my opinion.
The list goes on. There are several issues where one can have difficulties in getting to vote. For example, if you are going to be out of the territory at the time, proxy votes are made available. If you are a student who is outside of the territory at the time of an election, proxy votes are available. These changes that were recommended by the Chief Electoral Officer are quite legitimate. I have the utmost confidence that the officer knows what amendments should take place.
I believe again that this whole legislation is what you would really call ďlegislation rightĒ, and these improvements are going to make it more possible for the citizens at large to be counted at election time. I would encourage all members in the House to support this bill.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Speaker, I, too, rise to support this bill as it is being proposed. I certainly respect the time and effort that has gone into designing these amendments, to proposing these amendments and to reviewing these amendments. Unlike the leader of the third party, I do believe that consultation did take place. It is unfortunate that the Liberal Party chose not to participate in those discussions, but the offer was made; they chose not to take it up, just to put that on the record.
Mr. Speaker, many of these amendments were proposed by the Chief Electoral Officer, and they certainly did go through our caucus. They were approved by Cabinet. We had a lot of discussion among our colleagues, and I know that efforts were made also to engage the members opposite through their respective political parties.
So I believe that consultations were indeed conducted, and feedback was enveloped. I heard a recommendation coming forward from the leader of the third party that because the Liberal Party chose not to participate in these discussions, perhaps we should shelve the bill until they do make some time available to look at the changes.
There are reasons for bringing this bill forward and some of the reasons include having appropriate time from the time of the passage of this bill to the next election, which is in a couple of years, and in all fairness to elections office staff, I think that it takes a lot of time to produce training materials, revising forms, developing and reprinting handbooks, as well as, most importantly, developing and delivering training for each of the officials who do a really good job, I might add, election after election in administering each of our territorial elections.
So the changes that have been proposed, which are reflected within this bill, include permitting prisoners to vote in our territorial elections. Again, as has been reiterated today, this is in compliance with the Supreme Court of Canada decision with respect to federal elections. So we are following through with that particular ruling, as are other jurisdictions in this country.
Other amendments proposed in this bill address improvements to election financing provisions with respect to sources of funding, expenses and financial reporting for candidates and registered political parties. Of course, many of the amendments in this bill address improvements to the administrative conduct of elections with respect to special ballots, isolated electors, returning officers, polling stations, proxies, deceased electors, compliance orders, Electoral District Boundaries Commission and entries required on documents. These are all proposed amendments to streamline the process. These have all ó Iím pretty sure ó been discussed among elections officers, such as the returning officers, who oversee elections on our behalf in each of the electoral boundaries within each of the electoral ridings.
It is standard practice that returning officers do participate in debriefings after each territorial election. No doubt there are a number of recommendations for improvements as to how we can better administer elections in the Yukon.
Again, I believe that much of what has been brought forward is a reflection of how we can better improve the administration of elections in the territory. I certainly support individuals from enumerators to poll clerks, to returning officers, to the members of the elections office. They all perform a very instrumental role in administering elections in the territory and their jobs are anything but simple during an election. I think that we are all very knowledgeable of their difficult tasks during elections. Certainly, as elected members of this House who have run campaigns in each of our ridings, complying with each of the provisions in the Elections Act ó their job is to run elections smoothly and as fairly and consistently as the law will provide.
Again, I support the provisions, the proposed amendments in this bill, as they do reflect some improvements to the administrative conduct of elections in a whole host of areas, as I outlined earlier. Also, it is in compliance with the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that was made not that long ago and is respected by other jurisdictions in the country as well.
As I mentioned, the other parties did have an opportunity to have some feedback. I believe that feedback is reflected in these proposed amendments.
So, without going on any further length, I am very pleased to support this bill, and I would urge all the members opposite to do the same.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would like to thank my caucus colleagues for their support and the positions they have taken with respect to this very important amendment to the Elections Act. I would like to thank the opposition for sharing their opinions with us, and I would like to thank the third party for pointing out that they didnít have an opportunity to discuss the issues with the Chief Electoral Officer. Thatís because they chose not to accept the invitation and attend.
The majority of these amendments are amendments recommended by the Chief Electoral Officer and we have not omitted, and we have not deviated. We have gone forward and fully implemented all of those positions outlined in the report that was tabled by the Speaker in November 2003. Thatís where weíre at today.
As most of the amendments in this bill are of a technical nature, before we move into Committee of the Whole I will be moving a motion to call the Chief Electoral Officer and the Assistant Chief Electoral Officer as witnesses to appear before the House. This is consistent with past practices, and we will be doing so.
This is a very important bill. These amendments are extremely important to provide clarity around a number of issues that have arisen here in the Yukon and to bring it into conformity with the federal court decision with respect to those who are incarcerated having the right to vote and/or run for political office.
Mr. Speaker, I look forward to line-by-line debate, and I have the following motion:
THAT the ó
Iím advised by officials, Mr. Speaker, that I have to wait until we are in Committee of the Whole before I move that motion, but we will be calling the Chief Electoral Officer and the Assistant Chief Electoral Officer as witnesses when we move into Committee of the Whole. I look forward to line-by-line debate on this bill.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Disagree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Mr. Cardiff: Disagree.
Mrs. Peter: Disagree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Mr. Arntzen: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are seven yea, five nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 48 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I now call the House to order.
Before we begin, do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Bill No. 48 ó Act to Amend the Elections Act
Chair: The matter before the Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 48, Act to Amend the Elections Act. We will begin with general debate.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I indicated earlier during second reading, we were going to be moving a motion to call the Chief Electoral Officer and the Assistant Chief Electoral Officer in as witnesses today. There was a little bit of concern raised by the third party that this was something that had been requested before and not followed through on. The reason it is done in this manner is to ensure the independence of the House Officers. They are separate and distinct from a number of other officials within government.
Motion re appearance of witnesses
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: So, Mr. Chair, I would move
THAT the Chief Electoral Officer and the Assistant Chief Electoral Officer be called as witnesses before the Committee of the Whole on November 9, 2004, during consideration of Bill No. 48, Act to Amend the Elections Act.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins has moved
THAT the Chief Electoral Officer and the Assistant Chief Electoral Officer be called as witnesses before the Committee of the Whole on November 9, 2004, during consideration of Bill No. 48, Act to Amend the Elections Act.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, as I understand it, there is discussion permitted on that motion, is there not?
Chair: This is a debatable motion.
Ms. Duncan: The mover of the motion has failed to indicate to the satisfaction of this member of the House the reasons why witnesses would be called for this particular debate when the Chief Electoral Officer was not called as a witness during the amendments that were made to allow for the Electoral District Boundaries Commission.
The Electoral District Boundaries Commission, section 408, was amended and it was discussed at length on the floor of this House. There were no witnesses called at that point in time. To ensure the independence? Itís clearly recognized that those particular officers are independent of the House. The government is sponsoring the legislation and debating the legislation. That same government thatís bringing this forward and insisting now there should be witnesses called failed when opposition parties in this Legislature lobbied strenuously to call witnesses during a fundamentally important bill to Yukoners, the debate of the Taxpayer Protection Act. Witnesses werenít allowed then. Why has the government had a change of heart and is prepared to call witnesses now? And to ensure the independence ó the independence of these particular officers is well recognized by the Legislature. The government is sponsoring and debating the bill and the government should be prepared to answer questions on it.
Governments in the past have done it. I fail to see how the member has outlined why all of a sudden that the Committee should have witnesses when the government has failed before to have witnesses called before this Committee of the Whole.
The change of heart is purported because we must ensure the absolute independence of these officers of the House. These officers are well recognized as independent of the House. These officers are not going to debate the bill line by line. Previous amendments to the Elections Act are debated by government. Thatís the way itís done.
I appreciate the memberís sudden desire to open up Committee of the Whole; itís just that there has been a complete failure to explain why there has been a change of heart.
Mr. Hardy: Picking up on that point, if the members on the other side seem to have a problem with the independence or perceived independence, however they want to put it, of the Chief Electoral Officer and the Assistant Chief Electoral Officer, I hope that they would have that discussion within their own caucus and sort it out and bring forward changes accordingly. We on this side do not have that problem; therefore, we donít think that itís a good reason to bring them forward. It just questions their integrity and weíre not questioning their integrity.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Let me make it abundantly clear that no one is questioning the House Officersí integrity. We want to ensure that the witnesses called today are done so in that manner so that there is no question whatsoever of their independence and integrity.
I refer back to the member oppositeís points. The third party raised the point about the previous amendments, the electoral boundary amendments. They came forward as a result of a commission and the commission made their report. What we have here is the report of the Chief Electoral Officer, which is driving a number of these changes.
So I donít see what the issue is at all that the members opposite are getting at. I see this as an opportunity for the official opposition and the third party to become more familiar with these proposed changes, to understand them to a higher level than what currently is being displayed by the side opposite, and this is all to ensure that the Yukon has an Elections Act that works as well as we can possibly make it work.
Chair: Are you prepared for the question?
Mr. McRobb: I just want to put a very brief comment on the record about the process. The government has indicated that witnesses will be called. I would merely like to say that it would have been courteous of the government House leader to indicate to us at this morningís House leader meeting that such witnesses would be called this afternoon. It would have been in the public interest. It would have been demonstrating a level of cooperation with the opposition. What weíve seen out of the government is completely the opposite. Their agenda smacks of secrecy and always trying to get one-up on the opposition parties, and thatís not being open or accountable, and certainly itís not serving the public interest.
Mr. Cathers: I find it disappointing to hear the comments from the opposition House leader on this. It was the intent on this side of the government to try to further the debate and assist members opposite to understand the amendments being put forward. Itís standard practice in debate in Committee of the Whole that officials from the department relevant to the legislation or to the budgetary items being brought forward are brought in to assist in providing technical information. The point has been made by the government House leader that because of the independence of the House Officers they cannot simply be brought in in the standard fashion; they have to be brought in as witnesses through a substantive motion, which is what has been done here. Itís intended to assist members opposite and provide more information, not engage in some agenda of secrecy, as suggested by the Member for Kluane; itís to be more open and more accountable.
Chair: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I believe the yeas have it. The motion is carried.
