Wednesday, December 4, 1991 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for Tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have a legislative return for tabling as well as some documents to file.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have a legislative return for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have a number of returns for tabling.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I have a legislative return for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Introduction 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?
Automated road reporting system
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It is with extreme pleasure that I rise today to announce a new service being provided to the public. It is a service regarding road reporting. The new policy initiative that we are announcing will allow Yukon people, visitors and those in the transportation industry to get recorded road reports when they need it, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by phoning 667-8215.
The new automated system enables recorded road report information to be available continuously. The recordings are updated each evening and on weekends with bulletins on road closures or other special conditions in the highway system. People have come to depend on the road reports as a valuable source of information. The automated report system will ensure a higher degree of safety for the travelling public.
The road report has traditionally been available by phoning the transportation maintenance branch office during regular office hours. It has also been aired on the local radio stations.
The public can continue to call the transportation maintenance branch staff here in Whitehorse, who will respond to inquiries on road conditions during regular office hours.
The new automated service will also be provided through the Yukon governments toll-free line, 1-800-661-0408, during regular office hours.
The new service complements other Community and Transportation Services highway safety initiatives, including a seat-belt campaign, promotion of Safe Driving Week and a winter advertising campaign in radio and newspaper advertisements to encourage safe winter driving practices.
I consider the new service to be another positive step reflecting this governments commitment to public services and highway safety.
Mr. Phelps: I rise to congratulate the Minister and the government for introducing this service. It is one that is sorely needed. I am sure it will be welcomed, particularly by rural Yukoners.
Mrs. Firth: The Independent Alliance believe that this is a positive step for public safety and is a public service to Yukoners. It would be nice, however, if the government was also announcing that we had a 911 number for people to call for assistance. I think that would round off the public services that are provided.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I thank the Members for their support of this valuable public service being provided by my department. On behalf of the government, I am also pleased to recognize that the rural communities will have the service provided to them, free of charge, through the toll-free number during working hours. It is often the rural communities who sometimes require, on a fairly urgent basis, knowledge of the road conditions.
With respect to the 911 service, the Member is aware that the committee that is investigating the potential provision of that service has not fully reported, but should be soon.
Ambulance services transferred to the Department of Health and Social Services
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I am pleased to rise today to formally announce that, on April 1, 1992, the ambulance services unit will be transferred from the Department of Community and Transportation Services to the Department of Health and Social Services.
This transfer is a timely and natural step in the evolution of more integrative planning and delivery of health services in the Yukon. Bringing the ambulance unit under the administration of the Health branch will continue the development of a strong, coordinated and unified response to emergency medical service requirements.
I wish to emphasize that the ambulance services to the public will continue uninterrupted over the time of the transfer. The two departments involved have worked out a shared management arrangement for ambulance services between now and the date of transfer, in order to make sure the transfer occurs smoothly and that there is no disruption in service to the public.
As well, a planning process is underway involving members from both departments, along with representatives of the ambulance service, to map out the shape and role of the service over the long term. We are looking at the role of ambulance attendants, how these services mesh with other medical services in the Yukon and what the training and other requirements are to ensure that ambulance attendants can properly fulfill their role.
Changes arising out of this process will be gradually put in place, once the service has been transferred to its new home. We all recognize that ambulances are a vital link in the Yukon health care network, and we are fortunate to have a group of dedicated professionals and volunteers throughout the Yukon to deliver a solid, effective ambulance service. Bringing the service into the Yukons health system recognizes that ambulances are primarily a health service.
It also provides ambulance attendants with professional contact and support based within a health service environment.
I look forward to the transfer and to working with all the ambulance attendants around the Yukon to make the ambulance service a full partner in the Yukons health system. This is one further step toward the effective integration of health and social service delivery to Yukon people.
Mr. Brewster: I would like to say, first of all, that it is probably a sensible move to get this into the Health and Social Services department. I can now only hope that, by going to a new department, the new Minister will immediately request that the department personnel get out of Whitehorse to talk to the nurses, doctors and volunteer ambulance attendants in rural Yukon. These people are not being consulted. They are simply being told, when it comes to new programs. They are not being consulted one little bit.
I am not an expert on this subject, but the information given to me really indicates that rural people are at odds with the bureaucrats. Everywhere I go, the rural ambulance attendants ask for basic trauma life support education for all volunteers. The subject is continually avoided, although the letter from the Minister of Community and Transportation Services indicated they would look at the program this year, while implementing the programs they want.
This is not good enough. Every person involved in ambulance service in rural Yukon whom I have talked to say that the BTLS is the only program that they really want and need.
I only hope the new Minister will listen to the people and the volunteers and nurses in rural Yukon who spend many, many hours of volunteer work.
Mr. Nordling: I am pleased to respond to the ministerial statement with respect to the transfer of ambulance services.
This move has been contemplated for some time now and has been of particular interest to me. In fact, last December I asked a question of the former Minister in this regard. At that time, we agreed that it made more sense for the ambulance service to come under Health and Human Resources rather than be administered through the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
At that time, the former Minister, Mr. Penikett said, the question we have to decide is whether it makes any sense now to transfer the ambulance service from Community and Transportation Services to the Department of Health and Human Resources, as an interim measure, prior to basing it in the hospital. Mr. Penikett said that the plan was to base the ambulance service out of a new regional hospital.
I hope the ministerial statement and the decision to transfer ambulance services, now, rather that wait, is not an indication that the transfer of Health Services is bogged down and that we will not have a new regional hospital for some time yet.
I agree with the Minister that this certainly is a natural step in the evolution of more integrated planning, but I am not sure how timely this step is.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: First, in response to the Member for Kluane, I, too, hope that there will be ongoing discussions with the ambulance attendants. In relation to training, I can tell him that, thanks to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and his concern over this program, the 1992-93 main budget calls for an increase in the ambulance service budget, from $1,040,000 to $1,397,686 - an increase of about $400,000 - which will include money for contract services, including training. It includes upgrade of the communication system, the higher costs of the collective agreement and various things like that.
I understand the Members concerns. I, too, have had letters - as the Minister who is now responsible for it has had - about this issue. It is certainly one that we share concern about. We will just have to keep asking the question.
I gather the Member for Porter Creek Wests question is: has the hospital transfer stalled? No, it certainly has not, but it would seem to me that life must go on, even while transfer negotiations are completed. The natural step, as we are building up our health services part of the department, is to bring some of these services into it. Then, when the hospital board is in place, we will certainly look at it at that time.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Response re Yukon Development Corporation/RCMP investigation
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I rise on this occasion to respond to statements made yesterday during Question Period by the Member for Riverdale South. The Member chose to make certain allegations regarding the shredding and hauling away of bags of documents of the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation.
Let me state for the record these statements are false. The statement is a complete fabrication. The facts of the matter are these: the shredding machine at the Yukon Development Corporation has not worked for over a year. The corporation decided not to go to the trouble or expense of repairing it, because very few documents require shredding.
There is about one box of paper a month that is inappropriate for recycling, and this is sent to Government Services for destruction. All other paper is sent to the Recycling Centre in accordance with government policy on recycling paper.
Given the fact that the truth is in such stark contrast to the allegations made yesterday by the Member for Riverdale South, I would suggest that, during this Question Period, she withdraw the inaccurate and misleading statement and, furthermore, apologize to the House.
While I am on my feet, on the same subject, I also want to correct the record with respect to other comments made yesterday by the Member.
This morning, I received a copy of a press release from the RCMP about an investigation, which was the subject of Members questions yesterday.
The facts are these: the RCMP received a complaint regarding the granting of a financial contract by the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation. It investigated the complaint and found no evidence to support it. The investigation was concluded last June.
Again, the facts made by the Member are not consistent. She chose to suggest an ongoing investigation into an individual. In this, she abused the privileges of this House and muddied the reputation of an individual who has no right of reply in this place.
Misleading this House is a very serious business. This situation points clearly to the need for Members to obtain facts before making unfounded comments that can harm peoples reputations. I would comment further that, in my view, it is totally unethical to raise questions such as the Member did yesterday.
Let me make the obvious point to Members on the other side who have served on the front bench in government. They will know that even if the Minister had knowledge of a private matter or an ongoing investigation, it is their sworn duty not to reveal such information, and as a former Minister, I think the Member should know better.
Question re: Curragh Resources staff layoffs
Mr. Lang: I would like to draw Members attention to a very serious issue facing the territory, which I raised a couple of weeks ago, and that is the prospects of the future of Curragh Resources at Faro. About two weeks ago, I raised the question to the Minister of Economic Development and he confirmed that the workers had been requested to forego some of the benefits of their collective agreement in order to be able to assist in the future of the mine operation.
Since that time, I have been led to believe that other cost-cutting measures have taken place at the mine, and I wonder if the Minister could confirm that eight positions have been eliminated from the management side of the operation as a further cost-cutting measure?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can confirm that there were additional staff layoffs at the Curragh operation in Faro. I can also tell the Member that we are in ongoing communication with the company respecting its cost-cutting efforts to sustain operations at Faro. I can also tell the Member that zinc has moved rapidly upwards in the past 10 days, hitting a high yesterday of 55 cents. We are in communication with the community as well. Officials of my department and advanced education, as well as representation from CEIC, are currently in the community, meeting with the individuals who have been laid off.
Mr. Lang: We are pleased to see the increase in the price of zinc, because we know that is one of the major variables in the long-term future of the mine. At the same time, we were led to believe, a number of weeks ago, that debentures were going to be sold in order to raise the necessary dollars to do the strip mining required to get into the next anomaly for the mine. The Minister is aware of this.
Since that time there has been a public statement made by representatives of the mine that that is not viable. Therefore, they are looking at other options.
What are the options that Curragh Resources in Faro are looking at? Is it a joint partnership with some unknown partner? What other avenues are being explored at this time, in view of the fact that the Minister is in constant communication with the mine managers?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am aware, as the Member is, of the information released by Curragh Resources respecting the debenture issue, but it is not my place to speak on behalf of Curragh Resources about the alternative financing measures or options that they are undertaking. Curragh Resources is maintaining communications with this government. It is continuing its efforts to locate the necessary financing for doing the stripping work on the Grum site in order to sustain operations and sustain productions when the current ore supply runs out.
Mr. Lang: The future of the mine, as far as its longevity is concerned, is a concern to all Members of the House and the public.
With respect to the longevity of the mine, when is the mining company going to be in a position to give some definitive word to the workers in Faro, as well as the general public. Right now, as the Minister knows, it is very uncertain, especially for those working at the mine site. I would like some indication of a rough time frame that everybody is working under in order that at some time a definitive statement can be made by the mine itself about its future.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Again, it is not my position to be reporting on behalf of Curragh Resources, but I do share, on behalf on the government, the concern that the Member raises about the operations at Faro. It is particularly because of the extensive involvement of this government in the original reopening of the mine that we do have a sincere and special interest to ensure that the operation continues its life well beyond the current ore supply availability.
The mining company, as I indicated earlier, is exploring various options to secure the necessary financing to strip the Grum claims. As I believe I indicated to the Member in previous questioning, the current ore supply, at current production levels, is expected to last until the end of 1992. It would be necessary, to maintain production levels at the current level, for the Grum stripping to be done by then. The Grum stripping can be done, depending on the pace of the stripping, anywhere between six and 12 months, so there is a considerable amount of latitude in securing financing to do the work, in order to maintain production levels well past 1992.
Question re: Windy Craggy
Mr. Lang: I would like to turn to another prospect, as far as the mining industry is concerned, and that is the future of Windy Craggy, which is on our border between Yukon and British Columbia. To date, up to $47 million has been spent on that development. There has been news forthcoming that the tonnage for that particular ore body is almost double what was initially believed. As we know, the prospects of that particular site have come under significant scrutiny, not only nationally, but internationally. There is some question about whether or not the mine can come into reality.
Can the Government Leader tell the House if, when he met with the new Premier of British Columbia, he discussed the future of this particular mining prospect with him?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, I did not. No doubt, that would be on the list of topics for a future meeting. Unfortunately, the initial meeting we had was not long enough to deal with more than the general constitutional and aboriginal questions, which I previously mentioned. I hope there will be an occasion in the very near future for us to meet again, either in Whitehorse or in Victoria or Vancouver. I would certainly follow his suggestion to make that the subject of some discussion, since the decisions about that project will ultimately be made by British Columbia authorities.
Mr. Lang: This prospect could have significant benefits to the territory if it can be put into place and meet the environmental requirements being asked for by the various levels of government.
Has the Minister of Economic Development been in contact with his counterpart in British Columbia, the Minister of Mines, to discuss the prospects of the Windy Craggy mine and see what steps the Government of B.C. is going to be taking regarding this particular mining prospect?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It is my intention to meet with the British Columbia Mines Minister in the new year. As the Member knows, the stage 1 report of the project is currently before the British Columbia Mine Development Review Committee. The company is currently awaiting the requirements for stage 2 from the committee.
I expect to discuss the project with my counterpart in some detail early in the new year.
Mr. Lang: I do not think it is necessary for the front bench to jump on an airline. There are such things as faxes and telephones that can be utilized for the purpose of discussing things of this nature.
I am a little disappointed that nobody seems to be in touch with the B.C. government on a matter of this importance. I realize it is with the mining review committee, starting on the second phase, but there are some long-term political implications to this. Could the Minister give us an indication of the time frame for the reporting of that particular committee, to see whether or not this project can go into the next environmental review phase?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I cannot provide a definitive timetable. The review process began in 1990 and it was expected to be concluded at approximately this time. It is one of the reasons I want to spend some time with my colleague in British Columbia. I have communicated with my colleague on the matter, so we do use other forms of communication other than direct personal communication.
I expect that, with the new government, the matter will be addressed expeditiously and the review process should conclude very quickly in 1992. That is, for stage 1.
Question re: Alcohol and drug treatment
Mr. Nordling: I have a question for the Government Leader with respect to alcohol treatment. Considerable concern has been expressed to me about the lack of capital funding for alcohol and drug treatment facilities. It appears that the government is burying its head in the sand and not showing any political will, and the Minister of Health and Social Services is being left to fend for herself.
I understand there is a stalemate, or at least some conflict, between CYI and the Yukon government in deciding what sort of alcohol and drug rehabilitation facilities and programs are needed.
I see the Government Leader pointing at the Minister of Health and Social Services to answer. My question is to the Government Leader. I would like to ask him what he is doing, as Government Leader, to assist in resolving the conflict so that we can get on with a coordinated treatment effort.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I rise to answer the question because this is my area. What has been happening has been quite, I suppose, strategically planned. Certainly, things cannot happen overnight. We have, number one, had the drug and alcohol survey so that we would have baseline data from which to work.
We have systematic plans or proposals from various communities and First Nations in the Yukon, for support for their various programs. Some of these programs are alcohol based, most are looking at total healing programs. We have indicated additional support to Crossroads. As I have said, we have supported a variety of wilderness camps and will continue to go through the community development fund through my department. There is support through operation and maintenance funding for juveniles to go to Champagne/Aishihik. I have a meeting set up, as soon as the Crossroads people can meet with me, to discuss what their needs and concerns are. It is the same for Alcohol and Drug Services, we are building a new detox centre. I am arranging for a meeting next week to talk with various community agencies about street people downtown, and the list goes on. I am not quite sure what resources the Member thinks are not available or what issues are being inappropriately met.
Certainly, there is a waiting list at Alcohol and Drug Services, and there may continue to be a waiting list. The attitude in this territory has changed so much in the last 10 years.
Ten years ago - well, I would not say exactly 10 years ago - but, it would have been unheard of at one time for a Member of our Legislature to have stood up and asked why there was not more funding for alcohol and drug services. I see that as a step forward. There is so much happening in the territory, I grant you that it is very hard to keep up to what is happening, but we have plans in the process and we are working with communities and agencies. As the plans are in place, the appropriate funding will be made available. It is unclear to me what additional information the Member wants.
Mr. Nordling: The Government Leader is the former Minister of Health and Social Services. He and his Deputy Minister abandoned ship when they could not steer it. He is now the Minister responsible for land claims and Finance.
My question is to the Government Leader, as the one who gives direction to this government. I would like to know why he is not assisting in resolving the conflict between the CYI and the Yukon government as to what sort of alcohol and drug treatment facilities and programs are needed and can be done. There is no money in the budget. I see another delay of one year or one year and one-half. I would like to hear from the Government Leader.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I may allow the Government Leader the last word.
I trust that the Member has read the NNADAP plan that is available through CYI. It says very clearly what programs they hope to see in place and that they expect and want those programs to be funded by the federal government under their fiduciary responsibility to First Nations people. The responsibility of this government is to develop a strategy that will parallel their plan that will neither conflict nor leave gaps. That is what we are trying to do.
Mr. Nordling: There is a stalemate that obviously has to be resolved.
I would like to ask the Minister responsible for land claims if residential alcohol and drug treatment facilities and half-way houses will be part of the land claims settlement.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, not as a direct part of the land claims agreement. There is clearly a capacity to establish such facilities in the future under the self-government agreements. As the Minister of Health and Social Services has already explained, the fundamental desire of First Nations people is to take the responsibility themselves for their recovery and healing processes as they grapple with the problems of alcohol, as it has plagued their community in the past. Our role in that is to continue to offer programs and services as we always have and to expand them in the way the Minister has described.
That would be a supportive role, consistent with our policy of prevention and promotion.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Penikett: While I am on my feet, could I call attention to the presence in the gallery today of representatives of the Political Science 200 class from Yukon College, who are here to observe the legislative proceedings today.
Question re: Lewes Lake student busing
Mr. Phelps: I have some questions for the Minister of Education with regard to the school van for Lewes Lake students. The van was taking these students to school in Carcross.
I am upset that this service has been discontinued. I am upset that the Independent Alliance seemed to be using these kids and their families to make some obscure political point. I am not surprised; my constituents have long memories. They may remember that when the Member for Riverdale South was the Minister of Education, she had the school bus for Tagish discontinued.
What steps are the department taking to restore this important service to the families and kids at Lewes Lake?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think I can assure the Member that our general feeling is that of being very concerned when we heard the information that transpired over the course of last week. I am not sure what the political points that the Members of the Independent Alliance were making. Nevertheless, I feel that the service was contrived primarily by the community residents themselves.
The department and Justice officials will be going before the Motor Transport Board on Friday morning to make the case that the Motor Transport Act does not bind the government under any conditions and to seek from the Motor Transport Board a rescinding of its order.
It is our position that not only does the Motor Transport Act not apply - it is noteworthy, incidently, that it does not even apply to Diversified Transport, which runs a contract with the Government of Yukon - it is our position that this service is, in fact, quite safe. I have explained before in the Legislature that a safe, legal service should be continued.
Mr. Phelps: Might I take it then that this service was discontinued by the board, in the absence of a hearing? Has the Department of Education or the Department of Justice had a chance to give their side of the law?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Department of Education had no notice of the order, prior to the order being made. It is of concern to us that the Department of Education and the Department of Justice could not make the very obvious legal points that would suggest that the Motor Transport Act does not even apply to this particular service, or to any government service. So that is another point that we will certainly be making before the Motor Transport Board. I should point out that if we are unsuccessful before the Motor Transport Board, for whatever reason, we will employ whatever avenues that are available to us to seek the resumption of service.
