Monday, November 15, 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.
Tabling of Returns and Documents.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Devries: I have a legislative return and the Business Development Advisory Boards annual report for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have for tabling several legislative returns and, as well, the annual report of the Yukon Energy Corporation for the year ended December 31, 1992, and the annual report of the Yukon Development Corporation for the year ended March 31, 1993.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Petition No. 4
Clerk: I have had the honour to review a petition, being Petition No. 4 of the first session of the Twenty-Eighth Legislative Assembly as presented by the Honourable Leader of the Official Opposition, on November 10, 1993.
This Petition meets the requirements as to form of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: Petition No. 4, accordingly, is deemed to be read and received.
Speaker: Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
NOTICE OF MOTION
Mr. Penikett: I would like to give notice
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the profit guaranteed by the Public Utilities Board and Cabinet for both the Yukon Electrical Company and the Yukon Energy Corporation should be set at no more than five percent for the duration of the current recession so as to reduce the burden of rising electrical costs for both businesses and the residential consumers.
Speaker: Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Legislative agenda
Mr. Penikett: I have a question for the Government Leader. His party has been in power for a year now and apart from a perfunctory four-page statement last December, we have not yet had a throne speech from this government, outlining its Legislature plans and agenda for the next period. Can the Government Leader tell us why not?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We are still reviewing some legislation that we would like to bring forward. I believe that the throne speech we gave last year, the budget speech that was given last spring and the capital budget speech given last Wednesday set the direction of this government. We will be coming in with a new throne speech, probably in the spring or the fall session next year.
Mr. Penikett: If the Government Leader proceeds with the throne speech next fall, that will be two years after his election. Would he not agree that parliamentary tradition requires that a new government, especially a minority government, present to the House a throne speech outlining its program and its legislative agenda as soon as possible following its election? Would he not agree that that is what parliamentary tradition requires?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said in our two budget speeches, the capital budget last spring - which was one hour in length - basically set the direction this government is going, as did the capital budget speech I gave the other day.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader does not understand the point.
The most ancient of parliamentary traditions is that before the Crown may ask for money from the elected Members of the people, it has to present a request to parliament, outline an agenda in the form of a throne speech and allow for a wide-ranging debate. The government is required to hear petitions from every Member on behalf of their constituents before proceeding with a budget. This is a minority government. Why have we not had a real throne speech yet outlining a legislative agenda?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, we are still looking at some legislation that we want to bring forward. We will probably have a throne speech in the spring.
Question re: Unemployment statistics
Mr. Penikett: There are, we now know, over 3,100 people collecting unemployment insurance. There are hundreds more on social assistance.
May I ask the Government Leader this: does he still insist that the unemployment rate in the Yukon Territory is only 11 percent? Or, is he now prepared to admit that the situation is now much worse and the actual situation is that one-quarter of the actual workforce is now without a job?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The numbers the Leader of the Official Opposition is putting forward to this House are just simply not true. I said last Wednesday in Question Period that you cannot compare apples and oranges. They are talking about claimants; we are talking about the employment surveys that go out on a monthly basis. I have drawn the figures out for the number of people drawing unemployment insurance benefits, and they take into consideration a vast array of people - such as people who are sick, people on maternity leave, adoptive parental leave, work-sharing, job creation, job training - these are all considered in those figures.
Mr. Penikett: We are not talking about numbers. We are not talking about apples, oranges, or fruit. We are talking about people - 3,100 of whom are collecting unemployment insurance, and that is not counting the hundreds who are collecting social assistance. Does the Government Leader deny that the number of people collecting unemployment insurance this year is double that of last year?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Based on the latest figures we have, and I am sure these are the same figures the Leader of the Official Opposition has, there are not 3,100 people drawing unemployment insurance.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader continues to want to hide behind a statistical cloud, in which our population is growing, our labour force is growing, and that unemployment is only a small problem. Will he accept the evidence of his eyes, that the vacancy rate has gone up, retail sales are down, spending on unemployment insurance has doubled and a whole town - the Town of Faro - has been largely emptied of its citizens? May I ask him when he is going to face this reality and start to do something about it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know where the Leader of the Official Opposition lives. He says he lives in the real world; I am not sure of that. We put forward a capital budget last year that created a tremendous amount of jobs - around 700 jobs. It took the unemployment rate from 17 percent down to 10 percent. We put forward a job creation program that is going to create 3,700 person-weeks of work this winter, in the next couple of months. As well, it will help people over the short term until the building season starts again. Unbelievable.
Question re: Electrical rates
Mr. Cable: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation on electrical rates. The Minister was quoted on the CBC last December when he spoke on power rates, and I quote the Minister: it says, Phelps believes cheap and abundant power is the key to economic development in the Yukon. The Minister has now been in the energy saddle for about a year. Can he indicate to this House what he means by cheap electrical power? Is it the five cents a kilowatt hour that Curragh was asking for, or the rates we are paying now, or the two or three cents a kilowatt hour that Quebec Hydro charges its smelters?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would hope that what is meant is cheaper power rates than what we are faced with now - the current power rates being largely a function of the efforts by the previous administration and, of course, the previous boards and previous presidents of the board. We hope, in the future and in the fullness of time, to be able to bring rates back down.
Mr. Cable: That sufficiently obfuscates the issue, but let me ask this question. I know the Minister has been pumping the coal-fire generating station near Carmacks and he issued the directive that we talked about last Wednesday to the Yukon Development Corporation on examining coal-fire generating power in the Yukon. I assume he has had some response to that directive.
What is the cost of power from a coal-fire generating plant of the size that is likely to be built?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We do not have any such estimates at this time. We have some very rough figures from various sources, and they vary a great deal. We will be interested, at the appropriate time, in how much it would cost to produce a reasonable amount of power by coal as compared to the other options before us, but at this point in time we have no fixed figures at all. Those figures range all the way from five and one-half cents up to in excess of eight cents per kilowatt hour, given that the minimum size of the plant would be in the order of 20 megawatts.
Mr. Cable: The appropriate time is now, because both the Government Leader and the Minister of Economic Development and the Minister himself have been talking about energy as being the cornerstone of economic development, and assumedly we would have the price of energy firmly fixed in our minds if that was the case.
Let me ask this question: the Minister has, I am sure, had conversations with the people who have been advising him on new facilities and on the cost of power. Is it fair to say there is no new generating facility that the utilities are likely to build in the near future that could produce power at a cost below the price now being charged to Yukon consumers?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not think that is a fair statement at all. Perhaps, we have gone further afield and broadened our outlook and sharpened our vision since those days when the person who asked the question was the president and the side opposite was in charge of the corporation. We certainly are looking at options that will provide cheaper power than those options that were being applied during the time when the good Member who asked the question was in charge of Yukon Energy Corporation.
Question re: Yukon economy
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Government Leader.
For a number of years, the Yukon Party claimed in the Legislature that the Yukon was suffering the ravages of a false economy. The years of economic growth during the mid-1980s and early 1990s were perceived as an illusion and if they had the chance, the Yukon Party would preside over a true economic base.
Can the Government Leader tell us, now that they have presented two budgets, whether or not we are now living in the true economy that the Yukon Party forecasted?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Certainly, we are not there yet. We have been in office for one year and we took over a broke government, during a time when the economic health of the territory was in a downturn, but the road we are on is for a more self-sufficient Yukon.
Mr. McDonald: While we were turning downward, the Government Leader was at the drivers wheel.
In the spring, the government indicated that they had presented their economic plan to the federal government - I believe on two occasions: once in December and once again in April.
Can the Minister or the Government Leader indicate whether the government will be delivering the Yukon Partys four-year plan and the document entitled Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century, to the new Prime Minister and the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs when he travels to Ottawa in the next month or so?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I certainly will be discussing our document, Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century, with the Prime Minister. That document is based on infrastructure development that the Liberal government elected in Ottawa has said they are going to do in the near future. They are going to be contributing $2 billion to infrastructure development in Canada. I will see what share of that we can get for the Yukon.
Mr. McDonald: I have some mixed feelings about the Ministers answer. I would like to ask one other question here. The government has consulted on a number of issues during the last 12 months, including such things as gambling, health, housing and education issues, and has yet to initiate any serious dialogue with the public about the economy - especially during the one-day tourism summit.
Can the Minister indicate why the government refused to speak to Yukoners or organized public groups about economic matters?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is not a question of our refusing to discuss economic matters with Yukoners. The Member opposite knows very well that I made a statement in late August or early September stating that once the Council on the Economy and the Environment was reappointed it would be one of their first tasks to hold an economic summit on the medium- and long-term employment opportunities for Yukoners.
Question re: Essential government services during strike
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Government Leader.
The Yukon government and the Yukon employees union are in the midst of contract negotiations, using the conciliation route. Like most prudent employers, the Yukon government has been making preparations for a lockout or strike, as this is one possible outcome of the conciliation process, and to this end drew up an essential services agreement in early September that covers the Departments of Education, Justice, Health and Social Services, Renewable Resources, Community and Transportation Services, Government Services and the Workers Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Can the Government Leader tell this House which designated services will be offered by the Yukon government in the event of a lockout or strike?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I can bring the Member a full report on that.
As she said, there was a planning session. It is only prudent for our government, if there is a possibility of a strike, to make contingency plans for that unfortunate and unlikely event.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Public Service Commission is coordinating the activities of a so-called strike committee, with preparations including the training of managers and union members excluded from the labour action to cover off what are called skill shortfalls in the event of a labour dispute - work normally done by bargaining unit members. Can the Government Leader tell this House what skill shortfalls have been identified and what kind of training is taking place or will take place?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, I will bring the Member a fully detailed report on that.
Ms. Moorcroft: This government is training managers and excluded workers to do work not deemed essential, as outlined by the essential services agreement and thus is acting contrary to the spirit, if not the intent, of the conciliation process. I certainly look forward to seeing a report that the Government Leader is going to bring forward. I would like to ask him now, why is the Yukon Party government deliberately jeopardizing the conciliation process, if it is not with the goal of provoking a lockout or strike, to the detriment of individual workers, as well as the Yukons economy?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not aware of our training workers for jobs that are not required. The Member opposite is suggesting that the government is entertaining a lockout. The Member opposite should be aware that the government does not have the right to lock out.
Question re: Strike preparations
Ms. Moorcroft: While the government continues its preparations for a labour dispute, I should like to point out that the unions position, a reasonable position, I might add, as it seeks no increase in wages for its members, shows its willingness to reach a new agreement quickly and painlessly, and is a position that other governments in Canada would be more than happy with. Would the Government Leader please tell this House just how big a wage rollback he has instructed his negotiators to obtain and the rational for this action?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Surely, the Member opposite knows that this matter is in conciliation at this point and I cannot comment on it in the House.
Ms. Moorcroft: It seems to me that by pushing for even greater concessions in a time of recession, in a time when many public servants fear for their job no matter how important their work or how good their performance, that this government is putting its Neanderthal attitudes toward working people into practice and deliberately jeopardizing the conciliation process. Is it this governments intention to provoke a labour dispute?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I previously stated, the contract negotiations are now in conciliation and I cannot comment further on them in the House.
Ms. Moorcroft: If it were true that the Yukon Party government does not want a lockout or a strike, then it seems to me that the actions of the strike committee and the PSC are inappropriate. Can the Government Leader tell this House what kind of deal his negotiators have been told to make, given his decision to not accept a zero percent wage increase?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Again, I cannot comment on that in the House at this time.
Question re: Social assistance
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister responsible for Social Services and it is in regard to social assistance. In the O&M budget for last year, we saw an actual number of 1,229 households that were assisted by social assistance, with a forecast for 1992-93 of 1,860. The estimate for this fiscal year was 2,450. I just want to know if the Minister can tell me if that figure is on target. If we are looking at a total number of households - which could include both spouses who are unemployed at this time - are they on target with the number of 2,450 households?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: What I can tell the Member is that we are currently below the estimates for the current year. The social assistance payments are lower than we had anticipated to this point in time and we are hoping that there will be some savings in the budget in that line item. With respect to the actual numbers, I do not have the exact current numbers. There has been an increase over last year, but it is rather modest; certainly, the rate of increase that has been experienced, year by year, for the past four years is down dramatically at this point in time. Given the fact that we are not through the winter yet, it is premature for me to give a completely accurate forecast, but we are quite pleased with the results so far.
Ms. Commodore: I am not entirely sure whether or not I got the answer I was looking for. He talked about the expenses for social assistance going down because of fraud and a number of other reasons, and about a marked flattening of the growth curve that was experienced over the last four years. What I am trying to determine is, although the expenses for the budget might have gone down, are we still looking at the same number of people on social assistance as we were at this time last year? Has the number gone up? Has it gone down? I do not think I got that answer from the Minister.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The actual numbers are up slightly from last year. However, they are down from the forecasted amount for this time this year that was done when we did the budget last spring. There are some reasons for that. She has mentioned one - the fact that some of the abuse has been reduced, fairly dramatically in cases. She is aware of some of the reform that we implemented last spring that is now in place, including getting money back that was lent to people who were waiting for their UIC cheques. That mechanism is in place - the cost each year of lending money that is never paid back on advances to UIC. By way of example, last year it was about $600,000.
We have the social assistance recipients agreement in place with the federal government. That will alleviate the situation somewhat. We intend to implement a number of measures once the current consultations are completed and we have had a chance to digest what people have been saying and put them into practice.
We see that the curve has been flattening thus far. We plan to continue, but we would be the first to admit that any real downturn in the economy would, of course, have an effect on us.
Ms. Commodore: It is a known fact that there are a number of people who are collecting unemployment insurance right now and are going to run out. I imagine there will be an increase.
There was also a projection of 5.1 percent of the population of the Yukon estimated to be collecting social assistance by the end of the year, according to the O&M budget last year. I am trying to determine how many people in the Yukon are not working, including both people on unemployment insurance and people on social assistance. I am wondering if the Minister can tell this House whether or not he has been able to acquire the information I asked for last week on the number of aboriginal people collecting social assistance from Indian Affairs. I know he tabled some items in the House today, but I do not know if that was included. I am looking for a total of those people in the Yukon collecting social assistance.
Speaker: I wonder if the Minister of Health and Social Services could be as brief as possible.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I answered that question on the last sitting day by saying that we were told that $8 million has been spent on social assistance for status Indians in the territory. As for how much of that was for administration and how much was to the actual recipients, we did not have a breakdown. I will ask my department for some better numbers. Thus far, those are the best numbers they have been able to obtain.
Question re: Old Crow skating rink
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Government Leader.
In a time of fiscal restraint, the Government Leader and his Ministers talk about having to make tough decisions and set priorities such as cancelling the construction of new schools in Whitehorse and the communities and raising our taxes, yet this government is spending millions of dollars on computers, office furniture and special facilities. Now we find out that the Yukon taxpayer is going to be asked to pay over $500,000 for a sprung fabric cover for the Old Crow skating rink. I would like to ask the Government Leader if he really thinks a $516,300 sprung fabric cover for the Old Crow skating rink is a wise and fair use of taxpayers money.
Speaker: Before the Honourable Government Leader answers that question I should remind Members that they should not be asking questions about matters that are scheduled for debate today. I hope that Members will avoid questions about the capital budget, which is scheduled for debate this afternoon.
If the Government Leader wishes to answer that question he can go ahead.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have no problem answering the question. Yes, I certainly do feel that the government is justified in spending that amount for a skating rink cover for the Old Crow skating rink. Once the cover is in place, the residents of Old Crow will be able to use that facility a lot more than they can with the open air rink that is there now. I believe that is a very small investment for recreation in the community of Old Crow, in comparison to what has been done in other jurisdictions in the Yukon.
Mrs. Firth: Yes, I read the press release about the cover enabling the use of natural light, which will make the arena cheaper to operate. I believe Old Crow must have about four hours of daylight during the winter. Perhaps, they are going to use the arena in the summer to grow cucumbers, I do not know.
Old Crow was supposed to get a portable sawmill. I phoned quite a few people in Old Crow today, many of whom knew nothing about the portable sawmill. The portable sawmill has not arrived in Old Crow yet.
I would like to ask the Government Leader if they examined options of using a portable sawmill and building this structure out of wood so that the local people could learn some skills and use wood as a construction material instead?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The Old Crow sawmill should be arriving there within the next month or two and, meanwhile, they will be logging this winter, so they will be ready to go into production next spring.
On the issue of the sprung cover for the arena, there were several different scenarios presented to us. The final decision was that that was the best and the most efficient, and also would allow for the most diversified use of the facility once it was completed.
Mrs. Firth: I am trying to be constructive here. May I ask the government to wait and do some cost-comparison analyses. Aside from what the Government Leader says, a lot of people would not agree that we should be spending over half a million dollars on this project.
I would like to see analysis done based on the people of Old Crow using the portable sawmill, putting people to work, taking some real ownership in this project and building the roof on the arena themselves. I think it could be done just as efficiently, if not more efficiently.
Hon. Mr. Devries: As far as the sawmill goes, this analysis was done and there is a private entrepreneur involved in getting the sawmill up and running.
The decision to go with the sprung cover for the greenhouse was made by the Old Crow people. That was the one they preferred of the three options presented to them.
Question re: Dawson City sewer services, First Nations
Mr. Penikett: Can the Minister of Community and Transportation Services confirm that the request for a public inquiry from the Dawson City Town Council concerns the actions of their mayor in arbitrarily disconnecting First Nation properties from the new sewer system only days after they had been hooked up by the contractor?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, that is correct.
Mr. Penikett: Can the Minister also confirm that, as a result of this cavalier action, the system that YTG is subsidizing to the tune of several million dollars, suffered some damage - at least two manholes - the cost of which may be borne by the taxpayers?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am certainly not aware of any damage that was caused by the disconnection of those buildings. If there has been damage, the cost would be borne by the City of Dawson in its O&M budget.
Mr. Penikett: I would like to ask the Minister how it could be borne by the City of Dawson when, as I understand it, this was not a decision of the City of Dawson but of the mayor acting without the knowledge or compliance of council. I would like, therefore, to ask the Minister if he is going to agree to the request for a public inquiry into the mayors actions?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Municipal Act is fairly clear on exactly what action can be taken by the Minister or by the department. My understanding is that the Deputy Minister of Community and Transportation Services will be travelling to Dawson City this week and meeting with council and, after having met with them to discuss the situation, we will make a decision on what action, if any, should be taken.
Question re: Dawson City sewer services, First Nations
Mr. Penikett: On the same subject, the Minister was extremely cautious on the point of whether he is going to agree to the request of a majority of the councillors for a public inquiry, and I would like to ask him if, as yet, either he or his deputy minister have ascertained whether or not the actions taken by the mayor were, in the opinion of the department, consistent with the requirements of municipal law in this territory or not.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, we have not ascertained whether the actions taken by the mayor were covered legally or not, and that is the reason the deputy minister will be having the meeting with mayor and council.
Mr. Penikett: Could I ask the Minister if he or his deputy know of any good reason why - after the contractor, according to the specifications of the contract, had hooked up the First Nation properties to the Dawson sewer system - the mayor would instruct the contractor to disconnect them?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that the units in question had not paid for a previous connection to the sewer system and that it was not the intention to have these connected to the new system, but apparently they were connected and then the mayor subsequently asked for those services to be disconnected.
Mr. Penikett: It is my information that the mayor did not ask - he in fact ordered the contractor to disconnect them, over the contractors objections because the contractor felt he was obliged to fulfill the requirements of the specifications for the job. Can I ask if the Minister, as a matter of policy and of law, believes that the contractor in this case should have obeyed the instructions of the mayor or the requirements of the contract he had entered into?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not believe that I am in a position to respond to that question, because I do not know the full story behind it. That is the reason for the deputy minister travelling to Dawson this week to discuss this matter with the mayor and council.
Question re: Child Development Centre, rent
Mr. Cable: I have a question for the Minister of Government Services regarding the Child Development Centre.
The 1991-92 Auditor Generals report contained a comment that the Child Development Centre was receiving what was termed by the Auditor General as an unauthorized subsidy. The Auditor General went on to say that the subsidy provided through the provision of space without charge should be disclosed in the estimates. I gather since that time the Minister has had negotiations with the Child Development Centre with a view to charging rent as opposed to having had these undisclosed subsidies provided to the Child Development Centre.
My question for the Minister is this: why did the Minister use the Auditor Generals comments, which obviously relate to bookkeeping practices, as a lever for charging rent to the Child Development Centre?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is really my department, and not Government Services that has taken the lead role with respect to the issue that the Member has raised.
My department provides a substantial operating grant each year to the Child Development Centre.
There are ongoing discussions taking place; there are issues surrounding whether or not the facilities could be used more effectively and efficiently. Various options are being examined by the parties.
It seems to me that when the Auditor General does make a comment as serious as the one that the Member on the side opposite alludes to, that it is incumbent upon this government to take steps to correct the situation.
Mr. Cable: The situation is not the payment of rent; the situation is the methodology used in reporting the undisclosed subsidy. That is clearly the comment of the Auditor General. The Auditor General was not suggesting that the Child Development Centre be beat on to pay further rent.
Can the Minister indicate the amount of rent the government is proposing to charge the Child Development Centre?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No one is beating on anyone - specifically no one from the Department of Health and Social Services or Justice. I feel if there is any beating being done, it is by the Member across the way on this particular issue.
The element of the O&M costs of the facility has to be looked at very carefully by the department in terms of the overall cost to government for the operation of CDC. I am rather surprised at the cavalier attitude taken by the Member opposite, because it seems to me that he, of all people, would be interested in the prudent expenditure of government money and, of all people, he would agree that if we can use that money more effectively and for the betterment of more people, that is the direction we should take.
Mr. Cable: Speaking of prudence, the Auditor General also stated that the issue of unauthorized, subsidized space was large and complex and that, and I quote, An analysis and recommendation is being prepared for Cabinet consideration some time in 1993. Has that document been received by Cabinet and will it be tabled in the House?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have seen a draft copy of that document. To the best of my knowledge, it has not been presented to Cabinet yet, but it will be very shortly.
Question re: Curragh employees, wages owing
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Yukon Party government excuses. That would be the Minister of Justice.
Former Curragh employees are out over $2 million in wages. This money would be a welcome stimulus to the Yukon economy because of the consumer spending it would create, as well as its reduction of former employees on UI and social assistance. However, on Friday, in a Toronto court, the receiver appealed this figure.
