Monday, March 22, 1993 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will begin with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills?
Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Millar: I give notice of motion
THAT this House urges the Implementation Review Committee to recommend realistic placer mining regulations that will promote the development and growth of the placer mining industry while protecting the Yukons fishery resource.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House applauds the Government of the Yukon for signalling its intention to restrict the mandate of the Yukon Development Corporation to ensure that Yukon Energy Corporation profits and Yukon Development Corporation profits are directed at reducing energy rates, developing energy infrastructure and promoting energy conservation and that these corporations will be dealt with in an arms-length fashion.
Mr. Abel: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should support the development of a portable sawmill for the Vuntut Gwichin riding.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should support the development of the Windy Craggy project and the mineral potential of the Alexander Terrane not encompassed by the national parks on the understanding that this area can be developed in an environmentally sound manner.
Mr. Millar: I would like to give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Top of the World Highway should be upgraded and
THAT the Government of Yukon consider upgrading the existing ferry service and should investigate the feasibility of building a bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson City in order to promote tourism and economic development in the region.
I would also like to give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Alaska State Government to fast-track its portion of construction and road improvements on the U.S. side of the Top of the World Highway in order to better accommodate the tourism industry for both the Yukon and Alaska.
Speaker: Statements by Ministers.
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Conflict of interest, Minister responsible for YEC
Mr. Penikett: My question is directed to the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation, who will be giving his sawmill speech for the eighteenth and nineteenth time, no doubt, on Wednesday.
My question arises from the recent conflict-of-interest issue involving the Minister and his ownership of shares in a company competing with the Yukon Energy Corporation.
I would like to ask the Minister if he can give his assurance that the assets of the Yukon Energy Corporation will not be offered for sale either to Canadian Utilities, Alberta Power or the old family firm, Yukon Electrical Company.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I can assure the hon. Member that there were no dealings with the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd., Alberta Power or Canadian Utilities during the time that I was Minister and had 200 shares of Canadian Utilities.
With respect to the issue of whether or not in the future there might be some asset rationalization between the corporations - that is to say, in particular between Yukon Energy Corporation and YECL - there is nothing planned at this time.
I am aware, from briefings, that there is an issue and has been an outstanding issue since Northern Canada Power Commission was taken over by Yukon Energy Corporation; it has to do with rationalizing the wholesale and the retail businesses.
Speaker: Order please. I would ask the Minister to conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I can tell the House that this issue has not been addressed at all, yet. I am aware that it is an outstanding issue and it may be something that this government may look at in the future.
Mr. Penikett: As the Minister knows, for decades people of all political persuasions have fought to bring Northern Canada Power Commission under local and public control. Given the confusion created last week about the governments intention with respect to the Yukon Development Corporation and the use of the words eradication and restructuring - and now a new one, rationalization - I would like to ask the Minister this precise question: can the Minister give the House assurance that the hydro assets of Yukon Energy Corporation will remain in the public sector and will not be privatized to any of the private companies mentioned in my first question or, for that matter, to anyone else?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I take from the Members question that he is speaking about the manufacturing of electricity - those kinds of assets - and I can give him that assurance.
Mr. Penikett: I hope that assurance will not be corrected tomorrow when we are talking about rationalization or restructuring. I would like to ask the Minister one final question on this subject. It is a question to which I have given notice, and which he may wish to take as notice himself. Since the Minister has conceded that he may have been in a position of potential conflict of interest for some time now, will he provide this House with a list of all Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation decisions in which he was involved in this period?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I certainly will be prepared to do that. I suspect there is some confusion on that side. Today, he talked about us speaking about the eradication of the Yukon Energy Corporation and, earlier in Question Period, he talked about the disposal, or elimination. Elimination was the word used. It was used in a sense that was correct under the circumstances: the Yukon Development Corporation was to be eliminated as we presently know it. That position was clear from comments made earlier by this Minister. I just want to ensure that the side opposite takes the care that this side does when it is attempting to communicate its understanding, hazy though it may be, of government policy.
Question re: Economic strategy
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Member who just spoke for restructuring his leaders answer of last week.
I would like to direct a question to the Minister of Economic Development about Yukons economic strategy. In December, the government released its document, Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century. Can the Minister tell the House whether this document has now replaced the Yukon Economic Strategy as Yukon government economic policy?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I would not go so far as to say it is replacing it, but we are looking at the Yukon Economic Strategy to review it. After that, some changes may be made to it. I could not comment any further on that at this point.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Minister for his answer, I think.
The Yukon Economic Strategy represented a consensus developed over a two-year period with thousands of Yukoners participating in the question about our future economic direction. As the Member knows, it came to the House in the form of a resolution and, subsequently, passed into law by way of the Economic Development Act. All parties voted for it.
Can the Minister state who was consulted by the new government when they decided to develop their own strategy to supersede the Yukon Economic Strategy, and can he tell us when the government made the decision to review and indicate with whom they are going to consult as they do the review, since he has previously conceded that the government strategy was only the product of consultation with one party: the Yukon Party?
Hon. Mr. Devries: First, I would like to say that I never said that only one group was consulted; there were many groups.
Any review of the economic strategy is not very preliminary. The 21st century self-sufficiency strategy fits very well into the parameters of this strategy. There may be a few changes that have to be made, but they will be very few. There will be consultations with the public on anything that is changed.
Mr. Penikett: The Yukon Economic Strategy commits this government and the territory to a goal of sustainable development. The self-sufficiency strategy of the Yukon Party contains 31 major potential projects, 25 of which are not renewable and probably cannot be described as sustainable.
Can I ask the Minister if this government is still committed to a strategy of sustainable development?
Hon. Mr. Devries: This government is indeed committed to a strategy of sustainable development.
Question re: Access to information
Mr. Cable: I have a question for the Minister of Justice relating to access to information. Last year, the Minister, when in Opposition, tabled a motion in this House setting out that the present Access to Information Act was inadequate and should be amended. Subsequently, the House dealt with the Public Government Act, which substantially amended the Access to Information Act legislation. Did that portion of the Public Government Act, relating to access to information, deal with what the Minister then thought were the inadequacies with the present legislation?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Certainly, this Member was rather incensed with the way in which the current Access to Information Act was being implemented by the former administration of this government. I made that feeling fairly clear in my communications to the press and to others in this House. I certainly am looking forward to seeing a new Access to Information Act come forward.
Mr. Cable: In view of the fact that the Minister voted in favour of the Public Government Act, and the then-interim leader of the Yukon Party appears to have been supportive of the access-to-information provisions, is the Minister prepared to recommend to his colleagues that the access-to-information provisions in the Public Government Act be proclaimed into force?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I certainly am on record as supporting the principles behind the legislation pertaining to access to information. Indeed, I was fairly pleased because I even had communications from the then-Government Leader with respect to the principles I would like to see embodied in such legislation. I certainly intend to lobby, as the independent Member of this side of this very happy group, to have those principles that I have supported in the past, and talked about at some length, embodied in new legislation that deals with access to information.
Mr. Cable: I will take that as a yes and a no and a maybe. Has the Minister determined the approximate cost of appointing and setting up the information and privacy commission referred to in the Public Government Act.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The problems - and there are many - with the Public Government Act have to do with just how cumbersome certain aspects of the act are, and whether or not some of the principles in some areas are really appropriate for introduction into the Yukon situation.
We, on this side, feel that the principles spoken about in the access to information should be enshrined in appropriate law. We intend to move ahead to ensure that those principles are enshrined in a manner that is in keeping with the nature of this jurisdiction. That is to say, we are not simply going to go out, holus-bolus, and try to adopt something that is being introduced in other provinces.
Question re: Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century
Mr. McDonald: I would like to return briefly to the document entitled Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century, a short seven years away.
I am particularly intrigued with the recommendation contained in the report respecting the extension of the railway to Carmacks. Can the Minister of Economic Development indicate to us when this project will begin, who will pay for it, and how much it might cost?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I would like to thank the Member for his question. Basically, that was put in there as one of many various ventures that we should be looking at. There is no plan in place at all, at this point, to extend the railroad anywhere.
Mr. McDonald: I am puzzled to hear that. I understand that the document Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century was delivered to the Deputy Prime Minister of this country as a prescription for economic self-sufficiency in seven short years.
Can the Minister indicate to us why he would show a document of that nature to a the Deputy Prime Minister of the country when there is no real commitment to carry out this particular provision?
Hon. Mr. Devries: There were several different scenarios in there. One of them was a railroad, and one of them was to upgrade the highways so trucks could be used, or whatever, to haul the concentrate. The Deputy Prime Minister is very aware that these were several different ideas that were being put forward to him. Which one you went with would be dependent on the viability assessment of the project, as well as the finances available to pursue it.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister seems to be presenting the document, Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century, as a loose jumble of ideas that may or may not be important features of a self-sufficient Yukon in seven years.
Are there other elements of the document that can be characterized as a loose jumble of ideas, or ideas to which they really show no commitment at all?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I disagree with the Member on his comments. There is a vision of potential development for the Yukon, and this will be dependent upon which private sector ventures show promise toward the end of this year and next year. Much of what will happen will be dependent on that; as well, some of the decisions they make will be dependent on the government being able to put some of this infrastructure into place.
Question re: Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century
Mr. McDonald: I have another question on the same subject. The Minister characterized this document as showing vision, but he has indicated that his government has no particular commitment to the significant particulars of this document, and in fact, characterizes the document as being a loose idea that may have been dreamed up by some Yukon Party supporters, but for which there is no sense that it is realistic in our lifetime.
Does the Minister not feel that the credibility of his government with the federal government and with the Deputy Prime Minister may be in jeopardy as a result of presenting multi-million dollar ideas to the federal government, to only find out now that these ideas have no currency in Yukon Party thinking with respect to the ultimate self-sufficiency of this territory?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, I have to say that I disagree with the Member opposite; I cannot help it if they never had a vision for anything. This side has a vision and we are working toward making this vision happen.
Very little happened in the last few years. I feel that we are headed in the right direction, and if we do not put these ideas forward to federal Ministers and get an indication from them which ones they are willing to assist us with, then we may as well leave here, go home and go to bed because we are not going to get anywhere.
Mr. McDonald: I do not think desiring to promote economic self-sufficiency and desiring to go home and throw in the towel all depend on whether or not this particular document that we have in front of us is going to be carried out.
I would like to ask the Minister about another feature of this document: the feature that talks about the Canada Shipping Act, and the desire to encourage more competition for Canadian goods through the Skagway port. Does the Minister intend to encourage some competition for cargo handling and storage facilities at the Skagway port?
Hon. Mr. Devries: It would not necessarily pertain to only Skagway. The Canada Shipping Act also pertains to the Haines, Alaska port and we would like to see competition at any port. It is to the benefit of Yukoners to have this competition happening.
Mr. McDonald: I cannot tell you how astounded I am to hear that answer, but how happy I am to hear the answer, based on what we had been debating in the last session.
The document is entitled Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century. Is it the Ministers view that if these recommendations, with the exclusion of at least the railway to Carmacks, were carried out in the next seven years, that we would be self-sufficient as a territory?
Hon. Mr. Devries: As the Minister knows, you have to have a vision. You have to have a goal to reach for and I do not think that it is an unrealistic goal that somewhere in the 21st century we can become self-sufficient.
It is not going to happen overnight and we have to start somewhere. If you do not start somewhere you are not going to get anywhere, and because the Members opposite made that mistake in the past, it does not mean that we are going to make the same mistake.
Question re: Curragh Inc., financial assistance
Mr. Harding: Accompanying any vision, there should be some semblance of a clue of how to get to the place the vision suggests it is going.
I would like to move on to another area. The government has now announced that they will no longer be discussing their Curragh conditions on the floor of the Legislature; yet, they have made public statements in Watson Lake that the first charge on security is not negotiable and they have also taken out full page media ads and have done phone-in shows to further politicize the conditions.
Given the potential risk to the taxpayers of the Yukon and the decisions impact on the economy, why has the government now decided to reverse direction and discuss conditions in secret?
Hon. Mr. Devries: As the Member very well knows, that decision was at the request of Curragh and, as far as making the public aware of the basic guts of the 14 conditions is concerned, I think the public should be made very aware of where, potentially, $34 million of their tax money could be going.
Mr. Harding: It is interesting to see the government bending to each and every request that Curragh makes of them with regard to these conditions. I find that quite a surprise as a result of what they have done in the past.
The impact on the economy that this decision on the loan guarantees will bring about will be tremendous. How is it possible that the government has seen to not involve top government officials or even elected representatives directly at the negotiating table regarding these loan guarantee conditions when the discussions entail an effect of such a magnitude on the economy of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I find it a very interesting question coming from someone with a commerce degree - I should have thought he would have known the answer to the question. As the Member very well knows, we have very limited expertise within government on these matters and we have consultants to do such things. They will come to us with recommendations and we have the personnel to make the decisions on those recommendations and what they are based on.
Mr. Harding: Certainly, the people of the Yukon and the Members of this House are becoming well-acquainted with the limited expertise on the other side of the House -
Speaker: Order. Order please. I would like to remind both the Member and the Minister that a question ought to seek information and not be argumentative, and an answer should be as brief as possible and relevant to the question. I think what is happening here is that we are getting into an argument rather than a question and answer. I am not passing judgment on who started it; I would ask the Member to get to his final supplementary.
Mr. Harding: I will try this again. Now that the government has announced that there will be no further discussion of the negotiations with either elected representatives or the public, will the government please tell us if they intend to continue their policy of discussing their decision with the inner circle of Yukon Party supporters, as they did with the original publicly released conditions and the Taga Ku project?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I would never say that Yukon Party supporters are not the public. I will not be discussing it with them either.
Basically, this decision will be made by Cabinet at some point. We feel that it is an important decision. It is important to the Yukon, particularly Faro and Watson Lake. We are giving it our best shot.
Question re: Court reporting contract
Ms. Joe: I have a question for the Minister of Justice or the Minister of Government Services. Most of us here are familiar with the court reporting and recording contract being awarded to an outside company. This causes a great deal of concern among those affected due to the loss of jobs for the people presently providing that service. I understand that this is not the only local company affected by this change to contract jobs outside the Yukon.
Can the Minister tell this House whether or not it has a new local-hire policy?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, there is no new policy on that.
Ms. Joe: It appears that this government, by its actions on local hire, is partially responsible for the rise in the unemployment rate in the Yukon with its actions of awarding contracts to outside firms. I would like to know what this government is doing to assure Yukon people that their jobs will be retained, and that their jobs will continue, rather than having to give up their jobs to outside firms.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would like to be able to give a short answer, but it might take me all afternoon to fully answer that question.
This government, wherever possible, hires locally and awards contracts locally. However, there are limitations on the ability of the government to do that. In the situation the Member is referring to, great care was taken to have a good evaluation of each of the tenders. I am convinced from my investigations that it was done in an open and objective manner and that due attention was given to the issue of local hire.
Ms. Joe: I am getting a lot of concerns registered to me by the people who will be losing employment as a result of this outside hiring and contracting. One of the biggest concerns is not just that these people may have to pack their bags and leave the Yukon, but also that, due to the manner in which the service will be provided, there will be a poorer quality of service in the courtrooms.
Can the Minister tell us if this is a done deal and that these people can now pack their bags and leave?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The issue of quality of service is one that was certainly examined very carefully by the officials, in consultation with a number of stakeholders in the system. It certainly was not an issue that was taken lightly by any of those people who, independently of each other, applied the criterion and evaluated the bids. With respect to whether or not the tender has been awarded, I can only tell the hon. Member that the contract has not yet been signed between the number one ranking company that tendered and the department.
Question re: Contract policy, restructuring
Mrs. Firth: I think there is a script that is written for Ministers. If I close my eyes, I have heard the same words from when these Members were over there. I am finding it quite astonishing.
I would like to ask the Minister responsible for Government Services a question. The Auditor General was very critical in his report on any other matter about weaknesses in the governments operating practices, particularly regarding preferential treatment for former government employees, contracting without the proper tendering, and some departments just not following the rules. The Government Leader has commented publicly about this report and said that they were going to use it in planned restructuring of the Government Services department. I would like to ask the Minister if he can tell us, either exactly, clearly or specifically, what planned restructuring is in this case?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I do not have the report at my fingertips, although I have reviewed it quite comprehensively. There are several things pertaining to contract regulations that we are looking at: the overall philosophy in building management, the philosophy in contract administration when it comes to buildings, the building philosophy itself; there is just no end to it. I could not just stand here and answer it all at once.
Mrs. Firth: I think the Minister could have; he just could have said no. I like to keep track of buzzwords, or the art of not saying what you mean. When I read a translation of what restructured means, it generally means a whole bunch of you lay-abouts better watch it; some of you are going to be trashed. I want to ask the Minister, seriously, exactly what policy direction is being given, and what restructuring is going to go on in the Department of Government Services.
Hon. Mr. Devries: Some of the instructions I give to my department are to try to avoid the confrontational approach when it comes to management of construction projects. Under the previous administration, there were problems in this respect. There are various things being discussed that will be brought up during budget debate, which I cannot talk about right now. That is basically all I can answer to one question under your rules, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: They are our rules, Mr. Minister.
Mrs. Firth: Essentially, the Minister is saying that he is just telling the department to be nicer guys when they break the rules, or when someone is given preferential treatment with a contract, or if they are not following proper tendering procedures.
Will the Minister bring back to the House a detailed, specific policy direction that department has been given, in light of all the criticism they have received and the governments announcement that it is going to be restructured? I would like that ASAP because, if it is being done, it must be written down somewhere, unless someone is just making it up.
Hon. Mr. Devries: Yes, I will do that. I would like to comment on her preamble: as long as this Minister is there, there will be no preferential dealings.
Question re: Social housing
Ms. Moorcroft: Back in December, the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation suggested a possible compromise between the city and the Gateway Housing proponents in Riverdale. If this project dies, does the Minister have an alternative site or project, so the desperate housing needs of some Yukoners can be met? Can the Minister state to the House if progress is being made on finding either a solution or a replacement project?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We were able to negotiate with the federal government to actually have the funds for the Gateway project proposed for a revote in the 1993-94 budget. There will be a project in 1993-94. Whether it is the Gateway project, or some other one, I am not sure, because Gateway and the City of Whitehorse are currently before the courts.
Ms. Moorcroft: A large number of jobs and economic activity would be provided by this project, as well as the needs of people for social housing being met. Can the Minister specify how they are going to secure this funding for the next fiscal year, or will they have some sort of substitute planning from Ottawa so that these project jobs and housing units will not be lost?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe that I have already answered that. We have assurance from the federal Minister responsible for social housing that the funds for the Gateway project will be revoted in the 1993 fiscal year.
Whitehorse General Hospital, local control
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister of Health and Social Services has said that a local board could be running the Whitehorse General Hospital by April 1, 1993. Will this deadline be met? If not, why not?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The issue of hospital transfer really depends on what happens in the next week or two. It turns on the submission being approved by Treasury Board so that the funding goes into place, and so on. That is really the big event that we are working toward. Once the Treasury Board approval is signed we can make certain commitments. Until it is, it is difficult for us to do so.
With respect to the hospital board, we are working toward being in a position to appoint members in accordance with the various agreements that pertain to those appointments.
Ms. Moorcroft: Within the transfer agreement of the hospital board, the Council for Yukon Indians is guaranteed three appointments and consultation on the remaining appointments. Has the government met its obligation to consult with CYI and other groups on these appointments, and will the Minister describe to this House what consultation has taken place in order to achieve a representative board?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am aware that the side opposite has a mole who works for at least one First Nation and probably phones regularly on issues about land claims - perhaps to the detriment of the CYI and the First Nations, but that is a different issue.
Speaker: I would ask the Minister to keep answers relevant to the question.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Despite the fact that the mole is responsible for negotiating the terms that Ms. Moorcroft refers to in her erroneous premise, with respect to consultation, that mole ought to know better. The provision for consultation extends to the three whom they appoint and the two public people who are appointed by the government.
Ms. Moorcroft: Whitehorse General Hospital has a tradition of providing abortion services to women who choose to terminate a pregnancy. In selecting the hospitals board, will consideration of this tradition be upheld, and will the Minister assure this House that a womans right to choose will be guaranteed?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In answering that question, let me make it very clear that, to the best of our ability, we are going to stay away from making appointments of people who have a political axe to grind in fields such as the issue of right to life, abortion, womens rights, and so on - those sensitive areas. This Minister supports the right of women to choose, and I will be bearing that in mind with respect to what input I have into the process.
Question re: Land claim legislation through Parliament
Mr. Cable: I have a question for the Government Leader: last Wednesday night we passed the historic land claim legislation, and we all indicated that we would be contacting people on the federal scene who we felt would have some sway over when the bills would be moved through the federal Parliament. Has the Government Leader had an opportunity to speak with either the Prime Minister or the Minister, Mr. Siddon, advising them of the passage of the bills and urging them to move the process through the federal Parliament?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, and I thank the Member opposite for the question. The motions will be forwarded to the Minister of Indian Affairs in Ottawa; I will be speaking to him shortly and I will be impressing our concerns upon him. Up to this point, I have not yet been in touch with him, but I fully intend to do so.
Mr. Cable: As soon as the Minister or the Prime Minister has informed the Government Leader as to what is going to happen, will the Government Leader undertake to inform this House as to the status of the passage of the bills?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have no difficulty in doing that. I just want to reiterate for the Member opposite that, in the speeches on Wednesday night and in discussions in this House, I talked several times about the meeting Mr. Siddon, Ms. Gingell and I had in Vancouver several weeks ago, where each of us again stated our full commitment to seeing that land claims legislation be passed before a federal election is called.
Speaker: Time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Government Bills.
