Wednesday, November 10, 1993 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed with prayers.
As this fall session of the Twenty-Eighth Legislature begins, we ask that the awareness of our duty and privilege as Members of this Legislature be renewed and strengthened. We ask for guidance in the responsibility we have undertaken and for help in fulfilling our duties. We humbly ask for wisdom to guide us in making good laws and good decisions for the present and future of our territory. We rededicate ourselves to the valued traditions of parliamentary democracy as a means of serving our constituents, our territory and our country.
Tomorrow, being November 11, I would ask that Members also observe a moment of silence to remember those who fought and gave their lives, so that we might enjoy the freedom that we maintain today.
Speaker: Please be seated.
Recognition of the death of Charlie and Charles Blake
Mr. Abel: I would like to ask all Members of the House to join me in conveying condolences to Margaret Blake and her family and to all the people of Old Crow on the untimely and tragic death of Charlie James Blake and his four year old son Charles on October 30, who were victims of a house fire. Charlie was a well-known and much respected member of our community and was one of my personal friends.
Young Charles was my godson. On behalf of Margaret and her children, I would like to say thank you to all the people everywhere who gave so much help to the Blake family in their time of need. Your generosity and caring is very much appreciated.
Ms. Commodore: I, too, rise in offering our condolences to the Blake family. The kind of respect Mr. Blake had is evident by the large number of people who contributed to the people of Old Crow in dealing with the tragedy. I personally knew Chuck Blake many years ago. During that period of time, I felt I indeed had a friend. Condolences from our caucus go out to the family of Charles Blake and to the people of Old Crow.
INTRODUCTION OF PAGES
Speaker: I am pleased to announce that the following students will be serving as legislative pages for the fall sitting. They are Heather Commins, Ryan Grant, Barry Imbeau, Michelle King, Lief Miltenberger, Sean Rafferty and Katarina Zunjic, from Porter Creek Junior Secondary School in Whitehorse. As well, Kelson Bastien and Jodie Clark from the St. Elias community school in Haines Junction will be attending the House on Thursday afternoons.
Today, we have Sean Rafferty and Barry Imbeau with us. I would ask all Members to welcome them.
Speaker: We will now proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: I have for tabling the following documents: the report of the Auditor General of Canada on the examination of financial transactions of the Government of the Yukon for the year ended March 31, 1993; the Report of the Clerk of the Assembly on deductions from the indemnities of Members of the Legislative Assembly pursuant to subsection 39(6) of the Legislative Assembly Act, and an addendum to the report of the Chief Electoral Officer on contributions to candidates during the 1992 general election.
Are there any further Documents for tabling?
Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Petition No. 4
Mr. Penikett: I have for tabling a petition signed by 3,950 people, petitioning the Yukon Legislative Assembly to take such action as within its power to halt unjustified power rate increases.
Speaker: Are there any Bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 12: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 12, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1994-95, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Finance that Bill No. 12, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1994-95, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 12 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further Bills for introduction?
Bill No. 11: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 11, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1993-94, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Finance that Bill No. 11, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1993-94, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 11 agreed to
Bill No. 10: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 10, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1992-93 be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Finance that Bill No. 10, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1992-93, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 10 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motion.
Statements by Ministers.
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Economic activity
Mr. Penikett: Last fall, the Government Leader helped trigger a recession in the Yukon with his gloom-and-doom statements. A few weeks ago, he added insult to injury with his do not worry, be happy speech in Watson Lake.
Given that, after a year under his administration, unemployment is rising, bankruptcies are climbing and business confidence has largely evaporated, can he tell the House why he has done so little to respond to this serious crisis?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe our record speaks for itself. We are not the ones out there preaching doom and gloom. The Members opposite are doing that. We have the utmost confidence in the economy of the Yukon. Unemployment is rising right now, but that is not unusual for the Yukon at this time of the year. We always have a rise in unemployment in the fall of the year. We have taken actions to try to curtail that rise over the winter months following a huge capital budget we introduced last spring, and this will be followed with the capital budget that was tabled today.
Mr. Penikett: Last fall, the Government Leader went around, like Chicken Little, saying the sky was falling. Thanks, in part, to his intervention, the sky has fallen for a lot of people. Construction is down 64 percent; social assistance expenditures will, apparently, reach $12 million this year; all our major mines are shut down.
Is the Government Leader trying to now deny that our economy is in deep trouble?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have said there has been a downturn in the economy of the Yukon. There is no doubt, when two major mines are down, that is going to happen. I want to draw to the Houses attention that exploration dollars in the Yukon are more than double this year over last year. There are some great prospects on the horizon. If the Members opposite would not be preaching all the doom and gloom, there would be more confidence in the marketplace.
Mr. Penikett: For one year, the Government Leader has been hiding in his office while people have lost jobs, their homes and their businesses.
I would like to ask the Government Leader if he knows that, as of this morning, 3,114 Yukoners were collecting unemployment insurance. I would like to ask the Government Leader if he knows that, and that that does not even take into account the people on social assistance. Does he know? Does he care?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We certainly worry about Yukoners who are unemployed and that is why we have taken the actions we have. That is why we created the employment task force, which has recommended jobs that can put people to work over the coming weeks and months - a total of 3,750 person weeks of work that will be developed over the next two or three months to help Yukoners get through to the next building season.
Question re: Economic activity
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader has waited one year before doing anything, and we have great doubts about the adequacy of what he is doing now. The government has raised taxes, which killed jobs, and has apparently been trying to force its employees out on strike so that they have not been spending, which means that small businesses are hurting.
I would like to ask the Government Leader if he understands that his economic policies are hurting people rather than helping them at this time.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This government spends $40 million every month in the Yukon. That creates a lot of work. Certainly there has been a tightening in the economy with our two major mines shut down, but I believe that the Yukon economy was resilient enough that it absorbed it quite well, considering that a lot of people were out of work due to the Faro and Sa Dena Hes mines shutting down. The employment figures, which were high in the spring, dissipated over the summer. The August figures were very similar to what they were one year ago.