I would like to ask the Yukon government if, in their opinion, the receiver is now the employer during receivership and, if not, under what auspices did they file the appeal?
Speaker: I am sure the Minister of Justice is not being asked to offer a legal opinion.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is a very complex issue. I would be happy to bring back a legislative return that might cast some light on these matters for the Member opposite.
Mr. Harding: It is discouraging that the Minister of Justice is not more familiar with the Employment Standards Act, after a whole year in his portfolio.
I would like to ask a less specific question. In the Employment Standards Act, wages is defined as money required to be paid for an employees benefit under a contract of employment. Will the Yukon government be taking the position, on behalf of former Curragh employees, that wages includes severance pay and pay in lieu of notice, when arguing for this money in the courts, as it is in accordance with the definition of wages in the act?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The government did work to get the employees claims recognized by the court. The problem we are faced with now is that they feel that, if they go ahead with this and try to attach the directors monies that are sitting there, they will open a floodgate of claims against the directors contingency fund that was set up.
At this point, all the documents have been filed by the Director of Employment Standards - certificates of wages against employers, which can later be filed with the court, if necessary. There are six certificates against Curragh, in the total of $2,467,347.10 in wages owed of approximately 363 employees.
Mr. Harding: My question was more specifically regarding the issue of whether or not severance and pay in lieu of notice would be fought for under the auspices of being wages, as defined in the Employment Standards Act. Would the Minister responsible, or the Government Leader - and it is not an excuse that I am asking for - if they are going to be arguing for severance pay, as well as pay in lieu of notice?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My understanding is that severance pay does not come under the Employment Standards Act. It is a separate issue that would have to be dealt with by the courts.
Question re: Curragh employees, wages owing
Mr. Harding: I would like to remind the Minister that after so many months - almost a year - that this money means a lot to my constituents and the rest of the Yukon. The definition of wages includes money required to be paid for an employees benefit under a contract of employment - that is in the Employment Standards Act. Why is this government so unfamiliar with the provisions of the Employment Standards Act? It has been around for awhile.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is not that we are unfamiliar with it. We have done everything we possibly can under the Employment Standards Act to secure that money for the Curragh employees. We understand what it means to them and we would love to see them get it as soon as possible. We have taken whatever actions we possibly could under the legislation of the Employment Standards Act.
Mr. Harding: I would like to ask the Minister this simple question. Why has the government not filed for severance and in pay of lieu of notice if they are now claiming that they have done everything in their power under the Employment Standards Act, when it is in black and white in the document we are referring to.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There seems to be a difference of opinion, and the Minister said he would bring a paper back for the Member opposite. My understanding is that the severance packages could not be filed for in this document.
Mr. Harding: Let me bring something to the Government Leaders attention. Section 781 of the Employment Standards Act says that the directors of a corporation are jointly and severely liable to an employee of the corporation for all debts, not exceeding two months, wages due for services preformed for the corporation. Would the Government Leader not agree that severance pay and pay in lieu of notice is related to services preformed by employees for the corporation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is exactly what we have filed for. The directors can be held liable for two months wages and 12 months vacation pay earned by each employee. But it says nothing about the severance packages in the paper I have with me.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed.
Withdrawal of motions from the Order Paper
Hon. Mr. Phillips: After consultation with Members of the Assembly who have motions on the Order Paper and on their behalf, I would request the unanimous consent of the House to drop the following Motions and Motions for the Production of Papers:
Standing in the name of the Government, Motion No. 26 and 28;
Standing in the name of the Official Opposition, Motion for the Production of Papers No. 2 and 3, and Motion No. 17, 32, 38, 13, 16, 20, 37, 41, 42 and 43;
Standing in the name of the Member for Riverside, Motion No. 36 and 22; and
Standing in the name of the Member for Riverdale South, Motion for the Production of Papers No. 1 and Motion No. 44.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted and the Chair would order the Clerk to drop the Motions and the Motions for the Production of Papers that have been specified by the Government House Leader.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 12: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 12, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Ostashek; adjourned debate, Mr. McDonald.
Mr. McDonald: I rise today at a very important moment in Yukons economic history in response to probably the single most important statement the government has made on the economy in 12 months.
This budget, along with the operations budget that will be tabled, presumably early in the spring, will largely account for the actions of the single largest participant in the Yukon economy in the foreseeable future. In the event that some Members have not noticed, the economic situation in the territory has dramatically changed in the last 12 months. The unemployment picture is bleaker than it was this time last year. The number of claimants who have taken the trouble to visit the unemployment insurance offices in downtown Whitehorse has climbed to a staggering 3,114 persons, and these claimants have been approved for unemployment insurance benefits, even considering the tougher rules that were instituted for unemployment insurance by the federal government last year.
The spending in unemployment insurance has increased dramatically from last year. Social assistance costs, by the governments own admissions, have risen almost beyond expectation, and certainly have risen dramatically as well.
There have been some notable business closures in the territory, besides that of Curragh, which obviously has had the largest single impact in the private sector on the economic prospects for the territory. The consumer price index is up. There are for sale signs springing up in virtually every neighbourhood of Whitehorse. There are families leaving the territory in despair - many of whom I know - and even if one was not practiced in the art of reading statistics or prepared to joust with the governments side over what the statistics mean, there is plenty of evidence available to suggest that the economic prospects for the territory are not as positive as one would have hoped.
The capital budget speech and the capital estimates, the operation and maintenance budgets from last spring and the operation and maintenance estimates are essentially the governments response to the economic situation in the territory today. For the life of me, I cannot figure out the governments direction.
Last December we spent one week talking about the fiscal crisis that the government faced, and consequently the fiscal crisis that was facing the territory. Six months later we receive the all clear signal from the government, and despite the fact that the message in December was one that consequently eroded the publics confidence in the economy, we were told after the all clear signal, six months later, that we did not have to worry, we just had to be happy, be more positive and not so pessimistic - we should not continue to repeat the doom-and-gloom message that the government had initiated when it took office at the end of the last calendar year.
At that time in December we were told that the government had no money, nobody should expect anything from the government and that all they could do was simply try to get their finances under control.
Six months later, we discover that not only were the governments efforts not as aggressive as they had made out in the Legislature to get spending under control - witness the wholesale computer purchases by one department alone at the end of the fiscal year - but we were also treated to a record budget and record spending on the part of the government in the amount of over $480 million. A government that had no money was proposing to spend an amount of money clearly more significant than that that the NDP government had ever spent, or shared in spending with the Yukon Party government.
We were told in October and November of last year that tax increases would have been obscene, only to be treated to the news in the spring that we had to face the reality that taxes were absolutely necessary in order to balance the budget.
We were told that we needed to raise personal income taxes, business taxes, and cigarette taxes, in order to balance what was ostensibly a very tight budget, even though it did show spending that clearly outstripped previous years.
We were told that, over the course of the last few years, the Yukon Energy Corporation, as a publicly owned body, should not be receiving profits on the backs of the electrical consumer, and that it was really inappropriate for us to be taking money through a guaranteed profit rate from the public over the last four or five years.
Now, we hear from the government that it is only prudent and right that a guaranteed profit level, virtually unknown by any other businesses in this territory, should be exacted at a time when customers and citizens can least afford it.
We were told that, last spring, the government was well aware of the economic circumstances of this territory, and had gone so far as to introduce what they considered to be the ultimate in jobs budgets to carry the territory over this rough period of time of the current fiscal year.
We were then told, in September, that there had to be a blue-ribbon committee struck to review the jobs budget and make it into a true jobs budget, because they had neglected to consider the winter months that might be covered by the governments budget. I guess they had forgotten about the Yukon winter.
We were told that, over the course of the last six or seven years, public expenditures had created a false economy, that anything the government spent money on was not a real expenditure; it was raising false hopes; it was an economic illusion, and we should not count on public expenditures to drive the engine of the economy.
Then, when the blue-ribbon committee was struck, and it was decided they could find $7 million worth of savings from the operations and capital budget, after only six months of operation, we were told that public expenditures were absolutely essential to create jobs, we should not rescind the tax increase, even though it is clearly unnecessary financially, because it was government expenditures alone that could create work, and not the private sector.
We have heard that the government plans to undertake consultations on a whole series of fronts, as I was mentioning in Question Period, but they steadfastly refuse to undertake any sort of broad consultation or sector-specific consultation - apart from tourism - that has anything to do with the economy even though it is the economy and jobs that are on virtually every persons mind in this territory today. Jobs, the economy and economic prospects have been the talk of virtually every workplace in this territory, not only by workers but also by business owners. Everyone is expressing anxiety. Everyone but those in the Cabinet office are expressing some concern. The one area one would expect the government to consult on, or at least engage in public discussion on, would be the economy.
The Government Leader has indicated that they have not had time and that they will get around to it once the Council on the Economy and the Environment takes up the gauntlet. We are not worried about the Council on the Economy and the Environment. I am certain that once they seize the matter, they will do something. We are worried about what the government is doing.
Why does the government insist on undertaking consultations on health policy, education - when they could get it off the ground - housing and even gambling, but when it comes to a subject everyone is talking about, they do not want to talk about it at all publicly. The only message is do not worry, be happy, be optimistic, things are not as bad as people make out. This is in the face of all those indices that are showing that there is some cause for concern.
We have been treated to the message that the government has no money. We were told the government had no money last year. They had no money in the spring. Every time anyone asks for anything or makes any suggestion on public expenditures, we are reminded of fiscal restraint. This is at a time when the government is spending absolutely record amounts of money - millions, tens of millions and hundreds of millions of dollars. By the time the 1994-95 capital year comes to completion, the government will have spent almost $1.5 billion. They will be only one and one-half years away from the absolute end of their mandate.
People whom they do not want to see receive any funds, or projects that they do not want to see funded, will have been told, all along, that we are suffering fiscal restraint and that there is no money to be had by anyone.
I have been in the Legislature for a number of years, and I have been listening to the governing party now - the Yukon Party - and the Independent Member, who is, for all intents and purposes, essentially a Yukon Party Member who has not gotten around to signing the card yet. We have heard over and over again that the one thing government should do, above all else, in order to be fiscally responsible, is to reduce the Yukons dependency on the federal government. We have heard that, in order to really be masters of our own house, and in order to truly decide our own fate, we must reduce our dependency on the federal Canadian taxpayer.
What have we seen in the period since the government has taken office? We have seen that ratio of dependency absolutely skyrocket - right through the roof and right into the stratosphere.
What has the government done whenever there is a call for action on one front or another? What do they do? How do they respond to a particular need for this or that, or determine priorities? Some Hon. Member: (inaudible)
Mr. McDonald: You will get your chance. They ask the federal government for some support. Whether it is for infrastructure, or for a project of any particular kind, they are seeking federal support.
We suffered through this extremely mundane soap opera, throughout the spring, about how the government was spending a lot of their political capital trying to seek $10 million from the federal government to support infrastructure development in the Yukon. Day after day, week after week, we heard that the money was to arrive in the Yukon at any time. If we were ever concerned about being able to deliver the infrastructure project, we had only to look to this $10 million, which was going to solve all our problems. They mentioned the Top of the World Highway, mining roads, the Campbell Highway, the Alaska Highway and the Klondike Highway. They mentioned infrastructure projects and energy projects, all of which were going to be resolved through this $10 million from the federal government.
Meanwhile, of course, the government is spending $400 million doing other things. However, we were still in the frame of mind that we had to depend on this $10 million to make things right.
We now understand that this $10 million is going to be provided to the territory in $2 million bundles over five years, and I am certain that we will all be truly self-sufficient by the end of this expenditure.
This does lead one to believe that the government, despite their rhetoric about federal dependency and wanting to reduce that dependency, looks continuously to the federal government for salvation on virtually every front.
We even understand that nowadays they are designing wage subsidy programs that would serve to maximize the use of unemployment insurance benefits so that the government does not have to worry about the kind of income support that they anticipate would be necessary through social assistance.
To criticize at this point the Independent Alliance, for example, for having had no philosophy, is at best a cruel joke, because what we have been able to understand from the Yukon Party government is that they have embraced virtually every philosophy and no philosophy. We cannot anticipate a single action that they are going to take. Even when they specifically say that they are not going to do something, they end up doing it.
What one has to do is pick up the capital estimates and try to figure out from the actual spending patterns where these folks stand.
The latest line, which I guess has been constructed by the spin doctors upstairs, is that we should be simply and blindly optimistic about things and that that will allow the territory to recover from the gloom-and-doom message that the government so effectively spread around the territory only a year ago.
The government has also indicated to all of us that we should take this as a short-term cycle, because the Yukon has suffered a few downturns in the past and will suffer downturns in the future, but without realizing that without some leadership this short-term downturn in the so-called economic cycle is going to be long-term downturn in the economic cycle.
In coming to the budget itself, what one finds disturbing is that this capital estimates budget does not match the rhetoric in the Yukon Partys four-year plan, nor does it match the statements in the governments own document that they embarrassingly have a habit of giving to federal Ministers, entitled A Yukon Resource Infrastructure Initiative: Becoming Self-Sufficient Through Infrastructure Driven Investment in the Yukon.
These capital estimates do not in any way support the economic projects that the government says are going to resurrect the Yukon economy and be responsible for the economic recovery of the territory.
We have record spending in this budget, but we do not have a sense that this budget matches their philosophical goals. Hence, the questions about where is your throne speech, what is your plan, what are you going to do next, is there any thematic consistency to what you are doing? There has not been up to now, but what are you going to do?
The government, whenever they speak to the mining industry or whenever they speak to the federal authorities or whenever they are making statements at economic gatherings they are attending as invitees, cite the number of mining projects as being the saviour of the territorial economy. But what have they done to promote mining? What specifically have they done - not what they have inherited in terms of programming from the NDP government, but what have they done specifically, through their spending proposals, to support those mining projects?
The only thing they have done besides maintaining some programs - the EDA and the YMIP program that was developed for them and which they have kept virtually constant - is that they have cut the roads program primarily for the mining community. That is the only action they have taken through their budget process that has had any impact on the mining industry. The financial support for the Freegold Road, we understand, is to upgrade the existing road but not extend the road into a particular mining property. There are millions of dollars being spent on upgrading roads but do those roads have any impact on the economic viability of the projects they have cited as being the engines that are going to get the private sector economy rolling in this territory?
I will get to some of the positive things in the budget because I think it is important to mention those to give the government enough encouragement so that they might continue doing some of those things, but the problem I have with these capital estimates is that, apart from the overall bottom line, which is $126 million, they do not respond in any way to the economic circumstances we are facing today.
Economic development spending in this budget is down. In the past, whether one considers the argument fair or not, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has taken a considerable period of time analyzing how the budget is divided in terms of economic spending versus social spending versus government infrastructure spending.
He had lambasted the government, even when the economy was booming, for not spending more in the economic portfolio. Here, we have a situation where the economic circumstances have changed, the economy is suffering, and spending in the economic portfolio is down. How can that be? What is the rationale for that? Can it be found in the opening remarks from the Government Leader, in presenting this budget? No, we cannot find it there.
Why is tourism marketing down? When I was at the tourism summit, I did not hear any mention that perhaps spending in this particular area was down. All I ever heard from various people was that more money should be spent on tourism marketing and less on administration.
The question is, why is the building construction industry down? Why is construction, in such things as Education, continuing to receive such a low priority in these budget estimates?
Even the one project the government touted as being the saviour of the construction industry in this territory, the hospital, is being built through a process the Yukon building construction industry is unfamiliar with. It does not have the skills. There will be some Yukon jobs, but we have obviously not taken the trouble to maximize those jobs through this particular construction project.
The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes says, son of a gun, the government was voted out of office and, while we were pulling our papers together and getting ready to move into the offices upstairs, some committee decided they were going to make it out of steel, and we could not change it at that point, even though, as soon as they got into the offices upstairs, they were reversing one initiative taken by the previous government after another.
They have spent days criticizing the previous government for a small building construction project in Ross River - the arena - having been built out of steel.
Now, the Member for Lake Laberge would know a lot about that project, because he was the project officer in charge of that particular initiative.
What was important was that the government indicated that this particular project was a mistake at its conception, because it should never have been built with a process using steel construction. It should have been built as a stick-built project to maximize labour. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes was the person leading the charge in that criticism. That same person now insists that construction for the one project that the construction industry was looking at to help it through some very tough years ahead should be done using steel.
This is not a situation where there are other things going on, as was the case with the Ross River arena, when the construction industry continued building the college or schools, and so on. This Whitehorse hospital project represents the lions share of capital construction spending by this government over the next three or four years.
Then, the Minister of Health and Social Services has the gall to say that the decision to build with steel is the only way to keep the construction expenditures on the Whitehorse hospital down, that this is the only way to ensure that this project comes in on budget and allows for expansion in the future. This is the same Minister who, last December, said that he would delay the hospital project construction because he felt that, through his wise management, they would never allow the project to come in over budget - he would never do what the NDP government, and the PC government before that, had done, which was to allow projects to come in over budget. Yet, in this particular capital budget, we understand that the project costs for the Whitehorse hospital have already increased by $3 million and they have not yet done a single thing. They have not dug one hole or raised one steel bar to support this construction project, yet they tabled estimates in the spring that reportedly had the hospital at $44 million, and after their careful review to keep costs down, they have tabled estimates now, with nothing yet done on the ground, that show the hospital project will come in at $47 million.
When the government had the chance to review this project and determine whether or not they were going to make this construction project a jobs project, they had the opportunity to exert their will, and they refused to take that opportunity.
The budget here before us today does not even send out some positive signals with respect to things like an alcohol detoxification centre, or even in terms of education projects, which historically have been receiving a much higher priority through decisions of this Legislature.
It was largely the result of the comments made in the Legislature by the Member for Riverdale South and the Member for Riverdale North that caused the government of the day to consider a particular education project - that being the Grey Mountain school.
We were told by those Members that the overcrowding in that school was intolerable, the fact that students had to undertake classes in the hallways was unforgivable and, if we had any heart at all, we would be spending money where it counts and supports facilities that house our children while we work every day.
What has happened in this particular budget is that it bears no reflection on the comments made by the Members while they were in Opposition.
This is a budget that shows record spending. In fact, there is $8 million more spending in the budget that we are debating right now than there is for the current year budget.
One has to wonder whether or not the government respects spending for such things as education, or respects such things as the economic power that a good education system can foster, or respects the expenditures that will lead to a trained workforce and an educated population.
One has to wonder whether or not they consider - as the Government Leader expressed last spring - whether education spending is simply debt creation, and that spending on roads, no matter where those roads are or where they are going, for whatever purpose, constitutes wealth creation, or a short-sighted, narrow-minded vision of the economy and of our society.
Anyone can create jobs, if they propose to spend $126 million. Anyone could do that. Even if we were to buy EH-101 helicopters, we would still be creating jobs in the Yukon. Somebody would have to carry those things on a flatbed truck into the territory. Somebody else would have to design the specifications for the contract. There would be some jobs somewhere.
The question is, is the budget, as it is proposed, balanced? Does it respect the fact that there are a number of sectors in our economy that are worth preserving and nurturing for the long-term economic health of the territory?
We must also ask, given that this budget shows some growth in net spending of $8 million, what effect this budget is going to have on the operations side of the governments spending proposal. We are told that it is completely inappropriate for the government to table the operation and maintenance and capital budgets together because, after all, the planning for the operation side does not require a lot of time, and you can target your expenditures much more carefully if you present your budget effectively well into the operating year the budget is being proposed for.
One of the problems we have with that budgeting pattern is that we do not know what impact an extra $8 million in capital spending is going to have on operations. We do not know who is going to be paying for a reduction in operations spending. We do not know whether or not the government is going to have to increase new taxes. We cannot take them at their word, because they said before that they would not increase taxes, and they did increase taxes. We do not know whether or not they are going to be cutting back on social assistance rates. We do not know if single moms are going to have to pay for these capital projects. We do not know if foster parents are going to have to pay for these projects. We have absolutely no idea whether or not there will be fewer teachers in the classroom, or whether or not there will be less time spent grading the roads. We do not know because the government has not even put out a call letter for the operations budget for next year.
The problem is that, when it comes to expressing support for some of the good things in this budget, we do not ultimately know how the money is going to be raised, and we do not know what the expenditure side is in terms of services to the public we are going to have to face in the future. We do not even know whether the government has considered that question themselves yet.
It is time I said a few positive things about the budget, because there are some things that deserve some praise and are worthy of some words in our budget responses. I speak primarily and specifically, to begin with, of the Whitehorse water and sewer project. This project has been some time in the planning and the public has indicated, both in Whitehorse and downstream of Whitehorse, that the top priority for government expenditures ought to be in the treatment of Whitehorse sewage. The fact that the government has put $7 million toward this project is, in my opinion, a very good start. One can hope that the government will encourage the Liberals in Ottawa, who have promised to put money into such things as old and decrepit infrastructure, to invest a little bit of those program funds on this particular project. Nevertheless, the fact that the government has initiated some activity here is worth praising.
While I have said that the governments priority in education spending is poor in my opinion - I do not agree with it, not one bit - there are some education projects to which we should provide some support. The Golden Horn gym is one such project and the fact that the Minister has responded to this project is a good sign. The needs have been clearly expressed and it is important that the Legislature provide some support for that particular project. There are a number of other smaller projects, I know, that some people have been waiting for and see some response through this expenditure proposal. We should ensure during Committee stage that we indicate to the government our support for those projects and we should wish the government well in delivering on their financial promises.
There are a number of other things that should be raised at this time in debate on the principles that should allow the Ministers opposite to understand some of our more specific concerns with the budget, and I will catalogue a few of those now so that they will not be surprised when we engage in debates about particulars.
The government has tabled the budget, which it has indicated is a jobs budget which will create, in their view, 700 jobs in the economy. I would remind the Ministers that in the last budget we asked for a breakdown of the jobs and discovered, after some prodding, that the claim of 700 jobs for the current year was bogus. That may suggest that we may be a little more skeptical about the governments claims, and we will be insisting on some specific information to justify the claim that there are a particular number of jobs resulting from the expenditures being proposed.
When the economy is reeling, or in tough shape, one expects a jobs budget. One does not expect a blue-ribbon committee next summer that will make the jobs budget into a jobs budget, or that there will be another blue-ribbon committee next fall that will make the jobs budget into a jobs budget. What we do expect is something that does take into consideration the number of jobs that it will create in the Yukon.
