Tuesday, December 15, 1992 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with Prayers.
Eulogy to Geoff Lattin
Speaker: Prior to proceeding with the Order Paper, I wish to note, on behalf of the House, the death in July of Geoff Lattin, a former Member of this Assembly. Mr. Lattin served as the Member for Whitehorse North Centre from 1978 to 1982.
I am sure that all Members would join me in expressing condolences to Mr. Lattins family and his many friends in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I, too, on behalf of this side of the House, offer our condolences to the Lattin family and his many friends.
I had the opportunity to work with Mr. Lattin during the formation of party politics in the Yukon. He will be sorely missed by all of us.
Ms. Joe: I join this House in expressing our deep sympathy to the family of Geoff Lattin.
I got to know Mr. Lattin in 1982, when I had the opportunity to meet him during an election. He added a lot to the territory and will be missed by many people.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: Under Tabling Returns and Documents, I have for tabling the report from the Auditor General of Canada on the public accounts of the Government of the Yukon for the year ending March 31, 1992.
Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling a review of the change of accumulated surplus of the Yukon government.
Speaker: Are there any Petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Independent financial review of Yukon government spending
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my government is committed to responsible management of the public service and the Yukons financial affairs. This commitment was the central component of our election platform. The statement I am making today is in keeping with that commitment.
Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Yukon is in serious financial trouble. I do not enjoy having to relay this message to the House and the people of the Yukon, especially at this time of the year, but economic circumstances dictate that we have to act immediately and responsibly.
Corrective initiatives taken now will result in substantial benefits, both in the short and the long term, for Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Yukon must get its financial house in order. It is our intention to do just that. We will not mortgage the future of our children, to pay for the mistakes of the past. Many Yukoners have suspected for quite some time that the financial health of the government was not that good. Few people, including this side of the House, knew the exact extent of the problem.
Accordingly, upon assuming office on November 7, 1992, my government undertook to find out our financial position and instituted restraint measures to stem the outflow of dollars, to give us time to review the total operations.
Mr. Merv Miller, a former Assistant Commissioner of Administration for Yukon, became part of the governments transition team to work with the deputy ministers in this financial review.
At the same time, we engaged the services of Consulting and Audit Canada, an agency of Supply Services Canada to conduct a separate, independent review of the Yukon governments spending, both actual and projected from March 31, 1991, to March 31, 1993, and to identify any areas of significant spending increases.
Today, I am tabling a report entitled Review of Change in Accumulated Surplus for the two years ending March 31, 1993. I am tabling this report by Consulting and Audit Canada for the information of all Yukoners.
I also want to make it very, very, clear that the dismal financial position that the Yukon government finds itself in today, is not of our making. We do indeed look forward to hearing the explanations from our friends opposite who must accept full responsibility for the state of affairs that we have inherited.
The report by Consulting and Audit Canada shows that the government surplus of $64 million at March 31, 1991, has all been spent. Further, the forecasted deficit to March 31, 1993, is $5.7 million. In view of the fact that the Yukon government requires a one-month reserve of $35 million to meet its day-to-day spending needs, these figures effectively mean that the Yukon government is $41 million in the red. The seriousness of this situation cannot be understated.
This report also identifies the areas where there have been major increases in government spending.
Salary increases resulting from two collective agreements totalled $22.8 million in two years. This is, in fact, nearly $23 million more than the total basic salaries paid out by government just two years ago.
Increases to Health and Social Services totalled $25.7 million in these two years. Increases to Education totalled $13.6 million in two years.
We have also found other interesting facts. For example, in the 1992-93 budget, 1,497 person years have been budgeted, when in fact, as of October 30 of this year, there were 1,918 full time employees on the government payroll. How do we account for the 400 extra employees not budgeted for?
Let me present the overall picture. The expenditures for fiscal year 1991-92 totalled $365 million, with revenues and recoveries of only $351 million. That is a $14 million shortfall.
Expenditures in 1992-93 are estimated to be $444 million, with revenues and recoveries of only $387 million. That is an astounding $57 million shortfall.
We also discovered that of the $57 million increase in the projected spending for 1992-93, the previous governments Management Board had already approved increases of some $36 million over and above the projected deficit of $19 million. It is now no secret where the 1991-92 surplus of $64 million has gone. Simple mathematics tells us that we cannot spend more each year and take in less.
When the Yukon family is spending more than it is bringing in, it has only three options: curtail expenditures, raise revenues or go into debt. Governments are no different, and my government will not consider the option of going into debt. Every other government in Canada has made that mistake. We will not. As Members of the House are undoubtedly aware and as I indicated earlier, my government has already initiated some corrective actions to stem the outflow of government money. We have implemented a freeze on government hiring; only essential positions are being filled. We have implemented a freeze on travel outside Yukon; only essential travel is being allowed. And we have also curtailed discretionary spending.
We believe that these actions, coupled with lapsing funds, should enable us to turn the current projected $5.7 million deficit into a small surplus. This, of course, does not allow us to recoup our necessary contingency fund, and further corrective actions will be necessary.
We are now in the process of preparing our 1993-94 budget and I can assure all Yukoners that each budget item will come under intensive scrutiny and all revenue items will be reviewed.
It is my intention, and the intention of my government, to re-introduce sound fiscal management into the Yukon government and to re-introduce proper fiscal planning and management practices within the public service, in keeping with our election commitments. If we do not take these necessary steps, we will not have any capital funding available, which is so important to developing our infrastructure and stimulating private sector employment of Yukoners.
At this time, I want to refer to another election commitment that we made to Yukon government employees. We said that we would achieve our objective of proper management without layoffs. I want to reaffirm that commitment here today. There will be no major layoffs of Yukon public servants, despite whatever rumours might be out there today.
We will achieve our objectives through attrition, reorganization and better utilization of existing government employees. I also want to make it clear that essential positions will still be filled on a position-by-position basis. This applies to all categories of employees.
The financial problem we face is a serious one. It will be necessary to take further corrective action to improve the governments financial situation. We will be making further announcements, commencing early in the new year, regarding additional steps necessary to put our financial house in order.
I must admit that I was reluctant to make this statement today, but I really had no choice. Time is of the essence and we must take immediate control if we are ultimately to enjoy a brighter financial future.
I ask for the understanding and the cooperation of all Yukoners in meeting the challenges that lie ahead. We have faced tough times before and by working together we have always prevailed. I am confident we will do so again.
Mr. McDonald: In our opinion, this approach of devising a politically managed, manipulated and interpreted review of government finances is political expediency at its worst. Secondly, it is not believable that, after seven years of a good financial record, in five months the NDP government has spent the $60 million savings, as well as run the governments finances into the hole by another $40 million, for a total of $100 million. This is absolutely incredible.
Further, in the name of the Government Leader, the Yukon Party has indicated that they knew precisely the extent of the problem prior to the election. Yet, in their own view, they still earmarked - to use their words - between $100 million and $400 million worth of promises that, essentially, were the cornerstones of their election campaign.
If a Yukon family ran its finances the way the Yukon Party does, they would be living in cardboard boxes.
This Yukon Party has been handed the responsibility of government - of making choices, having to say no to the public and to departmental requests - and they have flinched. They have run scared at the first sign of real responsibility.
Government is about living within your means. It is about making choices and betraying your real priorities. If education spending went up in past budgets over the last couple of years, which were scrutinized in this Legislature, and through government action, then that is because the NDP made education a priority.
It means that, even though departments may devise marvellous ways of spending money, it is up to the government and the Cabinet to say no on occasion, in order to live within its means. Over the past seven years, the NDPs record shows an accumulated surplus at the end of every year. During five of those years, they added to the surplus.
The cash position of the government remained relatively unchanged from 1985 to 1992.
The finances have been reviewed by the Auditor General of Canada, who to my understanding is probably the most unbiased reviewer of government spending.
Every dollar that we have spent over the course of the past seven years has been published in territorial accounts.
This audit was designed and interpreted by politicians and political back roomers. Before the review effectively got started, Ministers were already saying to constituent groups that they could not fund anything, or they could not fund any public proposal because it was the NDPs fault that they had no money - before they even had the evidence on the table.
Instead of saying that a particular project was not a priority of the Yukon Party, it was more expedient to say it was the NDPs fault that they would not fund something.
The real effect of the statement given today - coupled with the actions of the Yukon Party government respecting the cancellation of the Taga Ku project and the loss of jobs associated with that; the hospital transfer delay and the loss of construction jobs associated with that delay; the inaction and silence regarding Curragh and the potential collapse of the mining industry in this territory - is that the Yukon Party government will be more than just witnesses to a serious economic recession; they will be the principal architects of that recession.
Up until May of this year, the personnel establishment and the financial position of this government was scrutinized thoroughly by this Legislature and it was accounted for by the Auditor General.
The NDP had a good financial record and during the last couple of minutes we have heard the Government Leader saying that he knows all there is to know about government finances, and that it was okay to trust his promises.
Irrespective of all that, we see a government that now has had cold water splashed on its face. The government has found that decision making is difficult, but they were elected to do just that.
They will have to make hard decisions. They will have to make choices and they will have to make those choices public if they are going to retain the good financial record the NDP worked so hard to build in the last seven years.
Mrs. Firth: I have a message for both sides of the House regarding this ministerial statement; just in case anyone does not know, the election is over. Those people won; these people lost. Let us get down to the business of looking after Yukoners.
I read this statement and the one message in this statement that really captured my attention was on the last page; it said that there would be no major layoffs in the Yukon public service.
I have had people come into my office telling me they no longer have a job - term employees and auxiliary employees. Do I have deputy ministers coming to my office saying, I do not have a job any more - someone making in the vicinity of $78,000 to $120,000 a year? Not one. Do I have an assistant deputy minister coming to my office saying, I do not have a job any more.? These are people making $77,000 to $109,000 a year. Not one. Not one. No managers, no directors, no policy analysts, no communications coordinators. I have workers coming to my office. I have clerks coming to my office. I have cleaning personnel coming in. I have seen two-member families who are auxiliary employees; neither one of them has a job any more.
The Members in this House are getting into a debate as to who spends money worse, one side of the government or the other. Then we get the doom and gloom message that we are broke. I want to hear from this government what it is going to do about it. My concern is the effect that this is having on people - people who are real people. Just because they are public servants does not mean that they should be treated poorly or treated in a bad manner.
IThere is some reference made to specific individuals in this government, particularly to term positions, and I want to remind the government there are 113 term person years in this government, which could involve as many as 200 people. I do not know how people are involved but I know a person year can be divided many ways.
We have the potential of looking at close to 150 or 200 who would be affected. About this figure of the 400 positions that were not identified, I guess I should raise my concern in the form of a question to the Government Leader. I know auxiliary employees are not included in the person year complement, but their budget dollars are allocated in the budget. I want to know if the 400 extra employees the government is saying were not budgeted for were auxiliary employees. They no longer have jobs either because the word has been given to not hire auxiliaries.
The potential impact on people is tremendous. It is a major layoff. Let us listen closely to the government Members when they stand up and speak in the House about what they are going to do to make things better and what they are going to do to ensure the security and the comfort of Yukoners in the next few years in this rough time we all have to go through.
Mr. Cable: I should say that if in fact the government is not anticipating any layoffs - and this is the way I read the statement - I am particularly pleased. The spending power of the public service must be maintained.
A clear statement that no layoffs are in fact anticipated is a way to induce consumer confidence. That is something we desperately need in the Yukon right at the moment.
I am also greatly encouraged to see that revenues are projected to increase significantly. I assume that this is without tax increases. That indicates that the underlying fundamentals in the economy are good, particularly in the governments view, if that is what is being put forward. A superficial analysis would indicate that the problem is manageable. That, I would suggest, is what the Members from this House and the government should put forth to the people of the territory so that we maintain confidence in our economy.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Members opposite for their remarks. For the Leader of the Liberal Party, the Member for Riverside, the problem is manageable, but it is going to take some hard decisions by the government to make it manageable. We are prepared to make those tough decisions. We have already started to make some of them. We have taken interim measures until we get a handle on the finances in total.
I will tell the Member for Riverdale that we have taken interim measures. We have said that key and essential positions will be filled on a position-by-position basis. This refers to auxiliaries, as well as term employees and people in the public service. There is no problem there.
We will be looking at management. We will be looking at each and every program. However, the fact remains that we must get control of the O&M if we are going to have money for capital projects.
The Member for McIntyre-Takhini says that we have to make hard political decisions. Certainly we do, and we are prepared to do it. It appears that, when the Members opposite were in power, they did not have the ability to make those tough decisions when, through Management Board, they authorized an additional $36 million in expenditures over and above the $19 million deficit they had projected for the 1992-93 year.
Yes, we will make the hard decisions. Yes, we will get this under control.
You just have to look at the graph. If you see that expenditures are increasing twice as fast as revenues are, there is no way that what has been going on can continue, and this government is prepared to get it under control, even if we do have to make hard decisions.
Holland America Lines Westours Inc. Joint Marketing Agreement
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Tourism is one of the most significant sectors of the Yukon economy. This past summer, the untiring work of the Yukon Anniversaries Commission gave the tourists an opportunity to participate in many events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Alaska Highway.
Future anniversaries will continue to provide potential growth in the tourism sector. The Department of Tourism has undertaken work, in partnership with the industry, on these opportunities over the next eight to 10 years.
With partnership and future tourism development in mind, a press conference took place this morning to announce the signing of a joint marketing agreement between Holland America Westours Inc. and the Governments of Canada, Alberta, British Columbia and Yukon. The signing of this agreement launches a major television advertising campaign promoting western Canada and the Yukon to the retirement market in key cities in the United States.
The high level of exposure and market penetration the Yukon gains through this joint marketing agreement would otherwise be unattainable. The overall program costs are $1.3 million; $212,800 of that was from the joint Canada/Yukon Economic Development Agreement and the Yukon governments contribution to that is $63,600. We receive $1.3 million of advertising for the $63,000.
The Yukon tourism sector will be significantly impacted through this cooperative marketing program. It is forecasted that Holland America Lines will generate an estimated $7.9 million in revenues to 35 tourism businesses throughout the Yukon in 1993. I should add that it is also estimated that this particular program alone will generate $2 million more in revenue itself, just through this advertising campaign.
