Thursday, January 20, 1994 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Mr. Penikett: On an entirely spurious question of privilege, I would ask the House to recognize the fifty-eighth birthday of our Hansard editor, Dave Robertson, and wish him well.
Speaker: Happy birthday.
Speaker: Are there any Introductions of Visitors?
Returns or Documents for tabling.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have a legislative return for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have some legislative returns.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have a document for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motion.
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Formula financing agreement
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Deputy Government Leader. The new Liberal government has exposed the fact that there is a $40 billion annual deficit, and that they will be looking for ways to address this situation, in part through expenditure cuts. There are rumours circulating in provincial finance circles, and throughout this government, that the transfers to the provinces and territories could be significantly cut.
Can the Deputy Government Leader tell us if the government has developed contingency plans in the event there is a drastic decline in federal transfers?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: At the present moment, the Government Leader is down there, trying to find out just what the situation will be, and we would react at that time.
Mr. McDonald: Is the Minister saying the government has developed no contingency plans, and they will only react after the Government Leader gets back, despite the fact that we know there is a very significant potential for very significant spending cuts to transfer payments to the territory?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We reacted when we came into government with the deficit we had. If we have to turn around and react again to a cut in money, we will do it.
Mr. McDonald: Instead of pretending the government is facing a tight fiscal situation and then proceeding to increase spending year after year in the magnitude of many millions of dollars, what is the government going to do if it is faced with a real decline in revenues?
What are the governments priorities? What will the priority be for education spending, for example? We know how Ralph Klein feels about that.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: May I remind the House again that a great part of our capital budget is funded by Alaska, and the rest is for the hospital. We will have to react accordingly if such a thing happens. We are not going to get ourselves into a deficit position if we can avoid it.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, design changes
Mr. Penikett: Over the last few days I have had the advantage of having some conversations with some Vancouver architects about the hospital redesign process that the Minister is undergoing, including the proposal that we design and build concurrently, or within the space of one year, and I am told that this process is known in the industry as fast-tracking and usually involves paying a premium of between 15 and 20 percent of the cost of the project.
Can I ask the Minister if any of the people with whom he has been working - the architectural firm or the project manager - have used the term fast-tracking to decide the process he is in and warned him that according to industry standards there are huge cost implications for proceeding in this manner?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It does not take an architect to refer to this as fast-tracking. Any damned fool could come up with that phrase - I think I have used it myself. I am pleased to see that the questioner has, as well.
The issue about the architects fees is no, at this point in time there is no premium, if that is what the Member is talking about - there has been no such agreement made.
Mr. Penikett: Let me be clear. I am not talking about any damn fool, I am asking about a particular question here. The Minister chose to misunderstand the point. The architectural industry talks about a 15- to 20-percent overrun on the total cost of the project, as a result of fast-tracking, and say that, as a rule, fast-tracking is only done when time is the issue, such as when you are trying to build an Olympic stadium. Fast-tracking usually involves problems of cost and sacrifices by the client of functional feasibility and design appropriateness.
I am told by the architects that time pressure is the only justification for fast-tracking in the industry. Has the Minister been made aware of that and does he agree with that proposition?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am surprised that the question comes up in this way because we discussed the issue of time and the issue of time is, are we going to spend this money that is identified in the capital budget this year, or are we going to forego that in the interests of having everything finalized before we proceed? We went through this issue for several days, identifying the risks and admitting that there are some risks. With the greatest of respect, we will end up with the hospital that is more functional and is within the budget. The budget is a maximum of $47 million; that is the maximum amount that the federal government will give us to build the hospital, and we will build that hospital within that amount.
Mr. Penikett: The hospital project has already been substantially delayed by the Minister opposite, and he has justified the redesign on the basis of cost savings.
Does the Minister not agree that if industry standards indicate that fast-tracking usually increases the cost of the project, not reduces it, that he ought to be extremely cautious about proceeding with the timetable that he has set?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I know for a fact that the Member opposite certainly would not try to be misleading with respect to the position that I have taken regarding the new design for the hospital; therefore, I can only conclude that he simply did not understand what I was saying.
The justification for the change in design of the hospital has to do with having a more efficient building that can provide the same programs for less. We are talking operation and maintenance instead of capital. The money that we have been guaranteed by the Government of Canada is the amount that it costs to build the hospital - up to $47 million, and we will be building that hospital within budget. We will end up with a cost-savings, which I referred to when I spoke here time and time again, but unfortunately, I was not able to convey the information, because I know that he would not deliberately mislead the House and the public in his preamble.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, design changes
Mr. Penikett: I know the Member opposite well enough to know that whenever he is in trouble he attacks Members of the Opposition, including accusing them of misleading the House. The Member opposite has now conceded in effect that he is proceeding on a course that may increase the cost of the hospital, as it already has, and see the project delayed. He has justified his actions on the basis of reducing operation and maintenance expenditures.
I am told, by people in the business, that one of the consequences of fast-tracking the design and building project is a compromise or sacrifice in functional feasibility. If we make sacrifices in the feasibility and the functionability of the facility, how can the Minister have any confidence that he would achieve the operating cost savings that he is talking about?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: To put it in very simple terms, we will end up with a hospital with a different design, that is far more functional than the design that was passed on to us when we assumed office.
The hospital is not going to cost the taxpayers of the Yukon any more than the original design. The new design, according to all experts that we have consulted, agree that this is the wisest course of action, and that is why we are proceeding. I really do not understand the point of his question.
Mr. Penikett: That may be the problem. The Minister does not seem to understand that the Olympic stadium may also have been brought in accordance to certain budget targets, but it was never finished. It was built according to a tight schedule.
The Minister says that the project will be far more functional, but he is proceeding with the redesign and construction before he has even established a functional plan for the hospital. He is proceeding, as he admitted earlier, with form ahead of function.
Since the Minister refuses to table any of the advice he has received, or provided in the House, could he tell us what architects have told him he can achieve a functional design, a cost-efficient operation and a building built on time and on budget with this method?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The architects in the employ, and within, the departments that build hospitals in B.C. and Alberta. The general approval for this has been given by the architects who are engaged, Rockwell and Associates. This process is sufficiently of interest to Alberta that they will be giving us every kind of support, all along the way, we could ask for.
I am convinced in my mind, or I would not be proceeding in this way, that this decision is best for the Yukon. I admitted quite openly and freely that there is some element of risk in proceeding quickly, and that has to be balanced against the need for jobs that the side opposite talked about so often in the fall and last spring when we discussed this project. That is a balance we have weighed and made a decision about in the interests of the Yukon.
Mr. Penikett: Given what is happening to hospitals and health care in Alberta, I would be extremely worried about getting support from Ralph Klein.
The point is that the architects who are designing and redesigning the building are not going to pay any costs if there are overruns or problems. Does the Minister not understand that if he has cost overruns on this building, or a result that is not functional and efficient in terms of delivering quality health care, that it is the citizens of the Yukon - the clients of the health care system - who will suffer and pay the costs? Does he not understand that?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I certainly do. If there is an earthquake here, rather than in L.A., and of the same magnitude, it would be people up here who would suffer, instead of people in L.A. That is a tautology, as well.
I can honestly tell the Member that we have covered this many, many times before. If he is trying to raise the fears of people in the Yukon, that is fine. I understand the politics of it, but I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the end result will be far more functional and efficient. I am also convinced that we will be able to bring it in well within the $47 million target.
Question re: Faro airport
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services on the Faro airport.
On January 13, a member of his department wrote to the Mayor and Council of Faro, advising that the Yukon government will not extend the Faro airport administration agreement beyond March 31 of this year. The letter assures the town that this decision should not carry any negative implications but, rather, would achieve minor efficiencies.
Will the Minister assure the House and the people of Faro that the Faro airport will not be closed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is no intention of closing the airport. The administrative function of paying the people, both for Faro and Teslin, is being returned to the department.
Mr. Cable: As I indicated, the letter refers to minor efficiencies. What are these minor efficiencies that the Minister hopes to achieve by cancelling the agreement?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The airport operation is paid for by the town on behalf of the Yukon government, and then reimbursed. A six-percent administration fee is paid to the town. That six-percent administration fee, which would amount to somewhere between $8,000 to $10,000 in the case of Faro - and I think that it would amount to a little bit less in Teslin - will remain in government.
Mr. Cable: Will the Minister confirm that the service provided by the Faro airport will continue as it does today, after March 31?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, the service will continue. I should point out to the Member opposite that, up until March 1, 1993, the federal government actually paid those costs. As of March 1, 1993, it became a Yukon government cost, hence the necessity to carry out the administration in Whitehorse.
Question re: Plastic bottles, recycling of
Ms. Moorcroft: My question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. Recently, the Minister of Renewable Resources signed a memorandum of understanding in Saskatoon, to adopt the report of the Canadian task force on hazardous waste management. This report commits the government to address waste definition, treatment facility operating standards, to develop new hazardous waste treatment and promote waste minimization.
In light of the governments signed commitment to these laudable goals, is the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, who has said he is responsible for environmental regulations, planning to regulate refunds on plastic pop bottles in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, I am fully aware that I signed that agreement. I did not have to put an X on it either. I just signed a document today that will be going over to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, who deals with hazardous waste. I will not say more on this until he has seen it and I hear what his comments are.
Ms. Moorcroft: I guess I will ask either Minister to respond, then, to my next question. The task force report also committed all jurisdictions to provide hazardous waste management and treatment capability.
What is the government doing about hazardous waste storage, and when will the Yukon have treatment facilities in place?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I think I just got through answering that. I have just got through a submission that I am turning over to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services today.
Ms. Moorcroft: It is all very well for a Minister to go off and sign agreements at a conference in Saskatoon to promote waste minimization and assistance programs, but the way to do that in the Yukon, as elsewhere, is to support recycling programs. When will the government sit down with the City of Whitehorse to secure ongoing core funding for Raven Recycling?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The department has been sitting down and discussing this with the City of Whitehorse.
Question re: Whitehorse Copper, restoration of mine site
Mr. Penikett: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. It concerns the decommissioning of the Whitehorse copper mine that was mentioned yesterday in the House. I would like to know if the Minister can confirm that the northern affairs program and the municipal engineering branch of Community and Transportation Services have responsibility for assessing the companys decommissioning plan under the environmental assessment review process guidelines order.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will have to take that question under advisement. I am not sure exactly what responsibility, if any, we have.
Mr. Penikett: I am sorry the Minister does not know it. I am informed by way of a letter from the federal Minister of Natural Resources. I wonder if the Minister could at least confirm that the decommissioning and reclamation plan approved, I understand, by both governments includes the War Eagle pit and the potential contamination of surface and groundwater systems in the area.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Possibly the Member opposite could table the letter because I am not aware of it. I have not seen it yet and, as I said, I am not sure what our responsibility is and what we are required to do.
Mr. Penikett: Ever mindful of the recent experiences of the Minister of Economic Development, I will say at the outset that I have doctored this copy of the letter but I will be happy to table it.
Recently, drilling at the War Eagle landfill, to test its suitability as a special-waste storage area, established the possibility of groundwater contamination from waste products like oil and paint. Given the departments role in the decommissioning plan - at least, according to the federal government - I would like to know if the department has examined further, since looking at the special-waste site, the question of potential groundwater pollution in or near the War Eagle pit and its potential impact on the Yukon River watershed.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am aware of the potential water problems in the War Eagle pit. That was one of the reasons it was not chosen as a special-waste facility location. However, I am not aware of any additional testing since it was tested as a site for special-waste storage.
Question re: Blood testing for HIV
Mr. Penikett: I hope that Minister will get back to me on that question. However, I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
It was not until November 1985 that testing of blood for HIV was done as a result of hemophiliacs and others receiving blood transfusions becoming unknowingly at risk of contracting the AIDS virus. The Minister will know that several provinces across the country have developed programs to compensate victims who have tested HIV positive and contracted AIDS through tainted blood. Can I ask the Minister what role YTG will play in the new interprovincial agreement on compensation for hemophiliacs who have received HIV through tainted blood? Does the Minister have any policy on this issue?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: At the last meeting of the ministers of health across Canada in the fall, there was an agreement entered into with regard to compensation for victims of this tragic series of errors that affected blood throughout Canada. We are signatory to that agreement and will pay compensation in the same manner and on the same grounds - I have forgotten the exact levels of compensation - as other regions of Canada.
