Monday, February 19, 1996 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
By-election Returns to Writ
Speaker: I wish to inform the Assembly that I have received a letter from the Chief Electoral Officer respecting the by-elections held in the Electoral Districts of Whitehorse West and Vuntut Gwitchin on February 5, 1996.
The letter reads as follows: "The resignation on September 30, 1995, of Tony Penikett, the Member for the Electoral District of Whitehorse West, and the death on October 13, 1995, of Johnny Abel, the Member for the Electoral District of Vuntut Gwitchin, caused vacancies to occur in the Legislative Assembly.
"Writs for by-elections to fill those vacancies were issued on January the 5th, 1996, with polling day being February the 5th, 1996.
"I hereby advise that: (1) the returning officer for the electoral district of Whitehorse West has certified in the return to the writ that Dave Sloan has been elected as the Member to represent that electoral district in the Legislative Assembly, and (2) the returning officer for the electoral district of Vuntut Gwitchin has certified in the return to the writ that Esau Schafer has been elected as the Member to represent that electoral district in the Legislative Assembly."
"Patrick L. Michael
"Chief Electoral Officer"
New Members Take Seats
Mr. McDonald: I have the honour to present Mr. Dave Sloan, representing the electoral district of Whitehorse West, who has taken the required oaths and now claims the right to take his seat.
Speaker: The Member may now take his seat.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have the honour to present Esau Schaffer as representive for the electoral district of Vuntut Gwitchin. Mr. Schafer has taken his oaths and now claims the right to take his seat.
Speaker: The Member may now take his seat.
Recognition of Arctic Winter Games and Gold Rush Games
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is with great pleasure that I rise today to ask all Members to join me in extending our best wishes to the athletes who will soon be participating in the Arctic Winter Games and the Gold Rush Games. Our Yukon athletes and their coaches have been training very hard to give their best to proudly represent the Yukon. The Arctic Winter Games will be held at Eagle River, Alaska, from March 3 to March 10, 1996. The Yukon contingent will have 340 athletes, coaches, officials and cultural performers participating in the Winter Games. The team has strong Yukon representation with athletes from nine communities participating, and with almost one-quarter of the contingent coming from rural Yukon.
The 1996 Arctic Winter Games will involve over 1,500 participants from Alaska, Northwest Territories, northern Alberta, Greenland, Russia and Yukon. The Eagle River host society has planned for 19 sports competitions, as well as major cultural festivals. The Yukon government has provided $90,000 to Sport Yukon for the operation and administration of Team Yukon. Already, 800 athletes throughout Yukon have participated in Yukon trials, striving to be selected as team members. To those who were not selected, I admire your hard work and fair play, and I wish you continued success in your chosen sport.
Between March 5 and March 8, the Yukon Special Olympics will host the Gold Rush Games in Whitehorse. Over 100 athletes and coaches from Alaska, Alberta, Northwest Territories, Yukon, and possibly B.C., will be participating in the Games.
This is the inaugural year of the Gold Rush Games and the Yukon is proud to be its host. In fact, this will be the first time the Yukon has hosted Special Olympic teams from outside the territory. The Yukon government has contributed $10,000 to help the Yukon Special Olympics to host the Games. The athletes will participate in five sporting events: cross country skiing, alpine skiing, snowshoeing, figure skating and speed skating. Hosting the first Yukon Gold Rush Games locally gives more of our Yukon Special Olympics athletes the opportunity to fully participate by eliminating the difficulties they face in travelling outside.
The Yukon will be fielding a contingent of 15 to 20 athletes. I would like to recognize the hard work and dedication of these athletes and their coaches and wish them good luck and inspiration to all of them.
The Gold Rush Games and the Arctic Winter Games teach our young people about the importance of future cultural respect for others, the development of pride and self-esteem and the importance of facing the personal challenges each of us must meet in our individual lives.
Again, it provides an opportunity to develop new friendships and international cooperation with those who share our northern borders.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am pleased to join the Minister in extending congratulations and best wishes to all those who will be taking part in these two outstanding athletic events.
The thousands of Yukon people who enjoyed the Arctic Winter Games here in Whitehorse in 1992 will remember what an exciting occasion it was. I am sure that the games in Eagle River will be no exception.
To the entire Yukon contingent, both those in the public eye and those behind the scenes, please accept our very best wishes for safe travel and an enjoyable competition. I am confident that you will be excellent ambassadors for the Yukon.
I am also happy to congratulate the organizers and participants in the upcoming Gold Rush Games here in Whitehorse. It is significant that the inaugural year for these games coincides with the centennial of the Klondike discovery that led to the Yukon Gold Rush of 1898. Through friendly competitions such as these, we are reminded that the true winners are those who give their very best, whatever their abilities, and we are also reminded that, with respect and fair play, there are no losers.
Recognition of Heritage Day
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I rise today to ask all Members to join with me in recognizing Heritage Day. Heritage Day was launched in 1974 as a national celebration, sponsored by the Heritage Canada Foundation, a charitable, non-profit organization. It has since become recognized by the federal government and jurisdictions across the country.
Canada is a mosaic of diverse peoples. Each holds a similar dream - to live in a peaceful land where they and their children can grow in a free and democratic society. Each has ties to its unique ancestry: culture, language, festivities, literature and art.
Each of these peoples provides its members with a sense of belonging and a feeling of security in a common heritage, and it also makes the distinct contribution to Canada. It is this richness of heritage that we recognize today across Canada, and here in the Yukon, where our heritage is both ancient, because of our First Nations people, and relatively new because of the many immigrants who have come since the Gold Rush.
It is a day to breathe life into the past and to reflect upon those who helped to build this country and to those who have helped keep it free. It is also a day to remember our families and our communities and their contributions to Canada over the many generations.
As well, in recognition of this day in the Yukon, there is a special awards ceremony this evening at the Yukon Archives at 7:00 p.m., where we will honour the work of Laurent Cyr, Joanne Meehan and the City of Whitehorse in preserving our heritage in the Yukon.
I would like, on the behalf of all Members of this Legislature, to extend our thank you to these individuals and the City of Whitehorse for their contribution to the heritage of the territory.
Mr. Sloan: I am pleased to respond on the subject of Canada's Heritage Day. Canada's heritage represents traditions from all groups in society - from the First Nations to the most recent immigrants. Here in the Yukon we acknowledge the richness and diversity of our cultures and our peoples. It is incumbent on us therefore to do all we can to preserve those tangible examples of our heritage.
As the Minister has indicated, tonight the Yukon Historical and Museum Association will be recognizing individuals and groups who have done so much to record and promote the heritage of this unique land.
I would enjoin all Members to take the opportunity of Heritage Day 1996 to proclaim the Historic Resources Act in its original form. This act, which enjoyed wide support from both major parties, would be a tangible step toward preserving our unique Yukon heritage for future generations.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Schafer: I would like to ask the Members of the House to join me in welcoming my wife and visitor in the gallery, Mrs. Marion Schafer, and my long-time friend, Dennis Schneider.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have for tabling the Motor Transport Board annual report for 1994-95 and the Yukon Driver Control Board report for 1995.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have for tabling the Public Accounts, 1994-95, and the 1994 Yukon Development Corporation annual report.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Bills to be introduced?
Notices of motion for the production of papers?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Sloan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Party government should undertake sufficient studies to demonstrate the economic viability of the Beringia Interpretive Centre and that the Yukon Party consult with the Yukon Historical and Museum Association, the MacBride Museum, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, First Nations and other interested people in the development and design of the Berengia Interpretive Centre.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the formation of a police commission be examined to improve police accountability and to address citizens' concerns regarding safety in their communities.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that many Yukoners are concerned with the effectiveness of the justice system and that the Yukon Party government undertake an examination of the justice system to evaluate its effectiveness in providing constructive rehabilitation, safe communities and reducing crime levels.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Historic Resources Act should be proclaimed without amendments.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the government should instruct the Department of Justice to investigate development of alternative sentencing and rehabilitative options for youth and adult offenders.
Ms. Moorcroft: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes the important role of Yukon College in providing adult education and training programs to Yukon people and is opposed to any changes in the Liberal government's employment or training programs that would diminish the ability of Yukon College to provide this valuable service.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon had an obligation to consult with the people of Dawson City before changing its plans with respect to a new school, and that the government should provide a full explanation as to why it failed to do so and why it has not respected the wishes of people in other Yukon communities to have their schools upgraded.
Speaker: Are there any statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, public disclosure of letter
Mr. Sloan: It has come to our attention through media reports that the RCMP were asked to investigate the public disclosure of a letter from the Yukon Energy Corporation to the Minister responsible for the corporation at that time.
Can the Government Leader confirm these reports?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am sure that the hon. Member is aware, by media reports and by statements made by the Deputy Minister of the Executive Council Office, that that fact is true.
Mr. Sloan: I spent the weekend combing through the Criminal Code of Canada, and I cannot seem to find anything to indicate that a criminal offence is involved in releasing a letter to a public official. Could the Government Leader please indicate what legal authority was used to justify this investigation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This investigation was an administrative matter. The deputy minister consulted with the Department of Justice and acted on its recommendations.
The fact is that this was a confidential document. The public should have the right to talk to MLAs or Ministers in a confidential manner. The reason for the investigation was to see how this letter got into the public domain - whether it was accidental or intentional - and to take appropriate action.
Mr. Sloan: There appears to be a difference between Cabinet documents, which are protected by law from unauthorized disclosure, and ministerial correspondence. Can the Government Leader tell the House if it is the usual practice of this government to use the RCMP to investigate such matters?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This certainly is unusual and does not happen very often. However, I do not believe that the Member is being accurate when he says that there is a difference between confidential documents and Cabinet documents, in terms of releasing them to the public. We need only to look at the Access to Information Act to clarify which documents can be kept from being made public.
Question re: Consumer advocacy groups
Mr. Sloan: I have another question for the Government Leader with regard to the rights of Yukon people to form organizations, such as the Utilities Consumers Group, to protect their interests in the marketplace. Can the Government Leader tell us if anyone in his government circle raised concerns about the possible intimidation of consumer advocacy groups?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thought the deputy made it quite clear when he responded to the press that this was not an investigation of the Utilities Consumers Group. This was an investigation of a confidential document that ended up in the public domain. There was concern about that. We wanted to find out how that document got in the public domain - was it intentional or was it an accident. It was not a witch hunt. It was not focused on the the Utilities Consumers Group or any person or body in particular.
Mr. Sloan: Perception is often part of the reality. Would the Government Leader not agree that an undercover RCMP investigation of a consumer advocacy group might be perceived in some circles as a form of intimidation, if there is no legal basis for such an investigation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will make two points in response to the Member. First of all, it was not an investigation into the Utilities Consumers Group. The reason the Utilities Consumer Group is involved in the investigation is that it made the document public. The administration was trying to find out how that document ended up in the public domain.
Mr. Sloan: Does the Government Leader himself agree that such organizations should be able to gather and disseminate information by lawful means to fulfill their role as consumer advocates?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Most certainly, I agree that they do have a role to play, and we have freely admitted that, and the administration has freely admitted that. Having said that, when a confidential document gets in the public domain, it is important to find out how that document got there, and why.
Question re: Economic development, energy plan
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Economic Development on his energy plan outlined in the document that was put out in November, 1995. In the document there are a couple of statements relating to the ownership of the system that need clarification. On page 4, under the heading Yukon Development Corporation, it says, "maintain ownership of the electricity generation system in Yukon", and on the last page of this 10-page document, it says, "maintain ownership of the electricity generation system to ensure effective development of electricity infrastructure." Could the Minister be more specific? What specifically is his government committing to on the ownership of the "electricity generation system"?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe it is fairly clear that we intend to maintain ownership of the system.
Mr. Cable: There is a geographical component, as well as a suggestion of maintenance of ownership, in the present ownership.
Is the Minister saying that the assets of the Yukon Energy Corporation will remain in the Government of Yukon throughout the rest of this government's term?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is correct.
Mr. Cable: Does the commitment the Minister appears to have just made extend to the parent company, the Yukon Development Corporation? Will the shares of the Yukon Development Corporation remain in the Government of the Yukon throughout the remainder of this term?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The question is somewhat hypothetical, but I would assume the shares would remain within the public domain.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, public disclosure of letter
Mr. McDonald: I would like to follow up on a couple of questions that were posed by my colleague, the Member for Whitehorse West, about the RCMP investigation into the leak of a letter from the chair of the Yukon Energy Corporation to the Minister responsible.
The Minister indicated to us today - and he had his deputy speak the same line last week - that this was all an administrative matter and had nothing to do with Ministers.
Is it a credible proposition that Ministers who have spent a couple of days answering questions during Question Period about the leaked letter, and who have conducted a rare, impromptu press conference, would have no knowledge that, on the same day, two deputies of this government - including the deputy for the Executive Council Office - would take the unusual action of asking police to investigate the leaked letter?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member for Faro says he does not buy it, but there is not much he does buy from this side of the House.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That was another constituency heard from.
The facts were clearly given by the deputy minister when he spoke in reply to the allegations made by the Utilities Consumers Group. He replied to the press, and he has also replied to the Consumers Group, regarding the facts of the case.
I have nothing further to add to what the deputy minister already stated to the public in general. That is, in fact, what happened.
Mr. McDonald: I understand that the Minister has put the deputy out front to take the heat on this question, and I know the line that the deputy minister has been told to take, but what I am asking the Minister is this: given that this is a rare event, it is seldom the case, presumably - and we will find out in a few minutes - that the RCMP is called in to investigate the leak of a letter.
There have been a lot of letters leaked in this Legislature. The Ministers have taken the rare opportunity to hold a press conference during the middle of a sitting to talk about the subject. On the same day, these deputy ministers were asking the RCMP to take an extraordinary action, and that is to investigate this letter.
Can it possibly be credible that deputies who speak to the Ministers every single day about every matter - particularly about matters of a political importance to the government, matters that have monopolized the proceedings of this Legislature - that the Minister would not know that the RCMP was called in by two deputy ministers?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: What the Leader of the Official Opposition is saying is that the deputy minister was lying. I ask him to make those charges out in the open, not in the Legislature. I ask him to make those charges outside of the Legislature. He can make the charge, outside of the Legislature, that this deputy minister is lying.
Mr. McDonald: I have got nothing but respect for a deputy minister who is prepared to put his head on the chopping block for these Ministers; however, I am asking the Minister whether or not he understood or knew what his deputies were doing?
Is the Minister saying right now that he had no knowledge, made no suggestion that the RCMP should be called to investigate this matter - a quite extraordinary action by everyone's account.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite alludes to a lot of letters getting into the public domain, but it is not very often that confidential documents get into the public domain.
The general public does not have the confidence that it can deal with Members of this Legislative Assembly in confidence. What does that do to our ability to do a job - that side of the House or this side of the House? What confidence does that give to the general public? What credibility does it give to this Legislature if people cannot speak to us in confidence?
The actions were taken by the deputy minister and I was notified about four days after the fact.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, public disclosure of letter
Mr. McDonald: I take it from the Minister's response that he is justifying the action of the RCMP investigation, but that he still claims ignorance, which I find a completely preposterous proposition.
What authority was used to call in the RCMP on this matter? Is the Minister saying that everything that passes the gaze of a Minister is a confidential document protected by the Access to Information Act? Is anything that is even labeled confidential from a member of the public to the Minister confidential under the Access to Information Act? Is that what the Minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Again, we go back to confidentiality. If a document is stamped "Confidential" it must be stamped "Confidential" for some reason.
Apparently, the Member opposite is suggesting that everything that goes through government should be public. Well, if that were the case we probably would not need this Legislature.
The decision was made by the Department of Justice. It is my understanding that the Deputy Minister of the Executive Council Office approached the department about how to deal with the issue. That was the circumstance that led to the investigation.
Mr. McDonald: For the Minister and for his cheering section immediately behind him, I am not making the proposition that everything that passes a Minister's gaze should be public information, and that if something is held as confidential, then presumably it is expected that it be held as confidential.
I would like to know what prompts the government to bring in the RCMP to do an investigation. That is what I would like to know.
There have been many letters that were intended to be confidential that were leaked to people in this Legislature. Reports have been leaked to the Opposition, both during the term of this government and the term of the previous government. What makes the document in this particular case so special that anyone - deputy minister or Minister alike - would ask the RCMP to conduct an investigation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Maybe I could ask the Member opposite the same question. It seems to me that I recall an investigation that was ordered by them, the political people, when they were in government, that went so far as to even take the ribbons out of the typewriters in the Opposition offices.
Mr. McDonald: I will ask the question again, because the matter the Minister refers to was a Cabinet document by the technical definition of what a Cabinet document was. There is a big difference between any document that passes the gaze of a Minister and a formal Cabinet document that is filed with Cabinet. There is a big difference. I know that Cabinet Ministers have in front of them tons of correspondence and documents and they are not all Cabinet documents.
Why would the Minister, or why would any Minister or why would deputy ministers, ask that the RCMP investigate this particular instance? What was the government trying to do? Were they simply reacting to a political event in the Legislature that was cause for such a heavy-handed response - a response that normally would have been handled internally as a personnel matter?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This was handled internally, but the Member opposite is getting up and saying he is amazed it was handled internally and that it should have come from a higher authority.
I draw the Member's attention to the Access to Information Act. When he says that there is a difference between a confidential document and a Cabinet document, he is wrong. The Access to Information Act states quite clearly what documents can be made public and what documents cannot be made public under this act. I ask the Member that he review this act and he may then have a different opinion.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, public disclosure of letter
Mr. McDonald: I have reviewed the act and that is how I formulated my opinion.
I would like to remind the Minister that he defined his response as "acting internally", but calling in the RCMP is not acting internally. The RCMP is not a private police force for the Yukon Party Cabinet.
I will ask this question. The same letter, which made public the fact that the Utilities Consumers Group had access to information, also cited another memo that was in the hands of the Utilities Consumers Group from Mr. Byers, president of the Yukon Energy Corporation, to the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation, the Government Leader himself.
Could the Minister tell us whether or not that document caused the government to initiate another RCMP investigation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The only thing I can say about that document is that I was just made aware the other day that that document was in the public domain as well. I have not been informed of what is happening with that document at this point.
Mr. McDonald: The lawyers for the Yukon Energy Corporation, in their submission to the Public Utilities Board, indicated on February 1, 1996 that the Yukon Energy Corporation has informed Cabinet that Mr. McRobb of the Utilities Consumers Group has obtained a copy of this document. The Minister can now see that, at least as far as the Yukon Energy Corporation is concerned, they had informed Cabinet some time ago.
Can the Minister tell us whether or not they did ask the RCMP, or if they intend to ask the RCMP, to investigate the leak of this particular document?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have not informed my Cabinet that it is in the public domain. Cabinet has not discussed it or ordered an investigation. I do not know what is happening at the administrative level.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister claimed, in the first round, that the deputy ministers had already ordered an investigation into the leak of the other memo without the Minister's knowledge - an unbelievable proposition. Is it possible that the deputy ministers are meeting with the RCMP right now to ask for a special investigation into the leak of this document?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Before I answer the question, I just want to say that I think it is very important that the public has the right to talk to Members of this Legislature, whether their MLA is in a Cabinet position or not, and have some confidence and some security that it will be a confidential letter or discussion and will not end up in the public domain. If this is being investigated, I have not been made aware of it.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, public disclosure of letter
Mr. McDonald: I urge the Minister to gain some handle on the situation. I urge him to talk to the deputy minister, if it is believable that no Ministers knew and that the claim made by the Davis & Company letter that the Ministers had been informed is inaccurate. I would urge the Minister to talk to his deputy, because there are serious policy implications of what is investigated by the RCMP, when and where, and for what reason.
If a Member of the Legislature receives a document that passes the gaze of a Minister, and which the Minister is determined will remain confidential because it comes from a third party, will there be an investigation called or requested by the government into the leak of that correspondence?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is a purely hypothetical question. If that happens, we will address the issue then, based upon the circumstances.
Again, I want to make very clear for the record that no one was being investigated by the RCMP. My understanding is that it was investigating the source of the leaked document and how it ended up in the public domain. My understanding is the report has not yet been filed on that issue.
Mr. McDonald: It escapes me as to how the RCMP could investigate the leak of a letter without ever talking to anyone, and without making anyone nervous that they are being investigated. Perhaps investigative procedures are more sophisticated than I once thought them to be, but I would have thought that at least a conversation with one person or another would have been involved.
This is not a hypothetical question. I am asking a policy question. When is the RCMP being called in? What circumstances would justify the RCMP being called in to investigate the leak of any document a particular Minister considers confidential?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This is not an ongoing process and I said that at the outset. It is a very rare occurrence when the RCMP is called in to investigate. For whatever reason, in talks between the Department of Justice, the Deputy Minister of the Executive Council Office and the RCMP, they felt that it was appropriate to investigate this matter to see why the leak occurred.
