Tuesday, February 14, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with silent Prayers.
Yukon land claims and self-government legislation proclaimed
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am pleased to officially advise the House that the process to enact federal and Yukon claims and self-government legislation is now completed. This day, February 14, 1995, marks the beginning of a new era for the Yukon Territory and all its people. Earlier today, the Government of Canada proclaimed the bills to bring into effect the land claims and self-government agreement reached with four First Nations. The territorial legislation passed unanimously by the Yukon Legislative Assembly in 1993 now also comes into effect.
This is a proud day for the Yukon First Nations. It is their day. On behalf of the Yukon government, I offer our congratulations to all First Nation leaders for their tireless work over the many years. It was 22 years ago today that Elijah Smith presented the Prime Minister of Canada with the historic document, Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow. I would like to join with the Members opposite in honouring the efforts of Elijah Smith, the elders and the many people who have contributed to the work that has brought this this far. It is incumbent on all of us to recognize the vital role that First Nations elders have played in guiding the negotiation through the past two decades, and particularly those no longer with us. The agreement will remain as their legacy.
I would also like to acknowledge the many contributions made by some Members of this and past Assemblies. There have been many Members of this House who have worked diligently to see this day become a reality.
We still have a distance to go to complete the land claims in the Yukon. As a government, we are placing renewed emphasis on the negotiations with the remaining 10 Yukon First Nations to contribute to a just and lasting settlement.
This government has been actively preparing to implement its obligation under the final self-government agreement passed by this Assembly in December 1993, and we will continue to strive to work with First Nations to implement these agreements now in place.
As we move forward into this new era of First Nations self-government and shared responsibility and interest in many respects of life in the Yukon, we look forward to working together with First Nations governments for healthier communities, for economic opportunities and to sustain our environmental and cultural heritage.
Ms. Commodore: I, too, would like to offer my congratulations to all Yukon First Nations people and the many people who were involved in the settling of land claims. We all remember when, 22 years ago, Elijah Smith and the chiefs travelled to Ottawa to start the land claims process. My colleague, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, was among that delegation.
That was the start of many, many hard years, when many people believed that it might not even happen because of the great opposition to it. That came not only from the people who did not understand it, but - some may recall - the division that was created by Indian Affairs between the status and non-status Indians. I think that, because of land claims, that division has closed, probably faster and more firmly than anywhere else in Canada.
I would like to pay tribute today to Elijah Smith, of course, who was the person who started the process. I had the opportunity to work with Joe Jacquot, with the non-status organization, but there were many people involved, including the many women who kept their homes going so that their men could go to Ottawa to talk about the claim. Thanks also to the many elders and chiefs in the First Nations groups and to the many women who started to get involved in the political process of land claims and many other things.
There are people to whom we can pay tribute today, and I would like to do that. I will end by congratulating Judy Gingell, who was the chairperson when the land claims of the four First Nations were settled, and to our leader, Tony Penikett, who was very committed and worked very hard to ensure that those four land claims were settled at that time. We, who were in government at that time, know the hard work that was put into it. It is a great day; it is a historic day. We, on this side of the House, will join the government in celebrating it on behalf of all of those people.
Mr. Abel: It has been 22 years to the day since Elijah Smith presented the historic document, Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow, to the then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of those people who worked so hard to make this special day a reality. I would also like to remember all of those who worked so hard on the claim but are no longer with us. This is a very proud day, indeed, for all of us here in the Yukon Territory.
Mr. Cable: It is indeed a historic day. The proclamation of the federal land claims legislation can be described as the end of the beginning - the end of that period where the negotiators, the politicians and the lawyers have been the principal players in the process. It can also be described as a new beginning for the Yukon First Nations, and the start of a new relationship with the non-First Nation people. It will be that start of that period when the Yukon people as a whole, First Nation and non-First Nation alike, will be the principal players. The success of the claims, in the sense of whether the new relationship will work, will depend on these players.
I personally look forward to the challenge of making the claims work. It is my sense that the vast majority of Yukoners do as well.
The reservoir of goodwill is there to act as a cushion during the ups and downs of this developing relationship.
I should say in closing how much I enjoyed hearing Elijah Smith's voice on the radio this morning. He was a calming voice in a turbulent time and he was a source of advice for me and many others in Yukon.
Mr. Joe: I am proud to stand up today and speak to you about land claims. When the first message was passed to Ottawa by Elijah Smith, the chief and I were there to support Elijah Smith. This was our first trip to Ottawa. I even have a picture of the day we were there. I have the picture here. That was just the start. We have come a long way. We never forgot our white brothers, our friends. Without them, we would not be this far. We are working together for our country, Yukon. I think we are going to go much further by working together.
I would like to say again, Yukon is our country.
I have a chief here, pictures and memories of the Vuntut Gwitchin's father, Charlie Abel There is Johnny Smith, me, Jimmy Enoch, Danny Johnston from Carcross, Ray Jackson from Haines Junction, Percy Henry, Dixon Lutz, Sam Johnston, George Billy, Peter Lucas and Clifford Macleod.
Mrs. Firth: On behalf of the constituents that I represent I would like to offer my personal congratulations as well as the congratulations of the constituents in Riverdale South to the First Nations people, who have today finally gained their independence as a self-governing and self-determining people.
There will be a challenge facing all Yukoners after today, and I think it is a time for understanding and a time for all Yukoners to work together. I would like to offer my continued support to the First Nations, and thank you for this opportunity to speak.
Speaker: At this time we will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Ms. Commodore: I would like to introduce to the House some relatives of mine who are visiting here from Telkwa, British Columbia. For those who do not know, Telkwa is very close to Smithers, British Columbia. My granddaughter just left.
They are Caley Boulter - who, by the way, was named after Marg Caley of the pioneer Caley family of Dawson - my grandson Shayne Boulter and their friend, Brenda Donas. They are visiting here from Telkwa, British Columbia.
Speaker: Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have a legislative return for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have two legislative returns for tabling.
Speaker: 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: First Nations, consultation with Yukon government
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Acting Government Leader. Today is a significant day for the Yukon First Nations and all Yukoners with the proclamation of land claims and self-government legislation. Last week, I asked the Acting Government Leader about ignoring chapter 16.7.16 of the umbrella final agreement when game farm regulations were announced without proper consultation. I would like to ask him this question again, because I know it was asked of the Government Leader on the radio today, whether or not he would tell this House if he has since last week consulted with a lawyer to determine if the government did, in fact, break the law regarding the game farming regulations, because it is still an issue.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, we have not consulted with a lawyer. The Government Leader stated today that he would be looking at that when he came back.
Ms. Commodore: The Yukon Economic Strategy agreed to unanimously in this House in 1988 calls for an annual review. The UFA, chapter 22.7.2 says that at least one-quarter of the delegates invited to attend the annual review of the Yukon Economic Strategy are to be Yukon Indian people or their representatives, and as of today this is law. Can the Acting Government Leader tell this House why the government has not had an annual review and if the government is at all concerned that it is yet again breaking the law by not having one?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Considering that long speech, I will take it under advisement because my return speech would be just as long, and that is not proper in this House.
Ms. Commodore: Again, I am not getting any answers in this House. I thought that that was what Question Period was for.
Given the past actions of this government and their seeming disregard for the law, can the Acting Government Leader explain how the proclamation of the land claims legislation will change their behaviour toward First Nations? The Minister denied last week that there was a problem.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will deny it again today. We have not broken the law. We will continue to cooperate and work with the First Nations.
Question re: First Nations, consultation with Yukon government
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister responsible for Economic Development. Yesterday, the Minister of Economic Development said, "With the passing of the umbrella final agreement and our First Nations settlement agreements, we are entering a new level of partnership with First Nations for economic development." Can the Minister of Economic Development give concrete examples of how this is going to happen?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will answer the question, but I would like to point out that we are in budget debate on Economic Development this afternoon. There will more time to fully answer the questions in budget debate.
The umbrella final agreement requires that we assist First Nations to develop an economic plan. We fully intend to follow that recommendation.
Ms. Commodore: Given the lack of support from this government for the Taga Ku project, and the government's lack of respect for the law, can the Minister tell us why First Nations would consider doing business with the present government?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: First Nations are in charge and responsible for their own economic development. One of the requirements is for us to assist with the planning, which assistance we fully intend to offer. If a First Nation chooses not to use some of our resources, that is up to them. However, I expect First Nations will be asking for our input.
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Acting Government Leader, whom I also asked this question of last week. It was with respect to disregarding the umbrella final agreement. Now that it has been proclaimed, I hope things will change.
The Minister has denied there is a breakdown in relations. Can the Acting Government Leader assure this House that he and his government will make every effort to bring back the relationship it should have with the CYI, as of today? Everyone knows that relations have broken down, and people are really concerned about it.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am not aware of the relationship breaking down at all. I have talked to a number of them and no one has indicated that to me.
Question re: Land claims, economic impact
Mr. Cable: I have some further questions for the Minister of Economic Development. When the last Yukon economic forecast was tabled, the then Minister of Economic Development expressed several reservations about the forecast. One of his reservations related to land claims. The then Minister said, "The land claims could have a tremendous impact on the economic potential of the Yukon. It should have been given more credence." Is that a view shared by the present Minister?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is no question that the settlement of land claims and this historic day will have a great effect on the economy of the Yukon Territory. Certainly, I agree with the statement.
Mr. Cable: The Minister indicated in December that two economists were compiling and updating data all the time. This is in the context of the general economic forecast. Have the two economists, which the Minister indicated were working on the Yukon economic forecast, been instructed to analyze and report on the economic effects of the land claim agreement generally and the economic benefits flowing from the first four band settlements?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not believe the economic forecast, to which the Member opposite referred earlier, will reflect the specifics under the land claims for economic opportunity or development because that forecast has been in the works for a very long time. I cannot say for sure whether the department is compiling a forecast with the land claims settlement in mind.
Mr. Cable: One of the Minister's predecessors indicated in debate when the last Yukon economic forecast was tabled that, in the next document produced, the land claims would certainly be given the recognition deserved. Could the Minister check with his officials and report back to the House as to whether or not there will be a confirmation of the effects of the land claims on the economic potential of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Certainly, I can, but I expect that we can probably discuss that in more detail this afternoon, when there are officials from the Department of Economic Development in the House during budget debate.
