Tuesday, December 6, 1994 -1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with
Recognition of National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I rise today to recognize December 6 as Canada's National Day of Remembrance o Action on Violence Against Women, a day of commemoration of the 14 young women whose lives were tragically ended on this date in 1989.
Violence against women is one of the most serious obstacles to women's equality. As long as a woman cannot feel safe from harm in her own home, walk down a street after dark without fear, speak freely or work without harassment, she has not achieved equality.
Many women by virtue of gender alone are potential victims of violence. Sadly, many are violated by those they love, respect or trust. Most of us know women who have experienced violence and the enormous harm that it has done. All of us are deeply frightened by the possibility that women we may love may be hurt by other men.
I wear a ribbon today to show my personal concern and commitment to ending violence
against women, and I ask Members of this Legislative Assembly to pledge to work together
to achieve a society free from violence.
Ms. Moorcroft: For the second year in a row, the Minister has not brought forward a ministerial statement about the policies of this government to address violence against women so that the Opposition could make a formal response to a substantive statement. I find this deplorable.
It is one thing to wear a ribbon and attend a vigil; it is another thing altogether to support women's choices. Yukon Party politicians who pay lip service to women's equality, but who insist upon using sexist language in the statutes before this House and thwart employment equity, Yukon Party politicians who withhold the funds and withhold the legislation, are not supporting women or programs to end male violence against women.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Penikett: I want to call attention to the presence in the gallery today of the former MLA for Klondike and the former Leader of the Yukon New Democratic Party, Mr. Fred Berger.
Speaker: Is there any further Introduction of Visitors?
Are there any Reports or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have a letter for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have for tabling the Department of Education response to the Yukon Education Review Committee's report.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Introduction of Bills?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 2: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 2, entitled Fourth Appropriation Act, 1993-94, be now introduced and read for a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 2, entitled Fourth Appropriation Act, 1993-94, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 2 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further Bills for introduction?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Education Review Committee: government response to the report
Hon. Mr. Phelps: As Members know, early in October, the independent Yukon Education Review Committee released its report entitled Curriculum and Special Needs Programming in Yukon Public Schools. In that report, and its 83 attendant recommendations, the committee has made a strong statement about the strengths and weaknesses of our school system. Such a comprehensive set of recommendations deserves a comprehensive response from the Department of Education, a response I am pleased to table today in this document.
In view of the scope of this document, I trust that the Speaker and Members opposite will indulge me if I make a statement that is, perhaps, is a bit longer than most.
In publishing this response, the department recognizes its leadership role and responsibility, but also recognizes that at the core education is what happens in the interaction between students and teachers in each classroom and school. The effectiveness of each individual school is determined by the quality of the partnerships forged among school staff, school councils and parents in the community. With this in mind, the department's action plan has been developed.
The report of the Yukon Education Review Committee was the culmination of an extensive consultation process. Over 2,600 students, parents, teachers and members of the general public responded to an open-ended questionnaire. Meetings were held in every Yukon school community with the staff, students, First Nations and members of school councils, in addition to open public meetings. The committee, including representatives of the Council for Yukon Indians, school councils, the Yukon Teachers Association, the Association of Yukon School Administrators and the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce endorsed the report and its recommendations unanimously, ensuring that the report represented an important stakeholder statement about education in the Yukon.
The Department of Education has used the committee's report as the framework for developing an action plan response to each of the recommendations. The reader will find a brief summary statement of the current status relating to each recommendation and the specific actions to be undertaken by the department that relate to that recommendation.
During its work, accountability and consistency were heard by the review committee as strong recurrent themes. They are similarly important in this response. Accountability is demonstrated by our commitment to provide periodic progress reports on each of the action plans. Consistency is demonstrated through the efforts of the department to ensure that all stakeholders are informed and involved as the action plan is put into effect. The department recognizes that both these themes require the active cooperation and participation of all partners in education.
Some of the highlights of the department's response are as follows: firstly, an increased priority on numeracy and literacy. The intermediate grades will see an increased time allotment for language arts, math and science, beginning in September, 1995. Secondly, there will be an increased emphasis on career awareness and career development in all grades, consistent with the new British Columbia education plan. Thirdly, there will be the preparation of a comprehensive assessment plan, including the curriculum-based assessment of student proficiency and Yukon public schools' performance relative to other Canadian jurisdictions, for discussion with major stakeholders by the spring of 1995. Fourthly, there will be the establishment of a First Nations education coordinator position, which will, in concert with the First Nations Education Commission, the Council for Yukon Indians curriculum branch, and other stakeholders, develop a plan for integrating First Nations curriculum in all grades by September of 1995. Finally, there will be a review of the department's policy on special education by the spring of 1995. A departmental task force has been charged with this responsibility.
It should be noted that my department's response to the education review report cannot, and should not, be viewed as the total school system's reaction to its recommendations. Each school is unique, and its constituent groups - staff, students, administration, school council, First Nation, and the community at large - will respond uniquely. An individual school may already be far more active and successful in areas touched on by a particular recommendation than our current status or action plan indicates.
In sum, what this document does indicate is that the department takes the committee's report and recommendations every bit as seriously as they deserve. The members of the Education Review Committee are to be applauded for their hard work, cooperative spirit and dedication.
We thanked them for their supportive programs and initiatives that are working well in
the schools, and for their straightforward and practical approach to the problems. We now
look forward to working with the stakeholders they represent, and with all other concerned
Yukoners, to make their work count now and far into the future for the benefit of the
entire Yukon public school system.
Mr. Harding: First of all, I would like to congratulate the Minister and the department for preparing a response, in fairly short order, to the education review. There is a tremendous amount of information in the response, and I will have to take some time over the next days and weeks and months to sort through it all. However, I would like to respond to some of the major issues from the review that we feel are important for the government to act on. Before I do that I, however, I would like to clearly re-state some important history and explain our position on the education review, as it relates to the government response.
The education review was kicked off with no prior discussion on it with the partners in education and phrased in the context of going back to the three Rs, moving away from First Nations cultural education, physical fitness and lifeskills. The statement made by the Minister at the time of announcing the review was, and I quote, "Many people are concerned that many of the students are not learning the basics - the three Rs - and that we are spending much more energy on some of our lifeskills and cultural areas. This focus must change if Canadian students are going to be able to hold their own in the competitive world of the 21st Century."
Our anxiety levels were raised by these government comments, and we joined with many partners in education in expressing our concerns about a review started with a bias.
To his credit, the Minister chose a strong committee for the review.
We have come up with a review that we support. It confirms the direction that our party and the partners in education set in 1990 with the development of the Education Act and it reverses the direction set by the government when it announced the review, and that was certainly pleasing news to us.
Even though the review did go over budget by $55,000 and came in at $130,000, I think that reversing the government's direction in education was worth spending some money.
We are certain that Yukoners want to see the theme of partners in education re-emphasized, and bridges repaired that have been broken in the last couple of years.
We are also certain that Yukoners want increased education investment in the territory and no more reductions.
With regard to some of the highlights of the education review response, my initial views are as follows:
I would like to see any increased priority in instructional time for the basics done in consultation with the partners in education so that concerns surrounding implementation can be established.
I, too, have heard concerns about basic education, but I want solid change and I want it to be implemented with all the partners involved in the decision-making process.
I would also like the Minister to establish whether the instructional change follows B.C. curriculum changes.
I am very disappointed that this government has decided to continue on with math strand tests. Most of the partners in education, if not all, have said that they are too expensive, the results are of questionable use and take away from math instructional time.
We believe that the strands should be stopped.
With regard to greater career awareness and career development, I welcome it. I think it is a solid initiative. I think B.C. is on the right track and I am glad we are adopting what they are doing.
I am disturbed by the lack of specifics in the review response surrounding local and cultural curriculum components. These are issues that we have raised for a long time and we have been told we will have to wait until into the fourth year of this government's mandate before we even see a plan for curriculum improvements in this area.
Although, given the government's expressed disdain for the importance of cultural curriculum when the review was announced, I must say that I am not surprised.
We believe that a commitment to land claims self-government agreement curriculum should be in the response. Students should be taught an understanding of these agreements. We are all going to have to live with them and they should be a positive change for Yukoners, both native and non-native, but an understanding level has to be increased.
With regard to the action plan, specifically special education and the development of an internal review of the department as a response, I am particularly displeased. There are problems with lack of special needs resources, lack of department direction in this area, problems with quotas for psychological assessments and assessment times, problems with key vacancies in positions being left empty and many other problems raised by us with this government many times. They have cut funding and have now ordered an internal review. It is a bureaucratic response at best, and it is insufficient.
The government knows that the department is not meeting the needs, and I urge more
responsive action. People are crying out for action on this issue in the communities.
Either we help these students now or they will never be able to contribute economically to
society later. My sincere hope is that the periodic statements of progress with regard to
adopting the review show strong government commitment to action and that subsequent
budgets reflect that the education system will become a priority. I thank the new Minister
for his response and I hope that he is successful in improving our system. Our education
system in the public schools is our economic and social future.
Mr. Cable: As I was being briefed this morning with the other Members and staff, it occurred to me that this is, for those only partially-initiated in education issues, a very mind-boggling exercise. The report and the response are both very extensive and, as mentioned in the ministerial statement, there are 83 recommendations.
It would be useful for the Members in this House to respond to the response in order to get a collated and coherent response from the stakeholders. It would be useful for the Minister to state how the responses that he has indicated in the statement will be digested and reported upon. It would also be useful for him to indicate whether or not the Education Review Committee will have any further role in analyzing and responding to the department's action plans and status reports.
I think the Minister and his staff are to be complimented for the very quick response. The issue is sufficiently important that it requires one in a timely fashion but, by the same token, the down side of that quick response is that now we should get into some careful consideration.
I would like to find out from the Minister how he is going to help educate this House
about his department's response to the many recommendations raised by the Education Review
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I thank the Members opposite for the positive portions of their responses to the ministerial statement.
With regard to the issue of how the document that has been tabled is to be digested by the stakeholders in education, the first step will be a briefing for those partners in education on Friday. From there on, it will really depend on what the various stakeholders see as required with regard to further input or clarification of the departmental response at this time.
I am quite comfortable with the work that has been done in such short order by the department. I believe that there has been a genuine attempt to meet the recommendations in a fair and unbiased way. I think it is rather daring of the department to place itself in a situation where its actions can be measured against the response that is tabled.
Once again, I thank the Members opposite for the positive parts of their responses. I
think that this is an issue that is too important to become partisan.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
QUESTION PERIODQuestion re: Transition home, funding
Ms. Commodore: The Minister responsible for Health and Social Services knows that the Help and Hope for Families Society may have to close its transition home for battered women because of insufficient funds.
I believe the society lobbied the Government Leader in October, and their MLA, for further funding. It was said that the MLA reported back to them that the request for $15,000 was denied. They were again told that the Minister was still looking at the request.
At this time of year, when violence against women increases, the possibility that the home may close is very frightening to those women and children who need the services the home provides.
Will the Minister now support the request for an additional $15,000 to keep this home open? Up until this morning, the society had not heard back from the Minister.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The need for a safe haven for battered women is something that we fully acknowledge and support. The issue on the Help and Hope for Families Society situation has to do with the extremely expensive way the program is being delivered. My department is in the process of, once again, examining the figures, as supplied to it by the Help and Hope for FamiliesSociety. A department official will be travelling to Watson Lake next week to begin meetings with the stakeholders there.
My concern is that we look at the way in which the services are provided to ensure that they are as effective and efficient as possible. At this point in time, I have some very grave concerns about the efficiency aspect of the way the program is being delivered in Watson Lake.
Ms. Commodore: It is going to take awhile now. The Government Leader met with them in October, which is a long time ago. Now, the Minister appears to be getting serious about the request and is sending someone down next week. There is a lot of concern regarding this home and the possibility that it may close down.
When are the people in Watson Lake who need those services - the women and children - going to be assured by him whether or not the place will remain open? Right now, there is a question about whether or not that will be a possibility.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The information received from the society is that they may have to close their doors in February if they do not receive additional funding. This is December. We are going to be examining the situation to see what options are available with regard to the provision of these services in Watson Lake. We are not going to provide them in a manner that is highly inefficient. We intend to ensure that there is a safe haven for battered women in Watson Lake. We intend to look at the program delivery there to ensure that the program is one that is suitable, not only to some people who use that secure facility, but also to others who will not, partly for cultural reasons. I am referring to some First Nations people in the area. We are going to try to ensure that whatever is done in Watson Lake is the best possible service for the people in the area.
Ms. Commodore: In the meantime, people have lost their jobs. They tried to operate the home with the funding they now have, and it has been impossible. That was known for a long time. People have lost jobs, and people have had to give up programs that were being provided to women and to other people in the community. They then ask them to close down for two days. As the Minister knows, and as everyone else knows, violence against women is not done on schedule. Was the request by his department to close down for two days a reasonable request? In the end, they found they could not do it, because women are still beat up, whether the home is closed or not.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The issue is a very simple one, in my view. It is not whether or not the service should be provided, because we are committed to that service for battered women in Watson Lake. The issue is how best to provide the service. If we have a situation where the actual cost each day is something like $700 per client, it is my view that that is an outrageous cost for such a service. That is more in one day than we pay for acute care in the hospital. Both the department and I, as Minister, on behalf of people throughout the Yukon, have the responsibility to ensure that we offer services that are efficient and effective, so that we can meet additional needs in communities like Watson Lake.Question re: Zero tolerance to violence against women
Ms. Commodore: That government over there just sent a Minister to Europe at a cost to taxpayers of $40,000. I do not think a lot of thought went into it. If he is talking about an essential service that is needed by women, on this day of mourning for women who were killed because they were women, I find it outrageous that this Minister can stand in this House and say the things he is saying.
I would like to know whether or not he has a commitment - the same commitment as has the Yukon Party - for zero tolerance against women. It appears that tourism is more important than women who are being battered.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will forgive the Member opposite for that emotional and uncalled-for outburst. I understand she has some emotional feelings about the issue, as do we all, particularly today of all days. However, the issue has to be that we provide the service to the people and ensure that we do so in an effective and efficient manner. That is what we are going to be doing. We are not going to let the situation occur where there is no such haven for battered women in Watson Lake. We are concerned about the expense of the service at this point in time. We will be reviewing all the options and figures to ascertain what options are available to the department in the circumstances.
Ms. Commodore: It is clear that he does not support the policy of zero tolerance against women. It is very clear that that is the case, because that was the question I asked him.
The shelter provides a number of outreach programs, and I will table a list in the House, so that he may know what they are. These include training and lifeskills programs, programs on teen violence, programs for youth groups and a self-esteem-for-teens program. They are just a small list of what is provided, in addition to being a safe home for these women and children.
I would like to ask the Minister if he supports those kinds of outreach programs that are being provided to people who come to that home for protection and if he supports providing education information to people who are not in the home.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: When I was Minister of Justice, the department's policy was zero tolerance for violence against women, and it remains the policy of that department. We have done all kinds of things in this government to deal with the issue of violence in society. We have taken measures to enhance the programs that are being delivered.