I say jobs in the Yukon, because it brings to mind the expenditures in a few areas, particularly furniture, computers and new cars, which suggest there may be new jobs created as a result of these expenditures but that they may not be in the Yukon. The fact that we do not have car assembly plants in the Yukon, that we do not put computers together, and apparently, according to the government, do not really care about buying local furniture, leads one to question whether or not these expenditures are justifiable at this time.
Five million dollars in this particular area is a lot of money. It is not federal recoverable money. It is not recoverable from the U.S. Department of Transportation or money that will be ultimately recovered through property sales. It is net capital money, rare and hard to come by, right out of the Canadian and Yukon taxpayers pockets - money that could be spent in other ways.
Clearly, there is some need to provide some expenditures in computers. There is need to provide expenditures for some cars and furniture. There is even a need for road transportation construction. The question is: is this budget balanced? Is this $5 million on computers, furniture and new cars justifiable? Is $41 million on roads justifiable, given the impact these expenditures in these areas are having on other sectors of the economy?
We have, looming ahead of us, expenditures in land development that are astronomical. We have expenditures in building our land inventory that far outstrip anything in the past. Are we responding to a needs survey that suggests that there is going to be this enormous economic growth over the next two or three years? I do not think so. We have not seen the market study the government has promised they will deliver to us that would justify the expenditure level for this year, or even for the next. What we do know is that if the lot sales in this territory do not improve - out of the 90 Arkell subdivision lots, I think at least two were sold. At least we did not get shut out. In the Logan subdivision, I think that about 10 percent of the lots developed this year were sold. We did not get shut out there either. It suggests that, in the land inventory that we are developing now, we have not experienced record sales and we are not anticipating them to justify the record developments that are taking place. There is nothing particularly on the horizon to support them.
If we were simply putting money into land development and it bore no cost to the Yukon government or taxpayers, then one could ask what is the harm in having such a large inventory of land that will not be sold in the foreseeable future? What is the harm? Considering that scenario, there is no harm.
The fact that we propose to tie up $20 million, $25 million or $30 million in cash, in land development and given the fact that we have announced, in this operating budget, that we are proposing to spend $400,000 to pay for rural banking services and $200,000 for overdraft charges - money that could have been deducted from the interest income that we would have received from a large amount of money in the bank, there is a very real cost to us in this territory. Six hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money and can do a great deal to build economic and social infrastructure and respond to the needs of the people in this territory. That is a $600,000 cost, and if we do not sell the land in the next few years, that cost could be borne every single year. One has to question the wisdom of the approach that the government is taking in that particular area.
We learned while we were in government that the Opposition at the time thought that the government should be putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to things like the abattoir and special waste facilities. In this budget we do not see, even after a years worth of experience, spending plans to the end of the calendar year, 1995 - spending plans that would result in an abattoir or a detoxification centre being built or even anything more than a fence around a special waste site being built.
We do see $16 million being proposed for a new jail. I hope it is not a jail made of steel. One has to question whether or not the Justice department and the government have a long-term strategy that justifies that kind of expenditure in that kind of facility and whether or not they have assessed the alternatives to incarceration that have been suggested by judge after judge in Territorial Court.
One has to wonder whether or not the government is simply responding to the need to replace old concrete with new concrete, or whether or not they have a plan of action, which would help to justify a $16 million expenditure in that particular area. If their action, their plan, their program and their vision does not include a correctional facility of that size and expense, then we would like to see that plan.
Why is the government intending to spend $41 million on highway construction work? I have been a rural representative for a long time and I believe that road construction work is important, but I would never have agreed to 100 percent of the budget being dedicated to rural construction work, or 50 percent of the budget, or in this case 30 or 40 percent of the budget being dedicated to rural construction work, because I always understood that there were other priorities in other industries, and other needs to be addressed.
Certainly, the Alaska Highway has to be a significant priority. Even if one were to spend $26 million on the Alaska Highway, that would clearly designate it as a high priority of the government, but why $41 million overall?
There are a number of other questions that we have about the budget that we will have to pursue a little more carefully. Some Members on this side of the House have recognized that there appears to be a very heavy emphasis on projects that happen to be - this may be pure circumstance - located in government-held ridings in rural Yukon.
Certainly the Member for Faro may have something to suggest about this, but one has to wonder whether or not this is a return of the pork barrel, because patronage appears to be returning in force.
The question that we have to ask is: where is the balance? I am sure that is the question that will ultimately be the subject of a lot of discussion in Committee of the Whole, when we get down to debating the particulars.
We have to try to determine where the focus of the expenditures is. One can imagine how difficult it would be even for a Yukon Party supporter to understand why expenditures are being made in every area other than the economic projects that they indicate are going to be the salvation of the private sector economy.
In the last few years, maybe six or seven years - I think even the first year; I went back and checked Hansard for 1986 - the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, the Member then of Hootalinqua, stood up and asked the question, What have you diversified? Where has the economy been diversified in the last year? What have you done in Mayo? What have you done in Ross River to diversify the economy and to make that regional economy more economically self-sufficient? What in your spending plans are you proposing to do to diversify the regional rural economies?
From the speech that the Government Leader has given and from the budget itself, one would have to answer that question at this point in a way that would express some ignorance as to whether or not these spending proposals could indeed diversify those regional economies.
But when we get to Economic Development, Community and Transportation Services and a number of other budgets in the capital estimates before us, we will be asking the question as to what the government has done to diversify the economy. Not what the government plans to do, not what its rhetoric is about wanting the economy diversified, but what in its spending proposals is it suggesting it will do to diversify the economy. Not whether it will build a road in the hopes that somebody will come along and use it for economic purposes, not whether or not it builds a particular facility or develops some land on the chance that somebody will come along and buy it, but what specifically is it proposing will happen as a result of their expenditures that will cause a more diversified economy, generally and regionally.
I mention once again that when these spending estimates are complete, this government will have one and one-half years maximum left in their term to prove themselves.
Many questions, including questions from the last sitting of the Legislature, need to be answered. One of the problems we have is that we indicated to Members opposite that if we were to receive information from them over the course of the summer time in answer to our questions, we would permit the budget to pass unhindered.
Apart from a few examples, we have largely received no information on many, many issues from the Members opposite. This suggests that we will be insisting on the answers being given immediately and not allow the estimate to pass until such a time as the information is presented.
I regret, in some ways, that our reaction to this budget could not be more Ipositive. On the face of it, this amount of spending in any economy would, for a period of time at least, be perceived to be a considerable boost to the economic fortunes of a jurisdiction.
I cannot say that I regard this budget as being balanced, fair or right in many particulars. There has been a lot of discussion around the territory. We have kept our own council about the budget estimates, and we think that there are some significant winners and losers in this budget. There are obviously some powerful persons in Cabinet who have been able to essentially set the agenda for the government. There are others who clearly do not carry much clout, and consequently their areas have not received the kind of attention that a proper budget would have provided. We are upset about that and will be providing more detail when we get into Committee.
In conclusion, we must indicate that, while the government has indeed put on the table a request for $126 million, we do not feel that the budget is balanced properly. There are some items in the budget that we can support, but there are a lot of expenditures on which we think too much emphasis has been placed, and there are some areas in the budget that have received very little attention. We do not understand why that is so. We do not understand, after listening to the governments own rhetoric and positioning on government expenditures and their priorities, why they have presented this particular budget.
Consequently, having said that, it would only suggest that the questioning in the weeks to come will focus on many of the items that I have suggested should be reviewed more carefully, and we will be insisting on some answers being provided a little more quickly than they have been in the past.
There are some elements of this budget that I feel should be supported. We will be indicating our support in due course, when the time arises.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Before I begin, I want to make a couple of comments on the previous speakers speech.
The Member talked about diversifying the economy and I found that rather interesting, because for seven years when the Official Opposition was in government, they spent millions, and in fact billions, of dollars in the Yukon. They had surplus budgets for almost every one of those years and yet we have not seen that much diversification. Now, after about 11 months of the Yukon Party being in power, inheriting a $13 million debt and a $64 million deficit, the Member opposite is expecting us to have immediate results.
I wish I would have been in his position seven years ago. We would have had an opportunity to make some changes, but they did not do that.
I am pleased to support the budget that is before us today. These are tough economic times for all governments and I am very pleased, despite these tough economic times, that we have been able to present such a large capital budget. In comparison to other jurisdictions in this country, I believe that we have the highest per capita spending in our capital budget. There are over 700 jobs that will be created through this budget and that will be good for Yukoners.
Last summer we saw the unemployment rate in the Yukon decrease to almost the same level that it was a year ago, and that is when Curragh and Sa Dena Hes were actually operating. We saw the Yukon workforce increase to last years rate, even with the two major mines shut down, and I think that was significant as well. Unfortunately, this is something that does not get a lot of ink in the local media, but it is extremely significant.
I am hearing mixed signals from people in the business community and the private sector. Some people have told me that things are tougher and some people are definitely out of work, but on the other hand, some people in the business community have told me that the last two or three years have been some of the best years that they have ever had, and that, particularly, this past summer has been the best they have had.
In the tourism industry, some sectors are down and that is not related to anything that the Government of the Yukon did. It is related to low interest rates and seniors not travelling by buses and staying in as many hotels. In fact, tourism numbers are down in many other jurisdictions throughout Canada.
The tourism industry in the Yukon is only down about two to four percent from last years figures, and I think that alone is significant, since last years figures for the tourism industry were the highest ever recorded in the Yukon Territory.
The budget that we are debating today will help us sustain growth in the future. I think it is important to note that there are many positive initiatives on the horizon.
First of all, there are new mines that are interested in proceeding to the operating phase, and just the exploration and development of these mines will create hundreds of jobs and pump millions of dollars into the Yukon economy in the next couple of years.
We are entering a decade of anniversaries, with the RCMP in 1995, and the gold rush in 1996 and 1998, and we will never have a better opportunity to put the Yukon on the map and on the must-visit list in the 1990s. There is a lot of room for optimism.
I was reading some comments that Members of the Opposition have made in the media concerning this budget, and have been listening to a few of the comments made by the Finance critic here today. I would like to speak briefly about that.
The Member for McIntyre-Takhini is concerned because he believes we have a preoccupation with roads, and I find that criticism a bit puzzling coming from that Member. He was in government. It was, in fact, his government that was in power for seven years and he was a member of that government when the Alaska Highway upgrading and reconstruction agreement was negotiated. Is the Member now suggesting to this House that we should contact the federal government and the American government and tell them that the Opposition parties in the Yukon feel we are spending far too much money fixing up our roads and creating jobs in that sector? Is he suggesting that we ask the American government and the federal government to take back the $29 million they are going to give us this year to fix the roads? Is that what the Members opposite are suggesting? I do not think that is what the Member wants us to do.
These Alaska Highway reconstruction agreements will carry on for several years, and each year we will see a significant part of the budget spent on highways because of these agreements. If the side opposite still formed the government, the millions of dollars now being allocated to the Alaska Highway would be allocated in the same way, because that is part of the agreements.
At the same time, there are many Yukoners who depend on highways for work and we should not neglect them as well.
These investments create jobs for Yukoners, and it is my understanding that almost every single contract on the highways last year went to Yukon companies.
The Member for Faro is making comments that some of the Alaska Highway money is discretionary. I would suggest to the Member that there is no point in sitting down with the federal government to negotiate a deal to obtain money to do a specific project, and then apply it to something else. Pretty soon, the federal government would be coming to us saying they are not going to be interested in giving us any more money for that, because we do not use it for that purpose. It might affect us in negotiations in the future. The Member for Faro should realize that, when you negotiate money for the Alaska Highway, you should try to spend as much of it as you can on the highway.
Investing in good quality highways will bring major long-term benefits to Yukoners in tourism and the mining sector, despite what the Opposition Finance critic believes. I will be interested in the Oppositions views on what projects, or highways, we should cancel. If we wanted to cancel a project on the Campbell Highway, I would be interested in hearing from the Member for Faro. That road is not used all that much, so that may be an area where we can cancel a project. The Member may have some suggestions on that.
The Finance critic is also concerned about the community development fund. The Member for Riverdale South had some concerns about the use of this fund in the past several years, and I share the concerns of that Member. I feel it would be more fair for all Members if future projects had to face the same scrutiny that other budget items do in this House, and appear as items in the annual budget.
The Member for McIntyre-Takhini is concerned that we are ignoring the need to improve our schools. In fact, that is exactly where we have concentrated our money this year. We were left with quite a mess. In the last three or four years, the previous government spent many millions of dollars building new schools. Several of these are already over-crowded. Golden Horn is a good example. Dawson has also outgrown its new school.
We had a limited budget, and we had to make tough decisions. The Member for McIntyre-Takhini talks about tough decisions. My job would be a lot easier today if he had made some tough decisions during the last seven years he was a Minister.
It could have been really easy to ignore the crowded schools and gone ahead with Grey Mountain Primary, next to my riding. We cannot do that any more. That is what happened in the past, and it has cost us dearly.
We built a new high school in an NDP riding in Watson Lake a few years ago, that no one asked for. We all know about the overbuilt palace in the former Premiers riding. We needed a new school there, but we did not need a monument to the former Premier. That cost us over $10 million. It would be interesting to see the Member for McIntyre-Takhini rise in his place and actually defend the building of that monstrous school.
No, the Member for Watson Lake at the time was the Hon. Dave Porter, and when he built the school in that particular riding Mr. Porter told us we needed a school and everybody in the community was scratching their heads. Today we have very few dollars and we could have built many more schools for half the price of the $10 million schools that the former Minister built.
We had a long look at Grey Mountain Primary and several things changed in the past year that led us to the decision to postpone the new school. They are important points and they are points that the previous Minister of Education would have considered as well. Grey Mountain Primary currently goes from K to three and the new school will go from K to six. It will then, along with Selkirk Street School, serve the needs of the elementary school children in Riverdale. This year, the K to six population of students in Riverdale dropped dramatically. In Grey Mountain itself, the population dropped by 22 percent. Selkirk saw a decline of 7.9 percent and there was an overall drop in Riverdale of 14 percent. Predictions we have now show that we expect more of a decline in the next two or three years in Riverdale elementary school students. Currently, as well, we are in the midst of a grade reorganization consultation process and the results of this process could have a major impact on the future of Grey Mountain Primary. It is an old school, but it is not overcrowded as others are in the Yukon. With limited funds, we have to get the kids out of the hallways and into decent classrooms.
I would be subject to severe criticism from the Member for Mount Lorne, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini and the Member for Riverdale South if I had cancelled the school in Mount Lorne and built a Grey Mountain Primary in light of all the facts that I have just given, and rightly so. When I went out to that school - it is only two years old - and saw kids taking classes in cramped hallways, I knew that we had to do something very soon for those kids and that is what we have done. The population at Grey Mountain had dropped dramatically so that gave us some room to move there. The Grey Mountain Primary School is still in the capital plan, and in the next few weeks we will be surveying all households in the Riverdale and Grey Mountain/Selkirk School districts to get a more accurate account of pre-school children who will attend these schools in the future. This, along with the recommendation of grade restructuring consultation, will allow us to plan more efficiently for the future.
Planning will also take place this year for a new high school in Whitehorse, a new French-first-only school, a replacement of the Mayo school, and we will provide for two modules to be put in Dawson City on a temporary basis to accommodate the overcrowding and allow us some time to reassess Dawsons needs with the recent Loki announcement. That is another area where I was very pleased to receive the cooperation of the school council in Dawson and I thank them very much for their patience when I was in Dawson a week ago and discussed the concerns about the growth of Dawson City and whether or not an addition to their school would accommodate their needs at this time. They agreed to my suggestion of putting in a couple of modulars for a year and to reassess the situation next year.
We have to plan for the future when we are building our schools and that is what we are doing. Several schools in the Yukon will see some air quality work carried out and some schools will see an increase in the area of capital maintenance repairs.
On the tourism side, we see an overall increase of 21 percent over last years budget. The Member from McIntyre said in the media the other day, and as well today, that he is surprised that we have seen a decrease in the marketing budget of Tourism. In fact, he said that I should have told the delegates at the recent summit that there will be an 18-percent decrease.
I did not mention that at the summit because it is not true. I want to be very polite in how I handle this. The opposition Finance critic is reading the budget incorrectly and should know better. I am surprised that he does not realize that. For example, our marketing is not done in the capital budget. It is in the O&M budget and we are not even debating that today. Sure, the capital marketing budget went down, but the former Minister knows that capital does go up and down. If I wanted to use the analogy that the Member has used publicly, one could say that the Tourism capital budget, in the marketing area, has gone down 300 percent or 500 percent from what it was a few years ago.
Two years ago, we built the new visitor reception centre to the tune of $2 million to $3 million. Thank goodness we are not going to build too many of those monsters in the future. When we get into the budget I will explain to the Member how the Tourism budget has actually increased in this capital budget.
The largest decrease in this budget was the visitor reception centre. It went down in that area because the job is almost complete; there is only $20,000 of work left to do there.
In the area of audio visuals, it decreased by 25 percent from last year. The 25 percent was a project to promote the Northwest Mounted Police anniversary and the project is complete - you do not have to do the same project twice. That is why that line item went down. I can go through the budget if the Member wants, when we get into the Tourism budget, and explain it line by line. I would be more than happy to do that.
Let us look at the positive stuff in the Tourism budget, such as the long-awaited visitors exit survey. The last visitor exit survey was done in 1987; it is out of date. This will help us immensely in marketing. It is the other side of the equation; we can go out and market all we want, but one must check with the visitors who come here to determine whether or not they received our message and if that is the reason they are here.
The survey will be done this summer and will create over 20 jobs for Yukoners.
There are also increased funds in this budget allocated to areas surrounding the gold rush trail and the upcoming anniversaries. I am quite confident that as we go through the line items of the Tourism budget, all Members will see that it is a positive signal for the tourism industry.
I am especially pleased to see the commitment of this government in the budget toward sewage treatment. That is a very positive step. It is something we talked about in the election campaign. It was an issue many people raised as we campaigned door to door. It is a positive move that is beginning to happen. I applaud the Government of Yukon for taking the initiative, and the cooperation from the First Nations and the City of Whitehorse to make this project a possibility in the near future.
I am not going to go on much longer. I think this is a very good budget for Yukoners. It is a very positive budget. It will create a lot of jobs in the Yukon. Considering the Government of Yukon inherited a very poor financial situation, I think we have made the best of it. Yukoners will be provided with a lot of jobs this summer. I am pleased to support the budget that has been put forward by the government here today.
Ms. Moorcroft: I welcome the opportunity to participate in the 1994-95 capital budget debate.
I would like to begin my comments by looking at the impact a few of the small projects will have in the Mount Lorne riding. The Golden Horn School expansion has been on the books since the initial construction. The expansion includes a gymnasium, classrooms and an activity room. The building advisory committee of the school council has been working with the Department of Education. The draft school construction plans were presented to the annual general meeting of the school council on September 28. I, too, will be keeping an eye on how this project proceeds, and will ask the Minister to meet his time frame of completion by December 1995.
One example of the strong community spirit in my riding is the enormous amount of volunteer time that parents contribute to Golden Horn School. The school is now four years old and is at full enrollment with 186 children between Kindergarten and Grade 6. There are 30 Kindergarten children in this school, and I hope that Department of Community and Transportation Services and the Department of Education have been planning together so that the school will be big enough for future expansion as the neighbourhood grows as a result of new lots being planned in that area, as well. We want to be sure that the school is large enough to meet future needs.
The $1,600,000 this year for Golden Horn School and $1,700,000 next year is a small project, but it is, indeed, well-spent money.
Many of my constituents who were very unhappy about the inferior conditions at the Ecole Emilie Tremblay have worked hard toward the new French first-language school. There is $250,000 in the budget toward this project, which is fully recoverable from the federal government. I hope this government will work with the Franco Yukonnaise community in order to proceed quickly with this project for the benefit of the Ecole Emilie Tremblay student body.
Other territorial ridings are not as well served for their educational needs. The Grey Mountain Elementary School that was promised by the Minister of Education is not in this budget, nor is any money set aside to build a school in Mayo, a school that is also needed. There is only $50,000 set aside for planning an urban secondary school.
The Minister of Education has been talking about how other schools are overcrowded moreso than the Grey Mountain Elementary School. Why is the Minister not rebuilding any schools? Why not build Golden Horn and Grey Mountain and rebuild schools that are deficient. Why is the spending so low in the Department of Education? Overall, this budget does not meet peoples needs and priorities in education.
Also of interest to Mount Lorne constituents will be the money set aside for development of local area development regulations. The $35,000 for these regulations will see the completion of a land use planning exercise, which the Hamlet of Mount Lorne and the community have been working on for many months.
Many diverse views are reflected on the planning committee, as in the community at large. It is positive to see a consensus developing by people working together. These regulations must reflect the community consensus.
There is also $50,000 for a Golden Horn community plan. Many of my constituents have written or spoken to me about developing a community plan. The existing Golden Horn area development regulations were the result of committee work and community meetings, which the Member for Hootalinqua at the time and now the Minister of Justice frequently attended.
Many residents see a need to extend the area covered by the Golden Horn regulations and to take a look at the demands for agricultural, commercial, recreational and industrial land in this area. These are competing interests that must be considered.
I have asked the Minister of Community and Transportation Services for the mandate of this plan, and I have also asked if he is willing to attend a public meeting with me during this process to hear what Golden Horn area residents have to say.
That is our primary responsibility: to listen to and work with the people that we represent in this House.
I see there is also $50,000 for the Whitehorse periphery and I will be interested to follow that community plan as well.
For many Yukoners, these are hard times. The Yukon economy today is in trouble. There are over 3,000 unemployment insurance claims at the federal UI office. The social assistance rolls are up, as people have exhausted their unemployment claims, and have no jobs and nowhere else to turn, in order to feed themselves and their families. The consumer price index tells us the cost of food, shelter, energy, and other necessities, is rising. The cost of living in the Yukon is high. Bankruptcies are up.
In these hard times, the government has brought forth a budget that increases net spending by $8 million. In such a bountiful budget, surely there will be some help for Yukoners; surely there will be some light at the end of this tunnel of hard times, made all the darker by a year of Tory inaction and ineptitude.
