Thursday, January 5, 1994 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: We will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Section 3 of An Act Approving Yukon Land Claims Final Agreements, and the First Nations (Yukon) Self-Government Act, I have the following documents for tabling: Order-in-Council 1994/230, together with the Teslin-Tlingit Council final agreement, the First Nation of Na-Cho Ny'ak Dun final agreement, the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation final agreement, in both English and French text.
I have the Order-in-Council 1995/1, together with the Teslin Tlingit self-government agreement, the First Nation of Na-Cho Ny'ak Dun self-government agreement and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation self-government agreement. Also, the Order-in-Council 1995/2, together with amendments to the Champagne-Aishihik First Nations final agreements, t
he Teslin Tlingit Council final agreement, the First Nation of the Na-Cho Ny'ak Dun
final agreement and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation final agreement, and Order-in-Council
1995/3, together with the amendments for the self-government agreements of the
Champagne-Aishihik First Nation, Teslin Tlingit Council and the First Nations Na-Cho Ny'ak
Dun Band and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation.
I also have public accounts for 1993-94 for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have a document for tabling.
Speaker: Are there Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Are there any Bills to be introduced?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Yukon Industrial Support Policy
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In the spring of 1994, the Government of Yukon announced the creation of a draft Yukon industrial support policy to encourage further development in the territory. Over the past year, we consulted with Yukon people, industry groups and organizations. The final document, which I have just tabled, clarifies how the government will provide infrastructure support to Yukon industries.
The policy represents a clear willingness on the part of government to work individually with industries in flexible and creative ways to meet infrastructure development needs. The policy outlines ways in which the Yukon government can assist industry in the Yukon. We have set out some principles under which we negotiate a development plan for projects coming onstream in the Yukon. The length of the policy document underlines the government's philosophy about the level of government intervention in the economy. The policy is short but effective.
Linking industrial projects to Yukon's road network is often an expensive and challenging task. This policy is designed to help lessen the sole burden of road development costs on companies alone.
Industrial electricity can be a very risky investment in the Yukon. We need to recognize the needs of the industrial customer and the ratepayer when considering how industrial power is supplied. These considerations can be made within the framework of the policy. Our aim is not to subsidize policy; it is to ensure that industry has a more competitive infrastructure base on which to build its investment. A development has to be economically viable in its own right.
The policy will not be all things to all people. It is set up to help industrial
investment in the Yukon. We have a significant lack of investment capital in the Yukon,
and this is one way of increasing the level of investments here. It is up to the private
sector to create investment in the Yukon. We believe government's role is to assist with
basic infrastructure to enable the private sector to foster economic growth and diversity.
Mr. McDonald: I cannot believe that we have waited so long for so little by way of results. The policy statement today is completely vacuous. The Minister has said that the policy will not be all things to all people, and I can positively say without compromise and without hesitation that this pathetic thing that passes for a policy statement will mean absolutely nothing to anybody. The Minister should be embarrassed.
A few weeks ago, the Minister could not answer simple questions in the Legislature about the negotiating principles the government was using to open discussions with mining companies. Even if the government and the Minister had this policy in place - and nobody is sure whether they did or they did not - the Minister still would be unable to answer even the simplest of questions about the government's negotiating guidelines. The most fundamental question is not even addressed; that is, how much public investment will be made in return for how much public benefit. If you can believe it, this so-called policy statement says less about this basic question than the draft said nine months ago, and the draft said virtually nothing.
The government talks about the need for providing electrical infrastructure support, and then says that the mining company must have made a clear production investment decision and have project financing amd permitting in place before asking for public support. How can a company make its production decisions without knowing electrical costs?
Why would the company come for public support if the financing for the project is already in place? The policy goes on to say that any public investment must be a necessary incentive to carry out the project. This leaves open the question as to whether the project must be economically viable, with or without public support. Who knows?
Who knows if there will be a level playing field for all resource industry proponents? Will they get the same benefit if they put in the same effort or achieve the same public benefit? The policy does not even address what is public benefit, other than to say that a company must spend $5 million. Of course, everybody knows that a company could spend $10 million and not provide one single job to a Yukoner.
This policy screams out for the need for a comprehensive energy strategy. How much public investment will be made for what return? How much risk will be absorbed by ratepayers or taxpayers as a result of significant public investment? Who will pay ratepayers or taxpayers? How will a company know what price it should expect for energy before it goes to its investors? What impact will demand charges have on any particular company? These questions are not asked, and neither are they answered.
The policy contradicts their previous support for John Diefenbaker and his vision, "When roads are built, the investment will come". This vision was restated in their 1993-94 budget address.
Are we talking loans or grants? The government appears completely confused on this point when it comes to business loans. They do not even address it in the context of this policy.
The government, in my opinion, have to be kidding. Who do they talk to? Who advised them that this policy had any value whatsoever? I am truly sorry for the Yukon because I could not find a single positive thing to say about this statement. It is complete rubbish.
Mr. Cable: I did find something positive. It took me an hour and a half, actually. When I got this document this morning I picked it up and looked at it and I have a great pile of paper on my desk so I thought maybe I had lost the policy and had just picked up the preamble. As it turned out, however, this is the whole ball of wax. The statement is a non-event so it does not require a lot of comment. There is one comment in the ministerial statement that says, "The policy is short but effective", so I guess the Minister is batting 500. That is my positive statement, and I guess that is not bad in politics.
Basically, the document is an invitation to talk, and it is based on the philosophy that if you are economically viable and do not need our help, then we will give you our help. Those of you who have gone to the bank and have looked for a loan from the bankers will have experienced that feeling before. If you are not a bad risk, we will loan you money, even if you do not need it.
I was looking at the guidelines, and perhaps the Minister could, when he replies, fill
us in. The first guideline says that the government commitment of expenditure is to be
contingent on the company making a clear production or investment decision and having
financing and permitting in place. Guideline 2 says that the project must be accepted by
the Department of Economic Development as economically viable, and show net positive
benefits to the Yukon.
This appears to contradict the sixth guideline, which reads, "The proponent will need to show, to the satisfaction of the department, that the assistance will act as a necessary incentive to carry out the project." I hope that the Minister will respond to that.
By way of general comment, an industrial support policy should give corporate managers some degree of certainty and predictability. It should also give the taxpayers some predictability, as well, so that they have confidence that the government will not be wheeling and dealing in the back rooms and then coming to the House after the fact.
It would be useful to hear from the Minister whether or not the first guideline is
practical. The paper talks about a government commitment being made after the project's
financing and permitting. As I am sure the Minister knows, the obtaining of all the
permitting is a very long and expensive process. To get the permits, one needs some
certainty about whether or not the project is going to go ahead. Perhaps the Minister
could indicate whether or not he anticipates some intermediate, contingent commitment,
prior to the final commitment.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I thank the Member for Riverside for at least giving me some recognition for the policy. There were numerous points brought out and, when we get into this, I expect it will be debated at length in Committee. I would like to point out that production decisions must occur before funds began to flow. In the case of one of the mining companies, Loki Gold, we have been having discussions with them for some time. We have not spent any money, and we will not, until an actual production decision is made.
We spoke with one mining company outside Carmacks last year, and we were going to spend
some money on the public road leading to the mining property. However, because the
production decision was not to go ahead at this time, we did not spend the money. Although
we would not spend money until a production decision is made, we may very well enter into
discussions. I believe that they use those discussions, and the agreements that come out
of the discussions, when they deal with their bankers.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Respite home
Mr. Penikett: I have a question for the Minister of Health. Recently, a Whitehorse group has indicated a wish to build a respite home for families who care for children with severe brain disabilities. I would like to ask if the Minister has met with the group or any of the approximately 18 affected families to discuss this proposal?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Minister for the unusual brevity of his answer. I was hoping to hear a bit more than that. I understand that, currently, the Whitehorse General Hospital's professional staff provides a respite service for families with severely disabled children, but this is one of the services that, according to CBC Radio, will be chopped in the Minister's new hospital. Can I ask the Minister if, on the grounds of compassion, he will be reviewing whether the money saved by this service cut is worth the suffering and heartbreak of the families affected and their children?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The hospital, as I am sure the Member opposite is aware, is run by an independent board. My understanding is that they had not made a definitive decision regarding the respite care that was being offered through the hospital. I should hasten to add that the department offers respite services for other categories of people needing them, and that we were quite pleased to extend an invitation to the people supporting the new concept for a home. We met with those people prior to Christmas, and said that we would work with them and, it is hoped, work with the Hospital Corporation with regard to some options that would make sense to us. I think they were quite genuinely pleased with the meeting that they had with us. I understand that they have had some subsequent meetings with the department and with the hospital board and we hope to work toward a solution that is cost effective and meets the needs of Yukoners.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Minister for his answer. He seems to be indicating that the needs of this group of citizens might be met either in the hospital or in a respite home. Can he indicate to the House if in the meeting he had with them he gave any indication at all about his inclination or willingness to fund or support one or the other of these two alternatives?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We indicated that we would work with them to seek solutions to the issue, and we spoke in terms of the possibility of there being several options at the hospital that might be available. With regard to funding, that is something we will deal with as consultations and discussions proceed.
Some of the options include the possibility of using the old nurses' residence on the grounds of the hospital for this type of service, and utilizing some of the staff that will be available because of the increased efficiencies in the new design for the hospital. Another option would be to use some of the empty space that will be available to the public for use in the old hospital, which is being redone. Yet another option would be to continue with the use of beds, as has been the policy in the past. There is a variety of options being explored, as I understand it.
Question re: Airport safety
Ms. Moorcroft: When I asked the Minister responsible for the Department of Community and Transportation Services how the public's need for public safety will be met following the devolution of rural airports, the Minister replied: "We are not even to that position yet and we are still negotiating to see what we can get from them."
That is the problem with this Minister. He cannot see the need for long-range planning or for developing policies to deal with future realities. It is the same story for forestry as it is for airports.
The reality is that the Yukon government will be operating rural airports. Is the Minister committed to providing safe air traffic services, with fully staffed rural airports?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I must point out that when we are negotiating airports, we are just negotiating the airport. We have nothing to do with the weather system, which I believe the Member is talking about.
We had put the community air radio service people on to it, but it was on the direction of the federal government and it is completely their responsibility, not ours. They have refused to transfer that, as of today.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have spoken to people in Mayo who are worried about the unreliability of the automatic weather systems and about the loss of jobs in their community. The Mayor of Watson Lake has spoken out about the loss of eight Transport Canada jobs in your town, Mr. Speaker. People who are concerned about safety wonder whether the Yukon government will deliver airport services in the same way as the federal government. Does the Yukon government plan to change the way services are delivered when the Yukon government controls airports?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If the Member is talking about any of the weather systems, this government has nothing to do with it at the present time. This government has filed a written complaint - as have Canadian Airlines, Watson Lake and Mayo - stating that until the automatic weather system is proved successful, we want to retain the CARS people; however, this is their decision to make, not ours, because we do not have control over the weather.
Ms. Moorcroft: None of us have control over the weather, but Yukoners want to know whether the Yukon government has a plan to spend as much money on airports as the federal government does now, when the Yukon government has control of airports - not of the weather.
Does the Minister believe that all the resources applied to Yukon airports are necessary, or will profit making for the Yukon government be done at the expense of cost-saving on safety-related activities?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Maybe the Member for Riverside could answer that. We do not have control over CARS or AWS. Yes, we would like them to remain. We have written to the committees in Ottawa and asked to keep them. So far, they have indicated that they will not do it. We are still trying to get them to do it. That is all we can do. We do not have control over the weather systems in the airports. All we control are the lights of airports and maintenance of the airports. We have nothing to do with Transport Canada and the weather.
I see the Member for Faro is shaking his head. Ask the Member for Riverside; perhaps he can tell you why we cannot get control of that. We do not know.
Question re: Air quality in government buildings
Mr. Cable: We will have to put that one aside for a moment.
I have some questions for the Minister of Government Services on air quality. The engineer retained by the Minister's department to evaluate the air handling system in the territorial government administration building handed in his report, dated November 15, 1994. That report contains six main findings, including a finding that the air systems do not supply enough fresh air to the majority of the building's occupants.
It was also found that the air system does not provide enough total air to the majority of the offices. Do the Minister and his officials agree with these six findings?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: They are being reviewed. I do not know whether the Member is aware or not but we are waiting for the Van Netten study and testing to be done. I think that what the Member has just spoken of has been well known for years. This building was designed as an open-concept building, but there were walls constructed. The air circulation is not as good as it could or should be. One of the things we have done is left the air circulation system on 24 hours a day. We were not doing that in the past. This is a situation that we dealing with on an ongoing basis.
Mr. Cable: The air-handling specialist is the mechanical engineer who made that report I just referred to, and this is as opposed to the air-quality specialist to whom the Minister just referred. The air-handling specialist made six recommendations in his report of November 15, 1994. Has the Minister accepted these recommendations?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We have not disputed those recommendations. As I have said, we realize that the air-handling system in this building has been a problem for many years. What we want to do is find out what the air-quality specialist has to say and merge those two reports and systems and come up with something that is satisfactory for the building.
Mr. Cable: This air-quality specialist, who I believe was Mr. Van Netten, a professor at the University of British Columbia, will be filing a report with the Minister. When does the Minister expect that this specialist's report on air quality will be received?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not exactly sure. Apparently Mr. Van Netten's services are much in demand and he is one of the two or three experts in Canada in this area of expertise. We had hoped and expected that the testing would be done and he would be here in January, and we hope to receive the report shortly after that. In a sense, we are in his hands; he is not in ours.
Question re: Automatic weather systems
Ms. Moorcroft: My question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. The national airport policy seeks to establish a national transportation system that is efficient, reliable, safe, competitively priced and environmentally sound. Unfortunately, the Transport Canada officials seem to be the only people who are convinced that an automatic weather system is a reliable means of advising pilots whether it is safe to land at an airport.
The Minister has indicated that Transport Canada did not respond favourably to his request to leave the existing systems in place until after devolution of airports. The Transport Canada officials will be meeting in Whitehorse later this month to discuss overall aviation weather issues. Will the territorial government be attending the meeting on January 16 with Transport Canada officials from Ottawa?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes.
Ms. Moorcroft: I hope I can get as clear an answer to the rest of my questions. Yukoners would like to know where we stand in respect to devolution. Does the Minister have an expected date for Transport Canada to turn over the operation of regional airports to territorial government control?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps I will have to wait until we get into the estimates debate to get some more detailed answers from the Minister about what is happening with the devolution of airports. The fact is that, under the national airports policy, the Yukon government will be taking over control of airports and will be making decisions about airport operations. I will ask the Minister this again: does the territorial government have a plan to change the way services are delivered once the Yukon government controls the airports and, if so, what is the plan?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I thought I explained that, but I will try again. We do not have control over the weather system, either the AWS or the CARS.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Does the Member for Faro want me to sit down or not?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I listened to the question. All we are negotiating for is the airport, the cleaning of the airport, the buildings comprising the airport and the lights. We will have nothing to do with the air control system anywhere in the Yukon.
