Monday, December 6, 1993 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will begin with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I rise today to recognize December 6 as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women. Today, we must remember the 14 women massacred in Montreal in 1989 and remember the victims of violence against women in the past.
At the federal-provincial-territorial level, we have recognized that violence against women is the biggest obstacle to womens equality in todays society. Study after study points out the seriousness of the problem. The most recent royal commission report from the Canadian Panel on Violence against Women, the Violence against Women Survey and our own Yukon survey on womens concerns and priorities show us how prevalent this issue is in our society and how very concerned women are about it.
Though government and non-government organizations and individuals have worked on eliminating violence against women, the task seems never ending. Every day we are shown that more work needs to be done. Last week, we heard about a woman in Edmonton, Alberta, who was beaten and set on fire by a man.
We all need to be concerned and, what is more important, we need to take action. I urge the Members of this Legislative Assembly to declare their support in working toward eliminating violence against women, not only today but every day.
A reflection of how advanced our society is is how it treats its members. It would appear that since one-half of all Canadian women have experienced at least one incidence of violence since the age of 16, we have a very poor record and a lot of work to do.
But we, as Members of the Legislature, pledge to work with individuals, families and community members to stop violence against women. It is only when we take responsibility for this issue that we have a chance to change what statistics currently reflect.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to tell Members a brief story about an experience that I had when I worked for the Womens Directorate, which was hosting an open house on the occasion of the passage of the aborted advisory council on womens issues act.
This true story is about a woman who came up to me at the open house and was asking questions about the Criminal Code amendments, known as the recent gun control legislation. I explained to her that the new law means that men who are convicted of violent crimes now receive an automatic sentence of a 10-year suspension of gun ownership.
This woman had been viciously assaulted and raped. When her convicted assailant got out of jail, he came to her house and threatened her with a gun. She moved. When she drove the Alaska Highway between her work and her new home, she would meet her attacker on the road and he would point a gun at her through the dash of his truck.
I will never forget what that woman said to me as I was giving her information about the lobby for the no-means-no rape shield law and other feminist political activities. She said to me, I want you to promise me that if I end up dead that you will not stop working for change. I do not know if that woman moved out of the Yukon or if she is dead, because I have not seen her since, but I can tell the House that in commemoration of the 14 women killed in Montreal, on December 6, 1989, and all of the women who have died by violence, I am working for change.
For women, economic, social and political equality would be a nice change. I hope that all Members will join in working for that change.
Recognition of the death of Tuktoyaktuk plane crash victims
Mr. Abel: I rise today to extend my condolences to the families of the people killed in the recent plane crash just outside of Tuktoyaktuk.
Recognition of the death of Orval Couch
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I rise today to take this opportunity, on behalf of the Members of my government, to extend condolences to the family of the late Orval Couch, who passed away on Friday at the age of 82 years.
Orval first came north in 1942 as an employee of the U.S. army, assisting in the construction of the Alaska Highway. In 1946, he transferred to the Canadian army, for which he worked as a heavy duty mechanic until 1964 and had the responsibility of the maintenance of the highway. He was transferred to the Department of Public Works, where he remained until 1976.
In his many years working along the highway, Orval became intimately acquainted with lots of people in the communities throughout the Yukon. For eight years, he and his family lived in Swift River. In later years, his responsibilities took him to places such as Carmacks and Drury Creek.
Few could have shared his understanding of the highway or its sense of a place in Yukon society and history. His wife Helen and his children Marjorie, Caroll, Les and David have our deepest sympathy.
Recognition of the death of Phil Storer
Mr. Penikett: I join the Government Leader to mourn the passing of the honourable gentleman he just mentioned, and I would also like to note the passing of Mr. Phil Storer, who will be much missed by his wife Vi and his family and friends in the Yukon.
Speaker: Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have some legislative returns and documents for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have a legislative return for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have three legislative returns for tabling.
Ms. Moorcroft: Today would have been a good day for the Minister responsible for the Womens Directorate to have tabled this governments policy on stopping violence against women, if it has such a policy.
Since the rules do not permit me to respond when no ministerial statement was made, I would like to table the statement that I have prepared for Canadas National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
Speaker: Are there any Petitions?
Introduction of Bills?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 77: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I move that Bill No. 77, entitled An Act to Amend the Liquor Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation that Bill No. 77, entitled An Act to Amend the Liquor Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 77 agreed to
Bill No. 40: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that Bill No. 40, entitled Subdivision Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services that Bill No. 40, entitled Subdivision Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 40 agreed to.
Bill No. 65: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I move that Bill No. 65, entitled An Act to Amend the Hospital Act and the Evidence Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Health and Social Services that Bill No. 65, entitled An Act to Amend the Hospital Act and the Evidence Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 65 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Millar: I would like to give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that mining has been a cornerstone of the Yukon and Canadian economies; and
THAT mining investment and development is in decline in most parts of Canada and the Government of Yukon should support the Mining Association of Canadas Keep Mining in Canada initiative.
Speaker: Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Forestry transfer, stand of federal Minister
Mr. Penikett: From CBC radio we learned that it was love at first sight in the meeting between the Government Leader and Mr. Irwin, the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, at which they discussed devolution, among other questions. Since the Government Leader has been lobbying for a speedy transfer of the forestry program, while CYI has asked the same federal Minister to delay the transfer until land claims are legislated, whose side did Mr. Irwin take in this dispute between YTG and CYI?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: In response to the Members preamble, I hope that the love at first sight continues for many years to come, as he is the person we are going to be dealing with over all the issues that are facing the Yukon. The Minister was noncommittal. I laid my concerns on the table and advised him that the forestry transfer would mean jobs for Yukoners this winter. I asked him to review the forestry transfer agreement and to expedite it, or if he could not, to let me know why he could not.
Mr. Penikett: It sounds very Liberal of the Minister to be noncommittal. I want to know, since YTG has asked the DIAND Minister for an memorandum of understanding on devolution framework, does the memorandum of understanding under discussion between the Government Leader and the federal Minister contemplate full participation for First Nations in a process that makes devolution a subordinate activity to land claims and self-government negotiations?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe we have answered the question of devolution in the House before, be it the memorandum of understanding on land and resources or be it the forestry devolution. Certainly, we want full First Nations participation in it and, for the memorandum of understanding, we did invite their participation and were refused. We are going to continue to keep the door open to try to resolve our differences. It is only in the best interests of all Yukoners that we work together on these issues.
Mr. Penikett: We thoroughly agree with that, though the Government Leader did not answer the question about the precedence of land claims versus devolution and I hope he will comment on that.
I want to ask him a specific question with respect to the proposed arrangements for YTG management of the forestry program, which some believe compromised the future potential of our timber resources, employee job security, community safety and, perhaps, violates the UFA. Did the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development express any concern about any of these issues, to the Government Leader?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As a comment on the first preamble, I have stated quite emphatically in this House, time and time again, that the forestry agreement or the memorandum of understanding, or any other such agreements, do not take precedence over land claims. The land claim is the overriding document that we all have to deal with in the Yukon and it has precedence over any devolution that comes from the federal government.
On the specific issues of the transfers, we did not have enough time to get into detail on them and he did not raise any concerns with me. I do not know exactly how familiar he was with the issue at the time but I raised it and asked for his response in the very near future.
Question re: Government Leader meeting with Prime Minister
Mr. Penikett: I want to ask the Government Leader about the timing of this meeting.
For the record, as a matter of fact, when the Government Leader requested a pair from the Official Opposition in order to go to Ottawa at the end of the month, did the Government Leader actually have a confirmed appointment with either the Prime Minister or the Minister of Indian Affairs at that point?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think I should answer that question. When the issue was brought up, the new government had just taken office. We had a fairly certain confirmation of the meeting with the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs and we were attempting to get a meeting with the Prime Minister. In fact, we did receive a brief meeting with the Prime Minister when the Government Leader was there, as well as confirmation that all first Ministers will be meeting some time in late December. We took the opportunity to arrange to meet with the Prime Minister to urge him to proceed on the land claims legislation as soon as possible.
Mr. Penikett: I want to press the Government Leader on this point. My information from Ottawa is that the Government Leader wrote and requested a meeting with the Minister, indicating that he was going to be in Ottawa on the 29th and 30th, and did not have a confirmed meeting at that point. My question, therefore, is: what business was it that was taking the Government Leader to Ottawa on October 29 and 30, since he did not, at that point, have a scheduled meeting with either the Prime Minister or the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thought this issue was addressed fully at the House Leaders meeting. I was on my way to Halifax to a meeting of the Finance and Economic Development Ministers that was already scheduled for December 1. Without the meeting in Ottawa, I could perhaps have returned here for one day, and maybe not; I may have had to leave again Monday to go back again, so that was discussed in detail by the House Leaders when we requested the pairing.
Mr. Penikett: The Government House Leader is inviting us to say no to pairing arrangements, as his side did when we were in government - with the exception of the Government Leader - but we do not intend to stoop to that low standard.
We understood, as a condition of the pairing arrangement, that the Government Leader had undertaken on behalf of this government to make or to table statements in this House concerning the substantial contribution of the Ministers at these meetings while they were away. There have been a number of Ministers who have paired and who have been absent, and we have not yet had a single statement or a full report from any Minister on their contribution to any of the meetings when they have been absent from the House. Can we expect them soon?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I certainly have no difficulty in tabling a statement. I do not recall that that was the protocol in the past, nor do I recall the Leader of the Official Opposition, in his capacity as Premier of the Yukon, filing statements in the House, apart from answering questions about his meetings. However, if the Minister wants a report we will get one ready and table it.
Question re: Wolf control program
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Renewable Resources on the wolf management plan.
It is my understanding that the Department of Renewable Resources prepared a draft Cabinet submission, which was taken to Cabinet in September, and I quote, that Cabinet approve the Yukon wolf conservation and management plan as Yukon government policy. Will the Minister confirm that this submission was in fact made to Cabinet in September?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It certainly never was approved by Cabinet at any time.
Mr. Cable: That was not the question I asked. My question was: did the Minister and his department in fact take that submission to Cabinet?
I have in my possession what appears to be a draft Cabinet submission, presumably prepared by the Department of Renewable Resources, that recommends the adoption of the wolf conservation and management plan.
Obviously, opposition to the plan is not coming from the Ministers department, and if I have been hearing the news reports properly, there is no opposition from the Council for Yukon Indians and Champagne/Aishihik First Nation.
Can the Minister identify where the opposition for the adoption of the plan is coming from?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have never seen the document. I would be very interested in having a look at it and I hope that the Member will table it.
Mr. Cable: I certainly will table the document.
In the spring, the Minister advised that he would adopt the plan, once CYIs concerns were addressed. I understand that those concerns have been addressed. Furthermore, the Minister now claims that a lack of consultation is the primary reason for not adopting the plan. There is a summary that is being prepared here - two pages of public consultations, which I will also table.
In view of these facts, will the Minister once again ask his colleagues to adopt the entire plan?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I like the way the speaker shakes his head and uses his hand. That is what I do when I want my dog to fetch anything or speak. He seems to know how to do that very well.
I will not, at the present time, consider even taking the full thing into the Cabinet until we have had several working papers made out.
Question re: Faro and Sa Dena Hes, sale of mines
Mr. Harding: I think the Member for Riverside got a scoop on that last question, but I would like to ask the Government Leader a question regarding the Faro and Sa Dena Hes mine properties.
In light of a recent meeting with the Minister of Northern Affairs, I would think that that meeting would have been a prime opportunity to discuss the sale of the Faro and Sa Dena Hes properties. I would like to ask the Government Leader if they discussed a sales strategy, what was the status of the properties and what was the result of those conversations?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We certainly did discuss the situation at the Sa Dena Hes and Faro mines. We talked about our concerns and said we wanted to see the sale expedited as quickly as possible so that the operations could resume when base metal prices recover. We hope they will recover shortly.
As to the strategy, that is being addressed by Peat Marwick, who is working for the federal government. It will be tabled in the courts on December 17, as I understand it.
Mr. Harding: While the Government Leader was away, last Wednesday in debate, the Minister of Justice spoke about Cominco being very interested in the property. I wonder if any of the potential buyers have raised concerns regarding the environmental liabilities of the Grum stripping? I would also like a comment on the statement by the Government Leader that they wanted to see the properties sold and the sale expedited. What exactly is the territorial government going to do to accomplish that? Is the government going to sit back and let the receivers do everything?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This is a matter that is in front of the courts. We have had our input into it with the federal government, and they have instructed the firm of Peat Marwick to come up with a sales plan for this. We could have very easily sat back and let the unsecured noteholders take hold of the property and tie it up for the next two or three years, to get as many dollars out of it as they could. That is not in the best interests of the people of Faro or the people of the Yukon. We worked very diligently to see if we could expedite the sale of it in some other manner, so as not to have it tied up by people who wanted to get the best dollar out of it.
Mr. Harding: Whenever we press the government, they say the matter is before the courts. As a creditor, and as someone who could have a significant impact on the sale equation, and on this situation, we would expect them to take a pro-active role, because it is such an important asset for the Yukon.
Cominco has stated an interest in the property. Have there been any other formal purchase offers for the property?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not believe there have been any formal offers made on the property to this point, because there is no sales plan in place yet. The federal government, in its undertaking to fund the receivership through Peat Marwick, has been talking to interested parties, and there are several of them. Cominco is not the only one; there are others on the horizon as well. To the best of my knowledge, there has not been any formal offer made on the Faro property at this point.
Question re: Infrastructure funding from federal government
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Government Leader. The government has expressed pride in the fact that, whatever one might think of the merits of their infrastructure plan, it was very good at milking money from the federal government.
Did the Minister take the opportunity to turn the federal Minister upside-down and shake a few loose coins from his pocket to support the Yukon Partys infrastructure plan?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: When you get to Ottawa, you certainly take every opportunity you have to convince the federal government that there are things required in the Yukon. While I did not get into a detailed discussion of the infrastructure plan, I did leave it there for his perusal.
Mr. McDonald: Did the Minister tell the federal Minister that extra federal funding was essential, or necessary, to carry out the provisions of the Yukon Partys infrastructure plan?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I did not. Our conversation was not directed specifically to any one topic; I only had about an hour with him before I had to catch a plane to Halifax, and we had a broad range of issues to cover.
We talked about the infrastructure plan that the Liberal government was bringing out, and the inequities in it that the north will face - we brought that to his attention. I was more interested in talking to him about monies that are legitimately owed to the Yukon - monies that, if collected, would go a long way toward helping us resolve our financial difficulties.
Mr. McDonald: The government appears reluctant to invest any of its own money in the infrastructure plan and if the federal government does not invest in the infrastructure plan either, then clearly no one is going to be investing in it.
Can the Minister tell us what the priorities of the government are for federal spending? Is it land claims negotiation implementation funding? Is it roads to resources? Is it power projects? Is it the NCPC debt write-off that they are looking for? Is it environmental clean-up, such as the Whitehorse tar pit? Is it Whitehorse water and sewer? What sense of priority did the Government Leader give to the federal Minister in terms of the provision of some additional financial assistance?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thought the Member opposite would be fully aware of the priorities they have been discussing in great detail in this House. They were part of a national campaign - it was jobs, jobs, jobs - and the priority of this government right now is to create jobs in the Yukon.
Question re: Official Opposition requests for information
Mr. Penikett: A couple of weeks ago, the Government Leader admitted that Cabinet had made an explicit decision to deny the Opposition health critic a briefing, which in any democracy ought to be available to any MLA who has questions to ask on behalf of his party or his constituency. I would like to ask the Government Leader since, in parliamentary procedure, the role of the Opposition is to question government policy, but recently members of the Opposition staff have been refused routine requests for information - information that the general public would be entitled to receive if they requested the same information - will the Government Leader table the policy that directs his departments to censure even the most routine enquiries of the Official Opposition and instruct them to refer all questions, even those of fact, to deputy ministers or Ministers offices?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would deny that totally; I would deny it totally. The only problem is that the Leader of the Official Opposition still thinks he is the government. That is the only problem. We have given them all the information they have asked for. We have certainly not given any instructions to withhold information from the Official Opposition - in fact, the more information they get, the more likely we would not spend as many days in this House.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader whines about spending days in this House to answer questions on the floor of the House. Could the Government Leader tell us how it helps to expedite government business having any one of us here tie up Ministers for two or three weeks trying to get answers from them that they do not know, when the same information could be provided with an hour or two of briefing from senior officials? How does that help to expedite government business?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe the only request that was made of the Leader of the Official Opposition was to take it up with the Minister, prior to going to the deputy minister; not to go directly to the deputy minister.
Mr. Penikett: Every day, staff in our offices make phone calls to departmental offices asking questions of fact that ought to be available to any citizen, upon request. We - elected Members of this Legislature - are told that to get those questions answered we have to get permission from the appointed political staff of the Ministers opposite.
I want to ask the Government Leader this: is that his governments policy? I ask him that in the context of the fact that during the campaign the Yukon Party promised to provide real freedom of information. Is this what he calls real freedom of information, that we have to get permission from a political staffer to get factual information that should be available to any citizen?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Certainly not. Factual information and information that is that available to any citizen should be available to the Members opposite. I will take it under advisement and see what the problem is.
