Wednesday, March 15, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with silent Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Tabling Returns and Documents.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: I have for tabling the Auditor General's Annual Report on Other Matters for the year ended March 31, 1994.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have a legislative return for tabling to correct previous return number 46. The Economic Development department decided to take court action on a number of accounts and had consulted with the Department of Justice; however, court action has not commenced on all accounts because the Department of Justice was still assessing the best course of action to recover the loans. The department had incorrectly assumed that court action had commenced. We apologize for this error.
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: Industrial support policy, fast tracking
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development. The Yukon Party government has indicated a willingness to fast track an application put forward by Archer Cathro and Cash Resources to develop the Division Mountain coal project. The Minister said that fast tracking will apply to all large projects, meaning to exclude, presumably, smaller projects. Given that Anvil Range is not being given priority service by the government, and it has even publicly declared its frustration with the attitude of the government, why did Cash Resources get a promise of priority treatment and Anvil Range did not?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I disagree that Anvil Range did not get priority treatment. Any time that Anvil Range has requested a meeting with us, we have accommodated it. It is just not correct that it has not had priority treatment.
Mr. McDonald: I think it is fairly well known that the Government of the Yukon barely lifted a finger to assist Anvil Range in its application to get the Faro mine started, and Cash Resources, for its part, has not even completed its exploration program.
Could the Minister then tell us what the fast-tracking service refers to?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: When a mining corporation, or any other industrial or business enterprise, comes into, say, the Department of Economic Development, then we treat those requests, whatever they may be, as the top priority for that particular day or week, or whatever it is, in the department.
Mr. McDonald: If everyone who comes in is considered to be a priority, and everyone gets on the fast track, then no one is a priority and no one is on the fast track.
Given that Cash Resources has not completed its exploration program, the government has not even completed the feasibility study on the potential for coal-fired electricity generation, nor is there an analysis of energy needs, nor even a comprehensive energy policy, I would like to know how this particular company gets noticed for priority service.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: To begin with, the term "fast track" was a term that was used by them. For instance, we sit on the Federal/Territorial Land Advisory Committee, and we were asked by it to deal with this on a fast-track basis. We replied that we would do that.
Question re: Industrial support policy, fast tracking
Mr. McDonald: I noticed yesterday that Cash Resources and Archer Cathro were generous donors to the Yukon Party, as listed in the report of the Chief Electoral Officer under contributions to political parties during 1994. Does the fact that they donated approximately 25 percent of receiptable donations to the Yukon Party have anything to do with them being accorded priority service from this government?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Not at all. I did notice in that same report that other clients of ours made donations to other political parties. We do not treat any of them any differently.
Mr. McDonald: I did not see that information in that report; maybe the Minister could point it out for us. One has to admit that, for a project like Division Mountain coal, which is years from production - and on the electrical generating side there has been no analysis done as to whether or not the use of coal is even feasible - this company has received a lot of billing from this government in the throne speech, in radio interviews, and in the promise of priority service. Is the reason that the Minister has said only large projects would receive priority service because the Yukon Party is heavily financed by outside companies, including Cash Resources, Archer Cathro, and others who are all listed at the same address in Vancouver?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Not at all.
Mr. McDonald: Would it help, if Anvil Range expressed some concern about the service that it receives from this government, if it made a donation to the Yukon Party in order that its application get top priority or top billing treatment from the Yukon government?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have had several meetings with Anvil Range - some informal, some formal. We certainly were not given to understand that it is having a problem meeting with us or with the discussions that took place.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, audit of contract with Yukon Electrical
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Government Leader, with his Yukon Energy Corporation hat on.
In the last few weeks, there have been a number of questions put to the Government Leader, and correspondence directed to the corporation, in relation to the audit plan, under which the Auditor General will work when he does the operational audit of the contract between the Yukon Electrical Company Limited and the Yukon Energy Corporation. I had written to the Yukon Energy Corporation, asking for a copy of the audit plan. There was a reply by way of a letter on February 2, 1995, with a copy to the Government Leader, indicating that it was going to release the audit plan. I was wondering if my copy has gone astray in the mail. Has the Government Leader received his copy yet?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I have not received my copy yet.
Mr. Cable: I think it would be very useful for that audit plan to be produced before this session is over, so that it can be adequately debated.
Could the Government Leader commit to writing an arm's-length letter to either the president or the chair of the board of directors, to ask that they move a little bit faster and produce this audit plan for us?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member is quite correct. The letter of February 2 states, in the last paragraph, "As soon as this is available, a package of materials of some five documents and letters comprising the audit plan, as finalized between the board of directors and the Auditor General, will be delivered to the Public Utilities Board." At that time, copies were provided to the Member's office as well.
It would appear to me that this has not been done yet, but I will, on behalf of the Member who made the request, check on that for him.
Mr. Cable: I have to thank the Government Leader.
On January 19, I asked the Government Leader what his opinion was on the release of the final report that the Auditor General will produce, or words to that effect. He said, "I am going to beg off making a statement of yes or no on that until I have had a chance to get that information and review it again." Has the Government Leader had a chance to get that information and, if so, what is his answer as to whether or not the report of the Auditor General should be made public?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would suspect that when I review the letter of February 2, where they say that the audit plan is going to be made available to the Utilities Board, that the audit would also be made available to the Utilities Board.
I do not know if the audit is made available to the Utilities Board in a confidential form. I have not received an answer from the corporation in that regard. I believe that in my discussions with the president he told me that it would be a decision of the board to make at the time that they received the report, but I will check on that for the Member.
Question re: Industrial support policy, fast tracking
Mr. McDonald: The issue about whether or not Cash Resources and Archer Cathro are getting priority treatment from the government - and coincidentally donating generously to the Yukon Party at the same time - is all about fairness and the perception of fairness. A number of people have expressed serious concern that it may all have to do with how generous a company is to the Yukon Party, as to whether or not it will get fair or priority treatment from the government. Have any other companies received letters from the government indicating that they are on the fast track or are getting priority service?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will try to answer the question for the Member opposite and make him aware, which I am sure he probably is already, that fundraising and political contributions are conducted by the party, not by the government. We do not know who donates to the party until we and the Member opposite see the report, at the same time, so we have no idea who is donating to the party.
Mr. McDonald: I find it fairly hard to believe that the Yukon Party would not know that 65 percent of its receiptable donations come from a single address in Vancouver, and that they are all outside mining companies. Is the Minister trying to tell us that the government was completely unaware, when it was giving a promise of fast-track service to Cash Resources and Archer Cathro, that Archer Cathro and Cash Resources had donated generously to the party?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is exactly what I am saying. We were not aware of who donated to the Yukon Party, because that is done by the executive, and the executive does not give me a list or tell me who is donating to the party any more than they tell anyone else. It is published at the end of the year. The fact remains that mining companies support what we are doing in the Yukon and, as a result, contribute to the party. I think that is great; I welcome that support.
I want to speak a little bit about the fast track, because that seems to be the Member's hang-up.
The Minister of Economic Development said, quite clearly, that that term was taken right out of the letter that was written to us by Cash Resources, a copy of which the Member opposite has. It is in quotation marks because it was in quotation marks in their letter; we simply responded using the same terminology.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister is saying that they do not know that their major fundraisers are outside companies, and they happen to be Cash Resources and Archer Cathro, et cetera. It is somewhat similar to a line the Minister told us last spring; that is, that he was not aware that he had made any applications for grants in the past to the Government of Yukon - it was his company that had done that, so how could he be expected to know? It is not a believable case.
The fast-tracking service must mean something to someone. Do all companies that write letters to the government receive a promise to get fast tracking?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Again, I just laid out the reasons for the Member, but he does not want to accept the answer. If he does not want to accept the answer, that is his prerogative, but I said that we used the terminology in the letter of request that came from Cash Resources. The Member opposite has, or has had, a copy of our letter of reply in his hands. The fact remains that the term "fast track", in quotation marks, was taken right out of Cash Resources' letter, in my reply to it. We have not said we are going to do something different from what we are doing for other companies. We are simply using the terminology used by Cash Resources. Cash Resources asked for assistance in infrastructure and permitting on a fast-track basis. We said if, in fact, its proposal was the most economical and environmentally friendly, then we would cooperate with the company.
Question re: Industrial support policy, fast tracking
Mr. McDonald: Repeating words that are delivered in a letter to the government is one thing, but making a promise to fast track must mean something to the government. It certainly meant something to Cash Resources.
Why did the Minister not tell us what fast-tracking service is? The Minister for Economic Development indicated that there is such a special service in that department, and that it is only for large companies. Can he tell us what the fast-tracking service is? It cannot simply be that he wanted to repeat the words that Cash Resources had written to him.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would say that the Member opposite does not want to accept the answer he has been given. I thought that the Minister explained it quite well in debate the other night, and again today. I am also explaining it again today. It is the terminology that was used. We support any project that is going to create jobs in the Yukon, especially mining jobs. It is quite clear, from the debate that goes on in this House, that the Members opposite do not support mining in the territory.
Mr. McDonald: That last gratuitous remark is absolute nonsense given that when the NDP was in government there were a number of operating mines in the territor,y and there was a lot of exploration work happening at the same time.
For the record, I am not opposed to a company like Archer Cathro or Cash Resources donating to the Yukon Party; I am objecting to anything that gives the sense that there is an obligation from the government to do a return favour. I cannot get any definition from the government about what the fact track is and how people get on it. I am asking the Government Leader this question: does he respond to all companies that ask for support by saying that they will all receive priority service?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Quite clearly, the answer is yes.
What we used here was terminology that was used in Cash Resources' letter. No company gets treated any differently. We appointed a mining facilitator, because it is important that we help the mining companies through the permitting process to make sure that their applications do not get hung up. We are doing that with seven or eight mining companies right now. Cash Resources is not one of those companies.
Question re: Whitehorse Housing Authority, damage liability
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister responsible for housing.
We have heard that the Whitehorse Housing Authority has a policy that requires tenants to pay damages for repairs, immediately, without benefit of a legal judgment from a court of law. There appears to be the assumption of guilt and liability. The policy also states that these alleged damages and repairs will be paid for out of the tenant's rent, thereby placing the tenant's rent in arrears. We have been told that this policy contravenes not only the common-law right of the tenant, but also the Landlord and Tenant Act.
Could the Minister explain how the Whitehorse Housing Authority came to adopt a policy that allows them to essentially break the law?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I cannot. I do know that there is an appeal process from the policies or decisions of the Whitehorse Housing Authority to the board of the Whitehorse Housing Authority. A tenant can further appeal the decision of the board to the Yukon Housing Corporation Board and after that, if the tenant was not satisfied with the outcome, a tenant can make a further appeal to the courts. If anyone has experienced this, I think there is an appeal process that would stop it from going ahead.
Ms. Commodore: I also understand that a written policy of the Whitehorse Housing Authority requires tenants to obtain permission from the authority to be absent from their homes for more than 30 days. I find that quite hard to believe. This appears to be in direct contravention of the Human Rights Act. What steps is the Minister prepared to take to ensure that the Whitehorse Housing Authority and, ultimately, Yukon Housing Corporation adopt policies that are fair to the tenant and, above all, legal?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am prepared to look into that situation to find out what the case is, in particular, with respect to a tenant being absent from the unit for more than 30 days. I will look into this. I suspect there is a reason for it. I do not know if they checked with the Human Rights Commission before adopting that policy, but I am prepared to look into it to ensure that no laws, including the Human Rights Act, are being violated.
Ms. Commodore: As a result of inquiries made by our offices, the tenant arrears policy will not go into effect as planned by April 30 and instead is under review. Since these policies are clearly breaking several laws, could the Minister explain to this House how the local housing authority goes about formulating policies, apparently without a good grasp of the Landlord and Tenant Act or the Human Rights Act, because we keep hearing about these concerns from tenants.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I cannot tell the Member that, but I will inquire. I should say I am pleased that they were so responsive to the concern raised.
Question re: Social housing
Ms. Commodore: This is also to the Minister responsible for Housing. Teegatha'a Oh Zheh supports adults with disabilities to live in homes rented in their own names, and provides the staff that is required on a 24-hour basis. This agency and the people they serve would like to have the stability of subsidized rental housing rather than see their clients subjected to changes in the open market.
Two years ago, this issue was brought up and nothing was done. Can the Minister tell us what he is doing to accommodate people with disabilities, who need social housing and staff support?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not familiar with that issue. I do not recall it being brought up two years ago, but I will check into it to see what policies and programs there are and if they are meeting the needs.
Ms. Commodore: We understand that one of the problems has to do with CMHC and its funding guidelines. I would like to ask the Minister whether or not he could look into some of those guidelines to find out whether or not they are accommodating the need of these individuals who would like to have subsidized housing.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I will. That is a common problem. I know that anyone who has dealt with the Housing Corporation has run into that exact problem - that CMHC and federal programming is often restrictive and does not meet the needs of Yukoners.
Ms. Commodore: I also understand that, in social housing, wheelchair accessibility has been given to people who do not need it. It seems that Yukon Housing can sometimes bend the rules. I would like to ask the Minister what he has done to pressure CMHC to change the guidelines to allow people with disabilities who require staff support the same rights as those without, because they do not appear to have those same rights.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I have not been involved in that issue, but I will speak to the Yukon Housing Corporation to see what it has done.
Question re: Yukon Housing Corporation, home improvement loans
Ms. Moorcroft: One constituent in Mount Lorne borrowed money through a Yukon Housing Corporation program to improve her house. As a result of the work done, her roof leaked, so the value of her home has decreased. It is not satisfactory to offer to loan a home owner more money to fix a problem that was created by shoddy work in the first place. Money is being wasted if the home owner or taxpayer has to pay twice for the same work.
I wrote to the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation in December about this case. Has the Housing Corporation come up with a solution yet?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, we have not yet come up with a solution that is simple. We have come up with several options. It is a very difficult issue. There is no question in my mind that this person has an action against the contractor for the shoddy workmanship. If she took action, I think her chances of success would be excellent.
However, I do feel some responsibility on behalf of the Yukon Housing Corporation, because we, as the lending agency, look at the job after it is completed and inspected. It is unfortunate that the home repair program does run into these problems. In this particular instance, we are working with the tenant to try to help her to recover the money from the contractor. We will assist in any way we can to ensure the roof is properly repaired.
Ms. Moorcroft: Another household in Mount Lorne has been complaining for two years about unacceptable work done by a contractor that the Yukon Housing Corporation dictated they accept. Inspection reports from 1993 and 1994 found, among other deficiencies, that the safety cover on the electrical panel to the hot water tank was unsafe.
When the family called my office for help last month, on the same day that we contacted the Housing Corporation the electrical work on the hot water tank was done. Why does it take a phone call from an MLA's office before a safety problem like this is fixed?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure, but I am surprised that it would take a call to an MLA. What concerns me even more about the Member's question, which is something I will follow up, is that the Yukon Housing Corporation would have dictated that any individual using the home repair program use a certain contractor. My impression of that program is that the home owner gets to choose the contractor whom they want to do the work.
Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that when a home owner applies for a home improvement loan, they have to get three bids for the work, and Yukon Housing Corporation picks the lowest of the three bids. Some home owners have been expected to pay for poor work.
I would like to ask the Minister what happens to the people who do not phone their MLA for help. Under the Yukon Housing Corporation programs, what can a home owner do if the work on their home is unsatisfactory?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: My experience has been that the Yukon Housing Corporation has tried to be helpful and supportive, because they recognize that this is, on occasion, a problem. Again, my understanding is that the individual who is having the work done has the choice of contractors. The Yukon Housing Corporation is really the loaning agency, not the contractor, an electrical inspector, a building inspector or plumbing inspector.
The inspections that are made are simply with respect to the paying of the money to the contractor on behalf of the individual.
Question re: Government employees, oath of secrecy
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Government Leader.
During the election, the Government Leader published in the paper an open letter to Yukon government employees. In the letter, the now Government Leader indicated that the abuse of authority that currently exists within some government departments and political intimidation of government employees would stop.
In light of that commitment to Government of Yukon employees, can the Government Leader answer the following question: why was this memo to all supply services branch employees from the acting director of supply services sent around, reminding them of the oath of secrecy that they have signed and indicating to them that this oath creates a duty not to disseminate secret or confidential information obtained in the course of one's work?
Can the Government Leader tell me why these employees are being targeted and intimidated in this way?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would not say that any employee is being targeted. There must have been some grounds for the memo being sent to certain employees to remind them that they have taken an oath and are expected to abide by it.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Government Leader can elaborate on that for us. Perhaps he can tell us what the grounds are and what the secret information is. What are the secrets? What does the government define as secrets?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is not a memo written by a Cabinet Minister; it is an internal memo. It is also a personnel issue, and the Member opposite knows quite clearly that it is improper to discuss personnel issues on the floor of this Legislature.
Mrs. Firth: It is not a personnel issue; it is an issue of intimidation. The policy of this government states that members of the public can request information directly from a department, and the department is generally encouraged to provide it. This does not encourage anyone to provide information.
I want the Government Leader to tell us what a secret is. Is a freebie travel trip to Toronto for an employee a secret? I am sure the government would have liked to have kept it a secret. Is the deal that was made with Xerox a secret? I am sure the government would have liked to have kept that a secret. The sole-source contract and the amount of the contract - boy, that was a big secret all right.
The Government Leader is defending this manager's memo. What are the government employees supposed to take from this memo? What is a secret and what is not a secret?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If we want to talk about intimidation, I think the Member opposite intimidates employees more than the government does.
I have not seen the memo. If the Member opposite or an employee would like to make a formal complaint, I will see that it gets investigated.
Question re: Government employees, oath of secrecy
Mrs. Firth: The memo is on its way. The Government Leader has stood up this afternoon and defended this action. He does not think that the employees are being intimidated with this memo. It just so happens that one group of employees has been specifically targeted by a manager, who has blisters on his feet from being in so much hot water over the last three or four weeks.
I want the Government Leader to explain to us why he does not see this as being an "abuse of authority", as he stated in his wonderful election campaign letter about abuse of authority by government departments. Does the Government Leader not see this as being an abuse of authority?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I certainly do not see this as an abuse of authority, if confidential information is being talked about. There is an oath of office and secrecy and if some employees are - I am not saying they are, but it appears that the director feels something is going on, and he is simply reminding them that they do have an oath of office, to which they should adhere.
Mrs. Firth: I guess it was nothing to do with the particular, innocent employees who are being targeted as having been in the department where the DocuTech was bought, where the freebie trips were taken, where the sole-source contract for over $1 million was made - which we did not find out about because the government did not tell us the truth when we first asked how much it was for. We had to pick and pull away to get that information. I suppose that has nothing to do with it.
I find it quite appalling that the Government Leader would defend this manager's activities at the expense of the innocent employees, and I think the employees would find it appalling. I would like to ask the Government Leader what he is going to do about this abuse of authority.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not see how this memo that the Member has sent over would indicate an abuse of authority. Now, if the employees, to whom this memo was directed, do feel as though this is an abuse of authority, there are avenues open to them to appeal this.
Mrs. Firth: The employees are intimidated by this action. This is a bully tactic to get a message out. If the Government Leader cannot see it, that is why his government is in so much trouble. I would like to get a commitment from the Government Leader. In light of all his great pronouncements about how fairly people were going to be treated, I would like to ask him what he is going to do about this. What action is he going to take to address this intimidating, bullying tactic that has been imposed on these innocent employees?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite will have to come forward with more information than these four lines on this memo. She classifies this as intimidation; however, that is her opinion, and no one else's, at this point.
