Thursday, November 23, 1989 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Speaker: Under introduction of visitors, I would like to introduce to the House a group of legislative interns from the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. They are David France, Leslie Geran, Thomas Neufeld and Shelley Russell. They are accompanied by Michael Ritter who is a Parliamentary Counsel in Alberta. I would ask that they rise and be recognized by the House.
Question of Privilege
Hon. Ms. Joe: I rise on a question of privilege to clarify a question that was put to myself yesterday during Question Period from the Member for Whitehorse Riverdale South regarding a contract with the chief land claims negotiator.
In answer to a question from the Member for Riverdale South, I stated that I had not signed a contract with the chief land claims negotiator. What I did sign was an agreement to the terms and conditions of a contract as a formality.
This in fact was an extension of part of an original contract. Since I sign a very large number of documents on any one day, it is very difficult to have instant recall of any of those documents. With respect, it was not my intention to mislead this House. I apologize for any confusion that may have been caused by the exchange between myself and the Member for Whitehorse Riverdale South.
Mrs. Firth: The Ministers explanation is absolutely preposterous. What she signed is a two-page document that is a contract. Its says agreement at the top. She is misleading the House, when there was obviously a contract signed. This is a very serious matter, so serious that in other places in Canada, a Minister would offer her resignation to save face for the government.
To compound this incompetence, the Government Leader, who should be intelligent enough to recognize that the House was being mislead, stood up in this House and never mentioned that they had signed the contract. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that he sat there and let it happen. He sat by and let it happen.
Premiers would not do this. They would not survive this kind of action. If the Premier of British Columbia had stood up in his Legislature and done that, there would be three-inch headlines on the front page of the newspaper the next day saying Premier Covers up Sweetheart Deal with Land Claims Negotiator. It is not acceptable.
Speaker: I find there is no question of privilege. We will carry on with the Order Paper.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Are there any Introductions of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Yukon Government Brief to the Public Review Panel on Tanker Safety and Marine Spills
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I rise today to inform the House of the details of the brief we will be presenting to the public review panel on tanker safety and marine spills.
In December 1988, the Nestucca oil spill polluted beaches on the west coast of Vancouver Island. In March 1989, the grounding of the Exxon Valdez resulted in a massive oil spill in Alaska. Both of these events underlined the need for developing guidelines aimed at preventing future spills, and contingency plans for responding to any spills that may occur. As a result, a public review panel was established by the federal government in June 1989. This panel will be in Whitehorse on November 27.
I am pleased to announce that we will be presenting a brief to the panel that is in keeping with our commitment to ensure that oil and gas development in the Beaufort region will be carried out in an environmentally sound manner. The brief stresses the importance of developing environmental guidelines that will protect the regions valuable natural resources, and the essential role our government has in that process.
I would like now to share with the House the main points covered in our brief.
The Government of Yukon reaffirms its interests in the Beaufort Sea, as was expressed in the Northern Accord agreement in principle.
The Beaufort Sea and coastal areas in the Yukon contain rich natural resources that are at risk from spills of oil and other bulk chemicals. These resources include valuable wildlife habitat for over 5,000 beluga whales and for bowhead whales; summer range for the Porcupine caribou herd; migratory habitat for millions of birds; prime denning habitat for the polar bear, red fox and Arctic fox; range for musk ox; and significant hunting areas for wolves.
Spill prevention is the highest priority for protecting the coast and marine environment. We urge the panel to consider issues related to all types of marine spills of oil and chemicals in the north, not just tanker safety and related spills.
Contingency plans for dealing with marine spills must be developed to provide for adequate safety systems, inspection systems, rehabilitation of damaged habitat and compensation for resource users.
We are opposed to the use of tankers to transport petroleum products from the Beaufort Sea.
With the recent decision allowing the export of gas from the Beaufort and the proposal of pipeline routes, it becomes even more critical that oil and gas development in the Beaufort only proceed after complete assessment of the socio-economic and environmental impacts. This assessment should be part of an effective oil and gas management regime, as outlined in the Northern Accord agreements in principle.
It is imperative that Yukon people, as well as all northern residents and northern governments, have a full say in all aspects of development decisions. In my recent comments on the Esso-Isserk drilling program, I again emphasized the importance of putting a comprehensive review process in place for the Beaufort that would do just this.
Mechanisms must be in place to ensure that our concerns over critical wildlife habitat and key harvest areas, both on our land and in our waters, are met.
Yukon government parks and wildlife officials must be involved immediately in any spill that could affect Yukons Herschel Island Territorial Park.
In conclusion, we are very pleased to inform you of our efforts in seeking responsible and careful development of oil and gas in the Beaufort region that will ensure the protection of one of the Yukons richest and most fragile natural environments.
Mr. Phillips: In general, we support the intention of the governments actions in this statement today. The Beaufort Sea is an extremely sensitive and important environmental area.
I do, though, have some concern about one area of this statement and this is in sections 6 and 7. It appears that the Government of the Yukon is confused about the current process. In sections 6 and 7 they are suggesting a new environmental review process for the area in question. What is confusing is there is an environmental review process in place now, under the Committee of Original Peoples Entitlement (COPE) agreement and we are part of that process. In fact, just recently, in a hearing on the Beaufort development, that came before the COPE committee - of which I again stress we are a member - we declined to even show up to the meeting. After not showing up the Minister called a press conference and suggested a new process should be put in place. This action prompted a comment from the environmental review process board secretary, Gary Wagner, who said he was puzzled the government would ignore the hearing and then conclude they are of limited use. Since the COPE environmental review process is entrenched in the Constitution, one has to wonder if the Minister of Economic Development: Mines and Small Business is going to try to change the Constitution so that he can put a new process in place. One only has to be reminded of Meech Lake to figure out how successful he will be at that.
The other question I have, that is raised by sections 6 and 7, is that I wondering if it is the intent of the government to have a new super system, or two environmental review systems, in place for the Beaufort region. I would be very interested to know how successful the Minister feels he would be in trying to change the Constitution as the agreement process now in the north is included in the Constitutional process under COPE. I wonder how he would change that process when we are having so much problem with Meech Lake.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member for Riverdale North displays a very clear misunderstanding of not only the issues that we are facing in the north but also the regulatory process that is outlined in not only the COPE agreement but that which is anticipated in the Northern Accord. The Member, taking his research from newspapers, has come to the conclusion that the Government of Yukon has decided that it wants to not only duplicate but to undermine the environmental processes that were intended under the COPE agreement. That is not the case and has never been the case. The Member for Riverdale North is obviously confused on the matter.
The environmental review process that was undertaken under the auspices of the COPE agreement was a process that we endorsed in the press release that the Member has not read clearly. The criticism of the process was that we felt that because the environmental review process that is anticipated under COPE is for onshore activities, and for wildlife in particular, that drilling that is 25 miles offshore cannot be the subject of a comprehensive environmental review process anticipated under the COPE agreement. Consequently, we said just that.
We are not suggesting that there should be a new process that would duplicate the environmental review process anticipated under the COPE agreement. We have said, in fact, that we respect those agreements, we respect that process, and not only do we not want to duplicate it, we want to have a one-window approach for industry to deal with environmental review.
I can only say that the Member for Riverdale North is confused and I will do anything I can to encourage his better understanding of this process so that the debate can in fact be a constructive one.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Health services transfer
Mr. Phelps: I have some questions about the long overdue health services transfer from the federal government. This issue has been dragging on year after year. The Government of the Northwest Territories negotiated their transfer about a year and a half ago. Part of that transfer was a brand new $50 million hospital.
I am concerned that by delaying, this government has missed the window of opportunity that existed a year ago, and that now in a climate of fiscal constraint, we will not be getting a new hospital.
Can the Minister tell us what the prospects are of getting a financial commitment from the federal government for a new hospital?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am sure that the federal government understands and has understood for some time that without the financial commitment to a new hospital there is not going to be a health transfer. The fact is that both governments are commited to having a health transfer: a health transfer that allows us to provide high quality health services to all the people of the Yukon Territory, and a health system that is adequately funded.
Given the fact that we are, at this moment, in the closing stages of formula financing negotiations, I am sure the Member would understand very well why we would want to be extremely prudent in the arrangements we made for a transfer of this magnitude, since were we to accept an inadequate financial package, the cost to the Yukon taxpayers could be staggering.
Mr. Phelps: The issue is delay. The issue is that this government has been dragging its feet. A year and a half ago, Jake Epp, who was then Minister of Health and Welfare for Canada, came to the Yukon after signing the agreement in the Northwest Territories. At that time he criticized this government for holding up the transfer negotiations.
Will the Minister now agree that by delaying the transfer, his government has thoroughly jeopardized our chances for a new hospital?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No. Had we accepted the kind of transfer on the basis that Mr. Epp was proposing, we would have not only done serious violence to the interests and rights of the health and hospital workers in this territory, but also potentially thrown a spanner into the works of the land claims negotiations. Neither thing were we prepared to do.
Mr. Phelps: Why did the NWT get a new hospital and we have not got one yet? What is the reason?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The NWT made arrangements that, in some respects, they have had cause to regret. The employee relations there with two separate packages for two separate groups of employees are ones that, if you talk to the union representing the employees, they have a great deal of concern about. They proceeded in a different manner than we are doing. We are proceeding in a manner that, given the history of health transfer negotiations here that go back many years, is hopefully designed to achieve success, not only in terms of employee satisfaction, not only in terms of compatibility with land claims negotiations - which are a number one priority - but also satisfaction of the Yukon public in terms of a quality health system, and one they can afford.
Question re: Health services transfer
Mr. Phelps: I take some exception to the Minister blaming land claims all the time. He did it just now, and he did it last Thursday in response to a question from the Member for Riverdale South. I do not think he can rightfully blame land claims for the delay. I think it is unfair to blame the Yukon Indian people for the delay. Would you not agree?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: With respect, I am not blaming land claims or Yukon Indian people. I would concede immediately that perhaps we have a different perspective on the rights of Indian people in terms of health issues than does he. The fact is that aboriginal people have a substantial interest in the question of delivery of health services in their communities. Under the self-government agreement that this government and the Government of Canada signed, they have a right to discuss this matter. There are some elements of health services that may be devolved not to the Government of Yukon but directly to First Nations in this territory. We have no right to violate those agreements or to violate the understandings with aboriginal people, and thereby, potentially, to disrupt the progress on land claims negotiations by making parallel agreements with the federal department of National Health and Welfare.
Mr. Phelps: It is a lame excuse and an unfair approach to try to blame land claims and Yukon Indian people for the delay. The health transfer was achieved a year and one-half ago in the NWT. The NWT is negotiating land claims with 13,000 Dene Metis beneficiaries and 13,000 Inuit right now, yet they were able to proceed and complete the package a year and one-half ago. Why can this government not do that.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am not going to negotiate in public. If the federal Department of National Health and Welfare accepted proposals that we have made, I am sure we could do exactly that. If the federal government accepted our proposition to transfer the hospital as a first phase of the transfer and provided us the funding to build a new hospital, then we could proceed to discuss the second stage of the health transfer, that which has an impact on the communities and therefore the aboriginal people of this territory. It is therefore related to the land claims negotiations during the second stage, but, at the same time, could allow us to get on with replacing the hospital, which desperately needs replacing.
Mr. Phelps: Will the Minister just admit that this government blew it, that it has delayed and missed the window of opportunity, and that it is very likely that we will not be getting a new hospital or a health transfer now?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, we did not blow it. The Member seems to be blowing it, much in the manner in which a whale does occasionally.
Question re: Health services transfer
Mr. Nordling: The Minister has just said that the Government of Yukons position is that there should be a two-stage transfer of health services from the federal government, the first stage being the transfer of responsibility for the Whitehorse General Hospital and the second stage being the transfer of community health services. Is the federal government in agreement that there should be a two-stage transfer?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As of today, I do not know. In any case, I am not going to conduct the negotiations on the floor of this House. The Member opposite would never negotiate land claims on the floor of this House when he was the negotiator. In fact, he would not tell us anything about them. We are in the middle of negotiations with the federal government. I am describing, as I have before, the position of this government on the question. It is not my job to describe the federal governments position.
Our position is that the health transfer should proceed in two stages. The first stage should be the hospital. The second stage is community health services. Part of the condition that we attach to the transfer of the hospital is a commitment to fund the construction of the new hospital. At this point, the federal government has not made a commitment to do that.
Mr. Nordling: Is the Minister saying that negotiations are stalled until we agree on what form they will take?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No.
Mr. Nordling: I do not think that the Minister is breaching any confidence in telling Yukoners whether the federal government agrees that there should be a two-stage transfer or not. Apparently, the second stage might take some time. I believe the Minister owes Yukoners a clear, concise update on the progress of the negotiations. I would like to ask him what the Yukon governments position is for target dates for stage 1 and stage 2 and whether the federal government is willing to negotiate on that basis?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We have had no trouble agreeing on target dates whatsoever. As I previously indicated to the House in this session, I think, in answer to questions from the Member for Whitehorse Riverdale South, we believe that the hospital transfer is obtainable in the next calendar year.
The employees, of course, have to be given six months notice of layoff in order to affect a transfer to a new employer and give them the option of deciding whether they want to stay with the federal system or come to work for us.
The necessary commitment before that can take place is a commitment by the federal government to build a new hospital. They have not made such a commitment.
Question re: Health services transfer
Mr. Nordling: Just to clarify that then, is the Minister saying that the federal government has agreed to a two-stage transfer?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The federal government has not agreed to the financial arrangements that we propose to make for a two-stage transfer, which is that the funding for the construction of the new hospital must be forthcoming in order for us to accept the transfer at that stage.
Mr. Nordling: Are the target dates that the federal minister and the Yukon government Minister have agreed upon a secret?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, they are not a secret, but they are not obtainable. They are purely speculative target dates if we do not get a commitment on the money.
Mr. Nordling: Before we get a commitment on the money, can the Minister tell us what the speculative dates are?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me do some addition. It requires six months notice from the time the employees are given layoff notices; they will need time to respond...