Committee of the Whole Motion No. 4 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: In general debate on this bill, the Elections Act amendments that are before the House are very straightforward. They are driven by the recommendations found in the report of the Chief Electoral Officer that was tabled in this House in 2003. Iím sure the official opposition and the third party diligently analyzed every iota of information contained in that report that was tabled by the Speaker and are very familiar with the contents therein. The second major number of changes are of a housekeeping nature with the biggest change being driven by a Supreme Court ruling allowing those incarcerated in institutions to vote if they are of the legal age of majority. Mr. Chair, I welcome the members opposite to critique this important piece of legislation, but I donít see much that could be cause for concern, unless the official opposition and the third party choose to wander off into subject matters not contained within this bill.
Chair: Is there any debate?
Ms. Duncan: Is the government side prepared to stand aside this bill and allow it to stay on the Order Paper until the spring sitting?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We believe it is important to have these changes implemented in some time for the officials to get out and apprise the general population as to the changes and the impacts it will have and the certainty it will provide in a number of areas. I see no reason to stand this aside or leave it on the Order Paper. As it presently stands, due to changes in the proceedings of this Legislature, it is in Committee and the guillotine would fall should we not continue with debate today.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I am fully familiar with the rules of the House. The minister did not answer the question. The question was: is the government prepared to stand aside or allow this bill to stay on the Order Paper until the spring sitting of the Legislature. The spring sitting of the Legislature, for the information of the minister opposite, is spring 2005. The mandate expires in November 2006. That is certainly plenty of time to put in place any changes; unless of course the minister is conveying that an election is anticipated next fall, which Yukoners, of course, can only dream of.
Would the minister provide a yes-or-no answer? Is the government prepared to allow this bill to stay on the Order Paper and to be debated or brought forward again, given the Standing Orders of the House, until the spring? Itís a straightforward, yes-or-no question. Iím sure the minister is quite prepared to answer it. Yes or no? Is he prepared to stand aside the bill and allow it to come forward again either in the spring or fall sitting of 2005?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: If this were crass politics, it would probably be to the advantage of our party to leave the existing rules in place and go into the next election in two years and get a second mandate very quickly, but thatís not the issue. These are changes that are important to all Yukoners. These are changes that will provide certainty in a lot of areas for Yukoners. These are issues that need to be addressed sooner rather than later because the officials will have to get ready: new procedural manuals will have to be updated and reprinted for all returning officers, election officers; there will have to be a different training module put in place by the officials. So there is a lot of work that has to be done on the officials level that is driven by the certainty of the changes that we are going to be implementing this session.
Ms. Duncan: The minister has not answered the question. Yes or no. The only one embarking upon crass politicization of this bill is the minister opposite. Yes or no. Is the minister prepared to stand aside the bill until 2005, either the spring or fall sitting? Either of those, unless the Yukon Party intends to call an election, would allow plenty of time. These are, in some parts, minor amendments. The minister has outlined a great deal of work that has to be done and has to be changed. The Electoral District Boundaries Commission engendered far more work than these amendments for the elections office, and those changes occurred in plenty of time. Is the minister prepared, yes or no, to stand aside the bill until 2005?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would encourage the third party to go back and read Hansard. I was very explicit in my closing sentence that we were going to be passing this bill this session.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. McRobb: I would like to follow up with my concerns expressed during second reading with a direct question. Do these amendments to the Elections Act in any way try to resolve the concerns expressed by Yukon voters during the last election in regard to enumeration and getting on the voters list? This question is to the Acting Premier.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The actual changes that are being proposed are contained completely in the body of the amendments that have been tabled, and I would encourage the member opposite to go back to the briefing that he had on this bill and reference the material that he was provided with.
Mr. McRobb: That response is rather insulting. The member should realize that I was not privy to any briefing on this bill. As I pointed out in my second reading speech, I have only had the opportunity to glance over it. Rather than pointing a finger, I would suggest that the member should try to assume some of the responsibility that goes along with moving a bill in this Legislature, and that is at least being able to answer questions in a credible way.
I am serious about the nature of the question. Does this act as it exists resolve the concerns related to enumeration in the last election?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I do have a concern with the third party and the line of questioning being pursued here today. The third party made mention that they didnít attend the luncheon where this bill was discussed. That was the Liberal Partyís choice. The Member for Kluane said he didnít attend and he didnít have the privilege of a briefing. Well, a briefing was provided, and if that member didnít make himself available for the briefing, that canít be something that reflects on our side. Just because the members opposite choose not to take up a bona fide and legitimate offer for a briefing or for an understanding of what is transpiring in these areas, please donít throw that back at us as a government and say that we havenít done what is needed to be done in these respective areas.
Mr. McRobb: What the minister is saying is rather worrisome because he is neglecting to realize the situation for MLAs in this Legislature who happen not to be the critic for the bill being brought forward. He knows full well that not everybody attends the briefings.
I go back to the point made already that itís his responsibility to know the bill. I asked a simple question, yet he has failed to answer that simple question. Now, he refers the leader of the third party to Hansard: ďGo back and read Hansard,Ē he says. Iíve noticed thatís becoming one of his popular standbys. ďI refer you to Hansard,Ē says the MLA for Klondike.
Well, if we went back in Hansard, we would find numerous examples of how the shoe was on the other foot when that very member sat on this side of the House and asked the same types of questions to previous governments and pointed out how it was their responsibility to know their own bill and to answer simple questions, yet how does he behave when he sits on that side of the House?
Iíve seen both of those movies and Iíll tell you that the last one is the most despicable one because he knows better. He raised the concern when in opposition. Obviously he knew better. Now that heís sitting in government, he continues to lower the bar when it comes to decorum in this Legislature and answering questions.
The question I asked was simple: does this bill resolve the problems related to enumeration experienced by many Yukoners in the past election? Would he at least indicate which clause it is out of the dozens in this bill that I should refer to?
Chair:††† Please, before our debate continues, the Chair is uncomfortable with having a member characterize another member as being despicable. Thatís obviously an insulting term. I would ask members not to characterize other members as being despicable.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Before the Chair recognizes a member, the Chair will wait for all members to become quiet. Mr. McRobb, if you have a comment to make, you are encouraged to stand and be recognized.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Debate shall continue.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There was a luncheon called for the political parties to deal with his bill. For the life of me, I canít understand the Member for Kluane missing out on a free lunch but there was an opportunity to deal with this at that time. There have been subsequent meetings and briefings held and perhaps the member could be constructive and point to the section in the line-by-line of this bill that he would propose changes or amendments to, to outline his concern. The easiest thing to do is to criticize in general terms, but I would encourage the member opposite to be specific as to what part of this bill and what section that is being amended is of concern to him. We can do it in general debate; we can do it in line-by-line. I would be very amenable to either course of action.
Chair: Before the debate continues, the Chair would like to remind all members that sniping or making political or personal attacks against individual members has no place in this Assembly, and I would ask again that all members rise above that.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Duncan, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, on the point of order, Iím sure the minister has erred unintentionally. He has said that there was a luncheon held for all parties to discuss the bill. My understanding from the briefing and from other political parties is that the luncheon was prior to the draft of the Chief Electoral Officerís report ó prior to the draft of the report that initiated the bill. That is substantially different, and Iím sure it was an unintentional error on the part of the member.
Chair: This is not a point of order, and it can be cleared up during debate.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, the mover of this bill has confused the matter in an extraordinary way. First of all, he characterizes my question as criticism. I invite the member to refer to Hansard, and he will discover that in my question there was no criticism of the bill. I merely asked a simple question. Somewhere in this bill, is there a clause to rectify the problems experienced in the last election regarding enumeration?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Would the member opposite outline for our consideration the concerns that he had with the enumeration?
Mr. McRobb: Well, Iím really amazed the minister wasnít listening, because it was said about three or four times this afternoon, and this will be about number five. During the last election, there were a number of voters who discovered they were either not on the voters list and they couldnít vote, or they hadnít been enumerated at all and couldnít vote come election time. In either case, Mr. Chair, there were concerns that were aired in the media. I personally know of probably two dozen voters in the Kluane region who were left out. There were other regions in the territory that experienced a much higher count of people who lost their right to vote simply because they were not enumerated or they didnít see the ads in the paper or werenít listening to the radio when the ads were on. I will note that the elections office does try to publicize the process for people who fall between the cracks. Mr. Chair, I think the real problem lies in the whole scheduling of when the enumeration takes place and who the enumerators are and the expectations placed upon them.
Iíve gone through three elections now. Not one has been seamless, without problems. The problems I am relating were experienced Yukon-wide in the last election. If indeed all the ridings had similar concerns, how many Yukoners really were left out of the voting process who fully believed they were on the voters list? Well, itís probably at least 200, maybe a few hundred. Itís a significant concern.
I believe that it was said at the time that this situation would be re-examined and resolved with changes to the act. So, here we are today. The government is trying to pass this bill, these changes to the act ó rather suddenly, without much notice to the opposition parties, I must add, and with no notice of the witnesses appearing in this Assembly as part of the Committee debate ó and the mover of the bill canít even answer whether these concerns have been addressed in his bill. Thatís rather remarkable.
I think I have spelled out the problem experienced by many Yukoners in the past election. I will even point out something, Mr. Chair. I know there is a local organizer for the Yukon Party in one of the communities on the north highway. I wonít identify the person any more than that, but that person was left off the voters list.
Here is another example: a former Yukon Party candidate in the Kluane riding was left off the voters list. This is how prevalent this problem is.
I do want to see supporters of the Yukon Party exercise their right to vote ó and any other party as well. It is their right. They should not be denied a vote based on some technicality or based on a hurried process of enumeration or based on the inexperience of enumerators or whatever the problem may be. There are probably at least a dozen potential problems that could lead to that situation.
Now in an attempt to resolve this, because the mover of the bill doesnít seem to know whether his bill accommodates this concern or not, as a potential way to resolve this, the leader of the third party has suggested that we set this bill aside. Maybe thatís a good suggestion. We have 19 more days in this sitting. We have a spring sitting only three months away. I certainly donít think the Yukon Party will be calling an election this spring unless itís in a mad rush to retirement. I donít see it happening. So letís let common sense prevail. Letís acknowledge that thereís no need to hurry this bill. Letís acknowledge the concerns of Yukoners regarding enumeration and what other concerns they may have had and give this bill a bit of time.