Question re: Fish and Wildlife Management Board, consultations with
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Acting Government Leader or the Minister of Renewable Resources. The Government Leader has stated that he will be looking into the matter as to whether or not the Yukon government has broken the umbrella final agreement with regard to their failure to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. I would like to ask either Minister why they waited for this time for the Government Leader to come back and investigate now, when the correspondence indicating this from CYI was sent to the government and was raised in this Legislature back in December.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Fish and Wildlife Management Board was consulted. For two and a half years, the Fish and Wildlife Management Board reviewed and provided input into the game farming regulations. There has been a transition period. The previous board expired on September 16, and a new board has been appointed under the terms laid out in the umbrella final agreement. The new Fish and Wildlife Management Board can certainly review the game farming regulations and provide input to me, as Minister.
Mr. Harding: That Minister is the one who brought forth these regulations, and I am asking him what he is going to do about the growing chorus of Yukoners out there who are concerned about the regulations that he brought in. Yesterday, we heard that the Yukon Conservation Society has joined a growing chorus, which includes the Council for Yukon Indians and many other Yukoners who have expressed concern about his regulations. I would like to ask him what he is going to do. Is he going to do something, or is he going to continue to ignore these Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would like to point out that the development of the game farming regulations started in 1987. The Yukon Conservation Strategy, which was put together in 1988 and 1989, and finally adopted in 1990, has a section in it that deals with game farming. It says that game farming is a recognized industry in the Yukon Territory. We approved the regulations, there is no question about that, but the side opposite was fully involved in the overall development of the game farming regulations.
Mr. Harding: That is complete and utter nonsense. The Minister knows full well that the previous government brought in a moratorium on the industry because of the concerns that were raised by Yukoners. The previous government was pushing for a full federal/provincial/territorial environmental review on the issue of game farming. The present government is ramming these regulations down the throats of many Yukoners who have expressed concerns; they have failed to listen to them. Does the Minister realize that cooperative wildlife management and the Fish and Wildlife Management Board are going to play a key role in the umbrella final agreement?
Chair: Would the Member please ask the question.
Mr. Harding: Does the Minister realize that the entire umbrella final agreement is based on cooperative wildlife management?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I certainly realize that, but I have to respond to the Member's preamble.
I gather the Member is saying that the Yukon Conservation Strategy, which was approved in 1990, does not say that game farming is a viable industry in the territory. Is he saying that that government did not pass that strategy?
Question re: Yukon suicide rates
Mr. Penikett: Studies have shown that the Yukon has the highest rate of suicide in Canada. According to Dr. Paul Cappon's 1991 Yukon health status report, the preventable years of lost life for suicide in the Yukon were 350 percent of the national average for males.
Has the Minister of Health and Social Services' government taken any steps to address this tragic situation?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am sure the Member opposite will recall that it was the PC Yukon party that sent out a task force to travel the Yukon and find out from all the stakeholders and residents, particularly in the smaller communities, about the dimensions of the problem and what might be done.
Since we have been in office, we have been taking steps to empower communities to handle, in a holistic fashion, a lot of the social problems that may cause the high incidence of suicide. We have been making particularly good progress in some areas with additional money and counsellors for Yukon Family Services, as well as for alcohol and drug counselling. A host of other things are being done about which I could go on, but it is one of those questions that I am sure we will be exploring during Committee of the Whole.
Mr. Penikett: The report by the Conservative Party mentioned by the Minister of Health specifically recommended a public awareness campaign aimed at telling people how to avoid easy access to guns and how that would be beneficial in reducing the possibility that they will be used for suicide. Can the Minister tell us why his - or any department of the government - appears not to have taken any action on that recommendation since the government came to office?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I really cannot advise the Member why, but it is possibly for the same reasons that his government failed to act when it was in power.
Mr. Penikett: It would be a nice change if this Minister, once in awhile, could avoid the chippy, partisan comment in responding to serious questions and perhaps deal with the substance of the matter.
Given the extremely high rates of suicide in Canada and given that, according to Dr. Cappon's report, and the report by his colleagues, Mr. Nordling and Mr. Devries, the vast majority of suicides in the Yukon are from the use of firearms and that this problem is exacerbated by the widespread availability of firearms in the Yukon, could I ask the Minister this serious question: what steps, if any, has his government taken to address this problem and this situation?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Of course, since that report came out, the federal government has implemented steps with regard to not only the handling of firearms, but the safe storage of firearms and ammunition. Many, many Yukoners have acted in conformity with the new federal legislation.
We have been very active on numerous fronts regarding the issue of suicide. We have had special task forces and special crisis-management teams moving into such places as Old Crow when there was a problem and Ross River when there was a problem, and to other areas of the Yukon. We take the problem very seriously.
Question re: First Nations involvement in land development
Ms. Moorcroft: Today is an important day in Yukon history with land claims and self-government legislation proclaimed as law. Mindful of his earlier comments about a new era for Yukon people, I would like to ask the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to respond to what is a serious question in a responsible manner.
What is his understanding, according to the umbrella final agreement, of First Nations involvement in future land developments?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As the Member knows, the agreement was just signed today. We are already working to get committees that will sit that will include one First Nations representative and two government people to discuss land issues in different areas of the Yukon.
Ms. Moorcroft: That was kind of a non-answer from the Minister. The law may have been proclaimed today but it was signed quite some time ago. The Minister should be familiar with what is in it. Can I ask him, again, the question of how, according to the requirements of the umbrella final agreement, this government will ensure First Nations involvement in future land developments?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I thought I answered that. There will be a lands committee that will be set up for consultation any time any land is used or anyone wants to develop any land.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister about the new multiple rural-residential zoning. I have confirmed that the City of Whitehorse was not informed in advance about the government's plans to create urban density in a rural area just outside municipal boundaries. We also know that First Nations were not consulted about this zoning change. Why were these two levels of government not consulted about these changes, which the Yukon government made just a week or so ago?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: In Committee of the Whole, we said that we wrote to both First Nations asking their opinions on 608 land, which we subdivided.
Question re: First Nations, consultation with
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to follow up with the same Minister. He cannot just stand there and say that they have tabled letters in the House and that that constitutes consultation.
The letters were tabled in the House but he did not produce any evidence that the First Nations had even received them. Despite repeated questioning, he did not respond as to why the government did not wait until they got an answer to the letters before proceeding with the changes.
Can the Minister tell me what he is going to do to meaningfully consult? Why did he not wait for a response?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I suppose that we could wait forever. Both First Nations have explained to me why they did not answer. I have accepted that. I am not going to bring that up in the House. I accepted what they told me. They were quite busy as they were trying to get through land claims. This was one thing that was not that much of a priority.
Ms. Moorcroft: Yesterday, the Minister stated that he has full confidence in his department to carry out instructions to consult with First Nations about future land development. This is now a legal requirement. I would remind the Minister that he is the one, in the end, who is responsible for mistakes. We are not questioning the department; we are questioning the Minister's actions and the instructions he gives.
Will the Minister, in future, ensure that there is a response - because that is the definition of "consultation" in the umbrella final agreement - before he proceeds with any changes?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have asked again today that any time any of the people in my department are doing anything associated with land claims land, they are to consult with the First Nations. They have all agreed that they are trying to do that, and they will make a better effort to do that from now on.
Ms. Moorcroft: In the House, the Minister committed to phoning the chiefs of the two First Nations who have interest in the land near where the rezoning occurred. The Minister stated that he did make those phone calls. Can he tell us whether he got a positive response to the government's initiative to undertake the zoning change? Did the First Nation support the zoning change?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As I said, I am not going to discuss what went on on the phone between us; however, I can say that it was quite friendly.
Question re: Yukon College, board members
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Education that requires an A or B answer.
In a few days, the Yukon College board will have several appointments expiring, including the chair of the board. Tomorrow evening, the president of the college and the chair of the college board will appear as witnesses before the Committee of the Whole. I would like to ask the Minister if the chair will be appearing in his capacity as A, a former chair of the board, or as B, a reappointed chair of the board.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: New appointments have to go through Cabinet. The capacity of the chair, in this House, will be to appear as chair of the board.
Mrs. Firth: I understand these appointments expire in two days. Is the Minister telling us that he has not yet taken names to Cabinet for the appointment of the new chair of the college board?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The new board members have not yet been approved by Cabinet.
Mrs. Firth: So, we have no new board members approved and the Minister did not answer my question about the appointment of the chair.
Perhaps I can put the question to the Minister this way: I have an outstanding piece of legislation on the Order Paper, a private Member's bill that is an amendment to the College Act, which takes the responsibility away from the Minister to appoint the chair and gives it to the board to choose the chair. I would like to ask the Minister if he is going to be proposing that that be the way the chair of the board is selected from now on?
I just want to indicate that the previous Minister agreed with that principle. Perhaps this Minister could tell us if he agrees with it and if he is going to make changes to do that.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: My commitment to the college board is that we would be introducing certain amendments to the College Act, one of them being the issue of how the chair is selected, and whether it should be selected by a quorum of members who sit on the board.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre, harrassing phone calls from inmates
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister responsible for Justice. We have recently received reports from individuals who are receiving harassing phone calls from spouses who are incarcerated at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. We contacted an official at the Correctional Centre and we were told that the woman - who, by the way, is on social assistance - could avoid these calls by changing her number, by purchasing an answering machine or disconnecting her telephone. We were quite horrified to learn that this was the official's response to a very serious matter.
Could I ask the Minister if he could let us know if he has knowledge of the problem that exists at the jail?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, this situation has not been brought to my attention, although I have been harassed by telephone calls at home and work from people incarcerated at the Correctional Centre.
I will check into this situation for the Member. It is a very serious matter and I will certainly give it very serious attention.
Ms. Commodore: I actually used to get the telephone calls as well, but I was never harassed. Could the Minister tell me whether or not there is a policy at the Correctional Centre regarding outgoing calls by inmates?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member, who was a former Minister of Justice, should know if there is a policy, because nothing has changed with respect to policy since that Member was the Minister. No changes have come before me.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to ask the Minister right now, because the problem exists right now and this is the first time I have heard about these harassing phone calls. I would like to know if there is some way to deal with this matter other than requiring the person receiving the telephone calls to purchase an answering machine, change her telephone number or disconnect the telephone. I would like to know so that I may pass this information on to the individual receiving these harassing phone calls by her spouse.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I cannot tell the Member right now what we can do. I can tell the Member that it is also a concern of mine. I will certainly look into it, and if there is something we can do to prevent it, we will. There are some civil rights involved, and unfortunately the Charter is pretty strong on these issues, so there is not much we can do. Sometimes it seems the victims have fewer rights than the people who are incarcerated.
I share the concern of the Member and will look into it.
Question re: Non-government organizations, funding for
Mr. Cable: I realize the portfolio of the Minister of Economic Development is up for debate in the budget, but there is no line item attached to policy, so I hope I will receive an answer to my question.
On January 10, 1995, the Minister said in the House, "I have a definition of what is considered core funding and what is classified as fee for service. I would be quite happy to table that in the next day or so."