Question re: Squatter eviction policy
Mr. Penikett: A story on CBC Radio news yesterday reported that the Government of the Yukon was going to court, not only to evict a squatter in my constituency from his residence, but further to insist that the squatter pay for the demolition of his home. This is a person who survives by doing odd jobs, and has absolutely no money. I would like to ask the Minister of Justice if he does not think that this kind of demand - that the squatter pay for the demolition of the home in which he has lived in for 22 years - is not a bit extreme, and going a bit too far?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: My understanding is that this kind of thing is a relatively standard procedure for people who do not pay taxes - people who squat - and are asked to move. It is going to cost the taxpayer money to demolish this home. The individual is squatting there illegally; he has not paid any taxes. It is not the government's responsibility to pick up the bill for this.
Mr. Penikett: I understand the law in this situation. However, the position of the Minister of Justice in terms of the defence of the taxpayer is absurd. I do not see how it will help the taxpayer at all to turn this person into a homeless person, make him a client of social assistance, which he is not now, and require him to go to public housing and have the public support him in that way, when this person has survived in this home for 22 years, admittedly without paying taxes or legitimizing the situation. How does it advance the government's position, justice, or the position of the government finances, to not only evict him, but to require this potentially homeless, and essentially penniless person to pay for the cost of the demolition of his home? Tell me how justice or government finances is served by that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Leader of the Official Opposition is taking a very interesting position - that people can go out and squat anywhere they want and never pay taxes and the government should just leave them alone.
There are rules in this country and in the Yukon that all other Yukoners have to abide by. This individual is a Yukoner and I see nothing that says this individual will be forced into social housing, or anything of the sort. The Leader of the Official Opposition is making that allegation.
Is the Leader of the Official Opposition saying that we should ignore this situation? Is he saying if people refuse to pay their taxes and want to squat wherever they want that the Yukon government should turn a blind eye, and then force everyone else to pay for these kinds of things in future? I do not agree with that at all.
Mr. Penikett: Well, the Minister of Justice not only has some peculiar notions of justice, but he also has some very poor listening skills. I did not suggest any of the things that the Member just said - not a single one of them.
I asked the Minister how it made any sense to turn this person into a homeless person and therefore, potentially, become a burden on society - which the person is not now - as a way of addressing the situation of the unpaid taxes and the person's failure to secure title.
Let me ask the Minister of Justice this: a year ago, I asked the government, on behalf of this constituent, given the person's very small income, to see if the government would agree to mediation - some cooperative inexpensive method of resolving this dispute in everyone's interest. Why did the government then refuse mediation many months ago?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not certain that this government did refuse mediation, but the Member, although he is not saying it, is insinuating that we should leave these individuals alone; the Leader of the Official Opposition is saying that because we do not want to make the individual homeless that we should do nothing, that we should leave the individual there.
I think this individual has been given ample time to deal with the issue. We are now forced to take the matter to court so that it is not a cost to the taxpayer, and that is what the government is doing.
Question re: Yukon Housing Corporation, pet policy
Mr. Penikett: In August and November of last year, I wrote to the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation about the corporation's pet policy, and I was told that Whitehorse Housing did not feel the need to change it. However, in his reply the Minister indicated that several valid arguments had been made in favour of allowing tenants to keep pets, such as the pet-deposit, pet-references or pet-points-earned ideas that had come from tenants.
Can the Minister tell the House what steps have been taken to revise the pet policy to include, for example, the pet damage deposit, or other similar measures that might allow Whitehorse Housing to recoup damages caused by pets and allow families that would benefit from one - and seniors whose quality of life might benefit from having a pet - to have them where appropriate?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure what has been done so far. I sympathized with the Leader of the Official Opposition's position on the pet policy, and I passed that on to the Yukon Housing Corporation. I have not heard back. Now that the matter has been brought to my attention, I would guess that the corporation has been avoiding me, and I will certainly check on that.
Mr. Penikett: I think it would be terrible for a Crown corporation to avoid its Minister for too long. We have rather the opposite problem with other Crown corporations.
Since the Minister wrote me about this in September of last year, telling me that one tenant currently had permission, in spite of the statement from the chair of the Whitehorse Housing Authority about all tenants being treated absolutely equal, would it be fair to say that the Minister is now indicating that he, at least, would favour a review of this policy by the Housing Corporation, with a view to introducing some flexibility?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, that is absolutely my position. My understanding, and I am not even sure it is accurate, is that it may have been one the corporation admitted knowing about - one owner had a pet that was grandfathered in when the policy was put in place.
However, yes, I advocate more flexibility than the corporation currently has.
Mr. Penikett: Let me just say to the Minister that there seems to be perhaps greater agreement between him and me about the potential benefits for some seniors and some families of having a pet in the household. Would he go so far as to communicate not just the wish for a review, but some of the literature that is available about the benefits of pets in single-parent families, or indeed as companions for senior citizens, to the corporation and ask it to examine the wider issue rather than just the protection of property?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I will make that commitment.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 44, standing in the name of Mr. Harding.
Motion No. 44
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Faro
THAT it is the opinion of this House that, based on the present lack of a clear and consistent forestry policy, and the continuing allowance of the export of raw logs, and other devastation of the resource by the Liberals, the territorial government should immediately move to develop a Yukon forestry policy that includes federal government representatives, first nations governments, representatives of the forest industry, conservationists and all other interested Yukoners in a comprehensive Yukon forest policy development process.
Mr. Harding: I am very pleased today to be the first speaker to introduce my thoughts on this motion, which I feel quite strongly about, given the public interest that has been generated and the number of issues that have come to the forefront in the Yukon lately that are of great concern to a large number of Yukoners in all parts of the Yukon, I might add - not just in Whitehorse, but, of course, in some of the areas where the heaviest forestry use is going on, and also in the other communities who share a sense of care and concern for the resources of the Yukon.
I do not intend to speak at length in my introductory remarks, and I look forward to the comments of the other Members and, in particular, the comments of the Minister of Renewable Resources and Economic Development who, to my way of looking at it, should be taking a lead role in this particular issue.
It is not difficult for anyone to easily ascertain that this issue has risen to the forefront in the Yukon over the last two years. There are a lot of people - all one has to do is listen to the radio, talk to people in the coffee shop or read the newspaper - who have expressed some serious concern about the lack of clear direction about forestry policy in the Yukon. These people have also expressed some concern about what has happened and what is happening to our Yukon forest industry.
We have heard representations from the Yukon Conservation Society, from the industry people - who are operating within the existing restrictions and regulations. Some of them are doing well; others are not doing so well. Different concerns have come from them - from the Council for Yukon Indians, individual native bands have also expressed concerns, individual Yukoners, the Yukon Fish and Game Association, and, of course, many others have all joined in a growing forestry policy interest. I believe that the reason for this is quite simple. When one looks at the facts - these facts are from my point of view, and I do not think that there can be too many people who would argue with this particular point of view, in terms of the statement of the facts - we do have a significant policy void for the Yukon forest industry. Yukon forestry policy faces this vacuum.
Even in talking to federal officials, it is clear that they freely admit that we do work under a large bureaucratic system that is largely based in Ottawa, that does not allow for quick, flexible change to respond to concerns that are raised by people in our small jurisdiction in the Yukon. It takes tremendous political will by a Minister in Ottawa to force any kind of a - dare I use the phrase - "fast-track" process to engage the public in discussion and then to respond to that with legislative change to answer concerns that have been raised.
We also have a further factor adding to the confusion, and that is uncertainty surrounding devolution and how it will impact on the policy void in the sense that we do not know who will have jurisdiction over the resource. That is a matter that raises a number of issues of concern to Yukoners.
First and foremost, the issue of devolution impacts on First Nations and the many concerns that they have raised about their lack of input into the process and the government's lack of consultation with the people who are supposedly making the decisions on devolution. It affects the still outstanding claims for 10 native bands in the Yukon Territory.
A lot of the areas in which this work is being undertaken has an impact on their traditional territory. There is also a strong holistic sense of protection and wise use of the resources that I have detected in Yukon First Nations people. They are not just concerned about land within their selection area, but also about the Yukon in a general sense, and the well-being, sustainability and health of our resources. That factor certainly compounds the equation.
Of course, there is a large, upward growth in the allowable harvest in the Yukon. It has grown substantially from the cut that was allowed just a couple of years ago to what it is now, which is, I believe, over 400,000 cubic metres this year. This is one of the main features that lead to the uncertainty and the impression that we are somehow not in control of our own forest policy and the wise use of our forest resources in the future.
One of the simple symbols and most visually impacting effect of what has been happening in the territory is that we continue to see raw log shipments out of the territory. That is something tangible that people can see when they are on the highway. It causes people to be very interested in forestry policy, because they can see the trucks heading south down the highway, loaded with raw logs. They know about the policy vacuum and that a lot of the processing that could be undertaken in the Yukon is not happening. With that truck go a lot of the economic opportunities from the harvesting of that public resource, from which we could be benefiting.
Certainly, that has a visual impact on this entire equation. I believe it is leading to a heightened sense of urgency that Yukoners have to take matters into their own hands somehow and do something about this, irrespective of it being under federal or territorial control.
Overriding all of this, and leading to this high level of uncertainty, is the fact that we have no solid definition of how long our practices that are underway right now, and are growing, can be maintained. If one extrapolates from over the last few years, it is growing at a fairly quick level.
There is no sense about how long this is sustainable. Making that matter worse, we have no sense of a clear policy on reforestation, silviculture, or continuing care for the resource so that we can be sure - or, at least, have a fighting chance - that somehow we are going to create a sustainable industry in the Yukon that is also going to ensure that our resource is widely used and is going to be around for future generations of the territory - not just for the economic value, but also for the inherent value of the forests, which are important to a lot of Yukoners.
I think that comes across clearly when speaking to First Nations people and people in the public who are concerned about the environment and conservation. Most of the people I speak to are not opposed to the principle of the economic development of logging and, in fact, look at it as being a good opportunity. They simply want to ensure that there is, ancillary to that good economic opportunity, a sense of caring and concern for the environment that is going to ensure that this resource is around forever and ever.
What you have causing this spiraling of interest in the issue of forestry is the fact that all of these things are happening right now in the territory, with no governing sense of where it is all going. More cutting is being done, more allowable harvest being taken, you have no reforestation taking place, and you have no sense that the matter is actually being addressed. This is leading to frustration, it is leading to anxiety and it is leading to Yukoners taking some very different and unique positions about particular ways that they think are the best ways to address the situation.
CYI, as I understand it, has recently called for a moratorium on all new permits, which would lead to an indefinite moratorium.
Of course, if that policy was undertaken by the federal government, which is in charge forestry right now, it would also have a serious and immediate impact on what is happening right now in the forestry industry. I think CYI is well aware of that and that is why they have called for this action, and it obviously indicates that they have some significant concerns about what has happened. I think that is clear and readily apparent from the recommendation they have made.
The Department of Indian and Northern Affairs has placed a freeze on commercial cutting permits. It is my understanding that that freeze is expected to end in May or June. They have placed an immediate and finite freeze on commercial cutting permits.
One of the groups that has recently been formed here in the Yukon is proposing - as I understand it - a moratorium on the shipment of raw logs and wood chips for pulp, while asking that existing permits and agreements be honoured. They are exempting existing agreements, which somewhat differentiates them from CYI's position, but nonetheless that is their response to the situation right now, which is to establish some kind of a reality check mechanism on what is happening. They are taking a step back and saying, "We should have a close look at exactly what is underway right now in the Yukon."
One of the other groups in the Yukon Territory that is getting quite active - and I received a call from a member of that group yesterday - is the Southeast Yukon Forest Association. This group is composed of people with a lot of interests who are mainly from the southeast Yukon. The person I spoke to yesterday felt that the word "devastation" was far too strong to describe what is happening to our forests right now in the Yukon. He made some sensible and logical points to me. He said that we have to get the facts out on the table, and that there is not devastation underway right now in the territory.
I listened intently and heard exactly what he was saying. We are all sometimes a little guilty of using too much hyperbole, without ever getting together and exchanging information. Perhaps he has a legitimate point.
I would say that there is a serious problem. There is a spiraling concern out there about the allowable harvest continuing to grow and raw logs being shipped down south at a fast rate, with no sense of where it is all going, and no reforestation underway. I would say that the concern is legitimate.
Some people would feel strongly that that is devastation. I would respect their right to call it that, if they felt that strongly about it, as much as I respect the right of this member of the Southeast Yukon Forest Association to think that it is not. What we do need is that exchange - that clash of ideas, ideals and ideologies. I think that is very necessary in the Yukon right now. Those debates have to happen, and I welcomed that conversation.
This person also said to me that what is actually happening right now is not devastation, but a cleansing operation. He said that what is actually happening is that a lot of the clear cuts are fine and good, and that there is a substantial level of butt rot in the trees that would have led to the trees falling over anyway in the near future. What they are doing is basically cleansing the woods of these trees that would have fallen over.
Some conservationists would say that the trees falling over is a part of the environmental cycle, and we should not necessarily cut them down and remove them; we should preserve that environmental cycle.
Again, there are two very different views about what should happen to a tree that is suffering from butt rot. Does one ship it to a mill down south, or does one let the natural process take care of itself, or does one harvest the tree and put it through a mill in the Yukon or use it for some value-added process right here in the Yukon Territory?
I am just trying to illustrate the differing views involved in this important equation. I confess that I am no expert on forestry. I have to take the advice and information from the research we do as the Official Opposition, which is basically limited to reading briefs prepared for us by people in the industry, by people with a conservation viewpoint, people from the Yukon Forest Coalition, and people from the Southeast Yukon Forest Association. I, as a politician, am restricted to that understanding of what is happening in the industry.
I have heard more opinions that there is serious devastation underway right now. That view is not shared by a lot of people working in the industry. It is invaluable to have that discussion with all the parties who have an interest in this.
Another interesting thing the Southeast Yukon Forest Association member told me was that shipping raw logs south was okay, because mills down there pay, and small Yukon operators are not paying. That begs the question as to what we can do about enhancing our ability to process logs in the Yukon. That is a difficult question, but one I think has to be dealt with.
There are options, and they are courageous, because they will require a lot of tough work and elbow grease, as well as a strong commitment from the industry stakeholders and from the Yukon and federal governments. It will take a consensus position to reach a conclusion in that direction.
I would submit that the vast majority of Yukoners do not feel that raw log shipments are okay, or that what we are doing makes sound financial sense over the long term.
That is not to say there are not people who think it is a good idea, and it has some merit. Again, I think that is an issue that has to be discussed.
I feel for the people in the southeast who have received some immediate benefit from the allowable cuts. There are certainly some people doing falling, running equipment, et cetera, there. Some people are making a lot of money. Some people have come from outside of the territory and are involved in this so-called logging boom, and are making a pretty good living at it. They are working away and it is creating some jobs. The issue is, how long are the jobs going to last, and how long can this go on within a policy vacuum? How are we going to ensure that, as a territory, we meet these challenges, and we take them on head on. I think that that is what has to happen.
There are people in what I categorize as the fifth particular group of people involved in this equation. There are those who recognize inherent values in our forests and in the environment. These people can range from conservationists, who see the forest as something of value, not just for economic reasons, but for environmental and aesthetic reasons and all those sorts of thing. Their positions are as legitimate as anyone else's. I think they have to be heard.
I have spoken with people who are hunters, who are concerned about increased forest activity and how road building for forestry work will lead to increased access to hunting areas, and perhaps impact on our wildlife due to the access to hunting areas that were never very accessible before. That is a concern for people involved in the Yukon Fish and Game Association and for hunters.
Then, there are also the people who operate businesses related to the tourism industry, and who make their living by promoting the Yukon Territory as a place to come to see a wild, pristine area. Those people are involved, not just in wilderness tourism such as rafting, hiking, outfitting and boating, but they are also the people who are involved in rubber-tire tourism.
It is well known that a lot of tourists who come here, of the rubber-tire variety, the recreation vehicle owners, are also coming here for the very same thing, but just in a much more laid-back manner. The people who are interested in that type of business also have a stake in this equation and are saying that we must protect some of our areas in the Yukon and ensure the wise use of our resource so that we continue to have a wild and pristine Yukon.
There is quite a variety of opinions and views here in the territory.
The Liberals have been saying that they want higher stumpage fees and, at a bare minimum, they want to stop raw log shipments. Yet, they have been allowing this harvesting since October 1993. That has been a long time. There has been a lot of discussion.
I know that Audrey McLaughlin, the Member for Parliament for the Yukon, wrote a letter dated October 20 - she has written many letters - of last year, appealing to the Liberals to do something about what is happening in the Yukon and calling for a comprehensive forest policy. I can quote from the letter. She says, "Yukoners are extremely concerned with the present state of affairs...", and it talks about the issue of stumpage fees, how little research has been done on reforestation, the issue of jobs that are rolling south when the raw logs leave the territory and that that, in fact, is probably exporting a number of processing jobs.
The Liberals have been asked, and action by the Liberals has been called for in Ottawa and in the Yukon, but we have not seen much happening. The serious issue here, with all of these views intertwined, is how Yukoners will pull together their own vision of what should be happening with forestry and what use of our resource we want allowed while we develop this clear view. That is what all of these motions calling for moratoriums are all about. That is what all of this positioning is all about.
This has to be the focus of the leaders in this territory. People have to realize, in my estimation, that this is what people want. That is what is causing the reaction to what is happening right now and that is what has caused the formation of groups to express their own particular view, and from this spawns a sense of coalition.
If the leaders are not bringing people together to discuss these issues and hash them out, then we are going to have to form these coalitions to include First Nations, conservationists and people involved in the industry. We are going to have to do this ourselves if no one else is going to.
I say to this government that this particular issue has to be the driving force in the determination of its forestry policy. I do not pretend for a day that this is easy stuff; this is extremely tough work. It is going to involve a lot of political capital, and it is going to involve a lot of elbow grease and a lot of consensus building.
There are two routes: there is the easy route where we can sit back and say that it is a federal responsibility, let us do nothing about it, let us not put the cart before the horse; but there is also the view that you can seize the day and work with the people who are interested. My goodness, when 100 people show up on a Tuesday night to cram a room at the Yukon College to talk about forestry issues, it should be easy for the government to tell that people care. People are concerned and want to do something about it.
It would be nice to get 100 people out on a Tuesday night at the Yukon College for an NDP meeting or a rally, but that has never really happened. The clear message from that is that people want to be involved, they want to have a say and they want people to know that they are going to be heard.
What is happening now, as we speak? The federal government has imposed an interim moratorium with a finite duration. It looks like that moratorium will soon be lifted. My understanding is that it is talking about a discussion paper in such areas as allocations and stumpage fees. I think that timing is in question here.
The first thing I want to say to the Liberals in Ottawa is, "Why did we wait so long?" We waited to the point where people have had to take this action into their own hands. But, after asking that question, I have to say that I am glad they are starting the process now. Now is the best time. If I have had any criticisims about waiting for so long, I have to put them behind me, because I think we have to realize that we will take this opportunity to engage in the debate and develop policy work. If it is only going to happen now, we have to accept that and we have to work with it.
My question is also, will the Liberals in Ottawa really care? Will they really listen? It is already well known that this particular discussion paper is focusing on the regulations that are, in the words of one federal official at the Yukon Yukon Forest Coalition meeting I attended, impossible to get legislated in Ottawa.
I do not think it is impossible. It depends on how big a priority it is. It could move fairly quickly if it is a serious priority of the government. When it wants to send gunboats out to engage Spanish trawlers, it can do that in a hurry. It could do the same thing when it comes to legislation regarding forestry in the Yukon if it feels it is a big enough priority. It can happen; it is just a question of political will, political capital and the concern, which they would share with Yukoners, about what is happening.
