Wednesday, April 17, 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 now proceed with the Order Paper.
Condolences to family on death of Justin Jim
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: On behalf of our caucus we would like to extend our condolences to Mary Jane Jim and her family on their tragic loss of their son. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.
Ms. Commodore: On behalf of our caucus, I would like to extend our sympathies to Mary Jane Jim and Tim, and to the father, Dennis Smith. I have already paid a visit to them and we have offered any assistance they might need.
Our hearts and our prayers go out to the family and friends. -
Recognition of Law Day
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I rise in the House today to bring Law Day to the Members' attention. As most Members are aware, it is a national event organized by the Canadian Bar Association to educate the general public about their legal rights and about the various organizations that make up the legal system. This day was originally held in 1982 to commemorate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to renew our commitment to justice. As it is every year, the general theme of Law Day across Canada is access to justice. Here in the Yukon we want to emphasize the importance of working together. Yukoners want to have safe communities. To fulfill that goal, government departments, justice and law enforcement officials, women's groups, social agencies and all Yukoners must work together. The creating-safer-communities initiative and the shared vision statement developed by the RCMP and Yukon Justice are some examples of this achievement. I would like to encourage everyone to participate in the events that will be held today.
Mr. Sloan: I, too, would like to extend, on the part of the Official Opposition, our support of the idea of Law Day. There is no question that the respect for law and the fundamental belief that Canadians have in law is the basis for our society. We often joke about Canada perhaps not having as exciting a history as other nations, but we have to remember that we were founded on the rule of the order of the law and the development of the west, and the role of the Northwest Mounted Police really contributed to that sense of Canada as a country based on laws.
I would just like to bring forward a quote here from the German philosopher, Reinhold Niebuhr, who once said that "Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination towards injustice makes democracy necessary." The rule of law as we respect it in this country is something to be treasured and we join in saluting Law Day.
Speaker: Are there any visitors to be introduced?
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 ministerial statements?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act, proclamation of
Mr. Harding: I have a very serious question for the Government Leader.
The Legislature passed a bill entitled Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act on May 2, 1995, about one year ago. At that time, when we were debating this bill, the Government Leader stood in this House on December 12 and said, "In this bill, we have provided Members with the specific assurance that its provisions will come into effect no later than October 1, 1995." This bill is still unproclaimed. The government broke its promise. I want to ask the Government Leader if the government will proclaim this bill today.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite is fully aware of the fact that we have been in discussions with his caucus and the Liberal caucus about who we were going to appoint as Commissioners. The Member is fully aware of that. He does not need to play theatrics with it in the Legislature. He knows that these discussions have been going on for several months. He also knows that the bill could not be proclaimed until we had Commissioners. Commissioners could not be proclaimed until the Legislature sat. We are working on it. We hope that we can have it done before this session is over if we get some cooperation from the Members opposite.
Mr. Harding: The Government Leader made a promise to have the legislation in place and in effect by October 1. Our position is clear. We say that Ted Hughes, as a Conflicts Commissioner, constitutes, for the purposes of any investigation, a quorum for this bill.
We have told the Government Leader in all of our conversations and in this Legislature that we want the bill proclaimed and that his stalling is nothing but a red herring. I ask him today that, given that we have satisfied the commitments under the law for a Conflicts Commissioner and a quorum, will he proclaim the bill today?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Official Opposition may be satisfied, but our Justice people are not satisfied that one Commissioner constitutes the requirements under the act.
Mr. Harding: We are satisfied. Other jurisdictions are satisfied with one Conflicts Commissioner. That constitutes a quorum under the act, the legislation that we passed in this House on May 2, 1995.
This government has raised some very serious allegations over the last couple of weeks about the Leader of the Official Opposition and other private citizens, and that bill remains unproclaimed. A promise was broken. I want to ask the Minister again if he will stop stalling and proclaim this important conflict-of-interest act for Ministers and Members?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is not this party, this caucus or this government that is stalling; it is the Official Opposition. They cannot agree on who the commissioner should be. Maybe in the mind of the Member for Faro one Commissioner is enough, but our Justice people have some great difficulty with that.
Question re: Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act, proclamation of
Mr. Harding: It is funny that for this government - for its own purposes and for this kangaroo public inquiry on the Leader of the Official Opposition - one Commissioner is enough, but for the purpose of proclaiming this bill, the Government Leader stands here stalling and says we have to have three. That is quite a contradiction. Could the Government Leader explain that one?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I refer the Member to the act to see what we passed in this Legislature. The act quite clearly states that there shall be three Commissioners.
The Member opposite can stand up and act as belligerent as he likes. The Public Government Act was not proclaimed at all by the Opposition when it was in power. It also dealt with conflict of interest.
Mr. Harding: The bill that we passed in this Legislature says that one Conflicts Commissioner constitutes a quorum. The kangaroo public inquiry organized by the Yukon Party government against the Leader of the Official Opposition says that, in its mind, one Commissioner is enough to investigate an allegation.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Point of order.
Speaker: Order. The Government Leader, on a point of order.
Point of order
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I take exception to the Member for Faro saying that this government has appointed a kangaroo court of inquiry. I think it is totally out of order.
Mr. Harding: This government organized, on the eve of an election, a smear campaign against the Leader of the Official Opposition.
Speaker: Order. I do not believe that there is a point of order; it is a disagreement between two Members.
Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will now go back to my question.
For the purposes of their kangaroo court procedure-
Speaker: Order. I do not want to hear the kangaroo-court term again.
Mr. Harding: Why would Mr. Speaker request us not to refer to it by that name, when that term has been used in this Legislature many times?
Speaker: I believe that the Member should have taken it upon himself not to repeat that term in order to maintain the dignity of the House.
Mr. Harding: I will accept your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I am all for protecting the dignity of the House, and that is why I am trying to get the government to proclaim this conflict-of-interest bill.
The government has orchestrated the public inquiry into the affairs of the Leader of the Official Opposition. The government has said that one Conflicts Commissioner is enough in this case. We have stated that our position with respect to the conflict-of-interest bill is that one Commissioner, Mr. Ted Hughes, constitutes a quorum.
Given that there are things covered in this bill, other than conduct of Ministers, why is the government afraid to go before the Commissioner today and proclaim the bill, which is what should be done?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We certainly are not afraid to proclaim the bill. The reality is that the bill being proclaimed requires a Commissioner, and the Commissioners have to be approved by the Legislature before the bill can be proclaimed.
Mr. Harding: That is not the case. The government raised allegations about the Leader of the Official Opposition. On December 7, 1994, the Government Leader said - in response to questions from the Official Opposition - that there was a Conflicts Commissioner in the bill, to whom these kinds of issues can be referred.
In the case of the scurrilous accusations by the Members opposite against the Leader of the Official Opposition, the government refused to go through that process. Instead, they chose this option, which the government has manipulated, for base, partisan, political reasons. I would like to ask the Government Leader why he will not proclaim this bill, as he promised Yukoners he would, by October 1, 1995.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite can put on all the theatrics he wants. I will ask him to read Hansard tomorrow. I answered that question about four times during this Question Period.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite talks about a kangaroo public inquiry. He -
Speaker: Order. I do not want to hear any more about kangaroos.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am sorry, but I was just responding to the Member opposite about his lack of respect for this Legislature.
We sought outside legal advice, and we acted upon that advice.
Question re: Loki Gold Corporation, housing
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services on Loki Gold Corporation's housing requirements.
There was an article in one of the newspapers last September that said that the bulk of Loki's workforce - those that are not hired from the community - will live in and around Dawson. There was a quote from one of Loki's officers, Mr. Saxton: "We want family people," Saxton says, indicating his preference for a stable workforce that would become part of the community.
Could the Minister indicate to the House what the housing needs are for Loki Gold in the City of Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The municipality of Dawson will make the final decision. We are trying to find areas where some buildings can be built for the company when the time comes, but the City of Dawson will have the final say on it.
Mr. Cable: The housing will assumedly have to be in place when Loki Gold starts up, which I gather will be two or three months from now. Is it the Minister's position that the problem of housing and the availability of lots will be resolved by the time Loki starts up?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have not been informed by Loki or anyone else how much housing will be required. We are not in the housing business. We are simply looking at providing land for whomever builds the housing. This department does not build houses.
Mr. Cable: I know the Minister's department does not build houses, but he is part of a Cabinet that approved the Loki Gold industrial support policy funds. Assumedly, housing would have been dealt with at that time.
Is the Minister's department in a position to provide new lots to develop a subdivision within the City of Dawson if housing cannot be purchased from the residents of Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The City of Dawson will make that decision. We are working with the City of Dawson on a number of options where we might be able to get land. The city will have to make the final decision about that.
Question re: Non-government organizations, evaluation of
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services about non-government agencies.
Last March, the former Minister of Health and Social Services stated in the House that regular evaluations would be performed on non-government agencies and I quote, "in a timely manner", to ensure they are providing the services dictated by the government.
Could the Minister tell me if any of those non-government agencies have been evaluated to date?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will have to get back to the Member on that. I know there has been some work done, but I do not know if there have been actual evaluations, and I do not know if they have been completed.
Ms. Commodore: It is little bit difficult to ask questions on such an important matter if the Minister does not have the information, but I will proceed with my first supplementary.
The non-government organizations are concerned because they have had cutbacks in their funding in the past year or so, and they are worried about the potential ramifications of any evaluations that are done.
Can the Minister assure the non-government agencies that all of the evaluations will be conducted in a fair manner, by either giving them fair warning or letting the organizations know what the process will be for these evaluations?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Certainly, I can give the Member assurance that the evaluations will be conducted fairly.
Ms. Commodore: The non-government organizations are afraid of any consequences they could face in this regard.
Although the Minister does not appear to have too much information about the issue, could he tell us if the process for evaluation is in place? We were told that there would be a process in place, because we asked how the evaluations would be done, and the government told us that it was putting the process together. Could the Minister tell us if a process is being put together by his department?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe there is an outline or guideline about what method should be used when evaluations take place.
Question re: Non-governmental organizations, evaluation of
Ms. Commodore: On the same subject, we were informed at the technical briefing that $33,000 was set aside to conduct evaluations on one non-government organization. It appears that not a lot of work has gone into that, despite the fact that the Minister said the government was going to start conducting evaluations a year ago.
I would like to ask the Minister if he can assure those non-government organizations that the core funding they are receiving right now will continue?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The non-government organization funding, whether or not it is in Health and Social Services or any other area is set on a year-by-year basis. It is interesting that a couple of the non-government organizations have actually had an increase in funding.
Ms. Commodore: It is interesting because certainly they do all deserve a lot more than what they are getting. The former Minister had indicated to us that this process would take place and that all of the non-government organizations would have an evaluation done on their organizations. It appears that there is not a process for that evaluation in place. I would like to ask the Minister how they intend to do the evaluation if the process is not in place at this time, because we do have $33,000 for at least one in this budget.
Speaker: I am sorry. I should have said Minister of Health and Social Services.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe I said that there were some guidelines in place. I believe I said that before. I did say that I would bring some information back for the Member opposite on exactly how far the funding that we have in place will go toward doing the evaluations.
Ms. Commodore: All non-government organizations, of course, are concerned that there could be a decrease in their funding in the future. I would like to ask the Minister if he can assure us that when the process for the evaluation is put together that that process would be available to all non-government organizations that are now receiving funding from this government?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not quite understand the question. If the Member is talking about the process being available or if she is questioning whether or not we are going to evaluate all of the non-government organizations - I cannot say that we would be doing all of them during any specified period of time. There will be an ongoing evaluation of the various non-government organizations.
Question re: Sole-sourced contracts, limits
Mrs. Firth: Yesterday, I asked the Minister responsible for Government Services a question about sole-sourced contracts and the fact that over 70 percent of the government contracts were being sole sourced, which represents millions of dollars. The sole-source limit was increased from $10,000 to $25,000 by this government - an increase I opposed.
The Minister said yesterday that his department is monitoring the policy change. Could he tell us specifically who is monitoring it?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I cannot. It is the corporate services branch, so it would be directly under the deputy minister. I should correct the Member on the following point: the value for sole-sourced contracts, as we discussed in detail last night, was increased to $25,000, but for price-driven contracts, the limit remains at $10,000.
Mrs. Firth: I am talking about the sole-sourced contracts that have gone over the threshold. I indicated to the Minister that there were 70 contracts over the $25,000 limit. I pointed them out in the book. He does not have to give me the specific name of who is monitoring this. I accept that it is the corporate services branch.
Can the Minister tell us how it is monitoring this policy? What exactly is the branch doing?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Because they are identified, it looks at the sole-sourced contracts and determines what level of approval there was for them. As we discussed last night, there are a number of exceptions to the sole-source limits. I explained that in debate last night to the Members. Where there is only one service provider, there are exceptions. I gave the example of Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. providing a number of services to the Yukon government over that limit, because it is the only service provider.
Mrs. Firth: We are going to get into debate on all the individual contracts to see whether or not they are service providers.
Speaker: I would remind the Member that we are debating Government Services tonight.
Mrs. Firth: We are in capital budget in Government Services. We will not be raising this issue tonight. We finished dealing with this in the budget.
As I was saying, on the sole-sourced contracts that have gone over the threshold, I think it is debatable whether or not someone else could have done the job.
The Minister indicated to us yesterday that those contracts were not illegal if Management Board had authorized them. Since the system is being monitored, can he tell us today if Management Board authorized all of the contracts above the threshold that were sole-sourced?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: As I said, there are exceptions if they are solely a one-service provider. There are exceptions, and Management Board would not have approved every one. When the corporate services branch went through them, it found that there are a couple that were miscoded and were actually public tenders. The branch is looking at those right now.
Question re: Government employee, post-employment activity
Mr. Sloan: My questions, interestingly enough, both relate to the questions asked by the Member for Riverdale South and also to a question raised by my colleague, the Member for Faro, and they are directed toward the Minister of Government Services.
If the conflict-of-interest bill had been proclaimed, as the Government Leader had suggested, by October 1, 1995, there would have also been some regulations to prevent public employees from soliciting government business within six months of leaving their public service employment.
Last week, I was made aware of the fact that an employee who had left the Queen's Printer has solicited government business for a local firm within the six-month period and that that firm has received three sole-sourced contracts worth a total of $15,500 in the last three months.