We have to remember that there is an increase in the workforce in the Yukon.
Mr. Penikett: There are over 3,000 people collecting unemployment insurance, as of today. With the economy in deep crisis, I would like to ask the Government Leader why he waited one whole year to convene the Yukon Council on the Economy, stacked that body with Tory loyalists, and only then scheduled a public conference to review the state of the economy?
Is the Government Leader afraid to hear what the non-Conservative majority in this territory has to say about the state of the economy and the lack of economic leadership by the territorial government in this situation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not, for one minute, think that the public could perceive that we stacked the Council on the Economy and the Environment with Yukon Party loyalists, as we appointed one member who was very critical of us by way of sending letters to the editors of the newspapers. I think we have a very balanced representation on the Council on the Economy and the Environment so that we can hear from all sectors of the Yukon economy.
Mr. Penikett: I would like to ask the Government Leader this question. Since the law of this territory requires an annual review of the state of the economy, and the law also requires that there be a balance of interests on the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, can the Government Leader tell us if he believes that one critic, in a body of 10, constitutes a balance of interests, according to his view?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know how the Member opposite says that there is one critic on the committee. We have followed the terms and conditions and regulations in establishing the Council on the Economy and the Environment. We have taken all sectors into consideration. We have balanced the board. We still have greater than 25 percent native representation on it. We have balanced the board and we are prepared to listen to the recommendations from all sectors of the Yukon.
Question re: Yukon Development Corporation, policy directives
Mr. Cable: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation. In the spring session the Minister indicated to this House that he had issued a directive to the Yukon Development Corporation in relation to coal-fired generating plants. When I wrote to the Minister requesting a copy of this directive I was informed that this was a privileged and confidential document. Does the issuing of secret Cabinet directives to this corporation indicate a change in the Ministers long-held view that the government should be at arms length?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is a rather surprising question. I did expect a question of this ministry, but the Member opposite was the president of the corporation for a good deal of time and during that time the corporation operated under a mandate and directives of the government - so he knows how it works.
Mr. Cable: I was asking the Minister whether his view on the relationship had changed. The Yukon Development Corporation Act contemplates a procedure whereby policy directives are given in a very public way, by way of regulation, and the Minister has already used this on one occasion - in August. Could the Minister advise the House why the public directive power was not used instead of this secret policy directive from Cabinet?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am quite prepared to give the Member the wording of the directive. I am not sure what the problem is. In essence, it authorizes the Yukon Development Corporation to look at coal as one possibility for the future generation of electricity.
Mr. Cable: That problem can then be solved if, instead of telling me he cannot release the document, he does, and tables it in this House.
Have there been any other secret Cabinet directives given to the Yukon Development Corporation or its subsidiary, the Yukon Energy Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The directives given to the Yukon Development Corporation by this Minister are public knowledge, as far as I know.
Question re: Faro, sale of mine
Mr. Harding: I also have some questions concerning the economic situation of the territory. I will direct the first one to the Minister responsible for Economic Development.
It has been widely reported by Curraghs creditors that the Yukon Party government has acted very unprofessionally and at a snails pace in efforts to market the Faro mine property. Why are they not taking a more active role in trying to sell this valuable asset for the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I do not know where the Member has been getting his information. We have been taking a very active role in ensuring that the properties go up for sale very quickly. Initially, there were some concerns that the noteholders wanted to see a long-term process, and we have encouraged the Government of Canada, and various lien holders, to work with us toward a quick sale of the property. We are doing everything we possibly can.
Mr. Harding: My information is coming from the representatives of the creditors, for the Ministers information. Let us get more specific. How many prospective buyers has the Yukon Party government had discussions with? What marketing have they done to improve potential buyer awareness of the mine site?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I have just had personal discussions with several of the prospective buyers on a preliminary scale. The marketing plan is now being developed and should be made available to the buyers in the next few days, if it has not already. I cannot get into the names of the prospective buyers.
Mr. Harding: The mines have been in interim receivership since April and the Minister has had preliminary discussions. To me, that does not mean they are burning down the house on this one.
Has the Yukon government adopted any negotiating position to use in dealing with perspective buyers who may ask that the government help them in startup, as the Casino proponents have done? If the government has, what is its position, and if they have not adopted a negotiating position, why?
Hon. Mr. Devries: To the best of my knowledge, no prospective buyers have made any requests to government for assistance in opening the properties. Basically, that is where it stands at this time.
Mr. Harding: (inaudible)
Question re: Economic growth stimulation
Mr. Harding: I would like to talk about an astonishing Yukon Party government press release that came out this week, claiming that they had identified $7 million in savings in their budget.
My question to the Minister of Finance and Government Leader is: why is the government promoting taxpayer job creation in their capital budget, when they have said in the past, as conservatives, that reducing taxes and putting more money in the hands of consumers and businesses is the way to stimulate jobs and economic growth?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The monies that are going to provide for 3,700 person weeks of work this year, are monies that have been redirected within departments from projects, equipment purchases and other items like that that would not create jobs. We have moved that money and when we come to the line-by-line debate on the supplementaries, the Members opposite will be able to see where the money came from.
Mr. Harding: The press release said the government identified $7 million in savings.
I would like to read, as a preamble to this question, an address by the Government Leader in introducing last years budget. The Government Leader said, These tax increases will yield $8.8 million in additional revenues and allows us, together with expenditure reductions, to balance our budget. We do not like having to do this, no government does, but it is necessary.
Well, with all of this new, extra money, why are they not cancelling this years huge tax increases, which are now obviously unnecessary and have been denounced as obscene by the Government Leader.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I wonder sometimes if the Official Opposition holds caucus meetings. We just had the Leader of the Official Opposition stand up here and condemn us for not creating any jobs in the Yukon. Now we have the Member for Faro standing up and condemning us for creating jobs in the Yukon.
