Wednesday, January 18, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would like to draw Members' attention to the presence in the gallery of two Carcross residents, former chief Anne Wally and Willy Martin.
Recognition of birthday of Robert Service
Mr. Penikett: May I use this occasion to draw the attention of the House to the
fact that this week is the birthday of another famous Yukon writer and sometime socialist,
Robert Service, and call attention to the fact that Doug Bell and Larry Bagnell are
organizing a Robert Service dinner for January 21 to celebrate his birthday. They hope to
make it an annual event.
Mr. Abel: I would like to introduce to the House the Co-op manager from Old Crow.
Speaker: Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Are there any Bills to be introduced?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre
Mr. Penikett: Yesterday, the Minister of Tourism said, "I will also bring back to this House an example of a museum that is paying for itself and actually making quite a profit, and that is the Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller. It is making enormous profits."
Is the Minister now prepared to admit to the House that when he said that he was misleading us?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: My understanding is that Drumheller is actually attracting many people there each year and is actually doing very well.
Mr. Penikett: That is not what the Minister said yesterday. Unlike him, we have done our homework and discovered that less than 50 percent of the revenues of the Tyrrell Museum come from its gate, and even after massive budget cuts in Alberta, 50 percent of its revenue comes from a provincial government subsidy. Will the Minister now admit that when he told us yesterday that the Tyrrell Museum was making a profit, he was misleading the House?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I certainly had no intention of misleading the House. I will check the facts that the Member has mentioned and get back to him.
Mr. Penikett: When he checks - something he should have done, along with some of his other statements about museums - he will also discover that the Tyrrell Museum took many years and millions of dollars to plan. Unlike the Minister's Beringia Centre, the building was designed as a museum. The initial capital cost, 15 years ago, was $30 million.
Will the Minister now admit to the House that he has been misinforming us about the operational costs, the capital costs and the profitability of the Tyrrell Museum?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, I certainly will not admit that.
We have announced in this House the fact that we believe that we have a great opportunity, due to the presence of the remains of ice-age mammals in the territory. It is our plan to develop an exhibit here - an interpretive centre - that we believe will keep people in the Whitehorse and Yukon area longer. Eventually, we think it will generate millions of dollars of revenue for the residents and businesses in the Whitehorse area, if people decide to stay longer because of the quality of the exhibit.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre
Mr. Penikett: The problem is that the Minister has not indicated what he is going to put in that museum other than the remains of a dead horse, and he seems to have not even done the most basic research to discover certain facts about the Tyrrell Museum, which, for example, has half a million visitors a year. Even if all the visitors who came to the Yukon went to this museum, which is an extremely unlikely event, there is no calculation that could generate the kind of revenues that would cover the costs of operating what the Minister claims will be a world-class museum. The Minister has not done his homework. He does not know what he is talking about. Will he admit that now?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, I will not. We, over here, have a bit of a vision. We can see that there is an opportunity here to showcase the ice-age mammals of the Yukon Territory. We can use that attraction to keep people in the Yukon longer so that they will spend more money and more time, and all Yukoners will benefit in the long run. If we had the vision of the side opposite, we would be building more of those silly looking visitor reception centres like they built.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister is now going to try and make the visitor reception centre we built do something it was never designed to do, to turn what he calls a white elephant into a home for a horse of a different colour.
The Minister has not told us what he is going to put in this museum; he has not told us where the money is going to come from for the exhibits or for mounting them. I wonder if the Minister is aware, since he has used the Tyrrell Museum as an example of a profitable museum, if that museum has a permanent staff of 39 people. A provincial department has been established in order to support it and the staff of that museum referred us to the Glenbow Institute, the best museum in western Canada, not a world-class museum, which has a staff of 140. They insist that a museum such as the Beringia cannot be developed properly ...
Speaker: Order. Would the Member ask the question please.
Mr. Penikett: ... without the focus, without the money, without the
intelligence, without the research, without the staff and without a huge financial
commitment. Will the Minister not admit that now?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The side opposite thinks it has to cost multi-millions of dollars to be good. We are going to utilize the expertise of individuals across the country who have offered their advice and services to help us to develop this project. Certainly we are not going to be as big as the Tyrrell Museum the day we open, or perhaps even five years later, but we have a vision, an opportunity and one of the best areas in the world for ice-age mammals, which will be in that exhibit. I can come back with a list tomorrow of all the ice-age mammals that existed in the territory that we have the opportunity to put in there.
We also have the opportunity to display the cooperation of the placer miners, who discovered the ice-age mammals in the territory, and as well ...
Speaker: Order. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: ... we will have the opportunity to display the remains found in the Old Crow area, so that people of the Yukon can finally see them.
I think there is a great opportunity for this little exhibit, and we will be trying to do all that.
Mr. Penikett: We have gone from a world-class museum to a little exhibit, indicating the Minister's vision is a mirage.
I wonder if the Minister has done even the basic homework to contact the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the pre-eminent institution of its kind in Canada, for a definition of a museum, which we did today. Is the Minister aware that both of the definitions used in the museum business for "museum" begin with the phrase "a non-profit, permanent establishment" or "a non-profit, permanent institution"?
Why did he say that he would bring back to the House an example of a museum that is paying for itself and actually making a profit, and that the Tyrrell Museum is making enormous profits? Will he retract that statement now and start to do some homework on this project?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is increasingly obvious that the Members opposite are against the Beringia exhibit. They do not think that we should be displaying the Beringia era in the Yukon and showcasing that. We disagree with that 100 percent. That is why we are proceeding with this project. I will check into the facts the Member gave us earlier in the House and I will get back to the Member.
Question re: Residential lot development
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services about residential lot development. As the Minister probably knows, the president of the Canadian Homebuilders Association was in town this week, and he was quoted in the media as saying that, "Builders can't create a true private sector market for homes because they can't buy groups of lots.'' The inference from his comments and the remarks of the local president of the association was that if builders could buy groups of lots, this would permit economies of scale in free-market competition, and there would be lower house prices. Does the Minister agree with the gist of those remarks?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: To some exten, I agree with it but there are also a lot of problems with things the Hon. Member for Riverside is now bringing up that have to be solved first.
Mr. Cable: That, I am sure, will be the subject of considerable debate when we get to Community and Transportation Services in the budget. Let me ask the Minister this question: the local president said that, ideally, the government should allot a portion of new subdivision lots to contractors, so that they could work up economies of scale, marching down the street and lowering house prices. Does the Minister agree with that proposition?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No one has proved to me that they can put them on the market for a lower price than we put them on the market. I would suggest that maybe the president of the Canadian Homebuilders Association is in a bit of conflict of interest by making statements like that.
Mr. Cable: I am sure he is representing his constituency, as is the Minister. The president of the national association was quoted as saying - and this relates to what the Minister just said - that he did not think that the full cost of lot development was included in the prices of lots developed by the government and put out on the market, and that the taxpayers are actually helping to finance subdivision developments, keeping lot prices unusually low. In other words, there is not full cost recovery for the taxpayers' input. Does the Minister agree with that supposition?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: My understanding is that the government recovers the full cost of each lot.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre
Mr. McDonald: I have a problem understanding the Minister of Tourism's response to our questions about the Beringia Centre proposal, which was identified in the throne speech as a proposal that is about to proceed. When we ask questions about the nature of the proposal - obvious questions, given that there has been no consultation and no homework done - we are accused of not wanting to exhibit any support for showcasing any Beringia exhibits. That is completely juvenile and ridiculous.
I would like to ask the Minister this: e very clearly said yesterday, and was very sure
of himself, that the Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller was making enormous profits - not just
profits, but enormous profits. Can the Minister tell us what his definition of profit is?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: When you make a profit, you produce a product and make money, over and above your costs.
Mr. McDonald: Surely, if the Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller depends, as entrepreneurial as it obviously is, in large part - better than 50 percent - on government revenues in the form of a subsidy, can it be said that the Tyrrell Museum is, in fact, making an enormous profit?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think it can be said that the Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller has been a boon to the economy in Drumheller, and that many businesses are doing very well, many new businesses have been established there, and many people are benefiting from the exhibits in Drumheller. When one factors in the revenue generated from all of those other businesses as a result of all those other businesses being there, it is a great boon to the economy in that area.
Mr. McDonald: I thank the Minister for that little speech, but he did not answer the question. He indicated yesterday that the museum was, in his words, paying for itself and making quite a profit. Is he now saying that the museum does not have to make a profit for itself because, as long as it is a net benefit to the jurisdiction in which it is located, then that is what is part of his definition of what a profit is?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think that is an important part of the equation. If the Beringia Centre in Whitehorse keeps people an extra day or two - 30,000 or 40,000 people annually - and we can do things like combining passes to MacBride Museum and the SS Klondike along with the Beringia exhibit in one price, I think it will be of enormous benefit to other Yukon communities - Whitehorse in general, and other businesses in Whitehorse.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre
Mr. McDonald: I would invite the Minister to return to the Blues of yesterday, when the Minister was asked about the O&M costs of the Beringia Centre. The Minister responded by saying that it was going to make a profit, so he was implying that the centre itself was going to be generating all the revenue it needed through gate sales - and he referred to admission prices - and would not need any subsidy from government. Can the Minister explain why the target is shifting so quickly here? Is it just simply that he misled the House yesterday and he does not want to admit it?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No. One of the things that we talked about when we announced this project in the first place was that we needed attractions in Whitehorse to keep people here longer. One of the things we also talked about was that if you keep people here an extra day or two - 30,000 people that may come to the Yukon and take the opportunity to see that - you have created an enormous amount of wealth and an enormous amount of spinoff in the Yukon community. I think that the profitability of Whitehorse as a whole will be greatly enhanced by a good attraction like the Beringia Centre.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister is squirming like all get out, because obviously the Minister has made a major error and has demonstrated that he has not done his homework. Yesterday, he said that the admission charged at the exhibit will allow the facility to pay for itself. That is what he said yesterday. Now he is saying that the general economic benefit that the museum will provide to the territory will allow it to pay for itself in the broadest sense of the word. Obviously the Minister has changed his tune. Why can he not admit that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Beringia Centre will pay for itself over time with the benefits that it will bring to the City of Whitehorse. There will be enormous benefits. If people stay an extra night, they will stay in hotels, they will eat meals, they will go to the MacBride Museum, they will go to the SS Klondike, they will go to the fish ladder, they will do other things, and they will go shopping in Whitehorse and will spend more money. The side opposite is just not supportive of the project and that is the bottom line.
Mr. McDonald: We are clearly not supportive of the way the Minister is approaching the project. The idea could be pulled off if there were a true financial commitment to this project, if there were thoughtful planning and if there were a commitment to ongoing research. Yes, we certainly could be supportive if the Minister made it plain.
Can the Minister tell us what he meant yesterday when he said: "Yes, we feel that when the Beringia exhibit is up and running that, in fact, the admission charged will allow it to pay for itself." Obviously, the Minister is capable of understanding that that is a different position than the one he took today. Can he explain the two statements?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would hope that once it is up and running and we have 30,000 or 40,000 people going through it annually and paying a fee, it certainly could cover the cost of the staff who are employed in the centre. Again, as I have said before, we cannot just take into account the fact that people are just going to spend money at the Beringia exhibit. The idea is to keep them here another day. If they stay another day, they will spend more money. The Members opposite cannot seem to understand that.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre
Mr. McDonald: Unfortunately, we understand that perfectly well. We understand that poorly conceived projects - projects for which there has been no homework done; projects for which there has been no consultation with the community that knows what the subject is about - could end up costing us a lot. The idea that good attractions could attract tourists is a concept that is probably quite valid, but what the Minister is proposing needs a lot of work done on it in order to bring it to a reality.
Can the Minister tell us this: what are the O&M costs projected to be for the facility?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The O&M costs are yet to be worked out. The announcement was made about the project. We are anticipating a capital cost for the size of the building and the cost for some exhibits. We are in the very preliminary stages. That is what we announced earlier. The money is in the budget this year. We would be accused by the side opposite if we had done a whole bunch of planning before and used other money and had not come to the House and asked for the blessing of the House for the funds. There is money in this budget to begin the planning for the Beringia project, and there will be ongoing money in the budget for the next three years for it.
Mr. McDonald: I would remind the Minister that he has already given a ballpark figure for the capital cost, with no planning or consultation. Does he not believe it is irresponsible to commit this territory to a particular facility with a particular capital cost with no idea - not even a ballpark notion - of what the operating costs will be?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think we should cast our minds back to the ballpark figure we were given by the side opposite for the now existing visitor reception centre up the hill. I think it started out at a ballpark figure of $1.5 million.
It is okay for them to announce a project, but when we announce planning for a project that has some merit, they say it is wrong. It was okay for them to do it, but it is wrong for us to do it.
Mr. McDonald: This is a serious question. The Minister has already made the assumption that the admission price alone will pay for the operating costs of this facility. He has already given us the ticket price, between $3 and $8. He has already told us what the capital cost is going to be: $3.3. million - not $3 million, but $3.3 million.
They have obviously focused their planning to that extent. Yet, when it comes time to say what the ballpark figure for the operating costs of this facility is, or even the cost associated with providing the exhibits - which is another large cost that is not -
Speaker: Order. This is a supplementary question.
Mr. McDonald: Why can the Minister not give us a ballpark figure for the operating costs?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is an announcement, as have been made by previous governments, of a project that is just in the initial stages of planning. There is not even going to be any ground turned until probably the fall of 1996 or early in 1997. We are in a very preliminary stage of the overall planning and design of the project.
We will be consulting with various people on the project. We are going to utilize an existing $3.5 million building that we cannot use for anything else. We are trying to utilize an existing building, and we will be saving a few dollars that way. We will also be entering into the preliminary planning stages in the next few weeks.
It is very preliminary, and I am trying to get that across to the Member.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre
Mr. McDonald: The Minister clearly, again, has done no homework and has no sense of direction for this particular facility. Typically, like the other visionary projects they have conceived for this Legislature - such as the casino, from which they are now backing away, the Division Mountain coal project for which they have done no planning, the railroad to Carmacks, which they have abandoned, a pipeline from Watson Lake to Whitehorse is another concept they have abandoned - there has been no planning for this project, nothing other than the cruel dangling of jobs and economic opportunities before the public. That is the only thing they had when they announced this particular project.
I would like to ask the Minister about this particular facility. It depends on first-class research being done in the field. Who is going to be doing the research? Who is going to be out there collecting specimens and bringing them in?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We will have palaeontologists and other people involved in the project. I have to remind the Member opposite - when they first announced the Yukon Arts Centre and when they first announced the visitor reception centre, prior to anything being tabled in the budget, before it was even built and they were just doing conceptual plans, they did not announce the O&M costs of the facilities at that time.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister has it wrong. I checked the Arts Centre knowing that
this Minister is more interested in criticizing the previous government than in defending
his own projects, his own multi-million dollar projects. When the Arts Centre was
announced, the operating costs were announced, along with the capital costs associated
with that project. The Minister has to check his facts once again.
I asked the Minister, given that the people who are currently doing the archaeological work in the Yukon - numbered, in terms of the government's complement, as being one or two, depending on the year or the day - and most of the work in the field itself is being done by road builders and placer miners - what can the Minister tell us will happen to ensure that we will be getting sound, world-class specimens, a world-class product, into a facility such as this?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We have met with the Chamber of Mines and discussed this with
them, and have a preliminary indication that they are more than willing to work with us.
We even have indications that they are more than willing to work on specific exhibits in
the particular building. I can tell the Member opposite that in the last couple of years
we have received outstanding cooperation from placer miners, who are the people who come
across these things more than anyone else, and I am hoping that that will continue and be
enhanced in the future with this facility. In fact, it will give them an opportunity to
become very much involved in such a facility.
Mr. McDonald: Is the Minister honestly offering up the notion that, despite the fact that miners have probably been very good about providing specimens to the government, the miners, who are in the business of mining, will be the field workers and the experts who will be providing this so-called world-class facility, with a world-class exhibit, with the material that it actually takes to draw the visitors to the Yukon to see this facility?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not saying that. I am saying that they will be working with us as partners and helping us because they come across many of the specimens. We have archaeologists on staff who are palaeontologists. We have staff who will be working closely with them in the future, and that is how we will work this out. The side opposite criticized us greatly, in the last year or so, about cutting back in the archaeology program. Now we are showing a much stronger focus on this program, and they are still criticizing us. Now they are saying that possibly we should not be doing this. I cannot figure out where they are coming from.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre
Mr. McDonald: The commitment the government is showing for this whole field is, in fact, a complete mirage. All the Minister has got on his plate is a building. They have indicated they want to vacate, at all cost, the visitor reception centre. That is what this is all about, is it not? It is simply to leave the visitor reception centre and do something else with it.
When it comes to actually ensuring that there are people in the field doing the work, this government's commitment to the archaeology program has been suspect. They have not even brought in the Heritage Act, which was supposed to protect artifacts. The government's commitment to this whole field is suspect. What can the Minister do to reassure us that they are prepared to make the kind of investment, such as worked for the Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, to ensure us that there is the proper research and archaeology work being done?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We should look at who has done what for heritage in this territory. The previous government postponed the historic resources centre, forgot all about it, and decided it was not necessary. The previous government passed the Historic Resources Act and then could not get it a block down the street to get it signed. We are going to be amending that act and bring it again to the House to get it passed. We have a $9 million centennial anniversaries program that will deal mainly with heritage, we have the anniversaries enhancement program in marketing and tourism - the previous government would not bother marketing the 1992 celebration until the last minute. We have been doing this for years. We are doing a great deal for the heritage of the Yukon Territory - far more than the previous government ever did.
Mr. McDonald: What complete nonsense. The Ministers have had the Heritage Act on their plate for two years and they have made it very clear that they want to gut it - they want to break the backbone of that act. The Minister announces that they have an anniversaries enhancement program, as if that has anything to do with the archeological program. As proof of their commitment to archeological support for the Beringia Centre, what can the Minister do to prove to us that they have any commitment to this program, given that they have laid off one archeologist, they depend on the Chamber of Mines and their good works, but limited works, and non-trained personnel now to do the archeological work. What can he show as any kind of commitment, whatsoever, to this particular facility on which he wants to invest millions and millions of dollars ?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: First of all, the Members opposite are not very well informed, because the archeologist who was laid off last summer is back on staff and has been working for the government for several months now. He was brought back because we are working on this project and other projects. As well, we are looking into hiring a paleontologist when the new building is up and running. We are going to be working with First Nations. We are going to have a historic resources centre, which is going to be connected to the Beringia Centre. It will be an opportunity for us to work with First Nations and others to restore, preserve and protect our artifacts for the future. We are doing a lot for archeology and the history of the Yukon territory. We recently moved in up in the -
Speaker: Order. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We recently moved in on the Alaska Highway and protected an area in which we discovered an old camp. They are going to preserve that camp and do some work up there in the future.
Question re: Centennial anniversaries program
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism in regard to the centennial anniversaries program. This is the $9.5 million grant program that the government announced early last year. I would like to ask the Minister why the deadline for applications was extended from January 16 to February 7.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The deadline was changed at the request of several of the communities that are putting together proposals for projects.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us how many applications have been received, and for how much money?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not believe that we have actually received a complete application at this point.
The departments - both Tourism and Economic Development - have been dealing with several of the communities, helping them to put together projects. However, I do not believe we have received an application yet.
Mrs. Firth: Is the Minister of Economic Development saying that the government has not received any applications? We read an article about a planetarium in Watson Lake. Have they not yet applied for grant money under this program? Have there been no applications at all received?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I could be wrong, but I believe there have been no applications received at this time. There has been a lot of discussions between the department and various communities. The application for the planetarium in Watson Lake has not yet reached the department.
Question re: Centennial anniversaries program
Mrs. Firth: It is interesting that this government has $9.5 million to give away, and no one wants it.
I have a follow-up question to this issue, and I would like to direct it to the Minister of Tourism. My question straddles this question and the Beringia Centre issue, particularly with respect to the partnership he speaks about with the Chamber of Mines.
I would like to ask the Minister if there is an organization that refers to itself as the Beringia non-profit organization? Is there such an organization being developed through, for instance, the Chamber of Mines or the Yukon Science Institute?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, not that I know of. When the Beringia Centre opens, it could possibly happen. I know there is a group that has formed an association to get a train going in the territory, and people are interested in different aspects of our history, so it is quite conceivable that a "friends of Beringia" or a "Beringia Interpretive Centre association", or something, could form, but I do not know of one that is planned at the present time.
Mrs. Firth: Has the Minister had any discussion with any organization, such as the Chamber of Commerce, with respect to such an organization?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have spoken to the executive director of the chamber, and I think it came up in the discussions. I think that the same answer came up that there certainly could be an association formed by anyone who felt that it would be useful. I do not know if the chamber or anyone else is forming one at the present time.