My view is that Yukoners should not have to wait. We should be able to do something, either in conjunction with, or independent of, the federal government's actions. It is a matter of choice. It also depends on what the government is doing. If we are satisfied with what it is doing, it will not be a problem to work in conjunction with it. If the process that it is undertaken with the discussion paper is flawed, does not go far enough or is too inclusive, then, independently, we could work on a made-in-the-Yukon forestry policy.
When I talked to the Minister on Monday, the Minister told me that I take great glee in poking at them about forestry policy. I do not take great glee in it. However, when he says to me that the territorial government should not have to do anything about it because it is a federal jurisdiction, I say that Yukoners are demanding that we do something about it, not just in terms of legislation, which is the federal government's jurisdiction, as is the control over the resource, but in terms of the policy work. I say that if the policy work is comprehensive, inclusive enough, solid enough and is based on knowledge and a consensus of the various interests in the Yukon, the Liberal government will have no choice but to act in accordance with our wishes, regardless of whether or not we settle the devolution issue.
The flip side of the argument that the Yukon Party likes to use with me is that we cannot put the cart before the horse. I do not buy that argument for the simple reason that when the former Minister stood up, over a year ago, he spoke about the imminent devolution of forestry. He spoke on April 1, 1994. There is talk about imminent devolution being right around the corner, yet when we ask for some substantial policy work, the Minister says that it is in the jurisdiction of the federal government and that this government is not sure about devolution.
To my way of thinking, it is at a point now where we have to put it on the back burner. What we have to focus on is the policy angle and the policy issue.
I would like to have control of the resources in the territory. I would like to have a good deal, one that consults and involves the thoughts and views of the First Nations contained therein. I do not know if a bad deal - one that does not involve the First Nations - will further anyone's interests.
Let us move away from devolution discussion, and let us talk about policy. There is no reason why, parallel to those devolution discussions, we in this territory cannot have a policy process that is inclusive and comprehensive. It is just not acceptable for this government to say it cannot do it. We have been pushing for this, and are finally starting to get a sense from this government that it will have to act on this issue.
On Monday, the Minister answered questions about what was happening with the work that he had announced February 8 on CBC Radio, in terms of developing a strategy for forest policy development. He was very poor at answering the questions, had not seen the action plan, and had obviously not been briefed. He and I had a bit of an exchange over this issue.
On Tuesday in Question Period, the Minister told me the action plan was going before Cabinet next Thursday. He had not told me that on Monday, so it was news to me. It is obvious that, as an Opposition, we are having an impact on moving this territorial government toward at least starting to work on a policy process parallel to devolution, or with devolution on the back burner. We are beginning to get the results we want.
We want to make sure that the process is fair, and I will speak on that in a little bit.
What has the Yukon government done? The Members were elected in October 1992, sworn in in November 1992, and it is now mid-March 1995. What has the government done in the area of forestry policy work? It has pushed for devolution and made no bones about the fact that it does not want to develop policy until after forestry is devolved. Then, in a six-month window following the devolution, it would start to work on the development of a comprehensive policy. We thought it was pure folly for the government to think it could answer, in a six-month window, all the concerns that had been raised.
One has to keep in mind that this spectrum has changed in the Yukon Territory. Three years ago, this was not such a big issue - even two years ago, it was not a big issue. It has grown and grown. That is a fact, and the government has to respond to that. That is what the people want. The government cannot simply say that the previous government did nothing about forestry, because that is not true, either. However, I am sure that is probably what the government will say.
The government has to respond to that growing sentiment of wanting to have some self-determination over forestry policy in the territory. The government also has to respond to concerns of the First Nations, who have been very upset about what is happening with devolution.
Aside from pushing for devolution, what else have they done? They have isolated and alienated First Nations on this question. There has been a serious lack of respect for the third order of government in the territory on this particular issue. I am not yet clear about what the Yukon Party's definition of "consultation" is. However, based on what they have told me, I do not think it meshes with mine. They seem to believe that when they are ready to do something, then it is time to go out to the First Nations and talk to them. After they have decided what they are going to do, they go to the First Nations and say, "This is what we are going to do. What do you think of it?" They do not seem to involve First Nations from the bottom up, they involve them from the top down. What we really have now is three levels of government, and the First Nations have to be involved right from the initial stages.
That is not easy. They are upset, and it is obvious that they are not trusting of our representations to them that we want them involved in the process. They have land claim concerns that have to be addressed. We still have to do more about extending the invitation to them to come back to the table. We cannot just accept it, leave it alone and think that the status quo is acceptable, because we are not going to get anywhere with land claims self-government agreements if that is our attitude. I would say, based on the evidence, it is clear that that is where we are going with this government.
What else has the Yukon Party done? Have they held any substantive consultations on the issue before the initial development of this action plan, or during its development? The answer to the first question is no - they have held no substantive consultations. The answer to the second question is that the only people they have met with regarding the development of this action plan, according to the Minister on Monday, are people in the southeast.
I respect the involvement of the people in the southeast. That is imperative and paramount - it is prudent. However, there are also a lot of people in Whitehorse and in other rural communities. The Yukon Forest Coalition has quite a few members from rural areas who are interested in having a say in forestry issues. They also have to be talked to.
Unfortunately, with the paper going to Cabinet on Thursday, it is clear there will be no further involvement with anyone else in the discussion or determination of the objectives and principles that action plan will contain. That is what the Minister told me on Monday; he said the action plan would contain objectives and principles.
I know our Member of Parliament, Audrey McLaughlin, has meeting after meeting with the federal Minister. I talked with her this weekend, and she is getting extremely frustrated about this. She has been working very hard to raise the issue. She raised it in Parliament, and she has had many meetings with the Minister about devolution and forestry policy, and what is happening on those things, but she cannot seem to move him. She is getting some concessions, but they are limited.
I am disappointed with the Liberals. I hope the new policy they are talking about developing through this discussion paper - the changing of the regulations - moves to address some of the concerns. My sincere hope is that it will be inclusive enough to work.
One of the overriding themes that has to be stressed is that this process demands leadership. The leader of this government is supposed to be the Minister of Economic Development and of Renewable Resources. What has he shown us by way of that leadership?
He was on CBC Radio on February 8, and he talked about what was underway. He tried to create the impression in the public that there was a swath in the bureaucracy - three departments - moving toward this comprehensive policy development process. It was incredibly efficient, they were working all hours of the night, and it was coming together beautifully.
On Monday, when I asked him about his comments on the radio, he did not have much to back them up with. He was obviously briefed after Monday's discussion, and on Tuesday he told me there would be a paper on the action plan to Cabinet by next Thursday.
It is obvious that we have been effective in influencing this particular Minister, but my real concern is leadership. Is there the political will? Is there the political knowledge? Is there the political capital to deliver what Yukoners want?
That is a concern. I believe Yukoners have to be asked if they want raw logs sent south. If they do, how many?
I understand that there are jobs in the cutting and the shipping of the logs, and that butt-rot trees may be ready to fall over, so they are potentially good targets for harvest and the creation of economic development. However, I think it is important enough to warrant discussion. I respect that view as much as I respect any others.
If allowable harvests continue to climb, I would ask how long those jobs will be there. Is what we are doing now really worth it? We have to ask that question. How long are those jobs going to last if we continue to cut as we have been? If one extrapolates the allowable cuts over the last couple of years into the future, how long will they last?
I think Yukoners have to be asked the question about reforestation and silviculture practices. There are a significant number of trees being cut now, with very low stumpage fees. The money that could be collected from that could be used for reforestation, silviculture and for developing a plan that will ensure that the forests have a future.
I think we also have to ask if we should not be talking about our ability to improve processing and value-added capabilities in the Yukon. We all know there are many jobs in the processing and the creation of wood products right here in the Yukon. That is a key component of developing a good, solid regional economy.
A regional economy is a concept that I really support, but we do not seem to have any direction or any leadership indicating that that is their objective. There is no discussion about whether or not it should be a clear objective. We are sadly remiss in that area. Should we not be talking about stumpage fees in the Yukon?
I have a constituent who is a sawmill operator. He has a small operation and does his cutting and sawing of logs here in the Yukon. He feels very strongly about that and enjoys that kind of independent lifestyle. He said to me that he would be put out of business for certain by incredibly high stumpage fees. Yet, there are people cutting logs and shipping them south who are not paying that much in the way of stumpage fees.
In the meantime, there is no reforestation underway. This is a problem. I do not care what anyone says, this is a problem and it has to be discussed.
We also have to realize that these issues have to be settled on an interim basis. We have got to have something in place that responds to the public's concerns now. That is what the moratorium suggestions are all about. That is what the federal moratorium is about; that is what the CYI moratorium is about; that is what the Yukon Forest Coalition's moratorium is about.
During the election campaign the Yukon Party promised, in their four-year plan, to oppose raw log shipments. That is a firm commitment in the four-year plan of the Yukon Party. That was a commitment made to the electorate during the election campaign.
The government had no problem opposing the Kaska First Nation work; however, they now seem to be promoting - and I heard this on the radio again today - raw log shipments and that type of economic development for others in the Yukon. It is unclear to me what position the Yukon Party is taking on this issue.
The government is now saying that jobs are being created by raw log shipments and that you could not impose a moratorium on new permits, in their estimation, because it would be too detrimental to the workforce. That does not seem to be consistent with the Yukon Party's election promise to oppose raw log exports or the Yukon Party's vocal opposition to the Kaska Forest Products raw log exports.
Of course, there is a distinction between raw log exports and shipments, but it is a moot point from a Yukoner's perspective - at least from mine - because we are losing the processing jobs, whether the raw logs go to southern mills or overseas. We are still losing the economic benefits that would be provided by the reforestation; we are still losing because we are not realizing the economic benefits gained by processing raw logs, and we are not realizing the benefits that could be gained by increasing the level of stumpage fees that are collected so that the money can be directed into reforestation.
There are many suggestions about what this government's position is. I hope that the Minister will stand up today and clearly put forth the government's position, because it has been very difficult for us to nail down. It seems as if the Yukon Party is moving away from its election promise to saying that the government has to protect what is going on in the southeast Yukon. The government is saying that raw log exports have to be protected, there are jobs and the government wants to keep them at that level, because if mining is open for business, so are raw log exports, which is entirely fine with the government.
I heard the deputy minister on the radio today stating that he sympathized with the thoughts of people who are concerned about forestry, but that the government was going to clearly - the way I understood it - come down in support of the raw log shipments on an interim basis and continue to support the exports.
To me, that is a little bit disturbing because I sense that this government is doing something that they traditionally do; that is, they are taking the easy route. Rather than taking on the tough policy issue and trying to bring people together with different opposing views, the government is trying to divide and conquer.
The Minister made a chippy response to my suggestion about "value-added" in Question Period yesterday, stating that he was amazed that I brought it up, because it had just come up in a meeting with the Yukon Forest Coalition. People have been talking about that for a long time. The forest coalition and the Opposition talked about it. We agree with working on that concept. It is not new, and I was surprised that the Minister would have such a chippy response. It is obvious that the government's reaction to people in the Yukon Forest Coalition is lukewarm at best. It is obviously sidling over to try to come up with some constituency among the people who are actually cutting the trees right now, in the hopes of working that angle for the next election.
Rather than doing the tough thing and bringing everyone together, the government is trying to divide and conquer. It is clear to me that they are trying to paint the Yukon Forest Coalition as a bunch of Whitehorse people with no sense of what is going in the real world of rural Yukon.
I think that is the wrong way to approach this. I believe that the people who are working in the industry right now have something to add to this. I also think that the people who are concerned about the forestry industry, here in Whitehorse and in the rural communities, including the First Nations, all have a role. I do not think that the government should be playing this cheeky game of playing one group off against another, and trying to build this constituency group from one group and marginalizing another group. I think the government should be working to try to bring everyone together. It is bad politics and bad government to do anything else, but the evidence is clear that we are moving in that direction, based on the cheeky responses of the Minister.
The overwhelming evidence from radio reports is that the government is moving toward the total support of raw log shipments from the territory. They are actually saying that it is a good thing.
It is obvious that we cannot rely on the Liberal government. One Liberal says one thing and another does something else. We simply cannot rely on that. Liberals are saying in the paper that they want higher stumpage fees and raw log exports stopped. On the other hand, we have a Liberal government that has been in Ottawa since October 1993. What have they done to address the issue? It has to be resolved in the Yukon and it has to involve everyone.
Our position on this issue is straight up. The point of this motion is to simply call upon the Yukon government to immediately undertake policy work, regardless of devolution. We want the government to bring people together; we want to get the facts on the table.
One of the things that a Southeast Forest Association member told me yesterday was that there is a lot of misinformation. I enjoyed the conversation and I loved hearing it, because I want to hear what the facts are and I want to see it happen in a place where all the opposing views are getting together - where there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, one group does not have the ear of one Minister, and another group the ear of another - everybody is there in an open forum to discuss the issues. That is what has to happen.
People at the Yukon Forest Coalition meeting thought there should be no clearcutting, and there were people who said that some clearcutting is acceptable forestry practice and a good thing. These discussions and the sharing of facts and information has to take place. Otherwise, we get polarized, intransigent views that are not changeable. That will be to the detriment of this entire forestry policy creation process if we do not move toward getting people together.
Let us talk about the allowable cut. The Minister will stand and say that his government is working on an action plan and that the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment is going to hold a conference in June. The YCEE forestry conference is going to be a one-day wonder. It is not without its merit, but it is one, small, minute part of a comprehensive forestry policy planning process. It should not be underestimated, but it should not be overestimated. There is so much more work that has to be done. Let us have the YCEE forestry conference, but let us also have some other work going on.
At the recent forestry symposium, the Minister was quoted as saying that he believed that the forestry industry had the potential to be the second largest industry in the Yukon. I asked him which industry it was going to displace - mining or tourism - and he replied that he hoped all three could be in the top two. It was clear to me, when I asked him questions about the statement, that the Minister did not have a solid foundation for it; it was based on what was happening now.
Let us talk about what is sustainable and what people want in a forestry industry before making any grandiose claims. Of course, it has the potential to become a big industry in the Yukon. However, it is also important to discuss the issue of how long it can sustain that.
Based on comments I have heard from this government, I am very concerned about the action plan that is going before Cabinet. We do not know who has been talked to; we do not know if the government is using an internal balance of interests in the development of the objectives and the principles that the Minister said would be contained in the action plan - he said that on Monday, and it is in Hansard. We do not know if First Nation governments are going to be involved in the process. Since we do not know the answers to these questions, I will wait, with bated breath, to find out just who is going to be involved.
I am also interested in who is in charge of the policy process. Do we have technicians or policy people in charge who are more versed in the art of bringing people together? This is a key question in this particular equation.
The Minister told me that the action plan would contain principles but, to the best of my knowledge, there has been no discussions with First Nations about them. So, the First Nations were not included in the development of the principles. The government will put out its principles, to which others will respond. I think that a far better process would have been to involve the First Nations, as a level of government, in the planning stage and work hard to bring them into the equation.
All we want out of this government is some leadership. We want it to make this issue a priority. We cannot hold its hand forever. It is going to have to learn how to crawl, it is going to have to learn how to walk, and someday, it is going to have to learn how to run. We developed a conservation strategy and an Environment Act. We developed an economic strategy. These particular pieces of legislation and work were developed to try to form some policy processes here in the Yukon. Now, in the election of 1992, the torch has been passed. It is up to this government to say, "People out there want forestry policy. We had better deliver it."
Let us get the facts on the table about forestry. Let us not spread misinformation. Let us have some debate about it. Let us argue about it and discuss it - let us do something about it.
First and foremost, let us have some leadership from this government. Let us develop a comprehensive, made-in-the-Yukon forestry policy that we can all be proud of.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I want to take this opportunity to respond to several of the comments that the Member made. I also want to talk about some policy development that my departments have been involved in.
However, I will talk about that a little later. First, I would like to make some comments about statements that I heard from the Member opposite. The first thing that everyone should understand - the Member for Faro is trying to downplay this particular item - is that, until devolution, the forestry industry in the Yukon is, and has always been, a federal responsibility.
This government and the previous government have made recommendations to the federal government. Some of those recommendations have been listened to, and some have not. I know what the Member is trying to do. He is trying to make it look like this is totally our responsibility and that we have done nothing. That is far from the truth.
The responsibility still lies with the federal government, and later on I will be speaking about things we are doing, have done and will continue to do.
I spoke yesterday, here in Whitehorse, to the new group of people, the Yukon Forest Coalition - I think, Mr. Speaker, I spoke to you about it before - about raw log shipments to British Columbia. We opposed raw log shipments to Asia during the campaign. Today, I oppose raw log shipments out of the country.
Mr. Speaker, both you and I have lived in Watson Lake, and we saw, under the previous government, as a matter of fact, raw log shipments to Asia, where the logs were 32 feet long and where the difference between the butt and the top could be no more than four inches. These were probably some of the best logs in North America, shipped to Japan. I have a real problem with that. Our government opposed that policy then, and we oppose it today. I fully support not permitting raw log shipments out of the country.
We would support the federal government not issuing any new commercial timber permits. There are at least 150 people, and there may be more than that, working in the forestry industry in Watson Lake. Members should be aware that not all raw log exports are being shipped south. There are mills in the Watson Lake area - there are two that I know of and I do not know what their annual cut is - which have been there for over 20 years. I know of one person right now who is cutting and shipping logs south, who has been there since the 1950s - in the 1960s I used to have a cab business there and I did a lot of work for this particular person - and he employed 25 to 30 people at that time. He did this for many, many years in a small mill. He is still there today. We have to think about those people and we have to take them into consideration.
I would support the federal government not issuing any new commercial timber permits. I think that we need to get a handle on the permits, and we will talk about that a little bit later. In that respect, no, I do not oppose a certain amount of export to Canadian provinces.
People in the Watson Lake area know that that forest is as much in British Columbia as it is in Yukon. Most of the cutting that was done on the Highland River was in British Columbia. We were running that timber through the big mill in Watson Lake. What would happen if we would not allow British Columbia operators to cut Yukon timber? Would that mean that anything from the Highland River area could not come back into Watson Lake? There are still fairly major forests on the Highland River in British Columbia, right on the border near Watson Lake. Let us get realistic about this.
Suppose we all get together and oppose the shipment of raw logs out of the country and put a stop to new commercial timber permits in the Watson Lake area until such time as we get a full inventory and we know what a sustainable cut is.
The Member for Faro stated that we have done nothing toward developing a forestry policy. The previous NDP government did nothing in the Yukon Economic Strategy, which was created in 1986-87 and adopted in 1988. There was a commitment in that strategy to develop a model forestry legislation prior to devolution. Nothing was done by that government.
The same commitment was reflected in the Yukon Conservation Strategy, which was published in 1990. When did the overseas export take place under the previous government? Prime 32-foot North American logs were exported under that government.
The amount of timber cut between 1985-86 and 1991-92 was well over 1,000,000 cubic metres. The major portion was cut in 1988-89, when the government was running the big mill in Watson Lake. There was something like 250,000 cubic metres cut that year.
I do not think it is fair for the Member to be criticizing the Yukon government when his government essentially did nothing toward creating forestry legislation or forestry policy.
The other thing I would like to point out is that, when the government-owned sawmill in Watson Lake - it is estimated to have cost Yukon taxpayers $20 million - shut down, I was in the yard and saw the logs. There were acres of prime logs sitting there. They eventually became infested with beetles. Some estimates I have are five million to six million board feet of lumber. That would build 500 to 600 houses. That is how many raw logs were totally wasted. Some of those logs were turned into firewood - at least they were put to some use - but the major portion of them was set on fire and burned.
Mr. Speaker, you saw that, as I did, and it is a shame that the Member for Faro did not.