Mr. McDonald: Well, I am going to have to try and find out why the investigation took place, because this is a very important policy question. I have to find out precisely what criteria are used to bring the RCMP in to investigate a matter that would normally be considered a personnel matter - if there was any concern at all that personnel had leaked the document.
What circumstances are sufficient to justify the rare occurrence - it is hoped - that the RCMP be brought in to investigate a leaked document?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have just answered the Member's question. We can use the whole of Question Period if the Member wants to keep going over the same ground. I said this matter was dealt with at the administrative level and that the request was made on the advice of the Department of Justice. Any other leaked document would be handled in the same manner.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, public disclosure of letter
Mr. McDonald: Did I hear the Government Leader correctly? Did he say that if the Department of Justice recommends that the RCMP be called in to investigate any leaked document then, upon that recommendation, the investigation will be conducted?
Is the Government Leader saying that the only circumstance required to control the power of the police force in this territory is simply the good judgment of the Department of Justice?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Leader of the Opposition is going back to his childish ways again. That is not what I said.
I stated quite clearly that it is a very rare occurrence when the RCMP is called in. It is very rare.
Mr. McDonald: Well, I apologize to the Minister if he thinks I am being childish. I think children will understand the importance of this policy question and the seriousness of the matter. We are not operating in a police state. There are checks and balances on the system and there are checks and balances on departments as well as on Ministers.
The Minister has indicated to us that, in rare circumstances and at the request of the Department of Justice, the RCMP will be called in to investigate any leaked document. I am asking the Minister to tell us what circumstances would he think justifiable to ask the police to investigate something that is truly, in most circumstances, considered a fairly routine matter that is dealt with internally by the Public Service Commission.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This was dealt with internally be the public service. That is what I have said half a dozen times in this Question Period. It was not a Cabinet order. The Member opposite is saying that the deputy minister was lying when he said that. That is what he is saying. I challenge him to say that outside this Legislature.
Mr. McDonald: Requesting the RCMP to investigate a matter is not dealing with a matter internally. That is going outside the realm of the public service. Admittedly, RCMP members are public servants. But they are not public servants at the beck and call of individual Ministers or departments of justice to do whatever they want, any time they want. I am asking the Minister an important policy question. If it does take all of Question Period, I want to try to get an answer. The answer is this...
Some Hon Member: The question is this.
Some Hon Member: What is the answer?
Mr. McDonald: I wish I knew what the answer is. The question is this: what circumstances would cause the Department of Justice to request the RCMP to investigate a matter such as the leaked document?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, that is a hypothetical question. That has not happened. The Leader of the Official Opposition has just seen one instance. The NDP administration also called the RCMP in. They went as far as to take ribbons out of typewriters. When he says that a Cabinet document is different from a confidential document, I disagree wholeheartedly with him.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, public disclosure of letter
Mr. McDonald: The Minister seems to believe that because there has only been one instance - and I should ask the question of whether or not there have been other instances; perhaps that may be revealing - there is nothing to worry about. He then goes on to say that, on the request of the Department of Justice, the government - ministers, deputies - will dutifully ask the RCMP to investigate the source of a leak of a piece of correspondence.
I would like to ask the Minister this: when do they feel that the RCMP should be called in to investigate a leak?
Clearly, a filed Cabinet document is an obvious example of where there is potential criminal activity. But if it is simply a document that passes a Minister's gaze, that shuts down government. It makes government completely constipated, because there is so much that Ministers read every single day. Surely he could not be rolling all of those documents into the general framework of what is to be considered confidential by this government.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If we are going the follow the rationale of the Leader of the Official Opposition, we do not need the Access to Information Act. We do not need it at all. It is there to protect the public interest. The act says, "The purpose of this act is to provide reasonable access by the public to information in records of departments and to subject that right only to specific limited exceptions necessary for the effective operation of departments in the public interest."
It goes on to say it "would violate the confidentiality of information that was given by another person and is of a kind consistently treated as confidential by that person."
Further, it says, it "would disclose the existence or content of opinions or recommendations communicated to, between, or from Members of the Executive Council on matters relating to the formulation of government policy and the making of government decisions."
I believe that the document, which came out in public, came under that section of the Access to Information Act. A person could not have obtained it by going through the Access to Information Act; therefore, it is reasonable to assume an investigation should be carried out to see how that document got into the public domain.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister is now saying that everything that falls into the category that he has just cited is not only considered confidential - a proposition with which I would agree - but it is also subject to RCMP investigation should it be leaked.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I did not say that at all. I just said that in this instance the RCMP felt that it was appropriate.
Mr. McDonald: What was different about this instance? The Minister nods to me and indicates that he does not know. I would ask the Minister to find out, because the fact the RCMP was called to investigate this matter, the fact that it was intimidating to the people who were involved - and it was intimidating to the people involved - that should cause the Minister some concern. Does it not cause him any concern at all?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We are bordering on the ridiculous. We have government employees who swear an oath of confidentiality. It is part of their job description. When a document surfaces in the public domain, we must find out how it got there. Was it accidental or intentional? Nobody made any accusations that this was a criminal matter.
Question re: Disclosure of documents
Mrs. Firth: There is one thing that we know is ridiculous in this House and that is the government's performance and answers to our questions.
I will give the House a perfect example of what happens and how employees are intimidated.
I had an employee of the Yukon Housing Corporation come to see me eight months after she had been accused of leaking private and confidential information. The president of the Yukon Housing Corporation told his employee that I stood up in this House and waved his accrual forms around, along with some letter. The woman came to see me in tears because she had been intimidated by the threat of an investigation, which, in fact, did take place, although it was not an RCMP investigation. It was done through the Public Service Commission - they hinted that they could find fingerprints on these documents. If that is not a broad hint of a police state, I do not know what is.
Speaker: Order please. Does the Member have a question?
Mrs. Firth: I sure do, Mr. Speaker.
I did not have any of the documents that the president was referring to, yet an investigation was done. A threat was levied about fingerprints being found on documents. I want this Government Leader to stand up and tell us today what the policy is with respect to any kind of investigation - RCMP or otherwise - being called. What is the policy? It intimidates, harasses and scares the hell out of employees who are being accused of wrongdoing.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I think I should perhaps answer the question, because the Member for Riverdale South is dealing with a specific instance and a specific individual. That individual has grieved the harassment by the president of the Yukon Housing Corporation with respect to that incident. We have met, and I expect that there will be a full hearing of her concerns; it will be dealt with through the grievance procedure. If that is not satisfactory, perhaps we, as politicians, can get involved. I would not want, as Minister, to get involved until it has gone through the grievance procedure.
Mrs. Firth: I thank the Minister of the Yukon Housing Corporation for his endorsement and confirmation of the incident taking place. However, I want a policy question answered by the Government Leader, even if he stands up and says they do not have a policy, which it is starting to look like, and which is not new for this government. They may as well go out not having any policies, as they came in.
I want the Government Leader to stand up this afternoon and tell us this: is there a policy or is there not? Who makes the decisions? How are they made? When is Cabinet consulted? How does it work? What is the policy?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite knows full well that administrative matters are handled by the administration, and that is an administrative matter. The Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation has just indicated that it is being grieved and will play itself out. Perhaps at a later date the Ministers may need to get involved to address whether something different should have been done.
However, these are administrative matters, and they are handled at the personnel level, not at the Cabinet level.
Mrs. Firth: That is just a crock. Look at this ... was that unparliamentary?
Look at The Sluice Box. "Merry Christmas," they say to their employees. Then it says, "What makes a supportive manager?" I do not see anything in here about managers having the right to call RCMP investigations or to threaten employees with investigations, or threaten them by saying that their fingerprints can be found on documents.
I want to know from this government why there is a great inconsistency. What makes a supportive manager? One who can call an RCMP investigation, threaten the employees, intimidate them about finding their fingerprints on documents, accuse employees about giving information to the Opposition Members, which is absolutely and patently wrong and false?
If there is no policy now, when will this government have one? How many more people will have to be intimidated?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: As the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, I should point out to the Member that there is a workplace harassment policy. If employees feel they are being harassed by a superior or manager in any way, shape or form, there is a process and policy in place, and they can go through the proper procedure. I understand that has now happened in this case, and the procedure is in the grievance process, which is what it is for.
I certainly would not condone any manager exceeding his or her authority when it comes to dealing with employees. They are supposed to deal with them in a fair manner and, when they do not, there is a procedure in place to deal with the matter of workplace harassment in a fair way.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Government Bills.
Bill No. 10: Second Reading - adjourned debate
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 10, adjourned debate.
Mr. McDonald: Question Period was so fascinating that I will have a hard time changing gears, but maybe, given the subject of my remarks, I will not have to change gears that much.
We have before us another budget, another half-billion dollar expenditure proposal. We have listened to another budget speech, which has the attending promises of prosperity, and we will now be engaged in the process, through Opposition debate, of doing some reality therapy for the government, which will ultimately all lead to some real accountability at the polls this coming spring or fall.
Of course, the biggest change for us all is that there are new rules for debate. These rules are to encourage Members to speak to the point, and I believe succinctness and relevance are going to be the operating principles, and this is going to be a wrenching experience for me. I can tell Members that most of us oldtimers who can always get to the point in the fullness of time are going to find this new arrangement particularly difficult to deal with, particularly difficult given that we have been away from each other for so long. I had almost forgotten what my colleagues on the opposite side of the House look like.
However, I am going to practice the art of the short speech so as to set a good example and see whether or not this test drive actually works.
We have a deficit budget to consider, which is mildly ironic, given the lecturing that the NDP has received from the Yukon Party on the subject of deficit budgets but, as I will explain shortly, deficit budgets in themselves are not necessarily evil - only if one does not have the money in the bank account to pay for the deficit is it a problem.
However, I think that the Yukon Party has added an extra element to the equation, that being the Taxpayer Protection Act, which I think makes the whole situation significantly more problematic.
The budget vote is going to be a confidence vote. For the Liberal's information, it will be a confidence vote in a perfect and an imperfect world.
By the time this budget has passed its full course, the Yukon Party will have spent $2 billion, which is a significant amount of money by anybody's standards.
We are going to have to decide if we want to vote to allow the Yukon Party government to survive for another eight months and if there are convincing reasons why we should not allow them to do so.
There are a few good things in this budget, which I will mention at the outset.
By my recollection and reading of the terms of the new budget, roads will still be ploughed, teachers will still be in the schools, nurses and doctors will be at work, policy development will continue - I hope a policy as to when the RCMP is called in to investigate public servants. All of this is good news and even though one might suggest that this is the sort of thing that is expected of the government, I want to give it accolades where they are due. I am happy to see that those people will still be at work. It is not every province, in these times, that can boast that good things will continue to happen after a new budget is passed.
Typically, there are some questionable expenditures in this budget. These are expenditures that I hope the government will consider more carefully during the period of the budget debate, and if the government should decide to amend the budget here and there to take into account the Opposition's perspective, then that would be acceptable and more than appreciated. Certainly, we have seen the government amend the budget - I think in one case over 40 times, in order to make a slight accommodation in revenue projections.
We have a budget that places heavy emphasis on such things as computers and cars, which presumably is good for the purveyors of computers, cars and office furniture for public servants. Yet it spends fairly little, in comparison, on things that matter the most to many people. An interesting little comparison is that, for every $6.40 that this government spends on Kaushee's Place, it spends $100 on computers and office furniture for public servants.
We have seen, in this last year, an expenditure of over $2 million to create an empty lot in Dawson City, which, presumably, is a tribute to good planning in the Department of Education. We see a proposed expenditure here of $3.3 million for the Beringia Centre, which has never been financially justified and is based on some fantastic assumptions about how many people will attend and experience the pleasure of papier mâché exhibits at the facility.
We do see a continuing expenditure on the tourism office building in downtown Whitehorse, which, presumably, is intended to keep visitors here another day - one of the laudable goals of the Department of Tourism. I will be one of the first to undertake a tour of the office facilities for that department. I do not know if it will keep me occupied for a full day, but I am more than interested in seeing the new digs for the many people who work in that valuable department.
We see a situation where the government is intending to spend millions of dollars for more residential lots in the Copper Ridge area in Whitehorse, to add to the whopping $22 million land inventory that they currently cannot sell.
I can remember only in the last couple of years how slowly the lots sold in that particular area. We are now all pleased to find out that what we should be doing is trying a bit harder to build more lots, which will perhaps pick up people's interest in their purchase.
Unfortunately, as we will discuss during general debate in Committee, this particular expenditure comes at some considerable cost when it ties up so much cash in land they cannot sell.
In this budget, there are a number of election goodies that, in some respects, are predictable. It is certainly not hard to see which riding the Minister of Health represents, having perused the budget expenditures. There has been a fair amount of discussion about the swimming pool in Old Crow, and whether or not that was an election promise or something requested and required by the community, and considered a priority. I can only say that I met with the chief and council of Old Crow three times in the last nine months, and not once did I hear them list a pool as a community priority.
Now, one may not consider the chief and council as being particularly important when it comes to setting community priorities in Old Crow, but I would argue differently.
We are told the swimming pool has been a longstanding project proposal by the Yukon Party government but, until this election time, I do not think a word was spoken on the subject of a swimming pool in this Legislature. So, we have not heard it from the chief and council in Old Crow, we have not heard it from anyone in this Legislature and I did not hear about it from the school council or anyone in Old Crow, right up until the election was called.
Unless we have better information, this bears all the signs of a classic election gift for that community.
There will be more spoken about that.
I am sure many people in Old Crow would take a swimming pool if it was offered. They are also going to want the assurance that all operating costs associated with this pool will also come. We will make sure that if this request is made - given that the government is intending to build this pool - it will be honoured.
Speaking of election goodies, there is of course the Porter Creek Junior Secondary School - now secondary school - which is part of the comprehensive planning process that the government Members like to talk so much about. They like to say that everything they do is deliberate and the result of extensive consultation: that every expenditure proposal that they make is carefully considered; that there are no overexpenditures and no underexpenditures; and that the government is right on the money when it comes to planning, consultation, and financial estimates for these projects. So, what the heck happened with the Porter Creek Secondary School?
This time last year, the Minister of Education was telling us that grade reorganization was a closed chapter. Everybody could relax. Nobody needed to worry about it again. As far as he was concerned, there was not going to be any need to justify an alternative viewpoint. There was no need for anybody to continue doing their homework or to brace themselves for a policy change because there was no further discussion required.
We saw Ministers who represent ridings in Porter Creek go to the school in Porter Creek and say that they did not think that they could deliver on an election promise for a high school in Porter Creek. Then, on the eve of what might have been a general election depending on the by-elections in Old Crow and Whitehorse West, suddenly there is a surprising change of heart. Not only was grade reorganization not dead, but the decision had been made for a two-tier system. Not only that, the money had to be found to build a high school immediately and that everything was going to happen in September.
Poor Dawson school, and poor Member for Klondike to actually have to explain why he has not been able to carry the case for the school in Dawson, where the heavyweights in the Cabinet have secured the funding for themselves, all at the last minute, in the closing moments of the 1995 calendar year. This must have been particularly tough for the Member for Dawson, because he had to take it on the chin for not being able to deliver the Dawson bridge, which he was very aggressively promoting in that community.
I feel very badly for him, but I can tell that the Member for Dawson is a very generous person and would ultimately see the wisdom of the ways of those who wish to see the secondary school in Porter Creek constructed.
We will obviously have to talk to the Minister of Education a little more thoroughly about the claims he made last spring - about how he had consulted with people in Dawson, how he had considered the long-term projections for the student clientele in that community, and that there was no other course that could possibly be taken but to build another school and expand the capacity of the education facilities in that community.
We were given to believe that this was not dependent upon the vagaries of the population from one year to the next, that there were some long-term projections that we were thinking about. There were mines starting up. There were all kinds of pressures on this community that absolutely justified what ultimately would have been a $9 million expenditure, between the cost of the school and the relocation of the highway camp. Right now, all we have is an empty lot, which will certainly be helpful for the long-term planning of that community.
However, the fact remains that the process that led to a rushed last-minute $6 million expenditure to solve a political problem for the Government Leader and the Member for Porter Creek North is something that should be investigated further, and these grand claims about how well the government and the Department of Education plan must be examined more thoroughly.
In the end, it will all boil down to one basic proposition and that is that the government needed to make some expenditures in key ridings.
They had to keep up with Ken Taylor and the Liberals, who have already made the commitment to build this secondary school. I make the obvious point that even though those people, including school councils in Porter Creek, who were in favour of the two-tier system and in favour of the school, were outraged by the process by which that decision was made and the poor consultative practices that were engaged in by the Minister of Education.
Of course, those people have learned their lesson now, because when they speak out they get rough treatment from the Minister. Of course, we are used to that. We do not mind taking that sort of treatment from that Minister or anyone else. It is all part of our job, but certainly the school councils have learned a lesson about what education partnership means to this government.
We have had questionable expenditures before. Just a couple of years ago we were standing in the Legislature talking about the $1 million liquor store in the Speaker's community, a liquor store that was being built all the while that the Minister of Health and Social Services was putting the squeeze on the Health and Hope Society, an organization that provides support for battered women and families, many of whom are battered because their husbands or spouses are drunk. Consequently, we have expressed some concerns about spending priorities, but these spending priorities, and the fact that there are election goodies and that sort of thing in this budget, are not the only reasons to vote no confidence in the Yukon Party government.
The continuing theme that has been embraced in this Legislature is the Yukon Party's lack of respect for real consultation.
I know that the budget speech is laced with references to a government that now wants to consult with the public and talk to everyone. This sounds every bit like a deathbed conversion to me. Whether or not it is a deathbed conversion, death still comes and I hope that it will come this fall - in political terms - for the government.
Another theme that has been raised in this Legislature on a number of occasions is the fact that this government has acted in a very brutal and thoughtless fashion on many occasions. People have told me that the power has gone to the heads of the Members of this government and that the government simply does not know how to express humility. They love to make executive decisions in the autocratic nature of government, as they conceive it. Even today we have a Government Leader talking about the reasons why the government might want to bring in the RCMP to investigate a leaked document.
Mr. Speaker, you know as well as anyone in this Legislature that dozens of documents, which are meant to be confidential, are leaked. This happens routinely. This is not an acceptable practice and it should be discouraged, but the fundamental question is what justifies the RCMP being brought in to investigate a public service employee? What justifies that organization's involvement in the matter? Should the people being investigated - even if they are peripherally involved with the leaked document - not feel somewhat intimidated or harassed when the police are investigating the situation? Of course they should and they have every right to feel that way.
We have a government that simply fails to understand the serious consequences of the actions that have been taken and knows no limitations on this activity, other than that the administration of this government will decide when the RCMP will be called and that there should be some recommendation from the Department of Justice. Apart from that, for the full Question Period, we have been able to receive no other limiting criteria on when the RCMP should be called to investigate.
If anyone wanted to make a case that this government was being brutal and thoughtless, they only had to listen to Question Period today.
A lot has been said about the government's handling of the Kaushee's Place situation, and a lot more will be said. I think that most people were surprised by the Minister's handling of this particular event last fall, and even though I think the Minister, in shock, attempted to recover some credibility with the public on this question, his initial instincts to deal harshly and roughly with Kaushee's board - a citizen board - says a lot about who this government is and where it is going.
These are not the only reasons that one would want to vote no confidence in the Yukon Party. There are many reasons - many reasons will be raised during the course of this sitting. We have a government that has not negotiated a single land claims agreement with a First Nation, even though, back in 1992, we were led to believe that 10 band final agreements and implementation agreements were within two years in the making.
There has been no work on the development assessment process, which, I would argue, will probably be the most significant event to affect both the environmental community and the development community in this territory in this generation.
The government has gone to great lengths to hold cocktail parties for the development industry, but there has been no work of substance done on the toughest policy job on the table today, which is mediating the differences between the development industry and the environmental community. If this is a project, it did not even make the last throne speech and was not even in the budget speech in the last budget. I do not think it made it into the budget speech in this budget.
There has been no progress on devolution, which presumably is an offshoot of the concerns expressed at the land claims table on the lack of action and sour relationship there.
The one thing that the government really truly wanted to do, it was clear, was to ensure that forestry devolution took place and, thanks to the sour relationship at the land claims table, as well as other factors, this is not going to come to pass. This is a significant lost opportunity, despite four years in the effort.
The whole subject of forest policy is a serious matter as well. This government has indicated that it wanted to take over forest resources but, even today, there are two departments who cannot decide who is the lead in developing the forest policy. We had the rather startling proposition in November, from the Department of Renewable Resources, that they were going to lead this policy debate and they needed to ask the basic question as to whether or not we all believed in sustainable harvests of our forest resources. That was an interesting proposition, given that it was something that had presumably been decided years ago.
When I was in Watson Lake talking to people, talking to constituents of yours, Mr. Speaker, about forest policy and people asked me what had happened at the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment conference on forest resources and whether or not the conference was actually going to come up with a forest policy to get them back to work, I had to admit that the Department of Renewable Resources discussion paper was still asking the basic question of whether or not we wanted sustainable harvest levels. We are no closer to getting back into the woods. We are closer to cutting trees.