Mrs. Firth: I find it interesting that the Minister is engaging in that kind of discussion with the chamber, with respect to a special organization being formed to support his Beringia project. I would like to ask the Minister this: should such an organization be formed, would it then be eligible to come to the government for support for the government's Beringia project and access the $9.5 million of grant money that is to be given away?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is a bit of a hypothetical question. I do not know of any association that is being formed. As to the question of whether such an association would be eligible, the criteria is that the project has to have broad-based community support. If the City of Whitehorse and everyone involved decides to support the Beringia Centre and they want to get involved in it - I do not know. I guess that it would have to meet the criteria of the program. I would suggest that it would have to meet the criteria.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, audit of contract with Yukon Electrical
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Government Leader about the audit being done on the Yukon Energy Corporation contract with Yukon Electrical. At the beginning of the month, the President of the Yukon Energy Corporation told the public that there was an audit being done by the Auditor General on the management contract between Yukon Electrical Company Limited and Yukon Energy Corporation. I asked the Government Leader if he would table the terms of reference. He said he did not know whether they were available and that he would check with the Yukon Energy Corporation to see whether he could make them public. Has he had a chance to get those terms of reference, and is he in a position to table them?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I have not got the terms of reference. My understanding is that this was something that was done by the board. I am not certain that they should be tabled in the Legislature. There is supposed to be an arm's-length distance between the corporation and the government. The decision of whether or not to table the audit report will have to be made by the board.
Mr. Cable: Keeping in mind the arm's-length relationship that the Minister wants to keep with the corporation, is he prepared to make representations to the board that when the report is completed it will be made public so that we can see what our public corporation is doing vis-à-vis the private corporation that is managing its affairs?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That will be brought to the board's attention. I do want to say that that it is properly the board's decision and not the government's decision. This audit is an internal audit of how the operation is being carried out. It is entirely up to the board whether they want to make that public or not.
Mr. Cable: This is an operational audit by the Auditor General of Canada to tell us whether our public corporation is being run efficiently. It was suggested by the president that the board would make a decision after they received the report, which suggests to me that the decision will revolve around the substance of the report.
Let me ask the Minister this question: in view of the reluctance to bring this forward, and in view of the fact that the Minister indicated in the Speech from the Throne that he was going to be introducing access-to-information legislation, will he assure this House that the legislation that provides for public access to public goings-on will include the right of the public to get into the affairs of our public corporation, the Yukon Energy Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member is quite right. There will be an
access-to-information bill tabled in the House this session, and we can debate those
issues when that bill is tabled. Other than that, for the Member for Riverside who is
asking the questions now, I believe there was talk around town that he resigned as the
president of that corporation because of political interference, and I hope he is not
suggesting now that there should be more political interference.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Speaker: Opposition Private Members' Business - Motions other than Government Motions.
Motion No. 37
Clerk: Motion No. 37, standing in the name of Mr. Cable.
Speaker: It is moved by the Hon. Member for Riverside
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the encouragement of the expansion of
legalized gambling by the government does not serve to improve Yukoners' quality of life.
Mr. Cable: This is an issue that, despite the suggestion from the other side of the House yesterday, is very much in the public's mind and I would invite us all here today to run the tape back to the summer of 1993 when Curragh was down and the business people in Whitehorse and throughout the territory, and the consumers in the territory were running scared about the state of the economy. The people of the Yukon and the government were watching the economic indicators with apprehension.
Then we had the gambling hustlers and promoters come to town. They arrived on the scene with salvation - gambling. There was going to be job creation. We would milk the tourists and there would be virtually no downside that could not be easily handled.
I was given a copy of some promotional literature on Winnipeg's Crystal Casino, from
which I would like to read some excerpts.
You can practically hear the violins and the soft voices in the background as the promoters are trying to bait the hook; "Amid the Crystal Casino's quiet elegance and grandeur, customers are entertained by an array of fascinating table games and colourful slot machines. The Crystal Casino, the first of its kind in Canada, opened its doors to the public on December 29, 1989. Based on European design, the casino is both classically continental and uniquely Canadian in concept." It then goes on to say that approximately 25 percent of the players are visitors from outside of Winnipeg.
When we go through the presentation, we find the hook. "Enriching the lives of Manitobans" is the title. It says that "Manitoba's gaming revenue continues to support a wide range of non-profit community organizations, including the arts." Here is the hook for a government that does not want to tax, but is quite happy to have regressive, indirect taxation, focused mainly on the poor. It can be done through gambling.
A little while later, I received, through the mail - I do not know why I was on the mailing list - this colourful brochure, "Winning in the Canadian Casino Industry". We even have conferences on casino gambling - "A leading edge conference for everyone who has a stake in the Canadian casino industry". There are a number of bullet points that are marked using the four suits in a deck of cards. Next to the spade, we have, "discover the amount of direct and indirect revenue a casino can be expected to generate for provinces and municipalities". The spade card is put in front of the government to bite on.
Here is what we have next to hearts, "Learn how to build support for the casino within the community through public information and consultation programs." Next to clubs, we have, "Understand the types of pressures a casino can put on a community and learn how to lessen their impact." Next to diamonds we have, "Evaluate strategies for linking casinos with tourism and explore the latest trends in casino marketing." We have a bunch of consultants devoted to the cause of the manipulation of public officials.
We had some quotes in the media from one of the main promoters who came up here. This was on August 12, 1993, in a 7:30 a.m. CBC Radio news report. The promoter said, "I got thinking about the Yukon, specifically. I thought, boy, what an opportunity for the people of the Yukon to get involved in a gaming industry and its economic growth, economic opportunity and job creation." A bit later on, "Ryan says, 'Gambling profits can be divided in various ways between government and operators. It works out to be pretty lucrative for everyone involved'" - except perhaps the players. "Ryan admits that there are social concerns surrounding gambling. The only one he is worried about is gambling addiction. He says that the studies he has been shown show that very few people ever get hooked. For those that do, Thunderbird is prepared to run a counselling program free of charge."
There was a gentleman quoted in the newspaper as saying, "Only three to four percent of the population will have gambling problems." On the balance sheet of life, we can sort of flick our fingers and wipe them off.
What was the reaction to all this promotion and activity? We have this reaction from Peter Jenkins, who was the Mayor of Dawson at that time. He asked, "Are you aware of anyone outside of the B.C. and Yukon Hotel Association that supports this, except for the fox that is designing the chicken coop - this ex-RCMP officer that is selling these things?"
"Every response we have had so far has been negative." This is quoting another gentleman, Mr. Kobayashi. "Nobody wanted the things except three or four people. Why are we going to the expense of a public consultation?" Mr. Kobayashi was reined in a little bit on that, because he sat on the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment - unfortunately, he was reined in.
The Bishop of the Anglican Church of the Yukon wrote a letter to the newspaper and was quoted in the electronic news media, "It is well known that many of the social benefits given by taxpayers for children end up in the hands of the alcohol industry."
Here is what the Chief from Dawson says: "The Dawson First Nation has made an adamant stand against the addition and installation of further gambling facilities/establishments opportunities in the Yukon. Experience in Dawson has shown that aboriginal people are especially susceptible to the lures of gambling and, unfortunately, aboriginal people can least affort it."
There are other quotes from other respected First Nations people who are worried about the effects of gambling on their people.
We have a quote from the Klondike Visitors Association. Giovanni Castellarin is the chair of the association's board. He says, "The territory is too small for that. Gambling is not necessarily a money maker." For instance, he says, "Diamond Tooth Gertie's was losing for the past few years until it introduced slot machines." Castellarin also says that any new gambling opportunities should be set up so they attract outsiders rather than taking money from Yukoners.
The Whitehorse City Council that was in place in January, 1994, is quoted in a news article. "Whitehorse City Council is opposing legalized gambling throughout the territory and is suggesting that a plebiscite in conjunction with this fall's municipal election may be appropriate to maximize public input." There is a quote from Councillor Doug Gallup. "I suggest city administration start preparing for a plebiscite, and let's get a hold of this before it gets out of hand. I think that is about as low as anybody can go, to put in a back-door tax and call it gambling." Unfortunately, the councillor later recanted.
What was the government's reaction? In a CHON-FM report on Wednesday, August 4, 1993, on the 12:30 news, a spokesperson for Yukon territorial government said: "YTG is checking into how big a slice of the pie other governments are taking." The spokesman goes on to say, "The Alberta government takes 90 percent of the profits from gaming, while other governments take closer to 40 percent." He says, "If Yukoners are in favour of opening up gambling in the territory, the government will take a look at how much the machines cost before deciding how much profit to take." The sugarplums are dancing in the government's head.
On the CBC news at 7:30, Monday, August 2, 1993, the Government Leader says, "Personally, I think it would be a real plus for the Yukon, especially in the summertime and somewhat in the wintertime. We are close to Alaska here, and Alaska does not have legalized gambling yet, so until such time as they do, I'm sure that we will have some draw from there."
What has happened is that the gambling promoters blew into town - and I do not say this on a very critical note; it is more by way of bemusement - and the government dog turns over on its back, puts its legs up in the air and wags its tail and waits to get tickled. That is exactly what happened. There were possibilities of jobs at a time when we had economic problems. The word of a few gambling promoters starting a whole chain of reactions.
The government eventually turned the proposition over to the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. In the context of an economic conference, a letter was addressed to Mr. Preston, who was still the chair of the council, in which it stated, "One topic that has been raised recently in terms of tourism and recreational potential has been that of casino licensing and the permitting of lottery display terminals - VLTs. This is an area that has a potential effect on both the Yukon economy and the Yukon social environment." - that is 100 percent correct - "For this reason, the government is interested in facilitating discussion on the issue of casinos and gambling, and hearing the views of all Yukoners."
Some time later, we find that this very serious social issue is funded to the extent of just a few thousand dollars. The Member for Whitehorse Centre obtained a legislative return that indicated that just a few thousand dollars was allocated to the Council on the Economy and the Environment to do a study of the social costs associated with increased gambling, and presumably, a study of the economic benefits.
Over the course of time, the council held a number of hearings, and eventually reported back to the government. In its report, there is a recapitulation of many of the submissions, and there is also an encapsulation of what the submissions said, in general terms. I will read from page 10 of the report, which is dated July 8, 1994. The report says, "By June 30, 1994, the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment had received 59 written submissions. Of those, 52 submissions expressed an opinion on the introduction of VLTs and the expansion of casino gambling, and seven organizations or individuals either provided information, did not have an opinion, or did not reach a consensus. On the matter of video lottery terminals, 46, or 88 percent, of the 52 respondents oppose the introduction of VLTs in the Yukon, four respondents, or eight percent, favoured allowing the VLTs, and two respondents, or eight percent, did not state an opinion." When we get to the issue of expanded gambling, the report says, "When the issue of expanded casino gambling was addressed, 38 respondents, or 73 percent, indicated their opposition, 12 respondents, or 23 percent, supported the expansion of casino gambling in the Yukon, and two respondents, or four percent, did not address the issue of expanded casino gambling."
Thirty-six Yukoners, according to this report, provided oral presentations to the council. Of those, 27 submissions, or 75 percent, oppose VLTs, and nine, or 25 percent, favour the introduction of VLTs.
On the matter of expanding casino gambling, 22 submissions, or 61 percent, opposed, and 13, or 36 percent, approved. It went on to say, and perhaps not surprisingly, "The expression of Yukoners' views on the matter cannot fully be captured by a simple head count, as described above. Although the numbers provided are a rough measure of public opinion, the assessment of explanations given by those who oppose or support expanded gambling comprise an essential component of the council's work."
There is a fairly exhaustive rundown of the gist of the submissions and where people were coming from. They went on to say, on page 18 of the report, "Of the broad range of opinions, most fall into one of three categories. Some Yukoners morally oppose all gaming and oppose government's authorization for it to continue. Others, at the opposite end of the opinion spectrum, express the view that people should be free to gamble in whatever manner they choose, free of any government regulation. The operation of a gambling enterprise should be considered a normal business activity, without any special regulatory requirements. The vast majority of the public opinion lies between those two views.''
I think what is most significant to me are the conclusions. The most significant conclusion is, "On the issue of expanded casino gambling, the Yukon Council on the Environment and the Economy was unable to reach a consensus on the expansion of casino gambling in the Yukon." This is the organization charged with analyzing the subject, going out to the public and getting opinions. They could not reach a consensus.
At about that time, or perhaps prior to the time of the study by the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, the government had done an internal report, entitled "Video Lottery Terminal Subcommittee Report, Executive Summary". It was done primarily in the context of video lottery terminals, but I think many of the comments found in that report apply to all forms of gambling sanctioned or promoted by government.
The report mentions that gambling tax revenues are inefficient. This is supported by other literature I have read. A large amount of the money escapes because of the administration required.
The report, at pages 9 and 10, goes on at some length about the problems created by gambling. One of the comments I found useful, at page 8, although primarily in the context of video lottery terminals, is where it says - under the heading, "Treatment and Social Services" - "All jurisdictions have identified a clear requirement for increased treatment services in social assistance, substance abuse and problem gambling. Because health and social services and other non-government treatment options are already over-extended, any increased demand for services will require an increase in funding."
A little later on, the report continues, "Although all jurisdictions recognize the negative social impacts of problem gambling, jurisdictions generally indicate a very low spending on treatment, as dollars are allocated to other priorities."
If one goes through this whole report, I think one could best describe the report as ambivalent at best.
Page 12: "The effect of video lottery terminals and problem gambling is greater on
low income groups, a group already accessing significant social services. Social services
are provided to assist people to achieve an acceptable standard of living or lifestyle
with maximum independence. By increasing the access to gambling and adding another
potential problem, the same group will require more social services."
There have been many more statements that, I think, express a certain degree of apprehension about what the government was thinking. There were many newspaper clippings of the public discussion. I think it was clear that, at best, the Yukon public was ambivalent.
Two main facets of the debate are attributed to gambling addiction. One is the social costs and the other side is the economic benefits that are perceived to come to communities that expand what are called "gambling opportunities".
During the first day of the session - December 5, 1994 - I asked a few questions of the Ministers concerned. I asked the Minister of Tourism about the visitor exit survey, and about whether or not people would come to the Yukon because of the attraction of gambling. He said, "Offhand, I cannot recall if there were specific gambling questions. As to whether or not there was a question on gambling in that survey, I would have to check and get back to the Member."
I asked the Minister of Health and Social Services about the other side of gambling - if a social-costs analyses had been done. He said that they had reviewed, at length, the literature available on the issue from right across Canada. The response was, "The numbers and kinds of projections of increased needs on the social end would depend very largely on the kind of casino that would be opened - whether it is seasonal, how large it is, and so on. So it is premature to make final projections until we have gone beyond the in-principle stage."
I would suggest that getting beyond the in-principle stage was done primarily by the
seat of the government's pants. There was no in-depth analysis done on either side of the
issue at all.
I have asked the fellow who does research for the Liberal caucus to analyze what kind of society we have in the Yukon, according to some indicators. I asked him to look at the crime, divorce, alcohol and drug statistics to see what kind of society we want to improve here and what kind of quality of life we have here. This was one of the government's major thrusts in its Speech from the Throne. It wanted to improve the quality of life.
If you will bear with me, I have statistics - they are not terribly exciting - but I would like to recite them, because they do act as a backdrop. The national statistics on alcohol consumption indicate that 77 percent of Yukoners consume alcohol. That is marginally less than the national average of 78 percent for Canada. However, Yukoners have the highest per capita consumption of alcohol at 15.1 litres annually. This would appear to show that, while the number of Yukon drinkers is not out of line with other jurisdictions, the volumes consumed on a per capita basis are much greater. This comes out of the Yukon alcohol and drug survey of 1991.
It is easy to pooh-pooh these statistics and say that it is due to the tourists who come here and go on drinking binges. That does not reflect, however, on what we can see around our town in Whitehorse. The anecdotal experience would not indicate that it is the tourists who are driving the alcohol statistics.
Alcohol consumption is seen as one factor in the problems with the health of the family, the community, and the people of Yukon. Addictive substances in Yukoners' lifestyles including cigarette smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are strongly related to the disease and death of Yukoners. This comes out of the Yukon health survey of 1992.
For those of you who have not seen it, as the debate warmed up on the gambling issue, the Windsor police service coincidentally had prepared a report on the impact of what they saw as casino gambling in Windsor. It was entitled "The Impact of Casino Gambling on the Windsor Police Service" and dated January 1993. It was prepared in anticipation of the opening of the gambling casino in Windsor.
There are a number of interesting quotes in this police report. On page 11, it says that additional strains will be put on the health system with the introduction of casino gambling through "domestic violence and suicide".
If we look at the 1995-96 operation and maintenance budget, there is $2 million budgeted by the Department of Health and Social Services - if I have used my calculator correctly - to combat alcohol and drug-related problems this year.
Another indicator of the quality of society is the divorce rate. For the decade between 1982 and 1991, the Yukon has consistently exceeded the national average for the rate of divorce per 100,000 population.
A person by the name of Tiborg Barcconi, who was quoted in a magazine I periodically receive, is the executive director of the Canadian Foundation on Compulsive Gambling. He states, "A certain number of people are always susceptible but won't be affected if not exposed to gambling. Introduce them to gambling, and more of them become compulsive gamblers."
The Windsor police report contains a quote from the Winnipeg police: "Officers have indicated that the casino has created situations for people to become addicted to gambling and has thereby initiated the need for counselling programs to be set up. Related to this has been the increased domestic disputes and personal bankruptcies." This is found on page 6 of the report, and refers to the Winnipeg casino.
The Yukon crime rate for Criminal Code offences only, per 100,000 population, is second only to the Northwest Territory. These are 1992 crime statistics. We all know the number of crimes committed under the influence of alcohol is extremely high.
There is substantial evidence that crime exists in communities where casino gambling exists. The Windsor police report on gambling cites two reasons for this predictable increase in crime. First, "The casino patrons themselves will commit crimes because of the largely transient nature of most patrons whereby they will be coming to gamble and drink, as opposed to coming for family-type activities." The second reason is, "The huge increase in daily visitors to the small city will represent new targets and opportunities to existing street criminals." That is the background in our community and the background of some comments from other communities.
Some time ago, I was driving home after a busy day in the Legislature. I turned on the CBC and listened to an interesting program. It was about the effect of the gambling casino on Windsor. The person who was being interviewed was talking about the fact that the high-paying, assembly-line jobs had been replaced by low-paying gambling-type jobs. What had happened was that people were afraid to spend because their future was so unpredictable. The quality of the city, while there may have been an initial flush of money into Windsor, was being changed. People were afraid to buy houses. When the motor car industry was at its height, the people who worked on the assembly line had money to buy houses. Now that they were being paid at a few dollars an hour, they had no money, and they certainly were not prepared to take any chances with it.
There was an interesting quote from a magazine that I obtained that backs this up. It
says, "As well-paying industrial jobs have begun to dry up in America, the children
of blue-collar workers are finding gambling tables the 90s equivalent of the assembly
lines." David Johnston of the Atlantic City Experience writes in the book Temples
of Chance - how America Inc. bought out Murder Inc. to win control of the casino
business. Casino jobs mean less money, often less than half what their parents made, with
fewer benefits, little individual job security and no sense that their labour is building
anything tangible or enduring."
There was a quote from another person in this article. She adds that a social impact assessment should be as important as the environmental assessments that many governments currently require for development projects.
I received an interesting memorandum on the gambling issue, with a suggestion that trying to argue the issue on the moral basis is a fruitless effort. One should not attempt that because everyone has their own moral background and standards. It was a very incisive article on the economic development versus social costs, and it goes over the case for gambling as an economic development. It reads, "Gambling creates desperately needed jobs" - very much a window on life in the Yukon in the summer of 1993. "The people who get these jobs will see their self respect rise, and that will benefit their families. The burden on taxpayers of social expenditures for welfare will be reduced. The local tourism industry will gain new customers. Gambling will provide much larger tax revenues than would other forms of business activity. This will allow governments to invest funds in local infrastructure, such as roads, schools, recreational facilities and so on. The casino business will stimulate capital accumulation that can be invested in other businesses creating a self-generating economic independence for the community."
It then presents the case against gambling as economic development. It reads, "Casinos or any other type of gambling are a financially unsound and wasteful means of raising revenue for public or private purposes. In the high-tech area, the 'product' created by the casinos and other forms of gambling relies on machinery rather than on the creativity and inventiveness of the employees. The investment in the community does nothing to mobilize people's productive and creative potential, or to help the employees learn skills for more sophisticated jobs down the road. Gambling is a regressive form of taxation that is unrelated to income or property. The money is drawn disproportionately from low-income people. Indeed, governments that rely on lotteries and casinos to make up the budgets for their social service budgets can place those budgets at risk when revenues from gambling fluctuate."
