Wednesday, November 30, 2005 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.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
†Mr. Cardiff: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) many Yukon adults sentenced to prisons in the south for violent offences eventually return to the Yukon;
(2) some of them have lifelong conditions and addictions;
(3) there are very few programs available in the Yukon to give them the daily support and treatment that is needed to reintegrate them into society; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to take immediate steps prior to the results of the corrections consultation to implement programs that will provide desperately needed treatment, housing and daily support for adult offenders returning to the Yukon who suffer from lifelong conditions and addictions.
Unanimous consent re returning to tabling of returns and documents
Mr. Hardy: I ask for unanimous consent to return to tabling of returns and documents.
Speaker: The Member for Whitehorse Centre has requested unanimous consent to return to the tabling of returns and documents. Do we have unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: You have unanimous consent, leader of the official opposition.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Mr. Hardy: I have the following documents to table: letters and performance evaluations.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† Canada Winter Games, athletes village project manager
†Mr. Hardy: Now that the Minister of Highways and Public Works has had a chance to look into the matter that I raised with him yesterday, I hope that he can provide some answers today.
Yesterday the minister said this: ďWe are looking at trying to fill our own project management positions, and we are in the process of looking at hiring for these particular positions...Ē If that is the case, why is the government refusing to extend the appointment of a fully qualified project manager who has a proven track record when that appointment expires today?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, this particular situation is being handled by the Public Service Commission and they are taking care of this personnel matter.
Mr. Hardy: Yesterday the minister said that project managers are, in his own words, ďdifficult to find anywhere, basically west of Winnipeg.Ē Yet hereís an individual who successfully completed various projects for this government and has several more still in the works. On November 17 this person received a very positive performance evaluation including a recommendation by his supervisor and a director of the branch that his appointment be confirmed. The director wrote this, ďI recommend that appropriate steps be taken to offer this individual an appointment to an indeterminate project manager position ASAP.Ē Why was this very clear recommendation ignored? I think we really do need an explanation on the floor on this.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Speaker, as the members opposite know full well, we on this side of the House do not get involved with personnel matters, administrative matters. In fact, that is under the purview of the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I think that begs the question, whether they do or do not get involved in personnel matters, because there is a very, very serious situation residing around this, as well as their actions in the past, at points that they do get involved.
Going back to my question, if there is a new policy to outsource project management, no matter what it costs, then the minister should admit it. We talked about the $300,000 outsourcing yesterday. I think there is more to this than meets the eye. Itís time we had some answers from at least one of these ministers, instead of what theyíre trying to do here.
I just tabled several documents that raise some very disturbing issues. The Premierís office is aware of this situation. We do know that. So if the minister wonít answer, if the other minister wonít answer, perhaps the Premier will. Since this personís work performance doesnít seem to be an issue here ó and I havenít heard that argued ó is the refusal to rehire him based on something else altogether? Letís have the facts.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: ††We as elected members of the Government of Yukon do not get involved in any which way, shape or form with respect to the hiring or hiring decisions for the Yukon government. Rather, that is a responsibility that is undertaken by the Public Service Commission. Again, for members opposite: we on this side of the House, as elected members, the executive arm of government, do not get involved in personnel matters.
Question re:†††† Canada Winter Games, athletes village project manager
Mr. Hardy: Iíve given the ministers opposite lots of opportunity to explain why a well-qualified, well-respected project manager is being let go for no apparent reason. I think what we need is clarity around this issue. The documents I tabled make it clear that whatís really at issue here is a matter of fundamental justice.
On November 24, a government lawyer wrote the following to this individualís lawyer, and I quote: ďHis apparent intention to try and cause public embarrassment seems to be further confirmation that this individual is not suitable for continued employment in the public service.Ē Thatís a quote from that letter.
Will the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission explain what this statement refers to?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Again, Mr. Speaker, and for members opposite, we on this side of the House, the elected arm of government, the executive arm of government, do not get involved within personnel-related matters, to which the member opposite is referring. That is, rather, under the purview of the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Hardy: I would like to remind the House that thatís the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. She is directly involved with the Public Service Commission: she is the minister. And the computer use investigation was a direct involvement of this government, as well, in the employeeís actions. If the minister wonít explain the statement that I just mentioned in my previous question, I will, though. The so-called public embarrassment is nothing less than the fact that this person has initiated a legal action against this government on a completely separate matter. That is what this minister is trying to avoid saying. He had the audacity to assert his legal rights as a citizen and he is being punished for it by being blacklisted for employment. Thatís what this is about.
Now, does the minister condone this way of dealing with employees who choose to stand up for their individual rights as citizens? Maybe weíll get an answer.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: If the leader of the official opposition is asserting that this government would in any way, shape or form, because of a hiring policy, diminish the rights of individuals to access justice, I can assure the member opposite that if that is the case, we will immediately look into it. Because this government would never, ever support any such hiring policy, and if there is one, which I highly doubt there is, we are going to look into the matter immediately.
Mr. Hardy: What an assurance. I hope itís true, since the ministerís office has known about this case for awhile, yet nothing has been done about it. It was brought up yesterday, and nothing has been done about it.
From where I stand, this bears all the hallmarks of abuse of government power. It is morally and ethically wrong to treat people this way. In a letter hand-delivered to the Public Service Commissioner on Monday, the employee in question put it very clearly: it appears that government is requesting an individual to forfeit their legal rights in exchange for continued employment. Thatís what is written in that letter.
Will the Premier now advise the Public Service Commissioner that this approach is unacceptable and that this individual should not be discriminated against for exercising his legal rights in an unrelated matter? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: As I have just stated to a previous question, if it is the case that this is a hiring policy in an area where the executive arm of government does not involve itself ó that is, personnel matters, in that area. But if this is a case in fact that this is a policy so archaic that it would diminish any individualís rights to access justice because of a hiring policy, this government would never support such a policy and we would immediately look into the matter, if that is what has happened here.
I donít know how else I can respond to the member opposite, but I find it very troubling if there is such a policy in government, unbeknownst to us.
Question re: Workersí Compensation Act review
Mr. Mitchell: As I noted yesterday, the Yukon Party is desperately trying to distance itself from the MLA for Klondike. Itís sort of a Yukon version of Extreme Makeover. However, it continues to behave the same way.
Yesterday, I asked the Minister of Health to take a new approach to a couple of initiatives in that department. He refused. He basically said that he will continue to do it the same way as the previous minister. The government was anxious to dump the minister but wants to keep his way of doing business.
I would like to ask about another decision made by the MLA for Klondike and supported by the rest of the Yukon Party. As the minister responsible for the Yukon Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, he sat on new occupational health and safety regulations for three years, refusing to pass them. This is another opportunity for the Yukon Party to demonstrate it is taking a new approach to governing. Will the acting minister pass these much-needed regulations immediately?
Hon. Mr. Lang: As acting minister, I can answer the member opposite. I have confirmed that they will be coming to Cabinet and then they will be brought out. So, yes, we are working on them. They are at the final stages and they have to go through Cabinet.
Mr. Mitchell: Well, Mr. Speaker, thatís not quite good enough. Is there a date that we can hear from the minister as to when this will occur? These new regulations have the support of both workers and employers. They took many hours of work. For the last three years they have sat on the desk of the former minister because he refused to pass them. This decision was supported by the entire Yukon Party caucus.
The Yukon Party government is anxious to distance itself from the former minister. His unwillingness to pay back his loan and the way he unilaterally did business was creating a major headache for this government.
The caucus, and not the Premier, finally did something. It wants to get rid of a stain on the governmentís record; however, the new ministerís response is the same old song: we intend to keep doing it the same way; we will look into it; we will act soon. There have been no changes in attitude.
Will the minister commit that he will move ahead with these regulations immediately?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In addressing the member opposite, there is a process we go through of how things come before Cabinet. There are timelines, and those timelines will be met. We are proceeding with them. We are going through Cabinet with them. We will make them public as soon as they go through Cabinet.
Mr. Mitchell: Mr. Speaker, not good enough. Timelines ó there have been three years of this timeline. Iím looking for a one-word answer: ďyesĒ. Thatís the word workers and employers have been waiting on for three years. Weíre talking about the safety of Yukon workers. Continued delays in approving these regulations could lead to unnecessary accidents and injuries. The former minister stalled for three years on these regulations. He absolutely refused to move ahead on them. This new Yukon Party government is busy trying to improve its image before the next election. Hereís an opportunity to do something that employers and workers agree on, and the Yukon Party wonít do it. They still want to do things the way the old minister did it. Will the new minister proclaim these new regulations immediately?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the member opposite, I want to address the fact that the misinformation that there isnít a process on how things go through Cabinet ó I hope that he doesnít think that itís an instant decision to put anything out there. There is a process in government. I understand his lack of knowledge of it, but it is a learning experience in here, and I hope he learns.
Question re: Alaska Highway pipeline preparedness
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up with the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources on issues related to the Alaska Highway pipeline project, and I urge him to listen carefully and to avoid confusion. Unbeknownst to Yukon public, this minister has developed strategies behind closed doors on how the Yukon government should prepare for the pipeline. These strategies have long-term implications for the Yukon and all Yukoners. When is the minister planning to let Yukoners know about his secret plans, and when will he be providing the public with an opportunity to comment on these strategies before they are finalized?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In addressing the member opposite, thereís nothing secretive about this government. Weíre working with the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition and getting them funded; weíre working with Ottawa. The Grand Chief and the Premier just came back from a very productive meeting with NRCan in Ottawa. We are certainly working very openly with the NEB and the Mackenzie Valley pipeline to access that pipeline, when and if it goes through. Thereís nothing secretive about what weíre doing. Weíre doing business as usual in the Yukon, trying to take advantage of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline for our northern resources, and also getting pipeline-ready for if and when ó I remind the member opposite the Yukon government is not building a pipeline. We are working with the corporate part of the energy business to see what their plans are and weíll work with them when it comes forward.
Thereís nothing secretive about anything.
Mr. McRobb: I urge the minister to listen a little more carefully. I was hoping he would explain what both the strategies are, but obviously thatís still a big secret. Itís a known fact that this government has ignored the pipeline until the final year of its mandate, only then to discover that time has run out to do things properly.
The first strategy is named the ďinterim pipeline strategyĒ. This strategy will identify all the areas for which the Yukon government is responsible and determine courses of action to address the concerns identified. Why has the minister not taken these issues to the public? Why must they be a big secret? Doesnít he care about the concerns Yukoners might raise?
Hon. Mr. Lang: † Obviously the member opposite knows what the department is doing. Is that a big secret? We are doing business in an open way. The member opposite is wrong again ó wrong. This is a very public process. The gas line thatís coming through our jurisdiction is being addressed in a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly process. Iíve been getting ready for this pipeline since 1978, Mr. Speaker. There is nothing secretive about our government.
Mr. McRobb: I had a briefing from the department yesterday. I urged the minister to maybe have a briefing himself.
Now, the other strategy kept secret by this minister is called the ďYukon comprehensive pipeline strategyĒ. Supposedly this strategy will have developed the Yukonís position to both the Alaska Highway pipeline project and the Mackenzie gas pipeline. It seems to me that Yukoners might have something to say about the many issues identified in such a strategy. Those include social impacts, cultural impacts, economic impacts, infrastructure impacts, opportunities and so on. The best process would be an open and transparent one.
Why does the minister choose to ignore whatís best for Yukoners and instead do whatís convenient for himself?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I appreciate the member opposite. Again heís wrong. National Energy Board hearings are very public; weíre intervening in those hearings for the benefit of all Yukon. That is a very public process. Thatís why they have them, Mr. Speaker, so again the member opposite is wrong. The NEB hearings for the Mackenzie Valley pipeline that weíre intervening in are open and public meetings, and the decisions that come out of that will be public decisions.
Question re: RCMP staff shortage
Mr. Cardiff: † In her latest report, the Auditor General of Canada said that the RCMP is short-staffed in supplying services to the provinces and territories. At a recent public forum on safer communities held here in Whitehorse and broadcast over the airwaves across the Yukon, there were several callers. This was the forum that was hosted by the Member for Whitehorse Centre. Several callers and audience members expressed concerns about the number of officers who are patrolling our highways and byways on any given day.
The general feeling of these callers was that there simply arenít enough RCMP officers ó especially in rural communities. How does the minister plan to address the very serious concerns that have been raised by the Auditor General?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the member opposite for that question. I would tend to believe that maybe the RCMP are credible enough to know if their staff is sufficient, and according to them, their staff is sufficient. I have no reason to believe that that isnít the case.
Mr. Cardiff: Obviously the Minister of Justice is not taking his job very seriously. Consultations are supposed to occur on a regular basis between the contracting jurisdiction, for which the minister is responsible ó he is the representative for the territory ó and the RCMP, to determine the level of policing services that are needed to keep our communities and streets safe.
In the recent past, Yukoners have died in the custody of officers who have worked long shifts, and theyíve died in holding cells without adequate supervision. In his discussions ó and I hope that the minister has had discussions with the head of M Division ó what has the minister put forward regarding these and other pressing police needs and issues for the Yukon Territory?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite made a very inaccurate statement to start with, by saying that this minister does not take the job seriously, because I do. Iím quite confident that the RCMP are doing an excellent job and have been for years in this territory. Things do happen. Itís a fact of life and itís not enough to totally discredit the RCMP and their ability to police the country.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the minister didnít answer the question. So now he has two questions to answer. The Auditor General also pointed out that there were serious training gaps for newly graduated cadets. An example is that 16 percent of newly graduated cadets did not receive the full six months mandatory field coaching.
Now, the Yukon government has paid the RCMP $13.7 million in 2005-06, and the Justice minister should be taking a more proactive role in the kind of service the force is providing and suggesting areas for improvement.
So, will the minister tell us whether or not he has met ó he didnít tell us that the last time ó with the RCMP and will he also take action to ensure that the RCMP has the capacity to respond to things like staff absences and shortages so that Yukoners can get the level of policing they deserve and have come to expect?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I have some concerns with the member opposite continually insinuating that this minister has to now go and micromanage the RCMP force. I mean, I have all the confidence that they know their work ó itís not like they started the RCMP division here yesterday. Theyíve been around for many, many years. Mr. Speaker, I have to say again, for the record, that I do have all confidence that the RCMP know what their staffing needs are and that they are doing a good job in this territory.
Question re: Child poverty elimination
Mrs. Peter: † Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the acting Minister of Health and Social Services. Sixteen years ago, the House of Commons unanimously passed an NDP motion to ďseek to achieve the goal of eliminating poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000.Ē Five years after that goal, we see no progress. One child out of every six still lives in poverty. Our Premier keeps asking Yukoners if we are better off than when this government took office. Some people may be better off, but there are others, including many children, who are not. When does the acting minister plan to do what his predecessor didnít do to help families with children who are living well below the poverty line?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: There is one concern that our government has and our department has ó and departments right across the board involving this whole issue ó and the member opposite is quite correct. These announcements have been made in the media by the federal government ó by the House of Commons ó but the vast majority of funds involved in this has in fact never been given to the Yukon government. We have a number of things that we wish to do and a number of planning initiatives, and a number of approaches that we can take to this very serious problem. As soon as the funding starts flowing from the federal government, we certainly will be doing just that.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, itís time for this government to act instead of blame. Youth in Whitehorse ó our homeless ó single working mothers canít live off a minimum wage that hasnít been increased for years. This government claws back the child tax benefit supplement from the very poorest of Yukon families. Will this acting minister act now to have the government raise the minimum wage, stop the clawback of the child tax benefit supplement and fund shelters for homeless youth?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Absolutely, the trigger has been pulled on minimum wage and that is now in the process of being done. I agree with the member opposite that this is a good thing.
In terms of homelessness, it obviously has limited interest in terms of the Department of Health and Social Services; it really falls on the federal level into the housing initiatives. The whole thing we have dealt with, with the federal government on that level, has been in terms of urban homelessness. The situation is really quite different here, as the member opposite knows, in terms of whatís referred to as couch surfing and that sort of thing. It has been very difficult to get any of the federal government departments to come to the table with that, but we have tried to do what we can within our own envelope.
These are very serious questions and very serious issues, and the member opposite is quite right that the federal government, in announcing all these programs ó we look forward to the day when they actually write the cheque.
Mrs. Peter: Iím glad the minister actually agrees with me. Rural communities in the Yukon donít have jobs for parents. This acting minister should know that, since heís the Minister of Economic Development.
A lot of rural housing is in shambles, making people sick with black mould. As acting minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, the minister also knows this. Many Yukon children live in families that have to deal with addictions and violence. Children are a major proportion of the people using food banks in Whitehorse.
Will the acting minister now tell Yukoners what they can expect from this government in terms of making poverty history for Yukon children?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I am certainly glad that the member opposite has limited the question to only three of my areas of responsibility. Again, I tend to agree with the member opposite that all these things are serious issues. They are being addressed in the substance abuse strategy, which is being done in consultation with the members opposite and with the public. A lot of it has to do with housing, a lot has to do with black mould problems ó a big problem in the north but not necessarily strictly a northern problem. Some estimates given say it is as high as a 90-percent effect in some communities. So, thatís a major, major issue. These are all things that have been addressed to a degree by our federal government through numerous announcements. But the public has to understand that while these announcements have been made, the actual funding has not come to the territory.
During our federal election, when a candidate of any stripe appears at the door, I encourage the member opposite to ask them when the funding is going to take place. Of course, because of the federal election, that now has been delayed, and that is a terrible situation. But thatís a question to ask the federal candidate, and I encourage everyone to do that.
Question re: Workersí Compensation Act review
†Mr. Mitchell: As I noted earlier today, this government wants the public to believe it is in the middle of an extreme make-over, Yukon edition. It has removed the MLA for Klondike; however, we are already seeing that this is just window dressing. No real changes are taking place. The same attitudes exist and the government continues to stand behind the way the previous minister did business. So much for changing its ways, Mr. Speaker.
Under the previous minister responsible for Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, a plan was launched about three years ago to review the Workersí Compensation Act. Hundreds of thousands of dollars and three years later, Yukoners still have no act review. Once again, the Yukon Party has an opportunity to distance itself from the previous minister if it chooses to. Will the new minister commit that the new Workersí Compensation Act will be on the spring legislative agenda?
Hon. Mr. Lang: † Understanding that I am the acting minister responsible for the Yukon Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, to give him any timelines on that would be inappropriate, but as a government we certainly hope to get that thing out as quickly as possible and as well done as possible. He can be confident knowing that we are working on it internally and we will get it out as soon as we possibly can.