The mover of the bill has indicated that we should have read this bill. Well, maybe we should have, but you know what? Thatís on the priority list, and to me personally it wasnít that high on the priority list because there are a number of bills, there are supplementary budgets, there are our own bills, there are all kinds of other business to take care of, and there are critic responsibilities and riding responsibilities. You know, it is very busy when we sit in this Legislature, and the government should never just assume that anything it tables is read within a week by the opposition because thatís what it boils down to. I know the member, in opposition, would make very similar claims.
So I guess Iím appealing to the ministerís sense of fair play and whether he would recognize the substantive nature of these concerns and agree to what weíre proposing.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I hear the member loud and clear, but my understanding of how the enumeration works and what triggers the enumeration is the dropping of the writ. Enumerators are hired and they go out. Having gone through, I think, about 17 different elections myself, I have a little bit of an understanding of how the enumeration is done.
There is a preliminary list that can be obtained by the candidates, and I guess we can ask the Member for Kluane as to whether he took the time to pick up a copy of the preliminary list of electors and to go through it, and to cross-reference it back to things like the telephone book and to sit around with his campaign colleagues who are working with him to see that everyone is enumerated and has been enumerated. It doesnít matter what system of enumeration is put into place, there is always going to be the occasional error and omission.
I have been to some places and to some cabins occupied by individuals in my riding in some of the most remote areas. You required a four-wheel drive to get in there. They werenít home; they had moved somewhere for the season and yet the enumeratorís slip was there, and on some occasions there was a second enumeratorís slip left in the door. I have a lot of time for the efforts that the enumerators have gone to in the past. As with any system, there are always going to be areas that, I guess we could call it, slip through the cracks. No amounts of laws or changes are going to pick those up.
Mr. Chair, the amendments before us stem mainly from the report of the Chief Electoral Officer, and that was tabled by the Speaker in November of 2003. I would encourage the opposition parties to do the hard work of opposition, and that hard work entails reviewing documents such as this to make the determination if the bill that is before the House here today covers off on all of those areas. Mr. Chair, I believe it does. I believe it does, and I recommend this Act to Amend the Elections Act to the House.
Mr. Chair, I am prepared to entertain other questions in general debate of a meaningful nature so we can move forward on this important bill.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I suppose I can choose the low road and lock horns with the minister and debate the many statements he put on the record that I simply cannot accept. However, as this member fully recognizes, I do want to be productive in here and try to take the high road whenever possible. Therefore, I am going to direct my questions to the witnesses and first welcome them to the Legislature.
My question to the witnesses is: does this bill accommodate the concerns in regard to the enumeration problems experienced in the past election?
Mr. Michael:††††† It is good to see all of you people again. I have listened with interest to what Mr. McRobb has been saying about concerns having to do with enumeration in the last general election. I must admit that, in our office, weíre not as fully aware of those concerns as Mr. McRobb is setting out. He said that he knew of at least two dozen electors in the Kluane region who werenít enumerated, and I believe he said he felt that was the same across many of the electoral districts in the territory.
We didnít get that kind of response.
Following the general election, we have no communications on record from any of the registered political parties, or from any candidates who ran in the last general election, indicating a concern about enumeration, so that issue did not end up being addressed in the report that was dated November 2003.
Mr. McRobb: I think that perhaps the witness has spent too much time in the Legislature, Mr. Chair, because I donít think we got quite a direct response to the simple question. After about 28 years at it, that would be quite understandable.
I would assume that the act does not respond to the enumeration problems, but, Mr. Chair, I do recall some media during the election campaign with respect to the enumeration problems. I am also aware of several constituents who told me they phoned in, and they related their conversations from their calls. I can tell you that they were rather irate. I donít know if the witnesses were aware of those calls. I can understand what the witness said.
I would also like to put on record that the MLAs or candidates from the past election may not have been solicited for any concerns. A lot of them would just contain their concerns without knowing of any process through which to convey them.
So maybe there is a problem about communicating; nevertheless, the bill, I believe, stands to be improved, and the mover of the bill tries to shift the workload onto us in opposition to make the necessary amendments to the bill.
And that is not right either because the government is the mover of the bill and the government should be the one receptive to suggestions, such as the ones we have put on record, and the government should be prepared to use its staff ó and there are plenty of staff; Iím talking not only staff upstairs in the executive offices, but staff in the Justice department and the Legislative Assembly office, the elections office ó who are familiar with this particular bill.
So we have professionals in the public service who await the governmentís beck and call to apply their expertise to improving the act. The only problem is that the call has not been made. So in order for that call to be made and the desired results to come forward we need some time, and the governmentís current intent to pass this bill quickly this afternoon does not afford the required time to allow the process of involving those professionals to take place. So thereís a problem.
Weíre not going to belabour this matter any further. Either the government supports the democratic process and the concerns we put on record, or it doesnít. We know the government will use its majority to force through whatever it likes. Whether itís a budget or whether itís a piece of legislation such as this, the government will simply use its numbers to outvote the opposition, which raises the question: why does the government keep pointing the finger and saying the opposition didnít support it when everybody knows that the government has the majority to pass the bill anyway, whatever it is?
That type of rhetoric aside, we are dealing with this bill, amendments to the Elections Act, and I will ask the minister once again: after hearing from the witnesses that the bill contains no such remedial measures to respond to the enumeration concerns, contrary to his belief, will he now agree to set aside the bill and allow time for it to be improved?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This is the same question posed earlier by the leader of the third party, and the answer is still the same. I donít know if the member opposite wants the government to start administering elections. Thatís why there is a completely independent, armís-length administrative body to undertake this kind of initiative. As I said earlier, the enumeration process is spelled out in legislation: what transpires; how it is undertaken; and, by and large it works very well. Given the short duration of the timelines from when the preliminary list of electors is published to the election date, I guess it is incumbent upon all of those seeking political office to follow through, pick up that preliminary list of electors, cross-reference it to any other source documents that they may have to ensure that all the electors in their riding are eligible and on the voters list.
There is a process that is in place. It has been put in place for a multitude of reasons. Fairness is one of them, and itís working. The member opposite has not pointed to one section of the current legislation that he would seek to amend. Instead he has thrown everything into a barrel and said, ďHere is what we should be doing: we should stand down this bill; we should wait until the next spring session.Ē Well, this report from the Chief Electoral Officer has been in existence and in the memberís hands for a year.
It would appear that the hard work of being in opposition and coming up with constructive input is not something that is being subscribed to by the current opposition. Iím disappointed and I see a need for constructive debate, constructive input and suggestions of a positive nature. The easiest thing to do is criticize something, but to criticize it in a constructive manner is what Yukoners elected us all here to do. I would encourage the members opposite to follow through on what we are envisioned to be here for, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: I have a question. I would like to welcome the witnesses and thank them for appearing. I would just like to review and, for the record and for Hansard, it is my understanding that the process of consultation was as I am about to outline: that, prior to the Chief Electoral Officer submitting a report to the Legislature, a letter of invitation was mailed out to the political parties, that a luncheon was held to meet with the parties prior to this report being tabled in the Legislature and that that luncheon was not attended by representatives of our party for whatever reason. I am judging that to be a miscommunication. However, since that time, there is a luncheon; the report is completed, is tabled in the Legislature, legislation is drafted and legislation comes before the House. Between the luncheon and the legislation coming before the House, were any all-party committee meetings held to discuss the changes as drafted?
Mr. Michael: The scenario as outlined by the leader of the third party is correct; there was the one meeting. On July 23, 2003, there was that meeting that the registered political parties were invited to send representatives to. It wasnít felt necessary to go on too much more there because, as members realize, much of this is what members call housekeeping legislation, aside from probably the prisoner voting.
So the report was drafted, presented to the House in November 2003, and then as happens with any government, if weíre going to have an elections act or elections act amendments come to the House, it is normally done through the government side bringing it forward as government business, because that is the main way in which it is dealt with. Then the normal briefing took place on the bill after it was introduced in the House. So, yes, thatís correct.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the answer from the witness and note it for the record. I would also note that past practice of other governments ó given that it is government bringing forward a bill ó has been, for example, the Electoral District Boundaries Commissionís extensive consultation with other registered political parties.
With respect to the report of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Yukon on election financing and other election matters that was tabled in 2003, which Iíve had the opportunity to review ó I have also had the benefit of substantive briefing through staff on the legislation and a substantive review of the legislation.
With respect to prisoner voting, I would address my question to the witnesses: how many provinces have changed their rules to put this in place? This is a result of a Supreme Court decision ó a 5-4 decision, I might add.
I really have two questions surrounding this. How many provinces have changed their rules to meet the Supreme Court ruling and are there any provinces challenging this order?
Mr. Michael:† ††In answer to the last question first: we know of no provinces challenging the order. Right off the top, the only two that I am aware of that havenít moved on this are Saskatchewan and Alberta. I am just not confident in saying where they intend to go. What I could say is New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, and Ontario have given voting rights to prisoners. I set these jurisdictions out as ones where candidacy by prisoners is not specifically restricted.
One jurisdiction that has prisoner voting limited by the length of a prisonerís sentence is Quebec, and they are at two years or less, and prisoners cannot be candidates in Quebec.
There is also a two-year sentencing limit in Nova Scotia for prisoner voting, but no restrictions on prisoners as candidates.
Nunavut has full voting rights, but no one can be a candidate if incarcerated from nomination day to at least polling day. The Northwest Territories allows prisoner voting and restricts candidacy.
Iím sorry, I havenít been sitting down tracking this on my fingers, but I think Iíve covered all jurisdictions there.
Ms. Duncan: The Elections Act has had many discussions around residency and ability to vote and residency. How does that discussion around residency apply to prisoners who are serving their term outside of the territory? Are they residents of the Yukon or are they residents of the province in which the prison exists?