Mr. Harding: The condemnation is for the tax increases. We have already spoken about their lack of leadership on the employment issue.
It is obvious from the extra money found for the Dawson water and sewage system, the taxpayer subsidies of Yukon Electric through rate relief and this new $7 million that the governments economic situation has never been anywhere near as bad as the Government Leader has stated. They have brought in the largest spending budget in Yukon history, but why do they not get rid of the padding thrown into the budget in the form of these huge tax increases?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There has been no padding put in the budget. I am sure most Yukoners are aware of that. There have been savings in some departments because of the unfortunate shutdown of the Faro mine. There has been less money that has to be dedicated to road maintenance. There are savings on the South Alaska Highway. A big portion of the money for job creation is federal money in Yukon housing and development, where we only have to put up 25 percent. The federal government puts up the other 75 percent. Those are funds that would have lapsed on March 31 of this fiscal year. We felt it prudent to create jobs with it now while we could.
We also advanced $700,000 from 1994-95 capital budget projects. The rest has been financed by a $700,000 deficit in this years budget. That will be addressed in the supplementaries.
Question re: Government fiscal direction
Mr. McDonald: I think our problem here is that we are trying to find out what the government stands for and where it is going. The Government Leader delivered a message last year that the government was facing a fiscal crisis and then gave the siren sound of the all-clear signal six months later - perhaps even less than that.
The Government Leader then said that, to be balanced, the budget absolutely had to have an extra $7 million from the taxpayers. Now, after six months, this amount approximately has now been found for other purposes through what they call savings.
Can the Government Leader let us in on that deep, dark secret? Where is the government going and what does it stand for?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Members on this side of the House have made it quite clear where we are going, and that is a self-sufficient Yukon, not one that is totally dependent on government. We are directing whatever resources we can to help make Yukoners self-sufficient.
We have identified where the money is coming from for job creation. We could very easily have taken the money we had saved from moves we made in the operation and maintenance of government and paid down the deficit left us by the Members opposite. Instead, we put it into job creation for Yukoners.
Mr. McDonald: Surely the Government Leader is aware that the dependency on the federal government has skyrocketed since the Yukon Party government has been in power.
When the government tabled the budget in the spring, they announced that it was a jobs budget, as far as its impact on the economy and the state of the economy in the future, they said, even though they had to retract the claim that 700 jobs would be created. Why did the government feel that they had to strike a blue-ribbon committee in October - one month ago, after only a few months of operation - in order to turn the budget they had previously announced as a jobs budget into a jobs budget?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Again, this is a situation where you are damned if you do and damned if you do not. On the one side, we are criticized for not doing anything about putting Yukoners to work. We have tried to make the extra effort to find money within the department budgets - from computer purchases and office furniture that can be delayed for another year - and put it into job creation in the Yukon. We took savings from capital projects that came in under budget and redirected that into jobs over the winter, when we are going to need them, until the next capital budget takes effect. The task force was put together in September, not October. We started on this in August, when we had a deputy ministers meeting with the Ministers.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister did not answer the question at all.
When they tabled the budget in the spring, knowing that there was an economic downturn, they announced that it was a jobs budget. They pulled out all the stops and all the money was going to be spent on job creation and building infrastructure.
Why, after only a few months of operation, did they feel they had to strike a blue-ribbon committee to turn their jobs budget into a jobs budget?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite is fully aware that the unemployment figure in the Yukon was 17 percent in May. It was down to 10 percent in August, which shows our capital budget was working. It did create the jobs we said we were going to create.
With the task force, we created jobs over the winter, when we know unemployment always rises in the Yukon.
Question re: Unemployment rate
Mr. McDonald: That brings up an interesting question. The Government Leader said recently, even just now, that the latest unemployment rates were a testimonial to the successful actions of the Yukon government. From the governments Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate is listed at 11.1 percent, yet the number of claims registered at the Unemployment Insurance Commission was listed, as of October 25, as 3,114, which represents a rate of 24 percent unemployment, just using people registered with UIC alone.
Can the Minister explain this discrepancy?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I cannot explain the discrepancy in the time allowed in Question Period. However, the Member opposite knows full well that the unemployment figures they used all the time were those put out by Statistics Canada: the number of people in the workforce; the number of people unemployed. It is comparing apples and oranges to compare those figures to the people who are registered at the unemployment office. The Member knows that is the case.
Mr. McDonald: Just a minute. The Member seems to suggest that the government, in the past, has been using figures they felt were genuinely untrue. What is clear here is that there are well over 3,000 people registered for unemployment alone in this territory. By the governments own admission, and their own Bureau of Statistics report, they have suggested that the number of employed persons in the territory ranks at around 13,000 people.
It means that there is an unemployment rate of 24 percent. There is a real, actual unemployment rate, with real, actual people being unemployed and claiming unemployment insurance at the offices down the street. Would the Minister mind telling us, given that he has used the unemployment statistics to demonstrate how well the government is doing in terms of their job creation plan and their program, the reason for the discrepancy between his indicators and the real-life one down the street.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is not my discrepancy, it is the way the figures are done by Statistics Canada. These are the ones we have followed from month to month, the same ones that the Member of the Official Opposition used when he was sitting on this side of the House. There are different ways of calculating those figures. If you are going to compare apples to apples, let us compare apples to apples. We are comparing these to the figures of a year ago in the Yukon - the same figures that are on these papers that Statistics Canada puts out.
Mr. McDonald: I represent living, breathing and worried people - real ones. They are collecting unemployment insurance in record numbers and they want to know what the government is doing about it. The government is clearly planted in a very difficult recession. Consumer spending is depressed, and the unemployment rate, by anyones standard, is climbing. There is one economic indicator that one could expect would be a positive signal, under the circumstances. That would be the consumer price index. It is apparent that it, too, is climbing to a 20-month high. As of September, it has climbed three percent over the last year. Can the Minister explain whether or not he considers that to be a problem, and what he is doing about that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The consumer price index has been climbing all across Canada, not only in the Yukon.