Based on that, does the Minister not agree that, had the conflict-of-interest bill and its attendant regulations been passed and proclaimed, situations of this sort could have been prevented?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure that a conflict would arise in that case. It is possible. The idea is that if the person was using knowledge that had been gained as an employee to get the work, there may be a possibility. But I am not sure, based on what the Member has said, that I can agree. I do not know whether he is saying that we should not have dealt with this individual or that we should have.
Mr. Sloan: What I am suggesting is that there seems to be a bit of a discrepancy here. Since his departure from the Queen's Printer, this former employee has attended meetings with Government Services on behalf of his employer.
My question is this: can the Minister explain why this person was allowed to solicit business on behalf of his employer when the department would be clearly aware that if there was not in a direct conflict there would have been a perception of conflict?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: A couple of weeks ago in the House, I tabled a policy on post-employment of former employees of the Government of the Yukon. This very question was raised with me just a few days ago. I passed it on to the Public Service Commission, which is investigating it at this time.
I do not wish to comment on it because I have not heard back on the questions raised by that individual, but it is being looked at.
Mr. Sloan: I appreciate the Minister of Justice's intervention. I am saying that, had the bill been in place with the attendant regulations, we might not be in this situation now.
The former employee, who now solicits government business for his company, had been in a position to know some fairly intimate details of the operation of the Queen's Printer, and would certainly have been familiar with all the players in the design business in the territory, as he dealt with them on a regular basis.
As he now solicits business for a local firm, does the Minister not agree that he and his employer have a clear advantage over other businesses in the community?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think the Member opposite may be confused. He is saying that if the conflict legislation for Members and Ministers had been passed, this could not have occurred. That is not the case. This bill is strictly for Members of this Legislature.
There is a policy in place, and the Minister of Justice just stated this was being looked into. What more does the Opposition want?
Question re: Government employee, post-employment activity
Mr. Sloan: As I understood it, along with the conflict-of-interest bill, there were supposed to be regulations governing this particular kind of issue. As I read it, that was supposed to happen by October 1, 1995. There appears to have been a commitment to proclaim the bill and bring in the regulations governing public servants at the same time.
Why is there a delay?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member may be confused. I rose in this House a couple of weeks ago and gave a ministerial statement in which I explained that rather than putting it into legislation, we chose to put it into a directive on post-employment for employees.
I just heard the complaint about a week ago. I asked the department to investigate the complaint. It is doing so. I am somewhat reluctant to comment on it any further, because we are looking at the policy and where the individual was involved.
I might point out to the Member that just because we have a policy on post-employment restriction does not mean that someone who had previously worked for the government cannot do other work for the government. There is a fine line on where there is a conflict.
This is the type of thing that was discussed with the union. I understand that the unions were somewhat supportive of our direction rather than creating a law.
It is therefore being looked at. However, I cannot give the Member any more information than to say that we are checking the policy to see if we are in violation of the policy that we just developed.
Mr. Sloan: Perhaps the Minister can tell me if this would be retroactive to the date that the conflict legislation was supposed to have come in to effect: October 1, 1995?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No. The policy is in effect as of April 1, 1996. That is when we brought it in. I mentioned that in my ministerial statement. That is when it begins. So, we will be looking at it from that time on.
Mr. Sloan: I would suggest that in this case it is not particularly effective, because there certainly seems to have been something out of whack.
I guess that I would like to redirect this question to the Minister for Government Services. I will ask him this question: in light of some of the issues that have been raised, what action can the Minister take to ensure that a level playing field will exist for local companies, particularly in the design field?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The policy is in place to deal with post-employment restrictions. Since the Member was not in the House before, I will point out to him that this is not the first time that this has happened. I can recall that when I was in Opposition, a former executive assistant of a former Minister on the side opposite quit her job with the Department of Health and Social Services and, within weeks, she started contracting with the department to do the same thing that she was doing as an employee.
It is one of the reasons we now have a policy to try to cover it. We will have to see how effective the policy is.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 113
Speaker: It is moved by the Hon. Member for Faro
THAT it is the opinion of this House that since their election to government the Yukon Party government has not lived up to its commitments to the Yukon people as contained in the Yukon Party four-year plan.
Mr. Harding: Given that the government has now sought to bring closure to this legislative sitting, and wants to have us sitting from 1:30 to 10:30 p.m. each of the remaining days, we felt that it was important on our last opportunity in the House - we get one the Opposition Members and had to share with the Liberals this session - to raise our agenda and our critique of the Yukon Party.
On our last opportunity of this session - apparently - we thought it was important to raise, for the benefit of Yukoners, areas in which the Yukon Party has failed in its commitments, which they made in the guise of their four-year plan during the 1992 election campaign. Along with that, I intend to point out areas where the Yukon people could have expected different approaches, had the Members of the Official Opposition been elected to government.
I think it is important that we review these promises in some detail. As we watch this government desperately cling to power in the final days of this legislative sitting, we have seen some very scary things happen. We have seen a government that is prepared, quite willingly, to stonewall questions in this Legislature; a government that has shown willingness to abuse the power of the state for base, partisan, political reasons. That chills me to the bone. To watch the orders-in-council I saw yesterday, the manipulation of the public process, the manipulation of government, the raising of accusations against the Leader of the Official Opposition, and moving toward a closure system for debate in this Legislature, in violation of our memorandum of understanding. We have seen a government that is prepared to go far beyond what even I thought they would do, or thought they were capable of doing.
We have a situation where some accusations were leveled a few weeks ago by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. They were
accusations about real estate transactions handled by one of the top Members of the Opposition at the time, Danny Lang, a Re/Max real estate agent. There were allegations levelled against Darryl Weigand who was Danny Lang's boss.
In all of my short time in the Legislature and the time I spent watching politics as a citizen before being elected, this was something I never thought I would see. The government has gone to the extreme for base, partisan, political purposes in order to make its points.
The government has manipulated its relationship with the Tory government in Alberta. It has manipulated the information it sent to the Tory government of Alberta, and the government's ministerial statement interpreting the findings of the Alberta deputy minister was incredible.
Here was a deputy minister who said that because there was an allegation and because there was public comment, there may be need for a public inquiry. The deputy minister did not speak to the substantive nature of the so-called evidence presented by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. He did not say whether or not it was good, or whether the evidence was supported by facts.
I have never heard about such a thing, except when I read the old spy stories about the KGB. This Cabinet has gone wrong. It has become so vindictive, as a result of what happened to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes during this session, that it has lost track of public direction and public policy making.
Yesterday, we debated a motion that is in direct violation of our memorandum of understanding. We are moving toward legislation by exhaustion and moving toward a form of closure. I dare say we will see the final chapter in that when this government hammers home a motion abusing its authority. It is quite disappointing to have the Liberals cooperating in this form of closure: legislation by exhaustion.
It is clear that the government is a desperate - and dare I say it - evil government.
Speaker: Order. The word "evil" is unparliamentary.
Mr. Harding: Well, I will have to accept your ruling. I dare not say ìúHûÞ/PØ Ä¿Cì+GF¥GïCG´:GÈÖCÈCÕLó¼#-»°K<Sª¹æÌ /»ÿ·¨²ÁÔGcGè£GûÞ/Pif I agree with it or not.
I will use the words "desperate" and "vindictive", if the Speaker will accept those words.
We have seen a government that has moved from crisis to crisis, with no clear vision. It has no clear look to the future. We have seen a government that has moved from crisis to all-clear, back to crisis, putting the Yukon people on the roller-coaster ride of their lives. I think that, quite frankly, they are tired of it.
We have seen a government that, when it first got elected, put a headline in the papers and a press release out stating that the government was broke. "There is nothing left. We are in a desperate situation." Then, only three months later, the government signals the "all clear". It is as if the Government Leader said, "Don't worry; be happy, we have this baby wrestled down. We have taken this horrible deficit and wrestled it to the ground." If only Paul Martin, our federal Finance Minister, could, in three months, take over government and send out the all-clear sign. He has never even gone so far as to say that the Government of Canada is broke, and it has a real deficit.
In the Yukon, we had one that was made in the Yukon by the Yukon Party.
We saw a government that has brought in wage restraint legislation. The most ironic thing about the wage restraint legislation is that, on the same day that it tabled it, it announced that there was a $20 million surplus that was not anticipated. The government did not know where it came from, but it knew for sure that it was good fiscal management that brought it about.
Anyone looking at the content of the press releases and comments from the Ministers at the time - and the Government Leader in particular - knows precisely what folly that was. It did not know where it came from or what it was from but, as far as the government was concerned, it was all due to good fiscal planning. That was after we had seen the results of tax increases that the government told Yukoners it needed because its budget was tight as a drum and it needed to balance it.
We have seen a government that has brought in tax increases - ones that it called "obscene" during the election campaign - which were the largest tax increases in Yukon history.
We have seen successive biggest spending budgets in Yukon history, including operation and maintenance expenditures, which have increased.
We have seen the Auditor-General call on this government for manipulative accounting, for writing off investments of the taxpayers of the Yukon and making amendments to the budget that were not approved in this Legislature, which had not been sent for debate. The Auditor-General called them on that.
When the New Democrats were in power, we balanced our budgets for seven years. We were debt-free and we were proud of it. We did not bring in any tax increases. As a matter of fact, we decreased taxes. In the area of health care premiums and off-road fuel taxes, we cut taxes. Our record on spending and our record on tax increases, held up against that of the Yukon Party, which is the biggest tax-and-spend government in Yukon history, makes them clear winners as far as spending taxes goes.
We finally had a Minister in this government speak the truth. We finally had a Minister who was prepared to go on the record and tell Yukoners what the real story was about government finances. The Minister responsible for Government Services stood up only a few days ago in this Legislature and said to us that it was never a question of how much money we had in the Yukon Territory. There is a huge pie; there always has been. Yes, there are a lot of people who want a piece of that pie, but governing, as far as he was concerned, was about priorities and divvying up that pie.
When he agreed with the Leader of the Official Opposition, I breathed a sigh of relief that finally we are going to get some honesty in this debate. What this government has tried to do consistently since it got elected, in its Tory ideology, is to try to convince people that there is no money, that expectations should be lowered and that a lot of people could legitimately be told "no" just because the government was in tough times.
The reality is that it has spent more than any government in Yukon history. It has had the biggest budget ever in Yukon history. It overspent its budget by $20 million last year.
It is a question of priorities. Does the government want to concentrate entirely on road work, or does it want to put some money into school construction? Does it want to build a million dollar liquor store in Watson Lake or does it want to cut funding to the Watson Lake Health and Hope Society shelter for women? That is the equation.
In Watson Lake the government decided to build the million dollar liquor store and threaten the Health and Hope Society. In Whitehorse, for example, it was Kaushee's Place. It decided to threaten its funding. At the same time, it put record amounts of discretionary capital into the already $30 million to $40 million a year going into the Alaska Highway.
This government did the same thing when it refused to build schools at Grey Mountain, J.V. Clark and in other areas where there was work to be done on schools.
We have seen the government tell us that it had budgets that were tighter than a drum, due to its good fiscal management. As a matter of fact, it used that as the rationale for its tax increases - record increases it needed from Yukoners. We went through the process when it made a change of $1.2 million in the projected revenues for those tax increases of making some 44 amendments to the budget, because it said it was tighter than a drum.
Then what happened? We got lapses, just like we said there would be. I believe the lapses that year were between $20 million and $30 million. So, this budget that was tighter than a drum was not tighter than a drum, nor did this government need the tax increases it told Yukoners it wanted to take from their pockets.
There is a real doozy that stands out in my mind. This is the government that made devolution a real priority and has failed on just about every score. It said in public that it would try to devolve programs from the federal government. As the Government Leader said, he wanted to devolve them while they were still fat, cut them and reap the savings so, I assume, he could spend more than the record budgets he was already spending.
I do not know if the government realizes this, but there are people who work for the federal government here in the Yukon who actually read the newspapers and give those types of statements to the federal government. I would suggest to the Government Leader and the Yukon Party that it did not exactly help the bargaining position of the Yukon at the negotiating table on devolution when the Government Leader was talking about taking over big, fat programs from the stupid federal government, cutting them back and reaping the savings for the Yukon to put into general revenues.
Speaker: Order please. I do not like to see the federal government called "stupid". It is not here to defend itself.
Mr. Harding: I was referring to the attitude of the Government Leader. However, as Mr. Speaker is acting as a diligent watchdog today, I will use a different term. I will say that the Government Leader must have thought that he caught the federal government unawares, and that it was a somewhat ignorant body. I hope that meets with Mr. Speaker's approval.
We have seen a Government Leader who told Yukoners, whenever it came time for pre-budget discussions with the federal government, that this government had to trim fat. It was too big and had to reduce the deficit.
However, every time it reduced the deficit, every time there was a cut to the territory, the Government Leader squealed like a stuck pig in this Legislature that the cuts should not have come to the Yukon.
There is a major contradiction. We, on the other hand, have said that we do not support off-loading and downloading to the territories and provinces. The Government Leader, at the same time as he is telling people that they have to trim the federal debt whenever a cut is made to the Yukon, has more complaints than one can shake a stick at.
This is the Government Leader who, when the federal government does its pre-budget consultation, tells Yukoners that there should be no more tax increases, as people are taxed to the hilt and the federal government should not raise taxes. Yet, what is the record of this government on tax increases? It brings in the biggest tax increases ever in Yukon history. Again, a major contradiction.
We have seen a government that says it wants to make the Yukon more self-sufficient than ever before, but in reality we are more dependent on Ottawa for funding than ever before. The level of spending of federal monies transferred to us through programs or formula financing is greater than ever. It is all being spent. The government's plans for roads to resources and developing infrastructure in four years have led to nothing. It said it was going to invest in infrastructure, build roads to resources, and spoke about people criticizing John Diefenbaker for building roads from igloo to igloo. Well, it did not follow the direction of Mr. Diefenbaker. In actual fact, it abandoned his direction and built no infrastructure, which it said it was going to do. The government built no roads to resources, with the exception of one Loki Gold road upgrading, which I hardly think qualifies as some new plan of infrastructure, given what the New Democrats did for road construction to mines in the Yukon.
We are more reliant on federal funding now than ever before. We have a boom right now starting in minerals in the Yukon. British Columbia is facing it. We are seeing an increase in exploration expenditures and mines looking at opening up, but there is no attempt by this government to diversify the economy. It has ignored areas such as wilderness tourism. It has ignored areas of sustainable economic growth, and it has no desire to see to those particular areas that ensure we have a sustainable economy and stay away from boom to bust.