Does the Member want to speak or does he want to hear the answer? He cannot do both.
Mr. Nordling: I would be pleased to hear an answer.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Perhaps you could stop talking while I am speaking. Mr. Speaker, I am sorry, the Members are leaving me with the impression that they are more interested in their questions than answers.
The fact is that if we complete the classification process, which was described the other day by the Member for Whitehorse Riverdale South, and get an agreement on that package and a memorandum on the standing signed very shortly, an agreement then can be reached on the hospital transfer. Six months notice will have to be given to the employees as well as a period of time for them to respond to that offer. The transfer can take place in the calendar year 1990 if we get a financial commitment from the federal government.
Question re: Health services transfer
Mr. Nordling: The target date of the calendar year 1990 obviously refers to the stage 1 transfer. Can the Minister tell us what the target date is for the second stage of the transfer, which is community health services?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I previously explained, in answer to questions from the Leader of the Official Opposition, and previous to that on another occasion in answers to questions from the Member for Whitehorse Riverdale South, that it was said that it is our view at this stage that the transfer of community health services cannot be separated completely from the question of the land claims negotiations, the band final agreements, the self-government negotiations with each of the First Nations. Therefore, it will very much depend on the progress of those negotiations. We cannot complete the community health negotiations, in our view, independently of the land claims negotiations.
Mr. Nordling: Just to clarify this for myself, is the Yukon government presently negotiating a two-stage transfer, assuming the federal government has agreed to it, whereby they will transfer the responsibility for the Whitehorse hospital without transferring community health services?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, we are not proposing that they be separable, or that we take the hospital and not the rest. We are talking about a two-stage transfer. The first stage would be the hospital, and the second stage would be the community services. We are prepared to make whatever agreements we can to describe the processes for concluding both phases.
We are now at the stage of awaiting a financial commitment from the federal government toward the construction of a new hospital. That is the crunch issue of the moment.
Question re: Extended care facility, Whitehorse
Mr. Nordling: I have a new question for the Minister with respect to the extended care facility. Back in 1987, the governments position was that an extended care facility would definitely go ahead with or without a new hospital. The former Minister of Health and Human Resources seemed to be tying the construction of an extended care facility to the construction of a new hospital.
Yesterday, the Minister said the two were not necessarily related. Was the Minister saying yesterday that the government would go ahead with an extended care facility on its own?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member should probably wait for another announcement on that question. I think the Member is confusing the answer I gave yesterday. The question of the extended care facility and its relationship to the hospital, and the distinction I was making, was one about financing. The view of this government, as well as the view of the federal government, is that they are, or should be, responsible for financing the construction of a new hospital. It is territorial governments responsibility, not the federal governments, to finance the construction and operation of an extended care facility. That is the distinction I was trying to make.
Mr. Nordling: I understand the distinction. Will this government go ahead and build an extended care facility on its own?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As the Member well knows, and as I have indicated on previous occasions, we will be making announcements about that. The concern we have is about the financing of such an arrangement. There is a budget that is going to be presented to this House next week, and I would ask the Member to wait for that document.
Question re: Extended care facility, Whitehorse
Mr. Lang: I have to take exception to that last reply to the Member for Porter Creek West. The extended care facility has been announced in this House a total of three or four times, I believe. Back in 1985-86, the Legislature approved $150,000 for initial design work. In 1986-87, we approved money for construction. In 1987-88, the Minister had a turnabout, and he only budgeted $1.00. In 1989-90, in the Budget Address that was given to us last January, there was $648,000 budgeted for the facility we are discussing.
I have people in my riding who desperately need facilities of this kind. It is deplorable that we have not done anything.
Has the Minister gone ahead this past year with the $648,000 worth of design work that was brought forward in this House?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: A moment ago, I indicated I will be making a statement about the plans for an extended care facility. I am not in a position to make that statement now. On a previous occasion, I indicated to the House that we have a substantial concern about the operating costs of such a facility. As all Members know, we are in the terminal stages of formula financing negotiations. We are about to present a budget next week. I would ask Members to be patient for a few days.
Mr. Lang: Patience? We are talking about five years; talk about patience. The Minister of Health and Human Resources said to this House on March 14, 1989, We have $648,000 that is going to be proceeded with for design work for this year that we are presently in. My question to the Minister - and I am not looking for any secrets and I back up if the Member takes umbrage to my question - did he spend the $648,000 for the necessary design work for the facility that he so proudly announced last year just by pure coincidence prior to an election?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member has several misstatements of fact, including the one that I announced a facility immediately prior to an election, which I did not. The budget for the current year provides $648,000 for design work on an extended care facility. I just indicated to the Member that we will be making an announcement of our plans on an extended care facility shortly. I am sorry that I am trying his patience by asking him to wait a few days. The commitment to an extended care facility is a very substantial one, not only in terms of capital but also in operating costs. We are at the point where we are in very difficult and terminal stages of negotiations with the federal government. We will be making a budget presentation next week. We will be indicating our capital plans for next year at that time.
Mr. Lang: I just want to point it out on page 45 of Hansard, on March 4, 1989. It sounded like he just read from Hansard. The Minister said at that time, Not only will we have to make a significant decision in terms of the capital costs of that facility, but as well, the very significant costs in terms of the operation of the same. Sounds like deja vu, Mr. Speaker.
My question, once again, is to the Minister, and I believe it should be public information. We voted $648,000 to do the necessary design work for a facility that is well overdue for the senior citizens of the Yukon. Did we complete the design work for such a facility over this past year at a proposed cost of $648,000?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am glad the Member is quoting from Hansard to prove that I have been perfectly consistent on this point. The Member is quite correct; it is long overdue. Something should have been done about this during the years when he was a Minister; regrettably, nothing was.
Mr. Lang: I did not have a billion dollars to blow.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I can name a number of things I wish the Member did blow money on, but I will do a kindness and not do that today. There is a budget coming next week. We will be making an announcement of our plans in that budget statement and there will be a subsequent description of next years estimates for the Member. Regarding the $648,000 that is voted for this year - I point out, Mr. Speaker, that the year is not yet complete.
Question re: Campbell Highway maintenance
Mr. Devries: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. The Campbell Highway between Faro and Watson Lake is becoming an increasingly important supply route for the town of Faro, Ketza Mine and Ross River. This road continues to deteriorate, especially the stretch from Tuchitua to where Ross River maintenance starts. At times the government is not even keeping the road up to a passable, maintained standard. Will the Minister assure this House that, starting immediately, he will ensure that the road is kept in a properly maintained, passable state?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would like to correct the Member. To my knowledge the road has never been impassible. It has been maintained to the best of our ability and to the best of our budget levels. As I indicated to the Member in previous questioning, the road between Ross River and Watson Lake is currently undergoing some cost analysis for upgrading.
Mr. Devries: Given the increased resource-driven ventures in the area, will the Minister tell this House if his department has any major upgrading plans for the stretch from the Frances River Bridge to Watson Lake in relation to the Mount Hundere project?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The stretch of road to the Mount Hundere property is under discussion with the proponents of the development. This government is addressing it in that context.
Mr. Devries: I have been informed that the stretch I was referring to earlier is complained about continuously by truckers and they would like to see the Minister address this situation with the Tuchitua Maintenance Camp. Would the Minister undertake this?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not sure what the Member is asking. We maintain that stretch of highway to the standard and level that the road affords. No maintenance has been cut back. It is entirely passable. I fail to understand precisely what the Member is seeking.
Question re: Campbell Highway maintenance
Mr. Devries: I understand that possibly it is passable, but I have received several complaints about it. I am asking the Minister to address this situation with the people who are concerned. I will inform him of who they are. Would the Minister be willing to do this?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I take that as a friendly representation, and I am more than willing to speak to the people he suggests and find out more precisely what the problems are, because I am not aware of any major difficulty on that road.
Question re: Judge/land claims negotiator
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Justice regarding the position of judge/land claims negotiator. The land claims negotiator has just had contracts for $98,400, $150,000, $180,000 and now for $132,000. Could the Minister tell us why we are going to be paying him $56,000 to take a years holiday after he is finished this job?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I believe that would calculate to 70 percent of his salary.
Mrs. Firth: The purpose of that sabbatical is for judges to take a leave, to take a rest; this person has not been sitting on the bench. I have single mothers in my riding who are struggling to make ends meet and their tax dollars are going to pay $56,000 for a year for an individual to take a holiday and find himself after he has just made over half-a-million dollars. I want to know why this government is insisting on paying this individual in order to have a holiday.
Hon. Ms. Joe: It is not a holiday he will be taking. He will be taking a sabbatical. The Member knows what sabbaticals are. They are provided to people who are a part of this government, and now there is provision for judges. As a matter of fact, those negotiations for sabbaticals have been ongoing for many years. It is not something new that has been established for one person. I is hoped that other judges will be able to take advantage of it as well.
Mrs. Firth: This person has not been sitting on the bench. Sabbaticals are taken by teachers so they can go to get more education, so they can give a high quality of education to our children.
This person has just earned over half a million dollars. Now the single mothers tax dollars, our tax dollars, have to pay $56,000 for him to have a holiday, and he said it was a rest and a holiday. Why is the government going to pay that amount of money?
Hon. Ms. Joe: There has been an agreement with the land claims negotiator in regards to a sabbatical, with the understanding that it would be a sabbatical and not a holiday.
Question re: Judge/land claims negotiator
Mrs. Firth: The sabbatical is for judges who have been sitting on the bench continuously for five years. Would the Minister reconsider the fact that this person is going to be getting that payment, and reconsider that he not receive that payment?
Hon. Ms. Joe: The agreements have already been made. They have been made as a result of many discussions. We just do not lightly toss money around for sabbaticals. If the Members are laughing because there have been other people who have taken sabbaticals and not benefited from it, then they have a bit of a problem. This sabbatical is for educational purposes, and that is what sabbaticals are for.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister all of a sudden knows a lot about an agreement that she did not even sign. In all seriousness, I am asking the Minister if she will reconsider the payment of that $56,000 to that individual, who has just earned over half a million dollars and has not been continuously sitting on the bench for five years? Will she reconsider the payment of that money on behalf of the Yukon taxpayer?
Hon. Ms. Joe: The regulations have already been approved, and those are the regulations we will be dealing with as we do for all other sabbaticals in this government.
Mrs. Firth: That is conclusive. We have special people who get special treatment with this government - this government that claims to be the proponent of the ordinary person and talks about equality and fairness. I do not have another question. We all know what kind of a government we have sitting over there.
Hon. Ms. Joe: She did not ask a question, but the fact is that this sabbatical and the regulations that we have approved will apply to all judges. They will not apply to just one judge. They were negotiated as a result of discussions with all judges, not just one person. I want to make that very clear. Those negotiations started in 1985, and prior to that.
Question re: Fishing licences
Mr. Phillips: Last year in this House, on April 19, I presented a motion that received unanimous consent. It dealt with the possibility of our government and the Government of Alaska reaching agreement on a preferred fishing licence rate for residents of both areas. I know that this is the time of year when changes are contemplated so they can be put in place for the spring fishing season.
Has the Minister of Renewable Resources acted upon this unanimous motion and, if so, what response have we received from Alaska?
Hon. Mr. Webster: We have acted on the resolution that met with unanimous approval in this House. I met with Warren Wiley, assistant commissioner, Department of Fish and Game, Alaska, in May to see if they were receptive to this idea. They indicated they were.
Right now, we are working toward a reciprocal arrangement with Alaska with respect to fishing licences.
Mr. Phillips: I am pleased to see that the government has at least met with the Alaskan officials but what I am concerned about is that, right now, Alaskan officials are sitting down and discussing the fees for next year. They will present those fees possibly to their Legislature in early January. I would like to ask the Minister if he is prepared to make representation tomorrow, or as soon as possible, to the Alaskans to make sure that the ball is still rolling. I know it is in their court. I would like to know as well what type of position and fees the Government of Yukon is talking about.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The intent of my meeting in May with the assistant commissioner of fisheries was just that, to indicate to them that we were going to proceed and to indicate to them that we wished them to proceed at the same time. I will certainly follow up on that with a reminder to the people in Alaska to make that consideration as they are mapping their new fishing-fee schedule.
With respect to the last question, we have just recently sent correspondence to the federal minister of fisheries setting forth our proposed new fee schedule for next season.
Mr. Phillips: These types of changes take an awful lot of lead time and I am wondering if the Minister feels at this time that the new reciprocal agreement with Alaska could be in place by this fishing season. Is that the indication he got from the Alaskan officials when he met in May?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The indication I got from the Alaskan representatives was that it would be very difficult for Alaska to implement that reciprical fee schedule in its forthcoming season. The time they require to put that into effect is much longer than ours.
Question re: Fishing licences
Mr. Lang: I would like to follow up with the Minister of Renewable Resources further on the question of the fee schedule sent to the federal government that he referred to in response to the question to the Member for Riverdale North. When the government brought out the fee schedule last year, it recommended to the federal government that the three-day licence be done away with. Is the department recommending to go back to a three-day licence for tourists?
Hon. Mr. Webster: No, the department is not recommending to the federal government that we return to a three-day fee as one of many in the old schedule.
Mr. Lang: As you know, there has been a great deal of debate publicly on the fact that tourists are not buying the fishing licences because they are more expensive and for a longer period. There were other recommendations put forward. Is the Government of Yukon recommending that we offer a one-day fishing licence?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes, we are making that recommendation that we do have an option for a one-day licence. Thank you for that. I heard the representation strong and clear and indeed that is one of the recommendations.
There are a great many options involved in our new, proposed fee schedule for sport fishing for the next season and I would prefer to come before this House with a ministerial statement outlining all these options. That will be done before we adjourn for the Christmas break.
Question re: Salmon fishery
Mr. Lang: While we are on the question of fisheries, I would like to turn to the question of the salmon fishery. In April of this past year, the Minister, in response to a question of mine, indicated that he had reached an agreement between the Alaskans and Yukon to implement a program for rebuilding the stocks, but he could not give us any further information with respect to the program. Is that program being implemented this coming spring and, if so, who is paying for it?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I am not aware at this time of the status of the arrangement we made with Alaska. From that meeting there were a number of particulars that had to worked out and I am not sure what the arrangements are at this time, but I will come back to the House with that information.
