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        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;          YUKON LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;          2017 Spring Sitting

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;         SPEAKER — Hon. Nils Clarke, MLA, Riverdale North

        &= nbsp;      DEPUTY SPEAKER and CHAIR OF COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE — Don Hutton, MLA, Mayo-Tatchun

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;         DEPUTY CHAIR OF COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE — Ted Adel, MLA, Copperbelt North

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p; CABINET MINISTERS

NAME&= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;         CONSTITUENCY        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;             = PORTFOLIO

Hon. Sandy Silver            =              Klondike        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;      Premier
      &nb= sp;            =             &nb= sp;            =             &nb= sp;           &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;         Minister of the Executive Council Office; Finance

Hon. Ranj Pillai            =             &nb= sp;    Porter Creek South     &n= bsp;            = ;            &n= bsp;   Deputy Premier
        = =         &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources; Economic
        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;       Development; Minister responsible for the Yukon Development

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;       Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation

Hon. Tracy-Anne McPhee        &= nbsp;  Riverdale South      &n= bsp;            = ;            &n= bsp;       Government House Leader

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;       Minister of Education; Justice

Hon. John Streicker            =           Mount Lorne-Southern Lakes         &= nbsp;     Minister of Community Services; Minister responsible for the

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;       French Language Services Directorate; Yukon Liquor

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;       Corporation and the Yukon Lottery Commission

Hon. Pauline Frost             =            Vun= tut Gwitchin      &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;      Minister of Health and Social Services; Environment;

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;       Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation

Hon. Richard Mostyn   = ;            &n= bsp;   Whitehorse West      &nb= sp;            =             &nb= sp;     Minister of Highways and Public Works;
       &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;        the Public Service Commission

Hon. Jeanie Dendys            =            Mou= ntainview = ;            &n= bsp;            = ;            &n= bsp;   Minister of Tourism and Culture; Minist= er responsible for the

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;       Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board; 

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;       Women’s Directorate

GOVERNMENT PRIVATE MEMBERS

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;    Yukon Liberal Party

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;   Ted Adel            =             &nb= sp;            =   Copperbelt North

 = ;            &n= bsp;            = ;            &n= bsp;            = ;            &n= bsp;          Paolo Gallina     &n= bsp;            = ;            = Porter Creek Centre

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;   Don Hutton            =             &nb= sp;         Mayo-Tatchun

OFFICIAL OPPOSITION

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            Yukon Party


Stacey Hassard     &n= bsp;           Lea= der of the Official Opposition
&= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;        Pelly-Nisutlin

Brad Cathers      =             &nb= sp;  Lake Laberge

Wade Istchenko     &nbs= p;          Kluane&= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp; 

Scott Kent<= span style=3D'mso-tab-count:2'>        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;       Official Opposition House Leader

 &nb= sp;            =   Copperbelt South            =             &nb= sp;    

Patti McLeod      &n= bsp;            = ;   Watson Lake

Geraldine Van Bibber      Porter Creek North


        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;         THIRD PARTY

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;  New Democratic Party

 = ;            &n= bsp;            = ;            &n= bsp;            = ;            &n= bsp;          Liz Hanson      &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;  Leader of the Third Party

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;         Whitehorse Centre

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;   Kate White      &n= bsp;            = ;            &n= bsp;  Third Party House Leader

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;         Takhini-Kopper King      &nb= sp;        

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p; LEGISLATIVE STAFF

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;   Clerk of the Assembly    &nbs= p;           Floyd McCormick

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;   Deputy Clerk      &n= bsp;            = ;             <= /span>Linda Kolody

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;   Clerk of Committees     =              Allison Lloyd

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;   Sergeant-at-Arms        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;   Doris McLean

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;   Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms    &nb= sp;     Karina Watson  

        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;   Hansard Administrator     =           Deana Lemke

Published under the authority of the Speaker of the Yukon Legislative Assembly


 

Yukon Legislative Assembly

Whitehorse, Yukon

Wednesday, May 24, 2017 — 1:00 p.m.

 

Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proc= eed at this time with prayers.

 

Prayers

Daily Routin= e

Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Pape= r.

Tributes.

TRIBUTES

In recognition of National Public Works Week=

Hon. Mr. Mostyn: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. On beh= alf of this government and the Official Opposition, I rise today to recognize National Public Works Week, celebrated this year from May 21 to 27. National Public Works Week is a celebration of the people who work tirelessly to bui= ld and maintain our public works infrastructure, whether they work for the federal, provincial, territorial, municipal or First Nation governments, as well as the private sector.

“Public Works Conne= cts Us”. That just happens to be this year’s theme. Public works in= frastructure plays a vital role in connecting us all together within our communities. Community infrastructure contributes so much to the quality of our lives. Roads, highways, bridges and aerodromes link us together across this vast territory. Clean water, sanitation services and well-maintained buildings contribute to a healthy, sustainable community.

Too often we take our pub= lic works infrastructure for granted and forget its foundational role within our daily lives. As Minister of Highways and Public Works, I pay tribute to the Yukon civil servants who maintain, provide and improve our public works dai= ly and without being noticed. Highways and Public Works staff are responsible = for connecting Yukoners. They design, build, operate and maintain roads, bridge= s, water supply, sewage, refuse disposal systems, airports, public buildings a= nd other structures and facilities that we use every day. These people provide other supporting functions like supplying and disposing of assets as well as maintaining and operating the light- and heavy-duty fleet vehicles that make doing all of the above possible. These employees play an integral part in providing critical infrastructure and services. They are dedicated to impro= ving Yukoners’ quality of life, both present and future.

This week, we raise the p= rofile of these often unnoticed professionals who serve the public good with quiet dedications. I thank each and every one of them for their service. Further,= I will call out a few whose work often takes place in the worst conditions an= d in isolated locations. They are ensuring that others have services: our electricians, plumbers and other skilled tradespeople who respond to power failures or water leaks at all times of the day or night; the snowplow operators who clear the snow on our highways and airports throughout the ni= ght so we can travel safely in the morning; the workers who repair broken water mains to ensure residents have access to clean water; the building and high= way inspectors who ensure our projects meet design standards; and last but not least, the folks who collect garbage and compost and operate local landfill= s. These people perform the challenging and sometimes unpleasant activities th= at are necessary to keep our communities clean and safe.

We are working hard on de= epening the connection that Highways and Public Works provides Yukon by completing building maintenance and energy upgrade projects, replacing living quarters= for staff in highway maintenance camps at Drury Creek and Swift River, completi= ng airport improvements at the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport, replacing and installing new equipment at the weigh stations, and completing highway safety improvements across the territory.

Public works connect us, = Mr. Speaker. They even connect us through time. I remind the House that today we still marvel at Roman aqueducts, baths and roads — infrastructure. Like our forebears, we would be far poorer as individuals and as society without the connections provided by our modern transportation, water and sewer, our pub= lic buildings and other infrastructure.

Mr. Speaker, please = join me in recognizing National Public Works Week and in thanking all the dedicated people in our public works sector who strive every day to improve the infrastructure in our communities — this vital and often unrecognized work contributes so much to our fantastic quality of life in Yukon and touc= hes the lives of each and every one of us.

 

Ms. Hanson: It is hard to imagine what our lives or = our communities would look like without the work and dedication of those professionals and municipalities, First Nations and territorial government public works. Public works is the magic that happens when we turn on our ta= p or flush our toilet. Public works is the magic that happens when we drive to w= ork in the morning and see fresh lines on the roads. There is so much else goin= g on behind the scenes that we don’t see and usually are totally unaware o= f.

Public works professional= s ensure the safety and smooth functioning of our communities and areas that connect= us, community to community. They are given the tasks of ensuring our roads are = safe and our water is potable.

On behalf of the New Demo= cratic Party caucus, I extend our thanks to public works professionals working acr= oss Yukon.

In recognition of the junior rural experient= ial model

Hon. Ms. McPhee: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal Party as well as the Third Party to speak to the junior rural experiential model that took place last week on Kaska Dena traditional territory of the Ross River Dena Council in Faro. This yearR= 17;s junior rural experiential model brought students in grades 7 and 8 along wi= th teachers and educators from 12 rural Yukon communities together for over two days of integrated, traditional and modern teaching and learning.

The Department of Educati= on is committed to increasing the diversity of programming options and to improvi= ng learning outcomes for rural and First Nation students in Yukon. The rural experiential model delivers opportunities similar to those made available to urban students.

Students and educators fr= om Beaver Creek, Carcross, Carmacks, Dawson, Haines Junction, Kluane Lake, May= o, Pelly Crossing, Ross River, Teslin and Watson Lake joined Faro students and educators for two days of engaging, hands-on activities facilitated by rural teachers, Yukon First Nation elders and knowledge-keepers, and Yukon expert= s.

I would like to thank Chi= ef Jack Caesar along with elders and knowledge-keepers of the Ross River Dena Counc= il for the warm welcome they gave their guests and for the leadership on many = of the activities.

Thank you also to the knowledge-keepers who travelled from elsewhere across Yukon for helping to provide our students with so many unique experiences.

There were several daytim= e session options and evening activities for students to choose from, allowing them to direct their learning toward their own interests. In total, each student participated in six daytime sessions over two days, so it was a full agenda. They had two sessions focused on Yukon culture, they had two sessions focus= ed on personal wellness, and two sessions each focused on applied skills and f= ine arts. Students picked sessions that appeal most to them.

Day-session options inclu= ded choices like brain aerobics, mining and geology, culinary arts, circus performance arts, traditional foods and medicines, forensic investigation, canoeing, trapping, hand games and carpentry, just to name a few.

Students also participate= d in a traditional opening welcome and evening sessions that included a scavenger hunt, baseball, basketball, golf and other activities. I dare say a fun-fil= led few days that we would all have enjoyed. All of these opportunities have be= en developed and are being delivered by rural teachers, local experts, support staff from the departments of Education, Environment, Health and Social Services, Energy, Mines and Resources, and Sport and Recreation.

The rural experiential mo= del is an excellent example of how successful collaboration between teachers and administrators, the Public Schools branch staff, school councils, Yukon Fir= st Nations, various government departments and rural communities can really empower Yukon students. The success of the rural experiential model is a product of the dedication and efforts of all of those who were involved, and together created programs that engaged learners.

I would like to emphasize= the importance of also connecting rural students with their peers from other communities. Events like the rural experiential model help to form the kind= s of relationships that can last a lifetime. It’s also an excellent professional development opportunity, where staff can connect and share with colleagues from across the territory.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank the Town of Faro for hosting the rural experiential mo= del in collaboration with the community of Ross River.

Thank you, Mr. Speak= er; merci beaucoup; souga sin la — which is a new word for me — and shaw nithän.

 

Ms. Van Bibber: I rise on behalf of the Yukon Party Official Opposition to pay tribute to the 2017 junior rural experiential mo= del, or REM, which took place this year in Faro on the Kaska Dena traditional territory of the Ross River Dena Council.

On May 16 and 17, grade 7= and 8 students and their teachers from Beaver Creek, Carmacks, Dawson, Haines Junction, Kluane Lake, Mayo, Pelly Crossing, Ross River, and Watson Lake travelled to join Faro students in two days of integrated traditional learn= ing with elders, Yukon professionals and rural teachers.

The REM program was launc= hed in 2013 and serves as a way to teach rural Yukon students skills that they can= use after graduation, as well as to give them access to meet peers and take par= t in activities that may not be otherwise available in their communities. Not on= ly is this an experience for students, REM allows educators to get together and learn from one another as well.

The goal of REM is to bri= ng more equity and possibilities to rural students. The program seeks to do so by delivering opportunities to the participants in a flexible learning environment. This year, REM offered Yukon culture choices such as games, trapping, outdoor survival, canoeing, First Nation art, plants, music and f= ood, of course. Additionally, sessions were given on personal wellness, applied skills and fine arts. Games, sports, bonfires, and a dance gave the students the opportunity to gather in a more social setting.

The senior REM for grade = 10 to 12 students will be hosted in Haines Junction on the traditional territory of = the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations this coming September. I would like to thank the Department of Education and all First Nations as well as Ross Riv= er and Faro, who hosted this incredible program, as well as other participants= and educators who make REM possible for our rural students.

Thank you, Mr. Speak= er.

In recognit= ion of Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month

Mr. Adel: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to ask my colleagues from the Official Opposition and the Third Party to join me in recognizing May as Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month. Also, I would like to welcome several members of the multiple sclerosis association in the gallery today. Thank you for being here.

MS, or multiple sclerosis= , is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. It is most often diagnosed in people between the ages of 15 and 40 and is three times as lik= ely to occur in women. MS is an unpredictable disease that causes a range of symptoms including fatigue, pain or tingling, vision problems, and a loss of coordination.

Mr. Speaker, no one understands yet why this is, but Canada has the highest rate of multiple sclerosis in the world. It’s estimated that about 100,000 Canadians a= re living with the disease.

Here in the Yukon, we est= imate that about 150 people have been diagnosed with MS. Fortunately, these people and their families are supported through the efforts of the Multiple Sclero= sis Society of Canada. This society, which was founded in 1948, continues to be= a leader in helping to improve the quality of life of people with MS. It also funds research to find the cause and cure for this disease.

Each May, during Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, the society helps organize the annual Scotiabank= MS Walk in communities across the country, with more than 30,000 Canadians participating in more than 125 communities. Here in Whitehorse, this year’s walk on May 20 has so far raised more than $6,200. A large por= tion of that money was raised by a team called the Myelin Rejuvenators, led by U= S MS Association President Cecilia Twigge. Ms. Twigge and her group have al= so organized an annual fundraising dinner and auction, called “Keep S’myelin for MS.” This year’s sold-out event raised more = than $1,000, thanks to the generosity of many people in our community.

The Yukon MS Association = has purchased specialized exercise equipment, which will soon be delivered to t= he Canada Games Centre. This equipment can also be used by people in wheelchai= rs and scooters.

We applaud these efforts = and encourage all Yukoners to take part in these local fundraising events. Ten percent of funds raised stay right here in the Yukon to support people livi= ng with MS. What can we do as a government, Mr. Speaker, to support Yukon= ers and their families who are living with this disease? People with more aggre= ssive forms of MS often need advanced care at a relatively young age. Like others= who require care, these people want to stay in their homes and communities for = as long as possible.

This is why our governmen= t has committed to working with Yukoners, health professionals and other stakehol= ders to offer better home care services. Just as we want seniors to be able to a= ge in place, we want people of any age who have MS to receive adequate home ca= re and support to stay in their homes, and appropriate residential options when they can no longer stay at home.

Once again, I would like = to express my gratitude to all Yukoners who give their support to this worthwh= ile cause. Their efforts to continue to improve the quality of life for people = with MS we hope will one day will lead to a cure.

On a personal note, Mr.&n= bsp;Speaker, I have undertaken this journey with my eldest daughter, walking side by side with her and the ravages of this disease, and I can only express my family’s heartfelt gratitude to organizations like this that help out= .

Applause

 

Speaker: Introduction of visitors.

Are there any returns or documents for tabling?

Tabling Retu= rns and Documents

Hon. Mr. Streicker: I have for tabling a legislative return in response to a question from the Member for Porter Creek North regarding recreational infrastructure for the Village of Carmacks.

 

Hon. Mr. Mostyn: I have for tabling a legislative re= turn in response to a question for the Member for Copperbelt South regarding hig= hway work at the Carcross Cut-off.

 

Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?

Are there any reports of committees?

Are there any petitions?<= /p>

Are there any bills to be introduced?

Are there any notices of = motions?

Notices of M= otions

Mr. Hassard: I rise to give notice of the following motion:

THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon, in consultation with the Yukon Workers’ Compensa= tion Health and Safety Board, the Yukon Employees’ Union and the Yukon Teachers’ Association, to prepare for the legalization of marijuana b= y developing and implementing mandatory post-incident drug and alcohol testing for Yukon government employees involved in serious workplace accidents, including, but not limited to, motor vehicle collisions.

 

Speaker: Are there any further notices of motions?

Is there a statement by a minister?

This then brings us to Qu= estion Period.

QUESTION PERIOD

Question re: Carbon tax

Mr. Hassard: Today we have seen a federal official confirm what the Yukon Party has been saying all along. If the Yukon fought= for an exemption to the carbon tax, it could have received one. The federal official stated that everything is on the table, including exemptions. This= is interesting because it is a direct contradiction to what the Premier has be= en telling Yukoners. In fact, let me quote the Premier from May 9 when he said — and I quote: “There are no exemptions.” Mr. Speake= r, the question is: Did the Premier forget to ask for an exemption or was he m= ore concerned with standing up for Ottawa rather than standing up for Yukon?

Hon. Mr. Silver: The word “exemption” has been tossed around a lot throughout this process. There is a nuance to the = word that I would like to clarify as well. We fully expect to explore how flexibility and sector-specific solutions will apply to the north; however,= no decisions have been made to this point. At no point was there an option for= the Yukon to opt out of carbon pricing. The federal government did not offer blanket exemptions to the territory or to the provinces that didn’t w= ant to impose a price on carbon pollution.

We have told Yukoners tha= t we are working with the federal government on the details of what carbon pricing implementation will look like. That work continues. We are part of a federal working group that is studying the economic impacts of carbon pricing implementation, and results are expected in the fall. We are going to use t= his opportunity to continue to advocate for Yukoners, to make sure that the fed= eral government understands the considerations of the north.

But to be clear, Mr. = ;Speaker, what is now up for negotiation is not and has never been a blanket exemptio= n as the Yukon Party would have us believe. Yukon is working with Canada to cons= ider flexibility in how federal carbon-pricing systems apply to the north based = upon the annex and the pan-Canadian framework due to the implications of our uni= que situations here in the territory.

Mr. Hassard: The federal official from Environment Canada who spoke to CBC was very clear. Everything is on the table, includi= ng exemptions. However, on April 25, the Premier said — and again I will quote: “There is no such thing as an exemption. There never was an exemption. An exemption was never an option. No province or territory was e= ver offered an exemption.”

Mr. Speaker, it appe= ars that the Premier was wrong. Will the Premier now do the right thing, stop standi= ng up for the federal Liberal Party and fight for Yukoners to get some exempti= ons on this carbon tax?

Hon. Mr. Silver: Once again, the Yukon Party is reac= ting to news stories. Last week we heard the concerns from them that we would be following “to a T” the Alberta carbon-pricing mechanism, and th= is week we hear this. So which one is it? The member opposite is working witho= ut the facts, and his concerns are creating unnecessary uncertainty for Yukone= rs.

Let me once again explain= . We are not bringing in our own carbon-pricing model; therefore, we will be using t= he federal backstop. Last week, the federal government released a technical pa= per on the implementation of their backstop. We have until June 30 to provide i= nput on that technical paper. We will be working with the federal government to identify our unique Yukon issues.

As we have said time and = time again, we are at the table with the federal government advocating for Yukon= ers. By joining the negotiations last December, we have a federal commitment on = the Yukon annex. The federal system will return revenues from the carbon pricin= g to Yukon. We have committed to ensuring that all funds collected will go back = to Yukon businesses and individuals.

We have also committed to ensuring that carbon pricing will not negatively impact businesses that do = not have alternatives to gas and to diesel. Instead of continuing to raise undue alarms and concerns based upon speculation and hearsay, we are at the table working with our partners and standing up for what matters for Yukoners.

Mr. Hassard: The real uncertainty is created by these non-answers that we’re getting from this Premier. For half a year, we have been trying to get details out of the Liberal government about this ca= rbon tax scheme. Unfortunately, they refuse to give any real answers.

One thing that’s disturbing, Mr. Speaker, is that the answers we receive in the Legisla= ture are quite often different from those that are given to the media after Ques= tion Period. This is concerning, but hopefully the government changes course on this.

But in the meantime, toda= y, Environment Canada told CBC that, with respect to the carbon tax, exemptions are on the table — and I quote: “… the ball is still in t= he Yukon government’s court…” So I’m curious, Mr. = ;Speaker, is CBC wrong here or is the Premier shirking responsibility in reversing his earlier decision to sign on the carbon tax and actually get us an exemption= ?

Hon. Mr. Silver: I think the Yukon Party is just not used to hearing answers in here, so they can’t hear them when they actually get them. We are working and continue to work with the federal government on analysis and the further implementation of carbon-pricing backstop from the federal government. As a result of the recent technical paper, we are working with Canada to conduct a study on the impacts that ca= rbon pricing may have on the northern economy and on vulnerable groups here in t= he north. This economic study will be done this summer and should have results= in the fall.

Part of the federal government’s commitment in the pan-Canadian framework is that togethe= r, we will study and recognize the unique circumstances in the territories bef= ore the backstop is implemented.

Let me be very clear here= , Mr. Speaker: the federal government has confirmed even today — I don’t know = what CBC is saying, but the federal government has confirmed today that the resu= lts of this study will be considered before the federal backstop is implemented. That’s the work we’re doing, Mr. Speaker.

