Monday, December 5, 1994 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I rise today on behalf of my colleagues to express our deepest sympathy for Mr. Lucien Bouchard and his family. As we learned last week, Mr. Bouchard has been afflicted with a life-threatening virus and remains in a Montreal hospital. On Friday, I also expressed our wishes for a speedy recovery in a letter to the Bouchard family.
The speed with which the affliction occurred surprised all of us, as did the nature of the affliction and its effect on Mr. Bouchard. We can only hope that he is able to return as soon as possible to his family and his parliamentary duties.
I am sure that we in this House can all agree that our political and philosophical differences pale before the human tragedy that we have witnessed here. As Mr. Bouchard, his wife and two small children face this crisis together, we wish them to know that our thoughts are with them.
Mr. Penikett: I had the pleasure of meeting and dealing with Mr. Bouchard when he was a federal Minister. Au nom de l'opposition official, j'aimerais souhaiter à monsieur Bouchard un prompt rétablissement. Nous espérons tous quiil pourra reprendre bientôt ses fonctions.
[Translation: On behalf of the Official Opposition, I want to wish M. Bouchard a speedy
recovery. We hope that he will soon be able to return to his public duties.]
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.Introduction of Visitors.Returns or Documents for tabling.
RETURNS OR DOCUMENTS FOR TABLING
Speaker: I have for tabling the report of the Auditor General of Canada on "any other matter" for the year ended March 31, 1993, the report of the Auditor General of Canada on the Financial Statements of the Government of the Yukon for the year ended March 31, 1994, the Annual Report for the Yukon Human Rights Commission for the year ended March 31, 1994, and a report from the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly on deductions from the indemnities of Members of the Legislative Assembly made pursuant to subsection 39(6) of the Legislative Assembly Act.
Are there any further Reports or Documents for tabling?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have for tabling the year-end report for the Yukon Energy
Corporation and the Yukon Development Corporation for the year ended December 31, 1993.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Introduction of Bills?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 99: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 99, entitled Ombudsman Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 99, entitled Ombudsman Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 99 agreed to
Bill No. 50: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 50, entitled Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 50, entitled Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 50 agreed to
Bill No. 64: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that Bill No. 64, An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 64, entitled An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 64 agreed to
Bill No. 59: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that Bill No. 59, entitled An Act to Amend the Small Claims Court Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 59, entitled An Act to Amend the Small Claims Court Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 59 agreed to
Bill No. 83: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that Bill No. 83, entitled An Act to Amend the Business Corporations Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 83, entitled An Act to Amend the Business Corporations Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 83 agreed to
Bill No. 61: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that Bill No. 61, entitled An Act to Amend the Legal Services Society Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 61, entitled An Act to Amend the Legal Services Society Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for the introduction and first reading of Bill No. 61 agreed to
Bill No. 43: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that Bill No. 43, entitled Electronic Registration (Department of Justice Statutes) Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 43, entitled Electronic Registration (Department of Justice Statutes) Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for the introduction and first reading of Bill No. 43 agreed to
Bill No. 101: Introduction and First Reading
Mrs. Firth: I move that Bill No. 101, entitled An Act to Amend the College Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Member for Riverdale South that Bill No. 101, entitled An Act to Amend the College Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for the introduction and first reading of Bill No. 101 agreed to
Bill No. 102: Introduction and First Reading
Mrs. Firth: I move that Bill No. 102, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Member for Riverdale South that Bill No. 102, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for the introduction and first reading of Bill No. 102 agreed to
Bill No. 35: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that Bill No. 35, entitled An Act to Amend the Agricultural Products Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Renewable Resources that Bill No. 35, entitled An Act to Amend the Agricultural Products Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for the introduction and first reading of Bill No. 35 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further Bills to be introduced?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
NOTICES OF MOTION FOR THE PRODUCTION OF PAPERS
Mrs. Firth: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the House do issue an order for the return of all reports and recommendations made
by Terry Boylan under his various contracts for the investigation of options for, and
negotiations on, the restructuring of the ownership of the Yukon Energy Corporation.
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Penikett: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the Public Government Act, passed by this House on June 2, 1992, should be proclaimed.
Mr. McDonald: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the House urges Yukon Party government to support the Whitehorse mining initiative.
I further give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Party's Yukon Party Government
Mid-Term Report is misleading and partisan and, therefore, should not be
funded by the taxpayers.
Ms. Commodore: I give notice of a motion respecting the obligations under the umbrella final agreement, and also a motion respecting children in care.
Ms. Moorcroft: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that, based on its practice over the course of the past two years, the Yukon Party government conducts its business in secrecy, the Yukon Party government shows lack of respect for the law and the Yukon Party government governs according to the interests of a select partisan constituency; and further
THAT this House believes that it is imperative that an open, democratic, honest and accountable government be reestablished in the Yukon.
Mr. Harding: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT, given the serious concerns that have been raised publicly over the past year about the Workers' Compensation Board and its personnel policy, the future of client services and accountability, the Government of Yukon call the president and the board to appear as witnesses before Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Further, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of the Yukon should immediately set up an independent public inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act to investigate the question of foreign ownership in the Yukon outfitting industry.
Mrs. Firth: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of the House that the Committee of the Whole call the Department of Finance officials as witnesses during the Committee debates on budgetary measures, including the loan write-offs to Curragh Inc. and Taga Ku Development Corporation.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon provide annually, at the beginning of each calendar year, a boards and committees handbook, which includes for each board authority, department or agency, function, composition, members, appointment, decision authority, remuneration, and contact and that this publication be made available to the public upon request.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that in the interest of Yukon taxpayers and for the public good the House resume the practice of a fall sitting and a spring sitting each year.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that in the best interests of the stakeholders, the people of the Yukon, that the proposed and other amendments to the Environment Act be considered through a full public consultative process.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of the House that the Committee of the Whole call the Yukon College president and Yukon College board chair as witnesses during the Committee debates on budgetary measures regarding the Yukon College in the Department of Education budget.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of the House that the Committee of the Whole call the president and chair of the board of the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation as witnesses during all Committee of the Whole debate on the budget of the Yukon Development Corporation.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that this government does not have a mandate to privatize the Yukon Energy Corporation and, further, that the Minister of Justice should instruct the Yukon Utilities Board to initiate proceedings to ensure that full public debate and public review of the issue of privatization is carried out.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of the House that Committee of the Whole call the president of the Yukon Housing Corporation as witness during all Committee of the Whole debate on the budget of the Yukon Housing Corporation.
And finally - I have saved the best for the last - I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon's Department of
Education consider including in the new capital budget, 1995-96, funds to build and
complete a new school for Grey Mountain Primary.
Speaker: Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Full-time Chief Yukon Government Land Claims Negotiator Appointed
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would like to take this opportunity to provide the House with further details on the Yukon government's throne speech commitments to complete negotiations and implement land claims and self-government agreements and, at the same time, to meet the federal Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development's objective of completing devolution in a three- to four-year time period.
The settlement of the Yukon land claims has been, and will continue to be, one of the Yukon government's top priorities.
With the imminent passage of the surface rights legislation, land claims agreements of the Vuntut Gwitchin, the Teslin Tlingit Council, the Na-Cho Ny'ak Dun and the Champagne- Aishihik First Nations can be implemented and the Yukon government is prepared to meet its implementation responsibilities.
Our government is anxious to conclude agreements with the other 10 Yukon First Nations in order that they, too, will be in a better position to take advantage of the economic opportunities that the Yukon's economic prosperity will bring.
To achieve these objectives, I have appointed Mr. Tim McTiernan as a full-time negotiator. Mr. McTiernan has extensive knowledge of the Yukon Indian land claims and is to become the chief Yukon government negotiator, and will report directly to me as Government Leader. Mr. McTiernan's major task will be to expedite the land claims settlement process in Yukon.
In addition, Mr. McTiernan will coordinate and manage all devolution responsibilities across government. It is essential that the transfer of provincial-type responsibilities to Yukon proceed in concert and be compatible with the claim settlements of Yukon First Nations. The chief Yukon government negotiator will be responsible for ensuring this coordination.
The settlement of all 14 Yukon First Nation claims and the transfer of the remaining land and resources to Yukon government control will create a new constitutional framework for Yukon. The longstanding dream of Yukoners ultimately being able to control and manage their own affairs will become a reality.
Mr. John Lawson, the current Deputy Minister of Justice, will take over responsibility for the Executive Council Office and will assume the duties of Cabinet Secretary.
Both Mr. McTiernan and Mr. Lawson will assume their new duties in mid to late January.
Ms. Commodore: I think the Government Leader has finally done something with whichYukon First Nations will be pleased with. He has appointed a full-time land claims negotiator, and that is a very positive move. It is unfortunate that it was not done two years ago. The Government Leader has been talking about what a priority land claims has been, and it has taken him more than two years to make this appointment. I wonder why the Government Leader is waiting until the end of January. As I understood it from him in the past, land claims negotiations were ongoing.
What is also interesting, according to the throne speech, is that land claims has gone down to number four on his list of priorities, and that is pretty upsetting. Because he has been doing this over the past two years, I think Mr. McTiernan is a fair choice for a full-time negotiator. However, I am concerned about his responsibilities as the person who will also be fully responsible for devolution. We know that consultation on devolution with First Nations has been a problem with this government over the last two years. With Mr. McTiernan's responsibilities in this area, I hope the government will be a bit more serious about consultations that appear to have been a problem in the past.
The Government Leader has announced that Mr. John Lawson, the Deputy Minister of Justice, will be replacing Mr. McTiernan in the Executive Council Office and, as most of us know, Mr. Lawson has filled this position in the past.
Does the Government Leader have a replacement for Mr. Lawson in the Department of Justice? That will also be a very important decision that has to be made, because of the kinds of things that are happening in that area.
I can only say that it is about time, and the Government Leader should do this now,
instead of waiting until January.
Mr. Cable: The Government Leader has signaled, both in the throne speech and in this statement, that completing the land claims and negotiating the transfer of resources is, and will be, a priority. I would like to compliment him on his choice for the negotiator. A steady hand has been put in place for two very difficult jobs. It will remain to be seen whether the linkage of the two of them is positive or negative.
There is one very significant question that remains, and it is in relation to the devolution issue. As the negotiations proceed, what sort of structures will be put in place to make sure the policies are in place and that the legislation is ready to go as soon as the ink is dry on the agreements? I know there has been some concern expressed on this side of the House, particularly in relation to the forestry transfer, that there will be policy vacuums as soon as a transfer has taken place. It would be useful to hear from the Government Leader whether there will be an after-the-fact approach to devolution, or a before-the-fact approach.
I would also like to hear from the Government Leader on the issue raised by the Member
for Whitehorse Centre about who is going to replace the Deputy Minister of Justice. There
are a number of very important justice issues that are ongoing. We have had a number of
deputy ministers over the years. On this side of the House, we would like to have the
comfort that there will also be a steady hand in that position.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will be happy to respond to the questions and concerns of the Members opposite.
First of all, the Member opposite says that things have been standing still for two years in land claims. I would disagree with her on that. It has to be remembered that it was this government that made land claims a priority after the previous administration allowed the settlement legislation to die on the Order Paper while they called an election.
We also led an all-party committee of the Legislative Assembly around the Yukon to explain the legislation. We also helped CYI in its lobbying efforts in Ottawa, and we took a delegation, including the Leader of the Official Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Party, to Ottawa.
We have not held up the land claims process at all. We have done everything we can to expedite it, and I think it is moving along quite nicely.
The reason for the appointment not taking place until mid or late January is that this is the Christmas season. Everything in Ottawa is going to come to a stop as some Members take holidays. Others will be away in their ridings. Along with that, the settlement legislation is still in front of the Senate and will not be passed until possibly some time in January, I understand from listening to today's news.
We also need time to find a replacement for the Deputy Minister of Justice. I believe we will be advertising very shortly. That is the reason for making the announcement now, so we can go ahead and advertise to fill that position. We hope there will not be too much lag time between when we make the move and when the new Deputy Minister of Justice will be in place.
With respect to a policy vacuum, I disagree with the Member for Riverside about that. First of all, it is important for us to get the devolution of the responsibilities over to the territorial government before we start making policy. In the negotiation of the package, there is funding for making policy and legislation and regulations, and that is what we will be doing with the forestry devolution. There will not be a policy vacuum. Forestry will continue under federal legislation until such time as our legislation is in place - the same as what has transpired with the Northern Accord. There is no policy vacuum.
The reason I am tying devolution to land claims is that they must go hand in hand. We cannot have devolution moving ahead of the land claims negotiations. We are in discussions with the First Nations about setting up the senior coordinating committee. The First Nations have been briefed by the federal DIAND Minister that it is his wish to move ahead with devolution in conjunction with land claims, and we have made the commitment in the throne speech and in this statement today that we are prepared to meet the challenges and to meet the timetable the Minister of DIAND has set out. It is important - very important - that both devolution and land claims proceed parallel to each other and that one not get ahead of the other.
Mine training initiatives
Hon. Mr. Phelps: As this session begins, I think all of us have been happy to note that, economically speaking, a spirit of optimism is beginning to take hold in the Yukon. In harmony with that mood, it is my pleasure today to announce two important initiatives in mine training.
Late last week, I signed a funding agreement transferring $200,000 to Yukon College to immediately commence entry level mine training in a number of Yukon communities - communities that have excellent prospects for new mining jobs in the coming months and years.
In Ross River in particular, I am pleased to announce that my officials have concluded an agreement with the Ross River Dene Development Corporation, by which my department and Cominco will jointly fund a human resources skills inventory in the community to better identify the training gaps we need to fill. Cominco has given assurances that trained First Nation members in Ross River would be given preference on entry level positions when the Cominco mine opens.
The advanced education branch of my department, working in partnership with Yukon College, has consulted with representatives of the mining industry to identify training priorities in that sector. The result is this substantial supplementary grant to the college that will offer mine training courses and target communities such as Carmacks, Ross River, Mayo and Dawson City and such others as may be deemed to be appropriate in the future.
A recent federal study, undertaken in concert with the Mining Association of Canada, the Canadian Institute of Mining Metallurgy and Petroleum, and the United Steelworkers of America, entitled Breaking New Ground, recommends an expansion of just such entry level courses, particularly in northern and aboriginal communities.
Courses being planned through the college funding agreement focus on basic skills and mine safety, such as basic pneumatic and hydraulic principles, electrical machinery safety and the safe use of oxyacetylene. However, an industry-based advisory body to assist the college will help to determine what other courses are required, and to ensure that the training offered is what the industry and the community need. The establishment of this advisory body is partly in response to the recent evaluation of Yukon College, which recommended closer links between the college and industry, particularly, the mining industry.
By no means does this initiative stand alone. It is a logical follow-up to extensive academic upgrading and other pre-employment training offered by the college throughout the Yukon, with the assistance of Human Resource Development Canada, at a value of over $900,000 for each of the last two years. It is also the latest in a series of mining-related training activities offered over the last two years through regular Yukon College programming, the apprenticeship program, trades upgrading at the journey level and special courses funded through training trusts in Faro and Watson Lake. Unfortunately, all of these courses have attempted to prepare Yukoners for mining jobs that, until now, did not seem to exist.
At long last, a new mining boom looms on the horizon, indicated in part by a
quadrupling of exploration activity over the past two years. The industry is poised to
resume its traditional place as the wellspring of the Yukon economy. With this shot in the
arm to training, the community campuses of Yukon College will help to ensure that Yukoners
are the first to benefit from this coming boom.
Ms. Moorcroft: As this session begins, I am pleased to hear that this government is providing support for training. I would like to add that the present economic optimism of which the Minister speaks has occurred in spite of, not because of, this government's involvement with the economy.
I am pleased that the Yukon Party government will be injecting $200,000 into training for mines. As some of you may know, the Member for Faro and I recently visited many Yukon communities, including Ross River, Carmacks, Mayo and Dawson City. We heard of the need for training, and $200,000 divided by the four communities mentioned will not go a long way.
As the Minister mentioned, in 1991 the NDP government contributed $200,000 toward the Faro training trust fund and $500,000 to a Watson Lake training trust fund. He may also remember that this $700,000 was for two communities and that, because of this funding, the federal government and mine companies also kicked in financial support.
He may also remember that the previous government showed this support when the mines were active, as was pointed out during our last session so long ago and, most recently, at the Geoscience Forum by the president of the Yukon Chamber of Mines.
This government has missed the boat on training. The Yukon Party government has let their responsibility lapse for two years. It is precisely when people are out of work - and the Yukon has seen record unemployment for the past two years - that the government should be investing with training dollars in its human resources. The Yukon Party government has waited during two years of a private sector economic downturn to bring in 12 apprenticeship positions and today's announcement of very little money to support training programs in four communities.
I would like to remind the Minister that the apprenticeship program was cancelled in 1989 because the economy was good and the private sector was booming. A record number of apprentices was being funding by the healthy private sector. We felt that the government commitment should be curtailed in that high period. It is unfortunate that this government has decided to wait two years into a private sector bust to bring back half of the program that was implemented by the previous government.
While in the communities, several people in Ross River expressed an interest in participating in mining training initiatives. I hope that members of the Ross River Dena Council are given the training and opportunities they need to support their community. These opportunities will no doubt also include management and entrepreneurial positions.
The Minister may know that many of the programs currently offered by Yukon College in the communities are excellent initiatives and are already being used as a basis for training specific to mines. I commend Yukon College for its foresight and determination to offer these useful courses. There is also a need for continued training opportunities in areas outside the mining sector, so as to avoid a complete reliance on a cyclical economy.
In closing, I would like to suggest to this government that a continued freeze on the
Yukon College budget will not help Yukon College, or the territory, or our citizens, to
meet our complete range of training needs.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: A few of the comments of the hon. Member opposite do deserve some response. She mentioned that the president of the Yukon Chamber of Mines had chastised the government for not having enough training in place for the current boom. It is interesting that they approached the Yukon territorial government in 1987 and the Government of Yukon's response was not only to do nothing, but to cancel the apprenticeship program in the government. She states that was because the economy was booming, yet during those years of the so-called boom, the welfare rolls increased greatly. In fact, the amount spent on welfare during those years - during the so-called boom - went from some $3 million in 1989 to over $9 million by the end of 1992.
Sometimes, it seems to me, the side opposite ought to get its facts straight and not be too misleading in the remarks it makes in this Legislature.
QUESTION PERIODQuestion re: Yukon Energy Corporation
Mr. Penikett: I have a couple of questions for the Government Leader.
On the radio the other day, the Government Leader explained that the Yukon Energy Corporation was not for sale to southern interests and then he added these weasel words: "for the foreseeable future". Could I ask the Government Leader why, as a matter of policy, he does not just say, "No, the Yukon Energy Corporation is not for sale to southern interests - not now and not later."
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The reason I stated that in those terms is that in the unforeseeable event that we may lose office some day, we did not want to compromise the Member opposite. He may want to continue on the road he started on with Yukon Energy Corporation to rationalize assets shortly after he took them over from the Northern Canada Power Commission.
Mr. Penikett: I am sorry to see the Government Leader babbling so early in the session.
From the Government Leader's words, it seems, between the time the Yukon Energy Corporation was under the loving care and attention of the former Government Leader - sitting to his right - and the time it has moved to the tender mercies of the present Government Leader, government policy has changed, although we are not yet clear exactly how.
In light of the suggestion just made by the Government Leader that the Energy Corporation may not be for sale to southern interests, would the Government Leader explain his contract with Mr. Terry Boylan of Vancouver, which provides for a study of "... divesting an equity interest or interests in Yukon Energy Corporation to a publicly traded corporation, the Association of Yukon Communities, or both...", and a study of a joint-venture partnership agreement as between CYI, YEC and Canadian Utilities (Yukon Electrical Company Limited). Could the Government Leader explain the contradiction between the instructions given to Mr. Boylan and what he seemed to say just a few minutes ago on the floor of this House?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There is no contradiction between the terms of reference for Mr. Boylan's contract and the position taken by this government. The contract clearly states: "to explore". It does not give him the mandate to do it at all. He was exploring options on behalf of the Cabinet. Certainly, we are talking to First Nations about their buying up to about 30 percent of the Energy Corporation. First Nations are interested in jobs and in putting people to work. They wanted to talk to YECL. Those were the broad parameters of what Mr. Boylan could do.
The Cabinet mandate is quite clear about what we intended to do. The first phase of
this has not gone anywhere. I addressed this in the throne speech, saying it was dead for
the time being - until such time as First Nations can come up with some funding. That was
the first priority. Until that priority was looked after, nothing else was being
negotiated away, as the Member opposite would like to say it is.
Mr. Penikett: If I understand the Government Leader correctly, the Vancouver lawyer has been hired at a large sum of money to explore and investigate a dead issue. He says the Cabinet position is perfectly clear. It is not clear to me and it may not be clear to other Members here. I wonder if he could explain the Cabinet's position to us and indicate if the quote attributed to the president of the Energy Corporation, in his attendance at the Utilities Board review process, which indicates that government policy is, "... toward a greater integration of YEC, YECL organization and ownership", is accurate. Was the statement by the president of the Energy Corporation stating the government position or not?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It certainly was not a statement of government position and, in fact, when I checked with the president of the energy corporation he does not recall making that statement. Other people who were at the hearing, of which I attended a very small portion, said that they did not recall him making that statement either. I want to make it quite clear, for the record, that it certainly is not the position of the Yukon government.Question re: Energy document
Mr. Penikett: The statement comes from a document I received from the Utility Consumers Group, which is attributed to this government. It is in writing and uses words like "YEC believes", et cetera, which indicates very clearly that it is a government document. I will have to come back to that.
I want to ask the Government Leader a question with respect to the relationship between the Energy Corporation, which is owned by the people of the Yukon, and the private company, which is owned and controlled by a gentleman in Alberta: since this government has indicated that it is merging the management of both the private company and the public company, could the Government Leader explain to us how that merger is in the public interest?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Surely the Member opposite is fully aware that the operations of YECL and YEC are very close together. In the hearings process, they were a lot closer together to save money. At no time has this government given any instructions or any mandate to anyone to merge the assets of the two corporations. Clearly, that is not something in which this government is interested.
Mr. Penikett: I was asking about the mergers of the management. Yukon Electrical Company Limited is both the manager of YEC's assets and its competitor. YEC and YECL have taken a position, I understand, in favour of a weakened Public Utilities Board.
I read the submission that proposed, among other things, that perhaps the Alberta Public Utilities Board should regulate power rates here. I want to ask the Government Leader, given the merger of the management and, given a weaker Public Utilities Board, who exactly is going to be protecting the public interest in these electrical rate, energy policy and hydro management questions?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Clearly, the problem here is the half-truths and sometimes, I would say, almost misleading statements of the Member opposite. I only have to look at this publication they put out - talk about only telling half the story. I could go through it, clause after clause, and point out where he has not put a statement of fact, and where the allegations made are totally unfounded.
The Utilities Board has the mandate to be the watchdog for the consumers. That is its role. All Yukoners know that the road show we had at the last rate hearings, and the cost that added some three percent to the ratepayers' power bills because of the hearing process, had to be rationalized. That is what the review of the Utilities Board is all about. Even the Utilities Board itself recommended that there be some streamlining and rationalizing of its duties. For the record, the Utilities Board is the watchdog for the consumers in the Yukon.
Mr. Penikett: I will pursue that issue later, and I would have to say that, if there is any misinformation in my publication, the government has only itself to blame, because all the information put in there comes from it. If there are half-truths there, it owns them.
