Wednesday, March 17, 1993 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
TABLING OF RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: Under Tabling of Returns and Documents, I have for tabling the report of the Chief Electoral Officer on Contributions to Candidates, 1992 General Election. Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have the Annual Report, 1991-92 for the Department of Education.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Ride for Sight Annual Motorcycle Rally: tribute to Leo McCormack
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am pleased to rise today to honour a great Yukoner, Mr. Leo McCormack. Volunteerism is one of the great Yukon traditions and one which Mr. Leo McCormack has taken to heart.
The Ride for Sight is an annual motorcycle rally held in every province and territory that raises funds for eye research in Canada. The ride is planned, organized and operated by volunteer motorcyclists. In 1992, one ride stood out and became a source of inspiration throughout Canada: the Yukon Ride for Sight. Mr. Leo McCormack, of Whitehorse, raised more money per capita than any motorcyclist in Canada.
This accomplishment was largely due to Leos selfless determination, enthusiasm, and the generosity of the people of Yukon who gave to this important cause.
The money raised by Leo McCormack and many volunteers who assisted in last years ride went to the R.P. Research Foundation in support of scientists working in Canadian universities and teaching hospitals to help find a cause and a cure for retinitis pigmentosa and other eye diseases.
I would like to direct the Members attention to the gallery, where Mr. Leo McCormack is sitting. I invited Leo here today in order to allow all Members, on both sides of this House, to show their appreciation for his commitment to the RP Foundation.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am pleased to see my constituent, Leo McCormack, in the gallery today. Leo is well-known and respected in the riding of Mount Lorne for his hard work on behalf of the RP Foundation. Leo truly deserves our thanks for his tireless volunteer work, which has put the Yukon on the map.
Leo McCormack has received well-deserved recognition from national media for his own efforts and for the generosity of Yukoners who respond to his persistent efforts. One volunteer, after meeting Leo and buying a lottery ticket from him, suggested that he could lead workshops on how to fund raise on a shoestring.
Leo does not even incur administrative costs on his fund-raising endeavors. In fact, Leo encourages local businesses to donate advertising and photocopying. Leo even saves money on his travel expenses by sometimes catching a ride to or from Golden Horn with his local MLA.
All of the money Leo raises goes directly to the RP Foundation for funding research on cures for eye diseases. We, in this House, who have an obligation to hold a clear vision of the future, appreciate Leos efforts for eye research. It is these kinds of efforts by volunteers in our community that make the Yukon one of the largest contributors to good causes such as this.
Leo has worked tirelessly for the cause that he believes in and he is a good and worthy example for all of us. The New Democrat caucus extends its thanks, too, and extends best wishes for a successful ride for sight motorcycle rally this year.
Student summer employment programs in 1993
Hon. Mr. Phillips: In keeping with this governments four-year plan, I rise today to assure Yukon young people that despite the spending restraints forced upon us by the state of the governments finances, we will be going ahead with three crucial student employment programs in the summer of 1993.
The joint territorial-federal Challenge program, in operation for a number of years, provided 374 positions this past summer, 125 of them from the Yukon governments contribution to the program. We will be providing that level of sponsorship again in 1993.
The STEP, or Student Training and Employment Program, provides career-related summer employment to Yukon students in the private, municipal and non-profit sectors, as well as with several government departments.
Because it is aimed exclusively at post-secondary students, the STEP program offers higher wage levels than the Challenge program.
In 1992, 58 summer jobs were funded by STEP. By adjusting the level of employer subsidies, we will increase that number to 74 in the summer of 1993, creating meaningful employment for more students. This will increase the number of private sector employment opportunities from 28 in 1992 to 52 in 1993.
The computer camp will continue to promote education with learning and fun for students 9 to 15 years old by combining classroom instruction with recreational activities. This program will provide employment for nine students and a worthwhile summer experience for over 250 young people in six Yukon communities.
In order to maintain the self-esteem of our young people, to give them the financial means to continue their education and to encourage Yukoners attending Outside institutions to return home for the summer, we need to do all in our power to ensure that meaningful employment opportunities are available for our students in the summer months.
With our efforts and the continued cooperation of the private sector those opportunities will be there in the summer of 1993.
Mr. McDonald: What we, and much of the public, have some serious doubts about - what is in the Yukon Partys so-called four-year plan - is whether or not they should follow some of these elements or whether or not the Yukon party is committed to many of its elements.
I can say without hesitation that these summer employment programs the government intends to continue are beneficial to the whole territory.
We should offer many thanks to the federal government for its continued financial commitment, thanks to employers for their contributions and to the departmental administrators, who have ensured that the programs have run so smoothly.
So many students have benefitted from these programs in the past that we are consequently very happy to see the government maintaining some level of commitment in this area.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Development Corporation, status of
Mr. Penikett: If you will not mind my, just this once, naming a Member, I would like to say that since it is St. Patricks Day I would like to direct my question to Mr.OStashek.
At its swearing-in ceremony, the government announced that the Yukon Development Corporation would be abolished. This position was re-confirmed in a letter to my colleague, the Member for Faro on January 20. Yesterday, we found the governments position had changed. Could I ask the Government Leader to tell the House approximately when this important government policy was changed, and why it was not announced at that time?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe the question would have been better directed to the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation, but since it was directed to me, I have no problem answering it. As the Member opposite is fully aware, prior to the election we said that the Yukon Development Corporation should be eliminated or restructured and that it should not continue in its present form.
Shortly after winning the election and being sworn into office, the Minister responsible did make a statement that everything that was being done by the Yukon Development Corporation would be put on hold. One of the choices open to us was to eliminate the corporation; another one was to restructure it to deal only with energy-related issues. That review is still going on at the present time. At this point, as I indicated yesterday, we feel that we will probably keep the Development Corporation, but a restructured Development Corporation. When that is resolved, and the decision is made, it will be publicly announced.
Mr. Penikett: Forgive my confusion, but I only heard about eliminate before the election. Yesterday, for the first time, I heard restructure, and I heard yesterday definitely not eliminate, and we are saying probably not today. Could I ask the Government Leader to briefly explain why they changed the policy? Was it because of the provisions in the land claims agreement guaranteeing seats on the Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Development Corporation boards for First Nations representatives?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That was really not the issue. Under the umbrella final agreement, while there are seats on the board for First Nations people, it is my understanding that anything that would follow the Yukon Development Corporation would have a board structured in the same manner. The board now serves both the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation; therefore, the board would be restructured at the same time, but we could still abide by the terms and conditions of the umbrella final agreement.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader must forgive me, but he has further confused the issue. Now, not only do we not know why they changed the policy but, in his last answer, he has suggested that perhaps it may not be a complete change.
Given the statements made at the swearing-in ceremony, and the letter to my colleague on January 20 - which said that the intention was to abolish the corporation - can the Government Leader explain why the policy change is made, in light of the land claims agreements, since it seems to suggest that no Minister had read the complete agreements until at least January 20?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite says that the corporation will be abolished. He is right. It will be abolished in its present form, but something will be replacing that corporation. We have looked at all the issues revolving around the development of energy for the Yukon. Under the previous administration, the cost was all borne by the ratepayers. We are looking at using the Yukon Development Corporation in areas such as wind generation and coal generation, so it would not be a direct burden of the ratepayers of the Yukon.
Question re: Yukon Development Corporation, status of
Mr. Penikett: I suppose you could argue that I could abolish myself in my present form by going on a diet; I would still unrepentantly be Tony Penikett and the Member for Whitehorse West. Could the Government Leader explain this to us in plain language? Will the Yukon Development Corporation continue to exist, or not? Will the Yukon Energy Corporation continue to exist, or not? Will First Nations people continue to be represented on the board?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am surprised the questions were not directed to me in the first place.
This is an issue that has been explained in the House fairly clearly. It is on record in Decembers Hansard - look for questions posed to me by the Member for Riverside. The intention is to restructure the Yukon Development Corporation, restrict its mandate, probably change its name, and make some other changes to the act. That is the intention of this government and we have made it very clear. We intend to come forward with appropriate legislation during the current sitting.
Mr. Penikett: In the election campaign, the party opposite - and I know the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is not fully a Member - said that it would eliminate the Development Corporation. I have a document in front of me that says that quite clearly. On January 20, the Government Leader wrote to my colleague and said it would be abolished. How can the Minister of Justice now say that in December what was going to happen was explained, when we did not even know until yesterday that - and how can I put this politely - the statement that it was going to be abolished was no longer operative?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I know the hon. Member opposite has researchers in his employ and I am sure they know how to look up questions and answers in Hansard; I suggest he perhaps ask them to be so kind as to bring back that information.
Mr. Penikett: All I can conclude from the Minister of Justices answer is that his statement in December somehow superseded the Government Leaders statement in January, which is an interesting way to run things. I would like to ask again the plain question: how will the Minister of Justice live up to the requirements of the land claims agreement, which we were told yesterday they were going to respect, which say that First Nations shall have a quota of seats on the board of the Development Corporation and the Energy Corporation, if they are going to abolish the corporation, give it a new name and give it a new mandate? Does that not defeat their obligation or go contrary to the obligation that they inherited under the land claims agreement?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is an interesting word game. If we are into picking nits, I will try to join in. It is a fairly straightforward situation. The current act, known as the Yukon Development Corporation Act, is going to be amended. The objects of what is now known as the Yukon Development Corporation will be restricted - other changes will be made in that act. The seats to be held by members of First Nations on the board of directors will not be changed.
Question re: Visitor exit survey
Mr. Cable: My question is for the Minister of Tourism. I think it is generally accepted that the effect of a marketing and advertising strategy in tourism depends on data relating to the demographics as to who comes here: their ages, where they come from, how long they stay and what they want to do here. Given that fact, can the Minister tell this House why he withdrew funding for the visitor exit survey planned for this summer.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think the Member has his facts wrong. The budget will be coming down in this House later on next week. When he sees that budget, he will see what the real facts are. I think it would be premature of me to preempt the budget and tell the Member whether or not there is money in the budget for the visitor exit survey.
Mr. Cable: Whether or not there was money in the budget for the visitor exit survey for this year, can the Minister tell this House whether or not the survey will be done in 1994?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can tell the Member that some work on the survey will be done in 1994.
Mr. Cable: I am advised that the Minister wrote the chair of the Whitehorse area tourism planning committee on December 16, and indicated that his officials would meet with that committee to review the issue in January. As far as I know, that meeting has not taken place.
Can the Minister tell his officials to meet with this group if they have not already done so?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can assure the Member that I will instruct my officials to meet with that committee. I should also tell the Member for Riverside that I have instructed the Department of tourism officials to contact all groups in the territory involved in Tourism on a more regular basis, which was not done in the past. In fact, I have had reports from many of the groups that are interested in tourism telling me that our people are spending more time discussing issues with them than ever before. I am pretty proud of that, but if this meeting is one that has not been held, I will check with officials and make sure it does take place.
Question re: Whitehorse sewage facility land acquisition
Ms. Joe: Yesterday, we sat in the House, debating two important pieces of legislation that would affect the future of the First Nations in the Yukon, with much support from the Government Leader. Today, according to three different news reports, he is supporting the idea of giving land to the city for sewage disposal. The land in question is land selected by the Taan Kwachan.
Could the Minister responsible for land claims let this House know if he consulted with the Taan Kwachan before he agreed to support giving the land to the city?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Land for the Whitehorse sewage facility is something that has been discussed at the negotiating table between the federal negotiators, the territorial negotiators and the negotiators for the Council for Yukon Indians, or the Taan Kwachan. It is a matter that will have to be resolved at the land claims table. There is no doubt that we have to find land somewhere for the City of Whitehorse sewage disposal. The sewage treatment facility will look after the interests of all people within the municipality of Whitehorse, both native and non-native.
Ms. Joe: We sat here for a whole day yesterday, and we will be sitting here tonight, dealing with land claims and supporting two pieces of legislation. We all know that the City of Whitehorse is in dire need of a sewage system.
The Government Leader announced publicly that he disagrees with their land selection, and that there is land available in other parts of the city that would better suit them.
I do not know whether or not he intends to negotiate in good faith, but did the Government Leader consult with them before he, himself, decided whether or not there was a better area of selection for that First Nation, or was that his own opinion?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is my understanding that the land selections that have been made within the City of Whitehorse have not been finalized and they are going to be dealt with at the land claims negotiating table. It is also my understanding that the lands selected are not lands that were set aside under the interim protection agreements.
As I said to the Member opposite, certainly we are fully supportive of the land claims process and settling land claims, but these are the issues that will be dealt with at the table by the negotiators, and there will be a resolution found to these problems. We said we will not always agree on every issue that comes forward at the table, but we are negotiating in good faith.
Ms. Joe: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that he is not negotiating in good faith. Otherwise, why would he publicly announce what his personal opinion is on the land selected for the Taan Kwachan. I would like the Government Leader to commit to the First Nations people that he will negotiate in good faith and not negotiate in public again.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not believe we were negotiating in public. In fact, this is an issue that has been negotiated at the table for a long, long time. I was responding to a letter that was written by the federal Minister, who agrees that land should be set aside for the Whitehorse sewage, unencumbered. It is also my understanding that was the position of the previous administration when they were in power.
Question re: Yukon Development Corporation, status of
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Government Leader. In a letter dated January 20, 1993, the Government Leader stated, As promised within our four-year plan, our government made the commitment to eliminate the Yukon Development Corporation. - as promised, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday, the government announced that they would be breaking this promise. Could the Government Leader please explain their new direction on this issue?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I suppose it would be rude to start pointing to previous answers in this House, made by me and very clear on the subject. I certainly do not wish to be rude with the hon. Member for Faro. We have made it very clear - I as the Minister - exactly what the intention of this government has been. We made it clear in December and we have been consistent on it. There is a letter that uses the word eliminate - abolish; I thank the hon. Member, my good friend, the Leader of the Official Opposition, for correcting me on that, since I have not seen the actual letter. There was a mistake made with the use of that word. People do make mistakes and I do not think we are the only ones in this House who have made mistakes. I am sure the hon. Member who asked the question has made one or two small errors in his life.
Mr. Harding: I have no doubt that there are lots of mistakes with the Yukon Party platform, and more will come to light as this term continues. This is becoming quite a pattern for this government. They seem to be quite adept at breaking promises they have made, and readjusting their four-year, or their four-month, plan whichever the case may be. Could the government please tell me, and this House, which other promises in the four-year plan they are contemplating breaking at this time.
Speaker: Before the Minister attempts to answer that question, I would like to remind Members that a question ought to seek information and must not suggest its own answer, or be argumentative. Would the Minister like to attempt to answer that question?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I know the rules require short, concise answers and as all Members in this House know, I always comply with that particular rule in regard to Question Period.
Mr. Harding: I certainly was trying to get some information from the government. Their four-year plan was a substantial piece of work that they distributed extensively throughout the election campaign. There is a lot of information in there. I was just trying to find out whether or not there was more information at this time about what promises they would be breaking in the future.
Can the government ensure the First Nations that their seats on the board of the Yukon Development Corporation will indeed yield the kind of authority on economic direction that they have in the past?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I was going to suggest that we could ask a question to the hon. Member about how many times he intends to break the rules of this House in Question Period. I will refrain from asking that question because of the very sensible ruling of the Speaker.
Speaker: A reply to a question should be as brief as possible and relevant to the question.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In changing times, the objects of corporations often change. The makeup of the board of directors of the entity created by statute, now known as the Yukon Development Corporation, will have at least the minimum number of directors from First Nations that has always been contemplated in land claims and elsewhere.
The question raised by the hon. Member is one that would have us try to stand here and say that we are not changing the objects. We have said very clearly, over and over again, that we intend to restrict the mandate of that corporation.
Question re: Yukon Development Corporation, status of
Mr. McDonald: We are now engaged in an exercise that has already been dismissed today as that nit-picky word game respecting the future of the Yukon Development Corporation and whether or not it will be eliminated or if its objects will simply be amended. It is a very serious subject and one for which we must find more answers.
During the election campaign, the government said that they intended to eliminate the Yukon Development Corporation. On December 17, Mr. Phelps said they intended to keep their campaign promises, in response to a question from me. In January, the Government Leader indicated that the Yukon Development Corporation would be eliminated or abolished. Yesterday, we understood that there may be some kind of restructuring. Will the mandate of the Yukon Development Corporation remain the same as was anticipated in the land claims agreements and discussions?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The question is an interesting one. The premises are somewhat faulty. The position of the Yukon Party comes out of numerous debates held in this House when that party was in the unfortunate position that the party of the questioner is now in, in that they were on the other side of the House.
The clear and consistent position was that we could no longer afford to have an interventionist tool of a socialist government that was going to take the profits from an energy corporation and squander them on various projects, such as had happened over and over again in the life of that corporation.
The intention was constant in the motions that were debated in this House. We are restricting the mandate in accordance with the motions that we debated in this House. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the majority of those people who voted in many of the ridings in the Yukon strongly supported that position; namely, that no longer could the Yukon Development Corporation be allowed to run amok, squandering the taxpayers money ...
Speaker: Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: ... without ever coming before this House for a vote.
Mr. McDonald: That was an answer, but not to my question. I realize I am probably asking the wrong Minister, because I am trying to delve into what is Yukon Party policy. I realize the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes holds no particular truck with Yukon Party policy.
In the past, and particularly during the election campaign, the Government Leader has been reported as stating that the Crown corporations function would be assumed by the Department of Economic Development. This statement was made during the election campaign; it was something that was submitted to the people for their information as a reflection of the Yukon Partys will. Will that element of the party platform be maintained?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The position of the government - the coalition of the Independent Member and Yukon Party Members - the happy coalition that sits on this side of the House - takes the view that much of what was being done by the Yukon Development Corporation, without having to come forward to this House for a money vote, ought properly to be assumed by the Department of Economic Development. Therefore, those development matters, which are not energy-related, will no longer be performed by the corporation that is presently known as the Yukon Development Corporation, but will be performed by a line department of this government, which is fully accountable to this House and open to scrutiny by each and every MLA who sits here.
Mr. McDonald: I realize the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is no Yukon Party loyalist. Certainly, he has been free to admit to mistakes by the Yukon Party leader so far today, but I would like to ask either him or the Yukon Party leader, who seem to be taking slightly different positions here, whether or not they are prepared to seek a consensus with the Council for Yukon Indians on the mandate of the Yukon Development Corporation - based on the fact that it was raised in negotiations, it was submitted as an element of the land claims agreement - an agreement we are in the process of passing before the House today. Will the Yukon Party government seek such a consensus with the Council for Yukon Indians prior to making significant changes of any sort to the Yukon Development Corporations mandate?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: One of the reasons the hon. Member is sitting over there and not over here where he used to sit is because he and his government did not adequately consult with First Nations. That is the message that came through over and over and over again during the last election campaign. The Member knows full well that, for the first time, the full Cabinet of government met with the CYI and the chiefs just a short while ago. I am rather amazed that suddenly this person-
Speaker: I would ask the Minister to conclude his answer to the question.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I cannot understand why the person who lost this confidence suddenly assumes that he can stand there as the spokesman for CYI and land claims.
Question re: Hiring freeze, lifting of
Ms. Moorcroft: As I understand it, it is the tradition of this Legislature that major policy announcements are normally made first to Members of the Legislature during times when the Legislature is sitting. Can the Government Leader explain how and why it was that a major announcement on the lifting of the Yukon Party government hiring freeze, a policy that will affect many Yukoners who are now afraid for their jobs, was made at a breakfast meeting of Rotarians rather than to the elected representatives of the people of the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: When the freeze was put on, a statement was not made in this Legislature. I made the statement that it was my intention to take it to Cabinet, to Management Board, for a decision.
Ms. Moorcroft: The House was sitting at the time he made the announcement that the hiring freeze was off. It is interesting that the government was quick to initiate a hiring freeze when it is, at the same time, refusing to initiate a firing freeze on deputy ministers, which could have cost this government...
Speaker: I would like to advise the Member that a one-sentence preamble is allowed for a supplementary.
Ms. Moorcroft: I will make that one sentence. Can the Government Leader now confirm for Members that the hiring freeze has been lifted, or when it will be lifted, and will he elaborate for the benefit of Yukoners who are worried about putting food on their table and meeting their mortgage payments?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I stated in my first reply, a recommendation is going to Management Board this week that controls be lifted. The fact remains that term and essential positions have been filed.