If we listen to the membe= rs opposite, it seems that Yukon would believe that one day, without notice, a= tax officer from Ottawa is going to show up at the gas station and start taxing= our pumps. This is clearly not the case, Mr. Speaker. My officials here, t= he Yukon government, my team and I are working on what the implementation of a federal backstop will look like and how it will impact Yukoners.

We also have a commitment= from the federal government that all the money will be returned to the Yukon. Th= ese commitments have not stopped and have not changed. We didn’t stick our head in the sand; we’re working with Ottawa for Yukoners.

Question re= : Carbon tax

Mr. Cathers: I note that, in February, the Premier of Nunavut told their Legislative Assembly that his government was actively negotiating exemptions to the carbon tax. We have also seen a number of oth= er premiers indicate that they have successfully negotiated exemptions to their carbon tax or are in the process of doing so. Today we have seen a senior Environment Canada official say that an exemption to the carbon tax is poss= ible for the Yukon. However, our Premier seems to be so ideologically in favour = of a carbon tax that he has decided not to follow the lead of other premiers and= not to stand up to Yukon families. The Premier is on record saying — and I quote: “An exemption was never an option.” The good news is that the Premier was wrong.

Will the Premier now admi= t his mistake, go back to the negotiating table, and seek an exemption from the carbon tax for the Yukon?

Hon. Mr. Silver: I’m going to continue to say = what I have been saying in the Legislative Assembly. Putting a price on carbon is one element of the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and on climate change, and the Government of Canada will be implementing a carbon price sometime in 2018, regardless of what the members opposite say.

The nuance we also talked= about is that we are fully expecting to explore how fixed flexibility works for t= he north and also sector-specific solutions. I have said this from the get-go:= You cannot use this federal carbon-pricing mechanism in areas where we cannot reduce our emissions. This is the good work this government has been doing = on this side of the Legislative Assembly when working with Ottawa to make sure that a federal carbon-pricing mechanism works for Yukon in the unique circumstances.

I would ask the members o= pposite to maybe read the annex, to take a look at what we’re saying. It looks like they are changing their opinion here. They said they wanted a blanket exemption, and now they’re saying to look into specifics. Mr. Sp= eaker, the good news is that this government has been looking and working with Ott= awa to make sure they understand the unique circumstances in the north so the federal carbon-pricing mechanism will do what it’s supposed to do and will return those revenues to Yukoners.

What was the Yukon Party&= #8217;s plan? Stick their head in the sand and just say no and ask for a blanket exemption — which we all know is not going to happen?

Mr. Cathers: I would like to remind the Premier that= the only reason we have the territorial health access fund is that a former Pre= mier actually stood up for the Yukon, instead of bowing to Ottawa.

For the last six months, = the Premier squandered the opportunity to negotiate an exemption to the carbon = tax for Yukon. On the rare occasions he provides answers in the House, he has changed his tune multiple times. If the Premier had gotten to work right aw= ay, perhaps we would already have a federal agreement for an exemption to the carbon tax, but apparently he just signed on the dotted line of the carbon = tax scheme without knowing the full details.

Mr. Speaker, even th= ough it is the eleventh hour, it is not too late. The Premier’s carbon tax sc= heme isn’t slated to come in for seven months, so he still has time to get= an exemption if he fights for it. Will the Premier stop bowing to the Ottawa Liberals and start defending Yukon’s interest by seeking an exemption from the Liberal carbon tax scheme?

Hon. Mr. Silver: I will try to listen to the question between the insults and I will commit. Basically it doesn’t matter wh= o is in Ottawa, we will work with the government in Ottawa. It doesn’t mat= ter if they’re Liberals or Conservatives. I do recall the Yukon Party lea= ving a previous prime minister at the runway because they didn’t like the = poll numbers, I guess, at that time. We won’t do that.

Mr. Speaker, we have= said time and time again that we are working with Ottawa. You know what? As far = as our support of a federal carbon-pricing mechanism, we’ll join with the federal mining agencies and others, right across the nation, when it comes = to how to actively deal with man-made climate change.

The Yukon Party doesnR= 17;t believe in man-made climate change or they don’t believe in carbon pricing. I’m not really sure exactly which one it is or if it’s both, but I believe — and so does everybody on this side of the floor — that carbon pricing is a cost-effective way for Canada to reduce its emissions. It will encourage innovation in renewable energy and efficiencies and will help build a foundation of a low-carbon and resilient economy. That’s the opinion of the Yukon Liberals. That’s what we campai= gned on and that’s what won us part and parcel of a majority government he= re in the Yukon, because Yukoners want to do their part.

When it comes to the fede= ral backstop from the federal government, we have been working tirelessly with = the government to make sure the unique circumstances of the Yukon have been tak= en into consideration, and in the fall when this information comes, we will sh= ow the successful fruits of those labours.

Mr. Cathers: Despite the Premier’s insults, we know that the Yukon Party, when in government, not only recognized the real= ity of climate change but was one of the leaders in the country in an incentives-based approach to dealing with the problem through solutions like the good energy program and the microgeneration program.

As the Premier knows, we = worked with governments of every stripe in Ottawa.

Premiers across the count= ry are showing leadership on this issue by standing up for their citizens and gett= ing exemptions to the carbon tax. Our Premier appears to be more concerned about impressing Ottawa and his ideology than what’s good for the Yukon. We know a senior Environment Canada official has said exemptions for the Yukon= are on the table. Did the federal Liberal government offer the Premier somethin= g to walk away and leave these exemptions on the table or is the Premier again making decisions based on ideology instead of on evidence and on common sen= se?

Hon. Mr. Silver: The accusations coming from the opposite side are very concerning for a democratic process in the Legislati= ve Assembly and for government-to-government relations. I’ll leave it at that. But again, for him to say that at some point, they do support their federal counterparts in Ottawa — we have seen them say, “absolu= tely no connection”, and then we have seen other members in the opposition start backing federal campaigns for the next election, but we’ll leave that for another day.

What I will say again is:= What we’re doing is making sure that the federal backstop actually works f= or Yukon — gets us on the right side of history, gets us to have availability for money, for innovation and for technologies and also identi= fies the issues here to where we can actually reduce our emissions and not in th= ose areas where we can’t.

Anything that comes out of flexibility or a sector-specific solution will be based upon the hard work = that this government has done, working with Ottawa to make sure that those conce= rns are heard, because that’s what this government does. We work with oth= er governments — whether they are municipal governments, First Nation governments, the territorial or the federal government — to make sure that the decisions that are made that are affecting Yukon lives are made ba= sed upon the facts, and that’s exactly what we’re doing with the federal carbon mechanism.

To be very clear, what is= up for negotiation now is not, and has never been, the blanket exemptions that the Yukon Party campaigned on — and now it seems that they’re chang= ing their narrative a bit.

Thank you, Mr. Speak= er.

Question re= : Type 2 mine site remediation

Ms. Hanson: Mr. Speaker, under the devolution transfer agreement, the federal government agreed to transfer financial and human resources for land and resource management to the Yukon and then effectively back off. The federal government did retain financial liability= for the care, maintenance and ultimate remediation of the seven most contaminat= ed mine sites — type 2 mines — that had developed under the federal watch.

Right after devolution, an independent arm’s-length mine remediation office was set up but after= a year or so, the Yukon government wanted it closed. Some observers have noted that both federal and Yukon government type 2 staff have increased over the years. Funding for contaminated sites will expire in 2020. The federal government is assessing options for the management of type 2 liabilities. <= /p>

Has the minister requeste= d an independent assessment of the government’s management of type 2 mine sites and does he believe there is any duplication of efforts on type 2 sit= es by the federal and territorial governments?

Hon. Mr. Pillai: Just getting right to the key part = of your question, have I requested an independent assessment to look at duplication of efforts in the governance model? I have not. Certainly I thi= nk the comments from the Leader of the Third Party hits a chord. What a challe= nging situation. I think that myself and the previous ministers have all gone thr= ough this. The governance model when it comes to how the federal government and = the Yukon government make decisions seems to be a challenge from time to time. = That’s what I have experienced in my short time here. Certainly some of the other = work on the type 2 mine sites seems to move smoother.

The commitment I will mak= e is that I’m continuing to look closely at how these relationships are bu= ilt, how money moves, and making sure that really, the key is how do we clean th= ese sites up? How do we get good impacts to the economy of the Yukon? How do we make sure that our land and water is safe? I’ll make that commitment = to you.

Thank you, Mr. Speak= er.

Ms. Hanson: I thank the minister for his response. O= ne aspect of the devolution agreement often ignored by the previous government= was the fact that the federal government is on the hook for the seven type 2 si= tes, as they were in 2003, the effective date of the devolution agreement.

When the government allow= ed the Ketza mine to resume operations, we questioned the previous minister on whe= ther or not he had confirmed the baseline federal financial liability for the mi= ne before allowing new work to be done. We never got a clear answer to that question. There were clear signs of compliance issues, which should have be= en no surprise, given the fact that the owner of Ketza had previously abandoned the Mount Nansen mine without completing remediation.

Can the minister tell thi= s House what financial liabilities there are to the Yukon government for the decisi= on to allow new mining activity at Ketza prior to confirming Canada’s liability and what portion of the final costs will be paid by Yukon?

Hon. Mr. Pillai: I think this is also a good opportu= nity — we can dig into this — the abandoned mines, just the updates — as we go through the Energy, Mines and Resources budget. This year,= I believe — without having the budget in front of me — about a half-million dollars are being moved toward design. We do have a financial responsibility that we’re looking at, as we design the cleanup. At the same time, the only security that is left right now is the security that is connected to exploration work. It is not security that can be used for the cleanup, but it could be used on other activities that have been there.

I can have a fuller conve= rsation on the total cost, but right now we’re looking at — I believe w= ith our environmental trust there has been about $5 million transferred ov= er and there is a pretty significant cost as we move through the design phase.=

Just to note, we are work= ing with Ross River Dena Council, Liard First Nation, Kaska Dena Council and Teslin Tlingit Council as they all have assertion in that area, to make sure that there are opportunities for them. Of course when we came into government, t= here was already a camp in place and there is some ongoing work, but we can dig = into the pricing as we get into the Energy, Mines and Resources budget.

Ms. Hanson: The issue is not really just the pricing; it’s actually who is going to pay the bill and why?

Mr. Speaker, another= type 2 mine of interest is United Keno Hill. The Keno mine ceased operations in 19= 89. After 75 years, there is significant known and potential contamination. Aft= er several failed attempts to sell the mine because of unknown site liabilitie= s, the federal government agreed to take on the historic liabilities and enter= ed into a sales agreement with Alexco that sees Alexco move ahead with explora= tion and mining in the area, as well as assuming responsibility for development = of a closure plan for remediation of the contaminated areas.

Again, this is a question= asked many times to the previous government. I hope this government will have a better answer. The original time frame for the Keno closure plan was first 2008, then 2011, then maybe 2013. Can the minister confirm whether or not a closure plan for Keno has been completed and approved, and tell this House = what the projected cost for remediation of these historic liabilities will be?

Hon. Mr. Pillai: The price for the Faro-Keno project= , we can discuss later. Certainly, I don’t have that figure. At this particular point, the design and permit remediation approach — we’re still working on the north fork of Rose Creek. That is underway= and scheduled for implementation in 2018. I think the bigger question here is — to answer your concern about this, there is a huge concern here abo= ut what has been happening and what continues to happen.

I see that there has been= a real challenge between the federal government and the territorial government. I = know that there are some ongoing conversations that are happening between the Fi= rst Nations in the area and the federal government — so kind of watching what’s happening there as they sort of make a bit of a move into work= ing with us on this project.

The closure plan still ha= s to be looked at and we have to continue to monitor water, and it is of concern. Looking at how the site has been taken care of to date and making some larg= er decisions on water licensing and issues like that are things that I’ve directed the department to do. We’re working with our federal counterparts to make sure that Yukoners are looked after, there is a transparent process, we have integrity, and they know exactly what’s = going on there and how much it’s going to cost as we get the plan in place.=

Question re= : Seniors housing

Mr. Istchenko: I would like to raise an issue that I’ve been working on with my constituents in Haines Junction. This is phase 2 of seniors housing in the community. The current facility is full a= nd the community is in need of more beds, which would be addressed in this pha= se 2 of the project. Can the minister provide an update on the status of this project and when it’s expected to be completed?

Hon. Ms. Frost: With respect to seniors housing in t= he community of Haines Junction, we are recognizing that it has been a priorit= y. We do have other pressures also across the Yukon with seniors housing compl= exes that are in disrepair.

We are looking and workin= g with the community of Haines Junction and the municipalities, we’ve met wi= th the First Nations, and we will continue to do that. We remain committed to working with Yukoners to create solutions to promote an aging-in-place mode= l, which includes providing housing geared toward seniors in all Yukon communities.

Currently, we operate 289= units across the Yukon that are designed for seniors, including a total of nine seniors units in Haines Junction in a building that was constructed in 2008= . We have other units across the Yukon that are much older than that and require repairs, so we are trying to balance accordingly and look at our priorities= .

Mr. Istchenko: I thank the member opposite for her answer. Regarding this project, a bit of work has already been undertaken. = The previous minister and I met with seniors and elders to discuss this issue. = As a result, our government committed money in the 2016 budget for consultation = for this facility. The need was identified clearly.

Has the government commit= ted any new money toward this project for this budget? If not, can we expect to see= a commitment from them to move forward on this project?

Hon. Ms. Frost: Thank you for the question. In order= to establish future housing priorities, clearly we need to look at undertaking more information-gathering analysis and engagement with all Yukon communiti= es — no exception to Haines Junction.

The decisions we intend t= o make will be based on future evidence-based decision-making on housing complexes= and approaches to seniors housing in rural Yukon. Aging in place is a key prior= ity for this government. We have made a commitment to rural Yukon and we will uphold that commitment and follow through, but we will do it in a time-sensitive manner and look at the priorities for Yukoners.

Mr. Istchenko: If the minister is looking at all opt= ions and requires more information to make a decision, a meeting with the commun= ity members, the Village of Haines Junction, the First Nations and the St. Elias seniors group can certainly provide the information she needs — proba= bly get an opportunity to have a look at Kluane meadows golf course, their beautiful greenhouse gardens they have going right now, and their garden be= ds.

The community would like = to see a commitment to move forward with design and completion of this project for r= ural seniors housing. Further — and the minister stated this earlier ̵= 2; the Liberal government committed in their platform to provide community-bas= ed services that allow seniors to age in place to the greatest extent possible= .

If the minister cannot ma= ke any solid commitments to move forward on this project, will she commit to holdi= ng a public meeting in Haines Junction to hear the concerns of the residents see= king spaces in the community for their family members to age in place?

Hon. Ms. Frost: I am committed to travelling to Hain= es Junction. My staff and I are looking at travelling to Burwash and White Riv= er to look at some of the key priorities in that part of the Yukon.

As backstop to all of thi= s, have we committed any funding to social housing in Haines Junction? I can’t say that we have. Yukon Housing Corporation has a number of units in Haines Junction that provide for seniors housing — social housing units, own= ed and managed by the corporation. Six of the units are for seniors.

We know that in the sprin= g of 2016, the MLA for Kluane had made a commitment of $50,000 to allocate to support funding for an expansion, but that funding was never budgeted for in last year’s budget. Do we have $50,000? No, we don’t, and we are looking at all of the Yukon. We are looking at key priority areas, which are really essential.

Haines Junction — t= he design and the build — there are critical safety concerns and critical concerns with the building. We will most certainly look at it, and the Department of Health and Social Services, as well as Yukon Housing Corporat= ion, will look at all potential options in Haines Junction and all of Yukon communities.

Question re= : Alaska Highway upgrades tender

Mr. Hassard: I have some questions for the Minister = of Highways and Public Works regarding a project to upgrade the Alaska Highway near the Carcross Cut-off. This project is currently being assessed by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board. The public comment period is currently open and remains open until at least tomorrow. The proc= ess allows for up to 17 days from the close of public comment until the recommendation is sent.

Typically the decision do= cument takes approximately a month to prepare. This has been the case with recent private sector projects. This means a “go/no-go” decision would come forward well into July, yet the project is being tendered now and clos= es on June 13.

Is the minister prejudgin= g the outcome of the YESAA review by tendering the project before it’s complete?

Hon. Mr. Mostyn: I thank the member opposite for the question. Highways and Public Works, as I have said before, is working to improve traffic safety on the Alaska Highway. We do our best to minimize the impacts on businesses while keeping public safety top of mind. Upgrading the Alaska Highway to national safety standards requires a reduction in the num= ber of highway accesses on that road.

We have consulted with th= e public on proposed upgrades for the Carcross Cut-off intersection — the Alas= ka Highway and south Klondike Highway. The results of the consultation are pub= licly available on the YESA board online registry.

Construction work is expe= cted to begin once we have the proper permits in place, and we hope to have it done= by September.

Mr. Hassard: While we agree with the improved traffic safety and upgrades to our highway infrastructure, there certainly still are questions. There are two tenders associated with this project: one for the consultation services and one for the project construction. One closes May = 30 and the other closes on June 13. On April 26 during motion debate, the mini= ster said that the opposition wanted him to — and I quote: “… simply toss contracts on the procurement management system without thought = or consideration.” What thought or consideration did the minister put in= to this tender when he advertised it even though the project has not been approved?

Hon. Mr. Mostyn: I thank the member opposite for the question. This government does put a lot of thought into the things that we= do, and we are putting a lot of thought into this one as well. I am glad the me= mber opposite endorses improving safety along the Alaska Highway — it̵= 7;s important. Last week was National Road Safety Week, so I am glad he is doing these things. In the long term, the Carcross intersection will be much safer and will have fewer accidents.

We know that this interse= ction is fairly dangerous. It is well above the average for intersections along that route for injuries, and we want to make sure that it is safer so that people have less of a chance of getting injured when driving our roads.

Upgrades to the south Klo= ndike intersection and construction of a new Duncan Drive intersection will help minimize the intersection conflicts and address the right-turn collision issues. The new entrance to the Alaska Highway on Duncan Drive will also provide direct and safer access to Golden Horn Elementary School. These upgrades are required in order to improve vehicle safety at the Carcross Cut-off intersection as well as to provide safer access to and from Duncan Drive, Salmon Trail and the Fire Hall Road.

We are not prejudging the= outcome of the YESAA process; we are just preparing to ensure that there are no del= ays if YESAB approval is given. I’m sure that the member opposite will ap= preciate that.

Mr. Hassard: I guess I don’t know what to say after all of that, but anyway, I will carry on with my questioning.

During that same debate o= n April 26, the minister said in referring to tenders and contractors — and I quote: “That type of inconsistency — that type of fast and loose behaviour is something that we want to avoid, if at all possible, and they appreciate that.” Does the minister think that asking contractors to invest time and money in preparing a bid and have their price come before t= he public prior to the necessary environmental approvals being in place avoids being what he characterizes as “fast and loose behaviour”?

Hon. Mr. Mostyn: I think the question has to do with= my impression of fast and loose. We all know what fast and loose is; we have s= een it for many years. I have spoken about that. This government is looking for= ward to doing things in a methodical fashion. We are going and getting the proper approvals. We have spoken to the community.

The Department of Highway= s and Public Works knows the processes. I have every confidence in our civil servants to= do the job right. They have contracted many of these projects in the past. They have gone through the proper permitting.

We are going to go throug= h the proper permitting and make sure that this project is executed in accordance with the laws. That is what we do, and that is what we are going to do here= .

This government is not ab= out fast and loose. We have said it before; we will say it again. I think, in the en= d, we will have an intersection at the Carcross Cut-off that is much safer than the one that is in existence now.

 

Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.

We will now proceed to Or= ders of the Day.

Orders of the Day

opposition P= rivate Members’ Business

Motions othe= r than Government Motions

Motion No. 50

Clerk: Motion No. 50, standing in the name of M= s. White.

Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Takhini-Kopper Kin= g:

THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to immediately initiate a review of Yukon’s minim= um wage in the Legislative Assembly prior to British Columbia's minimum wage increase scheduled for September 2017.

 

Ms. White: I think it’s important to set the s= tage on this issue. The first thing we need to say is that Yukon’s minimum wage right now stands at $11.32 per hour. It’s also important to say = that increasing the minimum wage is not a magic bullet, but it’s an import= ant element of an overall comprehensive strategy to reduce poverty and inequali= ty. I don’t think anyone in this House will say with any kind of confiden= ce that you can live anywhere in the Yukon, no matter what your situation, with any sort of security on $11.32 per hour.

For many families and individuals, this means relying on the food bank and soup kitchens, it means housing insecurity, and it involves cutting basic needs like healthy food, heating, school supplies and basics that many of us take for granted.