Question re: Tombstone Mountain
Mr. Penikett: I will change the subject and ask the Government Leader about another matter, since he has taken that question under advisement. I want to ask him a question about the issue of Tombstone Mountain land selection. The Government Leader will recall that the Dawson First Nation had selected that land and were persuaded by the government to withdraw the selection in favour of a park being established there that would be co-managed with the territorial government. The territorial government has subsequently decided that there should be mining in that park - or a multi-use park. Was that decision made with any consultation with the Dawson First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am sure that the Dawson First Nation was made aware of our position and we said, at the time, that before any parks were established there would be a mineral assessment done of the areas. That has been undertaken and it is my understanding that if it is not completed it should be shortly, and a decision will be forthcoming.
Mr. Penikett: One Minister in the government opposite made a statement to the effect that on the question of mining in parks and with respect to mining in this proposed park in particular, the public were consulted on October 19 - election day. Is it the official position of the government that the election day is sufficient consultation for the government to break a promise to the Dawson First Nation and to do something other than what had been agreed to by the previous government and that First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not believe there have been any promises broken at this point. The position of the Dawson First Nation is that either we incorporate it into a territorial park or they will applying for it as part of their land selection. It is at the negotiating table right now and it is an issue that is being dealt with at this time.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader has given a fairly accurate description of the Dawson First Nations position, but I am asking questions about this governments position.
Is it this governments position that the proposed Tombstone Park would be a multi-use park; in other words, a park where there should be mining permitted. Since the government has already stated that position publicly, will that be the position that this government is taking to the table?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The position that we are taking on multi-use parks is the same position that we took during the election campaign. We do not believe that if we are going to attract mining to the Yukon that we can tie up vast areas of the Yukon containing valuable mineral potential.
That is the reason we had the mineral assessment review done of Tombstone Park. As the Member opposite is fully aware, there are some claims right on Tombstone. That is another issue that has to be dealt with, prior to the creation of any park.
Question re: Sexual harassment policy for public schools
Ms. Moorcroft: All too painfully, it has been brought to my attention that young women in junior high schools are being sexually harassed by fellow students. That our society has come to this point is another matter, but I would like to ask the Minister of Education if he will, without waiting another single day, commit to putting into place a sexual harassment policy for the public schools?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I believe that work on that has already begun, and I hope that we will have a policy developed in the very near future.
The Womens Directorate is working with the Department of Education in developing such a policy.
Ms. Moorcroft: Such a policy and the strict enforcement of this policy is very important, not only for the protection of young women, but to act as a proper deterrent so that this kind of thing will simply not happen again. There must be no further delay.
The Minister has said that the Womens Directorate would be involved in developing this policy, and I would like to ask the Minister to what extent will students, school councils, parents, psychologists and the Department of Education and the Womens Directorate be involved?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: All of the parties that the Member mentioned will be consulted and involved in developing the policy. That is something that has to be done when a policy such as this is developed.
Ms. Moorcroft: Until such a policy is in place, what steps is the Minister going to take to ensure that students who are accused of harassing behaviour are properly dealt with, not only to the satisfaction of the school administration, but to the satisfaction of the victims?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: In this particular case that the Member mentioned, I have been led to believe that all of the people involved are satisfied with the action that has been taken. In fact, one of the recommendations by one of the individuals who spoke to the Member opposite was that the matter not become political, because they felt that things had been taken care of.
Counselling is going on; other people in the school are being involved in the situation and my understanding is that the parents of the individuals involved are satisfied with the measures that have been taken by the Womens Directorate and the Department of Education.
Question re: Security check policy
Mrs. Firth: I have a policy question I would like to address to the Government Leader about this governments security policy. This was authorized by Cabinet in October, 1993, and allows deputy ministers to designate any position in government they choose to require a police records check, including fingerprints and any additional information that is required by the RCMP to complete the check. All persons applying for these jobs have to agree to this security check. Once it is done, the information is put into an envelope and locked away in a secret cabinet in the Public Service Commission. There they will be kept for six months, for the unsuccessful applicants, and forever for the successful ones.
What situation caused this drastic policy to be developed by this government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will have to get back to the Member with all the details on why the policy was developed, but I recall that there were some major concerns raised when the policy came to Cabinet for expansion. There are people in key positions in government, and I believe this policy was in consultation with the Department of Justice, and perhaps even the police.
I am sorry that I do not have the information at my fingertips. I will bring a full report back to the Member on that.
Mrs. Firth: I am asking this question of the Government Leader. He is the Chair of Cabinet. Cabinet made this policy up by itself, not through the Management Board. The policy says that the department heads can designate any position where a degree of trust exists in the delivery of client services, which is virtually any position.
Which jobs in government are going to require this security check?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member sits over there and alludes that we just make these policies up. We have a lot of documentation and background research that goes into these before the policy is developed. It is not quite like she says.
I can bring back a list of the potential positions where this check would be required.
Mrs. Firth: This Minister - this Government Leader - should know what he is doing and should remember a policy like this. In this policy, it also says that further information means any additional information that is required by the RCMP, which will enable them to complete the check. What does that mean, besides the fingerprints that are cited in this policy? What other information - who your mother is, who your father is, what employment?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, I do not have that information at my fingertips. Maybe the Member opposite thinks I should have it all in my head, but I do not. I deal with many issues every day, but I will bring her documentation of the rationale for the policy.
Question re: Security check policy
Mrs. Firth: It is like the computers. The Government Leader has a selective memory, or he does not know what policies he is making. I can say, if I had made this policy, I would sure remember what it said.
Also in this policy, the director of labour relations in the Public Service Commission is going to be responsible for this secret cabinet that they are going to have, with these envelopes with all this sensitive material in them. I checked the job qualifications for the director of labour relations; I checked the job description for just a labour relations officer who may be taking over that position in a temporary capacity, and neither one of them requires a security check. Why is that? Why is it that the person handling all this sensitive information does not require a security check, yet any other job in the government could require one?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If what the Member says is true, it would be a valid concern. I cannot say that it is true. She is saying it is, but I cannot. I said I will bring a full report back to her so that she can have it for her perusal.
Mrs. Firth: With all due respect, the Government Leader has admitted today that he does not know anything about his own policy - and he is challenging my information. I have the job descriptions right here. Good grief.
The Government Leader says that they might be 20 years old - they are not. This one was filled September 21, and this one was filled November 15, so they are not 20 years old.
I want to ask the Government Leader some more questions about the policy that he does not seem to know anything about. When this information that is going to be put in the secret filing cabinet is passed on to the deputy head, which it shall be, according to this policy, is it to be passed on by telephone, or in person, or are they going to write a memo and pass it around through the channels here?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member answered her own question. She said that she was talking about a sealed document that is going to be put away in a secure place. I would imagine that, when it is turned over to the deputy minister, it will be turned over in the same manner - it would be a sealed document.
Question re: Gambling
Mr. Cable: I have some questions on gambling for the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services. On Thursday, in this House, the Minister indicated that there had been a good deal of interdepartmental research done on the subject. Will the Minister table the reports that have been done to date, so that we can all be brought up to date on where the government is going?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to check into that. I am not sure whether they are Cabinet documents, or exactly what their status is.
Mr. Cable: I would like to ask this question then: the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment is being charged with analyzing this topic. Will the government be making the research reports that are being done available to the council?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We, on this side of the House, have said time and again that there would be full public consultation before any decision was made to either go with gambling, or to go without it. All of the information that has been gathered over the last year will be made available to the council. I believe I have also made that statement in this House before. They will have all of that information at their disposal.
Mr. Cable: I am pleased to hear that. Perhaps after the council gets it, the House can get it, in order that we may draw our own opinions. Is the Government Leader prepared to table the instructions that are given to the Council on the Economy and the Environment with respect to the examination of this issue?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not have much problem with that. Basically, what I have done is delegated the task to the Council on the Economy and the Environment, telling them what we wanted, and asking them to come back with a plan as to how they would accomplish it, for Cabinet to approve before they go to public consultation.
Question re: Employment Standards Act amendment
Ms. Commodore: The Minister of Justice said that he would be introducing amendments to the Employment Standards Act some time this spring. It is well known that he has shown much contempt for workers of the Yukon, so they have reason to be concerned.
Section 50 allows the employer to deduct one weeks wages from an employee if the required notice of termination is not given. Does the Minister intend to repeal that section?
Speaker: I would ask the Minister of Justice to be brief in his response to the preamble.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is a little difficult to be brief to an inflammatory preamble such as that. I would like to know what she means when she says I have expressed contempt for workers in the Yukon.
With respect to what is being repealed, the Member has seen the bill. It will repeal all amendments to the act that are presently sitting over at the Commissioners office.
As to what we are going to reintroduce, that is a decision Cabinet will make in due course.
Ms. Commodore: I am talking about a section that is in the existing act, not one of the amendments.
There are situations where women have been forced to terminate a position without notice because of allegations of sexual harassment. Does the Minister agree that section 50 of the Employment Standards Act should apply in those cases?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Through the act that is before the House right now, we will be repealing all the amendments that were made by the previous government. Cabinet will then, through its deliberations, decide exactly what amendments will come forward in an act in the spring.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister has stated previously in this House that he intends to review the act very carefully before introducing new amendments. Who does he intend to have participating in that review, aside from himself?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am sure the Member opposite is getting the hang of the process by now. Through the bill that is before the House now, we hope to repeal the amendments to the act that were proposed by the side opposite. Upon deliberation, Cabinet will be coming forward with appropriate amendments in the spring.
Question re: Employment Standards Act
Ms. Commodore: There is not much protection in the existing Employment Standards Act for those workers who are the lowest paid and least organized. I know for a fact that many workers have problems collecting wages owed.
Will the Minister table, in this House, the total amount collected on behalf of those workers and the amount still owing for the last fiscal year, 1992-93, and to date in this current fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Ms. Commodore: I hope that information will be tabled before we deal with the Ministers bill.
The amendments to the Employment Standards Act, introduced by the NDP government, were designed to promote a minimum standard of fairness, protection and dignity to workers in the Yukon. Since the Minister and his happy coalition disagree with that concept and refuse to proclaim the act, complaints continue to come in about unfairness in the workplace. Can the Minister table in this House or tell us how many complaints were made under the Employment Standards Act to the department in the last 12 months?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Member has it all wrong. Our position is that we understand what the Employment Standards Act is there for and we intend to take appropriate steps to amend the act in order to raise the safety net under those workers that are covered by that act. We have no quarrel with that concept and we intend to take steps so that a bill will be tabled in the spring and dealt with then.
Ms. Commodore: Will the Minister table the number of complaints that he has received in the last 12 months under the Employment Standards Act, and provide a breakdown of those complaints, section by section?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am more than delighted to bring forward information to the Member opposite, because it allows her a certain creativity in designing her questions for me in ensuing days.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is is the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 11- Second Appropriation Act, 1993-94 - continued
Department of Economic Development - continued
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. McDonald: I was hoping the Minister would pop up and answer some questions he took notice of, but if he is going to force me to put the questions and to do the work then I will put him to work.
First of all, the jobs list - the 3,700 person weeks the government said they were promoting through their $7 million special jobs fund that was a recraft of the main capital estimates for this year - I would like to have a copy of that now that the Minister has had a chance to put the list together. I would also like to talk to him about how the new job numbers were determined. Could he please provide us with the information now?
Hon. Mr. Devries: What was unclear to the department when the Member asked the question was whether he was referring to the jobs list for 1993-94 or 1994-95. Is he talking about this winter works program, or which jobs was he referring to in the capital budget?
Mr. McDonald: The Minister may remember that while we were in general debate on the supplementary estimates, when the Government Leader was last present in the House, and we talked about the list that was tabled by the government - yes, tabled by the government - that identified 3,700 person weeks worth of work, the Minister will remember that, when we went through the list and did some analyses of the number of person weeks that were slated for projects such as the Shakwak project, highways projects and various building projects, the figure of 3,700 person weeks was simply not defensible. The Minister, at the time, took notice of the question and said they would come back, after giving the Department of Economic Development the responsibility to put forward a new list, with a recraft of the estimate of job weeks they were going to create and they were going to let us know how many jobs were going to be created, both direct and indirect.
There is no question in my mind of whether or not this means the supplementary budget and the $7 million jobs program that we were discussing, because that is what it says. When we first gave the Ministers notice and we spent about an hour and a half on this question, while the Government Leader was last here - two weeks ago - we talked about the job numbers and the Minister has admitted that this is something that had be reviewed. We left the subject, for the entire period that we discussed Community and Transportation Services, to give Economic Development the time to recraft the numbers and do their analysis.
At the time that we discussed this, we were given to believe that the government would be coming back in a few days with new lists. We waited and waited and the lists were not provided. We got to Economic Development on Thursday and asked where the list for the 3,700 person weeks was. Now, it is Monday and we are still asking, Where is the list? That is the question I would like to ask the Minister: where is the list?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We have been working on a revised list from the capital budget of 1993-94. I thought the Department of Finance had previously tabled something that clarified this other document. I am not sure.
Mr. McDonald: I can honestly say that I have not received any such list from the Department of Finance. It is very difficult for us to deal with the budget and the governments claims if the government does not give us the information. We are talking about the $7 million jobs fund. We are talking about the fund that was identified by the blue-ribbon committee of four private sector and four public sector people and chaired by Mr. Sewell, who was going to recraft expenditures in the government and come forward with a listing of projects that the government was going to fund that would promote even more jobs.
In the context of that discussion, it became patently obvious that the claim of 3,700 person weeks was not defensible, based upon the information the government provided. That was obvious. The Minister has admitted that he cannot come up with 3,700 person weeks based on their information, because they had a situation where building construction jobs cost significantly less than jobs that were associated with highway clearing, which is probably one of the most labour intensive activities the government undertakes.
We had housing and building construction jobs in the $111,000 range, other building construction in the $222,000 per job range and building construction in the $160,000 per job range. Clearly, the figures were all over the map.
The defence a couple of weeks ago from the government side was that the problem with these figures was that each department was responsible for generating them, each department had its own methodology, and some departments may not have been as careful as others in putting together the figures. The understanding was clear that one department should come forward with a set of figures or be using the same methodology for coming forward with its set of figures, so that we could analyze where the person weeks were going to be generated. In so doing, we could recraft this list to determine whether or not the governments claim of generating 3,700 person weeks was, in fact, believable.
We had some experience in the last session where the government claimed to have generated 700 jobs in the main estimates. During a period of cross-examination, so to speak, in question and answer in the House, it became obvious that the 700 jobs, which included $11 million worth of work in land development and $12 million worth of construction work for the hospital, were not going to proceed. Clearly, to claim 700 jobs, including those jobs, was not believable.
Later, the government did table some information stating that there were still 700 jobs, because they recrafted the numbers and changed the methodology. They were still generating figures, showing 700 jobs, from the same but reduced capital budget. From our perspective, we had to wonder what was happening. We had to wonder if the methodology they were using was not one of convenient argument. They wanted job figures of 700 and were going to achieve it any way they could.
Because people still think there are 700 jobs associated with the capital budget for this year, we have to dig into the information about the methodology and assess the validity of the work that is being done and the claims that are being made about the number of jobs. However, we cannot even get past where we are without the information coming from Economic Development. I would have thought that two weeks notice was more than sufficient. If somebody had given me the methodology that they used, I could have crafted the numbers myself in half an hour.
This is an important issue for us and for the territory. I would really like to know what the Minister is going to do about giving us the numbers. We have to discuss the numbers when the Minister is sitting in the chair defending his estimates. This is the time. The supplementary estimates are now. The Ministers department is responsible.
Hon. Mr. Devries: Very shortly, I will be distributing something, although I am not sure it is exactly what the Members are looking for. In the revised figures, we have included the person weeks, but they have been changed into full-time equivalents, and we have added them all together. In this document, I have the various departments and what their new projected person years would be, based on the adjustments that have taken place in the capital budget - for instance, the deferment of the Community and Transportation Services land development project and the hospital.
These are revised figures and are up to date, but they are not broken down into how many people are going to be working on clearing the gravel pit at Sanpete Creek, or anything like that. It is the total person years for the various departments lumped together into revised figures. The total comes to 638.2 jobs. This is done by the $130,000/$160,000 formula, I believe - I understood that the Members wanted a consistent formula used to arrive at the numbers.
Taking into consideration the amount of money that was deferred by Community and Transportation Services, as I mentioned earlier, and the amount of money that was deferred by Health and Social Services for the hospital, and using that formula, as I mentioned last week - I do not recall saying there were 700 jobs - I thought I made it very clear that we were on target, taking into consideration the lapses.
Mr. McDonald: I think we definitely have a confusing problem facing us. The legislative return that we received so far, about the number of jobs that are available, began by saying that there were approximately 700 jobs. The Minister has now indicated that there are probably 638 jobs. We still have to determine what the situation is with respect to the 3,700 person weeks.
Is the Minister going to be providing us with information regarding the 3,700 person weeks, and this jobs list recrafted to show the changed methodology for determining jobs? Is that going to happen?
Hon. Mr. Devries: If the Members insist on it, that is what I will have to do. This revised estimate is based on that formula. I personally feel that what the departments used was much more accurate. They used past experience, et cetera, in trying to arrive at the figures. If you want to use a model, or if you want the figures done according to a model, we could probably have someone do that very quickly.
