Wednesday, March 20, 1996 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with silent prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Learning disabilities, recognition of volunteers
Mr. McDonald: Everyone should be aware by now that, this week and next, Yukon is celebrating the work of the many volunteers and teachers who are working tirelessly to assist people with learning disabilities. Here in the Yukon the Learning Disabilities Association is a longstanding, respected, non-profit association that has worked with parents and educators to promote ways, both tried and true, as well as innovative, for children to overcome disabilities. Everyone is encouraged to become more aware of the challenges people with learning disabilities face, the work that the many volunteers and educators are doing and the work that still needs to be done.
Efforts to get involved and to increase public awareness truly do make a difference.
Speaker: Are there any visitors to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I would like to introduce two people in the gallery - Mr. John Cormie and Mr. Marc Tremblay, who worked very, very hard to get the devolution of the airports.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by Ministers?
Transfer of Yukon Arctic "A" Airports
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am pleased to announce today that we have successfully completed negotiations for the transfer of the remaining federal operated airports in the Yukon. These are the Arctic "A" airports in Whitehorse and Watson Lake. The effective transfer date will be October 1, 1996, at which time the Government of Yukon will assume responsibility for management and operation of both airports.
The transfer of these two important transportation facilities means that all major roads and air transportation links in the Yukon will be under Yukon government control. This will allow for a more responsive transportation network and facilitate long-term planning of transportation strategies based on Yukon priorities.
The federal government, under its new national airports policy, released in July 1994, announced that it was getting out of the business of operating airports. In the Yukon, the federal government offered to transfer the Yukon Arctic "A" airports to the Yukon government with all of the resources it has devoted to the program. This would assure Yukoners that the level of service would not diminish. Through the agreement that the Minister of Transport, the Hon. Dave Anderson, signed on March 11, 1996, and which I have signed today, this has been achieved.
Job offers will be made to all indeterminate Transport Canada airport site employees in the next few days. During the period leading up to October 1, 1996, the Department of Community and Transportation Services will be developing policy, regulation and strategies for the operation and management of the airport system as a whole. This will include a process to incorporate stakeholder and community concerns, and involve local governments in airport planning.
Consistent with our desire to diversify the economy, our government has stated that it must provide the necessary infrastructure to business and industry that will encourage investment in the Yukon. This includes an efficient and reliable transportation network to provide access to resources and markets. By assuming responsibility for the Whitehorse Airport and the Watson Lake Airport, we will gain much greater control and influence in this regard.
The marketing efforts of the Department of Tourism are playing a major role in increasing visitation to the territory. A recent announcement by a second airline to provide service to meet the increasing demand is reflective of the value of these efforts to business and how they improve the quality of life of Yukoners. The transfer of the Whitehorse and Watson Lake airports will provide us with additional opportunities, through these gateways to the Yukon, to influence and enhance the experiences of our visitors to the territory, and be a benefit to all residents.
I would like to thank all those who have been involved in this process for achieving an agreement within a reasonable time frame that has remained true to the principles and objectives of both governments.
Ms. Moorcroft: This is getting to be a habit but, once again, it is my pleasure to respond to a statement by this Minister. I hope he does not feel as sensitive today as he did yesterday.
I would like to congratulate the public servants who worked to successfully conclude the transfer of the Whitehorse and Watson Lake airports. However, we have to recognize that the federal Liberals initiated this transfer because they are consistently trying to wriggle out of their responsibilities in the name of deficit control. This is the same reason they watered-down airport weather monitoring, and it is the same reason Transport Canada is in the process of shutting down lighthouses on Canada's east and west coasts.
The most important thing is that Yukon people have to be pretty careful when it comes to the words, the deeds and the hidden agendas of both the Yukon Party territorial government and the federal Liberal Party government. What we on this side of the House want to know is exactly what all Yukon people want to know, in spite of the Minister's assurances. Will services be maintained at their current levels? Will the jobs of airport workers be protected with no reduction in wages or employment standards? Most important of all, will it be as safe to fly in to and out of these two communities under Yukon control as it has been under federal control?
We will be pursuing this matter again in the near future.
Self-Reliance through Employment and Training Initiative
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I rise today to inform my colleagues in the House of the inauguration of a new program designed to assist people with disabilities to participate in the labour force. This new program, called "Self-Reliance through Employment and Training," is one segment of the strategic initiatives program that is cost shared by the Yukon government and the federal government.
Both the departments of Health and Social Services and Education are participants, along with the federal Department of Human Resources Development Canada. This is a three-year initiative with an annual budget of $400,000. The program is designed to increase the self-sufficiency of people in the communities and is part of the greater scheme to create a healthier Yukon.
The initiative provides a new approach to pre-vocational vocational living skills training for people with intellectual disabilities, in order to strengthen their attachment to the labour force and reduce dependence on income-support programs.
This program also explores ways to coordinate services among agencies to better service needs and make more efficient use of resources. The initiative is targeted to disabled young people in the school system, as well as the unemployed and marginally employed adults with intellectual disabilities.
There are significant resources devoted to this target group through the education, social services and health systems, both by government and non-government agencies.
Although some individuals with intellectual disabilities can make it through these systems and are successfully integrated into the labour force, most are largely dependent on government income assistance. Some of the reasons behind this dependence are the lack of life skills, lack of appropriate training, few employment opportunities and on-the-job supports, and inadequate coordination of services.
This new initiative will allow us the opportunity to try new concepts. For example, we have already funded one project - a basic kitchen skills training program that links together Challenge and Yukon College under strategic initiatives.
Approximately $72,000 has been spent on the 15-week training course for eight people. Students received training at the college for seven weeks and then go on to an eight-week job placement. The current course participants are gaining their work experience at Macaulay Lodge, the Salvation Army soup kitchen, and several commercial restaurants. The program is unique in the Yukon in the depth of support that is provided by Challenge to the people participating in the course. It is also slightly different from other training courses in that it pays the participants for their learning and working time, and teaches them value for pay. Participants have been referred to the program by the F.H. Collins High School, Yukon College, Health and Social Services, the Learning Disabilities Association - Yukon and Challenge as a consumer. The program has been offered by Challenge before and has been successful. Challenge reports a 50 percent retention rate, or in simpler terms, 50 percent of the people with disabilities who participated in the course are still working. Another interesting fact is a study Challenge did of the earnings of five previous participants prior to the course and after the course. In the four months prior to taking the course, the five participants earned a combined total of $400. In the four months following the course, they earned $9,000.
There is a place in the labour force for the disabled and we have the capability of providing them with the tools to find their place through strategic initiatives.
Strategic initiatives will consist of three phases. The first is a planning phase, which consists of researching current resources and conducting specific needs assessments. Members may have noticed the advertisement for a researcher for this project that appeared recently in a local newspaper.
The needs assessment will be used to develop a plan of activities required and determine how those activities will be implemented. The second phase will see the development and implementation of specialized secondary school curriculum, while the third will develop and implement specific additional activities based on the needs assessment.
In the Yukon, we are fortunate. Our numbers are small enough that we know the number of people we can help. There are an estimated 100 to 150 students and approximately 16 unemployed or marginally employed adults who can benefit from the program. Not all will benefit at the same time or to the same degree, but we can realistically expect to make a difference in the quality of life for many of the people involved.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to thank the Minister for this ministerial statement. Today I would also like to welcome him to his new portfolio. He has a very big job ahead of him.
I am encouraged by this program. I think it will meet with some successes; it is needed and has been needed for a long, long time. Over the years, we have tended to ignore the needs of those people with disabilities. I know that people have been working in the field over the years trying to put programs in place. They have been trying to implement programs that would allow these individuals to go to work and to be able to live a good, healthy lifestyle, although it is very difficult.
I do have a concern in regard to the three-year initiative. It is a good program, but I do worry that when the federal government cost shares a three-year program with the Yukon, what happens after the three years has ended? Are we looking at continuing this program, or, like a lot of other programs that end after a period of time and the program is no longer available, will the Yukon be forced, even if it cannot afford to, to take over those responsibilities? I hope that the Minister will continue to have discussions with the federal government in regard to this program.
I would like to commend those many individuals who have worked tirelessly over the years to help these people with disabilities and try to improve programs that are already in existence.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I thank the Member opposite for her kind words. The possibility of the federal government cutting back on the program after initiating it is a very serious concern to us on this side of the House as well. We will treat this more as a pilot project to see what type of success we have and, part-way through the third year, we will do an assessment to see if we are actually getting value for the expenditure. At that point, we will determine whether it should be continued and how it should be continued.
Creating Safer Communities: Offender Management
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Earlier today, I tabled a paper entitled Creating Safer Communities: Offender Management. This is the fourth paper in the Creating Safer Communities series examines existing and new programs in the Yukon to deal with crime, and sets out priorities for action by government. Creating Safer Communities is a coordinated crime prevention strategy of the Government of Yukon's departments of Justice, Health and Social Services, Education, Community and Transportation Services, the Women's Directorate, and the RCMP.
Other papers in this series deal with youth crime, property-related crime, family violence and impaired driving. All of these papers are being sent to all Yukoners as householders to ensure equal access to information about what the government is doing on these priority issues. Although each paper stands alone on a particular issue, together they outline the government's overall strategy on creating safer communities.
The offender management paper outlines a cost-effective offender-management strategy for inmates during, and following, their sentences. This offender-management strategy focuses on ways to safely reintegrate offenders into our communities and to assist them to become law-abiding citizens. The actions identified in this paper are also designed to ultimately contribute to lowering incarceration rates for the Yukon and to reducing overall risks to public safety posed by offenders.
The new actions being undertaken include the following.
In response to community concerns about high-risk offenders, we are working with the RCMP and other affected agencies to develop a process for community notification about high-risk sex offenders. A community notification committee will be established to advise the RCMP who it should notify about the presence of a high-risk sex offender in the community. This notification is based on an assessment of the potential risk to individuals in a community.
We are also continuing with the implementation of the risk-management strategy for sex offenders and are lobbying the federal government for changes to the Criminal Code of Canada to create the option of lifetime probation supervision for sexual predators who offend against children in particular.
The Department of Justice will be exploring the options available for establishing a public advisory committee for the Whitehorse Correctional Centre to ensure that there is closer liaison with community representatives regarding inmate programs and services offered at this institution.
With respect to rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders, the rigorous confinement policy of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre is being implemented. This policy is designed to ensure that offenders' privileges, such as viewing television during business hours and permission for temporary absences, are earned, based on their participation in approved program and work assignments.
In addition, changes are being made to develop a consistent, standardized process to determine the program needs of offenders while they are incarcerated and on probation, and to assess the risk these offenders pose to our communities.
This is being done through a refocusing of existing staff resources to implement a comprehensive process for assessing the attitudes and behaviours causing an offender to come into conflict with the law. The risk/needs assessment will be used in an integrated case-management process designed to ensure continuity in managing offenders and that each offender is provided with the rehabilitative programs appropriate for him or her.
The offender programs to be delivered will be based on the risk/needs assessments of offenders entering the system. Staff are now being retrained to offer an expanded core group of appropriate social learning programs on such topics as anger and emotions management, living without violence, substance abuse and pre-release planning.
The creating-safer-communities crime prevention initiative is the government's coordinated response to Yukoners' concerns about the levels of crime in the Yukon. In the offender management paper Members have before them, this government has outlined a cost-effective management strategy. However, this strategy can only go so far in addressing the risk posed by the people who are breaking our laws. We must all take responsibility for creating the safer communities we want. We must all continue to address the social factors that lead offenders into criminality and to the development of innovative solutions and ways to prevent crime in the Yukon.
Along with the ongoing initiatives already announced in the youth crime, property-related crime and family violence papers, and those to be announced in the impaired-driving paper, the Yukon government believes that, by working together, we can make our community safer.
Mr. Sloan: Before I begin my response to the Minister's statement, I would like to welcome the students from F.H. Collins. I believe they are from one of Mr. Deuling's classes.
I am pleased once again to respond to a ministerial statement by the Minister of Justice. In particular, I am pleased to commend the Department of Justice for the approach it is taking in working with all aspects of the social system - education and health, et cetera.
In the statement - and I have read through it - there are a couple of points that I would like to address. I will let the Minister know that these are some things I will be seeking clarification about, particularly the community notification committee. I think this is a good idea. We have had tremendous concern in the community about offenders being released into the community. However, I think that we need to clarify a few points; namely, the expertise of the people on the committee, the kind of information being disseminated and to whom the information will be disseminated.
For example, I would be very concerned that, in the case of a very dangerous offender, we would need that kind of information released. Particularly, I would like to make sure that schools, where there is a high risk of someone preying on children, would be notified.
As well, with respect to the public advisory committee on inmates, I would hope that this committee would also have the kind of expertise that is required. I would particularly like to recommend to the Minister that we look at societies such as the Elizabeth Fry and John Howard societies, for example, to participate in this, in order to give inmates, who will be released into the larger community, a better sense of the kind of support network they have.
I would also encourage the Minister to include inmates, and perhaps former inmates, on the committee, who might be able to give the committee some feedback about the kinds of needs that inmates being released might also have.
Finally, I notice that the Minister has said that this will be cost-effective offender management. I would hope that in the desire to make it cost-effective we do not cut corners, particularly with the retraining of staff. I would hope that this would be something that we would give all kinds of support to.
Mr. Cable: One of the main focuses in the ministerial statement is rehabilitation, which is positive. The rehabilitation of existing offenders and the reduction in repeat offences have got to be key elements in crime prevention and public safety.
The Minister and I have exchanged views on the rigorous confinement policy and the distinction between positive incentives and coercion in relation to rehabilitation. It does not matter who is right, but the ultimate proof of the success of this program will be in the reduction in the repeat offender rate - the recidivism rate. It would be useful to hear from the Minister how his department intends to monitor the program, to determine whether or not it is successful.
The federal government's throne speech a few weeks ago indicated that it was moving to develop innovative alternatives to incarceration for low-risk offenders.
It would be useful to hear what is planned by the Minister in this area and whether or not a paper devoted to the diversion of adults is intended, and how these efforts will be integrated with federal efforts.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I thank the Members opposite for their positive comments on this announcement. I think it is a reasonably good approach. What I like about it is that we are crossing several departments and are working with people from Health and Social Services, the Department of Justice and other government departments. I think it is very positive.
With respect to the comments that the Member made about the community notification committee, I can assure the Member that this is a sensitive area and one that requires a great deal of expertise on a committee of that nature. We will be looking for people with that kind of expertise to sit on that committee.
I will take the recommendations about the public advisory committee made by the critic as positive ones, and we will look into that kind of organization for the committee.
With respect to the comments made by the Leader of the Liberal Party, I guess the proof will be in the pudding, so to speak, and we will see, a year or two down the road after these programs have been implemented, whether or not we do have repeat offenders. With the program announcement made today, I hope that there will be fewer repeat offenders.
I can tell the Member that if he has a hotline to Ottawa and wants this government to work with Ottawa, the Member can encourage Allan Rock to devolve the responsibility of the Crown attorney's office to the Government of Yukon. The previous government tried to get this done for a good number of years and our government has also been trying. There have been many problems with the devolution of that office for many months, and this government feels that we still are not getting the cooperation and commitment from the federal government to devolve a very key element in the Yukon's justice system to the Yukon government. If the Liberal Member for Riverside really wants to help me out with this, I would appreciate him using the hotline and speaking to Mr. Rock to encourage him to devolve the Crown attorney's office to the territory forthwith.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Christ the King Elementary School, renovations
Mr. Sloan: At the risk of altering the tone of goodwill here, I have a question for the new Minister of Education. It is one that perhaps calls on his expertise as Minister of Government Services.
Last week, I received some information about the renovations and upgrading by the Department of Education of Christ the King Elementary School. After going through these renovations, one question sprang to mind: why would $210,000 be expended on Christ the King Elementary School when, due to grade reorganization, this school is scheduled to close in 1997? Can the Minister explain the reasons for this?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Well, the Member for Whitehorse West will not change the tone of the House with that question, because I do not have the answer. We cannot get into a row over it. I will check on that concern and get back to the Member.
Mr. Sloan: I am not trying to pick a fight with the Member opposite, but I am interested in the fact that the former Minister let us know, on February 15, that the whole question of grade reorganization had taken place because of "extensive consultations", and that the department was continuing to work on the issue. Yet, throughout the winter, we had renovations on such school-specific issues as soundproofing a library and upgrading a gymnasium. Can the Minister explain why, given the fact that the department was involved in grade reorganization, there was no attempt to alter these plans before we expended $210,000?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will take that question under advisement.
Also, with respect to grade reorganization, I know that there was extensive consultation and that, as a result of grade reorganization, projects were changed or altered.
With respect to Christ the King Elementary School, I do not know if that work has to be done in any case. I will check.
Mr. Sloan: Just for the Minister's information, in going through some of these changes that came about, we had such things as library soundproofing and shelving. Those would appear to be very specific.
Can the Minister give us any indication of what plans there are for this building and how the modifications for this building tie in with future plans. Does the Department of Education have any plans for it? Have there been any discussions with Sacred Heart Parish with regard to the land? Have there been any discussions with community groups as to possible uses for this building at all?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I may have some information about that building, which the Minister of Education does not have. The only thing that I can tell the Member opposite at this point is that he can rest easy knowing that the building will be put to some use. Several groups have put forward requests and ideas about different uses of the building. These will be assessed in the near future, and we will see what the outcome will be.
Question re: Christ the King Elementary School, renovations
Mr. Sloan: I am rested easy.
As a former principal, I can think of a lot of ways in which $210,000 could be put to better use. I can think right now of educational assistance and programs to assist children with math and reading difficulties. I suppose that the question would really be the following: can the Minister explain why one aspect of the department was planning major changes in the structure of the schools, while another part of the department was planning capital improvements for a school about to close?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: As I have said, I cannot explain the expenditure at the Christ the King Elementary School. I know that the department was aware of grade reorganization, and other projects were cancelled or altered as a result of that decision. I will have to get back to the Member on the subject of the expenditure of the money at the Christ the King Elementary School.
Mr. Sloan: Perhaps the Government Leader can assist me on my next question. The government knew that grade reorganization was about to come along and that there would be major fluctuations in the school population. With this in the works, why did the Cabinet approve $210,000 for a school that was about to close? We knew that this had been in the works for a while.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Again, I have told the Member that I would get back to him regarding that expenditure.
Mr. Sloan: I thank the Minister of Education. He has demonstrated that he is somewhat more open, perhaps, than his predecessor was, to consultation and working with groups involved in education. I am thinking of the Yukon Teachers Association and school councils and other education stakeholders. Can the Minister give us an undertaking of some kind that he will work with the various partners involved in a final decision on Christ the King Elementary, and will he undertake to follow similar procedure with other school communities and education stakeholders?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Absolutely. The Member can take this commitment from Hansard and blow it up on the photocopier, pin it on his wall and hold me to it every day.
Question re: Animal protection legislation
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Justice about animal protection legislation. The Department of Justice is coordinating an interdepartmental committee that is reviewing animal protection. The committee is, among other things, reviewing the legislative framework around that issue.
The Minister wrote to me in January saying the findings of the committee will be made available to any interested parties, and he anticipated that that would occur in the near future. Has the committee completed its work and reported to the Minister, and if not, when does he expect the report to be finished?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have seen a preliminary document that talks about options, but I have not seen what I believe would be classified as the final document that I could share with the Member.
Mr. Cable: Perhaps the Minister could answer the first question in full as to when he expects it? It has been hanging around for quite a while. While he is answering this question, what public input does he expect will be received after the report is received by the Minister and reviewed?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I answered the one question, but the Member asked two questions the first time. He is not supposed to do that either. He is only supposed to ask one question the first time, and I answered that. I would just remind the Member of that. In fact, in his supplementary question, he asked two questions as well. I will answer the second part of his first question, which is the first part of his second question and that is that I do not know exactly when the report will be made public, but I will let the Member know as soon as I have a final date.
Mr. Cable: This newer, friendlier Legislature is preventing my second round of questions, so I have to get them all in during the first round.
The Minister recently introduced amendments to the Dog Act, and it would be interesting to find out who prompted these amendments and why they were not part of the overall legislative package.
If he does not want to answer two questions, he can just answer the last one: why was this not made part of the overall animal protection package?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This particular bill was not introduced by me; it was introduced by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to deal with a specific issue.
Question re: Whitehorse and Watson Lake airports, management of
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to remind the Minister of Community and Transportation Services about the Government Leader's position on federal transfers.
The Government Leader told CBC Radio, "and when we take it over from them it will be downscaled and that is why I have been pushing, saying that we have to devolve this stuff now while there is still some fat in the programs and we can make some real savings for Yukoners, and have the money to deliver better programs."