Mr. Mitchell: The Yukon Party wants to have it both ways and the public will see through it. I share with the acting minister some lengthy background in the private sector, and being a year behind schedule would not be something that would be very effective in that arena. The Yukon Party wants people to forget that the MLA for Klondike and all his micromanaging and bullying was ever part of this government. The new and improved Yukon Party, however, still keeps in place all the ministerís bad habits and bad decisions.
The Yukon Party gave the MLA for Southern Lakes one task: he was to work with the former minister to review the Workersí Compensation Act. Both members failed miserably in this task. Three years later we have no new act in place. Will the new acting minister commit that when we reconvene in the spring, a new workersí compensation act will be on the agenda?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the question to the member opposite, weíre committed to doing the review and weíre committed to doing the review in a proper way. I have been the acting minister for 72 hours. I will work with my counterpart and also with industry to get that out as soon as possible. I know itís important, and certainly weíll work to make sure that we can get that out as soon as possible. As far as a timeline is concerned, in a perfect world it would happen sooner than later.
Mr. Mitchell: Mr. Speaker, more broken promises from the Yukon Party government. Now, the timeline for this was established by this government. Iím sure that it was well discussed in Cabinet. The Yukon Party can no longer blame the MLA for Klondike for the delay and for everything else. Heís out of the picture. Itís up to this government to show some leadership on this issue. They have had three years and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, and weíre still no closer to a new act. Whose fault is it that the review is so late? Is it the former ministerís? Is it the MLA for Southern Lakes, who headed up the review? Is it both? And how does the new acting minister plan to get this back on track and into the House by March or April of next year?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, Mr. Speaker, the comments of it being off track are wrong. We are working on it. Iím not going to be tied into timelines. I want this thing to move forward in a very positive way, and we are doing just that.
Speaker: Time for Question Period has lapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Government Private Membersí Business
Motions other than Government Motions
Motion No. 541
Clerk: Motion No. 541, standing in the name of Mr. Rouble.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Southern Lakes
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to ensure that Yukon First Nations receive their fair share of any national funding program that is established to address the dire housing needs of First Nations in Canada and the Government of Yukon to work with the Yukon First Nations in identifying current deficiencies in their housing stock.
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, it is my honour and my pleasure to address the Assembly today on this very important issue, one that Iím sure that we can all agree to and I hope that all members will unanimously support this motion and help to send a strong message that we need to do the right thing.
Mr. Speaker, there are problems with housing in the Yukon, and we ó all Yukoners, all responsible governments, all the appropriate government agencies and all departments ó need to take steps to resolve them.
Yukon-wide, we have problems and we all need to address them: responsible governments, landlords and citizens. In the territory, we have problems with adequacy, supply, design, quality of construction, standards of construction, materials and, recently, weíve heard about additional problems with mould. Indeed, we heard about it today in Question Period.
This problem is especially large in Yukonís First Nation communities. Weíve all heard about the situation. It isnít a new situation; weíve heard about it for years, and people have been working on it for years. There has been some progress. In fact, just days ago, the Premier was in Kelowna at the First Ministers meeting to discuss housing, among other issues, with the Prime Minister, provincial and territorial premiers and First Nation leaders from across the country.
Resulting in that, Canada has committed to investing $1.6 billion over the next five years to supporting housing, including $300 million specifically for northern housing partnerships.
The Prime Minister himself has also agreed that itís necessary to involve aboriginal people in the development of strong and effective aboriginal housing systems that would build aboriginal capacity in areas such as land administration, housing and financial management.
Perhaps most importantly, through the work of the Premier and Yukonís Grand Chief, the federal government has now recognized the unique situation in the north. From Canadaís own press release, it has committed to ensuring that First Nation, Inuit and Mťtis people living in Yukon, Nunavut and Northwest Territories benefit from the new investments announced. Mr. Speaker, that is a strong signal to us that our hard work is paying off. We will continue to work to ensure that Yukon can benefit from these and other federal programs.
Through the sharing of knowledge we can help First Nations manage their housing needs.
The Yukon Housing Corporation has been working in partnership with Yukon First Nations on housing issues. The Yukon Housing Corporation has provided training and coaching, provided various financial templates, provided assistance with proposals and advice on technical and administrative matters. Funding for housing on First Nation land is the fiduciary responsibility of the federal government. At the First Ministers meeting, Premier Fentie indicated to the Government of Canada that agreements for new funding for housing should be between the Government of Canada and First Nations. Over the past few years, Yukon Housing Corporation has been collaborating with many Yukon First Nations to assess their housing needs and assist them in accessing federal funding to address housing issues and initiatives.
Specifically, the northern housing EnerGuide project is a tool being used to provide accurate assessment of the housing stock in Yukon communities. By working with First Nations and various federal departments, Yukon Housing Corporation is able to help communities identify actual housing needs to provide recommendations to address those needs. Using this information, Yukon First Nations have been able to leverage significant funds from a variety of federal programs. Another example is Yukon Housing Corporationís willingness to broker cooperation between Yukon First Nations and various federal departments. This can be in the form of third party management for projects or assisting a First Nation with specific housing needs.
The fiduciary responsibility for housing on First Nation lands lies in a great part with the federal government. It has been entrenched in the Constitution, in various acts and pieces of legislation, and in the policies and practices of various federal departments.
Also, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon can assist First Nations with technical expertise for developing new housing initiatives or support in setting up a lending program on settlement lands.
Mr. Speaker, this motion isnít about finding fault and blaming. Itís about a careful examination of a situation and an analysis of what is working and what isnít. Itís about examining the situation, offering a solution and calling upon those responsible to do the right thing. The federal government needs to do the right thing, and they need to do it now. They need to do it with the direct involvement of Yukon First Nations. Thatís what this motion is calling for.
Additionally, the motion goes on to call upon the Yukon government to take action to get involved and be part of the solution. Why? Not because itís the responsibility of the Yukon government ó that is clearly the responsibility of other governments ó but because itís the right thing to do.†
We are all Yukoners. This is a Yukon problem, and we all need to be involved. One very clear, measurable and appropriate way is with identifying current deficiencies in Yukonís housing stock. There are many other ways that we can be involved in this, with the Yukon Housing Corporation and the EnerGuide program that I discussed earlier, working with home owners, renters and other agencies to go in and take a look at the current state of the house, what needs to be done, what needs to be done immediately, and what repairs need to be taken. Are there any practical changes that need to take place? For example, turn on a fan or ensure the appropriate size of fan is in place.
The Yukon government ó Community Services and the building safety branch inspectors ó can get involved. We can go out and do inspections on these houses to ensure they are being constructed appropriately with the appropriate materials and in the right manner. Weíve all seen older houses in the Yukon. Weíve been in places where the insulation is magazines from the 1930s. Weíve seen the lack of vapour barriers. Weíve seen the various different construction techniques and the problems there, and we all know that construction codes and practices have changed over the years.
We need to convey what the best practices are, what the right methods for home construction are, which will prevent a lot of these things from happening ó the right way to put in a vapour barrier, the right way to exhaust moisture and other contaminants from a house, the right way to put in a chimney to ensure flue and exhaust gases donít get into the housing envelope.
We can work with the college in advanced education and training programs to train tradespeople. If we have the people with the right training, they can then work on the houses and do the corrective work that needs to be done, and ensure that new facilities are built according to proper building standards and practices.
We have a problem in the territory with housing ó specifically with First Nation housing. We have the federal government, the responsible party, putting a national offer on the table. We saw that from the First Ministers meeting in Kelowna.
We the members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly now need to do our due diligence and critically analyze the offer and take steps to ensure that it meets the needs of Yukon First Nations. We have to ensure the right deal is struck and the right deal is lived up to.
This new deal needs to be focused on substance, rather than process, and not result in the creation of another unnecessary level of bureaucracy. This new deal needs to reflect that the Yukonís First Nations are self-governing. It needs to take into account the fact that Yukon First Nations will be primarily building upon settlement land and not on Indian Act reserves. It needs to acknowledge that First Nations will need to deliver a variety of housing situations for their citizens, depending upon their own unique circumstances. It also needs to allow for increased costs to enable Yukon First Nations to provide housing appropriate for the northern environment.
And, Mr. Speaker, these new initiatives must be in addition to and not at the expense of any federal contribution to social housing that is provided by the Yukon through a program of general application available to First Nation and non-First Nation Yukoners off settlement land. Mr. Speaker, it canít just be taken out of one pot and put into another pot with a new name on it. It needs to be in addition to the programs out there. The Government of Canada has recognized that there is a problem. Yukon First Nation governments recognize a problem. We now need to make sure we deliver the right solution.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I trust that all members will agree with me that there is a problem and that they will also agree that there is a very significant federal responsibility and that we also need to ensure that we send a consistent, strong message ó a message that we need to see that action is taken on this. The message is that we need to ensure that Yukon First Nations receive their fair share of any national funding, not at the expense of the current funding, but in addition to their current funding.
Mr. Speaker, the Premier of the territory has gone to great lengths to deal with Ottawa to ensure that we receive our fair share, and that we share in Canadaís natural and tremendous wealth. Well, Mr. Speaker, we also need to ensure that this issue is addressed. Again, itís not a new issue. Itís one that weíve known about for years and years and years. We know that we are making progress on it but, right now, weíre at the cusp of a very significant decision. Do we agree with any old deal, or do we need to work to ensure that we have the right deal?
Itís one that lives up to the priorities and conditions that I outlined earlier. Itís a fair deal for Yukon and a fair deal for Yukon First Nations.
Also, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon territorial government needs to come and work on this issue. Steps have been taken by Yukon Housing ó Iím sure weíll hear more about what Yukon Housing is doing and their involvements and partnerships with Yukon First Nation governments. We need to come to the plate and work on this as well. But we also need to recognize that the federal government has the obligation ó itís entrenched in the Constitution, itís entrenched in various pieces of legislation, and itís entrenched in their policies and practices. If we let them off the hook, Mr. Speaker, you know where that leaves the territorial government.
If we take on any kind of federal responsibility, as has typically happened in the past, the federal government says, ďWell, itís your responsibility now, youíve accepted it, you fund it.Ē The territorial government has significant responsibilities and significant obligations to its citizens and we have a very significant budget with which to accomplish a lot of our objectives. But we also have to remind the federal government that they have a continued responsibility to the territory, specifically to Yukon First Nations.
Mr. Speaker, this motion isnít about bashing the federal Liberal government. There are lots of good reasons to do so, but we donít need to get into all of them here today. The federal government has recognized that there is a problem. The Prime Minister has said that. The Prime Minister has said we need to come up with unique solutions that address the Yukonís unique situation. Now we need to hold them to that.
Iíd like to ask all members to support this motion and send a unanimous message to Ottawa that, yes, Ottawa has a very important role to play, they have an obligation to live up to and we need to have them at the table.
Iíd like to thank all members for their attention today. I know a lot of people want to speak on this very important issue, as itís an issue that affects Yukoners throughout the territory. I thank the members and trust that I have their support.
Mr. Cardiff: † Itís with great pleasure that I rise to speak to this motion. This is a very important matter here in the Yukon, and I think itís unfortunate ó we know what weíre talking about, but itís not reflected in the motion. The motion urges the Government of Canada to ensure that Yukon First Nations receive their fair share of any national funding program established to address the dire housing needs of First Nations in Canada. It also urges the Government of Yukon to work with Yukon First Nations in identifying current deficiencies in the housing stock.
The preamble to the motion, when it was first read in the House, talked about the state of First Nations housing here in the Yukon, in many Yukon communities, and the fact that itís substandard, that many homes contain black mould, as weíve seen recently in Carmacks. There was a report done by a very credible gentleman who has done work for the government before, and he identified some very serious concerns in the community of Carmacks. By the way, this is also the gentleman who identified the fact that there was black mould in the previous Mayo school. Itís a very serious concern; we know this is not just a concern in Carmacks. It was a concern in Mayo, and the fact of the matter is that people are talking about this not just the streets of Whitehorse but the streets in many communities, concerned about the serious health risks it poses to them and their families.
The black mould issue is not only confined to First Nation housing. There are a lot of people who are concerned about this.
We read a motion into the record the other day. The Member for Kluane read a motion into the record the other day that talked about the need for the government, for Yukon Housing Corporation, to do an education program and to ó Iíll just read the contents of the motion. It urged the Minister of Health and Social Services ó so that would be the Acting Minister of Health and Social Services today ó in conjunction with the Minister of Community Services and the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, to direct the two departments and the corporation to hold public information sessions in all Yukon communities to provide factual information about the health risks associated with black mould and how to identify the presence of black mould in homes and public buildings and what procedures to take if it is found.
That is what the preamble to Motion No. 541 was talking about: the serious concerns about the health risks that black mould poses for all communities. Yes, we take the state of housing very seriously. We recognize that the federal government has the fiduciary responsibility to provide housing for First Nations here in the Yukon and across the country. The reality of the matter is that theyíve had that responsibility for a number of years and, yes, quite frankly, they have not done a very good job of providing that.
I think that itís important that we do hold them accountable. But I also believe that there are a lot of things here in the territory that this territorial government could do as well to help. I will get to some of those as well.
The fact that the federal government has had this responsibility, almost in perpetuity, since they took on the responsibility for housing First Nations, has posed a problem, I think, for First Nation people. What it has done is it has created a dependence on the federal government. It is that paternalistic relationship that the federal government has had about providing services for Yukon First Nations that I think needs to be addressed. Itís something we can learn from here in the Yukon Legislature ó yes, itís fine to provide assistance and help people along, but itís not fine to tell them how theyíre going to do it. Thatís what the federal government has done. Theyíve told First Nations: ďThis is the kind of house youíre going to get; we will build it; here it is; this is the house youíre going to get and this is where itís going to be.Ē I donít think thatís fair. Mr. Speaker, you wouldnít accept that. You wouldnít accept that if somebody told you, ďHere is the house youíre going to live in and this is where itís going to be.Ē Everybody else has the ability to make the choice of where they live and what type of house they feel is suitable.
The fact of the matter is that many of the homes that house First Nation people here in the Yukon arenít built adequately and they arenít in a location that is suitable. We are seeing that more and more, and we need to turn that around.
Now, the territorial government did have an opportunity to address this issue recently ó in this term of government they had an opportunity. They had an opportunity to work with First Nations and help address some of the housing concerns in rural communities as well as here in Whitehorse when it comes to housing for First Nations. Unfortunately, this government failed to step up to the plate in that instance. They had an opportunity to use other federal funds that had flowed to the Yukon territorial government, to Yukon Housing Corporation, to assist in creating housing units here in Whitehorse, through the affordable housing agreement, that would have assisted First Nations in their housing needs here in Whitehorse. With the athletes village, as well, there was also the opportunity to ó the proposal by a First Nations housing corporation here in the Yukon ó build modular units, similar to what is happening as we speak ó although I understand that the project is falling behind schedule and that the supplier is having a problem supplying some of the units. But those units could have been built here by people who live here in the Yukon as well as provide training opportunities ó $10-million worth of modular units. This government is spending $10 million on modular housing units for the athletes village that could have been produced here locally.
If this government had supported the proposal for a housing manufacturing plant that was supported by First Nations around the territory ó I believe it was supported by eight First Nations here in the territory ó and there was, as well, a partnership with an Outside modular housing company. But the idea was to improve the prospects of not just First Nations housing, but also First Nations as partners in the economy. I think that thatís important to know ó that we need to have equal opportunities for First Nations to participate in the economy.
The housing manufacturing plant and the training facility to train ó we heard the Member for Southern Lakes talk about the need for training. We heard him talk about the Yukon government taking responsibility because itís the right thing to do. Well, where were they a couple of years ago when they were approached to support the housing manufacturing plant proposal and the training facility that would have provided training for Yukon people. They were nowhere to be seen. In fact, it was the governmentís delays that basically caused the proposal to collapse. The government had the opportunity to support the housing manufacturing plant and the training facility, and they dropped the ball. In fact, Mr. Speaker, I believe they punted it, because they werenít interested in getting involved.
Now, itís unfortunate that that happened, and itís my hope that this proposal will yet again come back and that there will be an opportunity for a housing manufacturing plant that allows for the participation of Yukon First Nations in addressing both their participation in the economy and the training and the provision of adequate housing needs that they need on their terms. I think that thatís important.
We canít take that paternalistic view that we know whatís best. We can work with them and we can assist them. I think thatís important and the government needs to do that. They failed in the past. With this motion there is an opportunity to hopefully ó I donít know whether it goes far enough. It urges the Government of Yukon to work with Yukon First Nations in identifying the deficiencies in their housing stock. I think that the Yukon government could even go a little bit further. It doesnít necessarily have to be financial assistance. It can be methods of providing assistance other than financial assistance, to assist them. It can be around designs. It can be around modern technology, the newer methods of building. Itís important.
I think itís also important to note ó and I did note this earlier ó that the issue of substandard housing is not solely a problem for First Nations. Itís a problem in many other communities as well. The black mould issue is very, very, very serious. As I stated earlier, itís of concern to more people ó itís being talked about on the streets. People are asking, ďWhat do we do to deal with this?Ē Where do we find information about it? Thatís why the Member for Kluane introduced the motion urging the government to take some action on that front.
If you look at what happened in Carmacks, Mr. Speaker, the report that was done said a few things. It said that this problem needed to be examined more thoroughly and that there needed to be a systematic health survey in conjunction with a community health nurse to identify other at-risk people.
Probably not just in Carmacks, but we need to look at where this problem occurs in other communities, other rural communities, as well as whether there are problems here in Whitehorse. I think that is important.
In the conclusions, the author of the report also noted that all symptoms known to be caused by various species of moulds, including black mould, are consistent with the reported chronic illness and fatalities from the community of Carmacks. So that just tells you how serious this is. The author of the report is saying that there have been fatalities. It doesnít get any more serious than that.
He went on to say that it is without a doubt that the condition of these houses is partly and possibly the main cause of illness being experienced by the occupants of the 10 houses that were surveyed. If that is the case, then we need to look into this much closer. One of the recommendations, Mr. Speaker, was that some of these houses actually have to be demolished. This is not something where you can go in with a mop and a bucket and Mr. Clean or something like that and just clean it up, because it goes deeper than that. It permeates the materials in the house. Some hard surfaces may be able to be cleaned, but it said, however, that most of the building contents, including the furniture, the clothing, the toys, and electronic equipment, are likely to be contaminated to the point where they have to be discarded. Itís a pretty serious issue when basically you have to destroy the house.