Ms. Waugh: That issue is addressed in where you enumerate. We donít enumerate outside our jurisdiction.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that. My concern is, are they considered a Yukon resident for their health care? Is there a possible conflict with our legislation somewhere else?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Iím sorry, but Ms. Waugh, if you could wait until I recognize you, please, to ensure that your microphone is turned on, and if you could repeat your last answer, please.
Ms. Waugh: Thereís no link between residency for election purposes and voting and with hunting requirements or medicare, or any other requirement for residency.
Ms. Duncan: I donít have the existing Elections Act in front of me, and I understand Ms. Waughís point with respect to residency. We donít enumerate, so as I understand Ms. Waugh, then, although a prisoner may be a Yukoner serving a term outside of the Yukon, and prisoners are now allowed to vote, they wouldnít be enumerated in that prison so they wouldnít be voting in a Yukon election.
Is that correct?
Ms. Waugh:† †††††††† If I approach it from a different perspective, currently under the Elections Act there are residency rules. Correct? Section 6, I believe it is.† A prisoner who is located outside the Yukon could be put on the list at revision and vote by special ballot, but it probably would be subject to challenge by a candidate or another elector. The residency then would be questioned. Itís very difficult to legislate residency as everybody has discovered, because all governments have looked at residency ó especially if theyíve been voted out of office, residency is critical, but itís not something that is really fixable. Weíve attempted to address residency, over the years, but we havenít been successful in that we havenít pleased everybody. We go by the 12-months residency on polling day and the residence rules, one of which is the residence of a single person is where they sleep ó that type of rule.
Ms. Duncan:†††† As soon as Ms. Waugh mentioned the sleep provision, I can recall the section and I can recall reading it. It does pose a difficulty there. There are questions raised at every election. In part, with the way the amendment is written, we are granting the prisoners the right to vote as per the Supreme Court challenge, but we havenít cleared up this issue of a prisoner serving a term outside of Yukon. In fact, we havenít resolved that particular issue. I donít know that we could. Iím saying that we havenít resolved it. Weíve left it. Is that correct?
Ms. Waugh:† †††† That would be correct. Also, part of the problem for the Chief Electoral Officer in making recommendations is developing policy that really should be left in the hands of the members ó that is whether candidates can be prisoners or prisoners are candidates and who should vote. The recommendation has to do with just reflecting the decision at the Supreme Court.
†Ms. Duncan: I understand that and was getting to that. My point is that although we have solved one problem in that we have complied with the Supreme Court order, we have left unresolved the issue of whether prisoners outside the territory can vote in a Yukon election. I understood Ms. Waugh agreed with me that that issue was left unresolved, and at the close of her remarks raised the other issue, which is a recommendation from the Chief Electoral Officer of the Yukon in the November report, which says on page 5 that Members of the Legislative Assembly must ó must ó therefore give consideration to this issue ó this issue being whether or not prisoners qualify as candidates and make a determination as to whether prisoners be permitted to be candidates in elections of members to the Legislative Assembly. To the best of my knowledge in reading the amendments to the Elections Act, the bill as drafted has not dealt with this issue ó is that correct?
Ms. Waugh: Thatís correct, but it was never decided on a policy basis, because the members havenít had an opportunity to debate that issue yet.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you again; that is exactly my point. That is not the issue. That has not been debated. That policy has not been debated on the floor of this House. That policy and that debate, according to the Electoral Officer, must take place in here. We have amendments to the Elections Act that leave muddied waters in the sense of whether or not prisoners outside the territory can vote and doesnít address the very issue that the Chief Electoral Officer charged this Legislative Assembly with addressing. The government side has refused to do so.
I just have a final two questions for our witnesses regarding finances. The ďanonymous donationĒ issue was recommended by all parties in the 1997 report, and it has been addressed in this particular amendment, although it is quite complicated. My concern and question is: how much procedural change for returning officers and for the electoral officers in terms of the paperwork is this going to make? Is this a substantive change to the way the anonymous contributions will be dealt with?
Ms. Waugh:† † No.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you very much. I appreciate that. It has also not been reviewed by all the parties, as these changes were not reviewed by all the parties, although it is part of the 1997 report, in my research.
Ms. Waugh:† † †††At the lunch in July 2003, we did list all the proposals that we were going to make, and that was one of them.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you.
It is not a substantive change, though, to the paperwork that is done by the electoral officer and it is not ó what I am saying is, are all the manuals going to have to be rewritten to accommodate this change, and all of the parties retrained?
Ms. Waugh:† †††If that were the only amendment to the election financing provisions, I would say no to that, but there are substantive changes to reporting and what information will be required if this bill is passed. Yes, it will be a lot of work. We produce pamphlets and information in two languages, and it is the Web site as well as forms and documents for candidates, et cetera.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the witness then to just go through what part of the changes to election financing that are in this bill that Ms. Waugh would term as substantive and will require this extensive retraining, and sort of their reference point?
Ms. Waugh: †† In terms of retraining, itís not the election officials so much who will be retrained as the information that is provided for the volunteers who actually have the responsibility for monitoring a candidateís financial doings and preparing the reports on behalf of the candidate.
These amendments are being proposed because of the problems that we saw in the 2002 and 2000 general elections with the lack of understanding of what was required, plus the inability of some people to actually understand that the act had restrictions on, for example, who would pay candidatesí expenses. Political parties were doing it on behalf of candidates, so there were issues that needed to be addressed around that.
The training part of it, should we ever have an opportunity between elections to provide campaign officials workshops, that would be where the value of some of these changes would be and what we communicate to the political parties and, hopefully, some of the people who would be running the campaigns.
Ms. Duncan: For example, as I understand it, we often see political parties ó and I believe all three have done this ó where there is a team approach to advertising, and thatís paid for by the central campaign. Now, with these changes, if that ad cost $18,000, each candidate has to record that $1,000 expense on their specific campaign. So that way, if one candidate spends $25,000 in radio advertising, it will be recorded specifically to that candidate. If there is $50,000 in overall campaign radio advertising or print advertising that advertise a team or a party approach, then that figure would be divided 18 ways and each candidate would then report it.
Thatís the substance of these changes. I understand why theyíre being made. I also understand the difficulty. Iíve discussed it in the past and understand it through the briefing. Part of the anonymous contribution issue was that if a party has a coffeehouse and people throw money into a pot, itís recording how that money is received. In essence I understand that that has not been made more difficult but weíve tried to reconcile the differing views on that.
That covers the financial contribution as I understand the amendments. I would just like to allow Ms. Waugh to make a comment.
Ms. Waugh: Just generally, could I address the anonymous contributions because I think sometimes theyíre misunderstood. Anonymous contributions that are being proposed as not being acceptable have to do with somebody providing a donation to a candidate or political party for some amount of money that would require a receipt, and the person declines it. Thatís an anonymous contribution. What will still be allowed is to pass the hat at a meeting where people just throw in money. Thereís still no receipting, but the amount is not going to be probably in the thousands of dollars from one contributor. What weíre aiming for here is transparency and full disclosure on how candidates and political parties are funded. The overall policy of election financing legislation, which was not driven by the elections office or the Chief Electoral Officer, was to determine on an individual basis for parties and candidates full campaign value, and that means all expenses and all revenues reported.
So thatís why one of the major recommendations is also that all contributions be receipted and that they not be broken up into different amounts. Disclosure is something different.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that. The Electoral District Boundaries Commission ó this is entirely, strictly housekeeping, an error in legislative drafting, in that previously we had an order-in-council appointing the Chief Electoral Officer and this simply removes that. It doesnít address the particular issue that we spent hours in the House listening to the Member for Klondike argue about a retired judge and accepting amendments on the floor of this House. In fact, this is an error that is corrected, that was passed by a previous legislature and has been corrected.
I have no further questions for the witnesses. However, having noted that there are specific recommendations that the Chief Electoral Officer made in November 2003 that are not contained in this bill and have not been addressed by the Legislative Assembly, would the minister, having been made aware of them through debate in this House, now consider that, in all appropriateness to ensure good legislation, we should consider standing aside this particular bill until such time as the Legislative Assembly has done what we should do and have a full debate on that particular issue, as recommended by the Chief Electoral Officer. Is the minister prepared to do that?
Chair: Ms. Duncan.
Ms. Duncan: I believe the record will reflect that the minister has refused to answer that question.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Cathers: I appreciate the comments from the member of the third party and Iíd like to point out that if she has any specific areas where there are concerns with this bill, she has the opportunity to move amendments to those lines or to add lines. I would urge her to do that.
Iíve also heard from the opposition House leader of concerns about the process. He doesnít seem to be able to point out the problem and, from what Iíve heard ó and I would urge all members to review the Blues ó it would appear that he was admitting that he hadnít even read the bill, the amendment that was being put forward. I would point out that this is not that lengthy of an amendment that it canít be read. Iíve read this on several occasions, including while I was listening to members opposite during this House. I donít think that itís appropriate that we should stand down on this bill because of the failure by members to read the legislation before them ó to put this off for several months because they wonít spend one hour and review this.
Iíd also point to something said by the opposition House leader. I note that weíve heard consistent complaints that weíre not tabling enough legislation, and then weíre hearing a complaint that allegedly they donít have enough time to read the legislation that has been tabled. So this is a little baffling. I believe that the act as it is encompasses the changes needed and I would urge all members to support this.
Ms. Duncan: Is the Member for Lake Laberge, who seems to be defending the bill in place of the government, prepared to accept on behalf of the government an amendment once we are able to draft one and have it put forward in the House in reasonable time to deal with the issue of whether or not consideration should be given to prisonersí qualifications as candidates?
The Electoral Officer said on page 5, midway down, that Members of the Legislative Assembly must therefore give consideration to this issue ó prisonersí qualifications as candidates ó and make a determination as to whether prisoners be permitted to be candidates in elections of members to the Legislative Assembly. The sponsoring minister of this bill, the Acting Premier, has said we have to pass this in this session to deal with these important issues before the next election is called. Whether or not a prisoner has a right to vote has been dealt with. We have not addressed the issue, as directed by the Chief Electoral Officer, as to whether or not a prisoner has the right to be a candidate.