The Department of Tourism will continue to explore joint marketing opportunities to enhance the value of Yukon governments tourism marketing dollars.
Mr. Harding: I just want to state clearly for the record that the Official Opposition is certainly in favour of a solid initiative that bolsters the tourism industry within the Yukon. The program augments the Destination Yukon program implemented by the NDP government in its last term. It certainly complements it quite well.
It is important that the new government continues the fine work the previous government did to promote tourism. This works on an almost 20 percent increase in visitors to the Yukon last year. I think these kinds of gains in tourism are what we should expect from the new government.
Our concerns with the plan, as outlined by the Hon. Minister of Tourism, would be that Holland Westours is a huge player that will be given an opportunity to place a squeeze on some of the smaller players within the tourism market in the Yukon. We are very cautious about trying to initiate anything in terms of government action that would squeeze out the smaller players that are also very important to the tourism industry in the Yukon.
We also want to see a commitment from the new government not just for the senior citizens market, but also to the high-revenue-generating wilderness tourism market here in the Yukon. The previous government had a proven success in this area. We would like to see the new government continue this success.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: In response to criticisms in this area, I should point out to the Member that this will have a great benefit to all businesses in the Yukon Territory. In fact, as a result of this particular agreement, Holland America has agreed to, for the first time, have their buses stay one extra day in Whitehorse and one extra day in Dawson City. This will have a great impact on all of the businesses in those particular areas, as the tourists will now have a full day in these places, rather than arriving at 8:00 in the evening and leaving at 6:00 in the morning. The visitors will have a full day to travel around to see the various attractions in Dawson City and Whitehorse and have an opportunity to spend their money to buy various souvenirs to enhance the tourism market.
The Member opposite had another concern about the wilderness market and the other markets that are involved. We are concerned about all tourism markets. Tourism is a priority of this government. This is one announcement and we hope that there will many more to follow this in the future. This is the beginning of a better tourism future for the Yukon and the people of the Yukon.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Taga Ku convention centre project, government stance
Mr. Penikett: I would like to welcome the new Cabinet to the Legislature on their first full day on the job in this House. I have a question for the Government Leader who has said he wants to protect the integrity of the public tendering process, but who has damaged the governments integrity, in respect of that process by improperly linking his support for the Taga Ku initiative to the hotel component.
I would like to ask: after the proponents have laboured for months to put together financing for this office tower-convention centre, for the record, could he tell us if his government killed this project because of a political lobby from inside his party?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Leader of the Official Opposition for the question. I was wondering whether or not he was going to have the courage to ask that question.
This government agreed to live up to the commitments made by the previous administration. Nowhere in the documentation that we have received have we seen where the hotel has been unlinked from the tender documentation.
Mr. Penikett: I think the Government Leader is wrong, if I may say so, both in the facts and in his macho-man response. Let me ask him, before he wrote to the Bank of Montreal, before he stuck the knife in Chief Paul Birckels back, did he give any consideration at all to the potential loss of Northwestel head office jobs to Yellowknife if this project dies?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: First of all, I did not write a letter to the Bank of Montreal. Second, I have considered everything. I have considered the obligations with which the previous administration left us. I said I was prepared to live up to the agreements that were negotiated by the previous administration.
Mr. Penikett: Let me ask this supplementary to the Minister. Judging by the absence of any specific references in the throne speech to Curragh Resources, which owns our two major mining companies - which seem to have been put on hold by this government - and the fact that there is no reference to the hospital capital project, the major public work that is going to go ahead in this territory next summer, which seems to have been shelved by this government - and given the death blow delivered to Taga Ku, what alternative economic activities does the government propose for this town and this territory in the coming season?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: For the record and for the Member opposite, I would like to say that we are working very, very hard on the Curragh project. We are doing everything we can to see that that mine survives. I have approached the Prime Ministers office; I have been in discussion with the Minister of Indian Affairs; I am now in the process of trying to set up a meeting with the Minister of Finance, so we are working very hard on that project.
We did not kill the Taga Ku project; if anybody killed it, it was the previous administration.
Question re: Taga Ku convention centre project, government stance
Mr. Penikett: Obviously, the Curragh Resources property was such a priority for the government that they did not even warrant a mention in the throne speech, but my question is about the Taga Ku project.
Given that the Members opposite, in their statements on the floor of this House and in the public, have never, ever indicated anything but opposition to the hotel project, how can the Government Leader stand in his place, in this House, and claim that the hotel project is a necessary condition before they will back this initiative, which I am told is the largest aboriginal business project in the history of the country, and which he has just snuffed?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The question is not whether we are in favour of the hotel project or not. It is what we have been left with by the previous administration. Now, the Leader of the Official Opposition is trying to say that the hotel was never part of the project. I refer to Hansard, November 26, 1990, where the then-Government Leader goes on to say that the project was supported by the government because of a five star hotel that would be linked to a major chain, and that the convention centre aspect of it was third, with a hotel first and office space second.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader is just plain wrong. The tender documents refer to the convention centre as being necessary, the hotel as being desirable. It is not a contractual commitment.
In the Government Leaders letter to Chief Paul Birckel, dated November 27, he apologizes for any confusion that may have resulted from this meeting. Can he tell the House what he or the Minister of Economic Development said in those meetings that caused such confusion that the aboriginal people believed the government supported them, when it was the complete opposite?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: What was said at those meetings was nothing to mislead the proponents of the Taga Ku Corporation. At that meeting, I said the previous government had granted them an extension until December 31, 1993.
Mr. Penikett: So far, the Government Leader is batting zero in that he has not answered a single question. That does not make him a good politician, but rather a bad politician.
Since the correspondence between the government and the Taga Ku development group indicates that the Minister of Economic Development said he was looking to renege on the commitments of this government in respect to office space, could the Government Leader now say if that was the real reason why his administration is in such a rush to escape from its commitments?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We are in no rush to escape from anything. We said that we would provide responsible government. I believe that responsible government means, in part, living up to agreements that have been negotiated. We are fully prepared to live up to agreements that we never even negotiated and, in fact, never even supported, but we are fully committed to live up to that agreement.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is right. We did not. We were on that side of the House and we did not, but we are prepared to live up to the commitment made by the previous administration.
Question re: Energy policy
Mr. Cable: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation.
As many Members here know, the energy policy has been underway for many years, on an ad hoc basis and a stop and start basis. In the last year, there was a comprehensive energy policy development process put underway that was to result in a full-scale Yukon energy strategy to be delivered by the government on September 15. This was not done for whatever reason.
The question I have is whether or not this present government intends to revitalize that energy policy development process. If so, when does the government expect to produce a comprehensive energy policy?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I thank the Member for directing his first question to me and I congratulate him on his choice.
We certainly do see a comprehensive energy policy as a very high priority of the new government. We will, of course, be reviewing what has gone on before us. We will, in the very near future, continue on in the development of such a policy.
The hon. Member asked me when the policy would be completed. It would be my hope that it would be completed sometime in the next 12 months. The reason for the delay in a comprehensive energy policy is simply because we want to look at each and every aspect of energy potential in the Yukon and have a chance to priorize the various kinds of energy that are out there. It would not be restricted simply to those kinds of energy that have been the subject matter, as we understand it, of the previous administration in charge of the corporation.
Mr. Cable: One of the elements I would expect to be in a comprehensive energy policy is the mode of pricing electricity sales to major industrial consumers, such as Curragh. As I recollect, the Curragh contract expires on March 31, 1993. Prior to the expiry of that contract, does the government expect to have in place a policy for the pricing of energy to major industrial consumers?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The answer is: absolutely. We intend to look closely at the recommendations of the chair of the Public Utilities Board, which have been provided to us. We are looking at the possible cost of service as the base for the provision of power.
Mr. Cable: The utilities board recently made a recommendation that the Yukon Energy Corporation go slow on the development of feasibility studies for various hydro sites in the Yukon. It is my understanding that the Minister agrees with this recommendation, and it is related to the somewhat questionable state of Curragh Resources and the risk that that company puts on the Whitehorse-Aishihik-Faro grid economics.
If the Minister does agree with that recommendation, when does he think that Curraghs financial position will be sufficiently clear to permit these feasibility studies to proceed again?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I thank the hon. Member for the question. It is our intention to pursue a fairly conservative approach to the issues with respect to the Yukon Energy Corporation. That is the corporation that is responsible for the direct management of the public utility. We want to act in a prudent manner, given the uncertain state of the Curragh situation at this time.
At the same time, we have made certain commitments with respect to changing the role of what is now known as the Yukon Development Corporation, and having it direct its attention to the issue of energy and the provision of energy, as well, in the territory. I would suspect that some feasibility studies would be taken up by that corporation. With respect to how soon and how much will be done, I cannot say at this time. Everything is under review - there is the issue of the restructuring of the parent corporation, as it now stands. We hope we and the corporation will be in a position to make some announcements in the spring.
Question re: Land claim negotiator, departure of
Mrs. Firth: My question is for the Government Leader, with respect to the former land claim negotiator. This individual has recently left the service of the government under some rather questionable terms. I have been told he was either fired or he quit. That is not the answer I am looking for. I have written to the Government Leader requesting the details of this departure from government. I have not yet received a reply. I would like to ask the Government Leader if he will tell us what the settlement was that given to this individual.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This is a personnel matter and it will not be discussed in public or in the House.
Mrs. Firth: No, this is not a personnel matter. It is a financial matter; we are taking about money and finances. I want to follow up with my supplementary by asking a related question. This individual was trained to be very knowledgeable about land claims and has had access to very sensitive information. He is now working in a position against the Yukon government, with the ability to utilize that information. I would like to ask the Government Leader whether there were any conditions attached to his leaving the Government of the Yukon that would protect the position of the Yukon territorial government.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am fully aware that the person in question is working for the Council for Yukon Indians at this point. It is my understanding that he is working in a position that is not putting him in conflict. I can tell you that I have been very concerned with the fact that he has left our employment and is now working for CYI. I have discussed this matter with CYI and have been assured that he is not working in areas relating to the land claims negotiation, nor is he putting forth positions to the land claim table, but is training personnel over there. We are continuing to watch what is happening there and we are still very concerned.
Mrs. Firth: It is fine to be concerned, but my question was, were there any conditions attached to this individual in his settlement? Now, the Government Leader will not tell us how much money he got and I want to know. I think the public has a right to know how much money he got. I want to know if the government did the responsible thing and attached conditions to the big allotment of money paid out to this individual, or did they give him a bunch of money and let him go?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said earlier, this is a contractural arrangement and is a personnel matter; I will not discuss it any further.
Question re: Workers Compensation Board, appointment of interim president
Mr. McDonald: As much as I would like to query all the Ministers on the first day, I do not think I will be afforded that opportunity, but I will have to resort to questioning one of my favourite people, on the opposite bench, the Minister responsible for the Workers Compensation Board. As you may remember during the debates on the Workers Compensation Act, a new act last spring, both sides of the Legislature competed with each other on making grand statements about wanting the board to be truly independent of the Government of Yukon and even passed a particular provision in that act making reference to the appointment of a president and the need for the board to appoint the president themselves. Why did the government, without consultation, and contrary to the intent of the act, impose a president, even an interim president, on the Workers Compensation Board last week when they met with them?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The answer is very simple. The young lady who was there had applied for another position through competition. She won it and had to proceed on to the new position. We had to replace her in the interim due to the fact we have a wage freeze on and are not hiring anyone at the present time, plus the fact that it would take considerable time to advertise to fill the position.
Mr. McDonald: I do not want to pass judgment at all about the decision on the appointment of the Public Service Commissioner, which is truly within the purview of the territorial government. My concern more is with the appointment of the Workers Compensation Board president, and the terms of the legislation which clearly state that it is the purvue of the Workers Compensation Board to appoint the president, not the Government of Yukon. Why would the Government of the Yukon, even temporarily, want to breach the fundamental principle in the Workers Compensation Act and try to impose a president on the Workers Compensation Board, when clearly that was the boards responsibility, not the governments - the boards job, not the governments ?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are not imposing anything on anybody. It is a term position, for a short time until the wage and hiring freeze are lifted.
Mr. McDonald: I would invite the Hon. Minister to have a quick peek-a-boo at the Workers Compensation Act. Not only does it state very clearly that the appointment of the president of the board is the responsibility of the Workers Compensation Board itself, but it also states that Management Board directives will not apply, including such directives as personnel matters, because this Legislature decided that the Workers Compensation Board is arms length from the Government of Yukon.
I will ask the question one more time. Why would the Government Leader and the Minister try to impose a president on the board, even temporarily, and even for whatever expedient reasons they may have had, when it is clearly the boards responsibility to select their own president, make their own administrative decisions and spend their own money as they see fit?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The hon. Member on the other side of the House knows as well as I do that the legislation does not come into effect until January 1.
Question re: Workers Compensation Board, appointment of interim president
Mr. McDonald: The temporary appointment for the Workers Compensation Board president, according to the governments own statement, is January 1, 1993. The Workers Compensation Health and Safety Act, of course, comes into effect also on January 1, 1993. Irrespective of whether or not the government decided to ignore the whole intent of the debate in the Legislature, where all sides agreed to the independence of the board, the law does state, as of the date the appointment takes effect, that the government has no right to try to impose a president or anybody on the board or even to impose its own Management Board rules, policies or guidelines.
Will the government reconsider the position they are putting the board in? Will they communicate to the board that it is the boards responsibility, and theirs alone, to appoint the president on either an interim or permanent basis, as is their desire?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We spoke to the board. They did not indicate that they had any objections at all to the appointment.
Mr. McDonald: It has nothing to do with whether or not they object. My concern is whether or not they would willingly accept this appointment. The point of the matter is the independence of the board and the predilection of the government to simply impose its will, contrary to the law, on the Workers Compensation Board. It has ramifications for all the boards of this territory, particularly the Workers Compensation Board, as it is the most arms-length board that this government and this Legislature has the responsibility for in a general way.
I am asking the question: will the government communicate to the board that if the board wishes to put their own person in the place of the acting president, that they will be allowed to do so without repercussions from this government?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: At the present time, no.