Mr. Lang: In Hansard, on April 10, the Minister referred to a report that had been completed but had not been available to him. Has that report been made available to him? If so, could we have a copy of it because he did promise me one.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will take that question as notice.
Mr. Lang: I hope he brings back a copy of the report.
In Hansard, on April 10, the Minister of Renewable Resources referred to the question of quotas and said that there was going to be a meeting in Dawson in May of that year, which there was. Could he tell this House if there was a definitive decision taken with respect to fisheries quotas for the two jurisdictions?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes, there was an agreement reached at that time for this one particular fishing season. That was an arrangement between the Alaskans and the Yukoners as to the number of fish that would be allowed to escape, and there would also be a limit on the number of fish that Yukoners could take.
Question re: Swift River maintenance staff quarters
Mr. Devries: During the recent cold snap, the new government maintenance staff quarters at Swift River were extremely cold. The residents were forced to use extra electric heaters just to maintain plus 18 degrees, which is barely comfortable. Will the Minister of Community and Transportation Services have his department upgrade this new facility to acceptable northern standards?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Swift River surfaces again. I appreciate the information provided by the Member. I was not aware that there were deficiencies in the energy efficiency of the units. I take the representation seriously and will investigate further.
Mr. Devries: There are many ongoing maintenance problems such as light fixtures rotting out of the ceilings due to past moisture problems, drafty doors and windows and low water volume in the bathtub fixtures. These should all be the contractors responsibility. Will the Minister assure this House that the maintenance problems will be addressed before February 16 when the warranty expires? From that date on, the repair costs will have to be borne by the Yukon taxpayer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: If the assertions by the Member are accurate, they, too, will be addressed. The issue of inadequate maintenance concerns me, and I will look into it immediately.
Mr. Devries: There seems to be numerous design problems with the structure ranging from heating register placement to possible injury when exiting due to snow and ice sliding off the roof. Will the Minister assure this House that the plans for any more such similar structures are history?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I take the Members representations seriously, and I will be providing further information to him once I have had an opportunity to look into the allegations, charges or assertions about the inadequacy of the units.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Government Bills
Bill No. 3: Second Reading
Clerk: Bill No. 3, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Penikett.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move that Bill No. 3, entitled Hospital Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Health and Human Resources that Bill No. 3, entitled Hospital Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: During the past few months I have stressed the importance this government attaches to health and social issues as we enter the 1990s. While the past several years have seen significant improvements in the delivery of better services and in the funding to health and social services, the next decade will be filled with many challenges in the health care sector. The challenges of providing adequate care for an aging population and keeping pace with rapidly increasing costs will strain the abilities of all governments. The situation of rising costs and health management issues is a matter of great urgency in every jurisdiction in the country and in some it is a situation of crisis.
Part of our vision to maintain and improve our health care services in the future includes taking the steps that will allow Yukoners themselves to have greater control over their health care resources and delivery system. If the programs and services that are developed for the coming decade are to be sensitive and responsive to the specific needs of Yukoners, then Yukoners must have a greater say in the development and administration of our health programs.
Yesterday I announced the steps in a consultation toward the development of a health act, a health act providing a foundation for a system of preventive health care, community-based delivery, integration of services and a much greater voice for ordinary citizens. Part of the process of developing a package of new health care legislation is the act we have before us today, the passage of which will permit Yukoners to take steps necessary to permit the transfer from federal hands into Yukon control of a major public institution. This Hospital Act is a substantial step for the Yukon as we prepare for a greater control over the delivery of health services.
Briefly, the bill contains the following major principles and features: the act will provide the legal basis upon which the Whitehorse General Hospital can be governed by an independent, community-based board of trustees; the act will guarantee that the board of trustees has fair and broadly-based representation from the community at large. This will ensure the hospital will be responsive to the broader community and can reflect the various concerns of the entire community.
The Hospital Act specifically authorizes the establishment of the corporation to operate the Whitehorse General Hospital. The community boards or corporations that will operate a hospital like this will be fully accountable for the public funds granted for their operation. The act will also give the Yukon government the responsibility of ensuring hospitals continue to provide the highest standards of medical services. The Yukon government retains ultimate responsibility for granting permission for the operation of hospitals, the provision of grants, operating and capital budgets. The act, however, will provide the community boards significant independence and important powers with respect to the day-to-day operations of the hospital, developing hospital policies and fiscal plans, hiring staff and negotiating contracts with employee groups.
The Hospital Act contains provisions that will enable the creation of other hospital or community boards elsewhere, when time warrants, and the legislation allows for an interim board to be put in place initially if a temporary step is necessary between the transfer and the installation of the community board.
We spent some time in Question Period today talking about the health transfer negotiations and specifically the hospital transfer negotiations. As all Members know, we have been having discussions with employees of the Whitehorse General Hospital. Properly speaking, under the existing labour laws, we cannot have negotiations with people who are not our employees and with whom we do not have a collective agreement.
We have been having formal discussions with those federal employees, with a view to establishing a memorandum of understanding on the terms and conditions of employment that they will enjoy once they come to work for the people of Yukon. Part of that process has been the classification according to our system of jobs in the hospital, so that a proper calculation can be made by us of the cost of the personnel part of the hospital transfer arrangements.
Given that we are, at this moment, still negotiating, and given that we have not yet reached an agreement on the financial arrangements for this transfer, including the financial commitment to build a new hospital, Members might ask why we are proceeding with this legislation now.
This legislation is necessary to create the entity for which the transferred employees will work. We are establishing in law, now, the corporation for whom these employees will work. We are doing that in order to permit the smooth transfer and hiring of hospital staff, and to provide sufficient time to establish all the necessary procedures to ensure the highest quality of care to patients and their families is not interrupted.
If we did not establish the corporate entity now, we might have to transfer the employees from the federal government to us - us being the territorial government - and then, from the territorial government to a hospital corporation under the direction of a community board. Rather than having the employees go through two sets of transfers, to be laid off twice and to be rehired twice, we are establishing this territorial entity now so these federal employees can be transferred to this body.
The basic principles of this legislation will allow the active participation of community representives in the administration of our hospital, so they can provide the highest health care possible and remain fully accountable to the broader community.
I am sure all Members will note that the structure of the board very much resembles the structure of the board at Yukon College. It contains the same kind of broad representation guaranteeing rural and urban representations, guaranteeing representation by men and women, guaranteeing representation by the aboriginal community and by the health care professionals who work in the hospital.
This is a fairly simple piece of legislation in that it is fairly straight forward in its purpose. I commend it to the House and urge all Members to support it in order to help us expedite the transfer of the hospital to Yukon control.
Mr. Nordling: There is nothing this side would like better than to help the government expedite the transfer of health services. However, how can we help if we do not really know what is going on?
We certainly agree with the purpose of this act, and we hope it will be of some use to us. Obviously, the transfer of health services from the federal government is needed and, until that time, the act will simply exist with no effect.
By his speech, the Minister is obviously embarrassed. It seems we are running out of business and he is making the same speech over and over again. I am not going to do that. I am not going to talk about the lack of political direction the Department of Health and Human Resources has received. I am not going to talk about the lack of a new hospital, despite the fact the Northwest Territories has a brand new $54 million hospital. I am not going to talk about the lack of an extended care facility, which was announced five years ago, and I am not going to talk about the lack of mental health services in the territory. I am going to talk about this act.
There is no hurry for this act. However, perhaps I can assist the Minister at this time by pointing out an amendment he may wish to make when we discuss the bill in Committee of the Whole.
As you will recall in our painful deliberations over the Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 1989, the Minister of Justice made it clear the government wanted to be consistent in its titles for the chief executive officers of the various corporations. We went so far in that act as to create a CEO position for the Housing Corporation and name that position president. Now the Minister of Health has come forward with this act creating a new corporation and what we have is the term chief executive officer used throughout the act instead of president, as was hoped for in all the corporations by the Minister of Justice. On page 2 it states, The board of trustees shall govern the activities and programs of the corporation and shall consist of the chief executive officer, appointed under Section 5.... Section 5 talks only of the chief executive officer and perhaps the Minister would like to take a look at that in order to be consistent.
We may have questions as we go clause-by-clause. I will pose them at that time.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I want to sincerely say to the Member for Porter Creek West how grateful I am both for his support in this bill and for his willingness to forego the opportunity to repeat his speech on direction - and the lack of direction - and the other things that he deplores.
Clearly, this bill and the other initiatives that we have announced this week amount to a very substantial change in direction and it may be that the Member opposite does not like that direction. I am sorry about that. That is the direction that we proposed to the people of the Yukon in January and February of this year, and which they, in general, approved of. The act is necessary now.
I am sorry, the Member for Porter Creek East was doing some arithmetic. His numbers interrupted my words for a moment. Speaking as the Member in this House with the largest majority I am, of course, very interested in the views of the Member opposite in this House who had the second largest majority in the House.
Let me move back to the subject before us, which is the Hospital Act. The structure of the board, including the role of the executive director, does not resemble the college. The Member is perfectly correct in pointing out the distinction between the title of the chief executive officer and the use of the term president in crown corporations, about which there was some debate earlier this week in the Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment, 1989.
In discussing this bill, we did have some debate on this point. I am advised that it is not conventional in this country, in hospital corporations, to refer to the chief administrative or chief executive officer as the president. Where the term president occurs is in a different model of hospital management that exists in the United States. It was through the desire not to cause confusion on that point, to be consistent with Canadian practices, that we used this term rather than the term president.
For myself, the terms are almost interchangeable. The Member may wish to present an amendment. I do not mind and am happy to discuss it again. It is not something about which the Minister feels great passion, but I do want him to know that we did discuss the point in the drafting of this bill.
I want to say something about the other point made by the Member: that this bill is not necessary or not urgent. The objective of achieving a hospital transfer soon is shared on both sides of this House, notwithstanding the churlish observations made today during Question Period, and this government believes that it is necessary that this hospital transfer take place soon. I believe the majority of employees want it to take place soon, but there is this matter of principle that has yet to be sorted out. That is the matter of money.
The negotiations are moving apace and I would hope that we can reach a conclusion on that question very soon because the question of health care costs and the question of operating health care facilities is one that is a massive financial problem. I do not want any Members to misunderstand the seriousness of it. It is a very serious problem. Ontario is fortunate that it is a wealthy province because its health care budget is now up to 33 percent of the provincial budget, and climbing. Saskatchewan - this happened long before we took the premiums off and they are not related, let us not confuse the method of funding the system with the costs of the system - had a health care system that was in the teens in terms of the percentage of the provincial budget and has climbed in recent years, I think, where they had seen projections where it was not inconceivable to talk about it being half of the provincial budget. They have had to take some radical steps to deal with that health crisis.
I say this in all seriousness and not as a partisan point, that when we talked about the construction and operation of health care facilities, whether they are hospitals or extended care facilities, it is absolutely essential that we do not make any financial mistakes. We must make those decisions in full understanding of the capital costs and the operating costs and the method by which we will finance them.
The jurisdiction in this country that has built, I would guess, more health care facilities and more hospitals than any other is Alberta. Alberta has built some very fine health care facilities. There are some very high-tech hospitals, many community hospitals and a full range of medical facilities. They have an international reputation for the quality of those buildings. But they have also been accused by some critics in their own province of having an edifice complex, where they have put their money into bricks and mortar but now are facing a serious crisis in terms of the operation of those facilities. It is such a serious crisis that one of the major facilities, named, I think, after a former premier, has not been able to be fully operated, simply because there is neither the demand nor the resources to do so.
The hospital referred to in the Northwest Territories as the $54 million hospital in Members speeches and debates has not yet been fully commissioned yet. There are whole wings for which they have not been able to hire people nor have the money to operate.
I hope Members will not misunderstand me on this point. I think there is wisdom in this area in being fiscally conservative - I mean small c conservative, in terms of being prudent.
The Member for Porter Creek East points out that we have a hospital that is falling down. I hope he is not now going to propose that the territorial taxpayers, out of our existing resources, replace it. I hope he will have a tiny bit of confidence in us that we are negotiating in good faith with the federal government to find the resources to replace the Whitehorse hospital and see it transferred to our control.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member for Porter Creek East is now paying tribute to the good work of this government in achieving economic recovery in the last few years and presiding over much improved social services. We are now moving into the health field and I thank the Member for Porter Creek East for his vote of confidence. Knowing the Member for Porter Creek East is behind me, I will proceed with a song in my heart, free, confident and happy that we are moving in the right direction and will be serving the people of the Yukon well. With that assurance, I will be now content to sit down.
Motion for second reading agreed to
Clerk: Item No. 1, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Penikett.
Speaker: Is the Minister prepared to deal with Item No. 1?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Motion No. 25
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon has much in common with other jurisdictions in the circumpolar north and that the Yukon can greatly benefit from the sharing of knowledge and experiences with these regions in many fields, including health, education, justice, resource management, economic development, recreation, and culture; and
THAT this House endorses the efforts of the Government of Yukon to continue to forge strong links with all circumpolar north jurisdictions.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I guess the House leaders are doing me a favour today. On a motion like this, which I am sure will meet with ready approval on all sides of the House and unanimously endorsed by all Members, it will not be necessary for me to speak at great length. There is a lot to say about this subject and I would like to say some of what needs to be said.
Obviously, this territory has heavy orientation in our system of government toward the southern jurisdictions. Our most intimate intergovernmental relationship is with the federal government and the officials in the capital city. As well, we have important and growing relationships with many of the provinces. It is probably true that most of our laws and a great many of our policies are modeled on, inspired by or formed by southern Canadian experience. It is the provinces from which most of us in this House came. It is the provinces that have set the standards by which we operate in so many areas. It is the southern Canadian provinces that have developed our school curriculum and have developed the structures we use in so many areas of government and business and cultural life.