My question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services is this: can he tell us whether or not the government expects to realize any savings in its management of the Whitehorse and Watson Lake airports?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I can say this: we do not intend to have a $4,700,000 debt each year. That will be corrected.
As for employees, as I mentioned before there are 17 in Whitehorse who will be offered positions and seven in Watson Lake.
Ms. Moorcroft: I guess I will have to repeat the question, because I am not sure what the Minister was talking about then.
The ministerial statement on the transfer of the airports did not contain any information about what funds would be transferred for the operation of the airports. I would like the Minister to tell us if the government expects to realize any savings in Yukon government management of the Whitehorse and Watson Lake airports and whether or not those savings would be at the expense of workers or public safety or the travelling public?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As for the travelling public, the service will be the same. It has to be because it is standardized all across Canada. As for the employees, they will all be offered positions, details of which will be going to them probably tomorrow or the next day. Until we know and have the regulations - and we have until October to get them into shape - we will not know exactly what the cost will be, but we presume it is going to be much the same.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister said they would be offering employment to the federal employees who are transferring to the Yukon government, although he has not said if they have reached a memorandum of understanding with the Public Service Alliance of Canada, which represents those employees.
Can the Minister assure this House that the workers transferred to the Yukon government in October 1996 will have their collective bargaining rights respected by the Yukon Party government?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There have already been talks. I presume everyone is fairly satisfied. I understand most of them want to come over.
Question re: Anvil Range Mining Corporation, energy rates
Mr. Harding: The government's last throne speech indicated it was discussing energy issues with Anvil Range Mining under the auspices of the industrial support policy. Under questioning at that time, the Government Leader told us that once Anvil Range was in full production, and an energy rate for the mine was determined by the Yukon Utilities Board, the government might use its industrial support policy to give the mine some rate easement.
Can the Government Leader tell the House if any discussions between Anvil and the government have taken place on this matter and, if not, does he anticipate any?
Speaker: That is a hypothetical question, so I do not know.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We say a lot of words in this House, but I do not recall making that statement in that context. Furthermore, as Mr. Speaker said, it is a hypothetical question.
Mr. Harding: It was not a hypothetical question. I asked if any discussions had taken place with Anvil Range and, if not, does the Government Leader anticipate there would be any. I do not think that is hypothetical.
The comments were made in this Legislature, and it was clear at that time that the government was indicating that, once the Yukon Utilities Board set the rates for Anvil Range, it would look at some form of rate easement through the industrial support policy. An exact quote is, "If there is any money coming from the government, it will come to the Legislature under the industrial support policy and refer to rate easement for Anvil Range rates."
I want to ask the Government Leader again: have any discussions taken place? As a matter of policy and implementation of that government's industrial support policy, does the Government Leader anticipate there will be discussions?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will answer the first part of the question. No, no discussions are going on.
Mr. Harding: Let me ask the Government Leader this: the government told us that numerous mining companies have complained about a lack of energy infrastructure in the Yukon and the cost of providing power to mines. Given that Anvil Range has just had a substantial power increase, does the government intend to use the industrial support policy to address any of these concerns? If not, what good is the industrial support policy?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think the Member's questions about the industrial support policy should be put to the Member responsible for that policy. Nobody from Anvil Range has approached us for any relief on anything. The industrial support policy is not intended to provide rate relief.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, Dawson City housing
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation.
During debate yesterday afternoon, we discussed with the Minister of the Yukon Housing Corporation two experimental houses that are being built for the Yukon Energy Corporation in Dawson City to replace two old units owned by the corporation for Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. employees at a cost of $370,000.
The Minister of the Yukon Housing Corporation said that he was not going to attempt to defend the Yukon Energy Corporation on this project or on the new technology it wants to put in the houses. He was also unwilling to stick out his neck and say whether or not the experiment would be successful. I believe the Minister told me to take this matter up with the Minister of the Yukon Energy Corporation, and that is what I am doing now.
Could the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation tell us what the plan or the program is?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite may not have the full information about this program. It is not a new program. The territorial government has been providing housing since the takeover of NCPC - it was part of the agreement.
What is taking place now is the replacement of housing that has deteriorated to the point where it needs to be replaced.
Mrs. Firth: It is not I who is unfamiliar with the program, it is the Minister who is responsible.
I am aware of the program. I want to know what this new experiment is all about. The houses are being designed by Sinclair and Associates. The Yukon Energy Corporation wants the Yukon Housing Corporation to manage this project because it did not have the expertise for this kind of project. Yet, the Yukon Energy Corporation is going to approve the design phase without input from the Yukon Housing Corporation. Why is the Yukon Energy Corporation doing this without Yukon Housing Corporation's input?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The Member is either misrepresenting what I said last night, or I did not explain it very clearly. I did not say that it was without input from the Yukon Housing Corporation. My comment was that the final decisions were with respect to the Yukon Energy Corporation. I certainly did not mean to imply that it was in isolation. The Yukon Energy Corporation may be using the Yukon Housing Corporation for expertise, or CMHC or someone else, with respect to the design. If I implied that the Yukon Energy Corporation was designing it in isolation, I apologize for that.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister did, and I accept his apology. My concern is for the protection of the electrical consumer. I do not want to see them get dinged with some scheme that was not properly researched or thought out before the design stages were even completed. The Minister of the government department, who was going to oversee the project, is already washing his hands of it.
I would like to ask the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation what the total cost of this project is going to be and what the total cost to the electrical consumer is going to be for this experiment.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know. I will get that figure for the Member opposite.
I want to reiterate, for the record, that these are replacement houses. My understanding is that these are houses that have been provided for employees since the NCPC transfer. The decision to replace these houses was a decision that was made by the Yukon Energy Corporation Board.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, Dawson City housing
Mrs. Firth: This brings me to a follow-up question for the Minister of the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to get information about the corporations and their spending from this government. The corporations annually spend millions of dollars of public money. We used to get lists of contracts that were entered into. Last year, the Yukon Development Corporation committed over $800,000. We did not get a list this year. The last list of contracts we got for the Yukon Energy Corporation was in 1993, when they spent over $1 million. There was no list this year or last year.
I would like to ask the Government Leader, or the Minister responsible for these areas, why it is becoming more and more difficult to get any information about the financial picture of the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know that it is any more difficult to get the information. I think the Member should be asking the president of the Yukon Energy Corporation for the information. These are Crown corporations that are meant to be kept at arm's length from the government. If the Member opposite wants the Minister responsible to answer those questions, then perhaps the Member ought to bring forward a motion to incorporate the Yukon Energy Corporation into government.
Mrs. Firth: I have never heard such a lot of nonsense in my whole life from this Minister. I am not asking the Minister to stick his nose into the daily affairs of the Yukon Energy Corporation, as does the Minister of the Workers' Compensation Board.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. Order.
Point of order
Hon. Mr. Nordling: On a point of order, the Member for Riverdale South is in violation of our guidelines. She has accused me of breaking the law and sticking my nose into the operations of the Workers' Compensation Board. I would ask the Member to withdraw that remark.
Speaker: I agree that the remark is not parliamentary, and I would ask the Member to -
Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, you made a ruling, just a few days ago, saying that it was inappropriate for a Member to say that another Member had broken the law. The Member for Riverdale South did not say that the Minister for the Yukon Housing Corporation and the Workers' Compensation Board had broken the law - she said that he regularly stuck his nose into Workers' Compensation Board business.
If you are expanding this ruling to say that what the Member for Riverdale South just said is unparliamentary, then that is an incredible expansion of the restrictions of debate in this House. I would ask you to reconsider what I think might be the ruling you just gave.
Mrs. Firth: The former president of the Workers' Compensation Board, in a written submission, has said that the Minister interfered. I have spoken to previous chairs and members of the Workers' Compensation Board, who said that the Minister requested information that he should not have been asking for. If that is not sticking one's nose where it does not belong, I do not know what is.
The Member does not have a point of order. He constantly does this, to interrupt us, as Opposition Members, when he is on the receiving end of the stick. If the Member cannot take it, he should get out of the House.
Speaker: Order. I would have to agree with the Members on that side that the Member did not say that the Member was breaking the law. It is just that "sticking your nose into things" was on the verge of being a little unparliamentary. If the Member took it to mean to say that I had said "breaking the law," that is an entirely different issue. I believe that there is really no point of order. It is a disagreement between two Members.
I would prefer it if the Members would keep the tone down in their discussions.
I have stopped the stopwatch.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. My stopwatch is stopped.
The hon. Member responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, on a further point of order.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I was not accusing the Member of-
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Nordling: In speaking to the point of order, the Member got up and made the same accusations again and again. They were made in this House. Let me refer to the guidelines. The guidelines do not say anything about breaking the law. I would urge the Leader of the Official Opposition, who should be setting the standard for debate in Question Period, to read his rules.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. I believe that it is a disagreement between two Members. I will take it under consideration and make a further ruling on it before Question Period tomorrow.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to finish my question to the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation.
The Minister is concerned about whether or not he is remaining at arm's length from his corporation. I would suggest to him that asking his corporations to provide briefings or information to the public and to the Members of this Legislature is not in any way compromising his arm's-length approach to the corporations. I want to know why we cannot get any information from the corporations about the contracts that they are giving out and the money that they are spending. I also want to know why the Government Leader supports our not getting that information.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Again, I am not supporting the corporation in that manner at all. I understand that the corporations are fairly free with their information. If she can come to me with a letter showing that the president has refused to give her information, I may take up her case. In the meantime, she has every avenue open to her to get the information she requires.
Mrs. Firth: Well, I wrote the Government Leader a letter and he did not even extend me the courtesy of answering it. This was over three months ago. I asked him a question in the House about having officials appear before the Legislature. He did not even extend me the courtesy of answering the question because he could not find my letter.
It is getting ridiculous, is it not?
Speaker: Order. This is a supplementary question. Would the Member please ask the question?
Mrs. Firth: The Government Leader is professing to have an open government that comes forward with public information. Why is he refusing to bring forward this information now, or to bring the witnesses to the House to provide some public accountability for these corporations that spend millions of our dollars every year?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite is fully aware that that is the role of the Yukon Utilities Board. The board is the watchdog of the corporation. All of that information is in the public domain. If she is asking me to do her research, I do not think that that is appropriate. She should be doing her own research. If she is stonewalled, or refused by the corporation, then she can come to me. As far as my not replying to questions, that is not accurate. I told her that I would not ask the corporations to appear in front of this House and I answered her question in the Legislature.
Question re: Industrial support policy
Mr. Harding: I would like to go back to the industrial rate policy and the questions that I was asking the Government Leader. I sent the Government Leader some copies of Hansard from last year to refresh his memory on the issue of rate easement after the Yukon Utilities Board set the rate. Last year, when I asked the Minister of Economic Development this question, the Government Leader stood up and said, "As Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation, maybe it is best that I answer that." That is why I am asking him this today: given that mining companies have complained about a lack of energy infrastructure and the cost of power in the Yukon, does the government intend, now that Anvil Range has had its rate set, to use its industrial support policy to address any of those concerns?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: At this point it is purely hypothetical because Anvil Range has not approached us for any relief of any sort.
Mr. Harding: Earlier in the day, the Government Leader told us, when I asked the question, that the industrial support policy did not have anything to do with rate easement. Now I have shown him that he said last year that the industrial support policy does have something to do with rate easement. As a matter of policy and as a matter of implementation of the industrial support policy, will he be talking to Anvil Range about the issue of the industrial support policy and its impact on the decision of the Yukon Utilities Board?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We talk to Anvil Range on an ongoing basis. They know the industrial support policy is in place. If they want to make an application under it, they know full well what the procedure is.
Mr. Harding: I mentioned earlier that the mining companies have complained about the cost of power in the Yukon as well as a lack of energy infrastructure. I would like to ask the Government Leader if they intend to come up with any comprehensive industrial rate policy or are they simply sticking to the cost-of-service method of determining the cost of power to mining companies?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We do not set the rates. That is what the Utilities Board does. That board is the watchdog of the corporations and that is the role it plays. It sets the rates in the Yukon, not the Legislature.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 60 - adjourned debate
Clerk: Motion No. 60, standing in the name of Mr. Cable, adjourned debate.
Speaker: The motion being debated before the House:
It is moved by the Member for Riverside
THAT the government does not have the confidence of this House and the people of the Yukon.
Mr. Cable: We know where this side of the House sits. I thought the Member for Faro might have a few words to say, but if he wants me to sit down and have a vote, I can do that.
I have a few words to say. When we were interrupted by the bell about three weeks ago, I was part way through an interesting paper that had been provided to me: Report of the Special Committee on Reform of the House of Commons. I will not read every word, but nearly every word.
I was going through the -
Speaker: Order please. The Member is aware he is not allowed to read from documents at great length.
Mr. Cable: This is such an interesting paper, I would not want Mr. Speaker to miss the whole import. I can actually give him a copy later. I will conclude rapidly on this paper.
I had gone part way through the conclusions on the paper. I got to the third item, where competence relates to the motions that are before the House and the issues being debated. I was reading, in brief, that defeats on matters not essential to the government's program do not require it to arrange a vote of confidence, either directly or on some procedural or collateral matter.
The paper previously described the various types of confidence motions. To refresh the Speaker's and my colleagues' memories, I will go over them briefly. They fall under three main headings: where there is an explicitly worded confidence motion, such as the one I have put before the House; a motion declared by the government to be votes of confidence; and implicit votes of confidence and motions of supply - one of those is the budget debates.
In addition to those three items, there is a second general category where items central to government policy would be deemed, under most circumstances, to be items of confidence - something central to the Yukon Party's program, like balancing a budget or running into a deficit position, and motions dealing with that sort of policy matter.
Those are the various types of confidence motions. That is the parliamentary background. As I mentioned, today we have a motion of the first type. There is an explicitly worded vote of confidence, and the motion has two arms. It deals with the confidence of this House, and whether or not this House has confidence in this government will become apparent when the vote is called.
It will be interesting to see whether or not the government speakers filibuster or permit the issue to come to a vote.
I do not intend to take up a lot of time on the substantive part of the motion, because the opinions of the Members on this side of the House about the actions of Members on that side of the House have been debated ad nauseum over the last three years, and I am sure everyone has heard virtually everything we have had to say about the government's ability to run the government.
This afternoon, I hope that we will have the opportunity for all of the Members of this House to have the record of the government either rejected or confirmed.
In the little bit of research we have conducted on motions of confidence, as far as I can see there has been no explicit motion of non-confidence brought before this House - at least not in the recent past; there have been implicit motions of confidence.
The paper that I had read, and quoted to the Speaker, was the Report of the Special Committee on Reform of the House of Commons, June 1993. It states that this type of motion should not be used capriciously.
I am mindful of what was said by the special committee. On page 10, chapter 2, of the report, it states that "In a parliament in command of a majority, the matter of confidence has really been settled by the electorate. Short of a reversal of allegiance or some cataclysmic political event, the question of confidence is really a fait accompli. The government and other parties could therefore have the wisdom to permit Members to decide many matters in their own deliberative judgment. Overuse of party whips and of confidence motions devalues both these important institutions."
I am mindful of that admonishment, but I have to say that we have here, basically, a minority government. We had a minority government on election night. While one of the Independents crossed the floor, and has indicated that he will be running under the governing party flag in the next election, this does not change the fact that matters of confidence may very well have to be resolved by the Speaker. Certainly, it will require the support of the two Independents.
To say that the electorate has definitively spoken on the ability of the government to continue indefinitely in office is, I think, not quite accurate.
Let me now go over the substantive part of the motion, and I am sure this will please Mr. Speaker; I will be brief. I know that Mr. Speaker wants a friendly, kinder House, so I will keep this to the better part of one-half of an hour, so as to give the remaining speakers lots of time to express their views - the Member for Faro is just itching to speak; he is lurched over in his seat, he is so eager to have a run at this motion.
The simple voting for government bills generally cannot itself be judged to be an exercise in competence.
The reason for bringing this motion in is to invite the various comments that will be made on the government's past three years. In the four-year plan, there is a very telling statement that deals with one of the problems I have with this government, that being either a perception or the reality of closeness - a lack of openness.
I know I have attempted to get information from this government - there were issues brought up today in Question Period, which would reinforce this - and have been unsuccessful. One of the main tenets in the government's four-year plan under the heading, "Providing good government", was to be open, accountable and responsible to and representative of the Yukon public it serves.
Has this government, in fact, been open, accountable, responsible and representative of the Yukon public it serves? I think not. My history of this government, in attempting to get information, and watching the information flow across the floor here, and hearing what other Members have attempted to do in the way of getting information, would indicate that the government has not been open.
In the government's four-year plan, just below the item, "The Challenge", there is a very telling statement, "Meeting the Challenge". It says, "Fiscal mismanagement, poor planning, waste, political intimidation, politicization of the public service, token and selective public consultation and patronage are all at issue in this current campaign." By innuendo, this is an attempt to paint the previous administration with all of those matters.
What has happened in the last three years? Have we, in fact, had good planning, fiscal management, no waste, no political intimidation, no politicization of the public service? Have we had selective public consultation? Have we gotten rid of patronage? I invite all of the Members to draw their own conclusions. Has the government performed in those areas? What has actually changed?
I know that we are anxious to get to the vote on the Motion. I dearly hope that there will not be any of the frivolous amendments that usually come out on wasted-Wednesday.
In the four-year plan, we have been given a commitment to increase access to public information in government files by providing real freedom of information. We have seen the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act tuned up. It has been sitting there gathering dust for about a year. It was brought in right toward the end of the government's mandate. I have had the experience on two occasions to use the present Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Much to my annoyance, in both cases the information that was sought could have readily been provided.
So, this government has promised openness, but I and others have experienced the government's secretiveness. In my view, we have a government that fully appreciates that knowledge is power, and uses that power to control knowledge and control information.
What else strikes us in such a way that we would not have confidence in this government? One of the things that I found partly amusing, partly very frustrating and partly very disturbing is the right-wing rhetoric that flows - mountain-man rhetoric underlines practically everything that goes on; it is chest-beating. It is Preston Manning, Ralph Klein and Mike Harris all rolled into one, and it is the worst of all of them. There is the thought that whatever happens, this mountain-man rhetoric will somehow get us through. It is right-wing rhetoric that supplants the need for considered thought.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: Now I will go on for the rest of the afternoon. The Member for Faro is insulting me, so I will have to go on for the rest of the afternoon.
We saw the government, on the crime issue, beat the drum on how serious crime is here, work up the population into the fear that we were going to you-know-where in a handbasket, and we had to get out there and thump the criminals right away - a dreadful approach to justice. I see the Minister of Justice about to make some notes, which I hope he does.
Will this right-wing rhetoric really solve the crime problem? I think not. Do we have confidence that this government will solve the crime problem? No, I do not think so. Crime is much too complicated to be dealt with by way of some right-wing speech at the Yukon Party's convention - "we will thump them thar criminals and shape their heads up; boy, they ain't goin' back to jail because they will just be terrified." "Take their videos away," some hon. Member just said.
Do we have confidence in this government to deal with land claims? The four-year plan says the Yukon Indian people and Yukoners at large want land claims settled now. The four-year plan has, on the front of it, "Election '92." That is almost four years ago. It says that completing and implementing land claims and self-government agreements will be a top priority. In the 1994 Speech from the Throne, the Yukon government declared itself, "poised to assume its implementation responsibilities on land claims."
Well, we are all sitting here on pins and needles, just waiting to see what will happen. It seems to me the previous administration had organized the four initial settlements and the umbrella final agreement. These were eventually passed in this House, shortly after this government took power. But what has happened since then?
I do not wish to point fingers, but since then race relations have deteriorated. Starting with Taga Ku, we had some attitudes that needed improvement.
The four-year plan says the government will work with Yukon First Nations to improve and promote better cross-cultural understanding and cultural awareness between Yukon Indian people and Yukoners at large. We saw a demonstration of that in the last couple of weeks.
If one were to ask First Nation people if they have confidence in this government to complete the settlement of the land claims, one would find very few who would give a positive response. We have to be very careful that Yukoners, both First Nation and non-First Nation, do not live in a poisoned atmosphere; that we keep our eye on the long-term ball - that is, the bringing together of the races. Do we have the confidence that this government will do it? I have my opinion, and I am sure that each of the Members here have their own opinions.
The four-year plan on social programs begs this question: do Yukoners have access to affordable, quality housing? Are we better off? The four-year plan says that the Yukon Party will ensure that there is an adequate supply of social housing to meet community needs. We heard in the House in the last two or three days that the waiting list is growing.