Has the Minister had an opportunity to consider what the definitions of fee for service and core funding are?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe Rule No. 12 deals with questions during Question Period when they relate to later debate. However, for the benefit of the Member opposite, I will answer the question.
We are in the process of developing a policy that will define core funding and fee for service.
Speaker: For the Members' information, according to Rule No. 12, a question is out of order if debate is scheduled for that day on the same subject matter. I realize that during the past few weeks there have been some questions that touched on what was to be discussed later during Committee, but I believe the majority of Members did their best not to discuss that subject during Committee debate, although that is not for me to judge.
If the Member is willing to agree that he would not be asking questions about this later, then I suspect this is fine.
Mr. Cable: I am asking questions in the general policy sense, not questions that are restricted to the Minister's portfolio of Economic Development. It was in the context of how advocacy groups are financed, and I think that is much larger than Economic Development. The Minister just happened to be the particular target of the questions that were asked that day. In that sense, I accept your ruling.
The Minister indicated on January 19, 1995, the general policy that we just referred to - referring to all departments, and not just his Department of Economic Development - would be tabled shortly. When can we expect this document to be tabled? Can we get a better definition of when it will be done? Will it be within the next two or three days, or the next couple of weeks, or some time later this year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As the Member mentioned, it covers more than one department. We have a draft that is being circulated to various departments to see if it will fit the various departments. Getting back to the original question, what we are looking at is that a fee for service would be a situation where we would provide funding for an organization in exchange for a service that we felt was necessary, or that we required, and for which the amount they would want for providing that service would be no more than the amount for which we could provide the service ourselves.
Mr. Cable: There was a further question put to the Minister, in the context of funding for the Yukon Agricultural Association. The Minister agreed to look into, and, he hoped, to table agreements that were made with the Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Yukon Placer Miners Association, and the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, so that we can see what is constituted as core funding and what is constituted as fee for service. The Minister agreed to do this on January 24, which is some three weeks ago. Could the Minister give a commitment to table those three agreements?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I thank the Member for his question. I did table them about 20 minutes ago.
Question re: Fur harvest funding
Mr. Harding: I had intended to ask about the Agricultural Association's core funding today but did not think I would get away with it, so I will not test the waters with you, Mr. Speaker. I might ask it later, but let me ask the Minister of Renewable Resources a question about trapping.
Roughly 500 Yukoners are involved in the trapping industry, according to government figures. Some trappers have come to us with their concern about where this government is going with the industry. I have been told that the fur harvest manager position at the department has been cut. Can the Minister tell me why this position has been cut and why the Minister is determined that the duties previously performed are no longer needed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will have to take at least part of that question under advisement. My understanding is that we are providing no less funding in this fiscal year than was provided in the previous year.
Mr. Harding: The Minister obviously does not have a clue about what is going on with this important industry, nor does he have a clue about what is in his budget. When I look at the 1995-96 budget, I see a cut of 20 percent to the Fur Institute and 31 percent to the Yukon Trappers Association. People in the industry have told me there are problems in other programs.
I would like to ask the Minister why trapping has become such a low priority with this government, given this year's huge spending budget.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Trapping in the Yukon Territory has not become a low priority of this government - not at all. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. I do not have the details here about the funding that goes to the association nor what our total budget is, but I do know that there is money coming out of Renewable Resources, and I believe there is something in the economic development agreement for the trapping industry.
Mr. Harding: The Minister cannot stand up today and tell us whether the fur harvest manager position has been cut; he cannot speak to the cuts to the trapping industry that are in black and white in the budget, and he stands up today and says it has not become a low priority. If that is not a low priority, I do not know what is.
When the Government Leader went to China recently, he said he was over there trying to drum up support for the fur industry. I would like to ask him: why did they do this while they were abroad while at the same time they have been cutting back support here for the fur industry?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As I said, I do not have the details with me. I will be providing the information to the Member opposite. I do not believe for one minute that we are not supporting the fur industry. We definitely support the fur industry.
Question re: Photocopier replacement in government
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Government Services. On the tour that the employees took when they went to visit Xerox in Toronto, the employees also visited the remanufacturing centre where Xerox apparently remanufactures photocopiers. I previously asked the Minister a question in this House with respect to the tender documents that will be going out for photocopy machines. I have asked what the policy is and the Minister was unable to give me a definitive answer. Could he tell us today, by giving us a clear policy statement about tender documents for the purchase of photocopiers if the government will be carrying on past practices, which has been strictly to purchase new photocopiers, or will they be changing it include remanufactured photocopiers?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I believe that I gave the Member a definitive answer the last time she asked this question, and I will give it to her again. The government does not want to limit competition within the territory, and we do not want to spec any tender so that we are limited to purchase from one manufacturer.
What I said last time was that, if we were to accept remanufactured photocopiers, and it limited us to accepting bids only from Xerox and not the other two suppliers in Whitehorse, then we would not do it. In that sense, our policy has not changed. We want all three suppliers in Whitehorse to bid fairly and competitively on supplying that type of equipment to the government.
Mrs. Firth: That is clearer than the last representation the Minister made. He is saying that the government will not be tendering for remanufactured photocopiers in competition to new ones. Can the Minister tell us if the government will be putting out tenders specifically for remanufactured photocopiers?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, not that I am aware of. Again, if we were putting out tenders specifically for remanufactured copiers, then I think we would be limiting ourselves to one supplier. If the other suppliers start to produce remanufactured photocopiers, that may be the way to go. At the present time, however, we have no plans to limit the competition to one firm.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us if he or his department officials have consulted with any of the other photocopier suppliers and indicated to them what the policy of this government is?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I described in a previous answer that we went through the supply of convenience copiers with Xerox and other suppliers last spring. There were meetings in May. There was a concern discussed with the other suppliers. They were concerned that we would accept remanufactured photocopiers from Xerox. At that time we said we would not. I think the other suppliers are well aware that we will not accept remanufactured photocopiers unless there is competition. I confirmed with Xerox that we were specifying new copiers and that was what they had to supply us.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has elapsed.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Notice of Opposition Private Members' Business
Mr. McDonald: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the order in which the items standing in the name of the Official Opposition are to be called on Wednesday, February 15. They are Motion No. 40, standing in the name of the Member for Whitehorse West, and Motion No. 34, standing in the name of the Member for Whitehorse West.
Mr. Cable: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the item standing in the name of the Member for Riverside to be called tomorrow, February 15. That is Motion No. 41.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: 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. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that 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. Is it the wish of the Committee to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Department of Economic Development - continued
Mr. Harding: I would like to raise some constituency matters with the Minister. The first one is an issue that he is aware of as we have had numerous correspondence between us, both verbally and written. This issue stems from an application made by one of my constituents for economic development funding.
Without getting into all of the nuts and bolts here, I want to ask the Minister to undertake - based on what I say to him - an investigation to assure me that the concerns raised by my constituent are heard and that there is some acceptance that they are legitimate, as I believe they are, and that the concerns will be dealt with fairly.
My constituent is interested in the Yukon River chalet business. It is economic development application 4140933. The Business Development Advisory Board reviewed the application and I believe it was essentially the second application by my constituent who has had many discussions with the economic development officer from Dawson.
My constituent was told that the board was unable to recommend his loan. The reasons given to him were: (1) more market research with stronger indications that market is accessible; (2) project considered was very ambitious and costly; and (3) amount of debt was too high for a new, untried business.
In responding to this letter, my constituent was somewhat confused, and so was I when I was helping him with the response. According to the manager of financial programs, the board also said it liked the project and would be willing to review a scaled-down application with the three points addressed.
The problem my constituent has is a very practical one. He has already spent a lot of money preparing what he believed was a solid and well-thought-out marketing and business plan. He has had communications from overseas, which indicates he has a lot of interest in the particular business he would like to set up in the tourism field. He has spent thousands of dollars in market research in the preparation of his business plan.
When he was told the board would be interested in the project in general and would be willing to review a scaled-down application, his curiosity and interest perked up again. The problem is one of a chicken-and-egg scenario.
He has already done a lot of work and spent a lot of money on this, which has not been fruitful. Now, the carrot has been dangled in front of him again, but he is not too interested in spending more time and money on developing another proposal for a scaled-down application, just to have it rejected also.
He is in a bit of a chicken-egg situation, as I am sure the Minister can see. What he would like to have from the board is a commitment about what they would be prepared to do in terms of financial support, and some more specifics about what the government would need, so that he can make some calculations and decide whether or not he should proceed, given that he has already spent a lot of money and is very interested in pursuing this project.
Can the Minister see that my constituent is in a legitimate bind? Can he, as the Minister, have his department ensure that the board looks at the predicament that my constituent is in?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I can certainly understand the situation that he is in. I am not going to make a commitment here that the department will fund him or not fund him - I cannot do that. What I will commit to is having one of our departmental officials speak with the person - the application number will be in Hansard, so we can quite easily find out who it is - and get the full story about his particular predicament. My understanding, from the Member's comments, is that they would ask him to scale it down and then look more favourably at it. It sounds to me as if he needs some reassurance. I will have one of our department people discuss it with him, and then take it back to the board, if that is what the Member's constituent requests.
I would like to table some documents that we referred to last night in debate - the Department of Economic Development current policy activities.
Mr. Penikett: I wonder if I could just follow up on the question of my colleague, the Member for Faro. It so happens that I had occasion to also meet and talk with his constituent about the particular project. While I will not ask my question about the specific case, I would like to ask the Minister about a general policy question that arises from this matter.
The facts as described by my colleague illustrate the problems very well for a small businessperson, who is told that they have to take certain steps before they can reapply. However, they are really not told clearly whether or not, on reapplying, they will be able to satisfy the needs of the department. This puts them in a bit of a limbo. Having made a substantial investment already, they will naturally be in a quandary about making further investment without clearly knowing what to expect from the department.
I want to ask the Minister about the role of business development officers in this respect. Having been partly responsible for having established the offices in the first place, it was certainly our idea in the beginning that, rather than being gatekeepers, bureaucrats or bankers, these people would be expediters for the small entrepreneur. Indeed, they would help them get through the regulatory hoops and navigate the approval process in their applications.
I would like to ask the Minister a very general question arising out of this case. Does he not agree that it is an appropriate part of the role of the business development office to be able to say very clearly, in person or in writing, to the applicant that, in order to qualify, they must do A, B and C. They should be able to say to the applicant that, although they may not be up to the standards or requirements on D, D and F, and that if they do two or three certain things, they are likely to get favourable approval.
I ask the Minister this question because it seems to me that that kind of clarity could save the applicant a lot of frustration, worry and anxiety and also help keep the government Economic Development employees much more focused in terms of their tasks.
