Tuesday, April 5, 1988 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have for tabling the Yukon Economic Strategy.
Speaker: Reports of committees?
Introduction of bills?
Notice of motion for the production of papers?
Notices of motion?
Statements by Ministers?
1988 Heavy Equipment Operator Training Program
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is with great pleasure that I rise today to inform my hon. colleagues of the 1988 Heavy Equipment Operator Training Program developed jointly by the Departments of Education and Community and Transportation Services.
This pilot program was developed in response to an identified need to explore innovative approaches to furthering education and employment opportunities for Yukon people. Past discussions between officials of the Department of Community and Transportation Services and some members of the contracting industry further identified a shortage of qualified heavy equipment operators in various Yukon communities.
It is the policy of the government to undertake innovative measures in order to meet the training needs of Yukon people in all communities.
This program is designed to train individuals as entry level heavy equipment operators and consists of two stages: a ten week instruction course at Keyano College, Alberta in April 1988, comprised of four weeks of theoretical, classroom instruction and six weeks of hands-on, practical training on compactors, scrapers, bulldozers and motor graders; and five to eight weeks of work experience and additional training through employment with a road construction contractor working on a road project in the vicinity of Carmacks.
Concern over the chronically high unemployment rate in many Yukon communities prompted the decision to initiate this pilot training/work experience project near Carmacks.
Selection of the Freegold Road as the preferred site for the additional work experience component of the program was based on several factors, including its close proximity to the Village of Carmacks. Trainees will be able to commute to and from the village and the work site, thereby reducing room and board costs. Other factors which contributed to the Freegold Road site selection were: its off-highway location; the appropriate construction contract size; and the variety of terrain conditions present in the area.
Participants who successfully complete stage one of the program will be granted a recognized certificate of competence by Keyano College as an entry level heavy equipment operator. This accomplishment, coupled with work experience and additional training, will further the individuals opportunities for employment on future construction projects in the Carmacks area, and in particular, for the significant reconstruction projects that will be upcoming in the next several years on the Campbell Highway.
Should this pilot program prove successful, I anticipate that similar programs may be initiated in other Yukon communities in future years, predicated on residents employment and training needs and the fit to capital projects undertaking. I extend my congratulations to the five individuals who will be participating in this initiative and look forward to hearing of their progress throughout the programs duration.
Mr. McLachlan: I believe we will be saying more about this program during debate of tomorrows motion. I would also like to take the opportunity to give a little bit of credit to the village council and the Carmacks/Little Salmon Indian Band, who were also instrumental in requesting Community and Transportation Services to design the program.
One factor that is not apparent from the Ministerial Statement, but seems to be a perception in the Village of Carmacks, is what the Minister has referred to as preferred work with a heavy equipment contractor in the area. There seems to be some feeling that it is the government that intends to construct the first 10 kilometres of this road, and it will be easy for the individuals to get work with the government, but they may be left in the lurch beyond that.
Does the Minister have any comment about who is doing the work?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In response to the Member for Faros concern that the construction program for the Freegold Road may not provide ongoing work for persons who may be trained through this program, I should remind the Member that that is true of a lot of construction projects that the government undertakes from time to time in various areas. It is very apparent in the Carmacks area, and around the territory. Hopefully, if the program proves successful, the government could move to other areas. In the Carmacks area, it is apparent that there are some people who suffer from chronic high unemployment and are in need of a training program that not only provides certifiable results, but also provides the necessary work experience that would allow them more credibility as operators with private contractors.
It is the marketable skills that they will inherit from this program through their hard work and initiative, and they will be able to carry that work experience and the training that they acquire through this program to other endeavours.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre/Blasdell suicide
Mr. Phelps: I have a few questions that arise from what appears to be front page news right now, and what appears to be a deplorable situation at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. In particular, I want to ask about the inquest that was held in February with regard to the suicide of one Mr. Blasdell in December of last year.
The articles in the paper and on the radio indicate that two people have quit the Correctional Centre and have contradicted the evidence given at the inquest by senior officials at the jail. I wonder if the Minister could explain these discrepancies to us?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I read those articles myself with interest. The inquest was unremarkable as to its procedure. As the Member knows, the RCMP do an investigation, and the Crown Attorney conducts the inquest. I am informed that the two individuals who resigned were put on a list of people to interview for the RCMP as both individuals could have evidence to reveal to the RCMP. I am unaware at this moment if the RCMP actually interviewed those two individuals, but they were not called at the inquest. If the evidence that they may have is contradictory to evidence that was heard at the inquest, it is obvious that the inquest ought to be reopened to resolve that matter.
Mr. Phelps: Was it the Ministers department that prepared the list of people to be interviewed by the RCMP?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: Yes. The corrections managers prepared a list of individuals. Those two individuals were on that list. I am not aware of the precise conduct of the RCMP today.
Mr. Phelps: Does a copy of that list exist? Does the Minister have a copy of that list?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I do not have a copy of the list, but the list included all individuals who were on duty.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre/Blasdell suicide
Mr. Phelps: Can the Minister advise us whether or not officials in his department, particularly from the correctional institute, made any recommendations to the Crown Attorney with regard to who should be called to testify at the inquest?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I am specifically unaware. The normal course of events is that the RCMP conduct an inquiry at their discretion. I have no reason whatsoever to believe that that did not occur in this instance.
Mr. Phelps: Could the Minister look into that aspect of the unfortunate situation that we are faced with and find out whether or not senior officials did make any recommendations to the Crown Prosecutor?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: Yes.
Mr. Phelps: Would the Minister also examine records and see whether or not there is anything in writing to substantiate the claim, made by one of the officials at the inquest, namely, that Blasdells cell was stripped of dangerous objects because Blasdell had thrown objects at prison guards?
Could he look into that and tell us if there is anything in writing that substantiates that remark?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: It is my recollection of evidence that that did occur at the inquest and was, in fact, made public at the inquest. In any event, I will check into that. There may be a confusion here as to what kind of searches or removals are necessary and it is my recollection that there was information at the inquest that there was a removal of razor blades and pens and the like, because of a potential danger to others, but no removal of materials because of a potential suicide risk.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre/Blasdell suicide
Mr. Phelps: I want to clarify what I was asking: whether or not there is anything in writing in the records at the institute that would support the statement that Blasdell had been throwing things at the guards, previous to the exercise of taking out the razor blades and other items.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I believe, in fact, that there is, and I believe that it was revealed at the inquest and has already been publicized.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre/Blasdell suicide
Mr. McLachlan: I first brought this matter up last December 17, when the incident happened, because I happened to know the young man when he went to high school in Faro in the 1970s, and certainly at this point my sympathies have to go out to the mother, who must now relive the whole incident again, and, quite possibly, with the knowledge that the suicide could have been prevented.
I want to ask the Minister if it is indeed a fact in this case that one or both of the two prison officials who have tendered their resignations were in fact told to remove all objects from the mans cell that could harm him. Is that a fact?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: To my knowledge that is not a fact. However, the proper procedure here is governed by statute. There has been an inquest. The police did the investigation and the Crown Attorney did conduct the inquest. If there is now revealed contradictory information or, indeed, information that the coroners jury should have had but did not have, it will certainly be my position that the inquest ought to be reopened to consider all possible information.
Mr. McLachlan: The Minister said on December 17, No alarming symptoms of immediate suicidal fear were evident about this person. Last week in Question Period the Minister also said that it is interesting to note that in this case the individual involved did receive psychological counsel. Those two facts are contradictory. Obviously officials knew that there was something in disarray about the individuals mental state if he was undergoing psychological counselling. Is that also a factor?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: Those two statements are not contradictory at all. As a matter of fact, they are complementary. It is the case of a little knowledge being dangerous, in that this particular case. I believe it was the day after the suicide that I personally phoned the psychologist, Pat Kehoe, who saw the deceased, I believe, a day before the suicide. I specifically asked him those questions and he answered them. I relayed that information to the House.
I am also aware, and am positive of this, that the psychologist was called at the inquest and was questioned about exactly that issue and responded in the hearing of the jury, and the jury made a finding.
Mr. McLachlan: If there is nothing contradictory about the facts so far presented or answered by the Minister, can the Minister then advise the Legislature why the individual prison guards were dissuaded by supervisory staff at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre from going to the press with their story?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I do not accept premises that people were dissuaded from talking to the media about the Blasdell inquiry. If that is the case, I will find out about it, but I do not believe that it was the case. If there is contradictory information, it will come forward, I hope.
There certainly was a conversation with one of these individuals, not about the coroners inquest and the suicide, but about a complaint to the Commission on Human Rights. There was a conversation about the individuals interest in making public a complaint before the investigation was carried out.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre/young offenders
Mr. Phillips: I would also like to ask some questions about the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, but I would like to change the focus to the question of the young offender incident.
On Thursday last, I asked the Minister of Health and Human Resources whether or not we keep young offenders separate from adult offenders in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. The Minister answered, There are certain circumstances that force us to put those young offenders in the adult jail. They are definitely kept away from adult offenders.
Can the Minister tell this House why, on February 4, 1988, a 14 year old young offender was placed in the same area, less than four feet away, from an adult sexual offender and another adult who was convicted of arson? This youth was in that area for over 24 hours. These adults and this youth were seen communicating together. Why is the Minister allowing this to happen?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I should properly answer that. The facts as alleged in the question are not accurate. There was a young offender housed at the jail, perfectly legally pursuant to, among other things, section 7(2) of the Young Offenders Act. That person was kept separate, and it is not accurate to say that that young offender was there for over 24 hours. It is not accurate to say that that person was next door to a sexual offender. I am informed that those are not accurate statements.
Mr. Phillips: For the information of the Minister involved, they were placed in the same cell area. In fact, the young offender was in Segregation 1A. The person who was eventually charged with arson was in Segregation 1B. The person who was eventually convicted of sexual offences was in Segregation 2. They were both in the same area, within four feet of one another. The youth was put there on February 4 and released on February 5: 24 hours. I have my facts; the Minister should check his.
I want to ask the Minister of Health and Human Resources: Whose responsibility is it to ensure that these young offenders are kept separate from adult offenders? How many other young offenders have been placed in a similar situation over the past year?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: The facts as alleged by the Member opposite are not inconsistent with the facts as I have stated them.
The ultimate authority is the Cabinets. Under the previous Conservative government, the Cabinet designated the correctional centre as a place to hold young offenders under certain circumstances and certain conditions.
Mr. Phillips: This is very frustrating. I asked a question of the Minister responsible for young offenders, the Minister of Health and Human Resources, who is supposed to be a caring Minister. It is she who is putting these young offenders ...
Speaker: Order, please. Would the Member get to his supplementary question.
Mr. Phillips: Does the Minister of Health and Human Resources know that by placing young offenders in this situation, she is breaking the law?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: It is inaccurate to say that the Minister placed the individual in the correctional centre. It is my information that it was the judge, not the Minister. It is not accurate to say that the law is being broken.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre/young offenders
Mr. Phillips: It is the responsibility of both those Ministers to ensure that the Young Offenders Act is carried out. They have not been doing that.
Did a youth court judge authorize the placing of the 14 year old young offender next to a sexual offender and an accused arsonist?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: The person in question was placed in the correctional centre by order of the judge under section 7(2) of the Young Offenders Act. That act does not stipulate that they must be kept separate, so there was no violation. However, they were separate. They were not in the same cell, they were not sleeping in the same cell. They were not even in the same room. They were kept separate, even though it is not stated in the act that they must be in separate cells. In this case, they were separate.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to know if the Minister is condoning the actions of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre to put this youth in this particular cell? Is she condoning those actions? Does she think that is a proper place to put a youth, and is she condoning it?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: Whether I condone an action like that or not has nothing to do with what is happening here. The young person was ordered into the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and I cannot tell a judge what to do.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to ask the Minister of Justice if he would again look at the Young Offenders Act, in section 17(3), where it says that young offenders are not supposed to be placed with adult offenders, and if he would carry out section 7(7) of the Young Offenders Act that says if somebody fails to comply with that subsection then they are guilty of a punishable offence or a summary conviction. Will he investigate the matter and report back to the House?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: What is occurring is that the Member opposite is firing without first taking aim. The situation here is caused by the fact that the previous government authorized the keeping of young offenders in segregation at the correctional centre. Now that policy is continuing. The particular young offender was placed there on order of a judge and the order of the judge was carried out. If there is any illegal act, it will be investigated by the police. In this case there is no evidence of any action contrary to either the Criminal Code or the Young Offenders Act.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre/young offenders
Mr. Lang: Certain statements being made today concern me because they are not consistent with answers given on Thursday. I want to refresh the Minister of Health and Human Resources memory. Last Thursday in answer to a question from the Member for Riverdale North with respect to whether young offenders were placed in an adult institution and if they were kept apart the Minister responded, There are certain circumstances that force us to put these young offenders in an adult jail. They are definitely kept away from adult offenders.
We have in one cell an adult individual charged with certain sexual offences. We have a 14 year old youth offender put in the next cell for 24 hours. In the next cell we also have an alleged arsonist. Why did she inform us on Thursday that young offenders were put nowhere close to adult offenders when we are provided with this information today? Could the Minister inform the public and the people involved why there is this obvious change in policy in four days?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: There has not been a change in policy. There are different circumstances under which some of our young offenders go into the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. There are certain sections under the Young Offenders Act that may occur as a result of that. The Member was not specific in the question that he asked. He did not state what instance he was talking about. He asked me if they were separated. I said that they were. My information, at the time, was that our young offenders were kept separate from other offenders. That was the information I had at the time.
In checking, I found out that they were not far apart, that they were right next door. They were still separate. They were not in the same room as the adult offenders.