In the Education area, what did we have when this government came to power? We had right-wing rhetoric flowing around loosely - back to the basics; boy, them thar kids are going to learn their numbers and alphabet. The Education Review Committee was struck, and it did good work. It went around to the communities, listened to people and made many recommendations.
What have we got four years later? Initially, in the four-year plan, the question is asked: "Are Yukon children being educated to meet the challenges of the 21st century?" The 1994 throne speech said: "It is the policy of my government to build new schools and upgrade existing facilities where there is the most need. In accordance with this policy, my government will be building several new schools and upgrading others over the course of the next years."
Where are these schools?
We have seen the way that this government deals with the education stakeholders - the complete lack of what I would call confidence in consensus building, important decisions that are made by the seat of the pants and put into operation - like grade reorganization - overnight to accommodate some political agendas. This decision was made overnight. I am sure the Government Leader will have an adequate opportunity to deny that.
In the area of the environment, we have the Environment Act floating around unattended to. There was a great hullabaloo a couple of years ago about certain sections in the act and, whatever the merits of the arguments, it sits there waiting to be dealt with.
Then we have the various other promises that have been made over the years. What disturbs me most and goes perhaps against my confidence is that there were great hopes for this government when it first came in. People obviously wanted a change of faces and a change of attitudes. They wanted a change.
Government started out with a few bumps and grinds. The Taga Ku was probably not its highest watermark, and it has gone downhill since then. It has not lived up to the promise that was part of the contract it made with the voters in 1992. What has disturbed me most, as the three and a bit years have gone by, is the government's tendency to not think before it acts. There are a couple of examples I would like to bring out.
Remember the gambling debate? We had a couple of sharp individuals from out of town visit Whitehorse. They wanted gambling here because they said it was good for tourism.
In the December 1, 1994, Speech from the Throne, the Government Leader said, "In order to further enhance tourism, my government has agreed in principle with the construction of a tourist-oriented gambling casino in Whitehorse." I do not know what an agreement in principle with a gambling casino means, but it was obviously going down the road to pump up a gambling casino for Whitehorse. If one is up to date on the gambling issue, one will find that the casinos built in the States are not doing what they were supposed to do - the projected rivers of revenues free of social costs - and many are closing in the southern states.
What else did the government have to say? Again, from the December 1, 1994, Speech from the Throne, "My government has agreed in principle to the use of coal for thermal electric energy generation." How does one agree in principle to the use of coal without having adequate public discussion on greenhouse gases and the real alternatives, not this fossil fuel-diesel strawman that has been invented to permit the coal generator to proceed, but a real debate and a real examination of the options?
Another issue is government employees. Do we have confidence that this government will deal with its employees with equanimity? We can look at the public sector restraint legislation that was brought in - there were many different numbers used about how much money was going to be saved over several years - from $10 million to $18 million. Savings of approximately $3 million appeal to the worst instincts in people - let us schwack the public servants, because they are probably earning too much, but we will not say that; what we will do is say that there is a disaster looming and we need that $3 million - one and one-half percent of the whole payroll - because it will save us from some kind of financial Armageddon.
That is not the way to treat employees. If one thinks that the payroll is too high and the pay rates are too high, then that is the deal that should be put on the table. It shows a distinct lack of confidence in the collective process, a process that I should remind the Government Leader that Mr. Harris was not afraid of. He was not afraid about the consequences of a breakdown in negotiations, but he was prepared to accept the benefits of the collective bargaining process. I have to say that Mr. Harris has a real problem and many billions of dollars worth of debt to deal with, not like the synthetic problem that was created by this government.
Confidence, and the lack of it, is the major issue facing this government.
What this government says and what it does are two different things and have been so ever since it took power. It is my suggestion to the Speaker that this government has lost the confidence of this House and of the people of the Yukon. Without the confidence of this House and the majority of Yukoners, nothing else that this government can say or do is of much importance.
Without the confidence of the majority of this House or the confidence of the majority of Yukon people, the Yukon Party government can give no leadership or direction, even if it wanted to. Without the confidence of this House and without the basic trust that this government's actions will bear out all its fine words and stated good intentions, debate on what the government says it does and will do deteriorates into the sort of performance we have seen this afternoon. It is unfortunate that the children were here to witness the performance that went on. Debate deteriorates into the kind of petty, tactical brawling that has taken place in this House.
Nothing much can be accomplished in this atmosphere of extreme cynicism. With this lame government, this Legislature cannot discuss legislation properly in a cost-effective manner. No matter what issue is being debated, the real issue is always one of confidence and questions about whether or not we can trust this government to act in the best interest of Yukoners.
I say that we cannot. I say that I do not have confidence. I have to say that I did have hopes for this government when it first started. No one on the other side of the House is a miserable human being; they are all trying to do a job. The question is whether or not they are actually doing that job. Can we have confidence that they can complete their work of serving the interests of Yukoners?
I say not. I will, of course, be voting in support of the motion.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would have been somewhat surprised, but maybe not totally surprised, if the Member opposite had stood up - even though being the person who proposed the motion - and said he was going to vote against it. I would not be totally surprised.
The Member opposite is notorious for trying to - I believe it was my colleague who said it - sit on the picket fence and not know which side of the line he wants to fall off on. It also appears to me that the Liberal Member in the Legislature is anxious for an election. I would have thought he would have waited for his candidates to get out of school before he wanted an election.
I believe this is a unique motion. I do not know if a confidence motion has ever before been presented on the floor of this Legislature on private Members' motion day. Most motions of confidence relate to budgets and financial matters in the House. People of the Yukon know that we have survived quite a few of those in our three years and some odd months in this Legislature.
It ill behooves me to even try to comprehend how the Member for Riverside could ever hope to get this motion passed, if he is aware of the Rules of the House. I quite clearly say that he does not know the Rules of the House, or he would not have made such an effort in futility.
However, I am happy to be able to debate this motion. I am sure it will be no surprise to the Member opposite that I will be voting against the motion, but that is consistent with what I have done in the past.
The Member opposite spoke for over an hour on this motion, and he took probably 45 minutes of that hour to lay out the procedural methods for votes of non-confidence. He said very little about substance or evidence that he could point to, outside of his feelings and philosophical rhetoric about right-wing, left-wing, picket-fence, or whatever type of politics.
The government's ability to run the government is voted on in every session of this Legislature when we bring a budget forward. We lay it out for the Members opposite. We do not expect them to agree with our budgets, because they have different philosophical beliefs. However, that is a matter of debate about defining spending priorities. It is not whether or not a government is competent in running the affairs of the territory. Those are philosophical beliefs.
I am going to go through the debate today, and I will answer some of the questions posed by the Member opposite. Then I will take the opportunity to go through what this government has accomplished during more than three years in office.
The Member opposite spoke about consensus building. He wanted to see consensus-style government. To a great extent, I believe that I have provided that format for the Members opposite. I have consulted with them on major pieces of legislation. I have taken their input and made amendments to legislation - to very important bills. I was under the impression that the Liberal Member in this Legislature wanted this. I understood that this was the type of role that he thought governments should play - rather than being critical of everything that the Opposition says, the government should listen to the constructive criticism. We did that on some major pieces of legislation. I believe that we have stronger legislation for it. I am again trying the same route with the Taxpayer Protection Act. With help, I have moved the bill into Committee of the Whole until I have had a chance to listen to the Opposition and see if the Opposition can come forward with amendments that would strengthen - rather than weaken - the bill and make it more acceptable to them.
I was always under the impression that that was the type of leadership the Liberal Member for Riverside was seeking. I must have been wrong.
Did this government do some things wrong? Certainly it did. Every government does, and every government in the future will, whether it is a Liberal government, an NDP government or a Yukon Party government. But I believe we, as a government, have been willing to admit our mistakes; we have been willing to take corrective measures and move on with governing the Yukon in a responsible manner.
The Member opposite spoke of open, accountable government. He pointed to Question Period today as an example of a closed government. Considering the legal background of the Member who made those statements, I question the sincerity of the statements. He, for one, who was a chair of a Crown corporation, knows the role of government, he knows the role of the Crown corporation, and he knows where to go to get information if he requires it. I believe that those comments were political rhetoric and had nothing to do with accountable government.
We are the government that brought in the Ombudsman Act. We are the government that brought in the conflict bill dealing with Members. We brought in the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. We discussed these bills in private meetings with the Opposition to strengthen them and to make them better and acceptable. Those major pieces of legislation went through this Legislature without the government having to call for a confidence vote.
Certainly everything we have done is not suitable to the Opposition, but that is part of being in Opposition; we each have a different role to play.
Have we provided honest government? Yes, I believe we have provided honest government. We have not done some of the things being alleged by the Member opposite. We have not given contracts to our friends. We have respected the public tendering process and, if anything, we are criticized by some of our extreme right-wing membership, who condemned the previous administration for showing favouritism to their supporters when, in fact, now that we are in government, we will not show favouritism to them. That is honest government.
The Member opposite spoke of an extreme right-wing agenda and extreme right-wing rhetoric. I believe that statement was coming from a left-of-centre position that the Member opposite has carved for his Liberal Party in the Yukon. Anything to the right of that would be extremely right wing for the Member opposite. There is no doubt that the basis of this motion is not directed at the government. It is directed more toward the NDP and the Liberal Party trying to carve out some of the NDP support.
The Member spoke of the extreme right-wing rhetoric. He alluded to Manning, Klein and Harris. Yet, I will point out to the Member opposite that when the Yukon Party brought a high-profile speaker to its convention, it did not bring one of these people in. It brought Premier Filmon from Manitoba, who is a more moderate Conservative. Again, it is nothing but political rhetoric that is coming from the Member opposite.
I take exception to the Member opposite talking about a closed government when he is a member of a party whose Minister of Justice comes to the Yukon and shuts out Yukoners and does not allow them to have a say on a major piece of legislation in this country. He is a supporter of a federal government that uses closure time and time again in the federal Legislature to get its legislation through. I take exception to that Member condemning this government about openness.
He went on to speak about land claims and the settlement of the land claims and implementation. We have done a lot of work on implementation. I believe eight implementation agreements have been negotiated during our mandate. The previous administration did the leg work on getting the first four final agreements to the point where they could be signed, but it left those on the Order Paper. They were not a priority with that government at the time it called the election. They were not a priority at all; the government let them die on the Order Paper.
We made a commitment to get legislative approval for those pieces of legislation and we lived up to that commitment. The Member opposite is fully aware that I invited him and the Leader of the Official Opposition to come to Ottawa and attend the committee meetings in support of that legislation.
Where is the beef? Certainly we would have liked to have had more band final agreements signed at this stage. We are one of three players at the table.
I will give the House a perfect example of who is holding up land claims. The Ta'an Kwach'an are very close to a final agreement. It can be finalized in probably 24 or 48 hours. Yet, when I spoke to the federal Minister and asked if it would be possible to initial these agreements while he is in Whitehorse this next week, his officials went into a tantrum. They claimed it was not possible. Why? It is because the federal government has not done its homework. It has not yet passed legislation or made the decision on the separation of the Ta'an from the Kwanlin Dun. Yet, the Member opposite will stand in his place in the House and condemn me for holding up the land claims process.
I believe that the First Nations have lost confidence in the federal government in terms of settling the land claims; that is the indication I get from them.
While we would like to see the land claims process proceed in a far more expeditious manner, we are only one of three players at the table. It is wrong for the Member opposite to be condemning this government.
The Member spoke about social programs and educational programs. There was a lot of nit-picking about how things were done, rather than what was accomplished. I will go into more detail on that in a while.
I want to point out how this Member can flip-flop to suit his own political desires. He just finished condemning our action on Taga Ku. In 1990-91, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce was very politically critical of the capabilities of the Taga Ku proponents to manage that project. I would ask the Liberal Member for Riverside if he can recall who was the president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce at that time. The Member opposite was the president of the Chamber of Commerce at that time. He was very critical of the proponents of the Taga Ku project. Now he is condemning this government. That is my indication. I could be wrong, but I might not be.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek:
The Member for Riverdale South says that I have the Member for Riverside's dander up. Well, he has my dander up, too.
The Member tried very rigorously to condemn us for our social and educational records, and I refute each and every one of those allegations. I can go through press release after press release on alcohol and drug strategy, cooperative efforts to start the food of learning program, and many, many others, including the youth investment fund, which was created by the former Minister of Health. There are all kinds of those types of press releases announcing social programs that have made the lives of Yukoners much better than they were three years ago when our government first came to power.
There are educational programs, where students who wish to excel are rewarded. Does the Member for Riverside believe that it is wrong to reward students who wish to excel? In this House, we heard the former Minister of Education commend some 50 students, I believe, who all passed the departmental exams. Is that wrong?
If the Member talks about our record for educating people for the 21st century, let us look at the apprenticeship programs we have put in place. Is that wrong? Is that not educating our people for jobs in the 21st century? The many jobs that the policies of this government have helped create and will continue to help create in the Yukon - are they wrong? Is that why the Member has no confidence in this government?
I could go on and on. I think this is a very foolish motion, but I am glad to have the ability to debate it. It gives me the opportunity to read into the record once more the accomplishments of this government. Quite possibly, before I am done the Member will change his mind and vote against the motion.
When we were elected four years ago, we took over a government that was $13 million in debt. We took over at a time when the two hard rock mines in the territory were closing down and going into bankruptcy. There were Members on that side of the House, including the Member for Riverdale South, who is supposed to be the staunch right-winger of this Legislature, condemning us for not giving Clifford Frame $29 million to keep the mine going - a position that was totally different from the one she had taken several months earlier, when the NDP government gave the mine $5 million to get the government by an election before the mine closed.
That was done for political expediency by the Member who calls herself an extreme right-winger; she stood in this House for political expediency and beat on the government for not giving a private company, which was going into bankruptcy, $29 million to try to keep it going when she knew full well, as did most Members on that side of the House, that the company could not survive anyway.
That is the situation we took over. That was the last of a string of mines that closed down under the previous administration.
Had we caved in to the demonstrations, had we caved in to the constant barrage from the Members opposite and given that company $29 million, I dare say today the mine would still be closed and would still be in bankruptcy because all we would have done would be to have extended the life of that corporation for about another six months.
I think the Members opposite know full well that that is the truth. We stood strong on it and would not cave in to tremendous political pressure. I went to the Member for Faro's riding and faced 500 or 600 angry miners. That was not pleasant, but we knew it was the right thing to do and we made that tough choice. By doing that, we were able to get the past behind us a lot quicker; we were able to allow the properties to be sold; we were able to let a new company come in without a tremendous debtload - a company that has a chance to make the mine succeed.
That is the kind of thing the new government had to face when it was elected in November of 1992, and it rose to those challenges. Were some feathers ruffled by doing so? Apparently so, but when all is said and done and one looks at this government's record, the Member for Riverside will have to agree that it has provided good government to Yukoners - whether he agrees with our philosophical approach or not.
We may not have been the smoothest politicians, and we may not have governed with smoke and mirrors, like the federal Liberals do, but we did provide good government to Yukoners - and open government. I offer to the Member a glaring example to the contrary: his cohorts in Ottawa.
When we look at the track record of fulfilling obligations we stated in the four-year plan, by the time we get to the next election, we will have fulfilled almost every one of them. In our mid-term report, there were few we had not started work on. We have made major accomplishments in that respect. I would be happy to go over them with the Members opposite.
We did not make foolish promises, as were made in the Liberal red book, and which that government will not be able to fulfill - I am not even certain they had any intentions to fulfill them.
As a government, we took over a government that was $13 million in debt. Over our four budgets, we have turned that debt into a minimum of $7.5 million surplus, while absorbing cuts from Ottawa - $20 million to our base and another $7 million in population adjustments, because of the variance of the formula financing agreement and the shifts in population.
At the same time, we have maintained and enhanced the level of service that we provide to Yukoners. We do not get any credit for it from Members opposite, but that is fact, not fiction. I am proud of our record.
Let us look at some of the things we have done on the social side of the ledger. I will not go into tremendous detail, but I believe they need to be put on the record because of the motion of non-confidence that has been put forward by the Member for Riverside.
We completed phase 1 of the hospital transfer. We took a great political risk, because we thought it was right for Yukoners when we found out that the hospital was $5 million over budget and six to eight months behind schedule. At great political risk, we brought in expertise to manage the project for us. It was expertise that we did not have here. One of the recommendations from that expertise was to redesign the whole hospital. That was a challenge for a political party - especially one that was in a minority position in the Legislature. Yet we sat down, looked at it, and did what we believed was right for Yukoners - not what was right for political expediency. We took the risk, scrapped the old design, redesigned the hospital and now have a project that is coming closer to completion. Part of it will be used this fall. It is a project that is on budget, on time - even with the mistakes that were made at the start with the old design. Those mistakes have all been absorbed in the budget, and the project is still on time and on budget. We did not look at the political ramifications of it. We looked at what was right for Yukoners.
We transferred Macaulay Lodge and the Thomson Centre to the hospital board. We have a joint management committee with the doctors. According to the Members opposite, this is a government that does not consult or negotiate. We had full consultations on the health programs in the fall of 1993. I can remember consultations regarding education, Yukon housing and many other subjects. I can remember the Ministers responsible talking about these consultations. The Members opposite say that this is a government that does not consult.
By redesigning the hospital, we expect to have millions of dollars in savings in operation and maintenance costs of that facility over the years. These millions of dollars can be redirected into programs for Yukon people. I think that it was a good move. It was a pretty scary one at the time, but it was a good move. It was the right move. That is why we did it.
We expanded the beds in the Thomson Centre. We opened 20 beds in September 1993. We opened a further 31 beds in March 1995.
In September 1993, Macaulay Lodge had 42 beds. In January 1994, it had 50 beds. This is from the government that the Opposition tries to paint as hard-hearted.
Phase 2 consultations have started on continuing care, the school dental program and midwifery. Consultations are going on around the Yukon now. We have shifted to health promotion, disease prevention and wellness centres - all things to deliver health programs in a new way to Yukoners.
On the social assistance side, we entered into the social assistance recipients agreement with the federal government for training and job experience. We had an assignment of a benefits agreement to reduce abuse by unemployment insurance recipients. We get blamed for being hard-hearted and heavy-handed because we do not believe that anyone should be beating the system. We are directing the monies to the people who require it. We do not condone people who will use fraud to beat the system. We are going to increase efforts to address those issues. We have a new automated information system.
I could go on and on about the social changes that the former Minister made, and how he has made the program far more effective. We got more money to the people who needed it and we have taken some of the waste out of the administration of the program. We have set some realistic goals that can be achieved and we are monitoring them.
I do not have my budget book here, but I believe in 1989 the direct social assistance payments were in the neighbourhood of $3 million. These had increased to an excess of $9 million by the end of the 1992-93 fiscal year. That huge increase came about at a time when the previous administration under the NDP was touting the great economic boom that was going on in the territory and the great productivity that was happening. At the rate that our social welfare assistance was spiraling, which was almost straight up, it could not be sustained.
By the utilizing the programs that were implemented by the previous Minister, we have helped the people who required our help. We got through the Faro shutdown without a major increase in the social assistance roles - I am not certain how many people in Faro were on social assistance, but by curtailing the waste in other parts of the system, the government was able to absorb it and provide assistance to the people who needed it. Still, in this budget - as you can see by our graph in the budget book - the direct social assistance payments are coming down. This did not happen by the government being heavy-handed and hard-hearted; we accomplished it by redesigning the programs to put the money where it was needed most. If Members opposite think that is not good government, I beg to differ.
There are many initiatives under social assistance that we have started, continued and improved. The Minister introduced an alcohol and drug strategy. This government has redesigned facilities, and has put more counsellors in place to assist clients. This government has constructed new offices, upgraded Crossroads, which opened in 1995, and relocated the detox centre to Crossroads for more efficiency - as well as increasing the capacity.
This government commenced a pilot project with the Kaska in Watson Lake, Liard and Ross River, in partnership, to avoid a duplication of services. We provided t
wo full-time equivalents - one prevention worker and one after-care worker. Are these initiatives from a government that Opposition members refer to as hard-hearted? I think not.
What has this government done in the area of family violence? It has moved the organization into its own building with an increased budget. In 1992-93, the budget was $104,500; in 1995-96, it is $230,100. This government has increased the number of counsellors and we will be adding an outreach community counsellor next year.
The Yukon Family Services Association had new office space built, and increased funding from $530,785 to $671,000 - and there has beenan increase in the number of communities served.
