Thursday, April 23, 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.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have for tabling a document entitled Yukon Energy Strategy Framework, as well as seven supporting issue papers on various energy subjects.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Introduction of Bills.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 33: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Joe: I move that Bill No. 33, entitled Registered Nurses Profession Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 33, entitled Registered Nurses Profession Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 33 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
NOTICES OF MOTION FOR THE PRODUCTION OF PAPERS
Mr. Lang: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the House do issue an Order for a return of all correspondence sent or received by the Government of Yukon regarding the Tetlit Gwich’in land claim.
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Yukon energy strategy: framework and issue papers
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Moments ago, I tabled discussion papers on the Yukon energy strategy. Some Members may recall that in the 1990 throne speech this government made a commitment toward a comprehensive energy strategy process. We are now working toward a final Yukon energy strategy that will cover the development, the transmission and the use of energy in the territory. The framework strategy paper and the accompanying issue papers launch that process. I believe that we can produce a final strategy that will benefit both the economy and the environment.
The way we use energy today has a significant impact on the economy as well as the environment. Yukon people use more energy than the average Canadian. High energy use in the Yukon is largely due to our cold climate, the long distances between communities, as well as our industrial users.
The high cost of imported oil products, as well as limited use of local energy resources, has a major impact on the Yukon economy, on the lifestyle of people and the environment.
By creating a more secure and stronger energy sector and ensuring fair energy pricing, opportunities for independent power production for energy systems and for local energy sources will be made available.
The demand for energy is increasing, as is the demand for sources of energy that will not damage the environment. By encouraging a more efficient use of energy, costs can be reduced and environmental impacts will be lessened. By including environmental factors in energy decisions the impacts of energy production and use will be reduced.
Yukon people must decide how to best address the supply, the use and the growth of energy.
The first step in addressing these issues was the release and the discussion for the Energy Paper for Tomorrow paper produced by the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment at its annual fall conference in November.
The second step, which I am formally taking today, is the release of a public discussion paper and its accompanying issue papers.
The Yukon Energy Strategy Framework document will guide Yukon people and this government in the development of an overall, comprehensive energy strategy. This paper outlines the goals of the energy strategy and it identifies existing policies and programs. It discusses outstanding issues to be resolved and it presents a variety of options for resources and use.
This framework document is supported by seven issue papers that deal with electricity development, with renewable energy potential, with the impact of petroleum fuel use, with affordable and accessible electricity, with energy impact considerations, with energy for space heating and with energy efficiencies.
We have some tough decisions to make and we want to hear from Yukon people. There are still many questions that need to be answered.
Some of these questions include: how should the risk for new energy development be borne; how can the cost of environmental effects be included in our decision making; are we willing to pay the price now to ensure long-term sustainability, and what are the roles that government and others can play in encouraging and creating more local production of energy resources?
We need to explore all facets of energy resources and use in the Yukon. During the next few months, public input on the issues and options outlined in these documents will help complete the Yukon energy strategy. In this way, the comprehensive energy strategy will evolve that will truly benefit the territory and meet the energy needs of all Yukon people.
Mr. Phelps: Of course, I have not had the opportunity to see the documents that have been tabled, and that led to this ministerial statement. I take it from the statement itself that what the Minister is saying is that we are now commencing a process by which we will end up with, after much discussion and what not, a comprehensive energy strategy for Yukon.
I want to say, and I do not want to hurt the good Minister’s feelings, that this is really long overdue. I think that it is negligent that the process was not started at least within the first year of this government’s mandate.
We have had all kinds of problems with the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation, and other related issues. We have not had a comprehensive strategy. One of the greatest failings of this government is its complete failure to diversify the economy of the Yukon. We can talk about this all we want, but the sad fact remains that that is a glaring failure on the part of my good friends opposite.
One of the two areas of infrastructure over which this government has control — the two key building blocks for economic diversification — is energy. The other of course, the main one, is transportation.
I think that it is tragic that we have carried on for seven years spending huge sums of money given to us by the benevolent people in Ottawa, and that we are just now tabling some papers on the process through which, one hopes, we will have an overall strategy.
I have nothing but admiration for the good intentions of my good friend opposite and I certainly hope that what comes out at the end of this process will be something that we are all very proud of. I hate to be placed in the position where I have to admonish and lecture the Minister for the tardiness of this important initiative.
Mr. Nordling: My concerns are the same as those expressed by the Member for Hootalingua.
I was not going to reply to this ministerial statement, but I was reading Hansard and saw where the Government Leader quoted his mother in the past as advising him, “If you cannot say anything nice, do not say anything at all.” I found it difficult to find anything nice to say in response to this ministerial statement but, following the lead of the Member for Hootalinqua, I can find something nice to say, and I would like to echo his sentiments and express my admiration for the good intentions of the Minister, albeit seven years after we have taken over NCPC and that energy was recognized by people of the Yukon as being one of the major issues and one of the most important things that had to be dealt with.
So I would like to congratulate the Minister on the fact that, after only seven years, he seems to have a grasp on the issue and one hopes things will move along a lot quicker now.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Let me extend my appreciation for the couple of nice things that Members opposite are putting forward, albeit some of them quite not substantive.
It should be noted that the development of an energy strategy has been an ongoing process for some time, and that is why there is now a general framework for policy development and programs in place that speaks to energy.
The papers tabled today are a summary of current policy and strategy. It identifies a number of outstanding questions that have yet to be resolved. Those outstanding questions are the ones we are putting forward specifically for public input, as well as seeking public comment on the policies and programs currently in place.
The Member for Hootalinqua made the point that two of the economic building blocks are energy and transportation. While I can agree that those indeed are two building blocks, they are not the exclusive building blocks for economic development. It comes to mind that the community of Elsa has an excellent transportation system leading to it and tremendous amounts of energy available to it and it is not in operation.
I would also note that when the Members opposite were in office, they, too, promised a comprehensive energy strategy. That was never delivered. Today, we have such a delivery and we are seeking further public input in finalizing that strategy.
Speaker: This now brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Land claim, overlapping, Tetlit Gwich’in
Mr. Lang: I would like to go on to a subject that is very important to the Yukon. That is the question of the Tetlit Gwich’in land claim that was signed yesterday by the Minister of Indian and Northern Development. As I said yesterday in my reply to the Speech from the Throne, it is a violation of Yukon sovereignty and a direct intrusion into the integrity of the territory. It is also a contravention of all the agreements we have had in place with the Government of Canada in view of the fact that the Government of Yukon and, in turn, the territorial Legislature, have not given their consent to that agreement.
In July, a special session was called to express our deep concern about the proposed steps being taken by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to allocate 600 square miles of Yukon to people who are non-residents. We all spoke at great length in an emergency session — the only emergency session I have attended in 18 years — and there was a common condemnation of the actions taken by the Government of Canada.
Since that time, the side opposite has been virtually silent with respect to this issue.
I would like to know from the Government Leader, in view of the fact that there have been no public statements made by him or his front bench since July, what steps he or his government have taken to try to get the federal government to change its position on this precedent-setting claim.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I thank the Member for his question. First of all, as is often the case, I have to correct the assertions made in the preamble. It is, of course, not at all true that I have made no public statements on this matter. I have made numerous public statements on the matter, and I believe that some of them have been quoted in the media recently, including quotes or statements that I made a couple of months ago.
As to the specific question about what we are doing, I would reply as follows. Clearly, we are concerned both about the process by which this agreement between the Vuntut Gwich’in and the federal government was made, as it affected Yukon interests and was done behind our back. We are also deeply and profoundly concerned about the precedent. The agreement that has been signed with the Vuntut Gwich’in is, we are told, to be put into law by way of an act of Parliament this spring. The wisdom of this decision by the federal Cabinet was confirmed by the Prime Minister and, I think, is unalterable.
As I told the Member in the last sitting, what we now have to focus on is the question of dealing with this situation to ensure that it does not become a precedent. To that end, we have sought an agreement with the federal government that would guarantee that never again would they make such a decision respecting Yukon land without the consent of the Yukon government. We are specifically seeking such a guarantee by way of an amendment to the umbrella final agreement of the Yukon land claims settlement and we are looking for that amendment, of course, to be sanctioned by the federal government.
It would be put into law as part of our land claims settlement, and constitutionally protected, as would the rest of the land claims agreement. By that method, it would give us the strongest protection we could get against this ever happening again.
Mr. Lang: It is safe to say that the horse is out of the barn. With what the Government Leader just said to us, we have no recourse. In all of the national broadcasts respecting this particular decision made by the Minister yesterday there was no mention that the Yukon was opposed to this claim or why. Because nobody from the front bench has spoken on that issue since last July, the national media did not know about it.
During the last debate in July, we put forward a number of ideas about how we should proceed with the Government of Canada, similar to when we had to deal with the COPE land claim in 1978.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Lang: On page 1225 of Hansard, the Minister stated, “... the idea of lobbies, mail campaigns and other such things. We will consider those things and consider how we can best get our point across.”
In view of the fact that the Government Leader committed himself to a public campaign, why did he not proceed with that campaign, as per his comments last July?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not think the Member is quoting me completely on this occasion, either. First of all, let me again correct the record. The Member said no public statement had been made by the front bench. That is just not true.
I spoke to the media about this yesterday.
The Member is snickering. The Member just said no statement had been made. He has just admitted he was wrong.
Yesterday, on the radio, a long interview I gave two months ago on the subject for a national program was quoted. I have spoken about this on many occasions to many people, as have other Members of this government.
As I told the Member during the last sitting, in our parliamentary system, when a majority government has made a policy decision — and there are many policy decisions made by the federal government with which we disagree — and once it has been confirmed to the federal Cabinet and confirmed in writing to me by the Prime Minister, we made what I think was the appropriate decision ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We made the appropriate decision not to frustrate ourselves endlessly and waste an inappropriate amount of resources trying to change a decision that was unchangeable. Rather, we wanted to concentrate on what we could change, which is the federal policy in terms of the future possibilities in this area.
Mr. Lang: That is in sharp contrast to the federal decision, confirmed by Cabinet, to proceed with Meech Lake. The Government of Yukon objected, and rightly so, and decided to take whatever action, including going to court, in respect to that particular issue and how it affected the Yukon.
In view of the fact that the Tetlit Gwich’in claim violates and contravenes the memorandum of understanding of 1979, as well as other agreements entered into by this government with the Government of Canada, is the Minister planning to take the Government of Canada to court, similar to what he planned with Meech Lake?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The situations of the Tetlit Gwich’in and the Meech Lake Accord are not at all similar. The Meech Lake Accord was an agreement between the federal government and all the provinces that required the unanimous consent of all the provinces to pass. There was a high degree of possibility that, if we could persuade one province to change its mind, then at least we would get back to the bargaining table on the question. There was also a legal case, which we do not think there is with respect to the Tetlit Gwich’in.
Our lawyers have looked at the question, and it is quite clear, on their advice, that on the federal law and the federal authority to do what they did — no matter how wrong we may think the decision and no matter how misguided we may think the process by which they reached the decision — there is no case for us to make in court.
Question re: Land claims, overlapping
Mr. Lang: I would suggest to the Minister that he has a much stronger case with this than he had for the purpose of going to court with the Meech Lake Accord, because there are at least some contracts between his government and the Government of Canada. It is too bad that he has decided to do nothing in respect to this issue except to have an emergency session to play smoke and mirrors with the general public, pretending that he was really defending the public interest of the territory. Incidentally, it entailed a great deal of expense to bring Members in from all over the territory for that particular session in July.
In an interview on CBC, the Minister of Indian Affairs made it very clear that he had assurances from the Government of Yukon that they would be cooperating fully in the implementation of the Tetlit Gwich’in land claim.
Could the Government Leader tell us what commitments he has made to the Government of Canada on the implementation of this particular unjust agreement.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have no idea what Mr. Siddon was talking about, other than that he must know that once the federal government passes a law, as law-abiding citizens, we will obey it, whether we like it or not.
Let me just say something to the Member about intergovernmental negotiations. I had the advantage of sitting on the other side of the House for a number of years and watching the fed-bashing, ranting and raving approach. Nothing, in my experience, indicated to me that it was ever, on any occasion, successful.
The way that we have attempted to conduct ourselves in this, while protesting loudly about what was done, was to make strenuous efforts to ensure that we did not have a precedent established here and that this unfortunate event would never occur again.
Mr. Lang: Once again, we did have a similar situation back in 1978. One thousand square miles was to be put into the Inuvialuit land claim. The then Government of Yukon took it upon themselves to stand up to the Government of Canada and, finally, won the day. We did not roll over like a whipped dog and give up.
I want to ask the Government Leader, who has now given up and is obviously agreeing with the Government of Canada on the Tetlit Gwich’in claim, what his government is presently negotiating or discussing in terms of the implementation of this particular agreement and how it will affect the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member referred previously to Mr. Siddon’s statements. I do not know exactly what Mr. Siddon was referring to in that interview. I will have to find out.
Let me say to the Member, however, that there is another big difference between this government and the former government with respect to the question of the Inuvialuit. I think it is probably a difference in opinion between the Member opposite and me. This Member, unlike the Member opposite, has always been a supporter of aboriginal rights. We recognize the aboriginal rights of the Tetlit Gwich’in in the area. The difference between us and the other parties was over land quantum or land selections in that area. We believed that process should have been bargained to a resolution. The position of the party opposite that no land should be given under any circumstances is one that we do not agree with.
The Member suggests that the situation of the Inuvialuit is exactly analogous. I do not believe that is the case.
With respect to the Member’s question, I will actually have to check to find out exactly what it was that Mr. Siddon said and find out what he was referring to before I respond to it, but I will do so as soon as I can for the Member.
Mr. Lang: We see the demonstration of a lack of leadership by the Government of Yukon with respect to such a serious issue as he sits there and pretends nothing has happened.
I ask the Minister: is it the position of the government now that they are not going to take any further steps, even to make representation to Parliament to try to prevent those particular sections of that agreement from coming into effect?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me say that I have observed over a number of years the Member opposite’s leadership on this question, and it is quite true: I take a fundamentally different approach than he does. I do not have the hostility to aboriginal rights that he has; I have never fought land claims in the way that he has. I take a fundamentally different approach. I admit that. But I think it is probably not accurate to describe the approach of the Member as leadership, given what we now know about aboriginal rights and about what the law has said about aboriginal rights.
Is the Yukon government going to attempt to change the policy of the federal government in respect of the Tetlit Gwich’in? Are we going to try to prevent that land claim being settled? No, because in fact we think the land claim of the Tetlit Gwich’in, having been ratified and negotiated, should be settled. Our objection was not to the land claims of the Tetlit Gwich’in, nor to their aboriginal rights. We may disagree with the Member opposite on that. Our objection was to the decision by the federal government about Yukon land, a decision made behind our backs in Ottawa, without us being at the table. That is what we objected to; that is what we still object to.
Question re: Chateau Jomini
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Development Corporation about Chateau Jomini. My question is about the $3.5 million renovation that the YDC is going to do to Chateau Jomini in Faro for apartments, offices, classrooms and retail space.