I can assure the Member opposite that once the controls are lifted, nothing will change. There will still be discretion used in hiring, travel and in permitting departmental discretionary spending.
Ms. Moorcroft: In view of the fact that dozens of auxiliary workers of the Department of Community and Transportation Services, who work as seasonals on survey crews and in highway maintenance camps, as well as seasonal employees of other departments - for example, Tourism Information Centre employees - have been waiting anxiously for some time to receive recall notices to return to their jobs, can the Government Leader confirm that auxiliaries will be recalled, and dispel the persistent rumours that their jobs are about to be abolished, in favour of contracts with private companies?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know where the Member opposite gets her information but we have been taking auxiliary people back to work, as required. This will continue this summer. Auxiliary workers are a necessity in the Yukon to fill positions on a seasonal basis. I can assure the Member opposite that they will be recalled.
Question re: Energy policy
Mrs. Firth: Of concern to almost all Yukoners today is the thought of another increase in their electricity bills. I have asked the Minister responsible, for the last couple of days, what he is going to do about this issue. I have been given every answer in the book, from the socialist squandering to the need of the Energy Corporation and the electrical company for money, to, it is not my job.
I would like to ask the Minister what he is going to do, as an MLA and as a person who is supposed to be representing people, about this issue.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Despite what the hon. Member across the way may believe, and despite how deeply she may believe it, I do not pretend to have all the answers, and I certainly encourage any suggestions from the side opposite with respect to this issue.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister has indicated in this House that they are going to restructure the Development Corporation, so that they can restrict the mandate of the YDC and that that will be of some advantage to the Energy Corporation.
I would like to ask the Minister, what will happen to the profits of the Energy Corporation when he restricts the mandate of the YDC and will that go back to the ratepayers in the form of a rebate?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The intention is that none of the profits will be used for anything except reducing rates of developing energy for the use of all Yukoners.
With respect to the precise question, if she is asking if there will be a dividend flowing, for example, from Yukon Energy Corporation to the parent company, as restructured, that is certainly a possibility. If the purpose of such a dividend would be to reduce rates, that would be done, as the Member probably knows, by simply reducing the amount that the Yukon Energy Corporation is allowed in equity to the amount that the Yukon Energy Corporation would pay in interest on a loan back to the parent company.
Mrs. Firth: I am interested in what benefit there is for Yukon taxpayers, particularly Yukon electrical taxpayers. Looking back to when the Member spoke like a politician and not a bureaucrat and used to make strong representation on behalf of his constituents about increased electrical costs, I would like to ask the Minister - and perhaps he could take this as another suggestion - if he is going to use his legislative authority to give direction to the Yukon Energy Corporation to get its costs under control.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am going to be following with great interest the hearings that are going to be held by the Public Utilities Board and, depending on the findings, I certainly may or may not convey a message of that kind to the board members of the companies in question.
Question re: Gold Rush Inn convention centre proposal
Mr. Penikett: I have an easy question for the Minister of Economic Development who yesterday told the House that Yukon Party supporters were consulted on Curragh loan conditions.
For the record, may I ask if Yukon Party members were also consulted about the document entitled Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I would like to comment on that. Yes, naturally they were consulted on that.
Mr. Penikett: This document lists a Whitehorse hotel/convention centre as a major potential project. Since this obviously is not a reference to the Taga Ku proposal, is it a reaffirmation of the Yukon Partys support for the competing proposition from the Gold Rush Inn?
Hon. Mr. Devries: No, it is not. It is just something that has to be looked at down the road. If the Taga Ku proponents, or someone, comes forward with a reasonable suggestion, we will be open to that suggestion.
Mr. Penikett: The Taga Ku, or the Gold Rush Inn or some other fanciful, potential, possible proponent of some other hotel convention centre.
Since the government admits to consulting the Yukon Party about policy decisions, like Curragh loan conditions and convention centres, even though it has not consulted with other Members in this House, can this House have, at this time, the assurance of Members opposite that at no time did any Minister of this government consult with the Yukon Party president, an associate of the Gold Rush Inn, on the Taga Ku decision?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have no problem at all giving the assurance to the Member opposite that that did not happen.
Question re: Lake Laberge contamination investigation
Mr. Cable: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources. In May of 1991, the federal Department of Health and Welfare issued a health advisory concerning the consumption of burbot livers and lake trout from Lake Laberge. I understand the advisory remains in effect. Following the discovery of PCBs, toxiphenes and other toxic substances in Lake Laberge, a working group was formed to further investigate this matter. I understand that the Yukon government is represented on this working group through the Department of Renewable Resources. Can the Minister tell this House what work is being done now to try to find the source of this contamination, stop it and clean it up?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: At the present time, we are still working on trying to find out where the problem is. We have forbidden all commercial fishing and have taken licences away from some people. The First Nations group there has agreed to fish in other areas until we find out where the real problem is.
Mr. Cable: In May of 1991, a request for an investigation of Lake Laberge contamination under the Federal Environmental Protection Act was made by the downstream coalition, The Taan Kwachan First Nation and the Yukon Conservation Society. After further investigation, the federal government determined that the act had not been violated. Does the Minister know what the nature of the federal investigation was, if it included testing and what the test results were?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I do not have the federal information here. I will take it under advisement and bring it back to the House.
Mr. Cable: Can the Minister tell us what specific actions the Yukon government may be contemplating to help find the source of this contamination? For example, are discussions underway with the federal government to determine where their test results and analyses are, and what the status of the overall investigation is?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, we are working very closely together. As I have said, they have relieved the commercial fishermen of any fishing in the area. There is no commercial fishing allowed there at the present time, until they get the situation straightened around.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 17, standing in the name of Mr. Penikett.
Motion No. 17
Speaker: It has been moved by the Leader of the Official Opposition
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon conditions for the Curragh loan guarantee must be tough but realistic; and
THAT that Government of Yukon must show fiscal and economic leadership when they negotiate these conditions with Curragh in order to protect the taxpayers and ensure the security of the jobs in Faro.
Mr. Penikett: The text of the motion before us is very simple. We want the conditions for a loan guarantee to Curragh Resources to be tough but realistic. We believe that there is no more important economic question facing this territory today than the fate of Curragh Resources, the mines at Faro and Watson Lake, the companys employees, the people in those communities, and the employees of all those who provide goods and services to those mines and who benefit from the economic activity those operations generate.
I want to say to the party opposite that, from the beginning, we have wanted to believe that they were serious about this issue - not serious about the simple question of saying thumbs up or thumbs down or yes or no to Curragh and to the people of Faro and Watson Lake and the rest of the Yukon, but that they cared enough to want to try and find a successful solution to keep the mines operating and that they were prepared to show the kind of economic leadership necessary to make that happen.
I want to say to the party opposite and to the leader opposite that we, more than anything else, wanted to see a successful solution to the problem here. We wanted to work with them - even though they have not consulted with us about any of the conditions, and even though they obviously consulted with a great number of other people. We want conditions to be tough because we think Yukoners and Yukon taxpayers are entitled to that, but we also want them to be realistic. We want a success story here.
I want to say this to the Government Leader: the motion today is not presented in terms of a non-confidence motion. It is not even presented in partisan terms to invite division in this House or to provoke a vote on which there would be division in this House. It is presented for the purpose of having the debate - an open discussion about what is really going on with these negotiations, because a number of things the government has done and a number of statements the government has made have left massive confusion in the minds of people about what is really going on and, let me say this directly, about the sincerity of the governments intentions in respect of the people, the jobs and the prospects of those mines and those communities we are talking about.
I am going to take some time to explore my concerns today, but I want to begin by saying that it is profoundly disturbing to us - and I think this is true of all opposition politicians here - that the Yukon Cabinet never sat down with senior officers of Curragh Resources and had the kind of briefing we had about the ore bodies, about their markets, about their financial positions, about forecasts for world metal prices. They never had that kind of conversation, yet the Minister of Economic Development yesterday admitted that they had consulted with Yukon Party members about the conditions, leaving the profoundly disturbing impression in our minds that the conditions that were published - not put on the table for bargaining but published - were essentially political conditions, not commercial considerations.
The fact that the government never sat down with Curragh Resources and compared notes about facts and figures, when we now know that some of the numbers in some of the governments documents were dead wrong, but went out and consulted with party members about what would be a politically appealing set of conditions, raises serious doubts about the governments intentions.
I do not know if it was Dale Drown or Merv Miller, or some other B.C. Socreds idea, but it is probably good politics, but I will say that this is an issue that is about the whole economy of this territory. While it may be good politics, in my opinion, it is damned bad government; it is awful.
We have had a whole set of contradictory statements, confusing messages and incredibly inexplicable delays in dealing with this matter. We had what the Minister of Economic Development yesterday referred to as things that were negotiababble. I think that is what we have had; a lot of negotiababble.
We actually had the Minister of Economic Development say to us yesterday, in probably one of the most astonishing statements I have heard for years in this House, that Curragh Resources did not understand its financial position. Curragh Resources, headed by Clifford Frame - no matter you may think of him - who has been running mines for a long time and has been involved in many multi-million dollar projects and some quite fascinating transactions in many parts of this country, does not understand the company he operates; that John Turner, a director of the corporation, a former Prime Minister of Canada, a big-time Bay Street corporate lawyer and former Finance Minister of Canada, does not understand Curragh Resources finances; that Ralph Sultan, another director, a former Professor at Harvard Business School, a former Senior Vice-President of the Royal Bank of Canada, does not understand Curragh Resources; but good old boy, John Devries, from Watson Lake, does. Let us get serious here. Let us get serious.
This is important for the territory. It is important for our economy and for our social structure. The consequences of the Faro mine going down forever and Sa Dena Hes shutting down forever are going to be devastating to the people of this territory. Ironically, because of provisions in the formula financing agreement, they do not need to be devastating for the government. In fact, we could have the absolutely preposterously absurd situation of Curraghs mines in Faro and Watson Lake going down, of having a rich government and a poor territory; a government rolling in money, but thousands of people in the Yukon begging for jobs, losing their small businesses, being forced to leave the territory they love. And, nothing we have seen from the Members opposite, in terms of their decisiveness or resolve, has been reassuring.
If, consistent with their right-wing ideology, the government had said that they do not believe in helping and are just going to say no, fine, that is the end of it, we would have fought them, but we could at least have understood it. However, the deep fear we have is of the conditions put out - some of which, the government says, are negotiable, and some of which are not, but we do not know which are and which are not; some of which are public, and some of which are not; and on which the Government Leader publicly said there was no deadline, but we understand there is - lead us to worry deeply that the conditions are just a slow, cruel, painful way of saying no.
Look at recent history. We sat in this House in December. Members in the New Democratic Party asked questions about Curragh Resources, but nowhere in the governments throne speech, nor in any of the other statements it initiated, does it even mention Curragh Resources. It was as if the problem did not exist in their minds or, if it did exist, they did not want to talk about it because they hoped it would go away.
I have been in dealings with the company during times of crisis, and I can well understand the attitude of wishing the problem would go away and hoping someone else would deal with it. Unfortunately, life is a little different when you are in government than when you are in opposition. One of the things about being in government is that you do not get to set the agenda completely, and you do not get to decide everything that is on the Cabinet agenda, because there are external events and things in the real world that determine what is going on.
However, the word Curragh, and the proper nouns Faro, Sa Dena Hes, Van Gorder and Grum were not part of the vocabulary of the Members opposite. There was not a word in the throne speech. There was nothing in the statements of the Ministers office.
We sat late on Thursday night, after a quickie, four-day session. Then, the next day, we are called into a session to tell us about the crisis. We know now that Curragh said, as plain as day, that the crisis was urgent back in December. Months before that, this House was told of the consequences of the ore gap that would ensue if the Grum stripping program was not financed. All of that had been forgotten.
On December 18, we received the press release from Curragh, announcing an extension of the 30-day production curtailment at Faro and Sa Dena Hes. We know that, on December 29, there was a meeting between Curragh officials and YTG officials here in Whitehorse. This was the first formal meeting.
We know that there were, in the ensuing days and weeks, many representations by concerned citizens, most especially the Member for Faro, about the situation. We had press releases from, among others, the United Steelworkers expressing a willingness to work with YTG on discussions of a loan guarantee. We had offers from Members on this side to work with the government across the way in lobbying the federal government if it was necessary.
We know that on January 13, the Government Leader met with the federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs in Yellowknife. We had, on January 20, a press release from the Chamber of Commerce stating that they were in favour of loan guarantees providing conditions were sensible, a word we should all keep in mind. We had other press releases from other community groups supporting a loan guarantee.
On January 21, the Government Leader went to Faro, mentioned the possibility of federal involvement, described to the 600-strong gathering who came out to hear him, about the joint sponsorship by the federal government and the Yukon government, of the Burns Fry and Micon studies. Burns Fry was supposed to look at the operation from top to bottom, and they got a handsome fee for doing so, notwithstanding the fact that they had done much of the same work just a few months previous for a previous government. The Government Leader told that meeting - he was there with the Minister of Economic Development - in front of 600 witnesses, that the government was negotiating with Curragh and once they had the Burns Fry report, they would have an agreement ready to sign. We know now from statements from among others, including the Minister of Economic Development yesterday, and indeed the Minister of Justice and the Government Leader himself, that negotiations did not commence in January, did not continue in February and in fact conditions for the loan guarantee were not even established finally until the Cabinet meeting on March 4.
We know that there was a briefing to take place in Ottawa and that our caucus members requested the right to participate. On February 19, Curragh announced 177 more layoffs to begin March 14. On February 20, Mr. Ostashek was briefed on the Burns Fry report in Ottawa and there was a request reiterated for federal help.
There was public musing from the Government Leader that, contrary to provisions of the Canada Labour Code, the unions should perhaps be required to make concessions in order to make this happen, though I believe the government was quickly reminded that the business of negotiating collective agreements is the property of the local union and the company, Curragh Resources, who were engaged in discussions toward a new contract.
On March 3, we had a briefing of Opposition officials and on March 4, as we all know, we had the protesters coming here from Faro to ask us to help save their jobs and save their town, to do the right thing to protect the operation.
We know that, early in the day, a delegation of Faroites received a very, very depressing and very negative message from the Members opposite. But we know that, later, when the leader of the Independent Alliance and the leader of the Liberal party and I went to the Government Leader, they had made a decision to consider a loan guarantee on certain conditions - conditions that we did not know at the time but that were subsequently published on March 10.
On March 12, on the CBC Insight program, the Government Leader said again what he had said in Watson Lake and elsewhere: that there was no hard and fast deadline for this deal. We now know that in a private communication from the government to Curragh there is a deadline of the end of March. A major contradiction and very confusing; we do not know what it means. Why would the Government Leader say one thing publicly and another thing to the company? In any case, there are two problems with the deadline: one, we are setting a deadline now even though we are not saying it publicly, which, given the complexity and the difficulties of the conditions, depending of course upon whether or not they are negotiable, may be very difficult to achieve. A deadline now, after four long months of indecision, seems to defy the essential urgency of this whole problem.
Let me ask a rhetorical question of the Government Leader, because I know he will want to respond to this and I hope he will not misunderstand at all our purpose in wanting to debate this. I hope he will understand, even though he has not been in the House a long time, that Question Period is a hopelessly inadequate forum to discuss and debate some of these issues. I was deeply concerned, given what has happened in the last few days, that we might not have a chance to discuss this for another two weeks.
I have had enough dealings with Members opposite, particularly the Member for Riverdale North, to know that what we were talking about was that we might not have another chance to discuss this for another two weeks, which would be after the governments deadline-
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Point of order to the Government House Leader.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think it is clearly on the record that I clearly indicated to both House Leaders and to Mrs. Firth, in conversation, that we were prepared to offer the Opposition Day next Wednesday to the party, and the Member is absolutely dead wrong.
Speaker: I find there is no point of order. The Government House Leader will have a chance to speak on this matter. I find that there is simply a disagreement between Members.
Mr. Penikett: Methinks the Member doth protest too much, anyway.
The debate today may be the very last chance this House has to discuss this matter, if we are unable to reach a satisfactory agreement to save this mine. I will concede immediately that, if we get an agreement, negotiated in good faith - which requires that both parties know what is negotiable and what is not, and there is some doubt about that now - it will be necessary to come back to this House to discuss the terms.
If we get what some people believe is the governments intention, where Curragh is forced into a position where it cannot get agreement on these conditions, since they require agreement of third parties, within the time allowed, and we have the collapse of this company and the two mining properties, this will have been the last chance to debate it.
Some days ago, the government provided a briefing to the other parties in this House, not on the conditions, but on their perception of the problems.
We now know that, because the Cabinet never met with Curragh to compare notes, some of the information that the government provided to us on that occasion was inaccurate. Not the least of the problems from that briefing was that the governments perception, based upon false information, was excessively negative.
In fact, some of the numbers were grossly misleading. For example, we are told that Curraghs total indebtedness, borne out by their financial statements, is $260 million. However, the government document suggested that their indebtedness was something like $450 million.
Two hundred and sixty million dollars worth of debt is a serious problem. Let us not deny that for a second, but it is a long way from $400 million. There is a huge difference. It raises the question that, if the government really wanted to work this out with Curragh to protect the constituents of the Member for Faro, why did they not sit down with them and compare notes before they released numbers publicly that might have had a damaging effect on the company, while also simultaneously trying to find private sector solutions to its problems?
Why did they not do that? Remember, they did not do that, but they did, according to the Minister of Economic Development, go out and consult Yukon Party members about conditions for a loan guarantee to the largest private company in the Yukon. What does that suggest about their intentions?
The Government Leader is a shrewd old fox. I am sure he would have recognized that, for someone like me watching that behaviour, doubts would be raised in our minds. Concerns would be raised in the minds of hundreds of laid-off people and their families in Faro about what the hell is going on.
Secondly, there was information in those documents released by the government that Curragh has told Members on this side that amounted to commercial confidences, yet they were released publicly. They found their way onto the wires and may have had - and may yet have - a damaging effect on the ability of that troubled company to raise money on the markets. One has to ask why, if the government wanted to help them solve their problems and work out a solution - not for the benefit of Curragh or the greater glory of Clifford Frame - but for the benefit of citizens of the Yukon who live in Watson Lake, Faro, Whitehorse and everywhere else, did they do that.
On a number of occasions, the Government Leader has indicated to us that negotiations began with Curragh back in December. In our briefing with Curragh I asked a question, because I have been involved in a few negotiations in government over the years. I asked what documents had been exchanged between them; what offers, what counter-offers, what communications, what proposals had been received and responded to. The answer, to my utter astonishment, was none.
There is nothing in writing, but it was admitted by the Members of Cabinet yesterday that negotiations could not have begun, and did not begin, until Cabinet finally set the conditions on March 4 - three, going on four, months, while the people of Faro fretted and worried and the economy of the Yukon twisted slowly in the wind while this government made up its mind whether they were going to cut the rope or come to the rescue.
We still do not know what the governments intentions are. We do know that Curragh conveyed to the government opposite how serious their situation was back in December and told them that it was urgent, that we had to deal with it quickly, we had to deal with it now. But the government said, well, we have got to wait for Burns Fry; the Burns Fry report may be out in March, no problem.
The interesting thing is that when he went to Faro, as I pointed out before, the Government Leader said they were not going to wait for Burns Fry; they would have a contract ready to sign as soon as they had the Burns Fry report; all they needed was Burns Fry to agree to it. There were a lot of witnesses to that.
That is a very different message. We have three different messages. We have had one that negotiations began in December. They were developing negotiations in January. Then we had the message, which was confirmed yesterday, that negotiations did not begin, in earnest, until the conditions were established in March. We have had the Government Leader say publicly, several times, there was no deadline, but we now know there is one.
We know that Curragh came to the government in December and said they had a huge financial crisis affecting the whole economy of the Yukon. But the Member for Watson Lake, on March 16, said that Curragh does not understand their own problems. He said it right here on the record. He was repeated on the radio. I am sure 10,000 people, hearing that on the radio this morning, fell over flabbergasted.