Are we going to leave it in the air and subject it to a challenge for the next election? Or are we going to, as the sponsoring minister has said, make sure that the next election be conducted fairly and deal with this issue? If weíre going to deal with this issue, then we need to stand aside this bill until there can be an amendment brought forward that deals with the issue.
The Member for Lake Laberge is shaking his head. Well, what are we going to do? What position are we putting the Elections Office in when thereís a prisoner who files his or her candidacy papers because we havenít done our job as a Legislative Assembly, as instructed to do, as requested to do?
††††††† The members opposite steadfastly refuse to answer, let alone commit to setting aside this bill until there could be a greater consultation. They wonít even set aside the bill until a key issue that has been recommended by the Chief Electoral Officer can be at least put on the floor of this House one way or the other. We still have plenty of time to do it this session. Do their homework. Theyíre the government sponsoring the bill. Government sponsors the bill; do the job. And if theyíre not prepared to do the job, set aside the bill so we can get the amendments from the other jurisdictions and deal with this issue, as it was suggested we do, Mr. Chair.
††††††† Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would like to thank the leader of the third party for her input. We will review the Blues, but as it currently stands, we have a bill before us today that weíre dealing with.
††††††† Chair: Is there any further general debate? Hearing none, we will proceed line by line.
††††††† On Clause 1
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††††††† Ms. Duncan: Clause 5 adds a paragraph to 11(1) of the act, (f), and deals with a definition of persons who are deprived of liberty or movement while on remand. This deals with the definition. Itís the start of dealing with allowing the prisoners to vote.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Is it not 5?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Then, could I have an explanation please?
Mr. Michael: Clause 5 amends subsection 11(1) of the act. What we are talking about there is the qualifications of election officers. The description there, which is essentially of prisoners, is that they shall not be election officers.
Chair: Is there any further debate on clause 5?
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On Clause 10
Ms. Duncan: Iím sorry, Mr. Chair, I donít have an explanation in front of me as to why section 98 is repealing that particular expression ó itís clause 10 that I was just going through.
Could I have an explanation as to why we are deleting that particular expression?
Ms. Waugh: This has to do with the special ballot provisions. Currently in the act, people are restricted without any qualifications to get a special ballot from applying ó this is generally ó until the advanced poll has been completed. There are special categories of special ballot voters, but for just the average voter who is going to be away, you canít apply until after the advanced poll has been completed.
We realized that we were actually disenfranchising people because they knew they would be away for both occasions.
Chair: Is there any further debate on clause 10?
Clause 10 agreed to
On Clause 11
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On Clause 12
Ms. Duncan: This ensures, as I understand it, that once the polls have opened on polling day, you have either voted by special ballot or youíre not getting one.
Ms. Waugh: Thatís correct.
Chair: Is there any further debate on clause 12?
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On Clause 31
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask Ms. Waugh or Mr. Michael to address clauses 31 and 32 of the bills? This is proxy voting. What is the problem that necessitated this change?
Ms. Waugh:†††††† I could probably illustrate this best with an example. Iím carrying a proxy for somebody. I go to the polling station where they are on the list, and their name doesnít appear on the list when the poll clerk wants to confirm that and enter it in the poll book, but as it turns out, they have been enumerated or they were added at revision. If that can be proven, which it should be because there is a paper trail, then the person will be allowed to vote. Clause 32 currently in the act ó even if youíre voting on behalf of somebody else and carrying their proxy ó you can be challenged as to the personís qualifications and identity. The problem is that with the current provisions for proxy voters ó that is it has been assigned to a candidate or registered political party ó the person who is carrying the proxy may not have any knowledge of the identity or the qualifications of that person, so they cannot, in fact, take a declaration to that effect.
Ms. Duncan: The way all the political parties are used to dealing with proxy voting is being changed, tweaked slightly, or are clerical errors being fixed? What are we fixing exactly?
Ms. Waugh:††††† Actually, it is protecting the integrity of the person who is carrying the proxy. You canít ask them to swear a lie about something of which they have no knowledge. The effect of this is at the polling station. It doesnít make any difference to candidates or political parties, or the person who assigns their vote to a candidate or a political party.
Ms. Duncan: Weíre really making the tasks better for the poll clerks who might be faced with a dilemma?
Ms. Waugh: If I should ever vote in a territorial election again, if I were carrying a proxy, because of my involvement with a candidate or a political party, and I agreed to carry that proxy, I donít know the person Iím voting on behalf of, okay, so when I get to the polling station ó should this amendment go through ó I cannot be challenged as to the qualification or the identity of that person because I have no knowledge of them. Currently there is provision for challenging qualifications and identity. What this prevents is somebody actually having to lie.
Chair: Is there any further debate on clause 31?
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On Clause 37
Ms. Duncan: As I understand it, clauses 37 right through to 40 and 41, what weíre dealing with initially is this passing the hat and also the substantive issues around the contributions that we had the discussion about earlier. These are the sections that deal with the contributions, correct?
Ms. Waugh: That is correct.
Ms. Duncan: Could I just ask Ms. Waugh to outline again for the record exactly how this is going to work so this is how a political party in a pass-the-hat event will deal with that money and this is how during a political campaign, when thereís a major contribution or expense incurred on behalf of a political party, this is it how it will be recorded for the candidates, and also perhaps for the record to restate the recommendation of campaign financing meetings.
Ms. Waugh: First, Iíll address anonymous contributions. Theyíre allowed under a certain amount currently. The amendment would allow for no anonymous contributions of either cash, negotiable instruments or in-kind contributions of any value to be made and accepted by either a candidate or a political party. The provision will still exist for a hat to be passed at a coffee party in somebodyís house or a small campaign meeting where you ask for donations. Those will not be considered to be anonymous contributions. But theyíll be reported with a date and the occasion under which that amount of money was collected, either by the candidate, official agent, or the political partyís official, when the reports are made at the end of the election.
Ms. Duncan: Is there also an intention or suggestion by the Chief Electoral Officer and the returning officer that there be a workshop for political parties on how the campaign financing ought to be recorded properly and how these provisions, proposed amendments, will be in effect?
Ms. Waugh: Actually, that was always our intention, both with the new act in 2000 and before any other general election which followed, but time was the issue for us.
Chair: Is there any further debate on clause 37?
Clause 37 agreed to
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On Clause 43
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask Ms. Waugh to explain in this particular instance if there is an individual who makes a campaign contribution to, letís say, 18 candidates ó 18 separate campaign contributions ó as I understand it, this section is going to have all of those ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: No, the minister is saying.
All right. Is there some section in the act through this campaign financing that insists that all of those contributions will be recorded, not as, say, $50 per candidate of a particular party, but as a lump sum contribution?
Ms. Waugh: No, there is no link from one candidate to another. The individual would show up, if it was over $250, on every candidateís report, or every political partyís report, if that person had been more than generous and given to everybody. If it was under the $250, they would still be receipted for that single contribution.
What this refers to primarily is that when people make multiple donations to one candidate or one party, instead of giving a tax credit receipt each time, there should be an administrative procedure both by the official agent for the candidate and the official for the party, that temporary receipts are issued as proof of the contribution but that a single tax credit receipt be issued at the end of the process.
Ms. Duncan: This temporary receipting, then ó do we have such a temporary receipt that could then be deemed valid, or is that something that is going to have to be, in essence, created? Or will it just be like an ordinary receipt book, and then the person would have that and be able to go back to the political party and ask, ďWhere is my tax receipt for the lump sum?Ē
I understand that. Thank you.
Ms. Waugh: Just to confirm that Ms. Duncan and I understand each other: the administrative part would be at the party or candidate level; itís for their record keeping.
Chair: Is there any further debate on clause 43?
Clause 43 agreed to
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On Clause 51
Ms. Duncan: I ask Ms. Waugh to provide the rationale for this. Have we had receipts go missing?
Ms. Waugh: At the 2000 general election, which was the first time we had tax credit receipts legislated rather than just in regulation, we issued I believe it was 25 blank tax credit receipts to every candidate. We received back I think maybe 70 percent of those receipts, and what people donít realize is that theyíre of value.
Chair: Is there any further debate on clause 51?
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On Clause 71
Ms. Duncan: How is it intended that these enforcement provisions will be carried out?
Mr. Michael:††††† This references the fact that compliance orders were possibly ordered under part 4 of the act, but they were not allowed in respect to part 6, which is the part that relates to election financing. Although the act set out what candidates, their official agents, what parties and their officials should be doing in terms of election financing, in fact, there was nothing to hold them to it. What has been asked for in the report, and is included in this act, is that the Chief Electoral Officer be allowed to issue compliance orders in respect to election financing issues in the same fashion as is done under part 4 of the act, in respect to other election matters.
What we will also find is that the act is being amended in a fashion that will allow those compliance orders to apply beyond the election period, because of course there are deadlines for election financing matters that extend beyond the election period.
Ms. Duncan: I understand that this section will provide, then, for the Chief Electoral Officer to issue a compliance order. What teeth are going to be attached to the compliance order? No party is exempt from having failed in their duties. Everybody has had a candidate who hasnít complied, so there is a compliance order issued. So what? What does that mean? Does it mean that that person canít run again? Does it mean ó with maintenance enforcement orders, you canít get your driverís licence renewed. There are penalties attached for certain things. What are the penalties?
Mr. Michael: You are asking that question about whether a very large fellow is sent out to visit ó that kind of thing.
The compliance order actually has the effect of a Supreme Court order. Sorry, what can happen is, the Chief Electoral Officer can issue the compliance order. Then, if there isnít any response to it, the Chief Electoral Officer can, in due time, register that with the Supreme Court. Once registered there, it has the effect of being a Supreme Court order, and anybody who doesnít respond in a suitable fashion at that point could be found in contempt of court.
Ms. Duncan: Contempt of court isnít going to require ó I guess what Iím asking is, itís well and good to put in enforcement provisions, but there have to be consequences spelled out as well. So are there any other consequences, other than it becomes a Supreme Court order ďthat thou shalt file this information with the Chief Electoral OfficerĒ? Is there any other consequence for a candidate?
Ms. Waugh: Our understanding of a Supreme Court order is that there is a lot of weight behind it. We are actually considered to be fortunate by other election officials in other jurisdictions because we have the ability to issue compliance orders that take on the effect of a Supreme Court order.
