Wednesday, April 22, 1992 - 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.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would like to ask all Members to join me in welcoming the grade 10 business education class from F.H. Collins High School and their teacher, Sharon Sweeney, who have come to watch us perform today.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: I have for tabling a report from the Chief Electoral Officer of the Yukon on contributions to political parties during 1991.
I also have for tabling a report from the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly on deductions from the indemnities of Members of the Legislative Assembly, pursuant to subsection 39(6) of the Legislative Assembly Act.
Speaker: Are there any other Reports or Documents for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Webster: On the occasion of Earth Day, I have for tabling a recently produced brochure on wildlife viewing opportunities in Yukon. This is one initiative among hundreds that have been taken by individuals, government organizations and governments, which encourage greater awareness, respect and appreciation for the earth and its natural resources on which we all depend for life itself.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 52: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move that Bill No. 52, entitled Faro Mine Loan Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier that Bill No. 52, entitled Faro Mine Loan Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 52 agreed to
Bill No. 6: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 6, entitled Workers Compensation Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Education that Bill No. 6, entitled Workers Compensation Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 6 agreed to
Bill No. 2: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I move that Bill No. 2, entitled Economic Development Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Education that Bill No. 2, entitled Economic Development Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 2 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
NOTICES OF MOTION FOR THE PRODUCTION OF PAPERS
Mrs. Firth: I give notice of motion
THAT the House do issue an order for a return of a true copy of the agreement signed by the representatives of the Government of Yukon and the representatives of Curragh Resources that approve and/or enable the $5 million low-interest loan to help develop the Grum deposit at Faro.
Mr. Nordling: I give notice of motion
THAT the House do issue an order for a return of all documentation, including letters, memos, submissions, blueprints, consultants reports, financial analysis and contracts entered into by the Yukon Development Corporation and by the Department of Economic Development, with respect to the Taga Ku development project.
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mrs. Firth: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that an all-party committee with one representative from each party represented in the Legislature be established to appoint individuals to Yukon government boards and committees.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that in the next territorial general election two referendum questions should accompany the ballot: the first to entitle the voters to recall legislators and the second to give the voters the power to propose their own policy initiatives through referendums.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that a 911 emergency number be established immediately for the Whitehorse area and, finally,
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon, Department of Justice, should consider establishing a specialized family violence court using the pilot project established in Winnipeg, Manitoba as a model.
Mr. Nordling: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that all profits from the Yukon Liquor Corporation be used to combat alcohol and drug abuse in the Yukon, in addition to funds presently being allocated for that purpose.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Health Act be amended to include a provision that parents or guardians of children below the age of majority be given a minimum of 72 hours notice of any non-emergency medical procedure or treatment scheduled for their child.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that a Yukon-wide referendum be held to approve any final constitutional proposal.
Speaker: Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Twenty-year RCMP contract
Hon. Ms. Joe: I am pleased to announce the signing of a new 20-year contract with the federal government and the RCMP for policing services in the Yukon effective April 1, 1992. This new 20-year policing contract is a valuable example of just how the policy of good government can deliver sound and lasting benefits to all Yukoners. It is the longest running policing contract ever signed in the territory, and it ensures that the good policing Yukoners have come to expect will continue.
The new contract maintains the same cost-sharing agreement enjoyed under former agreements. This means the federal government will continue to pay 30 percent of policing costs, and the territory will cover the remaining 70 percent. The federal government originally wanted to lower its contribution to 25 percent but finally agreed to leave it at 30 percent.
This ratio is very important to Yukoners because, under provincial agreements, any community over 15,000 people is covered by a separate municipal policing agreement. In that agreement, the federal government only pays 10 percent of the costs, leaving the remaining 90 percent to the province and community.
In our original negotiations, the federal government wanted us to sign a separate municipal policing agreement, but we refused. We knew the City of Whitehorse could not afford to carry any additional financial burden. I am very happy to say that, under the terms of the new 20-year contract, we have saved the City of Whitehorse almost $3 million.
In short, we have ensured that the City of Whitehorse will be included in the 70/30 cost-sharing deal, resulting in greater overall cost effectiveness.
The territory will share with the federal government projected cost-base increases in certain areas of joint responsibility such as accommodation, pensions, unemployment insurance, retirement benefits, recruit training and expenses incurred by both the external review committee and the public complaints commission.
Areas where the Government of Canada will assume full costs include civil actions, compensation claims, payments and claims for legal fees. The agreement will be reviewed every five years to assess future cost-base increases.
The new 20-year contract provides for greater fiscal accountability and control over expenditures. This means the RCMP must involve the Yukon Department of Justice in the formal budgeting process. The Government of Canada had wanted present fiscal planning practices left intact, but we negotiated a system more responsible to Yukon taxpayers.
Non-policing functions will remain unchanged for the present, but the Department of Justice will begin work with the RCMP in order to take over territorial prosecutions such as alcohol-related offences. Originally, the federal government wanted to stop all non-police activities immediately or, failing this, have the territory assume 100 percent of the costs.
In short, this agreement continues the Yukons long-standing tradition with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and I am very pleased to be a signatory to it.
At this time, I would like to acknowledge those individuals who have played a very big role in coming to these negotiations. These are people in my department, past and present: Mr. Bill Byers, who was the deputy minister at the start of the negotiations; Vicki Hancock, who continued after he left; Bob Cole, Sue Ryan and Lorenne Clark.
Mr. Phillips: We on this side are pleased to see that we have reached a long-term agreement for police services in the Yukon, and I can only hope that the government is really sincere about retaining the services of the RCMP. It was only a few short years ago when the former Minister of Justice of this government, Roger Kimmerly, told this House and all Yukoners that the government opposite favoured a Yukon police force over the RCMP and was looking at establishing such a police force. I think that sent shudders through the minds of many Yukoners.
We on this side believe that most Yukoners are comfortable with the services provided by the RCMP and are pleased that Yukoners will have a better opportunity to scrutinize the annual budget as a result of the agreement.
Mrs. Firth: I have had an opportunity to acquire a copy of the new RCMP agreement as well as to have a briefing by the Ministers staff. I would like to thank the Minister for offering that opportunity to me.
With respect to the agreement itself, I think time will tell what the true differences are between this agreement and the previous one we had. However, I do have to say that we are pleased to hear that the agreement is finally settled and we, too, wish to extend our congratulations and thanks to the senior public officials - that is from all the provinces, because it was not just this territorial government that helped negotiate this agreement; it was all the provinces and the Northwest Territories as well.
The way I understand it is that they never really made any headway until they actually got the federal commissioner of the RCMP involved. He was able to, in some way, provide a more positive environment so that they could reach a consensus on various issues.
With respect to the concern raised by the other Opposition Members, this agreement does allow the Minister to exclude First Nation bands from RCMP function. However, I was reassured to see that it has to be done with both the agreement of the Minister and the Solicitor-General. That is something that will come up for review in the future.
With respect to the other new areas of the agreement - the pension funds, the reviews that will take place every five years - I think we will have to wait and see how it works out. I feel we are fortunate as Yukoners in that we do have this agreement signed and I will extend that much to the government.
The mention of good government and so on in the ministerial statement - we will just pass that by. We will have further debate about all of that, but we are pleased to finally have an RCMP agreement.
Hon. Ms. Joe: In regard to the Yukon Partys comments on retaining the RCMPs services, there was talk about that right across the country when we were in negotiations with the federal government. It was not something that was new. I would like to assure him that it is my intention to retain the services of the RCMP. They have done a valuable job in the last few years and I have been pleased with the services they provide. I would also like to mention that the offer to brief Members opposite was made to the Yukon Party as well as the Independent Alliance. With respect to Commissioner Inkster, he did play a very large role in coming to the final agreement. In discussions with him on the phone yesterday, I personally thanked him for his input in that regard.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Taga Ku convention centre complex
Mr. Lang: Before I begin, I would like to comment on the Minister of Government Services tie. It is nice to know that we have an answer for Don Cherry here in the Yukon.
I would like to begin by asking a question of the Government Leader. My question has to do with the issue of the financing of the Taga Ku hotel government convention project. In 1990, the present Minister of Economic Development told the Chamber of Commerce that the Government of Yukon would only be providing financial assistance for the rental office space. A few days later, the Yukon Development Corporation announced that it was going to make available $2 million dollars for the project on behalf of the energy consumers in Yukon. Since that time, the government has taken the position that that was the only government financial assistance being made available to that particular project. It came as quite a surprise at the beginning of this week when the public was informed that the Government of Yukon had been actively considering loan guarantees over and above the commitments that had already been made. This was according to a local newspaper report.
Can the Government Leader confirm that his government has been in ongoing negotiations with the proponents of the Taga Ku hotel for the purpose of loan guarantees?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I thank the Member for his lengthy preamble and his attempt to recapture the history surrounding the project. I will provide the Member with a short answer to his question.
The Government of Yukon has indeed been approached by the proponents of the project. They are in the process of restructuring their senior financing and they are keeping us informed.
Mr. Lang: That did not answer my question. I asked the Government Leader if he could confirm to this House whether or not they were negotiating a further loan guarantee over and above the commitments made to date, amounting to over $7,600,000 for rental for the next 10 years, plus $2 million by the Yukon Development Corporation.
I want to know from the Government Leader, who is responsible for the overall conduct of the government, if he is actively discussing and negotiating loan guarantees for the purposes of this particular project over and above the commitments that have been made.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: In order to clarify some of the preamble information provided by the Member, it should be noted that the Yukon Development Corporation provided a loan to the Champagne/Aishihik First Nation. It is secured by land claims and it is not tied to the project. I have already indicated that we have had discussions with proponents of the project. We have not made a commitment to finance the project any further.
Mr. Lang: This sounds like the gold panner debate. The Government Leader did not want to get involved at that time in the debate in the House, and now this is another issue that is controversial, and the Government Leader does not want to answer any questions.
If the Government Leader is not prepared to answer this question, could I ask the Minister of Economic Development: could he tell us, and tell the public the amount of the loan guarantee being requested from this government to help finance the Taga Ku project?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: With respect to the Member, I have to repeat to him that we are neither in charge of the project nor involved in the management of it. It is not our project. The Yukon Development Corporation provided a loan to Champagne/Aishihik in the early stages of the project. There has been no further commitment to any additional financing for the Taga Ku project.
Question re: Taga Ku convention centre complex
Mr. Lang: Either my hearing is gone or the Minister is not understanding my question. I am asking him if his government, through his office, is actively negotiating a loan guarantee with the proponents of the Taga Ku project. I would just like a yes or a no.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: No.
Mr. Lang: Can the Minister confirm that the proponents of the Taga Ku project have approached the Department of Industry, Science and Technology for loan guarantees and, if so, for how much?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not believe it would be appropriate for me to speak on behalf of the federal government. The Member is raising a question surrounding possible discussions with a federal department. It would be more appropriate for the question to be raised with that department.
Mr. Lang: In view of the pertinence of the previous question, I would like to ask another question. Can the Minister of Economic Development confirm that the federal governments position on loan guarantees is that it must be reciprocated by the Government of Yukon? Is that true?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Again, I cannot confirm that assertion.
Question re: Taga Ku convention centre complex
Mrs. Firth: I would like to follow up with the same issue and the same Minister because of the answer he has given here this afternoon with respect to negotiations. The Minister has stood up and very distinctly said that they were not negotiating with the Taga Ku and yet Chief Paul Birckel declined to make comments with respect to amounts to the local media because they were in the middle of negotiations. I think the Minister should clarify his position in order that he not misrepresent the facts and give the House the wrong information.
The question I want to put to the Minister is: what exactly is the governments bottom line in these negotiations? I think the public has a right to know just how far the government is prepared to go with the loan or a loan guarantee.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member has articulated her view of a misrepresentation of facts. In respect to discussions that have taken place by officials of my department and officials of the Yukon Development Corporation with the proponents of the Taga Ku project, the proponents have kept us informed about their efforts to restructure their senior financing. We have made no commitment to additional financing, nor are we in negotiations for further financing. What can be clearer than that?
Mrs. Firth: The facts could be clearer than that. In the Ministers own correspondence, he says to me we have been reviewing with them, ... referring to Taga Ku, ... the situation with respect to their funding and the overall economics of the project. The chief of the Champagne/Aishihik Band, Chief Paul Birckel, states very clearly ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to her supplementary question.
Mrs. Firth: He states very clearly that they are in the middle of negotiations at this point. I wanted to know from the government, in the event that a decision is made, what is the governments bottom line? Are they prepared to give a loan? Are they prepared to give a loan guarantee? If so, how much?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Let me clarify what negotiations constitute. Negotiations would constitute active discussions surrounding further financing. That is not occurring. What is occurring is that the proponents are keeping this government, the Economic Development department and the Yukon Development Corporation, informed of their efforts to refinance their senior finance requirements. In that respect, we are being advised of their progress in refinancing and are being kept informed.
Mrs. Firth: I guess the Minister is just refusing to answer what the government is prepared to do with the situation, so I will move on to another question for my final supplementary.
I understand the governments anxious attitude to get land claims settled. There is some pressure being applied to settle land claims.
Could the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation tell us if there is any connection whatsoever between the Champagne/Aishihik land claim settlement and the Taga Ku development?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: To my knowledge, none at all.
Question re: Taga Ku convention centre project
Mr. Phelps: It is a rather interesting subject we are on; namely, that of whether or not the government is discussing with the proponents of the convention centre the possibility of further loan guarantees and further assistance from the government. I would like to quote directly from a letter dated April 21 to the Minister in his capacity as Minister of Economic Development, Government of Yukon: I note that you cannot support a further commitment by this government toward a loan guarantee in the absence of senior financing assurances.
Would the Minister confirm that the issue of loan guarantees has been under active discussion between himself and the Champagne-Aishihik Indian Band and proponents of the convention centre?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As I indicated earlier, proponents of the Taga Ku project have had discussions with us, and they have kept us informed relating to their efforts to secure senior financing. They previously sought from us a commitment to provide a loan guarantee. We declined to provide it, and that is the current status.
Mr. Phelps: We move from no discussions to a situation that seems open-ended, certainly in the minds of the proponents and the project.
My concern has to do with another issue - the relationship between this government and the Yukon Development Corporation. The problem of the lack of an arms-length relationship was much discussed in the last meetings here in this forum and, of course, it was the subject matter that led to the resignation of the past president of the corporation in question.