I have these documents for tabling - they are still warm.
If that is what the Member really wants, I am not certain how quickly that could be done, but I imagine it could be done. If the Member wants it done by person weeks, that might be a little easier, but if the Member wants it done on a person years or full-time equivalent basis, there will be decimal points at times.
Mr. McDonald: Frankly, what I want is clear, clean, understandable information. We have been toyed with through press releases that come out announcing 700 jobs, or 3,700 person weeks, and that is currency out there on the street. People believe that statement and one has to ask the question: why do they believe it? They believe it because the government tells them that, and that is why I am asking the questions.
I am not going to let this go, and the reason that I am going to wait until the bitter end is because, despite the fact that we have challenged the numbers and shown the methodology to be wrong, the government still sticks to the original number of jobs that they stated in the first place. The moment that we leave this Legislature they are out on the street, or in the Legislature talking about 3,700 person weeks.
I will bet any money that the next time some Minister answers a question about capital budgets for this year, he will not say 638 jobs, he will say 700, because he has been programmed to say 700. That is a difference of 70 jobs; that is a lot of jobs and a lot of work.
If the government is going to put together press releases, they are going to have to understand - and this may not be the Ministers fault at all - that we are going to analyze those press releases to determine their true validity, and we are going to put the Ministers through the wringer if the press releases do not stand up.
The government cannot get away with saying just anything. I do want this capital works projects and jobs list from the employment task force recrafted, if the Minister does not mind, in the same format that the government tabled it in the first place, but with numbers that make some sense.
The point that I made at the beginning is that we have been waiting a few weeks for this information.
The Minister said that he thought the information that came from the departments would be more accurate. That cannot be the case, because we have demonstrated through our own analysis - as imperfect a process as that necessarily is - that you cannot spend $2 million in very labour intensive work and create 470 person weeks, and then spend $2 million in housing construction, of which half the cost goes into materials, and get double the number of high paying jobs.
That just does not compute, using anybodys calculator. The people who work in housing construction are usually trades people and they are usually at the upper end of the wage scale. The people who work in right-of-way clearing are usually not trades people and they are getting the lower end of the wage scale. One cannot get double the number of jobs with the same money from housing construction as one can get for right-of-way clearing. It is so patently ridiculous that we just let the whole thing sit for awhile so that the government could come back with information.
It is an important fact. Of all the things we do in this Legislature, of all the issues we debate, of all the ideology we debate and all the issues we clash over in this Legislature, people are going to remember the size of the capital budget and the number of jobs that it created. The vast majority are going to remember only that and the government spin doctors know it. They know it.
What I am saying to the government, through the Minister here, is that they had better justify these figures because we are not going to let it go until we see the justification.
If the Minister would not mind, as soon as he possibly can, before we leave his estimates, will he come back with the recrafted information? It is not that difficult; he can use the same methodology, if he wants, that they used for the employment estimates for the capital budget for 1994-95.
They had some information here; I will put the Minister on notice that this is inadequate, to say the least, but at least it is a start - it is a legislative return entitled Employment Estimates, Capital Budget, 1994-95. Could he please provide us with the information, recrafting the $7 million jobs program, and tell us what they think the number of person weeks is. If he can do that, I would appreciate it very much.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I am sure we will do the best we can. I am a very practical person. When I look at this, it speaks for itself. It talks about developing a gravel pit at Sanpete Creek and then it talks about producing aggregate. We know that, nowadays, rock crushers are very efficient. If $1 million goes toward crushing rock, there will be a very low FTE requirement compared to the total cost of the project.
Again, in any of these projects - as the Member probably knows, I have worked on them myself - the contract will depend upon to whom the contract is awarded. This would be a best guess, but if the contract is awarded to a company that has lots of equipment, it will turn out quite differently than if it is awarded to a small contractor who will use hand-brushing methods. We hope that is the route it is going to go. Again, we do not necessarily have a lot of control over that, but, by the same token, since they are mostly small projects with lower dollar values, normally the smaller contractors pick them up. They are the ones that employ the most people.
We felt that the figures of 3,700 weeks being used were fairly accurate in that they were looking at stats from fairly similar projects done in the last few years, rather than this sophisticated formula established by Statistics Canada - the $130,000/$160,000 formula, which is used across Canada. I believe they have made some adjustments to accommodate northern conditions, but that approach, to me, is much looser than simply using past experiences in the Yukon.
However, they are all lumped together in the $470,000/$185,000 formula. I know the Member would like to hear that for assigned culvert repairs in Stewart and Mayo in the amount of $20,000, how many people we predict would actually be employed. Is that what he wants? I want to be clear. I would not want us to go and do something only to find it is not what the Member wants. Does he want to know exactly how many people we anticipate would be employed in the Watson Lake hand slashing project for $30,000?
Mr. McDonald: I can honestly say that the last thing I thought was that the government was going to come back, after two weeks of looking to recraft the jobs list, and put up a defence of the jobs list. If we want to go over this again, I do not mind doing that.
There is $2 million worth of Yukon Housing Corporation work building 19 social housing units. There is $2 million worth of housing work being done in their modest housing program, yet there is 500 person weeks difference between the two housing programs. What is the explanation for that?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I think perhaps, if the Members want, when we get to the particular departments it might be easier to have them explain the methodology they used. If you would like me to do it this way, that is fine - we will do that, but I think it would be easier to let the Minister explain, when we get to Yukon Housing, how they arrived at that total.
Mr. McDonald: Sorry, we cannot do that. We just let the Minister of Community and Transportation Services off the hook, and the Government Leader off the hook in general debate, on the grounds that the Minister of Economic Development would be coming back with those numbers. There is no possible way that we are going to do that. We have got the Yukon Housing Corporation showing huge numbers of indirect person weeks, and yet the people who do the highway brush clearing get no indirect benefit whatsoever from their efforts. They do not have any impact on their local economy when they get a paycheque. What is the reason for that?
Hon. Mr. Devries: In the revised figures that were just tabled, we have not included the indirect benefits; this is strictly direct. That seemed to be the area where the Members were having some problems, so we decided to make sure it was concise. In the covering letter, it very clearly indicates that it is direct employment. I am talking about the one that I just tabled a few minutes ago.
Mr. McDonald: I will have to read it when I have a moment. The 3,700 person weeks does make reference to 936 indirect jobs, otherwise it would be 2,800 person weeks. Why is the Minister not including indirect person weeks, as it seems to be a large percentage of the claim that there is going to be 3,700 person weeks.
Hon. Mr. Devries: It is because the request was to use the model, and the model does not compensate for indirect employment. It only compensates for Idirect employment. That was what the request was. My understanding is that the request was to come up with something more accurate. For instance, in Yukon Housing, the original PY estimate was 103.8; it is now 120.9.
Mr. McDonald: I do not particularly give two hoots about which model the government uses. They could use the statistics bureau from Zimbabwe, if they wanted to. I am asking for consistent and understandable methodology, using Yukon conditions and a justification for the number of weeks they have generated through their press releases. They have told people they are going to create 3,700 person weeks. People believe them. It is up to us to do a reality check. If the government is telling the truth, then it will be verified. If they are not, that will be determined.
We are trying to go through the projects list. This is government information; it is not information I generated. This sheet of paper did not come from me; nor did it come from the Liberals or the Independents. This came from the government side. The government generated these numbers.
The last thing I can do is allow for some complicated and conflicting analysis about the number of jobs that are being created, and how it is being done. I just want an understandable explanation that I can take to anyone on the street, and say, yes, the government came forward with a jobs program and, yes, it created 3,700 person weeks; I wish we had thought of it.
However, at this point, I cannot do that because, first of all, most of the money that was dedicated to the jobs program was money they already had and, secondly, I cannot believe the numbers of jobs the government is claiming to create.
In the document the government tabled with us to justify the press release and statements they made publicly, they are saying that they are going to create 3,757 person weeks. They did not say FTEs. We are using their terminology - person weeks. They calculated the number of direct and indirect employment. This totalled 3,757 person weeks. This is their figure, not ours.
Some of the construction cost $222,000 per job; some of it costs $111,000 per job. Some of the work here costs $160,000 per job.
Given that the figures are not believable, I want to know the governments justification for this. Why does the government calculate such large numbers of indirect employment from housing construction, and no numbers of indirect employment for highway slashing?
It all adds up to the total, and both the indirect and direct jobs have been calculated into the total 3,700 person weeks. What is the rationale for such widely varied estimates for building construction?
I could go through each one of these categories and, based on how the government presented the information, I could calculate out the cost per job. When one gets into it one realizes that if one set of figures is believable another set of figures cannot be. I ask the Minister if he is prepared to produce the information on a department-by-department basis that calculates the number of jobs for each department and give it to us before we end the discussion on the supplementary estimate for Economic Development?
Hon. Mr. Devries: It would depend upon if we were done in the next hour or whether it is going to be a week. We will do the best we can to come up with that. The economists are going to have to use the formula to figure out the cost and put it down in weeks, so that the Members opposite can see how that corresponds with the existing estimates that have been made by the various departments. We will do the best we can. I would assume they are probably starting to work on it right now.
Mr. McDonald: I can assure the Member we will not be finished in an hour, but I can tell the Minister that the reason we want it in weeks is because that was the way it was presented to us and to the public - in person weeks. Because that figure is now considered general currency - everybody says 700 jobs and 3,700 person weeks - and because the Ministers are all programmed to say the same thing, that is the reason why I want the information in that format. Can he get it to us for tomorrow?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I would expect that we can because the information he wants is already in this document except that it is all lumped together. It is just a matter of departments sitting down and running it through some formulas or equations; then they will have it.
Mr. McDonald: I do not precisely know what the Minister is talking about when he talks about the information already being in the document, but I will wait until round three or four, wherever we are on this question. Tomorrow, we can have a discussion. I would ask the Minister if he could table it on time so that we could actually read it before we discuss it. That always helps to facilitate the discussion.
I would like to follow up briefly on some items that were touched on last Thursday. The first one was the economic forecast. The Minister obviously will have had an opportunity to just check his figures, and the Minister will remember that we took a keen interest on the future projections for unemployment in the territory. Can the Minister give us a sense of what the unemployment rate will be over the course of the next few months - what they project it to be?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Basically, the projections are that we are not going to see the severe drop that was predicted. We are not going to see quite the sharp drop we saw in, I believe, March and April last year - down 18 percent. The indications are that, so far, as the Member has seen from the employment statistics that were released the other day, there has been a very gradual decline. The interesting thing would be what is going to happen in January and February, but the predictions are that it is not going to crash the way it did in 1993 - initially - because it seems like some adjustments have taken place to prevent that from happening.
As far as an upswing goes, this is just the winter forecast so, as to what happens next summer, I do not have those figures.
Mr. McDonald: What does the Minister mean by adjustments taking place? What kind of adjustments have taken place that would justify the slow increase in the unemployment rate?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Adjustments have taken place, especially in the Faro situation; some of the people have moved out and others have moved on to other things. For instance, there seems to be an upsurge in home-based businesses, and there has been an increase in business licences issued. I recently spoke to someone who used to work at the Sa Dena Hes mine who has started up a little business, whereas initially they all ran out and got unemployment insurance. It is anticipated that the statistics are not going to be as severe this winter as they were at the latter part of last year.
Mr. McDonald: So, the fact that the number of employed people from October to November has dropped by 500 people would account for a portion of that so-called adjustment - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The number of people employed remaining fairly consistent over the summer - and actually, even more people were employed over the summer than there were last year - indicates to the economists that the impact of the Curragh shutdowns are not as severe as they were between 1982 and 1984.
The predictions are that we are going to see employment levels remaining at the levels they were last winter.
Mr. McDonald: I am going to check the employment levels of last winter, but the last Yukon Bureau of Statistics employment survey showed that the number of employed was 13,000; the number of employed for November is shown as 12,500.
Obviously, that would account for a softening of the unemployment rate, when there are fewer unemployed people around to compare to number of unemployed. Is that not the case?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Yes. The fact that the unemployed number has stayed fairly constant during the last three months indicates that there possibly could be more people moving out or that we could be through the worst of the economic downturn.
Naturally, it is unrealistic to think that during January, February and March we are not going to see unemployment increase a certain degree, but the general feeling is that it is not going to go to the 18.8 percent figure.
Mr. McDonald: I am sure that the Minister will agree, and I hope that he agrees, that the unemployment rate by itself should not be the final and sole determining factor as to whether or not the economy is doing well or poorly. If one were to look at the Bureau of Statistics Yukon employment survey, it shows unemployment rates across the country. Saskatchewan is number one in the country with an unemployment rate of 7.5 percent - it is just that a lot fewer people live there now, because there is no work and no help.
Aspiring to Saskatchewans state is not something that we should be doing under the circumstances. The reduction in the numbers of employed is not necessarily a good sign for the economy. Does the Minister agree with that?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I would agree that we do not necessarily want to see people leaving the Yukon. However, it is something that naturally takes place in an employment downturn. It is certainly not our economic development goal. We want to see the Yukon grow. That is why we have come up with this winter works project. We want to encourage people to stay and hang in there, because we think things are going to be better down the road. That is why we have a substantial capital budget that we would like to get passed very quickly. That way, we can get on with awarding the contracts so these jobs can start up sooner than they did last year. We would like to get these contracts awarded so that people can go to work on April 1. That is the strategy behind the whole thing.
Our infrastructure plans down the road are geared toward encouraging mining companies to invest, make decisions and go ahead. We will certainly be gearing some of our budget to assist them in getting some of their infrastructure in place then. However, right now, we still do not have any companies giving the go-ahead signal. It is therefore very difficult to put something in the budget on a best-guess basis of when something is going to happen.
Mr. McDonald: I would like to get to the governments infrastructure initiatives in due course, but I would first like to focus more thoroughly on the policy thinking behind the governments budgeting and long-term strategic planning.
Can the Minister indicate whether or not it is the governments policy to keep Yukoners in the Yukon working, or is it simply to allow things to proceed as they may and, if we get new economic development and a whole set of brand-new Yukoners, that is also okay? What is the general government thinking behind their financial and strategic planning?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I thank the Member for the question. Our thinking is that we want to encourage Yukoners to stay in the Yukon. I indicated in my previous answer that, by creating this winter works program, it will encourage some people to hang around. We definitely feel things are going to get moving very shortly. When we see the projections on gold prices, we can see that there could be increased activity in that sector.
As far as the people who remain behind are concerned, we are going to do everything we can to encourage them to seek training, so that when an economic upturn does take place, and as new workers are needed, Yukoners can fill those jobs first. If there is a need beyond that, that is when the outsiders would start coming in.
To a certain degree, this seems to be where we have failed in past years, especially in the small communities. Not too many of the people in the communities seem to have benefited from the fairly good economic conditions we have had for the last three or four years.
The idea is to ensure that Yukoners are given opportunities, and we are working with the First Nations to encourage them to get into joint ventures, and things like that.
Mr. McDonald: That also raises another line of questioning I would like to pursue, which is that of economic diversification in regional economies in the Yukon. I have yet to see much that the government is doing that is new to demonstrate that they are prepared to see those regional economies improve considerably more than they have in the past.
It is interesting that the Minister characterizes the last few years as being, in some respects, a failure, given that the last few years were, by the governments own words, a period of unprecedented growth.
The Minister indicated that the policy for the government is to encourage Yukoners to stay, and cited first the $7 million jobs program as being an example of the governments desire to encourage people to stay. I do not know if the Minister has noticed but, if he goes to the final sheet of the handout that was provided during general debate, it shows there was a redistribution of $5.9 million worth of work - meaning $5.9 million of the $7 million was work they were planning to do that is now no longer going to be done.
The interpretation that this is somehow all brand-new money is highly debatable, under the circumstances.
Is this policy to encourage people to stay in the Yukon a policy that is practised government wide?
Hon. Mr. Devries: There were several questions and I would like to make very clear to the Member the figures that were in this handout that I issued a few moments ago. Those things are all taken into consideration in this handout. The original person-year estimate was from the capital budget that was passed last spring. This was revised on September 30 to allow for some of the projects that did not go ahead. This was revised to take into consideration the impact of the $7 million winter works program, and that is how this new figure has come about.
While there are fewer figures than there were in the original estimate, there are more than there were in the revised estimate of September 30. The 47 or so jobs in the revised estimates of September 30 to March 31 are the ones that would be a result of the winter works project. That way we do not have to do the deduction because the deduction had already been made.
About what the various departments are doing to encourage people to stay in the Yukon, I do not think it would be right of us to encourage someone to stay here when we are uncertain what their future could be beyond a year or so. I think it would be very wrong of us to try to do that.
What happens in the future, such as the restart of Faro or Sa Dena Hes, is contingent on the price of base metals, and such things. It would be very wrong of us to tell people that those types of jobs will be popping up in the next year. By the same token, we have to plan ahead. We cannot plan a doom-and-gloom future; we have to do everything we possibly can to get things up and moving, and that is our strategy at this point.
Mr. McDonald: One could argue that we got into the gloomy situation we are in right now without much planning. I would agree with the Minister on that point.