Bill No. 4: Second Reading
Clerk: Second Reading, Bill No. 4, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Ostashek.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 4, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1992-93, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 4, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1992-93, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I rise today to speak on second reading of this bill. This bill appropriates additional monies for the 1992-93 fiscal year.
The year-end expenditures are based on projections done as of November 30, 1992. Additional expenditure authority of $37.4 million is sought for the current fiscal year.
These additional expenditures, when combined with a small downward change in our overall income, result in an increase of $38.6 million in our annual deficit.
This increase, when added to the annual deficit projected in the main estimates for the current year, brings the projected deficit for the 1992-93 year to a staggering $57.9 million.
The Government of Yukon began 1992-93 with an unconsolidated, accumulated surplus of $50.8 million. The projected annual deficit that I have just spoken of will throw us into a accumulated deficit position of approximately $7 million.
I should note that this is somewhat more pessimistic than the $5.7 million, March 31, 1993, accumulated deficit projected by Consulting and Audit Canada in their financial review that we had done upon taking office.
The current supplementary is based upon more up-to-date information that was the result of a formal period 8 variance report exercise completed by government departments.
While there has been some question about the accuracy of the Consulting and Audit Canada report, I would hope this supplementary puts that to rest.
It should be pointed out that a draft supplementary prepared by the previous government, based on projections made as of July 31, 1992 - for example, period 4 - showed an accumulated deficit on March 31, 1993, of $10.2 million.
Even under the best possible circumstances, we have, in the past two years, spent $50 million to $55 million more than we took in. It must be apparent to everyone that this simply cannot continue to occur.
The supplementary I have just tabled, I believe, would have been even larger if it had not been for the expenditure control actions we undertook upon assuming office.
As Members of this House know, we have instituted measures to bring outside travel, hiring and discretionary expenditures under control. While it is difficult to quantify the dollar impact these measures have had, we do know that the number of employees hired has decreased from 107 in January, 1992, to 54 in January of 1993. That is a 50-percent decrease, worth in the neighbourhood of $200,000 a month.
In the period November 1, 1991, to January 31, 1992, a total of 1,401 purchase requests were processed by our purchasing branch. For the same three-month period from November 1, 1992, to January 31, 1993, there were only 955 purchase requests processed, for a 32-percent decrease. Similarly, airline bookings have dropped by 45 percent.
We will continue to seek efficiencies in these expenditure categories, as well as elsewhere, to ensure that we do not spend public monies needlessly and that those monies that are spent are spent in the most cost-effective manner possible.
The previous government had approved and committed, through its Management Board, approximately $36 million in additional expenditures for inclusion in the first supplementary it was going to table for the 1992-93 fiscal year. In addition, it was fully aware of a number of other expenditures for which supplementary funding would be required, but for which no formal approval had been given. Social assistance costs were one of these items.
It is apparent that the bulk of the current supplementary was already committed by the time we took office, although we have been able to achieve some savings through stringent expenditure management.
The largest single item for which funding is sought is a revote of lapsed 1991-92 capital monies. This item accounts for some $13 million and is distributed among seven or eight different departments.
The next most significant item is the Department of Community and Transportation Services, where the devolution of the Alaska Highway requires an additional $13.5 million in capital spending to be approved. This item has no impact on our surplus or deficit position, since it is accompanied by an increased federal transfer payment funding, or by recoveries.
The Department of Health and Social Services requires almost $14 million in supplementary O&M funding. This is a 21-percent increase over the funding projected in the main estimates tabled only one year ago. It is probably fair to say that some expenditure categories in this department are out of control. We must get a handle on these expenditures, which have been left to run loose, or accept the fact of exponential increases for health care and social service at the exclusion of programming for education, economic development, roads and all other essential activities carried on by government.
The Department of Education is requesting an additional $3.9 million for operation and maintenance purposes. These monies are largely necessitated by the additional teachers that were required to meet our expanding student population.
A number of other departments require additional money, and a number are lapsing monies, the details of which are best left to general debate on this bill.
Members will note that the loan capital vote has increased by $5 million. This represents the monies previously loaned to Curragh Resources. It has no impact on our surplus or deficit, because the loan is carried as an asset on our books.
It should also be noted that the loan interest vote requires an additional $155,000. This represents projected interest we will pay this year on our line of credit with our bank. This past February was the first time the Yukon government has ever had to borrow money to finance day-to-day operations. This results from a decline of our accumulated surplus and cash balances.
Our revenues have declined some $9.5 million from those projected in the main estimates. Income taxes are down, based on most current estimates we have received from the federal government. These estimates are subject to modification and may reflect the economic situation in the rest of the country, rather than the Yukon.
Investment income has also declined significantly as rates continue to drop beyond expectations and our cash reserves disappear. The Liquor Corporation net income has declined due to capital investments being undertaken by the corporation.
Transfer payments from the Government of Canada have increased substantially. This increase is partly due to the decline in the other revenues mentioned above, since the workings of the fail-safe provisions of the formula financing arrangements pushed the transfer payment up, when our own-source revenues declined. The increase is also due to the devolution of responsibility for the Alaska Highway, whereby we received new monies in our formula base, where the capital funds are transferred to us by the federal government, and where the operation and maintenance funds previously shown as recoveries are now part of the transfer payment.
This fact also largely accounts for the decrease shown in the recoveries. Unfortunately, the increase in transfer payments is far less than the sum of the items mentioned above. This has occurred because of growth in our formula financing base is capped by the rate of increase in the Canadian gross domestic product, and the past dismal performance of the Canadian and world economies has kept the rate of increase lower than could have reasonably been expected.
The Canadian economy now seems to be improving measurably and we would hope for a larger rate of growth in our transfer payment next year. We should also receive a favourable adjustment of at least $14 million in our transfer payment in 1993-94, as a result of the final census figures and their adjustments for under counts made to those figures.
These are two bright spots in an otherwise tight financial picture. I do not propose to go any further into detail at this time, since we will have the opportunity to discuss these matters at some length in Committee debate, where I am certain Members will have many questions.
Mr. McDonald: To address the Government Leaders final point first, it is quite true that the Opposition Members will be levelling many questions to Ministers, particularly to the Finance Minister, with respect to the projections shown in the summary information in the budget. Before I get down to any thorough discussion of some of the figures in the estimates, I should provide some contextual comments in order that Members might become aware of the kind of thinking that has gone through my mind in the last few months and my assessment of the governments performance with respect to financial management, financial forecasting, budget management and budget development.
We heard today a slightly different perspective from the one that has been levelled in the past with respect to who should take responsibility for the budget. We have heard a slightly different variation on the reasons why the government is interested in painting an overly pessimistic picture of the governments finances and the fortunes of the territorial economy. Today we have seen that the latest gambit is that the budget was really preapproved prior to the election and prior to any supplementary being developed - preapproved by the previous NDP administration - so therefore we should just simply ignore the major debate and focus on the details.
I cannot do that because, in all consciousness - in all conscience, rather, although consciousness sounds like some Members in this House - it would be misleading and inappropriate for me to state that the NDP administration and the government Ministers had agreed through Management Board to approve the kinds of expenditures that the Government Leader is saying are now the fundamentals of this particular supplementary.
The NDP did not approve a supplementary. The NDP committed itself to revotes of capital projects previously approved in prior years so that those revotes might continue; but the Management Board of the NDP government did not approve the expenditures - certainly not the kind of expenditures - that the Government Leader has tabled before the Legislature this afternoon.
I would like to say as well that, had the NDP been in government, to paint such a pessimistic picture and to try their best to be the purveyors of doom and gloom, as the Government Leader seems to be doing, is not something I would have personally agreed to as a Member of that Cabinet.
Now the Government Leader has admitted in a very roundabout way that perhaps the financial forecasting of last November and December was not as accurate as they originally wanted to paint it, but no need to fear, the bottom line is still the same: it is still a projected $57 million deficit.
Even though there were glaring errors in the financial forecasting that was done last November, and given the fact that it has only been the most tardy and reluctant admission to that fact, we should now rise above our concerns about the integrity of the financial forecasting done in the past and simply believe them a few months later. As I will explain in some detail, I think to now give the government the benefit of the doubt, after their previous attempts at financial forecasting, would be as irresponsible as for us to have faith in their budget projections at this point.
It is impossible to analyze any budget outside the context of the economy in which the government operates. I would like to make a few remarks about that, because I think it is an important feature of any budget debate.
Typically, debates have a tendency to be inward-looking, focusing on what governments do and what programs they manage without considering in the full light of day what happens within the community in which we live and are sworn to serve.
On October 19, we not only saw the transfer of government, we also saw the beginning of a recession. It was a recession that was largely engineered by the comments of the Members opposite and before long, after hearing about Taga Ku and about the reluctance to deal with the hospital transfer, and after seeing the potential for some serious concerns at Curragh, we saw a cloak of doom slowly spread over the territory. We saw government Ministers as prophets of gloom go on and on about how difficult it was to make the kinds of choices that they needed to make to fulfill their election promises.
In the intervening period we have seen unemployment rise from approximately 8.5 percent last November and December, to approximately just over 14 percent this month. We have gone from three points below the national average a few months ago to three points above the national average this month.
We have seen what the government opposite characterizes as economic leadership being punctuated by glaring and truly unfortunate missed opportunities, such as Taga Ku and hospital construction. We have seen what amounts to a shocking fumbling and bumbling of the Curragh Mine recovery negotiations.
What we have is an unemployment rate that has risen dramatically, social assistance costs that have risen dramatically and income tax revenue that is significantly down.
The double-barrelled message to investors outside the territory is, as I am sure the Members opposite would characterize it, that we are open for business and welcome them to the recession.
Aside from the doom-and-gloom talk, we have also heard on a number of occasions - when things get a little tough - that the federal government can step in and do this and that in order to salvage what might otherwise be characterized as a faltering economy. This is in considerable variance with remarks that have been made in the past about a desire for us to be more self-sufficient.
We have seen all the pomp and circumstance around the federal governments proposal to spend an extra $10 million. This is supposed to breed more economic self-sufficiency - getting more money from the federal government. We have seen a preponderant dependency on a request for the re-introduction of flow-through shares, as a tax expenditure, of course, which would be a further demonstration of our dependency on the federal government. When times really get tough, we are reminded that mining, in particular, is a federal responsibility, as are environmental regulations, and that they should get down to business and help out.
The only thing that is different from the previous administration is that we have in front of us is a document, entitled Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century. It is a document to which, as we have come to understand today, the Yukon Party Ministers or the Independent are not necessarily particularly wedded. This document is basically a list of megaprojects being paraded before federal Ministers on the assumption that they will really be intrigued by this new approach to economic self-sufficiency, coming from Yukon government Ministers, and that they will invest a lot more in the territory so that, ironically, we can become more self-sufficient.
I recall that when we used to invest large amounts of money into the capital program, we used to get criticized regularly by Yukon Party Members opposite, because that was a reflection of our admission of our dependency on the federal government - that we had to spend federal money in order to do this.
All we have heard from the Members opposite is the requirement that we get more from the federal government and that, through general infrastructure development, we undertake a few dozen megaprojects, which, we learned incidentally from the Yukon Economic Strategy discussions were examples of high leakage in the economy. The expenditures made were typically short term, and the Yukon public generally ended up with some crumbs.
The cruelest irony in that list of megaprojects is that there was a call for a convention centre, which the government had in their hands and let slip through their fingers for a variety of political reasons, I am sure.
While I would like to get involved in a discussion about mining more thoroughly, and I was going to take up some of todays time to discuss mining and mining program support, I think I am going to have an opportunity, come Wednesday, to discuss this matter, if the private Members on the government side are permitted the opportunity to move a couple of their blockbuster motions. It will give us all an opportunity to explore support for mining and what is smoke, what is mirrors, and what is real.
I will save my remarks for Wednesday.
I would like to turn briefly to the governments fiscal position and their stance since coming to office. As I mentioned in December, the moment these folks in the Yukon Party came to office on October 19, they almost immediately started complaining that they had to make some tough choices, had to admit that their stated way of finding money during the election campaign - which was simply not to do the bad things, and only do the good things, or some sort of arrangement like that - was probably gobbledegook and, consequently, was not a surefire method of freeing up available funds to meet election promises.
They realized very early on that there was not money for everything, so even before there was ever any analysis of the governments financial picture, we were treated to stories of how there was not enough money, and it was consequently the NDPs fault. Rather than doing the professional and mature thing, they started scapegoating virtually from the very beginning.
To contribute to this image of a tight fiscal position they wanted to create, they initiated what they called a hiring and travel freeze, both of which thawed out very quickly, and they undertook to create an environment where people in this territory would feel that, not only was the money tight, and the situation bleak, but they could not expect anything from the government, and their expectations had to be purely collapsed, and the fault for this new government policy was that of the NDP.
When it became obvious that they required some more justification for saying that there is no money, rather than simply saying so, they asked for a financial review. I will briefly touch on the financial review as I have a lot more to say about that in the supplementary estimates general debate.
As a forecast, upon investigation, the forecast of required expenditures has been misleading. As a snapshot of where we sit financially, the review was dishonest. As a political document it was transparent.
We have discovered, since our initial review of the financial forecast, which was supposed to be the first justification for financial doom-and-gloom message, that the forecast itself was a terribly flawed document. We discovered that there was double counting of the expenditures, amounting to millions of dollars. The executive summaries of that document bore no relationship to the body of the document itself. There was virtually no information respecting the financial recoveries and the revenue side of the picture.
Speaker: Order please. I hope that the Member is not leading into accusing another Member of uttering a deliberate falsehood or being dishonest.
Mr. McDonald: On that point, every time you raise the subject it is reported that I am intentionally doing something, so when I recant, only to follow the rules of the House, it is reported that I have taken back any accusations that I have delivered. I do not claim to have made any accusations of that sort.
What I have claimed to do is to indicate that the information that has been put forward is dishonest. I truly do believe that to be the case.
Speaker: I was simply cautioning the Member as to his direction; I was not aware of it. I understand that the Member is aware of the Standing Order and will respect it.
Mr. McDonald: I will not be overtly accusing people of dishonesty but I will accuse this document of being dishonest. I feel obligated and duty-bound to say so as I think it is the responsible thing to do.
The fact that over the last number of years the Yukon government has under spent its budget by an average of $18 million has been withheld from any public documentation that the Members on the government side use to explain their financial position. There is no explanation for any adjustment to the population growth, which, under formula financing, could give the government between $7 million to $15 million.
The financial review, that the government has at times treated as an audit, is clearly not an audit.
Obviously an annual audit done by the government takes months to prepare. This review took, probably, a total of a couple of weeks to prepare. Departments had only a few days to pull together information, and then no opportunity to check that information once it was submitted to the people who were to collate and digest the information. This separates the governments financial forecast quite remarkably, from that of a normal audit or supplementary budget review.
The review contains, in its particulars, many items which amount to wish lists from departments. As experienced Ministers, we can identify those immediately. The Ministers on the Yukon Party side simply bought the message from the departments hook, line and sinker, and effectively cried, Foul when they found out that they would ultimately have to take these budget requests into the Legislature.
The financial review had some important controls, which were built into the actual supplementary budget process, but which were missing in the development of the financial figures.
There were items contained in the financial review that were misleading. For example, the review cited that there were stay-in-school initiatives in the Department of Education that would cost the Yukon government $600,000 and failed to mention that these items were recoverable from the federal government.
There were requests for money which were, in many respects, mistakes. They have asked for money for buildings that are not open, in the millions of dollars. They have indicated that, in one particular department in reference to the health investment fund, the review claimed that there was a $500,000 expenditure in 1991, when only $66,000 was spent. This sounds like only a minor difference of $434,000, but there are many examples where these small amounts of $200 to $400 - and in one case, $8 million in the Executive Summary Review where the wages and benefits in the Department of Education had been double counted - all together add up to two things: first of all, that the numbers are not trustworthy and secondly that the forecasting is not trustworthy. We must take these flaws into account when we assess the reliability of not only this forecast, but of the governments forecasting - period. It was interesting to note that in the past couple of months, even though the government has quite rightly tried to distance themselves in a backhanded sort of way from the financial forecast, they still have insisted on clinging to the figure of $57 million as a projected deficit.
It must have been that they have been told that to change the final figure for a particular deficit would confuse the public. Clearly, when one analyzes the budget here and considers the basic rules of budgeting, one would have to conclude that the financial forecasts now are every bit as untrustworthy as the financial forecast was in the first attempt at determining what available funds there were.
What the government has now done in tabling the supplementary is to announce that the financial problems we face are now, as they characterize it, under control. They have indicated that there is now no longer a travel and hiring freeze. In their words, they have caught it just in time, and we have now all been saved by the fiscal responsibility of the Yukon Party.
After seven years of budgeting and six years of Auditor Generals reports, we are now expected to believe that the Yukon Party, through a travel and hiring freeze, has managed to get the governments budgets under control and put us all back on the right track. The hiring freeze is an interesting example of double talk. We only heard a couple of months ago, from a leak in the Public Service Commission, that the employment in government had risen in the first three months of the governments term of office. We also heard that the savings from a travel freeze was a reflection of the governments tight-fisted approach to managing government travel. In a document they distributed widely, they even claimed that the result was that travel for government purposes by government employees between early November 1992 and the end of January 1993 dropped by 45 percent over the same period one year earlier.
In the main estimates for this budget, we had already committed to reducing travel by departments by 25 percent. So the government, in their own estimates, have suggested that they have dropped travel expenditures by 45 percent, and they are taking credit for the full reduction.
That is dishonest. The government has also indicated that they have controlled government hiring and yet we hear, by some slip of the tongue, that government employment has risen.
The government has indicated that they are going to reduce politicians and support staff salaries by five percent. In the case of performance pay this might be justified, if a five-percent cut was levelled on Ministers pay.
As a matter of expenditure reduction, they have probably offset that simply by failing to institute a deputy minister firing freeze. The government has certainly made major expenditures in that area that they have not communicated to anybody, let alone in the propaganda documents that they have widely distributed throughout the territory.
In this document that the government has sent out to everyone indicating that everything is now under control, the government indicates six basic reasons why everything is under control.
The travel freeze, the employment freeze - which is not a freeze, but rather there seems to be an increase in employees in government - the reduction in politicians pay, which we know is easily offset by the severance pay for deputy ministers.
The government indicates that a new and efficient incentive policy is being developed to better manage government expenditures.
We have seen no evidence of this new policy and in fact, I would hazard a guess that once they have developed a policy they would be trumpeting the policy around the territory.
Unfortunately, one cannot take from this document and from this commitment that the government has been able to do anything to get government expenditures, as they put it, under control.
The government says that they are doing a review to look at such things as policies covering government purchases and recruitment of personnel. This increase of efficiency in government is going to get the money and spending under control.
This particular policy review, if and when it ever happens and is concluded, by itself, I would hazard to guess, will do very little to reduce public expenditures.
The government also indicates that a mechanism is being developed to ensure new government buildings are constructed in a cost-effective way and are modest and efficient in their operations.
This is an laudable goal, but one has to ask whether or not they have built a single building or been involved in the development of a single structure since the period that they have been office. How can the government possibly use this particular goal, laudable though it is, as demonstrating why they should now be considered efficient financial managers?
The bottom line appears to be that, in order for them to avoid deficit financing, they are going to do one of three things: they are going to reduce expenditures, raise revenues, or a combination of one or the other. This is a brilliant piece of work. I must say that, if somebody had not told me, I would never have guessed that that might be the way to balance ones books.
To make it now a science and the cornerstone of all political communications coming out of this government is, in effect, a way to deflect the publics attention from some of the real issues this territory faces. Over the last few months, we have witnessed a fixation on government expenditures, to the extent that the whole territory has been thrown, willy-nilly, into a period of gloom that has affected every small business and workplace in this territory.
We see a situation where normal government procedures to balance their books and manage their finances has been the only communication coming out of this government. We are entreated to watch them, as they move from day to day, in attempts to balance their budgets and keep their expenditures under control, something the NDP government did for seven years, and something every other government on this continent does every year.
These people have made it almost a religion to have us watch them as they go about doing the right thing.
This brings us to the supplementary. What is amazing about the supplementary is that, in a few short months, even though the numbers in the forecasts and in the body of the supplementaries are different, we are all supposed to magically come to the conclusion that the bottom line figure of $57 million is the same.
We have no explanation in this budget document for the revenue collapse, although I am sure we can guess as to why some revenue has collapsed in the last few months, given the decline of economic activity in Faro and Watson Lake. We are given no explanation as to why the formula agreement did not offset a major portion of that reduction in revenue. We have no explanation as to why the investment income was not offset. We appear to simply just have to bear the full reduction in that particular area, as well.
There is no explanation as to why we are expected to spend an extra $13.5 million in capital funding for the Alaska Highway and we show only a recovery of $3.5 million for the same construction activity.
There is no explanation why we should believe that we should be spending more on land development than we have probably ever spent in the history of the territory - a line item which is typically overstated and always comes in under the estimates. Yet, apparently, we are going to be spending an extra $5.5 million in this particular field.
We are not given any explanation in the Government Leaders preliminary remarks as to why we should believe that the government, in this last year, is actually going to have spent $120 million in the capital budget. There must have been so many examples of government construction activity out there that, somehow, we are magically going to be spending virtually more than we have ever before spent on capital activity.
There no admission that there will be any capital lapses and there is no admission that there will probably be operation and maintenance lapses. We have been given no explanation as to what the expected formula financing increase is finally going to show as a result of the population increase in the territory. We know at least that the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs has budgeted $247 million for a transfer payment to the Yukon government, which incidently is $2.5 million more than the supplementary budget shows. We know that they are budgeting for an increase to the transfer payment to a total of $261 million for the main estimates coming up, presumably to be tabled this week, which is a $31 million increase over the main estimates of last year.