Ms. Duncan: I understand the point being made. Itís just that there are no consequences spelled out other than a Supreme Court order ďthou shall comply and file this reportĒ. But there are no provisions like maintenance enforcement orders where thereís a penalty attached. If you donít comply, you donít get your driverís licence renewed until you pay up in those sorts of outstanding issues. Could it then logically have an effect of the errant candidate having other issues with other governments? I mean, what are the consequences?
Mr. Michael: My perception of this and what weíve been working on for ages is that Supreme Courts donít take lightly the notion of someone not complying with an order of the court and that, in a situation that is grievous enough, I would think that the offending party might well find themselves a guest of Her Majesty. Thatís the level we can get to.
Ms. Duncan: I would note for the record ďif itís considered grievous enoughĒ. If itís considered grievous enough not to pay your family maintenance orders enforcement, then thereís a penalty attached. And those are court ordered as well and theyíre disobeyed by people, so are there other follow-up consequences? And Iím hearing ďnoĒ.
Chair: Is there any further debate on clause 71?
Clause 71 agreed to
Chair: There has been a desire expressed to take our normal recess. Do members wish to recess now?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will come to order. We will continue debate of Bill No. 48, Act to Amend the Elections Act and line-by-line examination.
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Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, before you request that the bill be cleared out of Committee, I would like to note for the record that the issue around prisoners voting has been dealt with in the amendments to the act and the amendments that we have cleared. Prisoners voting is the result of a Supreme Court ruling to which the Yukon has complied with amendments to the act. The issue of allowing prisoners to be candidates is not addressed in this particular bill. The clause that would deal with that particular section has not been brought forward as an amendment to allow a full and thorough debate on whether or not prisoners should be allowed to be candidates. This is a particular area where it is an option, as the Chief Electoral Officer has outlined. Provinces are dealing with that particular issue in different ways.† Some are allowing prisoners to be candidates and some are not.
The Yukon Party government, in not addressing this particular section of the act with an amendment, has in effect allowed prisoners to be candidates in the next election. We have not had a policy discussion on that in this House.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would like to take this opportunity to thank the officials for appearing before the House.
Chair: Is there any debate on the title?
Title agreed to
Chair: That concludes Bill No. 48.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that Bill No. 48, entitled Act to Amend the Elections Act, be reported without amendment.†
Chair: Mr. Jenkins has moved that Bill No. 48, Act to Amend the Elections Act, be reported without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Also, I would like to thank our witnesses and encourage them not to be strangers in the future.† Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we will be moving into Bill No. 51, Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act. The officials are on hand. It will take us just a few minutes to move the officials in.
Chair: I understand we will be going into Bill No. 51, Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act. Would members appreciate a five-minute recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a five-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. The Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 51 ó Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act ó continued
Chair: We will continue with Bill No. 51, Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act.
Mr. Hardy: I had, yesterday, been talking about consultation and the process that was used. At that time, the minister had said some statements that I felt needed more clarification and some more understanding and we needed to get it on the record, as well. I also recognized that he was, I guess you could call it, flying solo in that period, but now I think he has more resources to answer those questions, as well as having a day to think about them. Iíd like to go back to some of them.
I would like to know what process, and if he can elaborate a little bit on it, was used to consult with the people of the territory. If itís just the Motor Vehicles Act review survey by DataPath Systems, so be it ó he can clarify that ó or were there other methods that were used?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, I will, as he indicated, try to respond to several of the questions the members opposite have provided, and I will try to address as many of them as I can here.
Mr. Chair, I wish to take this opportunity to respond to a number of the questions and statements made by the hon. members of the House in the last Committee of the Whole and debate on this bill. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun asked about various types of motorized vehicles. He mentioned Argos, ATVs, and electric bicycles. He also asked whether I am concerned about police enforcement of laws that may affect these machines, depending on where they are operated. I responded by confirming that these are motor vehicles according to the act, and they are required to be registered and licensed when operated on the highways. The definition of a highway is a broad one. It covers all places that the motor vehicles may travel. This is necessary so that the important roles of the Motor Vehicles Act apply where a motor vehicle might go that is also used by other road users.
Recreational motor vehicles, like the ones mentioned by the member, are meant for off-road use. Of course, people frequently use them on roads or in the highways right-of-way. In most cases, the operation of these vehicles near roads is a violation of the law, but itís safer than actually riding or driving on the road itself. The RCMP use their discretion to enforce the law in these cases. I think the police must prioritize what legal violations they enforce for very practical reasons.
For example, when the RCMP see a jaywalker, should they stop whatever else they are doing to ticket that person? The RCMP can do so, but they may have more important legal violations to deal with at that time.
†In the practical world, timing and resources play a role in what violations are enforced by the RCMP. I have no reason to believe the RCMP are not doing what they need to do, and should do, to enforce the Motor Vehicles Act. What is most important is that the act provides the RCMP with the legal authority to enforce the rules of the road.
The member may feel differently, and that is his privilege. The member asked about ATVs a number of times. It is true that the Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act does not deal with ATVs explicitly. ATVs are dealt with under the Motor Vehicles Act.
In the 1996 public survey about possible changes to the act, one of the 13 major questions asked was about ATVs and off-highway vehicles. Question 11 reads: ďAll-terrain vehicles and their use are presently not regulated in the Yukon. The department proposes the registration of ATVs used on or alongside the highways in a manner similar to snowmobile requirements, including equipment; standards such as brakes and lights; safety requirements, such as helmets; operating requirements such as rules of the road; and insurance and licensing requirements including minimum age restrictions.Ē
The question goes on to propose allowing unregistered ATVs, those used off highways, to cross highways using the safest and most direct route. The Yukon public gave an 80-percent endorsement of these proposed changes for the operation of ATVS under the Motor Vehicles Act, which means that 1,020 responses supported it out of 1,366 total responses.
The Yukon public responded, but the responses were placed in the care of the NDP government that took office later that year. The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin asked how many respondents to our recent survey were from Old Crow. The experienced surveyors at DataPath took a representative random sample of the urban and rural Yukoners. We worked to clarify the specifics of the polling for the member.
The MLA for Porter Creek South spoke eloquently about the process for treating the elderly and infirm faced with losing their licence. I completely agree that the process should be compassionate and respectful. It is, however, an issue about the process and something that should be implemented outside of legislation. The selection of law and service does not exclude the government from doing more to enhance the human aspect of our process. Treating people in a compassionate manner is something that should be done over and above the law.
Governments across the country, including this government, are working to address the various issues surrounding the removal of driving privileges of those drivers who can no longer drive safety because of their age and/or medical condition.
We understand that as a person ages, their ability to drive a vehicle and safely interact with other drivers diminishes. I can assure you that the registrar of motor vehicles does everything possible to ensure that a driver can retain his or her driving privileges for as long as they can safety operate a vehicle on our roads. This includes getting information from the doctor, having the person assessed by the driver examiner, and in those cases where it is appropriate, providing a licence with conditions such as no nighttime driving, as an example.
†When the advice of these experts indicates that the person can no longer drive and interact safely with other road users, it is the registrarís responsibility to remove the personís driving privileges. The registrar doesnít take this lightly and he knows the effect that it will not only have on the elderly driver, but on their family as well.
The registrar will meet with the driver and family members to explain why the licence is being cancelled. If a meeting is not possible or wanted, a call will be placed to the elderly driver to explain the situation.
There is a great deal of compassion built into the process. We are all aging drivers and it can be expected that, at some point in time, our ability to safely drive and interact with other road users will deteriorate due to various medical conditions that usually affect the elderly.
I understand the motor vehicles branch also has a process in place that allows the family to provide information about their elderly family members to the registrar, Driver Control Board or the RCMP.
The leader of the third party also spoke about whether the amendments we are debating are consistent with other jurisdictions. We work with other jurisdictions through a number of means, and we are aware of what others are doing. Consistently, it is a virtue we embrace; however, we must strike a balance that works for our specifics in the Yukon, as other jurisdictions find legislative solutions for their unique circumstances.
The amendments we are debating today are about changing and correcting inconsistencies within our legislation. The impoundment section was first introduced into our legislation in 1997. Though it was supported by all parties at that time, that does not mean that the law was the best that it could be or should be. These amendments remove inequities, improve consistency and provide fairness in the Motor Vehicles Act.
I encourage members to recall or to inform themselves ó if they were not present at the 1997 debate that introduced this important impoundment law ó that the mercy rule to allow dependants to have access to the impounded vehicles for specific, serious needs was part of the bill brought forward by the NDP government. The mercy rule was supported by all parties at that time.
No one stated that the mercy rule weakens the laws in the act, that they aim to curb impaired driving simply because the mercy rule does not weaken the impaired driving laws.
Mr. Chair, this bill simply brings more equity to the mercy rules, and I would think that the members opposite would support that. Mr. Chair, let me stress that the amendments we are debating in no way weaken our impaired driving laws. Vehicles remain subject to impoundment on the same grounds as before ó as approved by both the NDP and Liberal governments, I might add. The provisions continue to strike directly at the conduct of the driver. Removing impaired drivers from our roads and taking away their driving privilege is what makes Yukon one of the tougher jurisdictions on impaired driving. The owner who is driving gets no benefit from these amendments. If you are an owner/driver and your driving results in your vehicle being impounded, then you get no mercy under either the current law or under these amendments. Even if the owner is not driving, the owner still gets no mercy under these amendments if he or she is a passenger in the vehicle when it is driven in defiance of the acts or the provisions.
Several of these amendments are focused on trying to avoid unjust punishment of owners and of others who depend on the vehicle. We must fashion the law to situations that have happened and that we must reasonably predict will happen. Take the case of the owner who explicitly instructs their employee, ďI think you are drunk. You are not to drive that vehicle.Ē Perhaps the owner has a well-known policy in place against drinking and driving and the employee disobeys that instruction and drives. Does the hon. member mean to suggest that this owner/employer should be deprived of the use of a vehicle, even when the loss of the vehicle will be devastating to the business, to other employees or customers who rely on the service the vehicle provides?