Question re: Whitehorse waterfront, squatters
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, and I must stress that I am not necessarily looking for a yes or no answer here. Yesterday, I asked the Minister if his department had any plans to respond to the needs of the residents on the Whitehorse waterfront, in the face of development pressures. He said that he was not aware of the desire of anyone to include the shipyards, or Sleepy Hollow, in waterfront development planning. Can the Minister tell us whether or not it is the government's position that any plan for the waterfront will not include the Commissioner's lands on which the residents reside?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I believe there are 15 people involved - five First Nations and others. In 1988, the former government offered them an agreement under the squatter policy, which they all refused. To negotiate, we have to do so with them, the First Nations people and the City of Whitehorse. At the present time, I am not aware of any negotiations taking place.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister answered the question I posed to him yesterday. I
will ask the question I am posing to him today, again today. Is it the government's
position that any plan for the waterfront will not include the Commissioner's land on
which the residents reside?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: At the present moment, when we negotiate that, it would not be. They have to have a fair deal. That was offered to them before and they refused it. I do not know the reasons for that. We will have to get together with the city and the First Nations to see that they get a fair deal in this situation.
Mr. McDonald: That is good news, and I will explore that in a moment.
I would like to ask the Minister whether or not it is the government's position that any plan for the waterfront will include the land on which these residents live. Will the waterfront plan include the land on which these people reside?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Perhaps I can answer the question for the Member. The government, as we have said in this House before, is not playing the lead role in waterfront development. We expect that the city will be playing the lead role. I cannot say what lands will be developed, at this point. There is no planning going on right now.
If, as the Minister said, the development does include that portion of land, we will have to deal with that situation and with the people that are living there. We will have to see that they get a fair deal.
Question re: Whitehorse waterfront, squatters
Mr. McDonald: I am, quite frankly, confused. The land on which these residents reside has historically been considered to have prime development potential for the Whitehorse waterfront. Of course, they do reside within the 100 foot high water mark reserve. Given that these lands are Commissioner's lands - the territorial government's lands - is it the government's position that these lands are available for planning? I had assumed that they were, but the Minister led me to believe yesterday that they were not. I would like to clear up that point. Are they available for Whitehorse waterfront development or not?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not want to speak for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, but I believe that yesterday he was talking about the people who are living on the lands that the City of Whitehorse had purchased.
The other people who are there, who do not have title to their lands and, as the Member
has stated, are living within the 100 foot easement, are lands that could be considered to
have waterfront development potential. I imagine that the whole waterfront, at some point,
will have a development plan. At the point that the development begins to take place, the
issue of the residents who are living there will have to be dealt with in a fair and
I would like to expand on the last point that the Minister made and the Minister of Community and Transportation Services has reiterated that point. Yesterday, the Minister indicated that the land to which I was referring, on which the residents were residing, he believed, was not land on which the waterfront planning would take place. I need to have that point clarified. It is obviously a critical point to have clarified. If there is potential for waterfront planning to take place on their lands, then that is something that should be taken into consideration.
I will ask the Minister of Community and Transportation Services this: is the government prepared to offer a buy-out option to those residents, similar to the one that was offered to the escarpment residents approximately a decade and a half ago, when the government wanted to remove housing from the area immediately beneath the escarpment in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As I have said, there is no negotiating going on about whether or not the land is needed. I believe the former government offered them a lifetime estate, which means, according to my lawyer, that they would stay there until they passed away.
Mr. McDonald: The problem that we face here is this: there has been a lot of talk in this Legislature and in municipal elections about wanting to develop the waterfront. Ministers and politicians have made commitments about making significant expenditures on land that does include the land on which these people reside. They are going home every night thinking that maybe, within two years, they will be gone. They need to know what their options are, and those options have to be clearly explained to them, in all fairness to them. It is one thing to state that the government wants to be fair, but I am asking the government how they are proposing to approach the negotiations, and what kind of alternatives they are prepared to offer the residents. I am asking the Minister, who has already indicated that life estate leases were offered once, if life estate leases are still in place. Are they still being offered to those people, and are they prepared to offer a buy-out option similar to that which has been offered by government to Whitehorse area residents in the past?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I believe that they all turned down the life estate offer. We have not negotiated with them since, because we do not know, as the city is leading this project, what land is to be developed.
Question re: McLean Lake development plan
Mr. Penikett: I also have a question for the Minister of Community and
Transportation Services. Last year, the Whitehorse City Council indicated that, because of
its fears about random development, it wanted the territorial government, particularly the
Department of Community and Transportation Services, to put together a development plan
for the McLean Lake area. I would like to ask this question: has the Minister or his
department formally responded to this request?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will have to take that under advisement.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister has taken the question of a formal response under advisement. I have another question for the Minister.
Has the new Minister discussed this issue with the new council at City Hall or representatives of the former squatters - or the residents - and other residents of the McLean Lake area since he took office?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I met with the city, but that was never brought up. No, I have not spoken with the people in the McLean Lake area. It was never brought up with me.
Mr. Penikett: Should the territorial government take any action on the old council's request for a McLean Lake development plan, would the Minister be prepared to give a firm undertaking to keep the MLA for the area fully informed?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes.
Question re: Industrial support policy
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Economic Development about his Yukon industrial support policy.
We were unable to get any clear policy direction from the Minister with any of the questions we gave him with respect to the government's industrial support policy. I would like to ask him some very specific questions about this policy.
Can the Minister tell us how much the government is planning to spend on this and where it is in the budget?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There may be some years where there will be no money spent under the Yukon industrial support policy, and there may be years when a substantial amount of money may be spent. We have a $1.00 item in the 1995-96 budget under Economic Development, because we do not, at this time, have any requests for specific amounts of money.
Mrs. Firth: I hate to stand up and correct the Minister about his own budget, but I understand that line item is for another program. It says right in his policy paper that it is the energy infrastructure loans for resource development program, and that this policy will link directly with other government support programs, such as the one I just mentioned. This is a different program; it is not in the budget, and the government does not know how much money it is going to spend on it.
Because they try to pass off that the Legislature is going to approve these agreements, which we all know is not true - we will get to rubber stamp them once a year when the government calls the House into session - who is going to make decisions about whether or not support is given?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have a couple of responses to the Member's question.
The first one is the $1.00 item under Old Ditch Road. I will be bringing an amendment in to change that from Old Ditch Road to the industrial support policy, because at this point we only have one project that we are discussing, but there may very well be more than one in the year.
Mrs. Firth: Did everyone hear that? It is not in the budget. The Minister stands up and says, well, it is going to be because I am going to amend the Old Ditch Road line item and then it will be in the budget. No wonder this government is in so much trouble.
Can the Minister answer these specific questions? Who is going to make the decision about whether or not support is going to be given? Who decides? Who is going to decide whether a project gets support or not?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We hope that the projects can be debated in the Legislature prior to the project going ahead. If not, Cabinet will be making the decision.
Question re: Whitehorse Elementary School, safety lights
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister responsible for education. The Minister is aware that parents of students at Whitehorse Elementary School are concerned about the safety of their children because of inadequate warning lights in front of the school. The Minister has written a letter to the city indicating that the government will take responsibility for the safety of children in regard to traffic lights in front of new schools, but they feel that they are not responsible for heavy traffic and installation of traffic lights in older schools. It appears that there is a contradiction there, because I would suggest that the safety of school children is ongoing, whether they are in old schools or new schools. Can I ask the Minister if that is an official policy of the government or is it just a position of his department?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Yukon territorial government provides some money to the city - I think it is in the order of $15 million to $20 million a year - and we pay grants in lieu of taxes to the city. It is our position that they have ample funding from us in order to carry out their responsibilities, which include necessary traffic lights on busy streets.
We do not feel that we should have to pay to upgrade existing traffic lights directly any more than a business, say, at the corner of Second and Main or Fourth and Main should have to pay to upgrade traffic lights. It is a city responsibility; it is an argument about money and our policy is quite clear in that regard.
Ms. Commodore: I do not think that the policy is clear at all. He is talking about the safety of pedestrians in other parts of the city, but this government builds the schools and pays for the education of children. What he is telling us right now is that he is no longer responsible for the safety of those children because it is in an older part of Whitehorse. The school has been there for 30 years. I would like to ask the Minister whether or not that is a specific policy of this government - that the City of Whitehorse is now responsible for the safety of the school children who are the responsibility of the territorial government to educate?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not clear on the question. Perhaps the Member is taking the position that the City of Whitehorse is not responsible for traffic lights and safety of not only vehicles, but pedestrians. Is that the position she is taking?
Ms. Commodore: We are talking about the safety of Yukon school children. The Minister is just beating around the bush and making excuses about why they do not want to pay. I would like him to tell those parents what the real position of this government is. Does it care about the safety of the children? Is it going to take a tragic accident or something before the government gets off its butt and does something about ensuring the safety of those children?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Members opposite were in power for eight years and they did not put safety lights in. This is an issue that turns on whose responsibility it is to pay for pedestrian lights across a busy artery in the city. It is really a fiscal issue and not one of safety. We strongly endorse, and would support, the city in spending money to upgrade the crossing. I am rather surprised that not only did the previous government do nothing by way of spending money there, but did not encourage the city to do so.
Question re: Self-sufficiency
Mr. Cable: I have some touch-up questions for the Government Leader on self-sufficiency - one of his favourite topics, judging from the literature that has come out of the Yukon Party.
The government periodically does long-term revenue projections. Could the Government Leader indicate whether his government has done any revenue projections for the next three or fours years that include resource and land revenues that will arise after ownership and control of those two items have been turned over by the federal government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: From time to time, Finance officials do try to make projections as to what the revenue base would be, but it would be very premature to be including revenues from devolution sources on which talks have not yet begun.
Mr. Cable: It is certainly not premature to project three or four years into the future, when three or four years is the time line that is being talked about.
The Minister says in the budget speech that it is only through the ownership and control of Yukon land and resources that Yukon First Nations and the government will be able to achieve self-sufficiency. This topic has been harped on by this government for over two years. I am surprised that it appears that absolutely no detailed thinking has gone into it.
Has the Government Leader decided, in his own mind, what is meant by self-sufficiency? We now raise something like 20 percent of our own revenues. What, in his mind, is the goal that we are trying to reach? Are we aiming at raising 100 percent of our own revenues for our budget?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think that would be the ultimate goal. The Member opposite talks about three or four years, but I just want to remind him that it was the Liberal Minister of DIAND who established that time line. We said that we would do everything we could to comply with it.
There are still provinces in Canada that are considered have-not provinces. That does not mean that we should not strive for self-sufficiency. It is something we have said for some time. We will continue to strive for self-sufficiency. The Member opposite asked yesterday if I could give him a definite date, such as January 1 of some year. The answer is no, I cannot give him that definite date.
Mr. Cable: It was the Government Leader who raised the point by the entry in the budget speech.
When ownership and control of the land and resources is complete, in the Government Leader's view, is that the time when we will become self-sufficient, whatever his definition of "self-sufficiency" is?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite must think I have a crystal ball that tells me everything that is going to happen. The fact that we get the lands and resources themselves will not make us self-sufficient, and I am sure the Member opposite is fully aware of that. However, it will help Yukoners to be able to make their decisions closer to home, rather than having them made in Ottawa for us. That has been a goal that governments in the Yukon have strived for as long as I can remember.
Question re: Faro homes, option-to-purchase agreements
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Department of Community and Transportation Services regarding home owner grants in Faro for rent-to-purchase owners.
In a letter dated October 24, 1994, to one of my constituents, the Minister's department stated, "We have confirmed that you entered into a purchase agreement with Faro Real Estate in 1986." I am aware that at least two of my constituents were subsequently paid out home owner grants this year, after having applied. Yet, a letter dated January 3, 1994, from the Minister to me states that only those people who have exercised the option-to-purchase clause of the rental option-to-purchase agreement are entitled to apply for a home owner grant. Neither of the people paid had done so.
Will the government stick with the stated recognition of purchase in the letter dated October 25, and pay out my constituents in their rental-purchase option retroactively?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, neither would the former government.
Mr. Harding: I believe that both governments have erred in this case. The October 25 letter says that obviously the government changed its position when referring to the fact that my constituents entered into a purchase agreement in 1986. Yukon land titles branch recognizes the equity. The Yukon Housing Corporation has recognized these people as owners. The insurance companies have recognized them as owners and they pay taxes. The Minister's department has said that they recognize the purchase agreements and at least two of these people have been mysteriously paid this year. Can the Minister re-visit this and come up with a plan to address this peculiar situation affecting the people in Faro?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: My day has been made. I always said that he was very critical. He is now even critical of the form of government, so my day has been made. The answer is: we will not make it retroactive; nor would the former government.
Mr. Harding: It is obvious from his answer he thinks it is a big joke but it is not a big joke to my constituents who feel very strongly about this issue, and I would expect that he would give a more responsible answer but apparently he is not prepared to do that.
Let me ask him this then: if the policy is the same as the previous government, why did
a letter dated October 25, 1994, from the manager of property assessment and taxation sent
to my constituent say: "We have also undertaken a search for files and they have
confirmed that you entered into a purchase agreement with Faro Real Estate in 1986.'' They
then paid my constituent the homeowner's grant. Why did they do that if the policy is the
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I would have to take that question under advisement until I have seen the letter. I have not seen it yet.
Question re: Industrial support policy
Mrs. Firth: I have a follow-up question for the Minister of Economic Development about his industrial support policy. This is the policy that is not a policy; it is not in the budget until the budget is amended. They might spend some money or they might not this year.
We found out one thing this afternoon: the Cabinet is going to make the decision. They are not sure what decision yet, but the Cabinet is going to do it.
I would like to ask the Minister this: is this a grant program or a loan program?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In most cases, it will be a grant program.
Mrs. Firth: I guess if the government cannot get them to take money through the loan program, then it should just give the money away. Perhaps it can get people to take it that way.
Can the Minister tell us how much money they are prepared to give away in grants through this program?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We do not know, at this point in time. It will be for public infrastructure for grid extension and road upgrading or building. For instance, should the Tag project go ahead, there might be very large expenditures on the Campbell Highway, either toward Watson Lake or Faro - whichever way they decide to move the product.
On the Old Ditch Road, or the Loki project out of Dawson, again the amount of money
will depend on the amount of upgrading needed on the Old Ditch Road.
Mrs. Firth: We understand that an unlimited amount of money is going to be given away in grants - grants to which the Government Leader stood up the other day and said he was opposed. The Minister has not answered one question yet, except to say that Cabinet was going to make the decision, but I would like to ask the Minister this question: how is Cabinet going to decide how much money to give the project, and how are they going to decide whether or not they will fund a project under $5 million? It is stipulated in here that smaller projects of benefit to the Yukon economy may be considered. How are they going to decide whether or not to fund projects under $5 million, and how are they going to decide how much money to give each project?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It will depend upon an analysis done by the Department of
Economic Development of the benefits that will accrue to the Yukon Territory, either
through creation of employment or the longevity of the particular project.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 4: Second Reading - adjourned debate
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 4, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr.