Mr. Penikett: According to the Yukon Gazette, a Yukon board of public inquiry has been established to inquire into the system of blood supply in the Yukon. Will the Minister tell this House who he intends to appoint to this advisory board and what the mandate of the board of inquiry is?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This gazetted minute has been done in order to facilitate the inquiry that has been carried out by Canada, in cooperation with the provinces, and it is intended that their board of inquiry will have no obstacles in conducting aspects of the inquiry in the Yukon, because of conflicting jurisdictional powers.
Mr. Penikett: That makes it clear why there were no names attached to it. We have a national body, which has simply been given a Yukon mandate.
Since we have decided to go ahead and mandate this inquiry, does the Minister have any reason to believe that there are any people in this territory who may have received HIV, or AIDS, tainted blood, in the last few years? Since he has already mentioned we are committed to compensation at certain levels, according to the interprovincial agreement, does he have any reason to believe that there are Yukon victims?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The best evidence that we have is that there are no such cases. We could be wrong. There could be one or two that we are not aware of.
Question re: Yukon Housing Corporation, proposal requests
Mrs. Firth: I want to follow up with the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation on another question with respect to a controversial contract that was awarded for 19 social housing units. I had asked the Minister to check with the Housing Corporation and request that they comply with the regulations that allow full disclosure of the amount of each bid to the bidders. Has the Minister done this yet?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The contract regulations indicate that, on request for proposals, they should disclose the bids, where practical. On that particular request for proposal, there was one proposal for 19 units and one for 14 units. The 19 unit one was for an apartment building. The one for 14 units was seven duplexes, and there was another proposal for 12 units. What was provided to the proponents of these projects was the difference in per unit cost.
I have the total cost. Because they were entirely different types of projects, the total cost means very little, but the cost per unit does show a difference. I have some papers here that I would happily table for the House.
Mrs. Firth: I specifically asked the Minister to look into this issue. The Minister admitted at the time that he was not familiar with the rules.
With respect to disclosure to bidders, it says here, At the request of a bidder, the contract authority shall disclose to the bidder the information entered into the log established pursuant to the previous section. That section includes the amounts of each bid that was submitted and other information. It does not say anything about where practicable. Where did the Minister come up with the line where practicable. Who told him that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That clause is either under section 41, 61, or 62 of the contract regulations. I do not have the benefit of having the regulations in front of me, but that clause is in those regulations.
Mrs. Firth: The Yukon Housing Corporation decided that it was not practicable for these bids to be disclosed.
I, as a Member of this Legislature, would like to know what the bids were, Ibecause if I do not have the bids now, I have nothing to use for comparison when the total cost of the project comes in.
I would like to ask the responsible Minister to table the total costs of the bids for the information of the Members of the Legislative Assembly.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is exactly the information that I tabled a few minutes ago.
Question re: Justice, community-based programs
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister responsible for Justice. We know from the Minister that there will be fewer police in the territory, and we also know from the latest Statistics Canada information that our crime rate in the Yukon is high.
In the Ministers department, crime prevention activities used to take place under the community programs branch. I understand that, due to reorganization, community programs in crime prevention no longer exist. I would like the Minister to tell me if that is true. Has the government, through reorganization, done away with their crime prevention program?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Our instructions with regard to the priorities of this Minister placed an extremely high priority on crime prevention. I am confident that the police will be carrying out their duties in accordance with the priorities that have been placed before them.
With respect to the assertion that somehow or other the Member understands that there is going to be fewer police in the territory, I am really not sure on what principles the Member is leaping to that conclusion. I have said that there will be restraints in the budget, as there will be across all operation and maintenance budgets in the territory. That does not necessarily lead to a reduction in police officers in the territory.
For example, and I will be brief as I can, by entering into tripartite agreements for police services with First Nations, we can have a tremendous saving per officer employed, and therefore we can achieve savings in many ways other than by reducing the number of RCMP in the territory.
Ms. Commodore: I tried to get a copy of the reorganization chart from the Ministers department, but I was unable to get one, so I am asking these questions. I am talking about the different programs that were available in his department under community programs. There was a reorganization. Do some of those programs still exist?
For instance, there were two people staffing the community programs office, and they are no longer there. Are they going to be replaced? If not, where has that money gone?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There has been a reorganization of the department. Just before I came in here, I was advised the Member had asked for the reorganization chart and that it is being sent to her - it will be.
I was also told there was another request from a researcher for some internal documents that we would not be producing, but the reorganization chart will be forthcoming.
We are attaching a very high priority in the department, aside from the RCMP issue, on moving toward community-based justice. Some of the moves have been made in order to rationalize the way in which we approach that, in accordance with a ministerial statement that was given here a month ago.
Ms. Commodore: In order for us, on this side of the House, to do our jobs, we require all kinds of information if we are going to be discussing budgets in this House. Will the Minister provide to me extensive information on what has been done in his department in order for me to be prepared for debate in Committee of the Whole? Will he do that prior to debating the supplementary budget for Justice?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Member is concerned about not receiving that reorganization chart. I will look into it right away and make sure it is faxed over to her.
Question re: Justice, community-based programs
Ms. Commodore: I would like to follow up on the community-based justice program. Yesterday, the Minister said he did not have any new money to put into the program, other than taking it from other programs in his department. Since he announced this program, and probably sent his policy around to all the relevant people, could he tell this House what programs he intends to take that money from to accommodate applications he may get from community groups in regard to the exciting program he has announced?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not sure what the Members complaint is. If it is that there are not huge new gobs of money accompanying the initiative, that was laid out very clearly in the ministerial statement. If she is concerned about our simply whacking some programs in order to generate money, that is not the intention at all. What we are doing is sitting down with the community to see what kind of initiatives might better be based in the individual community, rather than here in Whitehorse. We are also looking at such innovative things as the tripartite agreements for policing in communities, which will free up some money that can be used within the community on community-based justice. We are looking at the training of people who are currently based in the communities, or who live in the communities, so that they can, on a fee-for-service basis, perform various functions on our behalf. An excellent example of that, of course, is the JP program and, since we have been in office, we have appointed many JPs in most areas of the Yukon - an area of the community justice program that was starved to death under the previous administration, because they refused to appoint JPs unless it was seen to be entirely politically correct.
Ms. Commodore: The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin received a letter requesting urgent financial assistance for their healing camp. Has the Minister had an opportunity to discuss this request with the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, and will he fund this important community-based justice program?
Speaker: As briefly as possible.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have received a copy of the fax that she refers to. It has gone to the department, and we will be reviewing it and discussing options with the people of Old Crow and the MLA.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister has just indicated that he really does not have any funding for any of these programs, and then he is talking about discussing this within his program. I would like to ask him to make it very clear to the communities whether or not he has funding available for these important programs, for which he may be getting requests. He keeps saying he does not have any money, but he is going to look at the program applications anyhow. Does he or does he not have the money? The people in the communities should know.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We had questions about what we would do in the event that there was a financial downturn. We have been busily reducing O&M costs and making government more efficient.
The commitment that we have made to the communities is that we will sit down with them and look at modest changes that can be made that will not mean a net increase in the funding for the department. There are all kinds of savings - I have gone through this several times. I am patient, and I will find other examples for her.
There is no new money available for this. I said that when I delivered the ministerial statement, and I am saying it now. I said it this morning when I met with a group from one of the communities.
Question re: Curragh employees, wages owing
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister of Justice. I would like to get some information about a subject that I have been trying to get resolved for some time.
Former Curragh workers just won their appeal case with the Curragh interim receiver in charge of the assets of the Faro mine for the millions of dollars in wages that they are owed. I would like to ask the Minister when he will be filing the wage claim against Curraghs board of directors in an attempt to collect these wages.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I believe it is up to the Employment Standards Board to file that against the directors fund. Once the lid is lifted off the directors fund, it also opens it up to other individuals to try to access that money.
Mr. Harding: I understand where the appeal is going to be directed. This has been an important issue to my constituents.
My understanding is that the Employment Standards Act states that the board of directors has a period of time in which they can respond to employees wage claims. If they are challenged, the Department of Justice must proceed to the courts. Does the Minister have an estimate of the time lines for this process, because my constituents have waited a long time for this money, and it is very important to them.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, I do not have an estimate at my fingertips. I can do one of two things - I will leave this in the Members hands. I can bring back the information to the Member or arrange the briefing I promised him some time ago with the appropriate officials of the department.
Mr. Harding: I will take the Minister up on the briefing. However, I also like to ask questions in the Legislature to ensure that the Minister gives the House the assurance that he is paying attention to this important problem.
I would like to ask the Minister a final question. The board of directors at Curragh had a contingency fund set up for liabilities of this nature, and it totalled into the millions of dollars. Will the wage claims take priority against the liability fund because the payment of wages is a requirement of law in the Employment Standards Act?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am sure that the hon. Member did not intend to ask me for an opinion of the law. That is not allowed under our rules.
Again, that is a question I would encourage him to ask during the briefing.
Speaker: Time for Question Period has now elapsed.
We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move the Speaker do now leave the Chair and 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 it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 11 - Second Appropriation Act, 1993-94 - continued
Chair: We are on Bill No. 11, dealing with Economic Development. Is there further general debate?
Department of Economic Development - continued
Mr. McDonald: There is a little extra general debate this afternoon. I would like to focus in on a few issues that have been left in abeyance prior to Christmas and a couple that had been raised in Economic Development estimates a few days ago. The first issue is, perhaps the most current one, the process surrounding the development of the Yukon Economic Forecast and the content of that forecast document.
I listened to the Ministers response on the 8:30 news this morning on CBC, and he gave a spirited defence of his actions, which was unlike what he had been saying in the Legislature. I would like to pursue that a bit to find out what he meant by the things that he said. In particular, I would like to try to determine what his concerns were with the economic forecast, so that we might be in a better position to assess the validity of the governments action to suppress or keep secret the Yukon Economic Forecast, until such time as it had been doctored.
Perhaps the Minister could provide us with a list of the concerns that he has with the forecast and we can deal with them one at a time.
Hon. Mr. Devries: Unfortunately, I do not have them in a written form that I could hand out. Every time I look at them, I change my notes a little bit. The accuracy of any report speaks to whether or not the information is the most up-to-date available and is consistent with related data from other sources and is error free. Some of the statistical information in the draft of the forecast is inaccurate. For example, the authors, as well of the staff in the Department of Tourism, have indicated that the data related to tourism in the Yukon needs to be corrected.
Another case involves the labour force numbers. The text in the table and the numbers do not match up. This is on page 10 of the forecast. The current draft of the forecast lacks a strong focus. The major sections of this report could be arranged or reorganized to strengthen the entire document. For example, I feel that there should be a highlighted focus section in the beginning for anyone wanting a brief overview. There seems to be an executive summary, but it would be much better to have a highlighted focus section.
The report needs to be clarified in some areas. In principle, documents like economic forecasts should include a well laid out pattern of information, analysis and projections.
The information should include data on key economic indicators, a summary of key changes in the economic investment program and regulatory environment, and a tentative listing of emerging social and political trends and initiatives that could affect the level of economic activity and output.
Weaknesses in this structure of the draft of the report leave open questions as to whether or not the report is comprehensive. It seems like it jumps back and forth, there are omissions, and things like that.
Another example of my concern is the scattered references to the Yukon governments 1994-95 capital budget. This could have been references to Yukon governments 1994-95 capital budget. This could have been reorganized to provide a much detailed sense of how the $126 million is proposed to be spent. The capital budget will play a significant role in our economic future, and yet this document spends little time addressing this issue. This is one of the major spending items within the economy, and yet that document seems to deal with it very lightly.
Another example is that there is no reference in the document to the employment task force initiatives of this government, which have resulted in additional employment for Yukoners this winter. I know that the Members like to throw out the argument that it is deferred money, and things like that, but the money and the jobs that were actually in the 1993-94 capital budget actually happened. Some of those jobs came in under bid, so it is very hard to determine whether the projected number of employees worked on those jobs or whether the contractors took lower profits, and things like that. We have to assume that the number of employees that were supposed to work on the project actually did the work, and that by reallocating this money these are new jobs.
An example of an oversight in analysis is a reference to land claims. While land claims are mentioned with reference to legal and regulatory certainty, very little attention is paid to the investment potential of the First Nation final, comprehensive packages or the economic spinoffs of implementation activities, particularly in the rural communities.
Again, at the time of this writing, there was much more certainty surrounding land claims - as far as getting them signed is concerned - and I still feel quite confident that it is also going to happen in the very near future.