Mr. McDonald: This then makes the government outlaws because, essentially, they are recognizing the reality of the Workers Compensation Act - which they are sworn to uphold, more than any other person in this territory - and they are telling the general public that they will ignore the act when it is expedient to do so, and the philosophy behind the act, which they themselves promoted in this Legislature.
Why is the Minister unwilling to communicate with the board, to tell the board that it is their responsibility to select a president, according to law, and should they wish to select another person, it is within the purview of that board to do so.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: At the present time, we will not hire any more personnel. We had personnel available. We asked the gentleman if he would go over there on an interim basis and that is what he is doing. He is there on an interim basis.
Question re: Employment Standards Act
Ms. Joe: My question is for the Minister responsible for Justice.
Yesterday afternoon he introduced a bill in this House and it was with anticipation that I heard that, then I found out that it was to repeal something that they had previously supported in this House.
My question today is on behalf of, for instance, a child care worker who may be required to work overtime without notice. That individual may have family responsibilities, for which there is no protection in the existing act. Or, for instance, a woman may have had to quit her job right away because of sexual harassment. She could be docked a weeks pay under existing law.
I believe that that kind of a situation is not a good one to be under, and I would like to ask the Minister of Justice if he agrees there should be some protection for those individuals under the Employment Standards Act.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am somewhat surprised by the question. As everyone knows, the old act is still in place, and it was in place the entire time the side opposite was sitting on this side of the House. I understand that the Member feels passionately about these issues now. I wonder if she always did have the strong beliefs she is professing so freely in the House this afternoon, or if it is something that she just got the hang of a few hours before the final votes were tallied in the last election.
Ms. Joe: If I were the Minister, I would respond to that. We did deal with an act in this House.
I would like my supplementary question to be on behalf of the aboriginal people who could be required, by law, to participate in a cultural event, such as a potlatch. Would the Minister also support that concept, if it existed in the Employment Standards Act?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Once again, I am rather taken aback that, all of a sudden, certain issues that laid in abeyance for such a long period of time have come on to the immediate agenda of the critic on the side opposite. These are all issues that we will be reviewing and considering. I am always deeply interested in any submission the critic might want to make to me, either in the House or privately.
Ms. Joe: I can only assume that the Minister of Justice does not support all the concepts I asked him about, because I did not really get an answer.
I guess I can go back and tell the child care worker, the aboriginal person and the woman who has been sexually harassed that it may not be the intention of this government to proclaim the act.
Does the Minister of Justice intend to proclaim the Employment Standards Act that was passed in the last session - yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I must apologize for answering in such a way that the Member opposite finds somewhat offensive, in not coming to the point. I guess I learned a lot of bad habits from listening to the other side for so many years and in listening to the former Government Leader.
We intend to review the act very carefully. I am sure that there will be changes to the act and indeed, an entirely new act may be brought forward; but I cannot say what will happen at this time.
Question re: Mayo school
Mr. Joe: I have a question for the Minister of Education.
It is my understanding, because the Minister of Education does not want to build a Taj Mahal, that he believes the students in Mayo deserve a broken down trailer for their school.
I would like to ask the Minister when he is going to give the children of Mayo a safe and healthy place in which to be educated and build a new school in Mayo for those children?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is the responsibility of this government to provide proper facilities in all communities in the territory and we intend to do that. We also intend to do that in a planned program that does not deal with education the way that the previous government did, by fighting fires and constructing schools on an emergency basis. This government intends to build schools over the long term.
The school in Mayo is one of the issues that is being discussed in capital projects. No decisions have been made regarding what capital projects will go ahead this year. There are some schools that are a priority due to lack of classroom space and other concerns. We are examining all of those details and no decisions have been made as yet.
Mr. Joe: This is a real problem. The previous government had started the design work for a new school. What is going to happen to this design?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We have all kinds of problems with providing schools in the territory. We have several schools in the territory right now that are overcrowded. The Mayo situation has gone from 200 to approximately 80 students. Our primary concern is not to have students sitting in the hallways of other schools. We have to look at priorities when determining that.
There is no money left in the budget, as was explained here earlier. We have to priorize our spending so that we spend the money on the schools where it is absolutely necessary now.
As I said, there has been no decision made about whether or not the Mayo project will go ahead. We are examining all options and priorizing them. We will build schools or additions to schools that we need now so that our students are not sitting in hallways.
Question re: Health services transfer
Ms. Moorcroft: The Yukon government has reached an agreement with the federal government to transfer responsibilities for health services and regional hospitals from the federal to the territorial government. This would deliver greater control over Yukon affairs into Yukon hands.
I would like to ask the Minister of Health and Social Services to explain to the House if his government plans to proceed with the federal transfer of health services, including the construction of the $50 million new hospital facility.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The answer is a very clear perhaps. We are in a situation now, as would be with any new government that takes office. We are reviewing issues such as the proposed transfer very carefully because of the consequences the transfer might bring to Yukon people. It is a very serious issue.
We will be reviewing all aspects of what has gone on before with respect to negotiations and agreements that have been initialed by various people and, in particular, the proposed financial obligations that are to be accepted by the federal government. Virtually everyone I have spoken to in the Yukon is very concerned.
We are very concerned that the health transfer be one that ensures that we, as a government, have enough to meet obligations to future generations of Yukoners.
Therefore, we will be reviewing all these things in the next couple of weeks, and we will be able to answer the question in a more concise manner when we meet again in the spring.
Ms. Moorcroft: If this project does not proceed on schedule, will the Yukon government have to repay the more than $600,000 that has already been spent on the design of a new hospital?
Speaker: I would like to remind the Minister of Health and Social Services that, according to our guidelines for oral Question Period, a reply to a question should be as brief as possible.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: These are very difficult questions. It seems to me that they have been scrumming all morning to try to direct the hardest ones to me, and I am having a tough time of it.
That is an interesting issue, and it is one to which there is no clear answer. It is a position that we are paying attention to during the course of our review.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister advise working people of the Yukon, particularly the employees of the federal Department of Health and Welfare, who provide medical services in our community, when they can expect resolution of their changing employment relationship?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Once we complete the review, we will have a far better idea of when. Of course, that is not all there is to the answer. Various aspects remain to be negotiated, even if the government does pursue this, as I am sure the Member is well aware.
Question re: Curragh Inc. finances
Mr. Harding: Approximately 1,000 jobs are being placed in jeopardy as a result of the financial situation of Curragh Incorporated. Specifically - and I do not want to hear about begging the feds - what are the plans for precise measures to ensure that these critical mining jobs remain in the Yukon? What is the Yukon government going to do?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would like to be able to say sure, I can bail Curragh out, but the fact remains that is not possible. We need the cooperation of the federal government if anything is going to be accomplished.
At the present time, we have made several proposals to the federal government, and we are continuing to pursue them. I hope that we can get an answer shortly. As I stated during Question Period, I have approached the Prime Ministers office and I have talked with Mr. Siddon. Right now, I am trying to arrange a meeting with Mr. Mazankowski. We are very concerned with what is happening at Curragh.
Mr. Harding: Exactly what is contained in the proposals sent to the federal government? What specific measures are going to be undertaken by the Yukon government to show its commitment to the project?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If there had been any money left over in the bank when this government took over, we may have been able to do something. It must be remembered that the Yukon territorial government already has $5 million invested in the operation of Faro, and we are trying to find a solution to the problem.
Because of the circumstances that Curragh finds itself in, it is not a very easy problem to resolve at this point. However, we are doing everything within our power to try and resolve this issue.
Mr. Harding: I did not get my question answered. I made some comments earlier about thinking that makes you a good politician; however, I certainly do not believe that is the case. Rather, I concur with my leader, who stated that makes you a bad politician.
What are the specific proposals this government presented to the federal government? Does what the Government Leader is saying about the cupboard being bare mean that the government is not going to do anything to support the project in Faro?
Through the mining there and the spin-off jobs, the operation in Faro provides employment for upward of 1,000 people in this territory. Faro is the largest private sector employer in the territory.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We are fully aware that the mine in Faro and the Sa Dena Hes mine are the largest, private employers in the Yukon. I just gave a financial statement here in the Legislature. I am not saying that we are not going to help Curragh. I am saying that it makes it very difficult to assist Curragh, but we are exploring every possible avenue that is available to us to see if we can salvage the operations at Faro and Sa Dena Hes.
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 SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Motion No. 14
Mr. Millar: I move
THAT the following address be presented to the Commissioner of the Yukon:
MAY IT PLEASE THE COMMISSIONER:
We, the Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, beg leave to offer our humble thanks for the gracious Speech that you have addressed to the House.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Member for Klondike
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 that you have addressed to the House.
Mr. Millar: I am about to give my maiden speech in the House. After witnessing my first Question Period, I can see that it is going to be a very interesting four years.
I am speaking to the House for the first time. It is a great honour and privilege for me to be doing this. I never had what anyone would call political ambitions, but that is not to say that I am completely ignorant of the political world. My father, Len, who was a well-known Yukoner, was very interested in politics.
As a matter of fact, as a member of the Summerland secondary school board in the early 1970s, he was a major player in having the swimming pool complex built. This pool complex still stands as a proud reminder of what he was able to accomplish during his term in office. I only hope that I will able to accomplish half of what he was able to accomplish.
As a child, I remember talk around the dinner table about John Diefenbaker and John F. Kennedy. They were heroes. Many young people wanted to grow up to be like them. What has happened? You, or at least I, do not hear about young people wanting to grow up to be like any of the political leaders of today.
The Commissioner, at the swearing in of this government, said that the people should give the politicians a break. As I am now a politician, I hope that the people were listening.
As politicians, I think we have to look at ourselves very closely and remember that we are here to serve the people. The people are not here to serve us. I would be the first to admit that I have a lot to learn about the House and how it works.
I do not believe that what the Leader of the Official Opposition has done, in not seconding this governments nominee for Speaker, is doing anything to improve that image. In my opinion - and I suspect the opinion of many other people in the Yukon - it was simply a case of a Member playing politics.
I believe that we must work together for the betterment of the whole Yukon and not for the benefit of any of us serving in this House.
Having said all that, why did I run in the last election? There are a number of reasons. I am a placer miner. I was working out on the creeks. I knew that an election had been called and that was about it. A few days before the nominations closed, I went into town - it was too cold for us to be sluicing. I asked around about who was running in the upcoming territorial election. When I was told that no one was running against the incumbent of the day, Art Webster - who, by the way, is someone I respect and would like to offer my best wishes to for whatever future endeavours he might pursue - I was disturbed to think that, in a democratic system, there would be no election to choose a person to represent the people of the Klondike riding in the Yukon Legislature. In my opinion, it was important that all people in the riding had a chance to let their voice be heard.
Quite suddenly, I realized that people should have a choice and that I should be that choice. Yes, the decision was that fast, just ask my wife. I thought that this would be a good chance to come forward to do some good for the placer mining industry, which had seen nothing but lip service from the previous government. Perhaps that has been part of the problem with the image that politicians have right now - people are sitting back and complaining, but are not prepared to get involved. Too many of us are satisfied with simply being armchair critics. Perhaps it is time we took a more active part in what happens in the Yukon and not leave it up to others.
In the 10 years I have been in the placer mining business, I have sat on a number of different boards and committees in Dawson City, always trying to bridge the gap between the tourism and mining industries. I believe that I have been somewhat successful in this, and I thought if I let my name stand for the Legislature maybe I could do even more in this regard. I believe that the mining and tourism industries can and must work and grow together.
As a second generation placer miner, and as an active member of the Klondike in many different capacities such as a member and chair of the Dawson City Discovery Days committee, director of the Klondike Visitors Association, director of the Klondike Placer Miners Association, as well as being active in many other areas of Klondike life, I felt that this, as well as my capabilities to learn, gives me the necessary credentials I need to be a good, strong representative as their MLA in Klondike.
Now that I am elected, what do I want to accomplish? For one thing, I would like to see placer mining have a long and healthy life in the Yukon. In order to do this, I believe that the placer mining industry must have legal certainty. The committee looking at placer mining in relationship to water - the Implementation Review Committee or IRC - has held meetings around the territory this past summer. The message that came out of those meetings was loud and clear. The people of the Yukon want to see placer mining continue in the Yukon. This does not mean that all or even a small amount of fish or fish habitat have to be destroyed. Placer mining has no long-term, negative effect on streams. The placer miners do not want a licence to just go in and rip up the land. What they do want is the right to go in and mine the ground in a responsible and profitable manner.
Let me address the issue of the environment for a moment, as it relates to placer mining.
There is evidence to show that placer mining, in particular, has benefitted wildlife and that the clearing of small areas of land helps provide wildlife with nesting habitat and other habitat.
To help prove this, Hunker Dominion Loop in the Klondike area, which is one of the most heavily mined areas in the Yukon, has one of the highest moose and bear populations in the Yukon.
Let us not forget: when the placer miners are making money, so is the Yukon.
I am sure that by now, some of you are thinking that I am a one-issue person and that all I think about is placer mining. Well, yes, I do think a lot about placer mining, but I am concerned about many other issues as well.
One hears a lot about the sewer problem in Whitehorse and yes, it is a big problem that must be dealt with, but in Dawson we also have a problem with our system. In fact, it is a water and sewer problem.
The rise in water and sewer costs for Dawson ratepayers has occurred because the system was not installed properly in the first place. The high cost of hooking up to the system acts as a great disincentive for future business development and greatly increases the cost of living of all residents in Dawson.
During my term in office I want to see this matter resolved, as we committed to do during the election.
There seems to be a growing realization that we cannot depend largely on government dollars, from whatever level, to supply the underpinnings of our economic prosperity. The tremendous growth of budget deficits and debt at all levels of government, and its negative impact on our common prosperity, indicates to me that the status quo is unsustainable. We must create a certain amount of real wealth in the private sector to allow us to maintain the lifestyle to which we have all become accustomed.
In the Klondike, as all over the Yukon, we have a number of options and some golden opportunities over the next 10 years, as we celebrate the upcoming centennial anniversaries. This government definitely has a vital role to play as a partner of the private sector in helping to provide the necessary infrastructure to allow the growth in tourism to take place. This will help to eliminate, to some degree, our great dependence on government being the primary engine of our local economy.