In 1989, the Minister disclosed a conflict of interest with respect to dealing with the Chateau Jomini. The Minister is now intimately involved with this $3.5 million renovation. I would like to know if the Minister is going to continue to deal with this in light of the conflict presently on the record under Section 5 of the Executive Council Code of Ethics?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The issue that the Member raises is one which I have dealt with most appropriately and properly. The Chateau Jomini facility in Faro is currently being investigated by the Yukon Development Corporation on behalf of the community for possible reconstruction for better use in the community. This investigation is occurring in direct communication with the community. Within the last few days, the Member knows that I have provided to her details surrounding the project. I believe we even provided conceptual drawings, which were in a draft stage. Those draft documents, including the draft proposal for reconstruction of the facility, are just that and the discussions are still ongoing between the Yukon Development Corporation and the community regarding any possible use of that facility.
Mrs. Firth: The conflict has been declared and has not been revoked. In a letter from the Minister to me, he lists the advisors and user groups that are being consulted and they are the government departments in the Town of Faro and the Faro Economic Development Committee. The mayor of the town happens to be the Minister’s brother and also ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mrs. Firth: I am at the supplementary question, Mr. Speaker. The Minister’s brother happens to be the mayor of the Town of Faro and also the trustee for the blind trust of the Minister’s businesses. Has the Minister considered the fact that this is a conflict of interest as well?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have entirely considered any possible conflicts and have dealt with them, and they are a matter of public documentation and record. I have to say that I find the approach of the Member somewhat distasteful. She has risen to her feet and placed before the House a number of unsubstantiated allegations and has tried to create the impression of some wrongdoing. That is neither ethical, nor is it fair, nor is it appropriate for a Member.
Mrs. Firth: Everything is ethical and fair here. The other group that is listed is the Faro Economic Development Committee. The chair of that committee is the other brother of the Minister. Now, does the Minister consider this a conflict of interest as well?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have heard it all this afternoon. We have a situation in my riding where the community is contemplating using a government asset as a facility that could generate some economic usefulness to the community. It contemplates use of the building for office space for decentralization purposes; it contemplates urgent housing needs of the community; it contemplates possible and eventual commercial space, but that is a decision that will be made by the community, and representatives from that community.
The fact that some of the discussions between the Yukon Development Corporation and the community are occurring with leaders in the community, who happen to be family-related, has absolutely no bearing on my position in this House, especially when those matters have been properly declared in documents filed with your office, Mr. Speaker.
I have to say again that the Member’s line of questioning this afternoon, by the assertions she is making, the allegations she is charging, is downright sleazy.
Question re: Land claims, overlapping
Mr. Brewster: Currently, the southern Yukon is facing claims by up to four non-resident native groups. There is the Treaty 11 by the Dene of the Northwest Territories, which covers 30,000 square miles of the southeastern Yukon; the claim by the Kaska Dena of B.C., which covers 10,000 square miles; and there will be claims by both the Tahltan and the Tlinget of B.C.
In view of the statements made by the Minister of Indian Affairs yesterday about trans-boundary claims, how can the Minister responsible assure this House that there will certainty dealing with Yukon land and resources with all these non-resident claims remaining unsettled?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I thank the Member for Kluane for the question, and I apologize for not communicating more clearly to the Leader of the Official Opposition. I thought I had answered that question, in large part, but I will explain again.
We have sought by way of an amendment to the umbrella final agreement to the Yukon comprehensive land claims agreement a change that would require the federal government, in considering the possibility of any Yukon land for the benefit of trans-boundary claimant groups, to obtain our consent before that happened. In other words, there would be a guarantee that what happened with the Tetlit Gwich’in would never happen again.
Secondly, as the Speech from the Throne indicated, we will be seeking, upon the conclusion of final agreements with Yukon First Nations — something I hope will happen expeditiously — the appropriate transfers of land in the area to the Yukon government so that we will be making the decisions in respect to those lands, not the federal government.
Mr. Brewster: The Government Leader is probably going to hear this quite a few more times before it is over. In the event that there is a dispute over land between one of these groups and a Yukon First Nation, can the Minister advise this House if the Yukon First Nation claim will take precedent and the government will be able to conclude a final agreement with the local band?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I hope that, except in the case of a situation described previously by the Member for Hootalinqua, such as the situation that may obtain between the Taku River Tlingit and the Teslin Tlingit, for example, that the situation the Member describes is a hypothetical one.
As I understand the agreements, once there is a final agreement with a First Nation, the law giving effect to the umbrella final agreement with that First Nation will take precedence over other law and that land will then be titled property to that First Nation. Should another First Nation come along and claim an interest in it, presumably — and I am not a lawyer — they would then have to deal, not with respect to aboriginal rights, but with the Yukon First Nation. As the former Leader of the Official Opposition once described in this House, based on his knowledge as a negotiator, there could be land transfer agreements between British Columbia First Nations and Yukon First Nations if they were mutually agreeable. I think that is the only circumstance where the situation presented by the Member would apply.
Mr. Brewster: In the comprehensive land claim policy, the federal government states that where more than one claim group utilizes common areas of land and resources, and the claimants cannot agree on boundaries, access or land-sharing agreements, no land will be granted to any group in the contested area until the dispute is resolved. How can the Minister promise any certainty in local arrangements?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The certainty is provided by the clarification of title to the land and resources in the area. There is the case, for example, which the Member will no doubt know about, where the Kaska, both north and south of the border, are working cooperatively to address the potential of the situation described by the Member.
The point that I think about — the land claim agreements and the land claim settlement — is that not only will the First Nations have certain title to the land and the resources on the land, but the Yukon government, on the heels of those agreements, will be seeking the transfer of other lands in the area to us, to plan and to dispose of according to public policy.
That situation is measurably different from the one we have now, where there is, as a result of the unresolved claims, a cloud over the title. It is the resolution and settlement of these claims, the finalization of agreements, and the legal implementation of them that we wish to pursue in order to give us the kind of certainty that we seek.
Question re: Taga Ku convention centre project
Mr. Phelps: I have some questions for the good Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation. He has not been having the workout today that he had yesterday, and I would like to see him exercised in the gymnasium of Question Period.
Yesterday, we discussed the $2 million in loans already given to the proponents of the convention centre. It was said in this House that the former deputy minister of Economic Development was the person who put forward the motion to lend some of that money. Can the Minister confirm or deny this today?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It should be noted that the original commitment for the $2 million that was provided by the Yukon Development Corporation was made some two years ago, long before either I was Minister or the deputy in question was in office.
The entire issue surrounding the deputy putting forward the motion is one I am checking out and cannot confirm at this time.
Mr. Phelps: Still on the issues of yesterday, there was a good deal of discussion with regard to whether or not this government, and this Minister, was discussing the possibility of further loan guarantees for the hotel project. The Minister showed a good deal of agility in dancing around the issue.
Have there been discussions between this government and the proponents of the convention centre with regard to further assistance by way of offering loan guarantees?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Again, I believe that question was answered quite adequately yesterday. The proponents of the Taga Ku project did approach this government for assistance. I responded to the proponents with the clear statement that we could not support further financing. I believe the Member quoted from a document to that effect.
It comes to mind that the Member, in protocol of this House, ought to be prepared to table that document, since he did quote from it. That would be most appropriate.
Mr. Phelps: I was pleased to further the efforts of the government in trying to hide these important issues from the public and attempted to scare off anybody who might come forward with information. I will make a point of doing that.
The letter I quoted from I am sure the Minister has. It was dated April 21, 1992, and it is directed to the Minister in question.
I of course expect reciprocation from the Minister, and since we are into this rather interesting affair, may I ask the Minister whether he is prepared to table the letters and correspondence referred to in the letter that I quoted from yesterday?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Absolutely. It would appear to me, while I am on my feet, that I would have no problem tabling the document referred to in the letter that the Member quoted from, if the Member is prepared to table the letter he quoted from.
Question re: Taga Ku convention centre project
Mr. Phelps: I am pleased the Minister is prepared to do this on his feet because at least we would know where his feet were — not in his mouth this time.
I would like to ask a couple of questions that happened to come from this very interesting document that he is so eager to see. It has my fingerprints on it too, Mr. Speaker.
The question that I have has to do with the issue regarding the Department of Industry, Science and Technology. Apparently, that federal department is in the process of guaranteeing a loan and it is understood that if it does, there would be a reciprocity by the Government of the Yukon; the Government of the Yukon would be expected to enter into a loan guarantee for the same amount.
Can the Minister tell us whether or not that is an understanding or if the federal department that I just mentioned does sign a loan guarantee, that this government will be reciprocating and signing one as well?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is raising what amounts to another hypothetical question. I cannot provide him with an answer.
It should be noted that the letter from which he quoted yesterday, and has committed himself to tabling, makes the reference to ISTC being involved in recommending to its Minister support for a loan guarantee by the federal government.
I can tell the Member that that is my first knowledge of the issue. I am investigating the basis of that information. I can advise the Member that I have asked for the details of the federal government’s position.
Mr. Phelps: Presumably, this document found its way to my desk in my absence. Someone, somewhere, was rather concerned with the way in which the Minister has taken liberty with ratepayers’ money in the past: spending it on sawmills and convention centres that have not gone ahead. I share the concern that is expressed ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Phelps: ... and, in sharing that concern, is it the intention of the Minister to put the Yukon Development Corporation on the hook for even more money than it already is on the hook for now with regard to the Taga Ku convention centre?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: We are really talking in circles with a lot of second-guessing. The fact of the matter is that a request was made by the proponents for additional financial support. In correspondence that the Member has — which he will table and perhaps provide Members of the House with the source of the information — it makes it very clear what this government’s position is.
I said in that letter, and I believe the Member quoted a portion thereof, that I could not support a further commitment to the project in the absence of senior financing. We have said no to the request for further financing. That is the state of affairs at this instant.
Mr. Phelps: The Minister, of course, did not say that in this letter. This letter is not his letter.
I would ask the Minister, then, to give us his undertaking that neither the Yukon Development Corporation nor the Yukon Energy Corporation will be in any way assisting the further financing of the convention centre hotel process but, rather, that any such assistance as is deemed advisable by the government will come through the usual channels and will be voted upon in this House, as is only appropriate and proper.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I find the request of the Member, through his question, rather interesting because he is asking me to tell the corporation what to do and yesterday he said I should not do that. I am in somewhat of a quandary as to what real position the Member is taking.
I should note, again for the record, that the original commitment by the Development Corporation to financial support of the project was made over two years ago, and it was made by the corporation board of directors. In the subsequent release of financing to the project, the decision was also made by the corporation board of directors. For me to commit to the Member that I should order the corporation board of directors never to get involved in this, should they wish to do so and find it entirely appropriate and reasonable to do so and within the framework under which they operate, would be inappropriate.
Unfortunately I cannot provide the Member the assurance he seeks.
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 (CONTINUED)
Clerk: Motion by Ms. Kassi, adjourned debate, Hon. Ms. Hayden.
Speaker: The motion before the House is:
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.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: Before responding to the Speech from the Throne, I want to take just a few minutes to comment on a couple of the concerns that were raised by the Member for Porter Creek East yesterday, and one of those concerns surrounded health transfer.
In October 1990, a framework agreement outlining the objectives, principles and process for the health transfer was signed by the three principals: Yukon government, Council for Yukon Indians and medical services branch of the federal government. Essentially, the transfer will occur in two stages: phase 1 and phase 2. Phase 1 involves the transfer of all existing programs, administrative resources, property and personnel and the transfer of all financial resources required to operate the Whitehorse General Hospital, as well as funding for the construction of a new hospital in Whitehorse. Negotiations for phase 1 are nearing completion and I am in the process of appointing a board of trustees. I can tell you that there were more than 50 nominations received for a board of 12 members, so the process will be somewhat lengthy.
As outlined in the Hospital Act, the board of trustees will be composed of two persons nominated by the Yukon First Nations, two persons nominated by the councils of municipalities other than the City of Whitehorse, one person nominated by the Council for Yukon Indians, one person nominated by the council of the City of Whitehorse, one member from the medical staff of the Yukon Hospital Corporation and one member from the non-medical staff of the corporation, two from the public at large, and two members from the public service of the Yukon. The qualities I will be looking for in selecting the trustees include obvious ones, I think, for a board: common sense, business acumen, people with a sense of community who are truly representative of all Yukon people and, perhaps most importantly, people who are committed to the efficient and effective delivery of quality health care to all Yukon residents.
Phase 2 of the health transfer includes the transfer of all community programs and services, except Whitehorse General Hospital. All of the programs and services that are delivered by the medical services branch, along with the financial resources branch are required for ongoing delivery of those services. Some programs and services may be transferred directly to First Nations, other directly to the Yukon government and there may be areas of shared responsibility.
Initial planning for phase 2 is proceeding in several communities, and I would like to point out that Dawson City happens to be one of those communities.
The process for phase 2 will be unique in each community and will occur in stages, over time as communities prepare to assume this responsibility, if they so choose. The framework for that responsibility is under the Health Act.
In relation to the discussions about a balanced budget, I wanted to comment briefly on the comments made.
We have been able to provide Yukoners with a balanced budget for the last seven years. The issue is not really where you get the money, or how much. The issue of good management is how much you invest and where you invest it.
After all of our obligations are met and our investments are in place, we still have money in the bank. We are not mortgaging our children’s future by spending more than what we have. To paraphrase a famous Yukon document: we are investing what we have today for our children tomorrow.
We have invested in our future by building a more stable economy, by building educational facilities, by investing in jobs and by investing in healthy communities. That is good management.
Finally, although I imagine that my colleague, the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission will have more to say on the subject, I want to comment briefly on the Member’s comments about carpenters, truck drivers and civil servants.
He says something like he does not notice as many truck drivers around the Yukon anymore and I have to say that I have some knowledge of truckers, truck drivers and carpenters, as well, and there are a lot of them around. There are a lot of road crews and there are a lot of carpenters, and I trust that we will always have them.
As he pointed out in his response to the throne speech, the highway section of Community and Transportation Services is doing a good job, and he commended them for that.
I would like to commend them for their work. We will continue to need good people like them. Meanwhile, we will also need good people in other jobs in this territory, jobs that require different skills, different training and different education. These people may be experts in health programs, cost-shared agreements, industrial development and they may even be women assistant deputy ministers. The makeup of the jobs is different — not more or less important, just different.
Civil service jobs are public and are advertised publicly and locally. They are easy targets because they cannot fight back. I am dismayed by the number of times public servants are dumped on. Truckers and assistant deputy ministers and deputy ministers earn about the same gross yearly salary. They work about the same long hours. It is not fair to either to compare their lives or their jobs or their contributions. Their contributions to this community are all important. A long-haul trucker, spending most of his life on the highway, is just as important as a deputy minister who spends most of their life in their office, and vice versa. I am dismayed at the continual dumping on civil servants.
It is with pleasure that I speak today in response to the Speech from the Throne. At this time, I wish to express my pride at being a part of the Yukon and a part of this government at this time and place. I consider myself indeed fortunate to have lived here for so many years. It would be very easy to go on at great length about all of the things that we have been able to achieve by consulting and working together with all of the people of the Yukon during the last seven years. It would be even easier to go on at even greater length about what could be achieved through our continued cooperation over the coming years.