Does the Minister intend to direct the Yukon Development Corporation, and thus the ratepayers of the Yukon, to enter into any loan guarantees that may come out of the current discussions with Champagne/Aishihik and the proponents of the development?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The question is entirely hypothetical, and the Member should be reminded that the decision regarding the initial loan to the Champagne/Aishihik First Nation was taken by the board of the corporation and, should any further involvement be undertaken by the corporation, that decision would clearly be a decision of the board. Nevertheless, the Member speculated that I would direct the corporation to do something; we have answered in previous debate that the corporation does operate at arms length in its relationship with the government.
The Member is repeating the performance of the last session. In one instant, they want me to know intimate details surrounding activities of the corporation, and in the next breath they expect that I should not be involved at all with the activities of the corporation. So, Members have to decide which way they want it.
Mr. Phelps: Since we were last in these august Chambers, the situation surrounding the board has changed somewhat. We have a new board of directors, with the recent past president on it, a former past president as the chair, and other political appointments by this government; it is extremely partisan in nature. I would like to know whether or not the Minister feels that, in view of this new board, it will be easier for him to influence the decision making of the board and to further erode what arms-length relationship existed in the past.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The assertion and question are totally preposterous. The board operates on its own and it operates within its own agenda under policy directives of this government. As the Member knows, we have been undergoing a mandate review in which the role of the corporation in the economy, in the marketplace, in Yukon society, is being refined and articulated more precisely. That review is coming to a conclusion, and the Member will be quite pleased when I table the document shortly.
Question re: Taga Ku convention centre project
Mr. Phelps: That is interesting, because all signs point to the erosion of any distinction whatsoever between the government and the Yukon Development Corporation. This was an issue and remains an issue. As we all know, Mr. Cable resigned and sent a public letter to the Minister about his concerns with respect to the lack of an arms-length relationship.
Can the Minister tell us whether it was the government that required that the Yukon Development Corporation lend $2 million to Taga Ku - or the Champagne/Aishihik Indian Band or the proponents of the convention centre - inadvertently?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: For about the twentieth time in the course of the last year, the decision surrounding the loan provided to the Champagne/Aishihik First Nation by the Yukon Development Corporation was made by the board of directors of the corporation under no direction from this government other than the general policy objectives of the government under which the corporation operates. The Member knows that.
Mr. Phelps: Let me once again ask a question of the Minister wearing the hat of Economic Development: Mines and Small Business. We know that the then deputy minister of his department was on the board of the Yukon Development Corporation. It was that deputy minister who moved the resolution at the board of directors meeting that the Yukon Development Corporation lend the second $1 million dollars to the proponents of the convention centre. Was the deputy minister at that time acting on instructions from the Minister or the government?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not even aware that the deputy minister made the recommendation or resolution at the board level. I do not scrutinize the activities in that kind of detail. The short answer to the Members question is no.
Mr. Phelps: Is the Minister in effect saying that the deputy minister was acting on his own, and it was not in accordance with express instructions from, and policy of, the government regarding that specific issue? Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: If the Member would review his question, he has put some apples in with the oranges. No doubt the board was responding in consideration of the broad policy direction of this government. However, the member was not functioning under explicit instructions. There is a difference.
Question re: Taga Ku convention centre project
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the same Minister on the same topic. I would like to explore another area about which I have some strong concerns. The Minister has been told today, and we have confirmed, that the former deputy minister of Economic Development made a motion for the second $1 million. Now, we understand that the same individual who made this motion and had recently quit the government has recently taken a job with the proponents of the project we are discussing. I wonder if the Minister could confirm to us that that in fact happened and that the individual was in a meeting recently with the Minister discussing that very project?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will not confirm that the previous deputy minister made the motion because I do not know. I cannot confirm whether he, today, is employed by any particular agency, because I do not know.
Except for a brief, five-minute discussion with that previous deputy minister recently - if I think hard perhaps I can remember the day - it had nothing to do with his previous duties as a deputy minister.
Mr. Phillips: Is the Minister telling us today that this individual, who is the former deputy minister of Economic Development, did not take part in a meeting the Minister had in the Cabinet meeting room recently to discuss the Taga Ku project and its financing? Is he saying that that individual was not at the meeting as a representative of, or contractor to, the Taga Ku or the proponents of the project?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am working from memory, but I should clarify the issues surrounding the question the Member raises. I believe the Member is correct that, at a meeting some time in the past several weeks, the previous deputy minister was present in discussions with the proponents of the project. Unfortunately, I did not remember that when the question was first raised.
Mr. Phillips: It is a significant and grand day in this House when we get the Minister to answer the question correctly. That will go down in the history. The Ministers memory failed him in the short time, but he did gain it back quickly.
The former deputy minister was privy to the government position on this issue and on many other matters. He proposed the motion for the $1 million and, shortly thereafter, quit his job and went to work for the proponents.
Would the Minister not agree that this was a blatant conflict of interest by this individual? Did the Minister never raise it with the individual, or the proponents, that someone who was on his team just weeks ago was now on the other team, and that that might be a conflict of interest?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Again, the Member is asserting facts I cannot confirm. He is using them as the basis for his question.
It would be inappropriate for any deputy to use intimate knowledge he had acquired through previous employment related to business. However, it is not my place to analyze that individuals activities. As I recall, the Member did not participate in that meeting.
Question re: Taga Ku convention centre project
Mr. Nordling: This is such an interesting topic, and with the Ministers memory coming back, I would like to follow up on it myself. The Minister said earlier that there were no negotiations with respect to Champagne/Aishihik and loan guarantees. Then, apparently his memory came back and said there were negotiations over loan guarantees but, in fact, those negotiations were concluded and the government refused to make a loan guarantee.
I would like the Minister to confirm that that is what happened and again ask how involved the government will get with this Taga Ku development project. In refusing the loan guarantee, have they said that they will not provide any more financing whatsoever?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Well again, I certainly am not in a position to predict what may occur in the future, but let me clarify for the Member that we are not in charge of the project; we are not involved in the management of the project; it is not our project. The proponents have, in the past, approached us for assistance. We have declined that assistance. Now, that in no way judges what may occur in the future. I do not know.
Mr. Nordling: Unfortunately, the Ministers memory seems to have slipped on that subject, so I would like to go back to Mr. Poushinsky. Now, the Minister said that he attended a meeting in the Cabinet room over the Taga Ku convention centre project and Mr. Poushinsky was there. Is the Minister telling us that he does not know who Mr. Poushinsky was working for or what he was doing at that meeting?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The short answer is no.
Mr. Nordling: I should have stopped in myself and listened. It really is not funny. This is serious, and I think Yukoners will be affected by what happens with that project. It is one of the largest that the territory has seen.
My question is again to the Minister, but it is in respect to a cooling-off period for former government employees, or guidelines, that the Government Leader refused to bring in. He refused to bring them in. There is supposed to be legislation this session. I would like to ask the Minister if his suspicion was raised at all when a former government employee, who had only recently quit, was attending that meeting. Did it not occur to him at all to ask what he might be doing there, who he was working for, and check on a possible conflict of interest or a conflict with respect to these guidelines that were supposed to be brought in, or has this government decided there will not be guidelines?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: If the Member is asking me whether it is my position to do a cross-examination of every participant in every one of my meetings, then he clearly knows the answer. The ex-deputy was in attendance. I understood him to be part of the delegation and it was as simple as that.
Quection re: Severance pay/ former deputy minister
Mr. Lang: This is a very fundamental issue here. We have had witnessed, and it has been confirmed today, that a previous deputy minister of this government was involved in the allocation of $2 million - electrical ratepayers dollars - toward a hotel/convention centre. In fact, I am sure that the Minister will find out when he checks the record that that particular deputy minister, weeks prior to leaving the employment of the Government of Yukon, put the motion to the board of directors to allocate the second $1 million toward that particular project.
My question would be to the Government Leader. In respect to very questionable conduct of a top public servant within the government, I want to know, in view of the fact that he discontinued his employment with the Government of the Yukon Territory, was that particular ex-employee granted a severance pay?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, the Member opposite has, as is his wont, accused someone of dishonourable conduct, and I do not accept the Members accusations and assertions as fact without taking a very hard look at the assertion.
The particular arrangements by which the deputy left the government, I cannot describe on my feet. I will ask the question, but the employee resigned his position, as has been previously indicated. Therefore, I think that would mean that there would have been no severance package other than the one that would come as a result of the normal holiday pay and money paid that was owing for work done.
Mr. Lang: I want to get it clear in my mind. Is the Government Leader undertaking to go back to find out if there was a severance package provided to this particular deputy minister over and above the normal holiday pay?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will take that question as notice.
Mr. Lang: My question, then, goes to the very nub of the situation, which can only be called questionable conduct, as far as information gathered in one source of employment and then obviously utilized to some degree in another within weeks of discontinuing employment with the YTG. Would the Government Leader not agree that, in view of what has gone on here, the perception out there would lead any thinking person to believe that there had to have been a conflict of interest?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Technically, I think the Members question is out of order, because he has asked me to express an opinion on the Members opinion, which I would obviously decline to do without being in full possession of the facts.
Let it be said that I am aware that there are a number of former senior officials, including former deputies of this government, who are employed either in a consulting capacity or in a contract capacity with a number of organizations in the territory that do business with the government. Those facts provide the very foundation of the problem in trying to establish good rules for the conduct of former officials.
As I have indicated before, and contrary to the assertions of the Member for Porter Creek West, we are going to be bringing in legislation in this sitting to provide for a clearer legal foundation in those situations.
Question re: Taga Ku convention centre project
Mr. Phelps: I would like to get back to the same subject. Previously in this Question Period, I was told by the Minister of Economic Development that the deputy minister was not instructed by himself or the government to put forward the motion that the ratepayers lend a second $1 million to the convention centre proponents.
In view of that, if that is the correct position and the Minister is sure of his facts on this, does he not think it rather strange that this individual would be so willing to spend the ratepayers money while not under instructions from the government and just before achieving employment with the recipient of this largesse?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not sure I understand what the Members question is getting at. The broad situation surrounding the Yukon Development Corporation is that the board of directors operate under a legislated framework. They operate under the policy guidelines of this government and the commitments of this government. Decisions that they make are a calculation of their responsibility in that framework.
With respect to specific board members who participated, I cannot second guess their logical processes of thought - which is what the Member is asking - that will govern their individual decisions.
Mr. Phelps: In more laymans terms, if the deputy minister of that time was not acting on express instruction from the government, the Minister or whoever, then does not the potential for conflict increase dramatically, given that he is the person who is voting for and pushing for a loan to his prospective employer? Would he not agree that that makes it a more serious situation? If it was not the Minister, the department or the government that was busy interfering and telling him to push this motion, would the Minister not agree that it is even more serious, because here we have a director of a corporation putting forward a resolution to pay $1 million just before he leaves the corporation to go to work for the recipient?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is making a series of illogical assertions. He is shaking his head, but he is. The Member is making the assumption that somehow the deputy, when he was at the board, dealing with decisions relating to a loan to the Champagne/Aishihik Band, somehow knew that someday he was going to go to work for them. That is so impossible to calculate after the fact, that he must realize his question cannot possibly be answered.
Mr. Phelps: In the event that further meetings take place with this individual with regard to loans or other government business, will the Minister raise the issue of conflict, and refuse to deal with a person who has this special knowledge from his previous employment?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I think this Question Period has sensitized my awareness of the issue and I will deal with it.
Question re: Conflict-of-interest guidelines
Mrs. Firth: When we last sat in this Legislature, I remember very specifically and clearly asking the Government Leader to bring in interim conflict-of-interest guidelines until legislation would be tabled. I remember very clearly the Government Leaders response. It was no.
Does the Government Leader not agree that if he had brought in an interim policy and put it in place with a cooling-off period, as we suggested, that this incident would not have happened?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No.
Mrs. Firth: We are of the opinion that it would not have been able to happen. By not bringing in interim guidelines, and by absolutely refusing to bring interim guidelines into place when we last sat some several months ago, is he not in fact allowing this conflict situation to happen? He is allowing this to happen by refusing to address the problem and the issue of a potential conflict arising.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not accept that proposition at all, nor do I accept the Members negative assertion. Conflict-of-interest issues here, especially for former officials, as we have discovered in our consultations, are extremely simple ones. There are people here in the Yukon in certain professions, for whom work is only available, directly or indirectly, with the government. The point the Member makes about the cooling-off period has, if I remember the previous discussion, been made in reference to former officials contracting with the government.
That is not the situation here at all. The assertion is that a former deputy has contracted with a party who has done business with the government. That is a different situation than the one that was being addressed by the Members opposite last time we were talking about the conflict-of-interest situation. What we have to do in legislation is find a balance between an individuals legitimate right to work in their occupation and to stay in the Yukon to carry out that profession and the right to make sure that they are not compromised by their previous association with the government.
Mrs. Firth: The concern was that former officials of the government would have access to information that no other public consultants would have access to. That is what happened here. The Government Leader cannot deny that that is what happened here.
As far as the livelihood question, there is a whole government here of many departments that Mr. Poushinsky could have done consulting work for. He did not have to go out and specifically be hired by the Champagne/Aishihik Band for consulting work. I know that for a fact, because Mr. Poushinsky told me that he was on contract and that the Champagne/Aishihik Band was one of his clients. There is an absolute...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the question.
Mrs. Firth: ... conflict of interest. Could the Government Leader tell us when we are going to have guidelines in place in this Legislature for debate so that this does not continue to carry on.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, the Member, as is her custom, has joined a personal attack on an individual with an assertion that there is an absolute conflict of interest. Without a close examination of the facts, I am not prepared to accept her word for that.
We have indicated that we intend to bring the legislation to deal with conflict of interest in this sitting, and that is the governments intention. The Member is interested in the precise date, and I cannot give her that at the moment.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
ADDRESS IN REPLY TO THE SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Ms. Kassi: I move
THAT the following address be presented to the Commissioner of the Yukon:
MAY IT PLEASE THE COMMISSIONER:
We, the Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, beg leave to offer our humble thanks for the gracious Speech which you have addressed to the House.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Old Crow
THAT the following address be presented to the Commissioner of the Yukon:
MAY IT PLEASE THE COMMISSIONER:
We, the Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, beg leave to offer our humble thanks for the gracious Speech which you have addressed to the House.
Ms. Kassi: I would like to respond today to the throne speech that was delivered yesterday. I would like to speak in favour of the speech and to elaborate on some of the issues and initiatives that have directly affected our people, the Vuntut Gwichin.