The gambling product is high-priced, there are low pay-out ratios, and it is promoted by advertising that seldom makes clear how small the prizes actually are compared to what people pay for the activity.
In the summer of 1993, quite coincidentally, and as a lead-up to the visitors exit survey, the government asked a number of tourists why they came to the Yukon. Eventually there was a booklet produced on what the tourists said. It bears two dates, July 1993, which I guess would be the time when the information was collected, and February 1994. It has a number of sections. It is an interesting booklet. I think, to be fair, it certainly was not an exhaustive study of why people were coming here; it was simply the lead-up to the more exhaustive study, which took place last year.
It says that, when asked, "Why did you decide to visit the Yukon?'' tourists frequently mentioned these reasons - the first one is not very flattering: "We were on our way to Alaska''; second, "We wanted to see the north''; third, "We wanted to see wilderness''; fourth, "We wanted to go someplace off the beaten track''; fifth, "We wanted to visit a part of Canada"; and sixth, "We visited the Yukon because for us it was a less expensive place to visit than other cities''. That is an encapsulation of the various reasons, of which there are several pages: Alaska bound, northbound, wilderness attractions.
Another question was, "What did you expect the Yukon to be like?" I just skimmed through this. What is notable about the booklet is that there is not a sniff of gambling in it, unless I missed it. I am sure the Government Leader will correct me if there is a sniff of gambling in it. People are coming here for reasons other than to lose money to some gambling enterprise.
It will be interesting to see whether this is verified by the visitor exit survey, which has some questions specifically related to gambling and just how many people want to come to this territory to have their pockets relieved of some money down by the Yukon River.
One of the other side aspects to casino gambling is that there are other people in the gambling business, other people in the business of lifting money out of people's pockets, such as bingos and whatnot. The effect on those organizations, many of which are small charitable organizations, would be very considerable if there were to be a full-fledged gambling casino in this city.
There was an interesting article in the Winnipeg Free Press on June 19, 1993, discussing VLTs. The article says, "At the same time, Churchill's Royal Canadian Legion has pulled out of its school milk program for the Duke of Marlborough elementary school. Legion president, Sharon Stinson, said VLTs had cut the organization's bingo and Nevada ticket sales by more than 40 percent. The $7,000 that provided half a pint of milk per day to 125 kids from ages five to 11 had to be axed.
" 'I feel badly for the children in our school but I understand the Legion's position', said principal Terry Stover." They are losing out on a valuable program because community service groups no longer have the money to pay out to valuable community causes.
"Moreover, Winnipeg's Festival du Voyageur believes it has become yet another
major social organization hurt by the VLTs. The festival will have to raise admission
prices and cut two staff to term positions following a $70,000 loss in bingo and Nevada
ticket revenues it blames on VLTs. As a result, the festival joins Assinaboia Bound, many
other community services and legions feeling the pinch from gambling competition."
There were quotes, I believe, from the KVA at the time that this issue began to unfold. They were concerned about the siphoning off of gambling revenues from their casino. Whether or not one feels that is logically consistent with opposition to the gambling casinos is another issue; however, it certainly indicates that bringing increased gambling into the Yukon will have an effect on a whole variety of people.
It will have an effect on the merchants in a town where a gambling casino is located. We cannot exclude locals from gambling in the casino. The idea that this is simply going to be tourist oriented, as it is called, is silly. Naturally the locals are going to gamble. When the locals spend money in gambling casinos, they do not spend money on their families or with the merchants. For that matter, neither would the tourists. When they come to town and are gambling, the money only goes into the gambling promoters' pockets. It means that the tourists are not buying the stuff that we attempt to sell them every summer. As a result, there are effects on a variety of people.
I have an interesting article that was provided to me by a member of a local travel business. It is from a magazine entitled Travel Holiday. It was quoted in the newspaper at one time. The article is entitled "Casino Craze". Its subtitle reads, "Suddenly, every troubled town in America is gambling on gambling as a magic bullet. If there was ever a sure bet, this isn't it." This, of course, could apply to Canada, as well.
The article states, in part, "That is the new American equation. Gambling fever is sweeping the country so fast that it is hard to remember when casinos, second only to lotteries as revenue sources, were confined mainly to Atlantic City and Las Vegas. By now, only two states, Hawaii and Utah, still ban all commercial gambling."
It goes on to say, a few paragraphs later, "The premise behind all this is that
legal gambling is a godsend to depressed areas desperate for tax revenues and tourist
dollars. The tax part is correct, at first. In Mississippi, for example, the hard-pressed
coastal town of Biloxi grossed $245 million in 1993." - hat is the same as what is
going on in Windsor - "However, success breeds envy. Nearby towns soon compete for
gamblers, siphoning off business. Moreover, the benefits of gambling to tourism are
dubious indeed, and we may see that happening to Windsor with the Detroit
I have an excerpt here on the Hawaii experience and a quote from the governor of Hawaii, "While nearly every other state yearns for a piece of the casino action, Hawaii holds out, along with Utah, in banning all forms of commercialized gambling, including lotteries. And why? In a recent interview, which is excerpted below, Hawaii's governor, John Waihee, explained that he is adamantly opposed to gambling, strictly for business reasons: 'We developed a travel industry that emphasizes life beyond hotels. Visitors here do not stay at the resorts. They get out and around, seeing the rest of the state and spending as they go. So, their economic impact is broader than if they stayed put - much broader than if we had a gambling industry. The whole idea behind the casino business is to keep the bettor transfixed, spending and spending in one place. Hotel rooms and shops become supplements to that end. Keeping people inside casinos, if we had gaming in Hawaii, would seriously undercut our tourist industry, rather than support it.'" That is one person's view.
Here is an article from the Toronto Star of March 20, 1993, by a columnist by the name of Thomas Walkom. It is entitled "Gambling on Casinos: A Sign of Desperation". "When a government encourages its citizens to gamble in order to produce revenue for its treasury, it is admitting defeat. It is saying that society is no longer able, in an open and democratic way, to tax itself for the services it wants. It is conceding that government has lost the moral authority to convince taxpayers that if they want public goods, such as roads and health care, they must be willing to pay for them."
There is an interesting article in one of the local newspapers by Mr. Don Sawatsky, with whom I am sure the Government Leader is familiar. He says, "The idea of introducing legalized gambling is spreading like a bad 'flu in Canada, and the Yukon Territory is no exception. History tells us this phenomenon is typical in bad economic times. It also tells us we still do not learn from history." He then goes on to talk about what is going on the gambling industry and says, "It has precious little to do with enhancing Canadian lifestyles."
At the end, he makes the admission that he likes the odd poker game but that, "all that aside, let's just remember the player is the one to lose and the government is guaranteed to gain."
There is a columnist who writes in the Globe and Mail on Saturday, by the name of Lysiane Gagnon. She has published a couple of columns on the experience in Montreal. In the column of May 14, 1994, she says, "There's a lot to say about the moral, social and cultural dangers of promoting an industry based on pure greed in the name of economic development." This is a fairly significant comment, and I suggest this to the Government Leader for consideration.
One might also point out that great cities - Paris, London, New York - do not have government-backed casinos, let alone downtown casinos. Lysiane Gagnon later says, "Let's look for now at the Montreal experience after six months of operation." The article has a number of points, and I will read out a few of them.
"A typical visitor to the casino is a low-income Montrealer. According to a January survey for Lotto Quebec, 85 percent of the visitors are from the Montreal area, 11 percent come from somewhere else in Quebec, two percent are from Ontario, and a mere two percent are from the U.S. The impact on the Montreal hotel industry has been marginal. In the last three months of 1993, the occupation rate went up by 2.9 percent over 1992, but part of that was due to the lower exchange rate of the Canadian dollar." I think this is important for us in Whitehorse, because I know the hoteliers have had some interest in the proposition.
If I could say anything with some certainty on this topic, it is that the people of the Yukon and elsewhere in Canada and North America are ambivalent about this form of economic development. Many of the so-called benefits and many of the social costs are undefined. Both sides of the equation are up in the air; the jury is still out. There is a crew that is into the something-for-nothing business, fleece the tourists and we will all be rich; there are some who are very much afraid of the increase in social costs and social problems that are endemic in our territory, and I have gone over some of the social costs.
One would have to say that the issue as to whether or not this is going to be a plus for Yukon society is very much in the air.
I would like to refresh the Government Leader's memory about the Speech from the Throne. One of the government priorities toward the year 2000 is "improving Yukon's quality of life by creating a healthy, vibrant community where there is hope for the future and a better life." If we bring that tape that we rolled back to the summer of 1993 up to date, we see that the economy has recovered and that people are much more positive.
I will leave the Government Leader with this question: in view of the fact that so much
of the gambling issue is up in the air, what is the rush? Why do we have to bring this in
now? Why can we not just leave this to sit for a few years until we find out about
experiences from areas across North America?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would like to thank the Member for Riverside for presenting this very timely motion today. It is a motion that most people would have difficulty not agreeding with in principle. I have some concerns with the wording of it, but I will speak to that a little later in my presentation.
The Member has made many valid points. I am not going to stand here, during my time in this debate, and try to discredit what the Member opposite has said. He has made very valid points. There are some I will remark on, which I think can be interpreted in other ways than did the Member opposite.
I would like to start by going back, for the benefit of the Legislature and the people in the gallery, to how and why this idea began.
Shortly after our taking office, I believe it would be in early 1993 when the first comments on gambling started to surface, we were approached by three different groups, but I could not today say in what particular order. One of the proposals made to the government was by the Yukon Lottery Commission. It submitted a proposal that we introduce video lottery terminals on a trial basis. The only problem with that proposal was that we were also told that we could not return the machines, so we were not too receptive to that at that point. What were we going to do with the machines if in fact the video lottery terminals were not acceptable to Yukoners.
At about the same time, the B.C.-Yukon Hotel Association had also been requesting the introduction of video lottery terminals in hotels throughout the Yukon. Also at the same time, there were, I believe, two First Nation organizations that approached us with their thoughts on expanded casino gambling.
Having had those representations made to us, and also knowing that the issue of expanded gambling, be it casinos or VLTs, was not going to go away by not addressing it, we knew it would just continue to keep surfacing. It would not go away.
As the Member for Riverside has said, this is an intense debate across Canada in every
jurisdiction. Governments of every political stripe have either introduced or are
introducing expanded gambling. Their reasons, I believe, are quite different from ours in
the Yukon, in that most of the areas - in fact, all of the areas - are running deficits.
They are taxing their citizens as much as they possibly can, and as the Member opposite
said, there is no more tax capacity left so they are looking for other vehicles to raise
No matter what the Member for Riverside or other Members of this Legislature believe, it was not the intent of this government to look at it as a way to increase revenues of the government through the back door. That is a good statement; that is what it is. It is taxation through the back door, there is no doubt about it. As I said, it is not an issue that will go away. It is an issue that we have to address, and we have to address it in a responsible manner. I believe that is what we are trying to do. We can see what is happening even in British Columbia. The government there said no to a Las Vegas-style casino on the waterfront in Vancouver City, yet, at the same time, they are having to deal with issues of Las Vegas-style casinos on First Nation lands. So, by simply not going ahead with the casino on the Vancouver waterfront, they have not resolved the problem. They are still going to have to deal with it.
Subsequent to the groups that came forward, other interested parties approached government and requested further information and investigation. As the Member for Riverside has quite rightly stated, some outside interests came forward as well, and they did have some big plans. We believed that more information should be gathered on gaming before we made a decision on any kind of proposal. We were concerned that if we did not deal with the issue that was facing us, we could be facing it in the future, especially in the Yukon, where, with the settlement of land claims, we are going to have two different governments that have different authorities but are contained within the same general geographic area. Whatever happens in those areas will still be available to all Yukoners. It is an issue that we felt we should deal with.
We had an interdepartmental committee, which was formed and directed to review and gather all relevant information from every jurisdiction in Canada. The Member for Riverside read some of that into the record today.
Further to that, in November 1993, I asked the Council on the Economy and the Environment to undertake a broad-based public consultation process to determine Yukoners' views on the desirability of introducing VLTs and expanded casino gambling.
The Member for Riverside, either intentionally or inadvertently, seemed to be criticizing us because he did not feel we spent enough money to do an extensive consultation.
I believe the Council on the Economy and the Environment did a fairly extensive consultation, and it did it in a fiscally responsible manner. I do not believe that the results of its report were compromised by the amount of money it spent. They used cost-efficient means to gather information. We made all the information that the interdepartmental committee gathered available to the YCEE. It published a report that gave us some direction and some idea of what Yukoners were thinking.
The Member opposite has gone through the letters that were submitted and the representations that were made to the council, and he has put them on the record. I would just like to add to that information, so that we get a full picture.
A lot of those organizations - including, I believe, the municipal government of the City of Whitehorse - qualified their submission by saying that their organization was divided on the issue. I believe that almost all of the submissions were like that. When questioned on different forms of expanded gambling, they had some very different opinions.
And as I have said, the council, I believe, did a good job. They placed ads in local newspapers, they announced the schedules of public meetings, they asked for written submissions, they asked for people to come to the meetings and give them their views. I believe they held fairly extensive consultation.
From that consultation it was quite clear that Yukoners did not want to see VLTs expand into hotels in the Yukon, nor a proliferation of VLTs in the Yukon. They were quite clear about that. And, the Member is also correct, they were unable to reach a consensus on the expansion of casino gambling. I believe that is because there are various different interest groups that sit on the Council of the Economy and the Environment. They choose to operate by consensus. Even though they do have the right to submit a majority-minority report, they did not do that in this instance. They just stated that they could not reach a consensus.
They did give us some recommendations, if we were to proceed, about how we should proceed and who should be involved. I think I have said, time and time again in this House, that since we stated that we agree with a tourist-oriented casino in principle, we are going to follow the recommendations of the Council on the Economy and the Environment, and consult with different groups and with more Yukoners. We said that. I have said that in this House several times this session.
The council's concerns were that we should be planning to minimize the adverse social consequences, while realizing enhanced economic development, job creation opportunities and revenue generation for community purposes. They have said that.
The council also noted that the success of gambling contributing to economic development rests, in part, with the ability to attract tourists, and should therefore be part of a larger tourism strategy.
I would just like to speak a little about that. The Member for Riverside quoted from one report on tourism that I do not think had anything to do with gambling. So, I do not know why he would be surprised that no one mentioned gambling in their replies to that survey, which was not a very concrete survey on which to base much.
Let me give you my views on tourists and gambling. Will tourists come to the Yukon specifically to gamble? No. I do not believe for one minute that anyone is going to plan a trip to the Yukon specifically to gamble. There are many better opportunities, if one were going on a gambling junket, as some people do. They would go to places like Las Vegas, Atlantic City, or maybe some of the casinos that have started up in eastern Canada. I do not think that the Yukon would attract people who are specifically looking to gamble.
Will tourists gamble when they are in the Yukon? Yes, I believe that they will. I believe that it is an activity that some people enjoy. They do not gamble in order to win lots of money. The majority of gamblers, even the ones who go to Las Vegas, participate because they enjoy recreational gambling. That is why they gamble; they are the big pool of people in between, which the Member for Riverside spoke about. There are those who are adamantly opposed and there are those who adamantly support it, but then there is a large pool of people in between. Quite a few of those people are what I would call recreational gamblers. We see it right here in the Yukon.
I have had the opportunity, in my capacity as Government Leader, to get to Dawson four or five times a year during the summer. I do not think I ever go into Gertie's and not find Whitehorse residents, who are in Dawson for the weekend, enjoying an evening out. Are they habitual gamblers? Are they addicted to gambling? No, I do not think so.
They enjoy the company of the people at the gaming tables or at the VLTs, whatever they are playing in Gertie's, and they do it as an evening out. I do not believe there is anything wrong with that. I believe what we are saying here, with the approach the Member for Riverside is suggesting the government should take, is that we should tell those people who enjoy an evening of recreational gambling in a casino, "No, you cannot have that". Yet, on the same hand, we are saying to those people who enjoy an evening of recreational bingo, "Yes, that is quite all right". What we are talking about here is choices, I believe - nothing else.
We believe Yukon First Nations should have equal involvement regarding policies,
legislation and regulations that will give effect to gambling activities. We also believe
that a portion of the revenues should be earmarked for different groups in the community
as well as First Nations. I received a letter from CYI yesterday. One of the things stated
in the letter is that they would look forward to working with the government if the
government decided to go ahead and put regulations in place, and to be full participants,
but they would also be looking for a share of the revenues.
They also stated that they would prefer - while they state quite clearly that they have the authority to put casinos on their own land - that if a casino were to go ahead, it be done in partnership. It would be preferable that we move forward as meaningful partners, rather than individually.
That goes back to the start of this issue. It was not to have a proliferation of casinos across the Yukon, but to have some control over casinos in the Yukon. Whether the casino proposition that we agreed to in principle goes ahead at this time or not - it may be turned down by the citizens of Yukon - the issue of expanded gambling will not go away. It will continue to surface.
The Member opposite said perhaps we should table it for three or four years. Perhaps that is what the people of the Yukon will say. It would not concern me that much if that were their desire, but I think that we have to explore this situation a little more than we have. By not exploring it now and not dealing with the issues that are facing us in a responsible manner, we are leaving the door open for greater problems in the future.
I just want to say that what we are talking about is not a huge expansion in gambling. We are, in fact, talking about one tourist-oriented casino in Whitehorse, if everybody agrees - that is what we are talking about. By doing that, I think that we could also get control over the whole gaming issue in the Yukon. It would open the door to giving us control. It would set some guidelines so that when the population expands and other groups approach government - and they will; just because we say no at this time, the problem is not going to die - we would have the nucleus of the policy we want to follow in the future already in place.
On August 2, 1994, we released the report that we received from the Council on the Economy and the Environment. As I said earlier, it concluded that VLTs should not be introduced in the territory at this time. While Cabinet had not yet made a decision on VLTs, we were inclined to agree with that conclusion, and subsequently made that decision.
I also indicated at that time that, concerning expanded gambling, we wanted a little more time to carefully consider the issues before making any final decision, because of social and economic factors. On December 1, 1994, in the Speech from the Throne, it was stated that in order to further enhance tourism, my government has agreed in principle with the construction of a tourist-oriented gambling casino in Whitehorse.
I want to elaborate a bit on that before proceeding further. I want to make a point that we said that our agreement was in principle, and I have said subsequently many times that we want to proceed very carefully and cautiously, and that we do not want to do anything in a hurry or without looking at all of the pros and cons. I think it is important that we do that.
I suppose it is hard not to support the motion in principle but, as I said earlier, I have some problems with the wording of the motion. I do not believe that the motion is in line with what the government has said that it intends or is trying to do.
I would like to entertain a friendly amendment to this motion. Let me say, quite
clearly, that this is a friendly amendment, and I will explain the rationale for it.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move
THAT Motion No. 37 be amended by deleting all the words after the word "gambling" and by adding the following: "may not serve to improve Yukoners' quality of life; and
THAT the Government of Yukon should work to control the proliferation of legalized gambling throughout the Yukon, and should consult further with Yukoners prior to permitting the expansion of any new casino development within its jurisdiction in the territory."
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader
THAT Motion No. 37 be amended by deleting all the words after the word "gambling" and by adding the following: "may not serve to improve Yukoners' quality of life; and
THAT the Government of Yukon should work to control the proliferation of legalized
gambling throughout the Yukon, and should consult further with Yukoners prior to
permitting the expansion of any new casino development within its jurisdiction in the
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, this is a friendly amendment and is more in line with how we portrayed the whole issue of gambling. I want to speak to the amendment a bit.
In the first part of the amendment, the motion that was put forward by the Member for Riverside read "does not serve to improve Yukoners' quality of life".
There are many things in the Yukon that do not serve to improve Yukoners' quality of life, but an expanded gambling casino may, in fact, improve some Yukoners' quality of life.
As I said, I believe the biggest majority of people who go to casinos do so for recreation. Therefore, the blanket statement that it does not serve to improve Yukoners' quality of life is, I believe, a little too broad.
Also, there may be jobs created in the casino that would add to some Yukoners' quality of life. There may be some businesses that will benefit from expanded gambling opportunity, and that would improve their quality of life.
There are a few areas that I can draw on as examples that are regulated by government and do not improve all Yukoners' quality of life. One of those, I guess, could be alcohol. Yet, we are in the business of alcohol. I am not so sure that Yukoners would want us to quit selling alcohol completely because some of our citizens have problems with it. Some people enjoy a glass of wine with their meal. Some people enjoy having a few drinks with their friends. So, while it cannot be said that alcohol does anything to improve the quality of life for all Yukoners, it does for some Yukoners.