The issue is simply whether or not the program is currently being provided efficiently
and effectively in Watson Lake. I can tell the Member opposite - she did not seem to care,
but some of us do - that there are people who feel alienated and will not go to the
shelter because of cultural values. That is of concern to us, if it is not of concern to
Ms. Commodore: It appears that if the Minister knows there is a problem there he or his department have not made any attempt to do anything about it. I am very concerned about that. I would like to know whether he intends to go there to meet with the people who work there, the people who support the program, including the town and a number of other organizations. Is he prepared to go there and look them in the face and say the kinds of things that he is saying to me in the House, because I do not think he is.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am quite prepared to meet the stakeholders. I have met with the First Nations and I have met with individuals who have expressed concerns. The issue right now has to do with policy, and the issue has to do with ensuring service, which is fundamentally important and should not simply be a partisan political thing used by the side opposite. The important issue here is whether or not we are looking after the people who need the service, not whether or not it is feel-good day for the NDP. Question re: Gambling
Mr. Cable: I have some further questions for the Government Leader on the issue of gambling and his comments in the throne speech. I think we established yesterday, and maybe the Government Leader can correct me if I am wrong, that the government is winging it on policy recommended by the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment; it is winging it on whether or not it will be a tourist draw; and it is winging it on whether or not there are social costs and the amount of those social costs. Could the Government Leader advise us on one other aspect of the matter, and that is the effect on the fundraising of other charitable organizations?
A few weeks ago, I, the Minister responsible for the Women's Directorate and two other Members attended the annual general meeting of the Status of Women Council. The Minister made a suggestion in relation to the funding for the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre, which was that perhaps they could have a bingo. Now, has the government divined the effect a cassino might have in bingos in this territory, or the it will have on the Klondike Visitors Association casino, or the effect on the fundraising of any of the service clubs?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am glad the Member opposite mentioned bingos. It seems that because we have expressed in the throne speech that we believe there is room for a tourist-oriented casino in the City of Whitehorse, it has set off all kinds of alarm bells for the Member for Riverside. Yet bingo, one of the most highly addictive forms of gambling there is, seems to be quite all right to him.
We have addressed and we have discussed the effect on charities and we are looking at revenue-sharing solutions. These are all of the things that will be coming out in the terms of reference for the proposal.
Mr. Cable: I think that the Members on this side of the House would like to be satisfied that the government is addressing those issues.
Are there any documents that relate to any of those issues - such as the effect on other forms of fund-raising, the issues of addiction and the cost of addiction, and the issue of whether or not this tourist-orientated gambling casino is actually going to collect tourists as they come through Whitehorse? Are there any documents that can be provided by the Government Leader?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thought when this debate was discussed before that the Member opposite was given the opportunity to review many documents that we had gathered from other jurisdictions, which addressed most of the concerns the Member opposite has raised.
Yes, we are gathering information from every jurisdiction that we can about these issues and analyzing this information. Everything that we have learned will be taken into consideration when we set the terms of reference for the proposal.
Mr. Cable: It seems like the cart-before-the-horse analogy that the government has agreed in principle to the casino but is still gathering information. As recently as October, the Minister of Tourism indicated that they were still looking at the issue, as reported in the news media.
The government talks about agreeing in principle with the construction of a tourist-orientated gambling casino. Who is actually going to construct the casino? Is it going to be a government operation on government land? If not, where is it going to take place?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite is putting the cart before the horse, not this government.
We are addressing those issues. I would like to share with the Member what I envision as a possibility of a tourist oriented casino in Whitehorse. It would be one that would operate on a seasonal basis, and would preferably be operated by a non-charitable organization. We had requests and proposals come forward while the Council on the Economy and the Environment was putting together its report. We are going to re-visit those requests and will be going out for proposals. The best proposals are the ones that will be considered.Question re: Yukon Housing Corporation, rent supplement program
Mr. Penikett: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation.
I understand that the Yukon Housing Corporation has a rent supplement program, through which the corporation subsidizes landlords who accommodate low income tenants. Could the Minister confirm that only a handful of landlords, perhaps two or three, are beneficiaries of this program?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I cannot at this time, but I will obtain the information and bring it back for the Leader of the Official Opposition.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Minister for his answer. When he checks into the information, could the Minister confirm whether or not one of the beneficiaries receiving money from this program is Hobah Apartments, which is owned by the Government Leader's company, Rocking Star Holdings?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I cannot confirm that either, but I will look into it and get back to the Member.
Mr. Penikett: Perhaps I can put the same question to the Government Leader since I assume he knows.
Did the Minister apply to the Yukon Housing Corporation rent supplement program through his company, Rocky Star Holdings? If so, was he at all concerned about appearances of conflict of interest?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Due to the appearances of a conflict of interest, I can advise the Member to check with the Legislature downstairs. He will see that I have put my interest in my companies into a blind trust.Question re: Yukon Housing Corporation, rent supplement program
Mr. Penikett: I would ask the Government Leader if he is prepared, today, to stand there in his place and state categorically that there is no foundation whatsoever to a complaint I have received that some time before accessing the rent supplement program the Government Leader complained to the Housing Corporation about it taking business away from his apartments.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I certainly do not recall ever making a statement of that sort.
Mr. Penikett: Perhaps the Government Leader can tell us if, as of this date, December 6, 1994, he has amended his MLA disclosure statement to include any income from the Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have not been operating the company for many, many months. That is exactly why I put the shares that I have in that company into a blind trust, so that there be no perceived conflict.
Mr. Penikett: Subsequent to his advising the House that he was no longer managing the company, we had indications here that he was still operating it. The Government Leader also failed to disclose income from the sale of an airplane through that company, in a timely manner. He has also given us concerns about his previous refusal to answer questions about whether or not he participated in moose quota discussions in Cabinet, a matter affecting another family business.
I want to ask the Government Leader a very serious question. Has the Government Leader given any thought to whether he might be the wrong Minister to sponsor conflict-of-interest legislation in this House?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I have not.Question re: Transition homes, funding
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Women's Directorate. Last May in this House, during debate on the Yukon Advisory Council on Women's Issues Act - the council is a body to advise the Minister on women's issues - the Minister indicated he was looking at a time frame of early September to have the nominations out, to receive appointments made, and to have the body up and running. When does the Minister expect to have the Advisory Council on Women's Issues established?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I hope to be making an announcement before Christmas.
Ms. Moorcroft: I wonder why it took so long. I wonder if the Minister was fearful that an advisory council might have suggested that the government should provide funding to the women's shelter in Watson Lake. Why is this government speaking in support of women and showing up at vigils, but demonstrating, by their actions, a lack of support for women?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It has taken awhile to get the names in, partly because of the summer break, and partly because some of the groups and organizations requested a little more time, as people were gone for the summer. I would like to remind the Member opposite that we are not sitting idly by and doing nothing. We have public awareness programs on violence against women. There are two major campaigns that have run in our school-based workshops. We are in the schools talking to students; we are talking to the teachers. There is a great deal being done. The Member opposite, for political purposes, wants to ignore all that good work. Later on today in my reply to the Speech from the Throne, I will be speaking on the good things that I think we are doing respecting women's issues and violence against women.
Ms. Moorcroft: The good things that the Minister says he is doing are simply not enough. We just heard the Minister of Health stand there and say they cannot give money to the transition home in Watson Lake, that they are going to leave them waiting until the eleventh hour as to whether or not their funding is going to come through. Well, guess what? Services for women do cost money. If the Minister supports women, how does he explain the fact that women's transition homes are in danger of closing their doors, that the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre has no home, that he has only just now announced that the appointments to the women's council will take place, and this government's general refusal to advance women's equality?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There are three questions there. I will deal with some of them at a later date, but I should tell the Member that we do not believe the old NDP philosophy that if it costs a lot of money, it is better.
First of all, we want to look at the women's transition homes as providing quality service and make sure that the services are there when women need it. That is the priority - making sure the service is there when women need it, not just the fact that it costs a lot of money. It was the previous government that build that home in Watson Lake and overbuilt it an enormous amount. That has created part of the problems. The Minister has told us that we will provide the service, and we are going to provide it when it is needed, and in a cost-effective manner, and that is what we will continue to do.Question re: Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre
Ms. Moorcroft: I think the public is aware that the Minister's priority is jaunting around Europe like a secret agent.
The Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre is a valuable community resource that offers a variety of programs, and it is particularly effective in helping the women who fall through the cracks of other government programs. As the Minister is aware, the centre is now operating from a tiny office in a commercial building with other businesses. I am sure the Minister is going to say that he supports the women's centre's continued existence.
What, if anything, is the Minister doing to ensure that the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre has a home in the new year?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I thank the Member for that question. We are doing a great deal to make sure the centre has a home in the new year. First of all, we are continuing with the funding we have been giving them in the past. This year, I believe they end up receiving a little more funding than they had last year. We are working with them on many projects, so that they can deliver the service to Yukon women.
A few weeks ago, we had a meeting where we discussed the option of a permanent home. My understanding was that everybody but the Member opposite is happy with the arrangements we have been making with the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre. I hope we can reach an arrangement that will give a long-term home to the women's centre in the near future. That work is ongoing. Last week, I was briefed that they are getting closer to finalization of a plan. We are doing a great deal to make sure that the centre has a permanent home.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am pleased the government is working with the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre on many programs. Is the Minister aware that the centre will be homeless again at the end of this month? Can the Minister tell us if they are going to be able to move in on January 1? It would make an awfully nice Christmas present for the women in this community to know that the women's centre would have a place to move into at the end of the month.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I was not aware they were going to be homeless at the end of the month. In our offer to the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre, we offered a home that could be used until March. Initially, they turned that down because they felt it would not suit their purposes. My understanding is that people are working as quickly as they can to find a permanent home for the women's centre. I cannot say whether or not that will come to be before they are asked to move again in January.
If there is another problem, we would be more than happy to sit down again and look at other options we may explore.
Ms. Moorcroft: I know the Minister has received regular correspondence from the women's centre, describing their needs. The facility that was offered to them was not wheelchair accessible, which is one of the basic criteria they have. It also had other deficiencies, as well.
I would like to hear the Minister make a commitment that the department of the government that is helping the women's centre find a place will be able to come up with something in the new year.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We will attempt to work with the women's centre to find it a home. I must remind the Member that I know that the last offer we made was not wheelchair accessible, but a home that people can get to is, perhaps, more important, in some cases, than not having any visibility or home at all. Perhaps there could be other accommodations made for those people who were less fortunate and could not get into the centre. We made an offer of a building. It was an emergency request. It was turned down, and I understand now that they have more problems. We will look into it, and we will work toward getting them a permanent home in the future.Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, contract
Mrs. Firth: I have a non-controversial question for the Government Leader. It is a follow-up question with respect to energy issues.
I have received further information regarding the Boylan contract for $50,000, which we have been debating here in the Legislature and found out yesterday that it was abruptly discontinued.
In the letter to me, the Government Leader indicates that the major portion of the contract has been paid out - 65 per cent of it, or approximately $32,500.
In light of the unusual schedule of daily rates and payments schedule this person was receiving in this contract, could the Government Leader tell us how many days' work this represents and what daily rate the individual was paid?
For people's interest, the daily rate was anywhere from $600 a day to $975 a day. Could the Minister answer that question for us? How many days did he work, and at which rate did we pay him - the almost $1,000 a day, or the $600?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not have that information with me here. I just want to draw to the Member's attention that Mr. Boylan was the successful bidder on that contract. He was the low bid. It went out for invitational proposal. There were six proposals sent out. Two replied. Both of them were qualified to do the job, and Mr. Boylan was awarded the contract because he was the lowest bidder.
Mrs. Firth: I could get into another whole line of questioning with respect to the bidding process. There were only two bidders. The other one, we were told, was bidding up to $200 an hour, a maximum of $1,200 a day, and that was considered higher.
There is nothing to say whether that individual could have done the work in fewer days than Mr. Boylan could. So, it is beyond any of us in this House who are clear-thinking people to understand how a determination could be made that Mr. Boylan was in fact the low bidder.
That is why I am asking the Government Leader questions with respect to the number of days' work and the rate charged. Can the Government Leader tell us what we received for this expenditure of $32,500? What did we get for that? Did we get our money's worth?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe we got our money's worth.
First of all, our goal as a government was to involve First Nations in an ownership of the Energy Corporation. Mr. Boylan was the government's representative in the negotiations to bring together the federal government, the CYI and the Energy Corporation.
The fact that the First Nations have not received the money so far is, I think, sad. I would like to see them in there as a 30-percent owner, but we have left the door open, if they come up with funding in the future, to participate in the ownership of the corporation.
Yes, I believe we got our money's worth in this.
Mrs. Firth: For my final supplementary, I am going to ask the Government Leader to bring more information back to this House because, for some reason, I just do not believe him. I want to ask the Government Leader if he will bring back to this House an assessment of the value of this contract. I would like him to bring back the information about how many days were worked and at what schedule of pay Mr. Boylan was paid. I would also like to ask him to bring back a complete list of all other consultants he presently has on contract in the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation, for which he is responsible. I understand that there are a few lawyers and consultants on contract there as well. Will the Minister give us a commitment to bring that information back to the House as soon as possible?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will give the Member opposite a commitment to bring back whatever I can bring back to this House.Question re: Forestry devolution
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister responsible for land claims and devolution. The government has mentioned its desire and commitment to have forestry devolved to the territorial government in the near future. I think they said May of next year. One would expect this devolution would require agreement among all parties regarding activity on land sensitive to land claims negotiations.
I am sure the Minister is aware of the blockade by the Kwanlin Dun Band at Marsh Lake, as the result of a process that obviously did not work. Can the Government Leader tell me why his government and the federal government have let this issue get to the point where the Kwanlin Dun have felt strongly enough to put up a blockade.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: First of all, let me say for the record that it concerns me that it has degenerated to the point where the Kwanlin Dun felt they had to put up a blockade to attract attention to the position they are taking in the negotiations on that block. Clearly, the Member opposite is aware that it is federal land and it is a federal land issue - between the federal government and Kwanlin Dun - whether the land is available for selection or not.
The Member opposite is also aware that there is not a land freeze on it, per se. The federal government has never accepted that policy, nor has the territorial government, and will not until such time as lands are protected.
My understanding is that the issue surrounding this particular block is that there were some third-party interests in it. The federal government tried to accommodate the First Nation by splitting the block, but they have not yet fully defined the boundaries. There was a period of time set aside in which to resolve the issue; however, it was apparently not resolved between the federal government and the Kwanlin Dun. I am sorry to see that that has happened.
Ms. Commodore: All of us are sorry to see things like this happen. I can tell that the Minister has been well-briefed. However, this is an example of what this government is not doing.
The government has an obligation to negotiate with Kwanlin Dun about lands that are of interest to them. This appears to be a problem that they did not anticipate. I am wondering whether he or his officials, along with the federal government, are working to resolve this issue. It appears that there are two sides to each story and I have heard his side.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There are certainly two sides to the story. No side, be it our side, the other side or the federal government, is 100 percent right in these issues - of that there is no doubt.