In 1992-93, only Watson Lake and Dawson City were being served. In 1995-96, Watson Lake, Dawson, Mayo, Carmacks, Haines Junction and Teslin are being served. The family violence prevention unit got a new functional and secure office space. We increased the funding for that program from $377,900 in 1992-93 to $439,000 in 1994-95.
I am proud of our record on the social side of our agenda.
We have implemented a zero-tolerance policy. We have initiated a policy of zero tolerance for violence toward women and children. We have introduced a Keeping Kids Safe program. Gender equality in the education system is being encouraged. We have increased the funding for the Help and Homes transition home and to the Dawson transition home. Kaushee's Place receives $482,000 a year.
The former Minister got into some hot water over his handling of that, but the reality of it is that that facility, which averages about 1,200 bed nights a year costs about $400 per adult per night. It is a very expensive service. It is a service that is needed - we do not for one moment think it is not - but we have to look at how we can control the costs of services so that we can provide more of them.
We restructured the open-custody facility and made a savings of $623,000 a year. By restructuring not only that program, but also others, the Minister was able to find money to direct to new programs that we have implemented in government.
When I point back to the budget with all the new programs that we have, which deliver services to people, with the additional responsibilities that we have taken on, such as staffing the Thomson Centre, adding beds at Macaulay Lodge and staffing the Teslin jail, to name a few, we have been able to maintain a level of operations and maintenance spending that is very close to what it was when we took over government in 1992-93.
I believe that is good government. These are not all of the initiatives. There are many more. I will name a few of them: youth empowerment and success; the Kwanlin Dun youth initiative we provide funding for; the Grey Mountain Lion's Club skateboard park, along with the teen parent centre we built at F.H. Collins.
These are what the Member opposite tries to portray as a hard-nosed, extremely right-wing political party. If the Member examines the record of what this party has done on the social side of the ledger, we have nothing to be ashamed of and can hold our heads up proudly. We have done this while maintaining fiscal responsibility in government.
Let us look at one microcosm of what was accomplished during our mandate so far. We all know the plight of the Ross River community under the previous administration, where nothing was done for the community except to give it a big facility it did not want. We were able to negotiate a memorandum of understanding between the Ross River, Kaska, and YTG regarding the apprehension and placement of children. We reached an agreement to provide a family support worker. We started a pilot project with the Kaska for alcohol and drug services. We provided a counsellor in the Ross River school. We upgraded the Ross River health centre. We supported Ross River in negotiating its agreement with Anvil Range. We also supported it in negotiating an agreement with Cominco. We have provided training for that community through the college so these people now have jobs they are proud of.
When we approached the community about the centennial anniversaries program, the people told us they did not have time to bother with that, they were busy working.
That is what they told us. I am proud of those accomplishments. We helped Ross River set up a society to manage local projects such as street reconstruction and, through our encouragement of mining companies to deal with First Nations, to put in place socio-economic agreements before they start a project.
I can point to other successes. I can point to Mayo, the Na-Cho Ny'ak Dun Band and the Bonnet Plume situation where the band is fully supportive of what is happening there. They do not want to see the whole area set aside as a wilderness area that precludes mining. They said that was not their intent in the first place. They want jobs for their people. They are a proud people, and we, as a government, are working to help them get those jobs. First Dynasty's mine is another instance where a socio-economic agreement has been negotiated with the band, and it is going to provide jobs for those people in their home communities - jobs that will be there for years and years to come, not government jobs that are there only until government does not have the funding to keep them any more. These are real jobs, community-based jobs, that will stay there for years to come.
We have the Pelly band negotiating with the Minto properties for socio-economic agreements. We have the Carmacks band negotiating with the mining company for socio-economic opportunities, and the Dawson band has an agreement with Loki Gold. I am proud of that record.
Certainly we have not signed off any land claims agreements, but we have done a lot to promote First Nations in the Yukon. We have worked with the bands and we will continue to work with them. The Members opposite are very quick to forget all the positives. They bring up only the negatives. I do not think we have to be at all ashamed of our record.
The Member opposite spoke of schools. "Where are the schools?" he asked. Let us look at where the schools are. A French language school is being built right now. With the grade reorganization, there is going to be an expansion to the Porter Creek school. If his inference was to the Dawson situation, we said we would build schools where schools were required, and we will be building a school in Dawson, but because the numbers did not come up to where we felt we needed to build it this year, we deferred it for one year. I want to go on the record again on this. The school is not cancelled by any means. The committee is going to continue working on plans for the school. We, as a government, are going to try to pick up a piece of property from the federal government to square off the lot, and the school will be built in the next fiscal year, as long as the numbers are there to substantiate it, and that is what the Minister said.
We do not want to leave that impression for one minute, and I urge the Members opposite not to leave the impression, that the school is cancelled forever - and I do not want them to do it for my partisan political reasons.
We are following the same format that we followed with the Grey Mountain School. Schools cannot be built if there are not enough students. We do not have the luxury to build new schools in every community just for the sake of building schools. I think what we have done is responsible government.
I am going to go back to the fiscal record of this government for a moment, because the Opposition tries to leave the impression that this government is on a roller-coaster ride - with surpluses and deficits - and that is just a wrong impression. I have stated time and time again that we had a financial plan in place. We knew it, even though the Leader of the Official Opposition was not prepared to admit it - in fact, I go back to a statement he made, "Sure, the federal government has a big debt, but it is manageable." That is the kind of rhetoric and irresponsibility that got Canada and its provinces into the fiscal situation they are in today - thinking that the debt is manageable and not wanting to act until really necessary, preferring to stick their heads in the sand and hope that it will blow over and they will not have to worry about it.
Well, we took a different approach. We took some actions to curtail the spending of government spending - not to cripple government, but to scale back the spending. We also worked to build a surplus because we knew - and we were prepared to admit it - that we were going to take a cut from Ottawa, no matter which government had been elected federally. Even if an NDP government had been elected, it would have had to cut our funds. There was no choice, and there is no doubt that more cuts will be coming yet.
When institutes, such as the Fraser Institute, say that, even after five years of belt-tightening, such as we are doing now and which is supposed to be so horrendous, the debt to GDP ratio will only drop by a couple of percentage points.
We still have a huge challenge ahead of us. In the Yukon, we are very fortunate to not have to bear the brunt of cuts like people are facing in some other jurisdictions because they do not have their fiscal policies in order.
We said that we had to build a surplus so that there could be a gradual transition to a lower level of spending. We did that. We built a $31 million or $32 million - or whatever it will be when the figure comes in - surplus. This year, we have drawn some of that surplus down. We drew that surplus down so that we could slowly transfer to a lower level of operation and maintenance spending. We have done that without raising havoc in the marketplace. We have done that without raising havoc with our employees. We took the path that we felt was the most palatable to face the serious situation in the Member for Faro's riding, where a mine was shutting down, laying off a lot of people, and putting a lot of people on the unemployment rolls.
In 1993, unemployment was running at 17 percent in the Yukon. We could have taken the other route and said, "We will go the collective bargaining way. We can continue to raise the fears in the marketplace that were raised just months prior - before Christmas - with the public sector union threatening to go on strike and boycotting businesses to put political pressure on this government."
I am going to say something that I have never before said in this Legislature. I believe that it is totally indefensible for the Leader of the Official Opposition to be involved in the collective bargaining process to the extent that he was while those negotiations were taking place. I find that totally indefensible. We went through a real period of turmoil before the Christmas of 1993. The union was threatening to boycott businesses and go out on strike. We needed some labour peace and stability so that we could plan for the future.
I can assure you that there would have had to be fewer government employees working for the government than there are today. We stated quite clearly that we had to control the payroll and benefits portion of the budget.
I know that the unions were incensed, and I know that there are some bitter feelings out there. We could have possibly done this in a more diplomatic manner, but we tried for months and months the previous year to reach a negotiated settlement with the public sector service union and it was not possible. We did not want to go through that process again and we needed to concentrate our efforts on making sure that when the cuts came from Ottawa the territory would not go into debt.
This government made some tough and very unpopular decisions, but I do not believe that constitutes a vote of non-confidence in this government. This government was prepared to make those decisions and the people of the Yukon will indicate their confidence in this government in the next election. Had this government not taken any action, it would be faced with the situation that our colleagues in the Northwest Territories are faced with today.
On the fiscal track that the previous administration was on - I believe a $19-million deficit in 1991-92 to a $64-million deficit in 1992-93. Had the previous government been re-elected, I have no doubt that the territory would have been $100 to $200 million in debt, because the previous government did not have the political will to make the tough choices that had to be made, but this government did. Maybe this government will pay the political price for making those choices, but I will be able to say that I still have my principles, and today the Yukon is a lot better off for the choices that were made.
Look at what is happening in the Yukon today. There are 600 new jobs in the territory from February 1995 to February 1996. These are jobs - including another 100 private sector jobs, because I understand that the government payroll decreased by 100 people - I believe that is both territorial and federal. In actuality, that is 700 new jobs created in the Yukon. That is in a small place like the Yukon where 13,600 people were employed in February of 1996 compared to 12,700 in February of 1995.
I think that is a great accomplishment. I believe it is an accomplishment that came about by policies and initiatives of this government.
Let us look at exploration spending. Look at the short-term economic forecast. All of the economic indicators in the territory are in the positive mode. None of them is in the negative mode. I believe that it is a major accomplishment to come through a shutdown of our largest private sector employer, Curragh Resources. We went through two mine shutdowns, which put all those people out of work. The actions that were taken by this government, whether or not they were popular, turned that situation around in a very short time.
The Members opposite scoffed at me in December 1993 when I said that the worst was behind us. They laughed and ridiculed me, but I think if they go back and look at the employment and unemployment numbers, they will have to agree that when I made those statements the worst was behind us, because we have been seeing more and more people employed every month since then for corresponding months, and we have watched the unemployment numbers go down. That is not because the private sector employers in the Yukon do not have confidence in this government. I believe that it is as a direct result of the fact that they do have confidence in this government.
What has this government done that has been so bad that the Member for Riverside has lost confidence in this government? He certainly did not lay out any evidence while speaking to his motion - none whatsoever. He visited some areas and said that Members opposite can make up their own minds. That is not evidence. He is a lawyer; he knows that. There is no evidence to back up his motion of non-confidence. This is a man who always wants a document in front of him that he can refer to. Where is the document he can to show me that provides evidence to bring forward a non-confidence motion? I have not seen it. I heard some political rhetoric. I know we are on different philosophical paths, but, to me, that does not warrant a non-confidence motion.
Has this government done something so horrendous that we should be subjected to that type of motion? We have accomplished a lot in our three years in power. I will briefly address some of the issues the Member opposite spoke of when he went through our four-year plan. I will go to our mid-term report, because it lays out most of them. We accomplished most of the things during our first two years in office, except for the Ombudsman Act, the conflict act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which are now passed this House with the full blessing of the Opposition, with the exception of the Member for Riverdale South. That was part of our four-year commitment to Yukoners.
With respect to providing good government, we started in November 1992 and brought in two successive balanced budgets. We now have a deficit budget, but we have an overall surplus. What does an overall surplus mean? I want to keep terms simple for Yukoners, rather than getting into the nit-picking type of debate we have in this House. This government is able to carry out the operations of government without going into debt. That is the simple statement.
In our 1993-94 budget, eight of 16 departments reduced their operating expenditures from the previous year. If one looks at the budgets since then - for example the 1996-97 budget - one will see that the increase in operation and maintenance spending of government has not gone up dramatically. The Member for Faro is shaking his head, but I will debate that with him any time. He discounts the fact that we are providing more services to people now.
We went through a major review of contract regulations. We promised it and we did it. On land claims, we provided training trust funds, which was a $3.5 million contribution. We have given land claims a high priority. As I said, we negotiated eight implementation agreements. We completed the Northern Oil and Gas Accord. We completed the first phase of the Whitehorse General Hospital transfer. We are working with the federal government on a memorandum of understanding to transfer the control of land and resources.
We have just completed, as we heard the Minister responsible for highways say, the transfer of the two major airports in the Yukon. Had we not taken over the airports, I daresay that they would have been privatized and downgraded. We might not even have an airport in Watson Lake had we not taken it over - your riding, Mr. Speaker. We know we need to have those services. We were prepared to do everything we could to facilitate it.
The Member opposite went on about the Environment Act, and what we had done with it. We have done a lot of things, and I will lay some of them out. What is the panic for the act when we do not have control of the land to apply it to? The federal act still applies and will apply until such time as we have control over the land and resources. There is no panic for it, but we are working on it. We believe that we have a responsibility to ensure that our environment is protected for future generations. The Opposition Members are not the only ones who have ownership of that responsibility.
We implemented, amid some public controversy, the Aishihik caribou herd recovery program. We adopted the wolf conservation and management plan. We provided $18.4 million to the City of Whitehorse to solve the city's sewage treatment problems. It was an issue that was outstanding, and one for which the previous government would not contribute that level of funding.
We provided $5.5 million to the City of Dawson, which had a sitting Member at the time but could not obtain money to upgrade the city's long-outstanding sewage problem.
We developed special waste regulations to safely dispose of PCBs at an approved facility outside the Yukon without having to build a facility in the Yukon that would be highly underutilized and would be operating at great expense. That was a $4.4 million plan that the previous administration had on the drawing board when we took over government. We were able to do it for much less and we do not have a huge facility and a large operation and maintenance budget for the small amount of dangerous waste that we have in the Yukon.
We undertook an evaluation of the current recycling program and looked at the expansion possibilities, as well as the major clean-up and collection of special wastes.
We have lobbied against raw-log exports.
I do not think our record on the environment is all that bad. I do not think it is bad at all. I know the Member opposite, in his legal mind, likes to see the acts and the phrases and the whereases, and all those things, but we do things that count to help the environment.
Dealing with crime - we heard the Minister lay out today what has been accomplished. We have made remarkable progress, and the Minister should be given full credit for it. We created a new victims' services and violence prevention unit. We developed a new community justice policy, giving communities greater control over the delivery of local justice. This is from a government that it is said does not consult.
We developed the RCMP auxiliary reserve police program to help combat vandalism and assist Neighbourhood Watch in providing building security. We have lobbied the federal government to tighten up the Young Offenders Act, and we will continue to do that.
I have already spoken about the alcohol and drug strategy and the Thomson Centre.
The Education Review Committee report - we have acted on many aspects of that report. Again, it was another consultation process that took place by a government that, it is claimed, does not consult.
We introduced the Girls Exploring Technology program - a program to encourage greater participation of women in trade and technology careers.
We provided funding to assist YukonNet in establishing a local Internet service. I understand that by the end of June this year, the service will be in every community in the Yukon. We organized school-based workshops on issues such as dating violence. I would match our record on economic growth and helping the private sector against any previous governments - Conservative Party or NDP - record in this territory. We will continue to be salesmen for the Yukon. We will continue to try to attract new investment to the Yukon. We will continue to create new jobs in the private sector. We will do this while making sure that our environment is not damaged in the process.
Yukon history is based on a mining background. If the Yukon is to prosper in the future, mining will have to continue to play a major role in the economy of the territory.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am glad to hear the Member for Faro say "hear, hear", because every time in the past couple of years that we talk about mining in the Yukon in this House, the only mine he was interested in was the Faro mine. He condemned us for our actions in a lot of areas concerning mining in the territory.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek:
I got a magazine the other day - I guess we are on the mailing list now - from the Coal Association of Canada. It is quite an interesting magazine. We have heard some pretty negative statements from the other side of the House about us promoting the use of coal in the Yukon. I looked at one of the advertisements in it by a company that was up here and looked at the coal deposits. The company was Luscar Coal. I think that the line used in this statement is very valid and real. It says: "Coal mining: a temporary land use." It is right. It is a temporary land use. It has been proven in Alberta, where they are operating in an environment that is of highest sensitivity. They have been able to operate in that environment.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: What kind of numbers does he want? How long?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Look at that. There are sheep, owls, fish and reclamation.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Do they eat the coal there?
What is really interesting is that Alberta is noted for its oil and gas, yet 91 percent of the electricity generated in Alberta is by coal-fired generation.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite says so what? I would think that there are some tremendous opportunities for the Yukon in that area. When one looks at the fact that it is not only the Luscar mine, one can also look at Fording Coal and Minalta. I urge the Members opposite to go and visit these mines and see that there is no environmental damage when they are finished. I know this hurts the Members opposite, but it should not.
The other day I heard the Member for Faro discussing with one of the Ministers - I believe it was the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation - having his community as the base for the new mines coming on line. I think that is admirable and I do not see anything wrong with that, but I ask for a lot more vocal support for what this government is doing for the mining community in the Yukon and to stop condemning us all of the time.
This government has to create a climate in the Yukon where the mining community can compete in the world marketplace without government subsidies. That is what the Yukon needs.
I can tell Members that one thing this government will not do when it comes to power rates is to make a backroom deal like that of the NDP and load the subsidy on the backs of the ratepayers of the Yukon. We will not do that, and we will not make you, Mr. Speaker, subsidize anybody in the Yukon when you pay your power bill. The previous administration did this.
I could go on and on forever, but I am sure there are other Members in this House who want to speak. I believe that the motion put forward by the Liberal Member for Riverside was not a well-thought-out motion, and I believe that I have put on the record today a lot of positive things that my government has accomplished.
I am proud of my government's record, and I am proud of the fact that we have not displayed favouritism toward anyone.
We will continue to provide good government to the people of the Yukon, up to and following the next election.
Mr. Harding: The Members of the Official Opposition - the NDP - have consistently, time and time again, voted and expressed non-confidence in this government on financial bills and other issues. There are numerous reasons for that expression of non-confidence in the Yukon Party government, which I will go into later.
This motion is redundant from that perspective because we have continued, as the Official Opposition, to voice our non-confidence in this government. However, as a redundant motion introduced by the Liberals, it did provide us with some insight into their thinking patterns, and that is most helpful.
We did not know that the Liberals supported two budgets put forward by the Yukon Party government. We thought it horrendous enough that they had expressed confidence in the government by voting for one budget. We utilized that, quite successfully, on the doorsteps in the last by-election campaign in Whitehorse West. People knew that the Liberal Party was in tune in their thinking and that the Taylor-Ostashek coalition was probably going to be the type of a joint-harmony marriage made in heaven, and they did not trust that the Liberals, after voting for two budgets, would take the Yukon Party down, as it should be taken down, for its poor record in three and a half years in government.
We have expressed non-confidence time and time again. We have voted against all budgets - and expressed our opposition to those budgets - and financial bills introduced by this government, and we have done that for some very good reasons.
The Liberals, when they voted for two budgets of this government, voted for the budget that contained massive tax increases - the biggest in Yukon history - that were levied unnecessarily upon Yukoners. Then they voted for the budgets that contained the ill-gotten gains of the wage-restraint legislation, which was also proven to be unjustified. It was made up to address some transparent and synthesized deficit.
I agree with the Government Leader when he said, after the election in 1992, that if one looks at the campaign platform of the Yukon Party and then looks at the one of the Liberal Party, it almost mirrored it. He could not see how the Liberal elected person would have any problems supporting his platform, as long as he stayed within the parameters of what he told the public he was going to do. Obviously, by the Liberals voting for two budgets of the Yukon Party, the Yukon Party feels that the Yukon Party is right on track, whatever that track is.
I also agree with the Government Leader when he said, on CHON-FM on May 7, 1992, "If you look at the policies and philosophies of the private enterprise parties, there is so little that you cannot tell them apart." That is very, very true. That was reflected in the budget votes where the Liberal expressed confidence in the Yukon Party government.
I also agree with the Government Leader when he said in the Whitehorse Star, on October 26, 1992, "Many, if not most, of the Liberal Party promises were almost identical to the Yukon Party's, so Mr. Cable should have no trouble supporting us." What a soothsayer the Government Leader was. Obviously, the Liberals feel that the Yukon Party government was doing a fine job and it supported its budgets, not just once, as we thought, but - thanks to this motion coming forward -twice the Liberal Member supported and expressed confidence in the policies of the Yukon Party.
I could go on and on about the comments that the Government Leader made about his alliance made in heaven with the Member for Riverside and the Taylor-Ostashek coalition that he foresees in the future. I think the evidence is clear, based on the vote, because the proof of the pudding is in the eating. When it comes to voting and expressing non-confidence, the Official Opposition New Democrats have consistently opposed the Yukon Party for its ill-gotten policies and gains through tax increases and at the expense of the civil servants - they never made a case for financial crisis. The Liberal record is also crystal clear: support for the Yukon Party.
I have many other reasons why we cannot limit this debate to expressing non-confidence in the Yukon Party government. We also have to ensure that it is clear that we are expressing non-confidence in the Liberal Party, primarily for the reasons I indicated earlier - that it supported the budgets of the Ostashek government.