The federal infrastructure program was not even mentioned. The City of Whitehorse sewage project was not mentioned - a $10 million project for this coming year, yet it was not mentioned. It is definitely going to have an impact on our economy.
There is also no detailed discussion of signals related to investor confidence or consumer confidence. There is no reference to the sale of the Sa Dena Hes mine, which could also have economic implications for the Yukon.
The reference to exploration activities, on page 17, could have been updated to show that, in fact, explorations in the Yukon increased by more than 100 percent.
On my preliminary review of the document, as much as I accept the fact that the economy has been in a decline - and it is no secret; every one of us here knows that - this document is being sent out to various people and it could be used to attract a degree of investor confidence. So, it is very important that we do not miss any of the highlights. It seems to go into a fair amount of detail on the low end of things but definitely there are some positive indicators out there and it is very important that they be given their due recognition.
Basically, as much as I believe an attempt was made to update it at the last minute prior to my getting it, I feel that some things were left out.
Mr. McDonald: I thank the Minister for that prepared statement. What I am going to have to do is go through each point, one by one. Certainly, a lot of what the Minister said needs testing.
I would like to begin by talking about jobs. The winter works program the Minister mentioned was originally scheduled, or slated, or touted, as having 3,700 person weeks, or 70-some jobs. When it got into the House and the questions started flying, it was reprofiled to 2,800 person weeks. In questioning the Government Leader, the Minister of Finance, it became apparent that better than $5 million that was found to support a $7 million winter works program was found through lapsed funding - not bids that came in under expected budgets, not savings that were found through efficiencies in government, but quite simply it was found through lapsed funding, meaning projects that did not proceed.
When projects do not proceed, jobs do not proceed. Of that $5 million-plus - it is better than $5 million - can the Minister tell us how many jobs did not proceed, so that we can get a net total of the number of person weeks?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Is the Member talking about the 1993-94 main estimates or the winter works project?
Mr. McDonald: I am talking about the winter works project, because that is what the Minister mentioned in his prepared statement today. The winter works project was not given the focus it should have, he said. He said that the authors of the economic forecast had not highlighted it as having a major impact on the territorial economy.
Hon. Mr. Devries: Many of those projects have been completed this winter. I do not have the exact ones at my fingertips, but my understanding is that one of the housing ones - and I hate to get into numbers, where I stand to be corrected - was $2 million.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Devries: Shut up, Trevor.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Mr. Devries ...
Hon. Mr. Devries: I lose my train of thought very easily, especially when someone disturbs me.
Chair: I would warn the Minister to watch his tongue, please.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I believe it was $2 million. About $1.4 million worth of those projects have either been completed or will be by March 31. This is one of the housing initiatives from Yukon Housing Corporation.
Again, the winter is not over. To be able to say exactly how many jobs have actually been created would be difficult. I could come up with the numbers of the jobs that have been completed, but it is hard to say what will happen between now and March 31.
In the Department of Government Services, we have done a lot of handicapped access work to this building. We have spent just over half of the $80,000 that we had committed in the Government Services portion. We will continue to spend the other half prior to the end of the year.
Mr. McDonald: Let me ask this question again, because I do not think the Member understood where I was coming from. I was not asking how much of the $7 million winter works program was actually going to have been spent and jobs created. The Minister seems to suggest that it may not be all the $7 million, but that is not the point of my question.
My question has to do with a reallocation of funding to provide money for the winter works program. The Government Leader clearly indicated that over $5 million of the $7 million was money that was reallocated from other projects. That means those other projects in the main estimates did not go ahead.
There is $5 million worth of work that did not go ahead and is being replaced by what is being called a winter works program of $5 million, some of which is going ahead, as the Minister said.
How many person weeks were lost when the government reallocated the funds from one set of projects to another set of projects?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Unfortunately, I do not have those numbers at my fingertips. By the same token, I think we have to recognize that any jobs that were lost more than likely would have been summer jobs. I still think the winter works project is a very important factor, in that there are people working this winter who would not have been working had we not done this. It could be that there were fewer people working last summer; however, I think the people who are working this winter appreciate the fact they are working. I do not think it is a major concern to those people that a few jobs did not happen last summer.
Mr. McDonald: I will caution the Minister to be very careful about saying things like that without knowing what he is talking about. I am not going to let this ride one inch. Fuzzy thinking is over. All the spin doctors, all those claims that were made about big, new jobs projects and the wonderful government actions, are being tested now, and the answers are going to be delivered today.
We have been through the Economic Development estimates on a number of different occasions over the last couple of months, and that is enough. Today is the day.
The Minister says the total redistribution was almost $6 million, but $5 million of it lapsed. He says those were summer works projects, and they are now winter works projects. This seems to be the latest offence.
When I go down the list of savings and lapses, I do not see a whole list of summer works projects. I see a whole list of projects that could be done at any time.
In particular, there are two large housing projects that were touted as being a significant portion of the new $7 million works program, which replaced two large housing projects the Yukon Housing Corporation was going to go through anyway - the home ownership program and the non-profit housing program.
I ask this question in all seriousness. How many person weeks were lost as a result of the lapses in government spending? I am referring to the lapses used to fund the winter works program.
There is an important point here, because I will tell the Minister what it looks like to us, just so he knows the whole point of the question.
It looks as though the government came forward in order to be seen to be doing something at the last second, just before winter started, after admitting that there is no economic trouble in the territory. It took a couple of months for the Ministers to admit that there was a problem out there.
It looks like the government came along at the last second, threw together a committee, put some private sector members on it to make it seem as though they were not so incestuous - that it was not only public servants talking to Ministers all of the time - and took money that was going to go to other projects, because the government planning process could not spend that money. They applied that money to what they called a brand-new winter works program of a government in action. A vast majority of those dollars were used from lapsed funds.
What it looks like is that the government came forward with a claim of 3,700 person weeks, which they reprofiled to 2,800 person weeks, and it leaves the impression that there are 2,800 new person weeks of employment.
In fact, because of lost jobs due to lapsed funding, the number of person weeks that we are talking about probably number in the hundreds, which adds up to a handful of jobs.
If the economic forecast, and the authors of that forecast, failed to mention the addition of a handful of jobs, the Minister of Economic Development should not be taking them to task for that. It would be an unreasonable thing for him to do, simply because the Minister wanted them to toe the line on this government mumbo-jumbo about understanding the state of the economy and knowing when to commit words to action.
That is why I asked the question. I have my cards on the table. I want to know about the lapsed funding. I am sure that the Minister has had time and oodles of notice. I want to know how many jobs had to be foregone, due to the $5 million plus lapsed funding.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I will have to get that information from the departments. I will do that in the form of a legislative return. If it is not done before the House recesses, I will ensure that the Members receive it in writing.
Mr. McDonald: The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes criticizes us for what he calls some sort of filibuster. All we are trying to do is to assess the validity of the governments claims - claims that were made even as recently as this morning. We have been on and on about these statistics, about job numbers, justifying claims that sounded good, but for which we saw no proof.
When we are trying to assess the state of the economy, fight for jobs for our constituents, establish funding priorities in the Legislature or to speak out for jobs in the construction industry or education, we get nowhere. Every time we ask a question we are put off. I asked a question about the economic forecast on December 2. In the middle of January I found out that the Minister did not intend on giving me the information on it at all - the forecast that was published on November 17.
Knowing what we know about the debates in this Legislature, he should have checked it out. He must have a ballpark figure for the person weeks that were lost as a result of lapsed funding. Surely he can tell us that. I do not need a prepared statement from anyone in the departments or in the communications office. I want the Ministers understanding of this. Can he give me that?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I just do not have it.
Mr. McDonald: Frankly, that is just not good enough. We are coming to the end of the legislative session and we have done our absolute best to test the governments words. We have been criticized day after day by Members on the government benches and by some people who support them from outside the government, for holding the Ministers in the Legislature. This is not an insignificant issue. This is a major issue. This is one of the most important issues the territory is facing or has ever faced. If I felt the Minister would leave the Legislature thinking to himself, maybe there is a point there, maybe I should not be making claims like there are 3,700 person weeks or 2,800 person weeks or that the authors of the economic forecast were wrong or misguided, by not including this information in the forecast, I would feel better, but I know for a fact that tomorrow morning on the radio the Minister, when asked, is going to say the authors of the economic forecast did not include the 2,800 person weeks of new jobs created as a result of government action. He is going to use that as a claim for why he did not issue the economic forecast or why he feels the economic forecast is so severely flawed that it is no longer a useful document.
This is my one chance to assess that information. To get something that is digested by the departments, weeks from now, with a new spin on it and yet another argument, is not acceptable to me. We just went through the whole roads-versus-schools issue and I could not keep up with the change in arguments coming from the government side on that issue. We would test them, challenge them on their priorities, and the Ministers would stand up and issue some comment such as No money, the Grey Mountain School cannot be built, or the J.V. Clark School cannot be built. Jobs cannot be created as a result. Then, when we pointed out that this is a record-sized budget, that there are other priorities being well-funded and that to shave a little money here and there would do wonders to balance the budget, they shifted focus. It is the grade reorganization - yes, that is it - the grade reorganization. Then when it is pointed out that there are 3,000 students in Whitehorse and 100 classrooms, they say, We are going to build a new high school and both high schools have to be exactly the same size. If they are not the same size, then we cannot have two high schools.
Now, I have to go to the media and I have to say, You do not have to build two high schools the same size. Nobody has ever suggested that. I will ask the Minister of Education, eventually, why he has to build two schools the same size and then leave another school in Whitehorse closed, boarded up, with plywood on the windows. He will say, I have been told this. I will get back to you with more information. What he is going to get back to me with is a new argument - the traffic flows on Lewes Boulevard will not permit Grey Mountain School to be built.
Now, I am going to have to do all the work of building a new argument against the latest justifications for the preconceived notion that they are not going to build a school, no matter what. Their latest argument is nonsense.
I am frustrated. I feel that we go through the process of asking questions and getting legislative returns. Sometimes the Minister gives us the information and sometimes we get nothing. Sometimes we get the information, but it has a new twist on it. There has to be an end to this. We could go through all the processes of pointing out that the review of change in the accumulated surpluses - the Merv Miller report - to demonstrate how that was ridiculous and misguided, but we are already on to new arguments. We could trash it and bury it under 100 feet of soil, but we are already on to something else.
There has to be a time when the Ministers understand that when they make a claim, they will be tested and it is going to come to a conclusion while they are still using those arguments. It is my view that we should know that if there is $5 million in lapsed funding, how many jobs are lost. That way, we can know the net increase in jobs. It is an important feature.
If we find out that five-sevenths of the 28 person weeks were really jobs that were lost somewhere else, so that there was no net gain and that we are down to a matter of a few hundred person weeks, which works out to a handful of person years, there should be no question why the economists in the Department of Economic Development, who are clearly no fools, would not put that into the document. The document does not match the governments rhetoric - I admit to that. However, that is not what the economic forecast is all about. That is not what it is supposed to do.
When the Minister is saying to us that they need to put out an economic forecast that can convince the banks or investors to invest in, or pay some attention to, the Yukon, what would those same banks or investors think if they found out that it was being doctored to put the most positive spin on the facts?
The Minister has gone to some lengths to indicate that he wants the most up-to-date information available. Certainly, the information is stale-dated from the middle of November, when it was published, and we are now in the middle of January. However, that is not a fair argument. Clearly, things do change. That is to be expected. It was supposed to be the best vision possible from November 17 onwards.
He mentions that there were typos here and there between tables and texts. I found those same concerns, on a couple of occasions, in the 1993 forecast, about which the Minister did not pretend to want to doctor or change in any way.
In this particular document, apart from the fact that the Minister has said that this forecast does not have a strong focus, one wonders why he would even have dared to refuse to release it. I would argue that it does have a strong focus. It has a very clear focus. Unfortunately, the focus seems to present a bleak picture of the territorial economy.
I will get back to the point. Would the investors appreciate hearing that the Minister of Economic Development wanted to put a positive spin on the facts, when they are taking that document as we take it?
It is supposed to be an objective evaluation of what should be the case in terms of major economic indicators in the territory. Can the Minister guess for us how the investors would respond?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, I do not know how many times I have to repeat this. There was no intention to put anything into the document that is incorrect. We want to make sure that the facts are stated properly. We are willing to accept the fact that the economy has been in a decline, but we want to make sure that people are aware of some of the positive indicators out there.
