Thursday, February 15, 1996 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Moment of silence for Johnny Abel, former MLA
Speaker: I would ask all Members to bow their heads for a moment in memory of our former Deputy Speaker, the late Johnny Abel.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with prayers. The inspiration for my prayer today comes from the writing of a First Nations elder, Chief Dan George. Like Johnny Abel, he was a gentle man and a leader of a gentle people.
Almighty God, hear our prayer.
Let us live in harmony with our environment.
Let the beauty of the trees
The freshness of the air,
The whisper of the winds,
And the fragrance of the forests touch us.
Let the purity of the snow
The majesty of the mountains
The thunder of the sky
And the flow of the river speak to us.
Let us blend the values of the old ways with the new ways.
Let us remember our responsibilities as stewards
of the future.
Father, guide us in our deliberations
So that by working together
We can make Yukon a better place.
Speaker: Before proceeding to the Order Paper, the House will pay tribute to two former Members and Roy Minter.
Tribute to Johnny Abel, former MLA
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: On behalf of my Cabinet caucus colleagues and the Government of Yukon, I rise to pay tribute to our dear friend and colleague, the late Johnny Abel, the former MLA for the riding of Vuntut Gwitchin.
While Members of this House have paid their respects individually to Johnny in Old Crow, I believe that it is fitting for the House to collectively pay tribute to him. Johnny worked hard for Yukoners to bring about the historic land claims settlements that were passed by this House in 1993 and to protect the integrity of the Porcupine caribou herd. Johnny served this House well as Deputy Speaker and Chair of the Committee of the Whole.
Words cannot adequately describe our feelings of loss. It was indeed an honour and a privilege to have served with him and to have shared a part of his life. Johnny will continue to live in our thoughts and in our memories. We extend our deepest sympathy to his wife Rosalie and their children and family.
Mr. McDonald: The man we knew was a fine and decent person, a person of integrity and a friend to us all. He was always willing to recognize the positive elements of people's characters and was visibly uncomfortable when Members of the Legislature became angry with each other and lost their tempers.
I know that Johnny was often uneasy with the partisan political arena and with living long periods away from home. It was stressful for him, as it often is for many rural MLAs.
He always took his responsibilities with good humour and for that he was respected.
Johnny is the second MLA who has died in tragic circumstances while serving office in the last 10 years. It has not been easy for his colleagues who once worked closely with him, and it has most certainly been painful for the spouses and families and friends who are left to grieve. Our hearts go out to Rosalie on the loss of not only her husband, but also her grandson Troy, who died along with Johnny last October.
Our hearts also go out to Johnny's family: Peter, Barbara, Sheldon and Robert. He was a respected chief, trapper and community leader and our Deputy Speaker, and he will be remembered.
Mr. Cable: If I had to paint a word picture of the man Johnny Abel, as I remember him, I would use the word "comfortable". He was comfortable around other people. He was comfortable passing humourous notes to Members while the Legislative Assembly was in session, subtly suggesting to them that they should not take themselves too seriously. He was comfortable to talk to on the street. He was comfortable to talk to in this building. He was just pleasant to be around, whether you were a Member of his party or not.
As Chair of Committee, he quite effectively kept order with an engaging smile rather than with a heavy hand.
I saw him irritated only once, and just slightly, when our break started extending past the usual time, and he wanted to get on with business of the Committee. He got people on side on the issue, as I remember, without really putting anyone down.
As an MLA, as has been pointed out, he worked hard for his constituency so that the Vuntut Gwitchin people received the notice of government. As we think back on Johnny Abel, we will all see that we could learn something from what he had to teach us. I extend my condolences to his family.
Mr. Joe: This afternoon, I would like to speak about a long-time friend of mine, Mr. Abel. I find this a very sad thing to speak to, and a sad thing to happen. He was a good man.
I do not know what we can do to sober up our people who have gone that way. Somehow we have to slow down this drinking business.
I say that. How many funerals have I gone to during our holiday, almost all due to drinking? I believe it is something that all Members should think about and take into consideration. It is a sad thing that should never happen to us. We do not need it.
If we want to stand up like a man for Yukoners, let us do it.
In Remembrance of Roy Minter
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would like to pay tribute to another distinguished Yukoner and Yukon historian, Roy Minter.
He died in Vancouver on February 8. While Roy lived in Vancouver, the Yukon really was his home. The Yukon was Roy Minter's passion. He was one of the best ambassadors and one of our most pre-eminent historians. His book, White Pass: Gateway to the Klondike, was published in 1987 and is the definitive history of the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad. Two of his several films on the Yukon won international acclaim.
He has been described by many as "Yukon's Renaissance man" because of his many diverse talents. He was an officer in the Canadian army, an executive officer of the White Pass, and an author, artist, sculptor, historian and tourism visionary.
In 1986, he received the Commissioner's Award. In 1988, the Yukon Heritage Award was presented to him by the Yukon Historical and Museum Association. In 1991, he received the Order of Canada. Last year, he received the History of Civil Engineering Award from the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers for documenting the White Pass Route construction.
Roy Minter had a deep, abiding love for the Yukon. His final thoughts were of the Yukon, and he ensured that his research files were placed in the Yukon Archives.
On behalf of the Government of the Yukon, and as a friend, and as the Minister responsible for tourism and heritage, I want to pay tribute to this very special man. The Yukon today mourns the loss of a dear, dear friend with the passing of Roy Minter.
Ms. Moorcroft: I rise to acknowledge the passing of Mr. Roy Minter. As a historian and a generous supporter of the Yukon Archives, he was well-respected in the community. Roy Minter will be missed, but we are pleased to have his legacy preserved on our bookshelves and at Yukon Archives, as well as in the memories of many Yukoners.
Tribute to Tony Penikett, former MLA
Mr. McDonald: Another familiar face and voice is missing from the Legislature today. Anyone who has been even remotely familiar with Yukon politics for the last 20 years will know that we have, at least temporarily, lost a potent political force in Tony Penikett, who has left the Yukon for opportunities elsewhere.
He was and is an inspiration to many of us who wanted to be more involved in politics. He appeared to me to be one of the best read, insightful, thoughtful, political thinkers in the Yukon in the last 20 years. No one, both friend and ally, or even political opponent, could deny that he was an effective and persuasive speaker and left a significant legacy for both the Legislature and the government alike.
I think, as you can attest, Mr. Speaker, that he accomplished much while in public life, and perhaps, most notably, the advancement of the First Nations land claims to final completion.
Of course, this is no time to be speaking about Tony in the past tense and summarizing his significant accomplishments. While it is strange not to see him here with us in the Chamber this afternoon, I am sure he will make his presence known on the Canadian political scene for many years to come.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We would also like to acknowledge Mr. Penikett leaving this Legislature. I am sure Members on the other side of the House have a lot nicer things to say about him than some of my colleagues. Nevertheless, Mr. Penikett was a very effective politician and a great debater, and he was certainly a man who wholeheartedly believed in his philosophies and was prepared to defend them.
On behalf of my colleagues, I would like to extend to Mr. Penikett good luck and success in his future endeavours.
Mr. Cable: There is a group of people who meet most Saturday mornings for lunch, as they have for many years, to discuss politics and other issues. The gentleman who is transcribing these proceedings today, Dave Robertson, is one of that group.
It is not exactly the Club of Rome, but it is usually an enjoyable couple of hours of whiling away the time and exchanging views. A number of people have gravitated in and out of this group. Tony Penikett was one of them. Fifteen or 16 years ago, he periodically joined us.
I got to know him, what he thought and how he thought. I came to respect his devotion to what he thought should be happening in society and how change should be effected, and, even at that stage, the apparent dedication of his life to changing society.
The group had a lot of time for Tony and often shared his sense of direction. I have to say that I have not met any other person who so single-mindedly applied his life and energy with such intellectual vigour to a cause as did Tony.
The House will of course be a different place without his quickness of wit. He had perhaps the fastest bon mot in the west - a real turn of phrase I often enjoyed, unless it was directed at me.
I wish him well in his tour of duty as a public servant, and I have a feeling that his present occupation is more in the nature of a sabbatical from his first love, the political life, and that we will be seeing him again in that latter role.
Recognition of Flag Day
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would just like to mention that today is Flag Day, 1996. I rise today to ask all Members to join with me in celebrating the anniversary of the Canadian flag, the emblem of our country and of our citizenship.
Our flag symbolizes all of the values that we hold dear: freedom, accommodation, tolerance, compassion and understanding. It is a symbol that commands respect and admiration wherever it is found, a fact of which we should all be very proud.