There are other reasons as well. A while ago, the Liberal Party told us one of the reasons it was on the rise in the Yukon was because it had a special relationship with Ottawa, and that somehow if a Yukon government did not have the sort of hotline to Ottawa that the local Liberals have, we would somehow be less better off in terms of obtaining the support to run programs like health care and education or invest in economic development - these types of things - that we need as a territory.
We found out quickly what special relationship with Ottawa the Liberals have. When the Chretien government promised to divide the country up into little fiefdoms, we got a quick endorsement of that from the Liberals. The president of the Liberal Party said she had received a call from the Prime Minister's office, and we Yukoners were all assured that constitutional changes would not be a hindrance to the Yukon, and the officials in Ottawa said we should just relax and not worry about it, and that the Taylor-Ostashek coalition would take care of us.
We were not happy with the agreement proposed by the Prime Minister and the Liberals, and we expressed that opposition, as did British Columbia. We did not support it then, we do not support it now, and we do not accept that we should be reassured by that proposal of the federal Liberals.
We should not be happy with the special arrangement between the local and federal Liberals when the Justice Minister, Allan Rock, comes to the Yukon to supposedly consult with Yukoners and then has the local Liberals ask for a Liberal Party card at the door before one could enter to express one's views.
We should not be happy about the special relationship between Ottawa and the local Liberals when they stood by and refused to stand up for Yukoners regarding the forestry crisis. We saw the loggers in the territory seriously hurt by the lack of action from Ottawa. It is obvious the Liberals held their cards too close to their chest before coming out and saying to the federal government that what it was doing with the forestry permitting system was wrong.
Only after we raised those issues did the Liberals again jump in and say, "Me, too".
Of course, one of the most important reasons to express non-confidence in the Liberal Party is the Liberal code of conduct, which was announced by the Liberal Leader, Tag-along Taylor. He said, after getting himself into a bit of trouble for using a local school for one of his campaign organizations, that in a perfect world, he could act in an ethical fashion. We did not accept that from the Liberal Leader. He should have apologized without any strings attached. One must be ethical, whether or not it is a perfect world. We have to maintain fairly high standards as elected people. His status as a non-elected person will continue as a result of actions such as that.
One must act appropriately in more than just a perfect world. There is no perfect world, and the school should not have been used for conducting that kind of business.
Of course, the Liberal Leader, when a director of the Liberal Party called a Member of the Opposition a "dried-up old cow", refused to publicly ask for the resignation of the director of the Liberal Party, as he obviously felt that that was a proposition that he could endorse.
These are the reasons why we cannot stop short at just expressing non-confidence in the Yukon Party government. We also have to express non-confidence in the actions of the Liberal Party. We do appreciate, however, the Member for Riverside bringing forward this motion, if only to explain to us why he had supported two Yukon Party budgets, as opposed to the one we had previously thought he supported.
I want to focus now on non-confidence in the Yukon Party, a sentiment which we have expressed numerous times for some very good reasons. I want to refer to a few of those reasons.
I heard the Government Leader talking today about the fact that it had inherited a $13-million debt when taking over office. We all know that the $13 million was contrived by the successful manipulation of some write-offs by the Yukon Party and some rampant spending in the last five months of the fiscal year when that government was in office. When it is a government that has introduced budgets over the last four years in the range of $2 billion, how can it complain about $13 million that it says it was in debt? When a government has that much money at its disposal, to complain about a fictitious $13 million over a four-year period, when it spends $2 billion, does not make any sense whatsoever.
The Yukon was debt free under the New Democrats from 1985 to 1992, and we are proud of it.
We voted non-confidence in the Yukon Party government because it brought in the largest tax hike in Yukon's history. We said it was unnecessary at the time and that it was an unsuccessful attempt to appease federal officials regarding the perversity factor, and it has repeated a windfall in tax revenue much larger than first expected, based on those large tax increases.
This is a government that we have expressed non-confidence in because it said it was going to have a leaner, trimmer government. What we have seen in stark contrast to that is a government that has introduced the four largest spending budgets in Yukon's history.
It tries to justify this by saying that it has taken over programs from the federal government, but the New Democrats took over programs from the federal government - from NCPC, to negotiating the hospital, to roads and airports and freshwater fisheries - but we also, in taking over those kinds of initiatives, had smaller budgets than the Yukon Party government has. So it is not anything new to have programs devolving to the territory.
This is a government that said it was going to only run budgets that were of a surplus nature. It would not run deficit budgets. It was the paramount sentence in every one of its first three budgets; but then we found out that it saw the light, that sometimes it is okay to spend a bit of that surplus in the Yukon like the New Democrats did. When we used to argue that, they used to say that that was inappropriate. We believed it was appropriate when we did it, and we believe it is appropriate now for a government in this territory to invest part of its surplus.
Members expressed non-confidence in this government because we have seen this government hastily plan initiatives such as the tourism office building and the Beringia Interpretive Centre. The government has tried to plan by filling a building. In our minds this is an inappropriate way to plan.
There were all kinds of grandiose announcements made about the Beringia Centre, but when we asked the government to provide the numbers and justify more than the concept alone, it has yet to produce those numbers, in over a year and a half. All the Minister of Tourism does is get all hot and bothered and run off to Tourism Industry Association meetings to lobby it to send us letters to shut us up. Our criticisms of this type of planning and this type of project being unjustified are as valid now as they were before. We will continue to raise those concerns, and that is another reason why we have expressed non-confidence in this government.
Let us take a look at the French first language school. This is a project that was to be 50-percent cost funded up to $3 million with the federal government, for a total of $4.7 million. The latest estimate is now at $6.25 million. This is a government that was fiscally irresponsible in terms of planning that project. When it asked for $4.75 million, it should have looked at what it was going to build. Now we have a situation with a large cost overrun that is creating some friction. That is fiscally irresponsible, and that is why we have consistently expressed non-confidence in this government.
When one looks at some of the areas that this government has engaged in, one can find instances where one could say it was less than straight with the Yukon people.
One can look at the outfitting scandal, where I had to stand here for a year and a half and tell the government something was wrong. Finally, like pulling teeth, we convinced the government to see the light and it made some changes. In that case, I think it is clear that it did not get involved quickly due to the personal involvement of government Members in the situation, and that those Members felt they did not want to take any action. For that reason, we expressed non-confidence in the government.
We have a Government Leader who forgets when he is given a $10,000 cheque. For that reason we express non-confidence.
We have a government that engages in discussions about giving out moose-hunting permits with immediate family members in the discussion. For that reason, we have expressed non-confidence in the government.
We have a government that took our excellent bills on conflict of interest and access to information and decidedly watered them down. It was only through the good efforts of the former Leader of the Official Opposition, Mr. Penikett, and approximately 28 to 30 amendments that he proposed, did we get any teeth whatsoever back in that legislation. For that reason, we express non-confidence in this government.
If one takes a look at some of the most important areas that I believe Yukoners feel that their government has to hold a high level of regard for, one sees consultation. I will list a few areas of consultation where there has been a serious lack of ability by this government to exhibit actions that would warrant confidence in it: in grade reorganization; with the Yukon excellence awards; in its legislation of wage rollbacks; in the Beringia Centre; in its loan write-offs that it did not take before the Legislature...
Speaker: Order. The Member has three minutes to conclude his speech.
Mr. Harding: ...in the forestry transfer, where the devolution details have been kept from the public; when it announced the education review without talking to any of the stakeholders and made pronounced judgments on it before it was ever aired; and in its industrial support policy, where very few people were talked to, and we still do not know what that industrial support policy means other than it is a public relations document. These are a few of the key reasons why we have expressed non-confidence.
If you look at the relationship with First Nations, the Government Leader is totally wrong. The New Democrat Party was the first party in this territory to try to put together - with the help of First Nations and by supporting them - a socio-economic agreement - Sa Dena Hes is a good example of that. We were soundly criticized for our attempts to do that in 1995 by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. He called it an "affirmative action program." That is what he hissed out in this Legislature. He was totally against it, because he did not want to support anything for the First Nations. Political expedience has somewhat changed his opinion since that time, due to the good work of the Yukon New Democrats.
We express non-confidence in the government because of the Taga Ku deal. The government has settled no land claims in this territory in three and a half years. We express non-confidence for that reason. We express non-confidence because of its inability to implement the umbrella final agreement. There are commitments in the umbrella final agreement that the government will have to live up to. The government has demonstrated patronage, political interference and intimidation of the public service. Its vision is clouded and non-existent. We have yet to see the railways and pipelines that it promised. For those reasons - and many others that I have alluded to - we have consistently and concisely expressed non-confidence in this government and its financial bills. We will continue to do that. For that reason - and that reason alone - we support this motion.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I was not intending to speak today because I had a touch of this flu that is going around, and a headache, but some of the speeches I have heard this afternoon have served to clear my head somewhat, so I asked for a chance to be introduced into the proceedings.
I think it is true that this type of motion does tend to give rise to a lot of the tired, old arguments - the arguments on the other side and the arguments in response from this side. It is just calculated to do that. Aside from rehashing stuff, I am not certain, from the remarks of the mover of the motion that he saw any particular benefit from this use of time accruing to his constituents in his riding or Yukon-wide. Whether or not the Member could possibly say that this was a constructive exercise is, I guess, something he will have to convince constituents of, and not I.
We always like the opportunity to speak in this House. A very vague, wishy-washy motion, such as the one we are speaking to today, is calculated to allow anyone to get on almost any old hobbyhorse, drive the spurs into the wood and ride off into the sunset with their particular point of view.
However, I see this as an opportunity for me, from my new vantage point in these Chambers, to speak directly to a lot of Yukoners, and particularly those who support, and have supported me, in my riding.
I would like to address the whole issue of why, having run as an independent, I joined into a coalition with the government and agreed to support it.
I worked very hard as a Cabinet Minister on behalf of all people of the Yukon, including constituents of mine in the riding of Ross River-Southern Lakes, because of my decision I think that is something that has not been properly canvassed. It is something that I do have a few things to say about.
When I ran, I did not really intend to play a high-level role as a Minister in government. I was foolish enough to think that I would be allowed the luxury of operating much as I will now in this, my current standing in the House.
I was somewhat surprised with the results of the election and with the situation where there was no party having a majority. I can honestly say that I viewed the election as much as a vote of non-confidence in the NDP, which was the government of the day, as endorsing any particular alternative philosophy.
I know that there are those who would disagree with me, but I am quite sure of this in my mind, because I was surprised with the depth of anti-NDP government feeling when I got into the race very late and from things that I was told about other ridings in the territory. I did not have time to go beyond my boundaries, but I talked to some people from time to time during the shortened campaign I had. People were looking at an anti-NDP government vote and the rest is history.
After the votes were all tallied, and the new Members established, it came down to who I should support, whT I thought was in the best interest of Yukoners and of my constituents.
I was approached by people from other parties - people who purported to be speaking on behalf of the NDP, people who purported to be speaking on behalf of the other two Independents; whether or not they were, I cannot say, but I was certainly approached by others - and I had to make a decision about whether or not I should, as an Independent, support the Yukon Party and get into government.
That was not a difficult choice. Trust me, it was not. I have, of course, been a fairly vocal critic of the previous NDP government for the life of its two terms in office. I had the chance to help uncover some of the more tainted decision making that went on in that government and to speak out on behalf of disgruntled Yukoners on various issues - and there were many - so there was no possibility of my supporting that group.
I personally have always had a consistent philosophy and approach to politics. I have always stood as a small-c conservative on economic issues and I have always been progressive on social issues. I have always adhered to the old Tory philosophy about needing a healthy economy - a healthy economy comes through private enterprise and free-market forces - in order to be able to afford the appropriate safety net for less fortunate citizens in the Yukon. The key to a prosperous economy - an economy governed by the real forces that govern an economy: supply and demand, that sort of thing - so that government can afford, through taxation, to be in a position to help the unfortunate and, most important, and a cornerstone of where I have always stood, to have programs that help people help themselves.
Help people help themselves. This is something that, in my understanding, is truly an anathema to the left, an anathema to socialist parties - the idea that most people ought to be responsible for themselves and that we can help people who want to overcome their problems, get an education and training and want to be in a position to realize their potential no matter what it might be. I am certainly not a person to suggest that there is anything wrong with someone being, by choice, a struggling artist or a person who is living on a very small salary. The important thing is that we do what we can to help people realize their individual potential, whatever that potential might be. In my view, there is nothing more sad than a wasted life and the plight of people who have not been given the opportunity to help themselves.
I want to say that that is the philosophy, in very simple terms, that I have carried into my political and quasi-political career. That is the philosophy that I brought to land claims as a negotiator and the departments that I, until recently, represented as Minister.
Every single step that I have taken in conjunction and with the support of the Yukon Party has been directed, on the social side, to that fundamental principle. This has not only been directed to individuals, because I have spoken time and time again about the health of communities and how we have communities that have to want to help themselves. Again, while it is a very difficult and hard road to work with communities and try and assist them in setting their own priorities and moving along their own path - in short, assisting them to help themselves - it can be done. This is certainly the approach that I have taken with regard to entire communities, whether it is Ross River, the Selkirk First Nation or any of the communities throughout the Yukon, on health and social services issues and many education issues - when I was Minister of Justice, as well.
I think it is really unfortunate that, somehow or other, this message about this government has not gotten out. In fairness, once one gets away from the crass politics that are played, it is something that people of the Yukon deserve to hear and know about - because I think most Yukoners support that kind of fundamental principle on the social side.
I have heard a lot of criticism from the side opposite. I was over there - I was Leader of the Official Opposition for a good many years - more than I care to remember, actually. I have been in the position of criticizing and attacking. Unfortunately, that is what partisan politics is about, and it is one of the things that makes me far more comfortable being an Independent - but that is a different story.
I have listened to some of the accusations that are being hurled from across the way, with the venom of the staged rhetoric that one gets in Question Period.
For the record, I would like to table a letter. It is a letter that went out to Yukoners across the Yukon. It was a letter that asked for donations to the NDP. It is a letter that asked for money and asked people to join that party. It was signed by someone, but not by John Ostashek. Actually, it was not signed by any official for the Yukon Party. It is signed by the Leader of the government of the day, Tony Penikett. He is the guy who sent this letter out to everyone across the territory, asking for money, and he signed it, "Tony Penikett, Leader, Yukon New Democrats."
I had to sit here and listen to an attack on our leader about a letter that went out from the party - which our leader would have nothing to do with - because that was supposed to be a terrible thing to do - that the leader would, in any way, even know about any such letter going out from the party.
Yet, the NDP Members must have known about the letter I am producing. They must have known that their esteemed leader personally signed a letter to Yukoners and sent it out in a mass mailing, asking for financial support. This is the kind of ugly venom and the kind of double standard that, unfortunately, party politics seems to induce.
I feel, and this is just my personal view, that the Leader of the Official Opposition, in view of the document I have just tabled, owes an apology to the Leader of this government. But then, that is only my view and I am an Independent. It would be a big gesture in an arena of small-minded politics. It would probably set a precedent that very, very few of our gladiators in this room could stomach or live with.
They talk about this being a kinder, gentler place, yet we have that type of attack made on one Leader by a person who knew full well...
Speaker: Order please. The Member has three minutes to conclude his speech.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: ...that his party had gone far beyond what he was unjustly accusing the Government Leader of doing.
I have always regretted the rule change giving us only 20 minutes to speak. I am a man of few words, and some of the words I am told are not always appropriate. I hope they are appropriate when I am in this House. Clearly, I will do my best to uphold the dignity of this place.
There are many issues and as we come to the countdown toward the election in the fall, we get more and more of these hare-brained accusations, more and more of these petty divisions and more and more of the venomous kind of stuff that often flows from the gladiators in the political field.
Many Yukoners are sick of it. I can easily go on for a long time; for example, in 1989, the New Democratic Party promised to lower electrical rates and sent out letters on Yukon Energy Corporation stationery signed by Tony Penikett as Minister, just before the election. Was that appropriate? Was that proper? That, itself, could be the subject matter of a complete debate, given that we only have 20 minutes.
I want to say that I am proud of the decision that I made to support the current government in power; that I did it with the best intentions; that I could certainly defend that decision and that I welcome this opportunity to speak. I thank the person who was supposed to speak at this time for letting me speak in his place. I certainly will be voting against this motion.
Mr. McDonald: I realize that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, in taking the opportunity to speak this afternoon, was slightly out of order in terms of the speakers' list and a great deal out of order in terms of his comments, but I will take the opportunity to respond to some of the things he said and to the motion proper.
The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, the great consensus-builder, something we have discovered is a major part of his character in his comments to his constituents during the last couple of weeks, has taken the opportunity to live once again through his past record in the House. He has, on a couple of occasions, indicated that he feels the NDP government is the great bugaboo that drove him into politics, or at least drove his politics for the last 10 years, and claims that the NDP in Opposition has had a double standard from the time when it was operating in government.
This was the same Member who has, on a couple of occasions, indicated that the NDP failed on some serious points, particularly respecting the whole notion that the NDP government had failed with respect to its ability to build consensus and in its ability to undertake consultation with the public, and consequently has tried to make the case that the NDP should not be holding the current government accountable for its failure to consult with people, particularly, for example, on grade reorganization - something about which the ex-Minister is particularly familiar.
We should not be saying anything when the government itself operates in a manner that is offensive to the general public. We should be muzzled when the government undertakes its capital works and fails to undertake proper planning. We should be muzzled when the government raises taxes for the first time after having claimed that to do so would have been obscene. We should be muzzled when the government claims that it is fiscally responsible yet introduces the largest budgets in Yukon history. We should be muzzled when we express some serious concern when this government sends out a fund-raising letter to everybody in the territory, including those people who have had no contact whatsoever with the Yukon Party, and that because we sent a letter requesting financial support to members of the NDP, somehow we are no longer in a position to be able to criticize the Yukon Party and its actions.
There are lots of things for which we can legitimately criticize this government, and we have been criticizing this government for doing them even in the last two weeks.
In the last two weeks, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, who so sanctimoniously stood and claimed that the Yukon NDP was incapable of maintaining its authority to govern through the last election - the Member who is an experienced Member of this Legislature and who just last week resigned in disgrace for lambasting his constituents - is one who, of all people in this Legislature in all of the time that I have stood in this Legislature, should have kept his tail between his legs where it belongs.
Let me say that when a Minister of the Crown uses his position to threaten the public by withholding expenditures for purposes of personal retribution, that Member should at least allow a cooling-off period before he stands up in a rant and criticizes the NDP government for some failings that are, in some cases, a matter of fiction in the Member's own mind and, in some cases, legitimate.
Whether or not the NDP government ever made mistakes, and it did, is irrelevant when it comes to this government's performance. Is the Member saying, by logical extension, that because the NDP government was not successful in all of its consultations - and it was successful in many; I point out the Education Act as a good example, which was so successful that the 300-clause act passed this Legislature in a single afternoon - it somehow does not have the moral authority, through its elected representatives, to stand up and express legitimate concerns in this Legislature about the actions the Yukon Party has undertaken? What absolute and patent nonsense, particularly coming from that Member.
This is the same Member who has not only berated his own constituents, but he has berated people with whom he was doing public business in the crudest manner possible. Only last December, this Member was criticizing school councils. What happened to the whole notion of partnership in education? Did it die a nasty and cruel death under the Yukon Party government?
Seven years were spent to develop a partnership among the Department of Education, school councils, First Nations and others to ensure a cooperative working relationship among all people associated with the education system. It was not good enough for this government to simply ignore the partnership and make announcements on its own. When one of our dear partners in education spoke up and actually expressed some concern about the possibility of the partners not being respected enough, the Minister of Education dealt them a cruel blow, and spoke about them in the most pejorative terms in the public media. After a lot of prompting, the Opposition suggested that this Minister was out of control. This was last December. The Minister obviously did not learn his lesson.
When we - the Opposition - want to express concerns about what the Yukon Party has done for the three years-plus that it has been in government, one would think - in listening to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes - that we had turned back the clock and that we were in the middle of a debate when the NDP was in office. This government has been in office for three years, and we have expressed concerns about everything from the lack of consultation about the school reorganization, negotiating with its own employees, the move to simply reject the whole notion of collective bargaining, and so on. We object to these things.
We object to the most vacuous policy development that one could imagine. I use the industrial support policy as a prime example. We will not be muzzled. The public continually tells us that it has concerns. Despite what the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes says, we will come in and do our duty.
We will not be intimidated by him. He may be able to do a number on his constituents, and he may do it regularly, for all I know, but he will not do it in this Legislature, and he will not do it on us.