So it is a very, very serious issue.
Now, the motion talks about what the Government of Canadaís responsibilities are. It urges the Government of Canada to ensure that Yukon First Nations receive their fair share of any national funding, and I would hope that the Yukon government would work to ensure, as well, on behalf of Yukon First Nations ó work with Yukon First Nations ó that that money flows as well. The Premier, on a regular basis, talks about his good relationship and how he represents all Yukoners, and itís not just the Government of Canada that needs to ensure it. The Premier needs to work as well to ensure that we get our fair share and that Yukon First Nations get their fair share in any national funding program.
When it comes to the black mould thing, there are a few other things that I think need to be addressed as well. When we talk about the information that can be communicated to house owners and those people who are in rental situations, a lot of that information is here and based in Whitehorse ó the expertise is here in Whitehorse. What we are finding out is that in many instances the problem is in rural communities, so the challenge is to make sure that that information gets out to rural communities as well, that rural communities arenít left out of the equation.
We know it has been in the media, and we know concerns have been put out there, but itís important that the government go through this process of providing information and ensuring that people have all the information to find out what the problems are and how to deal with them.
We need to focus on where the problem is. The problem is black mould, which is what was stated in the preamble to this motion. The Member for Southern Lakes is looking rather confused, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point or order
Speaker: Member for Southern Lakes, on a point of order.
Mr. Rouble: I would just point out that I am not the one who is confused; itís the member opposite who is confusing the preamble of the NDPís motion with this motion.
Speaker: On the point of order, Member for Mount Lorne.
Mr. Cardiff: On the point of order, I would beg to differ. If the member will allow me, I will read the preamble to his motion for him.
Speaker: Order please. There is no point of order. This is simply a dispute among members. You have the floor, Member for Mount Lorne.
Mr. Cardiff: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Iíll read the preamble to Motion No. 541, as read by the member just the other day. I believe it was November 23 that he read it into the record.
ďI give notice of the following motion:
ďTHAT it is the opinion of this House that First Nation housing in many Yukon communities is substandard, and that black mould, which can suppress the bodyís immune system, making people more susceptible to disease, has recently been discovered in 10 homes of the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation; and
ďTHAT this House urges ÖĒ ó and then you can just read whatís on the Order Paper today.
If the Member for Southern Lakes would like to do that, then he would actually have the intent of his motion. But because of the way things work, we would lose that part of the motion. Thatís the point I was trying to make. Iím sorry if it confuses the Member for Southern Lakes.
As I was saying, the problem with black mould goes further than what was just in the preamble. The preamble to the motion identified the 10 homes in Carmacks. As I stated earlier, the problem is far more widespread and the concerns are far more widespread, Mr. Speaker.
What weíve urged the government to do is get out there, get the information out and provide some assistance, provide the information to people about what to look for and how to deal with it. This is not to say that there isnít a problem with First Nation housing here in the Yukon or anywhere else across Canada, so there is a need to ensure that funding flows to deal with that.†
We believe that there is probably a need for a complete survey; we need to look at all housing in the Yukon to ensure that this health hazard isnít present everywhere. We should identify where the problem is in every house, because itís of concern to all Yukoners. There is also what was identified in the motion by the Member for Kluane: the need for Yukon-wide public education.
The reality, Mr. Speaker, is that most of the monies ó whether they be federal or territorial ó that have been spent on housing, especially in recent times, have been focused mostly in urban areas in Whitehorse, and they havenít been focused in the rural areas. I think that it is important that we do and the government has had the opportunity, as I said earlier, to dole out monies from various programs that would have actually addressed some of the concern here in the territory in communities, as opposed to just in Whitehorse. The government had the opportunity. They gave $830,000 to a company from Utah to address affordable housing needs here in Whitehorse, but when they had the opportunity to address the housing needs of urban First Nation people here in Whitehorse, those people were shut down. As I mentioned earlier, that would have created 30 new housing units for urban First Nation people who are in need. That is their mandate. That was the mandate of the housing corporation that had applied for the money.
I think that itís important that we look at opportunities to create independence for First Nations to look after their housing needs. The announcement by the federal government to provide money is, I think, a welcome one. However we can work as a government or as communities, even, to work with First Nations to address their housing needs, I think we need to do that.
I would like to propose an amendment to the motion to just hopefully ó itís a friendly amendment, and I hope that the Member for Southern Lakes accepts it as such.
It would broaden the Yukon governmentís responsibilities a little bit more and hopefully they will acknowledge their responsibility in this matter.
Mr. Cardiff: I move
THAT Motion No. 541 be amended by adding after the phrase ďto work with Yukon First NationsĒ, the phrase ďand all Yukon communitiesĒ.
Speaker: The proposed amendment is in order, and it reads as follows:
THAT Motion No. 541 be amended by adding after the phrase ďto work with Yukon First NationsĒ, the phrase ďand all Yukon communitiesĒ.
Mr. Cardiff: We agree with urging the Government of Canada, obviously, to ensure that Yukon First Nations receive their fair share of any national funding program that is established to address the dire housing needs of First Nations in Canada, especially here in the Yukon. But we would also urge the Government of Yukon to work with not only Yukon First Nations but with all communities in the Yukon, and at any level, whether itís local area councils, municipalities, community associations, other housing associations ó to work with First Nations and communities to identify deficiencies in all housing.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cardiff: Now, the Premier wants to step in, Mr. Speaker, and make this specific to this program. But thatís not what it says.
It says it is urging the government to work with Yukon First Nations in identifying current deficiencies in their housing stock. What weíre saying, Mr. Speaker, is that there are deficiencies in housing stock in many Yukon communities, not just First Nations communities. I think that this is not too much to ask of the Premier who represents all Yukoners. I would hope itís not too much to ask of the Premier. I would hope that he would want to assist all Yukon communities in identifying current deficiencies in their housing stock.
The Premier went to Kelowna and participated in the meeting, and the federal government actually offered up the money a few weeks ago, identified that there would be $5.1 million. I believe it was $1.6 billion for housing needs of First Nation people and $400 million to address water and sewer concerns, which is another issue that is a problem in housing around the territory and especially in First Nations housing and communities, Mr. Speaker.
So weíre not trying to diminish the motion in any way. We recognize that the money coming from the federal government is intended for First Nations and we think that thatís a good thing. We donít know whether itís enough. We hope the federal government delivers to Yukon First Nations their fair share. We hope that the Premier, in his discussions ó and the ministers in their discussions ó with federal ministers and officials get that fair share delivered here to the Yukon. Thatís their job and hopefully they deliver on it.
But when it comes to identifying current deficiencies ó and specifically in relation to the preamble of the original motion, which the Member for Southern Lakes is still looking for, and he canít remember what he read seven days ago ó it was about substandard housing in many Yukon communities, and black mould was a problem.
What weíre saying is that we think that the Yukon government, as in what we proposed the other day, has an opportunity to work with Yukon First Nations and all Yukon communities. Now, whether itís at a municipal level, whether itís at a housing board level, whether itís at a local area council level, Mr. Speaker, that is for them to decide. But they need to work with all Yukon communities as well as all Yukon First Nations in identifying those deficiencies, specifically around this black mould issue.
I pointed out how serious the problem with black mould was, and I hope I donít need to point it out again. It said that not only had there been chronic health problems caused by black mould in these houses, but there was the possibility that even fatalities could be linked to this problem.
Now, if thatís not serious enough for this Premier to take seriously and work with all Yukon communities to identify those deficiencies, specifically around what was mentioned in the preamble when it comes to black mould, then the Premier is not representing all Yukoners. I can see that the Premier is getting worked up and he is itching to get up and say something about this matter, so Iíll sit down, and weíll listen to what the Premier has to say.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I have been listening with great interest to the member opposite, who has managed to confuse most of the things that he has said. I have a few concerns about this. The member opposite is going back to black mould and looking at that as a very specific part of this debate, and yet when I actually read the Order Paper that sits in front of us every day, the words ďblack mouldĒ do not appear in the preamble and have nothing to do with this.
What the preamble says is that this House urges the Government of Canada to ensure that Yukon First Nations receive their fair share of any national funding program that is established to address the dire housing needs of the First Nations in Canada and that the Government of Yukon to work with Yukon First Nations in identifying the current deficiencies of their housing stock.
Now, certainly, by putting in ďYukon communitiesĒ, that is something that obviously we do on a daily basis. There is where my first problem comes in ó the member opposite, by putting in that amendment, would seem to suggest that we are not working with Yukon communities at the present time. Let me be the first to state publicly that the Yukon Housing Corporation is an incredible organization with incredibly talented people with whom I have been very proud and honoured to work over the last year, and they do an excellent job at this. So, by putting in an amendment that suggests that that is not happening is, I think, somewhat insulting to the staff, and I really have a concern with that.
Some of the other things that the member opposite has referred to ó and I canít let that go, because that is part of this amendment. The member opposite mentioned that it is important to know what happened with the affordable housing initiative, which he now confuses with another program ó he has confused it with social housing all along, and now he is confusing it with others ó and he wants to know where the government was.
Well, letís go back to that housing program. $5.5 million came to the Yukon government and the first requirement is that the Yukon government had to match that funding. Through the good work of the Yukon Housing Corporation, we actually were able to get previous projects and ongoing projects accepted as part of our contribution, freeing that money up.
There were requests for proposals that went out there. We took a look at various proposals and we accepted several of them. One was turned down ó and we took criticism for it at the time ó basically because of a business plan that was lacking. Since then, we have contributed, through the community development fund, $75,000 to that group to go back, revisit the business plan, revisit their marketing plan and hopefully bring that project to fruition. So the ability of the Royal Canadian Legion to continue that project is now there. I have had meetings with them and they seem very happy with what is going on. I think the Yukon public will be very pleased with the outcome of that.
But the member opposite again confuses the projects, and he says that $830,000 was given to a group from Utah ó well, some of the funding did come from Utah, and much of the administration of that is from Whitehorse. Of that $830,000 leveraging, another $22 million came into the Yukon to create 144 units. Itís a good project. It creates affordable housing. And if the member opposite thinks that an $800,000 investment that levers $22 million, which goes directly to Yukon suppliers, directly to Yukon workers, directly to Yukon jobs, directly to the economy ó if he thinks that thatís a bad investment, then I have concerns about that.
Another group that the member opposite refers to was turned down, again, on the basis of certain problems. We invested another $20,000 for BDO Dunwoody to do a complete tear-down on that business plan and to give assistance in how that could be addressed and how things could be made to work. Mr. Deputy Speaker, to my knowledge, that has never been addressed and nothing really has come out of that. To the member opposite, I do not have the authority, nor do I have the will to table in this House or to make public that report on that business plan. But I would suggest that he take a look at that, that he contact the proponent, discuss it and understand the situation.
Mr. Speaker, there is an old proverb that says that when youíve dug yourself into a hole, the wise thing is to stop digging. I suggest that he take a look at that document and get the facts before he unwisely judges.
The Canada Winter Games has been a real problem on that, and it has forced us to go Outside. This was not something that the Yukon territorial government chose. $2.7 million was budgeted in the original proposal and through a wide variety of problems, the Yukon government came to the table and bailed the games out. We had a decision to make: either let the games run into serious problems and perhaps fail, or save the games and save the reputation of Whitehorse and the north and the Yukon, feature the north, feature all three territories, and do all the things that so many people have done such a good job on and worked so hard with.
There are certain requirements to that, Mr. Speaker, which the general population needs to know. First of all, according to the terms of that bid, all the athletes have to be housed in one place. They canít be parted out to different parts of the city or territory. They have to live on an equal footing across the number of athletes. They have to eat from the same kitchen. They have to eat from the same menu. I could go on and on and on in terms of what has to be done. So, it has limited us greatly in what we could do with it.
By utilizing a small part of the affordable housing money and coming to the table with the additional money, we not only create something that works for the games, we create something that will give a legacy to Yukon College, we create affordable housing, we create space that may potentially be used for things like the northern research cluster. I mention these things, Mr. Speaker, because the member opposite brings them up. But he is most concerned about a First Nation initiative that would have created something. We agree with that; I agree with that, and that is why we spent $20,000 to look at, comment on and assist that group in the production of a better business plan. That was not done. I challenge the member opposite to take a look at that.
When you start looking at some of the other situations involving First Nation housing, as the member opposite perhaps doesnít know at this point ó certainly, sitting on this side of the House is an incredible challenge sometimes and you learn things very quickly. One of the things you learn very quickly is that as soon as you take over the responsibility of any other level of government, very quickly itís yours. Congratulations ó they pull away from the table.
Aboriginal First Nation housing is the responsibility of the federal government. We have to recognize that. For instance, in the Village of Carmacks, Yukon Housing Corporation has been very much involved with the black mould problem. We have assisted where we can, we have made offers to assist and do evaluations. The First Nation, as is perfectly their right, chose to use a private consultant. Thatís their right; we have no problem with that.
The primary concern is that Yukon First Nations will be able to access federal funding ó to bring it back to why I have a problem with this amendment ó to access federal funding made available for housing as a result of all the federal programs and most recently, of course, the First Ministers meeting on aboriginal issues in housing in British Columbia. Yukon is more than willing to work with Yukon First Nations to facilitate their abilities to access the available funding and our preference is always that they be able to access funding directly so that they can use the funds for First Nation housing priorities on settlement land to make their own decisions.
Problems that we have constantly in this government are federal programs that the federal government agencies keep control of. ďWeíll give you the money, but weíre going to tell you how to use it.Ē To my mind it would be very unwise and very poor decision-making to get the First Nations access to those funds and then have the audacity to tell them how they should use it. Itís their choice; they are self-governing First Nations and thatís what it means.
The key housing issues in the Yukon, and really, in the north, are repair and upgrade existing housing stock to ensure it remains viable and capital funding to construct new housing of various types and forms of ownership. Nunavut does have an addition to this and the Northwest Territories to a large degree: they need housing units. We certainly need them, but the repair and maintenance and upkeep and everything else goes up on the scale of where our problems are.
If we start looking at some of the concerns and some of the things that are involved in this whole thing, we look at that whole problem in general ó again, Iím bringing them back to the motion and why I have a problem with going to communities and pulling this motion away from First Nations.
In the north, housing needs are 130 percent higher among First Nation households compared to non-First Nation households. In the north, the Government of Canada will help reduce the housing gap by 35 percent over the next five years and by 70 percent in the next 10 years.††
Thatís good news, thatís a good way of thinking. But letís look at some of the other things around that. The Government of Canada has announced they will invest $1.6 billion over the next five years to support transformative change in housing ó excellent, great. Thatís the third time that has been announced, Mr. Speaker, and we havenít seen a penny, not a single penny. To reiterate what I said before, when federal candidates come to your door, ask them what they feel about it. How do they feel about making this money available?
Whatever government forms next, we will work with them and do what we can to try to solve our territorial needs with the federal government, be it Liberal or Conservative ó I donít know. Iíve never had an NDP federal government, so I guess weíll find that one out, if and when the time comes.
$600 million to support market-based approaches and the transformation of social housing on reserve ó what have we seen? Zero, not a penny. $300 million to support new federal/provincial/territorial partnership agreements for aboriginal housing off reserve ó what have we seen? Zero, not a penny.
$300 million for northern housing partnerships ó again, not a cent.
$400 million for water and other infrastructure, as well as an acceleration of the First Nation water management strategy to regulate water quality on reserves and to work with First Nation communities to ensure training for operators ó I think weíve had a pretty good demonstration over the last few weeks of events, of basically emptying out entire communities because of contaminated water. What have we seen in the Yukon for that initiative? Nothing. There is no budget for these commitments; there is no spending authority given for these commitments ó nothing.
I have a real problem in terms of what the intent of this motion is when you look at First Nations. I really have a problem when we pull it off First Nations. We have to look at that right now as a single entity.
Another suggestion was a federal proposal that a First Nation housing authority be established that could then work with First Nation housing providers. We are concerned that whatever the eventual mechanism for addressing First Nation housing needs, it must be focused on substance rather than process and not result in the creation of another unnecessary level of bureaucracy.
I have to admit I have not seen the movie version of Hitchhikerís Guide to the Galaxy. I am a fan of Douglas Adams and his four books in his trilogy. There is a scene in the book, anyway, that has them come across a bunch of government officials in a spaceship ó if memory serves me. They had been there for something like 14 years. When theyíre asked how things are going, they say, ďItís great. Weíve created a committee to look at this, and thereís a commission to look at that, and thereís another task force.Ē But they are still living in the old spaceship that crashed 14 years prior. They havenít quite accomplished anything. We need to accomplish something in this, and we need to give our bureaucrats the ability to accomplish this and not completely bafflegab this in terms of announcements that continually get lost in the shuffle. $1.6 billion is good news. After the third time it was announced, we actually thought that that might be flowing. But now, with the federal government going into an election mode, we will probably have to go through another three announcements before we see anything, if at all.
These things have to reflect on the fact that Yukon First Nations are self-governing. This is unique in Canada, Mr. Speaker. One of the problems we have within Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation ó CMHC ó is that in order to do any kind of mortgage structure ó this is something that most people in the Yukon donít think about, but this is something that First Nations have to deal with on a regular basis ó if youíve ever had a mortgage ó the bank, lending institution, whomever you go to, wants some sort of security that says that if you default on the mortgage, they have a means of getting their money back. Thatís normal. Anybody who has had a mortgage, or frankly, has bought a car or had a bank loan, knows thatís what the bank wants. They are going to take the car back if you donít keep the payments up and then sell the car to get some of their equity back.
But what happens within First Nations agreements is that those agreements state that the land and the houses are the property of the First Nation and that no one has the authority to interfere with that. Well, if no one has the authority to interfere with it, Mr. Speaker, then there is no way that any lending institution, including CMHC, would give you the money for a mortgage, for repair, for maintenance. One of the problems that we heard about in the community tours, in one community in particular ó but really across the board, but one community was the worst ó was that even though it is band housing owned by the band, many of the people who lived in those homes would like to do improvements. Theyíd like to make it more energy efficient, they would like to make it better with improved windows, and on and on and on about what they would like to do. But they canít access that because no lending institution would talk to them because of the structure.
Now, there is a way around that, and weíve had discussions with the chief in that community and we hope that we can get around it. But this is a unique problem to First Nations.
Now, the same people who come to downtown Whitehorse and simply buy a house are eligible. But if itís in a community on First Nation settlement land, they have a huge problem. Such an organization, then, would have to take into account and acknowledge that these buildings are primarily on settlement land. Theyíre a different structure. They are not Indian Act reserves, although we have some First Nations that are still under the Indian Act. They have to allow for increased costs to enable Yukon First Nations to provide housing appropriate for the northern environment.