The government could have been negotiating. They could have used the officials that we have used to negotiate with Curragh in the past. In fact, interestingly enough, in 1985, when we had negotiations, which were far more complicated than the ones we are involved in now, because they involved energy, transportation, housing, mortgages, financing - dozens of issues - those negotiations were carried out by us using senior officials of the government. In fact, the government did not do what would normally be done in negotiations like this - go to a chartered accounting firm, or a firm with particular expertise in this - they went to a brokerage firm.
Given that we essentially have political conditions, I am not sure how a Toronto brokerage firm is supposed to achieve a deal on this, unless - and the Government Leader may be able to satisfy us on this - most of the conditions, not just some, are negotiable. However, we have repeatedly been told that some are and some are not. I hope that todays debate - given that we are not dealing with the time limitations of Question Period - will give the Members opposite a chance to tell us exactly what conditions are negotiable and which are not.
We do not have all the time in the world. This is a real crisis that requires action, thought and a decision. The company is now involved in mining the last remaining ore from Van Gorder. This is a final effort by the company to continue operating at Faro. We knew last year the consequences of an ore gap; in other words, that it would take four to five months to access new ore from Grum. In other words, by delaying, procrastinating and dithering, we do not just have a problem now. Even if we solve the problem now, we will continue to have unhappiness, layoffs and unnecessary hardship in the community of Faro.
Even if Curragh starts today, the ore will not be available to feed the mill at Faro until July, at the earliest, as I understand it. The remaining ore in the Van Gorder pit will be completely depleted prior to that time, even if everything goes like clockwork from now on in.
When you look at the delays, the conditions, and the confusing and contradictory statements, it is hard to believe that this government really wanted to help get a win-win situation here. I understand the conditions. They wanted a political win, and they probably got that. A lot of people probably think the conditions are wonderful. A lot of those same people, though, have deep reservations about whether they are achievable or not. The government opposite is going to look awfully goofy if this mine goes down, because it is impossible, under the deadline given, to meet these conditions.
They will have a lot of angry people at their doorstep if they try to blame Curragh. That may be their game. Or they may try to blame the union - that may be their game. They may try and blame someone else - blaming the previous government is a favourite - but it will not wash. This hot potato has been in the governments hands for too long.
Let us ask about the way negotiations normally proceed. Is it customary, when a government, much less a private company, is negotiating with a private party about something as important as this that, prior to communicating with the other party, it will issue a press release about its conditions? In other words, as my colleague, the Member for Whitehorse Centre, pointed out with respect to another matter today, why would it begin negotiations by negotiating in public, unless its purpose was principally political?
What are we to conclude from the fact that that was communicated to the public, conditions gathered from the Yukon Party and then made public: not conditions obtained through consultation with Members of the Opposition, the union, the people of Faro or frank discussions with the company, such as comparing notes about what was doable and what was not, but political conditions released publicly before the government could even sit down to start serious negotiations about what is the cornerstone of our economy, the largest private sector company, the biggest business and perhaps one-third of the gross territorial product, at stake? I ask, did the Government Leader give even a moments thought to the potential negative consequences in financial markets in Toronto using the word bankruptcy or potentially bankrupt in connection with Curragh, just at a time when they were going out with an equity issue to try to raise money to address this problem; one of the conditions we have required of them; one of the conditions we would all want them to achieve - bring some new money into the company; bring some new equity in; lower the debt? Why would we make a remark publicly that gets put on the CP wire and reported in the Globe and Mail, which, I am told from reliable sources, every senior banker in the country reads - as they are about to make decisions on Curragh, they think, oh, oh, what is this? Bankrupt? The Government Leader in the Yukon says they are almost bankrupt? What do you think that does to their ability to raise money?
I cannot imagine anything that was designed to be more devastating to the confidence of Curraghs lenders, shareholders, employees and suppliers. What was the effect on capital markets? It was nothing but negative.
In a recent interview on CBC radio, as on other occasions, the Government Leader used the word receivership. That has not been suggested by anyone else - at least not in public. It probably had a similarly negative effect. Anyone who uses those kinds of words would hardly be considered a saviour of the companys operations.
There are people so jaundiced and so mean spirited as to believe that some of the hostility evidenced by the government opposite to the Member for Faro, and indeed, perhaps, for the company and its employees - even including some of the utterances in this House in the last couple of days - comes from some kind of antagonism toward a community that did not vote for the Yukon Party.
I do not believe that. I find it hard to believe that a party that did not even offer a candidate in that constituency would be so motivated. I cannot believe that there would be that kind of negativity.
A lot of people think this government has an attitude problem. They talk a good game about mining. They talk about how they support it, but, as someone from the Chamber of Mines told me lately, this is the only world-class mine in the Yukon. Smelter companies and major investors, looking at the situation in the Yukon today and how it is being dealt with by this government, must be profoundly apprehensive.
Just for the record, I want to remind everyone here of the importance of the Curragh situation. This mining operation is the cornerstone of the free enterprise economy in this territory. It is the largest private business. It is the largest private employer and it is the largest generator of exports. Potentially, immediately, there are 1,000 jobs are at stake here, with a probable impact on hundreds and hundreds more. It represents approximately one-third of the private sector payroll - that is what is directly at stake - and it is probably close to one-third of Yukons gross domestic product.
I would say that, no matter how right-wing an administration, no matter how market-oriented, I doubt there is another jurisdiction in this country that would be so cavalier about one-third of its gross domestic product, especially a government party that professes to be against big government and wants a smaller government. Such a party ought to understand that the consequence of these two mines going is that the government is going to represent about all that is left, in terms of big employers. In terms of its relationship to the private sector, it may represent more than half the employment and a far larger share of the total economy than I think any true Conservative would ever want to see.
We all know that, if Curragh shuts down, power rates are likely to go up. We all know that some of the commercial relationships we have developed, and some of the goodwill we have developed with neighbours in working out problems, like transportation issues, and so forth, on behalf of this company and this mine, would be at stake. What is, at times, the Yukons second largest community - Faro - would become deserted and a ghost town. We should remember that the last time Faro went down we lost 10 percent of our population.
The last time Faro shut down, the social situation in the Yukon deteriorated so much that our suicide rate doubled. You just have to ask any realtor in the local economy what has happened to real estate markets and prices in the gloomy period into which we have been led over the last few months by the side opposite.
I am going to get back to this, but I think we should remember that, even though the federal government and the Yukon government made very large contributions to get the mine started back in 1985, there were millions more invested in the property by the public sector prior to that, largely by the federal government. I understand Curragh has invested something in the order of $289 million into the Yukon Territory since the company began operating that mine.
I will repeat again that there is no more important economic question facing this territory today. Previous governments recognized this. We recognized it by working out with Curragh an arrangement last year whereby we would lend them $5 million, with certain conditions, and they would put up $5 million in order to do $10 million worth of work at Grum by beginning to strip the ore body there, in the hope that Curragh could work out its financial problems in the meantime, either through arrangements with the federal government or private sector solutions.
Contrary to what the Government Leader said yesterday and the day before, we had essentially negotiated the loan before the Westray disaster. In fact, Mr. Benner sat there in the witness chair on Thursday afternoon; that Saturday, we saw him on television, speaking on behalf of the company, as that awful tragedy happened in Nova Scotia.
What became clear once the Westray disaster happened was that the federal government was not going to touch this company with a 10-foot pole. I believe that politically. Curragh continued to believe for several months that they could work something out with the federal government. I think, in 1993, we have all had to come to recognize, not least the government opposite, that the buck stops here. There was nobody else to deal with the immediate crisis and the immediate need to provide money to strip the Grum ore body so that we could get on with operating that mine, having a functioning economy here, having people back to work and ending some of the awful anxiety people have had to live with for the last several months.
I want to take a few minutes to turn to the conditions imposed by the government, because the timing of these conditions and the deadline suggested by the government suggests that they are impositions, rather than items for negotiation, but we do not really know that. We have been told that some things are negotiable and some are not and I hope this afternoon we will find out what is, and what is not. I want to ask some questions for the record about these conditions, and I hope the Minister of Economic Development will be able to reply to them if the Government Leader is unable to.
Let me deal first with the first condition. I think to understand what is involved here, we do need to ask some questions, questions which we try to pursue in the House and for which we have no answers. Let me put this plainly to the Government Leader, and I do in all sincerity want him to respond to this today. I want to know, more than anything else today, if condition number one is negotiable. I will tell the Government Leader why. I have talked to people, senior officers with Canadian banks, and other people with considerable more financial expertise than he or I, who tell me that such an arrangement being proposed by the government here is essentially unprecedented in Canadian history. Notwithstanding the wonderful little homily about the cattle ranch in Penticton told to us by the Member for Watson Lake yesterday, I, with respect, want to say I doubt if the situations are analogous. I am sure it was a lovely cattle ranch and that the Member could tell us wonderful stories about it, but frankly, I do not give a damn about the cattle ranch in Penticton. The mine at Faro is a hell of a lot more important to me. There is a lot more at stake and I doubt ...
Speaker: I would like to remind the Member that our Standing Orders do not allow abusive or insulting language, and the use of damn and hell is bordering on that. I would like the Member to be cautious.
Mr. Penikett: My apologies. I got carried away with the passion of the moment and I shall in future only refer to free-flowing rivers and heaven as opposed to pristine environment and the after world above. Let me put it more politely: I am not very interested in cattle ranches in Penticton on this particular day. Some afternoon when the Minister has some time and I have some time we could go for coffee and he could tell me all about it.
Speaker: Point of order to the Minister of Economic Development.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I do not understand this. They asked me for an example of where someone had moved back and I gave the example of the cattle ranch - the Royal Bank of Canada versus Rogers Hereford Ranch. It happened, and if that is not good enough for him, I do not know what is.
Speaker: Order please. I find there is no point of order. There is obviously a disagreement between Members; the Minister of Economic Development will have a chance to speak on this motion to correct the record if he sees fit.
Mr. Penikett: Speaking as the Leader of the Official Opposition and speaking as a former bank employee, I doubt very much if the situations are even slightly analogous.
Let me continue my point. Given what is asked for here, and I said this in Question Period, a Canadian chartered bank, which the Government Leader will know are not registered charities and are not exactly inspired by any Christian impulses - some governments may be, some are not - is not likely to accommodate a financially troubled client with short-term borrowings, nor are they likely to voluntarily relinquish their position to another party. It is not as if the Bank of Nova Scotia, which we are talking about here, is the Government of Yukons bank and might be concerned about their relationship with us; because they are not.
This is the condition that matters more than any other and this is what I want the Government Leader to answer to. He may believe that there is some precedent for this, which is fine, but I hope he will at least concede that it is pretty unusual, pretty difficult and very, very hard to achieve and given that, after waiting all this time to set the condition - and he must admit this condition was not set until March 4 - and the extraordinarily unusual nature of this condition, and given the deadline we now know is in operation, it is desperately important that we in this House know whether this is an ultimatum or a negotiable item.
All the other conditions would be just window dressing if this is not negotiable. The Government Leader is smiling, but I want to say that if this is an ultimatum and a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, then it is just another way of saying no to Curragh, and they might as well have done that back in December. It would not have reduced the long-term pain for the territory, but it might have relieved the suffering of hundreds of people who have had to live with great uncertainty in the meantime. I say this in all sincerity to the Government Leader: we desperately need some clear statement on this point, even if we get nothing else out of todays debate.
Let me say something about the other conditions. I will try to avoid all colourful language if I can. I will be positively bland in my descriptions. On the second point, which is the separation of funds from the Faro division, let me be quite clear. The Opposition cannot object to that. I am not so sure that separating the Faro division and the Watson Lake division and having them operate as separate corporations would be a bad idea, although I am not sure that, in a tightly-held company, one can entirely solve the problem of management fees and transfer pricing. Anything the government did here to try and increase the accountability of the company to the people of the Yukon, during the time they were obligated to us, would be a good thing.
Condition number 3, which is no payments from Faro division, except under reasonable administration, is nothing new. It is akin to conditions that we had in the stripping-loan monies that we negotiated, and obviously it is something that we could not have any objection to whatsoever.
Point 4 is that Curragh is to pay all expenses of the government. We do not have much of a problem with that. I understand that this is fairly standard commercial language, but of course if the Grum requires $29 million, and, to state the obvious, if Curragh is strapped for cash, then the government should add its costs to the dollar sum being guaranteed.
Again, we have to understand that when we are negotiating these things the object of the exercise is not just to perfectly protect the government, the object of the exercise is to get the mines up and running again.
What is at stake is not just the money that we might lend or guarantee, because if the mines close, that is only one of our problems. I happen to think that the human tragedy of the hundreds of people who will lose their jobs and have to leave their homes and dislocate their families is as least as consequential and ought to command the attention, concern and compassion of this House.
As I have said before, we know, not withstanding the close relationship of the party opposite with the Conservatives, federal and local, that we do not expect any help from the Conservatives. We know we are going to have to deal with this problem ourselves, but we have to be negotiating on the basis of realism.
We have to be sending a message that we are going to be tough. We want Curragh to be accountable. We want them to keep their money here and make sure that all the money that is lent to them is spent here. There are some conditions in this list that are essentially asking people to break contracts. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes had a good chuckle about this the other day. A friend of mine was telling me the other day about Yukon Party people having a good old snicker about how slick Willy had suckered the NDP, the unions and the Indians into fighting with each other, and then he made his remark a couple of days ago about true colours. I remember a remark by a leader of a government of this party that was quoted in the Globe and Mail about how the NDP had hired too many Indians instead of qualified people, so I think I know where peoples true colours are on this subject.
Let me point out that if we are sincere here, not just playing cynical games, about trying to get benefits for First Nations people in Ross River and Watson Lake, as well as protecting the jobs of the steelworkers here - and I say this to the only former steelworkers lawyer present in the House - what is essential is not that one be arbitrary and impose conditions, but that one shows a modicum of respect for all parties, and sit down and negotiate. There is no evidence whatsoever on conditions that affect third parties that this government even sat down with Curragh. They certainly have not sat down and started negotiating with anyone else.
Condition number 7 involves moving Curraghs head office to Whitehorse. Can I think of a Yukoner who would object to the idea that this capital city - or Faro or Ross River, for that matter - would have a corporate head office? Who would object to that? Probably no one. I asked yesterday how that would be done, because it is a fairly serious practical problem, especially if the company already has a lease. Breaking that contract, too, may cost between one and two million dollars. Remember, this is a financially troubled company. It is not a company that can afford to throw away a couple of million dollars.
What does moving the head office here mean? Does it mean moving the president here? I am not sure you would get much of an argument with the company about that. Does it mean Mr. Frame and his family would have to move here and perhaps take up residence in the Northland Trailer Court and rent offices in a number of places around town that the Minister of Economic Development spoke about being available, yesterday.
It is a company that has to do marketing in Asia and Europe, and the companys operation is such that the chair of the board, the chief executive officer, does a lot of that marketing. The company requires access regularly and continually to Bay Street, to the head offices of banks - not the local branches here in Whitehorse, but their head offices. It is a company that, of necessity, has frequent dealings with regulators and others in Ottawa. Is it a practical position to suggest that all of the people in the head office should move from Toronto to Whitehorse? I doubt that it is, but then given the way in which the condition is stated, we do not know what the governments intentions are. We do not know. It is a great political winner - a real gotcha. I can just see people sitting around having a good old yuk-yuk about old Clifford Frame having to move up here and look for a house and commute when he wants to go to Tokyo or Europe. But is it a sensible, serious, realistic requirement before this government would extend a loan guarantee for a short-term period? We do not know, because we do not really know what is intended.
Point number 8: two observers at Curragh board meetings, and the requirement that they can use information thereby gained in any matter - I presume that should read any manner - the government deems appropriate. Exactly why the government backed away from what was originally suggested, of two board members in favour of two observers, is not clear. Perhaps the Government Leader will be able to help us on this with his vast experience in board rooms, but I am not sure it would make any difference in terms of the potential liability whether they were observers or directors. If the requirement of this government is that those people can use any information they obtain in any way the government deems appropriate, there are potentially problems under security laws of this country and perhaps others. Let me make the point that even if this government decided to appoint two eminent local citizens, say Mr. Cable and Mr. Phelps, as observers to the board, we would most certainly want to ask them questions about what was going on - because the government was, by being present, making itself accountable for some of the corporate decisions. Even if the Yukon Party leader decided he wanted to go out and find a couple of local prominent Conservatives to sit on the board, since the government has required these people to report back information to the government, we would almost certainly be bound to ask questions on behalf of our constituents about what Curragh and its government partners were doing.
Of course, I understand the requirement for the government to have information, but I really do not know if they have sat down and re-established whether this is the best way of doing it.
In any case, if this is to be a short-term financial arrangement between Curragh and the government, what purpose would be served by having these observers there just for that period of time?
The point is, the issue of accountability is not just about Curraghs accountability to the government if the government makes a loan; the issue is about accountability to the public as a whole, taxpayers as a whole. Nobody who sits in this House is going to be content to have someone going to board meetings, passing information back to the government and not making it accessible to the public. Having been in government, I know that one has to be responsible about commercial confidences.
I remember the jolly old time the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes used to have asking us questions about matters of which we had knowledge, but which private citizens regarded as commercial confidences or private matters. He would ask us and he would make us look like real ogres because we would not give these third parties information out to him. Of course, that is a good game. You can always make a government look pretty secretive and closed and arrogant. We look forward to doing the same thing with them when the opportunity arises; I am just serving notice now.
Point 9: Curragh need not develop projects outside the Yukon. We are not going to object to that. We would of course very much like to see Curragh a Yukon company in every sense of the word. Having its head office here is great. If we can get more and more of their offices here, good. If we can get them here not just for the period of the loan guarantee, but permanently, even better. We are not going to require this of the company in the long, long run though, but if we could get them to not only mine at Faro and mine at Watson Lake, but also take a share of their profits every year and put them back into exploration and developing new ore bodies and if they had lots of reserves, this House might not have to be in this situation ever again. Even if Curragh had not just two mines, but three or four mines down the road, I think that would be a wonderful situation, especially if they were in the Yukon. What is ironic about point 9 is, of course that this condition is already being volunteered by the company as part of its equity issue to prospective preferred shareholders. Government did not need to put it on the list; the company has already offered it, so it is not exactly a bargaining point.
Point 10: try to sell Stronsay as soon as possible. Well, as everybody with an eye to see and a mind to hear knows, Mr. Frame has been abroad trying to sell Stronsay and he is doing so as we speak.
My colleague from Faro makes a reasonable point. If the government is going to ask for half of the proceeds of the sale, that is going to exacerbate the companys problem of working capital and may, in fact, be self-defeating. I think he called it penny-wise and pound-foolish. However, the government did clarify its position. Yesterday, it said it was only half the profits from the sale. I do not know how we are going to define profits in this sense, because I would be extremely surprised if we had a sale of Stronsay which, in this time of depressed metal markets, would be described as a highly profitable transaction. I do not know what half the profits would mean. Perhaps the government could explain that to us.
Point 11 is the postponement of interest by noteholders. I asked a question a couple of days ago about the banks. I would be interested in knowing, from the Government Leader this afternoon, whether he has had any communications, or information, from Curragh, or the noteholders, about whether this - which I take it is a fundamental condition - can be fulfilled.
As I understand it, while the government is bargaining with Curragh, this is another one of those conditions that is not exclusively within the power of Curragh to negotiate. Even if Curragh were willing to do this under certain terms, it requires the agreement of a third party, who is not officially at the table and might not be willing at all to comply with the governments deadlines.
If you were mean-minded, you might look at this and ask, is the government merely signaling that it wants the company to tumble down? The only reason you would do that is if there were someone waiting in the wings to pick up the pieces and take over the company. I understand from gossip with federal bureaucrats that there is a view in the middle ranks of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs that would prefer new owners for this mine.
However, that is easier said than done. For myself, I think Clifford Frame is absolutely right in saying that, even if these mines were sold, it is an even bet that a potential purchaser might purchase them simply for the purpose of shutting them down, taking the production off the market and keeping them off the market, especially if they were a big player, because it would improve the price situation.