Exactly how does the possible foreseeable future of privatization of the Yukon Energy Corporation fit into this government's comprehensive energy policy, which has not been made public yet, at least not to this side of the House?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know how many times we have to state that the Yukon Energy Corporation will remain in its present form. As far as me saying "the foreseeable future", does he want me to stand here and say "for eternity"? I cannot do that. We have made it very clear what we intend to do, and we have never talked about privatization. The Members opposite talked about privatization.
The Member opposite is the one who negotiated the First Nations' self-government agreements and, now, because we are divesting to another level of government, he calls it privatization.Question re: Casino gambling
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Government Leader on the gambling issue. In the Speech from the Throne, the Government Leader indicated that his government has agreed in principle with the construction of a tourist-oriented gambling casino in Whitehorse. He then went on to say that he had accepted the recommendations of the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment with respect to video lottery terminals.
In the council's report on gambling, they made another recommendation that, if the government decided to proceed with expanded casino gambling, then it should do it in the context of two policies. The first policy was one that should be established on the objectives to be accomplished with respect to all aspects of gambling in conjunction with the Yukon tourism policy and the economic development policy. The second policy recommended was one developed and implemented with respect to the expansion of casino gambling, including ownership, management, operation and profits distribution.
Has the Government Leader accepted those recommendations and, if so, is he prepared to table the two policies recommended by the Council?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I just want to say to the Member opposite that he is quite correct. We outlined in the throne speech that we agree in principle with the expansion of a casino in Whitehorse. We are looking at the recommendations made by the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, which said that there was some support for an expanded casino in Whitehorse. We have discussed revenue-sharing with First Nations for a couple of months now and we will be speaking with other players and parties.
I want to reassure the Member opposite that we have said that we agree in principle; there is a lot of work to be done on it yet and we are going to move very cautiously. We do not want to see a proliferation of casinos throughout the Yukon, so we are going to approach it in a very slow and cautious manner.
Mr. Cable: I am not sure what the Government Leader is saying. Perhaps he is saying that an agreement in principle still leaves the door open to a "no" answer.
Let me ask this question and perhaps he could direct it to his Minister of Tourism: in order to determine what sort of benefit would arise as a result of the tourist business, were there any questions asked in the visitors exit survey on the issue of gambling - whether people would come to the Yukon and be attracted to gambling?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Offhand, I cannot recall whether there were specific gambling questions. However, I can tell the Member that, from people with whom I spoke in Dawson, the tourists who go through Dawson City leave several hundred thousand dollars a year and do partake in gambling activities as part of their trip through the Yukon.
As to whether or not there was a question on gambling in that survey, I would have to check and get back to the Member.
Mr. Cable: The issue is being touted in the Speech from the Throne as a tourist-oriented gambling casino.
Let me ask a question of the Minister of Health and Social Services on the other side of gambling. Has the Minister's department done any projections on the social costs associated with the gambling enterprise? I am referring to the cost of additional addiction workers and the additional policing costs.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, we have reviewed at length the literature available, from right across Canada, on the issue. The numbers and the kind of projections of increased needs on the social end would depend very largely on the kind of casino that would be opened: whether it is seasonal, how large it is, and so on. So it is premature to make final projections until we have gone beyond the in principle stage and have an understanding of exactly what kind of an operation is being contemplated.
Question re: Coal-fired electrical generation
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation. The government has made it clear that it wants to use the coal reserves at Braeburn to generate electricity and has apparently provided positive signals to the project proponents, at least positive enough for them to announce at the Geoscience Forum that discussions were underway with the government. Can the Minister tell us what specific instructions the government has given to Yukon Energy Corporation to pursue coal-fired electrical generation, and specifically to pursue the Division Mountain coal project for the purposes of electrical generation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite may recall, the previous Minister responsible for the Energy Corporation made a statement in the House here about a year ago, I believe, saying that they had changed the mandate of the Development Corporation so that it would be all right to look at coal as an alternative for electrical generation. As a result of that statement, it sparked the interest in the Division Mountain property, which has now come up with substantial coal reserves.
Talks between the Energy Corporation and the proponents of Division Mountain are very, very preliminary at this stage. The proponents of the property have a lot of work to do yet. They do not have any figures as to what the costs would be - whether they want to mine the coal and sell it to somebody else to produce the power or whether they want to come in under an IPP. Those things are all very, very preliminary at this time.
Mr. McDonald: Preliminary or not, the proponents at the Geoscience Forum made it very clear that active discussions with the territorial government were underway, and that gives us the hint that perhaps there is more to the discussions than the Minister has let out. So, he is saying, essentially, that no specific directions, other than the ministerial statement, have been given to the Yukon Energy Corporation with respect to coal-fired electrical generation. Is that correct? Have I got that right or wrong?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I understand that the Development Corporation has done a study analysis on coal-fired generation, which should be completed before Christmas. That is what they were doing. When the word was out in public that the Energy Corporation and the Development Corporation were prepared to look at coal as a viable source of energy to produce electricity, the proponents of the Division Mountain property started to do exploration work there. A report is coming out some time in the near future.
Mr. McDonald: Again I ask the Minister: have he, his government or his Ministers provided any direction, other than as stated in the ministerial statement, to the Yukon Energy Corporation asking them to pursue coal-fired generation? Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not sure what the Member is trying to get at. We said it was all right for them to look at it as an alternative, and that is what they are doing. Archer Cathro & Associates wrote us a letter asking for support and we said that in principle we support coal-fired electrical generation in the Yukon. I believe it is the answer to our power needs in the Yukon. I think it is a viable source of energy in the Yukon.
Question re: Coal-fired electrical power generation
Mr. McDonald: It is interesting that the Minister has made such a strong statement in favour of coal-fired electrical generation, when we still have not received a feasibility study that would tell us whether or not this project is economically viable. I will discuss that further in a minute.
The Government Leader has indicated that Archer Cathro & Associates approached the government with the project idea for the Division Mountain coal-fired power generation plant. Is it a fact that Archer Cathro approached the government, or did the government approach Archer Cathro?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We received a letter from Archer Cathro, asking not only for the Division Mountain coal property for electrical generation, but also to support them in export markets if, in fact, their reserves prove adequate.
Mr. McDonald: Now, Mr. Carne, from Archer Cathro indicated in the news, and I quote, "The territorial government Cabinet has indicated to us that they are very keen for us to do this", meaning this project, "and they would very much like us to go ahead, but of course we explained to them that without some promises of some sort of contract down the road, we cannot possibly raise that kind of money."
Could the Minister tell us what commitments the Yukon government has given to Archer Cathro, or to Cash Resources Ltd., to make them feel so positive about this project and to give them the level of comfort that they have so far done a fair amount of exploration work, and have even conducted a community tour to explain the project to people who live in the area?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If the Member opposite is asking if we have entered into a memorandum of understanding or a contract with Archer Cathro, the answer is no, we have not. What we have said in a letter is that we agree in principle with the philosophy of using coal for electrical power generation, providing that they can come in at the right price. We will look at all of those numbers when they come forward. What we have given them is direction that this government is clearly interested. If the numbers are right, we will pursue it. As it stands now, it is a comfort letter in principle. We are prepared to look at this and help them find export markets if they so desire.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister has now mentioned that there was a letter to Archer Cathro, indicating support in principle and he has also indicated that there is a feasibility study currently underway that will be released shortly. Will the Minister be prepared to make both of those two documents public?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I personally do not have any difficulty with that request, however, I will check with the corporation to see if there is anything that stops them from providing this information, but I do not see any difficulty with it. I will check with the corporation, and if possible I will make this information available to the Members opposite.Question re: Division Mountain coal project
Mr. McDonald: Given that the Division Mountain coal project has been billed as potentially a 50 megawatt facility, and project costs at the Geoscience Forum were cited to be anywhere between $75 million and $300 million and, given that the government believes so strongly in the project that they are prepared to raise public expectations about its viability, can the Government Leader tell us at what cost the project would be economically viable, from the government's perspective?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Let me first state that the figure of $75 million to $300 million is a ballpark figure. The $300 million figure they are using is from the Healey plant in Alaska, which is a fluid-bed injection - something that is new and very experimental.
When I was in Korea, about 18 months ago, I had the chance to tour a 42-megawatt plant that Korean Zinc had installed. At that time, they told me the capital costs involved were some $58 million U.S.
Mr. McDonald: Could the Minister please answer my question? To remind him, I was asking about the economic viability of the project. What is the range for determining the economic viability of this project, in terms of construction cost? What is the government looking at in terms of the price per megawatt?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is going to have to be up to the proponents when they come forward. We will then see if it falls within the price range and if it is cheaper than our energy production costs. Diesel energy costs us a certain amount per kilowatt, as does hydro. Coal is a viable alternative in many jurisdictions in Canada. We will look at the numbers when they come forward.
Mr. McDonald: I have to object to the way the government has approached this particular announcement. We have a government that has absolutely no idea at all whether or not the project is economically viable, but they have made it a frontpiece to the throne speech. They have obviously given sufficient signals to Archer Cathro, and Cash Resources, to make them believe that there is, at least, a flickering green light for this project.
Due to the fact that it is virtually cruel to dangle jobs in the face of people who are unemployed and, because it is irresponsible to be talking about a very expensive project when we do not know any of the economics associated with this project, why has the government made a point, before the feasibility study has even been tabled, of announcing that this project is a virtual certainty? They claim that all that is required is a little bit of time and few resources and then all we have to do is wait for this project to proceed.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite is speaking as if we were going into a whole new realm of power generation that has never been done anywhere in the world. There are all kinds of plants in Alberta, Saskatchewan and other provinces. We have the costs associated with the production of power by those plants. Archer Cathro has come forward with some numbers from Alberta, where they are producing mine mouth-fired, thermo-fired, electrical generation facilities in the three and one-half to four cent range. If they can come within the six and one-half to seven cent range here, it would be something of interest to Yukoners, based on the fact that our costs are over 12 cents for diesel-fired energy production.
We have a vision for the future. That is more than the Members opposite had. All they did was install another diesel generator when they needed power.Question re: Industrial support policy
Mr. Harding: The Minister sure loves that Alberta Power.
I have a question for the new Minister of Economic Development, and it relates to industrial energy support and industrial support policy.
Nine months ago, the Yukon government published a very vague, eight-page draft industrial support policy for discussion. Recently, the Yukon government said that they are actively negotiating with Loki Gold and Anvil Range under the auspices of their industrial support policy. Is the draft industrial support policy for discussion now the industrial support policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In short answer to the Member opposite's question, no, the draft discussion paper is not the policy.
Mr. Harding: This is a government that talks big mining. This draft industrial support policy came out nine months ago. Recently, they have been making statements that they are negotiating under the auspices of this policy the Minister now says is not a policy.
Why would the government tell the Yukon people that they are negotiating with mining companies under this policy, which the Minister just told us is not a policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have been negotiating with Loki. We have been negotiating with Anvil Range. We have been negotiating with a number of mining companies. We will be providing a copy of the final policy in a very short time. The draft industrial support policy essentially laid out some principles, and those principles are what our policy will be made of.
Mr. Harding: What are those principles and what is the policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The principles are laid out in the throne speech relatively well, and the policy will be made available to all Members opposite, as soon as it is available.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, privatization of
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Government Leader about the energy issue. I want to ask him specifically about the report that was done by Mr. Boylan. The original contract with Mr. Boylan was to examine options for restructuring of the Energy Corporation. This new contract is to negotiate on the restructuring of the Energy Corporation.
I have requested copies of this report and I have been told by the Government Leader that it is not public information. The Minister has an opportunity to clear up and put to rest speculation about this particular issue, which is very important to Yukoners. May I ask him why he is insisting on keeping this report secret and why he is hiding the information that is in the report from the public?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is a report that was done for Cabinet, and the Member opposite knows that reports for Cabinet are kept confidential.
We have given assurances to the public. I have stated quite clearly that nothing is
going to happen with the Energy Corporation. First Nations are unable to raise the funding
at this time. We are leaving the door open for them. Until such time as the the parameters
of their financing change, we are not doing anything.
Mrs. Firth: We have hired a $50,000 consultant to do nothing about a dead issue, and in Friday's paper the Government Leader said he did not know what he was doing either. That is fairly clear. We have the previous Minister's comments, the new Minister's comments and we have the comments of the president of the YDC/YEC. None of them are singing the same song.
I would like to ask the Government Leader - because it is in the public's interest and it is the public's interest that is at stake - why will he not tell the public what he is doing? Here is the question: why is this government keeping the Yukon public in the dark about energy issues and privatization of the Energy Corporation? Why are they doing that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Quite clearly, the Member opposite has her facts wrong again.
We are not privatizing the Energy Corporation. For the Member's information, Mr. Boylan's
contract was cancelled on Friday.
Mrs. Firth: I have never had this much fun trap-shooting. I have never seen any-
Mrs. Firth: Here is my final supplementary. I have a letter from Mr. Boylan to Mr. Vic Mitander, of the Council for Yukon Indians. In this letter, Mr. Boylan is saying to Mr. Mitander that if they do not hurry up and get along with their business he may receive instructions to begin working on some other options, in addition to the Yukon First Nations option. This letter was sent back in September. I would like to ask the Government Leader what other options was Mr. Boylan working on than the Yukon First Nations option?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am having quite a bit of fun at this crap-shoot, too.
I am glad the Member asked that question. For the record, when I took over at the Energy Corporation from the previous Minister, I clearly gave instructions that unless something was moving with the First Nations by the end of November I was going to put a halt to it. That is what I did; I put a halt to it. It was only last week that First Nations were able to get a response from DIAND on the funding.
As to the other negotiations, for the record I would like to clearly state that we have always said that if the First Nations were not successful in renegotiating the loan - and that is where they were going to get their funding from - we were going to be going to the federal government to renegotiate that loan. Mr. Boylan may have thought that I was going to have him renegotiate that loan, but the fact is that we do not need him to renegotiate that loan; we can do it ourselves.
Question re: Yukon industrial support policy
Mr. Harding: I have to go back to the new shining star for the economic development portfolio for the Yukon Party and ask a couple more questions regarding the Yukon industrial support policy that came out in draft form nine months ago. This was supposed to be the cornerstone for the Yukon Party in terms of their dealings with industrial customers of the government, in terms of their infrastructure needs, including energy.
I would like to ask the Minister, who just told me that they are negotiating actively with Loki Gold and Anvil Range Mining, what mandate and what terms of reference are they using in these negotiations in the absence of a policy in that area?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If there is support for one of the mining organizations, the Member opposite will get the opportunity to speak on it, because it is part of the policy that if there is support it will be coming to the Legislature for debate in the Legislature.
Mr. Harding: I guess that is part of the open Yukon Party government - they have not cancelled our ability to debate in the Legislature. But I am not asking about that. I know when the sessions are - or, at least, I used to; now we are down to one. I want to ask a few questions about the draft industrial support policy that the Yukon Party government put out. Are they now saying they are not going to publish a policy and that we are only going to be able to debate in the Legislature whatever side deals and secret deals they make in the back rooms? Is that what he is telling me?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I am not.
Mr. Harding: Then what is he telling me? Is there going to be a policy and why, if there is not going to be a policy, did they put out a draft Yukon industrial support policy for discussion nine months ago?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have indicated, in the first response to the initial question from the Member opposite, that there would be a policy and that the policy will be coming forward very shortly.Question re: Social assistance, fraud investigations
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services on the social assistance fraud investigator. A few weeks ago I wrote to the Minister and asked him whether he had received the report of the social assistance fraud investigator. Would he confirm for the House that his department has, in fact, received the report of the investigator?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, to my knowledge it has.
Mr. Cable: It is my information that the fraud investigator indicated that there were approximately 30 situations that might warrant prosecution, but that these have been winnowed down to three or four situations. Do I have the accurate numbers? Can the Minister confirm that for the House?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, I cannot, and there is a good reason for that. Firstly, the fraud investigator had a contract that ended more than one month ago. Secondly, his primary responsibility was to follow up on some files on which investigation, it was indicated by social workers in charge of the files, was needed. Thirdly, part of the duties of that particular individual was to do a fair amount of work in areas other than actual investigation. It is my understanding that all of that work was not really completed by the individual in question.
Mr. Cable: I understand that the Minister's department is at least investigating the possibility of hiring a full-time fraud investigator. Is that accurate?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We had verification teams active during the summer period. The
results of their efforts met with a good deal of success. All indications are that we will
need to continue to investigate fraud and perform verification exercises. The
recommendations, however, have not yet been received by me from the department. The real
issue, as far as I am concerned, simply has to do with what would be the most effective,
efficient program. Once that decision has been made and has gone to Cabinet, I will be
happy to share the new policy with Yukoners.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed.
We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
ADDRESS IN REPLY TO SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Mr. Millar: I move
THAT the following address be presented to the Commissioner of the Yukon:
MAY IT PLEASE THE COMMISSIONER:
We, the Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, beg leave to offer our humble thanks for the gracious Speech that you have addressed to this House.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Member for Klondike
THAT the following address be presented to the Commissioner of the Yukon:
MAY IT PLEASE THE COMMISSIONER:
We, the Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, beg leave to offer our humble thanks
for the gracious Speech that you have addressed to the House.
Mr. Millar: Almost two years have passed since I made my maiden speech in this House. During that time, much has happened to me personally, to the territory, and to my riding, the Klondike riding, which I am happy to represent on behalf of my constituents.
When I first spoke in this House, I knew and expected that there would be changes in my life, but I must confess that I had no idea how many changes would take place. As Members well know, my wife, Lorraine, and I are the proud parents of triplets - Justin, Rachel and Andrea. I can assure Members that having triplets will change your life dramatically.
The Yukon has also been experiencing changes, including the Klondike region. In most incidents, the changes have been for the better. I am a placer miner and proud of it. Not many years ago, placer miners did not feel welcome in the Yukon, even in the traditional mining areas of Dawson City and Mayo. Some Members will recall actions by the previous government to remove the placer miner and the Klondike from the motor vehicle licence plates. These initiatives were even supported by the MLA for the Klondike at that time.
As unbelievable as that may sound today, as we are about to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the discovery of gold and the Klondike gold rush, it was only through the efforts of the MLA for Kluane and other dedicated Yukoners that the plan to replace the placer miner and the Klondike failed.
This licence plate controversy was symbolic of the problems confronting the placer mining industry. Excessive regulation processes being proposed by the federal government, in particular, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, were threatening and very extensive to the placer mining industry. Bumper stickers were proclaiming placer miners to be an endangered species, and I believe that we were.
At the same, many Yukoners do not have a true appreciation of the value of the placer mining industry to the Yukon economy, especially when times are rough for the hardrock mining industry. Placer mining is the backbone of the mining industry, and it should be recognized as such. Subsequently, a study has been done to show just how important the industry is to the Yukon economy. The study is entitled "Dawson City - Economical Profile Study". It was conducted by the Department of Economic Development. I would urge all Members of this House, and especially the Members opposite, to read this study. It will give you a better understanding of this historically important industry.
I am proud to be a part of a party and a government that recognizes the contributions placer mining has made to both the history and the economy of the territory. Placer miners now feel at home here in the territory, largely because of the attitude of this government and the actions it has taken to support the industry.
The signing of the Yukon placer authorization in June 1993 was largely the result of the Yukon government's representation on the Implementation Review Committee - Randy Clarkson, as well as the chair, Al Kapty. The authorization allows placer miners to continue to operate within an improved environmental regime. For example, I have heard that some of the bigger mines are getting water licences for 10, and even 20, years. Two years ago, this was completely unheard of, as the longest period for a water licence being issued at that time was approximately three years. I believe the average is now about five years.
There have been other significant changes occurring in Dawson City. Dawson City streets are again being ripped up to repair sewer and water line problems that have plagued the city for years. Thanks to a $5.5 million contribution by the present Yukon government, we hope the problem will be fixed properly this time. I am pleased that the government acted so quickly to correct this longstanding problem.
One does not have to be in Dawson City very long before a feeling of optimism among my constituents is detected. The community is continuing to grow, and growth breeds optimism and confidence in the future. Dawsonites have good reason to be optimistic. I have already spoken about placer mining, but there is another mine that is going to have a significant impact on Dawson. That mine is the Brewery Creek mine, owned by the Loki Gold Corporation. In order to give Members an appreciation of the magnitude of this development, the annual gold production anticipated from the Brewery Creek mine is expected to roughly equal the current annual production of all the placer operations in the Yukon. The Dawson First Nation and other residents should be in a position to benefit from the economic opportunities this mining project will provide.
The Government of Yukon, under its industrial support policy, is negotiating with Loki Gold Corporation to meet the company's infrastructure requirements. Such a large-scale development is going to have a major impact on Dawson City. Our population is going to grow, which means there will be more families moving into Dawson. More families mean more school-aged children and an acute need for another school.
I have been working hard on behalf of my constituents to ensure that this need is met.
The Minister of Education has assured me that schools will be built in places where there is the most need. In fact, a new school for Dawson has been announced for kindergarten to grade 4. I am assured that it will have a gym.
With regard to mining in the territory and the high level of exploration that is currently going on, I would like to correct an impression that some Members of the Opposition are trying to create. I have heard Members opposite state that this government cannot take any credit for the $36 billion for mining exploration in the territory or the re-opening of the Faro mine. In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth.
You, yourself, Mr. Speaker, in your former capacity as Minister of Economic Development, went to the Cordilleran Roundup in 1993 and told mining companies that the Yukon welcomed miners and was open for business. This was at a time when the Government of British Columbia, a government of the same political persuasion as most of the Members opposite, was attempting to drive mining out of British Columbia and out of Canada. Yukoners are fortunate, Mr. Speaker, that many mining companies listened to your advice and came here.
To my knowledge, we are the only jurisdiction that has a mining facilitator to assist mining companies with the regulatory processes and the development requirements of their projects. The industrial support policy developed by this government is there to meet the infrastructure requirements of each particular project, whether it be the Faro mine or Brewery Creek. Anvil Range, Loki Gold, Cominco, Newmont and Cash Resources are just a few of the companies discussing their individual infrastructure needs with the Yukon government. If one was to ask these companies why they are here, they will tell you that one of the reasons is because of the pro-mining attitude of the Yukon government.
The Yukon government has also played a strategic role in the receivership and sale of the Faro mine. Together with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, it funded the Burns Fry and Micon studies of the Faro mine, even though mining is still an exclusive federal responsibility. Our negotiators played an important role in the receivership proceedings and managed to achieve a consensus among the creditors and DIAND concerning the division of the proceeds of the sale of the mine and quit claims against the future production of the Anvil Range mine, which would have blocked the sale.
The Yukon government assisted Anvil Range in the transfer of Curragh's water licence. It is also acting on behalf of the former Curragh workers and will ensure that they are paid the $2.1 million they are owed in outstanding wages and benefits.
As noted in the Speech from the Throne, Anvil Range is currently developing an apprenticeship training program with the advanced education and training branch.
It is true that the present government did not give the former owner of the Faro mine $29 million, as was strongly urged by the Members opposite, but that decision proved to be the correct one and it set the stage for the final sale of the Faro mine.
The policy of the present government to encourage the development of thermal coal as an alternative to the use of diesel for electrical energy generation will make use of the Yukon's abundant coal reserves. Cash Resources' Division Mountain coal project near Carmacks could reduce the Yukon's present dependency on diesel, produce electricity with less impact on the environment than other alternatives and create more mining jobs for Yukoners.
I am very pleased to see the emphasis that the Yukon government is placing on tourism. The announcement this summer, on Discovery Day, of the $9 million centennial anniversary program and the $500,000 centennial events program will help Yukon communities and Dawson City, in particular, to prepare long-lasting attractions and to stage events for the gold rush anniversary.