For 31 years now, the Maple Leaf has represented our achievements, hopes and aspirations, our 129 years of collective history and our identity as a free and democratic nation. I hope that, by our recognition of Flag Day in this House and in the flag-raising ceremonies that have taken place in the schools around the territory, we will be strengthening our sense of belonging and our faith in this great country of ours.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Speaker: I would like to draw the attention of Members to the presence in the gallery of Mr. Dave Sloan and Mr. Esau Schafer, who were elected to represent the electoral districts of Whitehorse West and Vuntut Gwitchin in the by-elections on February 5.
Mr. Sloan and Mr. Schafer will be sworn in as Members of the Legislative Assembly on February 19 and will take their seats in the House on that day.
At this time, I would ask Members to join me in giving them a warm welcome.
Speaker: I am sure the House would also join me in offering congratulations to the Member for McIntyre-Takhini for his election as leader of his party and his new position in this House as Leader of the Official Opposition.
Speaker: I would also like to thank the former Government House Leader, the Hon. Doug Phillips, for his work in the past, and would like to congratulate the new Government House Leader, the Hon. Mickey Fisher, on his position.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to welcome some guests who are present in the gallery. We have Renée Shilling and Dan Daigle from the Canadian Federation of Students, as well as Vincent Harris, who is the president of the Yukon College Student Council and Sherri Pooyak, the student representative on the Yukon College Board of Governors. I am sure all Members will join me in welcoming them to the gallery.
Speaker: Are there any further introductions of visitors?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: I have for tabling the following documents: a
letter from Tony Penikett advising of his intention to resign as Member for the electoral district of Whitehorse West; a warrant
issued by me as Speaker pursuant to section 15 of the Legislative Assembly Act respecting the resignation of Mr. Penikett; a
notice pursuant to section 17 of the Legislative Assembly Act, signed by the Hon. John Ostashek and Honourable Bill Brewster respecting a vacancy in the electoral district of Vuntut Gwitchin caused by the death of Johnny Abel;
a copy of a letter from the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly to the Commissioner respecting a vacancy in the electoral district of Whitehorse West; a
copy of a letter from the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly to the Commissioner respecting a vacancy in the electoral district of Vuntut Gwitchin; t
he report of the Auditor-General of Canada on the financial statements of the Government of the Yukon for the year ending March 31, 1995; t
he Annual Report of the Yukon Human Rights Commission for the year ending March 31, 1995; and a
report from the Clerk of the Assembly on the deductions from the indemnities of Members of the Legislative Assembly, pursuant to subsection 39(6) of the Legislative Assembly Act.
Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have for tabling the Yukon's short-term economic outlook for 1996.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Are there any Bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 8: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 8, entitled Fourth Appropriation Act, 1994-95, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 8, entitled Fourth Appropriation Act, 1994-95, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 8 agreed to
Bill No. 9: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 9, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1995-96, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 9, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1995-96, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 9 agreed to
Bill No. 10: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 10, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1996-97, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 10, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1996-97, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 10 agreed to
Bill No. 73: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 73, entitled Taxpayer Protection Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government Leader that Bill No. 73, entitled Taxpayer Protection Act, be now inttroduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 73 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any notices of motion for the production of papers?
WITHDRAWAL OF MOTIONS
Speaker: I wish to inform the House that any item standing in the names of the former Members for Whitehorse West and Vuntut Gwitchin have been removed from the Order Paper.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Based on an agreement of all Members in whose names certain motions are standing on the Order Paper, the House Leaders have asked that I request unanimous consent to have the following motions withdrawn. They are Motions for the Production of Papers No. 1, and Motions No. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 28, 29, 32, 33, 35, 38, 43 and 44.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted. I would ask the Clerk to withdraw those motions from the Order Paper.
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McDonald: We are all a little rusty. I realize it has been nine months and I was initially hoping we could do a run of introductions before we started today.
I have a few motions I would like to file with the Clerk and a couple I will read out this afternoon.
I give notice of the following motions:
THAT this House believes a fair, just and speedy settlement of all outstanding First Nations land claims and self-government agreements is in the best interest of all Yukon people, and
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should give its negotiators a clear mandate to represent the position of the government at the negotiating table so that settlements consistent with the terms of the umbrella final agreement may be achieved without further delay.
I also move
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should strongly and publicly oppose any proposal by the federal Liberal Party government to introduce an integrated retail sales tax that would increase the tax burden on Yukon people.
I also move
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should commit itself to providing relief to electrical ratepayers by returning profits of the Yukon Energy Corporation to the ratepayers.
Mr. Cable: I will give notice of three motions. The first is
THAT it is the opinion of the House that the rationale given by the government for the removal of public service collective bargaining rights never existed and does not exist, and the recommendations of the international labour organization with respect to collective bargaining rights of the public service should be followed.
The second one is
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the people of the Yukon would benefit from the introduction of recall legislation.
The third one is
THAT the government does not have the confidence of this House and of the people of the Yukon.
Ms. Commodore: I give notice of the following motions:
THAT this House recognizes that the Yukon Party government was condemned by the United Nations for not following the principles of collective bargaining; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to introduce a bill that would immediately rescind wage restraint legislation and reinstate the democratic right to collective bargaining.
I also move
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Party should recognize the essential services that women's shelters provide and commit to providing adequate and stable funding agreements.
I also move
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the government should provide adequate resources to the development of a comprehensive treatment and prevention program for persons with FAS/FAE.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Mr. Harding: I would like to give notice of some motions and file some others. I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the government to live up to its longstanding commitment to develop an all-inclusive, comprehensive forestry policy in light of the recent policy problems which caused shutdowns to the industry; and that this policy reflect all Yukon interests in forestry.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the House recognizes that the Yukon Party government was a signatory to the Whitehorse mining initiative; and
THAT the House recognizes the need for a comprehensive protected spaces strategy for the year 2000; and
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the government should immediately embark on a detailed action and implementation plan for attaining that goal.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House is very concerned about the many issues recently raised about the effectiveness of the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board; and
THAT it is the opinion of this House that (1) the choice of the investigator and the investigation terms of reference were drawn up in isolation; and (2) with the resignation of the president of the Workers' Compensation Board, the integrity of the report is under scrutiny; and
THAT this House urges the government to: (1) ensure that the investigation into the Yukon Workers' Compensation Board should be open and accessible to the public; (2) keep this House informed on the progress of the investigation; (3) introduce amendments to the Workers' Compensation Board Act to improve the accountability of the Board to injured workers; and (4) implement the recommendation of the Workers' Compensation Board joint committee and develop a workers' advocate position through legislation.
I would like to give notice of the following:
THAT it is the opinion of this House, in light of the federal devolution of authority over forestry and forest firefighting practices in the Yukon, and in light of the federal response in the territory, which in part contributed to last summer's disastrous fires, that the government should immediately develop a forest firefighting policy that is all encompassing and that will promote local control, training and employment.
Ms. Moorcroft: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the principle of partnerships, which is clearly and legally spelled out in the Education Act, is fundamental to the successful functioning of the Yukon's educational system, and that the Government of Yukon should respect both the spirit and the letter of that Act in all of its dealings on educational matters.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that all of the partners in education should have access to the information upon which the Department of Education bases important decisions, such as the reorganization of the grade structure of the public school system; and
THAT the Minister of Education should produce for the public record any reports, studies or any other information pertaining to the educational, social and economic implications of various structural models that may have been used by the officials of his department in its decision to change the grade structure of public elementary and secondary schools in Whitehorse.
Mrs. Firth: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that territorial judges should be appointed for terms of two years and then elected for four-year terms after that.
Speaker: Are there any statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Land claims, government record
Mr. McDonald: It must have been quite a relief for the Yukon Party to experience a victory in the recent by-election in Old Crow and thus hold on to government by the slimmest of majorities. The Government Leader seemed relieved on February 5, even while he was busy trying to give reasons for the Yukon Party's success.
One reason caught the attention of many, and that was that the First Nation leadership, and particularly the chief and council in Old Crow, which had been critical of the Yukon Party's land claim record, was out of touch with their membership. Does the Government Leader believe that his record in land claims is supported by the majority of First Nations people in the community of Old Crow?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Election campaigns can bring out a lot of things, as we have seen from the Members opposite, as well as other people in the community. We have worked very diligently on the settlement of land claims. I made a statement to the press last Monday that we are fully committed to them, in response to a statement made by the Chair of the Council for Yukon First Nations that land claims is bigger than either him or me and that we should just get on with the job. We are fully committed to that.