Question re: Budget preparation, advice from Opposition
Mrs. Firth: My question is for the Government Leader. One lesson of the October 25 federal election was a message from the people that they would like to see some consensus building and cooperation from their politicians. Since the Government Leader did not consult with, or seek support for his budget from any of the parties in opposition, particularly the two minority parties, could he explain to Yukoners why he did not seek this cooperation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I guess communication is a two-way street. I did not hear anything or receive any calls from the Member opposite either. If I recall, her office in this building was completely closed for several months, or all summer long.
Mrs. Firth: The Government Leader claims that, because his is a minority government, he needs the cooperation of the Liberal Party Member and the Independent Alliance Party Member, or an election may be called. Why did he not take steps to prevent a potential election prior to bringing the budget into the House?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My understanding from my Ministers is that she was offered briefings before and refused to take them.
Mrs. Firth: That is not true. I have not been offered any briefings about this budget.
Some Hon. Member: (inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: Oh, not this one, he said, the last one. I think it is clear that I have not been offered any briefing about this budget. I would like to get on with my supplementary question.
Now that the budget is before the House, in order to gain cooperation, is the Government Leader prepared to discuss and accept any amendments and changes to the capital budget by the Opposition Members?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: In this forum, when we get into debate and discussions, that is exactly what we hope: that constructive suggestions will come from the other side of the House. Certainly this government will take them under consideration.
Question re: Social assistance costs
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
The Minister is aware that the unemployment statistics do not include those people who are on social assistance, although the majority of those people are unemployed. We are told that, by the end of this fiscal year, the government expects that social assistance costs will double what they were two years ago. If the Yukon economy is as great as the Government Leader would have Yukoners believe, why is the Ministers department predicting that kind of an expenditure?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The number of people and the cost of social assistance, as the Member well knows, has skyrocketed over the course of the last four years. We have been taking some steps to try and bring that down and tighten up on abuses of the system.
Right now, it appears that we have been somewhat successful. The rate of growth has decreased markedly thus far this year. We are quite hopeful that, overall, even though there will be a small increase, it will show a marked flattening of the growth curve that was experienced during the previous four years.
Ms. Commodore: There is a lot of talk in the Ministers department about cutbacks and downsizing. Since the Government Leader is predicting a balanced budget - give or take $5 million - can the Minister tell this House if other programs in his department will be cut or downsized to accommodate the finances of his social assistance program.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I think the Member opposite knows that during this fiscal year, for the first time in many years, we were able to obtain a realistic figure for the cost of social services in the budget. This is the first year in many years that the budgeting forecast took into account a realistic growth in social services, based upon experience across Canada and experience here. Accordingly, we are hoping to save money from the anticipated amount specified in the budget - it is too early to tell for sure. There is no intention to downsize the department. There is, within the department, a shifting of priorities and some changes. I am rather surprised at the Member opposites claims there is a lot of concern in the department. They have been told that we are not intending to downsize and lay off people.
Ms. Commodore: The government statistics for people on social assistance does not include aboriginal people receiving social assistance from Indian Affairs. Can the Minister tell this House what that total is for people receiving social assistance, both from his government and from Indian Affairs? If he does not have that figure available I would like to have him produce those in the House.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We have been trying to obtain those figures. During the ongoing consultation process of travelling to the communities, at the sessions that I attended the department said that the approximate cost that they had received from DIAND was about $8 million. They did not seem to be sure exactly what that figure encompassed - whether it included administration or was just amounts paid out to the First Nations.
Question re: Small business development program, consultant
Mr. Cable: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development. Your department recently hired a consultant, presumably at the taxpayers expense, to determine why there has not been more use of government handouts under the $3 million small business development program. Just for the record, could the Minister tell the House how much that contract was for?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The Member is correct. We had a review, but it was not a review of government handouts. The economic planning portion of the EDA is geared toward small businesses doing feasibility studies, employment potentials, and things like that. The uptake was very low. We hired a consultant, but I do not have the figure at my fingertips on how much we paid the consultant.
Mr. Cable: I was just looking though the government internal telephone directory. In the Ministers department, there appears to be a number of people under economic policy planning and research, economic programs, and industry and program development. The Ministers officials would seem to be the people most familiar with the program. Why was the analysis not done in house, instead of wasting the taxpayers money on an outside consultant?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We wanted to be certain that the problems were not in-house problems. If you have in-house people researching something like that, and some of the problems existed in house, one could get some distorted facts. We wanted a completely unbiased consultant hired, which is why it was done.
Mr. Cable: What sort of unbiased conclusions did this consultant arrive at, particularly in reference to what you just spoke of: whether the problem was in house?
Hon. Mr. Devries: In the last six to eight months, the uptake on the programs has been much better. Much of that was a result of recommendations coming from that study. Things are running much more smoothly now.
Question re: Employment equity
Ms. Moorcroft: The Bureau of Statistics has data that tells us that 70 percent of women with children are in the paid workforce. My constituents know that all mothers are working mothers and many women are not paid for their economic contributions to society.
What I would like to ask the Minister responsible for the Status of Women about concerns the wages of mothers who are in the under paid workforce. What is the Minister doing to change the shameful fact that women earn less than 70 percent of what men earn?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is a concern that was raised in the survey. We are concerned about it. We have an employment equity plan within the Government of the Yukon, which each department is required to fill out and is encouraged, in most cases, to bring women into higher paying jobs. That is what we are going to be doing.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister talks about employment equity plans. In the last session of this Legislature, I attempted, most unsuccessfully, I am sorry to say, to hear Ministers demonstrate an understanding of employment equity plans in their departments.