I believe a side-effect of that particular announcement, particularly in Dawson City, is bringing all the factions of the community together, as there will only be one project from each community. I believe it is very important that all the different groups get together. That is currently happening in Dawson. It is a very positive side-effect of that announcement.
The announcement in the throne speech of a new Yukon visitor reception centre and the transformation of the previous government's Yukon visitor reception centre to the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre, together with the Yukon Historic Resource Centre, is a very exciting new development. Klondike placer miners have been uncovering mastodon tusks and the bones of other ice-age mammals for years and years. Now these finds can be utilized to create a major new world-class tourist attraction and an educational facility that is unique to Yukon. The Yukon Historic Resource Centre will be of benefit to the Beringia Centre, but it will also help other communities' museums to preserve and protect the territory's historic artifacts collection.
I would like to say a word about another tourism facility mentioned in the throne speech, and that is the construction of a tourist-oriented gambling casino in Whitehorse. I know such a facility is bound to be controversial. However, I would like to remind Members opposite that the Yukon has more experience in dealing with such a facility than any other jurisdiction in Canada. Diamond Tooth Gertie's has been operating successfully for years and has established itself as a major tourist attraction. The Klondike Visitors Association has done a remarkable job in running the casino. I believe a similar tourist-oriented casino could operate in Whitehorse without producing the dire social consequences predicted by those who are morally opposed to gambling. Such a facility should be professionally managed and provide tourist-oriented entertainment, utilizing Yukon entertainers and artists.
Revenue sharing with Yukon First Nations would prevent a proliferation of gambling casinos, and a facility could be built with no government funds. The prospects of tourism development look very bright indeed. I know my constituents, who will be at the centre of this activity, are very excited.
Education and training are of special importance to my constituents. I am extremely pleased to hear that the Minister of Education will be responding so quickly to the education review recommendations. Too often in the past, governments have conducted major studies, such as Yukon 2000, which produced very few results. I know some of my constituents remain skeptical that the necessary educational reforms to the Yukon curriculum and mainstreaming will be implemented.
This quick action by the Department of Education will eliminate the skepticism. I vividly recall Members opposite orchestrating a protest march against the Yukon government's education reform initiatives, saying they were not necessary. However, Yukon parents disagreed and pointed out the need to emphasize literacy and numeracy skills as basics in the Yukon educational system.
It is important that Yukon students be equipped with the necessary skills to compete in the 21st century. In order to learn these skills, students must feel that their education and training is relevant and, above all, they must remain in school.
I have been working hard on behalf of my constituents to ensure that the stay-in-school initiative, which has been so successful in Dawson City, is maintained. I am pleased to see this government place so much emphasis on quality education and training to meet community needs.
The growth in mining and the tourism potential of the gold rush anniversaries are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that Yukoners cannot afford to miss. In addition to education and training, the development of infrastructure is an essential ingredient to enable the Klondike and Yukon to develop their mining and tourism potential.
For the Klondike, there must be a bridge constructed across the Yukon River at Dawson City. I believe that the current ferry study will clearly show that the construction of a bridge will, in the long run, be more economical than the replacement of the George Black Ferry. It is my hope that the ferry study and the bridge pre-design study, which are currently being developed, will be completed and given to Cabinet at the same time, so that they can make an informed decision.
The construction of a bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson City would also help meet another infrastructure requirement, of which Dawson City is in need, that being a new airport location. Bridge access would allow the consideration of more potential airport sites closer to Dawson, on the other side of the river.
I want to commend the Yukon government for concluding the strategic highway agreement with the Government of Canada, which has led to the upgrading of the Top of the World Highway, and for obtaining a similar commitment from the State of Alaska. The upgrading of this road will become increasingly important for the promotion and development of the gold rush anniversary.
Further, the expansion of the boundaries of the Dawson City will enable the city to better plan and coordinate the permitted activities within the expanded boundaries. As Dawson City expands as a consequence of mining and tourism development, the need for proper planning will become even more important. It is my hope that the boundary expansion will bring more land on stream for the people of the area, because there is very little room left for growth in the actual city itself - or the old city boundaries.
The Speech from the Throne indicated the Yukon government's continuing commitment to place top priority on the settlement of land claims and the devolution of federal responsibilities to the Yukon. I know that the Dawson First Nation has been working hard to conclude its claim. I commend the chief and council for all their hard work and am prepared to assist them in any way I can.
Evidence of this hard work was mentioned in the Speech from the Throne concerning the concept of protecting Tombstone Mountain through the establishment of a territorial park. The owners of the mining claim in the area, Archer Cathro & Associates, must be commended for relinquishing their claims in order to protect this unique Yukon landmark.
It annoys me when environmental groups criticize the mining industry and the government for not doing enough to protect the environment, but when something as significant as Tombstone Park is announced, they have no comment. With the settlement of land claims, Yukon will have far more habitat protection than any other jurisdiction in Canada. I find it ironic that we are criticized by environmentalists who live in areas that have little or no habitat protection.
I am encouraged to hear that Yukoners, through devolution, will finally be able to control and manage our own land, water and resources. I know we can do a better job of managing them than Ottawa has been doing.
The transfer of forestry resources to Yukon is long overdue, and currently federal forestry policies are so far out of date that they are endangering our forests. It is high time the Yukon government takes control over this valuable resource and develops a made-in-Yukon forestry policy. The forestry transfer will mean more jobs for my constituents and for those in Watson Lake.
With the transfer of land, mineral and water resources to Yukon, the Yukon government will be in a position to ensure that economic development and environmental protection proceed together in balance.
The pace of economic activity in the Yukon is going to increase dramatically over the course of the next few years and should continue well into the 21st century. It is critical, therefore, that the Yukon government have the necessary social safety net in place to assist those Yukoners who are not equipped to cope with the changes this increased economic activity will bring. Alcohol and drug abuse, violence against women and children, and theft and vandalism will continue to plague our communities and will increase if the government and people of Yukon do not have the necessary strategies and programs in place to deal with these serious social ills. Consequently, I am more than pleased to see the government focusing its attention on these major problems, and in particular its focus on youth. It has been said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and I believe that the Yukon government has incorporated this approach in many of the health and social programs and other community initiatives mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, in developing programs to focus on youth activities in communities.
The Teen Parent Centre, the emphasis is on training our youth for realistic job opportunities, and the initiatives to bridge the gap between the high school and the workplace will pay big dividends in the end.
I want to commend the Minister of Health for the courage he showed in changing the design of the Whitehorse General Hospital. I can personally vouch for the importance of health and hospital facilities designed for the 21st century, rather than for the 1950s.
The Yukon Party government promised to provide good government, and it has been doing precisely that. The party promised to establish an ombudsperson office and, in this session, we will be debating the Ombudsperson Act.
The government promised to provide better access to information and privacy legislation and, in this session, we will be debating such a bill. It promised to provide new conflict legislation and establish a conflicts commission and, in this session, we will be debating this bill.
Further, this government has established a tradition in presenting balanced budgets to this House, something other jurisdictions in Canada can only dream of doing as some future goal.
This government has initiated reforms to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of government programs. It has been innovative in its approach to improving its public services and government efficiency through such initiatives as the service improvement program and the recently announced special operating agency - a model for three government agencies.
This is a government that has taken a commonsense approach to governing, and it is ensuring that government is financially responsible, open, accountable and responsive to the needs of Yukoners.
I am proud to be part of the Yukon Party team and to support the good work that this
government has done, and is doing.
Mr. Penikett: Once upon a time, long, long ago, the king summoned Parliament and gave a speech asking for money to raise an army to go away and fight some foreigners. However, before the Members of that Parliament would agree to even debate the king's financial demands, they insisted that he, or his representative, sit and listen to their constituents' grievances. That, as I understand it, is the origin of the throne speech and the throne speech debate.
The throne speech debate precedes discussion of budgets and legislation in almost all Commonwealth legislatures. Even in modern Britain, the Queen opens Parliament with a speech detailing the government's legislative program, usually within three weeks of an election. I note that the current Yukon government waited until the third year of a four-year term in office to outline its political agenda in a throne speech with any substance.
Some people might call that arrogant. Yet, two years after their election, we still do not know for sure where the other side is headed. Forgive me for saying so, but sometimes this government acts like a headless chicken. Their feet and their brains move in different directions; they say one thing and do another. The words in the throne speech appear strangely at odds with their deeds in government these last two years.
The body of the Cabinet seems totally divorced from the public's mind. The virtual reality of the privileged few closeted in the Yukon Party back rooms seems disconnected from the concrete concerns of the majority of our citizens. Providing jobs ranks far higher in the public's mind than controlling public spending - the alleged priority of Cabinet since it came to power.
People are concerned about the appearances of conflict of interest. They are concerned about foreign ownership of big game outfits, and they are concerned about an apparent lack of respect for the law. This Cabinet has different ideas.
Our constituents clearly opposed increased gambling. They opposed tax increases; they opposed education cuts; they opposed health program cuts and wage rollbacks, but the Yukon Party was not listening.
In last year's federal election and in this year's municipal election the voters sent a message to the people in this building, but no one was home in the Cabinet office to receive the message.
I regret to say that this government has divided our community into insiders and outsiders - the few that have the ear of the government and the many who do not, those whom the Cabinet recognizes as worthy of an audience and the thousands who are invisible people, the closed circle with whom they speak and the many community groups they totally ignore. Hear only Tories, see only Tories, speak only to Tories; the rest of us are just the losers, the people who lost the election and have no right to be heard.
My genuine fear is that this government has separated Yukon into us and them. In this very painful sense, they have become, in a way, a separatist government. Fortunately, our economy is recovering, little thanks to this administration.
I pay attention to what the government says, particularly the Government Leader. According to a radio interview the Government Leader gave after returning from Asia, he said there will be four new northern jobs created for every one in the south, and the Government Leader says he has the analysis to prove that.
I am sorry to say that the only place that I can imagine finding such analysis is on a psychiatrist's couch, because it defies any economic lesson I ever had.
Members opposite are right; there is some increase in optimism. People have been very pessimistic and in a very black mood over the last couple of years, and there is some improvement. In my constituency there is going to be a new mall in the Granger neighborhood, and new homes. There are a few more people working in Hillcrest and there is activity in MacRae.
We have heard Ministers talk about a boom, mindless of the implication that if we have a boom, logically, there must be another bust around the corner. Ministers seem to have completely forgotten the idea of sustainable development, which Yukoners in the thousands, and everybody in this Legislature - and I thought all parties, until recently - endorsed.
Let me also now say that I liked some of the words in the throne speech. I want to pay tribute to the Minister who has been assigned to eviscerate me after my speech that I am glad that the trailer legislation appears to be coming. I am glad, also, about the emphasis in the throne speech on healthy communities - I commend that. I will later, of course, be asking the Minister about some complaints I received on my recent visit to Dawson City about why the government is not more energetic about implementing community health and social services boards, which is a provision of the Health Act about which there seems to be some interest in that city.
I have said before that the mining facilitator is fine, even though, if the Members who spoke earlier are right, and this is a mining economy, one would think that the job of mining facilitator would be a job for the Government Leader as the Minister of Economic Development, or, at the very least, the Deputy Minister of Economic Development. Nonetheless, we have no objection to that position.
In a recent editorial, Sam Holloway praised the territorial government for doing nothing, but I think they have done worse than that. I think they have promoted a society of insiders and outsiders; winners and losers. It is not enough that they have used the support of 35.8 percent of the public in the last election to justify packing every board and committee with political loyalists. Many citizens remember that half of the people the NDP appointed to boards and committees were of another political face. As I have been reminded by colleagues, the NDP had at least 10 political opponents sharing key public boards. Among that number, we included the former Government Leader's principal secretary. I look at the list of people on boards and committees today and I see that the current regime has not one member, in any significant role, from the Official Opposition party, who received 35 percent of the vote - just a few less than them.
What is more, the Government Leader has indicated there never will be NDP members in such positions as long as he is in control. Some of us would call that undemocratic. Others might say it was arrogant.
The Tories have bootlegged supporters into senior positions in the public service -
even a position that is supposed to be beyond political interference. In one case, the
evidence is clearly there that a job description looks as if it was written specifically
for a person without relevant qualifications for the post he now holds. Some say that
smacks of patronage. Others might see it as arrogant.
The Tory approach, or the Yukon Party approach to government seems to be that and the same as American Samuel Gompers: reward your friends and punish your enemies. Look at some of the winner and losers, the friends and enemies list since this government came to power. First, the enemies - or the losers - list. We have to include Roger Graham, Josephine Stewart, Shakir Alwarid and Gaye Hansen on that. Mr. Speaker, I do note that this government is an equal-opportunity employer, at least when it comes to firing competent, well-trained professionals.
The working people of the community of Faro - coincidentally an NDP constituency - were, on the floor of this House, told to take a hike if they wanted work. If they wanted a job they were told to get out of town. Who told them that? The Yukon Party Minister of Economic Development, right here in this Legislature.
Some would say that was heartless; others might say it was arrogant. In Elsa, part of another NDP constituency, the government has done - and I am told this by people involved - practically nothing to get that mine going. Hey ho, hey ho, it's off to work we go, and the Yukon Party caucus creates another mine - at least in their imagination.
Of the half-dozen projects mentioned in the throne speech, I understand that in the next two years two of the best prospects are Faro and Elsa. Let us be frank: it was the federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs who really moved the Faro project along, not the Leader of the Yukon government. I remember reading in one of the local newspapers that the president of Anvil Range had even complained in the media about this government's lack of support.
The federal Minister has over 500 First Nations to serve and one-third of the land mass of Canada to legislate for, but he found the time and the energy to help Faro while the Yukon government stood on the sidelines.
What about Elsa? Elsa will, no doubt, benefit from the road that was improved and the dam that was replaced during the time the NDP, which built them, was in power, but most important, Elsa will benefit from the flow-through shares program of the federal government. When I recently talked to people from there, they asked: what has the Yukon Party government done for us?
The Yukon Party has given us a throne speech that promises another Klondike gold rush. I do not know if anyone really thinks we are going to have 30,000 stampeders flocking into the territory in time for the gold rush centennial. I do not know anyone outside the Yukon Cabinet who believes that.
When the government suggests that it has been responsible for a mining boom, I am going to suggest that the government has been economical with the truth. Others might say that they were arrogant.
The Town of Mayo, in another NDP constituency, has long waited for a school, but other constituencies have jumped the queue. Now the Mayo school cannot even get a new roof.
I want to say to the new Minister of Education, because there were no schools built under the former Minister, I am glad that the Minister is at last building some schools. I am glad. Although the throne speech talks about schools the government will build in the next three years - unless the Leader of the Yukon Party is planning to follow the lead of some Asian dictators and cancel the next territorial election - to predict what the territorial government will be doing three years from now might seem a touch - I am searching for the word...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Penikett: Arrogant. Good word.
The throne speech says that Yukon First Nations have suffered the most in the past from economic development - and, I might add, from the lack of it. In the decision to kill the Taga Ku project, the Yukon Party, including the Deputy Government Leader, whose constituents were shafted, destroyed the most significant aboriginal business venture in this territory's history.
To mention aboriginal economic development without indicating any regrets about the Taga Ku decision might sound a little insensitive to some and perhaps even a little arrogant.
Other First Nations have lost under this government. The Dawson City First Nation wanted to protect Tombstone Mountain in the park, and the previous government had agreed. After the election, the Yukon Party went to the land claims table and said, "We believe in multi-use parks." As the World Wildlife Federation has pointed out, multi-use parks are parks in name only.
Now, the government actually brags in the throne speech about what they have done, about creating a park one-third the size that was originally proposed. Would that be arrogant? Maybe just a bit.
First Nations are also losers because, while the Yukon Party boasts how it has settled land claims in its mid-term report, the fact is that for two whole years this government has not reached one final agreement with one First Nation.
A long time ago, I told the Government Leader it could not be done with a part-time chief negotiator, but he did not listen. Now, after two years, the Government Leader is appointing a full-time negotiator and we wish him well. But, we notice in the throne speech that land claims has now dropped to position number four on the government's list of six priorities.
Other losers under this regime include teachers who had their collective bargaining rights taken away and their pay cut. This was not because they negotiated in bad faith or because they were difficult to deal with, but because this government did not respect them or their rights.
Other public employees have suffered the same contemptuous treatment. Poor families had a welfare fraud investigator set upon them, and as the Minister knows, I had one constituent complain to me that she was threatened with prosecution if she did not spy on other poor people.
As she commented, it was just like an eastern bloc dictatorship. Other women have been victims of this government. The women's centre funding has been cut. The Watson Lake women's shelter has been cut. Women's groups have been bumped from the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. An aboriginal women's representative is now supposed to represent all women, even though her organization is not constituted for that purpose. Aboriginals, women - what is the difference? I guess if they do not support the Yukon Party, they do not count. One-half of the deputy ministers fired by this government were women. Perhaps we are supposed to see that as some kind of progress.
All communities used to benefit from equal access to the community development fund, but the Yukon Party has killed that program and replaced it with a new program with less money, fewer projects and a more limited mandate.
The heritage community will not get the law they want. They will get the law the Yukon Party wants. The Heritage Museums Association, as far as I understand, did not ask for a government Beringia museum, but they are going to get it anyway. There is something I must ask the Minister responsible for heritage with respect to this project. If the waterfront is the place to be, if that is where the action is going to be, it makes you wonder why the government Beringia museum is not there too. Why are the storage facility and archeology lab not at the college, where they might do the most good? Has the aboriginal community been involved in this decision?
I know, when we were in government, the museums association had a negative view about the government building another museum. I wonder who has been consulted about this because, on a tour of the MacBride Museum - which some us, including the Minister, went on - they talked about their desperate financial straits. They talked about the fact that they did not even have money for fire insurance. Yet, this government is apparently prepared to commit millions of dollars to a new museum project.
The most amazing part of the throne speech concerned the words about balancing economic development and environmental protection. I say that is amazing because I think the environment has been a big loser under this government. The Member for Klondike just whined about environmentalists criticizing this government concerning its protected-areas commitment and made the assumption, which I am sure will be offensive to First Nations, that all of their land claims settlement land is protected area. The fact of the matter is that this government has done nothing under the protected-areas strategy and now lags behind other jurisdictions in Canada. Perhaps we were wrong, but it seemed to us, from listening to news reports, that whenever there has been a conflict between the environment and a development, this government has always supported the developer.
Even in consulting about changes to the Environment Act, the government listened first to the chambers of commerce. Then, it showed utter contempt toward the democratically elected representatives of the people in the Government Leader's letter of instructions to the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, characterizing in advance the behaviour or attitude of the Opposition with respect to these amendments and suggesting alarm about the possibility there might be controversy around these changes.
I doubt if there is a single person in this territory who truly believes this government will give more than lip service to the environment. Indeed, their attitude to wildlife, to nature, and to environmental organizations might even be called arrogant.
Who else has lost under this government? All low and middle income workers without a union because, without consulting anyone except business, this government committed itself to lowering employment standards for working people.
As to the winners, there are the Yukon Party supporters on the advisory boards. I will not mention tourism secret agent 000 but I will mention Mr. McCaffrey and Mr. Brandt. Let me concede that some people think Mr. Brandt is doing good work, and let me also mention that few would object to Mr. McCaffrey going to Economic Development, but there are those in the school community who are still furious about that appointment.
I listened to the questions in Question Period today directed at the Government Leader, and it seems, from the Government Leader's comments and from the reports in the media, that a private coal project has won the debate with public hydro, even before it starts. We have been told that the instructions to the Yukon Development Corporation are to forget hydro and go with coal, and that makes it look as if it is a political decision, not a rational environmental or economic decision, or even a sound energy decision.
We hear that the company involved is looking for government guarantees, and we hear today that some kind of discussions have already begun. Those of us on this side of the House remember clearly when the Government Leader said that he would not mortgage the future of the Yukon for Faro. Evidently, Members opposite might do that for a coal project.
The new anniversaries program is an old program with a new name, less money and a finite group of beneficiaries.
Having heard the Government Leader today, I confess to being a little confused about the future of the Yukon Energy Corporation. It certainly appears as if Alberta Power is nearer and dearer in the government's affections than the company that the people of the Yukon own.
I want to speak to the business lobby. The Member for Klondike may be quite right that many of them do feel very comfortable with this government. I understand that. I understand that the new Minister of Economic Development has said words to the effect that if government cannot help business, it should get out of the way. I understand that point of view.
I also know that 100 years ago, colonial Legislatures were controlled by merchant elites and that was considered the normal and proper thing - but not today. Business must be heard and business is entitled to a voice. The impact of business has to be taken into account when governments make decisions, but it should not be the only voice that has the government's ear. Women, consumers, First Nations citizens, working families, partisan critics and non-partisans all deserve a voice in a modern democracy. Regrettably, the Cabinet refuses to let them have one even when the law requires it.
As one local entrepreneur recently said to me, "These guys just don't seem to understand that I am not a one-dimensional man. I run a business from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. In the evenings I am the parent of young children. I care about quality education and I want an educator running the schools branch, not a businessman. On the weekends I support the arts. It's nice that the Government Leader puts his picture in the theatre program, but before I will be convinced that this Cabinet cares about the arts I would like to see the Government Leader's butt in one of the seats at a play sometime."
Let me try and explain to you my deepest concern about where we are going. I am concerned about where this government is going and where this democracy is going. I want to say this as much to the former Minister of Justice - the Minister who is going to respond to me - because I know that, with his experience and his learning, he may want to respond to this point not in a partisan way, but as a serious issue.
I believe that democratic governments in this day and age are supposed to represent the broad public interest, not narrow, private interests. I genuinely believe that the Yukon Party Ministers have been seriously confused on this point. We have heard them denounce so-called special interests. These are people they dislike: women's groups, conservationists, unions and their critics. At the same time, they seem to have been totally devoted to other private interests, not interests they call special, but private interests.
I do not know if I remember it correctly, but the Yukon Party ran on the slogan of "Yukon for the Yukon Party" - was that it? Whenever there is a collision between the Yukon public and outside private interests - I think of the case of Alberta Power or foreign outfitters or Vancouver lawyers - the government appears to support the latter.
For a long time, based on what I heard in this House and the evidence we were able to winkle out of the government, it looked like Yukon Electrical Company wanted to take control of the Energy Corporation. It looked like that utility wanted to weaken the Public Utilities Board. At least in public, we heard not even a whimper of protest from the other side - not a whimper.
We hear about the merging of the management of the two utilities. We have not yet heard anyone tell us how that is in the public interest, or who will be protecting the public interest on a day-to-day basis - not in rate hearings before the Public Utilities Board, but on a daily basis. The previous government was persuaded that we had a difficult situation with our manager in that it was both our competitor and our manager, and it required competent people on our staff to have an independent view of what the manager was doing, a view that could be provided to the Minister and to Cabinet. We seem to have lost that.
A lot of people, not just people on this side of the House, are very upset and very concerned about why we had to hire somebody from outside this territory to negotiatiate privatization, or whatever they are, and why everything had to be so secret. I remind you, Mr Speaker, that when I first asked about privatization in this House, I was told it was not going to happen. Only later did we find out by accident that there were talks going on.
Big game outfits. I was in this legislature when its Members deliberately wrote provisions into the Wildlife Act that specifically prohibited control of outfitting areas to non-Yukon residents, but we have heard from this administration a Charter argument to defend what a law passed by this legislature specifically prohibits. Now, I ask: has the government tested the Charter argument in court? I do not think so. In fact, the only response last time was to accuse us of having invented it, which was news to me.