Question re: Visitor reception centre/audio-visual presentation
Mr. Phillips: Earlier this week, we learned that Parks Canada is producing a new audio-visual production for the new Yukon visitor reception centre being constructed in Whitehorse. It is interesting to note that Parks Canada is producing that video when we already have an excellent video produced for the Expo show. This video was supposed to last for many years. It also won many awards and compliments from people who saw it.
Parks Canada invited tenders on this new AV production. All the companies - except one that was just a numbered company in Whitehorse, but did not really have an office - that were invited to bid on this project were from outside the territory.
Could the Minister of Tourism tell us if he encouraged Parks Canada to use local contractors whenever possible, in keeping with our local-hire policy, for this particular contract?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Government of the Yukon can suggest to Parks Canada that, in the tendering of their work, they incorporate Yukon content as much as possible. This is a good example of that.
I want to impress upon the Member that Parks Canada, and the federal government in general, is not bound by any kind of suggestions we make in regard to that matter.
Mr. Phillips: It is unfortunate that we could not put some kind of requirement on that. There are competent people here.
The company that received the project was AVISTA Creative Communications/Didier Delahaye. It has come to my attention that the only Yukon individual - Jane Gaffin - who has been asked to do any work for the contractor, is having a great deal of difficulty getting paid.
Could the Minister look into this situation and encourage Didier Delahaye and Parks Canada to resolve the situation as soon as possible?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I am aware of the problem this person is experiencing. I am already looking into the matter to see if it can be resolved satisfactorily.
Mr. Phillips: It is bad enough that outside companies are doing this kind of work when there are companies in the Yukon that are quite qualified to do it and have their offices and employees here now. To add insult to injury, the only local company that worked on this project is going through all kinds of agony to get paid for her services.
Would the Minister take a strong stand on this issue and refuse to do any more work with Didier Delahaye unless they pay the subcontractor the money owed, and refuse to use the video unless all the creditors on this particular project are paid?
Hon. Mr. Webster: No, I will not provide that assurance until I have seen the facts involved in this matter.
Question re: Kaska Resources, timber harvest agreement
Mr. Devries: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources.
On November 28, I asked the Minister questions regarding raw log exports and I would like to revisit that issue for a moment.
On November 28, the Minister clearly stated that his position was that there should be no raw log exports. Yet, the government is quoted in the Level 1 Environmental Screening Report as approving of minimal raw log exports. Which is the correct position: none or minimal?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will restate our governments position just as I did on November 28. The position of this government all along has been that we are against the export of raw logs, as stated in the Yukon Economic Strategy and the Yukon Conservation Strategy. Again, I will state, for the record, that that is the message we gave to the federal government in last months communique.
Mr. Devries: Last week, the Minister told the House that the Government of Yukon had submitted a position to the Minister of Northern Affairs regarding the Kaska Resources business plan. Would the Minister be willing to table that submission?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will take that question under advisement.
Mr. Devries: This controversy surrounding log exports once again stresses the importance of devolution of forests to YTG. Would the Minister also table documents and dates of past meetings with the feds so that I can assure my constituents that YTG is truly giving this transfer the priority it deserves?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I can do that for the Member.
Question re: MacPherson School/tender conditions
Mrs. Firth: When the MacPherson School project was tendered, an employee benefits package was attached to the conditions of the tender. This caused a lot of controversy in the contracting industry and, as the president of the Contractors Association said, it was a hot one.
The contractors were told that this was a new idea and a pilot project that applied only to the MacPherson School contract. Can the Minister responsible for Government Services tell us if the government has revised its position and decided not to attach these requirements to tender documents?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I must say at the outset that I am pleased with the question, because I can take no issue with anything the Member stated in her preamble. Consequently, it is a real pleasure to be able to answer the question.
The MacPherson school project did contain a local benefits package that the Department of Government Services billed as a pilot to determine the effects of such a proposal. Following that tender call and award, I sat down with the Contractors Association to discuss what the government might employ to encourage local hire and benefit. As a consequence, together with the Building Trades Council, we set up a committee made up of Contractors Association representatives, Building Trades Council representatives and the Deputy Minister of Government Services to review the matter further, once we had approved the general principles that we wanted to promote in our quest for more local benefit in government tendering practices.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister did not answer the question. The question is: Are they going to continue to attach these requirements, or are they going to revise their position and not do that now? All he has talked about is a committee.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would contend that I did answer the question, but perhaps I did so in too subtle a manner for the Member. We have essentially made no decision to continue the practice because we have established a committee to review the matter further. The commitment I made was that we would not provide for a similar benefits package until this committees work had been concluded. Consequently, if the Member wants a yes or a no, I would have to say yes and no.
Mrs. Firth: That is just silly. The subtlety of it is that they are not going to attach the package for now, but a committee has been formed to discuss many things and to see whether they are going to go back to attaching the package or not. I guess that is essentially what the Minister has said.
Could the Minister tell us when this committee is due to report back on whether or not the government is going to attach these employee benefits packages? Could he tell us how often they meet and a few things about the mandate of the committee, and who exactly is on it?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think she has captured the subtlety. It only took two questions to get it crystallized to this point.
The committee obviously must report back prior to the beginning of the next construction season, because we want to be able to have come to some conclusion prior to letting out tenders in the future. That is the absolute deadline. However, I would like to see the committee respond at the latest at the end of January. They have had meetings about once a month for the last three months. I cannot recall exactly how many meetings they have had. I had one meeting with them myself where we worked out the general operating principles. If the Member wants to know the actual names of the people on the committee, I could provide them later. I know a couple of them, but if they are to be listed, I would like to have them all for the public record.
Question re: Alaska Highway, brush-clearing contract
Mr. Brewster: My question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. On November 25, in Hansard, I asked the Minister which was the correct amount of the contract for bush clearing on the Alaska Highway near Haines Junction. The Minister replied, and I quote; In 15 minutes, when we get into Committee, I will have the answer. Is the Minister in the same time zone as I or did the batteries run down in his clock? This is December 4 and I still have no answer. When will the 15 minutes be up?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The 15 minutes were up 15 minutes after I answered.
Mr. Brewster: I guess we are still in the same time zone. I will try again.
Is this contract now complete to the satisfaction of department officials and the inspectors?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: If the Member will recall the particular 15-minute time period, we did, indeed, have a discussion on the subject in Committee of the Whole. The Member may recall that there still appeared to be some confusion in the numbers being presented by the Member and the numbers I had at my disposal at the time, in response to his questions. The Member will recall that we had agreed that my officials would sit down with the Member and clarify the apparent misunderstanding and lack of precise numbers that seemed to be the problem in our discussion.
I have to assume that that took place. If it did not, the Member has my full undertaking to ensure it happens at his convenience as soon as possible.
Mr. Brewster: So that we will not get our time clocks off again, would the Minister assure me it will be in the year 1991?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As we speak, my officials, I am sure, are contacting the Members office to arrange a meeting.
Question re: Occupational therapists
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Human Resources. Serious problems are arising in the delivery on some medical services in the Yukon. Demands have increased of the medical staff at the Whitehorse Hospital over the past several years.
One identified problem is the need for occupational therapists. The Whitehorse Hospital has had a vacancy for a half-time therapist since April of this year - eight months ago. We have a backlog of patients, and no one who is qualified for this job will accept the job in the Yukon for just half time. I would like to ask the Minister why it has taken so long to fill this position.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: If the Member will give me a moment, I will find my briefing notes. I have certainly heard this concern previously and was asking my department about the situation concerning physiotherapists and occupational therapists. In terms of recruiting someone for Whitehorse General Hospital, this is still a hospital employee; therefore I cannot answer.
In terms of services available for occupational therapy in the territory, Macaulay Lodge and Home Care Services share one full time occupational therapist. Home Care and the Child Development Centre share a part time therapist; in Dawson City, one and one-half to two days a week for Home Care and 50 hours a months for the Child Development Centre.
The Child Development Centre has a full-time therapist in Whitehorse. The Department of Education has a full-time occupational therapist working in the schools, and there is a position identified at Whitehorse General Hospital that has not been filled for a long time. This is the one to which the Member refers.
Our department will undertake to open discussions with the federal government about their intention to fill this position, particularly in light of the extended care facility, because it is obvious that we are going to require physiotherapists and occupational therapists for that new extended care facility.
I hope that gives the Member some response to his question.
Mr. Phillips: The Minister is correct when she says that it is an occupational therapist position at the hospital, but the Minister is the Minister of Health and must have heard of this concern. Parents are having to take their children out to Vancouver for certain kinds of treatment because they are unable to see a therapist in Whitehorse. That is okay for parents who can afford it, but it is not very good for parents who cannot afford it. I think that it is something that the Minister should address. It has been eight months since this position became vacant.
Will the Minister make representations to the hospital, immediately, to try and fill that position as soon as possible? It is a very badly needed position over there. There is a big backlog; the position has been vacant for eight months. Something has to be done.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I find it dismaying, with the number of occupational therapists that there are in the schools and in the Child Development Centre and in our various home-care programs, that anyone would have to send their child to Vancouver, simply because the position in Whitehorse General Hospital is not filled. I would suggest that the Member suggest to those parents that they contact some of these other agencies.
In my discussions with the people at the hospital, part of the problem is, as I understand it, that it is a half-time position. Unless someone just happens to move here with a partner and wants half-time work, occupational therapists are at a premium across the country, and it is not that easy to find someone who is prepared to come north to work half time. However, that aside, yes, I will continue my representations to the hospital, that they try to fill that position.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to thank the Minister for making my last point, that it is very difficult to fill a half-time position with such a qualified person. My next recommendation would be for the Minister to give strong consideration, or make a recommendation to the hospital board, to consider a full-time therapist who would spend half the time in the hospital and half in the communities. There is a demonstrated need for an occupational therapist to travel around some of the communities. This position could accommodate both the work in the hospital and that in the communities.
We are going to be taking over the service shortly, and we should be making some arrangements, even a co-arrangement with the hospital, to carry this on. Would the Minister consider that request and take it to the hospital to see if that can be done?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: The points the Member makes are well taken. The issue is larger than that. At all times, we are attempting to have these various positions filled prior to transfer. We would like to see it filled full time. If we could increase that to full-time prior to the transfer, that would be to our advantage.
In all seriousness, I share the concern about it. With the completion of the extended care facility, I think we will not need to look at half time in the communities and half-time here. If that is the situation, then yes, we would work toward that.
As I previously answered, we are doing as much as we can to pressure the federal government to fill that position and to try and get them to expand it. I will ask my department to write another letter to the appropriate people, and I will ask for a meeting, but that is all I can do.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
GOVERNMENT PRIVATE MEMBERS BUSINESS
Speaker: Government private Members business identified pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7): Motions other than government motions.
Clerk: Item No. 1, standing in the name of Mr. Joe.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 1?
Mr. Joe: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Motion No. 86
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Member for Tatchun
THAT this House supports the principle of self-government for First Nations.
Mr. Joe: I am pleased to stand here today and speak on this motion. I am pleased, because this speaks to the very heart and soul of what we aboriginal people want for our community. Not only is it an inherent right, but it needs to be recognized as such.
I would like to commend the negotiators on their long and difficult task of working out these arrangements. To struggle with a definition of self-government is one thing, but to implement it will be the most important part.
As the details of this are being worked out, I would like to remind the negotiators of the principles behind what self-government means.
We have always had the ability to govern ourselves. How do you think we managed all the years before the Europeans came here? There was a time when my grandfather knew how to behave in society. They did not need anybody to tell them this.
They knew the right things to do and what the wrong things were. They knew how to treat people with respect, how to heal people, and how to make wise decisions regarding the future of our people.
They knew what was needed in the villages in order to survive, when to move camp, when and where to set their traps, where the animals were plentiful, and how many to harvest that year.
They knew how to respect the Great Spirit and the spirits that were on the land and in the water and air.
Life was simpler then. It was not as complicated as it is today. There were no zoning bylaws. People knew where they could build and where they could not. There were no taxes because they did not have money, but we knew how to take care of the needs of our neighbours.
When someone did something wrong, the elders gathered and made a decision about what kind of punishment they should receive. These decisions were respected, and people learned from their mistakes.
We live in a much larger world now, and there are many other people that we must deal with. We live in a larger society. We must all work and live together.
When the Europeans came, they brought with them their own set of laws, standards, rights and privileges. They brought with them their sense of right and wrong and how to enforce it.
This has not always worked for aboriginal people, and we have been unable to cope with some of these new ways. Sometimes when we have tried to return to our old ways, we have been denied this right.
Even though we all live here on this land together, we have a different set of rules and principles that we must abide by. We did not create these rules, but they were handed down to us by our ancestors.
We must have the right and ability to practice them again.
This is what our negotiators have taken with them to the table. This is the responsibility we carry as leaders and as aboriginal people who are entering into self-government agreements.
The principles that have been agreed upon, and the way the agreement was reached, is a good example of how these two different cultures can sit down at the same table and work toward a positive solution that is good for everyone.
Our elders have told us what we must do. Our negotiators listen to our elders, and then they go to the table to make sure that this is implemented and becomes part of our claim.
It is not just land, it is not just money, it is not just control over our own resources. It is our very way of life.
My father helped the Europeans when they first came to this land. He taught them how to hunt and trap in the area, how to stay alive in the winter, and how to respect nature.
We have now helped them again by explaining our ways and traditional forms of justice and government. We would like to thank them for listening to us and for working alongside with us to come to some solutions.
We must have the opportunity to set our laws on our land. We must have the opportunity to raise money when we need it. We must have the chance to establish our own social services.
I believe that nobody knows better how to treat our problems than our own people. We have always known this, but we have not always been able to practice it.
When this new self-government agreement gets into place, we will now be able to address our most pressing needs in the way that our ancestors have always done. This is the way that works best for us.
This is the way it must be for our people to survive.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me confess at the outset of my remarks that I had some anxiety about this motion proceeding today, and I will be frank about the reason for that. I was worried, lest this important topic be nibbled to death by complaints from Members from the other side that, having just negotiated a self-government agreement in Ottawa, we have not yet made the documents of the agreements available and that we would therefore have the House embroiled in a petty dispute about how soon the information becomes available, rather than debating the excellent principle of the Member for Tatchuns motion. However, I am persuaded that, because the Council for Yukon Indians is meeting in a general assembly this week - an historic meeting at which they will be considering their future in the territory and their future relations with the rest of the Yukon community - that it is highly appropriate for this Legislature, on this day, to send a very strong and very positive message of support to the First Nations of this land, as they reflect upon their achievements of the last few months.
We say that Members in the Opposition have been offered briefings on these agreements, and I understand that these briefings will proceed now that our negotiators are back from Ottawa. I do not know the exact timetable, but I know that they have been in discussions and I understand that there may be a briefing tomorrow.
I know that we are going to be trying to get the agreements made public as soon as possible. Members may know that even the Cabinet here has not seen the agreements yet, and I do know that there will be plenty of opportunity to debate those agreements in the coming months.
Today, I do want to address the text of the motion, which is about the principle of self-government. I want to try to speak as plainly and simply about this as I can; while I know that there are Members in this House - the Member for Old Crow, the Member for Tatchun, the Member for Whitehorse North Centre and the Member for Hootalinqua, and certainly the Member for Campbell, and others - who are well-acquainted with these issues and understand well the matters that are before the House, I know that is not the case with every citizen in our land and perhaps not even with every legislator here. I want, therefore, to enter the debate this afternoon to comment on this governments views on aboriginal self-government and how I hope that they will find expression in the self-government arrangements being negotiated by the parties to the Yukon Indian land claim.
As honourable Members are aware, Canadas constitution vests primary responsibility for matters related to this countrys aboriginal peoples with the federal government. The federal government has interpreted and exercised these rights through two sets of legal arrangements linked to each other.
The first are treaties that define and affirm continuing aboriginal rights and provide for certainty over land tenure, both for Indian nations and for government.
The second is the federal Indian Act, which governs the day-to-day relationship between aboriginal people and the government on a broad range of issues.
As hon. Members are also aware, treaties with many of this countries First Nations were completed either prior to Confederation or in the roughly-50 years following Confederation. The federal government still has an obligation to complete treaties with many of its northern and Inuit citizens.
The federal government acknowledged its obligation to Yukon First Nations in 1973, when it accepted a comprehensive land claim filed on behalf of Yukons aboriginal people. We are now completing the work necessary to fulfill this obligation.
The land claim agreements being negotiated in the Yukon will be fundamentally different from earlier treaties reached with Canadas aboriginal people in several respects. First Nations, for example, will gain 16,000 square miles of land, to be retained in aboriginal title. They will have management rights over their lands and they will be guaranteed representation in territory-wide processes related to resource management.
Today, I want to focus on what we have been able to achieve and what we are trying to achieve here in the Yukon with respect to self-government.
The umbrella final agreement reached in the Yukon is the first in Canadian history to place government under an obligation to negotiate broad-ranging agreements on self-government. In accepting this obligation, the parties to the Yukon negotiations are taking the lead in dealing justly and in a comprehensive fashion with an issue that enjoys much public support in this country.
The level of support for aboriginal self-government is borne out by the results of the opinion survey, commissioned by the Council for Yukon Indians and the Yukon government. In this poll, 90 percent of the opinion leaders surveyed and 84 percent of the general public agreed that aboriginal people should take over responsibility for aboriginal programs. Seventy-eight percent of opinion leaders and 72 percent of the general public surveyed agreed that self-government is a key tool for meeting local priorities of aboriginal people, especially in the north.
Seventy-nine percent of opinion leaders and 66 percent of the public, agreed that the Indian Act is inadequate and should be replaced.
On the question of how urgent a priority aboriginal self-government is in the coming round of constitutional discussions, 70 percent of the opinion leaders surveyed rated it as urgent or very urgent. In fact, it ranked second only to Quebecs constitutional demands.
These results speak very convincingly to the publics interest in a new and better relationship between federal, provincial and territorial governments and First Nations. They speak very convincingly to the publics desire for justice when it comes to affirming aboriginal rights. However, it is also important to note here that, in negotiating aboriginal self-government, the Yukon government has argued that several criteria must be met if it is to be meaningful.
Self-government agreements must reflect the principle that First Nations have the authority to govern their land and people. The agreements must clearly define the extent and limits of the jurisdiction First Nations have. They must provide for a smooth transition and exercise of jurisdiction and responsibilities when First Nations assume authority in a particular field and displace existing government laws or management activities.
This recognizes that First Nations will assume their responsibilities over time once such things as financing, regulations and trained people are in place. Until a First Nation decides to assume an area of responsibility, other governments will continue to provide their usual level of service.
Self-government agreements must also provide adequate funding. The level of funding must be consistent both with the principle that all Canadians are entitled to equitable programs and services, as well as with the ongoing federal responsibility for aboriginal people.