Rather, I would like to talk about the things that are important to all of us — to the families with young children, the older Yukon resident who is looking forward to retirement, to the single person looking for work — things that are important to the people who may be our friends, neighbours or total strangers, the very people who make up the fabric of the Yukon. Working together, we have built the foundations of a stable community that gives all of us — children, youth, middle-aged and older people — options to grow and live out our dreams and demonstrate our abilities in a Yukon that is unique to us all.
The focus on the 50th anniversary of the Alaska Highway gives us an opportunity to look back over the past five decades and look ahead to the next five.
We can look back on our successes and, sometimes, our failures, and plan for the future. We are being presented with an ideal opportunity to look at how much the Yukon has changed and to look ahead on how we can improve Yukon life even more.
As a woman who has taken part in helping to bring about some of those changes, I would like to briefly share my own perspective on where we have been and where we are going.
When I first came to the Yukon, it was 1953, and the Yukon was a very different place than what most of us know today. It was a place where you came to make a fast buck, raise a little hell and, then, leave for parts unknown, it was hoped with pockets full of gold, but usually with them empty; or you were one of the two-year people who saw the north as a step up in their Ottawa civil service career.
However, those were not the only people who came to the north. There were others who came north with a dream that lasted beyond an initial grub stake, and beyond the initial two years. Those were the people who stayed, raised their families, and helped to build the Yukon as we see it today.
Forty years ago, the Yukon was a great place to be if you were young, white and male. If you were not young, white and male, then the Yukon offered much less. Housing was limited. There was no transit system. Amenities were few and far between, and job opportunities for women were limited. Job opportunities were almost non-existent, unless you were a teacher, nurse or secretary.
For young mothers, young families and First Nations people, the Yukon did not offer much opportunity for growth or development. At times, it even felt like the very survival of these groups in the Yukon was threatened.
In the mid 1970s, like a lot of others, I left the Yukon to seek my own Shangri La elsewhere, and that is when I found out the truth of a comment I would have thought terribly trite at that time, if I had given it any thought at all. The comment was: you can leave the Yukon, but the Yukon never leaves you. After having lived here for 23 years, it seemed only right that we return.
I came back in the mid 1980s, because I believed the Yukon had promise as a permanent home. Then, and now, I believe that the Yukon is a place for young and old, rich and poor, men and women to make their homes, to work in partnership with First Nations, whose people have been here for tens of thousands of years.
It is so easy to see the advances made over the last 40 years, even over the past 10 years, but what one does not see is the hard work, the caring and the back-breaking labour that went into making the Yukon a place people can be proud to call home, a place that is accepting of all peoples.
I talked earlier about the people who came north and left. I think that perhaps the best illustration of what has been accomplished during the past years is to look at the people who no longer have to leave, or are being forced to leave or even want to leave.
It was about 12 years ago that our Premier, Mr. Penikett, was serving as a celebrity operator on our local cable telethon to raise funds to operate the Child Development Centre. Today, the government funds that same Child Development Centre for almost three-quarters of a million dollars annually, and over the past years the centre has provided services to hundreds of Yukon children, children whose parents might otherwise have had to leave the territory to seek the support and assistance their children needed. We are, indeed, fortunate to have a centre such as this that can provide speech language therapy, physiotherapy and occupational therapy for infants and toddlers who have special needs.
I know the parents of many of these children and I know the loss of talent the territory would face if these people had to move elsewhere to get care for their children. It makes me very proud to be a part of a government that recognizes the rights and needs of the Yukon’s special needs children.
Our special needs youth and adults also have a place in this territory. Years ago, those with severe special needs were sent away from family and friends. The majority were institutionalized in facilities outside the Yukon and rarely, if ever, saw their families again. It has been within the past five years that we began bringing home these Yukon residents who had been sent away, and we have helped them to create a place for themselves within this community. I am proud of that change as well.
Many things have changed for young people in the Yukon and the advantages we can offer them today are a far cry from what they were even seven years ago.
The teen parents program, on which Members opposite have commented, is a very good example.
Years ago, those parents who could afford it sent their children outside for a senior secondary education because the territory’s school system, politely put, left something to be desired.
It was only a few years ago that the Education Act was rewritten to allow Yukon parents a say in the direction and management of the school system, of which their children were part. Until then, parents had virtually no say in what is probably the most important investment in the lives of our children — their education.
Not only do our children not have to leave to finish high school, but they do not have to leave to obtain post-secondary education. Yukon College has become well-recognized and well-respected, and I personally have had a number of inquiries from students who come from beyond the Yukon’s borders asking if they can attend our college.
From the vocational and technical centre to Yukon College in slightly more than 10 years is something to be proud of. One in five Yukoners takes advantage of this system; that is quite a record.
In the field of social and family services, it has long been recognized that family and community ties are vitally important to children in need, and during the past year we have worked diligently to create some options that would ensure that those family ties need not to be broken.
We are getting closer to opening the residential, therapeutic group home here in Whitehorse, and with this opening we will be able to help those children and youths with severe emotional and behavioral problems here in the Yukon.
They will be able to maintain those ties that are so important and at the same time be able to remain in their home territory. In the past, these youngsters had to be sent outside for treatment.
Family support is just as important for those youths who have run into problems with the criminal justice system and must be incarcerated. Slightly more than two years ago, we opened the young offenders secure custody facility. Now those youths who are sentenced to time, stay in the Yukon and in a facility that is specifically geared to their age.
As well, we are supporting programs aimed at keeping young people in their home communities.
Employment opportunities and the growth of the territory’s economy have enabled many of our young people to stay here after graduation or return after university. We are not losing our young people as so many other provinces are. We are bringing them back instead, and that is far cry from the hit-and-run Yukon residents of 40 years ago.
Over the past year we have dedicated ourselves to improving the circumstances of children and youths in the territory. You have only to look at additional commitments made to our child care program and revisions to our foster parents program to understand how important we believe our children are. We have improved our services to children with revisions to the foster parents program, the planned residential therapeutic facility, changes at the young offenders facility and the child abuse treatment services, to name a few.
We have helped change the very face of the territory from what it was 40 and 50 years ago.
More and more women have entered the work force and politics. They can do so now without feeling guilty. With our Child Care Strategy implemented some three and one-half years ago, we have improved not only the services for children, but because of the checks and balances we have introduced to ensure quality care for Yukon children, we have removed some of the worry that children are not being cared for properly. Mothers will always worry, but I believe we have alleviated a lot of the concerns they would otherwise be burdened with.
Not only have we done what we could to protect children, we have also moved toward recognizing the validity of the job the child-care workers do. We support them in their efforts to unionize. They are trained professionals, with skills to nurture, teach and protect our children. As a government, we support the development of this profession. I have been a working mother. It is tough to find someone to care for your children as much as you do. We are lucky in the Yukon. We have the best child-care ratios in the country and one of the leading child-care programs. I think that is something we can be proud of. The workers’ salaries still are not great, but on average, they are better than anywhere else in the country.
Women and children caught up in violent family life make up another group that need our assistance. In a perfect world, we would not have to think about abused and battered women. We would not have to build safe places and offer women protection from abusive husbands and partners. But this is not a perfect world.
Again, I am proud to be part of a community that recognizes the wrongness of violence against women, the wrongness of violence against children and the rightness of providing support and protection for those women and children in these tenable situations.
Thirteen years ago, the Women’s Transition Home first opened its doors as a safe places for women fleeing violence. Today, we have the safe places program and a newer and larger Kaushee’s II in Whitehorse. There is a safe place in Dawson and in Watson Lake. As well, many other communities are looking at options for providing safe places for the women and children in their communities.
It is not only in the field of social services that there have been tremendous advancements. One has only to look at the Health Act. It is a truly visionary piece of legislation. It is a piece of legislation that is held up by other jurisdictions across the country as a shining example of how health legislation should be written.
Believe it or not, those who work in the Department of Health and Social Services are the envy of their colleagues across the country for being able to work with, and through, such an advanced and enlightened piece of legislation.
In recent years, this government has dedicated considerable time, research and resources to improving the health services offered to Yukon people, as well as the health of Yukon people. Along with the community care givers, we are striving to maintain and improve these standards. With the Health Act, we adopted a comprehensive approach to health care, based on a broad definition of health and the recognition that health care is much more than simply treating disease. This approach includes all aspects of well-being: the physical, the mental, the emotional, the spiritual and the social.
With this recognition comes the ability to create an accessible and accountable health care system that is built in partnership with the people of the Yukon.
Almost 18 months ago, we opened the Yukon mammography unit at Whitehorse General Hospital. Women in the territory had lobbied long and hard, and I would include in that one of the Members opposite, for just such a program. We took a significant step toward improving the possibility of early breast cancer detection with the opening of this program.
Yet, again, we made it possible for Yukon women to receive a service in the territory that, normally, they would have had to travel outside for.
Later this year, we will see the official opening of the new extended care facility adjacent to Whitehorse General Hospital. A long time in the planning, this facility allows still other parts of our population to remain in the territory. Not only will it provide extended care to those who need it, but it will also serve as a rehabilitation facility — again, a service normally provided at considerable cost to us in Vancouver or Edmonton for Yukon residents.
It is facilities like this one, and others, that allow our older population to remain in the Yukon. It was not all that long ago that we saw an exodus of our older, non-native population after retirement. There were not the services, supports or housing available to them. Today, we have a number of residences and programs specifically for older residents. The territory’s population of those over 65 is growing rapidly. I believe our programs have made a major contribution toward a better life for older Yukon people.
In order to look ahead to the future, we need to recognize our past.
The first health status report of the Yukon gave us a capsule look at the health status of the territory and gave us a starting point to look at what we can do in the future to improve the health of all Yukon people and the communities in which we live.
The alcohol and drug survey, released almost a year ago, took a similar approach with alcohol consumption. It gave us a picture of the behaviour and attitudes of Yukon people regarding the use and abuse of alcohol and drugs, and helped us target areas where more work needs to be done. We will have a draft alcohol and drug strategy ready for discussion in June of this year.
There have been many positive changes over the past four years and, indeed, over the past seven. When this government was first elected in 1986, Yukon Housing Corporation had virtually been eliminated, even though over 2,300 households had a housing problem. That means that over 6,000 people in the Yukon had problems affording their dwelling, were crowded or lived in sub-standard housing. Yukon had the highest incidence of housing problems of any province or territory in Canada. We faced the task of rebuilding an organization and putting in place new programs. We had to recreate the Housing Corporation from scratch.
Since 1986, Yukon Housing Corporation has created 274 rent-geared-to-income units, helping low-income households get decent rental housing they can afford. Over 50 of these are rent-supplement units where Yukon Housing Corporation subsidizes low-income families living in private-sector housing.
Federal-territorial cost shared rental housing is a small part of what the Housing Corporation has accomplished. Through these housing programs, the corporation is also addressing special needs of disadvantaged groups in our society. YHC is building the extended care facility across the river, to which I have just referred, and will continue to partially fund its operation. Therefore, seniors requiring this type of care will now be able to stay in the Yukon and obtain needed services. People needing rehab services will also find them in the extended care facility and they will no longer have to be sent outside.
Yukon Housing Corporation is also helping abused spouses. The corporation helped build, and will continue to fund Kaushee’s Place II, which provides a safe haven for 29 women and children fleeing abuse and violence. It provides five second-stage apartments for women and children trying to build a new life outside an abusive relationship.
Programs cost shared with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation are not the only thing that the corporation offers. In fact, most of the corporation’s activities are for made-in-the-Yukon activities and programs. They are fully funded by this government, and generally in partnership with the private sector. They include the home-ownership program, the owner-build program, the rental-suite program, the home-repair program and the joint-venture program.
Through the home-ownership program put in place in 1988, Yukon Housing Corporation has enabled over 90 low- and moderate-income households to achieve their dream of home ownership. These were all people rejected by private-sector lenders. Through the home-improvement initiative, over 500 families managed to bring their houses up to minimum standard.
This year, through the joint-venture program, Yukon Housing Corporation is working with private developers to build new rental and home-ownership accommodation, much needed because of the influx of people created by the recession outside and the boom in Watson Lake.
Thanks to the Yukon 2000 process and the economic strategy put in place by this government, the Yukon is one of the few places in Canada not suffering from the recession. Yukon Housing Corporation is working cooperatively with municipalities, and an example is the development of a housing plan for the Town of Watson Lake, where we will be aiding a number of developers and the town to build both rental and home-ownership housing.
The joint-venture program will also be used in Whitehorse. Yukon Housing Corporation is currently working with a number of private developers in Whitehorse to put together townhouses and apartments.
The rental-suite program will also provide more rental accommodation. It will allow homeowners to install rental suites in their house or legalize existing suites, providing additional low cost affordable rental housing, while making home ownership much more affordable.
However, Yukon Housing Corporation’s ability to operate has been affected by the recent federal cutbacks in federal housing. In its latest budget, the federal government cut new housing allocations to the Yukon by 28 units: from 60 to 32. This will make it more difficult for Yukon Housing Corporation to help low-income families obtain affordable housing. This cut also comes at a difficult time, when our waiting lists are increasing.
Members opposite often criticize what this government is doing and maintain that we have lost our vision and are running out of ideas. I would suggest that when you look across the river at the site of the new extended care facility ...
Some Hon. Member: We bugged you about it for seven years.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: It is there. I suggest that in your travels this summer you look for staff and public housing units that are being retrofitted to increase their energy efficiency. I suggest that when you see a house being renovated, you should consider that this would be, or could be, a home repair program client investing in their home and in this territory and in our joint future. I suggest that when you see a new home under construction that this could be a home ownership client or part of a joint venture between Yukon Housing Corporation and the private sector. We have not run out of ideas and our vision is as clear today as it was when this government came into power — a vision to provide all Yukon people with options so that they may have a decent, uniquely Yukon, standard of living.
But there is still much to be done. In a perfect world we would know that our children would be safe anywhere in this territory: at the playground, at the park and at home. Women would not fear to walk alone at night, nor would they fear to live in an abusive relationship. In a perfect world, we would see a renewal of respect for self, for land and for family, and people would be healthy in mind, spirit and body. Violence would have no value in our society and would be totally unacceptable behaviour. A perfect world would be based on respect and understanding. People would be empowered. The needs of all people would be adequately met regardless of their gender, age or race, and people would live in harmony. In a perfect world, there would be no need for the Department of Health and Social Services or Housing. However, we do not yet live in a perfect world and there remains the need for health, social and housing programs, and if you look at our record over the last seven years, you can see that the foundation has been laid. The building blocks have been identified. We need now to move forward confidently and in partnership to build our own unique Yukon home.
Mrs. Firth: I rise with a certain trepidation because I am concerned that this House has been seriously mislead. I have reason to believe that the ringing platitudes we heard from the Commissioner on Tuesday did not come from the real Speech from the Throne. I cannot divulge how I received it, but it is my understanding that what I have here is the authentic Speech from the Throne. In replying to what we heard yesterday, I would like to share this with the House.