When we ask if the Government Leader has knowingly sold his outfit to a non-resident, he refuses to answer the question. I do not care what the Government Leader does in his private business, but we are talking about a matter of public policy. We are talking about a law that we made. When the Minister refuses to answer the question, to some of us, that seems a bit arrogant. From the time this government was first elected we have heard stories about privatization and contracting out. I guess we now have special operating authorities, and we are not sure where that fits.
This Legislature passed a law protecting public interest and heritage properties, but we understand that one Minister wants no heritage law affecting private interests, so the law will be changed. Our rules say there must be no conflicts or appearances of conflict between a Minister's public duties and his private interests, but there have been several appearances of conflict and refusals to answer appropriate questions. I do not think anybody here likes asking such questions. If the government had simply proclaimed the conflict law most of us voted for, we would not have to ask the questions; they would have been referred to a conflicts commission.
We understand the government may, after two years, be bringing in a law yet again to have the conflicts commissioner, but if the government had wanted to improve the law that was passed here in 1992, they could have amended it. However, they did not proclaim it or amend it. Some would call it arrogant to vote for a conflict law and then refuse to enforce it. Now we should get a new law. I do not know anything about the new law - I have not had a chance to read it - but the public's expectations on this point are very high. I will say, for myself, that if this government proposes to lower the standards we all set two years ago, I will be inclined to oppose their law. Further, I will be inclined to fight for a higher standard after the next election.
As a sometime-student of political science and government at university, I was taught two ideas that are central to our system of government. First, there was the idea of the public interest, public service and the common good. This notion is related to the belief that all people are equal before the law.
Rich and poor, Tory and Social Democrat - all deserve equal treatment by government. The present administration obviously has a different belief. They seem to think that they are here to take care of the people who voted for them, and to heck with the rest.
The other central idea I learned was respect for the law - not just respect for individual laws, but respect for the idea of law and the rule of law. Regrettably, I say that, to all of us over here, this government seems to lack that respect. Consider just a few examples: there is a throne speech - the first real throne speech in the third year of a four-year mandate. Shortly after we were elected, there was a Workers' Compensation Board president - admittedly an acting one - appointed, contrary to the terms of the law.
There is, again, the fact that this House passed a Wildlife Act prohibiting non-residents from owning outfits, and a law that prohibits anyone from controlling more than one outfit. Does the government enforce that law? The answer is no.
Again, we have heard the Charter argument, but it has not been tested in the court. Why has it not been tested? Public opinion on this subject is absolutely clear. The people of the Yukon are opposed to outfitting areas being controlled by non-residents.
We asked why the law has not been tested. The only answer we can come up with is that perhaps such a legal test might prove embarrassing to someone. If that is the case, it is bound to impress some people as being just a little arrogant.
Another example is that the courts have ruled that the government broke the Taga Ku contract. The government wilfully violated the legal and democratic right of its own employees to free collective bargaining. The Auditor General of Canada has accused this government of illegal write-offs, which this Cabinet was surely motivated to make purely for the political purpose of trying to make the former NDP government look bad.
I also sincerely believe that this government has violated the Economic Development Act, the Environment Act, and the land claims umbrella final agreement legislation. All three are written in fairly plain English. Together, they require annual public reviews of the economic strategy to which the government is legally obligated to invite delegates of various interests - business, municipalities, labour, women, First Nations and others. The law quite clearly refers to the Yukon Economic Strategy, adopted by this Assembly on May 8, 1988. The annual reviews are obviously intended to give the public a voice in economic decisions and to keep the strategy current.
In one of the most arrogant acts in recent history, the Government Leader claims the law must have been intended to refer to some other strategy - a strategy unknown at the time the law was written, a strategy other than the one approved by the Legislature before the Government Leader was a Member, and a strategy that was never approved by this House - an argument of convenience. I say this with some anger. In my opinion, only an appallingly ignorant or an enormously devious person could read those laws and conclude that this Legislature had anything like the intention described by the Government Leader when they were debated.
What is the government's attitude when we point out this problem? They do not care. We are reminded of the view the former Member for Porter Creek East had when he responded to such a complaint - "So sue me".
I wonder how much public money the Government Leader is prepared to waste defending the indefensible before the courts. This regime seems to think that, because it does not agree with the law, it can ignore it. When it does this, I believe the Cabinet is showing contempt for the Legislature, even for the Parliament of Canada, and contempt for the rule of law and for the citizens of this democracy who sent us here to act for the common good.
At several recent meetings in my constituency, people have been talking about crime in general and, in particular, about a rash of snowmobile thefts and an apparent failure to prosecute the offenders, as well as the lack of police patrols in the neighbourhood. They have also been discussing the deeper societal problem of a lack of respect for the law, and it was the belief of some of my constituents that this lack of respect for the law indicates a lack of respect for others and a lack of respect for their property - a lack of respect for society as a whole.
I urge Members here to understand the problem. If legislators, Ministers and the Government Leader appear not to respect laws this House makes, how can we expect citizens of this territory to respect them? How can we expect young people to hold legislators in high regard if they see a politician who acts as if he is above the law? How will democracy in this little community survive the corrosive damage bred by such contempt for legislation and the legislative process?
My ministerial days are over, and I shall soon be a back-bencher serving as the Member for Whitehorse West. I shall be proud to continue serving this House in that role. Because this is probably the last time that I shall lead off for my party in a throne speech debate, I would like you to permit me to make a plea to the Members opposite.
The Government Leader has little respect for the views of those who disagree with him, but perhaps there is someone over there who will listen to what I have to say before it is too late for this place.
I love the Yukon, as do you. I have given most of my adult life to politics and public service. I got into this business because I think legislators do important work. I believe in democracy, I believe in public service, and I believe being a legislator is an honourable calling. No matter how harsh the words said here, I have often been invigorated and educated by our debates. Government Members throughout history may, from time to time, wish the Opposition of whichever party it is would just disappear, or at least shut up and go away. However, one of the lessons of parliamentary history is that the more a government takes that attitude, the more the Opposition of the day is likely to oppose the government.
The reason is that, faced with that kind of attitude, a Loyal Opposition in a democracy has no other choice.
I recall that at the beginning of this session, the Government House Leader indicated that he would like to have cooperation. I am sure that he will note the irony in asking for cooperation from us of the kind that he never extended when he was over here.
There is a little problem there. In this Chamber, we have one hard-won right - the right of free speech. I have sometimes been tough on my opponents here, and sometimes they have been brutal with me. However, the clash of ideas and the war of opposing philosophies is a necessary feature of democracy.
On October 19, 1992, the party opposite won a few more votes and one more seat than did our party. Under our system, that gives them the privilege of governing for awhile. Unfortunately, I fear that this government seems not to understand the nature of the mandate it received on October 19, 1992. The government party received 35.8 percent of the popular vote - about one-third. They received the positive endorsement of 27 percent, or, approximately one-quarter of all eligible voters in the Yukon. That is the weakest mandate ever received by a governing party since party politics came out of the closet in 1978.
The people of this territory did not enthusiastically embrace the Government Leader's ideology, and they did not totally reject the programs and policies of the previous government. Yet, rather than acting with moderation or by trying to achieve consensus on some important issues, the government opposite sometimes acts as if it had absolute power. It seems almost as if they had never read what Lord Acton had to say about absolute power.
The Government Leader takes a dictatorial attitude about appointments to boards and commissions, treats conflict issues with contempt and deals arrogantly or without thought on other matters about which all other Members here are entitled to a voice. Given the nature of his mandate, I dare say that, in this democracy, he has not won a right to impose his views or even all of his appointees on the people of the Yukon.
It would seem to many people to be arrogant in the extreme. With only 35.8 percent of the vote, a smart government might have reached out to all citizens during our recent economic crisis, but this government refused to even try to bring people together. It refused to do so, even though the law required that, perhaps because it saw itself as above that law.
A smart government with only 35.8 percent of the vote would try to broaden its base. This government thought it knew better than that. A smart government might have listened to all shades of public opinion, but this one believed it had nothing to learn from anyone else. Outside of the charmed circle of its friends, this government did not want to hear any critical noise.
A smart government might have been thoughtful and open-minded about advice from the Opposition, but this one did not. A smart government might have reached out and tried to govern for all Yukoners, but this one did not. Now, its support has plummeted to far below the 35.8 percent that elected it.
Recently, the Government Leader was on the radio complaining that the NDP never told him about the postponement of the hotel portion of the Taga Ku project. I found that statement astonishing and arrogant because, in the one meeting that I was granted with the Government Leader-designate following the election, I offered him briefings on any subject he wished: projects, personnel, whatever.
The Government Leader did not take up my offer. He knew it all already.
In my first speech to this 28th Legislature, I offered my party's cooperation on matters affecting the public interest. I offered, on our behalf, to work together. However, to the party opposite and, in particular, the Government Leader, cooperation meant doing things their way. So, the Government Leader has cooked the Yukon Party chicken, and now he must eat it, feathers and all. The government has looked after its friends, created two classes of Yukoners, divided the community, betrayed the public interest, and shown a disrespect for the law.
Today, in this debate, it has two choices: it can respond to our criticisms in kind, as it has done before, or it can show a new openness and a willingness to have a dialogue with people of different views. It can respond like a headless chicken, or it can invite us to put our heads together for the common good. If it sincerely believes that everything it has been doing is right and proper and wonderful, and even popular, it can continue doing what it has been doing. It can do that for awhile but, as a defeated Government Leader, I can tell them that the clock is ticking. Time is running out for this administration. Soon enough, the electorate will decide this government's fate but, in the meantime, our infant democracy will have been damaged by the behaviour of this government.
The image of this Legislature will have been muddied. The notion of leadership as a process of bringing people together will have been hurt. Perhaps this government does not genuinely believe in government, or public service, the rule of law, or the fundamental right of every citizen to be treated fairly in a democracy, but some of us here do believe in those things.
Good governments try to govern for the greater good of the whole community. In my personal opinion, great governments pay special attention to the needs of the weak and the powerless in the community.
Our parties differ on these points, and that is fine. This Cabinet has preferred a narrow, blinkered and hostile approach to us and to many of their critics outside of this House.
I would humbly ask the present regime, as it completes its term in office, to leave something of the tradition of democracy and fairness and respect for law alive for those who will come after them. I say please, for the Yukon's sake.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I rise in support of the motion, and it is a pleasure for me to carry on this debate. I want to say that I feel it appropriate that, at mid-term in this government's mandate, we have now before us a throne speech. It is my view that the government has accomplished a lot during the past two years in office and I feel that the throne speech appropriately provides a direction for the future of this government.
I was somewhat taken aback by the comments of the speaker before me - I will get into that in some detail later. The general criticisms, it seemed to me, were more appropriately directed at his government when he was in power than the current government. I personally can take criticism. I am not saying that this government has done everything right, but it seems to me that the previous speaker was reaching way down to try to find some things he could say in general terms regarding the performance of the current people in office on the government side.
It is true that we, on this side, share a different philosophy from those on the other side, particularly those in the Opposition. That is the philosophy the people of the Yukon were aware of when they voted, and ours is the philosophy we have delivered. It is understandable that members of the NDP would differ from the way we approach the economy, social programs, efficiency and balancing the budget, but I would like to remind them that there is a fundamental difference between our points of view, which really rests on principle rather than on how one implements one's philosophy in government.
I would like to begin by mentioning what I see as some of the highlights in the departments that I have had the honour to represent. I feel that the people in each of the departments, and those representing the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation, have worked very hard to make meaningful changes and to meet my priorities as Minister while I was in charge of the departments and while I continue to be in charge of others.
First, I have some brief comments about my tenure as Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation.
I hope that Members will recall that, immediately upon taking office, we worked to change the policy of the Yukon Development Corporation, so that it would have the mandate to use the profits only for the furtherance of developing energy infrastructure, improving energy infrastructure or to rebate profits back to the ratepayers.
I think that it was the first day that I assumed office that I received frantic phone calls from the Member for Faro about proceeding with the Chateau Jomini project.
At that time, I advised the Member that the policy had changed. As a result of that change in policy, the ratepayers are better served and dealt with more fairly. It was because of that change that we were able to use profits to soften the blow of the higher energy rates that came about as a result of the closure of Curragh.
We also changed the policy in order to allow and encourage the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation to look at coal for the generation of power as a viable alternative. This was something, despite lobbying from the mining groups, that the previous government refused to do. In fact, the previous government cancelled a Cabinet paper on that very issue during their mandate.
The other main issue that I was involved in was examining the possibility of bringing First Nations in as partners in the field of energy in the Yukon. I think that it is very unfortunate that the side opposite, for partisan reasons and perhaps philosophical reasons, refused to countenance First Nations assuming that role as full partners in this very important infrastructure. I think that it is very sad that the federal government has failed to see the wisdom in this and has not been willing to provide the necessary financial support, so that, at this time, this initiative is foundering and probably will not go ahead.
The side opposite saw this as a partisan issue, one that they could bring up and create a bogeyman of this government selling the assets to Alberta Power, which is, in turn, controlled by Canadian Utilities. The fact is that, during their mandate, the previous government entered into negotiations with those very same parties in order to discuss the selling of assets of the Yukon Energy Corporation to Alberta Power. This was done, they claimed, in order to attempt to rationalize the delivery of energy in the Yukon.
We went no further down that path than did the previous government. I am appalled that they would jeopardize what I see as not only a very good initiative with regard to the probability of being able to provide cheaper power, in the future, to Yukoners, but as something that is justly deserved by our First Nations people in Yukon. Power projects, whether they be thermal projects or hydro projects, and the transmission of power all involve impacts on Yukon land. It is the First Nations who have taken steps to settle their claim who have to be concerned about these impacts. I would think it only just that they be full partners in the decision making regarding those unavoidable initiatives that will take place in future years. There are training possibilities and business opportunities that, because the federal government refuses to provide investment capital, will be lost to our First Nations people as a result.
During my tenure as Minister of the Department of Justice, I was very pleased with the cooperation I received from the department in pursuing the priorities that I gave them in writing. As a result, there was a broad reorganization of the department. We entered into arrangements to reduce the cost of legal aid. We revamped the way in which we attended to the needs of victims of crime. We moved the family violence prevention unit and victim services to new and acceptable office space, and we worked very hard with them and the stakeholders in family violence to get the stakeholders working together, including the RCMP, Kaushee's, the unit and others. Together with Health and Social Services, we arranged for a social worker to be engaged to work with the RCMP in dealing with the issue of violence.
We were able to bring Justice and Health and Social Services closer together in the delivery of social programs. This is seen as very important, particularly in the small, rural communities. I have said in this House, time and time again, with respect to both departments, that one of my major priorities is that of seeing community-based justice and community-owned social programs implemented. We have worked very hard on initiatives to encourage community-based ownership of programs in the Justice department. It is my hope and wish that those initiatives will continue.
In the area of health and social services, the department has taken great steps in order to meet the main priorities that I gave them in writing when I first assumed the role of Minister. We started by looking at the health programs and the social services programs that were totally out of control under previous years. We have gone through health reform and changed the programs, and we have gone through the social assistance reform and have made, and are making, changes to the way in which social assistance is being delivered. Those individual programs have been brought under control. Social assistance is coming down now, not rising exponentially, while the so-called booming economy was on, for which the NDP love to take credit.
While the programs are under control and many of them have been decreasing - and I will get into that in some detail during the budget debate - we have increased the budget, because we are offering more services now than was ever contemplated by the previous administration. Not only are we doing a better job, a more efficient and effective job with the programs that were offered under them, we have increased the services we are providing and have filled in gaps they left unfilled. There are more counsellors, there is a better program for kids with regard to open custody and the use of 501 Taylor, and there are more resources going into alcohol and drug strategy. We are in the process of moving the detoxification centre over to the Crossroads building and renovating it and, finally, at long last, we are giving decent office space to the alcohol and drug people who were housed in the alleyway at the Crossroads building. The list goes on and on about improved services.
We made a big decision regarding the hospital. We performed radical surgery on the building that was envisaged by the previous administration.
It was called a gamble at the time by Members on the side opposite, but I am pleased to say that the building is on time, on budget, and the end result will be a facility that will be there for a long time and will serve the interests and needs of Yukoners much more effectively and efficiently, and allow any excess monies to be used in additional services that the hospital can provide to the community at large.
As well, we are in the process of moving the administration of the Thomson Centre and Macaulay Lodge under the hospices of the Hospital Board, and we will be making changes to the Hospital Board to add some additional people to the board, specifically to increase the representation on behalf of seniors. Every one I have talked to has been in favour of this move. I hope it will take place smoothly. I know that the end result will be better-managed facilities for our seniors and, from what I can gather, the people who work in those facilities - Macaulay Lodge and the Thomson Centre - are very much in favour of this change.
We were concerned about the plight of people on welfare. We were concerned about their having the opportunity for training and being able to get back in the workforce. We knew about the terrible lack of self-esteem, and the loss of self-esteem, that so many of these people suffered as a result of being out of the mainstream, not having a network of friends who worked, with many of them forced to live alone in apartments with small children. We initiated what is known as the SARs agreement with Canada - something the former government refused to do. We are now going into our third year. It was announced in the throne speech that there will be $1 million in the next budget, half from us and half from Canada, directed at the training of people on welfare, and directed at helping them get into the workforce. I am very proud of what we have accomplished in that regard, and I am constantly bumping into people in job situations who were on welfare three years ago, who have taken the training, been helped by the programs, by the social workers and by Yukon College, and who now have jobs. I am very proud of our initiative in that regard.
I would like to speak about education and, very briefly, the education review that was initiated by my predecessor, and one on which he sustained a lot of criticism from the side opposite when the initiative was first announced.
We will be making a ministerial statement tomorrow about our response to the recommendations contained in the report of the Education Review Committee. We see their recommendations as providing us with the skeletal blueprint over the next number of years on the direction our department will be taking in the field of public schooling.
For my part, I think that the education review was a wonderful exercise. There was a lot of concern by the stakeholders in the public about the gaps and problems in the education system and the public school system. This review provided stakeholders with the opportunity to speak about their concerns. It is consultation in its essence. It certainly puts the lie to the aspersions directed at this government by the previous speaker, because the diverse group of people who represented the stakeholders came forward with a unanimous report.
In the field of education I have personally set some priorities. I like to see better training and more work done in the field of advanced education and more done to bridge the gap between young people in the education system and, ultimately, training and employment. These are areas that we will be looking at very carefully. They are areas in which initiatives are being developed and areas in which I have had consultations with Yukon College, indicating my concern about the future direction of education in Yukon. I am sure that we will make progress along those lines over the next two years.
I have also made it very clear that I have a deep concern about the requisite training that is required to properly implement land claims legislation. We will be working as hard as we can with the college and with the First Nations to find ways to enhance the training so that we are at least doing our part to ensure that implementation is as smooth as possible. This is a very high priority, not only of this government, but, I am sure, of virtually every individual who lives in the Yukon.
I would like to talk a bit about my riding of Ross River-Southern Lakes because a lot has been done in those communities since we took office. When I ran in this riding I was absolutely amazed at the attitude of people in Ross River, in particular, and as well, in Teslin, about having been totally ignored by the previous administration. In fact, the people of the Ross River Dene Council were visibly angry about it when I spoke with them, which I did on numerous occasions during the election period. Ross River has really suffered over the years, partly - and I think that if any community can tie some of the upheaval to anything, like one industry - they can tie theirs to mining. I have done what I can as Minister, as a Member of this government and as an MLA to try to bring some healing to that community, to try to bring some hope, to try to bring some training opportunities, and to try to deal with the terrible social problems that those people have suffered for some considerable time. We are making progress, good progress.
The approach that we have used is the approach that I believe in when it comes to community-based ownership of social programs. We have developed a private project for the delivery of alcohol and drug services to Ross River and Watson Lake. It is unique because it combines our budget with monies from the Kaska Dena Council and from the federal government. It is a fairly comprehensive program and it is now implemented. Workers are employed and working on the strategy.
We have worked with the First Nation in Ross River and helped them develop their social programs. They have a new family support worker. In consultation with the community of Ross River and the First Nation, we have a social worker based there who has a good deal of expertise in dealing with problems relating to people in communities who have suffered the kind of social collapse that Ross River has.
In education, we have a counsellor now living in Ross River and working with the kids who have all kinds of problems. I can say that that community has been moving ahead markedly over the course of the last two years.
We also have supported and encouraged Ross River to be involved with the mining companies who are in the region, and they have been negotiating agreements with Anvil Range, Cominco and the Wheaton River syndicate regarding not only training and employment but contracting opportunities when mining once again resumes.
In Teslin, we have worked closely with the First Nation and the people in Teslin. We have continued with an initiative for which I will quite freely applaud the side opposite - the correctional facility in Teslin. That has gone ahead. There are now about 22 jobs and, most of them - some 17 I believe - went to residents of the Teslin area. This has meant a great deal to people in Teslin in economic terms and in personal development terms. As the facility gets up and running at full capacity, it will, in my view, provide long term benefits to all Yukoners by the reduction of the social cost that has accrued because of the great rate of recidivism that we have in our justice system.
In Carcross and Tagish, we see important progress. The communities are at long last coming together. The Carcross school is functioning much better than it has for many years. The community of Carcross has a youth centre that was implemented shortly after we took office. The community has come together at long last on the issue of subdivisions, on the issue of a dump relocation and on the issue of a sewage lagoon. Just last week, they signed a memorandum of understanding with this government that will pave the way toward the development of a theme park for tourism in Carcross between the railway bridge and the highway bridge.
I feel really good that the people in Carcross are finally coming together for the common good. It is something that I have long hoped to see and I really do have, at long last, hope for the future of that community.
These then are just some of the things that have been accomplished. I have not dealt with the portfolios of other Ministers on this side, but I want to say that the sense I have, when I travel about the Yukon, is that there is hope for the future, that there is a feeling that this government has taken control of what was a bad situation regarding the financial health of government in the Yukon, and that we have done a good many things that are commonsense - a good many things may not appeal to the intelligentsia, but make a lot of sense to the average Yukoner, who is practical, by and large. I do not have the sense of negativity that was espoused by the previous speaker.
Now, how about the comments that were made by the Leader of the Official Opposition? I said when I began that I really had to bite my tongue and think hard because so many of the arguments seem contrived and so many of the aspersions could very properly be directed at the government that he headed for almost eight long years. Let us look at some of the things he said.
He spoke about patronage on boards and committees. The most important board in my particular ministries has been the Health and Social Services Council. I think it is a real smear and unfortunate remark for the Member opposite to make that the people on that committee have been chosen on a patronage basis. That is simply not true, and I challenge him to point out just how he can back up that statement. I am sure that the previous Government Leader knows full well just how powerful that board is and how important it is, not only to health and social services, but in having an eye and a voice in how justice programs are delivered, and training and education programs as well.
We have worked hard with that council to ensure that it did play a meaningful role. We did not simply pay homage to it and not let it get involved. We have worked closely with them and relied very much on some of their advice with regard to some of the sweeping changes that have been made to program delivery, particularly in health and social services. That is not to say that we follow all of their advice, but we listen to them and consult with them, and I think that they have just done a tremendous job.
How about the Advisory Council on Indian Child Welfare? Is the Member opposite going to say that that was patronage, that the people that we have appointed to that council was, in any way, a result of patronage? I think that is disgusting. I know the people who are on that council and not one of them has been appointed for patronage reasons. They are a powerful voice, they have been very helpful, they work hard, they have great insight, and they care about the kids, particularly the Indian kids who were in the care of the department. I think it is insulting for him to say that.