With these apparent problems in the forecasting of revenues, recoveries and expenditures, we clearly have to show some concern about what the budget is telling us today and whether or not we can depend on these figures to be reliable, any more than we could on the financial forecast, which is a dangerously flawed document.
So what have we seen? We have seen a government that almost, in and of itself, has gone to such a great extent to engineer an economic collapse in this territory, through its actions with Taga Ku and Curragh in particular. We have seen a government that has had great difficulty managing and handling the responsibility that is charged to it for making choices and setting priorities. We have seen a government that in the last few months has mastered only one thing and that is to pass the buck, shirk responsibility and turn the equation around so that someone else must make tough decisions.
I would be very surprised if, in October of this year, when the financial forecasts are turned into audited statements by the Auditor General of Canada, we are looking at a $57 million accumulated deficit for this year. I find it to be dishonest for the Members opposite to be tabling -
Speaker: Order. Order please. I have asked the Member not to use the term dishonest in referring to other Members. The Member does not have a duty to accuse other Members of being dishonest; he has a duty not to refer to them as being dishonest. If the Member wishes to do that, he can certainly do it outside the House. He can make very clear what he thinks of the other Members in the government, but in this House he will not accuse other Members of being dishonest.
Mr. McDonald: I was referring to the figures as being dishonest.
Speaker: The Member, I know, has the creativity and the intelligence to get his message across without using that terminology. I can suggest other language like he has used - unreliable, not accurate - but it is clear to me in the Chair that the Member is making an accusation of dishonesty when he is talking about the figures and I would order him not to do that.
Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I will take Mr. Speakers suggestion about the lack of reliability because I think it is obvious; and, but only because Mr. Speaker commands it, I will avoid using the word dishonest.
We have seen a situation in the last few months where the economy of the territory has basically gone into a nose dive. We have seen a situation where the Yukon Party has failed to show the economic leadership it needs to provide the kinds of incentives in the economy to bring about a recovery. We have seen the Yukon Party in fact wishing to create the impression that things are bleak so that they can find a way to blame the fact that they cannot meet their election commitments on someone else. We have seen the financial forecasting done by the government, which is, as Mr. Speaker suggests I say, misleading. We have seen a situation where, in a very transparent way, the government opposite has taken a budget exercise and turned it into an inappropriate political exercise. That is permissible.
I personally have no faith in the integrity of the governments forecasting. I am disappointed in their politicking style of buck-passing, and I am upset by their vision of what the economic leadership of this territory is all about.
That characterizes in a nutshell what I feel about this latest political forecast of financial expenditures. We certainly will have questions to ask in detail when the budget reaches Committee debate, and I am hoping that the government, at least in this preliminary round, will be able to give us some reliable answers.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The people on the side opposite, who were in government at the time, knew full well that their finances were in a shambles and that they were out of control. They must have known, because the period 4 variances were signed off by the Ministers in the government at the time.
This government took over in November. At that time, it became obvious that we were in trouble. It was very clear that the expenditures of the previous administration were totally out of control. The task we had, and have before us, was to turn things around somewhat, and that is not something that is done overnight. We had to get a handle on the escalating deficit and expenditures and slow them down and turn the ship away from the reef it was headed on a collision course with, and out to open sea.
The hon. Member across the way can laugh, but he was the architect of the mess. He was one of the pilots of the ship. He is the one who plotted the course that was taking government right onto the shoal, and he knows that. I cannot believe - and I do not, for one minute, believe - that the hon. Member, when he was Minister, did not take his job seriously and do the best he could, so he must have been aware of the terrible mess into which we had been led, with him and Members of his ilk at the helm.
We had to turn things around enough so we could start looking at a budget, next year and in future years, that would be balanced. We had to look at a government that was not completely out of control and spending every available dollar on operation and maintenance expenditures to a situation where there would be a decent proportion of budgetary monies available for capital projects, so the private sector could survive in Yukons economic climate.
We took, collectively on this side, a lot of steps to start the ship turning, heading out toward open sea, away from the shoals that the socialist helmsmen seemed to be attracted to as though they were a magnet.
Many of the steps that have been taken are in the public eye. The Minister responsible for Finance has mentioned, for example, that airline bookings have dropped by about 45 percent because of the controls we have put in place. All hiring was scrutinized by Management Board and a clear policy was put in place with respect to hiring.
An in-depth review of many of the programs and policies that were getting this government into trouble were undertaken. Some are still proceeding and are not completed.
Some other things were accomplished very quickly - for example, to restrict the mandate of Yukon Development Corporation so we would not have any more Watson Lake sawmills and flagrant disregard for the ratepayers money and the Legislature, which ought to be able to vote monies expended by government departments. That was done very early on, as policy, and numerous other processes were put in place so that, in a rational way, this government could start to take control of the expenditures and avoid the waste.
I find it rather sad that a senior Member, such as the one who just preceded me in speaking order today, would stand in his place and not acknowledge the terrible financial difficulties the government was in, particularly during the last year or so of his tenure as Minister of the Crown. The public knows. The public is well-aware of all the waste that was taking place. A good deal of the election was about that waste, about the lack of control and the lack of prudence in government spending. A judgment was handed down by Yukon residents in the election that was held. That was an issue that was on the tip of most Yukoners tongues during the whole 30-day period of the election campaign. The public was aware of the trouble we were getting into at that time.
The hon. Member now stands in his place and tries to deflect some criticism by suggesting that the economic downturn that has been felt in Yukon is something new that just happened because of action taken by the new government Members since November 7.
The public is not going to buy that. That is not the case. The collective wisdom of the people is something that I have faith in, and I urge the hon. Member who spoke before me to have some faith in and seek some solace in it as well.
It is amazing when one thinks back and contrasts what the new Government Leader this time is facing with what happened in 1985, when the government changed. In 1985, a surplus was handed on to the successor government in excess of $40 million. This time, the NDP government made sure that every nickel in the bank was being spent and we were faced with no surplus at all, but a deficit, and not only that, a situation in which the government had plunged out of control and for the one year is looking a deficit of $57 million - in one year.
The new Government Leader has to turn this around. This is not easily done.
In 1985, when the government was handed over to the NDP bunch, Curragh had been out for some time. Most of the groundwork had been laid to deal with that very difficult problem. I still have the briefing notes I received that showed exactly where both governments were on what to do about Curragh. Most of the thinking and strategy had already been done, primarily by the federal government and through the auspices of Erik Nielsen. This time, the new leader faces a situation where Curragh is threatening to shut down completely.
Back in 1985, there were other mines operating. We were not dependent on one large corporation in the mining field. However, we have seen mines disappear under the previous NDP government, so that Curragh is now the only game in town.
In 1985, we had just signed off the formula financing agreement, which gave to the new government tens of millions of dollars to spend on new capital projects. It was designed that way.
Speaker: Order please. I do not want to interrupt the Ministers speech but, what I would like to do for all Members is read Standing Order 57(2). With the direction that the debate has been going, we may run into the Speaker having to rule.
Standing Order 57(2) states; The debate on a motion for second reading must be limited to the object, expediency, principles and merits of the bill, or to alternative methods of obtaining its purpose.
Although this is very broad, I would like to ask the Minister and other Members to try and keep their remarks within the object, expediency and principle of the bill.
Please continue, Minister of Justice.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: As always, I agree with the wisdom of the Speakers ruling. I guess I was led into bad habits by the person who spoke before me. I will try, in future, not to use his speeches as a precedent for any of the things I have to say.
The situation is vastly different between what the government he was with encountered, as they stepped into the role as government, and what happened this time around. This is pertinent, because we are discussing the supplementary forecast for the budget we inherited when we took over in period 8 of the fiscal year.
In examining the books, in reviewing the manner in which these books were prepared, and having had a keen interest in that area of government - as my brief tenure as a former leader of the government and a much longer role as Leader of the Official Opposition and Finance critic - it is my view that these estimates were prepared in exactly the same manner that they have been prepared year after year, no matter which government has been in place, by the officials, for whom I have a very high regard, in Finance. I want to be on the record as saying that the figures speak for themselves, that the forecasted deficit for the year is almost $58 million, and it is something that the side opposite should be ashamed of, and something about which every Yukoner has cause for concern.
We, on this side, are doing everything we can to turn things around. People in the Yukon do not have to be worried about their bank account any longer. This side is not going to rob the piggy bank; this side is not going to withdraw the savings; this side is going to provide prudent government, reasonable budgets and, we hope, provide a stern hand at the helm, one that will ensure that this ship carries on in future, without worrying about the rocky shoals that so attracted the Members opposite when they were in government.
Mr. Harding: It pleases me to follow the Member opposite in this debate on the supplementary estimates, and I thank the Member opposite for his navigation course. I think it will be very helpful for when we take over the helm of the ship.
I want to say a few words in rebuttal to the Member opposites comments, particularly his comments about the Ministers signing off and committing to over expenditures. I want to say to the Minister that, very often, inflated proposals will be received from departments, perhaps with more expenditures in them than are justified. The reason for this is that Ministers feel very strongly that the work they are doing is important to the people of the Yukon and their constituencies, and they recognize full well that, at some point, the expenditures will be the subject of much debate with their other colleagues, who have similar agendas.
The bottom line is that, in five out of the seven years the NDP was in power, they managed to have those debates and come up with balanced budgets. That is very important because, somehow, the Members opposite have the impression that, when you sit down at the beginning of the year and set the agenda, nothing comes up during the year that would have any influence over what those numbers are going to be throughout the year. As they become more experienced in government - I have never been in government but I do have some idea of how it works - they will realize that, every year, they will have to make tough decisions throughout the year, right up until the last day of the fiscal year.
Critical but tough choices force change on projections. It is as simple as that. The Member opposite made a rhetorical comment about the NDP government, the previous administration, going downhill rapidly. I urge the Member opposite to take a look in the mirror. I believe we see exactly the same on the other side of the House. Already, we see a government devoid of ideas. They play the blame game, and I think it is going to become more and more apparent as their term continues, for as long as it continues.
The NDP knew things were tight and they knew there were significant financial restraints upon them.
The previous government knew what their O&M and capital budgets were. That is why they did not make the outrageous election promises the other side made.
I think the point is well-taken that one of the ways to evade having to come through on outrageous election promises is to try and play the blame game. I must admit, with some constituencies they have been doing a fair job of it. I witnessed the MLAs report by the Government Leader to his riding and I believe he did a pretty good job of playing the blame game. Many people will buy it, many will not.
I really had to laugh at the Members comments about turning things around, getting a handle on the ship, getting a handle on things, maneuvering the helm to set a straight course away from the rocky shoals. Boy, they sure got a handle on things.
Since the government has come into power, unemployment has gone from eight percent to 14 percent. Boy, have they really done a job for the people of the Yukon; they really have a handle on things. Income tax revenues are down, social assistance costs are up.
The Member opposite also talked about a review of policy. I have not been in this House very long, but I can tell one thing that I am seeing from the other side very quickly; that is, the Member opposite has a review answer for everything, but I have to caution the Member opposite. Sooner or later the time for reviews will come to an end; the public will demand action and responses and the dance that the Member opposite has been doing will no longer pay the piper. Decisions will have to be made and the debate will be on the basis and the merit of the decision that was made, rather than on the basis and merit of the review that is being undertaken.
I caution the Member that some of the things that are presently under review by the new administration will be discussed in detail.
Yes, the election did pass judgment. The Yukon Party came up with an overwhelming and staggering one percent more in the popular vote. They certainly won big and I hope they keep thinking that way, that they won this by a landslide, because it will certainly make our job a little easier.
Other mines were operating when the NDP came into power. The Member opposite suggests that somehow, as a result of the New Democratic policies - who happen to get two very large mines opened, the Sa Dena Hes at Watson Lake, and the Canamax project - that somehow that was all the NDPs fault. The previous government also had the Elsa mine opened briefly.
But, somehow the Member would suggest that the public should believe that the reason that they are not operating now, is NDP policies. The Member would suggest that it has nothing to do with the bottoming out of gold and silver prices on the world market. To use the words of the Member opposite, I do not think the public will buy it.
Again and again and again we see no economic leadership. The Members opposite talk about vision, yet they have absolutely no idea of the steps to implement that vision. We do not dispute that you need vision, but you have to have reality. You also have to take steps. You have to have some idea how to implement that vision.
We heard briefly today in Question Period the type of answer we can expect on many of the visionary ideas that this government has had. Many of them have been around for years and years and years. The overwhelming theme that I want to bring to the House today to point out to the people of the Yukon is that six months - half of this year - was their responsibility. It is incredible. I heard the Minister of Tourism and Education facing another protest in the Legislature by students where he was standing there saying, you should be down there at the NDP headquarters where they spent $57 million more than they took in last year. This was in March of the same fiscal year and they have been in power for five months. It is absolutely incredible and irresponsible to absolve themselves of responsibility. Right up until the last day of any fiscal year, reallocation of funding has to be undertaken by the government to ensure that the books come up with reasonable figures. But no, months before they even had any figures completed, they were talking about all the money that was spent. It is clearly an objective to absolve themselves of blame and to absolve themselves of coming up with real policies that are going to benefit the economy of the Yukon, to live up to their outrageous election promises.
Constantly, in the five months that they have been in power in this fiscal year, we have seen the blame game. It never stops - it is the NDP; they spent $57 million more than they took in last year. This comment came from a Minister in the same fiscal year that he is talking about, as if it has ended. We are still in it, and if they cannot organize the numbers, that is their responsibility.
Then we see the government when it comes to mining. On and on, they drone - more mining, more mining - but when the one mine presently operating, the cash cow of Curragh Inc., is suffering, and they cannot get funding from the federal government, the Government Leader stands up and says mining is a federal responsibility. Once again they absolve themselves of responsibility. That is the second aspect of the blame game. Probably the example that illustrates most pathetically their attitude toward leadership, is their attitude with regard to Curragh.
Curragh did not give us enough information; it is Curraghs fault that we did not reach an agreement in principle; it is Curraghs fault that we did not put out our conditions before March 10, 1993. Now they bring out a letter that says Curragh would like us not to discuss this in public. I do not know if that was at the Government Leaders request or Curraghs - and they cannot discuss the conditions publicly or with elected representatives. Yukon Party supporters - yes.
Why is Curragh dictating to the Government of the Yukon who they should discuss these conditions with? Especially in light of the fact that they were on the radio, taking out full-page ads in the newspaper and doing all kinds of media-darling stuff to sell the political nature of their conditions.
The Members opposite are self-professed, self-fulfulling prophets of doom. Their gloom and doom, sprinkled into the economy, has created a recession.
The Taga Ku project - $30 million in construction work; hospital construction - $49 million in construction work that is not going to be there this year.
They are dragging their heels on Curragh Inc. Yes, we all support efforts to protect the taxpayer in the Yukon, but the dragging of the heels and the negative messages have done much to destroy the economic environment in the Yukon.
They talk at length about what they have done to get a handle on things, but they have not done anything that sends a positive message to stimulate the economy. What tangible results do they have?
I saw a letter to the editor in the Whitehorse Star last week that stated that the protesters, who visited the Legislature recently, should grow up and realize that the recession has hit the Yukon. I agree with the author of that letter.
The recession hit the Yukon on October 19, 1992 - right between the eyes.
Why does the government wonder why revenues are down? Since they have come to power, by getting a handle on things -as they put it - unemployment has gone up from eight percent to 14 percent.
The government asks, why has income tax revenue decreased? When people are not working, they are not paying income tax. When they are not working and they cannot get their unemployment insurance for 12 weeks, they go on social assistance.
The government has done nothing to get their social assistance costs under control. This is irresponsible. The way to sound economic recovery is to get people working, as quickly as possible.
I guess probably the most important aspect of their doom-and-gloom recipe is consumer confidence. If I were a potential buyer of a house in Whitehorse, for example, I would be very leery, with the messages this government has sent out with regard to the economy, about buying a home in the Yukon. I would be afraid to invest in a home, because I would be afraid that they would then let the Curragh mine go down in Faro and Watson Lake. This would have a significant impact on real estate markets.
There are people out there with jobs in the civil service who do not know what is going to happen to them. They are extremely worried when they hear the Members opposite always being negative.
I want to get a little bit into the nuts and bolts of the Yukon Party and what they have or have not done to get a handle on things - get that ship out to sea and away from the reef and all that wonderful stuff.
I have a letter, dated February 1993, from the office of the Government Leader, addressed to, I am sure, a wide mailing list. It is signed by the Government Leader. The letter refers to dealing with the situation. They placed a control on outside-Yukon travel. We do not know who has travelled, where they went or how much they spent. All they said was that travel has dropped by 45 percent. There is no idea what the savings were.
By being penny-wise and pound-foolish, there is also the potential that we will lose millions of dollars in implementation funding, because they did not send the people with the expertise to the talks with the federal government with regard to distribution of implementation funding. We have a real problem there. It is going to get worse. It is very unfortunate for First Nations people and for all Yukoners, because when the feds do not come through, the Yukon taxpayers are going to be asked to foot the bill. It will be a large problem for the Government Leader. I am sure he is aware of that. Sooner or later, push will come to shove, and we are going to be talking about that here in the Legislature.
They placed a control on hiring. I love this one. Numbers were bandied around that they might have saved $200,000 by doing that, but they did not place a control on firing. Unfortunately, when they fired four deputy ministers, the cost to the taxpayers was almost $1 million dollars.
I do not see that as a gain; I see it as a loss of almost $800,000. The exact nature or the amounts of those numbers are going to be discussed in the future. A control on hiring - as a result of their control on hiring and the mixed messages they have sent out, not only have they botched that by costing the taxpayers $800,000 by firing the four deputy ministers; they have also sent messages to people who depend on their jobs in the civil service - auxiliary or temporary or term employees - that have gotten them worried sick and not spending any money. If they do not spend any money because they have no disposable income, it does not go back into the economy; it does not create any spinoff; it does not generate economic activity. It is as simple as that.
Then there was the five percent cut of all politicians political support staff and government managers. We supported it. We would like to have some idea of where the money is going to go that we contributed to the equation. We do not have it yet; perhaps it will go to a new lane for the Riverdale bridge or a sewage system for Dawson, or other priorities of this government. They seem to have a lot of priorities in areas where there are MLAs from the governing party.
A new and effective incentive policy is item no. 4 - to better manage government expenditures. How wonderful. Motherhood and apple pie. We are really looking forward to hearing what the nuts and bolts of this one are and then examining the tangible results that come from it.
No. 5: a review is being carried out to streamline government operations, including such things as policies covering government purchases and recruitment of personnel. Result: increased efficiency of government. The people opposite cannot even answer, within three months, a letter that I wrote them. I see no efficiency in that.
Point no. 6: a mechanism is being developed to ensure new government buildings are constructed in a cost-effective way and are modest and efficient in their operations. Result: reduced cost of government. We are really anxious to see what that mechanism is, and we are really anxious to see if it works. I know the previous administration took lots of steps to implement the same kind of mechanisms - some were successful, some were not.
Preparing for the budget is the headline on page 3. Every other senior level government in Canada has been borrowing money, but not the Yukon. The NDP thanks them for that compliment.
If we are to avoid deficit financing we have the following choices: reduce expenditures, raise revenues or a combination of both.
I cannot just wait for what is going to happen in the next week, but I expect that the obscene increase in taxes, as described by the Government Leader, is going to come. It may be hidden, but no doubt it will be there. I guess it is not obscene any more now that they are in government and not trying to get elected.
With our options, and I quote being so limited, our budget preparations have been challenging to say the least. Every year budget preparations are going to be challenging. Whether you have a $430 million budget or $400 million budget, there are very high expectations in the Yukon.
The reason and philosophy behind the transfer payment from the federal government is that Yukoners should be able to reasonably expect the services that other Canadians receive. That is why the Yukon receives that amount of money from the federal government.
Every year the government is going to have challenging budget decisions. Once again I want to say to the Members opposite, six months of this year were their responsibility. We cannot overlook that fact. I guess if they want to split hairs it could be five months of the budget year.
There is a section about what is happening with the government to fix this alarming situation, as the government refers to it. The government is going to meet with the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Don Mazankowski. I guess this governments idea of self-sufficiency is having the federal government fund everything for them. Over and over again we are hearing a message coming from both sides of their mouth. It is amazing that a document is given to the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, the Deputy Prime Minister, for self-sufficiency: vision, megaprojects.
I would not say that the Members on this side of the House are opposed to the idea of economic activity and stimulus. We would like it to be sustainable for as long as possible, but when we ask the question of the government we would also like them to be able to tell us how they plan to reach and implement that vision.
The Minister for Economic Development - or economic disaster - in his remarks today during Question Period made it painfully clear that he does not really know what they are going to do to get people back to work. What I want to know is what they are going to do today, not seven years from now, to get people back to work. I want to know what this government is going to do to put back to work the six percent of people who have been laid-off or fired since the government took office. Those people need to be put back in the economic equation, because that is the way to economic recovery.
The government is going to meet with the Deputy Prime Minister to discuss proposals aimed at increasing our self-sufficiency through infrastructure-driven investment. That is nothing new; we will applaud them on that proposal. The government should do that; the NDP did much of that as well; for instance, the Alaska Highway deal.
Mining exploration in the Yukon is expected to double this year; that is wonderful. It is our claim that most of that mining activity was planned under the previous administration, but anyway the bottom line is the benefit of the taxpayer, the Yukon, Yukoners and the economy so we are not going to split hairs and argue about that; we think it is wonderful. We are going to be asking questions about the specific steps undertaken to come up with those numbers, and I think it will become apparent that the government really did not do anything.