Sadly, unless 3,000 Yukoners are prepared to move to Japan, they will find little help in this budget. There would appear to be more money for computers than for creating jobs for Yukoners. There is $5 million being spent on computers, cars and office furniture in this budget.
In his budget address, the Government Leader predicted that this budget would create over 700 jobs. He declared himself proud of this achievement. Others may be forgiven if we refrain from congratulating the hunter while his game still runs free. Let him bring home the trophy before he pats himself on the back.
Where are these 700 jobs? They are not building Ecole Emilie Tremblay; they are not building much of anything. Many of my constituents are unemployed carpenters and construction workers. They want the Government Leader to know that building the new hospital with a steel frame will cost desperately needed jobs. They want the Minister of Health and Social Services to stand by his beliefs, so often expressed in the past, that steel buildings are not the way to build in the Yukon.
The Minister of Health and Social Services said in this House last year that he could not start hospital construction then because the project planning had to be complete. Now, he is saying it was the bad previous government that made all the decisions about hospital construction. He cannot have it both ways. The Minister had to make sure there were no cost overruns. Now, before anything has happened, the construction cost has increased from $44 million, estimated in last years budget, to $47 million in this budget. With steel construction, fewer Yukoners will be getting jobs on this major construction project.
One of the shortfalls in the Yukons economy is our heavy reliance on a single resource-based industry. We are at the mercy of the worlds metal prices and only economic diversification can save us. So where does the Yukon Party government put its money? Road maintenance and at the same time they talk about roads to mines. No doubt mining will continue to be a powerful force in the economic life of the territory, but surely this government can do more than pay lip service to diversification. Where are the commitments to agriculture, for instance? The Yukon needs an abattoir, marketing boards, meat inspectors, infrastructure. Infrastructure is more than highways full of empty refrigerator vans heading south. Shipping things out of the Yukon can be remarkably cheap. There is no reason our agricultural produce cannot be shipped south. The success of Polar Seas is based on their backhaul freight rates for Arctic char. Yukon lettuce and spinach is prime when it is too hot to grow in BC and California. Meat and hardy vegetables can be grown in the Yukon at reasonable cost if the infrastructure is there.
What is the governments commitment to agricultural infrastructure in this budget? Fifty thousand dollars for an abattoir. Is this for further study, or are they putting it in a wall tent?
Infrastructure is also more than highways hauling southern-made building materials north and hauling raw logs south. The government is championing the transfer of forestry responsibilities to the Yukon. All anybody can think of to do with the high quality logs we grow here is to ship them to Japan. What, in the budget, encourages the idea of getting people to use local materials to build with? Where are the moves to bring in lumber stamping? Where are the plans for sustainable development, for developing alternatives to clear-cutting? Is there a reforestation plan being developed?
What is the commitment of government to training in this budget? At a time of recession and rising unemployment, it makes economic sense to invest in education and our human resources. In the first Yukon Party budget, Yukon College, our only post-secondary educational institution, took a $100,000 cut in its capital grant. The reduction to $300,000 is being held for the 1994-95 capital grant to Yukon College. I suppose they should be grateful that there is not a further reduction in this capital grant.
As the critic for Community and Transportation Services, I have a lot of concern about the focus of this new capital budget. Over $65 million is being spent in Community and Transportation Services. I will have a lot of questions about priorities here. The transportation division will be spending the bulk of this money - almost $42 million. How much of this money is being spent on infrastructure roads to potential mineral development? What guarantees are there that mining jobs will result in the future? How many jobs are there, and how long will they last? Is the government speculating in infrastructure, or investing in infrastructure? Are we assured of production at mines in the future, or are we paving our way to poverty?
The Yukon Party government plan calls for infrastructure development to increase resource sector investment in the economy. They are excited about Casino, Williams Creek, Drury Creek and Loki Gold. However, when I look at what roads are being built in the huge Community and Transportation Services budget, they are not extending roads to these potential minesites, they are rebuilding existing roads.
Of course we need our roads to be safe. I have already talked to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services about the need for a South Access Road upgrade, which is not presently in the budget. However, I have to ask if we are fixing up the Alaska Highway in order to make sure that people busing out of the territory have a smooth ride? People do not want to be handed a bus ticket to leave the Yukon when they see someone for social assistance. People want to be able to find a job.
There are some good things about this budget. I want to acknowledge that. Yukoners believe the environment is vitally important. Even this government, which supports the questionable practice of mining in parks, has earmarked $7 million for the treatment of Whitehorse sewage. Some of my constituents feel guilty about coming to Whitehorse and flushing the toilet. As one of my constituents said to me at her door - and I will not use unparliamentary language, so I cannot quote her exactly - we have to clean up our own waste. So, the $7 million earmarked for treatment of Whitehorse sewage is well spent.
In Dawson City, $1,800,000 will be spent to replace pipe sewer mains. We all want to ensure there is an effective improvement in public health by adequate sewage treatment in these and other Yukon communities, and First Nations must be equal partners in selecting the land and treatment systems needed for these projects.
I am concerned at the reduction in spending for hazardous waste storage. Let me assure the Minister of Community and Transportation Services that the hazardous waste in the Yukon has not been cleaned up and more is being generated. We cannot ignore that hazardous waste either, just as we have to respond to the fact that raw sewage goes down the Yukon River.
I would like to talk about municipal and community services. Each of us represents First Nations constituents, and we have a responsibility to give meaningful support to the resolution of land claims. This means that we cannot proceed with wholesale land development before the First Nations have completed their land selections, particularly in the Whitehorse area. There is widespread support for the resolution of land claims. Indeed, with the unanimous passage of Yukon land claims and self-government legislation in this House, I trust that support for First Nations people crosses the political spectrum in this Legislature.
The Government Leader says that every community in the Yukon stands to benefit. Land claims implementation for training, surveying and other jobs will inject millions of dollars into the Yukon economy. I would like to ask the Government Leader if the money being spent on surveying in the Carcross area in this budget will be done by First Nations.
The Government Leader has also said, Our government has made the land claims settlement a top priority. Support for land claims cannot occur in a vacuum. I have a lot of concern about the millions of dollars being spent on land development, firstly because I believe that negotiations with the Kwanlin Dun and Taan Kwachan must be completed before further disposal and development of land in the greater Whitehorse area occurs.
I see $250,000 for Whitehorse resident rural homestead land development alone. Where is this land? Will the First Nations be able to negotiate land selections for an economic base for their people before or after land development? The Government of Yukon should live up to its legal responsibility under the land claims legislation to negotiate a fair and just settlement with First Nations people. If the Yukon Party proceeds with government land development first, will only swamps and mountain tops be left for the First Nations?
Secondly, this government has done a lot of talking, campaigning and promising about the need to reduce our dependency on the federal government. However, it seems to be grabbing every penny it can before the pot runs dry. A party that claimed it wanted less dependency on the federal government is claiming a land development cost recovery of $12,480,000 from the federal government.
This money is to be used to finance industrial, commercial, recreational, agricultural and residential land development in many Yukon communities. This is a huge concern to Yukoners. Can we afford this $12.5 million worth of land development and do we need it? There are for sale signs all over this territory. There is private land for sale, because people do not have jobs and are leaving the Yukon. There is already a huge land inventory held by the Yukon government. There are industrial and commercial properties available for sale right now, today, from the Yukon government. This land has already been developed and has not sold. The Yukon has over $17 million of land inventory today, and this government wants to increase that amount.
Two out of 92 lots in the Arkell subdivision sold this year. Only 15 lots were sold in the Logan subdivision, where there are approximately 130 lots. Why does the Yukon Party want to develop more land? If they put money in the bank instead of into land development, the money would earn interest to cover bank charges. The Yukon Party advocated putting money in the bank to earn interest. I do not understand why they want to develop all of this land - simply to get the money from the federal government? To shut out the 10 First Nations who have not negotiated their land selections?
I must also comment on the impact that this budget will not have on women. Women are still not fully integrated into a range of occupations in the paid labour force and that is because of hundreds of years of job segregation, sexism and lack of access to education and job training.
I feel that I am standing here today repeating the same thing as I said a week ago, a month ago and a year ago. Perhaps that is why I hear snoring from the opposite benches; they are not paying attention.
We need an employment equity program that has targets, timetables and an effective mechanism for implementation. We need an employment equity program that is consistently applied and meets the goals of equitable and fair representation.
A prime example of why we need an employment equity policy leaps out when we look at this budget. The jobs in this budget are road jobs. These jobs are traditionally held by men. I challenge the government to find ways of ensuring that half of these 700 jobs - if there are 700 jobs - be jobs for women.
This government thinks that employment equity policies are just words on a piece of paper, and that if they tell me they agree with those words that I will believe them and quit talking about it.
Perhaps by now they have figured out that women demand equal access to training, jobs and fair wages.
I will not quit talking about equality for women, who comprise 52 percent of the population, until women have achieved equality. This is an issue that is important to all of us, and this government has released a survey of Yukon women.
This is a very powerful document, because it contains the voices of many Yukon women. These women say what I have been hearing women say for many years and what I hear women say today, because I listen to women. Working women want child care, education, training, access to better-paid jobs, equal to their male counterparts, and safer communities. All women want safe housing, but this budget makes cuts to the safe houses program and to non-profit housing.
We know only too well that there are women who are not safe in every community in the Yukon. There are not shelters in every community. This budget spends million of dollars on roads and land development, which the federal government repays, but we cannot spend money on programs for women.
Last year, a $75,000 transfer payment for the money spent on the safe places program. This year, the safe places program has been slashed to $20,000 - not even enough money for one new facility.
Many single women and single parents cannot afford adequate housing. There is money in this budget for owner-build programs, for rental suites and home repair - all of which are programs that require some working capital to start with - but the non-profit housing budget has been cut by 90 percent. Fewer women will get a chance at a place of their own. Fewer women will have access to a safe environment.
At a time of rising unemployment, education and training becomes most important. Education and training is an investment of the highest order: an investment in human infrastructure. Women surveyed want training opportunities. They are very limited now, especially for poor women who want to get off social assistance or women re-entering the workforce after many years at home raising families.
This budget does not meet peoples priorities in education. To diversify the economy and the labour market, investment in education and training, the arts, social services and child care is essential. It was music to my ears to hear the Minister of Government Services acknowledge the importance of child care when he cut the ribbon for the Playcare Societys new facility on 4th Avenue recently. He seems to have learned, by having a single mother in his own family, that grandparents are not always available or interested in meeting a familys child care needs.
I will be interested to learn where and how $80,000 for child care services development will be spent. I hope Ministers of this government will have other occasions to open child care facilities during their term in office, but I doubt it with a mere $80,000.
This budget perpetuates an imbalance that disadvantages women. It does not meet the needs of Yukon women.
These are tough economic times. This budget does not respond to our present economic circumstances. Perhaps that is in part because the government has ignored all calls to consult with the public about the economy. The government fired the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment instead of asking this working group to help find solutions to the economic crisis we are in. The Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment reflects a balance of interests; perhaps that is why the government got rid of it, so that they could get rid of some of the voices they did not want to listen to or maybe that they were just afraid to listen to. One of the seats they cut was a representative of the Yukon Status of Women Council.
We would like a breakdown of the 700 Yukon jobs this budget will supposedly create. I find the 700-jobs claim unbelievable.
In closing, I would like to refer to the Government Leaders budget address. He tells us that this budget, like their previous budget, is a step in the right direction, a step toward realizing a brighter future. If this budget is a step in the same direction as the previous budget has taken us, it is a step into darkness for many Yukoners; it is a step in the direction of higher unemployment, higher social service costs, of economic monoculture. I urge the government to step back to reconsider this budget in light of the many constructive criticisms that I and my colleagues will be bringing forward during the coming debate.
Mr. Millar: I would like to speak to the 1994-95 capital budget that was brought down by the Yukon Party government last Wednesday. There are a couple of things in it that I would like to talk about.
In the past year, as I have been sitting in this Legislature, I have been amazed when a couple of Members on the side opposite have talked about not being consulted. It is a funny thing because I can really relate to where they are coming from. As a government back bencher, I was thinking that they were not coming to me, and they were not asking me. As time progressed, I learned through talking to my constituents, and talking to the Members, that it is not really their job to come running to me and ask my opinion. It is my job to find out what my constituents want and what can best be done, and to go to them with these concerns. I have found that they are very reasonable, although I do not always get what I want. I think I have been reasonably successful and I would like to say to those Members that communication is a two-way street. I think they would find that the Ministers and the Government Leader are fairly open, if you come at them without making demands and telling them what you want. Just sit down and try to point out to them how your plan is better than theirs, and that sort of thing. I thought I would just throw that out, as I strongly believe it.
The capital budget is $126 million; it is a fairly large capital budget. Four million seven hundred thousand dollars of that goes to Dawson City. That is the second largest allocation to any of the municipalities in the territory. It works out to about 3.8 percent.
It has already been expressed by people in here today that maybe Dawson is getting a little bit too much. Sometimes I believe that the Ministers think that as well, and I have had to fight very hard for what is there.
I would like to talk a little bit about where some of that money is going, and why it is going there.
The $1.8 million is going into the Dawson City water and sewer. This is a project that has been going on for a long, long time. The Member for Faro says it has been since Danny Lang. By my math, that means that there were some seven years in between, when they were in power, that they could have fixed the problem, which they chose not to. They chose not to deal with the problem; therefore, it has now fallen back into our hands. That project is now creating a lot of jobs in Dawson. There is a lot of work there. It is something that definitely needed to be done. I would like to say that it could have been dealt with in the past if the government of the time had been so inclined.
There is $280,000 going to land development. I was interested to hear the comments from the Members opposite on this particular subject here today. When I drive around in the Klondike riding, I look around and see that there is an awful lot of land around. I cannot understand why a guy cannot buy a lot either to build his house on or to use for industrial purposes. Believe me, in the Dawson area, it is very difficult to do that. There are a number of controversies going on in the area right now, simply because there is no land available for purchase. I found their comments quite interesting.
Somebody on the other side is asking who I am blaming that on. I am not blaming it on anyone. I am just saying that it is something that needs to be dealt with. I, for one, think that the $280,000 going to land development in the Dawson area is quite beneficial and is something that we need.
There is about $250,000 being spent on the Dempster Highway for erosion protection. I am sure everyone remembers the last flood season we had, in which the Dempster Highway was almost completely wiped out. I do not think there is much doubt that the money is needed. We do not want to go through that scenario again.
There is almost $1.7 million being spent on the Top of the World Highway. Half of that money is recoverable, but the other half is not. I think that this money is something that is desperately needed and is being spent on, I believe, kilometres 60 to 105.
This construction is going to do a lot for the whole Yukon economy, not just for Dawson City. I think that when people are planning their trips and vacations down south, looking at their maps and see a solid red line, instead of that dotted line, they are going to realize there is a loop road up here. They can come up one way and go home another way. I honestly believe that is going to bring a lot more people into the territory.
The construction on the Top of the World Highway brings me to another point. I am sure that everyone has heard it mentioned in the last year - I can tell you I sure have - and that is a bridge across the Yukon River. I think this is a project that we are going to have to look at very closely and it is something that we are going to desperately need.
I looked at the figures and I see that between $600,000 and $700,000 annually goes into the maintenance of the ferry that is currently servicing Dawson City.
The ferry is much too small. During peak tourist season there is up to a six-hour wait for tourists. This is something that we have to deal with and it cannot continue to go on. I really think it is a wise expenditure of money to look at putting a bridge across that river.
The costs for a bridge range from $8 million to $30 million. I really do not know where it would be. I suspect it would be in the $20 million range. I think that is a very good infrastructure project for a government to take on, and I think that that is something that we are going to have to look at. This is particularly important with the approaching celebration of the decade of centennials. We have all heard about these celebrations and they are going to attract tourists to the territory. If tourists run into a five- to six-hour ferry line in Dawson City it is going to hurt the tourism industry. Word of mouth is the fastest source of information and if that gets up and down the highway it will hurt our tourism industry.
A bridge is something that is very desperately needed.
Three hundred and ninety thousand dollars has been set aside for the Dawson City school expansion. We heard the Minister of Tourism mention this briefly already. There is absolutely no doubt that the school is far too small for Dawson Citys needs. It has grown in population in the last three to four years, from about 245 students to over 295 or 300 - it has been over 300 at times. There are only nine classrooms in that school.
There are a number of problems with this. The current school, which is probably one of the most expensive schools in the territory, was to be built so that it could be easily expanded, so that one could put the classrooms above the shops, et cetera. During construction, for some reason or another, it was decided that this would not happen, so now we are left with a real problem in Dawson. To expand that school is quite costly.
The Hon. Minister of Tourism has mentioned that he sat down and talked with the school council and they were supportive of him, and this is true, but they do have concerns and they know that the current situation is not good enough. Modulars are not what we want in Dawson City - nor does anyone. However, it is a sacrifice we have had to make for the time being and we are going to have to live with it. However, by the same count, perhaps some good can come out of this. In the meantime, we can take a look to see what we really do need in Dawson City. Is an expansion adding just three more classrooms going to be enough? Some of the things that are coming through the pipeline now, for example, are the Loki operation, there is some talk of the border being moved closer to Dawson City, there was some mention that the forestry transfer could go ahead and if it does there is a possibility that Dawson could get some jobs out of it. So there are a number of things that have to be looked at here and we have to use our money wisely. We do not have a lot of it.
One of the things at the start of my speech that I forgot to mention when I was saying that it is $126 million capital budget is that only $51 million of that is discretionary funds. Only $51 million of it is money we can direct. We have to be very careful about what we do with that money.
One of the other factors regarding the school is the college in Dawson City. The facilities it is currently in are soon to be condemned, if they are not already. They are very poor facilities. There is not even a classroom there. One of the items that should be looked at is the possibility of building a new elementary or primary school in Dawson City and moving the younger grades out so that they are not in with the high school students. That would definitely open up some room in the current facility. Perhaps the college could then move into part of it. That is likely a better expenditure of money than simply to throw up three rooms without any planning.
There is approximately $180,000 going into the museum in Dawson City. Of that, about $35,000 is for an exhibit that will travel all over Canada and likely to Europe, as well. That exhibit is primarily to promote the decade of centennials. Some of the bigger ones are the discovery of gold in 1996 and the gold rush itself in 1998. While the money is definitely of benefit to the Yukon, one can see that a lot of it is of benefit to the whole territory, as well.
The rest of the $185,000 is being spent on a very much needed sprinkler system in the current museum in Dawson City. There are an awful lot of Yukon artifacts in that museum. No one wants to see them destroyed. We have been informed that it would be very difficult to protect the artifacts if a fire were to break out in that building, so a sprinkler system is something that is very desperately needed.
There is one thing I would also like to mention about the Top of the World Highway. A week or so ago, Governor Hickel was here. One of the concerns people have always had about the Top of the World Highway - or the Taylor Highway, as it is called on the American side - is that the Canadian side is not too bad, but the American side is not very good. There are mining operations taking place right in the middle of the road in some places. Last week, they announced they are going to be pouring a lot of money into that project and upgrading their side of the highway. That bodes well for our Government Leader and the Minister of Tourism, who have been lobbying to have that done. That is a positive thing.
In closing, I think this is a fairly responsible budget. The government did the best it could with the funds that were available. I know everyone laughs, and says $126 million is a lot of money, but the fact is that only $51 million of that is discretionary, so they had to make some tough choices. They have done the best they could. Did Dawson get more than it deserved? I certainly do not think so. If everyone looked at it quite openly and honestly, they would have to agree.
I will be supporting the budget.
Mr. Harding: I, too, rise to make some brief comments regarding the budget we have before us. I do not want to go into great detail; I think our caucuss position was quite well laid out by the Member for McIntyre-Takhini. There are some comments that I would like to make that are of a general nature in regard to the capital budgeting decisions that most directly affect the community that I represent.
Before I get into it, I would like to answer some of the comments made by the rebuttal speeches by the Member for Klondike and the Member for Riverdale North on our views on this capital budget. I am not going to be dragged into a game of blaming the NDP, as they have done since they got into power. We are going to move into more open and constructive things, one hopes, in this session of the Legislature. If the Yukon Party feels that they have to, out of a sense of insecurity and lack of confidence in their own positions and decisions they have made so far, and want to continue to do that, as the Member for Riverdale North did, then we will let them.
The Yukon voters passed judgment on our record and we lost the last election. But that is done. They are now the decision-makers. We fully accept the will of the Yukon voters. Now, the Yukon Party government has had, since it came into power last November - over a year ago - control of the coffers of the Yukon territory. Last years budget and what was submitted in the auditor generals report put last years budget at about approximately $450 million for capital and O&M combined.
Last year, the Yukon Party brought in a $483 million budget and they have now, in this 1994-95 capital budget, set the direction for $126 million. Just say, in the 1992-93 year we gave them control of $200 million, because they had power of the coffers for five or six months of that fiscal year; this government has made decisions that have resulted in the spending of $800 million of the taxpayers money.
Almost a billion dollars has been spent by the Yukon Party government. This government has signed cheques for almost a billion dollars - $800 million - yet they continue to speak along the theme of the tough decisions that they have had to make.
We have debated, at great length, the financial situation this government is in, and we know what happened in terms of last years financial records. We know about the write-offs that they used to try and make the budget seem to be this heinous crime that was created by the New Democratic Party government.
Unfortunately, what we now know is that the government consistently stated that theme to lower expectations.
Every other jurisdiction in the country that is in debt does not have increasing revenues like this government had. The budget went from $450 to $483 million. This government does not know hard times. This government has fat cat times in terms of revenue they have to spend. The Member for Klondike talks about only $51 million in discretionary capital. My God, a chimpanzee could have spent that $51 million better.
I do not know if that is unparliamentary, Mr. Speaker. You might want to comment on that, but I will do my best to remain statesmanlike - as I always do - in my comments during the rest of the budget debate.
The Member for Klondike said that he was amazed by Opposition Members. I have only been in this Legislature one year, but I have learned quite a few things. One of the things that I have learned is that it is not hard to amaze the Member for Klondike. I actually believe that he sometimes feels the government, of which he is a Member, is doing a fine job in looking after the affairs of this territory, even though mining is down, unemployment is up, inflation is up, housing is down, the indices go on and on.
I really find it difficult to understand from where the Member for Klondike is getting the message, when he talks about the wonderful job they have done in these tough circumstances when they have had $800 million to spend.