Some Yukoners enjoy playing bingo, and we sanction that. Are we saying that we are going to have different levels of control over what people do in the Yukon because we are afraid of the negative impact, such as some social problems and some addiction? We know that bingo is a highly addictive game, as is anything one does in excess.
I was waiting for the Member for Riverside to expand more on that, but he seemed to say that it was quite all right because this was done by charitable organizations. As long as it was done by charitable organizations, it did not matter if it was addictive, it did not matter if there was a fallout for some Yukoners, but it was quite all right.
Buying lottery tickets is a problem for some Yukoners, yet other Yukoners enjoy buying lotto tickets and it does not hurt their quality of life. Some people get addicted to them. I do not think the statement, "does not serve to improve the quality of life" truly reflects the intent of that motion. While it may not improve the quality of life for some, it will for those who enjoy that sort of entertainment.
The Council on the Economy and the Environment said that there may be some economic benefits and there may be some jobs created. Surely it has to improve the quality of life for some Yukoners, if there is some room for employment.
In his motion, the Member for Riverside used some quotes. He commented about the difference between the remuneration for casino-type jobs and jobs in factories or industry. I agree that casino jobs are not as high paying, but throughout the service industries, as a whole - I do not think you can single out casinos - the wage scale is not as high as in industrial jobs, resource extraction jobs or jobs in those areas. Many Yukoners work in service industry jobs. Not all Yukoners have high paying, quality jobs, and many Yukoners do make their living in service industry jobs.
In the second part of the amendment, I want to deal with the issue of what the Yukon government has been doing and is prepared to do to deal with the expansion of legalized gambling in the territory. As I stated earlier, and as I have said many times before, we want to work to control the proliferation of legalized gambling throughout the Yukon. I believe that that is in everyone's best interest.
The Member for Riverside makes some very valid comments about what is happening in competitiveness in other areas for gambling dollars. I believe every jurisdiction may have moved in this direction for the same reasons.
When I spoke to the politicians in Manitoba, who have now had several years of this under their belts, and even though all the information and reports are negative, you cannot convince the politicians of the party in power there that they did not make the right move.
The bringing in of VLTs is where I have some difficulty myself; I do not think they are a good idea. Especially in small rural communities where there are no choices about what one can do for entertainment, they could have a devastating effect on the population. They are highly addictive. I will agree with the Member for Whitehorse Centre and other Members on that side of the House who have said that. VLTs are highly addictive, but the political people in Manitoba adamantly believe that, by the introduction of VLTs, they have saved some 30 to 40 rural hotels from going bankrupt, and they tell me that whenever we get into a discussion on the subject at the different forums where I meet with them. They believe that bringing in VLTs was the right thing. I disagree, for the Yukon anyway. Manitoba's circumstances, I have no trouble saying, are quite different from ours.
We want to work to control proliferation of legalized gambling throughout the Yukon. The actions we are taking are in keeping with the Council on the Economy and the Environment's report. The report stressed the point that if expanded casino gambling did proceed it should do so in a controlled fashion. That is exactly what we are attempting to do.
We are also going to be following the Council on the Economy and the Environment's recommendation involving First Nations and, as I said earlier, the Council for Yukon First Nations stated in a letter I received yesterday that if we go ahead they would like to do it in partnership with the government, so we will be getting into discussions with them in that respect. They want to play a significant role and have a voice in the deliberations about whether or not we establish a casino, and I believe that is only right and proper. The City of Whitehorse must play a role in it. After all, all we did was agree in principle that we would regulate such an expansion if the community desired it.
Those discussions will be entered into, and we have already said that we will be
consulting further with Yukoners in general on the type of casino that is being proposed -
not the question of whether or not we want wide-open gambling, because that is not what we
have said from day one. That is what has gotten around and that is what is very emotional
for the people of the Yukon. They think of Las Vegas-style casinos, and they have
legitimate reasons for concern when that kind of message is getting out to the public.
It is not what we have in mind at all and we have to get focused on what is being proposed, and let the people of the Yukon decide on that proposal, and that proposal only - not the bigger, broad picture of casinos all over the Yukon.
That is the route we will be taking. By working in partnership with the First Nations, it is our hope that we can avoid these other potential problems that could arise down the road with the establishment of a number of casinos in the territory if we did not have an agreement with the First Nations. We are working together for the best interest of both our people, aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples.
We have focused our attention on the tourism aspect of the casino, in keeping with the YCEE report. Again, I will agree with the Member for Riverside, and with what those Members opposite have said, certainly Yukoners are going to use it. Are we saying that all Yukoners do not have the ability to control how much time and money they spend at a casino?
I believe that Yukoners will use a casino. They do in Dawson City. The Klondike Visitors Association, as the Member for Riverside said, had some concerns at the beginning, and then backed off somewhat. I saw in the paper yesterday that the position that they appear to be taking now - and I know they are doing this because they have some concerns about the effect it will have on their casino there - is that if the government decides to go ahead with this, they would be entering a proposal. I think that KVA should be involved in any further discussions of any expansions of casinos in the Yukon. They even should be involved in one in Whitehorse.
I want to speak a little more about the tourism aspect of it, because a lot of people go through Whitehorse who are not bound for Dawson City and have no intention to go there. They are on tours that do not include Dawson City in their itinerary. I believe these are the tourists who will spend a couple of hours in a casino, if one is available.
There are a substantial number of them who do not go to Dawson City.
Will it have an impact on Dawson City? I do not know. That is something we will have to analyze further. The biggest impact might be from Whitehorse people who decide to go to the casino in Whitehorse instead of going to the casino in Dawson City. That could have some impact on the KVA.
We have said that we want to consult further with Yukoners before permitting any expansion of any casino development in our jurisdiction. As I said earlier, during my opening remarks, we do not view a casino as a "cash cow", nor do we intend to have the government build a casino. That is simply not in the cards, which is why there is no mention of it in the 1995-96 budget.
We believe that our role is to control and regulate the expansion of casino gambling in the territory. We have stated that we are prepared to consider the development of one tourist-oriented casino at this time, so we can start gaining that control and, by doing so, having ultimate control over future expansion in the Yukon. I think that is in the best interests of all Yukoners, and I am sure the Member for Riverside would have to agree with me on that, at least partly.
Without controls and regulation and with no involvement of the First Nations, this
problem is not going to go away; it is going to keep surfacing, and we are going to have
to keep addressing it. We cannot sweep it under the rug forever. I would prefer to deal
with the issue in a responsible manner now, before it gets out of hand, and put the
mechanisms in place that are necessary to control it. If Yukoners agree with that
approach, it will go ahead; if Yukoners disagree with it, then it will not go ahead.
Ms. Commodore: In proposing this amendment to the original motion, the Government Leader takes away from what I think the purpose of the original motion was. My impression, which becomes clearer the longer we stay here, is that this Government Leader is prepared to go ahead with a gambling casino come hell or high water - that is his intention, and I do not think he cares how it is done. That is unfortunate.
He talked about his reasons for introducing this amendment and said all sorts of goofy things about problems that already exist, and he gives those as a reason to expand on social problems. I do not think the government has given any consideration whatsoever to what could happen if a gambling casino was built in Whitehorse. I do not think it has even considered the social problems that might occur to interrupt the quality of life of Yukoners. The Government Leader decided a long time ago - prior to the interdepartmental committee looking at the possibility of VLTs, and before this went to the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment - that, somehow or other, he was going to introduce a gambling casino to Whitehorse. I think that is exactly what he is proposing to do.
In spite of the fact that all sorts of reports have come back to this government with a lot of negative impacts of gambling laid out in them, the Government Leader is proceeding with this. In the end, he says his main reason is to control gambling in the Yukon so there would not be a proliferation of gambling casinos right across the territory. I think he has some fear that First Nation bands are going do that, and so he wants to be able to control what, when and where those casinos will be. He failed to mention that he received a letter from Judy Gingell of the Council for Yukon Indians, in which it was indicated to him that they already had the authority to establish a casino without YTG legislation.
They told him this, and I think he fears that that could happen. I think that he has talked to his friends, and they have told him to fight to the bitter end. I believe that he is going to do that.
An initial report was done by an interdepartmental group, which was struck when the gambling issue first began. We received a confidential report, which was not the report that was given to the YCEE. As a matter of fact, a lot of the information that was in the original report was taken out before it went to the YCEE.
The summary of that report and the research and experience in other jurisdictions indicate that the potential negative social impacts are greater from VLTs than from any other forms of gambling. In this report, they are talking about VLTs and the impact they would have. It talked about how they were highly addictive. I do not think it matters whether they are VLTs or casinos; both are addictive.
They also talked about how expensive it is in other jurisdictions to treat gambling addictions. Counselling programs would require significant training and resources. One of the recommendations, at that time, from this interdepartmental committee was that extensive consultation with First Nations must be undertaken.
In a letter from Judy Gingell today, she states that hardly any consultation has taken place at all, yet the Government Leader is still proposing to go ahead with the casino.
The preliminary report lists some of the treatments and social services that would be required for this kind of problem. As a result of the report, as has been mentioned by the two previous speakers, the YCEE was asked to put together a report on the introduction of video lottery terminals and expanded casino gambling in the Yukon. That is exactly what they did, but I do not think that the Government Leader actually read it. If he did, he certainly ignored some of the very important parts of it. Yesterday, when the percentage of people who were opposed to expanded casino gambling was mentioned, as it was again today, I think the Government Leader suggested that that was not true.
One only has to look at what came out as a result of this report. The Government Leader has proceeded with a plan to introduce this gambling casino and he is going to do it, but in the meantime he has upset many Yukoners, and if he is proposing to do this, he is going about it in the wrong way. He first of all upset many First Nations groups. He also upset a lot of church groups. He upset a lot of those people who know what problems would occur as a result of expanded gambling. The Government Leader talked today about existing problems such as bingo. Bingo is something that is already in existence and we know the problems of bingo. We know how people love to play bingo. He talks about controlled bingo players, recreational gamblers, and things like that but he completely ignores the fact that there are problem gamblers. Not everyone who goes into a gambling establishment of any kind is going to be there for recreational reasons. There are people who spend their last dime, spend their grocery money, in gambling establishments. They lose a week's wages or a month's wages in a day. He has not talked about those people.
He talked about choices. Well, people can make choices. He talked about the alcohol problem we have and that people should have the choice to do what they want, but we all know the amount of money the government is now spending on treatment for alcohol and drug abuse. At the time the interdepartmental report was done, $2 million was being spent on alcohol and drug abuse, and the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services has indicated that more money is going to be put into that problem area. The problem associated with drinking and bingo is already there, and I want to ask him why should we add to it. Why should we talk about expanded gambling when we know already that it is going to cause many social problems?
The Minister talked about a letter he received from the Council for Yukon Indians today. He talked about one of the last paragraphs in the letter where the CYI wanted to work in partnership with the government. It was almost as if, since the council had the support of First Nations groups, it was going to go ahead. What he does not talk about is the problem that occurred as a result of his wish to introduce expanded gambling in the Yukon.
The Government Leader told us he had already consulted with First Nations people with regard to the recommendations that came from the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. He said this twice. He said again yesterday that he had already spoken with them about policies, legislation and whatever else is required.
In this letter from the Council for Yukon Indians, the council was very upset because he had made statements in this House that the council said were questionable. The council also said he had not really consulted with it. He was asked to address the leadership meeting, but decided he could not go and so sent his officials to it. That was not good enough for the council.
The council spoke about the lack of consultation. I do not know if that is still going to occur. Whenever the government speaks about consulting with anyone, especially First Nations people, it talks about brief discussions it has had, which they call consulting. Another example is when the government invites a group to a meeting, which is also called consulting.
The government has a problem with regard to how it is going to work in partnership with the First Nations, because everything it has done to date has been done improperly.
I am going to table this letter in the House so other people who may not have seen it will have the opportunity to see exactly what the Council for Yukon Indians was saying to the Government Leader with regard to his lack of consultation and his manner so far. I do not think that what he has done was done properly.
I want to talk about the problems that we are facing with regard to the many people who are opposed to expanded gambling. The Government Leader does not appear to acknowledge this. We have a news release from the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. It addresses the lack of consultation with this government before its announcement. The Kwanlin Dun states that it is strongly opposed to the introduction of VLTs and the expansion of casinos in the Yukon. They go on to list their reasons. Others, like the Kluane First Nations, talk about how it will result in many social problems. An elder, Jessie Scarff, speaks about how she is frightened for her people because of the problems that could occur. This person has lived a long time; she has seen the problems that can result from bingo, alcohol and many other things.
As the Council for Yukon Indians indicated in its letter, there is a division with regard to whether or not the government should proceed with expanded gambling in the Yukon. I have spoken to many First Nations people about this issue. I have spoken to chiefs and individuals more extensively than has the Government Leader. He claims to be consulting with people, but perhaps the consultation process he uses consists of some brief discussions, as the Minister of Tourism says he has had with First Nations with regard to the Beringia Centre.
I think that the Government Leader is following the wishes of his friends in the business sector. He really does not care about the problem of the quality of life for Yukoners. I believe that he will push this issue until he is satisfied that it is done.
When we were talking about gambling the other day, the Government Leader talked about how gambling was done in other jurisdictions and that the percentage of costs was going to various groups. I mentioned an item that I had read regarding help for gamblers in Saskatchewan and how the government there has had to put a half-a-million dollars into dealing with that situation. We already have a situation in the Yukon where this government chooses to downsize any kind of programs that deal with social issues, such as homes for battered women. They keep talking about doing more for less. If we proceed with expanded gambling in the Yukon, I fear that the problems will increase. Knowing how unsympathetic this government is to the people who need funding in order to deal with problems, I fear that any kind of problem resulting from expanded gambling would get worse. I question the real reason behind this government's intentions.
In the news today, the Chief of the Teslin Tlingits said he did not recall discussing a gambling casino with the Government Leader. He said that it did not happen and cannot recall having any meetings or giving any direction to Mr. Ostashek regarding supporting or not supporting gambling. He continues to make statements in this House that are denied by the people with whom he says he has consulted. I fear that any time they want to get support for something from this side of the House, they always say they have consulted with First Nations because they know that Members on this side of the House - or at least our caucus - have worked toward improving the life of First Nations people. Why would we not support something that they might have done that included them? The government makes statements, and people hearing those statements deny them because they are saying that a lot of these things did not happen.
He was asked to speak to a leadership group at CYI just before Christmas, and in the end, he decided to send his officials. I believe he did that because he did not have the nerve to go over and talk to them, because of the negative things that have happened under this government. He chose to send his officials to take the flack for him. I am worried about the negative things that could happen.
We have all done a lot of reading in the last few months about gambling in other parts of the country. The business people who make the money say that things are good and that they have made money, but you do not hear a lot about the negative impact when there is a lot of money being made.
I will give some examples of things we have picked up from some of the information that our caucus has read. There is talk about the increase in gambling in the United States, and the lure of quick cash to support local services. However, a Ford Foundation report says that, for most communities, gambling has a large and costly dark side. These next examples refer to the United States, but I am sure that it would apply anywhere you have gambling.
In one city in Colorado, they had to double their police force. In another area, Gamblers Anonymous estimates that as many as 10.6 million Americans are addicted to gambling, including 1.3 million teenagers. In the Yukon, that could happen on a smaller scale. The harm is that gamblers use money that would ordinarily be spent in other places.
Yesterday, it was mentioned by one of our caucus members that some of the service clubs that run bingos and gambling to raise money are worried that it could cut into their means of raising funds, and that is a fact that we have to look at. Casinos will not provide easy riches; instead they will rob us of our character and resources, and that is a lousy bet.
The Government Leader has already stated that he would drop the casino proposal if that is what people want. Well, I say to this House, people have already said that they do not want it. They have already said that. The report from the YCEE has already said that. Our caucus did a survey and I think it was 67 percent of the people who responded said that they did not want it. In my questionnaire alone, every single person from my riding, who responded to me by letter, by phone or by answering the questionnaire, said no. Overall, the percentage was 67 percent against it, and that questionnaire went out to a large percentage of people in Whitehorse. I question the reason he is continuing to pursue this, and I think most of us know what those reasons are.
In one travel article, it says that the benefits of gambling to tourism are dubious indeed. Towns that have allowed gambling have found that visitors do not leave the casinos and the economic impact is not as broad. Casinos have undercut the tourist industry rather than support it. The article addresses gambling right across the United States.
The Member for Riverside mentioned that there were only two states that did not have gambling. One of the reasons why Hawaii, I am sure, does not have gambling, is because it already has a good economic base and its unemployment rate is very low. I had the opportunity to meet with the governor when I was over there on holidays. We spoke about the economic situation in Hawaii, and certainly the unemployment rate there is very low. I think that this government, when we are talking about an economic base and trying to attract tourists, has to look at other ways of doing it other than proceeding with a gambling casino, which the majority of Yukoners do not want.
They talk about an open government and that they listen to the people. I think that in this case that is not going to happen. I think that we are in for a fight. I think, like he said in response to the gun-control legislation, he will fight this to the bitter end until he gets his way, and until he has made some kind of a agreement with someone. I would not want to see a proliferation of gambling throughout the Yukon.
I mean, who would? I think his real reason is to stop the First Nations people from doing it. I think that is exactly why he wants control. If he chooses to sit down with them in a responsible manner, which he has not done so far, he better be very clear about what it is that he wants to do.
I think that the amendment he has introduced is a bunch of hogwash, and that he is evading the real issue. He did not speak an awful lot about the social problems that result from gambling. This government claims to do more for less in the area of social services, and that is a fact. We have seen where the government has cut costs. If there was an expansion of gambling in the Yukon, certainly any social problems that would result because of it would be ignored. That is what this government does - it ignores its responsibilities and cuts back on programs that have to do with social problems.
I will not be supporting his amendment to the motion. I think he has ignored the real
reason for the motion, such as he is doing already - he is ignoring what Yukoners are
saying about gambling. The majority of Yukoners have already said no. I believe he will
ignore the real reasons the motion was introduced.
Mr. Millar: I would like to speak for a few minutes about the amendment. I have a couple of things I would like to put on the record. Over the last few weeks, a number of Members on the opposite side of the House have stood up and said that Dawson City says this and the KVA says that, and they really would like to hear what the Member for Klondike has to say. I do not have a lot say, but I do have a couple of things I want to mention.
First, I was absolutely amazed at what the Member for Whitehorse Centre had to say. Just before the Government Leader sat down, he said that he believed that the people of Yukon should have the final say in what happens. The Member for Whitehorse Centre then stood up and tells us that the Government Leader is going to go ahead with gambling in the Yukon, no matter what. I just could not believe that she would say that. I think it is extremely important, and that is what the amendment says - that the people of the Yukon have to be given a chance to be heard.
The Member for Whitehorse Centre is of the opinion that everyone is dead-set against
gambling in the Yukon. I cannot speak for all Yukoners, but I know that the people in the
Klondike area have reservations about it. The KVA, which is the group that runs Gertie's,
and has been, I believe, since 1971 - next year they will celebrate their 25th anniversary
- has been overseeing gambling longer than anyone else in Canada. I believe Gertie's was
the first legalized gambling casino in Canada. We, in the Yukon, had a great advantage, I
think, over most jurisdictions in Canada. I think Gertie's, where it may not have always
been absolutely perfect, has been very beneficial to the community of Dawson.
The people of Dawson City and the Klondike would have concerns if we were to duplicate Gertie's in Whitehorse. It would lead to what some of the people are saying - that it would take away from what is happening in Dawson - and I do not believe that would be a good thing. I am not saying, nor do I believe, that that is what they are planning to do here in Whitehorse.
The other point I would like to make, which I stated earlier, is that I believe the KVA is the foremost authority on gambling in the Yukon and should be heavily involved in any discussions. They should have a lot of input into this.
As I said, I am not going to speak at great length. I will support the amended motion, which does say that Yukoners should have a further say in this, and I believe that.
In closing, I would just like to reiterate those two points: I believe that any kind of
a gambling casino in Whitehorse should not be a duplication of Gertie's; and the KVA
should be very involved in discussions about more gambling in the Yukon.
Speaker: I would just like to remind the Members that we are not speaking to the
amended motion. We are just speaking to the amendment at this point.
Mr. McDonald: I thank Mr. Speaker for pointing that out. Sometimes it is forgotten that to go from one step to the next actually requires a vote and people have to declare themselves one way or the other. Having said that, it is also important to remind ourselves what it is we are discussing.
The original motion made reference to the expansion of legalized gambling by the government and its effect on Yukoners' quality of life. It makes the proposition that it does not serve to improve Yukoners' quality of life.