Finally, self-government agreements must give First Nations the ability to enter into agreements with other governments, whether federal, territorial or municipal, where they share interests or responsibilities. These arrangements could cover such areas as school curriculum, environmental standards or municipal planning and zoning.
In our view, we have been able to negotiate a self-government agreement that meets these criteria. As a result, we believe we have been able to address the practical challenges of how to implement self-government within the same agreement that accords self-government powers.
I want to turn now to some comments about what I think self-government agreements will do. Firstly, and very simply, they will create First Nation governments. In other words, they will replace the band system imposed by the Indian Act with a structure and a system of government determined by aboriginal people. This system will be more sensitive to the traditional decision-making structures of First Nations. The self-government agreements will define what powers these governments will have on settlement lands. They will give First Nation governments many municipal-type powers over their lands, including zoning, planning and business licensing. They will also allow for variations in the type of activities First Nations can regulate on settlement lands, depending on how large the piece of land is and how close it is to a community. Self-government agreements will also spell out what authority First Nations will have to make laws and run programs for their people. These provisions could cover such areas as education, health, social services, justice, economic development, local government and aboriginal languages.
Our negotiators are going to great lengths to make sure that self-government agreements are flexible and responsive to the individual needs and aspirations of the 14 First Nations in the Yukon. As I have indicated in the past in the House, First Nations will have the ability to choose whether or not they want to take on certain responsibilities. They will have the ability to choose to administer all or simply a part of a service or program, and to negotiate arrangements with government accordingly. They will also have the ability to choose when they want to take over responsibility for a program or service.
Let us take the example of education: the present Yukon government has a strong preference for a single school system, serving both aboriginal and non-aboriginal students. We designed the Education Act to ensure that First Nations have the ability for meaningful involvement in the schooling of their children. Through a self-government agreement, an individual First Nations could decide to take on certain services commonly provided by the local school. It could, for example, become responsible for aboriginal language education or for making arrangements relating to the attendance of students at school. First Nations would then have direct input into certain aspects of overall school operations. The schools and operations would still be run within the general education system.
Under self-government agreements, First Nations will also have the ability to set up their own schools for those First Nation children who choose to attend them. But as I have said, this is not our preference, and certainly one of the challenges we face is to ensure that schools are responsive to First Nation needs and values, so that they do not feel obligated to establish separate schools on their own lands. We believe we can meet this challenge through our ongoing efforts to implement the Education Act.
In the area related to the care and maintenance of children, to take another example, First Nations may well decide that they have responsibilities that they want to assume. Again, they have the ability to choose whether to take on certain responsibilities, such as day care, child custody, adoption or the full range of powers available under a self-government agreement. Once a First Nation has decided to take on one responsibility, or more, it would contact the Yukon government, as the government currently providing those services. Administrative arrangements would be made for the transfer of responsibility. This would include provisions designed to ensure an orderly transition. If, for instance, a First Nation was to take on day care, child custody and adoption in its community, a plan would be developed and implemented that would have the First Nation operating these services. The Yukon government would, in turn, reduce the scope of its programs to allow First Nations to take responsibility for its own citizens. Measures would be put into place to deal with emergencies, in much the same way as we have interprovincial agreements on medical or other emergencies now.
Arrangements would also be made with the federal government on the financing of the services or programs that the First Nation is assuming. In negotiating a financial deal, the federal government, we feel, is under an obligation to ensure that funding is adequate to provide a service comparable to what is available elsewhere in the Yukon.
We shall also, I think, see provisions that allow for reduced funding to the Yukon government if costs savings are realized through self-government agreements, but again, the quality of service generally available in the Yukon cannot decline.
When a First Nation passes laws governing a program or service it is administering, they will be recorded in a registry and through this registry everyone will have access to the body of law governing matters in the territory.
In future, I will have occasion to go into some detail on the nature of the self-government agreement that was reached in Ottawa last week. I look forward to discussing that with Members of this House and with the citizens throughout the territory. I think it is clear that, as First Nations begin to exercise their authority and responsibilities under these agreements, the relationship between government, be it federal or territorial, and the Yukons Indian people will fundamentally change.
The self-government agreements will replace the federal Indian Act. They will, therefore, mark a shift from the type of relationship that we are familiar with, with the decision making and the delivery of programs centralized in Ottawa and outside the direct control of First Nations. Instead, we will have legally recognized First Nation governments with the authority to exercise power over a range of areas, previously exercised by the Yukon or municipal governments. These agreements will reflect the reality that, despite the ongoing federal responsibility for Canadas aboriginal people, First Nations people have increasing contact with provincial and territorial governments regarding services and programs not provided by the Government of Canada.
For this reason we are going to great lengths, as I have indicated, to address how First Nation governments will co-exist with other levels of government.
In conclusion, let me express our firm commitment to self-government agreements that reflect Yukon realities and the needs and desires of the 14 Yukon First Nations. In our view, these agreements will be a concrete, practical expression of the inherent right of First Nations to self-determination. We are committed to continuing our efforts to see that this inherent right is formally recognized, and that these agreements gain protection under Canadas Constitution.
We, on this side of the House, are also committed to agreements that will reaffirm the federal governments constitutional responsibility to support First Nations in meeting their aspirations for self-determination within the framework of Confederation. In our view, self-government agreements are an investment in the future of our territory and in the future of our country. They are an investment in strengthening our communities and our peoples ability to make decisions locally, over matters of local concern. They are an investment in the development of equitable, productive relationships between Yukon citizens, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike.
Mr. Brewster: I would like to thank the Government Leader. That was one of the best briefings we have had on the whole issue. I do not always pick up things too fast. I like to read them, so I will not make a great deal of comment on this matter at the present time.
I can also assure the Government Leader that the Yukon Party is a very reasonable party. We do not quarrel over too many things. I cannot say that for everybody in the Legislature, but we are usually pretty reasonable.
In speaking to the motion, I have to emphasize that we are only talking about the principle of self-government. What self-government really is will eventually be known by all Yukoners and that is a different subject.
I am a little concerned that this government is asking for support from the Yukon Party on all these agreements. The Yukon Party has not seen any of the agreements at all and yet, it appears that this government wants our support. I have said it before and I will say it again: if you want support, we must know what you want us to support.
I understand that we will be having a briefing tomorrow. Again, this is after the fact of this motion. This is why I am only speaking on the principle of the motion.
In my travels around the Yukon, I have found that very, very few people know anything about self-government. This includes an awful lot of Indian people. Some of them have different opinions, much as the rest of us have.
I can say that we will support this motion, the principle of self-government, as the motion is read. I would also like to point out that it is one of the policies of the Yukon Party. However, the end results must be fair to all Yukoners. If it is to succeed at all, it must be fair to everyone.
In closing, I urge the government to stop hiding the facts. Let Yukoners know what is in the various documents. People kept in the dark are more prone to jump to conclusions and support rumours than a well-informed public will. Yukoners are no different. They want to know and understand the facts of what self-government actually means. I think people will start to look at what the Government Leader has said today and will not turn around and jump to conclusions or support rumours. Perhaps the people will start to understand what this agreement is all about.
Ms. Kassi: It really bothers me a lot when we continue to hear that we do not know what is going on, or that we have to define self-government in every detail to everybody.
We have our traditional gatherings all summer and sometimes in the winter. We have a general assembly now taking place at the Indian Centre that will define what we need in our self-government process. Why are those people not there attending those meetings? Why are they not there? Why are they not meeting with us? Why will they not attend the public forums for the introduction of claims agreements? There is no hidden agenda. There are no hidden agreements. All one has to do is go and ask for it, ask for briefings, sit with the indigenous people of this country and find out what we want in self-government. We have nothing to hide. All we want to do is work together.
I want to thank the Member for Tatchun for bringing forward this motion at this time, particularly when our chiefs and our community leaders are gathered at the Indian Centre, discussing this very issue that is before us today.
At this time, they are working out the details toward a central and local government that will serve the Yukon First Nations in ways we find effective for our people and will encourage our growth. As you know, Mr. Speaker, we have always known what to do. We have always known the principles and how to implement them by governing ourselves. But, I also believe that these ideas are so well-founded, they could be used as a model by anyone.
As we approach the last round of talks toward settling our land claims, we look to our elders to guide us in our efforts. They show us the way to proceed. We will never overlook the path that was set out for us by the many elderly leaders who have passed on during this whole process, in the past and very recently. The goals and objectives have been laid out for us by many of them. We share their vision. That is why we are here discussing self-government today.
For many unsettling years we, the First Nations people, have been controlled by what was called the Indian Act. We did not write that act, nor did we ever agree to the Indian Act. It was a concept that was used once before and now we feel comfortable in tossing it out. Somewhere along the way, the Indian Act was written, which dictated what we could and could not do. It told us who we were, where we were to live and how we were to behave. If for no other reason than to rid our people of this horrible act, I wholeheartedly support the concept of self-government.
Self-government is no big, mysterious monster that needs to be defined to its every detail, every time one turns around. Simply put, it means our people are standing up for themselves. It is our people governing ourselves according to the laws established centuries ago, passed down for the people to follow, based on our spiritual connections based on the natural laws.
From that basis, we make agreements with the various levels of government as to how we will all work together to satisfy as many of our needs and duties as we can.
Unlike the Indian Act, it should be a constantly evolving process, with the foundations intact. It will have to be like a contract that is open and flexible, not a signed deal like, Take the money, the land, the responsibility and run, and that is the end of it. It is like a relationship between people. It must remain adaptable; it must be open to change and willing to compromise. We will make our mistakes along the way, like every government does, and we will adapt to those mistakes and change them and learn from them. This freedom needs to be built into these contracts. It is our inherent right to determine, ourselves, our own way of living. We need to have direct control over our local economy, our social services, our cultural activities, our land and our future.
These agreements are not just for us, and they will not solve the problems immediately, but it is where we start. We will not be looking at implementing these things right away. The first task that we must do is to heal our community. That is the Vuntut Gwichin part of it.
There is a great deal of bitterness and frustration right now, because we are facing a big change in our community. One of the changes is prohibition; it is coming soon and it will mean a lot of dedication by the whole community to make it better. We cannot be deterred by all of this though. There have been other threats before and we have survived them. We will survive this one as well, because our elders are standing behind us and they tell us we will succeed.
We will need to pay particular attention to our social programs, activities such as life-skills training, which has proven to be very important in my community. Information and services for fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects victims, wilderness treatment camps, recreational activities and community healing will have to be top priority. One of the main ones that we are working on right now in the area of prohibition. After we establish the committee to deal with it, they will work toward a tribal justice entity.
We will formally integrate our way of doing things with other ways that we have learned from other governments. Our guaranteed presence on the various boards and committees will ensure that the ways of the First Nations people are heard and represented when it comes to making recommendations and decisions.
We will be able to develop a tribal government constitution that will not have the shadow of the Charter looming over it. It is important for us to define what we want our guiding principles to be. According to our traditional ways, we will have to reassess our ways of electing our leaders. There will be a move toward a more consensus style of local government with our leaders being appointed by the community. This way it will eliminate the hidden agendas and strengthen our ability to have an open government.
Mr. Speaker, as you know, elections have played a very divisive part in our communities for years and years.
Family members of large families can elect a chief and that chief can govern for years. That is a very unequal governing of our people and we cannot live like that anymore. Getting back to the consensus way of governing, this will ensure an equal voice in decision making at every level in our local government, with carefully selected elders, teachers and healers in the centre to revive the customs and beliefs in traditional methods. We put our faith in these elders to guide this process because of their wisdom and their knowledge of our ancient spirituality.
The local economy will have more ties with our traditional lifestyles. There are tourism opportunities, room for more small businesses and recreation and social activities. We want to work hand in hand with the resource people to help us implement our policies with the new peace-keeping initiatives. With prohibition about to come into place, we will want to work closely with the RCMP, more than we ever have before - and with the courts, the tribal justice and the health services - to ensure that this transition is as smooth as possible.
We have many Gwichin resource people who are trained in the skills that we need to have in our community. We will want to make it attractive for them to return to the community, to provide leadership and work with our people at the local level. Our people are already being trained in the areas of renewable resource management to take care of the Vuntut Gwichin national park, the territorial park that has been established in our lands. We have people in resource management in those areas who will take care of that. In the area of economics, in teacher education and in the health area, we have many skilled people in our nation, and we want to bring those people back.
Those skills are what we are going to need for our future and I would like to encourage all of our young people to stay in school and learn as much as they can, because we are going to depend upon them very soon.
We are grateful for the white people, the non-aboriginal resource people that are in Old Crow right now. We need them. But, as more of our people become trained, we will have to look at eventually phasing out non-resident resource people in the community, not because they are not valued or important - we love them very much - it is just that we need to have our own people working in those areas. That is our definition of self-government.
We want to work closely with non-aboriginal people. They have many skills and insights that can benefit all people, regardless of race. We thank you for your help so far and we need more cooperation in the future.
We want to work with the excellent education system we have in place up there in Old Crow right now. We want to see more integration of our cultural activities and traditional ways, activities that are meaningful and integral to the survival of our people.
We have some wonderful recreational facilities now, like the new skating rink, the resource library at the college and ski trails that we continue to develop every year. Some of the top cross-country and downhill skiers have come from my village. It is a sport we can enjoy and love for the simple fact that we are very connected to the land.
Because we are a land-based subsistence people, we will want to build an economy based on the land. We know the value the land has for us, and we do not want to destroy it. We have a very beautiful country up there, and we want to use it to our advantage, as well as preserving it for our childrens future.
Hon. Ms. Joe: It is my pleasure to stand here today in support of this motion. It is very timely to speak of this issue, in view of the fact that the Council for Yukon Indians, at this weeks General Assembly, is reviewing a model self-government deal that was signed in Ottawa last Friday. As you know, for many years aboriginal people of this country have suffered under the rule of the Indian Act. No other race of people in Canada has been subjected to a piece of legislation that puts them under the total control of a department of the federal government of Canada.
The Indian Act, although it may have been passed with all of the best intentions in the world, has brought nothing but destruction, pain, anger and hopelessness to the aboriginal people in Canada. Indian agents, some good and some bad, decided what was best for aboriginal people.
Can you imagine how degrading that is? Can you imagine being told you had to send your children away to residential school - sometimes never to see them for years; sometimes never to see them again at all? Can you imagine being told you could not speak your own native language and, if you did, you would be severely punished for it?
Can you imagine being told that, if you wanted to join the armed forces and fight to defend Canada in a war, you had to forfeit your Indian status first? Can you imagine what it was like not being allowed to vote, not being able to voice an opinion or support a candidate to represent you in the legislatures of this country, or even in the Parliament of Canada? Can you imagine being told you cannot practice your religion, hold potlatches, have sweat lodges, or pass hundreds of years of tradition and culture on to your children?
Can you imagine being adults but being treated like children who cannot make their own decisions?
An aboriginal man or woman could not set their own goals, have their own dreams, make their own decisions as to where to live, how to educate their children and what traditions they wanted to hand down to their own families. Aboriginal people could not send their children to public schools unless they gave up their status. They could not own a business. They could not eat in certain restaurants or drink in public bars.
Discrimination and racism was, and sadly even today is, a reality for aboriginal people.
I believe that unless you are an aboriginal person, you cannot relate to the degradation and injustice we felt, and continue to feel. I know some of you will say that was all in the past, we made mistakes, but we were only doing the best we knew how, but it is not like that today. That does not explain the atrocities occurring in Canada against aboriginal people. That does not explain Oka or Donald Marshall. That does not explain why the murder of Betty Osborne in The Pas, Manitoba, went unsolved for 15 years, when many people in the community knew who was responsible.
That does not explain why, in the Yukon, where 25 percent of the population is made up of aboriginal people, 60 to 70 percent of inmates at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, at any one time, are of native ancestry. That does not explain why so many aboriginal children are in care. That does not explain why the abuse of alcohol runs rampant in our aboriginal communities.
The aboriginal people of the Yukon, and in many other places in Canada, are still suffering the effect of the Indian Act. They are still suffering from residential school syndrome, sexual abuse, family violence, alcoholism and many other severe social problems that can be traced back to the loss of their right to self-government and self-determination.
However, there is hope. The signing of the Yukon land claim gives me reason to hope. The signing of the Yukon First Nations self-government agreement last Friday gives me hope. The fact that many Indian bands in the Yukon are developing programs for aboriginal people gives me hope.
The creation of the tribal justice council in Teslin gives me hope. The Tatlmain Lake project in Pelly Crossing gives me hope. The fact that many aboriginal people are becoming more and more involved in the delivery of programs gives me hope. The rediscovery of using traditional methods to deal with crime in a community, through the use of healing circles, gives me hope.
The rediscovery of old traditions, such as sweat lodges, turning back to the wisdom of the elders, traditional dancing and so on, gives me hope.
All these developments give me hope that the Yukon First Nations, with self-government, will once again take control of their own future, take responsibility for themselves and build a strong nation for future generations. Self-government will enable the Yukon First Nations to do just that.
It is my hope that, one day, self-government for aboriginal people will be a reality in all of Canada. Self-government will allow aboriginal people across Canada to rebuild our nations.
Self-government will allow aboriginal people to regain control over their cultures. Self-government will allow aboriginal people to pass on their traditions and to create new traditions for their children and for future generations.
All aboriginal people of Canada need to be able to have a choice in determining their own destiny.
Motion No. 86 agreed to
Clerk: Item No. 2, standing in the name of Ms. Kassi.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 2?
Ms. Kassi: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Motion No. 84
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Member for Old Crow
THAT this House congratulates the Gwichin Nation, the Porcupine Caribou Management Board, the Alaska Coalition, the Gwichin Steering Committee, the Government of Canada, the Government of Yukon, the dozens of environmental organizations and thousands of individuals who successfully lobbied for the withdrawal of a United States Senate bill which would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development; and
THAT this House supports continued efforts to protect the north slope of the Yukon and Alaska for the preservation of the land, air, water and wildlife for the survival of the people who depend on those resources.
Ms. Kassi: First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to express the gratitude of the Vuntut Gwichin for the efforts this government has put forth toward protecting both the Porcupine caribou herd and our 7,000 Gwichin relatives all across the north Yukon, Alaska and Northwest Territories.
This represents a strong commitment and belief that peoples rights to their culture and their food source cannot be denied. There has been a massive and very effective campaign mounted over these past years to divert the United States government and the oil companies that back them from the drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
There have been literally thousands of people who have realized that this issue is not only vital to the safety of the calves that will be born in the Jago River uplands this coming spring, but also to the survival of our people. It is on this issue that I would like to focus today.
Our people, the Vuntut Gwichin, do not just eat the caribou. We do not just go out and shoot them and scare them into running across the tundra, force them to go charging across the river, as others would have the world believe. The Vuntut Gwichin live in Old Crow and we wait for the caribou to return. We pray that their fall migration has been uninterrupted. We pray that they have a peaceful, safe, warm winter in the mountains. We also pray that the wolves, the coyotes, the bears and the birds and all the animals that feed on the caribou have been able to survive the winter because of the meat they have eaten. This is the way things are. It comes naturally. We pray that this will continue.