No. 4 reads that the mining industry throughout western Canada knows the Government of Yukon has changed and that we are now open for business. Yes, sireee Bob. The Government of Yukon now has hospitality suites in Vancouver and gives away free booze to mining people. They are open for business. We do not think you need to have expensive hospitality suites to encourage business, as the Minister for Economic Development did at a conference he attended, walking around saying the Yukon is open for business. The Minister for Economic Development put on a name tag and when people walked up to him and asked him about the Yukon he told them the Yukon is open for business.
I think that is wonderful and admirable, but I do not know what those tangible concepts of being open for business do for generating mining activity. I do not know what free booze does for generating mining activity.
I think the point is that over and over we have received from this government an airy fairy - void of nuts and bolts - mixture of implementation ideas from this government - smoke and mirrors.
Sooner or later, the Yukon people are going to demand that the smoke and mirrors dissipate and we get to the crux of the matter. The hard reality of it is unemployment going from eight to 14 percent. They can talk all they want about this wonderful letter. I wonder if the people in my riding, and some of the other people who do not have a job any more, are thrilled about this letter and what has been done for them. I do not think so; it is propaganda.
On the travel freeze, we are going to be anxious to see how much we spent flying B.C. Vander Zalms failed Socreds back and forth. How much travel time was spent on Merv Miller, Dale Drown - the B.C. Vander Zalm Socreds, who came to run the territory? The hit squad cooked up all kinds of wonderful stuff to politically remove from the new government the responsibility that they have to the Yukon taxpayers and people.
The one thing that most tangibly illustrates the ineptitude of their ability to deal with this situation and show any leadership is the hiring freeze versus the firing freeze. They put a hiring freeze into place and, as the Member for McIntyre-Takhini pointed out a couple of months ago, the government had increased in size. They put in the new hiring freeze and then fired four deputy ministers, which cost the taxpayers probably $800,000. There were no savings there.
They managed to find money for an expensive wolf-kill. We do not know how expensive it was yet. We supported it, based on the biology that was presented to us. Unfortunately, the number of wolves was not accurate. Nonetheless, they found the money for that - hundreds of thousands of dollars - by magically reallocating funds, something they are going to have to do every year.
The gloom and doom is an unfair and cruel political tactic. On April 1 of this year, this government will receive and will be able to spend revenues for the territory in the magnitude of $430 million. It might decrease as a result of their policies, which have raised unemployment six percent, but they did get another $10 million from Don Mazankowski, and I am sure they will be putting that to good use. It is important to the taxpayers of the Yukon.
If they look at themselves in the mirror and rationalize what they have been saying, and care more about principle than politics, they will be able to say: we should get down to business.
We should get down to the business of governing for the people of the Yukon. We should start consulting with the people of the Yukon, because we did not really win an overwhelming majority in the last election. This was not a carte blanche, give it all to the new government by the Yukon voters. They eked in on a plan that had a lot of smoke and mirrors, because people wanted to hope for these things. But sooner or later, they are going to be asked to produce and when they are asked to produce that is when push is going to come to shove with the Yukon population, the Yukon people and the Yukon voters. I think that is when it is going to become readily apparent that they did not come to the fight with their gloves on; they came to the fight with their hands tied behind their backs.
They talk about surpluses in bank accounts. Well, there has been a surplus in the territory for years and years and years under the NDP. When the final results are given by the Auditor General, probably in the fall of this year, there will continue to be a surplus, unless they continue to do the kinds of things for the rest of this fiscal year that they have for five months, which is nothing. The revenues continue to decrease and the expenditures continue to increase. A six percent increase in unemployment is not cheap. There is a major cost to that. Unfortunately, the Members opposite have not realized that.
The supplementary estimates are projections. It is incumbent upon anyone who is in government, especially one who holds ownership for five months of the previous year, to take a look at what has been spent and to do tangible, concrete things to try to reallocate the money so the budget balances at the end of the year - to make tough choices. On some things we will spend less; on some we will spend more. Social assistance I am sure has cost this government a lot more because unemployment has risen six percent under their leadership, or lack of.
The forecast that was the political document created by the Yukon Party government when they came into power was fatally flawed, yet they have continued to pump it. They pump their political lines about the NDP spending $57 million more last year than they took in, even though they were in power for five months of the fiscal year. Even during the same fiscal year they are saying the NDP spent, as if it was some time way back when, but they keep bringing it out.
The Yukon public is going to get very tired of that. We have seen that with other governments. Lots of governments in the country have inherited situations and made claims that the situation is very bad, but people do not listen to that for very long. They listen for a few months and give it some credence, but after a while they feel enough is enough and expect action. They expect the government to stand on its own feet and come up with some programs and policies that serve to drive the economy and get people back to work. While we continue this exercise for the supplementary estimates, some people out there will give it some credence, but it will be short lived.
I told the Government Leader the other day that there is short-term political gain for long-term political pain. The economy is the same as the Curragh situation. The two are intricately related. The conditions they set on Curragh may be publicly acceptable and popular, but the bottom line is that they are given the responsibility by the Yukon voter for doing whatever it takes to create a strong economy, regardless of their philosophical beliefs.
We poke holes through the self-sufficiency document, which, incidentally, had some vision, but is totally devoid of steps to get there. They had the bird in the hand with the Taga Ku convention centre, which is one of the items in the self-sufficiency document, yet they do not have the vision to act on it. We are really going to be anxious to see how they fulfill the convention centre aspect of the document. We have some feelings about how they will do it, but it will be interesting for the Yukon people to see it.
I want to go back to the forecast that was so fatally flawed. The supplementary estimates are, in fact, projections that have to be controlled and would have been controlled by the NDP administration, as well. They will have to be controlled by this Yukon Party/Independent administration that has been in power for five months, that has seen to increase unemployment by six percent and increase social assistance costs, decrease revenue that came from Yukoners and get us away from transfer payments from the federal government and build self-sufficiency.
The document included wish lists of bureaucratic departments, that were made time and time again to the Ministers over the NDPs seven years in power. They were wish lists that were continually denied by the NDP Ministers in government. As the Member for McIntyre-Takhini put it, they were bought hook, line and sinker by the new Ministers, perhaps due to their inexperience or because they did not give a heck.
Maybe it has served their political purposes for blaming the NDP, but I do not think it will work over the long run. The Members opposite, or at least one of them, have admitted to their limited expertise, but one does not have to be an expert in anything to live by principle rather than politics. This is what this debate is all about. This is what the supplementary estimates are all about. This is the political nature of what they have been saying in the media. They have been telling people that, rather than taking responsibility and grabbing the bull by the horns, that it is all the NDPs fault that they have absolved themselves from the fiscal year, of which they were responsible for five months - one of the months is sort of neutral because of the election. They have not even taken any really tangible steps, other than phony hiring freezes and phony travel freezes, to correct the situation. As a matter of fact, they have made it worse by increasing unemployment six percent, paying out more in social assistance and having income tax revenues decrease.
Their big brother, the federal government, will probably bail them out with a transfer payment formula, probably on the income tax; but nonetheless that does nothing for us in regard to self-sufficiency - absolutely nothing.
Recoveries from the federal government should be in the documents, but they are not accounted for: millions and millions of dollars. Every year, some programs spend more than are allocated; some spend less. Reallocating has to occur just as the government did they wanted to, which was for the wolf kill. Amazingly, out of the blue, out of this bleak, bleak, dismal financial picture, out of the ashes came $500,000. Where did it come from? As the Minister for Renewable Resources put it, We will reallocate it - we cut out another thing for Faro, we came up with some money and we did some other things in the Renewable Resources department. I cannot remember them now, but I do remember the Faro thing because it was another no for Faro that I have heard from this government.
They came up with a political attempt, albeit in some cases successful, to create doom and gloom, to absolve themselves of responsibility. The supplemental estimates are just that; they are estimates of what will be spent. If there is a problem, the government of the day should be dealing with it. The government that has been in power across the floor for five months of this fiscal year should be dealing with it - not in phony baloney terms; not by firing four deputy ministers and costing the taxpayers a million dollars. Talk about waste and inefficiency, had those ministers been fired for just cause, the contracts would not have had to be paid out.
The NDP did get rid of some deputy ministers, but why - just cause? Yes, it was a just cause.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: The Members opposite find that entertaining, but when one deputy minister is at a political election rally and seen with a Yukon Progressive Conservative hat on, that constitutes just cause.
One of the most important factors we have to look at is what has neen done concretely. Have they concretely improved the situation, or is there a lot of phony-baloney rhetoric ...
Speaker: The Member has one minute to conclude his remarks.
Mr. Harding: Have they taken tangible steps? They fired four deputy ministers, which cost the taxpayers $1 million. They posed a hiring freeze, which destroyed consumer confidence, which kept people from spending money, which, by their estimation, saved $200,000. That is a net loss of $800,000. I do not see how that translates into an improved picture for the economy. I do not see how that translates into tough fiscal management. I do not see how a six percent increase in unemployment since they came into power translates into an improved fiscal picture or economic recovery, in any way, shape or form. I do not see how the rise in social assistance costs translates into an improved economic picture.
This government should get down to work and stop looking for scapegoats. The people of the Yukon deserve it.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: For someone who keeps reminding this House the he has a commerce degree, I wonder if the Member for Faro possibly had a minor in theatrics or drama, or perhaps he watched too much Codco or Kids in the Hall.
The Member opposite did comment that, although he admitted that he has not had much to do with government, he does understand the government system. He must be very naive as government, especially in the north, spends most of their capital dollars well before the fall season, or November, when this government took office.
Before November, the capital monies that were voted in the budget were spent, or committed, for the rest of the year. You might get one year where there is a heavy snowfall, or there may be floods, but the O&M budget is more or less standard. We spend about $35 million a month. It does not change that much. The amount that changes is the capital budget.
The Member for Faro was berating our government for not doing something about the expenditures when we took office in November. The fact is that the money was already either spent or committed.
When the Member points out that we should have started slashing capital projects, looking into the O&M, and so on, right away, it is interesting to note that the previous government voted a $19 million deficit for the 1992-93 year. That is confirmed. They then projected an additional $38,625,000, for a total of nearly $58 million.
I think that everyone here should keep that in mind, that they started out by projecting, or by voting, over a $19 million deficit, and then, in fact, spent an additional $38 million.
I can hardly believe that the Member for McIntyre-Takhini would suggest that the supplementary forecasts are suspect, given that, at least on the capital side, the monies had already largely been spent prior to our taking office. Contracts were signed, construction was either completed or in progress. I just wonder how the Members opposite would be dealing with the annual and accumulated surplus if the Yukon electorate would not have believed that the NDP - and I am just quoting some of the comments that I heard - were indeed out of control; spending like drunken sailors", et cetera, et cetera. What would have happened if they had not been turfed out of office? Where would the Yukon government be today?
The Member for McIntyre-Takhini went on at length about the Consulting and Audit Canada report, which, in all respects, follows very closely the actual supplementary estimates we have before us today. However, the same Member has said many times that the departments have not told the truth, and the Finance department always exaggerates. He has placed blame on those guys, the Finance department, the Yukon Party, Consulting and Audit Canada, the deputy ministers. Do deputy ministers build their favourite projects?
He pointed at everybody, up in the gallery - those guys. Years ago when I learned to shoot a rifle, I became quite adept at hitting a stationary target. When I graduated to actually hunting small game, I found my marksmanship was somewhat lacking. It quickly became apparent that it is much more difficult to hit a moving target. The Member for McIntyre-Takhini has tried very hard to ensure that the previous government is indeed a moving target. In fact, he has attempted, quite eloquently, to shift that target to anything else that moves or does not move.
The public has been aware of the fiscal mismanagement of the previous government for some time, and they reflected their displeasure at the election in October.
Just in closing, I would like to point out, once again, that the previous government had voted an over $19 million deficit and had spent an additional $38 million.
Mrs. Firth: I am going to go on at some length this afternoon. I am titling my presentation after a comment the Minister of Justice used this afternoon. It is called, The Numbers Speak for Themselves.
I want to start out by telling a little story to the Members of the House. I will qualify my expertise first, as everyone seems to be doing that. There are some Members here who may not know that I have Cabinet and budgetary experience. When I was a Minister, we were in some very tough economic times - the six-and-five legislation - with some very tough decisions to make. I feel I have an ability to understand budgets and follow them, on my own, without any help from anyone else, to draw my own conclusions and make my own determinations.
I want to tell a story for the Members, to give them some idea of where I am coming from this afternoon. I am asking the Members to be very generous about my comments, to put aside what personal feelings they have about me, as an individual, and just listen to what I have to say.
This is a story for all new Ministers and new Members of the Legislature to listen to. I know what it is like to be a Minister and to have the chief bureaucrat of your department, the deputy minister, come in and have an exchange with you about a new policy direction you may want to take, or some new initiative you might want to pursue. When we had some very controversial issues regarding school children walking across the highway in Porter Creek, I asked the deputy minister responsible for the Department of Highways to paint a white crosswalk on the highway.
The deputy minister said it could not be done. I said, What do you mean? Get some white paint, paint the crosswalk over the highway. The children need it, it is a safety measure.
No, it cannot be done.
I asked why it could not be done, and the deputy ministers response was, I do not know if I can find the machine; I do not know where the machine is to paint the crosswalk. I said, Could you please find the machine and paint the crosswalk? He gave a big sigh and touched his head. I could tell what was going through his mind, that this was going to be a difficult matter. He said, It still cannot be done because, when we find the machine, it might be broken.
By this time, I was becoming a little bit astonished, but I was being patient, and I said, Find the machine and, if it is broken, fix it.
There was a big sigh from the deputy minister, a very long sigh, and a very annoyed look on his face. He said to me, It still cannot be done. I said, Why not? Why can it not be done? Well, he said, you know, if we find that machine and we fix it, it might rain that day. It might rain, and we will not be able to paint the white crosswalk on the highway.
About that time I was losing my patience, and I said to him, If you do not paint that crosswalk on the highway - it was my turn to threaten - I will be out there tomorrow morning with a bucket of paint, a paintbrush, and the media, and we will put signs up and I will paint the crosswalk on the highway.
The deputy minister looked at me in total disgust, and he said, You cannot do that, what would people say? I said, Well, it is not of a concern to me what people will say because, when the media is there, I am going to give them your phone number, your name, and all inquiries are going to be directed to you.
There was a shocked look on his face. He went away. The next day, they found the machine; it was in good working order; it did not rain; and they painted the crosswalk on the highway. It was amazing, absolutely amazing.
I tell that story because I want to make a comparison to another story I have been through, and it has been with the Government Leader.
On supplementary budgets and the budget, it is no secret to any Yukoner who knows what the makeup of this Legislature is that the government is in a minority situation in this House when it comes to voting on budgetary matters. It is no secret to a lot of Yukoners that the Government Leader is going to require some support from some of the Members on this side of the House for that budgetary debate.
My support is being requested. I do not have any difficulty giving that support if the government is doing good things and if requests I make for information are forthcoming. I have not made an unreasonable request. I have asked for the figures that were used to make this supplementary estimate. I know those figures are available. The deputy minister sat in on the briefing and had a stack of figures in his hand. He thumbed through them and referred to them to give me answers to the questions I asked.
When I asked for the information, I was told I could not have it, that it cannot be done. I asked why and was told that it was an onerous task and that the government would have to go to an extraordinary amount of time and work to provide me with those numbers. The numbers are all there in the document that the deputy minister has.
The Government Leader should have told the deputy minister to get rid of the confidential information that he did not want me to have and was contained in that document. All I want are the numbers. I do not want Management Board decisions, who said what or the big secret Cabinet discussions. I just want the numbers.
I pursued the issue and was told that not even the government backbenchers are privy to that kind of line-by-line budget information. They should be privy to it and should be asking for it.
It is my support that is being solicited. I am not a backbencher in that party. I do not have to do what everybody else in that party does. The whole public should have access to that information. It should be available for anyone who wants it.
I am told that I have had a briefing, that everyone has bent over backwards to give me the information and that the Deputy Minister of Finance would answer all my questions. I really did not think that it was appropriate to take up three or four hours of the deputy ministers time sitting in the Cabinet room and asking him to go through every line of the budget with me.
Perhaps the Government Leader would like to offer that to the deputy minister as an alternative? I am certain that, as an alternative, he would prefer to go through the document he has and cross things out as opposed to sitting with Mrs. Firth in the Cabinet room for five hours going through a line-by-line debate of the whole supplementary estimate. It is not an unreasonable request.
My question is: who is running the show? If the Government Leader really wants my support and wants me to have that information, he should be directing the officials to get it to me as quickly as possible. I can appreciate that they are very busy because, from what I understand, the budget was not ready until Friday or so - they were still busy preparing the budget - but the deputy minister has that information at his fingertips and it would not be an onerous task or take an extraordinary amount of time for me to get it.
Then I am told that I can ask the questions in the House. I can ask to go through all the line-by-line items in the House. I can make a determination of those numbers without having the Minister sit there with his official. Every time I ask a question, the official condenses the information that I am going to be given and says, Give her this one, this one, this one and this one. I have been through that routine; I know how it works; I know how the game is played. I want the information and I would like to ask the Government Leader to go back to his Finance officials and say, She needs the information; we should be providing it for her. It is not an unreasonable request.
Then we can get the crosswalk painted on the highway.
I have a lot of concerns about the direction this new government is taking and about the way they are handling the supplementary estimates, because I know that what is happening now is going to have some bearing on the quality and the kind of budget that is brought into this Legislature.
The concern I have is, again, who is running the ship, or the show, or whatever we are talking about this afternoon? Who is running the ship?
I have a great deal of concern when I ask a Minister in this House why Yukoners are going to have to pay higher electrical rates. I asked the question for two days in a row, and I got a whole variety of rather bureaucratic answers, with all due respect. The one day that I stand up and ask that Member what they are going to do as an MLA for their people, for the constituents they represent, and what they are going to do as a Member of the Legislative Assembly, the Member is speechless. He told me he did not have all the answers. That gives me a great deal of concern. Who does have all the answers? Who is giving the direction? Is the direction coming from the political level to the bureaucracy, or is the bureaucracy telling the political level what to do? That is a criticism and a concern that has been expressed by party members to me, by people out on the street, by people who have had to come and try to deal with this government.
When politicians - who are supposed to be looking after the people, and representing their constituents - start defending government policy and the government bureaucracy over the wishes of their constituents, and start telling their constituents that they are wrong, in favour of some government policy, then we are all in trouble, as constituents.
That is my greatest concern about the impression that this government is leaving in the way they are dealing with these supplementary budgets. I hear it from people, and nobody over there listens to me. I am quoting people who come to tell me they have gone to the government to make some representation, and nobody listens to them - they do not hear what people are saying to them. They have all the answers.
Also if you ask for information, you cannot get the information. We have requested the social assistance study and have been advised that it is an internal working document. We could not get the social-economic impact study about Curragh; we could not have it because it was a Cabinet document. We received a condensed version of an impact analysis that has already been discussed in this House. That was also listed as a top-secret document.
I want the numbers for the supplementary. I cannot have that either. Public information about government expenditures is also not available. I have not been given one reason why I cannot have that information, to review and analyze it.
I am capable of making my own analysis of the numbers. If the government is so fixed on not giving me the information, I have to wonder why. Why does the government not want me to have the numbers? The government wants my support, yet they do not want me to have these numbers. It does not make sense.
There has to be something in the numbers that makes their projected costs less accurate. I would like to see the numbers that the government has used to arrive at the $120 million capital expenditure. I have not known this government to spend more than $65 to $80 million a year in capital expenditures. Why can they not give me the numbers that show how they arrived at that conclusion?
I know there are a lot of unanswered questions about the numbers in the supplementary budget. Other Members in the House have raised it today about the percentage of savings. What do these percentages transfer into in hard numbers? It is great to say that the hiring freeze saved us $200,000 a month. Does that mean $1 million? Is that for five months, or four months? What do those numbers translate into?
We are going to be getting an adjustment with the grant from Ottawa. I have been told by the deputy minister that it could be $13-14 million. I have been told there could be $10-13 million in lapsed funds. Why can I not have the numbers? I will make my own conclusions. Maybe I will have some suggestions for the government.
I would like to make a contribution, as a Member of this Legislature, and I think I can. However, I need the information to help me make that contribution.
I have already proven to the Government Leader that I was prepared to do that. I do not know if I was really asked my opinion about it, but I was told about the MLA pay cut. I offered my support for that initiative. I also offered a question: had they looked at the COLA clause in the legislation? It was a positive suggestion, and they had not looked at the clause. After I raised the suggestion, they looked at the clause and also addressed that issue. I do have a positive contribution to make.
How can I be asked by the government? How can the Government Leader sit there and say to me, You cannot have this information because it is an onerous task. Far be it for me to ask a government official to do their job, but it is an onerous task. The other Members of the back benches do not want the information, and I was given this other briefing.
No one out there would think any of this was a good and logical reason for not giving the information to me.
The numbers speak for themselves, and I agree that they probably do. I have not been a silent Member of the Opposition on the previous governments spending habits.
I have followed that governments spending habits for the last seven or eight years, but not all the Members on that side of the Legislature have.
If I have something to contribute, if I can find one little thing that helps the government out, would that not be worth providing me with the information?
I think it would; my constituents think it would, party members that I have talked to think it would help. I will not make any bones about going and lobbying party members to appeal to the government to provide me with the information.
The Members opposite do not have all the answers, and they really need the assistance. They need to search through the talent of all the Members in Opposition and see if we cannot come up with a plan that all Yukoners can live with.
The new budget is going to come in. Perhaps there will be tax increases in the new budget, and perhaps Yukoners are not going to like that. Perhaps, if I had the information I am requesting, I could give the government some suggestions about how they can deal with that issue.
My first preference would be that the government come to me with their budget written in pencil, as opposed to ink, and asked if I could support it.