I will tell you a story. When I was in Japan with Clifford Frame in 1985, trying to shove our way back into the markets there and talking with smelter companies - we are all good Canadian patriots here, and we want to wish the best of our fellow Canadians - there was a marketing person representing Cominco - a Canadian company that has had billions and billions of dollars from the Canadian taxpayer over the years - who had somehow gotten hold of our schedule of meeting the smelter companies, and was going ahead of us, trying to talk the companies out of buying anything from Curragh, because he thought it would affect their position in the market.
This was business, not love. We have to understand that the zinc market, especially, is a very competitive situation. Doing anything that might appear to push Clifford Frame out of his chair might not be in Yukons interests. One of the we have to understands that we are talking about is that this is not a debate about the personality of the chair of Curragh Resources. It is a concern about the financial affairs of Curragh Resources, and the only reason we are concerned about that is because Curragh Resources owns two mines in the Yukon, which employ a lot of people and represent a major part of our economy. To think rationally about this, to deal properly with it, one does not have to like Clifford Frame. One does not have to be fond of Local 1051 of the Steelworkers Union. One does not even have to have an abiding passion for the aesthetics of town planning in Faro, or even a yearning to spend a night in the Faro Hotel, but one does have to understand what is at stake for the Yukon economy.
I asked the question about condition number 12, which says that Sa Dena Hes has to be re-opened on terms satisfactory to the government. We asked in the House what those terms were and were told we should ask someone else. It is a strange parliamentary tradition when we ask a Minister a question about a requirement stipulated by the government and the Minister tells us to go and ask someone else. So I went to Watson Lake and asked people what the terms were and they did not have a clue. They did not have a clue what the conditions of the government were. Just last week-
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Penikett: The wrong people, he says. Oh, no, now we get into the wrong people and the right people; real Yukoners and then those other people we should not listen to. Who are the right people in Watson Lake to be asked what the conditions are to comply with point number 12? Perhaps the Member could tell us? If Ministers of the government who set these conditions will not tell us, perhaps they would be good enough to tell us who will. When I asked Curragh if they knew what they were, they said they did not have a clue.
How can one negotiate when the government will not tell us and Curragh does not know? Why will they not tell us? They have this absurd way of beginning negotiations by publishing a list of conditions and then they say they have to open the mine on terms satisfactory to the government, but if we, the legislators, we the law makers in Yukon, want to find out what they are we have to go and ask the right people in Watson Lake; not just anybody in Watson Lake, but the right people. I do not know if that means right-wing people, Yukon Party people, or what. I look forward to hearing who these right people are in Watson Lake who are going to tell us, since the Minister will not.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Penikett: Well, I think we have a better sense, in this House, about what the public interest is and how carelessly it is being dealt with by Members opposite as a result of these negotiations.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Penikett: Oh, I am listening to the public. I was out last night talking to people in the public. They are absolutely staggered; people are worried sick about whether they are going to be able to pay their rent next week, whether or not they are going to have a job. They are not laughing, they are not sitting there smugly snickering away about what a great deal this is, saying, boy oh boy, we really showed those guys, pretty cool conditions, we really showed those city slickers from Toronto.
People are laughing at you, but they are crying, they are worried sick about what is going on - worried sick. And that is not just the supporters of my party. I go into the supermarket and small business owners come up to me and say, What in heaven is going on, Tony. And I say, I am sorry, I wish I knew. I try to figure out what the government is doing and it does not make sense to me.
Point 14 is the completion of equity issue on terms satisfactory to the Yukon. The interesting thing about these people who believe in the market system is that here is a company going out with an equity issue, the market test of which is that it is satisfactory to potential purchasers. I do not know what this means. Let us say it is successful and all of this issue is purchased, but somehow it is not satisfactory to the government of the Yukon. I do not know what that means, because they were already out working on this problem.
Of course, in Point 13 they must have a viable plan for the Dy deposit - a viable plan. What does it mean? The point is that the viability of Dy depends on zinc prices. Now Members opposite may think that thay are the lords and masters of all they survey, but they do not control zinc prices; those are established elsewhere.
We also realize that there are other conditions here. There is a pending power rate increase, which is fairly massive and could have consequences to the company. The Minister responsible for the Energy Corporation says, maybe, in May or September we will have a subsidy we can discuss with Faro. In the meantime, we will just have to wait.
The Government Leader, in answer to questions a day or so ago, said to us, again, that there were some conditions that were, of course, negotiable. Some were not. There were also some conditions beyond those that were on the list of 14. We do not know what those are. They could be real deal-breakers, too. We do not know what they are. They may be highly germane to this debate. It would be ironic indeed, after all the publicity about the 14 conditions, if this deal came to a grinding halt because of some other condition, communicated to the company, that we, the Members of this House, knew absolutely nothing about.
The negativity of this government about the operation of Curragh is no more perfectly represented than in a document they gave us called The Impact Analysis of Curragh Inc.s Request for Financial Assistance. Again, I am confused. We asked, at a meeting not so long ago, if there was a document such as this. The government said there was not. Perhaps it was in the works at the time. Later, we were told that there was such a document. I think it was the day of the demonstration on March 4. We were told it was a Cabinet document. We now know this is public. I have a real problem with this document because, while it is possible to draw different conclusions and interpretations from the same set of facts, the problem is, in terms of a statement from the government, it, too, is a demonstration of the negative, despondent, almost hostile attitude toward these mines and these communities. It is not a document representing hope, faith, imagination, creativity or willingness to sit down and jawbone and work something out for our mutual benefit.
You have to understand that, whatever your ideology, one of the realities of the Yukon economy is that the private and public sectors are interdependent. It is obvious, even with respect to the large institutions like Curragh and this government, we have had a relationship from the beginning. If we do not work together, which means involving everyone affected by the decisions, we are not likely to get the right solutions or solutions that work.
Let me remind Members of what we are talking about here in terms of the stripping program. The $34 million the company is asking for is to remove the overburden off the Grum ore body.
The Grum project is an open-pit mine that will supply ore for the mill at Faro, it is hoped, until the year 1998, near the end of the century. It is useful to keep in mind the total sum of money involved in the project. According to Curragh, they have spent $89 million on the Grum project to date. What is needed is approximately another $30 million to finish the job, to get at the ore body and start generating revenues.
There are people in our community who believe that Curragh has milked the Yukon, has ripped us off, has taken the money and run. There are people who are appropriately concerned about the risk of this potential loan guarantee to Yukon taxpayers, who are appropriately concerned about the viability of the mine. There are also many Yukoners who are worried sick and are appalled at the prospect of a mine shutdown.
In response to the concern about whether they have milked the taxpayer or the Yukon, Curragh will argue that, since they started up here in 1985, they have reinvested heavily in the Yukon. They will argue that they have reinvested back into the territory more than they have earned in cash profits. They say that they have invested approximately $290 million in the Yukon, and that their cash profits earned in the Yukon between 1985 and 1992 are $246 million. Their brief is that they have put back in more than they have taken out.
All of us know that Faro money went into Westray. All of us know that Faro money went into the ill-fated investment in the Spanish smelter. Curraghs argument is that they recognize that their immediate future is still here in the Yukon and, most immediately, with the Grum ore body.
Yes, we in this House have to ask the question, are we throwing good money after bad? We have to ask the question about whether we are involved in a businesslike arrangement. We have to ask questions about collateral security, about terms, about compensation and about conditions. We have to ask about the potential for money being diverted outside the Yukon into a Westray, or a Stronsay, property.
We have to ask the ultimate question: is the mining operation at Faro and is the mining operation at Watson Lake viable? We have to ask questions about the direct operating costs in the Yukon. We have to ask about the debt servicing burden. We have to ask about the industry price outlook for the metals that are being mined here. Probably the best way to answer the question - are the Faro and Watson Lake operations viable - is to respond that it all depends on the price of zinc; it depends very much.
We are told that the company needs, to cover its direct costs in the Yukon, 50 cents a pound for zinc. To cover those costs and the debt servicing costs as well, it needs 55 cents. The average price of zinc in 1992 was 56 cents. The average price of zinc in January 1993 was 51 cents. The price yesterday was 46 cents. The industry consensus forecast for 1993 is 55 cents. The industry consensus forecast for 1996 is above 75 cents.
I know that forecasting is a notoriously unreliable business. I know that during our time in government most of the forecasts we saw were, in some degree, wrong - in the same way that the financial forecast commissioned by the government back in November was wrong. But we are bound, nonetheless, to look at these forecasts by market analysts and see if we can divine in the numbers some trend so we can have some reason to have faith in the future.
I would like to read some of the analysts forecasts for average prices in 1993. They are: from Billiton-Enthoven Metals, 23 cents for lead, 50 cents for zinc; James Capel, 27 cents for lead, 62 cents for zinc; Carr, Kitkat and Aitken, 24 cents for lead, 60 cents for zinc; Credit Lyonnais Laing, 26 cents for lead, 56 cents for zinc; Economist Intelligence Unit, 27 cents for lead, 59 cents for zinc; Lehman Brothers, 25 cents for lead, 50 cents for zinc; Merrill Lynch, 30 cents for lead, 55 cents for zinc; Metal Bulletin Research, 25 cents for lead, 52 cents for zinc; Metals and Minerals Research Services, 25 cents for lead, 52.5 cents for zinc; Metallgesellschaft, 27 cents for lead, 59 cents for zinc; Ord Minnett, 27 cents for lead, 60 cents for zinc; Smith New Court, 30 cents for lead, 60 cents for zinc; S.G. Warburg, 25 cents for lead, 55 cents for zinc. As I mentioned, the 1992 actual prices were 25 cents for lead and 56 cents for zinc.
There is no system of perfect forecasting, but there is evidence that the industry experts, such as they are, predict an upturn in the next few months.
I would like to say a word about the mine shutdown and its impact on Yukon jobs. We are talking about 528 Yukoners; we are talking about contractors, and I understand the contract employees number almost 499 Yukoners. There may be an effect on as many as 3,000 jobs, in total. We are talking about one-third of the private sector payroll.
I am told the spending on Yukon suppliers by Curragh was $107 million for goods and services from 300 Yukon-based businesses, many of whom are hoping they will soon be paid money owed them. I no longer have access to the Department of Finance and its research, or to the Department of Economic Development; however, I would guess that the prediction of the impact on government revenues is around $20 million, and on federal government revenues is around $13 million, and that the additional cost of a shutdown for the Government of the Yukon may be around $17 million, all of which has an impact, in terms of financial consequences for YTG in the order and magnitude of $50 million.
Colleagues in this House pointed out the other day that Curragh pays $12 million a year to the Yukon Electrical Company, which has very high fixed costs. We, therefore, know that there would probably be electrical rate increases as the result of a shutdown.
Before I close, let me remind Members of a little history. In 1983, Cyprus Anvil Corporation was shut down. Prices were depressed. Ore reserves were about 25 million tonnes in the Faro pit. In 1983, Faro was down to a few dozen workers. The infrastructure was run down, and transportation costs were very high. They were still shipping by rail then. People will recall, in the one good year that Cyprus Anvil had - 1981 or 1982 - White Pass went to the Canadian Transport Commission and got a big increase in their freight rates. NCPC got big power rate increases. The employees got a good contract and, the next thing we knew, because prices went down, the company was in trouble.
In 1983, a loan was requested from the government, to begin a stripping program of $22 million. I believe it was Mr. John Munro from the then-Liberal government who facilitated a stripping loan back in 1983 and the shoe was on the other foot then; it was YTG that refused to do anything and the federal government came in with what was, for them, let us concede, a modest contribution.
Let us also remember, and this is significant, that that loan in 1983 was paid back by Curragh Resources, as they repaid us for the money we advanced in 1985, and we would hope they do again.
Let us look at the analogy with 1993, 10 years later. The mine operator is now Curragh Incorporated, not Cyprus Anvil. Prices are depressed, as they were then. Ore reserves: it so happens they are about 25 million tonnes, but in the Grum pit, not the Faro pit this time. The population of Faro is 1,750, not a few dozen. The infrastructure is now in excellent shape and the transportation system, compared to the rail, is relatively low cost.
The loan required for the stripping is in the order of magnitude of $30 million. The cash flow projections are forecasted to be quite high and yes, indeed, we should have every expectation that Curragh Resources would repay us and discharge their obligation to us as soon as possible.
I said earlier something I think no one will dispute: zinc markets are tough. The situation out there is very, very difficult and I would cite that there is no more evidence of that than an article which appeared in the Juneau Empire on March 9 of this year, headlined, Zinc Output Booms at Red Dog Mine. I would like to quote a couple of extracts from this article, because it says something about the world with which we are dealing.
Zinc production at Comincos Red Dog mine near Kotzebue is the highest it has ever been, and that is right in line with the company presidents strategy to create a glut in the mineral market. Frank Hargrave, president of Cominco Alaska, said the mine must pour as much zinc as it can into an already flooded market in order to prove it can produce at the lowest cost. Only low cost producers will stay in line, Hargrave told Kotzebues Arctic Sounder newspaper; when we get to where there is too much metal, the name is to be a survivor. I assume that means the game is to be a survivor.
Farther on, he quotes, I would think that, beyond October 1993, if the markets do not change, there will be serious problems out there, Hargrave said. It is going to be touch and go.
Our two mines are the only major operating mines in the Yukon. These zinc mines are competitors with Cominco. Remember, Cominco is a Canadian company. Cominco is trying to kill our mines. It is right here in black and white and a bit of yellow. It is very tough out there. Even if Curragh had not invested in Spain and the Westray tragedy had not happened, it would be tough. We did not create the problems in Spain and we have no responsibility whatsoever for what happened in Westray. We do have a responsibility for what happens in Faro, Watson Lake and the whole Yukon economy.
The Yukon economy is not structurally complex. It is like a three-legged stool. We have government, tourism and mining. If you knock one leg out, we would tip over and fall on our face. Every sector is facing tough times. We are going through a very tough time.
I want to appeal to the Government Leader to say, in a non-partisan way, that I hope he will admit that there have been some confusing signals sent in statements from the government. We do not understand why he said publicly several times that there were no deadlines. There does seem to be one. We do not understand why condition number 1 is number 1. We understand the theoretical desirability of it, but we desperately need to know if it is negotiable or if it is an ultimatum. Is the government saying maybe on condition number 1 or is it saying no.
I am not asking frivolous questions here. Let us all understand that there is a hell of a lot at stake. My own analysis of the situation is not simply a financial one. I do not believe that chartered accountancy will get the right answers on this. I believe that some kind of cost-benefit analysis or economic analysis, if you like, should have led the government to a negotiating mandate.
I believe that if one looks at the loan guarantee in terms of costs per job - compare it to the cost of having a similar number of people unemployed in this economy and looks at the multiplier effects - with our help, this company can work out its financial problems. The risk is a prudent one, as long as we have some conditions. I have tried to be clear today that we are not opposed to conditions. We want them to be tough, but we also want them to be realistic. We are terribly afraid that, for reasons of pride or politics, we may set conditions that are designed to guarantee failure rather than success.
None of us knows how long we will be elected, be in public office or be in the particular jobs we hold. However, no matter how long the Members opposite are in government or how long we are in the House, I would be extremely surprised if there has ever been a more important economic decision before us than this.
I say to the government, in closing, that I am not trying to beat him around the brains in terms that what he is doing here is all wrong or that we are all right. I am not trying to tell him that there is only one way of doing it, because there is not. I am not trying to take away anything from the pleasure and delight he may receive from his supporters by showing it to those money men in Toronto.
However, in the end, I beg him, today, to stand in his place and tell us that these conditions are negotiable; tell us why there is a deadline, when the public statement said there was not; tell us about the conditions that are not included in the list of 14; and tell us that he wants success here for the people of the Yukon, that he wants to save the mine, the jobs and the communities, and continue to have some kind of prosperity in the Yukon for the next few months, and for the next few years.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I welcome the opportunity to enter this debate today on probably one of the most serious situations that will face this administration however long we are in power. This side understands how important the Faro operation is to the private sector economy in the Yukon. Let there be no question about that. This side also wants to see the Faro operation survive in the long term, not for three months, not for six months or one year. We believe the ore reserves are there - if the company can get over this difficult period - to last into the next century.
Before I go on in my presentation, I have a couple of comments to make about the argument put forward by the Leader of the Official Opposition. He is a very eloquent debater, far better than I, and he has far more experience. He can probably think faster on his feet, but I will try to get my message out in this debate today.
Knowing the respect that the Leader of the Official Opposition has for this Legislature, I know that he will do the right thing.
In the last couple of days, yesterday and again today, especially today, but yesterday the Leader of the Official Opposition referred to a closing date of the offer to Curragh. That date is not public information. That date could have come only from one document, and that is the document that was given to Curragh Resources and no one else.
In the Official Leader of the Oppositions speech today - and I will take his word for it if he says I am not right - I believe he had that document in his hands and made a direct quote from it. If he did, it is my understanding that that document should be tabled in this Legislature. I will take the Official Leader of the Oppositions word for that, Mr. Speaker, but the words, if not a direct quote, were very close.
I want to reiterate that that document is not public information. That was a term sheet that was handed to Curragh Resources; that is a confidential document.
Before I get into this debate in a real heavy manner, I have to put on the record what an enormous undertaking this is for a government that has a $400 million a year budget and a population of 30,000 people. The only way we can realize the magnitude of what the taxpayer of the Yukon has been asked to undertake is to be able to compare it in similar terms to other jurisdictions.
A $34 million loan guarantee would be more that $1,000 for every man, woman and child in this territory.
If we were to take a $34 million loan on a per capita basis and relate it to the Province of British Columbia, we would be asking the Government of British Columbia to provide a loan guarantee for a private company in the magnitude of $3 billion. If we were to extend this to the Province of Ontario, and they were to make a loan guarantee to General Motors, on a similar per capita basis, that would be like asking the residents of Ontario to come up with $11 billion.
Those are dramatic figures, but I am only putting them on the record to show the magnitude of what is being asked of the taxpayers of the Yukon.
Yes, the Faro operation is very important to the private sector economy of the Yukon and it has economic benefit to the Yukon. We know what it contributes. We believe that the Faro operation contributes 18 to 20 percent of private sector investment in the Yukon, creating jobs and bringing wealth back into the territory.
However, we also know that we are in a time of very depressed metal prices. The hon. Member quoted some zinc prices, and I will be making some later on. As he said, forecasting can be wrong, it can be right, it could be better than what it is, or it could be worse than what it is. However, when governments are being asked to make a decision of this magnitude, I believe it is better to err on the side of caution than on the side of over optimism.
If we were to provide Curragh with the $34 million loan guarantee, and the company did not survive for more than another three to six months, we would be faced with the same situation again. I believe that what this government has done with the terms and conditions we have extended to Curragh Resources is to send a clear message to financial institutions and investors around the world that the Government of the Yukon does believe in the Faro operation and that we do believe it can be successful if it can get through this period of very depressed metal prices. There is no doubt in my mind.
Before I go on, I want to go back a little. The Member opposite, and his colleagues, have accused this government of a lack of economic leadership. We have been accused of dithering around all winter to come up with conditions for the loan guarantee. Curraghs problem did not start in December 1992. Curragh first approached the Yukon government back in December 1991.
The Members opposite had the opportunity to provide the leadership they now accuse us of not having and to resolve the situation for Curragh so it could strip the Grum deposit, so we would not be in this debate in this House today. My understanding is that Curragh started talking to governments in December 1991.
In March 1992, the Leader of the Official Opposition, in his capacity as Government Leader of the Yukon, agreed to a $5 million loan, knowing full well that $5 million would not solve the problem. I ask the Leader of the Official Opposition: did he agree to give Curragh $5 million, to be matched by $5 million of Curragh Resources monies to start stripping the Grum deposit with very, very weak security? I ask the Member opposite: did he do that so that he could get through the election and so that he did not have to face the situation at the polls about whether he had made the right decision or the wrong decision?
Speaker: Is this a point of order?
Mr. Penikett: Absolutely no, Mr. Speaker. I am responding to the Leaders question.
Speaker: I will advise both Members that the Leader of the Official Opposition, the mover of the motion, does have the right of reply.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I ask again: was that his intention? He knew full well in March of last year that the federal government was not going to get involved in the rescue of Curragh Resources. He knew that but he did not take any action. Now, he is accusing us of lack of economic leadership. I would probably like to know as well what sort of verbal commitment the Leader of the Official Opposition made to Curragh prior to the election.