I am really asking a leading question. I am not asking it in any confrontational way. I am just asking if the Minister agrees with that general proposition.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I fully agree with the Member's observations. I believe that the business development officer can help very much in a situation like the other Member has described. There is a bit of a problem. The BDOs are out in the communities, as the Members opposite know, and they may very well think that everything they have requested the applicant to do has been done; but then it goes to a virtually independent board, and the board may very well come up with something else. I have actually seen that happen. The BDOs, in some cases, will throw up their hands and say, "I am sorry; I did everything I thought was required and who can pre-guess an independent board?" There is perhaps a bit of a communication problem between the office in Whitehorse and the BDOs out in the community. That could be it; I do not know.
The Member opposite is absolutely correct. Maybe there is something we could do. Once the business development officer in the community has said, "Okay, you have everything in place that needs to be in place", the applicant's chances of getting the application passed by the board would be much better. Who knows. Maybe that independent board will come up with something that was missed somewhere along the line, but I think there is a bit of a communication problem, and we are aware of it.
Mr. Harding: I have a minor problem that I want to raise with the Minister, and it involves the time allotment the economic development officer for Ross River is given regarding the amount of time that that person spends in Ross River and Faro. As I look through some of the economic development agreements, I see economic development officers stationed in many small communities and, given the amounts, it looks as if they are considered full time.
At present, the office hours in Faro are on Wednesdays. Right now, there are a lot of people who are very keen to develop business interests in the community. I know that the economic development officer is very busy between both communities, and it is sometimes tough for him to deal with both communities.
I received a call today from a new constituent, a Ms. Mary McInnis of Faro, who is interested in starting a new business and has been trying to arrange a meeting with the economic development officer. For one reason or another - whether it was something she could not do to meet, or it was something he could not do - and given the time constraints that he has, it is sometimes difficult to arrange meetings.
I have an overall concern that perhaps some more resources in this area should be channeled into both Faro and Ross River, because economic diversification is something that we want to pursue in Faro. We want to have a sustainable long-term community there. I believe that the economic development officer should be key to that role. As Mr. Penikett said, that was the main idea behind the development of these economic development officers in the communities.
As a representation to the Minister, I would ask that strong consideration be given for more time and resources for the economic development officer for Faro so that these new concerns can be dealt with. I would also ask that the department ensures that my constituent, Ms. Mary McInnis, at 994-2008, has her concern dealt with in a reasonable manner. I understand that the economic development officer has business office hours tomorrow, and I have called and left a message. I hope something can be arranged - if not tomorrow, then in the near future.
Could I ask for a response to that representation, and also an assurance from the Minister that the department will try to deal with my new constituent's questions.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe the business development officer for Ross River and Faro is scheduled to work 20 hours a week between the two communities. With Faro rebuilding, there probably is a lot more activity in that community than there has been in the past - well, there is, surely. We need to address the problem that the Member has just brought forward. Part of our planning regime that is being carried out in the department right now is looking exactly at that.
In the meantime, the Member's constituent should be aware that she can call toll free into our Whitehorse office and talk to someone here, if she misses an appointment with the business development officer. I do realize that, in a situation such as this, it is better to be talking face to face with the person. If for some reason she is not able to meet with him on his regular schedule days, possibly she could do that.
Mr. Harding: I will pass that information on to my constituent today but there are a lot of questions she has that need to be addressed face to face. She could, for some general direction, adopt the Minister's suggestion. We will work toward arranging a meeting with the EDO in Faro as soon as possible.
Mr. McDonald: I would like to return to the subject that we were discussing last night; namely, the industrial support policy. Last night, just to recap, I tried to get a few things tied down so that we could begin a discussion about the principles of the policy itself. Unfortunately, I am none the wiser as a result of some of the discussion we had last night. We learned that the draft policy, which was tabled last spring, which we were assured was not the policy in early December, was in effect in November, despite the fact that it was not approved until January. We learned that Anvil Range has never discussed its needs under the auspices of the industrial support policy, despite the fact that the throne speech indicated in early December that those discussions, under the auspices of the policy, were already underway.
The person charged with negotiating deals between the mining companies and the government is the mining facilitator. This person is the same as the internal industry advocate. This person works under virtually no program guidelines and has apparently not informed the Minister of the magnitude of the deal that is currently being negotiated with Loki Gold, the only company that is negotiating under the auspices of the industrial support policy.
I am afraid that the discussion last night did not lead me to believe that we have a clearer picture of what is happening; nor did it resolve any of the fears that I had about some of the elements of the policy that I felt were misguided.
I would like to ask the Minister a couple of basic questions starting with the consultation process. Can the Minister tell us who the government consulted about this draft policy, when the people were consulted and what the basic response was to the draft policy that was tabled in April 1994?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I need to make a few comments first.
I believe the Member opposite's conclusion respecting last night's debate is inaccurate. I said last night that there were discussions with Anvil Range Mining, which was aware of our policy - that we were formulating it, that there had been a draft policy, which was circulated. There were discussions with Anvil Range Mining under the auspices of the policy.
I suppose we could go around and around about the definition of the word "auspices". I said last night, and I will say it again today, that the policy was not approved until January 5, when it finally received Cabinet approval. However, that does not mean there were no discussions about infrastructure requirements Anvil Range Mining may at some time require or request of the Yukon government under that policy.
On the consultation, I do not believe we have a list. There were about 20 or 21 different groups and organizations specifically consulted, and they all provided comments back to us. I do not have that list here. There were several mining companies, the Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Association of Yukon Communities, and organizations such as those.
Mr. McDonald: I am more than happy to go back to last night in order to tie this matter down. The Minister is being extremely slippery about this point, and I am not going to let him get away with it.
Last night he said to us that Anvil Range has not asked for any assistance under the industrial support policy to date. After being asked a very specific question about who the government is negotiating with under the auspices of the policy - all of the mining companies - the Minister said, "Loki Gold Corporation". He started by saying the government was negotiating with Anvil Range Mining Corporation, but he then admitted he had made a mistake, and that it was only Loki Gold.
The Minister takes issue with my summary of last night, but cannot justify why he is claiming that my remarks today are inaccurate. I am not playing with words; I am trying to understand what the government is doing with this policy. I cannot get to square one in finding out what is going on, who is negotiating with whom, under what terms and under what policies - I cannot find that out.
Last night the Minister was saying, "When is a policy not a policy? Why does anybody think that it should necessarily be approved by Cabinet?" He says that there were earlier discussions going on, but they were not under the auspices of the industrial support policy - but maybe there was some reference being made to the industrial support policy. What in heaven's name is happening?
This Minister is responsible for a lot of public money. This Minister has all of the economic hopes and aspirations of his government on his back - they have pinned their hopes on this industrial support policy. Every time there is a debate in this Legislature about any economic development or about the future of the economy in this territory, this industrial support policy - like its predecessors, the infrastructure program, the Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century paper and all of those incarnations of the four-year plan - are trotted out. Every time we try to pin the government down and find out precisely what is going on and dig through the rhetoric that is behind all of these policy statements, we get a big mumbo-jumbo, wishy-washy kind of response. If the Minister is going to take me on about what was said last night and what this policy means, I am prepared to go for it. I think it is my duty to tie this down now.
Were there ongoing discussions taking place with Anvil Range under the industrial support policy, which made reference to the principles of the industrial support policy, in December?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will read the speech into the record so that everyone is clear about what it says, because the Member has referred to it a number of times: "Mining companies such as Anvil Range Mining Corporation and Loki Gold Corporation are currently discussing their transportation, energy and other infrastructure needs under the auspices of this policy." That is referred to above, "...has made public a discussion paper detailing the Yukon industrial support policy as a response to the high cost of infrastructure for resource development projects in the Yukon."
The budget speech makes it very clear that the industrial support policy, at that time, was in the discussion stages and that is what I said last night.
The only negotiation that we are undertaking is with Loki Gold, which has only been over the past few weeks. We have discussed the formulation of the industrial support policy with many companies, people and organizations prior to the policy going before Cabinet for final approval. Many people in the territory knew about the policy.
Mr. McDonald: First of all, the Minister is referring not to the budget speech, but to the throne speech, which pre-dated the budget speech by a few weeks. Nevertheless, if we are going to be precise, we might as well be precise.
Let us get this clear. We were led to believe that discussions were underway; discussions meaning that the companies were indicating what their needs were, and government was responding with what the possibilities were for public financial support. We were led to believe that that was the case and that things were happening as the Commissioner was reading the speech. The government was action oriented.
There is no mistake about that. The throne speech refers to a draft policy. We went to the trouble in Question Period to try to determine whether or not the draft policy was actually being used and whether or not the draft policy was a policy - was the policy of record, was the policy approved by Cabinet - or whether people were simply operating on their own hook without Cabinet direction.
When we asked those questions in Question Period, the Minister told us that the draft policy was still a draft and not a policy, to reassure us that the draft was not being used for discussions with mining companies because the department was waiting for Cabinet to speak. Yet it was made patently obvious in the mid-term report that the government felt it already had an industrial support policy. We were told in a letter to Cash Resources that the government had an industrial support policy.
One could ask: why the confusion? The confusion arose because the rhetoric of the government about wanting to be seen as being action oriented did not meet its actions. They were trying to have it both ways.
They were going to demonstrate that things were actually happening, that things were actually cooking. They had an ambitious agenda that they were going to move forward when they had not yet done the basic policy work. It is my contention that they still have not done the basic policy work.
We do not like being misinformed in this Legislature about what is going on. I really resent slippery answers when I am asking specific questions, and the answers do not tie down what is happening with respect to, or whether or not there is, an industrial support policy, whether or not there is a draft, whether or not the draft is being used and whether or not there are negotiations going on. I do not appreciate getting bureaucratic responses. It may get them out of a public meeting in some community, but it does not wash with me.
I want to know what negotiations have been taking place, because each Member of this Legislature is getting different signals about what is happening. I do not want to hear that the Minister is now going to try to fudge the word "negotiations" or "discussions" and whether or not the meeting was formal or informal, in an attempt to make the rhetoric match their actions - after the fact.
I can assure the Minister that we are going to be here until we get the information that is required. I am going to ask the Minister some very precise questions, because that is the only way we are going to get to the bottom of it. The Minister insists on poking me on this question, and I am going to give him, in response, what he is asking for.
I want to know what meetings were held with Loki Gold, from last April, with any person employed by this government. I want to know who was at the meetings and what was on the agenda. Will the Minister provide us with that information?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, I have to respond to a lot of preamble before I get to the actual question.