Mr. Lang: I am sure glad that they were not in the same cell.
Could the Minister inform the House and the public what steps she took, as of this morning, to ensure that this does not happen again?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: If anything occurs at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre regarding our young offenders, and we find that they are not complying with the Young Offenders Act or any other act, we will certainly look at the possibility of improving the circumstances.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre/young offenders
Mrs. Firth: I would like to follow up on the questions that the Member for Riverdale North started with the Minister of Health and Human Resources regarding the young offenders.
I am looking at Hansard for April, 1984 when the Minister was the critic for young offenders incarceration. She was very adamant that young offenders not be placed with adults and that they have special guards. She questioned the government at great lengths about their plan to accommodate the young offenders at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
This Minister has been the Minister for three years. We still have no secure young offenders facility. We are still not going to have one for a while from the looks of things. What plan is in place to see that this kind of situation does not happen again?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: I cannot make any commitments regarding that. There are different circumstances that allow a young offender to be placed in other than a young offenders facility. That will still be the case even though we have a young offenders facility. It happens in all other jurisdictions in Canada where they are not in a position to put them in a young offenders facility. I cannot make a commitment that that will never happen again. I cannot make a commitment even for when we do have our young offenders facility.
Mrs. Firth: Maybe I should be asking the Minister why we are building a young offenders facility then. In 1984 the Minister could not be so generous and say that we could not help the problem.
I would like to know, when the Minister found out that this situation had happened, what did she do to see that the situation was immediately rectified? What did she do to protect that young offender?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: As I mentioned before, under section 2 of the Young Offenders Act, it does not state that that young offender has to be kept apart and separate from adult offenders. In the Yukon, it is a policy that we do that. In this case, they were not in the same room; they were not in the same area, and if they were taken to any other place, they were not taken with other adult offenders. There are different circumstances, as I said, and if a judge orders a young offender to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, I cannot change that order.
Mrs. Firth: I am not talking about judges orders, and I am not talking about the act; I am talking about this governments policy. This Minister had all the answers in 1984. In 1988 we still have no young offenders facility.
Is it not true that this government has no policy when it comes to the young offenders? Is that not what the point is?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: The policy of the former government was to go ahead and make plans to build a young offenders facility without a commitment of federal funding. There was no commitment whatsoever. That was a long process, and our policy right now is to build that young offenders facility with money that we do not have to take from the taxpayers of the Yukon and that is what we are doing - at half the cost.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre/fire alarm
Mrs. Firth: I am going to direct my new question to the Minister of Justice regarding the list of multiple problems that seem to be surfacing at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
There seems to be a problem with the fire alarm system at the centre and the problem ranges from occasional false alarms, to alarms being set off by the inmates, to having fires actually break out and the alarm system not functioning, which, we all would agree, could be a very potentially dangerous situation.
Can the Minister tell us if, in February when the alarm system was not working, the guards were notified and if a memo had been sent out to indicate that matter?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: This is an example of the irresponsibility of the questioning of the Members opposite. They have seen a news story and have obviously accepted all of the information in it and are trying to further publicize it.
The facts of the matter are that there was a fire of some sort probably started by an inmate - or it was observed that there was a fire involving some smoke, which was started by lighting magazines on a bench. It was very quickly extinguished. That occurred on February 17. Immediately, there was a memo asking for the checking of the spray system.
On February 19, that occurred, and the fire system was found to be completely operational at that time. Those are the facts of the matter.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister explain why the city fire hall phoned to tell the corrections centre that their alarm system was not functioning on the master board, since he has all the facts?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: The alarm did not go off in the centre; therefore, it did not appear on the master board. That is not inconsistent, whatsoever.
Mrs. Firth: What actually happened was that it was marked out of order and no one had been told it was back in order. The Minister does not have his facts.
Why did they try to make it seem like it was not an issue? Why did they try to cover it up? The Minister is trying to do that in the House this afternoon. It is an issue that we hear about constantly from the people who work under those unsafe conditions.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: What an irresponsible accusation and an irresponsible question. There was a very minor fire on February 17. The alarms did not go off. The alarms were checked immediately on the assumption that they might have gone off. The system was found to be functioning normally.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre/fire alarm
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us if there is a procedure adhered to when it comes to fire alarms at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre? When was the last drill?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: The procedure is that the fire alarm system is checked twice annually, in June and November, and more often if anyone suspects there may be a problem. It was checked on February 19, and the spray system and alarm system was fully operational. I am not aware if a subsequent check was made, but I will check into it.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre/guards
Mr. Nordling: Is it the policy of this government to make a special effort to recruit natives to be guards at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: From my point of view I have made it a priority, and I have so instructed the officials in the department. There were, I believe, two aboriginal people at the centre. Now, I believe, there is one. It has always been a goal of mine to have the racial makeup of the staff approximate the racial makeup in the general population. However, there is no formal affirmative action program or no formal procedures aside from the positive employment program which exists with the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Nordling: Has the Minister found any problem in attracting recruits from the aboriginal population?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: Yes. That has been a long standing problem ever since the centre was opened in the 1960s.
Mr. Nordling: With the resignation of the native guard, Alton Andres, how many native guards will there be on staff at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I just informed the House. The Member obviously was not listening. One.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre/staff morale
Mr. Lang: I want to refer once again to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. As indicated during Question Period, some very serious allegations have been made with regard to what is taking place there. One area of concern is about what is being done to help the morale of the staff. How many guards have quit in the past 12 months?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I do not know specifically in the last 12 months. Over the course of the last three years, the staff turnover was remarkably small and far superior to the government as a whole.
Mr. Lang: It is a question of a point of view. Would the Minister provide us with the number of guards that have quit during the past year and the staff/inmate ratio?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I will prepare myself for the Estimates debate about the staff/inmate ratio and find out exactly about the turnover of staff. Those statistics are available, I believe, and I will prepare for a debate on those issues at that time.
Mr. Lang: I would appreciate it if the Minister could provide that information tomorrow. I will take that as an undertaking, since he has indicated that the information is available.
Could the Minister provide us with how many person years he has shifted from the Whitehorse Correctional Centre to run the various other programs that he has put in place over the past three years?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: Again, if Members opposite wish to use Question Period for this kind of questioning, I can accommodate it, although it appears to me to be an abuse of the rules. It does not matter; I can accommodate them. In any event, the way I will proceed is to prepare myself for the Main Estimates debate for this kind of questioning. I have informed the House of matters around this issue in the past two years in the Main Estimates debates.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 50: Second reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 50, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Penikett. Adjourned debate, Mr. Webster.
Mr. Webster: This governments 1988-89 Operation and Maintenance Budget will continue to develop our Yukon economy and to improve social programs with a modest seven percent increase in spending. Combined with the Capital Budget, the total government expenditures for 1988-89 are of approximately the same magnitude as combined expenditures for last year. The budget forecasts a surplus of revenues over expenditures for the coming fiscal year that will improve our accumulated surplus position from the present amount of $36.3 million to $41 million, and there are no increases in taxes - personal income tax, corporate income tax, tobacco tax, gas tax or liquor tax.
On the subject of taxes, there has been much speculation by the Members of the Opposition and the media that, because there are no increases, this must be an election budget. I would like to remind all hon. Members that, last year, there were no increases in taxes, and we did not have an election. As a matter of fact, this government lowered taxes last year by eliminating the monthly premiums for medicare insurance. We applaud the government for removing this regressive and unfair tax.
Now that a year has gone by, it is easy to forget that this government did take on that initiative. Of course, we were reminded last week when the budget came down in British Columbia. It indicated an increase of 38 percent on monthly medicare premiums for single people and 45 percent for families.
The economy is strong. Growth last year was in the neighbourhood of 20 percent. It is projected this year to be in the neighbourhood of eight percent. As a result, more people are working. They are paying more personal income taxes. Corporate income taxes are increasing. It is also projected that there will be a 13.2 percent increase in revenues from Yukon sources.
This means, in the end, that we are becoming less dependent upon the federal government, which is contrary to claims made by the Leader of the Official Opposition. The federal transfer payment now makes up less than 60 percent of our total budget income. It has gradually declined in the last three years by an average of one percent a year. It is down now to about 59 percent from 62 percent in three years.
The federal government has acknowledged that we are using the money that they gave us three years ago from the Forumula Financing Agreement to improve our infrastructure as was intended. In doing so, we have incorporated policies encouraging the use of local hire and local materials. The end product has been the creation of more jobs in our economy. We are operating in a fiscally responsible manner. As a result, we are becoming less dependent upon the federal government. The federal government has given us their approval by extending the original Formula Financing Agreement an extra two years. This is an endorsement by the federal government of this territorial governments prudent financial management.
All statistics point to the strength of the economy and the diversity of its strength. Consumer spending is up. Retail sales have increased by 11.4 percent. Restaurant receipts are up by 6.5 percent. Housing starts are up from 182 in 1986 to 261 in 1987. The value of mineral production exceeds $400 million compared to $162 million in 1986.
I will concede that some areas of our territory are reaping these benefits more than others. For example, the Member for Kluane, in his speech on Thursday, indicated that there are a lot of highway lodges for sale in his riding. I do not think that this is not the reason, as some of these lodges have already been bought by foreign interests.
One of the reasons why highway lodges are changing hands is that having to constantly serve the public is a demanding job, and people get tired. This is the case in my riding at this time. We only have two lodges on the Klondike Highway. It is no secret which ones they are, the Klondike River Lodge and the Moose Creek Lodge. The first one I mentioned has been for sale for at least four years. The individual is simply tired and wants to sell and move out. The sale of Moose Creek Lodge is recent news. It does not seem that long ago, but it was four years ago that the individual at Moose Creek Lodge received a grant from this government to purchase bakery equipment.
There were a lot of people in Dawson City, at the time, who laughed at the situation of the territorial government giving money to create a bakery in the bush. Those same people were not laughing three years later when they complained to me that this individual moved to Dawson City and brought all of his bakery equipment with him. He established himself in competition with the other business in town that had established themselves without grants.
I am pleased to see that the Yukon Territorial Progressive Conservative Party has adopted a policy that will now offer low interest loans to people as opposed to grants. This government has been following that for quite some time.
Not only is the economy growing, but so is government. I will be the first one to admit that. I think there are some good reasons for that. There are an awful lot of demands on government, starting right here with members in this House. It wasnt that long ago that the Member for Kluane asked that there be more project managers hired by the government to oversee the work on its large capital projects. The Member for Riverdale South has asked for increased person years of teachers in our public school system, considering the increase in the population of the territory. I myself asked the same thing. I wish to quote from my speech I gave last year in response to the operation and maintenance budget: The number of person years for this branch remains unchanged from the previous years: 364.58. What this means is that despite the increased number of students enrolling in Yukon schools, which is forecast to be two percent this year and three percent next year, the number of teachers in our schools has not increased. I believe we already have too many classrooms in Yukon schools with too many students. We now have a school system with an excellent teaching staff. What we need are more good teachers to compliment their efforts.
As a result of my demands and the demands of other members of this House, and certainly by school committees, the resulting increase is almost ten person years to the teaching staff in our public schools. In my community it has meant an increase of a half person year from the time school closed down last June from when it started up again in September. We increased from 13.5 to 14 person years, which was just exactly what was needed for our school, so it was asked for by the school committee. City councils are placing demands on our government to increase our staff. For the last two years now, the City of Dawson has been asking our government to supply a building inspector to be placed in our community. Naturally, the citizens as a whole want improved services. This government is responding by decentralizing some positions from Whitehorse and placing them in the rural communities where improved services are needed.
I want to point to the record of this government over the last two years in this regard. We have introduced three new positions: Superintendent of Education for Northern Schools, Community Recreation Consultant and a Business Development Officer. Add to that the half person year I have already mentioned for the teaching staff and that is 3-1/2 person years over the last two years. As I already mentioned, the building inspector will be put in place this year. That makes it a total of 4 1/2 new person years. That is a growth in our government; I will admit that, but I think the citizens of Dawson appreciate these measures much more than they did when the previous government actually removed person years from the City of Dawson, in the area of highway maintenance. I want to point out that growth in government in a growing community, such as the Yukon is right now, is common to all governments, both larger and smaller than this one.
Take for example the Municipality of Dawson City. Since the fall of 1985 - since my term as councillor expired - there have been two new full time positions created by the City of Dawson. One is the recreation director, and the other is the construction foreman or manager to oversee work on the many Capital projects, both big and small, that have been undertaken by the city.
Some of them have been done through the LEOP program; others have been done on the citys own initiative, with Government of Yukon financing, such as the fire hall, which is, I understand, an ongoing project. They have also offered numerous contract jobs, such as extra secretarial work. They have had advisors come in to straighten out the citys financial books. There has been an assistant for the recreation director, a youth leisure coordinator, to organize and coordinate programs for youth.
What is next in the City of Dawson? Recently, in the Yukon News, there is an advertisement calling for a full time fire chief for Dawson City. They all point to growth at the municipal level. The city administration has responded to improving the quality of life for its residents, just as this government is doing.
I would like to say a few words on some of the programs that will be enhanced with additional funds, and which will benefit everyone in our territory, from our youth to our senior citizens. There is the additional $161,000 to enhance the Home Care Program, which is much welcomed news. I am sure there will be lots of ways to use the additional $208,000 to enhance child care throughout Yukon. Hopefully, for one, it will go to improving some of the child care facilities in the territory, which we did in Dawson City to bring it up to the standards that were established by government. I would hope that more child care centres take that challenge to use some of these funds to meet the standards and become licensed.
