Monday, April 25, 1994 - 1:30 p.m.
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I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with silent Prayers.
We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Are there any Bills to be introduced?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House condemns the recent actions by the Government of Canada to cut funding for Yukon First Nations community health programs; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to reconsider its position in relation to the Brighter Futures program and agree to enhance rather than cut this important program.
I also will give notice of another motion:
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly urge the Hon. Ron Irwin, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, to present the Yukon Indian land claims settlement legislation to the Parliament of Canada, and
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly urge all Members of Parliament to give expeditious passage to the Yukon Indian land claims legislation, which will protect the rights and interests of Yukon First Nations and allow the Yukon Territory to progress toward the 21st century, and
THAT a copy of this resolution be forwarded to the Hon. Ron Irwin and the Right Hon. Jean Chretien, Prime Minister of Canada.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of the Yukon should not attempt to gain access to the Yukon workers' compensation health and safety fund for the purposes of financing the day-to-day operations of government.
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Canada/Yukon Infrastructure Agreement
Hon. Mr. Ostashek:
I rise today to announce the signing of the Canada/Yukon infrastructure agreement.
Under the agreement, Canada will provide $2.189 million dollars over the next two years to help fund infrastructure projects across the territory. In municipalities, costs will be shared equally between the federal, Yukon and municipal governments, and in unincorporated communities, costs will be shared on a 50/50 basis between the federal government and the Yukon government.
Yukon government officials are presently working with representatives from the Association of Yukon Communities to establish guidelines and a process for project approvals. It is our intention to have projects begin across the Yukon this summer.
I notice that in the ministerial statement there did not seem to be any indication as to whether or not the government approved of this agreement, other than the fact that they signed it. Normally, they applaud the government or are pleased to announce something.
In this particular statement, not only is it short, but it also does not seem to reflect a feeling of acceptance by the government. I am not sure if that is merely a function of the fact that this was an announcement that had been made by a Liberal government or because it only amounted to a half of the previous infrastructure agreement, announced last year, which provided for $10 million over five years.
I think somebody should say that he applauds the agreement, before the Liberal stands up and takes credit for this meagre funding. I would point out this is probably a little more than $1 million per year, which I think amounts to a little less than one percent of the capital budget, so I am certain it is going to have an enormous impact in our communities.
It is a little bit short of what some of us had expected might be the contribution toward the Whitehorse water and sewer project. There was a feeling that perhaps there might be some contribution in the neighbourhood of 33 percent toward a project that was obviously worthy, by anybody's standards. There was also a feeling that perhaps under the Conservative government's green plan, or perhaps under this program, we might actually see a fairly sizable commitment to that high profile project. I suspect this funding will not make any difference to that project, if any of it at all is applied. We should be thankful for what little we do get, and applaud the federal government for that.
Perhaps the Minister can clarify this in his reply, but one can guess that the projects the money will be directed toward are projects already in the works - projects that have been in the municipal or the Yukon government's capital plans. Perhaps he can clarify for us that particular point.
We, in this caucus, are somewhat concerned that the amount of money we had been given to believe, through all the posturing around this program, would have a sizable impact on the infrastructure development in this territory. I think it has fallen somewhat short of that, but we do feel that the funding we have received is welcome, and we would thank the federal government for whatever it has given.
I would like to applaud all three levels of government for having moved the infrastructure program forward.
It would be interesting to receive a reply from the Government Leader concerning whether, in his preliminary talks with the communities, he found out whether or not they are committed to raising and spending their $2 million share of what I think is a $6 million infrastructure budget. It would also be interesting to hear from the Government Leader whether he is still insulted by the per capita amount that we receive from the federal government. I think it was roughly what we would expect on a per capita basis, so perhaps he could explain why, back in December, he was insulted.
I think that within that framework it would be helpful to determine, in view of his remarks about helping with the national debt and the fact that this winter works program we just experienced was only about $7 million, if, after looking at it more calmly, he considers this infrastructure budget a fair initiative by the federal government.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek:
It is not hard to see the different philosophical views in this Legislature in response to the ministerial statement. I will first reply to comments made by the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, who stated that it was a very low-key ministerial statement.
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The Member asked if I am satisfied by this and I can unequivocally state that I am not satisfied. I do not believe that the north was treated equitably in this situation.
Last fall, the western premiers supported us and agreed that there should be a different formula for the north, because we do not have the same standards of infrastructure that the south has. This should have been taken into consideration in the program. Nevertheless, as the Member for McIntyre-Takhini said, we are grateful for whatever we can get.
I do want to point out that, without a big flare and media hype, we were able, under a very meager $500 million infrastructure program of the previous Ottawa administration, to get $10 million from the federal government over a four-year period - more than double the money we are receiving under this program.
As to where the money will go, one thing that I will make very clear is that the federal government has been quite adamant that this money cannot go to projects that are already under way. Projects such as the Whitehorse sewage project and the Dawson City project are not eligible to receive this money; it must go toward new initiatives, and that is where we will be directing the money.
It does fall somewhat short of what we hoped for and, in relation to the comments from the Leader of the Liberal Party, to try to compare this to our $7 million infrastructure program is like comparing apples and oranges, because this is not $6 million from the federal government - it is just a little over $2 million from the federal government. The $7 million for our infrastructure or our job creation program last winter was all from our own money - none of it was federal money. So, while this program does fall somewhat short of what we expected, we are grateful for it. It will create some jobs in the communities. There will be a committee put together to approve these projects. There will be two representatives from DIAND here, two representatives from among ourselves, and an ex officio member from the AYC. Along with these, I may add that I believe there is an additional $200,000 going to First Nation communities in the Yukon over the next two years, which will be cost shared between the First Nations and the federal government.
Having said that, I was hoping for more, but I am grateful for whatever we can get to put Yukoners to work.
This, then, brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Wolf control program
I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources regarding wolf kill expenditures.
The wolf kill has been listed at a cost of some $800,000 by YTG over the last two years, yet I believe the actual kill costs are very understated as the government attempts to hide some runaway costs.
Are the costs for the dozen or so people who ran the kill all listed in the expenditures, and what were the personnel cost totals?
Hon. Mr. Brewster:
We really have a disagreement, a problem, here. We keep fooling around just worrying about the cost per wolf. We should start worrying about the caribou and the moose and the sheep and a few other things, and the cost to try to save them. Let us get this into perspective.
As for that information, I would have to get back because I certainly do not have all that in my head right now.
I must be confused. Just the other day, I listened to a 25-page speech about how much this government cares about costs, but when I stand up in the Legislature and point out that we have some runaway costs in the area of the wolf kill, I get a sanctimonious lecture from the Minister of Renewable Resources.
Can I ask this supposedly fiscally responsible Minister why he would not be able to tell me what these huge personnel costs are, added on to the $800,000 that has already been spent on this wolf kill?
Hon. Mr. Brewster:
It is quite simple. I do not have a computer mind like the individual across the way. I am a simple-minded man.
I will not touch that; it would be a personal insult.
I would like to ask the Minister this: why did the Minister refuse to table costs for such things as community participation and the cooperative wolf program, which were listed in last year's cost estimate? Is the Minister telling us that there were zero costs in all those areas this year?
Hon. Mr. Brewster:
It was all broken out and given to the Member. He has it on paper. I will recheck to see if there is anything that was left out.
I must point out again that included in those charges are the complete radio-collaring of animals and studies in Wolf Lake, Big Salmon and Mayo. There are things that we would have had to do anyway. Those are now included in it. This continual process of going back over the wolf thing is simply a scare tactic. Let us start worrying about the caribou, moose and sheep.
Question re: Wolf control program
I am worried about the caribou, moose and sheep. I am asking these questions because the wolf kill is starting to vacuum up all the resources, time and money of the department. That is why I am asking these questions.
Last year, we went $150,000 overbudget on the kill. On January 27 of this year, in this Legislature, the Minister told me that the wolf kill costs were going to be $289,000 for 1993-94. However, just the other day, he tabled a statement indicating that the costs were $194,000. Can the Minister tell me where the missing $100,000 is?
Hon. Mr. Brewster:
I will get back to the Member.
So much for fiscal responsibility.
The Minister has seen cuts to his department, the Department of Renewable Resources. Is the Minister not the least bit concerned that finances and time are being used up by the wolf kill, rather than for pro-active wildlife management?
Hon. Mr. Brewster:
I must remind the Member again that it is the caribou enhancement program, not the wolf kill program. A lot of other things have been done up there. Yes, I am concerned, but if they go back in time, when this program first began, I made it very plain in this Legislature that if we are going to protect the game in the Yukon - the caribou, moose, sheep and others - the cost is tremendous. On top of that, what is the value of wildlife if it is not alive?
This government has cut education, health services, social services, to name a few things. At the same time, we see runaway wolf kill costs - in the millions - all to kill a few dozen wolves. The Minister just said he is concerned about these runaway costs. What is he going to do about it?
Hon. Mr. Brewster:
As I have already said in the Legislature, we have tried a couple of different things, but they have not been successful. We will keep right on trying, and I might point out that ours is one of the only budgets that went down, and it went down by eight percent.
Question re: Standing committee appointments
I have some questions for the Government Leader. Back in December of 1992, the government introduced a
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motion to create a Standing Committee on Appointments. This was part of the Yukon Party's four-year plan. One of its goals was "to establish an all-party legislative committee to conduct in-camera reviews of appointments to major government advisory boards and committees." After a dust-up in the Legislature, the motion was adjourned, and I refer to the Minister of Justice's comments, because of the minority position. Now that the government has a majority, will it re-introduce the motion, either amended, or unamended?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek:
The Member raises a very valid point and we would like to see this motion proceed in the House, but I do not believe it is a motion that we should use our legislative majority on, by calling on the Speaker to vote with this motion. We have left the door open for Members of the Opposition to meet with us, and to try and come to some resolution on this. We proposed a motion where the nominations we put forward could be vetted by this Legislature and we are still prepared to move in that direction.
That side, of course, is the government and the government could very usefully bring forth a motion that relates to its platform.
The Government Leader in speaking to the motion said, "We felt the appointments process was flawed and was open to patronage and favouritism." As the process does not seem to have changed, is the Government Leader's view of the present process as he indicated when he spoke to the motion?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek:
Certainly, that perception is there, whether it is real or perceived. We tried to correct that with the motion we put forward, and we got into great debate in the House, where Members of the Opposition wanted to take it right out of the hands of government to make appointments to boards and committees. We did not feel that was appropriate. We felt it was appropriate for this Legislature to vet those appointments, so they would not appear to be patronage appointments, and we are still prepared to move in that direction with the cooperation of the Members opposite.
One of the major points made by the Opposition was that the government should not be the sole authority for bringing forth nominations. Is the Government Leader prepared to indicate to this House whether or not he is prepared to accede to the Opposition's wishes, and that the Opposition have a nominating role under the committee?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek:
All Yukoners have a nominating role right now. We have sent out advertisements asking for names of people who are prepared to become a board member. I believe that I have contacted the Leader of the Liberals for names on occasion.
There is a process in place where people's names can be submitted.
Question re: Game farming
I should point out that it is unfortunate that many Yukoners do not get that invitation: the Yukon Party's Yukon Update.
I have a question about game farming for the Minister of Renewable Resources. In an April 12, 1994 letter to the Minister from the Council for Yukon Indians, I quote: "Quite frankly, we are amazed that you have the audacity to say that we have been consulted on this issue. The first question that should have been asked is, do we want game farming?"
Now that the CYI, the Dawson First Nation, the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board and the Yukon Fish and Game Association have all expressed some concerns about this particular issue, why has the Minister not asked Yukoners if they want game farming at all?
Hon. Mr. Brewster:
In the year 1989, the Opposition, while they were in government, started this issue. The previous government brought in the first regulations and instituted a moratorium on game farms until they completed the remaining regulations. I carried on where the previous government left off. The previous government also brought in buffalo and turned them out into the wild in buffalo ranching. That is something this government would not do.
The Members opposite are the government now and they are going to have to learn that they are going to have to take some responsibility. They are the ones who are making the decisions now and they are also the people who lifted the moratorium that the previous government imposed.
The Council for Yukon Indians and the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board have called for an extension of the moratorium until a complete territorial and federal environmental assessment is completed on the issue. Does the Minister realize that he is compromising the spirit and the intent of the land claims agreement in the area of wildlife resource management by ignoring these concerns?
Hon. Mr. Brewster:
We consulted with all those people. It is something like the forestry - we consult and, if we do not say yes, everybody disagrees with us. Twenty-six written questionnaires came in on that and only six were against game farming. The other 20 were for game farming.
It is obvious, by his answer, that the Minister holds precious little interest in the views of the Council for Yukon Indians, the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, and the Yukon Fish and Game Association.
Last week, I asked him if he would at least be interested in referring this issue to the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment for review, and he said no. Why did he say that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster:
It is not up to me to refer anything to them. It is up to them to ask me if they want it brought there.
Question re: Environment Act
That brings me to the Environment Act. I suggest the Minister take some time to read it, because it would tell him exactly what the powers and duties are of the council.
Last week, when I was questioning the Minister on the Environment Act, in response to a question about changes in the act, he said, "The department is looking at a few things that bother them, and we are now talking with the Justice department."
Could I ask the Minister what bothers them and when will the public be consulted on this mysterious issue?
Hon. Mr. Brewster:
What is being worked on internally in the department is their affair and when they come in with the briefings we will let the Member know.
I am very concerned about this closed government that seems to march to the drum of one special interest group.
I do not see why the Minister cannot stand up and tell us what specific problems he has, or is the government running everything for everybody in the whole Yukon now?
Hon. Mr. Brewster:
I am not too sure that I said I had any specific problems. There are some problems with the legislation, which the departments are looking at and when they get that settled, we will know.
It is amazing that, in this government, the department gives the direction to the Minister regarding changes to legislation.
Why is it that, whether it is game farming policy, wolf kill details, campground privatization or changes to the Environment Act, the Minister thinks he can arrogantly avoid the input of the public on decisions like this?
Hon. Mr. Brewster:
It is not true at all. I have consulted with the public in a lot of cases. Mr. Speaker, would you like me to read
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some of them out?
Question re: Energy Corporation, CYI participation in
I would like to ask the Minister responsible for Yukon Electrical about the small contract that he indicated to the House last week had been signed with Mr. Terry Boylan of Vancouver, and which he promised to table in the House. Could I ask the Minister if there has been more than one contract between the government and Mr. Boylan, and, if so, will the Minister table the terms of all such contracts?
Hon. Mr. Phelps:
It is my understanding that there is one contract. It may have been extended. I am not sure if it has or not yet.
To state the obvious, if you take a small contract and keep extending it, eventually it will become a big contract.
Can I ask the Minister if he can confirm that Mr. Boylan was still functioning as an agent of the government with respect of the possible sale of assets of the Yukon Energy Corporation as late as April 13, just 12 days ago?
Hon. Mr. Phelps:
That is an interesting question. I can tell him that the person in question was doing work for the government under that contract during that week and having exploratory talks with CYI to ascertain their position.
We all know that the president of the Energy Corporation and the Development Corporation is a lawyer, and, indeed, a QC, and that there are many lawyers around who have no conflicts by way of contracts with the utility - private or public.
Since the Minister has apparently agreed to meet with the Association of Yukon Communities on May 6 to discuss the future of the Yukon Energy Corporation as a public utility, can he tell us if he intends to engage the services of his former law partner in any future discussions with either CYI, AYC or Yukon Electrical or any of its parent companies?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek:
I believe that the contract will be tabled in the Legislature tomorrow; I signed it this morning.
To answer the Member's question, the person was hired to explore the possibility of restructuring the Yukon Energy Corporation, in conjunction with the CYI. When that phase is finished, which it will be very shortly, the Minister will bring something to Cabinet to see whether we will proceed from there.
Question re: Energy Corporation, CYI participation in
Last week, the Government Leader insisted that the Minister and his Vancouver agent had no mandate to negotiate the privatization of the Yukon Energy Corporation. Yet, the Government Leader has described the Minister's former partner's role as discussing a possible purchase by Yukon First Nations of 30 percent of the corporation.
If there is no mandate, could the Government Leader explain to us where the magic figure of 30 percent comes from?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek:
We have said time and time again in this House - and I have said it in public speeches - that we, as a party, campaigned to reduce energy costs in the Yukon. We said that we would explore new and innovative ways of doing it. That is exactly what we are doing.
We have also said that if these exploratory talks do not give us an indication that there will be a real return to the ratepayers of the Yukon, they will not proceed any further.
My fear, of course, is that the government is not pursuing something new and innovative, but just the very old and discredited.
I would like to ask the Minister if he could answer this question: in the event that the government fails to make a deal with either the First Nations, the municipalities, or both, can the Government Leader explain what guarantees exist that the government will not immediately turn around and offer 50 percent of Yukon Energy Corporation assets to Yukon Electrical or some other outside company?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek:
I am not about to try to guess what is going to happen in the future here. The direction has been clearly given to the Minister to entertain exploratory talks about a restructuring of the Energy Corporation, in which the Yukon government, on behalf of the Yukon people, would retain 50 percent of the corporation. Those are the only instructions that have been given at this point.
Having heard that statement, which has only come recently, our concern is what happens to the other 50 percent.
I would remind the Government Leader that his ministerial colleague gave us an assurance a year ago that none of the assets would be privatized, so we are talking about a moving target.
Can the Government Leader give his assurance that no Yukon Energy Corporation assets will be sold to private interests based outside the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Phelps:
It is pretty interesting to listen to the Leader of the Official Opposition trying to create a boogeyman and scare the living daylights out of Yukoners. With regard to his statement -
Some Hon. Member:
Hon. Mr. Phelps:
The Totem Oil loan went outside the territory.
The question was posed to me before any discussions were entertained about possible privatization. I was asked exactly what our position was at the time, more than a year ago. That was regarding privatization and, at that time, we were not interested at all in privatization, and I said so. At that time, we were interested in pursuing the government's position with regard to rationalization of the assets with a private corporation. That is something they did when they were in government. They are the ones who structured the management agreement with the private company from Alberta. They are the ones who put up all this money, so the private corporation from Alberta could manage the assets of Yukon Energy Corporation, not us.
It is rather interesting to witness the flip-flop of the learned leader over there where, on the one hand, it is fine for him to enter into discussions with Alberta Power ...
Order. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Phelps:
... but for us to even discuss a burning issue at the forefront of the minds of most energy ministers across Canada, and to enter into discussions about privatization - something that is happening across the country, particularly in the socialist provinces, where they are broke - is something ...
Hon. Mr. Phelps:
... that is really unsettling.
Question re: Energy Corporation, CYI participation in
As Winnie the Pooh would say, "this gets interestinger and interestinger".
We have just had the Government Leader tell us that this commitment to privatization comes out of campaign commitments made a year and a half ago. Then we had the Minister responsible for energy say that privatization suddenly occurred to him after he had given the House his assurance that the assets would not be privatized. Once again, two completely incompatible, contradictory positions.
Some Hon. Member:
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I know, that is the problem, they did not go to the same convention.
Let me ask the Government Leader again, because he has not answered this question yet, and that makes us deeply suspicious, if he will give the House his assurance that no assets of the Yukon Energy Corporation will be sold to private interests based outside the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek:
I want to correct the hon. Member when he says our four-year plan spoke of privatization of the Energy Corp. It did no such thing and he very well knows it. I just stood here, moments ago, and said that we were going to look for new and innovative ways to reduce the cost of power to Yukoners. We said nothing about privatization in the four-year plan.
We have heard this little rant from the Government Leader, but you may have noticed that he did not answer the question. Just a few minutes ago, he did say to us that the initiatives that he is taking now, which may lead to privatization, were inspired by the four-year plan. They were going to eliminate the Yukon Development Corporation - remember that? That meant privatization, by the way.
Could I ask the Government Leader again, a third time, this: can the Minister assure the House that no Yukon Energy assets will be sold to private interests based outside the Yukon, in the life of the term of this Yukon Party government? Will he give the House that assurance?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek:
While we did not eliminate the Yukon Development Corporation, we certainly restructured it so that it would not be giving loans to American oil companies. We certainly did that, and it did not take us long to do it.
I have said quite clearly that we are looking for ways to reduce the cost of power to the ratepayers in the Yukon. We are exploring these things. There is no decision made beyond exploratory talks with CYI at this time.
The problem is that there are a great many Yukoners out there who believe that there is a hidden agenda here - a secret plan by that Minister and this government - to sell off the most valuable public property the people of the territory own, Yukon Energy Corporation assets, to outside interests. All these negotiations with CYI and the municipalities are just a sham to lead them to their real objective, which is to sell it off to outside interests.
Why will the Government Leader not put those concerns to rest and give us the assurance here and now that that is not the intention of him or his Cabinet? Why not? He has been asked four times now. Why will he not just say it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek:
At a meeting not long ago, somebody asked why this government would want to get rid of this cash cow. I said the cash cow has a very good ability to give sour milk a lot of the time. I have said quite clearly to this House that it is not our intention to do that at this time. I am not going to prejudge what could happen in the future. I am not going to prejudge that.
The Minister responsible for energy has stood in this House -
Some Hon. Member:
Hon. Mr. Ostashek:
They would get a say. The fact remains that governments all over Canada today are looking at privatization of their energy corporations, especially in NDP jurisdictions.
Question re: Energy Corporation, CYI participation in
A smart person knows that one can even sell sour milk as cottage cheese.
The leader opposite has just said something that is going to alarm everybody in the territory. At this time - meaning on April 25, 1994, at 12 minutes past 2 p.m. - he is not planning to sell the assets of the public utility to private interests in Alberta or elsewhere. But an hour from now or two hours from now, or next week or next month, it may be true. Why will the Government Leader, who campaigned on the basis of Yukon for Yukoners, not be prepared today to give a firm commitment that the assets of the Yukon Energy Corporation will remain under Yukon ownership and control - all of them.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek:
I have just made that commitment here today when we were talking about the rationalization of the assets with CYI. I said that the Yukon government is going to retain at least 50 percent of the assets - control of the company. I cannot prejudge what is going to happen in the future. It is not our intention to do that now.
We own 100 percent of it right now, but the Minister responsible for energy has already turned over effective control of the management to the private utility. We turned over the management, but we were determined that we would have enough competent staff in the Yukon Energy Corporation to mind the store in the public interest. The Minister opposite has talked about merging those two operations so we would no longer have that oversight.
I want to ask the Government Leader, since he has indicated that the government is bound to keep only 50 percent of the assets and somebody else may have management and control, how he will keep control of the company.
Some Hon. Member:
The Government Leader is talking to the Minister of Tourism. I would like to ask the Government Leader this: is he aware of any proposal received by this government prior to the start of the talks with CYI, from anyone proposing the merging of the assets of the Yukon Energy Corporation with the assets owned by some private southern company? Has he received any such proposal? Has he knowledge of any such proposal?
Hon. Mr. Phelps:
I am really concerned about the manner in which the Member opposite wants to take liberty with the facts. For example, he stands in this House and states that, somehow or other, we have turned the management over to the private company because we reduced staff. We have not. We have the same people working for the corporation now as were working for the corporation when we took office, so that is absolutely wrong.