Can the Minister indicate to us what 47 jobs he is talking about? He gave us a legislative return, and I am looking in it for the 47 jobs but I cannot find them. Can the Minister show me what he is talking about?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I may have made a mistake in addition. If the Minister looks at the second page of the revised estimate to September 30, he will note that it says 295.6. The revised estimate from September 30 to March 31 says 342.6. I understand what the Member means.
This is basically how it works. The 295.6 - I guess I did use the incorrect number there - was what had occurred to date. If you add the 342.6 figure and the 295.6 figure together, you get the figure of 638.2.
Mr. McDonald: I understand that. I gleaned that from my quick reading of the document. I just do not understand what point the Minister is making with respect to the 3,700 person weeks, and whether or not the 3,700 person weeks - or most of the jobs - are simply a recraft of jobs that they were intending to go ahead with anyway but had to cut back for one reason or another - $5.9 million of the $7 million worth. I am not certain what the Minister is trying to get at there.
In any case, perhaps when the Minister recrafts the 3,700 person weeks jobs list, so that we can have consistent, understandable information, we can probably spend less time looking at each other and wondering what each other is talking about. I just do not have a clue what the Minister is talking about.
The most interesting policy question - and probably the one with the most impact on Yukoners - is the question about who decides who has an uncertain future in the territory, and should or should not be encouraged to stay. I represented in this Legislature, up until the last election, many people who were considered targets of employment generation in the past, and they are today. Those people have not had a job in the private sector for years, and probably will not for another few years, given the state of Mayos economy.
However, I will not argue that they have a fairly uncertain future. The people in Faro, for example, were working right up until the end of last year, making money, spending it in the territory, and paying taxes. However, they are not considered to be a target for job creation for the government, or not a serious one, because they appear to have an uncertain future, and the government thinks that is wrong. Can the Minister explain this seeming inconsistency?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I do not agree with the Member at all. Any capital works projects are available to the people of Faro. If the Member thinks we should be doing all kinds of make-work projects in Faro, please come out and say so.
Right now, as the Member knows, with respect to construction jobs and equipment operating jobs - and the majority of these people, to my understanding, are equipment operators - there are many opportunities in our capital works for equipment operator type jobs, and we are encouraging them as much as possible. If they choose to remain in Faro and have one person or the other go out of town to work on these jobs or if they decide to relocate to another community or to Whitehorse, that is a choice they make.
Mr. McDonald: There are clear efforts in the governments program, including the $7 million program - the small one - to undertake works that are placed geographically throughout the territory.
If the Minister were to go back to Watson Lake and say, Listen, we just decided to put all of the money for a particular program into Dawson, but do not worry, as a Yukoner, you will have a chance to work on those projects. What do you suppose the people of Watson Lake would say to the Minister?
If all of the work that was to be done was on the Shakwak project, or all of the work was to be done in Haines Junction, what kind of selling job would the Minister responsible for Carcross have, if they were to say, Do not worry, there are a lot of little projects there, but you are a Yukoner, too; you can bid on it or work on it, if you take the trouble to drive over there and find out what is going on.
One of the reasons why governments typically try to spread the work around is so that they can capture the interests of many communities, and there are always useful things to be done in every community. In fact, there is no shortage of things that could be done.
I know that if I were still representing Mayo, I would not even try to make the argument that everything is happening in Carcross, Ross River or Watson Lake and then tell constituents not to worry, because all that they have to do is proclaim to the highways department or whatever department is involved, that they are Yukoners and they should get the jobs. I would be a one-termer; that means I would not be re-elected if I were to try to make that kind of argument.
Some of the people who live in Faro are equipment workers; that is true. Perhaps they would have a better opportunity to work on jobs that require equipment operators, but there are a lot of mill workers there, too - people who work on surface crews, drillers and people who work for the town. These people are Yukoners and they vote in Yukon elections; they pay taxes to the Yukon government and they take exception to the fact that the government and the Cabinet have decreed that they have an uncertain future, and yet, other regional economies and small communities, which admittedly have great trouble making a living, have been struggling for years. In these communities, there is no obvious, significant private sector activity that is going to pick up many of the unemployed in that community.
We do not, for one moment, suggest that those people have no right to public expenditures; however, there is no useful work for them to do in their communities. We have arbitrarily decreed that the industrial workers in one community, because they have been laid off, are candidates for dismissal from the territory, if one wants to say it in the crudest, most blunt terms. They are certainly not candidates that the government is encouraging to stay. I do not understand the reason for that. Some of those people have lived in the territory longer than those in other communities and are considered to be reasonable candidates for public projects - useful ones, not make-work, BS ones. I simply do not understand it. This community is classified as a town. It was one of the original reasons why the Municipal Act had that designation; they wanted a way to characterize Faro. Why is that community, in particular, the candidate for neglect? Why is there this rough justice for this community, when the same arguments are applied to no other place?
One could say that there is opportunity for people in Ross River to work on the Shakwak project, but there are also works being undertaken in Ross River.
I do not know if the Member for Faro wants to get into this, but I think there is a significant problem. It is reminiscent of the hands-off attitude people gave toward Elsa back in the days when it was facing a little difficulty. The attitude taken by the PC government of the time was absolutely disgusting. Whenever the Elsa community showed economic promise, the government took credit for it. They took pride in the fact that it was operating and making big money. Yet, the moment Elsa began to suffer a bit, they simply cast the fortunes of all those Yukoners to whatever employer they were working for - in this case United Keno Hill Mines - and told the company that those Yukoners were suddenly their responsibility, even though those people in Elsa had been working and actually pumping tax dollars into the government for better than 60 years.
There were people living in Elsa - and some are still there - who are third-generation Yukoners. Their grandfathers and grandmothers came to Elsa back in the 1930s. Their parents were born there. They live in Elsa and have children in the Elsa school. That makes four generations of Yukoners.
When the moment came that there was any kind of trouble or any sense that the tap would be turned off, or that somehow the government would not be getting the same bucks as they were used to, they got vindictive about it and suggested that maybe they were not true Yukoners in the classic sense because they were not working Yukoners. Suddenly, because the people did not have a job, were not beavering away paying their taxes, somehow they did not have a right to be here. Certainly, there was nothing the government would do to encourage them to stay. The argument they were giving at the time, strangely enough, was the same argument that the Minister is giving me now about Faro. In fact, over the course of the last few years, Elsa did collapse. A few people did leave but a lot of people tried to stay. There was no work.
The government, the Yukon Party, took great glee in the fact that the government had tried to do something for Elsa. My only complaint was that the government did not do something for Elsa 30 or 40 years earlier - give the taxpayers a little return on their investment.
There was a period there when the company in Elsa and the people of Elsa were actually maintaining the road from Elsa to Whitehorse. They actually maintained the infrastructure the government today is so proud of. There is a fellow in Elsa right now, today, still working there, still gainfully employed by United Keno Hill Mines, who used to maintain what is now the Dawson-Whitehorse Road. Is this guy not some kind of a Yukoner? Man, this guy was at one time a Conservative, who ripped up his card for ever, based on the kind of attitude the Minister is blithely stating today.
What I am having trouble doing right now is getting a sense of who the Yukoners are that the government is going to encourage to stay and who the Yukoners are that the government is going to discourage. Because, as he puts it, it would not be fair for them to encourage them to stay because after all they may not be gainfully employed in the coming years and, in our paternal way, we are telling them it would not be good for them. Are they saying that about the people in Ross River, Mayo, Carmacks, Pelly, Old Crow, Dawson, Watson Lake, Haines Junction, Teslin and Carcross because there is not significant private sector activity?
Is the Minister saying that because people in some of those communities have not been working very long that we should just do the right thing by them and cut them off so that they can go out and get a job and pick themselves up by the bootstraps? Is he carrying that message around the territory? Is that message beginning and ending in Faro?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I do not think it is fair to compare all these other communities to the Faro situation. We all know that Faro is dependent upon the mine. It has potential, on a much smaller scale down the road, for tourism if nothing happens with the mine. We are not in a position to do a bunch of infrastructure work in Faro, without knowing what the long-term implications are regarding the Curragh shutdown. I do not feel I would be doing those people in Faro any justice by encouraging them to remain in the community.
If they want to take the risk of the possibility of the mine reopening a year or two down the road, that is a choice that they have to make. I do not feel that it would be in their best interests to not encourage them to relocate within the Yukon and take advantage of other opportunities in the Yukon.
I do not know what the Member is trying to say. Is he saying that we should be stripping the Grum? I would appreciate it if he would provide suggestions of what we should be doing in Faro to resolve the situation that people are finding themselves in. As far as the other communities go, there are economic opportunities there. At some point, there will be some economic opportunities in Faro, but perhaps there will be more economic activities in places like Ross River. Faro is a one-industry town.
I was looking through the Economic Strategy and much of the focus, at the time when the Members were developing this Yukon Economic Strategy, was to try and diversify the economy, and Faro was one of the communities that they had targeted. Now, five or six years later, we see them in much the same situation as when the development of this strategy took place. I can appreciate the fact that there are people there who want to make Faro their community, but right now I feel the best thing we, as a government can do is encourage them to look at other opportunities because we do not know. If something develops here in the next few months and we have a buyer for Curragh, then governments priorities could change. Right now, we feel that the best thing we can do for the people of Faro is to encourage them to seek employment elsewhere in the Yukon.
I do not see any other way at this point. I can see that some people from Faro really want to stay there. They have come up with ideas for diversification. There have been a few projects created. I am sure the people of Faro appreciated the Van Gorder Falls and the sheep enhancement projects. I know they would have liked to have seen more, but at this point we have to encourage them to look at other things, as much as I hate to say it.
Mr. McDonald: I hate the Minister to say it and I hate the Minister to think it, too. There is not a lot of employment elsewhere in the Yukon for the people in Faro. The governments own figures show the number of employed dropping dramatically. It may sound like only 500 since the last employment statistics were out, but then we only have 12,500 working.
I made the point that I have no hidden agenda; I am not getting around to asking a big blockbuster question. I made the point that I disagree with the policy and I am asking for justification of the policy.
What is Ross River dependent upon? What is Mayo dependent upon? What are the people who are unemployed in Watson Lake - who are candidates for infrastructure development - dependent upon? What do they have to go back to in the spring? What are they looking forward to? Why are those people, as a matter of government policy, considered to be superior in comparison to the people in Faro?
The unemployed people in Mayo, many of whom I know very, very well and are my friends, are not looking forward to anything next summer or the summer after that, but they are considered eligible for government projects, and the government thinks they are eligible, too. The same is true in Ross River, and the same is true for the unemployed in Dawson and Watson Lake. Many people who are not working on these government projects are not working at all and they have not worked for some time on anything else.
Is the Minister saying, as a matter of policy, to all of those communities, that they should not be receiving support and that it is only good for them to go to look for work elsewhere - presumably, not in the territory, because there is not a lot of work to be had in the territory, but in terms of going to work somewhere. Is that what the Minister is saying to unemployed people in Watson Lake and Ross River?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I have lived in Watson Lake for many years and I have seen the ups and downs in the community. We see a lot of opportunity developing in that area right now - in forestry, and I hope that the mine will eventually reopen there to.
Right now, the hope seems to be in the forestry industry taking off, once forestry devolution is complete. There is also increased activity in the Cassiar and Dease Lake area and many people are realizing those benefits. We also have some people who are contemplating moving to Haines Junction, as they were employed on the Shakwak project this summer, and I understand that they may move to Haines Junction permanently. A community always hates to see someone leave, but these people are determined to seek out a new community so that they can take advantage of the government projects.
All of those communities are very traditional communities and we have to do everything we can to encourage some diversification there. They are always going to be there; nothing is going to change that. Perhaps the people in Faro feel the same way. By the same token, I feel that Faro will always be there. Until we can determine if it will continue to exist with a population of 100 people or a population of 1,000 people, I think it would be unwise to invest huge amounts of money in the infrastructure of the community at this time of uncertainty. Money is tight out there, and it is going to become tighter. I think that when we look at the problems all over Canada, it is these types of communities that rely heavily on government money that are going to come under discussion when we make decisions about priorities - in both the federal and territorial governments - at some point. We will do everything we can to encourage these communities to hang in there, because I think that there are better times around the corner. When we look at Carmacks or Haines Junction - there is tremendous potential there, as there is in all the small highway communities up toward Beaver Creek, as far as tourism and parks go. There are also rich resources in the area. We all know that Faro has rich resources there, but we cannot jump out there and create employment for a few hundred workers. We cannot afford it; the money is just not around any more.
As far as stripping the Grum deposit goes, if you compare it to a highway project, it is somewhere in the neighbourhood of $1 million per full-time employee. It does not make sense in that respect. And, we could not do it right now, even if we wanted to, because there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding it. If anyone did anything at this time, all they would be doing is putting money into the pocket of some company - or their receiver. That is just the reality of the matter. I am sure that once a purchaser comes along - and I think it will happen - we will have a better picture of what that purchaser plans. We do not know if the new company will operate it at full capacity or half capacity. We do not know if they will need 1,000 employees or 500 employees. All of these things make a difference to the type of projects that would be undertaken in the Faro area.
By the same token, fixing the Campbell Highway in the Watson Lake area is to Faros benefit. It would be cheaper to get the rods and the balls from Edmonton to Faro, so it is also a benefit to them. They have the opportunity to come down to work on those projects if they so choose.
No, we are not abandoning any other community, and we have no intention of abandoning any communities. They are very important to the Yukon. We are not abandoning Faro. They are still getting their $1 million plus in block funding, and they got $350,000, or $300,000, whatever the amount was, from the CDF, so we are not abandoning them.
We are encouraging them to diversify to a certain degree by encouraging those tourism projects they put forward. As to any major project within the community itself, at this time, our feeling is that it would be unwise. We have to do whatever we can to encourage the people in Faro to decide what the future holds for them. They cannot depend on government to decide that future for them.
Mr. McDonald: I cannot say what I think of the governments policy, no matter how softly spoken it was stated. I cannot say how immoral I think it is. First of all, I have to indicate to the Minister that, until we have a useful discussion about the job projections, I cannot really pass judgment on his claim that stripping the Grum deposit would be $1 million per job. He will have to have some understanding that, based on the discussions we have had so far, we do not have a whole lot of faith in their job projections.
However, I am not talking about stripping the Grum. I am saying that the people there are crying out that they want to stay. For me to go to Faro and tell them it is tight all over, and to tighten their belts, I might be criticized on the grounds that it may be tight all over, but it ought to be fair all over, and one Yukoner should be perceived as another Yukoner is. The economic prospects in some communities are very dim, realistically, and it will take an enormous amount of effort and time to cause a turnaround. I include the communities I used to represent.
In fact, they are more dim than they are in Faro. For example, the prospects in the Mayo area are limited, to say the least. There are a few placer mines, very little tourism, and the contractors depend on government road work. There is nothing around the corner for them. They are a mining district. There are some mines that show interest now and again. They seldom employ many Mayo residents. When they do particularly aggressive exploration work in the area, they buy a few things from the store and buy their gas there, but hardly any Mayo people are employed. They do not empty the community of all the Mayo people when a mine comes in and does some exploration in the area.
So, there is not a lot those people have to look forward to - not even on the horizon. They are not looking at a great, big, huge, lead-zinc ore body just down the road with a great, big modern mill sitting beside it.
They do not have that to look forward to. If the Minister were to go to the people in Mayo and say that he had to be honest and fair, that the jobs were in Vancouver and they should go there; and to say that Mayo is a longstanding community and Faro is not is the weakest possible argument. Elsa is a longer standing community than some of the communities in the territory - the ones that are now considered to be solid communities. Keno City has been around for longer than Carmacks, but that is not the reason why we provide employment or direct public expenditures for job creation. It is not on the basis of their lineage, or how long they have been in the territory. Otherwise, I can tell you that Old Crow and Pelly Crossing would get a whole lot more attention than they are now, because they have been around for thousands of years, long before there was even an inkling that one white person existed on the face of the earth. No one would argue that these communities are getting preferred treatment simply because of that.
I cannot tell people money is tight. We are talking about a $460 million budget. I do not care how the government side wants to concoct its figures, this is a $460 million budget. It is $40 million more than we spent last year.
If the Minister is saying that there are always priorities, he is right. Right now, the government is responsible for spending lots of money. However, I am not talking about that; I am talking about priorities and fair treatment.
Some of the people who are working on the Shakwak project are friends of mine. I am happy they have work. They are not moving into Haines Junction and Destruction Bay, although they may if the mood strikes them, because they like the communities and love the people. However, they are not moving in because of the work; they are living in the highway camps. They are not moving their families there, because they see this as a finite job.
In closing, I would like to say that to separate Yukoners on the basis of whether or not the government thinks they are going to continue to pay bucks into the treasury, and whether or not they are gainfully employed - or to say that Yukoners are good candidates for government attention because they are going to be gainfully employed and others are not - is not, in my opinion, a morally sound argument. To say that some people who have no job prospects in the next year should be candidates for government expenditures, but others in the same position in another community should not, is not a sound argument.
The Minister admitted that he felt that Faro was going to be around for a long time, and I agree with him. It has been through some tough times, but it has hung in there. We are not talking about supporting some community that is never going to exist again. It is going to exist. Right now, it is the only community that has an ore body ready to go, with infrastructure in place. This is not Casino, where they have to build another 75 kilometres of high-standard road, so it is easy to maintain, or they have to put in several hundreds of kilometres worth of power lines, or they have to put in a camp. This is a place that is ready to go.