I also like to think that some of this money will be used for subsidies for operation and maintenance support of our day care centres. Before this government provided $40 per month for space in a child care centre, many child care operations were offering next to the minimum wage for people starting work in child care centres. Offering $5.50 an hour is not much incentive for people to stay working with our young children, so I am pleased to see that these monies are becoming available for that purpose.
I would like to speak briefly to some comments made by the Members of the Opposition about a lack of vision by this government in looking to our future. I do not want to talk about new programs I have spoken on before, such as the LEOP and the Road to Resources. I want to take a look at something new like the Watson Lake sawmill.
This governments initiative in putting that sawmill into operation derived many benefits, apart from the obvious one of putting people to work. It has provided some training opportunities for apprentices. That mill has potential for generating its own power and the excess will be used to supply the Town of Watson Lake. It has given us the opportunity to introduce a proper management program for the resource. What were the rewards for that vision? Criticism, day after day, by the side opposite. Now that this mill is working - good production, good product, a market for that product - we hear claims from the Member for Riverdale North that their party supported the reopening of the Watson Lake sawmill.
Well that is news to me and I am sure that that is news to everyone else in the Yukon. It is going to be news to my two friends in Dawson City, who operate a sawmill - and for the Members benefit, there is a sawmill in Dawson City. I purchased logs from it six years ago, and, with the help of local craftsmen, constructed my log house.
My friends in Dawson City who own the sawmill told me in no uncertain terms that, although it made great political sense for this government to open that mill in Watson Lake, it did not do so economically. I am sure they will be pleased to hear that the side opposite supports this initiative.
On fuel and transportation, I heard the Leader of the Official Opposition say in his speech the other day, and I quote, What have they - meaning our government - done with transportation and the White Pass rail? Nothing.
I have to ask the Leader of the Official Opposition: where has he been? It is obvious that he has not been to Skagway in the winter or to Inuvik in the winter, so that he is unaware of the sea to sea corridor being established on a year-round basis. If he has been to Dawson City, he has not asked the residents there what they think of the improvements to the Klondike Highway in the last three years. I guess he is not aware of the Roads to Resources Program; he has never travelled on any of those roads. I see there were another three announced last week. I do not imagine he has done much flying and noticed the improvements to the airstrips around the territory. I guess he was asleep when it was announced in this O&M budget that an additional $1.5 million had been allotted for improved maintenance of our highways.
What is becoming very obvious is that there is a lot of criticism without foundation and, as a result, the opposition is losing its credibility. Another example of this appeared in a news article - a political column that appeared in the Yukon News on Wednesday, March 23 in the Progressive Conservatives Comment, and I quote: The Yukon is spending most of its money on social programs, thereby creating a firm debt base, as opposed to creating long term wealth to assist such industries as mining and small business.
I do not want to go over the list again of how this government has helped the mining industry to improve its situation; I think that it has been very well documented by the Northern Miner, a journal that is published on a regular basis, dealing with mining in the north. I want to quote again, because I think that it is worth repeating, from the front page story of that particular magazine, A New Democratic government was quick to recognize the positive impact mining could have on the territorys economy and has provided incentives to spur on explorations and new mining development. On a national scale, the incentives are second to none.
I do not know whom Yukoners are supposed to believe. Are they to believe their own eyes, when they look around and see the developments in mining, the growth? Are they to believe words in the Northern Miner? Or, are they to believe the Opposition?
In the area of small business, I think the comments completely ignore the support that we have offered to the small business community, such as support for chambers of commerce. When we first came into government, there was one, or possibly two chambers of commerce. Now there are five or six. There has been support for business to exhibit at trade shows. There have been efforts by this government to offer some employment support programs. New initiatives announced in the Operation and Maintenance Budget Addresses were support for a Yukon-made campaign and support for the chamber of commerce business incentive program.
Again, this points to the credibility problem with the Progressive Conservative party here in the territory. That has increased with their version of vision, as discussed last week by the Leader of the Official Opposition in his speech, who indicated that if they were in government perhaps they would be banking some of the monies for a downturn in the economy. A downturn in the economy is their vision for the Yukon. I would like to see them tell the people in Dawson City that they are not going to replace the buildings like the school that have been condemned for five years. I would like them to tell the local people working on that project that they should be putting money in the bank for a downturn in the economy. Sometimes I think they think we should return to the days of 1983, when unemployment was very high in the Yukon and Yukoners were suffering a lot of hardships, and when this government worked on a nine day fortnight.
I do not believe the Tories have a vision for the future. I do not think they had one when they were in government and it is obvious they do not have one now. You do not hear from the Conservatives plans for the economy, or any planning for the economy. You do not hear words such as diversification or self-reliance. You do not hear them speak of a need to better train our citizens. Thus, they can be critical of the Yukon 2000 process because they cannot see a need for it. They talk about creating jobs through mega projects. When they put all their faith in these projects, they do not have to do any planning. I think this is their substitute for vision.
In conclusion, Yukoners have heard enough from the Opposition with their doom and gloom predictions. They tell me to do what they do - to ignore them - and to continue to do the job that we, as a government, were elected to do, to improve the economy of our territory and the well-being of all Yukoners. That is what this government intends to do.
Mr. Lang: I have to commend the speech writer who wrote that speech on behalf of the government for Mr. Webster to read today.
In deference to the Member for Klondike, I think there are some things that perhaps he is not seeing in view of the fact that it is important obviously in order to climb up the ladder, to espouse the party line, and also ensure that his political fortunes do not come into scrutiny by certain people that perhaps are present today.
I would like to begin by raising a couple of areas that do cause me concern. I think the record has to be clarified with respect to them. I refer to the comments made by the Minister of Renewable Resources and the allegations that Member on this side of the House were civil service bashing. I am not sure which particular individual or individuals he was referring to, but I did take affront to it because this side of the House has always been very careful, wherever possible, to stay away from that type of debate, contrary to the Minister of Renewable Resources when he brought into this House the question of a certain conservation officer and went on and on - only for one question, but it went on for days if I recall correctly. The Minister can perhaps recall better than I because he was the star performer at that time. I want to assure you and the civil service that it is not our intention to raise that type of debate in this House.
What does concern me is that I see, at times, where there is a frontal attack by an interest group or by an individual on the civil service, and I very seldom see the front bench coming to the defence of the civil service. I have witnessed, in the past couple of months, an attack on the education system and the teaching staff, to which there may be some merit, that can be compared to no other time that I can recall. I never once heard the Minister of Education defending the quality of education and those individuals who have dedicated their lives to teaching in the Yukons education system.
I am first to say that there may well be some credence to some of the criticism being made. In order for there to be good morale within the civil service and the government, it is the responsibility of the captain to speak on their behalf when he knows that they cannot. It is like the time the Government Leader went to Ross River and blamed everybody but himself for the arena situation. It was everybody elses fault. That is what he did instead of admitting that he made a mistake and that they would rectify it. It was somebody elses mistake.
We, as legislators, have a responsibility for the civil service, to take them to task when necessary, but also to defend them when they are doing their jobs in a proper manner. We are blessed, overall, with a good civil service. One can pick areas of weaknesses like anything that we deal with. Since 1985, when the government took office, it has not said that the civil service is not a good one, in spite of the leaderless situation that they are faced with.
The Minister of Renewable Resources made some observations when he spoke to the second reading of the bill about services provided to the aboriginal communities. He made the insinuation that previous administrations were not providing various services to these communities. Was he the Minister of Education when the decision to build the Old Crow school was made? Was he the Minister of Education when the decision was made to build a school in Ross River?
Was he the Minister of Highways when the decision was made to put a highway camp up in the community of Old Crow for the purpose of running that airport?
Services were slowly, progressively, being provided to all communities throughout the territory. It was not based on aboriginal versus non-aboriginal basis. If one checks the books and checks the budgets and how the monies were allocated, it was a question of how many dollars were made available to the Government of the Yukon Territory. I can go back 20 years.
For him to stand up and say he was the architect of all the recreational facilities throughout the territory is a blatant lie. I can tell you who was here when the decision was made to go ahead with the Mayo arena, who was here who made the decision to go ahead with the community club in Mayo, who was there who made the decision, in conjunction with the municipality, to go ahead with the recreation centre they have in Dawson City, and who was the government that went ahead with the decision for the arena in Watson Lake or, for that matter, Haines Junction. The list goes on.
I have no problem giving the government credit that they have continued on and expanded with providing services in the communities. They provide it, and rightfully so. They have spent $1 billion in the past three years. There has been $1 billion given by the Government of Canada to the Government of the Yukon Territory to dispense throughout the territory. He is trying to tell me it was a tough job. Our concern is the direction, the focus, and the lack of management with respect to the allocation of those dollars.
The Minister of Government Services stands up in this House and gets quite indignant when we ask the question why an arena, which was projected in a liberal sense to cost $750,000 in the community of Ross River, all of a sudden gets to $1.7 million, and we still have not got one end of it closed in. How would we dare question the government about that? It is not the responsibility of a parliamentarian or a legislator to ask how the money is being spent. According to the Member for Klondike, the question we should be mostly asking is how much money can you get for your riding.
As far as the communities throughout the territory are concerned, whether they be a majority aboriginal or a majority non-aboriginal, I think all parties have the same objective in mind. It is a question of how you provide those services and to what extent those services are provided. In time, I hope the concern I have will be proven wrong - unfortunately, I think it is right - and that is that some of these particular projects are going to be very costly to maintain. There should be more focus and a closer examination in respect to just exactly what we are doing and how we are doing it.
There is one area that does cause me concern and that is the question of devolution. There was a major announcement in the budget speech presented by the Minister. They were going to put, I believe the figure was well over $300,000, into devolution - devolution, of course, meaning transfer of various responsibilities from the Government of Canada to the Government of the Yukon Territory. I would like to know what happened in the past two years. We have had at least one individual, if not more, concentrating all his effort and time seeing what transfers could be considered from the Government of Canada to the Government of the Yukon Territory. I want to echo the Leader of the Official Oppositions words. It concerns me that in three years, this government has had a billion dollars transferred from the Government of Canada and at the same time we have had a situation where the Government of the Northwest Territories has assumed the responsibility for forestry, for health, for mine safety and for NCPC; we have NCPC. My question is: where has the government been? The reason I ask this is that we have a government in Ottawa at the present time that, I believe, is very sympathetic to the regions. I am not saying this from a partisan point of view, when you take a look and see what they have provided for the Northwest Territories, our sister territory. Those transfers have evolved, yet we are going to now go and spend three hundred and some odd thousand dollars planning for future devolution. To me, in many cases, we are slowly letting the window of opportunity go by. The importance of that transfer cannot be more emphasized when you take in the consideration of health, for example. Take the guy on the street. He says why should we take over the Department of Health, everything is fine by me, there is no problem. It is very simple. There can be some decisions made here locally in respect to those health care services, i.e. the Dawson City cottage hospital versus a nursing station. That policy decision can be made here. We dont have to go yelling and crying to Ottawa. The decision can be made here or cannot be made here and therefore someone has to answer for it. That, to me, is progress for the people of the territory. If we can be in a position here locally, forgetting what political party is in power, to have someone who is a spokesman stand up and define what that policy is as opposed to going to Ottawa with cap in hand and trying to convince someone, first, where Dawson City is, second, what is being provided in Dawson City and then that there should be a new policy in place to redesignate it as a cottage hospital.
The budget stated that there was a seven percent increase. That is not the case. In 1987-88, a budget of $176,000 was initially presented to this House. Now we are up to almost $202 million on the operation and maintenance side, excluding the capital. We basically had over a 10 percent increase in operation costs.
I heard the Member for Klondike talking about all the advancements, how he thrived on the increase in the civil service and what it did for him. One thing that he did not say is how we are going to afford to pay a portion of these costs down the road. There is going to be a day of reckoning in two years when the financial agreement has to be renegotiated with the Government of Canada. I am not going to say that there is not going to be any more federal financing forthcoming. The Government of Canada is going to put the results of the formula financing agreement with Yukon under close scrutiny. They will scrutinize how far we have advanced.
There should be more care and attention given to increasing the size of the civil service and where it is being increased. Attention should be given to transfers within departments and whether or not programs should be modified or eliminated. We are not even looking at that perspective. All we are doing is adding. In some cases, there has to be some additional staff for short periods of time, if it is by contract or whatever. Government Services is an example. I agree with the Member for Klondike. We need more people to oversee these projects, and there is no question about that. It does not have to be permanent staff, but it has to be ensured that guidelines and regulations are met.
It concerns me that every major downtown office building has at least one floor, if not the total building, rented by the Government of Yukon. That is something that has to be examined. The direction in which we are going and the eventual outcome have to be examined. The Member for Klondike hit the nail on the head when he talked about self-reliance. How can we be that self-reliant when we have a growing civil service, bar none, in relationship to our general economy.
It is fine to say that Whitehorse is a government town. There has to be some management and responsibility exercised by the front bench, primarily, with some direction by the back bench.
The Member for Watson Lake stood up and said all the Opposition ever does is criticize, and it is true. The Member forgets that ever since this side assumed the responsibility of Opposition the full three hours of Private Members Day has been used every time it has been made available to us. At that time, various ideas and proposals have been put on the floor and debated. Those motions have to number 30 to 50 in the past couple of years.
For the Member for Watson Lake, in his capacity as the Minister of Renewable Resources, to stand up and say there are no firm ideas brought forward from the side opposite, and all we do is criticize, is untrue. I have one further idea I would like to reinforce with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. We asked why the concept of building self-contained log cabins was not considered for the work camp in Stewart Crossing. The Minister of Community and Transportation Services agreed that was not a bad idea and that they should have a look at that, that maybe they did not have to pay $800,000.