The speech begins: “It is the intent of my government during this session to prove the wisdom of the late American president, Abraham Lincoln, that you can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time. To this end, my Ministers will continue to seek a convincing definition of the expression ‘good government’. Even though such a concept has eluded us during seven years in power, it is our firm belief that this is one occasion on which it may be possible to fool all the people. This does not mean that my Ministers will feel any obligation to implement good government, even if we succeed in defining it. Why would we mess with a good thing?
“My government intends to continue paying lip service to the notion of consultation. In order to do this we will publish many documents, commission many advertising campaigns and hold many public meetings. The purpose of these activities will be to advise the people of the Yukon what my government intends to do, regardless of what they, the people, feel about it.
“In order to maintain the appearance of consultation, we will ask for their opinions but we will not feel constrained to heed their advice.
“In the case of controversial matters such as wolf management policy, the consultation process will continue to take a slightly different form. My government will first seek the advice of the people directly affected. Only then will it decide to ignore their advice and forge a policy of vacillation and delay, designed to satisfy nobody.
“My government will treat the housing situation in Whitehorse and the lack of economic diversification throughout the territory in a similar manner. One of the principles upon which my government continues to operate is that there is no problem if you choose not to see one. In this light, my government will continue to take credit for things that are not its doing. We believe the interests of the people of Yukon are best served by convincing them that the economic forces shaping the rest of Canada, and indeed the world, have no influence upon the affairs of our territory.
“My Ministers will make every effort to demonstrate to Yukoners that the economic bubble we inhabit is the real world and that nothing can threaten its security except criticism from within. They will continue to promote the cozy message that the land is strong, the rivers are clean and 10 percent unemployment should be seen as a wildly successful result of my government’s policies.
“My government firmly embraces the doctrine of open government. To that end we will continue to make membership on boards and commissions open to those who agree with us. We will also continue to allow those who disagree with us to criticize us openly, providing they are willing to be berated, threatened and humiliated for doing so.
“We will introduce legislation this session that will clarify the right of public servants in the Yukon to participate openly and actively in the political party of our choice.
“It is the belief of my government, however, that openness does not necessitate disclosure of too many details regarding loans from the public purse to private industry or trade unions. Neither does it enhance the cause of responsible government to demand rigid guarantees of such loans regardless of their size.
“My government will continue to adhere to egalitarian principles. It is our belief that anyone should have the right to rise to the very top of the public service. Indeed, we will continue to make room at the top for any number of individuals who wish to enjoy more fully the benefits of Yukon society, regardless of their place of origin.
“One regrettable consequence of this enlightened form of leadership, however, is that certain programs, particularly in the fields of health and social services, may have to be curtailed in order to finance the appropriate quantities of upper management within the public service.
“My government will continue to provide a wellness program to its employees, whose well-being has been ignored and morale has been zapped by working conditions within the public service, particularly by past neglect and abuse on the part of my government.
“In line with Lincoln’s second principle, that you can fool some of the people all the time, my government will continue to assail its critics on the opposite side of the House. It will do this to assure the necessary few that the only alternative to my government’s paternalistic excellence is chaos and ruination.”
This speech goes on and on in the same manner, conveying the true message of the Government Leader and his advisors, as opposed to what we heard the other day through the Commissioner.
In all fairness, I should share with this House the conclusion, which I feel is written with an uncharacteristic sense of modesty: “While it is the intention of my government to prove the veracity of Abraham Lincoln’s assertion that you can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, we would be less than candid if we failed to acknowledge that the great orator and statesman also said that you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.
“In its seven years in power, my government has made mistakes. No government can avoid making mistakes, unless it wishes to stay in the garage like a well-polished but never used vintage automobile. Much as my government would like the people of the Yukon to believe that ours is a sleek, smooth-running machine that has only been driven by a cautious senior on a weekly trip to church, the truth is somewhat different.
“In fact my government is a used and battered jalopy. The tires are flat, the engine is burned out, the battery is dead and it has not had any steering for years.”
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is a pleasure to join in the throne speech debate this afternoon, largely because — and unfortunately in some respects, given the legislative agenda that includes a bill to change the electoral boundaries in this Legislature, which is about to be tabled, based on the Lysyk Commission — it appears that the riding that I now represent may soon disappear as a distinct district in this territory.
It is obvious that the grand traditions of the Mayo riding, having been around since 1926 — which, for even some of the people in this Legislature, seems quite old — may well have to come to an end, as the riding is combined with the grand traditions of the riding of Tatchun, which is perhaps more recent.
I have been proud to represent the riding of Mayo, and I have succeeded a number of past MLAs who were distinguished in their own right. Some of them are still living. One former MLA is Jean Gordon, who is living in Mayo, and of course, Gordon McIntyre is living in Whitehorse. It is unfortunate that my most recent predecessor, Swede Hansen, who sat on the front benches of the government for a short time, has passed away. Nevertheless, he did maintain the valuable traditions of the Mayo district through his contribution to this House.
As proud as I am to have represented the Mayo riding, I am certain that, in the future, distinguished Members will be representing the riding along with that of the Tatchun riding.
I have wanted to join in the debate over the throne speech, even before I listened to comments made both yesterday and today by Members on the opposite benches, because I think that there comes a time for every MLA where they want to find a forum where they can clearly explain their feelings and their thoughts about the various issues that face this Legislature and this territory.
Unfortunately, I am not going to have the same amount of time that the Member for Porter Creek East enjoyed, but I will try to keep my comments a little more succinct.
I thought he gave a stellar performance yesterday; I really enjoyed it. However, I must say there were a number of points with which I must take issue and it pains me greatly to have to do this because, after all, I have such abiding respect and admiration for the Member and his contribution to this Legislature.
I must say that there were a number of things he mentioned yesterday that I am happy to say I do agree with, particularly his contributions to the debate respecting education. Not only did I agree with the things he mentioned respecting the department that were, in his eyes, good, but I also found myself agreeing with him about those things over which he showed some anxiety, and I will mention those briefly.
First of all, the Member mentioned that he supported the teen parent program and he supported the many new initiatives that are being undertaken by the department as presented by teachers at F.H. Collins, who are but a small minority of all the teachers in the territory who are showing imagination and enthusiasm in the classroom. With that, I will join him in his praise. Certainly, I have had many opportunities in the past seven years as Minister of Education to provide support and encouragement to those many teachers.
The Member also mentioned support for a college land endowment, which, as the Member mentioned, I have discussed with him briefly and it is my intention to bring forward legislation in the future, after sufficient and thorough public consultation, to allow an arrangement whereby some land is set aside for the future of the Whitehorse campus of Yukon College.
The Member mentioned some anxiety over the drop-out rate of students in our school system and I must say that I share that anxiety, perhaps in spades. However, I must say that the department has been doing many things over the course of the last number of years, at least half decade, that I think will address the problems respecting the high drop-out rate in the long term — even in the short term, to some extent. The Member mentioned the teen parent program as being one of those mechanisms to encourage people not to drop out and to instead follow through with their education, to the end of high school. I think, even though it is only one initiative out of many, it does illustrate the fact that the government and the department have been taking the issue of drop-outs very seriously.
Certainly, the Education Act itself, which talked about a rearrangement of governance over the education system, which changed the system from being a paternal one to a participatory one, has made people feel responsible for the education of the children and responsible for the schools in their own districts. Consequently, they will, cooperatively and together, ensure that there is the greatest chance of success for all the children in the territory.
That is one other very significant initiative that has been presented to this Legislature; it is also an initiative that has been adopted and embraced by the public generally.
In some respects, we have also changed the curricula to ensure it is more learner-focussed and less teacher-focussed. By that, I mean that the curricula is becoming more relevant to the child’s everyday life and, consequently, children will feel that, over time, what they are learning in school is more relevant to their way of life and the way of life of their parents, and less a matter of simply responding to a set agenda they may not recognize for the administrative convenience of teachers and the department.
That is another important change in the constitution of education that will encourage people to stay in school rather than to be inclined to drop out.
The Members have participated in a number of votes in this Legislature during operating budgets where the resources provided to the Department of Education for various supports, including everything from counselling to teachers, have increased the department’s budget in the last six years by 100 percent. That is something we should all be proud of, because that demonstrates the government’s commitment, and this Legislature’s commitment, to education and learning for our youth.
When he was talking about the various programs that are being offered through F.H. Collins High School, the Member mentioned that some of them are quite exciting, such as the wilderness program, which I know some of the Members are personally familiar with through the life experiences of their own children. There are also many other programs, which I will have an opportunity at a later time to expand upon and reiterate. I have announced at least a dozen or two within the last few years. I will not bore Members with a regurgitation of that information.
However, it does clearly demonstrate that the government has exercised some concern over the issue of dropouts. For the future intellectual health and well-being of all children in this territory, we would like to see that they stay in school. If you are not in school, you cannot take advantage of what it has to offer.
The Member also mentioned something I did agree with to a marginal extent, which was the concern over what the government was doing with respect to responding to a student population boom, primarily in the City of Whitehorse. Other communities are experiencing some population booms and shifts, but the Member drew reference only to Whitehorse at the time.
There is no question that, in the last five years, Whitehorse has been considered a boom town. Whether one takes the number of business starts, or simply the population growth, one will recognize that this town has been growing by leaps and bounds. Even the CBC recently did a report where they identified three boom towns in the country, and Whitehorse was featured among them.
Boom towns mean there is a requirement for improved facilities and more opportunities and more infrastructure for people, in order that the standard of living for all can be respected.
I think it goes without saying that, given the fact that we have already voted construction funds for four brand new schools in the City of Whitehorse and we are expanding and rebuilding another in Grey Mountain, that goes some considerable distance to demonstrating that the government has not only been aware that there is a boom and has anticipated the boom, but is responding to the boom.
I will also say that the Member’s desire to retain small schools as an operating principle for the Department of Education is something I do agree with. He is right. I did attend a very large school in Ontario. It had about 2800 students and I would not wish that particular legacy on children if I could help it, and certainly, as long as I am in a position where I can influence things, I will pursue the so-called small-school concept.
Now, that is where the Member and I, I think, will unfortunately have to part company. The Member picked on a number of problems that he thought he could identify in the government that demonstrated that the government was, in his view, negligent or slow off the mark in responding. I must say that the predilection of the Members opposite for public servant bashing is something that I simply do not tolerate in my own world, and certainly would discourage in this Legislature. I think that the Member’s track record with respect to criticizing the people who do public works for us, as an operating principle because it is a cheap political win, is not only unethical, but it is wrong in every respect. It is factually wrong, it is morally wrong, and I will mention more about that in a few moments.
When I listened this afternoon in Question Period to the Member for Riverdale South saying that everything in this Legislature is “ethical”, meaning that there are no ethics, there are no principles, there is no moral underpinning to what we do in this Legislature, I must say that, without appearing to be self-righteous, because I understand that that is a criticism that has been leveled at me from time to time, I disagree with that Member fundamentally and to the very core of my existence, because if there are no ethics or moral underpinning to what we do in this Legislature, why should we expect that everybody who lives outside this Legislature should show those ethical principles?
I think the Member’s suggestion that we should not display any ethical conduct in this Legislature and that anything goes, is something that I am hoping her constituents will take into account at the next election. That was the most startling statement I have heard yet this session.
There were other things I will have to comment on, now that the subject has been raised. The Member for Porter Creek East spent considerable time talking about support for the mining industry, basically using the mining industry as being the acid test for this government’s loyalty to developing and promoting the economy. He was suggesting that perhaps if the government had any faith in economic development and jobs, they would be promoting more of the mining industry than it has already. In some respects, being a miner personally in my private life, I agree with that approach. I do not agree with the criticism.
In 1982-85, when I first sat in this Legislature, there was a government in power. The government in power had no road program other than that pathetic little tote road program. They had no power programs for the mining industry. There was no EDA to support the mining industry. There were one or two people over in Economic Development, which was understaffed by, I think, two-thirds, with the positions simply not being filled, who were dedicated to the monitoring of the mining industry. When it came time to look at those mines that were in operation at the time and suffering through some difficulties, particularly the United Keno Hill Mines and, in those days, the Cyprus Anvil Mine, the government did precious little to support those mining projects.
The only reason I bring this up — and the Member for Porter Creek West really objects to this — is because we both have track records. This government has a seven-year track record and Members across the floor — and particularly the Member for Porter Creek East — have at least a seven-year track record that we can compare. Let me tell you that, with respect to the mining industry, when we talk about the records of Members across the floor...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible).
Hon. Mr. McDonald: ...I am not talking about 1898. Admittedly, even the Member for Riverdale North was not alive then — I think.
Even though his ideas and vision were alive then, he was not alive then. When these same Members were sitting on the government side, they had no programs of any sort. When it came time to support the mining industry in a practical, realistic way, they dithered around with Cyprus Anvil and were unable to get that mine running. Even though they took credit for the reopening of United Keno Hill Mine in their throne speech the year after, they did absolutely nothing to support the reopening of that mine — nothing at all.
In a comparison of records, this government played a major role in the reopening of the Cyprus Anvil mine and the opening of the road to Skagway — I had some personal involvement in that particular project. We got the Curragh mine opened, which is now probably responsible for between 20 and 30 percent of the gross domestic product of this particular territory. We played a major role in supporting the development of the Sa Dena Hes mine in Watson Lake, not only in terms of assistance to prospectors, but also in terms of roads and training assistance.
When it came time to go through the various hurdles, I had meetings as Minister of Economic Development with the mine principals to do everything I could to ensure that all those so-called bureaucratic hurdles were crossed and that mine opened. We were the ones, on this side of the House, who initiated the prospectors program. The prospectors program has a list of 20, 30, or 40 names on it of people who are out there actively looking for mineral prospects now. The Members across the floor had no such support. We are the ones who had the vision to provide the support. That is our actual track record. That should count for something.
The Members opposite spent years, while they were in government, supporting the life of the placer mining industry in this territory, which admittedly is facing some difficult times at present and has been for the last 10 years.
The Member for Porter Creek East may not remember this, but throughout his entire speech yesterday — the whole hour and one-half — I sat quietly, in a civil way, listening to the Member, and I expect similar respect when I provide my remarks in the Legislature.
Now the Member from Porter Creek East does not feel that way. I see that I am getting the same reaction from the peanut gallery that the Members opposite received yesterday as well.
This government has a roads program, a $750,000 road program, that certainly out matches the minuscule tote road program.
This government has an electrical power program for the mining industry; the previous government had no such thing.
This government negotiated a $9 million mineral development agreement to support the mining industry in order to provide for geologists that we have said we recently hired to support the mining industry — which, incidentally, the Chamber of Mines had been asking for and we have responded to. This government has even provided money directly to the Chamber of Mines to support their own operations.
I am not going to trade insults with the Members over symbols of support for the mining industry. I am prepared to trade our concrete action, our many programs and our results — not just the programs, but the results in terms of mineral production — with the activities of the previous seven years of, in those days, the Progressive Conservative government. It is now known as the Independent Alliance and the Yukon Party. I would be prepared to compare us, any day, with the shallow show of support that they give through a simple trading of symbols, whether it be a placer miner symbol on their campaign leaflets or not.