I just cannot fathom that kind of remark. How about the hospital board? Surely, the Member is not saying that we got involved in patronage in the appointment of the hospital board. The chairperson of that board was not this government's appointment - not the first time or the second time. There is an example of a totally non-partisan board and a board that is very important to the future and health of all Yukoners.
Time and time again I have seen names going forward for boards and committees who I knew were strong members of the NDP or strong members of the Liberal Party and I have not objected. These names have gone through and those people are still on boards and committees. I think that the Leader of the Official Opposition should make an apology to some of these members, and in particular I am speaking about the ones about whom I have a great deal of knowledge, the ones whom I just referred to in my department.
The Leader of the Official Opposition talked about the friends and enemies list and named the people who were let go as deputy ministers during the past two years that this government has been in power.
When the NDP were elected and came into power they immediately dropped two deputy ministers for what they claimed were partisan reasons. They were sued by Mr. Davie and later his estate. They were sued by other individuals who were kicked out of office by them. How dare they stand on the other side and point the accusing finger at us when they have been far more partisan and far more divisive in that regard than this government has been.
It was interesting, I guess, to hear some of the other comments made by the Leader of the Official Opposition. He bemoaned that the Mayo school would go without a new roof. The roof was replaced a year ago.
The Member spoke about the Yukon Party and its mid-term report, boasting that it had settled land claims, and that is not what they said in that report. They said that they had put forward and passed the legislation in our first term in support of the land claims package. That statement made by the Member was also misleading.
The Members opposite want to raise the fears about where we are going with the Yukon Energy Corporation, what the deal is on coal, and so on. I think the Member opposite made the statement that the coal project would be one that would mortgage the future. How could that be if the policy calls for proposals from the private sector to sell power to the Yukon Energy Corporation? If you have a long-term contract with a specific price for power that is considerably lower than what we are paying now, how would that move by the corporation mortgage the future of ratepayers in the Yukon?
In my view, he made some outrageous statements about the fraud investigator, as though, somehow, we are against the poor, because we have a fraud investigator. Yet the NDP in Ontario, B.C. and Saskatchewan are employing them by the dozens, and he should hear the harsh words that emanate from his colleagues in those provinces. It is just absolutely amazing to me that they could be that two-faced.
We hear them talk about "them and us", that somehow or other we, as a group, only listen to certain people. I am from rural Yukon. I represent whole communities. The majority of the people in my riding are below average income, with most of them in the poverty range of income. Most of the people in my riding are First Nations people.
Speaker: Order please. The Member has three minutes to conclude his remarks.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
When I ran in this new riding, I was absolutely astounded by the way in which whole
communities had felt left out of government, ignored by the government in power at the
time. We have worked with First Nations; we have worked with people from every walk of
life. We have not been perfect, but I do wish that the pot would refrain from calling the
Mr. Harding: I have a number of rebuttal comments after hearing the words of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. It was a somewhat astonishing speech, and I am quite disheartened that, once again, that particular Member chose to make some very old political arguments based largely on suppositions and old political arguments that were successful to a degree for the present government when they were in Opposition.
The most astonishing thing I heard from his comments was his opening line, which set the tone for the entire thing. He said, "The people were aware, when they voted, of what they were getting". That speaks very clearly of this government's approach since they have come to power, even though he ducked out on the Yukon Party and ran as an Independent.
It says that they feel that they were voted in on a mandate so strong, to heck with what anybody else in the Yukon says. They are going to push ahead with their headless chicken agenda, which moves so fast that we have a very tough time following it. One day they are privatizing, the next day they are not; then they are privatizing, then they are not. One day they have an industrial energy policy; the next day they do not. Then they are negotiating with companies under a policy that does not exist. The list of confusing directions from this government goes on and on.
I do not want to be too critical of the government. I said in my response to the Speech from the Throne that this is going to be a long session and I am going to have a lot of time to pose constructive criticism to the government, but I want to talk about some of the good things they have done. However, I also want to constructively point out to them areas where I think they could be improving their performance.
I was quite disturbed by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes' speech about how people felt in Ross River. I know the social problems as well as I can, from talking to people in that community and from living about 45 minutes from Ross River for nine years. He also spoke of the anger of the Teslin Tlingit about being left alone by the previous administration. I should only have to remind the former Government Leader of one thing: the NDP signed an agreement, which was a land claims agreement, with the Teslin Tlingit - some really substantive changes for the futures of both the native people in that area and other Yukoners. Does that smack of being left alone? I say not. Ten agreements were left to be finalized with First Nations when this government came into power. How many are left? There are still 10, after two years in office.
Who put the prison, the correctional facility, in Teslin to provide jobs, to decentralize? The NDP. Who has moved away from that philosophy to the communities and recentralized? The Yukon Party. And, boy, let me tell you there are some people hopping mad about that in the communities.
When I was in Ross River recently in my second formal visit to that community - I have been there lots of times in other capacities to play ball and what not - we met with the chief and council, the college instructors and students, members of the area planning committee and the staff at the school, and we sat in the coffee shop and talked to people. I do not get the sense that they want to carry the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes around on their shoulders on the sidewalks. I get the sense that some of them are appreciative of some of the steps he has made, but I would expect that, at the very minimum, for a Minister and the Member for that area who holds so much power in this government. I would say that he has done the minimum.
As for his name in Teslin, from the people we talked to, maybe he thinks he walks on water, but I would say that he should pay attention to some of the issues and concerns that I am sure are raised with him, because they were raised with us. I am not for one second saying that the answers are all easy to come by, but I would suggest that for a government that spends as much as this one does, it could be doing more in the area of addressing the concerns of those communities and many others in the Yukon.
I was disappointed in the Member's response. I know that he is a bitter man. I know that he despises it when the Leader of the Opposition gets up because that was the man who twice trounced him at the polls when he was the symbol of the Conservative Party in the Yukon. He has still never quite recovered from that. And because he ducked out on the Yukon Party, he never got the chance to become Government Leader, so he is trying to do it through the back door. But I would expect that, after two years, he would start to move away from that bitter pill that he had to swallow twice, and especially the second one after the re-election, when he was the real Leader of the Opposition in 1989. That was a long time ago. It is time for him to move on, to move ahead, but I fear that we shall not see that behaviour from the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, not in the near future, and not even in the distant future.
We, however, will continue to be constructive in Opposition. We will point out the areas where we see that the government could be improving in, and we will continue to put forward suggestions in a constructive way to try to help the government improve its ability.
I will get on to more of my rebuttal of the Minister's speech.
First, I want to talk about the area that is of most concern to me. That, of course, is my home and my riding, Faro, the place that put me here in the Legislature, and the place in which I have found it incredibly pleasant to work, a place that has warm people who have given me a lot of support and have enabled me to do my job to the best of my abilities.
There is an air of optimism in Faro. The area is permeated with it by once again having mining activity. The company that have come in, Anvil Range Mining Corporation, and the people they have doing the work to try to get the crews back together, has done a pretty good job of local hire - not just local in Faro, but they have also hired a lot of other Yukoners. There is more work to be done in that area. I know that the Ross River Dene Council, I believe, only has four people working there at this time. I would like to see that role increased. I think that there is plenty of work to go around for everybody, not to the detriment of either Ross River or Faro, but to the benefit of both. There are a few people who could and should be hired - and may be in the future - who are still living in Faro and who have the skills that are requisite for the job. I continue to make representations to the company to ensure that they get a fair hearing from the people who are doing the hiring.
The company is talking about production for the summer of 1995. That is going to put about 450 people to work in the community. I am hoping that the people who have not been hired to this date will get a job in the next month or two as the company goes to its 230-person squad for the stripping or, at the very least, that they enter into active employment by the summer of 1995 when the company hopes to start up.
At this juncture, I should point out, when I am hearing the government tell me how much they have done to help the community of Faro, that I remember the Government Leader standing up and saying it would not be until 1996 or 1997 before we saw any activity whatsoever at the Faro mine. Long before Anvil Range came along, the government had given up. That is unfortunate and my constituents know it. It has gotten to the point with a lot of my constituents where I cannot even talk about anything positive this government has done because nobody believes it. There is a real credibility gap. People there know that there is a difference between what they say and what they do.
In this session and in the near future, we are going to be dealing with a lot of issues. We have a lot of hurdles to cross before this mine gets up and running again. We are going to be talking about power rates; we are going to be talking about bulk haulage; we are going to be talking about docking; we are going to be talking about the Skagway Road; - many things on which one would expect that a self-professed pro-mining government would be prepared to work closely with the company.
I know that the Conservative Members opposite, who like to give lots of money to their friends, like to say when anybody else asks for something in terms of cooperation, that they are looking for a subsidy. Mr. Speaker, I do not believe mining companies in the Yukon want subsidies. I believe they want reasonable agreements.
They want to pay reasonable power rates. The Yukon Party, in its draft industrial energy support policy, said that the Faro and United Keno Hill Mines received power at reasonable rates when they were in operation. That is a Yukon Party statement.
We are going to be working on these issues and I will work positively with this government. I offer my services in terms of negotiations on such issues, and I hope that they begin to take a positive approach to the community that I represent. I think that that is critical to patching up that credibility gap.
The government has done a couple of good things and I should say that in this speech. I have lobbied hard to ensure that the government is doing what it can, within the laws that exist, to ensure former Curragh employees recoup their lost wages and benefits. These payments would include unpaid vacation pay, severance pay and pay in lieu of layoff notice. These amounts total for some people up to $16,000. It has been an absolute crime that those people, to this point, do not have the money owed to them.
I think that the Yukon government has heard the lobbies that I have made to them in some areas and that they have stated unequivocally that if they receive any monies from the sale of the mine they will pay out Curragh employees first. The Department of Justice has also worked very hard to recoup the lost wages. I know that they have put in many hours going through the claims of each employee. If there is an area in which I think the government has done a good job within the confines of the legislation, this is it. I must re-emphasize that it is criminal that the laws are so poor and that it has taken this long.
As legislators, and I say this in as non-partisan fashion, we really have to take a look at what happened to these people when this company went into CCAA receivership. I have asked the Minister to bring in new laws that would protect employees from this situation in the future.
On the basis of that representation the government has come up with a plan that would improve the laws that we have now, but still would not eliminate the time problem. The claims were first realized in 1992 and early 1993. That is two years. I think that the time lines have to be expedited.
Last year, the Province of Ontario brought in a bill for wage protection legislation that I think should be the model for the territory here, or at least the subject for some debate. I think that we should have a reasonable debate about what Yukoners want in wage protection. I think it is really important and I know that my constituents are very concerned about receiving this money. They worked for it and I believe they are entitled to the money and it would certainly be a heck of a Christmas present for them.
I spoke to the receiver the other day and he said that it looked like YTG should get $2.4 million for wages. He would not speculate about when that might be, but I hope it is soon.
On Monday, November 28, there was a court case held in which the Department of Justice is trying to pursue the former Curragh board of directors liability fund. That money is still sitting there untouched. My understanding from conversations with the director of labour services is that the court hearing went fairly well. I am supposed to receive a copy of a decision, probably in five days.
I hope that the insurance company decides not to go to the Yukon Court of Appeal, but I guess we will see. That is their legal right and I think that speaks to the need to improve the legislation so that the time lines are shorter.
There are a lot of big issues in my community. Right now, there is a foreclosure action by the Yukon government on Faro Real Estate. Rent-to-purchase owners are concerned about protecting the investment that they have made in their houses thus far. The Minister has told me that in the unlikely event the foreclosure takes place, he will flip the agreements and ensure that the same provisions take place with the existing owners who have put so much equity into their homes.
There is a lot of talk about rental increases. I know that Yukon Housing has been in negotiations with Faro Real Estate. Also, although I am not a party to the discussions, I know of discussions between Anvil Range Mining Corporation and Faro Real Estate regarding some kind of a rental subsidy on a per tonne of concentrate basis, which is the same sort of thing that the previous mine owner had. This is a very big issue in the community, because Faro Real Estate has applied for very hefty rental increases. I want to state clearly to the government, because these issues and many others will be coming up in this session, that I believe the people of Faro cannot be asked to bear too heavy a brunt of these rental increases. Faro Real Estate has done quite well by the deal they arranged with Curragh and the Yukon government. The loan they were extended of $3.4 million has been paid down quite quickly, but they have also taken quite a hefty management fee out of it. When this loan is paid off, the profit that Faro Real Estate stands to make is certainly quite substantial.
I believe that any rental increase should be minimal in nature for the tenants of Faro Real Estate. I say that because I believe, firstly, that Anvil Range is prepared to extend some kind of subsidy. Secondly, I have mentioned to the Minister that I would like to see some re-evaluation of the mortgage terms. Perhaps there is room for further extension on the terms of the loan repayment. I know the Minister is going to say that they have not paid anything in two years. I recognize that, and they should. It is taxpayers' money. I know that Faro Real Estate has basically made a lot of investments with the money they have gleaned from the rental revenues, and it is important that my constituents not bear the brunt of massive rent increases. I am not saying that there should not be any and I am not saying there cannot be any, but I want full consultation and discussion with the people of Faro. I want them to know clearly what the score is: whether a rental increase is necessary or not.
Another very big issue in Faro is that we are now faced with the loss of our physician. He will be leaving shortly with his family. It has been a pleasure to have this family in the community. They have done a lot of good work and it has been a very big comfort to people in the community to know that they have been there. When times were tough and when people needed them, they were there. Quite bluntly, the physician of Faro saved people's lives, to the point of what I would consider to be, on a couple of occasions, almost heroic acts. With the increased industrial hazards we are facing with increased activity at the mine, and also an increase in population, the need for a doctor is going to become even more apparent than it has been during the shutdown times. It was very difficult to get a doctor when we first got Mr. Bamford to come to Faro, and I hope the government is going to work actively - I will be lobbying them on this question and have started doing so already - with the municipal council, federal government, and perhaps Anvil Range Mining Corporation to ensure that we can attract a new doctor to Faro.
The people of Faro need a Yukon College facility. This has been an ongoing issue. The Chateau Jomini project, which was so recently chastised by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, was the answer for a college facility in the community.
We have been moved out of trailers to the solar complex in the mall downtown. It caused a lot of unnecessary anxiety this year when this happened. First, the college facility was supposed to be moved into the school. There was no consultation done by the Department of Education with anyone in the school - not the school council, the staff, the college or the parents. People started to back away from the college, because they were not even sure if there would be one. We had to put it in the solar complex. Our lease extends to the end of this year. It is very important that the decision is made to put people to school in that community, and to give them the reassurance that there will be a facility there. We need to have a proper facility, and I will be lobbying the government on that question.
Our increased population is increasing demands in the school. I believe that these demands were not being met by the Department of Education in the first place, and that is in the area of special needs, executive assistants, remedial tutors and custodial services. These are areas where we were short to begin with. There is going to be an increasing population, and it is my wish that the Department of Education start to prepare for the increasing needs. I know they are doing some work in that area. I will be following this issue closely and discussing it with the new Minister.
We really want to diversify the economy in Faro. There is a solid core of people in that community who want to make it their home forever. I hope that the Yukon government learned that during this last shutdown. We have a proposal in, sponsored by the Faro Wilderness Recreation Association, for a Campbell region tourism coordinator. Some funding has just been approved for that position, and I thank the government for that. There is more work to be done.
I often speak with the Minister of Tourism about the situation in Faro and what the people there want to do. I know he has active communication going with the organization in the community. I try my best to ensure that the relationship is fostered.
There are going to be more needs in Faro. The government said, when I asked for support for the community so many times during the shutdown, that they would not put anything into a dead mining town. They stated that they did not want to build up any hopes and convince people to stay, and that they wanted them to go. I want the government to realize now that there is a mine there and that we need to work on economic diversification. We need to work on tourism, small business and community-developed business, whether that is in forestry, small mines, placer mining or tourism. We are going to need some support, whether through positive work of the department in helping us with their resource base, or through things like the Campbell region tourism coordinator, where we try to pull the area together as a whole as a tourism destination - not in the single sense, but in the holistic sense.
We are going to need support - perhaps the business development fund and the economic development agreement -for some people who are going to have trouble, in a mining town, getting investment from the banks.
The government also funded a couple of projects I lobbied hard for during the shutdown, and that was the sheep enhancement project and the Vangorda trails. I thank them for that, even though I did not think it was enough, considering the situation my constituents faced. Nonetheless, that sudden shock was somewhat deadened.
There are going to be increased needs for child care services. We already have an active organization in the community that runs three days per week. For very young children, child care services teaches the kids, takes time with them, involves the parents, and provides a very important service for the community. They have an active organization that is being courted by people coming into the community who want to get involved in child care. I am hoping that they are able, with the support of the Yukon government, to reopen a child care centre in the very near future.
There is a single mother in the community of Faro I know quite well who has a number of children, and who has just gone back to work at the mine. She really wants to know what is available for child care. She was on social assistance. To her credit, she went back to work the minute she had the opportunity for a decent job. She is very interested in knowing what the child care situation is going to be. There are many other people like that in the community. I will be discussing those needs with the Minister during this upcoming session.
There is the question of police staffing. Just a short while ago, we were fighting for the very survival of policing in our community. I had many meetings with the government regarding this, and lots of correspondence with the RCMP. We managed to save the policing in the community but, very shortly after that immediate crisis was solved, we had this influx of population. It is only going to get bigger. The Justice Minister should be looking at staffing in that area. I am sure the RCMP is also doing this. I have sent them correspondence to that effect. I will be working on this issue in the upcoming session.
We hope the federal government is looking at the nursing station in the community. The nursing station is incredibly important to our community. The nurses there well-known, well-liked, well-trusted, and are a very important part of health care in the community, and many other things, not just in terms of prevention, but also in terms of care. I know they have a good working relationship with the federal medical services. From talking many times to the head nurse about staffing levels, it appears that they are ready to make a commitment to increase staffing, if it is needed. I will also be watching that situation. If necessary, we will be looking for cooperation from the territorial government.
There is hope in the community from Faroites in business - whether it is Mr. Redmond at Kranky Frank's, or whether its Mr. Byblow at Sally's Roadhouse, or whether its the dentists of the community, who have lived there so long and contributed so much, and who are very well-liked and very-well trusted as professionals in the community.
We have gone through some tough times over the last couple of years. There is Bundy's store, a new sports store in the community. What is going to happen with the Faro Hotel, tourism businesses? These are all questions I hope will be answered by increased economic activity and I hope these people can stay and prosper and create jobs.
As in many rural northern communities, there is a real problem with keeping people active - young people in the community - and there is a real sense within the community that our young people have to be active if we are going to prosper socially and economically as a community. Young people in the community have got together to form the Faro Teen Council - with some adults who are very concerned about their future - and they are working very hard to organize programs and to be a voice for young people in the community. I think that that is an effective program, and I am prepared to support it. I may seek some support for that organization from the Government of the Yukon as time goes by.
There is also an active proposal under way for a Youth Corps Canada program for 18 to 24 year olds in the Yukon, in Faro. It is my hope that the community - and I have helped facilitate this because I believe in it - will put forth a proposal that the federal government accepts that could put upwards of 30 to work in the community on some important projects - providing some training and providing them a leg-up in terms of education needs after they get out of it.
In the community, I also commend the government for improving the banking services. I lobbied hard for that from the time I was elected back in 1992. As the new banking service was announced, I looked back through the files and found some of the correspondence I had with the now Minister of Finance and Government Leader regarding this issue, letting him know what was required in the community.
People wanted more up-to-date, quicker service. For the most part, things are looking pretty good in Faro with the banking. I recently dealt with some concerns relating to third-party cheque cashing and a couple of other issues of importance to the community. The commitment was made that there would be no service reductions, only service improvements and maintenance of existing services with this new bank.
I have raised those concerns with the bank that now operates the service in Faro, and I hope that they respond favourably to the questions I have raised. If not, I will be taking that issue up with the government, because they committed to me there would be no reductions in service.
After a long wait, we are getting a new telephone exchange system in Faro from Northwestel. Back in 1992, we lobbied hard for this. The company put it on hold because of the mine situation. As we are one of the very few communities without this service - I think there are only two without it - we felt it was an important part of business infrastructure in this day and age to have a digital exchange. They are looking at putting it in during the summer of 1995.
I believe that that is a positive development. It is going to be good for the business community and for the users in Faro who have to deal with service problems I believe are related, although Northwestel disputes it at times, to the exchange system we had for so many years. I also think it is going to be good for Anvil Range, which is a big business, to have services like, for example, call waiting, which is available virtually everywhere else in Canada and the United States, but which was not available in Faro.
These are some of the issues affecting the community of Faro on which I will be dealing with the government, and with my constituents, in the coming months, as we sit during this legislative session, which I expect to be a fairly long one. I hope for cooperation, and I will try my best to be cooperative. I thank the government for its efforts thus far, in certain areas. There are many areas they are aware of, on which I have relayed concerns on their actions, and I will continue to do that. We have been quite successful in some areas.
Another area where I think the government has done a fair job is repairing parts of the Campbell Highway, in areas that I have raised with them.
I disagree with the government's philosophy in terms of stopping road work and re-surfacing the highway during the shutdown, because I thought their motto was infrastructure and roads to resources. We certainly have resources there, and I thought, if they were going to take a futuristic approach, they should not have stopped dead on the South Campbell Highway investment, on the route from Carmacks to Faro. Nonetheless, they did.
In the areas, to the government's credit, where I did point there were serious safety problems on the highway, they did do some work rather quickly. There is still some work left to be done, and I hope to raise that with the new Community and Transportation Services critic in this session. I hope to get the roads repaired and some road development work back on track in the upcoming construction season.
As I run down some of the issues in the community, and there are many more, I wanted to say that I really hope, as I have said before in the speech, that the government takes a new approach toward the community of Faro. The people in that community are good, hard-working people. Many have made the Yukon their home, and they are interested in a lifestyle and a future in that community that will last for a very long time. We are going to need their support, their understanding and their help if we hope to achieve some of the goals, such as economic diversification. This includes areas such as child care. Some areas appear simple but, when you look deeper, they are not that simple, and they require a lot of work.
In terms of this government's throne speech, the speech sounded good, quite frankly. However, this government has an incredibly poor track record when it comes to comparing what they say and what they do, and I am going to be giving some examples of that very shortly.
There was nothing very visionary in the throne speech. It was simply a reactionary address to Opposition concerns - whether it was conflict of interest, whether it was employment standards legislation, whether it was dealing with problems in the trailer courts, or whether it was a regulatory review. The list goes on and on. There were concerns raised by the Opposition. There was very little vision, very little clear sense of what they want to do. They do not have clear policies and no policy agenda. They react to what we say, then they implement policy, and it is usually in the wrong direction.
This is a government that says one thing and does another. They talk about smaller government and reducing expenditures but, when I pick up a Yukon fact sheet for 1994, published by the Yukon Party government, which it has become, and the Executive Council Office, I see that, even with the cooking of the books that was done in 1992-93 by the Yukon Party, they combined expenditures of $420,386,000. Then, in the next budget, 1993-94, actual expenditures per Supplementary Estimates No. 2, they have increased spending to $471,705,000 - a massive jump.
In the area of social services, there was a massive jump from $60 million to $90 million. I do not know what the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, who is responsible for Health and Social Services, was on about when he talked about getting control of anything. He has massively increased the budget, but made cuts in some of the most hurtful areas - whether it was the women's shelter in Watson Lake, or whether it was in his comments about the people of Faro, or whether it was when he told the woman who got $40 in her UI cheque - because they had worked out a deal with the federal government that was inept and people were getting penalized to the maximum for having to go to social assistance - to go back to the welfare office.