Casino is still short of the mark when it comes to an ore price that would permit it to operate. That is what the proponents said during the geoscience forum. They said that under the current circumstances and current prices they could not operate, but that they hoped that prices would increase. It sounds like a tune I have heard from the people who are promoting the Curragh mine in Faro.
Yet, all we have heard from the government is about Casino, and how we have to do the right thing by people in Faro and move them out or, through our efforts, encourage them to find work elsewhere. For the life of me, I do not understand that.
I have nothing against mines. I have nothing against the Casino mine, and I have nothing against Western Copper. I have nothing against Curragh or United Keno Hill. I am probably the one guy in this room, now that the permanent Sergeant-at-Arms is not present, who has spent the longest period working in mines.
I can tell you that it strikes me as being very strange that the governments policies in respect to support for mining communities and interests seems to be so skewed and vindictive, from my perspective, against the people of Faro and that community. I do not understand it. Everything is in place there; the people are there and want to stay. The peoples economic prospects are better than those of many people in the communities I used to represent. Yet, there seems to be a real reluctance on the part of government to show them any respect. I do not understand it.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I do not know what the Members argument is, because he has said that Faro has the infrastructure and all of the cards. In a sense, we have to develop infrastructure for some of the communities and give them the same opportunities for when metal prices come up. I do not understand the Members argument; it almost seems like he is arguing with himself.
As far as Mayo goes, I cannot talk about some of the various projects that could be coming up, but I think that Mayo has opportunity. I certainly would not consider Mayo a town with no future, I think that it has tremendous potential, whether that potential is realized due to developments in Elsa, or whether it is exploration.
There is a tremendous wealth of mineralization in that area, as there is around Faro. However, with the uncertainty surrounding Faro, it is our feeling that it would not be in the peoples best interest to remain there if they can get a job and relocate elsewhere to obtain other employment. If they decide to stay in Faro, it is a gamble. Although the chances are pretty good that something will develop, government cannot control that.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on Economic Development?
Mr. McDonald: Before the recess, the Minister was mentioning that the reason he felt I was arguing - as he put it - against myself was that, ultimately, I did not understand that communities like Faro had all that they needed and consequently should not be prime candidates for government support, but there were other communities that did not have as much and consequently should be candidates for government support.
The argument is a strange one, when one looks at a community such as Mayo, which has lots of infrastructure. There is a paved road from Whitehorse to downtown Mayo. There is surplus hydroelectricity in the area. There are lines that go 40 or 50 kilometres from Mayo into the Keno City area. There are good quality exploration roads throughout the entire district - as far as 60 or 70 miles in each direction from Mayo.
Anyone who wants to explore or prospect in the area has all kinds of opportunity to do that. That community is not unlike a lot of communities in this territory, and that community is deserving of government interests and it should receive government support, but it does not explain why Faro is not receiving similar support.
The Ministers newest argument that Faro has everything and does not need anything is not an argument that holds any water when compared to other communities. Faro has a lot that can make it a good economic prospect for the future, both in infrastructure and in talent. It is also the community that the government seems intent on emptying for their own good, they say. That is what is so strange about the argument. There are people in every community like the people in Faro, who are considered candidates for government support.
It is the community that has the greatest potential to provide the greatest significant boost to the territorial economy, but it seems to be singled out for this specially bad treatment. It does not make sense. It does not make sense to the people in Faro. It does not make sense to me. It does not make sense to my colleagues, and it does not make a lot of sense to a lot of other people in this territory. I am sure if one gave it any kind of ethical analysis, one would really wonder whether or not the government has thought this thing through clearly.
They were prepared to adopt their paternal approach in terms of providing government support to everyone in the territory - whether they would even dare do that in other communities; I do not think they would, frankly.
Mr. Harding: I want to follow up on some of the questioning of my colleague on this very same issue. I have been listening intently to the exchange back and forth and I have made much the same in the way of arguments as the Member for McIntyre-Takhini made, and I have heard government Cabinet Members, many times, make the arguments being made by the Minister responsible for Economic Development. Although it frustrates me, I have tried to raise the issue in Question Period, in Committee of the Whole debate and in special debates, emergency debates and every kind of debate we have in this Legislature, but we still do not seem to be able to reach the Members opposite with our perception of how this situation should be viewed.
So, we often try to raise it with a new twist, a new angle, to try and give it a new daily relevancy but, on a very, very consistent basis, we get the same types of responses back. I have just been through a similar discussion in general debate with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services regarding this issue. I got his views on it, and I made some submissions to him, asked him some questions, and I will do the same today with the Minister responsible for Economic Development because, as a legislator and as the elected representative for the community of Faro, I have a duty to do just that. I cannot give up on my community like the Members opposite. I know that no government could produce a 50-cent zinc price right now, and I know that no government can provide government work for everybody in the community of Faro or throughout the rest of the territory right now - not for every member of the community, but it is important that I continue to make these representations because I certainly do not want to see my community forgotten.
Over the summer, I got a call from a constituent of mine who had gotten work in Prince George. They had been in Faro for six years working for Cyprus Anvil. They called me and said they wanted me to come over to their house and visit them. I assumed that they had some sort of casework item or item for discussion that they wanted to bring up. I went over to their house and it was discovered, when I walked in the door and they handed me a gift, that they had brought me over to actually give something to me rather than to bring up a casework item. What they gave me was a hand crafted, sterling silver ring with Faro written on it. They made it themselves and they said they wanted the MLA to wear it in the Legislature because they wanted a reminder of a community that used to be important to a lot of people but is not important any more.
When I talked to them about it, I told them that, as long as I am wearing this ring as their MLA, I will not let people forget about the community. That is why I am asking these questions, and why I will continue to ask them in the forums available to me as an elected representative.
There were some things said by the Minister that, as the Member for Faro, I considered to be quite inflammatory. I believe that their position on this issue is immoral. It is very disturbing. They find all kinds of reasons to marginalize the people of Faro as Yukoners and remove them from the list of people who are entitled to some of the hundreds, thousands and millions of dollars of government expenditure for infrastructure development.
A lot of the expenditures being made have no certain, concrete paybacks attached to them. We are spending about $6 million in the next capital budget, and we spent quite a bit in the last one, in discretionary capital on the Shakwak project, while we still have a tremendous amount of funding coming from the federal government. However, I do not know what the actual economic impact of that in hard currency will be for the territory. Perhaps tourists will be able to drive faster through Beaver Creek, and so on. Perhaps more tourists will say that people should come to the Yukon and drive the Alaska Highway, because the roads are in good condition. It is hard to quantify the returns, but my point is that there is no certainty.
A realistic and rational look at things has to be taken. I have listened to the arguments of the Minister, and they have not taken a realistic or rational approach to this. They think they are doing the right thing. To say that it is a paternalistic viewpoint would be a good way to describe it when it comes to Faro.
The Minister said that, if we want the government to build a bunch of make-work projects, we should tell them. We did two projects in Faro last year: a sheep enhancement project and a Van Gorder trails project. They employed about 13 or 15 people from Faro, and about 13 people from Ross River. They were good projects. Due to the fact that we bought a lot of the materials ourselves for the project, such as power saws, and did not use surplus items from the government, they were fairly costly. They were not as costly as some of the items on a cost-per-job basis, but they were fairly costly.
However, they were good projects; they were not just make-work projects. The Van Gorder trails project may not bring in 50 German tourists to walk on the trail - 50 new German tourists - but it certainly adds to the assets that this territory has to offer those people, particularly people who travel in recreational vehicles. It was built in conjunction with the new RV facility in Faro, which is pretty first class, and I think it was a worthwhile expenditure.
We may want to look at cheaper ways of doing things - getting the same project done more cheaply or more efficiently. Perhaps there is equipment that we would not have to buy because we could use surplus equipment from other areas of the government, and whatnot. In essence, I think the expenditures were worth it. They must be. The government clearly demonstrates that they want to spread expenditures around to the communities, and in essence they boast of that in press releases about their expenditures in terms of job weeks and economic activity in the communities.
When we start to ask questions in this Legislature, the government says that all of this excludes Faro. In the case of Faro, everyone there has to move out to bid on these projects. I have made this point many times: in the real world, a lot of Faroites are going to try to do that. A lot of them are going to try, and not be successful, because there are contractors whose crews are set. They are not about to hire a bunch of new people from Faro. In all the other communities, the expenditures take that into account. In Faro, that is not the case because, to use the words of the Minister, Faro is dependent on the mine.
What are communities like Ross River and Mayo dependent on? What single large, private-sector employer are they dependent on?
I am not sure what the Member is getting at, but Ross River is dependent on government to a certain extent. It has a few smaller businesses, but Ross River is basically dependent upon social assistance, more than anything else. I would think that Mayo is in a very similar situation.
That is exactly the problem here. The government is in a position to make expenditures. We have had some discussions with some of the Kaska people about the Ross River, Faro and Little Salmon areas. They are quite disturbed, and they also feel that they are being left out of the loop, as it were, and that social assistance is the major industry in that community.
I do not think the Minister of Economic Development should be standing up in this Legislature promoting it. The Minister talked about the Yukon 2000 strategy and initiatives to diversify the Faro economy. The previous government put their money where their mouth was on that. No, there was not enough economic diversification to keep 1,800 or 2,000 people there, but there was some infrastructure put in. I just mentioned a couple of things. We had a tremendous beautification project in the community. There was a recreation facility put in, a first-class RV park, a lot of expenditures in tourism, facility improvements, Johnson Lake campground, which turned out to be not as successful; nonetheless, the commitment was there to try.
To say that because the Yukon 2000 identified it as a target for diversification, and the fact that we cannot maintain the entire population there means it was a failure, and the government should not do anything further in that area, is wrong. It does not say anything about giving up on Faro because the mine is down.
The Minister says he has not given up on Faro, yet he is saying he wants to encourage people to leave the community. He says that Faro has the infrastructure in place - that is the last argument - and that, therefore, they should not have any expenditures. There are quite a few communities - one of which was just identified by the Member for McIntyre-Takhini - that have the infrastructure in place but are still receiving funding for certain projects and infrastructure improvements.
The Ministers arguments do not hold water.
When I go around and talk to people at the coffee shop, union hall, businesses that are remaining, the school and the recreation centre, they tell me the same thing, that we need a little bit of a boost and a little bit of help, just like the other communities. We are not even talking about the Grum stripping here; I will get to that in a few minutes.
I went to Yukon College the other night and, in the space of five minutes of walking down the hall, I bumped into three ex-Faroites who are taking courses and trying to improve their education.
The Yukon College Faro campus has over 50 students enrolled right now. It is bursting at the seams, which is not due to any territorial help.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: The Minister of Education figures that it is because we have a grant through Yukon College, which we have had forever.
I want to ask the government what they have done specifically. They have left it up to the federal government. CEIC is sponsoring all these people. Sure, the territorial government put out a grant that they always have for Yukon College, and then they try to claim that the $200,000 trust fund set up a couple of years ago was something that they had committed to the people in Faro. It was a very sad political exercise, and disappointing. I am glad that the money is there, but it certainly was not as a result of an expenditure of the Members opposite to handle the increase at the college.
We have all of these people taking training who need jobs. There is no possible way, with 600 people left in the community, that I can see the government providing infrastructure jobs for all of these people, but certainly they do not have to turn the tap off entirely, and that is what I am seeing.
The Minister talks about these projects - they spit out this term make-work projects. There were proposals put before this government in this fiscal year that were not just make-work projects. They had some infrastructure benefit, and some long-term potential. It is hard to quantify how much that would be but, nonetheless, it was making an investment, recognizing that people have to work, recognizing that every other community is receiving some assistance, and perhaps it would be a wise investment in Faro.
Nonetheless, the government turned down the projects and rested on the laurels of two projects the year before, which we share with Ross River, and they started a relationship there that I hope will continue to grow. There were some bumps, but I was very happy to see the cooperation that was shown between the two communities.
People are crying out. I have people calling me in Faro who are trying to diversify. They want to start a wood-cutting business. There are others who want to start fishing, guiding, tourism businesses and outdoor activities businesses. The community leadership on the town council is desperately trying to do something to diversify the economy. They are presently looking at offering, at low prices, some of the available housing to people from outside the community at low prices for in-home businesses. We do not know how successful this is going to be. I do think they have to be congratulated for their efforts in trying.
The Faro Economic Diversification and Development Corporation has restarted and these people are all trying. They do not want to give up. They believe, as do I, that we can continue to have a good population of people there, maybe not always working full-time, that can continue to build the infrastructure in that community and try and diversify.
I recently wrote the president of Western Copper about a sulphuric acid producing plant in Faro. I got a letter back denying my request, saying they wanted to build it in the area.
We have some meetings set up with First Nations in the area to discuss social and economic common goals. Where all these people are trying, we get the same constant speech from the Members opposite that government cannot help everyone out. Nobody is asking the Minister to do everything for the people of Faro, but they certainly need not turn the tap off totally. People are trying to use their own initiative.
It is so frustrating to watch the attitude of this government. I really believe it is immoral. These people are Yukoners as much as everyone else. Just because it is only a 25-year-old town, as opposed to thousands of years old - or 100 years old - it does not mean that it has to disappear. It does not necessarily equate to that, unless the government really feels that is what is going to happen.
I get really frustrated. Sometimes, I get to the point where I say to myself, Is it worth asking these questions? I turn around and tell myself that it is my job to do it, and I will continue to do it, and I will be relentless on it, and I will not give it up.
We have some proposals for solutions to help deal with this problem. Is the Minister of Economic Development prepared to invest any capital into these ideas, in principle, of the people of Faro, or is the response a carte blanche, I am not going to put any more into it than the block funding agreement?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The two CDF projects we participated in are two examples that we are not giving up on Faro on a wholesale basis. Definitely yes, we do believe there is opportunity for a small town to be there. Again, depending on Curragh, it could be a fully operational town again down the road.
The Member talked about the economic development planning committee that was established. Their report is overdue but, yes, $22,000 was given there, I believe by the previous administration. Up to this point, we have not received any suggestions from that particular committee.
If they come forward with a plan that shows some long-term economic benefits, we will certainly take a look at it. Meanwhile, there could still be potential in the Faro area for several things but, until I actually see something in writing, I am not going to get into it. I do not want to give false hopes to these people on something that might or might not happen.
I feel the same way about the sale of the mine, at this point. We do not know if it is going to happen in the next six months. We do not know if they are going to operate it at full capacity. We do not know if they are going to operate at half capacity, or what they would have in mind when they purchase it. We all know there is environmental work that has to be done there. There could be some opportunities in the short term for Faroites there.
If an idea comes forward that would lead to economic diversification, I certainly would look at it, as I would look at it for any community.
Mr. Harding: The people of Faro put forth four proposals in writing this fiscal year, for infrastructure development at the airport, as well as some tourism infrastructure projects, but they were denied. If the Minister is prepared to look at them, why did he not? Why did he not approve them?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Two of them were approved. The community development fund spending in Faro was, I believe, the third highest spending of all the communities in the Yukon. Obviously, they were looked at. The $1 million grant is still there too. This government is not abandoning Faro.
Mr. Penikett: I would remind the Minister that two of the CDF projects he is talking about were done last year. I would also remind him that the one CDF project he has mentioned as helping Faro recently is about to be cancelled by this government. I would remind him also that 13 people from Faro worked on the two projects, but literally dozens are close to the point where their unemployment insurance benefits are going to run out. This is a real, human tragedy right before Christmas.
Notwithstanding the lack of financial commitment to that community and to the people there by this government, this afternoons debate has shown that the Minister does recognize that the ore body there is of some value to the territory and that the infrastructure at the mine and the town is of some value, also. Could I not appeal to some shred of decency in him to get him to Iadmit, too, that the skilled workforce - the people and the families of the people who live in that town and worked in that mine - are also valuable members of this community? Could I ask the Minister if he recognizes that?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I do not know where the Member has been all afternoon. I made it very clear earlier that we recognize them as valuable Yukoners and that we are encouraging them to stay in the Yukon by working on various projects around the Yukon in an attempt to try to wait out the economic slowdown. They have those opportunities. We recognize their skills. They are very important.
Mr. Penikett: I have been listening to the Minister quite a lot, and I think that is the most assertive statement of the argument that they are Yukoners that I have heard yet. The Minister does not go to other communities in the territory and say, We are not going to do anything for you. We are not going to commit any money here. If you want to stay here, go and find a job somewhere else in the Yukon.
Does the Minister not think that the people on whom the rest of the territory depended for tax dollars and economic productivity for so many years are Ientitled to a fair share of the territorys capital budget? If you look at a community-by-community allocation, this is the community that seems to be the worst done by, in terms of its historic contribution versus the kind of investment the government is prepared to make now to keep that skilled work force here - to encourage them to stay.
Hon. Mr. Devries: We are talking about the supplementaries here - that is this years spending. This year, we have spent in excess of $300,000 on two CDF projects in Faro - the third highest of all the communities in the Yukon. We are not talking about the 1994-95 capital budget here; we are talking about the 1993-94 supplementary budget. It seems that the Members real problem is with the fact that there is not a Faro project on this 3,700 work week thing. Let us make it clear what it is we are talking about here first.