Why should people feel that the government today deserves a vote of confidence? Is it that absolutely everything the government is doing is wrong? No. As far as I am aware, it is still agreeing to pay 400 or 500 teachers to continue to educate our children. I give it full credit for that.
Is it doing things wrong with respect to ensuring that the roads are maintained? Is it continuing to put fuel in the graders? Yes, it is, and we thank it for that. From time to time, something will happen and a Minister will make a statement in the Legislature. When we agree and we feel that it is worthy of support, we will provide constructive and positive comment.
But what are we to say to people who care about the settlement of land claims and the fact that there is not a single band final agreement negotiated during this term of office? What do we say to them? Do we say that the Yukon Party did its duty by passing a law that was already drafted by the previous government? Do we say its obligations began and ended there, with a law with which there was no disagreement in this Legislature, that there was no need for argument or debate because everyone was in agreement? Do we believe for one second that this is sufficient action, in three years of opportunity, that we should now feel the government deserves a vote of confidence when it comes to land claims?
The government has decided devolution is a major priority. Do we consequently decide that because it has now made an agreement, after three and a half years, to devolve the Whitehorse and Watson Lake airports to the Yukon, it is sufficient action on this score?
The NDP government never pretended that devolution was its primary goal. Land claims was its primary goal, but even so, there was devolution taking place during the mandate of the previous government. The hospital, Northern Canada Power Commission, highways, airports, freshwater fisheries - those things did transfer from the federal government to the Yukon government. Do we say that because the government has indicated that it supports mining and it is a high priority, and yet it has done nothing substantively different, that this should be sufficient to produce a vote of confidence in the Yukon Party?
Let me ask a question. The Members seem to think that because they are doing things such as building roads and hospitals - under agreements negotiated by the NDP incidentally - the occasional school, and paying public servants, that somehow this is a reflection of a dynamic government in action. One cannot help but do something that people like when spending half a billion dollars a year. One cannot avoid putting someone to work when a half a billion dollars a year is spent in the territorial economy. The fact that they are simply passing a budget and they have made a random selection of capital works projects, is this somehow sufficient justification for all Members of this Legislature to walk lock-stepped with the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes to vote for the budget and the government?
Every time we express legitimate concern about anything that this government does, we are either against tourism, against education, against someone or the other. If we think that the government should be spending $35 million on the Alaska Highway instead of $40 million a year, we are against the Alaska Highway construction? It is patent nonsense.
We have, on many occasions, suggested that there are different spending priorities. Members on this side of the House have even proposed some alternatives for the government to consider.
The government did not need to promise to invest $4 million in tourism office space. If the NDP government had suggested that it spend $4 million on tourism office space, it would have been crucified by the Conservative Opposition - even Mr. Speaker knows that.
When that particular project was first announced, we were told that a visitor reception centre was being built. It was the great con job. We were told that a visitor reception centre was being built, and it had some offices on the side. It turns out that it is a great big office building, with a tiny, little wart of a visitor reception centre on the side.
The government thinks that because it is spending one-half of a billion dollars a year, that that is somehow sufficient to justify a vote of confidence - nonsense.
I am not certain why the motion came forward at this time. On a number of occasions, we have indicated that we do not support this government.
Speaker: Order please. The Member has three minutes to conclude his speech.
Mr. McDonald: Okay, I will make it short.
Whether it is the way this government deals with its employees, particularly the denial of collective bargaining rights; whether it is the way this government, in its relations with First Nations, has failed to meet the promise of the land claims and the umbrella final agreement; whether this government has failed to consult properly on the few policy initiatives it has undertaken; whether the government has performed poorly on projects that were, at some point, sure-fire winners and dropped the ball in a number of cases; whether this government - I am thinking about some policy development areas - blew an opportunity with the Taga Ku project, which did not need to happen - there is a long list of reasons why this motion should pass.
We have consistently said that, from the NDP benches, from 1992 onwards.
The government makes a huge play out of the fact that it has a surplus budget or, more appropriately, a savings account. I would point out that that is something that happened year after year when the NDP was in government, and the Conservative benches never said a single word about that. The fact is that this government ought to have been defeated and, in all likelihood, will be defeated in the next general election.
Once again, it gives us an opportunity to make clear where we stand. I will be voting for the motion, because there is every justification for doing so, and we will not be deterred from taking this position and consistently expressing our position, even by the likes of the Member who spoke prior to me. Of course, as other Members have mentioned, we in the Opposition benches will be voting for the motion.
Mr. Schafer: The Member for Riverside spoke about lack of progress in settling land claims. He stated that the Yukon Party government does not have the confidence of the public because of land claims. Mr. Speaker, if you were in my shoes, you would be surprised by this statement, because there has been considerable progress made in settling the land claims of Yukon First Nations.
Presently, four First Nations have final settlements. One of the Yukon government's first acts was to complete the four land claims settlements that were left unfinished by the previous government. Clearly, progress has been made and this progress is continuing. I am very happy to belong to one of the four First Nations that have reached a final agreement. Progress has been made toward the final agreements of Yukon First Nations that have yet to reach a settlement, but they are moving ahead.
As a new Member of the House, I have received a lot of support from the Yukon Party government, and so has the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation.
My duty as an MLA is to listen to the people and respect them in this House.
If the people of Old Crow did not have confidence in this government, I would not be here today. The people determine which party in this House has their confidence and which party will form the government. All the Members of this House are accountable to the people who elected them.
We represent the people and must honour and respect their decision.
We must treat each other with honour and respect as representatives of the people. I respect the Members of this House and that is why I hardly ever leave my seat, so that I am able to listen to what the hon. Members have to say. I believe this is only right. I am proud to be an MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin. I am proud to be a Yukoner. I am proud to be a Member of the Yukon Party government. I have confidence in this government and that is why I cannot support this motion.
Ms. Commodore: I, of course, will be supporting this motion. It is evident that people on this side of the House have indicated that this government has not allowed the residents of the Yukon to have confidence in it.
I was a bit surprised by some of the comments made by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin. I have the deepest respect for him - make no mistake about that. I had the opportunity of being in Old Crow for two weeks last winter, and I know for a fact that a large majority of First Nations people in that community have no faith in this government whatsoever, although they do have a good MLA representing them. It is unfortunate that a lot of his constituents are not in agreement with him.
Some of the things that came out of Old Crow after the election were very disturbing. On the night of the election the Government Leader, in his joy over what happened in Old Crow, turned around and criticized the leadership of the Vuntut Gwitchin. I thought it a very inappropriate thing for him to do. The Government Leader told reporters, following his visit to Old Crow, that after four days of talking and listening to people in the community, they had real concerns about their leader at the band level.
If one's party is to represent people in this House, a comment such as this from the Leader of the Yukon Party is very disturbing to the people who are being represented. I have a great deal of difficulty in trying to understand why the people of Old Crow would put up with comments like this made by the Government Leader of the Yukon Party. It is very disturbing to me.
If I were a Member of a First Nation in the Yukon - which I am not, but I would certainly be quite happy to be if I had a choice - I would be very disturbed about what the Government Leader was saying about me.
For the longest time, the Government Leader stood here and tried to convince Yukon people and people in this House that his government had done some very wonderful things. As our leader said, some good things have been done. However, they stand and want to talk about the support they have given First Nations people. I have a file in my office that is about two inches thick, and that file is filled with all kinds of information like this, such as the Government Leader making statements that the First Nations people of Vuntut Gwitchin have a problem with their leader. Where does the Government Leader get off making comments like that?
I would not be surprised if those comments were made by other people - for instance, we have the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes.
I know for a fact that that is not the first time. What happened at the community club bar was not an isolated incident. There is no question in my mind about that. A lot of us were not surprised. A lot of First Nations people were not surprised when he said to the people in Carcross that only two of the First Nations bands in the Yukon would survive land claims implementation.
What I was hearing from the leadership, when I was in Vuntut Gwitchin, was that they were having a great deal of difficulty working with that government to try to implement land claims according to the agreement. I heard that every single day that I was there. Not one single person said to me that the Yukon Party was a great bunch of people.
I heard many great things about the MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin. People liked him, but they did not like the Government Leader and his party. I can tell the House that right now.
It is very difficult for the First Nations population of the Yukon to have confidence in the Yukon Party government, because we consistently hear about the lack of information that is getting out to them and the lack of consideration that they have for the four final agreements that have been signed. Every single day, one hears about the problems.
I have a letter here, dated February 2 - just last month - written to the Yukon Party Leader, Mr. Ostashek. It is written by Harry Allen, the Grand Chief of the Yukon Council of First Nations. In it, he criticizes a statement made by the Government Leader. If that is confidence in the Yukon Party government, I think someone is living in a dream world. I am very disturbed about the things that are being said on that side of the House about what a great bunch of people they are.
We have been here in this House for five weeks now. Every single day, there is a scandal. There is something that comes up every single week, something that we felt was not done in the proper manner. I think that people are not surprised any more. They really are not. I talk to people who turn on - if you can believe this - their television every single night at six o'clock to watch Question Period. They are absolutely surprised at what people on that side of the House do not know.
The Ministers may stand up here and make fun of the questions being asked, but what they do not know is that people are actually watching them at six o'clock at night on channel 9. I get calls at my house. One of the comments made to me after the first week was, "Are they real? Are these people real? Are these the people who are running the government? Are these real Cabinet Ministers?" I have to laugh, because that seems to be the impression that other people have.
I have been in this House for a long, long time. In May, it will be my fourteenth year. I have seen a lot of things happen, but I have never in my whole life seen the kind of things that are happening in this government right now. I do not think that a lot of First Nations people were surprised at the comments made in Carcross that night by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. I have talked to a number of them. They can understand that it was a good possibility that a lot of those things were said. However, they were insulted.
The chief of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation and was insulted. He was called a liar more than once during the discussion that night. If that is how they build confidence with First Nations people, I do not know where they are coming from.
The question that I get from people who call me is: are they for real? I know they are real people. I would suggest that there are certain individuals on that side of the House who are sincere in the kind of work that they do, but I think this government has, from day one, gone downhill due to the things that it has done.
I certainly have lost every confidence in that government. I think anyone is living in a dream world if they think this government has a good relationship with First Nations people, because I know it does not. I know that to be a fact. I have lived in the Yukon for 30 years and I have never before heard the kind of comments that I am hearing now from First Nations people in regard to those people on the other side of the House - the Yukon Party government.
The first thing that it did was screw Taga Ku. We can talk about this over and over again and they will talk about the Watson Lake sawmill. First Nations people will never forget what it did to Taga Ku. I heard the Government Leader today talk about how he was responsible for 600 jobs. What a bunch of baloney.
I think he forgot that when they trashed Taga Ku they eliminated a whole bunch of jobs, not only in the construction of that facility but in jobs that would be created afterward. I did not hear him bragging about trashing all those jobs, but I certainly heard him patting himself on the back. Their arms must be getting really long over there because they do that quite a bit.
That was a scandal - it really was - and I know for a fact that promises were made to their friends in the hotel business that they would do that, and they did it. They turned around and trashed Taga Ku. Is that something that would build up the confidence of First Nations people? It is not - not at all - and for anybody to say that was a great thing, they would be fooling themselves.
The Champagne-Aishihik Band had great hopes with the construction of that facility. They did. There was no question in their mind that they had the people to put the program together, they had the people to construct it, they were employing some of their own members, and that project employed First Nations people, as well as all kinds of other people. It was a good program. The First Nations people should never, ever forget what they did to Taga Ku.
That was the first big decision they made. I could go on and on and on about the kind of comments I hear almost every single day from various people. I could read this letter from Harry Allen.
I could read quotes from CHON-FM and CBC made on the radio. As I mentioned, I have a file in my office that is two inches thick. Every single thing in those files is with regard to what they have done with the land.
This government has taken land that has been selected by Kwanlin Dun and used it for other things. The response to questions about that is, "Well, as long as it is not in a final agreement, it is there and we can use it."
In the past there has been talk about devolution. We know for a fact that First Nations people would like to be involved in discussions about devolution, and by law they should be consulted in regard to devolution. We know for a fact that is not taking place. This government's idea of consulting with First Nations people is, "Oh, I wrote them a letter and they did not answer", or "Oh, I set up a meeting and they did not come." So the government goes its merry way and talks about transfers and new legislation that will affect First Nations people.
One of these days this government is going to have to provide us with a list of all of the things it has done, because we are keeping First Nations people informed and letting them know the response that is coming from the Government Leader about how effective its consultation is, because First Nations people are still saying - and they will until this government decides that it wants to be serious about consulting with First Nations people according to the umbrella final agreement - they will not be satisfied until they are truly serious about consulting with First Nations. As long as this government is in power, I do not think that consultation will take place.
I have a number of other issues that I would like to talk about, but I am not going to. I think that First Nations people are sincere in trying to have a relationship with this government. I know for a fact that is not the case right now, but I do not think this government is serious about working with First Nations. The reason I say this is because they make excuses like, "Well, I wrote them a letter and they did not answer", which the government considers consultation. Give First Nations a little bit of credit - they are not stupid. They know what the government is saying, and they know where it is coming from.
I think it is a darned shame the government has convinced itself that it has built up a relationship.
There were four agreements the NDP had worked on and settled. It was our number one priority. The Yukon Party had nothing to do with that settlement. What it did was to introduce the legislation in this House, but its Members did not settle those four agreements.
As a matter of fact, when they were in power before, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes was the land claims negotiator, making $800 a day, and he walked away from the table. He tried to blame it on the federal government. I think there was a heck of a lot more to it than that. That, then, is their history of land claims - the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, making $800 a day, and walking away from the land claims table for six months. I do not think that is anything to be proud of.
I think the Yukon Party has to take a long look at what it is saying and what it believes in. I do not think it believes in land claims. I also do not think it believes in economic development for First Nations people because, if it did, it would not have trashed Taga Ku.
I lost confidence in this government a long time ago - I think it was the day after it was elected. It has become more evident every single day that this government is no longer able to govern, and I certainly will be supporting this motion.
Speaker: Order. The Member did use a word I consider to be unparliamentary. I would question the context it was used in. The word was "screw". In future, I will be calling that unparliamentary. I do not believe it is the type of language that should be used in the House.
Ms. Commodore: I do not mind withdrawing that word. What I meant to say was "trash", I guess.
Speaker: Is it the wish of the House to continue?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As usual, this will be one of my short little speeches.
I will have been in this House for 14 years in May. Thank God, I am not as bitter as the Member for Whitehorse West, who cannot see anything decent in any human being at all.
I would like to give a little advice to the Member for Riverside. He likes to walk the fence. I would suggest that if it is a picket fence, he had better keep his legs together, because if the fence falls apart when he falls off it, he is going to have lots of trouble.
I noticed a bunch of young people leave the gallery today. That reminds me of a story. A truck driver was driving down the road one day - I hope I get time to finish this story.
He had about 700 or 800 miles to go. In the first few hundred miles, he ran into a salesman who had upset his car. He said, "You might as well get in my truck and go with me, because you cannot fix your car." In another hundred miles, he ran into a real estate man. The same thing had happened. The man had upset his car. The driver said, "You better come with me." They went another hundred miles, and all of a sudden, they ran into another car that was all smashed up. There was a politician kicking it and screaming and hollering. The truck driver said, "Get in. There is no wrecker around here. The car is smashed up, so get in."
They drove a little farther, and the truck driver said, "I am getting tired. I cannot sleep with all you guys in here, but I know a farm nearby that is good." So they went to the farm at about 11 o'clock at night. They knocked at the door, and a poor old farmer had to come down in his longjohns. They told him the story. The farmer said, "Two can sleep in here. I have room. But the other one will have to sleep out in the hay. It is really bad there, because we have all the animals underneath, and the smell is horrible." The real estate man said, "That is no problem. I was born on a farm. I can do this." So he went out.
The poor farmer went back to bed. All of a sudden, there was a knock. He had to come downstairs again. "I cannot sleep there. The smell was horrible. I have to go." Anyway, the salesman said, "I can do this." So he went. Ten minutes later, he came back. "I cannot stand it at all."
To make the story short, the politician said, "I have no problem. I can do it. I can do anything. I am a politician."
So he went. Anyway, there was another knock on the door and the farmer came down and thought, "Boy, I am going to be able to tell a politician off. I am going to be able to get everything out at once for this, and I am mad." He opened the door and there were all the animals.
I notice the young people have left the gallery. I guess they think the same thing about politicians.
May I sit down, Mr. Speaker?
Speaker: The time has reached 5:30 p.m. The House will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Debate on Motion No. 60 accordingly adjourned
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Ms. Moorcroft: Although this is not the normal time for introduction of visitors, I would like to recognize some guests who are in the gallery this evening. Dudley Morgan and Christel Percival are here from Yukon College with a community planning course in the bachelor of social work program. As well, we have Professor Doug Durst from the University of Regina, who is here visiting with them. I would ask all Members to welcome them.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I now call the Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 9, Third Appropriation Act, 1995-96, Yukon Housing Corporation, general debate.
Bill No. 9 - Third Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Yukon Housing Corporation - continued
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I have piles of information being assembled for the Members opposite. One of the last things that was asked for yesterday was by the Member for Mount Lorne about Whitehorse Housing Authority policies. I have looked through the material I have sent to her, and have a letter, dated August 11, 1995, that discusses the tenant absence policy she asked about, the tenant arrears policy, applicant's refusal of housing policy, tenant parking policy, and the appeals mechanism - all from the Hansard, pages 1967 to 1970. I also have another letter, dated May 5, about the tenant absence policy as it related to the Human Rights Act. I have a letter, dated 26 April, comprising a packet of the housing authority policies from the Watson Lake Housing Association, and from Haines Junction, Mayo and Dawson City.
I am not sure what the Member is after. If she can tell me specifically what she would like, I will follow up. I am not sure what she is lacking. I spoke to employees of the Yukon Housing Corporation, and they felt that everything that we had committed to provide last spring had been provided.
Ms. Moorcroft: The specific issue relating to the housing policy on tenant absences that we had been dealing with in the House in the last year's budget debate was whether or not it was fair and reasonable for tenants to have to seek prior written approval from their landlord before they were going to be absent for more than 30 days. The Minister has indicated that he does not believe that that is a violation of the Human Rights Act. I would also like to know if the Landlord and Tenant Act covers that, and whether or not any tenant can be expected to seek prior written approval before they are absent for more than 30 days, or if it is only tenants in subsidized housing who have that condition imposed upon them.
I will review the package of information the Minister has gone over again and follow up with him on that in the main budget debate.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to follow up on some of the issues that we have been discussing for the last couple of days regarding the operations at the Yukon Housing Corporation. I have had a chance to read all of the information that was presented to us the night before last. I want to ask some questions specifically about conflict of interest and the bylaw that the Minister presented.
In the conflict-of-interest bylaw, clause 4 says, "For the purpose of the bylaw, a person shall be deemed to have a direct interest in a business or corporation if he benefits, owns directly or indirectly, or exercises control or direction over the business, or shares of the corporation to the extent of 10 percent or more." This also applies to a family member.
Clause 6 of the conflict-of-interest bylaw says, "Where a person has a direct or indirect interest in the business or corporation as described in section 4 of this bylaw, he shall make a full declaration in writing of the nature and extent of the holdings, including the names," and so on.
Can the Minister tell us if the employees at the Yukon Housing Corporation who have business interests have disclosed these interests in writing to the president of the Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I believe that only one employee has declared that.
Mrs. Firth: That is interesting because when I asked the Minister about conflict of interest and the involvement the Public Service Commission had in it, the Minister told me that the Public Service Commission was currently reviewing whether or not this individual had a business licence with the city. If that had already been disclosed, why did they not already know that? Why was the Public Service Commission having to do some review with respect to the licensing?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I give up. I do not know the answer to that. I was not involved in checking on the business licence. I think that what the Public Service Commission was doing was looking for a conflict. Perhaps it knew there was disclosure. I do not know.
Mrs. Firth: I am not sure if the Minister's attitude is appropriate. I am trying to establish what is going on. I get told things in the Legislature. I ask questions. I get told something. I ask for the policy and I read it. What was told to me seems in a way to be contradictory to the policy or raises more questions about what is going on. Either the Minister's answers are not appropriate or he is not thinking about what he is saying. What is the problem? As soon as I read the bylaw, it was obvious to me. Why would they have to be researching whether or not this person was licensed if there was supposed to be a disclosure made according to the bylaw? Perhaps the Minister could tell me what the real process is and what the real story is.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not have that information. I am sorry if the Member is upset. I hate to hear her whining at me in the House, but I have offered to bring back dozens of pieces of information. I do not know why the Public Service Commission was looking for a business licence. My understanding was that the allegation was that the person was building for commercial resale. There is an employee at the Yukon Housing Corporation who has a business licence and was going to build some type of housing. He had declared his intentions to the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mrs. Firth: I am not upset. I do not want the Minister to get me wrong. I am trying to do the job I think the Minister should be doing, which is to ask his officials what is going on in his department, then come to the House to justify it.