The Member opposite is accusing me of fudging words. I believe that he was the one who was throwing the words around last night respecting negotiating when, in fact, there were no negotiations. He is accusing this side of being confused. I believe that the only confusion is on the part of the Member opposite. He resents certain things. I also resent being intimidated and I resent coercion.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fisher:
The Member wants to make accusations. I did not start this. That Member started it. I try to answer the questions and I will continue to try to answer them. I can give the Member any information we have of documented meetings. I believe that there were some meetings that were not documented. I do not have a problem having the department dig those up and I will pass them on to the Member opposite.
Mr. McDonald: I have not said this before to any Minister, but I think this Minister is incompetent and should resign.
I have never said that to any Minister on the front benches of that government, but this has got to be one of the lowest points that I have ever witnessed in this Legislature in a discussion of this sort.
Last night, and over the course of the last two months, we have been asking some very specific questions about probably the most significant plank in the government's economic strategy. We have been trying to determine what is happening. We know that there is a lot at stake. We know that the industrial support policy is the government's expression about how they are going to support industry and development.
The Minister has indicated in the Legislature - and up until recently, I had every reason to believe him - that the policy that was referred to in the mid-term report and in the Cash Resources letter was not the policy of record. He said so in Question Period and I quoted him yesterday.
He said the draft policy was not a policy. He made it clear; he set us straight; we believed him.
On January 5, we were told the policy was the government's formal policy. I asked some questions last night about who was negotiating, on what basis the negotiations were underway, and what criteria were guiding the negotiations. They were fair questions, because the specifics of the industrial support policy provide no restrictions whatsoever on a negotiator.
I was informed there were no programs, and the Minister cannot expect me to know what those programs will be. Consequently, one draws the conclusion that there are no guidelines.
We were told that Anvil Range Mining had not discussed its needs - meaning transportation, energy, et cetera - under the auspices of the industrial support policy. We took the Minister at his word. Then, we asked him to explain why the throne speech had indicated that it had discussed its needs. The Minister did not answer, other than to try to force fit the rhetoric into the actions - it could not be done. Now, the Minister is coming forward and saying that I am fudging the words, but all I am trying to do is find out what is happening.
The Minister has indicated that he is going to give us a list of all of the meetings of record, so to speak, between Loki Gold and the government. As well, I think the Minister has indicated - and he can correct me if I am wrong - that the agenda for those meetings will also be made public. I would also like to know who was present at those discussions, and whether or not the industrial support policy was communicated to Loki Gold and, if so, in what manner it was communicated - what was offered to Loki Gold and what Loki Gold has asked for - during the negotiations. Is the Minister prepared to do that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We are not prepared to negotiate the industrial support agreements in this House. When we have reached a tentative agreement with Loki Gold or with any other proponent of a project, we will table it in the House. The House will then debate the project on its merits and will decide if that project is to be funded or not.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to get into the debate and ask the Minister a few questions about the Yukon industrial support policy. I was particularly interested in the comment he made this afternoon about groups that had been specifically consulted and asked to provide comments. He listed a few groups, but did give a final figure of 20 groups that had been consulted.
I have in my hand a letter from the previous Minister. I had asked a question in Question Period about who had been consulted with respect to the Yukon industrial support policy. The Hon. John Ostashek wrote me a letter saying, "As requested during Question Period on Thursday, April 21, 1994, I am pleased to provide you with a listing of all of the organizations that have been contacted to provide input on the Yukon industrial support policy. All input received will be reviewed and all good and practical suggestions will built into the final policy.''
I have 20 pages here - not 20 groups, 20 pages - and on each page, there are 20 names, which makes it about 400 people who were consulted. Perhaps the first question I can put to the Minister is this: whose information is wrong, his information about 20 groups or the Government Leader's information about 400?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure. I will have to get the information back from the department because I have not seen the actual list the Member opposite has seen. The list I saw had approximately 20 names on it, so there could very well be more. Possibly the 20 I saw were the responses to date or something like that, but I can check it with the department and confirm how many actual drafts went out and how many responses were received.
Mrs. Firth: I find it unusual that the Minister would not know who had been consulted and would not be familiar with this list. He has been the Minister for some time now. This is supposed to be the important industrial support policy. The names on the list I have total approximately 400 - some of the pages do not quite have 20 names on them. They are predominately mining companies - pages and pages of mining companies, which would make me ask why all these mining companies would be consulted. There are a few local organizations and groups that have been consulted. Some of the chiefs of the First Nations have been consulted. Dawson public library - I do not know why they would be consulted. Keno City community library - I do not know why they would be consulted, but these are some of the names in the list. Some are mayors and some local businesspeople have been consulted.
Perhaps the Minister can tell me why he does not know about this. Why would I get a communication from the previous Minister and have more information about the Minister's department than he himself has about his department?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would like the Member opposite to table that particular document so that I may have a look at it. It appears to me that maybe that is the list of people who received the draft policy.
Mrs. Firth: I will table the document, but it is my only copy so I would like to get it back. I can pass it to the Minister so that he can have a look at it.
I would like to ask the Minister how many people responded to the industrial support policy, and will he table the responses that his department received?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure if the people who did respond would want their responses to become public knowledge. I can certainly find out who responded, and maybe have the department do a summary. I am not sure that the actual responses should be made public without the knowledge of the people who provided those responses. I will discuss it with the department during the break and get back with a more definitive answer after the break.
Mrs. Firth: I would like the Minister to get those answers for me. I think that the Minister could also check with the people who responded to see if they have any objection to their response being tabled here in Committee. If they do, I would have to respect the wishes of the particular group, organization or individual. However, I think it would be in our best interest to see what groups are saying about the industrial support policy, because as I understand it, they were being asked to respond to the draft policy.
I want to ask the Minister a very basic question - I know we will be having more discussion about who was consulted - and that question is this: what is the application process? I know there are no application forms for this program. If a manufacturing or a mining company wanted to take advantage of the industrial support policy, what is the application process? Who would they - he, or she, or the CEO, if it is a company - get in touch with?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Applications are made by letter, and they are referred to one individual in the department who coordinates them and deals with the mining facilitator, or whomever is necessary.
The Member opposite should be aware that I believe we have only had one application to date.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps that is because there is no application process. How do people know they are supposed to write a letter, and to whom? What are they supposed to put in the letter?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In the application, proponents must have an understanding or agreement with the local community and/or First Nations. If no agreements are in place, proponents must present compelling evidence of a bona fide attempt to develop a partnership. The value of local benefits is to be a part of the calculation of net positive benefits. The proponent must declare the size of investment to be made in the application. Proponents must submit an application for assistance before work begins on the Yukon industrial support policy infrastructure portion of the project to be eligible for assistance.
Those are the kinds of things that would be in the application.
Mrs. Firth: That is the problem. There is no application. The Minister has said that one is to write a letter. How do these mining companies and manufacturing companies know whom to write a letter to and what to ask about in the letter? I do not know what document the Minister was just reading from, but I would be interested in having a copy of it, if it is some kind of application process. But there is no application, so who do these companies write to if they want to participate in the industrial support program, and how do they know what they are supposed to write about in the letter of application?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The policy itself says who the contact is. Maybe the department has, very recently, created an actual application form - there was not one a couple of weeks ago - so I would expect that the people would apply by letter. The contact is right on the policy - Yukon Economic Development, 400-211 Main Street, Whitehorse, Y.T., Y1A 2B1, with a telephone and fax number.
Mrs. Firth: Surely, the Minister can understand how silly that sounds. He just told me that one is to write a letter to Yukon Economic Development - "Dear Yukon Economic Development, I want to participate in the Yukon industrial support program. Yours truly, ABC Mining Company." And they are to do this without knowing what is supposed to be included in the application. How does the department determine whether or not it is a legitimate application?
his policy contains the principles of our industrial development support policy." However, nothing in here states some of the things the Minister was reading out. Will the Minister table whatever document he was reading from, which says what the government expects people to include in their applications? I do not know what he is reading from, and I know that any company interested in applying would not have any idea of what to be applying for, either. Perhaps the Minister could be very clear with his answers and very specific with his answers. Does he still maintain that one should write to the Department of Economic Development? If so, what is one supposed to ask about in the letter?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The mining companies have, probably long before they even start to put together an application, made contact with the Deputy Minister of Economic Development, possibly me and the Government Leader. They are probably aware of - or have received - a copy of the policy. They are very much aware of the industrial support policy.
The guidelines and conditions that are outlined in the policy are what I was reading out a couple of minutes ago. I have some notes that add a bit more. For example, guideline number 3 says that the project proponents will work with local communities and First Nations to develop strategic partnerships aimed at increasing local benefits.
I have some notes under that saying that if the proponents do not have an agreement or understanding with local First Nations and communities, they must present compelling evidence of a bona fide attempt to develop a partnership. The value of any local benefits are to be part of a calculation of net positive benefits. The notes that I have just expand guideline number 3 to some extent.
I do not believe that the department has an actual application form. The guidelines and conditions in the policy govern the type of information that is required of the applicant.
Mrs. Firth: I want to follow up on the Minister's comment about how an interested mining company can get hold of the deputy minister, or they can call the Minister, or they may already know what is happening. That gives me a lot of concern, because we find out that the mining companies - or any companies - are not writing letters to "Dear Yukon Economic Development". They are picking up the phone. It is not what you know, but it is who you know and who you have access to. What the Minister is saying is that if a mining company knows the Minister, they can just pick up the phone and speak to Mickey and say, "Hey, I am interested in this industrial support policy."
Perhaps the Minister can tell us how Loki Gold got in touch with the government? Who did it contact about its application?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Loki Gold has been discussing its project with the government even prior to the policy even being developed. It was discussing parts of the project with government officials. I was aware that they had come in at one time to talk to Community and Transportation Services when I was Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
When the industrial support policy was approved, Loki Gold was definitely interested in applying for some assistance under that policy. I would expect that all of the mining companies in the Yukon are very aware of that policy - I believe the Member opposite has a list of names that the draft was sent to some time ago. They were well aware of the policy long before it was approved.
Mrs. Firth: How did Loki Gold begin discussions with the government? Who did it approach first? How did it make its initial contact?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know who it contacted first; I have no idea. I do know that some time ago it contacted the Deputy Minister of the Department of Community and Transportation Services, but I have no idea who it contacted first.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could tell us if there is policy that states there is some sort of natural order or some appropriate level of communication. Can any mining company walk in and meet with any government department and whomever they want to in the department? Is there no protocol or policy to govern who meets with whom and discusses what?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would really hope that a mining company could come in and talk to a government department. If Loki Gold is worried about the Old Ditch Road, I would assume that it would talk to the appropriate official in the Department of Community and Transportation Services. If a company is concerned about power, I would expect that it would go to the Yukon Energy Corporation.