It gave credence to the comment that there are women out there having children so that they can get more welfare. This is the government that has claimed to be helping these people. He showed so much concern for the people on social services. He said that he combined the efforts of social services and justice. Well, he certainly did. He hired a fraud squad with no clear mandate to put people who are on social assistance in jail. Now, that is what I call bringing justice and social assistance closer together.
The 1994-95 budget was $474,187,000. So, you can see, even if you accept the cooked-book figure of $420 million in 1992-93, we have had expenditure increases in the area of $50 million in the Yukon in each of the budgets that the Yukon Party government has been in office. Now, it is a question of priorities and not a lack of money. They talk the talk - conservatism, smaller government - but so little do they walk the walk.
We have seen the conflict-of-interest legislation. We have seen that they have no respect for the law, whether it is gambling, whether it is Taga Ku, whether it is privatizing the power company or whether it is non-Yukon resident ownership of outfitting areas. We have seen them take private interest protection over that of the public interest. The only places where they have not put Tories on boards is where we, when in power, legislated by law that they would not have the authority to determine who were going to fill the positions. Those are the only places where we have not seen by far a majority of Tories appointed. I can hardly wait to see what the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board looks like.
There is a real problem of accountability with this government.. We have gone now to one session in the Legislature. We have watered-down conflict-of-interest legislation; we have a contempt for the Legislature with the review of the Environment Act. We have a government that is an economic do-nothing government. They do not look at economic diversification at all. What have they done for the agricultural industry?
They virtually ignored it and these people had high hopes for this government.
I could speak for days on the education system in this territory and what they have done to it. I intend to do that in this session of the legislature. They talk a big stream about what they have done for the education system, but I have not heard one person tell me they have done a good job or anything positive. They have broken down partnerships in the education system and they have cut the funding, whether it is in the college or the public school system or special needs. At the same time, they are spending record budgets. For two years they have not built a school. It is preposterous for them to stand up and claim they have done good work in that area.
This is a government that has a one-window approach to development assessment, which they have not been able to put forward in any kind of real legislation or in any kind of act. Again, they have a habit of saying one thing and doing another.
When we talk about small business regulatory reviews, what do they do? They involve a smidgen of the Yukon public in their review. They start with the Chamber of Commerce. They do not talk to anyone else. One cannot have a successful review in this way because other people who have concerns must be involved.
I will end my contribution to the throne speech debate by simply saying that I want to see more from this government. I hope to see more in terms of bringing people together, consensus building and support for the community that I represent.
They have no further excuses in that area. I look forward to working with them in this upcoming session.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Mr. Speaker, Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly and fellow Yukoners, I am honoured to be speaking to you today in reply to the Speech from the Throne.
The Government Leader has asked me to accept a most interesting and challenging task, a task that I have accepted with some apprehension, but no misgivings.
This government believes that we must balance economic development and environmental protection, and I will devote the necessary time and energy to meet that challenge.
Economic decisions can no longer be made in absence of careful consideration of their environmental implications. Alternately, environmental values must be measured against economic benefits, and it is incumbent upon us to make very effort to balance those diverse interests.
Our government recognizes the value of the environment, as well as the economy, and has exemplified its commitment to the balance by appointing one Minister to both responsibilities.
In this regard I have asked the Department of Economic Development and the Department of Renewable Resources to meet and begin discussions on ecosystem management and how that relates to their policies and activities.
In the past, most resource development initiatives were viewed in isolation, and local impacts became the centre of debate. Our attention should be on the ecosystem as a whole, and this needs to include a weighing of economic benefit and environmental impact.
The Leader of the Official Opposition today stated that the Yukon economy is recovering, despite our efforts. In the next few minutes, I would like to briefly outline some initiatives we have undertaken, or will be undertaking, to contradict that Member's statement.
In the agricultural sector, the agricultural branch has requested a reserve on lot 563, on the Hot Springs Road, for the construction of an abattoir. The previous government did no such thing, and yet the abattoir has been on the books for several years.
On the value of production in the area of agriculture, the farms in Yukon have increased from 130 in 1991-92 to 160 in 1995-96.
The farmland in Yukon has increased from 18,500 acres to 21,500 acres. Forage production has increased from 7,500 tons to 8,500 tons. Egg production has gone from 40,000 dozen to 91,500 dozen annually. Greenhouse operations have gone from 30 to 40 and the value of agriculture has gone from $2.3 million to $3 million. The Farmers Market, which was open approximately six days in 1991-92, is now open 12 to 14 days.
As for the titled land in 1994, 10 titles were issued, representing 328 hectares. There were four agreements for sale, representing 222 hectares, and in 1993 there were 25 titles issued, representing 1,050 hectares.
The branch contributes to the agricultural industry. There is $5,000 for YAA for the Farmers Market program, used essentially for advertising. There are plans to send the president of the YAA to the Direct Marketing Conference in British Columbia. We will be contributing $2,000 to the YAA for education in schools. The Green Plan will be providing $43,000, which actually is more of a federal government contribution but is provided for us to pass on to the YAA.
Speaker: The time being 5:30 p.m., the House will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Before the break, I was talking about the dollars contributed to the agricultural industry in Yukon and I would like to just finish up on that a bit and talk a little bit about our plans for the future.
The Agricultural Planning Advisory Committee's - known as APAC - budget is about $10,000. Most of this money goes for the Yukon Agriculture Association representatives to attend meetings. In addition to that, the agriculture branch pays out about $6,000 a year for soil testing and feed testing, for which the farmers would normally have to pay.
Plans for the future include beefing up - no pun intended - our research and demonstration program, which will be expanded into central Yukon in 1995, working with the industry on marketing "Yukon-grown". This includes seminars and obtaining a permanent site for our Farmers Market.
We will become more and more pro-active in giving out agricultural land. This includes supporting the planning of areas suitable for agriculture. We moved the agricultural land application process from Department of Community and Transportation Services from the Department of Renewable Resources about a year ago.
The branch handles about 400 office visits each year, makes about 250 farm calls and handles somewhat over 2,000 phone calls from our clients. The branch is also in an active phase, working with the industry to develop native grass seeds and production. The agriculture branch has taken an active role in evaluating the agricultural policy, working on animal health legislation and finalizing the game farming regulations.
I would now like to go over to the Canadian Council of the Ministers of the Environment. In November 1994, Yukon became the first territorial jurisdiction to assume responsibility for chairing the Canadian Council of Minisiters of the Environment. During 1995, two national meetings will be held in the Yukon. The first one will be in Haines Junction in May, and the second in Whitehorse in October. We have talked to the First Nations in Haines Junction, as well as the town council and various other people, and they are quite excited about the conference in May.
During 1995, the top priority of the CCME will continue to be the development of a new national environment regime. This initiative is referred to as "harmonization". The objective of harmonization is three-fold: firstly, to reconcile environmental management practices and standards across jurisdictions; secondly, to reduce duplication and overlap between federal and provincial/territorial processes - an example is the environmental assessment process; and thirdly, to streamline processes to allow for more effective and efficient management of environmental programs.
With respect to game farming, the game farming policy was adopted in March 1994. The 60-day review of regulations was conducted from August through October 1994. Thirteen responses were received. On animal health, the department is presently consulting with stakeholders toward developing an animal health act to address concerns regarding animal disease and genetic issues.
In forestry, the transfer discussions have recently been reactivated with the possibility of the transfer occurring as early as May 15, 1995.
As soon as the agreement has been signed - we hope in January - our government will launch preparatory tasks through a transition team. This will include detailed research and analysis toward the establishment of interim and long-term forest policies legislation and management programs.
As to the state of the environment reporting, in cooperation with the federal government, the Yukon government is developing a first-ever state of the environment report, which should be ready in late 1995.
Regarding environment protection and assessment of the Whitehorse sewage lagoon, the department has facilitated salvage of merchantable timber and firewood from the lagoon site. Although the amount of wood left standing was substantial, the amount of timber salvaged was remarkable, given the time available.
The department has negotiated a cooperative resource and environmental agreement with the federal departments from Northern Affairs and Environment, the Northwest Territories and the Provinces of B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan on the Mackenzie River Basin master agreement. This agreement was 10 years in the making.
We have recently carried out an evaluation of the beverage container program. The results show that the program is efficient and effective and should be expanded to include new container types. The evaluation showed a 78 percent return rate for containers after the first full year of operation. I think that is something we can be quite proud of.
We have also administered 17 contribution agreements with community recycling depots for the beverage container regulations. We have provided assistance to the Watson Lake Recycling Centre to build and equip a new recycling depot for Watson Lake.
The pesticides regulations came into force on July 20, 1994. The regulations regulate the use and sale of pesticides in order to protect public safety, wildlife and the environment. A survey of pesticides sold in the territory is presently underway. A consultant has been hired to conduct a survey of pesticide sale outlets, farmers and industrial users of use of pesticides, linear developments, et cetera. The survey is a result of cooperation between the Yukon government and Agriculture Canada, who pays for the survey.
We have prepared and distributed three brochures on natural pest control in gardens and homes and safe handling and disposal of pesticides. We have worked with Health Canada to establish a sampling program to test Yukon-grown produce for pesticide residues.
Special waste regulations were released for initial public review in March of 1994. The mandatory 60-day public review of the revised draft regulations was conducted between July and September 1994. Comments from the public and stakeholder groups have been incorporated into the final Act.
We have received input from the local industry on the ozone-depleting substances program, and draft regulations have been developed to control release of substances that damage the ozone layer. The most common substance is the coolant, freon, that is used in refrigerators. Draft regulations have been prepared and will be forwarded to Cabinet as soon as the Department of Justice has reviewed the regulations.
A total of 70 Yukon service technicians have received and environmental training an certification course for working with ozone-depleting substances. The course was delivered in cooperation with Environment Canada and the Heating and Refrigeration Industry Association of Canada.
The Yukon anti-litter program is coordinated annually among government departments. Four hundred bags of garbage were collected by the various government departments this year. Advertisements were placed in the media to raise awareness that litter is a year-round problem in the Yukon and to communicate that the litter laws under the Environment Act are now in effect. Several tickets have been issued for littering offenses.
On the special waste collection program, in October 1994, two truckloads of special waste were sent out of the territory for treatment. The cost for the program was estimated at $45,500. This program will help to identify the volume and type of special wastes in the Yukon. The orphaned waste storage container, a specialized storage container, has been placed at a secure site in the Marwell industrial area. This container will store orphaned wastes, wastes that have been abandoned by bankrupt businesses or where ownership cannot be determined.
Pertaining to the PCB wastes, at the end of March, 1994, a shipment of PCB waste was sent to the chemical security facility at Swan Hills, Alberta, for destruction. This is a one-time shipment that was predominantly composed of the 118 tons of PCB-contaminated soil from the Granger residential subdivision.
We have a contract with Raven Recycling for an ongoing collection/disposal program for household waste oil, which costs somewhere in the neighbourhood of $4,000 per year.
On May 28 and October 1, 1994, household hazardous waste days were held at Raven Recycling in Whitehorse. These events provided the opportunity for the public to dispose of their household hazardous waste in an acceptable manner. Environmental Protection assisted with the events, including the waste and the shipment of special wastes in October.
Going over to the Department of Economic Development for a moment, in 1994, we signed the Yukon placer authorization and took an active role in its implementation, working with the mining industry, the First Nations and conservation interests. We continued our active involvement in the Yukon Mining Advisory Committee, pursuing responsible land use regulations for Yukon mining legislation.
The Department of Renewable Resources and the Department of Economic Development worked together with other stakeholders and the local community in developing a management plan for the Bonnet Plume heritage river. The two departments worked together on the nomination documents for the Tatshenshini heritage river nomination.
The Department of Economic Development and the Department of Renewable Resources worked closely together to coordinate and balance Yukon government views on such processes as the Water Board and the Regional Environment Review Committee of the EARP process.
Forestry devolution, Economic Development and Renewable Resources will be working closely in the development of a balanced, made-in-Yukon forest management regime.
Economic Development is supporting the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment review of economic sectors in mining, which was conducted on November 30 this year, and the next ones to be reviewed are energy and then cultural industries. Economic Development works with Renewable Resources on air quality initiatives under the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment leadership, and Economic Development is currently recruiting a mineral resource assessment geologist to help in park system planning.
In 1993-94, we negotiated the transportation infrastructure agreement with the federal government for $20 million on a 50/50 cost-shared five-year basis for highway work to benefit mining and tourism. We will soon be finalizing the Yukon industrial support policy, and this has formed the basis for discussion with an array of companies to date. The mining facilitator is in place and working actively with all companies in permitting, and those getting close to permitting. In the next year, the department will be working with the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Mines and the Tourism Industry Association to identify and develop action plans to deal with regulatory burden and red tape.
We are going to be evaluating the rationale and role of the business development fund. We are going to be evaluating with the federal government the role and performance of the economic development agreement. The Government Leader and I have been actively pursuing the federal Minister regarding the future of the economic development agreement, as this one expires in March 1996.
We have a geological mapping program funded under the Canada/Yukon economic development agreement, which has resulted in significant new discoveries and helped fuel interest in the Yukon as a place to explore.
The technology research, funded through the mineral development agreement, is helping to develop new technology for mines in Yukon. An example of this is the pilot plant for Carmacks Copper, which I believe Mr. Speaker had an opportunity to visit last winter.
The Department of Economic Development is supporting the MacBride Museum's development of the gold legacy collection, which will be unveiled in 1996. The collection will include gold from Yukon creeks and should be a big tourist attraction.
We put on a meet-the-government business-to-business reception with great success which, I believe, demonstrated the willingness of government to work with Yukon businesses.
As Minister of Economic Development, I am in full support of the industry-related training programs announced in the throne speech, although as a department we are not directly involved.
Economic Development will be working closely with Renewable Resources and other parties on land claims agreements on the development assessment process, the DAP, which is required to be in place within two years of the effective date. It is our hope that this process will serve as a one-window environmental review process in the Yukon. The department stands ready to work closely with First Nations on the economic opportunity identification and planning processes resulting from the land claims.
The department has set up a vigorous loan repayment regime for all outstanding loans. This has dramatically reduced the number of accounts in arrears. I think the Member for Riverdale South will be interested in this because, if I recall correctly from the last session, she was questioning the loan arrears that were on our books. We are working on that and tabled in the House at a later date will be the loans that are still outstanding and no efforts have been made to bring them out of arrears.
I believe I have a few minutes left. What I would like to do for the interest of the people in the House is to quickly run through the current mines that are either in the permitting processes or are close to it. I would just like to give you a very quick summary of each project and what stage they are at, the type of ore to be mined, and when they expect to be in production.
We will start with the Brewery Creek project, which is 57 kilometres due east of Dawson City and is owned by Loki Gold Corporation. The reserves are 16.7 million tonnes of gold ore and the mine life is expected to be 7.5 years with the current reserves. The mining method is open pit for 230 days per year. The processing method is heap leaching, which would run 365 days per year. During construction there will be approximately 100 employees; after construction, when the mine is in full operation, there will be approximately 78 full-time employees.
The next one is the Carmacks Copper project, which is located approximately 35 miles northwest of Carmacks. It is owned by Western Copper Holdings Limited, a thermal exploration company. The mineral reserve is 14.1 million tonnes of copper and gold; it is an oxide-ore mine. The mine life is expected to be 8.5 years at the known reserves. It is open-pit mining for approximately 200 days a year, and the processing is similar to Brewery Creek in that it will be a heap-leach system that will run 365 days a year. There will be approximately 105 employees initially, and that will be increasing in later years. The expected startup date is 1996.
We talked a little bit about the Division Mountain coal project summary, and I will just give you a very brief outline of it. It is located 31 kilometres southwest of Braeburn. It is owned by Cash Resources Limited. The known reserves so far are 15.8 million tonnes of low-sulphur sub-bituminous coal. It is open-pit mining. Trenching in 1994 has exposed a clean coal seam averaging 32 metres in true thickness over a length of 1,200 metres.
The Brewery Creek/Ketza River project is approximately 35 miles west of Ross River and is owned by YGC Resources. It has 261,000 tonnes of ore. The commodity is gold and silver. The mining method would be open pit, using approximately 50 employees, and the mine life is expected to be two years with the existing reserves.
The Minto property is 80 kilometres northwest of Carmacks and is owned by Minto Explorations Limited. Known reserves are 5.5 million tonnes of copper, gold and silver. The mine life with known reserves is expected to be 12 years. The processing method will be by conventional mill. There will be approximately 80 employees. Expected startup is in 1996.
The Mount Nansen property, 60 kilometres west of Carmacks, is road accessible and owned by BYG Natural Resources Inc. The mine life is six years, and the commodity is gold and silver. The mining method would be open pit, and the mill would be a conventional one. The expected startup of the mill is 1995.
The Mount Skukum Creek property is 40 kilometres west of Carcross. It is owned by Omni Resources Ltd. There is 98,885 tonnes of gold oxide ore. The mine life is approximately four years, and the commodity is gold and silver. The mining method would be underground, with a conventional mill, and there would be 80 to 100 employees.
Sa Dena Hes, which you are very familiar with, Mr. Speaker, is located 50 kilometres northeast of Watson Lake. Tech Resources owns 25 percent, Cominco owns 25 percent, Korea Zinc owns 40 percent and Samsung Corporation owns 10 percent. The mineable reserves are approximately 1.75 million tonnes, which would give it a mine life of four years. The commodity is lead, zinc and silver. It is a conventional mill, and the mining method is underground. The number of employees is approximately 81, and Cominco has advised that production will resume when metal prices increase to make it somewhat more viable. I am not sure what the actual price would be to make it viable.
The Tag property, which we have heard a lot about in the last few days, is 115 kilometres southeast of Ross River. It is owned by Cominco. There are known reserves of 13 million tonnes. It is essentially copper, lead, zinc, silver and gold. It is a sulphide ore. This was discovered in 1994 by Cominco. There is still a lot of exploration to be done. They need to drill another 50 holes for the geological work. A winter road will be needed by March 1995, for the drilling to be conducted in the summer of 1995. Approximately 30 people were employed on this year's program, including about 15 local people.
Preliminary mine planning indicates that more than half of the resource will be mined by open-pit methods. It is anticipated that three concentrates would be produced if this mine could be developed. Those would be lead, zinc and copper.
The United Keno Hill Mine in Elsa has been carrying out work for about the past year and one-half. The known reserves are 292,730 tonnes, for a mine life of approximately three years, with commodities of silver and lead. The mining method would be underground, with a conventional mill. It is anticipated that there would be approximately 170 people employed at Elsa, with the reopening scheduled for 1996.
I think that is pretty well it. If I still have a few minutes, I would not mind talking briefly about our fish and wildlife accomplishments in 1994. If I have time after that, I would like to talk a bit about our parks planning.
In 1994, we had a fall launching of the Carcross caribou recovery program cooperatively with CYI and seven Yukon First Nations, which now includes contributions from the Government of British Columbia. Specific progress has been made this year, as follows: Yukon First Nations have almost completely eliminated their harvest of the herd; continued population and harvest monitoring is occurring; and related habitat protection initiatives are taking place through the careful review of land applications in the region. We hope to see the first signs of recovery in this herd in the near future. The public Carcross Caribou Recovery Steering Committee will continue to be in contact with communities in this regard.
The opening of Swan Haven at McClintock Bay, near Whitehorse, this past spring was a landmark in the implementation of our wildlife viewing program. This and a number of related initiatives are a part of this expanding program to encourage the non-consumptive use and enjoyment of wildlife resources, to support our broader recreation and tourism objectives for Yukoners and visitors alike.
We have launched a series of winter works projects, which are now nearing completion, to clean up and to provide electrified fencing at Yukon dumps to eliminate bear activity in the vicinity of these dumps for the summer of 1995 and beyond. This initiative will lead to more aesthetically pleasing and economically run waste disposal sights, while conserving bears that otherwise would become habituated to garbage and, in many cases, would have to be destroyed.
Progress has been made in the implementation of a regional wildlife management plan that was developed with the Mayo Renewable Resource Council. This will serve as a useful model in proceeding with the new councils about to be appointed in the traditional territories of the other three First Nations who have achieved their claims agreements.
All aspects of the Aishihik caribou recovery plan have been completed in the second year, producing thorough management data on the local caribou, moose and sheep populations. The approach to this program in 1995 is presently under review, and I hope to have the comments from the reviewing committee some time near the middle of December.
Yukon has become an effective contributor to the Forty Mile caribou recovery program, which is being led by Alaska. Yukon encouraged the development of this program.
Continued financial and other support is being provided to the fish hatchery in Whitehorse, which has been very successful in returning salmon to nearby traditional streams for the enjoyment of Yukoners and visitors alike.
Our new initiative for 1995 is to launch a major, integrated renewable resource planning and management initiative in southeast Yukon to ensure the effective conservation of wildlife and other renewable resources in an environment of increased development in the mineral and forestry sectors. We want to implement new renewable resource councils with the Vuntut Gwichin, Champagne-Aishihik, Na-Cho Ny'ak Dun and Teslin Tlingit First Nations, as well as with the new Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, as a result of the settlement of the first four claims with Yukon First Nations. This will formalize a new approach to fish, wildlife and habitat management in Yukon.
Speaker: Order please. The Member has three minutes in which to conclude his remarks.
Hon. Mr. Fisher:
I would like to talk quickly about our parks system plan implementation from 1992 to the present.
The inventories of areas of interest are complete for five ecoregions. The purpose in describing areas of interest, rather than jumping to candidates, is to provide room for consideration of other interests, primarily industrial resource extraction.
The Porcupine Peel inventory, 1993, includes the Eagle Plains and Peel River plateau ecoregions. The second inventory, 1994, includes the Pelly Mountains, Yukon Southern Lakes and Ruby Range ecoregions. This report has not been released due to Land Claims Secretariat concerns, but we hope to release it soon.
Work is proceeding toward selecting a candidate protected area in the Eagle Plains regions from three areas of interest. Assessments will be completed for ecological value, archaeology, oral history and oil and gas potential by March 1995. The mineral assessment will be completed by 1996, by which time a park candidate will be chosen.
Agreement has been reached on the overall process for conducting mineral potential assessments for areas of interest. Economic Development and Renewable Resources are currently working on hiring an assessment geologist. The position description is currently at the Public Service Commission for classification.
The Tombstone natural environment park is being negotiated as part of the Dawson First Nation land claims. It is within the Mackenzie Mountain ecoregion. The area proposed by government is not representative of the ecoregion.
On our parks system plan completion, an optimistic outlook is that there will be areas of interest, candidates and designations in all three ecoregions by 1996-97. If inventories are completed for these three regions by March 1997, it is technically possible to complete the system by the year 2000. This would meet our commitments.
I see my time has expired.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to begin by pointing out that the Mount Lorne riding is continuing to grow. It is not the case, as in Faro, of a mine reopening but because of increased residential development such as the new Cowley subdivision at the city limits.
My constituents nine miles down the Carcross Road point out that Cowley has been the name of their residential area since the White Pass Railway opened in 1900 and properties were developed around the Cowley Station and Cowley Creek. Unfortunately, the City of Whitehorse was not amenable to finding a new name for the new subdivision, so there are now two Cowley residential areas in Mount Lorne. Regardless, I welcome the new people living in Mount Lorne.
The Marsh Lake area also has more year-round residences and has street names so that it will be easier for emergency traffic, visitors and even politicians to find people in that area. Names are important to people and the process has not been without controversy. I asked the previous Minister to seek First Nations input, and I believe Kwanlin Dun would still like the ability to amend or change street names in their traditional territory to reflect the original inhabitants of the area. Consulting with the Land Claims Secretariat does not constitute consulting with First Nations; nonetheless, I believe that all parties agree that to have street signs posted at Marsh Lake will enhance public health and safety.