The Member opposite keeps raising these false scenarios knowing full well that the real issue is this: he refused to sell any part of the Yukon Development Corporation or the Yukon Energy Corporation to the Yukon Indian people, to the First Nations. He is against it because it is against his socialist agenda. Why does he not just stand up and say that he does not feel that the First Nations should be partners in the Energy Corporation? He has prevented them from achieving that goal in the land claims negotiations, and now he is doing it under the rubric of raising all of these false issues.
I would challenge the gentleman opposite to table any document where any First Nation or the Council for Yukon Indians ever asked to buy any shares in the Yukon Energy Corporation, which I know he cannot do because there never was any such proposal. I want to ask him this: has he ever discussed, with any Yukon interest, the possibility of involving Yukon Electrical, Alberta Power, or Canadian Utilities in any form of ownership of the Yukon Energy Corporation since coming into the position of Minister responsible for energy for the Yukon government?
Hon. Mr. Phelps:
Of course I have. We have talked in terms of the rationalization of the assets and various configurations that might take place, but the clear message to CYI was about their purchasing up to 30 percent and the public being able to purchase up to 50 percent of those assets currently held by the Yukon Energy Corporation, which is owned by Yukon Development Corporation.
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The possibility was there, but it is neither part of the negotiations nor part of the package that we are discussing at this time. I understand the Member's desire to prevent any privatization, whether it be the First Nations, municipalities or individual Yukoners, because it is against his socialistic philosophy. I wish that the Member opposite would deal with that honestly and straightforwardly, instead of trying to raise all of these imaginary fears in the minds of the public.
Question re: Energy Corporation, CYI participation in
I have a question for the Government Leader about the appointment by the Government Leader of this low budget, save-on-lawyer who is going to be carrying out the charity work for the Government of Yukon. I am referring to the appointment of Mr. Boylan who is a Vancouver lawyer and who was appointed to negotiate with the Council for Yukon Indians about privatizing the assets of the Yukon Development Corporation.
Mr. Boylan resigned from the Yukon Law Society in 1992, and is not a member in current good standing to practise law in the Yukon.
I would like to ask the Government Leader why he would appoint someone to do legal work who is not licensed to practise law in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Phelps:
This is pretty heavy research we are talking about here.
Mr. Boylan was engaged as a consultant; he was neither engaged as a lawyer, nor is he being paid as a lawyer. He is being paid as a person who has the background and experience, having been a senior member of this bar and is currently a senior member of the British Columbia bar, because he has the background to understand the issues. Lawyers will be utilized to carry out any legal work that is required.
It is interesting to hear the Member opposite talk about "pay-back time". May I politely suggest that perhaps the pay back is really from the Member opposite in her vicious attack upon Mr. Boylan, because he had the temerity to support me in a leadership campaign that took place about nine years ago. The Member's list of pay backs must number in the thousands, because the Member lost the leadership by thousands and thousands of votes.
I feel rather sorry for the Member opposite, who is carrying out this personal vendetta in this manner, in this House.
That is really an astonishing answer. Let us keep the issue to what it really is. The issue is that that Member stood up in the House the other day and said that Mr. Boylan had been hired because of his background in corporate and tax law. He even went as far as to say that this was a low-budget, save-on-lawyer, because he was charging less than what legal aid lawyers charge in the Yukon. Every comment has been with respect to this individual being a lawyer.
What I want to know from the Government Leader is this: why would the Government Leader hire someone to do this job who is not even currently in good standing with the Yukon Law Society? Not only did he get an outside lawyer, he did not even hire someone who had at least paid their dues here and is a supporter of the Yukon Law Society.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek:
I believe that the Minister responsible for energy has answered that question. The fact is that he was not hired as a lawyer. We needed someone with a legal background who was familiar with the issues. As the Minister said, we got him at a very good price.
What I find ironic about all this is that this is not the first time that Mr. Boylan has worked for the Government of Yukon. In fact, he worked for the Government of the Yukon when that very Member was part of the Cabinet that approved the contract for the transfer of NCPC assets to the Yukon.
It has been a long time since I was part of that government - a very long time. I am sure that that answer is not valid.
Some Hon. Member:
No, I am certainly not dying to get over there.
The Government Leader just stood up and said that Mr. Boylan was hired for his legal background. If my memory serves me - and I do not want to get into the details - I believe that the Minister of Justice, when he was a land claims negotiator, may have run into a similar situation when he was not currently a member in good standing. My memory might be a bit shaky there, but I believe the Leader of the Official Opposition, at that time, may have raised that issue.
The question I have for the Government Leader is this: since he has already paid out money to this lawyer out of Yukon taxpayers' money - which we have just had a big increase in, a big government windfall - will the Government Leader make it a requirement that this individual pay his fees and become licensed to practice law in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Phelps:
The selective memory of the Member is simply marvelous. She forgets being part of the Cabinet that engaged Mr. Boylan when negotiations were starting with NCPC. She is really concerned about a situation where my membership to the Yukon bar lapsed, although my job with the government was as a negotiator. Mr. Boylan's job, for which he was engaged, was to do some exploratory negotiations and look at the various issues surrounding the potential for privatization. He has a background in law. I can talk to all the lawyers. He has talked to a number of lawyers and consultants in order to bring the package back to Cabinet on some of the issues.
He has not been hired as a member of a bar. He has been hired, not as a member of the Yukon bar or as a lawyer, but as a consultant. That is why his fee is much lower than he would command if he had been hired as a lawyer.
The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
I will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 14: Second Reading
Second reading, Bill No. 14, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Ostashek.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek:
I move that Bill No. 14, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1994-95, be now read a second time.
It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 14, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1994-95, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek:
This bill will grant the authority to spend operations and maintenance monies for the month of April, while the operations and maintenance main estimates for the 1994-95 fiscal year are being debated in the House. We are asking for $63,730,000 in such appropriations for the current month. Since the total O&M expenditures budgeted for in this year is some $346 million, it is apparent that the request for April is well in excess of one-twelth the total 1994-95 operating budget. This excessive, if you will, April expenditure, results from the fact that many grant payments are made at the beginning of the year. Examples of this are municipal grants and grants to Yukon College. Many of these expenditures have already taken place despite the fact the bill is now only being read for the second time. To
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allow for this situation, a special warrant for the same sum is now being requested as interim supply and was signed by the Commissioner prior to the beginning of the fiscal year. We will also soon be requesting Members to approve the second interim supply bill for the month of May.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 14 agreed to
Bill No. 17: Second Reading
Second reading, Bill No. 17, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Ostashek.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek:
I move that Bill No. 17, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1994-95, (No. 2), be now read for a second time.
It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 17, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1994-95, (No. 2), be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek:
This bill will grant legislative approval for the government to spend money during the month of May, until such time as the 1994-95 operation and maintenance estimates are passed. While it is somewhat higher than one-twelfth of our operation and maintenance expenditures, Members will note that the request for May, $39,401,000, is considerably less than was April's interim supply.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 17 agreed to
Bill No. 15: Second Reading - continued
Second reading, Bill No. 15, adjourned debate, Mr. McDonald.
One day last month, I had occasion to be speaking to an acquaintance about the reasons why the Yukon Party government did the things they did. The discussion ensued over whether or not the Yukon Party government was engaged in an exercise to control its finances, or whether or not the positions that they were taking were largely ideologically driven.
It was a fascinating discussion. It lasted for a short time, and I remember walking away thinking that, given what I know about the government's finances, I had won the day when it came to my belief that much of what the government has done is driven by its own ideological perspective and has nothing to do at all with the need to balance books or control expenditures.
Then, I went back to my office, and I found in my in-basket a copy of the March issue of The Sluice Box. There were some interesting things in it, but I did not really take notice of all it had to say. I turned to the back page and, after reading the people section, which is always the most interesting - that is what everyone does read - I looked at the top of the page to an article entitled "Some Common Career Myths".
It was adapted from the NWT government's newsletter. I realized instantly what the Yukon government saw in this particular adaptation of the GNWT's newsletter. Essentially, it saw something good when it crossed their path.
When one reads the listing of common career myths, one comes across the first one right away, which is that happiness comes from having done a perfect job.
I realized instantly that, when people called the Yukon government incompetent or criticized their failure to plan or have a sense of direction or to lurch from crisis to crisis, in fact they were simply on a quest to be happy, because happiness comes from having done a perfect job. This is a myth that we are supposed to dismiss. It seemed to get better as we went along.
The second myth was "getting ahead as a result of working hard and doing a good job". I realize they do not have a very lengthy legislative agenda and they have taken a fairly lazy approach to economic recovery, but I thought they were probably taking this myth just a little bit too far. In most of our books, getting ahead did entail working hard, doing a good job, but when one understands what this Yukon government publication is talking about one can understand then consequently the heart of the budgeting philosophy behind Yukon Party government.
The Sluice Box was not the only periodical that has pegged the Yukon government. I had brought to my attention a little snippet from the Globe and Mail - this was brought to my attention just recently. It was published on the same day as this legislative session started - which was April 18 - and probably presented what will be the theme for this sitting, perhaps this session and perhaps this government's entire term. I will just read it - it is the "Morning Smile" and it reads: "It is good to put money aside for a rainy day, or the next time the government decides it is getting cloudy." I thought, good heavens, that is perfectly appropriate for the mood of this sitting and is it not appropriate that it would be actually published on the same day as the sitting started?
After having read that and mused over its true meaning, I thought more about the government's attempt to manufacture a crisis mentality. I was thinking that perhaps this was so that the government could insulate itself from public demands and, at the same time, spend record amounts of money on its own priorities.
I am going to lay out a few points and permit my colleagues to raise a few others, but I should point out from the beginning, in a mood of generosity, that I have given notice to the Yukon Party caucus of the issues I intend to raise this afternoon. Their caucus representative was good enough to attend an NDP lunch on Friday with his tape recorder. I believe I spoke clearly enough, so consequently I am certain they have the essence of my remarks.
We at the lunch were clearly under the impression that the Yukon Party caucus needed somebody other than the Government Leader to explain their financial problems for them, so I welcomed the opportunity to provide something on the record for Mr. Staffen.
One has to begin by asking what the Yukon Party government wants people to remember about its budget. We draw from their budget papers, the budget speech and from the media notes following the budget announcements that the messages that they truly want people to remember and to internalize are, first, that government spending is down and, second, that there is still a deficit. These are the two primary communication goals of this government. These goals show up everywhere, in every publication, every journal, every MLA newsletter and I am certain, while I do not receive the Yukon Update, that these words would appear in that publication as well. They say that government spending is down and that there is still a deficit.
Why does government spending have to be down? If spending is down, it implies that there is less dependency on the federal government. Conservatives and Yukoners of any political stripe do not like being dependent on the federal government. Conservatives who just hate government and do not like government getting any bigger certainly would appreciate the thought that government is getting smaller.
Why does the government want a deficit? Because they do not want people to come asking for money. They want to clear the decks and make room for their own priorities without having the nuisance associated with people coming forward to ask for money.
Aside from that, when you are trying to explain to people why their paycheques should be cut and why services should be reduced, it is always helpful to have a deficit hanging around. Essentially, that deficit tells people that if they want to spend money on anything, the government is going to have to increase the deficit, and deficits are bad. Deficits suggest that we are spending more money than we are taking in and that is simply bad home economics let alone government economics.
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What reality does the government have to deal with? What are the circumstances of the financial environment in which the government is operating?
Well, revenues are up. The government is going to be taking in more money next year - probably $6 million to $6.5 million - than it took in this last year. This is allowing for the assumption, for which there is some justification, that the transfer payments in the final year of the agreement will be down.
The second thing is that income tax revenues are up. They are up to a whopping $45 million. This is a substantial increase over the $32 million that we took in per year when the Yukon Party assumed office.
What else is there? There is money that was not spent last year that still must be factored into the equation somewhere. By the Government Leader's admission, it is about $8 million to $10 million and has to be added to available funding for this year.
What else has happened? Money received through Ottawa through the transfer payments, established program financing and various recoveries continues to grow. Consequently, this so-called dependency factor on the feds continues to worsen.
What else has been happening? The overall spending of government has risen since the Yukon Party has been in government. The government is always concerned with trying to separate out contingent from net funding or, I should say, recoverable funding from net funding, because they think that the circumstances might be a bit more favourable for them. However, they never fail to take the credit for the economic consequences of that money they are spending, whether it is recoverable or not. They never fail to take credit for the jobs that might be created as a result of that recoverable funding. I am afraid we cannot let them off the hook on that.
The Yukon Party says, however, that government spending must go down. Actually, they say that government spending must go down and up, and down and up. Even today, we heard the Government Leader say that he was disappointed that we did not get more infrastructure funding from the feds in this particular program. We were able to soak them for $10 million last year, but we only got just over $2 million this year. We have always heard the Minister of Finance indicate that it is his heartfelt desire to protect Yukon's interest in formula financing negotiations, necessarily meaning that they are going to seek as much money as they can from Ottawa.
They want spending to go down, but they also want it to go up, but mainly down. Sometimes they want the spending to go down, because they want government to get smaller, but sometimes they want to fight the federal debt. It depends on who is talking, I guess, whether or not a Minister has attended the most recent Yukon Party convention, and whether or not they are simply speaking for the Cabinet; it is never quite clear to us.
The government is proud of the fact, overall and generally speaking, from the statements we have heard, that spending could go down. The Government Leader and Minister of Finance has boasted that, as a result of this budget, spending has, in fact, gone down, largely because of the priorities of the Yukon Party.
He has also said that the Yukon government has a deficit. He has said this to demonstrate that the Yukon is still in a crisis.
It is not difficult circumstances. We are not messing around here - we are in crisis. Never mind that a number of people think that the situation here is not so bad, including some notables in the Yukon government. Never mind that Statistics Canada thinks that we have the best situation in the country. It does not matter how Statistics Canada factors the surplus or deficit, because they factor it the same way that they factor the financial situation for every jurisdiction across the country. The point is that they think we are the best in the country when compared to other jurisdictions. Even the employer representative on the conciliation board last December was not persuaded that the Yukon government was in crisis, but nevertheless, the government needed a crisis - they wanted a crisis. They wanted it so that they could keep battered women at bay while they built a $1.2 million liquor store. You need that crisis so that you can spend $1 million or more on a caribou recovery/wolf kill program, and keep battered women, advocates for the disabled, and others at bay because you do not want them drawing comparisons with the millions of dollars that you might spend in one area with the money you want to cut from their programs.
Now there is a dilemma. That dilemma is that you cannot have spending down, revenue up, and a deficit at the same time, because the numbers just do not work that way. So, what is the answer? Well, the answer is that you show that spending is down - you start off with that because you need that, it is critical. You create some slush funds that you set aside and never say whether or not you are going to spend this money, you just set it aside. You say nothing about lapsed funding from last year - money you did not spend last year - you say nothing about that. Presto - you still have an accumulated deficit. That is how you do it, albeit a small one. I think that this accumulated deficit ranks at 1.3 percent of one year's expenditures. Even though it is pretty small, it is still there. By the way, that also equates to less than $200 per person in the Yukon, if you assume that there are 33,000 people, although that may not be an accurate assumption. It is about $200 per person, and that compares with the $14,200 we will be spending this year on every person in the territory.
If you try to use that equation by creating these slush funds and not telling the whole financial picture, what if you were exposed and told that if you wanted spending to go down you could not spend the slush fund and you would have to show no accumulated debt? What if you were told that? On top of that, if you factored in the money not spent last year, you would have to show an accumulated surplus of at least $4 million or $5 million by the government's own admission? Then you would have an accumulated surplus. What would you say then to the advocacy groups for the disabled, who spend hundreds and hundreds of volunteer hours and get some paltry sum from the Yukon government to help them in their efforts to advocate for people like the disabled?
What does one say to the transition home operators, who are going to have to try to factor in some concept of making appointments for battered women around the time that their spouses are beating the living daylights out of them? They are having to work through some pretty difficult scheduling problems there. How does one respond to them?
How does one talk to the taxpayers, who were told last year that the government needed $8 million to balance the budget? That taxpayer is already feeling just a little threatened, because he and she heard that the $7 million extracted from them last year was more than matched by the winter works program, which had double-counting on the jobs that were associated with it.
What does one tell the public servants, who have had the Finance Minister into their pockets twice in two years, not only as taxpayers, but because the Government Leader feels that they are being paid too much?
What does one say to the building contractor, or the construction worker, who sees little opportunity in the next couple of months to pay his bills, because there is no work?
How does one keep them all from scrutinizing one's priorities, if one has to be reminded that, in fact, there is no deficit? Those priorities, which include spending millions on highways, not all of which is contingent funding, and building liquor stores, would be difficult to justify. So, what one might do is throw up a little smoke and say that we have cashflow problems. We have to pay
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bank service charges, because we do not have as much money in the bank as we need.
In the old days, when we had lots of cash in the bank, interest charges just came out of the interest we earned. We all knew that that interest was not going to come to the Yukon government, anyway. It was going directly to the feds. So, essentially, we got the feds to pay our bank service charges. However, nowadays, we have cashflow problems. To drive that point home, you might even put it in your newsletter and send it around to 37 Redwood, because you might want the Finance critic to read it.
Here he says, and I will quote, "However, after deficits of $13 million in 1991-92, and $64 million in 1992-93, the government is no longer able to keep the required amount of cash on deposit. As a result, the government pays CIBC all or a portion of the costs of rural banking services in Beaver Creek, Carmacks, Faro, Haines Junction, Mayo, Old Crow and Ross River."
He did not tell the people at 35 and 39 Redwood that, in 1991-92, the deficit was also balanced by a $50 million consolidated surplus. So, of course there were no cashflow problems in that year whatsoever.
The Member did not tell the people across the street from 37 Redwood that he does not really have as much concern for cashflow as he makes out, because he is prepared to put $30 million into land development. He is prepared to tie up $30 million in cash in land, yet, incidentally, the serviced lots in Whitehorse are not selling like hot cakes right now.
If one is prepared to tie up so much cash in land development, why complain about $300,000 worth of bank service charges? If one managed to tie up only $17 million or $18 million, or even $20 million, in land development, the remaining $10 million would more than adequately compensate for the $300,000 in bank service charges.
Somebody might just blow that smoke away from people's eyes, and people might consequently feel that the government was not being entirely straightforward. One might try writing off more money but, of course, that will only make the dilemma worse. As a result of more write-offs, there would be more cash available. If we talk about the cash reserves, such as the leave accrual account - the account we have in case everybody quits all on the same day - people might get just a little bit hotter yet.
So, there is a problem, and that problem is only made worse by the fact that some people have come along and criticized the Member for rolling over for the federal government when the tax increases were applied last year. Does he remember that? It was a time when the Yukon Party government let slip that federal Finance officials thought our tax rates were too low and needed to be raised.
Rather than fighting the good fight, people got the distinct impression that the Member just rolled over, laid down, accepted the view of the federal Finance officials and raised those tax rates, even though the Member knew, from his own Finance officials, that the tax burden on Yukoners was at the national, or above the national, average. He knew that, but he still raised the taxes.
The government at the time said it was to balance the books but, only four months into the fiscal year, we all discovered that was not the case at all: they found the same $7 million to do winter works.
Now, we know that there will be lapses in the Yukon government's budget that will more than adequately match the increased revenue they expected to get from the tax increases last year and still leave a surplus. The government was criticized for rolling over before and, now, someone might come along and criticize the government for rolling over again.
We are told the Government of Canada has a serious problem. It has a big debt. The Minister for the Public Service Commission has, on a number of occasions, reminded us that in the context of the collective bargaining discussions we must do our part to pay down the federal debt.
Some Hon. Member:
That is a good point. With one breath, one Minister, who failed to go to the convention, says we need to pay down the federal debt, and another Minister is suggesting we do not have enough money from the federal government's infrastructure program and that we should have received more.
Whether it is a contradiction or not, it is nothing new.
The point is that the government is now under the impression that the federal government is going to be reducing the federal debt, at least in part, at the Yukon government's expense.
So, what does one do? One pre-implements the cut. We still have a year of formula financing to go. We are not going to get cut yet, because we still have a signed agreement, but one takes what one understands to be the federal Finance position and pre-implements it in the year prior to the cut being applied, not in the year the cut is applied.
Secondly, one acknowledges the federal government's position, before negotiations on things like the transfer agreement are concluded, and one demonstrates that one has accepted their position. One might say this is not a great negotiating tactic, because it suggests that perhaps, when it comes time to make some noises about the Yukon's interests, the federal government will come along and say, was it not you guys who already accepted those cuts and implemented them already? Is it not you guys who have a surplus and no deficit? Is it not you guys who have been listed by Statistics Canada as being financially in the best circumstances in the country?
The Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission is kibitzing, saying that we need more, more and more, unless, of course, he is suggesting that he believes that we should not be asking for more. I am not sure if he is criticizing the Government Leader or me. The Government Leader is probably used to having a few arrows in the back. He can expect a few more from the Minister of the Public Service Commission, but it would help if the Minister went to the convention, so that he could keep up with the policy work that is going on there.
I just made a faux pas. I just suggested that there might be policy work going on at the Yukon Party convention. That was a mistake; I apologize for that.
Things appear to be getting worse for the Yukon government. One might suggest that they have already caused a panic with their claim of financial crisis. I would point out that this is only the end of a long string of claims about there being a crisis. Sirens sounded in the communities and then, last spring, there was the all-clear signal. Now that the government wants to cut back on employees wages and services to the public, the crisis alarm has sounded again here and in the communities. All the while, the financial situation was good and has remained good.
We are debt-free. We are so debt-free that the debts we are recovering are still getting paid back as we speak. We have written them off, but they are still coming in. I have told the media and my colleagues that we will have to keep an eye out for the mortgages for the social housing that are still out there. There are probably a few millions in those that can be written off. I am sure we will see the SEAL loan being written off. We will still expect the money to be repaid, I am certain of that; however, we might just write off all the SEAL loans because it is a common tactic of the government opposite to ensure that we have an accumulated debt that we can point out to people.
We certainly do not want to talk about those large reserves we have. That would not conform to the image of ourselves we want to present to the Yukon public. To the federal government, we
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present a different image. We certainly do not want to say that there is a surplus, even though there is a surplus.
The problem is that all this fiscal policy has caused the economy to enter into quite a chaotic period.
The government may not have resolved the conflicting messages when it came to finances, so I think they have tried to send a few conflicting messages about the economy, and try their hand at doing that.
The government has taken a rather laid-back approach to economic leadership, and their actions regarding Curragh and Taga Ku were certainly counter-productive. The best thing that you can do in the face of pretty startling circumstances on the street - which government Ministers have admitted to from time to time, but not consistently - is to announce that there is now a recovery. You do not necessarily have to do much about it, but you certainly announce the recovery. After all, maybe the recovery can be covered in the announcement. You do not have to work very hard. You can hold a few public meetings where the economy is on the agenda. You can sponsor a cocktail party in a Vancouver hotel room, but why should people believe that hard work and doing a good job will get you ahead? I return to the myth that The Sluice Box has identified.
You start by talking about road upgrading, the need for a better infrastructure, and the need for a better road network in the territory, which will lead to businesses wanting to come up to the Yukon. You do not tell anyone that you are upgrading the existing road network - for the Member for Kluane, the vehicles operated by the American tourists will be passing through the Yukon more quickly as a result of this road upgrading effort.
You talk about the industrial support policy, which does not begin to demonstrate how a balance will be struck between rate- payers, industrial consumers and taxpayers. Taxpayers are already beleaguered enough, in my opinion.