In a manner of speaking, the government is still not out of the woods. We have the business plan being tabled by the Minister of Economic Development - the same Minister who shares the responsibilities as Minister of Renewable Resources - that says that the Department of Economic Development is going to be leading the way when it comes to forest policy development and that the Yukon government will not have a forest policy by the spring of 1996, as promised by the Department of Renewable Resources; instead, it will have a policy by the spring of 1998. So where are we? What is happening?
There were blockades. There were protests. There were trucks hauling into town and the operators were complaining about the situation. The government has two departments that both claim leadership roles and announce different expectations when it comes to promoting and developing forestry policy. Does this give any of us comfort? Does the government know what it is going and will it be able to handle forestry policy and the forest resources? Should it ever be transferred?
It may be that the chief and council of the Liard First Nation and representatives of the foresters who spoke out were right when they said that they did not want devolution. They want to get back and cut trees. They want to see silviculture and replanting taking place. They want to see jobs. They do not have confidence in this government.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McDonald: The Minister of Tourism, for the record, has indicated that there was no silviculture prior to 1992. That is patently false.
That brings us to other-
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Please allow the Member to speak.
Mr. McDonald: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I know how hard that is for you to say that, so I appreciate what you are doing here.
Now there are other reasons why we might not want to vote confidence in the Yukon Party government.
It was a decision made in the early days by the government to eliminate an economic development project that had been negotiated between the Yukon government, the Champagne-Aishihik Band and the Inuvialuit Development Corporation - the Taga Ku group.
The government attempted to claim, both publicly and through the court system, that somehow the commitment had never really been made to proceed with the project. Two courts decided that it was not secret. Two courts decided that there was a clear commitment. I know who is guilty; the Yukon Party government is every bit guilty for having lost one of the most significant development projects that was going on at the time, and for having destroyed the relationship between First Nations and the Yukon government.
It is not the court of public opinion, as in the kangaroo court of this Legislature, it is the courts, both the Supreme Court of the Yukon and the Appeals Court, which, on the evidence, including testimony from public servants, both decided that there was no secret deal, that the deal was a good one and the deal should be honoured. The Yukon Party broke the agreement - and I did read it - the Yukon Party is going to suffer.
No, the Yukon Party is not going to suffer. The taxpayers of this territory are going to suffer and they are going to suffer big time.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
The Minister of Tourism keeps pointing to me and saying, "Secret deal". This is a fantasy creation by people who realize that they have committed a serious error. It is going to cost the territorial taxpayer millions and millions of dollars.
The Minister of Tourism also claims the Minister of Justice has absolutely no respect for both court decisions. All the government is intending to do in this particular instance is to delay it, dangle a little bit of the prospect that there may be in a negotiated settlement, to keep people at bay, dangle the prospect that there may be a successful appeal to the Supreme Court, which is almost inconceivable, in order to delay the matter beyond the next election. Everything has been done to avoid responsibility, but the responsibility will rest where it belongs, on the front benches of the Yukon Party Cabinet.
That is not the only reason why one might not want to vote confidence in a Yukon Party government.
We have the economic development plans of the government that evolved from railways and pipelines to promises of new mines starting up. A few years ago it was the Casino mine - we all had to set aside whatever it was we were doing, pick up our lunch buckets and get a job at the Casino project.
Well, it is now 1996, and there is no Casino project. It is not mentioned in the budget speech, and it has not been mentioned for the last couple of years. We were so impressed about all of the claims about mines in the permitting stage, one would have thought by this time that there would have actually been mines in the development stage. Thankfully there is one mine, the Loki Gold mine. This is the mine that was to justify the construction of the new school in Dawson. Most people project that this mine will start up, but for all of the talk there has not been a lot of action.
We have to ask what the government has been doing. It has certainly kept the mining programs that were initiated by the NDP government. It certainly has continued to talk about promoting new mine development and building infrastructure. It trotted out the great vehicle that was going to provide the support for the mining industry - the industrial support policy - and, upon examination, it was determined that it really was a policy that said "anything goes", that anything that could be negotiated would be negotiated. There was no limiting criteria at all, just, "Come and let us negotiate".
As limited a policy as that was, we all thought it was a significant advancement over the old Diefenbaker vision, which was clearly laid out in a number of speeches, including a four-year plan, years ago. It was essentially all about saying that if one builds the infrastructure - coal-fired electrical generating stations, railways, roads into the bush - industry would come. Well, under the industrial support policy, the government turned a corner. It said it would build infrastructure once there is an industrial proponent, and the industrial proponent has to show financial liability; the industrial proponent has to ensure that the environmental rules are respected. Clearly, the notion was that there would be infrastructure developed once there were industrial players on the scene.
As I was cruising the Internet, asking questions of the Yukon Party on their home page, imagine how surprised I might have been when I found out that the industrial support policy is not the Yukon Party's policy when it comes to supporting infrastructure. The Yukon Party's policy, as described by the president of the Yukon Party last October, is that the Yukon Party believes strongly that one must build infrastructure first and then industrial developers will come.
This is schizophrenic behaviour, which is nothing new to the government. One would think that it would have been somewhat resolved or at least addressed this question, given that this had been the subject of considerable debate in the Legislature over the last three years. Somehow, one would think there would be a meeting of minds between the party power brokers and the policy makers within the Yukon Party circles and the Yukon Party Cabinet.
For some reason, the Yukon Party Cabinet did not realize - perhaps it did realize, but just decided to abandon the policies in the party when it came to support for infrastructure for development purposes.
That is not the only reason why one might want to vote no confidence in the Yukon Party government. After some time, the government did finally produce a comprehensive energy policy. In that comprehensive energy policy, it appears that conservation is now merely a postscript to government actions. Conservation used to be - and still is in most jurisdictions in the world - the number one priority for utilities and governments alike. It is now a postscript.
Department officials blithely told me in a briefing on the energy policy that there is no need to talk about conservation; we have been there and done that. We do not need to pursue it any further. We already have low wattage light bulbs and do not need to worry about conservation any more. We have to
get on to the next chapter, which is coal-fired electrical generation.
As one can see, there are a number of good and compelling reasons why one might want to vote no confidence in this government.
Before us, we have a package of budget documents. There are, of course, the operation and maintenance estimates and the capital estimates. We also have supplementaries for this year and last year. We also have something called the taxpayer protection legislation. These must all be taken together as one package, because they help paint the picture of what territorial finances have been, are and will be.
I will briefly mention the taxpayer protection legislation, because it is important to deal with that matter in the context of the budget and the spending plans for the government's year to come.
The taxpayer protection legislation is all about protecting the taxpayer. Why should people in the Yukon be concerned nowadays about their taxes being raised? What has happened? What experience have we had in the last few years that would justify any anxiety about governments raising their taxes?
The last time the taxes were raised, before the last few years, it was back in 1982-83. Personal income taxes were raised a few percentage points, as I recall. During the period the NDP was in office, income taxes were not raised, corporate taxes were not raised, and tax rates actually fell. Medicare premiums were eliminated, the off-road fuel tax rebate was initiated, and the tax burden on Yukoners fell. In all those years, the Government Leader or Minister of Finance would say, "In this budget, there are no tax increases." The NDP government Lealer of the day, in 1992, had the temerity to repeat that claim before the opposition leader of the day, Mr. John Ostashek, who said that to have raised taxes would have been obscene; we were spending so much money, why would we want to raise taxes.
Six months later, that same Opposition Leader, then in government, obscenely raised the taxes. Did he raise them because revenues were dropping dramatically? No. Was he planning to spend less money that year and had to balance the books, get a little extra tax revenue to keep the teachers in the classroom? No. He planned to spend more, and he did spend more, and they have been spending more every year since. Now, in the current year, we have a whopping $506 million budget.
What he was not saying is that he simply wanted to switch priorities, wanted to sock it to the O&M budget. At one point, he said that education and social spending amounted to debt creation and building roads amounted to wealth creation. He has been backtracking on that ever since. Every time the Minister of Health and Human Resources stands up, he protests that his budget has been rising like crazy - that the Education budget has been going up like crazy - and they even had graphs to prove it, which have been to virtually every community in the last 10 months.
I am not asking for a consistent budget message from this government, because I have never received one yet. However, under the circumstances, I think it is important that when it comes to talking about protecting the taxpayer from unwanted tax increases, what we are really saying is that the Yukon Party intends to introduce legislation to protect the public from the Yukon Party. That is the real picture indeed.
Tax increases would never have been an issue if the Yukon Party had not raised them so dramatically.
In March of 1992, there was a $51 million surplus. This is after seven years of surpluses, as recorded in the public accounts. Seven years in a row there were surpluses. This included a period when there was an intervening election. So there were seven surpluses, and during that period there was an election.
In those days - 1992 - the NDP government was spending substantially less than the government is spending now, and the federal transfer payment, even accounting for the hospital transfer, was significantly less than it is now.
We know full well that the Yukon Party, upon assuming office, wanted to tarnish the budget reputation of the Yukon New Democrats as much as they possibly could. It was so much the case and was so obvious that editorial writers in this town were commenting on it. There is no hidden agenda.
The government wanted to screw up the NDP as much as it possibly could. This is even while the Yukon Party was spending more, raising taxes, cutting wages, discovering lost lapses of money, and even facing the odd slap from the Auditor General for poor accounting practices. Somehow, the NDP, with seven years of surpluses, has the bad reputation, and this government, which had us on a roller coaster ride from "We're broke" to "It's all clear" to "We're broke" to "Let's balance the federal budget" to "We need a few bucks out of your paycheck to balance the books" to "Whoops! Was that a $20 million dollar surplus that passed us by? What happened there?"
We went from "We are broke as a government" - which has a certain impact on the private sector economy incidentally - to "We found $7 million dollars for a new program" within six months. We went from Ministers claiming the need to balance the federal budget to a claim that we needed to spend so much on the Alaska Highway that we are prepared to take our own money to do it - millions, tens of millions. We went from wanting to cut wages to balance the budget to discovering $20 million lapses within a matter of days: lapses that were apparently absolutely unforeseen by the Finance officials, the Minister, or anybody else.
I recall, even back in the days of 1992-93, Ministers were saying that the Workers' Compensation Board was in financial trouble. They could not even undertake a review of occupational health and safety because they did not think that the Workers' Compensation Board could stand the strain. This is a board that is 137 percent funded - unheard of in national circles.
Even the outgoing president said that this was the best-funded board in the country. It has the most solid financial picture of any Workers' Compensation Board in the entire country and it has the lowest assessment rates, too. Well, my gosh, how did someone come to the conclusion that the board was broke and in financial trouble? I will tell you how.
At the time there was a climate among government Ministers that everything had gone down the tubes. Well, now we have a new budget policy - the latest version of what it is all about to be fiscally responsible.
Now we are told that deficit budgets are okay, but that to be truly fiscally responsible, we need one month's operating expenditure in our savings account. Presumably, that adds up to approximately $35 million in the savings account. What could be the possible reason for the government leaving $7 million in its savings account?
Someone suggested to me that this is a kamikaze approach to the budget process - spend it right down with as little surplus as possible and do not worry about the consequences. I want to say for the record that I do not have a problem, nor have I ever had a problem with the notion that the government might, for good reasons, spend its savings account and parts thereof.
When the NDP was in office there were two budgets that projected a deficit - 1987 and 1992. There was nothing wrong with that if you did not accept the proposition that you could spend down your savings account, and your savings account would continue to grow forever, because of the way that the budgeting system operates - you cannot overspend, so you must underspend. Consequently, you end up having to save more and more. You cannot even cut taxes or public expenditures to reduce the savings account. It makes no sense; it is nonsensical.
They tell you that you can never spend the savings account. What makes the situation even a year ago different from the situation today? The situation today is that this government is introducing the taxpayer protection legislation. The situation today is that if you run the surplus down to, say, hypothetically, $7 million, and something should happen that puts you below the threshold, such as not accounting for the Taga Ku project, even though you are about to receive punitive damages or be forced to pay punitive damages, or perhaps Paul Martin rolls over in his bed or sneezes and the provincial-local escalator changes and you lose $7 million, perhaps you might even overspend beyond your contingencies, as the government did this year, by $7 million. Perhaps you do not even understand or recognize that there may be lapses and you do not know what the size of the lapses are because your budgeting situation is so imprecise.
What about that $7 million with the so-called guillotine clause in the Taxpayer Protection Act. It puts you into the election immediately. That is what it does. Clearly, if one can try to understand the government's strategy, it sees itself going down to defeat in the next general election, but because of the way it structured the budgets, along with the Taxpayer Protection Act, it will have another shot at it in the spring. The government has run down the savings account to virtually nothing and it has put in the guillotine clause, which says that if you do just happen to dip under - thanks to having no savings account - well, there will be an election in the spring anyway.
I call that reckless. I call it irresponsible. It is a darn good reason to vote against this budget and all the associated budget documents.
There are a few things about this budget package that are worth noting at this point. One is the way the budget information is portrayed. In their propaganda piece on Friday, entitled "Information on the Yukon Government's 1996/97 Budget" - it was a paid advertisement in the newspapers - the government says that, out of 17 departments, seven show no increase in their operating estimates, four show less than a one-percent increase and only six departments show an increase. This is all with a view to attempting to ensure that people understand that government O&M expenditures are under control.
First of all, of these so-called 17 departments the government lists, two do not even get any money from government estimates: the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Liquor Corporation have not received money for years. What does that mean? We do know that the overall operations budget of this government is higher, both in the gross O&M spending and in the net O&M spending. The gross O&M spending is up $3 million over the main estimates. Net O&M spending is up $14 million over the main estimates. We do see net capital spending down $4 million from the main estimates.
Why do I mention the main estimates? For me, the main estimates are not fiction; they were the spending plans that we spent most of our time debating last year. That is what they intended to spend and what they told us they needed. It is the benchmark with which to compare when one is talking about whether or not operations, or any expenditure, is going up or down.
Presumably, one compares actuals to actuals or mains to mains, but not actuals to mains. That distorts the picture and is a dishonest portrayal of government finances.
This issue has been raised in the Legislature before and I would hope that someone will take note so that we do not have to repeat the concerns over and over.
If one compares mains to mains, there are 11 departments with increases in O&M and only three departments with decreases. That is the picture.
Is the operations budget of the government going up? Yes, indeed. Are most departments showing an increase? Yes, indeed. That, in and of itself, may or may not be good or bad, but I really, truly object to the claims made by the government that by their own standards somehow they have kept operations under control.
Here we see grand claims made about the operations budgets of the government. I remember, back in 1992, the Minister of Health and Social Services asking to increase the 1993 budget departmental expenditures by about $30 million, claiming that it was honest budgeting. Ever since then, the budgets have declined.
Now, they are still higher than they were in 1991-92, but one can see from the graphs that had been published along with the budget text that the government's claim that it somehow took drastic action, got things under control and made a huge difference does not hold much water. The government here is indicating, on page 10 of the budget speech, that the social assistance payments were brought under control through efficiencies and all kinds of programming options that were promoted by the government and the Minister. All I can see is that from 1991-92 through to the period of time that the government has been in office the social assistance payments have skyrocketed, and have only recently come down from an all-time high in 1993-94.
The 1994-95, 1995-96, 1996-97 deficit budgets are still much higher than 1991-92. I do not know what happened - I do not know what happened.
On page 17 of the budget address, we see some grand claims made about the Yukon government's mining exploration development expenditures. We see graphs throughout the document that are highly misleading, suggesting that really nothing had happened until the Yukon Party came to office. In this particular graph, we have development expenditures taking place in 1994-95, but no development expenditures at all taking place in 1991-92. Presumably, no mines are operating and nothing was happening in 1991-92.
It is all a good show, and if you do not mind being subjected to a little trickery now and again, and you can see through it, it is worth the trouble to ferret out the truth from the falsehoods.
I am going to have to make an exception to one thing, and that is the partisan ad sponsored by the Department of Finance in trying to explain what the budget is all about.
Here is an advertisement, presumably paid for by the Department of Finance, which carries a certain credibility and weight because it is supposed to be a non-partisan organization that does not support any partisan agenda, putting out an advertisement with claims like this: "The Government Leader has given his personal commitment to ensure that the Yukon government works to break down the barriers to successfully complete all outstanding First Nations land claims by February of 1997." What does that statement have to do with this budget? Are we supposed to believe that because the Department of Finance logo is on this that it somehow has a measure of credibility?
The government, as I have mentioned before, has done virtually nothing - it has not done nothing; it has done something, but it has not completed any land claim agreements in the last three years - and, because the Yukon Department of Finance says that the Government Leader has now given his personal commitment to this, something has now changed?
We have the Yukon Department of Finance saying that a made-in-Yukon forestry policy is being developed. There are no dollars attached to that statement; it is only a claim. Regardless of whether this is being developed or not, what is the Department of Finance doing sponsoring propaganda such as this? Who asked the department to do this? Was it the department's idea?
There are a number of claims made in this information advertisement that are worthy of some note. We are led to believe that certain things are being done that are dubious propositions. The government has provided $35.6 million for teaching staff resources to cope with increased student enrollment, it states. We are expected to believe that $35.6 million is being provided for teaching staff resources, suggesting that this is an increase to deal with increased student enrollment. It is a reduction from last year. The reality is that to cope with increased student enrollment, program delivery for teachers in the Department of Education has been reduced. That would be accurate. It would not make a lot of sense, but it would be accurate.
The government made $591,000 available under the mining incentives program to assist prospectors. I am sure all of the miners in the territory would love to hear this. That is only 29 percent down from last year. I am sure that they will all be impressed.
I see that the campaign fund for the Member for Ross River/Southern Lakes is well represented in the projects listed in the advertisement.
Nevertheless, we must ask the obvious questions about the genesis of this propoganda at public expense, and particularly about this partisan propoganda being sponsored by the Department of Finance. This will be something for further review later.
The primary reasons for not wanting to give support to this government's budget or to its continued operation for eight more months is that I believe that this budget is reckless. It pushes the Yukon to the brink, given that the amount of surplus remaining, coupled with the guillotine clause in the Taxpayer Protection Act, could possibly put the Yukon public into an election within months of the next general election.
I believe it is irresponsible. I believe that the claims that are being made are not honest. I believe that this government has lost the capacity to provide clear and consistent leadership. Despite the fact that it dreams of the moments that it can be tough and brutal just like the Harris and Klein regimes, it simply cannot carry it off. For these reasons, I cannot support this budget.
Before I conclude, I would like to say a couple of things about a couple of issues in the riding of McIntyre-Takhini.
The Government of Yukon has promised to provide some support for people who live in trailer parks in the City of Whitehorse. They have promised to bring people together - city residents, trailer park owners and all interested persons - to find a resolution to the problems that mobile-home owners face.
There have been expressions of support for those mobile- home owners in this Legislature and that action has actually taken place. We were told last spring that the government intended to conduct a survey to determine the true needs of the people in mobile homes. Once the Legislature was concluded, nothing was done.
We now hear in the budget speech that the survey of mobile-home owners is to take place this year. I will do my best to encourage the government to take action so that even another year is not lost when it comes to finding solutions for people who live in difficult circumstances in trailer parks.
The other issue I would like to raise in my response to the budget speech is the issue dealing with the Whitehorse waterfront. The particular perspective I would like to raise is that of those people who live on the waterfront itself. Many have lived there for many years. Some are considered squatters, but in every case, they deserve respect and
the opportunity to speak to government about their futures.
This opportunity was promised by this government. The government has failed to deliver on the promise. So, once again I will do my best to encourage the government to do the right thing by these citizens and discuss their future with them, and, it is hoped, account for their needs prior to making significant decisions about the Whitehorse waterfront.
I will conclude, finally, by saying that unfortunately this is the third budget the Official Opposition cannot support. We have been faced over the last three years with some inconsistent budgeting practice, conflicting claims and arguments of convenience. We have been faced with a situation where the government has spent more and masked the fact that it does not wish to discuss changing spending priorities in a sea of concern about running deficits. We see a government that appears to have a collection of Ministers who want to promote pet projects, whether they be Beringia Centres or a school here or there, but which ignore sound, competent planning. We see a government that has dealt with its citizens on many occasions in an incompetent and brutal way.
This government does not deserve to operate for another eight months. There should have been an election this month.
However, given the circumstances we face today, we will do our best to provide for a full accountability of the government's actions over the course of this budget session and will ensure that, at a minimum, people know where the government is going even if the government itself does not.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is always a pleasure to follow the Leader of the Official Opposition when it comes to debates such as this - partly because it gives one cause to sit through a speech and pay some attention and secondly because normally the speech is one that deals with some fine points and a lot of contradictions, and finally because one can scratch one's head at what one just heard and wonder what really big issues the Opposition has with respect to the budget. It is my respectful submission that we heard a lot of niggling points, entirely debatable as we shall see. We witnessed a lot of contradictions by the hon. Member opposite. In sitting through this last hour or so of debate, one would have to scratch one's head and wonder whether or not in fact the hon. Member really has much of an issue with regard to this budget.