We are in a period of very, very depressed zinc prices. Mr. Speaker, the Hon. Member for Faro, yourself, myself and other Members of this Legislature were in Juneau last week. We talked to the proponents of the Green Creek Mine, who are shutting down at the end of this month because of an oversupply of zinc on the market and because of low zinc, lead and silver prices. All base metal prices are in a very depressed state right now and will continue to be so for some time yet.
I just want to go a little further back - to 1985 when the Faro operation first started up. The Member opposite, the Leader of the Official Opposition, pats himself on the back and talks about how much work he did to get the operation up and running. I would say to the House today that most of the work was done by the federal government. They picked up 90 percent of the rescue package. All these people had to be responsible for was 10 percent.
When the Members opposite came to power in 1985, there were six mines operating in the Yukon. Faro was shut down. There were 300 or 400 people employed in the mines scattered throughout the Yukon. Because of the policies of that administration, none of those mines are left in the Yukon today. We are dependent upon one company with two mines in the Yukon. Now, the Members opposite lead me to believe, because they did not say what they would take for security, that I should give Curragh an unsecured $29 million loan. That is why the economy of the Yukon is in the shape it is today. It is because of that kind of government.
The previous administration did not invest in infrastructure for mines to develop in the Yukon. They did not invest in lower-priced energy. They invested in sawmills, renovating old colleges and building curling rinks in ghost towns.
Speaker: Order please. I would like to ask all Members to allow the Government Leader to make his speech. All other Members will get their opportunity.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am sure Members opposite do not like to be reminded of some of the errors they made when they were in government. They feel that they were a perfect administration. If they had been a perfect administration, they would still be on this side of the House.
Let us get back to what we are here discussing today. It is a very serious problem in the Yukon. I truly believe that the Leader of the Official Opposition is responsible for the situation we are in today. He had the opportunity, when he advanced the $5 million loan to Curragh, to negotiate something to ensure that the company could strip that deposit without having to come back to this Legislature.
I do not want to make lightly of this. It is a very, very serious problem for Yukoners. There is no doubt in my mind, but, again, I must point out why we have to have the type of security we are asking for, because we are in a very risky period with mines.
The hon. Member quoted articles about Cominco putting all its zinc on the market and he quoted prices of zinc. I have an article here, dated March 13, Monday: Bleak year predicted for zinc prices. It goes on to say that if the situation gets any worse, zinc prices could remain under pressure until well into 1994. This is just the start of 1993. The article goes on to say, Surging inventories and a global glut of zinc concentrates have already sent zinc prices tumbling 18 percent in the U.S. - 45 cents a pound. That is the British quote; the Canadian forecasters are a little more optimistic, but they are now downgrading their price forecasts. Kellar is expecting zinc to average 52 cents a pound this year, but he warns that the new forecast may be too optimistic.
These forecasts are serious; we know there is a glut of zinc on the world markets. We know Curragh has to compete in that type of market. We also know that Curragh faces another problem that other producers do not: treatment costs. This article goes on to say, Curragh, with no smelter of its own, is extremely vulnerable to the high treatment charges that have risen to a level equal to about 50 percent of what miners earn for their refined metal. Curraghs losses in the fourth quarter soared to $34.4 million from $3.6 million one year earlier. That is the kind of climate in which Curragh has approached this administration for a $34 million loan guarantee, from a population of 30,000 people. We have to take every precaution we possibly can to protect the taxpayers money.
At the same time, as the Member opposite said, we have to be realistic and we have been told by people who do these kinds of things every day, who negotiate these terms every day, that our conditions are reasonable. We have been told that.
I want to talk a little bit about the terms and conditions at this point. These were arrived at after much thought and deliberation, and the analyzing of mounds of information. The Member opposite made great reference to one document that Curragh does not agree with. That is fine, because Curragh has not agreed with a lot of things, but that is part of negotiations.
In the document the hon. Member referred to, Curragh denies any liability for the $80 million loan that the federal government paid off. They want it off their books. They want the federal government to write it off. Is that what is going to happen if the $34 million loan guarantee of the Yukon is called? Is Curragh going to be asking us to write it off?
We have to be careful.
I have said publicly, and the Member opposite well knows that, if he had to come up with $34 million out of the budget, there would have to be some cuts somewhere. There would be a reduction in some services to pay off that $34 million loan.
I do not believe, nor do the Members on this side, that the terms and conditions we have given for this loan are unrealistic. Curragh Resources would not be knocking on our door if they could raise money through the normal channels. They need some help from government. At the same time, we know - and Members opposite know and Curragh officials will freely admit it - that $29 million will not save their company. Curraghs year-end statements alone said they had accounts payable of $44 million.
Certainly, there is concentrate going across the ocean; there are some funds coming in, but Curragh and all the financial analysts have said that Curragh is operating at a loss. How long can they continue to operate at this loss?
The Leader of the Official Opposition made much of us dithering all winter and not talking to Curragh, not exchanging position papers. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Since last December Curragh officials have known that, in order for this administration to get involved in a loan guarantee for their company, they had to come up with adequate security. They also had to get the banks and the note holders to back off.
I was at a meeting with the Leader of the Official Opposition, on December 29, and he was also one who suggested that we should talk to the banks. Now he is saying we should not. The Leader of the Official Opposition would like to have it both ways; I am afraid he cannot.
I spoke about the 1985 deal; most of that was negotiated by a deputy minister in Ottawa, not by the people here. That is where most of the negotiations took place.
The Leader of the Official Opposition placed great emphasis on the fact that chartered banks are not registered charities. The Yukon Territorial Government is not a registered charity either.
What the banks are being asked to give up is not that much. We are asking for a first charge on the Faro assets. We are asking for a second charge on the accounts receivable and the inventory. Those are the banks principal security.
I have relayed to the officials of Curragh, time and time again this winter, that if they want the government to be involved, it would be necessary for them to go to their note holders in order to get this government involved.
If the government were to start putting money into this operation without getting the note holders and the banks to back off a little and give Curragh some breathing room, so that they can survive, the monies that we provide to them will just be bled off to the banks and note holders in interest payments. We cannot have this happen.
The Member opposite tries to argue that the banks never do these things, never back up, would sooner just foreclose on the company and put them under and lose all their investment, when they have someone sitting there with $34 million and ready to invest. I find that scenario very hard to believe.
The Member opposite does not seem to have much faith in Burns Fry any more. Yet, a year ago, he thought they were quite all right. I have said, time and time again, that we want the Faro operation to survive. It has to survive; however, for us to be putting money into it without making every effort we can to protect the jobs at Faro in the long term, we have to get over this period of tight zinc prices, and we have to wait for the zinc prices to come back up again before Curragh can start making money. That is why Curragh is going to need money from other sources. We do not have enough money to keep that operation going until the zinc prices come back up again - $29 million is not going to do it.
Curragh does not have the money. If Curragh had the money, they would not be approaching the territorial government. If they could raise the money, I am sure they would not want the Government of the Yukon looking over their shoulder. We have talked with Curragh officials all winter long. Papers were exchanged between Economic Development and Curragh. Yes, I said in Faro that I would have liked to have had an agreement in principle that we could just punch the numbers in when the reports came in. That is what we were striving to do.
I believe that, had Curragh been more cooperative, this issue could have been resolved sooner. As I stated earlier, they have been adamant that they do not want to go back to their note holders. I can understand that. However, the fact remains that we have to be able to see that company survive or there is really not much use putting $29 million of the taxpayers money at risk.
If the company cannot survive in the long term, then we would just be wasting the taxpayers money. The Opposition makes much of our terms being too tough, too restrictive. Too restrictive. Yet an economics professor from the University of British Columbia does not believe they were too tough. When he was interviewed by a local radio station, he said it really depends on what assets are currently held and what they are worth. It is not unusual-
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is not unusual...
Speaker: Order. Order please.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: ...in these circumstances-
Speaker: Order please. I would like to remind Members that we do have Standing Orders and if those Members who were interrupting the Government Leader would refer to Standing Order 6(6), which states, When a Member is speaking, no Member shall interrupt except to raise a point of order or a question of privilege.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The professor went on to say, It is not unusual in these kinds of circumstances for someone bringing new money into a venture to insist on protection of that sort. That was the view of an economics professor.
Another analyst, further on in that same interview, was asked if there was anything he thought the company would not be able to accept; the analyst, a mining reporter from the Financial Post, said, I think the company is not really in any position to barter at this point.
The terms and conditions have been seen by people involved in these kinds of situations all the time, who negotiate restructuring and issues of debt like this, who do not feel the conditions are unrealistic.
We went to a lot of work to draw them up and we want to protect the taxpayers of the Yukon and we want to have the Curragh operation survive.
An impact analysis that was done by Economic Development runs two scenarios: - first of all, let us suppose you had $29 million - one scenario talked about a generic capital project, be it a highway or a hydro development or whatever, and $29 million was available and the situation was similar to that at the Grum deposit - where would it be better to invest your money? It would create about the same number of jobs. It would return about the same economic benefit to the territory, but if the $29 million were invested into Grum and it was sufficient to get that deposit up and running, then it would be better to invest in the Grum deposit.
We all know that. It is no secret that $29 million is not enough to strip the Grum deposit or to help Curraghs cashflow problem.
The Leader of the Official Opposition says the conditions are too tough, that our security requests are unrealistic. Yet, he did not offer us any alternative as to what he would have done. He did not say what he would have accepted as security. I believe that we would have been further ahead had the previous administration, one year ago, negotiated a rescue package that would have stripped the Grum deposit and helped Curragh over that term.
Another one of the conditions the Member opposite makes much of is the re-opening of Sa Dena Hes. I wonder if the Leader of the Official Opposition feels that the people of Watson Lake are not entitled to any benefits from the operation of Curragh Inc., if they are operating with taxpayers dollars. The people of Watson Lake have been very patient. The Chamber of Commerce of Watson Lake supported the position this government took. The Yukon Chamber of Commerce supports the conditions we have put forward.
The Member opposite is right. It has been very difficult for this administration, which does not believe that government should be involved in the private sector - it believes that government should be providing infrastructure so that private sector enterprises can prosper in the Yukon. I suggest to the Members opposite that, if they would have invested some of their dollars in infrastructure in their seven and one-half years in office, we may not be in the situation we are today.
It is tough when we have an economy as small as the Yukons, and it is dependent upon one company that had the only two operating mines. Let us not forget that taxpayers dollars helped open the Sa Dena Hes mine.
I have a couple of things from Nesbitt-Thompson, who have followed Curragh very closely. It is very interesting. It says that Curraghs cash cost for zinc, over the next three years, is estimated at 41 cents per pound. Interest charges add another four cents per pound. It goes on to say that Curragh would be a low-cost producer, if not for the interest charges and their debt load. It goes on to say that Curragh is one of the most highly leveraged companies in relation to lead and zinc prices.
There is no doubt that the company does carry a very heavy debt load. Some of it is not of their own doing: economic times, the terrible disaster in Nova Scotia - if it were not for that, I am sure the company would be in a better financial situation today than they are. However, it is a reality. I do not believe that we, who are responsible for Yukoners tax dollars, can take that lightly. We have to act very responsibly. I agree with the Member opposite; we have to have terms that the company can abide by. The Member opposite and I differ about whether or not the company can agree to those terms and conditions.
There are third parties involved, but those third parties, without any help from the territorial government, in this situation now, stand to lose millions and millions of dollars. The banks and those noteholders are, no doubt, in a better position to absorb those losses, even with the millions and millions of dollars they have, than we are if we are to risk $34 million of the Yukon taxpayers money. That is what negotiations are all about. That is why a term sheet was presented to Curragh Resources.
The Member opposite was the one who came out with the March 29 date. However, that is not to conclude negotiations, but it is for Curragh to accept the term sheet. I want to make that very clear.
We want this company to survive; we really do. I just want to talk again on the subject of us not doing anything all winter, as the Member opposite tries to point out all the time. On January 8 we had a meeting with Mr. Benner and Mr. Sanderson and discussed Curragh providing information on development plans and the need for real security. Timing: six weeks; long-term plan for Dy and Stronsay. On January 11 we had a meeting with Colin Benner, Ian Shaw, Ray Hayes, Linda Kearney, Charles Sanderson, Bob Holmes, Cliff Nells, Bruce Bell. We discussed lack of available security, note holders, the need for a loan versus loan guarantee and bridge financing. On January 12, we met with Colin Benner, Ian Shaw, Bruce Bell and discussed the only security available, inventory and charge on Grum, note holders and bridge financing. On January 15 we met with Colin Benner, Charles Sanderson, Ray Hayes, Linda Kearney and Bob Holmes; we discussed restructuring, Bank of Nova Scotia, working capital and accounts payable. January 21, we met with Colin Benner, Ian Shaw, Charles Sanderson and Ray Hayes. Issues discussed were loan versus loan guarantee and amendment to current agreement, note holders, other properties outside Yukon, representation on the board, Stronsay, United Steelworkers Union, the role of the federal government, the equity issue, accounts payable, and it goes on and on: February 10, February 15, February 16 and February 18. This government was actively pursuing an agreement in principle with Curragh Resources prior to the Burns Fry report. I would have loved to have had an agreement in principle that just the numbers had to be plugged into. But it did not happen. It did not happen because I believe that Curragh Resources felt the government needed them more than they needed the government.
That is why an agreement in principle did not happen. My officials negotiated in good faith. We made it unequivocally clear from the outset that, without any help from the federal government, if that help is not forthcoming, we would need adequate security and the banks and note holders would have to back off.
When the term sheet was presented to Curragh, there were no surprises in it for them. They knew we would be asking for those things. They knew we could not go ahead unless we got adequate security. If Curragh can come up with some other adequate security - adequate security, not some concentrate floating across the ocean - we will be happy to listen to what they have to offer.
I believe that an agreement can be reached with Curragh Resources. I am not as pessimistic as the Members opposite. We have people acting on behalf of the Yukon government who are involved in these kinds of situations all the time. A Member opposite asked why we went to them. Burns Fry is a financial house. They get involved in restructuring. They did a financial assessment of Curragh for us. If we were to have gone to somebody else, it would have slowed the process down. They had all the information and could get down to negotiation with Curragh Resources to save this company and the economy of the Yukon.
I do not believe the Members opposite really understand that if this administration had not wanted to put together a package that would save the Faro operation and had not wanted to get involved in it or said that our philosophical beliefs are so strong that we were not going to get involved in the private sector, this administration has the courage to say no.
Speaking about the $34 million. I have the Hansard for May 21, 1992, which reads, Now, how are we to protect our investment? We believe the best way to protect the very considerable investment we already have in the company is by seeing that the stripping program is underway and completed, so that they have access to new ore bodies as soon as possible, if they can get to it. We cannot carry a $34 million loan guarantee or anything like that for Curragh. That statement is by the Leader of the Official Opposition, and now he leans on us to make a $34 million commitment without any security.
This administration has acted in a very responsible manner in these negotiations with the officials of Curragh. We have tried to put together an agreement that will save the company - not for three months - that would not help the workers in Faro.
I can remember when I sat in the gallery last spring and the debate was going on in the House regarding the $5 million loan guarantee...
Speaker: Point of order to the Member for Faro.
Mr. Harding: I have a question about procedure. Is the second speaker in the debate awarded unlimited time or is he still within the allotted time?
Speaker: The mover of the motion and the first speaker in reply are awarded unlimited time. That is Standing Order 20(1).
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have lost my train of thought.
We want to see the company survive. I think we would be doing a disservice to the company, to the people of Faro and to the Yukon taxpayers if we did not take precautions and use due diligence to see that this operation can survive in the long term.
We have only to read the financial papers, even the newspapers, to see that it is bleak out there in the mining community. It is very, very bleak, and we in the Yukon are dependent upon one operation.
This is something that I hope - and I am sure the hon. Member opposite feels the same way - never happens again in the Yukon. There is no doubt in my mind that there will be some hardships in the Yukon if these negotiations do not come to a successful conclusion. I reiterate that if we are to take a high risk with the taxpayers dollars and the operation still does not survive, we, as a government, will be faced with the same costs we are faced with now, and we are going to be $34 million poorer. Regardless of what the Leader of the Official Opposition says, regardless of the comments he has made in this House today, I believe the majority of Yukoners agree with the stand we have taken in negotiations with Curragh.
In his comments to the House today, the Member opposite said he hoped that we would reveal what is behind the 14 conditions we put out. Well, I am sorry to disappoint him, but the Member opposite is fully aware that these 14 conditions have been given to Curragh in confidence. The exact legal text was given in a confidential document. What was outlined was a generic version for the press that did not contain all the details. The comments made in this House today by the Leader of the Official Opposition lead me to believe that he has been privy to the official document.
There is no need for me to get into every one of these conditions. That aside, this is the negotiating position the territorial government has put forward and given to their negotiators, Burns Fry Incorporated, to sit down at the table with Curragh Resources and come to an agreement that will see the Yukon government invest another $29 million of the taxpayers money in the stripping of the Grum deposit, an agreement that would see Curragh provide the Government of the Yukon with adequate security for that money and, heaven forbid in the worst case scenario that the note was called, an agreement that would see Curragh able to raise the equity they need to continue their operation and to survive and continue to contribute to the economy of the Yukon.
Mr. Harding: I so much relish the opportunity to engage in this debate on the Curragh conditions and this most serious and pressing problem facing the entire territory - not just my community of Faro, which has felt the brunt during the lengthy time this has dragged on since this government was elected and the request was initially made for the Yukon government to engage in the entire financing of a loan guarantee.
I do have a number of comments I am going to make aside from those the Government Leader brought up. There are a number of interesting points the Government Leader made, so I would like to have the opportunity to engage in a bit of rebuttal, because it was an interesting but disjointed speech and was full of assumptions that are somewhat lacking in fact.
The Government Leader stated that he understands how important Faro is to the private sector economy. I think that is certainly admirable. There should be no surprises there. It would not take a rocket scientist for a government leader to determine that it is indeed critical to the economy of the Yukon. He also said that he would like to see Faro survive in the long run. That, also, is an admirable goal. We also share his wish to see Faro survive in the long run. I wish it on behalf of my constituents and for all the residents of the Yukon Territory, because I do believe it is incredibly important to see both the mines in Faro and Watson Lake survive.
There was some challenge on behalf of the Government Leader to the Leader of the Official Opposition at the beginning of his remarks. It was some kind of stuff about the term sheet being a confidential document and making assumptions that perhaps the Leader of the Official Opposition had the document in his possession. I can tell you that I have not seen it, nor has the Leader of the Official Opposition shown it to me or indicated that he had any such document. I guess the point about the term sheet being confidential and the fact that the government did release a list of 14 conditions to the public in the territory really illustrates, again, the political nature of these conditions.
I am so sure that the Government Leader is correct. I do believe that the majority of Yukoners agree with the governments position thus far on the conditions for the loan guarantee. There is no question. I have no qualms in admitting that that is probably a correct statement. The Government Leader has become somewhat of a media darling on all the phone-in shows and they have gone to a sort of phone-poll consultation method. The Minister of Education is also engaged in that in his education review. We are seeing some interesting new trends here in the Yukon.
Unfortunately, what the government must realize is that this is a short-term political gain for long-term political pain. Those same callers who are calling up right now and telling the Government Leader that he is doing such a wonderful job, really sticking it to those Curragh guys, those guys that are bad news from Toronto, that big cigar-chomping guy, Cliff Frame, is not going to take the Yukon on and so on. Well, those same callers are going to be calling up one year from now if, indeed, those conditions are too unrealistic - and we have serious concerns that they are - and they are going to be asking the Government Leader where their jobs have gone.
They are going to be saying that you got elected on the premise that you were going to create a strong economic environment in the territory, and where has my job gone? I do not think the phone-poll consultation will yield the same kind of wonderful result that they are now getting.