There is a need for us to look increasingly not just to the south, but also to the east and the west. There is need for this not just for the obvious reasons. We have, in some quite remarkable ways, similar geography and climate to other jurisdictions in the circumpolar area. It is also useful for us to look to our east and to our west because most of the areas, with the possible exception of the Northwest Territories, are more highly developed than ourselves. People in those areas have the advantage of having lived in a similar climate, with a similar terrain for much longer than have we. People in those areas have tried and failed and tried and failed and tried and succeeded in dealing with problems that are still before us. There is a lot of experience that is useful for us, not because we can duplicate the experience of Alaska, Northwest Territories or the Scandinavian countries, but because we can benefit from that experience.
Without planning to do so, in any conscious way, it is clear that in the last few years our links with the circumpolar areas of the globe have expanded quite considerably. I want to enumerate some of those links and, in passing, mention some of the things we had learned and can learn in the future, and some of the economic, cultural, and perhaps even political possibilities that can be realized by exchanges with these areas in the far northern hemisphere of this planet.
In the health field, for which I am now responsible, I would note that there is a very important event happening in Whitehorse next May, an event that has not attracted much attention in the local media yet, but which is an international conference, the like of which we have not seen before in Whitehorse. That is the Circumpolar Health Conference.
It so happens the former Minister of Health and her deputy attended the last Circumpolar Health Conference in Norway in 1987. The territorial government is preparing to contribute to the hosting of the next circumpolar conference, which is here in May of next year.
This conference is held every three years, and a member of the International Union for Circumpolar Health hosts the conference, which is for the exchange health care research and information. It was not in Norway in 1987, it was in Umea, Sweden. The purpose of this conference is to exchange the latest scientific research by health professionals from the circumpolar region, to involve the native people as the prime user in the delivery of congress content, to provide financial and promotional benefits to businesses in the Yukon. Those are obvious, because we estimate there will be delegates here from a large number of countries who may spend as much as $250 a day. There will be a thousand delegates for five or six days, which could amount to a substantial benefit for our community.
The Canadian Society for Circumpolar Health officials, host of the eighth conference, is a non-profit association made up of persons interested in health in northern Canada. They have hosted one previous congress, the third, which was held in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories in 1974.
In 1984, at the sixth circumpolar conference in Anchorage, the late Dr. George Walker became interested in promoting Whitehorse as the location of the conference, and the 1990 congress was initially slated for the Soviet Union. However, it was reallocated to Canada, and the Canadian society accepted Whitehorse as the appropriate site. The 1990 congress was awarded to the Yukon steering committee for the eighth International Conference on Circumpolar Health.
The conference is a very prestigious one and will attract hundreds and hundreds of delegates. Some publicity about this event is already out. I would like Members on the other side of the House, who may be interested in this event, to obtain some of the promotional material. I am sure we will have a continuing and increasing involvement in this event.
That is the most dramatic and significant of the contacts we will have with the circumpolar area. Members of this House may know the Minister of Education signed an official exchange agreement not too long ago with Alaska and the Northwest Territories. It is an educational accord, which is significant. Just this year in the constituency of the Member for Kluane, the circumpolar education ministers met here for the first time. I think there was a very high level of representation from a number of countries, particularly the Scandinavian ones.
As the Members may also know, in the education field, the new Yukon College is a member of the Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies and the commitment to education in the northern regions of the Scandinavian countries, as I discovered on a recent trip to that area, is quite remarkable. Many people here know a lot about the education system in the State of Alaska, from which I think we have a lot to learn, but the universities that exist in the far north of the Nordic countries, including the universities of Lulea, Umeo, the extension facility at Skelleftea, which we saw, the brand-new university in Rovaniemi in Lapland, in northern Finland, and the university in Tromso, in Norway, are all quite remarkable facilities. They are institutions from which I think we could learn a great deal. The universities in Lulea and Umea are famous for their work in a number of northern fields.
The extension facility in Skelleftea, a small town that we visited in Sweden, is quite remarkable because it is the site, not only of a very interesting wood products technology research centre - one that, remarkably enough, employs a CAT scanner, not to do health work but to do analyses on the fibre content of wood and to do high-tech research into the best methods of cutting wood and making the optimum use of it, but it is also the location of the only super computer in the country of Sweden, a super computer that was established there following a competition by the national government, which wanted to have a location for a super computer somewhere in their nation. The people of Skelleftea decided to somewhat force the hand of the national government by taking the profits from the hydro company, which they owned, and simply buying one - somewhat settling the issue for the national government. It is remarkable for us to see in this northern community that such a facility operates and that there is very high-tech research going on in that region.
The university at Rovaniemi, which is the capital of the Lapland province in Finland, was more remarkable for me because it was much the same size as our new campus at Yukon College, a facility that, may I say, rivalled the physical appeal of our campus. It was, I would say, as beautiful and in some ways I would say that the interior design in that facility was perhaps even more appropriate to northern climes in terms of its use of open space and skylights and local materials.
What interested me about those facilities was the clearheadedness and the focus that the founders of that university had brought to the project. Rather than having an educational institution that was all things to all people, it had decided to focus on a number of areas that were of importance to their local economy. From the day it opened it was a degree-granting institution offering degrees in public administration, tourism and teaching. It was interesting that they were responding very much to the needs of the people in that area. The public administration, it being a provincial capital, is quite substantial, and they offer administrative law degrees at this facility, which is, I gather, in that society, one of the prerequisites for senior jobs in the public service. It also offered teaching degrees. Why did it offer teaching degrees there? Because that community had trouble attracting teachers and they reasoned that establishing a teaching college was good, only because it might attracted local people into teaching but that teachers, upon graduation from college, tend to look for jobs near the place where they graduate, and their way of getting teachers into their area was to establish a teachers college; something that showed, I thought, a different way of thinking.
The growth industry in that area, an area that is quite far north but far less attractive than ours, is tourism.
They have a booming tourism industry that is entirely centered around the myth that they have managed to perpetuate or promote around Europe, that Rovaniemi is the home of Santa Claus. At Christmas time they have Concord-jet load charters coming in from London to visit Santa Claus at Santa Clauss village in this tiny northern Finnish community. People pay a fortune just to do that.
We know the truth of that matter - that Santa Claus lives much closer to Old Crow - but I do want to tell you that the people in Rovaniemi are absolutely convinced that Santa Clause lives there, and they are doing very well financially off that promotion.
The response of the education policymakers in that country has been to establish a university, one-third of the original faculties of which were to provide degrees in tourism, so they had trained people to serve that growth industry in their area.
To finish the point I wanted to make about education, I was told, although we did not visit this area, that the University of Tromso, which is in the far north of Norway, had established an engineering school and offered masters degrees in engineering because, at least in part, they wanted to keep engineers who were working there in the area. One of the ways to keep engineers in the area was to enable them to get post-secondary degrees, to get a masters degree while they were working. That became an extreme attraction.
In the area of resource management, on which the Minister of Renewable Resources can speak much more knowledgeably and eloquently than I, we have something to learn from the Scandinavians. In the same way we have something to learn from our colleagues both to the east and west of us in Alaska and the Northwest Territories. As you know, we have sought and found agreement among the North American jurisdictions - Alaska, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories - for joint management of the Porcupine caribou herd, an extremely significant international agreement, and an agreement to which all Members in this House have subscribed.
We have ongoing negotiations with Alaska on the Yukon River system - the salmon harvesting. Those negotiations go on because unfortunately our river was left out of the Pacific Salmon Treaty and in some sense we are having a little of an upstream battle there. It is a reminder of what an umbilical link between our two jurisdictions the Yukon River is and how important culturally and economically it is to us in an area that requires that we foster a close relationship with that jurisdiction to the west of us.
The negotiations of the Northern Accord for joint management of resources and the environment of the Beaufort Sea is an example of not only cooperation with the Government of Canada but which will require cooperation with the people of the Northwest Territories.
Scandinavians are famous throughout the world for their innovations in forest management and fish farming. They are world leaders in these fields and I am sure my colleagues, the Ministers of Renewable Resources and Tourism, can say something about what we have to learn from those people in these areas.
In the general area of economic development, as a relatively underdeveloped area, the Yukon has a long way to go. It is very useful for us to look at what has been done elsewhere - at what has worked elsewhere and at what has not worked - to try to benefit from that experience. It was interesting to me how much attention certain Alaskans, particularly in government and academic circles, have paid to our Yukon 2000 process and to the Yukon Economic Strategy, and how complimentary they have been about that and how willing some interests have been, particularly in Juneau, to pursue similar models on a regional basis in Alaska. In fact, a number of us have been invited to Alaska several times to speak about that project.
Perhaps not enough people realize that we have quite significant Scandinavian investment in the Yukon Territory these days. I believe more will come. I expect we can see more in future years, particularly in the forestry field. Through the company, Boliden, which is now controlled by another Swedish multinational, Trellemborg, there is a very substantial Scandinavian investment in the mine at Faro. It is interesting, too, that the truck designs that have caused so much comment in this House are also inspired by a Scandinavian model. In a number of ways, there are technical innovations in the mill and mine operations there that are the result of technology transfers from Scandinavia.
We have had, in the area of economic development, visits from a number of quite high-level people from Sweden in particular, but also interest from other countries.
In 1987, the Swedish Minister of Nordic Cooperation, Berndt Carlsson, came to the Yukon, and I am sad to say that Mr. Carlsson, who then went on to become the United Nations Commissioner for Namibia, died, tragically, in a plane crash at Lockerby last Christmas, just as he was about to participate in the signing of the agreement to give independence to Namibia. He led a delegation of people having a look at the Swedish economy back in those years.
Subsequently, the Commissioner for Kiruna, the most northern area in Sweden, came here to visit and to look at resource developments here in 1988. The Commissioner was a gentleman by the name of Lars Essling, with whom we have had subsequent contact and from whom I think we have something to learn, governing, as he does from the City of Kiruna, which used to be the site of the largest iron ore mine in the world. Employment in that mine has shrunk from 5,000 to 1,000 in the last few years and nonetheless the city has survived and thrived by radically diversifying its economy in all sorts of directions. A very interesting project we saw was where displaced workers were retrained as entrepreneurs, in a manner the like of which I have not seen in this country.
As mentioned, we have had an economic mission to the Nordic countries. The report on that mission has become a public document. The group included public and private sector representation. We received not only very high-level briefings in the Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish capitols, and a very much appreciated cooperation from our embassies in each of these countries, but also access to most senior people in the governments of all three of those countries in order to assist us. We also spent much useful time visiting many small-scale industries in northern Sweden and Finland and established contacts that I think many in our community will be able to pursue to their benefit. These are contacts that both the public sector and the private sector can take advantage of.
There are just a couple more areas I would like to touch on; one is in the area of what I would call scientific exchanges. Clearly, Scandinavians, in some technical fields, are world leaders, and I think we have something to learn from them, not only in the area of mining technology but also in the area of renewable resource technology. But there are also, I think, things that as perestroika happens and the Soviet Union begins to open up, that we can learn from that part of the world as well.
As you know, the Yukon government has participated in the Canada-USSR Arctic Science Exchange Program. The territorial government has sent a large mammal biologist to see projects in the USSR in 1986 and we had a road engineer visit projects in Siberia in 1988. The frequency of contact between the Northwest Territories and the Soviet Union and between Alaska and the Soviet Union has just exploded. The Governor of Alaska and the Government Leader of the Northwest Territories have told me that literally dozens of quite high-level Soviets - government, scientific and cultural people - are coming to their jurisdictions, and, as I think all Members here know, the Soviet Union has recently opened up a mission of a kind in Juneau, the first time any such facility or formal governmental representation has been established anywhere in this continent this far north.
The Yukon government has hosted groups of Soviet biologists in 1985 and engineers in 1987, when they were touring northern Canada. While the Yukon has not had an intense contact with the Soviet Union, it is not too much of an exaggeration to say that they, too, are our neighbors and we would hope to have the kind of benefit from the kind of exchanges that are going on between that country and ours, such as the one that the Prime Minister of our country is now pursuing in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Every Member in this House knows that Yukon was a founder and a participant in the Arctic Winter Games with Alaska and the Northwest Territories. This is very important. Occasional interest has been shown in that project by the Soviets and by the Greenlanders and the people from Arctic Quebec. It is not inconceivable that the scope of these games could increase. This could be another very important circumpolar link.
In the area of culture, the aboriginal languages programs operating out of our college under the sponsorship of the Council for Yukon Indians have had frequent exchanges with the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. Given that the aboriginal people in the Yukon, Alaska and Northwest Territories have languages in common, this kind of contact should be encouraged and sponsored by governments where possible.
I would like to speak about some of the practical benefits that we can realize and to return to the economic area. One of the things that we saw on our economic mission recently was the operation of the economic development funds by those countries. It was interesting to note that all three countries have active regional development funds that act as risk financiers for new and expanding businesses. It is interesting that in those countries, unlike ours, the regional development funds divide the country into regions and make a distinction between the have and the have not areas. This is something I notice that Premier Wells of Newfoundland was arguing fiercely for recently. They make a distinction between the levels of development in each area and quite consciously give the most assistance to the areas most in need. In every one of those countries, it is the northern area that has the greatest needs. All three countries decentralize government programs to a much greater extent than Canada so that local municipalities or local provincial jurisdictions provide jobs and design services and opportunities for their local populations, the like of which are not available in Canada.
It is interesting that in those countries, northern communities do not consider their location a hindrance to providing national services. One community we visited has the national super computer centre. Another operates the national licensing system for the whole television system in the country and is involved in satellite imaging and the production of the national atlas. This is in a community of 30,000 people, further north than Old Crow. They are involved in high-tech imagery and projects like producing the national atlas for the whole country. There is no sense in those places that anything is inappropriate.
Another community we visited north of the 60th parallel in Finland is going to be the location of a circumpolar Arctic research centre, not just for their own country, but to establish contact with all the circumpolar Arctic research centres around the world. That little community in Finland, which is about the same size of Whitehorse, intends to become the world centre for that kind of research. They do that quite boldly and courageously.