The Member has given me a relatively good argument, I will agree. I have told the Member that I will get back to him on that issue, but I hate to see the department spending an incredible amount of time determining why something did not happen when we would like to be focussing all of our energies on getting people to work.
Mr. McDonald: Hear, hear. The Minister should be focussing his attentions on something positive and getting people to work. It is not for the statisticians and the economists to do that - it is their job to give us reliable information - it is for the politicians to do that.
The Minister cannot use statistical information to do what he and his government should be doing, which is to help to get things moving out there. The Minister cannot do that by trying to put a positive spin on something that may be negative or may not be as positive as he wants.
The Minister cannot do this by telling little white lies to the investment community, to us or to anyone else. You do not improve the economy simply by turning out statistical documents that agree with your position. That does not give a single job to any one of my constituents, unless they work at the Queens Printer.
You cannot raise the unemployment rate - sorry, I am thinking in the government terms. You cannot lower the unemployment rate by simply stating that the unemployment rate is going down. You have to do something. There have to be jobs. Real jobs. That is what the Ministers should be doing, not the statisticians. The major focus of the economic report does refer to major economic indicators. It says that the gross domestic product is expected to contract by 17 percent in 1993 and remain at this level through 1994, unless some mine reopens. Does the Minister feel that indicator has been fully expressed in the report and that there is something wrong with it?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Could the Member repeat that question? I did not quite get what he was asking. I know he was talking about the gross domestic product and something about economic indicators, but I was not sure in what context?
Mr. McDonald: The report states that the economic indicator of gross domestic product is expected to contract by 17 percent and remain at that level through 1994. That is what is stated by the authors of the forecast. Does the Minister feel that that accurately describes the picture? Does he believe that that particular indicator is somehow poorly expressed?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We all know that that indicator is dependent upon metal markets and various things like that. We can look at the past history of the GDP. It shows in the document that the NDP caucus released earlier - and again I question why they do not check the facts themselves - that there has been a steady rate of increase for the past five years. In the statistics that I have been given, in 1991, there was a decrease of 5.9 percent. I may have some short fingers on my hand, but I can certainly count the five years. Obviously, if the Members want to accuse me of trying to mislead people, I think they should check some of their own figures.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister has a lot of nerve saying that, because, first of all, our information was taken from the winter forecast of 1993, which he issued. Secondly, the five-year average we referred to remains true. If there are fluctuations during that period, there is an average. That is what was referenced in the 1993 Yukon Economic Forecast that the Minister issued and has so far taken no issue with until today.
The Minister made an important point. He said, unless a mine opens up, the gross domestic product, being down by 17 percent, can be expected to be reduced to that level over the coming year. Is that not what he said?
Hon. Mr. Devries: When we look at the increase in the past few years, we also have to recognize that there were substantial government wage increases included in that GDP for the last three years. We know now that government wages will not be increasing over the next year or so, with the wage contract. That is another reason why it will remain somewhere in that range. Again, when a statement is made, it would be good to clarify the statement a little bit more and show some of the indicators as to why the GDP has been increasing in the past and why they think it is going to remain somewhere in that vicinity during the coming year.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister honestly say that he thinks that it is a fair or honest representation of what should be in an economic forecast, and that every indicator should incorporate every last variable, in order to show that they have covered every single base similar to what a Ph.D. thesis would produce in detail, or that there should be footnotes throughout the document, and that the document should be the size of the Toronto telephone book? What happened with wages at Finning Tractor? What happened with wages at Northwestel? How many people expected a wage increase in the tourism sector? Are we going to hear the operator of some small store in town saying that this economic forecast is simply inadequate because it did not mention that I gave all of my people a raise this year, and that the government should have known better?
The bottom line is the gross domestic product declined, and it is expected to stay down. The Minister was close to saying stagnant. The words did not actually leave his lips, but the fact of the matter is that the gross domestic product is down and it will stay down.
The report talks about the employment rate and a further drop this winter, and that there is no expectation for population to grow appreciably in the coming year. Does the Minister agree with that indicator?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I do not know if we really want to get into specifics at this time. My feeling is that there were some omissions in that document that could have given some more positive indicators out there. We want to get people working and we want to gain investor confidence. We are not interested in putting out a document that is false. We want to show the true picture of the economy. We feel that more could have been done in this document to get a true picture out there, and that is what we are after.
Getting into the nitty-gritty of this document is a complete waste of this Legislatures time. I know that the Member may disagree with me, and that is his prerogative. I do not know why the Members on the side opposite are making such a big fuss about this, but that is politics, I guess. My mind does not think very politically, because I am interested in seeing things happen and I am trying to work with the department and do the best we can to get things happening.
If we have to spend so much of our time looking back on why something did not happen, that is a complete waste of time. We have to look ahead. We have to get things moving here. I have indicated to the Member previously that if he has some ideas about getting things moving, I am happy to listen to him. I listen to everyone with an open mind and that is the way that I want to go. Let us get people working and quit playing politics with this report.
Mr. McDonald: I am here to get people working; that is my job.
I have seen precious little from this government other than the most hollow, shallow, political claims that they are doing any kind of work. I have seen nothing but Ministers trying to suppress information and not even wanting to justify their remarks in this Legislature - information about the forecast, the future. I have seen precious little coming from the governments side in terms of actual work and actual imagination in getting the economy going. We have precious little being done about the Curragh operation. We are taking a really sleepy and lackadaisical attitude to getting that mine operating.
After having gone through the last year of an economic downturn and coming into the Legislature with bogus claims about jobs and all these fancy government actions, the Member accuses me of playing politics when I question him on statements he makes - he listed all these complaints about this document, and he trashed the reputation of the economist in his department, not me. He said that the document had economic indicators that were wrong and misguided, not me. Because he does not want to face the music, be accountable, as politicians are - are we ashamed of what we are doing here? - he tries to goad me into dropping a line of questioning. He suggests we should drop the past, because it is all history.
I have no information that the Minister has learned any lessons whatsoever. I have given him some ideas about what to do. I do not feel guilty that I have been critical without providing some positive alternatives. I have suggested that he immediately hold a conference to discuss access to capital for businesses - one of the biggest issues for the business community in Whitehorse, and a big issue in rural Yukon. There are many investors out there who do not know anything about the territory. There are a plethora of investors in the Yukon - from the Business Development Bank, Dana Naye Ventures, the business development fund, the EDA, the banks - who all have differing understandings of what is viable here, or what the opportunities are. We have a lot of businesses who are having trouble, not only dealing with their own bankers, but also dealing with any investment agency that would take a chance on them.
I suggested to the Minister that he pull these people together and actually have a good, thorough discussion of what the opportunities are. Whether the Minister takes that suggestion up or not will help us understand whether or not the government is actually going to do something constructive and positive.
However, all we have are these capital budgets with huge projects, like the hospital, that go ahead when it comes time to put out press releases on the capital budget but, a month later, they are gone; they are history; they are doing something else - they are building a shell or a shopping centre.
We have land development budgets that promise to spend oodles of money on land development then are contracted by more than 50 percent. There are winter works programs that transfer money from one section of the government to another. Then the jobs created are touted as brand-new employment - jobs that will be the salvation of the territory. That is all we have got in terms of government action.
Possibly, what really rankles the Minister is that when they were talking about the mining sector, they failed to mention that the Minister attended the Cordilleran Roundup. Perhaps the economists had not heard that there was a new civil servant placed on the advisory committee on placer mining regulations. They should have highlighted these things in the forecast, so that we could all appreciate that, despite the fact there are no hard rock mines, we can still feel that the government has good intentions.
That is not what forecasting is all about. This is baseline information for all of us. This is not the kind of thing that bankers would appreciate, if they felt that this was doctored to meet a political line, whether NDP, Liberal or Yukon Party. They want something a little more solid.
The Minister mentioned the sale of the Sa Dena Hes mine, which took place, presumably, after the publication of this document. He suggests that that should have been incorporated into the text. Of course, it could not be, because these things are always stale-dated at some point. There is always a certain level of criticism that we can give to any forecast. If we were to go back to the forecast of 1993, I think we could find some things that just did not pan out or were not taken into account. They are looking at it from the perspective of the fall of 1992. Is that fair? It is my opinion that 20/20 hindsight criticism is not fair. I suggest, too, that, even if one were to take the Sa Dena Hes mine into account, the indicators would not change. No one has promised to open the mine.
It has been sold, but what would we have investors believe? That because a mine has been sold, it is going ahead and they should count on that? That would be dishonest because no one said that. This forecast does take into account government spending. It does take into account that there is going to be a capital budget. There are a large number of public servants who are making a wage and who are spending it here. The fact that they have not specified the City of Whitehorses sewage project seems to suggest to me that this is a document for the doorstep, rather than a document for the investors.
This is a document to try and convince people that the government is doing something on a political issue that is of importance to them, but it is not a document to assess the general state of the economy in 1994. He says there are only scattered references to the capital budget.
What are these people supposed to say? Are they supposed to incorporate Northwestels $5 million or $10 million capital budget, too? And point out that Northwestel is putting in a repeater station, after many years. Or that the Minister of Health and Social Services is going to refurbish a section of the Thomson Centre?
That is a response to a political concern in our territory, but it does not have anything to do with the forecasting as long as the dollar amounts, the basic expenditures, are incorporated into the mix. It will be dollars spent - presumably.
This forecast is longer than last years forecast. This forecast has a whole series of disclaimers on it because the Minister said it is not politically correct. This forecast has no disclaimers on it. Did anyone pick up the 1993 forecast and believe that this was going to be a comprehensive statement about the Yukon economy that could never be challenged because every last detail was incorporated into it? No. Would they do that with this one? No. Is it a summary document? Yes. Was last years a summary document? Yes.
I think the problem we face here is that there is a frustration. I can feel a frustration on the governments side as they are not able to make things happen, or they do not feel that they have the imagination, or they cannot get enough ideas going to show some leadership and they are resorting to taking a document like this and telling the spin doctors - who, admittedly, have been very effective in putting out all kinds of different lines - even contradictory ones on the same subject - We are so frustrated; change it.
People feel better, not because they have a job, not because there is going to be more business activity, not that the government is going to bring investors and business people together and really see things happen, but because we have no other choice. Make them feel good about things and themselves, and maybe something will happen.
I resent the view that I am playing politics. I am a politician. I am not just playing politics just to stick it to the Minister of Economic Development. I am practising politics because someone in the Takhini Trailer Court said, You get in there and you fight for us. They said, We need jobs and need something to happen. We do not know how to make it happen. We want something to happen. We know that the government cannot do everything. We want to see some enthusiasm. We want to see some leadership.
They told me that. I came in here, and I guarantee - the Minister is also a politician and practises politics - that what I am saying here has nothing like the passion that many constituents expressed, and certainly nothing like the language they express it in. If they were here now, they might be very angry and frustrated.
I am basically homogenizing a lot of those voices, and saying, Do not do it this way. Do not do it by doctoring this. Do it by showing some leadership, in terms of bringing people together. Sure, there is a big capital budget, but there have always been big capital budgets in the past. Do not try to play games by shifting money around from one area to another, and then calling them brand-new jobs, or brand-new programs. That is not going to wash. We are all experienced enough to know better than that.
Do something else. Show some leadership. Show some enthusiasm. Touch base with people by admitting what reality is, because that is their reality. Say that things are tough but that we are going to lift ourselves out of the problem we are in right now. Say that things are bleak on a number of fronts, but that we are not going to let that continue; we are going to do something about it, because we have the character in this territory to do something about it; we are going to get people together, get funding and good ideas together, to make things happen, and if there is poor communication out there, eliminate that problem.
People are not asking for a lot, but they are asking for that. I think that, in terms of the general direction that the government has taken at a political level, frankly, it only leads to more cynicism, and I think that that cynicism leads to more depression. I think that will be bad news for our economy.
Mr. Penikett: I want to briefly join this debate, not to give the Minister more criticism or even to overburden the Minister with negative comments. My colleague, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, has subjected the Minister to a withering, thoroughly effective and I think eminently accurate critique.
I was bothered by two things that the Minister said this afternoon. I am not going to respond with criticism, but I am going to once again make a representation.
The Minister said words to the effect that he only wanted to see the truth; not what the economists thought. I do not know how the Minister defines the truth, establishes the truth or even claims to have a form of the truth, even from his point of view.
In my philosophy, I do not look to any individual or single human being for the whole truth.
The professional economists perspective is one part of the truth, it is one facet of the truth. The political perspective of a particular Minister or of a particular government is another facet of the truth. The view of the Liberal Party or the Member for Riverdale South, or the New Democratic Party Members are other facets of the truth.