Since the Minister for the Status of Women has had a year to mull things over, can he tell me if he and his colleagues have made the effort to consider how they will improve the economic status of women employed by this government, and outside it?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Each and every department is encouraged very strongly to encourage women to advance and receive high paying jobs within the department. That is proceeding on a continual basis. The departments are required to report, on a regular basis, on their progress. By having to report on their progress, the departments are forced to try and attain a higher goal of having women in higher paying jobs within the Government of Yukon.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister seems to have no personal knowledge of struggling against the barriers women face in the workforce. We are not just talking about hiring more women. We are talking about them having wages equal to mens wages. What specifically is the Minister doing to ensure that the government is going to pay these workers fair wages?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: When we get into the budget debate, I would be more than happy to list some of the initiatives that the government has undertaken. I do not have them at my fingertips here, but I would be more than happy to bring that issue forward and discuss that with the Member.
Question re: Employment equity
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps I will try the Government Leader and the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
We know that women, First Nations and people with disabilities are not fairly represented in the upper income brackets of the Yukon government. The purpose of the employment equity plan is to ensure fair and equitable access to economic opportunities for all Yukoners. Can the Minister tell me how many people have been hired since April 1, 1993, into designated employment equity positions?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This government is a great supporter of employment equity. We are working with every department on the employment equity programs. I do not have the exact number at my fingertips, but I can bring it back to the Member opposite.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am glad to hear that the departments are fully supportive. I will anticipate a more positive response to some of my questions in the next session.
Relatively few competitions are restricted for the benefit of the people who need them most. It is very important that these competitions succeed in creating a more representative workforce. Does the Minister wholeheartedly support the guidelines that ensure that members of the under represented groups are hired when job vacancies are deemed to be employment equity positions?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I certainly support the guidelines, and each department is working to implement the guidelines. These guidelines are taken into consideration whenever there is a job competition advertised. Departments are instructed to attain employment equity.
Ms. Moorcroft: Since the Minister is going to bring me the information that I requested in my first question, I will ask the Minister to also assure me that no employment equity competitions have been filled by people who do not qualify as employment equity candidates, where a qualified woman, First Nations or disabled person has applied.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will bring that information back to the Member opposite.
Question re: Business loans, grants and handouts
Mrs. Firth: I was just thinking, Mr. Speaker, that at least when my office lights are not on it means that there is no one home, unlike lights that may be on but there is no one home.
My question is a follow-up to the Minister of Economic Development along the same lines as the question put by the Leader of the Liberal Party, because I, too, have been very interested in this issue.
There was a news interview with a department official in Economic Development about 40 Yukon businesses being surveyed as to why they were not taking advantage of government grants, loans and handouts.
I wrote to the Minister and asked for the results of this survey and the Minister refused to provide me with that information.
I would like to ask the Minister why this information is not being provided to us as Opposition Members, since it has been paid for from public funds?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The review was done with the understanding that it was going to be an internal document and would not be released to the public. It is an internal document strictly for the department to repriorize the way they do things, and thus far some of the recommendations made have been very successful in increasing the uptake.
Mrs. Firth: That is precisely why I think it is important for us, as Members of this Legislature, to have the information. I think we should all be made aware of the recommendations that caused an increased use of the program, because I am very interested in recommendations that result in the business community becoming more dependent upon government for money. I would like a better explanation from the Minister as to why we cannot have those recommendations.
Hon. Mr. Devries: There seems to be a misunderstanding about what the program does. It is geared toward individuals who wish to increase the size of their business or individuals who wish to start a business.
Through this program, they can do feasibility studies and it is all geared toward increased employment within the Yukon and that is what the program is about. I do not see how the Member would benefit by having that document.
Mrs. Firth: I am sorry the Minister does not see this, or understand it. I have had business people come to me and request this information. I think it is very important that the business community have access to this information. I am particularly interested in knowing what recommendations the consultant could make to the government that would increase and encourage businesses to become more dependent on government.
Why will the Minister not provide this information to us? I understand the program. I do not need a lesson in that. Why can we not have the information?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The interviews, et cetera, for the study were done with the understanding that it was an internal document. I am not prepared to publicly release a document when the people who were interviewed had the understanding it was an internal document.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed.
House Business - unanimous consent requested
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Based on an agreement between the House Leaders, I would request the unanimous consent of the House to proceed to government-designated business this afternoon, when Orders of the Day are called, and to give Opposition private Members business precedence on Wednesday, November 17, 1993.
The purpose of proceeding to government-designated business today is to allow the Government Leader, pursuant to Standing Order 53(3), to move second reading of Bill No. 12, and to give the capital budget speech.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent to proceed with House business in the manner outlined by the Government House Leader?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Government bills.
Bill No. 12: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 12, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Ostashek.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 12, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1994-95, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Finance that Bill No. 12, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1994-95, be now read a second time.
BUDGET SPEECH (Capital Estimates)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am pleased to be able to table the capital budget for the 1994-95 fiscal year. We are reintroducing the practice of tabling the capital budget separate from the operation and maintenance budget at the fall session of the Legislature preceding the fiscal year in which the budget applies. Dealing with the capital budget in the fall allows us to complete the necessary preparatory work over the winter so that contracts can be tendered earlier and work can commence next spring without delay.
Dealing with the operation and maintenance budget in the spring means that departments only have to look ahead 12 months, rather than 18 months, and this should make for more accurate budgeting.
The 1994-95 capital budget totals $126,224. We are fortunate once again to be able to have a large capital budget because these expenditures translate into jobs in the private sector. It should be pointed out that one of the principal reasons we have been able to bring in such a budget is because of our success in controlling the operation and maintenance costs of government. This is a significant achievement and I wish to commend my Cabinet colleagues, the deputy ministers and officials for working so hard to give us more flexibility and the ability to create more jobs in the private sector.