Personally, I do not give two hoots about that issue. After all, if all they are going to do to show support for the mining industry is put a placer mining symbol on their campaign literature, I think, personally, that is a pathetic response to some real needs out there.
I have other things to say, but I do not want to spend all of my time responding to the Member for Porter Creek East. He always sets it up so that my own remarks are cut short, because I am always inclined to respond to the more-than-charming presentations that the Member has a habit of providing to the Legislature.
I do have some things of my own that I would like to say and I will continue on. There has been concern expressed in the media that the throne speech that we tabled a couple of days ago, that the Commissioner so graciously read, had no vision. It seemed to have, in some people’s minds, no sense of direction.
Unfortunately, I think for those people who are claiming no vision, I am inclined to believe that they are in fact blind.
As much as I feel sorry for them, I think the direction we are taking with respect to the quality of life, with respect to social justice or economic opportunities or a clean environment or even the new social contract with aboriginal people respecting the land claim — I would say that, given all of that, one cannot realistically, one cannot in any fairness, one cannot with any confidence, say that this throne speech has no vision.
We have a vision. We have a very clear vision. We have a vision that is built through consensus with the Yukon public — and by consensus I mean we have some major documents that have helped to establish a plan of action through our joint actions on the economy through the Yukon Economic Strategy, or on the environment through the Yukon Conservation Strategy. These were major accomplishments by this government because they brought people together who previously had not spoken to each other.
The only time that I remember the government previous to ours attempting a form of consultation was when they took their meeting room, which is just behind here where the Independent Alliance now sits, and they set up a big round table, chaired by the Premier, and they invited a blue-ribbon group of people to sit down for two hours and we discussed things.
That was considered to be a legitimate consultation process by the previous government. When I say previous government, I am referring to Members on the opposite side who actually happened to play a role in the previous government, so we know what their actions are, besides what their words are now.
We also got a glimpse of what accounted for consultation when, in asking the Member who used to sit here prior to 1985, in my own seat, in the previous Progressive Conservative government — I will not name him — the Member said that they do consult with the general public: they consult once every four years at election time and, if that is not good enough, then the poor whelps on the other side can go and stuff their criticism.
We have taken consultation to new heights. We do consult, and we have many successful projects under our belts. There is not only the Yukon Economic Strategy, which is an all-encompassing document, which provides a vision for the economy that not only embraces what the government should do, but what the people themselves think should be done in order to diversify our economy.
We also have a vision for the environment, about which we also care deeply, which was also developed through consensus with the public.
We have done this, and accomplished all our tasks over the years, without avoiding tough issues. This government has not skirted those issues that may be controversial. This government has not gone on strike when land claims got a little rough. This government has not bashed the federal government every time they did not get their way at any turn, which was the predilection of our predecessors.
When it came to even relatively minor issues, like the squatter policy, this government did not simply throw its hands up and suggest that the project was too complicated, too tough or too controversial. This government responded. Through consultation, this government provided a realistic, rational response to that particular policy area.
When it came to education reform, in 1985, it was manifestly clear to anybody who had an ear on the street that things had to happen in our education system, particularly with respect to governance. This government responded. During the previous few years, we heard Minister after Minister in the previous government — we had a number of Ministers of Education — say that the issues were too complicated, too big, and the system worked just fine.
We tackled those tough issues, and we provided reasonable and respectable responses to those policy areas.
We did a lot of this in the absence of any previous policy framework. The Members opposite are inclined to criticize this government, particularly on land and agricultural issues, asking: why was nothing done? When we took office, there were no land policies. The agricultural policy, for the most part, was a committee set up to, in an ad-hoc fashion, approve applications.
That was the policy. These are tough, complicated issues. There are a lot of very independent-minded, opinionated people out there who have something to say. They do not always agree with each other. In fact, most times they do not agree with each other. This government has not shied away from any of those policy areas. It came through consultation and enormous hard work on the part of many people, not just people who are elected — I am talking about the public servants the Members opposite love to bash, particularly some of the senior ones.
I would like to point out that most of the senior public servants who work for this government right now worked for the previous government. They were hired by the previous government. No matter what those Members say, I have enormous respect for the public servants in this territory, including the ones the Members opposite had a hand in hiring.
Let us move to another area here. The Member for Riverdale South spoke about this being some kind of economic bubble. We had the Member for Hootalinqua telling us that we are living in a dream world and that the economy we have right now is all smoke and mirrors. We have had — and it is fact; what has actually happened — a situation here in our economy where unemployment has gone down one percent a year. The Member for Riverdale South says that we are sitting back on our haunches and accepting 10 percent unemployment. We have never said that we accepted 10 percent unemployment. What we said was that we could not accept the 16 percent unemployment that we inherited from her. We have been bringing it down every year.
Anyone with eyes to see with and ears to hear with will know that the employment rate in this territory has climbed. There are more jobs. Why do we face a crush of new immigrants, to Whitehorse in particular? Why do we face a need for land? It is because people are coming in. Why are they coming in? It is because there are jobs. They are obviously coming in because the economy is good.
This has been happening for seven years. This smoke and mirrors economy we have has been buoyant for seven years. Business bankruptcies are down in this jurisdiction. This was the only jurisdiction in the country last year that had business bankruptcies go down instead of up. I realize the Members opposite do not like the statistics; nevertheless, it must go some distance toward saying that some of the things that are happening are good. Just be fair-minded for a second. Something must be good out there. It cannot all be negative; it cannot all be bad.
The current government has been in operation for seven years, and I think the assumption has always been that, if you put a New Democratic Party in government, you will always be facing deficit budgeting, irresponsible expenditures, and all that sort of thing. Well, the Members on this side of the floor have been stating the obvious — we have balanced our budget every single year, with the exception of one. I will make that exception: 1987. Twenty-nine million dollars was given to the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation for the purchase of NCPC. To do what? To bring down power rates.
This government has balanced its budget every single year. Name me one jurisdiction in the country that has done that. This government has not raised taxes. Name me one jurisdiction in this country that has not raised taxes. This government has lowered taxes. Name me one jurisdiction in this country that has lowered taxes. The Members opposite will say that it is all just because the federal government gave a lot of money. They upped the grant and we have just been spending it.
Looking at the figures and at the books, which are audited and presented before the Legislature every year, our dependence on federal transfers as a percentage of our budget has been going down. The Member for Hootalinqua may not like it. I can always tell when he knows that is a damaging statistic, because he tries to attack it at every opportunity. Nevertheless, the reality is there.
They say that they were able to negotiate all this extra money. To use their own argument, one could suggest, if one were trying to be crafty, that the people across the floor increased the dependency upon the federal government by many times through the negotiation of this extra financial transfer. On the one hand, they are saying that we are too dependent on the federal government and, on the other hand, saying that they got us more money.
To be fair and honest about it, we have to accept that it was the Members opposite who increased the dependence on federal transfers, and we have been working our way out of it ever since. That is another way of looking at it, and it is a fair way of looking at it.
I will get back to the economy for just a second. That this government has no vision with respect to the economy and has had no impact on what is obviously economic health outside these walls is the biggest bum rap on the face of this earth.
Even today, we heard the Member for Hootalinqua say that one of the greatest principles behind economic development has to be roads and power. I think he whispered “access to capital”, “business loans”, or something like that.
I have been hearing that for years, and I am absolutely fed up with it. The community of Mayo has a paved road right to the front door of the houses there. They have had hydro power for 40 years; they have had access to loan capital, even high-risk loan capital, for years and the economy is flat on its back.
The Member opposite’s prescription for the community of Mayo: roads, hydro power and business loans programs. The Member’s prescription: a failure.
Community economic development does not happen that way. Diversification does not happen that way. The simple-minded approach that Members opposite have will not work. Sure, it takes infrastructure, and it does take access to capital; however, it also needs a marketplace, which must be relatively mature. There must be availability of private investment, unless we want the Yukon Development Corporation to initiate every economic enterprise out there.
Speaker: Order please. The Member has three minutes to conclude.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Training and education are important. Social structures and the quality of life in those communities are also important. The response to the need to diversify the economy is going to take some sophisticated understanding of the problems that people face out there in reality, and it is going to take some sensitivity from government, through its programs, to address those.
I will not take the simple-minded rhetoric of roads, power and business loans programs, because that will not wash. It did not wash in the period 1982-85; it does not wash now; it never will wash. There is no quick fix out there for responding to the economy or even to the social problems that we face.
I am going to have to talk a little later about public servants, because I think the attack on the public servants has been incredibly unfair. I will just leave the Members with a few thoughts on this subject.
The total number of management employees, as a percentage of the total workforce, has gone down in the last five years. This runs contrary to the claim that the number of management employees has been going up. The Member for Porter Creek East said, “Sure, the public service has grown bigger; it has all grown bigger at the top, it has not grown bigger at the bottom.” The fact is that is not true. I cannot help it. As the Member said himself, “do not shoot the messenger”. I have nothing to do with this. This is just the way it is.
The pay differential between a secretary and, for example, an assistant deputy minister has gone down in the last five years. The Members are crying “oh, no” — I have them writhing in agony now. These are just a few facts to throw into all the rhetoric, and I realize there is one great big gob of rhetorical gibberish going on here during the throne speech response, but I will throw in a couple of facts just to keep people on their toes.
I will have more to say with respect to that later on, because I would like to respond to some of the things. I would like to respond to the Member for Porter Creek East’s assumption that this government is manipulating municipal business. This is coming from the master manipulator of municipal affairs, when I was an Opposition Member in this House, and we could not even build a sidewalk in this territory without getting clearance from this guy, because he had so much control on the strings of every last penny of those municipal governments, the LIDs in those days, and the municipalities later on. It does not matter ...
Speaker: Order please. Time.
Mr. Phelps: I could not wait my turn in order to speak to this important motion. One of the nice things about my present position is that I have some flexibility. In the past, of course, when I was Leader of the Official Opposition, I used to have to lead off on debates such as these and then suffer through the indignities and the attacks that were directed at me by Members on the side opposite.
For example, the Minister that just spoke and his leader, get up and say that it is the same, tired, old speech. It is the same points that he is bringing up and it is really boring, which really meant that the points that I was making were telling ones and that they were the same points, I hope made in different ways, but the same points merely because the government had not pulled up its socks and improved upon its past, tired, record, and I was forced to bring these points forward again and again.
The Member for Mayo, whom we just heard from, in his completely unjustified and unwarranted attacks on my position — as he just has, to some extent, but not nearly as eloquently as in the past — would set up a straw dog by misrepresenting one of my very carefully thought out, well-reasoned and logical policy positions. He would misrepresent that straw dog and then he would attack it in a vicious way: attack it, pillage it, rape it, plunder it — much like Hagar the Horrible in the comic strips. Then he would pause for a second to savor the delicious victory over that misrepresentation that he proved as a misrepresentation, then move on and strike again.
I will not do that to this Member, because he is feeling sensitive today and small wonder, given the contents of the Speech from the Throne that he is attempting to defend with some vestige of dignity.
I do want to make a few comments about the Yukon and where we are and where we are going. I am sure that some of the things I have to say might have been heard before by some of the Members on the other side. I have to apologize for that. I think some of the things I say from time to time do bear repeating.
It is interesting to see the direction the Yukon has been taking, not just over the past six and one-half or seven years that this government has been in power, but over the last 20 or 30 years. I have enjoyed reading, as others have, articles in one of our local papers that discuss some of the many changes that have taken place, certainly since I was a kid growing up here. There is no question that some of the changes have been good and for the better. One example I read with some interest was the comments attributed to our Commissioner about when he first arrived in the Yukon 30 or more years ago and saw how much discrimination there was and how unhealthy that aspect of the territory was with regard to our aboriginal people and how things have changed so radically in such a relatively short time frame.
Back in those days, I can remember when there was no welfare system. There was no safety net. The health programs that were available in this territory were less than adequate and less than minimal. I can recall, for example, when I was a kid in Carcross, working in the General Store, that the person who carried needy families was not the government, but, generally, in small towns throughout the Yukon, it was the store owner. That is quite a far cry from the way things are today. Certainly, I would be the first to admit that many of these changes in our evolution are good and necessary.
On the level of social programs, we have had an acceleration of these in the past 7 to 20 years. Most of these programs are supported by most Yukoners and by both sides of this House. I know that the Members on the side opposite like to say that they have made tremendous strides in social programs and how the previous government had programs that were less than adequate and so on and so forth. I am sure that even they, perhaps not in public, but in private when caught off-guard, would have a hard time taking a position that, under the previous Government Leader, the Yukon was not in the forefront of bringing in modern, up-to-date social programs for its citizens at that time.
There was a lot of pioneering done by the previous administration and before party politics. Much of this pioneering was due to the fact that we had and still do have a good deal of very intelligent, hard working, caring civil servants who have done a great job for the people in the territory.
When one looks back at life as it was in the 1950s and 1960s and thinks about some of these things, one can say that in many ways the Yukon is a much better and healthier place in which to live. When you talk to the old-timers and you read the types of articles that we have seen of late in the local papers about the good old days, in the minds of many of us, there are also things that have changed for the worse. It seems to me that the Yukon has changed dramatically in terms of the psyche that was so evident throughout the Yukon. I remember in the 1950s, government assistance was something that people really did not want to receive and were embarrassed about receiving. The notion of free enterprise and being a self-made person was a notion that most Yukoners paid lip service to. Most people were proud in those days of being rugged individuals. Certainly in those days we had a good many characters. One can only think of those people such as those contained in the Colourful Five Percent, many, many people who, perhaps in today’s Yukon society, would really feel and appear to be out of place.
I guess I am one person who can say that I regret some of these changes. I heartily concur with some of the sentiments that have been expressed by many people and in the articles such as the ones I refer to.
When we look at the Speech from the Throne and we look at the achievements and the failures of a government that has been in power for seven years, I think it does us some good to try to look at it in the context of changes that have taken place at an accelerating rate, certainly since the mid 1950s.
The government has — and I will be the first to admit it — a great deal of caring, hard working people working for us in the civil service, and I certainly do not disagree that many of them are good. Even many of those hired by the current government are good and do their jobs in the most appropriate fashion.
I wanted to say these things because sometimes in this type of debate we tend to focus narrowly on purely partisan concerns, to some extent at least. I would like, to some extent at least, to be objective in what I have to say, and perhaps from time to time poke fun at figures in our government where such fun is warranted.
There were a good number of initiatives contained in the Speech from the Throne that were positive ones and without listing them all, I am pleased to see the government building on some of the good things that it has been doing over the past almost seven years.
We look forward to some of the legislation that is coming forward. For example, we know and anticipate that the Workers’ Compensation Act will prove to make the workers’ compensation program a better one for all working Yukoners, and we are pleased to now see a bill establishing the Yukon Advisory Council on Women’s Issues. I commend the Minister, of whom I am the official critic, for some of the progress that has been made there, and we are pleased to see that.
Certainly, there has been a lot of progress since this government has taken office, but I do not think it would be fair to say that the previous administration — and I was not really part of it — was totally oblivious the needs of Yukon women.