They consider education and training the most important single factor in development. I am sure this is why they put so much effort into quality universities. All their northern regions are trying to move away from reliance on traditional industries and resource extraction such as forestry, mining and farming. They consider their best bets for future economic development to be in winter tourism and high technology and appropriate technology investments. They recognize that as important as producing goods is the requirement that they market them correctly. This an area where I thought we had a lot to learn from the Scandinavians. They have developed highly sophisticated marketing co-ops for the benefit of all local small businesses. They operate in the manufacturing sector similar to the way in which our Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon does, but they do cooperative marketing. They have major centres. They market initially to the area immediately beyond them and then move out into the world. The one that operates in Skelleftea is an amazing operation that has persuaded every small local business that you have to begin to market at the time you first develop an idea and then the marketing continues through to the point where you are servicing customers and doing repairs and follow up on the sales. They do it with a professionalism the like to which I have not seen anywhere in this country.
What was also impressive in those areas, the last two general things we observed on that tour, was the very high degree of cooperation between private business and the government sector to promote business and economic opportunities in the region. There was none of the kind of silly squabbling evident in the newspapers that characterizes much of the debate in Canada, which is probably permanently a mixed economy here as there.
The other thing was the ingenuity and initiatives shown by these communities in attracting national offices and high-tech businesses that are virtually unheard of in the Canadian north. What was really remarkable there was the entrepreneurship of the public sector. I thought that was a remarkable and fine thing.
We should pursue the opportunities for circumpolar connections through things like the Arctic centre in Rovaniemi, Finland. When I was there, I was asked to make contact on behalf of the publication out of our college, the Northern Review, to see if there could be editors or subscribers from the academic community of articles to this publication from those areas. We did identify some people who wanted to participate in that. The opportunity for developing circumpolar ties between educational institutions, especially with institutions like the Yukon College, is well worth doing.
Elsewhere, I have had a chance to talk about some of the things we saw in technological innovations in the far north of Scandinavia, which are worth looking at. The water pump that we saw there that operates like a propeller in the water and can pump and move water, which is what you would call low technology, but appropriate technology, and which involves no use of fuel like electricity or diesel, was amazing. We saw totally robotized factories in communities in the far north, including one that was north of the Arctic Circle, which had been developed by one man who was obviously a genius. He only had grade eight education, yet he built all the robots in his factory, but he frankly admitted he had been inspired by the technical innovations that had happened in his community once the mine shrunk its workforce from 5,000 to 1,000 to respond to the change in world markets. It was the technical innovations of that mine, and the fact that the mine became completely computerized. Rather than bringing in white collar technicians to run those computers, they retrained the blue collar workers, the older miners and the ones with seniority in the mines, to operate those computers. That led to a computer revolution in their small town and that, in some sense, inspired this man who had been manufacturing small grindstones to now operate this plant, which is totally robotized and producing grindstones for the world and competing successfully with Taiwan, Korea and the Japanese, who had tried to undersell him.
We saw wood planing operations that were adding 900 percent value to woods and finding a market abroad. We saw gemstone operations. There were many projects we saw that we think represent innovations and ideas that could be borrowed and implemented here, including central solid waste heating plants, the business centre I mentioned in Skelleftea and the smaller one in Kiruna, ideas for winter tourism, ideas about training, ideas of processing and using local specialty foods.
In the far north, during the tourism season, restaurant menus would not just have the usual steak and lobster, which is the fare in most of our places. Interestingly enough, the majority of items on restaurant menus were local foods such as reindeer or local fish, using sauces made from local berries. That was not occasional specialty items in occasional specialty restaurants. That was in most of the restaurants on most of the menus. I thought that was something in terms of integration between our renewable resource sectors: fish, berries and maybe meat - and the tourism industry, which was very important.
At the governmental level we have, in the time since the Member for Porter Creek East and I have been in this Legislature, begun a legislative exchange program with Alaskans, from whom we have a lot to learn. They are ahead of us, having gone through a claims settlement, having been through a pipeline; they have been through statehood. All these things are still before us, in some sense. We have joint Cabinet meetings with the Northwest Territories. I have had many meetings, as leader of this government, with the Alaskan Governors Sheffield and Cowper. I have had opportunities to meet with Cabinet members in the Scandinavian countries, one of whom who, when he was foreign minister of Norway, Thorvald Stotenberg, when he was here with the King of Norway some months ago, had expressed a wish to the Canadian delegation to make an official visit to the Yukon. Unfortunately, that was not possible at that time, but we have had visits from other high level Scandinavian contacts. We have increasingly frequent contact and exchanges on all sorts of issues - transportation, cultural, resource, environmental questions - with the Alaskans, and those will be pursued. Likewise, we have many issues in common with the Northwest Territories, and the contact with them is being fostered.
It is interesting that in the orientation of this building, the orientation of this government, as we sit here, we face the north. I think that is symbolically important. We are not proposing in any sense that we abandon or fracture or allow to atrophy our relationships and contacts with jurisdictions in the south, with the provinces, with the national government; that would be ridiculous; but we think there are obvious and appropriate opportunities for us expanding our contact and our relationship with jurisdictions to the east and the west of us and abroad into Scandinavia and, indeed, perhaps increasingly, into the Soviet Union with the advent of perestroika and a new consciousness emerging in the world. We have a lot to learn from them; I would respectfully say that they have some things to learn from us. I think that there is a lot for us both to benefit from the exchange, and I think that this motion today gives us an opportunity to speak to that issue and I would hope that all Members of the House find the idea favorable, and we can formally endorse what I think should be an important element of the public and private business in this part of the world.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to thank the Premier for introducing this motion. It seeks this Assemblys endorsement of the Yukon governments initiatives to develop stronger circumpolar ties. It is a pleasure to be afforded this opportunity to reflect on what we have in common with other circumpolar jurisdictions. Too often the borders that are drawn on maps leave their marks on our minds allowing us to forget how much we share with our neighbouring jurisdictions. Our concept of the world has changed since photographs of our planet were taken from space during the 1960s. Most of us have come to realize since then that however vast our part of the earth appears to be, what happens in the Soviet Union, or Alaska, or over the North Pole may well affect us here in the Yukon. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster, for example, sent radioactive particles drifting on the winds around the northern part of our planet. Deterioration of the ozone layer, particularly around the Poles, is a source of concern for all northern peoples. Scientists predict an increase in the incidence of skin cancer.
As we become increasingly aware that our actions can affect our neighbours, it becomes more and more important to develop mechanisms that foster cooperation with our neighbours. Resources such as wildlife, for example, know no borders. The animals in the great Porcupine caribou herd of the northern Yukon, Alaska and Northwest Territories, carry no passports. They wander freely from the 10-02 lands in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to the Yukon/Alaska North Slope, and then south to Old Crow and beyond, and east to the Northwest Territories. Recognition by the Government of Yukon of the international migratory pattern of the Porcupine herd has led to ground breaking interjurdictional management agreements with our northern neighbours.
In 1985, the Government of Yukon, the Government of the Northwest Territories, the Government of Canada, the Council for Yukon Indians, the Dene/Metis and the Inuvialuit Game Council all became signatories to the Porcupine caribou management agreement. This agreement was different from the usual government-to-government type of bureaucratic arrangement because it recognized the important role that traditional users should play in managing the herd. The Porcupine Caribou Management Board, which was established by the agreement, made representatives of the Gwichin, Dene, Inuvialuit and Northern Tutchone peoples full participants in the board, and gave the board the power to make recommendations to the ministers responsible for the management of wildlife; recommendations that my predecessor and I are pleased to accept.
I mentioned earlier that the Porcupine caribou herd is also an international wildlife resource. Recognizing this, our governments efforts to develop interjurisdictional cooperation did not stop with the in-Canada management agreement. On July 17, 1987, the International Porcupine Caribou Management Agreement was signed, establishing a framework for international, cooperative management of the herd.
The Yukon has also been instrumental in encouraging other circumpolar resource management mechanisms. As Members are aware, much work has been done over the last two years in the development of a Yukon conservation strategy. The strategy is, in part, a response to the Northern Conservation Task Force Report of 1984. The conservation strategy outlines a management plan for the Yukons resources that has developed from a holistic perspective. As Members will see, when the product is before them, this strategy recognizes interrelationships between our various natural resources and recommends actions that build on this awareness.
In developing the strategy, we have also been aware of the bonds that tie us to the rest of Canadas north and the circumpolar region. In many ways, the entire circumpolar region presents a unique opportunity for the development of strategies that integrate economic and environmental concerns.
The circumpolar region has a long history of aboriginal peoples living in harmony, not in conflict with the natural world. Among these peoples, and many of the norths newcomers, the message of conservation is implicitly and profoundly understood. Much of the circumpolar north is less developed in an industrial sense than the rest of the northern hemisphere; consequently, it represents an opportunity; an opportunity for future development activities that reflect and promote the natural link between the economy and the environment.
Work on strategies to achieve environmentally-sound economic development and conservation of our resources is well underway in northern Canada. In addition to the Yukon Conservation Strategy, an Arctic Marine Conservation Strategy is being developed by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Northwest Territories sustainable development strategy is well advanced. Work is also continuing on the Old Crow conservation strategy.
These resource management strategy developments are not exclusive to northern Canada. The Inuit Circumpolar Conservation Strategy has sought to involve Inuit people from Greenland, northern Canada, Alaska and the Soviet Union in its development. In fact, this year for the first time Soviet Inuit were permitted to attend the Inuit Circumpolar Conference which was held in Greenland.
These initiatives have not proceeded in isolation. The need for a common vision for the conservation and development of our resources in northern Canada and the circumpolar region was recognized some time ago and led to the formation of the Working Group on Northern Conservation Strategy. As a group the various agencies are working toward the fulfillment of a recommendation called for by the 1986 World Conservation Strategy Conference in Ottawa. That recommendation stated that a comprehensive northern circumpolar strategy should be developed and implemented with the involvement of governments, northern indigenous peoples, and resource users. Much of the northern conservation framework was developed in a February 1988 Banff School of Management workshop instigated by the Yukon government.
The development of a circumpolar strategy follows naturally from the working group efforts to build linkages between conservation initiatives in the north. This cooperative work to link conservation strategies reflects the growing recognition that we live in a global community.
A number of agreements signed earlier this week by Prime Minister Mulroney and External Affairs Minister Joe Clark have focused attention on the opening circumpolar frontier with the Soviet Union. This affords me the opportunity to make Members aware of two emerging circumpolar initiatives in both the renewable resources environmental field and in the heritage area.
These initiatives are quite closely related and, although the Yukon government has not yet formulated formal positions on these proposals, I find them intriguing concepts. We are all aware of the new agreements that Canada has entered just this past week with the Soviet Union on measures to protect the environment and to study the effects of the hole in the ozone layer on our northern peoples. I will leave those comments pertaining to the environment to my colleague from Old Crow to speak to.
With respect to heritage, North Americas first inhabitants entered the new world continent by way of the Bering land bridge from that part of Asia that is now in the Soviet Union. Archaeological evidence of early human habitation in the Old Crow area leads scientists to incorporate that area, along with the remnants of the land bridge, into a region that is called Beringia.
This region is rich in terms of both natural and human history. More evidence of the natural history of the area during the last interglacial period emerges with every season.
These facts and the recent thaw with the Soviet Union have moved Representative Mike Davis of the Alaska State Legislature, seconded by Niilo Koponen, to call for the establishment of a Beringia international biosphere reserve and national heritage program for the remnants of the Soviet-Alaskan land bridge. For those who are not familiar with the term biosphere reserve, its basic purpose is to enable people to cooperate in solving resource problems, share knowledge and improve management of natural resources in areas of common interest. In fact, the Yukon government has previously suggested the establishment of a biosphere reserve that would twin the North Yukon National Park and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
It is interesting to note that at the same time this idea emerged in Alaska, people in our heritage branch had been discussing a complementary concept with Parks Canada. The discussions have hinged around the possible designation of a world heritage site, with a designated western representive site, at the land bridge area and an eastern representive site on the Old Crow River. This kind of joint designation has a precedent in the Kluane-Wrangle-St. Elias world heritage site in southwestern Yukon and Southeastern Alaska.
The Beringia, or bridge the new world theme, has been recognized as being of national importance by the National Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. The two major components of the world heritage sites system are cultural and natural heritage significance.
The Beringia theme offers both cultural and natural sub-themes in abundance. One such cultural sub-theme is caribou hunting in the circumpolar world, the history and development of a major human subsistence pattern. The last-mentioned sub-theme is particularly attractive in the Old Crow setting because of the history of the Old Crow peoples use of the Porcupine caribou herd and the ANWR lands controversy. An archaeological site situated six miles upstream from the village of Old Crow is ideally situated for future development as a site to interpret this theme.
This concept remains an idea at the present time. It was discussed a number of years ago with the Old Crow band and remains a subject of interest to heritage and parks people. I think the concept is well worth further discussion and development if the people of Old Crow are interested.
There are other circumpolar initiatives that I could mention today, but I know that my colleagues are eager to have their opportunity to speak, so in closing I would like to say that I am quite surprised that the Members opposite do not appear to share our enthusiasm for the circumpolar activities that exist. This may be an assumption, as suggested by the Member for Porter Creek West, but I do not see very many names of Members on the side opposite on the speaking list.
When you see the possibilities that exist, they are virtually limitless, and we could be sharing knowledge in a lot of areas instead of trying to re-invent the wheel, with all the research that has been done not just the areas that I am involved with, Renewable Resources, such as wildlife management and developing more humane trapping methods so they can get northern agricultural techniques and new developments in silviculture. Again, I am quite surprised that the Members opposite have not come forward with some of their own ideas, such as engineering, education and business. Even some good friends of ours in the Yukon, such as Stu Wallace and my dear friend, John Van Every in Dawson City, recently went to the Soviet Union on a business venture to open up possibilities there.
I think also that the statement that yesterday came out of the Soviet Union that Canada would be establishing a consulate or an embassy in Kiev, the Ukrainian capitol, I think again opens up all kinds of possibilities for more cultural exchanges between our country and the Soviet Union.