Over the course of the work we have done with the Kwanlin Dun in the last two years, we set up several committees and working groups to deal with contentious land issues, so that development could move ahead. We have made this information available to federal officials. They know how we have dealt with the lands within the City of Whitehorse, and we hope that this issue will be resolved shortly, so that we can get on with the task.
Ms. Commodore: I am not sure what task the Minister is talking about. It appears that the problems are ongoing and nothing seems to be in place to stop them.
I would like to ask if the Minister's new negotiator, who will be working full time at the job next month, is aware of the situation. Is the negotiator full time? Is he working with the interested groups right now to try and resolve this situation? I certainly would not want to see a blockade for the next month. At this point, that is a possibility.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Our negotiator has been working full time on land claims issues all along, even though he did have other responsibilities. To say that no one has been looking after land claims is not a correct statement. This government has been working on land claims.
Mr. McTiernan was in contact with federal officials this morning, and they are attempting to come up with some resolution to this situation. Question re: Yukon Party mid-term report
Mr. Cable: I have some questions on this mid-term report put out by the Yukon Party government. The report is comprised of a message from the Government Leader, which is in letter form, and is followed by six pages of fairly exciting prose relating to the accomplishments of the government and a half-page look into the future. Was there any public service input into this mid-term report, or was it prepared solely by the Yukon Party caucus staff?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: To the best of my knowledge, it was prepared by our caucus staff.
Mr. Cable: The message from the Government Leader says, among other things, "In looking ahead, we believe the Yukon economy will experience considerable growth over the course of the next five years as we approach the 21st century." Was that comment based on a finger in the wind, or was it based on a forecast prepared by the Economic Development department?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know where the Member has been, but there are many positive indicators out there right now that the economy has turned a corner, that there are going to be better times ahead and that exploration dollars are quadruple what they were two years ago. Generally, with exploration comes the possibility of more mines. I do not think we need an economic forecast to tell us that.
Mr. Cable: I am sure we will get into the need for an economic forecast when we get to the budget.
In the Yukon Party's four-year plan, there are about 120 commitments, or bullets as they call them. Comparing these commitments with the mid-term report, it looks like one-third have been realized, assuming the two can be collated. Is that exaggerating?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: Okay, well, let us give them the benefit of the doubt. The Speech from the Throne adds a few more, but, by my reading, the government is still substantially less than half way to fulfilling its election promises.
In that this Speech from the Throne is going to take us well past the half way mark in this Legislative Assembly, does the government intend to accelerate its legislative agenda, so that it can fulfill its election promises?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe we have a fairly heavy legislative agenda in this session, and I am ...
Some Hon. Members: (inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Please allow the Member to answer the question.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: ... just so pleased to see that the Members opposite are
pleased with the legislative calendar in front of us. I believe that most of the
legislation we have tabled now, or will be tabling in the next few days, will largely
fulfill the legislative commitments under the four-year plan.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would like to have the House bear with me. I would like to take a moment to introduce the grade 10 students from F.H. Collins School. They are here with their teacher, Deborah Gohl, observing the very exciting debate we have had in the House here today. I would like everyone to make them all welcome.
Notice of Opposition Private Members' Business
Mr. McDonald: This is obviously going to be an experience they will not forget.
I would like to do something rather technical. Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I
would like to identify the order in which Motions other than Government Motions standing
in the name of the Official Opposition are to be called on Wednesday, December 7: Motion
No. 5, standing in my name and Motion No. 8, standing in the name of Ms. Moorcroft.
Speaker: We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne
ADDRESS IN REPLY TO THE SPEECH FROM THE THRONE - adjourned debate
Motion No. 1 - adjourned debate
Mr. Abel: The last time I had the opportunity to address the Speech from the Throne was at the time of the land claims agreement for the Vuntut Gwitchin, which has now been ratified by the people of Old Crow. This House had not yet had the opportunity to debate the land claims legislation, and the passage of the Yukon Indian land claims legislation by the Parliament of Canada was still almost two years away. Now, the last piece of legislation, the surface rights legislation, is before the Senate of Canada for approval. Once passed, the four Yukon First Nations land claim agreements, including the Vuntut Gwitchin agreement, will come into force and effect.
This makes me and my people very happy. Many of our elders who worked so hard to bring about these agreements are no longer here with us in body, but we know in our hearts that they are still with us in spirit.
With the passage of the Surface Rights Act, the money to implement the land claim agreements will start to flow. It pleases me to hear the Commissioner say that completing and implementing land claims and self-government agreements continues to be a top priority for the Yukon government. I was also pleased to hear that negotiations are currently underway with Dawson, Little Salmon, Carmacks, Ta'an Kwach'an, Kwanlin Dun and Selkirk First Nations. It will indeed be a happy day when all Yukon First Nations have completed their agreements. The Yukon government has shown its commitment to complete the Yukon Indian land claim settlement, and I am proud to have played a role in this whole historic process, both as a former chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and now as an MLA.
I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Chief Robert Bruce Jr. on his re-election and to all the counsellors: Bruce Charlie, Vicky Josie, William Josie and Dorothy Thomas. The people of Old Crow need good and strong leadership to meet the many challenges that lie ahead. With the implementation of our land claim and self-government agreements, the people of Old Crow will become the largest land owner in the Yukon Territory outside the federal government. We will own and control 7,700 square kilometres of land and receive $19 million in settlement money. This is a tremendous responsibility for the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation.
The Old Crow people will also become directly responsible for monies and programs that used to be the responsibility of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
While our chief, counsellors and elders are pleased that the settlement has been achieved, they are fully aware that they must proceed with caution and care. Some of them are nervous about what lies ahead and the decisions they are going to have to make.
Everyone is concerned about the protection of our land and the welfare of our people, especially our young people. Many people still follow the traditional way and live off the land, hunting caribou, fishing salmon and catching muskrats.
Some of our young people, however, want to explore other economic opportunities and are anxious to participate in the modern economy. We must prepare our people to meet the challenges of both the traditional and modern worlds. If the land claims agreements are going to work, there must be proper training, especially for our young people, because they are the ones who are going to have to implement these agreements.
Education and training are very important, and I believe the Yukon government should be commended for making these issues a priority. Our children are our wealth.
I was also pleased to hear the Commissioner speak about balanced economic development and environmental protection. With the land claims agreements coming into effect, the people of Old Crow will be able to create a north Yukon park to protect a portion of the range of the Porcupine caribou herd. Our land is our bank.
The north Yukon park, together with Ivavik National Park, established through the Inuvialuit Final Agreement, will ensure that a large portion of the northern Yukon is protected. We will lead by example. We will show our Alaskan neighbors that we want the entire range of the Porcupine caribou herd protected and preserved for future generations.
I listened with excitement when I heard that the Yukon government was going to create a Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre. Doctor Morlan and Doctor Harington have been regular visitors to Old Crow over the years and have conducted their archaeological digs in the Old Crow area. They have identified tools dating back to the Ice Age inhabitants of Old Crow flats. I am looking forward to seeing the exhibits of Ice Age mammals that made northern Yukon their home: the woolly mammoth, the great North American short-faced bear, the American mastodon, the sabre-toothed tigers, the large horn bison, the camel, the yak and other exotic mammals that lived in the tropical northern Yukon so many years ago.
The Beringia centre should be of particular pride to the people of Old Crow and a major educational centre for children to visit. No other place in North America has such a long history.
I was also pleased to hear that the Yukon government will be concentrating its efforts on creating healthy Yukon communities. It is very important to keep our young people busy so that they do not get into trouble.
The Sprung tent covering the Old Crow skating rink has been very successful, and the people of Old Crow are very happy with it. I want to thank the government for listening to us and building this facility.
Despite the ban on alcohol, drinking is still a problem in Old Crow and it affects our children. Yesterday morning, I heard a CBC reporter interview a young child in my home town. The child was asked what they would like to see for the future of Old Crow. The child answered they would like an arcade to be opened with lots of things going on, and no more drinking, because they did not want anything to happen to anybody.
Last summer there was a summer youth camp, which allowed our children to get out on the
land. While the people of Old Crow have their eyes on the future, they know they must deal
with these day-to-day problems. We have confidence in our leaders and our elders that they
will make the right decisions to create jobs, protect our land and provide a future for
Mr. Joe: It gives me great pleasure to stand here today as the representative for the riding of Mayo-Tatchun, and to talk about the throne speech.
I have problems with the throne speech. The government says they are going to do a lot of things, but they do not say how. It is time for action. It is time for this government to do something, instead of just talking about it.
Is this speech an example of how this government is going to continue to deal with people from the communities? Does this government care if the people in the communities are happy, if they have good homes to live in, if they are healthy, if they have jobs to go to, if they are sober, if the children have good schools to go to and if they get along and respect one another? Does this government care about the people of the communities?
I have said over and over in this House that alcohol is a problem. This weekend I attended another funeral. I am tired of going to funerals. People drink because they are unhappy. They drink because they have no jobs, because they are sick and because they are sad that another young person has been taken away from us due to drinking. How long have we been talking about it? We do not really do anything about it; just lots of talking. It is time for action; we have got to do something.
The old people are talking about it. They are talking about the drinking and drug problems. They ask me what I can do to help the people.
What is this government doing to help the people? This government has a responsibility. They had better start worrying about it before the next election. They never try to do anything about it. That really bugs me, and it bugs people in the communities, too.
I would like to remind all Members that government is about people. It is about listening to their concerns. It is important to listen to people all the time, so that you know what their concerns are. People out there in the communities are having problems. They are asking this government for help and this government is not listening.
I want to know why this government does not do something about the trouble that alcohol causes. People drink too much. Young people drink too much. They sit in the bar and spend a lot of money. Why do the bars have to be open so late? When they go home, they can buy a whole case of whiskey to take with them. This is too much for one person. Everyone knows where the problem comes from. They talk about people working together, but they do not say how. If people are drunk too often, the body and mind get shot. It is a shame.
Alcohol causes a lot of problems in the family. Family violence is another important issue at the community level. It is time for action now. How long have we been talking about it? We do not really do anything about it; just a lot of talking.
In the communities, there are suicides and homeless people. The policy of the Minister of Health and Social Services has not done anything; somebody has to do it.
The children of Mayo have been waiting since the early 1970s for a good school. The Minister keeps saying that they intend to provide an adequate school that is safe for the schoolchildren of Mayo.
I have said many times that the children of Mayo deserve to have a school that is not a trailer. The Minister continues to talk about budget restraints, but then his government finds another few million dollars to do something like promote a tourism program that will only benefit a few communities. What about the children?
I am happy that there is an interest in the mining projects in my riding. This will mean jobs for the people. However, before any mines go in, they need to look at what it will do to the environment and the communities. Already the school in Mayo is not a good school. What will happen to the children if the mine goes ahead and more children come?
It is important for the leaders of our government to tell the truth. They say that they do not need to talk to people about issues like the environment and the future of the communities. They choose to do things in silence. This is not the right way to treat people.
They say nothing about roads. If we do not have roads, how are we going to get there? Where the roads go has to be very carefully chosen. The company is putting a road through Ts'awlnjik Dan village - the Village of Carmacks. People are saying that they do not want to be disturbed.
In the community, there are land claims still going on. There have been problems between the environmentalists, the bands and the mining companies. In the communities, there are municipal governments and there are changes to the Municipal Act. We must treat one another with respect. We need to remember that in this House. Something has to be done about this lack of respect.
It is working together to help the community to do what it thinks is best for itself. This is what this government should be doing.
There are problems for the people from the Village of Carmacks. The boundaries were changed so the people could get elected, but then the people from the Carmacks First Nation could not vote. Something is not right.
This government has shown its lack of respect for the people. This government has shown us its lack of understanding of their position of power. This government has shown that it does not listen to the concerns of the people.
I have been listening as hard as I can to what this government is saying. They are saying a lot about what they are going to do, but they are not saying how they are going to do these things. I would like to know how this government is going to do these things. I would like to know when this government is going to listen to the people.
In conclusion, you have heard my concerns and the problems from the community. I have spent some time in my riding, going to meeting after meeting, tribal justice meetings and land claim meetings. We have done many exercises, but we do not seem to get anywhere. We always run into problems. We have tried to deal with our community problems. I do not know much about the law, but we always run into some kind of criminal laws. Who can do it? We have tried to work with the RCMP, with the same results. If your hands are tied, you cannot move ahead.
Pretty soon we will not even be in control of our own community. That is the kind of problem we should be working on closely with the people. Land claims are going on out there, but we cannot really wait until it happens.
I am getting tired of going to funerals. While we are waiting, we are having problems, and this is really a problem. I certainly do not like seeing the young people go. Someone who is old, like me, is just about finished anyway, so it does not matter.
The only thing keeping me going is standing here today, in this House, and having Members hear my concerns. My biggest concern is that I care for the young people. They are the only things that keep me going.
It is about time we put our heads together and try to work it out. I will say it again today: we have to manage this great Yukon of ours as best we can for the people of the Yukon.
It does not matter how long I stand here saying these things. I hope the Members hear
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is refreshing to speak immediately after the Member for Old Crow and the Member for Mayo-Tatchun. They are both good advocates for their constituents and show nothing but respect for this House. I am also pleased to note that I will be followed by the Member for Riverside who, like the previous two speakers, is a gentleman who respects this House and the Members in it, regardless of political stripe, and I am certain I will not suffer a vicious personal attack immediately after I take my seat.
This placement in the speaking order has enabled me to reply to the Speech from the Throne without being tempted to lower myself to the level of debate we heard from several Members of the Opposition yesterday.
It was truly sad to hear the mean-spirited, vicious, arrogant and personal attacks made by the present Leader of the Official Opposition. However, if he is good to his word, Yukoners can take some comfort in the fact that he does not intend another run at the leadership of the Yukon government.
It gives me considerable satisfaction to know that Yukoners will not again be subjected to his dictatorial, vindictive and self-serving style of government. However, I do worry, because the Leader of the Official Opposition appears to have several eager pupils on that side of the House, who believe as he does: that leadership consists of beating up on other people.
Parliamentary democracy is over 1,000 years old and has evolved over that time. The Yukon has had a Legislative Assembly for almost 100 years, but the formal party system, although seemingly well-entrenched, is relatively new.
I believe that the evolution of party politics in this small jurisdiction has taken a wrong turn and that Yukoners are being poorly served because of that wrong turn. We have become mean and nasty, and often set aside what is best for our constituents and our territory in order to personally attack each other. I am not here today to sling mud, either at the Yukon Party or back at the NDP Opposition, despite the fact that it is the temptation and the atmosphere that we have created for ourselves in this Legislature.
I am pleased to reply to the Speech from the Throne, both as the Member for Porter Creek South and as a Minister of this coalition government.
The Speech from the Throne expressed optimism, and rightly so. We, in the Yukon, are very fortunate and must not lose sight of that as we wrestle in the political mud. We have a vast territory with clean air, clean water and a lifestyle and standard of living second to none.
Despite all of this, we are not satisfied, nor should we be, because we can make things even better. There are people in the Yukon with definite needs that, as a government and a legislature, we can and should address. Many of these needs are being addressed by this government and were addressed by previous governments. There are no easy solutions or quick fixes, especially for our serious social problems. My impression is that these problems and issues could be dealt with far more effectively through cooperation and using the best suggestions of all Members of this Legislature.