It was with some interest and the odd inward chuckle that I heard the hon. Member say such things as "this government seems schizophrenic and that this government uses arguments of convenience", because, if one thing stands out in the presentation we just heard, it is that we have, in the Yukon, our very own Senator Straddle. The Leader of the Official Opposition is a person who likes to take one side of an issue sometimes, the other side of the same issue at others and does it in such an obvious and self-serving way and manner.
Perhaps an example or two will refresh Members' minds with regard to what the previous speaker was saying and doing on this score. We just came through a Question Period, during which that very same hon. Member went on and on in a veiled attempt to pose as defender of the public servants.
In that debate during Question Period, just an hour or so ago, the Member did not get into what they did when they were in government, when they called in the RCMP over a leak, when they went around seizing typewriter ribbons from the offices of the Opposition, when they went around frightening all kinds of public servants in Finance and the Executive Council Office, who came to us for help.
He did not get into the fact that, when that took place, there was no policy with regard to harassment of public servants. The government did not have such a policy at that time. In fact, where did the harassment policy come from? What was its genesis? I can say when it came about.
It came about when the Department of Education, under the previous speaker, who was Minister at the time, was undergoing some pretty traumatic times, which in turn became a hot topic in these Chambers. I remember that the then-Deputy Minister of Education was accused, over and over again, of harassment of civil servants, of being the axe-man for the Minister, of embarrassing some civil servants in public, calling them names and swearing.
Mr. Speaker, you and I were at a meeting where he was swearing and calling the people who worked for him names. I will never forget that. In turn, that led to the government belatedly developing a policy on harassment, which exists to this day, and which is there to protect members from managers who overstep their bounds, but t
he Member forgot to mention that.
The Leader of the Official Opposition wanted to be seen as the noble crusader on behalf of the public servants of this government, but that was during Question Period and that is when most people listen to what goes on in the Legislature. Question Period was completed and we moved into Orders of the Day, and we got into the boring - for many people - debate about the budget. One can imagine that all kinds of radios were turned off throughout this building and throughout other public buildings at that point in time and that the Leader of the Official Opposition was cognizant of that fact, because he had just started his speech with his picayune points about the budget when he launched an attack on those very same civil servants.
The Member started out very early in his speech attacking the capital budget that we are now debating on the basis that it is providing computers and office equipment for civil servants. He says that they do not need those things - the defender of those very same workers. Never mind that under the previous administration programs such as health and social services were out of control partly because there were no systems in place to track expenditures. Never mind that when the same speaker and the previous Member for Whitehorse West attacked computers during budget debate a year ago they took a lot of heat from their own party members, openly and in the newspaper, and then they backed off. Never mind that job satisfaction and doing a job well, in some cases, requires appropriate equipment.
Most of the radios were undoubtedly turned off during the Member's speech and the defender of the workers went from being Twiddle Dee to Twiddle Dum.
He made the same kind of slightly veiled attack on those people who work in the Department of Tourism. He made fun of the new visitor reception centre. He said - I think I have it here and can quote him closely - that "he looked forward to going over there and seeing their new digs" - the defender of these very same civil servants.
That is only one example of Senator Straddle - he who straddles both sides of an issue, depending on convenience.
It is amusing to hear the Opposition now attempting to defend the building of the Dawson school when they were adamantly opposed to it during the debate one year ago. That debate was forwarded to many interested people in Dawson City. They are acutely aware of all the problems the Members opposite had with the new school. I am sure they found it somewhat ironic, to say the least, that Senator Straddle and his followers have now taken the other side of the issue.
A few points are made about the Dawson City school. The first point is that the reason we are looking at building - and will be building - a new school is because the NDP blew it when they built the existing school in Dawson. It was poorly conceived. It was a terrible plan, with wasted space on a lot that was far too small to allow for expansion, let alone appropriate playground room for the students. One can compare the square footage of that school and other schools of similar size in the territory and see that there is all kinds of wasted space in the Dawson school as it presently exists. It was wasteful; there were overexpenditures and absolutely miserable planning.
When they were deciding to go ahead with the school in Dawson City, the government was advised that the best place to build the school would be on the site of the maintenance garage in town. But, no, they would not do that, so we find ourselves in the situation where we cannot expand the size of the existing school. We took the bold step, in spite of their intense opposition, following extensive consultation with all of the players in Dawson City, to build a new maintenance garage - I just had a walk-through; it is a great facility, outside of town, where it should be. As well, we made certain that when we proceed with the building of the new school in Dawson City, it will be a school that will serve the community of Dawson City for many, many years to come.
The land on which it sits will allow ample playgrounds and room for expansion, should expansion be needed in the future, and it undoubtedly will.
Senator Straddle is now on the other side of the issue. Build the school - that seems to be popular; never mind the issue of numbers of students; never mind the issue of whether or not it can be built a year from now and still be in time to meet the needs of Dawson. They just simply take the other side of the issue. That is called a straddle.
Let us go on to the next issue. I love it when the Leader of the Official Opposition gets into the down and dirty of the numbers and quotes the Auditor General. He says that the Auditor General had them in a budget surplus year after year after year. "If you do not believe us, just read what the Auditor General had to say about that," says the Leader of the Official Opposition. Yet, when the Auditor General came out and said that there was a deficit of $64 million, well that was a different story. First of all, they had gone through a period of denial, denying that they had left this government in abysmal financial shape; they argued over every possible document and number they could find, but then when the Auditor General sifted through the books and came out with the $64 million deficit they said, "Oops," and did not mention that that was his number - the same guy they, on the other side of the straddle, love to quote in their very questionable arguments.
I sit here and listen to the schizophrenic and Tweedle Dee-Tweedle Dum approach to land claims and support for First Nations and the Taga Ku. They keep bringing back and back and back the Taga Ku. They took $2 million from the Energy Corporation and lent it to the proponents of the Taga Ku. They went to tender and asked for proposals from two groups to build the Taga Ku. Right up to the election, they publicly stated in writing that there was no change to the scope of the tender and that the hotel was not dropped.
I have here a letter dated to you, Mr. Speaker, as MLA, September 4, 1992, stating in part: "We have recently communicated to them (the proponents of the Taga Ku) that we are not prepared to alter the tender from the form that was originally awarded." That type of denial went on and on and on and on. The Minister did not want anybody talking about Taga Ku, especially not his officials and not during an election; everything was to be hush hush and secret. Of course, there are no minutes supporting their alteration to the plan. There is nothing in writing supporting the allegation that they dropped the hotel during the throes of an election. There are some questions that remain. I submit that no matter how the Leader of the Official Opposition huffs and puffs and bluffs, those issues are going to eventually come home to him.
Let us talk about the straddle in this one, the supporter of First Nations, the great champion getting into business.
I represent several communities. One of them is Ross River. Before this government came into office, there was never even a simple agreement signed between YTG, on the one hand, and the Ross River Dena, on the other. That has changed since we have been in power. A good number of agreements have been signed.
I remember campaigning there and then just being appalled by the lack of attention and commitment they had been given by the previous government - the NDP. I remember when Curragh was going under, we stated that one of the conditions of a loan being floated for Curragh - the $29 million loan - would be that the Ross River people be given the contract to maintain the haul road from the mill down to the town. Guess who opposed it? The NDP adamantly and strongly opposed it. Let me tell you, the Ross River Dena will never ever forget or forgive them for that.
It is interesting that these people, Senator Straddle and his following, are on both sides of that issue.
Let us talk, then, about some of the other rather inane issues that the side opposite, through their esteemed leader, seem to be relying upon to attack this budget.
They are against the nursing station in Ross River. It is interesting that these champions of First Nations are against the people of Ross River having a nursing station. They allege that, somehow, that nursing station, and the one for Teslin, are simply in the budget because of politics.
I do not imagine that many people over there know this, but I know the Leader of the Official Opposition does - and if he does not, he ought to - that it is the Government of Canada that proposes the capital project for Health Canada. We are expected to pay 70 percent of the cost, and we have actually argued against projects that went ahead, despite our objections.
I speak in particular about the new nurses' residence in Watson Lake. We fought against it, they built it anyway, and we ultimately did not pay our 70 percent. We made it very clear that the people of Watson Lake did not want that centre. It was Health Canada that had, for some time, as its priority, the replacement of nursing stations in Teslin and Ross River. I know the people in those communities will be most interested that the NDP - the no-development party - stands opposed to this important cornerstone of health care in each of these communities.
I listened with some astonishment to the Member's position on the Taxpayer Protection Act. After all the banks off the side walls of the pool table, after all the English is applied to get the cue ball around the 8-ball in the way, after all the talk about how the only time there was a problem of taxes being raised was in the first year of the mandate of this government - after all that - we can take it that the NDP are against this legislation and will oppose the Taxpayer Protection Act. That is certainly the way the message came across to me.
That is too bad. I know the Member was quoted in public as saying he would support such balanced-budget legislation, taxpayer protection legislation. They have now had a change of heart. I do not think that will go unnoticed by concerned Yukoners throughout this great territory.
It is interesting to hear Senator Straddle talking about arguments of convenience.
When you listen to the Member, he takes a fine point on one side and builds a case, then he likes to take the other side and build a case. In both instances, the case is against the government's budget. However, the Member can never seem to make up his mind about what side of the debate he is on. He likes to chastise this government for having larger budgets, and of course there were larger budgets as time went on, partly because of the one shot capital expenditures financed by Canada, such as the hospital and some of the Alaska Highway capital projects.
On the other hand, I have heard the Member say many times - one can find it scattered throughout Hansard over the years - that we are not bankers and that we should not be saving money; rather, we should be spending money. It is absolutely terrible if we do not spend money.
It is very difficult for me to understand how the Member can straddle both sides of that one, but apparently he is convinced that he can.
Those are just some of the observations that I have about the speech that preceded mine. There was very little in the speech that really gave me pause about the budget. The points are picayune. They were also inconsistent with previous positions on the same points, taken by the same Member, and, generally speaking, the approach was - I think the old saying is - altogether too clever by half.
I would like to talk about the positive aspects of the budget. I would like to talk about good management, and I would like to talk about the position in which Yukoners find themselves today, when this jurisdiction is the only one in Canada that is not in debt, at a time when our sister jurisdiction, the Northwest Territories, which is blessed with the same kinds of natural resources and enjoys the same fiscal relationship with the federal government as we do, such as the same kind of formula financing arrangements, is deeply in debt and in terrible shape.
It talks about cuts of $130 million this year. It talks about cuts to the civil service, cuts slashing programs - a jurisdiction in which most of the Ministers did not bother running again because they have a weak-kneed form of balanced-budget legislation on their books and they knew that the time had come to pay the piper. And, boy, I can tell Members that the new guys, the new Ministers, are suddenly realizing why so many of the former Ministers made way for them in the last election. They are in shock.
Look at what happened with the New Democratic Party in Ontario. The old-fashioned, socialistic, spend-your-way-out-of-trouble philosophy took hold. The government almost went under. The bankers told Mr. Rae that he would have to take some pretty Draconian steps, because what they had done plunged the province into near bankruptcy. Of course Mr. Rae had to do a 180-degree turn and, in so doing, totally alienated most of his party's supporters, not to mention other folk in the great Province of Ontario.
Each and every province now is in a bind. Each and every jurisdiction, including ours, is. Why? Because the federal government is so deeply in debt; because the federal government, the Department of Finance, is slashing wherever it can to try to bring down the yearly deficit, and because the finance department rules supreme now in Ottawa. The finance department has overruled the ministers responsible for social programs in Ottawa, and they have determined that much of the budget-deficit reduction will come out of the social program - $7 billion in the first sweeping cuts, and more to come. This is from a Liberal government; this is from a party that continues to talk about increasing spending and social programs.
All the junior jurisdictions - the provinces and the territories - have problems because the federal government is cutting and the federal government is doing everything it can to lay the blame at the feet of the provinces and territories. There is no doubt in my mind that the cuts announced by the Finance Minister over a year ago were made in a very wily fashion so that, inasmuch as possible, the federal government - the Liberal government - could avoid blame, and so that the public would think that it was the provinces and territories that were doing the actual cutting.
I think that is a message that will get out. It will be brought up time and time again in these Chambers. That is a message that the Liberals cannot avoid. I think we have seen the public gradually catching on. I think that some of the most recent newsworthy events regarding our esteemed Prime Minister relate to that awakening of the general populace with regard to the Liberals' game plan.
That is not to say that we here do not believe in balancing the budget. We take that very seriously indeed. However, we believe that there are areas that can be streamlined and that there is duplication in what the federal government does that overlaps with what the provinces do in areas such as health and social services. We believe that one can move toward a balanced budget and, in a jurisdiction such as this, balance the budget and maintain a situation where there is no accumulated deficit by taking steps that are reasonable and sensitive to the real needs of those who require the safety net that Canada is so fond of and so proud of.
We have led by example here. We have taken a situation where social program spending was out of control. When we took office, it was out of control. Social Services went from way less than $3 million - it escalated year after year - at a time when the mines were still operating. It was totally out of control. The health care program costs were out of control. The chronic disease program, for example, was out of control. We came into office and took control. We made decisions and consulted throughout the Yukon with all the players. Not only did we get the budget under control, but we accrued a lot of savings in the program.
There were savings of $1.6 million this year in social services from where the program peaked a couple of years ago; savings of over $700,000 in the chronic disease program, which was wildly out of control; savings in the way in which we handle young offenders in open custody of over half a million dollars. There are savings in Justice, savings in Education. In Health and Social Services, I can point out actual savings in excess of over $4 million per year that have been returned to the citizens of the Yukon by way of improved and expanded social services, and social services are better now than they have ever been. There are more counsellors in, for example, Yukon Family Services, which moved into new quarters but faced a relentless, bitter and personal attack from the Members opposite on their new lease. They have more funding now from us than ever before; they have more counsellors than ever before; and they serve more communities than ever before.
How about the Child Abuse Treatment Centre? It has new office space - its own office space. Its funding has increased. This year, there will be an additional counsellor to go out to the communities.
How about alcohol and drug services, and the fact that we have an new, rebuilt Crossroads, a better counselling service that is vastly expanded with new office space that suits the kind of priority that that service ought to have, and a new detox centre? How about all of the work that we have been doing in the communities? How about the work we have been doing on AIDS prevention? How about all of the additional services to combat family violence? We have increased the money for the transition homes in Watson Lake and Dawson City. Funding has been stabilized at Kaushee's Place. Kaushee's Place will be getting $482,000 this year, as it did last year.
We are proud of our record. We have brought many of these programs under control. We have worked with small communities to engender community level decision making and community-based programming. This is going to continue.
I have just had talks, for example, with the chief from Selkirk. We will soon be implementing our strategic plan there, which will lead to funding and assistance in that community to help itself in economic areas and in such important areas as treatment for people at locations such as Tatl'a Man Lake.
Ours is a record to be proud of. We have brought common sense to government. We have a budget that leaves Yukoners with a surplus.
Speaker: Order please. The Member has three minutes in which to conclude his remarks.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We are bringing forward tough legislation to ensure the government will never again get out of control as it did under the previous administration. It will never again see $64 million deficits. It will never again see programs that are overspent, or demands made of departments that could not be kept because the budgets were unrealistic.
I am proud to stand here and defend the budget. I really have not heard much against it yet. I am sure that one or two of the Members will have something to say that will be justified criticism. I commend the budget to everyone in this House, and I am sure that those who are not simply playing partisan politics, those who can rise above that and do what is best for Yukoners, will heartily endorse it, as do I.
Mr. Harding: It is always a pleasure to follow in these debates the great consensus-builder opposite, the Minister of Education, who has such a spectacular record over the last four years in handling, so well, consultative initiatives that he has undertaken in his department. As he got up and went through his comments on this budget, I jotted down a lot of quick and easy responses to what he said, particularly some of the major points of fiction he brought up.
Being criticized by that particular Minister right now in the Yukon is like getting fan mail, so I will not spend a lot of time rebutting points that were raised by that Minister, because they do not carry much weight with the Yukon public. He harks back to the time when he was the Yukon PC leader. He fades in and out of that mode, and oftentimes I think he feels the Yukon Party just won the by-election in Whitehorse West.
It is clear that was not the case. The old lines he used again today were not successful on the doorsteps of Whitehorse West. They came up with an astonishingly low 25 percent of the vote because the people are sick of the kind of dishonesty that has been spread by this government throughout the land regarding the situation they faced in 1992 when they took over office. They are tired of the kind of politics the Members opposite have been espousing. That was quite evident.
In a nutshell, before I go into more detail with that Member, I wanted to raise the objections to this budget he said he did not hear from the Leader of the Official Opposition, which we do have with this particular budget.
First of all, this is a deficit budget. As the Leader of the Official Opposition said, that is not always a bad thing, when one has built up a piggy-bank, has a surplus and wants to make some strategic investment decisions. In this particular case, we have a deficit budget, but we also have a lot of misspent monies. There are millions of dollars' worth of lots that cannot be sold. We have $8 million in furniture, cars and computers, coupled with about a $10 million expenditure in that area last year.
We had the $3 million to create the vacant lot in Dawson City for the school that will not be built now due to the great consultative undertaking of the Minister of Education. We have $4.2 million for the Tourism office building; we have two projects presently under construction that are over budget. The French first language school is experiencing major capital cost overruns from a figure that was projected two years ago to be around $4.8 million to now be a figure in the vicinity of $6.25 million. This is a major capital cost overrun, and this project is cost-recoverable up to 50 percent, or $3 million. As that cost overrun continues to escalate, it is significant in terms of the draw-down on the general revenues of the Yukon.
Of course, we have millions of dollars that will be spent on the Beringia Interpretive Centre, which has not been scrutinized as well as we would have liked by the Minister. It is clear that the Minister has bought into this project without really taking a look at some of the grandiose claims he has made about the number of visitors that will go through the centre. Secondly, he has not looked at what admission price they will be prepared to pay. I think that point was proven during the last legislative session.
We also have some serious problems with this budget - for the Minister of Education's benefit - because it ignores obligations. I am referring to the obligations of the Taga Ku project. The government can try all it wants to play the blame game, but I have respect for the courts and I respect the decision that was handed down by the Yukon Court of Appeal that said the Yukon Party government's argument was beyond common sense. The fact that the Minister of Justice could sit in this Legislature, heckle and express his disbelief and lack of respect for the court's decision is something that speaks volumes about the attitude that the Minister of Justice has toward democratically established processes.
That Court of Appeal decision was a confirmation for the people of the Yukon and for First Nations people - our worst nightmares were confirmed. The decision stated that a political decision was made by the Yukon Party government, because some of their supporters were not in favour of a particular project and they made a political decision to cancel the project.
The Champagne-Aishihik First Nation has suffered greatly as a result of the failure of this project. As one of the leaders said, when calling in to one of the local radio shows during the by-election, it has set back their initiative. They have been busted back and beaten down by this Yukon Party government. I think that is the great travesty of this. We lost a wonderful opportunity.
We lost a situation where we would have had a new facility for the community. We would have had development and construction costs. We would have had First Nations engaging in a profitable partnership with the Government of the Yukon to ensure that we could attract the investment that comes out of the finalization of land claim agreements in the future to the Yukon instead of having to go down south or anywhere else.
A good point is raised by the silence of the MLA for the Yukon Party Cabinet. The Member has to take ownership of that decision, which, in my opinion and in the short time that I have been here, was one of the most abysmal things I have seen.
We lost a great opportunity with that project. Ancillary to that, but still of great importance, is the cost to the taxpayer that this is going to bear.
They have already lost at the initial court level and the Yukon Court of Appeal. Now we are going to the Supreme Court because the Yukon Party does not want to face the music before the next general election. I would say to them that they will face the music. They have already faced it in Whitehorse West. They got a short reprieve in Vuntut Gwitchin, but we shall see in the coming months precisely how the Yukon Party government is viewed. Taga Ku is one of the areas of fundamental disdain for this government because of what it stands for and what it represents.
The way they approached it and handled their losses in the court system is something that speaks volumes about their lack of respect for processes, their lack of respect for First Nations and their lack of respect for the intelligence of Yukoners to know that they were in the wrong.
In a nutshell, those are some of the very basic reasons why we have major problems with this budget. It is made worse by the fact that it is coupled with this taxpayers' protection legislation.
I will back up one step and talk about one more thing that the Minister of Education brought up. He talks at great length about straightening out the situation in social services, where the spending was out of control. If one ignores the fiction and looks at the budget, one actually sees that social services spending, in total, was raised. When one looks at social assistance, the volume that was going out was raised under his administration. I do not understand how he can claim that he has something under control, has beaten it down, wrestled it to the ground and changed everything for the better, when in fact, according to his own benchmark - which is the amount that is spent - he has actually spent more.