The government Member has mentioned many other areas, such as sports. I understand that the Soviet Union will be sending a small contingent to Yellowknife next year for the Arctic Winter Games. I think I will now pass on to my other colleagues to discuss other possibilities in their areas of interest. I want to thank Members opposite for being so attentive. I know they have much to learn here because obviously they do not have much to offer today, or we are not hearing from them, anyway.
Okay, they are awake now. Go ahead, Ms. Hayden.
Ms. Hayden: I rise to speak briefly and somewhat lightly to the motion that is on the floor. I am always pleased to support a motion that deals with international cooperation.
As everyone in this House no doubt knows, I have been involved with the international Girl Guide movement for many years. One of my greatest delights has always been assisting with, or taking part in, the international exchanges. Just this summer one of my constituents, a well respected elder woman in our community, travelled to attend an international guiding event. She renewed old friendships and established new ones. As a matter of interest, she will turn 80 this winter.
About 16 years ago, two teenage Girl Guides, one from Watson Lake and one from Whitehorse, travelled to Greenland for a circumpolar camp and a visit. The world became a much friendlier place for those two young Yukon Indian girls. Every year, there are numerous opportunities for young men and young women to travel internationally from the Yukon. It is one of the highlights of living in this part of the world.
The motion before us today speaks to the sharing of knowledge and experiences in many fields, including health, education, justice, resource management, economic development, recreation and culture. To this end, let us not overlook what people like the Girl Guides can do. These are our international ambassadors, and they can be very good ones. We can be proud of them.
We share the Arctic Winter Games with other northern communities in Alaska and in the Northwest Territories and, again for the most part, these are young people travelling. Perhaps some day the Arctic Winter Games will include teams from other jurisdictions in the circumpolar north.
Recently, aboriginal peoples in the USSR and Alaska have had an opportunity to visit each other after many years of separation forced on them by a closed international border.
We fear what we do not understand. That is just human nature. By opening up our borders, and even our homes, to northern peoples from other areas, we will come to understand one another. Guiding and scouting are international organizations. Sports teams have developed international links. Union organizations and peace groups have reached out and have been received. It is only fitting that the Government of the Yukon be encouraged to forge still stronger links with all circumpolar north jurisdictions, as this motion calls for. I support this motion.
Ms. Kassi: It is timely for this motion to come to the floor of this House in the week when the federal government of Canada signed a memorandum of understanding on Arctic marine pollution in Moscow. This memorandum provides for the exchange of information between the two jurisdictions on environmental legislation, pollution prevention policy, protection measures for northern coastal communities, cleanup and research. I am of two worlds when it comes to agreements such as this. On the one hand, I am always pleased and hopeful when we can reach agreements that will make it possible for the people of the north to get together to discuss and work on issues of mutual concern. On the other hand, I believe in the concept of a broad circumpolar community that transgresses the artificial boundaries of colonial settlement and that crosses the man-made borders that ignore traditional lifestyles and the family ties of the people of the north.
I am pleased this motion is before us today in the Legislature of the Yukon. It is the northern jurisdictions of the world that must take initiatives such as this. We cannot leave all this to the lawmakers in the south anymore, regardless of the country they represent. In the end, we are all members of the global community. We share concerns about the pollution of our environment. We share concerns about the economies of the world. We share concerns about social and justice issues. We all share concerns about world peace.
Look at the earth as it is today, and the environmentally-destructive state it is in, the depletion of many of its resources, the oceans and their massive animals being poisoned by oil spills, damage to the biological habitat areas of the migratory birds, and the species closer to home being destroyed by the demand for land for agricultural use and for oil development. The air is so polluted, you can feel it. There is burning of the land by fires due to changes in the climate by man. The rain forests are being destroyed. We have poverty. Many people are starving, and there is a loss of indigenous cultures vital to the balance of nature. People are dying every day, fighting to preserve what little lands they do have just to survive. We are faced with incurable diseases of the blood. Then, we focus on Canada. We come closer to home where, in British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories and Quebec, our forests are being depleted at a high rate from clear cutting and from forest fires that are often the result of extreme climate changes of hot and dry weather that lead to burning of 6 million hectares of forests in Canada last summer.
We have drought each year. In Ontario, the Great Lakes are poisoned. The rivers that go into and come out of these lakes are also polluted. Animals can no longer survive, and the people are also affected. There is evidence of mercury poisoning in Canadian water systems. PCBs have been found in breast milk of nursing mothers. Radiation is evident in the fish. Poison toxic wastes pour into our lakes and rivers from mining operations and pulp mills. There is increasing military activity of low level flights that is detrimental to innocent people and their environment. There are points at which many of these concerns come together.
For example, social justice issues, the economy and the environment all came under scrutiny over the issue of the low level military jet training flights in Labrador. These NATO exercises, sanctioned by our not so progressive Conservative government in Ottawa, directly affect the lives of only a few people but, indirectly, they have an impact on the lives of many people. Innu in the region protested the flights that would do great damage to their environment. The fact that this was the Innu homeland was not considered significant to the powers in the capital city of our nation.
We have seen the effects of so-called progress on traditional life in the northern parts of the Eurasian continent after Chernobyl. The reindeer herds became contaminated and could not be eaten by the aboriginal peoples who had hunted in that area for generations. Transportation of oil and gas in tankers and pipelines has the potential for great environmental destruction. We, the people of the circumpolar north, must be consulted before decisions are made. Just as the caribou in Labrador have been affected by the jet flights, so the caribou in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Alaska will be affected by pipelines and ill-considered developments.
Then we focus on the Yukon, the beautiful Yukon, the last frontier, the magic and the mystery, as everyone says, where our indigenous culture struggles to survive, where our animals roam free in the wild, where our people walk and speak in freedom, where we still go out and get caribou, fish and moose when we need to feed our families. This is a beautiful place where some lands are left untouched - Gwichin Land, Mr. Speaker - a place where spiritual connection to the land creates peace and tranquility for our existence. A place where people welcome others to share. The people of the Yukon have done well in the preservation and conservation of our resources, but for how long?
Many changes will come our way and they are coming quickly. Capitalism is creeping up on us. With industrial development comes accidents. Destruction initiated by the capitalists of the world is taking its toll right here in the Yukon. The Yukon is not going to become a Miami of the north, like many people predict. Our lands will warm up, all right, and they will also dry. Then we must ask ourselves if we have the money and the resources in place to fight the inevitable forest fires, for example. We will be faced with floods that will come because of global warming and the melting of the Arctic ice and polar ice caps. Do we have the technology in place that can build pipelines that can withstand the shifting of the land due to the melting of permafrost?
Do we have the policies and agreements in place to protect our lands for the long term survival of the people in northern Canada, Yukon, Alaska and the circumpolar nations? Not yet.
The positive thing is that we are still optimistic. We still have the time to make the vital decisions, as leaders of the world, and the circumpolar north, to come to these agreements to open communication, to share our common knowledge, and to share many of our concerns.
Yes, I do support this motion put forth by our Premier today, and I take it very seriously. While governments are coming together across the world to deal with concerns, so are the indigenous peoples of the world. Through the Inuit circumpolar conferences, through the Indigenous Survival International, through the World Council of Indigenous People, through the working group of Indigenous People of the United Nations and, most recently, we can add the First Indigenous Inter-Americas Congress on Conservation of Natural Resources in Panama City to this list.
All of these organizations and meetings have one thing in common: that is, creating policies, agreements with indigenous peoples by indigenous peoples for indigenous peoples themselves. We will not be left out any longer. People are recognizing this. Without the contribution of knowledge of the indigenous peoples, there is a link missing. We have the opportunity to build that partnership and forge stronger links by listening to the indigenous people of the world, of the circumpolar north.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I find this motion very timely since the announcement by the federal government of agreements that are being signed between Canada and the Soviet Union. Much of the circumpolar jurisdiction is shared with the Soviet Union and, in the past, we have had some difficulty in sharing some of our common concerns with this particular jurisdiction. It is exciting to see that all circumpolar countries can now more easily share the common concerns, knowledge and experience to the benefit of all.
We need to support this motion so we can continue our links with other circumpolar countries, as well as developing new contacts with other jurisdictions.
I am extremely interested in forging new links, especially with regard to tribal justice and other correctional programs with our circumpolar jurisdictions. In the Yukon, the communities are taking a very active interest in new systems of justice that are more culturally sensitive.
I have found that, in other countries, there are some extremely interesting and effective alternatives to our traditional forms of justice. This traditional system is proving to be pretty much ineffective, particularly with the native communities. It is my intention to pursue and support new ideas for a justice system that will be more effective and understanding of the native people in the Yukon.
Most of the circumpolar regions have their aboriginal communities, which suffer many of the same type of problems that are evident in our own communities. Alcohol and family violence have had devastating results in our communities, as well as many of the circumpolar areas. We need to investigate some of the ways other people have come to deal with these problems.
During my visit to Sweden to attend the Circumpolar Health Conference, which resulted in the Circumpolar Health Conference to be held in Whitehorse later on next year, provided me with an insight to the problems and concerns from other countries that were so familiar to our own. To share these concerns was not only exciting but encouraging to discover that we can find solutions to our problems if we can look beyond our boundaries and share each others experiences.
My trip to Sweden to the Circumpolar Health Conference involved many things, such as the meeting of other individuals who attended this conference from many different areas. There was a similarity with the Sami people. They prefer to be called Sami rather than Laplanders. We shared a lot of the same kind of common concerns, the same problems and, in the area of medicine, we travelled on to Karaskok in Norway, where we were able to have a symposium that was put on by those individuals. We found out there were at least 40 Sami people who had gotten into the field of medicine and have gone back to their individual communities, or very close to them, where hospitals were, and provided some of their own programs, because they understood what some of the cultures and traditions were, and were familiar with some of the old customs.
In those travels, we were able to see a number of other things that were taking place with regard to economic development. Those kinds of projects, to me, were very encouraging in the fact that a lot of them took place many miles on the other side of the Arctic Circle. I was very encouraged by what I saw in regard to road building and tourist resorts, as well as many other things that could be quite valuable to the Yukon. The area was similar to many parts of the north here. In many areas that I travelled to and saw, I almost felt I was back home. As a matter of fact, a lot of the Sami people reminded me of the people back here. We do share common concerns. There are many things they have been able to do that we here in the Yukon can benefit from.
In my travels through Scandinavia, I travelled to Stockholm and met with many of the people who were involved with Justice and Health, and had set up two days of meetings with those individuals. I learned a lot of things because of that connection between them.
I also had the opportunity to take part in some of the food they served in restaurants that the Minister of Health and Human Resources spoke of, where they used things very closely connected with the land. I ate a lot of reindeer.
In the past few days, we have been discussing the serious and grave problems of family violence. Each and every person in this House expressed their own personal concerns regarding family violence. We know that, while we work very hard at discussing new ideas for new solutions, we could only benefit from the exchange of ideas from other jurisdictions. I would like to encourage this government to seek out relationships that can benefit the Yukon and help us all in making the Yukon a very strong link in the circumpolar north.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I, too, would like to add my support to this motion. I feel quite supportive that we should be addressing stronger links with northern circumpolar regions.
As outlined by previous speakers, the similarities in climate and geography and the similarities in the various interests and problems that face the regions give solid justification for us to form those linkages.
I would like to speak to some initiatives that I am familiar with in the areas of infrastructure development, and I have to tell you that I have not had the opportunity for extensive travel in circumpolar regions. In fact, it was only last week that I finally made it to the Northwest Territories and Yellowknife, but I do speak from some knowledge of having spoken to people who have done extensive travel and exchange, and I would like to discuss some of these benefits to Yukon that have resulted from that. Principally, the State of Alaska and the Soviet Union have provided some considerable benefit to Yukon in exchanges, and particularly in the areas of infrastructure.
Road development, sewer and water development and housing are some of the areas that have been examined in some detail by people from this government and by exchanges that have taken place from other jurisdictions. Members will recall the Shakwak project, which was an example of cooperation and development between the State of Alaska and the Yukon. More recently, the Skagway Road has been a major initiative where extensive cooperation took place between jurisdictions.
It is quite fair to say that the Yukon government, historically, has supported and has participated in exchanges that have taken place between the Soviet Union and ourselves. The Premier mentioned a number of them, and they have been referred to by other speakers. Quite simply, the focus of those exchanges has been to address areas of a technical nature, to address those experiences that relate to Arctic and sub-Arctic development in both our countries. I already mentioned that a number of geological and scientific areas have been investigated. The northern environment has been addressed in those exchanges. Construction has been addressed in a number of areas. It was an exchange program that actually began in 1984 at a discussion stage and, in fact, in 1986 took form when several people from the Soviet Union visited the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
The first group of people under that exchange program was in the area of highway and road construction, and there was a considerable interest shown by the people of the Soviet Union in our bituminous surface treatment, more commonly known as BST. It was fascinating, from the reports of the people who toured with them, how intrigued they were with this method of road surfacing. At the same time, our calcium chloride treatment was something similar to what they were doing. They, in particular, found the heat tracing of our culverts, where we have a lot of glacial activity, a fascinating approach to keeping ice off the road. Probably the most fascinating initiative or innovation was, to the Soviets, the breakaway highway signs that we have in place. I am advised that they promptly went back and redesigned it even better and are using them now themselves.
A couple of years later, as mentioned by the Minister of Renewable Resources, a couple of our highways people went over to the Soviet Union and also found an intriguing number of initiatives and innovations in highway construction that they brought back to the Yukon. An example of what they found in the Soviet Union that had not been utilized at all here in road construction was the use of reinforced concrete slabs for road surfacing. Naturally that is a popular form of road support, largely because the materials are available. They do an extensive technique of spraying ice bridges, that provide much more solid construction than the natural ice bridges that we use.
Additionally, there was the use of an innovation in transportation called the hydrofoil that is used extensively in northern areas of the Soviet Union that our people reported back on.
In short, the whole area of exchange of information is extremely useful and valuable to jurisdictions that share common geography and climate. It is not limited to roads, but sewer and water installations were also examined by our highways people, as the Soviets examined our systems.