The Member also made comments that no reforestation has been undertaken. Under that government, there was none. However, in 1992-93, just under 200,000 white spruce seedlings were planted on 174 hectares over 12 blocks in the Watson Lake district near Upper Liard.
In 1993-94, 456,000 white spruce seedlings were planted near Tom Creek and Rancheria, as well as in the La Biche area.
The total to date is 655,395 seedlings planted on approximately 488 hectares. In the upcoming fiscal year, we plan to plant an additional 375,000 seedlings on 250 hectares, generally in the Watson Lake area. In addition, Kaska Forest Resources planted approximately 200,000 seedlings in its harvesting area this past summer. This was done in cooperation with the federal government under our economic development agreements. Before 1992-93, there was nothing done.
I would like to propose a friendly amendment to the Member's motion. I cannot agree that the Yukon government has done nothing, so the amendment that I propose is just a slight change.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move
THAT Motion No. 44 be amended by deleting all of the words after the word "Liberals" and substituting for them the following: "the Yukon government should continue its work in developing a Yukon forest policy; and
THAT the policy development process should include opportunities for consultation with all affected Yukoners, including the federal government, first nations governments, representatives of the forest industry, conservationists and all other interested Yukoners."
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Renewable Resources that Motion No. 44 be amended by deleting all the words after the word "Liberals" and substituting for them the following:
"the Yukon government should continue its work in developing a Yukon forest policy; and
THAT the policy development process should include opportunities for consultation with all affected Yukoners, including the federal government, first nations governments, representatives of the forest industry, conservationists and all other interested Yukoners."
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We fully acknowledge the current inadequacies of forest resource management in the Yukon, and we recognize the need for a comprehensive forest policy for the Yukon. Our government supports the development of a Yukon forestry policy. We have been working on this initiative already, and we intend to continue this process. The process we are following will provide opportunities for consultation with affected Yukoners, including First Nations, resource stakeholders and the Yukon public.
Some of the activities to date in forestry work and policy development include continuing work on devolution of forestry as a priority. We felt very strongly, up until about a month and a half ago, that forestry was going to be devolved to Yukon. What we were ardently attempting to do was to get forestry devolved to the territory, and with that devolution there would have been a payment of, I think, $150,000 that would have helped to pay for the full policy and legislative development.
It looks as if our May deadline for the devolution is very unlikely now. What we want to do is to go ahead with forestry policy development. It would have been much nicer if we could have had federal government monies to do it; however, it is something that must be done, so we are continuing to work on it. We have been working on it for a number of months - actually, years - but now we have devoted two people to do it on a full-time basis.
There are a number of areas in which we are working to achieve our forestry objectives and, as I have just said, we are continuing work on the devolution of forestry, and we are continuing discussions with federal authorities on matters of concern to us in regard to forestry.
I take what the Member for Faro has said - his comments and concerns - as a serious representation. Those are the type of concerns that we have been passing on, and will continue to pass on, to the federal government.
The third activity the government actively supported and participated in was the recent forestry symposium in Whitehorse. This was, to me, an excellent opportunity for people who had concerns to come and listen to some of the experts in the field, listen to concerns from the conservation people, environmental people and from industry. I thought it was an excellent forum. A great number of forestry issues were discussed at that forum. Mr. Speaker, I believe I saw you attending some of the sessions.
We believe in maintaining close contact with the forestry stakeholders in the Yukon, including industry and conservation groups, attending public forums and meetings on forestry, preparing a strategy to identify the ways in which this government will continue to address forestry matters in Yukon and develop a made-in-Yukon forest policy.
I will discuss these items in somewhat more detail shortly, but first I would like to cover some of the key considerations in developing a forest policy.
A number of key factors have to be considered in the development of Yukon government forest policy. The most important consideration is that, right now, the Yukon government has only very limited control over forest management in the territory. The majority of the Yukon remains federal Crown land, and control and authority of forest on these lands rests with the federal government.
Until devolution is completed, our authority over forest management matters will continue to be limited. The most recent delay and change of status of forest devolution negotiations is creating uncertainty for all.
In addition to the limited mandate of the Yukon government, it is essential to recognize the mandate of First Nations for forest management on settlement land. The Yukon land claims umbrella final agreement establishes First Nations as owners, managers and allocation authorities for forest on settlement lands identified through First Nations final agreements - there are four of those.
The ability of the Yukon government to have control over Yukon forests is dependent upon the successful conclusion of forest transfer from the federal government through the devolution process.
With respect to some of the key issues and concerns on forestry, there are a number of resource management and industry development issues that our strategy and policy will have to address. We have identified these issues through discussions with the federal government, technical in-house research, consultation with industry and other stakeholders, review of the literature and relevant written material, and participation in workshops, symposia and public meetings in the territory.
One of the key issues is that the current federal forest regime for the Yukon is outdated. Major issues include gaps in forest management planning, setting sustainable harvest levels, reforestation, forest policy, stumpage and forest inventories. A serious concern is that our forest resource base is now being depleted through the issuance of federal commercial timber permits - CTPs. These permits do not require reforestation and result in the creation of non-sufficient restocked lands. This is a major cost to the public.
Other important issues are road access and use, wilderness non-timber values and timber harvesting and reforestation practices - consumptive and non-consumptive uses.
The federal government intends to revise its forestry regime with regard to stumpage, reforestation and allocation of tenure. The proposed changes are not known yet, but will undoubtedly have a major impact on the industry in the Yukon. This is creating uncertainty for industry.
Another major concern is the one-year time frame connected with commercial timber permits. This does not provide the security needed for investment. As a result, there is a lack of processing infrastructure and no economic utilization of wastes. This reduces the competitive position of Yukon mills.
Exports of raw logs from Yukon to B.C. are also a major concern. B.C. mills are willing to pay very high prices for our logs. As a result, most of our timber harvest is being shipped directly out of the Yukon without being processed - we spoke about that before.
How consultation takes place in the forestry policy development process is a major concern. This is particularly relevant to the development of federal forestry policy, as the federal government is the ultimate decision maker on the resource at the present time.
The lack of knowledge and the lack of a common information base for forestry is also a concern. There is a need for an improved database and increased information exchange and education on forestry issues affecting the Yukon Territory.
From the aforementioned review, one can see that we have been active in working with Yukoners to identify the key issues in the forestry sector, and are very aware of the important areas that need to be addressed.
I would like to talk about some of the principles that will be applied to the development of a Yukon government forestry policy. The Yukon government already has a number of broad principles that it supports in regard to forest management and industry development in the territory. These principles are nothing new; they have been on the public record for some time and are contained in various public agreements and commitments to which we are already a party, such as the Canada Forest Accord and the umbrella final agreement.
These existing broad principles help to define the framework within which we will develop our more detailed forest policies and strategies. The principles are as follows: the use and management of Yukon forests should be consistent with the principles of sustainable development; environmental, economic, social and cultural factors should be considered in an integrated and coordinated manner; forests should be recognized and managed as an integral component of our diverse Yukon ecosystem.
The economic principles could include the development of the forest sector in the Yukon and should be based on the principles of long-term competitiveness and economic viability. The economic opportunities related to forest resources should help make a greater contribution to our communities and the Yukon economy as a whole.
The social principles could include the view that the management and use of Yukon forests should represent local values, objectives and lifestyles. Yukoners should be entitled to participate in the determination of how their forests are used and the purpose for which they are managed.
With respect to some of the existing Yukon government actions already undertaken to address these issues and principles, our records show that there are a number of ways in which we have been actively pursuing our principles and our interest in forestry. The major issue we have been addressing to date is the devolution negotiations. Our government has been very active on this front, and we continue our involvement.
We have also pursued improved consultation with the federal government on forestry issues.
While the federal government still controls the resource, our efforts are focused on doing everything we can to ensure that our concerns are being heard and considered in the development of federal policies and decisions regarding Yukon forestry. The federal government has indicated that it will release a public discussion paper in the near future to propose changes to stumpage, reforestation and timber allocation. In anticipation of this proposed change, my staff in Economic Development and Renewable Resources have already been actively conducting technical research and consulting with industry stakeholders on these very important topics.
We intend to send a strong message to the federal government that the proposed changes must be consistent with our principles of forest industry viability and sustainable resource management.
We are also in the process of developing strategy for developing a Yukon government forest policy. This strategy will provide the framework to assist us in the development of a forest policy for the Yukon Territory. The strategy is being developed jointly as an internal document by the Departments of Renewable Resources, Economic Development and the Executive Council Office. Work on the development of the strategy is still in progress. I anticipate tabling the strategy in the House within the next three or four weeks.
This strategy will contain an initial identification of issues to be addressed, as developed through discussion with stakeholders and participation in public forums. Further issues to be addressed may be identified through the consultation process. We know there are a lot of issues out there, but we have to go through the consultation process to determine what those other issues are.
Principles that the Yukon government already supports are determined through our existing commitments and agreements on forestry matters, such as the Canada Forest Accord, and the umbrella final agreement. Further principles and objectives may be developed through the consultation and policy development process. The consultation will be a priority. We envision a broad, inclusive and open process. However, it should not be overly cumbersome. Industry and other forest stakeholders and the general public will be involved, and we will respect the First Nations participation, as per land claims commitments. There will then be an identification of the key steps to be followed.
Ms. Moorcroft: When the Minister introduced the amendment, he talked of it being a friendly amendment. I have to point out that it does somewhat change the nature of the original motion put forward.
In the original motion, the wording was that the territorial government should immediately move to develop a Yukon forestry policy, including federal government representatives, First Nations governments, representatives of the forestry industry, conservationists, and all other interested Yukoners in a comprehensive Yukon forest policy development process. I want to be very clear that we are critical of this government's lack of momentum in developing a forestry policy.
I did a little research in preparation for speaking in support of this motion. I noted that we have repeatedly asked questions in this House for quite some time about the forestry transfer, raw log exports and the development of a forestry policy. In fact, the former Minister of Renewable Resources filed a legislative return in January 1993, stating that they anticipated that a forestry policy would be in place by December 1994. They obviously have not met that deadline.
The Minister of Renewable Resources has just brought forward an amendment, and in speaking to it he spoke about the technical research and about what is being done by Renewable Resources. The Minister spoke about the strategy for developing a policy, and said that Renewable Resources, Economic Development and the Executive Council Office are working together and that that policy should be coming forward to the House within the next three to four weeks. Well, I hope that they can meet that deadline. This is an issue that many people care about very deeply.
I think we need to set realistic, sustainable targets for cutting timber in the Yukon. A long-term forestry industry depends on it. At present, there is a policy vacuum on forestry issues. Some of the people who are interested in the issue and who have joined the Yukon Forest Coalition include members of the Yukon Conservation Society, industry advocates, individual First Nation members and many concerned Yukoners.
First Nations have particular concerns about devolution and about the development of forestry policy in the context of a changed political climate. We now have a third order of government active in the Yukon, and First Nations have to be involved in setting the policy - not spoken to after the policy is developed, but involved in developing the policy from the beginning.
I attended a meeting held at Marsh Lake in 1993. There were over 60 people at that meeting, because there was an application for a clear-cut permit in that area. Most of the people who attended the meeting were very opposed to clear cutting our forests.
We get regular calls from constituents who see the shipments of raw logs going out of the Yukon. Yukoners do not want to see trucks heading south with raw logs on them.
We are losing jobs every time a logging truck leaves the territory with a load of raw logs destined for some southern mill. It is time that this government took a stand on that.
I called the federal office after I had taken a number of calls from people who were watching the logs head south on a truck. I was told that there was a total of 90,000 cubic metres of forest being cut in the lowland area, that 60,000 of those cubic metres had been cut, and that it was a two-year quota going out all at once. So, although it looked bad, it was not really as bad as it looked.
However, that does not change the fact that a lot of Yukoners are very concerned about the trees leaving the Yukon. We have to be concerned about a sustainable forestry industry. There is another interest group, the Southeast Yukon Forest Association, which must be consulted.
I have loggers in my riding, Mr. Speaker, and I know there are many loggers who live in your riding. If we want to promote jobs and economic activity in the Yukon, we have to use Yukon material in housing projects.
The other day, the Minister of Renewable Resources said he was very surprised that the Member for Faro was asking questions about using Yukon lumber in Yukon building projects, as that was the same thing the Yukon Forest Coalition had said to him that same morning.
The idea of adding value by milling lumber in the Yukon, using local materials for building, and processing logs here is not a new idea. It is a policy of our party to encourage the Yukon Housing Corporation to build with local materials and to encourage jobs in processing logs. I am sure it would not be news to this government that a lot of Yukoners support that concept.
One of the largest problems we face is the low stumpage fees. A number of people have expressed an opinion on this. A resolution was passed at the Association of Yukon Communities fall general meeting in Mayo calling for higher stumpage fees. That was brought forward by the Town of Watson Lake, where the forestry industry is most active.
Canada stands to lose at least $19 million in stumpage fees from companies logging Crown land in the Yukon this year. In 1994-95, logging companies will pay about $113,000 in stumpage fees for the wood they cut under the current system of timber permits. If the wood were sold under a competitive bidding system, Ottawa would collect $19.4 million. The fragile boreal forests of the Yukon are being cut, with little return to Yukon residents or other Canadians at a time when Ottawa is searching for money to pay down the debt.
The Minister of Renewable Resources spoke a few minutes ago about the 488 hectares of land that have been planted with trees in reforestation and silviculture work. I would like to point out that that reforestation work has been funded by the economic development agreements. Under the Liberal budget cuts, the Economic Development program will be gone next year. I would like to know if the government will continue to support reforestation work when there is no federal money available to support it.
It is always surprising what one gets when bringing a motion forward for debate. After being criticized for over two years about the lack of forestry policy, the Minister stood up and told us what work was going on and that the Yukon government should continue that work. We have been waiting for answers for a long time. I guess it took this motion in the House to get the Minister to acknowledge what was being done and to set a framework of what else needed to be done.
We will be supporting this amendment in order to continue the debate and in the interest of getting on with the task at hand. I would just like to speak for a few minutes about that task.
The challenge now is to have Yukoners pull together. We need to hear the legitimate views of First Nations. We need to hear the legitimate views of foresters, people active in the environmental movement, people working in building log homes and milling lumber, the Council for Yukon Indians and all concerned Yukoners.
Many people believe that a Yukon forest policy should, at a minimum, commit the government to the following ideas: a balanced use of forests and forest resources; standards to manage the use of forests and the resources they contain, such as fish and wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities; sustainable forest use, so that actions today do not compromise the needs of future generations; increased recognition of all forest resources; a clear and strong mandate for enforcement agencies to regulate forest practices; strong compliance and enforcement powers, so that we can prevent and resolve environmental concerns before they become major problems costly to taxpayers; and maintain the bio-diversity in Yukon forests.
We have been asking the Yukon Party government to develop policy in the forestry area for more than two years. We are pleased to hear the Minister saying that he will be coming forward with a framework for developing that policy in the next three weeks or so. It is late, but it is better late than never. I hope that, due to the fact that the Yukon Forest Coalition has been so active, this government will listen to the interests in our communities, who are very concerned and want to have their views heard when the policy is developed.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am pleased to rise today to speak in favour of the amendment that is before us, and in support - in general terms - of the amended motion.
I thank the Member for Faro for bringing this issue forward because it is one that I have taken some interest in for a great number of years, and specifically since 1985, when I was first elected to this House. At that time, our party did not have an MLA from Watson Lake, like you, Mr. Speaker. I was appointed the buddy MLA for the Watson Lake riding, and I made dozens of trips to Watson Lake over a period of four or five years, until the people of Watson Lake had an opportunity to go to the polls and make the right decision by electing you, Mr. Speaker. I spent four or five years travelling back and forth to Watson Lake, meeting with the people of Watson Lake, discussing their concerns, and bringing their concerns to the floor of the House.
I can remember those days very well because - even though I have lived in the Yukon all my life, and spent all my life, for the most part, in the Whitehorse area - I was not very familiar with the Watson Lake area. So, it was a real education for me to understand what the forest industry was all about and how many people actually worked in that industry. I had built a log cabin on the Carcross Road with logs bought from someone locally, who milled them. That was the extent of my knowledge of the local forest industry.
When I went to Watson Lake, I was really quite surprised by the number of people who are, and have been, so dependent upon that industry for many, many years in that area. I was also quite surprised by the size of the trees in that area. They are real trees there. The trees we are used to seeing in the Whitehorse area somewhat pale compared to the huge and beautiful trees in the Liard Valley.
I can remember travelling to Watson Lake to attend the grand opening of the Watson Lake sawmill. It was quite an event. The MLA at that time was Mr. Dave Porter and he was also the Minister of Renewable Resources. He cut the first log with a chainsaw, and I think you were probably at that event as well, Mr. Speaker. At that time I think you were an employee of that operation, along with many other Watson Lake residents. There was a feeling at that time that there was a great future for the lumber industry in Watson Lake and that the industry was going to employ people for many years to come.
Last fall, I had an opportunity to go back to Watson Lake - more on pleasure than business - on a hunting trip. I had the opportunity to go up the river, so to speak, with you, Mr. Speaker. At that time you explained that the many areas we went through on the Frances River and the Liard River had been logged in days gone by. We actually took the time to stop and walk around in some of those areas.
I remember that we looked at some areas that had been prepared for reforestation, where some trenching work and uprooting of the ground for planting the trees had taken place. I think this year there is probably going to be some reforestation taking place in that area, and I think that is good. I know that the Member for Faro talked about the lack of reforestation that had gone on in the area, but I have to remind the Member that the era that he is talking about, when there was no reforestation, was under the NDP government. Since 1993, there has been reforestation almost every year - not as much as we would like to see, but there has certainly been some reforestation taking place.
The Member for Faro spoke about the lack of action from this government. I can understand where that Member is coming from. I can remember speaking in this House about the forestry industry and harvesting the trees in the Yukon, without a lot of information. The Member for Faro is in the same position I was in back in those days. Perhaps he was not around when that was happening, and perhaps he was not even aware that it happened. However, I think it is important to refresh the Member's memory about what was said and done during those years.
The Member for Mount Lorne spoke a few minutes ago and mentioned that this government has done nothing and has been dragging its feet on policy development. Let me take that Member back to May 1991. In this very House there was a motion put forward, possibly by you, Mr. Speaker, about the Yukon forest industry and the transfer of that resource to the Yukon. You were urging the federal government to transfer that resource to the responsibility of the territorial government, because you, as the representative of the people of Watson Lake, saw what was happening and wanted some action to take place in order for Yukoners to gain better control over the forest resources.
By way of background, I would like to quote the then Minister of Renewable Resources, Mr. Webster, in Hansard of May 1, 1991, page 833. "By way of background, I can tell the House that efforts to resume negotiations for the transfer were initiated in 1989, following an exchange of letters between senior officials of the Department of Renewable Resources and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. In that same year, we began the groundwork to develop the forest management policies that we want to put in place before we accept the forestry transfer." He went on to say, "Once a formal policy framework is adopted, detailed work on developing forestry regulations can begin."
Under the rule-making provisions in the Environment Act, stakeholders and the public at large will be guaranteed participation at the regulation development process. Policy and regulations need to be put in place before the transfer and management of the responsibility can be completed.
I mention this today to point out to the Members on the side opposite that in 1991 - and even prior to that - their government was talking about the devolution of forestry. Yet, when we came into power in 1992, although they talked a good talk, there was no real work done on the policies. There was no real development on the forestry policy overall.
At the same time, while the NDP was talking about the devolution of forestry, thousands upon thousands upon thousands of beautiful Yukon trees were being harvested. Some of those trees, as one Member has pointed out today, were being exported out of the country. Load after load after load was heading off to Japan.
I know that the government of the day took the same position as this government has in opposing those raw log exports.