I would hope that these people would make contact with government personnel who are responsible for certain areas and responsibilities.
Mrs. Firth: So the Minister thinks it is okay for any mining company or business or company to make contact and start discussions. Perhaps the Minister could clarify for us exactly what it can start discussing. Can companies make requests for things to be done?
The Minister laughs, but we are just trying to find out how this process works. I have a concern about anyone being able to come in and start negotiating under the Yukon industrial support policy with a department official, particularly in light of the fact that the policy is really a non-policy, given that it is so vague, non-descriptive and non-specific.
Does the government have any communication, written or otherwise, with Loki Gold that the Minister would be prepared to table so that we can try to decipher how this whole relationship began?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know. The Member opposite seems to be saying that people are not allowed to talk to government officials, that there should be a big sign out in the lobby of this building saying, "You are not allowed to go in and talk to the Deputy Minister of Community and Transportation or Deputy Minister of Economic Development or the superintendent of highways". I think we need to step back here a bit and look at this. We are not talking about an application process where there are hundreds or thousands or even tens of applications. What we are talking about is maybe one or two applications a year under the Yukon industrial support policy. Generally speaking, government officials know about any activity in the mining area. Geoscience people in the government office have an information exchange with all kinds of mining companies all the time. Government officials know of most mining activities in the territory, so when these companies are getting to the point where they are doing some major exploration, they usually are talking to governments. They are talking to the federal government for permitting and they are talking to the Yukon government for access and that sort of thing, so it is not a new deal when somebody comes in and wants to talk to someone about the industrial support policy and how it may apply to their particular project.
Mrs. Firth: The key word here is "deal". That is the key word. The Minister knows I have no objection to people coming and asking questions of department officials or deputy ministers or public servants or whatever. We are not talking about that. We are talking about deals being made, about negotiations going on, about the potential expenditure of millions of dollars. The Minister says there are no application forms nor is there even a minimally structured official process for doing this.
I have never seen such a loose, unstructured process for mining companies or other kinds of companies to come to the government to apply for millions of dollars of money. One must go through a stiffer process when one applies for a grant to renovate one's house, or a loan to upgrade the energy-efficiency of one's house. At least one has a form that one must fill out. We have been given everything from the Minister this afternoon, from phoning one's favourite deputy minister, or one's favourite Minister, to writing a letter to the Yukon Department of Economic Development. This is ridiculous.
If all the mining companies know all about this policy and the fact that they can phone up people, is there one person designated in the Department of Economic Development who is the contact person for the implementation of this policy? If there is, who is it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The mining facilitator is the contact person.
Mrs. Firth: Now, mining companies phone the mining facilitator. What if it is a different kind of company - a manufacturing company, or agricultural? Do they phone the mining facilitator too?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I gave the Member opposite some wrong information. It is not the mining facilitator who is initially contacted. It is one of the other people in the department. It will then be turned over to whomever. If it was a mining project, then one would be dealing with the mining facilitator.
Mrs. Firth: Who is the other person who would get the application first - or the non-application, or the phone call - and turn it over to the mining facilitator?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe it is one of our policy people. I will check that after the break to make sure, but I believe that is who it is.
Mrs. Firth: There is a policy person within Economic Development who has been identified to be the contact with respect to the Yukon industrial support policy. Is that what the Minister is saying - absolutely?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I did not say it absolutely. I said that I would check after the break. However, I believe that is who the contact person is at this time.
Mrs. Firth: If there really is a contact person, why is their name not on this industrial support policy? I do not know if there is or not - I am not going to accuse the Minister of anything. However, it does not make sense to me. If there is a contact person, their name should be on this industrial support policy as the person to contact. Then, at least we would have one step in the application process - one legitimate step, if there were somebody there to contact, instead of phoning your favourite deputy minister or Minister.
Mr. Cable: I guess that what concerns the Opposition Members is the general blank-cheque nature of the policy, whereby mining companies and manufacturing companies can approach the government, and there are no real definitive rules set down for either the public servants or for the project proponents. I would like to refer the Member to the last page of the policy, under the paragraph entitled "types of assistance". It reads, "The value of the assistance will be determined through a negotiated development agreement, with a proponent that has been approved by the Yukon Legislative Assembly. If the Legislative Assembly is not sitting when an agreement is reached, the agreement shall be tabled in the Legislature." What does the Minister mean by that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The initial intent was that, if the Legislature was not sitting and an agreement had been reached, that agreement would be tabled at the next sitting of the Legislature. However, we are rethinking that particular portion of it. We will ensure that any agreements reached will be tabled in the Legislature prior to funding the project.
Mr. Cable: The Minister is saying that one of the terms of any agreement struck will be "subject to the approval of the Legislative Assembly". Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, that is correct.
Mr. Cable: How does the Minister anticipate this will be budgeted? Will there be a specific pocket set aside for industrial support policy projects, which will encompass monies flowing from his department and from Community and Transportation Services, or will the Minister bring in supplementary budgets? How will it be done?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The problem with budgeting is we do not know how much the project will be. It would be something like the rural electrification and telephone policies where, from one year to the next, we never know how much it will be. I would expect to see a dollar item, or some number, in the budget, but, as long as the House is sitting, the project will be approved by the Legislature, and there would then be a supplementary that would come in later.
Mr. Cable: I do not follow the Minister. Is he saying that the number will not be established by the time of the approval? Do we have to establish a number some time later and bring it in in a two-step process, with a supplementary following the initial approval?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If the budget is already passed and the House is in, we would have to do it by way of supplementary. The number would be approved by the Legislature. However, if the budget has passed, the only way one could do it is by a supplementary.
Mr. Cable: Quite so. The Minister will, I assume, be coming to this House with a specific number. He is not going to ask for $1.00 and a blank cheque, is he?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, when the actual project is brought before the House, it will have a dollar figure attached to it.
Mr. Cable: One of the concerns that we have on this side of the House is that there are no meaningful terms of reference for either the prospective proponents or the public servants who will take the initial phone calls, as has been indicated.
The objective of the infrastructure program is to develop an infrastructure base that encourages private-sector investment in the Yukon. Later on, we have, by definition, the projects. This relates solely to natural resource extraction or the manufacturing industry, and nothing else. Am I reading the Minister's document correctly?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The projects that would be eligible are road improvement or construction, energy supply, grid connection or related training programs for Yukon residents.
Mr. Cable: I see that under eligibility, but "project" is defined as relating to natural resource extraction or manufacturing. Is that the exclusion? Are we saying that agriculture or forestry does not apply? Actually, I suppose that forestry would apply under natural resource extraction, but is this the limitation - those two industries?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, it is not just mining and forestry. It could be manufacturing also, although it is essentially heavy industrial.
Mr. Cable: Under the objectives, it talks about the government encouraging private-sector investment, but the sentence ends there. Surely, there must be something more than encouraging people to go out and spend money. What is the purpose of the private sector investment? Are we looking at jobs? If so, where specifically does it say that? Are we looking at security supply of some resource or some unit that comes into the economy? If so, where does it say that? Also, are we looking at diversifying the economy? If so, where does it say that? If we are looking at stabilizing the economy, where does it say that? In other words, what is the purpose of this investment? Surely, it is not simply to get people running around in the streets spending money.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The policy is to encourage the type of economic development that will do many of the things - or maybe all of the things - to which the Member has referred. The economic strategy talks more about various industries and what is hoped to be accomplished, but this is a much more narrowly focused - and intentionally so - than such a document as the economic strategy.
Mr. Cable: There has to be some initial instruction to the potential users and to the public servant who will be administering the program. Is the Minister saying that if anybody walks in the door and simply wants to invest money in the Yukon that there will be an audience, or will there be some terms of reference given to this person who is going to process the application he just referred to in the last few minutes.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, we would be interested in having someone sit down to talk to the proponent of a project who is investing a minimum of $5 million.
Mr. Cable: That was not the question. I am sure that there will be people talking all the time. They may be discussing the weather.
What specifically will this person, who the Minister referred to as processing the application, be talking about? What will be this person's terms of reference? Is he to be analyzing the situation in terms of jobs, or diversification, or what? Does the Minister anticipate something more than this three- or four-page document, that we use as a reference to guide the public servant through the applications?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: When the department analyzes a project, it will not be just one person analyzing the project. Depending on the nature of the project, the department will be utilizing economic officers and the mining facilitator. There will not be only one person assessing any one project.
Through this whole planning process, the department will be coming out with detailed guidelines for analyzing and assessing the proponents under the industrial support policy. Currently, I have some information in note form, which they will be using to review a project. To provide Members with an overview, a project must be shown to be economically viable, given an infrastructure base comparable to that which would be a standard in more developed regions. A project that is not economically viable without additional infrastructure may be eligible for infrastructure support. A project that would not be economically viable, even with adequate infrastructure support, is not eligible for infrastructure support under the industrial support policy.
The Department of Economic Development will conduct an assessment of the financial, technical and business risks and opportunities specific to the project, including an evaluation of the assumptions used by the proponent in preparing the feasibility study or business plan.
The Department of Economic Development will conduct an assessment of the proponent's ability to implement the proposed project including limitations imposed by and opportunities created by the corporate financial structure, management, international and national market conditions, ability to obtain financing, permitting requirements, community support, First Nations relations and any other significant factor.
For larger projects, a detailed cost benefit and macro-economic-effects analysis to determine the net economic benefit of the project to the Yukon's economy will be required. For most projects, indicators used to assess benefits would include employment, local purchase, government revenues - including personal income taxes - corporate taxes, royalties and local community benefits.
Estimated benefits derived from other potential users of the infrastructure to be built will be considered in the overall analysis.
Mr. Cable: Could the Minister tell us what he is reading from?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: These are just notes for my benefit. I think we could probably provide them to the Member as an interim document. It is not final. This will be added to or whatever. For information purposes, I believe that I can provide it.
Mr. Cable: What concerns this side is the lack of beef in this document. It appears that the beef is now going to be put in the policy.
The Minister indicated that one of the situations where the proponent might succeed is if the project would be viable with the infrastructure added to it with government assistance. It appears to be a bit different from the policy as it was originally issued.
Perhaps I can refer to the guidelines of the conditions. The second condition states that the project must be accepted by the Department of Economic Development as economically viable and show net positive benefits to the Yukon. The Minister is now saying that it will be accepted if it is economically viable with the assistance. It is my understanding, from remarks that were made previously, that it had to be economically viable to begin with. Is that particular guideline now being shaded?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I did read a sentence here, and I will reread it. "A project which is not economically viable without additional infrastructure may be eligible for infrastructure support." But one has to read the first sentence along with it. It reads, "A project must be shown to be economically viable given an infrastructure base comparable to that which would be a standard in a more developed region."