He says that they are an open bunch of guys - a good bunch of guys who are very open and willing to talk. He says that communication goes both ways. These are the people who have been asked to come to my community so many times and have only come there once in the midst of its very toughest times. These are the people who fired just about everyone on their boards who was not a Tory. These are the people who undertook no budget consultation with the people they claim they had to have support them in the budget. Please tell me where the openness is.
We have been calling on this government to call together the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment for about a year now - since we went into that first session in December of last year. What did they do? They did nothing. They felt that they had the plan, but the plan is obviously flawed, as we see by the economic situation in the territory today.
I am not that critical of the Dawson City expenditures; I know a lot of them are quite justified. There is a good reason for a lot of them, but there is a good reason for expenditures in just about every community. The mayors of each and every community in this territory will come up with reasons why the money should be spent in their neck of the woods, so we have to balance these things out, and spread this money around a bit to be fair to everybody.
The Progressive Conservative candidate in the federal election learned that pork-barrelling does not always work. In Dawson City, even though he made fun of the Liberal governments plan for infrastructure development, saying, Hey, you want a bridge? Well give you a bridge, no problem. Well make an exception in this one little neck of the woods for infrastructure development. Well build you a bridge. The Reform Party candidate looked at the PC Party candidate and said, Where are you going to get the money from?
The PC candidate made that pork-barrelling promise, but what happened in the election? It did not work. It did not work in Dawson, and that should be a lesson to the Members opposite, too.
The Member for Klondike said this was an open and honest government and one that you could just go talk to and they would listen. This summer I received requests from lots of people in my community that community works projects were over - the Van Gorda Trail sheep enhancement program - that there were lots more people out of work in the town, the mine was completely shut down, people had not found job searches to be as prosperous as they had hoped; a lot of them had returned empty-handed without any jobs - so, the lists were building in my community for community works projects. I think there are over 100 people now who would like to do some form of community work or infrastructure building in the Faro area, Ross River area, wherever, even in the rest of the Yukon if the opportunities are made available to them.
I do not want to let the government fixate on that point because they will immediately jump up and say, Well, we have the roadwork on the Shakwak project and the Faro people are all going to have to run up there and do that. There is no reason there cannot be some infrastructure development in the Faro area. Not everybody from Faro should have to run to the Shakwak project to try and get jobs with the construction companies, who largely have their own workforce as it stands right now.
To finish this brief story, I went to meet with these three Ministers of the government to talk to them about the situation in my community, to try and impress upon them that a lot of people were going to be coming off unemployment insurance in December and January, and that they would be forced, if they could not find work elsewhere in the territory or outside, to go on social assistance, which would be a great draw upon the coffers of the Yukon Territory, and could we perhaps find some infrastructure projects at Faro that could help diversify the economy - although that will not happen overnight by any means - and to try and lend some hope to the people there. I felt I got a good response from the Ministers. They met with me; they gave me meetings on quick notice, we talked about it, and I got what I felt were pretty positive responses, but I have come to find that these proposals have not been accepted.
I come here and find that $7 million has been identified in so-called savings. I have yet to hear where the employment task force identified projects for the Faro area. I have yet to hear, in the proposed 1994-95 capital budget, any proposed infrastructure development in the Faro area, except the $45,000 for industrial lot development.
I challenge the government to agree to a proposal to better spend that $45,000 in my community. I will develop it and put it to them.
I am sorry I cannot be more thrilled about the budget as it stands right now. I am sorry I cannot be more enthusiastic about the expenditures in some of the other communities, not because I do not want to support them, and not because they are not good reasons. There are sound reasons for a lot of them, but there are a lot of sound reasons for expenditures in my neck of the woods, too. I do not want to be a politician who always says, Me, too. Me, too. We need our share, but I want to represent what my constituents say to me. My constituents would not allow me to leave this Legislature without saying a few things about how they feel about this capital budget.
I do not want to be a preacher of doom and gloom. I do not want to run around, saying the sky is falling. I do not want to spend all my time talking about the bad economic situation. However, it deeply disturbs me when I hear Members of the government caucus stand up in this Legislature and try to portray that all we have to do is talk nicely about things, and we can then move on, and things will be wonderful - palm trees will sprout up along Fourth Avenue, and tourists will flock in from Cuba, Nicaragua, and wherever else in the world. I do not think that is a fair picture to paint for Yukoners.
There could be some recognition from the government that we are in serious trouble, and there could be some plan they had arrived at in a consultative forum, other than this tired 21st Century document and their four-year plan. This four-year plan has already been rendered to be, at best, an average attempt at revitalizing the Yukon economy, but that is all they have put forth.
I cannot buy the do-not-worry-be-happy speech. It is unfortunate that we have to continue to talk about some of the negative things in order to get some kind of recognition from government Members that we are in a serious situation, that they have to change strategies and work to do what is in the best interests of Yukoners.
In this budget, their response is huge forms of land development. There may be a greater need in Dawson City, and that is good. Perhaps that is a good expenditure. However, the rest of the multi-bazillion dollars being spent on land development might not be a good expenditure, simply because we have vacancies all over the place. I believe that the territorial population is decreasing and that these investments have a huge carrying cost. I know it is recoverable, but who has to maintain the lots? Who has to make up for the lost interest? Now we have to pay for bank charges. Naturally, they blamed that on the NDP, too. The point is that they made the decision to make this investment. It costs us the money that could be earning interest and making those bank charges.
To me, the most phenomenal point, in analyzing the current 1994-95 capital budget, is that their response to the economy is roads and rhetoric - nothing but roads and rhetoric. There is $126 million in this budget, and then there are roads and there is rhetoric. If we look at the budget - both the budget address and the capital estimate figures - one would think that we were looking at two totally different, separate and unrelated documents, because the rhetoric does not match the numbers. There is all that talk about the brighter future and how we cannot let current economic difficulties cloud the vision of the territorys long-term economic opportunities, but where is the meat toward this?
The astonishing point is that there will only be one and one-half years of Yukon Party government left in this territory if everything lines up correctly - the moon and the stars and everything else. Yet, what do we have to support this vision of the long-term future in the budget address? We have an existing part of the Freegold Road being upgraded and the Shakwak project. The Minister of Tourism has told me, in discussions we have had about tourism, that he is afraid that making the highways too good in this territory will give people the ability to just go faster through the Yukon. He does not think that that is the answer. That is my understanding of what he told me, although I am sure he will have one of his caucus colleagues correct me if I am wrong. But he is afraid of that happening, and so am I. I do not know if the economic return, when we have over 3,100 people on unemployment insurance, makes this really the best decision to spend.
There is approximately $7 million in discretionary capital over and above the $26 million that they are planning on spending on the Alaska Highway project.
This government negotiated that deal. I am not saying for a second that they should not put all that federal money into the Shakwak project.
Last year, we budgeted about $25 million and we ended up spending about $19 million, according to the supplementaries.
How are we going to spend $32 million up there this year and still get maximum bang for the buck in these hard economic times? Mind you, it is not hard economic times for this government, but hard economic times for the people that they claim to represent.
This budget is one of rhetoric, simple rhetoric. Believe it or not, I was lying in bed last night thinking about this budget speech and the future of this territory, and what kind of shape it is in. I was thinking about some of the things that this government has done. They came into power and said they were broke, they said that they had to have a small budget, yet they have the biggest budget in history. They spent more money in the fiscal year 1993-94 than any other government in Yukon history, yet they said times were tough. Then they said they found another bunch of money - $7 million in so-called savings.
They said that they had to raise taxes because it was necessary, but we now know, since they have money for the Dawson water and sewer, and some of the other projects they have come up with in the millions of dollars range, they did not need to raise taxes.
I asked the government to explain the contradiction. I do not want to make a defensive speech, but I am saying that they are supposed to be Conservatives. They have said in the past that taxation is not the way to stimulate private sector growth. This government has said that. They have said taxation is not the way to strengthen the economy. After saying that, what do they do? They turn around and say that they must keep the taxes in place, but they are going to stimulate the economy for the public sector and taxpayer job growth, that they are going to spur on that job growth by spending taxpayer dollars.
That would be fine if the governments position was consistent, but it is not. It is a contradiction, it is the same thing as free trade with them. On the one hand they say they are all believers in free trade, yet they want to strengthen the amount of Yukon hire, strengthen the number of contracts awarded within the territory and the use of Yukon products.
I believe in those principles, but I am not a free-trader as it stands right now and they are supposed to be. To me, there simply are not any consistent principles.
I remember, during the election campaign, I saw the Progressive Conservative candidate in the Chinook Restaurant. I was talking to him about this contradiction. We got into a debate about the environmental work at the Faro mine and the contract being given out to a contracting company to do some environmental work when people in Faro could have done the work. The Conservative candidate said I have to deal with the same thing. I have a helicopter company. I have to deal with those outside contractors and it should be just Yukon contractors. I said, Well, okay, that is fine. But I said to the candidate, You know, you are running for the PC Party, you are a big free-trader - North American Free Trade, free trade with the United States - that is all about reduction and reducing these provincial and territorial barriers, especially on trade and contracts. It is all about the free movement of labour and of goods. I asked him how he explained that contradiction and he said, You are right, that is a contradiction, and he walked away.
These are the questions I would like to see answered by this government. As the Member for McIntyre-Takhini said, we never know where they are going to go. They zig and zag. Everywhere they go, they wreak havoc. That is one thing we know for sure. It is devastating to my community. This government will probably say it is just because of the situation with the mine, but they are loathed by my community. That is not the only reason. There are a lot of things they could have done, but they missed the boat, and they continue to miss the boat on what is going on there. It has been an absolutely devastating situation for my community, and there seems to be so little recognition of that.
The people there cannot understand why there is this absolutely disgraceful attitude toward a rural community in the Yukon. They say mining towns come and mining towns go, but I do not believe that has to happen. Our rural economic base is small, and it is important that we try to maintain it as much as possible. However, all they will do is turn around and blame that on the NDP. They will not say, okay, we have X number of dollars this year; we can work to improve things.
They have not done that. They did two community works projects that were valuable and well done. One was for tourism infrastructure, and one was to enhance the renewable resources sheep viewing opportunities in that area, which could also be a benefit to tourism at some time in the future, but that is it.
They did some resume writing. There is the grant that goes through Yukon College every year, but it has not been increased or decreased. We have been just about solely relying on the federal government to deal with a situation where hundreds of people have been thrown out of work for over a year now.
In this budget, in these so-called toughest of times, with the tough decisions the Member for Klondike talks about, we have $5 million being spent for cars, computers and office equipment. This is out of the tiny $51 million the Member talks about. Is that a good investment in these times, when there are 3,100 people out of work? I say not. I say it is not even close to a good investment.
Sure, there may be a need for some office furniture; there may be a need for some new cars; there may even be a need for the computers - but for $5 million?
I want to talk about this budget and the way it looks upon the community I represent. Out of a $126 million, there is $45,000. They cut the Campbell Highway construction last year. There is a lodge operator on the Campbell Highway at Little Salmon Lake who is in jeopardy and is probably going to lose everything she has put into the business. Her entire life is probably going to be flushed down the toilet, because they pulled the teeth on construction on a highway in the area she lives in.
She relied heavily on the people who work for YTG to stay in her rooms, which they often did, and to eat in her restaurant. When they turned the tap off, it was gone. I fear that this long-time Yukoner is also going to lose her business and everything that she has worked for.
I find it really tough to come into this Legislature and buy the do-not-worry-be-happy line, when I have to go into the restaurant in Little Salmon, order a coffee and sit down with the proprietor of the business and watch her weep as she talks about her whole future going down the tube.
If this government had said all along that they were not going to build roads that do not lead anywhere, then I might be able to understand. But they are the ones who said they are going to build infrastructure so that they would have things in place when the mining companies want to operate. Why then did the expenditures have to be cut back drastically on the capital expenditures for the Campbell Highway? Sooner or later, we are going to have a mine there if they do something about it. But no, once again they have to flip-flop on that. They have to say, no, the mine is down so we are not going to put any money there.
There are still 600 people in Faro; most of them are going to be there all winter and try to hang on. About 310 of them voted in the federal election and there are 140 kids in the school. It is still thriving. We are starting up a day care centre and trying to rebuild things.
I cannot even go into the coffee shop and talk about maybe a good thing that the government has done. The government has ruined the feelings in that community. Even the people who are Tories in that community have lost all faith in them - hard core, devout Tories, I might add.
There are a lot of projects in Faro that we could put forward to this government if I thought that there was some political will to put some money there to help the people of my community. Not just for charity, but to build the infrastructure, a little bit at a time. A little bit can go a long way when you have so many people in desperate shape.
Right now the food bank in Faro cannot even keep up with the demand. Thankfully, there are a lot of people in Whitehorse and the outlying communities who are helping us. The items in the food bank are literally going out as soon as they are stocked. That is the situation in my community.
The Minister talks about the two community works projects that went on: resume writing and the trust fund that was given to the local union and Curragh Resources, over two years ago, as if it was their commitment to the town. That was a long time ago.
All they used that for was an excuse to take away from some of the other things that they should be doing. I am glad that trust fund money is there and it should be used.
There is more that has to be done there. You should not just abandon the people of Faro because they were not all born here in the Yukon. There are very few people in this room who were born in the Yukon - with notable exceptions. Some of them came from Alberta, some came from Saskatchewan, some from the east coast. They are Yukoners and they would like to be treated with a little dignity and respect. Just because Faro is a mining town does not mean that once their paycheque is gone they should pack up and move from a place that they love. A lot of them have moved because they had no choice, but a lot of them would like to stay in Faro and build some kind of a future.
I talked with one person in Whitehorse whom I think the group across from me plays to quite well. They were pretty anti-Faro. They said look at those people who are not real Yukoners. They abandoned the community. As soon as the mine went down they went down the highway back to Newfoundland - all that kind of negative stuff. They made negative comments about Faro people being a bunch of Newfies who do not care about the Yukon and take, take, take - look how quick they left.
Then, in the same breath, in the same conversation a little while later, they said that the people who are still in Faro are nothing but a bunch of welfare bums. They said that they are not really out looking for work. They are not looking hard enough for a job. They should be going to Alberta, B.C., and other places looking for work. So, on one hand the people are damned for leaving the Yukon as soon as the mine went down, and on the other hand they are damned for staying for a supposed commitment to the Yukon, and called a bunch of welfare bums.
Think about the situation they are in in that community. There are exceptions in every community. Not everyone in my community has beaten the streets looking for work, but a lot of them have. Just about all of the people I know are pretty decent people and they do not want a heck of a lot. They are not always begging for handouts. People forget how much they contributed to the territorial economy. I think some are begrudgingly realizing that now as they look at the power rates, tax increases, losses in fuel tax revenues, housing prices going down in Whitehorse and those types of things.
Overall, all they want is a sense of commitment from their government but that has been sadly lacking. You talk about the capital budget and its effect on the economy - that is all we have been hearing from the Members opposite in the government.
Seven hundred jobs are going to be created. If they did a little more work on trying to get the Faro mine going again, and finding a buyer, it would be a lot more than 700 jobs, and those are private sector jobs we are talking about. Instead, we get talk in the capital budget about Cassino, Williams Creek and Brewery Creek - a phenomenal quote. Actually there are a few phenomenal quotes in this budget speech; I do not know which one to talk about because I could read the whole thing and just about every line is as astonishing as the last. There is talk about the Cassino mine, and I quote: This property has the potential of being a larger mine than Faro and will be less subject to downturns in metal market prices because of its diverse ore. I cannot believe the Members opposite know that little about big mining operations. Because it has three products to sell does not necessarily mean that they are not all going to go down at once. We sell three products in Faro - lead, zinc and silver.
I would like nothing better than to see these mines go ahead and to work as hard as I could in getting them going. I do not think it should be done at the expense of the work that should go into getting a community that has contributed for 25 years - that will be the anniversary next year - to the economy. It cannot be done at the expense of that community. It was a real mine, it produced real ore, it has real infrastructure, the town had real people. These other projects, some are saying, are going to be light years away; some are even more skeptical in Vancouver at the stock exchange. Some of the people I have talked to are worried that the Yukon government is being taken for a ride. I hope that is not true, but I would like to see some concrete commitments toward these projects rather than just rhetorical words. I am going to be asking for some and hopefully I will get them, because if they decide that their vision is now including these grandiose power schemes and 140 kilometre roads into the bush, I want to be darned sure, for the sake of the taxpayers of the Yukon, that, one, we will get people who live in the territory, not fly-in/fly-out people; I want to make sure that the roads and the power are going to produce mines and that there are commitments that the mines are going to be built. If they are not and if the belief in this motherlode philosophy is going to carry through so strongly with this bunch, then the Yukon is going to be in disastrous economical shape for many, many, many years to come - a lot of it is due to the simple and very often displayed dislike - and I do not know why - for a community that has given so much to the territory. It is really sad.
We hear so much about these agreements with the Alaskan government. I guess we have to find out what specifics are in those agreements. Are they just good-friends agreements or are there real concrete steps in them? Are they real concrete commitments? Who knows how long the Governor of Alaska is going to be around? Who knows how long the Government of the Yukon is going to be around? Only the shadow knows.
I was thinking about the agreements with the Alaska government. I was wondering what they say and how specific they are. I will have to make a request to see them at some time. Are they just agreements that the Governor of Alaska and the Government Leader feel good about? Did they just share discussions on grandiose schemes while 3,100 people are on unemployment or are they real, legitimate, concrete steps toward prosperity? I know that these things have to start somewhere, but I would like to have a bit more assurance that they are going to lead somewhere. At this point, it is hard to tell.
I know I may hear the Diefenbaker igloo-to-igloo speech, and I am really sorry the Minister of Renewable Resources is not here to give it to me. I do feel a sense of despair for the Yukon economy, the people of the Yukon and, certainly, for the people in my community. It is a sad state of affairs.
I do not think we should let the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes go without a severe talking to in this capital budget debate.
IHe is the root of a lot of the evil. He is the one who is making up excuses left and right. The Minister responsible for Yukon Party excuses is the Minister of Justice. The Minister responsible for Yukon government mistakes is the Minister of Finance. It is really hard to keep them straight, because sometimes they overlap.
The Minister of Justice and Health and Social Services has done something so phenomenal it is laughable in an eerie way. It is really a bad thing, but, in light of what he has said in the past in this Legislature, some of which I have read in Hansard - they are in there forever. There was the incident of the Ross River arena. We now have the Minister of Health and Social Services touting the Whitehorse hospital as the be-all and end-all for the construction industry in the Yukon. What does he do? He builds it out of steel. What a great decision.
When cornered by the media, what does he say? What is his standard answer for everything? He tells them that the NDP decided to do it; it was their fault. Some bureaucrats made a decision.
I remember a decision the Minister made last year. It happened very quickly. It was called the Chateau Jomini. It was a Yukon Development Corporation decision. He boasted, bragged and puffed up his feathers about how he stopped that waste of money. I say he had the power to stop the decision on the hospital and anything else he says is a red herring. He can give all the speeches he wants about taking the ship off the reef, seeing the beacon light just in time, and all of that stuff, but he missed the boat.
He missed the boat on this one. The Yukon people know it. He can blame the NDP, and he can blame the Member for Riverdale South, he can even blame the Liberals - or perhaps not. We will wait a year until Chretien has his chance to ruin things, then we will blame the Liberals.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: I know you are already writing your speeches.
He missed the boat on that one. That is where they overlap. This time, he was the Minister responsible for mistakes and excuses, so his portfolio was doubled.
That is a bad decision for this territory, the extent of which cannot be under estimated. In listening to his tirades about how social services was handled by the previous government, it is amazing. Last year, there was a heinous crime. The NDP was the only party in the world that could have tough financial times with these situations. They were terrible. They let things get out of hand.
However, it is funny. There was a community consultation tour in Faro, and the social services branch came. They put up their chart on social assistance costs, and they said the numbers were just terrible, and that they were being experienced by every jurisdiction in this country. It is no longer the Yukon Party doing this, although it was the NDP last year. Now, it is every jurisdiction. This is not something that is just subject to our jurisdiction alone. Now, they spread the blame around.
Somehow, they try to paint the picture that the situation is so bad here financially, but we are the only government with increasing revenues.
I cannot believe my ears sometimes when I hear the flip-flops. I hear the excuses coming from this government. We comment on their bad decisions; we comment when they make a good decision, such as setting aside money for the Whitehorse hospital. However, sooner or later, in the two and one-half remaining years, they are going to have to take the bull by the horns, and start to stand up and take responsibility for the decisions they have made.
In this budget, education is a low priority, and it is a disaster. It is obvious that the new Minister of Education has reached an all-time low in terms of Cabinet clout. He seems to be losing the bout every time he turns around on public schools and education. He is rapidly becoming incredibly unpopular in the education field. I know this for a fact after talking with lots of teachers and people within the education field. It is an absolute disaster, and I hope he regains some composure and picks education up from the ashes he has brought it to in the last year.
Unfortunately, I did not think it could be done so fast, but he has done it.
Lastly, I want to see a breakdown of these 700 jobs. We asked for it at the lockup on Wednesday, but we did not get it.
In the budget speech, they say they have 700 jobs, so one would think that they have something that would show us that, information that they would have at their fingertips. We have not yet received this information, and I believe it is because it is the same 700 jobs that they had in last years budget and, once we found out the real numbers on that, it would be a disaster.
In closing, I would like to say that I am very disappointed that the government has once again forgotten about my community, and I hope that they will start making more positive and strategic decisions in the future, will consult with the people of the Yukon and my community, and get this economy back on its feet. I will certainly help them, if they want it.
Mr. Abel: It is with great pleasure that I join in the debate today on the governments 1994-95 capital budget.
By means of this document, we are planning for the future. This budget will provide some certainty to all Yukoners. There is hope for the future and that the government is doing positive things to make the Yukon a better place to live in.
Government spending means that people will be working on the projects that this government is funding. That employment means healthy communities and the opportunity for people to take advantage of recreational and cultural activities.
The community of Old Crow is in the process of adding to its recreational facilities. As part of this years budget, and with the help of part of next years capital budget, the skating rink in Old Crow will have a cover added to it.