I state that because I think it has been mistaken by at least one Member who has spoken
that we are referring to all gambling, including existing gambling activities, and that
somehow the existing level of gambling activity might have to be controlled in some way. I
am certain the mover of the motion did not intend that. I read this motion as stating
that, while we are speaking to the expansion of legalized gambling, in this instance we
are probably speaking specifically about VLTs and casinos. Clearly, there has been no
other proposition before us that could be constituted as increased gambling activity.
I think the problem that we have with the amendment is that it does not acknowledge what has happened to date. It does not acknowledge that many people in the Yukon have indeed spoken on the subject of not only video lottery terminals, but also casino gambling. It suggests that perhaps we are not yet clear about the public's opinion of whether or not increased gambling activity will improve a Yukoner's quality of life. Contrary to the assessment of public opinion that was put forward by the Government Leader, I would venture to say that probably a clear majority of public opinion is actively opposed - and decidedly opposed - to increased gambling, particularly video lottery terminals, but also casino gambling. The report of the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment on the subject of expanded casino gambling in the Yukon makes it very clear that those opposed are decidedly opposed, and that they are the majority of the people they have heard from. The people who are in favour are in the minority and provide qualified support for expanded casinos. I think that is a fairly clear interpretation of what the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment has heard from the people who took the trouble to express themselves on this subject.
The council's report, which has been referred to by a number of Members, is an interesting report in what it does say and in what it does not say. The Government Leader said, quite rightly, that it tries to operate through consensus decision making. The members attempt not to take majority votes when they can, but try to come forward with some unified position, which may not be what everyone wants, but certainly represents the minimum position, through compromise, that they can reach after discussing a matter.
The Council on the Economy and the Environment was decidedly opposed to video lottery terminals, and they said so. The council was undecided, or certainly ambivalent, about other matters, such as expanded casino gambling.
The fact that they did not come back with a majority report, the fact that they expressed ambivalence based presumably on the fact that the majority of people they heard from were opposed to expanded casinos, and also the fact that presumably there are a number of people on the council itself who were decidedly opposed to this, should say something to us. We should not ignore the consultation that they conducted.
When the council reported, they indicated that if the project proceeds and a casino is approved, there should be conditions set on the way that casino is operated, and there should be work done with First Nations to secure some agreement on the subject of regulations for gambling.
It clearly did not say that they are in support of a casino. In fact, most of the people I have spoken to and from what I have been able to read from the interventions - both before the Council on the Economy and the Environment and that which can be gleaned from media reports, as well as my own participation in events such as the Tourism Industry Association annual general meeting - indicates that the support is not only conditional - in the sense that the casino should proceed only upon certain conditions being met - but the council quite purposely seldom says that it is in favour of gambling and thinks the government should proceed and that, if they do so, it should be under certain conditions.
It says that if the decision has already been made, and if the government says it wants to proceed with gambling over public objection, then the council thinks there should be conditions set on how it is done.
That is an important distinction because support for casino gambling, as much as it is, is the softest kind of support. It is not the kind of support that one would depend upon when facing stiff opposition. I would caution Members to understand what the public has been saying to this point, and I would caution them when it comes to softening the language of the original motion to suggest that perhaps we are not sure what Yukoners think.
I would caution them to point out that Yukoners have spoken. This work undertaken by the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment is probably the biggest single project the council has undertaken in the last couple of years. It is the biggest consultation exercise the government has undertaken, sponsored or encouraged in the last couple of years. It is the most extensive consultation the government has undertaken. It has received the most media coverage of any consultation the government has undertaken.
Yet, even though the report comes back to us suggesting that there is severe ambivalence - and I am not overstating it when I say "severe" - about whether or not there should be expanded casinos, the government still pretends there may be some doubt it has to remove through further discussion or consultation.
I am not opposed and, if the government needs a clearer signal and are obtuse enough not to read what is obviously public opinion, then it should be encouraged to get a clear signal, but it must ask the right questions. It must ask whether or not the public believes in casino gambling. It cannot go out to the public and imply that the decision is already made and encourage a discussion about how it could be worked, or how the problems could be minimized. It must start by asking the basic question of whether or not people support this.
This sounds like the approach the Premier of Quebec is using to try to encourage the Quebec population to think separation without ever having decided the question in the first place. He has the public discussing a new constitution for an independent country right now, even before the referendum has even been called.
For those of us watching from a distance, we would think that is highly manipulative and unfair to the public in Quebec, but when it is practised here, somehow it seems, at least according to one government Member, to be okay.
I know that the government benches may not put a lot at stake in the polling work that we did just last fall. Certainly, I have some faith in a lot of the numbers in the poll taken in Whitehorse. The poll suggested quite clearly, once again, that the majority of Whitehorse residents are opposed to expanding gambling, namely casinos. It is a clear majority; it is not a bare majority, it is clear. Sixty-seven percent were opposed and something like 23 percent said they were in favour. There was a very clear distinction between those who supported casino gambling and those who opposed it.
I think some Members have already given a clear history of what has happened to date, but I would just like to run briefly over the public reaction that we have been able to determine from all the talk and the reports in the media.
Of the people who have expressed support, the only people who were identified in the YCEE report were the British Columbia-Yukon Hotel Association and a Montana consulting company, whose business it is to promote gambling. In the same report, there is a long list of elders, councils, First Nations and social groups who oppose increased legalized gambling. We have heard from non-profit groups, outside the context of the Council on the Economy and the Environment's report, that are very concerned that their current activities - everything from bingos to raffles - would be compromised by this new project. Obviously a majority of this activity takes place in Whitehorse, because that is where the bulk of the population lives. Most of the raffles and the bingos take place here.
These groups and organizations know that when it comes time to divvy up the revenues, if their activities are to be supplanted by a casino - a casino with flash, a casino with bright lights, a casino with all kinds of attractions -it would be extremely difficult to devise any revenue-sharing arrangement that would meet their needs.
It is partly because the volunteer organizations have quite often increased activities to meet certain community needs. These needs come and go - there is an ebb and flow - based on community priorities and whether or not the organization can get certain volunteer support and whether or not the community thinks a certain activity is important. They know that finding a revenue-sharing formula that somehow knows that the Heart and Stroke Foundation should get a certain amount, the Lion's Club should get a certain amount, the Rotary Club should get a certain amount and the Boy Scouts should get a certain amount, would be extremely difficult.
An organization may come along and want to build a clubhouse or provide some extra support for a particularly good cause through a raffle. They need to put in a lot of extra energy in one year to do that. They do not need ongoing support. They do not have to compete and debate with the myriad of other organizations in Whitehorse for regular, ongoing funding. They see a need and they go for it, using raffles, bingos and whatever else they can to accomplish that task.
Any system that proposes to divide casino profits to meet those changing needs is, they know, going to be imperfect, bureaucratic and difficult to deal with. They also know - this is a concern that has been expressed to me - that when they go to Ministers in government and say that they require some support, they know what they can expect from the Minister. It will be the obvious comment: "What are you doing, as an organization, to help yourself? What energy and activity are you putting in to try to get funds for a particular project?"
These organizations realize that one of the standard ways to get out volunteers and do something productive to generate revenue is to run events like bingos and raffles. If that is taken away from them, and they are expected to simply sit and wait for the receipts from the casino, they will no longer be able to demonstrate that they are prepared to put energy into funding themselves. The non-profit groups are clearly not convinced that this is a good idea, from their perspective, as narrow as that might be.
I have had a chance to speak to some people in Dawson about what they believe to be the problems or benefits associated with expanded casino gambling. The clear majority opinion is that they believe they have a unique attraction. They know they do not have the large government payroll or huge service sector that is in Whitehorse to support their local economy. They know that what they do have is seasonal and unique, and that is what they consider precious in terms of ensuring that they have some economic vitality and future. To have any casino in Whitehorse would detract from the uniqueness of their own existing attraction. This is entirely an understandable yet narrow-focused perspective. I realize it is Dawson oriented, but it is a legitimate perspective and we can understand it.
We know there are a lot of people who are concerned about the social impact of casinos. The Government Leader says that most Yukoners will know how to control an addiction and that most Yukoners will not go overboard when it comes to gaming activities in Whitehorse. This is true. Probably most Yukoners will avoid the addiction, but we are still human beings, we are still members of the same planet that everyone else is, we still have many of the same impulses everyone else in North America has, and we should respect the kind of statistical information that other Members have pointed to when it comes to the social problems associated with casino gambling.
We should acknowledge the reality of those problems. If a small percentage of the
population suffers from an addiction - which creates more strain on a family that may be
suffering from limited income and limited available cash - there might be quite serious
consequences in that family, such as a family breakup or family violence, as a result of
limited cash, and gambling can only exacerbate that problem. It certainly will not make it
We do know, however, that a lot of the people in the lower income bracket tend to frequent casinos and gamble more than others because they are looking for a way to break the cycle of poverty. They often believe - not all of them, but many of them - that gambling is a quick way out of personal circumstances that they find quite troubling.
We have to be concerned about increased criminal activity as a result of increased gambling. We have to be concerned about the proliferation of pawn shops and businesses that tend to sprout up around casinos. Presumably all of the organizations, groups and people who are concerned about social problems feel that our current inventory of social problems is long enough. There is enough to deal with already, without adding to it.
The government has indicated that it is proceeding, in principle, with a casino because it believes that a casino will have significant economic consequences - positive consequences. Presumably the government believes that these will outweigh any social concerns that we may have. I have not spoken with many people in the business community who think that the casino is going to be good for business. The most common concern I have heard expressed by the business community is that a casino will reduce people's disposable income, whether it is a tourist coming into town or whether it is a local resident. There is no question that some people will spend what disposable income they have on gambling activities.
I would point out to Members who feel that a casino would increase economic activity that there is a travel article - I will paraphrase from it; I do not have it in front of me to read from - that suggests that people who engage in gambling activities as part of their vacation end up staying in the casino. They plant themselves there and they do not leave the casino. What is this going to do to our existing business sector in Whitehorse? This is a service sector. A lot of it depends on tourism activity in the summer for increased revenues. This sector could not possibly be well served if people are spending their time in a casino and if they are using the spare cash they have in their limited budgets at the gambling tables.
The Government Leader indicated that when we are talking about tourists, we are not talking about the package tourist because they, in all likelihood, would not be using the casino. He was talking about the RV users, the people with recreational vehicles - the independent rubber-tire trade, so to speak - and that these people would be the tourists on whom this whole facility would be focused. I would ask the Government Leader to speak to people who do business with RV owners, both in RV parks, in the service sector - everything from the restaurant sector to the shops - and ask them how much money the RV owner spends in Whitehorse.
At least from the anecdotal evidence from people that I have spoken to, one can draw the conclusion that the people who are traveling in RVs are on a budget. They are looking to spend money where they find it enjoyable to do so, but they generally do not spend, on a per capita basis, a lot of money - certainly not in Whitehorse. If they are going to use their available budget for gambling, then that obviously has to be of some concern to the business community. It is a concern and they have said so.
I would point out that the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce submission to the Council on the Economy and Environment, which was speaking for businesses who are members of that organization, indicated to the council that half of the respondents to their survey about gambling - they received 70 responses - were strongly opposed to gambling.
One half of those polled by the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce said they were strongly opposed to gambling. That is pretty telling. That ought to concern anyone who feels that there is a great economic benefit to be achieved through increased gaming activities in this town. They presumably believe that the level of existing gambling activity - the bingos, raffles, et cetera, which we know from statistics from the Lottery Commission are actually in the $12 million range this year overall in the Yukon, which is a lot of disposable income being dedicated to these activities - from the perspective of the business community, is sufficient or is enough, and that to draw more disposable income into a casino is not wise. As one person told me, ultimately it is bad for business.
They also expressed the concern that this was a form of back-door taxation, but we have been reassured today, once again by the Government Leader, that the government has no intention of seeking tax revenues from this casino. They said that that is not its purpose, and it does not need the tax money - it has not made the case that it needs more tax money - and it is not seeking more tax money, in any case. We can presumably put that particular concern to rest.
What has the government side said in the face of these concerns? They have sent the signal that they agree in principle with the construction of a casino. They did not say that they believed in increased gambling activity in the Yukon. They did not say that they agreed in principle that the consultation should continue to try to resolve some of the large concerns about how First Nations and the Yukon government are going to regulate gaming in the future. They said that they agree in principle to a casino, and they said that in the spring they are going to call for proposals. So, in the face of this concern and these many good arguments - the Government Leader acknowledged today that these were indeed good arguments - the government responded by agreeing in principle to proceed.
Under the circumstances, I have a problem with that. If the government had said, "There are problems that we have to face, there is a dilemma out there about where gambling is going to go in the long term, and we should undertake some long-term discussions with the public to try to resolve some of the long-term concerns as they arise", I would understand that response. I would support that response, because it shows wisdom and advanced planning. It shows that they have some strategic concerns that they want to address.
To respond instead by saying that they are going to proceed with a casino and that it will be in Whitehorse, and that they will call for proposals in the spring, suggests that they have gone too far, and that they have gone far past public opinion on this question. It leads to semi-paranoid concerns by some people that perhaps the government's agenda has not been honestly stated. I am throwing this out because I think it is important to make it clear that some people are suggesting that maybe the government has not heard what they wanted not to hear, and are doing everything they can to continue to advance this notion that there should be a casino in Whitehorse.
The government indicated that this all started, not from any Machiavellian attempt to build a casino to support some Yukon Party supporter who wants to build a casino, or anything like that, but that this has everything to do with a request by the Lottery Commission for video lottery terminals, a request by the B.C.-Yukon Hotel Association for video lottery terminals, and a request by two First Nations to consider expanded gaming activities, or a casino.
We all know what the government's position is on video lottery terminals, and we agree with it: there should be none. We all know how they would respond to the Yukon Lottery Commission and the B.C.-Yukon Hotels Association, which has been asking for those terminals. They would say, "Sorry, but that is not in the best interests of the Yukon. We disagree with you and will not proceed with the VLTs."
That leaves us with the original request coming from two First Nations for expanded casino gambling. In the last couple of days, particularly the Chief of the Teslin Tlingit Council and the Chair of the Council for Yukon Indians have indicated that they disagree with the interpretation of what it has been imputed they have said to the Government Leader about gaming and casinos. There is the argument that we now have to respond aggressively to the concerns of two First Nations that are apparently the only organizations left that had originally gotten the ball rolling, at least in the mind of the Government Leader, but these are concerns that now seem to have fallen away. There are now statements in the public domain from First Nations leaders that suggest that, upon reflection, not only do they disagree with increased casino activity, but they also disagree that they ever made the case for more casinos in the first place.
If they are to be believed - and there is no reason why we should think these are not credible sources - why would this government spend one more moment discussing a specific proposal for a casino in Whitehorse?
If these people initiated this public review - and there is obviously serious doubt about that - why would we continue in the face of very clear public opinion that suggests that we should discontinue, at least for the time being? When anyone says that the public disagrees with increased casino gambling, we cannot legitimately say that the public, in the year 2020, will also disagree with it. It will be the responsibility of the legislature of the day to address those concerns, or meet those needs, if the desire is expressed to increase gambling activity in the Yukon.
It would be prudent to leave the lines of communication open with the people who want to discuss gaming, whether it be First Nations or others, to ensure that if there is a need in the future to discuss increased gaming activity, there will be some background research and information available. This would allow the legislature of the day to make an informed decision on whether or not they would permit it and, if so, how.
They may even take increased casino gambling into account when they do things as a regular course of business or do reviews, such as future visitor exit surveys. They could include a question or two on casino gambling. When it comes to discussions with First Nations about the regulation of gambling, period, some thought may be given at that time to decide how they might regulate gaming and how they might regulate increased gaming.
That kind of advance work could only serve to assist people who may have to face new pressures for casino gambling in Whitehorse. That is prudent and probably acceptable, but it is clear now, for our population today - last year, next year, this year - that there is no desire for a casino and that there is no need to expend lots of energy on deciding how increased casino activity might take place.
The Government Leader says that the issue will not go away. In essence, in some
respects he is right. There will always be issues to face and the Legislature and the
government will always have to address issues. Increased gambling activity is one, how we
teach our children is another, how we construct our health care system is another. We
never do things finally and forever in this Legislature, as long as the institution exists
and as long as there are people here who wish to act through their government.
Speaker: Order please. The Member has three minutes to conclude his remarks.
Mr. McDonald: Obviously there will be a need to discuss all the issues we are discussing today in the future, with a fresh outlook and with a fresh approach.
I think that the Government Leader's suggestion that we have to control the proliferation of gambling is premature. We have heard from the First Nations and others that there is no appetite for increased gambling now. We do not know, apart from the very few people who have expressed support, of anyone who is insisting that there be a proliferation of new casinos or increased gambling activity in the Yukon.
I trust the government will note our concerns with respect to that argument.
In conclusion, I will only say that a lot of effort has already been expended in this
The government has other interests that they can pursue. There are other projects that
can achieve many of the stated objectives of Ministers, but which do not have anything to
do with the casino. I would encourage them to pursue those aggressively, with imagination
and enthusiasm, and they may get a lot more public support. It may be something that is
more roundly accepted in this territory and certainly a lot less divisive.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Gaming is an economic initiative that has been discussed or implemented in jurisdictions across Canada for a number of years. As a matter of course, the subject surfaced in the Yukon where it has and will continue to be discussed at length as it relates to our locale. Although gaming activities are a century old, gambling is viewed today as an emotional issue. I personally agree with that 100 percent.
Gaming is a reality in Canada, and in my view it is necessary that all Yukoners be given the opportunity to weigh the issue and make an informed decision regarding gambling in the territory.
The level of licensed gambling activity in the Yukon increased significantly from 1991 to 1993. It has been reported that this trend in the territory appears to be reflective of the gaming trends in most Canadian jurisdictions.
Gambling already exists in the Yukon in various forms. Lotteries, sports pools and
bingos are commonly used as fundraisers for charitable causes and recreational activities.
Although the proceeds from any casino would be used for these same purposes, the concept
of casino gambling is viewed as a mountain to a grain of sand. It is imperative that the
well-being of Yukoners be protected before potential revenues are ever considered.
Under the Criminal Code, all gambling activities in the territories must be licensed by the government. The Yukon Lottery Licensing Act provides the Yukon government with statutory authority to issue licences for charitable gaming in the Yukon. The act limits the use of proceeds from gaming to charitable purposes, including the relief of poverty and disease, education, religion, cultural, recreational or athletic pursuits.
Casino gambling has been licensed in seven jurisdictions across Canada in recent years, with revenues being directed toward charitable organizations, job creation, regional economic development, tourism stimulation and governments. In 1992, the Saskatchewan government, partnered with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, founded the Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation for the pursuit of casino gambling, in order to create employment opportunities in the province.
The Government of Ontario recently authorized a casino in Windsor, estimating it would create a possible 1,600 jobs. The Government of Quebec opened a multi-million dollar casino in Montreal for tourism purposes. The Government of British Columbia is currently considering the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars for a waterfront casino.
Many provinces feel that Canadian casinos would help to stop the flow of money south of the border. While recognizing that Las Vegas is the gambling centre of North America, it is interesting to note that 1.3 million Canadians visit Las Vegas every year, and they spend $1.2 million. That is Canadian money leaving our country even though our money at the present time, is worth very little in comparison to the America dollar; we are still spending it.
The issue of gambling is a non-partisan issue. It is a social and economic issue. The Liberal government in Newfoundland rejected government sanctioned casinos, while Nova Scotia's Liberal government invited bids for privately operated casinos in Halifax and Cape Breton. The NDP government in Ontario reversed its long-standing opposition to casinos in 1994, in order to have a share in the $3 million annual gross revenues generated by casino gambling.
The decision to permit or reject casino gambling in the Yukon is for all Yukoners to
consider. I continually hear that this is a Whitehorse issue. It is not a Whitehorse
issue, although in a practical sense it is, because it is not sensible to have a casino in
Beaver Creek for example, but those people have a right to be heard, as do all Yukoners.
Speaker: The Member for Riverside, speaking to the amendment.
Mr. Cable: There are a number of points that should be made clear. The original motion speaks to the expansion of gambling and not to the abolition or the existence of gambling. There is no pretension that anybody is going to do away with the Legion bingo or the Mt. McIntyre bingo, or anybody else's fundraising activities. There is no pretension that anybody is going to do away with the Klondike Visitors Association's casino in Dawson. The motion simply suggests that the expansion of gambling be put on hold until we get a handle on it. The jury is obviously out, and has been out for two years since the issue arose.
In making the amendment, the Government Leader said he would let the people decide on the proposal. I think that is inappropriate. What the people should be deciding on is the basic issue of whether they want more gambling. The majority of the people who have spoken to me - and there have been many of them - are not comfortable with the expansion of gambling. Many of them are probably not comfortable with the existence of gambling, but they certainly and definitely are not comfortable with the expansion of gambling. That is the point of the motion.