This budget builds upon the groundwork that we laid as a result of our previous capital budget. It is a product of our commitment to provide responsible, accountable government while meeting the commitments identified in our four-year plan.
This budget will create over 700 jobs. It will put many Yukoners to work in the course of the next fiscal year.
I would like to go through some of the budget highlights to demonstrate to the Members of this House, and to Yukoners at large, exactly how we are meeting the challenges of today while positioning ourselves to take advantage of the promises of tomorrow.
Once again we are fortunate that we have two major highway projects underway. The Shakwak highway project at $19.3 million and the South Alaska Highway project at $13.2 million will provide Yukoners with jobs for years to come. The Alaska Highway is the Yukons major transportation corridor and anything that we do to improve or to upgrade this critically important highway is an investment in the future of the Yukon.
The Alaska Highway is particularly important to tourism. Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of meeting with Governor Hickel of Alaska. The Shakwak highway project was one of the issues that we discussed. The State of Alaska is prepared to ask its federal counterpart for funding to complete the remaining 100 miles of the road between Jarvis Creek and the Donjek River that will require upgrading once the funds for the current project, which will take us down to the Donjek, are exhausted. The State of Alaska and Yukon will both benefit economically with the completion of this first class highway system.
I told the Governor that the Yukon government is also committing considerable funds to upgrade the Top of the World Highway, in keeping with the strategic highway agreement that we signed with the Government of Canada. Members will note that $1.7 million is committed to that in this budget.
We also appealed to the Governor to improve their side in preparation for the large number of tourists that we are anticipating for the R.C.M.P. celebrations in 1995, the gold discovery in 1996 and the gold rush itself in 1998. Governor Hickel assured me that the State of Alaska is planning a major upgrading of the Taylor Highway on its side of the border and will be laying down an all-weather surface on this highway commencing this next year.
Further, we agreed to appeal to the Canadian and U.S. Customs to build a joint customs office closer to Dawson City. This is very encouraging and welcome news for Dawson and for tourism development in the territory.
While we have had limited discretionary financial resources, we are working hard to meet our election commitments. Members, for example, will be asked to approve $7 million for sewage treatment and disposal for the City of Whitehorse. Our government is committed to protecting the environment and maintaining clean water. We have made sewage treatment a top priority and that priority is reflected in this budget.
Similarly, we said that we would be providing assistance to the City of Dawson to help resolve its persistent sewer and water main problems. Members will be asked to approve $1.8 million this year to help to accomplish that task.
In order to grow and prosper, Yukoners need developed land for residential, commercial and industrial purposes. The Government of the Yukon is committed to providing that land. The hon. Members will be asked to approve $12.5 million to meet this very important need for both the short and the long term.
In economic development, while these are difficult times for the mining industry in the Yukon, with our two major hard rock mines in receivership, the Government of Yukon is doing its utmost to encourage investment, exploration and mineral development in the territory. The mineral development agreement will provide $2.15 million to help accomplish these objectives. The Yukon mining incentives program will provide $863,000 to promote mining investment in the Yukon.
There are other important initiatives that should be mentioned that clearly show this governments commitment to promoting mining in Yukon.
One initiative is the energy infrastructure loans program. Under the auspices of this program, the government will provide loans at less than prime rate to companies to enable them to build infrastructure to meet their energy needs. Energy projects that are eligible for assistance include extending the current electrical grid, installing diesel generators and developing alternate energy sources.
Another important initiative is the creation of a mining facilitator position within the Department of Economic Development. The mining industry has been requesting such an official for some time and we are most happy to comply with that request. The mining facilitator will be a senior position within government who will be responsible for assisting mining companies to proceed through the regulatory processes and to expedite their development proposals.
I would just like to mention here that our announcement last week of $3.5 million in rate relief for Yukon ratepayers and the freezing of energy rates for the next two years has raised the level of confidence in the Yukon economy. The provision of this relief is consistent with the revised mandate that we have established for the Yukon Development and Energy Corporations. The profits are now to be used solely for energy infrastructure, alternate energy development, energy conservation and rate relief. This government will not tolerate the misuse of ratepayers money.
It is also our intention to approach the new federal government to reopen negotiations on the NCPC transfer agreement. If we are successful in this endeavor, there could be some added relief for Yukon ratepayers.
One of our objectives is to promote the diversification of the Yukons economy and the Members of this House will be asked to approve $10.4 million in economic programs to help us to achieve this objective.
Members will note that the community development fund has been reduced to $1.3 million in this budget, from the $3 million in the 1993-94 forecast. This reduction signals our intention to phase out the community development fund. The $1.3 million requested for the fund in the coming year will be directed principally toward projects in unincorporated communities.
The phasing out of this fund does not mean that valid projects will no longer be funded, but rather that these will be identified hereafter as lines in the budget. The projects will then be able to be judged on their individual merits by all Members of this House. This change is in keeping with our commitment to provide good, accountable government and should appeal to all fiscally responsible Members of this House.
This government continues to place a high priority on quality education in the Yukon.
Members will be asked to approve the expenditure of $5.8 million for the construction, upgrading and equipping of our public schools. Because of our limited financial resources, we have had to direct our financing to those schools in the most need. Accordingly, $1.6 million has been earmarked for the Golden Horn Elementary School expansion and $480,000 has been set aside for the F.H. Collins High School upgrade.
In the area of Health and Social Services, we are indeed fortunate to have the funding available to us to construct the new $47 million Whitehorse General Hospital. Monies for this multi-year project are being provided by the federal government as a consequence of the health transfer and is non-discretionary.
Members will be asked to approve more than $16 million to undertake the necessary work this coming year. The partial demolition of the old hospital is in progress and contracts for surveying, site clearing, water main replacement and the construction of the incinerator have been tendered. In total, 14 contracts have been awarded to local firms, for a total value of $2.3 million for work to be done this fall and winter.