Mr. McDonald: In the Government Leader's comments on the evening of the by-election, he cast a fairly wide net in his criticism of First Nation leadership. He indicated that other First Nation leaders were out of touch with their membership in other communities, which some people regarded as a rather presumptuous conclusion. Can the Minister tell us whether or not he believed that the by-election victory in Old Crow - with all the other issues swirling around, such as school buses and swimming pools - was really a vote of confidence by First Nation people everywhere in the territory in his government's action with respect to trying to come to conclusions with the First Nations' land claims agreements?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite alludes to school buses and other things the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, the late Johnny Abel, was able to accomplish by working with a Yukon Party government, which supported the community of Old Crow very much during the three years we have been in government. It is through his hard work, and the agreement of the Yukon Party with some of the initiatives the community wanted, that we were able to accomplish some of those things. I think we should all be very proud of that. I think the kids in Old Crow are quite pleased to have a bus to ride to school in when it is 45 and 50 degrees below zero. I do not think the Opposition should ridicule that.
Mr. McDonald: I am not doubting at all that the school bus in Old Crow had some impact on the good people's feelings about the by-election in that community. I am asking the Minister about the conclusions he drew with respect to First Nations people in the territory showing a vote of confidence in his government's record on land claims, based on the results of the by-election.
Given that the Government Leader - in quotes that have been well-reported in the local media - clearly indicated that First Nation leadership is out of touch with their constituencies, what will the Government Leader do in trying to reach a land claims agreement with those same leaders, now that he appears to believe they do not represent the constituents they serve?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Leader of the Official Opposition is casting a very wide net on the meaning of the statements I made, and I think he should go back and review those statements and not take them out of context.
One thing that I know will not settle land claims is the continuous political agenda of the Members opposite to try to derail the process.
Question re: Land claims, government record
Mr. McDonald: Nothing could be further from the truth. In the current circumstances, we are trying to understand what the actions of the Government Leader and the Yukon Party government will really mean to the success of the negotiating process.
The Minister indicated in October that he believed the negotiating process required no changes and was successful in achieving at least the first four band final agreements, as well as the umbrella final agreement.
One month later, he indicated that the land claims process was flawed and advocated some fairly significant changes to the way the negotiation should take place.
Can the Minister justify, or explain, this quite clear contradiction?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not believe that there is a contradiction. I have just said what many Yukoners have been saying - the process should be more transparent. If the Leader of the Opposition has a problem with that, I wonder if he thinks that the people of the Yukon should be kept in the dark on the biggest issue that is facing them - the land claims process. Does he think it should be secret?`
I believe that the more transparent the process is, the better the agreements achieved, and they will be easier to implement.
Mr. McDonald: If anyone is being kept in the dark, it is most certainly those people who are trying to understand the government's negotiating position and the reasons why the government is being so resistant to coming to a conclusion when there has already been an umbrella final agreement negotiated and passed into law.
In the past, prior to 1992, many information meetings were undertaken by the government. Some of them were sponsored and lead by the Government Leader himself to explain the band final agreements and the umbrella final agreements before those agreements were initialled, as well as after.
Can the Minister indicate to us, in his desire to see a more transparent process, why he has not conducted any meetings, or had no meetings composed to explain band final agreements while they have been negotiating?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Land Claims Secretariat does hold briefings on the land claims. There are only certain things on which we can brief the general public in the lands claims process. There is an all-party agreement regarding secrecy on the issue. When we get into an area like Whitehorse where there are many conflicting uses for land allotments, it becomes a real problem. The Member opposite seems to be really hung up on the fact that the process is secret and that we cannot give out all the information. I wish we could, but that does not mean that we are not committed to settling land claims and we are not the holdup on it. There are three parties at the table and we are prepared to work at the speed at which the other parties wish to work.
Mr. McDonald: That is a highly dubious proposition.
The Minister seems to suggest that the only way that people can be kept informed about what is happening at the negotiating table is that he invite all of the public, or any member of the public that is interested, into the actual negotiating sessions where there is give and take.
Is this a principle that the Minister is willing to apply to other intergovernmental negotiations and discussions, such as devolution talks between his government and the federal government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As the Member opposite is quite aware, that is the position that we have always taken. All of us in the Yukon should be involved in the devolution process, including the First Nations.
Certainly, the public is involved and the public knows what is going on with the devolution from the federal government. We have been very free with that information.
I do not know what the Member's hangup is. The process that I was alluding to worked very well in the community of Mayo - the former riding of the Member opposite. The process worked very well and everyone was fully supportive of the agreement when it was initialled and signed.
Question re: Land claims process
Mr. Cable: I would like to follow up on the previous line of questioning. The suggestion that the land claims process be open to the public saw the light of day at a Yukon Party convention and it was followed up with a press release dated January 25, 1996, when the Government Leader said he asked the DIAND Minister and the CYFN Grand Chief and the First Nation chiefs to open the land claims process.
The press release of that date is a little obtuse. Is it the Government Leader's position that negotiations on land selections, before interim protection, would be open to the public?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The press release that the Member opposite is referring to was one in which I asked the other parties at the table to consider finding a process that was more transparent, so that all Yukoners would feel comfortable with the process. I believe the Members opposite are just as aware as I that there is an undercurrent in the public based on the belief that the public does not have enough information about the land claims process.
I look to the land claims process in British Columbia, where the leader of the government stated yesterday that the agreements had to have full public debate, and that maybe there would have to be changes made to the agreement before it could be endorsed by the government.
Mr. Cable: Some of those things may be true, but we have had negotiations that have gone on for many years under a certain set of protocols, and we have reached four land claim agreements. I am not quite sure what the reasoning is. The opening up of the process would introduce, in my view, a new element to the negotiations, and the suggestions made in the press release will effectively make for a multi-party negotiation, particularly if we are talking about land claims selection.
In the Government Leader's view, will this opening up of the process speed up or slow down these negotiations?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member's preamble alluded to four agreements being reached under the process that is in place now. I would again point out that one of them was a public process - the one with the Na-Cho Ny'ak Dun Band - and it worked very well. There seems to be more harmony in that community with the land claims settlement than in any other community in the Yukon.
Mr. Cable: I am not sure we are getting answers to the questions we are asking. Let me ask another question.
The suggestion of opening up the process appear to have come up for the first time at the Yukon Party convention last fall. It appears to have caught the Yukon Council for First Nations by surprise, as I read the comments in the press.
Had the Government Leader discussed this change in the negotiating protocol with the council or any of the First Nation leaders before his public announcement? If so, what was their reaction?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am sure that there are people going to the Member opposite's office asking the same questions that are being asked of me: "What is going on in the land claims process?" This is the most important decision in the history of the Yukon. I believe that Yukoners have a right to know what is going on.
Question re: Land claims process
Mr. McDonald: I am bound to continue this line of questioning, given the Minister's answers. He failed to answer the question put to him by the Leader of the Liberal Party with respect to whether or not the First Nation leadership was aware of this change in operating procedures that was being proposed before the Minister issued a press release. Can the Minister please answer that question?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: First Nations have always known that people wanted to have more insight into land claims. I did not ask for changes, and I did not say we would not negotiate without change. I asked for a more transparent process and asked the First Nations to join with me to see if we could find that process.
Mr. McDonald: On October 24, just weeks before the Minister finished duking it out with a number of First Nation leaders who were simply complaining that the Government of Yukon was not fulfilling its end of the bargain in the land claims process, the Minister indicated in a statement that there was no need for new processes, that we had one that worked and he wanted to continue to make it work.
The Minister was clearly satisfied at that time with the process as structured and felt confident that people knew what was going on. If the government had taken the trouble to conduct information sessions with the general public, then the anxiety level the Minister now refers to would not have been considered a problem.
Can the Minister tell us, again, if he coldcocked First Nation leaders and CYFN with his claim that the process had to be changed?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The process does not have to be changed. The process was used by the Na-Cho Ny'ak Dun Band, where it was agreed that the process be opened up and more information be put out for the public. That was all I was asking for.
Mr. McDonald: In his press release - which appeared to take everyone by surprise - the Government Leader suggested that the general public should be invited into all negotiating sessions. That is a significant change of process.
Once again, did the Minister tell anyone within the First Nation leadership that he was prepared to announce his desire to see that change in process take place?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is quite apparent to me that the Leader of the Official Opposition does not think the public has a right to know.
There is no change in the process - absolutely none. I did not say that all negotiations should be open to the public.
Question re: Land claims process
Mr. McDonald: The Government Leader indicated in a press release in November, after having exchanged angry words with First Nation leaders about who was at fault for having held up the land claims process, that he believed that some significant changes should be made in the way land claims negotiations are conducted. The most significant change that he proposed was that he believed that the general public should be invited to the negotiating sessions. Did he tell the First Nation leaders or anyone from the First Nations community that this was something he was going to propose, prior to making the press release public?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If he is asking if I sat down and talked to them at that point, no, but we have certainly given every indication for many years that we would like to see the process be more open.