The idea of a Legislature in a democratic system is that we all contribute our perspectives, and when we see enough of this multi-faceted truth we can come to some intelligent conclusions about reality, or some perception of reality.
You see the problem. Unless you subscribe to an extreme form of Social Credit, you cannot wish the economy into activity. You cannot talk life into the economy. The economy is a product of thousands and thousands of decisions by every player - not just a few business people, but every consumer, every worker, every manager and every entrepreneur.
As an entity, it is a very complex system. It is not simple, as the Members opposite seem to believe that it is. If you argue that the economy is too big or too cumbersome, you cannot make it lose weight by cutting off an arm or a Legislature, or starve it into some kind of health.
I have made the point that I am going to make before, but I would for once that the Minister would listen. This economy is in crisis. We on this side of the House do not claim to have all of the answers to respond to that crisis. There are many things about which we cannot be sure. We do not know what will happen to metal prices, we do not know what the weather will be like during the tourism season next year, we do not know what the Canadian dollar is going to do in the next year, we do not know, with confidence, what investment decisions various mining companies are going to make in the next few months. We do not know what decisions numerous elderly Californians are going to make about their holiday plans, or what the federal government is going to do about transfers to the territory.
What we do know is that this territorial government has no vision. It is rudderless and directionless in terms of the economy. Nothing has been conveyed to us so certainly over the last few months than that this government does not know what it is doing with the economy.
It has communicated effectively certain beliefs. There is the belief that government is too big. There is the belief that government employees, and perhaps all employees, are being paid too much. They believe that people who care about the environment are bad for the economy, notwithstanding the facts that we are faced with that confuse these messages. This is a government that immediately blamed the NDP for spending too much, yet they brought in a budget that was $60 million more than the last NDP one; notwithstanding the fact that, quite evidently, when they cut the wages of the public employees - or tried to, anyway - it had tremendously negative effects on consumer confidence and purchasing, all of which is already evident in the economic statistics. We had a downturn and a softening in the economy. There is a negativity toward what the side opposite call special interest groups and the environment, all done in the face of the evidence in Canada that the most consistently and environmentally regulated industries are among the most profitable. In fact, green economics can be very good for business. The notions of sustainable development, which were developed in this territory and elsewhere in the world in the last few years, have proven to be extremely effective economic policies.
I can understand that the Members are ideologically more conservative and want to go backwards to a previous day. Some people would call it a Diefenbaker vision, a roads-to-resources vision or the megaproject mentality - the gas pipelines to Watson Lake and railways to Carmacks type of thing - but anyone with an ounce of sense knows that there is no private sector company out there that is going to build a pipeline from Watson Lake to Whitehorse in the next little while. No company in Canada, and certainly not the railway companies that used to be the biggest and most powerful companies in the country - who are now in so much trouble, they are talking about combining - are going to build a railroad from Whitehorse to Carmacks. There are thousands of places in the country where they would build a railroad before they would do that. They cannot get the capital to do that. We know that the federal government is not going to do it.
I have never argued that a right-wing government has an obligation to adopt the policies of my party or any progressive option. I do argue, though, that, in a democracy, a minority government with a very narrow mandate - with the support of about one-third of the population - has an absolute obligation to consult. I lead a party that has the votes of almost as many people as the party opposite, which is governing, yet the Members opposite have refused to consult with us, in any substantial way, on economic policy since they came to office - even though economic policy is absolutely central - we are in an economic crisis.
I have urged the Minister of Economic Development and the Government Leader, because this crisis was upon us almost as soon as the change of government occurred, that they should sit down as soon as possible, and not just with their friends, not just with people who would echo what they want to hear, not just people who will say, You are doing a great job and everything you are doing is right, but to open their minds, open their ears to some other Yukoners who do not share their enthusiasm for their way of doing things - to working people, to women, to people who care about the environment, to aboriginal people, to the municipalities, to everybody in the territory.
Let us recognize that we have a crisis. Let us be honest and admit the government does not know what to do about it. Let us sit down, together, and brainstorm for two or three or four days, whatever it takes, and start to go through the tough and difficult exercise - one, to finding the problem and, two, establishing a range of options about what is possible to do about it - not what the feds can do, not what international capital can do, but what we can do about our own problems - and recognize that some of the people in the Yukon may say things to us, to the government, that the government does not want to hear, does not like, may sound even slightly critical.
Criticism - the ability of citizens to be able to talk back to the government - is absolutely the essence of democracy. It is the heart and soul of representative government.
It is the sine qua non of good government. Good government is not hiding in a bunker surrounding yourself with a few hail and hearty friends and having a good old boys club that says, Damn economists do not know what they are doing - pointy headed intellectuals had too much schooling.
All of us may be critical of economists. Any two economists are likely to differ. The Government Leader, a day ago, said that he was not going to listen to one or two economists. That is all YTG has. It raises the question of who they are going to listen to.
If they are not going to listen to the economists, if they are not going to listen to parties on this side of the House or the people we represent, if they do not want to hear from working people and their organizations, if they are not interested in the perspective of women or in the view of people in the conservation movement, who have very strong views about sustainable economies, or about people in the communities who have strong views about issues like decentralization, or in aboriginal communities where they believe strongly in community economic development and the relationship between healing and economic development, or the view of feminists - who believe that the whole system of economic accounts is so skewed and myopic as to, in effect, give us poor quality research on which we should be making no policy decisions unless we get a second opinion - who are they going to listen to?
There are a lot of people out there with ideas. There are a lot of people who, as my colleague says, have business ideas that could be appropriate initiatives in this time and age but do not know how to get the capital or to get started. The point is that what we have had is a triumph of ideology over common sense, when what we need is to mind the common sense of the ordinary people in this territory about what should be done. Let them see our books, let them see the budget, let them see the options.
If the Ministers want to claim they do not have the money to do a, b and c, let them explain why they are doing d, e and f. We have proposed that kind of summitry. Not only did we propose it - and this is what really galls me - it is in law: the Economic Development Act, the Environment Act, and the damn land claims agreements themselves, legislation that is constitutionally protected, and the Members opposite, in the most appalling arrogance that I have ever seen in my life, say, We do not agree with that so we are not going to do it.
They do not come back and change the law. They do come not back and change the land claims agreement, they come back and say, We do not care if it is the law and we do not care if we break the law. We do not even care if we violate the intent of stuff that was passed unanimously in this House, stuff that we did not complain about when it was being done. We are going to be arrogant, closed-minded and we are going to do exactly what we want, we do not care what the law says. We are not going to listen to anybody. They may have the right to do that, but I want to tell them that they do not have the right to do that when people are suffering, and there are too many people unemployed.
I had some people in my office this morning, a husband and wife, both of whom are not working, expecting a child and another child at home. Neither of them has a hope of a job. And what this government has communicated in messages is that they go home at 5:00 p.m., do not think about work and that they just do not care. They do not want to listen to other people, they do not care about peoples problems and they are not prepared to get imaginative, get creative or show any hustle. That is what is so sad and heart-breaking - the lost opportunity, the waste of talent, the waste of resources, the waste of time. The waste.
I believe very strongly that the government should be thinking about what it is doing. There is not much evidence about thinking in this government. Even if they had their own ideological predisposition and wanted to stick to it, they should be acting on those impulses.
We looked at the incredibly comical document, Toward Self-Sufficiency in the 21st Century. It is such a joke, and it is embarrassing that anyone would go to Ottawa and say to the federal government that we want money on the basis of that document.
Even if the federal government believed in that ludicrous campaign document, we cannot see any evidence in the budgets yet that they are acting on it. They are not following that agenda, so what are they following?
Is it the extreme ideological belief that government should not be involved in business, that government should do nothing and let market forces play out? If that is this governments analysis, I have big problems with that because the government, whether they like it or not, is such a huge player in this economy that doing nothing becomes a crime.
The government does not even understand that when it focusses on its capital budget rather than a whole range of other things, including schools, it is like trying to hop into the future instead of walking.
This economy is an extremely sensitive, complex instrument. Like any natural system, it tries to find some equilibrium, but the instinct of the Members opposite is to have it skewed, unbalanced, lopsided, awkward.
Yesterday, I tried to ask the Minister of Economic Development about his incomes policy. They seem to believe that cutting the wages of public servants is automatically good for the economy. I could understand that in terms of its desirability to get the operating costs of the government in line, but they seem to have another agenda, which has been articulated from time to time, that getting wages down would be in the public interest, good for everybody.
That is why they have done such a mean-minded thing in terms of trying to abolish the minor reforms we made to employment standards. That is why I believe that right-wing governments in some places believe that unemployment is a good tool to dampen wage demands. That is why they are willing to tolerate levels of unemployment that, in most places in the civilized world, would be considered intolerable.
The government I led was far from perfect. We made lots of mistakes, but one of the things I am proud of is that every year that we were in office we brought the annual rate of unemployment down by one percent - down, not up.
I sometimes think that extremists in the Conservative movement have a myopic view of the world and do not understand the role that wages play in the economy. There are only two basic theories about the dynamo of the economy: whether it is production or consumption. To state the obvious, we do not have a hell of a lot of production going on in this territory right now. The mines are closed. You then have to think about the role of consumption in the local economy.
Who are the consumers? They are the wage earners. As I was mentioning to a reporter from the Yukon News this morning, some of the economic thinking that is revisionist thinking has been going on about the Great Depression in the United States where, for a decade, governments were cutting back, businesses were laying off, downsizing, shrinking, trying to get their costs under control. Government was becoming more mean and tight-fisted, in the same way that governments claim they are doing now, to bring in some discipline and competitiveness, and with the arguments about tough love and tough-mindedness.
There are people now who believe that it was those policies that actually caused the Great Depression. I would like to briefly quote from a Newsweek article on December 6.
The argument goes like this: the Great Depression of the 1930s wasnt only caused by Messrs. Smoot and Hawley, and their high towers. It was also caused, in part, by the low wages of the 1920s. Wages didnt keep pace with productivity, says Stephen Marglin, the Harvard economist. Workers didnt have the money to buy many of the products they were making. The union-organizing drives of the 1930s and 40s helped to rectify that. The United Auto Workers went so far to demand a direct link between wages and productivity, which became a model for other basic industries. By the 1950s, the workers had the money to create the aggregate demand that caused the consumer economy to explode; the more they were paid, the more they bought.
This was a felicitous state of affairs.
I do not want to totally embrace that argument myself, but we ought to think about the fact. As I heard on CBC Radio the other day, the average age of personal automobiles in Canada is now six years. When I was graduating from high school, it was routinely the case that people traded in automobiles every three or four years.
When I was graduating from high school, most families I knew had one wage earner. They were able to pay a mortgage, buy a car and put their kids through university on one wage. Nowadays, few families on the street on which I live can do it without two income earners in the family. As a result of that reality, we have had to develop, in society, policies about quality child care, which is an economic policy, not a social policy. We have had to worry about quality education, latch-key kids and a number of questions that are not unrelated to economic issues. They are profoundly economic, as is the question of training.
I was listening to this debate about Grey Mountain School-versus-highways the other day. I was thinking to myself that I cannot help getting the impression from the Members opposite that they just do not respect education. They do not admire people who are educated. They do not understand the necessity of research and innovation as an economic tool. They do not understand that that huge college we built up on the hill is not just a cost centre. It is a valuable industry in this town. They do not understand that to be competitive in the world, we will have to invest, as a society, in the education of our children - not just in the kindergarten to grade 12 years, but also at the college level. To remain relevant and viable economically, we will have to be continually re-educated throughout our lives.
I heard not so long ago one of the Ministers opposite speak admiringly of some of the East Asian economies and the wonders of economic development in places like Singapore and Taiwan, where there is a very Confucian way of doing things. In many of those countries, there is not much democracy, but there is certainly economic development, and capitalism has been a thriving force. However, it is a real mistake to see those folks as being Asian North Americans or as having an American attitude toward things.
I noticed, reading Paul Kennedys book, Toward the 21st Century, that the Taiwanese Cabinet has 14 Members, 12 of whom have Ph.D. degrees from American universities. I thought, what a symbol that is of that countrys commitment to education, to excellence, to innovation, to creativity, to brain power, to imagination. And why is it? Surely it is related to the fact that they are among the fastest growing economies in the world.