The excavation and foundation work will proceed in the spring, and the construction of the building itself will commence in early summer. The construction of an acute care hospital of this size is a major undertaking by this government, and it must be done well. We are putting in place a strong management regime to ensure the project comes in on budget. The hospital will be finished in 1996.
With the opening of the Thomson Centre, the new extended care facility, and the ultimate completion of the new Whitehorse General Hospital, Yukoners will enjoy health care facilities second to none. Our government takes pride in providing good health services for Yukoners.
In Renewable Resources, our government is not only responsible for taking care of Yukoners, it is also responsible for taking care of Yukon wildlife and the Yukon environment. Members of this House will be asked to approve expenditures of $1.85 million to meet our obligations in these important areas.
Yukoners take special pride in the protection and proper management of our wildlife. This government, with the support of the Yukon First Nations, has had the courage to do the right thing in terms of protecting the Aishihik caribou herd.
There has been some controversy over our governments policy with regard to the establishment of multi-use territorial parks, as well as with our position that Yukon First Nations land claims selections must take precedence over the creation of new territorial parks. Both the policy of multi-use parks and settling land claims as a matter of first priority are election commitments we made. We believe it is possible to have protected spaces and a system of parks without prejudicing economic development opportunities and the mining industry in the Yukon. Further, the passage of the land claims legislation will mean the creation of new parks, such as the Vuntut Gwichin National Park near Old Crow, and the establishment of other special management and protected areas.
Yukoners know full well that one of our major tourist drawing cards is our pristine environment, and we will do all that we can to protect that environment.
Tourism offers Yukoners tremendous job opportunities. Members will be asked to approve more than $1.2 million to preserve, manage and interpret our world class heritage resources. The Yukon is about to enter a decade of anniversaries involving the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1995, the Klondike Gold Rush from 1996 to 1998 and the White Pass Railroad in the year 2000.
In order to take advantage of these opportunities, our government must undertake comprehensive strategic planning. Members will note that $415,000 has been set aside to help us develop marketing and tourism promotion strategies. One of the initiatives that will be undertaken under that will be a visitor exit survey, which will be conducted this next summer.
I have already mentioned that Governor Hickel of Alaska has committed his government to work with us to make the most of our tourism opportunities. The Top of the World/Taylor Highway upgrading is a product of that cooperation. We have also sent a joint letter to the Governors of Washington and California urging them to participate in the Klondike Gold Rush celebrations since both Seattle and San Francisco played such key roles in that historic event. Alaska has already pledged hundreds of thousands of dollars to help market the Gold Rush Anniversary.
Last weekend, the Minister of Tourism held a Tourism summit involving all stakeholders to renew, build and broaden tourism partnerships. The Yukon receives in excess of 200,000 visitors a year who contribute an estimated $40 million in direct spending to our economy. The industry employs 3,400 people, making it our largest private sector employer. The economic benefits derived from tourism are dispersed widely throughout all Yukon communities.
This government is committed to tourism. Our high level of investment in highways, heritage resources, environmental protection and community infrastructure, as well as tourism promotion and marketing, clearly demonstrates our commitment to this very important industry. Tourism is Yukons second largest generator of economic activity, which contributes significantly to our overall economy.
Whether Yukoners are involved in mining, tourism, small business or working for various levels of government, they all need a place to live.
Members of this House will be asked to approve $4.5 million to assist Yukon home owners to repair their principal residence to a minimum standard. This program, in addition to improving the quality of homes, has the added benefit of putting many small contractors to work, whether they be carpenters, electricians, plumbers or heating workers. They will all be working under this program.
Members will also be asked to approve $4 million to assist low to middle income Yukon residents living in rental accommodations to become home owners. Home ownership is a dream of many Yukoners and it is this governments policy to help make that dream become a reality.
The Yukon Housing Corporation also provides an owner/build program to assist low to middle income do-it-yourself builders construct their own home. There is a rental suite program to improve the availability of modestly priced rental accommodations within Yukon. A joint-venture program is also offered to increase the housing supply by entering into partnerships with private sector developers for housing and/or land development projects.
These are just some of the programs the Yukon Housing Corporation provides. Adequate housing is a basic human need and this government, in accordance with its four-year plan, is committed to fulfilling that need.
In the coming days when we are proceeding through this budget line by line, I would ask the Members of this House to recognize the importance of the exercise in which we will be engaged. With mining employment down substantially in the wake of the shutdowns at Faro and Watson Lake, the importance of government spending is increased. Government spending acts as a buffer and stabilizing force during economic downturns in the private sector. Moreover, as I have already stated, our capital spending creates jobs in the private sector and it is the private sector that now requires our help.
The 1994-95 capital budget will create over 700 jobs and inject more than $126 million into the economy of the Yukon in the next fiscal year. This is very good news and our government is proud of this achievement. There is still a short-term problem, however, that we must address. How do we assist the private sector and unemployed workers through the winter until such time as our new budget takes effect?
In order to deal with this short-term problem, our government has established an employment task force comprised of eight people representing business, labour and government to study ways to maximize job opportunities in Yukon this winter. The government spends approximately $40 million per month and the job of the task force was to look at the 1993-94 capital projects and to explore potential capital projects for 1994-95 with a view to maximizing employment opportunities over the winter months.
The employment task force has identified projects worth in excess of $7 million creating a total of about 3,700 person weeks of direct and indirect employment that will be funded out of savings and redirection of the governments budget. Let me highlight some of the initiatives.
The Department of Community and Transportation Services has identified $2.3 million worth of projects that will create more than 650 person weeks of employment, involving brush clearing, gravel pit development, road repairs, and similar work on the Shakwak project and other Yukon highways. I must emphasize that this is work that has to be done. In some instances, it is advantageous to do this work in the winter months.