For many, it means fallin= g into debt — cycles of debt and then, despite best efforts, not being able = to see the end of that same debt. Mr. Speaker, this is not acceptable.

Let’s be clear: no = one should live in poverty, no matter what the circumstance — but letR= 17;s also be clear that no one working a full-time job in Yukon should be living below the poverty line, but it’s happening today.

As legislators, we have t= he responsibility to fix this problem and, as legislators — and this is a beautiful thing, Mr. Speaker — we have the ability to fix this problem. This isn’t any different from us recognizing the importance = of National Aboriginal Day and then doing something about it, because we saw t= hat happen here in this Chamber, and we knew there were naysayers but we still = did what we knew was right, and this issue is no different.

We as legislators have a responsibility to do everything we can to eliminate poverty, to ensure our neighbours have a good quality of life, and we have that ability but, even more, we have that responsibility to do what is right.

The sad reality in Yukon = is that we have a reached a point where even people with a full-time job, and somet= imes more than one full-time job, cannot make ends meet. How is it that, in a society that has an abundance of resources, both natural and human, some of= our neighbours get up in the morning and they go to work day in and day out, of= ten working more than one job, yet they continue to live in poverty? How is this acceptable, and how can we sit here and ignore that reality? My opinion is = that we can’t. We can’t just sit back when people who have a full-ti= me job need to rely on the food bank to eat. We can’t sit back because we have the power to act. We have the power as legislators to make a differenc= e, and I hope that today, as we debate this motion, we will collectively seize this opportunity to make a difference.

Some people might ask if = raising the minimum wage is the solution to poverty. It’s kind of like asking= if a nail gun is what you need to build a house. The answer is obviously that, “Yes, you’ll need a nail gun to build a house, but you can̵= 7;t build a whole house with just a nail gun.”

So will poverty be a thin= g of the past if we raise the minimum wage tomorrow? Certainly not. But will raising= the minimum wage reduce the number of people living in poverty? Absolutely it w= ill.

Raising the minimum wage = is a tool among many to help eliminate poverty but, to be honest, we are going to need every tool from the toolbox to tackle poverty in a significant way. Bu= t as long as people with a full-time job earn a poverty wage, and as long as our system continues to create the working poor, despite their best efforts, so= me of our neighbours will be stuck in a cycle of poverty.

A comprehensive American = study has shown that 10 percent in a minimum-wage increase is associated with a 2= .4- to a 3.6‑percent reduction in poverty rates, Mr. Speaker, so we = know it can be done.

As you might know — especially because I recently talked about this issue in the House — = Yukon is trailing other western jurisdictions on minimum wage. In Nunavut, the minimum wage is $13 an hour, in NWT it’s $12.50, and in Alberta, it is $12.20 and they have committed to raising it to $15 by 2018. By mid-Septemb= er, British Columbia will raise their minimum wage to $11.35 an hour. That is w= hen we will fall to the sixth position — in September of this year.

The minister has said the= re would be an automatic review in the Legislature when we fall to number six, and t= hen he corrected himself to say that would happen when we get to the seventh pl= ace.

So I have two comments to= make on this particular point. My first comment is more of a question: Why would we wait until we’re behind? Why should we aspire to be mediocre? We know that people can’t live on $11.32 an hour. We know that such poverty w= ages keep individuals and families in a cycle of poverty, so how is it acceptabl= e to say, “Oh well, we’ll wait until we fall farther behind and we’ll wait to take a closer look once we’re in the seventh position”? Mr. Speaker, that is not leadership.

When we compare ourselves= with the rest of Canada, we also miss important differences among provinces and territories. The minister has said that he thinks that because the cost of living in Nunavut is higher than Yukon, their higher minimum wage might actually be comparable to ours. But let me flip that question and ask the government if they think we should compare Yukon’s minimum wage to so= me of the Maritime provinces, which have been hit by a major economic downturn. The average home price in New Brunswick is well below $200,000. Does it make any sense to say that our minimum wage is 32 cents higher than New Brunswic= k, so don’t worry, everything in Yukon is fine?

During his press conferen= ce after tabling his budget, the Premier said that he was raising the taxes on tobac= co to the same level as the other territories because Yukon’s tobacco ta= xes were lower. No later than last week, the Premier again said that he chose to reduce taxes on corporate profits even before getting advice from his econo= mic panel because we needed to be on the same level as other provinces and territories.

Well, Mr. Speaker, w= hy shouldn’t the same logic be applied to minimum wage? Why would we need our corporate taxes and tobacco taxes to be comparable with the other territories and neighbouring provinces, but our minimum wage can lag behind= ? It just doesn’t make any sense.

Ultimately the other terr= itories and both British Columbia and Alberta are all going to have a minimum wage above Yukon’s in September when BC raises theirs. No later than next year, Alberta will have a $15-an-hour minimum wage. As far as I can tell, t= here is no reason to wait. There is no reason to let working people continue to = live in a cycle of poverty when we have the power in this Chamber to act and rev= iew the minimum wage. I really do hope that the government sees this and sees t= heir role in poverty reduction and that they support this motion.

Mr. Speaker, I could= have easily put forward a motion that just stated that we needed a $15 minimum w= age, because we really do. I could have said that we needed to echo the calls ac= ross the country to fight for $15 and fairness, but I didn’t do that becau= se I know that, right now, this new government doesn’t have the appetite to push that hard. Although I don’t agree, I wanted to pass an olive bra= nch toward doing what is right.

I intentionally left the = wording of this motion less prescriptive. It leaves room for the government to take action. We haven’t said that it should be this amount or that it shou= ld be that amount. We’re simply saying that $11.32 an hour is not enough= and it needs to be reviewed so we can do better by the people we have all been elected to represent.

In fact, as many of my co= lleagues will know, even a $15-an-hour minimum wage would not be close to the living wage for many Yukoners. The concept of a living wage is the hourly wage nee= ded for a family to cover basic needs, after factoring in government transfers = and deductions. In Yukon, the Anti-Poverty Coalition has calculated that, for a family of four, with both parents working a full-time job, a living wage wo= uld be just over $19 an hour each.

We currently have an $8 g= ap between that living wage and our current minimum wage, Mr. Speaker, and surely we can start closing this gap by reviewing our own minimum wage. As I said earlier, it won’t resolve everything, but it will certainly help= to get us in the right direction.

Recently I spent a fair a= mount of time reading about minimum wage. I have read reports, and then I have read reports about reports. I have read opinion pieces championing both sides of= the spectrum and, more important than any of that, I have listened to the lived reality of people in our community who are living below the poverty line.

I want to conclude by exp= osing a few myths about the minimum wage. I hope we won’t hear too many of th= ese repeated in this House but, just in case, a little myth-busting might be helpful. Who earns a minimum wage? It’s probably not who you think. It’s also important to know that, although we collect employment statistics in Yukon, they don’t go as deep as we need them to go for = this conversation. I thank the Bureau of Statistics for the good work they do, a= nd I look forward to the day when we can dive deeper into the issue of employmen= t in Yukon.

Because we don’t co= llect this level of statistics here at home, I’m looking toward the hot-bed= of the minimum wage increase conversation in the country right now, so I’= ;m looking toward our neighbours in Alberta, who have committed to raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018.

This next bit is based on= the statistics out of Alberta. I asked you what the stereotype is of the minimum-wage earner in Alberta. Typically the stereotype is that they are teenagers living at home with their parents, earning extra spending money by working part-time after school and maybe weekends at small mom-and-pop businesses. What is the reality? Seventy-six percent of people earning mini= mum wage in Alberta are not teenagers; 38 percent of them are 35 years or older= ; 36 percent of them are post-secondary graduates; 62 percent of them are women;= 60 percent work full-time; 67 percent do not live at home with their parents; = 51 percent work at large corporations that have 100 employees or more; and nea= rly 40 percent of all minimum-wage earners in Alberta are parents.

Canada-wide, we see simil= ar trends. The Statistics Canada labour force survey shows that 79 percent of people making under $15 an hour are not students. So it’s clear that there are people of all ages and all demographics, including parents, becau= se in Alberta, 40 percent of minimum-wage earners are parents. Here we have seniors who are earning minimum wage, or just cents above it, after working= in the same place for years.

Another myth that I want = to address is the idea that raising the minimum wage will be the end of small businesses. First of all, we know that a large proportion of minimum-wage earners across Canada are working in large corporations — the big-box stores are the obvious examples. We also have plenty of examples of small businesses here in Yukon that do pay well above the minimum wage — and I’m talking about coffee shops, used book stores, restaurants and bic= ycle shops — not exactly businesses known to be particularly profitable. T= hey pay well above minimum wage because they know it’s the right thing to= do. They know that they will have staff not looking for other jobs; they know t= hey will have staff who are happy to come to work and staff who care about the businesses they work for.

Mr. Speaker, you mig= ht not know, but I owned a coffee shop between 2006 and 2009 and I paid my staff w= hat would be considered a living wage because they deserved it. They worked har= d. I was saved the revolving door of staff looking for better-paying jobs. I was saved the task of training and I had people who were happy to come to work every day and felt invested in their jobs. It’s also important to note that I never had any issues with theft.

The fact is that most sma= ll business owners understand that if people have money to spend in their stor= e, it will be good for their business in the long run. Increasing the minimum = wage will boost the local economy because it’s the lowest paid workers who will have more money to spend, and they’re not going to be buying lux= ury cars in the south or holidaying in Hawaii or investing in tax havens.

If minimum-wage workers m= ake a few dollars extra an hour, it just means they might be able to get more and better food to feed their families, and it might mean that they might be ab= le to consider signing their kids up for hockey or soccer, and it means maybe, just maybe, they might be able to try that new restaurant or even see a mov= ie once in awhile. Investing in workers is what gets our local economy going. Poverty wages not only hurt people, but they also hurt the economy. You don’t have to take my word for it. Just a couple of years ago, 600 economists — including seven Nobel Prize winners — signed a let= ter that states — and I quote: “… increases in the minimum wa= ge have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market… could hav= e a small stimulative effect on the economy as low-wage workers spend their additional earnings, raising demand and job growth…”

Mr. Speaker, lifting= people out of poverty is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also the s= mart thing to do from an economics point of view, from a health perspective and = from any way you look at it. I urge all members to support this motion and to support reviewing our minimum wage. We shouldn’t accept that people w= ith a full-time job live in poverty — and make no mistake, Mr. Speak= er, $11.32 is not enough to live on in the Yukon. This is an opportunity for us= to stand up for Yukoners and Yukon families, and we can do that together in th= is Chamber.

 

Hon. Mr. Streicker: I would like to thank the Member= for Takhini-Kopper King for her motion and for her words on minimum wage. I will read some of the work I had prepared for this motion, and then I’ll t= ry to respond a little bit to the comments by the member.

I rise to speak to Motion=  No. 50 and I thank the member opposite for this motion and the opportunity to spea= k to it so we can shed some light on the issue. Minimum wage policy in Canada is= set locally in each province and territory and varies according to the model utilized in each jurisdiction. Generally speaking, there are three approach= es utilized, with the goal being to balance the protection of low-wage earners= and provide a stable framework for employers. The first approach involves the u= se of a formula that links minimum wage growth to the consumer price index to address the issue of inflation and provide workers with cost-of-living adjustments.

The second approach relie= s on a recommendation by a board or a committee comprised of representatives from affected stakeholder groups. After a review is triggered and completed, recommendations on whether to maintain or revise the minimum wage are made = to government.

The third approach is bas= ed on policy that adopts the provincial minimum or territorial minimum wherever t= he federal employee is working. In the Yukon, annual minimum wage increases are tied to the Whitehorse consumer price index and are adjusted every year on April 1. This approach mandates adjustments in a way that increases minimum wage for workers annually, but also creates clear expectations for business= es by reducing erratic fluctuations to the cost of doing business in the Yukon. The most recent revision saw an increase in the minimum wage from $11.07 to $11.32 on April 1, 2017, as was noted. In the Yukon, the Employment Standar= ds Board is an independent body from government and may initiate a review of i= ts own accord or at the request of the minister.

Other jurisdictions use d= ifferent approaches, but for the Yukon, our approach is twofold: (1) an arm’s-length board and (2) to use a formula, both in terms of increas= es to the minimum wage and also in terms of initiating reviews. As the member opposite noted, when we drop into the lower half — I am informed that= if we drop to the seventh position, that review would be initiated by the Employment Standards Board.

I just want to state, to = begin with, that we believe the system is working well. I’ll address the comments by the member opposite about poverty in a moment. I’m going = to differentiate between a minimum wage as serving different purposes — = the purpose of an entry-level wage versus a living wage.

Mr. Speaker, it is i= mportant to note that, for the government, the initial decision of whether to request that the board conduct a formal review or not must be based on comprehensive research, evidence and analysis. As I have noted here in this Legislature, = the Department of Community Services is doing analysis, and I have stated that.=

This government believes = in an evidence-based approach that clearly supports identification of both the st= atus and the issues, as well as the criteria that should be included if such a review were to be undertaken. We need to work with our Yukon partners and stakeholders to determine whether a review of minimum wage is the best tool= to address the needs of low-income earners as well as consider the larger soci= al impacts this might have.

Is increasing the minimum= wage the only answer, or the best answer, to address poverty in the Yukon, or are there other tools that should be adopted to support Yukoners in leading healthier, happier lives? I’ll turn to that toward the end of my comm= ents, Mr. Speaker. The impact of socio-economic trends must also be research= ed and analyzed to determine if national trends or issues raised by national advocacy bodies are pertinent to the Yukon.

Before this government co= mmits to the significant resources to undertaking a review of the minimum wage, we n= eed to have a solid idea of the Yukon picture. We need to do the research and analysis, as I have stated in this Legislature, to depict the status of employment, income and social well-being in the Yukon. As the member opposi= te noted, there is a need for some of that information and I appreciate her suggestions.

We are certainly interest= ed in and affected by the trends and decisions by our partners in other jurisdict= ions — for example, Alberta. However, we must take a measured approach to consider information, data research and criteria pertinent to the Yukon. The variety of approaches to the issue of minimum wage speaks to the diversity = and the distinctiveness of every jurisdiction, and the Yukon is no exception. T= his government is committed to working with its partners and stakeholders for i= ts Yukon citizens to build a strong Yukon economy, invest in our communities, = take a people-centred approach to wellness and to foster good government-to-government relationships.

We are moving forward in a collaborative, transparent and evidence-based manner to meet these objectiv= es and we will continue to do so with all issues, including minimum wage.

For the past year, before= I was elected to this Legislature, I was a recreation programmer in the community= of Marsh Lake, where we hired many young people to work in our community centr= e. For those people — they are not concerned about a living wage. They a= re concerned about an entry-level wage. So, while I don’t have the stati= stics to note what the percentages of people are who earn our minimum wage here in the Yukon — I think that is a good question, and I will seek to get an answer. I’m not going to rely on Alberta’s data. I will look for what information we have in the Yukon. But I note that there are people who= use our minimum wage as an entry-level wage and I have hired some of those young people. For those people, the question is not poverty. However, as the memb= er opposite notes, there is a question around how we will address the issue of poverty in our communities.

Mr. Speaker, I want = to turn to the document that the member opposite was referring to. It’s calle= d Living Wage in Whitehorse, Yukon: 2016= . It was some research work conducted by the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition, published last year and prepared by Mr. Kendall Hammond.

In this document, they ta= lk about a living wage, and they give recommendations at the tail-end of the documen= t to suggest ways that we can work to address poverty wages — and now I am quoting, Mr. Speaker. This is for elected officials and public policy-makers. The first bullet is: “Support the development of affordable housing options.” The second bullet is: “Improve accessibility and reduce child care costs.” The third bullet is: “Explore solutions to lower transportation costs such as subsidized transit passes for low-income households.” Fourth is: “Support = the implementation of policies in public sector organizations to ensure that all direct staff and contracted service workers receive a living wage.” F= ifth is: “Create more opportunities for local suppliers through preferenti= al procurement practices.” I will quote one more location here — to all of us as Yukoners, people of the Yukon — titled here as “Consumers” — “Encourage elected officials to suppo= rt the development of affordable housing, transportation and child care options.”

I want to talk for a mome= nt about what we are doing as a government to try to address the issues of poverty. = I am quoting from the mandate letter of my colleague, the Minister responsible f= or Yukon Housing — and I quote: “Through cooperation between the D= epartment of Health and Social Services and the Yukon Housing Corporation, increase housing for vulnerable populations using a Housing First model.” What= I want to point out is that we are working to address poverty, but the tool t= hat we are using is not the minimum wage. We are using other methods, and we ha= ve stated those as our priorities. I note that it complements what was being suggested by our community partners, the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition, and = what they were working to do to address concerns about a living wage.

The second one that they = noted was around childcare costs, and I note that, although it’s not in the mandate letter, within our platform, we have identified that we will resear= ch, develop and implement a Yukon early childhood strategy under childcare development and education in consultation with early childhood education and health care professionals, parents and First Nation governments in order to improve developmental and education outcomes.

Finally, there is a note = there about transportation costs. I, as Minister of Community Services, have been directed to work with municipal governments. I have had meetings already wi= th those municipal governments to talk about transit within our communities — where it is possible — and I am doing my best to assist them = in improving transit. We appreciate that there are issues of poverty in our communities, and we are working to address those situations. As the Ministe= r of Health and Social Services stood up and stated in this Legislature, we take= those issues seriously and we wish to address them. We don’t believe that minimum wage is the correct tool, and so we are not supportive of this resolution at this time. We appreciate the suggestions by the member opposi= te about the use of raising the minimum wage, but we feel that our policy of increasing minimum wage based on inflation is a strong policy and we’= ll continue to do research to make comparisons.

I will add one other thin= g, Mr. Speaker. The member opposite discussed the other two territories. When I took a look= at the other two territories and looked at their minimum wages and the levels = at which they are higher than ours, I think that is worth noting. However, whe= n I looked at the cost of living in those jurisdictions, it was much, much high= er. So if we’re going to use that as a comparison, it will ultimately show that the Yukon is ahead of the other territories. I look forward to getting some solid research on that — that I can share.

But as I’ve noted, = we should take this as a Yukon approach and a Yukon decision so we don’t have to just compare. However, the method that we have — using the Employment Standards Board and using inflation as an automatic increase = 212; is the method we believe is a solid method.

 

Mr. Gallina: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’m happy to rise today to speak about the minimum wage. I thank the Member for Takhini-Kopper King for bringing this issue forward.

As we all know, Yukoners = are hard workers and they take pride in their work. According to the Yukon Bureau of Statistics, the number of employees in the territory in 2016 increased 3.5 percent from 2015 to 21,002, comprising almost 55 percent of the population= of 38,293 in 2016.

As our Liberal government continues to grow Yukon’s economy in a way that balances economic div= ersification with environmental stewardship, creating good jobs in a sustainable environment, the number of workers in Yukon will continue to grow as well. Regardless of their age, level of experience or industry, all employees in = the territory must be paid at least $11.32 an hour, the minimum wage. Ours is t= he fifth-highest minimum wage in the country, following only Ontario, Nunavut, Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

This is something we can = be proud of. Nevertheless, it is important that we understand that the minimum wage = in any jurisdiction is only one part of a larger picture. Telling the full sto= ry about the standard of living and well-being of the most vulnerable in our society requires looking at a wide range of factors. Beyond minimum wage, t= here is the personal income tax rate, the cost of living — including the availability and affordability of adequate housing, and the cost of food and utilities — and the affordability and accessibility of various progra= ms and services, such as basic and extended health care, childcare, education, art, cultural, social, sport and recreational programs, and legal support a= nd services, to name a few.

Minimum wage is just one = piece of the puzzle and it is important to understand how it fits into a larger pict= ure. It is also just one of the tools available to government, and that tool alo= ne cannot address the needs of those who earn the lowest incomes. Our Liberal government recognizes that the long-term well-being and quality of life of = all Yukoners is integral to our success as a society. We believe in taking care= of each other and giving a voice to everyone, especially those most vulnerable. That is why we are taking a whole-government approach to the lifelong health and well-being of Yukoners. We are looking at all the tools available to improve the standards of living and economic outcomes in our communities, a= nd we are supporting Yukoners’ well-being through a variety of programs = and services.

We are investing in peopl= e, in affordable housing, in alternative methods of care, in people’s mental health and in active living. We will continue to work collaboratively with governments, First Nations, communities, community organizations and stakeholders to create the conditions for Yukoners to thrive.

 

Mr. Hassard: It’s a pleasure to rise today to speak to Motion No. 50, which was brought forward by the Member f= or Takhini-Kopper King. I would like to begin by thanking the member for bring= ing this motion forward for debate today, as it gives members an opportunity to= outline some of the costs, in addition to the benefits, that result from wage increases.