We cannot in this day and age see the business of government being business - that a few Cabinet Ministers sit down with a few people from the chamber of commerce and plan for the whole territory. That is ridiculous. In a democracy, we have to understand that not only does everybody have a right to a say, but the government has to give them an opportunity to have that say. It has to give them a forum.
The Minister opposite complained that we have not come up with any ideas. The problem is that even the most modest and sensible and non-ideological suggestions that we on this side have made have been totally and absolutely ignored. The government has not opened their ears or their minds or even their eyes to what people on this side have had to say. They have absolutely refused to go out and listen to the larger community.
They have even refused to do what the law requires, which is to have annual reviews of the Yukon Economic Strategy, and even if they wished to change the direction entirely and do what they have done with boards and committees, totally stacked them in favour of Tories - packed them with Tories - so that the party I represent, which represents one-third of the people in the territory, is hardly represented on a single board or committee any more - they do the same tired old Tory patronage stuff that was done in the past.
Even if they did that, but at least went through the process of listening, of opening up the debate, admitting they do not know what they are doing and asking for help, the people in my party would be the first to say, Okay, we will encourage people who are friendly to us to participate - people who are critical of the government - and we will encourage them to participate constructively and positively. We will give them the ideas for nothing, and we will even help make them work. Why not try and build some social consensus about the economic direction?
But this government has been absolutely leaderless on that question. I do not say this just to be critical. For crying out loud, it is such a sensible, practical thing. As the Liberal Member said the other day, any society worthy of its name and any leadership worthy of its name in democracy tries to bring people together.
The Members on the side opposite wonder why the budget debate goes on. Every time we make a proposal, somebody on that side gets a sharp stick and pokes it in our eye and says our idea is stupid. Why? Because it comes from us. That is the basic argument. Then they wonder why we get hours and hours of debate about facts. We present facts. We even, in fact, regurgitate and recite facts from government documents and we have the most incredible thing that would not happen anywhere else in this country - the Minister saying, Well, them facts aint facts. Why not? Because we dont like them.
I have absolutely no interest, let me tell the Minister, in being the salvation of his political career, but I do care about what happens to this territorys economy and I do care what happens to the people in it, and I care profoundly about those unemployed people who are coming into our office and coming to my house every day complaining and wanting me to do something.
I become mighty frustrated when I try to be reasonable and present sensible solutions about the process of engaging people in discussion about the economy, recognizing that the government does not have the answers, opening up the debate, bringing people in. Who knows where you might get ideas?
The Liberal Member was one of the people who participated in the Yukon 2000 process, and we learned a lot about that process. I will tell you one of the things that the Minister would discover if he were doing something like that.
I would be willing to make the case that every single, really profound, idea that came from that conference and that process came from the least likely source. It did not come from the government, it did not come from our public employees, it came from someone who came in and said, I do not know much about the economy, but why do you not do this? Other people around the room said, What?, asked a couple of questions, and a couple of the people started nodding. After a while, people said that makes a lot of sense. This can only happen in dialogue. It can only happen in a democratic -
Chair: Order please. The Member has one minute left of his 30 minutes.
Mr. Penikett: Thank you, Mr. Chair, I will conclude in 30 seconds. I would only make that representation. I beg the Minister: do away with the bunker mentality, open the doors, throw open the windows, invite people in, start talking, open up the process, do what the law requires you to do.
Conduct an annual review of the Yukon Economic Strategy with your packed economic council, but invite other people in, not only people who are going to echo your sentiments. Get some real discussion going. Get some real debate going. Get some real ideas on the floor. Get people working together.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I want to clarify a few things. The Member keeps indicating that I have no confidence in the economists. It is not the economists who are the problem, it is the process by which that information is given to them and, once the information is given to them, it is the process that is used to review the document. I feel that the document has to be passed through the various departments to ensure that every angle and possibility has been looked at to ensure that we have a document that is as accurate as possible. That should perhaps be organized in a slightly different way, so that more people can make more use of the document.
I appreciate the Members lecture, there are some things that he said that I think really strike home. There are other things that I possibly do not agree with him on, but we have the privilege to agree and disagree on various things. I appreciate what the Member had to say, and I will keep as much of his lengthy lecture in mind as I possibly can. It will be in the Blues, so I can re-read it.
Mr. Harding: I, too, have some questions. I have been listening very intently to the debate this afternoon regarding the economic fortunes of the Yukon and, in particular, the economic forecast the Minister tabled for 1993-94. There were some very interesting observations made by the economists who prepared this particular document for the Department of Economic Development. I want to point to a few of the quotes in the document, and then discuss, in general, how I think this winter economic forecast points very clearly to the need for the Yukon government to rethink their lackadaisical approach - as I see it - to the sale of the Faro mine assets and property.
The Yukon Economic Forecast for 1993-94, in discussing other mining opportunities on the horizon in the next decade or two, on page 7, speaks quite flatteringly about those particular properties. I do not agree with some of their observations. I, too, like the Minister, do not agree with everything in this report; however, that is not the point. The point is that we get the economists to give their objective opinion and then we debate whether or not we agree with the content.
In the context of their discussion of the mining industry and other properties, they say that, despite this, without the operating hard rock mines in 1993-94, the short-term outlook for the industry looks somewhat weak. I think that is a pretty fair statement. However, I think it crystallizes for us the need, in the short term, to work toward getting mines such as Casino, Western Copper and Brewery Creek going. I think that is a good undertaking for the territorial government. We have to look at what our real economic outlook is in the short term, as well. That future has to include the reopening of the Faro mine. I know the Minister does not control base metal prices. I have been following them very closely. My belief is that the Faro mine is not in the feasible range. However, that does not underscore the need to take the first step. The government must sell, as a whole, the Faro mine and assets to a property or company that will be prepared to operate it, preferably one that has a good cash base or one that can operate that mine at the earliest opportunity.
If we do not sell that mine, we are never going to get to that point. Some of the other important quotes that I read in the document are the mining section in particular. It discussed the employment and the impact on the territorial economy that those mines, the Sa Dena Hes and Faro, had.
The document says the employment and income impacts of these mine closures are beginning to be felt in the economy. This document was prepared some months ago and I think that the extent of the feeling of the mine shutdown is really starting to insidiously invade our economy. I do not think anyone in this Legislature will dispute this statement.
This document is pointing to warning signals that I think would certainly highlight concerns we have expressed over and over again. The quote of the economist says that these operations are key to the Yukons mining industry, as well as the economy as a whole. Again, no big surprise. It once again accentuates the need to direct priorities to the sale of this fine property.
The economists say that when both mines were operating in the fall of 1992, Curragh provided around 1,043 well-paid direct jobs to the Yukon economy - that is just direct jobs. They also use a figure of a 1.25 multiplier in this document for spinoff jobs. It is absolutely incredible. Their statement is that the multiplier would bring the mines total direct and indirect employment in the Yukon to around 1,300. It is absolutely incredible.
I would beg to differ with the economists. I believe that it would even be a more substantial figure than the 1,300 that they identified - just a signal to the Minister.
I do not want to go into the document at great length. I think the Member for McIntyre-Tahkini is going to talk more about the Yukon Economic Forecast. My concern is that I have not been able to get a clear picture and a clear understanding from the government, so that in my own mind and in the minds of my constituents, when I go and sit in the Faro coffee shop or walk around downtown and they ask me what is going on with the mine sale, I can sincerely tell them that I believe that the territorial government is doing all that they can to take the lead in selling this mine property and to be major players.
Every time I ask a question in the Legislature, I get reasons why they cannot do certain things. I want to explore that a bit in the time we have this afternoon. Just to highlight what I am talking about, and express some of the frustrations that I am experiencing in terms of getting information from the territorial government, I started this line of questioning in Economic Development debate on Thursday, January 13. I asked a number of questions toward the end of that day about the mine sale. I did not want to go on at great length about it.
I wanted to get a clear picture, because the last court date was December 17, or 19. There were lot of things that came out in the report from the receiver to the courts that I asked the Minister about and was not satisfied that I received what I considered to be appropriate answers.
I asked the Minister, on Thursday, January 13, 1994, if there had been any feasibility study done to identify prices ranges that would make the mine operable in a feasible manner. The Minister could not answer me. I asked for the Micon report, which was completed last year at the expense of Canadian taxpayers, including territorial and federal, on the feasibility of the Grum stripping and the ore bodies in Faro, including the Dy deposit. I asked for this document to try and understand what the feasible ranges would be, so that when my constituents and I are listening to the radio and looking in the paper at the metal prices, we can get some idea of whether or not we should be getting excited about the prospects of the mine reopening. The Minister would not give me the Micon report.
I then asked the Minister how many discussions they had had with potential buyers, citing elements of the report filed by the interim receiver in Toronto. The Minister could not tell me how many discussions he had had with potential buyers. The court documents filed said that the receiver intended to set up a lot of discussions with buyers with the territorial government, but he could not give me any answers.
Another very important matter was that the Minister said that the federal government had now taken a position on the environmental liability, and had taken a baseline negotiating position with potential buyers on that particular matter, which was again identified in the interim receivers report as a very important issue to potential buyers, along with other territorial matters.
The Minister would not tell me what that position was, even though it is a matter that I believe is important to all Canadians and all Yukoners. It involves the environment, it involves the economy, it involves social issues, and the Minister says that he cannot tell us what that position is.
I then asked the Minister the other very important question, that if the federal government is taking a position to facilitate these negotiations on the environment, why is the territorial government not taking a position on local infrastructure requirements that are very important to the eventual reopening of the mine. The Minister would not tell me the answer to that question.
I asked the Minister if there had been any bids on the property. The Minister could not tell me if there had been any formal bids made or not.
First, I will ask the Minister to comment on a number of the questions I have raised. I hope that he can give me some comfort and understanding that I can relay to my constituents about exactly where the Faro mine sale is at. There are a lot of things underway in Faro. A lot of people are trying to do things, like taking educational training, starting up businesses and so on, but there are a lot of people waiting, with bated breath, to hear how the Faro mine sale is going. Could the Minister comment on some of those questions and give us some information?
Hon. Mr. Devries: On the Faro property, I would love to tell the Member all the things he would like to know. The Member has come to my office a number of times, and I have had the opportunity to brief him on a few things regarding that property.
I did not write down all the items he brought up. However, the Micon study was based on Curraghs operation and their methodology used in mining. It was based on their debt load, and so on. It is the same with the Burns Fry report. Everything was based on the way Curragh operated. There is little information that would have much meaning for a new operator. The idea behind the Micon study was to look at Curraghs operation in order to determine what their cost per tonne was, and so on. That would help the Burns Fry people determine whether or not we should get involved in investing in the property.
The Micon study is a confidential report. I cannot release it. If it was not confidential, I would be happy to give it to the Member, no problem. There is nothing to hide in there. It is just that we do not have the flexibility to do that. The same goes for the Burns Fry report.
As far as the environmental liability is concerned, the Government of Canada has indicated a few things. As to the actual dollar, I am not certain. By the same token, they would never make that public, because it is one of their negotiating tools with any prospective buyer in coming up with a price. If they want 100 percent, that would affect the price. If the buyer says there is no way he can afford 100 percent, the Government of Canada has the flexibility to move around.
As to intervening in the process to fast-track it, I believe the court has been given until February 25 to come up with buyers. Normally, in these types of situations, all the offers and bids are put in during the last few days and, quite often, a few pop up right in court. If no one has actually put an offer on the table, there is nothing unusual about it. The indications are that there are four parties seriously interested in it but, other than that, I cannot get into the specific details of an actual offer. I am not aware of one, but I have been told there are four parties that seem to be seriously looking at the materials in the lock-up in Toronto.
Mr. Harding: I had not wanted to do this again. I will just say that we have been over it a million times. The Minister knows what was in the receivers report, and he should at least concede that the receiver made mention of potential buyers being very concerned about the territorial governments position. Is that not a fact?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I do not recall his mentioning it in exactly that manner, but the indication we have given to the receiver is that, once they have a deal on the table and the courts have decided who is buying the mine, we will immediately sit down with them and start discussing the various aspects of the operation that pertain to us, as: energy rates, transportation, and things like that.
Mr. Harding: Herein lies the problem. Herein lies the basis for our criticism of this government as a laid-back, lacksadaisical, do-nothing government. In the receivers report, tabled in Toronto on December 17, I believe, the receiver, who is charged with disposing of the assets, meaning selling the mine, said that he mailed prospectuses out to 53 prospective purchasers. He said, and I quote, All prospective purchasers have indicated that they cannot make a definitive offer until they have conducted further investigations and negotiations with affected parties with respect to various matters, including the environmental liability - a federal responsibility - reclamation obligations - could be federal and territorial - and, three, local infrastructure requirements - that is territorial. So, the government is telling us that they intend to wait until a buyer makes an offer, yet it takes no obligation to try and sort out some of these concerns proactively.