I think the amendment serves to water that proposition down, that the majority of people do not want this particular form of so-called economic development at this time.
In his amendment, the Government Leader spoke about control of the proliferation of legalized gambling. In the legal structure that we have now, it is not clear how the promotion and the existence of a casino in Whitehorse, in any way, will affect the general regulatory regime that governs gambling here. What I think the Government Leader is saying is that the First Nations' rights - whatever they are constitutionally - may in some way be changed if they can be enticed into some sort of legalized gambling venture under the auspices of the government. I think that is wishful thinking. In no way will we have the basic framework changed by the proposed casino here in Whitehorse, or wherever it is.
I have to say that the amendment does substantially change the thrust of the motion,
and I cannot support it.
Mr. Penikett: It is useful, as we are talking about this amendment, to cover the same ground the Government Leader covered but to take the perspective, not of someone who was the initiator or activist in this project, but of someone who is a casual observer. I note from the minutes of the Council on the Economy and the Environment dated November 17, 1993, the following instruction to the council, "Tim indicated that the Government Leader had written to request that the council undertake a public consultation on the introduction of VLTs and expansion of casinos in the territory. The letter also mentioned specific groups and organizations that should be consulted."
In other words, if one does not look at the whole text of the instruction - if we look
at the narrow specifics of the instruction - it is to consult with specific groups and
organizations about the introduction - note the noun - of VLTs and expansion of casinos.
There is no reference here in the instruction as it is understood by the council in the
minutes to the social problems. There is no suggestion here that this is an up or down
question for the government. The project is "introduction of VLTs" and
"expansion of casinos".
I am afraid that the government has, wittingly or unwittingly, created the impression that when it comes to the question of whether or not there should be an expansion of gambling, the government will not take no for an answer. Every time the public has been asked, it has said no. The government keeps on asking the question anyway. It is much like how the Reform Party practices democracy. Preston Manning keeps asking the question until he gets the answer he wants. The separatists in Quebec behave in a similar manner. My colleague, the Member for McIntyre-Takhin, pointed out how Mr. Parizeau says, "Here is the bill to create this new country. Before we have even asked you whether you like it or not, we are going to ask you how you want it. The menu tonight is roast duck. Do you want it rare, well done or medium, with rice or potatoes. If you want steak or a salad instead, that is not up for discussion."
I say that the government has created the impression that it will not take no for an answer from the public because the question has been put several times and in several ways. Indeed, even the minutes of the Council on the Economy and the Environment itself, some time after the initial instruction for the report on the matter of video lottery terminals and casinos, in the meeting with the co-chairs of the interdepartmental task force, states that, "Mr. Devries asked what CYI's position on the matter was, and Mark Wedge responded that the elders council was opposed to the introduction of VLTs." The representative on the council from Dawson indicated that there was opposition to VLTs in Dawson.
We have heard today that every consultation that has been done on the matter, including the one done by the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment and the one done by the Official Opposition, made it very clear that there is no enthusiasm for increasing gambling at all. In fact, on the Council on the Economy and the Environment, First Nations, representatives of First Nations and organized labour all said that they are opposed.
In the poll conducted by the Official Opposition, it became absolutely clear. The
question was, "Are you strongly in favour, in favour, opposed or strongly opposed to
gambling in the territory, the issue raised by the casino question?"
The results were "strongly for", three percent; "for", 23 percent; "opposed", 67 percent.
Interestingly enough, allowing for a small margin of error, that is entirely consistent with the results of the Council on the Economy and the Environment. Every sampling of public opinion in this town has indicated that at least two-thirds of the population is opposed. Many constitutions and many legislatures can do amazing things with a two-thirds vote, but in no democracy that I know can any government do anything in the face of opposition from two-thirds of the population.
This is not actually a new issue. At a founding convention of the NDP as a provincial party here back in 1973, there was a debate about the introduction of lotteries, and there was an absolutely passionate speech given by Hilda Hellaby, who was on the first executive of the NDP. It was a convention, I should mention, that was actually attended by our friend, the present Member for Riverside, not as a member but as a speaker, and I say that en passant.
Hilda Hellaby gave an absolutely passionate speech about gambling, especially government-sponsored gambling, being a tax on the poor. I have said before something that was plain to me from everything I read, that the only ones who profit from gambling are gangsters and governments - nobody else - and that once governments get hooked on gambling revenue, they become like heroin addicts. That is what has happened in Manitoba. They cannot get off their revenue; they are hooked on it. In fact, in Manitoba now, you cannot buy a bingo card except from the government. Perhaps that also applies to Ontario.
Since the Government Leader with his comments today about bingos has raised the spectre
of this government wanting to control bingos, and perhaps regulate and even tax them, I
bet the bingo-playing public of this town is pretty frightened about that prospect.
I said earlier today that I think the throne speech announcement about the government agreeing in principle to there being a gambling casino was absolutely clear that this government had made up its mind and that it had made up its mind in the face of public opposition. Its position is that this is part of its vision: railroads to Carmacks, gas pipelines to Watson Lake, world-class Beringia centres inside visitor reception centres and a gambling casino. In terms of economic development - none of this is economic development. This is not a vision; this is a mirage, a fantasy, a delusion.
I quoted the other day, as the Liberal Member seemed to do, the person from Biloxi, Mississippi, who said words to the effect that the only thing to grow in the shadows of casinos are pawn shops. They do not add to the economic life of a community; they suck the life out of the community. They suck the money from working people's pockets - money that would otherwise go to bread, food and other essentials for their families. Money, as the Liberal Leader pointed out, that would go to other local merchants, gets sucked into some activity that is absolutely unproductive. It produces no wealth, except for governments in this case.
The defence is that we are using the revenue to pay for sports or recreation. However, as I pointed out the other day, the sports and recreation revenues from lotteries has plateaued. We now have the spectre of all sorts of organizations that are underfunded by the government, including the museums association, having to run bingos because they cannot get enough money - the government does not care enough about heritage to put in any money - so they have to run bingos.
I was talking to a young man the other day - a very fine young man, who is an outstanding citizen of this community - who spoke to me about how badly he felt to be a yuppie, as he put it, or, a middle-class, fairly affluent person, involved in a volunteer organization - a sports group in this case - having to go out and run bingos. These bingos largely involved, in the majority of cases, low-income people in this town. He felt they were taking money from low-income people, so that he, as a middle-class person, could participate in a sporting activity. He said he felt badly about that, but that this community has reached the point where his organization did not feel that it had any choice.
The point is that this debate is not about whether we should have gambling at all. We already have lotteries and bingos, and I have heard it alleged that there are even poker games occasionally in this town.
It has been suggested that, once or twice in the history of our town, we have had private poker clubs, where games with high stakes took place. I would not know anything about that personally, but I understand that there are former Members of this Legislature who have attended such places.
The point about gambling being addictive is a very good one. I have members of my family who like to play bingo. Those family members will admit that a very large percentage of the people who are regular attendees at bingo are people who are recovering alcoholics, people who are trying to find an activity that provides a diversion for them and a healthy alternative to drinking. The dependent behaviour, which is evident, on bingos is a concern. I helped out a volunteer organization in running a bingo one night, selling cards - I do not really know how to play the game; I have never done it, but I watched what was going on. There are some people who must be, I would guess, very low-income people, buying an astonishing number of bingo cards and indicating quite clearly to us that they were spending a pretty high percentage of their income on bingo. These are people who obviously have very low expectations of earnings from the economy. Perhaps they are susceptible to the dream or the imagined possibility of winning big at the bingo one night.
One can understand that. However, not so long ago, I went to a meeting at one of the public meetings in this town during the afternoon. The meeting broke up about 4:45 p.m., and some elderly citizens had already taken their places at tables in that room, securing their lucky place for a bingo game that was going to begin several hours later. I am no expert, but there are people who would suggest that that is evidence of addictive behaviour.
I do not think we can claim to be dealing with those problems, or with the problems of low-income families, where there may be someone who is addicted to gambling. They may experience similar effects to the problems of being addicted to alcohol or some other drug, in terms of the loss of family income and the loss of that family member's attention to the rest of the family.
I think we have come closer to an agreement in the debate this afternoon that having a casino in Whitehorse will not bring tourists here - not in view of the fact that all but two or three states in the United States have legalized gambling. When 48 states have legalized gambling, American tourists - who make up the majority of the tourists we get here - are not going to come to the Yukon in order to gamble. They have dozens and dozens of other places to go to waste their money - because, of course, the odds are always against the player and for the casino. Gambling, in the main, involves losing money.
So, I want to say that I think it is absolute nonsense to talk about a casino and economic development in the same breath. I think the evidence is that, in places like Biloxi and elsewhere, if you observe the effect of casinos on communities for long enough, it probably does not produce economic development; it probably produces social decay.
No doubt there are exceptions, and perhaps Diamond Tooth Gertie's, which is an extremely tightly managed, summer-only operation with a connection to the cultural history of a certain community in this territory, may be an example, but I do not think that even the Member for Klondike would deny the fact that there are people in Dawson City who have used that facility and had a problem or perhaps created problems with their families from time to time - even though I know the people who work there are very conscious about that problem.
The situation is that whatever consultation we now hold is going to simply reiterate or echo what this community, at least, has already said. We do not, I suspect, have the tools here to do a sophisticated analysis of the existing social impacts of addicted gamblers or indeed how the social impacts would be compounded by the presence of a casino here.
The burden of proof in terms of the argument about economic development is on the
proponents, but long before the proponents get into any kind of detailed presentation of
their claims, I believe the public here has already made up its mind. It is not just the
community that has ethical concerns about it - the churches and the church congregations -
I think that the people who have concerns include the Main Street merchants because,
rather than seeing it as a boom to them, they see it as something that will cut into their
income and cut into the disposable income of the people in this community.
I want to share the view expressed by other Members here that I think it might even be a mistake in strategy in terms of tourist development for the whole territory. I do not know that for sure, but it may well be. It may well be that Diamond Tooth Gertie's is one of the attractions in Dawson City that works for that region and that town.
The evidence, I suspect, suggests that what is going to bring people to this territory in the coming decades is not a badly-planned Beringia Centre in a visitor reception centre, without adequate funding, staff or properly mounted exhibits, a Beringia Centre whose exhibits are gathered by highway construction crews and placer miners, because the government has not put any money into employing a sufficient number of archeologists and palaeontologists; that is not going to bring people to this territory.
If the government planned something like the Beringia Centre properly, and if instead of just talking to the Chamber of Commerce in the City of Whitehorse - I am going to ask about this tomorrow because the City of Whitehorse denies what the Minister said about the so-called enthusiastic support; anyway, that is another subject - it spoke to t
he people in the heritage community who know, the professionals who know what they are talking about and the college, which is supposed to be the base of research in the territory, it might work. The people involved in those areas are laughing at the Minister, I am afraid. It is a pity.
The way the government has approached the Beringia Centre is exactly the same way they have approached the gambling casino. Here we have, in the government's most important statement of its agenda, the throne speech, where they announce that in principle, they are in favour of a gambling casino - not that they had doubts about it, not that they are going to do further consultation about whether it is a good idea - but they have made up their minds, in the face of opposition from the community as evidenced in the Council of Economy and the Environment's report, in the poll that the Official Opposition did, the statements of the labour movement, the statements of the people from the First Nations and the commonsense evidence of the eyes and ears of every Member of this Assembly who has actually spoken to their constituents about this subject.
My view is that there is no economic benefit. It is, in fact, a social cost. We already know what the public thinks about it; we should proceed no further with this extremely silly idea.
If the government is going to insist on further consultation about this in an effort to, somehow, persuade enough people to say yes, then I think we have to have a very serious debate about the nature of their consultation. As my colleague, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, said we have to talk about what questions the government is going to ask.
With the greatest respect to the people from the Council on the Economy and the Environment, and with the greatest respect to the statements of the Government Leader, the direct question, "Do you want a casino in this town?" has not been asked.
The proposition that a casino in this town would be a tourist-only operation is, I think, very dubious. The proposition that we could have a tourist casino directed only at tourists - or mainly at tourists - would be difficult to achieve. I will concede that it has been achieved in Australia. I understand that the Australian national government allowed each state to pass a bill to have one destination resort casino built in each state. The chain hotels could bid on building it and get the licence, but the rule had to be that no locals could ever go inside.
Speaker: The time being 5:30 p.m., I will leave the Chair until 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Debate on amendment and on Motion No. 37 accordingly adjourned
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Renewable Resources that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Before we start, I have a document for circulation.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Executive Council Office - continued
Chair: Is there further general debate on Executive Council Office?
Mr. Penikett: I have a few clean-up questions that I would like to ask in general debate. I should explain to the Government Leader that I am suffering from a fierce lobby on this side of the House to pick up the pace and make it more lively. It has been, allegedly, boring up until now. Perhaps I can satisfy the demand over here for some screaming and shouting. The issues do not warrant it, of course, but perhaps the Government Leader can be provoked somehow.
We have just had something tabled that might provoke debate. Let me deal with some other things first, and then I will get one of my colleagues to have a look at this other document.
I have been looking at some information from the statistics branch, which is under the
auspices of ECO. As the Government Leader knows, there are some of us who are weird enough
to take an interest in their work. One of the things I have noticed about the statistics,
not only from our jurisdiction, but also from the rest of Canada and elsewhere in the
world, is that there is quite a lively debate going on about how accurately they measure
employment. I know - and I do not want to get into this, right now - that there is
actually quite a significant margin of error in our statistics. They are much more useful
when one looks at the long-term trends than they are for a single-month figure in
I had a conversation with a constituent about the changing nature of employment in the contemporary economy concerning the rising number of part-time jobs versus full-time jobs, the diminution of job security - job security is increasingly becoming a thing of the past; there are more and more employers, particularly in the retail sector offering people part-time jobs so that they do not have to deduct pensions and other benefits, and so forth - and the question of what a job in the job statistics means, is a nice one. For example, I have had a number of constituents talk to me about the phenomenon, when the Superstore opened here, of all but six of the employees being part-time. There were 100 jobs there, but only six of them were full-time jobs.
I want to ask a general question, and I do not expect the Government Leader to answer it tonight. Could the statisticians tell us how they are dealing with the phenomenon of an increasing number of low-paid, part-time jobs in the economy, as opposed to full-time industrial-type jobs with benefits, and so forth, and whether among statisticians there is any professional review about the methodologies being used to count these? I am not asking the Government Leader for an answer now; I would appreciate if he would take that question as notice. It is an issue I would like to come back to at the time of the Economic Development estimates, so if it is possible to get an answer by that time, I would appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will endeavour to see what we can get for the Member opposite as soon as possible, and prior to the Economic Development debate, to see where they are going. I have to say for the record that I agree with the Member opposite that, while there may be some merit in investigating that and getting some background information, what we have to look at is trend lines and not the month-by-month variations. I do notice that they do make a note on the employment figures of full-time vis-à-vis part-time jobs. How they arrive at that, I do not know. I will, however, see if I can get that for the Member.
Mr. Penikett: That is the question I am asking. I have forgotten - if I ever knew it - but there may be a definition of a full-time job that says if you work, say, 30 hours a week or so, that that constitutes full-time work, and less than that would be considered part-time work. The other question I wanted to ask - and again, we may be able to return to this when we come back to the Economic Development estimates - has to do with the fact that ECO has, of course, some coordination role by providing secretariat services to bodies such as the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment.
I actually had a chance this afternoon to have a look, for the first time, at the council minutes that have recently come to our attention, and there is some absolutely fascinating stuff in there. For example, the minutes of December 9, 1993, which I wish I had seen a year ago, have a report on a session with the Hon. John Devries, the then Minister of Economic Development, about the Yukon Economic Strategy and the legal obligations of the council to review it, and I quote here "in the context of the umbrella final agreement''.
I just want to say to the Member for Watson Lake, who is here in his constituents'
capacity, I was extraordinarily pleased to see for the first time, in writing, a
concession by the government stating that they had such a legal obligation. I am
absolutely more impressed with the singular courage of the then Minister to part company
with - until recently I thought it had been - the stated position of the Government of the
Yukon that it had no such legal obligation. Can the Government Leader tell us, since we
have been through this debate three or four times, what is the policy of the Government of
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not have the answer right here, but I believe we replied to that when the Member opposite stated during debate that we were breaking the law. I will have to look up the reply we gave at that time, but I believe we said we did not feel we were breaking the law, and we gave the reasons for it.
This time, I feel the review that the council is carrying out on a sectoral basis is an economic review. I will get the full details for the Member opposite. I just forget what the debate was on that issue, but we had an answer we thought was acceptable to the Member opposite.
Mr. Penikett: If I could give my plain English review from memory, as I recall, the position of the Government Leader was that the legal obligation created by the umbrella final agreement and two other pieces of legislation was not about "the" Yukon Economic Strategy; it was about any old economic strategy of the government, notwithstanding the obvious grammatical fact that the Yukon Economic Strategy was written in capital letters in all those laws and obviously referred to the resolution passed in this House in 1988.
However, I am not going to quibble about that now. That is what I understood the government's position to be.
What is fascinating and, dare I say to the former Minister, gratifying is that, in the minutes of the Council on the Economy and the Environment, the Minister says - and I am quoting the minutes now, not the Minister - "Mr. Devries indicated the challenge facing the Department of Economic Development and the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment was to pull the economy out of the economic slump." He even admitted a slump, which was not entirely conceded by that side, but anyway, I continue to quote, "The status of Yukon's Economic Strategy and the role of the department in maintaining the Economic Strategy was discussed. Mr. Devries indicated that the Toward the 21st Century paper complements the Yukon Economic Strategy," capital letters, "which may be used as a guideline. The YES," again capitals, the specific strategy, "should be reviewed by various groups in the context of the umbrella final agreement."
I do not disagree with much of that, but it is - and I only make this point from my view - seriously at odds with the previously expressed view by the other side that the law gave them the ability to review any old strategy that they chose to adopt. I do not want to replicate the debate tonight. The Government Leader has said he will come back to it. I hope he will review his previous answer, and I call his attention to the minutes of the YCEE of December 9, 1993.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Just from what the Member opposite is paraphrasing here, I do not see it being at odds with what I said, but I said I will get the answer back to the Member.
Mr. Penikett: We will come back to this when we are spending quality time with Mr. Fisher later.
I also note a presentation by the deputy minister to the Council on the Economy and the Environment on November 17, 1993, in which I note the following statement, "The Yukon mining incentive program is a highly successful program that assists prospectors to conduct explorations in the territory." My colleague and I will probably want to discuss that statement with the Minister when we get to it.
Now, if I can move on to another subject - yesterday, the Government Leader and I were
talking about the Northern Forum. By pure coincidence, this morning I received in the mail
from the Northern Forum, office of the secretariat in Anchorage, two reports. They are
quite interesting. In one I notice that Governor Hickel is no longer the chair of the
Northern Forum but has become secretary general. I do not know whether or not that means
he has now got himself a permanent job with that organization. He has more than just a
passing policy interest in it since there were rumours around Anchorage when I last
visited there that he was prepared to donate a sizable chunk of his personal fortune to
the organization, which may be the inspiration for the permanent job. What I am fascinated
to notice is that a gentleman by the name of Government Leader John Ostashek of the Yukon
Territory, Canada, is listed as one of the officers of this organization and the Yukon
Territory is listed as a member as of October 1994. So I would be interested in knowing,
since the Government Leader said he had not been part of it for some time, when we last
gave them any money and whether the Government Leader will be going on the latest trip,
which is announced in here as an eight-day adventure in northern China.
It leaves January 24 and gets back February 1. The Government Leader might want to go on that. It may be like the Columbia record club, where they send one six CDs every month, whether one wants them or not, accompanied by a bill, but I was rather hoping it would not be.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member opposite for sharing that with me. I have not received my copy yet, even though I am a member. I can assure the Member that I do not believe we have paid any dues since 1991. Anyway, we have not paid any dues since we have been in office.
The only thing I have done with the forum and Mr. Hickel is to ask if they could keep us informed about what the forum was doing. If I am an officer in the club, I was not aware that they were going to northern China. I did not ask for a pair, so I suppose I will not be able to go.
Mr. Penikett: As a founding member of the Northern Forum, as an act of pure Christian charity and generosity, I might be willing, subject to negotiation, to pair with the Government Leader in Heilongjiang for that eight-day period. I emphasize, however, that I would do it only as an act of absolutely selfless public duty.
Mrs. Firth: I have several questions for the Government Leader concerning this department. I want to begin with a question about the position of research director that was held by Mr. Ted Staffen. I understand that Mr. Staffen is no longer in that position. I would like to ask the Minister if he has replaced him with someone else.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, we have a person in that position on contract.