I am very pleased with some of the progress that has been made, not to say that it is a perfect world yet, in that regard.
Overall, what concerns me is the fundamental problem we face here, and a problem that really has not, to any extent, been solved or really addressed by this government, at least in a fruitful way. Of course, that is the issue of the total lack of economic diversification in our Yukon economy. It is a very sad situation that we face.
It is interesting talking to people who have been away for a few years. Just the other day, I was talking to a professional engineer who had been away from the territory for only about three or four years; he was back visiting and had been in town and looking around at some of the Yukon communities for a while. We were talking about the changes, even since he was here. He was saying that it was amazing how similar Whitehorse is to Ottawa, in many ways, if one thinks about the national situation. One can read the various columnists who write about Ottawa, the city and the people who live there, about how isolated they are from the rest of the country, and how they really are not affected greatly by economic swings, ups and downs in the economy, recessions and depressions, boom-busts and that sort of thing.
Whitehorse is so similar to Ottawa, because Whitehorse really is almost totally a government town. That is not to say that all the people who work and have jobs in Whitehorse work for the government. I know that some of the Members opposite, and certainly Members on this side, are aware of what is known as the multiplier effect. If one creates a job in any industry, even if it is the government industry, one always has a bunch of other jobs that are created to serve the primary job.
When you increase the size of government you tend to have a multiplier effect on the workforce that is there to serve those primary jobs. Make no mistake about it. This is an economy almost completely dependent upon government spending.
One of the tragedies is that, like Ottawa, Whitehorse tends to be removed not only from the rest of Canada, but out of touch with the small rural communities in the territory. I am often rather amazed by the misconceptions that are held by people in Whitehorse about lifestyles and so on and so forth in the small communities. I certainly have always felt that the more time decision-makers — and I am not speaking about politicians so much as people in the bureaucracy and the justice system and so on — could spend in some of the small communities, the better-served the people in those communities might be. I have the sense that, for example, when the court party travels to Carcross from Whitehorse and arrives there at 8:00 or 8:30 in the morning and has a cup of coffee and starts court, they have a very, very limited knowledge about how people feel with regard to the various crimes that are committed in that community and I am sure that this is the case throughout the territory. It was, and I will be the first to admit it, like that back when I used to practice a good deal of criminal law and travel on the court circuit.
My biggest concern about what is lacking in the Speech from the Throne is really anything that addresses the biggest problem that we are confronted with here. That is the issue of economic diversification. If one studies what provincial governments get from the senior federal government to spend in each of the jurisdictions across Canada, what you will find — and we have done some of these comparisons over the years and I am sure I can argue forever with my good friend, the Member for Mayo with regard to this, which we have done in the past with graphs and everything else to fortify our arguments, but we ended up not very far apart, just a couple of percentage points, on what we were talking about — by looking at, for example, what Ottawa has, in one way or another, given to this territorial government to spend, it works out to something like $11,000 to $12,000 for every man, woman and child in the territory.
Then, if you look at the provinces that are have-not provinces and take, for example, Newfoundland — by all accounts the poorest province — the number there is approximately $2,200 to $2,500 for every man, woman and child that is given to that government by the senior government to spend in Newfoundland. It is less than that, given that calculation, in Nova Scotia. It is under $2,000, given that calculation, for Prince Edward Island, as well.
The scope of our dependence on the largess of Ottawa is startling when you make that comparison. That is just the money given, in one way or another, to this government to spend on behalf of the people here.
The provinces I just spoke of do not really have entities equivalent to the northern program, Indian and Northern Affairs. We have a lot of federal money spent by the federal government, undoubtedly much more per man, woman and child than is spent by the federal government in a province such as Newfoundland.
For example, if one looks at how much is spent here on the Inuit and Indian Affairs program, it only makes sense that it is far more per capita, given our ethnic make up here, than it would be in a place such as Newfoundland, Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island. There is a tremendous amount of federal government money that buoys up this territory almost alone.
We are in a situation right now in Canada where we have the threat of a break-up of the country, heaven forbid. It is rather interesting to hear those who take the western separatist position and say, “What the hell, we can get by better if they get rid of central Canada, and the rest of Canada, and they can go.” That may be true for the prairie provinces and British Columbia, but I know it is not true for us.
If the country did start to disintegrate, and if the federal government is no longer willing and able to prop us up in the fashion that it has been, one could see Whitehorse as a ghost town. I could see Whitehorse reverting back to less than 5,000 people very quickly, if this government money were taken away because of whatever happened with regard to this round of constitutional talks and the referendum that is to be held, whatever that referendum is to be, this fall in the Quebec. Perhaps there will be another one in the rest of Canada.
It is interesting that the federal government which, contrary to what the Government Leader says, from time to time does take an awful lot of abuse from the NDP government opposite in various notices of motion that we have debated in this House, and so on and so forth.
It is interesting to me that they continue to spend so much money up here. I certainly think it is only ethical that they do spend money up here, but it is an awful lot of money that is being spent here. That is my point.
I do not know if this kind of reference has to be explained but years ago, here in the Yukon and in the interior of British Columbia, from time to time, we used to have living in our various communities what were known as remittance men. These were people who were sort of the black sheep of the family, generally from England. These men would be sent out to Canada, to the far reaches of the land, to be out of sight from the family and the family’s friends. The family would send the remittance man a monthly remittance so that that person could live in the style to which he had become accustomed, without proving to be an embarrassment to the family back home. I often think that maybe all this money is coming to the government here because the government in Ottawa views it as a payment to the remittance man up here — the Government Leader. Perhaps they hope that he will stay here and not foray down to the southern parts of the nation and embarrass the government down there, but it has not been working. Just recently the Government Leader travelled to Ottawa to attend a conference on the economy. He told everybody how they should plan their economy so that they could have a healthy one like the Yukon. Here we have a nation where people are suffering, where unemployment is rising and jobs are disappearing for various reasons. It is a complex formula. The Yukon — which is propped up entirely by the largess of Big Brother, the government in the nation’s capital, and in turn by payments from the have provinces — has a person coming from this government saying, “Look, no problem in the Yukon. You just have to do what we do.”
When I heard this, I was reminded about a cartoon I vividly recall. This cartoon appeared in the national papers and the main papers in the United States during the election in the mid 1960s, where Barry Goldwater ran for the Republican Party. The cartoon showed a poor woman in rags with a little baby in her arms. She was sitting on the curbside and it looked like she was gaunt and starving and the baby was not in very good shape. In this cartoon, walking past the woman, was Barry Goldwater, and his words were, “This is absolutely shameful. Why do you not show some initiative and go out and inherit a department store?” As everybody probably knows, Barry Goldwater inherited a department store from his father.
It seemed to me that if one looked at the same kind of cartoon, with the very struggling people representing the provinces, particularly in central Canada and the Maritimes, and it depicted our Government Leader walking in, saying, “Show some initiative and have Ottawa give you a bunch more money to live on”, it would be an interesting parallel.
Anyway, not an awful lot of progress is being made with respect to economic diversification, and I feel that it just simply has not been a real priority of this government. I also feel, and I will be very frank about this, that a large part of the problem really has to do with the philosophy of the government in power when it comes simply to the market economy.
It is interesting that most countries in the world have changed drastically with regard to the way in which they view market economies. Notable exceptions exist, however — one, of course, is the new government in Ontario. I would suggest that anybody who is interested in this issue contrast the position of Premier Rae with the position of, say, Mike Harcourt, who has changed considerably in his outlook with regard to economic issues since I knew him in the good old days at UBC.
I am concerned, and I want to say this fairly seriously, that this government really has not changed its position, that they stand much in the same position with regard to economic theory and philosophy as do their counterparts in Ontario. That is certainly a view that I would be prepared to defend — to the death, if necessary.
I note that my good friend, the Minister of Education, has said that he wishes I would.
The problems are severe ones that are faced at this particular time by the outlying communities. Whitehorse is doing fine. It will do fine until our paternalistic government in Ottawa decides, for whatever reason, to call off some of the remittance payments it has been making to the territorial government. Should that not happen, what we really have to look at with concern is the economic health, which has a fundamental bearing on the social health, of the small communities. I am very concerned that these communities are really not making much progress. In fact, it is very much like they are swimming upstream at this time to try and achieve any semblance of economic diversity.
In Carcross, where we now have a local, wholly elected advisory planning council, there is a certain degree of despair, which is echoed at public meetings, that there are no jobs here and they must do something to create some. Like many other communities, they start thinking that perhaps government capital works projects are the way to go to get jobs to build buildings, schools, new garbage dumps or whatever. I am sure I do not even have to preach to the side opposite that that is not very far-sighted thinking. Unfortunately, that is about all that has been offered to them in terms of what they might look forward to, except for some government jobs. By that I mean the program by which some jobs are being moved from Whitehorse to the outlying districts.
I really feel that that remains the greatest Achilles’ heel — the lack of economic diversification — of the territory and the Achilles’ heel, like it or not, of this government.
I want to move on from that and talk a little bit about my riding as it presently exists, the riding of Hootalinqua. As we all know, this is probably the last chance we will have to address the old ridings and reply to the Speech from the Throne, and so I took it upon myself to talk a bit about Hootalinqua, which is going to be carved up into bits and pieces and will be no more, once new electoral boundaries are put through the House in the bill that we anticipate coming forward.
I wanted to say, first, that it has been a great honour to represent the people of Hootalinqua. The riding itself has people from all walks of life and is very reflective virtually of the entire territory. We have a lot of people who live close to town, who work for the government or work in town in service industries that serve the government. We have a lot of people who are involved in the agricultural industry; we have trappers and big game outfitters. We have some of the largest recreational centres in Yukon. We have, of course, in a town such as Carcross and, to some extent, Tagish, towns that reflect the culture of the Indian people, the aboriginal people. We have all of the problems in those communities that are shared with other similar communities throughout the territory, problems that all of us struggle with in our daily lives and would like to see overcome: alcohol abuse and drug abuse, which have been spoken about many times in this Legislature, lack of jobs, lack of training and all of the other diverse needs and problems that so many of our smaller towns throughout Yukon have.
Speaker: Order please. The Member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. Phelps: I would like to say that it has been a pleasure to work with all of these people; most of the people in my riding are individualists.
I have been very pleased to assist, to some extent at least, with the help of the appropriate Ministers from the side opposite, in seeing some self-government mechanisms put in place in hamlets — the most recent being the wholly elected advisory council in Carcross. We hope to see some other similar self-government or grassroots democratic institutions developed in the years to come in places like Tagish and Marsh Lake.
I noted that the lead-off speaker, the Member for Old Crow, mentioned that she had been down to our part of the country — I was going to say “my part of the country”, but I will say “our part of the country”, Lake Bennett. She was very kind in her description of the beauty of the area and the mountains and poetic in what she had to say.
She mentioned that she only saw one set of wolf tracks. That is probably because, despite the fact that we have studied the issue to death, her good friend, the Minister of Renewable Resources, has never implemented a predator control program in the area. When the wolves eat everything and there is nothing left to eat, they tend to move on.
Those are my comments, I regret that I do not have more time to elaborate on some of the points that I have raised, but it has been enjoyable not to have to lead off. It has been enjoyable to have to follow the bombastic Minister of Education for once, and I do hope that the positive issues that have been put forward in the Speech from the Throne are acted upon and acted upon well for the people of the Yukon.
Mr. Joe: I want to talk today about what I feel is the most important part of the throne speech: the chapter on working together.
If we strongly believe that the Yukon is ours, then we must start working together to keep it this way. This is the only way we are going to be able to make the changes that are important. These changes will help keep our old ways active and our new ways positive.
There is a big problem in our land now. It is the problem of alcohol. This is a problem that we all share. This is a good time now for everyone to look at the problem and come up with some solutions.
We do this as a team.
The probation officers, the courts, the elders, the RCMP, chief and council, nurses, welfare workers and the people must all work together to address this problem.
We cannot do this alone. If we are going to help others, we must all work together so that, in the end, we will all be strong. We need help from other people. We can get a lot of strength from a team.
The RCMP need to have the direction of the community. The social workers need to have this direction, too, but they cannot get this help if we do not talk to them.
We need to sit down together and talk about the problem. We need to talk about the people who are causing the most problems in the community, and come up with a way of dealing with them.
We must look to the elders in our community for help. We must also look to other people in our community for help.
When someone has to come to Whitehorse for treatment, they do not always get the right kind of treatment or, if they go to jail, they get punished in a way that does not correct the problem.
They do not learn anything about the bush, or about surviving off the land. We must look at ways of healing our people in our own traditional ways. These are the ones that will work the best.
We must support our people by providing the treatment centres for them. We need to do this wherever there is the greatest need, both in communities, as well as in facilities.
In Pelly Crossing now, we have a program going on at Tatlmain Lake, thanks to this government. Some of our offenders go out into the bush with the elders and learn the ways of the bush. They cut trails, they hunt, trap, fish and build cabins out there. They are even starting a garden to provide food.
We have built a good meeting place out there. Tatlmain Lake is a very old place, and we are starting to take great pride in fixing it up. This is treatment in a traditional way.
In Carmacks, there has been a good start in a community-based justice system. This is also very encouraging.
Everyone is waiting for someone else to start talking but, while we wait, there are people who are dying in the communities. The problem is a very real one. People are committing suicide, and there is a lot of abuse in the family. Whole families are being destroyed. We must do something about this very soon.
Some people are waiting for land claims to be settled. People are waiting for social programs to start. I believe we must start this right away. There is no time to waste.
Self-government also means working together. Government is just a way to make decisions. Municipal governments are getting more responsible. They can decide the best way to go, and then do it. Self-government is a way for aboriginal people to make decisions for ourselves. We sit down and talk with one another. We do not need to have a big bureaucracy or lots of people.
People from both cultures need to sit down and talk with one another. We need to share our knowledge so that we can continue to learn from one another.
We have made good progress in our land claims negotiations recently, because we have been following the old ways.
In the past, when there was a problem with something, we sat down and talked with the people involved. We were able to come up with solutions that everyone was happy with.
Aboriginal people have always been able to solve our own problems. The signing of the land claim agreement will mean a great deal to us. We have always been able to heal ourselves, and now we need the resources to be able to continue to do this.
We will strengthen our communities a lot more if the different governments can work together. Municipal governments should work together with YTG. First Nations governments can work together with municipal governments.
The community development fund is a good example of how the people can help themselves with the financial help from the government. It is working together to help the community do what it thinks is best for itself.
In the end, we must ask ourselves, “What do we believe?” This is a group decision that must be made.
Once we answer this question, then we can start building a system that will give us what we need to make things better for ourselves.
The Yukon is ours. We must all now work together to keep it safe and healthy for our children.
Mr. Phillips: I rise today to reply to the Speech from the Throne in this House for the last time. I should clarify that statement. It is the last time I rise as a representative for Riverdale North, at least the riding as the boundaries are described today. New boundary changes will soon be introduced to this House, altering most of the ridings in this territory. I spent many hours over the past seven years visiting and getting to know the constituents of my riding. Although I am losing the western section of my riding, the changes will give more equal voter representation and distribution throughout the Yukon. That is good for democracy.