It was the Minister who gave this as the answer to the question I was asking. If I do get upset, it is due to the Minister's attitude and the runaround I keep getting every time I ask questions about the management of this corporation. I think that the Minister should have this sorted out. He is the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation. That might give me the pip a bit - if I have to do his work for him.
I want to know if the disclosure was sent to the Yukon Housing Corporation Board.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, it was given to the chair of the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mrs. Firth: Was there any ruling made by the board, or any discussion? According to the bylaws, it is the board that makes the determination whether or not there is a conflict or a potential perception of conflict, an appearance of conflict. Were any minutes taken or decisions made that the Minister could provide for us?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will check and see what decision was made by the board in that regard.
Mrs. Firth: I hope the Minister, in saying that he is going to check, is prepared to provide us with the decision, the board minute or something to substantiate what the decision was. I see the Minister nodding his head, "Yes", so I will wait to get that information. I will leave this subject for now, but I will return to it later.
I want to move on to the use of corporate credit cards. I am still trying to get to the bottom of this issue. Maybe I will go into a little more detail tonight about what my concerns are and what I think should happen.
First, this has been a very informative exercise for me, because I found out a lot of things about seeking information that I did not know about before. Perhaps I have learned some new techniques and new ways and new sources of information.
I want to specifically follow up on the comments of the Auditor General about the use of corporate credit cards. In 1993, when the corporation's books were audited, the Auditor General's comments about the use of corporate credit cards were as follows, "The corporation has provided corporate credit cards in lieu of travel advances to senior members of the staff to pay expenses while traveling on business. It was intended that the corporation would only pay the credit card company after it satisfied itself that the charges were incurred for corporation business and the employee had submitted the appropriate receipts. However, our 1993 audit indicated that travel claims and receipts were not being submitted on a timely basis and personal items were also being charged to the corporate credit cards. We recommended to the corporation that the use of cards be discontinued.
"In its response, the corporation advised that the use of credit cards was being retained for the following reasons and that was when the new credit card policy was brought in: one, personal use of the credit cards would be forbidden and, two, all charges on the credit card statement would have to be accounted for by the end of the following month. Those not complying with that directive would lose their credit card privileges.
"Then, during the 1994 audit of these controls, we observed that a small number of employees continued to use their credit card on an ongoing basis without promptly submitting travel claims to account for the charges. We found one case in which a senior member of staff had not submitted the required travel claims and receipts for several months."
It goes on to say, "For those employees who have not submitted claims and receipts on a timely basis, the corporation has continued to pay the credit card company invoices without verifying that the items are legitimate business expenses. The possibility exists that personal purchases could be paid for by the Housing Corporation and that the practice is contrary to sound financial management and the principles of the Management Board financial administration manual of the Housing Corporation."
It also went on to say that the findings had been reported in each of the past two years, with no resulting improvements, and that immediate attention should be given to the matter, recommending that they should discontinue the use of the corporate credit cards and all prior credit card payments should be accounted for or collected immediately.
The result of the recommendation from the Auditor General's office was for the president of the Housing Corporation to indicate through the media that the Housing Corporation was in fact going to step up credit card usage. I believe that he said they were going to use the credit cards even more, and gave some reasons why. First of all, he said, "In our view, there was nothing wrong. It was not a battle between the Auditor General and the president and the Housing Corporation." He said the Auditor General made some recommendations and that they took them into consideration but did not want to throw out the baby with the bath water.
I want to ask the Minister if he thinks that the corporation should discontinue the use of the credit cards, as the Auditor General recommended, or does he think it should step up the use of credit cards, as the president is saying it is going to do?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I do not think there is any necessity to do away with the credit card system. It is an effective system. The problem with it was the record keeping and the controls. A policy was put in place in October 1995, and we debated this at considerable length yesterday. I undertook to bring back for the Members of the Opposition the system by which the credit card charges were checked, how they were recorded and how the accounting procedures were handled.
Mrs. Firth: I do not know when we are going to get that information back from the Minister, but I hope it is before we go into general debate on the budget.
I did phone the auditing office in Vancouver - as I suggested yesterday that I might have to do - and spoke to one of the auditors. We have to recognize that they are restricted in the information they can give me. They cannot tell me the whole story, provide me with people's names, and so on. However, they can advise me about different approaches to take when questioning about auditing and financial practices.
When the credit card statements for the Yukon Housing Corporation were audited, the auditors were provided with all of the statements. That is what we had asked for - the statements. The Minister himself said he was not happy with the delay and the length of time it took to get them. I was not happy, either, and I am still not happy with what we ended up getting, which was a whole new set of records from the bank. This was done because there was some discussion about it taking too long a time to pick out the statements from the Yukon Housing Corporation's files.
The Yukon Housing Corporation had this information readily available for the auditors. I know that the statements that were looked at by the auditors probably had more information on them, such as some identification of personal items, and so on. The statements we received from the bank were absolutely clean.
I guess the question that begs to be asked is this: why could we not see the original statements? Why did we have to be given these new, uncluttered, unnoted statements, and why could we not have been given the same printouts, for review in the Legislature, as were provided to the auditors?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The statements are exactly the same. There is no more on the statements received by the Yukon Housing Corporation and the statements retained by the bank. The statements received from the bank are no less cluttered than the statements sent on a monthly basis, which are attached to travel claims.
Mrs. Firth: Maybe we should also be asking for copies of the travel claims in order to support the credit card usage.
Obviously, the Auditor General made observations about the use of the credit cards, probably because his office had more information about the expenditures than we will ever get in this Legislature. His office would have had access to all travel claims and would be completely familiar with the internal procedures for verifying the amounts. This is information that we are still waiting to get.
Can the Minister answer one question that I think is a fairly critical one? He is going to bring back the process for us. Can he tell us tonight what control procedure is in place? What kind of control mechanism is there? I know that last night he said that the employee verified the expenses and went to the supervisor, who then signed it. Is there a control process to make sure that everyone is saying exactly what the expenses have been for and that these expenses are being verified?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure. I will ask that the answer is included in the material being prepared.
The Member expressed the same concerns last year and questioned at length the president's travel and travel claims. Shortly after that, Phil Wheelton, who was dismissed at the Yukon Housing Corporation, made the exact same complaint to the RCMP. The commercial crime unit investigated the last two years, I believe, of Mr. Albert's travel claims. It went through every statement, charge and receipt followed up by a statement, and found that there were no problems with those travel claims.
If the Member has
an allegation that some other member of the Yukon Housing Corporation is abusing the credit card, not paying the charges or is involved in any other illegal activity, I am certainly prepared to ask that it be investigated. I will provide the complete information on how the system is operated within the Housing Corporation.
Mrs. Firth: We will get to the travel claim issue later. I have more to follow up on with the Minister about that. Let us stick to the credit card issue for now.
I am trying to establish what processes are in place and what accountability there is. I am dealing strictly with that issue right now, so I am not making any accusations or allegations. I am simply trying to establish what the process is.
The Minister said something that I did not hear. I will wait until he is on his feet and he can tell me what it was.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. Mrs. Firth has the floor.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister said that he would provide it for me.
There is very little public accountability into the daily operations of the corporations, such as what it costs the taxpayer, how decisions are made and how much money is spent in certain areas. It is our job to find it out. I am not accusing anyone of anything. I am simply trying to establish what the process is. I will wait to get that information from the Minister.
The next question I have for the Minister is this: since he supports the Yukon Housing Corporation's continued use of the credit cards, I would like to ask him why he does. What are the advantages? Has there ever been a cost analysis of its continued use?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know if there was a cost- benefit analysis done. I do not know what that would accomplish, because the monies are paid one way or the other for travel expenses. Those who do the travelling have the credit cards. Every charge that is made on the credit card is signed for by the individual credit card holder and monthly statements are submitted. There is no way that I know of to hide charges on the credit card. The only allegation is that there may be personal charges on them paid for by the Housing Corporation. As I have said, I will bring back the accounting procedures that the Housing Corporation employs to check that that is not happening.
Mrs. Firth: I am trying to establish why the Minister and the corporation thinks they should continue the use of corporate credit cards when the Auditor General says they should not continue to use them.
I suppose if there had been some kind of cost-benefit analysis done, it might help justify the use of the credit card process. Perhaps the Minister can tell us why. There are other ways to make purchases. Other departments and corporations use local purchase orders and standing offer agreements. This is one of the only corporations, or one of the only government departments, that operates using credit cards to this extent. I know there are some credit cards used for the purchase of fuel, and so on, but this is the only corporation that operates on this basis. Can the Minister tell us why it does it? The corporation says that there are advantages to using them. What are the advantages? Why can it not be done the way every other department does it?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I think the Member should be careful saying, "the way everyone else does it." As the Member just said, there are other government departments that use credit cards. It is my understanding that it is done and the board has approved it. I am not going to interfere with it, because I accept that the credit cards are as efficient as local purchase orders or other purchase orders. There are materials and services purchased in other jurisdictions where I am not sure a purchase order number or a charge to the Yukon Housing Corporation would be acceptable. The credit card is an acceptable form of purchase throughout the world. The charges are recorded in detail and statements are sent monthly. I think that with proper controls and accounting procedures credit cards are a very efficient way to do business.
Mrs. Firth: I guess the Minister and the corporation can agree to disagree with the Auditor General. I agree with the Auditor General. I think the corporation should discontinue the use of corporate credit cards and I want to make that clear for the record.
I do not know if there is any other department or corporation that uses credit cards to the extent that this corporation does, with 11 employees having credit cards. I may stand corrected. Perhaps some corporations have 50 employees with credit cards, but I have not heard of one. Maybe we will find that out when we are briefed on the other corporations. I think 11 credit cards is a lot for a small corporation like the Yukon Housing Corporation.
In its response to the Auditor General the corporation indicated that it was going to expand the use of credit cards to eliminate local purchase orders related to maintenance. Has the corporation done this?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, that has not been done.
Mrs. Firth: Are they going to do that?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: They are looking at doing it. Before it can be done, they need to look at changes to the computer system, their information systems, to keep track.
Mrs. Firth: I thought they just changed their computer and information systems. What was that change for?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Not as it pertains to this area. There have been upgrades with respect to mortgage agreements and collections.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us how much the corporation has spent on equipment upgrades and changes for computers and different programs, and what they are anticipating spending? Well, I guess I cannot ask now; I can only ask what they have done in this past year.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am looking for it in the material that was given at the technical briefing. I believe the Member was there. She may be able to find it as quickly as I can. I will look and let the Member know. I do not want to give her information that is not right. I believe there is a forecast for 1995-96, to the end of the year, and there is money in next year's budget, but I do not have the numbers right at my fingertips.
Mrs. Firth: Maybe when we get to the line item in the budget - I do not recall asking for that specific figure at the technical briefing. When we start going through the line items after the general debate, I will make a note and remember to ask the Minister about it.
I would like to ask the Minister a question about some of these credit card charges. An observation I made was that several lunches were charged to the credit cards in Whitehorse. There used to be a practice that when government employees were going out for lunch, either the deputy ministers would be paying for it or the government employee would be charging it. I believe I had some discussions with the Leader of the Official Opposition about this, and he indicated to me that that practice had stopped. Are all of the lunches that are identified on these credit card statements - specifically the Whitehorse ones - business lunches, or can the president verify that?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I cannot verify anything, unless the Member were to point out each specific lunch, on whose credit card, and on what day. I know that there are a number of lunches bought on the credit cards - for example, when the housing managers from outside Whitehorse come to town for meetings. During their meetings, they go for lunch. I have attended several of those meetings myself, and I believe they are put on a corporate credit card.
Mrs. Firth: The employee credit card that I notice seems to have the majority of lunches in Whitehorse charged to it are on Donald Flinn's. The dates on this particular charge card are April 21, 1995; there are three of them; May 18, 1995; there are two of them; August 21, 1995; there are two of them, and there is another one on November 21, 1995. Those are all lunches in Whitehorse.
It just seemed like a lot of business lunches in a short period of time. I guess that is where the question of control procedures and justification comes in. I would appreciate the Minister giving me some explanation for that.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I simply cannot tell the Member right now what lunch Don Flinn paid for last year. I will ask the Housing Corporation to look at the Blues tomorrow morning to read what the Member has stated and give her explanations about what the individual lunches that were purchases related to.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister can tell me how that identification is made. Where will he get that information? Are there records kept? Does he have to go back to the employee and say that Mrs. Firth asked about these credit card purchases and ask him if he remembers? How is he going to get that information?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will ask the Department of Finance. I believe that each transaction is recorded and that there are explanations about who attended the luncheon and what it was for.
Mrs. Firth: I will wait until I get the rest of the information from the Minister about the credit card usage.
I might also ask him not only to provide me with the information about the process and procedures, but also the justification for their use. I do not believe that he has made a commitment this evening to do that. I am sure he will not have any problem with that.
There is one more area I want to discuss with the Minister. I will call it a media event. A letter was written and signed by some employees - I do not know exactly who wrote the letter - of the Yukon Housing Corporation and brought to the Government Leader. The employees also spoke with the media about this issue. In order that everyone knows what letter I am referring to, it is the letter that was written describing how the employees were frustrated to hear of the accusations levelled at their president and that the employees knew what was going on inside the corporation. There were some complimentary comments made about the president and that the undersigned wanted to state their support for him. I called it the we-love-our-president letter, but I will not call it that tonight.
There is a policy in the department, policy 1.4, which says that if there are going to be comments made to the press or media statements or events - I believe the clause is phrased - if there are going to be written articles, professional papers, letter to editors, speeches or interviews with the media, approval and clearance are required prior to that happening. The procedure is that the deputy head, or the president in this case, gets clearance from his or her Minister and then the deputy head gives the clearance to the employees to engage in this kind of activity.
We know that did not happen in this case because I do not believe the Minister's approval was sought for this. I think we raised those questions in Question Period. I do not know if the employees got permission from the president. I have not been able to get an answer to that question, but the employees came over to the Government Leader's office and he made it a media event without consulting the Minister responsible for the Housing Corporation. The Minister may want to give us all the details concerning that.
Can the Minister tell me what has resulted from this? Obviously, the employees did not follow the policies. Has there been any discussion with the employees regarding this?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, there has not been any discussion with the employees regarding that. I remember the circumstances of that letter very well. A grievance had been filed by an employee of the Housing Corporation. The employee met with me, with Mrs. Firth present. She was encouraged to follow the grievance procedure that is set out by government policy. She was going to do that and sought Mrs. Firth's assistance in preparing for that grievance and in assembling materials.
My impression was that the Member for Riverdale South, Mrs. Firth, would have respected that procedure and waited for the results of it. What happened, though, is she brought the issue on to the floor of the House in Question Period. As a result of that, the employees at the Housing Corporation felt that they were personally under attack by that Member and wanted to do something in defence of their corporation and their president.
They took it upon themselves to draft that letter to the Government Leader and deliver it to him. My understanding is that they did not involve, in that letter, me as the Minister who was dealing with the issue, the president, who they felt was under fire, or the employee who had filed the grievance.
It is my understanding that there has been nothing done since then. I would expect that the grievance procedure is being handled by the union, and is being processed accordingly. I hope that this does not become a media event, either because of the Member for Riverdale South or the employees. I think that there has been enough outside interference in that process as it is.
Mrs. Firth: Obviously, the Minister wants to get the whole story on the record, so I will get my version of the story on the record as well.
If the Minister recalls, the question that I asked in the Legislature was about RCMP investigations and threats of RCMP investigation. I used an incident as an example. An employee was told that the corporation could find fingerprints on a document - that is the issue I raised in the House. It was the Minister who went on about the grievance; it was not I. I did not raise the issue about the grievance; the Minister did. I think there is probably more to the grievance than just that.
I was mentioning the issue with respect to the discussion of the day, which was the RCMP investigation, how people found that intimidating and how one person had even been told that one could lift fingerprints from documents, but I did not mention anything about the grievance. First of all, let us get that on the record.
The issue here is the individual's grievance, because I think this letter has had some impact on that grievance, but the issue I want to follow up on now - let us separate the two issues; I will discuss the grievance later - is the fact that there is a policy in place that employees are supposed to follow when it comes to this kind of public event. That policy was not followed.
The Minister is saying that there has been no discussion with the employees since. I guess I would like to know why not. Does the Minister just accept that it was all right for the employees to move in this direction and not follow proper procedures? Obviously, they circumvented the Minister, and I do not know if the president was involved or not. I would like to find out from the Minister whether or not the president was involved, because if they circumvented the Minister and the president, I certainly think the issue should be raised with them about the proper policies and procedures they are supposed to follow.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Under the circumstances, I do not think the way the employees reacted is surprising. The Member for Riverdale South was not fooling anyone when she spoke about accusations of being able to find fingerprints on documents. It was clearly the case that was being grieved. They knew that. They also felt -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The Member for Riverdale South is saying nobody knew until I told them. That is just not true. The employees knew. It was well publicized, and there is a lot more to the grievance than finding fingerprints on documents. In fact, that was not even the initial complaint when the grievance was filed. When we met - the Member for Riverdale South, me, the person filing the grievance, the Public Service Commissioner and the president of the Housing Corporation - at that time, with respect to the grievance, the individual was encouraged not only to deal with the issue that arose, I believe in January, but to go all the way back to last spring when there was concern that documents had got out of the Housing Corporation that should not have got out. The Public Service Commission investigated at that time, and I believe it did tell employees that fingerprints could be lifted from documents. I do not know who said it or when it was said, but there were, I believe, at least two employees who had access to the documents it was suspected had gotten into public hands.
This is not a new issue. It was discussed in the House last fall. There have been other allegations. As I described earlier, there was a whole police investigation into the president's travel expenses, a complaint that resulted in the filing of a grievance from an individual who works for the Housing Corporation. Then, after a meeting between the group I mentioned, including the Member for Riverdale South, the Public Service Commissioner, the president and me, the Member brought it up in the Legislature. What we had was a show from the employees that they felt under personal attack, as employees of the corporation, and they felt inclined to defend their president. That is what they did, and I am not going to take any action against them for that.
Mrs. Firth: Those comments are very interesting. It is very interesting to hear the Minister's version of it.
There were lots of employees in the Yukon Housing Corporation who knew absolutely nothing about the grievance. I knew nothing about the grievance until I met with the Minister, the individual, the president of the Yukon Housing Corporation, the Public Service Commissioner and the Minister's executive assistant. I knew nothing about the grievance - because the person could not tell me about it - until we were in the Minister's office. It was a meeting that we initiated, by the way.
I found out about the grievance at that time, but I did not have any of the details of the grievance. When I raised the question in the House, all I had was this person's words to me about the finger that had been pointed at her, and the comment about the fingerprints on documents. That was the context in which I raised the question in the House. I never said anything about the grievance in the House. A lot of these employees who signed this letter knew nothing about the grievance and did not know that the employee had a grievance against the president of the Yukon Housing Corporation. A lot of the employees did not know that. So everybody did not know about it.
The Minister is standing up and saying that he is not going to do anything about this. That is fine. That is his position. We know where he stands on it. There is a policy in place to deal with it. The employees did not follow the policy, and he is going to do nothing about it. That is his position on the record.
I would find it very interesting if a group of employees decided one day that they did not like their deputy minister or president of the corporation, and they wrote a letter saying that they were frustrated with their president, he picked on them, she picked on them, and they all signed it and went to the media with it. I bet that policy would be hauled out at that point.
I bet every employee would be hauled up on the carpet, asked what they were doing and why they were not following policy 1.4. This is a very unusual thing that has happened. I do not recall this ever happening in the government, where a group of employees has done something like this. Obviously, there is a policy in place to either prevent, control or have some influence over this kind of thing in order to ensure that it does not happen.
A lot of employees have expressed their concern to me that this has happened. They feel that it is entirely inappropriate. I have some concerns about it, too. I have no argument with the employees wanting to express to me that they thought that their president was a great guy, that they were totally behind him and did not like me attacking him. That is fine. I can appreciate their strong feelings.
The effect of this letter has been to compromise a person's grievance - a person I am trying to assist. In the letter, it very clearly states the employees' position with respect to the president, and it is inconsistent with the aggrieved person's position. It is a very grisly story. I just wanted to get into the aspects of the policy and whether or not the Minister was going to do anything about the policy these employees should be following.