The Government Leader went into the enormous magnitude of burden the taxpayers would share with this $29 million or $34 million loan guarantee, if the request is granted. I have no qualms in admitting that it is an enormous burden. I do have some difficulty with the analogies that the Government Leader uses. I find them somewhat silly and, in relative terms, I think that they can be defeated on the basis of argument if you turn them around and do the same thing in another relative terminology. For example, the $1,000 for every man, woman and child in the Yukon. Yes, that is true, if you figured out, based on the millions of dollars requested versus the population of the territory. He talked about an $11 billion request, on the same terms, if you were talking Ontario.
I have faith that, if the Ontario government was facing a loss of 30 percent of their economy and gross domestic product, they would consider an $11 billion loan guarantee and, in relative terms, I think it makes a lot of sense. I know, for a fact, that there are a number of people in this Legislature who have benefited from government loan assistance of one kind or another. There is even a rumor I heard that the Government Leader himself once benefited from a grant of $25,000 from the territorial government for one of his businesses. Take that, and multiply it: $25,000 times $30,000. If you took that $25,000 grant the Government Leader received, and multiply it by every man, woman and child in the territory, you would see that there is no way that could possibly be sustainable. I believe that the Government Leader, with his rhetoric, sends a very negative message and also talks out of both sides of his mouth, if in fact that rumor is true, and I hope, at some time later, he can clarify whether or not it is to the Legislature.
In his speech, the Government Leader also stated that he believes in the operational long-term viability of Faro. That is another admirable statement by the government. Unfortunately, once again, we get back to the confusing messages. On the one hand, he says he believes in the long-term viability, on the other hand, he says in an article that gets printed in the Globe and Mail that they are near bankruptcy.
Of course, he says coyly in the Legislature that everybody knows that it is public information. However, not everybody is being asked to give the company what is being referred to a $34 million or $29 million loan guarantee. The message is the question here. What message is the government sending out when they do that? Surely, the Government Leader must realize that there has to be a little bit of tact when using terminology of that nature, especially in light of the volatile nature of the money markets.
One of the points that mystifies me, which the Government Leader made, is regarding the $5 million loan that the previous administration, with the benefit of all the Members of the Legislature, approved for Curragh. Yes, there were conditions upon it. Yes, there were security conditions upon it, and those are very important, and they were all very important to all the Members of the Legislature here. I have read the Hansards, and I have read the questions of the Leader of the Opposition at that time - Mr. Dan Lang - and the questions he asked of Mr. Benner in the Legislature. I have also read some of the questions that were asked of Mr. Frame in 1985 on the re-opening deal.
I realize the Government Leader is a bit of a Johnny-come-lately in the Legislature, as am I. At least I took the time to go through the official documents of the Government of the Yukon regarding what took place and who committed what to the project in 1985. I found there was an almost 10 percent - a 9.7 percent - commitment of territorial revenues of that particular year to the Curragh project in Faro, which is a major commitment. There is no question it carried a lot of risk with it, but it was decided there was no other opportunity to create the kinds of jobs that operation would create, as well as the economic spin-off.
Therefore, I say that the Government Leader has his facts entirely wrong. Perhaps he sat around the campfire with Erik Nielsen, at one point, and Erik Nielsen told him exactly how the deal went. However, I can say to him that, if he researches his documents properly, he will find that there was tremendous commitment in the form of loans, loan guarantees and road deals. I know, for example, that the Minister of Economic Development at the time, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, had to make upward of 14 to 16 trips to Juneau to discuss the actual workings of the docking deal that was going to be arranged with the Alaskan government. This was the type of commitment that was made, and I do not think, at this point, that it is really that important to fight about who did what, federally or territorially. There was a conjunction of effort there. They both worked together.
To stand up and say that there was very little help from the territorial government is very misleading, and I suggest to the Government Leader that he do his research a bit better when he comes to the House or, at least, present it in the manner of a rumour, which it is.
The Government Leader also talked about the meeting in Juneau with Green Creek. I also attended the meeting with Green Creek in Juneau as a Member of the Legislative Assembly. It was a very informative meeting. It talked about the mine there that went down. It was very unfortunate. I am very sad that happened, but what better illustrates that all zinc producers are having tough times and what better illustrates to the Government of the Yukon that those who survive in this tough time have a better chance of operating and being viable in the long term?
The Government Leader talked about the bleak years in his comments. I also have that article sitting right there, which talks about the bleak predictions for the rest of the year in the zinc market. I have to say that there is no question that that is out there. That is our criticism. All along, the government has been spreading these bleak messages. I am not surprised that the majority of Yukoners support their conditions on the loan guarantee, when, for months now, they have been saying how impossible it is for Curragh to operate. Could they not have given the Yukon public or the Members of the Legislature here a wink or a nod somewhere along the line that they were, indeed, reading other messages from it - that there was a hope and some investment houses were saying that the prices are going to be high and that there is a chance that they can survive over the long term?
The question here is not that we do not want to see security. The question is that we want to see realistic security. If the government is successful in getting the banks to move aside, we will applaud them. What we are concerned about are the messages they have sent to the public of the Yukon and the Legislators of this House.
Our question also is, is there room for negotiation? If that is the case, then that is fine, and I will certainly support that. There are many of the conditions, as outlined by the Leader of the Official Opposition, that we do support. We never suggested that the farm should be sold to Curragh Inc. At least, the Government Leader could contemplate selling the chicken wire.
Another confusing comment made by the Government Leader was with regard to a loan versus loan guarantee. He made assumptions that, automatically, $34 million would be drawn upon by the Yukon taxpayer, and they would have to shell it out, as if it was a loan. It is a loan guarantee, and there is a big difference. Not only that, but the money does not come out as one lump sum of $34 million.
As the bills are drawn down by Curragh, as they strip the Grum, they will go to the bank and ask for a certain amount of money to be released to them, so they can pay their bills. The longer the project goes on, the more chance of more money being lent, and the more chance that the government will be on the hook.
It is a big distinction to make. I am not saying that there is no risk involved, and I am not saying it is a good thing that the government could be on the hook for the amount of money we are talking about. However, to create the impression that the money automatically has to come out in one lump sum is wrong.
The government has thrown figures around of the mine going down in three to six months. According to the figures I have looked at, that would mean that the government would have extended a loan guarantee in the area of $9 to $12 million.
There is no question that is a lot of money, but at least they have started to expose an asset for the territory that will be there forever: an exposed ore body.
The Government Leader asked how long Curragh can be expected to operate at a loss. Based on condition 10, where they say sell the Stronsay ore body and give us 50 percent of the proceeds of the sale - we later learn this means the profits of the sale, and I think it was put quite well by the Leader of the Opposition when he said, We are not sure what is going to be profits in this time of depressed metal markets on the sale of the Stronsay project, but give us 50 percent of it immediately. Give us 50 percent of the working capital you could use to carry yourself through these tough times.
That is a major contradiction that makes no sense at all. Yesterday, the Minister for Economic Development admitted that that condition may be negotiable. We are starting to cut to the meat here a bit and the wheat is getting separated from the chaff, but it must happen quickly.
The Government Leader stated that they did not dither on this; they worked and they worked and they worked. He read off a list of meetings with Mr. Benner and other Curragh officials and representatives of the Departments of Finance and Economic Development. Yet I have to ask the question: how committed was this government to the negotiations in the first place when Curragh requested to meet with Cabinet, and the Yukon government did not even have time to meet with Curragh to discuss the numbers, to bandy them about, to have some dialogue, to have some discussion?
There were also some comments stating that the government of the Yukon is not a charity and that the banks should move aside. If that happens - great. The government of the Yukon is not a charity, but the banks are not responsible for creating a strong economic environment in this territory; the government is. The government campaigned on promises to do just that. It is not an issue of charity by the Yukon government. It is an issue of what they have to do, in spite of their philosophical beliefs, to create a strong economic environment.
I also must point out that the banks showed that they are not too unwilling to step aside and call their loans. They showed that with Sa Dena Hes because they did call some loans at Sa Dena Hes. That should be a reminder to the government that while their position may be strong initially, they may have to think about backing off if it does not appear to be a condition that is going to come to fruition.
We, the Official Opposition, never disputed that a Burns Fry analysis should be done, but I wrote the Government Leader on November 23, 1992, informing him of the precarious situation that my constituents and the mine was facing in Faro. No study was commissioned until the federal government contacted them on January 11, 1993. This is inexcusable; that is dragging your heels to the nth degree.
When the Government Leader was in Faro, he stated to my constituents, because there was a little bit of pressure on him, that he would have an agreement in principle reached and when the Burns Fry study came in they would punch in the numbers and away we would go.
The people of the Yukon have seen. Now we are hearing the excuses from the government. It is amazing to see the lack of leadership from the people across the House. I wrote down the different people they blamed in their speech. They blamed the previous government, because it did not lend $29 million dollars to Curragh when they were in power last year, even though Curragh had not made the request of the territorial government; they had made it of the federal government.
Then they blamed Curragh Inc. They said Curragh Inc. just would not give them the information. They did not have the foresight or the vision to give them a list of conditions. We will add number 15, that the Burns Fry report must have favourable aspects to it. Then they could release that to the Yukon public for their political purposes. Then they could get on with the business. They did not have the foresight to do that. Instead, because I feel that they all have some position of security, they let my constituents float in the breeze. I do not think they have any real understanding of what the people of Faro were going through.
One of the Ministers of the Cabinet went to great lengths to criticize me as the Member for Faro because I almost cost them a decision because of my arrogant and ignorant behavior. If this government is suggesting that, because I do not bow to a Minister of their government, they are going to make a decision, cognizantly to destroy the Yukon economy, we really have to evaluate what we have for a government in this territory.
They did not stop there. They blamed the previous government they blamed Curragh, and they also blamed the federal government. It would have been nice for the federal government to help the Yukon government, and more power to them. They should have made the effort and diligently gone through the exercise of trying to bring the federal government on side.
Incidentally, the Government Leader told me at a public meeting, in front of all those witnesses, that he was sure the federal government would come through. Yet, what happens? The Yukon Party government, in the election campaign, went on at great length about mining. They were going to do this and that for mining; they were going to build this infrastructure for mining, and mines were going to sprout up all over the place. Build the roads and they will come. Field of roads: it is like a movie I watched once.
What do they say? They say that mining is a federal responsibility, and they are very upset at the bad government, but it is not a territorial responsibility. They did not say that in the four-year plan. They said they were going to do all these wonderful things for mining. Time will tell, and we hope they do.
Then, the Government Leader brings up the B.C. economics professor. Perhaps he is a friend of Dale Drowns, the B.C. Socred. Perhaps he is a friend of Bill Vander Zalm. This economics professor makes all these wonderful pronouncements. I cannot believe, for a second, that the government that made so much of the outsiders is now having this economics professor from B.C., whom no one has never heard of, and who admitted in the article that he knows absolutely nothing about the Curragh situation, tell them what to do. It is amazing. I cannot believe it.
Then there was some innuendo sent across the floor about how we did not want the people from Watson Lake to go back to work. Nothing could be further from the truth. The question was put to the government as to what the conditions are that are satisfactory to them. There was absolutely nothing in there about our not wanting Sa Dena Hes or Watson Lake workers to go back to work or our not wanting to see Watson Lake people benefit from this deal. The people that used to be the government are the ones that put together the deal to get Sa Dena Hes open in the first place. I should remind them of that. What we want to know is: what are the satisfactory conditions?
I firmly believe that there is no more important decision facing this territory today. Tonight, we are going to do something very special. It is something most people have expected, anticipated and deserved for a long time. Today, on the Curragh issue, we are debating something that is incredibly important to the territory. Faro is a mine that is here and now. Other mines along the way someday are fantastic and we should work toward them. I would support the governments efforts, even though they now say it is a federal responsibility, to build more mines here. They have my support on that, but that is someday. When Western Copper comes up, I will believe it when I see it. If they want my help in some of the negotiations or some of the work to get it going, I will gladly offer it to them.
I do have a commerce degree. The Government Leader sold his outfitting territory to an Austrian conglomerate that is buying up the Yukon, and that is supposed to make him a business guru. Well, the Yukon is worth a lot and I am sure he got a lot for it, but I do not really think it was a good deal for the Yukon.
On and on and on and on the Yukon Party government drones that the federal transfer payments will not continue. There is no way they can continue. On and on they go. But yet, when we have the largest private sector employer in the territory in jeopardy and the second largest in Northlands fleet services in jeopardy, what do we hear from the government? Nothing but negativity. What is going to be left if they allow this to happen? I have to point out to the government that there are thousands of jobs at stake here; the spinoff is tremendous.
I believe the government really does recognize that, but the major message to the government has to be, yes, there is a lot at stake; yes, they should use due diligence. We agree with that. We support them on that. But the message they never send Yukoners, that they do not get Yukoners thinking about now so they box themselves into a corner on this thing, is that there is a major cost to the territory if we do not make this deal. Why is that not talked about by this government? Why is that not the focal point of what they are doing? This is not a game. My constituents are suffering immensely. I get calls on a daily basis about social assistance; I go to the coffee shop; people grab me and say, My God, where is my UI. I have no food to put on the table. I hate doing this, but I have to tell them that they have to go to social assistance. Those people are there in that community because they want to work.
They do not want to be on unemployment insurance. Many have come from all over Canada to be here, including myself. I love the Yukon. This is my home forever. There are tons of people in Faro who will do the same thing. They will stay here as long as they have the reasonable expectation of some employment, so they can put a roof over their heads and food on the table.
Tough but realistic; that is what we need. I think the government has to realize that time is running out. The cash position of Curragh is in a very bad situation. If the deal can be done quickly, there is a much better opportunity to raise capital. The equity issue and the sale of Stronsay are in the works. Unfortunately I do not know what the condition is going to do to the actual price that can be attained for Stronsay. Certainly it will put downward pressure on it.
We have a chance if we can just get the message, the wink and the nod from the territorial government, that they are indeed committed to this project, and I believe they have demonstrated some commitment. There have been some areas. But it is the message. It is the fear-mongering that they have created. Why is not the message, what is going to happen to the territory if we do not do something? It is always the reasons why we should not do it.
I think that this is why you have phone-in consultation polls that support your positions. I have no doubt that the people of the Yukon support those positions, by a majority. But I warn the government, if it goes down those same callers are going to be asking something else. They are going to be asking, where is my job?
There is risk in this equation; no matter what the security is there is risk. I do not believe for a second that the security that can be put forward is going to do a deal where there can be no risk for the territory. If somehow this is pulled off then I will congratulate the Members opposite for their work. Along the way, though, what they should never do is sit there and smile and say, I told you so. I told you the banks would move aside and we would get in. They should remember that while they played this poker game, my constituents lives have been on the line. Either way, it is not a big winner because my people have suffered immensely as a result of the length of time it has taken. I think the government has to cut to the bottom line. They have to get to the bottom line. If they want to put it out politically and publicly, then they should do it. They should get to the bottom line on these negotiations because the cash position of Curragh is not going to allow them to operate much more.
Some of my constituents are going to receive layoff notices of a permanent nature and yet the government wants to take more jobs away from the people of Faro. Obviously, the Members opposite think it is quite funny that the members of my community do not have food for the table. Some of them are going to social assistance for a roof over their heads. I do not think it is funny. Faro people are Yukoners and this deal is important for the entire Yukon. I do not care what anybody says, this mine is pervasive in the economy of the Yukon, in every community, to some degree, some more than others, there is no question. This is an economic decision that will have long-term impacts for a heck of a long time in this territory. I can tell you that I hope they are not taking it lightly. I hope that the conditions outlined are not just a way of saying no and I certainly hope that they are putting the best interests of all Yukoners, not just Yukon Party supporters, in mind when they make their decision. I am quite upset that they have only consulted with Yukon Party supporters to come up with these conditions but, nonetheless, I hope that they take a look at the big picture, the macro-economic picture, not just the accountants bottom line. I think that is the most critical document that has to be the basis of the decision here.
I can tell you one thing. I do not know what is going to happen for the future. I do not have a crystal ball that will tell you what is going to happen for sure if you extend the loan guarantee, but I can sure tell you what will happen to the economy of the territory if you do not. I think that is the critical piece of information that has to be given to the Yukon public. Why is that message not out there?
The taxpayers have to be protected but, if you do not extend the guarantee, you do not protect the taxpayers anyway.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., the House will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Bill No. 3: Third Reading - continued
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 3, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Ostashek - debate adjourned.
Ms. Moorcroft: I consider it an honour to address this Assembly in support of the land claims and self-government legislation. I think it is too easy for those of us who live in the Yukon, who are not First Nations people, to forget just whose land it is that we are living on. The Yukon still belongs to the First Nations people and the legislation before us recognizes this and is the culmination of 20 years of negotiations with the Yukons aboriginal people to meet an outstanding legal and constitutional obligation.
The Yukon First Nations first contact with white people is fairly recent. There are many accounts from those who remember the first foreigner they saw, whether it was in the days of fur trade with Russians or Europeans, during the Klondike Gold Rush or during the construction of the Alaska Highway. All of these periods are part of what is sometimes characterized as the boom and bust cycle of our economy. Very few of the aboriginal people derived economic benefit from these ventures in the past. In fact, the invasion of white settlers had many unfortunate results. Perhaps most damaging is the patronizing attitude many held, that the Yukon Indian people were heathen, regarded as lacking culture or moral principles, in need of salvation or enlightenment.
Today we recognize that there are many different cultures, approaches to spirituality and world views and that a world view different from our own is not necessarily inferior and should not necessarily change to conform to the dominant view. However, the patronizing attitudes of the past lead to many abuses, the consequences of which live with us today. The mission schools uprooted children from their families and communities and placed them in foreign environments where they were forbidden to speak their native languages. Some children were victims of abuse at the hands of the white adults who were in positions of authority over them. Child abuse, alcoholism and dysfunctional families have resulted.
During the days of early contact, many First Nations people who had no natural immunity to European sicknesses died as a result of diseases carried by white people. Even today, aboriginal people all around the world suffer a higher rate of disease than others. This holds true in our own communities. A high rate of suicide indicates the need to encourage the healing necessary to recover from the experience of colonization and indeed, colonialism. As part of the self-government and land claims settlements, First Nations will have a say in health care, social services and the healing of their communities. In resuming control of their lives, and the systems imposed on them, we must be willing to support effective employment equity plans in the delivery of medical, health and social services programs. We must work cooperatively and actively support First Nations delivery of their own health and social programs.
Political leadership must be demonstrated by this Assembly in giving more than lip service to the First Nations inherent right to self-government. In passing model self-government legislation, we are recognizing the right of aboriginal people to self-determination.
This is not just a moral and legal issue. It is an economic issue as well. I foresee the potential for a new cycle of economic development under the leadership of Yukon First Nations people. As part of the land claims settlement they are going to receive over $240 million.
I am very concerned about the appearance that this government is not willing to support First Nations business development. This sends a bad signal to Yukon First Nations. We must not just say that we support the land claims process. We must demonstrate a trust and support of Yukon First Nations in their efforts to secure an economic future for themselves and indeed for us all.
By resolving the long standing issue of land claims all citizens in the Yukon will have access to land development. We should not feel threatened by the land management and self-government rights of First Nations, which are recognized by these agreements. We know there will always be conflicting land use issues; skiers, hikers and canoeists want access to wilderness, families want a place to live, businesses want commercial land properties, miners want to be able to develop mineral properties, hunters and trappers want sustainable wildlife harvest and so on.
Several features of the land claims agreement will give us all better tools to deal with land use conflicts. Land use planning put on hold by a withdrawal of federal funding will be able to get underway again funded by the agreement.
The dispute resolution mechanisms built into the agreement will be accessible to all Yukon people - a real need that will be readily recognized by anyone who has lost a land argument with federal or territorial government.
As well, the development assessment process will help to minimize conflicts by giving us all an opportunity to carefully consider the potential impact of new projects before they are undertaken.
I believe that the self-government agreement will make us equal partners in developing our communities according to our own priorities. No longer will First Nations in the Yukon suffer under the yoke of the Indian Act. Yukon First Nations will have clear jurisdiction to establish their own governing bodies, constitutions and processes to manage settlement lands.
Other features of the agreement - for example, the fish and wildlife management provisions - will make the Yukon one of the first jurisdictions on the planet to make the conservation of wildlife its top management priority. Others of its features, such as the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and the renewable resource councils, will give Yukon people - both First Nations and more recent arrivals - far more say in the day-to-day management of our wildlife resource than ever before.