What we are saying is that, if there were a mine and if there were a road from that mine to a major highway or to a seaport, then it would be viable. Without that road, it would not be viable. That is what we are saying here. If the project is viable with that road, then we may very well assist the project proponents.
Mr. Cable: The original draft of the policy came out as a few pages on an electricity policy that seemed to have been omitted from the final draft. Was there some reason for that? I think the Members on this side were somewhat astounded that the original draft did not have much meat in it and then the second document came out - and this has been the subject of quite a bit of comment - with even less in it. Is there some reason for reducing the content?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The intent of the policy is not to provide rate relief directly to the project proponents, and let me explain that a little bit. The project proponents, whatever they may be - a manufacturing company or whatever - will pay to the Energy Corporation the cost of service for electricity, but then the Yukon government, based on that cost, may very well reimburse the company a certain amount for the start-up period of the industry, whatever it may be. There really was no need to put that in the policy because nothing changes for the Energy Corporation; they still get exactly what they charge that particular customer for their electricity.
Mr. Cable: The policy is not solely directed toward the Yukon Energy Corporation; it is directed toward the whole of government. For example, is the proposition that rates may be connected to the price of metal being extracted still alive? Is the Minister saying that that is still part of this industrial support policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That could be one way of determining reimbursement for some of the companies. It may be strictly on a loan basis where, for the first two years, we would actually refund some of the monies paid by the companies for electricity, but we would be refunding it from the tax base, not from the rate base.
For the following two years, the companies may pay us more, so we would eventually receive all our money back. However, it could be based on the price of ore, or the number of tons shipped, or some other factor. We have not finalized that. There are people working on it, but we have not come up with any definitive method to determine how the payment would be structured.
Mr. Cable: I guess I am not making my point. In the draft, there were eight pages under the heading of industrial electricity policy. From what I hear the Minister saying, that is still very much alive and is part of, and is to be read into, the Yukon industrial support policy of January 1995. Am I correct in that assumption?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Electrical energy is certainly part of the policy.
Mr. Cable: Then I take it that the answer to the question I asked is, yes, those four pages - four, five, six and seven - of the draft are still very much alive and kicking and are part of the government's industrial support policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: They are not part of the policy. The approved policy is this yellow copy that says, "Yukon industrial support policy, January 1995". The principles in there will likely be incorporated into the guidelines that we will be creating.
Mr. Cable: There are negotiations about to go on, if I have appreciated what the Minister said in the last couple of days. People are going to bang on the door of the Economic Development department and they are also going to bang on the door of the Energy Corporation. Is it anticipated that there will be tripartite negotiations at the table? How will the proponent know what they are going to get in the way of electrical rates?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We believe that Anvil Range, for instance, will be asking for some sort of arrangement with respect to electrical rates. We are not sure about that, but indications are that they will be asking us. When they are ready to come in, we hope to have some guidelines put together before they actually make such a request.
Mr. Cable: No, that was not the question. I was asking about the mechanics of the negotiations for electrical rates. Is the Minister saying that representatives from his department will meet with the proponent at the same time as the proponent meets with the Energy Corporation people to determine the rates? Will it be done sequentially? How will the negotiations take place? We have these two strains of thought. The Yukon Energy Corporation is, of course, looking for recovery, and the Minister and his officials are saying that there may be less in recovery, paid for by the taxpayers. How is that going to work?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Energy Corporation would set the cost of service. It would set the rate for the company and the company would come to the Department of Economic Development to ask for some assistance under the industrial support policy to assist with that cost.
Mr. Cable: Are there any terms of reference for this assistance or are the terms of reference set out in the industrial support policy? Have we meshed the electricity assistance in with the industrial support policy?
When the proponents come to the officers for taxpayer-supported assistance of their rates, what are they going to use as a guide? Are they going to use the industrial support policy in its draft form or the guidelines and conditions in the final document of January 1995?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Utilities Board sets the rates, and it will get the rates from the Energy Corporation - whatever those rates may be. It then comes to the Department of Economic Development to discuss some sort of assistance under the Yukon industrial support policy.
Mr. Cable: I believe that most Members on this side are rather curious about how this policy evolved. Were there any written instructions given to the public servants about the creation of the draft, or of the final policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know that there were any actual written instructions on how to proceed. There was a lot of discussion between the employees and us.
Mr. Cable: Could the Minister determine that? It would be useful for us on this side in judging how effective this policy is by determining what the public servants are actually asked to do in the first place.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If there are any actual written instructions that we can find, I would be happy to pass them on to the Member.
Mr. Cable: I have one last question. If, in fact, there are no written instructions, would the Minister also confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will confirm it if I cannot locate any written instructions.
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister. The Minister indicated last night that Loki Gold is the only company that the government is negotiating with under the Yukon industrial support policy. On December 5, the Minister said, "We have been negotiating with Loki; we have been negotiating with Anvil Range; we have been negotiating with a number of mining companies." Given that there is no variation in the word "negotiating" or "discussions" or anything like that, which statement is the truth?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There has been a lot of discussion with a lot of mining companies. I have said that numerous times. If I used the word "negotiation", I am sorry, because that would not be an accurate description of what has taken place. The only actual negotiations are with Loki Gold. There has been discussion with Anvil Range and with other companies.
Mr. McDonald: What does the government mean by discussions under the auspices of the policy? What is the difference between discussions and negotiations?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Generally, I have spoken with companies for information purposes. They have asked questions about the industrial support policy and what may or may not be eligible, and what their expectations of government would be if they were to develop a mine. Those are the types of discussions that I have had with companies.
Mr. McDonald: When the government decided to put into the Speech from the Throne the phrase that mining companies - such as Anvil Range Mining Corporation and Loki Gold Corporation - are currently discussing their transportation, energy and other infrastructure needs under the auspices of the policy, he meant to say that these two mining companies were simply making inquiries about the draft Yukon industrial support policy, and that they were not discussing their needs in the sense that they were trying to determine what the government would give them in return for the public benefit they would provide. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is more or less correct. I attended one meeting with some of the directors of Anvil Range. They basically said that they were going to come to talk to us about haul agreements and the energy charge. They said at the time that they were not ready, nor needed to talk about it, but they were more or less giving us warning that they are going to be come to talk with us about those two items.
Mr. McDonald: I will be sitting down to look through the remarks from last night, today and from the past, and then I will revisit some of this later.
I have a couple of questions about the policy as well. Why did the government put in a $5 million minimum requirement for investment? What is the rationale for the minimum requirement?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The policy is targeted toward major industrial development. That is the reason for the $5 million minimum.
Mr. McDonald: Knowing that most Yukon small businesses are less than $5 million in size, does the Minister not believe that what is currently the background of our economy, namely small business, should be supported through policy of this sort? Does he not believe that they can provide a contribution to economic activity in the resource sector?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We do have other programs under the economic development agreement for small business. We have the energy infrastructure loans for resources development program for electrical infrastructure - EILRDP - and the rural electrical and telephone program for small business. This was targeted specifically for the large, industrial projects.
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.
Motion re appearance of witnesses - No. 2
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would like to put forward a motion that witnesses from Yukon College appear before the House tomorrow night at 7:30. I will read it into the record. I move
THAT at 7:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 15, 1995, Mr. James Holt, Chair of the Board of Governors of Yukon College, Ms. Sally Ross, President of Yukon College, and Mr. Wayne Coghill, Director of Administrator Services at Yukon College, appear as witnesses before Committee of the Whole during debate on Bill No. 4, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1995-96.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Is there further general debate on Economic Development?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have the guidelines for the standards for project assessment for the industrial support program. I would like to table it. I also have the agreement on internal trade that I would like to table at this time.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Mr. McDonald: I have got a few more questions on the industrial support policy, then I will leave it for awhile, while we look at the information that the Minister is tabling. I would like to pursue, once again, the question about infrastructure requirements for businesses that make an investment of less than $5 million.
The Minister, in response to my question, appeared to state that the reason there is a $5 million limit for investment under the Yukon industrial support policy is because they want to encourage large projects to happen in the territory. They cited various programs, like the rural electrification program the program that is geared to providing telephone service to rural businesses and private home owners and the EDA as being available for small business support. We are fairly confident that the EDA is not going to last forever. That may not be an avenue for support. In any case, that level of support is also available to large companies.
We do know, however, that the vast majority of business activity in the territory is really operated by small business. Small business has a tendency to be the kind of business to invest in agriculture, forestry and some small mining projects. Certainly, any secondary manufacturing that is being done in the territory is done through small business. We know how things generally pan out in the territory and how the existing businesspeople promote economic activity. It is generally done through small enterprise.
Was there a conscious desire to target enterprises that essentially would be funded and guided by people not within the Yukon? There are not many small businesses could drum up a $5 million investment. That generally comes from outside the territory. Was it decided that this would attract outside investment? What was the rationale for that? Was that considered?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member is correct in saying that there are a lot of mining companies - especially larger ones - that are from outside of the territory, but I do not recall any conversations about that during the development of the industrial support policy. It was not a conscious decision to help companies from outside the territory; that was not one of the factors. What we wanted to do was target large industrial-type projects and help them with their infrastructure.
Mr. McDonald: Surely the Minister can recognize that extracting the full benefit from resource developments does not necessarily require a $5 million investment. If that investment is going to be led by local businesses, it is more than likely going to be less than $5 million. Certainly, small business activity does take place in the mining sector, in the forestry sector and in the fish and agriculture sectors.
To the limited extent that it has taken place in manufacturing, it has been on a small scale. These projects are generally considered to be fairly sound and ultimately are supporting our existing private sector economic base.
Because they are small businesses it does not mean that they are not valuable or deserving of some infrastructure support, but it does suggest that projects of less than $5 million could likely be led by local businesspeople who could muster that size of an investment.
I remain puzzled about why the cutoff has been established at that amount. I know that the government would like to encourage large projects, but it could have easily indicated in the opening letters and preambles to the program that they would like to see some large developers take advantage of whatever publicly funded infrastructure the government can provide under certain terms and conditions. The policy states that if people, including the existing business community, want to enter into a resource-based project, they need not apply.
If the Minister would like to support that in some substantive way, I would appreciate it, because I have heard from a couple of people in the business community who feel that this program is not relevant for them, because they would not be able to put together a project that would involve a minimum $5 million investment. These people do have needs for some infrastructure, but the infrastructure requirements are not great and large in dollar value; however, they would be essential for their projects to succeed. They do not feel that this policy can do them any good. Could the Minister respond to this?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is no doubt that the policy is targeted toward larger industrial businesses or industries. We are trying to create a level playing field. For instance, there is a lot of mining in New Brunswick. A mine there would be very close to a major highway wherever the mine is located. The development of a mine in New Brunswick is probably not nearly as costly as it would be in the Yukon.