You talk about mines in the permitting stage, which is something that you would probably prefer to talk about, because there are no mines in the operating stage. Mines in the operating stage are the ones that actually mean jobs.
You might talk a little bit about service cuts, because those cuts always appeal to Conservatives right around the country, and probably around the world.
When I was reading and listening to the budget speech, I did not detect much being said about the document entitled Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century, and I was wondering where that document had gone. I did not hear anything about the four-year plan, either, but perhaps the Ministers will let us know whether or not they still have faith in those documents, or whether they are too red-faced, or embarrassed, to actually support them nowadays.
So what one does, essentially, is announce, really, a hilarious concept - this "decade of prosperity". They suggest that not only are we going to enter a decade of prosperity, but we are already in it - that we are actually better off now than we were when Faro and Sa Dena Hes were operating. Somebody might suggest there might be a touch of double-speak in that claim, that maybe the reality does not justify the claim, but when in doubt, one trots out statistics. We got our share of statistics in the Finance Minister's speech. He talked about retail trade, population, the number of jobs available. He went down a list of statistics I am sure he felt comfortable with, did not quite mention a few other statistics that he may not have been quite as comfortable with: that the population from December 1992 to December 1993 has dropped, or that there are more people who are classed as unemployment beneficiaries, or that social assistance costs are rising, or that retail trade was down over January 1993 to January 1994, or that the vacancy rate has better than doubled, or that the value of real estate transactions were down, both in number and in value. Even when the bank rate had dropped dramatically, the number of building permits were down, both in number and in value. The electricity generated was down by one-third. Petroleum product sales were down by 21.5 percent. Even aircraft movements in the territory were down. Despite all that, the inflation rate in the Yukon was higher than it was in Canada. Right now, it is 10 times higher than the Canadian rate. There was one statistic the government failed to mention that I would consider to be a popular one, and that was that restaurant receipts have actually gone up. I thought to myself, maybe people are just getting together to find out what is going on out there, and they are doing it over lunch. One of the things we have not heard about, and there has been no recognition of, are the number of notable business closures that have taken place in the Yukon over the last year and one-half.
Certainly, there are many I know of that are in trouble, but they have not been identified in the newspapers so I will not mention their names. We have heard about Mr. Mike's and the Heritage Gallery, Value Village, Motorways, Kelly Douglas, Woolco, Shades and Mates, the Curragh and Sa Dena Hes mines, Yukon-Alaska Transport, and we have heard about layoffs at the Klondike Inn and Finning. There is a long list of long-time companies that have suffered a little bit in this period of prosperity that the government has identified. There are people out there, constituents of mine, who have had to take on new jobs. Maybe that accounts for some of the new jobs the government has identified as having been assumed as the statistical underpinning of the claim that we are in good economic times.
I talked to some constituents last week, who have five jobs between two family members and they grossed $35,000 a year between the two of them. Those people do not know the language the government is speaking. Those people do not feel secure about their future or about this territory's future. Those people have been laid off on a couple of occasions in the last year - they picked up other jobs, small ones, low-paid ones but jobs. They are hard working people and are trying their best to stay here and to live here.
One fellow works 12 hours a day between two jobs and works on the weekends, too. He does not know what the government is talking about when they are talking about prosperity. All he knows is a cycle of unemployment, job hunting and, among many of his friends, outright depression. That is what he knows.
When one compares those statistics with the statistics that were published by the same Executive Council Office, the Bureau of Statistics, in the first quarter of 1992, one sees a much different picture. The employment is rising, the unemployment rate is falling. The average weekly earnings in the Yukon are growing - dramatically, not just a little bit, dramatically. The inflation rate is dropping. Rent and real estate values are increasing - not just a little bit, but a lot. The population is growing, and the inflation rate - that little bugaboo - is actually less than the Canadian average - produced by the same Bureau of Statistics.
Let me, then, return to all these claims about the economic recovery and the government's action plan. We were told that the government was going to go out and consult with people. They were going to work hard and get the Council on the Economy and the Environment to do a review of the general economic climate - that was over a year ago, though. We were told that the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment was going to lead discussions about economic recovery and perhaps it would even be asked to assume new responsibilities, when, in the end, they were only delivered the responsibility to investigate video gambling. They have been working on that quite a while. They have not reported yet - at least, not to my knowledge and certainly not publicly.
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They have been working on this for some time, probably at considerable expense. We were told that the government was going to review the issue of access to capital. We were told that the government was going to review the issue of the regulated environment in which small business operates. We were told that the government was going to engage in discussions about their master plan - this document called Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century. None of that has happened.
What has happened is that the Government Leader, on his regular rural visits, has put the economy on the agenda. After filling the people at those meetings full of a lot of bafflegab about the fiscal crisis we are in, he has been able to take a few questions about whether or not there are going to be any jobs here. He answers, oh, yes, there will be jobs; we have a winter works program. It has increased the jobs in this territory by thousands of person weeks. We have record-size budgets that will put everyone back to work, even though we do not believe in record-size budgets. He goes on, presumably, to outline all the actions the government is taking in all those important areas, like the Northern Accord negotiations and the kind of answer he gave us the other day in Question Period.
We have not heard much from the government about their document Toward Self-Sufficiency in the 21st Century in recent months. We have not heard any of the consultation that we were promised on all the items I have mentioned. All we have heard from the Government Leader now is that, not only is it not necessary to consult further, but we are all living an illusion. It is good out there on the street, businesses are not in trouble, and it is better than it was two years ago. We should not mind our own balance sheets; things are getting better.
Nobody I talked to - literally, not a rhetorical excess - believes that story, apart from the Yukon government, Cabinet and the people they pay to help them. I do not hear anyone else anywhere say that. The business community and the workers in my riding do not believe that we are in the middle of a decade of prosperity, or that they are starting one. They do not understand why the government is taking such a passive approach to the economy. They do not understand how the government can claim that its own capital budget is sufficient to weather the storm, and why it might be necessary to engage a little public discussion, consciousness-raising or spirit-lifting, among the business community and workers of this territory about what the economy might do.
The only light you can see at the end of that tunnel - and it is a dim one - is in the area of tourism, where there have been some discussions about how we can do better, even though the tourism stats might naturally be dropping off from the 1992 year. Nevertheless, there are efforts being made to try to maximize what we are doing in that particular area, and engaging the people in the industry to actually think and apply their creative energies to maximizing not only the public dollar, but the private sector dollar.
While I will not give the Minister of Education a lot of credit, I will give the Minister of Tourism some credit for that. I will tell you this: when people not only see this lackadaisical effort coming from first one, then another Minister of Economic Development, and seeing that same Minister of Economic Development claim that things are good, and at the same time defend service cuts to people, and at the same time have an accumulated surplus is, in reality, very difficult to take.
There are other problems with this budget that I will simply identify, and then will pursue in more detail when we get into committee work. Firstly, the government indicates that there are some budgets for which the government has gone through a lot of effort, through good management, to cut the budget of a particular department. As an aside, I think it is interesting to note that the only good news that this budget really identifies as they survey the plans in each department - in virtually every department - is how they are cutting the budget. They have no plan or vision for where they want to go. They have no end in sight for the amount of cuts they are seeking in services or anything else. The only good news in the operating budget is that it has been cut. The only good news that they have identified in spending terms in this budget was a reiteration of capital spending priorities that were announced four or five months ago.
In some budgets they have done the right thing. They have slimmed and trimmed the budget to make sure that the delivery of services is more efficient. We have noticed that a number of services seem to have gone by the wayside in that exercise - services that the government is going to have to defend, particularly when they are building liquor stores and spending millions of dollars in caribou recovery, and at the same time sitting on enormous lapses, and at the same time generating surpluses.
We have identified in our review of the budget some cases where in the last year they actually jacked up the budgets in a department, or a section of a department, calling it "realistic budgeting", and then, in shaving those budgets back to what in reality was a realistic budget, they have called that good management.
Then, we hear in the budget there are going to be no tax increases. Well, the taxpayer will be pleased to hear that, but what the taxpayer does not know is that what the Government Leader meant was that there was going to be no tax increase announcements, because the announcement last year is applying a tax increase this year.
Then we hear in various areas there are going to be some increases, for example, in the education field and in the industrial support policy - that government was going to put a lot of its effort, and lot of its energy, behind training. One program did go up in funding in the full array of training programs that are funded by the advanced education branch, but some went down and a lot stayed the same. When they face the inflation increase, they are going to be assuming a cut. No less than Yukon College itself is going to be faced with that situation. So when we hear those hollow words about a government that believes in training, we have to look beyond the one program that they have increased to justify that claim, because, otherwise, the message might be perceived as being just a little dishonest.
I have said what I wanted to say about the essential elements of this budget and about the method by which the government has tried to deliver a number of different messages and a number of conflicting messages, and has tried to tailor those messages to the numbers. It has been a difficult exercise for them, because they could not tell the whole truth when they were presenting their case for a fiscal crisis, or trim budgets, or more spending, or less spending, or whatever message they wanted to deliver at a particular time.
It was difficult, because the numbers simply will not support a consistent theme in their budget message. We have a government that has taken a passive, couch-potato approach to economic recovery. This government continues to embrace this approach as the best approach for a government that feels that the only virtue of operation and maintenance spending is that it be somehow cut. We have a government that believes that some elements of operational spending, in particular when it comes to education, are referred to as debt creation. That is somewhat contrary to the view held by many teachers in this territory, who feel that what they are doing is educating, and will ultimately be training, people in this territory to take the highly skilled jobs that pay the better wages and will mean an economic recovery for this territory in the long term - or, at least, provide this territory with an economic future.
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Claims about education spending being debt creation fall on hollow ears, at least on this side of the House and this caucus.
When it comes to education spending, I would ask the Ministers to look at the amount of money that is being dedicated to education generally. I would ask them to look at the net spending for education and for the government as a whole. I would ask them to look at the Department of Education's budget as an example, and as a percentage of total net spending in government over the last three years, and tell me what they see. They will find that, as a percentage of the total net spending, not gross spending, that education spending has decreased.
That is this government's true commitment to that particular field of endeavour.
That is where our money talks, and the message for many people is not a pleasant one to accept. We have seen a government that, when they signed the land claims agreement last year, failed to provide any further inspiration to see any further final agreements being even furthered significantly at all - to the point that First Nations and the Council for Yukon Indians are frustrated beyond belief.
We have seen a government that is not high on consultation and their priority setting for consultation has left a lot to be desired, particularly in the economic field. We have seen a budget presentation that is deceptive and misleading.
I cannot remember whether I said anything good about this budget but I think there is some sort of tradition about doing that, is there not? One is supposed to identify some good news or some positive things. If somebody could just kibbitz on this side and tell me what I can mention that is positive, I might be able to mention something.
Some Hon. Members:
Firstly, yes, there is some good news I find out from my colleagues. There are racing stripes on the budget book. They are Yukon Party colours, I presume - blue with a yellow stripe. Presumably the yellow stripe is our position with respect to federal fiscal relations.
We know that perhaps there may be some increases to chamber funding. I have not actually seen that but I am prepared to believe it and, if it is true, then more power to the Chamber of Commerce.
There are some increases in tourism marketing. I do support that particular endeavour. I do not to leave this on an entirely negative note, so I will refrain from further comment and allow my colleagues to speak, allow the government to explain its rather bizarre budgeting practice and, when we get to Committee, I will have a lot of questions about their positions on a number of things. We will pursue those subjects in greater depth then.
Hon. Mr. Phelps:
I guess the opening comment I would make is that the previous speech is an easy act to follow. It was rather uninspired, to say the least, partly because the O&M mains are easily defended and really not all that controversial. They are based on sound practices and a budget that recognizes the reality that Yukoners face.
I do not know if the Members are not very interested in modern day communications. Perhaps watching TV is a bit too plebeian for them, but anyone who turns on the radio that is focused on the national news, turns on the TV to see what is happening in Canada nationally and in other jurisdictions will realize that we are in a pretty bad fix as a country. They realize and understand, because it is made vividly apparent, that we have some tremendous difficulties facing us as a nation.
Provinces, particularly the biggest one, Ontario, is broke, and is run by bankers rather than the NDP. That right was taken away from them when they went broke after Pink Floyd stood up and talked about his wonderful budget, which created the biggest deficit in the history of Ontario. This went on for a couple of years, until the bankers said it was over - that there was no more money and that the government would have to chop a whole bunch of jobs. They said they know that the unions and all the people they profess to care about would be angry, but it would be either that or there would be no more money, because they were broke, bankrupt. Do you understand?
Even they understood - a bit late, but they chose the easy way - spend, spend, spend until the crunch came. And the crunch came. It would come here had they stayed in power, because they were going deeper and deeper in debt. Programs were out of control. There was all kinds of waste in the system, and the taxpayers knew this. The people of the Yukon knew this. The people in the Yukon looked at the buildings that made no sense, that cost too much, that cost so much to run once they were built that the people in the territory knew that the finances were out of kilter. That is why they voted the way they did. They voted against the NDP. They voted against mismanagement of the public purse. They voted against a government that could not get its house in order, that could not get control of the programs they were delivering. The people of the Yukon, by and large, are fairly prudent people and they could recognize what was happening. They can turn on their TVs and see what has happened in the south, and they know what the problem is that we face as Yukoners because, after eight years of socialist rule up here, the people with a vision across the way did absolutely nothing to diversify the economy. That is fact.
The vision of the side opposite involved pouring millions and millions and millions of dollars by way of grants, in a pro-active way. There was money from the ratepayers for the Watson Lake sawmill and chippers, money from the economic development agreements in the private business that went broke; a pig farm for a couple of hundred thousand on the Takhini Hot Springs, broke; an egg farm down on the Little Atlin Road, a couple of hundred grand, broke. There is case after case after case of situations where these proactive people went out, talked some poor business people into going ahead with their uneconomic business plan, and they went broke. That is what happened. That was the vision of this group opposite. That is the group that stands here and talks about things being tough now because we are couch potatoes. We are not throwing money around and wasting it. We are not going around telling people we will give them millions of dollars if they will just start the business, because we know business. It was known in the Economic Development department, under the speaker who just spoke and the Government Leader of the day, that if money was lent or given to any business that was trying to start up, it was the kiss of death - the kiss of death if this pro-active government got behind business and supported it.
These are the people who stand up here and talk about being pro-active and having vision, the same people who a year ago were standing in this House telling us to put $34 million into Curragh. They were saying, "put the money into Curragh, you have got to do it. The economy is being flushed down the toilet." That is what they said. I went back and read Hansard. If we had put another $34 million into Curragh, we would be $34 million further into debt. That is the socialist way of handling the crisis that was facing the Yukon.
The Members opposite overstated, in drastic terms, what was going to happen if the two mines shut down. The two mines did shut down and the economy has not been flushed down the toilet. Things are not great, but things are a heck of a lot better than the Members on the side opposite were predicting - gloom and doom. They were the ones saying this over and over last April, and what has happened?
We have gone through a pretty tough year, but we see many
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developments happening, we see more money being spent in mining and exploration than we have for quite a few years, we see more money going into tourism, we see mines - four small mines that are looking at the feasibility of operating, that will probably be going ahead and opening - we have more actual jobs in the territory month after month than the corresponding months when the NDP was in power - despite the fact that there were two mines in operation.
We have statistics that show that retail sales are up, but we are not saying that the economy is great and that it cannot get better. We want the economy to get better, but the Members on the side opposite are the ones who were predicting gloom and doom and a terrible crisis. They said that the whole territory was going to sink if those mines went down, and if we did not load another $34 million into Curragh and Clifford Frame's pocket.
They are the group who speak about being on the side of the worker, against big business and oh, horrors of horrors, are we actually talking to companies from outside of the territory, companies that are owned by people in Alberta, Saskatchewan or somewhere. They are the people who wanted us to give another gift to Curragh. Perhaps we should have invested in a few race horses to be run on that farm just outside of Toronto. Their buddies. The buddies of the side opposite. The president, the chairman of the board, and the board of directors of Curragh. They are great people, yes, great people. They did a lot for this economy.
Ask anybody in the Yukon how he or she feels about Curragh now. Ask anybody in the Yukon, except perhaps, a few members of the NDP, because we are talking about their buddies here, whether or not we should have put another $30-odd million into Curragh's pocket. Do you know what they will tell you, Mr. Speaker? No way. No way. That is what they will tell you. It is absolutely outrageous to listen to people on the side opposite come along and try to find ways of picking at this budget. Walk on one side of the fence, and then the other side of the fence, and then feet at both sides of the fence, walking boldly ahead. It gets kind of painful, when one is trying to straddle a picket fence and one is walking fast. It is unbelievable - unbelievable - what we are hearing here today.
We have a situation where we inherited a government that was out of control. They said it was not out of control, that this is just nonsense, wait until we hear from the Auditor General. Go back in Hansard, a year ago today. Read what they had to say. I will tell you what they said, "Wait for the Auditor General". What do I hear from the Member for Faro? What? All of a sudden we bought the Auditor General? We paid him off? All of a sudden the Auditor General's word has nothing to do with the case before us? They are the ones who said, "Boy, when the Auditor General's report comes down, it will be showing that there was not a deficit. It has all been vastly overstated." Then, guess what happened. Well, well, well. The Auditor General's report came out and guess what? Right on. Right on. Sixty-four million dollars was down the tubes because of the out-of-control spending of the previous government, and then it was, "Well, we are not really sure about the Auditor General; let us try to find some other stats, because we cannot admit, we cannot bring ourselves to admit, that things were totally out of control under our administration."
They were bloated programs, wasted money. Now, when we are taking steps to clean up the mess, when we suggest for a second that there was abuse, for example, under the social assistance program under the NDP, they say that it was an awful thing to say - a terrible thing to say. The fact that $600,000 per year was lent to people as bridge financing, until they got their unemployment insurance checks, and then it was never paid back, well they say there was no problem with that. What is $600,000 here or there? We could go through case after case of abuse.
They did not have a clue about why their programs were wildly escalating. That is what was happening. Things were out of control. One thing about the democratic process is that you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. The people were not fooled. They understood what was happening and they tossed the NDP out. What the people did was toss them out of office. Against all predictions of the politically astute here in town - the Yukon News and others like them - they tossed them out of office.
Let us look at facts. We are talking here about a budget that reduces the O&M of this government slightly. We are talking here about a government that is simply trying to bring some prudent financial reality to the task of governing. We are talking about a government that does pay attention to what is happening outside - that occasionally does watch television, although I am sure that the side opposite would never admit that they do. It is public knowledge - public statements have been made by the Minister of Finance in Ottawa, and the Prime Minister - that the Liberal government has to, and will, cut back on expenditures and cut back on transfer payments. Everyone knows that we are vulnerable to that sort of thing.
It is not a matter of lying down and playing dead. The side opposite fought a great fight; they were real fighters when they were in office. We still have the perversity factor, which they negotiated for us. It is still there, but they fought. They struck terror into the hearts of the folks in Ottawa. They scared them half to death. We have to be realistic. We have to accept the facts. The fact is that we get most of our money from Ottawa. The facts are that we are extremely vulnerable to cutbacks. We have been told that the transfer payments will be frozen and cut back over the course of the next three years.
I turned on the TV. I watch TV. I love it. I watched a program in which the Prime Minister gave a speech to some Canadians who were paying attention to what he had to say, unlike the side opposite. He made the comment that, in effect, social assistance was being abused and we had to get these people out to work. They could not be sitting around drinking beer and watching TV all day. That is what the Prime Minister said. That, coming from a Liberal, is something new. I bet there is a bunch of people who dropped their beer bottles as soon as he said that. One could hear them smashing to the floor all over Canada. Did Mr. Chretien say that? Tough deal. This promise of work scared them half to death.
We look at his budget -
Some Hon. Member:
Hon. Mr. Phelps:
I am sorry, I am being heckled by Ms. Commodore - I believe that is her name - Ms.
Some Hon. Member:
Hon. Mr. Phelps:
Yes, apparently I said something in my speech to the Yukon Council on Aging about people drinking in the 60 Below. She wants me to take that back. I am sure that nobody drinks at the 60 Below. I am sure that they do not. I am sure that nobody spends any of their welfare money on booze. I am sure of that.
Actually, I am sure of the opposite. I know there are people who abuse the system and use the money for beer. This must be terribly shocking to the Member, but I am sure that, if she asks around, she will find this is quite true.
Some Hon. Member:
Hon. Mr. Phelps:
Yes, I mentioned the Sixty Below, but I mentioned the KK, as well. What is this, some kind of allegation that I am being mean to the patrons of the Sixty Below? What a convoluted thought process. It is a very interesting one. Perhaps, under the old guidelines of the previous government, we could get an economic development grant to study that thought process. Let us lend money to a business to study this thought process - if one suggests anything at all, however factual, really the message is that
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one is just picking on someone.
I guess it is time we all started paying attention to reality. As Yukoners, we ought to really understand the federal government's position regarding transfer payments. We had better also understand that a large portion of this budget we are looking at is capital and that a large portion of that budget is non-discretionary capital spending - the hospital, for a total of $47 million; the Shakwak Valley project. A lot of this money is one-time-only funding. When the hospital is built and when some of the highways projects are built, that money disappears.
We on this side believe in the private sector. We believe that one has to be very judicious in balancing the operation and maintenance budget with the capital budget, because we do not think that everything that is done in the territory has to be done by government workers. We just do not believe that. For example, we do not feel that it is prudent to try to kill off the private entrepreneurs and wipe out the road builders, contractors and construction companies. We just do not think that that is the way to go.
I understand that that upsets the NDP. I understand that they hate big business and that they hate private enterprise. However, somebody should try to explain to them - although, undoubtedly, they will be unsuccessful - that a lot of their supporters work for those construction companies. In fact, some of them hire union workers, some hire carpenters, some hire plumbers and electricians. If it ever sinks in, they might understand that the private sector ought to have an important role to play in the future of the Yukon.
We are now seeing, in the second year of our mandate, a government that has had the gumption to stand up to the critics, to take control of the waste and reduce it, and talk to the NGOs - who used to be the tail wagging the dog - as the NDP support group, and tell them how much money they wanted and not to dare tell them how to spend it, either.
We are rationalizing. We are rationalizing the way the non-government organizations are being contracted with, and we are rationalizing and ensuring that there is accountability for money we are spending. A lot of the things we have been doing have not been very popular. We are pretty tough, and we did a lot of it as a minority government. The result is that, after one year, we went from a $64 million deficit to a balanced budget, and we are going to go ahead and pay off the accumulated deficit over the course of the next two or three years and we are going to be in a position to deal with the exigencies of what is going on right now between the provinces and territories and the ministers of finance.
There is no question in the minds of the provincial ministers regarding the intentions of Ottawa to cut back the transfer payments. There is a great deal of concern and fear and apprehension in the minds of ministers about that. I know, because I correspond and communicate with those ministers.
We owe it to the people of the Yukon to ensure that we act responsibly to ensure that we do not put ourselves in the kind of position that NDP governments so often do - that we do not break the government, that we do not end up being in a position where we have to sell off assets, tap into the workers' compensation fund. I think that was one of the things the NDP, at their convention, was insisting upon - "Oh, just take this money on behalf of the workers and invest wisely."
"How are you going to invest it?"
"Just like we have all the other money that we put into the private sector of the Yukon. All those business have gone broke - the pig farm, the egg farm, this thing, that thing. But no problem. It will be a great investment for the working stiff."