Ostashek. Adjourned debate, Mr. Millar.
Mr. Millar: I would like to take a few minutes to speak generally to this budget, and more specifically to speak about how it will affect my riding of Klondike.
It has been mentioned that it is a balanced budget, totalling about $489 million. That breaks down to $343.7 million in O&M, and $145.1 million in capital. I have been listening to the debate, and have noticed that much has been made of the fact that this is the largest budget ever. I think I said this last year when we were talking about the same thing. It is the largest budget ever, and when I go through and look at the historical comparisons, I find that, for every year that there has been a budget brought down in this House since 1982-83, every budget has been larger than the previous budget, except for the 1993-94 budget, which was actually lower than the previous year's budget.
Members of this House all recognize that the budget is expanded by major, multi-year infrastructure projects. That is why the budget keeps getting bigger every year. There is more money coming from other governments, not just from our government.
Some examples of this are the reconstruction of the north Alaska Highway under the Shakwak project, which is funded by the United States government, reconstruction of the south Alaska Highway, which is funded by the Government of Canada, and the construction of a $47 million new Whitehorse General Hospital, which is being paid for by the Canadian government transfer agreement.
These large projects will eventually come to an end and will have an impact on the size of our capital budget. Yet, we should all realize that, as the government acquires more responsibilities from the federal government, such as the forestry and hospital transfers in the communities, our budget will, necessarily, increase.
What does this all mean? The Yukon Party said that the government was too fat and could be downsized to run more efficiently. Then, our friends on the opposite side raised the fear that there would be massive layoffs. As everyone knows, this did not happen. So, what has the Yukon Party done to streamline government?
Of the 16 government departments and agencies, nine of them have either had no increase or a reduction in their operation and maintenance expenses from the previous year. Four of these have only had a one percent increase overall. There have been virtually no increases in the operation and maintenance expenditures.
One of the increases in the operation and maintenance expenditures I heard one of the Members opposite mention in a radio interview was the fact that the payroll of the Yukon government has actually gone up. This is very easily explained, when you take into account that we have now taken over the hospital, and all its employees are now under the Yukon government. That is why; it is pretty easily explained.
To give other examples of this government's spending controls, I would like to mention an initiative that the transportation maintenance branch has done. That branch is realizing significant savings on the winter highway maintenance costs on the Haines and Dempster highways by implementing a program to better control snowdrifting.
Problem areas where frequent drifting occurred were identified. Work on the area adjacent to the highway was subsequently done, during the following summer, to contour the areas and lessen the conditions that would create snowdrifting. This has reduced the occurrence of snowdrifting and lowered maintenance costs on these highways.
A further example is the BST resurfacing program. Transportation maintenance crews must rip up and re-shape the old BST surfaces prior to the application of the new BST surface. The historic cost for the BST has been $17,000 per kilometre, using the conventional equipment. A foreman in Faro made a suggestion that a large farm-type disk be used to break up the old BST and, as a result, the resurfacing costs were reduced by $12,000 per kilometre. That is a substantial savings. Those are just a couple of examples.
Much has been said about our spending priorities. As I mentioned earlier, there have been virtually no increases in the O&M budgets and there have been decreases in nine of the departments. Of the 16 departments, I covered off 13 of them. The three I did not cover - and they are the ones that show increases in O&M spending - are Health and Social Services, Education and Justice. So, I wonder who is misleading whom when talking about priorities here.
I would now like to speak about what this is all going to mean to Dawson City. The breakdown of the money being spent in the Dawson area and the Klondike region is $13.8 million for O&M and $7.1 million for capital projects. That is a total of $21 million, or 4.3 percent of the total budget. That is a fairly significant portion, and almost twice as much as in any other community in the Yukon, excluding Whitehorse, which receives more.
When talking about priorities, I just mentioned that education has been a very high priority of this government. It has been a very high priority of mine, personally. As you know, I am a relatively new father and will be having children in the school system in the Yukon in about four years from now. So, it is a concern to me. Along these lines, this government has purchased five lots between Robert Service School and the Eldorado Hotel, along Fourth Avenue, because the playground and the area was just too small.
It was an expenditure of over $90,000 for three of the lots. I cannot recall what the other two cost. That is a fairly significant expenditure. In addition to that, in the playground that is currently in place, several pylons were removed to make the area safer for the children.
As everyone in Dawson knows, and particularly those involved in the education system, funding for the stay-in-school counsellor - Mr. Jim Johnson, who is very much liked by the community and has done a terrific job - has been in jeopardy over the past few years. It is felt by the community that this position and this person has been of great benefit. Since he has been in the position, there have been a lot fewer drop-outs. He has done a terrific job.
Thanks to a large number of people bringing this to my attention over the last couple of years - and I am sure the people in Dawson will recall that we have had many community meetings about this, and some fairly heated discussions - and as a result of those discussions, I have been lobbying the territorial government hard. I have been assured by the Minister of Education and the Minister of Health and Social Services that there is money in the budget, and that that position - which is very much needed - will be continued. We will continue to try to get the federal government to carry on with the program but, if they do not, I have been assured that this government will.
Just through those items, I think it is fairly obvious that we have put a high priority on education, particularly in Dawson City. However, that is not even the most exciting part. It has just been announced, in the last month or so, that we will be getting a second school in Dawson. I think it is quite obvious that it is a much needed school. I know that the decision was based on need, not for any other reason.
The school will be built from the plans for the two schools that have been built here - the Holy Family and Hidden Valley schools. I had the opportunity, today, to take a quick look at the Holy Family School. It is a very nice, small school. I believe it goes from kindergarten to grade 6, if I am not mistaken. I spoke to members of the staff about what they would do if they could build the school over again and if there were any changes they would make. They virtually stated that no, there were no changes that they would make and that they were very happy with the design and layout of the school. In fact, if one stands in one spot, one can virtually see down all the hallways of the school, which makes it very easy for the teachers and staff members to monitor it during the breaks.
It is a very good school plan. There will have to be some adjustments to the school
plan to meet the city's historic codes. I hope that things do not get too bogged down and
that not too many changes are made to what appears to be a very functional school.
I am particularly concerned with the school location. There are very few locations where a new school could be put in Dawson City. I think it is going to be up to the community of Dawson City to find a location. I hope that we can work with the city, the school council and city council to find a location for it. I also hope that we can do it in a timely fashion so that it does not jeopardize the projected 1997 opening of the school.
One of the other things going on in Dawson City, as everyone is aware, is a study regarding the bridge. There is approximately $400,000 in the budget this year to undertake a feasibility study of the bridge, where it would go, and what it would look like. There have been some consultants hired - N.D. Lea ?, I believe. There have been a number of community meetings on the subject. Most people have expressed some very enthusiastic support for the project. At this time, I would like to emphasize that the cost to build the bridge is going to be somewhere around $20 million, and that would put quite a strain on the capital budget of the territorial government. I realize that - and I think everyone realizes that - once all the facts are in - boy, am I ever getting a glare from Mr. Community and Transportation Services - they will make the correct choice. The fact is that the bridge will probably save money in the long run. It is obvious that something has to be done there. The present ferry system is not acceptable, and if they bring in a new ferry, there are going to be substantial costs involved with that. There are the ongoing O & M costs. That is what this money is for right now. They are looking at all of these things. When it is completed, they will come to a good and logical conclusion.
There is $3.5 million being spent on upgrading between kilometres 60 and 105 of the Top of the World Highway. There have been a number of dollars spent on this in the last few years. It is going well. Before long, the Top of the World Highway is going to be a good highway. The Alaskan government started their portion last year, and I believe they have spent approximately $20 million upgrading from Tok. That project seems to be onstream and is going very well.
Along with the $3.5 million, there is $100,000 to do some spot reconstruction on some of the corners between kilometres 0 and 60.
There is $200,000 to do some planning on the Klondike Highway upgrading. Over the past year or so, some businesses in Dawson have received a questionnaire, asking them what they thought should be done, particularly between Callison and the ferry dock, as it is currently located. There have been obvious problems there with the amount of traffic on the surfacing and BST, and it has had to be done very year. That is what this is about. They are going to look at it to see what can be done - perhaps widen the road a bit. There has also been some talk of putting bicycle paths beside it, and that sort of thing. That is what this plan is addressing.
The other issue that has been hot and contentious - particularly for me when I was first elected; it got me into some hot water - is the airport. Currently, there is $100,000 in the budget to do another study of the Dawson airport. This is a good study, and it is different from all the others that have been done. This study is to determine who would actually use a new airport in Dawson, which has not been done before. There are a lot of people in Dawson who believe, if we built a new airport, people would come. I am not 100 percent convinced that is true, and I have stated that in the past. This study is a good one, and we will find out whether or not these people are correct.
There are other spots where money is being spent. For example, there is $1.9 million for the water and sewer, which will complete the agreement we entered into to replace the faulty water and sewer system in Dawson City. There is approximately $25,000 for museum assistance, which is to help complete the travelling exhibition that is being done by the Dawson City Museum. It is going to travel around the world and, we hope, be seen by millions of people. That is a good project.
There are a number of other things. There is some money to be spent on developing new lots in the Callison subdivision. There is some maintenance to be done in other various spots.
In summing it up, I think that it is a very good budget and that Dawson City has done
very well by it.
Mr. Joe: I have just a few words to say about this budget. After I read the budget I wanted to ask why we are in this building? Why are we talking about this budget? We have asked the questions before. We are wasting our time with this government. We do not ever get answers.
When I look across the floor I cannot see any faces to speak to. I get angry. I have to ask the same question over and again. Does this government care about the people in the outlying communities?
Where is the money for the Mayo school? I guess the mine has to be opened again before we can start talking about a new school.
Yesterday, Mr. Brewster said that there are plans for a road into Carmacks Copper. He also said that they were talking to the mining people about roads. Why does he not talk to the people of Carmacks? The people of Carmacks would like to know what is happening.
They would like to talk about education, too.
I think there has been talk of a new rink at the school in Carmacks for a long time. Still, nothing has been done about it.
This government does all the talking. They go up to a community after the planning has been done and tell the community, "We have plans for you.". But they do not ask or listen to the people. This makes me angry.
Now, I am going to ask the same question that was asked this afternoon. The Mayo airport is an important issue. Five jobs will be lost at the airport if the government does not do something to prevent it. This is lots of work for a small town such as Mayo. Already there are problems in Watson Lake. This government is not concerned. This government plans to do the same thing in Mayo this spring.
Even though I heard the Minister say that his department is not responsible for these systems and that they are the responsibility of the federal government, the Minister should make sure that this does not happen. He is the Minister and has the power to do what the people of Mayo are asking for. If the Minister were to speak on behalf of Mayo, the whole town of Mayo would be behind him.
I am having a lot of problems trying to understand what is being said. I want to speak out with an open mind.
I looked up in the budget the amounts of money that Mayo gets, and the amount that Pelly and Carmacks get, and I think I have gotten the least amount of anyone in this budget.
When we started, I did not feel like speaking. I was feeling angry. This government does not worry that people lose their jobs. This government does not worry that people could lose their lives. This government does not worry about the safety of people who use the airport. I really am having a problem with this budget. The problem is this: today we are talking about the money that is going to come into each riding, and it does not look good for my riding.
If we do not get that money, how are we going to cure the problems that the community is facing today? How will we try to deal with our problems in Pelly? We set up a program at Tatlmain. How much money goes into it? Very little. There is not even enough for one person to do the work.
People go to jail. Look at how many people are up there on top of the hill. That costs a lot of money. We send somebody up to Tatlmain Lake and it costs next to nothing. At least up there, they are working for their community. They are fishing and bringing fish into the community. Up there, they hunt caribou and moose and bring the meat into the community for the elders. They make them feel like they are doing a good thing for their own community. That is why they are up there. Up on the hill, they learned nothing.
These are the kinds of things we are trying to change, but we have a hard time if the government does not support us.
I have another concern that I will bring up when we talk about related issues.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am pleased to stand and defend this budget. I would like to add that I listened attentively to the critic from the other side, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, in his response to the budget speech.
I was looking for some kind of thrust or direction from which the Opposition benches were coming. I must say that I was rather surprised that there was no clear approach in the critique. It is as though the Members opposite seem content with nibbling around the edges of what is an extremely well thought out and good budget, in my view.
The approach taken by the side opposite, is rather schizophrenic, to say the least. We heard all the obvious contradictions, from time to time, expressed by them in their zealous attack, which often seems more personal than policy-based. We have, for example, speakers standing up on the side opposite and saying "this is a big budget, this is the biggest budget yet; we are not saying that that is bad, but it is big". Their argument and sense of personal dissatisfaction and displeasure seems to be based on the argument that if they were the government and they had a budget that big, we would certainly attack them. This argument does not do very much for us or for their constituents throughout the Yukon. The approach taken is a little sad. It is really not very revealing about whether or not it is a good budget for Yukoners, which, of course, I maintain it is.
When we first came to office and made it clear that the government was in trouble from a huge deficit in the 1992-93 fiscal year, the Members of the side opposite, and particularly the critic, said that that was absolutely false.
There was indeed a deficit in excess of $60 million that year. Back then, they said even if there is a problem, we just have to make some hard choices. We have to make some cuts. That is what they always did. Yet, when we had gone through various programs, some of which have been absolutely out of control for years, and taken steps in a responsible way to ensure that money was not wasted in areas such as social assistance, chronic disease, various health programs and so on, they accused us of cutting and that we were just mean and uncaring. Again, depending on the day, depending on the mood, they were rather schizophrenic, in my view.
We had the rather interesting spectacle of Members opposite attacking this budget because there is a large amount of money spent on computers, but they backed off rather quickly, particularly when some of their better-known supporters attacked them in the paper for this rather small-minded and short-sighted approach. We have not heard that since, but I am sure one day, depending on what side of the bed a particular individual gets out of, we are liable to hear it and then hear it contradicted once again in future days when the other side of the bed is more appealing in the early, cold morning.
The approach then seems to be, aside from the very personal attacks that one gets used to over time, to focus on small issues and try to make them into big ones. I am sure all Members here have been told at one time or another by one's relatives, or parents or some respected elder that they should not try to make a mountain out of a mole hill. Perhaps Members on the opposite side, and particularly the critic, were not told or were told and would not believe it, but that seems to be the kind of approach that is being taken. In fact, given the kind of almost hysterical accusations that flow from rather picky issues, I think we should probably give the critic a title - perhaps "potentate of the picayune'' would be appropriate.
Whatever the title should be, the approach is very clear - and puzzling - because it is so obvious that there is not any kind of overall theme to the attack, or overall concern with regard to the budget. We have had Members jumping up and down on the other side and raising particular Cain about some modest issues - and modest they are. We have had the potentate stand up and say what they were going to look at were priorities, and that they would have, in some instances, priorities that were different from ours. I did not really find that to be too revealing, given that they are a party of one political persuasion. This side has completely different principles that it follows. In fact, I would be absolutely flabbergasted if some of the priorities that we put forward on this side, and which we are mandated to do by the electorate, were not different from priorities espoused and held very dearly by the Members opposite.