The Leader of the Official Opposition mentioned that they have actually gone around with flip-charts, trying to tell people that they are spending more on social services. If one wants to talk about Senator Straddle, that Member has only to look in the mirror.
I am tempted to go into the Dawson situation, but it would be too cruel to the Minister. I could go back in time to just last year, March 21, 1995. Perhaps I will go into it, because I think the Yukon public deserves to hear Senator Straddle's passionate defence and passionate argument for the development of the school last year.
When some questions were being directed at him from the Opposition last year, he was very indignant that we would actually ask questions about the rationale and justification for the school.
I want to read a quote from the Minister from last year, March 21, 1995. On that day, the Minister said, in talking about populations, "The growth projections are not all that precise. There is a range. It could be considerably more than 362 students. We talked about the student population possibly being in the 370 range, or higher." He went on more and more, that everything is higher; it is all higher. We were asking about those projections and wondering how they were based and was there any possibility that they might not reach those levels. My goodness, that just set that Minister off and he said, "The people of Dawson with whom we spoke support what we are doing. From a commonsense point of view, it is the only way to proceed that makes sense." He then proceeded to spray some vitriolic castigations across the floor at the Opposition Members for actually even engaging in questions about the rationale for this.
He has a short memory about that particular day and I think he will find, if he actually reads Hansard and reads the written word as opposed to what he wants to believe, he will find that we were simply doing our job, asking him to explain in clear terms what his plans were. He took a very forceful and aggressive approach and, unfortunately, he has now had to eat his words and, more unfortunately, he has spent $3 million creating a vacant lot in Dawson that will not house the school that the Minister so viciously and vociferously defended just last year, on March 21, 1995, in Question Period.
I will not spend any more time with the Minister of Education because, as I said before, criticisms from him at this point in time become more like fan mail. I remember, during the election campaign in Whitehorse West, he took some direct shots at our leader and made the claim that we would lose the by-election in Whitehorse West. His soothsaying abilities are certainly something that I would call into question at this point in time - witness the gentleman to my right.
I want to first speak to the budget from a constituency point of view because there is not a lot in this budget that I can say speaks directly to my constituency.
I want to categorize the budget, in terms of Faro, as the good, the bad and the ugly. What I can say about the good in Faro, with regard to this 1996-97 budget, is that block funding is in place. The municipal council will not face a cut in its block funding, so it will be able to carry on and it is hoped that its budgeting plans will remain on course. Another thing that I can say about the good of this budget is that finally, after three years of no expenditures for capital upgrading on the Campbell Highway, there is a $900,000 allotment in the budget. I have yet to find out on what particular stretch of road that is going to be spent, but I look at that as a good thing. I think we certainly deserved more expenditure after seeing none out that way for the last three years, but that is certainly a positive point. There is another positive for the government's budget: the maintenance expenditures. The expenditures have increased to somewhere around $4.38 million, which will be of benefit, I hope, if they are spent in the area of the highway I would like to see them addressing. These are some the things that I would refer to as "the good". There is not a lot, but I wanted to pay some homage to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services for directing some funding that way.
In terms of the bad, we, again, in Faro have been up and operating since November 1994. The community never died during the shutdown, much to the chagrin of the Members Opposite. We continued to eke out an existence and to work at trying to build the community, build secondary industry - the types of things that we felt were a priority.
We did not get a lot of help from this government, and as far as I am concerned, the bad in this budget is that we have continued to see an attitude by this government where it is going to ignore investment in Faro as a priority. There is no sense of wanting to build infrastructure, no sense of wanting to build housing, no sense of wanting to create economic development, of wanting to bolster the tourism industry, of wanting to provide recreational funding facilities and enter into agreements over and above the block funding arrangements that Faro has as a municipal council, even though it is done in many other communities.
That is the bad. The bad is also that we have fought so hard to get the roadwork that we have got in this session on the Faro to Carmacks portion of the highway. It is certainly not as much as some of the other areas of the Yukon have received, even though we have a population pushing 2,000 people in Faro now, we have the community of Ross River right next door, and we have a situation where we have ore trucks pounding on that highway every day. I am glad to see those ore trucks, but nonetheless they do create some serious pounding of the highway when mixed in with the other traffic.
In terms of this budget and the community of Faro, I also wanted to refer to "the ugly". When I send this speech out to my constituents, the ugly will be readily apparent.
When we received the list of the 1995-96 capital expenditures by riding, I was immediately hit with the same feeling I have got from every budget of the Yukon Party: there is not a lot of attention paid by the Cabinet table toward the community I represent, other than to say they wish its MLA would go away.
I will read the breakdown so it is in the record. In Ross River-Southern Lakes, we totalLed about $2.5 million in community capital budget expenditures, keeping in mind that not all of these communities are unincorporated. There were health centres for Ross River and Teslin that go beyond the $2.5 million. That is not saying we oppose them, as the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes says. We are just pointing out the lack of equitable distribution in this particular budget.
There is Watson Lake, and we have totalled about $745,000; the Kluane riding, $625,000; Vuntut Gwitchin, $450,000; Klondike, the big winner, with $3,879,000, minus the school; and Mayo-Tatchun received $515,000, although my colleague from Mayo-Tatchun is quick to point out that $1 million is for the reconstruction of the Freegold Road, which was not exactly one of his top priorities.
Following that is the community and riding of Faro. The sum total of the capital budget expenditures for 1996-97 comes to $15,000. We will be careful not to spend it all in one place, but we do have some priorities in our community that need addressing by this government. I have raised them on numerous occasions, but I continue to be ignored. I am getting a very real sense of frustration. For more than three years, I have raised my concerns in a diligent and ongoing fashion, over and over again. They seem to be falling on deaf ears.
This is a problem, but I hope that problem will be resolved in the next few months. I hope that will be at the polls. It is obvious that, by the time the spending plans of this budget are doled out, the community of Faro will be playing second, third and fourth fiddle to many other communities.
I do not want to sound greedy, but I think the community I represent has been short-changed once again, and that is the ugly. I hate coming in here every legislative session and saying that, but it appears - as much as I hate it - that if one is not a government Member, one does not have a lot of luck in working and acting on some of the community priorities.
So that is the ugly.
With regard to the overall budget, I am sure that the Minister of Education will want to know that we have some very real concerns. We believe that this budget is irresponsible, reckless, and, in some cases, the budget address is dishonest. The way some of the items in the budget smack quite blatantly of electioneering, it is no secret to most Yukoners that this is a budget designed to avoid making the tough decisions that should be made going into an election.
The Members opposite have gone through a bit of a metamorphoses as Tories - they were Progressive Conservatives and then they were Yukon Party. When they first got elected, they fancied themselves to be Ralph Klein, but they did not really have the goom-bah for that, so they were reincarnated as Gary Filmon Tories. That did not work either. They have since moved off that, and I now hear them talking about common sense - the commonsense revolution now seems to be the line. They have reincarnated themselves once again, and it appears that they have tried to take on the mantra of the Mike Harris government.
I can tell these Tories, as whimpy as they are, that the Mike Harris would not have tabled this $25 million deficit budget and avoided what are going to be tough decisions for the next government. When we couple it with this taxpayer protection legislation, with the obligations such as the Taga Ku and other lawsuits that have not been factored in, and with the fact that last year, they budgeted $489 million and have spent - already, with over another month and a half to go in the fiscal year - $507 million, almost $20 million more than they budgeted - it is beginning to seem that, if Paul Martin sneezes, the $7 million accumulated surplus that the next government is going to have as a buffer with the taxpayer protection legislation is not very comforting. In the budget lockup I asked the Finance officials what the lapsed funding was going to be for this fiscal year, and they told me that it appears that the actual lapsed funding will be less than previous years. That cushion, therefore, is not very comforting either.
This is why we believe that the course that the Yukon Party has chosen is reckless.
Yukon New Democrats are committed to balanced budgets. We never had a debt when we were in government. The only debt that we ever had was created when we lost power six months into the fiscal year in 1992, and the spin doctors opposite decided that they were going to write off everything under the sun to give us as much political pain as possible.
They brought in the Auditor General, who accepted their write-offs and, of course, they figure that is good enough for them. They then placed themselves on a pedestal as the fiscal gurus of the Yukon.
The wisdom they profess to have in finance has clearly been called into question by a number of things. First and foremost, we have to look at the part of the taxpayer protection legislation that refers to a referendum for tax increases. We all remember the election campaign of 1992, when the NDP spoke about the fact that, for seven years, personal and corporate income taxes had not been raised. The tax burden actually went down, because we added some off-road fuel tax exemptions.
That is a claim that the Members opposite cannot make. In the 1992 election campaign, the Government Leader of today told the then-Government Leader that there was no need to raise taxes and that it would have been obscene for the NDP to do so. A few short months later, in a farcical attempt to influence the formula financing negotiations with Ottawa, they brought in the biggest tax increases in Yukon history. Period.
It was shameful, because they had told the Yukon public they would not do that. But they did do it. The Yukon public has not forgotten those obscene tax hikes, and I do not think they will by the fall.
The budget is also irresponsible, as is the taxpayer protection legislation when coupled with it, when one looks at the government's record on spending. One only has to look at the budget address on page 16 and take a look at the main estimates historical comparison. Look at the operation and maintenance budgets of the NDP. In 1991-92, that budget was $262 million; in 1992-93, it was $314 million. As of last year, and since 1994-95, the O&M budget has risen to a high of $352 million under the Yukon Party administration. For this fiscal year, it is projected to be $347 million. If last year's spending is indicative of what the spending will be in this fiscal year, that figure should rise to probably over $350 million.
O&M spending can be a good thing if the priorities are correct. If we are investing in jobs and economic development, health care, education and environmental protection, O&M spending could be a good thing. However, that is not what this government has done. Those are not their priorities. We see a government that tries to pride itself on cutting O&M spending when this is, in fact, fiction. They have raised the O&M and overall spending by more than $150 million since the NDP left office.
It is very difficult to separate the real story from what is spinning from the Yukon Party's budget address.
That is our job and I think that we have been fairly successful. I think that we will continue to our job in this budget debate.
Now, when we talk about the Taxpayer Protection Act, I want to know why there was no referendum when the Yukon Party implemented record tax hikes in 1993-94. Why was there no referendum when the obscene tax hikes were implemented if that is something this government feels so strongly about. I really question that.
Secondly, I question why this government introduced this legislation after having tabled a $25 million deficit, and after having spent, in the previous fiscal year, almost $20 million more than they budgeted. The government ignored the obligations of the Taga Ku project and was also named in other lawsuits, so why would they bring that legislation in now? The answer is simple: it is a poison pill, because they know they are going out. It is bye-bye for this government; it is scorched earth; it is history; and this government is done.
However, this government wants a second kick at the cat. They know that they have ignored making the tough decisions that they had to make. They knew that they needed to spend money in a last ditch effort at buying the next election and that is what they have tried to do. Now, they are trying to impose on the next government some poorly conceived legislation that we really have to consider.
We are fully committed to balanced budget legislation. We have committed to bringing it in and we would even be prepared to take a look at the Taxpayer Protection Act, provided that it could be amended in a manner that is fiscally responsible.
As it stands right now, given what this government has done over the past two years and what they have ignored in the budget planning and spending, if the federal Finance Minister gets a bad cold we could have very serious, irresponsible and reckless budgeting decisions undertaken by the Yukon Party.
This concerns us. It is a kamikaze approach that does not take into account the factors that must be taken into account.
When we look at some of the areas of the budget that are my responsibility - and I will first talk about economic development - I see a continued lack of emphasis in the Department of Economic Development on the impact of land claims on economic development in the Yukon.
The Government Leader recently returned from Japan and said that one of the things that set us apart from British Columbia is that the Yukon has come so far in its land claims agreements, and that there is some land use certainty.
The thing that the Government Leader forgets is that all of that land use certainty that came about with the land claims agreements, the umbrella final agreement and the four band finals was done under the New Democrats.
In four years, the Yukon Party has zero, zilch, nothing. It can put out an election piece of paper to say that it has furthered the land claims process. It has zero. So, that competitive advantage, which is the forward advancement of our land claims agreements, has stalled under the Yukon Party. We have become less competitive, and again in the budget I see no emphasis on the land claims and I see no emphasis in the business plan for economic development on the impact of that particular process to the Yukon.
The second area where I see a real weakness in the budget and in the planning of economic development is in the development assessment process. I know it is negotiated under the umbrella final agreement, but certainly in the business plan there are lofty goals for reaching out as an umbrella organization the arms of the Department of Economic Development. I see that it is noticeably absent in the business plan of economic development and in the budget. We need a one-window approach to development assessment in this territory. We need to ensure that there are no jurisdictional overlaps or unnecessary regulation, but also that the people who are in the environmental community and regular citizens are confident that decisions for development are being made, taking into consideration the environmental, cultural, spiritual and aesthetic concerns that so many Yukoners have.
That is one area I will be pursuing in this legislative session with regard to economic development.
Of course, I will say that in mining the Yukon government has done a fairly good job in promotion. I think that the trip to Japan was not a stupid idea; there was some merit in it but it was wrongly timed, given the fact that there was a by-election underway and we had not been in a legislative session for 10 months. But I believe that aggressive promotion of our resources and aggressive promotion of what we stand for as Yukoners can be a good investment.
I believe that the Cordilleran Roundup attendance is good and I think that there are some areas in which the government has done some good work, but when it comes to the tough stuff like settling land claims, which was our competitive advantage for mining under the NDP but has failed under the Yukon Party, and when I look at development assessment processes and the lack of advancement there, I see that the standing-beside-the-counter-having-a-beer talking about we-are-open-for-business work has been done, but the tough stuff - the policy building, the real work where we wear the Yukon on our sleeves, where we have to sit down as environmentalists, as loggers, as miners, and where we have to face each other and argue and reach conclusions - cannot be undertaken by this government because basically they do not seem prepared to undertake the hard work. Their confrontational approach, their lack of consultation, and their stubbornness when it comes to policy development has set us back.
That will be my emphasis for this legislative session. These are some of the areas in which I want to see improvement.
The next topic I think is incredibly important right now in the Yukon Territory, and which has been the subject of much debate over the last two and one-half to three years in which I have been the Renewable Resources critic, is forestry - the forestry industry, forestry policy and forestry devolution.
I have a legislative return, dated December 15, 1993, which was by the then-Minister of Renewable Resources, who is now the Minister of Department of Community and Transportation Services. At that time, I was promised that the new Yukon forestry policy would be entrenched in the Yukon in December 1994. It is now February 1996, and we are still talking about the first principles of forestry management and forestry policy work in the Yukon.
Again, it is a clear example of the lack of ability in this government to bring people together to reach conclusions. That has been noticed by many. I have been in your riding, Mr. Speaker, and I have spoken with people I would not think were anything other than Conservatives who have had it up to here with the Yukon Party government. They are ready to embrace socialism, communism - anything but the Members opposite - because they have had it.
They will not embrace liberalism though; I am confident of that.
That promise was made to have a policy in place by December 1994.
The public rose up in the Yukon last year, and we put the heat on quite effectively in the Legislature and got the Minister to come up with a framework for Yukon government involvement in forestry, tabled with an action plan for developing forestry policy in the Yukon.
This was released in April 1995. It was a discussion paper of first principles. It died.
It resurfaced when there was a blockade at the federal government building, and a sit-in in Watson Lake, when people throughout the territory became so frustrated by the lack of action of the federal government and by the territorial government's destruction of any chance of a negotiated agreement in the Watson Lake area for timber harvest permits and allocations, that they took action into their own hands.
I forgot to mention we also had a new book from the Government of Yukon in November 1995. This was all about the conference I attended in Watson Lake, where again this was the new discussion paper of first principles from the Yukon Party government. So, here we are, we have a promise of a policy ready for 1994. We have an action plan that was tabled in April 1995, which spoke of first principles. We have a November 1995 discussion paper, again talking about first principles. We have no serious consultative work underway. All we had was a two-day wonder conference by the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment and, from that, the Minister has taken absolutely no initiative whatsoever to further the process. He rarely participated in Watson Lake. I did not see him around too much. He just does not seem to have the interest in the process and he does not seem prepared to roll up his sleeves to take on this major assignment, because it will be difficult. It will be ugly. There will be confrontation. There will be arguments, disagreements and compromises on both sides, which incidentally is what Liard First Nation and loggers in Watson Lake did, and the Yukon Party/Ostashek government tried to scuttle behind the scenes.
Let me say, in terms of people not forgetting some action by this government, that when I talked to people in Watson Lake, they certainly had had it up to here at that point with this -
Speaker: Order please. The Member has three minutes to conclude his remarks.
Mr. Harding: Oh, my goodness. Let me just say that that is an area that I will be focusing on in this legislative session. Another area on which I will be focusing is the creation of parks and a protected area strategy in the Yukon. This government has taken its open-for-business mining support just a little bit to the extreme, to the extent that it has forgotten about some of the other values that a park can bring. It has forgotten some of the values of outdoor tourism and sustainable economic activity that can be created.
The government has signed on to a commitment for Protected Spaces 2000 Strategy, but it has done nothing to forward that agenda since it has been in power in the last four years.
I think that the spiritual, cultural and aesthetic value of parks cannot be forgotten. I believe that many Yukoners are interested in those issues and those concerns. I believe many Yukoners are interested in sustainable economic activity.
Although I represent people whose bread and butter is mining, I know that they will support a concise, comprehensive strategy that is worked out with miners, loggers, people who are concerned about the environment and all other people in the Yukon who are interested.
I say that this budget is reckless and irresponsible. The rationale behind it is, in some cases, dishonest. For that reason, I will be voting non-confidence in this government and I will be voting against this budget.
Mr. Millar: A lot has happened in the three or four years since I made my first speech in this House. I no longer have the least experience in this House. I do not know how I feel about that, but I can tell Members that I am in awe of the comfort level that I see in others who stand up and speak. I still have not gotten over my feeling of jitters when I am about to speak; however, I will.
I do have a lot to talk about today. Some issues have been covered by other Members. A number of issues in Dawson seem to be at the forefront right now. I will be addressing them in a bit more detail in a few minutes. I would just like to say that the Leader of the Official Opposition, during his speech, was talking about key ridings and how money was taken from my riding to be put into key ridings. My riding is a very key riding in the Yukon Party government, I would think. I do not quite understand what he was trying to say.
He also talked about this being a spending budget. What has happened since I arrived at the House seems to me to fit very logically. When we came to office, there was a $64 million overexpenditure by the previous administration. I will admit that that did turn out to be a $13 million accumulated deficit. It was, nevertheless, a deficit. We came in with a deficit.
The Yukon Party government has struggled very hard over the last few years, trying to build up a surplus. We have managed to do that. We have said from the start that we expected major spending cuts to be introduced by the federal government. We took a lot of criticism for saying that.
We were accused of saying that the federal government is going to take more, and because you are saying that, you are bringing it to the forefront, et cetera, et cetera.
I think that the Minister of Education already pointed out that the Northwest Territories did not take the same approach that this government took, but they were cut by the same percentage as I believe we were. They now find themselves in quite a financial crunch. This is not to say that we are not, because I think that we are. We did lose, I believe, about $27 million due to direct federal government transfer cuts - $20 million right from the base and $7 million because of cuts that other provinces are making throughout Canada. We are still the only jurisdiction in Canada that does not have an accumulated debt.
This year, we are cutting into that accumulated surplus; there is no question about it. Again, I point out that we always said that we would do this when we needed to when the cuts came. I have a little trouble following the logic that this is a major spending budget. I agree that the next budget is going to be a tough one. I think that the government is going to have to make some tough decisions. I think that the government has had to make tough decisions every time it has tabled a budget.
I do not think that it is a really big spending budget. There is the Shakwak project, the hospital in Whitehorse, and there are some other highway projects, which I will again talk about because Dawson was lucky enough to get some of that. I do not know if "lucky enough" is true or not. It was needed, and it is for the benefit of the whole territory.
I know that people get confused about the terms "accumulated deficit", "debts", "accumulated debts", "debts in a year" and other accounting terms. It is a confusing thing to understand. One way to make it clearer and easier for people to understand is the fact that we do not have to borrow any money to keep this government working, and that is the key. We are the only jurisdiction in Canada that does not have to borrow money to keep the government operating. I think that is something that we have to keep in mind when we are talking about the budgets.
I would like to comment on the recently introduced Taxpayer Protection Act. Balanced budget legislation is something that this government has talked about for quite some time. We are getting some criticism on this legislation from the NDP and others in the Opposition - of course, that is their job and we would expect them to do that.
I believe that the legislation is a good thing, because taxes on significant items, such as gas and income, will require a referendum before the tax can be implemented. I think that is a good thing.
One of the other significant things in this legislation is that if the government of the day brings down a budget that would have an accumulated deficit, it would trigger an automatic election response. I think that is good and should protect the Yukon from ever going into debt - I hope it does anyway.