How are we going to get the deal done? The Minister has an answer for me - he is motioning for me to sit down. I will ask him that question and, when he stands up, could he also tell me if he has had discussions with these four parties in any way, shape or form, and have they indicated, through the receiver or otherwise, that they are going to want to discuss infrastructure requirements with the government, at some time, here in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Devries: As far as actual discussions with any other prospective purchasers, none of them have approached us for any in-depth discussions. Again, I may not have explained it properly earlier.
We are willing to sit down and discuss various infrastructure matters with any of the prospective buyers. Not until a sale has actually been concluded would we start to negotiate. Anything that we do would see Yukon taxpayers contributing toward a certain company getting something. It would not be fair to the other people who are putting in proposals.
Mr. Harding: I am not going to go into this at great length, because we have done it before in this Legislature. I think that it is important, when I get the opportunity in these economic development debates, that I ask these questions even if, as most often is the case, I do not get a lot of answers.
The Minister stated that he felt that he was going to have to wait for a sale before he discussed the concerns of the buyers. Does the Minister not see that we are back in the chicken-and-egg scenario here, and that there may be some buyers who are simply going to say that they need to have some baseline negotiating position from the territorial government? I am not saying to pour millions of dollars into the mine, but at least the government should have some baseline negotiating position.
We are competing with countries like Chile, Brazil, the United States and Australia, for zinc, lead, and silver markets with what we mine in Faro. Does the Minister not understand that they may be wanting to take their business elsewhere, and that it is important that governments at least establish, in the area of infrastructure requirements, baseline negotiating positions, so that potential buyers of a property like the Faro mine would know whether it is worth their while to invest in the property? Can the Minister not see the chicken-versus-the-egg concept?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The Member seems to fail to realize that any prospective purchaser could have an entirely different way of operating the mine. We cannot make any precommitments, prior to anyone purchasing it. We can, however, sit down and discuss it with them. In the discussions, if they indicate that they have more energy requirements, they could ask us if those are available. We would not be able to get into price, but we could say that there is a possibility that we could make more energy available - things like that. To get down to the nitty-gritty of negotiations, there is no way to do that until the courts decide who the actual purchaser is. The indications are that there are interested parties. It is certainly not a matter of if someone will purchase it. Indications are that it is a matter of when. I believe February 25 is the court-imposed deadline for the receiver to come up with some purchasers.
Mr. Harding: If there are prospective buyers, it is not because of, it is in spite of efforts of the Yukon government to sell this property. I do not like saying that, but I cannot yet accept the argument that has been put forward by the Minister regarding this particular project. At some point, the government is going to have to bite the bullet. Their lack of initiative in that area, right now, might cost us the sale of that mine. It may scare away a lot of the parties that are interested, particularly the four he has identified today.
The argument that some other company may have an entirely different way of operating the mine does not hold much water with me. Any mining company is going to need power, roads, the ability to strip the grum, trucks, miners, haul roads and shovels. There may be some minor differences in the technology they use, but the basics are the same. I worked at that mine for seven years. I have some knowledge of the technology, both in the milling process and the pit. Being involved as a representative for the workers for a long time, I had the opportunity to discuss some of the mining options that the company had. I cannot see any company coming in and mining in a radically different way. They may do some things more efficiently and have a better relationship with their employees and a different corporate philosophy, but the nuts and bolts of the mining operation are going to remain, in principle, the same.
Can I ask the Minister this, before we recess? The argument put forward by the government, the last time I asked these questions in December, is that they did not want to make any infrastructure decisions or establish a negotiating position because they felt they were going to be increasing the value of the asset for the noteholders. That was the crux of their position, as I understood it. As far as I am concerned, that property is an important asset for the territory and there may be a time when the government has to say, Yes we may, by taking a position, enhance the value of the asset for some of the creditors of Curragh, but in the end we are going to sell that property and we are going to have to negotiate at some point the issues that are being identified.
Perhaps the Minister could share with me some of his thoughts about his position - if it is still the same - and about the argument that I put forward that the government may have to bite the bullet sometime, in terms of adopting a negotiating position.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I do not see why we should give a bunch of foreign noteholders several million dollars at the cost of Yukon taxpayers in an effort to try to sell the property - who would then no longer have an interest in the property. It does not make any economic sense to me. By the same token, all indications are that there are people seriously interested in the property. It is going to sell.
Mr. Harding: I have just been poked by the Minister. I am not a proponent of sending millions of Yukon taxpayers dollars to some foreigner. That is absolutely ridiculous. What I am saying is that if we do not establish a baseline position as a Yukon government to deal with potential foreign investors, Canadian or American investors, we may lose the opportunity to sell the property. I am not saying that the Minister of Economic Development should open up a booth in the government offices that gives away millions of dollars for any foreign investor who wants to walk in.
Perhaps the Minister could grant me this, then. I would like to discuss this issue at great length with the Minister and his department. Perhaps in a setting of a briefing with officials in the department and the Minister, we could explore more detail, and perhaps there are some things that the Minister could inform me about. Could he commit to giving me a full briefing on what is happening with the Faro mine sale?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Yes, we can attempt to set something up. Again, we are restricted on what we can tell him, due to matters of confidentiality. I am sure that it would be helpful to him, so we will try to set something up in about two weeks or so.
Mr. Harding: I thank the Minister for that. We could talk about the confidences. I believe there are credible reasons for confidences in certain areas and in other areas I do not. The Minister makes what, at one time, was a valid point. For example, I am not sure if the Micon report still applies. I would like to ask - because Curragh is no longer in the picture, their assets are frozen, they cannot even trade their stock any more on the exchange in Toronto if the confidentiality would still apply. There are questions like that that I have for him. Perhaps he could show me in the document the precise confidentiality agreements and that type of thing, because I really have a lot of questions about this. I really want to see the Yukon government make the sale of this mine a priority.
I guess we should have a recess.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Okay, we will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on Economic Development?
Mr. McDonald: I would like to move to another item of interest. The Member for Riverdale South had raised the issue of the competition policy for the business development fund, and within the terms of the economic development agreement.
I wonder if the Minister could explain precisely what that policy is, because after reviewing the Ministers remarks, I was very confused as to what was permissible under the program.
I noticed that in the economic development agreement, there were private businesses in Whitehorse that were funded to provide computing systems. There were people within the city who were given money for training and other purposes that would, in some respects, give them a competitive advantage over their competitors. Given that that is the case and knowing how difficult it is to assess what is appropriate funding for businesses, given that they are working, in some sense, in a competitive environment, where does the government draw the line? What is the policy for the government?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We have to go by the economic development agreement that was originally signed. We do not have a lot of flexibility. At the same time, I am very concerned about the issue he brought up, as well. It is my understanding that we are having an internal review done of the economic development agreement. A requirement of the agreement is to have annual reviews, I believe. It is hoped that some of my concerns can be addressed then. On another issue, I brought up with the Agricultural Association that I had concerns about what had happened there. I am especially concerned when it comes to outright grants, because of competition. Loans might be a different matter.
Mr. McDonald: There is definitely a difference between grants and loans, but clearly a low-interest loan would have some benefits attached to it. Otherwise, the businesses would have gone to the banks. When a private sector operator goes to the government for funding, they are obviously getting some advantage for doing so.
The issue is not necessarily restricted to the economic development agreement. There are also a couple of examples of loans by the business development fund, which cause one to wonder what the strategy is. Without passing judgment on any particular one, I wonder if the Minister could explain what the competition policy is within the context of the business development fund - a fund that they control entirely.
There are businesses here that are receiving, in one case at least, a very large amount of this funding. Clearly, it is operating in competition with other businesses in the City of Whitehorse. What is the policy?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The board is to look and see if it creates adverse competition. If it can be proven that no adverse competition would be created, which could be difficult at times, then the board would consider the loan.
Mr. McDonald: In the case of the board determining whether there is adverse competition, is he saying that the competition would not have their revenues affected by the financial assistance that the government might provide to another player in a particular industry, or that the other players are likely not to have their revenues damaged so much that they would drop out of the industry or be in danger of dropping out of the industry altogether?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The project must not create market disruption or unfair competition. You could probably read into that what the Member just said. It should not put them under. For instance the particular project, which I am sure he is referring to, filled a niche in the application process. It did not create adverse competition with the higher priced operations. I have to trust their judgment on this.
Mr. McDonald: I do not doubt at all that it is a difficult judgment call to make but, clearly, in that case and in other cases here, there would be some impact on the revenues of the competitors, and that appears to be an acceptable risk to take, I understand. Is that the Ministers understanding?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, naturally during high tourism seasons, it probably does not affect anybody that much, but certainly, during the off season, yes, we do not want to create a situation where it would create adverse competition for some of the other operators.
Mr. McDonald: I do not know whether I am going to get more precision from the Minister, but perhaps I will just ask him his impressions of the economic development agreement, and whether or not he feels that the competition policy that has been adopted by that board is acceptable.
The Minister provided us with a list of projects in all categories of the economic development agreement. There certainly seem to be some projects which, if they were approved, would probably be the envy of the competitors, if they were given an opportunity to have the same financial resources. Under the EDA, if a particular operator of a private business applied successfully for funding for a particular thing, such as computer technology, would competitors of that business be permitted to apply for the same funding for the same purpose themselves?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I hate to get into particulars on a particular business, but my understanding of that application is that the indications were that it was new leading-edge technology, and I do not want to get into whether I agree with that or not.
The indications were that it had been requested by a southern company to introduce this technology to Whitehorse. The way it was presented was that it would introduce this technology to Whitehorse, and other operators could look at the technology and decide whether they wanted to utilize that type of technology or not. That is kind of how this came about. I have some questions about it, but I would prefer not to get into any great detail discussing someones business on the floor of the House.
Mr. McDonald: I do not even know if we are talking about the same business but, if we are talking about the same business, can other businesses apply for this funding? Now that this one business has introduced this new technology, can other businesses take advantage of that new technology for their own purposes, and do so at public expense?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, I guess an application could be accepted, but whether it would be approved by the committee that makes the decisions, that would be left to them. I cannot say that you must approve this project or anything like that. An application could possibly be accepted.
As far as repayable loans in the economic development agreement, there is a big problem in that it is very difficult to get any amount of security and things like that. If you look over the list of projects, the committee tries to stay away from that as much as possible.
Mr. McDonald: Let me ask the question this way: given the Ministers understanding of the economic development agreement criteria and guidelines, would a competitor be turned down if they made application for funding on the grounds that it did not meet the guidelines and criteria and, consequently, it would be rejected out of hand, or would it still be eligible for funding, if a competitor was seeking funding for the same services or the same product that the economic development agreement initially provided money for?
Hon. Mr. Devries: If the project is consistent with the economic development agreement, which is to encourage the use of the most current technology, it possibly would be considered, but at some point, it would become a judgment call by the committee on whether it is fully approved or not.
Initially, the project officer would accept or decline the application on the basis of the initial criteria, and the committee would have to go beyond that, to the availability of funds and those types of things.
Mr. McDonald: Depending upon the availability of funds and depending on whether or not they are projects that are seemingly more useful or better, would a competitor making application for funding be accepted in terms of meeting the basic criteria - I am asking for an interpretation of the economic development agreement - knowing full well that the competitor is not introducing new technology to the territory for the first time, but is instead taking advantage of the new technology to further their own business objectives?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I can see what the Member is getting at. Again, each particular circumstance could be different. If it is the same technology as another business had, I would think that it would possibly be turned down. My understanding is the reason for giving it to the particular business - I think we are talking about the same one, but I am not sure - was that it had been indicated that this particular piece of technology may be of use to others in the same type of business, but they did not know. They want to introduce this piece of technology into Whitehorse, then other people can decide whether or not they want to take advantage of it. We know it works here.
It would be a repayable loan and, more than likely, other operators would be able to get conventional financing, because the technology would already have proven itself. It is very difficult to get financing for something that has not proven itself in a given area. However, once it has proven itself, and it can be shown that there are cost-savings and a better chance of profits for the company, the other people would be able to get conventional financing.
Mr. McDonald: Ultimately, I do not know where that answer is taking me. Without getting into the specifics, it is very difficult to pursue it further.