I have no doubt that as we go through the extensive debate on all the lines and the supplementary budget, the O&M main estimates and the capital main estimates, that there will be disagreement with regard to some priorities, but that is only to be expected. Some disagreement - rather modest disagreement with some priorities - does not really lead to any kind of fundamental issues regarding the overall budget and, of course, at this time, we are dealing with principles in this debate.
I am somewhat surprised by the lack of enthusiasm from the side opposite in developing any themes that go to fundamental issues in this exercise.
I do want to say that some time ago I was involved in a debate regarding gun control, and at that time I took the unusual step of commending the Member for Faro for his best speech yet.
It is with some sadness that I have to say that, not only was this his worst speech - in this debate - but one of the worst that I have ever had the displeasure of having to listen to. It is bad enough that he takes an attitude that is sneering and condescending at the same time, and gets into personal attacks - although those are things that we can all deal with. After all, we all have the chance to speak here; however, it bothers me very deeply when the office of Speaker, or any other individual who cannot defend themselves in these Chambers, is attacked. We have seen that happen, not only here, but in other legislatures on numerous occasions. It normally happens during a fit of anger, because of a decision handed down that an individual MLA might not agree with. Often, Members will apologize the next day, once they are over the snit that led to the outburst.
What I thought was rather abominable about the Member for Faro's speech was that, not only did he attack the Speaker, but it was done in a premeditated and sneering way. It is something that I have not ever had the chance to observe anywhere in my following of the legislatures across Canada, and this Legislature, which I have followed rather faithfully for at least 25 years.
That Member said a great deal of things that were somewhat outrageous, and I think that the style in which he delivered some of his words can be criticized by us, but they do us a lot of good because they upset almost anyone listening or watching the debate, and not just us. I think it is unfortunate when a person is so zealous, so eager to criticize the budget and to say something negative, that they really mislead the public in that criticism. For example, the idea that this government was against special education and that our capital budget was indeed down, and that therefore is quoted in the local papers.
I suppose a person can stand, as critic of Education, and make those kinds of comments. There is no law against that. I have gone fairly carefully through what we spend in terms of special education resources and I have compared those expenditures with the allocations of the biggest NDP budget in this regard. In 1992-93, the total spent for the special education division, educational assistance, program implementation teachers and learning assistance teachers, remedial tutors and school councillors was the grand total of $7,842,815. This year, the amount being spent in this budget - and, by the way, it has gone up every year since - is $8,975,787.
That is an increase, in that period of time, of more than 14 percent. If one adds in, as one should, a factor for the wage rollback, it is an increase in excess of 15 percent over three years - an average of five percent per year. This is a very substantial increase.
During that same time, the resources per student in special education has gone from $1,350 to $1,525. Again, this is an increase in excess of 13 percent, and that does not factor in the very important decrease in wages of two percent, which is very important because it means that even more resources are being applied.
These are, in my view, highly significant. I think the government should be commended for its commitment to doing what can be done for students in the area of special education. I am pleased that, as Minister, I can come forward with a budget that shows enhanced resources toward this end. However, more than that, it shows just how shallow and ill thought-out and incorrect this major thrust of criticism was, and how misleading that type of attack is to the general public. In my view, there is a difference between puffery - trying to put what a person is doing in the best light - and going to the extreme of really misleading the public, particularly those very sincere people with children who very much need special education resources.
I am proud, too, that we are putting additional monies into such things as new schools and the upgrading of schools. I am very pleased because, as anyone who has been in government knows, one struggles for as much as one can get from a budget for one's departments where it is needed. I am very pleased that our training is enhanced. Again, the same critic has stood in his place in the Legislature and said that we were not really looking at training as an investment. That really bothers me but, again, au contraire.
For example, one of the things we did, shortly after I became Minister, was to reinstate the YTG apprenticeship program, which is something that was dropped by the NDP government. We are putting new initiatives into place, in partnership with Yukon College, to try and get training up and running in time for as many Yukoners as possible to take advantage of the upcoming boom, particularly in the mining, tourism and service industries.
We have committed ourselves through the social assistance recipient program for enhancement of training, again, for people on welfare. We signed SAR, got it up and running, and this is our third year. We will lever $1 million into that sort of training. This was a program that the previous government, for various reasons, refused to get involved in.
Again, I will have a lot to say in detail about education and where we are going. I certainly expect a good deal of debate. I hope it is well-considered debate, but, sometimes, I suppose we can ask for too much.
The approach from the other side sometimes rather astonishes me. Today, for example, there was heavy criticism of the policy that was tabled and spoken to by the Minister responsible for Economic Development. I personally support that policy, and will be supporting any monies that are negotiated based on the principles enunciated in the policy.
I have to shake my head at the Liberal Leader, in a high dudgeon about policies not developed properly and demanding all kinds of policies for energy, or whatever. I clearly recall reading an interview in, I believe, the Whitehorse Star, four or five months ago, in which, after a couple of years, in the office of Leader of the local Liberal Party, that same individual said that he had been thinking about it for a couple of years, and had come to the conclusion that the Liberal Party does not have any policies. To say that, and then stand up and go on the attack about policies in the House seems to me to leaves something to be desired. Every time he does that, I think we ought to remind him how we would love to see the Liberal Party have some policies. It seems to me that one of the federal candidates, who was going to run for the Liberal leadership, but decided to run federally instead, a few years ago, said that that was what he loved about the Liberal Party - it had no policies so one gets into office and does whatever the hell one wants to. I wish they would make up their mind.
We look at the issue of the Health and Social Services portion of the budget. I was
rather interested in, again, the schizophrenic attack of the responsible critic in the
Opposition. The Independent over there is not sure about which party she wants to be
under. That is all right with us.
The fact is that we are spending more on health and social services than did the previous administration. The fact is that we have some of the runaway programs under control now. Social assistance, for example, is going down, not up exponentially, as it had. It went from some $3 million in the so-called boom year of 1989 to over $9 million in 1992-93. It is now going back down.
In various health programs, whether health insurance or whatever, the trend shows that we have achieved our objective of providing services in the most effective and efficient manner. The result is that we have additional monies to spend in such high priority areas as developing policies regarding FAS/FAE, policies and programs regarding the alcohol and drug strategy, more counsellors, more assistance to people in rural areas, and so on. These are all areas that have been greatly enhanced since this government took office.
This year, we are not asking for an increase in the operation and maintenance budget. We will be doing more with less in various program areas. In doing this, we are not entirely unique. Other governments are boasting of achieving some of the same goals. Surprisingly enough, I just received a news release from my counterpart, the Minister of Health in Ontario, which talks in glowing terms about how that government is doing more for less and that, while the budget was not being increased, the services were being enhanced. Believe it or not, that is a philosophy that we, on this side, strongly adhere to.
I expect the benefits from the reorganization and the work done by the entire department to bear fruit for Yukoners for some time to come. This is not to say that we have stopped, or given up, or are not constantly re-evaluating what we do and whether we can do it better, but that much has been accomplished.
I firmly believe that the average commonsense Yukoner knows that we are on the right path and sees through the smokescreen of the rather stilted and limited attacks coming from the side opposite; that they know that we have a commonsense approach to governing; that they know that we have cut out a lot of waste and a lot of unfairness in the way the program is being delivered to Yukoners; that they know that we are being very prudent about the future but are concerned about cuts that will be coming from the federal government; that we have taken steps in advance of bad news to meet the challenges that lie ahead; and that we will work as hard as we can on their behalf to not only meet the challenges of an ever-decreasing supply of money for the same programs from the federal government, but to ensure that we provide an adequate safety net for people; that we try to help the individual help him or herself; that we share a vision with many Yukoners about the future of this great region of Canada; that we believe in the individual and believe in helping the individual and providing the safety net, as required. I know that message is getting out.
We are doing the best we can. We agree that our priorities, in some cases, may not reflect those of the side opposite, but that is what politics is about. We are comfortable with arguing about those priorities. We are comfortable about defending what we are doing.
I look forward to the debate ahead, and I look forward to voting in favour of second
reading of this bill.
Mr. Cable: I am rather awestruck by the devastating insight of the previous speaker. I would give him an A for good rhetoric, but a D for content. I have to say that I will be following and participating in the whole of the budget debate with interest. I should also say that there are three main subjects of particular interest to me. They are: firstly, the government's budgetary process in general, and its surplus working capital and rainy-day fund goals in particular; secondly, the government's planning and, in particular, its financial planning as it relates to the stated goal of self-sufficiency; and thirdly, its priorities and, in particular, its funding policies relating to non-government organizations.
With respect to the surplus, the signals from the government to date are not totally clear; they are mixed. A clear statement as to where it is going is needed. During the debates last spring, I asked the Government Leader a number of questions, and I would like to refer to them. They are found on page 2325 of Hansard. I asked the Government Leader these questions: "Is it the government's intention to, at some juncture in the future, rebuild the surplus? If so, what are the government's goals with respect to that surplus?" The Government Leader replied, "I believe that we have said quite clearly that our goal and ambition is not to build up a huge surplus. Our goal is to continue to have a balanced budget." It would be useful to have that statement confirmed, particularly in view of the fact that the surplus appears to be building. I am sure that the Government Leader appreciates that fact.
The Government Leader was also asked what the government's financial objectives are. He was asked if there is a target in dollars for the working capital. This is not necessarily referring to the surplus, but is there a target in working capital that the Government Leader would like to see? The Government Leader replied, "No." There are a number of other questions that bear on the topic that were answered by the Government Leader at that time.
When the bookkeeping entries on the Yukon Development Corporation loan to equity conversion are removed, it appears that the government is rebuilding a substantial surplus. Perhaps the Government Leader in his comments throughout the questions can either disabuse us of that notion or he can confirm it. It would also be useful to obtain a clear statement on working capital and contingency fund goals. A clear statement, in my view, is needed.
There are people in the Finance department who think that one month's working capital is useful. It would be useful to hear what the Government Leader thinks is an adequate working capital level. I do not think there is anybody on this side of the House who thinks that surpluses are bad. They are not bad in this very up-and-down economy. They are good particularly when major mines and industries close and leave us holding the bag.
In the Government Leader's budget speech and from what I have heard, it appears that the perversity factor for this year has been eliminated. The Government Leader is shaking his head, so I am obviously working on the wrong assumption. The Government Leader has been told that the money will be the same as last year so this improves the predictability of the government's financial position. It will be useful to hear from the Government Leader how this bears on the creation of rainy-day funds.
We on this side of the House are also curious about the sequence of events that took place last year in the House as has been indicated by previous Opposition Members. We are curious as to how the public sector restraint legislation could be sold with such earnestness as financially necessary in one breath, when the government produced a surplus in the next breath. I think it would be an understatement to say that the public and the Opposition has had its curiosity piqued by the government's long-term financial planning. I am sure some questions on this topic will be asked.
As I read the Yukon Party's literature, self-sufficiency is one of the major goals. It
will be useful to have this concept fleshed out. Question Period answers would seem to
suggest that the concept has not really left the political rhetoric stage.
It will be useful to discover who, if anyone, is the thinker behind this project - who is driving the bus, and whether it is politicians or public servants and, if so, who these mysterious people are.
Yesterday, the Government Leader referred to all the government departments providing information. I am sure there are not 2,000 public servants sitting around dreaming dreams of self-sufficiency. There has to be someone who is focusing the thinking. It would be useful to find that out.
The budget speech suggests that self-sufficiency is linked to devolution, and that quote was read both yesterday and today during Question Period. As I go over the various documents that this government has produced, starting with the political document, the four-year plan, there is a lot of talk about infrastructure building, and there is very little talk about self-sufficiency being in the context of the acquisition of land and resources. Perhaps the Government Leader can disabuse me of an erroneous notion.
In the document, Toward Self-sufficiency by the 21st Century: Becoming Self-Sufficient through Infrastructure-driven Investment in the Yukon, a document dated December 4, 1992, and the document entitled, A Yukon Resource Infrastructure Initiative, again subtitled, Becoming Self-Sufficient through Infrastructure-driven Investment in the Yukon, dated April 16, 1993, there is precious little recognition of the ownership and tax base of the resources and the land. It seems to be primarily based on building roads, and that sort of thing. The focus is on infrastructure, not on the tax base.
I should say that forestry is mentioned in passing in one of the documents, and we appear to have no real financial, or other, policies in place, even with that one aspect of the resource acquisition.
The time line for devolution has been put out by the federal Minister, and I assumed that the Government Leader and his government had accepted that time line of three to four years. I certainly have not heard any contradiction of that time line. In view of the snail's pace at which these things happen - that is, the turnover of the resources and the getting into place of policies and a taxation regime - it would be useful to discover whether there is a plan of some sort and an anticipated chronology of the turnover and how this will affect revenue projections.
It is apparent to all, and this has been recognized on both sides of this House, that the financial boom must be lowered by Ottawa in the near future. We, on this side, I am sure, will want some idea of the planning that is underway or some admission that the government is basically playing it by ear.
I was scribbling out some calculations. We raise less than 20 percent of our own revenues, as I understand the numbers. We receive something like $12,000 per person in direct revenues from Ottawa, together with a large spinoff from the federal presence here in the territory, both in the way of payroll and programs. The direct transfers - that is some $300 million - work out to about $13 per Canadian: man, woman and child. It is substantially greater than that if we deal with it on a per-taxpayer basis and we count in the indirect money received through the federal presence. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to know that that cannot continue forever and that the tap is about to be turned off.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: That is right. We have the same crystal ball, after all.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: I would like to tell the Minister how much is going to be cut, but those negotiations have not been finalized and, unfortunately, I am not privy to them. Perhaps when the Government Leader replies, he can tell us all about what he sees as being the amount he is going to have to come up with in order to make us self-sufficient so that we can reach this new Valhalla.
The third issue that is of particular interest to me - and it is an issue that is more philosophical than budgetary in nature - is the role of voluntary groups and this government's attitude toward them.
From a government watcher's standpoint, one of the curious phenomena relating to this government has been its attitude toward non-government agencies. This is clearly a government that believes that the best government is the least government, so you would expect a friendly face to a non-government volunteer organization providing services to the public. Many of these non-government agencies are propelled by volunteers with an unpaid volunteer component - at least there are board levels - so one would think that there is a possibility of efficiency in delivery of the services, together with that ultimate goal of decentralizing power and decentralizing the delivery of caring services, so that the care givers are closer to the people receiving the care. That does not seem to be part of the government's consciousness.
Many of the people involved in these organizations want to be part of the provision of services directly, rather than simply writing cheques for tax deductions. It is surprising that a more encouraging face has not been presented. This issue, like many others, will be explored both in the House during the budget debate, and out of the House.
Of course, we have that old saw, the school construction issue, and in particular, the Grey Mountain School issue, on which we appear to have had a whole series of bafflegab. I am sure you will raise these issues in the context of priorities.
From what we have heard over the last couple of years, it appears relatively clear what the government's position is on both of these priority issues - the school versus roads issue and on the funding of volunteer agencies. I do not expect that there will be any swaying of the government on these issues.