Mrs. Firth: Has the status of that position changed? It was a full-time job with a job description that had been provided to me by the Minister. It was categorized at the level of an MG-5. Could the Minister give us some details about why it is now a contract position?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will look to see if we have that information here to see what has changed on it. For the interim, we have it filled on a term contract, but I am not even sure how long the term is. I will get that information for the Member.
Mrs. Firth: Is this an order-in-council appointment?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: To my understanding, it is under the Cabinet and Caucus Employees Act.
Mrs. Firth: So Cabinet would have had to appoint this individual with an order-in-council. The person was not hired through the Public Service Commission.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not certain that it requires an order-in-council.
Mrs. Firth: Who hired the person?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Principal Secretary is responsible for the hiring of the people there. I think the difference is that rather than it being a full-time job, it is a term position at the present time. I do not know what the term is. It is not a long-term appointment; it is fairly short - three, four, or five months.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to know when the Principal Secretary was given hiring authority and privileges.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Principal Secretary has always been responsible for Cabinet staff. It is approved by Cabinet that this person is acceptable to them. The Principal Secretary is responsible for the staff in the offices there.
Mrs. Firth: I know the Principal Secretary is responsible for delegating work, and so on, but I have never known, in the time that I have been an MLA, that the Principal Secretary had the authority to hire people. I do not think the previous government extended those kinds of responsibilities to the Principal Secretary. I think that has changed. I do not think the Principal Secretary has had the responsibility to hire people. If it is a political appointment, it would have to be an order-in-council appointment, and that would have to be made by the Cabinet. Is that how this individual was hired?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Principal Secretary makes the administrative changes after receiving ministerial approval. I am not sure if that is done by an order-in-council, but I will check on that and get back to the Member. I do not believe it is an order-in-council appointment, but I am not sure.
Mrs. Firth: Was Mr. Staffen appointed by order-in-council?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: The Government Leader is saying that he does not know. I am sure that when we discussed this last time I asked about the new position being created, and I was told by the Government Leader that it was an order-in-council appointment; he was part of the political staff in the Cabinet offices.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is my understanding that these employees come under the Cabinet and Caucus Employees Act. That is the piece of legislation that is involved.
Mrs. Firth: Who hires them?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We hire them, just as you hire your own caucus staff.
Mrs. Firth: That is correct, but when we hire our caucus staff, we hire them under a contract - under our caucus budget for the Legislative Assembly - and not under the Cabinet budget for whatever. This person's salary is paid for out of Cabinet support - is that correct? I have never heard of the Principal Secretary hiring or firing anybody before.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is done with ministerial approval. I do not personally interview the people for the jobs. I do not direct them every day and tell them what to do; that is the responsibility of the Principal Secretary.
Mrs. Firth: When I asked the Government Leader, the Minister responsible for the Executive Council Office, about this position, it was a brand-new position. Approximately this time last year, or earlier in the spring, this position of director of research had been created. The job was in the Cabinet offices, and the Government Leader told me that the job had never existed before. I was provided with a job description and a category of MG-5 for the position, which indicated that the pay range of that individual was somewhere in the $55,000 to $74,000-something range, and that the position was an order-in-council appointment. It was a brand-new job and it comes under the Cabinet support. It does not come out of the Legislative Assembly caucus funds, it comes out of Cabinet support funds. Now that that individual has left the job I am surprised to hear the Government Leader say that the Principal Secretary hired the person - he is saying that it was done with their support, or that they approved it and then the Principal Secretary hired them - I am not quite sure how that works. I want to know who hired this person, and where the money is identified in the budget for this individual to be paid.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My understanding is that the budget is under the Cabinet Office for procedures and follows the act which applies to all of the political staff. That is where it is budgeted for, and the act provides the legal basis for whatever recruitment actions are taken.
Mrs. Firth: How is this individual recruited? I did not see the job advertised in the newspaper, so what was the recruitment process?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not sure if it was advertised or not, but I know that he was interviewed for the job, or he was interviewed for another job and given this one - I am not sure. I will get that information for the Member.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us who currently has the position?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Could you say that again, please?
Mrs. Firth: Who has the job?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Dave Austin.
Mrs. Firth: How long is that contract for?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know right now, but I will get the length of it for the Member.
Mrs. Firth: If the Government Leader could provide the contract to me, that will give us the details. If he could also check for me to see if this person is covered by an order-in-council, I would appreciate having that information.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will get whatever information I can for the Member.
Mr. Penikett: I will give notice of this question now. My attention has been called to a 17-percent increase in the Cabinet management support estimate in the mains and, for that reason, I wonder if I could ask the Government Leader now, if we could have an organization chart of the Cabinet opposite, so that we know how many people are there and what they are doing under the present administration?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have no difficulty at all in getting that for him, but if the Member would like, I can give the reason for the increase right now so he is not thinking about it until we get around to that. The increase in salary is primarily due to the addition of the chief Yukon government negotiator.
Mr. Penikett: Forgive me, Mr. Chair, but that answer suggests so many more questions. Since I do not see the off-set there, except for a 19-percent reduction in the Bureau of Statistics - and I know for a certain fact that Mr. McTiernan, as statistically literate as he is, did not come from the Bureau of Statistics. I will return to that in the mains, but I would like to see an organization chart.
Mrs. Firth: I want to move now to the information that the Minister tabled this evening with respect to the mid-term report. Now, as I understand it, the mid-term report was a completed document that was passed out at the Yukon Party's last convention for discussion. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It could have been. I do not recall.
Mrs. Firth: It must have been, because I have a press release that came out as a result of the fall convention of the Yukon Party, which was issued by Scott Howell, the president of the Yukon Party executive council, who indicated in the press release that the newly issued mid-term report was a base of discussion. Does the Government Leader remember that discussion?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If that is what the press release said, then we must have been discussing it. It has been a while since the fall convention; I cannot remember all the topics discussed.
Mrs. Firth: I find that interesting. The Yukon Party convention was held October 29 and 30, and the press release was issued after that. Yet, tonight, when the Minister tabled the information about when the request was made for the purchase of the mid-term report, which the caucus took directly to Willow Printers for printing, the date of that request was November 7, 1994.
I am interested in knowing how the mid-term report was passed out at the party convention almost one month prior to the request for it to be printed.
Can the Government Leader explain how that happened?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I cannot. I will have to get back to the Member on that. Is the Member saying the report was discussed before it was printed?
Mrs. Firth: That is what I am trying to establish. I have my own theory of what happened. I think the report was printed and used at the convention, and then the government decided it had better find a way to pay for it. I believe that it then went through the proper channels, so that the printing was paid for. A couple of weeks after the convention, it went down to the Legislative Assembly Office and invoiced a request to have the report paid for. It would have been invoiced at that time. I have the invoices that the Government Leader tabled.
The first invoice, describing the layout, was done on October 30, which was the same time that the newly-issued mid-term report was the basis of discussion at the convention.
Then, I have the next invoice. The date of the request was 94/11/7. It was for the printing of the mid-term report that caucus took directly to Willow Printers. This was requisitioned by Grant Livingston and approved by the Clerk of the Assembly. It was for $5,343 for a finished copy of the mid-term report. I would like to get some idea from the Government Leader - I know that when people heard about the mid-term report, there was quite some surprise within some areas of the government because they had not been responsible for printing the report nor had they even seen the report, yet it was being announced that it had gone through all the proper channels to be printed. Perhaps the Government Leader could explain to us how this could have happened. Did he go back after the report had been published and then put it through the process to get it paid for?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not think for one minute that happened. We do report to the party on what government is doing and the mid-term report, as the Member said, was discussed, according to a press release and I do not find that surprising. We were reporting to the party, as we are to all Yukoners, as to what we were doing with that mid-term report. I do not believe what the Member said - that we went after the fact to get through the proper channels to get it printed. It may not have been printed at the time we were talking about it. I do not know. I will check that.
Mrs. Firth: It must have been, because I, as an Opposition Member, was called,
and I know the other Opposition Members were called because they made the comment as well.
I think Piers McDonald was called for comments. I was called for comments on November 2,
which would have been right after the Yukon Party convention. "Opposition calls
government report propaganda" - and it was the mid-term report, a report on the
accomplishments of the Yukon Party government. It was the one that was later sent out to
the public with the Yukon Party logo on it and so on, that was paid for by the taxpayer.
That report was out on October 30 at the Yukon Party convention.
On November 2, we were being asked questions about it. The invoices say that on October 30, Scribe was just doing the cover design and layout, for $480.43, which we paid for. On November 7, 1994, goods required ASAP - I bet it was ASAP - for printing of the mid-term reports for $5,343, and that caucus took it directly to Willow Printers. So, they must have printed them all and invoiced it later. There is no other explanation for what happened. If the report was handed out two weeks before it was invoiced, that must be what happened.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will have to get back to the Member, because I do not have that information here.
Mrs. Firth: I have the information here, based on what the Government Leader gave me and based on the press release from the convention. The concern I have is that this is absolutely inappropriate and it is wrong. I would have to check about the legality of it, but when a job is requisitioned to be done, it should be done before the publication goes out. That is not even taking into account whether I think it should have been paid for by the taxpayer. I do not think it should have been.
However, if I am going to do a newsletter and I need it printed, I have to have an invoice number and everything completed prior to the work being done. That obviously did not happen in this case. Obviously, the work had been done, and some reports were available to be passed out at the Yukon Party convention. Then when the Yukon Party caucus, who are taking credit for publishing it along with the Cabinet communications secretary, who assisted in writing it - two of them, the previous one and this one - obviously the work had been done prior to the requisitions being sought. I do not think that is right, and is certainly contrary to the government's own advertising policy.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Just because the Member says that is the way it was, I am not prepared to accept that; she has been known to be wrong before in her assumptions. I will get back to her. This evening, that is the best I can do. I am not prepared to accept what she says as the gospel.
Mrs. Firth: Does the Government Leader accept that it might look a little fishy?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Not until I have all the details.
Mrs. Firth: Once the Government Leader gets the details, it will look fishy to him.
I do not understand it. Scott Howell's press release states that the newly issued mid-term report was the basis of discussion at the convention. He gave that to the media after the convention, which was October 30. The Opposition was phoned by the media on November 2 and asked for comments about the mid-term report. I asked the Government Leader for the invoices. The government came back telling me that the request for printing was not done until November 7.
I am not making things up or making any assumptions. I believe that all the evidence is fairly clear. I do not know what more of an explanation the Government Leader will offer to us. In light of this information, which substantiates a concern I had that the report had been printed and distributed before the printing had been requisitioned, it is not in agreement with the government's advertising policy.
The Government Leader is shaking his head, saying no, as is the Minister of Tourism. I would like them to stand up and explain to me why I should not be drawing this conclusion. Why is the answer no?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite can draw any conclusion she likes. I told her that I would get back to her with the information in full detail. I am not prepared to accept what she is saying on the floor tonight as the absolute truth.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Government Leader wants to discuss this with me during the break. I do not believe that the taxpayer should have paid for this, regardless of the evidence we have seen tonight. It is propaganda.
I would like to ask the Minister if he will request that the Yukon Party pick up the
tab of $5,343 for the printing and $480 for the layout, and relieve the taxpayer of the
burden of having to pay for it.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I most certainly will not. It is a legitimate caucus document. It falls within the guidelines that are set out for those types of documents. For the Member opposite to say it is a partisan document is wrong; it is not. It is a factual document, and it falls within all the guidelines.
No, I will not request that the party pay for it.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Government Leader tell us what those guidelines are?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have them right here, and they state quite clearly what can and cannot be in there.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, it says one can identify it. It says that in the guidelines we have. I will read it to the Member: "... further agreed that Members may utilize partisan identification, but they may not include partisan comment or partisan content ...".
Mrs. Firth: I also have those guidelines. On partisan identification, it says, "Constituency newsletters may contain an identification of the political party to which the Member sending the newsletter belongs. Newsletters, however, shall contain no partisan content or partisan comment."
I do not recall ever seeing a newsletter go out from here with the party logo on it. The phrase "identification of the political party" has always meant to me and to other Members I have discussed this with as "Bea Firth, Independent Alliance", "John Ostashek, Yukon Party", "Jack Cable, Liberal Party Caucus", "Tony Penikett, NDP Caucus", and it is the same as the identification on the business cards for the MLAs.
This mid-term report has something different on it. It has the party logo on it. It does not just say that it is a Yukon Party, it has a logo on every page. To me, that is more than party identification.
I think that a logo and the message that was given in the mid-term report, also with reference to the Yukon Party government instead of the Yukon Territorial Government, is very partisan. It brings me to another question. I recall that when the media called and asked about this, the Cabinet communications advisor defended it by saying, and I am quoting now from comments that Arthur Mitchell made to Richard Mostyn, the reporter at the Yukon News, "He said Mitchell is not worried about the flack. 'The only criticism I have heard to date has come from Piers McDonald in a news release and radio interview with Tony Penikett and calls from reporters. I have had no constituent calls. It is the message as my government sees it.'" He then justified this as not being a political document by saying that the Clerk of the Assembly had approved it. I would like to ask the Government Leader this: did the Clerk of the Assembly approve this mid-term report in this context, with the party logo on it? Did he approve the final text with pictures and the party logo? Was that a fair statement for Mr. Mitchell to make with respect to that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I did not ask the Clerk, but I was told that this had been approved. I will check further on that. Getting back to partisan identification, I do not know whether it has been done in the past, but I believe that what it says is quite clear; you can utilize partisan identification. I think that statement is very clear. The Leader of the Official Opposition disagrees with that. Maybe we should refer this whole thing to the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges or to the Members' Services Board and have a good debate in that forum as to what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.
Mrs. Firth: That may be the step to take in a few minutes. However, right now I am very concerned about the comments that were made publicly with respect to this being a legitimate document. I want the Minister to come back and tell me whether Mr. Arthur Mitchell's comments with respect to this report are accurate. I recall that, in his comments, Mr. Mitchell also said that it was quite acceptable to put the party logo on it, and that MLAs put them on their business cards all the time.
Never have MLAs put their party logos on their business cards. Party identification and party logo are two different things, I think. A party logo is a symbol. There is a symbol for the NDP, a person with togetherness - whatever. The logo is this Yukon wordmark that the Yukon Party stole from the Government of Yukon. The Liberals have a logo. But identification is the name of the political party. If the Cabinet communications advisor is misinterpreting what a party identification is, comparing it to a party logo, it is no wonder that the Government Leader is taking that kind of spin on it as well. I want to point out that the comments that were made by the Cabinet communications advisor are wrong and that the logo has never appeared on MLAs' business cards.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will get that information for the Member. I just want to say that, in my opinion, a logo is an identification. I do not see any difference, whether you put the logo or you write "Yukon Party". A logo is a method of identification.
Mr. Penikett: For the record, I would like to table a sample of a typical Legislative Assembly business card, which does not contain a party logo. It contains what we all understand here - all except the Members opposite - to be partisan identification. It says, "T. Penikett, MLA, New Democratic Party, Whitehorse West", and then it contains the logo of the Legislative Assembly, the same as our newsletters have ever since we have had newsletters, and I have been here from the time when the first newsletters were done and publicly funded. There has never been a newsletter issued under the authority of the Legislative Assembly office under the Legislative Assembly vote with a party logo on it. That is the main point. I am tabling this important document for Members to see.
The point is that the mid-term report is not a constituency newsletter, by any definition. It is party propaganda. In a society where everybody has free speech, party propaganda is legitimate. What is not legitimate is the party propaganda, discussed and approved at a party convention, being disseminated at taxpayers' expense.
Now I, as my colleague has done in a three-hour speech, could easily deconstruct the mid-term report in terms of its partisan content. It is not an objective statement based on reality at all, but let me leave that aside. We have got a number of problems with this.
We now have admissions by the government that Grant Livingston - we do not know exactly what he did apart from taking the thing to the printer - who is paid under the Executive Council Office line as the Cabinet communications officer, who is not paid as an agent of the Yukon Party, or someone who can help write a report for the Yukon Party convention, who is paid under the Executive Council Office, has participated in putting together this document, which has on every page the Yukon Party logo, not the Legislative Assembly logo. It is full of comment that is economical with the truth and would not stand an objective evaluation as to its objectivity.
That is not the main point. A number of excellent questions were raised by Mrs. Firth about exactly what is going on here. Perhaps we should refer this, not to the Members' Services Board, but to the Auditor General or the Crown attorney. What we should really be concerned about here is a very important principle of budgeting. The principle of budgeting in this House, the reason we discuss the budgets as we do, is because when the Legislature gives approval to a finite sum of money for a purpose, it is understood that the government - the Cabinet - cannot move money from one line to another without the approval of the Legislature. It is illegal for the government to take money from department X and move it into department Y.
What is clear from the evidence given by the Government Leader is that someone who is paid under the Executive Council Office vote, the communications advisor, and another person who is paid for out of the same vote, Mr. Grant Livingston - although apart from being the runner to take it to the printer, we are not sure what he did - contributed to something the Government Leader claims is a constituency newsletter, something that is supposed to be paid for out of the Legislative Assembly vote.
In the Legislative Assembly vote, the Liberal Party gets a finite amount of money, the Independent gets a finite amount of money, the Official Opposition gets a finite amount of money, the Yukon Party caucus is supposed to get a finite amount of money but if, over and above the amount of money we vote for them here, Yukon Party members have access to the resources of the rest of the government as well - the Cabinet communications advisor, whatever job it is that Mr. Livingston has -without the approval of the Legislature, what the heck is the point of our coming here to make budgets?
It is not fair, but it is also not right. That is why I asked the other day for an estimate of the amount of time the Cabinet communications advisor had devoted to this report. Obviously, he spent time not just writing it; he also spent time defending it, which I do not think is his job, and somebody else in the Cabinet office was involved in moving it to and from the printers.
The Government Leader may not understand this but it is a very important point in legislatures. We have separate functions here. Ministers have one function and legislators have another. The way we deal with the budgets makes a clear distinction between the legislative branch and the executive branch - absolutely basic to our understanding of the way we operate in this constitutional setup.
A government is not allowed to move money from one vote to another vote without the
approval of the Legislature. It looks very much here as if that is what has been done, in
addition to the problem that has been identified by Mrs. Firth. It looks as if money voted
for one purpose has been spent for another.
The Government Leader is shaking his head, but that is what it looks like, not on the basis of the evidence he has provided us.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have to respond, because that is not true. Several statements the Member opposite made are not true. When we want to talk about partisan political comments in the newsletter, we only have to take the Member's own newsletter. I can go through that, line by line, and talk about stuff that has no basis in fact, and it is paid for by the taxpayers.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Let us do it, he says.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Here is a statement the Member makes. "Following the advice of Ron Southern, owner of Alberta Power, the Yukon government begins exploring merger assets of Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Electrical Company Limited which, under the management contract, could eventually give Alberta Power effective control of Yukon power sources."
I would like to see him substantiate those statements. Let us go on in this document; this is utter trash, and it is at taxpayers' expense.
If we want to get into this, I can get into it just as heavily as the Member for Whitehorse West.
Another statement: "The quality of services Yukoners expect will be at risk and, worst of all, our water resources could be under southern control." What utter garbage. It is total garbage, with absolutely no basis in fact. He goes on to say "Following further advice from Mr. Southern, the government is negotiating for the involvement of the Council for Yukon Indians." I would love to see the Member for Whitehorse West substantiate those statements.
He further goes on to say - and I really love this line; it is beautiful - "Under the private ownership, the profits made by the Yukon Energy Corporation would flow south and would not be available to help Yukoners." I do not think that that Member should make those kinds of statements, after we have seen what he did with the profits of the Yukon Energy Corporation. We saw how far south - and east - they went. They also went into private stuff in which the Members opposite were involved and they went into the Watson Lake sawmill - lots of the profits of the Yukon Energy Corporation went into that. For him to make a statement like that is utterly unbelievable.
Before we take a break, he goes on to say, "Water is one of the Yukon's most valuable natural resources, and the selling of the Yukon Energy Corporation to southern interests could seriously jeopardize our access to our own water." If we are talking about partisan political comments and untrue, inaccurate comments, here are some.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: In due time, the Member will have time to respond. I listened to the Member's speech.
In my opinion, the mid-term report is a factual document. It is a report on the accomplishments of the Yukon Party, at its mid-term. It outlines the work the government has done to implement the commitments of its four-year plan.
The mid-term report was prepared under the direction of the Principal Secretary from materials and photographs from the Yukon Party caucus files, and with the assistance of the Yukon Party caucus staff. It was reviewed by the Cabinet communications advisor. The layout for the documentation was done by local companies, and we have provided those invoices.