Little did I know that the Minister of Community and Transportation Services suffered from Alzheimers Disease, because we wound up with a condominium on the Stewart River. It is a great place to go in July if you think you want to go someplace that looks like Maui.
There was a good alternative provided in the debate at that time that was totally ignored. Worse than that, it was agreed to by the Minister and, then, ignored.
I heard the Minister of Renewable Resources tell this House that he was very happy that, out of a $300 million budget, he would have $4.9 million in the bank. He felt that that was well-budgeted, and he would be in a good position to confront any particular situation that arose. The proposition I would put forward here is, with the dollars that are being allocated by the Government of Canada, and within what limited resources we have, why not be looking towards something like a heritage fund or a permanent fund? It does not have to be billions of dollars. We are talking about something where we can work within our own resources in conjunction with that, putting it aside and redesignating where those dollars would be going.
I am not going to get into the legalities of it and all that type of thing, but maybe it is an idea that has come of age and something that we should be looking at down the road. Right now, the one thing that is saving the Province of Alberta is their heritage fund. The permanent fund is also saving the State of Alaska, at least to some degree. Maybe it is something that we should be looking at so that if there is a downturn, then at least there is a back stop, and something that we can rely upon.
We have also been constantly hammering to change the grant system for small businesses into a loan system. It is one we are going to continue to push. We are paying $40,000 for people to buy heavy equipment to go into competition with people already in business - out and out grants, not loans. I have to ask, as a Member of this House, How come the small businessman out there does not get a grant? It goes back to the perception of the whole system: fairness, and the perception of fairness. I do not know how any Member of this House - forget whether he be on this side of the House or on that side of the House - can justify an out and out grant of $40,000 to a guy to buy a truck, when we have got five other people who have borrowed all the money from the bank and are trying to make their monthly payments.
The Member for Klondike talked about vision and how the Government of Yukon had vision. Maybe their vision was that nobody would ever build a house after the year 1988. Have you ever tried to buy a lot? Is the government capable of looking ahead and trying to provide those services?
What have we got? We have got a Government of Yukon with not one lot in the Whitehorse area in their inventory - nothing. The word is now that when they do drop a few morsels to the working stiff, they are going to ask that guy to pay $35,000 for that lot. That is before he puts the foundations in. It is the working stiffs right to go out and get a lot. He is going to be paying $30,000 to $40,000 for a 55 foot by 100 foot lot.
That is quite a Christmas tree from the Minister of Community and Transportation Services staring into his crystal ball. He should be able to take a lot of credit, and I hope that he stands up in this House and says what a good job he has done.
He should be real proud to talk about the young guy with a family who is just starting out. The Housing Corporation is going to bring in a loan program. It is really apropos. The timing is impeccable, because there are no lots. I guess it is one way to bring down the deficit. They can announce a $50 million program and not spend a nickel of it for new construction. It is called planning for the future. Look ahead to the year 2000 and forget about the in between time.
The side opposite has a responsibility in land development. The government has a responsibility to develop what little land they have. They should get off their backsides and get to work. For two years we have been told that there is an agriculture policy for land disposition, and then in the Throne Speech we find that there is no policy. The Ministers of Renewable Resources and Community and Transportation Services are going to get together. They only sit together in the House.
The two political parties on this side of the House have brought forward ideas and genuine concerns about the Yukon Housing Corporation, where it is going and what it is doing. The people of the territory were entertained by a $60,000 or $70,000 study done by the University of Manitoba. We were told that there were 2,200 households in the territory that either had to be rebuilt or upgraded. When we, as Members of this House, questioned the integrity of that study, the Minister of housing, who is from the Yukon incidentally, said that this was the Bible, the ultimate end. Yet at the same time, when the question was put to the Minister responsible for housing, how many actual government houses, social or otherwise, between the various federal bureaucracies and the Government of the Yukon Territory, were in existence, the Minister could not provide that answer. At the same time he presented to this House a proposed $70 million five year plan for housing.
The Member for Faro brought forward a motion a year and a half ago to ask the government to investigate various alternatives and options to determine how financing should be made available for private home ownership. It is still not here. It is still not here. Yet the Minister for Renewable Resources said that this side never presents anything to this Legislature with respect to where we should be going or what we should be doing. Maybe there is a philosophical difference. Maybe there are some people in the territory who do not want to live in government housing, which is contrary to the political ideology of the side opposite.
Talk about the Manitoba connection. Here we have the housing study; we have the principal secretary to the then premier and, in about a month, we are probably going to get the ex-premier.
I think the government should give more serious consideration to increasing the amount of geological surveys. There has been a program in place for a number of years under the Economic Development Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of Yukon. I feel it is money well-invested in the future weath of Yukon.
I think that because we have seen the results of what has happened in the past couple of years. The amount of money that has been put forward is insignificant to the dividends that are being paid now. When we have the largesse being provided to the Government of Yukon by the Government of Canada, I cannot see why that cannot be a higher priority than what it is.
The area of energy has been a concern on this side since we sat in 1985 and prior to that. As the Government Leader knows, a great deal of work has been done in trying to get things in place to lobby for the NCPC transfer. We now have the transfer of NCPC. What troubles me is that, when I read the Budget Speech, I do not see any real major steps being taken in the area of energy. By rebuilding of the Mayo dam, we are providing a longer life for an existing facility. As I indicated when we were first informed in the House about that in Dawson City, we support that, but it is not increasing the electricity available to the people of the territory.
Although it has not been completed, some work has been done on the North Fork. It is our considered opinion that that should have been done a year ago to see what options could be provided to the community of Dawson City, primarily, and the surrounding area.
Our concern derives from a number of areas. One is the lack of power in the Watson Lake area. Serious consideration should be given to extending the grid to the Watson Lake area as a possible alternative to the present situation. It is all well and good to be talking about chipmills, but we do not have large enough forests to consistute an industry. I think the emphasis for future power has to be in the area of hydro. It should be given a higher priority and a higher identification by the government.
In part, our future will lie towards the principle of self-sufficiency. We have to have power available to us. In conjunction with that, there has to be a policy and a program in place for equalization so that those people in Dawson City, Mayo, Haines Junction, Ross River, Watson Lake or wherever can pay their power bills.
I would also like to touch on the area of contracting. I would like to bring to the Ministers attention to the fact that the Yukon Housing Corporation is going in the direction of being their own contractor. One of the reasons that we are getting real high bids on the jobs that were tendered this past year was because, in some instances, of the high specifications that were being asked for. For example, in one house that was tendered in Dawson City, the corporation asked for 10 yards of concrete for the propane tank foundation. The trim for the exterior called for fir. It does not take very long, when those types of building materials and requirements are asked for, for bids to be submitted that are far too high.
The Ministers department should have a further look at specifications. They should ensure that what they are asking for is basically what a normal individual puts into a home that they can afford.
In some cases, we are transferring sizable sums of money to non-profitable organizations, band councils, even municipalities, to authorize contracts.
Speaker: Order, please. I would like to remind the Member that he has three minutes to conclude.
Mr. Lang: I do not have any problem with the principle of the transfers; however, there should be a general requirement for those contracts to be issued by procedure and under such terms and conditions that are consistent with what the Government of Yukon asked for. The Government of Yukon regulations are fair if they are administered properly.
With that, I will conclude, as I understand I have come to the end of my time, which I find surprising. I would like to conclude that there are areas of the budget that you will find this side will not be opposing as we go through it. In some cases, they are good programs. We will be pointing out where we feel there is mismanagement and where money is not being expended in the manner that it should be.
During the time in this House, the side opposite will be listening and going back to their civil servants and saying, There might be a point there. If there is no point, come back and tell us, so that we get the best clout for the dollars we have available. It is common knowledge in the street that there are a great deal of government dollars being spent and, in some cases, being wasted. That is unfortunate and does not have to be.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I walked into todays debate feeling that the world was clear, and there was light in the sky. I turned my clock ahead an hour this weekend, just as I should have, and the world was in order until I listened to the speech from the Member for Porter Creek East. I felt that I had just drifted into the Twilight Zone. Nothing any longer was real. There was nothing you could actually pin down as being secure. It was as much double talk crammed into one speech as anybody over the 40 minutes could possibly+ imagine.
It was a great speech, and there were a number of points that the Member made that are worth addressing. I am going to stop at the first 11, because I have my own speech that I am going to deliver in this Legislature.
The most unreal aspect of the Members monologue this afternoon was that the Progressive Conservatives are not constitutionally civil servant bashers. We heard the Member admonish the front bench for not standing up to the civil servants as much as they should.
How can anyone who has been sitting in this Legislature looking on as debates went on over the last five or six years, during my experience here, believe the words uttered from the Members mouth? How can that possibly be the case? These Members - and I will roll in the Member for Faro, given his remarks about wanting to hound and whip the civil servants last week - constitutionally feel that, if any job is to be done effectively, efficiently or cost effectively, it has to be done through the private sector. If it is done by government, it is done through a waste of money. The Member for Kluane says, Right, hire more consultants. Right on!.
That is the worst vote of confidence I ever had any Member of the Legislature give to a civil servant in the time that I have been here. On one hand, we defend them, but we have to recognize that, constitutionally, they are inefficient and not cost effective in terms of getting a job done. That is what the Member for Porter Creek East is saying. The Member needs a definition of constitutional, and I will ask the Clerks table to provide him with one.
The Member goes on at great length to discuss the previous governments somewhat spotted record of support for aboriginal communities in our territory. Certainly, the activity can be relegated to the school development, and I think he mentioned a highway camp at Old Crow. The Member said, and I will quote, Services were slowly being provided to native communities. They were so slow that, when we came to office and started talking to the civil servants, they had not developed any personal relationships with band councils around the territory. They had never been there. Where did this fictitious close, personal, loving relationship exist between the front bench of the Conservatives and aboriginal communities in this territory? It is all a figment of the Members imagination.
Now that the Member knows that it is politically unsuitable or inconvenient to continue that position in Opposition, he is now saying that both sides of the House feel the same way about community development. That is hogwash, when it comes to comparing the record of this government and the previous government in terms of community development, devolving responsibilities, in allowing communities to make decisions for themselves. There is a vast difference between the way the NDP and the Conservatives operate with respect to treatment of communities in this territory, including Whitehorse.
I will get to the issue of continued support for community projects in the ridings later, as it is in my speech. This is a reflection of what I believe is the most schizophrenic, schizoid perspective that any Member of this Legislature could possibly have found.
On the one hand, the community projects are worthwhile. On the other hand, the fact that we are spending money on community projects is a waste of money. Both sides of their mouths are being used on this question. I will get back to that, because I have a better lead-in than the Member for Porter Creek East provided. He does not really believe in community development. It is all a matter of convenience now.
The Member mentioned that the Yukon government received $1 billion from Ottawa in the last three years. He will have to check those figures. That means that we have spent $325 million or so every year for the last three years. We have not even got that in our combined Operation and Maintenance and Capital Budgets. How can we possibly have received that in federal transfer payments? I take it that it is a point of rhetoric. It is not meant to be true, like so much of what the Member has indicated in the Legislature. It is not meant to be an accurate reflection of the figures, but it is a decent point of rhetoric, if people are prepared to believe it.
The Member also mentioned the need to understand the importance of developing programs that are affordable, and that is something that we agree with. There is a context into which I will put this, in terms of the development of capital projects - Yukon College, the justice centre - that are appropriate when we talk about anticipating the operation and maintenance costs of capital projects. That will be a nice reflection of how to do and how not to do things, in terms of capital project development and in program spending. I know the Minister of Finance will discuss the overall issue of program expenditures and the need to develop infrastructure versus massive increases in programs.
My record in the Legislature speaks for itself on the point of whether or not government Ministers listen to the Opposition, and whether or not they are prepared to take the advice that is provided by the Opposition - or any Member of this Legislature, or the public - investigate it thoroughly and determine whether or not a good idea can be used for the public good.
I take this one issue seriously, and I resent being cited by that Member - the Member for Porter Creek East - for being insensitive to ideas that are brought forward from the Opposition side. When a motion has come forward to this House, I believe there have been good debates and I believe that good ideas have been adopted by the government for the public good. When poor ideas have been presented, I would like to think that the public has not been subjected to their enactment through government action.
What has happened over the course of the last three years is that a number of motions have come forward, including the general debate the Member mentioned with respect to the construction of log cabins at Stewart Crossing.
That issue was looked into at great length and it was determined not to be cost effective to build independent log cabins, at Stewart Crossing or anywhere else. Incidentally, for the record, the suggestion was put forward after the plans for Stewart Crossing were developed. The Member was putting the proposal forward for Drury Creek.
It was not what the employees wanted, because they were concerned about high utilities cost and rents. The issue was thoroughly investigated, as were any other proposals put forward: Tarr Inlet, the tramway at Skagway. I will admit that some of them were not considered to be based on logic, as far as the public was concerned, but I will admit that some people thought that some of the proposals put forward by the Opposition were, charitably, loony projects. Nevertheless, if there was a good case made in debate in this Legislature, we pursued it, out of respect for Members in this Legislature. In the meantime, I sat - nobody sits there now - behind the Member for Faro for three years in this Legislature, during a time when it was clear that if an Opposition Member passed any motion that called on the government to do anything, it was a sign of weakness by the government to give in - they considered it giving in, to good ideas. They would not do it. I remember asking questions - it was almost a joke in this Legislature - standing up day after day, asking a question on agriculture and it was a matter of pride for the Member for Porter Creek East to stand up and not give out any information. He thought that that was great fun.
Let us talk about the Members theme of government vision. Let us talk about the Conservative-Liberal coalitions theme - they are working together on this but unfortunately they sometimes take slightly different positions and so I would recommend that they perhaps caucus together, formally, and work out a position that is not quite so contradictory.