I am proud to be a sitting Member of the party that cooperatively negotiated these landmark agreements with Yukon First Nations and the federal government, and I look forward to living in a Yukon that is fundamentally a fairer place because of the new social contract forged by these agreements.
Mr. Abel: This is a great historic occasion for my people in the riding of Vuntut Gwichin. I am honoured to be here to witness such an important sitting of the House.
In view of the fact that today is St. Patricks day, I would like to recognize all those of Irish ancestry in the House. I notice some of them are wearing green. I do not know how many Irishmen made it to Old Crow, but I know they are a very industrious people.
There have been times when I have asked myself whether the land claims would ever end. Obviously, the answer is yes. After 20 years, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was a young man when I first started serving with the Vuntut Gwichin council in 1974. Since then, in the six years I served as chief, there have been lots of words spoken, lots of speeches and lots of hours sitting at the table negotiating. I have spent most of my life working on land claims.
What is happening today in this House is a very special event for me personally, as well as a great moment in the history of my people. Now that I am 20 years older since land claims began, I hope I am 20 years wiser too. I want to be able to give proper guidance to the younger generation in their new responsibilities.
Even though this day has been a long time coming, it will be worth the time and effort for our childrens children and their children. The 300 people who live in Old Crow are, by nature, happy people. They are going to be even happier when the Vuntut Gwichin final agreements are ratified.
The people of Old Crow will be even happier when the formal final agreements pass in the House of Commons in Ottawa.
Old Crow is a small, isolated community. It is a long way from Ottawa, and many breakdowns in communication have occurred over the years, and many frustrations; however, all the negotiators worked very hard over those many years, and I want to thank them. I cannot name them all, the list is too long. I appreciate the efforts put forth by both the federal and Yukon government negotiators. They were dedicated during those many years at the table, trying to resolve the land claims issue with the First Nations people.
Now, the First Nations people are going to be free to chart their own destiny. We will have a say in such things as how to run our lives and how to manage our natural and historical resources. This is not to say that the work is finished. There is still much work to be done. I know the people of Old Crow have already worked hard to set these agreements in place and are prepared for more hard work ahead. The federal government will need to provide sufficient money to the Yukon government to carry out the areas of responsibility under the land claims agreement.
Then, we will need help from the Yukon government. Our young people will need to be trained and educated in good management practices and how to look after those lands and resources. For example, the Vuntut Gwichin agreements will give my people control over 3,000 square miles of land in the Old Crow Flats.
As I have mentioned in this House before, a north Yukon park will be established and a training program for the park will be held in Old Crow. This is very positive.
Also, the Vuntut Gwichin want to be involved in the transfer of federal responsibilities to the Yukon government. There will be programs and services such as health and justice that will need to be sensitive to the aspirations and cultural values of the Vuntut Gwichin people. My people will need training programs to ensure they are able to carry out the challenges they will accept under their own system. Regardless of the structure and laws in place, it is the people who have to ensure that everything works. However, the ratification by government and First Nations people signals that these years of talks have paid off. The system will work. It means all parties involved found the common ground and met the legal obligation to settle the land claims in the first place. I am pleased that the Vuntut Gwichin is among the four bands that reached land claims and self-government agreements. The bill before this House deals with the Champagne/Aishihik First Nation. The Champagne/Aishihik First Nation has shown its leadership and ratified its agreement first. This was a very important and courageous step for them.
The Teslin band and Na-cho Nyak Dun in Mayo are close to ratification. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage these bands. They are in the final stages with their agreements.
In the spirit of what is best for all people, I want to encourage them to come forward quickly and approve their agreements before the next federal election. Once the four agreements are approved by the House of Commons, the rest of the agreements can follow and be passed into law more easily. I also want to offer support and encouragement to all those bands that have a long way to go yet with their discussions and negotiations and to encourage them not to give up on their land claims. Resolving issues is not an easy task. The results will be worthwhile. Once these four First Nations get the ball rolling, we can all get on with our lives. The 20 years in which land claims have been in negotiations has been a disruptive time to everybody. I am quite positive the land claims settlement will be of benefit to everybody in this territory.
Once the settlement is in place between the First Nations people, the people of Canada, and particularly the people of the Yukon, we can all get on with our lives and move forward together.
Mr. Danny Joe: I would like to say my two cents worth, too. I am one who, right from the beginning, was involved with the land claim, and I am still here. See my grey hair? I was a healthy young fellow when this started; now I am a little bit too far over the hill, but I can still stand here today.
All I want to say is thank you to all the people who were involved for their hard work on the land claim. I can think back 15 or 20 years on all that we went through and now, today, I can see it is all coming to agreement. But we still have lots of hard work ahead of us. There is no end to the things that need to be negotiated.
I do not have too much to say. I had my say yesterday, but I wanted to say another few words again tonight. That is all I have to say.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am very pleased to be able to speak today to this very important legislation that is before us. Before I get into the text of my speech, I want to comment briefly on some comments that were made yesterday by other Members of this House.
The Member for Whitehorse Centre reminded us all of some incidents from the past. She reminded us of an ad that I put my name to at one time. I guess I have to admit - and want to admit - that I feel somewhat like the Member for Dawson. In those days, I knew little about land claims, or not as much as I should have known, and I have now grown to know a great deal more in the last few years. All of us can change our minds on issues, especially issues as important as this, and I can tell everyone in this House today that I am fully supportive, and have been supportive for quite a few years now, of the Yukon land claims settlement, and I have indicated that in many of my speeches to the House and in any of my talks with First Nations people. I just want to put that on record. I do not think it is anything to be ashamed of.
All Yukoners out there who have doubts or concerns about the land claim agreement should avail themselves of the agreement and the information available. I am sure that many of them will be convinced, as I am, that it is a good deal for Yukon native people and a good deal for Yukon non-native people. Overall, it is one of the best things that have happened in the Yukon for a long time. The only problem is that it has taken too long to get here.
This is a landmark decision for the First Nations people of the Yukon. I, like many First Nations leaders in the Yukon today, have spent over half of my life listening to promises about the eventual settlement of the land claims in the Yukon. We have been close to this about four or five times, that I know of. Many people thought that it was settled way back in the early 1980s, and then again a few years ago. It just seemed to keep dragging on and on. I hope that this really is, as the Member for Old Crow says, the light at the end of the tunnel and that we will see a final settlement in the Yukon in the very near future.
It is unfortunate that some of the very great leaders of the First Nations are no longer with us. I know that if Elijah Smith and Johnny Abel were alive today, they would be sitting in the gallery, as others are - - Johnny Johns. Did I say Johnny Abel? I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I do not know how that slipped out. I was just seeing if Johnny Abel was awake.
Elijah Smith and Johnny Johns were two great First Nations elders in the Yukon, and it is unfortunate that they could not be with us here today, but I am sure they are with us in spirit. If they could be here, they would be very proud of the First Nations leaders and people who have stuck it out and got us to this day.
I see the passage of this bill today as only one significant step in the process to conclude the Yukon claim. In the last two days in the House, the Government Leader has introduced several motions that deal with the First Nations claim. I can advise our friends in the gallery, and others, that I have also talked to the House Leaders and, tomorrow, when we finish this debate, we will be dealing with all three of those motions. There will be one motion asking the federal government to deal with the land claims legislation immediately. As well, the other motion in front of us is to provide adequate funding for both First Nations and the Yukon government to carry it out. The third motion is to congratulate all the negotiators who took part in the land claims.
As we always have until now, we have put that on a priority list. Before we deal with any other legislation tomorrow, we will be dealing with those motions. I am quite confident that those motions will be carried unanimously in the House tomorrow. They will go to Ottawa with this support of the claim, urging Ottawa to proceed with its part as quickly as possible.
There is going to be an enormous cost associated with this claim, and that has been something that the Yukon First Nations and the Yukon government have been quite concerned about for some time. I hope the federal government will see fit to provide adequate funding for the claim.
We have to remember that the document will not be worth the paper it is written on if we cannot implement it. That has to be something we have to keep in mind.
First Nations people will see changes to their communities with this claim and they will for the first time be able to call their home, their home. For many years they have claimed that the Yukon is theirs and with the signing and finalizing of this claim they will actually have areas selected that they will legitimately be able to call their home - with no question from any government, anywhere.
Education will play a very large role in assisting Yukon First Nations to attain the necessary skills they will need to manage their own affairs. It is our hope that this training process will involve many First Nation individuals.
Programs are already underway to train native teachers, social workers and community managers. Many more First Nation people will have to take advantage of the many programs to upgrade their skills, so they can take the more responsible role that will be required of them under the new agreements.
Along with a commitment to train First Nations people, there is going to be a significant contribution by way of a land claims training trust fund. Currently, there is $1 million that the Yukon government has set aside in that fund and a further $2.5 million will be set aside in the very near future, to provide for that training. I believe the total of the fund will be approximately $6 million after the federal government contributes its share.
This fund will be used to establish training programs for Yukon Indian people. It will be used to develop a work plan to be included in the umbrella final agreement implementation plan. It will help the Yukon government and First Nations establish consultative arrangements to ensure effective and economical integration of existing programs with any new programs.
I believe that this really is a landmark agreement and it will legitimately, for the first time, provide First Nations with the tools to control their own destiny.
I am looking forward to having the Department of Education work closely with all First Nations in all areas of the territory.
In the last few years, First Nations have made great strides in developing their heritage and culture, especially in the language area. Our government strongly supports those programs and the umbrella final agreement will allow Yukon First Nations to improve and expand these programs.
I can remember that, when I was a young boy in Whitehorse - and I might add that it was not very long ago - my father and I went on a fishing trip to Teslin. On our way back there was a First Nations gentleman standing on the side of the road with a bag in his hand, hitchhiking to Whitehorse. My dad pulled over. He got into the car and we started driving onto Whitehorse. On our way to Whitehorse he told us that he was a chief of the Teslin Indian Band and that he was on his way to Whitehorse to give one of his ceremonial customs to the MacBride Museum. He was going to do that to help preserve the native heritage and culture. One of the things that stands out in my mind, from that experience, is about the native heritage, culture and language. He was concerned that the natives were losing this opportunity to preserve their culture.
I was a fairly young man at the time but I still, to this day, remember him as a very kind and gentle man; he made quite an impression on both my father and me on that trip to Whitehorse. As well, as a boy I lived on Strickland Street downtown in Whitehorse and our neighbours at the back were Doug and Ida Lowe; I used to go out almost every weekend and most of the summers with Doug and Ida to their camp at Tagish, and that is where I first met Angela Sydney.
Angela took me out with some of Doug and Idas children; we would go out on ISaturdays and snare some gophers. Angela taught us how to snare the gophers, but what I did not realize is that later we had to eat them. That was an interesting experience I will never forget, but one of the things that stands out in my mind about that experience is the stories Angela used to tell us while we were setting the snares. She would always be telling us some kind of a story and it was really quite fascinating.
With the signing of this agreement and the funds that will flow from it, I know that many of Angela Sydneys stories will live for a long time to come. That will be extremely important for the First Nations people.
The finalizing of these agreements will allow First Nation entrepreneurs and bands to enter into all sorts of independent and joint-venture projects. I hope that many of them will look to the tourism sector for these opportunities. Many tourists who come to Yukon are virtually starved for glimpses of the Yukon First Nation history, traditions and culture, and I personally can see many golden opportunities in that area. I hope some of the First Nation bands and individuals will take the opportunity to promote their culture that way.
Our government has talked about developing a living native cultural centre and I believe this is an area where we could work closely with First Nations, and possibly develop something like that in the future. I would be very interested in working with First Nations in that area.
Yukon First Nations know the bush better than anyone else and the Yukon wilderness opportunities in the tourism sector are absolutely amazing. The enquiries from people who want to come to the Yukon just to take a look or drift down our rivers and view our beautiful scenery are enormous, and I think the opportunities there should be capitalized on. I would encourage some First Nation individuals and bands to look at those opportunities as well.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the people who have spent the last 20 years developing this agreement. I know that it has been a very frustrating process for First Nations people at times, riding this roller coaster - we are almost settled, or we are not settled, and it just continues on and on and on, it seemed.
I would sincerely like to thank the First Nations people for their patience in putting up with all the bureaucratic BS that has gone on for years. I think that a lot of it has been bureaucratic BS, but now we are finally getting down to the end of it and I hope that the federal government will see fit to move quickly on this.
I would also like to thank the Yukon negotiators, and there have been quite a few of those, as well as the federal negotiators. There have been too many of them to even try to mention. I cannot remember how many there have been of the federal negotiators, but I know there was one time, a few years ago, when they were almost changing monthly, it seemed.
One would be remiss if I did not thank the politicians who kept the ball rolling. I would like to thank Mr. Penikett and his Cabinet for their hard work, support and initiatives over the past seven years. I think they did a great deal of work toward bringing this to where it is today. As well, I think we have to thank Mr. Ostashek, the leader of the Yukon Party, for putting land claims at the top of his list of priorities. This was a promise that was made during the election. It was a promise that Mr. Ostashek kept when we came into the House in December and it is a promise that Mr. Ostashek kept when we came into the House here in the Spring sitting. I think that it shows that our party is committed completely to the land claim process.
I would also like to thank Judy Gingell and the 14 chiefs for their monumental efforts to get us to where we are at today. I am sure they are almost meetinged out because I think they have been in thousands of meetings over the last 20 years and I thank them for their efforts and the work they have put forth in coming to where we are today.
I have lived in the Yukon for 44 years and this land claim negotiation has been going on for 20 of those years. I am extremely pleased and proud to be part of a Legislature that will give final approval to the agreement. I will remind all Members, though, that our work is really far from over. This legislation now has to go before the federal government and it is the duty of each and every one of us to urge our federal colleagues to deal with this immediately. This is a very historic occasion and I am very pleased to see this agreement pass this House today.
Mr. Harding: I feel very proud to be here in the Legislature this evening as a rookie to be debating and discussing some very important legislation to the First Nations people of the Yukon and also to the non-native people of the Yukon.
The names that have been brought forth over the last couple of days - Elijah Smith, Johnny Johns and Joe Jacquot - I did not have the pleasure of knowing any of those men who are almost legendary figures. However, as a boy in Nova Scotia, hunting was my passion and I had read quite a bit about Johnny Johns. I did make a trip to Carcross to try to meet Johnny Johns. Unfortunately, I did not, as he was not there on that day. I forget the reason. It was when I first came here in 1986. This is basically one small speck of time relative to the amount of time the First Nations people have been here.
I do feel at a loss that I did not get to meet some of those very important people in this process. It has been good, however, as I became involved in politics in the territory and met more people, that I have had the opportunity to speak briefly with Danny Joe and hear his views. It has also been good to talk to my other caucus colleague, Margaret Joe, who has also been heavily involved in the process. I feel honoured on that basis.
It is certainly very important legislation. I concur with all the people and Members of the Legislature who have said this is definitely long overdue. I know the work that went into it. I have read about it, heard about it and discussed it with people. I know some of the reasons why it took as long as it did, but I think the most important thing is that we are here tonight to talk about some very important material that will benefit the Yukon in the future.
I certainly pledge my full support to the legislation we will be voting on shortly. It is a very important step. It will help work toward economic and social partnerships between First Nations and non-native Yukoners. That is a very important step for the Yukon. There are unlimited opportunities to explore in partnerships with First Nations people, both economically and socially.
One of the most important features is that the self-government agreements and the concept and philosophy of self-direction will allow First Nations people to have their say about where they want to go. It will also allow them to protect their unique culture and way of life. That rich heritage has not been enough of a focal point for our education system. It should be encouraged. It is important that more and more people understand and respect the First Nations in the territory and their way of life.
I want to touch on a point raised by the Member for Klondike yesterday. I think it was a good point. He said that we, as elected people in this House, should do our best to reach out to the uneducated and ignorant on this subject. We should be leaders and speak to those people, informing them of the benefits of the land claims agreement and self-government agreement and the potential benefits to all Yukoners, native and non-native, and how it can only benefit us in the future, both socially and economically.
In closing, I would like to say that I pledge to do that in my constituency, for I have a lot of work to do. I also wish to thank all the negotiators and all the people who have worked for years on this. I only wish I could have had a larger part to play.
Mrs. Firth: I am going to give a short speech, because I know how anxious people are to have this proceeding come to an end tonight, so we can get on with the Commissioner giving assent to these important pieces of legislation.
I am very proud to be a Member of the Legislative Assembly on this historic occasion. I think I can speak on behalf of the majority of the constituents I represent that our constituency has always been a strong proponent of, and in favour of, the settlement of the land claims process. On behalf of the people I represent, I offer their congratulations to the First Nations people tonight, as well as my own congratulations.
It has been a long and very frustrating time for the First Nations people. I have lived in the Yukon for 25 years now. When I first came here, I was a young nurse at the Whitehorse General Hospital. The Member for Whitehorse Centre says she remembers.
I came from a rather large city, compared to the City of Whitehorse. I had never met any First Nations people or had an opportunity to learn about too many other cultures, as a traditional white person. I found it an extremely interesting and rewarding experience to be able to help First Nations people in my professional capacity. I grew to understand and know those people, so that when, some five years later, organizations and groups, which were not perhaps the strongest proponents of land claims, started lobbying people to join them, I knew that I did not want to be part of that anti-land claim process.
I have always maintained that position and have always supported the land claims process, and I will continue to do so.
I had a very interesting experience not too long ago. During the recent election campaign, I had an opportunity to visit with the Council for Yukon Indians and we had some very interesting discussions. I was educated very quickly on exactly what self-government meant and on what some of the goals and objectives of the First Nations people were. I will not go into any details, because I do not want to embarrass myself. I know the participants of that meeting are here and they know full well what I am talking about, and I thank them for having made me a more informed and more educated person with respect to some of the goals and objectives of the First Nations people.
I just want to offer my congratulations to the First Nations people on their new beginnings, which will start this evening with the passage of these two bills and the Commissioner giving assent to them. I hope we can make expressions to the federal government so that they will be expedient in passing legislation providing the funding that is going to be required. I want to finish by thanking everyone who was involved in any way in coming to the finalization of these very important pieces of legislation.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It has been a long, long time for me to get up here; I thought I would be here yesterday, but here I am late in the evening, still trying to get through what little I have to say.
The land claim has travelled a long and rocky road, but it has finally reached this historic day in the Legislature. Although I am confident that it will pass this Legislature, we must all be very sure that we continue to work together to ensure quick passage of the claims by the federal government. Even after it becomes law, we must be prepared to continue to work together with open minds in order to address disagreements over issues that may arise in the future. We must keep talking. We must keep the lines of communication open at all times. We must ensure that the people who will be placed on the boards and committees, which we will put in place through the land claim, are some of our finest people. It is essential that they work for the good of the Yukon as a whole and that they do not merely represent factions of Yukon society.
At my request, the Department of Renewable Resources has met with some First Nations and their elders to spend time listening and discussing issues regarding our wildlife. The department will continue to meet with First Nations and maintain an open-door policy in this regard. I might also say, when I get out of this Legislature, that is where I will be going. This sharing of knowledge is very beneficial to both First Nations and government. In fact, I find the Department of Renewable Resource personnel are actually enjoying these conversations and meetings.
The caribou problem in the Carcross area is a real example of cooperative problem solving. I kind of laugh when I hear the others talking about going to Carcross and the receptions they got. I guess that is because I do not have any hair and the Member for Mayo-Tatchun says I am a little grey around the ears. I was treated very respectfully there, so I really do not understand that these people could be so bad when they were so nice to me down there.
Another thing I would like to say at the present moment is that, rest assured, the caribou management plan in the Aishihik area would never have succeeded if I had not had all the support from First Nations. That is a fact of life that we had better realize.
I look forward to working with the First Nations. This does not mean that I will always say yes; sometimes I may have to say no. I feel the Yukon is opening a new chapter in its history and over the long term it will benefit all Yukoners, but it will not happen overnight. It will take time, patience and resolve by all concerned to make it work. There will be doubts and problems, but I am confident that they can be overcome.