Laurel and Hardy would not be better to listen to and watch. That is money that the side opposite is bound and determined is part of our surplus, as a government. We took steps to ensure that that would be protected for the workers, that it would not be invested by the clowns across the way, that this money would be invested prudently in foreign companies, or companies outside of the jurisdiction, at least, in blue-chip companies - those hated companies - the companies the side opposite just despises. Government bonds - not Yukon bonds but Government of Canada or some of the provinces - some of the safe provinces. I guess Ontario would not qualify now, but of course it has been under the NDP reign for a while, so it is not a very good place to live.
My in-laws live there and they have been out of work; they have been having a tough time. Of course, they are tradespeople, not the type of people who are supported by NDP governments or the side opposite.
Their friends are all having tough times in Ontario, and what is the reason? The reason is due to the government going broke by squandering money. That is what happened in Ontario and that is what is happening in Saskatchewan. The rhetoric that floats across the floor, from the side opposite, is amazing to me.
We hear from the side opposite about the terrible liquor store in Watson Lake, and yet during Question Period I suggested, "Hey, it was you guys who put the liquor store into the five-year plan." They said, "Yeah, but we did not cut any money from the non-government organizations."
Well, they cannot have it both ways. It was their idea and their vision to build that building. They put it in the five-year plan, not us. We followed through with the plan. Part of the reason, and perhaps the main reason, that we followed through, unfortunately for them, was to put people to work in Watson Lake. Of course, it was the private sector that put those people to work. The private sector building the building must be anathema to those people opposite - the NDP crowd.
The fact is, that it was an economic stimulant, through the private sector, at a time when an economic stimulant was needed. That is why we did it. We did not think that the NDP would object, because it was their idea in the first place to put this into the five-year plan.
I want to talk a bit about the departments that I am fortunate enough to be the Minister for. I want to say that I am very pleased with the good work that has been done by the people within those departments.
The Health and Social Services people, from top to bottom, have worked extremely hard. They are certainly pleased to have some clear direction for a change. The sense that I have is that we are getting that department firmly under control. We have been able to take money that was wasted and redirect it to where it is needed.
We will be announcing and talking about the SARs agreement, which involves a huge amount of training and work-related experience for people who had nothing. There was nothing before we came into office. We can talk about vast improvements to our family violence facility and the work that is going on there. We can talk about better coordination and consultation than ever before between, for example, the RCMP and other agencies that deal with family violence.
We can talk about improvements to victim services, as opposed to victim giveaways. We can talk about improved counselling and training that is being initiated throughout the Yukon by this department. We have been filling gaps, where gaps have been identified. We intend to enhance social programs by dealing with them and delivering them in a way that makes good sense, that is effective and efficient. We do not believe in simply throwing money at problems, which seemed to be the modus operandi of the previous administration.
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In Justice, we have held the line. We are taking some hard steps to get things under control. At the same time, there has been a refocus in that department and in the social services side of Health and Social Services with regard to looking at crime prevention as a top priority, in both departments. We are looking at dealing with kids at risk and having the police interact with communities. All of our programs are being redirected to try to ensure that we are doing things that will prevent crime and reduce cost, so that we can have money to help those most in need, so we can have money to help build self-esteem among the downtrodden, who remained downtrodden under the previous administration. There are good things happening in these departments. Our social services programs are actually on the increase. The things we are doing to help people are increasing, not decreasing, even though many of the new innovative methods by which we approach some of these problems are being financed out of the waste that was so horrific under the previous administration.
The Yukon Development Corporation - it is interesting to listen and hear all the accusations that are made about the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation. The Leader of the Official Opposition likes to stand up and call it the Yukon Electrical Corporation, but that, once again, not any surprise to us, is a deliberate attempt to confuse the issue in the minds of the public, to try to have some of them think that it is Yukon Electrical Company Ltd., rather than the Yukon Energy Corporation. That does not surprise us here. What does surprise me, is when I listen to the Minister of Finance get up and say things about the Yukon Development Corporation that are absolutely wrong. No facts. Look at Hansard. The Minister...I meant the critic.
Some Hon. Member:
Hon. Mr. Phelps:
A hollow victory. Hey, we really lost that. Oof. Oof. Geez, hit us again. God, I tell you, Hollyfield never had it this tough. That is a real zinger, boy; that is an NDP zinger. "Hey, ya got the name wrong".
I had a trained seal that did better than that; he was able to balance the ball.
Let me just do a quote here - this is from Hansard, April 19, 1994. Mr McDonald was saying, "What we have here are some write-offs that include some $2.4 million to pay for Curragh's energy charges prior to their unfortunate demise. That $2.4 million is a one-time debt by the company for electrical energy. Now they are saying that the taxpayers of this territory must pay for it. This is an energy charge the taxpayers have to pay for while the Yukon Energy Corporation is sitting on close to $30 million of accumulated profit." That is wrong - Waylon Jennings had a song about that. The facts are that the $2.4 million loan to Curragh has not been written off. In fact, that $2.4 million loan is now the subject matter of a lien that is filed against the property. All of this is in the courts. With regard to the close to $30 million of accumulated profit - wrong. It is like the Gong Show listening to these people - gong.
The actual fact is that the audited financial statements for 1993 show that the Yukon Energy Corporation has an accumulated profit of $6.1 million - that is a far cry from $30 million. There is an allegation that we have not been spending any money in the corporation. Since inception, the Yukon Energy Corporation total profits are $41.5 million and the total capital improvements are $3 million. A lot of the money that was actually earned by the corporation was siphoned off - $11 million from the books to the Watson Lake sawmill - a great investment for the ratepayers. So where is the money? Gone. Or is it gonged? We will have to work up a little routine for this. This is good family fun, except that the poor breadwinners of the family are faced with paying rates for electrical energy that are way higher than they should be because the money was squandered on socialist objectives that made no sense whatsoever. Gong. We have Mr. Gong over there - the MLA for Faro. Good stuff.
I must say that since we, as a government, have taken over the administration and management of the Yukon Development Corporation, the first thing that we did was stop these horrendous grants and loans of money that properly should have been spent on energy infrastructure or paid back to the people by way of rate relief. That is the first thing that we did. We have developed policies that ensure an arm's-length relationship between government and the corporation, for the first time. In the past, the Minister responsible was over there almost every day trying to give money away to such folks as Totem Oil - good old Yukon boys, you know.
It is a loan in American dollars, and the security is in America. Only the NDP in the Yukon, you say? Pity.
Order please. The Member has three minutes to conclude his remarks.
Hon. Mr. Phelps:
We look forward to continuing in our endeavour to bring a little bit of realism to the budget and to the governance of this territory. We recognize that we have had to take measures that were unpopular. We have done it not to get votes, but for the good of the territory. I am sure people in the territory know and appreciate that. I believe in the future of the Yukon. I believe that the way we are going is the right way. I believe that prosperity is around the corner. The difference between the past and the present is that we are taking steps to ensure that prosperity, as it comes, will be spread among people in the Yukon as never before, that those weak and under-privileged, who were not able to take advantage of past booms, will be trained, ready, willing and able to take advantage of this one. For those reasons, I commend this budget to everyone in this House, although I know the NDP would not vote for it, no matter how good it was.
I do not want to interrupt the chest thumping of the Members opposite. Their knuckles drag the ground and romp around the benches over there whenever the Member for Ross River/Southern Lakes gets up to give one of his rhetorical speeches. There was not one statistic or fact in it anywhere. That is okay.
I could not help but think, as I was listening to him, that he has really lost it. He said that he likes to watch TV. However, I think he has gone too far. He has become a TV character from a series. That series has to be the Twilight Zone. He has absolutely nothing to say that has any reflection on reality. He has entered another dimension in his speeches. He keeps repeating those three words every time he gets up: Watson Lake sawmill. Everything else is just socialist rhetoric dogma that he always professes the Members opposite espouse, but he has such a selective memory. He should read the budget every now and then. He should keep control of his Ministers and read the budget.
The budget for the Department of Economic Development, for example, says that in 1994, under the business development fund, loans are increasing. Every year, over two budgets, they have been increasing. This is amazing as he was complaining so much about the NDP giving loans to businesses. What is the reality check?
Some Hon. Member:
Oh, the Government Leader says that he collects them back. I saw a Yukon Party resolution about the collection of loans and looked at a statement given to us last year by the Members opposite about loans that were not collected. Pray tell, the numbers were still large. Then I looked at the economic development agreement. My goodness, that has risen, too - over $1 million since the NDP was in power.
What is going on here? The rhetoric does not match the actions
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or the numbers in the budgets. We are getting used to that, because reality does not matter. These guys are living in the most ideological happy land that there ever has been for a Tory government. They have all kinds of money. Their pockets are stuffed with taxpayers' money because they helped themselves to it. They can espouse about the virtues of conservativism, while, at the same time, they spend record budgets. It is amazing.
The Minister talked about the reality of the situation. He talked about what was going on nationally. He talked about provinces. I do not know, but I think perhaps the Minister fancies himself a premier or a leader of a province, because this is not a province; it is a territory. While I recognize what is going on in other jurisdictions, this is the Yukon, and I am paid to question the decisions made in the Yukon Territory by the Yukon government.
I look at what is in the Yukon budget. I also look at the federal budget, but I am not asking questions of Paul Martin right now. I am asking questions of the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health and Social Services of the Yukon Territory.
It seems that the Yukon Party, or the independent Member of the Yukon Party, has picked up on a national theme of financial problems for provinces. There is no question that there are some provinces in trouble. Poor old Roy Romanow inherited that Conservative dogma-plagued government that Grant Devine had - billions of dollars in debt - and he had to try and do something with it. Thankfully, all the governments in Ontario, Saskatchewan and B.C. have the gross domestic product and employment on the way up, whereas we, plagued by the socialist dogma of years past, according to the Members opposite, have unemployment on the way up and GDP on the way down - ever since they came to power. Why is that?
Even though, on one side, they say that they have things well in hand, the reality check tells us that, as a direct result of what they are doing and not doing in this economy, even though they are pumping more money out in loans and grants, it is having a detrimental effect. That still does not stop the Minister of Justice from standing up and talking about the NDP giving money away - even though the Yukon Party gives more money away. They gave so much away, and the party was so upset with them, that they passed a resolution at the convention this weekend that they should get some of the money back that they have been giving out in grants. I read the resolution, and it was amazing.
I know the Minister did not have time for speech-writing, because I saw him being fetched when the Finance critic scored point after point. The House Leader said, "Let us make sure we get Willard down here, because he is losing big time." So, he went up and got the Minister to come down and give his standard spin-doctored speech.
One thing he said that really caused me some problem was his discussion about the tail wagging the dog and the NGOs. He characterized them as having nothing constructive to do in society and just being a vacuum for money. In reality - we go back to the reality check, again - that was the Minister who used to stand up in Opposition and argue that government spending on NGOs should rise in relation to the overall size of government spending. The government's budget should reflect in the NGOs' budgets, and there should be increases relative to what the NGOs get.
What has happened? The former Opposition Member is now in government, and his memory has faded. However, we have a beautiful thing here, and it is called Hansard. Every now and then, we pull these little gems out of Hansard. Last year, when the subject of NGOs came up, we proved to the Minister that he, in fact, took a very different approach to the NGOs when he was in Opposition and actually lobbied the Government of the Yukon of the day for increases relative to the size of the increases in spending in the government's budget. Miraculously, that has changed. Now, the NGOs are characterized as nothing more than a New Democratic socialist, dogmatic, doctrinaire principle that we poured money into. What he said was despicable.
I believe that non-governmental organizations have an important function to play in society. As they pour more money into the chambers of commerce, as opposed to the non-governmental organizations, it becomes more and more apparent how empty his words are.
The Minister of Justice also talked about the permitting stage that mines are in. People cannot eat permits. Permits are not jobs and permits do not always lead to jobs. I am pleased that there are some mines in the permitting stage, but I do not think that the government should hang their hats on that, and they have. However, that is not unusual because they take a totally inactive approach to anything in the economy, except spending more money. This government has presented two record budgets in a row.
Where does this government direct its money? Well, we are not sure how much track has been laid on the railroad to Carmacks yet. We do not know how many pipes for the pipeline to Watson Lake have been laid yet. The government sure has not been spending money on the grandiose infrastructure promises they made. No sir, not one element of the document, Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century, has been completed - nothing. Time is getting short for this bunch.
The Minister of Justice speaks often about getting thrown out of office and I realize that he has some close personal experience with that situation, but I really think that he should start to take a look at what they are doing and be judged on his government's record. The time for growing up has come for that Minister. The time for reflection on his own policies and what he is doing has come.
Unfortunately, I do not think that lesson will come for another couple of years.
The Minister also said that he is not saying the economy is great, that it could be better. I just listened to a 25-page speech on how we are in a decade of prosperity, and how the way is being paved. I do not see that, and I know my constituents do not see that, not in any way, shape or form. There is no decade of prosperity. Let us be realistic.
I would also like to talk about the economy in an optimistic fashion, but I want to see some indicators that point to reality. It is one thing to spin off a phrase, so you can put it in a budget speech and have all your Cabinet colleagues thump their chests and drag their knuckles on the ground as it is being read; however, there are people in this territory who are in no decade of prosperity, nor even close to one. They do not see one coming at all.
The Minister raved on about Curragh, and what an evil thing Curragh was. Curragh was also not my favourite company. For one who claims we are the ones who hate corporations, the Minister speaks of corporations with such evil and anger. It is incredible that he would make the claim that we do not like them, when he gives 10 minutes of a tirade about how much he hates a particular corporation.
I ask that man to look in the mirror, or to tape himself when he speaks, or perhaps to read Hansard, so he can realize what is coming out of his mouth. That company did a lot of good for this territory. Gross Domestic Product and jobs were available, businesses flourished.
Some Hon. Member:
The Minister of Tourism is now pointing out that Curragh left a lot of people hanging out. I make no bones about the fact that Curragh did leave a lot of people in the lurch. They did not pay off my constituents, and they did not pay off a lot of businesses, but let us look at both sides of the equation. Let us not
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personalize it down to Curragh. Let us look at the economic benefit of what was created. If it was not Curragh, it does not matter to me. It is irrelevant. If it was another corporation, that is fine.
Let us look at what the mine did for this territory. If they do not want to refer to it as Curragh, that is fine. I also had a lot of problems with Curragh. I bargained against them, for God's sake. I know a lot about them.
Some Hon. Member:
The Minister of Tourism says I now agree with Mr. Phelps. I do not know. I would agree with the Minister to the extent that I do have some problems with what Curragh did, but I do not think I would consider them to be the all-evil persona the Minister likes to espouse.
Another thing that struck me in the Minister's speech was when he talked about the loan guarantee and how the socialists were pumping for more money for Curragh, their buddies. Cliff Frame and I spent a lot of time driving around in a limousine, and all that stuff. What a ridiculous statement.
I have talked to the man once in my life. It is absolutely, pure and simple, rhetoric. But when there was a protest of my constituents in here, and they were asking the government some questions about its position and what it was going to do, the Minister of Justice made a bunch of statements about "Faroites should not be doing this, and should not be doing that", and I told my constituents that. The Minister of Justice got all insulted and he got on the radio the next day and said, "I support the loan guarantee for the people of Faro and to keep those jobs going. I support the loan guarantee; I have always supported the guarantee." That was the day after the protest, on the 12:30 CBC news. He should read that.
Now he stands up in the Legislature and talks about all the socialists who were promoting the guarantee. Yet, when he got a little bit of what he considered to be public embarrassment, he got on the radio harping to the people of my community about how he really did support the loan guarantee. That is two messages, once again. It proves that if one just puts a little bit of pressure on that particular Member, he will take the politically convenient path in determining his response.
Of course, there is the $64 million phantom deficit. He said that we are calling the Auditor General's figures into question. The Auditor General accepted the write-offs of the Yukon government. He accepted the full $5 million Curragh loan write-off and he accepted the extended care write-off. He also accepted the spending spree at the end of the year that the Yukon Party. He accepted it all. It is within his jurisdiction to do so, at the direction of the government. They said "we want to write this off".
They make those decisions. We never knew how low they would stoop and how hard they would work to find that money to write off. They always say the NDP never told Yukoners the truth. I must remind him that the election was in October, and with almost six months left in the fiscal year they had control of the government. Nobody knew that this $5 million loan was going to be written off and nobody knew the extended care facility was going to be written off. So, he did not ever say to Yukoners that there was a $64 million deficit, because there was no $64 million deficit.
Some Hon. Member:
The Minister of Tourism asks the question, "Do you think they will ever get the $5 million?" Well, I know that the creditors of the Sa Dena Hes property got 34 cents on the dollar. It is not $5 million, but there is a significant portion that could potentially come back on this. I would like to see it all. Unfortunately, the Yukon Party government did nothing to protect the security we had. They just let it go and charged it up to the NDP, which is their usual attitude of supporting their political interest over the territory's public interest. This is a common pattern for this bunch; they do it all the time.
The Minister also made a very important claim today. He said that the transfers are going to be frozen and cut back. We have asked Finance officials about that. We have yet to receive anything concrete from the Minister on that. I suppose that if he wants to justify his political position he will probably go out and solicit some statement of that fact from the Minister of Finance to further his political message. However, that would be selling out the territory. We have yet to see anything from this government that says we are going to have a cutback in the federal transfer payments. We know that if they continue on with their public statements and actions, the territories will get it, because they are already doing it. They say that they are preparing for it. Even with the second biggest budget in Yukon history, they say that they are preparing for it. We will see if this budget is the biggest when we see how much of the slush funds are spent.
We want to know some concrete messages. We have heard from Finance officials that there will be zero increases. That is the negotiating position of the federal government, not cutbacks. We want to know from where this message is coming.
I watch TV. I saw Paul Martin talk about the provincial transfers and potential cutbacks. However, we have a different formula financing agreement right now. If we have EPF programs that are cut back, the formula picks it up. If the federal government is taking a position contrary to that in these negotiations, we should know about it. The territorial Finance officials never told us about that. I guess their credibility is on the line and they do not want to carry the political message of the government any more than they have to. They will speak the truth, I guess.
If that hard information exists, perhaps the government could provide it for us. I know that if it exists in hard evidence, they would have provided it for the teachers and government employees when they decided to roll back their wages, instead of coming up with some fanciful speech about how we are going to help contribute to paying off the federal debt by rolling back these wages. However, there is no mention of a cheque that is going to be sent to Paul Martin with these rollback savings. There is also not going to be a position taken with respect to the formula financing agreement where they are going to compromise their position to the amount of the rollbacks; there is none of that.
There is some ideological haze that they are wrapped up in that there is a federal debt, but their actions do not jive with their words.
Sure, the federal debt is a concern, but let us talk about it in realistic terms. If they were going to do that, and cut a cheque for the $3 million in savings that they expect in this fiscal year and send it back to Paul Martin, then we could debate that issue. However, all we have is the new Minister of the Cabinet on the radio talking about how he intends to help pay off the federal debt, with no specifics. When cornered on the specifics, and asked the obvious question by the reporter, he stated that he was not really going to do that but was making a point that there was a big federal debt.
How that debt relates to our situation in the Yukon and the rollbacks has yet to be proven by this government. We would really and truly like to see these messages.
We understand that the Government Leader had a conversation with the Minister of Finance. We have yet to hear the details of that conversation, and we wait with bated breath.
I want to move on, after soundly thrashing out the comments of the Minister of Justice, to some comments about the budget that was tabled last Thursday.
I was absolutely shocked as I opened the budget and read parts of the budget speech in the lockup, and then had to listen to the budget speech in the Legislature that afternoon. There were 25
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pages of the worst example of double-talk and double-speak that could ever be laid out to Yukoners.
I have had more people ask me about this government, "Do they think we are stupid?"
It is obvious that the spin doctors upstairs have not caught on. They think that if they say it loudly enough and say it over and over again, someone will believe it. I know that the Minister of Justice thinks that. It does not work that way, and people are starting to catch on to that. It has been a hard fight for us to show Yukoners where the government is coming up with this double-speak, but they are making it easier and easier for us. You just have to read the first page of the budget address.
On the first page they talk about the fact that there are no tax increases. That is patently false. When we were in the lockup, I asked them how much taxes were increasing this year. The Deputy Minister of Finance said they were increasing $1.7 million. "Why is that not in the budget?" I asked. He said that the principal secretary wrote it - Gordie Steel wrote it. He is the political guy; I am the Deputy Minister of Finance. We are talking about a $1.7 million increases in taxes. I guess what they forgot to say when they said there were no tax increases, was that there are no newly announced tax increases. They just said "no tax increases". Maybe it is part of their efficient, paper-saving plan to eliminate words or something. Maybe it is part of their pilot projects in the suggestion boxes - we are not sure. They forgot to say there are no newly announced taxes. If you ask the Finance officials, they will tell you that taxes are rising again this year. So there are tax increases. I am sure that if the government Members were in Opposition, and the NDP ever tried to pull a stunt like that, they would take them up on it, and that is what we are doing.
I saw the headline of the Whitehorse Star on budget day. Of course, the political reporter from the Whitehorse Star did not have much of an opportunity to question Opposition Members I guess, or to really look and analyze the budgets and ask where that $1.7 million in tax increases was, that was announced last year. They probably thought it was eliminated. But, no, the taxes that were formally introduced at the behest of Finance officials in Ottawa and disguised as some kind of method of balancing the budget are still being introduced to this day, even though this budget predicts a surplus. Why is that?
Why, when they formally announce tax increases to balance the budget, would they not, if they had a surplus situation, cancel the tax increases for this year? Because Ottawa said no, they could not do that. Of course, the Minister of Finance, as has been customary for him, rolls over for Ottawa. It is happening again here in the territory with the rollbacks of wages for public sector employees and I see it continuing to happen in this territory.
We do not always win those arguments with Ottawa, but we feel we should have a duty to act in the best interests of Yukoners. I do not believe that rollbacks of public employees and these tax increases are in the best interests of Yukoners; therefore, I would oppose them, and will oppose them.
The Member for Porter Creek South, who opposed them formally in the Speaker's Chair, I thought would say, "Okay, if that was a legitimate line - you had to bring in the taxes to balance the budget - then I might be able to accept that." I thought he would say that, but then I thought he analyzed this budget and would say, "You are predicting, even at your minimal least best costs analysis, a surplus in this fiscal year of about $5 million, so therefore you do not need to raise taxes $1.7 million this fiscal year." I thought he would say that, because when he voted on the budget he said he did not support the tax increases.
I am confused, and I look forward to hearing his response to that when he speaks to the budget, and I am sure I will hear it; but I do not know what it is going to be, because I do not know how he could answer that.
To me, it is utterly deceptive to tell people there are no tax increases. I was really disturbed when I saw the front page of the Whitehorse Star and up top it said "no tax increases", when actually they have risen $1.7 million. It is a simple question. Someone should ask the Deputy Minister of Finance as we did at the budget lockup, because there are tax increases. Then I heard the president of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce on the radio, and he said he was pleased with the budget because there are no tax increases - even though there are tax increases. I would really love to give him a briefing on the budget, because there are tax increases. The NDP brought in no tax increases for seven years in a row. What did the chamber say about the budgets then? "Great budget - no tax increases" - as simple as that. A-B-C - I do not think they said that. They actually criticized them for overspending. "The capital budget is too big."