The other aspect of it is that a lot of companies that are going to get involved in a mining venture have to have a lot of start-up capital. They generally go to the public for that money. We want to show them they have government support for the development, whatever it may be, and that we can help them out a bit in the first years where the heavy capital investment comes into play.
We support small business. We have programs for small business through the business development office, and hundreds of businesses have taken advantage of those programs.
Mr. McDonald: I am sure we will get to those programs in due course, but I was under the impression that apart from the rural telephone and electrification programs, the programs the Minister had mentioned - the economic development agreements and business development funds - are not long for this world and are not at all available to small business.
The point I am trying to make is this: the business development fund, for example, is a loan program for small business. If it wanted to build some infrastructure, the small business could borrow the $200,000 it takes to build a road into its $1 million project, with the understanding that it would repay the $200,000.
However, the $1 million road going into the $5 million project is something the Minister has referred to as a grant, meaning that the proponent does not have to pay the government back. From a level playing field perspective, if one is a small business operator, one may not think the same way about this level playing field as one might if the program only considered proponents who were only receiving grants or only receiving loans.
The small business sector might be interested in things like starting up a mine, getting some logging underway, getting a small lumber mill started, and then may need an access road. It needs support, although it may only employ 20 people, and not 200 people. The Minister would have to recognize, and must recognize now, that most of our private sector activity in the territory is that small logging operation, or the small mining operation. That is the kind of business that has been resilient; that is the kind of business that has stuck around; that is the kind of business that actually employs more local people and provides a greater local benefit than does the larger business.
If the government is going to be providing this kind of commitment to infrastructure, the two people who have spoken to me would be interested in seeing that same kind of support provided to them. They make the case that they have a better track record in supporting the territorial economy than do the big players. They feel that, while they would like to be in the resource-based industry, this industrial support policy is irrelevant, as far as they are concerned.
We had a discussion about what the economic development agreement is. I spoke to the two people about what kind of support the economic development agreement might provide for them. They indicated that they did not know whether or not there was going to be an economic development agreement past this budget. They actually expressed some concern about some of the existing government programs that are being funded under the economic development agreement and whether or not those programs - mainly the geoscience office, in this particular case - is going to survive the next round of cuts.
That is a different issue. I told them the government was not interested in pursuing long-term options for the business development fund, that it was going to encourage financing through the banks. The proponents indicated to me that they thought they might be able to get bank financing but expressed some concern that, if the big players were receiving grants for public infrastructure, why would they have to borrow money for public infrastructure.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have been exploring the financial requirements of small business in the Yukon. We were working with the Yukon Chamber of Commerce and have recently completed a fax poll of small business, asking what their biggest problems were - the financing, the market, or what?
Some said the availability of financing was a problem, but not that many. A lot of them have marketing problems.
I take what the Member is saying very seriously, because I believe the Member is right; with the new budget coming up in February, who knows what will happen. Our economic development agreement expires a year from April.
We are very concerned about the geoscience office, which has done a lot of good things for mining in the territory. We are also concerned about banking.
Banks have expanded their services somewhat and are providing venture capital more readily than they have in the past. The Federal Business Development Bank, for instance, has a paper on this, and I have one with me. In it, they talk about venture export loans and venture capital, which essentially is new for them. How available it is and how costly it is, I am not sure, but I take what the Member has said right to heart because this is a problem we are going to have to look at and we will be reviewing the whole small business incentive in the next while.
Mr. McDonald: We will get back to this, I suppose, at some point when we revisit the industrial support policy. To recap, I would just point out to the Minister that there is obviously some interest among the smaller-than-$5-million business sector in resource-based business activity. They are interested in whatever is being given to what a couple of people have called "the big boys", and they claim a pretty solid track record in terms of employment and longevity. Their business lives have been long.
They claim that they have less of a tendency to rise and fall with mineral prices. They are also of the view that they take advantage of the services provided in local communities, because they are not large enough to have economies of scale to purchase outside of the territory and are often wholly dependent upon the Yukon service sector. Anyway, we will come back to that at some point.
I have a basic question to ask. During Question Period, the Minister indicated that the program is essentially a grant program and whatever funding it provides to the industrial proponent will be through public expenditure and that the money will not necessarily be repaid.
Could the Minister explain more thoroughly what the government is considering and its intention? I understand from the industrial electricity policy or some element of that policy - I am not sure which - that, when it comes to providing support for electrical generation, the government would possibly provide some up-front support to account for any rate shock or other initially high costs associated with the production of electrical energy, and then, in the long run, seek a full return on whatever public investment there may be. The government is suggesting that this is essentially a loan program through a slightly different mechanism. Does the government intend to recover its investments? How does it determine what it will or will not recover?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I said that quite some time ago, I believe, in answer to a question from the Member for Riverdale South. I believe that I said it was a grant and loan program.
On the cost of electricity for Anvil Range, what we would like to do is collect our money over a period of time. There is no question that that is our intent. We are going to be taking a risk, because if we help out at the start of an operation and we expect a life of six years for whatever this operation may be, and we base the rate over that six years and the operation only runs three or four - yes, we would lose money.
On the roads part of the program, what we are saying is that we will help construct roads on public lands - not on the industrial developers' property, but off that property on to a highway.
I do not know if one would call it an actual grant. It is not a loan, because we would put a certain amount of money into that road. It would become a public road at the end of the mine life, or maybe even during the mine life. It would depend on a number of factors. I can see where we would put in a road for a mining company and let us say it is in an environmentally sensitive area, or sensitive with respect to wildlife, where we would not actually want people other than the mining company to use that road.
When the mining company was finished and the ore body was exhausted, the road would come out - it would be torn apart and reseeded, or whatever. The road would no longer exist. That would be considered as a grant to the company, because there would be no other use of that road. In the case of Loki Gold, we are looking at providing some assistance to them on the Old Ditch Road. The road is currently a public road; there are now other users of the road. What they need is to have the road upgraded - some fairly substantial upgrading. The road will remain a public road after Loki has exhausted its ore.
Mr. McDonald: When the Minister makes reference to energy funding, or funding for electrical energy generation, the terms of the programs are such that there is an expectation that if the mining proponent or industrial proponent operates as long as they have promised to operate, the government will recover its investment - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, that is the intention. Again, I have to advise everyone that there is a risk involved. If all the testing and exploration determines that there is a six-year mine life, but, because of prices or whatever reason it becomes only a three-year mine life, the Yukon would lose some money on the deal. However, if it does last for the estimated period of time, we would certainly get our money back.
Mr. McDonald: Essentially, we are sharing risks up front. The Minister said that this was the case with Anvil Range - I do not want to put any words in the Minister's mouth. What did he mean by that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not want to do the negotiations here, but I guess I did start it by mentioning Anvil Range. If, for instance, Anvil Range came to us and asked for some reimbursement on its electrical costs and we agreed, under the support policy, we would want that money back over a period of time. It would be similar to the way I just described it.
Mr. McDonald: On the electrical side, it is basically a cost-recovery program, but there are risks. The government is sharing risks. On the road construction side, the funding would be in the form of a grant, I take it.
There would obviously be some risk if the mining company or an industrial developer did not do what it said it was going to do. We may not get as much public benefit for our expenditure as anticipated. For example, if Loki asked for $1 million to build a road - I suspect it would be a lot more than that - and then closed in a year's time, one would question the original investment. This is a risk that the policy anticipates taking.
Do I understand correctly that the road funding is in the form of a grant?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Let us use a hypothetical example of the Tag property, Kudz ze Kayah. If that goes into production, then we are going to have to spend very large dollars on the Campbell Highway. Spending large dollars on the Campbell Highway will provide long-term benefits to other Yukoners, so I do not really know if that could be called a grant. Now, if there was a mining company in - as I said before - some very environmentally sensitive area and we wanted to dismantle the road after the company had finished doing its mining and it asked for assistance - I do not think we have fully thought that out yet. I am not sure if we would do it by way of a long-term loan to the company or whether some taxpayers' money would be put into it and just accept that loss. I think it would depend on several things. I think it would depend on the long-term economic benefits to the territory, as in the number of jobs and that sort of thing. It may be nothing more than a long-term loan that we want paid back. I do not think we have fully explored all of the possibilities under that particular scenario yet.
Mr. McDonald: I had always assumed that funding to upgrade public highways, or certainly numbered highways, was something that might be considered a legitimate expenditure, even if it was being done to support the activities of a particular mine, but I never thought it would be considered a grant to said mining company. It is more of a calculated decision on the part of the public to upgrade one of its own roads.
I am thinking about the roads that are off-highway and have to be constructed. They may even involve the upgrading of a trail to an industrial standard haul road. Those are roads that are not numbered highways, not currently maintained by the Yukon government, and those are the roads to which I am referring.
I understood from some discussion we had in the Legislature that any funds available for a mining company to build new roads with would not include funds for a road on the mining claim but only on public lands - federal or territorial Crown lands.
What would that type of road be categorized as - a road off the maintained highway system and on Crown lands, but not on mining claims?
If that is the category of road that we are focusing on, which I think is probably the road that most people imagine is the kind of project that would be supported under the industrial support policy, is the money going to be provided to the mining company in the form of a loan or a grant? Is there some sense that there is going to be a payback over the period of the life of the mine for that public expenditure?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will take that question under advisement, and return to it tomorrow afternoon, or Thursday, or whenever.
I move that we report progress on Bill No. 3
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the Chair have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: Committee of the Whole passed the following motion:
"THAT, at 7:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 15, 1995, Mr. James Holt, Chair of the Board of Governors of Yukon College, Ms. Sally Ross, President of Yukon College, and Mr. Wayne Coghill, Director of Administrative Services, Yukon College, appear as witnesses before Committee of the Whole during debate on Bill No. 4, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1995-96.
Further, Committee has considered Bill No. 3, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that 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 5:29 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled February 14, 1995:
Hearing aid purchases: standing offer agreements; list of hearing testing equipment supplied since 1990; list of hearing aids dispensed and the companies involved since 1989 (Phelps)
Oral, Hansard, p. 854
Fee-for-service contracts for 1994-95 between the Department of Economic Development and the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, the Yukon Chamber of Mines, and the Klondike Placer Miners Association (Fisher)
Oral, Hansard, p. 596
Game farming policy and regulations: species permitted and rationale (Fisher)
Oral, Hansard, p. 885
The following Sessional Paper was tabled February 14, 1995:
Industrial support program: standards for project assessment (Fisher)