The Department of Renewable Resources has participated in the land claims process and implementation of the claims will have an impact on the departments responsibilities. Renewable resources, fish and wildlife special management areas have been the component of each First Nations final agreement. To meet the interests of government and third parties in these negotiations, full-time staff within the department have been dedicated to the land claims process.
Renewable Resources staff have acted as advisors for fish and wildlife, special management areas and land use planning. They have also provided support, analyses and advice during final agreement negotiation on land, water, forestry, economic measures and other components in each First Nations final agreement negotiations. The department has four full-time people dedicated to final agreement negotiations, and others related to land claims. Two members of this staff have been directly involved all along. The public boards created by the umbrella final agreement are designed to ensure public participation in the management of all resources. Nominees to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and salmon subcommittee of that board, and the 14 renewable resource councils will include equal representation of both First Nations and non-native people.
The Fish and Wildlife Management Board, acting in the public interest, will take into consideration all relevant factors including recommendations of the renewable resource councils, a board making recommendations to the Minister and Yukon First Nations on all matters related to fish and wildlife management, legislation, research, policies and programs. Within this framework, it is intended that there will not be any duplication in the public management of fish and wildlife.
The Minister of Renewable Resources will continue to have the ultimate responsibility for management of fish and wildlife under the provisions of the umbrella final agreement. It is the task of the Minister of the Department of Renewable Resources to meet the expectations and requirements of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, the renewable resource councils, the First Nations and the Yukon public with meaningful, timely and cost-effective implementation of recommendations. As long as I am the Minister, I will do my best to see that is carried out.
It is my sincere hope that the federal government has allotted sufficient funds to let us carry out these responsibilities.
Just before I close, I would like to say that Elijah Smith and I probably have something in common that I do not think that anybody in this Legislature or in the gallery could have. We both served in the Second World War. That probably gave us an outlook on life that a lot of the younger people do not have. We went through even more then than they have even gone through in land claims. Believe me, that is a fact of life.
I would like to tell one little story of perhaps why I got into politics. During this last election campaign, I pulled into Burwash, stopped my pickup, and Jesse Joe was going into her house. She is about 85 years old. I asked if she had the tea on, and she said yes, to come on in.
I went in, and we were having tea, and she said, Those white men, Bill, those white men, they came in the house here. What are they doing in my house? I said, What are you talking about? She said, The white men, they were in here. I said, I do not know who you mean. She said, I asked Joe Joe. He said those two white men are running against you, Bill. What are they doing?
That leaves me in the position of not knowing for sure what I am.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The Government House Leader, on a point of order.
Motion to Extend Sitting Hours
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would like to move
THAT the Assembly be empowered to sit after 9:30 p.m. until such a time as it is agreed upon to adjourn for the purpose of completing debate on third reading of Bill No. 3 and for receiving the Commissioner to give assent.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader
THAT the Assembly be empowered to sit after 9:30 p.m. until such a time as it is agreed upon to adjourn for the purpose of completing debate on third reading of Bill No. 3 and for receiving the Commissioner to give assent.
Motion to extend sitting hours agreed to
Bill No. 3: Third Reading - continued
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I want to reassure people across the way, as I hear a hum of discontent emanating from the good Member for Whitehorse Centre, that I will not be all that long tonight. I did want, of course, to take some time to make a few comments about this very historic occasion and the journey that has brought us all here tonight.
At the outset, I did want to join with others in thanking all of those people: the leaders of all those organizations that eventually became the CYI, the leaders of the governments that have been involved and the negotiators for all three parties. A special tribute is due this evening to the side opposite, the former Government Leader, Mr. Penikett and his Cabinet, because they certainly worked long, hard and sincerely at this. It is a great event for all of us here tonight.
I was pleased to hear from those among us who have been involved from the First Nations side over the years - the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, the Member for Whitehorse Centre and the Member for Vuntut Gwichin, in particular - because each of them spent a very important part of their adult life struggling to make this evening and this historic occasion happen.
I thought I would just speak about a couple of points that seemed to me to be appropriate tonight. I wanted to talk a little bit about the kind of hardship and suffering the Indian people have gone through since white men came into this land: the kind of upheaval they have suffered through and the kind of events that were so disruptive to their culture and to their societies.
In doing this, I will refer from time to time to some of the findings and some of the evidence, as briefly as I can, that we heard in 1977, when I was fortunate enough to be one of the three commissioners on the Alaska Highway pipeline enquiry. I wanted to mention that experience and that time because the enquiry heard from a great many people throughout the Yukon. There were 7,000-odd pages of transcripts from witnesses. We travelled to all of the communities and heard from many of the elders; many of these people, of course, are now gone. It seems to me that it is appropriate that we understand the kind of trauma that the culture and the people have gone through in the course of the last 50 or 60 years, in particular. Certainly, we are becoming more and more aware of just how terrible the residential schools were, the impact they had on people who were taken from their homes and raised in the school, the terrible things that happened at many of those schools. It seems, from reading the experts and listening to the elders, that the real downturn to Indian people probably commenced in the early 1940s with the building of the Alaska Highway.
I will read a few excerpts from the report of the Alaska Highway commission.
The impact of the Alaska Highways construction was magnified for the Indian people because it coincided with a drop in fur prices that undercut the land-based economy throughout the Canadian north. Ms. Julie Cruikshank, an anthropologist, explained the significance of the coincidence, In 1942, fur prices were lower than they had been for many years. Many native families who traded at posts near the new highway route - Teslin, Champagne, Burwash Landing - decided for the first time, not to trap that winter but rather to remain at the Post or go to Whitehorse to seek employment related to highway construction. After the highway was completed many of these people continued to live year round along the highway where they were joined by other natives. A steady drift of natives from all over the Yukon to the margins of Whitehorse began with the building of the highway and has continued ever since.
Later it is mentioned,"Indian witnesses from the communities along the Alaska Highway almost always described the highways as having had an impact from which their communities have not yet recovered. The events of that period clearly brought changes to the Indian people of the southern Yukon that were more fundamental and more traumatic than any they had previously experienced. It was perhaps comparable to the rush of agricultural settlers into the southern prairies in the late nineteenth century. It certainly has no parallel in other parts of the Canadian north."
From the journals, the evidence, of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, I would like to quote from a witness. At one time, Tagish was a big Indian settlement. Before the highway, Indians camped on both sides of those narrows and it was generally known as Indian land. After the road, the territorial government gradually took that land away from the natives, so that now Indian Affairs owns only one lot - where my sister lives. Six Miles-Tagish, at little Atlin Lake, used to be a community trapline for people from Tagish and Carcross. In 1950-51, the government made that an individual trapline and gave it to Patsy Henderson, a well-known Indian man. When he died, his wife passed it onto a grandson, who sold it, so Indians lost all that land. I had corrals right next to that, where the government has now built a tourist campground. First the army burned my corrals for wood, so I rebuilt them further back, and they burned them, too. Finally the territorial government took the land and made it into a campground.
All the Indian land around there went in the same way after the road came through. The territorial government took it all and leased it. In those days, Indians were treated like dirt. That was one reason I became enfranchised and gave up my Indian status, so my kids could go to better schools, so I could run my business, so I could be treated like a human being.
It is hard to describe how the highway really changed things. Let me put it this way: I remember one time, in 1917, I went to visit my brother-in-laws parents for the first time. That was in Teslin country. They were camped near Teslin Lake, and they had not seen or been to town for six months. They were a proud people. They told me not to use my dog food, that I needed it, and I should use theirs. They had canned fruit, et cetera, set aside for special occasions, and they brought that out. If my moccasins looked old, I would find a new pair waiting for me in the morning. I was a guest. All Indians were proud in those days.
Now, that is all gone. Some of the old people are still that way, but not the younger people. All that began to change with the highway.
This phenomenon carried on with the building of the Klondike Highway to Dawson, and the highways proved to be a magnet, in the sense that many Indian families who lost their livelihood of trapping, moved out and settled in villages along the highways. One reason was for the convenience of the bureaucrats from the Department of Indian Affairs. It was much easier to go and see these people, give them their cheques and write reports if they were conveniently located along the highways in Indian villages.
We all know that Selkirk disappeared with the building of the highway, when the wood-burning boats were removed from the river and there was no livelihood left. This phenomenon was one that was compounded by several things happening at about the same time. I have already mentioned fur prices dropping off and the renewed interest that the Department of Indian Affairs took in the Yukon.
The kind of social problems, the violence, the suicide, the alcohol and drug dependency, the family violence, the loss of culture, was devastating to these people. Yet, through it all, the culture, language and values were maintained.
A lot of Indian people deserve credit for their strength during these times - because there were always people in that culture who had the strength to overcome adversity and terrible hardship to maintain hope for the future of their people, to be strong and show friendship and leadership to the young and disillusioned, the hurt and the lost. These were not just a few leaders; these were many strong people in the elders of that culture. So, when I think of land claims and all the leaders and the good people I have been lucky to know, I also know that the Indian people themselves appreciate that strength of the so many who have gone before.
A few months ago, I remember turning to CNN on the TV; there was rather a significant ceremony taking place in Washington. Day after day, people stood before a microphone and simply read out the names on the Vietnam war memorial wall. I often think that is the kind of thing that would be a tribute to all those people who have gone before, all those people who made even land claims a possibility during the times when the culture and the people were so devastated.
I would also like to talk a bit about my experiences in the 1970s. We heard from the Member for Whitehorse Centre about some of the prejudices she and other people experienced as land claims were getting started and people were becoming educated about what land claims and aboriginal rights really were and are. We found that, despite that prejudice - and I would like to quote again from the report - there was a lot that people in the Yukon had in common at that time, and that was a snapshot, it seems to me, of social values and beliefs during, at least, the summer of 1977. In our report, just to quote again, we stated, We do not suggest that there are no differences between Indians and whites in the Yukon and we realize fully that relations between the two groups must be improved. On this subject, we join with the Yukon Native Brotherhood in deploring the present situation.
In 1973, in an important statement titled Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow, they declared: The picture of the Yukon Indians is not a pretty one. The Yukon Indian people are not a happy people. Both the white man and the Indian are becoming more and more disgusted with each other. The communications gap, the social gap, the economic gap, all these are widening. Both Indian and white are getting nervous because of the lack of understanding and tolerance among both groups.
We went on to say, We see a danger in preoccupation with issues that divide or might divide the people of the Yukon. During the hearings we had much pleasure in finding that there is, among most Yukoners, a consensus on a wide range of subjects, objectives, and values. Because differences have been emphasized so often, it may be worth noting here that some of the subjects on which there is, if not unanimity, at least a high level of agreement. Later, and in reference to the Indian land claim negotiations, we stated: With respect to the Yukon Indian land claim, we should like to emphasize that, contrary to the expectation of some observers, there is no significant element of public opinion in the Yukon that either challenges the validity of this land claim or doubts that it is important and desirable to settle the claim quickly and justly. Everyone understands that the settlement of the Indian land claim will not merely prepare the way for future economic developments that may be financed from southern Canada but that the substantial financial resources and the specified rights that will be placed in the hands of the Indian people will, of themselves, provide a strong and long lasting stimulus to the local economy that cannot fail to be of benefit to everyone living in the Yukon."
That was our finding back in 1977 and at that time we were led to believe that land claims would be settled within 12 months. There were many false starts after that and here we are almost at the end - at least of the negotiating phase. It is interesting that land claims are coming to fruition. At the same time, the First Nations themselves, independent but concurrent with land claims, have really turned the corner. Many of the First Nations communities are now into healing centres, into community-based justice. They are working and are willing to try to rebuild the culture, the society and the values they lost several generations ago.
I want to simply make the point here that land claims, of itself, while it is an important social contract, will not, alone provide the cure. It is, in my view, a very important set of tools with which Indian people can work to build for themselves and their descendants a great future in this part of Canada. I think it is important that we do not sit back and say that land claims, of itself, is the answer. It is important that we assist the communities in moving ahead with the important initiatives they, themselves, have decided to undertake.
This is the course that I know this government will pursue. It is certainly the course I want to see us pursue in the departments of this government of which, at present, I am Minister.
I am sure that, by working together, we all, in the Yukon, will see a great future.
Mr. McDonald: I have listened to others who have spoken many times in the Legislature over the last 11 years on the subject of aboriginal rights and land claims, so I will be relatively brief.
I have seen the agreements come together slowly, only after the leaders in our communities have showed the courage to speak out and lead public opinion. This courage and conviction is a precious and rare quality. For leaders to understand that they were often in the minority, often subjected to the most severe criticism and to hold their ground because they believed in the justice of their position is truly a magnificent moment in Yukon history. I am proud to have known many of these leaders in First Nations, in the communities and in our Legislature.
I would like to express my support for this law at final reading - and the land claims agreements, which I know so well. I, and many others have worked closely with governments, communities and First Nations to resolve the sometimes very complex policy issues. The results usually required imagination, and always required hard work. Overall, the results were ground-breaking and virtually without precedence in the modern era on this earth.
Last summer, I had the opportunity to attend a circumpolar education meeting in northern Norway. It was hosted by the aboriginal people of northern Scandinavia. I had the opportunity to attend the Sami Parliament - the Sami people being the aboriginal people of the area - and listened to the President give an account of their progress in protecting their culture, language and traditions over the last few hundred years, and their attempts to live within a majority culture and keep their identity.
I, in turn, was able to address the Parliament on the subject of the Yukon land claim, particularly respecting the features of the self-government agreement, the land base and natural resource management planning and financing. I can tell you that I was treated with the warmest possible reception by the Sami delegates. After hundreds of years of trying, they had achieved only a small fraction of what we have achieved through this land claim.
I was also treated with some stony and hostile looks from Norwegian and Swedish officials, but the president of the Sami Parliament - which represents the Sami people in the land areas that are now encompassed by Norway, Sweden and Finland - came up to me and said that the Yukon must have some very strong aboriginal leaders. I had to concede to him that he was right.
I am happy to support the bill and the land claims agreements. I look forward to the very hard work associated with land claims implementation and negotiating other final agreements, particularly that of Kwanlin Dun, whose interests will be difficult to protect, but whose interests must be protected.
I would also like to congratulate the hundreds of negotiators, researchers, citizens and community leaders who made this moment possible, and congratulate the legislators of this Assembly for making the act final and committing themselves to the hard work ahead.
Speaker: The Hon. Government Leader will now close debate.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This, indeed, is an historical day. It is an honour and a privilege to rise to speak and to close debate on the third reading of this most important legislation. To say that this day has been a long time in coming would be a tremendous understatement. Twenty years of negotiations have finally resulted in the two bills that we have here before us today.
As I speak here in this Legislature tonight, I can feel the presence of Elijah Smith, of Joe Jacquot, of Johnny Johns, and all those other Yukon elders who are no longer with us, who worked so hard and devoted their lives to achieving a just settlement of the Yukon Indian land claim. This agreement is their legacy, and I know that they are here in spirit, as we speak.
The Yukon First Nations umbrella final agreement and the self-government agreement are road maps to our future. Together they will outline a new cooperative relationship between Yukon First Nations and Yukoners at large on how we will live and work together in mutual respect far, far into the future.
The agreements outline a new social, economic and legal framework that will be enshrined in law and protected by the Canadian Constitution.
I am sure most Yukoners, including First Nation Yukoners, will never read the over-400 pages in the umbrella final agreement.
Even some lawyers and legal experts may be daunted by the task. While the letter of the law is important, it is even more important how Yukoners feel about these agreements.
When the Special Committee on Land Claims and Self-Government toured the territory, Yukoners from all walks of life were able to pose questions about the agreements first hand.
As the Hon. Member for Whitehorse Centre said yesterday, it was refreshing that the Members of this Legislature formed this committee to be able to go around the Yukon, set our philosophical differences aside and work together to help bring back a positive report to this Legislature so that this legislation could be passed. I found that very rewarding. I was able to get to know the Member for Whitehorse Centre and the Member for Riverside much better; it was a very rewarding experience.
The Committee was a noteworthy example of how Members of this House can set aside their partisan differences to work together for the common good of the people. It reminded me that, while we have strong views, opinions and different interpretations of events, we still get along well and we can enjoy each others company.
I would like also to extend a word of thanks to the Legislative Assembly staff for organizing the tour and to the Land Claims Secretariat staff for their technical support.
Approximately 300 Yukoners took time to come out to the hearings. I know that there will be many more questions out there about how these agreements will actually work. There will still be uncertainty in First Nation communities and among the general public on how the settlement is going to work. Uncertainty often breeds fear.
Yukoners must realize that these agreements are living agreements. It will take Yukoners themselves to make them work. The agreements are like a road map to our future. They point in the direction of the future, but they cannot point out every twist and turn in the road or all the pitfalls.
Yukon First Nation citizens and non-native Yukoners must travel this road together. As they do so, they will discover obstacles in the path that will have to be overcome. There is no way that all of these problems can be worked out in advance.
What the agreements will do, as they are interpreted and evolve over the years, is establish a way of working out problems. The drafters of the agreements realized the limitations of legal language and have made provisions for amendment, should the parties agree that change is necessary. So, the agreements are not static, just as life, itself, is not static.
The settlement legislation will allow the Yukon Indian people to finally be able to control their own lives, their lands and their destiny. The Champagne/Aishihik First Nation must be recognized and congratulated for taking the first step in ratification. It was a courageous step, one that showed leadership. The Vuntut Gwichin, the Teslin Tlingit Council and the Na-Cho Nyak Dun Band will not be far behind. Their ratification votes will be held in the near future.
With the passage and assent given to this land claims legislation, the Government of the Yukon will have met its responsibility. I must commend all Members of this House for their dedication to see this process through to the end and for supporting the Yukon Indian land claim legislation.
I feel I would be very remiss this evening if I did not give special recognition to the Leader of the Official Opposition for all his hard work and dedication in his seven and one-half years as Leader of the Yukon government. I would like to ask the Leader of the Official Opposition if he would stand, so that we may pay a special tribute to him.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Many Yukoners may think that the land claim negotiation process has taken a long time, and they are right. However, the next stage, that of implementation will never end. The passage of this historic legislation marks the beginning of a new era for Yukon First Nations and Yukoners. We will be progressing together into the future for their children and our childrens children.
I want to give thanks to the Council for Yukon Indians for their part in making this historic day possible, and will be inviting them all to a special celebration in the foyer of the government administration building on Monday, March 29.
All Members of this House, and the Yukon public at large, are invited to attend this special event. It is truly time to celebrate.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 3 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 3 has passed this House.
I would like to inform this House that we are now prepared to receive the Commissioner in his capacity as Lieutenant Governor to grant assent to the bills passed by this House.
Commissioner enters the Chamber announced by the Sergeant-at-Arms
ASSENT TO BILLS
Speaker: Mr. Commissioner, the Assembly has, at its present session, passed certain bills. In the name of, and on behalf of the Assembly, I respectfully request your assent.
Clerk: An Act Approving Yukon Land Claim Final Agreements, First Nations (Yukon) Self-government Act.
Commissioner: I am extremely pleased and proud to be part of this process and share this historic moment with you today. Many of you have communicated some of your reminiscences of background leading up to this day. On the wall of my office, in a position of honour, is a skin snowshoe, signed by Elijah Smith, certifying me as an honorary chief with the Indian name of Mundissa. This was in recognition of work I had done with him starting some 25 years ago in the original formation of the Yukon Native Brotherhood and the original formulation of a land claim position.
The name Mundissa was also the name given to Elijahs brother, Walter, in the Indian culture, so Elijah and I were brothers. He was a great friend, my mentor and, as many of you have mentioned, I know that he is with us in this House in spirit today.
As a graduate product of this Legislature, another moment I remember so well was when I was chosen in the early 1970s by my colleagues at that time, in this Assembly, to be the first elected Yukon Member to be invited to sit at the land claims negotiating table. None of us there ever envisioned a 20-year period, before this day, and no one in their wildest imagination would have, at that time, bet a plugged nickel that I would be the one to now say that I am most pleased and proud to give assent to the bills as enumerated by the Clerk. Thank you very much, and congratulations to all of you here tonight.
Speaker: I now call the House to order. May I have your further pleasure.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:03 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled March 17, 1993:
Report of the Chief Electoral Officer on Contributions to Candidates, 1992 General Election (Speaker)
Annual report of the Department of Education for the year ended March 31, 1992 (Phillips)