This government has laid all of its eggs in the basket of capital spending. It is the be-all, end-all, save-all for the territory and its economic woes, but do they say the capital budget is too big? No. Do they make mention of the fact that the Yukon Party's last budget was the biggest in Yukon history and this one that has just been tabled could be, depending on how much of the slush funds are spent - the biggest expenditure in Yukon history? Let us not forget this government will have set the tone with this particular budget for the spending of over $1 billion of taxpayers' money in this territory. This from the poor, cash-strapped Yukon Party - over $1 billion.
There is over $1 billion. That is incredible. We have to fight our way through some real problems in getting the message out, but I am glad that the public is finally starting to catch on.
I do not know how the Minister of Justice talks with such confidence about his record and this government's record. All that I do is talk to people, and not only in my riding, where this government is the pits, but throughout the Yukon.
Let us look at the other reality check in this budget: revenues are increasing. What other jurisdiction in the country can make that claim? We have no accumulated debt, once we get our lapses from last year. What other jurisdiction in the country can claim that? Never mind the consolidated debt.
I want to talk about consolidated debt. The Members opposite always like to say that it means nothing. We could not use the workers' compensation fund and we could not sell off our social housing, but what about assets like the Yukon Energy Corporation? If my hearing is good, someone has been talking about selling off the assets of the Yukon Energy Corporation. The Minister responsible for that corporation obviously feels that those assets are worth something, otherwise he would not be talking about the privatization of such.
Net worth is important. Net worth is important to any banker, when someone goes in for a personal loan. Net worth is an important statistic.
I agree, a government also has to have a solid cash position, but this government does. To see to that, this government has set up slush funds to the tune of about $6 million. They have the leave accrual account, which is a tremendously wealthy account and was created on the recommendation of the Auditor General, and that is fine, but let us call a spade a spade: it is a huge cash reserve.
This government has increasing revenues. When we went to the lockup budget briefing, the Deputy Minister of Finance told us that the federal government has stated that this year's transfer will be $311 million, but the transfer payment from Canada is stated in the budget as $275 million, which is a very conservative estimate.
That is fine, but let us call a spade a spade there, too. What we have here is a listing of expenditures that will exceed last year's
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record budget, if the slush funds are spent, and we also have a conservatively stated transfer payment from Canada.
We know we are in decent shape financially. There is no question of that. They did a very interesting thing in the budget. I am using their own budget here. They said total income for this year is going to be $479,798,000, less expenditures of $468,584,000. So, they are saying, from the last fiscal year, they have decreased expenditures.
We all know what a bunch of hooey that is because, down below, they have set aside $4.5 million that was voted out by the Legislature on the Alaska Highway funding discretionary capital, and they have set aside - and I love this one - contingency for expected supplementary requirements of $2 million, for a total of $6.5 million. If that is all spent, that is going to get added to the expenditures, will it not? That makes the budget bigger than last year's.
Let us say they do not spend it. What happens to the money then? They save it all. Where does it go? It goes down to this cute little column here, called accumulated deficit, of $6.2 million. Presto, gone, and that is before lapses. Lapses are monies from last year's record budget that were not spent.
Traditionally, those lapses have been in the $8 million and, sometimes, up to the $20 million range. We begin to see this government is not really telling the whole picture. They are not really telling people what the financial picture is. The critic for Finance explained why. Because, if you tell people you have a surplus, and you have no debt, then you cannot roll back the government employees and the Yukon Teachers Association. You just cannot do it, because they will not take it.
That is why they want to tell people they have a deficit. When they wake up in the morning and have had a bad dream, because of what they have been telling Yukoners - they know it is not the whole picture - they look at themselves in the mirror when they are shaving, and they think they should come clean with Yukoners, tell the people that they do not have an accumulated deficit, and tell them the reason they are rolling back the government employees' wages is because they believe in it ideologically; that they believe that government employees are paid too much and do not contribute what they think they should. That is what they believe.
I know that when they look in that mirror, they know that they have been telling people a load of hooey about how this move was designed to pay off the federal debt - "We know our finances are in good shape, but we should come clean with our employees; we should tell them why we are doing this." But the spin doctors will not allow them to do it, and it is unfortunate that their consciences are going to go along with it.
I do not agree with their tactics, methodology or ideology regarding these rollbacks. They should be bargaining collectively with their employees.
Some Hon. Member:
The Minister of Tourism says he is. I have not heard that announcement yet from the YEU. Will that be forthcoming or has it been announced already?
Some Hon. Member:
Oh, well, they say they are now collective bargaining. This is interesting. We take some credit for that, because after two days of questioning, the position of the government was so weak that they went up to their Cabinet room, had a little meeting and asked themselves how they could stop the onslaught from the Opposition. How would they stop the public gallery from being full? They knew they had to begin collective bargaining or at least buy a little time and announce that they were going to go to collective bargaining. The people do not like their tactic and are not buying their line. They decided to bargain collectively. We applaud that decision. We think it should have been done from the beginning and we are happy to have forced the government to do so. We take a lot of pride in the fact that our questions were pointed enough to force the Members to reverse their unnecessary position regarding that.
How can they tell people, when they are spending millions of dollars on a wolf kill, that they have to cut the education capital and O&M budgets year in, year out? How do they tell people that they are spending millions of dollars killing several wolves, but that there will be education, social services and health services cutbacks? Well, they tell them that there is a debt. We do not know what they are going to tell them, unless they just keep saying it over and over again, when the people of the Yukon find out how ridiculous this is.
They are starting to. Both newspapers, last week, raised some questions regarding the situation of the government. The word is getting out, and people are starting to ask. When the government was on their community tour, they gave out an incredible array of statistics. The only thing is, they showed only the ones that served their purpose. They only showed them the ones that were going up, not those that were going down. They only showed the ones that served the political purpose of making the previous administration look bad.
When it was all over, I went for a coffee at the coffee shop and all of my constituents were asking me questions about the numbers and the figures. They pointed out some things to me that I had not noticed. One of them, a local Conservative, said to me, "Do they think that we are stupid?" I said, "You know, I think that they must, because they continue to do it over and over again."
People do not like to be insulted. That was the next thing that they said. They said they did not like to have their intelligence insulted. That is what the government is doing with these manipulative statistics. People are really starting to wonder about this government. I see the momentum swelling.
I know they thumped their chests all weekend at their convention, and they probably feel pretty good about that, but it is always easy to feel good when all of the people around you tell you what you want to hear. Then they go to the massage parlour upstairs and get more of that. That is not the reality of the situation. We have seen cuts and cuts and cuts, even in the face of record budgets, just changing priorities not spending less money. We have seen cuts to transition homes, and we have seen wolf kills costing a million dollars.
The Member has three minutes in which to conclude his remarks.
Well, I have three minutes left, and my caucus colleagues are probably quite saddened by that. Nonetheless, I have to wind up.
This budget has an amazing theme: a decade of prosperity. It matches nothing that is out there in the real world. It matches nothing that is out there on the street. It matches nothing of the realities affecting my community. None of the words, none of the talk, none of the snake oil or empty promises are matched by the situation out there in the real world. That massage parlour upstairs must be very good because I believe that the Members opposite actually believe what is in this snake oil document.
I asked the Minister today in Question Period about huge cost overruns and costs running wild in one of the programs in his department, but the Minister could not provide me with the information. He cannot provide me with the information because his department is running the show and he does not know what is going on.
How can he, at the same time, claim that his government is fiscally responsible? This government has the biggest budgets in Yukon history. They tell people there are no tax increases in the
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budgets, even though there is $1.7 million of tax increases in them - ask the Deputy Minister of Finance - and the increase will probably be more than that, given their bogus estimates on last year's increases.
We say to this budget that it does not meet what Yukoners need now. We are tired of the inactive stance taken by this government. We are tired of them sitting back in the Department of Economic Development writing cheques for more and more business loans, but doing nothing else for the economy.
Look at the Liberals in New Brunswick. You know it was funny, I read in Maclean's about the economic development department scouring the globe for prospects for industry. This made me think about the Department of Economic Development upstairs and the Minister calling over and saying, "Bill, any calls today?"
"No, no calls today."
"Okay, time to go home." That is it. That is this government's approach to the economy. "Well, did you tell him about roads and power, Bill?"
"Yeah, I told him."
"Still nothing, eh?"
"Okay, good night."
"Good night." That is a day in the life of the Minister and Department of Economic Development.
Order please. The Member's time has elapsed.
I am going to leave the reply to the last speaker's speech to the Minister of Finance. I am sure that he will be able to handle that quite well. I thought there were a couple of very interesting things raised in there, though.
One of the things he said was that we were over here pounding ourselves on the chests all the time and making ourselves feel good. I would like to correct that. We do have some problems over here, and one of the problems we have had is in communications - getting our word out.
I would like to just address one particular facet of that right now - last Friday's Yukon News headline "Ostashek's phantom deficit disappears". It seems that the Members on the opposite side have bought that. I have not. The fact remains that, as of March 31, 1993, there was a $13.3 million deficit. The Auditor General, who has the final word on the financial positions of governments in Canada, said that there was a $13.3 million deficit and there still is, right now.
This government, in last year's budget, predicted, I believe, a $1.4 million surplus. That will leave us, on March 31 of this year, with about an $11.8 million deficit. This year, we are predicting a $5.6 million surplus. That will leave us with approximately a $6.2 million deficit as of March 31, 1995. This government came into power just in the nick of time. In 1992, they went from approximately a $50 million surplus to a $13 million deficit. That was in one year. I will admit it took them a little while to figure out how to really get a grip on the spending of the money, but once they did figure it out, boy, did they ever go.
It has been stated over there a number of times that we are not in that bad a position, that the finances of the Yukon are not all that bad. When compared to the rest of Canada, and probably the rest of North America, that is correct. The Yukon probably is in the best financial position of any government in North America right now. I say that is because this government got in here and stopped the plummeting that was happening. I believe that and I happen to know that an awful lot of other people out there believe that as well.
I also believe if we do not keep a very close eye on the budgeting and the financial situation in the Yukon, it could very easily get out of control again. I applaud this government and what it has done on that.
One other criticism that I have received in the Klondike and in Dawson is "What have you guys done for us? What is going on, what is the direction of this government?"
I would like to take a few moments right now to rehash the last approximately 18 months, as far as the Klondike is concerned. Because this government got into power, there was relief for the water and sewer system in Dawson City. It was very plainly stated that the NDP was not going to give any relief. That was made very clear. This government did that. That was a major commitment.
The first thing this government did was pass land claims through the House. We are continuing to urge the federal government to do the same.
The Department of Tourism is quite important, particularly in the Klondike area and riding. The Yukon Anniversaries Commission has been moved to Dawson City. That was a very significant commitment from this government.
There is an agreement with Alaska to have the Taylor Highway upgraded. That will be going ahead this year. We have spent a few million dollars on upgrading the Top of the World Highway on our side, so that we can have a really good corridor through the Yukon into Alaska, to develop a loop road.
Also fitting into that, and I am not saying that everything we did went over 100 percent with everyone, the boundary expansion did go ahead. I believe that was for the best for the area. There are those who do not, but it all does fit in with the direction that I believe this government is trying to take for the Klondike. Again, I am sure there are going to be some Members on this side of the House who are not going to like what I am going to say right now. That is, these things all coincide with having a bridge put into Dawson, to help get a corridor. I knew I was going to get that look, but it is all a step. I know that I am prejudging right now, but I honestly believe that when they do their financial comparisons, they will come to the right conclusion that a bridge will save money in the long run.
Government downsizing is something that we have heard bantered around in here quite a bit. I have the Bureau of Statistics monthly review for March 1994 here. In June 1994, compared to June 1993, there will be 116 fewer government employees in the Yukon. That includes the federal, territorial and municipal governments. It is broken down into those three categories. The territorial government has actually got 158 fewer people. This was accomplished through attrition, without any massive layoffs. These were positions in the government that were not needed. People left or quit and the positions were never filled. I think that is a very significant accomplishment. It is one of the things that we said we wanted to do. We are doing it. We are doing it in a quiet way. People are not really noticing it and are wondering what is going on, but it is happening.
Another thing is the opening of mining roads around Dawson City, such as Hunker, Bonanza, Sixtymile and others. For the first time since I have been mining up there - and I am second generation - people are actually coming up and saying, "Way to go; the roads are open when you said you would get them opened." I think that is significant. It was not something that was difficult to do; it just took a bit of direction from the Minister. He was more than willing to give it. It has actually probably saved them money. Before, we used to get complaints about how much it would cost and how we would have to wait until the new budget came out in April. They managed to save it, so there have not been the spending sprees that I have heard some people on the other side talk about.
A few moments ago, I heard the Member for Faro talking about how there is nothing happening, particularly in the mining
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industry. The placer mining industry, which is the one that always seems to pull the territory through when there is a crisis, is again going to do that, I am sure. The activity going on right now in Dawson is up quite a bit. The related businesses cannot believe how busy they are. In February, they usually try and get their books in order and check their inventory. They have been so busy, they have not even been able to do that. There are a number of new mining companies.
I will not try to take credit for that. I will not say that this situation is due to the fact that we are in power. It is not completely true that this is happening because there is a Yukon Party government in power. The fact is that the price of gold is up and the Canadian dollar is down; all these things contribute. However, a number of miners have come up to me and said that, for the first time in years, placer mining is not a dirty word. They can finally hold their heads up and go out and work.
These are very significant accomplishments. The labour force in the Yukon has actually increased since we have been in power. I think that says something. While things may not be perfect, they are better here than anywhere else. People are coming to the Yukon.
I would like to make a few comments in the area of education. We have a new school bus in Dawson City, which is something that we needed. The "stay in school" counsellor is something I have talked about before. Through very intensive lobbying efforts on my part, and on the part of the people in Dawson City and the Minister of Education, we have managed to have that position renewed twice. We have not given up on that, and we hope that something will be done.
There is an ongoing educational review. There has been a new teacher hired for the school in Dawson City. Dawson City is the second largest community in the Yukon right now. Our school population is continually growing. The day they finished building the school in Dawson, it was too small. It needs to be somehow enlarged.
There was a plan in place to add three classrooms on, and this government put a halt to that plan, because we did not want to add on three classrooms and find out a year later that we had to build a whole new school. We are trying to be fiscally responsible and plan things.
There is no doubt that we need something done in Dawson, and I honestly believe that we do need a new elementary school. I am sure that the numbers will prove that. In the meantime, there have been portables put in place to alleviate the immediate problem.
In the budget, in the area of Education, training programs have increased by 17 percent. Also, operation and maintenance funding to the special programs branch of public schools has been increased by 14 percent.
I am very interested in hearing from the Minister of Education about how that will impact on Dawson City, and not only in Whitehorse. I hope there are some direct benefits, as there should be, to the outlying communities, not only to Whitehorse.
That is all I have to say on this subject.
I am proud of this government's work in presenting a budget that will realize an estimated $5.6 million surplus to go toward reducing the accumulated deficit we inherited from the previous government. This budget shows very well the government's commitment to the passage and implementation of the Yukon First Nations land claim and self-government legislation, which we hope will be dealt with by the Parliament of Canada very soon.
For the four First Nations involved in this initial legislation, it will mean that there is certainty in the process started many years ago, and that all other First Nations in the Yukon will have confidence that the future holds more than just promises in the years ahead.
The land claims and self-government legislation is for the benefit and best interests of all Yukon people, both native and non-native. It will deal with the issue of land availability. It will assist with resource development. Many positive things are going to happen.
An important subject I would like to discuss is one that affects all Yukoners, and especially the people in my riding of Old Crow. That subject is trapping.
In the recent weeks and months, we have seen and heard from demonstrators like Greenpeace and Friends of the Wolf, who continue to tell people that trapping is evil and barbaric. Trapping is our way of life, and it is not evil, and it is not barbaric.
It is people who live off the land who primarily benefit from trapping, and it means a great deal to our people. Without this way of life, our people might have to go on welfare or other social programs and become a burden to the government. That is not something we would want to do, and that is why our government must continue to support the trappers and the fur industry.
I fully support the budget that we are speaking about today, and I hope that it will find support from the majority of the Members of this Assembly in the days to come, so that the people of the Yukon can look ahead with confidence. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak.
Once again, the budget before us is nothing new to me. It is the same old story I hear every year. People out there are waiting to hear something good from us. Last week, when the Government Leader tabled the budget, the gallery was full. There happened to be many teachers there. Those people are very disappointed with the cutbacks. It does not matter which way I look at the budget, it is cut, cut, cut. I do not know what I am going to get out of it for my riding. It is going to be tough.
I will wait to hear more from the Minister of Economic Development that there will be money spread out to the communities. All I hear is that there will be money spent in Whitehorse - a lot of money spent in Whitehorse for schools and you name it.
When I was getting ready to speak to you on this bill, I asked myself, "Why are we here today? It is a beautiful day outside and there is a lot of work to be done in my riding." I would like to be out there because there does not seem to be much point in us sitting in here all this time, to talk about a budget. I say this because this government does not listen to anything.
During the last session, we asked the government to cut $4.1 million out of the highways budget. We asked them to build a new school in Mayo and another one in Riverdale, but they did not help the children in Mayo.
It is no use for me to complain. It does not matter how I put my words to government. They still will not listen to me anyway. In fact, in this budget, they have reduced spending in education. Why should we spend our time talking to the Members opposite? The Government Leader and the Minister of Justice have come back from their community tour. The government had already made its mind up before talking with anyone. It is tough. It is going to be tough for Yukoners.
Last weekend, I was in Carmacks. People were talking to me. They told me that I might as well stay home and not waste my time, as no one will listen to me anyway. I agree. They were right on.
Sometimes, when I sit and listen to all the fancy speeches, it is the same old thing that I heard 10 years ago. That is not going to help us at all. I think it is time we start thinking about the future for the younger generation, five or 10 years ahead. We should not
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go back, but we do go back. We keep going in circles and fighting among ourselves. I do not want to hear these kinds of things.
People out there will not listen to us. They laugh. They think their government is not getting any better. It is just about time for me to step aside, as well. There should be some young, fresh blood here. They might do a better job than I. Perhaps they would not pay attention to the old things that have passed that keep getting brought back in here. I hope you understand what I am talking about, Mr. Speaker.
I want to see some good things being done. We have a lot of work ahead. We have the land claim to work through and we have to think about how we are going to get people to start working together.
I want to see people working together and fighting for their own rights in Yukon. I do not want to see people split apart all the time. When I was young that is the way people used to work. We did not depend upon government or anyone else. We did things together and we got by.
We must make sure that we do what the people want to see done. I do not believe that this government and this budget do that; it does not show that they are listening to the people, which is why we were elected.
People respect us and that is why they put us here. People are waiting to hear some good news. Many people are waiting for a job, but I just do not know what to tell them when I return to my riding.
This is all that I have to say.
Hon. Mr. Fisher:
I am very briefly going to speak on the 1994-95 operation and maintenance budget. I would like to start out by saying that I fully support this budget. I would also like to congratulate the employees of Community and Transportation Services. The Community and Transportation Services budget has been reduced three percent over last year's spending, which is nearly $2 million and, from 1992-93 to this fiscal year we are just beginning, the saving is about $4.4 million. I strongly believe that the department has managed their resources in such a manner that, in many cases, the service delivery has improved and, in other cases, it has remained no less than the same as previously.
I would like to commend those employees of the Community and Transportation Services.
In my other portfolio, as the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, we do have a four-percent increase in our operation and maintenance budget, but that is because of the coming into being of the Thomson Centre, the Gateway housing project, and the 14-unit Granger social housing unit. If the impact of these projects is removed from the budget, the corporation's gross operation and maintenance would actually be reduced by five percent.
So, the operation and maintenance for Yukon Housing, although it has increased, is because there are additional buildings that we need to maintain.
I would like to make a couple of comments on some of the previous speeches that were made today. As I said before, I am going to be brief. My colleague, the Minister of Health and Social Services, said nearly all that I would like to say, and I think he said it much better than I can.
The Member for McIntyre-Takhini, in his budget response, stated that this government is "spending record amounts of money on their own priorities." Well, I certainly hope we are spending money on our own priorities - priorities that we brought forward before the election, unlike the previous government, the Opposition Members. That same Member also made the more-or-less ridiculous statement that "deficit makes refusals for funding requests easy. They do not like the nuisance of people asking for money." I guess the Official Opposition did not like the nuisance at all, because it appears they never refused anyone. Take Curragh Resources, Totem Oil, the Watson Lake sawmill, and numerous bankrupt enterprises that received funding from that government.
Those are the only comments I have on the budget. I believe we have tabled a very responsible operation and maintenance budget, and I commend the government employees, the service department Ministers and the Finance Minister for it.
Hon. Mr. Phillips:
I, too, would rise today in favour of the budget that is in front of us, and I am pleased to be part of a government, one of the very few in the country, that is getting our fiscal house in order. I think that is very important.
There are very few things in politics that actually surprise me. I have to admit that the position the NDP have taken on the Yukon government's financial position is one that is very difficult for anyone to understand.
If we go back in history a little bit, prior to the election in the fall of 1992, they would not tell the Yukon people what the state of our finances were. We have to ask ourselves if this was because they were afraid to.
I can remember that they were so worried about the people finding out about the state of the Yukon finances that they did not table the overall costs of their promises in the campaign until the Friday before the Monday election, hoping that everyone would forget after the election, and they would not have to live up to any of those promises, because they knew they were broke.
After the election, when we were told by the director of Finance that we were expecting a $64 million deficit, and we announced that publicly, the NDP cried foul, saying it simply was not true. They said that the Yukon was in a healthy position.
In December of the same year, our government brought in a team to do an independent assessment of our finances. It was done by a reputable firm, Consulting and Audit Canada, who had done a lot of work for the previous government. As soon as we announced that they were going to do some work for our government, they were criticized. They said that they were partial and would not do that great a job. Consulting and Audit Canada looked at the government finances. No one on the other side, including the Liberal Member, could believe what they came up with, as they came up with the same results; that we had over $60 million in overexpenditures for the 1992-93 year.
What did the NDP say about this assessment? Again, they jumped up and down and cried foul for the second time, saying these figures were not accurate. The Finance critic, who spoke here today, stood up in the House and said that all our figures were utter garbage. He said that the only real assessment of our debt and deficit would be the Auditor General's report. It would be the true and real figures; it would be the gospel truth.
In the fall of 1993, the so-called gospel truth came out. What did the Auditor General say? Surprise, surprise, the Auditor General said we had a $64 million deficit. Now, what could the Finance critic say?
His party began to criticize the Auditor General. They started to say that we wrote things off we should not have. If we had written off things we should not have, the Auditor General would have mentioned that in his report. That is the Auditor General's job. The Auditor General would have made that perfectly clear.
The world of politics after that took another turn and the Finance critic made up a new excuse. He said that the new excuse was that we had been in power for five months of the 12 months of the previous year and the deficit was now all ours, because we were the ones who created the deficit.
I think that he forgot one small item. This is something that most people in the Yukon would not know, because most people
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in the Yukon do not have the pleasure of serving in this House and serving in Cabinet. Every Member on that side of the House who sat in Cabinet over the past seven years and there are several of them on that side of the House now, including the previous Minister of Finance knows that on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, when they sit down as Management Board, the director of finance goes over the fiscal position of the Yukon government at that given time.