However, I have resigned myself to the fact that this will not happen. It is very disappointing and a loss for all Yukoners that a number of Members of this Legislature, including the Leader of the Official Opposition and the Member for Riverdale South, are prepared to use their considerable experience, ability and intellect to rip and tear down, rather than constructively contribute and build for the benefit of all Yukoners. Perhaps they will blame others for their actions, or use the excuse that ours is an adversarial system. If that is true, it is a sad commentary on the independence of their actions, or, on our present system.
I was given a little poem to use in my speech today, which I believe to be both relevant and instructive. The author is unknown, and it goes like this: "Isn't it strange that princes and kings, and clowns that caper in sawdust rings, and common people like you and me, are builders for eternity? Each is given a bag of tools, a shapeless mass, a book of rules. And each must make, ere life is flown, a stumbling block or a stepping stone".
Government is all about building stumbling blocks or stepping stones. My commitment that I bring to Cabinet, to the Legislature and, ultimately, to all Yukoners, is to use my bag of tools to build stepping stones. I stand for excellence in government service, for employee participation and for innovation and open discussion. I believe in taking informed risks, and I believe that informed risks are part of progress.
In the Department of Government Services, our challenge and commitment is to make life easier for other departments and for the public who deal with government. We must stay ahead of the game to see what is coming and to adapt. If we get it wrong, our clients suffer, but we must innovate.
I would like to speak of three initiatives that are particularly important to me, as the Minister responsible for the Department of Government Services: special operating agencies, our telecommunications plan - which includes access to Internet - and contract regulations review.
Special operating agencies - SOAs, for short - are agencies located within departments whose mandates enable them to adopt the best management practices of the private and public sectors. SOAs are simply an innovative model for delivering certain types of services to a department's customers. SOAs are customer-focused and customer-driven. They are characterized by a high degree of autonomy and accountability. They value innovation and encourage their employees to challenge existing practices and to focus on measurable results. They are based on business plans developed by staff and managers, approved by Cabinet and tabled in the Legislature. Special operating agencies are not something that happen to people; they are developed in consultation with people - staff, managers, directors and customers. But it does not end there. Successful SOAs depend on - indeed, run on - the active participation of all the agencies' employees in service, planning and delivery.
This is not a top-down approach to managing services and people. It is an inclusive and participatory approach. Customers and staff have a stake and a role in the operation of special operating agencies. In fact, the inclusion of all groups is critical to the success of a SOA. Maybe this is why SOAs are sometimes referred to as a state of mind. They reflect the belief that when those who provide a service work as a team, focus on the customer and are given tools that include improved management practices and autonomy, the positive changes that are expected are also inevitable.
Ways of looking at the service provided and those who use the service change. Other departments and users become our customers. It is a subtle change in terminology, perhaps, but it can have an immeasurable change in attitude and approach to people, operational and technical problems.
The federal government and the Government of Manitoba are two governments that have introduced special operating agencies. We have the benefit of their experience to draw on. We have studied the information and assessed the strengths and weaknesses of the special operating agencies in place. We have not rushed into this; we have considered the potential, the possibilities and have entered with information, commitment and our eyes open.
Why special operating agencies in the Yukon, and why now? In three words: improved customer service. Department of Government Services' customers are the other departments in the Yukon government. When we deliver property management, vehicle fleet management and the Queen's Printer services more effectively, we strengthen our customers and it is their services, such as education, health and transportation, that most directly affect the public.
When we deliver our services more efficiently and effectively, every government program benefits. We can make a difference.
Our financial management and accounting practices, planning and evaluation techniques, forecasts and regulations do matter. Our decisions and systems affect the program departments.
What do special operating agencies mean to Department of Government Services employees? Let me begin by saying what the agencies do not mean. Special operating agencies do not mean downsizing, privatization or a loss of jobs. They do mean that staff and managers will be looking at what they do, how they do it and how it can be done better, while keeping customer needs at the forefront and measurable results in mind. This will not happen with fewer people; it is going to take the presence and active participation of everyone.
It is going to require the best ideas of front-line staff, supervisors, managers and directors, all working together sharing ideas, problems and solutions. It is going to require training, problem-solving sessions and presentation.
Special operating agencies will be tested on the front lines, where customers and our staff meet. It is here where special operating agencies will succeed or fail. If special operating agencies' staff at all levels are not included in planning and decision making, if they do not feel that their ideas are truly welcomed and their expertise valued, then we will have failed them, our customers and the public.
What do special operating agencies mean for Department of Government Services customers? It means they will be hearing from us more often then they did before.
We need to know what their needs are and what they require from us. It is not our interpretation of their needs that counts. It is their explanation that is critical. Their answers will shape the way we deliver their service, so they can expect more than a few questions from SOA staff. It is not business as usual because we want to supply them with property management, fleet vehicle and Queen's Printer services, and leave them free to focus on their core programs. If they conclude that they can deliver our services better than we can, then we have a problem.
What do SOAs mean to the private sector? Again, let me start by saying what they do not mean. SOAs do not mean new competition for the private sector. They do mean that we will be delivering the services we have always delivered, but they will be delivered more efficiently and more effectively because they will be managed differently. We will be able to use the best management practices of both the private and the public sectors. There are examples of excellence in business practices in both the private and public sectors, and we will be seeking and using those practices.
What do SOAs mean to this House? In this House, you will be seeing charters and business plans as they are developed. There will be more briefings and opportunities for scrutiny. We do not intend to be shy or secretive about this because we are proud of what we are doing. We are going to need your input and, moreover, we want this to work. SOAs are not going to solve all of our problems and they are not a quick fix. We know we are on a learning curve, but we have the people, the information and the will to change. SOAs are not the best approach for all services, but in property management, fleet vehicles and the Queen's Printer, they are the right choice. For all of these reasons, I make no apologies for borrowing the slogan from a toy company in saying, "SOAs are us".
I would like to now turn from SOAs to the information highway: Internet and telecommunications. The good news is we can get there from here. In its telecommunications plan, Government Services identified several goals and objectives. We made a philosophical decision to invest in a network. This philosophical decision was made for very practical reasons, and it addresses private- and public-sector needs. We made a commitment to three things: firstly, promoting fiscal responsibility by obtaining maximum value for the government's use of telecommunications; secondly, encouraging new uses of telecommunications for the public and private sectors; and thirdly, and more importantly, creating the vision of a telecommunications network that can be used for economic, social and community development and to assist in promoting new and existing business ventures in the Yukon.
From vision to reality - we have, since developing the telecommunications plan, established partnering agreements that involve Northwestel, the Yukon Net Operating Society and the Yukon government.
Some have described these agreements as new and creative. I would describe them as practical. We completed a memorandum of understanding with the society on August 30, 1994. The society, working with Northwestel, will manage the infrastructure that links Yukon to Internet. With access to Internet, we have access to a global information highway. We hope that by January 1995, access to Internet in Whitehorse will be a reality, and that our rural communities will have access through a dial-in service. By 1996, we hope that the communities will be online.
Currently, Government Services is working with other departments to identify applications to test the proof of concept. All three levels of government will be involved in the test, which will be performed on the network between Whitehorse and Haines Junction in 1995.
We are also seeking other ways to apply Internet. Tourism Yukon will be establishing a web server to allow global access to tourist information about the Yukon. The Chamber of Mines is also planning a web server that will provide access to information on mining issues in the Yukon.
Imagine the possibilities for schools, businesses, non-government organizations and the public sector to have this access to data, reports, ideas, research, technology and the people who are making it happen in every walk of life. It is not a luxury; it is not just for computer nerds; it is also for those of us who grew up with Gestetners and have been known to wonder if all this is progress. It is. More important, it is not optional. In the 1990s, technology and access to technology are critical factors in Yukon's ability to compete in regional, national and world markets. Our students, too, will need to be comfortable with technology if they are to compete for entry into training and education programs, as well as the workplace.
This fall, Government Services put its information services branch under a microscope and examined what we do, how we do it, and where and how we can improve. Once again, our customers' needs were front and centre. We wanted to answer such questions as: are we getting value for money spent on computer hardware and software; are we using the right technology; are we meeting our customers' needs? All information services branch employees and a number of our customers in other departments participated in this review. We are preparing an action plan to address those questions and guide our activities in that area.
Information technology is a key to the provision of government services. The branch is working together as a team and I hope that they are developing the state of mind that will lead them to become a special operating agency: an SOA providing consistent, measurable and relevant service to all areas of government.
I am proud of the whole Department of Government Services, which has worked hard and has worked together to come up with a mission, a vision, service principles and management principles.
The department developed these statements and they will be the ones implementing them.
The mission is to help government departments meet their objectives by procuring and managing affordable facilities, informatics, goods and services.
The vision is to be an innovative service agency valued by our customers.
Our service principles are to be a service provider of choice. We will be sensitive and innovative in responding to our customers' needs. We deal in a fair and equitable manner with our customers, and we will provide them with cost-effective, value-added services.
Our management principles are to be accountable for our actions. We seek continuous improvement. We accept the risks inherent in leadership and innovation. We communicate openly and value honesty and integrity. We encourage teamwork and recognize and reward contributions. We set high standards and measure the results. We value good planning and operate consistent with long-term plans and strategies. We strive for the best value for money. We participate in partnerships with stakeholders and respect their diverse interests. I think the department has made these principles well-known - the mission, the vision, the management and the services principles - in virtually every office of Government Services.
The final initiative to which I will speak is the contract regulations review. Last winter, in response to requests from client departments, contract administrators and the Yukon contracting and consulting community, we reviewed the current contract regulations. Over the spring, summer and fall of this year, a comprehensive consultation process was undertaken with groups of stakeholders.
A series of discussion papers were prepared, and when consensus had been reached on the majority of issues, the package was taken to Cabinet for approval in principle.
As a result, contract principles have been approved. These are a first, and will be followed up with contract regulations and directives, which will be circulated to stakeholders in the coming weeks for their comment.
I, as a member of this Legislature, am extremely proud to represent the riding of Porter Creek south and the constituents who live there. The riding is comprised of hard-working people who have demanded little of their MLA, except that they are represented in a fair and just manner in the Legislature. They want their MLA to act in a proper, constructive and humane manner. I will attempt to live up to these expectations. I will continue to represent my constituents on an individual basis, as well as in my ministerial capacity and as a Member of Cabinet, in order to see the provision and delivery of government policies and programs in an efficient, service-oriented manner.
I am pleased with the general direction this government is taking. Since joining the coalition government, I have come to respect the difficulty of the task of governing, and have acquired a measure of respect for my colleagues and the hard work that they put into the job.
I have also acquired a new respect for the previous NDP government and Cabinet for the work that they had to do in managing the affairs of the territory.
It is so easy to sit across the floor in Opposition and hurl rocks, mud and insults at the government side, without having to bear any responsibility or accountability. However, the Opposition does have a choice. Each Member can choose, at any time, to be constructive or destructive. I hope that all Members - and I do not restrict that to the Opposition - will heed public sentiment and will try, as much as possible, to be constructive and make Yukoners proud of their Assembly and the performance of its members.
I am no angel, but I am willing to give it a try.
Mr. Cable: I do not have a lot of comments, either negative or positive. I am just following along from what the previous Members said. I do, however, have a lot of questions. I will say something nice for the Member for Laberge.
I have sat here for the last couple of years, watching the play go back and forth - the ball go bouncing on one side and down the other side. I have really been struck, I think curiously, by what is going on across the aisle here. I have to say, in reading the Speech from the Throne, that the speech is marked more by what it does not say than by what it does say. In my view, this is in keeping with what is perceived as this government's view on the role of government; that is, the least government is the best government. That, I think, is the view of the gentlemen across the aisle.
This view has been echoed by two Ministers in news reports that I have clipped in the last year, when one Minister was speaking to the enacting of regulations in one case and indicating that, well, shucks, we did not have to have a lot of regulations. In the other case, one of the Ministers was speaking on a possible lack of meat in the legislative agenda for what is going on right now.
Now, this is a good view or a bad view - that of a minimalist government - depending on where one sits on the philosophical spectrum. I have to say that a casual reading of the Yukon Party's four-year plan would suggest a greater degree of activism was anticipated by the voters at the time of the 1992 election. A casual reading of the four-year plan, the government's mid-term report and the throne speech would suggest that the government has a long way to go to fulfill its own four-year plan agenda.
There is a perception from the Speech from the Throne, and the government's actions to date reinforce this perception, that there is only a thin philosophical coherence to the government's actions. This may arise from the fact that the Yukon Party and its independent coalition partners are defined more by what they are not than by what they are. They are not the Progressive Conservative Party that we know from the past, with its history and its more or less coherent philosophy. We know they are certainly not Social Democrats, and we also know that they are not Liberals.
So, the question still remains after two years in office: who are you? As my kids would say, who are these masked men? What are you, politically? Where are you really going? Is there anything after debt reduction and after the last chapter of the book Reinventing Government?
Now, even the government's own party members would seem to have some concerns on this issue - on the communications and on the giving of the message - judging from the reports on the Yukon Party's annual general meeting. So, the questions still remain, and the mixed signals still continue.
Do you really believe in diversification of the economy? Is there something beyond casinos for broadening the economy? Are we reinforcing strengths, such as mining and tourism, as a means of stabilizing the economy in lieu of diversification? What are we doing with the economic strategy? What is the real role, in your view, of the renewable resources sector? Is it something to be tolerated and given lip service, or is it something to spend more time on? Why are we puttering around with forest policy? What is the downside to moving forward as the negotiations proceed? Why can we not deal with clear cutting? Why has the government shown no imagination in agricultural infrastructure, beyond the recommending of the setting aside of a lot for the abattoir? Why does the government talk about First Nation partnerships, and yet seem to get few really constructive things happening with the First Nations?
It has been my observation that the government Members, as individuals, have some sensitivity for the underdog. But why, collectively, when they get together, do they seem to have such little sensitivity?
Now, there are many more questions that have to be asked before these gentlemen across the aisle can tell the people of the Yukon who they really are and where they are really going.
The Speech from the Throne, of course, is just a public relations exercise. What they
do after the Speech from the Throne will show us what they are made of. I look forward to
seeing the real agenda as it unfolds in the next two, three, four or five months.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: First of all, I am very pleased to be able to rise here today and reply to the Speech from the Throne. I am very proud to be part of a government that has worked with the Yukon people throughout the last two years of rather difficult economic times. We now can see a brighter horizon for the Yukon in the future. The Yukon has gone through some tough economic times. I do not think anyone has denied that. I am sure there is a great deal of optimism on the horizon that has been shared in this House by all Members on this side in quite an excited manner, but rather reluctantly by Members on the other side.
When our government was elected two years ago, our country, Canada, was in a recession, and the Yukon had just been told that the Curragh mine was about to close. It was sort of an inherited problem that I do not think anyone would have wanted, including the previous government, and certainly our government, to see, in one fell swoop, one-third of the Yukon economy go down the tube.