The Yukon Housing Corporation has identified $4 million worth of projects, creating 2,600 person weeks of direct and indirect employment. These projects entail building 19 new social housing units, which are cost shared with the federal government on a 75/25 percent basis, as well as a modest housing program to allow contractors to build up to 15 units in the $115,000 range, with buyers already arranged through Yukon Housing Corporation.
The completion of the extended care facility will create about 170 person weeks of work, and the Departments of Government Services and Renewable Resources have also put forward recommendations for projects that could be carried out this winter. Funding for these projects will be reflected in the supplementary estimates for the current year.
On behalf of the House, I want to commend the members of the employment task force for the hard work and time they have invested in their assignment and to thank them for their dedicated service to the people of the Yukon. This group is also exploring numerous other initiatives in cooperation with the private sector. Progress will be reported on an ongoing basis.
In addition to the employment task force, the government has re-instituted the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. We have asked the council to consider holding a Yukon economic conference at an early date to explore employment opportunities in various sectors of the Yukon economy. We want to investigate ways of maximizing employment over the medium and longer term.
Speaking of the longer term, I would now like to address some of the things on the horizon for Yukoners. This is the direction in which we headed with our 1993-94 budget in creating infrastructure, so that private enterprise could carry on in the Yukon. This course will direct us toward self-sufficiency and a better quality of life in the Yukon.
We must not allow our current temporary economic problems to cloud our vision of the territorys vast economic potential.
One of our first tasks is to complete the settlement of the land claims. We are confident that the new federal government, headed up by a Prime Minister who started the comprehensive land claims process some 20 years ago in his former capacity as the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, will be anxious to complete this process and finalize the Yukon claim.
The settlement of land claims will give Yukon First Nations an economic base, and will make them key players in the development of our territory. Every community in the Yukon stands to benefit. Land claims implementation will see millions of dollars injected into the territorial economy that will create jobs. This should give all Yukoners cause for optimism.
The territorys vast mineral potential is here to develop. It is governments responsibility - both federal and territorial - to create the proper investment climate by settling the Yukon land claims, having an appropriate regulatory regime in place, and by providing the necessary transportation and energy infrastructure for mine development to proceed.
We remain confident that eventually when world metal prices for zinc and lead rebound, the mines at Faro and Watson Lake can quickly come back into production and once again be major players in the international metals market.
We are blessed with vast mineral potential and there are some bright mining prospects on the Yukons economic horizon.
We have Casino, a world class copper, gold and molybdenum property near Carmacks. The property has the potential of being a larger mine than Faro, and will be less subject to downturns in metal prices because of its diverse ore body. Construction is proposed for 1997-1998 and that will mean jobs for Yukoners.
There is another copper development in the same area at Williams Creek. This is a heap leach process that produces almost pure copper. The Western Copper property is proposed for production in 1995, and that will mean jobs for Yukoners.
We have another heap leach mining property at Brewery Creek near Dawson City. This heap leach produces gold, rather than copper. It is anticipated that this property will commence production in the summer of 1995.
The Yukon also has high quality coal reserves, which could be developed as an alternative to hydro or diesel electric generation. With todays technology, coal can be an environmentally attractive substitute for more conventional sources of energy.
We know we are going to need more power if the mining industry in the Yukon is to develop. The Casino property alone will require 60 to 80 megawatts of electricity.
Another advantage of utilizing coal is that more mining jobs will be created in Yukon, rather than jobs being created in Alberta pumping out diesel fuel.
The government is also looking at other energy alternatives such as wind and small scale hydro sites. We know that in the future the Yukon will require an electrical grid system that connects with grids in Alaska and British Columbia. Sometime in the future, that has got to happen. I discussed this issue with Governor Hickel when he was here and he agreed it could be a long-term objective.
I have already referred quite extensively to tourism and the decade of the opportunities we have before us. The Klondike Gold Rush Centennial alone should be the experience of a lifetime for many visitors and will create countless employment opportunities for Yukoners. It has the potential of providing a tremendous boost to the tourism industry in Yukon.
It is the governments task to work with the Yukon Anniversaries Commission and the private sector to prepare for these celebrations. This is an event every Yukoner and every community should be excited about.
There are other important economic sectors in Yukon that help to diversify our economy. We are hoping that we will be able to conclude the forestry transfer agreement that will transfer the control and management of Yukon forests to our government.
This agreement could create much-needed jobs in both the short and long terms and will be particularly important to the communities of Dawson City and Watson Lake. Upon the signing of the agreement, there will be several million dollars available for renovation work in those communities.
The forestry transfer agreement will result in the consolidation of some government operations into regional offices and will be in keeping with our common sense approach to government decentralization.
The net result of this transfer will be better service delivery to the Yukon public, better management of Yukons forest resources and more employment and business opportunities for Yukoners.
Agriculture, outfitting, trapping and eco-tourism all help to diversify the economy and create jobs. Yukoners must never let current economic difficulties cloud their vision of the territorys long-term economic opportunities. This budget, like our previous budget, is a step in the right direction - a step toward realizing a brighter future.
Mr. Speaker and Members of this House, we look forward to working with you and the new federal government in Ottawa, in the best interest of all our constituents, our territory and our country.
I commend this budget to favourable consideration of the House.
Mr. McDonald: I move that the debate on the motion be adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for McIntyre-Takhini that debate on the motion be now adjourned.
Motion to adjourn debate on second reading of Bill No. 12 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday next.
The House adjourned at 2:52 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 10, 1993:
Report of the Auditor General on the examination of the accounts and financial transactions of the Government of the Yukon Territory, for the year ended March 31, 1993 (Speaker)
Report of the Clerk of the Assembly on deductions from the indemnities of Members of the Legislature Assembly pursuant to subsection 39(6) of the Legislative Assembly Act (Speaker)
Addendum to the Report of the Chief Electoral Officer on Contributions to Candidates, 1992 General Election (Speaker)