I would like to talk about the bridge in Dawson City - I guess the department would prefer to call it the Yukon River crossing. It is an interesting little scenario. This issue was discussed at great length just after I was first elected. I have always been in favour of a bridge across the Yukon River, and I will always be in favour of a bridge across the river, because I think it makes sense.
There have been motions in this House in the past to look at a crossing, a bridge, at Dawson. That has happened. I understand the people of Dawson's impatience with this thing. I am a little impatient with it from time to time, too, but I think one only has to look at what has been done to get the bridge since I have been elected. Everything, basically, has pointed toward the bridge. We have worked on the Top of the World Highway, trying to make it a better road so that we do not have an excuse not to put a bridge in. We have worked with the Alaskan government to have it upgrade its part of the Top of the World Highway - or the Taylor Highway, as it is called in Alaska. Millions of dollars have been spent on our side, and again this year another $2.2 million will be spent on BSTing or hard-surfacing some of that road. This is significant. It is important and shows a commitment that, at some point, there is going to have to be an improved crossing at Dawson City, and nobody for one second will believe that a new ferry is the answer.
One of the other things we have done, and I guess I had a significant hand in it, was dealing with the boundary expansion of Dawson. This was a very difficult decision that had to be made by a number of people. It was not what I would necessarily call a totally popular decision to have the boundaries of Dawson expanded. At the time it was, but there are still some people who may think it was not a good idea. The boundary expansion that happened certainly was not, by any stretch of the imagination, the boundary expansion that we wanted in Dawson City. It was far larger and encompassed areas we did not really want to encompass, but without going back and redoing a whole bunch of things and probably delaying everything by two to three years - or, as I have seen how things can be delayed here, probably even longer than that - there were basically two choices: we could go ahead with the boundary expansion the way the municipal board recommended it or we could cancel it and leave everybody wondering what the heck was going to happen in the next little while.
Again, within the municipal board's recommendations, there was a need for a bridge to go across into west Dawson. This was stated and lends more argument to the fact that we need a bridge in Dawson City. This past summer, the fuel trucks started coming from Alaska. Fuel has become much more competitive in pricing. There are new companies coming in over the Top of the World Highway. It is a shorter route. With Brewery Creek or Loki Gold coming onstream, there will be a lot more fuel burned in this riding. It is cheaper and closer to come over the Top of the World Highway to reach these places - Mayo, Dawson and Loki. Aside from all the tourism arguments made in the past for this bridge and the obvious benefit for Dawson, there is also the benefit to economic development.
One of the other things that has now come out of the boundary expansion is the Klondike Valley placer occupancy review policy. I would like to really thank the Minister of Community and Transportation Services for supporting me in this, and often looking at me and saying "What the heck are you trying to do to me?" It has been a very difficult thing to bring forward. There are still a lot of people who are not sure that this is such a good thing.
It is another document. I will freely admit that it is not perfect; it is not the exact document that I envisioned, but it is as good as we could come up with. I think that it is a pretty good document and will do what it is set out to do, which is to clear up some of the land use questions of the Klondike Valley. It is a fairly comprehensive document that took about three years in the making. This was an issue that I really wanted to deal with. I think it will be flexible enough that, if people want title to the land, they will be able to make an application under this policy and get title to that land. That title will not be given to them; it comes at a price.
They will have to pay the fair market value price for it. When I say that, there are also other ways. They can get leases and other things. Basically, they will have to pay the government market value for it and they will have to give up the sub-surface rights.
People are going to have to make a decision. Do they want the sub-surface rights or the surface rights? That has caused a dilemma among some of the placer miners in the area, and it should. Some of the placer miners in the area are involved with more than one claim and they are not sure if they apply for the surface rights on one of the claims and give it up, how is that going to affect them and how is the mining recorder's office going to look at them when they want to mine the claim right beside it?
They do have some legitimate concerns. I think that the intent of this document is good and I really encourage those people who have claims and properties in the Klondike Valley to please get their submissions in and try to work with the board, and keep me informed with what is going on. I think there is a real genuine attempt to resolve this very difficult problem. I am sure that I will be talking and hearing a lot about this in the future yet.
The applications are being accepted now until April 30. Any applications after April 30 will not be accepted. It is imperative that people get on with them and get the applications in as soon as possible. I do not think that they have to be really big, fancy applications. The more detailed they are, the better, but one should get something in and work with the people in place to help out with this sort of thing. I really believe that some good can come out of this, because I can tell you that a lot of people have put a lot of hours into trying to make this work.
Another issue that has been a hot topic in Dawson lately, but has not been mentioned here today, is justice.
I do not think this is unique to Dawson City in any way, shape or form, but is something that is happening across the country where the Young Offenders Act is probably not serving the purpose it was originally intended to serve.
I am not saying that the process that just happened in Dawson was perfect and that everything went well, because it did not. There were some glitches and mistakes made. Overall, I believe communities need to take responsibility for their youth problems and the crimes that are committed. I think this process has to be given a chance to work. In other communities where this process has been tried, there have been some glitches. I am sorry for the people who were involved in those glitches. It is an unfortunate thing, and I do not think that the people who were attempting to do this were out to maliciously slander or hurt anyone, although I know that there are some pretty hard feelings around town right now.
The Minister of Justice was just up in Dawson City with me this past weekend. We talked to a number of people in the community about this particular issue and he has assured me that the Department of Justice will be working with the community and the people involved in Dawson City to try to set up the proper procedure and training that will be needed to carry off the circle-sentencing courts - whatever one wants to call them - in the future.
I think that is great. I would like to say that this is not really a new thing. It is a type of diversion, and diversion has been used for many, many years. I am sure that, given time, when people settle down and with calmer heads, it will be able to work. It will work in Dawson and even though some negative things came out of this last one I think some very positive things came out of it as well.
I would just like to thank the people in the community who took that initiative and stepped forward and went through with it. I know they are going through some pretty tough times in the community right now, and people are blaming them for everything that went wrong, but I would like to thank them for taking the initiative and stepping forward and really putting it into the limelight. The proof that there is a real interest in it and that the community supports it is in the fact of how many people showed up to it.
Well over 90 people showed up to witness the proceeding that took place in Dawson. I hope that citizens of Dawson do not lose sight of it and that the Department of Justice is able to provide an individual to work with the community in a timely fashion to have this procedure and the correct way to carry it out put forward soon.
Well, I guess I cannot put it off any longer. I am going to have to talk about the school in Dawson. There has been an awful lot said about this today. I will not say that I am extremely happy with what has happened, because I am not happy. I think that it is unfortunate that some things did happen.
For the record I would like to correct some things that have been said here today.
The school will be built. There is no question that the school will be built. The construction of the school has been delayed; it has not been scrapped. It has been delayed for one year.
Now, I will get back to discussing the delay and why it happened.
The Opposition has made big points about how there is a big, empty lot in Dawson City. The people in the community of Dawson City have wanted that highway yard out of there for years. No matter what is said or done, that was the right decision. I believe it showed a great deal of flexibility by the government, in that it was able to go back up there and move it, after having been there just a few weeks before to say that they were not going to do so. I think that is great for the community. There will be a school built on that piece of property. It was not a waste.
There were some unfortunate incidents. The Minister of Education was due to go to Dawson, and I believe in my heart that he really did want to meet and talk to the people in the community. I believe that if he had been given that opportunity we would probably be seeing that school being built right now. Due to circumstances beyond his or anyone else's control, he was not able to get up there in a timely fashion. It was 40, 50 and 60 degrees below zero in Dawson at the time. I am not going to try to use that as an excuse; it is just a fact. He was not able to get up there when he wanted to.
We were given numbers by the Department of Education. I believe that there is a real grey area in these numbers - what led to them and where they came from. I think that there were numbers being compared. They were comparing numbers of August 1994 with numbers of December 1995. There is a big discrepancy. In Dawson, there is often a decline during the middle winter months - December, January and February - when people are on holidays or miners have taken their kids to school outside and later come back. There are always fewer children in the school during those months in Dawson City. We were told, and I was told - and I have been for a couple of years - that the school could hold 295 children. We questioned the numbers; we went through them. I should explain that 275 is the total number of students that the school could hold, but there were 20 kindergarten students that could also use the school.
That made a total of 295. Dawson had around 305 students last year. A funny thing about these numbers is that in the community of Dawson City - as in probably most other small communities - classrooms are based on about 25 students per classroom. In the lower grades in Dawson, we do have 25 to 30 students; but when one gets up into the high school grades, there are only seven to 10 students in the classroom. So, there are still 300 students but there are not classrooms for all the students. If grades 1 and 2 happen to be the two biggest classes, they can be split, for example.
In Dawson there are fewer students in the upper grades than there are in the lower grades, but there is still a need to house the rest of the students. There are still students in the hallways of the school.
There are modulars there.
I believe that those modulars were put there - I know they were put there - while a decision was made about whether or not we would add on to Robert Service School or we would build a new school. It was decided that a new school would be built. I think that right now Robert Service School, with the aid of the modulars, can handle the number of students that are there. I think it is very tight, but I think it can be done.
I do not know if it can be done next year. I am not as convinced as the department is. I think that we could run into a very serious problem. During the year that the school is built, which will be next year - it was supposed to open in 1997; it will now open for 1998 - while construction is going on, we could have a real problem with the rooms in the school in Dawson.
There was a report done by Dr. Smith, who used to be the superintendent of schools for the northern region. I believe the report was written in 1991 or 1992. At that time, he stated that the school was too small. He said that the numbers would be down by 10 students over last year. Numbers are still up, but down over last year because this year there was a small kindergarten class.
It turns out that when the school board in Dawson - I am not going to go through the entire procedure with you - went through the numbers, they were down by nine students.
The report that was written in 1991 or 1992 was right on the money, and he had said at that time that the school was too small. The school is still too small.
The school will have to be built in Dawson; there is no question about it.
There may be a positive side to this delay. I sat on the building advisory committee, and I believe it has done some really good work. They are very cognizant of the budget and have tried to bring this school in on budget and meet the timelines that were thrust on them. One of the things we talked about early on was the location of the school on the lot. We talked about where the school would actually be situated on the lot. We decided that it had to be set back and moved over. There are two lots that are owned by the federal government in that location.
I think, with a little bit of luck - it had better be more than a little bit of luck - we had better deliver on this one. We had better get those lots and we had better get them before construction starts.
Speaker: Order please. The time now being 5:30, we will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Mr. Millar: I will try to pick up where I left off. I believe that I was talking about the potential for something positive to come out of the whole Dawson second school issue. It is directly related to the two lots that the federal government currently owns right across from the pool and adjacent to the highway compound lots.
I believe that we can pick up those lots. When we do so, it will have an effect on the exact placement of the school on the lots. It could make a difference to the approaches of the bus - where it comes in - and to the pattern of parents dropping off their children, and it will have an effect on the size of the playground. One of the reasons for this having such a dramatic effect is because in one corner of the lot - it is probably the best lot in Dawson City - there is an area where a slough used to be. We cannot build a school on the slough. It would make a difference. We can put a playground on it, but not the school. It could mean that the playground would be much bigger.
In talking about the second school in Dawson and the numbers, I have not touched upon the impact that Loki Gold Corporation could have. I am not going to dwell on this, but I do have some preliminary figures.
I do not think that Loki is going to have an effect in the immediate school year and probably not too much of an effect next year, but in the following year, 1997-98, I believe the mine could have an impact.
Loki is active in Dawson right now. It is going around Dawson looking to purchase houses and lots for some of the executives that they are going to have to bring to the community. I know that discussions are going on right now to move families to Dawson.
I think a very conservative estimate would be an impact of a minimum of approximately 20 students. I have numbers that are higher than that, but in summary I do not think that there is any question that Dawson is going to need this second school in the immediate future.
I think it is unfortunate that the weather was so cold when it was, and that the Minister was unable to be in Dawson to discuss the school soon enough. It could have had an effect on his decision.
Having said that, I also think we have to look at something positive that could come out of this, and that is acquiring those lots.
In closing on talking about the school, I would like to say that there is still about $200,000 in the budget this year to continue work on the school. I feel strongly that the building advisory committee must continue the work it was doing. We must bring the school to the point where it is ready to go and the plans are sitting on the shelf, so that the second the go-ahead is given to build the school, those plans can be pulled off the shelf and construction can start, so there will be no delays.
I would also be remiss if I did not thank the members of the building advisory committee, all of whom had to work very hard to get to the point they are at now. It is getting fairly close. They were definitely on schedule to go ahead and build the school this coming year.
I would like to thank them and say that I think it is very important that we continue the work they were doing right to completion.
I would like to touch very briefly on tourism. I think that tourism is growing in the Yukon. There is a four-percent growth in tourism every year - or last year, anyway - in the Yukon. That is the largest growth in tourism anywhere in Canada. I think that that is significant. One of the things that is happening - and I know that is not under the Tourism budget - is the anniversaries program. It is, I believe, going ahead very well in Dawson. They have pulled together quite well. They have had approval for the first phase and they are going ahead with the planning of it. I think this will be very beneficial to the whole community. I do have a lot of faith in the growth of the tourism industry. I would like to see that continue.
I am going to talk a little bit about the placer mining industry right now and I will be very brief on this subject. When this government first came into power in 1992, I strongly believed that the placer mining industry was in deep trouble. I really believe that if it had not been for the direct and very quick response of the Government Leader, the Ministers at the time and me, we would have a very small placer mining industry in the territory today.
I cannot say that strongly enough. As it is, I think it is a very viable industry right now. It is doing fairly well; but at this time, there are land use regulations going through Parliament in Ottawa, and although they are not what the placer industry would like -
Speaker: Order please. The Member has three minutes in which to conclude his remarks.
Mr. Millar: To summarize it all, I think that the placer mining industry could be coming into some tough times if those regulations, as they are going through in Ottawa, are changed at all by the bureaucrats or politicians who are there. If they start messing with them to appease people who live in the south, I think that the placer mining industry could come under attack again. That would be a very sad thing for the territory.
I will close on a pretty positive note. I am still an active placer miner and am personally happy to see the price of gold going up. I know that a lot of the miners will soon be coming back. I just wish everybody a good season.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Department of Community and Transportation Services plans expenditures of $62.3 million in operation and maintenance for 1996-97 and $58.1 million in capital. Our government will continue major highway construction activity in 1996-97. Work will continue on the Alaska Highway under the Shakwak agreement to complete 38 kilometres of new construction and BST, including the construction of a new bridge over the White River.
American funds that had been available for the Shakwak project are running out and we are lobbying the United States for money to complete the project. If our lobbying efforts are not successful, our capital budget will drop dramatically.
Comprehensive upgrading of the South Alaska Highway from Swift River to Watson Lake and the strengthening of the Teslin River Bridge at Johnson's Crossing will also take place.
New BST surfacing of 38 kilometres of the Top of the World Highway is scheduled to meet our government's goal of completion of the Top of the World Highway reconstruction for the Gold Rush Anniversary.
Design and construction on the Campbell Highway and upgrading of the Freegold Road will be carried out in preparation for the production decision by Carmacks Copper and the Cominco find at Finlayson Lake.
Miscellaneous upgrades are planned on other Yukon roads, including the Klondike Highway.
There are eight capital projects budgeted for Yukon airports in 1996-97. Included in these projects is a taxiway construction on the Mayo airport, functional planning and geotechnical work at Dawson airport and additional space planning for the Old Crow terminal. Anyone who has been to Old Crow will realize that there is not much space in their waiting room at all.
To carry on with our commitment to make affordable land available to Yukoners, $6.4 million has been allocated for land development, of which $3.2 million will target the next phase of the Whitehorse Hamilton Area D Copper Ridge development.
Funds have been allocated for the City of Whitehorse sewage treatment facility, which will bring this government's contribution to $18.4 million for the project.
With regard to the land and the notion that we have too many lots, I find that strange. Last winter, we met with the real estate people, the homebuilders and the city, and they wanted to have at least 100 lots surplus at all times. We have succeeded in that goal and opened it up earlier in the spring so that people can bid on the lots. Everyone whom I have talked to, except for some in this Legislature, seem very happy that we have a bank of that many lots, with a commitment to try and maintain that.
Our support to Yukon communities and municipalities remains solid, with no reduction to the comprehensive municipal finance assistance fund and grants-in-lieu. I would like to point out, however, that the federal infrastructure program for municipalities, which was entitled the Canada/Yukon infrastructure program, has expired and the federal government has not notified us of a renewal. I attended a couple of meetings with the ministers, and we tried valiantly to get them going on it. All we could get was an agreement that they would audit some to see whether or not they are worthwhile.
That is the last I have heard of that, and the Minister has now been transferred to another post, so I will probably have to start all over again.
Our government, in conjunction with Indian Affairs and Northern Development, has initiated a Klondike placer occupant review policy in order to deal with a number of long-standing issues in the Klondike Valley, such as the occupation of placer claims for non-mining purposes and joint municipal and government planning issues.
I suppose I should apologize to the Leader of the Official Opposition. I told him that I would have that done by the spring; however, I did not say which spring - it looks like I am about one year behind on it.
There has been $.6 million allocated for improvement of public health, road and street facilities in unincorporated communities. Of that amount, $330,000 will be used to continue the Ross River community road upgrading.
Provision has been made for a firetruck for Mount Lorne. This will enable the community's fire department to become fully functional.
In order to meet operations and maintenance commitments of municipal and community affairs programs in the areas of public health, safety, support of Yukon communities, land availability, community planning and recreation, the government has provided $22.3 million.
This government has presented a responsible budget. Our government's careful financial planning over the years has been successful. From the beginning, the Government Leader warned that there would be cuts coming. I think that the Northwest Territories would have been very happy if they had listened to him and started to get their financial house in order before they got into the mess that they are now in. This government still has money and the territory is not in debt, unlike most of the provinces and the Northwest Territories.
There was some mention of forestry and the promises that I made. We signed an agreement in principle when I was there and all the experts who negotiate these types of agreements told me that it was only a formality and that the agreement would be signed. For some reason, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs did not sign the agreement. I do not know why, but I have my suspicions and some day when I write my big book about my 14 years in the Legislature I might tell you just what happened on that one - you never know.
We have heard quite a few arguments about the swimming pool in Old crow and that this government is ashamed to talk about it. I am not ashamed to raise this issue and the Hon. Mickey Fisher will also talk about this issue and how discussion took place about this pool when he was the Minister of the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
I recall, when I was first moved into this portfolio, he brought me pamphlets about the different types of swimming pools he researched.
Everyone says this is an election budget item, but if you were to go back and look at the budget for 1995-96, we allocated $35,000 for a feasibility study. That study is now completed and it has been recommended that we go ahead with the installation of the pool at a cost of $300,000.
I have no hesitation in saying that I do not think that anybody can stand here and say this is a political item. This promise was made long before and it was one of the promises that we made to Johnny Abel.
I was very pleased to be able to keep that promise, and that this government would put it through. I was up there the week before he passed away, and the first thing he asked me when he met me at the airplane was if he was going to get the swimming pool. At that time, it was nip and tuck, I can tell you. It was in the draft policy twice, then went out of the financial plan. However, we finally got it back into the budget, and they will have the swimming pool.
I am told, and I have read, where, time after time, they say that nobody wants one up there. Yet a letter, dated September 7, 1995, from the Vuntut Gwitchin Council thanked Mr. Abel for going ahead and that the children would be looking forward to the swimming pool.
I think it is about time we put things in perspective and quit playing politics with things like that. It is not a great deal of money. If I have to take the heat for it, I have no problem with that. I will take it as long as they want to give it to me. I am proud of the fact that I got the swimming pool in the budget, and I am proud of the fact that the government and the other Cabinet Ministers helped to put it there. If anyone wants to start giving heat over it, then I am the boy where the buck stops. I have no problem with that.
I am very pleased that we can do this for him, and it is just too bad that a tragic accident happened and he will not be around when the pool is built.
It is things like that that really bother me, when we have to go so low as to pick on something like that and politicize it, saying that we dreamed this up at the last minute. This budget was completed long before the tragic death of Mr. Abel. One of the things that bothers me in the House is when people lower themselves so far to start something like that. I am very happy. I know that when I shave in the morning, I can look in that mirror and not be a bit ashamed of what I have done.
Mr. Joe: Once again, we speak to the budget. There is nothing new in it. I hear the same every year. Nothing seems to get any better.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Joe: For Mayo, no. Mayo gets nothing compared to what other ridings get.
Once again, I am going to speak to this budget. I will say the same old thing again.
On the first day, the budget was tabled by the Government Leader. I heard a good one then. The Government Leader said, "We have good consultations with the communities, community meetings, and we will listen to their concerns." This is not what I hear now.
I had a good holiday this summer. I spent a lot of time in my riding. There were no meetings taking place. I am an MLA. I was not invited to sit in the meeting in Keno Hill, in my riding. So what do we call this? On one hand, we talk about working together. How are we going to do that?
This government is the one that wants to work with the First Nations. It had better do something for them by changing its attitude and showing respect. Otherwise, if this is not done, these kinds of problems are going to be there all the time. What I would like to hear from the government is, what are we going to do about the poor people? I have a lot of them in my riding.