Unemployment in January 1993 was bordering around 12.5 percent, and it rose in May 1993 to 17.2 percent. Today, two years later, the unemployment rate is single digit at around nine percent. I think that bodes well for the future of the Yukon.
Almost every Yukoner was affected by the 1992 recession the country felt and by the closure of the Curragh mine, the effects of which were felt throughout the whole territory.
To top it off, when we took power, the previous administration had led everyone to believe that the finances of the Yukon government were in good order. I think we were all shocked to learn that the previous government had grossly overspent to the tune of $64 million. We saw our $50 million surplus disappear, and we were left with a $13 million deficit.
The Opposition disputed that in quite strong terms for several months. They said to wait until the Auditor General's report comes out and he has his say, because he is the gospel word. Well, in September of 1993, the Auditor General's report came out, and there was a $64 million deficit. Still, the Opposition was reluctant to believe the Auditor General. They now tout the Auditor General for other things, but they only believe what they want to believe.
Over the past two years, mining prices have been rather depressed and that has been, in a more significant way, the reason why Curragh and other mines closed and did not open over the past few years. However, this has been an opportune time for other Yukon industries, specifically the tourism industry. Although you do not wish woes on any industry in the territory, the lack of mining activity, specifically hardrock mining, allowed people in the Yukon to realize how important our tourism industry is to them. I am pleased to say that the tourism industry has done very well since 1992 and, when the numbers are all in from this year, it appears that this may be the second-best year that we have experienced in the Yukon's tourism history, aside from 1992.
The promotion that we received from the Alaska Highway and the work that was done by the previous government was one of the reasons why the Alaska Highway was so successful and the work of the Alaska Highway Anniversary's Commission. A the same time, we were poised in the marketplace to take advantage of the fast-growing outdoor adventure market. This allowed us to maintain our numbers.
There are some Members on the side opposite who said the improvement in our economy is in spite of what we have done, not because of what we have done. Politics is a very interesting animal. I would be willing to bet all my next year's salary that, if the Yukon unemployment rate was rising today and nothing was happening in the mining industry, the Opposition would be blaming the government.
It seems, in politics, that we do ourselves a disservice at times when we use the numbers to our own benefit at the time. I think that reflects on all of us, and the public is not fooled by that kind of rhetoric.
I can recall when the unemployment rate was so high two years ago, and it was this government's fault. I can remember the Leader of the Official Opposition holding the statistics up high and waving them, asking what we were going to do about the 17-percent unemployment. Now that unemployment is at nine percent, the sheet stating that figure is nowhere to be seen.
I suppose it is a negativism that one develops when one is in the House in this type of democratic debate, but I am not sure it is very productive for the Yukon as a whole.
I would like to be a little more positive about the Yukon's future than some of the Members opposite have been. I believe that this government did contribute to a new interest in mining in the Yukon. I would not say, for a moment, that we can take credit for all the activity, but we certainly did help. In 1992, we were proactive at the Cordilleran Roundup and in succeeding years our Government Leader attended the Cordilleran Roundup. I am sure that sent a strong message to the mining community. We told them we were open for business. If one talks to some of the members of the mining community and asks them what is talked about in their boardrooms today about where mining is welcome in Canada, they will say that the attitude and the approach taken by the Yukon government was welcomed in many mining boardrooms around this country. So I think it did help.
The hiring of a well respected mining person for the mining facilitator's job sent a very positive signal to the mining community. One just has to look at the exploration dollars in other jurisdictions of this country. I am talking about new mining exploration dollars, not exploration dollars spent by existing mines, but new mining exploration dollars, and I think we can see that Yukon has done very, very well compared to other jurisdictions.
The good thing, too, is that, although we did not have the very lucrative flow-through share program that was in existence a few years ago when millions and multi-millions of dollars were spent on exploration, the exploration that is taking place today is real exploration. They have discovered ore bodies. They are not just doing it on a whim. They are not just spending somebody's tax dollars for a write-off. They are doing it because there is a willingness by the government to welcome them to the Yukon for their mining activities and, at the same time, there are rich mineral resources in the Yukon for them to establish mines and create employment and create wealth for the Yukon.
The last two years were not very easy and the Leader of the Official Opposition yesterday talked about the Faro mine closure. There is an old saying that hindsight is 20/20. I have talked to many Yukoners during the last few weeks about the reopening of the Curragh mine and almost every single one of the people have said that they are glad we did not give Clifford Frame the loan guarantee for $30 million, that that was a very wise decision and that that money would have been just as far away right now as Clifford Frame is, and we probably would not see any of the Grum deposit stripped.
Governments are not supposed to be in the mining business. In the past, mining companies sold shares for the development of their mines. The Anvil Range Mining Corporation is selling shares to develop their mine. That is what it is all about. That is what we should be doing to support mines.
Our job is to work with this mine and others in the future to provide road infrastructure and fair and reasonable power rates - reasonable rates, not only to the mining companies, but to other consumers in the territory.
When the Opposition was asking us to get into the mining business, other mining companies were lining up at our door. If we had given money to Curragh the way that the NDP Opposition wanted us to, every other mine would have demanded the same treatment. Where would it have stopped?
I think it is just as unfair to say that this government has done nothing as it is for it to say that we did it all. I think that it is fair to say that this government was proactive in trying to attract new mines and investment to the territory. Although we did not do it all, we certainly opened the door for much of the exploration and development to take place.
I would like to take some time now to look at what we are doing in some of the other areas that I am responsible for. There was some concern in 1992, after we were elected, because there were no women in our caucus. I share some of the concerns that people expressed about that situation. I can pledge in this House that I will do what I can in the next election to be sure that more women are involved in the Yukon Party, and involved generally in politics in the Yukon.
That aside, I think that we have delivered a lot of programs that have greatly benefited Yukon women. The previous government had begun the first phase of a study of concerns of Yukon women. We have picked up from that good work and continued with a focus group study. That study will be used by us and successive governments in the future to identify many of the important issues that are facing Yukon women today. I hope to announce, just prior to our Christmas break, the new members of the Advisory Council on Women's Issues. This council is comprised of women from all over this territory to provide advice to me, as a Minister, on issues affecting Yukon women.
In the first two years, I was also privileged to be the Minister responsible for Education. This allowed us to establish a much closer link between the Women's Directorate and the Department of Education. I would now like to lay out for the Members some of the joint initiatives that took place while I was Minister of both of those departments.
We carried out an A Cappella North study. It was a collaborative effort by an inter-agency community-based committee, and it was spearheaded by the Women's Directorate. In phase 1, the focus of discussions was over 200 young women in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12, the Teen Parent Centre and girls out of the mainstream. An in-service for female teachers and facilitators was co-sponsored by the Women's Directorate and the Yukon Teachers Association.
In phase 2, there was a quantitative survey of young women and young men regarding self-esteem, the happiness factor and high risk behaviours, wellness, loss of control and communication. The Women's Directorate worked with Health and Social Services and the Yukon Bureau of Statistics in this data collection.
In phase 3 of this program, a teacher's guide on equitable teaching practices and resources was inserviced in the rural communities in the spring of 1994. Future plans now include phase 4, an inservice of male teachers, followed up with one for male teachers to work with young men to change attitudes. As well, there is the development of a policy and procedures to address violence in the schools. Implementation involves a multi-faceted approach: prevention, early intervention, and treatment. The directorate continues to work with all Yukon schools on violence prevention activities and approaches.
Future plans in this include workshops for superintendents, administrators, school councilors and learning assistant teachers, regarding the development of an action plan for their schools. The Women's Directorate is working with the Department of Education on the women training study. This strategy will provide an input into the national social security reform process.
As I mentioned earlier in Question Period today, there was a public awareness campaign on violence against women and children. That campaign continues, almost as we speak. There is a link-up with Education, assisted by the directorate, in carrying out this public awareness strategy on the violence against women and children. The focus this year has been in three areas of empowerment: reducing women's vulnerability to violence, empowerment of youth in creating healthy relationships, and beginning the healing process.
Two major campaigns ran in the spring and in the fall, which included a number of school-based workshops in the junior, secondary and high schools: posters and ads depicting teens, workshops for women and workshops on relationships for women and men, and support for healing conferences being held by First Nations. The directorate also funded Bobbi Smith's secondment to Dene Nets'edet'an, the Yukon Indian Women's Association healing project.
Under this government, Sexual Assault Prevention Week was extended to Sexual Assault Prevention Month.
Last year, activities focused on safety in the workplace and in public buildings. Connie Guberman, a University of Toronto lecturer who has designed a personal safety audit, visited Whitehorse and conducted a series of lectures and training sessions. Since that time, the Women's Directorate, Women In Government Committee and a community-based ad hoc working group have been actively involved in carrying out personal safety audits.
Future plans in this area, where the Member for Mount Lorne has said this government is doing nothing, include training others to carry out personal safety audits and the consideration of personal safety features when new buildings are being constructed, and ensuring that, when government space is leased, building codes and regulations are adhered to.
A sub-committee of the Deputy Minister Review Committee has also been struck to address security issues and issues of personal safety in the workplace. It is chaired by the Deputy Minister of Government Services.
These are only some of the areas that we are looking at in the Women's Directorate. One of the accomplishments that I believe this government can be very proud of is encouraging the various departments to work more closely together. This has been very successful, and I would like to commend everyone in the Yukon government and all Yukon government departments for their cooperation.
We are not all the way there yet. There still remains more work to be done, but we have come a long way since 1992.
The Women's Directorate is thankful for the cooperation of other departments for assisting us in making women's issues a priority.
Earlier this summer, the government gave me the added responsibilities of the Department of Justice and the Public Service Commission. I would like to take a few moments to briefly discuss what I would like to accomplish in these areas. I will provide much more detail when we begin budget debate.
Justice is an issue that is on everyone's mind and there are a couple of areas I will comment on here today.
The first area is our position on the new federal gun legislation. I have to say at the outset that I was disturbed by the consultation process - or lack thereof - that took place earlier this fall. I, as a Minister, had a chance to meet with the federal Minister of Justice and express what I believed are Yukoners' concerns, but there seemed to be a different process used in Yukon than in any other jurisdiction in Canada. Because of the local Liberal organization, Mr. Rock's visit was marred by some concern about other Yukoners and some other Members of this House who were denied the right to express their views. I think that was unfortunate. I think that Yukoners have a great deal to say about the issue of proposed gun legislation, and I think it was extremely important for all Members of this Legislature and for all Yukoners to have a fair airing of this issue.
Last week, Mr. Rock released his proposed legislation. I, like many Yukoners, was not very pleased. One almost got the impression that the legislation was drafted well before Mr. Rock ever came to the Yukon. I am writing to Mr. Rock and expressing some strong concerns about the proposed gun legislation. First, I would like to briefly comment on it.
There were some somewhat positive moves, I suppose, in some aspects of the bill. Mr. Rock has increased the mandatory sentences for some crimes. I do not think that Mr. Rock has gone far enough with the mandatory sentences; the public is crying for a great deal more.
He has also suggested increased penalties for the smuggling of illegal firearms. I think the illegal use of firearms to commit crimes and the smuggling of illegal firearms is where they should have focused more attention in this particular legislation. This is about as positive as I can be about the newly proposed changes.
I am not pleased or convinced at all that an all-encompassing registration system will solve the problem about criminal activity involving firearms. The criminal will not care if the gun is registered.
I am also concerned about the cost of this registration system and whether this is a wise use of taxpayers' money. I am also concerned about Yukoners who will just ignore it.
We are already facing problems with the costs that were incurred with the changes to the existing firearms courses, which has required us to put on more and more courses all the time, and these courses are not always fully funded by the federal government.
Mr. Rock has said that there will be some allowances made for northern Canadians, and we will be following that closely. I am not sure that Mr. Rock fully understands the difference between firearm use in the Yukon and firearm use in downtown Toronto.
Our government will be announcing some initiatives, as well, with respect to community crime, community crime prevention and vandalism through this sitting of the Legislature.
As the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, I want to concentrate on improving employee relations. I will be using the recommendations and findings of the Auditor General's study on human resource management, as well as some of the recommendations of the Masters of Public Administration. I will be introducing our approach to the Auditor General's recommendations during this sitting.
Some Members before me have spoken about the improvement in the economy, specifically in mining and tourism, and I believe there is lots of room for optimism. I am somewhat dismayed by some of the comments. I am glad I did not speak yesterday, because I probably would have been a little more emotional yesterday about some of the issues if I had had a chance to speak. Like the Member for Porter Creek South said, it is nice to speak after three or four of the Members who seem to take a different approach to how we deal with issues in the House and do not tend to personalize issues as much as others may.
I think there is room for optimism. I was a little shocked by the Leader of the Official Opposition's comments. He spoke of a boom in the economy, or an improvement in the economy. In the same sentence he said that if we have a boom, a bust is just around the corner. I think it is a little premature to talk about the bust. I think that we can be a little more optimistic than talking about the bust being right around the corner.
The Leader of the Official Opposition also embarked upon several personal attacks, and that is unfortunate. I am not going to comment more than that. As well, he talked briefly about the Taga Ku incident and I am going to leave that to others to comment on as well. I think there is an awful lot to be said about what went on in that particular issue.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke about vandalism and crime and the concern he has in his area. I share that concern. I had many, many calls over the past few weeks about snowmobile theft and other thefts in that area and other areas of the territory. There is a strong concern. We will be making some announcements about consultations that are going to take place in the communities and I certainly invite that Member to partake in those. I look forward to any suggestions from any Member on how we deal with those types of issues. I really believe that for it to change at all, there must be some strong responsibility built up within the community itself, and people themselves must become more involved. I do not think we can rely completely on the police force to combat some of the types of activities that are going on today. I think that there will be some interesting discussions on that issue in the future.
I was pleased by the comments made by the Member for Faro. The Member for Faro shocked
me, quite frankly. He was so positive. It was really refreshing. I thought that maybe I
had died and gone to Heaven, or something. I landed here and here was this positive
message about the good things the government was doing with constructive criticism on
things it was not doing, and then he fell off the positive wagon.
I thought he just needed a little more therapy. Perhaps if people talk to him, they can convince him that he can be nice if he really wants to be. He did a pretty good job in the beginning. I do not want to dwell on the negative items, but I do want to tell him that he did quite a good job on the positive things and that he should keep that up. That is more like him, and he would do well to spend a little more time in that area.
Unfortunately, the Member for Mount Lorne has not changed a bit. This is a day that is very important to Yukon women - and women in the country in general. It is a day when we should be talking about ways in which we can improve the quality of life and equality for women in the territory. However, the Member chose to jump on her political soapbox and rant and rave, as she has in this House many times before. I think it is unfortunate that she chose that avenue, and, at the same time, chose to ignore some of the very positive things that are happening in Yukon with respect to Yukon women.
There were a few issues raised by Members of the Opposition. The Member for Mount Lorne talked about the coal deposit. In particular, she mentioned the cost of coal, the pollutants that coal might cause and the concerns she had about that. I share some of those concerns. I think that is something we should be conscious of when we look at any alternative means of generating power. However, I would ask the Member opposite this question: if coal is not the answer - and I am not ruling coal out at all - perhaps she can suggest one to us. I think it would be very difficult in today's world to suggest that we dam the Yukon River or flood a large area of the Yukon Territory using the Teslin River, or some other river, to produce the necessary amount of hydro that we are going to need to supply power to the mines that are potentially coming into production in the Yukon.