Guess what? In October, prior to the election call, the NDP government was clearly advised that they were in a deficit situation, because the deficit started before then. Yet, the NDP government refused to tell the public or anyone else that fact. They are still, even today, trying to convince the world that it was not a real deficit and that it really never happened, and yet they knew it happened and simply were not being truthful with the people of the Yukon.
That is what I find so hard to understand, because I know the Finance critic well and I respect his views, but the critic has done it again here today. He is telling Yukoners that things are fine and that we do not have a debt. The sad part is that he knows full well that we do, and so do the other Members on that side of the House. I bet the Member does not run his own home or business like that, because he would not be around for very long.
The Finance critic knows full well that his government created the financial problems that the government was in, but he refuses to admit that the situation ever happened.
The only thing I can say about it now is that even though they have been in denial, it is almost like a disease, like they are alcoholics and they have refused to admit there is a debt, but it has become so bad that it appears now on the surface that the Finance critic and some of the other Members of the front bench who were in Cabinet have said for so long that we do not have a debt that they are now actually starting to believe it. That is really scary.
It is quite scary that the Members on the other side who were in that Cabinet, saw that report once a week, read the figure of accumulated surplus or deficit and then could stand up in the House here, in a charade, and tell people that we did not have a debt. They had spent that money before the election. They knew they had spent it. They knew they had a huge deficit, and that is why they did not go into the House and table a budget. They knew that if they did it would be exposed that we had a huge debt and were going downhill very quickly. They did not want to take that chance.
They talk about a healthy economy, and how, when it was under the NDP government, it was such a great and healthy economy. The price of zinc was a lot higher then than it is today, and there were a couple of mines operating. We could have a healthy economy today, too, if we forgot about the bottom line and went out and spent $64 million more in the economy this year than we take in. We could have a healthy economy tomorrow and create all kinds of jobs, and that is what the NDP did. Coincidentally, that is what the NDP did in an election year, so that should tell you something - that is when they blew the bank. I am somewhat surprised - and there is not a lot that surprises me in politics, but I am certainly surprised - at the approach that the NDP across the floor have taken. As the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has said, the NDP Members obviously do not watch television; they do not realize that Canada has a national debt. They do not think that we, as Canadians, have any obligation or responsibility to make sure that debt does not grow any further.
The Member for Faro was asking if we plan to send some money to Ottawa. He was asking if we plan to send the $3 million to Ottawa. That is not what we plan to do. I can tell the Member that the message we have from Ottawa is that the Minister of Health has been told that Ottawa is going to cut $6 billion dollars out of transfer payments to provinces and territories. I suppose that will be our contribution, in a roundabout way. We will not be getting it. It is not that we will be sending it to them - we will not get it. But we will have to address the cutback in services that the federal government is going to impose on us with probably no consultation. We have to be ready for that. I do not think that there is a Member in this House who does not understand that the federal government has a debt.
We just all seem to think we are going to roll along here and not worry about it, when we know, as Yukoners, that we are very dependent on Ottawa, where 80 cents out of every dollar we spend comes from the federal government. We may not be sending money back to Ottawa, but we are helping to contribute to that big hole in Ottawa that is $500 million deep. Ottawa knows that it spends a lot of money up here, and other provinces know it spends a lot of money up here, and the message is getting out that the Yukon and Northwest Territories are well-funded and should shoulder some of the responsibilities when cutbacks come. If that comes, and we depend more than any other province in the country on federal transfer payments, we are going to suffer. We are going to feel the pain. It does not matter how well we negotiate, because we are so dependent on Ottawa. If we are cut back at all, we are going to feel that.
The Member for McIntyre-Takhini talks about the economy and how all these businesses have shut down and laid off. He used several businesses as examples. I do not like to use the names of businesses as examples, but I think the Member was inadvertently not telling the whole story about those businesses, when he talked about the closure of Kelly Douglas up the hill.
What has happened with Kelly Douglas is evident, and the Member knows that. He knows people in that industry. Kelly Douglas is a business on the top of the hill that has been there for many years with a very lucrative contract for its employees - its employees are paid very well - and other businesses outside are now hauling foodstuffs up to the Yukon Territory. It has changed all over the world, where there are major warehouses in different places now. They are not servicing these areas the way they did before, because they can do it at a cheaper cost, and actually cost the consumers of the Yukon less money in the long run.
That is what is happening to Kelly Douglas, and Kelly Douglas could not compete. This is the last Kelly Douglas store of dozens across this whole country that have been shut down. They have been shut down all over this country months ago, and this is one of the last ones they have shut down. He used Yukon Alaska Transport for an example. That is about the poorest example I have ever heard in my life. Does the Member think we have lost our memories? Yukon Alaska Transport was created, whether the Member can remember or not, to haul ore from the Curragh mine. Guess what has happened to the Curragh mine? It is not operating any more, and Yukon Alaska cannot haul ore that is not there. That is why they went out of business. That is not a sign of anything this government has done. That is a sign of the price of lead and zinc, and the Member knows that. Yet, he stands up in the House and tries to mislead, intentionally or not, and that is -
The Member, in his excess, has claimed that I have intentionally misled the House. I would ask him to withdraw his remarks immediately.
Hon. Mr. Phillips:
On the point of order, I will withdraw the remarks.
He certainly tried to paint a different picture of why Yukon Alaska Transport was in here and why they have actually left the territory. The fact of the matter is that they left the territory because
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they cannot haul air. There is no more ore to haul from the mine. The Member may not remember, but that is why that company started up. They got a contract to haul that ore and, surprise, surprise, there is no more ore to haul, so that is why the trucking company is not there.
I suppose that once new mines do start up in the territory again, businesses like Yukon Alaska will go back into production to haul ore from that mine or other mines in the territory.
I would now like to turn to some of my departments to talk for a brief moment about some of the areas in the three departments for which I am responsible. I am very pleased with this particular budget.
With respect to the Department of Education, I am very pleased to announce that we have been able to maintain our current levels of service in every area, without exception. In some important areas, there are some increases in funding, despite the fact that, in many jurisdictions across this country, education programs have suffered large cuts.
The education system in the Yukon, per capita, is one of the most highly funded systems in the country. This is partly a result of what the previous Minister did. We have maintained that as a priority in our government. We have continued that kind of funding for the Department of Education.
Order please. The time now being 5:30 p.m., the House will recess until 7:30 p.m.
I will now call the House to order.
Debate will continue on the second reading of Bill No. 15.
Hon. Mr. Phillips:
When we left this discussion at 5:30 p.m. this evening, I was discussing the highlights of the Department of Education's budget.
I am pleased to say that the current levels of staffing in the schools and the department as a whole will remain as they are. As noted by the Government Leader in his address on April 21, there is a five-percent decrease from the overall 1993-94 forecast. This can be wholly accounted for by the payment of $2.4 million to the land claims training trust fund, wage restraints, personnel savings in the central office and cuts in contracts and administrative travel.
The funding for Yukon College is going to be maintained, including $300,000 for the bachelor of social work program, and the current levels of usage of student financial assistance will be accommodated.
Core funding for the First Nations Education Commission and the Yukon native teacher education program will also be maintained. Funding to the Native Language Centre, however, will be increased by 11.4 percent. This will increase our level of service in this vital area.
Also in the area of grants, we are going to be providing $60,000 core funding as well as considerable logistical support to the Yukon Science Institute for the staging of the 1995 Canada-wide science fair, one of the largest educational gatherings ever held north of 60. That will be held here next spring.
It gives me particular pleasure to announce that we will be increasing our O&M funding to the special programs branch of public schools by 14 percent, and this will significantly improve our level of service to the more than 400 students identified as having special educational needs and to the teachers who work with them on a daily basis.
I believe one of the major reasons that this government was elected was to gain control over government expenditures. Our success in this can be dramatically demonstrated in the Department of Education. Prior to 1993-94, the department had grossly overspent its budget three years running. Although the bills are not all paid yet, indications are that we will be on budget for the fiscal year just past, and we are determined to maintain that trend. In a department that operates from 33 different buildings scattered across the territory, this is no easy task. To make it easier, we are following the spirit of the Education Act, by making significant moves this year in the direction of site-based management, placing greater budget control and decision-making power in the hands of the school council and the school principal.
Also consistent with our commitment to open government is that the estimates this year provide for a detailed breakdown of the cost of school-based staff, such as educational assistants and native language instructors. This is a first, and it is long overdue.
In summary, the Department of Education budget for this year is a positive and responsible one. For the first time this year, we provided, as a pilot project, on the morning after the budget was tabled, a detailed briefing on the Education budget. Several school council members, representatives of First Nations and francophone partners and media attended, as well as the president of the Teachers Association.
I am pleased to see the Members for Riverside and for Riverdale South were a bit disappointed that the Official Opposition only sent their aides to the briefing. We hope the briefing we provided will provide Members with more information about the Education budget and answer some of their questions and help us expedite the budget process.
The other department I would like to touch on briefly is the Department of Tourism. I am very pleased about the budget that was presented by the Department of Tourism and I thank the Member for McIntyre-Takhini for his compliments on the fact that the marketing budget is up. This year, the tourism budget has gone up three percent, but what one sees in the budget is not all there is in the budget. There are some other opportunities for us there as well.
We maintained transfer payments for various groups in the budget: the Yukon Anniversaries Commission, the museums, the Tourism Industry Association, convention programming, the Arts Centre Corporation, the Yukon Science Institute for its lecture series and the Alaska Tourism Marketing Council, which is a joint program.
The one area that did decrease was in the area of the arts. One of the reasons that went down is that there is a forecasted $30,000 reduction in the funds received from the Lottery Commission this year. That is something people will have to adjust to from time to time. People buy more lottery tickets some years than other years. In the last few years, lottery sales have been decreasing and all organizations and groups are suffering from that drop.
The other area is that there are some reductions in the administration branch, but that also includes $10,000 toward a mini-tourism summit, which we will probably hold again this fall to discuss and update some of the initiatives we took at last year's summit.
The previous government initiated a program called the Yukon passport program, which was an outstanding program and was a two-year pilot project. This year, there are permanent funds - $50,000 - in the A base budget to continue the program on an ongoing basis.
One area that I think is significant is recognition from our government of the importance of the Yukon anniversaries. Members will see that $300,000 has been put into the budget for the anniversaries enhancement fund. I will be announcing the details of that program in the next week, and that program will lever approximately $1 million per year for advertising and promotion of the Yukon anniversaries with our partners in the United States
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We have $50,000 identified internally for the European program, and we will be approaching the economic development agreement for the remaining $100,000 to look at expanding and continuing the European program that was so successful last year.
My officials tell us that with $150,000 into Europe, and in conjunction with our co-op partners, we can double our dollars to about $300,000 worth of European promotion next year. I might add that the European promotion program that we have run over this past year has been extremely successful and is paying off in a very big way to many Yukon operators.
The government made a policy decision regarding the Department of Tourism. The Department of Tourism is the only department that has to buy in international and other foreign currency. Of course, we have been hit over the last few years by the drop in the Canadian dollar, as well as postage rates. We have now agreed that when the Department of Tourism purchases advertising in American currency in the United States, we will note the exchange rate and the department will be able to make up that money in a supplementary at the end of the year.
We cannot put that figure in the budget at this time, because we do not buy our advertising now. We buy it later on in the year and, at this time, we do not know exactly what it will be. If we did have to buy all our advertising today, it would amount to about $295,000 more in the Tourism budget, because we are going back to 1989-90 dollars. That is a significant decision for the Department of Tourism, because it allows us to maintain our buying power.
We are approaching the decade of the anniversaries, and this budget has clearly demonstrated that tourism is a high priority of our government, and we see enormous benefits for the Yukon and the economy by injecting much-needed funds into the Tourism budget.
The last department I would like to talk about briefly is the Women's Directorate. I would like to take a few minutes to talk about the importance of one of the issues that is of strong concern to Yukon women, which is eliminating violence against women and children. I take my responsibility for the Women's Directorate very seriously.
This government is working very hard to do what we can to eradicate violence against women and children. Not only have we stated that we endorse a policy of zero tolerance for violence against women and children, which is something the previous government did not take the time to do, we have also demonstrated our commitment in a variety of ways, not the least of which was dedicating full funding of a secondment to the Yukon Indian Women's Association healing project with Bobby Smith, the director of the Women's Directorate, going over there and working for them.
In addition, since January of this year, the Women's Directorate dedicated a three-month term position to its mandate of raising public awareness of violence issues. This has resulted in a variety of workshops, events and activities taking place in our schools, and a focus on empowering youth, changing attitudes and creating healthy relationships. In this fiscal year, the director is increasing that term to four months, which will be specifically dedicated to public awareness on violence issues.
I would also like to mention that the Women's Directorate has been working very closely with the Victoria Faulkner's Women's Centre over the past year, and the relationship is mutually beneficial to the two organizations that are currently in the process of co-sponsoring a two-day conference for young women at the Baha'i Centre, which will focus on self-esteem building, self-defence, wellness and communication.
By seconding the director to the First Nations' project, the benefit of linking with First Nations and supporting their community-based efforts to heal their people is obvious. An obvious disadvantage is the reduction of personnel resources within the Women's Directorate. Let me make it clear that there was no intention to reduce the capability of the Women's Directorate to carry out its mandate.
There was an agreement that a collaborative effort would be required to assist the directorate for this one-year period. To that end, I can say that I am delighted with the cooperation that has been demonstrated by a number of Yukon government departments. The Department of Education has provided the directorate with an employee on loan for six months. Given the collaborative nature of the directorate and the number of joint projects of educational issues, such as gender equality in the education system, the development of a zero tolerance of violence policy and procedures for schools, education and training needs for women and the public awareness strategy focusing on youth, this linkage is mutually beneficial.
The Public Service Commission is providing the directorate with a one-year native training corps position, and is working with the directorate on issues such as work and family responsibilities and training workshops.
The Department of Health and Social Services has agreed to share the resources of its policy unit with the directorate on issues of mutual concern such as women in health, the well-being of the Yukon's youth, and other related topics.
Justice has agreed to fund the sexual assault and family violence information line, which has been funded by the directorate in the past.
The Yukon Bureau of Statistics has also expressed its willingness to provide assistance to the directorate on a number of ongoing projects.
I am extremely pleased with the collaborative efforts and cooperation that has been demonstrated by these government departments in assisting the directorate through this one-year secondment of staff, and I believe this is a perfect example of how one can do more with less, if there is a will and cooperation and the ability to link and share resources to mutual benefit.
This brings me to the concern raised about the reductions to the transition home budgets. Firstly, I would like to point out that the budgets of Kaushee's Place and the Dawson shelter were not cut. The average occupancy rate of the Watson Lake transition home indicated that the funding level was disproportionate to the service being provided. These details will no doubt be debated at a later stage in the budget debate by the Minister of Health and Social Services.
I believe it is important to re-emphasize how linkages can be made and how organizations can survive, indeed thrive, if creative solutions are sought. In fact, in the case of the Women's Directorate, there are great benefits to a collaborative approach, gaining expertise and sharing information between departments, to name just two.
I believe creative solutions to funding can and should be sought. In these days of fiscal restraint throughout our country, we can no longer stand alone without the support of each other. We need to find creative ways to make our resources go further. It is not simply critical to government; it is critical to all of us in our own lives, in our communities and as well in our society.
I am also pleased to be bringing to the House later this session the reinstated Yukon Advisory Council on Women's Issues Act. I believe that, with a clearly defined role, it will be far more effective than it has been in the past in providing advice and researching issues of specific concern to Yukon women. The amendments that we will be introducing this session will make the council's role much clearer, give it more access to the Minister and make it more
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efficient and effective. I look forward to welcoming new members to this committee, which I hope to have up and running in the not too distant future.
That is a brief summary of the three departments for which I am responsible. However, I would be remiss if I did not comment on some of the things that were said earlier today.
The Member for McIntyre-Takhini talked about the economy. He went on and on about the number of businesses that have shut down. He neglected to mention the other half of the equation. I suppose, at any given time in the Yukon's history, one could stand in this House and list businesses that have opened and shut down in any given period. However, he forgot to mention that in the last couple of years businesses such as Pizza Hut, Tim Horton's and several other businesses have opened here. In addition, a $7 million mall expansion, which will bring anywhere from 10 to 15 new stores, will open up in the next year or two. There are some businesses that do have some optimism and believe that the Yukon is going to improve.
I have a lot of faith in what this government is doing. The first thing this government and every single government across this country, has had to do is address its fiscal problems. I do not apologize for a second for dealing with the issue of the deficit, reducing the size of government and its O&M. I feel that that is what we should be doing.
To pretend that the money will flow from Ottawa at the same rate as it has in the past is to be rather foolish. I think the Members opposite realize that. The message that every Minister who travels to Ottawa gets is that money is going to be harder to come by and that the federal government is going to have to address the deficit problem. One of the areas it will have to reduce, or at least not increase, is in the transfer payments to the provinces and territories.
The federal government has indicated to us that it would prefer to do that: either hold the line or reduce in the future. We have to be ready for that. Even if they hold the line, inflation and other variables will catch up to us and cost us a great deal of money in the future. We have to be conscious of that.
Other Members have mentioned the fact that the capital budget is large; and yes, it is large, but many of the projects we are funding now are projects that are going to run out in two or three years. That money is not going to be there any more. When the new hospital is built and the Shakwak project is complete, there is not going to be money for the capital projects. We have to be ready then, so that when the capital budget drops dramatically, we can pick up some of the slack and continue building infrastructure in the territory.
Again, I am extremely optimistic about the tourism area. All indications are this year that it will be an average or better-than-average year. Because the Canadian dollar is low, it has created problems in some other areas, but it has made us a rather attractive place to visit for our American friends. Many Americans are considering travelling to the Yukon this year. As well, the promotion and advertising we are getting with the Anniversaries Commission, letting everyone know that the Yukon is here, is a very positive sign and will bode well for us in the future.
I think the budget before us is a very, very responsible budget. It is about time. We have got the finances of the government at least in hand, now. We do not have the runaway deficits that the NDP had, and that they still believe they did not have. They are still walking around thinking they did not have a deficit, but everybody in the world has proven that they had, but they still try to pull a rabbit out of the hat and try to convince the people there was no deficit. I can only say thank goodness they were not re-elected because we would be in a real pickle when this thing ended four years from now. We would probably have a $100 million deficit and they would still be saying we did not have a problem. They would have spent all the compensation money in the workers' compensation fund. They would have spent all the other money, all the leave accrual money - that was a program, by the way, that they started on recommendation of the Auditor General and now they are saying we can get rid of it. They obviously have no idea what it is like to manage a government. It was obvious by the way they took the huge amount of transfer payments that the Government of Yukon received from Ottawa and squandered it. All they did was build a huge O&M infrastructure for the government of the Yukon and the Yukon taxpayer to shoulder in the future. Thank goodness, the Yukon taxpayer saw fit to dump the NDP and throw them out of office and bring back fiscal responsibility and common sense to government.
I commend this budget to the House.
I would like to follow that remark by saying I condemn their budget to this House.
I listened to the Government Leader give his budget speech the other day. The Government Leader spent a lot of time trying to convince Yukoners who might have been listening at that time that there was a deficit. He kept saying that he did not know why people did not believe him, saying that people were confused. It is not that easy to confuse Yukoners.
The Members opposite received some criticism at their own convention this week about the communication problem they have. They believe everything that these guys are telling them, but, gee whiz, some people do not believe what they are saying.
Well, it is really easy not to believe what they are saying when they stand here and say that we are entering a decade of prosperity, while thousands of Yukoners are suffering because they do not have employment. If they are on unemployment insurance, that will run out very soon, because there are not many jobs available.
How can people believe them? They like what they are doing, they like all of the cuts that they are making, they say keep up the good work and all of you right-wing people who want to support this government come join our party, but if you are not right wing do not join - so someone said on the radio this morning. It appeared to be a taped conversation from their convention.
It is very difficult to stand here as a Member of this Legislative Assembly and believe that we are entering a decade of prosperity. It is even more difficult for thousands of Yukoners to believe.
The Members on the side opposite can stand in this House and brag about all of the wonderful things that they have done, but none of it is evident. No one can see what this government is talking about when they talk about prosperity.
I have talked to some of this government's supporters - possibly, former supporters now. I spoke to one on Friday who was very involved with the party and who sat in their boardrooms, worked on elections, worked in helping to get some of their members elected. He said to me that what has to happen right now is to eliminate every single person who is sitting on that side and start all over again. That is what he said.
He supported these people. He used to live in my riding, so I know him really well. That is exactly what he said. He said, "Maybe when that happens I will get actively involved again."
Today in the House, the Member for Old Crow, whom I consider a friend of mine and for whom I have a lot of respect, introduced a motion in this House to condemn cuts by the federal government and I agree with him. We talked at great length about it at our convention this weekend. What he should also do, at the same time, is condemn the cuts his own government is making. We can give him a list of all those cuts that First Nations people are going to be affected by. They have to be condemned, too. I have the deepest respect for him, and I will certainly be giving him
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a list of all of those cuts that will affect First Nations people. They are as bad as the federal government cuts; there is no question about that.
The Government Leader stands in this House and talks about how great things are, but there are thousands of people who have made their feelings known through demonstrations against this government and what it is doing. They have had more demonstrations against their actions in 15 months than our government had in seven years, and they are only starting. It was evident last Wednesday when we were sitting in here that this government was not working on their behalf. The Minister of Justice had the nerve to comment that he was at an NDP meeting that night, and I think that he insulted a lot of the people who were sitting up in the gallery who belong to other parties. He insults their intelligence and their political affiliation. We know for a fact that there were many other people sitting in the gallery that night who were members of other parties. Once again, he not only insulted them, he insulted their intelligence. He stood in this House and ranted and raved - the man who would be leader. Sometimes it is very difficult to tell who the real leader on that side of the House is. Now we have another person back there - another independent - competing for the job as well.
He rants and raves about the criticism this government is getting. He talks about how we were tossed out of office. Yes, we were, and we are on this side of the House. The longer they sit on that side, the longer the economy of the Yukon is going to be in jeopardy, because they certainly have not used any of their imagination to give us back a good sense of security.
I do not know why he continues to talk about what is happening in other jurisdictions. Yukoners are not concerned about what is happening in Ontario, Saskatchewan or British Columbia. They are concerned about what is happening in the Yukon.
I keep hearing about the things that are happening in Alberta. The more I listen, the more I can see the recruits over there tuning in with them, which is very sad for the Yukon. The more I read about it, the more frightened I get, because of all the things that they are starting to implement there. For heaven's sake, they were talking about bringing back capital punishment, so you can condemn young people to death. Even that is pretty darn frightening.
Let us understand that when we are talking about a budget in the Yukon we are talking about the Yukon and how it is going to affect Yukoners. The longer I sit in this House and listen to what this government has to offer, the more afraid I become.
The Minister responsible for social assistance has insulted social assistance recipients. He does not care that he does it. He gives a lecture at the college, and talks about the money it is costing his department to fund social assistance recipients, and he has the nerve to say that they have babies to increase that funding. I think that it is disgusting that a man who should have so much intelligence would stand up in front of other intelligent people and make a comment like that.
Then, he stands in front of senior citizens and talks about comments the Prime Minister of Canada made in regard to social assistance recipients. It would be a great world if there was no one left who was on social assistance. It would be a great day for Canada.
I would like to know what he was trying to imply when he referred to social assistance recipients drinking beer in the 60 Below. Was he implying those people who drink in the 60 Below are on social assistance and should not be drinking there? I did not hear the comment about the Kopper King, but perhaps he said it.