When we consider the potential liability of owners of commercial vehicles, most of whom are also employers, it is crucial that we understand that there is no principle of general application in common law and/or statutes that will impose an absolute liability on them for every action of their employee.
Nor can we think of any instance in any of our territorial legislation that imposes such an absolute liability on an employer for the limited purposes of a particular act. The general principle of law is that an employer will have a liability only where ó to use terminology that is used in many court cases ó ďthe employeeís conduct is within the course of the employeeís employment and within the scope of their authority and functions.Ē The principle tries to restrict the employerís liability to situations where it is realistic to conclude that the law can justifiably treat the employeeís conduct as if it were also the conduct of the employer.
Let me try to illustrate with some concrete examples. Suppose an employee punches a customer. The employer will have no criminal liability for that assault. It is the same thing if the employeeís conduct is impaired driving. The offence is by the employee, not the employer. If in addition to the offence, the employeeís conduct caused an injury or loss, then the employer might have a civil liability to pay compensation to the victim. This liability would be based on the principles of vicarious liability that operate in the civil law differently from in criminal law or the quasi criminal law of territorial offences. But even the civil liability is not absolute in the sense that it will happen in every case and an employer will have no defence, no exemptions from liability.
The hon. Member referred to section 97 of the Liquor Act. That is the specific example, and there are others. There is the provision that seeks to define conduct by an employee that will be a summary conviction offence chargeable to the employer. This provision does not impose an absolute liability on the employer for everything that the employee does.
Without getting into legal technicalities, we can paraphrase the state of law by saying that the employer will not be liable under this provision for conduct that is contrary to the instruction or practice of the employer. Nor is the employer liable for the conduct that is outside the course of the employerís employment, authority or function as an employee. For example, the employer or licensee might be liable under this provision for an action by their bar manager, but not liable under it for the very same action by the janitor.
I want to stress that the amendments that we propose are a specific application of principle that the owners, including those who are employers, will have the liability only where it is realistic to conclude that the law can justifiably treat the driverís conduct as if it was also the conduct of the owner of the vehicle. We believe that we cannot justifiably enact the rule that says all owners must, in all circumstances, suffer the impoundment.
Mr. Chair, the impoundment provisions do not impede the operation of other territorial laws or the criminal law. The provisions do not affect the operations of common law or legislation on the civil liability of drivers/owners. For example, the fact that an owner is able to obtain early release of their vehicle will not affect the issue of their civil liability for any loss the driving caused. Nor will it affect their liability for an offence under the territorial or federal laws, if they have committed one.
Impoundment is a preventive measure under these provisions. We donít wait for the accident to happen and then impound the vehicle. One rationale for impounding vehicles on grounds stated in these provisions is the fear that the driverís conduct might cause an accident, if they are not taken off the road and deprived of the opportunity of going back on the road with their own vehicle.
In addition to providing more equity to the mercy rule, we also believe that the amendments we are proposing make the Yukonís highways safer. They remove impaired drivers from our roads. They stiffen the penalty for police-evading car chases. They enforce insurance requirements before releasing an impounded vehicle. They encourage the use of the ignition interlock program and reduce the risk of unlicensed or impaired drivers on our roads. They ensure loads are secured when transporting on Yukon highways.
Amendments we have placed before this House have been reviewed and are supported by the public. Suggestions that our contact with the public on these matters was anything less than full or thorough is simply wrong. We ran the full survey with the contact number to call to provide opinions four times in the local newspapers, two times in each paper. We promptly placed the entire survey and contact number to provide input on our Web site. We ran close to 50 radio ads on Yukon radio stations over six days to alert people to the consultation and how to get involved. We also placed rolling ads in local cable stations, and we issued the news releases that were picked up by local media and covered extensively, including interviews with the members opposite. I also did an extended interview on CBC to tell the public about consultation survey questions and how to get involved. We also sent a survey with full contact information and an invitation to participate to all First Nations, chambers of commerce and the Association of Yukon Communitiesí members and a range of other interests.
We engaged the services of a well-respected, professionally certified, public opinion research firm. As members of the Professional Marketing Research Society of Canada, they are among a select group of certified public opinion researchers.
Their credentials are impeccable and they conducted a statistically sound and valid survey of Yukon opinions on these matters. In short, each community outside of Whitehorse was surveyed based on its share of rural population. The opinions were combined to represent rural Yukon, while the opinions gathered in Whitehorse were collected for the urban sample. The total samples were then weighted accurately, representing the territory based on Whitehorse and rural residents, three age categories and gender differences. As for the 14 percent First Nation participation in the survey, that is for the total sample, including Whitehorse and communities. The study was not designed to break out and analyze each community, just rural and Whitehorse opinions.
The company randomly dialled almost 4,400 homes in this territory and spoke to 404 households to complete the survey. The survey did not ask for any names. Demographic information such as gender, age, First Nation or non-First Nation are details that are collected to help classify and analyze the data. Under the code of conduct governing public opinion research professionals, the identification of people who participate in the surveys cannot be disclosed in any case or those names are not even known. Moreover, what is discussed between a surveyor and a respondent cannot be disclosed. The publicís right to privacy, anonymity and confidentiality is fundamental to public opinion research and the Professional Marketing Research Societyís code of conduct.
I am very confident that the Yukoners who were interested in this topic and who wanted to share their opinions with us had ample opportunity to do so. We thank the many Yukoners who participated and we know that we received a statistically strong offering of opinions. I would again like to thank the advisory committee of community volunteers who also provided invaluable advice in this process. Moreover, I am very confident that the amendments before this House make our act stronger and the roads of Yukon safer.
Mr. Hardy: I thank the minister opposite for the long speech in regard to some of the questions asked in the past and some of the answers that he has now brought forward but, like so many things, it sometimes also raises other questions. Now I did not hear toward the end, when the minister got into the consultation process, some of the answers I was asking for yesterday. He has had a day now to think about it and I think we can move along on this if I can get some idea. He did mention the DataPath survey, the excellent work they do and the process followed and the questions that were asked. He did mention the amount of advertising done. Could the minister inform me over what time period this happened?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The total that weíre looking at is approximately seven to eight weeks.
Mr. Hardy: So approximately a month, just a little less than two months, I guess, weíd be looking at for the consultation process. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Hart: When all things were done, by the time we finished up it was over a two-month period.
Mr. Hardy: Was that how long the Motor Vehicles Act review survey, conducted by DataPath, ran or was it done over a shorter period of time?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The period of time for the survey was, as I mentioned, a little over two months. The period of consultation was from December until June, which included the advisory committee and all those involved in the process.
Mr. Hardy: Iím sorry, Mr. Chair. This is not my critic area, so maybe Iím going to ask a question that the minister may feel is a little foolish, but I just need some clarification on it. I think I misunderstood him. Now, what I kind of heard was this: what would be the seven- to eight-week period for consultation? The question I asked was around the DataPath and how long that actually ran. For the full consultation during the period when the public was being asked to contribute and give their input upon the changes to the Motor Vehicles Act, what period did that run? Then the latest figure that the minister has indicated now is approximately six months. What did that entail? Was that right from the beginning of the consultation or from the drafting of the questions, the changes that were being proposed to the final compilation of all the material and writing of the act, or what was it? Could the minister just please give me an overview of this, please?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, two months was the actual study from DataPath. Our process, dealing with the advisory committee, commenced in December, where we broached the questions, went through the process, developed what amendments were going to be done, taken to the public, and going from there.
Mr. Hardy: I wonít dwell on the time period. I was just trying to get in my head exactly how long it took. As we know, there has always been a lot of debate around consultation and some consultation seems to indicate a very quick, short outreach. Others seem to be very extensive and go for a long time. Often it is based, of course, upon the questions being asked if there needs to be an educational process with it in order to bring the awareness to the people and give them some background leading into some kind of request for feedback and input from the public.
Others donít. Others are fairly straightforward, and most people have an opinion of them right away. They arenít too in-depth or too difficult to understand.
The minister had started talking about different categories, various types of vehicles and categories of vehicles, some registered, some that run off-road ó along the sides in the ditches. I would like to know this for my own information: could the minister tell me what separates ó Iím sure itís in the act, and it should be easy ó the off-road use from the on-road use, say, for roads in communities like Haines Junction, Teslin, or whatever community you want to name. What would be separating them? How do you designate it? And how does a person access different parts of the countryside, if there is an off-road category which doesnít allow crossing roads and driving on those roads? Give me an idea of what is separating all that and how itís dealt with, please?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I mentioned previously in my address with respect to ATVs, when you are within the right-of-way ó any rural right-of-way, which is the highway ó then the rules of the highway apply. Depending upon the situation, as I mentioned, the RCMP have that aspect in their pocket. They can choose to enforce the rules or not, depending upon the situation.
Iím sure that if somebody on a dirt bike comes roaring out of the off-road side, crosses the highway, and makes it a dangerous situation, the RCMP will enforce that particular part of the act that covers an unlicensed off-road vehicle on the highway.
But in general, people take their recreational vehicles and tow them, and they are off-loaded to go into the back woods ó ATVs and skidoos, for example; many skidoos are on trailers and youíll see many ATVs in the back of pickup trucks. They take them to their spot and they are off-loaded and they move into the countryside.
As I mentioned, there are some cases where, if the people are crossing to get to wherever they want to go, itís at the discretion of the local RCMP as to what theyíre doing. In some cases, as I mentioned ó driving along the side or whatever that is not impacting ó it would be a lot worse if they were on the highway driving illegally.
Mr. Hardy: I do have to agree with the minister and I do believe that the RCMP exercise their discretionary powers in this matter fairly well. I think weíve all witnessed that. If you live in a community, you definitely witness it. Growing up here, you would have probably experienced it.
Can you see ATVs in the future ever being licensed to be allowed on right-of-ways, the highways, and such?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Technically, you can do that right now: take an ATV on the highway, as long as it is licensed and insured.
Mr. Hardy: That surprises me.
So, in order for an ATV to be licensed, you go down and buy a licence and then ATVs can be driven on the highways and streets in communities, on roads, as long as they are meeting the speed limits? Is that what the requirement would be?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The vehicles have to be licensed and insured. To be insured and licensed, you have to be of legal age to drive them on the highway.