I guess you have to look at the cost of power, at the ways you can mitigate the pollution of coal, and whether it is better to burn more diesel than it is to burn coal, or whether it is better to dam rivers and create large reservoirs of water than it is to burn coal, and whatever other options we may have. I am sure the Member would not suggest nuclear-powered stations in the Yukon. There are severe limitations to wind power in the territory and to be useful it has to be something that can provide steady and regular power, on a consistent basis, to the mines or they just cannot operate. So, I would be interested to hear about the areas the Member feels we should be looking at to provide adequate power to serve the Yukon's needs in the future.
The Member for Mount Lorne keeps talking about reduced spending in the Department of Education. When you look at the O&M budgets, there has been no reduction in spending in the Department of Education and, in many cases, what we are talking about here is the capital budget. The Member is correct that we did not spend the $15 million to $18 million on building schools that the previous government did in some years, but there was a real need for some of those schools in some areas. But a real over-build happened in some of those areas as well. We could have built twice as many schools for the money that the previous government spent, and I think we have debated that many times before.
Some other Members made comments as well. I would like to turn to the area that was commented on by the Member for Whitehorse Centre, Margaret Commodore. She mentioned the concern about land claims dropping in priority in our throne speech, but there are six priorities and I do not think they are meant to be in the order of one to six. They are not numbered one to six. They are six priorities the government may have. I suppose if we had changed it around in any way, shape or form and we had balancing the economic development and environmental protection as number four, we would have been criticized for putting environmental protection and the economy fourth and not caring about that either.
I think they are all very high priority. They are all extremely high, and that is why they are in there. These are the six priorities of the government. I do not think it fair to number one over the other. Maybe the Member for Riverdale South, who seems to think they should be numbered, could tell us which order they should be in. There are several high priorities for a government in the Yukon and those are the six priorities that we laid out.
I would like to move on to the area of tourism. I feel that tourism is one of the areas in the Yukon that really picked up the slack, as I said earlier, when the mining economy was depressed, in some respects, but we are at a very important time in Yukon's history. I know the Member for Whitehorse South Centre commented that it is only the 100th birthday of the Klondike Gold Rush coming up and there are other anniversaries, and I respect that. It is important that we recognize other anniversaries and other significant historic times in Yukon's life, but this is the historic time for the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the 100th anniversary of the discovery of gold and the Klondike Gold Rush and the building of the White Pass railroad. There are some significant events in our future for which our government is planning.
There was some criticism by the side opposite, and I just wish sometimes that Members opposite could see some good in anything, not in all things but just in something, and I am a little disappointed that there is no good in some things. I have talked to a lot of people in the last two or three days since the throne speech and I can tell the Members that there are a lot of people out there who do see a lot of positive things in this throne speech, and specifically a lot of positive things about tourism in the throne speech.
The joint initiative between the Department of Economic Development and Tourism, which is a five-year, $9 million program for tourism infrastructure, is a significant program.
Members on the side opposite, including the tourism critic, have said it is not even as much as the community development fund, and that it is just a copy of their fund. This is not a community development fund. This particular fund is a little bit different. It is not designed to build an arena in Ross River, or a curling rink in Beaver Creek, or other similar projects. The $9 million is specifically directed toward tourism infrastructure that will benefit the tourism industry. That is what is different about it.
The community development fund was for community development of everything. Some of it went to tourism; some of it was well spent. We know some of it was not well-spent. Some of it went to great white elephants and a lot of O&M costs for the poor little communities when it was all over with. There were some good attractions, such as the Wye Lake attraction in Watson Lake, which was a very good expenditure. However, I believe that this infrastructure money is necessary.
Members of the Opposition, when traveling around the territory, commented that this particular fund is dividing Yukoners. Again, that is another negative approach to the program or the plan. I have a lot more faith in Yukoners than the Opposition. I like to think that Yukoners will work together. In fact, there are some examples in some of the communities where people are getting together, meeting and talking about the projects they want to start and apply for. I would like to think that working together on a project will draw the people more closely together will benefit everybody in the community, not just one specific group over another.
That is part of the criteria of the program - to involve everyone in the program, so that it is a project supported by a community. I would like to think that it could be considered a positive program.
I also think that the anniversaries events program and the $500,000 is seed money that will allow the various communities to again apply for up to $10,000 for events in their communities relating to the anniversaries. This includes existing events and new events and, again, it is seed money, because matching money will be required for that program. This will build volunteerism and the efforts of the community back into the system. Groups will not be asking government to pay for the whole shot, and then it is all over. This program is designed so that all communities participate.
There have also been comments made by Members on the side opposite today, and in the past, about the way in which the Yukon markets itself in the area of tourism. I have been criticized by some of the Members opposite for the recent trip that we took to Europe and the marketing activities that took place over there. I would be prepared at any time and any place to debate that issue with any of the Members on the side opposite. I have talked to many people in the tourism industry, and there is strong support for that type of marketing. I am probably one of 12 tourism Ministers in this country who have travelled overseas to market their product, because that is the way marketing is being done. That is what we have to do to get our message out to people about the Yukon.
I know that the Member for Whitehorse Centre South does not support the program. The Member may not be fully aware what other jurisdictions do, and I do not want to get into that here, but I would be more than willing to provide a briefing to that Member.
Speaker: Order. The Member has three minutes to conclude his remarks.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would be than willing to offer a briefing to Ms. Commodore about the ...
Ms. Commodore: Point of order.
Speaker: The Minister must refer to the Members by their riding, not by name.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would be willing to provide a briefing to the Member for Whitehorse Centre South so that she can be more informed about the trip we took to Europe. If the Member has a concern about what we did in Europe, if she would contact Mr. Johnston, I am sure he would be more than happy to fill her in on the positive aspects of the trip and tell her whether or not he thought it was a worthwhile..
Before the Member criticizes the trip, the Member should do that.
In closing, I would like to take the words that were spoken by the Member for Tatchun,
who said that we have to work together. I think that we have to look at the throne speech
in front of us, we have to look at the budget that is going to be presented to the Yukon
people in the near future, and we have to look at what is good in the budget. Constructive
criticism is fine, but let us try to be positive about some of the things that are
positive for Yukon people. There are some good things happening in the Yukon. The economy
is taking a turn, and I am positive that the Yukon is on the right track. I urge everyone
in this House to work in a more cooperative spirit for the good of the Yukon people.
Mrs. Firth: I want to reassure the Member who just spoke that the Yukon is on the right track. Our concern is whether the Yukon Party government is on the right track. I would love to be positive about what this government is doing. I would love to stand up here and pat them on the back and extend great platitudes. However, I pride myself on being a truthful person, so ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: So ...Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: The Minister of Tourism says we are going to choke on that. I know who will be choking at the end of this session, and it will not be the Member for Riverdale South. Now, into the formal aspect of my presentation.
I want to make one thing very clear right at the outset. I am very positive and optimistic about the future of the Yukon, because I have faith and confidence in Yukoners. It does not matter what roadblock and what obstruction is put in the way. I am confident they will survive, because they have been able to survive the last two years with this government.
Now, if I ask questions about things, does that mean that I do not support the program? That is what the previous speaker seems to think - if we ask questions about something, we do not support the program. If we raise a philosophical difference about the direction the government is taking, we do not support the program. Well, that is absolutely untrue.
I support lots of programs. It would be irresponsible for me not to raise questions about them, and my constituents would be very upset with me if I did not. They see that as my job and I thought the Member for Porter Creek South, who has just recently joined the government ranks, had the same impression of an opposition Member. Instead, today I heard a new message from him. I heard a message that I was not to use my experience as the Member for Riverdale South to tear down the government. I am not using my experience to tear down the government. I am not the one who is giving contracts to friends of mine, or friends of my friends - and making a mess of it, I might add. I am not the one breaking laws, and I am not the one doing things that cause conflict-of-interest questions to be raised about me in this Legislature. So, if I raise those issues, it is not my tearing the government down. They are doing this all by themselves, and it is my responsibility as a Member to point it out.
I have a job to do here. I am supposed to help make the government accountable. Constituents say to me, "Keep them honest". Every session I say that that comment makes me nervous: "Make the government accountable and answerable to the public." This government does not want to be accountable and answerable to the public. They make much about their image problem and communication problem and state that people do not understand what a good job the government is doing for them. The biggest opportunity the government has to promote themselves is to come and sit in this Legislature. What are they doing? They reduce it to one session, one public accountability session, so they can hide from the public. How are they supposed to get their message out if they all want to get behind their little desks in their offices, close the door and hide. They should be coming in here and going on at great length about what a good job they are doing.
I listened very closely to some of the comments made by the previous speaker. The comment that stood out most in my mind was how this government has worked with the Yukon people: "We have worked with the Yukon people." I look at the throne speech. There are announcements about a Beringia museum, a visitor reception centre, gambling - those three, particularly. I am sure more will come to mind. Another one I had in mind was this consultative process about the Environment Act.
They say they have worked on four with the people. What has happened to those four announcements?
The city council is concerned about parking with the move of the visitor reception centre, because they had no idea that the government was going to proceed in that direction.
With respect to gambling in Whitehorse, Dawson City is raising concerns about this and the Council for Yukon Indians chairperson has said that she has not had any discussions with the government about gambling. Service groups are calling me with their concerns. Yukoners in general are concerned.
How did the government work with the Yukon people with respect to the museum? Well, I gather that the Minister of Tourism is now taking the museum board chairperson of the MacBride Museum out for lunch to try to convince him that this is a good thing. He is making them promises that he is going to help them out. The Minister did not talk to them or give them any notice. These are the people who have been told for the past two years that there is no money available and that they cannot expand their museum. They cannot even pay the insurance on the museum, because this government is not prepared to give them any further assistance.
On Vicki Gabereau's radio program one afternoon, I heard that the national historic museums people are requesting that the provinces not proceed with this kind of facility for the moment, because they have run out of artifacts to put in these museums. They do not have enough to share. Who did the government work with when they made these decisions?
When people ask questions or raise concerns, the government Members stand up and say we are against it. That is not the case. I was very much in favour of the visitor reception centre being built downtown. What made this such an interesting story and gave me a big smile on the day of the throne speech is that I remember being with the Conservative caucus three years ago, or so. At that time the government of the day was saying that they were going to be building the visitor reception centre up the hill and the government critic of the day - who is now the Minister of Tourism - stood up and said that he agreed with the construction of the visitor reception centre on that site. Three years later, the Member is turning around and moving it downtown. I got into a lot of trouble as a member of that caucus. I did not have an opportunity to put my argument forward on behalf of my constituents who wanted the visitor reception centre downtown.
The Minister of Tourism expects to have credibility in this Legislature. Three years later, it is a whole different story. Just like the European holiday. When the previous government Ministers went on a trip to Europe on some educational matter and spent money, it was bad; it was wrong. However, for the now Minister of Tourism to do it, all of the sudden it is right and a great thing to do, and the Minister will defend it and argue it any day.
I had someone say to me that this is a one-term government; I believe I even read Paul Birkel was quoted in the newspaper as saying it was a one-term government and he would wait until it was gone before getting on with their business. I hear that a lot in the territory - a lot, from everywhere, from their spokesperson on the political panel on CBC.
Now, this is what people say to me about this government. They think they can do whatever they want because they are the government. They think they are above the law when it suits their purpose. A lot of my constituents are very offended by that kind of attitude. I had a young woman out at my farm the other night. She was riding a horse that was particularly difficult to control. The horse kept throwing his head around and I said to her, "Oh, that is a nice horse you have", and she said, "Yeah, but he has got a real attitude." Well, this government has a real attitude, a real attitude. And you know what, the people out there do not like it. And they are not going to put up with it. And that is why they are a one-term government.
Now, I listened to the Minister of Tourism this afternoon say something that I have to take issue with because he does this constantly with just about every issue and statement he makes in this House. He stood up this afternoon and said that the tourism industry is doing very, very well. So, I said to myself, okay, what does that mean? So, I listened to the Minister and waited for his explanation. It is doing very, very well. He said, "We have had more visitors coming to the Yukon than ever before. We are doing very, very well." So, I say, gee that is kind of a deep thought, you know. We have these people visiting the Yukon. Why is it that my opinion of the general health of the tourism industry is not as positive nor as optimistic as that of the Minister's?
I look at where I got my information. I have gone around, up and down Main Street, to
the RV parks, and I have talked to the owners of highway lodges and people who are there
working with tourists every day. They are telling me that it has not been a very, very
good year. Most of them are saying to me, "I have managed to maintain my status, down
in some areas, maybe a little improvement in a very few areas, but marginal
So, to whom am I to listen? Am I to listen to the Minister who only looks at the number of people who come to visit here and goes no further, or the people who are the business community, dealing with the tourists every day? I am going to listen to the business community. Those are the opinions that I value.
I have to ask myself a question about this throne speech. I went through the throne speech and noticed it talked about mining. Mining is doing great. Every time one of this government's Ministers gives a speech to the Association of Yukon Communities, the communities or the municipalities, they talk about how well mining is doing. It does not matter if it is the Government Leader talking to the Chamber of Mines or the Chamber of Commerce, or the Minister of Community & Transportation Services talking to the AYC - they all talk about how well mining is doing.
I am one of those Members who has said that mining is doing well, in spite of this government, because that is the message the mining community gave me at the Geoscience Forum and at the mining workshop - or whatever it was - that the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment held. If going to a roundup and buying a bunch of beer and saying we are open for business is all that this government can offer, it is clearly not good enough.
Yesterday, we questioned the Minister of Economic Development about the Yukon industrial support policy. He did not know whether it was a full policy - he said it was a draft - and could not enunciate any of the principles in it. Yet, they are negotiating this policy with mining companies. Then the Government Leader tables a letter today, addressed to Cash Resources, saying that the government has put in place a mining facilitator, a Yukon industrial support policy and a non-utility generation strategy "which should be of assistance to your company in the development of its project". The government does not even know what the policy is. The Minister cannot even stand up and tell us what it is, yet he is telling the mining company that it is going to help it. That is why we raise questions in the House.
In the throne speech, there is a big discussion about coal. Well, we are all for coal. It sounds wonderful, optimistic and positive. However, I am going to have some questions about the development of coal-produced energy. That does not mean I am for or against anything. I am going to ask some questions about it to see if this government has done its homework, and to see if it knows what it is doing. The government does not have a good reputation for knowing what it is doing.
What else are we talking about?
Unemployment in Yukon is going down. They keep saying that unemployment is going down, but do not make any mention of the 1,000 or so fewer people living in Yukon that the Government of Canada statistics just produced, approximately one month ago. That might have some bearing on the unemployment statistics going down. There are 1,000 fewer people living in the Yukon.