Mr. McDonald: A few weeks earlier, the Minister indicated that the process was fine. He indicated that the process had been successful and had produced an umbrella final agreement and four band final agreements, as well as four implementation and self-government agreements. He believed that the process was fine if everyone simply applied themselves. That is what he said then. Now he is saying that he has an interest in changing the process, apparently without even knowing that it involves inviting the public to negotiating sessions.
The Minister indicated that inviting the public to every negotiating session - or the critical negotiating sessions - is a principle that he is prepared to embrace. Is he prepared to embrace that same principle in other intergovernmental relations that his government undertakes with other levels of government, including not only First Nations, but also the federal government, and does he believe that that would be an operating principle that would advance or speed up the negotiations when it comes to devolution or any other matter?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is quite clear and evident from the questions the Member asks that he believes in secrecy in government. It is apparent that he is prepared to operate that way and that it was probably the way his party operated when they were in government.
I believe that the public has a right to know. I will always believe that. I believe that each issue has to be dealt with on its own merit. I believe that if land claims were a more open process, especially in the Whitehorse area, there would not nearly be the concern about what the final settlement would look like. I believe it would go a long way to what would be a fair, just and workable settlement for the band involved in the Whitehorse area settlement. That is all I was proposing. I was not prepared to do it on my own. I asked the other people at the table to join with me, as it is a very important issue for all Yukoners. All Yukoners have a right to know.
Mr. McDonald: It appears to me that all the Government Leader has been attempting to do is to angrily lash out at First Nations, because he cannot produce a land claims agreement.
It is clear that the process - a process for which I share some responsibility - produced an umbrella final agreement and band final agreements that the Government Leader and the whole Yukon Party has endorsed. That process included public meetings that the Yukon Party Minister has failed to carry out since he has been in office.
I will ask the specific question once again - I do not think I am going to get an answer, but I am persistent. Can the Government Leader tell us whether or not he believes that the principle of having the public attend negotiating processes between governments will advance those negotiations and achieve the laudable objective of the public's right to know about the negotiations, and also achieve success at the negotiating table when it comes to negotiating such things as the devolution of federal programs to the territory, a process that includes the federal and territorial governments and, at times, the CYFN?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: At this point, that is a purely hypothetical question, and we are not supposed to answer hypothetical questions in this Legislature. The Member opposite knows exactly what I was saying. All I can say to the Member opposite is that if he wants to keep dragging the land claims out on the floor of this Legislature and keep putting obstacles in the road - which the Opposition has been doing for three years - and trying to politicize the process, then it is going to be difficult to achieve an agreement.
This government is prepared to sit down with the First Nations at the land claims table. We have made that commitment before and I will make it again and again. We have a target date of February 1997. It is time for the Members opposite to put the political rhetoric and the political agenda aside and get these claims settled.
Question re: Education, grade reorganization
Ms. Moorcroft: It has been such a long time since we were in the House that I would like the Minister of Education to refresh my memory.
Will the Minister confirm that he told this House last year that the subject of grade reorganization in Whitehorse was a dead issue?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In so many words, I suppose that that is an accurate reflection of what was said.
Ms. Moorcroft: We all know that grade reorganization has sprung back to life like the famous Lazarus.
Would the Minister tell us when he decided to revive this subject?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Of course, the issue never died. It was certainly out there among a great many parents and members of the public. The issue came forward once again last fall. It was a request from the department to re-examine that very important issue in light of the facilities study, which had been distributed throughout the Yukon and Whitehorse to the partners in education and interest groups. In the fall, at the request of departmental officials, we started to re-examine the issue.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the Minister then prepared to table any reports, studies or other information about the educational, social or economic advantages or drawbacks of two-tier and three-tier public education structures that he and his officials used to guide them in deciding to change the existing structure in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Certainly, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Education, grade reorganization
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister of Education has publicly indicated that extensive consultation took place on the matter of grade reorganization.
Would the Minister please tell this House what consultation took place between the last time he stated that grade reorganization was dead and the day last November when he admitted it was a done deal?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Extensive consultations have taken place over the years. There were many public meetings, and a lot of feedback has been catalogued by the department. The issue came back because of the concerns that were identified by the facilities study for the greater Whitehorse area. As a result of those concerns, the department continued to work on the issue. As a result of their work, we commenced consultations with some of the school councils, teachers and principals in the greater Whitehorse area.
During that time, there were leaks of the discussions to the media, and it became a media issue, which we then discussed at that level.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister just said that he engaged in consultations with school councils. Does the Minister wish this House to believe that the consultations that took place satisfied both the spirit and the letter of the Education Act?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister have an explanation why many people, who consider themselves partners in education - such as the First Nations Education Commission, and several school council members and chairs - felt so strongly that they had not been consulted?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Not really. They had all been consulted about the issue on numerous occasions during the two or three years the consultations were ongoing. The issue was revisited. The position of the various players was well known and documented by the department.
In my view there has been a lot of consultation and the grade reorganization has been supported by a fairly significant majority of parents and school councils in the Whitehorse area.
Question re: Witnesses for Committee of the Whole
Mrs. Firth: I have a non-controversial question for the gentleman across the floor - a quiet question in a quieter Legislature. It is for my friend, the Government Leader.
I wrote a letter to the Government Leader over a month ago requesting witnesses to appear before the Committee of the Whole, witnesses such as the presidents of the Workers' Compensation Board, Housing Corporation and so on. I also requested of the Government Leader that we, as Opposition Members, be provided with more time to question these individuals about budgetary matters. It is not a surprise to any of us that I have not heard back from the Government Leader.
Will he be requesting that these top guns of government come before the Legislature and appear as witnesses in Committee of the Whole so we have time to question them about budgetary matters? Will we have more time than just one hour to question these individuals?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I was not aware that the Member had not received an answer to that letter. I did give instructions to answer the letter, and I will see why she has not received it.
Last year, when we bowed to the Opposition and brought the heads of the Crown corporations in to answer questions, we said that this was not something we would continue to do on an ongoing basis. We said we would do it for that one time because there were some issues the Members wanted to discuss with the heads. If there is a specific reason we need to bring those people in for as witnesses, we will be glad to listen to their case. It was not something that happened on a regular basis with the Legislature before, and we did not want to set that as a precedent because we agreed to it last year. If there is a specific reason why some of these people should be brought back here, I will certainly listen to the arguments put forward by the Members opposite.
Mrs. Firth: I conclude from the Government Leader's response that the answer is no and that he is not going to allow these people to appear as witnesses unless we have some particular question that we would like to put to them.
Last year the president of the Yukon Housing Corporation was one of the witnesses and the only one who did not appear before the Legislature. Will the Government Leader request that the president of the Yukon Housing Corporation appear before Committee of the Whole as a witness during this session?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will take the Member's representation and get back to her very quickly.
Mrs. Firth: Is the Government Leader saying that other presidents of corporations - Workers' Compensation Board, Yukon Liquor Corporation, Yukon College and the Hospital Corporation - will not be appearing before the Committee?
Will the Government Leader answer my question about time allocation? Will they be appearing for longer than one hour as witnesses?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Perhaps I was not clear enough. I said that calling witnesses for every budget session was not a standard procedure utilized in this Legislature. I made the exception last year for the Members opposite.
I will not be calling these witnesses this year unless there are specific requests and specific arguments as to why the head of a corporation should be here. Otherwise, the Ministers will answer the questions to the satisfaction of the Members opposite.
Question re: Workers' Compensation Board, investigation into
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Workers' Compensation.
The Official Opposition has raised some concerns about the process utilized by the Minister for the recent investigation into the Workers' Compensation Board. We have had concerns brought to us about the process of the investigation and how it has been handled; for example, advertisements in the newspaper asking people to telephone.
We have also had concerns raised with us about the investigator not getting back to people who have presented their concerns.
Has the Minister heard these concerns and, if so, what has he done about them? Is he pleased with the overall progress of the investigation?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, Mr. Speaker, I have not heard the concerns expressed in the way that the Member opposite has stated them. My impression is that there is access to the board of inquiry. Quite a number of individuals have talked to that board of inquiry. The terms of reference are very broad. If the Member for Faro has specific concerns, I will certainly entertain them and try to make the board of inquiry work as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Mr. Harding: I believe that the Minister fundamentally erred when he chose the person for this investigation. Unlike the proposed ombudsperson or with appointments to the Human Rights Commission, where there is broad consensus built around choices, the Minister chose to undertake to define the terms of reference of this investigation and choose the person for the investigation without involving anyone else but the Minister himself. I would ask the Minister why he chose to do that in isolation?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It certainly was not done in isolation. It was done based on the representations by Members opposite, members of the public and injured workers. There were many suggestions as to how we should do it. In fact, I considered that, at first, an investigation or inquiry should be done under Section 99 of the Workers Compensation Act. There was some concern that the board would have control over the inquiry if that was done and that the only way to do an independent inquiry was to do it under the Public Inquiries Act. I agreed to that suggestion. I believe that was even the suggestion of the board member who resigned. The idea was that the board of inquiry be independent and not have any ties or suspicions of bias attached to it. I did my utmost to select that individual. I believe that is done and I hope that we will see the results of that in the next couple of months.