First and foremost, today is Earth Day. This is very important to our people. Each and every one of us depends on the earth for our existence and yet we take it for granted so often. I look around us here in the Yukon, and I see the beauty of the valleys and the strength in the mountains and the clear air and water, and I thank our Mother Earth for being so generous in providing us with these good things. This past weekend, I was fortunate to be able to go skiing on the summit over to Bennett Lake; I was overwhelmed by the beauty and stood in awe of the power that lies in our land here. The mountains, which in our culture we call our grandfathers, looked so peaceful and I felt reassured that they will be there long after we are all gone.
I thought about all the people who had walked in this area and I thought about their stories, their ancestors and how they lived their lives; but I only saw one wolf track. I saw only one little bird and one hawk. There was a time when this land of ours was covered with animals and birds. This was just a few years ago.
Mr. Speaker, I am sure that you can remember a time when there was plenty of game, when the caribou used to come down through the southern part of the Yukon; but now something is happening out there. There are massive changes in the environment that are causing our animals to go away. They are dying off, being killed, and they are being driven away.
The water and the air are becoming more and more harmful for us. I often wonder and think about walking around in the southern part of the Yukon, knowing that we cannot just go to the lakes and dip our cups into the streams and the lakes and drink the water, because we are not sure that it is clean any more.
This is why we need to celebrate Earth Day - to turn our attention to healing our earth. We need to be reminded that we must all take up the challenge, making it a clean earth to live on. We are here as caretakers of the earth; our mother has allowed us to live here. We must respect her and educate our young people that it is their earth, too. We must talk to the tourists who visit here to let them know that they, too, have a responsibility to keep our land clean.
We must continue to be on guard against people who willfully destroy this.
Earth Day is a world-wide celebration. People are taking it to heart all over the place. They all realize that there is a great deal of work still to be done in order to keep this place alive.
This day is very special to me. It directly relates to how I was raised. I was taught that the earth is sacred, and I see how vital it is for our existence. I often think of how our people have no concept of stewardship or dominion, and that we really look at the earth as our mother. We are all subsistence people, and we need that to survive.
There are many people here in the Yukon who are doing excellent work toward achieving these goals. I would like to congratulate and offer my support to the Yukon Conservation Society for organizing a clean-up this year of the lower escarpment along the clay cliffs. It is this Sunday morning, starting at 10 a.m. They will be out there picking up some of the garbage that has been left there over the winter. I would like to say to them, way to go, guys. They are doing a good job. It is exactly what we need to do. We have to look in our own backyard and clean up the mess.
When I travelled back home along the Alaska Highway last weekend, I noticed piles of garbage in the ditches. If this is the year we are celebrating the highway, let us make it a clean road. I congratulate all those people who have been out there year after year, filling garbage bags with the winters garbage. Let us all take this very seriously this year. Even today, just take a walk around your neighborhood and pick up some stuff.
On another issue, there is a federal Arctic Environmental Strategy to clean up the Arctic. Our people know this is something that must happen soon. There are many barrels and lots of debris lying around up there from the construction of the DEW Line and oil, gas and mining activities. We can see these from the plane as we fly over our country. Last summer a few were removed, but there are still a lot left in the lakes and out on the tundra.
There are guys in my community who are willing to get some work and help out in cleaning up this mess that was left behind. Our people wonder what is in those barrels and how the contents may be affecting the quality of the lakes, streams and animals that depend on the water. This is a serious threat to our people, to all people in the Yukon, and to our children who will inherit this world.
I do not see much evidence of anything actually being done though. It seems as though people are blaming each other and they toss it back and forth. This is an excellent opportunity for the Department of Renewable Resources to take a lead role in ensuring that the clean-up of these areas start immediately.
One of the most important issues that has arisen in Old Crow has been the removal of alcohol from the community. This has caused a great celebration in our people and it has caused some hardships. It has only been four months since prohibition. Some people are beginning to feel the positive effects of what this means. It is good to see that the youth are beginning to see how important it is. Our people are feeling the pain of this change, which means that the healing has begun. As one of my tribal counsellors said to me, Of course we are going to experience some pain to begin the healing. Some people never gave themselves opportunity to feel, so we are now having to face the pain and to feel it. As I said earlier, it has only been four months and we have come a long way.
To take a community that is as closely knit as ours and to see it pulled apart by alcohol has weighed heavily on our souls; to see young men die because of it; to see babies that have suffered because of their mothers drinking; to see our elders lost in booze has been very saddening. Now that we have all worked toward banning it from the community, we see a new life starting in Old Crow. People are visiting and communicating a lot more. There is a lot of socializing. People are participating in cultural activities more and more, especially activities with the youth and getting involved with the school. The people are starting to find a new kind of pride in themselves. Most of the young men are starting to go back to the land. They are starting to band together to help each other. These are all positive signs that our community is healing itself.
It is encouraging to hear that this government is planning to increase its commitment to bettering the health of all Yukoners. There is a great concern among Yukon people about the high dependency on alcohol, but there was very little in the throne speech that will directly address this problem. There are many communities that do not even have an addictions counsellor. There are some communities, today, that are still completely full of the disease of alcohol.
There was a time in my village when everyone was drunk. I was one of those people. We drank anything to get high. We drank shaving lotion, hair spray, home brew, anything that was around. It is not the alcohol that is the problem. It is only a symptom. In order to get closer to the root of our real problem we have taken a major step to eliminate the symptom. Even before prohibition was in place, we were asking for an addictions counsellor. Our community has made a decision and now we are asking once again for some help to see us through this difficult time.
When we have asked in the past, people have said that there are no counsellors available, but there are people right in my community who are capable of doing this. They know the ways of the people in our community and understanding the old ways. Let me assure you that they are more than qualified.
Therefore, I would like to say that we desperately need a spiritual healing lodge here in the Yukon. We need to offer the people who are trying to kick the alcohol problem the opportunity to heal themselves in a way that will work. We need to make this difficult transition as positive and as constructive as possible. These involve the traditional way of healing, the holistic way.
This strikes at the heart of a deep problem we are all facing. Let us face it, aboriginal people are in the greatest need of treatment. We all know that our aboriginal way is a different way. Our government has realized this by creating the opportunity for our own tribal justice system, for our own style of self-government, for direct influence into our education system, and for control over our lands. And yet, there is no system in place for us to heal ourselves of the addictions that plague us in our own way. To heal our people is a priority among all our communities.
I am encouraged that we are going to build a new detoxification centre, but we need more than that. This problem is pressing on all of us sitting here today. First and foremost, we need a place where aboriginal people can go to receive treatment. This must be a place where we can feel comfortable. Aboriginal people are shy about going to institutions that are in place now because they are not modelled on anything that we are familiar with.
We spend much money sending people outside the territory for treatment. Although this is very important, it would be put to much better use if we could have our own healing lodge right here. It would help keep these valuable dollars right here to help heal our own people. There is no place where a whole family can go to get healed. It costs a great deal of money to send someone out to Henwood Poundmakers in Alberta or other places in British Columbia, so we can only send one person. This person must then return to the old situation they left. Often this means going back into an abusive family situation or extreme co-dependency, and this can easily lead to relapsing or break-up of a marriage and disintegration of the strongest of all units, the family.
In Old Crow we have been struggling to secure funding for our wilderness treatment camp. This is an excellent program and the people there are doing the best they can with the resources they have available. They are trying to do things traditionally. During the healing process that takes two or three months, the facilitators try to deal with the whole person - the mind, the body and the spirit. We do not have facilities there. What we have are tent frames and the people have to set up their own dwelling, their tents, and get spruce boughs to lay on the floor in order to sleep, and to provide themselves with food in the camp, they have to go out and hunt, using traditional skills of the Gwichin, and learn how to respect the earth as well as themselves.
This is the holistic kind of healing and this is the aboriginal way. We have been sharing this camp and the traditional way of healing with other communities. They come to Old Crow to learn from us and we in turn learn from them. This is a very positive exchange. We learn better methods of communication, the ways of our culture, the ways to express our feelings.
I can only trust that when the health program gets transferred to the Yukon, that this area will form a major part of our own health care program. We need a program that is built in the Yukon for the people of the Yukon.
There are some excellent services being offered; for example, the new Kaushees Place. This a very welcome and much needed place for this kind of help, but I know of people who have had to wait for months to see a counsellor. By the time there is room for them, their marriage, or whatever they needed counselling for, could be destroyed and have fallen apart. To commit yourself to getting some help is often a last and desperate act. People often wait until the last minute to seek assistance. It can be very frustrating and potentially damaging to realize that there is no one available to help out, because there are at least 30 people ahead of you.
I submit that if there are about 30 people waiting to see a counsellor, this indicates a very real and serious need for some attention to be paid to these areas. I would add to that, hand-in-hand with spiritual growth and healing, we must also have economic growth. It is hard to grow spiritually if your children are not being fed very well, or if you are in an abusive relationship; these things are inter-related.
We must also look at cultural growth as a major part of our healing process. This is our identity. This is who we are, and we need to recognize it and come face to face with it if we are going to have any success in our treatment.
I looked at the Arctic Winter Games. Certainly, people were interested and excited by the sports events, but it was the cultural events that strengthened the whole atmosphere. That was what people talked about when they left, and that is what they will remember.
With respect to the current decentralization plan, it would be nice to see in it some attention paid to attaining some economic stability in the communities. Everyone is waiting for the land claims to be settled but, in the meantime, there are some big problems occurring in our social development areas. There are major problems out there just waiting to break. The sexual abuse problem is just on the brink of letting loose. When it does, will we be ready for it? Do we have anything in place to catch these people when they fall? Although very important, land claims is not the only solution to improving our lives. The social development area must be a parallel process. Right now, one of our biggest concerns is our healing, and this must be understood and implemented right along side of the land claims process.
Just recently, I read with dismay the recent negative reports in the newspaper about my village. This created a great deal of tension in our community. I wonder if this reporter realizes that, as a result of her article, a lot of people started to get upset, and they had to call a public meeting to help sort out some of those problems. This kind of negative reporting causes dysfunction within the community. There have always been break-ins, and there has always been violence of some kind related to alcohol. This is not new but, when we open ourselves up to the outside world, we realize there are a lot of people who do not know or understand our laws and our way of doing things. It is the harsh environment that we live in. We have lived through ice ages, through fires, through great hardships, and we have survived. What does this reporter know about these things?
Where is the perspective - what the media calls fair and balanced reporting. Our elders tell me that they are now sleeping well at night. I am proud of my community and our peoples accomplishments. I see our young children looking healthy and playing happily. They sleep well now; they eat better and they are doing better at school. I am really proud of all of them. We have had one of the highest attendance records in the Yukon this past year. We have a wonderful new college campus that many people are using. We are taking our young people out to the flats to educate them in the old ways. We do all of this because our children are our future. We need them. But is this reported? No.
When I read something about Stephen Frost Sr. and Johnny Abel in the Whitehorse Star, I think of them as leaders. These men know a great deal about our land. They started the land claims process. They have a tremendous amount of experience and we value their knowledge. We are very stingy about these people. They are our elders and we respect them. What we want is for these people to live with us for a long time. We have so much to learn from them.
We are a quiet and respectful people. It hurts when someone comes to our community from the outside and talks about our people that way. We do not need people to come in from the outside to cause this kind of disruption any more. We need people to come to us with positive things. And, of course, in most areas we need financial resources. We need these funds to help keep our camps going.
There are some great resource people out there now. Our teachers and our nurses like it in Old Crow. They tell me how happy they are there. They chose to stay because they see positive things happening there and they are committed to sharing in the healing process. When I talk to people in the health station, they say how our young people are looking very healthy. They are also encouraged by the drastic decrease in the number of cases of alcohol-related problems.
We must look at how we treat our young offenders, as well, in our community. We want our children to stay with us, but if there is a problem, we must have the resources to be able to deal with it. We have the ability to do this ourselves. We used to send them out to treatment camps, but now there is no more room. There are six young men in Old Crow who are causing all this recent pain. We have no way to deal with this problem. We cannot send them out for treatment until the problem is solved.
There is a great deal of sports activity going on up there that is very positive for our people. The reporter was up there during the Abraham Peter Memorial Ski Race. Skiing has become a long tradition in Old Crow, basically starting with Father Mouchet. It is now a year-round activity with the summer training camps set up. We are also in the process of getting a skating rink. There are lots of good young hockey players coming along in Old Crow.
The North Yukon Eagles did really well in the recent Native Hockey Tournament. The government recently made a commitment to build a rink in Old Crow, and it was agreed upon. When the foundations were built and the guys got a chance to play on it, they realized that the rink was too small. There is only enough room to play three-on-three, which makes it impossible for a game. We would like to be able to host other teams to come to our community but, in order to do this, we need a bigger rink. I would like to make a strong recommendation that the Minister take another look at this.
I want to mention that the teachers are very happy in Old Crow about the local control that they have been given over education. This is working very well in our community, and there are lots of extra-curricular activities going on such as floor hockey and basketball, and this is good for everyone. As well, there are weekends out in the bush with the children and there are little children evenings for the pre-schoolers to come in and become aware of the education system before they start in the fall. Therefore, we were happy to hear that there will be no cut in the number of teachers in our community.
However, there are some problems with the building itself, and it is my hope that some of these problems can be addressed in the near future. The building is old and is in need of constant repair, and we would like to investigate the possibility of replacing it. The roof currently has 10 holes in it. Mr. Bertwyn counted them the other day. The snow is brushed off before it starts to melt so that the roof will not leak, but when it rains you cannot brush off the rain. It is actually serious, as the carpets and walls are being damaged in the process.
I would like to acknowledge the work done by one of our nurses who has been nursing in our community for a few years. She has grown very close to the people up there, especially the elders. They have come to develop a deep respect for her caring and concern for their health. She has gone out of her way to make sure that we are all well taken care of, and we are sad to see her and her husband go. We wish her all of the best and our prayers go with her.
Also, Constable Gary McLeod and his family are leaving, as well as our special constable Steven McLeod, who is a Gwichin and a relative of my family. We will miss these people and thank them for their work in our community during these past years.
In conclusion, I would like to comment on the work that has been done by this government in my community. Each and every Minister has done a great deal for our community. They have put out a great effort to bridge the communication gap between the communities and the Yukon territorial government. They have set up a dialogue that has had very positive results. Aboriginal people may be very quiet with that support because there is a lot going on in the aboriginal community right now, but I would like to say that we appreciate the work done by this government to make us feel comfortable at the negotiating table on the boards and committees, and it is our wish that this continues.
We have come a long way in the last few years, and there is still a great deal of work to be done. With land claims, we must now work very hard to implement the agreements that we have. This is going to be the hardest work of all the land claims process. I would like to encourage everyone to continue with this work, and to work toward creating and developing a better future for our children, so we can be proud to hand it over to them to pass on to their children.