The Whitehorse municipal election on October 20 enjoyed a record high voter turn-out. There is a new municipal council of intelligent, articulate people who care about their community. I am pleased to see Mount Lorne represented with city councillors from both Wolf Creek and Mary Lake. I would like to congratulate all citizens who sought office in the recent municipal elections and I look forward to working with the new city council.
A primary issue that elected officials at all levels deal with is the level of taxation their constituents face. Rural taxation is an issue that has been raised often before in this House. Country residential lot owners seek a millrate that is based both on the level of services provided and on property values. Development cost charges have been universally unpopular. I believe home owners prefer development costs to be built into the price of land without an additional surcharge for municipal capital projects, such as the cross-town water main, that do not benefit country residential neighbourhoods. Government could work with the city to help resolve this ongoing conflict.
As a result of an Association of Yukon Communities resolution at their spring 1993 meeting, a cost-of-service committee was struck to evaluate the various costs incurred by urban and rural taxpayers in the provision of municipal services.
This committee specifically set out to determine what services, taxes and grants pay for in Whitehorse and the Ibex Valley and Mount Lorne hamlets. The peripheral population around Whitehorse city limits is approximately 3,000 people. City residents use rural land for recreation, fuel-wood cutting, hunting, and they also use rural dumps. Rural residents use city recreation facilities, landfills and commercial facilities. Only a portion of the operation costs of municipal facilities are recovered by user fees, and the cost of service committee will have to take into account that the balance of costs is taken from general revenues. I would point out that presently the peripheral population is factored into the City of Whitehorse comprehensive grant funding and that in 1993-94 this totalled approximately $79,000 of the total $4,967 million of the city budget. The cost-of-service committee has not yet developed their final recommendations on the format and principles for cost-sharing agreements. This is an issue of great interest in my riding. I would like to thank the new Minister for providing me with the terms of reference and minutes of the committee meetings and ask him to keep me informed as their work progresses.
There is a longstanding recommendation from the Hamlet of Mount Lorne that the mile 9 dump, which is a dump, be converted to a transfer station. The Arctic environmental strategy green fund is conducting a study on landfill use in the Whitehorse area. The City of Whitehorse is holding meetings this week for a solid-waste action plan and the Yukon Cabinet is, this week, I believe the Minister told me, considering a government policy on solid-waste management.
I will continue to lobby the government to support initiatives to recycle and reuse materials, reduce waste and develop territory-wide, responsible waste management programs and regulations. This must be a cooperative effort with municipalities and residents and it must be done without any more dragging of the feet.
Strong parental involvement continues to be a feature of Golden Horn Elementary School, where an election was held for school council in October. I would like to congratulate the all new Golden Horn school council, and I look forward to attending the Christmas concert in the new gymnasium, which is part of a school addition to be completed this month.
I have written to the Community and Transportation Services Minister about road improvements to the school and will be following up on that representation. The school council also points out that the school is near capacity, and their population projections point to the need for a future school as new building lots come on the market in the attendance area. We would also like to know if Golden Horn school's new computer lab will have access to Internet.
The Mount Lorne Volunteer Firefighters Society has been incorporated, and I understand they will receive money from the very last disbursement of the community development fund for their firehall. The Mount Lorne firehall will add to the fire protection in the Mount Lorne riding already provided outside city limits by the Golden Horn and Judas Creek firehalls.
The Government Leader's Speech from the Throne expresses some laudable sentiments about the Yukon's rich cultural diversity and respect and tolerance for the rights of all people.
As the throne speech points out, Yukon First Nations have borne the burden of economic development while sharing few of the benefits. Land claims will help alleviate this problem, but the government and its Ministers must work with First Nations to ensure their meaningful involvement in future economic development. This would include such things as timber harvesting in the Kluane area, where logging is being contemplated in response to a spruce beetle infestation of forests.
Four First Nation agreements were completed before the Yukon Party took office. The Opposition would like to know how the government is planning to assume its implementation responsibilities, and how many more final agreements will be reached over the final years of the term of this government.
I would point out that, first, the government must foster a climate of trust between itself and the First Nations. The government should be leading the way in establishing respectful and open relationships with First Nations. A spirit of goodwill is essential between all parties. The challenge of making land claims work rests on fulfilling, above all, this responsibility of good working relationships with First Nations and all Yukon citizens.
The government has received the Mount Lorne hamlet land use plan and must now provide clear territorial land application processes for all Yukoners. In previous debate, I suggested that the government develop a land planning act that addresses land use planning, zoning and land development in harmony with the land claim agreements.
I hope the government recognizes that a participatory land use process minimizes land use conflicts. That should be the government's aim.
There is also a need for affordable land so that first-time home buyers can afford to break into the market. Trailer owners need affordable and available land if they are going to be able to get out of the trailer parks.
At the Association of Yukon Communities meeting in Mayo this past September, I heard the discussion about the resolution to review the evaluation of raw land and about the need for a consistent approach to raw land pricing in the Yukon. Constituents have asked me how much profit the government makes on land sales. I would like the government to indicate when they will provide a draft policy on land pricing, or whether they do not view that as a priority.
Although the government talked about devolution of lands, there was no mention of agricultural land. There are agricultural parcels in Mount Lorne, and any government, particularly one that talks so much about self-reliance, must support an increased ability to feed its population. Agricultural production is an achievable and worthwhile goal, even in the Yukon.
When we talk about anniversaries, we must remember that, at the time of the Klondike Gold Rush, when the population of the Yukon was as large as it is today, most food was produced locally.
The government indicates that progress has been made with respect to devolution negotiations, particularly in the areas of forestry and airports. Many people around the Yukon have serious concerns about this government's ability to negotiate, whether with the federal government or with its own employees.
Many of my constituents will have reduced paycheques next month as a result, and we hope that we are not going to see the government going into negotiations with the federal government actively seeking cuts.
The public also has concerns about policy vacuums within this government. At the Association of Yukon Communities meeting in Mayo this September, a resolution was passed about responsible forest management. Sawmills have ceased operation in Watson Lake because they cannot get logs, while unprocessed logs are being exported. The public should know that, while Yukon stumpage fees are 20 cents per cubic metre, other parts of the country pay $30 per cubic metre, and more. AYC's and many Yukoners' view is that stumpage fees must increase from the current 20 cents per cubic metre to a minimum of $5.75 per cubic metre, and that the Yukon government should immediately implement a reforestation policy and program paid for by increased stumpage fees.
The Association of Yukon Communities recognizes that First Nations must be involved in forestry discussions. They point out that smaller commercial permits now total more logging than the Kaska Forest Resources timber harvesting agreement. Kaska Forest Resources are paying more than 20 cent stumpage and are setting money aside for a mill and for reforestation. We must see this apply to all logging activities. The government must cease talking and start acting on developing forestry policy. They do not have to wait until after the transfer of forestry resources. The government should not be attempting to take over the forestry program in order to cut the fat from it. They must negotiate a deal that ensures adequate personnel resources are transferred, and they should be talking to federal employee representatives.
The throne speech lays claim to open and accountable government by tabling major pieces of legislation. Ministers' constituents have asked me how we can make the Yukon Party government open and accountable. Constituents of Members opposite have come into my office, and those of my colleagues, because they cannot get any help from their Yukon Party MLAs. One person told us at a meeting with 25 Yukon College students in Dawson City that they could not get in touch with their Klondike MLA, despite repeated attempts, because he was too busy out at his placer mine. No matter how important mining is to the territory, I believe that an MLA's first responsibility is to represent their constituents, not to mine for gold.
While I have willingly helped many people from ridings other than Mount Lorne, I think Members opposite should also help their constituents, even if they are busy Ministers. Time after time, on the community tour the Member for Faro and I made last month, we heard that Ministers have not been seen in their ridings. Is this accountability? Time after time, we have been asked when the Legislature would resume sitting. The government has been hiding for six months now. Is this open and accountable government?
I believe that being a legislator is honourable work, and the government should begin to fulfill their obligations in an honourable way.
The throne speech suggests that the government has an ambitious agenda. In the good-government portion of the speech, when they list the legislation they are bringing forward, we see that four of the five acts are laws that have previously been debated and passed in this House. Under the previous administration, the Yukon Party voted for the New Democrats' Public Government Act, which recognizes the principle of open and accountable government, that government should discharge its duties to Yukon people in a fair and responsive manner, that government should consult with Yukon people on policy and legislation that affects them, that boards and committees should be representative of the Yukon population as a whole and not just of the party in power, and that public officials should carry out their public responsibilities in a manner that does not conflict, or appear to conflict, with their private interests.
I believe the Yukon Party not only supported those principles and that legislation, but they have articulated them again in the throne speech before us. How can they call their Access to Information Privacy Act new, when the existing access to information legislation has been hailed as model legislation? Why debate this again?
The government calls the Conflict of Interest Act new legislation establishing a conflicts commissioner, when this, too, appears in the Public Government Act. Ministers and Members of the Legislative Assembly should not conduct private business while holding public office. As a constructive suggestion, I would like to ask the government to proclaim the Public Government Act, which does provide for a conflicts commissioner. This would greatly reduce the public's suspicion that the Yukon Party government is stalling for time on conflict-of-interest legislation.
Then we have the Ombudsman Act. Why the sexist language? There are alternatives possible. For example, why not call it the advocates act? The government says that the ombudsman will be an advocate.
The Historic Resources Act, and the Employment Standards Act, are also NDP legislation. Why introduce and debate them again? The government says they want to better use the time of this House. The best way to engage in constructive debate is to make an honest attempt to answer the questions we raise on behalf of the Yukon public. It is time to stop hiding.
The government's claim to demonstrated responsible fiscal management and balanced budgets falls short of the whole truth. The two previous budgets have marked increased government spending. Regardless of the Yukon Party rhetoric about streamlining and improved efficiency, this Conservative government has spent more money than any previous Yukon government, including previous New Democrat governments.
The throne speech also neglected to mention that the Auditor General of Canada has found that the Yukon Party government went so far as to break the law. Why did they not mention that? In their zeal to convince the public that the Yukon was in a deficit position when, in fact, there was a sizeable surplus, the Yukon Party violated the Financial Administration Act. The government illegally wrote off a loan of $2 million to Taga Ku and a $2.3 million to Curragh Inc. in 1993-94. Is this proper management of the territory's financial affairs? Is this open and accountable government? I think not.
The throne speech paints the future of mining as bright. I am sure we all share optimism about future mining expansion, which is in spite of, not because of, the Yukon Party. There has been lack of support for Faro, and refusal by the government to conduct a general review of the economy according to the Economic Development Act.
The previous speaker gave us an enlightening description of how many tonnes of minerals are where in the Yukon, and some of these ore bodies will be new mining developments. I wonder if I need to remind the government that they did not put the gold, copper or lead in the ground. What the government can do is support education and training for future mine workers.
Last session, we encouraged the government to offer more support education and training. The president of the Chamber of Mines stated at the Geoscience Forum, that the Yukon Party government missed the boat on training. We heard an announcement today of $200,000 for mining training in four communities. Compare that with $700,000 that the NDP government put in a Faro training trust fund, and $200,000 that was put in the Watson Lake training trust fund.
It is precisely when people are out of work that the government should be investing in human resources, as we heard many people say to us in the communities. Now that the economy is picking up, the Yukon Party government is putting dollars into training - too little, and too late. The government froze the Yukon College budget for the last two years. We believe that the college needs more, not less, money.
As a result of the input we had from many Yukoners around the territory, there will be lots of debate on advanced education issues this session. Education should be a priority for the government.
The Yukon Party government indicates they have decided to use Yukon coal resources to generate electricity. We will continue to raise questions as to whether the government has made an informed decision. The mining economy is cyclical in nature. Can the government demonstrate a long-term demand for the energy to ensure there will be a payback of the enormous capital investment a coal-fired electrical plant will require?
In the throne speech, the government talks about preserving the environment for our children, and the need for balancing economic development and environmental protection. I am sure the government is aware that coal mining and coal-burning thermal generation plants produce carbon monoxide emissions that contribute to global warming.
Coal is a non-renewable fossil fuel, which produces 10 percent more carbon dioxide emissions than diesel. The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment has agreed to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions nationally.
How much will a coal generation plant, with the technologies needed to reduce emissions, cost the Yukon public? We need some answers.
The throne speech also seems to indicate that the Tombstone territorial park in the northern Yukon will not be a multi-use park. The government has agreed to protect this remarkable landmark. However, we believe that this park will be smaller than the original proposal from the Dawson First Nation. Is the government still going to support mining in other parks? Does mining in parks represent to the Yukon Party government a balance of economic development and environmental protection?
The government has announced the centennial anniversaries program. This $9 million, five-year program is a new program with less money and more restrictions than the old community development fund. Already, groups within communities are pitted against one another over which program merits funding, as there has been a government statement that only one project per community will be approved.
The government is converting the visitor reception centre into the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre to capitalize on Yukon's ice-age heritage. Members of the heritage community are asking why, if our ice-age heritage is so important to the government, did they pave over the archaeological resources discovered near Beaver Creek during the Alaska Highway reconstruction? With whom did the government consult about the Beringia museum? The MacBride Museum, as the Minister is well aware from the meeting we had with them last year, has been asking for additional government support. Will they receive any, or will they simply be competing with the new government-sponsored museum?
The government has announced its agreement in principle with the tourist-oriented gambling casino in Whitehorse. I believe that the Member for Klondike is being lobbied to oppose this move. My constituents, like most Yukoners, are opposed to expanded gambling in the Yukon. The Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment has stated that if the government proceeds with expanded casino gambling, they should ensure that Yukon First Nations have equal involvement with policies, legislation and regulations on gambling, that a percentage of revenues be earmarked for addictive gambling behaviour and that a policy be developed and implemented on casino ownership, management, operation and profit distribution.
The recommendation has been made that only non-profit groups operate additional gambling facilities. In particular, I would point out that what the Yukon public, as a majority, has to say about additional gambling in the Yukon is: no, no, no.
I applaud the government's statements about healthy communities. What is government planning to do to alleviate the major problems they articulate of alcohol and drug abuse, violence against women, poverty, lack of housing, theft and vandalism? Will the government help the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre find a home? Will the government allow the Health and Hope Women's Shelter in Watson Lake to close its doors?
The government talks about broad-based FAS and FAE prevention activities being planned. I hope that does not include locking up pregnant women who drink. I also hope that treatment activities will include case management for FAS kids.
In many Yukon schools, we heard about the need for increased funding for special needs students - not a cap on resources. There is a belief in the Yukon public and in the Opposition that this government is trying to reduce the spending that goes to children in Yukon schools, and that is deplorable.
I will also be looking to see if the Women's Directorate will be working with the Department of Education to expand their workshops in schools about violence, increasing self-esteem and teaching youth about healthy relationships and healthy sexuality. I believe the school violence policy could be written in more accessible language so that students can more easily understand and abide by it. Violence is not only fighting; it includes sexual harassment and name calling and other behaviours that we seek to reduce not only in our school yards but in all of society.
I am pleased to see that the moratorium on new licensed child care spaces has been lifted.
In the same breath that the government talks about healthy communities, they talk about preparing a draft arts policy. Will the government also support the Yukon's fledgling publishing industry? There is very little mention of small business in the throne speech. Small business is an important economic development diversification tool. There are a lot of opportunities in the information and knowledge-based businesses. What is the government doing to support them, besides contributing to Internet? Why has the government done nothing to increase access to capital for small businesses?
I am glad to see that the Teen Parent Centre will be getting an expanded facility. I hope to see education and training programs become more of a priority. I hope we do see health promotion activities increase, and I hope that reform of social assistance programs does not mean more penalties on the recipients of social assistance.
I look forward to the session ahead. I am sure we will have lively debate about the issues I have raised, as well as many others.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will start out by wishing everybody a Merry Christmas. At the rate we are going now, in two weeks we will be back in the same old dog fight we are always in.
Community and Transportation Services is proceeding with negotiations for the devolution of the Whitehorse and Watson Lake airports from the Government of Canada to the Government of Yukon. The Yukon government's principal focus will be to provide and protect an affordable aviation transportation system for the benefit of Yukon residents and businesses.
The department is also participating in a process to develop a joint-use approach for the continued use of Schwatka Lake as a water-aerodrome, which is both functional to users and environmentally safe. The use of Schwatka Lake as a water-aerodrome contributes significantly to the Yukon economy and recreation activities in all parts of the territory.
The Emergency Measure Organization of the Department of Community and Transportation Services will pursue the development of an earthquake response plan for the Yukon. This initiative will provide for the necessary measures required in the event of an earthquake and would be integrated with federal and provincial response arrangements in southern Canada, Alaska and the Northwest Territories.
The sports and recreation branch of the Department of Community and Transportation Services is participating in a multi-agency initiative aimed at cooperatively developing programs to focus on youth activities, promoting active living and healthy communities. This initiative recognizes the substantial benefit of investing in preventive programs, such as recreation, as opposed to relying on costly measures to correct health problems or unacceptable social behaviour through costly programs within the justice system. This cooperative approach is reflected in the consultations in the sports and recreation branch programs and the recent conference in Whitehorse, Breaking Trails-Building Healthy Communities. The Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Social Services are also actively involved in this initiative.
The transportation maintenance branch has recently completed a public consultation process on the regulation of commercial billboard signs. Individuals participating in the consultation process generally indicated their support for commercial billboard signs on our highways as an important advertising medium for Yukon businesses. There was also support for alternatives to the existing billboard signs for some advertisers and the desire to have a commonsense sign policy. The department is in the process of finalizing a new commercial highway sign policy for implementation in the spring of 1995.
The Yukon government has entered into an agreement with the Government of Canada and other partners, such as municipalities, to fund municipal and community infrastructure. A summary of the funding available through the agreement and the projects approved to date are available from the municipal and community affairs division of the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
Firehalls are currently under construction in the communities of Ibex and Mount Lorne. The volunteers in these communities are to be commended for organizing their volunteer fire department and for work on the construction of the firehall. Plans are also underway to construct a firehall in the community of Burwash Landing.
The Department of Community and Transportation Services made a number of changes to the way it administers its program responsibilities, which have had the result of providing better service to the public, reducing overlap and duplication or having realized savings to the cost of providing government services. Most of the achievements are the result of small changes to program administration, which have a cumulative effect of improving the quality of service to the public or lowering the total operational expenditures of the department.
The aviation and marine branch has historically provided fuel services to the aviation industry of Mayo and Dawson City airports. The branch provided fuel pumps and tanks at these airports. The fuel service in these communities was recently offered to the private sector.
The aviation and marine branch awarded the right to provide fuel service in each of these airports to private contractors. The private sector services not only reduced the future environmental liability to the department associated with underground fuel tanks, but it has provided lower fuel prices to the aviation industry. The department's pumps and tanks are in the process of being removed.
In the past year, the transportation maintenance branch has reduced the number of tandem axle vehicles used for highway maintenance from 44 to 36 vehicles. Older machines were replaced with multi-use vehicles. This initiative has resulted in a lower cost to maintain the department's road maintenance equipment inventory and will provide a more efficient use of Yukon government resources.
The transportation and engineering branch has been able to realize greater efficiency in their operation and currently have the lowest ratio of capital project expenditures, per capita of staff. This optimal efficiency is partially due to the scale of the highway construction projects through the Shakwak agreement. Although there have been staff reductions within the branch, there are increased opportunities for private sector contractors.
The administration of the Yukon government program for agricultural land disposition was transferred from the lands branch to the Department of Renewable Resources agriculture branch. This transfer provided a better alignment of the agriculture program delivery and the agriculture land disposition.
The administration of the Yukon government agreement-for-sale program was transferred from the lands branch to the Yukon Housing Corporation in the spring of 1994. The Yukon Housing Corporation was able to include this land financing program with their other financing program, which should realize improved efficiency in program administration.
The transfer enables the lands branch to focus on land disposition - and this is one of my greatest ambitions: to get land so that it moves out to people and does not get tied up in red tape. Believe me, it is tied up in red tape.
The transportation maintenance branch implemented a new fuel policy for highway maintenance equipment in the fourth quarter of 1993. The old fuel purchase policy called for the purchase of fuel at the lowest posted pump price in each community.
Under the new policy, the transportation maintenance branch receives discounted fuel prices, that are lower than the lowest pump price. That policy will be extended to all communication and transportation vehicles by January 1995. The department has realized significant cost-savings as a result of this new policy.
The special waste program was transferred from the Department of Community and Transportation Services to the Department of Renewable Resources in the spring of 1994. This transfer eliminated the requirement to develop positions in each department that would have required very similar skills. The transfer provides for more efficient use of Yukon government personnel by having a better alignment of the special waste management and enforcement responsibilities.
The transportation services branch of Community and Transportation Services is in the process of reorganizing its weigh scale station program for commercial transport vehicles. The reorganization will improve program efficiency, reduce cost and overhead, as well as provide an improved service in a number of rural communities. Focusing on the low traffic volumes at Cassiar and Haines Junction weigh scales, the branch closed the Cassiar weigh scale on October 31, 1994, and plans to close the Haines Junction weigh scale station in March 1995. From the savings realized through the weigh scale station closure, two mobile safety officer positions have been created - one in Watson Lake and one in Haines Junction - which will provide a more responsive enforcement capability than the two station facilities that are being closed. In addition to their commercial vehicle inspection responsibilities, the mobile safety officers will be administering driver examinations in their respective areas on a more frequent basis than in the past.
The transport services branch of Community and Transportation Services implemented the periodic mechanical vehicle inspection program for commercial vehicles. This program provides for certification of private sector mechanics who provide safety inspections for commercial vehicles travelling into or out of the Yukon. The periodic mechanical vehicle inspection program is a national initiative and is necessary for Yukon trucks to operate in other provincial districts. Five private sector garages - four in Whitehorse and one in Watson Lake - are now involved with these commercial vehicle inspections, and the transport services branch anticipates more private sector mechanics will be certified in the future.
Savings has been realized by the transportation maintenance branch of the Department of Community and Transportation Services by the winter closure of a full-catering highway maintenance camp. The branch will provide the same level of maintenance but may have a slower response time. The South Canol Road will be maintained from the maintenance facilities in Ross River and Watson Lake. Public safety concerns have been addressed by talking signs, road-specific weather broadcasting and local area observation by a private citizen. Since then, we now have another one that will also be sending in information on the road conditions.
A survey done during the winter of 1993 indicated very little traffic on the road. This year, the traffic count in September averaged 31 vehicles per day and, during the month of October, there was an average of 16 vehicles per day. Those are the two months which would reduce it by 50 percent.
During a trip through the area on November 21 and 22, five vehicles were counted. Two of these were government vehicles. A solar powered unit is being purchased in order to do accurate vehicle counting during the winter.
The Department of Community and Transportation Services, in monitoring the Campbell Highway situation very closely, maintains communication with the companies operating in the area regarding their highway requirements.
The continuation of the Shakwak reconstruction of the North Alaska Highway has resulted in improvements and maintenance efficiency in the area of glacial control, creek control and snow drifting. These improvements will change the highway maintenance branch message along this section of the Alaska Highway as reconstruction continues. Maintenance will be provided primarily from the Haines Junction and Beaver Creek maintenance facilities. This may result in the eventual closure of the Destruction Bay maintenance facility by 1998.