In particular, I am referring to the Top of the World, or Taylor Highway, and to the ferry crossing of the Yukon River at Dawson City. As many of you are aware, there have been a number of occasions in recent years when extremely long lineups for the ferry - in some instances, as much as six hours - have created severe inconvenience for both our visitors and local residents. The negative impression left on these visitors travels down the road with them and discourages many others from risking a similar experience.
With the centennial anniversaries upon us and the projected increase in visitation likely to cause even greater problems at this bottleneck, it is imperative that we address this issue. With the longer term goal of constructing a bridge across this major river, the condition of the road itself, while improving, is still a long way from the standard that many visitors feel comfortable with for safe travel, especially during rainy periods.
The BST, or hard surfacing, planned for the section between Bruin Creek and the Alaska border is a step in the right direction. However, we must be prepared to sit down with the State of Alaska to explore the possibilities of a joint effort aimed at upgrading the entire road from Tetlin Junction to Dawson.
The potential to draw more visitors to the Klondike from Alaska or down from Inuvik, en route to Alaska, especially at times other than our traditional peak season, is real. We currently have an over capacity of rooms during the so-called shoulder season. A coordinated effort by all parties could create a very attractive package, bringing many more people through Dawson City, as well as providing traffic for all communities en route to Whitehorse, for at least a five-month period, from May to October.
The airport in Dawson is always a subject of hot discussion. The talk points to a need to improve airport facilities. While the goal of a new and larger airport in the future appears to have some support at the local level, we must also look at the cost-effective opportunities for improving our existing facilities.
The recent completion of the new Victory Gardens in Dawson City, near the Old Territorial Administrative Building is a good example of what can be accomplished when the various levels of government work together for common community goals.
I look forward to working in partnership with the City of Dawson to achieve many common goals over the next several years. Some of these goals may address improved after-school programs for children and finding ways of addressing the health care concerns in the community.
As I stated during the election, the growth of our school-age population has put pressure on the existing Robert Service School in terms of the school being able to fulfill a dual purpose as a school and a community complex. There is a need for more classroom space as well as more access for the rest of the community for recreational and other activities.
We must also look at other existing recreational facilities to see where opportunities for upgrading are possible, within the confines of the O&M budget. As you can see the list goes on forever.
I look forward to working with all Members in this House to resolve these and many other issues affecting the Klondike riding, and Yukon as a whole, in the future.
We as a party in the last election brought forward a four-year plan, and now as government I look forward to working with the other members of caucus to bring this plan into action.
Mr. Penikett: Before I begin to make my remarks in the throne speech debate I would like to welcome back my colleagues, the Members for McIntrye-Takhini, Whitehorse Centre and Mayo-Tatchun, as well welcome my new colleagues, the Member for Mount Lorne and the Member for Faro, as well as those new Members on the other side, the Member for Vuntut Gwichin and congratulate the Member for Klondike on his first speech to this Assembly.
On this occasion I would also like to thank the voters of Whitehorse West for choosing me as their representative once again. Of course, my first duty as an MLA is to represent the hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding constituents - the proud new home owner in Granger who worries about property crimes; the seasonal worker in Roundel Road Apartments, who frets about everything from the future of the Faro mine, to free trade, to UIC changes and to government cuts; a single parent in Lobird Mobile Home Court or a steelox duplex who needs help collecting child support; a MacRae resident concerned about the site of the special waste facility; a McLean Lake citizen who has become skeptical about the government planning processes; and the working family in Hillcrest who wants to be heard at YTG and city hall.
My other responsibility here is as Opposition Leader, and it is in that capacity that I wish to join todays debate. If the Government Leader will permit me, or forgive me, there is an apt apocryphal story about a newly elected Conservative Government. In this case, the incoming first minister was wise enough to ask for some advice from his predecessor. The outgoing first minister responded by giving the new man three sealed envelopes. Put them in the safe, advised the outgoing minister, and whenever you have a crisis, open an envelope. Well for a few days the new man enjoyed his honeymoon, but when he started to make decisions he began to annoy people, even some of his own supporters. In this mythical story, two of the governments first decisions involved resolutions to shelve their election promises and to freeze hiring. Predictably, many of their supporters who expected jobs began to desert the cause. Groups who believed they would benefit from promised new government programs started to grumble. Public employees who felt betrayed wrote nasty letters to the editor. Even the Tory cheerleaders at the local daily felt bound to report some of this dissatisfaction.
Feeling somewhat tired and emotional, the new leader went to his safe. He tore open the first envelope and read the note inside. It said: Blame the previous administration. Quick as a fox, the leader called a press conference, blamed the previous administration. Sure enough, the crisis passed. Thinking he had struck a vein of pure gold, the leader continued to blame the previous administration. He blamed it for everything.
For a while, it worked. One by one, other problems arose and rapidly mushroomed into full grown crises. This time, there were demonstrations and protest marches. Local newspapers began to editorialize against the government in their headlines. Former friends even cursed the government leader in public. Badly shaken, the first minister went to the safe again and opened the second envelope. It said: Blame Ottawa. With the envelope in hand, the desperate man rushed down to a Chamber of Commerce lunch and gave a rip-roaring speech, blaming Ottawa for everything from the weather to the world metal prices. The business lobby gave him a standing ovation and social peace returned to the land for a few months.
As sure as snow in winter, another crisis arrived at the leaders door. Now, he faced angry words in caucus and stormy silences in cabinet. He even heard rumours of a leadership challenge. Nervous and overwrought, the politician dragged himself back to the safe, and clutched the third envelope. He took a deep breath and broke open the seal. Inside, the message read: Prepare three envelopes.
The New Democratic Party is grateful to the people of the Yukon for giving us the chance to govern this great territory for almost eight years.
Contrary to some of the rumours spread by our opponents, Yukon New Democrats are human beings and, because we are human, our government made some mistakes. However, we also did a few good things. Before we settle into our new role in this Assembly, I would like to mention a few.
We helped open Sa Dena Hes and re-opened the Faro mine. We reached final land claims and ground-breaking self-government agreements with the Vuntut Gwichin, Na-cho Nyak Dun, Teslin Tlingit and Champagne/Aishihik First Nations. We passed first-class education, environment, child care, municipal, heritage, human rights, language rights, labour, workers compensation, health and mental health legislation, plus model conflict-of-interest and access-to-information law in the Public Government Act.
We hired indigenous people and promoted women, we decentralized power and jobs to the communities, we negotiated for transfer of the Northern Canada Power Corporation, freshwater fishery management and the regional hospital, and we made great progress in the oil and gas administration, forestry and lands. We built schools, a college, an art centre, the Dawson dike, the Mayo dam and improved roads all over the territory, including placer mining roads. We also reduced to zero the off-road fuel tax for placer miners.
For the mining industry, especially the junior companies, we created the mineral incentives program when the federal government stopped funding things like prospector assistance.
We financed new businesses, funded womens shelters, started a new home care program and kept taxes down. Our government consulted widely. The Yukon 2000, which led to our economic strategy, was a good example of this approach.
During our time in office, the economy doubled and thousands of new jobs were created. We invested in people and empowered communities. We fought hard to be represented, in our own right, at the constitutional table and First Ministers conferences. We laboured mightily on the national scene for the entrenchment of aboriginal self-government and territorial self-determination, as well as for Canadian unity.
Naturally, I believe the Charlottetown agreement was a good deal for the Yukon and for Canada but, in the end, the majority in the territory did not regard these constitutional victories as important. As a democrat, I accept their judgment on the accord, just as I do their verdict on the government I led.
Today, I would like to thank all those public employees, members of public boards and our supporters who made our successes possible. I believe our administration succeeded in making life better for most of our citizens, and our caucus is proud of that.
Most of all, we are proud to say that we kept our promises. In this respect, I think we were somewhat unique.
Our government worked hard to involve all citizens. All citizens. I personally suffered some criticism in my party for insisting on appointing people of all political stripes to public boards. Inevitably, one or two appointees did betray our trust, but the vast majority did not.
We also strived to bring the voices of women, working people and First Nations citizens into public policy discussions. This was something that had never been done before by any previous government in this territory.
I would be less than honest if I tried to claim that this was a universally popular reform. Some of the more conservative citizenry frequently complained that we concerned ourselves with matters like equality for women, aboriginal rights and employment standards.
During the general election, one older white male in Whitehorse complained to an NDP canvasser that we had done absolutely nothing for people like him. After pointing out that the NDP had steered the Yukon clear of the continental recession, our canvasser demanded to know exactly what this older gentleman wanted. I want my power back, he said. Now, as I look across the floor at the new Cabinet, I see that the older white men have got exactly what they wanted for Christmas.
I am sorry that I did not persuade such voters that sharing power among all Yukoners was in everybodys interest. It saddened me to hear one old gentleman boast that finally real men and real Yukoners were back in control, as if women, children, Indians, workers, environmentalists and, God forbid, people who read books were nothing but parasites on the body politic.
The new leader of the government contributed to his partys know nothing image when he reportedly told the Globe and Mail that that arrogant man, Penikett, had appointed too many Indians and women instead of qualified people. In 1992, I do not know how anyone can describe another person as unqualified simply because of their gender or race. One only has to look at the front bench opposite to know that qualified, in this context, does not refer to educational attainment or executive experience, but to other attributes, such as age, affluence or, perhaps, an attitude.
Whether he intended to or not, the Government Leader unfortunately left the impression across Canada that his policy is the best white man for the job, whatever the job. To state the obvious, there are no natives and no women in this new, independent, Reform, Conservative, Social Credit coalition cabinet. The Government Leader says he had no choice; he was just playing the hand the electorate dealt him. I disagree.
I sincerely believe that measures like human rights laws, environmental acts and land claim settlements are the products of long struggles. Progress does not happen by accident, and neither do setbacks. It was surely no accident that, in the recent general election, the party opposite offered only two women candidates, and they were sent to challenge women incumbents.
When the former Leader of the Official Opposition, the man who gave up his seat for the Government Leader, likened aboriginal self-government to apartheid, was it an accident that the party opposite responded with silence rather than an apology? I think not. When another Tory objected to poor people living in his neighbourhood, I wonder if that was an example of this partys new-found social conscience.
When aboriginal people show the kind of initiative it takes to develop an office tower and convention centre, the government opposite pulls the rug out from under them. The new government dithers about the fate of our two big mines and a hospital project, but not about the Champagne/Aishihik initiative. They kill that dead.
I think that this is the big difference between us. Our party and our movement believe in community, equality, fairness and freedom for all citizens. We regret some of our friends opposite do not.
I will be frank, because I have known some of the people over there for a long time, such as the former leader of the Yukon Party, the new Minister of Justice. I told him that our worst nightmare would be to go back to the bad old days of drinkin, driving, cow moose huntin, tough talkin, fed bashin, big dam, no park, corporal punishment, separate washrooms for gays and just-say-no-to-spousal-assault kind of good old boy government we had before. The party opposite has won an election. They have the right to government, but I do not believe that Yukoners want to return to those cold, dark days that we had before under their administration.
Another difference between our parties is the way we treat our election promises. Before the election, the Conservatives said we should give the Workers Compensation Board more independence. Let them appoint their own president, quoth the Tories. After the election, a pair of Ministers walked into the Workers Compensation Board and announced a new president with no consultation whatsoever. I am simply astounded by what happened today in Question Period, in that the Minister responsible for the Workers Compensation Board admitted that they broke the law and said he did not care. That is a law he voted for. It is astounding, because a Minister in our system of government has no greater responsibility than to uphold the law. To willfully break a law he helped make is the ultimate transgression.
Before the election, the Tories attacked the NDP for political interference when it consulted with the Yukon Development Corporation board. After the election, the Tories made decision within the boards authority without even the courtesy of a phone call to the chair of the board, if I am to judge by press reports.
During the recent election, the leader of the Conservative Party, in this House, published a four-year plan. It is beginning to look more and more like a four-week plan. Perhaps it was never intended to do anything other than to get them through the election.
We looked at that plan and figured that it would cost tens of millions of dollars. Oh, no, they said. We have examined the governments finances. We have read the legislative debates. We paid great attention to financial detail when we were in the House studying the estimates. We pored over the Auditor Generals report. We know what we are doing and what we are talking about. There are no surprises. We know where to find the money, just wait and see. We said that the Tories were dreaming in technicolour. We predicted cuts, layoffs, contracting-out and downsizing - the whole Tory agenda. Their leader responded by saying that there would be no massive layoffs. The difference between massive, major and none is like the difference between black and white, night and day, or heaven and hell: they are opposites.
Before the election, the Tories said there was so much fat in the government, they could kick back and hibernate through the next ice age, if they had to. They just had to gobble up some of that fat.
Now, the election is over, and they are telling everyone that the cupboard is bare and that there is no money. Big surprise, and there is nothing they can do.
I have committed a great many political sins in my time in opposition and in government, but I have also been around long enough to know some of the old tricks. I can only say that the are local Tories have obviously studied at the feet of their masters.
For eight years now, federal Conservatives have fought the deficit. They have been stuck to the deficit like a tar-baby. They have not been doing anything else, but they have been fighting that deficit and, to that end, they have hiked taxes, cut services, downsized, laid-off, privatized, offloaded on the provinces, offloaded on the municipalities and offloaded on First Nations. What has been the result?
After all these efforts to achieve their number one objective - to cut the deficit - the national debt has climbed from $200 billion to over $400 billion, and there are now more Canadians unemployed than ever before. Who is to blame? You guessed it: the previous administration.
Even after eight years in office, Mr. Mulroney is still blaming Mr. Trudeau for his troubles.
We have free trade and we have food banks. Do you know that there are more food banks in Canada now than there are McDonalds Restaurants? Does that not say something about this country? We have food banks, and hundreds of thousands of Canadian jobs have gone south, probably never to return.
Conservatives in Ottawa have sucked middleclass taxpayers dry. They have shrunk services and starved the national economy for public investment. Yet, these very same voodoo economists are still trying for blood. Were not competitive, the Tories shout.
Don Blenkarn, the Conservative Chair of the House of Commons Finance Committee, has explained to us that competitiveness means that, if Canadian workers want jobs, they will have to work for less.