I know there is going to be opposition among some of the Members who do not want me writing the budget. However, I do not want to write the budget; far be it for me to want to write this governments budget, but I may be able to contribute something - whether it be in the form of a suggestion or by asking my opinion about something. Whether it is taken or not, it is the asking that shows that ones support is wanted and is not going to be taken for granted; that it is recognized that they are not just another Member in the back benches who has to tow the party line and support what the Cabinet Members are supporting.
I do not think that is unreasonable, and I do not think anybody listening to the debate this afternoon would think that that was an unreasonable position to take.
I have some concerns about the way the budget is being drawn up, but I will save it for budget debate. I want to make another request to the Government Leader for information. If they are not going to give me the figures from the variance report - and I am not giving up on that yet; I have a couple more plans to try to get that information out of them - I would like to ask the Government Leader if he could at least provide me with a statement of the allotment and appropriations of what has actually been spent to date, what has been committed, and what the balances are. I know that, if the Deputy Minister of Finance is listening to this, he is probably saying it cannot be done, and he will have a whole list of reasons why not.
However, I know it can be done, because they have this very fancy computer system in Finance, which we have debated in this House and in the Public Accounts Committee many times. Finance, or somebody in this government, should have the ability to give me - or give any Member of this Legislature, or any senior public official who wants to know what the standing of their expenditures is - a statement outlining exactly what is being spent to date, what is committed, and what the balances are. I would like to have that information.
I do not want a book out of balance. This is from the governments latest piece of information - the one that has had the colour taken off to save money. It is called the Sluicebox, and it used to have red on it. They have taken the red away as a cost-cutting measure. This is the kind of high quality, efficient cost-cutting measure we are going to have.
I am sure the government Members would be happy if I would settle for this as a statement of record, because it is a six-line itemized accounting of government expenditures.
Capital spending is $107 million and operation and maintenance is $337 million. The total is $444 million. That is government spending. Government revenues and recoveries from transfer payments from Canada are $252 million. Territorial revenues and recoveries are $136 million. The total is $388 million. The balance is minus $56 million.
I want more information than that. I do not like to be a burden or be unreasonable, but I want more information than is presented to the government employees in this document.
When I read this document, Doing More With Less; Government Working in Lean Times, I made a comment in Question Period regarding buzz words or the art of not saying what you mean. They use a couple of other words in this besides restructuring. They use the downsizing word and employees retiring. When the first announcement came, we were told the company or government needed to downsize. This was later amended to rightsize, though it is never clear who the size is right for.
Then there are those who have decided to take early retirement. That is always a way of saving money, too. This seems to be an offer for anyone over 45 years old, but it can have its drawbacks. A British bank discovered, after it dispatched 2,000 managers to early retirement, that dumping these old bones was not such a bright idea. Customers, it seems, were not happy taking their financial woes to some youngster, still wet behind the ears, who was sitting in the managers chair. The bank tried to lure them back. They invited 2,000 of them to a meeting and only a few hundred turned up. Less than 50 said yes. Most said they would prefer to spend their time playing golf.
I really want to caution the government about using buzz words. I know where they are coming from. They are either coming from media persons or from the senior officials. Senior officials are masters at buzz words. We heard a few of them today in the Government Leaders presentation.
I would rather hear what the Ministers have to say themselves; I would like to hear less of the bureaucratic rhetoric. I would certainly like to see the government take control of the situation and out of the hands of the senior officials, who have had the luxury of running the government.
I am going to look at some of the specifics in the budget to give the Government Leader some notice of questions, so that he can be prepared with the information when he comes back to debate this in Committee of the Whole. I would like to have an update on the status of the transition team and exactly what their function is. I ask that because, this afternoon, I asked the Minister of Government Services what was going to be happening regarding the restructuring. He was unable to provide any answers to this House, but I know that one of the members of the transition team has been in the Department of Government Services, making statements to the employees that, to me, are policy announcements about how things are going to get back on track and how the department employees are supposed to achieve this.
I would like the Government Leader to be prepared to report back to us exactly what the status of the transition team is, and who is responsible, particularly for the restructuring of the Department of Government Services and when that restructuring is to begin.
I am also going to be asking for the information that will provide the answers for the over expenditure in the Department of Health and Social Services, particularly in the area of social assistance payments. I know that there was an internal working document, or whatever the Government Leader wants to call it, to explain why I cannot have it, but there has been some analysis done regarding the tremendous increases: a 50 percent increase. The budget was in excess of $10 million and they are asking for $4.5 million more, almost 50 percent. I would like to either have that information, or some version of it that excludes any confidential, inappropriate information that we really should not be seeing. When I try to think of what that would be, I cannot really think of anything. I am not asking for the lists of people on social assistance or how many people even in each community are on social assistance, so we cannot point at any one community being a bigger social assistance recipient than others. I simply want to know how the analysis worked out and what information the government used to arrive at reasons for these increased costs, and then perhaps I might have some idea of what they are going to do to help remedy the problem.
There are some costs that have increased in the Department of Justice that I will be asking about. I am particularly interested in the amount of outside legal counsel that the government has engaged. I have traditionally asked for a list of the outside legal counsel and I would like the Minister to be prepared to provide me with that list. I am also going to be asking some questions about the Department of Education and some of the costs that have been projected in that department.
I understand that the Department of Renewable Resources has undergone a considerable reorganization that was done back to April 1, 1992, and has had some impact on this budget. I would like the Minister to be able to provide me with that re-organization and the rationale for it.
If any of the other departments have undergone any major reorganization I would like to have that information made available when we go into the Committee debate.
Since the Minister of Justice said so many times that the numbers were so important and that they spoke for themselves, I would like to ask the Government Leader if he could see that the most recent request I made this afternoon for the statement of allotment and appropriations could be provided to me as quickly as possible so that when we do go through the line-by-line debate I will have had a chance to review the information and I can discuss the supplementaries in a well-informed manner.
I am going to be very specific about the savings in the governments initiatives when I ask questions. Rather than percentages, I would like to have exact figures of savings that have resulted from the governments initiatives with the hiring and travel freeze.
I also want to know why the government removed that hiring and travel freeze if it was saving them so much money and it was such a reasonable, economic initiative in government expenditures. If the Minister could provide me with answers to those questions, that would be very helpful to me.
I do not mean to lecture the Members. I recognize that they are all new Members and we certainly want to give them enough time to get their feet wet, learn the ropes, enjoy their experience in government and to try to do the best job they can do. However, I really think that in the next caucus meeting they have to sit down - I think the two private Members, the Member for Klondike and the Member for Old Crow should also be involved in these discussions - and make some decisions regarding whether or not this information I have requested should be provided. I would like all the Members to ask the questions to the Government Leader that I have presented here today and I do not want the Members to take it from some senior bureaucrat that it cannot be done.
Whatever the government wants done can be done if they go about it the right way and they have the right support in place, and it is a logical, reasonable thing to do. We are not asking the government to do anything that is not logical or reasonable, and I look forward to hearing what happens after they re-evaluate that position.
I also want to ask the Minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services to be prepared to give some information on the 911 number. I have spoken privately to the Member about this. He has been very cooperative in keeping me informed about the issue. I have been corresponding with him about it.
I would like to ask the Minister if he would be prepared, during the supplementary estimates, to give me a detailed accounting of what has transpired on this issue. I would like written documentation on this issue, not just a rushed answer in the House.
While I am speaking about the Minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services, I would like to thank him for asking for my input regarding the air and navigation review that is taking place. I have reviewed the issue and provided him with some suggestions. I hope there was something there that may have been of assistance to him.
Finally, I would like to come back to the Minister of Justices comments about the numbers and how the previous government emptied the bank account and spent everyones money until there was none left, and how Yukon would not have to worry as there is now a government in place that will not empty the bank account.
My constituents are worried about potential tax increases. They are worried about the electrical rates that are supposed to go up. They are worried about the fact that they are being asked to pay more and more without government really demonstrating that it is doing its share to cut back in spending.
The Government Leader is saying, Wait for the budget. Everyone is waiting for the budget. They are waiting to see how much more they are going to be asked to pay .
It is fine to blame the other government for the problems, and I do not deny that there were some problems and I am not going to go through them all over again, but people are waiting to see what this government is going to do, to see if it is going to cost them more money out of their pockets because of what this government wants to do.
I have made suggestions about initiatives, for example a nine-day fortnight. I thought this would have saved a tremendous amount of money. From what my constituents tell me, I think the public servants, if they had been asked in a consultative manner, would have been interested in participating in this type of cost-saving plan in the last four months.
Speaker: The Member has one minute remaining.
Mrs. Firth: I knew I was going to go on for a little while.
The government has to demonstrate that it can wisely manage the public purse before they ask Yukoners to pay more and to take more money out of their pockets. I had anticipated seeing more of that wise management when it came to the supplementary estimates. Maybe I could find that information if I could have the numbers. Maybe I could help find that information.
My parting message to the Government Leader is: sit down with the Deputy Minister of Finance, offer him an alternative - five hours in that ice cold refrigerator of a Cabinet room with Mrs. Firth, or could he please sit down for an hour or whatever it takes him and cross out, black out, cut off or do whatever he has to do to get rid of the confidential information in the figures so that Mrs. Firth can have the figures.
Thank you. I look forward to the budget debate and we will see just how I vote on the budget matters.
Ms. Joe: I have listened with great interest to all of the speeches that have taken place this afternoon, and I certainly look forward to the debate in Committee of the Whole regarding the supplementaries before us.
I, as do a lot of other people sitting here today, feel we will be facing a lot of problems in regard to what is included in here and where this government is going. During the election, we heard a lot of promises and, as politicians do, we kept track of all those promises and the estimated amount of how much those promises would cost. I recall one of the people working in my section of the campaign, while going over all of the promises at that time - and I think we were only about halfway through - saying to me, If the Tory party cannot read a budget, how are they going to run a government. I wonder that myself. I listen to the media, I listen to the kind of announcements they make, and I am not the only one. The public out there listens to them and all they do is say, We do not have any money left; the well is dry and we cannot do this and we cannot do that.
I also remember the requests and motions from when they were in the Opposition. They would stand up in this House and make motions and speak on behalf of continued or additional programs they wanted to see happen. We also made a list of all of those motions and a list of all the costs that would be incurred if all the requests were agreed to. One has to wonder if they even knew that some day they would be sitting on that side of the House and having to live up to all of those commitments they requested in the Opposition and then again during the election - all those promises and how they would fit in.
They have only been in government now for about five and one-half months and I think the public is starting to - I should not say think; I know the public is starting to ask questions in regard to how efficient they really are. For instance, my friend from Mayo-Tatchun stood up in the House and asked for a new school in that area because the school there is run down; it has been there for a few decades. The response was, We will go there and fix it up. We are sorry - the well is dry and we have no money.
With a response like that, are we saying the well is dry for next year and the year after and the year after that? There is new money coming in all the time; money comes in from the government each and every year, and I know the well is not dry for next year.
We would hope that we would get questions that are going to be a bit more responsible.
The thing that they would have the electorate believe is that the new fiscal year started on October 19 and, before that, everything that was spent was by this government. The Member for Faro made it very clear that they have been in power since October 19 and we are still spending money from this fiscal year. The fiscal year, for the information of the people across the floor, started on April 1. It ends on the last day of this month. We are still dealing with a budget for this fiscal year. They would have the public believe otherwise.
I have a great deal of difficulty trying to understand some of the things they are saying. I know, as was mentioned in this House before, that the unemployment rate has gone up drastically. I would believe that, because of that, so has social assistance. I know it has not gone down.
There was not one single thing here that indicated to me that the Yukon Party has made any new plans or brought anything into place to deal with the social assistance problem we are facing. I believe that it is going to get worse and that the costs for those kinds of programs are not going to get any lower.
Many Yukoners are starting to be concerned about many of the things that have happened so far. I get concerned when I hear the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes talk about a new change in this government and that we are no longer going to be supporting any socialist ventures. I would like him and other Members in the House to tell us exactly how they define what those are. Do they include child care? Do they include programs for aboriginal people in Old Crow? Do they include things like the teen centre? I do not know exactly what they are talking about.
I recall the type of things the Yukon Development Corporation was doing in the past, and I would dearly love to read a list of those things, because they not only include shelters for battered women, but they also include loans and grants for some of the hotels in the Yukon that are owned by Tory supporters.
I wonder whether or not we are going to see an increase in programs for those kinds of businesses that they support, and a drop in some of the things that are absolutely necessary, like day care and like homes for battered women. It is really scary. I have a wide and diverse group of people in my riding. Now that I am in the Opposition, I have a lot more time to spend in my riding and I have a lot more time to spend talking to a lot of other people as well. I have got to tell you, they are not fooling the people of the Yukon; they really are not. What they are doing is scaring them; they are scaring them drastically.
We in the House passed legislation supporting land claims and aboriginal self-government and that was great. Everybody spoke in favour of that but in the same breath they were agreeing to take away from another First Nations band land that had already been selected, without a word. It could happen in Old Crow; it could happen anywhere. In one breath they promise something and in another breath, they take it away. This happened 100 years ago. I remember the history of the land grab that happened 100 years ago and it is happening right now with this government here.
They pulled out of a commitment to Taga Ku. They literally pulled out of that. I wonder whether or not that happened because they considered it a socialist venture. Maybe they did, but I have got to tell you right now that aboriginal First Nations are going to be watching, and they are going to be wondering what is happening.
I really believe that the government will be supporting another convention centre and I would even like to make a bet right now where that is going to be. There is a lot of property on Main Street and I would make a bet that if they build a convention centre that is where it is going to be. The First Nations will wonder where they are really coming from.
I do have a concern about promises and about things that they are going to be doing and who is going to suffer as a result of it.
They announced a hiring freeze. I know that it was not a total freeze because I knew that positions continued to be filled during the hiring freeze. They announced a travel freeze and I know that people did travel. There was already mention of the Minister of Economic Development travelling outside, having a hospitality suite, giving away free booze and wearing a sign on his jacket that said, I am John Devries and I am the Minister of Economic Development for the Yukon. The Yukon is wide open.
What really concerns me is that the amount of money they saved in a hiring freeze did not make up for the money they spent the firing of four deputy ministers. They sit there and laugh, and blame it on contracts that were signed by this government. However, as the Member for Faro said, if they were let go for just cause, it would not have cost them anything. I, and all Yukoners, can only believe that they did a favour to all these deputy ministers. They patted them on the back, said they loved them, and they did really good work. I know for a fact that some of those deputy ministers had no political affiliation to this party and I know that they received a severance package. I have a hard time believing that they would be so irresponsible as to pat a deputy minister on the back, say they did a really good job, we love you, you have only worked here for less than two years, but here is $250,000, goodbye, have a good day. That almost-$250,000 is a figure that is going around the Yukon. It may or may not be right, but that is the figure that is out there.
Do you let deputy ministers go because, for instance, the Ministers do not like them? If that is the case, you would have to give them severance pay, because that is not just cause. I thought that was very irresponsible, and that the money they saved in a hiring freeze has not even been made up, because they had to turn around and give close to $1 million to the deputy ministers who were fired, but not for just cause - You did a good job, but here you go, pay all your bills and leave the Yukon.
In regard to the hiring freeze, there were a lot of term positions that I know were good positions and were established because the person years were needed. I would like to know what term positions were cancelled, and which ones were not. I hear that some of those term positions were renewed, or they were given contracts. Are we going to save money through contracts? I suspect that any contracts that took over from the term positions would probably cost more, so I hardly think they would save money.
I look forward to seeing the budget for next year. That will tell us where this government is coming from. I know for sure that they are not going to be renewing the term person year for the aboriginal justice coordinator. I think that is an insult to the aboriginal people of the Yukon, especially when it comes to aboriginal justice. Many good things were happening, changes were taking place and aboriginal concerns were being heard and in some cases being met. However, if we are going backwards now, I do not think that is very good. I think they are going in the wrong direction.
I am a little bit concerned about the kind of money that is being spent. We have all mentioned that we have a transition team in place and we all wonder about the kind of money that is being spent.
We have all mentioned that we have a transition team in place and we all wonder what that transition team is doing. One of the Ministers over there said that they have no expertise, so they had to use these experts. I understand that most of these experts came up from the Vander Zalm era and that is really scary. As a former British Columbian, that is really scary.
It is scary not only to me, I have lived here for a long time, but I do not think that the Socred philosophy has changed in the last 50 years. It is still the same; nothing has changed and if that is where this government is coming from and if that is where they are going, then Yukoners do have a lot to worry about.
I have talked to some people in my riding who have only lived in the Yukon for a year, two or three years and they are scared. They even remember some of the names that are being bandied about. Every time we turn around we see something in place that indicates we are going backwards to the days of the Socreds.
Our supplementary, and I think our new budget coming up, is giving us that message. It is not only giving us that message, but it is giving that message right across the territory.
I am really worried. I believe that a lot of good things will be lost. As I mentioned before, I worry about the kinds of things that are going to be cancelled and what the Minister of Justice considers to be socialist ventures. I would like him to make that determination at some point so that Yukoners - aboriginal people, single mothers and those kinds of people - will know what to expect from this government. I do not think it is good, so I look forward to finding out where the money has been spent in this supplementary. I also look forward to knowing what is going to be in the new budget.
There has been some comment here about how we are blaming bureaucrats and everyone else for the mistakes that have been made by this party. I know that Ministers have to take responsibility for every single thing that happens in a department. If they buy the wrong kind of pencil, they have to take that responsibility. If they spend the money in a manner that is not acceptable, they have to take the blame. They are the ones who will have to answer any questions we have on any budget that comes before us.
As a former Minister of seven years, I also know that Ministers have to make some really tough decisions. I know that some of the things that we did, and the kind of programs we implemented, were done as a result of a lot of hard negotiating in Cabinet, in Management Board and in caucus. We, in the end, had to understand that one cannot get everything one wants. I do not think the people across the House have realized that yet. Hard decisions have to be made.
I believe they are realizing that they cannot afford their election promises and that, even if they were in government for 20 years, they would never realize their election promises because those promises were too big, too outrageous. For that reason, the blame of the previous NDP government will go on and on. Although they have only been in government for five and one-half months, most Yukoners wonder about the kind of information they are sending out. I do not think they are fooling Yukoners. I believe Yukoners are smarter than that. Some Yukoners understand a lot more clearly how governments work, how budgets are spent, and how decisions are made.
I look forward to dealing with this supplementary budget. The Member for Riverdale South had asked for information with regard to some areas of the budget - prior information that would help us in asking questions during Committee of the Whole - and I would like to make that same request. A large amount is being requested for Justice, and I might have an idea what some of those requests are for. Therefore, I ask the Minister of Justice if he might prepare some information for me so that I will be wiser in regard to the kind of money we are going to be voting here. I know he will answer every single question I have in Committee of the Whole, and that will be very helpful to me. However, if there is any information he can give me prior to that, I would appreciate it.
I was going to ask for an explanation for the money in the Womens Directorate, but then I realized I am not critic for that department any more.
I would not mind having that information, if someone would care to give it to me.
I look forward to sitting down and going over the budget. I realize that there will be more questions, and we will have further chance, in general debate, to talk about the concerns we have, and to ask as many questions as we want. Certainly, every one of us on this side of the House will be asking questions and, at the end of the day, we hope we will be much better informed.
Hon. Mr. Devries: The Government Leader gave a fairly comprehensive analysis of the nuts and bolts of the supplementary estimate, so I do not feel I need to review those; however, there were several remarks made by a previous Member, and a former Cabinet Minister, on the supplementary estimates that I must comment on.
That Member seems to forget that several of us on this side were in Opposition for some, or all, of their reign. By way of examining those remarks, I must first admit that I do admire that Member and his leaders ability to manipulate the English language; however, he must realize that perfect pronunciation is not in itself the means to an end, nor a solution to problems that plagued the previous government, or were inherited by the present government.
The issue of debate today is the supplementary estimates. Those estimates are the spending of government that was, quite frankly, out of control. What we see today is a legacy of trying to build a sawmill based on ideology, not on solid business practices. What we see today is a legacy of problem-solving by throwing more money at a problem, rather than taking the good advice of its employees.
What we see today is a sad result of making decisions based on a national agenda that was anti-business. Paying lip service to development, in itself, was not enough.
The NDP Member for Faro took great delight in talking of the rise in unemployment in the Yukon, yet when they were in government they advanced $5 million to a company they knew full well needed another $29 million to survive. The Member for Faro should in fact turn to his newly found friends and ask them why they did not have the fortitude to face the issue when it arose, rather than hiding their heads in the sand.
It was with interest that I heard one of the previous speakers infer that the new governments message was along the line of The double-barreled message of open for business; welcome to the recession. That was supposedly the new governments philosophy. I wish that Member had been with me at the Cordilleran round up where I heard horror stories of companies that wanted to spend money on exploration in the Yukon and could not because they received a very clear message that they were not wanted and this reduced their ability to raise the funds to carry on this exploration.
I heard stories of equipment sitting in the Yukon, waiting for permits all through the whole exploration season. That was the welcome private enterprise got from the previous government.
I think, at the end of their term, the previous administration realized that there were some problems, and perhaps did attempt to start some moves in the right direction. One of these would have been last fall when they began what they called the Whitehorse Mining Initiative, which is basically geared toward mines Ministers sitting down together and coming up with a streamlined environmental review process, and trying to get the message back out that Canada does believe in mining and that mining is a very important mainstay in the economy of Canadians and is the Yukons number one industry.
I have always felt that there were spending problems within government. As a new Minister it was a real eye opener to me when I had the opportunity to sit down and review budgets in detail with various deputy ministers and department managers.
As the Minister for Government Services I only have to look at the cost overrun at the Visitors Reception Centre - I am hoping that I am not stealing some of my colleagues lines here. Here was a project with a projected budget of between $1 and $2 million and yet came out at $3 million.