The Member for Porter Creek East mentions that there is not one lot in the inventory in Whitehorse, which incidentally is not true, but it is a good point of rhetoric if you are prepared to believe it. What the Member for Porter Creek East is not prepared to say is that, because of the booming economy, the sales are outstripping anything that has been experienced by the government before. The government has had to expand its activities much beyond what was ever expected of the government before. The standards are set by us to be much higher than they have ever been, so now the Opposition are judging us by criteria that they would never have adopted and would never have lived with when they were in government.
Then there is the question of developing a housing program. It is easy to sit in a back room in the Liberal offices and draw up a motion that sounds like a peachy keen idea: set up a big corporation and let us make sure that it has a full bureaucracy behind it and we will put forward a few statistics and make a few telephone calls and bring it into the Legislature and we will have a mortgage and housing corporation - a new one.
Well, that is easy to do. We inherited the Yukon Housing Corporation when it was flat on its back. We also inherited a housing corporation that had no experience whatsoever in the types of mortgage programs or otherwise that the Member for Porter Creek East and the Member for Faro are talking about. They had to be tooled up to do, not only the basic job, but also to do a completely new task that was put onto them by this government.
We set our priorities. We said, The poor people first. If the Conservative-Liberal coalition does not agree with that, that is fair. I am prepared to defend our actions and priorities. Now, it is very clear that the Yukon Housing Corporation and this government have been doing far more to meet the housing needs in this territory, even under the stressful conditions of an expanding economy, than ever before.
The Member for Porter Creek East mentioned the use of the capital program. He mentioned his concern that Indian bands and community groups are perhaps not responsible enough to undertake capital works in their communities, that perhaps they might not do exactly what is expected of them by the Legislature. I went back over some of the Hansard over the weekend. It is fascinating reading.
I will quote one sentence from Hansard of October 18, 1983. The reason that we have gone through the Local Improvement District, the community organization, is to try to ensure that those people in the community who are employed, native and non-native, can have employment if they so wish. This was a quote from the hon. Mr. Lang. I have a feeling that this is going to come up in the Legislature again.
The economies of the country are a mixed bag. Some are growing. Some are flat. Some are in real trouble, and in the midst of this mixed record, the Yukon economy shines. It is the most buoyant in the country. In the midst of the success of our economy is the Yukon government. How we interpret the role of the government and how big a role the government plays should be talked about more during this session. The Operation and Maintenance Estimates that have been placed on the table are a sound, fiscally responsible approach to the expanding economy.
We are showing strains as a result of one of the most buoyant economies anywhere. More people are working. More businesses are getting started. There is more private sector activity generally. Mines are opening with regularity. It almost seems nowadays that it is a mine a year. I remember, in my days in the last Legislature, 1982 to 1985, the Government of Yukon announced the continued survival of United Keno Hill every year. Now we are opening mines regularly, at least once a year. The standards have changed quite considerably from the old to the new.
The government is reacting to and encouraging the expanding private sector economy. I think it has been in a responsible and balanced way with a surplus budget. The economy is expanding. We are developing partnerships with the private sector on a number of fronts. I think the economy is expanding, in large part, as the result of the hustle of the Yukon government, and the vision of the Yukon government. Inflation is down. The percentage of the total work force that is public sector has been dropping. The percentage of revenues that constitute the federal transfer have dropped steadily over the course of the last few years. With the hustle and vision of this government, we showed in large part that the economy of the territory can grow and, as a result, has grown.
The vision this government has is that we can take care of ourselves through economic diversification and ensure that there is less leakage in our economy. We know we can use more of the materials that are indigenous to the Yukon; we can use the people who are working here to mine in the mines, to work the farms, to work in the businesses. There can be less leakage in our economy and, therefore, we can take care of ourselves better than ever before.
Also, that through more community decision-making, the decisions can not only be more sensitive but can be more cost-effective for the Yukon population. We are taking economic development to where people live. We are improving the infrastructure. We have made record expenditures in the field of transportation. Never before have the percentage of transportation expenditures equaled what we are providing now. We have even been cited in technical magazines by road builders saying, to use a cliche, the Yukon stands tall when it comes to expanding - second to none is a better cliche - in transportation expenditures, whether it be building roads or air strips.
When I speak of infrastructure I mean the full range of infrastructure. In power development, we invested $20 million in the purchase of NCPC. We are rebuilding the Mayo dam so we do not have to return the Mayo district to diesel generation. What is more, we have held power rates with no increases at a time when we anticipated an increase, given the notification from the federal government of an impending increase. We prevented a five percent increase from taking place.
We have provided the leadership that it has taken to develop partnerships with the private sector and also in partnerships that help us set the direction in which the territory should go. That approach is vastly different from the previous Conservative government.
We took a different approach, we took a different vision, because we felt that the economic vision that was espoused by the Conservative government and, most recently, in the Conservative Opposition, was bankrupt. The previous government were mega project junkies; they wanted to build ports that no one would use. They do not believe that the government was prepared to build a port that nobody would use. We sat in this House and debated whether or not we should be supporting and building a port on Yukons North Slope to facilitate oil development, which has not transpired but which, at that time, was supported almost entirely by Petroleum Incentive Program grants from Ottawa. When the PIP grants were pulled, oil exploration collapsed, and now, I believe, there is one rig in the Canadian Beaufort.
If we had built that port, we would have a school there, we would have roads to maintain, we would have lots of social services, because there would be nobody working there, and we would have all kinds of infrastructure repayments to make. We would not have been able to do many of the things that we have been able to do - put money into NCPC, put money into the roads and transportation, put money into mining and forestry, fishing and small business. We would perhaps even be having to cut back in order to support this port, which Gulf always said they did not need. We might even be in a situation like the NWT right now. The Leader of the Official Opposition says we should be emulating them. They are cutting back teachers right and left, because they have a budget they cannot support. They had to take out bonds to finance the purchase of NCPC.
This government has an excellent economic record. It has a very clear vision about where the economy should be going and what the governments role in economy should be. It is very different from the conservative/liberal coalition. We feel good living in our communities, working for ourselves. The difference is that the Conservatives believe in mega projects, preferably owned by outsiders and controlled by outsiders. They believe in corporate decision-making about our economy that is controlled from the outside so, if there is any boom/bust in our economy, there is not a chance that the Yukon will have a say in the matter.
Last week, I listened to some of the most incredible things coming from the Leader of the Official Opposition in that context. I will mention a couple.
There was criticism leveled at the government that we had been increasing our person years too much, that the civil service was growing to be a bloated beast and they were highly critical at the growth that took place. The percentage of the total work force that is public sector is down from 40 percent to 34 percent, from previous years and, despite the fact that the public sector percentage of employment in the Yukon is down, the claim is made that the growth in the public sector is absolutely unwarranted.
There were a couple of things that we had to do as a new government and one of them was to do the human thing with respect to converting contracts to proper positions. There were a lot of contract positions in that government that were hidden. The government of the day, the front bench, did not want to admit the fact that they had to hire people to do a job for the public and so, rather than admit to it, they simply hired them on contract, with no benefits and no rights as employees, and kept them hidden, as much as possible.
We had to regularize that and we did so quite thoroughly over the course of a couple of years, and clearly, that lead to at least an official growth in person year estimates. I do not apologize for doing that. I think that the actions that we took were not only civilized, but humane, and were the proper actions in terms of indicating to the Legislature the actual size of the civil service.
We also have to recognize that the economy is still expanding and that support for various services is still required. When you put children in school, you require teachers to provide instruction. To not have added new teachers would have meant a cut in services, because clearly a no growth situation would have meant that the student/teacher ratio would have become much worse. Of course, as I indicated already, the Leader of the Official Opposition idolizes the situation in the NWT so much that perhaps he would advocate their current policy of cutting teaching staff.
We are not whipping or hounding the civil service. I think that we are treating them humanely. They are a part of our community. They provide a service for us and they are friends, as well, many of them - certainly they are my friends. They are a part of the fabric of our society. Furthermore, we will ensure, to every extent possible, that they have a decent place to work, so when we get back-handed jibes about government office space, I am prepared to ensure that the people who work for this government have a decent place to work.
The Leader of the Official Opposition said that we are developing ongoing commitments that just make us more beholden to Ottawa - and fight it. Three examples of how we have been making commitments that are beyond the bounds of what are reasonable to expect, in terms of our ability to pay the operation and maintenance costs are the Yukon College, the Justice Centre, and the young offenders facility.
The Yukon College, was announced prior to the last election by the conservative government, The Justice Centre was well under construction prior to the last election developed by the conservative government and the young offenders facility was projected to be in the neighbourhood of $5 million. The Leader of the Official Opposition said that the figure for the Yukon College rose from $25 million to $50 million and he said there was the same floor space. The model of Yukon College you see in the foyer of the government building was given a rough estimate of $39 million. The inflation factor over a four year construction schedule and a change in scope of the project has increased the project to almost $50 million. That is true. It was never $25 million. I think that was a figment of someones imagination.
When I assumed the responsibility of Minister of Education, I asked the innocuous question of what the incremental increase of operation and maintenance would be for the new Yukon College. I was told that no one had ever asked that before but they would be doing their best to secure that information to ensure that the Legislature was aware of it.
The members have heard from the Minister of Justice that the projected costs for the Justice Centre were in the neighbourhood of $600,000 or more. The unreasonable number of person years had to be cut to something that was reasonable. We have heard numerous times that the projected operation and maintenance costs for these facilities and others were not given the kind of scrutiny that now is the standard for the Legislature of today. It is a good standard we have developed today. It is just unfortunate that people were not practicing three years ago what they are preaching currently.
The constant theme from the conservatives is that we are constantly becoming more beholden to Ottawa. They are saying that even as the percentage of revenue from Ottawa is less than it was before. It is less than it was when they were in government. They have criticized this government for spending this largess from Ottawa, sometimes in detail, but primarily on the scope of the spending. At the same time, they take credit for the money being transferred to the Yukon government.
It is the most hypocritical and dishonest attack on the government that I have heard in the time I have been in this Legislature. This counts as rude. Anyone should be able to put together some opposition to the governments programs that is not so fundamentally contradictory. You would think they would be able to do that. The Members own bureaucracy has climbed up 300 percent, up four times from the days that we were in opposition. It went from $50,000 to $200,000. They should, with those research resources, be able to put together a criticism of the government that is not fundamentally contradictory.
We have record expenditures of millions going into transportation. We now have year round access to an ocean port at short distance. We have made road improvements around the territory, bringing down operation and maintenance expenditures. We have been developing airports, and, incidentally, for the Member for Kluanes information the Pelly Crossing air strip was not a federal government expenditure, it was a Yukon government expenditure. It is an emergency air strip not a B or C airport.
We have been putting money into education facilities and training. We have pulled together our training proposals into a strategy that I believe was almost unanimously adopted by the Legislature. If it was not unanimous it certainly seemed to be. There was no criticism heard. We have been developing facilities around the territory to enhance the education in the territory.
These are all projects that have been brought forward that we have not heard one shred of criticism about them. The government is providing expenditure plans to develop a school in Carcross, to develop G.A. Jeckell School and improvements to the community centre in Faro for school purposes. I have never heard the Members pass judgment on these projects. We used to hear from the Conservatives that the expenditures we are making generally are rash, ill thought out and poor investments, but have we ever heard from the Member for Hootalinqua whether or not he supports the school upgrading in Carcross. It is better than a $2 million expenditure. Is the Member prepared to stand and say that, along with all the other expenditures that he has tarred, he disagrees with that, too. The Legislature deserves to know where the Members stand on these expenditures.
I have spent so much time criticizing the Member for Porter Creek Easts speech that unfortunately, I have not been able to complete my own. I will take the chance and pursue this later.
Their support for small business, their support for mines and their support for forestry - Watson Lake Forest Products is a case in point - what does the Member for Porter Creek say in Watson Lake, that he supports Watson Lake Forest Products - we support, we oppose, we support, we oppose. What does the Member for Porter Creek East say when he is in Watson Lake about Watson Lake Forest Products? That would be an interesting test.
The bottom line is that the Conservatives are not in favour of the national commitment to the north. They are not in favour of improving the Yukons infrastructure. They do not think that the Yukon should manage its own affairs. Yukoners are not living a lie. They are performing a real service to the economy. We will not emulate the fiscal practices of the Government of the Northwest Territories, which has a real deficit. They have an $80 million bond to support NCPC, and they are laying off teachers. We have a balanced budget. We are ahead on NCPC, on airports and on other areas.
I will leave it to the Government Leader to talk about NCPC and the fact that the consultants said that they did the research, they needed a mandate and asked when the negotiating was going to start. That was the reality. There was no Conservative handling of that transfer.
Let us remember the past for a second. There was arrogance, government cars, mega project junkies and deflection of attention from the real situation. They were land claims detractors. Ministers loathed the Legislature and threatened MLAs. I remember the $75,000 and the Elsa school, and I will have more to say about that. The past government could not care less about diversifying the economy or take a stand for agriculture. They had one land application in two years, and they passed 200 to us to take care of and then demanded that we do something about them.
Yes, there has been a real huge shift in thinking in the last three years. We have the economic vision. The conservative/liberal coalitions position is to sit back and hope that someone will employ them. That is wrong, irresponsible, and what is worse is that it shows no faith in the Yukon.
Hon. Mrs. Joe: While we were in the House talking about the Budget statement, delivered by the Minister of Finance last week, the people of the Yukon were talking about the many things that are going on in the Yukon: their jobs and why people are making reasonable incomes, businesses are reporting active consumer spending, and the private sector, too, is investing in the community. Things are looking good for Yukoners.