Things are different up here ó I think most of us who live here have noticed that ó and they have to acknowledge that First Nations will need to deliver a variety of housing solutions to their citizens, depending on their circumstances. Even within northern Canada, even within the Yukon, even within a certain part of the Yukon, two First Nations can be only miles apart and yet have very different needs. That is why they are self-governing. That is why they have to have the ability to control their own destiny on that and they have to have the funds in order to work with that. It is a federal program. This is what we want this motion to reflect: to bring the federal government to the table and live up to their obligations, because we know from past experience that as soon as any territorial government of any political stripe takes over that particular program, that is the last time the federal government will want to talk about it ó itís ours in perpetuity.
We have to keep their feet to the fire and we have to do that. Hopefully this motion, as it originally stated, looks to ensure that First Nations receive their fair share of any national funding programs. We certainly support the communities; I have no problem with that phrase. I have a problem with it when it dilutes this particular motion.
Mr. Mitchell: Iíll be very brief at this point and Iíll reserve my remarks on most of the issues for addressing the motion.
As far as the amendment goes, I think this phrasing enhances rather than diminishes the motion. I donít think it hurts it in any way to add the words ďand all Yukon communitiesĒ to work with the Yukon First Nations. Any time we can make the point that we have common issues ó there are some issues that may be specific and unique for First Nations and we need to make sure we address them, but when we have issues that all Yukoners share in common, then we should try to work cooperatively to address those issues. The issue of black mould in the communities and other issues of substandard housing are issues that are shared not only by First Nations but by all Yukoners.
We in the Liberal caucus will vote to support the motion. Iíll save my other remarks for then.
Mr. Hassard: Sitting here listening to the amendment as put forward by the Member for Mount Lorne, he didnít make a very strong case for why he wanted to do that. I would like to think of myself as open-minded or maybe more open-minded than anyone else in here. Iím not opposed to working and involving communities, because I am from a rural community, obviously. The difficulty I have is how does the member opposite feel we involve the community? Is he saying that municipalities should be stepping up to the plate to assume some financial responsibility for First Nations or other people who have problems with their homes? I can tell you right now that as a result of being away from my home in Teslin for the better part of three years, that I have mould in my porch and I donít think that any municipal councillor in Teslin is going to jump up and down to start handing me money to fix my house. Maybe Iím wrong; you know, I look forward to going back and finding out that Iím wrong, but I really donít think thatís going to happen.
The reason that I have this is obvious: I havenít been there to make sure that there has been airflow in my house, my water tanks are in my porch, and itís simple enough to remedy, but I really fail to see who in the community is going to get involved in my housing problem. I could go to Yukon Housing Corporation, I guess ó with the income Iím on Iím probably eligible for some kind of assistance; Iíll have to look into that. The Yukon Housing Corporation is in the community. I know other people have accessed funding from them and Iíve heard a lot of good things from people who have.
I just fail to see the connection. Perhaps the member could bring forward a new motion on another day that speaks to all of that, or a better worded amendment. Perhaps thatís what we need. I am not disagreeing with involving communities but I just donít understand at what level. Thatís my two cents, and I just look forward to hearing a better reason as to why.
Mr. Fairclough: Let me try to explain this a bit. First of all, the mover of the motion, as it was read into the House, did have a preamble to the motion. The motion was in two parts: one was for the Government of Canada to ensure that First Nations receive their fair share, and the second part was urging the Government of Yukon to work with First Nations in identifying current deficiencies in their housing stock. Those are the two. Iím hoping that the mover of the motion and the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin would listen to this, because it does not diminish the motion as it is.
The amendment is asking the Government of Yukon to work with communities, not municipalities, on a number of different fronts. This is a health issue. Itís the health of Yukoners and itís identified in a report done for a First Nation by someone very qualified, but that same person also worked for the Yukon government on black mould in the Mayo school. Black mould has been identified in a number of public government buildings. So, it has been addressed.
Since this issue has been raised by the First Nation, they are taking action to the extent of demolishing homes that are not that old ó six years old, I think, is the age of the newest home they are demolishing. CMHC houses have been identified with black mould. The reason we want to include communities is because the mover of the motionís preamble was all about black mould. Thatís what it was.
So we go on that. Weíre asking the members opposite to support it, not to say weíre going into the municipality and asking them to put any money forward at all. Itís a health issue. As a matter of fact, if anything, the Yukon government has done this kind of stuff for Yukoners in the past, whether itís looking at energy efficiency, having your homes tested and so on. They have done this in communities. And I donít believe that itís going to take all that much more for the Government of Yukon to, say, for example, go into the community of Carmacks and the First Nation, to have their experts available to community people to have their home looked at for them to address the whole issue of mould. Thatís the big part.
Since weíve been talking about it, Mr. Speaker, since it has been on CBC with Nancy Thomson making this issue a lot more public, we have had calls in our offices from people here in Whitehorse who are saying they really never looked at their house that closely, but theyíre discovering that they have black mould in their house. It may be, I guess, now the reason for some of the illnesses they have in their home. So it is a serious problem.
So what weíre asking is the Government of Yukon in their motion to carry on with that motion, urging the federal government to ensure First Nations get their fair share of the federal money. Thatís one thing. The other thing is to work with the First Nations and the communities ó Iím sure that, you know, the housing and health department can do that ó just to identify some of the deficiencies in their homes related to black mould and other problems. Weíve done it before. Yukon Housing has done it before. So we can do it again, and itís not a huge cost, and itís not committing any municipality to come forward to address the problem. Itís bringing the issue to the forefront to ensure that the public out there knows whatís in their homes.
So thatís the biggest thing. I thank the Member for Mount Lorne for bringing forward this amendment, but Iím saying to members opposite, the government side, that itís not changing the flow of money that comes from Ottawa to the First Nations at all. It doesnít do that. If the motion is read carefully, members opposite can see that. All weíre saying is, work with the communities too, and I think they can do this in conjunction with one another. There are lots of communities that are almost 50:50 in the territory ó 50 percent First Nation. Some of them are even higher. Take Pelly Crossing, for example. Close to 90 percent are First Nation people, but there are people with private homes there. If the issue of black mould is high and they would also like that addressed and maybe get some government direction on this, then thatís a good thing. Itís a health issue.
The Member for Mount Lorne mentioned a report that was done. I canít table that report here, Mr. Speaker, but I would like to refer to it. I have a few pages that have been photocopied from it, because I canít give the report. There were only a couple of them done. Itís from Tang Lee. He is the one who is the author of the report. He has been teaching building science and indoor environmental quality for more than 25 years through the University of Calgary.
The Government of Yukon hired him to address the issue in Mayo. I know the Member for Mount Lorne spoke of a couple of parts of this report, and Iím going to refer back to it. This will ring alarm bells across the territory, and thatís why we think communities should be included in this motion. We can certainly support that, and I think members opposite can too.
I will read that out, I guess, a bit more during the main debate on the motion if the government side could look at the amendment in a little more friendly manner. If the issue for the members opposite is that it is changing the motion and the way monies will flow from the federal government to the First Nations, it doesnít. It doesnít do that; the members opposite I think have that. The motion itself is urging the Government of Canada to ensure First Nations get their fair share. The latter part of the motion is urging the Government of Yukon to work with First Nations to identify their deficiencies. Well, I think the Government of Yukon could work with communities. I just named the author of the report done on First Nation housing stock. I think they are ahead of the game. I think they are way ahead of the Yukon government in looking at this matter more seriously. It shouldnít be taken lightly that the work that theyíve done is just work on their own houses. I think the Yukon government should hire this person to come down and work with the Yukon government and their experts on indoor air quality to ensure they are up to speed. I am sure they are to a certain point, because I know the Yukon Housing Corporation do have people who can go to homes and look at air quality and so on, but not to the extent and detail that this person brought forward regarding the community of Carmacks.
About urging governments to do something, somebody taking responsibility for this ó that is what Nancy Thomson was trying to get at, and nobody wants to take responsibility, not even the federal government. Part of the problem with communities right now is that First Nations have their self-government agreements, and they inherited all assets from the federal government when they were an Indian band ó and theyíre still named that in the final agreementó into their final agreement. So those assets are theirs.
Also part of the problem is following the building code. I will give a little example of that. All Yukoners follow the building code. If youíre building a one-level home and itís on a crawlspace, for example ó and most homes are ó the building code is to have a vent in that crawlspace. Well, you also have pipes, water lines and sewer lines under there that either have heat tape or you have a heated crawlspace. Now, in the Yukon and in the north, does that make sense? You heat the crawlspace, and it goes out the vents and your pipes freeze. What ended up happening to a lot of these homes is they seal those vents off ó and a majority of the problem is right there in the crawlspace. So they seal those vents off in the winter months, and a lot of times people just forget about it in the summer. They donít pull it off and have just the screen there like you do with your attic. Thatís part of the problem. I think maybe our building codes need to be addressed. All the houses that have been built on First Nation land in their territory ó not just on their settlement land, but in municipalities too ó follow the building code, and theyíre inspected throughout the construction of that home by a Yukon government building inspector.
So they build it to code, and they get approved. The framing gets approved ó the plumbing, the electrical, right down to gyproc being put in the home ó and the vapour barrier has to be inspected and so on. Everything is inspected.
When you look at that and at the technology that is used, it has been mostly R2000 for probably the last 20 years, since theyíve introduced it to the territory ó maybe more. Many Yukon homes have been built that way. They are built with R2000 technology, and theyíre better insulated and better sealed with poly on the inside and Tyvek on the outside and that type of thing. A lot of the homes that have electric heat also have air exchangers to bring fresh air in and take the bad air out. That, at one time, Mr. Speaker, was very costly. It took a lot of electricity to heat the cold air coming into a home and to pump the warm air out. That was part of the problem, and many people shut those units down and moisture builds up in your house.
The whole issue here is that we know there is a problem in First Nation buildings. We know there are problems out there with private homes; I know it. I donít think anybody can dispute that. What we are saying is while we are doing this, while we are urging the Government of Canada to ensure Yukon First Nations get their fair share of the money, and we are also urging the Government of Yukon to work with First Nations, letís urge the Government of Yukon to work with communities so that this health issue can be addressed. I know, by the way, it is on the Order Paper right now. This motion doesnít have the preamble, but the reasons why the motion was brought forward is spelled out by the mover of the motion in the preamble.
It was all about black mould. If thatís the case, if it has been changed now, then the preamble is read to the TV audience. If the reasoning behind the motion has changed so much, then I donít know where we will go with motions in this House in the future.
Iím urging the members opposite to take this very, very friendly amendment seriously. Letís look at communities too; letís include them. It does not affect the funding from the Government of Canada flowing down to the First Nation whatsoever. Thatís a separate part.
With that, Iíd like to hear from others on their feelings about the amendment.
Mr. Cathers: I appreciate the comments weíve heard from the members opposite and I think itís important to note that, with regard to this motion, when it was tabled by my colleague, the Member for Southern Lakes, this was seeking a federal funding program that had been committed to by the federal Liberal government. They had promised to address First Nation housing, and issues related to providing services to aboriginal Canadians are a federal responsibility.
Since the time of the tabling of that motion, there was the First Ministers meeting in Kelowna and there was the announcement of a program such as this, which does not yet have spending authority of course. The announcement of the program was $5 billion to address aboriginal housing needs. I believe that all the parties running for election right now in Canada have committed their support to that, if they are elected government, so this program should not likely be affected by the election campaign.
However, all that is subject to change because it doesnít actually have legal authority, and we are dealing with simply commitments at this time on all fronts.
However, the problem with the amendment brought forward by the Member for Mount Lorne is that it could create some confusion. It is a valuable intent to involve Yukon communities. I think there is some room to work with that.
But one thing Iíd like to just comment on is a remark made by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun regarding the preamble from motions being struck. I would urge him to note that it is common practice that motions tabled by members of this House that are not in compliance with the rules for motions have preambles struck. This was an announcement made by the offices of the Speaker and the Clerk over a year ago and members were provided guidelines of what needed to be complied with. I would urge the members of the opposition to refer to that so they donít have the inconvenience of having the motion they read into Hansard not being the one that appears on the Order Paper. We do all have to comply with the orders of this House, and members should be appreciative of the fact that the Speaker has not gone so far as to actually shut down motions on the floor that are out of order and allows members to table those. But I would urge all members to comply with the rules of this House and parliamentary procedure.
Returning to the main point here, Mr. Speaker, the intent of what the Member for Mount Lorne is trying to do and what clearly is supported by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun in including the involvement of Yukon communities is a valuable point. However, we want to make sure that the intent of this motion, if we are so fortunate as to have it passed today, is clear and that it can be sent on to whichever party takes office as the new federal government on January 23.
Therefore, I have an amendment to the amendment that I would like to put forward. Again, it is offered in the same positive spirit as that brought forward by the members opposite, by the Member for Mount Lorne.
Iím sure that they will ó as we do ó find this subamendment to be a positive approach that shows that members of this House are working together and accepting all valuable debate brought forward and valuable contributions brought forward by other members.
Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, I move the following amendment to the amendment brought forward by the Member for Mount Lorne, and the subamendment is as follows:
THAT the amendment moved by the Member for Mount Lorne to Motion No. 541 be amended by adding after the words ďYukon communitiesĒ the phrase ďwhile remaining within the terms of the $5-billion program for aboriginal housing announced at the First Ministers Conference in Kelowna.Ē
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The Chair finds that the amendment to the amendment, moved by the Member for Lake Laberge, is in order, and it reads as follows:
THAT the amendment moved by the Member for Mount Lorne to Motion No. 541 be amended by adding after the words ďYukon communitiesĒ the phrase ďwhile remaining within the terms of the $5 billion program for aboriginal housing announced at the First Ministers Conference in Kelowna.Ē
Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, I would urge all members of this House to consider the subamendment and to note that itís not my intention in moving this subamendment to restrict consideration of other programs or addressing the needs. There are programs through Yukon Housing Corporation available to non-First Nation citizens. There may be other programs announced by the federal government to address aboriginal housing, and I would urge the members opposite to restrict the temptation to make this a motion that takes a broad approach but focuses on nothing and is specific to nothing. The intent of the subamendment is to express a very clear sentiment with regard to the $5-billion program for aboriginal housing announced at the First Ministers Conference in Kelowna.
I would urge members to consider that and not to vote against this simply because this program announced by the federal government may not address all the needs of aboriginal housing. Letís leave other debates and other programs for another day, and I would urge members to move forward in the same spirit and provide very clear direction, or rather an expression of our sentiment and opinion, to the federal government, whichever that new government may be on January 23, 2006, when the election is completed.
Mr. Fairclough: The very point that some of the members who spoke on the first amendment made ó about including the communities into the federal money ó is now included. It just doesnít make sense how the second amendment is coming forward. It contradicts what others have just said.
The other thing is that itís inaccurate to have the $5-billion program for aboriginal housing. I donít think thatís accurate at all. I believe it was broken down into a number of different things, not just housing. There was education and so on. So thatís inaccurate. How can we present a motion to the federal government with this huge inaccuracy?
Perhaps the mover of this second amendment can address this issue. He might want to take a few minutes to have a look at how the $5.1 billion is broken down. I believe it was $1.6 billion dedicated toward housing and infrastructure. Maybe the members opposite would like to take a few minutes to look at their amendment and maybe strike it or make corrections to it.
With that, I would like to ask them to have a look at it. I would like to see what the next speaker has to say about that.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Lake Laberge
THAT the amendment moved by the Member for Mount Lorne to Motion No. 541 be amended by adding after the words ďYukon communitiesĒ the phrase ďwhile remaining within the terms of the $5-billion program for aboriginal housing announced at the First Ministers Conference in Kelowna.Ē
†Are you prepared for the question on the subamendment? Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Speaker: I think the ayes have it. I declare the subamendment carried.
Subamendment to Motion No. 541 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any debate on the amendment, as amended?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I will be very brief on the amendment as amended. I believe that maybe the point is really being missed here with regard to the motion. I think itís important that we keep in mind that First Nation people never requested to be the only race of people in Canada who have to be governed by the Indian Act. The federal government took this responsibility on and basically made all First Nation people in Canada wards of the state. In my opinion, most of us are all just welfare children to the federal government. Having said that, they also took on the responsibility of providing homes.
I think that what is happening with this amendment here is we may be trying to take on some of the financial fiduciary responsibilities of the federal government. The Yukon government has their own housing program. First Nations throughout the territory have their own housing programs, which are sponsored by the federal government.
The amendment adding ďall Yukon communitiesĒ sort of takes away from the original motion, in my opinion. Because we are now starting to include all people in the territory when in fact the original motion only wanted to make the federal government accountable for the responsibilities they have in the Yukon Territory with regard to First Nation housing. We must keep in mind that the federal government is the government that wanted to control First Nation people in every aspect of their lives, right to the housing needs. I would like to suggest that we keep that funding responsibility strictly to the federal government, and I think it is the responsibility that they developed of their own accord. The Yukon government, I believe, does not have to be a part of funding any program that the federal government has with First Nations.
With that, Iíll just close for now and Iíll make more comments on the original motion when we get back to that one. Thank you.
Speaker: The amendment as amended now reads:
THAT Motion No. 541 be amended by adding after the phrase, ďto work with Yukon First NationsĒ the phrase ďand all Yukon communities while remaining within the terms of the $5-billion program for aboriginal housing announced at the First Ministers Conference in Kelowna.Ē
Amendment to Motion No. 541 agreed to as amended
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the motion as amended?
Hon. Mr. Lang: † In speaking to this motion, as amended, I appreciate the Minister of Justiceís comments, and I think itís very, very important that we understand the importance of housing in the First Nation communities across Canada. I think the federal government has done a dismal job of the housing issue: whether itís in northern Quebec or whether itís in northern Yukon, the housing that we have our First Nation people in is not acceptable.
Now, as far as the territorial governmentís responsibility, again, we went through that. The territorial government, of course, has capacity to work with First Nations. But I would recommend if, in fact, the federal government of the day is sincere about the negotiations they negotiated in Kelowna, we can question the amount of money. There is no spending authority on that money. That was the last throes of a government that was going to the polls. So itís very important that we keep the federal governmentís feet to the fire and that whatever government finds itself in power in Ottawa at the end of January carries through with the obligation.