What are those people who hang out in the 60 Below to think about this person? I do not think they would be pleased with his remarks. Nor were some of the senior citizens. We have a lot of respectable senior citizens here and I do not think they like to hear remarks like that. There might be some social assistance recipients who drink beer somewhere, but why did he say the 60 Below? Was he condemning all those people at the 60 Below? Are they to think that he is making these remarks because that is what he thinks of them, or was he putting it down as a place where good, respectable citizens should not go? I do not know what he was supposed to be implying.
The more he talks about people who are on social assistance, the angrier some of those people get. I talked to one person who was on social assistance and she said to me that he has no concept of being human. "Every time he condemns a social assistance recipient, he is talking about me and I will never forgive him for that." That is what she said to me.
We have a lot of people who are on social assistance and a lot of those people do not want to be there; they would sooner be somewhere else. They would sooner be out working, going to school or whatever, but after what this government has done to the economy of the Yukon, they do not have much choice. I do not think he will ever change. I do not think he will ever change his views about those people who are less fortunate than he is, because he cannot understand exactly what puts some of them in that situation. They were not born rich, they did not go to college - I should not say that they did not go to college; a lot of those people went to college, but they cannot find a job. They are insulted that they now have a watchdog that will be keeping tabs on everything they are doing. When the Minister talks about the kind of things these watchdogs are to watch out for, he condemns every single person who is on social assistance. That is how they feel and they do not like it.
They do not really want to be there. They would rather be doing something else.
One of the Members stood up today and talked about why they were elected. They were elected because they had this fabulous four-year plan. I think it was last year in the O&M budget where I went through a whole list of things that were in their four-year plan and I will not do that again because I do not want to embarrass them. What they should do is give all of those Yukoners who thought their four-year plan was so great an update on what they have done so far. If they do not, then I will. I went through them tonight and if the Minister of Education wants me to go through them again, then I will.
I am always surprised at how the individuals on that side of the House talk about the great things they have done.
There has been a lot of talk about the wolves in terms of their game management plan, and how they have to go out and kill them. We have already determined that it has cost thousands of dollars for each wolf that was killed. Who benefits? I really would like to know. They kill all the wolves to get more moose and caribou. Certainly the hunter will benefit. They like to go out and shoot animals. That is a way of life for a lot of people, and I respect that. However, how many other people benefit from this plan? Outfitters certainly do. They make their $200,000 a year more. They will benefit as long as the wolves, caribou and sheep are there to kill.
The Minister of Education says to write a letter to the Champagne/Aishihik Band. I have to tell him that Champagne/Aishihik people do not believe a thing that these guys are doing. Look what they did to Taga Ku. They killed it dead. Then they tried to appease them by agreeing with them and killing wolves. I have to tell them that they did not appease most of those people. They will never forget what they did to Taga Ku, ever. I know this because I was talking to a Champagne/Aishihik member last week. They will never forgive them.
They can sit there, laughing, and say that I should write a letter to the Champagne/Aishihik Band about how we feel about wolves. I respect the needs of Yukoners. I really do. What I do not respect
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is what they are doing and where their priorities are. It cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars to kill these wolves, so that some people could benefit, such as outfitters, hunters and others. Then they turn around and cut funding to transition homes. As far as those people are concerned, it is more important to them to spend money to kill wolves than for transition homes. They can argue all they want about why they did it, but it does not wash with those individuals. They can sit here and talk about supporting a policy of zero tolerance of violence against women, but their actions speak for themselves.
The Minister responsible for the Women's Directorate stood up and had the nerve to say that they did not do anything. Let me tell Members that half the things that they are continuing to do would not be getting done if they were not put in place by the NDP government. That is a fact, and all the women know it. The Minister can stand there all he wants and talk about the great things that are happening. I am not putting him down for the things that he is continuing to do, or the things he is improving. I would not do that; however, I will condemn him for his contradictions when he talks about certain things that are happening. There is no way that a right-wing government, or the boys sitting over there, would ever have implemented the programs that they are working with right now. There is no way at all. We know these boys.
The Minister of Education also mentioned the economy and how Pizza Hut and Tim Horton's had opened up. Well, they have been opened up for a couple of years, maybe three years, I do not know. It is nothing new that has happened. The fact remains that businesses are still going under. The Minister responsible for Economic Development does not care, he sits there and laughs; it is a big joke to him. He has probably never been on unemployment insurance in his life, or social assistance, so what does he know? It is apparent he does not care.
The Minister of Justice again stood up in the House and condemned this side for the things that it did in the past. He talked about some of the good things that were going to happen, and how he has given his department some clear direction, but that clear direction talks about cutting a lot of costs that are going to be affecting people. He continues to degrade those people who are on social assistance or those people who take advantage of the transition homes. It is no secret that the women who need these services know that they are not going to get any improvements because they know this government and they know the men who are a part of it. I feel sorry that they are going to have to suffer some of the consequences of this right-wing government.
He did talk about other things that were going to happen, that he was going to focus on kids at risk, and I commend him for that. He started off in his own riding of Carcross and there is nothing the matter with that. I mean, at least the kids in that riding have a voice. There certainly are a lot of other individuals who are in the care of his own riding. I was talking Saturday before last to parents and children who had been in care or were still in care, and today talking with people who are working with them to talk about the problems that they have. He may want to get up and defend everything his government has said in regard to the care of those children but there are still problems and I intend to speak on them when we get into the budget. He talks about the downtrodden of the Yukon. It is with some condemnation that he talks about the downtrodden, as if it were a disgrace to be downtrodden, but there are thousands of Yukoners out there who know the situations that they are in, and they do not like it. We see them every day on the streets; we see them in our communities.
I am sure that there are Members on that side of the House who have poor people in their communities, and I feel badly about the way in which the Minister refers to them.
Every single person who has stood up so far is talking about the public not believing the deficit. It is very difficult to believe that there is a deficit when they introduce the biggest budget ever in the history of the Yukon for the last fiscal year. How can the public believe this government when they say there is a deficit, when they try to convince the public that we are in a horrible situation because of a deficit that was incurred by the NDP government, when the very first thing that this government does is introduce the biggest budget in history? It is very difficult for individuals to believe that.
Someone on that side of the House said that Yukoners are not stupid. Well, they think they are, because they think that people are going to believe them when they say that. People do not believe them any more, because this government has never been able to convince the public. They might have been able to when they first started talking about the doom and gloom, but they were not convincing. Even their own party members this weekend said that they have to get the communications out and tell them that what the government is saying is true. How are they going to believe them?
It is going to be very difficult. They talk about a decade of prosperity, and they use that term so loosely. It reminded me of the Government Leader talking about how taxes were obscene and, then, he turns around and raises taxes. In this budget, the Government Leader tells people that he is not going to introduce any new taxes, but we all know that there are going to be new taxes that individuals have to pay, so that was deceptive.
I think that this government is going to have to do a heck of a lot more to convince people out in the communities and in Whitehorse that we are entering a decade of prosperity because, so far, it does not show. I wish it would, as do many people in my riding. They would love to believe what the Government Leader is saying, but they do not. They do not believe it, because they are realistic, and they know what is happening. They know what this government has not done. They know what they have said, but they do not know what they are doing, because there has been no evidence the economy is improving in the Yukon. The Government Leader mentions a few things here and there and expects Yukoners to believe them.
The Members on that side can stand in their place all they want, and try to convince Yukoners that the kind of plans they have for the economy are good but, so far, there is no evidence, none whatsoever.
They can see cuts to much-needed programs. Social assistance recipients will continue to feel degraded by the Minister responsible for social services, because he continues to put them down and makes all kinds of remarks about them. I would not doubt that some recipients are out there, keeping tab of all the things he has said. If he even showed some of those recipients that he had a caring bone in his body, they might think differently about him, but they do not.
I would like to condemn parts of this budget, but that is not for me to do. There is a lot of it that I do not like, and there are lots of things they are saying that, if they were true, would be great.
This decade of prosperity is a long time coming. We cannot see it in the future and, who knows, maybe not even in the next decade.
I think they have a lot to explain. We will be going into the individual departments, and I will be asking the Minister responsible for Justice and the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services about the kinds of things he is doing. I have looked at his budget. I have talked to individuals out there, and I know he is doing some positive things. I will accept that some of the things he is doing are positive, but I will not accept the things that are not positive, or where transition homes have been cut.
The Minister responsible for the Women's Directorate stood up and said the only transition home that was being cut - that is
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not true. Kaushee's is being cut by $10,000. That money may not mean that much to the Minister responsible for the Women's Directorate, but it certainly means a lot to the women who run the transition home.
They had better be careful about the information they give to the House. People may sometimes believe them when they are making these mistakes in reading the budget.
I looked at it again, and I marked it. It says that last year Kaushee's got $492,000. This year, it is getting $482,000. To me, that is $10,000 less. It says that right here in the book.
There is an increase for the Dawson shelter of $3,000, and I commend them for that. It should have been $30,000, but $3,000 is not bad.
So, there are a number of things in here that I do not like, and I will be asking a number of questions when we get to the individual budgets. I will certainly want an accounting for the people out there who would like to believe what the government is saying, but who are going to be hard to convince.
Hon. Mr. Nordling:
There is a Chinese proverb: Unless we change direction, we will likely end up where we are headed. Yukoners knew where we were headed, and they voted for a change in direction. Now, we must change direction - not just one or two of us, or even all Yukoners, but all of us as Canadians. We have a responsibility to ensure that we are not living beyond our means, that we are not committing ourselves today to what we cannot afford tomorrow.
We have not gone as far down the road to huge debt as the provinces. This is attributable, in large part, to huge formula financing payments that we have been receiving from the federal government since 1985. The problem is that these large transfer payments, which have made us so comfortable for almost 10 years, have not been paid for by southern Canadian taxpayers. The money has been borrowed by the federal government and must be paid back with interest by someone, some time.
The Finance critic opposite, and the Member for Faro, would say, "Not us. It is not our responsibility. Someone else should pay for us." Unfortunately, the Opposition has not told us who that will be. Almost daily, we read and hear of the experiences of our neighbours in the south. We know from newscasts, from family and friends, that many young people in the south are unemployed, that many families are without work, and that the prospects in many areas of Canada are bleak.
We know a lot about the layoffs, the lineups and the despair. Are these the people who are going to keep us in the style to which we have become accustomed? For too long, as governments and as individuals, we have taken our standard of living for granted and just assumed that the good things and the relatively easy times would continue. Our assumptions have failed us and fiscal realities have caught up with us. Discouraging - certainly. Hopeless - I do not believe so. The challenges we face are forcing us to get our fiscal house in order. It can be done, and it can be done fairly. We can minimize layoffs and reduce unemployment, because we are dealing now with our financial situation.
We have set a new course - a change of direction. The new course is nothing more complicated or earth-shattering than choosing to live with what we can afford, making realistic plans based on realistic expectations, and deciding that no one person, or one family, or one group should bear the burden alone.
This new course is not even all that new. It has been travelled before - most recently by the NDP government, between 1985 and 1990. I looked back over the pattern of revenue and expenditures over the past few years, and what I looked at was the Public Accounts Committee reports - the statements of revenue and expenditures. That committee is an all-party committee; it is a non-partisan committee. There is no reason for it to be putting forward any partisan view with respect to revenue and expenses.
Looking at that, in 1989, the Yukon government had a $5.2 million operating surplus. In 1990, it had a $3.4 million operating surplus. In 1991, it had an $8.9 million operating surplus.
That was under an NDP government. They had no problem in those days having a surplus. In 1991, the NDP government had accumulated a surplus of over $64 million.
Times were good, and the alarm bells had not gone off in the south despite the growing accumulated deficits. We had money and we had negotiated a new formula financing agreement. We did not need to take the bus in those days; we could afford a Cadillac and we bought one. We signed a Cadillac agreement with our employees and raised their wages 19 percent over three years. That, along with merit increases, our employees' wages went up over 30 percent in the three years from 1990-93.
We spent freely and contributed to many worthwhile causes. All Yukoners benefited from the largess of the government and the money that was spent. However, as a result of that change in direction by the former NDP government, the Yukon ran a $13.6 million operating deficit in 1992. No problem, as we still had a $50 million accumulated surplus. However, the new direction of big spending and large commitments was set, and in 1993, we ran a $64 million operating deficit. This used up not only the whole $50 million surplus, but also left us with a $13 million accumulated deficit.
Some Hon. Member:
Hon. Mr. Nordling:
The Member for Faro asks me if I believe that. I would ask the Member for Faro to look at the Public Accounts Committee report, the statement of expenses and revenues for the Yukon government. The Public Accounts Committee is chaired by the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, the former Minister of Finance in the NDP government and the critic for Finance.
We were headed for crisis. In fact, we had reached a crisis point. Our expenditures had increased dramatically, and we were making commitments for future expenditures, with no offsetting revenue expectations. At the same time, the alarm bells went off down south. The federal government and all the provincial governments said, "We must stop living beyond our means and start paying off the debt that we have run up." Our hope and our expectation that the south would simply give us more money suddenly evaporated. Now, we must look to ourselves to share the burden and responsibility, as we all shared the benefit of the good times. This budget is not the ultimate solution to all of our problems. We have deferred many expenses, which will have to be faced in the future. We still have high unemployment and many social problems, but with Yukoners working together, and working realistically, we can share the burden. We can maintain the wonderful lifestyle that we enjoy here in the Yukon.
The response I am going to make to the 1994-95 budget this evening I am going to call "the good, the bad and the ugly" speech. I am going to mention some good things, I am going to mention some bad things and I am going to talk about some ugly things.
I listened to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes this afternoon, shouting and shouting, and it reminded me of a saying. The louder the Member shouted made me think about how alike men and ships are. They both sound loudest when they are in a fog.
I want to first mention some of the good things this government is doing.
There has been a lot of talk about getting costs under control and I agree with the government's intentions to get costs under
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control. Some of the government's methods I have to question, but I will come to that in the bad part, because this is the good part.
There seems to be some willingness to get costs under control. I do not want to talk about whose fault the deficit was, how big the deficit was and whether or not there was a deficit. I want to say that the first principle I can agree with is that there seems to be some willingness on behalf of this government to get the cost of government under control.
Secondly, I see that there has been a positive movement, and finally some financial commitment, to the 911 number and that was not in the previous budget.
Thirdly, the Minister of Education offered to us as Members of the Legislature and other interested parties a briefing about the education budget. That was a new initiative, and I think in many instances it is a good idea. The Minister asked me if I thought the briefing was helpful. As to someone who has been in the Legislature for 10 or 11 years, as I have, the budget becomes a fairly routine process, but I did learn some things at the briefing. There was an opportunity to ask some questions and I think for participants within the system it could probably be a good idea, and I would encourage the Minister to carry on with that initiative.
Fourthly, there was some new information in this budget in the statistical area. I am always a strong proponent of lots of information being included in the budget, but I have to admit that I am a little bit skeptical about the new information and the motive for the information being there. I am referring to page 96, in the public schools budget, and the statistical information with respect to the teachers and how much they cost the government. That is a new page and new information. Although I have been a strong proponent of new information, I would be interested to find out exactly why that is there. I will be following up with the Minister in that regard.
Number five - I see that there are two fewer assistant deputy ministers in this budget. We are down to 11 ADMs in the government now, so we are getting the numbers down, and I will have some questions for the government with respect to whether or not there is really any cost saving related to having those two fewer assistant deputy ministers. There may not be initially, but in the future there may be, so I will be looking for some answers about that.
Number six - the Minister of Justice has been hinting at some initiatives. We do not have the details on those specifics yet, but so far there has been some positive response to some of the initiatives that are being discussed publicly, so I am looking forward to asking more detailed questions and finding out more information about just where the government is going in the Department of Justice.
I tried very hard to find some positive commentary on the budget, and I think I have been more than generous with the government with respect to some positive commentary.
I want now to go on to the bad. People in the Yukon want the straight goods on the budget. Many constituents come to me and say, "Bea, what is the real story? What are the real figures? How do I get the real information?"
The only way I can summarize it is when I compare these budget estimates, particularly the personnel costs, with the last budget of the previous government. First of all, the two budgets, by comparison - the 1992-93 budget - the total O&M and capital combined was $417 million, of which $314.7 million was for O&M. The first budget of the new government, 1993-94, was $352.4 million for the O&M - combined $480 million.
That was the largest budget in the history of the Yukon - the largest - the most money we ever had to spend as Yukoners. The 1994-95 budget was, operating and maintenance, $346.2 million; capital was $121.7 million, for a combined total of $467.9 million. That is what the government is talking about decreasing by three percent, or $12 million dollars.
What they failed to tell us was that they received a huge windfall of money by increasing the taxes. In 1992-93, the revenue that this government took in through taxes, prior to the tax increases that the government implemented in the last budget, was in the neighbourhood of $31 million. In this budget, for the same tax increases, the revenue that this government is going to take in is over $45.5 million.
When I make comments to the government about a tax-and-spend budget, and say that this is a tax-and-spend budget, the Government Leader stands up and says that it is not. By my calculations, the balance of the revenue versus the costs side of a three-percent reduction in a budget that was the biggest budget in the history of the Yukon, and considerably larger than the one the previous government had to spend, does not balance off the $45.5 million dollars in tax revenues - about a 45-percent or 47-percent increase.
I was suspicious when this government brought in the budget last year and introduced the tax increases that that is what was going to happen - that they were going to derive a lot more revenue from the tax increases than they were leading us to believe.
That is another question that I have for the Minister of Finance and for the government, and I have already given notice of it. I want some justification, other than their saying that it is the federal government's fault. I want to know why this government tried to sell the tax increases as not being a big deal. I want to know why the Department of Finance so grossly underestimated the revenue that was going to come in through those tax increases. I think Yukoners deserve an answer to that question.
That leads me to want to ask the Government Leader, this Cabinet and the Minister of Finance if they are prepared to look at reversing some of those tax increases, as the Minister of Finance did when he made that goofy proposal about the tax rebate for snowmobilers and so on. We were able to convince the government that it was a goofy initiative, completely unmanageable and impossible to negotiate. He just quietly decided not to pursue the policy and follow through with it.
If he can be made to see that a certain policy is not good for Yukoners, perhaps he can see fit to change it. I will be following up on that and asking the Government Leader if he is going to be prepared to look at giving Yukoners some relief from those huge tax increases.
Another part of the budget I want to bring to people's attention is a comparison of operation and maintenance expenditures by department. It is interesting to compare the 1992-93 estimates with the 1994-95 figures and look at the particular areas that are showing increased costs or reductions. This would give us some idea of where the government has reduced some of their costs. I see that there has been a reduction in the Executive Council Office. That is good. Community and Transportation Services was $66.8 million in 1992-93. It is down to $62.4 million. There has obviously been a considerable reduction in costs there. I would be very interested to hear from the Minister how that particular cost reduction is justified.
The estimates for the Department of Education have gone up from $68.3 million in 1992-93 to $72.1 in 1994-95. The Minister of Education is saying that there are more schools and more teachers. I do not have any dispute with that, and I am not criticizing it. I am just pointing out a change for the information of the public. In Government Services, there is a reduction of just over $1 million. I think that department could probably be reduced more, but we will see where that $1 million came from.
The Department of Health and Social Services is the most
Page Number 2279
alarming. In 1992-93, the health and social service budget was $66.825 million. In 1994-95, it is $97.8 million.
That is a remarkable increase.
In Justice, there is a small change - an increase.
In the Public Service Commission, there is a change of a million dollars or so. When I look at the personnel costs, it is rather interesting to see where the largest personnel cost increases are. They are in the Health and Social Services area, which has gone up from $15.7 million to $19.9 million. The Public Service Commission went from $6.8 million up to $8.6 million for personnel costs. I obviously have some questions about that. The Yukon Housing Corporation has gone from $1.9 to $2.6 million. Education has gone from $43 million to $47.8 million. Those are the most noticeable ones. I am going to have some questions about those specific changes, and I think for the public to have that information - I am not skewing the facts, I am not changing anything, I am just giving them some comparisons to make - maybe we can start drawing some conclusions about how government is operating and whether or not we are really getting the costs under control.
I have accused this government of wasting money, of not priorizing their expenditures. We have seen the same kind of things happen, the community development fund expenditures: $500,000 for gym facilities; money for the sprung roof for the Old Crow arena; one million dollar spending spree on computers; $12,000 for a consultant to phone businesses to ask them to come and get more money from Economic Development, which is kind of what the Minister of Justice was criticizing the previous government for, handing out money and getting people to come and take advantage of government money.
I find inconsistencies with the analogy the government is making about whether it has any money or not, where the debt is, where the responsibility is, and for people to reduce their expectations. First of all, we were told that we had to have these wage rollbacks because government cost too much money. Then, when the government found itself in the position of not having a huge deficit - in fact probably having a zero debt - it was a little more difficult to sell the idea of wage rollbacks so all of a sudden we had to kind of do our part for the whole Canadian cause.
The government did not indicate to us whether or not we were going to take this pot of money, put it in a box and give it back to the federal Minister of Finance, or what we were going to do with this surplus money. The government kept talking about how we had to do our part for the national cause.
I guess that the greatest inconsistency that I have heard is with respect to the infrastructure program. I have had discussions with the Minister of Finance about this program before. This is the infrastructure program, the federal Liberal program to help communities, and everyone is going to participate. All three levels of government were complimented about it today.
One operates on the principle that Canadians do not have extra money, but everyone is going to participate in this program with money that we do not have.
This government talks about fulfilling its commitment to the Canadian cause, the national cause of reducing their spending. I heard the Minister of Finance stand up in the House this afternoon to say that we are not getting enough money for this infrastructure program.
He cannot have it both ways; you either believe in something or you do not. The Minister of Justice accused me of not having any principles and that I would not know one unless I sat on it. I will put my list of principles on one side of the board and the Minister of Justice can list his on the other and we can make a comparison at any time. We just have to start at election day.
The Minister of Justice is always talking about comparing track records and so on. I do not have any problem with that. I am not here for some kind of competition concerning who is more principled than the other. I just know that if I went to my constituency and said, "Who do you think has more principles, your MLA or the Minister of Justice?", I know the answer that I would get.
I feel confident about that. Obviously, the Minister of Justice does not but I do feel confident about that.
We have tried to make some positive suggestions to this government. Just the other day, Wednesday, Opposition motion day, we debated a motion here in the Legislature that had been sponsored by the Member for Riverside. It was a motion asking for a joint committee of Members the Legislature to go around and discuss health issues.
It was not a controversial motion. We were not asking the government to do anything outrageous, expensive or timely. The government Members who spoke all stood in opposition to this motion and provided various reasons for doing so - the bureaucrats had been out to discuss the issue and it was a waste of time and money. I believe that I even heard a suggestion that we should not be putting the Clerk to work doing his job organizing committees, and that he had more important things to do. It was suggested that we could all hold meetings in our own riding and come to talk to this open government about our ideas.
We are bordering on the ugly here now, because I have heard all the Members of this government allude to the fact that they are somehow being ill-treated communication-wise and by the media.
This motion is a perfect example of a way this government could involve the public in decisions regarding the delivery of health services, which I am predicting is going to become one of the major issues here in the territory and in Canada over the next few years. They could be involving Yukoners in decisions that are going to have to be made. They could be explaining things to the Yukon public, and they could be getting information back from them. They could be getting a lot of positive coverage and mileage with respect to this, of being open and consultative. Yet, they are not taking advantage of that opportunity.