One of the principal duties of the Principal Secretary is to advise the Government Leader, Cabinet and the caucus on all matters pertaining to the fulfillment of the government's mandate, and to ensure that the political philosophy of the government is reflected in all government business. I want to say, for the record, that the mandate of the Principal Secretary's duties and responsibilities are no different from the previous NDP administration - not one bit has changed.
The Leader of the Official Opposition asked me to describe the role of the Cabinet's communications advisor yesterday. The Cabinet communications advisor provides communication advice and support to the Government Leader and Members of Cabinet. He helps to coordinate public and media relation activities of the Government Leader and the Cabinet. As part of his duties, he naturally reviews many documents and communications, including those issued by the government and those issued by other party caucuses, as well. He reviews them to see whether they accurately describe the policies and programs of the government. When he notes inaccurate descriptions in the communications issued by Opposition caucuses, he draws them to my attention and to Cabinet's attention, so that we are aware of the inaccuracies and can attempt to correct any public misconceptions that they might create.
In his role as Cabinet communications advisor, he may have the opportunity to review some of the Yukon Party caucus' draft publications in advance of their release. He would naturally do this as part of his close working relationship with the Principal Secretary and other members of the Executive staff.
If he noted an inaccurate description of a government policy statement in a Yukon Party caucus publication, he would, of course, point them out to the Government Leader and Cabinet, of which four of us are a part, and would provide the caucus with the correct information.
In his capacity as Cabinet communications advisor, he would normally be expected to
review the Yukon Party caucus publications, such as the mid-term report.
Mr. Penikett: Before we take a break, let me say that it is quite obvious that the Government Leader does not understand the basic difference between government and caucus.
Under our system of government, the government - i.e., the executive branch, Cabinet, the public service, and so forth - is one entity. The caucus is something else.
The Government Leader just read out the Cabinet communications advisor's job. Nowhere in the Cabinet communications advisor's job does it say that it is his job to draft leaflets for the Yukon Party or the Yukon Party caucus. It refers - in his own words, if he would just go back and look at them - to government in Cabinet; in other words, the executive branch, not the legislative branch or the Yukon Party Members of the legislative branch. There is a difference. I think the Government Leader should get a basic education in that difference, because he clearly does not understand our parliamentary tradition at all. He does not seem to understand that, under our system, one cannot move money from one vote into another vote without the approval of the House.
If he wants to talk about my newsletter one day, I would love to do that, because every sentence in it has been documented at the source, and most of the sources are his and his colleagues' statements on the floor of this House during Question Period. The other document referred to is the umbrella final agreement on land claims, which the Government Leader should read some time. It is quite clear under that agreement that if the Yukon Energy Corporation, with its power to expropriate, control water and flood land, is privatized, the government can name the privatized company as its agent. The government keeps claiming it does not privatize.
I have been through every one of the documents, including the one signed by Mr. Boylan and other documents provided to me, and it is quite clear that this government had a hidden and secret agenda to privatize.
It is in the contracts. I look forward to debating that if the Government Leader ever has the guts to do so. There was a hidden agenda here that had nothing to do with the public interest. I will be happy to debate every sentence in my report with him any time. Nowhere in my report can one see an NDP logo. One will not even find the words "New Democratic Party" in my constituency report. This is unlike the mid-term report, which is a piece of propaganda for the Yukon Party, paid for by the Yukon taxpayers. It was created by people in the executive branch of government, by the Government Leader's own admission. That is something that should not happen.
I give notice now that we will be moving an amendment to the budget to reflect our concern about this.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on the Executive Council Office?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Prior to the break, the Member for Riverdale South was talking about contracts of employment and OICs. Just for her information, chapter 2 in the Cabinet and Caucus Employees Act, section 4, "Subject to regulation under section 5, the Government Leader may (a) make a contract of employment with, and determine the duties, remuneration, benefits and conditions of employment to persons employed under this part, and (b) make and determine the terms of the contracts of employment under which the persons are employed under this part, otherwise than by appointment to a position."
So, we have the ability to do it by contract, and having just checked with the Principal Secretary, we do have several people who are working on a contract, rather than an OIC appointment.
Mrs. Firth: I am familiar with that, but the Government Leader did not stand up this evening and say that he has hired this individual. He said that the Principal Secretary had hired the individual. The point I am making is that the Principal Secretary does not have any authority to hire anybody. Never has the Principal Secretary had the authority to hire anyone, so it was the Government Leader who hired the individual, and not the Principal Secretary.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think we are talking about a technicality here. I would
like to draw something to the Member's attention. Under the job description for the
Principal Secretary, one of the clauses reads, "... overseeing personnel management,
including the preparation of position descriptions, hiring, and the handling of
performance problems." That is a job description that was put together by the former
administration, and one that we are continuing to follow.
Mr. Penikett: No doubt we will get back to that.
Can I ask the Government Leader a question of fact? How many people on the Yukon Party caucus staff are paid for under the Legislative Assembly budget?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not want to give the Member wrong information. I do not know offhand how many there are, but I will get the information.
Mr. Penikett: Is Mr. Grant Livingston one of those people?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No.
Mr. Penikett: Is the Cabinet communications advisor one of those people?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No.
Mr. Penikett: Is the Principal Secretary one of those people?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, but by the job description that the Member opposite drew up, he oversees that. Basically, that is what we are doing. We are following the job description that was developed by the previous administration.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader is anticipating me, and that could be a mistake. We are talking about a mid-term report, which is allegedly a caucus report. We have identified three people from the Executive Council line in the budget who have had a hand in preparing it. The Government Leader did not answer the question I asked about how much time the communications advisor had spent on it in the reply that has been prepared by the Clerk's office. Can I ask the Government Leader how much time preparing it and defending it the communications advisor spent on it, the Principal Secretary spent on it and Mr. Grant Livingston spent on it? Just an estimate, please.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I cannot give the Member an estimate. I did say earlier in the debate that, in our opinion, it was the Cabinet communications advisor's role to review all the publications from there, including the Yukon Party caucus publication. He is working under the direction of the Principal Secretary.
Mr. Penikett: In the Government Leader's knowledge, has there ever been an incident in Yukon history where a communications advisor to the Cabinet and a Principal Secretary to the Government Leader and another person on the Executive Council Office have, at taxpayers' expense, been involved in preparing a document with a party logo on every page - in other words, a party publication?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It was not a party publication.
We are following the guidelines of the position description that was set out for the Principal Secretary. Nothing has changed.
Mr. Penikett: Let me ask the Government Leader if he has ever known of any case,
ever before, in Yukon legislative history, where we had a document that has been the
subject of a debate at a party convention, printed on every page with a party logo and
then mailed out at taxpayer's expense? Can he indicate, to his knowledge, if this has ever
happened before in Yukon legislative history?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know if it happened before or not. The Member opposite was the leader of the government then and I do know that party logos have been used in the past on newsletters. I reviewed some earlier and there were some party logos used in the past. The Member for Riverdale should not shake her head until she knows for sure. Let her do her research. The fact remains that the Member opposite is the one who drew up the job description for the Principal Secretary, and we followed all the guidelines in place for the publication of documents and believe that we have abided by them.
Mr. Penikett: I have already indicated that it is my view, and it certainly was the view of the Cabinet communications advisor with whom I worked with most closely through my time in government, that it was not his or her job to do work for the Caucus of the Legislative Assembly. They worked for the executive branch, not the legislative branch or a caucus that was paid for under the legislative branch. Clearly, there is a big difference in policy here.
Let me ask the Government Leader a precise question. He has said that the Clerk of this Assembly approved this document. Did the Clerk of the Assembly approve the document as it was laid out with the photographs and with the Party logo included? Was the Clerk asked to approve the document in that form, before it was mailed out at taxpayers' expense?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My understanding is that the document was reviewed by the Clerk. I cannot say for sure what that includes. I will bring that information back because I have not been able to talk to the people responsible tonight.
Mr. Penikett: Let me ask the Government Leader this question. If, in talking to the people responsible, he establishes that the Clerk did not see the version that was mailed out but saw a version without the Yukon Party logo, without the photographs and without the other expensive production that was involved, would that change the Government Leader's view of the efficacy or legitimacy of mailing this out at taxpayers' expense?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Nothing that has been said here tonight has made me change my
view. I know that the Members opposite are not happy with it. We are not happy with a lot
of the stuff they send out. I could ask the Member if, in fact, the Clerk reviewed this
document that I just referred to so much before. I should ask him that, because there are,
in my opinion, some very partisan political comments in that document.
Mr. Penikett: As a matter of record, the Clerk did take a look at the text of that document before it was mailed out. The remedy for a complaint of a partisan document is very clear, and the Government Leader ought to know this. The Member Services Board has the right to remove the privilege of mailing out newsletters if a Member is in default of the requirement that the material be non-partisan.
Since he has one of the three votes on that Committee, I would invite him to raise it on that Committee, and I would be happy to go into it with him in great detail. I would also want to do the same thing with the mid-term report.
The mid-term report is not a caucus or Legislative Assembly report like any other that has ever been done here. Our documents were done in a fairly standard format by the Queen's Printer. This was a document prepared by people who were paid for under the Executive Council vote. It was the subject of discussion at a Yukon Party convention. It was coloured and illustrated on every single page with the Yukon Party logo. It has extremely self-serving descriptions of some of the events that have happened here over the last two years, and it was mailed out at the cost of over $5,000, at the taxpayers' expense.
If the Government Leader thinks the taxpayers do not care, I have news for him. We heard a lot about this.
If the taxpayer also happens to be a public employee, he may not have spoken frankly to the Government Leader about it for fear of losing his job, but there are people who feel strongly about it.
This is an extremely important policy point. Is it the intention of the Government Leader to have the Cabinet communications officer do work for the caucus in future, work that is supposed to be provided for under the Legislative Assembly vote of this House? Does he intend to have the Cabinet communications advisor do work for government backbenchers again?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: What I said was that the Cabinet communications advisor reviews all documents, and he will continue to do so. He has to review them in order to ensure that they are consistent with what the government is doing. That is his role, and he works under the direction of the Principal Secretary.
Mr. Penikett: With the greatest of respect, the Government Leader is confused. The Cabinet communications advisor's job description, which the Government Leader read out, does not mention anywhere that he does work for the caucus. Now, tonight the Government Leader is saying that the Cabinet communications advisor reviewed the document. Earlier, he told us that the Cabinet communications advisor helped to write it. He claimed that the previous Cabinet communications advisor and the present one helped write the document. That is what he said. Let me ask the Government Leader this: does the Government Leader understand the difference between a private Member and a Member of Cabinet? Does he understand that a private Member is not necessarily governed, in the British parliamentary tradition, by the decisions of Cabinet, and that a private Member's views or press releases, statements or speeches in our parliamentary system, are not subject to review by the executive or by an employee of the executive branch? Does he understand that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This is a caucus document. I am a member of that caucus, and I have the right to review those documents. My Principal Secretary carries out a list of duties, responsibilities and functions that were set out by the previous Government Leader, and that role has not changed from what it was then - not according to the job description and the roles and duties that are set out.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader does not seem to understand that there is a difference between the legislative branch and the executive branch. There is a difference between the caucus and the Cabinet. We spend some time here debating the Legislative Assembly vote because we are all governed by a sense of fairness and the allocation of resources between caucuses. As I said before, the Liberal Party has a certain amount, the Independent has a certain amount, the Official Opposition has a certain amount, and the government caucus has a certain amount.
When the Members opposite spend money on caucus activities, that money is supposed to come from the Legislative Assembly vote, which is a fixed allocation that contains limits. It is a complete violation of the traditions of parliamentary government for the caucus to be able to dip into the $480 million pot that is under the control of the executive branch to top up the financial allocation that is provided by this House. For the caucus to use the resources that are paid for under the executive branch for purposes other than those that the House intended them to be used is not right. It is not proper for the caucus to use the Cabinet communications advisor to write documents for it, which is not part of the job. It is not part of the job as it was approved in this House and it is not part of the job that we pay for in this House. Does the Government Leader not understand that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I understand that quite clearly. However, I also understand that the Cabinet communications advisor does review these documents. Is the Member opposite saying that the Cabinet communications advisor ought not to review newsletters issued by the Opposition? It is part of his job to review those documents.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I did not say that he wrote them. I said that he worked on them. Reviewing them also constitutes working on them, does it not? We are nit-picking here. We are doing nothing different from what was done by the previous administration.
Mr. Penikett: When the Cabinet functions as a cabinet, as the executive branch, they represent all the people of the Yukon; they govern on behalf of everybody. They serve the public interest, at least they are supposed to. The Cabinet communications advisor is there to advise the Cabinet in communicating in that respect. The Cabinet communications advisor is there to serve the public interest. The Cabinet communications advisor's job is not to be a party hack; it is not to be a flack for the Yukon Party. If the Yukon Party wants to hire a flack to spread propaganda and to give a particularly partisan view of events or interpretation of things, then it should hire such a person out of its allocation in the Legislative Assembly budget. That is my view.
I want to ask the Government Leader again: does the Government Leader, in future, intend to have the Cabinet communications advisor, an officer of the Cabinet in respect of its public duties serving the public interest, act as a party flack?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I resent those statements. He has not done that in the past and he will not do it in the future.
Mr. Cable: I am having some trouble following this somewhat Byzantine analysis. I have no comment on the questions being asked, but on the responses.
During the December session, I asked the Government Leader questions because I was somewhat unsettled as to who had prepared the mid-term report. On page 60, December 6, of Hansard, I asked, "Was there any public service input into this mid-term report, or was it prepared solely by the Yukon Party caucus staff?'' The answer given to me and to the House at the this time was, "To the best of my knowledge, it was prepared by our caucus staff.'' Was that the situation and does it remain that way today?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, that is correct.
Mr. Cable: My understanding of the exchange here earlier is that the communications advisor was instrumental, in part, in the preparation of the mid-term report. Is that an inaccuracy? Did I misunderstand what took place with the questions?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I said quite clearly that he reviewed the document.
Mr. Cable: Who actually prepared the document? Is there a name that we can attach to the editorial staff of the mid-term report?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I do not have a name as to who did what. There were several people working on it.
Mr. Penikett: I would ask the Government Leader to check his own statements. He told us yesterday that the former Cabinet communications advisor, Mr. Dale Drown, and the new one, Mr. Art Mitchell, had a hand in writing the report. I am used to reading the reports, and I know a little bit about writing. There is a certain stylistic consistency, which would not have been provided by the kind of committee the Government Leader is suggesting.
Let me ask him, again, a straight-faced, bold question: did Mr. Mitchell or Mr. Drown contribute any words, any language or any writing to that report?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I stated, quite clearly, for the record - I would suggest that the Member read the Blues tomorrow - and in great detail, what had transpired.
The overseer of the project was the Principal Secretary. The Member opposite disagrees with me on that, but if he reads the job description he wrote for the Principal Secretary, he will see that that is one of his roles: he is to oversee those kinds of projects.
Mr. Penikett: I am skeptical about that. Clearly, the thing was professionally written, or at least professionally edited. I suspect that the former statement of the Government Leader is the accurate one - the one involving the two communications advisors.
Perhaps the Government Leader can tell us why, in addition to the Cabinet communications advisor reviewing it - I guess that means edited it - and the Principal Secretary, who did work on it - was it that Mr. Livingston delivered it to the printer, as opposed to a caucus staff member?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have no idea. Perhaps he was going that way.
Mrs. Firth: Everybody is going one way or another. I know where this government is going.
I want to ask the Government Leader a question about the Cabinet communications advisor, Mr. Arthur Mitchell. Was he present at the Yukon Party convention, where this mid-term report was discussed?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe he was.
Mrs. Firth: Is it part of the Cabinet communications advisor's responsibility to defend Yukon Party activities in the media?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, it is not part of his job to defend Yukon Party activities. I am not so sure that Mr. Mitchell did that.
Mrs. Firth: The Government Leader cannot have it both ways. He said this mid-term report was a publication of the Yukon Party caucus, which was discussed at the Yukon Party convention. In fact, it was not just discussed; it was the basis of the discussion at their convention. They would not have had a convention if they did not have the mid-term report. I am reading Scott Howell's press release that he gave out to the media and the public.
One would have to be there. This was the base of discussion: when the Opposition Members challenged the report as government propaganda, guess who comes forward to defend it? Arthur Mitchell, the Cabinet communications advisor. Arthur Mitchell said that the document was "... purged of any nasty partisan comments, added Mitchell." By whom would be a good question to ask the Government Leader. He can write that one down.
"It seems to us to be less partisan than Opposition or past government documents." That is a pretty safe comment to make. "Yes, the party's logo is displayed at the bottom of each page, but that's okay under the rules of the Legislature, he added. We checked with the Clerk before it was published and after, he said, it was passed by the Clerk. After all, MLAs' business cards can show their party's logo, he said. This is the same thing. It passed as a newsletter. I think the bottom line is that we check to see if it was an appropriate use of funds. We checked again after it was back from the printers and we were told it is appropriate. It doesn't attack other parties or people."
That statement raises a lot of questions. Why is the Cabinet communications advisor being paid to defend some document that was discussed at the party convention - a party discussion document that was later mailed out as a PC caucus publication to all Yukoners and paid for by all Yukoners?
Secondly, I have some questions with respect to the Cabinet communications advisor's interpretation of the rules when the rules very clearly say that constituency newsletters may contain an identification of the political party to which a Member sending the newsletter belongs. Newsletters, however, shall contain no partisan content. It does not say anything about a logo. I have never seen the business card of an MLA with a party logo on it, and I have not seen a newsletter with one either.
The Government Leader says he is going to check and bring one back. Perhaps he will do that, but I have never seen one.
It raises another question, and that is the whole onus of this being a bona fide
acceptable document being placed on the Clerk. Arthur Mitchell said the Clerk approved
this document before and after it was at the printer and that it was fine. I want to know
if that is an accurate statement. I want to know if that actually happened.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: First of all, I do not believe that the Cabinet communications advisor was defending a party document, as the Member opposite said. He is the Cabinet communications advisor; he is the person whom the press contact; and when they called, he was defending it on the basis of a Yukon Party caucus document. I will get back to the Member.
As I said, I was told that this was checked several times to make sure that it fell within the guidelines, which I was told it did. I will speak to the Cabinet communications advisor directly tomorrow and get back to the Member on that.
Mr. Penikett: I have two points to make before we leave this one. We have just
had Mrs. Firth read out quotes from the Cabinet communications advisor, defending
activities of the caucus - something that is beyond his job description and something he
is not paid to do. I want to ask the Government Leader if we are going to see that kind of
thing again from the Cabinet communications advisor?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think we are splitting hairs here. The Cabinet communications advisor will do the duties that he is supposed to do.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I disagree with the Member kibitzing in the background, saying "and whatever else he wants to do". I do not think that is a fair statement.
I believe the document is a legitimate document that was funded in a legitimate manner.
Mr. Penikett: I urge the Government Leader to take some time to perhaps talk to Mr. McTiernan, or someone else, to explain to him the very important difference in our constitutional tradition between the legislative branch and the executive branch. An employee of the executive branch, such as Mr. Mitchell, should not be doing work for the legislative branch, or for any members of the legislative branch or Members of the government caucus. That is absolutely basic in our system of government. If the Government Leader does not understand that, and Mr. Mitchell does not understand that, they had better get a Political Science 100 lesson right now. I mean it. This is serious; it is not funny. It is absolutely basic to our system of government.
The Government Leader claims that, in the past, some of the Members had business cards with party logos on them and that we have issued newsletters with party logos. If he fails to establish that, and if we discover that the use of the party logo on what the Government Leader claims is the mid-term report is unprecedented, will the Government Leader change his position and have the Yukon Party pay for it as it ought to?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I will not have the Yukon Party pay for it because if the Members will go back through newsletters in the past - I am sure he has files of them, just like we have - he will find that in the past, on a couple of occasions at least, I have seen a party logo on a newsletter. I did not say it was that of the Member opposite. They were part of the government at the time and no issue was raised about it.
Mr. Penikett: If someone committed an offence in the past and did not get prosecuted, or no complaint was made, it is all right to do it now - is that the situation ethics of the Government Leader?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Quite clearly, it is not an offence and we have checked on that. Quite clearly it says that in the guidelines, and if the Member opposite wants to change the guidelines, I would be happy to discuss it in the Members' Services Board or somewhere else. The guidelines are quite clear about what can be used on a newsletter.
Now being the time, I move that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved that the Speaker resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:26 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled January 18, 1995:
Gambling: letter dated January 17, 1995, respecting need for consultation with Yukon First Nations, from Judy Gingell, Chair, Council for Yukon Indians, to John Ostashek, Government Leader (Commodore)