Iím not going to spend much time on this, Mr. Speaker. I only say this from experience from living in the communities in the Yukon. I certainly havenít lived in northern Quebec. I havenít lived in northern Ontario. So I canít give, first-hand, any kind of an overview of the housing. All I have is information I get from the media, and I think that the issue is certainly out there.
It certainly was a political issue. Thatís why the politicians in southern Canada came to Kelowna. It was because of the urgency of this issue, not only from a health point of view but also a combination with housing.
When I look at the federal government and the housing situation, I would like to see in the Yukon ó certainly our government can be there for capacity. Our government can be there to work with First Nations to make sure the federal government lives up to their commitments and to put the business plan together on how an individual or First Nations could move forward on this.
In a perfect world ó and as the Justice minister said ó this is a very important agenda for our self-governing First Nations. The Yukon First Nations should work bilaterally with the federal government to get the funds in place to work on the housing issues. We can be there and we can work at capacity and training and all the things a territorial or public government can do, but I would say to you, Mr. Speaker ó I want to make it very clear that I donít minimize what the territorial government can do, but I think this issue has a high enough profile that if the First Nations and the federal government got together in the territory ó and Iím sure theyíre looking at that across Canada on how this money will be funnelled and how the checks and balances will be in place.† I think itís important for our First Nations to work with the federal government on a bilateral level to put that business plan together and put it to work.
The members opposite talk about training; we talk about all the other issues that housing can do. The opportunities are there for them. We have capacity to work with them on inspections, education, and on what causes these issues.
The Government of Canada has, over the last 40 years that Iíve been witnessing, tended to build substandard homes. They donít seem to stand up. Now, is that a construction issue? Is it an issue with the individuals who live in the house? It certainly has to be addressed. How do we address that? We address it by the First Nations getting together with the federal government on a bilateral agreement on how these resources are going to be expended into the communities. We have to minimize the amount of interference of other governments that minimizes the amount of money that flows for the housing. The important thing about this ó they can talk about amounts of money, but weíre talking about a housing crisis. Not only do we have a housing crisis with the mould situation ó thatís an existing health issue ó but weíre also talking about the lack of houses. They have a shortfall in Canada ó an incredible percentage of our First Nations are not being housed in a proper fashion. Now, the federal government, in their wisdom, took over that responsibility many, many years ago. But I would say to you that Iím not quite sure the meeting in Kelowna would have been held if in fact the political situation didnít dictate that there was some high profile meeting to, again, address the issue.
But weíve been addressing this issue as a community or as a government at whatever level for many, many years. It doesnít seem to me to be getting any better.
So what has to happen is we have to shorten up the bench, get the First Nations and the federal government together ó which, again, they can do ó get a bilateral agreement on how this housing money is going to flow, put some checks and balances for the federal government in place. They can do that. The First Nations work with the federal government on a daily basis. Theyíre governments. They can do that. We are there as another level of government, but we are there to help with capacity. Weíre there to be a neutral overview ó in other words, if there is an issue that has to be addressed from a neutral point of view, we have Yukon Housing in place. We have all our building inspectors. We have all this capacity that can go to work with the First Nation in a neutral process that brings these houses up to standard, builds houses that are at a standard that is acceptable the day we build them, and works with the First Nations to make sure the resources that are committed by the federal government, in fact, are committed.
We do many things in this House. We deal with federal government on every level, on many, many levels, whether itís health care, whether itís whatever ó justice. All these agreements that we have with the federal government: we have announcements of the economics of the federal government, promises, commitments, and guess what? At the end of the day, the money doesnít flow or the money is given away four or five times to different pressure points in the system.
What we want to do as a government, and what we want to do ó I canít speak for my colleagues, but I would like to see the bench shortened on whoís going to be involved in this, and I want to maximize the resources for the issue, not to be lost in the cracks, not to put a plan together thatís unrealistic. I would like to see a plan that looks at five or 10 years. Iíd like to know what the needs are today ó an inventory by First Nations ó and then come back to the federal government and say that itís all very well to mention an amount of money, but nobody has done an inventory on that amount of money.
Itís like the carrot ó they hang a carrot out front and we take a jump for it, but is it the proper amount of money? I havenít seen anything on an inventory basis or an overview that says that, in Mayo, they need X amount of housing, or that in Mayo the existing housing has a shelf life of X number of years. How much of this mould is through the community. Again, the member opposite was talking about the communities. We have things in place in our government: you can pick up the phone and get an energy audit on your house ó we had that done. The guy goes right from the ground up and he tells you whatís happening in your home. Iím sure if there were mould in the home, he would bring that to your attention. We understand that ventilation is very important, as the member opposite says: ventilation in the home is a must. You have to have new air in your home.
Now, the argument in the old days was, ďWhy would you pay to heat a bunch of air and then use a fan and suck it back outside?Ē From a health point of view, thatís very, very necessary.† When they build house trailers, because of the size of them, itís not only just the heat, itís the number of people who are living in the unit that has a bearing on your unit. In house trailers that are confined, there were always vents in the ceiling or vents up high so that air circulated ó that was to prevent exactly what we are talking about. Now, people who shut those vents off and closed in their house trailer ó in other words, put plastic on the windows, insulated and shut down the vents ó found out eventually that there was mould, and mould came from the fact that the air wasnít moving, wasnít properly engineered and, at the end of the day, they have health issues.†
Nobody can tell me that mould in your home, or if youíre living in that kind of atmosphere, is healthy. That is not a healthy way for a human to live. The older you are and the younger you are, I imagine, it would probably affect you more. Iím not sure of that and I would have to talk to a medical person, but I imagine thatís how things work.
So in the motion, I think itís very important that, in working with the First Nations, they shorten up the bench and get a working relationship, wherever this money will flow from ó I imagine itís DIAND, and it would be appropriate if it came from DIAND ó to get the work done internally so we know they know ó not us, but the First Nations know ó what they need. They can hire the expertise, like the member was talking about in Carmacks and the individual who actually did the overview and didnít discover the mould ó obviously it was a known factor ó but he came back and said this mould is doing this, this and this, because of his background in either medicine or some kind of engineering sciences or whatever. It doesnít take much of an expert to realize that some of the housing in our communities is substandard.
Itís not going to be a big wakeup call; itís not a big surprise that they have housing issues in Upper Liard. I lived there for 25 years. Theyíve had issues from day one. As the Minister of Justice said, the government of the day ó whatever government it was ó knew best. They knew best, and guess what? At the end of the day, the First Nations had to move into these homes, raise their families and live in them, but did they really know best?
I am not quite sure they knew best. In other words, if weíre going to look at what the federal government has done in the past, and look forward, I donít think we can trust the federal government to have the capacity or expertise to do the job that needs to be done. Thatís why the First Nations, now that the door has been opened ó it has only been opened a crack. They just had a meeting but, at the end of the day, how the resources go or whether itís going to be $5 billion or $1.6 billion or $48, the question is: how do we maximize the money that comes to the Yukon? How do the First Nations get involved in a real productive way? If youíre going to build a home, itís nice to have the homeowner involved in the plan and the issues at hand. In other words, they know they should be involved in any home-building proposal.
Going back to a story of talking about the motion and housing and the federal government ó I had a very good friend of mine who wanted her well repaired. Her well was a question. Her well had been running for 25 years or whatever. Well, the federal government, in their wisdom, ignored the well issue that she requested some assistance on, and built her a whole new house. Now, she had no input on where that house went, she had no input on the size. They built the house within four feet of their old house. All of a sudden, this house appears. She didnít want that house. She was quite happy in her home. She wanted a little bit of help because not only was she a First Nation person, and †of course didnít have the flexibility of owning the house she was in ó she had the federal government owning everything, and at the end of the day, all she wanted was a well that would run. She was an elder.
Well, guess what, Mr. Speaker? She had one thing on her side. She didnít have to move into the new home, and she didnít.
She lived in her home until the day she died, but thatís the kind of mentality weíre dealing with, with the federal government. So letís shorten up the bench. Letís go to work with the First Nations to make sure the federal government will actually address the issues and not play politics with them. Letís move forward. Letís work with the First Nations, not only on new homes but also on a healthy living atmosphere, which can be done with just a little ounce of common sense, Mr. Speaker. We as a government here are here to help. Weíre not here to hinder, and I think weíre on the right track when we look at the shorter bench, First Nation-federal government funding flows. We work with them on capacity so that we fill those shortfalls on capacity building. They move ahead and build the communities that they would like to see, the houses that are a standard that you can live in and that have a shelf life, Mr. Speaker. These homes that the federal government has been building over the years have no shelf life. They last probably half the time of a normal home. So letís lengthen that shelf life. Letís look at the health of the community and health inside the home, and letís move forward.
Mr. Speaker, I think this a very solid motion, and I will be supporting it.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the motion as amended?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Iíve got a few points that Iíd like to make along the way on this. In terms of housing issues overall and the First Nations, we really have two key issues that come up on this. That is the ability to access federal funding initiatives for the ownership and construction of new housing to satisfy the housing needs of Yukon First Nations. This funding must be designed to apply specifically to settlement lands, as was addressed in a variety of ownership types, which individual First Nations and their citizens may prefer ó fee simple or titled ownership, individual ownership of improvements on leased lands, and community ownership in some cases.
The second issue really is the huge need for extensive repairs to existing First Nation housing stock across the Yukon to ensure the stock does not fall out of service, thus necessitating expensive replacement of dwellings. This involves up to half of the dwellings in Yukon First Nation communities and actually a large number across the Yukon.
One of the challenges that Yukon Housing Corporation has is the relatively poor condition of Yukon Housing Corporation stock. It has been very clear over time that really, when you talk about creation of new housing, a very large part of that matrix is the fact that if you can save, recondition, renovate or, by whatever definition, save the existing house, you have in fact done the same thing as create it.
Now, most Yukon First Nations at the moment manage and provide housing for their own citizens. When self-governing agreements came into effect, ratified First Nations took over responsibility for delivering the housing programs previously delivered by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Funding is based on the number of the predecessor Indian Act band status in individual First Nation communities. The First Nations have complained that the funding provided for housing based on this formula is insufficient to meet the First Nationsí responsibility and the housing needs of their citizens. In general, thatís a very, in my opinion, accurate statement. Itís not clear that Yukon First Nations have been able to access other sources of federal funds for housing. Their uncommon land tenure ó the settlement land, rather than reserve, as I mentioned previously this afternoon ó means that they sometimes fall between the cracks in terms of program eligibility ó the example of First Nation settlement land in a primarily First Nation community, unable to access any conventional mortgage structure, and therefore unable to really take control over their own housing.
In unofficial conversations, Yukon First Nations have advised the Yukon government that their primary concern is not the mechanism for making housing funds available, but that they ó the First Nation people ó individually be able to readily access and manage the funds dedicated for their use. Mr. Speaker, this is a very common problem. In my experience in government, this happens quite regularly. The federal government will give a certain dollar value for a program and claw back 10 percent of it for administration. For instance, a $90 million gift, according to what certainly looks like that in the paper, will claw back $9 million for administration in Ottawa.
We have fought, on many different levels, to admit jointly that there are administrative costs, but that those costs would be better borne in the jurisdiction and this has been the feeling of ministers responsible for housing across the country. If you are going to give a province or territory the money, let them administer it, let them have the benefits of that administration rather than continually grow the federal government in Ottawa.
My colleague, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, made some good points and, in terms of administering anything like this from a distance ó an excellent story that I can tell is the first time that I was presented with a state of the environment report and it referred to the fact that 47 percent of greenhouse gas emissions comes from the Kotaneelee wells. I sat there for a moment scratching my head, Mr. Speaker, because the wells come out of the ground and immediately leave the territory. Thereís no uptake, thereís no use ó I mean the wells leave the territory. More greenhouse gas is produced in getting to the well to observe it than, frankly, the well produces.†
So I rejected accepting that report at the time and asked the staff to go back and find out, and the first thing that I got from the committee, actually ó it wasnít staff ó from the committee that was responsible for this was that they were simply using data from other sources. Thatís fine, except when you take inaccurate data, you tend to get inaccurate reports, of course.
So we went back, and we looked at this. In the final analysis, what had happened was a bureaucrat in Ottawa had in fact looked at average statistics from a similar well down south, looked at burning off excessive gases, looked at all of these things and concluded that this was the same well. When, in fact, we finished the analysis, we found that the person who wrote that statistic had, in fact, never been to the Yukon, never been above the 60th parallel, had no knowledge whatsoever of northern Canada. When the figures were adjusted, it wasnít 47 percent, it was 0.047 percent ó a very significant difference. We need to take those controls within our own jurisdictions.
Yukon First Nations, however, are concerned that the Yukon may control funding for Yukon First Nations housing, which they believe should properly flow to and be administered by them. Mr. Deputy Speaker, theyíre taking the same position on this thing that really we are taking vis-ŗ-vis the federal government. And thatís a difficult thing to argue with, of course. Yukon has assured them that we have no intention of undercutting self-governing First Nations. That never has been our intention. Although we are more than welcome to assist them, the decision as to whether or not they want our assistance is theirs. I give you the example, again, of Carmacks, where we had expertise to offer. It was the decision of the self-governing First Nation to go elsewhere. We respect that. Thatís their right.
To conclude, as I believe I heard other members opposite argue, that in the north we donít have the resources ó one of the benefits of living in the north, Mr. Speaker, is that we live the environment. Our housing people deal with that on a daily basis.
There may be very qualified consultants down south who can comment on that, and I certainly donít denigrate them in any way. However, our staff lives the life and certainly we have the expertise here. If we have no other expertise in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, itís cold weather expertise ó although, admittedly, that sometimes is changing.
Yukon did identify some potential First Nation housing projects when requested by CMHC to identify priority housing needs in the Yukon. The Yukon advised CMHC that we did so only because First Nation housing was a clear need ó I donít think anyone in this House would disagree that it is a very clear need ó and that we had not had the opportunity to discuss the list with First Nations at that time, that we did not presume to speak on behalf of any First Nation ó certainly, no self-governing First Nation ó and there would have to be discussion with First Nations as to the delivery mechanisms before any further steps could be taken. Unfortunately, like the $1.6 billion, we have not received any response from CMHC to date.
In the Yukon, Yukon Housing Corporation provides social housing programs with general application off of settlement lands, although, as a matter of fact, many residents of Yukon Housing Corporation social housing are citizens of Yukon First Nation descent. This fact is irrelevant to their eligibility in the program.
Yukon Housing Corporation does not provide any services on settlement lands as it has no jurisdiction to do so ó a very, very significant point. We do not have the authority to do anything of that nature.
Settlement lands are owned by individual First Nations, and Yukon Housing Corporationís policy is not to provide funding for housing that is situated on settlement lands and subject to First Nation laws, in which the Yukon does not have a role. That is clearly laid out in the final agreements.
Yukon Housing is active in assisting First Nations in non-financial areas, such as First Nations undertaking the responsibility of managing the housing needs of their citizens. This includes sharing of information and administrative expertise, as well as technical training, advice and assistance, all of which is always available to every First Nation. But clearly, housing on First Nation land with First Nations is a federal responsibility.
At the September 2004 First Ministers meeting ó not the real recent one, but the one previous to that ó First Ministers decided to hold a First Ministers meeting on aboriginal affairs. The leaders of the five national aboriginal organizations ó the Assembly of First Nations, or AFN; the Congress of Aboriginal People, or CAP; the Mťtis National Council, MNC; the Native Womenís Association of Canada, NWAC; and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, or ITK, would also be at the table.
The First Ministers meeting was scheduled, as we know, a few days ago in Kelowna. The agenda focused on health, housing, education ó K to 12 ó and various relationships. Economic opportunities obviously have to be recognized as a priority for future actions. Work is proceeding on housing as part of that FMM planning process; however, the federal minister responsible for housing has been interested in taking a more direct role in respect to a federal investment in aboriginal housing and the issue has been given priority by housing ministers as well.
In fact, at the last federal, provincial and territorial ministers meeting, it was given such a high priority that the minister from Quebec approached me afterward and sort of thanked me for bringing up at one point that we were looking at a much broader housing and economic situation and not simply a First Nation issue at that table, but it was certainly very, very high on the agenda.
Canada is proposing that it will work with aboriginal peoples to develop new housing institutions, including a new First Nations housing authority. Canadaís idea is that this authority will support First Nation control over housing on reserve and on settlement land and the design of the authority would take the situation of self-governing First Nations into account.
Once you get to the table ó the federal table and the federal, provincial and territorial table ó you start realizing what a unique situation Yukon is in and how different we are here in terms of the rest of the country. Canada has also committed to a substantial federal commitment to these initiatives along with ongoing funding. Although no numbers were announced at that point in time, Canada has also stated that it wants to get out of the direct supply of aboriginal housing and sees its proposal as a way that would allow for that and would empower first aboriginal people at the same time.
Probably not out of that meeting, or not out of that announcement, but out of the work of the federal NDP, there was an agreement to inject into the budget $1.6 billion toward housing initiatives, much of which would go to First Nation initiatives. Very laudable, very good thought but, unfortunately, as I mentioned before, Mr. Speaker, not a single penny has flowed. So, sounds very good; it has been announced three times but now we are in federal elections, so whoever wins, undoubtedly it will be announced another three or four times and hopefully in our lifetime we will see it.
The Assembly of First Nations, which would probably be the host organization of such an authority, as I was mentioning, states that while it is supportive of further aboriginal control, a First Nation financial institution, which could work with First Nation housing providers, already exists and Canada should work through this rather than establishing new authorities. We have to look at what structure we have before we start going out and ó to steal a line from Corner Gas, approaching this in a willy-nilly fashion. We have to look at what exists and do we already have that mechanism in place, and many feel that we do.†
This agenda item has been extremely contentious, as Canada has had a very clear idea of what it wants to do. It has been not necessarily matched up with the interests of either national aboriginal organizations or the provinces.
So, if you look at this, again, what actually happened at that First Ministers meeting regarding aboriginal issues and housing ó our primary concern, obviously, is that we have to have access to the funds. When I say ďweĒ, I mean Yukoners of First Nation descent and First Nation self-governing governments. We are more than willing as a Yukon government to work with First Nations to facilitate that ability. Our preference is that they be able to access the funds directly so they can use the funds for First Nation housing priorities on settlement land. There is no reason they shouldnít be able to do that themselves. To say otherwise would be going against our own argument with our federal government.