We hope that these caribou will once again travel to the coastal plains and get ready to have their babies and that there will be plenty of the sweet grasses, the lichens, the mosses and plants that will help the young calves become healthy and strong.
As most of you know, there is a real possibility - a real fear - that this pattern will not be repeated. The Vuntut Gwichin will only have their prayers left to them because the caribou herd will have been wiped out because of the greed of a few people in Texas and Wall Street.
There are only a few of these people and we will succeed in this issue. Recently, we have faced these people in a committee of the United States Senate. We lobbied hard, swiftly, honestly and effectively and mounted a campaign to stop this destructive energy bill from entering the floor of the Senate. On November 1 of this year, we succeeded. When this happened, my people were very happy. We feasted in Old Crow. The school closed down on this day and there were phone calls from all over the continent. We congratulated all the people who had worked so hard to point out to the senators just how bad this policy was.
Our victory was very sweet but it was also very short. The following weekend I received a message that the senators were trying a different tactic to get their bill through the committee. An aboriginal senator from Hawaii, Senator Inouye, has said that he must support the right of the aboriginal people on the North Slope to develop anything they want to on their lands. This is so very clever and so very devious of the oil companies.
What they have done is to turn the indigenous people against each other. This movement will allow the Inupiat of Kaktovik to come onto the land in the refuge and do the developing instead of the white oil executives.
Now, do they think we are stupid? Do they think we are blind and cannot see the truth of this? Each and every one of you knows that the Inupiat are not the ones who are going to be doing the drilling. They are only pawns in this game. This is a very difficult and hard thing to say about another indigenous group, but I must speak the truth about it. They are being used by the oil companies. They are being bought off for the sake of a few dollars. They are blinded by quick prosperity and they have lost the vision of their ancestors. This makes me very sad.
This is the same tactic Cortez used when he conquered the Mexicans. He bought off and intimidated the native guides and then proceeded, with only 500 men, to kill thousands of indigenous people and ruin a peaceful and well-developed culture. He took their religion and destroyed it. He took their culture and forbade them to practice it. This is what I fear for our people.
The technique of divide and conquer is an old one. It has been very effective, but there are even older laws that must be respected and obeyed. If they are not, there will be chaos and destruction. The people who do not obey these laws will not last very long.
The Gwichin will be looking at taking a delegation over to Alaska and meeting with the Inupiat in Kaktovik sometime this summer. We want to work with them. We want to help them and, in the process, have them help us.
The oil companies have said directly to me things like, what is a few thousand Eskimos or what is a few thousand Indians, or would your people be approachable for compensation? Of course, we say no. The President of the United States has said recently that caribou loved the pipeline. It will come as no surprise to the people of the Yukon that the caribou do not love the pipeline. These are the silly ideas we are fighting. The only thing we must do is inform them of the truth. These people are ignorant of what it really means. They make their decisions based on false information.
This is now a human rights issue. If this goes through, it will violate the covenant of the United Nations. The Gwichin of northern Canada have an inherent right to have our culture protected; our culture is the caribou. Our entire life is centred around the migration of one of the largest migratory herds of caribou on the continent. We cannot drive anywhere to get food; instead, our food comes to us. Our ancestors decided to set up a permanent residence at Old Crow because, twice a year, the caribou migrate through our village.
Not only do we celebrate their return because of the meat they provide for us but it is the celebration of our culture, our heritage, our spirits and we give thanks and say our prayers because we know that, once again, we will be able to survive for another season.
It is an indisputable fact that if drilling is allowed to proceed in the caribou calving grounds of the refuge, there will come a time in the near future when the caribou will not come back. We will wait in our village, day after day, without any sign of their return.
We fear that our people will want to move away. We cannot allow this to happen. It is essential at this time that we speak even louder than before. They are turning us against each other and this must stop. I would like to encourage each and every one, on both sides of this House, to speak up loudly and forcefully on this issue. If anyone knows of any oil people here in the Yukon, we can talk to them, too.
As I have said before, a great deal of work has been going on and has to continue going on. Personally, I have lobbied the senators in Washington. I went into their offices and sat down with them and explained, face to face, the need for their support. The Premier joined me on one of those trips and I would like to thank him personally for his support and his commitment. He was very effective in his lobby.
While in New York City I spoke at the United Nations. I explained to them in very clear words that this had to become an international issue. These activities are in direct contravention of the United Nations covenant on human rights.
In Canada, I have met with executives from the Department of External Affairs. I have made representation to both Parliamentary Standing Committees on Environmental and Aboriginal Affairs. It is time the Government of Canada becomes directly involved and speaks out on this issue. The Prime Minister has said absolutely nothing on this issue; he avoids the question. To date, they have been frighteningly silent.
I have recently spoken out on this issue at the Northern Resources Conference, the North Slope Conference, Forum 91, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, in San Francisco to Greenpeace, in Los Angeles, the national media on the Ron Reagan show, at the National Wildlife Federation Conference held last year in Memphis, Tennessee and to the World Wildlife Fund. I have also spoken at the World Council on Indigenous People, in Tromso, Norway, the Indigenous Womens Gathering at Karashok and the Western Canada Wilderness Mapping Conference in Hawaii in 1990.
We have brought this issue to the international spectrum and everybody we have ever spoken to have given a lot of support to us. The result was the vote in the U.S. Senate, a couple of weeks ago.
There have been Gwichin people driving across the United States, on a grassroots road show, stopping at all of the cities and towns, to tell people about the issue and how important it is to support us and stop the development. They have held rallies, phone-in shows and lobbied at the state legislatures along the way. We have made many phone calls, faxed messages, knocked on doors and lobbying was done by many people, and this continues to go on.
I would like to thank the following people. The Gwichin Steering Committee is a committee that was struck by our chiefs and leaders at the first gathering of the Gwichin, three years ago. On the committee are Sarah James of Arctic Village, Jonathan Soloman of Fort Yukon, Kay Wallis, a past Alaska state legislator, Johnny Charlie from Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories and Alestine Andre, from the Inuvik area or Arctic Red River area, in the Northwest Territories, and me as the Yukon representative. Our coordinator is Bob Childers, and Cynthia Munroe is his assistant. These people continue to do a great deal of work toward saving the caribou.
The Porcupine Caribou Management Board has taken one of the leading roles in this. I would like to say thanks as well to the chairman, Albert Peter. He has been tireless in his efforts, especially in Ottawa and particularly in Washington. Doug Urquhart has recently taken a vacation from being secretary to the board. He should be commended for his hard work and I hope he has a well-deserved holiday.
The people who make up the Alaska coalition have also been our key people in Washington. Lenny Kohm who has devoted much of his life to this issue and Louis Tritt from Arctic Village who has travelled with the road show sponsored by the Alaska Coalition.
Glenna Frost from Old Crow spent six weeks on the road this past year and moved many people to tears with her plea to save the caribou. William Greenland from Fort MacPherson is out there now doing the same thing. We are also in the process of looking for more people to join in this road show. Our lobby continues.
The Canadian embassy in Washington has been keeping on top of all the issues as they arise in Congress and have kept us well informed.
Many environmental groups have also joined with us. To name a few, they are: the Audubon Society, the World Wildlife Fund, the National Wildlife Fund in the United States, N.E.C., as well as the major indigenous groups across the country and major church organizations.
Again, I stress that we must continue our lobby. Certainly, the Vuntut Gwichin will not slow down. We are working collectively for an international agreement on the protection of this vital resource and are looking at a further agreement to develop an international reserve between the United States and Canada.
It is my hope that all the Members in this House will support this motion.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I want to say a few words in support of the motion. I also want to compliment the Member for Old Crow on her presentation. I recognize the tireless efforts of the Member on this issue on behalf of her people, and believe the extraordinary efforts of all the people who have been involved in the lobby to protect the Arctic Wildlife National Refuge are worthy of the highest praise. Collectively, as noted by the Member for Old Crow, they have managed to do what many people thought could not ever be done.
They achieved the impossible - that is, the act of an effective Canadian lobby on the American government. This government has supported those efforts and we will continue to do so. Some Members opposite will recall the parliamentary exchange less than a year ago with legislators from Alaska. It was during that visit that some of us appeared before Senate and House committees and spoke to the subject of the refuge. As I recall, Alaskan legislators asked many questions but expressed a sincere appreciation for what we said and for what they termed to be a better understanding of the Canadian position, and a better understanding of the urgency of the issue as it affects the people of Old Crow and the Gwichin nation.
I think we, as a government and as a society, should remain committed to the preservation of endangered wildlife areas. Throughout the world we are witnessing the destruction of the environment. We see the Amazon rain forests shrinking every year; we see acid rain killing the hardwood forests of eastern Canada and the United States; and the thousands of reindeer that were slaughtered as a result of Chernobyl comes vividly to mind. There are countless examples of the devastation that can occur if we are not prepared to take the bold step and the tough decision to prevent this kind of devastation from occurring.
Yes, there is a need to develop resources, but I do not think anyone in this House would accept the development of resources at the cost of the very existence of a people. This is a people issue. It is not just about oil, caribou and land. As was articulated so well by the Member for Old Crow, the Porcupine caribou herd is essential for the survival of the Gwichin people. It is part of who they are. The Gwichin have an inherent and fundamental right to survival. To ensure that survival, we must maintain our vigilance. We must continue to oppose attempts to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.
Furthermore, it is important that exploration and drilling, carried on anywhere, is done in a way that minimizes impact on the environment. This is the position that we have outlined and accepted in our conservation and economic strategies, and it is reflected in our balanced approach to resource development. This motion reflects a respect for that balance and a respect for the right of the Gwichin Nation to survive as a people. I will support the motion.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I rise to speak to this motion. I obviously support this motion, but I do so with mixed feelings. Several weeks ago, it appeared that we had great cause to celebrate. It appeared that David, once again, defeated Goliath. It seemed that the Porcupine caribou herd could continue to roam across the North Slope of Alaska, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, unthreatened by industrial development in its calving grounds. Despite Senator Bennett Johnsons prediction that the development issue was dead, at least until 1993, rumours are percolating through Washington, at this time, that Goliath - the rich, multi-national oil lobby - has found new allies and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska may again come under siege sooner than expected.
The second half of the Member for Old Crows motion reminds us that the fight is not over.
Even though storm clouds may once again be gathering, let us not forget to honour those people who have helped to win yet another battle in the war to save the North Slope wilderness on this continent. From its very beginnings, with the passage of the Alaskan National Interest Lands Conservation Act, under the Carter administration, the establishment of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, in the northeast corner of Alaska, has been a classic confrontation between private profit and the public interest.
Its very protection was a victory for U.S. environmental organizations, who saw great value in protecting the Alaskan wilderness for its inherent value. Against this coalition of public interest, then and ever since, has been the oil lobby, which gained strong allies in the United States administration during the Reagan years.
The problem is that there are oil seepages in the 10-02 lands in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the very heart of the Porcupine Caribou Herd calving grounds. These showings kindled oil industry dreams of a new oil field to take over when Prudhoe Bay is exhausted.
During the Reagan years in the White House, these dreams were fanned by a pro-development Secretary of the Interior, which was prepared to open public lands for private profit.
In 1987, the Interior Department released the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Alaska Coastal Plain Resource Assessment. This document, prepared for the American Congress, estimated enormous oil potential in the 10-02 lands of the refuge. It suggested that oil exploration and development could safely proceed with minimal risk to the environment and wildlife. This report inflamed oil industry expectations of a major find that led to several bills of both Congress and the Senate that would have opened the refuge to oil exploration or development.
Unfortunately, the findings of many of the studies in the body of that report did not support his politically manipulative conclusions. The reports instructions downplay the significant risk to wildlife and the environment that would be posed by oil exploration.
As the oil industry shifted into high gear to press for passage of development legislation, people concerned about the fate of the land and wildlife, and the people who depend on them began to organize.
Encouraged by the Member for Old Crow, this government took a very aggressive position on the issue and lobbied Canadas Minister for External Affairs, Joe Clark, to put the refuge on the U.S./Canada issues agenda.
In our support of others, such as the Gwichin, the Porcupine Caribou Herd Management Board, the Canadian Wildlife Service and Environment Canada, we were successful. The Yukon position became the Canadian position. Both the Premier and Ministers of this government spoke regularly about the issue in meetings with federal ministers, Alaskan officials and at public conferences. Yukon government Ministers and senior public officials even travelled to Washington to express our argument in support of preservation of the refuge to politicians, public officials and environmental organizations. The Yukon government and the Porcupine Caribou Herd Management Board also produced a number of public education materials, which were widely distributed among congressional and Senate opinion leaders.
During the same period of time, the Yukon government worked closely with the Government of Canada to establish an international porcupine caribou herd management agreement with the government of the United States. It was our hope that international cooperation would help to ensure the permanent protection of the herd and the wilderness on which it depends.
Through all of this, the Member for Old Crow was inspirational to us all. In addition to speaking on the subject at every opportunity - at local, national and international conferences - the Member helped to unite the Gwichin nation on the issue and forged alliances with numerous national and international environmental organizations.
In 1989, that original coalition of interests and the public environmental concerns raised by the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, brought a successful end to the first battle to preserve the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Since then, the coalition party for the protection of the wilderness, the caribou and their threatened way of life, has gained strength. When the oil industry attacked again, fuelled by U.S. public concerns about energy security as a result of the war with Iraq, no time was lost.
In this recent battle, the principal role of my ministry has been to support the lobbying efforts of the Porcupine Caribou Management Board. The board and its chair, Albert Peter, work tirelessly to make the future of the refuge an issue for U.S. and Canadian voters and legislators. The board helped sponsor, and former board secretary, Doug Urquhart, helped to organize, the Glenna Frost 50-day, American road trip through the eastern United States to talk about the threat to the caribou and its way of life.
Albert Peter spoke about the issue to both the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Environment and the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. Both committees subsequently urged the Government of Canada to maintain a strong position and encourage representations to the United States at the highest levels possible. The strong recommendations the committees made to the Canadian government worked, as efforts of the Canadian embassy in Washington were intensified.
Mr. Peter also made three separate trips to Washington, where he made compelling presentations to senators and Senate staff. The serious consequences of opening up the refuge were made very clear.
The Porcupine Caribou Herd Management Board did not act alone. Letters and phone calls went to the office of the Premier, to the Minister of External Affairs, to the Prime Minister and to our Ambassador to the United States. Dozens of Yukon people, young and old, from all walks of life, put pen to paper and urged the senators to maintain the refuge. The Alaska Coalition and the Gwichin Steering Committee mobilized their American allies and urged people from all over the States to write to key senators.
An informal network of the United States and Canada regularly exchanged intelligence on the leanings of the Senate committee considering the energy bill. The pressure was relentless and effective. In the end, Senator Bennett Johnson, the senator from Louisiana who drafted the energy bill and subsequently withdrew it from the committees consideration, was quoted as saying, In case anyone wants to know what this vote means, it means we lost.
The oil lobby did not lose by accident. Thousands of individual Davids stood up to a Goliath and brought it down. I believe all people who care about the preservation of wilderness, who want to see a caribou herd of 190,000 animals strong remain so, who value the cultural survival of the Gwichin people, all owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who picked up a phone, wrote a letter or talked to people about the importance of this issue.
As Yukon Minister of Renewable Resources, I would like to conclude my comments on this motion by thanking the Gwichin Steering Committee, the Alaska Coalition and the Porcupine Caribou Herd Management Board, the dozens of environmental organizations and the thousands of individuals who have lobbied effectively for the preservation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I would especially like to commend the commitment and dedication of the Member for Old Crow, who has never allowed us to forget the importance of this issue.
The sound lines of communication established with the Government of Canada and interest groups in this latest battle for wilderness preservation has reminded us, once again, of what can be achieved by people working together. I feel confident that what we have learned will help us to protect the interests of northern people and wildlife in the future.
I support this motion and urge other Members of this House to join me in congratulating the lobby for the protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for a job well done.
Mr. Phelps: I just want to say a few words. I certainly want to be brief but equally sincere in supporting the motion. Members will recall the debate we had several years ago when we debated and passed a motion in this House that was against the exploration and development of oil wells on the ANWR lands. I spoke at some length during that debate.
I can only echo what the speaker before me said. I very much agree with everything he had to say in a positive way about all of the individuals and groups concerned, including the government. I think that special congratulations ought to be accorded to the Member for Old Crow. It is unfortunate she is not singled out within the motion, but it is her motion. I think all Yukoners realize that she played a special role in bringing publicity to this issue throughout the world and particularly North America and the southern 48 states.
It goes without saying that we ought to continue to support efforts to protect the North Slope. The battle is not over, and I hope that, with the continued vigilance of all of us, all the groups mentioned and the Member for Old Crow, that we will succeed.
Mr. Phillips: I plan to be brief as well, but I do rise to speak in favour of the motion that is before us today.
Over the past several months, many people have worked very hard to protect the Porcupine caribou herd, and we all owe them a special vote of thanks. We have won the battle, but we have certainly not won the war. I would like to personally thank the chief and the band council of Old Crow, as well the people of Old Crow and the Gwichin Nation.
The Member for Old Crow mentioned an array of individuals by name, and I would like to extend my thanks to those many, special individuals and groups for their outstanding efforts.
While I am on my feet, I would like to mention two other groups that have lobbied for the protection of the caribou herd, locally, nationally and internationally. The first one is the Yukon Fish and Game Association, that brought a motion forward to the Canadian Wildlife Federation and received the full support of the board of the Canadian Wildlife Federation. The second group is the Canadian Wildlife Federation. This group made representations to the American government, the Canadian government and to the National Wildlife Federation in lobbying for this particular cause.
The Porcupine caribou inhabit the most fragile environment in the world. Any development of any kind should be scrutinized and examined very closely before it is allowed to proceed - if it proceeds at all.
The caribou are dependent upon that land. They are an extremely remarkable animal but they are unable to protect their interests. We must do that ourselves. We must do what we can to ensure the long-term survival of that herd and the people that depend on it so much.
Again, I send out my heartfelt thanks to everyone who worked so hard to ensure the protection of the herd. Before I close, I would like to extend my thanks to the Member for Old Crow. This has been a mission for this Member - a mission that is genuinely felt in her heart. She has shown everybody that that is where this issue is coming from. I commend the Member for being so persistent. We are officially thanking many people and groups here today in this motion. Before I sit down, I would like to, by way of my speech, add the name of the Member for Old Crow to the list of people to whom we are giving special thanks.
Motion No.84 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Webster: 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 Hon. 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 call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 19 -First Appropriation Act, 1992-93 - continued
Chair: We are on general debate of the whole budget.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yesterday, at adjournment, I was engaged in an exchange with the Member for Hootalinqua about religion, gambling, death and taxes. I think we had fairly well exhausted the discussion of the extent to which we are dependent upon the federal government, and the extent to which we are weaning ourselves from the relationship.
I did offer to match the Member graph for graph; the Member will understand that we are still preparing that and I am sure by the time that we get to the Finance estimate we will have that material. I think that we have probably completed as much as we can of the discussion on that matter. If the Members have further general comments or questions, I would be pleased to respond to them.