The emphasis, I believe, should definitely be on base industrial growth sectors. We have done well in the past with mining and tourism and somewhat in the fledgling forestry industry, and that emphasis has to be there.
However, this government must stop ignoring the agriculture industry and other facets of the economy that can have a small-business, diversifying effect on the economy. It focuses too much on big dams, big roads, railroads to Carmacks, oil and gas pipelines from Watson Lake, and interlocking power grids among Alaska, B.C. and the Yukon, with these three jurisdictions then selling power to each other. That has been the government's vision. However, in four years and regardless of all of its promises, it has not been able to deliver.
I would say that, given its record, we have another serious problem with this government - namely, that lack of vision.
I also want to say that we have had a government that has had an incredibly bad record when it comes to respecting the law and standing up for what is actually in the statutes. The Financial Administration Act is in place in the Yukon. The Yukon Party government has refused to live up to the recommendations made by the Auditor General about the write-offs. It is clear - as our criticism was focused on - that it did not respect the law of the Financial Administration Act for write-offs.
What have we seen by this government in terms of respect for the law of the Workers' Compensation Act? We saw the former Minister fail to uphold the law by allowing the Workers' Compensation Board to appoint its own president. He walked in, sat down and said, "Here is who your new president is going to be. That is the way it is."
We have seen the new Minister blatantly interfere in the adjudication of claims, blatantly violate the spirit of the Workers' Compensation Act, showing no respect for the law and the independence of the board, and fail at the same time to appoint a workers' advocate, who would in due process be handling the role that he seems to think he was set up to uphold.
We have seen the Yukon Party government show no respect for the law in what I believe is a pinnacle example of paramount importance to the electorate and people of the Yukon when they go to the polls. That is the Taga Ku fiasco that that government presided over.
Northwestel and the Government of Yukon were doing something in partnership with the Inuvialuit Development Corporation and the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation that would have paid big dividends to the Yukon in future years.
However, for the benefit of their friends, the Yukon Party killed the deal. The government has come up with a ruse of a hotel, which was not even the main argument in the court case; it is for political purposes only. The government has stated that it was the previous NDP administration's fault. Two courts have ruled against the Yukon Party government. The judge stated that it was beyond common sense to think that the hotel was linked and that the hotel was the paramount reason for cancelling the deal. I know the Yukon Party often goes beyond common sense but, in this case, they got caught.
In the area of education, we again see a government that is prepared to have no respect for the law. The Education Act clearly points out the consultation that has to take place on major issues. The act states that partners in education must be consulted. In areas of grade reorganization, the announcement of the education review, changes to the Yukon native teachers education program, the First Nations Education Council, there has been no partnership. Even worse, they have gone further in not respecting the law: they have attacked the partners in education at every turn - whether it is the Yukon Teachers Association, individual school councils or school counsellors. Again, this is another example of the government abusing power.
We have seen a government that has failed to consult under the law, which has been entrenched in the Constitution by way of the umbrella final agreement.
In issues such as the government's game farming policy, the First Nations very seriously contemplate a constitutional challenge to the government's lack of consultation with them as is clearly defined in the umbrella final agreement. Yet again, a lack of respect for the law.
We have seen a government that refuses to recognize the law under the Economic Development Act and the Environment Act, which calls for annual conferences to discuss the economic strategy of the Yukon. The government has failed to uphold the provisions of the Environment Act when it comes to ensuring that development work is properly done in the Yukon. We have seen a government fail to hold, under the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, what is supposed to be, in law, an annual conference on the Yukon economy and the environment.
The one thing the government did do right, I suppose - if it can be called right, because I think it was wrong - was to bring in a law, when it decided to take on their own employees: wage restraint. That was one time when it actually brought in a law. The problem was that its motivation was totally wrong. It should never have been done in the first place. So, we have a government that has not respected the law.
I now come to the part of my speech where I want to take a serious look at the four-year plan. I have done an overview of the precise reasons; we have had major fundamental differences with the government. I want to go through the four-year plan and talk a little about what I have seen in it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. Just a moment. I will confer with the Clerk about that. I am not sure what the new agreement in the Standing Order says about a quorum, so I will just have a peek at that.
Mr. Harding: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I think we should have a quorum here.
Point of order
Ms. Moorcroft: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I would draw to your attention that we do not have a quorum in the House. With respect to the memorandum of understanding, it deals with Ministers being absent during Committee of the Whole in budget debate. The Speaker is in the chair, and I would like to draw your attention to a lack of quorum.
Speaker: We do not have a quorum present. Under Standing Order No. 3, I will ring the bells for four minutes. We will then do a count.
Speaker: Order. I will now stop the bell and do a count.
There are 14 Members present. We have a quorum.We will now continue with the debate.
Mr. Harding: I am sure that all Members of the Legislature, particularly the Yukon Party, will enjoy my constructive critique of the Yukon Party's four-year plan and its failure to live up to the commitment it made to Yukoners, as well as some of my positive suggestions about how it can perhaps engage in governing better and with a fairer hand.
When I look at the four-year plan, one of my favourite sections is the Yukon Party's four-year plan commitment for social change. They are Tories with a conscience. I remember that, during the election campaign, their big platform announcement was that these good old boys do have a social conscience; they are going to lay it out for us. They said they were going to make government accountable. They were going to establish the Office of the Ombudsman to protect the individual from the power of government. Is that not ironic?
Here we have a government that, for years in Opposition, had Members who claimed that they knew of some deal that was going on in real estate. They should have known, because it was Dan Lang from Re/Max, who is a real estate agent. They said nothing in all the years they were in Opposition - absolutely nothing - about these scurrilous accusations they later levelled at the Leader of the Official Opposition. A power player in the Opposition, Mr. Danny Lang did not say a word, and the Yukon Party would have us believe that Mr. Lang never talked about this with the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes - a former leader.
The Yukon Party Members waited until they were in a position of power - a position of government. At that point, they decided to create the facade of some kind of independence for this particular Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes after he had resigned in disgrace.
We all know, because Yukon Party candidates were phoned to come in and enjoy the show. Instead of proclaiming the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act, as this government said it would do by October 1, 1995, they were going to -
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: A point of order.
Speaker: Order. The Government Leader, on a point of order.
Point of order
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not sure which motion we are debating. I thought it was Motion No. 113, which is that it is the opinion of this House that since its election to government, the Yukon Party government has not lived up to its commitments to the Yukon people as contained in the Yukon Party's four-year plan.
There is nothing in our four-year plan about the issues the Member opposite is raising.
Mr. Harding: I must protest the point of order of the Member opposite. I am going through the four-year -
Speaker: Order. This is no point of order, just a disagreement between two Members.
Mr. Harding: I will continue with what I was saying.
Here we had Dan Lang from Re/Max, and his boss and the owner of Re/Max, Darryl Weigand, has actually been named by -
Speaker: Order. I believe the Member has made that statement. The Standing Orders do say that repetitive comments are not necessarily the best. It is a waste of the House's time if the Members keep repeating statements. That is what the Standing Orders say.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, you are very eager to engage in this debate today, I know. I was interrupted by a spurious point of order, and I was re-establishing my thought process, vocalizing and re-encapsulating, particularly the point I was making with regard to making government accountable, and how this government has abused the power of government when it said it would protect individuals from the power of government.
I would submit that I am not being repetitive. I am just trying to recover from the spurious point of order by the Government Leader.
The government said it had no knowledge of this and just decided to raise it. The Minister decided to raise it in December 1994 in this Legislature. It could have called a public inquiry at that time. Of course, it decided it would not do that. Instead of proclaiming the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act, which it promised to Yukoners, it would have the event and show, and have the Yukon Party candidates in here. There were all the faces from the Yukon Party I recognize so well. They handed out the telephone books of innuendo and open-ended questions, which produced no evidence and proved no allegation.
The reason the government did that was that it did not want to send it to the Conflicts Commission. It wanted to make a show; it wanted to conduct a smear campaign. That is what it did, as a government, and I think that is quite sickening, particularly seeing the Cabinet and the Minister of Justice engage in that for base, partisan, political reasons.
It is incredibly disheartening to see and very, very frustrating for the Opposition and for citizens who know what is going on here.
All those years in Opposition, they never raised this issue. They never raised it even though Danny Lang was a real estate agent. Instead, they chose to come in here and expose private citizens and many others to serious allegations, abuse the power of government and also abuse their relationship with Alberta. I believe that this deputy minister in Alberta, who is a political appointee and serves the pleasure of the Tory government - which has been there since time immemorial - knows that this government up here is a Tory government and knows that this government stuck its neck out on the motion by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes for partisan reasons, and that he did everything he could to try and give them a hand up. To say it was an independent legal opinion is stretching it, to say the least. What he did say was that because an allegation was made and went before the media, there may be a need for a public inquiry.
Again I say, that was not necessary. The Members could have raised it when they were in Opposition if they thought there was anything there. They could have raised it any time through a public inquiry. While they were in government, they could have proclaimed the Public Government Act and taken it to the Conflicts Commission, but today they stand and arrogantly refuse to proclaim the Public Government Act. I do not know what they are afraid of, but let me say this: in their four-year plan they promised to make government accountable, but they do not seem too willing to put themselves forward for the kind of scrutiny to which they have subjected the Leader of the Official Opposition.
If there was a Conflicts Commission, there are a few pieces of paper I would like to take to it, and I think that would truly be making government accountable.
They are not going to proclaim that bill. They have no intention of doing it, and that is because there is a code of conduct and they do not want to abide by it.
This is a government that said that it was going to establish an Office of the Ombudsman to protect the individual from the power of government. In three years in office, the Ombudsman office is still not established. We are close, but it is finally coming.
They have yet to proclaim the act. There is nothing stopping the government from proclaiming the Ombudsman Act. There is nothing stopping them from proclaiming the conflict-of-interest bill. There is nothing in the act that says there must be three Commissioners in place before the bill is proclaimed. Of course, proclaiming it would give life to the code-of-conduct provisions for Ministers and Members in the bill. Of course, that is why they are afraid of doing it. They are hardly making government accountable.
They said that they were going to increase access to public information in government files by providing real freedom of information. That is what they said in the four-year plan. What have we seen? We have seen them fail to proclaim a much superior access-to-information bill that was passed in this Legislature by the New Democrats. We have seen them implement gag orders in Health and Social Services and Education, requiring that civil servants pass information available to any citizen through the Minister's office so that it takes us longer to get the information we need.
We have seen a government that said it was going to make government more accountable, but it moved the Legislature to one sitting. Unfortunately, they called it, at that time, a super session, but when we made the session super, they were not too fond of it. Seventy-six days is far too long, they cried.
They tried to have it both ways. They said they wanted a super session and we gave them one, and they did not like that very much. We said to them that there should be two sittings of the Legislature a year. Finally, in a memorandum of understanding, we got back to where we were in the first place and should have been all along. This is hardly a record of making the government accountable.
The government has violated the memorandum of understanding that it signed with us by failing to provide answers to questions, and by using technical briefings as if they are some kind of a way to avoid the Ministers being accountable.
The government has further violated the memorandum of understanding by failing to give us 35 days, in the normal sitting hours, of budget estimates debate. No, we have the Taxpayer Protection Act, the government taking all of its government motion days, something it had not done in the past and something that we did not anticipate, but we should have anticipated.
The government complained about the Opposition, which is shared between the Liberals and the New Democratic Party, getting a chance once every two weeks - at one point we were at once a month, without getting our motion on the agenda and an opportunity to talk about it. That is hardly making government accountable.
One of the issues that I deplore the most is one that has happened over the last few weeks. We have had a government that has abused its power - the power of the state. A Member brought forward a substantive motion - the same Member who, in the past, said if a Member brings forward a substantive motion, that Member puts his or her electoral seat on the line. That is fair and that is the quid pro quo.
We have seen a Government Leader stand up and fail to uphold the other side of that equation. We have not heard the Member, who proposed the substantive motion, say that he would resign if the allegations are unfounded and Mr. McDonald is cleared of any conflict.
Where is the accountability chain? I do not see it. I do not think the government is being held accountable. What we have is a rogue Member, in cahoots with the Yukon Party, who has nothing to lose and who has resigned in disgrace and is just trying to stir up trouble. The Member makes accusations and conducts a smear campaign in the hope that it will look good for the government in the next election.
The government has accomplished what it set out to do in terms of a smear campaign. There is no question it is out in the public now, but the chapter has not been fully closed. This government is hardly acting in a more accountable fashion by refusing to debate the accusation that it has made and by Members refusing to put their electoral seat on the line, as they said was the normal process when someone makes or moves a substantive motion.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: The Government Leader is saying, "We did not say it." The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes said it. The Government Leader is saying - it is very interesting - that Tony Penikett said it. He tries to hide behind Beauchesne. A person should have enough moral and ethical standards when they say something in this Legislature to put their seat on the line. They should be prepared to uphold what they say in this Legislature when they move a substantive motion. That is a moral and ethical fact.
We have a government that has said that it is ensuring responsible fiscal management. That is the biggest joke in the four-year plan. We have seen the roller coaster ride that I referred to earlier rather than responsible fiscal management. This is the government that said it was going to review all existing government programs to determine if they are meeting their objectives, are properly managed and are meeting the priority needs of Yukoners. Firstly, when has this government ever asked Yukoners what their priorities are? Secondly, that has not been done. There is a failure to live up to that commitment.
The government said it was going to implement better planning and control measures for capital projects as recommended by the Public Accounts Committee. That has not been done.
On the very few capital projects that it has built, the government has a very poor record. The hospital project was scaled back and cut back in order to accommodate its new architectural design. This will have an impact on the level of service offered at the hospital. We have seen a French first language school that has gone very badly over budget. We have seen the Two Mile Hill, which the government started to blame the Opposition for - if you can believe it - as it proceeded to watch over and sign the cheques for an additional $10 million in spending. It was a huge cost overrun.
It is the same thing with the weigh scales - there was $600,000 on that cost overrun.
The new Tourism business office and tiny, little visitor reception centre already has a cost overrun of over $100,000, and it is not even finished yet. I submit that the overrun will be much more than that.
We witnessed the government plan for a school in Dawson and make an expenditure of almost $3 million to move the highway camp out of Dawson, in preparation for the school, and now there is an empty lot. I think if the government was not going to build the school during this fiscal year, something better could have been done with that $3 million. I guess the government does not have the same priorities the New Democrats do, and that is the reason this government is in trouble.