When I travel to communities, I am struck by the air of optimism of many of those individuals to whom I talk, as happened when we were in Dawson, the week before last. There were all sorts of comments that were made to myself, in regard to what Dawson is looking like now, as compared to how it was a while ago.
I spent a day and a half in Haines Junction this weekend, and in Kluane, and I had the opportunity to talk to a number of individuals there. I hear lots of good things that have happened since this government took over. I talked to a number of individuals who spoke very highly of the program that sent the inmates out to that area to do some work. There were objections to the kinds of things that they were doing, that they were taking local jobs away, but the general feeling of individuals there was that it was a good program, that they would like to have it come back if that chance should arise sometime in the future.
The improvements to the quality of life in our communities in such areas as education and municipal services, health, recreation, and many others, are obvious to those individuals who live there, and they like to tell us about them. The interest in the training and adult education opportunities provided through Yukon College and the Department of Education, indicate that our young people and adults are seeking to increase their skills to better themselves and, in turn, we all benefit from that. Something is going right. A lot of things are right about the Yukon of today, and, with the kind of government that we are providing, the future looks good.
This is a government that works with the people. We consult with the people, we do not just tell them what we did after the fact. We have convictions and we have goals and we are working together with families, businesses, aboriginal people, women, and all Yukoners, to determine what is needed and what is most important to building the kind of Yukon that we all want. This does not necessarily cost money; it simply takes the political will to challenge the status quo.
The Minister of Finance has demonstrated in his statement some of the various ways that we are working to provide good government, and sound financial management. My department has been working hard to improve the effectiveness of our cost-sharing activities with the federal government. This is result in an 18 percent increase in expenditure recoveries from Canada in 1988-89 over 1987-88 Main Estimates, or $1,687,000 - a good example of good financial planning and management.
This government has negotiated a major capital contribution agreement with the federal Department of Justice, to provide an additional $2,225,000 toward the construction of the young offenders facility. I want to go on record once again as saying that there was no commitment from the federal government in regard to the former governments plan to build a young offenders facility. It was not even close to being negotiated and our department had to continue to go to them to seek money. It was not something that happened very quickly and there was no way that there would have been any funding, whatsoever, for a $5 million young offenders facility.
Unlike the previous government, we are clearly not only good negotiators but better managers of the public purse.
I think that Yukoners recognize that this government is spending sensibly in things that matter. The budgets that I have presented to this house for health and social services have included many new initiatives without requiring additional person years and without requiring massive new expenditures. The actual number of person years for Health and Human Resources in 1986-87 was 183.8. This number did not increase in 1987-88 and remains unchanged in 1988-89. It was mentioned by the member from Riverdale South that we had put 13 new person years into the communities. We did do that. They were not new person years; they were part of a program that the former government chose not to implement. We implemented it and filled those 13 person years with local people from those communities.
While we are not perfect we are genuinely seeking to give Yukoners the best possible services and the right services for the least cost. We want to get results for the dollars provided to the Yukon treasury by the Yukon taxpayer and the people of Canada. We have implemented a variety of energy conservation measures and child welfare and senior facilities administered by Health and Human Resources. This has allowed scarce dollars to be redirected into programs rather than facility overheads. We have replaced or renovated facilities that were inefficient to operate, such as community health centres. We have taken steps to improve the effectiveness of public expenditures involving federal and territorial money.
The Ministerial Advisory Committee on Substance Abuse is taking a lead role in coordinating the efforts of private and public sector agencies involved in alcohol, drug and other addictions. In an effort to ensure the usefulness of federal expenditures through the national drug strategy, this government, through our alcohol and drug service and the Ministerial Advisory Committee, will market and review program proposals. In this way, federal funding can compliment, and not duplicate, local activities.
The department continues to invest in training activities for community resource people and agencies to provide effective social services in a variety of ways. Efforts to develop trained family mediators for example will provide a more appropriate service, divert child custody disputes from the high cost court process and reduce pressures on existing social workers in that department.
The department has implemented a management-for-results approach including program plans and changes in the main estimates. As members will recall, Public Accounts Committee received the changes including new performance measures very positively last year.
I think that as a government we are providing more information about the programs and services we offer Yukoners and more information about their effectiveness than ever before. Even the 1986-87 annual report for Health and Human Resources was a first.
We are a responsible government. I am proud to be part of a government that believes in working with people to get things done. I think the level of services we are able to provide to Yukoners throughout the territory are second to none. We have no apologies to make. However, as I said in my response to the Throne Speech, there is more to be done.
There has been some concern registered with regard to some things that are happening in our budget. There were comments made by the Member for Faro about social assistance rates and his suggestion that this government is acting simply because of comments made by the auditor general. He suggests that the governments plan for major rate reform to address the real income needs of poor families amounts to deception. I take exception to that remark. This government takes action where it believes action is necessary. The auditor general was concerned with shelter rates. We are concerned about the level of financial assistance in all areas of basic need including food, clothing, household and personal care, as well as the cost of shelter for Yukon families with low incomes.
In regard to comments made by the Member for Riverdale South, she referred to the community expenditure forecast information provided by the Minister of Finance with the budget. I am delighted that she has reviewed this information. When we took office, we were incredulous to find that spending information by community could not be produced without large expenditures and staff time to get the information. Our information is getting better and better each year. I hope to include year-round community by community spending information in the 1987-88 Annual Report for Health and Human Resources. I believe Yukoners should know what their government is spending. We promised, and we are providing, open and accountable government.
I think most Yukoners agree that rural communities have not fared well under previous governments. We are working to improve the level of service available to all Yukoners. I am proud of that accomplishment to date.
In regard to the cost of services to Community and Family Services and Social Services, they have increased from $10,411,000 to $13,761,000 in 1988-89 or, in specific terms, by $3,350,000. This amounts to a 32 percent increase over the four year period, or an average of eight percent per year. The increases were very reasonable, in view of the fact that the inflation rate has increased the price of goods and service throughout the four year period. The increases include the implementation of the equal pay for work of equal value provision of the Job Evaluation System, which resulted in pay increases for many social service personnel, an issue that I fully supported. I think the majority of individuals out there who were able to take advantage of it, supported it. I cannot see why anybody would not.
The impact of collective agreements also had a bearing on that, as did the population growth in the territory, which increases demand on service, and the proposed social assistance rate report package, to be implemented during 1988-89, at an approximate additional cost of $400,000.
During this four year period, a wide range of social service program initiatives have been mounted including, for example: new day care services, including higher user subsidies and establishment of operating grants for licensed day care centres and family day homes; establishment of the coordinated home care program; establishment of a family support program; reinstatement of the Community Addictions Program, including the establishment of permanent positions in nine rural communities; implementation of measures to address family violence, including the rural safe home program; increased support for communities and agencies, such as the Child Development Centre, the Yukon Family Services Association and others. There are many more examples of improvements in the services. I am proud to be on record to say that we are improving community social services throughout the Yukon.
There were other concerns registered, such as increases in the health and day care expenditures. The Member was right; I will be proposing increases in both health services and day care for the 1988-89 Operation and Maintenance Estimates. Health programs will require nearly an additional $2 million to support medical and hospital care services. These expenditures are required due to continuing increases in the cost of federal administration of hospital services in the territory, population growth, as well as a changing mix of medical service requirements of Yukoners.
Expenditures on day care will also increase in 1988-89, thanks to the positive measures of the government to increase the availability of quality child care throughout the territory. New licensed day care centres are opening in Faro, as well as an expanded centre in Watson Lake. More day care centres and family day homes are projected to open in 1988-89. This is good news for Yukon families and children, and I will be addressing those in the Main Estimates, as we go along.
I would like to comment on an issue that was raised by the Member for Riverdale South. She said, When the economy is better, more people are employed, earning money and supporting themselves. The requirements for social services decline. In some cases, that is true, as it happened in the year prior. When the economy started to rise, the social assistance client population had gone down drastically. That continues to stay even and goes up and goes down every once in a while.
We are fortunate that that kind of thing happens. In many other cases, the programs are ongoing, and we continue to support those programs. There have been a lot of new initiatives implemented by this government that have been needed for years. We will continue to improve on them. We will continue looking at new ways of initiating new programs that are badly needed. Just because the economy is on the rise is no need to stop doing some of those programs that are already in existence, and there is nothing to stop us from improving them if they need it.
That statement may make some sense in some places but, under this government, we intend to improve upon programs we already have. If there is some way we can look at new initiatives for other things, we will be looking at them. As I said, there is a lot to be done, and there are certain things lacking in this department.
There was a comment made on the devolution process of programs, and health was one of the programs mentioned. It is my intention to proceed with a health transfer. There is a lot of work to be done. There was a steering committee set up in 1986, and that committee appointed working groups. Those six working groups are responsible for many things. They are working towards looking at a transfer. We have groups such as Health Care Organization and Management. We have Health Sector Policy and Legislation. We have Finance and Administration, Staff Relations, Indian Health and Levels of Service.
There is a lot to be taken in consideration when you talk about a health transfer. It is not just something that you can go at lightly. We are watching the Northwest Territories in their transfer. They have been doing it for quite awhile. There have been comments from the other side that they are far ahead of this government. Maybe they are in regard to the health transfer, but that does not mean that we have to jump at a transfer before we are ready. There are too many things to be taken into consideration, and my department and my colleagues are doing just that. It is a transfer that will involve millions of dollars and we cannot do it immediately. We can continue to proceed with it as we have in the past and, hopefully, in the next little while things may start coming together.
I am quite pleased with the way things are working. They may be slow, but at least they are moving ahead.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I welcome the opportunity to close this debate. I have occasionally enjoyed listening to the comments made by Members of the Official Opposition, in addition to those made by my colleagues. The observations by friends opposite were not necessarily very instructive, informative or even brief. I do believe they enjoyed the virtue of being sincerely held, and I will respond to them in that light.
However, I fear that the Oppositions criticism has succeeded only in articulating their own lack of priorities and lack of policy. Rather than starting from a consistent philosophy of their own, they seem to prefer to attack everything in sight. They take a shotgun approach in the hopes that one of their missiles will hit the target. Yet my colleague, the Minister for Renewable Resources who knows something about wildlife, describes them as being like sharks in a feeding frenzy.
I do not know what philosophy they are advocating this day or this week, whether it is the 19th century liberalism of the Member for Porter Creek East, or the Eisenhower conservatism of their leader, or the agrarian libertarianism of the Member for Kluane. Nonetheless, it would be helpful for us, in responding, if there was at least some uniformity, some consistency, in their approach.
Basically, their attack has been to say that there is nothing good going on in the territory. The government has done nothing good. The territory is going to hell in a hand basket. The economy is in ruins. Society is in shambles. They are a bit like the chicken littles of the Legislature: the sky is falling, the sky is falling. I must say, that is not a very credible position. I do not know if they imagine that they have deluded anybody else, but they certainly have not convinced anybody in the public, and they certainly have not convinced anybody here who has been listening to them.
A moment ago, the Member for Riverdale North was complaining about the frequent use of the adjectives sound and prudent. I learned long ago in political communication that one of the essential requirements of political communication is repetition. With certain audiences, it is very hard to communicate successfully if a person says something once. One hopes that, by repetition, something eventually will sink in.
The people of the Yukon, through the Throne Speech and through this budget, know what we mean when we use the words sound and prudent. We mean a combined Operation and Maintenance Budget for 1988-89 that is 2.1 percent higher than the combined budgets for the previous year. We mean transfer payments from formula financing making up a smaller percentage of our revenues than any year since the present agreement was instituted. The Leader of the Official Opposition says that he is concerned about the Yukons dependence on Ottawa, and so are we. That is why we are reducing the dependence.
It means spending in such a way that the economy of Yukon, of all the communities in the Yukon, is stimulated. It means thinking about our economy, rather than leaving it to chance in the vagaries of international markets. It means caring about the people of the Yukon.
The Member for Mayo - my colleague, the Minister of Education - used the word schizophrenic a few minutes ago to describe the attack of the Opposition. I personally like to avoid the words that imply a condition of mental illness, but they do seem to speak with two minds fairly consistently. At one time, they said they supported our initiatives in opening the mine at Faro and our claim that we had nothing to do with it. It just happened in the middle of the night when the federal government and some other people got together and did it. A few months ago, we were under the distinct impression, from what they were saying, that they did not like, disapproved of, and were sharply critical of, our initiatives to open the mill in Watson Lake. A few days ago, we discovered that all these attacks and criticisms were just our imaginations. They were really in favour of it.
The Member for Porter Creek West attacks us for budgeting more than we spend. The Leader of the Official Opposition attacks us for spending more than we budget. We see no consistent line of attack here. There is a kind of flurry of punches that all miss their mark. They attack us for raising taxes, then they attack us for lowering taxes. With respect to my friend, the Member for Riverdale North, it is a bit like being mugged by a pair of woolly mittens. It has that kind of impact on me.
Neither has the Opposition decided whether we should hire consultants or not. As I hear their critique for the last several years, it has been that we are hiring far too many consultants. Consultants are the plague of the earth. They should be banished from the territory. Yet, last week in Question Period, I was hearing us criticized because we were not hiring consultants at the same rate as the Government of the Northwest Territories in preparing for negotiations that may or may not happen on the northern accord.
In the same breath that they were advocating that we spend the same kind of money, which I am sure is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, to hire a former premier from Alberta and some other consultants to prepare them for negotiations with Ottawa, they were attacking us for spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on an enquiry into fuel prices in the Yukon, something of far greater consequence in the energy accounts of this territory, something that has an impact annually of tens of millions of dollars on this community, not just this year, but last year and the year before and, no doubt, every year into the foreseeable future. Somehow there was the implication, in the comments from the Member for Riverdale South and the Member for Faro, that this was inappropriate. It sounds schizophrenic.