We have talked about cutbacks in social programs, but what are we going to do for these people? I never hear anything about what the government is going to do for these kinds of people.
People who are placer miners make money. They can speak as long as they make money. That is fine. What I am thinking about are the people who are trappers when the fur prices are no good. Social programs are no longer any good due to the cutbacks that we are facing today. I thought that the government was here to do something for the people of the Yukon. This was my understanding.
We are going to have a lot of problems. We are going to have a lot of mean people. We do not want to see that happen.
Too many times I hear Members attacking each other in this House. I want to tell you something about the old saying, "You learn by your mistakes."
I would like to see a government that learns from its mistakes. They keep bringing up things from four years ago, saying that the previous government made a mistake. They do not learn from it. Today, I am hearing the same old thing. They are facing the same things as when they were in power. They should learn from their mistakes. Why do they not do that?
Today, I could talk about other provinces. Ontario - what happened to them? They were NDP. They are doing their part; we do not have to worry about them. We are the Yukon and we work for Yukoners. If you want to talk about Ontario, fine.
Who put Canada into a deficit position? It was a PC government, under Mr. Mulroney. Now, the Liberals have to clean up the mess, from what I understand. I hope that one day, things will work out. I do not know what kind of a future the young people will have to face in five or 10 years. We should think about that.
Something that I see often are people who are nervous because they are stuck with their position. They are afraid to leave their jobs. There again, let us go back to the poor people. They are asking, "Who cares about us?"
The people are beginning to have respect for us as a government nowadays. In my day, I did not need to worry about government and I did not need to worry about welfare. That is the way my father brought me up. My father did not need the white man's help. He paid for his own medicine and whatnot out of his own pocket. We never received anything free in those days - or, just a little bit. How hard we used to work. I am pretty sure that the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin understands what I am talking about. That is the kind of people we are.
Today we are facing a different world. We just have to have government help to keep ourselves going.
There is one other thing, too. I do not know what can be done about trapping. Trapping programs are there to help people. If we want to take people off welfare, we are going to have to come up with something better.
The Government Leader talks about working together. Yes, I agree we should work together. This is something I have always said - little words that mean big things. There is no doubt about it, whether we like it or not, we are going to have to work together for the people of the Yukon.
One thing we did together was address gun registration legislation.
I was here when the speeches were made. They were made with the same voice. The problem is that we do not make the decisions for our own territory. Somebody else is making those decisions for us in Ottawa.
One day, it is very important to get the changes that will bring the power to the Yukon. Let us do it.
This is something that is not an easy thing to accomplish. When we talk about gun registration, somebody else is going to have control over our lives. That is my biggest concern. To make it worse, if I want to buy a rifle, I have to go back to school first. I have to learn to fill out some papers about firearms safety. I learned that when I was 12 years old. My father taught me and my uncle taught me how to take care of a rifle safely. Now, I have to start all over. It will take me two years to buy a brand-new rifle, and I still do not get the point.
This government talks about all the good things that it has done; I disagree. I also disagree with the government that they listen to community concerns. Once again I want to tell this government that if they want to listen to community concerns, they had better get out there and meet with the people who live in the communities. I will make sure that I am there.
I attended a meeting in Carmacks last fall. At the last minute, someone phoned and said I had to be at the meeting at 7:30. I told them it would take me about an hour to drive there, but I would be there. When I got there, there were only two people there and the Government Leader. I do not know how that happened. Good consultation - I think that is what you would call it.
One other thing that I would like to talk about is that too many times I hear Members in this House attacking each other.
Something that I do not want to hear is the Minister of Community and Transportation Services saying we are playing politics. How many years have I sat on the bench here? I have been doing this - playing politics - for eight or nine years so far. They are playing politics, too. Why are they in power? This is something that I have been told in my riding. Somebody like that does not listen to you. Nobody is going to listen to you so whenever you speak, forget it. I agree. Somebody said, "You might as well stay home. You go to a meeting and the most important thing is where you are sitting." I agree.
There are lots of good, fancy speakers here. They make things sound really good but they do not work for all the people. When we were the government, we worked with the communities. We worked with all of the Yukon. That is what I am doing. I still have a lot of friends. Some are in the Yukon Party. The way that elections work, whoever they get in there, whether we like it or not, we are going to have to work with that person anyway. That is the way I look at it.
I am talking about a political party that is something that we believe in. I am a native person. I have been through every party. I was in the Yukon Party one time, with Howard Tracey. Mr. Tracey would not fight. He argued too much. Today we were speaking about the land claims. When the land claim was on the table, Mr. Tracey asked the people what we wanted to do about the land claim. He said it was up to us. People said it was up to him. People said he had to tell us, that we did not know the first thing about land claims, and w
e would deal with it later. It had been tabled two or three times, and he did not explain to anybody what the land claim was all about.
I walked away, and they never saw me again.
I will not get stuck with any political party. I am looking for a political party that works closely with the First Nations. I will make sure it believes in working with the people, and not playing politics with First Nations, especially on land claims.
I have done a lot of talking about land claims. The public should be involved with the land claim. We will not say no. If anyone would like to speak to us as a First Nation, we are ready to speak with them.
Let me tell you another thing. When land claim talks first started, I was with Elijah Smith at the time. White people would not start the process. Money that came into the Yukon is not coming in today. What do you get? Nothing. Even if they are getting fat, getting $8 million or $10 million every year, what do we get out of it? Nothing.
White people are saying, " You had better do something for yourself. Get up and do something." That is where it started. I know that for sure. It is a good thing that Mr. Smith started talking. Today we are talking with the government. You can see me standing here and now I can talk to you, Mr. Speaker.
That is the way it should be, right from the beginning.
I was involved in the land claims negotiations. Talk about playing politics. When I went to a community where the negotiation teams were working, I would sit and watch things. Sometimes I had to ask them what they were trying to prove. Lots of things get thrown around just to kill time. It is too bad that right from the beginning the First Nations did not negotiate the land that we are talking about today.
Something that my father always told me about the land was to get out there and use it. Sometimes I used to argue with my father. He worked on a gold mine at one time for three or four years. I once told him that he knew a lot about gold, and had been all around the country. My old man would look at me and ask me what the heck I would want gold for. I would say to him that we could get rich and not stay poor forever. No, no, he would say, I am not going to tell you anything about gold. He told me he knew lots about gold. He said, "What the heck do people want to get rich for? I see lots of rich people. I think that they have a poorer chance than you do."
In those days, all anyone needed was a few dollars in their pocket - $1,000 or $1,500 was a lot of money in those days. My old man said that as long as he had a few dollars in his pocket, anything he needed he would go out and work for, and would be just as happy as having money - what the hell did he need money for in those days. Today, it is a different world that we are facing.
I am still thinking about social welfare cutbacks - something will really have to be done about it. I do not know what the plan is for the cutbacks. We do not know where to put the poor people that we have in the Yukon. Maybe someone else can speak to that.
Mr. Schafer: It is a great honour for me to be here today representing the people of Old Crow. I want to thank the people of Old Crow for having confidence in me and for giving me this privilege.
With my election as an MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin, the course of my life has suddenly changed. There is much work to do and I must act in the best interests of my people and all Yukoners.
The late Johnny Abel, the former MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin, did many good things for his community and especially for the young people. Johnny knew that the young people are our future. The government and the future of our young people were his major concerns.
I have known Johnny Abel all of my life. We were brothers-in-law. Johnny Abel was a very good man. He served the Vuntut Gwitchin well and he earned our respect for the work that he did throughout his life here in this House. I have paid our respects to Johnny, and it is now time to turn the page of history and carry on.
My community has given me the job of representing them. I must carry on with the task at hand and see this through to the end. I know that the job of being an MLA is not an easy one. I will do the best job that I can in serving as an MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin and representing their interests here in the House.
It is important for the MLA of our riding to listen to the elders and to the community. They will be telling me what their needs are, rather than me telling them what they need or want.
The community of Old Crow is like no other rural community in the Yukon because there is no road to it. One cannot drive to Old Crow and, because of this, the community has its own very special needs.
I would like to talk a little more about these things, because some of them were raised in the recent by-election in the Vuntut Gwitchin riding. I am referring to the controversy surrounding the school bus for Old Crow and, even more recently, the controversy about the money in the budget for a community swimming pool in Old Crow.
The government has been criticized for electioneering on the delivery of its commitments to the previous MLA for the Vuntut Gwitchin to provide these things for the children of Old Crow. While I have only been an MLA for a few hours, something is not right here. Why should the children of Old Crow not be entitled to ride a bus to school when the weather can be 40 or 50 degrees below? Other children in other Yukon communities have such a service.
Should the Government of Yukon tell the children of Old Crow that they cannot have a school bus because that would be electioneering? I do not think the children of Old Crow would understand this kind of logic. I know I do not understand it, and I do not think the people of Old Crow would understand it either.
The 1996-97 budget has been called an election budget. It contains $300,000 for the swimming pool that Johnny Abel asked the government to provide for the young people of Old Crow.
I realize that I am new at being an MLA. I do not understand how a $300,000 expenditure out of a $472 million budget can be used in a claim that the 1996-97 budget is an election budget. Should the Government of the Yukon tell the young people of Old Crow that they cannot have a swimming pool in their community because that would be electioneering? Other communities in the Yukon - some even smaller than Old Crow - have a swimming pool. I do not understand why my community should not be entitled to have the same service provided to them.
As the MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin, I would like to see more - not fewer - opportunities provided to the young people in Old Crow. I have a great concern for the youth in my community. I would ask other hon. Members in this House to help the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and the Government of Yukon provide for the future of our young people.
If young people have nothing to do, they are bored and have problems of some sort, and they tend to get into trouble. I would like to see programs in place in addition to a youth facility that would keep our young people involved in sports and other recreational activities, and learning new or traditional knowledge. We must not let our young people grow up and get into trouble because they have nothing to do and nowhere to go.
Unlike other Yukon communities, the way of the future for my riding is based on the traditional pursuit of hunting, fishing and trapping, as well as on creating new economic opportunities. There is a need to develop a long-term plan for northern Yukon that recognizes and respects our adequate way of life.
My people continue to live off the land. The protection of the Porcupine caribou herd and its habitat in Alaska, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories is critical to the social, cultural and economic well-being of my people.
I have spoken with the Government Leader about these important issues and was pleased to hear about the actions the government has taken in support of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. Members will recall the work my predecessors did in Washington, D.C., to protect the Porcupine caribou herd. I want to thank this House and the Government of Yukon for their continued support for the protection of the caribou, our culture and our way of life.
How can the Vuntut Gwitchin continue to be hunters if there are no caribou left to hunt? This is our food. The Vuntut Gwitchin are also good trappers. It is our source of income. Trapping is also a cultural pursuit and a way of life. The international anti-fur lobby is attempting to deny us this way of life.
Most of these anti-trapping groups know very little about trapping and what it means to our people. What is worse is that a few of the groups do not know the impact of what they are doing and do not care. They believe we should turn our backs on our way of life and do something other than hunting and trapping. What is that something else we are supposed to do? I have relied on trapping and the Porcupine caribou herd all of my life, as does the entire community.
I know that this House and the Government of Yukon have supported trappers in this major international struggle. I thank you for that and urge your continued support for trapping.
I would now like to say a few words about something that the federal government is doing that is threatening our way of life, and that is the federal gun legislation, Bill C-68.
I do not understand why the federal government cannot pass a law that is sensitive to the needs and lifestyle of all Canadians, not just Canadians who live in southern Canada.
This is even more surprising in view of the fact that the Prime Minister, the Right Hon. Jean Chretien, is a former Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. I would expect him to be sensitive to our needs and to the needs of northern Canadians. Perhaps the Prime Minister has spent too much time in Ottawa and needs to be reminded of the impact that this government law is having on all of us who live here.
I would like him to come to Old Crow to refresh his memory, and I can assure him that there will be no need for the security he requires in southern Canada.
That itself says nothing about his new gun control law. Guns are our tools, the tools we require to carry out our traditional pursuits.
Once again, I thank this House and the Government of the Yukon for their efforts to make this law acceptable to northern Canadians and to all the aboriginal people of Canada. I urge them to continue the struggle.
Early in my address, I noted that the future of my riding is based not only on our traditional pursuits of hunting, fishing and trapping, but is also dependent upon creating new economic opportunities. In order to carry out these opportunities, there are several things that the Vuntut Gwitchin and we, as Yukoners, must do. The budget address tells us what we must do. We must educate today for the challenges of tomorrow. We are very proud of our school in Old Crow and the job that the education department and the teachers are doing to educate our children. Our children are the key to our future. They will inherit the wisdom of our elders and will be responsible for the continuation of our beliefs, culture, values and way of life - what is left for them. At the same time, we must prepare them to meet the challenges of the future, challenges that our generation did not have to face.
Our education system must prepare them to meet these challenges. I know the subject of schools and grade reorganization often appears to be a subject of considerable controversy in the communities outside Old Crow. I hope that I will not be adding to this controversy by stating my desire to have our school in Old Crow ultimately to teach from kindergarten to grade 12 at some time in the future.
One of the other major keys in creating new economic opportunities for my people can be found by implementing our land claims and self-government agreements.
It took many years to achieve these agreements. Many of the elders, chiefs and councillors who started these negotiations many years ago are no longer with us. One of these is Johnny Abel. We owe it to them and to our people to make these settlements work to create new economic opportunities for both today and tomorrow.
I know much work is being done to implement these agreements and I pledge my support to help in any way that I can.
When the House began last Thursday, I was sitting in the gallery. Most of the questions asked that day concerned land claims. I do not know how Question Periods are supposed to be conducted, but I could not help but notice this House treating land claims as a partisan issue.
I do not intend to be disrespectful, but I urge all Members of this House to rise above partisan differences in this most important matter.
Grand Chief Harry Allen of the Council for Yukon First Nations perhaps said it best when he stated that the settlement of land claims was much more important than any one individual. We must all work together to get this important job done.
The 1996-97 budget address is entitled "Building a Better Future Together". The settlement of all Yukon First Nations claims is one of the keys to building a better future today. It is an object that I, as the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, fully support.
I urge all Yukoners to continue to work together to build a better future.
Mr. Sloan: When I first came to the House, I was reminded that brevity is the soul of wit, but this being my first speech, I will take a bit of licence and speak from a personal note, first of all, and then talk a bit about the nature of my riding and some of the concerns I have with some of the issues the government has raised.
For me, this is a particularly unique opportunity and honour. I come from a part of the world where, unfortunately, there are more incendiary ways of dealing with strife. Perhaps my good friend from Faro knows this. On a very serious note, when one comes to Canada from a part of the world where perhaps parliamentary democracy is not as well respected as it is in Canada, one is very appreciative of the kinds of privileges and freedoms we have as Canadians and that we have here in the territory.
I look around this Chamber and see the forum that we use, the positions where we sit, the forms of address, and the rituals that we go through. I realize and I am reminded that these are privileges that were not easily won. The parliamentary form of democracy is one that goes back in time. Many of the things we do here have their origin in the 1600s during the reign of James I and Charles I. Many of them were won at great personal cost.
My background is in history. I stood up in front of kids every day and spoke about these kinds of things. I was able to speak about them in the abstract. However, coming here, standing before all of the hon. Members and realizing that what we do has great importance, it is a very awe-inspiring experience indeed.
I think back on the development of responsible government in this country and upon people including William Lyon Mackenzie, Louis Joseph Papineau, Robert Baldwin, LaFontaine, and all of the other people who moved the process of responsible government forward, which finally culminated in Confederation. I realize how brief our own time is in terms of responsible government in this territory. That is a thought that gives one reason to pause.
When I say that I feel this responsibility very keenly, that is no exaggeration. My parents came to this country; they brought us here; we began from very humble beginnings. However, they gave to me a sense of duty, of responsibility and of hard work. That is the kind of background I hope to bring on behalf of the electors of Whitehorse West. In a sense, my speech tonight is dedicated to my parents for the sacrifices that they made for me so that I could stand here tonight before this body.
On February 5, the electors of Whitehorse West gave me their trust. I intend to repay that trust. The electoral district of Whitehorse West was represented by the former leader of the NDP - Mr. Tony Penikett - for a number of years. He represented it very capably. However, the riding itself has changed. It has become much more diverse. For example, since the last general election, it has almost doubled in size. Its nature has changed. The riding itself is very large in terms of physical size and is very diverse in terms of lifestyles. In a sense, it is almost a microcosm of the territory. We have an industrial region out at MacRae where people live among a mix of industrial facilities, workshops and businesses. We have areas such as Squatters Road where people are living, essentially, a rural lifestyle within the boundaries of the city. We have areas such as Hillcrest, the oldest, most well-established, distinctive neighbourhood in Whitehorse. We have new growth areas in Granger, Arkell, Logan and Copper Ridge, which, in many ways, represent the direction that the territory is taking - the direction of newer families, younger families coming up - and represent a different growth pattern for the city.
In the time I spent campaigning in the riding, I found that people, no matter where they lived in the riding, shared certain commonalities. They shared concerns about the future. No matter where I went in the riding, whether it was out to Canyon Crescent or Lobird, I found that people did have concerns about the schools. They had concerns about the development of the schools. They had concerns about grade reorganization and how that was going to develop and what the impact would be. There were questions of boundaries, programming for their children. These are not abstract kinds of things to think about. These are very real issues to parents.
I have had the privilege of working in education for a number of years and I know that the most heartfelt concern that people have is for the welfare of their children and their future.
Perhaps I could give the Member for Klondike some advice on how one calculates numbers in determining classes and school size. It is a rather simple formula. One goes to the health centre and asks for the numbers born in that year, and then push it forward about five years. It is not really that complex an operation.
Other issues that have arisen during the course of the campaign dealt with crime, but I was gratified when I spoke with people throughout the riding. There was not a knee-jerk reaction to crime. They did not say, "Lock them up and throw away the key." There were people who actually began asking questions about the nature of crime, the cause of crime and, to give my colleague, the Minister of Justice, some credit, some of the initiatives that have been brought out are, I think, a step in the right direction. I hope they will continue.
People were very concerned that young people have a meaningful life and that they have meaningful alternatives. The idea of alternative sentencing was something I heard, but I also heard some other things. I heard the need for people to take control of their own neighbourhoods. I heard the need for people to move from neighbourhood watches to perhaps community advisory committees - advising the police on deployment of officers at key times.
These are the kinds of things that we can do within the Justice system, with some progress to achieve.
Some other issues that emerged while I was going around had to do with such matters as the question about land claims.
Some people might ask me why land claims would impact them in Whitehorse West and the answer is very simple. The area of Whitehorse West borders on the area of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. People are very cognizant that this territory will not progress socially or advance economically and will not advance in so many other ways unless we can come to a just resolution of the land claims settlement.
When I came to this territory 18 years ago, my good friend the Member for Mayo-Tatchun was the Chief of the Selkirk Band. At that time, I remember he and others were talking about land claims from the point of view of fundamental justice. I guess at that time I was somewhat naive, because I expected that the process would be settled very soon and that we would be into a much kinder era than what we are in now.
When the umbrella final agreement was signed, I felt a real surge of optimism. I felt that we were moving forward. I thought that, finally, people in this territory, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, could begin to create the kind of pluralistic society, an inclusive type of society, that I think we all want and that my good friend, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, had promoted so long ago. Unfortunately, we have not reached that point; we have not made substantial progress.
When our neighbours in Kwanlin Dun have expressed frustration, I can understand the frustration and the fundamental concern that they have because their hopes and dreams have not progressed.
I know that we have talked at length about the issue of Taga Ku, but for me and for many of my constituents, Taga Ku kept emerging time and again during the course of this campaign. One of the reasons that it emerged and one of the most telling instances was on one of the radio shows when a Member of the Champagne-Aishihik Band phoned into the show. This person said that it is not just about money, it is about fundamental trust and about how we relate to people in this territory. That is what is violated. It was more than a contract; it was a contract of trust.
I think, for many aboriginal people, Taga Ku represented a sense of where this government was going and that it tainted relations in many ways. The people of Whitehorse West are cognizant of that. Many people are very concerned about what the settlement of Taga Ku would do, in terms of what it would cost. To date, we have not received that.
However, I did notice that in some of the estimates for Justice there is a substantial reduction in litigation and outside counsel costs. Am I to assume from that that the Taga Ku settlement is right around the corner?
There are a number of other issues I would like to speak to tonight before I get into the budget itself. Some of them have to do with such things as tourism. The issue of tourism is one that needs to be explored in some detail. We need to realize that the tourism industry represents the best renewable resource we have, but people do not come here because they want to be in Anaheim, or want to be some place else. They come here for what we have. They come here for the kind of natural world we have; they come here for our wildlife and scenery. We need to realize that these are our greatest resources.