Mr. Lang: I asked a specific question and I did not receive a response, because I think that we got into religion, gambling and other elements of the discussion.
I asked about the person year complement for the corporations, Workers Compensation and the college, and if there had been an increase in personnel compared to other years. I did not receive a reply, and I am wondering if the Minister has that information, and if he can give it to us?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will dig out that number and table it.
Mr. Lang: I am prepared to move on to the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Yukon Legislative Assembly
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This is, of course, a very complicated and controversial area. I have been given some information about the estimate that I will put on the record and then I will respond to questions when they come.
The budget proposed for the Yukon Legislative Assembly in 1992-93 totals $2,430,000, which is a five percent increase over the 1991-92 forecast of $2,310,000.
A breakdown of major changes in the Legislative Assembly budget on a program basis includes legislative services. Increases in this program are in the two categories of MLA pay, $35,000, and caucus support services, $20,000. These increases, totalling $55,000, are offset by the deletion of $15,000, most of which had been allocated to hosting the 1991 Canadian Regional Seminar. Therefore, the net increase in this program is $40,000, which amounts to a three percent increase.
The increases in the legislative assembly office programs are as follows: staff salaries, increased by $31,000; clerks conference travel, $4,500; Legislative Assembly brochures, $2,500; office supplies, $1,000; Pages, $500; and repairs and maintenance, $500.
These increases, which total $40,000, are offset by the reduction of $2,000 in contract services and by the deletion of $13,000 that was allocated to cover the costs of hosting the 1991 Professional Development Seminar of the Association of Clerks at the Table in Canada. The net increase in this program is $25,000.
Under the elections program, the increases are as follows: staff salaries, $4,700; election preparation and planning for general election, $46,000; hosting 1992 Canadian Election Officials Conference, $21,000; administering elections required under the Education Act, $23,000. These increases, which total $94,700, are offset by a deletion of $4,700 for travel to the Canadian Election Officials Conference. The net increase in this program is therefore $90,000.
Under retirement allowances and death benefits, the total is $230,000. This is a decrease of $35,000 from the 1991-92 forecast. This is due to the deletion of $35,000 in funding that was provided in 1991-92, to cover the cost of hiring a pension fund consultant to review the Legislative Assembly Retirement Allowance Act. As all Members know, federal pension tax law reform has led to a requirement for a review.
In summary, those are the introductory comments on the budget.
Mr. Lang: Perhaps the Minister could update us. We know the Electoral Boundary Commission has completed its public review. I gather they have gone back to write the recommendations and report.
The mandate given by the Legislature was to have that report ready no later than December 31. I am wondering if there has been any indication of when that report is going to be completed. I am assuming it is sent immediately to the Speaker. Is that correct? Perhaps it goes to the Government Leaders office at the same time. I would assume he would get the report as soon as it arrives.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is quite correct about the commissions mandate. It is due to report before the end of the year. I have every expectation they will do so, though I have no formal communication to indicate exactly when the report will be in. I think the Member is correct that it will be delivered to the Speaker at some point, with copies for all Members.
Chair: We will proceed with line by line.
On Legislative Services
On Operation and Maintenance
On Legislative Assembly
Legislative Assembly in the amount of $1,096,000 agreed to
On Caucus Support Services
Caucus Support Services in the amount of $374,000 agreed to
On Legislative Committees
Legislative Committees in the amount of $34,000 agreed to
On Commonwealth Parliamentary Association
Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
Legislative Services in the amount of $1,544,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on allotments or person year establishment?
On Legislative Assembly Office
On Operation and Maintenance
On Clerks Office
Clerks Office in the amount of $454,000 agreed to
Legislative Assembly Office in the amount of $454,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on allotments or person year establishment?
On Operation and Maintenance
On Chief Electoral Office
Chief Electoral Office in the amount of $151,000 agreed to
On Elections: Education Act
Elections: Education Act in the amount of $51,000 agreed to
On Elections Administration
Mr. Nordling: Does that cover the election that is going to be held in the 1992-93 budget? We know there will be an election before the end of next March.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There is a question that the election is likely to be held before March 31, 1993, although it is theoretically possible the vote would be on this. This one dollar provides for that, because we never know, until the end of the election, what it is going to cost or how many candidates there are. At this point, we do not even know how many constituencies there will be.
Mrs. Firth: I have a question with respect to the Electoral Boundaries Commission. The report is due to be in at the end of the month. Is the Government Leader anticipating getting the report? Will they be working on legislation immediately after that report is received?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have already answered both of those questions and the answer is, yes, we are expecting the report before the year-end, and yes, we intend to bring legislation to the spring sitting.
Elections Administration agreed to in the amount of one dollar
Elections agreed to in the amount of $202,000
On Retirement Allowances and Death Benefits
On Operation and Maintenance
On Retirement Allowances
Retirement Allowances in the amount of $230,000 agreed to
On Death Benefits
Death Benefits in the amount of $1.00 agreed to
Retirement Allowances and Death Benefits in the amount of $230,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on Allotments or Person Year Establishment?
Are there any questions on the Grants?
Yukon Legislative Assembly agreed to
Executive Council Office
Chair: We are now on general debate, Executive Council Office.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The debate on the last department was so exhausting, I thought I would ask you for a rest, but perhaps not.
Let me say a few words about the Executive Council Office estimates before us. We feel that events in the last year have underscored the need to deal fairly and expeditiously with the long-standing claims of aboriginal people, and they have certainly underscored the importance of negotiating a solution to these claims, rather than allowing conflicts between people to impair our ability to live together and to build stronger communities.
We certainly want to avoid some of the more violent clashes that have occurred elsewhere in the country. It is our view that, through the settlement of aboriginal claims in the Yukon, we will recognize and act upon our legal and moral obligations to Yukons first people and that Yukon First Nations will have their aboriginal rights and title confirmed and establish ownership of their settlement lands.
This is very important for the Yukon economy because it will remove the uncertainty of title to lands and resources in the Yukon and will provide the kind of clarity that Yukon residents and potential investors need in order to make their decisions. Everybody will know the rules that will apply when using Yukon land and resources.
In terms of social justice, First Nations will gain benefits and the means to enhance their ability to participate in Yukon society on their own terms and to address the needs of their own community on their own terms. We think the settlement will create new economic opportunities that will ensure meaningful jobs and an economic base for First Nations.
At the same time, these opportunities will support efforts to build healthier, more stable communities for the betterment of all of the people of the Yukon and to realize that these goals have been built on the foundation of the umbrella final agreement.
As Members know, in the last few months we have achieved four final First Nations agreements: first, with the Na-Cho Nyak Dun Band, in the Mayo area; second, with the Champagne/Aishihik Band, in Haines Junction; third, with Mr. Speakers people, the Teslin Tlingit nation; and, fourth, with the Vuntut Gwichin, in Old Crow, the people represented by Madam Chair.
From our point of view, these agreements bring the UFA provisions to life; they make them concrete; they bring them down to ground in a very practical way. They manifest the provisions very directly and immediately for the beneficiaries.
The most recent First Nation final agreement, that with Old Crow, which I described briefly during the review of the 1991-92 supplementary estimates, provides an example of how concrete the land claim becomes at the community level.
Looking at the year ahead provided for in this budget, we expect to complete more First Nation agreements and proceed with implementation of the agreements that have already been negotiated.
As Members know, we have negotiated a model agreement for self-government by individual First Nations for First Nations at the table, and we believe the land claim settlement will empower aboriginal people to make their own decisions in their own way about matters that affect them. It is a very important and liberating accord for that reason.
The agreements and the cooperative negotiating process used to achieve them has helped, I think, to build bridges between aboriginal institutions and other levels of government. We will be able to work together for the political, social and economic development of the Yukon. That is, I think, what everybody in this House would wish for the territory.
Let me move to the second point of my budget comments, and that is to speak very briefly about the decentralization initiative.
I did give a short speech the other day in which I tried to answer most of the questions that have risen with respect to the decentralization initiative. Let me just remind Members that this budget covers year 2 of the decentralization initiative. We are very firmly of the view that investing in decentralization is good, in that it invests in the community economies and provides better public services for Yukon people. When we launched this initiative, we were committed to relocate 100 jobs over three years. The year 2 plan adds 37 jobs, bringing us to a total of 76 in years 1 and 2. I mentioned in my speech the other day that we have had a lot of constructive input from the communities, through meetings with Ministers and officials.
In this year 2 initiative, nine communities will receive at least one job in year 2. The year 1 program is being implemented and it is proceeding despite the complexities of the task and the problems that we have encountered, particularly in Carcross.
Of the 76 positions announced to date, 33 are in place in target communities. As I said the other day, of these 33 positions, 26 are occupied by local community residents.
This department is also involved in trying to implement practical and useful language services for both the aboriginal community and the francophone community. The aboriginal language interpreter services is going to be in its first full year of operation next year - the year provided for in this budget. The services are now available in seven, soon to be eight, communities, once the position in Pelly Crossing is staffed. In Whitehorse, the first public translation services are available now in Gwichin, Northern Tutchone, Kaska, Upper Tanana, Tlingit, with Southern Tutchone to come.
There are territorial representation services in six rural communities starting in the new year. We have added $150,000 in the new community aboriginal languages initiatives programs in the next year, which is to provide funding and technical support for language revitalization projects, consistent with the language goals and strategies developed at the 1991 first-ever Yukon aboriginal language conference.
This program will support oral history and linguistic research projects, language planning programs by individual language groups, for example, the Northern Tutchone and Kaska, and they will involve, in some cases, neighbouring areas of the Northwest Territories and Alaska, where that is appropriate.
The learning activities will involve adult education courses and what are known as conversation circles. This will involve various communities in an effort to make these family-centred initiatives in order to help preserve and enhance these ancient languages.
As all Members know, according to the agreement with the federal government, passage of the Languages Act in this House and discussions with the francophone community here, the delivery of French language services in the Yukon will begin in 1992.
The priority sectors for the francophone community are health - the hospital, in particular - social services, justice - with the courts being the special focus - education and basic communication services, such as French translation and interpretation.
I outlined the principles we are following in my speech on this subject in debate on the act itself. We are looking to have practical, accessible and high-quality services. The model is based on the idea of a central bureau of interpreters, translators and some direct person-to-person services in the courts, social services and education, for example.
I would say to Members who wish to write me letters in French, should any of you wish to do so, that all correspondence received in French in this government is now answered in that language. Planning for the implementation of these services is being done, as I said, in close cooperation with representatives of the francophone community and departments through an advisory committee to the Premier and the Cabinet.
I would like to comment on the continued development of made-in-Yukon statistical research in support of economic and health policy and program development. We have a program of major surveys by the Bureau of Statistics contemplated for the 1992-93 year, with the health promotion survey, which I mentioned in an earlier comment.
These are designed to support implementation of the new Health Act, and is part of the planning for the future for a preventive, integrated and culturally sensitive health and social services system. The majority of the funding was negotiated from Health and Welfare Canada and builds on the work initiated in the 1990 alcohol and drug survey, which has been described in this House, and development of the community health information system for Health and Welfare Canada and other aspects of the social accounts initiative. We think it is a good example of interdepartmental collaboration, with active participation by care givers, community groups and professional associations.
The budget before us for 1992-93 requests an increase of $1,087,000. There is an additional $1,049,000 in operation and maintenance estimates, which are primarily for salary and benefits, including $330,000 for the first full year of interpreters and $717,000 for collective agreement benefits and other adjustments. This is more than one-half offset by increased language program and survey research recoveries. As Members know, of course, the languages program funding is 100 percent recoverable from the federal government.
There is $38,000 in capital in this budget for minor equipment and survey development. There are no additional person years over 1991-92, in this forecast.
If I could elaborate a little bit, I will mention three factors that account for the changes that we are reporting. There are additions of $525,400 for implementation of the French and aboriginal language services, including full-year costing for measures that will commence in this year, such as interpreters, but which will be fully operational for the whole year, next year. As well, $313,600 is for additional salary and benefits for the collective agreement merit pay benefits and full-year costing for some positions vacant in the current year.
There is $206,000 for fully recoverable statistical surveys conducted by the Bureau of Statistics, primarily, as I said, the health promotion survey. There are also some funding reductions, which I indicated earlier.
I do not know if Members would like me to go into further detail now, or if they would like me to resume my place and submit myself for questions. If there is no one eagerly waiting to get up, perhaps I could continue to provide more detail on the operation and maintenance budget.
In the operation and maintenance budget line, administration/secretariat, there is an overall increase of $27,000, which is due to $34,000 for salaries, benefits and Yukon bonuses, collective agreement impacts, the merit increases and some reclassifications, with a reduction of $7,000 in the Other allotment, primarily for long distance communications, moved to appropriate programs to match costs with delivery.
In the past we have paid for long distance phone calls for other programs out of this administration money; we are going to be changing that and charging to the lines where the costs are actually incurred.
In the land claims secretariat we have $93,000 overall, which is due to $138,000 for salaries, benefits and Yukon bonuses, and a $45,000 reduction in contract services and travel. We believe that we will not need $37,000 for specialized technical advice in a number of policy areas, which will now be handled by in-house government personnel. We will also have a reduction of $7,000 in staff travel outside of the Yukon, plus $1,000 reduction in miscellaneous expenditures.
In the public affairs bureau, there is an $81,000 increase, which is broken down as follows: $75,000 for salaries, benefits and staffing, and $6,000 in long distance telephone calls, which is the funding transferred from administration.
There is a $5,000 overall increase in policy and planning due to, again, $12,000 for salaries, benefits, Yukon bonuses, collective agreement impacts and merit increases. There was a reduction of $7,000 in policy contract services.
In constitutional development, devolution and intergovernmental relations, there is a $9,000 reduction, made up as follows: $61,000 increase for salaries, benefits, et cetera, and a reduction of $70,000 in specialized contract services. We feel the need for technical consultants will be reduced with the special council being in place full time.
As I mentioned, in French and aboriginal language services, we have a $525,000 overall increase, which is made up of $436,000 for salaries, benefits and Yukon bonuses, et cetera, and the first full-year budgeting for 12 aboriginal language interpreters and the dollars for the phasing in of auxiliary translator, interpreter and program information positions as a prelude to implementation of French language services.
We also have dollars provided here for a casual aboriginal language linguist to support language development activities and the community language initiatives program, plus there is $49,000 for offices and program support, $25,000 of which is for full-year office lease costs in rural communities for aboriginal language services, $24,000 for printing of bilingual forms and documents, and a contribution of $40,000 to lAssociation Franco-Yukonnais, which is the organization that provides us with input for the francophone community in the implementation of the French language program.
In the Bureau of Internal Audit, we have a $37,000 increase, which is for salaries, benefits and Yukon bonuses; a reduction of $13,000 for contract services; and some allocation for special purpose shared-cost agreement audits. Most program evaluations will be funded by this sponsor agency.
In the Bureau of Statistics, we have a $254,000 overall increase, which is due to $183,000 for salaries, benefits and Yukon bonuses as a result of the collective agreement impact; there is provision for auxiliary staff and technicians for a national labour force survey, which is 100 percent recoverable. As Members may remember, we will have to have people out in the communities collecting data for that, as we come on stream for the first time. There is provision for auxiliary staff for the health promotion survey, which is also 100 percent recoverable from the federal government.
We also have the $71,000 for the national labour force survey and health promotion study survey, which are 100 percent recoverable from the federal government. That is for program materials, technical advisors, in-territory travel and telephone.
In the Office of the Commissioner, we have $3,000 overall due to salaries, benefits and the Yukon bonus, which represents $1,000, plus $2,000 for in-territory travel, communications and minor realignments to match expenditure patterns.
In the area of Cabinet support, we have a $33,000 overall increase due to $58,000 in salaries, benefits, Yukon bonuses, collective agreement impacts, and merit increases, which is offset by $25,000 reduction in ministerial travel outside the Yukon.
Under capital expenditures we have the Public Affairs Bureau down for an increase of $8,000 for photography and display equipment. This is consistent with the trend in previous years where we have to replace camera lenses, display panels and other capital acquisitions.
There are $30,000 for statistical support materials and survey data development, which is made up of $10,000 for microfiche and specialized data products from the 1991 census equipment, and $20,000 for major surveys as partnership funding - in this case, the health promotion survey.
That brings me to conclusion of the introductory detail that I can give with respect to the Executive Council Office budget.
Mr. Lang: I would like to make an observation on the overall budget. I have a concern that is representative of what is happening within the government. Since 1985, the personnel complement has grown from 51 people in 1984-85 to 85.25. I remember the Government Leader criticizing the previous incumbent about reorganizing the office and about the size of the Executive Council Office. If I recall correctly, the Government Leader, who was the Leader of the Official Opposition then, took a great deal of delight wandered throughout the territory talking about how big the Executive Council Office was, what a travesty it was and how everyone was being short changed. Six short years later, we have a situation where we have 85 people within the Executive Council Office, and the Minister says that is quite satisfactory.
I am not saying that some of these people are not necessary, but I would point out that even if you deduct the French and aboriginal language service of 18 people, we are still left with 67 or 68. Also, not only are there 10 people within the public affairs bureau, but many departments also have their own communications advisors, as well.
So, I am saying that the Executive Council Office budget is deceptive to some degree. If you compare the service back to 1985 - when the Public Affairs Bureau was providing it - to the way things are now being devolved to different departments - which have their own public relations people on full staff - there is an increase in the budget.
I know the Minister is going to stand up and try to shoot the messenger. However, I am making this observation on behalf of some people who have said that, if you want to see how the government is growing, just start at the Executive Council Office and walk around and look. You do not have to look any further to see who is helping themselves. I do not think this observation can be disputed in view of the growth of the budget in this department and the fact that a number of functions are now being performed in other departments.
That is one observation I would make about the overall budget. I think it is a valid observation and one that stands up to scrutiny.
The other concern I have is in the area of devolution and intergovernmental relations. As far as I am concerned, our track record of accomplishments in the area of devolution is dismal.
Other than the NCPC transfer, they have not succeeded. To some degree, I would say that has turned into a fiasco for the government, because it has been so poorly managed. We used to criticize Ottawa for the way they managed the Development Corporation but, if one looks back, one can really wonder whether or not we have been doing it properly ourselves, in view of the track record thus far.
In the supplementaries, I asked the Minister to give me the total amount of money that had been spent in the last four years for devolution. We continually spend hundreds of thousands of dollars. We are not talking about a budget of $2,000 or $5,000. When you go through the entire budget and see the results of what is called devolution, it is thousands of dollars.
If that money was the personal money of anybody in this House, I submit that they would charge someone with robbery for what we are getting for the money being spent.
I appreciate the fact that, through these dollars, we may be providing jobs to people who are making $70,000 to $90,000 a year. What have we achieved, discounting the NCPC transfer, which took place almost immediately upon the side opposite assuming office. The Minister will have to admit that a fair amount of work already had been done in the planning stages. He shakes his head; he knows that that is true. A lot of work had been done there.
I will give the side opposite credit; they did do some work on it, because they had to. I am saying it was done, and the transfer was put in place, in 1987.