Mr. Lang: Initially, I want to address an issue that has been affecting all Yukoners today, yet there has not been one mention of it today in this Legislature. I was listening with a great deal of interest to the presentation of the Member for Old Crow and I appreciate the fact that she outlined her wish list as an MLA for her community. However, I was quite surprised to note that neither the MLA for Old Crow nor the Government Leader, in his capacity of being in charge of the public trust of the Yukon Territory, ever mentioned once the question of the Tetlit Gwichin Indian land claim.
As we sit here, 16 elected MLAs today, the deed has been done where the sovereignty of Yukon has been violated and its territorial integrity has been grossly interfered with. I say that because at 12 oclock noon Yukon time, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development signed with the Tetlit Gwichin of the Northwest Territories its land claim, which included 600 square miles of Yukon - for the record, it should be noted that when I made that statement, the MLA for Old Crow pounded her desk in consent.
That flies in the face of a major debate we had in this Legislature less than a year ago in July of this past summer, where all the MLAs of this House were brought in for a one-day debate on the actions being taken by the Government of Canada with respect to the Yukon - and I should point out that the MLA for Old Crow voted for that motion that day.
The MLA for Old Crow says she did not vote against that claim, but she stood up and supported all Members of this House opposing the allocation of 600 miles of Yukon to a non-resident Indian band living in the Northwest Territories.
We were the lion that roared and today we are the mouse that whimpers.
In any other jurisdiction in Canada - in the province of British Columbia, in the province of Quebec - there would have been people standing up at the bulwarks condemning the Government of Canada for the action they are taking. And what do we have? Since July, we have seen and witnessed a government that has called the only special sitting of this Legislature in the past 20 years stand up on an issue. Since that time I cannot recall any public statements in respect to that issue, as far as the territory is concerned.
I want to say that I believe the Government of Canada is wrong. It is wrong in the fact that it is interfering with what is ours and it should have to be negotiating with the Government of Yukon and the people of the territory if it is going to be taking the land of the territory in any trans-boundary claims.
The implications of this particular decision is broad reaching as far as the territory is concerned. We have six to seven outstanding trans-boundary claims on the southeasterly border of the territory that are going to be affected by the precedent that has been set by the Government of Canada. Therefore, no longer in the settlement of Yukon Indian land claims are we talking about 16,000 square miles; we are talking about 16,000 plus.
I submit to all Members here today that the dream of responsible government for the territory - a long-term dream that it might be - to go toward provincial status, is all it is going to be. If all our land, or the bulk of our land, has been granted to either private hands or to parks, there will be no direct resource responsibility that will lie with the future province of Yukon and we will not be the master of our own destiny if we permit this to happen. When I say if we permit this to happen, we have permitted it to happen today.
This particular decision taken by the Government of Canada is the same decision that was taken by the Government of Canada back in 1978. The COPE land claim, which initially would have given 1,000 square miles of our Yukon in the Inuvialuit settlement, was not successful because the Government of Yukon stood up and said: that is wrong. What has happened here is that the Government of Yukon had a smoke-and-mirror presentation for the general public to say they were going to stand up to the Government of Canada, but since that time the Government of Yukon has not stood up to the Government of Canada and neither have they informed the public with respect to the implications of this particular claim and the precedent it sets for the Yukon.
I want to say for the record that I am really disappointed, as a long-time Yukoner and a long-time legislator, on behalf of the people of the Yukon.
I do not totally blame the Government of Canada for proceeding with the decision they have taken. Why would they not? The Government of Yukon has provided no opposition or public position of any kind with respect to that particular violation of our sovereignty.
As with so many other issues, I feel the Government of Yukon has divested itself of the public trust it was voted to carry, and they have chosen not to exercise it.
I am sure there will be further debate on this issue over the course of this session. Not all is lost. It still has to go through the Parliament of Canada. I hope that our Member of Parliament and the leader of the NDP will be prepared to take whatever steps, by herself and in caucus, in Parliament to block this agreement from becoming law until such a time as the real concerns of Yukoners have been addressed.
I hope that the Government of the Yukon will become much more prominent in its opposition to this act brought forward by the Government of Canada so that the people of Canada know what our position is and are prepared to support us in our bid for a fair and equitable settlement in that area of the Yukon.
I now want to turn to a number of issues in respect to the territory, and I want to begin by making some observations in a number of areas where I think the Government of Yukon has conducted itself in a manner acceptable to the general public.
First of all, I want to convey my heartfelt congratulations to the Government of the Yukon, the City of Whitehorse and other Yukon communities for the way the Arctic Winter Games were conducted. I had visitors from outside the Yukon staying with me, and they were very impressed with the City of Whitehorse and with the way the games were conducted. Overall, I think we can say that the Yukon contingent conducted itself well and that we, as Yukoners, can be very proud of both our athletic endeavours and our capabilities in hosting such a major event.
I would like to send some kudos to the Department of Highways. I have had the opportunity of taking a number of trips - one up the north highway to Haines, Alaska, and one recently to the communities of Dawson City, Mayo, Elsa and Keno - and I felt the roads were in excellent condition and very well maintained.
I have said that before, but I feel that where one sees a good job being done, it does not hurt to acknowledge that we are receiving value for our dollars with respect to some of our government programs.
Another area I would like to comment on is education. I am speaking now as a parent who had the opportunity of attending a briefing the other day at F.H. Collins High School for the purposes of the senior grades. Presented by the principal and staff at that meeting was an outline of what was available for our students in the grade 10 to 12 levels. It was very interesting to see the number of programs and alternatives that are now available to our young people. I think our staff, in particular the staff at F.H. Collins, should be given some credit in trying to develop some innovative programs to provide the alternatives for our young people. That is not to say that we do not have problems in the Department of Education - I will be speaking on those a little later - but the staff, particularly in the meeting I was at, deserve some credit.
Further to that, I want to say that mentioned in the throne speech was the question of endowment lands for Yukon College. I have had some preliminary discussions with the Minister of Education with respect to this kind of proposal, recognizing that the City of Whitehorse and other parties are obviously involved in such a decision. I feel it is a good idea, and it should be pursued and brought to a conclusion as soon as possible.
There is no question that the land surrounding the present Yukon College site should be considered a protected area in order that in years to come, whether it be 50 or 100 years, there is adequate area for expansion as our population grows.
The other area I want to comment on is the Alaska Highway transfer. I, for one, was very pleased to read the announcement that was made prior to coming into session. I know that we will have some questions about the terms and conditions over the course of the session. At the same time, I think it is long overdue that the Alaska Highway became the direct responsibility of the Government of Yukon. We will be expecting some answers from the Minister of Community and Transportation surrounding the question of the commitment of the dollars made by the Government of Canada. I would want to make sure that the Government of Yukon has committed all of those dollars to the upgrading of the Alaska Highway. What I mean by that - and I want to refresh Members memories - is that when we had the transfer of the Dempster Highway, the North Canol, the Cantung Road and a number of others, approximately $8 million was earmarked for capital construction. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that some of that money was used for other programs within the government, instead of the reconstruction and operation and maintenance of some of those roads.
The Minister says that does not happen all of the time; however, I do not think that any of that money should be used for anything but our highway system and the ongoing upgrading of our system because, as the Minister knows and as anyone who has been in this House any length of time knows, if that money is transferred into the operation and maintenance of other programs or the growth of other programs, we will never get it back. That is a fact. The Minister is shaking his head because he knows what kind of discussions go around the table during meetings of the subcommittee on finance and the decisions that have to be made with respect to preparing the budget.
I think I can speak for our side, and I am sure the Member for Riverdale North, who has been an advocate of this for many years, will want to speak on the anti-litter program that was mentioned in the Speech from the Throne. It is long overdue. The Minister of Renewable Resources knows that we have supported the idea of putting into effect an anti-litter program throughout the Yukon, as well as promoting the principle of recycling as best as we can within our limited resources.
I would like also to comment on one other program I feel is very beneficial and I have unequivocal support for. It is the program referred to as the teen parent program. That is the program for those young students who are, in many cases, unfortunately, unwed mothers. I think that that particular program is going to not only provide the necessary training for these young ladies, but is also going to pay dividends to society as a whole, due to the assistance we are providing these young girls who are in a situation often not of their own making. I feel this program should be fully supported and, if necessary, further resources granted for it.
The other area I can speak to that deserves credit is the program for senior citizens, where nurses are provided to go around to homes. I have had a number of very positive comments about the program and I would like to commend those working for the home care program for the work they are doing for our senior citizens.
I want to refer now to a number of areas I think the government can improve upon and that it should seriously consider. In many cases, I know my comments will fall upon idle ears. Perhaps when they have time, they will read Hansard when it is distributed tomorrow.
One area I noticed in the Speech from the Throne is that the government has indicated that the supply of land will exceed demand in this coming year. It is interesting to note that this is the fourth year that the government has announced it is going ahead with the Arkell subdivision for mobile homes. This year, Members of this House have voted for this land development for four years in a row. It is safe to say this is the fourth announcement to take credit for a program that never got off the ground.
I think that the government can take some responsibility, unfortunately, for the lack of affordable housing in this community because a development such as this has not been proceeded with. It is important to realize how such a development as this can affect people and their ability to find housing they are comfortable in that allows them a standard of living and, at the same time, allows them to be able to pay the monthly mortgage that is required.
It should be noted that, with todays announcement of this particular development, it still will not be ready until mid-summer, if not later. The Minister of Community and Transportation Services is fully aware of that. I think it is really unfortunate.
The Minister says it is not his fault, but he does bear responsibility. I recognize that there was some difference of opinion with the City of Whitehorse, but if he or his predecessor had taken it as a higher priority, those problems could have been ironed out much sooner than they were.
The land development issue is very important in the Yukon. Even outside of Whitehorse, there were 130 applicants for the three lots available for the lottery. What subdivisions do we have planned or are proceeding with outside the boundaries of Whitehorse?
Yet, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services will tell us everything is under control and there are no problems. I am here to submit to the Minister that there is a problem and that the problem is not only in Whitehorse.
On a continuous basis, generally in the main estimates, the Member for Hootalinqua has been raising the question of land in the rural communities. The ones that come to mind are Watson Lake and Dawson City and the lack of access to land and good lots that can be made available for young people to buy to either build upon or relocate mobile homes. In fact, there is a constituent of mine who is planning to go to Dawson City and, because of the lack of land and rental accommodation, will probably not be able to spend this coming summer season in that community.
A community is not built without having the adequate infrastructure in place. That is one of the basic weaknesses this government has had. In many cases they have not provided the infrastructure that should have been put in place so that we can proceed with development in our communities.
To touch on an area in the field of education, I hope that the Minister of Education, over the course of this session, will be able to make some observations or comments in respect of the recent study released concerning the high drop-out rate within our school body.
I recognize that the methodology of how those figures were determined can be questioned, and I view that report with that in mind, but it does not take away from the fact that we have quite a number of young people prepared to leave the school system prior to getting their grade 12 and, in fact, prior to getting their grade 10. We all know what the long-term ramifications of those kinds of decisions will have on our society as a whole and, in turn, the social programs that we provide as a government and just as importantly, the long-term ramifications to those individuals who have made such a decision.
I recognize that we are not going to prevent all students from leaving school - in some cases, perhaps it is best for an individual - but we are concerned that the drop-out rate is perhaps higher than it should be.
I am looking forward to hearing from the Minister of Education, who I am sure has had discussions with his departmental staff and others with respect to this very serious issue, what steps are going to be taken by the department and the various school councils to see what we can do to combat the very real problem that is affecting a number of our schools.
The other area I have a concern about is the question of future schools, particularly in the City of Whitehorse, and I understand as well, the City of Dawson. For example, Jeckell School, which is a grade 7 to 9 junior high school, is now filled to capacity and will presently have two more classrooms added.
We are experiencing an increase in student population in Whitehorse, specifically in the elementary grades. This is going to have very severe ramifications on accommodations for the junior high level and eventually the senior high level. I want to know the building plans proposed by the Department of Education for the next five years and what is going to be done to ensure that there is adequate accommodation for our students, at the same time recognizing that we should be keeping the number of students per school down to an acceptable level.
I think we should learn from what we have done at F.H. Collins. F.H. Collins is a big school in terms of Yukon numbers. The Minister of Education might argue that, having come from Ontario and perhaps attending a school of 1,000 to 1,800 students at one time or another. That does not necessarily mean it is right. If we can keep the numbers in our schools down, it will be much better for the students as well as for the community as a whole. This would promote and create competition between the various schools, such as we see at the elementary level. I think that is an area that the government should be looking at. We will be looking forward to seeing what plans they have to meet the very real demands that are going to made on the Department of Education.
I would like to turn to an area that is of concern to me and to Members on this side. I hope the Members opposite do not say, well, that is just the MLA for Porter Creek East talking and there is no substance in what he has to say, because I am conveying a message to the side opposite about the morale of the public service in the territory. There is an overall morale problem within the public service for a number of reasons.
The other day I had an opportunity to be on an open-line show with the Minister of Health and also the Member for Porter Creek West. One question that was raised and debated was the number of senior positions in the Government of Yukon and the fact that there were so many senior managers in the $80,000-plus range. I made the point at that time that I do not have any problems paying top managers a good wage, but the question is how much and how many top-manager positions do we need for this little government that is managing 30,000 people.
I made the point that you must go out beyond the realm of this building and talk to people who are, for example, tradespeople. Because of my background, I have many friends who are involved in the trades. They work 10 hours a day, six days a week and sometimes seven, depending on the job. In many cases, they must leave home in order to make a living because that is the lifestyle they have chosen to pursue. At the end of the year, they feel they have done very well if they have grossed in the neighborhood of $50,000. It concerns them - but do not shoot the messenger - when they see the number of political appointments in the senior levels of this government who are getting $80,000-plus annually.
Someone tried to turn the argument around by saying that I think the public service should not get paid. I believe the public service should be paid and paid well for the jobs they are doing. But I also make this point: as this government has grown, I notice we do not have a lot more truck driver positions or lower level positions within the civil service. Where we have grown is in these offices around here, in the top level of the bureaucracy. I say to the side opposite that they might have an argument if they say everything is being well-managed. But when one sits in here day after day and hears the issues that are being raised by all Members of this House and, I am sure, privately by some Members of the side opposite, one might ask whether or not we are getting our moneys worth. I would say that, in many cases, we are not.
That leads to my next area of concern about the senior management levels of this government. There is an increasing feeling among the civil service, both within and outside of Whitehorse, that if one is going to be promoted within this government, a political card is required. That violates everything within the Public Service Commission Act that was unanimously passed by this Legislature back in 1979 or 1980.