The government said that it was going to provide incentives to government employees who make suggestions about how programs could be made to operate more efficiently, effectively and economically. This is the famous $400,000 suggestion box, which has since been scrubbed. I hardly think that is going to show up on its literature for the next election campaign. Need I say more?
In terms of ensuring responsible fiscal management, what did the Yukon Party government do with its own employees? It brought in wage restraint legislation. This year, the government gave Members a raise - I believe that all MLAs deserve a raise - but failed to engage in fair, collective bargaining and renegotiate the contract with the Yukon Teachers Association and the Yukon Government Employees Union.
The Government Leader asks if I want to give it back. No, I think the MLAs deserve a 1.2-percent raise. I also think that the government employees deserve to have their rights restored under collective bargaining. That is our position.
Under ensuring responsible fiscal management, I want to highlight some of the other areas where this government has failed to fulfill its commitments to Yukoners. It said it was going to trim budgets and save money, but we know that the reality is that it brought in the four largest budgets in Yukon history. Last year it overspent its record budget of $489 million to the tune of some $20 million and actually brought in supplementaries of $500,000 and $7 million - over half a billion dollars of money spent.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: What did it buy Yukoners? The Government Leader and the Economic Development Minister, who cannot answer a single question in this Legislature, said it bought jobs. Well, I really doubt that it bought jobs, except on the lot development in Copper Ridge where we have nobody buying the lots that have been developed. We have all kinds of money tied up. We have a big enough inventory to sell for five years, and we have a false economy being created with government spending by this government that cannot be sustained forever. We would like to see a reasonable level of inventory in lot development. Absolutely. We would like to see the proper kinds of lots - country residential and residential -
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. Order. Please allow the Member to continue with his speech.
Mr. Harding: The Members opposite are heckling that we built no lots. They are going to have a pretty tough time making that case. We used to hold an inventory level of some $16 million. It is funny - for Conservatives, they are awfully proud of building a false economy with government spending. Unfortunately, government spending cannot be sustained forever. Sooner or later the party has to end, particularly when the lots are not selling. If the government was selling the lots, then I could say it might have a legitimate case in terms of building up this inventory, but that is not the case. It is taking money that has gone beyond what is a fair inventory, say some $17 million, and is wasting money that could be spent on other priorities like health care or education or something of that nature for which there are very serious needs in the Yukon.
They want to build up a false economy in the run-up to the election. They want to have as many people out there working, building lots as much as possible so that they can say, as they just told me, that they bought jobs. After the next election, that is going to come to a bit of a halt, I believe, whichever government, because one just cannot build five-year supplies every year. It just does not make any sense. Any business person knows that one must have an inventory, but one cannot go beyond an inventory that does not make sense. There is a cost to carrying inventory, and right now the cost to carry it is too high. Build a surplus of lots, but build an appropriate number.
In terms of ensuring responsible fiscal management, this is a government that told everyone that it was absolutely obscene to think about raising taxes in the Yukon, but it brought in the biggest tax increases in Yukon history. There were tax increases to personal income tax, small business income tax, corporate income tax, diesel, gasoline and aviation fuel. We have seen a government that has failed to fulfill its commitment in that respect.
We have a government that said that it is going to ensure that all Yukoners enjoy freedom of speech and association irrespective of their political affiliation. I do not think that commitment to Yukoners has been upheld. We have seen the power of government used against school council people, the Yukon Teachers Association and the Yukon Government Employees Union. We have seen it make scurrilous attacks against people, citizens of the Yukon, who disagree with its policies. We have seen the government take contract action against people. We have had people come to us to tell us that they no longer can get contracts with this government because they spoke out. We have a former Member of this Legislature, a Conservative Member, who was involved with the Agricultural Association, who, since he questioned this government, has been attacked by it. That is not freedom of association and freedom of speech.
We have a government that is prepared to lay scurrilous charges against citizens of the Yukon through the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. Charges were laid against Mr. Darryl Weigand, the owner of Re/Max, and other people involved in land claims negotiations. What he did is very, very wrong. That is not freedom of speech or freedom of association. It makes one wonder just how far this government will go, how low it will go.
We have seen the government attack people who have no way of defending themselves. We have seen the government ignore international labour standards, rulings, and opinions of the international labour body, which has criticized it for abrogating collective bargaining rights. That is hardly restoring freedom of speech and association.
This is a government that had a Minister of Education who actually distributed a pamphlet throughout the suburbs of Porter Creek North and South criticizing school council remarks about grade reorganization and took a shot at a potential candidate for the Liberal Party, a school principal. This was contained in a letter that was actually paid for by the taxpayers and signed by the Minister. It was one of the most astonishing things that I have ever seen from a representative of the Crown.
Perhaps I could see the Member making those types of comments during debate in the Legislature or in the heat of some political rhetoric, but to make a cognizant move - one would hope, in somber and sober thought - to write a letter, signed by the Minister of Education, and attack Members of the school council, distribute that letter with taxpayers' money, then, in the same letter, attack a principal of the school who did not agree with the Minister's decision, just because the principal was a Liberal candidate, and I dislike the Liberals as much as the next person.
We have seen the former Minister of Health and Social Services send a letter to the Health and Social Services Council requesting another inquisition into which member of the council told the Opposition that the council advised the Minister about social assistance rates and that the rates should remain where they presently are.
Mr. Phelps: Point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Deputy Speaker: The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes on a point of order.
Point of order
Mr. Phelps: To clear the record, the Minister did not ever send any such letter to the Health and Social Services Council.
Deputy Speaker's ruling
Deputy Speaker: I rule that there is no point of order. It is a disagreement between two Members.
Mr. Harding: I will check on the factual information. If the Minister is correct, that is fine, but I know that he does not like to put things in writing and that he would rather make statements and hide behind the immunity of the House. It is quite probable that he did not put his request to have an inquisition in writing. I will accept that from the Minister, but he did make the inquiries and engage in an investigation into that particular episode about the view of Health and Social Services Council that social assistance rates should remain the same, and did it in a very intimidating manner whether or not he put it in writing.
I also want to say that the Yukon Party government - the so-called people who are going to restore freedom of speech and association - launched a police investigation into a letter from a member of the Yukon Utilities Consumers Group to the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation. When we questioned the Ministers about this, the government could not give us any information about what the policy said with respect to when the RCMP should be called in to investigate a matter such as this.
This was not an official Cabinet document, but it was a document that should not have been leaked. There should have been an internal investigation, but to use the heavy-handed tactic of calling in the RCMP, I believe, was going too far. I think it sent a message about how far these Members were prepared to go to ensure that people fell in line with them.
Documents are leaked all the time. It is not appropriate, and it is not right, and there should be internal investigations when it happens. However, I must say that to bring in the police to investigate - to engage in such heavy-handed tactics - is going too far. It is not restoring freedom of speech and association.
The Yukon Party said that it was going to ensure that the abuse of authority and intimidation of government employees stops. I have never heard anything so ridiculous, when I compare that statement to the government's record. Look what it did to its own employees and how it handled the entire wage restraint debate. Look what it did with the RCMP investigation - with no clear policy guidelines. Look at the gag orders that were imposed on the civil service. Look what it did when the Member for Riverdale South raised the issue of the government-paid trips by corporations for government officials who may be engaged in the buying or procurement of some of the items that these businesses who offered the trips were selling. The government put out a letter stating, in no uncertain terms, that if an employee talked to the Opposition, one could be in big trouble.
Look what the government has done in the area of social assistance. How much money has been spent on the fraud investigation, and how much has actually been saved? Has the government provided the information to determine whether or not the investigation is actually worthwhile? No one stands for or wants to allow fraud.
It enhances the fact that there are a lot of people who abuse the system. It does not further the cause of good public policy making in terms of ensuring that the people who need the money most are getting it. It is just right-wing rhetoric.
When it talks about restoring freedom of speech and ensuring that the abuse in authority and intimidation of government employees stops, this is a government that refused to hold any kind of a public inquiry when we asked questions about business dealings it had had. Instead, it spurned our allegations and spurned our questions and told us to take a hike. And still they have failed to proclaim the conflict-of-interest bill for Members and Ministers. The Government Leader stood up and told us, back in December 1994, that that is where we should be raising our concerns if we had conflict-of-interest questions. We would like to do that, but unfortunately the government has not proclaimed the bill, and I do not think it has any intention of doing so. It is just going to try and arrogantly ride it out.
The four-year plan promised that the government would put Yukoners first. That has particular resonance with me, particularly after I watch this government and this Government Leader try and turn the Yukon, his homeland, into his own private little Alberta, his real homeland. We have seen, through the conversations and through the communications with Alberta, and through the contracts that have been let to Alberta firms, that this government is not really putting Yukoners first. It is Yukon for Albertans. It is vote Yukon Party, keep Albertans working.
When this Government Leader talks about coal-fired electrical generation, he tries to tell us his stories of being a boy hiking around the coal-fired electrical generation plant and how all the fish were happy and the sheep were actually eating the coal and the mice and bears had little burrows all around the coal-fired electrical generation plants - just a happy little scene. The Government Leader said "nice and warm" - I bet they were nice and warm.
We have seen by the many, many contracts that have been let out that this government is not putting Yukoners first. Too many jobs have been going outside. That is a fact. It has happened with the highway work. Local contractors cannot absorb all of the contract work that has been let out in that area, so a lot of people have had to be hired from outside the territory. That is a fact.
When this government talks about putting Yukoners first - given the concerns I have raised about ownership of outfitting territories, and given the concerns I have raised about the threshold of residency for obtaining a hunting licence and what constitutes habitual and continuous residency in the Yukon - it is interesting that it backs down from any challenge, based, as it says, on legal opinions.
I say to the government to tell someone who wants to challenge it, "Challenge it." If we lose, we lose, and then we deal with it up front. We do not ignore the law. We do not have a situation in which the government has no respect for the law. We have to change the law if we lose. At least Yukoners would be able to make a decision about where they want to go with those laws through a consultation process. They will know that if we cannot have residency that changes the equation. Putting Yukoners first has not been a particular highlight of this government's record.
In one of my favourite little episodes, we have seen this government pay Mr. Terry Boylan, the former law partner of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes and the Government Leader's former lawyer, $52,500 to investigate the sale of the Yukon Energy Corporation to the government's southern friends. That was a clear case of the good old boys' network and of not putting Yukoners first, but of putting their interests and their southern friends' interests above that of Yukoners who fought very hard to take control of the Yukon Energy Corporation.
The government promised in its four-year plan to conduct meaningful public consultations. It promised to establish an all-party legislative committee to conduct in-camera reviews of appointments to major government advisory boards and committees. It put forward a bill - a very bad bill - and we made some suggestions; we have not heard of it again. That was three and a half years ago. That is because that government never intended to live up to this promise in the four-year plan, and it has not.
Instead, we have seen the government appoint people such as Mr. Tuton to be chair of the Workers' Compensation Board - a Yukon Party operative - without general consensus agreement between labour and employers, for the first time ever. This is a position that has to be seen to be entirely neutral. There is certainly too-strong a political connection between the new chair and this particular government.
Many people in labour have told me that, as have some employers who are concerned with what is happening with the Workers' Compensation Board. We have had two outgoing labour representatives complain about it. The government continues to totally ignore those complaints. There is therefore no credibility in the board and the board's chair. The government sits back and says, "That is okay, because he runs our conventions."
That is not right. With the Yukon Utilities Board, this government decided it would manipulate it. There were only a few remaining people who had experience at the latest utility hearing to defend the rights of consumers. Everyone else was new and fresh. The rest were taken out; they were on a hit list.
We saw this government conduct some convoluted reasoning for the removal of Mr. Laking from the board. The government could not provide us with a policy or any rationale, other than that it wanted to get rid of Mr. Laking because he could defend the consumers' interests.
Again, this was probably at the directive of southern friends from Alberta.
We have seen this government stack the Water Board, and numerous other boards, with predominantly Yukon Party operatives and supporters. It has not established any kind of an all-party process.
In terms of conducting meaningful public consultation, this government said it would listen to and act upon advice and recommendations of government advisory bodies, and give reasons in writing if it rejected such advice or recommendations. There have been numerous examples of it rejecting advice. The Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board instance was a classic with the wolf conservation management plan. We have seen this government reject the advice of this board time and time again.
This government gave the New Democratic Party government a raking over the coals when the NDP government would not accept in total one recommendation in all the time the Fish and Wildlife Management Board existed. Of the first set of recommendations that came to this government, it rejected seven out of hand. So what was good for the goose was not good for the gander, when it comes to the Yukon Party and its record of listening to advisory bodies.
It went even further. When it did not agree with those same advisory bodies, it would attack them in public. This government did not do what it promised to do. Of course, we know that only when there are friends of this government on advisory bodies does it listen. We know that when this government's friends asked it to kill the Taga Ku, it killed the Taga Ku.
In terms of promising to conduct meaningful consultation, we have seen this government put forward a laughable premise to Yukoners that clearly will not work again.
The history of not consulting extends to many examples. I want to talk about a few examples. No one was consulted about the Yukon excellence awards. No one was consulted on grade reorganization. We were told the matter was dead. The deal was done. The case was closed; no grade reorganization. All of a sudden, the Liberals make a promise in Porter Creek for a new high school and - boom - grade reorganization returns.
What about the Beringia Centre? Where was the consultation on it? All kinds of other proposals showed up in the four-year plan, but there was no mention of the Beringia Centre. Bing, bam, boom, we have a Beringia Centre. Not only that, our peppy little Minister of Tourism told us that there would be 145,000 visitors a year and it was actually going to pay for itself. It was going to pay for all the capital costs and the operation and maintenance. When we started to question him on those figures, he really did not have much to back that up with. In fact, he told us that it was going to pay for itself like the museum, similar in its stature, in Alberta.
We phoned Alberta and we found out that the provincial government actually contributes a lot to that particular museum and it does not support itself. He had to do a little bit of backward running on that and he has still failed to rationalize and to consult with the Yukon Museum and Historical Association. People should have had some opportunity to raise concerns about the Beringia Centre.
The government failed to adequately consult on the Environment Act changes. It issued a package to the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment and left it at that.
It failed to hold any consultation on the industrial support policy with anybody other than a few mining companies that decided to respond.