The government asked the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment to review the Environment Act. This is working with Yukon people? Absolutely not. A very small group of people were asked their opinion about that. We were told we were going to regularly receive the minutes of the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. Six or seven months later, I was waiting to receive the minutes from the council. They sent me a package with a whole bunch of minutes jammed into it just before the House came into session, which is the way this government works. I have told the public not to write the government any letters throughout the year, because you will never hear from them. Wait until about a month before the House is going into session, write some letters, and you might get an answer, because they do not want to face the questions on the floor of the Assembly.
I only want to speak for a few more minutes. I want to end on a positive note, because I feel very strongly about the constituency that I represent. I have represented the people in Riverdale South for 12 years. Riverdale South is a hard-working, interested, participating and concerned community. We pay our taxes, and we complain very little. We have asked this government for one thing. We have not continually asked for it, but it is something that was promised to us - a new school. It was promised by the previous government, the money was identified in the budget, and it was promised by this government. I think the money was identified twice. This government said to Riverdale South that we are not getting it, that they are going to study the stats. We had three or four excuses from the first Minister, and the Government Leader removed him from the portfolio because of his performance in that portfolio. He put the clean-up fellow in that job and had him go out and finally deliver the bad news.
The constituents I represent are positive and optimistic individuals. Many of them are business people, many are public servants. They keep me informed, and they keep me in touch with what they think the major issues are. They want me raising the questions I am raising.
If this government wants to criticize me for being against issues, for being negative, for opposing everything, as the Minister of Tourism stands up and says - which is, of course, absolutely untrue; he cannot support, defend or substantiate any comments he makes - within my heart, I know that the job I am doing is on behalf of my constituents. I am not a toady for the government benches. I do not go out and toe their line like some of the other Independent Members across the floor do, although I hear there is one Independent who is kind of shying away from the government these days. If there is something unfavourable in his constituency, it is sort of those others guys' fault, not his. He is not claiming any ownership to some of the issues that are being raised here in the Legislature, which is also an interesting twist.
I am going to carry on with my job, as I have in the past. I am going to ask questions about all of the issues and announcements that were made in the throne speech. I am going to ask questions about this government's ability to manage their finances, because I and my constituents think that that is one of their biggest concerns right now. We had to suffer the tax burden and the increase, and we are watching this government very closely with respect to how they spend our money. They are doing a lot of things we do not like, including breaking the law. That issue is going to come up for debate again in this Legislature, so I am not going to get into it this afternoon.
I just want to say I want to wish my constituents a very merry Christmas, a happy
holiday season and a prosperous New Year. I want to tell them it is my privilege to
represent them, and I am going to continue to do so for as long as they want me there.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It gives me great pleasure to rise today and speak to the throne speech, which I believe was a very positive one. The reports from the public also indicate that it was a very positive throne speech, even though the Member for Riverdale South does not feel it was. No matter what this party does, we could not begin to satisfy the Member for Riverdale South, so I am not going to worry too much about it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, I would like to know how she knows.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My Ministers have done a very good job of responding to what is happening in their departments. My backbenchers have done a very good job of laying out what is happening in their ridings.
I am not going to stand here for 40 minutes and elaborate and repeat what my Ministers have all said. However, I do want to make some remarks, particularly in light of the comments made by the Leader of the Official Opposition, as I take exception to some of them.
I do want to reinforce what my Minister of Tourism said. He said that he believed that, after two years, we are starting to see a crack over there. Some of the speeches from the other side of the House have been fairly positive in response to the throne speech.
Some have offered constructive criticism, and we appreciate that criticism. Nevertheless, there is still a certain amount of negativity from the side opposite. Perhaps, because they are on the Opposition benches the Members feel that is what their role is.
I want to go through some of the comments made by the Leader of the Official Opposition at this time to refute some of the statements he has put on the record.
The first one is a statement that he and Members opposite make on numerous occasions when they talk about cuts to Health and Social Services. They say that this government has done nothing but cut health and social services. I want to refute that statement because it is totally false.
If we look at the expenditures on health and social service programs in the Yukon, compared to the total expenditures of government, we will see that while the total expenditures of operation and maintenance have decreased somewhat in 1993-94 from 1992-93, the costs of health and social services have continued to climb. They represent a larger percentage in 1993-94 of the overall operation and maintenance budget.
Let us look at both capital and operation and maintenance costs. You can see that health and social services costs have increased - not as dramatically in the last couple of years because of actions taken by the Minister of Health and Social Services to curtail some expenses, but the delivery of the programs to the people has increased.
When we compare capital expenditures in that area to overall capital expenditures, we see that health and social services funding has gone up in relation to the overall capital budget. I am going to table that for the Members opposite so that they can get very, very critical about it at a later date and try to refute the figures.
To say that we have cut spending on social services and health programs is wrong. It has not been cut; it has been enhanced.
I want to speak about the Leader of the Official Opposition's words on the mining boom and the suggestion that the government has been economical with the truth.
I can remember the hostility from the other side opposite when unemployment was 17.3 percent, shortly after the Curragh mine closed down. The Members opposite had no difficulty in giving us credit for that - no difficulty, whatsoever. They were quite willing to give us full credit for that, but when the economy turns around and things start to improve, it is in spite of us, not because of us.
I suggest that is not a true statement. This government has worked very, very hard to try to create economic activity in the territory.
Look at the employment figures. They are not, as my Minister of Tourism said, waved around in this House any more because they are going the other way. The Member for Riverside says people have left the territory. Some people have left, but the workforce has grown. It has expanded, even with the Faro and the Sa Dena Hes mines shut down. In June of this year, I believe there were 1,500 more people employed, most of them in full-time jobs.
The GDP went down dramatically because of the Faro mine closure, yet it went up in every other sector. It was because of the mineral exports that it went down. What has this government done to attract mining? Let us be half fair. Let us at least have the Opposition be half fair.
When we took over government, the Implementation Review Committee was sitting there doing nothing, because the territorial government representative was not very active on it. They were not taking an aggressive role. We brought in some help for them. We brought in a consultant and took an aggressive role in the IRC and were successful in getting some regulations that the placer miners believe they can live with for some time into the future.
We appointed a mining facilitator. The Leader of the Official Opposition says that the Government Leader, or the Minister of Economic Development, should be the mining facilitator. How silly. Perhaps he does not understand the role of the mining facilitator. It is to help these companies that want to invest in the Yukon get through the permitting process. The Minister of Economic Development and myself, as Government Leader, are very capable of selling the Yukon as a good place for mining companies to invest, and we do that. We work very hard at encouraging mining companies to come here and explore. We only need to look at the exploration dollars that are being spent in the Yukon to show that our aggressive approach to attracting the industry to the Yukon is starting to pay off. We do not want to take full credit for the mining recovery. Without an increase in base metal prices, we would not have mines going back into production. However, without exploration dollars being spent in the Yukon, we will have no ore bodies to put into production when the base metal and precious metal prices are right.
While we do not want to take full credit for it, I would expect that the Opposition Members would at least give us some credit for it.
The Leader of the Official Opposition says we have no respect for the law, that we continue to break the law, that we are arrogant, that we have no consideration and do not give a damn. They made much of an Auditor General's report, and said we broke the law and acted illegally. That is the same Auditor General who said there was a $64 million deficit, which the Members opposite would not accept.
They would not accept that from the Auditor General. So we broke the law, we did something illegal. Now, the Member for MacIntyre-Tahkini, being a former Finance Minister, knows full well what happened. My notes go back to as far as 1985-86. Every year, there have been overexpenditures by departments. Did they not break the law? Was it only this government, after we got elected, that this happened to?
The Opposition make a big issue about write-offs and loans. There were no loans written off. The Member for MacIntyre-Tahkini knows full well that there were no loans written off. He knows that. I stood up in this House and said what we were doing: we were making provisions for bad debts. That is what we were doing. Regardless of how we handled the situation, the bottom line would not have changed.
There is a process for writing off loans, and it goes to the Management Board. Allowances for bad debts have to be made in the budgets. The Auditor General has pointed that out time and time again. There will be more debate on that. I am not going to get into great detail on that now. I am just bringing it up as an example.
I would like to talk about another issue. I am very, very concerned about the manner in which Members on the opposite benches, who consider themselves to be honourable and responsible Members, have acted.
I also want to speak about the Taga Ku situation. I think this is the time to air it as the Member of the Official Opposition brought it up. He says, "I offered to brief the Government Leader on anything he wanted, but he did not ask about Taga Ku." Would not some people perceive that to be arrogant? - that he did not ask.
I stated on the public record that I would honour any commitments made by the previous administration. The Members who were part of that government at that time have a moral obligation, and had a moral obligation, to let this government know what those obligations were. They did not do that, and they had every opportunity to do it. I said quite clearly that my government would honour the commitments it made. There was absolutely no reason for them not to let us know what commitments were made, if there were commitments made that were different from what we were interpreting to be the case.
They had the opportunity to do that. They could have picked up the phone and called me. They could have stood up in this Legislature when the issue arose. The House came in just a few days after that. They chose not to do it. Why did they choose not to do it?
The Minister at the time - the Member for McIntyre-Takhini - failed to communicate to his staff, either verbally or in writing, that he had made any changes to the Taga Ku project. He even went so far as to write a letter to the Member for Riverdale South, which she received on September 17, that said that there were no changes to the contract - none whatsoever. There was a chain of Cabinet meetings, at which no decision was made, up to and after the election call.
If this was such a good deal for Yukoners - such a good deal for everybody - what was the Minister of the time trying to hide? Why did he not campaign on it? Why did he not let the Yukon public know that he was intending to make some changes? Why did he not let his officials know? We are clearly talking about a government out of control. There was no paper trail or any other indicators. Yet, when they have the opportunity to clear up the problem and correct the record, they do not take it, even after this government said it would honour any commitments made by them - even if they were bad commitments.
I want to put on the record, once more, that I believe they had a moral obligation to let this government know what those commitments were, if they felt we were misinterpreting them. They chose not to.
I would like to talk a little bit about land claims and the land claim priorities, as my Minister of Tourism pointed out in the throne speech, and was heckled for it by the Member for Riverdale South.
The throne speech clearly sets out six priorities of this government over the next two years of our mandate - and on into our next mandate - of what we hope to accomplish. We have not prioritized them. They are all very important to this government and should be viewed in that way by the Opposition.
Yesterday, I appointed a full-time negotiator and I was criticized somewhat by Members opposite, who said that I should have made that appointment two years ago. I want to point out that not having a full-time negotiator hired did not hold up the land claims process. We have a Land Claims Secretariat. We have moved ahead at the pace indicated by the First Nations. But now, with implementation on the horizon, devolution will proceed. I have always believed that devolution should be tied to land claims - one cannot go ahead without the other; they should be in tandem. First Nations are finally going to get control over their land and resources. It is time for Yukoners to get control over their land and resources. That was a founding priority of this party in 1978: for Yukoners to have control of land and resources in the Yukon. We have a commitment from the federal Minister for DIAND to fast-track that process and move very quickly. That is why it is important at this time to devote resources to it in order to meet the federal Minister's timetable and get on with the job.
There were questions yesterday about coal and hydro. The Leader of the Official Opposition brought up in his debate that we were going to go ahead with a private coal project, which has won the debate with public hydro before it even starts. Well, nothing could be further from the truth.
Let us talk about coal and hydro for a minute. Let us talk about the Aishihik Dam. Let us talk about the controversy created about that hydro project. Let us talk about the future demands for electrical energy in the territory. How are we going to meet those challenges? Are we going to take a short-sighted vision of the future and add diesel generators? It is a good way to go if it is a short-term project. It is an expensive way, but it is a good way. This party's and this government's vision is more long range for the Yukon. I see a day when there will be a Yukon hydro grid running throughout the Yukon.
I believe it is our responsibility as a government to explore all options that are available to us. That is why we changed the mandate of the Energy Corporation and the Development Corporation and told them that it would be all right to look at coal as a source of electrical energy.
It is not a new vision we had; it is something that is done throughout the world. I would just like to quote some figures: in 1990, approximately 47 percent of the world's electricity was produced from coal. In 1993, coal was the largest source of energy produced in the United States. Coal-fired electrical generation in the U.S. increased by four percent in 1993, vis-a-vis a total electrical generation of three percent, and it accounts for 57 percent of all electricity produced in the U.S.
Coal fuels 93 percent of the power generated in Alberta, 73 percent in Saskatchewan, 72 percent in Nova Scotia, 26 percent in Ontario and 11 percent in New Brunswick.
Known coal reserves have been in the Yukon for a long time. We needed to generate the interest in identifying enough high-quality coal reserves to cover environmental concerns. What we needed was some catalyst to encourage mining companies to start doing the exploration work. That is what we have provided.
As our electrical power needs increase, if the coal reserves are there, they are very
well situated - right on the grid. In Question Period yesterday, the Member for
McIntyre-Takhini was questioning me on this and as I said then, this is not new; it is
done all over. They have estimates, in other areas, of what it costs to produce coal-fired
electrical power. We are not reinventing the wheel here. We do not need to do huge studies
of what the costs will be. We kept all the numbers and we can adapt them to the Yukon.
I am confident that they can come within a competitive range. That is exactly what we
are doing. As a government, I believe we have that responsibility.
The Leader of the Official Opposition cannot help but take personal runs at people on this side. I really take exception to one statement he made yesterday, when he talked about speaking to somebody, saying he would like to see the government's butt in one of the seats at a play some time. I take real exception to that, because the Leader of the Official Opposition repeated it in this Legislature. I am married to a woman who does believe in arts, and I do go to plays with her on occasion, but I have yet to see the Leader of the Official Opposition there.
I want to talk about another issue that this administration inherited from the Members opposite: foreign ownership of outfitting areas.
The Leader of the Official Opposition says he has asked me directly whether I knowingly sold my outfit to a non-resident, and I refused to answer the questions. I do not remember the question ever being put to me directly, but I will not wait for it. I will answer it right here and now.
When I sold my business, some time in 1990-91, the NDP was in power. When I sold it, I took the so-called non-resident - or foreigner, as the Members opposite are now calling this gentleman - with me to the game department. We sat in the game department offices. I told them what I was doing and asked them to transfer the licence.
At that time, the administration got a legal opinion - I know that - and they sanctioned that sale, as well as the other two sales in which that gentlemen was involved. Now, they are standing up and pretending to be so righteous and so correct and so indignant. It was their Wildlife Act. They are the ones who did it. Nobody was doing anything under the table. Nobody was doing anything behind closed doors. The man who purchased these was right up front and sat in the government offices and talked with them.
All outfitting concession holders are residents of the Yukon. The Wildlife Act permits other Canadians, including landed immigrants, because of the Constitution - and that is the legal opinion that the Members opposite obtained - the right to own up to 49 percent of the shares in an outfitting business.
Let us make it clear that there is no Yukon outfitting concession holder that presently holds more than one concession. An individual Canadian who is a landed immigrant, however, can own up to 49 percent in any number of outfitting companies. There is no provision in the Wildlife Act to curtail this share ownership.
If the Members opposite are honest, why do they not approach us and say that they made a mistake, and that they should have taken care of it? Why did they not urge us to amend the Wildlife Act? They are not doing that. They are calling for a public inquiry into a deal they made.