There is not a lot we can do about it other than oppose it. I do not think that the government of the day wanted to blockade the road and stop the logs from going south - they knew that was illegal - and I do not think that they expect us to do that.
There has to be an appreciation that this is a federal government responsibility at the present time. If the federal government wants to continue to allow raw log exports to Japan, then it can do that. That is one of the reasons why we have to gain responsibility through the forestry transfer, and we have to be careful about how or why we accept this responsibility.
The Minister of Renewable Resources of the day, Mr. Webster, said on the same day, "We must proceed cautiously to ensure that the terms of the transfer will provide the Government of Yukon with the human and fiscal resources to manage the forests adequately. I want to emphasize very strongly that adequate management should not be defined by historical federal standards of Yukon forest management, but rather by policies and a regular framework developed through public consultation that the Yukon government will adopt. The standard that has been set is a poor one, as the Member from Watson Lake has cited in examples in his speech today."
He said, "We believe that we have now put in place the basic elements we need to seek a formal detailed negotiating mandate for a forestry management transfer." He said he believed he had all that work done then. When our government took over in 1992, it was not done. In fact, there is still a lot of work to be done now on developing an overall forestry policy.
I think it is kind of ironic - and I excuse the Member for Faro, because he was not here and perhaps he was not aware of what was going on - because in 1989, 1990 and 1991, the side opposite was cloaked in black and was running through the Yukon forests in Watson Lake and sawing down every tree in sight. Today they are cloaked in white and they are telling us that we should save all of our forests, and that we should develop a policy immediately.
You cannot have it both ways. They were there for seven years. The forests have been here for hundreds of years, but they did not see it as a priority to develop a Yukon forestry policy.
The Member for Faro said today that we should oppose exports of logs from Yukon to British Columbia and that he felt that it was not right that Yukon logs should be going to B.C., because we are exporting jobs.
I will remind the Member that there may come a day, and it might be sooner than later, when there may be a very vibrant secondary forestry industry in the Watson Lake area and we will need to import logs from northern British Columbia to sustain the growth to provide jobs for Yukoners.
Governments all across the country are looking at the trade barriers that exist between jurisdictions. They are removing those barriers so that various people can work in various provinces of this country, and so that we can import and export raw materials from one area of the country to another without a problem. I would therefore be somewhat reluctant to put a ban on an export of Yukon logs to British Columbia, because one day we may need their logs to sustain a secondary industry here.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member for Faro says that the Minister said that we are opposing any more licenses for export. I support that, for the same reason that the Member supports it. We need to find out what our inventory is and what our sustainable harvest can be in that area. We may be able to export some logs in the future, but we do not know that yet. We are talking about new export permits. We do not know what we have and what is available to ship outside of the territory. We know that Yukoners want to get control over this resource.
We all have the same goal in mind. I know how concerned the Member for Faro is about the environment. I respect that. However, to come in here and pretend that what they did was okay and what we are doing is terrible is the wrong approach.
I remember Watson Lake and the problems that the mill was going through, the millions of dollars that were pumped into that operation and the hundreds of thousands of trees that were cut down in those years. In almost all of those cutting areas, there was not one tree planted. The trees were 200 years old. I stood on the other side of the House and raised this issue time and time again. It was ignored; "It was not our responsibility."
Since the Yukon Party has come into power, silviculture has been going on in the area - not as much as there should be, but there has been some going on.
I can remember the thousands and thousands of logs sitting in the big lot at Hyland Forest Products that became the free lunch for the beetles. All of the timber was being munched away by the beetles. In fact, Mr. Speaker, I think you brought a chunk of one of the logs to Whitehorse. Those socialist beetles could be heard munching away on these beautiful Yukon logs that were conveniently left in the middle of Hyland Forest Product's yard. They became useless, infested logs that no one wanted; they went to waste. It would be nice to have those logs back.
I remember advertisements in the local paper for firewood. A local contractor purchased a good deal of the logs in the yard - beautiful logs that should have been part of someone's home somewhere - cut them up, transported them to Whitehorse and sold them for firewood.
When the balance of the logs in the yard were no longer any good for firewood, they were bulldozed into a big pile, and I think Watson Lake had the largest bonfire in history. It was quite shameful.
The side opposite cannot come through this appearing to be lily white, saying that they are saving the forests of the Yukon.
I think the motion from the side opposite is a good one. The motion speaks of Yukoners gaining control over their resource and developing a policy that will eventually lead to establishing a very important industry in the territory.
I am not sure I agree with the Minister that it should be the second most important industry in the territory. Maybe we could have three industries - mining, tourism and forestry - that are all number one industries and all producing multi-millions of dollars' worth of jobs and revenue for Yukoners. They could all be number one.
I think there is room for a forestry industry in this territory. There is a very abundant resource in the Watson Lake area, but it has to be managed at a sustainable level. We have to involve all of the players - the people in the forest industry, First Nations, governments - in developing a made-in-Yukon forestry policy. We have to get the message through to the federal Liberal government, which has controlled our destiny from thousands of miles away, and which is changing the rules of the game in the forestry devolution on an almost annual basis. We have to get the message through to the individuals that while they are fiddling, Rome is burning - that our forestry is suffering because of the inaction.
I think this motion will go some way toward sending that message to those individuals. I would hope that all Members in the House would support the amendment that is before us. I certainly think that we should take into consideration that there are a lot of players in this area. We have to be concerned about the preservation and protection of our forests, but we also have to consider that there is a sustainable, harvestable amount of timber in the Yukon, and that there are many Yukoners who depend very, very much on those jobs.
I think the Member for Faro met some of those Yukoners the other day and discussed the issue with them. I think he has a better appreciation today of the value of those jobs to those Yukoners. Some of those people have some very good suggestions on wha a made-in-Yukon policy could involve and how we could protect Yukon's interest.
I strongly support the use of logs in the territory as a secondary industry for the territory where one day perhaps the 2 by 4s or the 2 by 6s we use to build our houses in the Yukon will come from the logs that are produced, milled, kiln dried and sold in Watson Lake, or other areas of the Yukon. We all know the potential. We all know that the type of timber in the Watson Lake area is some of the best timber in the world because of its grain and the quality of it.
It is a shame to see thousands and thousands of logs wasted. I know that is what has prompted this. Even prior to 1991 and 1992, before logs were shipped, a lot of Yukoners in the Whitehorse area never realized the number of logs being cut because they did not see them. The logs were cut and hauled to the Hyland Forest Products yard. Some were being sawn up and others were laid to rot. In the last few years, we have watched truckload after truckload of beautiful logs pass by us on the Carcross Road and the Alaska Highway, making their way to Japan. That kind of export has to stop. We certainly support that.
The Minister has said that we are not prepared to support new timber harvesting permits. We have a strong feeling that, before we go any further with the harvesting of timber in the Yukon, we should be involving more Yukoners in the decisions involving how we manage our forests in the future.
Last fall, I walked around the banks of the Liard River and looked at some of the timber. It was absolutely amazing to see the size of some of those trees, and then to walk into the areas that had been cut in prior years where there had been no reforestation going on and to see that nothing had happened. The odd little seedling had popped up through the ground through the natural reforestation process, but nothing had really happened. I would hope that any policy that is developed in the future will involve going back through all those areas that were harvested during the old Hyland years, and many years prior to that, and that we will develop silviculture projects that will enhance those areas for the future generations.
I will support the amended motion that is before us, and urge all other Members to do so as well.
Mr. Harding: I am speaking on the amendment. I listened to the comments of the previous speaker. Many of them were sadly deluded. That is fairly consistent for the Member opposite, who likes to get up and give his version of events, even if it never really happened. Through innuendo, he likes to attribute statements to Members who never made them.
I want to give the Minister a few facts to deal with. He has just portrayed himself as the champion of Watson Lake. I am sure that whenever he goes to Watson Lake he is carried along the sidewalk on the shoulders of the citizens because of his incredible performance in Watson Lake when he was an Opposition Member. According to him, he was quite a legendary figure down there. I hope that he will still be held in such high regard when he goes down there now that he is a Minister.
I would like to say that the Minister was quite confused and dazed when he misrepresented my remarks. He said I had stated that there should be a total and outright ban on all shipments of raw logs to southern mills. What really happened was that I asked the Minister of Economic Development and Renewable Resources what the policy of the Yukon territorial government is. I said that Yukoners should be asked whether or not they want to have shipments of raw logs to southern mills. That is quite different from what the Minister said. Nonetheless, he was trying to make a point - and desperately, at that. He stooped to his usual low level by saying that I said something that I did not say.
Also, I would like to say to that particular Member that his comments were somewhat confusing, in light of the previous Minister standing up to say that he wanted a ban on all new timber harvesting permits and that the moratorium should be in place indefinitely until we get a firm commitment of direction and policy. Those two thoughts are not consistent.
The Minister also went to great lengths to criticize the previous government. He totally and absolutely missed the entire point of the discussion that is going on in the territory today. Perhaps he has just fallen so far out of touch that he cannot catch himself.
This issue has built up in the Yukon. We were asking about this as far back as December 1993. The Minister of Renewable Resources tabled a legislative return on December 15, 1993, stating that a new policy on forestry would be in place by December 1994. It is obvious that that is not the case. It is only since we began really pushing this that we are getting any response in that area.
The Minister stated that he, as the critic, watched us pass everything off because forestry was not our responsibility. That is absolutely hogwash. Over two and one-half years after this government came into power, it has produced nothing substantive in the way of policy. There is nothing substantive in the way of legislation. It is laughable when the Minister stands up and makes those kinds of claims.
In forestry, the NDP, when in power, developed the Yukon Conservation Strategy, the Yukon Economic Strategy and the Environment Act, all of which have an impact on forest use. As a matter of fact, in the latest brief from the federal government, there are some comments relating to the Yukon Conservation Strategy. It states, "The forestry component of the Yukon Conservation Strategy focuses on sustainability of the forest resource. The strategy also indicates that the government will 'restrict whole log exports' and, 'establish mechanisms for effective public participation in the planning of forestry developments.'" It goes on to refer to the Yukon Economic Strategy and states, "The Yukon forest industry will be its strongest if we set out to maximize the revenue that we get from each tree..." and, "This means using as much of each tree as we can."
There was policy work underway that was established by the NDP. It was in-depth and involved a lot of consultation. That is why the Yukon Economic Strategy and Yukon Conservation Strategy were worthy, even though a lot of the Members in the Conservative Party did not believe in them. However, because they had such wide public support, they felt that they had to vote for them when they came before the Legislature.
The same is true with the Environment Act. They raised holy Hannah about it at first and second reading, but when push came to shove at third reading, they supported the Environment Act. That is because it was good legislation that had broad public support.
The hard policy work was done.
We cannot do everything for the Yukon Party. They have been in power now for two and a half years. This issue is of paramount importance to a lot of Yukoners and they are still trying to blame us. It is preposterous. It shows a lack of responsibility and a lack of ability to engage in any kind of a substantive project that will result in anything that is going to address the needs of Yukoners, legislatively or in a regulatory manner, on forestry issues.
The Minister of Tourism spoke of silviculture and reforestation. Those issues are largely under the guise of the economic development agreement. Who negotiated that agreement? The NDP government did. Who is cutting the EDA? The Liberal government is. For the Minister to stand here and say that he is responsible for that is folly. I will not say much more about it.
The Minister talked about what the former Minister, Art Webster, said about proceeding cautiously with the devolution. I support that position today. I think that we have got to get a good deal. We have a serious flaw in the negotiations in the fact that we have no participation from First Nations. They are extremely upset about it.
I am not talking about devolution; it is not my main thesis. My main thesis is the issue of policy development. This government has been in power for two and a half years. They told us a policy was going to be ready by December, 1994. That is not the case.
Whenever they receive any criticism, they get on the radio and say to the interviewer, "Yes, we are going to engage in policy development", but when we start poking them, they say, "Well, it is not up to us. It is a federal responsibility." There is no reason to delay, given the public interest. The time is right; that is what I am trying to tell them.
People were not hopping all over the Yukon about this a couple of years ago. At the same time that the federal government had responsibility for policy in forestry, we were developing policies in the area of the environment with the Yukon Conservation Strategy and in the area of the economy with the Yukon Economic Strategy. They were for all Yukoners. I might add that we negotiated the EDA as well, which is responsible for the limited amount of reforestation that is going on right now.
To say that we did nothing is folly. I will not dignify his comments with much of a response, but I will say that this motion change that has been proposed by the government changes its nature somewhat.
We are very critical of the inaction by the Yukon Party, or what we see as its lack of leadership in forestry policy. We think that there is room for a parallel process now. We think the time is right and that the public wants it, so let us give it to them. We also think that there are a lot of people and groups who want to have a say right now.
In the non-partisan interest of giving this government something to go with, an endorsement, to further the cause of enhancing our forest policy in the Yukon, we are prepared to support the government's amendment, although it does change the context somewhat.
The government claims that its authority is limited, because the federal government makes all the decisions. We know that. The federal government does make the decisions, but they do listen to the Yukon Territory and they will listen, one would hope, to a comprehensive forestry policy process that we can have ready when, if, or ever devolution concludes. It appears from reading today's paper that DIAND has some new views on that issue, in that it could take awhile longer. There is no reason we cannot have a parallel process. I would feel much more comfortable about Yukoners doing that than I do in having it all controlled by a questionable political will in Ottawa.
I will support the amendment, and I will support it in the interest of furthering the Yukon government's own inclusive, made-in-Yukon policy in the area of forestry.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I was not going to talk on this issue, but I have sat here and listened to discussion about how the previous Conservative government did not do anything in 1984 to develop policies.
I think this is one of the most disappointing topics I have ever had to discuss in this Legislature. When I held the Renewable Resources portfolio, I really thought that the time and effort that the department put in would be appreciated. I am sick and tired of people saying the department did not do anything. It worked very, very hard on this. We had to change the agreement three or four times and I guess that it is one of the greatest disappointments that I have had in this Legislature - and believe me, I have had an awful lot. Some day, when I write the book, they will hear about a few of them.
I can remember when I brought the document to Cabinet. Every one of the negotiators was sitting in my office and they all sat there for two hours waiting for me to come out to see if we had finally succeeded in achieving an agreement-in-principle. When I walked in there with a smile on my face and told them that we had the agreement in principle, I was to sign it and it was to go to Ottawa, I never saw so many people light up. These were people who were tired and who had spent many hours working on this.
They were so happy that we got it. We signed that agreement in principle, but the great white fathers in Ottawa later decided to change their minds. Why? There were a couple of reasons. One was that they realized that some of the plans we were developing were good ones, so they decided to take them all and start using them.
It is one of the greatest disappointments anyone can have to get that far. I was assured by everyone that it was all over because the federal government had signed the agreement in principle. I was told that the final agreement to be signed by the Government Leader and the federal Minister was simply a formality after the wording of the agreement was finalized. But it did not happen.
When I left Renewable Resources, I thought I would be done with the forestry business, but here I am now arguing with the federal government. With all the forest around Watson Lake, what has the federal government done? It has issued a permit to cut trees right inside the municipality. It did not bother talking to the municipality or to anyone else. That is the good government in Ottawa. That is our wonderful Liberal government that really understands us and knows what we are doing. Imagine. With all the trees there are for miles and miles, the federal government has to issue a permit to cut trees inside a little municipality. This little town wants to run its own affairs. It tells the territorial government to mind its own business and stay out, but it cannot tell the federal government the same thing. The federal government moves in. That is one example.
Let me give you another example. Beetles arrived in the Haines Junction area. The trees are all dying and are completely brown. A lot of people wanted to work this winter by cutting those trees for timber. A couple of little outfits wanted to cut timber, but the federal government said that it had to study the situation.
We have had a warm winter, so the beetles are not dying, and they will kill more trees next year. We have not had a large forest fire in that area for 100 years, but one day someone will drop a cigarette or lightning will strike, and the beautiful Kluane National Park - which you and I are not allowed into; the federal government says to stay out; I am an old man and might want to ride a horse there, so I have to stay out - will burn down. Then what will the federal government say?
This is just an idea of what happens with this federal government, which will absolutely not concede that forestry should be turned over to the people of the Yukon, so that policy can be made here by us. The money we spent negotiating that agreement would have been much better spent on the reforestation of some area, instead of being thrown away because the federal government would not sign the agreement.
Mr. Cable: This is on the amendment, because I have something to say about the main motion, of course.
As I read the amendment and the main body of the original motion, it is saying that it encourages the Yukon government to stand by and get ready. It is difficult to disagree with either the main body of the motion, as originally presented, or with the amendment. I think the amendment is much more in the spirit of collegiality. I had hoped we could eventually get a motion all Members of this House could agree upon, so that there would be a clear signal to everyone, including the federal government, about what this House believes, as well as addressing some of the concerns and frustrations of the Member for Kluane, who spent some time negotiating the agreement and then found out there were some problems.
In speaking only to the amendment, it is a bit obtuse when referring to the federal government as an "affected" Yukoner. I suppose the federal government, in governing the whole of the country, could be considered an "affected Yukoner". More importantly, though, it seems to treat the First Nations government as an interest group. We all know that the First Nation involvement will be more than a listening exercise by the government. It will be a government-to-government exercise, and it will involve walking through the land claims statutory requirements.
Having gone through that, and not wanting to nit-pick, I have to say that I will support the amendment, so that portion of the motion will, I assume, have unanimous support in the House. I will have something to say on the preamble, which is a backward sort of non sequitur, if one could call it that, unrelated to the main body of the motion.
As proposed, the amendment does take away some of the nasty innuendo that might have been directed toward the Yukon Party government - and we certainly do not want any of that in this House when we have the opportunity to build consensus.
There seems to be something wrong with the air conditioning system; there is some white noise that we will have to deal with.
There was an interesting paper put out by this chap who was being pilloried in the newspaper, and who was pillorying back again - a fellow by the name of Garry Miltenberger, who had a long-running battle with a number of people in the forest industry and in the environmental industry. At one juncture, he had on an Indian and Northern Affairs Canada hat - he was working for Indian and Northern Affairs in the forestry area.
He and his collaborators had prepared a very interesting paper that was directed primarily at the export of logs. It caught two collateral issues that went along with that. It was published in March of 1993, and it is entitled "A DIAND Discussion Paper: toward the development of a policy for export of whole logs, wood chips and fuel wood from the Yukon Territory". There was a presentation made of this paper at the Westmark, where some of the members of the Yukon Forest Coalition - one of whom was here in the gallery earlier today - and myself, and some other people who, perhaps, are in this Legislature, were attending.
It was a very interesting paper. If one goes through it, one can see the difficulty in attempting to get forest policy in gear when there is a transition phase, not only in the devolution of the forestry resource to the government, but also in the implementation of the land claims. We have almost a gridlock that will have to be broken so all parties can walk away from the policy development with some satisfaction.
There are some interesting comments by Mr. Miltenberger. I assume that he was the author of the paper; he was certainly the presenter. He said, "For the most part, it is not the local Yukon sawmill operators who are promoting log exports, but rather log brokers or other non-Yukoners trying to make a fast buck due to low stumpage dues and lack of modern legislation and policy."
I will probably agree with that rather astute observation.
There is a recognition at all levels - and I am sure that the federal government people, both at the bureaucratic and political level, would be first to acknowledge it - that there is an hiatus in the development of policy, the number of areas where there is no policy and the number of areas where the policy is completely out of date, as is indicated by Mr. Miltenberger when he talks about a lack of modern legislation.
The paper is devoted primarily to exports of wood - whole logs, wood chips and fuel wood - from the territory. There are a number of recommendations in this paper which, I assume, was made to Mr. Miltenberger's masters in Ottawa. One of them is quite interesting because it focuses on some of the issues that are of concern to the Members of this House and to the members of the public.