Of course, on the famous privatization attempt by the Yukon Party of the Yukon Energy Corporation assets, the government decided to do this with no mandate from the Yukon public - none whatsoever. Thankfully, due to the good work of Mr. Penikett, he stopped this government right in its tracks.
We have seen this government eliminate the community development fund. It replaced it with its over-hyped and under-funded centennial anniversaries program and its capital assistance program. We have seen that program bogged down in bureaucracy and high expectations that people had because of the hype surrounding it provided by the political people.
The community development fund has been stopped. It provided, at least for the communities, some quick access to monies for good projects in individual communities.
I know the Member to my right watches the people he represents on a new ball field in Pelly Crossing that was provided with funding largely from the community development fund. I know that the community is very happy. I think it is going to be a great asset to the community this summer to keep people active and getting good, solid, healthy recreation.
We saw no consultation on the wage rollback. It was announced that this was what the government was going to do. There was not even an attempt by the government to negotiate fairly with its employees.
On gambling, we saw this government announce that it was going to get into gambling. There was a lot of furour, and it backed off from that, thanks to the good work of Margaret Commodore, Member for Whitehorse Centre. She stopped the government dead in its tracks on that. We are very proud that she did that.
Who is the government consulting with on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? The government's position is that it is in favour of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The government refuses to tell people that it is opposed, so it must therefore be in favour of drilling. The position of the New Democratic Party is very clear: we are opposed to it. Yet, this Government Leader cannot stand up and say that he is opposed to it.
The government obviously has not consulted with the Gwitchin people, who oppose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge unequivocally.
When the government came in with this idea of accepting the philosophy of coal, as it put it, it said that it would enhance the efforts of the Yukon Energy Corporation and others - including the government itself - to look into coal. Has the government ever asked Yukoners what they want to do about an energy policy? Absolutely not. All it has done is put out a flimsy, light as angel food cake, energy policy paper, with no consultation with Yukoners of any substantive nature.
On the Division Mountain coal project, were any of the First Nations in the affected areas consulted before the government announced it was going to agree to fast-track Division Mountain coal? I think not. The government has conducted no meaningful consultation.
On the education review, the new Minister of Education announced to the world that our education system was absolutely messed up and he was going to fix it. He did not talk to any of the partners going into the review. He did not talk to the partners about any of the substantive issues that had to be discussed, and he got burned for it. Again, the government did not conduct meaningful consultation.
The list of instances where the government did not conduct consultation prior to making policy announcements is endless. I could speak until 5:30 p.m. on the lack of consultation alone. The government's promise to conduct meaningful consultation is laughable.
Now I come to one of my favourite areas of the four-year plan, which is entitled "Settling Land Claims and Implementing Self-Government".
Well, this is a very good category in which to put the Yukon New Democrats up against the Yukon Party, because the Yukon New Democrats settled the umbrella final agreements, did all of the tough work against the opposition of the Members opposite in the early days until we won the political battle - similar to what is happening in British Columbia right now. Against that opposition, we won the political battle and got the umbrella final agreement through. That government signed the third reading of the bill with the full support of this Legislature. That is Yukon Party's contribution.
The NDP signed four band final agreements: the Vuntut Gwitchin, Teslin Tlinglit Council, Na Cho Ny'ak Dun and the Champagne-Aisihihik First Nation. The NDP is very proud of what it has done to settle those agreements, but the Yukon Party, in three and a half years has failed to settle one band final agreement. Not one.
It takes political direction, political will and vision to take on a tough question. Not everyone in the Yukon supported the land claim agreements. Many of the Members opposite, like the former Member for Porter Creek East, Danny Lang, were talking about blood in the streets over land claims. The Minister of Tourism signed a letter back in 1982 criticizing the Penikett government for itssupport of land claims and how the government was giving away the land to the Indians.
Mr. Penikett and the NDP fought through all of that opposition to the point where we won the political battle. The Members opposite, for political expediency - although I do not really think they believe in self-government or in many provisions of the umbrella final agreement - were brought slowly along behind us. They were limping and pulling. There were hundreds of public meetings and we finally got an umbrella final agreement, faced with the opposition of the Members opposite. It is a situation that is similar to British Columbia right now.
Right now you see the British Columbia NDP government trying to reach a land claims settlement with the Nisga'a people, but you have all of the rednecks, right-wingers and reformers - and even the Liberals, who have gone very right-wing in British Columbia - opposing the deal. You have people in Prince George putting posters up with a picture of the Premier Glen Clark on the telephone polls saying, "This man is giving away your birthright." All of these types of things are coming from the same people as those who are in the Yukon Party. It is a totally analogous situation. The same thing that the NDP here got in 1982 is happening in British Columbia right now.
I hope that the sheer political will and the vision of the NDP in British Columbia prevails; otherwise, that deal is going to be dead and we will go through a number of years without any progress on land claims in British Columbia, because of political expediency by the Liberals and the British Columbia Reform Party - it used to be Social Credit.
I find it very disturbing, and it hurts, and we saw that here. We are very proud of our record on land claims. It is not a political football, but it is a political issue. When there are people on one side of it and others on the other side, it is going to come up in politics. That happens. When one has a government that has a political will, it is going to move the process forward. When one has a government that says it wants to support land claims and settle band finals but does not, it does not really have a political will, just political expediency to put it in the four-year plan.
The Yukon Party promised to involve Yukon First Nations in the transfer of federal responsibilities to the Yukon government, such as the health transfer negotiations. For a government whose priority was devolution, how far along has it got with involving First Nations in devolution consultations? Nowhere. As for the money set aside in the Northern Oil and Gas Accord for First Nations consultation, it has not even been able to convince First Nations to become involved in the process. I do not know precisely why that is. I can only speculate that they do not have the faith and trust in this government.
We believe we could involve First Nations in meaningful consultation on devolution, but we would not make devolution our first priority. We would make land claims settlement our first priority - all 10 bands. That would be our position.
We have seen this government fail in many areas in its so-called Yukon Party commitments to meeting First Nations needs: Taga Ku, gambling, education review, game farming, forestry and Gwitchin pipeline. Where has it consulted? Where has it provided meaningful consultation with Yukon native people? It has not happened, but our record on this is so solid, whether it is the Yukon native teachers education program or partners in education or the land claims themselves, we had a good relationship.
There were flare-ups after about eight years when a lot of First Nations people and the NDP started arguing about where the soap was, as opposed to the major issues like whether or not this Yukon Party government even supports finalizing 10 remaining band final agreements, when they have not been finalized in the last three and a half years.
This is a government that said it would ensure that Yukon government programs and services are sensitive to the needs and cultural values of Yukon Indian people. I challenge the government to introduce new programs to ensure that their needs have been taken care of. Under the social assistance recipients agreement that it negotiated, the government did not even ensure that First Nations would continue to be represented or looked after.
The government said that it would ensure that there was meaningful consultation and that their cultural and spiritual needs would be looked after, and that it would be sensitive to Yukon Indian people's needs. It was a promise they broke.
The government promised, under "Promoting Better Understanding", to "work with First Nations to improve better cross-cultural understanding and cultural awareness between Yukon Indian people and Yukoners at large." I guess what the government meant to say there was "kill the Taga Ku." What it should have said was that it had no interest whatsoever in closing the gap between First Nations people and other Yukoners at large.
I know a lot of Yukon Party members, and I talk to them very frankly. Sometimes, the stuff that comes out of their mouths about "This is the core support of the Yukon Party" - in reference to Indian people - is very disturbing and very wrong. I know where it comes from. For them to say that they were going to bridge the gap is absolutely wrong.
I remember talking to one Yukon Party supporter - very active in the party - who told me that there cannot be an NDP government because it would give everything to the Indians. He said that is why he is with the Yukon Party. I asked why the Yukon Party was running a candidate in Old Crow, to which he replied that, "You have to do what it takes to keep the government in power." I think that is pretty indicative of where the Yukon Party is coming from.
In terms of promoting better understanding with First Nations, this is a government that had the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes - a Minister of the Crown - stand up and, according to citizens who signed a statement, called the chief of one of the First Nations "a liar" in public. He also said that other members of the band were trying to line their own pockets. The Member resigned for that, and he did the right thing, although he should have resigned his seat. However, I think that when the report from the Conflicts Commissioner - Ted Hughes - comes down, it will take care of that.
I want to know why the government promised to promote better understanding, yet has done so little toward that end. Look at what the government did in Burwash Landing. Those Members held a retreat there, but did not pay a common courtesy call to the chief of the Kluane First Nation. I spoke with Kluane First Nation members, who told me they hardly ever see their MLA or anyone else from this government.
When we went there in November 1994, the government had been in office for two years. At that time, the only time a Yukon Party MLA had been in the door was right after the election in 1992 with the land claims committee, when he went around with all of the other Members.
How does that promote a better understanding as promised in its four-year plan? In terms of its commitment to promote a better understanding, Mr. Ostashek said in the Globe and Mail, on October 21, 1992, "Mr. Penikett made some serious problems by appointing people by race and gender." That is pretty indicative of where the Yukon Party is coming from. If a person is not a good old boy, one does not have a place in the process. First Nations people or women cannot be hired, because that is wrong. The right wing likes to say that people are only hired on their merit and merit alone. This totally ignores all of the inequities of society that have taken place in the Yukon in the last hundred years and longer, and in Canada for hundreds of years. This is totally ignored, as if somehow it had been the good old boys who had been trodden on.
We believe that we have to appoint women and First Nations people for many reasons. One reason is because they can do the job; another is because we have to ensure that people who have not had a voice in the past have a voice in the future.
Let us look at the government's promise under implementing land claims. It said that it was going to support the implementation of First Nations' agreements that have been achieved and work with the remaining First Nations to complete the negotiations of their respective land claims settlements. It failed to do that.
The government said that it was going to provide training programs requested by First Nations to prepare First Nations for the implementation of self-government. Extremely minimal progress has been made on that score.
It said that it was going to respect Yukon traditions and values. It was going to respect the Yukon's rich native and non-native cultures, history and territory symbols, and value traditions of tolerance, the protection of the rights of others, and these types of issues. What have we seen? Have we seen the commitment in the umbrella final agreement for a cultural centre upheld? We have not seen a focus on aboriginal tourism by this government. In actual fact, the government seems to want to stand in the way of it. There is not enough respect for it. This is a commitment that the government has failed to live up to.
Now that we are finished the section on land claims, we want to talk about the issue of crime. It says in the four-year plan that the government is going to stop crime and that although the majority of Yukoners are law-abiding citizens who respect the rights of property of their fellow citizens, there are a few who are not. The government says that it is going to clean up this mess. In the election campaign, the Minister of Tourism and Member for Riverdale North went around saying that the NDP was soft on crime.
Just because they were touchy-feely and liberal - dare I say it - on some issues, that was the reason tires were getting slashed. Well, tires are still getting slashed and vandalism is still occurring. The government waited for over three years to bring in any measures whatsoever to start dealing with crime prevention through its consultative process, which has produced some good papers for consideration. The results are not yet available.
The government waited three years to start the process. In the Yukon Party's commitment to stop crime, it talks about eliminating family violence. It says that the Yukon Party is going to urge the courts to impose stricter sentences for cases...
Speaker: Order. Hon. Government Leader on a point of order.
Point of order
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I suggest you poll the Legislature to see if we have a quorum.
Speaker: We do not have a quorum. I will ring the bells for four minutes.
Speaker: Order. According to Standing Order No. 3(2), if at any time during the sitting of the Assembly the Speaker's attention is drawn to the fact that there does not appear to be a quorum, the Speaker will cause the bells to ring for four minutes and then do a count.
I have shut the bells off and I will do a count. There are 10 Members present. There is a quorum. We will now continue the debate.
Mr. Harding: I would have hoped that more Yukon Party Ministers were interested in hearing my critique of their commitments, or their failure to live up to commitments in the four-year plan, my constructive criticism and also the alternatives I am putting forward in some areas, such as land claims, which I just spoke about.
As I was saying, the Yukon Party made a commitment toward stopping crime. It called it eliminating family violence. It said it would urge the courts to give stricter sentences, blah, blah, blah. Nothing has been done, though. Instead, what have we seen? Threatened cuts to the Watson Lake Health and Hope for Families Society at the same time as the government built the million-dollar liquor store in Watson Lake. We have seen threatened cuts to Kaushee's Place; we have seen this government refuse to take the lead role in trying to find some kind of a permanent centre for the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre.
This government said it would -
Speaker: Hon. Minister of Justice on a point of order.
Point of order
Hon. Mr. Phillips: On a point of order, I am becoming increasingly concerned about the decorum of the House being ignored. We are sitting here in the House while a Member is speaking, and the Opposition House Leader is sitting there eating cookies and having a snack. This is not the appropriate place to do that, and I think Members should conduct themselves in a more democratic and legislative-type manner.
Speaker: Hon. Member for Whitehorse Centre on the point of order.
Ms. Commodore: We are also observing those kinds of things on that side of the House, where chairs are being exchanged. The Speaker is in the Chair. Is that not part of the decorum of this House?
Speaker: Hon. Member for Faro on the point of order.
Mr. Harding: On the point of order raised by the Minister of Tourism: he is listening to an effective critique, he is getting very, very upset by it, and he is reaching for some kind of rule in the House, of which I am not aware. If he wants to bring -
Speaker: Order please. It has been a long-standing tradition in this House that when the Speaker is in the Chair that the only beverages permitted in the House are water and that there be no eating of any foods in the House during the time that the Speaker is in the Chair.
Also, the Speaker will not recognize any Member who is not in his or her proper chair.
Ms. Moorcroft: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Hon. Opposition House Leader on a point of order.
Point of order
Ms. Moorcroft: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, I will certainly accept your ruling, although in looking at the order and decorum in our Standing Orders, I do not see anything there prohibiting a cup of coffee on our desk or a snack on our desk.
I have nothing but respect for this House. It seems to me that the Minister of Tourism got himself in a bit of a snit because we called quorum in the Legislature and he had to leave his offices and come down to -
Speaker: Order. That is not the issue at hand. Also, to go a little further, the Standing Orders also state that if a point of order is brought forward that is not addressed in our Standing Orders, the traditional procedures in the House of Commons will be observed. Beauchesne clearly indicates that anything other than water is not permitted in the House.