I do not have to belabour the argument. I see the Minister's position very clearly. He thinks that it is fine, and that they do not have to follow the policy, no action has to be taken and there need be no further follow-up on the matter.
You know what? There will be follow-up on this.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Of course there will be follow-up. If there has been any compromising of the person's grievance, it is because of the involvement of the Member for Riverdale South. If there were employees who did not know the details of the grievance, the employees certainly knew and felt that they were being attacked, as a corporation and as individuals who were working hard trying to do their job and felt that the Member for Riverdale South was attacking them and their president unfairly. They went to the Government Leader with their concerns and their support for the president.
I simply hope that the grievance procedure is not compromised and that the employee is satisfied before it goes to the third level of grievance, when we end up with an outside, independent adjudicator because of suspicion that the Public Service Commissioner, or the next level, has been unfairly influenced.
This person went to the Member for Riverdale South for help and what she has found herself in is a hell of a mess.
Mrs. Firth: It is all a matter of which side of the window one is looking through, because I was just speaking with the aggrieved person this evening and from what she is telling me, I do not think that she finds herself "in a hell of a mess" - to quote the Minister.
I do not know how the Minister cannot see the point about what has happened. Maybe he should get up to date on the progress of this situation. I am not going to be the one to stand here and tell the Minister on the floor of the House what has been happening, but there have been further developments and he had better apprise himself of them fairly quickly before he says too many other things.
If the Minister wants to talk about the compromising of the aggrieved person's position, the person who led the charge with this, the Government Leader, the one who called the press conference and tabled the letter in the Legislature, is the person who has to take action with respect to the Public Service Commissioner's ruling regarding this grievance.
I think the Government Leader has already made his position fairly clear as to what he thinks happened and who he thinks is at fault, and he has taken a side on the issue and that is the side of the president of the Yukon Housing Corporation, who is going to have some disciplinary action taken against him if the Public Service Commissioner deems.
I do not see how the Minister cannot see that the process has not been compromised for this aggrieved person.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am pleased to hear that it is only the Member for Riverdale South who thinks that the grievance and the whole procedure has been compromised. I am pleased to hear that the person who filed the grievance is not concerned and does not feel that she is in the mess that I feel the Member for Riverdale South has gotten her into.
Chair: We will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue on Bill No. 9, Yukon Housing Corporation, with general debate.
Mrs. Firth: I do not want to be unfair to the Minister, and try to pin him down to any specific dates, times or minutes regarding the information we have requested, but can he give me any idea of time? I do not think I am being unfair, because I have the letters saying, "You will get it soon. You will get it in two weeks. You will get it in three weeks." Can he give me an idea of approximately when I am going to get the information I have requested?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not blame the Member for being skeptical and asking. Most of the information is being gathered right now. I do not know when we will be dealing with the Yukon Housing Corporation in the main estimates, but I will try to have as much as I possibly can on Tuesday of next week, and everything that I am prepared to give her by Friday of next week.
Mr. McDonald: I have a few questions to put to the Housing Corporation at this point, so I will just run down my list of questions and get some baseline information.
The Minister will remember that last year there was a discussion in the Legislature about the situation facing mobile homes - particularly within the City of Whitehorse. He will remember that there were some questions in the Legislature. There was even a headline in the newspaper indicating that the Minister was going to take this matter in hand. We were going to get some fast action. As the Minister knows, I am somewhat skeptical and upset about what has happened since that time. I do have some detailed information that I would like to glean from the Minister about what precisely has happened in the Yukon Housing Corporation and then learn a little bit more about what the government plans to do.
May I first of all ask if the Yukon Housing Corporation is still the lead agency dealing with the mobile homes for the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, the Yukon Housing Corporation is still the lead agency. As I said in Question Period, we have also been dealing with the Department of Community and Transportation Services and the City of Whitehorse, both of which have agreed to contribute money to the mobile-home review for the gathering of information. The call for proposals to do the mobile-home study was sent out on March 15 to the four or five people who originally tendered on the proposal, but it was withdrawn because we had not made our expectations clear enough. As I said, we ended up with bids ranging from $18,000 to $60,000, so we cancelled the tender and sent out the proposal to those who had bid on the previous one. I am not sure of the date that the tender will close, but I think that it will be within the next week or two. I think that it was a three-week tender.
Mr. McDonald: The point of my question was that if anyone had any concerns with, for example, the lot development program by the government or the lands branch's normal responsibilities, I ought to be looking to the Yukon Housing Corporation to answer for that. If I had a problem with what has normally been the Department of Community and Transportation Services' responsibilities with respect to land and mobile homes, I now address my concerns to the Yukon Housing Corporation and consider them to be held responsible - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The Yukon Housing Corporation is the lead agency and is responsible for the mobile-home review. The Yukon Housing Corporation has not taken over responsibility for lots, however. If the Member had questions about lots or development, I suppose they should technically be directed to the Department of Community and Transportation Services, which still controls that area. However, if the question came to the Yukon Housing Corporation as part of a concern about providing mobile-home lots, it would be dealt with by the Yukon Housing Corporation, which may deal with, or reach an agreement of some sort, the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
I am just trying to figure out precisely which is the lead agency, so that if I have a concern about whether or not the Government has decided to proceed with lot development of a certain kind to help mobile-home owners, and particularly with respect to the delivery of that lot development - I realize it is the Department of Community and Transportation Services' responsibility - the Yukon Housing Corporation would answer for the decision to go ahead - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, that is correct. While the Department of Community and Transportation Services has developed lots - there are 65 mobile-home lots available in the City of Whitehorse at present, I believe - the issue of the development of lots to solve the health and safety issues, the overcrowding and the issues related to the provision of low-cost lots and lower-cost lots to alleviate the problems that there are in the mobile-home parks would go through the Yukon Housing Corporation, and there would be a recommendation to the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
I hope that the mobile-home study will provide us with that information.
Mr. McDonald: I do not want us to get ahead of ourselves yet. If the Minister does not mind, I have some detailed questions and I will use whatever means I have at my disposal to make my concerns public.
At this point, I need information and I would like to know more about what the Housing Corporation has precisely done to respond to the already identified issues that mobile-home owners have not only expressed, through the somewhat defunct Mobile Home Residents Association and through my representations in this Legislature, which I consider to be a very legitimate voice speaking on behalf of my constituents who have spoken to me. What has the Housing Corporation specifically done to respond to the fairly clear statements made during the open house that was held last June on the subject of mobile homes within the city? I want to go through this methodically so that I can get to the basic information, and then I will decide how I would like to present my case.
The Minister will remember that we had a meeting and he was, I believe, chairing it. The Minister of Community and Transportation Services, officials from departments, the president of the Yukon Housing Corporation and the Mayor of Whitehorse and city representatives were present. At that meeting at least two things were decided; first of all that there would be an open house, which was held, and also that there would be a survey done. Does the Minister remember when it was decided that that survey would be done and when we could expect some response from mobile-home residents? Does he remember that decision?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not remember the precise dates, but the first call for proposals for the surveys went out in September 1995. The new tender proposal was drafted because the tenders were much higher than the $15,000 amount that Yukon Housing Corporation estimated it would cost. We sought money from Community and Transportation Services and the City of Whitehorse, with them approving the call for proposals that were to go out. That took considerably longer than we expected. It has just been done.
The issue of the availability of lots for home owners is one small part of the problem. I do not think the Member for McIntyre-Takhini believes for one moment that setting aside an area, or even giving the lots away, is going to solve the problem about the age and condition of mobile homes in the territory or the Whitehorse area.
As I said, there are 65 mobile-home lots now available in the City of Whitehorse that range between $21,000 to almost $29,000. To purchase those lots is really not much of a cost per month than pad rental in the mobile-home parks.
Mr. McDonald: I do not want the Minister to get me wrong here; I am long past arguing with the government about what the appropriate response for mobile-home residents is. I am not even going to attempt to try that tonight; I am going to state my case to the public, but I do feel that I have a right to get some information about what the Yukon Housing Corporation has done. I am not going to ask long questions and I am not trying to be argumentative, and in no way am I trying to persuade the Minister about anything right now. I will do that in a different forum at a different time, because my frustration level is so incredibly high that there would be no point in doing that.
I would like to ask the Minister whether or not he remembers that the meeting identified that the mobile-home survey would actually be conducted during the month of September and not sent out for proposals in the month of September?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not remember that detail for certain. That may well have been the expectation at the meeting. I have told the Member for McIntyre-Takhini what the Yukon Housing Corporation has done. There is no more to tell. I can send him a copy of the invitation for proposals. He can see what the survey will do. When we have received the proposals, evaluated them and chosen the winning proposal, I will let the Member know the results. But the Housing Corporation has done no more than hold the public meeting at, I believe, the Takhini School auditorium, and developed a call for proposals for a mobile-home survey in conjunction with Community and Transportation Services and the city. That is it.
Mr. McDonald: That is pretty succinct. It will not require a lot of cross-examination to dissect it. There has been very little done.
Has the Minister or has any other Minister of the government had any meetings with city council or city councillors respecting the mobile-home owners in Whitehorse since the meeting we had together in the Cabinet offices last spring?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I have not, and as far as I know no other Ministers have met officially with the city on this issue. It has simply been done at the officials level.
Mr. McDonald: Have the officials met with city officials and/or with mobile-home owners and/or with mobile-home park owners in any formal or informal way, or in any way, since the open house?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know the dates of the meetings, the length of them or the details that were discussed, but officials of the city met with officials of the Yukon Housing Corporation, who, in turn, met with the officials from the Department of Community and Transportation Services to request money to develop the proposal call for the survey.
Mr. McDonald: Have there been any other meetings to discuss any other matter, other than the proposal call?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Not that I know of.
Mr. McDonald: Has the government had any discussions with the city about the development of mobile-home lots for use by mobile-home owners who wish to relocate trailers? Has that happened at any time?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, not before the survey was complete. That was one of the additions, I believe, that the Department of Community and Transportation Services wanted in the survey - to confirm that need. I believe that the city was involved in having it added to the terms of reference or the information that we want to get from mobile-home tenants, mobile-home owners and park owners in the survey.
Mr. McDonald: Has the Minister or any Minister of the government met with city officials to discuss the conditions in mobile-home parks, particularly with respect to road maintenance or similar matters - matters that might otherwise be considered landlord/tenant issues?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No. I thought that I made it clear that, as far as I know, there have not been any meetings at the ministerial level with the mayor or council on those issues. There have been meetings at the level of the officials to come up with an invitation for proposals to do the mobile-home survey. It is a fairly comprehensive survey. We have said that the budget for it will be $50,000. We expect that it will be fairly comprehensive and will provide the information that we need in order to deal with most issues that involve mobile homes.
Mr. McDonald: I would like to ask the Minister for the terms of reference for the new mobile-home survey. Could he tell us when the call for proposals closes and what the new time frame is for the survey to be undertaken and the survey results to be digested and made public?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I cannot do that right now. My understanding is that those who bid on the original call were given the new package on March 15. I think they were given three weeks from that date, but I will confirm that for the Member tomorrow. I do not think that is difficult to find out. I will also give the Member a copy of the package that went to the interested groups to submit their proposals.
Mr. McDonald: Could I also have a copy of the original call for proposals that was sent out - the one for the failed attempt? Would it be possible for the Minister to have the Yukon Housing Corporation highlight the differences between the original call and the amended one?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, that can be done. I do not think that the Member will have much difficulty seeing the differences between the two. I can have the differences highlighted, but I think that when the Member has the two documents, there will not be much question about the differences. I will, however, ask that you be provided with both and that somehow the differences between them be highlighted.
Mr. McDonald: If it is pretty obvious, then I do not see a need for the Yukon Housing Corporation officials to go to any extra work. Not having seen either call for proposals, I do not know that, so whatever seems obvious to the Minister; I would appreciate any help he can provide.
With respect to the open house, minutes were provided and some fairly clear recommendations were made - at least, a pretty clear sense of what people who attended the meeting were thinking. What is going to happen to those conclusions? Have those conclusions led to any Yukon Housing Corporation action at all?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: They have not led the Yukon Housing Corporation to do anything except use it and include it in the request for proposals. Those concerns will be dealt with again and covered by the call for proposals.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister explain what that means? Does he mean that the questions that the contractors ask the mobile-home residents will, in part, focus on the issues identified in the open house?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, that is my understanding. That way, there will be a broader range of input than what was heard at the meeting.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister report the Yukon Housing Corporation's understanding of the position of the city and the Real Estate Association with respect to the development of lots? Does it understand what the city's position is? Can he relate it to us now? I am talking about lots for mobile-home residents who wish to relocate their mobile homes to property that they own.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I do not know the city's position on that issue. My understanding is that the city also wants the results of that survey before it makes more lots available than are presently on the market. As I said, there are currently 65 lots on the market in Whitehorse. People can move their mobile home and own the lot. The prices range from $21,000 to $29,000.
Mr. Sloan: Can the Minister let us know where the majority of those lots are located?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I think that most of them are in Arkell. I can identify the lots, if the Member would like, and I can provide him with a further detailed breakdown about where the lots are located. The note that I have says that there are 65 mobile-home lots for sale in Whitehorse and 30 additional lots in other municipalities. I am sure that I can get the number in Arkell and other areas for the Member.
Mr. Sloan: I have one further question on that topic. The Minister mentioned the price range of $21,000 to $29,000. Could the Minister tell us whether or not there are further development fees or costs over and above those prices?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: When I get the Member details about where the lots are located, I will correct this if I am wrong. It is my understanding that there are city development costs in addition to the purchase price of the lot.
Mr. Sloan: With regard to the lots - I may be asking a bit much here - what kinds of restrictions are there in terms of age of the mobile home and sizes? Are there any restrictions that the Minister can tell us about?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, and that has been the real problem that we have been wrestling with. That is why we are going to pay $50,000 for a mobile-home survey, and that is why we are dealing with the city.
The mobile homes that the government is concerned about are the older ones in the mobile-home parks that have serious problems with health and safety issues, wiring, plumbing, windows, and so on. Even if there were no restrictions on lots, as soon as these old mobile homes are moved we are afraid that they will either fall apart or the city inspectors will condemn them. It simply is not possible to solve the problem by taking a 25-year-old mobile home, which does not meet any code, out of a trailer park and placing it on an inexpensive lot where the owner will have title to the land.
That is the whole crux of the problem we have been wrestling with and that I have made the commitment to do something about. It is just that the wheels turn a lot slower than I would like.
Mr. McDonald: That is a mouthful, and I will certainly have something to say about it in due course.
Concerning the 65 lots the Minister keeps referring to, is he aware right now what restrictions the city is imposing about how young a trailer should be before it is allowed to be moved on to those lots? Is he aware of the city bylaw restriction?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: As far as I know, the only restriction is that it has to be less than 10 years old.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister may remember that I corresponded with him about some concerns in mobile-home parks, apart from the ones I had originally addressed, particularly with regard to the condition of roads, streets and playgrounds in the parks. At first I corresponded with the City of Whitehorse, asking if it had authority to recommend that any work be done to improve the maintenance of roads and streets inside private mobile-home parks. The city responded to me that this was a landlord and tenant matter and, consequently, in the hands of the Yukon government. I related that position to the government.
Can the Minister tell us whether or not he has digested this position and whether or not he is prepared to provide any further assistance to people in mobile-home parks by ensuring that they receive reasonable maintenance standards for such basic things as streets and playgrounds?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not recall getting that letter. I would be prepared - probably on the same basis as the Member for McIntyre-Takhini - to complain if the landlord was not living up to the conditions or terms of the Landlord and Tenant Act and ask the landlord to enforce them. The Landlord and Tenant Act is used quite often when it comes to evictions and treatment of tenants.
I do not know exactly what the Member was advocating that I, as the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, do to enforce the Landlord and Tenant Act on behalf of specific tenants or tenants in general in any of the mobile-home parks.
Mr. McDonald: I was under the impression that the Yukon Housing Corporation was the lead corporation when it came to private mobile-home parks, so, consequently, they do approach this Minister. If the Minister wants to direct me somewhere else, we still have another budget, so I will speak to another Minister. Just point me in the right direction, and I will speak to whomever is the designated lead hitter on this matter.
The real issue, of course, is that there is absolutely nothing in the Landlord and Tenant Act that meets the needs of people who live in mobile-home parks. That is one of the reasons why, in some jurisdictions - when it comes to ensuring there is an appropriate maintenance standard for such things as roads and streets - there is a special act for mobile-home parks, distinct from a Landlord and Tenant Act, which would cover other situations, such as apartments or rental accommodation, such as houses.
The point is there is concern - and there certainly are quite dramatic concerns - in my riding about the condition, for example, of roads and streets. The City of Whitehorse has indicated to me that it is powerless to do anything. It does not have the authority to even consider passing bylaws, or anything else, that would affect the situation one way or another.
Mayor Watson referred me to the Yukon government if we want to advocate changes to the Landlord and Tenant Act. She said that I should come and see the people across the floor, and so here we are.
So that we do not have to spin our wheels unnecessarily, can the Minister indicate to us whether or not the Yukon Housing Corporation is the lead agency when it comes to dealing with this matter?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, that would be a Justice issue and should be directed to the Department of Justice. If the mobile-home survey turns up with that being identified as an issue, the Yukon Housing Corporation, as the lead agency doing the survey, along with the Department of Community and Transportation Services and the municipality, would then go to the Department of Justice and say that one of the things that can be done immediately is make amendments to the Landlord and Tenant Act, if that is what would be required to solve that problem for the people living in mobile-home parks.
Mr. McDonald: Of course, the last time we dealt with mobile-home parks in this Legislature - the infamous residents of the Kopper King Trailer Court, who were evicted - the matter was dealt with through the Landlord and Tenant Act. The government did respond to requests, not only from the residents, but also from me, to have the act changed.
The act has been changed. I do not fault the Minister for not knowing this because he may have been Speaker at the time. The issue of the Landlord and Tenant Act has been an integral part of this whole matter from the very beginning.
If the Minister is saying that the Landlord and Tenant Act or any issues associated with the Landlord and Tenant Act should now go through the Minister of Justice, I will raise the matter with that Minister, because I do not hold out much hope that this survey is going to be done before we conclude this legislative sitting. I will certainly be making my moves before the sitting is over, and I will be making my case to the public about the whole matter, probably before the contractor has even started the survey. I think sufficient information is coming from the residents themselves to justify government action and obviously feel that the government has not been very aggressive in responding, and we will say so.
In regard to the Landlord and Tenant Act matters, I will be dealing with the Minister of Justice. I would like to ask the Minister a little bit about the Real Estate Association. The Minister responded to my question about the City of Whitehorse and whether or not the city has taken a position about the development of lots.
Could the Minister indicate whether or not the Yukon Housing Corporation, in its regular dealings with the Real Estate Association, have been able to determine what their position is?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, their position has not been made clear to the Yukon Housing Corporation. I must say that I am pleased that the Leader of the Official Opposition is going to get on the bandwagon and go public and do something about this. It is a long-outstanding issue. These trailers did not get to be 20 to 25 years old in the last year. This is a matter that has been outstanding for a considerable amount of time, and I am pleased that something is going to be done about it under my direction as the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mr. McDonald: I thank the Minister in advance for thanking me for my initiatives to make this matter public. I hope he feels the same when I am finished.
Obviously, this is an issue that needs to be addressed by the government. It is an issue that has been raised by me as the Member for McIntyre-Takhini for a few years now, and I am certainly interested in seeing a response.
If the Minister is anything like a couple of his colleagues, he will spend as much time as he can trying to speak to the period between 1985 and 1992, and my response might even involve trying to explain what happened between 1979 and 1995.
The point of the matter is that there are people living in those mobile-home parks who have taken the trouble to complain to their MLA with very legitimate concerns. I recall the Minister saying last year that he was going to be right on top of things. He even berated me for wanting to go public or make it a so-called political issue.
I had been treated to probably a hundred conversations with people who were demanding that I get something done. Now that the year has passed, I am glad that the Minister is not going to criticize me for getting political, but rather, he is going to congratulate me for being political. I am certain that we will all be satisfied with the results one way or another.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 9.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole.
Mr. Millar: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, Third Appropriation Act, 1995-96, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled March 20, 1996:
Creating Safer Communities: Offender Management (March 1996) (Phillips)
The following Filed Document was tabled March 20, 1996:
Letter from Tony Penikett, then-Leader of the Yukon New Democrats, soliciting members and funding (dated Fall 1986) (Phelps)