The key housing issues are repairing and upgrading, really, of existing housing stock to ensure it remains viable. Capital funding to construct new housing of various types and forms of ownership ó itís very important. But when you go back to look at the affordable housing initiative as an example, phase 1, $5.5 million ó a very good program, a very useful program, although I understand the official opposition has difficulty understanding what that program is. It is a good one and we have accomplished a lot with it.
Unfortunately, in phase 2, I believe the number was around $375,000. The Northwest Territories in phase 2 got something like $275,000, which they very quickly dubbed ó much to the chagrin of our federal Minister of Labour and Housing ó the affordable house initiative. They figured if they kicked in, they might be able to come up with a duplex.
The Northwest Territories has a very different need, and Nunavut has a different need again. Those funds have to be administered locally, and they have to start coming forward. It has to actually start flowing.
We have to focus on the substance rather than the process and not create other unnecessary organizations and levels of bureaucracy. We have to make sure that the self-governing First Nation status of the Yukon First Nations is respected and that the final agreements are completely respected. We have to acknowledge that they have to deliver a variety of housing solutions, depending on circumstances.
When one looks at what actually happened on November 25 in Kelowna, I believe it was, the Hon. Joe Fontana, Minister of Labour and Housing, stated that he was very honoured to be there. I know Joe; heís a very honest, forthright and understanding man. He really understands the overall problem. He announced that $1.2 billion ó thatís with a ďbĒ, Mr. Deputy Speaker ó will ensure that the essential housing will continue to be made available to the most vulnerable in society. Of those funds, $300 million are earmarked for the north. Again, itís a very good announcement and a very wonderful thing to understand. Given the current situation in Ottawa and the background of what weíve seen happen over the last year or two, I seriously doubt that weíll get enough of that money to buy a package of gum. Maybe we can tap that source; one never can tell.
When one looks at some of the other programs, though, in terms of what First Nations can afford themselves within some of those programs, the Yukon Housing Corporation has collaborated with many of the Yukonís First Nations to assess housing needs and assist them. The northern housing EnerGuide project is a tool being used to provide accurate assessments of housing stock.
By working with First Nations and various federal departments, the Yukon Housing Corporation is able to help communities identify actual housing needs and provide recommendations to address those issues. So even if we canít get the funds to address the issue totally, we can at least help them to identify that. Thatís a project that started in 2002, and it continued right through the past summer. The project identified over 50 percent of homes in First Nation communities were in need of repair ó 50 percent ó and itís estimated that it would take anywhere from $3 million to $5 million to repair homes in each First Nation community, which extrapolates to $30 million to $50 million to address all First Nation homes across the Yukon. Thatís not building anything new, Mr. Deputy Speaker. So there are serious, serious problems with that, and I urge all members to look at this motion not in terms of turning it into a mould issue but turning it into a First Nations housing issue, because thatís what it is.
Mr. Cathers: I think, considering the motion that weíre dealing with right now on the issue of the housing for First Nations, that taking into context the amount of money that can and has been found for other purposes over the years, it is really very disappointing and disgraceful that this has not been addressed before now. Of course, as all members and, indeed, any Canadian who has not been under a rock recently is aware, weíre in the middle of a federal election campaign that arose largely as a result of the sponsorship scandal that cost Canadians $250 million and saw reports from Auditor General Sheila Fraser and the Gomery inquiry, which has resulted in things such as, following through, some of the people involved being charged with criminal wrongdoing for the misappropriation of taxpayersí dollars.
One thing that was disturbing out of this is that, according to Justice Gomeryís report, as a result of that, $1.14 million was clearly identified as having flowed into the Liberal Party coffers from the sponsorship program and that is something disturbing to many Canadians ó the fact that there is money for things such as that but not for aboriginal housing. The aboriginal housing is something where the commitment that was made at the First Ministers meeting is very welcome. However, we are well aware that there are often federal commitments made that are not followed through on. I hope this will not be the case in this situation.
The issue regarding aboriginal housing is one that has been outstanding for many years and it is really disgraceful that this hasnít been addressed before now. That being in context there, it is pleasant and we welcome the news of the announcement from the First Ministers meeting.
I would also like to address a point that was brought forward by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun with regard to that. He brought up some of the wording of the subamendment that I made and was passed earlier ó he felt that it could be read to create an impression that was not correct. I took another look at that, as the Member for Mayo-Tatchun appreciates, when weíre dealing with amendments to motions on the floor, particularly when weíre looking at amendments to amendments, those are often drafted rather quickly. In looking at that, I agree with the Member for Mayo-Tatchun. There is the possibility that that subamendment passed earlier, which is now the motion as amended, could create an inaccurate impression. Thatís certainly not my intention, nor would I think itís the intention of any member in this House.
That being said, I am proposing an amendment to the motion as amended.
Mr. Cathers: I move
THAT Motion No. 541, as amended, be amended by deleting the words ďfor aboriginal housingĒ and replacing them with ďto improve the lives of aboriginal CanadiansĒ.
Speaker: The amendment is in order.
It has been moved by the Member for Lake Laberge
THAT Motion No. 541, as amended, be amended by deleting the words ďfor aboriginal housingĒ and replacing them with ďto improve the lives of aboriginal CanadiansĒ.
Mr. Cathers: I thank members for their attention.
As noted in my introduction to the amendment to the motion as amended, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun was quite correct in pointing out that the subamendment that I moved and was passed earlier could create an inaccurate impression. I certainly want to correct that. The program that was announced at the First Ministers meeting was in reference to other areas, as well as housing. The total package was $5 billion. The other areas include education, health and economic opportunities. The drafting of the subamendment that I originally tabled and was passed certainly was not the best worded. It was very likely to lead to confusion for members and for the public, and for the ultimate target audience ó the new federal government, whoever is elected on January 23, 2006, when voters have gone to the polls.
I thank members for the opportunity to clarify that subamendment and would urge them to vote in favour of my amendment to the motion as amended.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Mitchell: † I would like to thank the Member for Lake Laberge for taking the time to come forward with an amendment that clarifies the intent of what I believe he wanted to say earlier. It is unfortunate, however, that the Member for Lake Laberge, as well as the Member for Porter Creek North, also took the time to go electioneering during their remarks regarding the federal election, talking about that this is a very important issue and indicating that itís only an election issue, because we are in the midst of an election. I would just want to remind my colleagues that the reason weíre in an election is because of parties that they have supported and indeed wanted to perhaps even run for at various times in the past ó we are in an election now. The Government of Canada was quite prepared to go forward and get this and other measures approved prior to going into an election that they had previously indicated that they would welcome at the appropriate time.
However, I do think that itís important that we provide support for aboriginal people, to improve their lives, as this motion now reads, and I think in that case I can support the amendment and Iíll continue to speak to it when we finally get to calling the question on the motion itself, so I thank you for that.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the member opposite for bringing forward the amendment to his own subamendment on this motion. I think itís important to ensure that the motions taken forward to the Government of Canada be as accurate as possible.
There is an issue here that the members opposite raised about not including communities in the federal money thatís going to First Nation housing. Weíve heard that from several of the speakers. Originally they were not in favour of the amendment we brought forward, but they then included Yukon communities in this motion. So Yukon communities are part of the motion. So the first part of the motion speaks to urging the federal government to ensure First Nations get their fair share of federal money, and then we are urging the Yukon government to ó well, the original one was to work with First Nations in identifying current deficiencies. Now weíre saying First Nations and Yukon communities ó weíve added Yukon communities back in there. Then, with the subamendment, we tied it to the $5-billion program for improvement to the lives of aboriginal people. It just doesnít make sense, from where the government came in their argument with the amendments we brought forward to what we have now. It went full circle. I just want to point that out. We had no problem in supporting the motion, but itís right back to where the members opposite were arguing against an amendment we made.
So it doesnít make sense, because the whole federal money is in the first part of the motion, and now itís in the second part. Iíve pointed that out before, and I was hoping the members opposite would see that clearly. Itís in the motion, and weíre going to take this motion forward to the federal government and theyíre going to say, ďWhat? Communities too?Ē This doesnít make sense, Mr. Speaker. I just wanted to ensure that members opposite know exactly whatís in the motion when theyíre taking it to the federal government.
Mr. Cardiff: I think for the sake of clarification, and Iím willing to attempt to do this, Mr. Speaker, because my colleague, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, has pointed out that this motion, I think, does need to be clarified.
Because of the way we do business in the House, we donít have the opportunity to look at the total motion as the amendment is being proposed, so I would just like to read this into the record and maybe the Speaker can tell me whether or not I am correct in this. The motion would read:
ďTHAT this House urges the Government of Canada to ensure that Yukon First Nations receive their fair share of any national funding program that is established to address the dire housing needs of First Nations in Canada; and
ďTHAT the Government of Yukon work with Yukon First Nations and all Yukon communities while remaining within the terms of the $5-billion program to improve the lives of aboriginal Canadians in identifying current deficiencies in their housing stocks.Ē
Thatís the way that I understand the motion as amended now to read. I believe there was never any intent to delete, and it was never mentioned deleting the ďin identifying current deficiencies in their housing stockĒ.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cardiff: Thank you for indicating that is correct.
I just want to go on record once more as stating that the intent of including Yukon communities in our amendment was in relation to, again, the preamble to the original motion, which was the fact that people on the streets are talking about this issue that has been raised in the public by the recent study that was done in Carmacks. But we know it goes far deeper than that. We know that black mould was found in the former school in Mayo. We know that there are other instances of black mould in other communities. That is the reason why we intended to include the communities in identifying the deficiencies in all Yukon communities. We think that itís important that that be identified. The Member for Southern Lakes thought it was important when he brought forward the motion.
Now that we have read the motion as amended into the record, I think that we can probably support it.
Some Hon. Member: On a point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The leader of the official opposition.
Mr. Hardy: Iím not speaking to the motion at the moment. I just want to know what this thing says. Before I can speak to it or vote on it, I really need to know what it says now.
Speaker: There is no point of order; however, the point is well taken. The Table Officers are currently preparing a definitive, consolidated wording of this motion, and we will have it to you momentarily.
Unanimous consent re recess
Speaker: Is it the Houseís wish that we take a 10-minute recess? Unanimous consent is required.
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: We will take a 10-minute recess.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
For clarity, the Chair will read Motion No. 541 prior to the amendment proposed by the Member for Lake Laberge, and then the motion as it would read if it were amended. The motion prior to the amendment reads as follows:
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to ensure that Yukon First Nations receive their fair share of any national funding program that is established to address the dire housing needs of First Nations in Canada and the Government of Yukon to work with Yukon First Nations and all Yukon communities while remaining within the terms of the $5-billion program for aboriginal housing announced at the First Ministers Conference in Kelowna in identifying current deficiencies in their housing stock.
Now, if the amendment is carried, the motion will then read as follows:
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to ensure that Yukon First Nations receive their fair share of any national funding program that is established to address the dire housing needs of First Nations in Canada and the Government of Yukon to work with Yukon First Nations in all Yukon communities while remaining within the terms of the $5-billion program to improve the lives of aboriginal Canadians announced at the First Ministers Conference in Kelowna in identifying current deficiencies in their housing stock.
Mr. Hardy: Yes, Iíll be very, very brief. This doesnít make sense. Iím sorry. Iím sure that the original motion ó when I read the original motion with the preamble, and I heard it in the Legislative Assembly with the preamble, I understood what it was talking about. It was talking about mould and everything. And then when I saw it on the motion paper today, and it had eliminated the preamble, that, to me, changed the intent of the motion. This raises the question, of course, of whatís happening to our motion because that one specifically didnít point toward a serious problem within the Yukon that has been an issue in the news. I was concerned about that.
Now, other amendments have been brought forward to try to improve, of course, what has happened. Iím worried because, right now, this motion doesnít make sense. Iím sorry. It doesnít. Maybe somebody can stand up here and explain all the wording of this to me in a sensible manner. But what the Speaker has just read to me, and from reading it myself twice now, thereís a very long sentence that just doesnít seem to say or address anything.
Iím going to read it again. Maybe if I read it, I can understand it better: †
ďTHAT this House urges the Government of Canada to ensure that Yukon First Nations receive their fair share of any national funding program that is established to address the dire housing needs of First Nations in CanadaĒ ó I can understand that very clearly, but it continues without any punctuation ó ďand the Government of Yukon to work with Yukon First Nations in all Yukon communities.Ē
That is all one sentence, without any punctuation at all. It doesnít make sense. Thereís something wrong with it. Then there was going to be a comma, and then the words, ďÖ while remaining within the terms of the $5-billion program to improve the lives of aboriginal Canadians announced at the First Ministers conference in Kelowna in identifying current deficiencies in their housing stock ÖĒ
Whose housing stock are we talking about? Where does it sit? Why does it say while remaining within the terms of the $5 billion program? Kelowna is going to get a lot of money.
††††††† Iím sorry, I canít vote on a motion that I canít understand. I donít know if we need to come up with some kind of solution to get a simple motion here. It has become extremely convoluted. Iím not sure that it says anything any more. It can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. Frankly, I would be very embarrassed to be the person who delivers this motion to any federal minister, no matter what stripe. I think they would take one look at it and say, ďWhatís in your water in the north? Is there mould in your house? Iím not sure whatís going on up there.Ē
I guess Iím going to leave this; itís too confusing for me. I canít vote on this motion until we get something that makes sense. I guess my recommendation is that we withdraw this motion and move on to the next one, or we take another break so that somebody from the Yukon Party side and somebody from the official opposition and somebody from the third party can get together and try to put together something we can all make sense of.
I put it out there as an option. I see some heads nodding that they might want to try that. I would recommend that.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †I understand that representatives of all three parties in the Legislature have come together and have requested some time to discuss the proposed amendment and perhaps to make further amendments to the amendments already proposed.
With that said, I would move that debate be now adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Tourism and Culture that debate be now adjourned.
Motion to adjourn debate on Motion No. 541 as amended, and the amendment, agreed to
Motion No. 524
Clerk: Motion No. 524, standing in the name of Mr. Cathers.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Lake Laberge
THAT this House urges the federal Liberal government to eliminate the firearms registry for long guns and redirect the money currently spent on this registry toward measures that effectively address the issue of violent criminal misuse of firearms while respecting the rights of responsible firearms owners.
Mr. Cathers: Itís a pleasure to rise in the House today on this motion. This motion addresses an issue that, as everyone knows, is something of great importance to Yukoners. The firearms registry for long guns that was implemented by the federal Liberal government has not addressed the issues of crime or violent crime. What it has done has it has is to create a boondoggle that has cost taxpayers over $2 billion, with the firearms registry still in a state of tremendous disarray. The last statistics that I read for that showed that there was a 20-percent rate of major errors in the processing of firearms registration, including firearms being registered to the wrong owner and people being sent other firearms ownersí information.
The other issue that was of great concern to many Yukoners ó and members of this House will no doubt recall from back when the C-68 legislation was first implemented ó and people especially in rural Canada, is that with registration not seeming like a very effective tool for combating crime and with its poor record in other areas of the world in actually achieving that end, the only conclusion that they could come to for the registry is they felt that it was either just a very bad decision or else, if it was intended to serve a goal, the only goal throughout the world that registration of long guns has effectively served is serving as a list to be used by the government for confiscating those firearms at some point in the future, as has been done in Australia and Great Britain, not to mention in several less savoury nations, such as communist Russia and Nazi Germany.
One quote that has been used often by those who are opposed to the firearms registry for long guns is that not all countries that have gun registries are tyrannies, but that all tyrannies have gun registries and strict gun laws.
Handguns and other types of restricted weapons have had to be registered in Canada since 1938. That has not posed an issue for Canadians nor is it one that is being raised today. But there is a fundamental belief among many Canadians and among many Yukoners that the right to self-defence and the defence of your family is an inherent fundamental right of every person. This has been something that has been referred to in our system since the well-known legal scholar Blackstone back in the 17th century referred to the right of self-defence, and for our neighbour to the south, of course, there is a specific reference in their Constitution, which does not occur to the same extent in ours, to the right of every citizen to bear arms.
So, the issues around the gun registry that are troubling to Yukoners are not simply the waste of money but the freedom involved therein, the associated provisions of search and seizure that occurred within that same piece of legislation, that allow officers to enter a home without a warrant merely on suspicion that there is a firearm present.
Another question that we have to ask ourselves is what effects this gun registry, which has been in for about 10 years, has achieved.
Now, Mr. Speaker, what drove the tabling of this motion that I brought forward is the discussions that were occurring among the justice ministers, including our Minister of Justice, that were held in Whitehorse and the fact that the increase in gun violence and gang crime in Toronto has created a great deal of concern among Canadians, particularly in southern Canada, about the need for stricter firearms legislation and penalties. I certainly do not disagree with stricter sentences for the violent criminal misuse of firearms. What my concern is related to is that itís important that we do not see any further steps that attack responsible firearms owners. In fact, we should take one step further and eliminate the firearms registry, which is currently costing approximately $100 million a year to run and is still far short of registering all the guns within Canada, and the money that is spent on it, as mentioned, Mr. Speaker ó we have over $2 billion sunk into that registry today and there has been no measurable evidence that it has done anything to reduce the violent criminal misuse of firearms. The fact is that a large percentage of the guns used in crime in Canada are smuggled in from the United States because the majority of guns used in crimes such as robbery and used by organized criminals and gang members are classes of weapons that are either very difficult to acquire in Canada or, in some cases, cannot be acquired because they are classified as prohibited weapons.
The exact percentage of guns used in crime in Canada that are smuggled in from the United States is a matter of debate. Figures have been cited noting 86 percent. Other figures have been cited using the number of 50 percent. What is clear from the research that Iíve done is that there is no agreed-upon number that can be confidently stated ó that Iím comfortable bringing forward as saying, ďThis is the number that has been concluded.Ē
The Prime Minister or Minister of Justice ó I canít recall which ó had raised the number of 50 percent of the guns used in crime in Canada having been smuggled in from the States back in debate a month or two ago. And what was then raised was brought forward by Mr. Garry Breitkreuz, who is the Member for the Conservative Party from ó his riding, I believe, is Yorkton. That might not be the full name of his riding ó Yorkton-Melville, the Member for Yorkton-Melville.
He is well known as being a strong advocate against the firearms registry and has been in favour of stricter sentencing for violent criminal misuse of firearms for quite a number of years. As he had pointed out in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister or Minister of Justice ó whoever had raised this number of 50 percent of firearms having been smuggled in from the States ó did not have the statistics to back it up, and Statistics Canada did not have what they considered to be accurate numbers to actually define what percentage of the guns used in crime in Canada originate from south of the border.