While some may argue that= the cost can never outweigh the benefit of increasing the minimum wage in provi= nces and territories, I would like to take a few minutes to outline some of the = more unspoken side effects that wage increases, ahead of inflation and the cost = of living, can have on our communities.

Mr. Speaker, with re= spect to minimum wage in the Yukon, increases are standard, as the Minister for Community Services said previously. On April 1 of each year, the minimum wa= ge rate increases by an amount corresponding to the annual increase for the preceding year in the consumer price index for the City of Whitehorse. This does allow for an annual incremental increase that ensures businesses are n= ot burdened by large payroll increases, while keeping the minimum wage in check with inflation.

Yukon’s current min= imum wage, as we have heard, is $11.32 an hour, and this is seven cents higher t= han the anticipated increase to British Columbia’s minimum wage, which according to the Government of Canada’s minimum wage database is set = to reach $11.25 in September of this year. I’m inclined to think that as closely aligned as our territory is with BC with respect to the cost of liv= ing, the seven-cent difference is not a cause to immediately initiate a review of Yukon’s minimum wage in the Legislative Assembly prior to BC’s = wage increase.

When BC increases their m= inimum wage in four months’ time, we will only be six months away from anoth= er standard increase to Yukon’s minimum wage as well. As our government = is already ahead of BC in terms of minimum wage — and this will not chan= ge with the impending provincial wage increase — Yukon businesses are currently facing an increase in costs and must find ways to make up for that change to their bottom line from the implementation of a new statutory holi= day, for example. The increase in operating costs that will be experienced across the Yukon will be felt by all local businesses and this is something that we must consider when committing to undertake a review of this nature.

An increased minimum wage= does have benefits. There is not a person making minimum wage in this territory = who would not benefit personally from receiving a larger paycheque. Unfortunate= ly, a number of small businesses would not be able to handle increases that go beyond the CPI for our jurisdiction. Administratively there is a cost associated with each change to minimum wage for every business. Currently business owners and operators are able to anticipate these changes as they = are standard and expected, as they are tied to the CPI.

The problem of increased = cost to businesses swings us back to an all familiar topic in this House — the carbon tax. Of course this will increase labour costs to businesses, which unfortunately have to be made up somehow and that’s usually by passing the cost on to consumers. Additionally, there is a higher likelihood that employers with an increased payroll would be less likely to be able to offer fringe benefits that many depend on, such as sick time, bonuses or even vacation pay.

In addition to businesses= feeling pressure to the bottom line, there will almost certainly be an impact on yo= ung workers trying to get entry-level positions in the workforce. When a young person gets his or her first job, they’re often looking at getting th= eir foot in the door by working for a minimum wage until they can gain experien= ce and knowledge to move on. For many of these workers, inexperience is common= . Many live at home and go to school. Raising the minimum wage too high will have = an impact on these workers. By forcing businesses to pay higher wages, you’re forcing businesses to also change their hiring policies or hab= its to search for more experienced people to essentially get more bang for their buck, so to speak.

A report by Statistics Ca= nada in 2014 states that the minimum wage increases seem to be associated with a decrease of employment among teenagers, but has a small to nonexistent effe= ct on total employment.

Rather than increasing mi= nimum wage beyond the standard increases along the CPI, government should maybe concern itself with more job creation in the private sector. By supporting private industry, providing better access to education and training program= s, government would be able to help people to find or progress into better-pay= ing jobs.

Mr. Speaker, by crea= ting tax incentives, government would be able to save individuals and families money= in different areas and allow them to live more comfortably at their current wa= ge. By not imposing new taxes on Yukoners, government could allow families to thrive and benefit from what they earn as employees now. Creating more burd= en on small business by having them pay out more to individuals can create lar= ger problems in the long run than increasing individual paycheques a few dollars at a ti= me. Providing more opportunities for families to save and for people to excel in different areas can lead to a larger payoff for our community as a whole. T= his government has yet to deliver on its promise to eliminate the small business tax and in the coming years in its term, it’s a great goal to make go= od on this commitment.

By supporting our local businesses, local businesses are able to provide more support to their empl= oyees. Our territory is already ahead of British Columbia in terms of minimum wage= , so rather than jumping ahead of the system we have in place for minimum wage b= eing indexed against the CPI, status quo might just be the best way for our territory to remain ahead. Trying to keep pace with other provinces might be putting them behind, rather than ahead for reasons I’ve outlined abov= e. We are not giving our small businesses the respect and support that they deserve. By following through with the commitment to cut the small business tax, this government can start earning the trust of local businesses.

By lending support to the= small business community, this government could provide some sort of relief to th= em in the wake of the effects that the impending carbon-tax scheme will have on their bottom line.

Mr. Speaker, as ment= ioned by the Minister of Community Services, there are better ways to deal with this issue than by raising the minimum wage.

 

Ms. Hanson: It is interesting to see that both sides — the government side and the Official Opposition — speak with = the same voice on this issue. It is also interesting to me that both the govern= ment and the Official Opposition have assumed what the outcome of initiating a review of Yukon’s minimum wage would be, so they have assumed an end point and then jumped to an analysis of the potential consequences of that = end point.

On the government side, I= find that perplexing. I have heard nothing over the last six or eight months from this government, in advance of the election and since the election, but the fact that they purport to be an evidence-based government. They make decisi= ons based on evidence. In advance of any evidence that would be coming as the result of a review, they have concluded a whole series of things that would indicate to them that even taking that baby step of allowing a review, to initiate a review of Yukon’s minimum wage — as the Member for Takhini-Kopper King said, in putting forward this motion, the New Democrats= did not say we should raise the minimum wage. We did not prescribe a minimum wa= ge. We did not prescribe, as the Minister of Community Services seems to confla= te, the notion of living wage and minimum wage. We did not say that.

Of course we would aspire= to think that, in a territory as abundant as this, we could contemplate working toward a living wage, and it would not put us out there with the radical le= ft. There are municipalities and governments across this country, in North Amer= ica, in Canada and the US that have done just that.

Mr. Speaker, we̵= 7;re not talking about anything wild and crazy here. What we are saying is that it i= s in the purview of us as legislators in this Assembly to initiate a review of Yukon’s minimum wage. The status quo seems to work on both sides, for= the Official Opposition and for the Yukon government, but I will argue that it = does not work for the working person in some of the big-box stores — not j= ust small businesses. Maybe people don’t listen to the people they’= re talking to on their doorsteps, but there are people in this territory who a= re not teenagers, who are not entry-level workers, who are making minimum wage= .

That’s why we think= that it is important to have that discussion. We don’t think it’s simply good enough to say that, oh well, we have a number of things and we have va= gue language contained in a platform around setting up some sort of review, not even talking about childcare cost — one element that struck me was so= me broad review of childcare and a direction with respect to Health and Social Services and the collaborative across-government approach is that we’= re dealing with the vulnerable.

Are we not making people = more vulnerable by keeping them poor?

Mr. Speaker, we̵= 7;ve already asked many questions in this Legislature about the approaches and t= he wishes of this government with respect to dealing with poverty reduction and social inclusion. It’s clear that the evidence that was gathered by m= any, many, many non-government organizations and concerned citizens over the las= t 15 years — almost 17 years — going back to the early 2000s with respect to the many, many reports that were done on poverty, poverty reduct= ion, point-in-time counts, minimum wage and living wage. Those are in evidence. =

I guess the question has = to become: What qualifies as evidence for the Yukon Liberal Party to accept it? Now, some of the things I heard this afternoon from the Member for Mount Lorne-Southern Lakes very much echo some of the work of one of the experts = that they’ve engaged to be on the Yukon financial experts panel. That shou= ld cause some of us some concern, particularly those who are working side by s= ide and along with those people who are poor in this territory — the many representatives and NGOs. If that’s the intention of the Yukon Liberal Party to follow the advice of one of those panel members who argues against= any minimum wage increase in Alberta, so be it.

In putting forward this m= otion, which, as I said already, was not to prescribe an amount but simply to urge= the government to review our minimum wage and the approaches that we take to it= . I heard the Leader of the Official Opposition say, “Oh yes, well we increase it and we did increase it.” The issue here, going back to the notion of having evidence, is that yes, there is an automatic indexing every April 1, but it is fundamental to any sort of base that you have to revisit every once in awhile and determine if that base is still valid in order to determine whether or not what you are increasing it by every year by the CP= I is valid. What other factors are at play now that weren’t at play six ye= ars ago?

At the very least, it wou= ld be interesting to see what the Employment Standards Board has recommended and,= as the minister pointed out, either the board or the minister can instigate a review. I will remind this House — and some members here will remember because it was terribly embarrassing — but the Employment Standards B= oard of the day had recommended an increase to the minimum wage and the minister= sat on it. It wasn’t until we, the Official Opposition and, finally, the Employment Standards Board, said, “Minister, this is not right” — and did speak out. I hope that this government is not going down th= at path, which is forcing the Employment Standards Board to say that you have = to do something about this. We will be interested to know when and if this government will give direction. What would be the basis for them giving direction to review the minimum wage in Yukon? It is difficult to find out = what kind of direction there may be because there doesn’t seem to be any minutes of the Employment Standards Board posted online.

There has been a lot of t= alk about the impact of increasing, or even talking about increasing, the minim= um wage — that somehow this is going to be a scary tactic, a scary thing= to happen. But if we aren’t asking employees and employers what they fee= l is necessary to happen, how do we know that $11.32 is okay? If we aren’t looking across the country and at what is happening in other jurisdictions,= how do we know that $11.32 is okay? We heard again, just as the minister said a= few weeks ago, that there is a policy that we should look at our minimum wage w= hen we dropped to sixth or seventh — and now it is seventh place.

As my colleague from Takh= ini-Kopper King said, “Why wait when we know that $11.32 leaves people living in poverty?” The Minister of Community Services quoted selectively from = the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition’s report, and he left out a number of th= ings on the living wage. I would encourage all members — and maybe we shou= ld table that. Maybe the Minister of Community Services will table the report = from the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition from last year on the living wage. There a= re more factors than just those ones that he listed with respect to the issues= and questions that should be asked of consumers, employers and politicians. They were talking about the living wage — the $19.32 an hour per person fo= r a family.

How can we sit back while= working families and individuals are relying on the food bank to put food on their table? That is not the experience of anybody in this Chamber. How can we say that it is just because we aren’t behind enough compared to other jurisdictions? I don’t think that people get what $11.32 an hour is. =

My colleague for Takhini-= Kopper King did a great job in dispelling some myths regarding the impact of increasing the minimum wage on small businesses. You know, Mr. Speaker, it’s consumers, not employers, who create jobs. Minimum wage helps low-paid consumers buy more and it has, despite what we’ve heard so f= ar, been dismissed by academics and is becoming mainstream that increasing the minimum wage works. It works because of the evidence, which I would think f= or a government that’s looking for evidence, it would be something they wo= uld be looking forward to being able to use.

We have spent a fair amou= nt of time over the last five or six years on the issues of minimum wage and livi= ng wage. From our conversations, we know that there are direct benefits to increasing the minimum wage for businesses. I want to say that I have heard from small businesses. We could even call some of them “micro businesses” as my colleague for Takhini-Kopper King identified just a couple of examples who already ensure that their staff are paid $15 an hour — $15 an hour, not $11.32. Now, why would they do this? Why would they cut into their own profits? Well, we’ve heard that there are lots of reasons that they do so. They recognize that they save money. No longer is there a revolving door of staff — those looking for something that pa= ys them more. They no longer have to train staff on a continual basis.

That’s a cost, Mr.&= nbsp;Speaker. Staff stick around and tend to invest more of their ideas and their own personal investment of time and energy into the business’ success. Ma= ny, many small business owners have told me how expensive training can be and h= ow much productivity is lost every time they have to hire the new person.

Probably the most importa= nt and less tangible aspect is that they believe that their staff deserve to be pa= id because no one who devotes 40 hours of their life to one’s business should live in poverty, and that’s what we’re asking them to do= at $11.32 an hour.

Those small business owne= rs recognize that in order for them to have staff that are happy in their jobs, they need to be paid a reasonable wage, not a poverty wage. But we should a= lso be looking at what the reality is in jurisdictions that have raised their minimum wages. Again, before we jump to the conclusion that we don’t = need to do this or that there is no evidence to support it or that we shouldn’t even consider a review — a simple discussion about: W= ell, were there massive layoffs? Did businesses close? Reliable studies have sho= wn that it just didn’t happen.

Mr. Speaker, I went = and looked at a couple of — there have been studies and studies and meta-studies, which are studies of studies, on minimum wage issues across t= his country. My colleague for Takhini-Kopper King talked about some of the issu= es that arose when the provincial government in Alberta announced as part of i= ts platform — so it was an election commitment that it had made to the citizens of Alberta — that it would in fact raise the minimum wage to= $15 an hour. We’ve heard many dire predictions, dire warnings of massive = job losses and impending economic doom. A paper by Ian Hussey said that —= and I’m quoting: “The problem for critics of the minimum wage is neither history nor academic research backs these notions up” of mass= ive job losses and impending economic doom. “The Canadian Federation of Independent Business made the bold prediction that the government of Albert= a's $15 per hour pledge would cost the province" between 53,500 and 195,000 jobs.

Now I’ve heard the = members from the Official Opposition quoting the CFIB many times, so basically they believe that almost half of the Alberta workers currently making less than = $15 per hour would be unemployed. Their prediction of massive job losses, accor= ding to Mr. Hussey, is based on a report published in 2011 that misinterpre= ted the economic research on minimum wage — and this is where it becomes important that when we’re talking about statistics and reports that a= re put out, we actually look at what is comparing apples to apples and not app= les to oranges.

I’m quoting here: “However, the weight of the academic evidence finds no negative impac= t of minimum-wage increases on the employment levels…” — and t= his is where the meta-studies come to the conclusion that of the 64 minimum-wage studies — so this is not something that there is no evidence on. Ther= e is no lack of research on minimum wages and studies that have been done.

One meta study of 64 mini= mum-wage studies published between 1972 and 2007 — these researchers took the almost 1,500 employment estimates and they looked at 1,500 employment estim= ates in the studies and weighed the estimates by their statistical precision and they found that the most precise estimates were heavily clustered at near-z= ero or zero employment effects. In other words, the most precise estimates point toward minimum-wage increases having no or near-zero effect on employment. = So when somebody says, as the Leader of the Official Opposition says, that it = is going to decrease jobs, it doesn’t wash.

We heard a lot earlier ab= out how this — the notion of somebody working at a recreational centre — and I have done that. We all did that as a young teenager or whatever. Those are good entry-level jobs, but that is not the majority of people who are in minimum-wage jobs, including in Yukon.

Mr. Speaker, that is= one of the common mistakes, I think, of minimum-wage opponents, or even those being asked to consider reviewing whether we should increase our minimum wage = 212; that it mostly applies to teenagers. That’s not true and my colleague from Mount Lorne-Southern Lakes outlined that already for this House.

It’s difficult to understand, when we look the reality in the territory of a person earning $11.32 an hour, working full-time, working 37.5 hours a week, they are goin= g to have about $425 a week. That is almost $1,700 a month. That’s $22,000= a year and that is before any deductions.

One of the things —= when the Minister of Community Services was talking about the living wage discus= sion that has been ongoing for a number of years and focused last year when the Anti-Poverty Coalition put forward its report — is that there are too= ls — and the Anti-Poverty Coalition did identify that there are tools — that would help reduce the level of living wage required if the Government of Yukon chose to do it. One of those was, for example, if the lowest income tax rate — as we have said in this Legislative Assembly, the Yukon is leading in terms of lowest income — the $44,700 and the taxation rate that is paid on that, we are leading in terms of the amount t= hat we expect people to pay. If we reduced that just to five percent, as oppose= d to the close-to-six percent that it is, it would reduce the living wage by 20 cents. If we made an investment that was significant in social housing, it would reduce the living wage by $1.55. Those are factors, but those are not things that we’re talking about. Housing for the vulnerable is one th= ing, but that’s not going to help the person who is earning the minimum wa= ge.

Mr. Speaker, what we= have asked for today is a willingness and openness of this Legislative Assembly = to review, not to prescribe what it should be or that there should be a change= in minimum wage, but to be open to having that question.

Surely if a government can’t have that open discussion, then it’s not worthy of being a democratic government, because you are telling us, as citizens, what is good for us, and that’s what we lived with for 14 years under the Yukon Pa= rty. That’s why there was a change in government. People thought we were getting a government that was open to listening and that said, “You w= ill be heard.” I think Yukon citizens are expecting to be heard by this government.

 

Speaker: If the member now speaks, she will close debate = on this motion.

Does any other member wis= h to be heard?

 

Ms. White: I was sitting here and thinking about the times I have been in this Chamber and been disappointed. I’m disappoi= nted right now.

The first Sitting we had = in the 33rd Legislative Assembly, I put forward a motion about working together to develop a housing strategy for all Yukoners. This was in 2011 w= hen the housing crisis was at its absolute peak. The language was changed to say “implement its housing strategy”. The first nine days on the jo= b, my heart broke, and I thought, oh my God, how can I do this job for five ye= ars?

You kind of have to get o= ver it, because the idea of apologizing to 35,000 people and quitting to 1,300 peop= le just wasn’t an option.

We had other tough debate= s, and the Premier is going to remember the first time we brought forward National= Aboriginal Day. It was soul destroying.

We brought forward motion= s about truth and reconciliation and making sure information was available, and that was hard. It turns out that today is equally hard.

It’s fascinating to= me — and this information is all available online — that we’= re sitting in this Chamber where our base salary is $76,725. We get an expense allowance of $14,763. A minister earns an additional $41,341, as does the Leader of the Official Opposition. And we’re going to sit here and we’re going to say that we don’t have the will to ask for a rev= iew of minimum wage — that, with the money that we earn, we’re goin= g to tell people who are in this lived reality that, right now, the status quo is enough and that right now, between the Liberals and the Yukon Party, you fo= und a point to agree on, and that’s that. Right now, the status quo for minimum wage is okay.

The NDP — we started working at soup kitchens, and we do the orphan Sunday, so every fifth Sunda= y of the month. That’s at the Sacred Heart Cathedral. When we started ther= e, there were 50 people who would come, and then a year or two into it, there = were 70 people, and then the demographics started to change.

It wasn’t people wh= o were homeless who were coming; it was people who were the working poor. We saw people bringing in their families; we saw kids accessing the soup kitchen on Sundays. You realize that the issue is bigger and poverty is a bigger issue= in the territory than you want to admit.

It’s interesting to= know that, right now, when the vote comes, it’s going to be really hard. B= ut you know what? I know that when the Member for Whitehorse Centre and I cont= inue to work at the soup kitchen, when we continue to attend community events wh= ere we hear the stories of people working on minimum wage, I won’t have to look away.

I am not going to be emba= rrassed about where I stood on this issue because this is more than talking about y= oung workers in entry-level positions. You look across jurisdictions and we have= the division between entry-level minimum wage and up, and we have seen the prob= lems that it creates, and it is that older workers get left behind.

What we were asking for w= as for a review prior to what was going to happen in BC in September. What we heard = here today is that it’s really not required yet. We heard from the Ministe= r of Community Services that they are committed to social housing and the costs = of daycare. Well, right now there are more than 100 people on the wait-list for social housing. Then we heard about Housing First, and that’s fantast= ic. I look forward to when that facility is constructed, but we still havenR= 17;t had a timeline for that. Clients for social housing are not who we are talk= ing about.

We heard the Leader of the Official Opposition talk about tax breaks. Well, I also remember the time w= hen we brought forward a motion to increase the kids recreation fund. That was = to allow families to access more money for recreation for their children, and = that motion got morphed into a tax break for families who could afford to spend = more than $1,000 on their kids’ recreation in a year. What did it do? It l= eft behind the poor. It didn’t allow them to increase their ability for t= heir kids to access activities, but it did definitely help people who could help themselves. That was hard. There have been a lot of hard days here, it turns out.

I’m going to put it= out one more time. I’m going to ask the members across the way to reconsider. What we are asking for is a review of the minimum wage. We haven’t set out or prescribed how that is going to happen. The Yukon Bureau of Statisti= cs doesn’t have information available online right now for me to be able= to use those numbers.

The Member for Porter Cre= ek Centre talked about the employment rates, but unfortunately, that same statistical information doesn’t include how many people earn minimum = wage and what demographic they are in. That is part of the problem.

I hope that my colleagues= will reconsider where they stand on the issue because it is a lot bigger than ev= en we can talk about here.

Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?

Some Hon. Members: Division.

Division

Speaker: Division has been called.

 

Bells

 

Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.

Hon. Mr. Silver: Disagree.

Hon. Ms. McPhee: Disagree.

Hon. Mr. Pillai: Disagree.

Hon. Ms. Dendys: Disagree.

Hon. Ms. Frost: Disagree.