The Leader of the Official Opposition says we have no respect for this Legislature. He believes himself to be the great parliamentarian of all times, and that nobody else has any respect for this Legislature. That is the same Member who will attack the Speaker in this House, the officials in this House and the deputy ministers in this House, knowing full well that they cannot respond and defend themselves. Some would call that arrogance.
There have been comments made from the other side of the House to the effect that they believe this government is going through one sitting of the Legislature. Let me refresh their memories, since they seem so short. I believe the Hansard staff are contracted for 60 sitting days in a year. I believe that that contract is based on a long-term average of the number of sitting days that should cover this Legislature. We have exceeded that number in the two previous years. Last year, I am sure, we exceeded that number. We are going to be here for very close to that 60 days in this year's sitting. Whether we have one sitting or two, we are spending as many days in this House as did the previous administration.
I think that the Members opposite should review the information that is available before they start making allegations.
On a more positive note - I do not want to finish on a negative note - I would like to speak about some of the things that I am hearing from the communities. I want to talk about consultation.
The Members opposite feel that the only way you can consult is to call big, full-blown public forums. I believe that is a form of consultation and sometimes it is the right forum, but I also believe it is important to talk to people one on one. For the record, I would like to let the Official Opposition know that I have been in almost every community in the Yukon twice this year. While I made it to only some of the communities only once, for the most part I have visited most communities two to four times. We do not live in a vacuum. We talk to people on the streets. I have been pounding on doors in my riding and my constituency. I have not got to very many yet, but I am going to continue. The Minister of Tourism has been knocking on doors. We are not getting the negative message that we are getting from the Opposition benches. People have indicated that they wish we would quit fighting in the Legislature and get down to the business of government.
People are telling me that they appreciate a government that is fiscally responsible. People are telling me that they realize that the previous administration was out of control with its spending. People are telling me that they are glad that we were here when Curragh got into financial trouble and glad that it was not the Members opposite. People are glad that we took the hard line. Certainly, there was some pain and it would have been very, very easy for us to say, "Yeah, let us get this hot potato off our plate; let us give them $30 million." That money would not have saved the Town of Faro. I am sure that if the Member for Faro were honest and wanted to give us a pat on the back, he would have to agree with us. The hopes in the Town of Faro are much brighter today because of the actions that we took. We have a new company in Faro that has raised private-sector money and there is some hope for that town to survive in the future.
Members opposite have a different philosophical belief than we have, and we accept that. What are you doing for the economy? What are you doing for this? They believe the only way you can help the economy is to throw money at it. They do not have any faith in people being able to work and plan for themselves and to prosper on their own. They believe that you have to throw money at it. We do not believe that. We believe that you should have a level playing field. We believe that we should get rid of a lot of the red tape in government. We believe that we are here to help these companies to be prosperous in the Yukon. That is what this side believes.
We believe in pulling communities together, not dividing them. That is why we put together the centennial anniversaries program and the funding in the manner that we did, so that communities would start to work together, not to fund them to go in different directions. We want to see the communities working together. We want to see healthy and vibrant communities in the Yukon.
I just came back from Dawson City, where there was some skepticism about the community assistance program when we put it out.
Speaker: Order. The Member has less than three minutes to conclude his remarks.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: They told me, when I was up there, that it was working. They had not reached an agreement, but they were talking. Because of the guidelines of the program that there has to be broad community support for the project, they are working very hard to come to a compromise. I think that creates healthy communities.
The community of Carcross has gotten together. They have gotten behind a project that they are going to make an application for and hope to get some funding on. They are working in other communities. That creates healthy communities, not funding people to go in different directions.
I believe we are on the right track. I do not believe we have done everything right, but I believe we have made some good decisions. We have the interest of the mining companies in exploring in the Yukon, one of the hotspots in Canada. We are being written up in mining publications all over. There is investment in mining in the Yukon. There is a feeling of optimism by Yukon people. I believe that we, in this Legislature, should build on that optimism and not try to pour cold water on it and kill it.
I look forward to this session and some constructive criticism from the Opposition
Mr. McDonald: I have less than the average time to speak to this motion, but I will make the most of what I have available to me. Given that we are at the beginning of a boisterous session, there will be plenty of opportunity to respond to much of what has been said here today and yesterday. Certainly, a great deal has been said that deserves response, and the Members in government know us well enough to know that we shall rise to that challenge and respond to the remarks they have made. How to begin?
The Member for Porter Creek South tried to rise above the crowd in order to show his non-partisan and non-combative credentials, and it would have appeared to be a reasonable message, if he had not trashed the reputations of Opposition Members in the process. He laid into the personal attacks with a vengeance, all the while encouraging the Opposition Members to not use their experience to tear down the government. Like other Members, I am not using my experience to tear down the government. The Yukon Party is lurching its way to its final resting place, and I am using my experience to note its passage.
The constituents of McIntyre-Takhini have been pleading with me to get back into the Legislature, not knowing that it is the government that calls the Legislature together, and it is the government that lays out the basic agenda for the Legislature. They are demanding that the government be accountable for its actions and that the government should explain why so many contradictory messages have been sent to the public.
It is fair to say, despite the protests of the Government Leader this afternoon, that moving to one sitting of the Legislature per year with a combined O&M capital budget has been universally condemned by everyone who believes in an open and accountable government. Let us not forget that the government Members who were once in Opposition only a few years ago also condemned the practice of combining the two budgets, insisting that each budget be the centrepiece of two sittings per year. Now we face the total contradiction of having to accept, from the same Members, the same Yukon Party Members, one budget, one sitting, less time to be accountable to Yukoners, more time to do whatever they please, and more opportunity to seek spending authority from a federal public servant rather than the elected representatives of the Yukon people in this Legislature.
All in all, it has been another blow to the already beleaguered credibility of the Yukon Party government and a blow to open and accountable government.
I am going to focus many of my remarks this afternoon on the constituency issues facing the residents of McIntyre-Takhini. I will begin, though, by saying a few words about the issue of optimism in the economy, optimism and faith in government actions, and a belief that something truly wonderful will happen in the Yukon if people apply themselves with the kind of initiatives and imagination they have so far, up until the year 1994.
Like other Members in this Legislature, I too believe in the long-term prosperity of this territory, not only because of its resources, but because of the people who reside here and have the stamina and character to build an economy, even in spite of actions that may be taken by their government.
Watching the news last night, I was taken by some of the stories the reporters had to relate, in particular with respect to the economic activity in both the United States and Canada, making note of the fact that the economic signals coming from the economies of both the United States and the Canadian provinces were extremely positive, causing, among other things, mineral prices to rise. They were indicating, quite sincerely, that the growth in economic activity was due to some world factors, and certainly due to some factors in terms of the policies of the governments in both of those two countries.
At the same time, they mentioned that the growth in Ontario and British Columbia was something to note and of some special importance.
I thought to myself that the two national governments and the governments of British Columbia and Ontario were not led by an ultra right-wing government, or even one that pretended to be and was a miserable failure at it, such as the one that we face across the floor of this Legislature. Instead, they were led by more progressive governments, who believed in a partnership between government and industry, or between the community and business, and had the positive economic indicators to prove this.
Now, I think it would be quite reasonable to expect, under the circumstances, that growth in the economy in both the United States of America and in Canada and around the world would have a positive impact on mineral prices. When I was at the Geoscience Forum only a couple of weeks ago, it was patently obvious that the growth in exploration activity, not only in the Yukon but in northern British Columbia, a place to where the Member for Klondike believes the government is interested in banishing the mining industry, has grown dramatically. Exploration is up. Why? Because companies want to exploit mineral potential. Why? Because mineral prices are up.
It was obvious at both the Geoscience Forum and the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment conference on mining that the mining industry believes that the single most significant reason for an increase in economic activity in their industry is due to mineral prices.
Now, last year we heard from government Ministers that there was nothing wrong with the Yukon economy that all indicators pointed to a situation that was essentially the same as the year before, 1992. It took us a year to discover the truth. It took us a year to get the Statistics Canada figures that demonstrated that in fact there had been a 19 percent drop in the GDP of this territory.
We are used to hearing nonsense messages - I would like to use a proper expletive here - from government Ministers when they want to sell us a bill of goods.
On the positive side, some people have lauded the government for not doing very much. The Government Leader has indicated that not doing very much is probably a good thing, depending on one's philosophy, which leaves us wanting to explore further the definition of what an ambitious agenda is all about, but that is something that we are charged with in this Legislature.
The same people who believe that it is good that government is not doing anything believe that if the government did something it would only get in the way of the economic and social progress of the territory. It is just as well that they do not do very much.
Nobody I have spoken to has bought the line by the Yukon Party's most artful propagandists that they have a busy agenda for this sitting or even for their one term in government. Certainly, their action plan laid out in the throne speech merely proposes to continue passing the biggest budgets in Yukon history, rehash and dilute NDP legislation like the Conflict of Interest Act, and respond to Opposition Members' complaints. The Yukon Party has little of substance to offer to the public. What they have done has been virtually irrelevant to the economic lives of our citizens.
I would like to briefly speak to the issues of my constituency, issues that I will be raising at length during this sitting.
The throne speech, quite accurately, identified that many trailer owners in the City of Whitehorse and in the McIntyre-Takhini riding, who are renting in trailer parks, had faced significant difficulties. The difficulties had to do not only with the legislative framework under which they live and operate, but also in terms of their personal circumstances with respect to building codes, access to land, availability of mortgages to make living more affordable and the availability of insurance.
During the last sitting of this Legislature, I presented a petition outlining the concerns that I have with the Landlord and Tenant Act. That petition, in part, has prompted the government to improve the legislation respecting the moment when trailer owners are evicted from the trailer park in which they are renting a stall. In that particular instance, the government responded positively to the request put to it.
I have also sought - and will continue to seek - low-cost land development that will allow trailer owners the option to own rather than rent the land on which they live . This request has not received a positive response from the government, but I will continue to press this issue vigorously during this sitting.
There are many problems to address jointly with the city and others, including the tenants in the trailer parks themselves, including building standards and safety. I wish to point out that there are cases now where trailer home owners cannot even get a building permit to upgrade their trailers because, in order to get the building permit, they must agree to upgrade the entire trailer to current building code standards. This, for them, is financially impossible.
There are issues to discuss with respect to the purchase of trailers in the future. Virtually everyone with whom I have spoken who has purchased an old trailer has indicated that they were unaware of the serious problems they faced when they purchased their trailer. Once they got into the situation of paying a bank loan to buy the trailer and paying the stall rent, only to find they cannot upgrade their trailer or that they are seriously below the building code, they suddenly realized what serious trouble they were truly in. As much as they want to be able to sell their way out of their current predicament, the vast majority of people I have spoken to have indicated that the situation has to stop somewhere. People must be aware of what they are buying.
Because trailer home owners who are renting stalls in trailer parks are not in a position to acquire a mortgage, in most cases it means that they must pay for their trailers through a personal loan at high interest rates.
This makes living, even in trailer parks, an expensive proposition. There must be low-cost land available to them, an affordable piece of property on which they can acquire a mortgage and ultimately seek insurance.
I have raised the issues in many instances respecting the need to settle Kwanlin Dun's Indian land claim final agreement. This must be a political priority. There must be a political understanding that the future of Kwanlin Dun members depends upon an adequate claim. The entire umbrella final agreement assumes that, through the provisions of a band final agreement, a First Nation will be able to care for its own members. If they are denied that opportunity through an inadequate land base or inadequate provisions of a band final agreement, they will be doing a serious disservice to their members - not only members currently living, but members who will come after them.
While Kwanlin Dun has one of the most difficult and complicated claims to resolve, it
is my position that the Government of the Yukon should spend more political capital trying
to resolve that claim to meet the needs and satisfaction of Kwanlin Dun members.
I think it is only marginally helpful that there is now a full-time negotiator for the land claim. I think that can help, but there has to be a political commitment and a clear political mandate given to the negotiators to resolve the claim. There needs to be fruitful discussions with the City of Whitehorse. And we do not need to have the frustration bubbling over at the land claims table, which ultimately leads to the Marsh Lake incident taking place today.
I would like to speak briefly about the situation facing waterfront residents. There are about 50 residents living on the waterfront. They see the anniversaries coming, and they have watched the municipal elections and noted the profile that was given to waterfront development in that election campaign. They know of community commitments to developing the waterfront in some way, but they have rights and they deserve respect. They must not be rolled over by enthusiastic governments that see a tight time frame for development on the waterfront.
We understand that there is political will to see something happen on the waterfront within the next two years. However, those residents, many of whom have lived on the waterfront for decades, will not be sacrificed if I have anything to say about it, by this government or by any other government, in the rush to see development take place. It is absolutely essential that their future is decided through discussions with them, and appropriate alternatives are offered to them to ensure that they are treated fairly and with some dignity.
I also have some constituents who have expressed serious concerns about how politicians respond to their problems as individuals - how Cabinet Ministers respond to them as the little guy. I can tell the Ministers - and I am sure some of them know who they are - that despite the fact these individuals come with individual problems and do not present the big policy problems, I will be raising their issues very aggressively in this Legislature over the course of the next few months.
It is my contention that, if a government cannot respond adequately, with civility, with care and attention to individuals, then that government does not deserve to be in power, does not deserve to hold the public trust, and we will consequently be in a position where we must pursue these issues aggressively on their behalf.
I will close on that note. I must say that I have much to add, but I will not dilute my remarks today to respond to other speakers. I will save them for another day.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Speaker: Division has been called.
The motion before the House is
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 which you have addressed to the House.
Mr. Clerk, would you please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Agree.
Mr. Abel: Agree.
Mr. Millar: Agree.
Mr. Penikett: Disagree.
Mr. McDonald: Disagree.
Ms. Commodore: Disagree.
Mr. Joe: Disagree.
Ms. Moorcroft: Disagree.
Mr. Harding: Disagree.
Mr. Cable: Disagree.
Mrs. Firth: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are eight yea, eight nay.
Speaker's casting vote
Speaker: Standing order 4(2) states that in the case of an equality of votes, the Speaker shall give the casting vote. In general, the principle applied to motions and bills is that decisions shall not be taken except by a majority. In this case, however, the Chair is aware that the passage of this motion is a test of the confidence of the Assembly in the government. It is my view that questions of confidence are of such importance that an expression of non-confidence should be clearly stated by a majority. The Chair, therefore, votes for the motion. I therefore declare this motion carried.
Motion No. 1 agreed to
Motion to engross Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move
THAT the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne be engrossed and be presented to the Commissioner in his capacity as Lieutenant Governor.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader
THAT the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne be engrossed and be presented to the Commissioner in his capacity as Lieutenant Governor.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: The time now being past 5:30, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:34 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled December 6, 1994:
Coal project: letter dated November 3, 1994, from the Government Leader to James
Stephen of Cash Resources Ltd., re development of the Division Mountain coal project
Education Review Committee Report: Curriculum and Special Needs Programming in Yukon
Public Schools, dated October, 1994: Department of Education response to it, dated
December, 1994 (Phelps)
The following Document was filed December 6, 1994:
Health and Social Services (YTG) expenditures in graph format for 1988-89 to 1993-94 (Ostashek)