On page 27, it states, "In the long term, it is recommended that: (1) sustainable large log harvest levels be estimated and realistic AACs" - allowable annual cuts - "be established for each district." - it is my understanding that this either has been or is being done in the southeast Yukon -"(2) long-term large-log local demand for established operators be estimated for each district; (3) with the exception of salvage, export only be considered for sustainable large-log volumes in excess of local demand." That is linked in with the AACs. There is a proviso, "...provided that there is no significant negative impact on local manufacturers, e.g. the elimination of all assessable stands." To the unwashed - and I categorize myself in that area - all of that sounds eminently sensible. So the ground work has been done. We are not reinventing any wheel.
Mr. Miltenberger talks about the Yukon government policy on log exports. I do not believe it has been changed since his observations. The Government of Yukon policy on log exports was approved by Cabinet in February 1989 - that would be the previous administration. In principle, the Government of the Yukon is opposed to all log exports in order to: (1) encourage more value-added processing of forest resources; (2) to promote diversification and stability in our regional economy, and; (3) to ensure a sustained and balanced supply of logs for sawmill operators.
There were some exceptions made - I believe that there were some in the previous Minister's legislative returns of January 1994. It states that exceptions will be considered in special circumstances where logs are surplus to domestic needs, located on uneconomical sites, are at risk of being wasted because of events such as disease or a fire-kill - this is relevant, I suppose, to Haines Junction and the beetle-infested logs.
While the paper is devoted primarily to exports, it does touch on the issue of stumpage fees and the issue of fair returns to the owners of the resource. That means you and me, Mr. Speaker, and everyone else in the Yukon.
Mr. Miltenberger, or the people reporting to him, have written, "As a minimum, timber stumpage dues should recover all costs of administering a cutting authority and the cost of the silvicultural treatment, subject to either the biological or economic rotation of the timber. Additionally, some level of 'resource rent' for private use of a public resource should be levied. These are fundamental principles of good natural resource management."
It is a very interesting paper. I read it simply to indicate that the thinking is there. What we need now is the will. As I read it, the thinking is here in the Yukon government, and is certainly spurred on by people such as the Member for Faro. There appears now to be the will to develop policy to get the regulations, the legislation and the policy principles in line so that when the resource is turned over we will be ready to go; that there will be no hiatus while we find our feet and deal with stumpage fees, export policy, allowable annual cuts, clear cutting and all the other issues that are associated with a good forestry policy.
I want to say that, in speaking only to the amendment, I am pleased to see that we are now in a consensus-building mood and that I assume all of us are going to support this amendment. That is exactly what I will do. I will speak later on the main motion. I certainly have something to say about the premises in the motion.
Speaker: I will now call question on the amendment.
Amendment to Motion No. 44 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the motion as amended?
Mr. Cable: I would like to speak to the main motion, because I, too, have an amendment, now that we are in this spirit of collegiality, I guess you would call it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: The Minister of Justice has guessed it. He gets the prize.
I have to say that the main body of the motion is obviously acceptable, and the motion itself would be acceptable, once the shrill premise and chippy comments about the Liberals are discarded.
I have to say that there have been some developments in this House recently that have saddened and amused me, I suppose. They have saddened me because the great party of the left, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, now known as the NDP, in attempting to regain relevance to the 1990s, has turned somewhat negative. This is a party that I supported in the 1960s, I have to say - of course, I never told my mother.
This is the party of Tommy Douglas, whom I much admired, Woodsworth, who took the party through the difficult times of the 1930s and 1940s and through the war, Stanley Knowles and David and Stephen Lewis. This party in this House has been chanting this anti-Liberal mantra, and I do not know why.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: I am kind of sensitive.
An amusing thought came to mind, and I hope the Leader of the Official Opposition does not take offense to this.
There is a weekly meeting of the NDP caucus, where they decide who will get the Tung-Lock award of the week for chanting the name "Liberal" the most times in one week. A friend of mine, who is retired, is often in the gallery. His name is Adam Morrison. He is the father of David Morrison, whom many of us know. He sits in the gallery and counts the number of times the government and the Opposition use the word "Liberal". We have many interesting conversations as to why that is. I cannot imagine why we are being attacked. I suppose it is very much like Newt Gingrich commiserating with Preston Manning about those so-called liberals in the part of North America to the south of us.
It is unfortunate that this motion was presented in this way, because it politicizes the issue, when we can consensus-build. In a few moments, I will move an amendment.
The main body of the motion addresses two points. It says that we - whoever "we" is; I suppose that is everyone in the territory, and the federal government, which seems to be holding on to the resource - need to develop a policy so as to have policy in place when the forest resource is transferred. We need to fill the policy vacuum. There are obviously out-of-date rules and regulations relating to stumpage fees. We need to deal with the issue of clear-cut logging; we have a very unsatisfactory export regime - I think everyone is agrees with that.
The second part of the motion clearly states that we need to involve all the players. There is little dispute about that, and I think we are all in agreement. There are two steps that must be taken, in my opinion.
We have to walk through a number of jurisdictional requirements at the three, perhaps four, levels of government, if the municipalities are involved, as the Member for Kluane hinted. We have to find out where all these jurisdictions are going to come down and what people have to say. We need to walk through that step in the likelihood of a definitive, all-encompassing policy not being reached in the very near future. We need to take some interim steps to protect the resource and to properly manage the resource in some sort of holding fashion, while long-term policy is addressed and we, the various levels of government, feel each other out on jurisdiction. In the interim, we need realistic stumpage fees. This is being asked for by many people. After that is done, we have to sit down to develop a long-term policy. This appears to be what the motion addresses. I think that is something all parties recognize.
I have to say that my party recognized the issue when it arose last fall and put forward a resolution in the event that the Minister, in his negotiations with his federal counterpart, needed any further ammunition.
The resolution passed by the Yukon Liberal Party, with which I am associated, in October 1994 - and I am sure this will assist the Minister of Renewable Resources in moving the matter forward - reads, "Whereas the Government of Canada now controls the Yukon forest resource; and whereas the Government of Canada has held continuous discussion, public consultation and reviews and it has not yet produced a policy dealing with stumpage rates; and whereas present stumpage fees are substantially lower than those in neighbouring jurisdictions and various groups, including the Association of Yukon Communities, have called for a significant increase in those fees; therefore be it resolved that the Yukon Liberal Party request the Minister of Northern Affairs to: (1) immediately increase stumpage fees for timber in order to provide a fair return to the actual owner of the resource, the people of the Yukon; (2) use that portion of the stumpage fee that exceeds the present rates to establish a dedicated fund to be held in trust for the Yukon government in establishing a meaningful silviculture program for the Yukon."
This was forwarded to Mr. Ron Irwin, the Minister, by way of a letter dated October 25, 1994. I have to say that there have been some moves forward. At the risk of criticizing my own party, I have to say that they have been just a touch on the glacial side. Perhaps we could see just a little faster movement, which would please all of us.
I know that Mr. Ravenhill, the Mayor of Watson Lake, presented a motion to the Association of Yukon Communities. Mr. Ravenhill, of course, is in that area where logging is of some considerable concern to the people. The motion, as I recollect it, had something to do with increasing the stumpage fees to something in the order of $4 a cubic metre. That motion was forwarded to the Minister. The Minister is aware of both the local Liberal Party's view and the views of the Association of Yukon Communities and appears to be doing something about it. Now, whether or not the political masters or the public service masters are eventually persuasive remains to be seen when we find out what those stumpage fees are going to be.
This development of policy on the forest resource, which has so many, I could say, spiritual connotations to many people, is not going to be an easy job. It will be an exercise in consensus building. That consensus could very well start in this House, once we remove the partisan comments from the preamble.
If everyone is to get their elbows up politically, the usefulness of the motion, of course, will be diluted.
I hope that we will see that there is some value to a unanimous motion coming from the House to the federal government. Whether what is going on in the Watson Lake area is a form of devastation is one of the questions to be asked; it is not a presumption. There have been varying views. I think that the Member who presented the motion was gracious enough to indicate that he had had some thoughts on the matter, after he had talked to the people from Watson Lake. Whether or not the Liberals or Brian Mulroney, who was in the saddle prior to them, caused the devastation, and whether or not the local NDP, when it was in power, or the Yukon Party, sat on its backside, and whether or not any of these people have caused devastation is beside the point. We are probably all agreed that the pace of policy development should pick up and that all levels of government should have a say. The thrust of the body of the motion, in fixing an obligation on our local government to get ready, is good.
As I have mentioned, if the preamble was stuck at the end it would be a non sequitur. What is going on in resource management at the present time is independent of the issue of getting ready to take over the resource.
What I would like to do, again in the spirit of colleagiality, is present an amendment. I would like to get rid of this judgmental stuff. I would like to get rid of this word "devastation" and, in doing so, get rid of some other words.
THAT Motion No. 44 be amended by deleting the words "and other devastation of the resource by the Liberals".
I think I followed the rules and regulations by making lots of copies of the amendment.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Riverside
THAT Motion No. 44 be amended by deleting the words "and other devastation of the resource by the Liberals".
Mr. Cable: I do not have much more to say. As I mentioned, I think if this House were to send a unanimous motion to the Minister, he might get the message that policy development should be accelerated at the federal level. In doing so, we could, of course, pass this motion that acknowledges that policy should be in place here in the territory to ready us for the taking over of the resource.
I invite the Member for Faro to consider the motion to be a friendly amendment - as they are called in this House. Rather than attack anyone or stick blame on anyone, we can build consensus and have everyone work together to develop forestry policy. That is all I have to say about both the amendment and the motion.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I did not intend to speak to this amendment - and I did not speak to the previous amendment - but I did not know that the Member for Riverside was going to be so touchy about this issue and bring forward this amendment; however, because he has, I feel that I have to speak to this particular amendment in order to put some things on the record.
If the Member for Riverside thinks this will help him get the Senatorship, I think he blew that one when he voted against the gun bill, so I do not think this one will help him that much.
I have to speak to this because it is clearly the fault of the Liberals that we are in the situation we are in today. We had an agreement that was fully negotiated; the funding was agreed to, everything was in place. It was the Liberal government in Ottawa that held it up and said that it did not want to proceed with it until after land claims. We were prepared to take over forestry on April 1, 1994.
It was that same Liberal government, after getting an agreement out of us to wait until land claims was through before proceeding with forestry, that started its dramatic clawbacks of an agreement that had been negotiated. I basically accused the federal government of negotiating in bad faith, and it was. It wanted to put political heat on the territorial government by raising stumpage fees on the day it transferred forestry to us and to forever claw back millions of dollars, which was totally unacceptable to this government.
I may not agree with the word "devastation" - although I am not that much against it - it clearly was the fault of the Liberals that we are where we are today with forestry in the Yukon.
For one level of government to say to another that we are going to increase the stumpage revenues the day we transfer forestry to you and we are going to base the revenues of the transfer on that increased stumpage, not knowing whether the increase in stumpage is going to be sustainable by the forestry industry, whether it could absorb it, or whether it would kill the industry, is unacceptable.
Mr. Speaker, you are the MLA for that riding, and you know exactly what I am talking about.
We agree that there has to be an increase in stumpage, but we do not agree that the federal government should get that money. We believe that it should go back into reforestation and be put toward compiling a management regime in the Yukon for a sustainable forestry industry.
The Yukon government could not agree with any sort of devolution where the basis for revenues would not be on a three- or four-year average, but on a projection of the revenues the day the resource is transferred to the territorial government. That is not acceptable, because I do not believe anyone in this House today, nor at the federal government level, knows what level of stumpage could be sustained in the Yukon without curtailing the industry.
Only two years ago, there was nothing happening in Watson Lake, even with stumpage fees of 20 cents per cubic metre. However, because we are now in a period of our economic cycle when lumber prices are at an all-time high - as they were last year - there is a great demand for logs, and we suddenly have an influx of people wanting to get into the logging business. What will happen if the stumpage fees are raised? What will happen when this current economic cycle begins to decline, which it will, like every economic cycle our country goes through? What will it do to the forestry industry in Watson Lake and in the rest of the Yukon?
Are we going to be able to sustain a level of stumpage fees that no one has put a figure on yet? I heard the Member for Riverside say that the Mayor of Watson Lake mentioned a $4 fee. I have heard quotes of $20. I have heard quotes of $61 that the federal government got for some blocks of timber.
What has happened here is that we have a federal government that has very serious financial problems and is looking at how much money it can grab out of the transfer from the Yukon. I think that that is totally unacceptable.
There was no money in this budget to grab. This was negotiated on the basis of what it cost to provide the service in the Yukon. We did not negotiate any money for silviculture - none whatsoever. We intended to increase the stumpage rates and use that money for silviculture. That is not the direction that the federal government was headed when talks broke down.
Quite clearly, the Liberals were the problem. It is they who have caused the problem in the territory today with the low stumpage fees. I do not know what will happen with the federal government unilaterally raising stumpage fees to a level that is not sustainable in the Yukon. I do not think that it is in the best interest of any of us.
We do not want to see uncontrolled logging going on. We would like to see a forestry industry built in the Yukon that is sustainable. With that, we have to be able to set rates that will be sustainable - not just when lumber prices are at an all-time high, but at a level that could be sustained when the bottom drops out of lumber markets, which it will, and the operators still have to operate.
I understand that there are more than 150 people working in the woods in Watson Lake right now.
That is a lot of paychecks for that town, and a lot of businesses that are benefiting from those paychecks. I am concerned that, because of the federal government not honouring the agreement that was drawn up with the territorial government on the devolution of forestry, and having no intention of dealing with this issue itself - they are at a loss right now about how to deal with it because they thought that, as of April 1, they would no longer have responsibility for it - they may raise the stumpage to a rate that is not sustainable. That will have a very serious impact on the number of people we have working in the woods in Watson Lake next winter.
I agree entirely with the rest of the motion. I might even support the removal of the word "Liberal" from it. However, I had to get on the record to say that it is the present Liberal government's fault that the Yukon forestry is in a mess today. It could have been rid of it on April 1 last year, and we would have been in a far better position to deal with these issues than we are today. We can develop all the policy we want to. However, whether or not they listen to it is another matter. I am not saying that we should not be developing policy. I would be very concerned if the federal government raises stumpage fees to a level that is not sustainable by the industry.
Speaker: The Hon. Leader of the Official Opposition will be speaking on the amendment to the amended motion.
Mr. Penikett: I appreciate being directed to the correct motion, Mr. Speaker, although I do not think it would make an awful lot of difference to what I have to say. This debate today has been as much about policy-making as about forestry practices. We have had fingers pointed in every direction about who was at fault in the past and who is fault today in what is today a very controversial question.
We have had a lot of debate in the media and among our constituents of late about issues of stumpage fees, raw log exports abroad, the shipping of logs out of the Yukon to outside mills and, of course, about who was to blame in terms of the failure or breakdown in the devolution talks.
From talking to federal civil servants here, I know that the view in Ottawa is that, of course, it is the territorial government that is at fault. The Government Leader has reminded us again today that he has a different view.
I think there are a lot of unknowns in this debate. There are many uncertainties about the facts, and there is a lot of confusion about what is going on, not only about the level of the cut, the amount of exports, or the appropriateness of the current stumpage fees, but there is also confusion about where the devolution of forestry fits relative to land claims.
The present Government Leader is the first Government Leader, to my memory, not to take the position that land claims and devolution are parallel processes, with land claims having the first priority, but rather he takes`` the position that devolution could take precedence over land claims, even though for 10 of the 14 First Nations the land claims process is not yet complete. For one of those First Nations in particular, the Kaska, interest in forestry lands and forestry policy is very significant and would fully justify their participation as a party in any talks about that issue.
I think the change in the position of the territorial government, in terms of the relative priority of claims and devolution, has contributed to the confusion we are now experiencing.
As well, the comments on the radio, perhaps made in a hurry or in a rush, to the effect that we would take over the programs and cut the fat out of them, have raised concerns among the staff about their prospects when they come to work for the Yukon. This has made devolution even more difficult, but it has also raised questions about the quality of the forestry programs following the transfer to this government, because if we indeed are serious about high-quality forest management, if we indeed are serious about reforestation, if we indeed are serious about maintaining the level of fire protection that we have had in the past and even, as some have suggested, improving it, we will not be able to do that with a radically reduced staff. We will not be able to do that with radically reduced resources.
The fact that forestry devolution has been put on hold is a pity. I think it is a pity we did not move further and faster on the claims process by now, that the First Nations did not feelmore trust and confidence in their relationship with the territorial and federal governments and indeed were willing to support, rather than oppose, the forestry transfer.
Given what I have heard from employees and from First Nations, the delay in the transfer does not surprise me - or, should not surprise anyone.
Nonetheless, the delay in the transfer provides us with an opportunity, as might the moratorium on new permits, which has been suggested by a number of people. Looking back on my experience in government - both the happy and painful experiences in Watson Lake and the theorizing we had done previously in the Yukon 2000 Economic Strategy, the Conservation Strategy and the Environment Act - we were very mindful of the forest policy issues.
It leads me to think that the reality check that the mill experience gave us all ought to be a warning, I think, about rushing into these things. I think it is plain to many people in the territory that, had we taken the transfer of the forestry program to the territorial government without a proper policy foundation in place, it could well have been a prescription for disaster - especially, as my colleague, the Member for Faro, has pointed out, since the government was promising a policy some time ago, which has not yet come, but indeed also promising a policy within six months of the transfer.
It is a timetable that I would suggest, with the greatest of respect, is not feasible if the policy development process is done properly.
What is extremely obvious to all parties who are observing the debate in this Legislature - and outside of it - is that there is a huge policy vacuum surrounding all the forestry issues facing this territory. That is not the fault of any one party, any one government or any one player. It is a fact arising from the different reality that we face in this territory - the last jurisdiction where the federal government still runs the forestry program.
We have had suggestions about moratoriums. Like the delay in devolution, that presents an opportunity. There has been lots of agreement here today about the need for consultation. I must say this directly to our colleagues across the floor: there are a lot of people out there, and not just myself, who are deeply concerned about what this government means by consultation. We have had experiences in the life of this Legislature where we have been presented with a fait accompli.
We are told here it is and how do we like it, because in five minutes we will be announcing it to the media. That may be consultation to some people, but it is not consultation to me nor to most people in the community.
If we are going to genuinely consult, we have to consult widely, deeply and carefully. There are not only disputes about facts - and I admit there is a lot of factual information missing from this debate; there are many arguments about what the inventories of the resource really are and its potential - but there are also very deep and important debates about values such as what sustainable forestry north of 600 means.
What is a sustainable harvest in the boreal forest? Most of the attitudes that I have seen articulated on this issue are, in fact, imports from the south. Pro-development or pro-conservation attitudes are very much coloured by the experience of the people voicing those political beliefs by their experience in other jurisdictions, most often in B.C.
I think the hard reality about Yukon forests is that this is a very different situation. I think it is a nice but difficult question to define what is a sustainable harvest; what is sustainable forestry in the Yukon. I think we need to debate that. I think we need to discuss it. I think we need to work at it long and hard, because I suspect the answer is not an easy one.
I believe there is a need for leadership on this question. I think the absence of leadership at all political levels is why the coalition has organized itself, and why the group of citizens, with a wide range of interests, is now wrestling with questions on overseas exports, exports of raw logs to B.C. mills, and questions of stumpage fees, sustainability and so forth.
Someone like myself, who has had a chance to look at forestry at these latitudes in other countries, sees their experience in forest management is only a generation or two long, but they can actually tell us a lot very definitely about how we should proceed.