Then, when they bring in changes, and everybody in the public stands up and complains, or asks what they are doing, then they are going to be all upset because the headline in the Yukon News or the Whitehorse Star, or the report on CBC was not positive, or not favourable, or reported something they did not like.
I just do not understand why a blinder, or something, comes down over the government's face. Quite often, the government sees whoever is proposing the suggestion, idea or initiative, and sees somebody there they do not really like so, automatically the ears close, the blind comes down in front of their faces, and it is a bad idea.
The Members have to open up and be a little more receptive to ideas. Even if they do not like the idea after analyzing it, that would be fine, but just to stand up like a bunch of puppets and say no, with no justification of why not, other than the one standard line, that it has been done by the bureaucrats and is a waste of time and money. That just does not sell. It does not justify them disagreeing with the concept.
I am not sure how much time I have left. I do not want to sell myself short on the ugly parts. I have 18 minutes, so I have lots of time. I will have to talk a bit about the four-year plan.
I was quite astonished when I pulled out from Hansard, November 15, 1993, a comment from Mr. Ostashek, the Government Leader, saying, "We will probably have a throne speech in the spring."
We have never really had a throne speech from this government. We have never really been told what this government stands for, or what they hope to achieve. The Government Leader could not even tell me what they hope to achieve in just this one session
Page Number 2280
when I asked. It was the same legislative program the House Leader had already given me during the briefing session, but the Government Leader was not able to enunciate to us what he wants to achieve.
I would have expected him to stand up and take advantage of an opportunity to get this wonderful press coverage and go on for 15 minutes during Question Period on all the wonderful things they were going to do. Not one thing came forward.
The government operates on "The Yukon Party Plan: the next four years, a time for change, our commitment to economic and environmental change and social change."
I am sure this document was written up by the communications advisor for the election campaign.
Some Hon. Member:
This four-week plan. The Leader of the Opposition makes a good point.
I suppose some people might say it was an adequate election document. They picked a few things that they knew people were concerned about, like family violence, and an ombudsperson, and they were to amend the Young Offenders Act, they were going to reduce energy rates, and all these good things. Yukoners were going to prosper and flourish under this election propaganda.
I have waited for more than one and one-half years to see what the government's plan is. I have asked the government about their energy policy plan, and I have heard nothing yet. We asked about a plan for dealing with Curragh; there was no plan in place. The Government Leader said that if they had a plan, they would not be in so much trouble.
I read the newspaper today. It was the April 25 edition of the Whitehorse Star. The Government Leader is quoted as saying that his government is one of only two in Canada that has a party plan. The other is the federal Liberal's red book." Where is this plan? The Government Leader cannot even stand up in this House and tell us what the agenda is for a four- to six-week session - what he hopes to achieve in that time in this Legislature. How can anyone have any confidence that there is a plan? One does not have a plan just by just standing up and saying there is one. There has to be some drive, ideas and strength of conviction. There has to be something that the Members over there stand for.
I will say that when the Government Leader first became Government Leader, he may have felt strongly about some things. He may have had some ideas. We never had a chance to see any of them. We might have seen a glimpse until the communications advisor said "Whoa, that is enough; stop."
Some Hon. Member:
Yes, as the Leader of the Official Opposition reminds me, one interview with the Globe and Mail and that was that; it was completely finished.
Now, we get this condensed, mushy commentary from the Government Leader about what the government's position is. They do not really have one. It changes from week to week. First we have a deficit and then we do not. First we are reducing the size of government by attrition and then perhaps we are not. There is nothing consistent or specific; there is nothing to sink one's teeth into and nothing concrete. We have a government that is going from crisis to crisis, as I indicated when we first started sitting.
I come to the ugly part of the discussion. It hurts me to have to talk about this. I listened to the news coverage about the Yukon Party convention. First of all, there was all the old rhetoric about the overspending of the previous government. We have all discussed and debated that for the last seven or eight years.
Then, there was this plea with the membership to understand that it is not this government's fault that they have this image problem and this communication problem. It is all the media's fault.
I believe the Government Leader was even so bold as to refer to it as yellow journalism - I am sure that I heard him make that comment. It is not their fault.
I do not want to bore everyone in this House and go back to the election one and one-half years ago to illustrate this, because I do not have to. All that I have to do is go back in Hansard for the four or five days we have been sitting in the House. Look at this, and this will tell you. I hope some of the Members opposite will listen, and maybe some of them will recognize why they do not look too good and are not too popular.
The first day we were back in the House was Monday, April 18. So, going through a Question Period, here is what we find. The Opposition asked questions about wage rollbacks, and we get this inconsistency about collective agreement and how they feel they cannot accomplish anything within the collective bargaining process per se, because of what happened in the past. I thought it turned out okay with the teachers, but obviously the government did not think it turned out okay. They would not go through the collective bargaining process. They might negotiate, but they are not going to tell us anything about it.
The Government Leader was criticized for not having lived up to his promises - that was when he could not tell us one thing he hoped to accomplish during this sitting of the Legislature. It had been found out that the Member for Watson Lake was supposed to have been speaking as a concerned citizen about the forestry transfer, but what he had really done was send a letter as the MLA, but he had not told the Government Leader that. That is just the first day. They finished off Question Period that day with the Government Leader standing up and telling us that, during his public consultative meetings, they ran out of time and did not have time for about 18,000 people here in the City of Whitehorse. He did not have time to have a meeting downtown, or in Riverdale.
That is the first day in the House. Whose fault was all of this? It is not my fault that they ran out of time and did not go visit the people in Riverdale. It is not my fault that the MLA for Watson Lake screwed up. It is not my fault that the Government Leader does not know what he wants to do, or that he has no plan or goals, or that he just goes from one crisis to the next.
It is not my fault the government is in all the trouble it is with respect to wage rollbacks. On Tuesday, we find out that there is no energy policy yet. This is the policy we have been promised for a year and a half now, this comprehensive energy policy. We got into some discussion about a contract on which we had been told that the money had not been spent. The Minister responsible for the Development Corporation said it was secret advice and it was in a Cabinet document and we were not going to get it. We again went into the wrangle of bargaining versus negotiating. The government did not do very well on that day either. It was not our fault; we had nothing to do with their image, or their communication strategy.
We moved on to Wednesday. Wednesday was an interesting day because we got into a discussion about when is a lawyer not a lawyer. It is when he is a consultant: the Boylan issue. So, instead of the government getting up and saying "We had him do this work. He is not licensed but we will get him licensed, and there is nobody in the Yukon who could do it," the Government Leader got up and contradicted himself. He said they went to local law firms, then he said they did not have to go to local law firms because it was sole-sourced. The Minister of Justice got up and went on about the qualifications and how he had to have this expertise in limited partnerships and all this legal expertise. The government took a fair bit of abuse for that whole initiative.
What else happened that day? There was more discussion about the Energy Corporation and privatization and contradictions there again, about whether the Minister was going to sell off the assets
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of the Energy Corporation or not - contradictions, inconsistencies, two Ministers trying to stand up and juggle the questions, one saying one thing and one standing up and saying another thing. It was not our fault that the government does not have a plan in place or does not have an energy policy in place or does not know whether it has Cabinet direction to look at privatization or not. Part of their four-year plan was to eliminate the Yukon Development Corporation. We are still trying to find out from this government what it means by that.
Wednesday night. What did we do Wednesday night?
Wednesday night, we had the gallery full of people, all of whom the Minister of Justice said were here at an NDP rally.
I agree with the Member for Whitehorse Centre, who said that there were people offended by the Minister of Justice's comments, because I certainly had constituents express to me that they thought that was a very smart alec comment and was entirely inappropriate, and that, of any of the Members, he should have known better.
We also debated the motion about health care on Wednesday, and I have already discussed how that went.
We now come to Thursday, April 21, which was budget day. I think the government got off fairly lightly on budget day. There were a lot of constituency-type questions; it was not exactly a power day, because we had the budget tabled.
Today in Question Period, the government again took a beating, because they will not stand up and tell people how it is, they will not give us the straight goods and, then, they complain when they are criticized and whine that it is not their fault, it is the media's fault.
Constituents of mine and other Yukoners have said to me - I just heard a lady say it tonight - that this is the most unpopular government in the history of the Yukon. This government has managed to alienate just about all Yukoners. Alienate is a good, kind word. I could use words that people are telling me, but they are unparliamentary.
That is from just about every group. I get feedback about the hospital situation from the doctors, the nurses and the other staff who work there. I get comments from people who have been patients, the teachers, the lawyers, the business community, women, public servants, the communities, Whitehorse residents, contractors, and members of their own party. I am sure that I have left some people out.
Surely these fellows, when they sit around the Cabinet table or the caucus table, are looking at more than just their navels. Can they not see beyond that? It is not my fault that they look bad. It is not the teachers' fault; it is not the business community's fault; it is not the media's fault. It was interesting to hear the Government Leader, upon the announcement of the Leader of the Official Opposition resigning as leader of this party in a year, say, "Well, you know, it is good; he has to take responsibility for what happened."
Order. The Member now has three minutes to conclude her remarks.
It is very nice that he recognizes that someone else has to take responsibility for their actions, but when is the Government Leader going to recognize that he has to take responsibility for his own actions and his Cabinet colleagues' actions, and not hold up a newspaper headline and say that it is all the newspaper's fault. It is an easy out to go to his party members. I understand some of the delegates or participants at the Yukon Party meeting saying they had to do something about the media; it was all the media's fault.
My recommendation to the government is to do something about themselves first. When they can do something about themselves and demonstrate that they can listen to people, that they have some principles, that they have a different attitude, they are not arrogant but have some opinions they can express on their own and do not just endorse whatever the government is doing whether they understand it or not, that they are going to treat people fairly and equitably, that they are going to fulfill some of their so-called promises, that if they stand up and say they have a plan they can enunciate what that plan is - then, maybe, things will change. But I am really not optimistic about it. I am not optimistic at all.
I may share some of the government's optimism that things may get better in the territory, because we go in highs and lows, and sooner or later things get so bad they are bound to get better. But I do not have any confidence that this government is going to get any better, and it is because my constituents do not have any confidence that they are going to get any better and because Yukoners do not have any confidence that they are going to get any better.
That is my message - the good, the bad and the ugly. I hope the government Members learn something from it.
I would like to speak to this budget by responding to a number of concerns that have been raised by previous speakers.
Before we can make sense of the document before us - the 1994-95 operation and maintenance estimates - we have to remember that a budget is a number of estimates of expenditure, revenue and recoveries. The budget is a snapshot, at a certain period of time, of what is planned to be spent in government departments in the coming year. What a picture this is.
One interesting page to look at in this budget is the financial summary on page 3. I certainly learn how to scrutinize budgets when I see how many ways there are to spend money without showing that the spending is actually going up. Total income has gone up $6.5 million. Revenues are increasing. In fact, money from Ottawa continues to grow. This government is not reducing its dependency on the federal government. This government is not helping to pay down the federal debt, as the Member for Porter Creek South likes to say. This morning, the Government Leader said that we did not get enough money from the federal government for the infrastructure program and that we need more money from Ottawa.
On this financial summary page, expenditures are shown as decreasing and expenditures are shown as being $11 million less than the total income. That shows we have fiscal responsibility and a government that knows how to get spending under control. However, we have not reached the bottom of the page. Next, we come to some interesting numbers. There are adjustments in future supplementary estimates. What have we here? What adjustments are they planning to make? They show, right here on the financial summary page - page 3 of the budget - a summary estimate for $4.5 million as a result of their reduction in Alaska Highway funding.
We have been told in the Legislature by the Government Leader, and in the budget lockup by Finance officials, to expect a capital summary for that $4.5 million. Perhaps they are going to bring in a supplementary to spend that money on a replacement J.V. Clark School in Mayo or a Grey Mountain Primary School. The Minister of Education campaigned on that platform, so I hope they are going to spend some money on schools. Perhaps they will spend it on the new school for Dawson that the Member for Klondike lobbied for today. The Government Leader did not look too excited about that idea, but the Minister of Education looked like he supported it.
The point here is, if they spend that $4.5 million on anything, and if they spend the money on the next line of the budget, a $2 million contingency fund for expected supplementary requirements,
Page Number 2282
ments, then presto, they have the biggest spending budget.
If you add $6.5 million to the $468,584,000 expenditures, then spending has not gone down. If they do not spend that $6.5 million, then the estimated accumulated deficit - another number that they have down here near the bottom of the page - the $6,217,000, is gone. This government cannot have it both ways. Either the government will spend a record $475 million, or they will not spend all of that money and, even by their own creative accounting, the deficit is gone.
We have here a budget unmatched in deception. No new taxes, trumpets the Government Leader. Well, tax revenues have risen, and they continue to rise under the tax increases brought in by this government last year.
We have over $45 million from income tax. Total tax revenue has gone up to over $61 million. The budget speech was full of jargon about fiscal responsibility and setting our house in order. What the budget speech did not acknowledge is that this government has laid out its priorities based on what it believes in.
Even though the government has increased revenues, they have made cuts where they want cuts. They are pouring big bucks into killing wolves, and they are cutting funding to transition and safe homes. The Minister of Health and Social Services bases that on the fact that transition homes are a low demand service. I guess that depends on whether or not you are the one in physical danger. Woman abuse is not a nine-to-five phenomenon. I cannot believe that cuts to transition homes is one of the ways that the Minister responsible for the Women's Directorate takes his responsibility very seriously.
The government also wants to roll back wages for teachers and public workers. They have no moral or financial justification for this.
The wage rollbacks are because of the government's disdain for working people. What really incenses the Yukon public about this government is its attitude problem. Whether you are a teacher, or unemployed, or on social assistance or a government worker, this government does not listen. This government thinks that, if you need special programs in school or in health care, you are worthless. The Ministers opposite think that, if you are on social assistance, you have done something to deserve whatever happens. A person without a job, who may be on social assistance is, according to the Minister of Health and Social Services, an alcohol abuser, a welfare bum or a cheat - worse than a cheat, a cheat watching TV Where did they get the money for a TV anyway; better cut social assistance some more. That is the message we heard from the Minister responsible for social services today.
This belief, that people are worthless, is what the government has acted on in this budget. The Minister of Health and Social Services stood up this afternoon, and he seemed to be quite proud of himself as he made personal attacks on Yukoners, as if the people had a lot of control over the machinations and decision making of this government. They do not. This government does not listen to Yukon people.
The Family Services Association is only one example of a non-government organization that does public service and is valuable in our community. Their caseload has gone up. People are waiting for service, but their funding has not increased. This government, again as a matter of principle, does not fund advocacy groups. It is interesting that, when the Minister of Health and Social Services was in Opposition, he thought NGOs should get increases equivalent to the growth of the overall budget spending. Today, NGOs are tails that wag the dog. Is it not amazing how things change when the government changes? Is it not amazing how attitudes change from the Opposition side of the House to the government side of the House?
The Minister of Community and Transportation Services has a very large budget: $62.5 million for operation and maintenance, $60 million for capital. I know people in my riding are looking forward to some jobs from the road construction work that is planned. I hope that the contracts and the jobs will go to Yukoners. We certainly have not heard anything very sympathetic from this government about Yukon workers - not even today. We did hear the Minister of Education explain that we on this side do not understand why businesses are closing. The Minister commented that Kelly Douglas was closing because they are paying high wages. That is typical - blame the working people of the Yukon.
Let us talk about the Public Service Commission budget for a minute. We have a whole new approach from the government for dealing with workers. The Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission announced that he is not proceeding, for the time being, on the proposed compensation restraint program - they are bargaining with the teachers.
The Minister will not tell us what they are doing with the Yukon Employees Union or when they will make a decision on when they will bargain with that organization.
I have to wonder what kind of bargaining it is that the government is engaged in with the Yukon Teachers Association. Do you know what we received from the Finance officials at the budget lockup on Thursday? We received a summary of the estimated payroll savings from the proposed compensation restraint legislation. This budget has factored in increment merit freezes, Yukon-bonus cuts, and a two percent wage rollback.
Whatever kind of bargaining they think that they are doing, I do not know. It is not free collective bargaining when we already have factored into the budget the results of their proposed compensation restraint program. I think that they want employees to beg - the government is not going to bargain. They have already factored those wage cuts into this budget.
I also wonder what they are doing in the Public Service Commission when the current government directory no longer lists corporate services and employment equity in the branch.
I find it interesting to hear the Minister of Education talk about gender equality in the education system. Page 101 in the Education budget refers to the demand for journeymen level examination. I know the Members opposite groan when I talk about gender-biased language or when I promote inclusive language, but the Minister cannot talk about gender equality and, at the same time, use sexist language.
The Minister also says that education and training have gone up. When we look at the grants and contributions, we see that the Yukon College contribution grant stays the same. With inflation, a zero increase is the same as a cut. Meanwhile, the college has operating funding shortfalls of over $2 million and capital shortfalls of $110,000. This shortfall is all the more serious given that the college is projecting an increase in enrollment for the coming year.
How can the government justify a $2 million slush fund, a $2 million contingency fund, but no increase when its only post-secondary educational institution is experiencing such shortfalls?
The personnel line also shows a decrease of 14 percent, or $178,000. With such a cut, how can the college provide the increased staffing necessary for new programs listed in their programs plan, such as the bachelor of social work, women's studies and the northern human service worker program. At a time when people do not have jobs, we need education and training programs.
I need to say something good about the budget. On the transfer payments page within the Department of Education, I see that the funding to the Native Language Centre has increased. The Minister was talking about the fact that the program was getting more money. That might mean that, in my riding, the students of Golden
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Horn School could have Southern Tutchone lessons. I know that the parents and students at that school wanted native language and could not have it; that might be a good thing that could come from this.
I also look at the Yukon Teachers Association professional development fund. The Public Service Commission has a large budget here for staff training. However, the Yukon Teachers Association shows the professional development fund forecast in 1993-94 at $255,000. They did not spend anywhere near that, but that was the forecast. That has presently been reduced to $90,000. Teachers work long hours. During the summer, many teachers spend what could be their summer vacations doing upgrading. Teachers have the highest training level of any professionals, and most of that is done at their own expense. There is certainly no commitment for training from the government opposite.
We also see a slight increase in the Yukon native teacher education program. I hope that, with the increase, they will also have autonomy from the government.
The budget also shows a decrease of two percent of the total value of the Yukon training allowances. There is an asterisk note here that the average training allowance was greater in 1993-94 due to a greater number of persons with dependents undergoing training. Does this mean that fewer parents and single parents will be receiving training in 1994-95? Why would this be? Would we not want to see an increase in this group rather than a decrease, given that lack of education, and lack of access to education, is a significant barrier to people being able to get off social assistance and provide an income above the poverty line for themselves and their families?
The government likes to trot out statistics to serve their message of the day. Some days things are terrible, there is a financial crisis, and there is a $64 million debt. They really need to get their lines together on that side of the House.
The Minister of Health and Social Services stood up, ranted and raved about the $64 million debt and, then, the Member for Klondike stood up and ranted and raved about the $13 million debt.
The Government Leader tells us that retail sales are up. Business people who live in my riding are not finding their retail sales improving. As the Finance critic noted, businesses are closing. Some of my constituents are being laid off. Hard-working people are trying to stay in the Yukon. I know that people in my riding are being forced to leave the Yukon. People are on social assistance here in the Yukon, because there are no jobs.
Now we are supposed to believe the government's good news; it is a good-news day. They did write the Government Leader a good speech, and we are entering into a decade of prosperity. That would be wonderful, if it were true.
The fiscally responsible Tories have brought us another record-spending budget. They are bragging about their tourism marketing commitment for $500,000 and they are spending twice that killing a few dozen wolves. There is fiscal responsibility.
Their current claims of prosperity are, unfortunately, just ridiculous. I look forward to the budget debate to ask many more detailed questions on issues that we have been raising today and about the concerns with the departments for which I am responsible.
Hon. Mr. Brewster:
I can probably make more sense in five minutes than what I have listened to in the last two and one-half hours.
Some Hon. Member:
Hon. Mr. Brewster:
See, I have the hecklers going already; that is quite all right. I sometimes wonder, at my age, what a rotten, miserable person I have been all my life and I did not realize it until those people started telling me. I am a little afraid to go home and tell my wife. She has been living with me for 39 years and she thinks I am pretty nice and has indicated she will stay with me until I go to the happy hunting grounds, but if she ever hears the characters on the other side, I am afraid that I will not have a wife for very long.
I never realized in my life that I am such a miserable, ornery, haywire person. But it is quite apparent I am because it is the gospel truth what they are saying. They are always right; they are right all the time; they have all the answers; they know everything. There is no question about it.
I find this continual attack on me and the wolves really interesting. I, and everybody in this Legislature and the Yukon will remember very well the political debate that went on. One of the questions asked was, "Would you carry out the wolf program?" There was an immediate yes from here and from the Liberal Leader, and a little yes here. They never would have done it. They would never have kept their honour on that. This should have been done long before we were here, but they would not do it.
They also cancelled their program
Some Hon. Member:
Hon. Mr. Brewster:
If the Member wants to talk, sure. He has been talking all day. If he wants to talk, get up, and I will sit down. I have no problem.
They also cancelled their program. Two years went by; they spent a lot of money, and then they cancelled it before they could even prove anything. We now have a problem in that area, which would have been solved when they first came in, but no, they cancelled it.
It just amazes me. I guess they want to hear themselves talk. I get sick and tired of that. I like to get the business done, much like the Member for Tatchun. I have agreed with him so often that he should be over here with me. He and I get along real good. We do not like this kind of talk. We like to get things done, but everybody wants to get up and make a big show of themselves, especially when the press is here, and everything is good.
Any man who would come into this snake pit and live in here has something wrong with him. It is a snake pit. That is what it is. We waste time in here.
I see that the Leader of the Official Opposition thinks this is funny. He likes to talk for two or three hours at a time. He does not say anything, but he likes to talk. I would rather have a one-page summary, get it over with and go and do what is on that page.
Some Hon. Member:
Hon. Mr. Brewster:
I think that the young lady from Riverdale likes me, too. She just does not want to admit it. If they all love me, I am in trouble. That demonstrates just what I said: there is a lot of hogwash talk around here that does not really mean a lot.
Would Members please allow the Minister to speak.
Hon. Mr. Brewster:
Mr. Speaker, the Minister is so dumbfounded that so many people love him after 13 years in this place I am not sure I can speak. Perhaps I should sit down while I am ahead. I am just amazed. I even have some on this side who love me once in a while - just once in a while, though.
I would be very scared that, if we had a vote right now, that I might win this unanimously. It would be one of the first times that ever happened in this Legislature. I would be petrified if that happened. I would have to go look at myself in the mirror to see if I had changed because, instead of them calling me names, they would all love me now.
After what you have all said, I am not sure that I even want to make a speech. You all have the answers, we all know this. You
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have told the Auditor General that he knows nothing.
I find that funny because, when I first came in here, the Hon. Leader of the Opposition was with Public Accounts, and he taught me a lot. I will admit that. He thought that was one of the only organizations that there was - everything had to be very proper, and I admire him for that. Now, all of a sudden, his party is standing up and saying that what they publish is no good, and that it is not the truth any more. It just amazes me that he would change like that.
The time being 9:30 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.