Mr. Penikett: I have a problem in that there is not a Faro project in the capital project for next year, and there is not a real Faro project this year. If the Minister happens to know that he has the third most in CDF funding, in terms of the base population in Faro and in terms of per capita in the capital budget, where does it rank? I bet it is at the bottom. Does the Minister happen to know that, since he is ready to spout off this pseudo-statistic about third highest in terms of CDF spending?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I am not going to argue the point. I think that the Member is very aware of the fact that right now we have to do whatever we can to encourage Faroites to face their future, in the short term, by encouraging them to relocate within the Yukon. Whether one of the spouses decides to work outside of Faro somewhere else in the Yukon, or even outside of the Yukon at this point, is a decision that they are going to have to make as a family. We have assured them that the town will be left intact and that housing will still be there, and we have not abandoned them in that respect.
By the same token, reality is that we do not know when the mine is going to reopen. If Faro comes up with ideas to diversify their economy, we will look at their plans and assist them.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister says he is not abandoning them, but all he is promising them is that perhaps, down the road, there will be a brand-new ghost town.
I am trying to think of any other community that has had a tough time in the last few years in this territory - whether it has been Watson Lake or Dawson City or any other community - when a Minister stood up in this House and said that the answer to the communitys problems was to encourage people to leave.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Penikett: It was a somewhat different situation in Clinton Creek. I worked at Clinton Creek. I know something about the arrangements that were made there. This is a different situation, because there is still an ore body, infrastructure and a skilled workforce. The people did decide to kill the town. The impression the people in that community have is that this government is doing nothing but watching them slowly die. They do not think that this government respects them or sees them as Yukoners or citizens of this territory, and that is why the Minister is willing to send them down the road.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Penikett: We have to be realistic; it is not going to open for a while. Take a look at the unemployment rates in some of the other communities. Does the Minister go into those communities and say, sorry, folks, we are going to close the school, we are not going to provide social assistance any more and we are not going to provide capital projects here any more. You folks should leave, there is no work here. They are not saying it to any other community; they are only saying that to Faro. Why is that?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The Member knows that argument will not fly. I think that we are doing everything that we can to make some opportunities for Yukoners. I think Yukoners have to make some very hard decisions on whether they are going to take advantage of those opportunities - whether, for a short period of time, they are going to work outside of the Yukon on some other mining projects.
We recognize that that deposit is there. We recognize the fact that the Faro mine, as we know it today, probably has another five- or six-year life span. It is very similar to the situation that I have in Watson Lake. We are aware that the Sa Dena Hes has another three to four years of operation.
All things are being taken into account. By the same token, we do not know if metal prices are going to rise this year or next.
All the other communities have other things going for them. I am not saying that Faro has nothing else going for it, but Faro is a one-industry town. Outside of the one industry it would maintain a population of 50 to 100 people. That is the sad reality of the situation and that is the situation that we have to confront.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister has been talking round the subject but has not given us the true feelings of the government about the community, because I think if the government did care about the community and was committed to the people there, there would have been a fair share of the capital budget spent in the community this year and next year.
Let me ask the Minister a direct question. Why has the government not committed capital expenditures in or near the Town of Faro to the same order of magnitude as it has to other towns in this territory?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I do not know how many times I have to answer that question. Right now, we do not know the future of Faro and, until we have a better grip on the future of Faro, I think that Yukon taxpayers would resent our spending large sums of capital dollars in that area.
I am sure that people were hoping that what happened to Mayo would not happen, but to inject $1 million into building a curling rink, when you know that the community may not be there three months down the road, is not the way Yukoners want to see their tax dollars spent.
Mr. Penikett: If that is the case, Yukon taxpayers have no idea what is going to happen at Casino, but this Minister, according to his plan, has absolutely no hesitation about saying that the government is prepared to commit dollars to that, whether the taxpayers ever get anything back or not.
Hon. Mr. Devries: That is exactly why you do not see any money in the capital budget for Casino, other than for engineering, because we do not know. You cannot have it both ways. Is the Member suggesting that we should be building a road into Casino right now? I certainly hope not.
These mining projects are all possibilities that exist, and we have to prepare ourselves so that, when the move is made for one of these to go ahead, we have our ducks lined up, and that is what we are attempting to do. Whether it is developing an energy strategy, or whether it is working on looking at other sources of energy, we have to have everything lined up so that we can encourage these developers, and say, look, if you decide to go ahead, we are in a position to do this and that for you by the time you reopen, and it is the same with Faro. If someone purchases the Faro property and wishes to reopen it, we will be sitting down with them and discussing various issues such as energy and bulk haul rates. At that time, priorities may change to doing further upgrading on the Campbell Highway in that area.
Mr. McDonald: It is no secret that I think the Ministers position stinks. I do not want to spend a lot more time on it.
I just have one final comment, but I am happy to carry this on any time that the Minister stands up and intends to speak on behalf of taxpayers and talks about Mayo and its curling rink in the same breath; this is definitely a button the Minister can push with me and get me going. There is no question about that at all. First of all, the Minister will know, of course, that no curling rink was built in Mayo at all. The curling rink was built in Elsa and there were hundreds of Yukoners in that community who worked for 50 years just pumping the old taxpayer dollars in so that people in Watson Lake and other places could do things.
The Member for Klondike should spend more time listening than talking.
When it comes time to determine who is paying their freight in this territory, when the Minister talks about the curling rink in Elsa being some sort of gift from the taxpayers, it is only one small contribution in return for the literally millions and millions of dollars invested into the rest of this territory by that community - one small contribution.
The only problem is that it was too late. The Members on the opposite bench do not give one damn about the people in that community, and they never have. Many of those people do still live in this territory and resent like crazy the attitude expressed by the Members opposite. It is a disgusting take-everything, give-nothing attitude. If a person is working and paying taxes, they are a Yukoner.
The Members opposite talk about support for mines. What happened to support for the miners? What about the people who are actually doing the work? What about the people who are doing the drilling? What about the people who are doing the Itramming? Do those people count? They have raised families in this territory.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McDonald: The Minister of Education wants me to write a letter to Harcourt. I am talking to the government of the day here in this Legislature, which is not taking any kind of responsibility for the people of this territory who have been earning a lot of money for this territory for years. I am talking about their responsibility. I want them to take responsibility for their actions.
The situation for these mining communities is one where people come to work in this territory to make a living. They pay taxes and contribute to the social and economic fabric of this territory. The moment that there is any potential danger of their losing their livelihood, the governments position is to cut them loose, so they can find work elsewhere and generate profits for someone else.
We had a motion put on the Order Paper today, which essentially talks about support for mining in this territory, and the government does not give a damn about the people who actually do the work - and it is pathetic, truly pathetic. Every time I hear the Members opposite snickering about the Elsa curling rink, or any infrastructure project that was given to the community of Elsa - that was given back to the community of Elsa, a community that now has people living in it that, with the exception of you, Mr. Chairman, have lived more time in this territory than the Members opposite - including the oldest Member on the government side. Those people have contributed a lot.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McDonald: I am not referring to the Member for Kluane. We are going to have a good debate on Wednesday; I can tell you that, based on this governments attitude toward mining and their stated attitude toward the miners, the people who actually end up paying the taxes - the so-called end product - and all this talk about exploration incentives and prospectors assistance and infrastructure development. The end product. What is the end product? It is the miners - the people who actually do the work.
When I was working in Elsa, we did not even know who our representative was because he never came to town. Whenever there was any discussion about any kind of support from the territorial government, we got complete silence from Whitehorse. We could have been living anywhere. But there was a deduction off our paychecks every two weeks, just like clockwork. Someone was in there. We did not notice their hands in our pockets when we were doing the work, but someone was there.
When they were still living with gravel streets, old curling rinks and old community halls that they built themselves and were falling down, and they wanted a little bit of return, they got nothing from the PC government.
Now we have the same tune being sung by the Members of the Yukon Party. I will give the Minister this: the only difference between those days and today is that the Minister is a little more soft spoken than the Ministers in the past, and perhaps a little more sensitive than the Ministers in the past. But the position is the same and the effect is the same.
I am going to save my remarks for the Wednesday debate, because it is going to be a good one. And the Member for Klondike will find out that there are no free rides in these debates.
Chair: The time being close to 5:30 p.m., we will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there any further general debate on economic development?
Mr. McDonald: I would like to move on to another important subject and that is the role of the department in facilitating and promoting economic activity. I wonder, if in terms of a general statement, whether or not the Minister could provide us with his impression of what role the department should play in business development activities - whether the government should try to drum up business, facilitate business, or provide support for people in terms of developing a business plan. What kind of role has he cut out for the department to participate in the economy?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Basically, the departments role is a combination of the two. We definitely have to get the word out that we want to see investors invest in the Yukon.
Also, the department, through various programs, should assist Yukoners when they come up with ideas, whether it is through economic development agreement funding, feasibility studies, or research and development on the potential for developing the idea that they come up with.
As far as the pursuit of economic development, we encourage the department to develop policies and a regime that is friendly toward various investors in diversifying the economy: mining, tourism, home-based business or other businesses that First Nations might pursue in the cultural industry sector, for example.
In basically every area of economic development, it is the departments responsibility to encourage people and to assist government in developing policies to create a climate to attract investors.
Mr. McDonald: The question I am asking is probably a little more specific than the wide-ranging answer the Minister gave. I am speaking more specifically about the inter-relationship between the business development office of the department and individual aspiring businesses. The Minister said that the departments business development office encourages business to come forward and try to get things moving. I am wondering if he would define that role more clearly, and I will explain the reason why I am asking.
There are a number of business persons who have come forward to the business development office in the past and indicated to me that they felt the business development office was not as helpful as they had expected. The concern basically arose around persons who came forward with a business plan, and there was either a perfunctory response from the business development office or there was a suggestion to the business proponent that they might simply go out and try to put together a business plan that worked, without necessarily showing them how.
One person who supervises other business development officers once indicated to me that he felt that the role of the business development office was, indeed, not to try to facilitate or to help people through the development of a business plan and onto business activity. He felt that that was exclusively the responsibility of the proponent.
That begs the question as to what role the department should play. If the FBDB, as it has in the past, plays a very useful and successful role in providing business training, and if the banks, the EDA management committees and the business development fund provide funding to the extent that they do, what role should business development officers play, other than be intake officers for business plans?
I would like to ask the Minister how far he thinks business development officers should go to attract new business and to help budding business people in the development of their plans?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The instructions that we have given to our economic development officers is that when someone comes forward with an idea or a business comes forward with a potential expansion, the economic development officers work with the entrepreneurs to assist them in developing a business plan. The economic business development officer is not going to do it for them, as if the person needs a business plan developed for them there is a question about the persons managerial skills to run a business. The best thing to do is to guide the person to develop a business plan and develop a plan that they can take to a lending institution for financing.
The person still has the option to put it before the business development fund advisory board. They will take a look at it and see if there are holes in the business plan that need to be clarified or if it is possibly not a viable business.
We have seen businesses, when I look at the history of them - and I am not blaming the previous administration - where I question whether they should have gone into business in the first place. I think that was because the department was not focusing on helping them develop a good business plan and determining whether it was a viable business. For political reasons, or whatever, the people received the money yet did not demonstrate the required managerial skills.
Then, there are other ones that just ran into a string of bad luck. In my mind, there are a few that could have been singled out and should never have gone ahead.
By the same token, we will work, to the best of our ability, with anyone who comes along with an idea to help them turn that idea into a reality. If we cannot assist them, I want the department to be able to give them a good reason why it should not go ahead, within an acceptable length of time. Often, these things go on much too long. We are trying to get the economic development officers to work with the entrepreneurs to develop a business plan and, as quickly as possible, come up with whether it should happen or not, or whether they should apply under the EDA for funding to do a professional feasibility study, or something of that nature. Is that the line of questioning the Member was taking?
Mr. McDonald: It is a lot closer to it. The Minister is saying that the department, or the business development officers, would indeed assist budding proponents with their business plan, if that were necessary. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Yes, those are the instructions I have given to my department. If anyone runs into problems with regard to that, we would certainly like to know about it.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister indicated - perhaps as a throwaway line - that it was believed that the department had approved projects in the past for political reasons. Is that what he said?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I may have used the term a little loosely. There was a question about whether that project should have been approved. In my mind, I cannot see how several of those projects were ever approved unless there was something besides common sense prevailing.
Mr. McDonald: Is he saying that the department did not use common sense, that the business development fund advisory board did not use common sense or that, in his opinion, there was political interference?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I perhaps should not have used that term as loosely as I did. However, by the same token, I see a couple of things there that smell a little fishy.
Mr. McDonald: I hope no one reading the transcript of this debate feels that the Minister is unnecessarily picking on their particular project.
Let me ask the Minister about the concept of the business incubator. The Minister may remember that, some time ago, the Chamber of Commerce made the proposal that a business incubator be established. They suggested that the chambers of commerce be among the lead agents. They sought funding for this project and, ultimately, because the proposition was never fully finalized and because there was a feeling that there was some overlap - I think the Member for Riverside, Mr. Cable, was a proponent of this venture - the project did not proceed. What was the Ministers opinion of the business incubator?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I am not familiar with what the Member is talking about, but I feel that the Chamber of Commerce has a role to play. By the same token, I think we have to rely on the Yukon people, as a whole, to come up with the idea and then have the department explore various niches that could be sitting around waiting for development within the Yukon.
Mr. McDonald: Before the Minister goes any further, I should explain what the business incubator is. This incubator was a proposal put forward by the business community, which would allow budding businesses, or people who came forward with business ideas, to seek the assistance of business people who had actually participated in the business community and knew something about business and, if they were retired, could help a particular business operator with a particular proposal in a particular sector.
Quite often, there was a feeling that the business development office was not the appropriate vehicle to help guide a budding business proponent. The feeling was that, if a new business operator was to have a fighting chance of survival in the first year or two of business activity, they would need something other than a public servants perspective on how to run the business, and they could perhaps get opinions of people who are, or were, active in the business community.
It was an idea that, like an egg in an incubator, allowed an embryo - or a business idea - to hatch and be nurtured for a period of time when the proponent was most vulnerable - in their first year. The feeling was that they could not depend on either the public service, because they felt their perspective and experience was too narrow, nor the bank, which had a stake in the business operations and was a biased witness to the business proceedings, but that they still needed some help that could, perhaps, only be found through the good work of particularly ex-business people.
Has the Minister thought of this idea? Has he heard from the chambers about this idea? Is he in favour, or is he going to think about it some more?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I find that to be an interesting concept. I had not heard about it, and I have not had the chamber approach me with the idea. However, I am certainly willing to consider it and discuss it further within the department, and perhaps with the chamber, to see if they wish to reactivate that initiative.
Mr. McDonald: I will leave that question and talk about the role of economic development officers, both within and outside of the government. The Minister has been asked some questions in the legislative session about the funding of economic development officers around the territory. These are officers who are not public servants, but are, instead, servants of First Nations. Can the Minister tell me what the policy is in terms of funding economic development officers?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The economic development officers the Member is referring to are funded under the EDP portion of the economic development agreement. These decisions are based upon needs within the community, especially in the area of First Nations. I am not certain what parameters the management committee uses, but I am sure I can get the information for the Member from my deputy minister.
Mr. McDonald: I would like to receive that information from the deputy minister, and I would like to get some sense from the Minister as to what the precise policy is. Certainly, the Yukon government is a participant on the management committee, bringing money to the process, and I am certain their voice is heard. The departments decision may not always be reflected in the final decision by the management committee, but it would be nice to know what kind of position the department presents to the management committee.
The Minister went on to indicate that the provision of economic development officers was determined on the basis of need. Can the Minister tell us how that need is determined?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I understand that we are talking about the economic development officers who are based within the First Nations, and naturally they have their own economic initiatives that they would like to pursue. They work very closely with our economic development officers but the decision on whether a community or a particular band gets an economic development officer would be based on everything from if there is nothing moving within that community to a band that is very progressive and has all kinds of projects going. It is done on a case-by-case analysis because, in some areas, it could be because nothing seems to be happening. It is a community that has a majority of First Nations people in it. It seems as if First Nations especially prefer to have an economic development officer who is of the same ancestry or has a very comprehensive understanding of how First Nations and their government system works.
Mr. McDonald: I can certainly understand why First Nations may want to have economic development officers in their communities whose focus is only on First Nations economic development. But I am asking what the policy is, largely because I realize that, given the amount of money available in the budget, not everyone who wants an economic development officer can get one. Even if every band were to come forward and ask for an economic development officer position, clearly there would not be enough money in this to do anything else or even to fulfill that obligation.
So, I am just wondering how the assessment of need is done and what the thinking is in terms of determining one bands request over anothers.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I am not aware of any problems in the area. I am not aware of any bands requests being turned down, providing they come up with a fairly comprehensive idea of what this particular economic development officer should be doing within the First Nations community.
I would still say that, as far as developing criteria for who should and should not have one, it is done on a needs basis. As I said a while ago, in my first answer, it could be because there is very little economic development taking place in the area or it could be because a particular band is pursuing all kinds of economic initiatives. I do not think every request can be put into a nutshell. It is done on a wide-ranging needs basis. I have not heard any complaints from any bands about the department not supplying them with the funding for an economic development officer.