The school at Hidden Valley that was built for $130.00 to $140.00 per square foot. Then we see a school in Granger, the former Government Leaders riding, built for $230.00 to $240.00 per square foot. It might be a beautiful school, but it is not doing anything for the Member for Mayos school or the Grey Mountain school.
The extended care facility cost double what it should have cost. Being a rural member I really resent that expenditure. We could have built a facility in Haines Junction, Watson Lake and Whitehorse for the same money and had double the occupancy.
When the main estimates come down, the Members opposite will see what new initiatives are being taken.
I assure them that there are many new initiatives being taken to help get the situation that was left by the previous administration under control. To me, the bottom line in the supplementary shows that the government spent $50 million more than it took in. If that is allowed to continue, then we will be in the same mess that the rest of the country is in.
Everyone keeps mentioning the Taga Ku, and since it is in the courts, I am restricted in what I can say about it. The government will be evaluating its need for government office space. When we took office, we found that there was under-utilized space and that dollars were being wasted.
I get the distinct impression from Members of the Opposition that I am being urged to rent an additional 30,000 square feet of office space that is not required. Are they saying that spending $20 million over the next 10 to 20 years for office space that we do not need is wise spending of taxpayers money - never mind that we would be breaking agreements and conditions that they themselves established in order to achieve this objective.
I find it interesting when the Members of the Opposition criticize the deputy ministers for the way that they have pulled the wool over our eyes and got us to spend more money. I appreciate the work of the deputy ministers, the managers and employees, because I feel that they have done a marvelous job in ensuring that we have a government that we can afford and yet have no cut in services. The Members will see this when the budget comes down.
Again, the Member for Faro stands up and asks us to throw $34 million his way, and it will be the Yukons salvation. It is not that easy. He says we should negotiate, and then, when the company starts to negotiate and asks for a news blackout, he criticizes the fact that we are negotiating without him. What does he want us to do: negotiate or not negotiate? He should make up his mind.
I do not like the unemployment rate. No doubt, most of the unemployment increase is related to Curragh. As the Members opposite know very well, unless they are deaf, many workers received indefinite or permanent layoff notices. Yet, not one question in this House was asked about what we are doing to help these employees. They are more interested in political brownie points than in helping the people of Faro.
Speaker: Order, please. The time being 5:30 p.m., the House will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Speaker: I call the House to order.
Bill No. 4: Second Reading - continued
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 4, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Ostashek, adjourned debate.
Mr. Joe: I want to talk about where this government is taking the Yukon Territory. It seems to me that this government is like a boat without anything to steer it by.
I am not even sure it has a motor. And, I feel we are starting to drift downstream in the river.
On one hand they say we are broke and then on the other hand they are going to open all kinds of mines in my riding.
I like the fact that my riding is going to do better, but I would like to know how long this is going to last.
When the ore is all gone, what will be left? How will the people live in the long term.
Will they be healthy? Will they have a good home to live in? Will their children be taken care of?
Before any mines go in, they need to look at what it will do to the environment. This is the most important part of any project: what will it do to the environment?
I cannot support any project that does not go through this kind of review.
This is what I mean about it being a boat without a motor. I am a good pilot of river boats. I would be happy to give the government any help that I can.
Mr. Cable: I suppose being the lone Liberal I am in the enviable position of not having to defend a record against alleged fiscal malfeasance or jump on the bandwagon to assist in taking us into some new fiscal Jerusalem. I am just here to watch the truth distilled. I hope, by the end of the debate, there will be truth distillation or some exchange of ideas. I gather that that is what these debates are about.
I do share the Member for Riverdale Souths desire to get more information. I would hope that, during the course of this debate, we will see such things as actual gross program expenditures. I hearken back to a comment made by the Government Leader in the newspapers where I and the Member for Riverdale South had an opportunity to ask questions in a briefing. I think this ignores the fact that, speaking for myself, anyway, I am a bit of a greenhorn in the area of budget debates. Confronted with a mass of figures, a whole bunch of questions do not immediately spring to mind. There are things that people think about after the fact and I, like the Member for Riverdale South, would like some more information.
Actual gross program expenditures would be very useful to determine where the cash has gone, or is going, up to the present time, or at least up to the time of the last monthly printout - I gather it is taken on a monthly basis. We are only nine days from the end of the fiscal period, so surely we can find some relationship between what is being projected and what the actual expenditures are.
I would also like some information on the various capital expenditures. The issue has been joined in the House on the difference between the capital expenditure level in the supplementary estimates and the previous two years of capital expenditures. I would like to get some information on this. It would also be a useful area for some distillation of the truth.
I was looking at the supplementary estimates and trying to compare them with the Consulting and Audit Canada report. I noticed that the supplementary estimates had a figure of over $309 million for revenues, exclusive of recoveries. The Consulting and Audit Canada report had revenues, exclusive of recoveries, of approximately $318 million.
The O&M in the supplementary is $292 million. The Consulting and Audit Canada report sets out $337 million.
The capital expenditures in the supplementaries is $120 million and in the Consulting and Audit Canada report $106 million. The recoveries in the supplementaries are $88 million as opposed to a Consulting and Audit Canada projection of $69 million. After all the bells and whistles and the computers have whirred and the printouts have come out, lo and behold down at the bottom we have the same deficit of $7 million. I would like to find out whether that is due to the actions of the government in controlling expenditures in the interim, or some sort of new electronic computer intelligence, where the computer had the intuition that maybe the rest of us did not have.
Those are the sorts of things I would like to see brought before this House in the next day or so, so that I, as a new Member of the House, can draw some conclusions as to whether these supplementary estimates should be supported.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: First of all, I would like to react to some of the statements that have already been made in the House, particularly the statement just made by the leader of the Liberal Party. I can assure him that there is no magical bookkeeping method used here to come out with the same figure. It has been a long agonizing process for each and every Minister on this side of the House to try to trim the budgets and reduce the cost to government over the next fiscal year. If there were a magical $50 million or $20 million or $30 million sitting out there somewhere, there would not be a happier bunch of guys than we on this side if we could find that money. Going through this has been quite an agonizing process and I have asked many of the questions that the leader of the Liberal Party has just asked and I am confident in my mind that the figures in this budget are the true and accurate figures of the Government of the Yukon Territory; in fact, these figures have not changed since early in November when we took office. Consistently, every month, these figures have been repeated as have similar figures, from month to month, so there has been no change overall.
One has to ask himself or herself the question when we reach this stage: if the government was in such a great financial position as the New Democrats claim we were in, why did we not go into the House in the fall and deal with the fall budget, and then go to the polls after that?
It makes you wonder what they knew. In fact, the Member for Faro admitted here today that they knew there were serious problems with the budget, yet we never heard one whisper during the election campaign that the Government of the Yukon is in serious financial problems, and we are going to do something to fix it. They never said that. They never made any wild promises, but they never told you, Mr. Speaker, that there were serious problems with the finances of the Government of the Yukon.
The Member for Faro has admitted today, in the House - and it is on record in Hansard - that they knew there were serious problems.
Also, I was told by an individual who attended the celebration the New Democrats held after the election in the CYO Hall, that one of the NDP Ministers made the comment to a couple of people standing there, Wait until they see what the finances of the Government of the Yukon look like. They will sure be shocked. We sure were shocked when we saw the state of the finances of the Government of the Yukon.
The supplementary we are dealing with today carries with it the largest deficit the Government of the Yukon has ever faced - $57 million. That is a very serious matter for the 30,000 people of the Yukon. There is no way that we could carry on in the future with a $57 million deficit.
While I was having dinner at home this evening, I turned on the BCTV News. They had obtained a deficit clock from a bank in downtown Vancouver and they put it in the studios of BCTV. When I began to watch that program, the deficit in Canada was $456,331,806,791. Within 15 minutes, it had risen about $400,000. It is rising to the tune of $40 billion a year, and it takes 33 percent of the revenues of the Yukon just to pay the interest. The interest alone is $40 billion a year - not the increase in the debt. One out of every three dollars in Canada goes just to pay the interest.
We get the majority of our money from the federal government, and we have to be very fiscally responsible in how we spend that money. I would suggest to to you, Mr. Speaker, and to all Members of this House, that we have not been very fiscally responsible in spending that money.
The Member for McIntyre-Takhini said the recession started on October 19. Well, the recession started about two years ago when we started deficit financing, when the Members opposite, who were Ministers of the government, refused to take control of the spending of the Government of Yukon, when they built schools at one and one-half times the cost of other schools in the territory, when they spent $15,000 in the Granger school for a mobile - a mobile with butterflies and a mobile with some planets that were not designed or built in the Yukon.
When they knew we had serious financial problems, they still spent $15,000 on mobiles in an elementary school, instead of having the kids do something in the school that would be a useful chore. They also spent another $10,000 on a wood carving in the school, and another $2,000 on some artwork in the school. That is almost $30,000, and this was just a few months ago when they knew that the Government of Yukon was experiencing serious financial problems.
The Member for McIntyre-Takhini also said that he used to get criticized when he invested large capital sums in the Yukon. Let us look at their large capital investments. Some of their investments have been good investments. Most of the schools we have built have been very wise expenditures and built within reasonable budgets, but some of them have gone right out of this world.
Let us look at some of the other large expenditures: for instance, the Hyland Forest Products expenditure, which was $16 million. I would suggest to you today, Mr. Speaker, that if we had not spent that $16 million on Hyland Forest Products, the Public Utilities Board would not be asking the ratepayers in the Yukon for an increase in their hydro rates.
We are paying for those kinds of mistakes today and we are going to be paying for them for a long time to come.
The Member for McIntyre-Takhini also mentioned the high unemployment rate in the Yukon. I do not think the Member was very fair. He knows full well that if they had been re-elected in October, they would be in exactly the same position as we are in today with Curragh, unless they had just, as the Member for Faro would have us do, handed over $34 million with no conditions, just with keeping it running as the bottom line. They did that in the spring of this year. They handed over $5 million to Curragh with guarantees to us in this House that they would not be back. This was supposed to solve the problem and give them enough money to strip the Grum deposit and keep the people at work forever - to the end of this century were the words the Government Leader used at the time. Here we are eight or 10 months later, back at the table with the same company we supposedly gave security to one year ago, and they are asking for $34 million more. If the former government had been a little more prudent in their negotiations in March of last year, we would not be facing this problem today.
The New Democratic Party Cabinet Ministers knew in October that we were in serious financial problems. Each one of the Ministers in the government had approved the period 8 variance reports and they were signed off. They approved the expenditures.
I have a great deal of envy for the Member for Faro, because he knows more about governments and oppositions and every single thing we do here after only five months than I have learned in seven years. I wish I had the ability that that Member is demonstrating to all of us here. They are not all pluses, but he seems to have a great handle on how to operate government. Although he has only been an Opposition Member for five months, he also seems to know what a Ministers job is, how to deal with Cabinet, departments and bureaucrats - he is an expert at that, too. I may give him a call shortly, because this gentleman seems to know everything from soup to nuts. I will be happy to sit down with him and listen to some of his advice.
One of the things he doesnt know, and one of things he will know as this debate continues, is that in almost every single case the major expenditures that we are talking about in this supplementary were agreed to by the previous Cabinet. I would be more than happy in this House to give him the dates, times of the Management Board decisions that will reflect directly on the previous Cabinet and not on this Cabinet.
I would be more than pleased to show the cost overruns of the departments I am responsible for, which include Education, Tourism and Womens Directorate. I know, from speaking with my colleagues, each one of those Members will rise in their place and tell those Members the dates and times they were agreed to.
The NDP government knew that there was $36 million, over and above the $19 million deficit, that was agreed to before we even took office.
The former Minister of Education and the Member for McIntyre-Takhini talked about how the hiring of the government had risen so dramatically over the past few months. I was disappointed with that; as the Member knows, about 90 percent of that growth in hiring was directly related to teachers and teacher/staffing ratios that we are committed to and were exempt from the hiring freeze to ensure that the students would not be adversely affected.
I take it from the Members suggestion that he is asking me to not allow an increase in teacher and special education staffing for the education system. I do not agree with that. I think we have to provide adequate staffing in our school system.
The Member for Faro also mentioned the landslide victory of one percent between the NDP and the Yukon Party in the election. He left out a small part of the equation. He left out the fact that about 60 percent of the people of the Yukon voted against having the NDP government in power. They voted for parties other than the NDP. They voted for Independents, Liberals and the Yukon Party. I would think that it would be the wrong attitude to take if the NDP thought that they were that close to forming a government. Simply, the people of the Yukon rejected them on October 19, 1992.
The Member for Whitehorse Centre, who seems to be wanting to get into the debate, should be rather cautious. If we want to talk about landslides, I do not think that particular Member should get too carried away; the votes in that Members riding could not exactly be described as a landslide. In fact, with the recent judgment, the Member won by one vote. Other Members in the New Democratic Party won by as close as 23 and 26 votes, so overall they did not have a large majority of support in the Yukon.
The Member for Faro also mentioned that half of the year was our responsibility. He is right, and the facts and figures will show that during the half-year that was our responsibility there will be very few, if any, major increases to the supplementary budgets; in fact, as I said earlier, 98 percent, or 95 percent at least, of the increases to the supplementary budgets were under the New Democratic government. I am sure all Ministers will be very happy to sit down and go through the budget line by line and explain it to the Members.
I was not surprised when the Member for Faro spoke about us having a responsibility for half the budget, because this is the fiscal year we are in. It did surprise me, however, when I heard the Member for Whitehorse Centre say the same thing, because that Member is one of the Ministers in the previous government who knew exactly what the financial position of the Government of the Yukon was and did nothing about it; she did not even tell the people when she went door to door that there were serious financial problems. She just told them all the great things she was going to do for the people of the Yukon if her party got re-elected.
The Member for Faro mentioned the word obscene. The only thing that is obscene about this whole situation is that the previous government, the NDP government, spent $57 million more last year than they took in, and they are right - that is obscene.
It is sad, but it almost made me laugh when the Member for Faro talked about having to make challenging budget decisions. Is building a monster on top of the hill and calling it a visitors reception centre - at almost twice the cost of what it should have been - a challenging budget decision? Is an $11 million extended care facility across the river here a challenging budget decision? There is a $150,000 light fixture in that facility that is worth more than most peoples houses. There is a $50,000 fireplace in that centre - that is going to provide care for the seniors who use the facility. That is a challenging budget decision?
Putting mobiles in our schools and building grandiose schools that are half-again as nice as any other school in the Yukon - and it just happens to be in the previous Government Leaders riding - is that a challenging budget decision?
The Member for Whitehorse Centre says our kids are worth it and I could not agree more that our kids are worth it, but we could have built two schools for the cost of the school in Granger. We probably could have put one of the schools in the Mayo riding. Now we cannot do that, because the previous government spent all the money on some of these grandiose castles that they built all around the territory.
It is unfortunate, and I know this is hard for the Member for Whitehorse Centre to handle, because she was part of that group that spent all the money. All of these things are out there for the public to see. I know that it is difficult for her to accept that, but she is going to have to accept it. In fact, that Member, along with the other Members of that Cabinet are responsible for this $57 million deficit.
They also raise the subject of the cost of the firing of the deputy ministers. The Members opposite said the costs are excessive.
We are going to change that; we are going to bring in some legislation or a change in policy in this government that will stop the gross, excessive contracts that were signed by the previous Government Leader. We will change that policy.
If the public had known before the election some of the things that were in those contracts that the former Government Leader had signed, there would be nobody sitting on that side.
The other issue that I want to touch on is the on-again/off-again/on-again/off-again support that the party opposite seems to give the caribou enhancement program in the Aishihik area. We have heard four different statements from the Member for Faro on his partys position.
What we have here is an NDP government who, for four years, did absolutely nothing but procrastinate on an issue where they knew there were serious problems. The previous government did absolutely nothing when the First Nations and other people were asking them to do something.
When our government came to power, we sat down with the First Nations and the people involved and made the decision that should have been made four years ago. One of the reasons the problem is so serious today is because the NDP government took no action.
When we made that decision and announced it early in January, the NDP came out against that decision with all kinds of horrendous fear-mongering about how tourism is being destroyed in the territory, and that we should be really careful about what we were doing. That did not happen. When the NDP realized it did not happen, they changed their position again, and said they were in full support of the predator control program, and they had a big press release to say it. They did not fool anybody - it is too little, too late. They did not do anything about that program.
Now, we have the national leader of the New Democratic Party, Audrey McLaughlin, calling for an environmental assessment before we go any further. That will make First Nations in the territory happy. There will be First Nations asking how long it will now take before we will be able to go ahead with a caribou enhancement program, because we will have to go through a lot more hoops required by the New Democratic Party national leader. I suppose, very shortly, the New Democratic caucus will change their position again, and they will support their national leader.
The Member for Faro also mentioned the Taga Ku project; specifically, he talked about the convention centre. He said if you talk about infrastructure and development, that is what we should be going ahead with right now.
I could not disagree more. I am the Tourism Minister, and I understand he is the Tourism critic. If he had been talking to people in the tourism industry, like the Tourism Industry Association, they would have told him that they want to do an assessment right now of the need for a convention centre. The whole industry association is saying that it is premature to build something, and you have to determine exactly what you want, where and how you want it. Well, the Members opposite believe in consultation - I know they never did listen - but perhaps they should listen to what the industry has to say.
If he were to really get serious about the Taga Ku situation and examine all the facts, he would see that that situation was a bad deal for the people of the Yukon in the long run.
The Member for Faro also mentioned the concerns that he had about our transition team. He talked about our Socred-import transition team. I want to give him a little bit of information that he may find valuable and he may want to use or he may want to think about for awhile. There are two people on our transition team. One of them is Grant Livingston. Grant Livingston has been in the Yukon for 10 years or so, or maybe even 20 years. He has been here a long, long time.
Merv Miller is the other member on our transition team. Obviously he does not know anything about Merv Miller. Merv Miller was a very highly respected accountant in this town, who worked for the government and worked in his own business. He lived in the Yukon for 18 years, a heck of a lot longer than the Member for Faro has lived here, so he is a lot more of a Yukoner than the Member for Faro is right now, if you want to get down to brass tacks.
Let us talk about transition teams. Let us talk about John Walsh, who was the principal secretary to the Government Leader, who came from Saskatchewan and disappeared to British Columbia. Let us talk about Joe Fraser, the principal secretary to the Government Leader, who came from Ontario and has disappeared to some other province. These are people who came to the Yukon, advised the Government Leader on great changes to the Yukon that would make it all better, and now they have all gone because they do not want to live here. What about Doug McArthur, the Deputy Minister of the Executive Council Office. He is long gone. What about Terry Sargeant, the principal secretary from Saskatchewan? Gone.
Speaker: Order please. I hope the Minister will relate this to the objects of the bill for us, or steer his speech back in that direction.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am relating it to the object of the bill because what we are talking about here in the object of this bill, is the cost to the Yukon taxpayer. As they made the accusation that we have imported these people from British Columbia, these are people whom the previous government imported and cost the Yukon taxpayer a lot of money. This is why we have a huge supplementary in front of us now because these people were the people who gave the Government Leader advice on all the things that they built. So, it is related to the debate that we are talking about today.
They have also made attacks against Dale Drown, our communications advisor. They have said Dale Drown is from British Columbia. What they forget - their memory is short - is that their communications advisor came up here with the CBC. He was not a Yukoner. As soon as the government was defeated, this person who was absolutely committed to the territory pulled up within weeks and left the territory. He is no longer living in the territory.
I know it is rather painful for the Members opposite to know the truth and for someone to point out that they are not all pure and lily white. I think the Members opposite should be careful about casting stones because they are living in a glass house themselves.
I do not have a lot more to add to the debate, but I am very concerned about the cost overruns that this government has experienced in the $57 million supplementary that is in front of us. I will not have any problem whatsoever in defending this supplementary.
When we get to the education line items in the supplementary, the previous Minister of Education knows what is there. I did not approve it, he did. I approved the final budget that came into the House, but all those items in that budget, with the possible exception of one small one, were all approved by the previous government. We will find the same thing in Tourism and in the Womens Directorate. I think when we go through each of the departments of all the Ministers here, we will discover that it was not what happened in the last five months that created this problem, it is what happened in the last 12 to 14 months that has us in the sorry state we are in today.
I am afraid that the Member for Faro, although he claims to know everything, does not have all the facts. We will learn them as we go through the budget. I look forward to debating this with the Member for Faro and other Members in the House.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am pleased to have an opportunity to rise and participate in the supplementary estimates debate.
The Yukon Party four-year plan outlines a commitment for social change that purports to ensure responsible fiscal management. How did the government begin their responsible fiscal management? They conducted a financial review to show Yukoners that the government was broke. Yukon government departments were called upon to provide an estimate of their spending requirements for the current fiscal year. The departments had only a few days to pull together information that normally takes a few months to prepare. The departments prepared forecasts of their expenditures. We would argue that, in some cases, it was an inflated forecast of expenditures. A significant oversight is that departments did not detail expected revenues or recoveries of their departments.
Consulting and Audit Canada was only in the Yukon for a total of one week. They completed their review in two weeks. It is, therefore, no surprise that selective information was also used in their review.
Recoveries are often tied directly to expenditures. For example, 50 percent of health service and social assistance costs are recovered from the federal government. They forecast a $4 million increase in social assistance costs, but did not include the $2 million recoverable in their figures.
This seems to me to be a rather significant oversight.
The review also forecasts $900,000 for O&M costs of the extended care facility in 1992-93. It is almost March 31 of 1993 and, as yet, the government has steadfastly refused to open the extended care facility. Rather than demonstrate economic leadership and show their commitment to social change, the government has been dragging their heels on meeting the needs of Yukoners.