Mr. Harding: I hate to see the Government of the Yukon dictate to Yukoners what we are going to have in this Legislature. I hate to see the time of this House wasted over half a cookie, but anyway, that is how picayune the Members of the Yukon Party have become.
Let us talk about some issues. Let us talk about the Yukon Party Members' commitment in the four-year plan to eliminate family violence. Let us talk about their threatened cuts to Kaushee's Place. Let us talk about the way that they built the $1 million liquor store in Watson Lake and at the same time threatened cuts to the Watson Lake Health and Hope Society, and how the government has failed to take a lead role in the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre. Let us talk about that and the Yukon Party's commitment in the four-year plan to reduce vandalism.
The Yukon Party, in its four-year plan, committed to reduce vandalism. They committed that they were going to encourage parents to be responsible for their children's conduct and for young people to exert pressure on their peers and to respect law and order and to care about themselves.
The Yukon Party said that not allowing repeat young offenders to have a driver's licence is effective rehabilitation. With whom did they talk? Was there agreement among Yukoners on that question before they brought it up. Albeit, it is an interesting suggestion I think that should form the basis of serious and substantive discussion with Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, I need a cough drop for my throat. I hope you will not rule me out of order for this cough drop in my mouth, or that one of the Members opposite will not raise a point of order.
I also want to point out that this government and the Liberal Party has said that it wants parents to be legally responsible for the actions of their children, but they have yet to precisely spell out how they are going to handle the details of those consequences. For example, what happens if a poor family has a child who engages in behaviour such as vandalism? Is that family, even though it does not have the financial wherewithal and resources, going to be on the hook for that child's behaviour? I want to know if the government has really thought through the ramifications of its proposals.
During rebuttal, I will be looking forward to hearing how the Yukon Party, in terms of meeting its commitments, can live up to the ramifications of its policies.
The Yukon Party said it was going to work with community organizations to establish a street-people program to help people who are incapable of helping themselves. The only thing these people have done is put more people out on the street. They have told them that if they are on social assistance they are bums or are inciting or participating in some fraudulent activity. The government has demeaned these people and degraded them.
Speaker: Order. Making allegations that someone is a bum, or comments of that nature, is unparliamentary.
Mr. Harding: I will accept your ruling even though I do not agree with it. What I said is that the government basically told people who were on social assistance that they were bums. If you think that is unparliamentary I will accept your ruling, but perhaps I should yield the floor to you.
I want to also point out that this commitment from the government has never occurred and there has never been any consultation with community organizations about it.
The government, in its four-year plan, said it was going to provide quality education and social care - another one of my favourite sections of Yukon Party commitments.
We have seen nothing but chaos in the education field since this government came into office. We have seen the government discombobulate every aspect of the partners-in-education system that was built up over the seven and a half years the NDP was in office.
What has this government done regarding its promise to address alcohol and substance abuse? It said it would work with community groups and First Nations to provide more financial assistance and support for prevention, treatment and recovery programs. We all know that this is the government that has done less with more with the Department of Health and Social Services. It has not improved the situation. It has not made a point of putting together a comprehensive strategy for doing it. We all know this will not be solved overnight, but where is this government's plan or vision?
We finally had a Minister of Education who said his department would take some action on fetal alcohol syndrome/fetal alcohol effects, but that was three and a half years into this government's mandate.
In its four-year plan, this government said it would identify and alleviate the causes of alcohol and drug abuse. I do not think I have to say much about that plank in the four-year plan. It has not been handled properly, nor has it been done.
It said it would develop and deliver programs to assist fetal alcohol syndrome/fetal alcohol effects children and their parents. Look what it did to special programs, an area that was demanding resources. A situation has developed where all the needs that should be met - and granted, they cannot all be met at the same time - are not being met at the rate they should be. There is not the emphasis on special programs that the New Democratic Party had. I think that is a pity, and it is not doing anything to develop programs for fetal alcohol syndrome/fetal alcohol effects children and their parents.
In the four-year plan, the Yukon Party government said that it was going to work with community governments to increase the availability of affordable housing by developing more lots for housing and mobile homes in all Yukon communities. Well, it has not developed any lots in Faro. Other communities have requested that lots be developed, but I am not aware of it having done so. What we have is a government that has built at least a two-year supply of lots - and probably much more, based on last year's sales - and an oversupply of small, high-priced lots in Copper Ridge. There are plans to develop 130 lots in Copper Ridge, even though 209 remain unsold.
We are losing $500,000 to $600,000 per year in interest, as a result of the Yukon Party government's efforts to - as it says - provide affordable housing, because the inventory is too large. It has not made any affordable lots available to mobile-home owners or addressed the restrictions that the people in mobile homes face, even though a Minister stood up in the Legislature and told us all that he vowed to do something to help mobile-home owners.
The government has not even been able to get a survey off the ground in a year. There have not even been any substantive discussions with the City of Whitehorse to talk about the issues facing mobile-home owners. The government has not even gotten to the question of available land or lots. It has not gotten around at all to questions surrounding playgrounds or road conditions in mobile-home parks - any of those things.
It is clear that this is not a priority, but it is a commitment that the government made to Yukoners that they have failed to live up to. The government said that it would ensure that there is an adequate supply of social housing to meet community needs. Well, it has not constructed one social housing unit since being elected. So, the fiction was the promise, and the fact is that the government has not constructed any.
This is a government that promised to upgrade existing services, such as the provision of hearing aids, the foot clinic, and other services, in addition to medicare and Pharmacare.
It has inadequately revamped the chronic disease program by covering only specific diseases. We have some major concerns about that. As a result of this, many people who meet the definition of having a chronic disease are not able to receive the coverage. This is a problem. This is a government that promised Yukoners that it would provide effective education, financial assistance, training and work experience for students and other Yukoners who seek to further their education. That is what the four-year plan said.
What has it done? Its review of the education system was a disaster when it was kicked off. Thankfully, it was salvaged by the chair, Darryl Weigand, and by others who did a fine job of really pulling together what needed to be pulled together. Unfortunately, the results were not what the Yukon Party wanted. However, that was the consensus that Yukoners reached. Mr. Don Roberts, the principal who was criticized in a letter from the Minister that was sent to all parents in Porter Creek, was also on that committee. Terry Price, the former chair and First Nations' representative, was also on it. Thanks to their good work, the education system was salvaged from the former Minister of Education and now Minister of Tourism. I do not want to be ruled against, but thank goodness the department was taken out of his hands.
In terms of training, this government offers only one program at the college that fits this criteria. We remember when it said that it was going to train people. I remember the Chamber of Mines saying that this government had missed the boat on training. It was an uptake on mineral activity in the Yukon.
This government has failed to meet the criteria. It has failed on that score.
This is the government that said it would develop opportunities for Yukon students to seek future employment in the Yukon after their graduation. They might get a job developing lots on the false economy that has been created by the Yukon Party and bolstered by government spending, but that is not sustainable. Other than that, they might get a job in the field of exploration for minerals, but a lot of the people who are hired for mineral exploration come from the outside. Actually, I had a couple of geologists talk to me just last week. They are upset that some of the companies are not doing the job they feel they could be doing in using the local field people that we do have here in the Yukon for that type of work. They are bringing people up from outside to engage in exploratory work, so I want to make sure we are getting the maximum benefit for the extraction of our resources and that we do more to encourage these companies to hire local people who are trained.
So far as the government's promise is concerned, it has failed to live up to it.
It has continually hired outside contractors. That is making a mockery of our Yukon apprenticeship program. It said that in the interests of education, it would construct new schools where required, beginning with a new high school in Porter Creek and a junior high school in Whitehorse. What have we seen? Well, we saw a pretty nice election promise in the four-year plan. Then we saw nothing done for three years. Then we saw the Liberals come out with a promise on their day of retreat, when they came up with their 31 or so pearls of wisdom - they called them policies, but they were really platform campaign promises.
One was a high school for Porter Creek. The Liberals promised that, which upped the ante. The Yukon Party knew the Liberals were in tight with two former Conservatives, who were out of the same mold as the Yukon Party, and were cutting into the vote up there. The Liberal candidates announced a former executive assistant to Erik Nielsen, and the principal in Porter Creek, whom we mentioned earlier had been attacked by the Minister previously. The Yukon Party felt it could not survive those elections without coming up with some way to deal with that election promise from the Liberals. So the Yukon Party came up with the grade reorganization plan. It was hardly what it had promised the electorate in the four-year plan.
The government stated that it would abide by the school feasibility studies. Yet, it has announced new schools for Whitehorse and Dawson City that were later cancelled, and ignored schools like the J.V. Clark School and the Grey Mountain Primary School.
This government also said that it would care for Yukoners. It was going to provide more financial assistance for the disabled, for adoptive families, foster children families, family counselling, speech and hearing assessment therapy, physiotherapy and special needs preschool-aged children. We all know that this government has spent more than any other government in Yukon history, but has it provided for those additional services? No, it has done less, while spending more. I know it is hard to believe, and it is hard to do, but it is one of the accomplishments of the Yukon Party.
It has cut core funding to the Learning Disabilities Association, the Association for Community Living and to other organizations in the community. It said it was going to provide financial assistance for travel and expenses to Yukoners who must leave the Yukon for medical treatment in an institution outside of the Yukon. What did they do after they promised that? Well, they reduced travel subsidy expenditures for people travelling from the rural communities to Whitehorse for treatment.
Fiction was the promise; fact was the action. The government said it was going to provide, but it did not provide. It said it was going to provide financial assistance over and above the living allowance to encourage single parents who wish to further their education and training. What did the government do? It altered social assistance regulations to assist only those recipients enrolled in programs for less than six months.
The government refused to fund post-secondary courses, correspondence courses or personal interest or recreational courses. That is not living up to promises made to Yukoners.
It also promised in the four-year plan that it was going to care for children. It was going to encourage the private sector to become more involved in providing affordable, quality child care for employees, including in-house child centres. What initiatives have we seen in this area, given the promise made by the Yukon Party? We have not seen any initiatives. There have been no initiatives in this area. Again, it was carte blanche failure to live up to the agreement with Yukoners in the four-year plan.
In fact, it went beyond that. The former Minister of Health and Social Services attempted to force the Child Development Centre to absorb $93,000 in maintenance and janitorial costs. It was an attempt to cut the budget through the back door.
It said it was going to strengthen the enforcement of the maintenance support program for single parents. We still have some questions about how far it has gone with that program. I must say, however, that the good work done by the Member for Whitehorse Centre, Margaret Commodore, is largely responsible for any positive action taken, because the heat was put on the Minister of Justice in this Legislature. He supposedly responded.
That completes the Yukon Party's four-year plan and its commitment for social change. As I went through those items, on a line-by-line basis, I think it is clear that the Yukon Party has not lived up to its agreements and commitments to Yukoners.
I now want to move to the next part of my speech and submission, as we wrap up in this election year. I want to outline just how far the Yukon Party has gone to deliver. I might at this time also make reference to the Yukon Party mid-term report that was issued some time ago by the Government Leader.
The Leader of the Official Opposition did an excellent critique of the fiction contained in this mid-term report. When one goes through it, it is amazing how many initiatives the Yukon Party is trying to take credit for that were almost completed or completed by the NDP during the time that the NDP was in office. It is amazing to see how much the Yukon Party government tries to move close to us when it wants to get some credit; however, it tries to distance itself at other times when we get into substantive policy debate about what it has actually done.
I want to get into the section - this is really nuts-and-bolts stuff for me - containing the Yukon Party's commitment in the four-year plan to economic and environmental change. This is where the Yukon Party set out its big plan. The priority for them is going to be devolution - a Yukon for Yukoners. What has the government devolved? The government's record on devolution is incredibly minimal for a government who talked about it as a priority.
When the NDP was in government, our first priority was land claims. The Yukon Party's priority is devolution, but yet, in oil and gas, in forestry and in mining - the big ticket items - they fail.
We did not even make it a priority, but the NDP took over the Yukon Energy Corporation, freshwater fisheries and airports. We negotiated the Northern Accord that was signed by the Members opposite after we did all the work - same as the land claims agreements. Because it was not a priority of the NDP, its record is still more impressive than the Yukon Party's on the issue of devolution, not to mention highways and the other types of devolution issues undertaken by the NDP. Also, dare I forget phase I of the hospital project and the $49 million that we negotiated for the construction of a new hospital that is supposedly being built by the Yukon Party.
In the area of Yukon Party commitments and devolution, the government has said it is going to implement, in conjunction with First Nations, a systematic plan for the transfer of ownership of land and resources to Yukoners from the federal government. The government said it was going to make land available to Yukoners for community, residential, recreational and resource use purposes. Well, the government has made some lots available to Yukoners, but they have made too many of the same lots available and they are not being purchased.
The government has failed to come up with any systematic plan for the transfer and ownership of land and resources to Yukoners and First Nations.
It is not occurring because the federal government does not want to transfer any land until the land claims are finalized, but there has been no finalization of land claims agreements under this government. There has been little progress in the devolution of resources, notably forestry and mining, and the government has not prepared for the transfer of these resources anyway. There is no policy available in forestry. We have had discussion paper after discussion paper, but the Minister is not prepared to conduct a comprehensive, made-in-the-Yukon, forestry policy approach. We will probably have another conference on forestry this summer where there will be another discussion paper talking about first principles. We have not even gone beyond sustainability yet.
In regards to land availability, there has been no development at all on the Whitehorse waterfront - a key plank in the four-year plan. We have an oversupply of high-priced Cadillac lots and a chronic need for more country residential. We have a government that is heck-bent on developing another 130 units in the Copper Ridge subdivision while it is holding lotteries for country residential lots -
Speaker: Order. Point of order, Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
Point of order
Hon. Mr. Brewster: On a point of order, I wish the Member on the other side would get some facts straight before he comes in here. With respect to lots, in Destruction Bay we have seven country residential lots; in Faro we have five -
Speaker: Order. I believe it is not a point of order. It is a disagreement between two Members.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: People should at least have the decency to come in with their facts straight.
Speaker: Order. If there is any disagreement between Members, it is hoped it can be straightened out in rebuttal later.
Mr. Harding: When I was so rudely interrupted by the Member opposite, I was talking about lots - the over-supply of high-priced, Cadillac lots that we have and the chronic need for more country residential lots. We have a government that is heck-bent, as I said, on developing 130 lots in the Copper Ridge subdivision this year. Is that what we need? Lotteries are being held for country residential lots because the demand is so great. We are going to have a land inventory of some $27 million after this year, and lost interest revenues of some $500,000 or $600,000 and upwards annually. Is that good planning? Is that good use of inventory?