Mr. McDonald: Whether the Minister has personally heard complaints or not, I am asking him a general policy question. How are decisions made with respect to the provision of funding under this program? There is an economic development officer for the Champagne/Aishihik Band; there is one for the Kluane First Nation; there is one for Teslin and for the Carcross/Tagish Development Corporation. There is an economic development officer for the Vuntut Gwichin Loan Corporation and one for the White River Indian Band - that is three officers for the north highway. There is an economic development officer for the Vuntut Gwichin Band. I am certain they are all doing good work. Under the circumstances, what would Na-Cho Nyak Dun or Selkirk do, should they come forward with a funding request for an economic development officer?
Hon. Mr. Devries: They would have to show that they want to pursue economic development initiatives within the First Nation. This is very important. I am thinking of a particular economic development person in the Carmacks Band and the work he is presently doing with the Western Copper people, and the people who originally worked with the Kaska in developing the joint agreement on the Sa Dena Hes venture - whether that one was funded by us, I am not certain. Also, I believe we have some of the economic development officers sitting on the Council on the Economy and the Environment - or there were, anyway.
I would suspect that in the review of the economic development agreement this subject will be discussed at great length.
We do have a criteria established. I do not have it here, but I could table it tomorrow. I certainly feel that they play a very important role.
As land claims settlements start to take place, and First Nations work toward self-government, that means they are also working toward self-sufficiency, and things like that. They will have monies available. Perhaps an economic development officer will assist them in investing the money from land claims agreements, et cetera. They certainly play an important role.
Mr. McDonald: The Ministers position is that if other bands come forward with a funding request for an economic development officer that is as well justified as the requests that are currently made, they will be funded - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We are presently going more with First Nations that have specific projects they wish to pursue. If they come up with specific projects they wish to pursue, that is quite often when they pick up an economic development officer. We are trying to get away from the planning, and get into the doing - the priority being on doing, rather than planning, an actual project, when it comes to deciding whether or not they will get an EDO.
Mr. McDonald: I think that the confusion of planning and doing is something that has gotten this government into a lot of trouble. What I am thinking about right now is the general criteria about the funding of economic development officers. If a First Nation that is currently not receiving funding under the EDA puts forward an application for an economic development officer that is as well justified as those that are currently receiving funding for an economic development officer position, will the EDA management committee fund those new positions?
Hon. Mr. Devries: That is not my decision. It is up to the EDA planning committee. I have very limited input on that decision.
Mr. McDonald: I will ask the question again, in a different way. If a First Nation comes forward with a request for an economic development officer that is as well justified, or contains essentially the same justification for the position as those positions that are currently being funded, is it the policy of the EDA management committee to fund those positions?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We are only one small bit of the EDA management committee and that decision is made by the committee. We do not get into the political aspect of it. The decision is made by the committee.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister does not stand back this far when it comes time to putting out press releases announcing new projects. The Minister has delegated, through the department, members who sit on the committee. Those members are public servants. They are not free agents, they are responsible to the Minister. Has the Minister given any direction to those public servants who sit on the committee, or has the department given direction to those persons, and instructed them on this question of funding for economic development officers? Have they provided any instructions to the Yukon representatives on the management committee?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The instructions are to follow the criteria that is set out by the management committee, which is also part of the economic development agreement. The whole economic development agreement process is something that was negotiated between the Yukon government and the federal government, and also other agencies like Industry, Science and Technology Canada. These types of agencies are involved and they have some very strict criteria that they have to operate within, and there is very little room for flexibility within those agreements.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister is making this truth extraction go the hard way, but I will continue.
One of the reasons that we have Yukon public service representatives on the economic development agreement committee is to carry the Yukon government position to the committee. I acknowledge that if the other representatives on the committee come to decisions that are different from the final position of the government members, that is life - that is tough on the Yukon; I admit to that.
The case though, is that the representatives are public servants and they are in these positions for good reasons. They at least have to take the position of the Yukon government to the committee and express that position to the committee, at least in the policy development stages, as the policy of the economic development agreement is determined over time.
In terms of the development of the policy, there is a Yukon government perspective entertained at some point by the management committee. If it were otherwise, if it were simply a mechanical function and there was nothing that the Minister or the senior people in the department could do at all to try and sway the opinion of the management committee, then there would be no need for a Yukon government representative. It could be anyone, as long as they stuck slavishly to the general guidelines. The problem is that the general guidelines do not always cover every case, and policy decisions are made - subjective decisions are made within the general guidelines.
I am asking the Minister: when it comes to funding economic development officers in the communities, what is the Ministers position with respect to the funding?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I hate to repeat myself but my understanding of it is that when the economic development agreements were signed there was a very rigid criteria developed. The flexibility to deviate from this criteria is very restrictive. If, for instance, a particular band came to me and said, We want an economic development officer funded, I could certainly say to our representative, Take a close look at this, but I certainly could not guarantee that that band would get an economic development officer. They have to be able to prove to the management committee that it is a niche that has to be filled.
Mr. McDonald: I cannot accept that the Minister does not hold some influence. I cannot accept that the department does not hold influence on that committee. I know that is not the case. There is influence being expressed. One does not always expect unanimity or that one will always get ones way. The issue I am trying to approach here is the issue of what the policy is.
At the barest minimum, one would expect that, because we have a representative on the board of the management committee, we would know what the policy is - at the barest minimum, irrespective of whether or not the person takes a position. Maybe the person does not take any position but at least the person would be a good enough representative that they could record what happens.
There must have been a discussion around economic development officer positions and there must be a reason why some some applications are granted and some are not. There must be a reason, and I want to know what the reason is.
The Minister surely has a position on this subject. The Minister is responsible for a number of EDOs or BDOs around the territory. Surely, there has been some discussion in the past, even while the Minister has been around, about what would happen if there were two economic development officers in the same community - how they would work together, how they would program activity, whether or not there was enough work for two, or a half-time position - all those kinds of things. The policy discussion must have taken place at some level.
I am only asking a question about the final step. What is the policy? Say, for example, the Na-Cho Nyak Dun comes forward with a request for an economic development officer position, I want to be able to tell that person what their chances are or what the policy is. The policies cannot be secret.
Can the Minister tell us what the management committees policy is when it comes to responding to, say, the Na-Cho Nyak Duns request for an economic development officer?
The Minister has said already that they would be considering project-related work - work that is more action than talk, presumably, is, I think, what he meant by planning and doing - and that is fine, but I want to go to the final step here. Somebody must have realized that they had a finite budget. Somebody must have realized that. Somebody must have decided that if we fund a community $55,400 for an economic development officer, there would some expectation around the territory that there would be others - and I think we would be hard-pressed to find a First Nation that was not interested in economic development - who would come forward and say, There is an economic development officer position here. We have some good projects. We hold out some hope for our communities - and in Mayos case the Minister said this afternoon that Mayo had an exciting and promising future in economic development - we want an economic development officer position, too. Then somebody must have gone back down to the bottom line and said, Jeez, $695,000, boy, you cannot go too far spending $55,400 for every First Nation and still do all the other things you are planning to do.
Someone must have considered that question. Otherwise, they do not belong on that committee, in my opinion. What is the policy?
Hon. Mr. Devries: First of all, the department is very supportive of First Nations economic development. As far as the criteria and the policy involved, I will table that tomorrow. It is very difficult for me to try and explain it on my feet. I will table it tomorrow, and the Members can look at it for themselves.
Mr. McDonald: First of all, the Minister may have used a misnomer. He said the department is very supportive of First Nations economic development. I think he might have meant the EDA management committee, because that is who we are talking about. The Minister took great pains to separate the two. I would like to do things just right here.
The Minister says he will come back tomorrow. I will accept that and let him think about it. He will come back tomorrow with the policy from the EDA management committee about how economic development officers are funded. If I am wrong, the Minister can correct me.
Hon. Mr. Devries: What the Member will get is the EDP criteria and how the funding is laid out.
Mr. McDonald: As soon as we get it, I am sure we will have a chance to discuss it.
I would like to ask the Minister about business development offices and their role in the communities. One of the things the Ministers department has done is recentralize the economic development officer position in Mayo. Can the Minister tell us why that happened?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Over the past year, I believe that the economic development officer in Mayo had only something like 10 requests. Meanwhile, we had had 200 or 300 in the Whitehorse area. We were approximately six to eight weeks behind in Whitehorse. The feeling was that Mayo could be serviced out of Dawson City fairly easily. This seems to be working relatively well up to this point.
I had discussions with some of the community leaders before making that decision. Presently, the economic development officer who was in Mayo is working in Whitehorse.
Mr. McDonald: I remember the department representatives, prior to the establishment of a part-time economic development officer position in Mayo, telling me that everything was working well out of Dawson City. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The people who were telling me that were people in the field who felt that they were doing a good job. The moment they left the village office, they were ridiculed terribly by the village council and anyone else. The thought that Mayos economic development needs can be served out of Dawson is not realistic at all. It never has been.
One of the reasons for the positioning of economic development officers in rural communities was because there was little happening. This brings me back to the original point I was trying to make at the beginning of the evening about the role of the department. Is it to excite business or simply to digest business proposals? In comparison to Whitehorse, Mayo has very little activity.
It is like comparing Prince Rupert to Tokyo, in terms of economic activity. One would think that, if one wanted to promote economic activity in Prince Rupert, as opposed to Tokyo, they would put a little extra effort into Prince Rupert, rather than Tokyo. One would argue that there is lots of activity and lots of options for business entrepreneurs to access in Whitehorse, and there is a lot less in Mayo.
Is he saying that, until there is lots of business activity - or at least as much as there is in Whitehorse - Mayo cannot expect to see an economic development officer position?
Hon. Mr. Devries: What the Member is really saying is that, even with only 10 proposals, we should be keeping someone in the Mayo/Keno/Elsa area, and I disagree with the Member on that. We have the EDO from Dawson City visit the community several times a month, or monthly, and we feel that, at this point, with the activity that is going on down there, that is adequate.
I understand what the Member is saying. In order to try and increase economic activity in the area, we should have someone there. However, right now, we feel that what we are doing there is adequate and, if the fortunes of Mayo and area turn around, which could very likely happen in the next few years, we will certainly reconsider placing someone there on a half-time or permanent basis.
The previous economic development officer was only there on a half-time basis. Again, with only 10 requests coming in from January to September, I questioned that. I checked with the community leaders and various other people before we made the decision to pull that person out of there, and there was agreement with that decision.
Mr. McDonald: If the fortunes of the Mayo district turn around, it will be no thanks to the government, typically. If any mining or business activity happens in that community, I would hope that the government does not try to take any credit for it, given their performance to date. Given actions like this, they will barely be relevant at all. We have very little happening in the entire district. There is very little interest by the government in trying to generate something. The Minister says that there are only 10 applications, so he suggests that the primary purpose of the business development officer is to digest applications, which seems to be contrary to the statement of intent for the department in the business development office, at the beginning of the evening.
There are other communities that are doing as well, or as poorly, as Mayo, depending on your perspective. Some of those are even being funded through the economic development agreement. It will be interesting to see whether or not the economic development agreement management committee would fund a full-time economic development officer position in Mayo. Would it not be marvelously ironic if they did, given the Ministers actions, and the Ministers abandonment of the field in that community - in that district.
We have spent literally hours in this Legislature over the course of the last number of years talking about how economic development activity would take place in small regional communities like Mayo, Ross River, Teslin, et cetera. Demands were constantly being made for something to happen - that something should happen and we should not sit back and wait. When we actually tried to put someone in the field who understands the community and understands and knows the people, then a cool and calculated decision to pull that person out is made in favour of supporting a community which has a hub of activity. I represent many people in Whitehorse now - I do not have any problem saying that.
I think there is a problem there. Ultimately, it will come up in the next few years and bite the Minister in the back of the leg. When things fester, as they do in small communities, and resentment builds, YTG is going to have a hard time resurrecting its reputation in those communities. It is too bad.
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, I do not know what point the Member is trying to make, because he seems to be saying that a phone call that I made a few days ago about an investment opportunity in Mayo perhaps should not have been made. He is saying that I am sitting back, but I am pursuing economic initiatives in the area. Just because we do not have an economic development officer there does not mean we are not pursuing initiatives there. I had a follow-up meeting with the person to whom I phoned and we will be doing follow-ups on the various opportunities that this particular group is looking at. We certainly are not abandoning the Mayo/Elsa/Keno area.
We are very aware of some opportunities there, and I am quite confident that one of these days this project is going to go ahead. It could be sooner or later. I do not know at this point, but I am not going to announce it to the people in Mayo because I do not want to create false expectations at this point.
Mr. McDonald: Frankly, I thought I would spell the point out. I cannot explain the point in a more elementary way than what I just did. It is a very clear point - you cannot do business by long distance.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McDonald: Given the kibitzing from the Government Leader and the Minister of Education, I can tell right now that the future of decentralization in this territory is pretty grim.
The Minister of Education says that you should not manage your own business like this. This has nothing to do with business, this is public service. For crying out loud.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McDonald: The Minister of Education says that is why the government has a $64 million deficit. The government has a $460 million budget. They are rolling in the bucks and they are whining, complaining and sniveling, like the shrinking violets they are.
There are lots of things that are done in this territory for small communities, such as an economic development officer for the White River First Nation, an economic development officer for the Kluane First Nation, another economic development officer for the Champagne/Aishihik First Nation and economic development officers for some of the other communities. Clearly, the economies of scale are different in small communities than they are in Whitehorse, just like the economies of scale are different for Whitehorse than they are for Vancouver.
The Government Leader sits back in that really, really, super arrogant way, saying boy oh boy, give your head a shake. Let me tell you something, if the Member was carrying that same argument that he is promoting about economies of scale to Vancouver, he would be laughed at and he would not even be able to fill a washroom with an audience in the Pacific coliseum. Good heavens, talk about the double standard.
We are saying that if you are prepared to make the case to Ottawa - to, as the government says, milk the money from the feds, using that phony, silly, infrastructure document - on the basis that you are a small population with service delivery problems, then you should be able to extend that to some of the less-advantaged people in the territory, like the people in the smaller rural communities. I do not think they are prepared to do that.
I think the Ministers participation in helping to get economic development activities going is admirable. But as brilliant as the Minister thinks he is, and as hardworking as I am sure he thinks he is, there is no possible way he can do everything in every community. I am using Mayo as an example. There is no possible way that he can give the time, the attention and the care that is required to get things going and to ensure things are moving.
That is the point I am making. If the decision makers were living in the small communities they would understand the point. Unfortunately, the people making the decisions are not living in the small communities.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I represent a small community and I know how important these EDOs can be to the community. I think it took me several months to decide on the Mayo situation and it was not an easy decision. I feel quite confident that the EDO we have in Dawson can go to Mayo in this particular circumstance. The EDO is being made aware of the discussions we had and he will pursue what he can on those various initiatives when he visits the community. This person is very familiar with the community. He was the other persons supervisor; therefore he is familiar with the community and its issues. If things turn around in Mayo, then we will reinstitute an economic development officer there.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a recess?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there any further general debate?
Mrs. Firth: I have some questions about similar issues we were listening to being discussed in the House earlier this evening.
I know this Minister has told people that he is opposed to the idea of grants. He has been known to say that at social functions, and I believe he even told one of the individuals who works in my office that he is opposed to grants. This government keeps talking about Yukoners and the business community being more self-sufficient.
Since the Minister professes to being opposed to grants, and tells people that is what his philosophy is, who did he direct - or who directed - either officials or economic development officers within his department - or was this the job of the consultant - to phone local businesses and plead with them and beg them to take money from the economic development agreement?
Hon. Mr. Devries: That is not the manner we are pursuing at this time. We are not phoning businesses and pleading with them to take money from the economic development agreement.
Mrs. Firth: Did the Minister, at the previous time, give the direction for that to be done?
Hon. Mr. Devries: No. When I took on this portfolio, I did not want to aggressively pursue the issuance of grants and things like that.
Mrs. Firth: I have had business people tell me that the YTG Economic Development department has called them - they did not tell me specifically who was doing the phoning but I have had it brought to my attention on several occasions - and they were asked if there was anything they wanted to do that they could do with government money. The person was so enthusiastic and so desperate to give this money out that the threat was even given that, if they did not take the money, it was all going to go back to Ottawa and would the business please find a way to take this money, or did they know of any other business that wanted this money. Who in the Ministers department did that and why did the Minister ask them to do it?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I would like the Member to privately give me the name of the entrepreneur and I will follow up on it, because that is not the direction I have given to the department.
Mrs. Firth: I will not give the Minister any names privately, but I will give him an example or two. The golf courses have lawn mowers that require special sharpening. Apparently, the blades have to be sent out. Even the zamboni machines need the blades sharpened a certain way. A person from the Ministers department had a brilliant idea, when he phoned businesses and talked about the blades that needed sharpening. Why not have one of these business people go and approach one of the local sharpening services and ask him to go to the government and ask for a grant for this special machine to sharpen the special blades? This was how enthusiastic this person was and how desperate they were to get the business community taking grants from this government. Why would the Minister have people in his department doing that if this government is opposed to grants?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, I am not aware of that particular situation. I will look into it. Basically, our instructions are not to encourage people to accept grants for those types of initiatives. By the same token, we feel that golfing can lead to an expanded tourism potential down the road. We will work with them to try and get that up and moving. However, I certainly have not instructed anyone to pursue lawn mower sharpeners.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister is missing the point. Could he focus on what I am asking him?