Since that time, we have spent hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars, not just in the Executive Council Office, but throughout the budget. Our success has been one position transfer from the Government of Canada for mine safety, and four personnel to the fisheries branch. What other area have we had transferred to us? We have had discussions about the forestry transfer that have gone on ad nauseum in this House, with no results whatsoever - no policy, no indication of what the government wants to do in that area. In fact, in the last session, when questions were raised about the transfer in the Northwest Territories, I believe the Minister of Renewable Resources admitted he did not know very much about it and he had to come back a day or two later, after he had brushed up on the transfer there, to inform the House.
The Member for Riverdale North says, shocking; I agree: it is shocking that we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars throughout the budget, and what are the results? We get Ministers coming in here who are not informed; our success rate is virtually zilch. Take the health transfer for example: that discussion has been going on since 1976 and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent in the last four years on that transfer, and the Minister of Health knows that - hundreds of thousands of dollars - and what have we got? A press release went out just before we came into the House, saying that there is a seven-month delay.
I understand that these areas are complicated. I can understand the trepidation in respect to a transfer such as health. I am fully prepared to accept the argument that, unless we get an iron-clad agreement on our health transfer, we had better be very careful. The concern that I have, and the immediate concern of the public, is not really the transfer itself. Rather, it is the question of the hospital and the future of the present hospital vis-a-vis a new hospital.
We are still spending hundreds of thousands of dollars that could be better invested somewhere else if these transfers are not going to take place. This is an area of concern to me, and I think it should be an area of concern to the general public. A year or two years is really not a yardstick. When we start talking about six years and start having a look at exactly what is our success - our successes versus our disappointments in the area of constitutional development - we do not have much to report home about - very little - and yet, we have spent a lot of somebody elses money only to come back to the House and say we have accomplished very little.
I would like to continue with the issue of the Indian land claim. I think all Members would like to see a conclusion of the Indian land claim. I do not think there is any question about that.
The question has to be whether or not the agreements are going to be accepted by the general public - not only immediately, but in the long term - and the ramifications they are going to have upon every citizen in the territory.
That is where we are coming from in wanting to see the four agreements that have been signed. The side opposite keeps talking about all this information and how the public has been so well informed as far as the land claim is concerned. This side knows as much as the press and the public knows, which is general platitudes. We do not know the specifics of the agreements. Those details have not been made available to us. Yet, a final agreement was signed in Mayo last August - four months ago - and we could not get a copy of that particular agreement. Neither could the people in Mayo, both beneficiary and non-beneficiary, who are going to be directly affected by that agreement.
We have a right to know what those documents are, what is contained in them and what the implications are going to be. That is of concern to the general public out there.
A lot is going to depend on how the debate goes, but I hope that people can make observations without being branded as racist or opposed to land claims, if they take a look at the details of these final agreements to see how they are going to be affected as residents throughout the territory.
We are going to have to be very careful in handling this to ensure that all people affected - all Yukoners - have the opportunity for a fair and legitimate say in the claim. There are going to be legitimate concerns, and they cannot be discounted, just like the aspirations of the native community throughout the territory.
I should point out that the previous government had an agreement in principle some years ago, which was agreed to by the government of the day. They had a number of agreements throughout the territory, and they were prepared to bring it to the public for review to see if it was acceptable to the general public.
I hope the Minister will be able to respond to that area. What does he envisage as the public review process, and how are people going to have the opportunity to express their views on this very important evolution in Yukons government and how it conducts business?
The Minister said he was very pleased to be able to stand in the House and talk about this land claim agreement and how we have certainty throughout the territory regarding land claims.
There should be some legitimate questions asked and some straight answers given about how this will be affected by transboundary claims. There is no certainty unless we have an agreement similar to the 1985 agreement, where the Council for Yukon Indians, the federal government and the Government of the Yukon agreed that there would be no more land or rights allocated through transboundary claims. This was a legitimate concern raised by the Government of the Yukon back in 1979.
I had asked the Minister to table in this House the memorandum of understanding, with any amendments. I asked for that two weeks ago. I would appreciate it if I could have it for this evening for further debate on this subject. I feel strongly that, until we firmly establish that we will not be threatened by transboundary claims, we have not achieved certainty in our land claim agreement. That is not to the benefit of either the native or non-native people in the territory.
If the agreement is pursued and goes ahead without a firm understanding of what is going to happen with transboundary claims, then nobody in this House and nobody in the House of Commons and no one with any integrity or honesty will be able to stand and say that we have achieved certainty, because we will not have achieved it.
We just experienced, over the summer months, a one-day emergency session over the loss of 600 square miles, yet there has been very little debate and very little news, from the government side, on how they are handling that issue and what is going to happen, other than them saying that the federal government did it and there is nothing they can do about it.
I submit that - similar to what the Member for Hootalinqua has said - sometime the government is going to have to stand up on an issue like that and tell the Government of Canada that certain things have to be done in order for us to successfully reach the certainty in the Indian land claim that we are all seeking in the Yukon. Unless we do that, how can we have certainty?
Madam Chair, if you were the Member for Watson Lake and you saw what happened up in the northern Yukon with the transboundary claim, how could you, or any Member of this House, in good conscience, allow a situation where a Yukon Indian land claim was settled in Watson Lake with no clear understanding of the question of the transboundary?
We are not talking about 16,000 square miles now. The Minister is incorrect in the proposition he put to the House when he gave his introductory comments. We are talking 16,600 square miles now. We have upped the ante. It then becomes a question to the non-beneficiary of where they fit in as far as the Yukon is concerned and as far as public resources are concerned.
I hope the Minister does not go into a tirade by saying I do not have the right to speak on an issue like land claims, and then stand up and say we disagree with land claims. That is not the purpose of this debate here today. The purpose of this debate is to see whether we can conclude and get some certainty.
Chair: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., we will take a break until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole back to order.
Mr. Lang: I am trying to make a general observation on the Executive Council Office as far as its responsibilities in government is concerned, and I will want to get into real specifics as we go through the budget. I think the intent is fairly clear, if one compares the budget from last year. I asked a number of questions and the Minister was going to bring me back information with respect to travel by Ministers; he was also going to give me the contracts that had been let through the Executive Council up to last month. I think those were the two outstanding issues, but there may have been a couple of others. If the Minister has more information, perhaps he could table it and make it available.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not have the travel one completed yet; I may have it by tomorrow.
The Member asked the question during the supplementary debate about significant contracts entered for the funding provided by the supplementary estimates. There were four small service contracts for data entry with the bureau of statistics in connection with the labour force survey in the medical services branch. The total commitment for the four contracts is $16,054.
May I say, while I am on my feet, that I would like to extend, on behalf of the Members on this side, birthday greetings to the Member for Riverdale North, who I understand is 54 years of age today.
Mr. Lang: We are so pleased that he does not look his age. He looks so young for his age.
Mr. Phillips: Point of order, Madam Chair. I would like to correct the record. A couple of weeks ago, several friends of mine, or who used to be friends of mine, placed some ads in the local newspapers saying that the surprise party for me was canceled due to lack of interest. I just want to let everybody know that there will be a surprise party next year because I am going to organize it. Then, my so-called friends ran another ad this last week that said I was going to be 50 years old. I have been dispelling that rumour all week long, absolutely everywhere that I go. I am 45 years old. I was born in 1946. I just want to correct the record.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mrs. Firth: I have some questions for the Minister that I would like to follow up on in general debate. My first question is with respect to policy directive. I have always been of the opinion that you can call Deputy Ministers in the government and ask for information. If they feel that they cannot give you the information, they will refer you to the Minister, otherwise they do make the decision to give the information.
The last information request that I had to the Public Service Commission, I was sent a copy of this policy directive. It is called Related Directives Pro 2-117". The title of this procedural directive is Requests for Information from Members of the Legislative Assembly and Members of Parliament". This policy is relatively out-of-date. The date on the policy is October 2, 1980.
There was a clause highlighted on the policy for me. It says if the information requested is not classified as confidential or exempted, as defined in PRO-2-117, it will immediately be made available to the Clerk for transmittal to the Member. This whole policy directs that the Members of the Legislative Assembly, if they have inquiries, not generally available to the general public, they have to be directed to the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly. I went to see the Clerk and he was a bit aghast, to say the least, to think that all of the Members of the Legislative Assembly who were requesting bits of information would be coming to him now and asking him to get it.
I would like to ask the Minister - as this is a policy from the Executive Council Office - if it can be removed or if it still is in effect. I have never had any other Deputy Minister send this to me or say that I could not have the information and if there was any question about it I was referred to the Minister. Is this something he has directed the Deputy Ministers to do? Is this policy going to come into effect or can we get rid of it?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Quite the contrary. This odious policy was put into effect when the previous government was in office. I resented it when I was a Member of the opposition, even though I was routinely told, on the most matter-of-fact questions, to direct them to Ministers offices - something I regarded as appalling.
Nothing in the behavior of Members opposite, since I have been in government, indicates to me that anyone follows the policy. So, it seems to me that if the paper on which it is written has not decayed totally, I would suggest that its utility has long passed.
It is not a policy that we brought in; it is a policy that was in effect when we were in opposition. We thought it was an appalling and stupid policy and as far as we are concerned, we have not noticed that anybody observes it.
Mrs. Firth: Obviously, one Deputy Minister chose to observe it. I agree with the Member, I am not at all, in any way saying that this government is responsible for this stupid - what was the other word he used, odious policy or something. I guess the question is, if the Minister feels that way, can we get a commitment from the government that we will get this policy off the books? That way we will not have Deputy Ministers pulling it out and sending it to us as Members, and causing it to be brought up again for discussion?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not know if there is any big problem with that, but I am not too sure that we always solve these problems by going through the whole process of having Cabinet submissions, passing new regulations and adopting new orders-in-council. It seems to me that most people are operating on common sense principles. On questions of matters of fact, they will direct their questions to officials. If officials cannot answer them, or if theirs is a policy question that officials cannot articulate, they direct it to the Ministers office. That is the way that things go now and that is sensible.
I am not going to put a lot of people to work writing up a new policy, because it seems to me that anybody with half a brain would be able to figure out that is the way to go.
Mrs. Firth: That is what I thought, too. The Public Service Commissioner had never sent this to us before, but when he did, I thought it was an indication that perhaps I was not going to be able to get information from him again, unless I went through the Clerk. I am not asking the Minister to rewrite the policy; I am asking if we can take it off the books, so I do not have that particular individual sending me this policy again, and then I have to go through the Clerk to get the information.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will take that as a representation and discuss that with my colleagues.
Mrs. Firth: I had a question in general debate of the Minister of Justice. She was unable to answer it and referred me to the Minister responsible for the Executive Council Office and land claims negotiations.
When Mr. Stuart was the land claims negotiator, did he ever take a holiday during the five years he was negotiator, or was that part of his contract pay? If he took no holiday during that time, was he compensated for holiday time for the four or five years when he had the sabbatical later on?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I know he went fishing at least a couple of times, but I do not know whether or not he had paid leave during his time as land claims negotiator, or after. I think not, but just to make absolutely sure of my facts, I will ask the acting Cabinet Secretary to find out and report it back on a legislative return.
Mrs. Firth: I would appreciate that. If he did not take leave, and there was a pay out or pay in lieu, could the Minister also bring that information back for us?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will respond to the question in writing.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister also indicate to us whether the land claims negotiator also took the six month leave without pay that was written into the contract, as well as the sabbatical?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes, I think it is a matter of public knowledge that he took the leave without pay.
Mrs. Firth: I had a question for the Minister about social functions in the foyer of the government building. I noticed when the Premier of Ontario was visiting here, Bobby Rae, there was a social function, yet when the Hon. Joe Ghiz was here, there was none. Was there any specific reason for that? Did he just not want to stay in town long enough to have one? What happened there?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It certainly was not a calculated snub to the Premier of Prince Edward Island, who was, in fact, here principally in his capacity as Minister of Justice of that province. He was here as the guest, not principally of myself, but of the Minister of Justice of this territory, the Honourable Margaret Joe. He was here attending the Aboriginal Justice Conference. He, at my invitation, spent a couple of hours with me talking about other questions - constitutional questions.
I did, as a matter of fact, have an opportunity to entertain him in the day following the conference, but in a manner of his choosing, which was for me to show him some of the natural splendours of a constituency to the south of here: Hootalinqua.
Mrs. Firth: I guess we can conclude that Bob Rae wanted to have the social function here in the building and the other Premier did not.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, I think you can conclude that we wanted to have the social function in the building, to give him a chance to meet as many people as possible. Had Mr. Ghiz been here in an official capacity, principally as Premier, or had he been making a formal visit for that purpose, we would have entertained him, perhaps not in an identical manner, but in a similar manner.
Visits by provincial Premiers are rare enough that I would have no hesitation in extending the best hospitality that Yukoners can provide to such persons, especially to the Premier of the largest province in the country.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps I can make another representation to the Minister. I think it would be fair if both Premiers were treated the same, even though one was visiting here in another capacity. So, if future Premiers do come to visit, I think there should be some kind of standard treatment and then I would not be able to stand up and say that maybe one Premier got special treatment over the other.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not doubt that if we gave one Premier two cups of coffee and the other one only one, the Member opposite would get up and complain about it.
The record will show that Premier Ghiz, during his time here, was entertained on a number of occasions - at least two dinners that I know of, during the Justice conference and at least two lunches, at which I entertained him. I do not think that Premier Ghiz would feel, in any way, that he was snubbed or slighted or not extended all of the courtesies of this government. In fact, as someone with whom I enjoy a very good personal relationship, I am absolutely certain that he would verify that he was extended all proper courtesies and, in fact, quite appropriate hospitality, consistent also with protocol and good sense.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister does not have to get nasty with me. I am just making a suggestion. This is a time when we are supposed to make representations and suggestions to the Minister, and that is simply all I am doing.
I would like to ask another question of the Minister with respect to some of his political appointments. I do not think the special counsel is a political appointment. The Minister read out what this job essentially entailed. I wonder if I could get a copy of that job description in writing? I saw some overlaps, particularly with respect to devolution, and with some constitutional matters with some of the other positions presently in the department. Would the Minister be able to provide me with that in writing?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As I did read it out, it is already on the record, but I have no objection at all to tabling a copy.
Mrs. Firth: I am sure the copy the Minister would table would be a little more detailed; it would be a regular job description as opposed to the areas of responsibility he read out here in the House.
The Government Leader has executive assistants, one for each Minister; then there is a special assistant. Can the Minister tell us what the difference is between a special assistant and an executive assistant?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The special assistant basically plays the same role as the special assistant did in the days of Mr. Chris Pearson. The special assistant deals with and helps the many citizens who come into our office from all over the territory and who have problems of one kind or another with one department or another, or with the federal government or sometimes even with municipalities. On my behalf, since it is impossible for me to meet with every single person who comes into the office every day, the special assistant deals with those people, makes representations to departments, deals with the response, and handles correspondence and telephone calls dealing with those kinds of people.
Mrs. Firth: Is the Minister saying that this person really reports directly to the Government Leader and is part of the Government Leaders staff?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes, as was the case previously. It has been, in all the years we have been in government, and was the case prior to our coming into government. In our operation, even though I will have dealings with the person every day in terms of reporting relationships, technically, the person reports through the Principal Secretary to me.
Mrs. Firth: That person has just recently been quoted in the newspaper in some kind of communications capacity. Is that also part of the job? Should it not be the communications advisor doing that?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Not normally, but as is the case at the moment, the communications advisor has an illness in the family and is away. Sometimes my staff fills in for each other.
Mrs. Firth: There is only one communications advisor in the office, as I understand it. At one time there was a back-fill communications advisor as well as a communications advisor. Can the Government Leader update us as to the status of that?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There is only one person but if someone is on holidays or leave or away for some other reason, as in the current circumstance, there will be someone who fills in for them.
Mr. Devries: I have one question about devolution of forests. As the Minister is aware, it is quite a concern to me. It is not clear to me what stage they are at. If, for instance, we were getting into serious negotiations, is there any way that we can ask the federal government to put a moratorium on the issuance of any further export permits while these negotiations proceed?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I think I will have to take that question under notice for two reasons. One, I think that technically the export permits are actually issued by External Affairs, under advice from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. It is, of course, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs with whom we are negotiating. I am absolutely sure that DIAND could not commit or obligate External Affairs on a question like that. I know that from previous experience.
The second reason why I think it is problematic is that on at least one occasion we have had an agreement with DIAND that said they would not do certain things while devolution negotiations were going on. Then, I guess, because of the change of federal policy, they went ahead and did them anyway.
Having said that, I think it is a good question. I would like to ask the Executive Council Office, in cooperation with the Department of Renewable Resources, which is the principal department responsible for that devolution, to actually have a look at that question. At this stage, I can only offer an opinion about whether it is possible. I do not think we can actually extract an agreement overnight on such a thing.
Mr. Devries: I would really appreciate if the Minister would keep me informed if anything takes place in that regard.
Mr. Lang: I would like to pursue forestry, if I could, because I see the Minister of Renewable Resources here as well.
I was a little concerned, as there seems to be two messages being conveyed from Yukon. One is by YTG about direct questions being asked in the House on the policy of exporting raw logs. The Minister has been very clear in the House, yet, at the same time, the Member for Watson Lake has indicated that at least the federal representatives here feel that the Government of Yukon has taken the position that it would allow a minimal amount of raw logs exported in the proposed plan for the timber harvest agreement in Yukon and northern British Columbia.
My question to the Minister of Renewable Resources is: why would we be in a situation where, on one hand, the government has taken a position opposing raw log exports, and, at the same time, the Minister, who is being briefed by his local people, would be saying that the Government of the Yukon Territory is taking a position for a minimal raw log export?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The short answer is I do not know, because I do not have the document that the Member is referring to in front of me. The question was asked earlier today and I hope that by tomorrow morning I will be able to have a copy of that document, so that I can have a look at it and try to figure out on what basis the federal government drew that conclusion. The Members question is quite reasonable, but I do not know the answer as to why the federal government concluded that.
I do know that, consistent with the consultations that we have had about the Economics Strategy and the Conservation Strategy, there is wide-spread opinion in Yukon, which is opposed to raw logs. We have consistently said that we are in favour of a sustainable forestry industry, which does not mean that we want to see the forest high-graded.
We are also interested, as a matter of policy in trying to see the maximum possible value added to the processing of forests now. Those underpinnings of the policy are probably as clear a statement as we can give in the absence of the inventory information, which is available to the federal government, but not to us.
We are aware of some of the strange market pressures that operate here. I understand that some Asian customers are prepared to pay more for raw logs than for finished products, which tends to skew the market a little bit. But I do not doubt that the new Government of British Columbia may well change its position on this question, which could significantly affect the market.
I cannot say a lot more about that. I have not had an opportunity to talk about it with my colleagues. I am hoping I will have a chance to do so tomorrow morning, once I have seen the document the Member for Watson Lake has quoted. My colleague, the Minister for Renewable Resources, and I may be in a better position to be able to respond tomorrow to the question.