A technique has been developed, called a hydrofoil, that essentially stabilizes lagoons and sewage disposal areas in permafrost conditions. Probably even more importantly, the whole area of permafrost research is highly advanced in the Soviet Union. Many ideas were brought back. Permafrost is a technology that has not been advanced very rapidly in the north of Canada and we have picked up numerous ideas.
Previous speakers have spoken about the development of communities, not unlike our rural communities. It is fascinating that the communities of northern regions of other circumpolar countries are often much larger than the ones we are familiar with.
Considerable information exchange has taken place in the area of housing. We tend to concentrate on improving our energy efficiency and durability of housing. We tend to use wood frame construction. Our methods tend to attract a good deal of interest by our circumpolar neighbours, largely because we have moved to address areas of energy efficiency, something that other circumpolar regions do not seem to have developed as well. Only a year ago, 50 people representing the various sectors of the housing industry in Alaska visited the Yukon and did a lengthy tour of the construction sites of the government and private sector and of Yukon Housing and came away quite impressed with the energy conservation technology that we use.
The Alaskans were highly complimentary of the energy efficiency in the homes under construction. While we gain a lot of information from some of the technology in other regions, they enjoy taking the better parts of what we do as well.
Credit for the exchange with Alaska in the housing sector should be given to the Yukon Home Builders Association because it took the initiative to establish that contact. I understand the association has established communication and contact with the Soviets and are planning an exchange on that front. The Yukon Home Builders Association ought to be complimented for that initiative.
Another area I have some familiarity with, and has been mentioned a couple of times by previous speakers, is the area of sports, art and recreation. The Premier did mention the initiation of the Arctic Winter Games. The 1990 games in Yellowknife are going to have athletes from Greenland for the first time. I expect when we host the games in 1992, every indication is that we will have the Soviets, if not participating, at least in an observational capacity.
Members are familiar with the fit trek program, which is coordinated by Fitness Canada and selects communities from Canada to be paired with communities in the Soviet Union. These are friendly exchanges that eventually provide a benefit to those participants. As government, we have endorsed that program, and it is our intention to approach communities to see if we have the potential to set up an exchange relationship with a Soviet town or community.
It brings to mind the very complimentary gesture of the Government of Canada to set up the consulate in Kiev, my ancestral home, if you will ... (foreign language) ... For the translation, I complimented the Prime Minister and Minister of External Affairs.
Still in the area of arts, culture and sports, Members are all familiar with the rather exciting competition that takes place on an annual basis in Yukon Quest. Another circumpolar cultural festival, focusing on aboriginal culture, recently took place in Cambridge, England. Mr. Speaker, your Tlingit dancers were at that festival, and it was a fine representation of our jurisdiction in a circumpolar setting in a southern region. At the same time, everyone is familiar with the story-telling festival that has become something of an annual event over the last couple of years. It features various story tellers and artists from various circumpolar regions, which include Iceland, Greenland, and I believe the USSR as well.
There is a fair amount of useful exchange that takes place, but where I find it most useful is in the practical application of those technologies and those improvements that other regions have engineered that are applicable to us. I have every evidence from officials in all my departments - Government Services, Community and Transportation Services and Yukon Housing - that the various exchanges of information and personnel that have taken place with circumpolar regions have provided fruitful results and improvements to us. The bottom line of all that is it does save money and it does improve our ability to provide better infrastructure and better services to our people.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Every jurisdiction that looks only inward is poorer for its parochial attitude. While I believe it is legitimate to be primarily concerned about the vibrant domestic, economic and social life, it is foolish to ignore the experience of our neighbors, and that relationship with our circumpolar neighbors is something we could work at cultivating.
I relish the opportunity to discuss what one might refer to as the Yukons external relations this afternoon because it is something that only peripherally enters our debate in this Legislature, and normally only with respect to episodes or incidents in the economic, social and environmental life of the Yukon Territory.
In the past, as the Premier has indicated in his opening remarks, the ties with southern capitols, and especially Ottawa, have dominated our attention. This is not really surprising. The many cultural and communication links, such as the medium of television and transportation links, lead directly from our communities to southern communities virtually thousands of miles away. It is not surprising that our everyday life is intricately linked with the vibrant economic and cultural life of jurisdictions that truly have little in common with us in terms of the character and nature of their economy and cultural traditions.
I think I have mentioned the story before about walking into a lunchroom in a mine in Elsa over 10 years ago and listening to the lunchroom debate about the problems that Mayor Jane Byrne was having in Detroit and the incredible understanding that was shown by everyone around the table as to what the problems this particular mayor was having within the democratic caucus of Detroit city. Yet when the discussion moved to what was happening in Vancouver or Ottawa, the understanding was less distinct. When there was some discussion about what was happening in Whitehorse, politically, the understanding was almost completely absent.
I will not care to mention, because it would not be nice, what the people were saying about our leaders in Whitehorse, but nevertheless, it was based on ignorance. There were not the links between Elsa and Whitehorse in those days that there were between Elsa and Detroit.
I think what we have been facing in the past many years is a preoccupation with concerns about what Ottawa thinks about the Yukon, the funding relationship with the federal government, Yukons place in Canadas policy agenda and Yukons relationship with the provinces, whose concerns are large and urban in their nature. This relationship has dominated our external relations with others.
We have, of course, begun to make timid forays into developing a closer relationship with Alaska through the parliamentary association and the good offices of such notable Alaskan politicians as Randy Phillips. But otherwise our relationship with Alaska has been issue-oriented, whether it has been dealing with the Shakwak project or the road opening. Our relationship with the Northwest Territories has also been issue-oriented, whether it has been dealing with the COPE claim or other items that have happened to come forward from time to time, such as the maintenance of the Dempster Highway.
We have not really developed a solid friendship and understanding between jurisdictions, which is the underpinning of good foreign relations. We have not learned the lesson that issues are more easily dealt with when you know and understand your neighbors.
In 1985, discussions were undertaken with the State of Alaska to open the Skagway Road. The working knowledge of the Yukon civil service of what happens in that state was minimal. We remember people pulling out the Alaska blue book to explain who it was we should contact, other than the governors office, when it came to dealing with relations between the Yukon and the State of Alaska. An extensive relationship had not yet been developed. The Government of Yukon had to start from scratch.
One thing that did carry the discussions was the fact that we had started to develop parliamentary ties with the the state legislature. Beyond the simple discussion between the civil service of the Yukon and the civil service of the Commissioner of Transportation in Alaska, the relation could then be developed more on a political level.
Meanwhile, we continued to travel a well-tread path. We continued to attend ministerial conferences, as we had previous to 1985, where our prime goal was to re-educate on an annual basis other ministers of the existence of the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Each ministerial conference involved ministers starting off with the exotic Yukon speech or the exotic Northwest Territories speech on how we are different from others, and why our items are not on the national agenda but why we should still be considered.
The Province of British Columbia did not start off by saying: we are different, we are western Canada, we should be considered in a special sort of way. Neither did Newfoundland or Quebec or Ontario. The Yukon and the Northwest Territories did. When I ran through the transcripts of the ministerial conferences prior to 1985 to get a sense of what my ministerial colleagues from another governments had been saying, we were constantly trying to convince other ministers to not only recognize the existence of the territory but to recognize the importance of northern issues.
It came to my attention that there had to be better ministerial contacts to allow ministers of jurisdictions like the Yukon to get together with other ministers on a political level and deal with issues of common concern, and agendas that were recognizable and familiar in a context that suited the Yukons interests.
A few years ago, the now Government Leader of the Northwest Territories and I, and the Commissioner for Education in Alaska, decided that our discussions together as a group had a lot more in common than those discussions that we had with the Council of Ministers of Education of Canada in Toronto or Vancouver, or wherever else those conferences were held. The issues involved speaking about jurisdictions with small populations and dispersed and distant communities with large native populations and with services for which the economies of scale were not as attractive as they were in larger, more urban populations. Those issues were our top priority; there should be a forum where we can discuss familiar issues in a familiar setting.
At the same time, the technicians in education had come together to discuss issues of common concern. They had decided they could get more out of their interrelationship than they could by drowning in the large education administrations in the larger provinces or, in the case of Alaska, from the lower 48 or the federal education administration in the United States.
In 1987, the Ministers from Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Newfoundland, Greenland - and a representative of the Minister from Quebec - came together to discuss issues in a non-threatening environment where the agenda was ours. The discussion was very good. We talked of governments, schools and of the education system. It was more appropriate for us to speak about school-based decision making, community control of education and what the arrangement should be between the administration and the decision-making role of parents for small populations. We did not have to explain to others the economies of a scale on which we were dealing. There is not a school board in southern Canada that is as small as the entire Yukon education system.
Alaska had moved in this direction and had boards for schools as small as 50 students. They were able to provide some dos and donts for that situation. That contribution was valuable to our understanding of what was possible in a northern environment.
We discussed language development in native communities where native families are operating in two languages: the native tongue and English. The school system, based on curriculum established elsewhere, operated on the assumption that the operating language of home was unilingual and consequently the curriculum and training did not prepare the teachers for the fact that some students would come in with poor languages in the elementary grades.
This problem is only dealt with peripherally in the provinces, given the rural jurisdiction they deal with. It is of prime importance to Alaska, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. When discussion came forward the debate was electric and well-informed.
Curriculum development has continued to be a discussion item. We want to make curriculum more relevant to our jurisdiction but we do not have the financial ability to undertake the massive projects the provinces do to accommodate their populations. We have to think of innovative ways to make the curriculum in our schools more relevant to our students almost on a community-by-community basis.
Native participation in the schools has been a continuing theme of these circumpolar nothern jurisdictions. Native populations that have undergone some very dramatic and wrenching cultural experiences in the last 75 to 100 years are dealing with education systems not designed by Yukoners, Alaskans or people from the NWT. They were developed by people trained elsewhere, with different terms of reference and different cultural traditions. There is a desire by the native people to be well educated, but also to respect the cultural traditions that are theirs.
How do we accommodate native cultural interests within the school system? How does the school system itself respond to the population that it is meant to serve? Distance education has, and was, and still is, and will remain one of the most significant elements of the discussions we have in the circumpolar ministers conferences. Quite often it has been the case that the ministers of education in Canada have discussed distance education, but from the perspective of being a sidebar to the main issues of their day. For us, it is a fundamental issue; for us, without distance education we cannot cost effectively deliver education to perhaps a third of our population, because we do not have the financial resources. We have seen the experience of Alaska with respect to building schools for every tiny community and the absolutely outrageous price that they are paying now for having to maintain those structures. We have also seen their foray into very expensive telecommunications equipment, to reach out to the smallest and most distant community in the state, and the problems they are experiencing now in respect to maintaining that equipment.
These are experiences from which we have been learning. The lesson is to deliver courses and educational services to individuals in far-flung corners of our jurisdictions without bearing significant long-term and debilitating costs. Consequently, in that meeting, we signed protocols between the Northwest Territories and Yukon, and Alaska and Yukon, to deal with many of the problems that we face, to deal with the issue of exchanges of information, programs and knowledge about our experience. An excellent example of the kind of initiative that we have taken deals with post-secondary education in particular. It was obviously that the post-secondary institutions of all the jurisdictions, including Alaska, were serving relatively small populations and trying to perform all tasks, trying to provide the full range of traditional post-secondary education in all fields, to very small jurisdictions and we are finding it very difficult to do so - and very expensive. It was felt that it would be much more appropriate, in order to compete with southern institutions, to allow for the northern institutions to concentrate their resources in particular areas and thereby provide quality educational services in particular locations throughout the north, but the prevailing theme was that education in the north should be maintained, because it makes the education service more relevant to the people that it serves.
The next year we had the conference in Alaska and the Soviet Union was invited, adding another flavour to the discussions. Very interesting experiences occurred at that conference, which dealt almost exclusively with distance education technology. This summer the conference went to the Dalton Trail Lodge, near Haines Junction, and Sweden and Norway and Finland came. The discussions there were considered to be some of the best that we have ever had. The Swedish government sent congratulations to the Canadian Embassy in Sweden because the representative in Sweden had felt that the discussions, the atmosphere and subject of the discussions were some of the most valuable that she had ever participated in.
We decided at that conference that we had to concentrate on such things as language development, distance education and exchanges, which is a conclusion that you would be hard-pressed to find coming out of conferences that deal with exclusively with the issues that are considered to be Canadian in context.
Now, as the Premier has indicated, it is important to maintain our contacts within the Canadian context. It is important to maintain our ties to the provinces and to other Canadians as Canadians. I think it is obvious that it is more worthwhile for Yukon to be concerned about language development and distance education than to be concerned about the legitimate plight of foreign students in Canada who are attending universities across the country.
While we have and will continue to maintain contacts with our provincial colleagues, whose interests are largely urban, we feel it is most worthwhile to encourage the contacts in education that have proven to be the most relevant and stimulating with our northern neighbors.
There have been others this afternoon who have spoken to the ties with respect to the economy, and even though I have some responsibility for the Department of Economic Development in the government, I will not repeat that discussion here as it has been well handled already. But I will only say that, with all the obvious ties on a full range of subjects that are common to the jurisdictions in the circumpolar north, it only makes good common sense to maintain and enhance those ties.
I am most pleased that the Government of Canada and the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Mulroney, has chosen this very propitious time to formalize contacts with one partner in the circumpolar north, the Soviet Union. I feel that the lessons that can be learned from our neighbors across the polar ice cap, given the conditions of the more remote regions of that particular country, might be very useful for all the governments in the circumpolar north and perhaps particularly useful to the technicians that the Member for Faro has already made contact with in that country.
Once we made these tentative contacts, we need, in my view, an ongoing relationship between government, business and educational institutions. While we seldom speak in this Legislature of our external affairs in particular, as a subject for discussion, apart from that discussion that takes place now and again about our relationship with Ottawa, I think it is time we recognized that our economic, environmental and cultural survival depends on our relationship with our neighbors in the circumpolar north as much as it depends on a good working relationship with fellow Canadian citizens in the rest of Canada.