President-elect Clinton, on the other hand, has persuaded the American people that true competitiveness is about investment in infrastructure, innovation, a healthy, and well-educated population. It is not about competing with Mexicans or Japanese robots for jobs. Especially our own jobs. It may be a minority opinion in the Yukon today, but I for one do not believe that conservative economics work. I know for a fact that they are not fair. They are often an excuse to do nothing about serious human problems by elites who want power, but who do not really believe in public government or popular democracy, or the hard, hard work of legislating in a parliamentary system.
The plain truth is it takes more than money to open a Faro mine, to draft a first class Education Act, or to negotiate with First Nations the arrangements for a third order of government. It takes political will, hard work, and the commitment to make life better for all Yukoners whether they voted for you or not.
Politicians on the right have always argued that there is no money. There were great speeches from Churchill about that. No money for communities, no money for single parents, no money for child care. I have been in this House long enough to remember when Conservative politicians were arguing against spending a single penny on child care. There is no money for training the next generation of workers, but funnily enough, there is always plenty of money for political perquisites: the cellular telephones or new office furniture or what have you. As my colleague, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini said, Mr. Speaker, it is a question of priorities, and frankly, we are still waiting to see what this governments role of priorities will be. If I can quote the Government Leader from yesterdays news he said, We do not know what we are going to be doing for the next year. So much for the four-year plan.
Two thousand years ago Socrates warned us about the oldest political trick in the book. It is called the big lie. Repeat a falsehood often enough and some people in your audience will buy it; so also will their friends and neighbours - especially those who depend only on one or two sources for their information. Yet history teaches, that while endless repetition may make a false statement fashionable, it can never, ever make it true.
I suppose we should congratulate the governments newly appointed propaganda boss for this current, now-you-see-it, now-you-do-not, funny money, misinformation campaign. After all this talk about a crisis, even the Government Leader admitted today that there is still a surplus. And do you know something? This is the only government in the country with a surplus, the only government who is not borrowing money to do its capital works.
The author of this slick shell game was previously the governments campaign manager, and before that we hear he was an officer of the British Colombian Social Credit Party - so much for the promise of Yukon for Yukoners.
Many Yukoners will remember Wacky Bennett, the legendary heavy of the funny money party in British Columbia. He was the man who wanted to take over the Yukon. You all remember that. Let us hope that the new propaganda boss is as close as the Social Credit comes.
During their successful election campaign, the main branch of the government coalition made promises that we said would be hard, if not impossible, to keep. Some of us suspected the smart ones on their team knew it. But that is politics.
Government is a different story. To govern is to choose. Government is not so much about what you say, as what you do. It involves choices, hard choices, about practical matters. The Government Leader admitted that ttoday, but what he didnt seem to realize is that those same hard difficult choices have been made by every cabinet and every administration since we have had responsible government. The hard choices have been there every year for every cabinet, and the government of which I was part certainly had to make them.
For the last few years, the Yukon has been one of the few jurisdictions with an accumulated surplus, rather than a debt - perhaps the only one.
We were not rolling in money, as the now-government then-Opposition party said, but we did have enough to invest, annually, a quarter of our total budget in much-needed capital projects. That is proportionally more than any other jurisdiction in Canada. In fact, I think it is at least twice as much as any other jurisdiction in Canada. We did not borrow to pay for these investments; we paid for these investments out of existing revenue.
Yet, like every other Canadian jurisdiction, we also faced cuts in federal transfers, program dumping and escalating health and social assistance costs. All of which, I remind Members opposite, have been much debated in this Legislature.
What has not been aired is the fact that everybody covets a surplus. Each of the NDP Cabinets budget-call letters brought demands from government departments that were routinely two, or three or four times the amount of available funds. That was before the communities, the interest groups and the opposition MLAs got their dibs in.
Essentially, the budget-making process meant, as it always meant, saying yes to a few requests and no to all the rest.
The Government Leader was talking nonsense today when he was talking about our commitments, because until the budget is finally tabled in the House for the coming year, we have no way of knowing what the governments final decisions are going to be.
I will bet that the Government Leader will have the same experience that we did, of having to cut things out of the budget right up until hours, perhaps minutes before it is presented in the House.
What we say to the Members opposite is: they think they have got a tough job; we have news for them - everybody who has ever been in the position has had the same tough job. We think that is what this new crew should have been doing. They should have been making a budget. What did they do? Did they get down to the hard work of government? No. Did they bring in a balanced budget - something they argued that we should have done already? No, they decided to play politics instead. Hon. Members, the envelope please. To hell with the four-year plan - the new line is: blame the previous administration. Blame the previous administration. Blame the previous administration.
Next year, when people tire of that old tune, I predict their new mantra will be: blame Ottawa, blame Ottawa, blame Ottawa. I might say in passing that rumour has that Mr. Mulroney opened that envelope years ago, but he did not quite know what to do with it, given the message.
Hon. Members, the Official Opposition is not here to dwell only on the negative. I want to say this in all seriousness to the Government Leader. As much as the government coalition permits, we are ready to be positive; we are prepared to play a constructive role in this House. We are prepared to suggest positive alternatives. To be blunt, we are here to help the government live up to its promises. Why? Because in a democracy, a government has a mandate to do at least what it promised to do; nothing less. The government has four years to govern and in each of those four years, they will have more than $400 million to spend. How they manage those monies will be their decision and theirs alone. There will be no excuses, no blaming the Opposition, no blaming Ottawa. It will be their decision and there should be no more broken promises, or before they know it, that third envelope will be screaming to get out of the safe.
I want to say to the new government that when they do the honest, fair and appropriate thing, we shall support them. If they are mean-spirited, if they try to turn the Yukon back into the harder, colder place it used to be, we shall oppose them every step of the way. If they play politics, we shall have no choice but to respond in kind, but if they govern in good faith, we shall help them do it. We wish them well, not because we agree with their philosophy, but because we are all Yukoners and we all wish the Yukon well.
Hon. Members, a minority government must prove it enjoys the support of the House. Parliamentary tradition requires that we present a motion to establish if the government has the confidence of the majority here.
Mr. Penikett: I therefore move
THAT the motion be amended by adding after the word House the following words: but regret that the government is already abandoning its election promises.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Leader of the Official Opposition
THAT the motion be amended by adding after the word House the following words: but regret that the government is already abandoning its election promises.
Mr. Penikett: Mr. Speaker, hon. Members, thank you.
Speaker: Is there any debate on the amendment?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We just heard the Leader of the Opposition say he would support this government when we are making proper moves, then he comes forward with an amendment such as this. I want to draw to the hon. Members attention: promises made during the election campaign were to cover a four-year period. In order for us to fulfill our election promises, we first have to get the financial house of this government in order. We have to know what we have to start with before we can start making commitments of further funds, and that is exactly what we have done.
The Government Leader goes on to say that we should have tabled a budget. I say to the Leader of the Opposition, that prior to the election being called, he should have tabled a budget so that we would have known that Management Board approved an additional $36 million in expenditures over and above the $19 million deficit that was forecast in the 1992-93 budget. That is what a responsible government would have done, not go to the polls.
We want to be a responsible government, and we will be a responsible government. First of all, we have to know where we are starting from. We cannot go out and make commitments. We cannot go out and build Taj Mahals like the previous administration did. We have to look at what we have to start with and where we are going from there. I say again, we have made a four-year commitment, not a two-month commitment. We will carry out our four-year commitment. We will be working to institute each and every one of those promises.
The Leader of the Official Opposition has said our election promises would cost millions and millions of dollars. Had they been instituting them, they probably would have. We do not believe that they are going to be that expensive. Most of the promises we made were to get the private sector to work with us. We are going to continue with that approach.
I do not know what political games the Leader of the Official Opposition is playing, but I regret that we are starting out on this basis in a new Legislature.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Are you agreed?
Speaker: Division has been called.
Mr. Clerk, would you kindly poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Devries: Disagree.
Mr. Abel: Disagree.
Mr. Millar: Disagree.
Mr. Penikett: Agree.
Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Ms. Joe: Agree.
Mr. Joe: Agree.
Ms. Moorcroft: Agree.
Mr. Harding: Agree.
Mr. Cable: Disagree.
Mrs. Firth: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are seven yea, nine nay.
Speaker: I declare the amendment defeated.
Amendment to motion negatived
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the main motion?
Hon. Mr. Devries: It has been an interesting day so far. I am totally flabbergasted by some of the comments I have heard from the Leader of the Official Opposition. After hearing the comments that were made after the election and leading up to today, I can understand where they are coming from. He still has not accepted the fact that he should be walking around with a crying towel.
I would like to begin my reply to the Speech from the Throne by thanking the people of the Watson Lake riding and my family for their continuing support.
There have been times during the past three and one-half years that I seriously questioned my desire to continue in this business. In those times it has been the advice, the kindness and encouragement of the people of Watson Lake that have encouraged me to try and effect change for this territory.
With the election of October 19, the people of the Watson Lake riding and I have taken this step toward making that change.
If there is anything that I learned during my time in this House it is that your wishes and those of your constituents must have a basis in reality.
For instance, I could put a motion forward requesting an initiative to make Watson Lake the banking capital of western Canada and we all know how successful that wish would be.
During the last election, we in the Yukon Party, both territorially and in Watson Lake, were rather modest with our election promises. With that in mind, I would like to outline some of the achievable goals that my constituents and I share for the riding of Watson Lake.
One of these goals would cost nothing, it is just a matter of changing legislation. Currently, the power generation system of Yukon Electrical in Watson Lake exhausts heat into the great outdoors. As the MLA for that area, it is my intention to urge the government to change legislation that has prevented Watson Lake from utilizing this very valuable by-product in not only heating community buildings, but also as a possible generator of revenue for the community.
With respect to the forestry transfer, we know that this government is presently negotiating transfers. I could see the responsibility for the control of our forest resources, amongst others.
Now I am a Minister and have access to what has happened in the past. I recall the former Member for Klondike saying, Oh, we have been working on that for seven to eight years. Yet, I now have access to their records, which show that the Members opposite never did a blooming thing for the first six years; they dragged their feet on the issue.
I assure you, considering the problems surrounding Sa Dena Hes, if they had pursued that forestry transfer the way that they should have, Watson Lake would have sawmills operating there today.
It is my intention, as the MLA, to urge this government to place the administration of this resource in the riding of Watson Lake.
This valuable resource is in the southern half of the territory, so it is logical that the main component of the administration would be in the same place. This would be decentralization in its proper perspective: planned, logical and beneficial, both to the resource and to the people of the territory.
The extended care facility will cost a few dollars, but we see what has happened across the river; we see a Taj Mahal that has cost millions.
In one of the first sessions, I rose to debate in this House the issue of an extended care facility for the riding of Watson Lake. I watched two former Ministers of Health in the previous government give all manner of fancy excuses on why our elders and seniors did not warrant the care and consideration offered to seniors in Dawson City and Whitehorse. Just last year, one of the people who was a builder and contributor to our community in his youth had to be sent to Dawson City to receive proper care in his twilight years. What kind of message was the past government sending to Watson Lake seniors - thanks for your hard work, but now that you are no longer generating revenue, you are on your own?
I am not proposing a monument to somebodys ego. That may have been the basis for the past construction of these types of facilities. What we need in Watson Lake is a modest facility, a facility that will allow those who build this country to live out their allotted time with grace and dignity, surrounded by their family and friends.
In education, we have a recurring problem in the high school in Watson Lake. We have quality teachers and students who compare scholastically with any jurisdiction in Canada. These students and families are faced, however, with tough decisions. If that student has a talent or desire to excel in hard sciences, or wants to pursue physics or advanced mathematics at a senior level in Watson Lake, those opportunities are not available to them. The education system itself is not to blame, however. Innovation did not seem to be a byword of the previous administration, either.
The students and the school find themselves in somewhat of a Catch-22 situation. The school requires a certain number of students to have the funds to hire a teacher to instruct a specific class, but as soon as the student shows promise or the desire to challenge themself in one of the hard sciences, the school is forced to recommend that the student either move to Whitehorse, take correspondence or go outside to a private school to achieve excellence in that class. The school does not know if there will be enough students, in any given year, for such a class. Consequently the student would not know if they could continue to study that subject in the Watson Lake area.
In consultation with other rural MLAs, I will propose, during this term of government, that the Department of Education set up a system using teachers located in Whitehorse, utilizing interactive television to instruct students in these hard sciences in all Yukon communities that have this problem.
On the subject on mineral exploration, I will actively promote the exploration of all the territory, not subject to First Nation plans. We have fallen disastrously behind other jurisdictions in Canada - for instance, Manitoba and Quebec - in the amount of money and time spent looking for potential mineral deposits here in the Yukon. We all know that mine development is directly related to the amount of exploration that is done in an given area.
I also will be monitoring the Sa Dena Hes shut-down situation and lobbying actively to ensure that the mining will be back in production in the near future.
The Watson Lake riding had at one time, as have others in the Yukon, a thriving and vital infrastructure. For some reason, that business was perceived to be tainted or unclean by some segments of both government and society. Those business people simply took their money elsewhere.
I plan to send a clear message to those people that the Yukon is again open for business. We expect, and will ensure, that these companies work in conjunction with the government to ensure that proper environmental regulations are followed.
Several industry incentive programs are being considered and announcements will be made during the coming months.
Tourism infrastructure development - I must at this time compliment the previous government for aiding in the development of the Wye Lake Park and Lucky Lake, and for providing Watson Lake with the only water slide north of 60. I would ask the Members opposite how many of them have been on the Watson Lake water slide?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Devries: Well, it only goes around half-way. I find the Members comments interesting. If he had maybe gone down the water slide, his government may have won the election; that might have been the key.
Those examples are a good start in allowing tourism operators in Watson Lake to keep their guests a little longer.
Another very important thing are the sign posts. Many people spend hours upon hours looking at the sign posts. If we in Watson Lake can convince our guests to stay just one day longer, all of the Yukon will benefit. To that end, I plan on asking my colleague, the Minister of Tourism, to stage a tourism forum in southern Yukon to allow those operators to do some planning on how to achieve this goal.
With respect to South Campbell Highway improvements - this highway is one of the long overlooked pieces of infrastructure that needs help. In this term, I will be working with my colleague in Community and Transportation Services to see that this area is receiving its full share of funding.