I would like to thank the voters in Riverdale North for their confidence over the past seven years and a special thank you to those voters who will no longer be in my riding after the boundary changes.
Last Tuesday, I saw a glimmer of hope in the Yukon. It happened in the government cafeteria, just around the corner from this House. I ran into the Government Leader as he was standing in the line clutching a towel. It was moments before the throne speech was to be delivered and for a brief moment I thought that the Government Leader was going to throw in the towel. I asked the Government Leader if that was his plan. He informed me that it was his crying towel. All I can say about that is that I know now, after having listened to the throne speech, why he had a crying towel.
Back to the more serious question of the current throne speech. The Leader of the Official Opposition mentioned the Tetlit Gwich’in claim. Last summer this government saw fit to call a very special session, at great expense to taxpayers, where all Members assembled in this House for one day and unanimously supported a motion condemning the federal government for the unilateral action. Since then, despite what the Government Leader says, we have not heard a peep from this government. Why was it so significant less than nine months ago to call us into a special session and today it is not worth mentioning at all in the throne speech?
This appears to be shaping up to be a very good year for Yukoners, from the mild winter to the positive upcoming events, such as the Alaska Highway celebrations, the opening of the Arts Centre and the changing of the government in power. These are all positive events that will give cause for celebrations and joy.
I would like to take a few moments and talk about the positive initiatives that this government has carried out in my riding, the riding of Riverdale North. I would like to do it in the same manner in which the government Members commend the government for the outstanding job that has been done in their ridings.
I will put a caveat on that, though. I do want to mention a couple of the concerns I have about some of the developments in my riding. There are several new buildings and offices in Riverdale North. A new student residence was a positive move and is providing a very needed service for out-of-town students. Old Yukon College was recently renovated for the Department of Education for a measly $5 million, and the Department of Education has now moved into that facility. And, I thank the Minister of Health, because after seven short years of badgering, the government is finally constructing the much needed extended care facility over by the old hospital. It appears at this stage to be a very attractive building and it will provide a much needed and overdue service for our seniors and their family members. These are some of the positive initiatives that this government has carried out in Riverdale North.
Unfortunately, the decisions to build these facilities were made in isolation and with very little consultation with city officials. When they did consult, they had no intention of listening. Five years ago, we had a traffic problem in Riverdale — a bottleneck at the bridge near the south access. The addition of these new facilities, as well as the growth of the high school has greatly accelerated these problems.
For years, I have been asking this government to accept some of the responsibility for this growth, but to no avail. The Riverdale bridge and the traffic intersections at the SS Klondike and Hospital Road are obsolete and are a hazard. Traffic is extremely heavy at certain times in the day and many times in this House we have heard emergency vehicles rushing toward Riverdale, either to get into Riverdale to fight a fire that might be at a house, or to get to the hospital for emergency service.
What is it going to take before the government acts on this? Is it going to take the Minister of Health’s house burning down because fire trucks could not access Riverdale quickly enough due to an accident on the bridge? Will that prompt an immediate action? I know the government is stalling on this issue and it wants someone else to foot the bill to carry out the necessary changes, namely the federal government, when it transfers the hospital to our authority. That is another issue that we have been asking for for seven years and it is probably going to take another seven years to come about.
This is unacceptable. The residents of Riverdale North cannot wait any longer, and a shallow campaign promise next fall will not suffice or fool any Riverdale resident. The seven years of inaction speak a lot clearer than shallow political promises made by this government.
I would like to turn now to the Speech from the Throne. This speech is nothing we have not heard before, but I will make some comments on the broad statements made in it. If I was to believe everything I heard in that speech, all is sunshine and roses in the Yukon. The speech made the statement, and I quote: “that together we are building a vibrant community based on mutual respect and understanding.” I wish this were true, but it is not what I am hearing from Yukoners and constituents in my riding.
Many individuals, Yukoners, organizations and businesses, are intimidated by this government. Some have told me that they have been warned that if they speak out against government policy it could affect their funding, their future contracts and even their jobs — sometimes subtly but sometimes directly. This type of intimidation is something that no one would expect, even from some of the Eastern Bloc countries that are now changing their attitudes. This is totally unacceptable. These types of scare tactics do not work on Yukoners, and Yukoners will have the final opportunity to speak out against these threats in the next election by secret ballot. They will not have the fear of losing jobs and losing contracts.
I receive calls all the time from government workers and other Yukoners who express strong concerns over issues. They want me to assist them and then they ask me if they can keep their name out of the issue because they are afraid of government retaliation.
What are we coming to? Just today, as an example — and this happened personally to me — when I was on my way to the House Leader’s meeting I was approached by Terry Sargeant, the principal secretary of the Government Leader. He made the comment that I had good sources of information in regard to the Taga Ku question. He went on to say that they were looking hard for the informer. What are we coming to? This type of government witch-hunt and intimidation is absolutely unacceptable. If anyone here has committed a wrongdoing, it is Mr. Sargeant for his vindictive approach to discovering the truth. In this particular case, we have a very direct conflict of interest with the deputy minister and now the witch-hunt and cover-up is in full swing. It is time that this government is replaced. They are rapidly becoming corrupt.
Whatever happened to the public’s right to know? Whatever happened to the honesty and integrity of government? This government has lost sight of the basic principles long ago and all Yukoners are now paying that price.
Yukoners are concerned about the seemingly preferred group of Yukoners that this government is catering to. One example that comes to mind is the education leave that was given to one of the deputy ministers of this government. The deputy minister was supposed to have the qualifications when he got the job and not require an on-the-job training program.
There are a lot of single parents out there and a lot of individuals in the Yukon who have gone to a great deal of expense, time and effort to provide themselves with an adequate education. This was at their own expense, I might add, not with a $100,000 bonus from the government, along with a computer and other amenities.
This particular preferred group of people ranges from blatant political appointments within the civil service to similar pork-barrel appointments to important Yukon boards and committees. The Leader of the Official Opposition touched on some of those individuals. I am not going to go back over that again.
I am saddened to report — and I think other Members must be hearing it, too — that Yukoners are becoming very cynical and bitter about the special treatment of this elite group.
Another issue I hear all the time is the arrogance of the Government Leader, coming through time and time again. Someone should remind the king that, despite his belief, he is not the most knowledgeable and intelligent Yukoner, and he should spend more time listening rather than talking.
The Government Leader is very proud of his consultation process. I commend the government for adopting the process of public consultation. The problem is that one of the main requirements of consulting is the obligation to listen to what the public is saying. I am disturbed that this government has adopted the new policy of only listening to what it wants to hear. When it does not hear what it wants, it simply ignores the public view and refers the issue to a new or old committee that it controls. It refers it to these groups, because it is sure that they will express the government’s wishes. The wolf control and the Employment Standards Act are two that come immediately to mind.
I almost fell asleep when the Speech from the Throne turned to economic diversification and sustainable economy. It sounded like a broken record. I know that you, Mr. Speaker, almost collapsed when the government re-announced for the tenth or twelfth time the fantastic, superb and outstanding Polar Sea Fisheries project. I understand from the speech that there may well be over 1,000 people employed at that facility now. I am just guessing that, because it keeps getting announced so many times as being the cornerstone of the government’s economic diversification.
We, on this side, have commended the government on this facility at least 10 times. This makes 11, but give it up. If this is the flagship of the Yukon’s economic diversification, we are all in big trouble.
In my last reply to the budget speech, I expressed my concern over economic diversification in each community. We all know that nothing — absolutely nothing — has changed in most of those communities. If tourism died out in the next two years, what would many of these Yukon communities do? If Faro closed in October, what would happen to the Town of Faro?
Without the large gift of funds from Ottawa, we would have one of the poorest economies in the country.
Unfortunately, in the past seven years we have developed a one-horse economy, all government driven. That from any economist’s view is not healthy and in these tough, economic times and rising costs for government, I think that the days are numbered for the Yukon receiving the fat, plush budgets they seem to be receiving from Ottawa.
The Member for Hootalinqua also touched on the current constitutional problems and how that could affect our transfer of funds in the future. I share those very important concerns.
I would like to talk for a moment about a couple of different areas and one is the area of education. I would like to commend the Minister of Education for some of the programs that he has in place.
One program that he mentioned earlier is the ACES program. My own son had the opportunity to go through that program and I can tell from personal experience that it has really improved him and it has helped him out greatly many of the other students who were in that program.
I have some concerns about that program and other programs in the school. I have been hearing from parents in the riding of Riverdale North about their concern over dumping in the programs and putting some students in some of these programs that cannot succeed anywhere else, and that is becoming quite a draw on all of the other students in the program and actually affecting what I think is one of the better programs offered in Yukon schools today. I just asked the Minister to be cautious when he sees that kind of thing happening and to try and prevent it.
I think that we should offer better opportunities in our schools for high achievers and I hear that from many parents out there who are concerned that there is not that opportunity now available to Yukon students.
Again, I would reiterate the concern of the Leader of the Opposition when he talked about the shortage of room in Yukon schools. We are in a bit of school crunch right now and some of the schools are quite overcrowded. I do not think that is a healthy atmosphere for the students, especially when you look at such factors as our drop-out rate.
Another area that I would like to talk about is the area of Renewable Resources and I do have some concerns. I would like to make a comment about the brochure the Minister tabled the other day, See Your Wildest Dreams Come True. It is a brochure about viewing wildlife in the territory and I thought it was interesting that there were actually no photographs of Yukon wildlife in the brochure; it was pictures of them, because in most cases along our Yukon highways, you cannot see any wildlife. There are only a few areas in the Yukon where you can, but because of the poor, past management practices of this government over the past seven years, there has been a real problem in viewing wildlife in the territory. If the government had managed properly, tourists would have had the opportunity today to actually see wildlife.
In a tourism magazine that the Government of Yukon has put out, entitled Canada’s Yukon, there is a section about viewing wildlife. It goes on to say that the Yukon is a world-class wildlife viewing area; not only is there an abundance of animals, but it is one of the only places in the world where these creatures can still be viewed in their natural, unspoiled habitat. It is significant to note that, next to the statement, “there are all kinds of wildlife,” is a picture of a caribou. It is probably the last caribou that was in the Champagne/Aishihik area, and it is slowly becoming extinct because of government inaction.
The decisions made by the Department of Renewable Resources are becoming quite political, instead of them listening to their biologists and listening to the people they appoint to their boards. I am very concerned about that type of approach by the government. They should get back to the basics when it comes to wildlife management in the territory.
I would like to make a couple of comments on sewage treatment. There was a brief comment in the throne speech about sewage treatment but no real commitment any more. We know that the wetlands idea is sort of laying aside now, and nothing is happening with that. I have some strong concerns over the treatment of sewage and the government’s commitment to that. I will be asking some questions in this session regarding the government’s commitment to the sewage problems Whitehorse is facing. Those problems are affecting all downstream users of the Yukon River.
I would like to commend the government on some of the initiatives that it has taken. The youth conservation corps is a good idea. In this corps, I hope that they also teach hunting ethics and those kinds of things. I hope that it is not just preservation but conservation.
I would like to commend the government on the recycling centre, and I would like to commend Ray Massey, the staff, the volunteers and the board of directors on the outstanding job they are doing. The ideas they are coming up with are good. We have to be careful we do not get too carried away, because it can be a very expensive proposition. However, they are on the right track, their heart is in the right place, and I support the efforts of the individuals at the centre.
The anti-litter campaign the government has just announced is a half-good idea. This program is continuing to get better. It used to be just one week a year and, now, they are expanding it for several weeks a year. I am glad to see that.
Litter is controlled, not just one week per year or two weeks per year; it is controlled every week of the year. I think if the Minister were to go for a drive this evening and drive around some of our local schools, he could see that it is a major problem and one that is not getting much better.
While I am on my feet, I would also like to issue a challenge to the MLAs across the floor to join me again this year in cleaning up litter along the Yukon River. I was down there the other day. It is a little early to do that just yet, but I think that we should plan to do it in the next few weeks, and I would invite all MLAs to come down there just after lunch, for an hour or so one day, and I am sure that we can fill up a few garbage bags and help clean up Rotary Park and the riverfront.
Mr. Speaker, I am interested in the Teslin wetlands project that is in your riding. I think it has been announced for the fourth time in the budget and I thought two years ago that it was already in place and things were working just fine, and I find out that it is not in place yet and they are still working on it. I would be really interested to see how that does work because, in fact, it could be used in many other areas of the territory if it is successful. We have heard a lot of positive comments on how it should be successful, but it remains to be seen how successful it is, and I will be following that rather closely.
I want to touch, for a moment, on land claims. Land claims are very significant to the Yukon Territory and we appear to be coming to a conclusion, although lately we have heard some news reports from several bands that they feel like they are being rushed into the land claim. I feel like I am being rushed into the land claim right now because we are told that legislation is going to come into this House and I, for one, want to have the time to examine that legislation very closely, because it is not only going to affect Indian people in the territory, it is going to affect non-Indian people as well. I think that we want a good agreement for everyone in the Yukon and I think, Mr. Speaker, that you would agree with that. I do not think anyone should be signing any blank cheques at this time just for the expediency of getting their names up on the marquee in lights.
I am afraid that the Government Leader is proceeding in that direction with all haste and I think that he should slow down. It has taken 20 years to get where we are. Another two or three months of sober thought, looking at the agreements and the proper drafting of the agreements would be time well spent. Even if we have to come back here early in the fall or in the fall session and deal with the issue, I do not think that would be a problem. I think that all Members are prepared to do it and to do it correctly. I think that that is what we have to do.
With regard to land claims, I also want to see more detailed information. Most of the stuff we have heard so far with respect to the umbrella final agreement, and even the self-government agreement, is rather vague on how it affects specific areas. I think the Government Leader has an obligation to explain to all Yukoners how that will affect us.
Another area of the throne speech I want to touch on is the constituent assembly. I am very interested in what the Government Leader actually means by that. I hope we are not just an expensive test for the national NDP, which has been advocating a constituent assembly all along and Yukon people are going to pay for this experiment to see whether it works or not. I hope that is not the case. I, again, go back to my thoughts and the thoughts of our leader: the Member for Old Crow represents 250 people and I represent 1,200 people in my riding — it is not a lot of people and I think all Members in this House should have a fairly good pulse on what the people in their riding are thinking. I have to question whether we need an expensive process of a constituent assembly — depending on what it is — when we in this House are elected to represent people and express their views.
The other area I want to touch on is the Department of Justice. I have some strong concerns over the Employment Standards Act and I will be expressing those when the Minister brings the act into the House. At a public meeting I attended, I was amazed at the lack of the Minister’s understanding of small business. I would hope that that particular meeting and other meetings since have helped educate the Minister on how small business works and that not all small businesses are making hundreds of thousands of dollars; some of them right now are very marginal. The changes to the Employment Standards Act will affect not only the employer, but the employees as well. If the employer is not there any more, neither will be the employee.