We have the cover there now; however, the oncoming winter has prevented us from putting it on. By next year, though, the cover will be in place and, because of the design and materials used in its construction, our community will be able to use this new facility year-round for many purposes. We will have a place to hold assemblies and play sports. In another year or so, we hope we can install an above-ground swimming pool within the structure. There are other ideas that are being talked about, such as skateboarding, roller-skating, volleyball and other recreational activities that our young people enjoy.
This governments accent on building infrastructure within the territory is good news. It means that we have the confidence to invest in ourselves, knowing that we will attract not only tourists, but people who are interested in helping to develop our resources and add to employment opportunities.
The final passage of our land claims and self-government legislation through the Parliament of Canada will add more certainty to our economic position, and it will allow the First Nations people to take a more pro-active approach to all types of social and economic ventures.
I am fully in support of the budget that we are speaking to today, and I would hope that it will find support from the majority of the Members of this Assembly in the days to come, so that the people of the Yukon can look to the months ahead with confidence.
Mr. Joe: I have just a few words to say about the budget.
I want to know where the money is for the Mayo school. People in my riding have been asking for someone to give children in Mayo a good school. We need to do this for them. This way they will be able to learn better. They will want to stay in school longer. These are important things government must do in the community.
More schools are needed. Carmacks will need a new school some time in the future. However, I will not speak too much about Carmacks. I would rather wait for the school council. When they are ready to go, we are going to hammer it out together.
I am pleased that there is some money for the Fort Selkirk site. We will do everything we can to ensure that this money is used wisely.
I also want to know how many jobs this budget will create in my riding.
This government talks about helping the mining industry. However, the budget does very little to make life easier for the miners.
I have some other concerns that I will bring up when we talk about specific issues later.
Hon. Mr. Devries: It gives me a great deal of pleasure to rise and speak in support of the capital budget at this time.
As Minister of Government Services, I am particularly pleased to see this document coming before the House in November of 1993 for work to be done after April 1, 1994. This advanced planning allows both government, through their preparation of contract documents, and private enterprise, through early bidding, to get projects underway earlier and more efficiently than last year. We only have to look at last springs session with the capital budget tied in with O&M and not passed until June to see that the system used last year did not work the best.
If we are once again blessed by an early spring, projects can literally get underway months before the past years construction season officially began.
By nature of our chosen vocation, we tend to see issues from a political perspective, and that is fair enough. However, I strongly disagree when Yukon politicians try to divide Yukoners based on where they reside in the territory. I have recently read statements by Members of this House that indicate some ridings did not get a big enough piece of the capital budget pie. I would like to assure those Members that the process simply does not work like that. Basically, just because one can afford to build a $3 millionor $4 million school in one community does not mean one can afford to build a $3 million or $4 million building in every community. It just does not work that way. I am sure those Members in Opposition have been involved in this process and also agree that these statements do not make much sense.
During the last half of the previous administration, I, as the MLA for Watson Lake, never felt we were being ignored because our riding was not on the governments side of the House. In fact, we sometimes felt that the previous government looked upon our area as a training ground for economic projects; however, I do not want to get into that at this time as this is an issue best left for history. We cannot change what happened in the past but we can and must learn from those mistakes.
I have heard this budget referred to as an asphalt budget. In fact, two-thirds of the capital expenditures in this budget will be in the areas of economic development, sewage treatment, healthy communities, health care, tourism, education, housing and new land development. Approximately one-third will be spent on upgrading our transportation infrastructure.
Healthy communities lead to economic diversification, to a more educated workforce where people will be encouraged to seek investment in those communities.
Expanding our tourism opportunities in the communities will lead to increased employment.
As Minister of Economic Development, my main objective is to promote and encourage the development of the Yukons economy. This budget will assist in several ways. As has been advertised, the department is seeking a person to act as the territorial mining facilitator. The primary responsibility of the facilitator will be to work with businesses, First Nations, and the municipal, territorial and federal levels of government to ensure the efficient development of mining in the territory and the reopening of our existing mines.
In that same vein, during this session, I will be introducing an industrial energy strategy. This program will give industry some certainty in one of the major stumbling blocks in the development of new projects.
Economic programs and activities will continue. The Yukon mining incentives program will maintain its funding at $863,000. These funds are used to encourage grassroots exploration and preliminary development of mining properties. They had some very interesting results this year.
The mineral development agreement will receive a two-percent increase, to $2,150,000. The MDA will continue its geological mapping program and support of new technological research related to the mining industry.
We will continue to support small business development through the economic development agreement. During the past year, federal and territorial governments signed a Northern Oil and Gas Accord, devolving revenues from onshore oil and gas production to Yukon First Nations and the Government of the Yukon. We are developing royalty structures, policies, procedures and regulations that will enable the Government of Yukon, and Yukoners, to have the operating framework for oil and gas development. That process is now underway and, when completed, we will, in conjunction with First Nations, where settlement land is involved, be actively promoting more exploration for oil and gas in the territory.
The Department of Economic Development will continue to support business development in mining, tourism, and all other aspects of economic development that are required to make our territory more self-sufficient.
Earlier, the Finance critic said that we should, perhaps, be doing some of these projects to access some of these properties we have been talking about, and yet the Member for Faro says that we should not. I am at a loss as to where that side is really coming from when they make these statements. We have one that says we should build the roads into these projects even before environmental hearings have begun and before they have indicated that they are going ahead.
As much as we have talked about these projects a great deal, they are dependent upon world metal prices, and whether environmental standards can be met. We recognize that.
I do not like unemployment, and even 1,000 unemployed Yukoners is too many. We must work with the private sector and industry to generate employment. We must help create an investment climate that encourages Yukoners and industry to believe in, and invest in the Yukon.
I heard the interview this morning on the radio, and I hope to sit down with the Economic Development critic, if he is willing, in the next week or so to discuss the summit they held. So far, from what I have heard, the outcome is very similar to the concerns that were expressed at the business summit that was held last spring. I still look forward to sitting down with him, and hopefully we can suggest some recommendations that should perhaps be put forward to the new Council on the Economy and the Environment. Perhaps some of these could be discussed at the economic summit that they will be holding in the near future.
I made another note that I wrote down as discussions were ongoing.
My understanding was that a majority of the workers at Faro are basically equipment operators and mill workers. I would expect that there would be tremendous support for our large capital highway works budget, as this is the area where the Faro workers have expertise.
There is no point in having huge capital budgets for carpenters from Faro, because my understanding is that there are not that many carpenters there. It is mostly equipment operators and mill workers.
In the area of employment equity - being the father of three daughters - I was very discouraged to hear the comments coming from the critic for the Womens Directorate.
It is common to see women running large pieces of equipment on road jobs. If the Members opposite do not think that women can run this equipment, I disagree. When I used to be a foreman at the sawmill, we had several women equipment operators, and they were second to none.
Some Hon. Member: (inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Devries: I thought you said it was the women.
In fact, I believe it is demeaning to Yukon women to suggest that they cannot operate equipment or get jobs on road construction.
Another interesting thing I wanted to mention is that I was down in Watson Lake this weekend, and I had the opportunity to meet with the Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Watson Lake, and discuss our capital budget.
In talking to various people around town - it seems that Watson Lake is a more diversified community than Faro - it is apparent that there is a lot going on. We have workers flying from Watson Lake to Muddy Lake. They stay there for two weeks at a time. We have workers in Cassiar in two small underground gold mine operations that should be going into production shortly. There were several people who were involved with the asbestos recycling at the Cassiar asbestos mine. There seem to be tremendous opportunities springing up around Watson Lake.
As far as the forest industry goes, there are now five small sawmills operating and there is a sixth in the process of attempting to get some timber. One of the holdups is the fact that the forestry transfer has not been completed and we do not have a forestry policy that is flexible enough to allow these sawmills to take on any long-term projects. That is why it is so important that we get the devolution talks on forestry moving along again. There will be First Nations and non-First Nations people working there.
The Department of Economic Development has been very busy this summer. As much as I have not been jumping up and making all kinds of great announcements, there are many interesting opportunities developing in the Yukon. Under the EDA funding, the Faro reclamation study was done on the tailings. My understanding is that the possibility exists that the majority of the expense for doing the environmental work on at least one tailings pile could be covered by recycling the tailings and recovering what mineral content is still there. It is our hope that, once a company purchases Faro, which we are aggressively pursuing, this could be one of the first options they look at.
We have done a pilot project, along with Wheaton River, on bioleaching sulfide rocks. The outcome of this has been very interesting. There are discussions on perhaps setting up a central processing facility somewhere in the Whitehorse area, so that several small, local gold mines could use this to process their products.
We have all heard about the Western Copper pilot project. I invite any of the Members opposite to come to my office and look at the nice big sheet of copper I got from there. This is made in the Yukon copper plate. We are even looking at secondary manufacturing from this copper plate.
Presently, there is a wood pellet pro generation feasibility study being done. There are several small business feasibility studies and initiatives. The BDF loans that are going out are creating new jobs and helping to retain existing jobs as businesses expand or change to meet the changing needs in todays economy.
We were involved in the funding for the ski hill here at Whitehorse and this could perhaps employ five to 10 people during the winter.
We have been involved in numerous other projects that have created both direct and indirect jobs. The department has also been helping people who are experiencing financial difficulties due to the economic downturn in renegotiating their loans, et cetera.
The department was involved with the Yukon Chamber and assisted in sending a delegation to the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce meeting. At this meeting, Yukon companies were well received and developed some new market potential - I am referring specifically to the talking-sign project we have seen some things about in the paper.
The department has been very busy and there certainly are many economic opportunities in the Yukon. We are still in daily contact with various people who come up with other ideas. We are doing everything we possibly can to help them move ahead with those projects.
Government Services will carry on with the business incentives policy rebate program. This program promotes local hire, the use of Yukon apprentices, and the use of Yukon materials, manufactured goods and services, without restricting competition.
It was also a very successful program. It has been so successful that it did come in a little over budget this year.
We intend to improve upon our information systems branch, by updating internal information systems. The upgrades are required to accommodate user growth and to prevent technology obsolescence.
I would like to take a moment to explain to my colleagues the importance of systems to this government. We live in an age of information exchange, of computer technology, and that is a simple fact of life in the 1990s.
Without the systems that we have in place, and without the upgrading required by this ever-changing technology, we would not be able to interface with our sister provinces and territory, or the rest of the world, for that matter. What we have run into is that much of this money is going toward upgrading the mainframe, so that it can handle the increased demand and capacity. Even though this was replaced only a few years ago, it is normal procedure to upgrade this equipment as additional hook-ups. Some of the upgrades are related to the increase in Community and Transportation Services licensing procedures. Other areas are the potential forestry transfer and more computers hooked up.
Government Services will be replacing aging vehicles in our fleet, including nine cars, six vans and 12 trucks. Last year, we did not replace a single vehicle. We managed to get by with what we had. It is starting to cost us money in repairs and safety concerns. We must upgrade this portion of our system. The $566,000 expended is necessary to ensure that we have a safe and efficient fleet.
Property management capital programs have increased over the 1993-94 forecasts for non-program specific buildings. These properties must be attended to in order to ensure that the useful life of a building is extended. I believe it was the Finance critic who pointed out to me last year that by reducing this budget we would be sorry in the long term. We have listened to his suggestion and are spending a little more in that area.
There has been $35,000 to identify projects for energy conservation retrofits.
There has been $250,000 provided for the replacement of the aged photocopiers used by the Queens Printer. During the last session, we ran into several instances where these machines were breaking down. They must be repaired or the Queens Printer will not be able to offer us the service they have in the past.
Another $550,000 has been provided to fund major repairs to public buildings.
Also, any of these capital upgrades for buildings, et cetera, will be contracted out to small subcontractors and will lead to increased employment, which we need so badly in the territory right now.
Government Services is committed to providing service that responds to the needs of government departments, while ensuring that the taxpayer of the Yukon Territory gets the best value for their dollar.
Speaker: The time being almost 5:30 p.m., we will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will call the House back to order.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Ms. Commodore: I would like to call attention to the group in the gallery. We have with us the eighth Whitehorse cub pack, sponsored by the Legion. With the cubs are their leaders Gary Steven, Dale Morgan, Joe Jones, Mike Schafer and Joan Gould.
Ms. Commodore: Unfortunately, they are now going to have to listen to my speech.
We are dealing with a capital budget, as presented to this House last Wednesday by the government. We have heard a lot about the concerns that we have in regard to the way it went. I have some concerns. As you recall, in the last session we talked about the governments existing budget and whether or not it was going to meet the needs of Yukoners, and if it was going to promote their four-year plan. They had a four-year plan when they came into office; they had talked about it during the election and I think that Yukoners believed what they were saying.
We have heard, over the last few months, talk about the great things that were going to happen to the Yukon and the great jobs that were going to come up as a result of the last budget. We all know that did not come true.
We have a budget before us that excludes many of those projects that Yukoners felt were necessary. There is nothing the matter with fixing roads, but the extent to which it is happening here is going a little too far, especially when there are things that are needed so much more, such as schools. The government knows that schools are needed. They are a priority.
We were criticized for building the kind of schools we did. We were told by the people who use them and the parents of children who use them that they are very proud of these schools.
I heard talk last week about the building of a new hospital. For some reason or another, the cost has escalated by $3 million without a shovel being lifted or any dirt being moved. I am hoping that the Minister will let us know where he is going to spend that additional $3 million.
They also made mention of the facilities they would be building, including the one already built - the Thomson Centre - that would be second to none. I had to chuckle as I heard the Government Leader make that comment. I remember we were criticized for building the Taj Mahal across the river. Now it is a really good thing. When we did that, we knew that it would be popular and would meet the needs of those individuals who would use it.
I have gone through the budget and looked at some of the things that I thought were going to be included. There appears to be a lot of money going to housing, money that is provided by the federal government. It will go to home owners in order to do different things. I do have a concern in regard to the rental suite program. Although it is a good program, I wonder about the need for it at this time. We have all seen the large number of vacancies in the City of Whitehorse. If we are going to be promoting a program like this to compete against something that is already in existence, I do not know if that is a proper thing to do. If a suite is put into someones basement, I wonder if the person would be able to pay for it through rent.
I keep hearing talk from Ministers on the other side of the House about inquiries that they get from Yukoners. The excuse I keep hearing over and over for the past year is this: I am sorry but the NDP has spent all of our money and we cannot help you. Then we turn around and look at a budget that is $126 million. I am not sure where, if they do not have any money, they got $126 million. I do not know if Yukoners seeking assistance will believe the government when they tell them that they cannot help them because the NDP has spent all the money, then the government turns around and introduces the biggest O&M budget ever in the history of the Yukon. I have to question that.
I have not had an awful lot of discussions with people since the budget was tabled in the House, but the discussions that I did have with them were in regard to such things as the community development fund. We all know, and so does the government, that a lot of the projects that were built through the community development fund were good projects. They added to the community and they added to the economy at that time.
Only last week or the week before, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini and the Minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services and I were visiting a project up at Kwanlin Dun, where we took part in the opening of a facility that was built partly from funds provided from the community development fund. I have not seen such a fantastic, well-built project for a long time - done by local labour, mostly aboriginal people - and we are looking at a decrease in funding for those kinds of projects. A lot of the people I deal with are a little concerned about the manner in which the projects will be built in the future. They are concerned that the projects will be a line item in the budget every year.
They would have to be scrutinized by everyone in the House, but I would let the House know that I am not very pleased about that. There was a statement made, I think, by the last speaker in regard to comments made by the Member for Mount Lorne; he was a little mistaken when he talked about her comments. She was not saying that women could not run heavy equipment; what she was saying was that the 700 jobs we are looking at are traditionally male jobs. That was what she was looking at. She knows as well as I do, as well as the Members on the other side do, that those kinds of jobs are done by women just as well as they are by men, so that is not what she was saying, and I did not appreciate the hisses from the other side and the smirking because that is not what she was saying. If anybody knows her, they would know that that is not what she meant. I throw that in there because I took exception to it even though it was not a comment that was made by me.
I took great pleasure in listening to the Member for Klondike when he talked about how easy it was to deal with the government, and certainly it is if one is a part of the government. It is very easy to do that and certainly they will listen, but I had to chuckle when he talked about how necessary a bridge was across the river in Dawson and how many people would be using it - mainly tourists, I suppose, in the summer. I recall the promises that were made by the Tory candidate in the last election, and I think it was alluded to by the Member for Faro, when he talked about promising Yukoners this bridge, but what he also said at the same time was that It will not cost very much because we will bring the armed services in here to build it, which, once again, would take jobs away from Yukoners. So, one cannot win when one gets promises from them.
It is a little humorous to sit here and listen to that kind of talk. Then I said to the Leader of the Official Opposition, how many people live on the other side of the river? He said six, but I am sure there must be more than that, so how much would that bridge, if it ever was built, be used in the winter?
I think a bridge across the river would be nice. It is not in this budget, so we should not be talking about it, but it was mentioned by the Member for Klondike.
I will say that I do approve of the money that is being spent for the sewer in Whitehorse. That is a worthwhile project. However, my concern - and the Government Leader knows what it is - is that there is still a lot of controversy from those two aboriginal bands that are still not satisfied that their needs have been met through negotiation with regard to that land. Somehow or other, that has to be resolved. It will have to be resolved in the best manner possible, because there has been too much hostility already. I do not like to see it, and I am sure the Government Leader does not like to see it either.
In Question Period, I mentioned something that has already been mentioned by other Members of the House: the number of people in the Yukon who do not have jobs. We talk about people who are on unemployment insurance. We also talk about people who are collecting social assistance, both under this government and from Indian Affairs. It is very good to introduce a budget in this House and say there are 700 jobs. However, if you are looking at over 3,000 people who are unemployed and are, somehow or other, collecting unemployment insurance from the federal government, and another 2,000 households where there may be sometimes more than three people eligible to work, we could be looking at in excess of 5,000 people who are able to work but who are not, right now.
If you are looking at a budget of $126 million that will provide 700 jobs to Yukoners, how do we meet the needs of the other 5,000 people who are collecting social assistance or unemployment insurance? The figures that we have used in the House are figures that have been given to us; they have been given to us through the budget book from last year. We are looking at a problem in the Yukon that is probably, as far as unemployment goes, worse than I can ever remember it, and I have been here for 28 years.
I look forward to finding out the future of the Yukon. I do not see anything in here that is going to bring us out of the recession in the next year or so. The budget, as mentioned, is a budget for 1994-95, which takes us up to April 1, 1995. As the Leader of the Official Opposition said today, we have not had a throne speech from the Government Leader so we do not know exactly what his real plan is.
He mentions that his O&M and capital budgets are what they have promised Yukoners. We could also look at his four-year plan - I could go through it again like I did in the last session - and we could find out exactly how they are going to care for children. For example, is the private sector going to be encouraged to become more involved, will there be funds available to Yukon College for programs that are of special interest to Yukon, such as apprenticeship programs, and the list goes on and on. How much of this four-year plan fits into this years budget and next years budget?
I think it would take one of our researchers at least one day to come up with some comparisons between what they promised the Yukon - what is in their four-year plan - and what they are promising them up until April 1, 1995. Whoever they have had advising them upstairs missed out on a lot of things we felt were absolutely necessary.
I can only say that, in the last seven years, I am glad I was part of a government that was able to build and put into place the kinds of things we did through our capital budget. Although we were criticized for seven years for building new schools and a number of other things, at least we built them. As far as I can see, that is not happening in this budget - a budget we will not even be spending for another few months.
I look forward to hearing from the Minister responsible for housing in terms of those things he hopes to do under the Yukon Housing Corporation.
In my other critic area, Justice, it looks like we are spending a few more hundred thousand dollars for equipment and the like, and a bit more for the Teslin facility. I will have many more questions at that time about what is in the budget.
I find that the budget is not an appropriate budget. It does not meet the economic needs of Yukoners. It is far from it. I hope that I can be much more encouraged as time goes by, but I do not think I will be.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have a few words to say in support of this budget. To begin with, my ears perked up a bit when I listened to the critic of the Official Opposition who was saying that what money got spent in what area of the Yukon and what money got spent in the capital budget, or is proposed to be spent in what department - in his opinion - really depended on how much clout the individual member had in Cabinet or in government. If that is the case, and it certainly is not, I would stand here rather chagrined because, when one looks at my two main portfolios - Justice, and Health and Social Services - in the case of Health and Social Services, with the exception of the hospital, which of course is set up now on a schedule agreed to with the federal government as to how much will be spent each year until the hospital is completed and which is fully recoverable from the federal government, in terms of the discretionary kind of budget money that trickled into Health and Social Services it is something like $1.9 million - this is one of the larger if not the largest departments in the government. Again, with respect to the Department of Justice, anyone who looks at the mains will notice that our capital budget has gone from $2.8 million last year down to less than $1 million - it is $921,000 - and, of course, one of the main reasons is that the new corrections facility in Teslin will be completed by the time this budget comes into effect.
Certainly, if the argument made - or the spurious comment, whatever - by the critic holds any water, then I guess I have a fair amount of soul searching to do. But I feel it is, indeed, a fair budget and the two departments I have to defend in these Chambers in response to questions from Members opposite is money that is truly needed in each department.
I am quite pleased to see that the balance of the discretionary money in the budget - the roughly $51 million we are talking about here - is going into projects that are of a high priority to the communities, and of a high priority to the quality of life throughout the Yukon. Many projects are fundamental to the well-being of the economic development side - tourism, mining, infrastructure and quality of life investments. I fully support those investments, and do not, in any way, apologize for the fact that my departments, in terms of discretionary money, did not get that much, something like less than $3 million out of the $51 million of which we are speaking.
While I am on that subject, if someone wants to have a careful look at the communities I represent in my riding, I think they received no more than a fair share of the proposed spending, as it has been allocated throughout the Yukon. Again, in my view, there has been absolutely no attempt to play the heavy in that regard, either.
I say that for the record, and I think it is easily defendable from the figures that are provided to everyone in this House and to the public.
In discussing the hospital, I would like to clear up some misconceptions with regard to that project. It would appear that the spin put on the budget by the Members of the Opposition has got even our well-qualified media stating that, already, the hospital is something like $3 million over budget. The basis for that proposition goes that the multi-year estimates last year were a little over $2.5 million less than the multi-year estimates in this budget. Those figures this year are a little over $47 million.
The discrepancy is not a case of going over budget, or of even increased costs. The discrepancy has to do with $2.5 million that was allocated for planning, which showed up in the class B estimates, but not in the class C estimates.