We really are going to have invent it from the bottom up. We are going to take whatever advice and expertise we get, but we are going to have to go through this debate ourselves.
In my view, it is a good thing that the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment is taking some initiative, but I do not believe that it can be the only venue in which this issue is discussed. I think there is a lot of room for broad, public debate, as we had in the early days around the Yukon Economic Strategy and the Yukon Conservation Strategy.
In fact, I would urge the Government Leader to consider the usefulness - for himself and for the government - of playing a central role in bringing together people with a wide range of views and listening to those people articulate all of those views, bringing the benefit of their knowledge and their wisdom to the debate, so that we can actually work at building a genuine consensus on these issues in the territory. If we can achieve a consensus on this, I think we are likely to have not only a sustainable use of the forests, but even have a policy that is sustainable over the long haul.
I understand YCEE is looking at the energy question and the forestry question in the coming months. I think that is good, but both of these issues are, in fact, related in a number of ways, and I would urge the government to broaden the debate to involve many more people than have been involved so far and to make sure that we play a role, not just of taking sides, as the Member for Faro said, but of providing information, sharing information among parties, facilitating debate in discussion among parties, making sure that we learn from the mistakes in the past by all parties, and developing something of which we can be proud - something that respects the land, something that respects the forest resource, but also respects the wilderness as something that is irreplaceable and something that is not renewable.
There has been much said today about the need to involve First Nations, but it is a plain fact that First Nations have not been adequately involved up until now in the making of forestry policy in the Yukon, and certainly not by either the federal or the territorial government.
As well, I think it is absolutely essential that we involve the employees, because I do not think that their expertise has been respected. I do not think that their interests have been adequately taken into account. I do not think that their views of appropriate management structures or their views about the ways to efficiently organize the forest program, whether it is fire protection, reforestation, or the other programs, have been properly investigated.
I think these people have a lot to contribute to the debate. Rather than being told, as we heard about today, that they should be constrained from participating or speaking out, as some employees sometimes are, they should be encouraged to participate, not just to articulate official positions of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, or even the people in Renewable Resources who are bound to articulate the positions of the Department of Renewable Resources, but that they should be able to participate as citizens in the ongoing discussion about this issue over the next few months.
I return to my essential plea, because I think there are some fundamental differences in attitude and huge gaps in our knowledge of this issue. In the absence of a large, well-developed private sector, and in the absence of a university with a forestry department, I think we will have to do what we have done before, which is to make as much use of the common sense of the ordinary citizens of this territory as we can. I would urge the government of this territory to take a leadership role in bringing these people together to hear all points of view, working not only with the newly formed forestry coalition, but also with the Council for Yukon Indians and First Nations, because I think all those parties have a lot to say about this and need to be heard.
The Member for Riverside has taken offence at some Members' use of the "L" word. In future, I will try to avoid the use of that word.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., we will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Debate on amended Motion No. 44 and second amendment accordingly adjourned
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move the Speaker do now leave the Chair and 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 the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are on Bill No. 4.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Department of Economic Development - continued
On Operation and Maintenance - continued
On Oil and Gas Resources - continued
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have some material for circulating, and I have some verbal responses for clarification purposes from the debate last night. I will start with my verbal responses, and then I will circulate the material.
The first one regards the funding and support for the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. There was a question about the total number of dollars. Economic Development contributes $20,000; Renewable Resources contributes $10,000, for a total of $30,000 to YCEE, and ECO provides secretarial support.
The other question was about administration costs for the department. The total personnel costs for the department is equal to 22 percent of the budget - that is, capital and O&M - and the non-personnel costs are 78 percent.
There was a question about the expenditure re the Geoscience Forum and the Canadian Petroleum Landmen Association. The annual convention of the Canadian Petroleum Landmen Association and the Yukon Geoscience Forum are two excellent forums to promote Yukon as an oil and gas investment opportunity. As part of the clarification, the $2,000 identified for registration fees also includes costs for the rental of booth space at the Canadian Petroleum Landmen Association convention.
Officials are on hand to answer any questions that the industry may have regarding investing in Yukon and to provide information to potential investors.
The final verbal response is in respect to the oil and gas advisory position. I think we discussed this last night, but the department is currently in the process of developing Yukon's oil and gas regime. The department contacted a number of jurisdictions to identify personnel with significant oil and gas experience who would be interested in a secondment opportunity with the Yukon government. The department successfully seconded an employee from the Government of Alberta for the fiscal year 1994-95. The department is currently in the process of renegotiating the secondment agreement for the upcoming fiscal year. This position provides policy advice and assistance in the development of Yukon's oil and gas regime and, in particular, plays a key role in the development of Yukon's financial land tenure regimes.
On the responses for circulation, the first one is a response to the Member for Riverdale South regarding questions on energy policy.
There is a question from the Member for Whitehorse West regarding the competition guidelines for the business development fund write-offs and interest revenue - I do not know if it was yesterday or a couple of days ago - and the data reliability of the labour force survey.
I also have the job descriptions of all personnel in Economic Development for the Member for Riverdale South. We included five pages out of 12 or 13 pages. The reason for this is because there is a signature page, a page on the reporting relationship and other personnel matters. These pages outline the name of the position and the number, the working title, the duties and responsibilities and other related information.
I am sure there will be a number of questions arising from some of the information that was provided, so I will let the Members have a more detailed look at the information while I ask a few questions of my own about the energy policy and the oil and gas resources line item we are on.
With respect to the energy policy, the written response tabled this evening seems to suggest that comprehensive energy policy development is just starting now. This appears to be the kind of first step one would take.
The second thing that struck me is that it is suggested that the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment is being used to provide public input, and that hosting a conference would be the input the government would expect to receive on a comprehensive energy plan.
Does the government plan more consultation issues as large as this, and what kind of consultation does the Minister want to see happen?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is not intended that the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment would be the only public consultation. We would get a sense of some of the issues from the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. If there is a need - I suspect the Member opposite is right and that there will be a need for greater consultation - we hope to be able to get an idea of some of the main issues, so that we can focus our consultation, to some extent.
Mr. McDonald: We are looking forward to some big things happening in the coming year. I wish the Minister well in his endeavours.
On the oil and gas resources line, the Minister indicated that there was $30,000 designated for outside travel to conferences, and he cited a couple of conferences that would be candidates for this funding.
Can the Minister tell us whether or not he feels that $30,000 is an excessive amount for travel for one branch?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member is right. Normally, this would be an excessive amount, but I believe that the Member is aware that we are creating legislation. We are also helping the federal government by assisting with changes to federal legislation. The travel is for meetings we will have with the federal government, other provincial and territorial governments and the National Energy Board in Calgary - meetings such as those. It is for the compilation of the legislation that is being developed.
Mr. McDonald: When will we see this legislation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It kind of follows what happens with the federal legislation. The federal legislation was to be in place, I believe, this past November, but it was not. Hence, we are devoting a certain amount of time to assisting with the drafting of the federal legislation. Ours will follow that. We are hoping that it will come into this Legislature in the fall of 1995.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister is saying, then, that the travel outside the territory to pursue the legislation will all be undertaken in the first few months of the fiscal year and that it will all be done in order to help the federal government develop its legislation, and that by the fall we will be expecting a piece of legislation ourselves, fully drafted and ready to go?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not think it is fair to say that the travel is merely for assistance with the federal legislation. Work on our own legislation is going on at the same time, and part of the travel money is for that as well. I hope that we are ready to go for the fall session. I am not going to stand here and say that we will definitely have the greatest piece of legislation in the world ready for tabling in November, but I do hope that we will have.
Mr. McDonald: Even if the Minister had said it, we would not believe it. There is no point in playing with each other on that point. Yesterday, the Minister indicated that there was some funding transferred to the Yukon government to support its oil and gas resource management. How much of the federal funding that was dedicated to the administration of oil and gas is being spent on the administration of oil and gas?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Since the 1993-94 fiscal year, the annual payment from the federal government is $1.1 million. There was a $375,000 transition cost for each of the 1994 and 1995 fiscal years. It is my understanding that that has now ended. There is also an estimated revenue of approximately $1.7 million from royalties, but that is shared with the First Nations.
Mr. McDonald: I realize it is a separate item, but in the transition period from 1993-94, 1994-95, 1995-96, did the Yukon government spend more or less than 50 percent of the monies transferred to it for administration on administration - not including royalties?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have not got a breakdown. Most of it would be for administration, but I have it lumped to O&M and capital. In 1993-94, there was approximately $368,000 spent; in 1994-95, there was $763,000 projected to be spent to the end of next month; for 1995-96, there was $789,000 projected.
Mr. McDonald: Given the Minister's figures of $11.3 million for administration in the transition years, and the two one-time grants of $375,000, it looks like we spent actually less than 50 percent of the funds transferred for administration, and the rest has gone into general revenue. Is that right?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member is essentially correct, but it has to be remembered that when this was set up a few years ago the intent was to have the federal legislation rescinded, more or less, in November 1994. Once we take over full responsibility, the costs will be greater.
Mr. McDonald: Are the costs expected to exceed the amount of money transferred, or is the government going to be well within the amounts that have been dedicated for this purpose in the transfer agreement?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We do not know exactly what the branch is going to look like. We have only two full-time government employees in the branch right now; the others are secondments or term positions. At the time this was put together, $1.1 million was the best estimate. It was felt that that would be adequate for the administration of the branch, and the feeling is still that it will cover it.
Mrs. Firth: I have a few questions for the Minister regarding the information he gave me. I am trying to make head or tail out of some of these job descriptions. I will probably have to ask the Minister some more questions about it later.
I notice that quite a few are duplicated, with a heading at the top that talks about two generic positions. What does that mean?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There may very well be two. As examples - I do not know which ones the Member is referring to - if there were two MG-5s, rather than give two descriptions, we just gave one. It would cover the two positions that are MG-5s.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps I will get a bit more specific for the Minister. I might have to sit down with his department officials.
These two position descriptions, to me, are exactly the same. It is the description under the working title "energy policy analyst". The incumbent is the same person on both of them. The position numbers are the same title, except one position description says "two generic positions". However, it looks like a duplication of the same job. Did they just duplicate some of them to make the file look fat? I can see a few of them that are duplications.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It sounds to me like it is a duplication. It was certainly not intended to make the file look fatter. Of those two, I am sure that one is a duplication.
Mrs. Firth: With respect to the energy policy the Minister tabled, who is responsible for drafting it? When I look at the energy policy analysts job description, I do not see that they are really responsible for drafting the energy policy, per se. They do some policy and program development, but most of it is identifying potential issues, policy issues, recommending methods of study, conducting studies, identifying and accessing local and remote sources of information, public liaison and intergovernmental liaison. All support senior management - that is another job description.
Between the positions for the energy policy analyst and the director of energy, mines and resources, who works on developing this energy policy within the Minister's department?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: A number of branches and units in the department are involved in developing energy policy. The two people the Member was questioning would be involved, but apparently there were members from the policy and planning branch of Economic Development, someone from the Yukon Energy Corporation, and all of these people formed a team to work on the energy policy.
Mrs. Firth: Is that team still active, and can the Minister tell us who is on the team?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As far as my official can recall off the top of his head, the manager from the policy and planning unit is on the team, as well as the director of the energy and mines branch, a policy officer from Yukon Energy Corporation, and two positions from the energy unit itself.
Mrs. Firth: So there are five people on this team. Can the Minister tell us how often they meet and how long this team has been in place?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: They have been in operation for a little more than two months. They meet on a weekly basis. This is not their only job; it is part of their regular work.
Mrs. Firth: The government has really just been working on their energy policy for the last two months - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It has only been for two months that the government has been taking this team approach.
Mrs. Firth: Who developed the industrial support policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That was done by the economic policy and planning unit.
Mrs. Firth: Of that planning unit, was it the individuals to whom I had referred before - the director of energy policy, the analysts and the director of energy and mines? Who would have been involved?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, that would not be the same team. The team that worked on the Yukon industrial support policy would be the ADM, the manager of policy and a policy analyst within the Economic Development policy and planning unit and then, with some consultation with other units. These three I have named would be the main team.
Mrs. Firth: I am going to leave this energy policy for a bit. I want some time to digest it, and then I am sure I will have questions for the Minister for Question Period, because we will probably be finished Economic Development by then, I hope.
I want to ask the Minister if these competition guidelines he provided us with this evening are in response to the issue I raised about the contracting company getting a loan from the BDF to bid on a contract in competition with another contracting company. The guidelines that the Minister has listed on this are four very brief ones. Projects are evaluated to ensure that they will not be disruptive to existing businesses, and projects that are unable to show that there is sufficient market shares and that will be displacing other businesses will not be funded.
Business development funds projects are interest loans, not grants. We were aware of that. And all projects requesting loans in excess of $20,000 have to be reviewed by the independent board.
I do not see anything new here. I thought this was what was in place with the BDF to begin with, and obviously this $80,000 loan that was given to the business went through all of these processes. I was looking for some initiative or some policy that the government had established that would prevent that kind of thing from happening again. I do not see how this is going to do that, because I am sure all of these four points were in place when that business development fund grant was given. Is this all they have done? Has nothing else happened?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The guidelines have not changed; they are the same. The department did not feel that it was helping create adverse competition with that particular loan, because the contractor won the competition before going to the board for funding. That is the department's argument for providing that loan. It was granted after the competition for the contract closed.
Mrs. Firth: That is very interesting, because that is exactly what the Minister told me had not happened when I debated this issue with him. Part of the contract requirements was that a business must have its financing in place, so this business would not have been eligible to submit a bid on the contract unless it could demonstrate that it had its financing in place. The Minister stood up in the House and said that it did. Obviously the story is now different. He is now saying that the company did not have all its financing in place. I do not know how it could have won the bid without its financing in place.
The way I read it, it would have made them ineligible; it would have defaulted them on their bid. Then, they got the money through the business development fund. So, what the Minister is saying is that they got the contract but did not have all of their financing in place. Instead of going to the bank, they went to the business development fund and got their money.
I remember this issue fairly well. I have a fairly good memory. I recall us having this Minister table documents in this House from the bank saying that all of the funding was in place. This is an entirely different story that the Minister is giving us tonight. Perhaps the Minister would like to clear that up before I get into the other details.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have the information from the Yukon Housing Corporation, but a note I have here says it was not a condition of the Yukon Housing Corporation that the financing for the project be in place prior to acceptance of the proposal. In fact, this is a normal procedure when contracts of this nature are undertaken.
I cannot recall the Yukon Housing Corporation portion of this at all. I recall the debate, but I do not recall the details of the matter. Maybe what I could do is have the Yukon Housing Corporation confirm it. This is a note simply for my information from the Department of Economic Development. What I could do is have the Yukon Housing Corporation also confirm it.
Mrs. Firth: I think the Minister had better talk to the Yukon Housing Corporation about it, because I distinctly remember the Yukon Housing Corporation - when I challenged it on that particular aspect - tabling in this House a confidential document that had been given to it by the bank, indicating that this business' banking was all in order and in place. We got into a big hullabaloo about it, because I phoned the bank to ask if it knew that the document had been tabled in the Legislature, and it had a bird - a big bird - when it found out that I had this document and that the Minister had tabled it in the Legislature, making it a public document. So, I think the Minister had better check it.
With respect to the policy, I think that, instead of the four points on this piece of paper, we could have had one point written down here. This is what I was looking for and what I would like to see. I think it should say that the business development fund will not give loans to contractors to bid on government contracts. I do not care if it is before or after the fact. I do not think that contractors should be awarded a contract before all of their financing is in place.
I think they should be able to go to the business development fund and get it after they have received the bid or before. I would like to see a statement of policy saying exactly that, so we will know what the rules are and so that there is a level playing field. Otherwise, the Minister should issue a statement that the business development fund is wide open to this kind of use. I would not support that. I do not think this should be one of the purposes of the fund.
Is the Minister prepared to write that as a solid policy principle and make it well known to the Yukon public? Perhaps we could have a ministerial statement about it.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: At first blush, I tend to agree with the Member opposite. I am not even sure if it necessarily creates unfair competition, but there is certainly a perception that it may.
I will take the Member's representation under advisement and I will speak with the department about it. I need to know exactly how much of an impact it has and some of the types of businesses that have taken advantage of it before - that sort of thing.
As I said, I have a tendency to agree with the Member, and there may very well be a perception of unfair competition.
Mrs. Firth: I cannot think of any other instance where this has occurred, unless it did with a particular issue I was not working on. I have followed the grants and loans pretty closely for the last 10 years or so. I do not recall this happening before, but that does not mean that it did not. Perhaps we were just not made aware of it.
For the Minister's information, I feel it is unfair competition, because the interest that businesses have to pay when they receive a business development fund loan is lower - just prime - whereas a bank loan is prime plus whatever the bank adds. So, these businesses are receiving money at a better rate. When one is speaking of amounts of $80,000 and working on $1 million projects, a businessperson could translate that saving into a lower bid.
That is the concern I would have. I would like to hear back from the Minister about this. I think it is a reasonable suggestion and is certainly something about which the Government Leader had concerns. I will be waiting to hear from the Minister, if he could commit to a time when he might look at it and bring something back for us.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I will certainly look at it. If we are no longer in my budget, I will send a written response to the Member.
Mrs. Firth: That would be great.
I have a couple of questions about the business development fund write-offs and interest revenue. I am referring to the chart that the Minister gave me tonight.
I noticed that there is nothing on here for 1994-95. Why is that? Why does it just go to 1993-94. There were some write-offs in 1994-95. I would like to know what the number is. I thought it was $880,000, or so. I tried to figure out if they had tried to break it down over four or five years. At this point, we are looking at five years if they started at 1991 and go to 1994-95. Perhaps the Minister could tell me why 1994-95 is not there?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: On an early legislative return, the column entitled write-offs totalled $880,000. The reason why we do not have 1994-95 is that the year is not yet over; it ends March 31. These are actual figures to the end of March 1994. We do not have the 1994-95 year.
Mrs. Firth: Is it correct to say that the previous government started writing off loans five years ago?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The first year that there were any loans written off was in 1990-91, but the Member is correct. In 1991-92, there was $128,000 written off; in 1992-93, there was $166,000 written off, and in 1993-94, there was $109,000 written off.
As I said before, the previous information provided to the Member was a total for all of the years.
Mrs. Firth: I guess the reason I am asking these questions is because I recall us asking questions about loan write-offs and we never did get any information about it. The Minister always gave us the numbers of loans that were delinquent, but we never got the actual amounts that they were writing off until we received the full amount of $880,000.
The figures predicted for recoveries in the operation and maintenance budget that I mentioned to the Minister the other night for business loan interest revenues on page 14-13, is $400,000 forecasted for 1994-95 and $340,000 forecasted for this year.
The number for 1993-94 is fairly close; it is $457,000 actual in the book, but $449,428 on this list. Are those numbers supposed to jive? Should they be the same numbers? I would think they should, but perhaps the Minister has an explanation as to why they are not?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The $400,000 was forecast a year ago when we were putting our budget together. That is fairly close to the $449,000 that we actually received. The 1995-96 mains estimated $340,000 for revenue. We will not know how close that is until a year from now.
Oil and Gas Resources in the amount of $789,000 agreed to
Economic Policy, Planning and Research in the amount of $1,561,000 agreed to
On Economic Programs
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Personnel is $800,000. Other includes: travel in territory, $34,000; travel outside to interprovincial Alaska economic development conferences and trade shows, $8,000; travel by business development fund board members to attend meetings, approximately six meetings per year, $5,000; honoraria for the 10 business development fund board members, $6,000; contract services database development, input and training audits, $27,000; postage, courier service, program delivery, $1,000; advertising of business development fund, centennial programs and services, $25,000; informational booklets, signs and promotional materials, $27,000; communications, telephone and fax charges, $32,000; non-consumable assets, equipment and furniture less than $1,000 each, $2,000; corporate memberships in chambers of commerce, visitors association, $3,000; computer software and miscellaneous hardware, $2,000; miscellaneous room rentals for meetings, entertainment, et cetera, $2,000; for a subtotal of $174,000, and for an overall net of $974,000.