Mr. Gallina: Disagree.

Mr. Adel: Disagree.

Hon. Mr. Mostyn: Disagree.

Hon. Mr. Streicker: Disagree.

Mr. Hutton: Disagree.

Mr. Hassard: Disagree.

Mr. Kent: Disagree.

Ms. Van Bibber: Disagree.

Mr. Cathers: Disagree.

Ms. McLeod: Disagree.

Mr. Istchenko: Disagree.

Ms. Hanson: Agree.

Ms. White: Agree.

Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are two yea, 16 nay.=

Speaker: The nays have it. I declare the motion negatived= .

Motion No. 50 negatived

 

Speaker: Are there any further motions other than governm= ent motions?

Motion No. 78

Clerk: Motion No. 78, standing in the name of M= r. Cathers.

Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Lake Laberge:

THAT the Standing Committ= ee on Statutory Instruments be mandated to conduct a review of building standards= and inspections, including:

(1) assessing the consist= ency in interpretation of legislation and regulations by building inspectors;

(2) reviewing the Building Standards Act and regulat= ions, and recommending changes that would improve customer service, including, but not limited to, ensuring the appeal process is timely and effective;

 (3) recommending changes to improve access to service for people in rural Yukon;

(4) recommending changes = to make it easier for home builders, including reducing paperwork and red tape; and=

(5) investigating whether= further improvements can be made to make it easier for Yukoners to build log homes;=

THAT the committee report= to the House its findings and recommendations no later than November 1, 2017; and<= /p>

THAT if the House is not = sitting at such time as the committee is prepared to present its report, the commit= tee Chair shall transmit the committee’s report to the Speaker, who shall transmit the report to all Members of the Legislative Assembly and then, not more than one day later, release the report to the public.

 

Mr. Cathers: In rising to speak to this motion, I wo= uld like to begin by noting that, as my colleagues and I have indicated to the government and to members of the Third Party on several occasions, we belie= ve that some of the issues that we have heard from Yukoners about building inspections, as well as issues that were discovered as a result of review by the Department of Community Services, of 9.36 of the National Building Code= and the information we heard from the special advisory committee that was compo= sed of Yukon citizens, including home builders — both log-home builders a= nd non — and energy-efficiency experts and other contractors, the information that we received out of that consultation with them and that th= ey heard from the public has helped to inform the approach that we’re arguing and encouraging government to take.

As both my colleagues in = the Official Opposition and I have noted to government members on several occas= ions, this is an area where we’re happy to work with government in addressi= ng and modernizing some of the areas within building standards. We are happy to work with — I believe that working in an all-party manner would be productive and effective. Of course if the government is not willing to acc= ept this request, we will continue to bring forward issues on the floor of the Legislative Assembly until changes are made in this area.

As the motion urges, we b= elieve that there are several systemic issues at play in this area and note —= ; I want to be very clear in prefacing my comments by saying that we’re n= ot criticizing staff of the department. We are, however, pointing to some of t= he areas for policy and systemic improvement within this structure. We know th= at as department staff determine when the issues around section 9.36 of the National Building Code — those being the parts pertaining to energy efficiency — when those provisions effectively overnight made it extremely difficult for log-home builders to get buildings permitted across= the Yukon, one of the things that we heard from department staff after they had reviewed this area is that part of the problem in some of the situations was not just the specific wording of 9.36 of the National Building Code, but in= consistency in how different inspectors were interpreting it.

Part of what we are argui= ng for in this motion is that, if the Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments = is mandated to conduct a review of building standards and inspections, among t= he areas that are looked at is assessing the consistency and interpretation of legislation and regulations by building inspectors. In fact, through that, = we are suggesting that the appropriate approach would be both hearing from Yuk= on citizens — including in the contracting and home-building community a= nd from individuals, as well as from department staff — about where they believe there is room for improvement and what the best way of ensuring that consistency and oversight for that would be.

As well, as noted in the = motion and as I noted previously in Question Period on May 17, there is an appeal structure within the Building Stand= ards Act. Sections 6 and 7 set out the powers of the Building Standards Boar= d, which include the ability for a person to appeal a decision by a building inspector. However, as of last year when we discussed this with officials p= rior to the election, the board had never heard a single appeal despite having b= een in place for decades. Clearly, to us, that demonstrates that the appeal pro= cess needs changes to make it workable, timely and effective. While this came to= our attention during the work that was done by the Department of Community Serv= ices along with the working group that advised us — the special advisory committee on log-home building and energy-efficiency standards — this came out at that point in time. The preliminary work had begun prior to the election on looking at this area, including how to make the appeal process = work more effectively as well as addressing the fact that the board didn’t actually have an honorarium structure in place. If they were to meet to hea= r an appeal, they wouldn’t be compensated for that. These are a number of areas that, due to the age of the original structure of this legislation, we believe there is room for improvement.

We also believe that a re= ason for doing this through an all-party approach rather than having government simp= ly conduct a review is that the information that we as MLAs — especially those of us who represent rural ridings — have heard from constituents about their specific concerns with building inspections would help to inform that review. Dealing with it through an all-party committee would make it a more collegial approach than bringing forward these issues as problems in t= he Legislative Assembly. Those issues include changes to improve access to services for people in rural Yukon and recommending changes to make it easi= er for home builders, including reducing paperwork and red tape. As well, as identified in the motion that I tabled here in the Assembly with the suppor= t of my colleagues in the Official Opposition, we believe that there should be additional discussions looking at whether there are further improvements th= at can be made to make it easier to build a log home.

For the information of me= mbers who may not understand our point in that area, we are referring to not just= the energy-efficiency part, which we responded to and made changes to address, = but simply the process by which structures are permitted, assessed and so on, b= ecause log homes are a little more complex to build often, and to permit as a resu= lt, than some other structures.

As I mentioned to the Min= ister of Community Services on May 17 in questions, among the areas we have heard concerns on is that we have heard from three separate sets of constituents where in two cases, according to their side of the story, they believe they were evicted, or had to evict tenants, as a result of orders issued by the building inspectors. I note that, in those areas — of course, I haven= ’t heard the other side of the situation. I have seen copies of those orders, which were posted, and, in the most recent case — the third situation — I had a couple who are very concerned about the situation they are currently facing — in a meeting with me just last week, after they reached out to me via e-mail. I would like to acknowledge the fact that, af= ter I raised this issue with the Minister of Community Services, he has agreed = to meet with me and this couple who contacted me, later this week.

I want to also note that = the reason we’re bringing this motion forward today is that this is not j= ust about individual casework that we’re talking about. Recognizing the complexity that can exist in some of these situations, we believe the syste= mic issues are better dealt with through an all-party committee working with officials and listening to Yukon citizens who are affected by this, so we c= an hear all sides of the situation and come forward, hopefully, with shared recommendations by all members of the committee and all three parties that = will allow us to improve the system and do so in as productive and collegial a manner as possible.

I would also like to note= that, as I mentioned, this goes beyond individual cases. It is systemic. It’= ;s an area of the act and regulations that need modernization, some of which w= ere identified during the tail end of the last mandate and some of which have c= ome to light since then. We believe that the fact that the building standards appeal committee has not actually ever heard a single appeal, based on the information we had from officials last year, demonstrates that this appeal process is not functioning effectively.

We also believe that the = fact that I and my colleagues, especially those of us who are rural MLAs, have h= eard from many constituents who had concerns both large and small with building inspections demonstrates that there is not as much customer satisfaction in this area as we believe there can and should be. Recognizing that officials= do their job within the structure that they have — again I want to empha= size this is not intended as a criticism of those officials, but recognizing tha= t, depending on the inspection mandate they have and the tools they have under= the act and regulations, as well as their expectations under their policy deter= mine how they would respond to a situation.

In this case — as I mentioned, through three cases of tenants being evicted as a result of inspectors’ orders — and in situations like that, let me go on record as saying that I believe that no one should ever be evicted from the= ir home, whether they own the home or are tenants, due to minor building code issues or technical permit issues. I believe that an eviction should only o= ccur or a cease-occupancy order should only occur if there is an urgent life or safety issue. However, that being said, I think that both the act and the regulations need to be modified to ensure that inspectors have the proper t= ools available to issue a compliance order requiring someone who is not complying with the regulations to bring that accommodation up to code and to set out a reasonable time limit for doing so.

I also believe that there= may need to be a discussion of whether additional fines should be put into plac= e as an alternative to the current order to cease occupancy so that we can strike the right balance of protecting public safety and ensuring adherence to the building code while also ensuring that no one is ever put out on the street because of anything other than an urgent life or safety issue within the building code but that, in doing so, the structure that is put into place doesn’t become one that makes it easier for builders to beg forgivene= ss than ask permission. I recognize that there may need to be a look at whether additional fine provisions would occur in a case of non-compliance that wou= ld currently be dealt with by inspectors through ordering someone to cease occupying the building immediately.

Those are a few of the th= ings that we’re suggesting. Again, we hope the government will support thi= s. Of course, if they are not willing to support this approach, we will contin= ue raising these issues but, as I stated both at the Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments and in debate with the Premier, as well as to the Minister of Community Services both in and outside this House, we do see th= is as an opportunity to work together in a collegial manner. We think that the experience that we have, especially those of us who are rural MLAs, and from what we’ve heard from constituents both recently and over the years w= ould help strengthen that review and would make it a less adversarial process for not only the staff of the department in terms of responding to the concerns= we bring forward but especially for the elected members of the government that= they would find it, we believe, a much more constructive and effective manner for sitting around the table together discussing problems that we’ve heard and potential solutions to those problems.

Some of the other areas t= hat I’ve heard specific concerns about from constituents and other Yukone= rs include the challenge that those within the agriculture sector are having on getting buildings permitted. One example of this is a situation that came to our attention just prior to the election of someone wanting to build a buil= ding here in the Yukon that is available for sale in Alberta. If they were a far= mer located in the Province of Alberta — because that structure is pre-fabricated and is available for purchase — they would have simply been able to purchase it and assemble it themselves. Yet here, there was the additional requirement for further certification by a structural engineer.<= /p>

I have also heard a list = of other areas from constituents and others about problems in getting everything from barns to other agricultural facilities permitted because the Yukon does not have an agriculture-specific section to the building code like some other jurisdictions do. In some cases, while these structures have either been eventually permitted or maybe moving toward it, they faced significant red = tape and delays in terms of the department reviewing these structures because — in fairness to staff of building inspections — in some cases, they may be reviewing a type of structure that they have never actually dea= lt with before and they need to familiarize themselves with it because of the speci= fics of that issue.

This includes a long list= of issues and while it may sound either esoteric or technical to members, I wo= uld note that in one case, I have heard from a constituent who tells me that because of this, he believes that he spent at least $30,000 more in buildin= g a facility than he would have been required to if he were building it in a jurisdiction such as the Province of Alberta or Saskatchewan. Those types of costs, especially in the Yukon agriculture sector — considering the s= ize of the market — are significant in nature. There have been other issu= es related to homes, including temporary shelters and tiny homes, both on whee= ls and not on wheels.

We have again heard many = concerns of people about the delays and timeliness of reviews of applications, again noting that this is a systemic criticism, not a criticism directed at staff= . We believe there are also solutions to this.

We should also note, as t= he government is considering whether they wish to support this or not, that on= e of the concerns with the approach suggested by the minister in response to me = on May 17 is that the minister invited me to bring forward specific concerns v= ia caseworks and to bring forward those issues in that manner. I would note to= the minister that while emphatically emphasizing that I am not personally saying staff would do this, a concern I have heard from a number of people on repe= ated occasions is that because of the current structure and lack of functioning appeal, they are concerned that if they complain about it, it may lead to t= hem having more difficulty in dealing with inspectors in the future because they don’t have the confidence that the structure, as it’s currently= set up, might not lead to punitive actions in the future.

Again, I want to emphasiz= e that I am not personally casting that criticism toward staff, but noting that has = come up repeatedly as a concern that undermines public confidence in the option presented by the minister of writing about the specifics of their situation= to their MLA and having their MLA raise it with the minister. That is one of t= he reasons underlining the approach of why we’re suggesting a review of = this system — a systemic change — and that steps be taken to ensure = that there is an appeal process that is both timely and effective for Yukoners w= ho have concerns with a decision of the building inspectors.

There are a number of pos= sible ways that could change. We’re not, at this point, here to propose specific models, although we do have some suggestions if the members of the government are interested in that. But again, rather than spending too long debating specific options or proposals or debating the facts of any specific case or complaint that we’ve had, we believe that these matters would= be best dealt with in a constructive all-party setting, similar to committees,= for example, like the all-party committee on anti-smoking or the all-party committee on off-road vehicles. In those cases, both committees were commit= tees I was a member of. Those all-party committees not only did effective work a= nd reached out to Yukoners and heard from Yukoners, but were able to reach unanimous agreement across party lines on what to recommend to the Legislat= ive Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, I’= ;m just trying to see if I have missed mentioning any of my notes. The other thing I would just like to mention is that the reason we proposed the Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments be mandated to do this work is, in fact — though the committee, because of the structure of the original moti= on appointing it, would not be able to review legislation and regulations that= are already in place — we have confirmed with the Legislative Assembly of= fice staff that it is completely in order for us to propose via a motion in the Legislative Assembly that the committee be mandated to conduct a review of existing regulations and legislation, and to make recommendations on that should this motion pass in the Legislative Assembly.

As far as the proposed re= porting date — included within the motion — of November 1, 2017 —= if the government has an alternate suggestion for that, we are open to it. The date of November 1 was our sense of what would be a reasonable amount of ti= me for the committee to do its work. As previous members of the Assembly will know, and new members who have read up on previous legislative assemblies m= ay also be aware, it is certainly possible for a committee to seek an amendmen= t to their reporting date if the committee agrees that more time is necessary to= do their work. Should the government wish to propose a different end date, we would certainly be amendable to it.

I look forward to hearing= from the Minister of Community Services and members of the government and note t= hat while we do hope they will choose to support this all-party approach, as we think it is both the most effective and the most collegial way to address t= his situation, they should be aware that if they are not amenable to it, we will continue to raise the concerns we have heard from Yukoners about building standards and inspections until those problems are fully resolved. We belie= ve that will require changes to the Bu= ilding Standards Act and the regulations, including the establishment of an effective appeal process that is both timely and effective. We believe it w= ill include as well making changes — some may be regulatory, some may be legislative and some may be in terms of policy or systems — that will make it easier for home builders and for people in rural Yukon. I would not= e to members that I have heard positive comments in this area from Yukon log-home builders who I have reached out to that they are interested as well in seei= ng additional changes made to make it easier to build log homes. While we haven’t heard the current government’s views on it, I hope that they will support the decision that we made previously to continue to recog= nize the value of log-home construction.

I will state my personal = view that log homes built from locally sourced logs and built by Yukoners or with local labour — in my view, there is no greener or more environmentally responsible choice for log-home construction. While I would not go to the extent of suggesting that government should make it more difficult to permit homes built out of non-renewable materials or those sourced from Outside, I= do think that the government should always be looking for ways to make it easi= er to build log homes to an appropriate standard, of course, that are structur= ally safe. Encouraging and making it easier for log-home builders is something t= hat has a net benefit to the territory and is a good example of a way that Yuko= ners and the Yukon government can reduce the environmental footprint for log-home construction, increase the amount of economic benefit that is seen here wit= hin the territory and employ Yukon citizens in doing so.

I want to note, as I miss= ed it in my notes, that in terms of an enforcement process for issues of non-complia= nce with building inspectors’ decisions, we also believe that it would be appropriate for government and for the all-party Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments to take a look at how Building Inspections is current= ly responding to issues of non-compliance and move toward a model more similar= to that used by Compliance Monitoring and Inspections, which is — as not= ed on their literature, including their poster board set up at their booth at = the gold show last weekend — to educate, encourage and enforce. The expectation within that branch has been that they educate people on what th= eir responsibilities are. If they discover an issue of non-compliance, they then encourage them to comply and, only if it’s necessary, take enforcement action because the person is not voluntarily coming in compliance should th= ey do so.

I will give one more exam= ple of how a different branch of the government would respond to a situation of non-compliance with regulations based on an actual example within an area d= ealt with by Land Planning branch — again noting, based on what I’ve heard from constituents, that they feel that, without notice, there were th= ree cases where people were effectively kicked out of their homes almost on the spot as the result of an order to cease occupancy and a threat by the inspe= ctor that, if they didn’t comply, the power could be shut off by order of Building Inspections.

In a comparable situation= , there was an issue in the always publicly controversial Takhini Hot Springs site within my riding on one of their lots where there was a complaint made by residents about a dwelling that they believed was being occupied contrary to the development agreement between the Land Planning branch director and the owner of Takhini Hot Springs.

Upon investigation, staff determined that indeed one of the residences was being occupied in contravention of that development agreement. In that specific case, while t= he owner was directed to rectify the issue of non-compliance, they were also g= iven a number of months to do so in recognition, I believe at least, by the staf= f of Land Planning branch that an immediate enforcement of that development agreement would have resulted in a family being put on the street, so they chose to balance the interest and concerns of neighbours and the protection= of the law by providing reasonable opportunity for the owner to address an iss= ue of non-compliance and providing reasonable opportunity for the affected ten= ants to seek alternate accommodation.

I would note, as the mini= ster will hear — and I’m not going to get into the specifics of any individual case matters in the House here. The Minister of Community Servic= es will have the opportunity to hear from the two constituents we have a meeti= ng with on Friday, and I do thank the minister for agreeing to that meeting. In the= ir case, they have told me that they did not have prior warning that the order= was coming to cease occupancy and that they are now put into a situation where = they are having a great deal of difficulty finding an alternative house they can afford to rent.

The point I want to empha= size in this is that — as government is looking at areas such as their commitments around looking at a Housing First strategy and looking at reduc= ing homelessness and increasing affordable housing — building inspections= is part of the puzzle. If actions are taken — even if those actions are well-intentioned by inspectors — that have a negative effect on tenan= ts, it can create unintended hardship for those people, as I believe it has in = this case, based on what my constituents have told me in this situation.

In situations like that, I believe — and I think I speak on behalf of the Official Opposition in stating that — in issues of that type, we believe there should be an appropriate time for compliance to occur within and that steps other than immediate evictions should be taken, unless there are urgent safety or heal= th issues at play that do require an immediate response by inspectors.

With that, I will wrap up= my remarks. I hope members of the government will choose to support this motion and recognize that where this comes from is a very genuine and sincere conc= ern on behalf of a number of me and my colleagues who have heard a number of concerns from constituents regarding the structure and the way by which Building Inspections operates — everything from issuing permits to do= ing inspections. We recognize that many of those are structural in nature and, without that structural change, inspectors are left operating within the structure that they now have.

We believe there is a sig= nificant opportunity for systemic improvement. We would be more than happy to be a p= art of helping the government work through both the problems and potential solutions, and we hope they will choose to support this motion and result in the Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments — the longest dormant committee on the Legislative Assembly’s books — being reinvigor= ated and investigating an area in a collaborative manner where we believe there = is potential opportunity for all-party agreement on recommendations to make the system w= ork better for Yukon citizens and a reflection of a modernization approach in recognition of changes since the original act and regulations were put into place.

With that, I will conclud= e my remarks and commend this motion to the House.

 

Hon. Mr. Streicker: I rise today to speak to Motion&= nbsp;No. 78 and to thank the Member for Lake Laberge for bringing it forward.

First off, I want to talk= about building safety generally, and then I hope to address some of the specific questions raised by the member opposite. The National Building Code of Cana= da, at its core, provides for the safety of building occupants. Mandatory minim= um building codes are the most effective and least expensive way to protect pu= blic health and safety. While Yukoners may debate over the applicability of code= s, we must adhere to the codes when it comes to matters relating to life safet= y.

The permitting and inspec= tion process is required for all dwellings to ensure that both current and future occupants are safe — safe from fire, carbon monoxide, building collap= se, electrocution, et cetera; safe because fuel-fired appliances are inspected; safe because building occupants have more than one way to get out in an eme= rgency; safe because detectors and alarms are installed; and safe because electrical wiring is inspected. The Yukon has a strong building safety regime that sav= es lives. The process does require paperwork and it requires some effort and scheduling on the part of the homeowner or builder to fulfill the permit and inspection process.

The Building Safety and S= tandards office works with property owners to ensure homes and businesses meet codes= and standards for public health and safety, fire, structural safety, and environmental and property protection. The Building Safety and Standards of= fice is responsible for permits and inspections, whose purpose is to ensure that safety codes are applied throughout the territory.

I spoke with the departme= nt following the member opposite’s questions last week. If my recollecti= on is correct, it was one week ago that the member raised questions here in the Legislature during Question Period. I asked the department to give me a sen= se of the quantity of inspections carried out each year in the territory. Last year, in 2016, inspectors completed over 5,300 inspections: 940-plus buildi= ng inspections, 2,800 electrical inspections, 200-plus plumbing inspections, 450-plus oil heating inspections, 120-plus boiler inspections, just shy of = 80 elevator inspections, and over 680 gas inspections.