Businesspeople will say that they cannot have endless inventory because it has a carrying cost. Any small-business person knows that, but the government does not. Land developers are happy when more lots are developed. The problem comes when the government cannot keep paying all of the bills. The government cannot continue to build the inventory at the present level. We do not have a problem with the government maintaining a good surplus of lots, but this government has gone too far. It is creating a false economy, and people's expectations are too high. However, they will continue to pump government money in until after the next election. We are used to those kinds of tactics from the Members opposite.
In the four-year plan, this government promised to proceed with forestry transfer negotiations on a priority basis. After four years of working on this so-called priority, there is no Yukon forestry policy, and there is very little progress on devolution. I submit to you that I would make a wager with anyone in the Legislature that it will not be devolved by the time the next election rolls around because of the failure of this government to realize that if it does not solve the fundamental differences it has with the many First Nations' representatives, it is not going to get those agreements.
One of my favourite parts of the four-year plan is where it says, "promoting agriculture". The former president of the Yukon Agricultural Association said that this government has been the regime in charge of some of the biggest disasters and setbacks that the association has ever seen. Those are not my words. They are the words of the former president of the Yukon Agricultural Association, a former conservative Member of this Legislature. He is someone who knows the Members opposite very well - better than they know themselves, I am sure. He has clearly said that the Yukon Party has failed in its promise to promote agriculture.
It said that it would provide land and other necessary infrastructure to promote agricultural production. I guess that the infrastructure referred to has to do with the abattoir. However, we all know that the abattoir died because this government got mad because the Yukon Agricultural Association had the audacity - in the minds of the Yukon Party - to talk to a First Nation. The government decided at that point to cancel the abattoir and everything for the abattoir. Not only that, it was going to take a very vindictive approach toward the Yukon Agricultural Association.
In its four-year plan, the Yukon Party promised to provide a seven-year term for the development of agricultural land, subject to the applicant meeting performance requirements and the protection of farm land from conflicting developments. We have never received a clear statement from this government about whether or not it has done that.
This is a government that told people in its four-year plan that it would develop forestry. It was not just going to stop at agriculture, it was going to move into forestry.
What has the Yukon Party done in forestry? It said it would support small-scale timber operations subject to proper reforestation measures. It has done nothing on that score. The only reforestation undertaken in the Yukon was under the economic development agreement, which was negotiated by the NDP. We put money into forestry reforestation. We are going to see that funding lapsed shortly, and the government is cancelling the business development fund.
So, I do not quite know how it is going to support small-scale timber operations, particularly in light of the interprovincial trade agreements and the fact that the government is in favour of free trade, which moves against the development of small, localized cottage businesses. The government has yet to make an application under the internal trade agreement to try to make some kind of exception for the Yukon as a small regional economy. That is not supporting small scale timber operations, subject to proper reforestation measures.
The government said it was going to promote the management of Yukon forests by Yukoners. That is another promise it broke. What has the government done on that score? Well, the policy process has been stalled for the last two years since we had the crisis in the uptake in the cubic footage that was cut.
The government said it was going to encourage the development of secondary industries rather than allow raw log exports. Well, you tell me one secondary industry this government has been successful in encouraging. I say the government failed in that commitment.
The government said it was going to promote the management of the Yukon by Yukoners, but it failed because it cannot do the tough policy work, and it cannot ensure that there is any type of agreement with First Nations to move the devolution process forward.
The Yukon Party put a big plank in the four-year election plan called "development energy". It said it was going to eliminate the development of the Yukon Development Corporation, change the mandate, ensure that its profits are directed at reducing energy rates, developing energy infrastructure, including alternate forms of energy, and promoting energy conservation.
Well, we now have a situation where Yukon Electrical Company Ltd., a private corporation, has increased its asset base at an alarming proportion in comparison to the Yukon Energy Corporation's. We have a situation where the board has been totally manipulated by the Yukon Party appointments, to the point where it has everyone they want on the board and everyone who was on the so-called hit list is off the board.
We have a government that has failed in its eight-page energy policy to promote energy conservation. It is merely mentioned as one of the follow-up, feel-good points - a little cookie to put out there for people who are concerned about conservation and that it should be a priority, which the NDP believes it should be.
We have seen a government that has failed to commit to what it will do about rate relief after the next election. We have seen a government that tried to privatize the Yukon Energy Corporation by hiring a former lawyer of the Government Leader and former partner of the past Minister of Department of Health and Social Services. He gave him a whopping $52,000 to try and sell off our power corporation. Well, that did not happen.
We have not seen electrical rates decrease, as the government said would happen. The Faro mine is back on line, and the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. see large profits. What work has been done to investigate alternative forms of energy, aside from a coal-fired power generator? Very little. That is number one on the government's list, but it has failed in that commitment.
The government said it would work in conjunction with First Nations and other Yukoners to identify potential small and medium hydro sites and to develop the most economic and environmentally sound projects that are required. However, there has been no progress on the development of small and medium hydro sites. The only alternative form of energy that has been studied in any substantial fashion is the coal-fired electrical generating station. That is it. We are spending lots of money on that, yet we in the Opposition have no hard information on its economic or environmental feasibility.
The government said it would promote effective energy conservation measures and develop public education programs. The only effective public education programs were initiated when the New Democratic Party was in power: power smart and saving energy action loan fund programs. There have been no initiatives in demand-side management or public education programs under this government.
Here is one of my favourites: the Yukon Party promised to stabilize Aishihik Lake at a level that would not cause environmental damage yet provide adequate power generation to be supplemented by expanding the Whitehorse-Aishihik-Faro grid to include new supply options. That is very interesting.
What has been done at Aishihik Lake? Have the concerns that were raised about Aishihik Lake and environmental damage been addressed by this government? The answer to that question is "no". At one point, the former Minister of Tourism said that the former Minister responsible for the Energy Corporation should be put in jail because he was allowing this damage to this particular lake. Yet, what work has been done? Again, there was a failure to live up to a commitment to the electorate.
The government said it was going to conduct feasibility studies. It was going to complete and have oil and gas under the control of Yukoners. Both of those commitments in the four-year plan have not been lived up to.
The government said that it was going to promote small business, but what really has it done to promote small business? Has it improved access to capital? Has it eliminated any unnecessary red tape? Has it been able to successfully negotiate with the federal government to look at improving the economic development agreement or come up with an alternative? The government said it was going to, but it did not.
It said it was going to reintroduce the principle of low bidder: the low bidder will be awarded government contracts, subject to such requirements as a contractor's history. We have seen many examples and we have raised them in this Legislature where the government did not come through on its commitment to accept the low bidder. Actually, it went even further than that and ignored previous value. It failed to live up to that commitment.
We have a promise in this four-year plan to remove government interference in the marketplace. That is interesting, because I would have thought that if the government felt that strongly about government interference in the marketplace - and if the Government Leader felt that way - he would not have taken the $25,000 that he took in grant money for his outfitting company when he was a private citizen. To me, that is a major contradiction. If he really does not believe in it, did he take the grant money from the government because he thought he was doing a service in providing employment or was he just milking the system?
I do not know the answer to that question, but I know that the government should not put something in its platform that it is not prepared to live up to as private citizens. The government has not lived up to it.
The government was going to reduce government regulations and reduce red tape. That is a joke. What work was done there? Nothing.
The government said that it would provide community input into the design of government buildings and utilize local workers, materials and goods and services.
Point of order
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Mr. Speaker, I do not believe we have a quorum.
Speaker: I do not believe that we have a quorum. I will ring the bells for four minutes.
Speaker: I will count to see if we have a quorum. We do. We will continue with debate.
Mr. Harding: I know this is painful for the Members opposite but, given that we are on the eve of an election, it is important to point out that when the public voted to put the Yukon Party into government and voted for the four-year plan, they were getting a bum deal. It was a raw deal. They were getting a government that could not, would not, and did not implement the promises of its plan. That is why we have to go over, in detail, for the Yukon public precisely where the government has failed.
The reason this is taking so long is because there are so many areas in which this government has failed to implement its four-year plan.
In its mid-term report - the so-called update - the government did include a bit of life when it included what the New Democratic Party did when it was in government. Those were the positive things and formed most of the weight of the mid-term report.
The one I like, which is my favourite, is the picture of the Catholic school in Porter Creek. That is something I do not believe the Yukon Party can lay any claim to, considering we approved the entire thing when we were in government. I am proud of that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: My colleague pointed out that that was probably the last contract one of the architects in town got, because after that, he decided he would enter into the dicey world of engaging in some public criticism of the Members opposite.
Another very interesting area is that of decentralizing government. Although this government promised Yukoners it would decentralize - move out of the base in Whitehorse - it decided not to actually do that once it took office. It felt there was a cost to it. It did not see, nor did it want to see, any benefit whatsoever in decentralization, such as rural economic development or the closeness to services for rural people.
It has recentralized. When we tour the communities, we continually hear about positions this government has recentralized. It is called cost savings, but I say it is a loss to the community. The Yukon Party is not prepared to invest in the communities in that respect, but we are, which is the difference between us.
This government did not decentralize; it actually recentralized. It is a broken promise.
The government also said it would respect the rights of public servants and promote more effective and efficient delivery of government programs. I am not so sure that has actually taken place. We remember the rights of public servants in this territory. It used to be called collective bargaining. Those rights were hard fought for; people died on picket lines. New legislation was finally brought in that allowed for a free and democratic process. Sometimes that process goes against the employees, but it is free and democratic. It must be lived up to, but those rights were ignored by this government. I do not think the government has lived up to this commitment, as I go through this four-year report.
The government has also promoted, in its so-called plan for encouraging small business in the Yukon, supporting Yukoners and developing a strong, local economy. We have seen it eliminate the community development fund and replace it with the centennial anniversaries program.
Both the fund and the program have had many difficulties, because the political level announced the programs without thinking them through. The programs were announced in such a manner as to raise very high expectations, and proposals came in that were well beyond the money available. The people in the bureaucracy had to pick up the scraps and deal with all of the political statements made by the politicians, which were more than anyone could ever deal with.
Under the centennial anniversaries program, communities have had to compete for less money, under a much more rigid criteria - unless you live in a government riding; in that case, the criteria can be incredibly flexible.
We have seen a government that talks about economic development but scrapped the Taga Ku project. We have seen a government that said it would develop fair and realistic contract regulations - the government promised this - to give Yukon contractors a preference when bidding on government contracts. However, the government has continuously hired outside contractors and consultants, particularly from Alberta - the Government Leader's homeland - trying to turn the Yukon into a little Alberta.
In the area of contracts awarded for design, we saw the design for the Dawson Elementary School awarded to a company in Edmonton. We saw the design contract for the visitor reception centre awarded to a company in Vancouver. The award for the French first language school was awarded to a company in Calgary. The Porter Creek high school contract was awarded to a firm from Edmonton. The contractors for the French first language school are from St. Paul, Alberta. The contract for work in the Copper Ridge subdivision was awarded to a company in Edmonton, Alberta. The contract for the Whitehorse General Hospital went to a firm in Edmonton, Alberta. I might add that the hospital project is all being built by non-union firms.
We have seen consultants like James Graham and Alan Hallman hired from Alberta. The government is trying to turn the Yukon into a little Alberta. The government is trying to make itself Klein clones, but they have too much money to be a Klein clone.
They do not know what to do with it. The Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board said that they had a huge pie, and they did not know what to do with it. He further added that there are a lot of people competing for it, and it was simply a question of to whom they would give a slice. It is a big slice.
In 1993, the Government Leader said, from the government's position, he would like our contractors to be able to compete in a free trade environment and that, for the most part, they can. He said his government supported the removal of interprovincial trade barriers. At the same time the government says it is in support of the North American Free Trade Agreement, it says it supports local purchase and local hire - all these are provisions we cannot have in the Yukon if we are going to engage in interprovincial free trade and the free trade agreement. The government cannot have it both ways. It cannot say it believes in free trade and also say that it wants to give preference - not unless it made an application under the interprovincial trade agreement or came up with some unique way, such as the business incentive policy, to try and get around that. However, the government never made that application. It was too busy building visitor reception centres - right downtown, in order to bring more traffic into the downtown business core.
Certainly, we are concerned about the contradictions from this government. As I said earlier, one of the planks in the four-year plan was to give local contractors a bid preference. Then, in 1993, when you were Minister of Economic Development, Mr. Speaker, you stood up in the Legislature - much to our amazement - and said, "We do not feel that Yukon contractors need a preference." On one hand, the Yukon Party has a plank - which is fiction - saying there should be a preference, and there is a fact, that being a Minister of the Yukon Party government, saying that the government is not going to give - and the contractors do not need - a preference. That is the problem with the four-year plan. It is fiction. Action is fact, and the Yukon Party has not lived up to its commitments in the plan.
We have seen a tremendous number of contradictions, goof-ups, broken promises, and this has been of great concern to us when we look at what this government has talked about doing rather than what it has been doing.
I want to take a look at mining. The Members opposite like to thump their chests when we talk about mining because exploration is up, there are some mines in the development stage and Faro is back up. I remember when the Anvil Range mining group needed a bit of a hand at the beginning and I remember what the Members opposite said about them. I remember that the former chairman of the board was on the radio complaining that there were other people outside this territory who wanted to see the mine going more than the Yukon government did.
I remember all that. I remember being there in the early days when they were just putting together their fledgling bid and a directive came down from Ottawa to the Yukon Water Board saying that the security asked for by the Yukon Water Board could not be higher than what the federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs had agreed to, and I can remember going on CBC radio the next morning to defend that decision because I felt that if we did not sell this mine to somebody who could make it run, we were all going to be on the hook as taxpayers for reclamation, so the negotiating trick was to ensure that the security was not unreasonable. I can remember the Minister of Economic Development sitting straight across from me - and seeing it in the Whitehorse Star the next day - opposing what the Minister did for Anvil Range, and supporting it myself.
When I was talking about promoting Anvil Range and accepting its bid because I knew it could make the mine go, I can remember this government saying it could not take a position on it. Yet, it was openly critical of Anvil Range, calling them ex-Curragh people, and thinking that the group was basically not going to follow through.
This is what the Yukon Party government has done. Now that the mine is open, the government is trying to take credit for it. The government Members like to wear Anvil Range jackets around and issue newsletters trying to make people believe it is all on account of their good work.