It infuriates me when I see these high-priced positions going to people who seem to have return bus tickets from provinces such as Saskatchewan and Manitoba and who are here for only a short time.
There was the deputy minister of the Executive Council office who was here for a couple of years, and where is he now with all the ideas and the social experiments? He is not here anymore, he is back in Saskatchewan.
We then have the principal secretary proposing a motion at the local New Democratic Party convention that what our organization could use is a symbol. We know he has a return bus ticket. He is not here for a long time, but for a short time and a good time. Just go through the track record. I gather the principal secretary is now in British Columbia with Mr. Harcourt.
I resent my tax dollars being used so directly and so openly for political purposes. I once again emphasize, do not shoot the messenger. You people had better get your ear to the ground and go out and talk to people in the street, because that message is out there and it is loud and clear.
This leads me to another area: political patronage on the boards and committees. I note that the Member for Riverdale South has presented a motion in respect to the appointments to these boards. If you will note, yesterday I presented a similar motion, more specific perhaps, but the principle is the same in respect to the fact that there should be a standing committee of this Legislature set up to review these appointments prior to their being made by the Executive Council. Why are we doing that? Because there has been an abuse of the system with respect to the appointment of people to these committees, councils and boards that are so important to the territory.
I do not have a problem with the side opposite appointing people who happen to be politically active within their organization. I want to emphasize that. In some cases, on some of the boards, councils and committees, I say that those who have been politically active have done a good job. But, overall, in most cases, in many of these appointments, they have forgotten that the one basic premise for these appointments is of competency.
The one that took the cake was the recent appointments to the Yukon Development Corporation. It not only represented the arrogance of this government and its disregard for the public, but also sent a loud and clear message that the government is there for the NDP and the NDP is there for the government, and that is where it ends.
Appointing not only the former principal secretary within weeks of her resignation from her job upstairs in this building but then appointing Mr. Hardy, the professional board-sitter, as a former NDP president, to the Yukon Development Corporation - the most important corporation of this government - says to the public: public be damned.
Is the side opposite telling us they could not find anyone else for these appointments? I know the public is not even aware that we are paying somebody who happens to be politically affiliated well over $40,000 a year to look at the boards, councils and committees to see if they can find people to appoint to them. We could not find anyone else, I guess. It just happened that Mr. Hardy and the former principal secretary walked through the door and said, we want the jobs. That really took the cake; that really took the cake. The public is not yet aware, but they will be made aware, of what these people are being paid: $100 a day, $400 a day, $600 a day. That is unacceptable.
It is on the public record, similar to yourself, Mr. Speaker. Check the record. I have nothing to be embarrassed about. If anybody is part time, the Minister of Justice is, in view of how she answers questions in the House. Part time? You are not here half of the time.
I refer to my honourable colleague, the Minister of Justice - talk about part time.
The point I am making here is that, as far as the political patronage that has been so rampant in the last number of years is concerned, I want to submit to the side opposite that they have not even considered tapping a resource we have in this territory for people who would be credible, people who would have the time and experience for many of these boards, such as the Yukon Development Corporation. I refer to our senior citizens: people who have committed themselves to the territory; people who have raised their families; people who have the time to spend on the deliberations of such important decision making in such a corporation. Why not? Why should we not be looking to these kinds of people instead of making sure that they are going to the right convention, the right time of year?
The other point I want to make is that the boards and councils and committees are created by this House, and we are actively delegating our authority to make decisions to these particular bodies. For the majority of these boards, councils, committees and corporations, there is no reason that Members of this House should not have the right to make some observations on these appointments. When the motion comes up for debate, I hope the side opposite will give it due consideration and not bring forward the impression that this is the only area in which the NDP has an interest. If they do, it is going to be to their long-term detriment.
Another area in the Speech from the Throne that I feel did not get the attention it deserved is the question of our major resource outside government - the mining industry and its future. The only mention was that we might be prepared to lend them money for infrastructure for the purpose of additional electrical power. I will have some further comments on that later.
There was no mention of the Yukon Mining Advisory Committees report to the federal Minister and its importance to the territory and its ramifications for the people of the territory. There was no comment on that - perhaps because the mining industry is a persona non grata here in the territory in so many ways now.
The Minister of Economic Development interjects not likely. He should go to Dawson City. I had the opportunity of being in Dawson City and I met with a number of placer miners, people who I would say are non-political, hard-working Canadians trying to contribute to the economy while going about their business. They feel the government really does not care whether or not their industry carries on. That is the rank and file I am talking about. I am not talking about the executive of the Klondike Placer Miners Association or the Yukon Chamber of Mines. I am talking, for an example, about one fellow who came to the meeting and said he gets so much paperwork and so little help from the government in regards to it. He said that all the government wants him to do is fill in more and more papers and he was at the point of not wanting to open his mail if it was in a brown envelope. It was to the stage now of the government wanting him to do things for them, not what the government could do for him.
The Member for Klondike is shaking his head, saying no. I am here - do not shoot the messenger - and I just came from Dawson; I did not put words in that particular individuals mouth, nor the individual who was with him who echoed it and who was just an acquaintance from another creek. I am here to say that that is the message that is being conveyed to us.
The MLA for Klondike is going to reply. Well, that will be the first time in this House that he made a speech on placer mining or anything to do with heavy industry except, of course, his unsuccessful attempt to pull the goldpanner from the licence plate. Yes, he does look embarrassed, and I would be embarrassed, too, because the record speaks for itself, as it does for his colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation, until there was a bolt of lightning and we found out the other day at the NDP convention that the goldpanner was now a sacred trust of the leader of the Government who, during the debate when they tried to remove it from the licence plate, was noticeably absent. He never got on the record once. So, one of two things happened during that debate over a three-week period. Either Hansard was gone that day or else maybe it was not a sacred trust at that time. Perhaps the same thing happened on those days that are happening now with the Government Leader.
It is interesting to note in the Speech from the Throne that the one promising, resource-based mine that we have on the horizon was never mentioned. I refer to Windy Craggy. I recognize that that particular project is not acceptable to certain people in the political party across from us, but that mine represents to the MLA from Kluane and to the community of the Yukon the prospect of 600 jobs.
To date, we have had over $50 million spent by the proponent of that particular mine and I am sure that the top executives of that particular organization must wonder why they ever spent a dollar, let alone that amount of money, considering the support that they have received from both the federal government and the Government of Yukon.
That mine is so important that it is even being discussed on the Senate floor in the United States of America, but do we raise it here? Oh, Mr. Speaker, we have a fringe group in our party that really does not want that to go ahead, so we cannot talk about that, but we will talk about financing hotels and all of the other things that are really going to create economic development in the territory. I ask the side opposite why it would not at least indicate in the Speech from the Throne that they see a benefit in such a project, as long as it can meet environmental standards. Why would it not be prepared to assist the proponent of a mine in trying to meet the environmental standards?
As the Member for Porter Creek West points out, they are prepared to help strip the Grum deposit. They make a big announcement about that, but the possibility of a major development in the territory that could provide a major cornerstone to our economy is just ignored. I want to say to the side opposite that I think both the Government Leader and the Minister of Economic Development have been delinquent in their duties in this particular area.
I feel that the side opposite can play a further role - maybe the MLA for Klondike and the Minister of Community and Transportation Services - with respect to opening some of these roads up even a little earlier than they have been.
For an example, in Dawson City they have to wait until April 1 to open the road across the river so that placer miners have access to and can get equipment into their claims. Why do we specifically have to wait until April 1? Individual miners have asked if they could get in two weeks earlier in order to get their fuel and everything else in prior to break-up. But no, it has to be April 1. With the warm winter we have had, there was even a question as to whether the ice bridge on the Top of the World Highway would still be in on April 1 so that there would be access to the five mining claims up there. I do not know how many actual companies were involved. I know that there were a number of them. They felt that there was really no point pursuing this issue too much because the government was not going to listen anyway. The fact is that we, the taxpayers, are spending the money anyway. It had to do with budgeting, because we had to fit in with the April 1 budget versus the one the year previous.
Another area where I feel that the government could and should have taken a much more active role, is in trying to promote exploration in the territory. We are in a very serious situation here. In 1987 we had a high of $88 million being spent in the Yukon. Communities such as Mayo, Ross River and other smaller communities were real beneficiaries of the exploration that was going on in the territory. That was in part because of the flow-through share program that was put in place by the Government of Canada. I recognize that there was some abuse of that program and subsequently, it was discontinued. I do not understand, for the life of me, why the Minister of Economic Development, in conjunction with his counterpart in the Northwest Territories, would not be pursuing some type of program of that nature that could be implemented for the north, especially in view of the trust relationship that the Government of Canada has for our resources.
Until we do something of this nature, I feel the $5 million is going to become less and less. The unfortunate aspect that we are experiencing here in the territory is not going to be felt until the long term.
To explain what I mean by that, let us take the mine in Watson Lake that was discovered 20 years ago. It took 20 years to develop it. Anything that was found and has potential today will conceivably take 20 to 30 years to develop to realize any direct benefits. Repercussions of the lack of innovation and the lack of incentive by the government in trying to become involved in this are going to be felt 20 years from now.
Yet, at the same time, it is very evident that nothing is happening in communities such as Mayo, Ross River, Burwash and all other outlying communities where exploration played a major part from a seasonal point of view. The Member for Mayo knows full well what I speak of, for example, when you visit a community such as Mayo and see where it is today because of the lack of mining interest.
The side opposite has to take some responsibility. I recognize in part that there is a responsibility with the Government of Canada, but if the side opposite is not conveying, pushing and promoting the message to the Government of Canada, why would the Government of Canada respond?
I want to turn to another area that was really evident by the fact that it was not even mentioned in the Speech from the Throne. That is the question of the notorious Yukon Development Corporation. It was seen to be such a major issue to the territory that the side opposite decided that they were not even going to mention it. Yet, during the last session, after a continuous barrage of questions, day after day, week after week, the Minister of Economic Development finally committed himself to a review of the mandate of the Yukon Development Corporation and committed himself to bringing it forward. It was not even mentioned in the Speech from the Throne.
I was pleased to see, during Question Period, that the Minister did indicate that the mandate review was done and would be presented in this House. We are going to be reviewing that mandate with a great deal of interest. I think that it is safe to say that the track record of the Yukon Development Corporation is less than what the general public expects, much less.
We are reaping the repercussions for the lack of direction to the Yukon Development Corporation. I referred to the political patronage that has gone on in that organization, but we are also reaping the effects of the lack of long-term planning and the electrical consumers are now feeling both the financial and environmental consequences of the governments lack of action.
When I refer to environmental effects, I remember that this is the government that talked about being off oil. Yet, we are informed that the Yukon Electrical Company has no choice but to spend hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars on replacement diesel generators, whether in Faro or elsewhere in the territory.
What plans to we have for alternate sources of energy? Well, the plan has been developed and exposed in the Speech from the Throne. We are going to divest ourself totally of the responsibility and make loan money available, up to 50 percent, to companies to provide their own power. That really ties into the grid. That is long-term thinking. Of course, one of the reasons for doing this, which they forget to tell people, is that it is under the Economic Development Agreement with the Government of Canada. It is a 70/30 agreement. The people from Ontario or Quebec can pay these loans. No big deal. What plan does the government have? They have no plan. They have a shell of an organization that is strictly government political hacks.
Where are we with the Mayo-Dawson City transmission line? That is the infamous line we got to Henderson Corner with under the guise it would be able to provide electricity from Mayo to Dawson City. Lo and behold, we found out and confirmed in the last session that the line could never carry the power from Mayo. It is the wrong type of line and is not acceptable for the transportation of power from the Mayo dam.
That is long-term planning. We invested $3.5 million in that particular dam before the last election - almost four years ago - to do a major renovation and to increase the amount of power available from that site. We all concurred. I had no problem with that; I felt it was a good investment. Since that time, we have had the Elsa mine close. We have had kilowatts of power just spilling over that dam and nobody utilizing it. At the same time, we are replacing diesel generators throughout the territory.
My question is: why? Where has the Yukon Development Corporation been? Where has the Yukon Energy Corporation been? With the direct political involvement that the side opposite has had in the Yukon Development Corporation, we sure have gone through the presidents of the Yukon Development Corporation. We have been good at that. That is not a position that one would suggest would have a lot of permanency. How many presidents have been in that position, four or five in six years? It is similar to the principal secretary position upstairs. Longevity is not the strong suit in those particular positions.
We are going to have questions about the Mayo dam and why the power generated by that dam is not being used to the best benefit of the territory. We are going to want to see the economics of how it would tie into the major grid or be used in a transmission line to Dawson City. Quite frankly, I think that the government should be looking at an alternative there, perhaps a small hydro or something else for the Mayo area. Obviously, they have to get off of the diesel that they are presently using.
The issue of energy keeps coming back, and I think the government has to answer for it again. I hate to bring these issues up, and I recognize that I am probably going to be seen as being disobedient by the man who would be king. I want ask about Aishihik Lake. Nobody wants to talk about Aishihik Lake and the fact that the draw-down level is going to be so low that it is going to have a very detrimental effect not only on the lake, but on the surrounding area. Long-term planning? Oh, we will give a contract to those who are concerned and hope they will not say anything. We will give them a couple of hundred thousand dollars and they can do a study. The fact is, there is a real environmental problem there. I recognize that it would not get the print that the Minister responsible for the Environment Act received when he was presenting his legislation, but it would be doing something real to look at the problems faced by that particular area of the Yukon. But that does not make good ink; that does not make good press.
The MLA for Old Crow talked about negative press and how negative everyone has been and that they are not agreeing with her today and maybe these reporters should go home and not phone her own community.
There is a real problem in Aishihik and we are going to want to know what the government is going to do about that through their political patronage appointments to the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation. We want to know, and the public wants to know. The long-term effect on the territory is very significant, as far as that particular site is concerned.
The other point I want to make is that we will be very interested to see what the Yukon Public Utilities Board is going to be doing over the course of the next year. We will also be very interested in the capabilities and qualifications of future appointments to that particular board. That is key to the long-term development of the territory, as well as to what we pay, as consumers, on a day-to-day basis.
I want to say to the side opposite that I can speak for my constituents - I do not know about others - and they certainly have noticed a major increase in their electrical bills. They are not happy about it. They do not feel, and rightfully so, that through their electrical rates they should pay for the absolute bungling that took place on the Watson Lake sawmill. Now we are getting into the hotel business, and I am here to say and convey the message to the side opposite that there are a lot of thinking people out there who are getting tired of the crass politics taking place, as opposed to the businesslike manner in which this particular corporation should be conducted. It is not being done. It is being used as a pork barrel. We know it and everybody else knows it.