The people in Watson Lake recognize this route as a gateway to resource development and further tourism initiatives. It is an alternative to fly-in access to numerous pristine wilderness lakes in eastern Yukon and it is used to deliver supplies to Faro and it can become the route to take, thereby allowing mines to operate more efficiently.
The South Campbell Highway is also the route to the untapped resources of the Howards Pass, Green Creek and many properties not yet identified.
I would also like to address this House as Minister of Economic Development. Our government believes that economic development opportunities in the territory should be focused on building a self-sufficient Yukon economy. To do this we must face challenges such as the need for investment in mining and other resource sectors, the need for infrastructure to facilitate development, regulations affecting development in the territory and the international trade environment and our place in it.
The Yukon is in a unique position as the world enters a more open, international trading environment. We have natural resources and an environment of spectacular beauty, as well as proximity to tide water.
There is also a great deal of distance between us and major markets, and our infrastructure systems need improvement. Investment in mining, forest industry and other renewable resource industry development is being supported under the Canada/Yukon Economic Development Agreement. This vital tool is being used to support the development of baseline Yukon geological information, and to help the territorys agriculture sector plan a financially viable abattoir. We must ensure that this type of cooperative programming be continued. Expansion of such programming with a mine recovery assistance agreement to assist with the development of the Grum deposit is also suggested.
Mr. Harding: I am both honoured and thrilled to be standing in the Legislature today on behalf of the people of Faro. Faro has been my home since 1986, when I first came to this wonderful territory. The town has grown tremendously since my arrival in 1986, and its sense of spirit strengthens with every passing day. As Faroites, we often feel a sense of foreboding. We are still a single-industry town that relies upon the continued operation of the Faro mine. We continue to pursue economic diversification initiatives in an effort to broaden our economic base. Governments must support these initiatives as well as support our existing economic base. People in Faro are Yukoners. People in Faro want to be in Faro and in this territory. It is our home. As long as we have jobs that create a social and economic framework, we can continue to grow. The previous governments initiatives to open the mine and to keep it open have had tremendous payback for people of this territory. The income from the miners and other spinoff jobs are a huge part of the machine that drives this territorial economy. We live in the Yukon; we raise our families in the Yukon because we are a part of it. All we ask is that the Yukon invest in Faro. Faroites very much resent the notion that we are too risky to be worthy of investment. As a result of our contribution to the territorial economy, we expect and we deserve consideration as a permanent fixture in this community. The previous government invested heavily in Faro. Our roads were upgraded to the Robert Campbell highway. There were many improvements to the Del Van Gorder School in Faro; the building was improved to make it a better place in which our youth could learn.
Block funding was created for the municipality so that the locally elected leaders could exercise some decision about what was going on in the community. The community development fund helped us with the beautification program in our community so that we could instill a better sense of pride within the community. It made it a more attractive place to live. It was also a good effort to encourage further investment from the private sector.
Our social and our health services were upgraded to help us deal with our social problems and improve our access to health care. Of course, there was mine investment, to keep people working in real jobs with high incomes that drive an economy. There were wildlife management initiatives undertaken in Faro, such as the Blind Creek sheep project, whereby industry, government and the community work together to ensure that environmental considerations were taken into account in the development of the Van Gorder and the Grum stripping projects, and making those ore bodies accessible for mining.
There was investment in housing through the loan to Faro Real Estate in Faro and the Chateau Jomini project. The child care facility had building improvements so that more children could be accommodated and so that the parents could leave with a sense of satisfaction that their children were being well taken care of. Banking services for rural communities were created and, of course, higher education through Yukon College.
I am proud to announce on behalf of Faro that the Yukon College in Faro is the most utilized of all Yukon rural communities.
These investments are part of building healthy rural communities. Because of the isolation and long distance from the territorial centre of the Yukon, it is important that the Yukon government works hard to bridge the gaps between services available in Whitehorse and services available in rural communities. We all feel the need for a good, strong economy, health and social services and opportunities for education and recreation: all factors necessary for a strong economic and social framework. This is what good communities are made of; this is what Faro is made of. It is created by will; the will of the people, the will of government and the will of investors in the community.
We have had strong wills in all of these areas since 1985 in Faro. If you talk to the people who remained in Faro, for parts of or during the entire shutdown prior to 1985, they will tell you that the will of the people never left Faro.
I believe that governments exist to create an environment that is conducive to economic and social development. Each feeds off of the other. A strong economy breeds goodwill and a sense of worth for people. They work and they contribute.
If you sit in the Faro Hotel coffee shop or the Chinook Restaurant for long, you will recognize that Faroites feel the sense of worth. We know that we contribute to this territory. Yes, we do have our social problems, but with action and understanding we are moving to address them. We need continued support of the territorial government to do this.
By and large our community is in good shape. We have come miles in addressing our problems; however, we have miles to go.
There is an immediate problem that presently faces Faro. The largest private-sector employer in the Yukon, which is Curragh Incorporated, is having significant financial difficulties. Its continued existence is threatened. Low metal prices and huge inventories on the world market have seriously diminished their cash position. They are seeking the funding to continue to strip the critical Grum deposit. This will extend the mine life considerably, but it has not been an easy road for them.
This perilous situation has caused tremendous anxiety within the community of Faro. Three shut-downs have already been announced; the second will soon be underway through the Christmas and holiday season. People in Faro are feeling the pinch and it will not be long before the entire territory feels the pinch.
The jobs in Faro and their spin offs are the types of decent paying jobs that serve to really drive an economy. They create the disposable income necessary to stimulate consumer spending. Smart business people recognize this and smart governments recognize this.
It is prudent to pursue economic diversification initiatives other than the Faro mine. We certainly support that. However, we have a working, feasible project already being mined. It cannot be ignored. It is much more difficult to open or to re-open a mine than it is to keep on going. I remember when we re-opened the mine. In December of 1985, we started the process of re-opening the mine. We went until June before we produced any saleable ore - seven to nine months of intensive capital spending to get the mine open before there was any cash inflows as a result of the work that we had done. The Faro mine and the people of Faro are proven producers for this territory.
To use an oft used phrase from Franklin, a bird in hand is better than two in bush. Investment in Faro has a proven payback to the territory. As a Member of the United Steelworkers of America, Local 1051, I have often disagreed with certain philosophies of Curragh Inc. However, I never lost sight of where my paycheque was coming from. I always appreciated the employment opportunity that was created by the partnership of private sector investment and government will to create economic development and jobs for Yukoners. Yes, Curragh has been heavily criticized. The criticism is heightened since the Westray disaster. It has also raged stronger as a result of financial losses on questionable investments outside of the Faro mine. I want to point out to this Legislature that hindsight was, and will always be, 20/20. The fact remains that this company operates a feasible mine that created jobs, a strong community and a strong territory. The past should not be forgotten; it should be used as a learning tool for the future. Knowledge gained by previous dealings with Curragh should be used to create a new relationship for the future of Faro and the entire Yukon.
This new government must be pragmatic. You may find comfort among yourselves discussing your four-year plan, and I hope that for the sake of the people of the Yukon that your promises come to fruition. Without the mining contribution of Curragh to this territory we are in big trouble immediately. The previous government recognized this and took steps to ensure that the mining industry was never delivered the knock-out punch that a shutdown in Faro would bring to this territory.
Your philosophical political beliefs about creating an environment whereby industry can exist without government handouts are certainly worthy. As a matter of fact, they are shared by your counterparts on this side of the House. However, we recognize the difference between handouts and investment. The Faro mine and initiatives to keep people working in the Yukon are investments.
As I have stated before, the Faro mine is a proven investment. Taxpayers money that has been invested has had a payback for Yukoners that far exceeds the amount of the investment. Curragh has paid back its loans.
Your government has stated that you need time to organize your priorities as a newly elected body. To a degree I accept this, but as the representative for Faro I feel compelled to point out that it should not take long for this government to figure out that something in the vicinity of 700 to 1000 jobs directly rely upon the continued operation of these mines. Pro-active measures must be taken to investigate the situation that Curragh is in.
Consideration must be given to initiatives that will support this project. So many families in the Yukon depend on your efforts to this end. You have a responsibility to the people of this territory as government. You cannot let Faro disappear because of your political ideology with regard to your Conservative free enterprise, free market model. In the real world, you will find out that this model has its advantages but it also has serious disadvantages. We believe that where it makes sense, government must be a player within this model. Faro investment makes sense.
Yesterdays Speech from the Throne raises some interesting questions. As I heard so often during the election campaign, it screamed for more mining and more tourism. Yet it contained no substance. It was like an angel food cake - big and pretty, but full of air. There was not even one solid initiative on what steps would be taken to implement positive steps for improvement.
Two mines that are operating are in jeopardy, yet all we hear is this rhetoric. The Government Leader has stated that they do not even know what they are doing beyond Christmas. Talk about a lack of vision; amazingly, it was all there at election time.
I shuddered when I read the comments in the Whitehorse Star by the Hon. John Devries, Minister of Economic Development. I am wondering if that portfolio will be the ministry of economic disaster in the spring. He was talking about the Curragh situation. He stated that there were other options to pursue other than financial assistance - on December 10, in the Whitehorse Star. I am unsure as to exactly what he is referring to. Perhaps moral support and prayer are considered action by this government. In my point of view, the people of Faro want substance and more tangible initiatives. They want to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.
The Official Opposition wants action and effort that will ensure that we do not lose the base that kept this territory from the recession that has plagued the rest of the country. Faro is operating and Watson Lake is operating. Let us hope, for the sake of the people of the Yukon, that this new government realizes that it should remain this way.
There is another type of investment that must be undertaken for Faro. The previous government went to great lengths to ensure that Faro got a return for its contribution to the territorial economy. Many initiatives were outlined earlier in my speech. Rural communities deserve this type of recognition and contribution. The government, although centered in Whitehorse, has an obligation to rural communities.
Recently, this new government has decided to derail the Chateau Jomini project in Faro.
If ever an undertaking has concretely been determined to be needed by a community, Chateau Jomini is it. In a community starved for housing, office and retail space, Chateau Jomini would go a long way toward addressing these problems. How dare this new government, as one of its first acts, derail this badly needed project by shuffling it off to get lost in a bureaucratic heap as the government struggles to live up to its unrealistic election promises.
The people of Faro resent this decision immensely. If this represents this governments commitment to the rural communities, it has lost touch with Yukoners in less than two months.
As self-professed beacons of efficient fiscal management, this government ignores the fact that taxpayers money has been spent already to begin the renovations. Not following through with this commitment to our community is tantamount to an admission of utter disregard for Faro and its people.
In Question Period, and in some of his opening addresses yesterday, the Hon. Government Leader talked about commitments and living up to the commitments of the previous government. Well, the government certainly has not lived up to the commitment of Chateau Jomini. Why not for Faro, I ask?
This government cannot think that it will always get away with giving my constituency the short end of the stick; we are not rent-a-Yukoners that will be pushed around. We are Yukoners and we expect our fair share.
As the Member for Faro, I demand that the Chateau Jomini project be put back on the rails and that tenders for contract go out as quickly as possible.
Local employment will be created that is badly needed and this facility will go a long way toward furthering the sense of permanency that Faro needs and desires.
Also on the minds of the people of Faro, in a big way, are health services in the community. One of the biggest issues in rural communities is medical care for pregnant women living in rural areas.
As it stands now, pregnant women from Faro, in about 80 percent of the cases, have to travel to Whitehorse to have their children. They must stay in hotels in Whitehorse to do this. Often it is difficult to book rooms in peak tourism periods. The women usually stay in Whitehorse between one and three weeks. They must provide all of their own meals, transportation and accommodation. After the third day, Yukon Medical Services reimburses them to the tune of just over $30 per day. This is a far cry from meeting the actual costs.
Often the partner or spouse has to accompany the woman. This results in additional loss of income to the couple, and there is no reimbursement for this.
Rural Yukoners pay their fair share of taxes for medical services. They pay just as much as Yukoners who live in Whitehorse, yet Faroites must bear the burden of this extra cost for having their children.
We all recognize that the isolation of some northern communities means a higher cost for certain services; however, the difference between reasonable extra cost and the present reimbursement is outrageous.
The long-term solution appears to be the creation of a housing unit in Whitehorse for pregnant women from rural Yukon where they could stay while they await giving birth.
I would like to talk a bit now about what I have heard from the territorys new leaders. This government is already showing itself as being extremely arrogant. You heard it today during Question Period, and you have heard it in the media. The people of the Yukon are being given a real opportunity to take it in first hand. It is a very disturbing trend for the people of the Yukon. I will point to two clear examples to illustrate this point: the derailing of the Chateau Jomini. There was no discussion or consultation with the board, the community, the municipal government or the MLA. It was just an authoritative dictatorial approach. What about what they were saying in Opposition all those years? Talk to the boards; converse with the boards; accept their recommendations. I guess that does not apply any more.
The excuse was that they had an election mandate to dismantle, or totally change, the Yukon Development Corporation. That does not mean they have no obligation to communicate with the people of the Yukon in the meantime. They have to ask for directions along the way.
We have also heard that an appointment of a new president of the Workers Compensation Board will be made January 1, 1993. It became a little foggy today exactly what the plans were with regard to this president. Absolutely no consultation with the board has been undertaken. This is in direct contravention of the spirit, intent and letter of the new Workers Compensation Act that many of the Members opposite voted for. The Government Leader sat in the gallery during the entire debate. He cannot claim ignorance.
Here was an act, the foundation of which was built on consultation and balance, business and labour, together with government, the power to be in the hands of a representative board. Along comes this government with such bravado and arrogance that they seem to feel like breaking the laws within their mandate. I ask this government: who is the Workers Compensation Board nominating? Have they listened? Do they care?
They feel they have the right to engage in this outrageous behaviour. The board is made up of people representing the major groups affected. Governments must listen to these boards. They operate, and they advise.
This government seems to pay no credence whatsoever to their findings. They have a father-knows-best approach. The Mulroney-Tory/Manning-Reform elements within this so-called Yukon Party are showing themselves quickly. We lost the election, and there is no doubt about it. We certainly realize that, and we did not feel that there would be much to talk about in this session but, with so little rope, they are already starting to choke themselves to the point where they act in an outlaw manner, violating the spirit, intent and letter of the legislation in the Workers Compensation Act that they helped to create.