These are the kinds of things we need to promote. We need to look at the idea of promoting the ecotourism industry to a greater degree. We need to promote the idea that people should come to experience the culture of our First Nations. We need to interact with our First Nations community in a much greater way to develop their tourism potential. Frankly, I do not see tourism as being buildings. They are facilities, but not tourism. We need to move away from that approach and realize that the real basis for tourism is in developing our own human potential and our ability to promote an industry on a long-term basis.
I would like to turn now to some of my concerns having to do with some specifics in the riding. As I have said, Whitehorse West is one of the fastest growing ridings, and in a sense there is an acknowledgment of that situation with regard to money set aside for the development of Copper Ridge - though, I would suggest we sell the lots in the existing Copper Ridge before we move on to the next area.
Beyond that, the large growth in Whitehorse West raises a number of questions having to do with development. On some of these, I would suggest, we have to work with the City of Whitehorse in planning rationally for the future. We need to be taking a look at such matters as traffic patterns, areas of growth and certainly the issue of schools. We have heard a lot here today about the Dawson school and other schools. We have in our riding a school that is now on the verge of bursting, and the addition of grade reorganization will tax it very substantially. What plans have been made for the development of schools in an area for which the city itself has a plan for perhaps 10,000 to 15,000 inhabitants in the next decade? What plans have we made for that?
Considerable concern has emerged from people in the existing neighbourhoods - people in Hillcrest and Lobird - about the impact of this expansion, this large-scale growth. What impact will it have on the green spaces, the protected areas, the areas that should be protected? People do not come to Whitehorse West simply because they want to live in Richmond or Scarborough. They come here because of what the area can offer in the kinds of natural beauty and in the kinds of interactions with the natural world. What we have to do is work with the city in developing protected spaces and areas of biodiversity.
I would like to talk a little bit about some other issues having to do with Whitehorse West - some of the issues having to do, for example, with the people on Squatters Row, who really do need their own position vis-à-vis land status clarified.
These are some issues that have to be known, such as whether or not they are going to be country residential or urban residential. These are issues that must be clarified in the next while. The people in MacRae are concerned about traffic patterns. The tragedies on the highway have raised the issue of safety for many people.
These are some of the concerns that we have in Whitehorse West, as well as other concerns emerging around the development of areas up there, and what the impact will be on existing neighbourhoods such as Hillcrest. All of these factors are concerns expressed by people I spoke to during the by-election.
With reference to the subject at hand tonight - the budget - the Hon. Minister of Education accused the Leader of the Official Opposition of being somewhat picayune with the budget, so I will try and be more sweeping in my condemnation. Perhaps I will not be as sweeping as my colleague from Faro; nonetheless, I think we will try and look at some of the broader issues of the budget.
The budget itself is quite interesting. I have concluded that it does not particularly serve my constituents. I guess the question is: who does it serve? It certainly is an interesting dichotomy. Here we have a government that trumpets fiscal responsibility, yet, in very short order, we are being pushed to the financial brink.
Let us recall that it was only one year ago that this government said that it was prudent to have $30 million in the bank. Now we have $7 million. I realize I am a neophyte at this, but I think that works out to about five days' operations of government. If we keep talking like this, we should run out of money sometime next week.
I have to modify some of the remarks here, because it will not serve the constituents of Whitehorse West as, clearly, it certainly seems to serve some people. It serves the people of Ross River-Southern Lakes very well - to the tune of $2,418,000. They are being served very well. The good folks of Watson Lake, to whom I would begrudge nothing, seem to be very well taken care of at $745,000. Kluane is close behind with $625,000 and Vuntut Gwitchin at $450,000. The Klondike - the land of gold, both figuratively and literally - is being served with $3,879,000.
Faro, unfortunately, does not rank quite as well at $15,000. So, when I ask who it serves, obviously it serves the government's ridings very well.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
The same as you" - that is right. So the Member is striking a common cause with me I presume. Good, thank you my new colleague, the Minister of Justice.
In a sense we have been pushed to the edge by this government. A single financial blow, be it a Taga Ku settlement of some substantial size or one of the other actions that are now pending against this government, could tumble us over the brink.
Basically, what we have here is the effect of the government's bad planning, and nowhere is that clearer than in the so-called taxpayers protection legislation. I note that after four record budgets, increases in personal income tax of 45 to 50 percent, small business and corporate tax increases, the government has decided finally to protect Yukoners from the Yukon Party. They have now embraced taxpayer protection with all the zeal of a new convert.
Let us take a look at this new legislation and see exactly where it takes us. Given the government's very marginal surplus, a clause in this legislation could push the territory into yet another general election in very short order. I was amused when someone earlier today referred to this as the guillotine clause. From a history teacher's point of view, guillotine begins to conjure up all kinds of things. I am reminded that the French were pushed into the revolution in 1789 by the financial mismanagement of the then-government and I am also reminded of Robert Turgot's injunctions to the King at that time that this would cost him his head. Of course, in the figurative sense, this is what we hope will happen with the Yukon Party.
I am really concerned about this lack of responsibility. It is almost as if the Government Leader and his Ministers do not care. I have a feeling, given my experience around Whitehorse West, that they have sensed and sniffed the political wind. Very early on in the campaign, after about a week. out there, I came back and sat down with some people and said, "It ain't them." I sensed that the Government Leader and the Yukon Party are sensing the same thing, and I have a feeling that this is, as my colleague referred to it, a slash and burn kind of budget and I do not think they will be around that long.
Carrying on the somewhat extended metaphor of the French Revolution, I am reminded a little bit of an earlier French king, Louis XIV, sometimes referred to as the Sun King. He sat in splendid isolation in Versailles and his view of what came after him was, "Aprs moi la dluge" - "after me, nothing". In the same way, the Members opposite have abandoned their responsibility to Yukoners, and I believe they are determined to take the territory down with them.
In a period of financial restraint, the government continues to lavish $8 million on furniture, cars and computers. When I took a look at the expenses for the new tourism centre, I thought that it was perhaps a promotional gimmick that we were going to give a chair to each visitor, the same way that banks used to give away dishes, because there is almost $100,000 budgeted for furniture and equipment alone.
The Beringa Interpretive Centre is budgeted at $3.3 million and, while I do not want to get into the pros and cons of the Beringa Interpretive Centre, I do have some concerns that it will recover its cost. I am interested in attendance figures. I believe the projection was for 125,000, which is a little astonishing when you realize that all of the museums in the territory only garnered attendance of 76,000. I am wondering how the government arrived at these figures and have these figures been proven?
In short, some of these examples are the type of ill-conceived and inconsistent planning that we intend to demonstrate in the next few days, along with some of the dishonest forecasting and inconsistencies in this budget.
The fact is, the Yukon cannot afford this kind of reckless and irresponsible action. I would urge people, when they take a look at the budget, to take a hard look at it. Look at it in the light of where we are headed. Yes, there are cutbacks. There are cutbacks from the Liberal government in Ottawa; we know that and we know that there will be changes, but I think we need to set our priorities and we need to realize that the bottom line of any government is people.
That is what creates our wealth; that is what our wealth will remain in the future. All the people of the Yukon deserve better than this, and that is why I will be studying this budget over the next few days and I will be voting against it.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Before I get into the text of my speech, I would like to comment on some of the things said by other Members in the House today about the budget. It is quite obvious now that the New Democratic Party is not in favour of the budget, and not in favour of the taxpayer protection legislation. That is rather unfortunate. It was a breath of fresh air to listen to the new Member for Whitehorse West and his approach to these speeches in the beginning, but it did not take very long for that Member to jump into the learning curve and get into the fray and be as mean and nasty as others in this House have been in the past.
I welcome the Member to the House and wish him well in the debates and the work he does here. I think he will find it very interesting over the next few months.
I would first like to talk about some of the comments made by the Leader of the Official Opposition. He made a couple of comments about the growth of government and the operation and maintenance spending of government. It is really amazing. The Member from Carcross had described the Leader of the Official Opposition as Senator Straddle. He was talking about our operation and maintenance budget and how it had grown. He was the Minister of Finance for quite a few years when that budget grew enormously. He neglected to mention that, but that is then and this is now, so it probably does not count.
He conveniently forgets about that. They made a lot of the Taxpayer Protection Act. They have described the one clause they do not like as "the guillotine clause", and they have described the budget as reckless. I can understand their fear.
Considering the NDP way of budgeting, and the growth of the bureaucracy that that government promoted for the years they were in, and the way they threw money around this territory during the last two or three years of their mandate, a clause such as the one in this particular piece of legislation must scare the living daylights out of the spenders over there.
It must scare the living daylights out of them. If you look at the numbers, the NDP government ran up an $64 million debt in the last year of its mandate. They had $50 million in the bank and overspent by $14 million. If we had had this taxpayer protection legislation then, they would have had problems right away. They would have had to have done something when they knew in August or September, before they called the election, that they had a debt. If they had had that legislation, they would have had to have done something then to reduce the spending of government so that they would not run up that debt. The Leader of the Official Opposition was the Minister of Finance. He knew that he had a debt in August 1992. He cannot deny that he did not know that he had a debt in August 1992.
The Leader of the Official Opposition also made a couple of comments about the forestry policy being a serious issue to Yukoners. Nobody knows more than the Speaker how serious the forestry issue is to Yukoners, and especially to Yukoners in his jurisdiction. The Member for Takhini - the Leader of the Official Opposition - has a convenient memory loss. He stands up and talks about a forestry policy to protect our future. They all talk like they want to protect the whole Yukon environment and never cut down a tree. If there had been a forestry policy and strong environmental laws in the territory when they were cutting down trees with Hyland Forest Products, half their Cabinet would have been in jail. That particular party raped and plundered the forest environment in the Watson Lake area, and that Member knows it. They cut thousands of trees down with very little or no silviculture. There were a couple of little experimental plots at the end. He knows that, and he says that I am not telling the truth. I know that I am telling the truth. Very little, he says; they cut down millions of trees and never planted another tree.
Then you know what happened? They pumped $11 million of our money from our hydro bills that Yukoners pay - Mr. Speaker, they are heckling me.
Speaker: Order. Please allow the Member to speak.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: They are heckling me, Mr. Speaker, because guess what? This is a sensitive issue to the Leader of the Opposition. He wants to forget this. He wants to lose his memory and forget that he destroyed thousands of acres of timber in the Watson Lake area. Guess what happened to the timber that the preservationists over there wanted to protect? This is the guy who wants to protect all the Yukon forests, the guy who thinks we should have a policy - we never had one for seven years, when he was in government. He never even started on it - this is the guy who sat back in the government and watched the bugs eat the wood in the Highland Forest Products' yard. It was beautiful wood. He sat there and he watched it rot. Mr. Speaker, do you know what they finally did with the wood? They held a big community bonfire. This is the guy who cares about Yukon timber; 200-year-old trees went up in smoke and today he is taking off his black cloak and he is throwing on his white one and he is charging into the fray saying, "Save the Yukon forests."
People have not forgotten that. He was in power when that happened. He was there when it happened.
I take exception to the Member talking about wanting to go on a tour of the new tourism business centre, the tourism offices. I would be more than happy to give him the first tour of that building when it is available. Do you know what I would like to do in the meantime? I know that Senator Straddle would now like to change his position. A few years ago when he was the Minister of Education, he thought it was all right to have offices for the Department of Education over there and he spent millions doing that. I would like that Member to come with me, tomorrow, or at his convenience, and walk through the offices in the Department of Tourism.
He is now pretending he is playing a violin. He is mocking the fact that the workers in that particular office are overcrowded. The people in the Department of Tourism work very hard. They are working in extremely cramped quarters. They have been asked time and time again to produce more, and they are producing a lot more. The Member is mocking that. He does not think they deserve better office space. If the Member wants to be so cocky, why does he not come with me tomorrow and we will go for a little walk? We can go over there and I can show him the way they are working. Then we can go over to the other building as well, if he wishes. Maybe he can go over there with me and have a look at that.
As I said before, I know that the Opposition is extremely concerned about the balanced-budget legislation, because they know that that is one piece of legislation that their government could probably never live under, as they like to spend more than anyone in the world. We all know that, so I suppose it would be very difficult.
I can just imagine, with the Taxpayer Protection Act, if we had brought in a clause that Cabinet or Management Board could waive it and overspend if they felt it was absolutely necessary, they would probably be standing up on the other side and saying that it is not taxpayer protection, and that we can do whatever we want, which is not very good at all. This is probably the strongest Taxpayer Protection Act in the country. I know that the NDP would like a hole in it that they could drive a truck through, so that they can do whatever they want, but, I am sorry to say, once we pass this, the NDP are going to have trouble; they will not be able to operate.
They left us with a $14 million debt. If we are not re-elected after this term in office, there will be $21 million more in the bank, counting their $14 million debt, than there was when they walked away. We managed the budget and economy of the Yukon. We built up a surplus big enough to accept the Liberal cuts that came from Ottawa. We told Yukoners that we were going to have to do that.
I remember the Leader of the Official Opposition at that time saying not to build a surplus, because if we do, the Minister of Finance will figure we have money in the bank and take more from us. That sure helped the Northwest Territories. It also helped Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and everyone else. Wake up and smell the roses. It did not help them one iota. He did not go easy on the ones that had a huge debt. The biggest debts are in Quebec and Ontario, but they got it just like us. That logic of the Leader of the Official Opposition - the NDP economics - is right out the window. It does not make any sense at all.
When the Member for Faro spoke tonight he commented on the remarks made by the Government Leader in a public forum about not wanting to raise taxes prior to the 1992 election. Then the fact was that the government raised taxes and the comments made by the Government Leader about it being obscene to raise taxes was heralded by the NDP. If we had had the Taxpayer Protection Act in place during the previous government's term, there would have been no need for anyone to raise taxes, because the previous government would have had to manage their budget better so there would be no deficit. They could have spent down their surplus, but they could not run a deficit, which is what they did.
I was also surprised by the comments - I do not know what happens, maybe there is an air quality problem in this building, because as soon as we enter into this -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Phillips: ... Mr. Speaker, I do not heckle the Members opposite. Surely to goodness ...
Speaker: Order please. Let the little guy speak.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, that is a little more polite than what I thought you were going to say.
The Member for Faro surprised me a little bit, because I have had several conversations with him. The one comment that he made that surprised me had to do with tourism. He said that this government does not care about tourism in his riding. That is not what the Member has been telling me in private. Publicly the Member is saying that we do not do anything for tourism, but privately the Member has personally thanked me several times for not only coming to his riding, but for sending my officials - now he is heckling me, because he is being a sensitive guy, too - to hold seminars in his riding and to work with the arts community in the riding. This government increased the budget and the CAP proposal in his riding, because we thought it was a great proposal.
He said that was his good work. He had diddley-squat to do with it. He did nothing.
I am not sure where the Member was telling the truth, whether in this House today when he said we were doing nothing, or when he talks to me personally and thought I would not tell anyone. I probably would not have said anything to anyone, because I just assumed the Member really meant it and would be telling other people. I just assumed I would be working with him and the people of Faro in the future.
However, it seems that the Member is taking it on his own to say that we are not doing anything. I have not heard that from the people we are working with in Faro. In fact, the last time I was there, the people said they were very pleased that the Department of Tourism people were helping them. They were working on a plan and new initiatives, and the Department of Tourism is giving them advice when asked for it. That is what he told me we were doing, and he thanked me.
Now he says he is going to take it back. He is standing there again and got caught with his pants down one more time.
Speaker: Order please. I think some of these comments are getting a little unparliamentary. I would appreciate it if everyone would cooperate and keep the language clean.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We will be kinder and gentler to the Members opposite, in part.
I was also criticized by not only the Member for Faro but also the Leader of the Opposition with respect to comments that I made when they were speaking about the Taga Ku settlement. When the Leader of the Opposition was speaking, I was showing some disgust. Actually I was quite surprised at the approach that the Leader of the Opposition was taking, and I have to say I was surprised not because of the decisions that have been made by the courts - and I respect those decisions but I also reserve the right as the Government of Yukon to appeal any decision in any court case if we feel there are grounds to appeal, and that is why we are appealing - but what I was surprised about is that, if one looks at what the judge ruled on in this case, the judge basically ruled that an individual made a decision to drop the hotel as part of the Taga Ku project. An individual made that decision and had the ability or the right to make that decision. That individual was, in the political world - let us go back in history a little to when all this began.
It was a bid that went out to the general public for a hotel-conference centre complex. When the bids closed, everyone looked at them. There were two bidders. The award went to the higher bidder on the grounds that there would be a five-star hotel, a better location and a few other things. One of the main reasons we were sold on it was that Whitehorse needed this new five-star hotel and it was really important to have this kind of thing in the process.
They told the general public that and sold them on it. As time went on, all kinds of things happened. There were questions asked by yourself, Mr. Speaker, when you were a Member of the Opposition, and by the Member for Riverdale South, who asked if there had been any changes made at all in the arrangements.
The government answered no on several occasions. One was September 4, in a letter sent to you, Mr. Speaker, from Maurice Byblow, the former Minister, saying that they had recently communicated that they were not prepared to alter the tender form originally awarded.
That means there is a hotel. That was September 4.
In early September, the Member for Riverdale wrote a letter asking if there were any changes to the project and got an answer back around September 17 saying there were none.
Shortly after the election was called - secretly somewhere, perhaps in the NDP headquarters - several NDP people met and made the decision to drop the hotel. Guess what? This was one of the more significant projects in the history of the Yukon with respect to First Nations and the Yukon - a $48 million project. The Minister who made the decision never told any of the civil servants that decision had been made.
The Member says that I am wrong. I believe that nine deputies who testified on behalf of the government and should know - should have been told - were not told by that person. One would think that in the political realm of the territory, if one was going to drop $20 million or $30 million from a $48 million project - or whatever the hotel was going to cost - it was significant enough to tell someone. Would one not think that he would have told someone?
The individual who knew, the individual who the judge said made the decision to drop the hotel and did not tell a soul is now the Leader of the Official Opposition. The Government Leader stood up and publicly told the current Opposition that if there were any deals made with people, he would honour them, but the Leader of the Official Opposition never said a word. That is how honourable that Member was. He never stood up and said a word.
Point of order
Speaker: On a point of order.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister has just made an allegation that I failed to be honourable in my duties as a Member of this House. It is an allegation that I ask Mr. Speaker to ask him to withdraw. First of all, in every material instance, he has not told the truth. He has not expressed the facts as they were stated in a court of judgment or during the trial. Consequently, as he is calling my integrity as a Member of this House into question, I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, to ask him to withdraw the remark.
Speaker: Order please, is the Minister prepared to withdraw the remark in regard to the Member?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I will withdraw those remarks, but if the individual across the floor, the now-Leader of the Official Opposition who holds that prestigious position, was an hon. Member at the time, the Government Leader said publicly and in this House that if there were any deals that were made between the Taga Ku Corporation and the Government of the Yukon, let me know. Well, the Government Leader at the time, Mr. Penikett, and that particular Member, who is now the Leader of the Official Opposition, were mum. They never said a word. They never met with the Government Leader to tell him anything about dropping the hotel from the project.
When someone asks you a question about something and you have some information as an outgoing government, you have an obligation to tell that individual - we are not talking $15 here; we are talking about a change in a major project of millions of dollars and the previous government decided that it would shut right up. In fact, you know what? They never even asked any questions about dropping the hotel project in the House.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Allow the Minister to proceed.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Members opposite were silent on the issue, and they were silent because the one person who could have told the Yukon public then, during the election what had happened - but they did not want to do that, because you might make one side or another happy or unhappy and you might lose some votes - but they never said anything about dropping a major portion of the project. They sold it to the general public on the basis that it would be a five-star hotel, and then it was removed and the Leader of the Official Opposition said nothing to anyone.
He had his chance to speak. He is quibbling over there in the corner. He knows that he is in trouble with this one. He knows that he is the one who made the decision on this one. He knows that that is what the judge ruled, too. He did make the decision, and the judge said, "He did not tell anybody." He did not tell anybody.
Speaker: Order. Please allow the Minister to carry on with his speech.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is pretty painful for the Member for McIntyre-Takhini. He is pretty good at schmoozing over these things and making people believe that what happened did not really happen. In this case, however, there is a judge who ruled on what happened. We also know what happened. We know that in this case, if there is any fault lying in the Taga Ku proposal, he should have told the Yukon public on September 21 that he had dropped a major portion of that project - the hotel. However, he did not want to do that because he did not want to face the political flack. That is why he kept it quiet. He knows today that that is why he kept it quiet.
Speaker: The time being 9:30 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
Debate on second reading of Bill No. 10 accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled February 19, 1996:
Election of Dave Sloan as Member for Whitehorse West and of Esau Schafer as Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, letter dated February 19, 1996, from the chief electoral officer to the Speaker (Speaker Devries)
Motor Transport Board Annual Report 1994-95, dated May 1995 (Brewster)
Yukon Driver Control Board report, dated November 30, 1995 (Brewster)
Public Accounts of the Government of Yukon for the year ended March 31, 1995 (Ostashek)
Yukon Development Corporation 1994 Annual Report (Ostashek)