Mr. Harding: I do not believe submissions were asked for regarding the choice of the investigator, nor do I believe submissions were sought by the Minister for the definition and terms of reference for this investigation. I will follow up on that point as this session goes along.
Specifically with regard to the workers' advocate position, there was a joint proposal put forward some two weeks ago. It is something the Opposition has been pushing for for a very long time within the Department of Justice. The Minister has yet to respond to this.
Could he tell the House today what his position is with regard to the workers' advocate position, for which we have been waiting a long time?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Not as yet. I have expressed concern in the past about representation for injured workers. The suggestion is that there be a workers' advocate. I think there is merit to that suggestion, but I have not made any final decision on that. We will be considering that position, where it should be, and which organization or area should support and pay for it.
Question re: Land claims process
Mr. Cable: The Leader of the Official Opposition and I asked a number of questions about land claims and the relationship the Government Leader had with various First Nations people. We kept getting the same answer to different questions.
I would like to ask a few of these questions again, to see if we can get some answers.
In the January 25, 1996 press release put out by the Government Leader calling for opening up the land claims process, as I mentioned in the first go-around, it is a little obtuse as to whether or not the Government Leader wants to open up the land selection process to the general public.
Could the Government Leader give us an answer, in perhaps 10 words or less, as to whether or not land selections should be open to public negotiation, in his view?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I can give you the answer to that in one word: no.
Mr. Cable: So the Hon. Government Leader is saying then that opening up the process will introduce people to the negotiations on the side lines. The most important part of the negotiations - the land selections - is to be left under the present protocol. Do I fully understand that the word, "no", means that land selections will not now or at any time in the future be left to public negotiation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe that the Member opposite would be fully aware that there is a tripartite agreement of confidentiality on those issues. The only way that anything in the process could be changed is with a tripartite agreement.
I was simply saying that we need to make the process more transparent to give comfort to all Yukoners.
Mr. Cable: I am sure we can explore that as the weeks go by.
One of the questions put to the Government Leader by the Leader of the Official Opposition was about the jousting match in the press between the Government Leader and the Chiefs in Council. It was indicated in one of the media that the Government Leader did not think that some of the chiefs had the support of the First Nations.
Could he indicate the areas in which he thinks the chiefs and the chiefs' peoples are going in different directions?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We are going to do nothing for the land claims process in the Yukon by continuing this type of debate in the Legislature. The leaders of the First Nations are political people, just as are we. If somebody takes a shot at you, you tend to shoot back. We need not carry that forward into the Legislature. I am not sure if the Official Opposition is committed to a land claims settlement by February 1997, because they are more worried about partisan politics than the settling of land claims in the Yukon.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
ELECTION OF DEPUTY SPEAKER
Speaker: I have been informed by the House Leaders that the House is now prepared to elect a Deputy Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move
THAT David Millar, Member for Klondike, be appointed Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader
THAT David Millar, Member for Klondike, be appointed Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committee of the Whole.
Motion No. 81 agreed to
Bill No. 10: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 10, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Ostashek.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 10, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1996-97, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 10, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1996-97, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Today it is my pleasure to present our fourth budget to this House, a budget that builds on our record of providing Yukoners with sound fiscal management.
The Yukon is the only jurisdiction in Canada that will have an accumulated surplus at the end of the 1995-96 fiscal year.
The 1996-97 budget totals $472 million. This is down $17 million from the 1995-96 budget.
The total operation and maintenance expenditures are $347 million. The total capital expenditures are a total of $125 million. Once again, there are no tax increases.
I want to speak more about taxes and accountability. This afternoon I introduced the Taxpayer Protection Act. This legislation ensures that the Yukon government does not spend more money than it has, and it will give Yukon taxpayers a direct say in whether or not certain taxes are justified.
Yukoners have to live within their financial means and so should the Yukon Government.
The Taxpayer Protection Act is one of the toughest and best pieces of legislation of its kind in Canada. It contains some of the strongest, enforceable penalties of all similar legislation in Canada and will effectively require that a territorial election be called if a government creates an illegal debt. It does not get any more accountable than that.
This legislation will hold our government and future governments directly accountable to Yukoners for the spending of public money, and will keep the government from creating an illegal debt.
We must ensure that Yukoners' tax dollars go to providing the best possible services for Yukoners rather than having to make interest payments on debt.
I want to speak more about our 1995-96 surplus. We are projecting a $32 million accumulated surplus at the end of the 1995-96 fiscal year, and I would like to put this $32 million into perspective.
It is prudent fiscal management for a government to have a one-month operating reserve. A one-month operating reserve is money that it takes to run the government for one month, a cost that is now around $40 million. A $32 million surplus is equivalent to about three weeks' reserve.
Our government will soon not have an operating reserve anywhere near $32 million because of federal cutbacks that amount to approximately $20 million, excluding other adjustments to the operating grant that are the normal result of the operation of the formula financing agreement.
Our government knew these cuts were on their way and we planned ahead to reduce their impact on programs and services to Yukoners. That is what the majority of our accumulated $32 million surplus is being used for.
Hon. Members will recall the federal Finance Minister's last budget, which cut our transfer payment by $20 million. Further, there will be a reduction in the formula financing transfer payment due to population and other adjustments, which lag a few years behind the actual events, such as the Faro mine closure. We are now going to experience a $7 million cut in our grant funding because of those other adjustments.
The ostrich-like approach to financial management - sticking your head in the sand to avoid what is coming - just does not work.
Yukoners today are better off because of the action we took in previous budgets.
We are particularly proud of bringing the operation and maintenance expenditures of government under control, while at the same time maintaining, improving and, in some cases, expanding our services to Yukoners.
Of 17 government departments or agencies listed in the budget, seven of them have no increase in their operation and maintenance expenditures over the previous year. Four departments have only a one-percent increase. There has been virtually no increase in the overall operation and maintenance expenditures of government. This, I believe, is a tremendous accomplishment.
Hon. Members may recall that when our government took office in late 1992 the operation and maintenance expenditures of the government were escalating at an alarming rate. Health and social service costs, in particular, were increasing at an unsustainable rate. Immediate action was taken to rectify this situation.
The policy of this government is to control and, where possible, to reduce the overall operation and maintenance costs of government. We, in fact, have maintained government spending on education, justice, health and social services, and utilized cost savings to improve services in these areas.
Approximately $200 million, or nearly 60 percent of our operation and maintenance budget are on social programs, when the expenditures of education, justice and health and social services are combined. A substantial portion of Yukon Housing Corporation's expenditures could also be considered to be on the social side of the ledger.
Yukoners have been shielded from the massive cuts to social programs that are occurring in other parts of Canada. By managing our money well, we will continue to provide a strong social safety net for Yukoners. While some provinces are having to close down hospital wards, we in the Yukon, in 1997, will be opening one of the most modern, efficient and cost-effective hospitals in the country. Funding of $17.7 million has been provided in this budget for the continued construction of the new Whitehorse General Hospital, which, I am pleased to say, remains on schedule and on budget.
Part of the new facility is scheduled to be opened during the coming year.
That is good news, but we cannot become complacent in light of the impending cuts from Ottawa. In the last budget, the federal Finance Minister cut almost $7 billion from the transfer payments to the provinces and territories for health care, post-secondary education, welfare and social assistance. Canada's social safety net is being stretched to the breaking point and more federal cuts can be expected in the future.
We, as Yukoners, must determine, on a priority basis, what programs are most important to us. We must determine how we can make our money go further and become more innovative in the services we deliver and how we deliver them. The Department of Health and Social Services has been holding public-consultation meetings in every community seeking feedback from Yukoners on the important issues that we are facing in health care. Consultations are focused in five key areas: health program delivery in the future; the Yukon children's dental program; continuing care regulations; midwifery legislation; and social assistance.
The reform efforts of our government are ongoing and the possible transfer of community health programs from the federal government to the Yukon government will constitute another big step in health care reform.
These are exciting times for health care in the Yukon because with new roles and responsibilities comes tremendous possibilities to design and tailor a health care system that is unique to Yukon.
We have sought the input of Yukon residents on how we can provide the best possible services with the dollars available.
For example, currently the Yukon children's dental program, which provides free dental care to all Yukon children up to grade eight, is costing the Yukon approximately $631,000 per annum.
This federal program will likely be transferred to the Yukon government in the coming year and it is not sustainable in its present form because the federal government is cutting back its portion of the dental program.