I expect that these issues will be resolved at the doors during the next election. Anyway, it will be useful to have the government's position confirmed.
I have to say that I will look forward with great interest to the budget debate.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I rise today to strongly support the budget that is before us. This is the third consecutive year that we have presented a balanced budget in this House. There are very few governments in this country today that can make that claim.
I would like to take a little time to discuss some of the comments made by the Members opposite in responding to the bill, mostly yesterday. There appear to be some glaring inconsistencies in their arguments - so many, in fact, that I am not sure where they stand on any particular issue any more. The only thing I know for sure is that they are guaranteed to oppose everything. It seems that their job is to be as negative as possible. It is interesting, because I spoke to a lot of people over the Christmas season, and I heard over and over again how people are fed up with the fighting and the negative attitudes in this House. I can only hope that Members on the other side heard some of those same concerns and have returned to the House with a better attitude for 1995.
As I said earlier, I think that it is important this session to find out where it is that the Opposition feels the government should be going. We are receiving some very mixed messages from the side opposite.
Let me give you a few examples of those mixed messages. Members on the side opposite have said that while in government they were striving for more responsible government for Yukon, and one way of achieving that was to take over local control of federal programs. They said that the programs would be run better if Yukoners controlled them, and we agree. They said that devolution was a priority, and we agree that devolution is a priority.
The message we are getting now is that they do not believe in devolution any more. The Member for Faro, the Member for Mount Lorne and the Member for McIntyre-Takhini all complained yesterday that our budgets were growing and were too big.
I always thought the side opposite understood what really happens when programs are devolved from the federal government, but I guess they have forgotten, even though it has only been two short years since they were thrown out of office.
Let me refresh their memories. About three years ago, Mr. Speaker, do you remember when the Hon. Mr. Byblow rose in this House? I think his chair was in the back row. He rose in the House, as a Minister, to announce that he had just taken over the responsibilities of the Alaska Highway, and that we had reached a very good agreement. Those were his words. In fact, he said it was an excellent agreement. The previous government took the credit for the Shakwak negotiations. Those funds to improve the north Alaska Highway were provided by the Government of the United States.
The previous government claimed credit for those initiatives. Now, time after time, we hear the Opposition asking us to reduce the highway spending. It is the same amount of money. There is no more money than was negotiated. It is the same amount of money they argued they needed, and for which they took credit. There were many announcements. I think they announced three or four times how great it was that we had this money and that we were finally fixing up the Alaska Highway. Now, they are saying we are spending too damn much money on that highway.
It is the same amount of money they negotiated.
Let me state a few figures to show how much money was involved, as the Members opposite seem to have conveniently forgotten these things. In 1993, our budget totalled $27.1 million. This was just for the north and south Alaska Highway in these two areas. In 1994, it was $32.4 million. This year, there is $39.6 million, almost $40 million. This is not money we are taking from other areas for the Alaska Highway. This is part of the agreement reached with the American and Canadian governments. The money was supposed to be spent to improve the condition of the Alaska Highway, to bring it up to a national highway standard.
Now the side opposite is saying that we should stop spending money on the Alaska Highway. They cannot have it both ways. They cannot, on the one hand, take all the credit for getting all the money and then, on the other hand, say that we should not spend it on the highway.
Let me ask this question: if they supported these agreements in the first place, and had no intentions of spending the money on the highway, where were they intending to spend it? If they were in government today, what were they going to do with the $40 million we got this year from the two agreements to spend on the Alaska Highway? Let us ask that simple question.
Would it not make their overall budget larger if they got $40 million from the American government? Would they not understand why the budgets are getting larger? I think we know the answer to that. It is simple math. I know the Members on the other side never did agree with the basics, but it is very simple. If one receives more money from the federal government and from the Government of the United States for projects in the Yukon, if one spends the money and runs it through our budget system, our budgets will increase. That is why the budgets have become larger.
Since the Members opposite are so concerned about the growing size of the budget, what do they want us to do? Should we cancel the highway construction and all those jobs? Would they like us to send the money back to the federal government and the U.S. government and say, "Thanks, but no thanks; we do not want to see our budgets grow any more"? I do not think so. If they were on this side of the House, they would take that money and do exactly what they are supposed to be doing with it: fixing up the Alaska Highway.
I am starting to believe, as a result of some of the comments that were made yesterday, that the side opposite does not support improving the Alaska Highway. In fact, yesterday, they even complained that the construction areas were bad for the tourists. What are we supposed to do? There is no logic to their argument. If they agree with construction of the highway, are they now suggesting that we do it in the winter months when the tourists are not here? That logic does not fly. It is also certainly not what they did when they were in government. Whenever they did any improvements to roads, guess when they did them? They did them when there was no frost in the ground and the snow was gone from the roads. They did them in virtually the only time one can fix roads in the territory.
I think the tourists who come to the territory are aware of this and can appreciate the work. They may not be very happy about the rough sections, but they will go back and tell their friends that there is lots of work being done on the roads, and that they are getting better.
They even complain - and this one I find hard to believe - that the improved road conditions would have the tourists speed through the Yukon faster. Now, that is a new one. That is real logic - that the tourists would speed through the Yukon faster.
I would like to remind the side opposite that it was their government that did the visitor exit survey in 1987, where the issue of the poor condition of highways in the Yukon, and specifically the Alaska Highway, was paramount. That is why they negotiated with the federal government and the Alaska government to receive these funds to fix up the road. And now they do not support the program. They are against it. They cannot have it both ways. Either they want the road improved, or they do not want the road improved.
I have to comment on the statement of concern expressed by the side opposite that the tourists would whiz on through the Yukon if the roads were better. If that were the case, and if that is the logic, all of the roads in Canada would be gravel and full of potholes so as to stop the tourists, not to mention full of frost heaves and dips. We would not do anything to our roads because the logic would be to keep them as rough as possible, so that once the tourists are here, they will not be able to get out. Maybe we will only build them in an area where there is a one-way loop. We will put signs up to get them going down the roads. When they get to the end, they will find they actually have to turn around and come back. Then they will spend more time in the Yukon. The logic just does not fly.
Roads are fixed up because the people who are coming here are in very expensive motor vehicles. They want to drive on the same types of roads they have in their jurisdictions. That is why highways are fixed. That is why there is a national highway system - so that people in Newfoundland can drive to the Yukon on a paved road, and vice versa. It is not so they can whiz through the provinces. Why do people actually travel to British Columbia and not just whiz through it? They go to British Columbia to look at the attractions, to visit, and to do things there because there are good roads.
The logic of the Members opposite just does not sell. They are against the Alaska Highway reconstruction and that is obvious, but the arguments they use to back it up could not be held in a sieve.
They are full of holes. It is terrible. I might also add that as well as improving our highway, we must do other things. We must improve on our attractions and our infrastructure. That is addressed in a very significant way in this budget. Interestingly, when we have spoken about that kind of infrastructure, there has not been one positive comment from the Members opposite on that part of the budget.
There have been all kinds of criticism from the other side about the budget, but did they say anything about tourism? Did they say anything about the second most important industry in the territory; they said not a word about tourism in the territory. We on this side happen to think tourism is important, and there are several thousand Yukoners who depend on the tourism industry who think it is important as well.
Let us look at some of the other areas that would have a major effect on Yukoners if we refused federal money. How about the hospital? Again, the previous government had initiated some of the transfer talks for the hospital employees and for building a new hospital. Now they do not want that. Why? Because it will make our budget into the largest budget ever. It will be a huge budget if we take that money from the federal government.
Before we only paid about 60 percent of the cost of hospital services; now we pay 100 percent. With the transfer, should we have refused the federal government's offer of those extra funds? Is that what they are suggesting when they say, "Your budget should not grow any more? You should accept the responsibility. You should devolve these programs but do not take any money for it because your budget is going to grow.''
That is the kind of logic they are using. They forget that there are a lot of new programs that make the budget larger.
Should we have refused the capital dollars to build a new hospital from the federal government? That amounts to $16 million last year and $15 million this year? Should we have just gone it alone and built a new hospital, or are they telling us that maybe they do not want a new hospital? Maybe the side opposite says, "We do not need a new hospital. The one we have there is just fine. We do not need it. Ottawa, keep your $45 million. I know we started working on the negotiations and that was our plan, but now that we are in Opposition, we are not interested in increasing the Yukon's budget. That is where we are coming from.''
Should we have told the federal government that Yukoners are not interested in signing a Northern Accord, so they can take back their million dollars a year that we get from the federal government's Northern Accord and we can forget the future benefits that we might receive from that. That will make our budget grow, because that would be another item in the budget.
There is also the strategic highway program. Another $20 million is in the budget. Should we say no? The idea of our highways is to keep them as rough as possible and it will keep the people here; if we fix them, they will just go zipping right on by and not bother with us. Should we maybe have not hired anyone for the extravagantly built extended care facility so that we could keep the costs down? That added to the Yukon budget - you bet it did - but it has provided a much-needed service for some of our elders in this territory. It is too bad that common sense had not entered into the picture when the particular facility was designed, because we probably could have about half of the O&M costs today and probably have twice as many people in the facility. At that time, there was not a care in the world about spending, and the idea was the more you spend, the better you are.
The folks on the other side cannot have it both ways. They can either agree with a concept of devolution and realize that it will mean more responsibilities and it will mean bigger budgets, or they can disagree. Which is it? Do they want devolution? Do they want to see Yukon gaining more control over the resources, because if they do, the budgets are going to get bigger, but the benefits to the Yukon are also going to increase.
Yesterday, several of the Members opposite talked about what they called the surplus - the $8 million contingency. It seems now - now that they are on the opposite side of the House - any kind of a surplus that any government has is a sin. I guess I can understand where that comes from, because they did their damnedest over seven years to blow that money. They worked as hard as they could to spend all of that surplus.
Let me remind the Members across the floor, who seem to have lost their memory from time to time, of what the surplus was. We are talking about an $8 million surplus. They have stood up on the side opposite and talked about this contingency fund. The Member for Faro ranted and raved about the $8 million contingency and how terrible it was. Let me remind the Member, who was maybe just a babe in 1985, what happened when the previous NDP government came into power. Does he know what they had as an accumulated surplus? They did not have $8 million. They had $41,000,235 - $41 million. In 1986, the year after, they added another $21 million to that, so now they have $62,000,323. That is their second year.
These are the people who hate the surplus, but let me get down to the end, because they worked on it; they were just learning how to spend it. In 1988, they ran a deficit, and a legitimate deficit, because they purchased the assets of the Northern Canada Power Commission. It looked like a good deal in those days, but maybe it does not look so good today. It looked like a good deal in those days, and they ran a $32, 250,000 deficit in 1988, although they still had $45 million in the bank - they still had a surplus of $45 million in the bank.
In 1989, they topped it up again, because they still did not have a handle on how they could spend their money. They added another $5.182 million, so that they were running a surplus of about $50 million in the bank - $50 million in the bank, and not embarrassed about it at all. In 1990, they added another $3.3 million, so then they had almost $54 million in the bank. In 1991, they added another $10 million. We are now up to $64 million in surplus funds - a $64 million surplus in 1991, and this is 1995. That was three years ago.
Guess what? The crunch is coming. In 1992 they finally found out how to spend the money. They hired people left, right and centre in the government. They had contracts and consultants coming out of the yin-yang. There were people working everywhere; the economy was booming. However, they spent $13 million more than they took in that year, and reduced the surplus to $50 million. That was not enough. They now had a real handle on how to spend this money, and the machine was rolling along. It was really moving down the track.
In 1993, according to the Auditor General's report, the report that the side opposite chooses to believe or disbelieve, depending on which view favours them at a given time - guess what? In 1993, they spent $64 million more than they took in - $64 million more. All of a sudden, in three years, the Yukon government went from having a $64 million surplus to having a $13 million deficit. That is according to the Auditor General of Canada.
They knew how to spend the money, and they did a heck of a job of it.
I guess we now have to apologize. We have accomplished the unthinkable. We have brought the wild spending spree of the NDP under control, and have had three consecutive balanced budgets. We even have a small contingency of $8 million. I know that they will be criticizing us for this, but I will keep this right at my desk. Every time I hear about the $8 million contingency, I will read it back - one list after another - every time I hear a peep about that contingency. I can list $41 million, $62 million, $77 million, $45 million, $50 million, $53 million, $64 million - and then, oh, dear, $13 million in the hole. That is the history of the NDP. It took them six years to learn how to spend the money, but I will tell you that, if they did anything well, they did that. They knew how to spend money.
I would like to talk briefly about the comments the Opposition continues to make about the Yukon economy. Again, the Members opposite are very inconsistent. The Leader of the Official Opposition tries to portray the picture that things are not so good, and yet every single current indicator shows signs of improvement. I know the feeling he has. It was a terrible gut-wrenching feeling - and I had that feeling myself, once, when I was on the Opposition side of the House. The Member is frustrated, because he sees that things are improving and that the next two or more years will be very good years for the Yukon. He is frustrated because he has had nothing to do with it. I do sympathize with the former Leader of the Official Opposition, who will soon be in the back benches of the party opposite.
I would like to give the Leader of the Official Opposition a bit of advice: if he spent
a bit more time talking to people in the coffee shops in the Yukon - the same coffee shop
people the side opposite criticized yesterday, who are so terrible, but who are the real
people - they would see that many Yukoners do have real optimism and do believe that the
economy of the Yukon is going to pick up. I am sure that if he did this, the Leader of the
Official Opposition would be much better for it.
Politics is a pretty interesting business. Two years ago, our government was being blamed for the mine shutting down, the poor economy and the high unemployment rate. We were getting blamed for everything. It was incredible. It was all our fault, completely our fault. In fact, the Member for Faro said that if we had just given Clifford Frame $29 million, our problems would have been solved. What a mistake that would have been.
I can show you in Hansard where that Member stood up and told us to give him a loan, help him out, do this and do that. Hindsight shows us today that that money would have been long gone. We would have made things better, but only for Clifford Frame. It would not have been better for the Yukon taxpayer. Clifford would have been in his summer home somewhere in California or somewhere else. He would have had it made.
Today, the employment rate has improved for the past 10 months, mines are in the permitting stage and Anvil Range is open - without large sums of taxpayers' money. The people of the Yukon told us they did not want us to jump in there and give them all the money the way the Member for Faro wanted. That money would have been right out of the territory and long gone.
Perhaps, when the Member wanted the $29 million, he was suggesting that we take all that money from the highway money and give him that. We would not only not have the mine, but we also would not have had our highway fixed, either. Perhaps that is what the Member was looking for.
Tourism is currently holding its own, with great opportunities for the anniversaries. Guess what? The side opposite, which blamed us completely for the decline, completely refuses to give us one ounce of credit for the recovery. That is just plain and simple blind politics, and I think the people see through that. We do not pretend, for one minute, to stand up here and take all the credit for everything that has happened out there, but we have done some things that have improved the Yukon economy, and there are things in this budget that will ensure a strong economy in the future.