Macaulay Lodge is overcrowded with patients who need more care than the facility was designed to deliver. There are serious concerns about the health and safety of the patients at Macaulay Lodge in the event of a fire requiring evacuation of the lodge, particularly the second storey of that building.
Whitehorse General Hospital has many patients who are receiving palliative, dementia and long-term care for a whole host of reasons. Our seniors and elders should not be confined to inadequate overcrowded living arrangements.
I say it is uncaring to force people to watch smoke rising from a heated but vacant facility that was designed to provide a comfortable, caring environment for them. It does not make good economic sense to be paying for increased home care, hospital beds and nursing home care while the extended care facility, which could provide extended, palliative, dementia, rehabilitation and respite care for Yukoners, is sitting empty.
The Yukon Party wants to provide Yukoners with the first opportunity for employment opportunities. If and when they open the extended care facility, I hope Yukoners will get jobs providing health care services. We need these jobs now, not at some unspecified date in the future.
So the Yukon Party financial forecast can be viewed as a political attempt to create lower expectations in the Yukon. Today, we do not just have lower expectations; we have a made-in-the-Yukon recession. Their doom-and-gloom predictions have caused a loss of consumer confidence, including bankruptcies, a decline in real estate prices, and families leaving the Yukon.
We also have a government that made much of their support for First Nations self-government and the land claims legislation, but would the government honour a commitment to rent office space from the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation in their Taga Ku project office tower? We all know the answer: no, they would not. Why would they refuse to lease space from the First Nations? Why would they refuse to support this project?
The Yukon Party has declared their commitment to investment in infrastructure. What kind of infrastructure are they talking about? There has been talk from this government about building railroads to Carmacks, roads to resources, and stairways to heaven; but what about the here and now? What about a commitment to already existing businesses on which hundreds of Yukon people depend for their livelihood?
How does the government plan to provide cheaper energy? What new roads are they going to build, and to where?
How soon do dividends from paving the Yukon pay off? Megaprojects do not just come because roads have been built. This new idea has proved to be totally bankrupt in other Canadian jurisdictions.
The government has failed to demonstrate fiscal or economic leadership in negotiating with Curragh Inc. Workers in Faro have been laid off, as have many people employed in the transportation and service infrastructure in the Yukon. Taxpayers expect this government to employ sound economic practices in dealing with Curragh. They must protect the taxpayer and ensure the security of the jobs in Faro.
When the Yukon Party took power, unemployment in the Yukon was under the national average. In a few short months, unemployment has risen to over 14 percent, well over the national average. This is what has happened to the Yukon economy since the election on October 19. People are understandably nervous about the economic future, because the five months of Yukon Party government has demonstrated poor management.
When a social housing project fell by the wayside in Whitehorse, did the government find an alternate site? No. We hope the Minister will be successful in lobbying the federal government for those funds to be transferred to the next fiscal year. However, I must say that economic leadership is imperative to meet housing needs in the Yukon - not just in Whitehorse, but in many of our rural communities.
The Yukon Housing Corporation must meet its corporate objective to ensure the provision and availability of adequate, suitable and affordable accommodation to Yukon households in need. Lack of affordable housing is one of the greatest barriers to escaping poverty. Rather than turning back unspent O&M and capital dollars, the Yukon Housing Corporation must promote programs to assist the housing industry to supply adequate housing within the Yukon and ensure community participation in the design, development and delivery of housing programs.
The government is concerned about rising social assistance rolls. There is a small example of inconsistency on the government side, where this government had a choice between Yukoners working for themselves, being self-sufficient, or living on social assistance. Here is a case where I think the new government has been put to the test and failed. It is a case involving only two people, but these things all add up, and we have to pay attention to things small, as well as big.
This couple was living in the Flat Creek area off the Hot Springs Road and, according to a recent article in the Yukon News and conversations with these people, they were self-sufficient, earning their own incomes, working for themselves cutting wood on a federal forestry lease.
These were a couple of hard-working Yukoners who were not looking for a handout, just a place to do something for themselves.
The lease was cancelled and forestry was pulling out the bridge. They went to their Yukon Party MLA and this government for help and got none. They are now on social assistance.
At the least, discussions could have been held with federal forestry officials to explain in more detail what the circumstances were and some possible alternatives, such as other wood lot sites, such as possible assistance to move the trailers to new locations, such as helping develop an infrastructure and anything else that might help keep a couple of people off of social assistance and working for themselves; but no was the answer.
This kind of attitude is extremely unfortunate. I understand it is not too late. Forestry has not yet pulled out that bridge.
This is an infrastructure issue. Is this another example where the government says one thing and means another? Will the government take a look at it? Will it take some concrete action to get a couple of people who are ready and willing to work off the social assistance rolls? As the old saying goes: people want work, not welfare.
I also have a grave concern about the hiring freeze instituted by this government to, in their words, obtain an indication of its financial status. What has really happened is that workers have been renewed on a month-by-month term basis that provides no certainty for the worker and does not give an accurate financial picture for the department.
The Government Leader has said that once the controls are lifted nothing will change. According to the Government Leader, there will still be discretion used in hiring, travel and in permitting departmental discretionary funding.
I fear that discretionary funding means that government workers do have to fear for the security of their jobs, in spite of the Government Leaders campaign promise to the contrary.
The Minister of Economic Development said that my colleague, the MLA for Faro, and the Members of our caucus, did not ask any questions on behalf of the unemployed workers in Faro. All of our questions about Curragh and this governments lack of economic leadership in resolving the mine shutdown in Faro are asked for the benefit of the workers, our sisters and brothers who have been cast adrift by this government. We have been pleading with the government to stop dragging their heels on behalf of the workers in Faro and Watson Lake.
If the honourable gentlemen opposite have not realized this yet, then they are out of touch with the average working person in this territory and they are certainly out of touch with the Faroites who were here in person to demonstrate their concern to the government.
This government is spending a lot of time, energy and breath blaming the previous administration for the slippery slope this territory is sliding down right now. One thing they conveniently forget time and again is that they have been at the economic helm for half of the current fiscal year.
I would encourage the Members opposite to get on with the business of governing and stop the name calling. Yukoners expect some economic leadership here, which they are not getting. The government has a hard time getting on with the business of the day and is living in the past. Let us see some economic direction and vision, not a document that is an embarrassment and devoid of content or forethought.
I do not agree with the Minister of Tourism that longevity is the key to being a real Yukoner. I find his rationale that only 18-year residents are worth listening to completely unacceptable.
When the Yukon Party campaigned for better services for seniors, Yukoners must have believed them - 37 percent believed them anyway. The other 36 percent must have believed there was no such thing as a Tory social conscience, as they did not vote for them.
When they campaigned for more housing, were they really saying, Let us have a recession, make people scared for their jobs in Faro and that way there will be ample housing as lots will have been vacated.
Where is their commitment to violence against women? We have heard a lot of good family rhetoric from the side opposite, but this side will be looking for a definite commitment to ensuring that women are not only respected through the principles of employment equity, but that our safety will be secured on the streets, in the workplace, in our homes and in public.
We will be watching to see that the transition homes will be funded. We also want to know if more shelters will be built in communities that are in desperate need of these services - services that do not currently exist.
Will these programs be cut? Will these be the kind of savings that this government is talking about when they say they will be able to build the railroad to Carmacks, the gas pipeline and, as of today, they are all ready to jump on the Windy Craggy bandwagon. Now, that will be a popular move, just when it is about to become a world heritage site.
The Yukon party has concerns about the regulatory environment. Yukoners have endorsed the Yukon Conservation Strategy. This creates a certainty for investors because requirements are clearly laid out.
I believe that a major part of any job strategy or economic plan needs to talk about training. Indeed, as workers face challenges of an ever-changing workplace, no economic strategy should be taken seriously, without careful consideration about how to deal with training or retraining the workforce.
I am sure it will come as no surprise that in the governments economic plan, Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century, there is only one cursory mention of job training; it was certainly not a main emphasis. I asked the government how it plans to create jobs for Yukoners when training is not part of the economic scheme they presented to the Deputy Prime Minister of Canada. I suppose they can continue the trend they started when they imported the Socred transition dream team from British Columbia. Perhaps that is how they are planning to staff the projects in the economic scheme: just set up a work camp and fly them in and out - hardly a sustainable plan for economic recovery.
Before I close, I would like to comment on the need I see to build an economy that puts the needs of people first and recognizes the unique needs of women. Womens lives are still characterized by significant and systematic inequality. Their struggle to achieve full equality, both socially and economically, continues. Progressive social policy is one of the best ways to ensure economic equality for Yukon women.
Issues of concern to women have been marginalized in our society. The structure of our economy makes much of womens work invisible and the work that is recognized is often under valued as well as under compensated.
In the labour market, women do not participate as equals. They are paid less than men and have fewer prospects for advancement, nor are their specific needs accommodated by employers. Outside the labour market, women bear a disproportionate share of the burden of household work and child care. Womens work in the home is unwaged and has been under valued by society.
When they are part of the labour market, women workers are expected to be available for overtime, shift work and travel - expectations that are unrealistic for most single parents and for many dual income families.
I do not see the Yukon Party government being in a hurry to proclaim labour legislation, previously passed in this House, to address the needs of women workers in these settings.
The number and proportion of women living in poverty increases steadily. Women are poor, not because they have failed to make the right choices, but because their choices are severely restricted because government social policies do not yet adequately address womens needs and because, without progressive social policies, women cannot achieve economic equality.
I am talking about effective employment and pay equity programs, progressive labour and employment standards, access to professions and trades, including training programs, as necessary components of an employment economy that moves toward economic equality for women.
Public education plays a critical role in enabling girls and young women to develop confidence in their potential to pursue any kind of career path. At all levels of education, programs should be developed that encourage young women to acquire prerequisites in areas such as mathematics and science. Womens perspectives should be incorporated, and womens needs reflected, in all curriculum materials, and counsellors should be trained to deal with the particular needs of female students.
There is also a strong interest in improved child care service and policies. Accessible, affordable, high quality, non-profit child care that is sensitive to special needs and to the racial, cultural and linguistic diversities of Yukoners is a key to improved employment prospects and economic advancement for Yukoners.
Child care workers, including foreign domestic workers, must receive wages and benefits, and enjoy working conditions, commensurate with the value of the important work that they are doing.
The Minister of Health and Social Services says that socialist helmsmen have put the government in trouble. I say that without family responsibility leave and flexible work arrangements to meet the needs of Yukon families, we will be in trouble now and in the future. The government may not recognize it as troubling that women bear the burden of family care, in most cases, and that women face a much higher risk of being poor than do men.
Women who are single parents must not be asked to choose between personal financial security and parenting. If they stay at home, they must have a level of income support that provides a decent standard of living. If they work, they must have access to affordable child care, family responsibility leave, flexible working arrangements and jobs with wages that reflect the value of the work they do.
I am calling on the government to meet the challenge before them to demonstrate economic leadership and to enhance employment opportunities for all Yukoners. I look forward to the debate ahead on the supplementary budget and in Committee of the Whole.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I do not know whether I listen to a different radio or television broadcast, or whether I do not read the right papers, or whether I cannot read properly, but all governments across Canada are in trouble. I do not know why the former government seems to think it is, or was, in a better position because it certainly was not. It had a field day with money and got rid of it and now we have not got it any more. There is not a government anywhere in Canada right now that does not have a problem. The Yukon is one of the ones that may pull out of it.
I understand the whiz kid from Faro would like to talk. I will just sit down while he finishes his conversation.
Speaker: The Member for Faro has already spoken on this motion and so the Minister of Renewable Resources should continue.
Mr. Harding: The hon. Minister is pretty touchy. He cannot take a little bit of heat.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I usually sit here and listen to the other side, even if I do not believe it and I think he should have the same respect for me, but maybe he does not respect elders. He probably does not have respect for anybody but himself.
It is about time the Yukon and all of Canada straightened out and started to fly right because we have lots and lots of problems. One of the big problems we have is that governments will not stand up to pressure and they bow to groups and get themselves into doubt more and more because they will not stand up to them. However, I feel, of all the governments in Canada, the Yukon has the best chance to pull out of this thing and at least within the next few years be able to balance its budget. That is more than an awful lot of governments are going to do across Canada.
It is time that we quit the wrangling and bickering that goes on in this Legislature and all pull together. The milk has been spent and it is gone. It is time that we all worked together to try to get out of this.
The Opposition was always telling us that we are preaching doom and gloom. Well, if you had seen some of the things I have seen in some of the budgets and some of the papers they presented to me, I would say that we are not very far wrong. I would say maybe the truth hurts. The truth always hurts everybody because most people will not face up to the reality of life. They better start facing up to it now.
If there is all this money that they tell us we have, why would we come in and do things like this and have everybody jump all over us. It has not been a very pleasant act. We are not very happy about it. But we have stood up. We knew what we had to do, and we are doing it. We will take all the heat we have to to do it. The Member from Faro says I am scared of heat. I have taken more heat in the last five months than he will take in the next 10 years.
I hear them twist words and facts around. Now, they are even doubting accountants and audit firms. It is funny though, when they were in government they used the same firms and believed everything they said, and they told us to believe it, too. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, they are no good. They even said they had no experience, yet some of them had 14 or 15 years of experience. That is a fair amount of experience.
What does one expect in the Legislature. One gets remarks like that because everybody wants to get a great big hurrah in Hansard and make sure they make an impression and get the big headlines. They are not really interested; they are mainly worried about what is going to happen next and to defend their position.
They say that everybody is dreaming when they talk about roads and railroads and so on. I think there are a few people around here who remember Mr. John Diefenbaker. The young man from Faro snickers again, but if Mr. Diefenbaker had not dreamed of roads from igloo to igloo, we would not have the Dempster Highway right now, which is one of the most beautiful tourist rides, taking material into the oil fields and so on. If it had been built in the last five or 10 years, it would have been built in the Northwest Territories because that is where the action was. But we got that road because there was a gentleman there with gray hair who had a dream. And yes, he was an old farmer and he was not a bit ashamed of it.
I have done lots of dreaming. I have dreamed in this House for 11 years that this Legislature would help me to open up the Kluane National Park so that our tourists would have something. Did I get it? No, I did not. Our government backed down and could not be bothered to get around to it.
Mr. Speaker, I believe the Member would like to talk again.
Speaker: For the information of the Minister of Renewable Resources, the Member has already spoken, and I would remind the Member of Standing Order 6(6) that asks that no Member should interrupt except to raise a point of order or a point of privilege. I do not think there was either, so the Minister may continue.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
For 11 years I have dreamed here about Windy Craggy and about a harbour - it could be on the Canadian side, at Tarr Inlet. But I got very little backing. People to this day tell me that it is Canadian soil, but nobody gets excited about these things. Think of what could have been done if that road had gone in there. Just think of that. Think of the tourism. Think of all the rafting companies that would get better access there for rafting.
If that Canadian harbour had ever come through, think of where we would be right now. No nation exists without a sea port; you would have a hard time surviving without them.
I remember the day in here not too long ago - I guess it was the last time that we were in the Legislature - when the government at that time actually wanted to take the Workers Compensation Fund and put it over on this side so they could spend it.
Nobody on that side should laugh, because I can tell you - go back in Hansard and look. You will see how long the Hon. Danny Lang fought and argued until they backed down. Now, I know why they wanted those millions of dollars. They should not sit over there hooting and hollering; they should look in Hansard. Do not cry on my shoulder.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Not only that, there were rumours that they would like to get the pension fund, too. Think of how foolish we were. We did not let them vote that through. Think of where we would be right now. We would not be losing my hair or anything else; we would have lots of money, but it would not have been the governments money, it would have been the employers and employees money from the pension plan. That was all right; they wanted that money; they wanted control of everything.
In front of us we have the supplementary estimates No. 1, 1992-93, and to the simple man on the street, as I am, this is a complicated document, but page 3 shows very plainly the word deficit with brackets around it. If one were to look in the dictionary, deficit means you are in the red, you do not have any money. We have a problem.
Then, Mr. Speaker, look at the dollars voted to date - $19,270,000. If brackets are around it, that must mean it is in the red. To me, when it is in the red, it means you are in trouble.
If you or I, Mr. Speaker, showed that to a bank, we would be in lots of trouble.
Then, in the supplementaries they are asking us to vote $38,625,000, and there are little brackets around that one. When you add them all up, you come right back to the $57,895,000. Mr. Speaker, when you look at all those little brackets, that means to me that it is all in the red.
The funny thing I do not understand about this is, for six or seven years when they were in government, they stood over here and told us this was the gospel truth. This was the book. You had to believe this. If you did not believe it, they screamed and hollered and jumped up and down. All of a sudden, they are sitting over there, and they do not believe it. The same people who made it up for them made it up for us, but they say not to believe it any more; that it is not true. Yet, it is the same book. It is even the same colour, but it has a different date on it.
I am not going to get into anything for which we did not take responsibility. I am not going to bother mentioning the fact that we acted responsibly on the caribou management plan. My colleague talked about that; however, there is one thing I will point out. If you go back in Hansard far enough, when the Hon. Dave Porter stopped the program that was going on then, you will see where I pleaded with him to continue it. If he had continued on with it, we would not have been in the mess we were in. We would not have had to spend the money now. That was seven years ago, and they cut the program right off and threw the money out because they could not study it any more. Therefore, for six or seven years, they played around and now they talk about responsibility. They just did not have the guts to do it.
The Member for Faro mentioned that real estate prices are going down. Perhaps they are. I have rented a brand-new trailer, and there have been six trailers move in there over the last two months. They moved in, in the middle of winter, set their bases up and worked. That is within a 300 to 400 yard area. That does not indicate to me that people do not have homes and are not moving into them. That is in one little corner of that area, and they have moved in on both sides. In fact, some mornings I have wakened and another one has moved in during the night. That indicates that there are still some people moving around.
It is about time we all grew up around here and started facing the facts, started working together, instead of squawking and hollering all the time. This government is going to work; it is going to do its best and, if we have to stand the pressure and get kicked all over the place, we will get kicked, but we are going to do what we think is right, and what we know is right. Not only do we know that, a lot of the big finance companies and people all over are telling us we are right.
I saw a letter yesterday from Saskatchewan, telling us to stick to our guns, and that is what we are going to do.
Mr. Penikett: Lest the Member for Kluane go home tonight broken-hearted because he is under the misapprehension that Members on this side do not respect him, I want to tell him that not only do we respect him but we love him dearly and, as I have told him before, we think he is just beautiful when he is pretending to be angry. He is just lovely.
I do want to introduce a couple of facts, just to add spice to his comments. I know he will not take offence if I introduce some facts to some of the things he said.
He talks about the great Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbakers roads to resources program, which was characterized by the Liberals of the day as the igloo-to-igloo program, but it is also an historical fact that the Dempster Highway was not originally on Mr. Diefenbakers roads to resources program. I hope the Member for Riverside will not mind me pointing out that it was only added to the program when the Yukon MP of the time, Mr. Aubrey Simmons, a Liberal, persuaded the government to add it to the list. It was not on Diefenbakers list originally - that is a fact.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Penikett: The Member across the side said It got done. If getting it done is the test, I have some very interesting debating material for them later on in this budget debate.
Secondly, he talks about Tarr Inlet and the wonderful idea of a Canadian port for us. He said that we did not listen to him, no one ever paid any attention to him. He was just doing his Pappy Yokum number over there, grunting and groaning and complaining and we never paid him any attention. That is not true. In fact, we spent $30,000 of public money, based on his motion, to have a look at the feasibility of the Tarr Inlet report. The report came back as absolutely and totally negative; not within the realm of possibility of the fiscal capacity of this government. It was right up there, in terms of levels of ludicrousness, with pipelines from Watson Lake to Whitehorse and railways to Carmacks in terms of the budget capacity of this government.
It was not even a dream scheme, and there were billions and billions of tons of ice to deal with as well.
There is a third fact I would like to add. He said that the NDP government wanted to get ahold of the Workers Compensation Board investment fund. As a statement of certain fact, and I can prove this by reference to the letter of the law, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, what my colleague, the former Minister responsible for Workers Compensation Board did was to toughen up the rules to prevent a Cabinet from dictating an investment policy. It had nothing to do with the intervention by the former Member for Re/Max. It had to do with this Member deciding that the board should make those decisions.
This Member even tried to make sure, legally, even though he failed, that the Cabinet would not be mucking around in the future in the choosing of the president. Until that Member did something that we regard as quite illegal, the law, we thought was quite clear: the Cabinet could only appoint a nominee from the board, not someone of the governments choosing.
I am going to take the Member for Kluanes theme to heart, this theme of working together, because when it comes to serious problems, there is nothing we would like better than working together. Not this silly political game of blame the previous administration for everything - they did not do anything right, everything they did was wrong, everything they did was awful, we are the wonderful new Messiahs who have come to save the territory. That is nonsense, because the behavior of the government, since they have been in office, has not been to govern with seriousness, determination, fairness and open-mindedness to input from this side, but to play politics - constantly.
My other theme tonight, along with working together, is to try to introduce a few facts into this discussion. Unfortunately, in our parliamentary tradition we depend on words to discuss budgets. In fact, there is a fairly desperate need, as the Member for Riverside said tonight, to get a handle on what the numbers are, and I have some serious questions about some of the numbers Members opposite have been throwing around. Not because I am a financial genius, but because I have been on both sides of the House. I spent a number of years over here, a number of years over there and now I am back here.
I have learned a few things. I have learned a few things about the relationship between Ministers and deputy ministers and I have learned a few things about the relationship between Ministers and other Members in this House. I have also learned to ask a few questions after I have heard from all of them. What are the incontrovertible facts in respect to this supplementary? The first is that, according to the Auditor General, whose credibility has not so far been questioned in this House, as far as I know, in a report issued on September 18, the consolidated, accumulated surplus of this government, if I remember correctly, was $92,149,000. The first supplementary here is to propose that for this year there shall be a deficit of $57,895,000. To take up the suggestion of somebody opposite - perhaps it was not somebody opposite, it was Mr. Merv Miller; well, I guess it was somebody opposite - let us round out the numbers and call that $58 million.