The Minister has told us in this House, and we have had some debate about, a $12,000 contract that was given out to a consultant to phone businesses, because the Minister was complaining that the departments uptake on the grants was not good enough. Now, he is saying that he is opposed to grants. He cannot have it both ways.
Obviously, someone was phoning on the departments behalf, begging and pleading with business people to take grants for their businesses. How does the Minister explain all these contradictions that I have brought to his attention tonight?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, as far as working with a business person or a potential business person and doing a feasibility study to see if their idea will help diversify the economy, yes, there are grants available to do those kinds of feasibility studies, and I agree with that type of a grant.
If it is a grant toward forming a partnership on some kind of a research and development project, yes, I agree with that type of a grant through the economic development agreement. If it is a grant to buy a lawn mower sharpener, I would not be supportive of that.
Mrs. Firth: Now, he is telling us something different. The Minister is telling us that he is in favour of some grants, but he is opposed to other grants. Could the Minister tell us what his criteria is and how he determines which are good grants and which are bad grants?
Hon. Mr. Devries: If these grants are used for feasibility studies that lead to diversification and expansion of the economy, I would be supportive of those grants on a case-by-case basis. However, if the grants are geared toward some business creating competition for another business, I certainly would not be supportive of that.
Mrs. Firth: Then the Minister is telling me that he does not support grants being given out to some businesses in competition with other businesses. I find that very interesting. We will leave that for another day and follow up on it, because I believe that the Ministers department has done exactly that.
We will wait for another day for that issue to come forward and be debated in the Legislature.
I want the Minister to enunciate his governments policy. What is the policy of this government with respect to grants?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I believe I just answered that question a minute ago.
Mrs. Firth: No, the Minister did not. What the Minister has told us so far about grants is this: one day he told us he was opposed to them. Then we found out that he had officials, or someone in his department, phoning up and encouraging them to the point where they were telling people that the money would go back to Ottawa if it was not all spent, and so they had better get it spent, and would they please take a grant. Then, tonight, he comes in here and says he did not instruct his department to phone about grants, that they did not want to give grants. However, now he says that he likes some grants - some grants are good and some are bad. They are good if they are for feasibility studies, but not if they are in competition with other businesses.
I want the Minister to stand up and enunciate, clearly and very specifically, what exactly the governments policy is regarding grants. Do they believe in them, or do they not? What is their policy?
Hon. Mr. Devries: As I mentioned previously, there are circumstances where grants should be considered, if it would lead to a diversification and expansion of the economy - yes for the feasibility and perhaps the development portion of it. However, when it comes to the actual financing of the project itself, a person should have equity in it and seek financing through private sources.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps we would be able to get a better grasp on the policy of this government - if they have one - if the Minister would provide his policy on grants to us in writing. This debate is starting to remind me of the core funding debate, where the Minister told us that the organizations were not going to get core funding, and we then found out that they were getting core funding.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: It was not called core funding, that is right. Would the Minister bring us a written description of what the governments policy is respecting grants?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Tomorrow, when we table the criteria on the economic development agreements, that criteria will also establish some of the parameters surrounding grants within them.
Mrs. Firth: Will that cover what the policy is regarding grants for all of the business development and community development funds?
Hon. Mr. Devries: No, this would just be for the economic development agreements.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister bring us the governments complete policy regarding grants as it applies to the community and business development funds, as those are areas where grants are given out?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I could do that for the business development fund. Under the community development fund some of that is under review.
Mrs. Firth: I am sure the Minister could provide the basic policy regarding grants. I am not asking for a review of the community development fund. They are going to give out more than $1 million this year in the form of grants and I would like to know what the policy is as it applies to the community development fund.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I will do that.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us what his governments policy is regarding giving out loans?
Hon. Mr. Devries: A few loans have been given out. Contrary to a note I sent to the Member a couple of weeks ago, there are still a few small loans that have taken place within the economic development agreement. As far as the BDF goes, the criteria there is that it leads to economic expansion and diversifies the economy, and one of the most important criteria is that it does not create undue competition amongst the existing businesses.
Mrs. Firth: This sounds like another one of those policies where there are good loans and there are bad loans. I would like to ask the Minister if he would be prepared to bring us some written evidence of the governments policy about loans.
Hon. Mr. Devries: It is basically the business development fund regulations, but I will table them tomorrow.
Mrs. Firth: I do not want some regulations I can go and read myself. I want to know what the governments policy is. What is this Cabinets policy regarding loans? I think the Minister should be able to enunciate what their policy is, not refer me to a set of regulations. What do these people believe in? That is what I am looking for.
Hon. Mr. Devries: We have to abide by the regulations or we would have to rewrite them, so the regulations are what we are following.
Mrs. Firth: I will just emphasize that I would like to see a policy statement about loans, and perhaps the deputy minister can include that in the documentation that is to be presented to us tomorrow regarding that question.
I have heard this Minister also talk about not liking the concept of grants, and I believe the Government Leader, at some time, and Members of his Cabinet have alluded to the fact that they were going to try to get the Government of Canada to move away from grants and to look at more loans or some other way of distributing the money. I would like to ask the Minister of Economic Development if he has at all, at any time, approached the federal government with respect to the terms of the economic development agreement and perhaps looking at not giving out grants and using some other method for distributing the money. Has he ever done anything like that?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I, myself, have not had discussions with the federal government, but some of my officials have had discussions with them on this issue. It seems that they want us to abide by the existing economic development agreement, although some cuts have been made. Presently, we are abiding by the existing agreement, but we would like to see some changes in it.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us what kind of changes he would like to see in it?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I would like to see more of the money geared toward private economic diversification. Presently, much of the funding within the economic development agreement, especially in renewable resources and the mineral development agreement, et cetera, is basically being made up by government itself. Some question arises where we see that we are actually funding 30 percent of things that could possibly be the federal governments responsibility at the present time. We question whether we should be doing that. Presently, we are again restricted on when we can say yes and when we can say no.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister what his position is on doing away with handing out grants completely? What would the governments position be on that?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Within the economic development agreement, when it comes to research and development and feasibility studies in an effort to encourage economic diversification, all the provinces have these types of programs and if we did away with them completely it would only lead to us not being in a competitive position to expand our economy. It is very important that some money be available for projects regarding research and development and for doing feasibility studies on how to expand the economy, because some of these studies can be fairly expensive and private Yukon entrepreneurs would be very restricted on what they could do.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister explain what he means by that? Why would the business community in the Yukon be disadvantaged if we did not get grants from the federal government - taxpayers money given to the Yukon government?
Hon. Mr. Devries: A good example of something that has been very successful is the partnership we formed with the Wheaton River minerals people for a bioleaching research study. This has proven that there are some possibilities in that area. I know the payback will not be tomorrow, but I know that a few years down the road we could see a payback if this type of process is used in the Yukon. That was, I believe 50/50 funding.
We put $100,000 into the heap leaching project at Carmacks with Western Copper. This was money well spent in that it has now been proven that this technology works in cold weather. It could potentially lead to the opening of a new mine and would be money well spent.
There are several projects of that magnitude. This creates new opportunities for Yukoners and helps companies form new partnerships with governments, in that the governments have access to these kinds of reports. If the company did not go ahead with the project a couple of years down the road, we would have that report available to us and be able to look at other opportunities with other companies, using the same technology we partially funded.
Mrs. Firth: I am detecting a rather interesting philosophical concept from this Minister. He has used this one example, which might have happened anyway, without the government intervention or assistance. He is talking about companies forming partnerships with government. I have some concerns about a so-called Conservative government that wants to be involved in businesses in the way that this Minister describes.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: Oh, dear. The Minister is now getting prompting from the Minister of Education. The Minister of Education has just given the Minister of Economic Development the benefit of his wisdom.
My recommendation to the Minister of Economic Development would be not to listen to him, because nine times out of 10, it will probably get him into trouble. He is in enough trouble on his own without having the Minister of Education helping him get into more.
I would like the Minister of Economic Development to tell us what his governments policy is regarding just how involved the government wants to be with the business community, particularly in forming financial partnerships with them. Does he see this as the governments role?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I answered the part of the question that the Member asked before about examples of partnerships.
All I mentioned to the Minister is that, in tourism, it is becoming the way to do business when it comes to marketing. The Alaska government co-partners with private sector business, doubling its marketing money and reaching a bigger and better market. This is now happening in Alberta, British Columbia and all the other provinces in Canada. That is a good example of how the government can put in a portion of the money, form a partnership with the private sector, and get a lot more bang for the buck.
The Member wanted examples, and all that I was doing was passing on information to the Member.
Mrs. Firth: Now the government is also going to get into hotel ownership?
We are not talking about marketing partnerships. I am talking about a government that says they are against grants and, after some questioning, we find out that they are not against grants - there are good grants and bad grants, and we are going to find out more about that - they are not against loans - there are good loans and bad loans, and we are going to find out more about that. It is a government that wants to be involved in partnerships with the business community. How much involvement, we do not know. Perhaps the Minister will be able to answer that question for us this evening, or when he tables his legislative returns tomorrow.
I want to find out exactly what the governments policy is with respect to their relationship to the business community, and that is all I want to know.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I was not referring to forming a partnership to own a hotel. I was referring to partnerships in doing research and development - partnerships looking into the feasibility of getting into a new industry of some type. That is what I was referring to.
We are also seeing companies forming partnerships with First Nations, and doing very similar things. I think it is very important for government to encourage companies to form partnerships with government on research, and also with First Nations - very important.
Mrs. Firth: There is that First Nations story again from the Minister of Economic Development. The Minister says he is not getting into partnerships and wanting to own half of a hotel, but I was positive that I heard him stand up and say that the reason they had supported this mining company was so that they could have access to the reports. Would they not own these reports because they had some financial involvement with the business? That is sort of the same principle. What exactly does this government stand for - or this Minister?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Let us consider the bioleaching project with Wheaton River as an example. We funded this 50/50 with them, and through this funding we found that bioleaching will work on this particular type of ore body, et cetera. For a certain period of time, it is the companys property; if they do not proceed with the project, and since government funded a portion of this research and development, we then have the report and we can use the information from it to pursue this type of activity with another company. Having access to this report also gives the mining people in Economic Development the knowledge they need to help this company pursue the various initiatives that they may wish to pursue as a result of this activity. It is common practice among all provincial governments in Canada to be very actively engaged in research and development.
Mrs. Firth: It is only right that we, as Yukoners, according to this government, get into just as much trouble as all the other provinces are across the country in giving money away that we do not have. Why should we be left behind? Is that what this government stands for? Just because everyone else is doing it, we should be doing it too?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The Member does not believe in economic diversification, so I guess we will just have to leave it as a difference of opinion.
Mrs. Firth: God help all Yukoners and all Canadians when we have governments with that kind of an attitude.
This Minister has not been able to clearly enunciate one policy of this government tonight. Then, he stands up and accuses me of being against economic diversification. I never heard of anything so silly in my whole life. I am trying to establish what this government stands for. I think Yukoners deserve to know. They have a right to know. They keep saying Yukoners voted for them, because they were going to do all these great things. They thought they were great. We are still trying to find out what is so great about them.
The economy is less than healthy, with all the Ministers economic diversification and having whomever he had phone people and plead and beg with them to take money, or find somebody who could take money.
Point of Order
Hon. Mr. Devries: Point of order. I clearly said to the Member that I did not instruct the department to phone people and ask them to take money. I said it three or four times. I would appreciate it if the Member would quit saying that, because I did not instruct the department to do that.
Chair: On the point of order.
Mrs. Firth: On the point of order, I do not care what the Minister pounds his pencil on his desk and enunciates. It was done, and he is responsible for everything that goes on in that department. He may as well have done it himself.
Chair: There is no point of order. There is a disagreement or dispute.
Is there further general debate?
Mrs. Firth: I will look forward to the policy information that the Minister is going to bring back tomorrow.
I want to follow up on some questions that I raised in Question Period about economic development officers. Can the Minister tell us yet how many economic development officers there are in all of the various organizations that assist with the development of our economy in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I know what we have in our own department, but as far as other economic development officers, we have no way of knowing. Some communities have some and some do not. The City of Whitehorse has what they may call an economic development officer, and various First Nations may have economic development officers that we are not aware of. We are only aware of the officers that are mentioned in the economic development agreement, and the ones that work for our department.
Mrs. Firth: As the Minister responsible for economic development, does he not think that he should try and find that out. His department is funding additional training for additional economic development officers, and he is giving money to First Nations for economic development officers. Should the Minister not have some idea how many economic development officers there are in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Devries: As I mentioned previously, I am very aware of the ones who are being funded through the economic development agreement and the ones who work for the department. We have knowledge of some - I believe there is one for the City of Whitehorse - but some communities might have access to a part-time economic development officer within the community. We do not have all those statistics.
Mrs. Firth: Do these economic development officers not all work together? Is it not part of the mandate of the economic development officers in his department to work with the other economic development officers in the community, or does everyone just go off in their own direction?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We work very closely together, but some of the people in the community may be taking economic development initiatives, whether their job descriptions entail being economic development officers or not, and we will not get into that.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister said they are working closely together, but he does not know how many economic development officers there are. That is a contradiction and inconsistency.
Does the Minister not think that it would be better if all the economic development officers were working together in a partnership, all toward similar, or the same, goals?
Hon. Mr. Devries: That is exactly what we are doing, to the best of our ability.
Mrs. Firth: How can they be doing that if he does not even know who they are, where they are, or how many of them there are?
Hon. Mr. Devries: As I said before, some of these people, within the bureaucracy of the communities, may not necessarily be economic development officers. We cannot make a judgment on whether this person is an economic development officer or just someone who is acting on behalf of the community suggesting an economic initiative.
Mrs. Firth: Does the Minister not think he should be aware of who the economic development officers are and who are not economic development officers but are just going around dispersing ideas to the business community, or whatever he just enunciated?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I do not think how they are designated is necessarily that important. If everybody is willing to work together for diversifying the economy of the Yukon and expanding the economy of the Yukon, what this person is particularly classified as, to me, is irrelevant.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister does not know how many economic development officers there are, he does not know whether they are all working in the same direction, and he does not know if some of them are working on economic development projects or not, so how does he know that they are all working in the same direction? How does he know what everybody is doing or whether we are making any headway? How does he know what is going on? Does he know what is going on?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We have a fairly good picture of what is going on but, again, there could be someone who is off working on their own initiative. If that person is not being paid by us or whatever, that should be their prerogative, but I would certainly advise them to work with us because there is all the more chance of success.
Mrs. Firth: Why is that?
Hon. Mr. Devries: If someone is working with government on a particular initiative, there may be areas where government can assist them. There is a great deal of knowledge within the Department of Economic Development they can tap into if they are working with us.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister elaborate on the knowledge that would be so beneficial that they would be better off going to the Department of Economic Development than doing it on their own?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We have people who know the processes of doing feasibility studies. We have people who know the process of looking at potential marketing, environment issues and the whole, wide range of issues that have to be addressed in every economic opportunity a person is looking at. The advice is free from the Department of Economic Development.
Mrs. Firth: When the Minister brings back his policy information tomorrow, could he provide a list of the people in his department who provide this free advice in all the areas that he has enunciated tonight?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I have to take that under advisement.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: The Committee of the Whole considered Bill No. 11, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1993-94, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:27 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled December 6, 1993:
Public Accounts of the Government of Yukon for the year ended March 31, 1993 (Ostashek)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled December 6, 1993:
Forest resources transfer: negotiated package (Ostashek)
Discussion, Hansard, p. 1372
Executive Council Office contracts for the period April 1, 1993, to October 31, 1993 (Ostashek)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1378
Good Government Committee: list of members; terms of reference; operating procedures (Ostashek)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1380-1381
Cabinet Retreat: held at the Yukon Inn on September 8, 9, 10, 1993, at a cost of $1,890.81 (Ostashek)
Aboriginal Languages Agreement between Canada and Yukon covers fiscal years 1993-94 to 1997-98 and was signed on May 25, 1993 (Ostashek)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1385
Executive Council Office: Deputy Cabinet Secretary classification and responsibilities (Ostashek)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1386
Recentralization to Whitehorse: 2 decentralized positions: Economic Development Officer (0.5 FTE), Community Recreation Consultant (Ostashek)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1377
Parent-model open custody homes: none currently in operation (Phelps)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1490
Mathematics diagnostic testing: B.C. Ministry of Education reports for Algebra 12 from 1986 to 1991 and Mathematics 12 from 1991 to 1993; statement comparing and interpreting Grade 12 provincial examination results; mandate of the Math Review Committee; recommendations of the Math Review Committee (Phillips)
Written Question No. 28, dated November 18, 1993 (Harding)
Public School increased expenditures for 1992-93 (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1334
Education Review Committee: purpose; timeline; membership of the steering committee (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1309
The following Documents were filed December 6, 1993:
Violence against women (Moorcroft)
Yukon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan as Yukon Government Policy: draft Cabinet submission (Cable)
Wolf Conservation and Management Plan: public consultation (Cable)