We are asking Yukoners to help us design a cost-effective and efficient dental program for our Yukon children.
In order to maintain quality health care delivery in our communities, we will be funding the completion of the new Ross River Health Centre, and the design and the initial construction phases of a new health centre in Teslin.
Continuing Care now offers an assessment and stabilization program through the special care unit at the Thomson Centre. This program is assisting clients to remain in their homes with their families in the communities.
Our community focus continues in the areas of health promotion and prevention programs. We are partnering with Yukon College in a made-in-Yukon program to train rural ambulance volunteers in their home communities.
In 1995, we successfully introduced a formulary in our chronic disease program, and we will begin developing a formulary for the Pharmacare program. These changes are allowing us to maintain the quality of these programs at a reduced cost.
Through improved efficiencies and incentives social assistance costs are on a continuing downward trend.
Child care support has been increased in recognition of increased employment and educational opportunities for women. As reported recently by the Toronto Globe and Mail, the Yukon now spends more per child on child care than any other jurisdiction in Canada.
The child abuse treatment service has been well received by Yukon families. A new position will be added to improve our ability to serve rural communities to assist Yukoners in dealing with situations of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. As well, we are expanding the family counselling services offered to communities through the Yukon Family Services Association.
In 1995, we completed the relocation of our alcohol and drug prevention and treatment services into larger quarters, and relocation of our detox unit to join the in-patient Crossroads services under one roof. With these changes, we will be continuing our initiative to expand and refine our alcohol and drug program to work with Yukoners in order to reduce the incidence of alcohol and drug addiction.
A family support worker has been added to work in a preventative role with women at risk of bearing an FAS/FAE child, and to help families learn to deal with existing FAS/FAE situations.
We will be continuing our focus on community programs, health promotion, AIDS prevention and achievement centre programs as we work with youth to help them improve their situation. A youth investment fund has been jointly launched by the Departments of Health and Social Services, Justice, Education, Community and Transportation Services and the Women's Directorate.
Our government is currently implementing a comprehensive, coordinated crime prevention strategy, "Creating Safer Communities".
The key players in this strategy are the Yukon government Departments of Health and Social Services, Justice, Education, Community and Transportation Services, The Women's Directorate and the RCMP.
The crime prevention strategy examines programs in place in the Yukon to deal with crime, and sets our priorities for action by government.
The strategy deals with youth crime, property related crime, family violence, impaired driving and offender management.
The work underway and priorities for action reflect the concerns of Yukoners, which have been expressed in several reports and during community meetings and consultations.
Our government recognizes that priorities for action and long-term comprehensive strategies for crime prevention must involve all Yukoners; begin at home and be taught in our schools; reflect local needs and concerns; give Yukoners more control over the justice process; be cost effective; take into account family support, recreation and employment programs; and be coordinated partnerships involving all governments and communities.
We have listened to Yukoners' concerns and we are acting on them. For Yukoners to enjoy healthy, safe communities and a better life, they must have access to adequate and affordable housing.
The Yukon Housing Corporation has programs that assist Yukoners to work with the private sector to access appropriate and affordable housing. The Yukon Housing Corporation has programs that assist Yukoners in repairing, purchasing and managing the construction of their homes. A total of $8 million dollars has been allocated to fund three important Yukon Housing Corporation programs: the home repair program, the home ownership program and the owner-build program.
The Yukon Housing Corporation and Yukon College provide a self-help course to Yukoners interested in managing the construction of their own homes.
The Yukon Housing Corporation also provides the Yukon Housing Corporation-banks joint initiative for Yukoners with incomes in excess of the owner-build program guidelines, but who do not have sufficient incomes for banks to approve construction financing.
The Yukon Housing Corporation is also working with the Department of Community and Transportation Services and the City of Whitehorse on the steering committee conducting the mobile home review study. The purpose of this study is to find out the needs of current and prospective trailer owners, and to come up with some innovative programs to help them meet their housing needs.
There are other major factors involved in promoting health, safety and a better life for Yukoners. Yukoners are part of the environment in which they live, and are also dependent on that environment in many instances for their economic well-being.
The Department of Renewable Resources has worked hard to protect the Yukon's wildlife and to prevent environmental damage to the land. We have been working with Yukon First Nations in the Carcross caribou recovery program and the Aishihik caribou recovery program. We have been working with the Alaskans to develop and win support for the Forty Mile caribou herd recovery program. Renewable Resources has been working with mining companies to prevent environmental damage to the land and to wildlife. The department has developed an awareness program to educate visitors and locals alike to use RV dump stations and to stop waste water pollution of our lakes, streams and road sides.
The wildlife viewing program at Swan Haven on M'Clintock Bay has become an increasingly popular attraction. Attendance has doubled each year for the past three years.
We have worked with the federal government and the Teslin Tlingit Council to establish the Nisutlin Bay National Wildlife Area. That is a significant conservation measure.
Our special waste program has successfully disposed of hazardous waste from the territory and has been cost shared with the industry to reduce the cost to the Yukon taxpayer.
The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment were here on two occasions last year. Our Minister of Renewable Resources was able to give them a first-hand appreciation of Yukon issues.
The Department of Renewable Resources is currently working with Yukoners to develop a made-in-Yukon forestry policy in anticipation of the ultimate transfer of this resource from the federal government. Our government knows Yukoners can do a better job of managing this valuable resource.
These are just some of the measures our government is taking to protect Yukon's wildlife and environment. Yukoners know there has to be a proper balance struck between environmental protection and resource development in a resource-based economy such as ours. Our government is working with Yukoners to achieve this proper balance.
I would now like to address how this budget and its predecessors have put Yukoners to work in promoting the development of a sustainable economy. It is primarily the capital budget that creates private sector jobs. For our government, creating private sector jobs is a top priority. We have purposely brought the operation and maintenance expenditures under control in order to keep the size of our discretionary capital budget, which will stand at $62 million for 1996-97 fiscal year, as high as possible given the federal cuts to our formula financing agreement.
Our employment figures show that our strategy is working. Compare 1994 Yukon employment figures to those of 1995 - a consistent month-to-month increase is quite apparent. I am pleased to say that 600 new jobs were created in the Yukon over the last 12 months.
I see the Leader of the Official Opposition is smiling. I gave him a figure to pick at.
We have put Yukoners to work, and the prospects of ever-increasing future employment opportunities for Yukoners is exceedingly bright. At the same time, we are cognizant that in the future these large capital budgets cannot be sustained.
When such major construction works as the Shakwak project, the Alaska Highway project and the Whitehorse General Hospital come to a close, there will be a significant impact on the size of our capital budgets.
Our capital budgets, in relation to our operation and maintenance budgets, are going to become smaller.
Our government is preparing for this eventuality.
A major challenge facing the Yukon government is to make the Yukon economy less dependent upon government spending.
The Yukon economy has been compared to a three-legged stool. One supporting leg is provided by the mining industry. The second supporting leg is provided by the tourism industry and small business. The third supporting leg is provided by the Yukon government. This must change.
The Yukon economy of the future must have a solid private sector base. In order to foster the development of this solid private sector base, our government must continue to do what we have been doing.
We must continue to build on our economic strengths, upon mining, tourism, forestry, small business, and other industries of importance to the Yukon way of life such as agriculture, outfitting and trapping.
Largely through our government's efforts, the Yukon is known as one of the best places in North America for mining companies to invest in.
We have let the world mining community know that the Yukon is open for business and welcomes their investment. This strategy has paid off.
Compare Yukon mining exploration and development expenditures in 1992 to those of today.
Exploration spending has quadrupled in three years to $40 million, and development spending now totals nearly $60 million.
This increased mining investment has had significant spin-offs throughout our economy. There is increased activity in stores as monthly retail sales continue to increase.
Despite the mine closures of 1993, retail trade has been growing steadily since 1992.
Higher levels of tourism activity, of which I will soon speak, and lower interest rates are factors that have contributed to retail sales growth, which in 1995 is estimated to be a 4.2 percent increase.
There is a spirit of optimism in the air and Yukoners feel good about future prospects for the Yukon economy. They have good reason to be optimistic. It is conceivable that, by the end of 1996, there could be five more mines operating in the Yukon in addition to the Faro mine. Before the end of 1997, there could be another three: Minto, Kudz Ze Kayah and Dublin Gulch.
There are other promising new projects, such as the exciting new discovery at Wolverine Lake.
With all these developments over the next two years, there is the possibility we may gain 1,500 new high-paying jobs in the mining industry, with a payroll in excess of $80 million.
The impact of spin-off benefits from these developments on other business and new employment in the service and supply sector will be enormous.