I hope the Minister is treating this matter very, very seriously, because it is a very serious matter and the Yukon already has one of the highest costs of living in the country. I am not saying that anyone should be deprived a fair wage. I believe everyone should get a fair wage, but I do not think we should be leading the country with the most progressive employment standards legislation. It is not the time, considering the economic problems we have.
Following the concept of tribal justice, I think it is an interesting concept; it seems to be working in some ways and not working so well in others. That is something the government is embarking on. I am getting a little nervous that they do not have all the results from one particular area — your area, Mr. Speaker. It has not really had its opportunity to go full circle and yet we are implementing it in all other areas. I think we should be planning and watching pilot projects before we get in too deep.
I commend the Minister for the activities the government is carrying out on violence against women and making people more aware of that. It is a deplorable action, and I commend the Minister on the activities of the Advisory Council on the Status of Women for putting that forward.
I will be asking the Minister later on in the House about the Teslin jail and its status. I attended a meeting in your riding, as you remember, Mr. Speaker. I think it was a very good meeting and a lot of feelings were expressed by the people of Teslin. I will be looking forward to hearing from the Minister if the final decision has been made on the location for the jail. I know that many from the town council and others at the time expressed that they were concerned that a public building should be built on public land. I think they picked the microwave radio site as the preferred site at that particular time. I will be interested to know whether the Minister will follow those recommendations.
Again, I want to commend the Minister on the support of the crime stoppers program. They held a telethon here earlier this winter. I participated in that telethon. It was one of these Karaoke things. I was asked to sing a song. I was hoping the Minister could have been there, as well. I guess the Minister was out of town. I know the Minister and I could have sung “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, because the Minister was in Hawaii and had an opportunity to learn all the words to that song. It would have been quite a duet, I am sure.
The telethon was quite successful and the program is off and running now. I see lots of ads in the paper. I think it is a very positive program and I am glad to see the government is supporting that.
The other thing in the area of Justice is the work camps. I think they have been a success. I think the work camp is going to Mayo this year. I am pleased to see that the government is continuing with that program.
The last area I want to touch on is the area of tourism. I want to talk a little bit about tourism. It is probably one of the best opportunities the Yukon has for future success. I think many more people are travelling now and going to different countries. It is the fastest growing industry in the world. We really have something to offer in the Yukon. Many jurisdictions search out themes to attract people to their areas. We are fortunate that we have a couple of themes: one of those being the gold rush and the other being our natural, pristine beauty. Also, in the Yukon we are entering what one would describe, I suppose, as being the decade of celebrations. There are many things happening over the next seven or eight years.
I do have a comment I would like to make, however. A booklet was put out called Canada’s Yukon. This particular booklet was an insert in the Canadian Airlines magazine and is being read by hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. It talks about the Yukon. It is quite an extensive book; some 23 or 24 pages long. It does have a few problems, however. When I went through the book, the first thing I discovered was the message from the Minister. Perhaps the Minister can explain this to me, but I have difficulty understanding it. It talks about the Yukon and says, “This is a place that will both warm and quicken you heart”. He probably meant “your heart”.
I am wondering. This is a very expensive publication. I wondered if people in the department or anywhere else read this. As I go through the publication, the description of various things are kind of airy-fairy. It is almost as if the people who designed the new visitor reception centre had a hand in designing this magazine. After reading some of the magazine I am sure that if the Minister takes the opportunity to read it over, he will discover some of this: “Welcome to the land of tranquility and wonderment, spirit and discovery.” There is nothing about beached whales in the particular magazine, but I suppose that is because there are no beached whales in the Yukon other than the visitor reception centre.
The other thing that I noticed about the magazine, and I am wondering why, is that there is only one small mention, on the last page, about the Alaska Highway 50th anniversary celebration. There are 24 pages in this magazine; hundreds of thousands of people are reading this magazine, and on the very last page there is one paragraph talking about the 1992 Alaska Highway celebration. There are no ads in the magazine saying that it is happening this year.
It seems to me, unless my memory fails me, it was only a year ago that I asked the Minister when we were going to advertise for this particular event. He said do not rush me, it is too early, you cannot advertise yet, people do not make plans until a little later. We have to advertise when it is more appropriate. I just hope that we are not planning to advertise for the 1992 celebration in the spring of 1993, because for the Minister’s information that is going to be a little late.
I hope that the Minister has had an opportunity to look at that. It makes me wonder when I look at something like this just how much consultation there was with Tourism Industry Association, and how much consultation with the Anniversary Commission regarding this particular magazine. These two organizations are doing an outstanding job of advertising for the territory and I would have thought that they would have had a full-page ad somewhere in here, especially since it is going out now listing some of the events or making mention of some of the events that are happening. I think that it would have been a little more appropriate and I think that we really missed the boat by not mentioning that.
I want to talk a little bit about the waterfront development. I have some concerns over the waterfront development. It seems to be on hold again and nothing seems to be happening.
We did have the little bit of work done last year — a couple of kiosks and trails on the waterfront — but I am sure that is not what everybody envisioned the waterfront as being, and I hope that the government will act on that fairly quickly.
I had the opportunity to go to the museum when it had its opening of the new Whitehorse display and I think that the government would be well advised to go down there and look at some of the old pictures of the Whitehorse waterfront. From that the government may get an idea of what the waterfront used to look like and the type of activities that were there, because I think that is something that we should be trying to capture in our waterfront display.
I would like to commend the MacBride Museum Society and the people who worked on that exhibit. It is an outstanding exhibit for Whitehorse, and I know our Clerk had a hand in it. I commend the Clerk and the executive director of the library for working tireless hours in putting that display together. It is well worth seeing, and I recommend to all Yukoners to go down there and have a look at Whitehorse as it used to be. It is quite interesting.
I want to talk a little bit about the convention centre. This is something that will bring more tourists to the territory. We now have major problems with the development of that centre. I urge the government to get on with the job. We have talked about a convention centre for several years, and now do not know whether we are going to get one this year, the year after, or the year after that.
With the convention centre planner being advertised through the Chamber of Commerce, everything is coming onstream. The big problem is we do not have a convention centre facility large enough to handle big conventions. That was the complaint years ago, and we are still in the same position now. We have played at this long enough, and it is time to take some action.
The last area I want to talk about is the visitor reception centre. The Leader of the Official Opposition talked about it being a landmark to the NDP government. I am certainly glad it was they who built it. Many Yukoners are going to have the opportunity to drive by and visit that facility.
I would make one comment on it. After he found there were no whales in the Yukon, it was described by the architect as an overturned canoe. I could have made a suggestion to the government earlier. They could have saved a lot of money. They should have turned the canoe over the other way. It is built on a swamp. They could have done away with all the problems of the foundation if they had turned the canoe upright. It would then have floated, and we could have had little boats going across to it. It would have been much more attractive, and it might have almost resembled a canoe, if you use your imagination.
I know they cut back some plans in the facility. I had an opportunity to go up there the other day and walk through it. I might add that I had to go about five miles around to get there, because there is a moat in front of it right now. It circles the whole building on one side. You have to sneak in the back door. It is there temporarily to keep the tourists away and, eventually, they will build some kind of access across it. Perhaps the M.V. Anna Maria will get the tourists across to the actual facility.
I walked inside the building and looked at it. The first thing that struck me is that we did not finish the ceiling. If you look inside the building, it is just a bare metal ceiling with glulam beams. It seems to me that what was lacking on the architectural design on the outside of the building is even more lacking architecturally on the inside of the building.
You do not know how happy I am that it is going to be the Minister of Tourism, Art Webster, whose name is going to go on that building. I am going to insist it does, and I think a picture should go in there, too, because I think people should know who built this building. And I think there should be a side-by-side photo with the Government Leader because he supported that project, too. He thinks it is a great idea — a little round building, a coliseum of washrooms and some pick-up sticks on the roof. I think it is a different concept.
It does not say much to me about the Yukon. In fact, it does not say anything to me about the Yukon. The Government Leader asked me if I want his picture in the facility. Mr. Speaker, I insist that his picture goes in the facility. I will photocopy his picture and I will pin it on the wall in all of the washrooms because people put things on washroom walls and maybe we should put it on the washroom walls.
It is going to be a rather interesting concept, and the opening is going to be interesting when the hundreds of people that are invited to the washroom mill around in the washroom area. To me, it is going to be a fascinating opening and I am looking forward to going there. It is hard to envision, but I can envision it now with hundreds of people standing in the washrooms and people trying to get in and out of those doors in this little circular coliseum of washrooms. It is an interesting design. I do not know what the guy was smoking when he designed it, but it is an interesting design, to say the least.
With that, I am going to wrap up my reply to the Speech from the Throne. Like I said earlier, there is very little in this speech that is new. We seem to have a government that is tired and exhausted and is resorting to tactics like intimidation and such to get its way. When they do not support their ideas, they change the board or form a new board.
That is the way of the New Democratic Party government, the government of the people. It is unfortunate that that has happened. It is probably time for a change. As I said in my last speech, as the Member from Riverdale North, as it exists today, I thank you for the opportunity to reply to the non-Speech from the Throne.
Hon. Ms. Joe: It has been a real pleasure, today and yesterday, to sit around and listen to replies to the Speech from the Throne. I sat in bored agony, if I may call it that, listening to the speech of the Member for Porter Creek East. He talked about a tired old government; well, we have spent an hour and one-half listening to a tired old speech — a speech that has been made over and over and over again. The same things that have been said for the last seven years were being said again yesterday, and I suppose we all say things in our speeches so that we can get the message out to the people.
The only good thing about getting the message out to the people is that there are many sensible people out there who do not believe what he is saying, and we have a lot of confidence in those individuals.
I have been representing the riding of Whitehorse North Centre now for 10 years, and I would first of all like to express my appreciation to all the people in that riding for the support and encouragement they have given me over the years. As a Member of the House, I have met with them, I have listened to them, I have acted when they called me to address some of their concerns, and it is my intention to continue to do that.
With the proposed changes in the boundary, some parts of that riding will be somewhere else. Throughout the 10 years that I represented Whitehorse North Centre, I have seen many changes. The first big change was the relocation of the Kwanlin Dun Band to McIntyre. It was with great pleasure that, in my first year of office, I represented those individuals, along with many other people from that area, and it is my hope that the new relocation has made a better life for them.
During the 10 years I represented those people, I have seen a trailer park move — one that had been there for so long and, all of a sudden, it was gone. With the proposed changes in the boundary, I will be losing a number of constituents I have grown quite close to — the people from the Shipyards area who, according to the proposed boundary changes, will be in another riding.
It is with regret that I see that area being moved out of the new constituency. The Marwell area, which, of course, over the years, has suffered a lot of problems with regard to flooding and so on will no longer be in that riding. The people from Sleepy Hollow will be moved. It has been a pleasure — and it still is a pleasure — representing them in this House.
I have spent a lot of time over the 10 years getting to know the people in my area. As with many others in other ridings, there is a diverse group of people among the people of Whitehorse North Centre. I have certainly learned from them. The kind of advice they have given me and the concerns that they have brought to me have, on some occasions, been of great help to me. I have acted on a lot of those changes. It has been a real pleasure to serve them.
The new riding, of course, will leave out all of those areas and will be moved further along to Lambert Street. That change will be much more representative of the population, along with the changes in other constituencies.
I want to talk about some of the things that have happened over the years since we have been in government. We keep talking about the same old speeches being made over and over again. We keep saying the same old thing, but we have to continue to let people know that things are changing in the Yukon and that our vision for the future was real and positive. The changes that have been made have been for the betterment of all Yukon people.
With regard to the social changes that I have seen, I think that people, over the years, have really appreciated a lot of those changes. I listened to some of the speeches from the other side of the House today and there were many criticisms for many of the things they felt had gone wrong. There were also some thank yous for some of the good things that they have seen happen, especially in their ridings.
I listened to the speech from the Member for Riverdale South. Actually, I was a little bit confused, because I did not hear the first part of her speech. Then I thought I was going back in history to the days of 1982 to 1985, when we were on the other side of the House. I thought “Gee, she is not really doing this, is she?” But it really was true, because way back in 1982, there was no real consultation, as my colleague from Mayo mentioned. Their consultation with the people was every four years when they had an election. It was said in the House and we sat in horror on the other side of the House and listened to it.
It was evident many times that there was no real commitment to follow the land claim process. As an aboriginal person in close touch with those aboriginal people in the communities, it was recognized that that certainly was the case at that time.
The thing that I found really astounding was that there has been a lot of criticism from the side opposite in regard to the boards and committees, and political appointments. I think a lot of people on those boards would be absolutely horrified to know that they were being called political appointments. If we had to name names, they would be horrified by that concept, because it certainly is not true.
There was some suggestion yesterday that the boards and committees under the former government was possibly made up of four or five percent women. That may or may not be true but, if it is, it is certainly not reflective of what we are doing now. We have been able to attain 50 percent representation by women on boards. That is one of the things we should be really proud of.
I would like to talk about some of the things that have happened in my department. The priorities set by the people of the Yukon are reflected in the goals of this government. As a Member of the Executive Council, I am aware of this government’s success in reaching the goals of building a sustainable economy, together with healthy communities, and ensuring that good government continues to be a reality in the Yukon.
Since the NDP were first elected to power in 1985, I have been witness to the passage of many pieces of progressive legislation and many innovative programs.
Some, such as the Human Rights Act, were successful in bringing the Yukon out of the dark ages and ensuring that the rights of all people were protected.
Other legislation such as the Education Act, have put the Yukon into the forefront as leaders far ahead of other jurisdictions to a point where our legislation is being used as a model by other governments in Canada.
The Member for Whitehorse South Centre, or the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services has mentioned the Health Act as being another model for other governments in Canada.
As the Minister responsible for the Department of Justice, my department continues to work toward establishing a justice system which reflects the needs of the various communities in the Yukon, particularly regarding aboriginal justice.
I did not realize that the time had gone by so quickly, I was so engrossed in listening to the speech of the Member for Riverdale North, and enjoying it so much.
I move that debate be now adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that debate be now adjourned.
Motion agreed to
Notice re consideration of Speech from the Throne
Hon. Mr. Webster: I wish to inform the House that, pursuant to Standing Order No. 26, consideration of a motion for an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne shall take place on Monday, April 27, 1992.
I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday next.
The House adjourned at 5:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 23, 1992:
Yukon Energy Strategy: Framework (Byblow)
Yukon Energy Strategy: Electricity Development Issue Paper (Byblow)
Yukon Energy Strategy: Renewable Energy Potential Issue Paper (Byblow)
Yukon Energy Strategy: Impact of Petroleum Fuel Use Issue Paper (Byblow)
Yukon Energy Strategy: Affordable and Accessible Electricity Issue Paper (Byblow)
Yukon Energy Strategy: Energy Impact Considerations Issue Paper (Byblow)
Yukon Energy Strategy: Energy Efficiency Issue Paper (Byblow)
Yukon Energy Strategy: Energy for Space Heating Issue Paper (Byblow)
The following Document was filed April 23, 1992:
Letter dated April 21, 1992, from Paul Birckel, Chief of the Champagne and Aishihik Indian Bands to Hon. Maurice Byblow, Minister of Economic Development, re possible loan guarantee for Taga Ku project (Phelps)