This clearly demonstrates to the voters how negative this Legislature and, in particular, the Opposition, has become. There was a time in this House when we, when on that side, would rise and compliment the government on issues and policies they had in place, but that seems to have gone out the window. That is unfortunate, and the loser is the Yukon, as a whole.
I briefly mentioned the inconsistencies. Another of those concerns is the Auditor General's report. The Auditor General's report of 1992-93 said that there was a $64 million deficit and the NDP pooh-poohed the Auditor General's report. Now, the Auditor General has come out with another recommendation, which the NDP are twisting around to suit themselves. Now they are heralding the same Auditor General they condemned just months ago. They are heralding that report as the gospel truth. It is inconsistent. They cannot have it both ways. If they believe that the Auditor General's report is an accurate reflection of the books of the territorial government, then the $64 million deficit was a $64 million deficit - no ifs, ands or buts.
The last point I would like to make about inconsistency is the difference we heard on the radio shortly after the budget was tabled. The comments were made by the Leader of the Official Opposition and by a former Cabinet Minister. The Leader of the Official Opposition was somewhat off the wall that day - I can remember that he was quite excited and frustrated when he did that interview. I can understand his frustration because when one sees a good budget and everyone else in the world is saying it is a good budget, but one is on the other side of the House, there is not much one can do about it. It is a frustrating experience to sit on the other side and have to try and find something wrong with it.
But he did find something wrong with it. What he found wrong with it was the purchase of computers. He was really quite upset over the purchase of computers. I would like to quote what the Leader of the Opposition said: "When you buy computers, you are not creating jobs for Yukoners. You are creating jobs for people in other parts of the world." And he goes on to say, "And any government that is not very bright and not very sensitive to public priorities will always give them computers." And then he said, "My belief is computers and office equipment do not reflect public priorities at all."
Well, that is fine in the context he said it, but within hours, the real spokesperson - or, I do not know, who is the real spokesperson for the inconsistent NDP - one of their former Ministers in this House, Joyce Hayden, said, "We are talking about whether we are spending too much or not. Non-profits would be delighted to be able to buy some new technology, some new equipment." And listen to this. This is a direct quote from her, and I think she belongs to the same party that Mr. Penikett does, "But let me tell you that the computer system at YTG has been so outdated that a fast typist could crash a computer. The figure that is quoted is shocking. There is no doubt that we feel shocked when we hear several million being spent on hardware and new information systems. However, I think that we are missing the boat if we do not recognize that." Who is missing the boat - Mr. Penikett?
Speaker: Order. Would the Member please refer to Mr. Penikett as Leader of the Official Opposition.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Reluctantly, I will refer to Mr. Penikett as Leader of the Official Opposition.
Ms. Hayden goes on to say, "I think we are missing the boat if we do not recognize that. First of all, we expect government employees to provide a perfect product perfectly, but we do not want to give them the tools to do it. Certainly most people around this table, yourself probably excepted, grew up with a good typewriter, costing $300 or $400, so it is hard for us to grasp that it costs millions of dollars for hardware. However, we are missing the boat, because we should be looking at a new product. The new product in the world is knowledge, and we should be looking at this new technology for expanding our economy, for diversifying our economy. There is no reason why the Yukon should not be selling lifestyle. We could have a stable economy if we willingly accept the technology that is out there. I do not have a problem with it."
Who is the real spokesman for the NDP? Is it the Leader of the Official Opposition, who is losing his job, or the former Minister of the government, who had to work with the staff in the department, knowing that many of them were working with outdated equipment and the frustrations that they were facing each day. Businesses, every day, all over the world, are switching to new computer technology.
The side opposite, in the last budget, asked when we were linking up to Internet. Yet, in the same breath, they told us not to buy computers. Internet does not come across on an old typewriter.
Some of the previous executive assistants, contradicting again the Leader of the
Official Opposition - including the past president of the NDP and a past Minister support
the purchase of new computers. The past Leader of the Official Opposition does not.
Perhaps since he is on his way out anyway, we will not have to worry about it. That
criticism will probably be weakened, since there are deep divisions within the NDP.
Talk about inconsistencies.
I could go on and on about the inconsistencies of the side opposite. They did one thing well when they were in government, but they are now singing an altogether different song. The position that they have taken on many of these issues - from the Alaska Highway, to the purchase of computers, to the hospital transfer, to devolution - the side opposite has flip-flopped on every issue because they have no issues. It is like what the Minister of Health said. They have no quarrel with the budget, so they are grasping at straws. They are crawling through the budget and saying, "God, we have to find something," but they cannot find anything.
Yesterday, I was shocked to hear them in the House as they talked about the education system. They still believe to this day that our education system in the Yukon is absolutely adequate. That is not what the people said in the education review. That is not what the people of the Yukon have said. That is not what the NDP government in British Columbia is finding. That is not what governments all across this country have realized. The only people who want to remain at the status quo and do not want to change the education system - which is doing some good things, but needs a lot of improvement - is the side opposite. The only group of people in this country who believe we should not be into modern-technology computers is the group opposite. Well, not all of them. I should just say the people sitting in this House, because there are some people in their party and some people with a vision who believe there is a need for change.
The Member from Faro spoke all day yesterday and I did not interrupt him once, and he went around the mulberry bush four times. He told us the same thing four times, and it got more outlandish each time. Mr. Speaker, I would ask for a little bit of respect from the Member opposite.
Speaker: Order. Would the Member please keep it down and allow the Minister to finish his speech.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I hope the Member settles down now and controls himself.
There are many positive things in this budget that I would like to talk about when we get into full debate in my departments. I am going to keep my comments rather general.
I am very pleased with what our government is doing in the area of tourism. I believe
that tourism is finally receiving the much-needed attention that it lacked under the NDP
regime. I know that the side opposite is still in that mode, that they do not support
tourism. They obviously are clear on that when it comes to pairing for tourism
initiatives, or when it comes to other initiatives for marketing. I know that they do not
support that. They are one of the few groups of people I have talked with in the Yukon who
do not support moving the visitor reception centre, and establishing the new Beringia
Centre up the hill. They are one of the very few groups who do not support that. That is
okay. The problem is that it was not their idea, and I know they are mad as heck about
that, but that is the problem when you are on the other side. I have been through that
frustration; I know what it is all about. When somebody gets a good idea and runs with it,
and the public is supporting it, you say, "Damn, why did we not think of that when we
were over there?" It is frustrating and I can understand. I can sympathize with the
Tourism is extremely important to the Yukon economy. We on this side of the House recognize that.
As the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, I will be discussing issues with respect to the Public Service Commission. One of the areas of priority that I would like to deal with is the Auditor General's human resource study. I want to address many of those issues in the next year or so. I will be coming to this House with ministerial statements and presenting some lines of action and documents laying out how we plan to deal with some of the recommendations in the report.
On the Women's Directorate, I am very pleased to have the Advisory Council on Women's Issues up and running. I believe they will be having their first meeting shortly, and I look forward to the positive comments they will be making. I am pleased with the high calibre of people who accepted positions on that council, and I look forward to the recommendations they make.
The Women's Directorate is also going to continue with their programs with respect to violence against women and work closely with other departments, such as Education. I think we have made great inroads in that area, partly as a result of the work that was done under the previous government with the focus study on Yukon women. It was a positive initiative, and it has given us a lot of background information for work on women's issues in order to develop programs for women in the territory, to give women better opportunities in the Yukon.
In the Justice debate, we will be laying out several issues that I believe are important, from the community justice system to crime prevention. I will get into more detail as we go.
Speaker: Order please. The Member has three minutes to conclude his remarks.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: With this particular budget, I am convinced that there will be all kinds of jobs created, from construction, to tourism, to road-building, and that all sectors will benefit from this budget.
It is true - I am not going to deny it, and I am not going to be embarrassed by it - that it is the largest budget in the history of the Yukon Territory, but guess what? I know, as does the side opposite, that they will get larger. As the Member for Klondike already said, they have gotten larger under every single government. They will grow, and the side opposite knows that, so their arguments are pretty weak.
I think that all Members should realize that this is a good budget; it is going to put
a lot of Yukoners to work. I urge all Members in this House to support this very
Ms. Commodore: As the critic for Justice and Health and Social Services, I was hoping that I would be able to sit here and listen to the Minister talk about the kinds of things they were going to be doing, but I guess they will be doing that when we sit down to go over the budget.
Unfortunately, the Minister who just spoke is under the impression that the current Opposition plays a different role than his party did when they were in Opposition. According to them, instead of criticizing the government and looking at the programs that they have, we are supposed to sit here and say, "Good for you, boys. You have done a good job, and we love you." Unfortunately, that is not the way oppositions work.
I just sat here for 40 minutes and listened to the Minister responsible for Justice, for the Public Service Commission and the Women's Directorate, while he stood there defending his government. He has every reason to defend his government, because we know what people are saying. He has friends, and so have we, who say, "You are doing a good job, and we love you. We do not understand all of this talk about negative attitude in the House, because you do not deserve it." Of course his buddies are going to say that.
We also have Tories in our ridings. We have people who have supported and voted for this government, who have come to us in coffee shops and on the street, and wherever we run into them. I ran into a fellow in Mac's Fireweed the other day who has supported the Tories all of his life - all of his life. He watches Question Period every day. I am amazed at the number of people who watch Question Period. This man is absolutely disgusted with the government. Unfortunately, he will probably continue to vote for them, and I guess that is all that they care about, but he is disgusted with what he is seeing during Question Period. Maybe he will come into the House and sit and listen while we are debating the budget, and think differently of them then, but he has certainly changed his mind.
They have made a lot of statements about the criticism that they are getting with regard to the budget. It becomes serious when their own spokesperson on the radio, along with the two other people who are speaking as representatives from different political parties, and specifically Doug Graham, says, "Unfortunately they are like a dog chasing their tail.'' For a strong Tory supporter who will never vote any other way, to make a public statement like that certainly tells the Yukon exactly what he, as a supporter thinks of that Cabinet - they are like a dog chasing its tail. They have two years to catch it and I do not know if they ever will.
They sat there and supported their Minister responsible for Justice, and that is fine. Why not? He spent 40 minutes criticizing the Opposition. I thought his job was to stand up and tell us a bit about his budget and what was included in it and what the government has done, but I did not hear that from him. I look forward to the budget debate because that is the time when we are going to hear exactly what it is that they are proposing for the next fiscal year.
He spoke about the big budget and that he will not apologize for it. Big budgets are fine if you know exactly what you are doing with them. It appears that every Minister I have heard speak does not know exactly what their budgets are going to be doing.
Two years ago, they led Yukoners to believe that there was a financial emergency, that there was a deficit, that they were going to have to take drastic measures such as raising obscene taxes and that they were going to be introducing wage-restraint legislation. They scared the heck out of Yukoners so much that people quit spending money and businesses were closing down and going bankrupt. Then they turned around and introduced the biggest budget ever, which contradicted everything that they had been saying.
After two years, Yukoners have very negative views about what this government is doing. There is no question about that.
We, as the Opposition, have a job to do. We are criticized for doing that. That is fine. They can criticize us for being negative. However, most of the time, we are speaking on behalf of people we represent. It is our job. I think we do a good job.
I get very disillusioned as I sit here. I have been in this House for a long time. It has been more than 12 years, and I have seen a lot of things happen. I have seen different governments do different things. I feel very sad for the government that is now in power. I feel very sad for the people of the Yukon. They have had to put up with a very disorganized government.
They have no qualms about announcing to the public that they have millions of dollars to build, for instance, a Beringia Interpretive Centre. However, they do have a problem when they talk about a small amount of money for a transition home for battered women - women who are very badly abused and sometimes end up in the hospital as a result of their injuries. There is no priority for them.
However, when we talk about the Beringia Interpretive Centre and tourism, we are getting into the pet projects for the Minister responsible. That is fine. It will be supported by some people and will be a tourist attraction. However, after his big announcement, I do not think I saw anything in the budget for it. I may be wrong, but I did not see anything.
As it appeared to be a pet project of his, I thought he would talk more about it. However, it is not in this budget. I suppose the talk about the Beringia Centre was to get some people excited.
Fortunately, there is nothing in here for the casino. It appears that they went hog-wild when they announced the casino. They said they had the support of aboriginal people in regard to this. I understand that there was some talk about offering the casino to the administration of the Kwanlin Dun Band. That may be wrong, but it is a rumour that we heard. However, when I asked the Government Leader with whom he had consulted about the casino, he said that he had talked to First Nations. He did talk to Dave Joe - it came out in the paper that he had - but I think that his reasons for the casino were to help his buddies in the business sector.
As has happened in other cases where there are gambling casinos, other businesses are developed, such as second hand stores and loan shops. You see them along streets wherever you see gambling places. You could see small businesses opening up so that people can go into them to sell things. Gambling is a very damaging habit.
Thankfully, I do not see anything in the budget for that. Before the Minister decides to go ahead with it, he has to seriously look at whether or not it is really needed, and whether or not people want to see it, as well as who would run it.
It is something that was announced with no planning. I suppose it was an idea the Minister had while at a meeting with friends and chose to announce it as something that was going to be very exciting for the Yukon, as well as being on the waterfront.
I will have a chance to more thoroughly look at the budget when we start dealing with it during budget debate. The government talks about its big budgets and how they have balanced them every year, but they have done that in different ways. A big budget is easier to balance. The larger the budget, the easier it is, which is exactly what they are bragging about right now. They have done many things, as has been indicated by previous speakers and, I am sure, will be brought up again in other speeches before the debate ends.
I will be asking questions about the budget in my critic areas, and I will want answers. We hope the Minister will tell us a bit more about what it is we are going to see. He certainly did not tell us anything today.
The Member for Klondike stood up and spoke about all the great things that are happening in Dawson. I have no objection to good projects in any community. Communities may benefit from a lot of those different projects, which is fine. I commend the communities for working toward that.
However, I would have been content if the government had chosen to fund a traffic light in front of Whitehorse Elementary School in my riding. Compare the expenditure of that to a bridge in Dawson, or whatever they are going to be doing there, and it is small. However, we are looking at the safety of our children at school, and a traffic light is a small price to pay for the safety of those children. That would have satisfied me. I begged the Minister responsible for Education to look at the problem in that area and listen to the parents who are concerned about the safety of their children, so they could think seriously about doing something about this.
The government is responsible for the children in the schools. Despite the fact that the school was built over 30 years ago, they should still be responsible for the safety of those children. I hope that Minister will do something before we have a tragedy. Our kids are pretty darned precious to us, and I believe they have to be taken a bit more seriously.
To give him a little credit, the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services did spend a little more time talking about what was happening in his department than did the Minister of Justice. I thank him for that.
He also criticized our criticism of this government, suggesting that we should be different from what they were when in Opposition, because we are criticizing them, and that is no good, but it was fine when they criticized us. It works both ways.
The Minister spoke about budgets and how we deal with them. He spoke about the kinds of things they were doing, saying they are doing more with less. When he said that, I looked at the budget for Health and Social Services to find out if they were, in fact, doing more for less.