However, we do know that our borders, despite the measures following September 11, are still very open, and there are a number of points that are not guarded and not defended against the ability to smuggle guns over the border. Itís something that weíre never going to be able to stop, unless we drastically impact our trade with the United States, upon which 42 percent of our countryís gross domestic product depends.
Again, returning to the crux of the motion, it is to urge the government ó and it specifically refers to the federal Liberal government, and I expect that we may see members of the third party take issue with that ó to eliminate the firearms registry. If a Conservative government is elected and the Liberals are not re-elected on January 23, 2006, it is clear that this motion will become a moot point because the Conservatives have a very clear commitment to eliminate the firearms registry. However, if it is the Liberal government that is returned ó members all know my personal feelings on that ó which is a possibility, we would like to clearly express to them that the Yukon is not in favour of stricter measures that target responsible gun owners.
Mr. Speaker, Iím going to refer to a few documents just to prove my case here to members opposite and to provide some information here. One thing that was noted by Mr. Breitkreutz, who is the Conservative critic for this, is that the Liberals have had more than a decade to crack down on violent gun crime and gang violence. What Canadians got instead was a $2-billion gun registry, which has proven to be a total failure at keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals.
Another point that was raised by Minister of Justice Cotler, and about which he switched his position this past fall, was regarding the issue of mandatory minimum sentences. First, Minister Cotler said that mandatory minimum sentences do not work, and then the Prime Minister stated that mandatory minimum sentences do work, a few weeks later. In fact, Statistics Canada data cannot confirm any claim that those sentences do not work. In fact, much of our system has included the aspect of penalty for crime. While that is not the only step that can be taken to address criminal activity, whether it is gun activity or related to any other crime, the fact is that our society has taken the position that a certain aspect of the sentencing is a penalty. To suggest that a mandatory minimum sentence imposed by Parliament is ineffective is, in my point of view, ridiculous.
As stated, the cost to date is over $2 billion. Iíd like to quote from writings by Professor Gary Mauser, who holds a PhD and works at the Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies at Simon Fraser University. He is also the author of the 2003 study, The Failed Experiment: Gun Control and Public Safety in Canada, Australia, England and Wales. ďThe government has advanced primarily two arguments to defend this bureaucratic exercise.Ē ó that being the gun registry. Gun deaths have declined over the past decade and, secondly, that the gun registry is effective in screening out potentially dangerous firearms owners.
He goes on to say: ďI will deal with the second argument first, since the number of rejected applicants is actually lower than it had been under the previous systemĒ ó meaning the new firearms legislation that came along with the registry actually made it easier for people to get through the system and made it easier for someone with various problems, be that a criminal past, be that a history of spousal abuse or other activities, to get through that system.
Going on, he further refers, as follows: ďThis leaves the drop in gun deaths as the most important justification for implementing the gun registry. On the surface, such a concept appears plausible enough. Gun laws are supposed to stop gun misuse, so an obvious measure of success would be a drop in gun deaths. However, it is fallacy to imagine that a reduction in gun deaths means that any lives have been saved. Because of the variety of alternative ways to kill, the only useful measures are the more meaningful ones such as rates of violent crime, suicide and homicide.Ē
In a previous article, Dr. Mauser showed how Canadian suicide rates actually stayed stable, even though firearm suicide rates fell. The concept of gun death is a red herring. It is a meaningless term that diverts attention from real questions. The concept of gun deaths, like bed deaths or motor vehicle deaths, is a grab bag that confuses rather than clarifies. Gun deaths are largely suicides, some homicides and a very small percentage of accidents.
Trends in gun deaths are not a good indicator of suicide trends, because firearms are involved in only a small fraction ó 18 percent ó of suicides. No convincing empirical support has been presented for any country in the world that gun laws have lowered the overall suicide rate or homicide rate. In fact, in contrast, research consistently shows that restrictive gun laws only influence the gun suicide rate. A reduction in firearm availability rarely influences the overall suicide rate ó that, of course, being due to the fact that if someone comes to that unfortunate conclusion in their life, which we certainly hope that people would not do, but it has been an ongoing reality, there are a number of ways that they may choose to end their life, including ó well, Iím not going to go through a list, Mr. Speaker. Members are well aware of some of the options that are available there. But it is not an accurate indication of that.
If the point of gun laws is to improve public safety, then it is rational to ask whether the gun law has reduced homicide or violent crime. Simply reducing gun crime without reducing total violent crime is no real improvement, if they are simply switching to the use of other weapons. If firearms are difficult to obtain, criminals easily find other weapons, and that will simply cause more serious injury. The important goal should be public safety, not gun deaths.
As I have mentioned before, Mr. Speaker, the aspect of this also involved is that the registry, if it does not have any effect on public safety, creates grave questions in the minds of Yukoners and other Canadians of what the intent of this is and if we will simply see a government that is disconnected from the need for people to be able to defend themselves or to be able to use guns for hunting or for purposes around a farm. If they do not understand that, we may deal with a situation where, through whatever intent, we could see the federal Liberals proceeding down the road of cracking down on the opportunities for people to actually own guns and, in fact, confiscating those firearms, as has been done in the United Kingdom and Australia.
An important thing to note, Mr. Speaker, is that in Great Britain, despite having firearms laws even more repressive than Canadaís, the violent crime rate has tripled since 1997, the year when all handguns were banned and confiscated. During this same time, Great Britainís homicide rate increased by 28 percent. Britainís restrictive gun laws have not even reduced gun crime, which has now doubled since 1997. The failure of firearms laws in Great Britain undermines still further the claim that declines in Canadian violence and homicide are caused by our paternalistic firearms laws.
Since the firearms registry was introduced in 1998, the Canadian homicide rate has increased by three percent and the violent crime rate has slid by four percent. These small changes are not consistent with the claim that our gun laws are protecting us.
The recent jump in the homicide rate of 12 percent in just one year suggests the opposite. In comparison, our neighbours to the south and to the west ó the Americans ó have seen their homicide rate drop by 33 percent, and their violent crime rate has fallen by 32 percent during that same 10-year period.
Firearm ownership by responsible citizens contributes to public safety. High density gun ownership is a socially stabilizing factor that deters criminal violence. Criminals fear breaking into homes in a neighbourhood where some owners might be armed. This deterrence effect begins to unwind as criminals find it less and less likely that they will be disturbed in their work by someone with a gun.
Less violent crime rates, especially rates of aggravated assault and ďhot burglaryĒ ó a burglary where the dwelling is occupied and also referred to as ďhome invasionĒ ó is lower in rural areas where a greater proportion of homes have guns than in urban areas. This suggests another weakness of focusing on gun deaths. The term ignores prevented crime.
With regard to prevented crime, a study done by Professor Mauser, published in the Journal of Criminal Justice in 1996, estimated that the range of defensive gun use in Canada was somewhere between 60,000 and 80,000 cases per year. And Professor Mauser broke that down into that defence in use against an animal ranged between 41,000 and 42,500 cases, and defence against a person ranged from 19,000 to an upper end of 37,500.
I would urge members, if they are interested in Professor Mauserís work, to check that out on his Web site, and it does show some of the information behind those conclusions.
Another interesting point to note, Mr. Speaker, is Canadaís violent crime rate, compared to that of the United States: we have a higher rate of violent crime per population. Currently, as of 2003 ó although I will refer to 2002, as that is the number I can clearly see on the graph ó Canadaís violent crime rate was 1,000 per 100,000 population, whereas that of the United States was approximately 600.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, as I have regained my train of thought after a few comments directed at me, I will refer to the fact again that the notion of gun death is a red herring that stems from a paternalistic view of people as victims who need protection and is incompatible with the more traditional view that ordinary people are responsible citizens. Democracies or economies could not function as well as they do if ordinary people were not basically responsible. By portraying ordinary citizens as vulnerable and as victims, it is easier to justify government intervention to protect us from ourselves.
We all recognize that there is a certain element in society of violent criminals and people who act inappropriately, but the fact remains that most people are decent, law-abiding citizens. One aspect of the firearms registry that has been especially particularly troubling to me is the number of Yukonersí and other Canadiansí principled objections to the firearms registry due to their belief that the only possible practical function the registry can serve is as a list for confiscation due to statistics used by police forces. Now theyíre suggesting that, as far as police procedures are related, if they have a rate of more than one or two percent of firearms in society being unregistered, they have to treat every home and every domestic situation and every activity as if the person was armed. So, it makes little difference to their procedures.
One point, referring to my earlier comments, Mr. Speaker ó Iíd like to tie this together for members to remind them ó is the fact that there is a proven higher rate of burglaries and home invasions and crime in areas with a low density of gun ownership. One could very logically draw the conclusion that police officers would actually themselves be put at greater risk by the implementation of a firearms registry than by the lack thereof, because it has made it more difficult to acquire firearms and because, in fact, at this point we are in society right now ó the only practical purpose that a firearms registry appears to serve now is its possible use by criminals if they are able to hack into the firearms registry and use it as a shopping list. At this point, the major error rate in gun registry and the millions of Canadians who have refused to comply with that registry render this system irrelevant and render it one of the greatest risks of taxpayersí money in this country.
As members may recall, a couple of weeks ago there was a news report out of southern British Columbia where the owner of a nightclub had two people leaving his premises and, at that time, six individuals came in and shot those people ó I believe fatally. The owner of the nightclub, in talking to the media, made some very salient comments. He noted that thereís nothing that any owner of a facility ó of a restaurant or a bar or a theatre ó can do to prevent that type of activity when you have patrons leaving and someone ó presumably gang related ó deciding to attack them outside. There is no way that anyone can prevent that from happening. The fact is that the firearms registry had not prevented these guns being in the hands of these individuals. They were able to use them ó whether they were legally registered firearms or whether they were illegal firearms, it makes no difference. They used them in an illegal manner, and that was the issue. As this nightclub owner pointed out, that $2 billion wasted on the gun registry would have been far more effective if it had been targeted toward increasing support for policing or for other measures that actually target and address the issue of gun violence and provide more enforcement.
Mr. Speaker, since the 1970s Canadian gun laws have increasingly restricted civilian access to firearms. This is despite the fact that ó regarding the use of firearms ó murder, like suicide, appears to depend primarily on motive, not the availability of a particular tool. Homicides are not more likely to occur in homes with firearms. Homicide rates have not been shown to drop when laws are introduced to increase the difficulty of legally owning firearms, and thus Canadian gun laws save no lives. The 1995 law, Bill C-68, the gun registry, virtually ignored violent criminals to focus its efforts on hunters, target shooters and collectors.†
Now, Mr. Speaker, to clarify for members opposite, they may be thinking that the measures announced by the federal government and the federal Minister of Justice were clear in their intent to focus on criminal misuse of firearms and were not targeted toward law-abiding citizens ó and thatís a very nice statement. Certainly the statement in the agreement reached at the justice ministers conference is not one that most Canadians would have a concern with, or most people who conscientiously object to the registration of firearms.
However, we have also heard a lot of rhetoric around the gun registry itself from the federal Liberals and we have heard statements that have not been accurate and I quite frankly have some concern that the measures that they actually end up implementing, if they are re-elected, may not reflect the public statements that they have made.
The firearms registry itself was largely justified on incidents of criminal misuse of firearms, on shootings, on tragedies such as the shooting at lí…cole Polytechnique in Montreal. While those incidences are incredibly tragic, they are not directly related to registration of long guns and, in fact, registration of long guns would do nothing to stop them. The specific incident at lí…cole Polytechnique in Montreal was perpetrated by an individual who was not allowed to possess the weapon that he had. He used a prohibited class of weapon. What that incident should have proven to Canadians was that more enforcement for the existing provisions of the law was needed, not that new provisions of legislation were needed.
The fact that that individual should never have had that firearm did not change the fact that he had it and he used it. Now, to put in another unenforceable gun law does absolutely nothing except make people feel a little better and, without good reason, sleep maybe a little sounder in their beds at night when, in fact, no measurable difference has been made to improve their safety. In fact, all that has been done is the government has made the playing field a little more conducive to criminals operating without the possibility of being interrupted in their misdeeds by a law-abiding citizen who was armed and chose to protect themselves.
Mr. Speaker, one thing that should be noted, in stark contrast to what Canada has done, is that the United States has gone to the other extreme of the spectrum, in fact, in relaxing their firearms legislation over the past decade, and guns are more available now than in other decades.
During this same period that we have had the firearms registry in place, throughout the United States ó I should say, because some of it has been at state level ó two important changes have occurred. The ban on so-called assault weapons, introduced under former President Clinton, lapsed in 2004, so Americans can now purchase a wider variety of firearms than they could before.
Also, an additional 28 states passed laws that allow responsible citizens to carry concealed handguns for protection, bringing the current total of states with such provisions to 38.
Now, Iím certainly not suggesting that Canada should proceed down that other extreme and immediately go down the road of allowing everyone to pack a .45 down the street under their coat. But it is worthy of note that, despite those measures which, by common philosophy here, would be considered a recipe for disaster and a massive increase in gun deaths, it actually resulted in a 33-percent drop in homicides over that time ó over that decade ó and a 32-percent drop in violent crime. Thatís certainly food for thought. Those measures that increased restrictions have, in fact, created the opposite situation, where weíve had a recent spike in the homicide rate.
And the fact of the availability of guns in the United States ó the easy availability of such weapons ó is all the more reason why, with our free-flowing trade across the borders, we have to be aware that if criminals want firearms, no matter what type, they will have access to them. The fact that in the United States they can purchase those weapons completely legally and then can find somewhere to smuggle them in, in a vehicle crossing the border, and use them in Canada where there is not the same protection against them ó the same ownership of guns among the public ó is a recipe for disaster.
We have to take into context the world in which we live. I am of the belief that the possession of long guns is something that has not created a significant problem within our country and does provide people with the ability to defend themselves in their homes, if necessary.
Unlike handguns, they are not easily portable. They are not easy to use in crime and robberies and other events such as that. Their most practical use is for hunting or defence, if someone comes into oneís home and is threatening oneís life or the lives of oneís family.
I stand in support of increasing sentences and setting mandatory minimum sentences for violent criminal misuse of firearms. I want to make that very clear. We should increase the penalties to criminals. We should increase the enforcement toward those breaking the law and toward violent crime. It is not simply and exclusively the use of firearms that is a problem in our society. It certainly has absolutely nothing to do with whether long guns are registered or not. The registration of handguns is something that has existed for many years. It is not something that is a concern for me or for most Canadians or Yukoners.
As you are well aware, Mr. Speaker, as are most members of this House, the firearms registry is something that was opposed by all parties in the Yukon. It has been opposed by a great number of Yukoners and has been the subject of significant campaigns by the Responsible Firearms Owners Coalition and others directed toward that issue.
I certainly hope that weíre not about to see a repeat of the events of 1995 and see stricter guns laws that do nothing to combat crime but simply attack the rights of citizens. I think itís a great shame and tragedy that not only has $2 billion of taxpayersí money been wasted on this long gun registry but, due to an issue of principle, it has turned many Yukoners and many Canadians into criminals because they refuse to register their long firearms.
Mr. Speaker, our time is unfortunately short this afternoon. I did have a considerable amount of information that I was looking forward to bringing to the attention of members of this House. However, I would like to see us move forward on this motion and, hopefully, bring this to passage before the end of the day. I recognize that I have already brought forward a considerable number of points to members of this House and considerable information.
I would urge all members of this House to vote in favour of this motion. I think that regardless of our political affiliation, we can do as has been done in the past in the Yukon and express a clear position that guns are very important to hunting activities for many Yukoners, and many Yukoners feel they have a basic right to defend themselves if government cannot defend them. As we know, when youíre living in rural Yukon, if someone invades your house, if someone threatens your family, if a bear is charging into your yard, by the time you call the police and the police arrive, no matter how quick the response is, the incident will be over, and if your life was threatened, it will have been over with a tragic conclusion..
I would urge all members to respect the wishes that we know are held by Yukoners in opposition to the firearms registry and to vote in favour of eliminating that registry and, in the future, reallocating that $100 billion per year that is now being wasted on the firearms registry toward measures that effectively address the violent criminal misuse of firearms, including things such as increased programs or policing.
Mr. Speaker, I thank members for their attention and urge all members to support this motion.
Mr. Cardiff: I rise today to speak to Motion No. 524. I donít really have too many problems with the motion as it reads. Itís interesting to note that, with all the information the Member for Lake Laberge brought forward ó there was a lot there for people to take in ó what we need to do, in the short time we have, is to cut to the chase and look at what the big issues here are.
The reality of where we live, for starters, is that we live in the Yukon and many people here in the Yukon ó and also in Canada ó view long guns as a tool, not as a weapon. Itís something they use to make their way in life, whether they use it for hunting, trapping or self-defence in the bush.
The Member for Lake Laberge talked about the right to self-defence. I donít disagree with the right to defend yourself, but I honestly donít believe you need a rifle or handgun to defend yourself. I would hope the majority of Canadians arenít put into that kind of situation.
We abhor the violence that takes place and that has taken place. Thatís what the original intention of the registry was. Itís unfortunate that it hasnít worked. What we see instead is an escalation of violent crimes involving the use of illegal firearms in many of the larger cities across Canada. But I think one of the things that we do need to take note of is the origins of the gun registry. I think that the intentions originally were a reaction to something that we saw that was happening in society, which was an increase in violent crime. There was an increase in the use of firearms in violent crime. I donít believe that the registry has served Canadians well in trying to bring that to an end. One thing is that most criminals donít run down and register their firearms. Itís just not going to happen. Thatís not something that people would normally do. If they had intentions to use the firearms illegally, why would they go and register them? That doesnít make sense.
Iíd like to talk a little bit just about the origins of the registry and how it got started and what was proposed. Originally, in 1995, Bill C-68 ó the original cost of this registry was supposed to be $119 million.
It was thought, at that time, that all of the fees to register firearms would cover most of the cost of the registry and that it would only cost taxpayers about a million dollars.† Well, we found out that it has cost Canadian taxpayers much more. The Liberal government has mismanaged this program to such a great extent ó you canít imagine.
The Auditor General, in a report in January 2004, said that by the time the smoke clears and all gun owners and their guns are registered, the program will have cost taxpayers more than a billion dollars. Thatís 500 times the original estimate of $2 million. The breakdown of this money that was spent under the Liberal government was ó this was done by the Auditor General ó $2 million to help police enforce the legislation, at least $60 million for public relations programs ó if this was such a good idea, why did we need to spend $60 million on a public relations program? ó and $18 million of that went to the controversial ad agency, Groupaction, and so we see where this ties in to some of the controversy that has led us to the current state that we are in, which is a federal election. Itís the lack of confidence in the federal government to manage Canadian taxpayersí money well, and here is another example of that.