I ask this government: when will it live up to its rhetoric? It seems like it was in such a hurry to come to power that it forgot that it actually has to live up to its promises and deliver on them. The subjects of criticism they had of the previous government should form the foundation for its behavior and conduct. So far, the tone has been set in a completely opposite direction.
I would also like to address the financial situation facing the territory for a moment. Here is a government claiming that the cupboard is bare. They said that the bad NDP went and spent all the money. This comes from people who, for years, talked about the oodles of money that the territory received every year from the federal government, to the point that they felt that we should actually bank money for a rainy day. I am here to say that they will once again receive oodles of money this year.
However, the fact remains that they will be called upon to make tough decisions, with scarce resources. All governments face these questions. For seven years, they watched the previous government invest in the territory. They all said that what the government was doing was wrong and how easy a job government was. Everything is cut and dried and all that is needed is decisiveness. At the same time, they were espousing the need and merits of consultation and in-depth processes involving the people, which we always supported. Now they have the opportunity to govern, and what do they do? Instead of being leaders and going out and solving tough problems, they cry poverty and act with tremendous arrogance. This is not leadership.
They made election promises that we said were unrealistic. They said there was money earmarked and that they knew what was going on with the finances.
They said they would eliminate waste. So far, all they have been doing is wasting the people of the Yukons time. Just look at the loss of the Chateau Jomini as one example. Here was money spent on renovation for absolutely nothing. They are now the government and are quickly going to realize that the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and that their actions as government will be judged on the basis of the good that they do and no longer on how well they talk about their vision.
The time for talk is over; the time for action is now. They convinced Yukon voters that they could talk the talk. Now, the challenge is to show us that they can walk the walk. I suggest that they roll up their sleeves, live up to their election promises and to the commitments to Yukoners of the previous government that people are counting on, and get to work. Stop trying to weasel out of tough decisions that every government has to make.
The Auditor General of Canada showed a concrete surplus in the spring, consolidated at almost $100 million. Rub the piggy bank, check under the mattress, the money is there, make the tough choices while keeping the promises. That is the challenge facing them. They asked for it and they got it. Do not make excuses by telling us about rising health and social services costs. That is the case in every jurisdiction in the country. Every government has to deal with it: now they have to. They said they knew how, now do it.
The challenge for them is going to be in providing the same quality of service that the previous government did, with improvements in certain areas. They knew the challenges ahead of them when they campaigned, and they must now deliver and be judged on their own merits.
Please do not give us the same tired Mulroney line of blaming the Liberals for the deficit problems eight years into office. Stand on your own two feet, take action and make the right choices. Keep Curragh mining, work on the development of Taga Ku and the new hospital, which will provide badly needed jobs to this community. Keep people working and get people working. The people of the Yukon are counting on you.
Speaker: The Hon. Government House Leader on a Point of Order.
Notice re Address in reply to Speech from the Throne
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I wish to inform the House, pursuant to Standing Order 26, that consideration of a Motion for Address to Reply to the Speech of the Throne should take place on Wednesday, December 16, 1992.
ADDRESS IN REPLY TO SPEECH FROM THE THRONE - (Continued)
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Mr. Speaker and hon. Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, I am privileged and honoured to be speaking today in reply to the Speech from the Throne. This is my first speech to the Legislative Assembly since I was elected as MLA for Lake Laberge. I want to begin my speech by saying thank you to the electors of Lake Laberge for their support, and a special thank you to my campaign team who worked long and hard to help me become elected. I will do my very best to be worthy of the trust and confidence that has been given me as I fulfill the promises made by me and by the Yukon Party in our four-year plan.
I would also like to take this opportunity on behalf of my constituents to thank the previous MLAs, Mr. Phelps and Mr. Nordling, who each represented a portion of this riding prior to the electoral boundary changes. I must thank the Members opposite for not including me in Question Period this second day of the session. Like David Millar, I am new at this and certainly do not have the theatrical abilities of some of the Members opposite, nor the knowledge and experience of the long-time Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes.
I did think that the election was over on October 19, but it appears that I was mistaken somehow, because we certainly heard some campaigning today. However, I am deeply disappointed to have to listen to the bitter, nasty and dramatical diatribe of the Opposition Leader, who has insulted over 60 percent of the Yukon electorate - the electorate who had chosen not to support his party in the recent election. Further, I do not object to being called old or white, and I freely admit to having cussed a time or two, and even to shooting the odd moose. I unequivocally resent having the term uncaring tacked on to me. How in Hades can the hon. Member label me uncaring when he does not know me; he does not know my family; he does not know my friends; he does not know my associates.
By his action in the House today, I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that he will never get to know me, other than in this House.
The Lake Laberge riding is somewhat similar to the party I represent, as there are people from all walks of life. Demographically, it is both urban and rural and has approximately 1,250 electors. The riding starts at McIntyre Creek in Whitehorse, takes in a portion of Porter Creek, Crestview and the MacKenzie Trailer Court on the south side of the Alaska Highway west of the City of Whitehorse boundary, the west side of the Klondike Highway to the Takhini bridge, then both sides of the highway to about 20 miles south of Carmacks. It is geographically a large riding, and one of the largest in terms of population.
With such a diverse wealth of land and people, I am naturally very optimistic about the future of this area. For instance, in 1991, the Yukon agricultural community, many of whom are located in the Lake Laberge riding, contributed $2.5 million to the economy of the Yukon. Although agriculture is still a fledgling industry in the Yukon, it is a sustainable industry, and forecasts indicate a steady growth.
In this regard, I will be working to complete the Hootalinqua North Plan, provide zoning regulations and make land available for the many uses applicable to the area. As it stands, the Hootalinqua Plan is not acceptable to many of the people in the riding; therefore, prior to implementing that plan, it will be reviewed by the residents and changed as required.
In the meantime, in my position as Minister of Community and Transportation Services, I have instructed the department to proceed with a change to the area development regulations, which will allow a second dwelling on properties that meet the minimum lot size requirements.
A priority of the Yukon Party that will affect nearly everyone in the Lake Laberge riding is our commitment to resolve the problem with Whitehorse sewage and the water quality of the Yukon River and Lake Laberge. In our four-year plan, we have committed to provide up to $25 million on a phased-in approach toward completion of this very worthy cause.
The Yukon government will cost share the project with the City of Whitehorse on a formula that would be based on the overall cost of the project, the estimated life of this facility and the level of treatment that would be achieved.
I will be working closely with the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation with a view to amending the rural electrification and telephone regulations to more equitably distribute the cost of substation infrastructure with current and future users of that system. Following this review and amendment to the regulations, I hope to be able to provide the residents of Deep Creek with electrical power at a greatly reduced cost from the quote that was previously given to them.
The Yukon government currently has less than one percent of the Yukons 186,000 square miles under its direct control; that is one percent to meet the needs of the Yukons entire population. Without control over the land and resources, Yukoners will find it difficult, if not impossible, to develop a viable and diversified economy, or to protect their environment, as decisions will be made in Ottawa by the federal government bureaucrats, instead of in the Yukon by Yukoners. Land must be made available to Yukoners for community use, for residential purposes, for resource harvesting, for agriculture, and the list goes on.
The Yukon Party will work with the First Nations and implement a systematic plan for the transfer of ownership of land and resources to the Yukon from the federal government.
Finally, and in conclusion, I would like to speak to all Members of the House, including the Members on the side opposite, to express my hope that we, as a Legislature, can come to an agreement on the major important issues that are, or will be, facing us, and that decisions reached will be for the betterment of all Yukoners.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have the great honour of representing a new riding, Mount Lorne, which is a rural residential area. For that, I would like to thank my constituents and my hard working, capable campaign team.
The nature of country and rural residential neighbourhoods enhances privacy, allows people to have livestock, agriculture and home-based businesses, and provides for recreational opportunities. I would like to take this opportunity to speak about a number of issues that affect my constituents.
First, however, I would like to briefly describe the geography of this new riding to ensure that people are not confused by the presence of two Members in this House who formerly represented them. I am sure that I will able to follow in the footsteps of the great men who have gone before me, such as the Member opposite who formerly represented Hootalinqua and the Member for Whitehorse West. I am confident that both great men present will refer any of my constituents, who may be confused by the boundary reallocation, to me.
The Mount Lorne riding extends from Judas Creek at the far end of Marsh Lake and along the Alaska Highway to within Whitehorse city limits. The Carcross valley, from the top of Lewes Lake to the Carcross Cutoff, is also in the riding. Within the City of Whitehorse boundaries, the Mount Lorne riding includes the country residential neighbourhoods of Wolf Creek, Pine Ridge and Mary Lake.
Whitehorse is a rapidly growing city and the problems of adequate sewage treatment and municipal and territorial services, road maintenance and garbage disposal are of great concern to people in my riding.
An important feature of this riding is the Golden Horn Elementary School. Children from all parts of the riding attend this school. Although it is only three years old, the school has already exceeded its enrollment capacity. Parents actively participate in the services provided by the school. It is crucial for government to consider the impact on the school of further neighbourhood developments planned in the riding. I will be working with the Golden Horn School Council and Department of Education officials to ensure that increased population and subsequent increases to school enrollment is taken into account when planning for any expansion of the school. Parents want assurances that the commitment of the previous government to add a gymnasium to Golden Horn School will be honoured by the present government.
The Hamlet of Mount Lorne is now engaged in a land use planning exercise. The residents of the Carcross valley are clearly the primary stakeholders in this process.
They must have a meaningful role to play in determining how and what further development occurs within the hamlet boundaries. I will continue to liase with the hamlet council in an attempt to help the residents develop a consensus on these issues.
Earlier this fall, a waste management committee of the hamlet submitted recommendations to the Yukon government that the dump located at Mile 9 on the Carcross road be converted to a transfer station with recycling bins for glass, paper and aluminum. I fully support the excellent recommendations contained in this report.
We know how expensive it is to do environmental clean-up after the fact. If we consciously improve our waste disposal systems now, we can avoid future environmental damage. I am encouraged by the commitment to environmental stewardship expressed in the throne speech and trust that government decisions will truly protect and conserve our environment.
The Marsh Lake area has grown rapidly in recent years. It has gone from being a recreational area with mainly summer cottage use, to a year-round residential neighbourhood of roughly 1000 people.
The Marsh Lake community is not organized into a hamlet. However, residents in this part of the riding are also demanding an improvement to waste management. The Marsh Lake dump is inadequate for the size of the community.
A second concern of Marsh Lake residents, and many others living in my riding, is about sewage disposal and the additional contamination of the Yukon River watershed. Proper sewage facilities must be a priority for small communities like Marsh Lake, as well as our capital city of Whitehorse. It is not acceptable that raw sewage continue to be pumped into the Yukon River and Lake LaBerge. I fully intend to advocate for resolution of this problem and hope that this government is going to uphold its election campaign promise to spend $25 million to solve this problem.
Some Marsh Lake residents have expressed an interest in building a community hall similar to the Lorne Mountain community Hall project. It would provide a place for recreational activities for their children and community gatherings. If this project receives support from Marsh Lake residents and neighbourhood volunteers agree to put their time and energy into the construction of such a building, constituents hope that the community development fund, which enabled the Lorne Mountain community hall to be built, will continue to support such projects in the future.
The land claims and self-government legislation will benefit the aboriginal people in my riding, and, indeed, all Yukon people, as well as the Yukon economy. The matter has been under public discussion since 1973. Further delays would be a grave injustice to Yukon aboriginal people and all of us who support their inherent right to self-government and land tenure. Yukon First Nations have waited long enough for a just land claim settlement.
Yesterdays throne speech promised that this government will pursue transfers of federal programs in order to gain greater control over Yukon affairs. In view of their desire to control resources, such as forests, oil and gas, I trust the government will proceed with the plans for Yukoners to take control over their own health care system.
The federal government has already committed $50 million toward the cost the new hospital facility, in conjunction with the transfer of health care to the Yukon. This agreement, that has been accepted by the federal and territorial governments, and supported by the Council for Yukon Indians, must be implemented.
Construction of a new hospital will provide jobs in the construction industry and service sector. In addition to economic growth, this new facility will provide many social benefits, with local control over health care services.
It is also vital that this government continue to support Yukon Housing Corporation programs that can ease the housing crisis in Yukon communities.
In my view, a responsible government will take a leadership role in ensuring social housing needs are met in the community and that citizens in the affected neighborhoods fully participate in the planning discussions.
The Speech from the Throne states how important it is that the membership of advisory committees be representative of Yukon society - a view that I share. It is part and parcel of responsible financial management that the advice and recommendations of publicly appointed boards and committees be listened to. The new Workers Compensation Health and Safety Board is legislated to recommend the president of the Workers Compensation Health and Safety Board to the government. This appointment should not be imposed by the Government Leader, in violation of the new Workers Compensation Act.
As a Member of the Yukon Legislature, I would like to speak about some of the broader issues that concern many people in my riding and around the territory. Yesterday, I brought a motion to ask this government to oppose the changes being proposed to the Unemployment Insurance Act. These changes would, in my view, impose hardship on working people, particularly women who are most vulnerable in the workplace. In todays economic climate, people do not quit their jobs for no reason. People who leave their jobs must be able to benefit from the national unemployment insurance program, which they have paid into. Make no mistake about it, more people who are denied legitimate unemployment benefits will be seeking social assistance. It is in the interests of all Yukoners to oppose these changes.
I have been a strong and vocal advocate for working people in the Yukon, and will continue to raise these issues in the Legislature. In particular, I intend to hold the Government Leader accountable for his statement to public servants during the election campaign that their jobs are not in jeopardy.
Members opposite are also aware, as the Yukon Party candidate for Mount Lorne often noted during the election, that I am a feminist with a long history of working to improve the quality of life for women in the Yukon. I am proud to be the Official Opposition critic for the Womens Directorate. In my view, all issues are womens issues - particularly economic issues - and I make no apology for bringing a womans perspective to bear on all the deliberations in this House.
I am concerned and saddened by the absence of any women Members on the side opposite. It is therefore imperative that this government develop strong working relationships with organized groups that reflect the voice of women: groups such as the Yukon Indian Womens Association, the Yukon Status of Women Council and the Advisory Council on Womens Issues.