Mr. Hardy: Has the government entertained any courses to teach safe driving habits ó driver education courses? I donít ask this lightly; this is a serious question. I could go quite in-depth why because I do have experience with young people who have injured themselves extremely badly, and there have been some deaths on these vehicles. ATVs definitely have a tendency to have a lot more bounce to them than a motorcycle or than a car, which has more weight and is more stable. The high speeds on an ATV are far more dangerous than a car or a motorcycle. When I say high speeds, that could be a normal driving speed on the highway, 90 kilometres per hour. Though it may be insured, though the ATV may be registered and licensed, though the driver may be 16 years of age, they may not have the proper skills or ability to control a vehicle such as an ATV at that speed if theyíre trying to drive at the recognized speed limit. I do know that if you drive too slow, you can get a ticket. If you drive too fast you can get a ticket.
There are a few questions in here, and if the minister could just share some information around this. One is, of course, the safety factor. I do not feel comfortable knowing that an ATV can go 90 kilometres an hour down a highway. With the way those things are built, I donít consider them as safe as some of the other vehicles on the road.
Iím also concerned about education, knowledge, like the driver training program in place for kids to learn how to drive vehicles. Is there anything in place like that? Those are the kinds of questions I have.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iíll try to respond to the member opposite as much as I can, based on several of his questions.
With regard to the speed limit ó high or low ó the vehicle would have to adhere to the speed limits that are being posted on the road or highways or wherever they are, and they would have to take into consideration the capability of that vehicle that they are on. As far as being too slow, there is no violation for driving too slow unless you are impeding traffic ó your pace is so slow that you are impeding the pace of traffic. With regard to providing education for some of these drivers, we do have videos available at the motor vehicles branch. In addition, I know that several of the dealers do have educational videos available indicating safe driving for that type of vehicle, whether itís an ATV or a snow machine. We donít carry a specific program, i.e. the graduated driverís licence that we do have on our MVA at the moment.
Mr. Hardy: Does that concern the minister that there isnít some type of course offered or available for young people learning to operate these very large, very powerful machines?† I would think that if it would help prevent injuries or save a life or prevent accidents ó whatever ó it would be a good idea. Would the minister consider something like that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, I believe that the case of driving too fast for some of these machines is a serious concern to me, just like it is for a boat.
A boat isnít any different. You get it on the lake, and you get a young fellow behind the wheel, and heís so busy showing off to his friends on the beach that he forgets. He does a quick turn, and the thing is upside-down. I think these are all issues that are provided by the private sector, and I think they have some sort of responsibility to that particular aspect. In most cases, they do provide educational materials to that effect; however, if we were to receive a substantial number of requests to put on this type of course, then we would obviously have to sit down and look at providing that type of course.
Mr. Hardy: I thank the minister for his answer, and I do hope that what we do see is maybe groups of people looking to the government to see about either sponsoring a course put on by one of the associations, for instance, such as the Snowmobile Association. I donít know if thereís an ATV association or not, or a motorcycle association ó if the government would work closely with any of them, it would be very good.
The minister mentioned boats, water vehicles ó transportation vehicles. Heís very correct. I have seen extremely dangerous behaviour on the water, and it is quite frightening when you see that happen. The worst case Iíve ever seen happened to be in Quebec. It was at a small lake. I was sitting on the beach, watching activities on the lake, and it was totally surrounded by cottages ó a lot more population. It was in the Laurentians, just outside Montreal.
They were water skiing with, of course, a motorized boat pulling them. There were Sea-Doos on the water. There were speed boats, fishing boats, little paddle boats, canoes, and a few ducks that hadnít been run over yet. The whole lake ó and Iím not joking, Mr. Chair ó was a thriving, vibrating activity of motorized things going back and forth. It was a serious accident waiting to happen.
Now I donít think we have that congestion up here, but we do have people who do not know how to control vehicles ó like we have anywhere else. Itís really frightening when you see someone who doesnít have that kind of control. Often the easiest step is education. Itís the fastest, quickest, easiest and the most effective: educate and train a person how to control a vehicle. I hope that some of the associations take the initiative to think about offering these courses with the governmentís assistance and maybe they can do them out in the community as well as in Whitehorse and teach safe driving, the basic courtesy of the road and how it should work.
Now I donít know if the minister is aware of this, but there was a huge debate around ATVs, and I think it was in Ontario. I was listening to the radio a year or two ago, and it was about helmets and the use of helmets. The government, I think, was going to impose the use of helmets; whether it was off-road or on-road, people would have to wear a helmet in order to ride these vehicles.
Of course there was quite a backlash to that. Some people feel that if they are off-road they should not have to wear a helmet. But the brain injuries that were happening had reached a very serious proportion and serious injuries to young children were especially becoming a crisis, and there was a call for ensuring that responsibility and wearing a helmet was in place.
Is that requirement in place here, that in order to ride one of these vehicles ó whether itís off-road or on-road ó they have to wear a helmet?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There currently is no requirement under the law to provide a helmet for off-road use of that vehicle.
Mr. Hardy: Is this one area that the minister had considered?
Hon. Mr. Hart: This is not one that I had considered, to answer the member opposite. We were concentrating on the issues and the amendments brought forth by the advisory committee and thatís what we have come forth with.
Mr. Hardy: Motorcycles even off road, you almost never ever would see a person riding without a helmet. Itís just almost never heard of. Itís accepted ó not only is it accepted, the riders feel more comfortable with it as a safety precaution. I really find it odd that ATVs would be any different. They can be considered just as dangerous and a helmet could prevent a very serious accident or even a death quite easily.
I would hope that the minister would have considered putting that in part of the DataPath questionnaire because it would have been interesting to get the feedback. Iím sure there would have been people of course opposed to that, but just as well there would be people who would also say, yes, it should be in there. If youíre going to have somebody riding a 700cc or 800cc machine at a certain speed, itís easy to lose control of, especially over terrain that is unsafe, which has a tendency to make the vehicle bounce and move around. Anybody who has ever ridden them recognizes that they are not the most stable vehicles. There is a lot of concern about that. It takes very little impact upon the head to cause an injury. My concern is that itís missing in the survey and itís a safety item that I think should have been there even just to get the feedback with regard to that.
Now, off-road ó what is the age limit for a person to ride an ATV off-road?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Chair, there is no limit.
Mr. Hardy: So an eight-year-old can get on a 700cc, 800cc ó maybe even a 400cc machine that outweighs them by ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: ó a 400-pound machine that has a motor that ó and theyíre almost all four-wheel drive, of course ó a motor that can take that machine from zero to 60 probably very, very quickly, and you have a 60-pound person sitting on top of it, no helmet, no safety features at all on the machine. If it rolls over, of course, there is nothing there.
Was that not considered in the questionnaire, to see what people felt about that, if there should be some type of restrictions at all on these?
I know that a lot of people would be very, very concerned about this. A lot of people go out and buy their child one of these ATVs as soon as the child can walk, maybe to join in their own journeys through the woods, or whatever. I personally feel very uncomfortable with it, to the regret of my own children, since I never bought them one. I feel that maybe there should be some kind of supervision or some kind of regulation that ensures some form of compliance in regard to safety. I get very uncomfortable when I see a very young, very small person racing down the ditch on one of these vehicles, bouncing all over.
Was that never part of the consideration of the minister?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The member opposite has brought up examples on several occasions to do with off-road use.
I would stress that the Motor Vehicles Act is here to address issues that happen on our highways. That is where we are making our emphasis.
I donít want to downplay the issue that that is not an important process. I personally believe that if it were my child and we were going to give him something to work on, I have a responsibility for what he canít control.† I can advise the member opposite that much to my sonís chagrin I wouldnít let him get on the snow machine unless he could lift it out of wherever he was going to use it. Believe me, it took him two seasons to lift that little Bravo out of the snow before he could actually move it around, but he came in one day and said, ďLook, I got it out and ready to go.Ē I said, ďThatís fine; now weíve got to get it out of the snow.Ē It took another year to get to that stage. This was just a Bravo. This wasnít a 440 machine. I really do believe that that was my responsibility as a parent. I think parents have a responsibility in a lot of these cases involving off-road vehicles. Even if, to give another example, my son uses an extreme downhill bike. He doesnít go down without the gear on. He doesnít go down without his helmet. I can tell you that he came home one day. The seat on his bike was broken right in half. I didnít even ask him what happened.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes, but when he goes out heís got all his gear. Everything is there. If thereís a crash, thereís his helmet and everything else. So, youíre not going to let your son or daughter go out on the machine thatís there. Itís the same when we use our boat. I donít let him run around on his own with our boat. He has to use caution or I have to be there. I think thatís a general ó I will put this out for the member opposite: thatís generally the case with many parents. Many parents look at the risk for their children and dealing with that.
Now, in some cases, yes, some small children are on snowmobiles with heavy power, for example. You know, we canít write a law for everyone out there. We canít write a regulation for everyone out there. We have helmet laws. Look at how many people donít wear a helmet. We have seat belt laws. Look at how many people donít wear a seat belt. We have them, we enforce the rule, but look at how many people donít wear their seat belt.
I think that, in many cases, itís there. But as I mentioned, our changes to the Motor Vehicles Act have to do with on the road. These amendments that are put forward are the ones brought forth by our advisory committee. As I mentioned previously on several occasions in this House, there are many things that could be brought up in the act. Even the members opposite brought up issues that should be brought up in the act.
I suggest to you and the members opposite that the next time this act is up, hopefully it will be the entire act. And I am feeling that that is something that we have to do. But in the meantime, we are looking at going forth on the issues that we brought forth as amendments, and I am hoping that we can go forth on that issue. But as I mentioned earlier, I share the member oppositeís concern with regard to small young children on these powerful vehicles, and that isnít about to change.
And seeing the time, Mr. Chair, I do request that you report progress.
Chair: Mr. Hart has moved that we report progress on Bill No. 51, Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Cathers: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: Mr. Cathers has moved that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 51, Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 48, Act to Amend the Elections Act, and has directed me to report it without amendment.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. Cathers: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the acting government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: The House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 9, 2004:
Fire Marshal 2003 Annual Report† (Hart)