Another area of concern is the question of the municipalities. The government has talked about a balanced budget and how they have not had to increase taxes because they have been such good managers. Let us get on the record once and for all that the reason the Government of Yukon has not had to increase taxes is because of the inheritance we receive from the Government of Canada. Out of a $420 million budget we get transfers, direct and indirect, of approximately $350 million plus. I cannot accept the premise continually put forward by the front bench that the reason they have a balanced budget is because of good management. However, I will say this: they have been very politically astute in that they have managed, in some cases, to transfer the responsibility of raising taxes to the municipalities. For example, in Dawson City they are facing astronomical increases in their water and sewer bills because of the way the government has taken away the block funding.
The side opposite will say, we have an increase in block funding. That is not going to fly at all. If one gets into the figures and starts analyzing them, that is not right. It is smoke and mirrors.
The other issue I want to raise along with the environmental problems such as Aishihik - which is a very real problem - is the question the City of Whitehorse is facing. The big boys up here - the men who would be king - all of a sudden are standing up and saying to the City of Whitehorse, we will give you x amount of dollars and you have to raise the balance. I do not mind having a cost-shared arrangement, but the side opposite has forgotten why they got the $360 million from the Government of Canada.
It was initially negotiated in 1985. It was there to provide finances by this government so that they could, in conjunction with organizations such as municipalities, provide infrastructure. It seems kind of funny that all of a sudden the rules have changed for the City of Whitehorse, where we are expected to put up as high as 50 percent, but the communities of Mayo or Haines Junction go on a 90:10 percent split.
This is so that they can have the extra money to make wise investments like the Watson Lake sawmill or hire more people from outside for top management to tell us how to live, or $100,000 education leave. It will be interesting to see what his marks are. For $100,000 he had better be an honour student.
I want to raise another issue that is very fundamental. We have a government that continues to slap itself on the back and talk about how they consult with everyone and try to cooperate with everyone. That is not reality. I speak once again of the municipalities. One can look at the City of Whitehorse and how the Government of Yukon continues to interfere in its affairs, especially if it happens to affect the Member for Whitehorse Wests riding.
We talked about land development in the McLean Lake area. The Minister of Community and Transportation Services sits there and tells us we have lots of land available. What happened to that? Has there been a decision on that? Has the man who would be king decided that perhaps the City of Whitehorse should be able to make its own decisions with respect to how it develops its land? Did you get your instructions on what you are supposed to do in the area of Whitehorse West?
What about the consultation on the hazardous waste site? There was $300,000 spent reviewing what should be put into place and where. Recommendations were made, but it did not meet the standard of the man who would be king as to where it should be so he gave the Minister of Community and Transportation Services his walking papers.
The Minister must be getting awful tired of getting his orders from the Government Leader, who, of course, is never there when there is a controversy. The Minister gets thrown to the wolves and on the front pages. He is too honourable to say: my colleague, the Member for Whitehorse West, gave me my marching orders and I had to do it.
While we are talking about consultation, let us talk about the Wildlife Management Advisory Board. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have gone into the question of predator control - a very deep, wrenching decision made by a responsible group of people who spent a lot of time and effort in consultation, especially in the area of Kluane, about what should be done to balance the situation faced by the caribou herd in the Aishihik Lake area. Recommendations were made at a great deal of expense and after a great deal of thought and what happened? It did not meet what the government wanted. Consultation did not work that time. They had to hand pick another committee. They appointed another committee and this time they did not have a chairperson. Instead, they got a facilitator. A facilitator. It would be very interesting to see what kind of position that is and how much a facilitator costs. Now they are not going to make decisions; they are going to facilitate. Of course, that allowed the side opposite to do a number of things. It allowed them to avoid the issue, but the unfortunate thing is that the ability of that caribou herd to recover - and this comes from the biologists - is going to be very much in question in view of the fact that we lost this period of time in dealing with a very real problem.
Let us deal with another issue called consultation. Let us go to the notorious Employment Standards Act where the Minister of Justice appeared at a public meeting and said she really did not want to hear what people had to say and that public meetings were kind of a waste of time. There was a lot of time and effort put into the Employment Standards Act by various individuals and what happened? They did not like what came out of that so what did they do? Well, they had another council they could send it to. The Council on the Economy and the Environment has now become the Council on the Employment Standards Act. Of course, the chairperson was a very close friend of the side opposite. He took his marching orders and said, We will have these meetings.
The former press secretary to the Government Leader got his marching orders and will spend 10 days in which he will receive about $100 to $300 a day - whatever these people are paid - going over the Employment Standards Act, hoping to get a consensus that will meet what the government wants to hear. This is called consultation.
People are seeing through this so-called consultation. A meeting was held in my riding, which unfortunately I did not attend because I was ill. I know that the Member for Porter Creek West attended the meeting as well as a few other constituents. This meeting was with the Government Leader consulting about the land claims. He was prepared to tell the people about what was going to be in the land claims document. When it came to my attention that such a meeting was going to be held, I phoned a number of people in my riding about attending. Do you know what the response was? My constituents said there was no point going to that meeting because the Government Leader will just brow beat you and if you dare or beg to disagree with him, you will be seen as being disobedient, or he will turn it into a racial question instead of answering the very legitimate questions that the public has.
We talk about consultation; we talk about making ourselves available to the public, but the impression that is being left with the public is that there is no point in going to these meetings because they have their minds made up anyway. That has been demonstrated, as I pointed out, through these councils and committees that have been struck over this past year. If it does not meet with what the front bench wants, or with what the man who would be king wants, then there is no point.
I should point out that I do have a concern, and that concern is about the right of the public to debate issues. I hearken back to a year ago when there was a major controversy with the Chamber of Commerce and the then-president. The Government Leader did not listen to the message that was being conveyed by the Chamber of Commerce at that time. Instead, he made a personal attack on the president, who was someone who volunteered his time, was not being paid and who was trying to provide a service to the general public by bringing forward a point of view. I do not have a problem with someone from the side opposite, the Government Leader in particular, disagreeing with some of the issues or the principles that are being espoused by the president of the Chamber of Commerce or anyone else. I do, however, resent the personal attack. I say that and I want to convey that message again. Recently, an individual who has spent time and effort and is very knowledgeable on the subject of employment standards and how they could adversely affect small business received a personal attack.
And then we hear what emanates from the political convention of the party opposite. We do not really care anyway, they are not our supporters. They are not going to support the side opposite, obviously, if they take that attitude.
I also want to express my disappointment in the results of the health transfer and where it is at. I notice the Speech from the Throne mentioned the health transfer, but it is delayed now until the fall. They are hoping for a fall due date. We will have some questions with respect to the negotiations and the implications to the territory, but I also want to express my extreme disappointment that there has not been any clear delineation of increased services for a community such as Dawson City. For years, Dawson City has been requesting an update of its hospital so that they can provide a better service, primarily in the area of nursing, in conjunction with their doctors and nothing has been done, to my knowledge. The Minister of Health has just indicated that it is in the second stage. Well, I would like to hear about the final stage because the people in Dawson City are tired of the first, second and third stages. I can tell you this: they are getting awfully tired of studies.
What is the answer to the problems in Dawson City? We had a study done two years ago and we are getting another study done through the auspices, I gather, of the Dawson City Indian Band. As if they have not got enough things to do, now they are in charge of a health study and will have to take responsibility for that, and I am told that it is going to require negotiations at the land claims table. The people in Dawson City are going to be very happy to hear, native and non-native, that their health care is being negotiated at the land claims table.
Another area that I would like to touch on is the question of tourism. I think this year that the government is right: we will be experiencing an increase from the last year, perhaps not to the extent that we had back in 1986-87.
The point that I want to make is that I want to again raise the question of Kluane National Park. I really feel that we have been delinquent in our responsibilities in the review of the master plan for that area, to acquiesce to the Government of Canada and see such a limited development being promoted for that particular area, when you see what is happening in Alaska. I am not necessarily saying that we should be promoting it to the extent of Mt. McKinley Park, but I do think that there could be a secondary industry, other than government, for the north highway if we promoted our park properly. I think to some degree the Government of Yukon has to take some responsibility, especially, the Minister of Renewable Resources and the Minister of Tourism, who has taken the position, contrary to the views of the MLA for Kluane, almost saying that there should not be any development in the park. I think that is a tragedy and it is too bad. I hate to say this, but if there has to be an NDP government, the previous Minister of Tourism, Mr. Porter, should be here to handle that particular issue. At least Mr. Porter saw a need for further development.
I think that when the Minister of Tourism, the MLA for Klondike, goes up the north highway, he should let the people on the north highway know full well what his position is as far as development of the park is concerned. The people of the north highway are going to see very limited development in view of the master plan that has been developed and accepted thus far.
There is another issue that I would like to comment on and that is the question of the land claim. I notice its prominence in the Speech from the Throne and I notice that the Government Leader is indicating that legislation will be coming forward to this House. We want to make it very clear that legislation of this kind should not be rushed through the Legislature. We feel that it is going to need a lot of deliberation and examination, and should be seriously scrutinized by all Members of the House prior to its passage. I want to make it very clear that we will be expecting to have adequate time - and lots of time - as much time as any particular Member of this House wants, to review the implications of what the government is asking us to agree to. We will be evaluating that legislation from two points of view: one, what is a workable document as far as the territory as a whole is concerned, not only within the native community, but in the community of Yukon; and two, the implications it holds for the territory.
Also, we will be reviewing it from the point of view of the rights of the individual to ensure that all Yukoners - native and non-native - fundamental rights are adequately protected under any legislation that is considered and passed by this House.
I just want to refer to one other area that was referred to in the Speech from the Throne, one that I doubt will pass unnoticed. It is so symbolic of the government in so many ways. I want to refer to the new visitor reception centre the government is so proud of. It is the one the Minister of Tourism is looking at opening so proudly this coming spring. It is the one that represents the Yukon so well - the beluga at the top of the hill. It is so symbolic of the Yukon. I guess the beluga whale is imported from the Northwest Territories. It is so symbolic in so many ways of how this government has conducted business over the last number of years. We have a visitor reception centre that is representative of some other part of the country. I will give the Minister his due. His intentions were honorable, as was the objective. It was just done so poorly.
The Minister is shaking his head. He does not read the newspapers. Do the Members opposite talk to anyone outside the House other than their spouse to get some feedback from the territory? The message I am conveying to the Members opposite appears to be brand new to them. Surely it is not. I am bringing to this House ideas, thoughts and suggestions that have been brought forward by constituents of mine and of other Members, such as the Member for Klondike. I am conveying these messages to the government.
Let me get back to that very symbolic visitor reception centre, and I will conclude my comments with it. Here is a project that was started with an initial estimate of $1 million. I recall the debate on that subject. I rose in this House a number of times to recommend to the Minister that he see if the Transportation Museum facility could be expanded. The visitor reception centre could have been put in there and the Transportation Museum Association could have been contracted to provide the visitor reception services to the travelling public.
I also recall during that debate saying to the Minister opposite that it would free up, say, $1 million or three-quarters of a million dollars that could be spent somewhere else on a worthwhile project - maybe in Dawson City for an alternative hydro site. I recall that debate very vividly, but of course any suggestion brought by this side has no validity to start with, so they had to ignore it and it was totally disregarded. The Minister went ahead with his million dollar project for the City of Whitehorse.
Now, lo and behold, we find that the Minister, in his good intentions, has chosen a site not only far enough away from the Transport Museum that one has to drive there, but also that the site is a bog, a swamp. That was so symbolic of the planning and the long-term consequences of the Year 2000 process.
So now we have the visitors reception centre in the swamp and then, of course, all of a sudden we have some political problems. We have made all these commitments in the House and to the public of the territory, who have to remedy it. Of course, we have to go to the treasury - the treasury being provided by the people of Canada, the $350-odd million that my colleague from Klondike and his other cohorts have the legal authority to, at some times, squander.
It is so symbolic. We went from $1 million and we are now at $3.2 million on a project that is the joke in many quarters in this community, believe me. Once again, I am just the messenger; I realize it is seen as disobedience for anyone on the side opposite to disagree, especially the MLA for Old Crow. I have not been inside this particular structure, but it is my understanding that the travelling public, if they have to use a public washroom, are going to come to the ultimate and the finest in lavatories - prior, of course, to getting past the fountain to find out where downtown Whitehorse and communities of Dawson City and Haines Junction are.
It is symbolic. When one thinks about the good management the side opposite has provided to the people of the territory over these past number of years - when one thinks of the Watson Lake sawmill - why would we not have a beluga whale at the top of the Two Mile Hill? Why not?
Of course, the other interesting side of this that everyone forgets is that the reason it is not right at the top of the Two-Mile Hill is that the group opposite, which was planning for the year 2000, decided they would put a postal warehouse there as a landmark to the Yukon and its capital. That was a smart decision. I remember when the side opposite was having a lot of fun going after the post office and its management. At the same time, I remember my dear colleague, Mr. Kimmerly, who loved to bring forward social experiments and all these ideas. Of course, Mr. Kimmerly has left. Indirectly, behind closed doors, they were selling this land to the post office. Those tough negotiations - I remember that issue.
We have the beluga whale over by the airport. I think the side opposite should be very proud of their accomplishment. First of all, of course, they spent $3.2 million of someone elses money. My colleague, the Member for Riverdale North says, They are not going to remember them for that. I am here to tell you that they will. I hope that this monument, similar to the Elsa curling rink, will be called the Webster Memorial. When we see that flap up on top of the beluga whale, I say to the Minister of Tourism responsible for this beached whale that I support the inclusion of his picture for time immemorial. I think not only the people of the Yukon should have the right to know who is directly responsible for this, but also every visitor who has the opportunity to, of course, first use the lavatories and then try to find the reception centre. Where should the Minister put that flap? I say to put it in the most well-used place. I leave that to the Minister of Tourisms imagination.
As you can see, there are many issues out there in the territory. They are issues that, in some cases, the side opposite has addressed, as I initially pointed out, but there are many more that have not been. If they have, in many cases the premises and the manner in which they have been handled have left a lot to be desired.
I believe the side opposite has forgotten what the mandate of an elected government is. An elected government is not only to service their own political aspirations but, more importantly, it is to manage the business of government in an acceptable manner, and by that I mean, in part, in a business-like manner.