The sudden adoration, or infatuation, of the Members opposite and the Leader of the Official Opposition with the Northwest Territories is fascinating to me. I do not doubt that the ardour would cool if they realized exactly how dependent the Northwest Territories was on the federal government, as compared with this.
If I remember correctly, for a population which is not much more than twice ours, the budget of the Northwest Territories is something like $800 million. You can do the calculations, as any Member can, and know what the transfers per capital are in the Northwest Territories, as compared with here. I know also what the trend line is here; the trend line is toward reducing our dependency. I am not sure that that is at all the case in the Northwest Territories. Also, since the Northwest Territories has become a model for the Leader of the Official Opposition, I look forward to him explaining to the public whether the model of cabinet ministers salaries over there, which I think are something like $105,000 a year, plus a cabinet ministers house and a cabinet ministers car, is a model that he would be advocating in advancing of the goal of fiscal responsibility.
It is true that the previous government, which was a Conservative government, was responsible for negotiating the Formula Financing Agreement; nobody here has ever suggested otherwise. It is also equally true that this government, which is a New Democratic government, negotiated an extension of that agreement. I could tell Members here that one of the reasons why we were successful in that agreement is that in the last three years we have seen public spending used to stabilize and improve the Yukon economy, and, we have seen an appropriate moderation of the federal government transfers into this economy. In fact, we have seen the dependency reduced, and I think that it is the fact that we were, in those terms, seen as relatively more responsible than our sister government across the mountains, that got us the renewal of the kind of agreement on the same terms that we did.
We have come under fire fairly consistently from Members opposite for spending the money that comes to us from the Formula Financing Agreement. I have never been clear, in three years of debating this subject, as to what it is the Members opposite think we should have done with the money. I look forward this spring, in this budget debate, to finding out what their position is. Is it that we should be banking it? Should we be sending it back to Ottawa? Should we be burning it?
The suggestion has been made that somehow we create, from the transfers from Ottawa, a kind of heritage fund or permanent fund. Let us remember what we got this money for. This is not money that is coming to us as a resource revenue windfall, as was the case in Alberta or Alaska, and which was appropriately used to create a permanent fund, or a heritage fund. This is a transfer that is being made by Ottawa to us, in recognition that we had a rapidly deteriorating infrastructure, an infrastructure below the levels of every other jurisdiction in this country, except the Northwest Territories, and, in many areas, a lower level of public services than in other places in the country. That is what we were given the money for. Does anybody here seriously think that we could save it for a rainy day?
A rainy day, I take it to mean a Tory day. After we had the economy improve for awhile and we get a Tory government the economy will go into a tailspin and all of a sudden the dark days they are predicting - they seem to be almost campaigning for doom and gloom: The end is nigh, the end is nigh, repent, vote Tory. Apart from the fact that I think it is a silly slogan, it is a very stupid financial and economic strategy.
If anybody here thinks that Michael Wilson is going to let the Government of Yukon pile up tens of millions of dollars in the bank that we got to provide infrastructure, rebuild the economy and provide services, while those needs are being unmet, they are crazy. I know exactly what the federal government would do in that situation. Given their deficit, they would say you told us you needed this money for urgent services, to build the infrastructure, to meet the needs of the public, and all you are doing is putting it into a bank and earning interest? Thank you very much we will take it back. There are other people in the country who need that. That is exactly what they will say. I am not speculating. I know for a fact that is what they will say.
We are not deficit financing. There is a small surplus this year. In broad terms, as I said in the opening speech, this is a balanced budget. There has been some confusion by Members opposite between what I guess we would call project management and financial management. There is some suggestion that we are bad financial managers because there have been some problems in certain capital projects, and Swift River, Beaver Creek and Ross River are some instances cited. I am not sure if it is suggested that somehow we should turn in our Ministerial ID cards because of this or whether we should immediately turn over the government to the admirable crew opposite. I think there is some confusion shown here as to the way government works. I do not know if the Member for Riverdale North actually thinks that I went up to Beaver Creek and dug out the swimming pool, or the Member for Mayo actually went out and put up the steel in the Ross River arena, or the Minister of Government Services went down and did the drafting for the project in Swift River. There is no doubt that we hire people to do these things and we want value for money. It is our job as Ministers to get value for money, and I will say this: we are accountable when there are problems; we are accountable for finding solutions; and we are accountable for trying to make sure that they do not happen again. Problems with capital projects did not suddenly arise. I remember an awful screw up, a massive screw up, in the Dawson City sewer and water system. The Minister who was responsible but never admitted responsibility is sitting right here in this House as an opposition Member today. I do not remember him standing up and saying: I knew that the engineers did it and the planners did it and contractors put it in, but I am responsible, I will accept responsibility and accept the consequences. Did we ever hear that from the Member for Porter Creek East? No we did not. He had a different notion of accountability when he was in government, an entirely different notion of accountability.
When the Faro school gym was added, when the consultants advised them - consultants, those terrible people, consultants - they had to excavate more, otherwise they would have problems with permafrost, and when that advice was ignored and they put up a multi million dollar facility that then cracked from corner to corner and rendered instantly useless - instantly useless - did the Members opposite, former Members of the Cabinet, say; it was our fault, it is our responsibility, we are going to try to make sure it does not happen again, or did they offer their resignations to the House? No they did not.
As the Member for Mayo said, they now want a standard of accountability, a standard of public performance to apply to this government that would have been unheard of and unimagined of in their days of government. We are not blaming anybody else. I went to Ross River, and I saw the arena. I said that the job was screwed up. I said that we were doing exactly what we did not want. I, personally, took responsibility. I said that we would try and find out what went wrong and make sure that it did not happen again. I did not pass it up. I did not pass the buck. I did not do a Danny Lang.
I said that I was the leader of the government and that we are responsible and accountable, and we are going to try and make sure that it does not happen again. We are human beings. We are not a government of robots. We do not claim to be perfect. When we make mistakes we admit them, and the public understands that. The days of the little dictators are long gone, and the public understands that. I am glad that the Members opposite are enjoying this.
I am sure the Members opposite would want me to correct the record in terms of a few small errors that they made in their speeches at second reading. I am sure that they would want me to be helpful and constructive and put the facts into the record. They would want me to correct some misapprehensions and misinformation that they had in the interests of making sure that we have solid and constructive debate when we go into Committee of the Whole.
We were attacked, during this debate, for having raised taxes in 1986. It is true that tobacco taxes were doubled, and liquor taxes were increased while ambulance fees were dropped. That was all effective April 1, 1986. In revenue terms, these offset the off-road fuel tax exemption that we introduced in August, 1985. If we do the calculations, the effect of those changes was more or less revenue neutral.
On April 1, 1987, the health care premium tax was dropped, and therefore since taking office, this NDP government has introduced net tax reductions rather than net tax increases. It is important that when we raise taxes, we were attacked. When we reduced taxes, we were attached. The only consistency in the oppositions approach is to attack us.
We were asked to prove that the consumption of alcohol and tobacco went down as a result of the tax increases. I have no way of knowing about alcohol, but I do know that in the year prior to the tobacco tax increase, our tobacco tax yielded $1.3 million. In 1987-88, we projected that we would yield $2.6 million. Since we had an eight percent increase in population, that would seem to indicate that no increase in consumption occurred over that period. It would seem to indicate, instead, a slight reduction. I am sorry that the arithmetic is too difficult for the Member for Porter Creek East, but if he reads Hansard I am sure he will be able to follow me.
We were attacked because four departments spent more than the appropriations in 1986-87. There were several over expenditures, notably the Public Service Commission employee leave accrual, which is a bookkeeping entry, and Health and Human Resources, which are hospital over expenditures - which we have been charged for by the federal government and that we have not agreed to. I have looked at these over expenditures, and they do not constitute or warrant any rolling of heads, as somebody has suggested.
The suggestion has been made by somebody opposite that somehow, because the current year deficit was predicted to be different from what it ended up, this was disastrous and misleading. Well, not quite, I think. The House had previously been warned, on the record, that the Yukon Development Corporation finances would be regularized during the year. This was done in Supplementary No. 2 and accounts for $29.5 million of the additional expenditures. Members are all aware that it is a one time item and that $19.5 million of the $29.5 million is simply a reversal of an item that was added to the surplus in 1986-87.
I want to respond in some detail to comments by the Leader of the Official Opposition, because he made a number of roundhouse attacks which are not supportable, but I want to respond to them. They suggested that the government growth is out of control. Since the rate of increase in our expenditures is below the rate of increase in the expenditure base under formula financing, and because we are adding to the surplus this year, I do not think that attack is supportable.
I would remind Members that the accumulated surplus on March 31, 1985 was $41,235,000, while the projected surplus for March 31, 1989 is $41,064,000. That is $41 million in both cases, and that is no change over the period, despite having bought a major utility and having had the largest capital program in the history of the Yukon Territory.
Expenditures are up, but I ask Members again, what is the purpose of formula financing? The purpose for which formula financing was negotiated was to spend money on our infrastructure, to raise the level of our services to that approximating those enjoyed by other Canadians and to rebuild our economy - and that is exactly what we have done with the money.
Again, I would challenge the Members opposite, apart from piling it up in the bank, I want to hear in this session exactly what they would do with it. When they are opposed to particular projects and programs, we want to hear them on the record. For a change, once in awhile, when they are in favour of something, we would really like to hear about that, too, just to show us that they are not totally negative.
The Leader of the Official Opposition talked about dependency on Ottawa. I have talked about the dependency upon transfer payments; it was 62.3 percent when we came into office, and as a percentage of our revenue, it is down to 58.9 percent, and that is indicated on page 28 of the Budget Book.
They suggest that the Operation and Maintenance expenditure is a way up over the 1984-85 Main Estimates. The average year over year inflation rate of three percent for the last three years would account for approximately $20 million increase in our Operation and Maintenance expenditures - just inflation, nothing else.
Also, one of the reasons why we got the increased level of funds was so that the levels of service here, which were below national standards, could be brought up to Canadian standards. I would like to hear from the Opposition if they believe that should not have been done, if they were opposed to that, if they wanted the Yukoners in perpetuity to have substandard services from their government.
The accusation is made that the personnel allotment is up $12 million over the 1987-88 Mains. Do Members forget that we were in collective bargaining negotiations last year? It is not due to the person year increases so much as it is due to the wage settlements we reach with employees. The opposition is very well aware that the 1987-88 Mains did not have a wage increase built into them because negotiations were going on. Therefore, the $12 million increase reflects two years worth of wage increases, not one, as was indicated by the Leader of the Official Opposition.
The suggestion was made that there is something horrendous about the fact that no Operation and Maintenance is shown for the Yukon Development Corporation. Why should there be? Neither they, when they were in government, nor the current government, has ever shown Operation and Maintenance detail for profit oriented corporations like the Liquor Corporation. The only reason the Yukon Development Corporation is shown as a one dollar advance item is so that the government may choose to advance them some money to finance a project if one comes along, one that is strategically important. The Yukon Development Corporation is being treated in exactly the same way as the Yukon Liquor Corporation. The net income, i.e. the revenue less expenditures, is reported.
The Members opposite and the Leader of the Official Opposition have repeated this charge that we do not know the Operation and Maintenance impact of the capital expenditures. I think that the Member for Mayo dealt with that very adequately. There had been nothing done on that question when we came into office. We came into office and we asked those questions. We have a long way to go but we are working on that and getting a handle on it, but nothing had been done when we came into office.
The question has been raised about the number of auxiliaries and the number of casuals. I intend, as I have indicated previously, to provide some detailed information on that question when we get into Committee. I do not doubt that I expect some comments on that but I will be prepared to provide some information that will facilitate debate.
The Leader of the Official Opposition charges that the economy is overheating. The local inflation figures do not support that claim. The national rate of inflation last year was 4.4 percent; the inflation rate here was 3.1 percent. In any rate, we are concerned about the potential for an overheated economy. For that reason we cut back capital expenditures in 1988-89, partly in response to the concern that we might have an overheated economy.
The Leader of the Official Opposition said we have no pride and keep going back to Ottawa for more. That is not true. Under the Formula Financing Agreement you cannot keep going back for more. Nor did we ask for more in the recent formula negotiations.
They talk about the person years having gone up. With an economy growing at the rate of 20 percent, each of the last two years, and projected to grow at a rate of 10 percent this year, with a population going up, do they think that there should be no person year increase? The fact is that the public service right now is a smaller percentage of the work force than we took office. If anybody here thinks I am going to go out to rural communities and say that we are going to lower the student/teacher ratio, it does not matter how many more hundreds of kids there are in the school we are going to stick with the same number of teachers, they are sadly deluded. I am not going to do that; nobody in this government is.
It takes people to deliver programs. We cannot carry out the kind of capital programs we have had these last couple of years without hiring people to do it. We cannot teach the number of kids who are coming into the school system without hiring teachers. Whether it is to do the devolition job properly, or whatever, the jobs need to be staffed.
An attack was made by Leader of the Official Opposition that the Capital Mains last year showed the Watson Lake School at $2 million instead of $7 million. I do not understand that at all. Why should it be $7 million when we are only going to spend $2 million in the current year. In any case, the Capital Mains clearly stated that it was a multi-year project that would cost approximately $7 million.
The other complaint was that the Supplementary Estimates would increase the Main Estimates. By definition, that is what a Supplementary Estimate does. It has always done that as long as I have been in this House. It is an interesting note about Supplementary Estimate No. 2 that if one discounts the $29.5 million item for the Yukon Development Corporation, there is a decrease in expenditures.