There was $227 million for computer costs and for complicated application forms that were filled with personal questions. The process was slow. I went through the process and it drove the cost of the whole program much higher.
The way it worked before seemed to work okay for me, as far as I could tell. Restricted weapons and handguns had to be registered. They had to be kept in a safe place. One had to obtain a permit to possess a firearm and to purchase a firearm. It was law that one had to look after them and keep them in a safe manner, whether they were locked in a cabinet or dismantled, with the pieces and ammunition kept in separate locations. For the most part, most Yukoners would agree that was working.
What Iíve heard as a concern expressed to me by people in the Yukon is the registration fee that the federal government charges to register a firearm. Itís a one-time fee. In order to obtain the firearms acquisition permits and possession permits, I believe one has to have them renewed, so thatís an ongoing cost. I think the fear of some people was that, down the road, there would be this need to register oneís firearms every year, like registering a car, and that this would become nothing but a cash cow for the federal government.
As I said earlier, just looking at the statistics, right now it has cost $2 billion and, as of February 2003 ó which are the statistics I have ó 1.9 million Canadians have been licensed to possess firearms and about 6.1 million firearms have been accounted for or registered.
It has been said at times by people involved in law enforcement that the gun registry is the key to reducing the misuse of guns and makes it easier for police to track illegal guns. Itís not hard to dispute that because, as I said earlier, most people involved in criminal or illegal activity arenít going to run down and register their firearms, so itís beyond me how you can track those illegal firearms. I donít know how that would work.
I think whatís needed is stricter enforcement at borders. Thatís something that the federal NDP has called for. We need to stem the flow of illegal firearms from the United States, where gun laws are much less restrictive. I think that we need to have restrictive gun laws but, at the same time, we need to have the freedom to use them as we have been accustomed to, whether youíre using them ó as I said earlier ó as a tool. Whether youíre a trapper or a hunter, youíre using them to sustain yourself.
I had the opportunity just in the last month or two to actually sit in on a meeting over at Council of Yukon First Nations with my colleague from Old Crow. I heard this topic discussed, and Yukon First Nations are very concerned about this, because they rely on firearms for their livelihood, to put food on the table, to feed themselves, their families, their loved ones, their communities. They use them out on their traplines and for self-defence. It has become a way of life for them. It has become a part of their life. Thatís what they use, and they consider it to be a tool, and it is not to be used in the commission of crimes.
So I think that by stemming that flow of illegal guns from the United States, where, as I said, the laws and rules seem to be a little laxer than they are in Canada, and with the inclusion of stiffer penalties for violent crimes, we can address this issue in a way that would be more acceptable to Canadians, and it would be more cost efficient to Canadians if we were to put some of that money that is being spent on an annual basis ó the Member for Lake Laberge, I think, cited $100 million a year. I donít know if thatís correct or not, but if we were to put some of that money toward the root causes of crime, like addressing issues of poverty, like addressing issues of inadequate housing, and some of the root causes of crime that lead to violent crime and the use of firearms in the commission of those crimes. If we were to address those issues, we would see much less violent crime and we would see less use of firearms in those crimes.
I donít want to go on. I want to allow other members an opportunity to speak. I hope Iíve covered off all of the points. I look forward to hearing from other members.
Mr. Hassard: I rise in support of this motion. Itís obviously an issue that has been on the minds of many Yukoners. Weíve heard it for a long time, since the first discussions around the gun registry. I donít know of any Yukoners who are supportive of it. There are always questions. Every time the topic comes up, there are always people questioning the relevance of the legislation on it. I canít help but wonder: is this in any way the best use of our tax dollars? We can use more funding for policing. We always need funding for health care. We need funding for education. Earlier today we were talking about funding for First Nation housing. The list ó we would be here all day. Just about anything would be better for rural Canadians, especially Yukoners. Perhaps, hopefully, a change of government in Ottawa will get us what we need. Itís interesting that our current MP was not there to vote the last time. It was rather sad.
Mr. Speaker, I have an example of why this doesnít work, specifically for a member of my community. A First Nation elder was doing something that he has done since the highway was built, probably. He was on a section of the Alaska Highway south of Teslin, between Swift River and Teslin, where it goes into B.C.
While on one of his hunting expeditions, travelling along the Alaska Highway, he encountered a routine traffic stop ó well, somewhat routine; the British Columbia transportation people were there doing a check stop. They had some RCMP with them. Now, when the RCMP stopped the First Nation elder and started looking in his car, they noticed that he had his hunting rifle with him. Upon closer inspection, they realized that it was not stored properly and he was, in fact, breaking the law.
This gentleman is 80 years old plus. In his mind, he was doing something that heís been doing for 40 or 50 years ó itís hard to say how long. Heís in his traditional territory, going about his day and doing the things that give him pleasure. When you get to be 80 years old plus, I guess thereís not a big list of things you are going to do. He was trying to provide some food for his table. I am sure that all of us would like to have some fresh moose meat. It is very sad that this gentleman had his car impounded. He had a towing bill ó a very expensive one ó to pay. He has to appear in court in Atlin, B.C.
This is not a pleasurable experience ó not for anyone ó but particularly for someone of that age, it has to be somewhat overwhelming. I canít believe that more Yukoners havenít got up in arms ó pardon the pun ó to do more to combat this legislation.
I really think that we have to ó you know, weíre in a federal election. When these people come to our doors, itís a perfect opportunity to tell them over and over and over why this doesnít work. Iím sure that everybody has several examples of why it doesnít work.
Mr. Speaker, obviously, coming from rural Yukon, a large majority of my friends are hunters. Many of them are trappers. I have been involved in the big game outfitting and trapping industries in the past. These laws just donít make any sense for the people who are out on the land. I can think of when I was just out of high school, trapping with a First Nation fellow ó not that it matters, but one of my best friends. And we used to leave guns here and there. They were hung in a tree so they didnít beat down the trail on the snowmobile when we were headed back to town. You just put the gun wherever it was needed, rather than worrying about locking it up. Not that Iím careless with firearms ó donít get me wrong ó but there is a limit to what we can do.
I donít know how to say it any better, other than it doesnít work. People who are hunting, people who are travelling the rivers in boats ó every time you turn around, youíre being forced to break the law. Thatís just not right. And if the big cities of Canada want to deal with the gun issue in Montreal or Toronto or the places that do seem to be having some problems, then let those municipalities do that. I encourage them to do that. I donít want to go into a city and get shot at. I have no desire to carry a gun in the streets of any Canadian city.
But at the same time, leave me alone when Iím out doing my thing. Itís sad that itís costing so much, and we are getting so little for it.
Mr. Speaker, as we are on a limited amount of time, I am going to take my seat and let some others get their points on the record.
Mr. Mitchell: † Thank you to the Member from Pelly-Nisutlin for leaving time for other members to speak.
There are just a few things I would like to say about this and I know we are getting late in the day. The Yukon Liberal Party has never supported Bill C-68 and the resulting gun registry. This is on the record countless times over the last decade and I will provide at least two examples. The first is a letter to the Whitehorse Star dated April 5, 2000. The editor noted that this was an open letter to a Whitehorse resident.
ďThank you for enquiring about our position on Bill C-68. I have stated our opposition to the bill a number of times. On December 1, 1998, I said the following to a local radio station: ĎThe Liberal Party in the Yukonís position has been absolutely clear that we are against the legislation and we have argued against it steadfastly. We will continue to lobby the federal government to make changes to this law. We support the current Supreme Court challenge. I look forward to any questions you may have regarding this or other issues.Ē That was signed by the Member for Porter Creek South, my predecessor as Liberal leader.
Secondly, this is from Hansard on Wednesday, November 29, 2000, a question about gun control legislation. An NDP member asked: ďMr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. The Yukonís new Liberal Member of Parliament is on record as being opposed to the federal gun registration law. What steps does the minister now plan to take with her federal counterpart to resolve the deep concerns that Yukon people have with this law?Ē The Minister of Justice responded: ďI too am opposed to Bill C-68.Ē
Iím on the record with that opposition. The entire Liberal government is on record as being opposed. I note, with interest, that the federal NDP has supported gun control.
Mr. Speaker, I am personally opposed, and continue to be opposed, to Bill C-68. I understand that the intent ó and I think it was a genuine intent ó was to try to ensure that the terrible tragedy that occurred at lí…cole Polytechnique in Montreal was never again repeated. And I fully support the desire to reduce senseless tragedies committed with firearms. Unfortunately, this legislation has not, and will not, achieve that goal. The weapon that was used in that terrible event was already prohibited. It was already supposedly controlled by legislation.
This legislation is not going to add to anyoneís safety, in my opinion. For 20 years, when I was younger, in my 20s and 30s, I hunted moose to provide food for my family. I regarded, and continue to regard, long guns as tools, just like the chainsaw that I use to cut wood and the axe I use to split wood to heat our house. We donít register chainsaws, nor do we license axes, despite their potential use as weapons.
I would personally agree with the Member for Lake Laberge that this legislation is onerous to our northern lifestyle, especially for our First Nation residents, but also for many other Yukoners. But I do have to ask: why is this motion being brought forward now? Why the timing, Mr. Speaker?
Our federal Member of Parliament, as the NDP noted, is on the record opposing this legislation as well. Again, this has been his position for several years. The Member for Lake Laberge is once again using the floor of this House to try to fight the federal election. He longs for the day when Stephen Harper is Prime Minister of Canada.
He has long been an active member of the federal Reform Party, and then the Canadian Alliance, and Iím sure he has his Conservative Party card up to date as well. We know that his colleague, the MLA for Porter Creek North, was also active in the Canadian Alliance Party. And, of course, most of the Yukon Party caucus was out this past summer to vote at the federal Conservative nomination meeting.
I would remind the Member for Lake Laberge that our Member of Parliament has been elected twice by Yukoners, despite the best efforts of some MLAs to stop that from happening. Our Member of Parliament has been very clear about where he stands on the issue of Bill C-68. Another attempt to muddy the waters by the Member for Lake Laberge will not change that.
I would encourage the MLA, if he is so interested in federal issues, to run for his beloved Conservatives. He should run for the Conservatives in the upcoming election. It is my understanding that they do not have a candidate for the election. He has until the December 17 meeting to make his decision and run for that party.
With respect to the motion, our party and my colleague and I agree with the substance of it. We think the intent of the legislation was well-meaning and it may have made sense to people who live in other areas of Canada, but it doesnít serve us well here in the Yukon.
I was considering proposing an amendment to this motion. I was considering it, but I donít want to be seen to be taking action that would simply cause my colleagues to not have an opportunity to vote on this motion. So I wonít do that. I just want to say again that I think members of this House should commend our Member of Parliament for supporting Yukon residents and opposing the federal registration program.
Having said that, we will be supporting the motion as it now reads. I will leave my remarks at that, so that other members can speak to the motion and call the question.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Hardy: I think we have had this debate in this Legislative Assembly before. I think weíve all in this Legislative Assembly made our position clear about gun control and the unbelievable waste surrounding it. I believe that, depending on who speaks, there is a different perception being presented of how it came about, who supports it and who doesnít. The leader of the third party just indicated that the Liberal Member of Parliament has been very clear on where he stands. Yet, from the other side, I hear the Yukon Party noting that he avoided voting in regard to gun control. So, you have different perceptions.
One of the things we argue about in the Legislative Assembly is talking about doing something and acting. Itís very easy to stand in here and say, ďI am opposed to gun controlĒ, or ďI am opposed to the gun registrationĒ ó I should say. I donít know ó I will put this out. Are people opposed to gun control of some form or other? Is the member who brought this motion forward saying there should be no controls whatsoever around guns? Or should we adopt the American perspective on gun control and their approach to it? Does the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin also indicate that itís all right to leave rifles in the woods and to have guns freely distributed out there?
I donít think so. I would suspect that both of those who spoke on that side of the House believe that there has to be some control. To what degree, to how it impacts peopleís lives, their quality of life, traditional lifestyles, to have some kind of measurement in being able to measure whether itís effective in trying to prevent horrendous acts with guns or not, some kind of cost control ó we all remember what the original cost of this gun act that the Liberals brought forward was. It was quite small, actually, compared to where it is today. I heard the figure, I think, of $2 billion. I think thatís the conservative estimate. I believe itís probably more than $2 billion.
The point and the fact is that it still exists today, and it is the Liberal government that is keeping it in place. That canít be refuted. Thatís the truth. No matter what we say in here, no matter how we spin it, that is still the bottom line. If the gun registry, gun control, was going to be removed, the natural governing party of Canada has had many opportunities to do that. Thatís a fact. I donít think there is anybody here who can question that.
So obviously, the position of the Liberal government ó the federal Liberal government; Iím not saying all Liberal governments; but the federal Liberal government is the majority ó and the collective voice is that this is a value. The $2 billion and the act that has been brought forward are of value, and they will continue to spend the money that they spend every year on it. I heard the figure ó I think it was $100 million per year ó $100 million per year, the mover of the motion nodded his head. So $100 million per year is being spent on this, plus $2 billion already. Now, when I hear those figures, I can think of a lot of places Iíd like to see that money spent.
I could see all the First Nation housing being taken care of with $2 billion. I could see $2 billion going into many areas of health care that are so desperately needed in the north and in other areas of Canada. I could see $2 billion going into our universities. I could see $2 billion removing tuitions so we could make more opportunities for people to be educated so that they would know about responsible ownership of many things besides guns. I could see $2 billion, and $100 million per year, being spent on the environment. I could see $2 billion, and $100 million per year, being spent on small business development, on incentives and start-ups, on the seniors and creating a fund that would make seniorsí lives more comfortable in their old age. I could see all of that ó and Iím just touching on some things. Thatís a lot of money that would have a very significant impact across Canada, without a doubt. But the federal Liberal government believes that this is a worthwhile investment, that they have already put this amount of money toward this.
I believe in gun control ó not this gun control, not this type, not this amount of money, not this approach, not the way itís treating the people of the north and the lifestyles up here. I believe in some type of gun control, but not this. I also believe that it is supported by the Liberal government, without a doubt, or else it would be removed; they would have stopped it. These are the facts. There is no question about that.
There are choices that one makes and one lives by those choices. It doesnít matter what anybody says in this Legislative Assembly to try to put this or that spin or angle on it. The fact is that it still exists today and it exists because the government in place still supports it.
Does that mean that the other parties do not support gun control? Is it a black and white issue? I donít believe that. I believe that if you approach each of the other parties at the federal level, or even within the Legislative Assembly, and ask them to come up with some other model and method to ensure that guns do not become weapons that can be used against other people, it would be a different approach. This is the Liberal model. The amount of money that theyíve put toward it is the Liberalsí responsibility, in this case. They have to face up to that fact.
What we say here is important to our constituents, but letís not try to muddy the water or try to score political points. I think everyone out there knows where it stands. We know where we stand in here, and I think weíve been clear in the past and will be clear in the future on this.
Saying that, I will let the mover of the motion, the Member for Lake Laberge, close debate if he wishes.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Cathers: I thank all members for their comments this afternoon.
Iíd like to take up on a point that was raised by the leader of the opposition regarding the issue of whether gun control was supported, and heís absolutely right. Certainly I support gun control. It is simply an argument over what measures of gun control. The gun registry itself is something that I believe is draconian in its effect on citizens and does absolutely nothing to stop criminal misuse of firearms.
But, certainly, I think that few people would argue that the system in place prior to the passage of Bill C-68 in 1995 that required people to get a firearms acquisition certificate before they could purchase a weapon ó I think few people would argue that there should not be some restrictions on who can apply for a weapon. We would not want people with a history of violent mental illness, for example, to be able to walk down the street and purchase a weapon. There is a need for some restriction on that type of behaviour, and there is a need for certain measures. I would argue that the practice back in the 1970s and early 1980s, where it was very common in the Yukon to see trucks go down the street with a rifle rack in the back, a Husky in the back of the truck, and rifles slung in the window of your pickup truck, is not really responsible behaviour, and itís not well advised.
I donít have an issue with people being able to access firearms and believe there is a need for being able to carry firearms in a vehicle. I also agree with the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin that, for people in rural lifestyles, there is sometimes a need to be able to access a firearm quickly to protect against bears, or probably more at issue is access for people who own dogs who are in an area where thereís a problem of wolves killing dogs in the winter, which has been a problem that many have faced in areas. I know people who have lost several dogs in their kennels due to a wolf. To deprive people of the ability to defend their pooches is not something that I think most people would want to see. I know there are a few differing debates on this issue, but it is certainly my opinion, and I would expect that the opinion of most Yukoners would be, that the ability to defend your dog, if necessary, from being killed by a wolf is an appropriate use of a weapon.
We do have to recognize the differing needs in rural areas and the ability to have access to firearms. However, that is why gun control must be based on sensible evaluation of the situation, and the measures must be sensible, and they must be practicable. As has been suggested by the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin, there is a case for arguing that there may be different restrictions on things such as storage for firearms in an urban area versus in a rural area. That is an excellent argument. We do not, unfortunately, have the ability to deal with this ourselves.
It is being dealt with federally by the Liberal government, which has been in for the past 10 years and has taken a very different attitude on this issue. With regard to the comments made by the leader of the Liberal Party, I do thank him for his urging that I should run for the Conservative Party in the federal election, but I have absolutely no intention of running in this election. I thank him for that kind comment and he might care to note that if my comments and my remarks in favour of this motion and the evidence laid out ó if it was entirely politically motivated or had to do with the timing of the election ó I would have spent a great deal more time criticizing our Member of Parliament, Mr. Bagnell, for ducking out on the firearms vote rather than on some of the evidence that I brought forward.
The points brought forward and the timing of this, as mentioned before ó it was tabled during the week that the justice ministers conference was being held in the Yukon and there was the considerable national coverage relating to requests for stricter gun control measures. I recognize that the Liberal Party was focused on an issue campaigning there and very likely did not pay much attention to House business. But that was the reason for the timing of this motion.†
This motion was called on the Order Paper two weeks ago and we did not get to that motion in debate. I could go on at length again but we are very short of time, so I will close.
I thank members for their support and I would urge all members to vote in favour of this motion.
Thank you, 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.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Mitchell: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are nine yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 524 agreed to
Speaker: The time being 6:00 p.m., the House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:04 p.m.
The following document was filed November 30, 2005:
Alford v Government of Yukon, et al: materials re† (Hardy)