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister provide me with a list of the names of the board members, honoraria paid to each member and the meeting dates for the last year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have not made the names of the board members public. There are a few reasons for that, but the main one is so that clients will not be able to harass or lobby individual board members. We can certainly get all of the other information for the Member, but I do not want to table the names of the people in the House. It has never been done in the past. It is an internal policy that we felt would protect the board members.
Mrs. Firth: I do not think that is right. We are talking about the business development fund board. The Minister usually tables an annual report of the business development fund board. All the names of the members are in it. I have read the report and I have read the names of the members. It lists all the projects and the amount of money that it approves.
I tried to find the most recent report; I know there has been one fairly recently. If I am not mistaken, the business development fund board members were on the list the Government Leader gave us in the board and committees handbook. Perhaps the Minister is mistaken, but I am positive that we have had the names of the board members before in the annual report. Perhaps the Minister can check during the break - we will probably have a break shortly - and bring us the latest annual report of the business development fund board, which includes the names of the board members.
I will check in my office for it, too.
I want to ask some questions about the other allotments that the Minister has mentioned. The $34,000 amount for travel in the territory is a fairly hefty in-territory travel budget. What does that include?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is a fairly hefty in-territory travel budget, but it is due to the fact that we have our regional staff, for instance, in Watson Lake, and so on.
Mrs. Firth: I know which staff the Minister is talking about, and they are all the business development officers who are in the outlying communities. How often do they come to Whitehorse, which would require this amount of money, and what are the reasons for them coming here?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: They actually only come to Whitehorse twice a year, unless there is some specific reason to have one of them individually for a specific project, but generally twice a year they come into Whitehorse. Most of the travel is within their own region. The people in Dawson cover Mayo, Stewart, Old Crow, Ross River and Faro.
There is one other thing we will check to see. I do not know if I will be able to get it to the Member tonight. I may need to be corrected, because maybe the information I gave about not providing those names could be inaccurate. We will check that and I will bring something back tomorrow.
Mrs. Firth: The advertising program for $25,000 is predominately for the centennial anniversaries program the Minister mentioned. Will the promotion of that program be given out as a contract, or will that money be spent in house? What is the plan for that $25,000?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is mostly advertising through local media - the newspapers, radio spots, and so on - for the business development fund program. Perhaps later on there may be some advertising spots for the centennial program, but this is mostly for general media coverage. It is not for any one contract; it is for a lot of small radio and newspaper spots.
Administration in the amount of $974,000 agreed to
Economic Programs in the amount of $974,000 agreed to
Department of Economic Development operation and maintenance in the amount of $3,755,000 agreed to
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. We will move on to capital estimates.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask permission of the Committee to bring some information forward for the Minister regarding the matters we were discussing about the business development fund and the Yukon Housing Corporation. I have checked my files, and I would like to present that information now, if I may.
Chair: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Mrs. Firth: The first thing I want to bring forward is the business development fund advisory board. It is in the information that the Minister gave us, and it is also in the old boards and committees handbook, so it is public information. Perhaps the Minister could bring us the annual report of the business development fund advisory board so we can see the last annual report.
The other point the Minister made tonight with respect to the business development fund - I know he has given me a commitment to look at this, but I just want to bring this to his attention - was that it approved a $180,000 working capital loan and not just $80,000. The business development fund, in partnership with a local bank, provided funding to assist the company in completing the turn-key contract with the Yukon Housing Corporation.
A partial draw on the amount of $100,000 was disbursed on March 30 and a further $62,000 was disbursed on April 20. The reason that the Minister's information that they did not have to have the financing in place prior to bidding surprised me this evening was because a letter was sent to the constituent who had come to see me by Mr. Albert, the president of the Yukon Housing Corporation, who had said that the company had secured its own financing from a private lending institution. He told us, in a letter dated December 22, 1993, that all of the financing was in place.
Also, when a review was conducted by an independent review panel that was formed to look at the issue, it said that there was a letter from CIBC confirming that the company's financing had been approved. So, the Minister can see why I was surprised tonight when he said that financing did not have to be in place and therefore it was not, and that the loan was given afterwards. All that I have done is stress the point a little more seriously that I think the Minister should give it his immediate attention so that it does not happen again. The Minister has offered to do that and I appreciate that cooperation. I think it is something that we should look at.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We will provide the business development fund report to the Members as soon as we can. We also checked the names of the board members in the boards and committees handbook, and they were published. We had an old copy from 1991-92. The names were published. I stand corrected, and I will provide the information as soon as I am able.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
On Departmental Equipment, Furniture and Office Space
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The details are as follows: a photocopier, $3,000; a laser printer, $3,000; a wide area network access, a one-line driver and software, $3,000; a local area network licence upgrade from 25 to 50 users, $3,000; six personal computers, $18,000, for a total of $30,000.
Departmental Equipment, Furniture and Office Space in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
Administration in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
On Energy and Mines
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mr. Penikett: Could the Minister be more precise than he has been in the last few days about exactly when we can expect a comprehensive, or broader, general energy policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Perhaps I was not very precise, but it is difficult. There is the business plan that we talked about at some length here. The energy component of that business plan will contain the energy policy. I think I said that it would be ready during the 1995-96 fiscal year, and I really cannot be any more precise than that.
Mr. Penikett: In looking at the Economic Development Act, there are some fairly clear statements about sustainability and those kind of values within that act. I know the Minister is responsible for both Renewable Resources - in other words the environment - and Economic Development.
To what extent will this existing legislation provide a philosophical foundation for the work he is doing in energy policy, which he just mentioned?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member asks a very difficult question. As both the Minister of Renewable Resources and of Economic Development, it is difficult to respond to economic demands and, at the same time, try to protect the environment. That has been the intent, even under the Yukon Economic Strategy and the Yukon Conservation Strategy. It is an effort to try to achieve a balance between the types of activities that are outlined in those two strategies.
On Energy Infrastructure Loans for Resource Development
Energy Infrastructure Loans for Resource Development in the amount of $1.00 agreed to
On Yukon Mining Incentives Program
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The personnel mining development officer is $65,000; travel, advertising, communications, et cetera, $48,000; contributions to the Yukon Chamber of Mines, $15,000; contributions to the prospectors and target evaluation, $735,000; for a total net of $863,000.
Yukon Mining Incentives Program in the amount of $863,000 agreed to
On Mineral Development Agreement
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The geoscience office is $1.1 million; geoscience contributions, $100,000; technology contributions, $280,000; EDA administration, $154,000; information contributions, $16,000; for a total of $1,650,000.
Mrs. Firth: There is a new job there. It is a new position not yet filled. It is called mineral assessment geologist. Has that position been filled yet?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that this is for a mineral development assessment officer. The position was recently filled, and the incumbent is starting work next week. This person's job will be to work with the parks people in Renewable Resources to identify the mineral potential of potential parks.
Mineral Development Agreement in the amount of $1,650,000 agreed to
On Allowance for Bad Debts
Mr. Harding: Can the Minister explain that concept for us? What exactly is this for?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes. I wish we could ask the financial officer directly.
Essentially, it is a line item to identify a potential for bad debts. At period 12, any bad debts will be identified in the supplementaries. This is to allow an actual write-off, and then the amount will come into the supplementaries at period 12, which is year-end.
Mr. Harding: In what area are we talking about? Are we talking about a loan for the Old Ditch Road, or a possible loan on the infrastructure program? The Yukon mining incentives program is all grants, so there would be no bad debt there.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This particular item is for two programs that we no longer have but which still have loans outstanding against - the savings energy action loan fund and the Yukon energy alternatives program.
Allowance for Bad Debts in the amount of $1.00 agreed to
On Old Ditch Road Upgrade
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, this is a vote authority. We do not know what the costs will be, so it has been identified in the budget. On this particular one, we have said that the amount will be debated in the Legislature, and we intend to meet that commitment. However, I do not have the actual amount yet. Again, this is merely vote authority. The actual amount will appear in the supplementary budget at year-end.
Mrs. Firth: Is this for the Old Ditch Road upgrade or for the industrial support policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is for the Old Ditch Road upgrade, which is being authorized through the Yukon industrial support policy.
Mrs. Firth: I remember asking the Minister where the allotment of money for the Yukon industrial support policy was in his budget. He said that the Old Ditch Road would be amended to reflect that it was to be the Yukon industrial support policy. Has the Minister changed his mind? Is he not going to be amending this to cover the industrial support policy?
As I read it now, if it is the Old Ditch Road upgrade, that is what it is to be used for, and not for the industrial support policy. In that case, there is no money in this budget for the industrial support policy.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I did indicate that I would probably be asking for an amendment to that particular line item. However, the only project we have on the horizon is the Old Ditch Road, and so we are going to let it stand. The Member is absolutely right. If there are other industrial support requests, we would not have the authority to provide funds under this budget
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister can tell me how that works. This gives the government the ability to upgrade the Old Ditch Road. So, if the department were just putting taxpayers' money into upgrading it solely for the general public, this line would cover it. However, if it is going to make an deal with Loki Gold under the Yukon industrial support policy and make an expenditure of funds, I do not think the auditors would find that activity acceptable under this line. If it is supposed to be under the industrial support policy, it should say that. You cannot bootleg the industrial support policy in under the Old Ditch Road line item. There is an issue about whether the government should be taking the responsibility for upgrading the road anyway, because it is a public road and joins one of the main highways. I do not know how the Minister is going to justify it.
The way I understand budgets, if you do not have a line item for a specific activity, you cannot spend money. Perhaps the Minister could explain how he is planning to get that past the Auditor General.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We would run into trouble if we did something besides the Old Ditch Road. For instance, we could not fund a road off the Old Ditch Road on to the property of Loki Gold under this line item. The project is only for Old Ditch Road upgrade, so that is why we are leaving it as a line item.
Mrs. Firth: I do not think that is correct, and I will tell the Minister why. If the Old Ditch Road upgrade was being done just out of the general funds of Economic Development, that would be fine. If the Minister is going to make an arrangement with Loki Gold - they are presently negotiating with Loki Gold under their industrial support policy - to do some road upgrade, and if that road upgrade is done under the industrial support policy, I do not think it can be done under Old Ditch Road upgrade. Even if it applies to the same road, it is a different program. The industrial support policy is a new program and the government would be making a new arrangement with the company. I think the Minister would either have to try to amend that - which I have already indicated to the Minister that I would not be prepared to do, because I do not want to give a blank cheque to this industrial support policy. If the Minister wants to spend any money on the industrial support policy in this budget, he has to have an activity called "industrial support policy". That is the way I understand the process.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not disagree with what the Member is saying. When we put it in as a line item, it means that we are only going to do the Old Ditch Road.
This is similar to the budget for theDepartment of Community and Transportation Services, where they list monies for work on the Alaska Highway. It is under the Shakwak project, but it is listed as Alaska Highway upgrading, or some such thing.
If we were to do something other than the Old Ditch Road, we would be in contravention of our budget, but because we are only going to be spending money on the Old Ditch Road, I was advised that this is quite all right.
Mr. Penikett: Let me express a concern to the Minister. As I understand it, he has put a line in the budget for $1.00 to authorize payments to upgrade the Old Ditch Road, which will obviously come in at slightly more than $1.00.
This line in the budget is based on the assumption that there will be an agreement with a certain mining company, but the Minister has also indicated that the person who is negotiating that agreement with the mining company has no specific mandate and, to this date, there is no agreement.
I thought that I had also heard in previous discussions that before the government asked this Legislature to authorize any expenditures under the industrial support policy, it would come to the House for our approval so we could see the arrangements and the contract. Unfortunately, what we have here is the authority for the government to spend, in essence, not $1.00, but any amount of money on this project without legislative approval, without our having seen an agreement, and without us having a clue about the mandate of the negotiator in this respect.
May I say to the Minister that it is a slightly troubling precedent.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I understand exactly what the Member is saying, but we - the Government Leader and I - have committed that we will debate the amount that is spent on the Old Ditch Road for Loki Gold in this sitting. We have made that commitment, and I am willing to state again that we will be debating the exact contract and cost before this session ends.
Mr. Penikett: If I am correct, it would require a supplementary. Whether or not the Minister has a $1.00 vote, it would require a supplementary, which begs the question again about why we need the $1.00 vote.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that we need the $1.00 vote just to identify the project. Again, we will require a supplementary and, if we had not made a commitment to debate it in this Legislature, the Member is absolutely right - we could put $1.00 in, the same as the EILRDP. For instance, we put $1.00 in, but we may very well have an expenditure before year end. Rural electrification and telephone is probably a better example, where it is voted at $1.00 and at the end of the year there is usually $100,000, or something, spent on it. In this particular case, we have made commitments to the Legislature to debate the contract before we end the session.
Mr. Penikett: There may be no deal by the end of the session, and indeed even if there is, it may be subject to a lot of debate.
Let me raise another issue. Many years ago, back in 1985, I think, the then Minister of Renewable Resources negotiated an arrangement with someone to build a road out of the Renewable Resources budget. At that time, the predecessor of the Yukon Party, the Yukon Conservative Party, raised holy hell. In fact, they objected profoundly to the authorization to build a road being placed in any budget other than that of the Department of Community and Transportation Services. Then, I must ask the rude question of the Minister: can he show me, within the goals and objectives and the authority of his department, where it authorizes him to build a road in the the Department of Economic Development. I fully concede that Department of Community and Transportation Services can build lots of roads. Where does Economic Development get off building a road? Where does that authority come from in its goals and objectives?
Having asked that question, I then must ask the question: why is it in Economic Development? I think I know why, but why is it in Economic Development and not the Department of Community and Transportation Services, because the proper authority for building a road, I submit, according to the arguments made by the other side years ago, should only be in Department of Community and Transportation Services. That should be the only department building roads, because they are the professionals. It is the only department that should have money voted to it for building roads. We had a huge debate about that in 1985.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It may very well be that there is a contribution agreement with the mining company. Community and Transportation Services is definitely involved in estimating costs and ongoing maintenance, and that sort of thing. Who actually builds the road, we are not certain of. I recall the argument that the Member opposite has brought up, and I think that is when RTAP went from Economic Development to the Department of Community and Transportation Services. I think, under our program objectives, we have the ability to do that by the objective to promote mineral exploration and discovery of potentially viable mineral properties, and to promote mining investment in the Yukon, particularly when significant benefits from the investment remain in the Yukon.
Mr. Penikett: Now the Minister is raising another problem, because if it is a contribution program, then it is in the wrong part of the budget; if it is a roads program, then it is in the wrong part of the budget.
Even if the $1.00 is authorized now under this particular part of the economic development program, it seems likely that the supplementary would have to be located somewhere else in the budget. Therefore, I will raise again the question of the legitimacy of this $1.00 vote.
If it comes as a direct project in Community and Transportation Services, I do not think that they need the dollar. They have all the authorization to build all the roads they want, and we always have supplementary estimates on the road budget. If it is under the industrial support program - a program that has been debated here - and it is under the energy and mines branch, then we really are giving blanket approval to a program about which we know very little on the basis of a $1.00 vote. What this line specifies is a road upgrade that is not in the contributions section of the budget. It is in the program section.
This had not occurred to me before the Minister spoke, but that is a third problem I have for this particular proposal.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I disagree to a certain extent about the contribution. Several of these programs, such as the Yukon mining incentive program, are contribution programs, as is the mineral development agreement and the energy and structural loans for resource development. There are contribution agreements under energy and mines. Actually, one is a loan - the energy infrastructure loan for resource development.
Mr. Penikett: I hope the Minister sees that the problem I have is that there is either a contribution called the industrial support program, or it is a road program. It is either fish or fowl; it cannot be both, at least in my genealogy.
If it is a contribution program, it should properly be called the industrial support program. If so, I have a big problem with the $1.00 allocation, because we already know that the government is going to spend a lot more than that, and this House has a right to know, with some certainty, what that is. In that case, it is wrongly labeled here.
If it is simply, as the Minister said previously, probably an expenditure for a road for the benefit of a mining company - there may be some incidental public benefits as well - I would argue that it should definitely be in the Department of Community and Transportation Services budget and not here.
I think there are serious problems of definitions here. Ironically, they are worse because of the $1.00; the $1.00 allows the Minister to do everything, but we have not had much accountability in the House about exactly what it is he is going to be doing.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I just want to make some comments on information we just received from our finance branch.
Firstly, the Auditor General is only concerned with the total of vote, such as the total of the operation and maintenance and capital for the department. The Auditor General is not going to bother with this.
Secondly, the Old Ditch Road is a specific item and, even if it is done under a program called the industrial support policy, if the money is spent on the Old Ditch Road, we will be fine as far as the Auditor General is concerned. As I said before, if we were to do something different than the Old Ditch Road, we would be in trouble with the Auditor General; as long as we only do the Old Ditch Road, we are okay.
The $1.00 vote is authority to spend what is needed on the Old Ditch Road, but it will have to be funded out of the existing vote until supplementary funding is received. So, we have to have the money in other programs in the total vote before we can spend it.
Mr. Penikett: Forgive me, but it looked like it was in the handwriting of Mr. Charles Sanderson. I know I risk eternal damnation in questioning his judgment, but I do still have a problem with the project listed as Old Ditch Road upgrade for $1.00, even if the Minister said it. As I look now at the departmental objectives, nowhere do I see a mandate to build roads.
It is a fundamental problem. With the greatest of respect to the Auditor General, Mr. Sanderson and the Auditor General have disagreed in the past. Mr. Sanderson may be right about the Auditor General, but even if he is, the chain of accountability is first to this Legislature.
As I understand our budgeting traditions, I have a problem here. Rather than being a royal dink about this, may I ask the Minister what I think would be a reasonable request? Could we stand over this line? I think this is a serious enough subject that it warrants some thought by the department and between the Ministers and Cabinet. We could conclude some of the other items in the few minutes left and then come back to this tomorrow?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will certainly go along with standing it over. However, I do disagree that it does not meet departmental objectives. The second objective of the overall department is the development and implementation of policies, strategies and programs for the development and management of mineral and energy resources in Yukon. I think that it does fit there. As for standing it over, I will agree with that. I will get some more information for the Members.
Mrs. Firth: If I may just make a suggestion. If it was Charles Sanderson who sent the note down, I understand what he is saying. We do not have to have any of these lines in here. We could just have one vote here, which is the total capital vote of $13,936,000, and the government does not have to put any line items in; it can spend it on whatever it wants, wherever it wants. In the past, tradition has been that we try to be accurate and identify the different programs and activities.
The suggestion I would like to make to the Minister is that, instead of trying to justify this, which obviously I do not support and the Leader of the Opposition does not support, perhaps the Minister would give some directions to his officials to look at removing it, replacing it, putting it somewhere else or addressing the real problem.
I think we would get a lot further ahead if they focused in that area, rather than bringing back 40 excuses to try to legitimize this, which obviously the Minister knows he is not going to get adequate support for in the House. That is just a positive suggestion.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will take the Member's advice under advisement.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 4.
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 House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 1995-96, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of 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 9:29 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled March 15, 1995:
Auditor General: Annual Report on Other Matters for the year ended March 31, 1994 (Speaker)
The following Legislative Return was tabled March 15, 1995:
Loans from the Department of Economic Development: correction to Legislative Return No. 46 tabled March 7, 1995, with regard to court action taken against Business Development Fund clients in arrears (Fisher)