Mr. Lang: I assure the Government Leader that we will get him a copy of that particular document. We assumed he already had a copy of it. I do not know if the Minister of Renewable Resources has a copy, and I would be surprised if he did not, but we will definitely get the Government Leader a copy of the document we have so he can review it. It really does bring into question the information being provided to the Minister of Indian Affairs. I gather he will be making a decision fairly soon with respect to that particular question.
When is that decision expected to be made? I would make further representation that, once what we have said is verified, which will be done at the break this evening, will we be assured that there will be further correspondence with the Minister in order to clarify YTGs position in view of what has been said in the House?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I think there are at least three questions there. I do not know that it is necessary for Members opposite to send me their copy of the letter, if they are talking about a letter from Mr. Siddon. If they are talking about some other document, I will find out if it is available to us or not.
The second point about when the decision was to be made. I understood it was supposed to be made November 22. That was the Ministers deadline. I do not know what his new personal deadline is. My colleague may know, or I may be able to find out by tomorrow. I do not know tonight.
The third question was about clarifying our position. Following an examination of the document we are talking about, and having obtained an appreciation of the federal Ministers deadlines, if my colleagues - in essence, Cabinet, because we will be meeting tomorrow - deem it necessary to clarify our position, if we think it is inadequately and insufficiently clear, then we may well do that.
I cannot answer any further than that right now, because I have not had a chance to discuss it with my colleagues, including the Minister responsible.
Mr. Lang: We do have the document, and we will provide it to the Minister. At that stage, we would like to see the government take the necessary steps to ensure that the Government of Canada understands what the position is locally.
What the Minister said earlier with respect to the forest industry objectives is still shared by all Members of the House. With a commonsense approach, some long-term planning and a good policy framework, I think we can develop our forest industry in the Watson Lake area in a sustainable manner and provide long-term jobs. They may not be big operations; it may well turn out that we have small sawmills operated by a number of people in business, which may well be the best direction to go, as opposed to what we have experienced in the past.
That is my observation, and we will make that information available later.
I am prepared to go on to line by line.
Mr. Devries: Regarding the same situation, have the land selections been completed by the Liard Band or are they still in process? The biggest fear is - in the form of that one letter - that there is sort of a threat that if they do not get the timber harvest agreement through regular channels they will get it through land claims. Would this be a transboundary claim from BC, perhaps, or would it still be in the land selections by the Liard Band?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member may know that the Liard Band is not yet at the negotiating table. I do not know what, in their own councils, they have done in terms of the lands they identified for proposed selection in negotiations, but I do not take lightly the proposition that they made in the letter referred to by the Member. They clearly see the timber lands in the area as the ones with some great and long-term potential for them and it would not surprise me at all if they were to try to select, other than those of established third-party interests, lands that have that kind of potential.
Of course, that is the selection process that opens the negotiation. That is not the end of the process, just the beginning.
Mr. Devries: As the Minister may have heard this morning in the news, it seems like even the issue of exports is tearing at the heart of the band itself, in that there seems to be a question on the status of the hereditary chief. There seems to be a certain segment of the band that does not seem to be supporting him as their chief, and some of them are also indicating that they are not in agreement with the position he places on log exports. It is becoming a very divisive situation; it is hoped that it can be resolved very quickly because they all have to work together to get what is best for the Kaska people in the Watson Lake area, and they are not going to get it if they are divided.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Members comments are very interesting. I may not be very smart but I know that one thing that I am not prepared to do is interpose my body into an internal dispute of a First Nation. I am certainly not a member of that First Nation. I will decline the opportunity to comment on such a conflict, no matter how heartily the Member opposite encourages me to do so.
Mrs. Firth: I have another question for the Minister and it is regarding one of the boards of this government, the Public Utilities Board.
I wrote a letter to the Minister, back in August, raising some concerns about the appointment of Mr. Alan Hunt as the chair of the Public Utilities Board. I would like to ask the Minister why he never responded to that letter.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not know. I think I did respond to the letter and, in fact, I thought the Members complaint was nonsense. As a matter of record, I found it interesting that there were two prominent Conservatives on the board that the Member opposite did not complain about, and there is another third member of the board who has been a public critic of the government.
The suggestion that somebody should be disqualified from sitting on a public board because part of their income may, from time to time, be derived directly or indirectly from the government, was, I think, a pretty poor case, given the number of people in this territory who are in that situation, and given that this government has not seen fit at all to object to people whose income is 100 percent derived from the territorial government, including public servants, taking critical positions or adversarial positions in matters involving rates.
It seemed to me that it would be quite ludicrous for us to suggest that someone whose income was partly derived from the government was unfit to serve on such a board, particularly when the individual involved, by virtue of his background and experience, is eminently well-qualified to carry out those duties.
Mrs. Firth: I never did get a response to the letter. If the Minister sent one, I do not know where it went. I never did get a reply. I do not think that the letter was nonsense. There are a lot of other Yukoners who would agree with me.
I would like to know if the Minister ever investigated the areas of potential conflict? There is more than just the one area the Minister cites. There is the prior involvement with the Yukon Development Corporation and his involvement particularly with the Minister himself as the president of his constituency association. In my letter, I raised the concern that there is an apprehension of bias created. I believe there was an interview of Charles Sanderson in the Whitehorse Star tonight, which says that it is very dangerous to have people on the board - not that it is dangerous - but if there are people on boards who do create this apprehension, they should take a second look at that particular individual being the chair of the board. I do not wish to get into a debate about the other members of the board. I wrote with respect to whether or not there could be a perception of bias surrounding the chair and whether the Public Utilities Board is going to be able to make an objective decision that will be acceptable to the electrical rate payers.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not accept the Members proposition at all. It is interesting that she has developed this concern, since she was part of the government-of-the-day when every single member of the board was an active and card-carrying member of the party that was in power. She never seemed to think that there was a single thing wrong with that then.
Mrs. Firth: I am asking the Government Leader to defend his position. I am asking whether he even considered areas of potential conflict and the issue of the chairs political association. Obviously, the Minister did not. He thinks the whole thing is nonsense and he is quite happy with this. It does not seem to matter what anybody else thinks, including the public.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have to tell the Member, on this particular point, that I do not think she represents public opinion at all. In fact, I have had a significant number of people - Conservatives - who were appalled with the Members personal attack on this individual. They believed that this individual is not only eminently qualified to carry out the job, but his conduct of his duties in that position, has been exemplary.
Let me say that, unlike the days when the Member was in government, there are people of the opposition political stripe on the board - including, I understand, someone who was once a campaign manager for a Conservative MLA in this House and another person who was a very active supporter of the Conservative Party.
I think that we have done exactly the right thing in ensuring that there is the kind of political balance on the board to mitigate any reasonable concern about the kind of bias she mentions.
Mrs. Firth: I want to register a concern about the close political association. I think that is of concern to a lot of people, and if the Government Leader does not think that, then that is up to him. I want it on the record that we have a great deal of concern about this and we have expressed it in a form of a letter to which the Minister has refused to respond.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me respond. It seems to me that the only way that I could probably satisfy the Member - and judging from her consistent line of inquiries over the last few years - and the only way that I can protect members of boards and private citizens who chose to serve the public in this way, from an attack by the Member is to appoint boards consisting entirely of her supporters. Given that the majority of the people in the territory did not vote for her in the last election, or for her option, it seems to me that it is much more democratic to include supporters, not only of the government party, but supporters of other parties here in order to have a representative body.
The idea that somehow, someone who voted for or supported the New Democratic Party has now become a non-person, some kind of evil, sub-human slug or something and not fit to serve on a public board is one that I absolutely reject.
I think that this governments record in terms of multi-partisan appointments to boards is one that I will defend against those of any government, of any stripe, anywhere else in this country.
Mr. Nordling: I have another question in relation to the same matter. I think, to a certain extent, the Government Leader is either missing the point or avoiding it. There is a lot more to the concern than the fact that Mr. Hunt is a supporter of the NDP.
Mr. Hunt was intimately involved in the Yukon Development Corporation. He played a large role in the set up of that. In fact, he was involved in the Watson Lake sawmill fiasco.
The Minister in charge of the Yukon Development Corporation is waving his hand and saying, Character assassination.
We are talking about the reasonable apprehension of bias with respect to the chair of the Public Utilities Board who is going to play a large role in what happens in the territory with respect to electrical rates and the consumers.
He is sitting in judgment of his own prior activities and actions.
Alan Hunt was spending dividends paid by the Yukon Energy Corporation to the Yukon Development Corporation on the Watson Lake sawmill. That raises a bit of a concern. His intimate involvement with the NDP raises a concern. He was not just a member. He played a higher profile role than that.
He has been involved in doing contracts and consulting with the Government of the Yukon. He participated in the Yukons fuel price inquiry. We are talking about an intimate relationship with the Government Leader himself, with the party, with the government, with Yukon Development Corporation and with Yukon Energy Corporation. Now, he sits in judgment.
I would like to ask the Minister if he or anyone else sat down and looked through the potential areas of conflict and set it off against Mr. Hunts qualifications and the concerns of some Yukoners and decided that, on balance, they would accept Mr. Hunt. If that was done, I would like to see a copy of it so I can understand how the Minister came to his conclusion that for us to question Mr. Hunts bias or express a concern about it is nonsense.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me make this point. We have not done anything like what the Member suggests because we have seen no reason too.
I understand about political bias. I understand it is the strategy of the Members opposite to try to target individuals and muddy their characters. They have been doing that every day since they emerged as this new non-party party, or whatever they are, but let me make this point. This is a very small community. A lot of people have found it interesting, in terms of the level of integrity or honesty of Members, that no question has been raised by the Members opposite about the Conservatives on the board, their long political association, their association with the previous government, or the fact that they have received public funds at one time or another, in one capacity or another.
People find it very suspicious that the Members opposite never asked a question about them. The Member for Riverdale South once assassinated the character of someone, I think, in this House as someone who once had a $5,000 contract, while her campaign workers had relatively tens of thousands of dollars in contracts, but we never heard a word about that.
I happen to believe that the chair of the Public Utilities Board, by virtue of his training and professional experience, is a very capable person and very well suited to the task. With respect to something like the fuel price inquiry, I would point out to the Member opposite that was not a decision this government, or any official of the government, made with respect to the services that were contracted there. That was a decision made by the commissioner of the fuel price inquiry, who wanted to have some expert advice, as I understand it, as he also asked for the secondment of another individual who worked in this government to provide expert advice.
In my view, rather than disqualifying someone for a position like the chair of the Public Utilities Board, it seemed to me that was relevant and useful experience to equip him for the job.
I can remember a Public Utilities Board, at one time, that was composed of people who subsequently went on to become two Ministers on the front bench of a previous government. I suppose there might have been all sorts of perceptions about bias about those people. However, I can say as Leader of the Official Opposition at that time, that we did not make that critique or attack. Instead, we chose, as I recall, to debate matters of energy policy in this House, which is a perfectly proper forum for doing that. It seems to me that most people I have talked to about this just regard the attack by the Members opposite as a purely partisan tactic.
Mr. Lang: I want to make one observation. In the Ministers rebuttal, he referred to the previous government and the appointments of members to the various boards. Quite frankly, I can sympathize with the government in trying to find people to sit on boards. It is not the easiest thing in the world to do. Not everybody wants to sit on a board. So, it is not necessarily that easy to recruit people.
However, back in those days, just for the record, the government did not have a person employed full-time to recruit people to sit on boards. The Minister is nodding his head in assent on that point. Any time the government is changed, I can say that is an example of a position I really do not think is necessary for the running of the government.
The point I want to make is that I do not accept the bald statement the Minister is making that one had to have a political card to be appointed to the boards. I can go through the list of the boards back then and I can list some who were card-carrying Conservatives, but others were not. A fine example - and I was very pleased to be part of the government - was when an appointment was made for one particular JP, which was a political appointment. That happened prior to the vetting and everything that goes on at the present time now for the purpose of Justices of the Peace. I carry that message no further.
I am just taking umbrage with the bald statement that the appointments made at that time, which the Minister refers to with the broad-sweeping brush he sometimes likes to carry across the floor, and I do not think it deserves the credit it is being given.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I wish the Member would stop talking about my hair that way.
I agree with him that not everybody is willing to serve on a board. Let me make this reasonable point: If people who serve on boards are subject to unwarranted attack in this Assembly, or in public, I think it diminishes their willingness to serve on the boards.
A lot of people give up a lot of their valuable time and make a real contribution to the public. I am talking about people from all walks of life and of all political stripe. I apologise to the Member opposite if he thinks I am painting with too broad a brush stroke; he will just have to understand that I am dependent on information provided to me by a former Cabinet colleague of his who told me the system was that there was a name bank, and it had the names of members of the party in it, and that is how they picked boards. If that is inaccurate information, I apologise, but I was dependent on a former colleague who told me that.
Mr. Lang: I can assure you that the present Minister of Justice was not in such a name bank at any given time. I am sure she would stand and verify that statement.
I would like to make the observation that, as far as the membership of these boards is concerned, more care has to be taken with the key appointments to them, in respect to the background that these individuals can bring to particular boards. I am not referring necessarily to the Yukon Public Utilities Board but I am concerned that there are people who have been, and are, politically active. I can accept that and defend a persons right to be politically active, and I can forget their political persuasion, because that is one of the checks and balances that we need in our parliamentary system. My concern is the ability and the credibility of individuals who are being asked to join boards.
I am not going to name particular boards, but a number of them come to mind. I question where some chairs of boards are taking us. My concern is over their ability to do the job.
I concur with the Minister; I do not like to name particular names or positions in the House, believe it not. I agree with the side opposite that it makes it difficult to get people to take on the responsibilities of these boards.
I notice some of the Members across the way nodding. My concern, and the message that I want to convey to the side opposite, is that I do not think that enough attention is being paid to the abilities and the background of certain individuals to do the task being required of him or her. Subsequently, all of a sudden we get into a Donnybrook - for example, one that has been in the news steadily is the Yukon Development Corporation. Now, I am not going to blame that on one particular individual or individuals.
There was a case where we had a window of opportunity to put something together, and the end result was a mess. I do not care how many times the side opposite stands up and says otherwise. If the side opposite objectively looked at the questions being asked - how that particular organization is being run, the mandate of that particular organization and, most important to us, the future of what that organization is going to do for the territory - they would say that these questions are valid. If the tables were turned, the side opposite would be asking the same questions about the overall running of such organizations.
I just want to convey the message that there has to be representation. There has to be a balance in demographics. I think there has to be a little bit more care and attention with respect to the abilities of people to perform the job you are asking them to do. It is unfair asking these people to do some of these jobs when you know they do not have the background, and all of a sudden, you are putting them into the school of hard knocks.
At the same time, I am not saying that - for example, with the Yukon Development Corporation - a person should have a background as an electrical engineer. It would seem to me that in a corporation you would at least have some people with a strong background in the area of energy, in some manner or another. That has not happened. You might get one particular individual with a strength in business, or something like that, but it seems to me that there has to be a rationale, especially on the boards that are so critical to the territory. When we are not getting the people with the necessary backgrounds to sit on the boards, eventually, the decisions come home to roost.
I know, from being in that front bench, you cannot use the excuse that somebody else did it. Some Members on that side may use that excuse, but in Parliament you are not supposed to. You carry the can. That is the parting message that I would like to leave with the side opposite. I sympathize with some of the comments made by the Government Leader about these appointments.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will shock the Member completely by saying that I agree with some of what he said. I am not going to get into discussions about individual boards and individual members, but I would welcome the opportunity on some occasion for him to privately express his concern about some of the individuals to whom he was referring. I would welcome the opportunity to talk about that.
I had another point, but I cannot remember what it was. Perhaps I will remember when it comes to the next question.
Mr. Lang: I just want to make one further observation about the political activity of individuals and their appointments. The Minister should be taking into account the fact that there is a difference between appointing people who are politically active presently as opposed to those who have been in the past. People who have been politically active in the past, but no longer are, have been appointed to boards. They have done their time in the political arena in one way or another, running for office within an organization - whether it be Conservative, NDP or Liberal - and have chosen to say that their time in active partisan politics is finished. I find it a little disturbing, for example, that someone on the Public Utilities Board, who had been active as a Conservative but has not been politically active for years, is being painted with the same brush.
My concern is that those appointments where individuals are still very politically active bring into question the relationship between the government and whatever.
On a number of occasions, I have seen where the side opposite has risen in its seat and said that they know that person is a Conservative, a friend of the side opposite and that it is a political appointment.
I want to make a point here. Just for the Members information, some of the names were people who might have been seen at a dinner - and in some cases, it may have been paid by someone else - years ago, when it was to their benefit to be there. You cannot brand somebody because of the fact that they have been seen in someones company.
As I mentioned earlier, I defend a persons right to be politically active, but I think that you have to be very careful when a person is seen to be very politically active, and what role that they play vis-a-vis the government with respect to relationships between boards and the politics of it. This brings it into question, especially when it involves the role of the chairperson because, as we know, the chairperson can direct traffic in many different ways as far as some of these boards are concerned.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I appreciate the Members point of the Member, but I also think it is true in my experience, and I know that it is true of the Yukon and elsewhere in the country - it is actually a bit of a chicken and egg question. One of the easiest ways to reduce someones political activity, or to make sure they are no longer as active as before is to appoint them to a key board. They find they just do not have the time anymore. I can actually confirm what the Member said. People who are now alleged to be active, even intimate, New Democrats who happen to be on boards, I have not seen at a party meeting in five or six years.
Mr. Nordling: It is interesting to listen to this exchange between the Leader of the Official Opposition and the Government Leader. It is a shame we do not have more of an audience in the gallery to listen to it. The Leader of the Official Opposition stands up and says political appointments are fine, but my political appointments are better than yours, because they are more qualified for the job.
The Government Leader stands up and says that if he is doing something wrong, it is okay, because the Conservatives who were here before did it wrong, too, and two wrongs make a right, so everything is all right.
We think there are many qualified Yukoners out there who are not politically affiliated who could be considered for these appointments, and we would encourage both sides to look to those people on occasion.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That is an excellent idea, and that is why we have been doing it since we came into office.
The Member may have noticed that, from time to time, we have invited people who want to sit on boards of one kind or another to put their name forward; and I can tell the Member for a certain fact that all sorts of people who are not, as far as I know, politically affiliated are appointed to boards.
Let me make another point, which I think has to be made. Sometimes there are politicians who feed a rather mistaken notion in the press that somehow someone who joins a political party, whatever it is, and goes out knocking on doors for candidates or stuffs envelopes or makes telephone calls or puts up a sign, is somehow a second-rate human being. Somehow, they are not a worthy citizen.
I take exactly the opposite view. I do not care what party it is. I view someone who gets involved politically, whether for a party or for a municipal candidate or whatever, as exercising not only their rights as a citizen, but I would argue their duties as a citizen. One of the things I think makes our democracy in some ways a more mature and responsible thing is that, in this country, the vast majority of people vote in elections - whether provincial, territorial or federal. In the United States, they cannot even get 50 percent of the people to vote for President any more.