Unlike in the south, in t= he Yukon building codes and safety standards apply to all, and the member opposite n= oted that situation here. This includes self-governing and non-settled First Nations, rural and municipal. The National Building Code applies to all residences regardless of size and location. In addition to protecting occupants, the National Building Code protects local companies and qualified tradespeople by laying out clear objectives and requirements by adopting updated codes. There is no competitive market disadvantage for code-complia= nt homes.

Building codes also prote= ct the owners from unnecessary cost from wasted energy, wasted water, design flaws= or improper installation, and even from disasters. Application of the National Building Code of Canada and, as a result, the National Fire Code, is essent= ial to save buildings.

I would like to turn to a= ddress some of the points that were raised in the motion by the member opposite. I will leave the process parts of the question — first of all, the first point raised about assessing the consistency and interpretation of legislat= ion and regulations by building inspectors. Of course we seek to be consistent = in the interpretation of legislation and regulations. Consistency is important, and while I believe there is generally consistency in the application of the legislation and regulations, I have noted that we do need to assess and evaluate in an ongoing way. That is critical.

When the department or I,= as minister, hear concerns raised about building inspections in this House, or from members of the public who call me or department staff, we use these moments as opportunities to assess consistency and fairness of implementati= on of the legislation and regulations. We use both an ongoing methodology and = an as-requested methodology to assess and evaluate the legislation and regulations.

Last week, the member opp= osite — when he raised the specific concerns, I encouraged him to do so to = me directly as minister of the department so that we could work on them. In fa= ct, I did follow up with him, as he noted, following the questions in the Legislature, and sought to establish a meeting, again as he noted, with his constituents.

I would like to point out= that the service standard for building inspections is very high. The department = has nine full-time inspectors and one half-time inspector and, as I stated, had over 5,000 in-person interactions with the public in an enforcement capacity last year. This number would be substantially higher if we were to add the interactions that our inspectors undertake to educate and inform builders a= nd the general public on the phone and through e-mails.

With over 5,000 interacti= ons with the public every year, there are times when people are not happy with the response they receive from building inspectors. They may feel at times that regulations designed to protect their well-being and the safety of their family, tenants or future buyers should not apply under a particular set of circumstances such as location, building size or building materials. Inspec= tors do listen and do educate and do work with clients and wherever possible, th= ey try to find ways within the codes for projects to move ahead.

Mr. Speaker, I recog= nize that there is some, at times, dissatisfaction with the building inspections office; however, the customer service provided by the Building Safety and Standards office at this scale is actually quite commendable.

On to the point raised in= the motion to review the Building Stand= ards Act regulations and make recommendations for changes to improve customer service and ensuring that the appeal process is timely and effective —= ; we support continuous improvement in customer service and to ensure that the appeal process is effective within the department. An official review of the act and regulations is not scheduled at this time; however, there remain ot= her ways to ensure continuous improvement and we will focus on working collaboratively with officials and with members opposite and listen to comm= ents from the public to achieve this objective.

On the point of recommend= ing improved access to service for people in rural Yukon, as part of our commit= ment to local solutions for local communities, we want to ensure that residents = in rural Yukon have access to these services. I note that two building inspect= ors live and work in rural Yukon — one in Watson Lake and one in Dawson. = They work specifically in rural communities. It is important that we balance staffing levels with demand for services, yet we will always work to assess whether we have a fair balance across all communities.

On the points of making i= t easier for home builders to reduce paperwork and red tape, and also on the point of log-home builders, this is an issue which has been brought forward both in = our platform — to reduce red tape — and I have been directed to work with the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and with the Minister of Highways and Public Works to find ways to reduce red tape, including around building inspections. Recently, this was an issue that was brought forward = from the Association of Yukon Communities at their recent AGM. They passed a res= olution about owner-built homes — which is more than log homes, but includes = log homes — and encouraging us, the Yukon government, to acknowledge the unique circumstances with owner-built homes. I fully intend to work on how = to ensure that owner-built homes are treated fairly and consistently within the building inspection process.

Our government is also co= mmitted to reducing red tape and having a responsive regulatory environment. Again,= we need to balance these requests with ensuring that the National Building Code and safety standards are consistent and fairly applied. As I said before, we are always aiming to continuously improve our processes and ensure that we become more efficient in service delivery and excel at customer service. We want to facilitate local home building, but we also need to apply the act a= nd regulations consistently, so we work continuously to find that balance.

Now I wish to address the= issue of the basis of the motion and using the Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments to perform a review. I believe that the place to address the concerns of the member opposite is through the department and through my of= fice as Minister of Community Services. It is my understanding that the Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments does not have the authority to do what t= he mover of the motion is asking. I will try to address his point that we can,= by motion here, create a new mandate. The Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments has not met in many years. I don’t believe that it met du= ring the entire time the previous Yukon Party government was in office during the past 14 years. It is interesting to see the Yukon Party now showing an inte= rest in the committee.

Under the last Yukon Party government, appointments were made, but the committee itself never actually met. It appears that the previous government did not see value in this comm= ittee. I am pleased to note that this body has had its first meeting in many years= earlier this spring. This committee can serve a role related to accountability of government. When this Chamber provides for regulation-making powers and bil= ls, we as legislators are delegating this authority to Cabinet.

The Standing Committee on= Statutory Instruments is available to ensure that, in making regulations, Cabinet sta= ys within its authority. The Legislative Assembly website states — and I quote: “The Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments has the autho= rity to review any regulation that comes into effect after the committee is form= ed. The Legislative Assembly may also refer existing or proposed regulations to this committee for review.”

I think the member opposi= te referred to it as the longest dormant committee that we have and noted that= we could mandate it by motion here. I will try to speak to that in a moment. T= he motion today makes a specific request to review legislation, which is not t= he mandate of the committee. It is regulation.

The Department of Communi= ty Services, which carries out inspections under the Building Standards Act, is constantly looking to improve the consistency of their inspections. That is the most appropriate avenue for addressing this issue. It is certainly outside the mandate and jurisdiction= of the Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments.

Mr. Speaker, I appre= ciate that the member opposite has offered to work in a collegial way, and I comm= end that. I am also working to work openly with members opposite.

The member opposite refer= red to this situation we’re facing as systemic. If it is a systemic issue, t= hen surely it has been a systemic issue for some time; thus it is interesting to note that now the proposal is to use the Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments. I would prefer to start with working within the department. I invite all members here, and the public, to approach if they have concerns = with the building standards department.

My reason for saying this= is that when issues are raised to me, I will work diligently to see that they are addressed, as I have done. It was one week ago today that the member opposi= te raised concerns to me about some residents within his riding, and that day,= I reached out to him to encourage him to approach me, to meet with those peop= le and to address those issues. We have set up a meeting for a couple of days = from now.

That is a fair process. W= e do support the concept of all-party committees; however, I’m not sure th= at is the right approach at this point. If we attempted to address some of the concerns that are raised and saw that there is a systemic issue, as the mem= ber opposite believes, then I think there might be an opportunity to raise the issue and address it further. However, at this point, we are not supporting= the motion because we don’t believe that it is the right methodology. However, I wish to emphasize that, as the Minister of Community Services, I remain open to all members of this Legislature and their constituents. If t= hey have concerns, they can raise them to me and I will work with the departmen= t to see that there is a fair and efficient process at work for those constituen= ts.

At this point, I don̵= 7;t have the evidence in front of me that would alert me to the challenge the member opposite has raised in this House. I prefer not to use this Legislature as a place in which to address specific concerns, so I do encourage them to be raised through the department and through me, if needed. Through that, if w= e do identify systemic problems that we are not able to address through our ongo= ing processes, then I will happily reconsider the member opposite’s suggestion.

 

Ms. Hanson: I thank the Member for Lake Laberge for bringing this motion forward this afternoon. I appreciate there are a numbe= r of issues he has identified in this motion with respect to addressing the conc= erns that, in fact, I have heard that member raise in various ways over the last number of years in this Legislative Assembly. I would have to concur to a certain extent with the Minister of Community Services that it’s a li= ttle strange that it has taken to this time to bring them forward to suggest this means for addressing these issues. There are a number of areas within the member’s motion that resonate with a motion that was put forward as I think the Minister of Community Services alluded to — a motion that c= ame from the Village of Haines Junction last week at the annual meeting of the = AYC. In the Sunday morning debate or discussion of those various motions, the on= es that most directly touched on this were the issues raised by the Member for Lake Laberge when he talked about the inspections process and various suggestions about recommendations on changes to improve customer service, including, but not limited to, a timely appeal process and an effective app= eal process.

The context of the discus= sion that I heard in Faro was really around the issues of improving communication between those who are involved in building homes and Community Services.

I have notes in the margi= n from just listening to people speaking and one person speaking said: “We’re not trying to ignore or replace the National Building Co= de. We are asking Community Services to streamline the process.” They said they want Community Services to be more proactive.

This had a lot to do with= issues of communication with respect to, as I think the minister referred to, the discussion of owner-built homes and the real concern that there is a lack of communication and they’re asking Community Services to basically put = in an automated bring-forward system. If you have somebody who has an annual inspection required, which you do under the building permit, rather than waiting until it expires and then saying, “Whoops, it’s expired; you have to go back to zero and start all over again”, simply let them know that their permit is coming to an expiry date and that then creates le= ss of a negative — reduces the potential for conflict and gives them, as they said, what they were asking for in the note — they’re aski= ng for latitude and asking the Building Safety branch to make the system more user-friendly and simple. Make it user-friendly and don’t wait until it’s an issue. Don’t wait until you have a confrontation.

I think that, although well-meaning in its intent, I think the motion as structured is way too complex. It may have some built-in inconsistencies in terms of what outcome might be achieved through the process, not the least of which is, I think, = the timeline that is being proposed here is unreasonably short. It’s in t= he middle of a construction season, so many of the people who you would want to consult or see consulted would not be available. One would presume that the= committee would be calling upon expertise to assist with this. Where would that be co= ming from? None of this has been identified.

It veers from being gener= al to being very prescriptive with “THAT” and “THAT” at t= he end of the motion. I think that although there is a combination of having s= ort of a general statement about what might be needed, to making quite specific recommendations in terms of changes to improve access — so it’s already suggesting what needs to be fixed before even concluding an objecti= ve assessment of the scope of the problem.

There may be further or d= ifferent improvements that are needed, but we also think that some of that needs to,= as part of a systemic review — it’s one of the reasons why we have within government the Internal Audit Unit= . We talked yesterday in the debate= of Executive Council Office about the various audits that can be done that will help improve the functioning of each department. There are a number of bodi= es and entities that would normally be involved and appear before a committee = that aren’t referenced here.

I think that the intentio= ns of the member are laudable, but I don’t think that this motion would ach= ieve what he is hoping for and so for that reason, we will not be supporting the motion.

 

Mr. Adel: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Motio= n No. 78. As the Minister of Community Services has indicated, we on this side of the House will not be supporting the motion. The place to address the concerns = of the member opposite is through the minister’s office. His motion does= not fit the purview of this committee. This motion was tabled just this week. It has not had time to run through the minister’s office to address these concerns in a timely manner and that would certainly, in our opinion, be a = much better way to do it.

It’s very interesti= ng to see the member opposite using Wednesday afternoon to try to set the agenda = for the standing committee. It’s not clear to me why the member opposite didn’t just put this on the agenda for the next meeting of the commit= tee. It has also noted, for the public record, the member opposite’s dissatisfaction with the work of Yukon building inspectors. Clearly he has = no confidence in the work they do. Last week, it was the employees of the Department of Finance; this week, it’s the building inspectors; and before that, it was the lawyers in the Justice department. Then there are t= he judges. There’s a pattern of criticism here that has not gone unnotic= ed.

Just to repeat some of th= e things that the Minister of Community Services said just for the record, the Stand= ing Committee on Statutory Instruments hasn’t met in many years. I don’t believe it met during the entire time the previous Yukon govern= ment was in office — over 14 years.

It’s odd to see the= Yukon Party suddenly showing an interest in the committee. Under the last Yukon P= arty government, appointments were made, but the committee never actually met. Clearly the previous government did not see the value in this committee.

I am pleased to note that= this body had its first meeting in many years, early this spring. Given the leng= th of time since this committee has met, it is important to refresh all member= s about what the mandate of this committee actually is. The committee can serve a r= ole related to accountability of government where the Chamber provides for regulation-making powers in bills, as we legislators are delegating the authority to Cabinet. The Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments is available to ensure that in making regulations, the Cabinet stays within the authority.

Our Legislative Assembly = website says — and I quote: “The Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments has the authority to review any regulati= on that comes into effect after the committee is formed. The Legislative Assem= bly may also refer existing or proposed regulations to this committee for review.”

The motion today makes a specific request to review legislation, which is not in the mandate of the committee. The Minister of Community Services said earli= er today that his department, which carries out inspections under the Building Standards Act, is constan= tly looking to improve the consistency of their inspections. If the mover of the motion has any specific concerns, he should bring them forward so the minis= ter responsible can address them. That is the most appropriate avenue for addressing this issue. It is certainly outside the mandate and the jurisdic= tion of the Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments.

 

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Point of order

Speaker: Member for Lake Laberge, on a point of order.<= /o:p>

Mr. Cathers: I think it might be helpful to draw the member̵= 7;s attention to Standing Order 45(4), which is: “At any time, a Special = or Select Committee may be appointed to consider any matter referred to= it by the Assembly.”

Speaker: The Government House Leader, on the point of ord= er.

Hon. Ms. McPhee: This is clearly a dispute among members. The member from the government side is certainly entitled to put f= orward his perception of what the situation is and the member opposite is clearly entitled to disagree with it, but it’s not a point of order.

SpeakerR= 17;s ruling

Speaker: The overall issue in the motion, as I understand= it, for the Member for Lake Laberge is that he is asking that this House consid= er the definition and the extension of the mandate of the statutory instrument= s committee, and that is appropriate.

I suppose that’s wh= at we are debating.

The Member for Lake Laber= ge is referring me to Standing Order 45(4) — is that correct?

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Speaker: It’s certainly not my job to prejudge what= the committee ought to or ought not do, and ultimately that will be the decisio= n of this Assembly.

In any event, Member for Copperbelt North, you can continue.

 

Mr. Adel: In conclusion, I would note for the record that the mover of the motion had 14 years in government to bring forward changes to this legislation, including the appeal process that he mentioned today, and failed to do so either as a member of Cabinet or through the statutory instruments committee.

I look forward to the next meeting of the standing committee and I am pleased to see the members oppos= ite are interested in being a part of it.

 

Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. =

Does any other member wis= h to be heard?

 

Mr. Cathers: I would just note, in closing, that I’m disappointed to hear the tone in some of the responses from government members. If members were listening, they would have understood t= he chronology. It’s interesting to see a government that campaigned on a promise of being heard and said it was going to be more collaborative and w= ork with other parties, yet in this case, as I noted, a number of these specific concerns came out after a public review that government did in response to concerns from Yukoners that emerged from what we heard and what the special advisory committee on the energy efficiency sections of the National Buildi= ng Code heard from Yukoners and what they told us. A number of specific concer= ns emerged from that departmental review.

As I advised members R= 12; and as the Minister of Community Services will certainly know from officials — the preliminary work on looking at the change in the appeal structu= re under the Building Standards Act and making it more effective had begun prior to the Yukon Party leaving office = last year.

It is not possible for go= vernment to change all pieces of legislation at once, and it is not possible for concerns that come up from Yukoners at the tail-end of a mandate to be immediately acted upon.

Again, it’s unfortu= nate. We have offered to work with government in a collaborative all-party manner. I recognize the Minister of Community Services has been one of the most collaborative members of the government, and I think there is an interest on his part in working together. It is unfortunate that some of his colleagues, including the Member for Copperbelt North, chose to speak and suggest that = this motion is not in order.

I would give them a little helpful tip for future debates in this Legislative Assembly, which is that = if a motion tabled by a member is not in order, the Clerk and staff of the Legislative Assembly will make adjustments to correct those areas where it = is not in order before that motion is called for debate. So if this motion wasn’t in order, I would, in fact, not have been able to bring it for= ward in its current form.

As I mentioned, section 4= 5(5) of the Standing Orders does allow for the mandate of any standing committee to= be modified or for it to review any matter that is referred to it by the Legislative Assembly. We heard some rhetoric from the government side about= how the Yukon Party should have called this committee while in office.

As I pointed out not only= here in the Legislative Assembly, but at the first meeting of the Standing Committe= e on Statutory Instruments, we do commend the government for calling this commit= tee, but there is also a substantial difference between what occurred during our time in government and now. We never had, to the best of my recollection, i= n 14 years, a request from the Official Opposition or the Third Party to convene= a meeting of the Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments — though t= here was in fact one meeting, contrary to what the member said, when the Member = for Watson Lake was appointed as chair of that committee. Had the members broug= ht forward suggestions — had the Leader of the Liberal Party, when in opposition, chosen to bring forward a motion of this type, I, of course, wi= ll not guarantee whether, depending on the substance matter, we may or may not have supported it, but that motion was not brought forward, so we are attempting to be constructive and propose a specific area of review.

I would point out to the = Member for Copperbelt North — who, I think, was not at the Standing Committe= e on Statutory Instruments — that his suggestion that I bring forward this= at the committee for inclusion on their future agenda — that was already done at the meeting — I believe it was in April — of the Standi= ng Committee on Statutory Instruments, where I substituted for one of my caucus colleagues who is a permanent member of that committee. We proposed two are= as for review at that point in time and brought them forward to the committee. That was that the Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments should review= the area of building standards and inspections as well as review the area of environmental health — in both cases, reviewing their consistency with the interpretation of regulations and whether a change was necessary in tho= se areas. The government members committed to considering those concerns. We h= ave yet to hear a formal response, though that has been several weeks in the making.

It is unfortunate that we= are not going to see the government supporting this motion. They should rest assured that these issues will not go away unless they are dealt with. I would again note to members that, contrary to some of their statements, in fact, when y= ou have a structure that leads Yukoners to not have complete confidence between the separation of the complaint process and those who are making the final decision in building their homes or issuing a permit — just as govern= ment a couple of years ago under the previous Member for Copperbelt North — Minister Currie Dixon — brought forward legislation to establish the protection from disclosure and wrongdoing act, also commonly referred to as whistle-blower legislation. Just as that legislation was established to pro= vide Yukon government employees a venue where they could make complaints without fear of reprisal — just as that was brought forward — in this c= ase, whether or not officials in those departments would ever engage in a repris= al or punitive action, there is concern on the part of individuals that it cou= ld occur and, therefore, for us to use the casework approach on every individu= al matter is simply not a workable matter because I have received a number of concerns — as I know some of colleagues have — from people who = wish to bring those concerns to our attention, but they don’t want their n= ame personally identified because they are not sure how government will respond= .

Again, I would note that,= just as it applies to the area with government employees making a disclosure of wrongdoing under the whistle-blower legislation, the fact that fear exists = on the part of someone who might come forward doesn’t necessarily mean t= he person in authority would act in the way they fear could occur. So it should not cast aspersions on those officials; however, if people lack confidence = in a complaint process — the separation between their ability to complain about an inspector and the decisions that are made regarding their applicat= ions — then we have a system that does not function as effectively as it could.

As mentioned, we have a n= umber of areas where we have suggested improvements here. I would note, just in comm= ents to the Member for Whitehorse Centre, that the two sections of the motion she seemed to be confused by — the two parts of it that referred to speci= fic timelines, et cetera — are, in fact, borrowed almost verbatim from previous committees of this Legislative Assembly when they were mandated to review a specific topic, and that would be in the establishment of the all-party committees. I would note again for members that under the Yukon Party’s time in government, we actually had more all-party committees than every other Legislative Assembly combined. In each one of those terms,= we had a more collaborative approach and we had more all-party committees duri= ng our watch than every other government. I hear the Premier say, “so far” and I hope that expresses an interest in forming all-party committees and doing as we did — which was not always reaching consen= sus, but we did make a sincere attempt to do so.

As members will note, in = the area of the off-road vehicle committee and the all-party committee on anti-smoki= ng, there was a unanimous agreement reached by members across party lines on wh= at those recommendations should be. We believe that those have in fact strengthened the processes as a result of that unanimity.