That is why I have chosen to conclude my comments by describing the latest project undertaken by the side opposite. I think it represents, unfortunately, in many ways, perhaps the good intention of the side opposite, but when it came to the practical terms of putting it into place, it was very poorly managed. Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I, too, would like to enter the debate on the throne speech. I would like to acknowledge the several compliments that were presented by the previous speaker in his opening remarks before he began his list of contradictions, exaggerations and double speak.
In reference to his closing comments, I think the Leader of the Official Opposition has truly beached his canoe and given us a whale of a tale.
I, too, was quite pleased with the Arctic Winter Games. I think the hosting was superbly organized. I think that the volunteers, the athletes and the cultural participants are all to be complimented for their outstanding contribution to making the games most successful.
From a more economic point of view, the exposure that the Yukon got on national and international media is going to pay substantial dividends down the road in tourism dollars. I know that from personal experience in communications with people elsewhere in the country and from across our international borders.
I am also pleased about the Alaska Highway deal. Members can be assured that we are going to be very responsible managers of the highway system. It gives me particular pleasure that we were able to conclude those negotiations quite successfully, with substantial dollars, so that we can provide a more adequate level of maintenance and engage in a reconstruction program for the entire highway.
It is necessary to dispel some of the gloom and doom and the exaggeration that was put forward by the Leader of the Official Opposition. I think one of the most exaggerated of statements is the Members assertion that patronage is the order of the day and there is no fairness in board and committee appointments or in the public service.
I think the Member forgets that it is this government that wrote the rule book on public consultation and has encouraged a public service that is more representative of the public that it serves.
And as for, more specifically, boards and committees, I think that this government has established the kind of balance on boards and committees that has never before been witnessed in the Yukon. Members opposite never dreamt of something like gender parity on boards. Members opposite, when they were in office, never even contemplated a balance of urban and rural representation on boards and committees. I think that their track record of female members on boards was probably less than 10 percent and ours is closer to the magnitude of 50 percent. That is something that we stand very proudly to tell all Yukon people: our boards and committees are truly representative of the people their decisions involve. They represent a balance of interests and a balance of urban and rural people. They represent a balance of women and men, and that is something that only came about in the last five or six years.
The Member who just spoke expressed his outrage about this governments position, or lack of position, surrounding the Tetlit Gwichin claim. Let us be reminded of the facts. The decision was arbitrarily made by the federal government against the wishes of this government and against the outspoken, firm position of this government as well as the outspoken position of the Yukon people, and the Member would suggest that he could hardly blame the feds for that decision.
We protested vehemently the lack of consultation surrounding that issue. We have expressed our serious concerns about block land transfers to extra-territorial claim groups. We were firm. Our position was clear, but in the end our position was ignored and it became a federal decision.
Among the many issues raised by the previous speaker, there was a suggestion of municipal interference. I can only shake my head. This is the Member who insisted that every little capital project at every community of the Yukon had to cross his desk before being approved. This is the Member who absolutely denied any measure of devolution of authority or responsibility to communities. This is the government that has given those communities, those municipalities, not just the responsibility to make decisions for themselves but gave them adequate funding to carry out those decisions. That devolution process began with my predecessor and has virtually come to a conclusion now with comprehensive block funding and a new Municipal Act.
That is not municipal interference. The Member, during his term in office as the Minister responsible for municipal matters, interfered in every decision. That is double-speak; one cannot have it both ways.
The Member, among his many outrageous statements, again alluded to the suggestion that somehow energy consumers are now paying for what occurred in Watson Lake. In spite of having debated this umpteen times, at least during the period I have had responsibility for the corporation, we clarified the facts again. The funding for the sawmill was entirely legitimate and appropriately provided, and it has no effect on power rates either then or now, and it will not in the future.
We have debated the issue ad nauseum. We have had the Public Accounts Committee religiously investigate the entire issue. A report was tabled in this House and, except for the Members who were on the Committee, I suspect it has hardly been looked at. The fact is that all utilities that are regulated - and ours are - whether they are Crown or investor owned, such as Yukon Electric, have the ability to pay dividends to their investors on an annual basis.
Yes, there were dividends issued in 1988-89, entirely legitimate, entirely appropriate. Yes, the board of directors took a decision to invest those funds in projects around the territory including the Watson Lake sawmill. It is unfortunate that the sawmill project did not work out the way it should have. Again, that whole issue was thoroughly reviewed by the Public Accounts Committee. It has been reported to this House, but the fact remains that the community of Watson Lake, at the time, was facing an economic crisis and there were people who viewed the sawmill project as a means to provide employment and help restore some stability to that community.
Look at Watson Lake today. One could easily argue that, in the absence of some assistance during that period, Watson Lake would not be in a position to handle the economic success it is currently enjoying, coming primarily from the Sa Dena Hes mine.
During his remarks, and I believe it came up during Question Period today, the Member suggested that somehow rates are affected by this expenditure. That is entirely inaccurate. If we examine the facts, we find that the actual cost of energy today to consumers is, in real dollars, lower than what it was when we took over the corporation from NCPC. In real dollars, your cost per kilowatt hour is less today. In terms of dollars, it has clearly gone up, but so has inflation gone up: in excess of 20 percent.
I can be assured that the Members opposite are not listening. They keep spitting out the same tired old arguments, tired old lines and the same tired old issues in every speech they present before the House.
The gloom and doom we just heard from the Member about how bad things are in the Yukon has another side to it. There is no question there are some difficult economic times in some sectors of the economy and that some people are facing some similarly difficult times. In the rest of the country, it is much worse. In comparison, in the Yukon, we are relatively stable. We have growth at a time when the rest of the country is reeling from the recession. We have a history in the Yukon that is characterized by ups and downs. Often those boom/bust cycles are governed by events that are occurring outside our jurisdiction, whether they are due to the money markets, metal prices or the international marketplace. Yet, we have withstood one of the most severe recessions in our history relatively unscathed. Why? What has permitted the Yukon to demonstrate growth and stability when the rest of the country is in recession? The short answer is that our efforts over the past six or seven years toward stimulating, developing and diversifying our economy are paying off. That is the short answer. Those are the facts.
When we examine what has kept us relatively stable, we have to go back to the consultations this government undertook under the Yukon 2000 process, when we developed the Yukon Economic Strategy. That was in excess of a two-year process where hundreds of people were involved in the discussions, debates, seminars, weekend meetings, public meetings and closed group sessions about how to approach our economic health. We noted the importance of that process in our Speech from the Throne. We noted the importance of our economic strategy as a blueprint for what is guiding our decision making in our efforts toward the development of our territorial economy.
Members will recall the four principal goals that came out of that discussion, which are documented in the strategy and are still part of our decision-making process. People told us very clearly that they wanted to see an improvement and stability in our economy. They wanted to see less fluctuation in the level of economic activity in comparison to what we have seen in the past. They wanted out of the boom-bust cycles. They simply did not want to have to get up and leave the Yukon when times got rough.
Here we have today a situation where times are rough, especially in the rest of the country. In the Yukon, we have growth. At the same time, people said to us that they wanted more control over the developments that occurred in the territory. They wanted to be consulted; they wanted to have input into decision-making; and they wanted that all of the time, not just once in four years, which was the custom. We wrote the rule book on consultation.
People also emphatically made their position known about wanting to ensure that development we undertook was socially responsible and environmentally conscious, and they wanted to see more equal opportunity in economic development. Those were the four principal objectives, if you will, given to us by people who have since guided our economic decisions.
Now, the Yukon is not an easy place to do business. I would be the first to admit that reality. Like most places in the north, we have a lot of constraints facing us in economic development; we have a lot of impediments. It is hard to find capital for investment in the Yukon. We do not have easy access to capital. We are relatively isolated from the rest of the country and most of the world. That poses a whole host of problems, the Alaska Highway being not the least of them. We have high production costs any time we are going to engage ourselves in any form of manufacturing or production and, clearly, our transportation costs are some of the highest in the country. It just makes developing an economy very difficult but, despite these impediments, these handicaps, these difficulties that we have to overcome, we have had a significant measure of success in the last few years.
If you look at some of the actual economic indicators that provide a barometer of how we are doing economically, they tell a rather fascinating story. We have one of the fastest growing economies in the country. Our gross domestic product, which is the value of our goods and services, is hitting $1 billion dollars today, up from less than $400 million six years ago. That is two and one-half times what it was, in only six years.
When we take a look at the increase in the number of jobs, there are more than 3,000 jobs that are new to this economy since 1985. Most of those jobs are in the private sector.
As much as the Member would have us believe that there is all this unrest in the public service and all of this massive growth, the fact is that the proportion of growth to the Yukon Government has not exceeded the growth in the private sector. When we look back in history at the largest period of growth in the public sector, it was during the period of the late 1970s, at a time when Members opposite were in charge. That was the period of the fastest growth in the public service in the known history of the Yukon government. I think I have advised Members of this fact before.
In 1991, we actually had a decline from the year previous in the number of bankruptcies that were reported in the Yukon. In fact, bankruptcies in the Yukon in 1991 fell from the year previous by more than 50 percent. In the rest of the country they increased by over 20 percent. I think those healthy signs of our economy are the direct result of some of the work that has gone on by this government to assist the private sector in building a healthy economy.
It is a well-known fact that there were only two mines opened up in Canada last year - one of them was Sa Dena Hes at Watson Lake and the other one was in Nova Scotia. This year, 1992, those are indicators of an economy that has some health to it, that has an investment climate surrounding it, and is drawing people to ensure that economy continues. At the same time, during the period since 1985, we have had what amounts to a massive population growth. Our population is about 5,000 people more today than in late 1985/early 1986. Five thousand people may not seem like many and, in general terms, it is not; but in a jurisdiction like the Yukon, where the population is only 30,000, it represents a 20 percent increase. If one puts a 20 percent population increase into any other region, jurisdiction or city in the rest of the country, one would have some severe problems. Yet we have managed to accommodate it with relative ease.
Our unemployment has remained stable in spite of the increase in our workforce; the number of jobs has increased; our population has increased, and we have been able to meet those growth demands within our infrastructure and our services with barely a ripple.
The Member talked about land development, and he makes a valid point that there appears to be a rush on lots, certainly in Whitehorse in this current year. It is interesting to note that, for the 40 lots we just released in Granger a couple of months ago, there were well over 100 applications, as the Member correctly noted. That did give us rise to concern, and we moved quickly to ensure that we had enough lots for the potential building people may want to do this year. As a result, we are going to be releasing an additional block of lots some time near mid-May.
Additionally, we are going to bring the new mobile home lots in Arkell on stream. The interesting thing about those 40 lots, for which there were well over 100 applications, is that by the time we reached our last agreement for sale - that is, by the time we reached the sale agreement for the 40th lot - we had to speak to the 80th person. In other words, 40 people fell away from wanting their lots when it came to the actual agreement for sale.
The other interesting statistic is that there were something like 14 specific lots for which there were just under 100 applications. In other words, there was a high demand on a handful of lots and much less interest on the rest. I do not know how you would totally interpret this, but it does tell me that the demand that was perceived in February when we put these lots up for sale may not have really been there, but we are going to find that out when we release the next batch.
We have well over, I think it is, close to 150 lots that will be coming on stream within the next couple of months. We are certainly anticipating meeting any demand that may be there.
Nevertheless, during this period of high growth, the simple fact that we have been able to meet the demands of that growth, at a time when we have been able to maintain employment levels when actually the work force is increasing by some 3000 people, does speak quite strongly of the health of the economy. I do not think that there is a jurisdiction in the country that can match the economic record of this jurisdiction. I sincerely believe that the record of our economy has a lot to do with the carefully crafted support programs that have been put in place for entrepreneurs, for Yukon communities and for interested businesses at a time when there is a reducing resource of dollars. I think that it has a lot to do with the close-working relationship that we have been able to develop with the investment community, with the business community, with communities and community groups, and it is showing signs of paying off.
I think that in any kind of economic development, whether you are strengthening the existing businesses or building new, diversified economies, there is clearly a need for government to help shoulder the risk that is involved, particularly with new and innovative enterprises. New businesses do not spring up overnight without a lot of planning, market analysis and assessments of all the risks involved. During that Yukon 2000 process, we got a clear message from people that there was a need for more venture capital support to reduce the kind of risks that are necessary when you are looking at diversifying an economy with new and innovative ventures.
My predecessor in the Department of Economic Development consolidated the loans into the business development fund. That has been a major tool that many entrepreneurs and businesses have taken advantage of. At the same time, we have had lengthy negotiations surrounding the EDA. As Members know, we were able to put in place the umbrella agreement over a year ago. Since that time, we have signed off the six subagreements under the EDA, which introduced new elements of support to different sectors of the economy and to different stages of economic development in those sectors.
It comes to mind that Polar Sea Fisheries was originally funded under the business development fund and under a previous EDA. The Sidrock quarry operation received support from both of those programs and, as was noted in the Speech from the Throne, it is producing manufactured rock and has established an export market. At the same time, those programs have helped many of the existing businesses and operations, whether they are involved directly in a diversification or an expansion. A number of hotels around the communities and in Whitehorse have picked up assistance from those funds. Old Crow Industries received funding for a barite mill. Northerm received funding assistance to build and develop a very successful window manufacturing business that is operating in Whitehorse now. Those funds have also helped Northern Analytical Labs, which is now providing a very valuable assay service to the mining industry.
The list goes on. It extends into tourism. For example, Rainbow Tours received funding to market their product.
Sha-Tan Tours was funded to assist in their promotion of the tourism experience and the outfitters association has also received funding. I could go on for a long time over the amount of assistance that specific businesses and economic interests have received. I guess the point should also be made that it is not just direct funding to these businesses that has made the economy work better. There is a lot more in the strategy to encourage a healthy economy than just giving money to someone. Clearly, because we have tried to broaden our Yukon base through diversification, there is a necessity to encourage that to happen. Diversification into new sectors is only going to work if those new activities eventually can become self sustaining. We have taken major initiatives in support to those new sectors, but eventually, they must stand on their own. At the same time, we have provided considerable support to existing businesses, many of which I have mentioned.
One of the things that became very evident to us as we spent time developing programs, both through our own department and with the federal government under the EDA, was the need to provide for support that would provide the ability for any business to adapt to changing circumstances. That is another area of success that we can compliment the efforts on. The more responsive our economy is to change, the more that we will be able to turn that change to our advantage. We must be adaptable and quite often that means that you have to be very creative.
In the economic strategy, we committed ourselves to playing an extensive role in strengthening and stabilizing the economy in conjunction with the private sector and with the traditional aboriginal economy. We designed our programs to ensure that that strength was there and that that stability was there so that in the event of a changing economy, we still had the ability to adapt to the change. Whether we are talking about the EDA, the business development fund, the mining incentive program or even our community development fund, we have been able to move quickly to adjust to the needs of our particular economy.