It simply was not inserted into the estimates last year. The money that has been asked of the federal government, that this government negotiated and obtained by way of the Treasury Board ruling that took place last spring, has always been the $47 million or so figure that is in the book. There has not been an increase or overspending or anything that would show, at this point at least, that we are over budget. In fact, things are proceeding. They are pretty close to being on target. There has been something like 14 contracts let this fall. Some of them have been under and some slightly over.
Basically, everyone involved is fairly comfortable that we are pretty close to being on target. I will touch wood on that, because it is the largest capital project that we have undertaken as a relatively junior government. We very much want to see it come in under budget at the end of the life span of the numerous contracts and jobs that are going to be generated by this very important project.
In listening to the debate thus far, I cannot help but be somewhat bemused by the way in which the side opposite emphasizes certain statistics. Still, seven months after our meetings here in the spring, they are still trying to paint as gloomy as possible a picture of the economy that we are in right now in the Yukon. I have had occasion to take a look at some of the statistics from time to time. I must say, in commonsense terms, that there was a good deal of apprehension felt by everyone in this House, and virtually all Yukoners, with respect to how healthy the economy was going to be this year, particularly after we had the two mines shut down.
Of course Sa Dena Hes shut down almost a year ago and we all know the history of Curragh.
I rather anticipated the kind of real, true recessionary times that we experienced in the early 1980s, because at that time when the operating mines - aside from placer mines - shut down, there was a very real, heavily felt and harsh recession in the Yukon. Without trying to put any spin on the figures, I am just looking at a couple of things that are of interest to me and things that I can understand. For example, I am looking at a month-by-month comparison of the actual jobs in the Yukon economy this past six or seven months as compared to the year before. It is rather interesting to look at those statistics. The number of people, for example, who actually had jobs in May of 1992 was 11,800. In May of 1993, there were 11,800 people employed - the same number of jobs. In June, the number of people employed the year before, in the booming times of the two mines and the very large capital budget, was 12,300 and again this year, 12,300 jobs - the same number of jobs. Then you look at July. A year ago in July of 1992, the number of jobs is 12,800, and this year it is 13,000 - 200 more jobs. In August, the jobs in 1992 were 13,300; in August of this year the number was 13,500 - 200 more jobs. In September 1992, there were 13,200 jobs and again this year 13,300 jobs. So the point is that, despite the fact that those two very important mines are shut down, in spite of all the gloom and doom that we have heard, particularly from Members opposite, and without trying to put any spin on it at all, the Yukon labour force survey results show that the position in May, June, July and August was that there were at least as many jobs, or more, in the economy during that time. In October, I am advised that the jobs a year ago were 13,100, and this year are 13,000, so there are 100 less in October.
That does not, to me, signal the end of the world or terrible times. There is no question that we would like to see some mines operating again. There is no question that we would like to see more jobs. The simple facts are that for some of those months there were more jobs than during the year before. That is a message that seems to be ignored entirely by many of my good friends opposite.
If one looks at retail sales for the Yukon - the total sales, Yukon-wide, in millions of dollars - for April last year, they were $15.7 million and April of this year were $15.9 million - $200,000 more. In May 1992, the sales were $16.7 million and this May they were $17.9 million - $1.2 million more. In June 1992 the sales were $ 19.2 million and this June they were $19.7 million - $500,000 more. In July 1992, the sales were $20.2 million and this July they were $21.6 million $1.4 million more. In August 1992, the sales were $19.7 and this August the initial figures show $19.2 million - a decrease.
Without trying to make too much of those figures, the sales were up month after month compared to the year before, when the two mines were going. This is a time when there is a great deal of apprehension and concern amongst a lot of consumers about the potential for a strike in the civil service of the Government of the Yukon. That can be said to have a negative impact on spending and I would be easily persuaded that it has had that kind of an impact. Despite that fact, it has been reasonably good - not wonderful.
We are not trying to sweep anything under the carpet, but what we are trying to, as a commonsense kind of guy - at least sometimes - I would like to get a handle on what is going on. There are more people here looking for work. Why? There is not a lot of employment available, as we all know, down in NDP Ontario and Saskatchewan. A lot of those people are coming north looking for work.
There are a lot more people up here looking for work. That is what has happened. We are trying to cope with it. We have to cope with it in Social Services. We have to cope with it in various ways, but the fact is that, when one looks at the basics of what is happening here, it is not that bad. In fact, I am mildly surprised, in an optimistic way, by the way we have been carrying on.
I really think people should come to grips with the real facts out there. I have heard, and have had the pleasure of listening to various people on radio and whatnot, as quoted in the newspapers and so on about the economy, that, generally speaking, business people, particularly at the retail sales level, are not devastated. They are concerned about the possibility of a strike. Some of them are taking some steps to reduce their overhead. I would argue, personally, that those kinds of steps are undoubtedly healthy steps, and I would really submit that the Yukon stands poised for good times to come.
In order to be in a position to take advantage of the next strong upturn in the economy, we are looking at some fundamental changes to such things as the social assistance network; we are looking at more training; we are looking at trying to get some people in the Yukon who are always bypassed by booms, who do not get the jobs but fall victim because of the jobs and the booms. We are trying to get some more of those people, particularly in some of the rural villages, to a stage where they will be employable and will be able to take part in the job opportunities that will be coming as we move ahead and our economy grows.
The economy is going to grow. I have no doubt that we are looking at better times ahead. There is a lot of optimism in tourism and there is a lot of optimism in terms of mining exploration. There is optimism, too, with the number of properties that are on the verge, if the metal prices are right, to go into production. Loki is one, which, as I understand it, is a small mine that would employ about 100 people up in the Dawson area. Another one that is very close, if copper does not continue to collapse, is Western Copper, just north of Carmacks. It is another mine that could be in production very quickly, with immediate jobs available as soon as they make the production decision. In the case of Williams Creek, the end product is a copper that is more pure than one gets from the smelter.
In the case of Loki Gold, it would be relatively inexpensive to mine and process. There is talk about the larger one, the Casino project. Whatever criticism the side opposite might have about that project, I can assure them that it is responsible for a lot of really important jobs in the Yukon, and a lot of long-time Yukoners - Indian and white - work on that kind of a project, and are working there now. It has been a good project from that point of view.
I can also tell the side opposite that we are not going to be jumping up and down, and we are not going to be conned by the stock market people. There will be a very careful and intensive risk analysis associated with any major commitment to infrastructure by this government or by this governments corporation, the Yukon Development Corporation, in terms of supplying electricity.
We are not being overly optimistic. When you have these things occurring, when you have some very real backers involved in Loki, people who have been involved in several successful mining operations in the recent history of western Canada - in the case of Western Copper, with an outfit like Teck Corp behind them - it is not simply fluff. It is serious; it is real, and I am pleased to see what seems to me to be a new trend, where we have a very real commitment by those mining companies to get involved with the people who live in the surrounding communities. They are offering job training; they are offering economic packages that, in my view, are extremely meaningful to the people who live in places like Carmacks, Pelly and Dawson City.
I must say that I am surprised that this budget would be very controversial. Most of the money was given to us by way of transfers from Ottawa for specific purposes. Much of that money was negotiated for highways by the previous administration. I find it a bit bemusing to watch and listen to some Members opposite try to put a negative spin on what is really an extremely positive story and a positive budget.
I get a bit concerned about the propensity of the side opposite toward negativism about a budget such as this one. I know I was accused by the side opposite of being negative about things that ought be positive. I heard on the radio some Members opposite quoted as saying that they intended to come to this House and engage in constructive criticism. That, in my view, would be most welcome. In my view, that is a role that an Opposition can take that is of most benefit to the electorate. I am a bit taken aback by what I have heard thus far. However, I will give them a chance.
I am a bit concerned about some of the less than accurate stories - or perhaps they are spins - about the budgetary items we talk about here. For example, we have heard various Members of the side opposite going on at some length about the fact that the new hospital - the $40-odd million complex - will be built with structural steel instead of concrete. When that statement was made in an outraged fashion by the official Opposition, I made the statement that I was a bit surprised because that was a decision made by the interim hospital board 10 days or so before we took office.
I did not say that I was simply blaming the NDP for the decision, as they said. I was simply surprised that they would suddenly take the position of outrage that was enunciated through the media to the public. I said that I admired the people who made up the hospital interim board. I felt they were very capable officials of government.
These are officials who have worked for Members of virtually every political stripe over the years. I also said that if there was a chance of my reversing that decision, I probably would not do it. I have discussed this decision individually with the members of the interim board. I have discussed it with architects and contractors in whom I have a great deal of faith. The issue has been discussed with the hospital officials for Alberta. It has been discussed with top people in the administration of hospital capital works in B.C., both groups of which are assisting us with this hospital. They both say that they do not build hospitals out of concrete any more. There are many good reasons for building with steel: flexibility and cost being two of the main ones. They scoffed at the idea that we would try and build this complex using concrete.
This complex is one that has flexibility. Structural steel allows one to do certain things that concrete does not. At a fraction of the cost, it allows us the capability, for example, of adding a floor if we need the extra bed capacity in the future. It allows for renovations much more effectively, efficiently and easily than does a concrete structure.
I do not pretend to be an expert on this, but I can tell you that every expert that I discussed this issue with and every member of the board had a handle on why they made the decision. They made it in a businesslike fashion. I stand by their decision.
There was an analysis done of the issue of jobs lost, and it was not out of this world. In fact, it was felt that the hospital will take up virtually every carpenter and building journeyman there is around the territory and there will be room for more. We may have a situation where, once again, as occurred under the NDP administration, we have the Yukon Chamber of Commerce and the other chambers of commerce asking us to slow down the capital building because we are overheating the economy. I remember when they did that when I was in the Opposition. The chambers of commerce said that there was too much building going on. We were overtaxing the infrastructure and wasting money. It was costing too much to build and we should slow down. I would not be a bit surprised if we face that kind of criticism or caution, as was leveled at the previous administration in the years of the big capital budgets.
I am concerned by the quality of the Oppositions critiques because, when they indicated that I was trying to blame it on the NDP, they were simply setting up a straw man to attack. I suggest that, if you are going to set up a straw man in order to attack a straw man, make sure you put at least enough substance into it - enough glue and stuff - so that it does not fall apart before you are finished it and have a chance to give it a good kick. That is what happens with that kind of an argument. So, I have given you a little advice from an old barefoot boy from Carcross.
The Member for Faro went on in some kind of an inane attack on this hon. Member, and I can give and take with the best of them. I would like to say that, sometimes, he really ought to investigate and research more carefully.
For example, I look at a press release that was put out by the NDP caucus regarding Envirochip, and it is a kind of we do and we do not oppose this economic venture. On page 2 of that document, which was given to the press and printed in at least some of the local journals, it states that the enviro-chipper was purchased by the Yukon Development Corporation last November to provide wood pellets to supply the growing market of pellet-burning furnaces in the territory, but the machine has had limited use since then. The Ostashek government, which has, on several occasions, announced that Yukon Development Corporation funds would only be used for energy-related projects, appears to support a venture involving the wood chipper. We were wondering where this falls under their new policy.
There are so many inaccuracies in that statement. The enviro-chipper deal was entered into, and most of the documentation was signed, a year ago last July. It was done, of course, by the previous board, which had a good number of high-profile NDP Members on it, and under the previous administration. The contract for purchase of the actual machine was entered into in September of 1992, and that was under the auspices of the previous administration. The primary purpose of the wood chipper was not to provide wood pellets to supply the growing market of pellet burning furnaces in the territory, but it was to chip wood and sell chips. One possible use for those chips might, in the future, entail wood pellets.
The wood pellets were not the prime driving raison detre of this magnificent expenditure of ratepayers money. The woodchip market was. I can say in an unqualified way that I utterly oppose this type of investment. I think it is absolutely wrong for YDC to be engaging in it. I can tell the Members opposite that I have asked the board to look at this investment and some of the other investments, which remind me of a very poor portfolio of Vancouver mining stocks. I have asked the board to get us out of these investments as soon as they can, at the least possible cost to the taxpayers and ratepayers of the Yukon.
There you have an example of pretty bad research going into a public statement - press release - by the Opposition. I know that being the Opposition is not a hell of a lot of fun. There is an old philosopher type in one of the rural communities I represent - deceased now - who used to say to me that life in opposition is like a sewer; what one gets out of it depends entirely on what one puts into it. With this kind of input, the kind of input we have in the press release about the wood chipper, the kind of input we have with respect to the steel structure of the hospital, I really do not like to think very much of what they are going to get out of life in the Opposition.
I would end by once again saying that I have no difficulty in supporting this budget; no difficulty despite the fact that my department got a very modest portion of discretionary funds; no difficulty even though my riding barely got that to which it should surely be entitled by the measure of any fair person in this Legislature or on the street. I feel that the budget is in keeping with a philosophy that believes very greatly in us sticking to a balanced budget, with a philosophy that believes that the private sector should take the lead role in terms of creation of jobs and that believes that the governments primary task with respect to organizing things so that we have more prosperous times in the future ought to be restricted to providing good infrastructure, particularly in the areas of transportation and energy, restricted to areas such as training and working with those people who are victims in our society. We must try to make sure that those who have been victimized by booms past are more self-sufficient, better trained, able to cope better with their social problems, such as alcohol and drug abuse, the spin-offs from sexual abuse and so on - particularly those in the aboriginal communities - who perhaps for the first time, as things go into an upturn in the Yukon, get to be in a position to truly benefit rather than, as in the past, being victimized by prosperous times when they come once again to the Yukon.
For those reasons I commend this budget to all of those in this House and in particular my good friends on the side opposite.
Mr. Cable: Following the instructions of the previous speaker, let me first offer some praise to the government, as was done by the Member for McIntyre-Takhini. I think that bringing in the budget in the fall is certainly a wise idea that allows, as was mentioned in the budget speech, for the construction jobs to be let out in a timely fashion in the spring. I think also keeping the capital spending at the levels it was at last year, or approximately thereto, is a good idea. It shows the government does believe in pump-priming when conditions are such that the private sector alone cannot prevent the economy from disintegrating. It is a victory of common sense over political rhetoric and the government is to be commended for that.
I think also the money put on the sewage treatment systems, to start to put the Yukon River in a better condition for the downstream is certainly a useful expenditure.
I read the governments introduction and what the government has said, stating that this budget is a job creation budget first and an infrastructure budget secondly. I garner this from a couple of documents and this first is the press release given by the Minister of Finance, where he stated that the capital budget for next year is expected to generate more than 700 jobs in Yukons private sector. This is the press release of November 10, 1993.
It goes on to say, We are fortunate to once again have a large capital budget, said the Minister of Finance, John Ostashek, because these expenditures translate into jobs in the private sector. Throughout the whole of the press release we are really talking about jobs.
In the introduction of the budget speech the Minister of Finance says, We are fortunate once again to be able to have a large capital budget, because these expenditures translate into jobs in the private sector. And then the Minister goes on to say, This budget will create over 700 jobs. It will put many Yukoners to work in the course of the next fiscal year.
I am reading the governments intentions as presenting to this House a budget designed, firstly, to create jobs in bad economic times and, secondly, to improve the infrastructure of the Yukon.
Having said that, there are a number of questions that need answering before I will support the budget in final reading. These questions have been raised both in the news media and in this House over the last couple of days. Is the budget really a job creation budget, and will it do what the government says it will do? That is the prime question to ask, if the government agrees that the budget is a jobs-first budget.
What are the assumptions upon which the budget is built, and what are the governments priorities? Under that, I would have to ask - and we hope to have answered in this House - does the government anticipate that tax increases will be necessary? Will the social programs be left intact when the operation and maintenance budget comes down?
Further, what are the assumptions being made with respect to the transfer agreement payments, and with respect to the effect of the perversity factor, like population growth and taxing trends in other jurisdictions?
Why has the energy and mines budget dropped, when this government has long held that the mining sector has to be promoted, one of the few arms of the economy that we can count on most of the time?
Why have the multi-year capital projects in the Education budget not been accelerated? Why the emphasis on roads when, as I believe, the weakness in the construction sector right now is in the building trades?
I had the opportunity to telephone some building contractors after 5:30. I was told by one that the Yukon Housing Corporation budget is a budget for small pickup truck contractors. There is nothing wrong with small contractors, but it did not meet his particular needs. He went on to say that the building trades are really hungry right now, and there is a glut of these trades. As proof of that, he offered the fact that many contracts are coming in under bid. I think the Minister of Health and Social Services has indicated that many of the subcontracts on the hospital were coming in under bid, which is demonstrable proof that the building trades are hungry.
Another building contractor indicated that, over the last three weeks, he had just laid off 40 people and there were more to come. One of the things we will have to test in the budget debate is where the government is getting its information about the building trades. In my view, the building trades are, in fact, very hungry. These two telephone conversations simply reinforce what I have been hearing for the last several weeks.
Perhaps one of the most important questions that has to be asked is what this government sees as a long-term goal. Is it the stabilization of the Yukons economy and, if so, how does this budget fit that goal? I understand that the Minister of Finance is prepared to be flexible, and he demonstrated that, I think, in his last budget to some extent. This is simply a recognition that no one in this House has all the answers with respect to todays economy. We, on this side of the House, have something to say. We have it to say to the Members on the other side. If this budget can be jigged to some extent and take the benefit of our collective wisdom, I would find it quite easy to support.
Based on the assumption that the Minister will show some flexibility, I will support the budget in second reading. I will hold my powder dry for the final reading.
Mrs. Firth: I will keep my powder dry.
Here we are again, talking about money, talking about fairness and equal treatment of all Yukoners. This afternoon, I have heard some rather astonishing comments made to us, as Members of the Legislature, and to the public. I would like to go through them, not at great length, but I want to present a fairly accurate picture of what people have been telling me over the summer months, and what my constituents have been expressing to me as concerns. I hope a few of the comments I make will get through to the government. I am not too optimistic about some of the individuals listening, after some of the comments that were made, particularly this evening. Nevertheless, I will try, and I keep trying and, sometimes, if I am persistent enough, we may succeed.
There are a couple of things on the positive side about the budget. We will start with the good things first. The idea of separating the operation and maintenance budget and the capital budget is a good idea. I like that idea. However, I am interested in knowing, from the Minister of Finance, whether it is going to be just a cosmetic separation, or whether the money identified for a capital budget, which lapses at the end of that budget, will simply be used as a resource, or pot of money, when there are cost overruns in the operation and maintenance budget. That was the criticism I had of the previous government when they combined the two budgets, that we were no longer able to accurately follow the deficits, or the cost overruns, in operation and maintenance, because the capital budget always had lapses of funds, and it was always used to compensate for the cost overruns in the operation and maintenance budget.
Just so the Minister of Finance knows, I know the argument he is going to get from his department. They are going to tell the Minister that this is just one pot of money, and it is an onerous exercise to separate the two of them and to keep two sets of figures. However, I would encourage the Minister of Finance to give direction to his officials that that is the way he would like to see it. Why? Because then the public can understand and know more accurately whether or not the departments are staying within their operation and maintenance budgets, or whether they are gradually creeping up, and it is being paid off with lapses in capital money. That is why.
That has happened over the last seven or eight years. We were always in a deficit position in the O&M budget. The columns of figures were blended together and it was always being paid off. We were always saying we had a balanced budget. This government is doing exactly the same thing, because they have the same Finance officials drawing up the same form of budget and keeping the same set of books.
I raised it at the budget lockup with the Finance officials and asked them if they were going to continue with that practice. They indicated that yes, they were. I am raising it with the Minister of Finance at a political level, requesting that perhaps he look at that so that when budgets are brought into this Legislature and reported in the press, we have a more accurate idea of whether or not the O&M budget is staying within budget or if it is running over and being paid off with another pot of money.
The community development fund - hurrah, hurrah. At last, the community development fund is going by the wayside. I am hoping that the government will be true to its word and that, come the next budget, it will be gone. I would like to get some commitment from the Minister of Finance regarding that specific identification of money.
I support the concept of spending more money on highway infrastructure. I support the idea, but I have some concerns about the balance between money spent on highways and money identified and allocated for the construction industry. My compliment is that they have taken up the challenge to put more money toward highways. My concern is that perhaps the scales have tipped a little too much toward highways and road construction as opposed to the construction industry.
It is difficult to know which industry creates more jobs or puts more people to work. My concern is that Yukoners get put to work. I have heard one Member in the House today saying that all the highways contracts went to local construction workers. If that is the case, I would like to see some evidence of that. I would also like to see if all the construction contracts are going to local companies as well.
Lastly, one of the positive things about this budget is the identification of the money for the Whitehorse sewer system. I do not think the government should get too carried away with patting itself on the back for that, because I really do not think they had any choice. There is no allotment of money or any big hoo-hooing and haw-hawing about the hazardous waste facility. Obviously that is by the wayside, as we are currently in the process of transporting our hazardous wastes out of the Yukon. There is a contract to do that.
I remember the current government Members position with respect to a hazardous waste facility. I expect that we will see some priority put on that in short order, as well.
I have a lot of reservations about whether or not we need a new jail at this time.
Preference would certainly be given to building new schools and a hazardous waste facility or to see that something was done about those two initiatives before we build a $16 million new Whitehorse correctional facility. If the Minister checks with his constituents or the public, he will find that the majority of the people will support that opinion.
I listened to the Minister of Justice quite closely. One can always tell when he is particularly sensitive about issues because he takes a long time to present his case and tries to back it up with lots of hard evidence, and I found the statistical information particularly interesting. It is very dangerous when a Minister sits in his office and relies purely on statistical information instead of getting out and talking to his constituents and to the business community. The people I speak to in my constituency - and I have had a lot of dealings with trades people this summer - have told me that their business is having the worst year it has had in the last five years. We do not have any great statistics from the Bureau of Statistics to support this, but that is what they are saying. They have also told me that they have had to reduce their hours of work; they have not replaced staff who have been away; they are not hiring or training any summer staff; that their business is down, their profits and revenues are down; that their volumes are dropping; that they have some concerns about the political leadership of the government; that business has been decreasing and that - and this was the one that was most astonishing - it was very difficult to find anyone who said that the economic forecast was good or was looking good or even had the potential of being good.
I did not get that information from a Bureau of Statistics. I got the information from talking to people who are business people here in the community in Whitehorse and in the other communities.