Talking about doing more for less indicates that there is no change in the amount of money being given to the Department of Health and Social Services in this budget, but there is actually a change of about $200,000. It is very easy for him to stand here and say that unnecessary funding has been cut and that a control has been put on problems caused by the high spending of the former government.
When he said that, I went out and got some figures. Our last budget for the Department of Health and Social Services was $66 million. One year later, it was almost $87 million. A year after that, it was $93 million, and it is now down from that by $200,000. So, I question his statement that he is doing more for less, because there is almost $30 million more being spent in his department. So, I do not know what he is talking about - I really do not.
He talks about runaway spending; he talks about cutting down; he talks about costs of social assistance going down, and maybe that is so. But I do not know what he is doing for less. Certainly, he is funding our transition homes for less. That is for sure, but that does not appear to be a priority. He has to have every bit of evidence to allow him to deny funding to them, and that is a real shame. The budget for the transition home dropped by almost $30,000 last year.
He tried using the excuse that First Nations people in that area would not attend it. That, however, was contradicted by the chief of the band there, who spoke to me during the time I was asking him questions. She said that he was wrong. If the Minister does not want to fund the Watson Lake transition home so they can operate for a full year, why does he not just say so instead of making up excuses that are not true? The chief of the band said that what he was saying was not true. She supports it. She is interested in a healing circle down there, and I am sure you are, too, Mr. Speaker, because it is in your riding. It would certainly help in the healing process of those individuals who need it. However, the Minister is prepared to close the transition home and put those people into lesser accommodations, into something I understand is being planned for housing for forestry. The Minister is prepared to downgrade the services for battered women.
And that is a shame. He should be ashamed of himself for that. Transition homes for battered women need to be funded. They have to be funded so that they can run efficiently and so that they can offer the kinds of programs that are required. Because of the $30,000 cut in funding last year, the transition home in Watson Lake will be losing the outreach services that were provided by other people. They have not been able to continue operating for the whole year with the small amount of funding that they have received, both from this government and the British Columbia government. When a budget has grown from what it was in 1992-93 to what it is today, surely to goodness they should practice what they preach.
I went over the speech the other day. Under the Department of Justice it states how serious it is about violence against women. You have to wonder how serious it is and whether or not it is a priority when they find every single excuse that they can not to continue to adequately support the transition home. If this government says it is serious about violence against women, then it has to be more serious about what kind of programs it has in place. If they are not adequate, then it has to make them adequate. It has to fund them sufficiently so that they can operate. The people who work with the battered women who need the safety of those homes should not have to worry half way through the year whether or not they are going to be able to stay open until the end of the year. They should not have to worry about that.
The Minister of Tourism stands up here and pouts because no one on this side complimented him on what was happening in tourism - and he said that twice.
I could pat him on the back and tell him that he has done a good job in Tourism, but it contradicts what the priorities are. I will compliment the Minister of Tourism on the good things he has done. He has good people working in his department - there is no question about that. They have good ideas. I still do not think that he should have gone to Europe, at a cost of $4,000 a day. They did not have any problem spending that money, but there have been some good things happen in the Department of Tourism. However, $40,000 was spent to trip through Europe in order to bring more tourists here. The Minister talks about all the great things they are going to see when they get here. Perhaps he should take them to a transition home that is not adequately funded. Instead of bragging about how great he is, and pouting because we did not compliment him, that is what he should do.
I get angry when they completely dismiss the social issues, such as the safety of children or the safety of battered women. It makes me angry; it makes a lot of people angry. I will support any new initiative when it comes to mining. That will improve the economy in the Yukon. I would not advise them not to do that; however, they have a serious problem with regard to where they are going with these big budgets. What battered women are asking for is just a small portion of the money they have allotted for tourism, roads or any of their other priorities. I would urge them to look a bit more seriously at the safety of our children in our schools and the women who are black and blue from beatings. They must look at the kinds of services that can be provided for them.
The Minister responsible for the Women's Directorate talks about the great things they are doing in that branch. I know the women who work there and they have many good ideas. I know that they have always been able to look to the future and at the kinds of things that are important to all women.
It is all very well to talk about the good things they are doing, but I want to see things like treatment for sex offenders who offend women and children. I want to see improvement in programs like that. I want to see improvements in programs for violence against women. I know a lot of things are being done, but I also know that a lot more needs to be done. Even if I see new things happening, I will never be completely satisfied, because there can never be enough done for the women who are battered. It is a shame that the funding was cut last year. It should not have happened. Thankfully, it has not been cut this year, but money is still needed. The funding is still needed, more programs are needed, and I think that this government has to realize that battered women are as important as tourists, that they are as important as miners and that they are a very important part of the Yukon.
I do not remember which Minister was talking about roads, and how Members on this side of the House were criticizing highway improvements, and talking about some things that were said. However, I remember the condition of the highways in 1985. If we did not care about improving the highways, we would not have made the extensive changes that we did while we were in government. One can now drive on pavement all the way to Dawson, and that was not the case in 1985. The Alaska Highway was improved in some areas. I know that, Mr. Speaker, as the MLA for Watson Lake, you spoke many times about the improvements that were needed in your part of the country. That is true, and those things are being done. I will stand here and say, "Good for the government for improving the roads." However, they should not stand there and tell us that we do not care about them. We made vast improvements to the highways while we were in government; there is no question about that. I think every single person who has driven on that highway will agree with me. I think that every single person who has driven between here and Dawson City or wherever, will have recognized those improvements.
There is no way that we are against improvements to highways. That was a ludicrous statement by that Minister, who was pouting because we did not pat him on the back because of his tourism initiative.
The Minister of Tourism criticized us for the surpluses we had. We spent that money, and we were criticized for spending it. Our question was: what did the Opposition expected us to do with it - leave it in a bank?
We built a lot of schools with that money. The improvement in schools across the territory is noticeable. We were criticized for building Taj Mahals, and they are not.
After two years in government, I think they have money for the plans of a school. We are proud of the schools we built. I think the parents who have children in those schools are also proud of them.
We improved roads with the money we had. We supported small businesses with loans. We had a community development fund, and we put millions of dollars into communities. We did not cancel a project like Taga Ku, which was run by the Champagne-Aishihik Band, which is represented by the Member for Kluane. We did not do things like that. We did not pull the rug out from under a band that was on the road to doing something that was going to improve its economy, as well as that of the Yukon. We put money into band halls; we put money into hotel improvements - hotels owned by friends of the people in the present government. We even gave the Government Leader a grant of $25,000. He did not say, "No thank you, I do not want it."
We spent our money on many useful projects. You could go into any community now and see the results of some of the projects for which we were responsible. At the same time, we were providing money to community development projects, and also making sure there was access for the disabled. Some communities did not care about that and said they were not going to do that because they did not have to, but perhaps they would later on. However, every single project our government approved had wheelchair access.
We were also criticized by some people for that. There were a lot of improvements in a
lot of areas at that time. I am sorry if I cannot stand here and say to the government
that they have done great things. I speak for a constituency in Whitehorse. I know what
those people are saying to me. I have not had one single person come up to me and say that
the government is really great. Perhaps, after today, they will be encouraged by the side
opposite. There are some known Tories who associate with people on the side opposite, who
shake their heads about the contradictions in this government and the continual perceived
conflicts of interest that are brought up in Question Period. The government has taken two
years to introduce conflict-of-interest legislation. The other legislation was too
cumbersome. They wanted to continue to be able to do business while they were Ministers.
Unfortunately, things got pretty hectic. They introduced a very weak bill. They did the
same thing with employment standards. I understand that they are going to be doing
employment standards again, and we will be speaking for the workers again. We will speak
for every single worker in Porter Creek, Kluane and Old Crow - the people who do not
benefit from unions but deserve the same kind of benefits that would allow them to live
from payday to payday and be able to feel secure in their jobs.
I have some concerns with regard to some of the things that I saw in the budget. I will be asking the Minister of Justice about his plans for community-based justice. I saw an article in the News yesterday that said the government was going to be introducing corrections facilities in 14 communities, and I like that concept. We talk about aboriginal justice and tribal justice. When our party was in government, it was a priority of mine. I will not criticize the government for continuing it. I think that, after decades, the present legal justice system was not working, not only for aboriginal people, but others as well. It was not working at all.
I will not criticize them for continuing with those programs and even for improving them. They can stand there and say, "We did more for people than you ever did.'' If they want to improve the criminal justice system and the aboriginal justice system, I give them credit. That was an initiative of our government, and I think what they are now doing is fine. Whoever was pouting about not receiving a compliment, there is one for him.
I would like to know how they are going to do that. I would like to know if there is any money in this budget for it. If they are going to be introducing community-based justice, and if they are going to be introducing corrections facilities in 14 communities, how are they going to do that? Is there money in the budget? I know there is money available from the federal government, and they will be funding a person to work for the Champagne-Aishihik Band. That is good and I applaud that because the money is there. It has been there for a long time.
I give the Minister of Justice notice that I will be seeking more information on that particular issue. It has been announced in the budget that this will happen. I would like to know from where in the budget the money is coming, and I am sure he will tell me that. I do not think it is very much, because I looked for it and could not find it. Maybe it was there and I just did not see it.
The budget for the native court workers is down by $20,000. I do not know why it is down by $20,000. Maybe the $20,000 was put into some other program. I know for a fact that the money is inadequate. It should be more. It is a good service, and they have really good people working for them. I would like to know exactly why that is.
I have some questions in regard to the report, Keeping Kids Safe, that was released. The concept is good, and I agree that keeping kids safe from sex offenders is a priority with all of us, and that is a very positive move. There was also a comment by an official when the report was released that money is tight. That is also debatable, because when one looks at the budget, one wonders exactly how tight it is, and one has to look at how Cabinet decides where its money is going to go. Is it going to be directed toward a program for keeping kids safe, or is it going to be directed toward a program for planning and building a Beringia Interpretive Centre? It talks about a program for keeping kids safe, and that, because money is so tight, they are going to be running that program on existing resources - which means what? I do not know, and I will be asking more questions in regard to that. I understand that the program is already being carried out, and that they are monitoring certain sex offenders to try to protect children. I applaud them for that, but what they are also saying in the report - and I read it very thoroughly; I read it twice, and I still go back and refer to it every once in a while -
Speaker: Order please. The Member has three minutes in which to conclude her remarks.
Ms. Commodore: I was just getting started.
They are talking about using thousands of volunteers in their plan to monitor sex offenders, but we know for a fact that volunteers in all of the communities are already over-worked and that there is not going to be a lot of leftover resources from those volunteers to do this. So, I want to know a little bit more about that.
I also want to know about devolution and the extent of the involvement of First Nations people. In the past, I know they have complained about the devolution process. I have asked the Government Leader about a schedule for devolution. I know how hard it is because I was in government. At the time that the Government Leader is talking about land transfers and working more closely with aboriginal people, a blockade is going up because the land in question was not handled in a proper manner. So, there is a lot of work to be done out there.
I am sorry my time has run out because I have a lot of other things I would like to ask, and I certainly will be asking when we get into budget debate.
At this time, I would like to wish my constituents a happy New Year, and would like to
let them know that they are always in my thoughts. My best wishes go out to all Yukoners.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: In the coming weeks, the experience, talent and convictions of the Members of this House will be focused on the budget in Committee of the Whole debate. The budget documents, which reflect the philosophy and intentions of this government, will be put under a microscope. We will get into line-by-line debate and there will be time for all of us to provide our perspectives on social and economic programs and the business of government. At that time, I will be explaining in detail the budgets for which I am responsible.
Today, I believe it is time to step back and look at the bigger picture. This budget was described in one local newspaper as bigger and better and boring. The headline was not really unflattering, but it only told part of the story. I would like to comment on that headline, because it may be a notion shared by a number of people.
Yes, it is a big budget. This $489 million budget is built on transfer payments, recoveries from programs, costs shared with other governments, and locally raised revenues. It is designed to meet the Yukon's many and varied needs at a time when our economy is growing and changing, when our communities are wrestling with social challenges and opportunities, when land claims implementation and the devolution of federal responsibilities are imminent, and when infrastructure and support services need to be strengthened. As if this were not enough, Internet is at the door, requiring us all - employers and employees in the public and private sectors, students and legislators - to get in the game and to use the new technology to bring ourselves, our ideas, and our plans a little closer to our counterparts in the rest of the world.
Yes, this is a large budget, but so are the needs, opportunities, expectations, and possibilities it represents. This is a manageable budget and, with it, we can manage our needs and resources effectively and efficiently. I do not think that it is boring. There is nothing boring about a budget that will inject almost $500 million into the Yukon economy in a single year, which plans for a decade of anniversaries, a Beringia Centre, a new hospital, a new French first-language school, and the improved highways and information and communications initiatives necessary for the effective delivery of social programs and economic development.
I would describe this budget as realistic, responsive and responsible. It is also visionary. There is nothing boring about that. It is realistic. First, it is a balanced budget; balanced not only in terms of numbers, but also in terms of needs, aspirations and our ability to pay. Second, overall, there is virtually no increase in operation and maintenance expenditures. Third, the capital budget will provide employment for Yukoners through building and highway construction projects. Finally, it is an affordable budget.
With this budget, we are living within our means and positioning Yukoners in all sectors to take advantage of their prospects. Needs, realities and opportunities meet and are accommodated in this budget. It is responsive and responsible. It is a budget based on identified and demonstrated economic and social needs. I accept that this is a budget that may be criticized for not fully meeting all needs in every sector of our community to the extent that some believe necessary. I know that some will say that we put internal operations ahead of core programs and people.
It would be tempting to simply say that some difficult choices had to be made, and that our infrastructure was, in too many cases, hindering or limiting our ability to deliver programs to people. However, I know that it is not good enough to say that, no matter how accurate I believe it to be. I know the debate does not end there. I know that because we made choices, the onus is on us to demonstrate compassion by working with our communities and the different needs and interests they represent, and to meet their expectations within this budget. They will hold us accountable. This means that, as individuals and as a government, we cannot quit when the solutions are not easy or obvious.
This means ensuring that our infrastructure effectively and efficiently supports our
economic and social programs, projects and our desire to show real compassion.
It is visionary. It is not just a budget for today. This budget meets the needs of the present while positioning the Yukon for the future. Someone, it might have been Harry Truman, said that big initiatives should not rest on minority governments. Apparently, it is just too risky - too risky for the government, and too risky for the initiative.
Why take the chance, the logic goes? I reflected on that observation and on our own situation in this House and reached another conclusion. I acknowledge the risk that new initiatives and challenges bring, such as the information highway, and the risk in introducing new approaches to management, such as special operating agencies. However, too often, and particularly today, there is nothing riskier than doing nothing, and nothing riskier than waiting and hoping that things will change, that it will somehow get a little easier and a little safer.
We must take the chance, because a government has to have a vision. It has to stand for something. While it must not be reckless, it cannot really govern or progress by holding back good initiatives, large or small. Take the chance because, if they are fundamentally sound, good initiatives, whether they are tourist attractions, education programs or telecommunications systems, they will only be strengthened by the scrutiny of all Members of this House.