We also established throu= gh a motion that I tabled during my early time as Government House Leader a moti= on to establish the all-party Standing Committee on Appointments to Major Government Boards and Committees. That was a commitment that had been made = by parties of all stripes. We were the ones who actually delivered on it and, = as members will know, that committee — to their credit, they established= it as well in this term. I would hope that the members of the government and t= he Third Party would share our view that while that committee does not always reach consensus, in fact, in many cases, it does do so. Government members during our time in government worked to take concerns from other members of= the committee and make adjustments to who was appointed on that basis, and ther= e is, in fact, often a very collegial atmosphere at that body — which by the way, as a side effect, has made it more comfortable for Yukoners to put the= ir name forward for a major government board without fear that their name will become subject of political debate.

With that, Mr. Speak= er, I will commend this motion to the House and I will encourage the government to revisit their plan to vote against this and note that if they do indeed do = so, they should be well aware that this issue is not going away. It will not go away until we are satisfied with the outcome of this situation and the systemic change made to address the concerns of Yukoners and to improve the system. =

 

Speaker: Before we have a vote here — Member for La= ke Laberge, I have one point of clarification — if you could actually re= fer to section 45(4) of the Standing Orders.

You referred to it again = in your wrap-up comments. It seems to me that 45(4) does not reference the regular = standing committees. It only references “a Special or Select Committee”.= Do you have the Standing Orders there?

Mr. Cathers: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. You are correct actually on that clause, but section 45 does allow for the amendmen= t of motions of standing committees as well.

Speaker: But I understood your submission to be that you = are relying upon that section to stand for the proposition that a regular stand= ing committee could consider — basically using that clause: “… consider any matter referred to it by the Assembly.”

Mr. Cathers: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In that ca= se, I apologize. You are correct. That section says: “a Special or Select Committee” but the Standing Orders do allow for the amendment of a mo= tion or for the referral to a standing committee of any motion. I must say that = I am actually a bit confused. I have never had this type of dialogue with a Spea= ker in 14 years at the end of debate on a motion.

Speaker: New sheriff in town, I guess. In fairness, I will explain myself. The Member for Lake Laberge said it once on a point of order and then in his final submissions he said it again. He referenced a standing committee and he asked me — I hadn’t looked at it before, and w= hen I looked at it, it does not appear to reference a standing committee. I acc= ept the position of the Member for Lake Laberge that there is other support for= his proposition somewhere else, but it doesn’t appear to be supported by = that section. I just wanted a clarification because the member did mention it tw= ice.

Mr. Cathers: I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. In this c= ase, I am assuming this is revisiting the discussion on the point of order that I had raised, but I must say that I am genuinely confused because this is hig= hly unusual in anything I have seen in 14 years for debate at the end of a moti= on.

I have concluded my remar= ks. I corrected the reference to the Standing Orders there, but I do stand by the fact that a motion would not even be allowed to be called for debate if it = were considered out of order by the Legislative Assembly staff.

 

Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?

Some Hon. Members: Division.

Division

Speaker: Division has been called.

 

Bells

 

Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.

Hon. Mr. Silver: Disagree.

Hon. Ms. McPhee: Disagree.

Hon. Mr. Pillai: Disagree.

Hon. Ms. Dendys: Disagree.

Hon. Ms. Frost: Disagree.

Mr. Gallina: Disagree.

Mr. Adel: Disagree.

Hon. Mr. Mostyn: Disagree.

Hon. Mr. Streicker: Disagree.

Mr. Hutton: Disagree.

Mr. Hassard: Agree.

Mr. Kent: Agree.

Ms. Van Bibber: Agree.

Mr. Cathers: Agree.

Ms. McLeod: Agree.

Ms. Hanson: Disagree.

Ms. White: Disagree.

Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are five yea, 12 nay= .

Speaker: The nays have it. I declare the motion defeated.=

Motion No. 78 negatived

Motion No. 15

Clerk: = Motion No. 15, standing in t= he name of Mr. Cathers.

Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for La= ke Laberge:

THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to continue to support the development of communications infrastructure in rural Yukon, including improving access to emergency serv= ices by working with the private sector to expand cellular phone coverage to peo= ple without service in rural areas including Grizzly Valley, Deep Creek, Fox La= ke, Ibex Valley, Junction 37, and Mendenhall.

 

Mr. Cathers: I’m pleased to rise today in supp= ort of this motion regarding our request. Our belief is, as the Official Opposition, that there is value in expanding the Yukon’s existing cell service network, as well as making improvements within some of the existing service areas.

As the motion refers to, we’re specifically encouraging government to work with the private se= ctor to expand cellular phone coverage to people without service in rural areas, including Grizzly Valley, Deep Creek, Fox Lake, Ibex Valley, Junction 37 and Mendenhall. I would like to apologize to the Member for Kluane and his constituents. An earlier draft of this motion also included Champagne and, through an error on my part, the final version did not, but it is also an a= rea where we believe cellphone service should be expanded, although in the inte= rest of the House’s time, we are not going to be proposing that specific amendment to the motion.

I would also note that, a= mong the service improvements we have heard from Yukoners include Yukoners from the = Mayo area, who were at the gold show last weekend and brought forward the fact t= hat they would like to see improvements to the cell tower at Stewart. That tower was put in through the support of the previous Yukon government during our = time in office. It has not been upgraded to 4G yet, so most of the phones that people have, myself included and probably including what most of the member= s of the Legislative Assembly have, when you drive through what used to be a cell service area at Stewart Crossing, the newer phones do not work because it is currently providing only the CDMA system.

I would also note, as one= of my constituents brought forward recently, there was some initial confusion abo= ut lack of service in certain parts of Ibex Valley that had recently occurred, which were apparently due to a temporary disruption in the CDMA service, bu= t I would encourage government and the private sector to continue to discuss whether that CDMA service that provides service to older phones should cont= inue to operate within rural Yukon communities and across the territory.

For those who are not fam= iliar, it should be noted that the initial cellular phone towers in the Yukon were= put in place within Whitehorse by NMI Mobility at the time. After that, it was government through a competitive tendering process for two primary reasons: one, the requirement for government to replace the MDMRS radio system that operates for government employees had led to a plan that we inherited from = the Liberal government, which would have cost upward of $80 million to exp= and and update that system across the territory. It would have served only government employees. We, through the work of a number of members around the table — I would like to specifically note that one of the most vocal members in favour of cell service at the time and expanding service to Yuko= ners was the former Member for Klondike, Mr. Peter Jenkins, who recognized = the value of ensuring that if we’re investing in communications infrastructure, we also look for the opportunity to expand to all members of the public, not just government employees.

Through the discussions a= mong the caucus and government staff of the day, that led to believing that an effec= tive way to not only address government needs but increasing service for the pub= lic was to expand cell service in areas that currently were nowhere near the population base that would be attractive for a cellphone company — NM= I or another company in that case — to make those investments on their own= . We believed that while the expansion of cellular phone service was not technic= ally part of what government is required to do, it was one of those areas where, through the Yukon government acting and working with the private sector in expanding a service that is technically something that we’re not forc= ed to do — in that case, it would have a tremendous benefit for the territory in terms of improving access to communications, improving public safety, improving communications for people in rural areas, and economic benefits as well. We believe that this decision has stood the test of time.=

It should be noted that w= hile today, Yukon communities across the territory have cellphone service and we have focused today on the handful that do not already have cell service, the fact that any of them outside Whitehorse have cell service is due to an investment by the Yukon Party during our first term in government and second term as well. Without that action, it is likely that most, if not all, of t= hose communities outside of Whitehorse would still not have cellular phone servi= ce.

Certainly the cellphone t= owers that have been expanded in my riding through the Ibex tower and the Vista t= ower — the cellphone service that is on the south side of town as well = 212; were put in through government support and at the time were nowhere near a large enough population base that cellphone service providers were interest= ed it on their own. Government then entered into a competitive tendering proce= ss. The company that was at that point referred to as “Latitude” was the successful bidder in that case and expanded cellphone service through t= he territory to most Yukon communities.

Through changes in popula= tion primarily, as well as noting gaps in service, I, along with my colleagues — especially those who represent the other communities mentioned in t= his motion — would like to see cellular phone coverage extended to the pe= ople in Grizzly Valley, Deep Creek, Fox Lake including the south Fox Lake area a= nd the northern area around there, Ibex Valley — which does have cellpho= ne service but there are gaps in that — Junction 37, Mendenhall and Champagne, which, as I mentioned, was inadvertently missed in the motion wording.

We also believe that gove= rnment working with the private sector to upgrade the Stewart tower to 4G would be beneficial, and if there are others that were not already addressed through= the 4G project that I’m missing at the moment, we, as a general rule, bel= ieve that if the private sector is not going to be acting in those areas, there = is benefit for Yukon citizens, Yukon businesses and public safety in government working with the private sector to expand cellphone service in those areas.=

I would also note that, m= oving to my riding specifically, I have heard frequently from people in Grizzly Vall= ey who are currently either without cell service, especially in the new Grizzly Valley area, and the area between the old Grizzly Valley and new, where the= re are a few residences there on farmland, those people have either no cell service or spotty cell service, and the addition of a tower in that area to provide service to as many people as possible would in fact serve a signifi= cant portion of the population because overall, through growth of the population= at Deep Creek and in the new Grizzly Valley and Grizzly Valley itself, it is n= ow probably the largest unserved community within the territory. When I speak = of economic benefits, I’m referring to the fact as well that residences = in the area and at least two of the businesses that are operating there are currently operating off satellite phones.

That comes not only at an increased cost per month, but, having used a voice over Internet protocol p= hone myself in the past, before cellphone service was in the Laberge area — the problem with calling from some voice over IP phones is that, depending = on the phone and depending on the system and who you’re calling, there are t= imes where the link-up to have someone answer actually takes long enough that the person you’re calling — especially if it’s a business or a government facility — often decides that there is nobody actually on = the line. That is not only an inconvenience in terms of people hanging up, but = if someone from a voice over IP phone with those types of issues were to call emergency services, there is a risk that they could have the call-taker act= ually hang up on them in a time of emergency because all they heard was static and they incorrectly believed there was nobody on the line.

That’s one of the r= easons why there is value to that, in my belief — in expanding cell service there to reduce the need to use satellite phones. This is another opportuni= ty that I would like to take to remind people that, with the expansion of 911 = cell service territory-wide, on many satellite phones especially — those t= hat have other area codes — 911 will either not work or will not get you = to Yukon’s call centre. Someone in fact needs to remember a longer numbe= r to dial. For most cases, the default number that will work wherever you are wi= thin the territory is the RCMP’s direct line — area code 867-667-5555 — which reaches the same call centre in the emergency response buildi= ng at the top of Two Mile Hill. While on a different line, it will reach the s= ame people who are dispatching 911 calls.

For those reasons, again,= we believe that there is benefit in this. We also hear frequently from Yukoner= s, including tourism operators, especially in rural Yukon, who would like to s= ee a consistent service along the highway system. While we recognize that the co= st of doing that overnight would be quite significant, we do believe — as the Yukon Party Official Opposition caucus — that building on the work that was done during our time in office by supporting a further expansion of cellular phone service would be beneficial.

We are encouraging govern= ment to work with the private sector to expand that service in areas, including, as= I mentioned, Grizzly Valley, Deep Creek, Fox Lake, Ibex Valley, Junction 37, Mendenhall and Champagne, as well as upgrading the 4G service in the Stewart Crossing area and anywhere else that hasn’t yet been upgraded that I = have missed mentioning.

Last but not least, there= are some gaps in service. I believe my colleague, the Member for Watson Lake, is going to refer to some gaps in service within her riding. There are certain holes within the Ibex Valley area that, even with another tower, might not = be addressed. We recognize that government and the private sector can’t necessarily provide service to every house, everywhere and address every ga= p in cellphone service, but we do believe this is an area where those past investments and past government action have seen significant benefits in improving public safety, improving convenience and also having economic benefits, both for citizens and the private sector, in the event of an emergency from someone having a health emergency, to a wildfire, a home fir= e or an urgent situation involving perhaps a criminal event, having that access = to emergency services through their cellphone does have significant benefits to them and to society as a whole.

With that, Mr. Speak= er, I will conclude my remarks. I hope to see the government support this motion = or, perhaps if they’re not willing to support it as it’s structured, propose an amendment to it. If the government does agree to support it, we recognize that — while we would like to see those improvements as soo= n as possible, we do understand the need, in working with the private sector and= the contracting system, that there might be a need to phase in some of these improvements. We do hope they recognize the value in this motion and the fa= ct that it is simply proposing the third stage of expanding cellphone service = to rural Yukoners and rural Yukon communities.

 

Hon. Mr. Pillai: My thanks to the honourable member = for this motion. Mr. Speaker, I would like to start with a quote from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities that I believe captures the essence of this issue in the north: “Connectivity is now as important as roads a= nd bridges to the sustainability of rural and remote communities… Broadb= and networks contribute to economic growth by improving productivity, providing= new products and services, supporting innovation in all sectors of the economy,= and improving access to new markets in Canada and abroad.”

Our government agrees wit= h this sentiment and we are pleased to support the development of reliable communications infrastructure in rural Yukon. We understand the importance = of reliable communications connections between our communities. We know that communities have voiced concerns over coverage and we are committed to find= ing affordable solutions that work for Yukoners.

Our government knows the importance and value of ensuring that all Yukoners have access to emergency services and proper communications infrastructure. We are pleased with the = work done by the previous government through the Department of Economic Developm= ent for the 4G expansion project. There was a total of $760,000 in funding, whi= ch began in 2014 and will continue into 2018. In 2014, Economic Development is= sued an expression of interest to telecommunications providers to determine inte= rest in providing 4G mobile service to Yukon communities. The expression of inte= rest closed on March 24, 2014, with Bell Mobility as the successful proponent. <= /p>

Currently, the department= is exploring options with Bell Mobility to enhance coverage in some of the upgraded communities, such as Faro. With support from the Yukon government, Bell Mobility is in the final year of a four-year program to upgrade wirele= ss services in all Yukon communities. This fiscal year, we are providing over $289,000, which is the last of that funding agreement, to support the final year of this program as laid out by the previous government.

I am happy to share that = these upgrades mean that fourth-generation cellular service will now be available= in all Yukon communities and would like to thank the previous government for t= heir work on this project. 4G is valuable for Yukoners, and it allows us to rece= ive higher mobile speeds and utilize the latest handsets available on the marke= t. This service is vital for connectivity and reliable connections. Currently,= 4G mobile service is available in 18 Yukon communities and locations: Dawson C= ity, Haines Junction, Marsh Lake, Watson Lake, Whitehorse, Carmacks, Teslin, Pel= ly Crossing, Burwash Landing, Mayo, Faro, Ross River, Upper Liard, Old Crow, Tagish, Beaver Creek, Ibex Valley and Takhini Hot Springs. Stewart Crossing will be the final community to be upgraded, and I am happy to say that 4G service is scheduled to be available in Stewart Crossing this fall.

The Canadian Radio-televi= sion and Telecommunications Commission — CRTC — recently made a decision that defined both fixed and wireless broadband as a basic service. Our government is pleased with this decision and we fully support it. The decis= ion also provided for a national contribution fund to help rural communities ob= tain these basic services that are on par with other Canadians. We anticipate th= at this funding may include opportunities to enhance connectivity along Yukon highways. We will continue to monitor the development of this program and l= ook for any opportunities to further invest in communications infrastructure in Yukon.

Canada is also supportive= of providing infrastructure to rural communities through their Connect to Inno= vate program. The federal program will invest $500 million by 2021 to bring high-speed Internet to rural and remote communities in Canada. This program will support new backbone infrastructure to connect institutions like schoo= ls and hospitals with a portion of funding for upgrades and last-mile infrastructure to households and businesses.

Canadians will have the opportunity to innovate and participate in our economy, democracy and way of life using new digital tools and cutting edge services like telehealth and telelearning.

Canada also notes Interne= t access serves as more than just a convenience. It is an essential means by which citizens, businesses and institutions access information, offer services and create opportunities that could otherwise be out of reach.

As I’m sure the mem= bers opposite know, in these communities, challenging geography and smaller populations present barriers to private sector investment in building opera= ting and maintaining infrastructure, oftentimes making it cost prohibitive. I believe that the member opposite — I think what the intent of the mot= ion or the portion when he spoke of private business — it was more about government. When he means working in tangent, it would be the private sector executing the work with likely financial contributions from government and = of course the private sector completing the work.

As you know — and I= think it was touched upon just by the member opposite when the motion was tabled — I think there were some gaps in the motion as the member wanted it = to read maybe after consulting with his colleagues, whether it was communities like Champagne that was left out. I know the motion identifies a number of communities where they are looking for increased infrastructure. I think th= at he alluded to the fact that the Member for Watson Lake might speak to this = and speak about other communities — I might be wrong, but I think that’s what was mentioned — and also the Member for Kluane.

There are some gaps in th= e motion — so taking that into consideration, let me try to fix the motion. Th= is is one of the reasons why I would like to put forward the motion.

 

Amendment proposed

Hon. Mr. Pillai: I move:

THAT Motion No. = ;15 be amended by deleting all the words after the phrase “rural Yukon”= ;.

 

So the amended motion wou= ld read:

THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to continue to support the development of communications infrastructure in rural Yukon.

Speaker: Are there written copies?

Hon. Mr. Pillai: Absolutely.

Speaker: Thank you. So the proposed amendment is that is = moved by the Member for Lake Laberge:

THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to continue to support the development of communications infrastructure in rural Yukon.

So full stop? That’= s it?

Hon. Mr. Pillai: Full stop.

Speaker: If the minister could please have the copies of = the amendment distributed.

The motion is in order as= to form and content.

It is moved by the Minist= er of Economic Development:

THAT Motion No. = ;15 be amended by deleting all the words after the phrase “rural Yukon”= ;.

 

Hon. Mr. Pillai: Once again, this is truly in the sp= irit of not excluding any communities. I’m glad the Member for Lake Laberge identified other communities.

As we speak about communi= ties, I will also add that I’m sure the people of Grizzly Valley, if you ask them, would say that they are a community. I’m sure people of Champag= ne would say they are a community. So we talk about these other areas we have identified in the project as the 18 communities, but all these areas of the Yukon are unique and I would think the people in those communities — I support the businesses that are in that area in Grizzly Valley, which the member spoke about. There is a fantastic community there.

Carrying on, I have just = a couple of words on the amendment. We will continue to work to improve communication services over the course of our mandate. We have talked a little bit about = this over the last couple of weeks. We know that infrastructure takes time to get done and, more importantly, to do it right, and that is our commitment to Y= ukoners.

We understand the importa= nce of working with partners to build a reliable communications network and we look forward to extending improved communications infrastructure across the territory, whether it be with our federal counterparts, First Nation govern= ments, private industry or community associations.

Just to touch on that, ev= en over the last 60 days, we have had two First Nation development corporations rea= ch out to us and want to talk about telecommunications work within that highway corridor. We continue to do research on the fibre options. As you go through that process, a whole bunch of other interesting things come to light. There has been a series of other companies that have also reached out, not so much that they would serve the purpose or fill the gap of the fibre project or t= he reliability, but there are a couple of other initiatives.

We talked about the fibre redundancy. Nanosatellites — for those who don’t know, they are small satellites, generally about one to 10 kilograms in weight, and they a= re deployed in low Earth orbit. They can be deployed as constellations of satellites that can deliver high-speed data service. We have had formal communication from at least one company looking to provide this service. In= my due diligence and research to date, how far along the work in that sector is right now — the Minister of Highways and Public Works and I have rece= ived notice and we’re looking into it. It has been a discussion, but some = of these will be interesting options in probably the not-too-distant future. <= /p>

That was a start-up communications company, Kepler Communications — which is planning the first Canadian nanosatellite system for telecommunications — and they= are partnering with Iristel — which we have heard of here before — = to provide services linking satellite services terrestrial wired as well as wireless networks. That is one option that could change the game a little b= it.

The member opposite did t= alk a little bit about voice over protocol phones and some of the challenges with that. We also have Xplornet Services and of course we have seen that advertised. Xplornet provides Internet packages over conventional satellite systems to rural Canadians. Then, of course, Ice Wireless has been in the n= ews, has a presence and continues to look at increasing their infrastructure.

There is a series of othe= r things that are happening — trying to keep pace of this. The evolution in th= is sector moves very quickly, but certainly in the spirit of working together = on this motion — the idea of what is going to happen with the CRTC ruling now that we see that the federal government is putting money in order. There seems to be an obligation for service providers to undertake the important = work of ensuring that Canadians in rural Canada have access to these services and quality consistent with other Canadians.

I would also just like to= add that the Minister of Community Services, in his role as MLA for Mount Lorne-Southern Lakes, invited Bell’s manager of real estate and government relations to attend a local advisory council’s forum. We certainly could support the Member for Lake Laberge if it was appropriate to bring together an information session, maybe at Hootalinqua or one of the s= pots in his riding. The invitation was to provide an update on cellular service — discuss options and concerns and participate in a question-answer w= ith residents. There have been some concerns with that already-existing service= I think.