It is fine for the Minister to stand up and quote all these stats. I may even cut that out of Hansard and send it to some of my constituents and let them read it and see what they have to say, because I remember the message that this government gave when it first became the government. I remember the reaction that the community had to that message then. When the Government Leader gave his dont-worry-be-happy speech, people were absolutely infuriated and wanted to know where the Government Leader had been. They could not believe their ears and there were some rather dramatic comments made. People were name-calling and huffing and puffing because they were really angry.
In the briefing session we had with the Department of Finance, we were given the budgets and we were allowed an opportunity to ask questions. First of all, we were told that this budget was going to create 700 jobs. We asked for information about what those jobs were. We wanted to be told what 700 jobs means, because I know the rhetoric that comes from governments - we are going to create 3,700 person-weeks of employment and I do not know what that means. The people who are not working out there do not know whether they are one of those 3,700 person-weeks. People do not understand what that means. So we asked the Finance officials for a description of what these 700 jobs were. I would have expected that they would have been able to take a piece of paper, hand it to us, and say it is all here on this paper. We are still waiting to hear what these 700 jobs are.
That leads me to believe that the Finance officials are out there trying to calculate what the 700 jobs are. I have a great deal of difficulty with a budget that is made up and the information is not there to substantiate the claims that are made in the budget.
Maybe tomorrow they will have that information to bring here in the House, although maybe not, I do not know. We also asked for the number of FTEs. I would have expected that they could have given us a paper to show us what they are.
There is $11 million identified in the capital budget for personnel and employment. The official did tell us that it represented 130 FTEs. We are asking for the total number of FTEs within this government so that we can get an idea on personnel costs.
Every time there was a comment made about a reduction in revenues coming in or recoveries coming in, it was blamed on Curragh. Everything was directly affected by Curragh. We asked the Finance officials for some data to indicate the financial impact the closure of the mine of Curragh has had on the Yukon. Again, I would have anticipated that they could have handed a piece of paper indicating what they took into account in the preparation of the budget.
We did not get the information. We still do not have the information. I am skeptical and cynical. I can visualize the Finance officials up there frantically trying to find out what the impact Curragh has had on the Yukon and trying to give us some figures.
When we get these budget documents, if the government wants us to be fully aware of what they are presenting, they have got to be prepared to present the information to us. The information should not be compiled when I ask for it, as an Opposition Member. The information should have already been compiled because every member in that Cabinet should have asked the Finance officials for that information.
Every Member on that side of the House, including the Member for Klondike and the Member for Vuntut Gwichin, should have that information. Obviously, they do not. That is one of the things that is distressing people in the private sector and government employees about this government. They do not have any confidence that anyone has control of the reins. They are all sitting in the wagon at the front, bouncing along, the horse is running, and the reins are dragging along the ground. Who is running the show? That has to be the biggest concern that is raised with me as a Member of the Legislature.
People ask me to get in there and watchdog what is happening, ask questions and find out what is going on. That is what I am trying to do.
I asked the Minister of Economic Development for some information. There was a big press interview about a survey being done of 40 businesses in town, because the Department of Economic Development wants to find out why businesses are not coming for handouts from the government. Perhaps it has something to do with the increased taxes: the increased fuel tax, the increased personal tax, the increased corporate tax, the increased electrical costs. Businesses are laying off staff. Perhaps they cannot afford to seek further grants and loans to expand or look at new options. But no, a survey must be done.
I asked for the results of the survey. I am told I cannot have them, because the businesses were told it was going to be confidential. I am not looking for any confidential information from any of these businesses. I want to know what the recommendations were that the consultant gave the government, which increased the use of these programs by as much as it did. I am told I cannot have this information.
I went out of the house and picked up a newspaper that evening. What did we have there? There was a big ad: Thinking of starting or expanding your business? BCDOs are your resource people; they will help you with all aspects of starting or expanding your business. It was a great big ad. This was probably one of the recommendations that came from the consultant. The Minister is nodding his head, acknowledging yes. If that can be put in the newspaper, why cannot we, as Members of the House, have access to these recommendations?
It just does not make any sense. It is absolutely nonsensical. So, I hope the Government Leader is going to intervene on our behalf and see that we get that information so that we can pass it on to constituents we represent who are in the business community.
I have a funny little story here. After all those statistics that the Minister of Health and Social Services read out to us, somebody in the Bureau of Statistics is working overtime because this news release had to be the one that caught my interest. I am sure if my constituents saw the government time and money being spent on this, they would have an attack. This news release from the Bureau of Statistics is called Michael and Jennifer leading the pack. I do not know if anybody else in the House knows what I am talking about - everyone is shaking their head. This says, If you are thinking of naming your newborn son Michael, you are in good company. Over the past 15 years, 107 baby boys born in the Yukon have been named Michael, making it the most popular name of the time. For little girls in the Yukon, the number one name is Jennifer, with 73 bearing that name. What are we doing? We have these Ministers standing up preaching fiscal restraint and we are having public surveys compile over the past 15 years the names of the babies that were born in the Yukon. Gee whiz.
When the Minister of Health and Social Services stands up and reads off all this statistical data, sorry, it just does not move me, and I do not think it is going to move my constituents.
There was a very humorous comment made this afternoon by the Member for Klondike. The Member for Klondike stood up and said to all of us what a great bunch of guys the Cabinet were to deal with. We should just try to be nicer as Opposition Members; we should not be so mean. If we wanted something, these guys were easy to talk to. All we had to do was go up and be nice, have a coffee and ask for what we wanted, make our suggestion, and all would be well.
Where was the Member for Klondike during the last sitting when the Government Leader as much as told me that hell would freeze over before he would ever seek an opinion from me about anything? What kind of an invitation is that for me, as an Opposition Member? I am quite prepared to make lots of suggestions. I have lots of ideas, and some of them might even be good ideas. I am prepared to share those ideas. I want to tell the Member that, great bunch of guys they may be, they do not necessarily like us over here. I have had lots of complaints from Yukon Party supporters and I know that Yukon Party supporters are also going to see the Official Opposition, as well.
There has to be a concern from Members over there. The Member for Riverdale North used to have some political smarts, I thought. He must be concerned about that. I can remember sitting in the same caucus room with him, talking about keeping our party members all together, and making comments about how the NDP were getting mad at the NDP government, and keeping the flock in the fold. I have Yukon Party members coming to me, saying that none of the Ministers will listen to anything they say and that there is a stubbornness there. They will sit there and say, yeah, I hear what you are saying, but are they really hearing what they are saying?
There have to be some individuals on that side of the House who are concerned when their own party rank and file are coming to see us Opposition Members to raise issues in the Legislature because it is the only way they feel they can make any mileage. I would be very concerned.
Now, I do not want to let the Minister of Economic Development off the hook just yet. We have the Minister of Finance. First, he scared everybody half to death with his speech about being broke. Then, he told us not to worry, to be happy, because whatever happened, the feds send us a cheque every month, so dont worry, be happy about that. Then, the Auditor Generals report came out, so the Minister went back and said, bad NDP, they overspent. He reminded everyone that they overspent and that we had no money. He reinforced that we were in tough economic times, and told everybody they should be thinking positive, and being upbeat and optimistic. Meanwhile, a majority of the businesses are complaining about initiatives they have had to take, which I have already cited.
I hear that the Minister of Economic Development is giving speeches to groups, and inviting them with open arms to come to the government to get more money. He is asking people why they are not coming to government for more money - there is money to give away. Who is writing these rules or setting this direction? Is anyone? What kind of discussions must take place in Cabinet? It must just be a free-for-all. There is a pot of money, and everyone is grabbing.
That is another thing: listening to people. I heard the Minister of Economic Development say another astonishing thing this afternoon. The people in Old Crow decided they wanted the sprung greenhouse, as he said. They wanted it, so they are getting it. Five thousand people in Whitehorse said they wanted a 911 number. This government thought it was great when they were Opposition Members. Then, when they became the government, they said 5,000 people signed a petition, so they should ask them again if they want a 911 number. Another survey was done. People are so desperate for it that they said they wanted it so badly, they would be prepared to pay for it. What does the government do? They interpret that as people really wanting to pay for it. The 911 number is going to cost half what the sprung covering is going to cost for the arena in Old Crow.
The Minister of Justice stands up and says that they do not want to pit one community against the other. How can people see this happening and not feel that there is favouritism? The Minister of Justice stood up in this House and said that his constituents in Carcross did not want to pay for something for people in Whitehorse. They would not pay for a 911 number for Whitehorse people. That is absolutely not the way it works. The Minister of Justice is saying it is, but it is not. All Yukoners are supposed to be sharing the resources we have. It is up to this government to see and try their best to ensure that the resources are shared in a fair and equitable manner.
That is leadership. Not standing up and saying one community is not going to pay for some other community. That is not leadership, not at all.
Let us get back to the budget, to the money here. I have expressed a concern about our ability to pay the $51 million as Yukoners, to raise that $51 million. The Member for Klondike says it is just $51 million of discretionary spending and that it is not very much money, but it is a lot of money. It is a lot of money because it is money that Yukoners have to contribute themselves. The feds are not going to give it to us; they are not going to send us a cheque at the end of the month for the $51 million. The budget indicators are that revenues are down in every area. The Minister of Finance tells the public we are going to have a balanced budget, yet the supplementaries that come in here are for a deficit of $3.2 million. The jobs creation program is $7 million. The electrical rebates is $3.5 million.
The Members may argue that it does not all come out of the same pot, but really it is going to come out of the same pot. If the Energy Corporation cannot provide the $3.5 million rebate, it is going to come out of general revenue. Incidentally, they have just announced on the radio that they are $5 million in the red, so that is going to be an interesting exercise.
I want some evidence from the Minister of Finance or the Finance officials and I want a commitment from the Minister of Finance that Yukoners are not going to have to suffer the burden of another tax increase. I would like to hear the Minister of Finance stand up in his final comments and tell us there will be no tax increases in the next O&M budget or the next O&M budget after that. In fact, if I had my way, I would like to hear the Minister of Finance say they are going to get rid of the tax increases they imposed because they did not need them in the first place, if his financial position is so healthy and he can afford to spend $7 million on job creation projects.
Another Member in the House here earlier this afternoon made a comment about philosophy and ideology, and made a comment about how the Members opposite had poked fun at the Independent Alliance and sent us a little book over here called Independent Alliance Philosophy. When one opened the book, the pages were all blank. I wish I had kept that because I could have just crossed out Independent Alliance, put Yukon Party on it, and sent it back.
I have never seen a government so eager to take peoples money away from them and turn around and give them little dribs and drabs of it back - the tax increases, the electrical rate increases - all of that.
To me that is not a conservative philosophy, but then I do not know what philosophy the Yukon Party is operating under. People say that they are the Yukon Party, but what does that mean? They alienated or disassociated themselves from the federal Conservatives. What the purpose of that was, I do not know. I thought the federal Conservatives had been fairly generous to the Yukon.
I was quite astonished to hear the Government Leader stand up, when the new Liberal government was elected federally, and say, Great. Maybe they will be better to us than the previous Conservative government was. It was the previous Conservative government that gave us our executive powers. It was the previous Conservative government that gave us hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, even at a time when the New Democrats formed the territorial government and we had a lot of Yukon Conservatives saying that the money should be stopped.
The federal Conservatives said that they were giving the money to Yukoners, not to the New Democrats. The federal Conservative government has supported the Yukon; they have a long history of supporting us - in devolution, land claims, constitutional development and financially. I would like to hear from the Minister of Finance exactly what their political philosophy is.
I need to know if I can tell the business community that the government supports them as a business community and that they are a little bit off track and maybe we can lobby them and get them back on track.
I cannot say that, because we have two Ministers on that side talking about what a great investment climate they are going to create and how it is the private sector that creates the jobs - the Ministers of Finance, Economic Development, Justice all said that. Yet what did they do for the economic climate for the private sector? They imposed fuel tax increases, personal and corporate tax increases, and the electrical rates are going to go through the roof.
During the election and all the rhetoric from the last session, this government indicated that they were not going to do those things. The last thing they were going to do was allow the electrical rates to go up. That was the last thing this group of people were going to do should they be lucky enough to form the next government.
I well remember the outrage of the Minister of Justice when he was the Leader of the Official Opposition; I remember the outrage expressed when the electrical rates were going up for Yukoners, and the Members bringing in electrical bills and comparing how the costs were rising. He is in a position to do something about that now. Not all the responsibility is on his shoulders. It is with the front bench - these cooperative guys, these great guys, according to the Member for Klondike. Why is he not asking them what they are doing about his constituents and the electrical rate increases they are going to get.
I have another question for the Member for Klondike. The mining facilitator position is a big initiative for the government. The salary is $84,770 per year. The Member for Klondike professes to be a miner. He slogs it out in the dirt and tries to make a living and feed his kids and family - $84,770 it is a pretty hefty salary for a mining facilitator.
It would be interesting to know how many miners have an income of $84,707. The Leader of the Official Opposition says there are none in Faro and we have to agree with that. I would submit that there are a lot of miners who do not have an income like that.
This $51 million - where is it going to come from? I have five written questions on the Order Paper right now and I hope that I am going to get legislative return answers to these questions very soon, because we are going to be proceeding with the supplementary budgets and then on to the capital budget, and I am sure that the government Members are looking for my support in the House for this budget.
Some Hon. Member: (inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: Well, nobody knows who is supporting what yet; people are keeping their cards pretty close to their chests.
I am hoping that the government will be forthcoming with the information. I hope I do not have to put up with any more nonsense about the information not being available because it is confidential. When we ask for information, we never ask for confidential information regarding specific individuals. So I would like to hear from the Minister of Finance tonight, when he makes his final comments, whether or not I am going to get specific replies to those written questions and when I will get that information.
I would also like to know when the information that was requested in the budget lockup - I believe the Official Opposition had some questions about breakdown of capital costs for the Energy and Development Corporation - will be available. I would like the Minister to respond and tell us if we will have that information in a timely manner, as well.
When we get this information, maybe we can intelligently debate just how many jobs this budget is going to create and what the benefits to Yukoners are going to be.
I have some concerns about the direction this government is taking after all its gloomy messages about being broke, and then, almost one year later, saying jobs, jobs, jobs. I always get nervous when governments talk about creating jobs instead of the private sector creating jobs.
The Minister of Finance is now saying they are not creating jobs. For the last three days, he has been saying that they are creating jobs, jobs, jobs.
Just to sum up my comments, I have to say that these are the questions people are asking about the budget: Does it indicate economic leadership? I will not give Members the answers. I want them to bring answers back, and back them up with something. Are they creating a positive environment for the private sector? Does it foster confidence? Who are the jobs created for, if this budget is creating jobs? What is the governments role in creating a positive environment for business investment? What is the fate of taxpayers come the next operation and maintenance budget?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not want to speak at great length about this budget, which I fully support. However, I feel that, given recent media reports and having listened to some of the Members opposite commenting through the media and in this House that this is an asphalt budget, or that highway projects create less employment than building construction, I feel that I must defend my portion of the budget.
Firstly, let me comment on the idea of this being an asphalt budget. Interestingly enough, the only pavement included in this budget is for the Two Mile Hill - a project that had been planned and approved by the previous administration long before this government took office. The total expenditure for pavement for 1994-95 is estimated at $800,000, or less than two percent of the total highways budget.
I truly wish that we were in the position of having to defend an asphalt budget. However, this is not the case, and it is not likely to be so for several years down the road.
The concern expressed by the Member for Riverdale South was whether or not Yukoners actually got the jobs created by the highway construction activity, or if it went to outside construction firms.
I am very pleased to advise the House that, of about 30 contracts on Yukon highways for 1993-94, contracts ranging from environmental studies to right-of-way clearing to crushing to road building, only three were won by bidders from outside the territory, and two of those outside bidders are more or less Yukon companies - one being Meziaden Power Corporation, which uses the same people as Northland Fleet or Northland Kaska, and the other being Stanley Associates Engineering who have an office here in Whitehorse but have tied in with another group called Sentar out of Vancouver.
I have 10 copies - I did not get all of them, but I have 10 copies of all of the contracts let on the highways in the fiscal year 1993-94, and I would like to provide those to the Opposition Members so that they can see for themselves who actually got the bids. I have asterisked, on the left-hand side, the three I have just mentioned, who really are not true Yukon companies. This is public information and I would like to make it available to the Opposition.
Some of the contracts have been let to First Nations individuals and corporations as well as to many other small and large enterprises from throughout Yukon.
Members of this House should be aware that, on the Shakwak project, which we have heard a lot about today, and which is exclusively funded by the United States government, we must accept bids from the United States as part of the overall funding agreement. However, in this and future budget years, if a foreign contractor does become a successful bidder, he must hire Canadians for all but a very few of the positions that will be made available.
I find that I must also reply to comments made by the Member for Riverside that machinery and asphalt does not create jobs as much as the construction of buildings and the construction of schools. That statement is just not supported by fact, and the truth of the matter is exactly the opposite.
According to an economic forecasting model used by the Department of Economic Development, and accepted nationally, one road construction full-time equivalent is created for each $130,000 spent, while building construction requires an expenditure of $160,000 to create a full-time equivalent, or it is nearly 25 percent less effective for job creation than road construction projects.
I would like to point out that this model, used for determining job creation from capital expenditures, is the same model that was used by the previous government. I therefore find it inconceivable that some of the Members opposite are calling the forecasting fraudulent.
I believe that, contrary to the Member for McIntyre-Takhinis statement, upgrading of the Yukons highways has much to do with future economic development. All the Member has to do is look at the tourism statistics for the past several years, which show a steadily increasing number of people visiting and staying in the Yukon. Tourism, as everyone knows, is the second largest economic private sector industry in Yukon. I believe that the steady increase is due in large part to the driving conditions and the aesthetics of our highway system.
This House should be cognizant with the figures that make up the total highways budget, and Members should be aware that funds devolved to the Yukon for highways are substantially more than what is reflected in the budget. For instance, for capital and O&M on the Alaska Highway, exclusive of the Shakwak project, we are estimating expenditures of about $16 million for 1994-95.
The amount devolved to us is in excess of $25 million. We are only spending approximately $6.1 million from discretionary funds, and only slightly more than $5 million on all the other territorial highways.
We have also been devolved over $11 million for inter-territorial roads, and we are intending to spend just over $1 million.
In 1990-91, the previous government spent about $18 million on the Alaska Highway, compared to our $6.1 million in 1994-95.
The Member for McIntyre-Takhini has spoken of an astronomical lands budget. This Member, of all the Members opposite, knows full well that we must have a reasonable land inventory. During its election campaign, the previous government promised to release 1,500 lots. That party had greatly misinterpreted the land need in the City of Whitehorse and, for many years, could not possibly meet the demand, hence their promise to release 1,500 lots.
I am proud to say in this House that 32 single-family residential lots are currently available over the counter at the lands branch to the public. Sixty-six more can be put up for sale when the demand warrants their release. In addition, contrary to the Member opposites statement in his reply to the budget speech, 26 mobile home lots are currently available to the public, and 91 more should be on the market early in 1994.
It is extremely important that we have an inventory of land. Serviced lots require a three-year plan, design, build and sale time frame. The previous government did not recognize that time frame and, consequently, could never meet that demand. Yes, we do have a $12 million land development budget. Remember, this is certainly not the largest land development budget ever put before this House. For example, in 1992-93, it was over $12 million.
The Members opposite should also be advised that $7.5 million of the $12 million for 1994-95 is for a major infrastructure component, that being a pumphouse, reservoir and related piping that must be constructed before any future lots can be built on in area D of Whitehorse.
In the budget address, the Minister of Finance spoke about the Yukon Housing Corporations role in the employment creation initiative. Residential construction is a major component of our economy. In 1993-94, residential construction represented the third largest single segment of the Yukon economy. The Yukon Housing Corporations programs are a significant catalyst to this industry. In 1994-95, it is anticipated that the corporations programs will lever approximately 7,000 weeks of direct employment.
It has been noted that the 1994-95 capital budget is much less than the 1993-94 forecast. Let me explain some of the reasons for this reduction. The 1993-94 forecast includes revotes of approximately $3 million, and the 1993-94 forecast includes somewhat over $3 million of federal funding that has since been withdrawn, hence the budget reduction.
The housing programs are designed to allow the corporation the flexibility to respond quickly to the changing needs of the industry. The advantage of this was clearly demonstrated this fall with the employment initiative. The corporation identified a need for modest starter homes for applicants under the home ownership program.
The corporation took calls for proposals from the industry to fill its needs. As a result, people completely outside the corporations programs have approached Yukon Housing to enquire about purchasing a starter home. We have approximately 15 houses that we are constructing under this program and we could sell 26 of them very easily.
The corporation is now exploring ways of matching up the contractors and prospective buyers. For ones we cannot get involved in, we are trying to get the buyers together with the contractors. This is a good example of stimulating the economy with minimal financial involvement by the government.
In closing, I am proud to be part of the Cabinet team that has created this document. I believe it meets the needs of Yukoners and we are proud to support it in this House.
Mr. Penikett: I move that debate on this motion be adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Leader of the Official Opposition that debate 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.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow afternoon.
The House adjourned at 9:27 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 15, 1993:
Business Development Advisory Board Annual Report, 1992-1993 (Devries)
Yukon Development Corporation Annual Report for the year ended March 31, 1993 (Phelps)
Yukon Energy Corporation Annual Report for the year ended December 31, 1992 (Phelps)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled November 15, 1993:
Placer mining industry: details on income tax revenues provided by industry and not by individual corporations; residency tracking of placer miners; Unemployment Insurance recipients not classified by industry (Devries)
Written Question No. 20, dated June 2, 1993, by Mr. Harding
Speech and hearing services waiting lists as of November 1, 1993 (Phelps)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1125
Library software program and Social Assistance software program: brief description of (Phelps)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1127
Detoxification Centre: number of clients admitted in the 1992-93 fiscal year and up to November 10, 1993 (Phelps)
Oral, Hansard, p. 810
Whitehorse General Hospital energy centre: money only for engineering costs in 1993-94; incinerator contract already awarded (Phelps)
Oral, Hansard, p. 753
Social Assistance: jurisdictional comparison of monthly earnings exemptions, work-related expenses, and bridging and transitional benefits (Phelps)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1112