I am in the Legislature because I want to ensure that there is an effective justice system in the territory.
As a priority, the government must work with First Nations and community groups on educational programs aimed at eliminating violence against women and children.
I implore this government to listen to the recommendations of the transition home workers, Victoria Faulkner Womens Centre and AIDS program workers, and all others working at a grass roots level to find real solutions to the problems created by aggressive, abusive and violent conduct.
Finally, I would like to talk about Yukon families. In Yukon today a very small percentage of families reflect what was once the norm: a two-parent family with the father working outside the home and a stay-at-home mother with young children. Instead, we have numerous, blended families. We have a lot of single adults who live as homeowners, same-sex couples sharing their lives as lesbians, gay men, same-sex couples with children and multi-generational families sharing the same household. These are all families. These families live in my riding and in the ridings of all Members in this House. When we talk about families in this Legislature, I will be reminding the Members of the diversity of Yukon families.
I think that as elected Members of the Legislature we have a responsibility to our constituents to engage in constructive, informed discussion on all public issues. I look forward to the challenge of working for the benefit of my constituents in this House.
I truly appreciate the honour of serving as the Member for Mount Lorne in this Legislature.
Mr. Abel: It is a great honour for me to be here today representing the people of Old Crow. I want to thank the people of Old Crow for having confidence in me and for giving me this privilege.
I also want to thank the former MLA for Old Crow, Norma Kassi, for all her contributions over the course of the last seven years. Although we are representatives of two different political parties, I know that Norma Kassi had the best interests of the Old Crow people at heart. She did a good job of letting people know about the concerns that we had with the Porcupine caribou herd, both in Canada and in the United States.
While the riding of Vuntut Gwichin has very few people, it covers a large land area and now even extends as far north as the Beaufort Sea. The riding boundaries were extended just before the last election. Being from a riding with a small population, I have the advantage of knowing every one of my constituents by name. I know how very important it is to keep in touch with the people. That is one of the most important duties of an MLA and I intend to do just that.
It must be remembered that the laws we pass in this House directly affect the people we represent, whether they live in Whitehorse or in Old Crow. Therefore, the laws that we pass must be fair and just to all. The laws should not be imposed on people - there must be consultation. In the past, the previous government sometimes did not understand this, and it caused concerns and bad feelings among the people.
It is important for the MLA for Vuntut Gwichin to live in the riding. It is not acceptable for an MLA to make a law, leave the riding and not have to live by that law. It is important for the MLA to listen to the elders and to the people to learn what they need, rather than to tell them what they need or want. That is true consultation.
While Old Crow may appear to be very far away from Whitehorse and other Yukon communities, it has special needs for economic development, just as other communities do.
As the MLA for Vuntut Gwichin, I would like to see the development of a long-term economic development plan for my riding. On December 2, 1992, in Ottawa, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance stood up in Parliament and gave an economic statement. The statement talked about building roads and upgrading airports, as well as other things to improve the Canadian economy.
If Old Crow is considered to be far away from Whitehorse, just think how far away it is from Ottawa.
Yet the words that the Deputy Prime Minister had to say are obviously very important to the people of Old Crow. For example, Old Crow would benefit if there were an airstrip at Eagle Plains. There would be lower freight costs to and from Old Crow; there would be lower travel costs and lower back-haul rates to help other ventures. There would be better air services between other Gwichin communities of Arctic Village, Fort McPherson and Fort Yukon in Alaska. Trappers would be better able to harvest in more distant areas. There would also be employment opportunities with the air service in Old Crow and at Eagle Plains. There are two possible air strips that could be upgraded near the Eagle Plains Lodge. One is just south of the lodge while one is just a little further to the north of the lodge.
This is just one of my ideas. A winter road to, Old Crow would also be of great benefit to the community and would help reduce freight costs. That is something that the government might also want to consider.
It is not possible to talk about economic development in Old Crow without talking about land claims. The two bills that were tabled in the Legislature by the Government Leader are very important. Although they deal with the agreements of the Champagne/Aishihik First Nations, many of the provisions in those agreements are the same as those contained in the Vuntat Gwichin agreements.
The Champagne/Aishihik First Nations have ratified their agreements while the Vuntat Gwichin as yet have not. I want to congratulate the Champagne/Aishihik First Nations for their hard work and for having the courage to lead off break trail for for the rest of us to follow. I am confident that the Vuntat Gwichin will not be far behind them.
The negotiations for these agreements, their ratification and the presentation of the legislation has taken nearly 20 years. I was a young man when the talks first started and now I am middle aged. I sat around the negotiating table, both as a counsellor and as a Chief of the Vuntut Gwichin tribal council. Many of our honoured elders - the people most deserving of the land claims settlement - are now gone. That saddens me, but I know that what they wanted most was to achieve a settlement for their children and their childrens children.
They have given the job to us, and we must complete the task and see it through to the end. The job will not be an easy one. While it has taken 20 years to negotiate these agreements, it will take many more years than that to make them work. I know that many of my people are nervous about what is contained in these very thick land claims agreement but, by working together with other First Nations and other Yukoners, we can make them work.
We will need help from the Yukon government to train our people so they can manage their own lands and resources. We will need financial help from the federal government to make sure that the settlement can be implemented. The provision of land and power is all very well and good, but there will have to be a reasonable amount of money provided to train and provide services to our people.
The federal government must also provide the Yukon government with enough money to carry out its responsibilities under the land claim agreements. I do not want to see a situation develop where the Yukon government and Yukon First Nations are pitted against one another because there is not enough money to carry out the programs under the agreements. I want to warn the land claims negotiators that the First Nations and Yukon government not be caught in this trap.
I noticed in yesterdays newspaper that this already appears to be happening in statements made by one of the federal negotiators, and that is the reason for my warning. The Vuntut Gwichin agreements will give my people control over Old Crow Flats and will see the creation of the North Yukon Park. The park will be developed under our terms and will ensure protection of a portion of the range of the Porcupine caribou herd.
The training programs to manage the park will be held in Old Crow. Our young people will have many opportunities, and that is what they need. Our young people have to be kept busy both at work and at play. So, along with economic opportunities, I would like to see better recreation facilities, such as a skating rink, curling rink or swimming pool.
Old Crow is noted for its cross country skiers. There could be other sports that the young people of Old Crow could do well in if there were proper facilities. I am aware of the tough financial situation the Yukon government is currently in. I know that we, in this Assembly, are responsible for making the best use of our money and for putting our financial house in order. Some of the things I would like to see happen in Old Crow will have to wait until such time as we succeed in this task. My people are very patient and know that we, in this House, will try to do the best we can for them. It is my privilege to serve them.
Mr. Joe: It gives me great pleasure to stand here today as the representative of the riding of Mayo-Tatchun. It is a much bigger riding than my old one, but I am looking forward to the challenges this will mean for me.
To me, the most important task of an elected Member is to listen to his constituents and represent their interests in this Legislature. This is what the people have elected us to do and as leaders we are responsible to them.
My riding has some very serious and important concerns that this government needs to address. I must say that I intend to bring these concerns to the attention of the government when it is necessary.
These concerns should not be treated lightly or ignored by the government. These are Yukoners who have these concerns and the government must act accordingly.
From Carmacks to Keno, people will be looking to this government to live up to its election commitments to improve mining opportunities and to increase tourism, especially in the area of the Silver Trails Tourism Association.
There has been a great deal of interest in certain mining projects in my riding. I would like to encourage the government to pursue these initiatives because it will mean jobs for many people in the area.
But I would also like to make sure that the government, in its efforts to help the mining industry, does not walk away from its legal requirement to make sure that the environment is protected. It is important that the land is protected, not only for this generation but, also, for our children, and their children, as well.
The Speech from the Throne stated that it is the intention of the government to quickly pass the land claims legislation. Twenty years ago, when I went to Ottawa to try to settle the issue, I, too, believed that this settlement would be quick. I would like to know what this government has in its back pocket that can make sure that this legislation gets passed. It is up to the people of the Yukon to make sure this is the best for all people involved.
I want to add a little more to my speech. My riding is so large that I am going to work differently than anyone in the City of Whitehorse. My riding is between Dawson City and Whitehorse. My riding always depends on whatever they can get.
As you know, most of my riding is still without jobs since the mine shut down at Mayo and Keno Hill. The only thing that keeps us going sometimes in my riding is trapping and cutting wood, but all those who do that are disappearing.
We used to have the people working cutting timber, cribbing and lagging. We used to have people working at this all the time. Now, since Elsa disappeared, we have hardly anything going on, and now we are struggling along to get a new school. We run into all kinds of problems.
I hear of so many things that are going on here today and it upsets me, but what can I do? Nobody will listen to me anyway, no matter what I do. I can pound at this table here all day; I want to, but still nobody will listen to me. I am not going to give up yet, and I am going to pound this table until somebody will surely listen.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: First of all, I would like to thank the people of the new Kluane constituency who supported me in the election, thus permitting me to represent that area once more. It is a very, very great honour.
Having listened to the Leader of the Official Opposition, in all his glory of what the past government had done, I wonder how 60 percent of the people voted against that. I have a hard time understanding what happened.
It was very apparent to me as I travelled throughout my constituency that people wanted a government that could relate to ordinary Yukoners.
During the referendum, Canadians across the country clearly demonstrated that they wanted to send a message to the Canadian elite, that they preferred down-to-earth people who could relate to the problems faced by ordinary Canadians. The people of the Yukon are no different; they wanted change for the same reason and they have change.
It is time that Canada and the Yukon get their houses in order. It is time that governments be run in a business-like manner and not made to bow down to lobby groups. It is also time that those in the political arena recognize that they are elected to govern.
It is my opinion that lobby groups or members of the general public who find fault with government should run for election if they feel that they are capable of running the government better than us. Politicians and political parties must take the bit in their teeth, so to speak, and get the country back on track.
The days of bowing to lobby groups to obtain votes are over. Although the government has pledged to honour the wishes of people, it is time to make sensible, not emotional, decisions.
Although I have been a Minister for a short period of time, it is very apparent to me that things are in considerable disarray. The road ahead will be difficult; however, I have faith that Yukoners will pull together and get the Yukon back on track.
When I see placer miners shutting down their operations and leaving the territory, I become very concerned. After all, mining has been the foundation of our economy since 1898, and, like the goldpanner on our licence plates, the government has been trying to remove their presence from the Yukon scene. This must not happens.
The Yukon has so much potential in the area of tourism, yet we do very little about it. During the year we are now embarking upon, the Yukon must become a destination, not just a stop on the way to Alaska.
Erasing the slogan Home of the Klondike, and substituting for it the Magic and Mystery just because some computer said it was a good idea, is all wrong. The slogan Home of the Klondike cost us nothing, and Americans are already familiar with it. The Magic and Mystery means nothing and has cost us a considerable amount of money in advertising.
Tourism has not been on the rise, as claimed by the previous government; rather, it has been suffering a decline for a number of years, advancing only a small percentage this year. however, it has been decreasing two to three percent every year. The increase in tourism this year was due to the highway anniversary and is not what we would consider a natural increase.
The former government had no vision in the area of tourism. The new visitor reception centre in Whitehorse is a perfect example. For many years, I have tried to have the mileposts put back up because of their place in Yukon history. My recommendation in that regard was always voted down. It was not until the 50th anniversary of the Alaska Highway occurred that the replacement of key mileposts was considered. In fact, the mileposts became so popular that the former government published a glossy brochure to explain them. It was very nice.
All that I can say is that better late than never applies in this case. If the former government wants to take credit for the mileposts, I do not mind, as the mileposts are now on the highway where they should have been all along.
I would now like to move on to a favourite subject of mine, that being controlled public access to the Kluane National Park.
Controlled public access to the park is a must if we are to become a tourist destination rather than a gas stop. As a destination, we could increase business in all areas of the Yukon. For the Yukon to have a successful tourism industry, this is a must. The fact that Holland America and Westours Incorporated have increased their advertising and will stay one day longer in Whitehorse and in Dawson is a very significant move. It shows that large tourist-oriented businesses are looking at the Yukon, and they must be encouraged to do so.
The Hon. Doug Phillips proposed a program to encourage long-time Yukoners to talk about the Yukon during their winter trips to the south. This idea was blanked by the former government. Long-time Yukoners would be the best ambassadors the Yukon could have, and the program would have been one of the least expensive possible.
I will now talk a little bit about the outfitting business, which has been operating for years in the Yukon. It appears that the outfitters, like placer miners, have been shoved aside in recent years. This is not a satisfactory situation, as they are a very important part of our tourism industry. Hunters who come into the territory spend more money per person than the rubber-tired tourist. It is important to remember that diversity is important to a successful industry.
Wilderness travel must be regulated, like all other tourism projects. The mess on the Tatshenshini is an example of what unregulated organizations can do to the wilderness. European guides are escorting tourists into the Yukon Territory. This must be controlled. In many cases, these guys do not even know the country. If they get into trouble, our law enforcement must rescue them. This costs taxpayers money. The visiting guides are not even registered in the Yukon as guides. A set of regulations must be put in place to control this situation.
In closing, I would like to say that although we appear to be filled with doom and gloom, that is not the case. We have told Yukoners the facts of life as they are. We have taken some steps to correct the economic situation, which includes a freeze on hiring, and less travel outside the Yukon among other things. We will continue to examine ways to trim government spending. I have absolute confidence in the ability of Yukoners to tighten their belts and pull through.
I would like to wish all Yukoners a very merry Christmas and a happy new year. Remember, smile and enjoy the festive season. A smile costs nothing.
I also regret that we did not start out in a Christmas mood here. I suppose that next week, we will be that way. However, a merry Christmas to everyone.
Mr. Cable: I move that debate be now adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Member for Riverside that debate be now adjourned.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion to adjourn debate agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:06 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled December 15, 1992:
Report of the Auditor General on the examination of the accounts and financial transactions of the Yukon government for the year ended March 31, 1992 (Speaker)
Consulting & Audit Canada Review of Change in Accumulated Surplus of the Government of the Yukon for the two years ended March 31/93 (December 4/92) (Ostashek)