The Member for Mount Lorne-Southern Lakes has continued to voice concerns to Bell, as received — good work on his behalf, and certainly we can help with those types= of meetings.

I guess, in closing, Mr.&= nbsp;Speaker, our government will continue to support the development of communications infrastructure in rural Yukon. We know that all communities matter. This infrastructure is important to support the well-being of Yukoners, help bui= ld the economies in rural Yukon, in Canada generally, but also to provide acce= ss to goods and services. We had a good example of that with those two busines= ses in the Lake Laberge riding.

 

Mr. Cathers: Being the amendment, I appreciate the positive comments from the Minister of Economic Development and Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources in terms of some of the work that has been done= to date. While we do feel that this proposed amendment waters the motion down a bit — we would have preferred to see the minister and the government propose additions to the list, rather than deleting the specific reference = to the communities and areas of Grizzly Valley, Deep Creek, Fox Lake, Ibex Val= ley, Junction 37 and Mendenhall. We also recognize the generally positive tone of the minister, and I would state that while we won’t be supporting the amendment, if the government does push it forward, which we expect will be = the case, we will still support the motion as amended. While it does remove som= e of the specific commitments we wanted to see, half of a loaf of bread and posi= tive comments about future baking opportunities is better than no loaf at all.

I do appreciate that the = Minister of Economic Development is talking about some of the other technologies. I understand and do take as sincere his view that he wants to explore some of these alternatives before making those specific commitments.

We won’t be support= ing the amendment. We would have rather seen the government come forward with some specific additions to the list. If this amendment is made, we would also ask the government to move as quickly as is reasonably possible to come up with timelines for expanding cellular phone service in some of these areas. I do recognize the generally positive tone of the comments from the minister and appreciate that, even with the change, it would commit the government to continue to support the development of communications infrastructure in rur= al Yukon. We are pleased to see that much coming from the government, even tho= ugh we would have liked to have seen the specific commitments, but understand w= here the government is coming from on that. With that I will conclude my remarks= . I believe my colleague, the Member for Watson Lake, wanted to speak on this, = but I believe she is speaking on the motion after the amendment has been dealt with. I would just conclude my remarks and express some regret about the content of the proposed amendment, but thank the Minister of Economic Development for the generally positive statements by government on this mot= ion.

Speaker: Is there any further debate on the proposed amendment?

Amendment to Motion No. 15 agreed to

 

Speaker: Is there any further debate on the main motion as amended?

 

Ms. McLeod: I am rising to speak to this motion that= was brought forward by the Member for Lake Laberge as now amended. The motion i= s in support of extending communication infrastructure to people without service= in rural areas of Yukon. We have spoken about a number of communities across t= he territory that are currently in need of cell coverage and upgrades. Ultimat= ely, we would like to see coverage extended along all highways in the Yukon and across all communities, incorporated or not.

I would like to touch on = some of the areas in my riding that I have experienced concerns with first-hand and through my constituents. Junction 37, for those who don’t know, is the area where the Alaska Highway meets the Stewart-Cassiar Highway. In this ar= ea, there are businesses that cater to the tourism sector, long-time residents = and, of course, the travelling public. The residents and business owners of Junc= tion 37, along with those in Watson Lake, have been advocating for a cell tower = for that area for quite a number of years. While I know that Junction 37 has be= en removed from the motion — strictly speaking — what I don’t know is whether or not the government would consider Junction 37 a communit= y as has been referenced by the minister. I am hoping that Junction 37 will cont= inue to be included in these discussions and that perhaps later in this debate, = the minister can commit to this inclusion.

Watson Lake itself has so= me spotty cell service and could also use some upgrades to ensure no breaks in service, particularly between the airport and town where service is often interrupted.

I raise the issue of my r= iding first and foremost because not only is uninterrupted service a concern to my constituents, but to the travelling public, who, upon entering Yukon, are enthusiastic to get back within cell range, only to find out that as soon as you hit the town border, you are out of service.

There are a lot of long s= tretches on the highway across Yukon with no coverage at all and long stretches wher= e a person may be stranded. A few years ago, I came upon a serious vehicle acci= dent and had to flag down motorists for some time before I found one who had a s= at phone so that we could phone an ambulance — my thanks to the travelli= ng public who will still stop for someone waving their arms at the side of the road, because that’s getting rare indeed.

This might not have been = an issue 20 years ago, but then the territory was also much different, and while the= re may have been the same likelihood of accidents and the requirement for emergency services, there is now a reliance that the public has developed on their mobile devices. We have lived in a world of technology for a number of years and tourists driving north from other provinces or from the lower 48 = are not necessarily used to experiencing breaks in cell service. They rely on t= heir phones for directions, for keeping in touch, and most importantly for safety and emergency purposes.

I think it’s import= ant to ensure that, since the technology is available, it’s accessible to al= l. I was speaking with my colleague, the Member for Kluane, and he has touched u= pon the lack of coverage in residential areas in his riding, such as Champagne, Takhini and Mendenhall. There are long-established, well-populated communit= ies that have never had coverage. Residents have cellphones but no ability to actual= ly use them without travelling long distances to get that service. There are a number of other areas in the Kluane riding that have poor or no coverage — Sheep Mountain with the Arctic Institute, local businesses and residents and the Parks Canada sheep-viewing facility.

There are a number of cam= pgrounds in the area and throughout Yukon with extreme bear activity that would bene= fit greatly from having the assurance of cell coverage for safety concerns and,= I might add, just for personal safety in campgrounds, because there is no con= trol over who is using those campgrounds and how safe a person might be within t= hem.

I would like to add that = the expansion of cell service in every community outside the Whitehorse area, of course, was possible because of the investment by the Yukon Party governmen= t. Cell towers were simply not seen as economical for the communities, because= the population base is low. Rural Yukon has appreciated and enjoyed the investm= ent and I’m quite happy to hear today that this Liberal government is goi= ng to continue with those investments in rural Yukon and its people. It’s certainly important for the benefit of public safety, for convenience and f= or economic benefit, and it is well worth doing.

Thank you to the Member f= or Lake Laberge for bringing this forward and to the Liberal government for continu= ing to support the expansion of services in all of Yukon. With that, I thank yo= u, Mr. Speaker.

 

Speaker: Is there any further debate on the main motion as amended?

If the member now speaks,= he will close debate.

Does any other member wis= h to be heard at this time?

 

Mr. Cathers: I would just thank the Minister of Econ= omic Development on behalf of the government for committing to continue to suppo= rt the development of communications infrastructure in rural Yukon. As noted, = we would have preferred the specific amendments included within this to expand cell service, but we do appreciate the generally positive comments. In wrap= ping up my comments, I would just ask the government to work as quickly as it ca= n to provide people in the area with a timeline on when those improvements will occur. It is something that I hear frequently from constituents, especially from the Grizzly Valley area and in Ibex — about their concerns. I kn= ow a number of my colleagues, including the Member for Watson Lake and the Member for Kluane, hear frequently from constituents about cell service as well, s= o I would just make that request in conclusion. I thank the government for supporting the principle of the motion, if not all of the original content.=

 

Speaker: Thank you. Are you prepared for the question?

Some Hon. Members: Division.

Division

Speaker: Division has been called.

 

Bells

 

Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.

Hon. Mr. Silver: Agree.

Hon. Ms. McPhee: Agree.

Hon. Mr. Pillai: Agree.

Hon. Ms. Dendys: Agree.

Hon. Ms. Frost: Agree.

Mr. Gallina: Agree.

Mr. Adel: Agree.

Hon. Mr. Mostyn: Agree.

Hon. Mr. Streicker: Agree.

Mr. Hutton: Agree.

Mr. Kent: Agree.

Ms. Van Bibber: Agree.

Mr. Cathers: Agree.

Ms. McLeod: Agree.

Ms. Hanson: Agree.

Ms. White: Agree.

Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 16 yea, nil nay.=

Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.<= /p>

Motion No. 15, as amended, agreed to

 

Speaker: Do we have one final motion for today?

Motion = ;No. 79

Clerk: Motion No. 79, standing in the name of M= s. White.

Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Takhini-Kopper Kin= g:

THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to act on distracted driving by:

(1) reviewing current pen= alties in the Motor Vehicles Act= ;

(2) reviewing and comparing penalties in other jurisdictions across Canada for distracted driving; and

(3) considering strengthe= ning the Motor Vehicles Act by increasing the fines and penalties for drivers= who put themselves and others at risk by driving while texting or talking on th= eir phones.

 

Ms. White: I think this is an issue that, in this day and age, becomes more and more topical. I don’t think that I really n= eed to explain what distracted driving is because we see it every day — e= very time we’re in the car, every time we’re in traffic and every ti= me we might just be out walking on the sidewalks.

It’s challenging be= cause presumably intelligent adults continue to drive on our streets and highways= and in our communities while talking and texting on cellphones, while having animals on their laps, while steering cars with their knees, and I’ve seen people applying makeup.

In my riding of Takhini-K= opper King, I have Range Road, which goes through Takhini North, Takhini East and Takhini West, and it also goes through a school zone. I have seen people dr= ive in the bike lane while talking on cellphones, I have seen them drive through crosswalks where kids are waiting. I have seen people run red lights while talking on cellphones, and I think we have all seen the people who try to pretend like they’re not talking on cellphones while they hold their hands up against their ear. We have seen people at stoplights who are looki= ng down to the crotch of their pants while not paying attention when the lights change.

This is far more common t= han it used to be. The problem is that we know that distracted driving kills. We s= ee it on social media, we see it in news headlines, and we don’t just se= e it in Canada — we see it worldwide. In this day and age, there’s j= ust no excuse for it. Drivers who text are 23 times more likely to be involved = in a crash or near-crash event compared with the non-distracted drivers. We know that checking a text for five seconds at 90 kilometres an hour is like you = have travelled the length of a football field blindfolded, and none of us can imagine doing that on purpose.

Nearly 20 percent of all = car crashes involve phone use. Interestingly enough, that includes hands-free p= hone use, and that’s from the National Safety Council. Estimates indicate drivers using phones look at but fail to see up to 50 percent of the information in their driving environment, and that’s also from the National Safety Council. Distraction was a factor in nearly six out of 10 moderate to severe teen crashes. It’s sad that we know that a lot of those include fatalities.

Mr. Speaker, I could= go on and on about the issue, and I’m sure everyone has stories that are a = bit humorous because no one was injured but are shocking in the fact that it actually happens. Across Canada, there are a range of different consequence= s. First-time fines range from $80 in Quebec to $543 in British Columbia. Terr= itories and provinces also use demerit points and the cost increases with subsequent offences.

To give members an idea, = in British Columbia the first offence is $543, a second offence is $888, and t= hey have demerit point deductions. In Alberta the fine is $287, Saskatchewan is $280, Manitoba is $200.

In Ontario, it ranges fro= m $490 to $1000; Quebec is the lowest in the country with between $80 and $100; Newfoundland and Labrador is $100 to $400; Prince Edward Island is between = $500 and $1200; in Nova Scotia they have a three-tiered system, so the first off= ence is $233, the second is $348 and after that it goes up to $578; New Brunswic= k is $172; in Yukon, our cost for distracted driving is $250; Northwest Territor= ies is $322 to $644; and I’m not sure that Nunavut has legislation in pla= ce.

It’s important to n= ote, that in Yukon our fine is $250 and the loss of three demerit points, but we= do not increase that fine with subsequent convictions and there is no “t= hree strikes and you’re out” rule in Yukon. I think some jurisdictio= ns are considering that now. We do have a tier system when it comes to drinking and driving. With enough offences you are then found to be unsafe to operat= e a motor vehicle, and I think that’s something that we can consider with= distracted driving.

We also recognize that new drivers, or those in the graduated driver’s licensing program, are not allowed to use any handheld devices with the capability of talking, texting= or emailing and they’re also not allowed to use any hands-free devices w= hile driving. That’s really important, but we also know that’s not b= eing enforced, because we’ve all seen people with a learner plate on the b= ack of a car texting while at stop lights or talking on phones while driving. Although we have the rules and regulations in place, maybe the enforcement needs to be bumped up.

For those graduated driver’s licences, if someone is found to be breaking that distracted driving rule, they will lose all their hours of driving experience that they have earned up to that point and they’ll have to re-start the program= . If you are a couple hundred hours in, that is going to have consequence. Is it enough consequence to learn the lesson? I hope so — I really hope it = is.

I have a constituent in m= y riding whose daughter was killed in a distracted driving incident a number of years ago and through his lobbying, we have changed different pieces of legislati= on to help grieving families in situations. This one is near and dear to his heart, to the point that when his family drives around in their mini-van, t= he passenger has a camera and they take pictures of distracted drivers.

I know myself that I have= at times been in the car and wish I had the ability to take a photo of what was happening next to me, but then that would also make me a distracted driver.= I can understand why, in RCMP vehicles, they sometimes have the dashboard cameras.

We hope that this motion = is easily supported. What we’re asking for in the motion is for a review= of our current legislation around distracted driving. The addition of fines for distracted driving was done in 2011 and I would like to point out that cellphone technology has changed a lot since 2011, as has people’s ac= cess to phones. In 2011, the number of cellphones and electronic devices was probably less in use than they are now. Knowing that it has been six years since this happened, lots of things have changed.

There is good stuff happe= ning in other jurisdictions. We think some jurisdictions would rather not lower the fine that we have now. I think it would be good to look at whether we could= go to multi-tiered penalties that we have seen — especially in Nova Scot= ia. I know that, having gotten a speeding ticket in British Columbia, I never s= ped on the Coquihalla again because it was of enough consequence — $250 i= s a consequence, but is it enough of a consequence knowing that we have had incidents at crosswalks where pedestrians have been hit. We know that vehic= les have been hit by distracted drivers.

I look forward to hearing= other people’s thoughts on this. I look forward to — hopefully —= ; a successful resolution on the motion.

 

Hon. Mr. Mostyn: Cellphones and other electronic giz= mos have become ubiquitous. They are captivating. We all know this. We have seen first-hand how phenomenal they are at capturing our attention, at pulling us in, and we all know why. They are a lifeline to our loved ones, they are a conduit to our friends, a window to those things that most interest us. They chime, whirr, beep, ding and trumpet at us every day and, if we are not disciplined, they will pull our eyes from the road for a second — one second. That is a sliver of time — a fragment — an insignificant amount of time of our precious lives, but that second is more than enough to end a life. We know this because, in this nation, it happens a lot — = far too often. Two modern devices — cars and cellphones — have prov= ed to be a fatal mix of technology. Combined with a car, the distraction of a cellphone is often calamitous. Why? Well, look across this floor.

Currently I’m rough= ly 14 metres from the leaders of the Official Opposition and the Third Party. It seems like a long way, some days longer than others. At 50 kilometres an ho= ur, I could cover that distance in one second. That’s how far you will go= in that one second, once you’ve looked away from the road to your phone. It’s not an insignificant distance and it represents a significant da= nger — a danger to you, a danger to the driver, to the next driver before = you or in the oncoming lane, a danger to mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, fam= ily and friends, neighbours, dogs — a danger to everything and everyone around you. That one second of distraction will change a life — has changed lives, many of them.

Fatalities from distracted driving have surpassed those from drinking and driving. Today 25 percent of every collision in Canada results from distracted driving — one in fo= ur according to the Traffic Injury Research Foundation.

When it comes to distract= ed driving, the Yukon is not special — not special at all. This cuts several ways. The territory has seen tragedies from distracted driving, and we have no re= ason to believe that one in every four traffic accidents stems from a glance away from the wheel.

The territory is also not= special when it comes to penalties for distracted driving. In this one area, the territory is very similar to the provinces. If you’re discovered driv= ing while distracted — be it looking at a cellphone or applying makeup — you face a $288 fine and three demerits. That legislation was implemented in 2011. It puts the Yukon squarely in the middle of the pack, compared to other provinces and territories. Last year, 117 Yukoners were assessed such a penalty.

Even as the territory is = not special when it comes to distracted driving penalties, it is special in oth= er ways. On the campaign trail last autumn, I heard again and again about how grossly out of date some of our other Motor Vehicles Act penalties are. Police and civil servants lamented how low = our fines were for speeding, for example. In this and how low the fines are in = some areas, we are lagging other jurisdictions. Speed is significant, Mr. S= peaker. Why? It is because speed exacerbates the pervasive danger of distracted dri= ving. If you’re going 80 kilometres an hour in a 50 zone, the fine is, for many, negligible. At that speed, in one second, in that one glance, you will travel 22 metres — 22 metres is a great distance. A lot can happen in= 22 metres. A lot can happen in one second.

In tandem with distracted driving, speed is an exponential danger. Fines are one tool in our box of tricks to encourage a change in behaviour — so is public education ge= ared at changing behaviour — to get us to pull over to read the text or to make that phone call, instead of doing it behind the wheel. Educating peopl= e to change their behaviour takes time and it takes effort, and that’s necessary. It’s where society needs to go. We need to do better.

Better than one accident = in four is caused by distracted driving. How do we do it? This is the question this motion niggles at. It calls for a review of penalties in the Motor Vehicles Act. This governmen= t is in favour of that. It calls for a consideration of strengthening the Motor Vehicles Act by increasing f= ines for distracted driving. This government is willing to consider that.

There are many other impr= ovements and other refinements. These devices are still not even 10 years old in many cases. This is a new phenomena. We are adapting to these marvels that ding = and whirr and relentlessly pull at our attention.

All jurisdictions are str= uggling with this same problem. We will work with these other provinces and territo= ries to gather more information, data, approaches and tools to encourage our citizens to keep their eyes on the road and to keep their eyes off their electronic devices. A second is a long time, Mr. Speaker; it can change lives. It could change your life or the life of someone you love. We would = all do well to remember that the next time our phone chirps at us while we driv= e. We would do well to remember it every day.

Introduction= of Visitors

Speaker: Just briefly, before he leaves, I know I have a number of notes from a number of members who wish to acknowledge that our mayor, Mr. Dan Curtis, is present. Thank you for attending the Assembly today.

Applause

 

Speaker: Minister of Highways and Public Works, thank you= for your indulgence.

Hon. Mr. Mostyn: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I̵= 7;m all done.

 

Speaker: Is there any further debate on this motion?

 

Ms. McLeod: Although on the blush of it, I guess this motion seems kind of simple and innocuous, but I think it goes a little bit further than that. I think it goes to maybe having a definition of what distracted driving is. I think it deserves a much fuller discussion.

Motion to a= djourn debate

Ms. McLeod: On that note, Mr. Speaker, I move t= hat we adjourn debate.

 

Speaker: It has been moved by Ms. McLeod that debate= be adjourned. Are you prepared for the question?

Ms. White: Mr. Speaker, I would request that we have the ability to vote on this prior to the end of the day.

Speaker: The motion to adjourn debate is in order —= so question on the motion to adjourn debate.

Some Hon. Members: Disagree.

Some Hon. Members: Agree.

Speaker: In my opinion, the nays have it.

Motion to adjourn debate negatived

 

Speaker: Is there any further debate on the motion?

Mr. Cathers: Again, as my colleague, the Member for Watson Lake, was noting, this is a significant issue here that deserves discussion. Since it’s extremely rare in the Assembly’s history that we get to a fourth motion in line, a number of my colleagues were not fully prepared to discuss this motion. Usually the Legislative Assembly, on Wednesday, gets to somewhere between one to two motions, and very occasiona= lly three, so we were anticipating that this one would not have discussion. Aga= in, what I want to note in this area is that there are also some studies that h= ave shown that some of the legislation about distracted driving may have actual= ly had unintended consequences by causing people to hold cellphones lower. It = has not necessarily changed the texting behaviour, but it has resulted in them hiding it, thus becoming an even worse hazard on the road. What we are encouraging here is that there should be a fulsome discussion of various evidence at the time, as well as, prior to moving forward with any specific areas in changing penalties in the = Motor Vehicles Act, we think that considering the viewpoints of Yukoners is important. We understand that the Liberal government is desperate for more = ways to tax Yukoners and raise fines —

Speaker: Member for Lake Laberge, thank you.

The time being just past = 5:30 p.m., this House is now adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.

Debate on Motion No. 79 accordingly adjourned<= /i>

 

The House adjourned at 5:30 p.m.

 

 

 

 

The following legislative returns were tabled May 24, 2017:

 

34-2-18

Response to oral question= from Ms. Van Bibber re: Carmacks recreation infrastructure (Streicker)

 

34-2-19

Response to Written Quest= ion No. 14 re: proposed highway improvements at the Carcross Cut-off (Mostyn)

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<= !--[if supportFields]> PAGE 606            =             &nb= sp;            =             &nb= sp;            =           HANSARD        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;  May 24, 2017

M= ay 24, 2017      &nb= sp;            =             &nb= sp;            =              HANSARD        &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;            &= nbsp;           &nbs= p;    605

 

 

 

 

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