We have been attacked for having a lack of vision in terms of economic development. Whatever political stripe a person is, wherever a person lives in this country, a cool-headed look at the numbers will show that the region in this country with the best economic performance of any in the last three years is the Yukon Territory. I am not being boastful or inappropriately claiming credit when I say that part of the credit for that has to go to this government. This government has shown leadership on that question. That was what we campaigned on in 1985. That was what we did when we got into office.
What we have been trying to do is working. It does not matter if we are talking about mining programs, exploration incentive, prospector assistance, regional resources or roads programs. If we look at the dozens of prospectors, the dozens of mining companies, the millions of dollars that have been put in, we have to recognize that there has been very significant change, very significant new programs and a major impact on our economy.
Members opposite quoted a paper recently that would suggest what they would do. They are going to more of what we have done, and they are going to change the name of the department. I do not call that visionary. They are criticizing us for lack of vision. I do not call that visionary. I know what they were spending on small business programs when we came into office. It was $.5 million. Since then, we have spent approximately $8 million in that area.
The Capital Estimates has included a total of $12 million to $13 million for the development of mines and small businesses. We increased the loans fund from $1 million to $3.2 million. We have established regional offices in economic development around the territory. We have also recognized the role that various economic organizations play in the economy and provided them with funding contributions to help them do the work.
What is it that the Members opposite are proposing? We do not know. I think it is more of the same and more name changes.
On the tourism strategy, they have taken all the documents that we made public, then packaged a strategy they expect resembles ours. They call that visionary. It is not visionary, it is copy cat. I know Hemingway said something once about all writers plagiarize, great writers steal. If you are going to plagiarize, at least give some credit to the people you took it from. Do not call it visionary, because visionary it is not.
Some mention has been made about the northern accord during the past few weeks. Somebody must have been telling them that we had not done anything except for the last couple of weeks. That is clearly not the case. The Leader of the Opposition accused us of not having paid enough attention to this matter. In fact, I think he said that we had only been involved in this issue for the past couple of months. The first communication on this issue to the federal minister goes back to June of 1985. In February of 1987, we retained a group of consultants, a group well known to the Leader of the Official Opposition, to provide an overview of options for the government to consider. Back in August of 1987 Ewan Cotteral, who I mentioned in this House, was hired. Legal counsel was retained back in the summer of 1987.
The Yukon government communicated its position to Ottawa on the principles to govern negotiations back in July of 1987. An interdepartmental committee of deputy ministers from Justice, Finance, Executive Council, Renewable Resources and Economic Development was established months ago to provide overall official guidance in negotiations. What we are waiting for right now is the federal cabinets approval of a mandate for the negotiations to begin. We have been advised recently that this decision has been put off for yet another month. We have been very involved in this matter. We have expended what we think is appropriate and reasonable in dollars and time toward achieving our goals.
We have been attacked for not making energy decisions. I do not know how long we have had the development corporation - a little more than a year now. I bet we have made more decisions in that time than NCPC made in the last five. Not only are we going ahead with the Mayo dam, we will soon know our decision point on the North Fork of the Klondike. We have been seriously looking at the energy potential in Watson Lake, including all the options. We have been involved in projects that would involve import substitution and energy projects in many communities around the territory.
The Leader of the Oppositions claim was repeated today by the Member for Porter Creek East, that the only major transfer taken place is NCPC. He claimed on Thursday that he had done a lot of work before he was defeated to establish the negotiating framework.
When we came into office, we were not aware of anything the previous government did besides retaining the consultant and having one meeting with the consultant who initiated the discussions. If we look for the background work on what was done on the NCPC transfer, you will find an empty file drawer. Do not tell me that there was piles of work done before the transfer. That is the same kind of crap we got about piles of work being done about reopening the mine at Faro. There was nothing done. If work was done, it must have been shredded on the way out.
There was nothing for us to start with. When we took over, there was absolutely no direction established for the negotiations, and this government negotiated the initial Memorandum of Understanding which established the framework for the negotiations.
Some very strange things were said by a Member opposite about the Yukon Development Corporation and the $29.5 million. There was some very peculiar notion that this should have been operation and maintenance expenditures. That is a completely backwards statement. He even accused us of being misleading.
Speaker: I would like to remind the Member that he has three minutes to conclude.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The $25.9 million represents a conversion of the $19.5 promissory note issued by the Development Corporation, endorsed by YTG, and by the Government of Canada in lieu of the Energy Equalization Program. The $10 million is a conversion of an advance to the Development Corporation. It is equity. It is capital. It is not operation and maintenance. The total of $29.5 million represents equity of Yukoners in the Development Corporation; it did not go to operation or maintenance; it is not going to operation or maintenance.
I want to say two final sentences. We have been talking about vision, leadership and responsibility. This is the government that has listened and has learned what the community wants. It has been given a job to do by the community, and it is doing it. I want to say to the Members opposite that the only way in which they have been consistent is that they have been consistently negative and consistently destructive.
I want to quote to them, in my closing thought, the words of Sam Rayburn, a very celebrated American parliamentarian, Speaker of the House of Representatives for many, many years. When his party once went into opposition during the Eisenhower years, he gathered his caucus together and he told them, Any jackass can kick down a barn door. It takes a carpenter to build one. Members opposite have said that this budget is an election budget. They suggest that this is an election budget. That is not very brilliant. Unless we are going to call a session next March, it probably is the last Operation and Maintenance Budget. Not necessarily so. If it is, let me say that if the election is about this budget, so be it. If it is then, the debate in the election is going to be between the builders on this side of the House and the wrecking crew on that side of the House. I have no hesitation in saying that I know who will win that debate.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 77: Second reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 77, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 77, entitled An Act to Amend the Municipal Finance Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services that Bill No. 77, entitled An Act to Amend the Municipal Finance Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Act to Amend the Municipal Finance Act proposes two changes to the way in which grants are provided to municipalities. As my hon. colleagues are aware, the Municipal Finance Act authorizes a number of grants to municipalities. Among these are grants in lieu of taxes, transit grants, water and sewer operating deficit grants and the municipal operating grants.
The proposed amendments will change the revisions of the act which deal with municipal block funding.
The Government of the Yukon provides annual municipal operating grants to all municipalities. The municipal operating grant allocation is approved annually by the Legislature in the Operation and Maintenance Main Estimates and are paid to the Yukons eight municipalities on the basis of a relatively complex distribution formula. This formula is based upon such factors as the assessed value of property within the municipalities, municipal revenues, and the number of dwelling units in each municipality. A change in any of these factors in a municipality, from one year to the next, can impact upon an annual grant a community can receive.
As there have been different levels of economic and construction activity within Yukon municipalities over the years, there have been corresponding changes in municipal operating grants paid to each community. The government recognizes that Yukons municipalities require a stable source of funding from year to year in order to provide effective local government. It has become apparent that the existing municipal operating grant provisions of the act must be re-examined to provide a greater degree of stability, certainty, and equity in operating grants to Yukons eight municipalities.
Under the existing provisions of the Municipal Finance Act, the total amount of funds available for municipal operating grants can only be increased from one year to the next by the lesser of the increases in revenues or expenditures in the governments Main Estimates. In past years, this provision has adequately provided increases in the grant fund of 11.9 percent in 1984, 10.7 percent in 1985, 7.9 percent in 1986, 6.2 percent in 1987, and has consistently been equal to the expenditure increases of the government, as revenue increases were always greater. These increases have also been greater than the annual rate of inflation for these years and have corresponded well to the increased costs municipalities have been incurring in the provision of municipal services.
As the increase in the governments revenues and expenditures from the 1986-87 to 1987-88 fiscal years was 1.55 percent and 3.33 percent, respectively, the annual increase to the municipal operating grant fund for 1988 is therefore limited to 1.55 percent. This increase is less than the rate of inflation of approximately four percent, and represents an actual decrease in the grant funding in terms of real dollars. For the first time ever, it also means using the revenue percentage increase as opposed to the expenditure increase, as has been the case in past years.
The first amendment to the Municipal Finance Act will therefore tie the maximum increase in the municipal operating grant fund to the amount of the increase in the Yukon governments expenditures. Once approved, this amendment will enable the municipal operating grant fund to be increased by 3.33 percent for the 1988-89 fiscal year. This amendment will enable a greater increase to the municipal operating grant fund for the 1988-89 fiscal year than can be currently provided. It will also maintain an important linkage between the Government of Yukons financial position and the ability to pay when compared from one year to the next.
The second proposed amendment will provide an optional alternative to the existing distribution formula in the act. As the municipal operating grants are distributed amongst Yukon municipalities from a fixed annual amount of total funding, increases in the grants to one municipality, because of increased dwelling units, or other such changes in the assessment factors, can result in the funding to other municipalities being reduced. This characteristic of the distribution formula has been identified as a major concern by Yukon municipalities, particularly in those years when an individual municipalitys circumstances change significantly, thus resulting in an increase or a decrease beyond what the other municipalities experienced.
The proposed amendment would now enable municipal operating grants for each municipality to be increased from one year to the next by the same percentage increase that the total municipal operating grant fund increases by. This will provide for an equitable distribution of the annual increase to the municipal operating grant fund amongst all municipalities when the existing distribution formula is deemed to be impractical for a given year.
In addition, the Department of Community and Transportation Services will also be undertaking comprehensive review of the municipal operating grant policy in cooperation with the Association of Yukon Communities during the current year. If agreed-upon legislative changes are required as a result of the operating grant review, it will be my intention to proceed with those changes as quickly as possible in order for them to have effect for the 1989-90 municipal operating grant payments.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 88: Second reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 88, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 88, entitled An Act to Repeal the Dawson City Utilities Replacement Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services that Bill No. 88, entitled An Act to Repeal the Dawson City Utilities Replacement Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The purpose of this bill before us this afternoon is to give full effect to the new Dawson City Water and Sewer Agreement between the City of Dawson and the Government of Yukon. This new agreement was signed on December 31, 1987, and supersedes the repayment conditions established in the Dawson City Utilities Replacement Act. As most of us are aware, the new agreement was required to resolve a long outstanding debt issue relating to the recovery of the costs incurred by the Yukon government for the Dawson City water and sewer utility replacement.
In terms of background, the old water and sewer system in Dawson City was deteriorating and did not serve all property within the municipality. The Government of Yukon therefore undertook a major commitment to replace the water and sewer system. The new system was constructed from 1977 through to 1980. The Dawson City Utilities Replacement Act was enacted in 1978 to recover a portion of the capital costs from property owners benefiting from the new system.
The City of Dawson subsequently failed to honour the provisions of the Act. The municipality levied local improvement taxes that were to be remitted annually to the government. Only a very small proportion of the actual local improvement taxes that were to be collected were actually remitted to the Yukon government, and a substantial debt accrued over the years.
After a series of protracted negotiations, the Department of Community and Transportation Services successfully negotiated a resolution to the water and sewer debt issue with the Dawson City Council. The new agreement provides for the repayment of the total Dawson City utility debt, including interest over a five year period. The agreement also transfers the ownership of the utility system to the City of Dawson.
A repeal of the Dawson City Utilities Replacement Act is the last initiative necessary to give full effect to the new water and sewer agreement with the City of Dawson. This bill will fulfill that commitment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 16: Second reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 16, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Kimmerly.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I move that Bill No. 16, entitled An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Government Services that Bill No. 16, entitled An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: On December 4, 1985, the federal government passed legislation in the Criminal Code to increase the penalties for persons convicted of impaired driving offences, in an effort to combat the national problem of drinking and driving. In response to those changes, similar changes were made in the Yukon Motor Vehicles Act.
In June, 1987, a Yukon judge ruled that the amendments that were made were not precise enough to bring into effect convictions that occurred before December 4, 1985, which was clearly the intent of the federal law and the territorial law.
This amendment will remove any doubt, and will make it absolutely clear that convictions prior to December 4, 1985, count just as well as convictions after.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 21: Second reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 21, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Kimmerly.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I move that Bill No. 21, entitled An Act to Amend the Insurance Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Government Services that Bill No. 21, entitled An Act to Amend the Insurance Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: The purpose of this amendment to the Insurance Act is to provide for the registration and licensing of the national and provincial/territorial reciprocal insurance exchanges. A reciprocal insurance exchange occurs when any group of organizations with like interests, such as schools, hospitals and professionals, contract with each other to spread the risks and the losses that may occur in their activities.
The reciprocal spreads its risks among its members and assesses its members for this in the same manner as an insurance company spreads the risks amongst its various policy holders and charges premiums in accordance with those risks.
During the recent insurance liability crisis, a number of large organizations banded together to create their own liability insurance plans, or reciprocal insurance exchanges. Two examples are the hospital insurance reciprocal of Ontario and the Canadian University Exchange. Reciprocal membership premiums are based on a history of past losses or claims. Losses are covered by paying an up-front premium and members agreeing to being assessed for amounts in excess of the premium. The types or classes of insurance that a reciprocal can offer are essentially insurance on property or insurance against negligent acts. The majority of the provinces already have similar legislation in place or are in the process of amending their insurance acts to provide for reciprocals. In Yukon, the Law Society specifically requested this amendment so that the Yukon Law Society may subscribe to the Canadian Lawyers Insurance Association which is a reciprocal. As in the case of insurance companies, reciprocals must be registered and licensed under the Insurance Act. This amendment not only meets the request of the Law Society, but it provides a mechanism whereby other Yukon groups or Yukon organizations may become members of provincial or national reciprocal insurance exchanges.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: May I have your further pleasure?
Hon. Mr. Porter: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:10 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 5, 1988:
Yukon Economic Strategy: Yukon 2000 (Penikett)