I have a story to tell that I think is relevant to this budget, and particularly to my departments. The cartographers of the Middle Ages drew maps used by the explorers and decision-makers of the day. The world of those cartographers was limited to the world known to the Europeans. These mapmakers were certain of one thing, however. Beyond that world, there was nothing but danger. Therefore, upon completing his map of the world, the cartographer would add this bit of practical advice, intended to guide and guard the explorer:
Beware! Dragons lurk beyond here.
Armed with this advice, the explorer had two choices: stay within the boundaries, where all was known and nothing would change, or take a chance.
We, too, have a choice. In the end, we take chances and informed risks, because discoveries and improvements are not made by explorers, inventors, writers or legislators who, looking up from valleys, or labs, or desks, or podiums, say, "Good idea, but it is not safe. Let someone else take the risk. Another year will not make a difference. Anyway, we know dragons lurk there."
What person, what organization, what government wants to be known for so valuing
security that it dares not to risk? Who wants to be known for staying home? Better to be
known for taking informed risks, for working for continuous improvement in service
delivery, and, finally, for having the conviction to bring it all here to the floor of
Mrs. Firth: Here we are again at, as one of the Members said - what did he call it? - the third balanced budget of this government. The Minister of Tourism said that. What were his exact words? I wrote them down here somewhere because I found it quite interesting. It was something about how there was not any other government in Canada that could boast that it had balanced its budget, let alone the third - few governments claim balanced budgets. No government in Canada has as much money per capita as this government. If this government could not balance its budget, could we be in worse trouble than we are now in? I do not think so.
I talk to my constituents and ask them what they think about the budget. I ask,
"Have you heard anything about the budget? Have you heard any news?" A few
people have called me to inquire about the budget, and they tell me, "Bea, I do not
think that this government knows what it is doing. I do not have any confidence in it and
I do not trust it." They also tell me they do not believe this budget, either. And
then they say, "It seems to me that this government has been there forever. When is
the next election?" Just about every person I talk to, aside from my constituents,
such as people in the supermarket, the stores, people out shopping, at receptions, at
cocktail parties, and at business meetings ask me when the next election is. The Yukon
public cannot wait for the next election.
Neither can I. It is all fine and nice for the two private Members on the government benches to stand up and say how much money their constituents are going to get - how much money is going to go to the Klondike constituency and the Old Crow constituency - and that is great that they are getting all that money. I just want to remind those two individuals that they do not just represent the riding of Klondike and the riding of Old Crow. In this Legislative Assembl, they represent all Yukoners. Just once, I would like to hear them express some concerns about the rest of the Yukon public - just once.
The Members opposite made comments about our being negative all the time - "they are so negative", they say. I would like to ask the government Members how we can be expected to be positive when they do not give us anything to be positive about. They do not like us criticizing them. They say our criticism is not useful. Well, they are the guys with all the answers. They are the guys who know everything. Anyone from the public who comes in to see these Ministers - if they are lucky enough to be granted an audience and if the Ministers remember the meeting and turn up for the meeting, and do not forget the meeting with whomever they are supposed to meet - tell me that it is like talking to the wall and that the Minister has all the answers. He has called up his bureaucrats. They have briefed him on the issue and the situation, and that is all they are prepared to hear. That is all they are prepared to listen to. It becomes an automatic argument and debate.
So, when people - Yukoners, constituents of mine and of other Members of this Legislature - go to visit the Minister, they are not even given a fair hearing, because they are met by a Minister who already has a predetermined idea of what the problem is, and a predetermined idea of what the solution is going to be. These are the people who are criticizing us because we are being negative and not presenting any useful criticism. No one on that side is prepared to listen - not one Member. They have been there for over two years now, and they have all the answers. Everything that they are doing is right. The people they talk to tell them how wonderful they are and what a great job they are doing, and how everybody else is wrong and just do not understand them. They bought into that comfortable situation hook, line, and sinker.
People say to me, "Bea, why do you even bother? Why do you even bother doing this any more? Why do you keep going in there and raising issues and concerns? Why do you keep doing that?" I say, "That is my job. That is why you keep re-electing me." The usual response I get is this: "Well, better you than me." There are not a lot of people who want to do this job. There are many reasons why they do not want to do it. I say, "Well, I want you to know that I am standing up and doing my job. I am the person who is there saying, 'Well, what about this? Well, you have this policy, but how is it going to work? How much is it going to cost? How is it going to treat people and how is it going to impact on Yukoners? How is going to affect everyone in their daily lives?" It is my job to ask questions, and I am going to continue to do that.
If the government Members think that it is negative, or they do not like it because we are not standing up in here and telling them what a great job they are doing and how wonderful their budget is, and how wonderful it is that they are getting $2 million for their constituency, and that they are going to ask for millions more, then so be it. I guess there are Members with different values here in this Legislature.
We come to the facts of the budget and the comments I hear from my constituents about the government. They do not trust government, do not having confidence in it and do not believe its budgets. Do you know why people say these things about this government? I know all the Ministers and the private Members think that the accusations are wrong and that they are doing their best and they are all working hard and they really have a grasp of and control over what they are doing; they really know what they are doing.
Let us take a look at their track record with budgets. First of all, we got the big story about being broke and not having any money. Everything was falling apart. The previous government had spent all the money. The Yukon was collapsing because of the bad management of the previous government.
This government has continued the practice of under estimating its budgets when it suits them. On one line of the budget, capital maintenance for schools, for example, was out by 100 percent. Most of the school projects are under estimated.
This was the constant complaint that the Members opposite - the government Members - had about the previous government - that they were constantly under estimating their budgets. Now, they are doing it.
There are illegal write-offs that the Government Leader is absolutely refusing to accept as such, just like he absolutely refused to accept that there was any perception that there was a conflict of interest in some of his activities. If he absolutely refuses to accept it, then it did not happen. Sometimes, I think he even believes that people do not know about it or, if they do, they do not care how he tries to justify and rationalize in his mind that it did not happen, or that it is not right.
With respect to the supplementary budget, I recall a vicious debate in this House about reducing the Alaska Highway line item by $4.5 million, a position that was shared by all the Members on the Opposition benches. A vote was taken. As one of the other Members in the House has brought to our attention, there was specific instruction given with respect to what the Opposition Members thought that money should be spent on.
We thought it was a very positive and constructive suggestion.
To take a paltry $4.5 million from the highways budget and put it toward building two new schools - one for Grey Mountain Primary and one in Mayo - would be a very worthwhile, positive, constructive and useful expenditure of money.
Do you know what this government did? It launched this vicious debate and attack on Members of theOpposition. That was not a very positive response to the initiative - absolutely not a positive response. Yesterday, I heard the Government Leader saying to us, as Opposition Members, that the Opposition was not going to tell them what to do with the money or where to spend the money, that they do not have to do what we tell them. Well, that is not very positive. It is not exactly encouraging, positive criticism, or a positive suggestion or constructive input. This is the same person who said they were not going to take any of the suggestions from the Member across the way, referring to me, that I would be the last person they would listen to or get advice from. That is not very positive. It is not saying, "Give us your ideas; give us some suggestions. If you do not like the budget, give us some ideas of how you think we could better spend the money." We have never received that kind of open invitation from this government.
So we come back to the highways budget. There was $4.5 million taken out of the Alaska Highway budget - a budget that was in excess of almost $28 million. Time passes. I write letters to the government. I write letters to the Minister of Education. I try to find out what has happened to the $4.5 million. I found out about a month ago from the Government Leader, only because he knows that we are coming into the Legislature and he has to answer the question, because if he does not, I am going to be asking questions about it here in the House. He tells me that the $4.5 million went into surpluses.
He also tells us that we are not going to tell them what to do with the money, that they do not have to take our suggestions.
Then, a supplementary estimate is tabled in this House. What do we find but an additional amount of money requested for the Alaska Highway construction of $12.1 million - this is an addition. In fact, almost every highways budget, except two, is asking for millions of dollars more.
So, all the whining and huffing and puffing about taking all the money away from highways was just that. That is why people do not believe this budget. That is why people in my riding tell me that they do not believe it and that they will have to wait and see what is spent and what is done with the budget at the end of the year. This does not represent any plan, because it goes off in every direction at once. They are trying to make everybody happy at once, but are really making nobody happy.
So, not only do they come back with a supplementary for an extra $12.1 million for the Alaska Highway, but they do not bring it in here first and have it debated in the Legislature. Instead, they completely circumvent the Legislature and get the Commissioner to sign a special warrant.
They then say that we are never positive about anything they do. How can anyone be positive about something like that? We had a perfect example of this today. I asked the Minister of Economic Development about this policy that has been the be-all and end-all of all policies for this government. This is the policy that is going to save this government at election time. It is the policy that will get mines opened all across the country, create jobs and improve the economy. This is the policy that is going to do everything, according to this government.
First of all, we have waited two years and longer for the policy. Then the Minister
stood up over two weeks and did not know if it is a draft or the real policy. All he knows
is that he is talking to some mining company about something; he cannot tell us what it
is. He came into the House today and tabled a policy that was virtually no policy. It was
not in the budget. There was no money identified for it. It was a grant program. Perhaps
they were going to spend some money on it and perhaps not. Cabinet was going to make all
the decisions. I am sure that was very reassuring to all Yukoners.
I am sure that was really reassuring. I asked the Minister a question about where it is in the budget. I said that it is not in the budget, and he said that it is in the budget. The only $1.00 line item in the budget is for another energy program that I do not think anyone has taken advantage of yet. It is a loan program, where mining companies can get up to a $3 million loan from this government. No one has taken advantage of that program. The Minister said, "No, it is not that one. It is actually called by another name." I believe that it is called "Old Ditch Road Upgrade". The Minister said, "We are going to amend the budget, and that is where that line item is going to be. The Yukon industrial support policy is going to be in the budget where the Old Ditch Road Upgrade is".
I heard the Minister of Health and Social Services stand up and say what a well-planned budget this was. We have not even started debating the budget line by line, and already the Minister is going to be amending it.
This government has made announcements about initiatives that are not even in budget, such as the visitor reception centre, the Beringia museum and the casino. Apparently, we are going to have a casino, but there is no money in the budget for it - not one cent. Now, we find out that there is something else that was not in the budget. They are going to change one of the line items and amend the budget so that they can include their industrial support policy.
That is not well-planned; there is nothing well-planned about that. I will tell the Minister right now that I am not going to support that amendment. I am absolutely not going to support that amendment and I hope that the other Members of the Opposition choose not to support that amendment.
That is why people say that this government does not know what it is doing; that they do not have any confidence in it; that they do not trust it and that they do not believe its budget.
We get to the Minister of Health and Social Services, who criticized the previous government for under estimating their budgets. He came in here a few budgets ago, and told us what a great job - I think he told his constituents too - he had done with his health budget because they finally had a realistic budget.
The size of the budget for Health and Social Services ballooned. Then, after time passed, what did we find out? We find out that there was over $10 million of lapsed funds in that health budget. I think there is going to be a big lapse of funds in the health budget again. They are over estimating budgets when its suits their purposes and under estimating budgets when it suits their purposes.
Now, we come to the issue of grants. This is a great one because we have the Government Leader constantly standing up in the House and telling us he is opposed to grants. What do we find out about today? We find out that the industrial support program is going to be grants. Is there even a limit on it? Absolutely not. This is an unlimited amount of grant money that is going to be given out without one shred of a policy being in place to determine how the money will be given out.
Grants in Tourism. The Tourism Minister has this - well, I will not say it is an irritating, little habit - habit of saying that if one asks questions about a program, then one is against it - you are against the centennial program, you are against tourism, you do not like tourists. We questioned his $40,000 trip to Europe - the secret trip where he was going to bring back all these millions of tourists with him. He said that we were against marketing. Grow up, Minister of Tourism.
Because we ask questions does not mean -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: Well, I know the Minister of Tourism is short on a lot of attributes, but that is not his fault. I will not make that personal attack on him, but he does have these habits. I think he should grow up and try to break himself of these habits. It is a really poor form of exercise - jumping to conclusions.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: The Minister said, "Look who jumps to conclusions."
I will put my track record of having my facts lined up and my ducks lined up against that Minister's any day, because I know how that Minister operates. If he gets a good idea, he is down there at the Chamber of Commerce announcing an education review. Because somebody said to him, "Let's do an education review", bang, he is right there doing it, without any thought, without any plan, without discussing it with anybody - he just gets a good idea and away he goes, without any facts at all.
We have a person who constantly says we are against marketing because he went on a $40,000 trip to Europe and took an entourage with him. Because you dare to question it, you are against marketing.
That is absolutely not true. I may have some reservations about that Minister going to represent us, and I have not even touched on that yet. That is a whole day and one-half debate in the Tourism budget. I am sure that the other Members in Opposition are going to have lots of questions about that, as well. We have not even touched on that debate yet.
We have the Minister saying to us, "Oh, grants. You are against tourism, because
you do not agree with $9.5 million being taken out of the taxpayers' pocket and given to
us so that we can hand it out. We will distribute it to whoever we think should have that
money". If I raise questions about that and say, "I thought that you were
opposed to grants" because the Government Leader has always said that he is opposed
to grants and he does not believe in them then when I say that I do not believe in grants,
I mean that I do not go around and hand them out.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday next.
Debate on second reading of Bill No. 4 accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 5:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled January 5, 1995:
Order-in-Council 1994/230, An Act Approving Yukon Land Claims Final Agreements,
dated December 22, 1994, approving the attached: Teslin Tlingit Council final agreement,
made May 29, 1993; First Nation of Na-cho Ny'ak Dun final agreement, made May 29, 1993;
Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation final agreement, made May 29, 1993 (Ostashek)
Order-in-Council 1995/01, First Nations (Yukon) Self-Government Act, dated
January 5, 1995, revoking Order-in-Council 1994/229 and approving the attached: Teslin
Tlingit Council self-government agreement, made May 29, 1993; First Nation of Na'cho Ny'ak
Dun self-government agreement, made May 29, 1993; Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation
self-government agreement, made May 29, 1993 (Ostashek)
Order-in-Council 1995/02, An Act Approving Yukon Land Claims Final Agreements,
dated January 5, 1995, revoking Order-in-Council 1994/231, approving amendments to the
Champagne-Aishihik First Nation final agreement, the Teslin Tlingit Council final
agreement, the First Nation of Na'cho Ny'ak Dun final agreement, and the Vuntut Gwitchin
First Nation final agreement, attached as Schedule A and approving the amendment to the
Champagne-Aishihik First Nation final agreement, attached as Schedule B (Ostashek)
Order-in-Council 1995/03, First Nations (Yukon) Self-Government Act, dated
January 5, 1995, revoking Order-in-Council 1994/232 and approving amendments to the
Champagne-Aishihik First Nation self-government agreement, the Teslin Tlingit Council
self-government agreement, the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun self-government agreement,
and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation self-government agreement, attached as Schedule A
Public Accounts of the Government of Yukon for the year ended March 31, 1994 (Ostashek)
Yukon industrial support policy, dated January 1995 (Fisher)