Is the funding the Minister is talking about a loan or a grant?
Hon. Mr. Devries: It was a loan, and there was a small amount of money in a grant for training.
Mr. McDonald: After the Minister has done a review of the competition policy under the economic development agreement, perhaps we will address the matter again in the spring. Being newly in business myself, I know this is a very interesting subject for a lot of business people. While I agree with the general objectives of the program, I am perhaps more acclimatized than ever to some of the nuances and subtleties that are of concern to some people.
The Minister has made mention in the past that loan guarantees would be the preferred course of action, rather than loan funding. Could the Minister tell us what his rationale is for that?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I guess the government eventually gets stuck with a loan guarantee. However, it forces the person to go to the bank, and the bank to deal with initial collection, and so on. It always seems to put government in a very awkward position when they have to go into collection procedures. In the end, we still end up in that awkward position.
Mr. McDonald: I suppose I agree with the Minister about the utility of loan guarantees, to a certain extent. There have been a number of examples in the past that I am aware of that seem to lend themselves better to loan guarantees than to loan funding.
The concern that has been raised in the Legislature in the past has had to do with the fact that, once the bank knows that there is a guarantee by government, they are not necessarily as aggressive in collection procedures as they would otherwise be. It will be interesting to see how that has been addressed by the department.
A second issue has been one of accountability. Loans are recorded in the Legislature. The government has to vote money for them. There is less visibility for the loan guarantees, in terms of the budgeting process, of government actions. Can the Minister respond to those two items, and give us a sense of how he has rationalized those concerns?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I believe that the loan guarantees made are in these figures somewhere, but I am not sure exactly where. We are looking at developing a special fund that would address the matter of loan guarantees in the review that we are doing. That way, the Members will be more aware of what is going on.
My understanding is that it is in here right now. I do not believe that there are any loan guarantees that have been made and are hidden somewhere.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister tell us what he meant by a special fund being created? What special fund is that?
Hon. Mr. Devries: It will be part of the business development fund, but it would be specifically labelled as loan guarantee money rather than direct loans.
Mr. McDonald: What the Minister is saying is that rather than loaning money directly to a business proponent, the government would provide a loan guarantee. They would set the same amount of money aside in the event that the loan is called and the bank has to be paid. Is that what the Minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Devries: As I had indicated earlier, this is something that we are looking at, and it is still under discussion. We hope that this will be one of the things that will be discussed in our little tour this spring.
Mr. McDonald: I do not have any more questions on that particular item. I do have a question about something that has just come to my attention and that is that the debates that have been taking place on the radio recently, with respect to roads versus school, et cetera, has had a number of different proponents speaking on behalf of one side or the other. They have been taking the issues raised in the Legislature and putting it on the radio or into the newspapers.
I understand that the government has taken issue with a couple of facts that were portrayed in the media about numbers and that sort of thing. Could the Minister tell us whether or not the government has taken issue with those numbers or whether or not they have tried to put some pressure on the media to portray differently information that has been presented to them; for example, regarding the Alaska Highway funding.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I am not sure of the details of what the Member is talking about. I know that there were some figures that were on the radio, and my understanding is that the government feels they were completely false. It was not something that Economic Development was involved in, so I think that you would have to ask the appropriate Minister.
Mr. McDonald: I even asked a Minister of the Crown this question, because I think it is very important. There are a number of things that have been said in this Legislature, and claims that have been made from the front benches in this Legislature, that have proven to be patently false.
I do not recall ever hearing about the media being called by the dark side in the Cabinet offices to insist on a retraction, that the government is going to admit to a mistake.
Can the Minister tell us why that is? Are we seeing a pattern that, any time the government feels that a number may be out of line here or there, they are going to put some pressure on the media to seek a retraction, even if it is a private member of the public? I think that we have to ultimately call the Ministers to task for when they make mistakes and insist, and get commitments from them, that they will go on the radio and state retractions for the mistakes that they have made.
Does the Minister know anything about this? This is pretty important to us.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I did not hear what was said on the radio; I have been too preoccupied to listen to the radio. I do not know if it was a political person who made the statement, or if the person was corrected or not. I think the Member should ask that question of the appropriate Minister. By the same token, if I ever make a statement on the radio that is false, and the Members wish to have me correct it, I would be happy to do so.
Mr. McDonald: I have a list, and I am trying to deal with the policy aspect. I do not know whether the Deputy Government Leader wants to get involved at all but I certainly have an extraordinarily keen interest in trying to understand the operating procedures in the communications branch, which appears to really want to decide what people think out there. In our opinion, at least, the governments side has been getting an incredibly free ride with the media. The idea that someone in the Cabinet offices would try to manipulate that even further is just absolutely outrageous and something that has to be called. The Ministers have to be the ones we address - maybe their staff - and they are the ones who are going to have to be called on it. If the Minister does not know, we will have to ask another Minister shortly. Does anybody else have anything?
Mr. Penikett: We are aware that a group of people in the Ministers constituency have organized a petition to oppose the export of raw logs. We are also aware that Kaska Forest Resources has picked up a five-year licence to allow a 35,000 cubic metre cut and, I think, permitting a larger portion of that to go for export to provide that company with the means to finance the acquisition or construction of a mill, with the long-term view of a sustainable forest operation.
Can I ask the Minister as Minister of Economic Development, for the record, what his position is on the renewing of that harvesting agreement for a three-year period and what is his view of the terms that should be in that agreement?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I am aware that discussions have been ongoing for the last three days, but I have not seen the actual application for the next three years. The government has not taken a position on it.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister says that discussions are going on. The government, I believe, is a part of this. However, he says that the government has not taken a position. I am curious as to how the government can take part in the discussions without taking a position, but perhaps he could tell us, without getting into the details - I have no interest in doing that at this time. Does this government, and this Minister of Economic Development, support the renewal of the licence for the transfer of forest resources in a way that would allow them to continue to operate profitably and set aside the money necessary to build a mill and, as a result, export a certain proportion of their harvest?
Does the Minister support or oppose the licence?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I am not prepared to state whether or not I support it, at this point. My understanding is that there are issues regarding raw log exports, and various other things. If it can be shown that it can be operated in a profitable manner and on a sustainable basis, that would be taken into consideration at the time.
Mr. Penikett: Given what the Minister has just said and what the Minister of Renewable Resources said the other day, which was that the government opposed the export of raw logs, but that he might allow some limited exceptions for some purposes, would it be fair to say that the Ministers requirement for the renewal of this licence would be a demonstration of profitability by the Kaska company and sustainability - a word he just used? Given the time it takes to grow trees in the Yukon, I am not sure that I know what sustainability is. Would the Minister indicate what he means by sustainability, with respect to forest products in his constituency?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I will comment on the sustainability. I would prefer to decline comment on the other topic until I know the specifics. To me, sustainability is that you maintain the forest so that it can operate on a full cycle. In the Yukon, it has still to be determined whether that is a 100-year cycle or a 120-year cycle, but it is somewhere in that neighbourhood.
Recently, I was in New Brunswick, and my understanding is that they operate on a 40- to 60-year cycle, however, growth rates are greater. By the same token, we have to preserve some of the mature strips. I am a firm believer in the strip-logging method, not in huge clear-cuts, but that is my view. It is not necessarily the governments position.
Mr. Penikett: I understand that the Minister of Economic Development naturally shares responsibility with the Minister of Renewable Resources for questions of sustainability in the economy.
The Minister says that it is not yet decided whether sustainability involves a 100- or 120-year cycle with respect to the forest products in his region. Can the Minister tell us if he will be able to make a decision about the Kaska Forest Products licence in advance of settling the question about exactly what sustainability means - either a 100-year cycle or a 120-year cycle?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I will have to rely on the advice of experts on those types of issues. Because we do not have any actual experience about how fast regeneration takes place, it is very difficult to determine it without taking the advice of the experts.
Mr. Penikett: As a key player at the Cabinet table with respect to this decision, on which I am sure all Ministers will be invited to give their positions, could I ask the Minister if he would go so far as to indicate to this House whether he would count himself as a supporter - based on what he knows so far about the Kaska operation - or an opponent of their operation and their application in general?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I do not know what the export log component of the newest application is. I certainly believe that the volume of exports that are taking place right now is not doing the local economy any favours.
Mr. Penikett: The Ministers condition for the approval of the new licence would be that the proportion of cut going to exports would have to be substantially reduced - would that be a fair statement?
Hon. Mr. Devries: That is a fair statement. Again, I reiterate that it is my position.
Mr. Harding: As I have said in the Legislature before, I have a number of constituents who are trying to develop some new business opportunities in areas such as tourism, forestry, lodging facilities and in growing produce. They have a problem in raising venture capital, like a lot of people trying to start a business, especially given that a lot of them have been out of work for awhile. A lot of the projects are actively looking for private sector investment. Some of them are also wondering what opportunities are available under avenues such as the business development fund, federal government programs, the economic development agreement and venture capital potential.
We have had some discussions about the federal government and their view of the economic development agreement - the new Liberal governments view of it, as opposed to the former Conservative governments view of it. We have had some discussions with the Minister about his thoughts on what might happen to the economic development agreement. This leads me to some concern as to whether or not we may have a freeze on funding or a cutback.
Can the Minister make some comments to me on whether or not my constituents have anything to worry about in those particular funding areas?
Hon. Mr. Devries: As I believe I mentioned earlier, most of this funding is based upon repayable loans with varying rates of interest. We need a certain amount of security. As far as the economic development agreement, yes, I am concerned that there may be cutbacks. This year, we had a 10-percent cutback on the tourism economic development agreement, which amounted to almost $500,000. The small business economic development agreement was also cut back.
We should have a better idea when the Minister of Finance comes back. I am quite certain that is one of the things that is being discussed. The way that the economic development agreement is administered in the Yukon is slightly different from in the provinces. In the provinces, it seems to be through the Department of Finance. The Yukons economic development agreement is negotiated through the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs.
Mr. Harding: The long and the short of it is, basically, that the Minister is somewhat concerned that the potential is quite real that we could have a freeze, or a reduction, in the amount of funding in the economic development agreement, and that might translate into the same for the business development fund. Is that a fair statement?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The business development fund is a line item that has passed in this House. It is all Yukon government money and, whatever figure is presented in this House, that money would be available.
Ms. Commodore: I just have a couple of short questions with regard to the gambling survey that is happening right now - questions that I have asked in the House and have been answered by the Government Leader, but I am asking the Minister responsible for Economic Development.
The government has indicated that they want to do a survey, or a review, or whatever, of the Yukon to find out whether or not they should put in video lottery terminals. A report was done, of which we had a copy, and when the information was given to the Council on the Economy and the Environment, there was a big change in it. Could the Minister tell us why a lot of the relevant stuff that was included in the original report was taken out? Some of the stuff that was taken out was information that was not favourable to the terminals. Why did the government do that?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I am not responsible for the Council on the Economy and the Environment. It is run from the Executive Council Office. As to the differences between the two documents, I really do not know. I do not even know if they were changed.
Ms. Commodore: They certainly were changed quite drastically. I think that this proposal was put forward by the government to do something with the economy because it was so bad. However, it is a very crazy way to do it - to cause a social problem.
The time is approaching 5:30 p.m. I will possibly have further questions on Monday with regard to this. I will wait until then. Perhaps the Minister can get caught up and find out how it affects his department. Certainly, they were looking at increasing the income of some of those individuals - and possibly even the government - who would be using those terminals.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I will see what I can do.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Mr. McDonald: 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 has 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.
Mr. Harding: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Faro that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday next.
The House adjourned at 5:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled January 20, 1994:
Letter dated December 31, 1993, from Minister of Communications (Canada), Michel Dupuy to Minister of Education re possible future funding under the Official Languages in Education (OLE) Program for Ecole Emilie Tremblay (Phillips)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled January 20, 1994:
Beverage container recycling program: status of (Brewster)
Discussion, Hansard, p. 1953
Home Repair Program: loans to clients with lease-to-purchase agreements would be registered against landlords title (Fisher)
Oral, Hansard, p.1937
Home Repair Program: interest rates (Fisher)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1941
The following Document was filed January 20, 1994:
Whitehorse Copper Mine, decommissioning of: letter dated December 20, 1993, from Minister Designate for Natural Resources Canada, A. Anne McLellan to Leader of the Official Opposition; synopsis of Hudson Bays proposed plans (Penikett)
Social Housing: housing proposal comparisons (Fisher)