On August 17, 1996, we will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the discovery of gold in the Klondike - an event that led to the creation of the territory and sparked the most famous gold rush in history. Our government intends to make the most of these major historical events. Over the course of the Klondike Gold Rush anniversaries, tourism visitation is expected to continue to grow. Our Department of Tourism has played, and is playing, a major role in bringing the message of the anniversaries to marketplaces around the world. Our marketing initiatives are paying off. At the end of last year, visitation to the Yukon had increased by 20 percent from 1991 levels, representing an average annual growth rate in excess of 4.5 percent.
Visitation increased by 4.5 percent in 1995, and is expected to grow steadily through to the year 2000.
Visitation growth in the Yukon has outperformed all other Canadian jurisdictions. Through the efforts of our Tourism department, the Yukon tourism season has been extended from its traditional three months of June, July and August to five months, including the shorter months of May and September.
Since 1991, visitation during May and September has increased 51.6 percent and 22.4 percent, respectively. The development of winter promotional programs have also resulted in increased traffic to the Yukon during the winter months, enhancing economic benefits of tourism to Yukon residents year round.
The RCMP did a fine job in celebrating its 100th anniversary in the Yukon last year, and it helped to give us a head start as we approach the celebration of the upcoming Gold Rush Centennials.
The Yukon has had a golden past, and it appears we will experience a golden future, as one century gives way to another.
In order for Yukoners to capitalize on this future, there are three things we must do. Working in partnership with other governments and industry, we must put in place the necessary community, transportation, energy and tourism infrastructure to support and sustain economic growth. Working in partnership with our educational and training institutions, we must ensure that Yukoners possess the necessary education skills and training to be able to participate in, and benefit from, this coming economic growth.
Above all, we must work together to build a better future. Working together means achieving the settlement of all Yukon First Nation claims. Working together means Yukoners achieving the ownership and management of the Yukon's land and resources so that we may control our own destiny.
I would now like to address investing in transportation, community, energy and tourism infrastructure.
Transportation and community infrastructure are of vital importance to the Yukon economy and to Yukoners' quality of life.
We believe that it is a government responsibility to develop Yukon's highway systems, which promote the development of our mining, tourism and other resource industries, as well as sustain and promote the growth of Yukon communities.
Accordingly, the Department of Community and Transportation Services will be spending $58.1 million in capital and $62.3 million in operation and maintenance in the 1996-97 fiscal year.
Twenty-five million dollars will be spent to complete another 38 kilometres of new construction and BST on the North Alaska Highway, including the construction of a new bridge over the White River. Eight million dollars will be spent on the South Alaska Highway for upgrading the highway from Swift River to Watson Lake.
Since 1992, 186 kilometres of the Alaska Highway have been reconstructed. Approximately $1 million is being allocated for strengthening the Teslin River bridge at Johnson's Crossing. There is $2.2 million allocated for 30 kilometres of new BST surfacing on the Top of the World Highway in preparation for the Gold Rush anniversary.
One million dollars is being allocated for the design and reconstruction of the Campbell Highway. Another $1 million is being provided for work on the Freegold Road.
This funding is being made available in anticipation of decisions by Cominco and Carmacks Copper to proceed with the development of their respective properties.
Operation and maintenance expenditures on the Faro ore haul route have been increased by $1 million over 1995-96 estimates in order to ensure the highway is able to withstand the additional heavy traffic.
The comprehensive municipal grant to Yukon communities has been maintained at $11.47 million.
Total grants-in-lieu of taxes to municipalities are up by about 6.5 percent over the previous budget.
In our four-year plan, this government committed itself to resolving the City of Whitehorse's longstanding sewage treatment problem.
The amount of $3.5 million has been budgeted for the Whitehorse sewage treatment facility as part of a total commitment of $20 million. Approximately $15 million of this total has been provided in fiscal years proceeding 1996-97.
Yukoners require lots on which to live, and $6.5 million has been allocated for land development, of which $3.2 million will be utilized for the next phase of Hamilton Area D Copper Ridge.
There is a good supply of lots available, including lots for mobile homes. Sixty-four mobile lots are available in Whitehorse and 32 in other municipalities.
Our government believes that it should always maintain a one-year's supply of lots at all times.
I have already pointed out that the future prospects for the Yukon economy look very promising. Much of the groundwork that has been done to foster this economic growth can be attributed to the policies and programs of the Yukon government.
The Department of Economic Development recently released its business plan, 1995-1998. The plan establishes a clear vision, mission and mandate for the Department of Economic Development and articulates the fundamental operating principles that will be used to plan for the building of a strong and prosperous economy.
Under the Department of Community and Transportation Services, we highlighted our government's investment and partnerships with other governments in providing highway and community infrastructure. Energy infrastructure is also a key ingredient in fostering economic growth.
Fortunately, the Yukon is blessed with an abundance of potential energy resources: water, coal, oil, natural gas, solar and wind.
One of our government's four-year plan commitments was to make the Yukon less dependent on imported diesel for electrical energy generation.
If we continue to import expensive diesel to meet our energy needs, we will continue to export jobs to Alberta, British Columbia and other southern jurisdictions.
Those are jobs that Yukoners should and will have when we develop our own energy resources.
One of the most promising energy resources at the present time is coal. The Department of Economic Development, in conjunction with the Yukon Development Corporation, is currently conducting investigations on the viability of coal development as a source of electrical generation in preparation for the 1996 YEC/YUB capital planning process.
Should a coal-fired generator be viable, it could and would have to meet or surpass very stringent environmental standards. There would also be another environmental benefit in the form of reduced dependence on the Aishihik dam to meet the Yukon's electrical energy needs.
Speaking of energy, it should be noted that the Yukon's oil and gas potential lies virtually untapped. Many Yukoners are not aware that the Kotaneelee gas field in southeastern Yukon already has sales in natural gas reaching $18 million a year. Our government is pursuing the further release of land in this area to promote increased oil and gas activity in the Yukon. The Department of Economic Development is also committed to providing business and industry with information, financial and technical assistance, and infrastructure support in order to promote economic development.
A one-year agreement has been reached with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development on a 50-percent cost-shared basis to fund a geological mapping and surveys program. This is a very important program to the Yukon's mining industry, and the Yukon government will be contributing $1.36 million as its share while attempting to work out a new long-term funding agreement with the federal government.
Three other departmental initiatives of importance to mining include the Yukon mining incentives program, the parks mineral assessment program and the Yukon industrial support policy.
The Department of Economic Development is also responsible for administering this year's $2.9 million contribution to the centennial anniversaries program, which will assist Yukon communities in developing lasting tourist attractions for the Gold Rush anniversary.
Two hundred thousand dollars under the related centennials events program will help sponsor community centennial events. The Department of Tourism has taken the initiative of opening a visitor reception and tourism business centre in downtown Whitehorse.
One of the major reasons for relocating the VRC downtown was to attract visitors to the downtown core and to serve as a focal point for waterfront development. This new facility will be fully operational for the 1997 tourism season and will provide a year-round facility for tourism activities.
The existing Yukon visitor reception centre will be transformed into a major tourist attraction - the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre. This important new attraction will present and interpret the story of the Ice Age in the Yukon with dynamic new exhibits, including fossils, mummified Ice Age remains, dioramas, interactive CD/ROM kiosks and film displays in the 200-seat theatre. This $3.3 million project is scheduled to open in May 1997.
This is the type of infrastructure that will entice tourists to come to the Yukon, and this is the type of infrastructure that will entice them to stay longer.
In expanding and improving infrastructure to promote future development of the Yukon economy, our government is mindful of the territory's strategic position within the Pacific Rim. The Yukon has good access to tidewaters through the ports of Skagway and Haines.
In my recent promotional tour to Tokyo and Taipei, I discovered that Asian interest in the Yukon is very high. However, Asian investment in the Yukon will be dependent upon our having a clear regulatory regime and access to deepwater ports. We are supportive of the proposed road link to Juneau through Atlin, B.C., which would give us access to yet another tidewater port.
The previous Yukon government fought long and hard to ensure that the territory had access to the Beaufort Sea. Should the Yukon economy continue to expand as we currently anticipate, there will be a need to improve the territory's transportation infrastructure. Virtually all modes of transportation - road, rail, air and sea - may have to be utilized for the Yukon to realize its full economic potential.
Future mining developments near Ross River and Carmacks, such as Kudz Ze Kayah, Wolverine Lake and the Casino property will require major upgrading to the Campbell and Klondike highways.
Our government places great emphasis on education and training. We take pride in that emphasis. Education is molding our future and the future of our children. We must educate today for the challenges of tomorrow.
We will be implementing the two-tiered grade reorganization plan in order to improve our education system, make more efficient use of existing school facilities, and to plan for the future.
In total, $10.36 million will be devoted to the construction and upgrading of Yukon's public school facilities in the 1996-97 budget.