Now, the Member opposite talked at some length about the difficulties facing the mining industry. I think it is important...
Speaker: Order please. The Member has three minutes to conclude.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: ...to make the comment that our mining incentive program has provided a substantial support to the industry in the current time of difficulty. Last year, our exploration program in the territory actually increased by several million dollars. This year we may see somewhat of a reduction, but nevertheless it will not be any substantial amount according to our best predictions. Our prospectors and grub-stake components of the mining incentive program have been fully subscribed to this year, and we are looking at seeing whether we can find additional funds to ensure that more of the applications that are before us get some assistance. At the same time, we have the resource transportation access program. One of the comments we are repeatedly hearing from communities is in regard to the extensive support that our business development officers are providing to various businesses, including the mining industry, in advising them of available support programs.
It is interesting that the previous speaker spent some time talking about how difficult things are in the mining industry. The fact is that we have provided some of the most elaborate support to the mining industry through our programs; through our loan assistance to Curragh Resources; through our creation of the electrical infrastructure resource program announced in the throne speech.
The interesting thing that comes to mind is that at the time when the side opposite was in power...
Speaker: Order please. The Member has one minute in which to conclude.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: ...there were no such things as prospector assistance programs. They had, at best, a tote road program and I recall quite vividly the lack of support by this government in the early 1980s, at the time when Faro was going down. There was nothing provided to help it open. This government has gone the country mile in assisting that mining community as well as the industry, giving support to their associations, support to roads, support to the mining advisory committee which, by the way, was created by this government. Our performance and track record with the mining industry has been very good.
It remains to conclude that our economy is in a relatively healthy state. This government is acting on its vision for the territory. This government is carrying out its commitment that it has made in previous statements and we will continue to carry out those commitments and that vision.
Notice re consideration of Speech from the Throne
Hon. Mr. Webster: I wish to inform the House, pursuant to Standing Order 26, that consideration of a motion for an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne shall take place on Thursday, April 23, 1992.
ADDRESS IN REPLY TO THE SPEECH FROM THE THRONE (CONTINUED)
Mr. Brewster: I would like to start out by congratulating the Yukon government, the City of Whitehorse, the directors and the committees and working staff of the Arctic Winter Games for all their good work and a job well done. I would also like to especially congratulate the volunteers. If it had not been for the volunteers, there would have been no success at all. Volunteers are very, very important and they are very, very hard to find.
Just before I start on my speech, I came to the conclusion after listening to the last speaker and then listening to the Member for Old Crow - one of them seemed to have everything going wrong in replying to the throne speech and the other one said everything was good. I am not sure which one of them is right but perhaps it does not really matter.
The Minister mentioned real dollars on electrical light bills and I will have to explain that to my wife, because her light bill went up $30 more than it has ever been on the last bill. I do not know whether she is using counterfeit dollars or not, but it is real dollars to her and her bill went up $30. The same happened to a few other people around there, so let us not play around with words or mince words. It is what one has to pay out of ones pocket, and it is $30 more.
I think it is very ironic that we would be sitting in this House today when the Minister of Northern Affairs is sitting over in Fort McPherson giving away 600 square miles of our territory. I think it is a crime and an insult to this Legislature.
This Legislature was called in to a special sitting in July, because we were really going to do something; we were going to straighten it around. We had unanimous consent from everybody in this Legislature, which is another hollow thing. No wonder people get a little upset with Members of Parliament and MLAs. We turn around and vote something, but then we do not have the guts to go any further. Members may remember the little story I told that we would probably be running around piddling like a little puppy; well, that is just what we did. There was never another word mentioned of it. There was never a word mentioned in the throne speech. Just let it go. Why? Because the Government Leader had to run around to those conferences and he did not want to get into any hassle there, so let 600 square miles of the Yukon go; what is that?
It is probably the start of the beginning of the end of the Yukon that we know. Other trans-boundary land claims settlements will come in and take our lands. We are easy pickings. None of us have guts enough to stand up and say no. So we are quite easy to pick. There is no trouble there. The Government Leader or one of them will say well, what could we do? First, he could have taken everybody in this Legislature down to Ottawa and sat there until we got a reasonable compromise and got this on an even playing field. But he did not do that. Commissioner Smith, working for Northern Affairs, had the gumption to take his people down to get the type of government we have right now. But we did not have it here. We are the elected representatives, but we cannot do it. We just keep quiet about it and let it go. That is a disgrace, an absolute disgrace.
The Yukon is being partitioned up and there will be very little of it left in a short while. Why we even sit in this Legislature amazes me. We are drawing taxpayers money, and yet the Northern Affairs Minister can turn around and overrule us. What are we doing here? Let us grow up. Either we are going to stand up and look after the Yukon, or we are going to let the Northern Affairs Minister tell us what to do. We may as well go home and save the taxpayers a little bit of money. We are a bunch of sitting dummies, all of us, and that includes myself. We have not got the gumption to stand up for the Yukon; no way, just let things go. We do not want to disrupt things, because we are going to the Premiers Conference and we can be shown on television, and the Yukon can go down the drain.
That is what is happening, and it is a crime. It is a crime for all of the cultures here, because we will never pull together when things like this are going on. There will be nothing left to pull. It is a dead issue, and it is one of the lowest points in my life that I have to sit and know that I am one of them who sits here representing the Yukon, and I can do nothing but sit here and speak and everybody ignores me.
I could say a lot more on it, but I will not because it is no use. The government that is in power will do nothing about it. So, I will go on to another subject.
I am very pleased that the Alaska Highway is finally transferred. It is about 10 years too late, but I am glad that it is transferred. I give credit to the Minister and I have already shook his hand on it. I will tell the Minister one thing. I will be watching the money, and it had better all be on the Alaska Highway. I do not want to see it being run off somewhere else, because if it does I will be back in here screaming. If I am not back here as a Member, and if I am not elected, I will still be screaming, because that money had better be on the Alaska Highway.
I have read the Speech from the Throne. It is quite interesting and I would like to quote one article in here: At the same time, the federal government remains responsible for reconstructing what is known as the Shakwak Corridor and will negotiate with the United States government to make sure that the entire section from Destruction Bay to Beaver Creek is brought to standard. Well, we have lost 40 miles of the most beautiful road we had on the Alaska Highway all around the Kluane Lake - the Boutellier Summit, the highest summit on the Alaska Highway. They are not included, I guess. I do not know what we are going to do there, maybe have boats take us down the lake. You sure did not include that.
I would like to see them check with their engineers and see if they have smartened up a little or their speech-writers or whoever makes these mistakes. The Shakwak project stopped at the Jarvis River. There is a 40 mile piece there they just dropped out. That is great speech writing. I wonder how much that cost us. They cannot even get the facts straight. Perhaps they should come out and visit us once in a while, instead of sitting in their cozy offices here. Then they would see what is going on and not make stupid statements like that. It is a stupid statement that cost us a lot of money.
The Speech from the Throne mentioned the agricultural policy and brags about it. It is a good policy, but there are several flaws in it. I do not know if the Minister knows about this, but the first two applications that went in for the new policy were refused. It is the same old story. They were refused and told to start all over. Two departments are trying to run a policy and making it worthless.
As always, I urge that we get the agricultural branch into one place and get the land away from the lands branch. I see the Minister shaking his head. Your lands branch is one of the worst departments here. There are complaints lying all over the place about it. What goes on in that branch is absolutely unreal. He shakes his head. Heaven forbid the agricultural branch ever ends up with it. We would not be doing much agriculture, that is for sure.
In the Speech from the Throne, land was mentioned, but only about land around Whitehorse. It does not mention all the problems rural people are having over land. For example, a boy came to me the other day who had built a business all on his own, with no government money, and tried to get the lot next to him to expand. He was told he could not have it, because there were no lights there. The lights were put in last October. The lands branch had not been informed. I am not sure if it was the federal or Yukon government lands branch. That is a complication very few people can straighten out. It is a mess.
I will go on now to one of my favorite subjects: the wolf cull. The Minister has absolutely no credibility left. He had his Wildlife Management Advisory Board work for two years with the Champagne/Aishihik Band and the Kluane Band. They worked to see what they could do about wolf control. They came back with a report, but it was stopped. Why? It was stopped because, at about that time, the Government Leader was going to Ottawa and he did not want people running around with signs and protests going on. It might embarrass him. Once again, you have played politics with animals. You cannot do that. That herd is very near extinction. What does he do? First, I called a public meeting. He came to that. People who were completely unbiased said to me that he never did give a reason for turning it down. It was just a Cabinet decision. The politics made it. The Government Leader said it was a Cabinet decision, but I did not hear him say anything when they questioned him at the airport. He ducked and let his little henchmen do the work. He could not care less about the caribou. He is just going to protect himself and look after his own interests.
Now he has formed another committee. He brought another biologist in - from where, we are not sure. He has ignored the work that the Wildlife Management Board did all this time. He ignored the public meetings that they had.
I will read from a letter that was sent to the Minister from the Yukon Trappers Association. The Yukon Trappers Association feels that the formation of a wolf management team is ridiculous when we have a Wildlife Management Board in place. We feel your decision undermines the integrity and credibility of the Wildlife Management Board. How I agree. I will just finish the letter. In closing, we cannot stress the importance of immediate action to carry out the wolf control program and continue to support the Wildlife Management Board. I agree completely with all that; however, I cannot understand how they could go around and talk to the same people again. Anyway, this new board will probably make the decision.
I also have a copy of a letter sent to the Minister from the gun club in Haines Junction. I asked them to send me a copy of this letter, however, I never received a copy so I presume that he never even bothered to answer that letter. It is typical of government not to bother to answer letters.
The Minister keeps telling us that we are studying the Alaska plan. Everybody took it to mean that the Alaska plan was working. That plan has not even got off the ground floor. It is not off the ground floor at all. With all the biologists we have in the Yukon and the years they have worked, we are far ahead of anybody, anywhere in North America with predator control. We have proved it. We have an example in the Findlayson caribou herd where we brought the caribou back. Now the wolves are back in the same numbers they were when we started. We have proved it works; we have 5,000 more caribou.
Do we really expect the Indian people to trust a government that says native people will make up 50 percent of all these boards, and then, all of a sudden, the Minister does not like what the board said so he forms another board, and it starts all over again. Study, study, study. Government is great at studying and that is about all they want to do. In the meantime the caribou are down to the point where they may never recover. I guess we can put another memorial up for the Minister when he goes, There used to be caribou here. Thanks to the Minister and the Cabinet and the government, they no longer exist around here.
How can people in that department be happy working on a thing like this when they, as biologists, have studied and are very sincere people. Then the Minister comes along and says they do not know anything and then brings a biologist in from Ontario, or the Northwest Territories. He brought him in and started all over. Are they going to hold meetings at the same places again? Why would people come back a second time? They are sick and tired of coming to these meetings and expressing their feelings.
Another reason the Minister has no credibility is that he phoned me this spring and told me that the buffalo would be moved off the road when the trucks arrived. The new buffalo have arrived, the trucks have gone home, and the buffalo are still running up and down the road.
I have always admired wild animals, and I admire these very much. They are one of the few things in the Yukon that have stumped this government. This government cannot do a thing with them. They cannot handle them; they have no clue.
Another funny thing is that they brought in all this nice brome grass from Alberta. Do you know what happened? The buffalo left and went down the road to eat old, dirty slough grass at Kusawa and the other lakes. These are wild animals, and they enjoy that just as much. There was also the fact that the weather got warm one month early. Apparently, the people who were looking after the buffalo were not smart enough to realize they were not going to stay around long enough to be put in that corral. They were going to move. All one had to do was watch horses anywhere, walking up and down the fence, wanting to go out to the green grass. They will never get them in now.
As far as I am concerned, I am not sure I would take the Ministers word on anything anymore. That is it for me. There are two reasons involving the buffalo situation. Either they goofed again, or they never intended to do it. They can take their choice of which one they want.
Another thing I would like to bring up is what the Member for Porter Creek brought up a while ago. The Indian elders have been talking to me about Aishihik Lake. They do not want it drained. This year there is lots of water in there, because we had the heavy rain last year and we have a heavy snowfall. The big fear now is that they will start to drain it faster to get away from diesel. Let us not make a mistake like that. It is absolutely ridiculous. Let us leave this lake alone. The whole situation was a goof to start with, and let us not make it worse. It looks like it has come back to its normal level. Let us leave it alone and, not, for the sake of power, do it when there was mismanagement from the word go.
The placer miners were mentioned, and I noticed the Member for Klondike grinned when they said this. All you have to do is look in the newspapers to see the gold-mining stuff for sale.
Having talked to a few placer miners, placer mining will be dead in five years. In fact, he is so interested that he is going to the Klondike Gold Show to be interviewed for a program on it because he does not think that placer mining will be around except in small families, the rest of them will be out of business.
We had Windy Craggy. We put motions through this House and asked for support. Did we get it? No. Yet, that would have helped Haines Junction and Whitehorse because those people would not have been living there. They would have been flying to the two places. We did not get any help on this thing at all. Not one little word did they say to try to help these people, but 600 people working would be a great thing.
They can put $5 million into Curragh and they are still testing it. They are not sure whether it will work or not.
And then we have Kluane National Park, one of the most beautiful places there is. Did they help us? No, they voted on the motion that they would help, but they did not even go to the hearings to help us. If they had, they would probably have swung it. What has happened is that they got sucked into a situation, quite frankly, where they are going to build a road to the park door and National Parks is not going to do a thing, and now they are reneging on that, I understand, so that money will not even show up.
We are told that there will be legislation in here for Indian land claims settlement. I have been asking and asking and have written and written for the agreements that have been signed, yet they have never shown up. The CYI told us at a community meeting that they are not holding these up and that they can be made public. We still do not have them. If they think that we are going to agree to legislation blindly and not see the agreements, then we are going to be here for a long time, a really long time.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: Mr. Speaker, the time being almost 5:30 p.m., I move that debate be adjourned
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Member for Whitehorse South Centre that debate be now adjourned.
Motion agreed to
Mrs. Firth: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Member for Riverdale South that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:25 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 22, 1992:
Chief Electoral Officer of the Yukon, Report on Contributions to Political Parties during 1991 (Speaker - Johnston)
Clerk of the Assembly, Report on deductions from the indemnities of Members pursuant to subsection 39(6) of the Legislative Assembly Act (April 22, 1992) (Speaker - Johnston)
Wildlife Viewing in the Yukon Brochure (Webster)