Mr. Phelps: I am not really sure why this motion was put forward today, but I do want to end the suspense. We support it. The Minister of Justice said it is timely, as did some of the other Members opposite, because of the Prime Ministers trip to Russia and the new spirit of cooperation emerging between our two countries.
I am pleased that the Prime Minister enjoys the enthusiastic support of the side opposite. Heaven knows that he deserves it.
It was interesting to hear from the Government Leader about the Yukon government mission to the Nordic countries this year. It was undoubtedly a positive experience for those who were fortunate enough to be invited along. I might add that many of us on this side are open to invitation from time to time for trips such as this. I have spoken to several of the individuals from the private sector who travelled on the mission, and I hope and expect that there will be some practical benefits to Yukon as a result of the exchange of ideas that took place. I have obtained a copy of the report that was published as a result of this trip. I think it is a good idea to do this when trips are taken by MLAs at the public expense. It is important that the information that is gleaned is passed along by this kind of reporting.
I must say that I expected the Government Leader to be inspired by the Swedish experience, and I was right. He does seem inspired. I note that he was intrigued by the extent by which government department and agencies have been decentralized and how some of the towns really depend upon the stability of some of these agencies and the stability has been good. Decentralization of government in the Yukon has been on the agenda for some time. It has been called for by virtually every community in the Yukon. It is supported adamantly by the Yukon Chamber of Commerce. I hope this trip inspires this government to make some moves soon regarding decentralization so as to provide a better economic base for each of our rural communities.
We have much to learn from these countries, especially regarding technological advances. It was mentioned that the infamous trailers on our ore trucks that haul ore concentrate from Faro to Skagway were designed in Sweden. This is not the best example of good technology. The design has many shortcomings, as those who have lost their windshields to flying rocks will testify. I hope we can come up with a better, more practical design, perhaps from another of these countries.
Like the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, I have not had the chance to travel broadly. I have been to Alaska, the Northwest Territories, Greenland and Labrador. On each occasion the experience has been rewarding and valuable, particularly in Alaska. I am always struck by the similarities we share in our distance from the federal capital and our feeling of alienation from time to time because of that distance. We share climate, transportation, and wildlife population. I have found that studying the land claims experience in Alaska has been extremely valuable to the work I have done in land claims negotiations. It was interesting to visit some of the corporations in Alaska and learn from their experience to see how they have done in implementing land claims there.
Certainly back in 1977, when we were holding the Alaska Highway pipeline hearings with regard to the socio-economic impact of the pipeline, we learned a lot from Alaska and its experience with the Alyeska pipeline.
With many others, I was involved in negotiations that led to the Porcupine Caribou Management Agreement. That is one agreement of which we can all be proud. It is one small example of jurisdictions working together for the common good.
Entrepreneurs know the value of sharing knowledge and experiences with entrepreneurs in other countries. They seem to be more advanced in this regard than most governments are. While governments lag behind, I think they should be encouraged to share knowledge and experiences with other jurisdictions that share similar problems.
So we, on this side, fully support this motion.
Motion No. 49 agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order and declare a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will refer to Bill No. 45, Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act.
Bill No. 45: Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act
Mrs. Firth: I would like to register a concern in general debate about proceeding with this bill. I had asked the Minister on Tuesday if she could give us more time so the people we were consulting would have an opportunity to examine the bill. That is happening. The Chamber is looking at it, their board members have had a chance to look at it, but they have not made any decisions and are not aware of the total implications of the bill.
I talked to some contractors and the Contractors Association. I have sent them copies of the changes as they had not received them. We sent it to the Tourism Industry Association. They had not received any of the changes. Some of the lodge owners in the riding of Kluane were concerned about the changes.
This government talks about its track record of consulting. I think some criticism has to be given that the government consults on a selective basis. When they want to consult with some groups, they make much ado about the job they have done consulting. When they are in a hurry to get their business done and their homework done, all of a sudden the consultation process is not quite as important.
It does not matter whether we disagree or agree with the principles that are proposed in these amendments. I still think people should have a right to be made aware of them and have some input into them before they are brought into the Legislature and before the Minister is so anxious to make them new laws.
When she first talked about the Employment Standards Act changes, the Minister said consultation on the proposed change was limited to those people who approached her office about the issue. That is really not a consultative process, particularly with this government. One of the biggest complaints I get is you can never get in to see a Minister. You cannot even talk to them on the telephone, let alone get in to see them.
I know the Yukon Federation of Labour had made representation to the government regarding these changes, as well as the Carpenters Union. I spoke to the president of the Yukon Federation of Labour some time ago and requested a copy of the resolutions from their most recent convention. I am still waiting to get a copy of those resolutions. I have since seen him and reminded him, but maybe there is some selective consultation on that basis, also. I did have a brief conversation with the president of the day, and representations for some of the proposed amendments the Minister has brought forward were made by the Yukon Federation of Labour.
I will be interested to see how many in the business sector were consulted. The only group or organization I know received a copy of the amendments was the Chamber of Commerce. I checked with them immediately, and they were the only one that had received it in the mail and were about to have their board look at it.
I was prepared to move with this legislation as soon as the Minister tabled it, and I had done my homework over the weekend, but it does not matter whether the Minister and I are prepared. The concern should be whether the community is aware of the new laws or existing laws that are being changed in the territory.
This government tries to espouse that it has a good track record in consulting, and I want it to be put on the record that, when it comes to this particular piece of legislation, they have not afforded a long enough opportunity for the people who have expressed an interest in it to get copies of the act and the information sheet regarding the amendments. I look forward to seeing if the Minister has anything to say about delaying it.
Hon. Ms. Joe: The Member has indicated her concerns in regard to a lack of consultation regarding the amendments being proposed in this bill. I have had previous discussions in regard to some problems that did exist and there were groups that approached me in regard to the kinds of changes that they would like to see. That was a lobbying effort that took place over a period of time and long before I was the Minister responsible for this act.
In our discussions at that time with some of those individuals, I was not having a deep, all-encompassing consultation process happening, I was answering questions that were being asked me by individuals. A number of amendments were proposed in this bill and we realized at that time that a lot had to be done with this act, that there were a lot of other concerns out there and that we would do is go through some of the recommendations what were made to us and find out whether or not we could include them in this bill.
Some long-range amendments were being proposed by those groups and a lot we were not even able to include in this bill. The things that we were able to include, we did right now. We suggested to some of those individuals that we would look at their long-term concerns in regard to the changes they wanted to make, but we would do it in the form of a full review of the whole act, not just small amendments that had to be made. When that consultation is done, people who will take an interest in this will be involved, such as the groups the Member for Riverdale South was mentioning in her speech.
So, it is not as if I am ignoring the fact that there does have to be full consultation. I sent copies of this bill out to some interest groups. Some were sent out by mail and some were delivered. We let them know that there was going to be a full review of the act and that we were looking forward to making sure that we were aware of any changes that have to be made.
I feel that I am not ignoring the concern the Member has. What I am doing is saying now, and I said it the day that we introduced the bill in the House, that we will have a full review of the whole act and that anybody who wants to can become involved in making presentations to us. They will get copies of anything that we might have to work with, so there will be a consultation process that will follow to deal with the whole bill and not just with the minor amendments we are proposing right now.
Mrs. Firth: Just to continue in general debate, I understand what the Minister is saying in that they are going to do a much larger review of the Employment Standards Act. Nevertheless, the Minister is changing laws here, and if people have a right to know about the greater picture, they also have a right to know and be asked their opinion about this. It is not just a few small little changes we are making; there are some fairly comprehensive changes. There are three pages of amendments and some of them are fairly significant amendments to the Employment Standards Act.
It is interesting to see the rationale that the Minister presents, which is that if we are only making a few changes, the public does not have to be made aware of it, but if we are going to change the whole bill, we will ask peoples opinion about it and see if they agree with it. I do not agree with that kind of approach. I think that when any laws are changed, we should be doing everything we can to inform the public of them.
Is the Minister saying that she sent out copies, some delivered and some mailed, to particular groups? I know the Chamber of Commerce received a copy. Who else received copies of the proposed changes and of the information sheet?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I have a list, which I left upstairs. I will make that list available to the Member.
Mr. Lang: I am concerned about how we are handling this bill. I get the impression from the side opposite that because there is not enough work in the House we are proceeding with this bill, which has been just sent out to some individuals who will be directly affected with it. We were hoping to get some favourable response - I hope, favourable - and then the bill would go through with very little debate if the amendments were not going to adversely affect anyone.
I want to express my concern. Is it the policy of the government now that as soon as we table legislation it is going to be a requirement that we deal with it within 24 or 48 hours, or whatever? The government has an agenda. We have finances to deal with. We have all elements of government to deal with in the course of this session. All of a sudden we are put into a situation where we are dealing with the Employment Standards Act.
We understood that this act was going to be dealt with at the beginning of next week, which still does not give individuals or groups very much time to go through the legislation and see how it directly affects them. That in itself is unfair. For the Minister to say that it does not really matter because we are going to review the bill in totality, and down the road they can have a say about how the law is presently enacted, and that this should satisfy them, is not satisfactory to this side.
If the Minister examines what she just said, it is not logical. As my colleague from Riverdale South has indicated, this legislation is talking about laws on how people are going to get paid and hours of work: all things that people should be aware of. This legislation was so important that I, as a Member of this House, was on a standing committee that went around the territory talking about changes to the legislation a number of years ago. Now we are being told by the Minister responsible, who could not answer the last question because she did not have her notes with her, indicates that we will just pass the law the way it is. The Minister said these requests for changes were made by certain individuals. Could she tell us who specifically asked for the changes contained in the bill?
Hon. Ms. Joe: There was representation made by the Federation of Labour, the carpenters, and groups and individuals. There were some proposals for changes that came to both me and the previous Minister. I am curious as to what the Members are saying about the bills that we are tabling. I did not understand that it was the policy of the House to send out to the public all changes to legislation prior to dealing with them in the House. There have been new pieces of legislation done, such as the Human Rights Act, Childrens Act, and a few more others that were sent out to the public for response. I know that has happened. There have been many pieces of legislation tabled in the House that were dealt with without prior consultation.
I am not exactly sure if that is what the Member for Porter Creek East was expecting to happen to all the legislation being introduced now. That may be something new he is proposing; I do not know, but I am very concerned about public input.
The bill will not be rammed through today. We will probably speak until 5:30 and then we will have a whole weekend to obtain responses from those individuals who have been sent copies. There was not one group that I sent copies of the bill to that had seen it prior to the day it was delivered. That was the first that any of those groups had seen it as well, so I did not have any discussion with those groups with regard to the changes in here now. They went out that day, they were delivered that day, and some of them were mailed that day: the day I tabled it in the House.
I did not have prior discussion on the bill I presented in the House that day. There will be a full review and I will include as many individuals as want to take place in it. There will be a process developed and that is how we will do it.
Mr. Lang: I do not know where the Member has been this past week. If you look at the way the Minister has responded to questions since the Session commenced I would have to say I am not surprised.
We have gone through seven pieces of legislation here. One is a very important piece, the Act to Amend the Municipal and Community Infrastructure Grants Act. Our major concern is that those being affected have full consultation and full knowledge of how legislation is going to affect them. If you recall, that legislation passed in probably a total time of maybe one hour or one and a half hours in this House.
The speed was primarily because the critic, the Member from our side, took the time to phone the various communities involved to find out if they had had the opportunity to discuss the principles, and secondly, if they agreed with them. There was a consensus on that bill; therefore, there was not much point in having that piece of legislation held up for a week, or two weeks, for further discussion. We dealt with it quickly, expeditiously, and in what I felt was a responsible manner. We raised a number of points and that was it.
The Minister has fully admitted that this bill before us has not even been perused - or is just in the process of being perused - by those who even requested the changes, along with those who did not request any changes. At the same time, however, she is asking us to deal with the bill in Committee. I am not asking, as a Member of long-standing in this House, to change tradition, as far as legislation is concerned. All we are asking is that if legislation is going to affect various interest groups or individuals, then they should have the right to comment, prior to our considering the passage of the various principles contained in a bill. If there has been prior consultation and there has been agreement by those who would be affected by the bill, then we can deal with it. We are not delaying the process of the House.
I cannot stand up here and take responsibility for the government, which has not provided us with enough work in Committee of the Whole, so that we have to deal with a bill like this and talk it out until 5:30 p.m. so that we can have the weekend for people to come forward with positive comments, it is hoped, to say about the bill. So I want to assure the Minister, and I hope that she is listening, that we are not asking in a change in format - no more so than when she was on this side. If there was a bill that some people had concerns about, there has always been the attitude in the House that time should be taken to deal with it. But there have also been 12, 15 bills in this House at any given time for us to deal with. We have never been in the situation where we have had to scramble. It has to be the first time in history, in my 15 years in this House, where we are scrambling to find work right at the beginning of the session, when we experienced a filibuster for half of this afternoon, to fill in time, when the Members on the opposite side tried to justify how they can get the taxpayers to pay for a trip for them to Russia. Mark my words, that will come to pass, and I will refer to it in Hansard. It is easy when you are flying on someone elses money. It is just as if you had paid $56,000 for somebody to take a holiday. It is somebody elses money - who cares? Why should we worry about that? I think it is 70 percent of the judges salary; I think it is.
I just want to make the point, all we are trying to do is to get some response from those who would be affected by it, primarily those in the business community, as well as some in labour who are going to be affected in one way or another. I do not think it is too much to ask.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Given the government has given the opportunity for the Opposition to take extra time and do their homework with respect to these pieces of legislation, I think the government Ministers should be commended for the graciousness in which they took the decision to allow for the extra time in the face of considerable criticism from the folks across the floor.
I realize that courtesy will be hard-pressed to be repeated, given the criticism that has been leveled and given the business has been on the floor for some time, and we will have a lot more opportunity to discuss that next week.
I move you report progress on Bill No. 45.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Mr. Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 45, Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, and directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday next.
The House adjourned at 5:27 p.m.