The phased implementation of the two-tiered education system will cause changes to several schools in Whitehorse.
In the transition period, our government is committed to continued consultation and considerations for staffing and programs, and will pay special attention to the interim needs of Riverdale Junior High.
The reorganization will be phased to allow flexibility in its implementation. The 1996-97 Education operation and maintenance expenditures have increased 4.1 percent, or, by over $3 million, when compared to last year's main estimates.
Resources for special education have increased every year since 1992.
In the 1996-97 fiscal year, operation and maintenance funding for special education staff, educational assistants, program implementation teachers, learning assistance teachers, remedial tutors and school counsellors totals $9.17 million.
Similarly, teaching staff resources amount to $35.6 million, and have been increased to cope with increased school populations resulting from the impact of increased mining developments in the Yukon.
The focus of our education system is to ensure that Yukon students have the skills and knowledge to compete and meet the challenges of the 21st century.
The accountability of the public education system should be reinforced through measurable performance standards that enable students, parents and educators to determine the effectiveness of Yukon's education system in comparison to education systems within Canada and abroad.
Our government believes there should be appropriate discipline in the public education system to give those students who want to learn the opportunity to learn, and educators should be able to teach in a safe environment with order and respect.
Our government believes that Yukon's public education system must emphasize both the process of learning - teaching students how to learn - and improving their achievement levels through standardized testing and relevant curriculum. Yukon's public education system must provide Yukon students with all of the fundamental skills necessary to prepare them for jobs, responsible citizenship and life-long learning.
By the 21st century, education and training will become a life-long experience as individuals adjust to an ever-changing job market and may have to undergo several career changes during the course of their working lives.
Business and post-secondary institutions should be encouraged to work closely with the public education system in promoting apprenticeship training, work experience for students and other cooperative programs.
I would like to take this opportunity to commend the job that Yukon College is doing in this regard. That institution is doing a fine job in forming partnerships with business and industry to train Yukoners for job opportunities in areas such as mining and tourism.
The base budget for Yukon College for 1996-97 is $10 million, which is $500,000 less than it was in 1995-96.
This reduction is a direct result of a $991,000 cut by the federal government in funding transfers for job training programs. Our government has attempted to shield Yukon College from this federal cut by providing $491,000 in funding to help reduce the shortfall.
I want to speak now about how we will build a better future together.
Self-reliance, self-sufficiency and self-determination are the foundation stones for building a better future together.
Yukon First Nations, from time immemorial, have possessed the necessary traditional skills and knowledge to live off the land. They practiced self-reliance and helped one another. When the gold seekers came 100 years ago, Yukon First Nations helped them, as well. The gold seekers themselves practiced self-reliance and had to help one another to survive.
Over the years, the self-reliance of Yukoners has eroded. Yukon First Nations had to contend with the Department of Indian Affairs, while other Yukoners had to contend with the Department of Northern Affairs controlling their lives. Ottawa officials, rather than Yukoners, have been making the decisions. We must gain the right to make our own decisions.
We must become more self-reliant and reduce our dependency on Ottawa. Our biggest dependency, which I have already noted in this address, is our economic dependency. Approximately 80 cents of every dollar the Yukon government spends comes from Canada.
Canada is currently well over $500 billion in debt, which works out to approximately $18,000 for every man, woman and child in this country. This is reason enough for Yukoners to look to their own resources as Ottawa is bound to continue cutting back on its funding to the territories and provinces.
The goal of our government and the goal of future Yukon governments must be to work toward self-sufficiency. Our vast land area contains a treasure house of natural resources that, if developed in a responsible manner, can more than provide for Yukoners.
We want to build an economy that generates wealth and creates more private sector jobs. We owe it to our fellow Canadians and to future generations of Yukoners to promote Yukon self-reliance and self-sufficiency within the 21st century.
We ask of Canada that it give Yukoners the necessary tools to achieve this worthy objective. The Yukon needs self-determination. The settlement of Yukon First Nation land claims and the transfer of our land and resources to Yukon control are the keys to achieving self-determination for all Yukoners.
We are committed to collectively completing land claims and self-government agreements with all Yukon First Nations by February 1997.
While I am speaking about land claims, I would like to point out that yesterday, February 14, was the first anniversary of the first four final claims in the Yukon. I hope that by February of 1997 we can have all 14 claims settled in the Yukon.
We will continue to build upon and strengthen our implementation work with those First Nations that have completed their agreements.
The passage of legislation and the bringing into effect of the first four First Nations self-government agreements has been one of the most significant accomplishments of our government, and we will continue to broaden our working relationships with First Nation governments in keeping with the spirit and the principles of this historic legislation.
A total of $1.9 million has been allocated for land claims implementation, including the operation of territorial boards. The amount of $970,000 will support the operations of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, the Heritage Resources Board, the Yukon Geographical Place Names Board and the four existing Renewable Resource Councils.
The remainder will be used for other implementation projects and activities.
Three-party discussions are underway on the development assessment legislation and the Yukon government is working with the federal government and the Council of Yukon First Nations on a public consultation plan related to this legislation.
Today, I want to give my personal commitment on behalf of my government that we will work to break down the barriers to progress and get on with this most important job of settling all Yukon First Nation claims by February of 1997.
At the same time, we will work cooperatively and diligently with Yukon First Nations in areas not directly related to land claims.
We have worked together to protest the federal government's gun control legislation, to protect the integrity of the Porcupine caribou herd and its calving grounds in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as well as to protect the Aishihik caribou herd.
There are many other program areas where our government works closely and cooperatively with Yukon First Nations, such as aboriginal languages education, community justice, health and social services and municipal services, to name but a few.
In this work our objective is to ensure government programs are sensitive to the needs and cultural values of First Nations.
The other equally important challenge facing Yukoners is taking control of Yukon land and resources.
Like land claims, the transfer of Yukon land and resources to Yukoners has been and continues to be a priority of our government.
If we, as Yukoners, are ever going to be able to control our own lives and achieve self-sufficiency, we must take control of our land, resources and our own affairs.
We are committed to ensuring devolution in a manner that is without prejudice to Yukon First Nations land claims settlements.
Devolution, in fact, will give Yukon First Nations a direct say in how resources within the entire Yukon are being managed - a control they do not now have.
It is a fundamental belief of our government that Yukoners are able to manage their own resources and affairs better than Ottawa. The year-long controversy over federal forestry management in the Yukon has only served to confirm our belief.
These are the positions that our government will be advocating when we sit down at the devolution table, which the federal minister of DIAND has agreed to establish. It is important for Yukoners to work together cooperatively if we are to achieve our goals.
In speaking of working together, I want to take this opportunity to commend the Leader of the Official Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Party for working with me to revise the rules of this Assembly to make it more effective and efficient. The fact that we have achieved this accord is a clear indication to Yukoners that, despite our different philosophical beliefs and positions, we too can work together for the common good.
In my 1995-96 budget address, I spoke about the Speech from the Throne as the signpost pointing toward our collective destination. I spoke about the budgets that we have tabled in this House as forming the highway into the future. This 1996 budget and its initiatives complete another stretch of that road into the future. I commend it to all Members of this House for their consideration. Our government is confident that we can build a better future by working together.
Mr. McDonald: I move that the debate on the motion be now adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Leader of the Official Opposition that debate be now adjourned.
Motion to adjourn debate on Bill No. 10 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday next.
The House adjourned at 3:37 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled February 15, 1996:
Resignation letter (dated September 25, 1995) from Mr. Tony Penikett, Member for Whitehorse West, advising of his intention to resign as an MLA (Speaker Devries)
Warrant (dated September 25, 1995) issued by Speaker Devries pursuant to section 15 of the Legislative Assembly Act, respecting the resignation of Mr. Penikett (Speaker Devries)
Notice (dated October 18, 1995) respecting the vacancy in the electoral district of Vuntut Gwitchin caused by the death of Johnny Abel (Speaker Devries)
Vacancy in electoral district of Whitehorse West: copy of letter dated September 25, 1995, from the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly to Commissioner Gingell (Speaker Devries)
Vacancy in electoral district of Vuntut Gwitchin: copy of letter dated October 18, 1995, from the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly to Commissioner Gingell (Speaker Devries)
Auditor General: report on the audit of the accounts and financial statements of the Government of the Yukon Territory for the year ended March 31, 1995 (Speaker Devries)
Yukon Human Rights Commission Annual Report: year ended March 31, 1995 (Speaker Devries)
Deductions from the indemnities of Members of the Legislative Assembly made pursuant to subsection 39(6) of the Legislative Assembly Act: report of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly (Speaker Devries)
Yukon short-term economic outlook, 1995 (dated February 15, 1996) (Fisher)