The possible closure of the Destruction Bay maintenance facility was discussed with the Destruction Bay employees in November 1994. With the reality of fiscal restraint, the transportation maintenance branch of Department of Community and Transportation Services has focused on a message for delivering programs and improving efficiency. Formerly, the transportation maintenance crews would rip and reshape the old BST surface prior to the application of a new BST surface. The historic cost for having this done was $17,000 per kilometre, using the conventional equipment. The highway foreman from Ross River maintenance facility suggested using a large farming disc to break up the old BST. This has lowered the resurfacing cost by $12,000 per kilometre and has resulted in substantial cost savings to the branch. Savings realized from this initiative have been redirected to other areas of the transport maintenance branch, and have been an important factor in the department's effort to reduce overall operation and maintenance costs.
In the past two years, the transport maintenance branch has cut its line repainting program for Yukon highways by 50 percent. In doing so, the branch has ensured that safety standards for line painting have not been compromised. This initiative has resulted in a saving of approximately $250,000 per year.
The transportation maintenance branch continues to realize significant savings on the winter highway maintenance costs on the Haines and Dempster highways by implementing a program to better control snow drifting. Following winter identification of problem areas where frequent drifting occurs, work on the area adjacent to the highway is subsequently done the following summer to contour the areas and lessen the conditions that create snow drifting. This has reduced the occurrence of snow drifting, and lowered the maintenance costs on these highways. The additional expenditures required for contouring in the summer is usually offset by the savings in winter maintenance costs.
The transportation maintenance branch of the Department of Community and Transportation Services and the Department of Renewable Resources have cooperated to deliver and maintain this program for rest stops and campgrounds. The maintenance of rest stops and campgrounds is now done by the department that is in the best position to provide the maintenance to each area, instead of the department that was assigned the responsibility for each rest stop or campground. The savings realized by the transportation maintenance branch through this cooperative approach are being redirected to the improvement of existing rest stops and the construction of new rest stops.
Over the past two years, the Department of Community and Transportation Services has made a conscious effort to reduce the number of overtime hours required of department personnel as one way in which the department can reduce operating costs. In the 1992-93 fiscal year, the department's expenditure for overtime was $2,111,000. In the 1993-94 fiscal year, the department's overtime expenditures were reduced to $1,140,000. The projected forecast for the overexpenditure for 1994-95 will drop to $1,032,000. This will probably increase if the snow continues to be as heavy as it is at the present time on the Haines and Skagway roads.
Prior to the winter of 1993-94, winter maintenance on the Alaskan portion of the South
Klondike Highway was done by the State of Alaska at a cost of $900,000. Under the terms of
a maintenance agreement with Alaska, the Yukon government paid $450,000, or 50 percent, of
the cost of maintaining the Alaska section on the Klondike Highway. A new agreement was
negotiated with the State of Alaska for the 1993-94 winter maintenance, and we can thank
our former Minister for getting that first agreement through. However, he unfortunately
only got it for a year, so we had to go through the same process again. The agreement
provided for a joint Alaska crew to maintain the Fraser section of the Klondike Highway in
Canada and the Alaskan section of the highway. The actual cost for the maintenance of the
Alaska section under the new system was $250,000. Under the new agreement, the State of
Alaska will pay 100 percent of those costs. A similar agreement was negotiated for this
winter and, once the new governor is in place and has his feet on the ground, we will try
to negotiate for at least a 10-year agreement, the same as the one we have.
Ms. Commodore: It is a pleasure to be back in this House again. It has been a long time since we were able to stand here and do the business of the Yukon. It is a real shame that this government has chosen to sit only once a year. It is ironic. They speak about having an open and accountable government. If they were really serious about that, they would sit here as often as possible to do the business of the Yukon. I have a hard time believing they are open and accountable. Yukoners are telling us otherwise. They would like to know what this government is doing, and this government does not want to tell them. They are proving that by changing how many times we come to sit here in this House. That is a very cowardly way of doing things. They should be accountable. They say they are, but they are not.
When the Government House Leader talked about this session opening, and how ambitious it was going to be, we all got excited and thought many good things were going to happen. I do not know if that is going to be the case. Everything I have seen so far does not give me the confidence that that is what is going to happen.
I would like to make a comment about his response to an attitude change in the House. According to him, it appears that the attitude of the Opposition has to change. I am not exactly sure what he means by that. Does he mean that we have to change our attitude and agree with everything this government has done and, therefore, it will be a good session? I do not know if that is what he is saying.
He forgets that he was on this side of the House for seven years. There appeared to be some kind of attitude over here. He may have thought it was a good one, or perhaps not. However, when he makes comments like that, people have to wonder about what he expects of this House and what he expects of the Opposition. I know he would like us to bow to his every command and agree to every piece of legislation and every single thing he and his cohorts have done; however, that is not the case and it is not how things work. Each one of us in this House represents a constituency. There are many diverse concerns out there. There are many things happening, and we come here to talk about some of those things. Our constituents expect us to be here. That is what you call open and accountable: to be here and to talk on behalf of your constituents, to make laws and to bring the concerns of those constituents to the government, because they want to know what they are doing. You cannot depend on a partisan, mid-term report to keep them informed, because that is not going to do it.
The mid-term report was read by many people. I had one in my mailbox, and I am sure every other Yukoner did. If that is what they are counting on to keep Yukoners informed, then I think they had better look at doing it in another way, because it is a lot of nonsense. We wonder exactly where they are coming from and who makes all these decisions, because there is no accountability in here from two Ministers who are not Members of this party. The Yukon Party caucus is saying that this is what our government has done, but does that make the two Independents accountable to anyone? According to this, it does not. Their pictures are nowhere to be seen in here. So, if we have a question with regard to this mid-term report on the accomplishments of the Yukon Party, do the Independent Ministers have to answer to this Yukon Party caucus report? It is very strange, and we will be discussing it at great length when we speak on the motion, because taxpayers should not have been responsible for mailing those out.
I can understand why they do not want to come to this Legislature. I can understand it because, every time one turns around, there is a Cabinet shuffle, and that does not give them the opportunity to learn their departments, because they change so fast. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why they do not want to come to this House, where they can be open and accountable, and that is also a big problem. My constituents, and many other constituents, are starting to question the actions of those boys on the other side of the House.
However, we are here to talk about the Speech from the Throne, and that is what we are doing at this time, but the Speech from the Throne also discusses many other things that this government has done, or plans to do. I am concerned about some of the things they are proposing. I am also pleased about some of the things they have done. There is no question in my mind that, if they have done something, if they have improved a program, if they have come to this House and mentioned in their throne speech that they are going to be doing some new and innovative things, that is great. Certainly, if those new initiatives have had a lot of thought put into them, if they have looked at the possibility of how they are going to improve the condition of Yukoners, then that is great; but I am concerned about some of the things they are proposing, to which they have not given a heck of a lot of thought. Those are some of the things I would like to talk about.
People have asked about the Speech from the Throne, and I do not know whether the Government Leader knew that he should have prepared one. After more than two years, you have to question whether or not he was aware that was how he was going to tell Yukoners his government's plan for their mandate.
At one time, when he was asked about a Speech from the Throne, he said that he had a four-year plan, and that is what he was going to be doing for the next four years. He said that he was going to be doing all of these things that he promised during the election to do. I had great fun going through the items and asking what they had done - had they done this or that, how much money had they spent? The government even had a list of the amount of money they were going to be spending in this four-year plan.
To put it honestly, this government strayed from the four-year plan. They found that all things are not possible, or else that their Independents did not want to do some of the things that were in the Yukon Party commitments. That is a big problem. If there is a policy of this Yukon Party government, and the Independents do not agree with the policy, tough beans, they do not have to follow through. That is the excuse this government gives for not following through on some of the policies of the Yukon Party government, and that is a darn shame.
As the Commissioner was reading the Speech from the Throne, things sounded really good. The Commissioner talked about a brighter future, and how Yukoners can look toward a future that is bright and rosy, how First Nations can become involved in all sorts of things, and he went on and on. In his throne speech, he listed six priorities that would set the agenda of this government now that we are into our third year of this mandate. I am sure that the miners will be happy, and so they should be, if there are jobs out there for them and if they are going to be working and new mines are going to be opening up. Certainly, if we are looking at improving the economy of the Yukon, that is one great way of doing it.
The thing that bothered me is that the priorities have changed. It was very disturbing to me, as an aboriginal person and a person who has been involved in land claims for a long time, that land claims had dropped from priority number one to priority number four. That is very disturbing, not only for people who have been sitting in this House for many years, trying to come to agreements with First Nations in the land claims process. I am sure that, while the Council for Yukon Indians are having their general assembly today, they are going to wonder why the priority of land claims has dropped to number four.
I think that the priority of land claims should have stayed where it was. There appears to be a problem with this government. They brag about all sorts of things, but I do not know how close they are to any settlements in the future.
What is very disturbing to me, as someone who has been working toward social change for a couple of decades in the Yukon, is that improving Yukoners' quality of life is now at priority number five. I do not know where it was before, but now it is lower. We can talk about the economy all we want. I will agree with all the good things that are happening, and I will not oppose anything that will improve the Yukon economy. However, despite these improvements, social problems will continue. I waited and waited to hear about some things that were going to happen to improve these problems. I will not oppose any good changes this government is trying to make and I do not think any of my colleagues on this side of the House would, either. We agree that the government is doing some things that need doing in many areas. If those changes are good, there is no doubt in my mind that I will not oppose them.
The government has indicated that we are on the road to recovery. I am glad of that. They talk about involving First Nations in the economy, among other things. I think they have a lot of work to do in that area. The Champagne-Aishihik band looked forward to an improvement in the economy of their people. They looked forward to proving to Yukoners that they could do both something about the economy and something to make their First Nations group self-sufficient. They did that with the greatest confidence.
The first thing the government on that side did was quash their aspirations. They did not agree with the project when they were in the Opposition. They likely made an election promise to friends that they would cancel the government's commitments to them. It was the first thing they did. If they are talking about the economy and including First Nations people in that improvement, they are going to have to start from scratch. As far as working with this government for the economy, First Nations people have no confidence in them. That is a fact that has been stated over and over again.
Instead of making goofy comments, as they have in the past, with regard to First Nations people, they have to sit down and listen to them. They have to listen to them, not tell them what to do, because it does not work that way.
I would like to make some comments about gambling. This is just another idea of theirs that they have talked about without any great amount of thought being put into it. In the throne speech, they said "in order to further enhance tourism" - tourism has a big emphasis on that side of the House, and that is fine, as long as they do not get carried away - "my government has agreed, in principle, with the construction of a tourist-oriented gambling casino in Whitehorse". Well, that has to be the highlight for me of their Speech from the Throne. Where the heck do they get off talking about developing something that is going to cause more social problems? Somebody questioned the Government Leader about that possibility, and he was not really sure how he was going to do it. He knew that some people were opposed to it, but he was not really sure how he was going to do it. Maybe he could get some First Nations people involved in gambling. So, for him to include something like this in his throne speech I found hard to digest.
There has been a lot of talk about involving First Nations in a lot of things, and I think that he knows, and we all know, that there is a big division among the First Nations groups in the Yukon with respect to gambling.
There were public meetings, and the First Nations people talked about the introduction of gambling as a risky business. They spoke about the social problems they fear will accompany increased gambling. This is from the Kluane Tribal Council Chief, Joe Johnson, and he is afraid that it will lead to more welfare and unemployment insurance recipients. The Selkirk First Nation says that social problems are already overwhelming at the community level. Jessie Scarf, a very respected elder with the Kwanlin Dun, says that the thought of more gambling makes her scared for her people.
I cannot speak on behalf of Yukon First Nations people. Only they can, but what I am repeating here are some of the things that have already been said. So, I do not think, when the Government Leader talks about gambling and the support that he has, he should try to use First Nations people for that.
The very first group that I heard from about gambling when video lottery terminals were first being talked about were First Nations people. At that time, the thought of this scared them.
It really scared them, and I have a lot of concerns about exactly why the Government Leader is proposing the construction of a gambling casino in Whitehorse. It might be because, on April 15 of this year, the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon proposed to build a seasonal casino on the city's waterfront. That sounds like the same plan as the Government Leader has, but it said it would need a government loan guarantee to take on the project. I hope the Government Leader can tell me that, because we have ways of finding out whether his plan to build a gambling casino on the waterfront is the result of the proposal by the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon, and whether or not they have even talked, because they mentioned a loan guarantee to do the project. That in itself is pretty scary because, if he is doing that, once again he is listening to his buddies.
Despite the fact that gambling has been a social problem right across the country, this government does not appear to have given much thought to what gambling could do in the Yukon. Many studies have been done about the problems of gambling. Most people will say we have to remember that it will make money and improve the economy and a little bit of the money should be put aside for social problems. The Yukon already has enough social problems.
The Klondike Visitors Association, according to the paper tonight, is opposed to a gambling casino in Whitehorse, and they are going to lobby the MLA for Klondike to oppose this plan by the Government Leader. He says he is a good MLA but I know he will go to his party and will lobby very strongly on their behalf, because that is what the people in his riding are saying. They oppose a gambling casino in Whitehorse.
I would like to know whether or not he does that. I will like to see if he goes against his Government Leader in his plan to go ahead with a gambling casino, because I really think he wants to do so. He has already had a report from the Council on the Economy and the Environment. They have agreed not to go ahead with the VLTs and that is a good thing, but gambling is gambling. I think that the Government Leader listens too carefully to his close friends and gets himself into a lot of trouble. I am a little bit concerned about that.
There has been a lot in this throne speech about tourism. I listened to the Minister responsible for Tourism when he came back from his trip to Europe talk about the millions of people who will be flocking to the Yukon, because he was there and that his trip will enhance tourism in the Yukon. I listened to the throne speech where they indicated they are going to put approximately $9.5 million into tourism in a five-year plan. That is great if they use it to benefit all Yukoners. Tourists will be happy.
I would like to talk about the Minister's secret trip to Europe. He did not have to go. Sam Johnston, of course, would attract all kinds of people, because we know that people from Germany are very interested in First Nations cultures across Canada and in the rest of North America, and that taking Sam Johnston was probably the best idea he had. Whether or not he needed two members of the RCMP, I do not know. I do know for a fact that there are other people in his department who are equally as capable, or more capable of doing the same kind of thing that he did there, and he should not have held up this session so that he could go.
That is, unfortunately, what happened. It was a secret trip and he did not want anyone to know about it. We have heard from a lot of people who are still shaking their heads about his little holiday in Europe. The Minister for Tourism is sitting there making threats again. He is saying, "you wait". One of the reasons they do not want to sit in this House more than once per year is because they do not want to answer to people. They do not have to answer questions that will be asked on this side of the House. They do not have to be concerned about what constituents are saying in regard to their actions. That is very cowardly.
It was said in the throne speech that Yukoners are about to relive one of the most epic periods in their recorded history: the 100th anniversaries of the discovery of gold in the Klondike in 1996, and the gold rush of 1998, the world famous Klondike Gold Rush. Thank goodness for those two eras because they give the Minister of Tourism something to do. I can safely say that was the beginning of social problems for Yukon First Nations people - the very beginning of them. We have been living with those problems ever since.
I wonder if they have any concern about the impact of the gold rush on Yukon First Nation people. As far as I am concerned, that was when it all started. Now, almost 100 years later, the aboriginal people of the Yukon are trying to get back at least a small percentage of what was rightfully theirs. That was the beginning of it. I wonder if they will have a big celebration for that, or are they going to declare a day of mourning? That could likely happen. Those are some of the things that I have been hearing from First Nations people.
Up until a few years ago, no one recognized that there was history before the gold rush. There certainly was not when we came into power in 1985. People would not have believed that there was anyone here before that. However, we will celebrate the discovery of gold in the Yukon, and it will be a big celebration. I have read the history of the gold rush in the Yukon, and I found it very interesting. I was intrigued by it.
I read book after book from the library. When I read, my imagination becomes carried away; however, in addition to that excitement, many other things happened, as well. I think we have to remember that.
I am sure that if the Minister of Tourism is still Minister in 1996 and 1998, he will be leading the parade, as he did in Florida.
Almost 100 years later, we are negotiating a land claims process. The problems with that process started back then, as well. They know it and we know it.
It took more than two years before this government realized that they needed a full-time land claims negotiator. The question was asked over and over about when they were going to appoint one. They did not think they needed the position. However, more than two years later, with no further agreements in place and without much happening in the future, the government has finally realized that they need a full-time negotiator. I applaud that, although it is two years late.
In prior sessions, when I asked questions about land claims and negotiations, it was very unfortunate that I was not getting the kind of answers that aboriginal people were wanting. The government was not answering the questions. Now that they have a full-time negotiator who is going to report directly to the Government Leader, perhaps now he can answer questions in the House, which is something he certainly could not do before.
There are a lot of plans for the waterfront. I hope that some of them reach fruition.
I would also like to see the Kwanlin Dun and the Ta'an Kwach'an First Nations be involved in any kind of planning that is going to take place, because there is still a question about the waterfront. As far as I know, those questions have not been answered. I am very concerned about that because, if they are going to be making all these plans in cooperation with the city and everyone else, there still remains the problem of whether or not any kind of agreements are going to take place regarding those areas. You cannot go ahead and start planning gambling casinos, and all sorts of other things, on the waterfront until those very important things are dealt with. I hope the government is very serious about making peace and settling some concerns of First Nations in regard to the waterfront.
As I mentioned before, healthy communities and a better way of life, and that type of thing, is way down on the government's list of priorities. I think there are a lot of committed people in the departments who are working to make some of those changes. I listened to the Minister responsible for Social Services talk with great passion about the many things he had done, and I am sure he was patting himself on the back at the same time. While he was doing that, I was listening to the radio. When I leave here, I still keep in contact with what is happening. He spoke of the main priorities that he is working on, health reform, social assistance reform, which always means cutting of funding. That is exactly what it means.
He says that all of these programs are under control and that there are more services now than ever before, but there are more cutbacks than ever before in central services, and that is a problem.
I will give the Minister credit for improving the alcohol and drug services programs. I think that, as a barefoot boy from Carcross who has lived here most of his life, he understands the problems facing Yukoners, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal. If some of those things can be improved, and he is the Minister responsible for those programs, more power to him. However, you never seem to know what he is going to do, because he makes a ministerial statement in this House, and then deviates from that a few months later. However, at least now we know where the detox centre is going to be.
He talked about changes to the young offenders programs, and he has talked about better accommodations for the young offenders, but we still hear about some problems that they are having. We hear that the closed custody facility is almost always full. We hear that they are still sending our young people outside. There are still problems in that area. Perhaps the foster homes for young offenders are working, and maybe they are not, I do not know. I certainly know that the closed custody facility is almost always full, and there is much talk about whether or not they are going to build a larger facility to accommodate all those people in closed custody, or whether they are going to be looking once again at open custody.
The government has also talked about changes to the Young Offenders Act . I am not exactly sure what those changes are. They talk about toughening up the Young Offenders Act , but I do not know how tough they want it to be. I do not know if it is this government or the Yukon Party caucus that is lobbying government to make those changes, because that was mentioned in the Yukon Party caucus mid-term report on the accomplishments of this government.
I still have many concerns about children in care, whether they are in foster care or in custody under the Young Offenders Act, and I know that Minister is still responsible for that act and the programs associated with it.
I am interested in finding out what the new Minister responsible for Justice is going to be doing, because we know for a fact that he had a lot of problems in regard to young offenders and he certainly, at that time, was not open to innovative programs that would affect young offenders. Those young offenders are going to be adults and may very well end up in his system, so I am not exactly sure what is going to happen there. I know he had concerns with the judges. He had some concerns and I will be asking him where he stands on them now.
I am interested in finding out where he is going with aboriginal justice. I know the former Minister had some concerns about circle sentencing. There was a meeting in his community, the aboriginal people were not invited or told about a meeting so they did not show up - so I was told by a person from that area. He had some concerns about circle sentencing and felt that it did not appear to be working. The regular system is not working. We will never find a system that is going to be 100 percent effective and the new Minister of Justice is going to have to look at a lot of those areas in which the former Minister was working. I am going to be asking him a lot of questions.
In the past he has shown that he had some concerns about the way things were being done. Whether or not he is going to be continuing with some of the good things that are happening, I do not know. I suspect he has to look at them very carefully.
I am not sure what it is like now, because I have not had a lot of time to do any checking, but at the last change of the season - I usually get invited to the jail for their solstice or equinox feast - and at the time I was there, there were not a lot of inmates at that gathering. That was because the population was down at the time, and that was encouraging. We also know that the Teslin facility has a very low population right now. There are some concerns about that, but I believe that in the end, that will work.
I am concerned that some of the programs that have been available in the facility in Whitehorse are not being practised as often as they were. I am not sure if some of those programs have been cut. I do know that the people who were working with them were very hopeful that the kinds of things they were doing in the jail were good and were helping in the rehabilitation of some of those inmates.
I have a lot of other questions that I want to ask the new Minister of Justice, and I will, because Justice is very important. I know that a lot of people do not feel that way, but a lot of problems can be solved through innovative programs.
As the Minister of Health and Social Services was patting himself on the back for the many things he has done - since nothing was done in the past - he did not mention anything about his policy on the concept of zero tolerance of violence against women and children. It appears to be the policy of the Yukon Party government, but he, as an Independent, sometimes feels that he does not have to agree with that policy.
We are facing some pretty rough times. Tomorrow is the International Day of Mourning for the very horrible thing that happened to some women in Montreal. There are many people out there who practice violence against women. I would really like to know from the Minister of Health and Social Services about the Watson Lake transition home. I was not pleased with his responses when we were debating the budget. I was not pleased with non-caring attitude when he stated that the money that the government was extending was more than adequate. He expects them to continue to have the place open 24 hours a day on $92,000 a year. That is not much more than the salary I am sure he makes as a Cabinet Minister. That is only one salary, but he expects the transition home to be open 24 hours a day on that same amount.
Speaker: Order please. The Member has three minutes in which to conclude her remarks.
Ms. Commodore: I am hoping that the Minister will support the concept of zero tolerance that the Yukon Party government practices. If he does not, he should not be a part of that Cabinet.
I will be asking him questions. Tomorrow is the International Day of Mourning. It is a very appropriate time to be asking questions about a zero-tolerance policy toward violence against women and children.
I do not have very much time left, so I would like to talk about some of the concerns in my riding of Whitehorse Centre. I will do so at a later time, as I guess my time is running out.
As the Speaker knows, the City of Whitehorse is mainly responsible for the administration of many things in my riding but I still am in contact with those people and they still tell me about the concerns they have. They are my constituents. They talk about the problems with housing, with education and with employment, and we continue to hear those things.
This government may paint a rosy picture with all the great things that are happening. They may have a throne speech that says many good things, but I would like to remind them that the problems are still out there. Each one of us, as MLAs, have constituents who have some very big concerns and who still require many things from this government. We will be here for a long time so we will have a chance to speak more.
Speaker: The time now being 9:30, I declare debate to be adjourned.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I wish to inform the House, pursuant to Standing Order 26,
that consideration of the motion for Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne shall
take place on Tuesday, December 6, 1994.
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:31 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled December 5, 1994:
Auditor General: Report on Other Matters for the year ended March 31, 1993 (Speaker)
Auditor General: Report on the audit of the accounts and financial statements of the
Government of the Yukon Territory for the year ended March 31, 1994 (Speaker)
Yukon Human Rights Commission Annual Report: year ended March 31, 1994 (Speaker)
Clerk of the Assembly: Report on deductions from the indemnities of Members of the
Legislative Assembly pursuant to subsection 39(6) of the Legislative Assembly Act
Yukon Energy Corporation: Financial statements for the year ended December 31, 1993
Yukon Development Corporation Annual Report: nine months ended December 31, 1993 (Ostashek)