Question re: Mining legislation - Bill 66 - December 16, 2013

Hansard, December 16, 2013

Mr. Silver: I have a question for the Premier. As we begin the final week of the fall sitting, it is becoming very obvious that the government does not want to debate Bill No. 66, legislation to make several changes to the Yukon mining legislation. There are four days left and the only place so far where we’ve had an opportunity to ask direct questions about this bill is here in Question Period.

One day last week the minister responsible for the legislation made introductory remarks and then shut down debate on the bill before members of the opposition were allowed to ask questions. Now, we know the legislation is not supported by either the mining industry or the First Nations, and the government, instead of being open and accountable, is playing hide-and-seek with this important bill.

Mr. Speaker, why is the government ducking debate on this bill?

Hon. Mr. Kent: Just to clarify one of the things the member opposite said, we did get into introductory remarks in Committee of the Whole on Bill No. 66 last week. I adjourned debate at 3:15 p.m. to welcome officials from the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation. It wasn’t that long ago, Mr. Speaker. I would have anticipated he wouldn’t have forgotten that already.

When it comes to Bill No. 66 and the work that we have to complete this week, I am encouraged by the progress that we’re making through Committee of the Whole with the remaining departments, and I look forward to debating Bill No. 66 through Committee of the Whole before the House rises on Thursday of this week.

Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, this is day 25 of a 28-day sitting. There has not been a single opportunity to ask questions, other than in Question Period, because the government won’t call Bill No. 66 for debate.

At this time of the year last year, the Yukon Party government brought forth another resource bill that was unpopular when it made changes to the Oil and Gas Act. They didn’t allow questions on that bill either.

The government has a bad habit of refusing to debate important bills that it doesn’t want to defend and using their majority to pass them through this House. Mr. Speaker, I would like the opportunity to ask questions and to get some answers on Bill No. 66. When will the government allow this to happen?

Hon. Mr. Kent: Business of the House for today is to debate in Committee of the Whole Bill No. 11, Second Appropriation Act, 2013-14. We have four departments called — Education; Environment; Energy, Mines and Resources; and Executive Council Office. We’re anticipating that the opposition will endeavour to ask their questions in a timely manner. This isn’t just a one-sided affair. The government answers questions that are asked by the opposition.

With regard to Bill No. 66, the member opposite has selective memory when it comes to this piece of legislation. We went through second reading. That was an opportunity for opposition members to put forward their feelings with respect to the bill. The Member for Klondike, earlier on in this session in Question Period, indicated that he had already made up his mind prior to even receiving a briefing on the legislation.

With respect to Bill No. 66, we have four days left in this sitting for House business. I would anticipate, if we’re able to get through other business of the House, we will be calling this bill for Committee of the Whole, something that has already started and started last Tuesday.

Mr. Silver: I’m glad that the minister is confident that we will actually have active debate in this House on this very important bill. I have lots of questions regarding the changes that the government is making to Yukon mining legislation — so do miners and so do First Nation governments. We know that there was little consultation with anyone before the bill was written. We know that the government decided not to share the bill with anyone before tabling it in the House. We know that both industry and First Nations are unhappy with the way this government has handled the entire episode. We know that the bill goes well beyond implementing a single court decision and that it contains new provisions to address land use planning issues.

When will Bill No. 66 be called for debate?

Hon. Mr. Kent: This gives me an opportunity to go through some of the issues around Bill No. 66 and where it arrived from. This is stemming from the court case last December between the Yukon government and the Ross River Dena Council.

There were two declarations made in that court case, one of which we decided to accept and one of which we decided to appeal. The one that we decided to accept has led to the changes that are before this House to the Quartz Mining Act and the Placer Mining Act to the class 1 notifications that are required for First Nations before class 1 exploration activity can take place. There has been consultation that was conducted through June and July of this year, as well as additional work done in August, September and October through the development of the legislation and the regulations.

There is a substantial amount of business left before the House — important questions on Education that I’m sure the Member for Klondike would like to ask, important questions left on Environment and important questions left on Energy, Mines and Resources.

When it comes to the speed of debate and how we are able to deal with different departments and different bills, our expectation on this side of the House is that we conduct our business in a timely manner but the members opposite have to remember that, too. One only has to remember the three-and-a-half-hour economic action plan put forward by the NDP one Wednesday afternoon.