I think one of the reasons for that is that the party system has completely fallen apart in the United States. People now have money to buy pollsters and advertising campaigns and do all of that kind of stuff and the party process - the way of getting involved as an ordinary citizen, in your neighbourhood or your block or your town - has gone by the wayside. I actually think that their democracy is a weaker thing, as a result.
Chair: Committee will take a break.
Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order.
We will now proceed with line by line.
On Operation and Maintenance
Administration/Secretariat in the amount of $941,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on allotment or person year establishment?
On Land Claims Secretariat
On Operation and Maintenance
On Land Claims Secretariat
Mr. Lang: I have a couple of questions here. I know there are other forums in which we will be discussing this further.
I asked a question the other day about the national wildlife refuge, in respect to Caldwell Bay. Caldwell Bay is the area outside of Teslin, where many people go to hunt geese, as the Member for Campbell is well aware.
Through the land claim process, my understanding is that it may well be designated as a national wildlife refuge and I want to ask the Minister: is hunting allowed in any national wildlife refuge, and, if so, is hunting allowed for native and non-native hunters?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As I explained to the Member the other day, my understanding is that the Nisutlin Delta national wildlife area, proposed as a result of the agreement with the Teslin First Nations, is being created to protect waterfowl and moose habitat, pursuant to the special management area chapter of the umbrella final agreement. I think I also told him what the approximate area was.
As I understand it, it will be a national wildlife area. Therefore, it will be governed by federal legislation, namely, the Canada Wildlife Act. The issue of hunting or harvesting rights for the general public will be addressed in the management plan, which will be developed by the federal government for this area.
As I mentioned the other day, the management plan is supposed to be complete within two years of the Teslin final agreement coming into effect. I cannot tell the Member - although I did check following his previous question - exactly what the federal government will propose on that question. I will ask officials in the Executive Council Office to find out from Renewable Resources, if they know. If Renewable Resources does not know, and I suspect that they may not, I will address that precise question to the federal officials, get a reply in writing, which I will then try to communicate to the Member. I think that is the best that I can do. It may be that there is a proposal. After the public consultation that surrounds this, it could change.
As a Yukoner, I have to object to more and more of our areas of responsibility being given back to the federal government for a national wildlife refuge. I do not know how the Member for Campbell feels about that but it seems to me that if you are going to set up an area for protecting that area, it could well have been done through territorial legislation, as opposed to federal legislation.
Mr. Lang: I am surprised that the Government Leader does not know this, because I do not know how he could agree with the national wildlife refuge without knowing all of the long-term implications of it. The concern about Caldwell Bay is that it be made available for harvesting game, observing conservation measures, by the people of Teslin, and also some people who may come from Whitehorse or Watson Lake. There are a number of people who do see that as a recreational area to harvest some geese in the two- or three-week period in the fall.
I would like the Minister, in his review, to check to find out how many national wildlife refuges have so far been designated by the Government of Canada for permit hunting and what the rights are in those particular areas.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I can do that. Let me explain to the Member, according to my understanding, the reason why we are talking about a national wildlife area here rather than a territorial one. In law, as I understand it, migratory birds are a federal responsibility, and the principle purpose for setting this up was the protection of migratory birds.
Mr. Lang: I appreciate the Minister saying he would get the information for me. I know there are other ways of protecting habitat, if one wants to do it through territorial legislation. I have a lot of reservations about putting more areas under federal control. If we continue to do that, there will not be much left for anyone.
On the transboundary claims issue, in speaking to the principle of the department I expressed my concern about the lack of certainty being there and that, even with a settlement of the Yukon Indian land claim, we have no clear understanding between the Council for Yukon Indians, the Yukon government and the federal government as to what was agreed to back in 1985.
What is the position of the government? Is it going to go ahead and sign a Yukon Indian land claim without knowing what the long-term consequences of the transboundary claims are?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Logically, neither are we going to stop the land claim negotiation process until we can get satisfaction from the federal government. We are dealing on both fronts.
The Member knows that the position this government has taken about the federal policy, as well as to the change, which was out of the blue, and behind our backs was an arrangement they negotiated in Ottawa without us even being there.
We have sought, and will insist on having, assurances that there will be no agreements about southern Yukon land, about anything with anybody, without us being at the table. That is basic.
We are also continuing to pursue the fundamental policy questions. It may be that we will have a solid agreement with the federal government about some of these matters prior to reaching the negotiating table with the Kaska Dena - the people in the area around Watson Lake about whom the Member expressed concern earlier today.
As I also told the Member, we are attempting to try and prevent any unpleasant surprises on this score, and getting some additional assurance by seeing if we could develop some reciprocal understanding with the Government of British Columbia about what will happen on our borders.
With one exception, most of the areas of potential anxiety on this score are on the British Columbia/Yukon border. So, we will be attempting to get some clear understandings with the British Columbia government.
I do not, for a second, underestimate the difficulty, given the relative power of our administration versus the federal government, of getting the federal government to change its mind, once it is on a certain course.
I do not want to be ranting and raving about this, but let me say that I hope the Member understands that the federal government has no illusions whatsoever about what the position of this government and this House was with respect to this summers events. The federal government has no illusions whatsoever about the consequences, in terms of the reaction of this community, of even a hint of a repetition of a similar event and a similar process on our southern borders.
Our principal objective, as I said before, is to try to see a settlement of Yukon claims. If we have a settlement of claims in an area and we can reach the kind of written understandings that we need on the particular question the Member has raised, at the table or at the ministerial negotiations, then we will do it.
The question of certainty the Member raises is, of course, a serious one. Let me make the point that, for most of the Yukon, when we achieve a land claim settlement within the traditional area of the Han or the people from Pelly Crossing or the people from Carmacks or the people in Burwash or Beaver Creek or Champagne/Aishihik, we will have certainty there. We have the potential claims involving the Taku River Tlingit; we have claims of the Kaska and we have, in the past, had the potential for a claim from the Tahltan, although I think not as many people see that as serious a claim as some of the others.
I know that our long-term objectives are to see these settlements made, to see the transfers of the non-aboriginal land in those areas to territorial government control and to get the kind of certainty we want in terms of the ownership of land and resources. Those are objectives that all Yukoners share. That is the direction in which we are moving.
The situation that was presented to us this summer was a major event. It was very unpleasant but, believe me, we are going to be working very hard to prevent its repetition. I know the Member opposite has suggested, and even believes, that the federal government might yet be persuaded to change its mind on this one. He believes that there are precedents with respect to the Inuvialuit. I do not happen to believe the two circumstances are nearly identical at all. I do not believe that the present Prime Minister and Cabinet are going to change their minds on this one for all kinds of reasons that we could or could not get into tonight.
As much as the federal Minister was wounded and surprised by the reaction in the Yukon Legislature, I think anyone who has dealt with the federal government for any amount of time - and the Member opposite will know this - knows that there are an awful lot of people in Ottawa, and a lot more in the federal bureaucracy, who can barely find Whitehorse or the Yukon on the map.
We do not loom very large on their daily calculations about what they are doing in the country. The present government is overwhelmingly concerned, in its orientation, with what happens to the east of Ottawa in the Province of Quebec and with the constitutional crisis that potential separation creates. Getting them to turn their minds to other realities in other regions of the country is no easy task.
Mr. Lang: I am not going to belabour this. I would just say that I differ with my colleague. The northern Yukon situation was very similar in many ways to what happened with the Tetlit Gwichin claim in the Northwest Territories, even more so because the Government of Yukon was not even at the table when the 1,000 square miles was allocated to the Inuvialuit in the Northwest Territories. Just to refresh my colleagues memory, we had no hint that it was even going to happen.
The point I wish to make is that the same questions being raised today were being raised in Ottawa back then. We were talking about a referendum in Quebec and we were talking about separation in Quebec. The mood of the country is very similar to what it was then.
I admit that we do not stand a hope in hell of winning this if the government is not starting to take steps, both internally and externally. They must get the people in the territory to write letters and do all the other things that will bring public pressure to bear, which is the only thing that will convince a government to change its mind.
If the Member of Parliament is not raising questions in the House of Commons about what is going on on a routine basis, one would come to the conclusion that we have all died. That was not the case back in 1979 and onward, as the Inuvialuit claim unfolded. The government-of the-day, which I happened to have been part of, took some hard decisions. It was not fun.
People do not recognize that a person on the front bench has to put in a lot of late nights. People give them very little credit for putting in those hours. I am saying that if Yukon does not stand up for Yukon, and if our whole modus operandi on the transboundary claim is to huff and puff for one day in the middle of the summer, when all of the tourists are here and everybody is working and nobody even knew that we sat, then we have not accomplished anything, except maybe we can go to the electorate with smoke and mirrors and blame the federal government for everything.
I submit to the Member opposite that we should not be giving up on the transboundary claim of the Tetlit Gwichin, to start with. Second, I would make representation to the Minister that I think it is essential that if we are going to be able to sign a Yukon Indian land claim and maintain its integrity to the public, and all of the things that go along with it, the Council for Yukon Indians should be in agreement that there be no further transboundary claims in the Yukon, as they agreed back in 1985.
I also submit that we get a tripartite agreement, so that we know there is certainty. I do not understand how the Minister can stand in his place and say, well, we have settled the Yukon land claim with a particular band from one of the areas of the Yukon, and that has created certainty. That has not created certainty because what the Minister has failed to tell the House is that we still have Treaty 11 out there, which everybody ignores. It has never been fulfilled. That is over and above the other three claims that the Minister is talking about.
I am not going to go on about this but I am going to say for the record that the government has a public duty and a public responsibility to do whatever they can, within their power. They know they have the support of all Members of this side of the House - I can speak, I guess, for the Independence Alliance on this particular issue, in view of the unanimous vote that was taken here a number of months ago - that we should be taking some public steps and continuing to utter our displeasure, privately and publicly, on this issue. I think that if it could be done similarly to the way it was back in 1970 and 1980, when the government-of-the-day got support from the provinces, because the provinces realized the implications of raising the ire of people when they did not recognize the political boundaries set up under Confederation.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member has made the points that he just made previously. I am going to repeat myself and make the points that I have made previously.
There is nothing wrong with the suggestion that a lot of people write letters to the federal government or writing letters to Mr. Siddon or Mr. Mulroney, or to the Globe and Mail, or to the national media. I know people who did write letters at the time of the incident. I also know that in the normal function of public opinion, peoples interest or inclination to do that as time passes, shrinks. I also believe that when you get a communication directly from the Prime Minister that says the decision is final and the Cabinet has made this decision, it is a purely practical proposition. I think it is a serious question as to how much energy you want to put into it. Having dealt with the same Prime Minister on the Meech Lake question -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Change that around. We had a long discussion about how and why that happened. Let me repeat to the Member, again, because I do not think that he is hearing me, the major option that we had - to do what was suggested by the Member for Hootalinqua and perhaps supported by the Member for Porter Creek East - was to walk away from the table.
We looked at that possibility, during late nights here, long and hard. We looked at what the consequences of that would be. We thought that the consequences would cost the First Nations of the Yukon Territory their land claims settlement. After 18 years here, and all the money that has gone into negotiations, we know that the federal government has been very close on several occasions to saying Look, there is no political mileage, we are not going get any big stories in the southern media for settling a claim in the Yukon. It is too far away. Maybe we should move our money and negotiations to somewhere in lower-mainland British Columbia, close to big media markets. There are a lot of political advantages to doing that. But if we walked away, we know exactly what the federal government would have done. The federal government said, Right, the Yukon land claim is over; YTG, you are the blame. You have that on your conscience for the rest of your lives. That is exactly what they would have done.
We had to make a tough-minded calculation about whether we, this government, which has had settling the Yukon land claim as its number-one priority since it came into office - and it was Mr. Pearsons stated number-one priority, too, for part of his time in office - ware prepared to pay that price. It is a tough, tough decision, yes; but in the end, having taken a long, hard look at it, we decided that we were not prepared to pay that price on behalf of not only the First Nations in this territory but also all the other people in the territory.
In fact, I had discussions last week with representatives of the mining industry, talking about that economy and how difficult the situation is. I will tell the Members opposite an interesting thing: they told me that one of the things that is going to make Yukon really look attractive in the next few years is that, one, we have a land claims settlement completed, because there are few parts of the country where there is great mineral potential; and, two, if we get the kind of development assessment process contemplated in our Environment Act and our land claims settlement - a unified, one-window, expeditious approach - there will be clear laws and rules about how to proceed.
You then have devolution of the programs we are talking about. The Member opposite downplayed the devolution achievements of the government, which were done in the face of federal cost cutting, but, for the record, they do include the transfer of the power corporation, fresh water fisheries, mine safety, D and C airports, inter-territorial roads, and do include very difficult negotiations on the health services, which, by the way, Members opposite had, I do not know, eight years in government to try to do. The issue has been hanging around since 1976, I think the Member said. I remember Mrs. Whyard being involved a long time ago on the question. We are trying very hard to complete it.
There is oil and gas management and the Beaufort Sea. One cannot diminish the importance of the agreement that we got from the Northwest Territories, which recognizes an administrative line in the Beaufort Sea that establishes our interest offshore. We did not have this in law, as a result of a drafting error, or whatever it was, in 1898. We also reached an important agreement on land titles. There are negotiations now underway about transferring the Alaska Highway. There are ongoing forestry negotiations, which are difficult, and we will have been well advised to complete with care.
We have invested a lot of time and energy to bring the Yukon land claim to completion. I say the successful completion of it is essential to our continued development and prosperity. In the end, the radical step of walking out, walking away, of paying the price and having all Yukoners for a long time pay the price for that was not one we were prepared to make, having gone through it. However, we are nonetheless resolute and aggressive in pursuing the federal government in negotiations - and I am not talking about the main table here; I am talking about the federal government, the Minister and senior officials of DIAND. We are determined to get satisfaction about why they did what they did. We have the Prime Ministers letter, but the Prime Ministers letter does not give us a reason or a rationale; it simply says: we did it. Was it some short-term political calculation? Was there some grander policy agenda? How did they make the policy? Who did they consult with? When did this happen?
There is also a determination on our part to make sure that it does not happen again. We are going to be doing that, not by shouting from the rooftops or by writing letters, and we certainly are not going to do it by walking away from negotiations. We are going to do it through determined negotiations.
Let me say to the Member, because we often hear comments, and I guess it is typical in Opposition, to hear about rotten negotiators and slow negotiators. Well, negotiations are tough, but I will say sometimes taking the time to do negotiations right pays off.
I was delighted to hear the other evening, for example - or was it the other day - the Member for Hootalinqua talking about how - yes, it must have been a Wednesday afternoon a while back - we got a great deal on the NCPC transfer and how the federal government gave us this sweetheart of a deal. I can recall at the time Members opposite telling us that we had sold the farm, we had done a rotten job and we had not negotiated worth a damn, and we were just hopeless incompetents.
Maybe it is just time healing old wounds, but I do not know how we can go from hopeless incompetents and having a rotten deal to, just a while later, when it suits someone in a different argument, that we got a great deal, a wonderful, sweetheart of a deal. The federal government was kind to us.
We got the deal we did because of hard, tough negotiations and we had the public interest in mind. We were not prepared to saddle Yukoners with a lot of financial obligations that they could not possibly pay.
I loved hearing the Member for Porter Creek East talk about how all the work had been done before we came into office. For the record, all that was done was the hiring of a consultant, who happened to have been an advisor to the board of NCPC previously, as well as the issuing of one press release from the Hon. David Crombie. As I told the House before, when we went through the files to look for the background work that had been done on the transfer, the filing cabinet was empty. There was nothing there. There had been no work done at all. We were starting from scratch.
To come back to the transboundary claim, damn it, the Member is right. This has created one hell of a lot of bad feeling, anxiety, anger, bad social relations, and bad relations between the territorial government and the federal government. However, I say to the Member that, sure as hell, we would have been shooting ourselves in the foot, stabbing ourselves in the heart, if we had done the emotionally gratifying, but ultimately destructive, thing of simply walking away from negotiations.
The Member cannot suggest that we were going to make an impression on the federal government - a federal government that, according to the latest polls, is hated by 86 percent of the people in the country - because we, one constituency far away to the northwest, is mad at it, and it is going to change its mind after making a political calculation to do this, so it could look like the good guy with First Nations and aboriginal people from one end of the country to the other, finally, instead of being on the attack and being the bad guys. Here it was, with one bold stroke, able to say, To hell with the territorial government, or whatever it is way up there in the far north; we will just go full steam ahead and do this.
When they calculated their potential benefits from one end of the country to the other, I do not think that we were going to impress them very much - even if every Yukoner wrote a letter, every week, to the Globe and Mail and Macleans and other magazines telling them how mad we were at Mr. Siddon and the Prime Minister. When 20 million Canadians are already mad at the guy - madder than hell from everything I read - does he really care if another 30,000 people are a little ticked off with him.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Penikett: He has never had a Yukoner mad at him? Well, that is wrong. He has had a Yukoner mad at him. I know that I took him on at a First Ministers Conference about Meech Lake, and we could not get our phone calls returned for the next year and one-half.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, I did not scare him, but I did piss him off, to use a colloquial expression.
To be frank, having tried to use the reasonable, constructive approach going into this, and then having received no response and getting mad, I can tell the Member that for a long time it did not look like either approach would do any good.
The Member is quite right. We can hammer away at the provincial Premiers but I have to tell you that provincial Premiers who have 30 percent unemployment or a farm crisis or an automobile industry collapse or 17 percent unemployment might say, Gee, that is tough, Tony, I am sorry to hear about that, but in the end they have their own problems.
I think, in the end, the only option for us is to stay at the table, keep the Minister focused, keep his officials focused and keep hammering away at this negotiating table. That is the way in which I think we are going to find a solution.
I do not, for a minute, under estimate the seriousness of it or the difficulty of it or the complexity of it, from the point of view of our relative power relationship. Compared with the federal government, we are a peanut. It is tough.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Well, maybe only half of a peanut.
The Member asked: what were we in 1979?
A peanut shell? I do not know.
I do not think this is over, by a long shot, in terms of the larger issue.
If the Member asked me if I honestly think this present federal government, Prime Minister, or Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs is going to change its mind about the 600 square miles in northern Yukon, I have to tell the Member that, in all sincerity, I do not think there is a prospect in hell that these particular guys, or this particular government, is going to change its mind on that question, especially because they think they have won all sorts of Brownie points from one end of the country to the other for doing it.
We have only just begun discussion on my estimate. I have a fear that my voice is going. I wonder if I could move that we report progress on this bill?
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move that the 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 the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 19, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1992-93, 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. Webster: I move that 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. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:27 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled December 4, 1991:
Government purchase of locally made furniture (McDonald)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1413-1414
Self-government survey results (August, 1991) (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1361
Mayo-Dawson transmission line construction approved by Yukon Energy Corporation (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1263-1264
Yukon Energy Corporation administration expenses and management fee (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1461-1462
Power outages and equipment replacement (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1295
Closeleigh Manor ventilation/heating system problem (Hayden)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1444
The following Documents were filed December 4, 1991:
Middle Management Office Furnishings Specifications - October 13, 1989, Supply Services (McDonald)
Standing Offer Agreements regarding office furnishings - Supply Services (McDonald)