The Government Leader was heckling me - I missed it, Mr. Speaker.
The supplementary says $57,895,000, which, when I went to school you rounded up to $58 million. Still, using simple arithmetic, it leaves us, in the Auditor Generals terms, with a consolidated, accumulated surplus of $34 million.
The Government Leader is shaking his head.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Penikett: It is not a weak argument. I am using the numbers of the Auditor General. I am sorry the Member opposite does not like them, but he is going to have to live with them because the Auditor General is going to be reporting again in September, and I will come back to that.
Now, the year in question is an interesting one, because for half the year, the New Democratic Party was responsible for the expenditures and for the other half of the year, the other side was. Now it is interesting that almost as soon as they came into office, they said the deficit was going to be $56 million. After they had been in government for getting on for six months, they say the deficit is going to be $57 million.
What do you conclude from those two simple facts? One is that they have done absolutely nothing, in concrete terms, to address the current year deficit after six months. Diddly squat.
Now, in a similar period, in 1985, after five and one-half months, if my memory serves me correctly, the NDP government-of-the-day had negotiated an arrangement to re-open the mine at Faro and legislated the re-opening in this House. It had created a task force on family violence, restarted land claims and passed its first budget - not introduced the budget, passed the budget.
Let us ask ourselves, based on public record, what have the Members opposite done to address this deficit, which they told us in November was $56 million and which they are telling us now is $58 million. They have added $2 million to the deficit.
First of all, let us take a look at where the problem is. Most of us who have been in government for a while tend to look at the big numbers first when we are trying to discuss a problem.
I am sure that all Members have noticed that the biggest cost overrun is in one department, Health and Social Services.
We know that everywhere in this country health budgets are overrunning the departmental estimates and many jurisdictions have taken radical - some say draconian; some more progressive than others - measures to address that problem.
Since the passage of the Health Act in this House, have we heard a single announcement from the side opposite about addressing the problem of health budget cost overruns? No.
What is the other major cost balloon? The social assistance budget. That is a big problem - and we concede absolutely because we have debated the budget almost every year that I have been in this House. We have been debating the social assistance budget with some increased urgency in the last few years, because the problem has been getting worse.
That, too, is not a problem that is unique to the Yukon. It is not a problem that the NDP of the Yukon invented. It is a problem that is plaguing governments of every political stripe in every jurisdiction in this country, every single one.
Some of those jurisdictions have been doing some very innovative things. For example, British Columbia has taken 85,000 people off the social assistance roll and gotten them into training toward jobs. They have made a major change in the social assistance problem. It still has not solved the problem in the short run, but they have some hope that it will in the long run. Have we heard of any such initiative here? Nothing.
What have we heard from this government in terms of an initiative to address the cost overrun in the Health and Social Services budget? We have heard that they are going to keep the extended care facility closed. On a previous occasion, I had a chance to talk about the basis of the decision our Cabinet made to build the facility in the first place, which was that it would be a facility that would have an O&M cost of $2 million a year, with 41.7 person years. That was the basis on which the officials were to go out and consult with user groups about the design and the construction of the facility. Everyone knows that the presumed operating costs are now expected to be much higher than that. I can understand the superficial appeal of wanting to keep it closed as a cost-saving measure.
However, anybody who thinks you can save $4 million a year, or even $2 million, by keeping it closed is dreaming. If you just think for a second about the component cost of that facility - and I understand it is being heated and has electricity in it now, which are costs we are already paying - you realize that the potential Alzheimer clients who would be going there, and I have a number in my constituency, are probably now clients of the home care program, a program which, excellent as it is, is not cheap, so we are still paying the costs.
The rehab program, which is where the clients of the Workers Compensation Board would come, are probably now being sent outside at great cost, so there is no great saving there. Many of the clients in Macaulay Lodge, who would otherwise go to the extended care facility, are in that facility, which was not designed as an extended care facility, but has had to evolve over the years from an old age citizens home to a nursing home, are already bearing costs that would be borne at the facility, because we added staff to Macaulay Lodge to take care of those clients until the extended are facility was built. The idea was that those people would move to the extended care facility with the clients.
The point is that we are already absorbing those costs.
The point I am making is that I do not know how much of a saving we are realizing by keeping the facility closed, but I am absolutely certain that it is not doing anything to address the serious overruns in the department.
I mentioned the social assistance costs because we knew this was a problem, as does every other jurisdiction. It so happens that, although this was happening everywhere in the country, the Department of Health and Social Services was not able to give us, with great confidence, the reasons for the very sharp climb in the number of clients and the cost of this program.
We have all learned enough in our six or seven years of government to know that about the dumbest thing you can do is start coming up with solutions to problems that you do not fully understand. We put together an inter-departmental committee of senior people from a number of departments to have a look at the problem, assess what was going on elsewhere and make recommendations. As a matter of fact, our government was defeated before that committee reported, so we do not know what their recommendations were. We do not know whether the recommendations were very substantial, creative or how well they would have addressed the problem. We certainly do not know whether or not the government has accepted or rejected them.
We do know that, as far as the public record is concerned, in terms of the biggest single cost overrun in the government, which is the budget of the Department of Health and Social Services, there has been no substantial policy statement from the Minister suggesting that they have done anything of consequence to address the problem.
What have we heard from the government in terms of savings? We have heard there is a hiring freeze, but we also heard that some of the term that were retired found themselves back on contracts. We also heard that there has been a travel freeze. The travel freeze is fascinating. I happen to have the Whitehorse airport in my constituency, and one of the things my constituents tell me is that they find it remarkable that, on almost every single plane going in or out, one can find one of the two senior Socred advisors to this government, who have not taken up residence here, but are living in hotels, at expenses, and are presumably charging us for those flights in and out of the territory. Therefore, the travel freeze applies to some people but not others.
One of the advantages of having been in government for awhile is that one knows something about travel freezes. We, on this side, have some experience with curtailing travel costs.
I would be extremely surprised if, in any year, the government would be able to achieve savings of much more than half a million dollars - more likely in the quarter million dollar range - from restrictions in travel. When one talks about a $58 million deficit, half a million dollars does not loom very large; it especially does not loom very large when four deputy ministers are fired in four months, the cost of the settlements for whom probably exceeded all the money that was saved in the travel freeze.
The Minister of Tourism has been very helpful and reminded us that the government is going to end the use of long-term contracts for DMs. If they do that, they will be going against the trend that has been developing elsewhere in the country. In fact, the trend recommended to us by the Social Credit government of British Columbia said that, if we want to recruit really good people, especially from the private sector, who have good careers, they need to be given decent contracts and some assurance that they will not be fired on a whim one week after they arrive on the job. While they serve at pleasure, the government should not be able to be cavalier with these peoples lives and careers.
The point is that firing deputy ministers would not cost a small fortune if they were fired for cause. However, everything we have heard leads us to believe they were not fired for cause. They were fired because Mr. Drown, or Mr. Miller, or somebody did not like them.
The point I want to make about this $58 million deficit is that, when one looks at the health and social services overrun, and then looks at the governments response to it - I hope the Government Leader will not mind my saying this - it looks to me like the government has a bear on its tail and is busy going around shooting a couple of gophers. The obvious problem seems to have been completely ignored and, in six months, we have heard nothing of consequence about the governments intentions in respect to the source of the problem of the deficit they claim exists, or will exist, this year.
Let me ask Members to be patient with me and remember that one of the incontrovertible facts I had established was that if, indeed, there was a $92 million surplus, as the Auditor General told us there was and if, indeed, there is a $58 million deficit for this year, there would be in the Auditor Generals terms of the consolidated financial position a $34 million surplus. Let us also remember that the pattern of annual lapses in recent years has been $18 million a year.
I wonder if it ever occurred to anybody on the government side to wonder, when the NDP government was budgeting for a $19 million deficit this year - and remember that, while we were doing it, we were worried about the national recession, we wanted to have a big capital budget, we wanted to keep employment up as much as possible, so it was an anti-recessionary budget - that what we had in mind was the fact that the annual average lapse was $18 million.
In other words, we were not looking at the beginning of the year to adding or reducing the consolidated surplus by very much.
The Minister of Tourism is giggling away; I am going to have great fun with him when we get to the actual budget, because it is fact that this government has lapsed $6 million O & M, on average, during the past few years and has lapsed $12 million capital.
When you remember the fact that according to one of the numbers - and we have all sorts of different numbers being used here - we are talking about a $120 million budget. The actual expenditures in capital, as I think the Member for Riverdale South pointed out earlier today, have usually been around $80 million.
We are going to have some interesting speculation about what the actual capital expenditures are in this current year, especially since we are so close to the end of the year.
Let me say something about the pattern of the lapses. I should put it on the record, because it may not be there.
Since the Minister of Tourism was snickering earlier, I want to point out that shortly before we came into office, according to not only the Auditor General, but also the Finance department, the accumulated surplus at April 1, 1985, was $41,235,000.
In the supplementaries, before the actuals were known, in 1986-87, it was predicted that there would be a deficit of $18,937,000. Rounded out, that happens to be $19 million, the same as this year.
What actually happened is, at the year end, there was a current year surplus of $15,266,000 that brought the surplus up.
At March 31, 1987, it was projected to be a $41 million deficit. Indeed, there was a deficit of some $30 million that year, because that was the money that the Cabinet chose to advance to the Development Corporation.
The following year, 1988-89, it was projected that there would be a $19,629,000 deficit; there was actually a surplus at the end of the year of $5 million. In 1989-90, it was projected that there would be an $18,569,000; there was actually a surplus of $3.4 million. In 1990-91, it was projected there would be a $19 million deficit; there was actually a surplus of $10,580,000.
According to these numbers, during the time that the NDP was in office the surplus did not go down. From the period that I am talking about until the end of last year, the surplus actually grew.
Keeping in mind that we spoke about $34 million being the accumulated surplus, if the governments deficit number is right, and remembering that the average lapse has been $18 million, it would not be unreasonable to predict that the consolidated financial position of the government at the end of the year would be a $52 million surplus. But that is not the whole story because we have had the advantage of having taken a look at certain public federal documents from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, which point out that according to federal documents, the increase in the grant from Canada to the Yukon, from the main estimates last year, to the main estimates this year, is to go up $31 million. In fact, $17 million of that increase, I think is represented in the supplementary.
Now, I am not sure about all the numbers in this book because - and I will get back to the working-together theme of the Member for Kluane - the Liberal Party and the Independent Alliance caucus were given briefings on this budget. But, of course, consistent with the Member for Kluanes policy of working together, the New Democratic Party, the Official Opposition in this House, was not. We did not have a chance, those of us who were perhaps knowledgeable about these numbers, to ask questions of the officials who have been advising us for the last few years, and are now advising the Members opposite. There is a lot I could say about the Minister-deputy minister relationship, but one thing that Members opposite should remember, is that Richard Crossman was right: they may have had one platform in the election, we may have another, the Liberal Party may have had a third and the Independents a fourth, but you can always be sure that there will be a fifth platform, and that is the policy, that is the platform, that is the goals of the public service.
They have their own imperatives in this process, as well. One of the things you will always know is the treasurers, whether they are municipal, federal or territorial, will always under estimate revenues and will always predict higher costs.
Why do we have a prediction of higher costs? At this first supplementary of this period, why do we have a prediction of $58 million in expenditures. One of the reasons is that we have a Financial Administration Act that does not permit deputy ministers to over spend their budget. Therefore, when you ask them, in the middle of the year, what they will need to get through the year, all of them - and this probably includes the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly - will think of the worst-case scenario, put it all in and tell the Management Board that this is what they need. That is why every single year the supplementary that comes in at this period predicts a big increase in government expenditures, and every year, the final supplementary - the period 13 supplementary with the actual expenditures - show under expenditures in most departments.
Let us take a look at some of the other facts. In the Government Leaders speech earlier today, he talked about how tax revenue went down $9 million. That is a sure sign of a recession, if I ever saw one. He also said that the grant was up. I did not hear exactly how much the grant was up; however, if it is under the formula as we understood it, it could be up between $10 million and $14 million. We would not suffer for that. We would actually have more cash as a result of driving us into a recession. The pessimism of the Members opposite, the decisions on Curragh, Taga Ku and the hospital and other decisions about the spreading of doom and gloom, have helped dampen economic expectations here and have decreased confidence in our local economy.
There are a number of problems in this book. Among them is the fact that there are some numbers - such as, I think, about $10 million in Community and Transportation Services, as the numbers are moved around - that we cannot account for. It is also interesting, as we go through it, to realize that in the homily from Mr. Merv Miller, which was contained in the government newsletter, the Sluicebox, and the first time I have actually seen overt government propaganda in this publication, to see how different the numbers are.
It is interesting to note how different the numbers are between the famous political audit, Mr. Merv Millers numbers and the numbers in the book.
The Member for Kluane says we should trust the book. Which one? Are we supposed to trust the political audit, Mr. Merv Miller as he appeared in the Sluice Box, or the numbers in here? I would like him to tell me that sometime.
Let us look at some comparisons here. According to the budget book, the transfer payments from Canada are $244,317,000. According to Mr. Merv Miller, the transfer payment from Canada is $252 million. According to the budget book, the total income from the government - and that is a difference, by the way, of $8 million - is $398,148,000. According to Merv Miller, the total is $388 million - a difference of $10 million.
According to the budget book, the gross operating and maintenance expenditures were $334 million. According to Mr. Merv Miller, they are $337 million - a difference of only $3 million. In terms of the gross capital expenditures, according to the budget book, they are $120 million and, according to Mr. Merv Miller, they are $107 million - a difference of $13 million.
I will not bore the House with pointing out the huge differences between these numbers and the ones in the budget book, but the Government Leader did indicate today something we suspected and pointed out that under the formula - and this was something he called good news - the population factor is going to give us an extra $14 million.
Now remember, this is a result of the population going up. That happened when the NDP was in office and the economy was growing and expanding, and the gross domestic product, which doubled during our seven years in office, was expanding. We are going to get an extra $14 million now. It doesnt say what will happen when the population goes down.
I want to summarize what we have here. We have a $92 million accumulated surplus; we have $58 million that the government says is going to be the deficit this year; we have $34 million as a result. We have no serious attack on health and social services or extended care. We have nothing effectively done, in terms of the travel freeze, because it has all netted out to zero as a result of the DM firing. We have a probable lapse of around $18 million, which gives us $52 million. Taxes are down, and the grant up by $5 million, and we have a formula population of $14 million. The accumulated surplus, according to that number, is around $71 million.
I am going to conclude. I think what has happened here is that the Government Leader is like the guy who threw his jeans into the laundry basket, but forgot to take the wallet out of his back pocket. He ranted and raved that someone had taken his money, he canceled his credit cards, sold the cat, fired the babysitter, canceled the holiday - it was a disaster. Then, the wallet turned up in the wash with the newly laundered money, and he goes around waving the wallet saying, I have saved the day, it is wonderful, look at me, I am a big success. We have our fiscal situation under control.
I do not believe this government is broke. I do not believe it ever was broke. I will say to the Member opposite that no one is going to object to serious efforts to control spending in a sensible way. The problem we have in this budget - and we can all see it - is in the Department of Health and Social Services, and we have heard absolutely nothing sensible from the Members opposite about dealing with that problem.
I am absolutely convinced that, in terms of the Auditor Generals Report, by the end of this year, come September, it will still show that we have a substantial surplus. Even though I am not a wealthy man - I am a poor man - I am willing to bet $100 - and if Mr. Speaker will let me approach the Chair, I will ask you to hold the bet - that we will have a surplus come next September.
Mr. Millar: I just want to take a few seconds to say a couple of words. I am not on the speaking list. I was not planning on speaking to this but, after listening to the debate that has gone on here today, I felt I should say something.
What I have heard here today amazes me. I would like to point out one example: the Member for Faro said we were playing the blame game and then, in the very next breath, he blames us for six months of it. I do not know how he can have it both ways. I am not as brilliant as everyone else in here, I guess. I am still learning. He said we were responsible for half of it - half of it, of course, being the $50 million they over spent.
Who is playing games? I do not think that it is the Yukon Party government that is playing games.
As the Minister of Renewable Resources said, we are dealing with the facts that are provided to us by the same people who provided the facts to the previous NDP government.
I do not claim to be the expert here that some people are, but I do believe that the Yukon government is on the right track; I strongly believe that. I also believe that people of the Yukon believe the Yukon Party is on the right track.
There has been talk about being able to make decisions. It has been pointed out a number of times that the previous government did seem to have a little bit of difficulty making those tough decisions. We have been here for six months; we have made a number of very significant, tough decisions such as the caribou enhancement and the Taga Ku project; those were very difficult decisions.
I think that the people of the Yukon finally see, in this government, a fiscally responsible government.
Speaker: The Hon. Government Leader will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It has been a very interesting debate. I have heard a lot of rhetoric from the Opposition benches. We have heard a lot of defensiveness from the Opposition benches. If I were on that side of the House, and responsible for the financial disaster they have left the Yukon in, I would also be defensive.
I am going to take some time, because there have been some misconceptions thrown around by the Members opposite and some statements made that I believe, had they been made in public, would be very close to libel if they had not had the protection of this House.
We heard the Member for McIntyre-Takhini. I thought he was going to speak on the supplementaries, but he spent 20 minutes of his presentation talking about the Consulting and Audit Canada report, and 10 minutes talking about the supplementaries.
I guess if I were him, I would not want to talk about those supplementaries either. I want to ask the Member opposite what kind of ulterior motive could a firm, with the credibility and reputation of Consulting and Audit Canada have. What could they have to gain by being involved in what he called a political audit? That firm has a reputation to honour. As my colleague from Kluane said, it is a firm that was employed by the previous administration. They felt that their work was quite adequate. The Consulting and Audit Canada report was done for one reason. Upon assuming office, the first thing I was told by the Finance department was, I do not have good news for you. The financial health of this government is not as good as what people think it is. We engaged Consulting and Audit Canada for one reason, and one reason only. We wanted to know what our accumulated surplus or deficit would be on March 31, 1993. That is all we were looking for in that report.
As everyone knows now, the report came in stating a $57 million deficit. Then - and I am utterly amazed, and I really question some of the Members opposite, some of the statements they have made in this House today - we get into the supps - their supps. The Member for McIntyre-Takhini questions the integrity of the public service, the same people who put supps and budgets together for them year after year after year. The people in the public service are very professional people and I am sure that they would not be involved, as the hon. Member says, in a political exercise.
We have heard numbers thrown back and forth across the floor of this House, and I guess some of the Members opposite are right: the final numbers will not be known until the Auditor General does his report some time next fall, but I truly believe that the numbers will come in close to what has been projected.
The Members opposite make much of lapsed funds, and it is true that there are lapsed funds every year. We are not denying that. We have identified them, but what we said is that, because of the pressures we put on the departments to come in with realistic, variance 8 reports, to come in as close as they could to the numbers at the end of the year and not to be requesting a bunch of money they were not going to be spending, we believe that the best that anyone can hope for, ourselves or the Members opposite, is that those lapsed funds will come in at two or three percent, at best - somewhere between $10 million and $15 million at the very, very best.
Even if we were fortunate enough to come in with that, it is still only going to give us a $3 million to $8 million surplus. I say to the Members opposite now that their main estimates projected a $30 million surplus as at March 31, 1993.
Any lapsed funds would have been over and above that surplus, not part of it.
The Member for McIntyre-Takhini made much of saying that they never approved the supplementaries. They got snowed by the departments. They would not agree to passing something like that. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the Members opposite did approve the variance report.
I am going to ask the Member opposite, did you not approve a policy planning and communication unit for the Department of Tourism for $156,000?
I did not approve the expenditure.
I ask the Member opposite, did you approve resources for forestry transfer negotiations in the amount of $270,000?
I did not approve it, but somebody had to approve the expenditure.
There were government hospital operating costs in the amount of $1.14 million. The Member opposite says they did not approve them. I disagree. I could go on and on with the list, and the fact remains that they did approve an additional $35 million or $36 million in supplementary spending.
One of the Members opposite made much of the unemployment figures in the Yukon today. I would just like to correct the record. We heard some fantastic numbers of eight percent unemployed one year ago. According to Statistics Canada, the employment rate in the Yukon, as of February, 1992, was 12.2 percent. As of February, 1993, it is 14.1 percent. What the Members opposite failed to say is that there are 600 more people in the work force this year than there were one year ago - there are 13,600 compared to 13,000. There are 300 more people working than there one year ago. There is no doubt that there are 300 more unemployed from Curragh Inc., but let us get the record straight.
Let us talk a little about Curragh Inc. Let us talk about the commitment of the previous administration. The government opposite had a chance to deal with the problem and put it away once and for all. What did they do? They gave Curragh a $5 million loan. It was a bandaid approach to get them through the election. That is the kind of commitment that administration had. That is why we had those kinds of cost overruns. They not only did that, but they also let land claims die on the Order Paper.
They let land claims die on the Order Paper, then, knowing the numbers they were faced with, they did not have the courage to table a budget before calling an election.
The Leader of the Official Opposition was going to ride on the coat-tails of the constitutional referendum. That was going to put him back into power and he will deal with all these $50 million deficits later, We do not need to talk about them now. That is what the side opposite calls fiscal responsibility. That is why this administration was left in the shape it was left in. It is an utter disgrace.
Curragh was not operating when the previous administration came into power in 1985, but there were about another six mines operating in the Yukon, employing 300 to 400 people. They were there. We drew them out in the election campaign.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 9:30, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow afternoon.
House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.