Well, the people in my riding and most people in the Yukon know the reality. I am not surprised Anvil Range gave them jackets. After all, they are the Government of Yukon and they are going to have to be talking to these folks on a number of issues. The Minister of Community and Transportation Services tells me he talks to one of their representatives every week.
They do not want to make them angry because they know what happens to people who make the Yukon Party angry: it gets vindictive and it comes after them.
The Yukon Party said in its four-year plan on mining - and incidentally the title of this is "diversifying the economy" - that it was going to promote the establishment of a revised flow-through share program and other tax measures for northern Canada. Did it do that? No.
It was going to work with the mining industry to develop a public education program to inform Yukoners and Canadians of the value and importance that mining has for the Yukon and Canadian economy. Together with the Official Opposition, we passed a motion in this House on keeping mining in Canada. Good work.
It said it was going to balance environmental requirements with mining development, particularly with regard to placer mining water quality standards. What is the story there? What has it done on the environment? What has it done with environmental standards? What has it done with the development assessment process? Where has it gone in four years? It is supposed to be in place by February 1997.
Finally, for the first time, the Yukon government actually has a committee travelling the territory right now, three and a half years later, on the development assessment process - just starting to scratch the surface. It is going to be very difficult to get to the bottom of it at the end of the day. It is going to be very tough to get the process completed.
The Yukon Party government said it was going to provide reasonably priced energy and other forms of assistance to encourage mining exploration investment and development in the Yukon. This was a major plank and this is a major failure of this government. It has no industrial energy rate policy, absolutely none.
When I asked what the government is going to do for the only major and the only real industrial consumer in the territory right now - Anvil Range - they say that they are not going to do anything - the Utilities Board has set the rate. Although, last year they said if they wanted to approach us about rate easement under the industrial support policy, we are prepared to look at that, but the Government Leader said to me, "We are not going to go flogging it."
That is not living up to the commitment to a comprehensive industrial support and industrial rate policy. That is what they told Yukoners they were going to have in the four-year plan, but they failed. That does not mean they have to go out and flog money. What have they done that they said they were going to do? The answer is this: nothing.
It says that it will be cost of service. Big deal.
It said that it was going to review current government programs to determine their effectiveness and enhance the prospectors assistance program and other programs that promote exploration. It enhanced the prospectors assistance program by cutting it. That is interesting. I do not know why it did not say, "Review current government programs to determine their effectiveness and cut the prospectors assistance program", instead of saying, "Enhance the prospectors assistance program." It said "enhance". I do not think that it has lived up to that commitment in the four-year plan.
Let us look at the next item in the government's plank. It said it was going to lobby the federal government to streamline review processes to clarify regulations and to respond to applications on a timely basis. What a failure that one was. Three and a half years later, we are just now starting to talk about that process. That is it. That is as far as we have gotten. That is a major failure. That is a tough policy issue. That is an area in which the government has not been able to move ahead successfully.
I want to now move to Tourism. This might just get the Minister of Tourism a little bit upset. I intend to criticize the fact that the government's four-year plan does not live up to the commitments or actions that it has taken. The Minister likes to trot out numbers about the anniversaries. The best year for tourism in the Yukon was 1992 under an NDP administration. We had the 50th anniversary of the Alaska Highway. There is no doubt that as we move into the anniversaries, we are going to have a couple of good years. Is the Minister looking beyond that? Is he thinking about the future or is he totally anniversary-driven? Does he have a vision for tourism in the Yukon?
I know he likes to go to Florida to cut ribbons at parades and sit on the beach. I know he likes to high-fly around Europe and muck-a-muck with all the bigwigs and people in other governments, where he thinks he is reaching out to the people to promote tourism. I know he likes to do all that high-falutin stuff, but does he really have a vision for tourism in the Yukon? I do not think so.
In the four-year plan, on promoting tourism, the Yukon Party said it would engage in active development of the Whitehorse waterfront. That has not gotten off the ground from square one. There is an absolutely abysmal situation between the Kwanlin Dun and this government. Until there is an election, there is no hope of resolving the substantive issues that have to be discussed between them. The only thing this government has done with the Whitehorse waterfront is use it to try to launch some scurrilous accusations against the Leader of the Official Opposition. That is the extent of the implementation of its four-year plan with regard to the Whitehorse waterfront, and that is all it has used it for.
It will not be developed for the anniversaries, as was promised, so this is a failure.
In its four-year plan, the Yukon Party promised the reconstruction of the S.S. Tutshi, or other attractions for Carcross. What has happened in Carcross? We have seen some interesting things happen there lately. We have seen a Minister who insulted everyone in a bar, including First Nations people and citizens. He was rowdy and out of control and threatened to withhold funding. We have seen a Minister who told people they were only there to line their own pockets. We have seen a complete disaster in Carcross as the result of actions of this government.
Has the S.S. Tutshi been reconstructed? I think the answer to that question is no. I was in Carcross not very long ago. That is another broken promise.
This government promised the introduction of a tourist train service in the Yukon. I know that was a big plank. The Member for Riverside liked the tourist train, but he will not have that choo-choo over the time of this four-year plan, because it is a failed promise. Again, the Minister of Tourism has failed to deliver on his promises.
The government said there would be more provision of attractions on the Silver Trail for the Mayo-Keno-Elsa area. Again, this is a failed promise.
The Minister said there would be the establishment of an historic character museum. No.
The Minister said there would be a redevelopment of Canyon City, the log tram and other potential attractions. Well, does that not sound wonderful? Unfortunately, due to the many problems I alluded to earlier, the Yukon Party government broke its promise on tourism to Yukoners in this respect.
The Yukon Party motto was, "Time for change." I think it certainly is time for change, except that I think the slogan is more appropriate now than it was then.
The Yukon Party said it was going to expand and improve the existing ferry service at Dawson City. How much more improved is the ferry service in Dawson City when people in Dawson are clamouring for a bridge? The MLA and the Minister of Community and Transportation Services cannot decide one way or the other if there will be a bridge or not. Is the ferry satisfactory or not? A commitment the government made has not been upheld.
One of my favourite Yukon Party commitments was that the government was going to upgrade the Campbell Highway and the Nahanni Range Road. That was patently false. The only work done on the highway was on the Sa Dena Hes stretch to the mine. That was started under our administration. The Nahanni Range Road is the same as it has always been. There has been no upgrading there. It has not been enhanced as a tourist destination. The Campbell Highway from Faro to Carmacks is in very bad shape and for four years it has been ignored in the capital budget. So for the government to say it would upgrade the Campbell Highway and the Nahanni Range Road is patently false. It probably worked pretty well when the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes was out campaigning under the guise of independence, stating that, because he was going to join a coalition with the Yukon Party, he could get the Campbell Highway upgraded.
I greet the next one with great hilarity. It is a campaign promise by the Yukon Party. It states that the government will work with volunteer groups in communities upgrade Yukon museums, such as the Yukon Transportation Museum, and to protect historic artifacts and sites. That is not even funny. I should not greet it with hilarity, because the Yukon Party is a disaster when it comes to working with volunteer groups.
Look at what this government has done with the An Act to Amend the Historic Resources Act. It waited three and a half years to bring it in. It wanted to water it down, and it did not even stop at that. The Minister of Tourism wanted to hold it up as a bargaining chip so he could get out of the session and go on his holiday next Sunday or Monday - whenever he is taking off.
That is not good public policy making. We could lose another historic resource if this government continues to utilize important legislation as bargaining chips so that the Ministers can get out and take their holidays. We told the government that if it takes one or two days beyond the 35 days it feels we are locked into - which we disagree with - we would be here to debate the An Act to Amend the Historic Resources Act. We should be here to debate it, and let us debate it.
When one looks at what is symbolic about working with local museums, we see clearly that the Beringia Centre, which came out of some Yukon Party Cabinet meeting where they decided they were going to thump their chests and come up with some way to avoid, at all costs, landscaping the visitor reception centre, it turned into a Beringia Centre, and they built an office building downtown.
The Minister may have gotten letters of support from the Tourism Industry Association and from the Chamber of Commerce, which is fine, but where was the consultation, where was the planning, where were the priorities with the Beringia Centre? When we asked questions about it, we got absolutely phony numbers. They were completely and totally phony. The Minister of Tourism had the audacity to come into this Legislature and tell us all that there are going to be over 100,000 visitors and that it was going to pay for itself.
When we asked him to substantiate precisely what was going to happen, he could not do it. When we caught him in - can I say "falsehood", Mr. Speaker? No, I cannot say "falsehood". Okay - a contradiction about whether it would pay for itself or not, he started backtracking very quickly - I think it was in Question Period - and it became clear that there was no way that it would pay for itself.
There was no consultation or planning, just phony numbers. The impact caused quite a bit of turmoil within the MacBride Museum Association over that issue, and all because of its lack of talking with people.
There is an obligation in the umbrella final agreement to work with First Nations to establish a living cultural centre. Has it done that? Has it lived up to that umbrella final agreement commitment? Has it put much emphasis into that, or has it actually just put a line item in the budget and let it sit there, so it can avoid - or continue to avoid, as in the case of the Minister of Tourism - doing what should be done. The government has avoided it. It failed to live up to that commitment.
The government said it was going to establish a training program at Yukon College to prepare Yukoners for jobs in the tourism industry. I do not know what that means. Perhaps the Minister can elaborate on this. Perhaps the Minister of Tourism envisions training people for summer work. I do not know precisely what that means. I do not know of any training program at Yukon College for tourism industry preparation. I know that, at one point, there was a chef's course that the Minister of Tourism and I worked on to try and get it established; beyond that, I do not believe there is much.
The government promised to establish a spring training program for tourism in high schools, to prepare Yukon students for summer tourism jobs. That has not been done.
The government said it was going to prepare for the 1996-98 Gold Rush centennial celebrations and other Yukon anniversaries. Well, the centennial anniversaries program has been a disaster. There is no recognition by this government that the Gold Rush was an actual event. It was a reality. There were ramifications. There was some pain involved. There is a story to be told - the actual events and the actual history. Is there any attempt by this government to show what happened to First Nations people as a result of the Gold Rush or is the government solely and totally concerned with selling T-shirts and mugs?
I do not think he is concerned about telling the history of the actual event, just the romanticism. I think we should talk about the history. I think the whole story should be told. We all know about the Chilkoot Trail and we are enthralled by that vision, but let us talk about what the Gold Rush meant to some people. I really think people would be interested in knowing about that.
The government said it would promote access into Kluane Park. Has the government lived up to that commitment? Has it done that job? Has it checked that baby off? No, it has not - another failure. There are so many commitments in the area of tourism that the government has failed to live up to that it is embarrassing. I have been going on about the government's tourism failures in the four-year plan for the last 20 minutes.
One would never know this, talking to the walking billboard, the Minister of Tourism, who, every time he gets a chance to pigeon-hole someone, wants to talk about his latest trip to Florida, or somewhere else he has been.
It is interesting to note that the four-year plan promises to actively promote the Yukon as a world-class convention destination. I guess that was before the good old boys said to cancel the Taga Ku project. Perhaps the world-class conventions were to be held at some other convention destination, or perhaps the government had another destination in mind all along, before it stuck the knife in the back of the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation.
The government said it would develop a Yukon ambassador-at-large program. Well, it did that, and I will give the Minister credit - good for him.
One of my favourite sections of the four-year plan is a section that says the government will protect the environment and manage wildlife. This is a beautiful part of this four-year plan.
As the Renewable Resources critic in charge of the environment, I have watched this government take an absolutely hostile approach to habitat protection, to the Environment Act, to Aishihik Lake, and to looking at alternatives other than wolf kills for managing wildlife. I have seen the government refuse to look at a hazardous waste storage facility. The list goes on and on.
We have seen them refuse to take a progressive approach to environmental legislation. It called our Environment Act "too leading edge". Of course, that was after the Yukon Party voted for it and told us it supported it. It was trying to appeal to the right wing, I guess.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: I am being heckled from the left. I meant that it was really on the right.
The government is trying to appeal to the right wingers. It is having a difficult time doing that, because it is actually more of a centre-left government in terms of its fiscal policy. Certainly conservatives in the territory are upset about its taxation, big spending and that type of thing - slash, tax and spend.
I want to say that, in terms of protecting the environment in the government's four-year plan, the only commitment that it has actually made to protect the environment was that it was going to implement the Yukon Pride year-round anti-litter program. I remember when that started in the first term, but I have not heard much more about it since then. Has anybody heard anything about it? I have heard nothing about it. The government started to make good on at least one commitment, but it did not finish the job. At the end of the day, it actually broke that commitment as well.
One of the other commitments made by the government is that it would stop the environmental devastation of Aishihik. Has it done that? No.
It said it would reduce the Yukon's dependence on diesel for electrical energy. Has it done that? No.
It said it was going to deal with many of the problems in habitat protection and prepare a strategic plan for habitat protection and enhancement. What has the government done? It failed to proclaim any amendments to the Wildlife Act in 1992. The government is satisfied to hide behind the statement, "We did not proclaim them," so it is not going to. I think that is irresponsible. I think that in the last four years, it has had ample opportunity to take care of the environment and to take care of habitat protection and enhancement. It has not done it. That is a pity.
The other day, the government said something in terms of habitat protection in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that I thought was quite astonishing. It said it wanted to protect the integrity of the caribou, but it will not say that it is opposed to drilling in the wildlife refuge. "Integrity of the caribou" is a weasel-word phrase for politicians to not come clean on whether or not they oppose ANWR or support ANWR, and it is clear to me that the government does not oppose drilling in ANWR, and that is why it will not say it. So the government's commitment to the environment and the Porcupine caribou herd is held in question.
I remember something in the area of fisheries, and the sport fishery in particular. We started a lot when we were in government with catch and release. This government has carried on with some of it. I know the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes does not seem to be a big fan of catch and release in certain areas of the Yukon, but the emphasis on it is something that has slipped away since this government has come into power. I also think that the sport fishery has not been promoted in the Yukon as actively as it should have been. I believe we can conserve our waters and promote our tourism industry in the Yukon better in that fashion.
When the Pacific Salmon Treaty negotiations were on, the Yukon government did not even send a representative to attend.
We have a Government Leader who has stated that he does not support outfitting quotas. Meanwhile, he is the head of a government that is supposed to be bringing in outfitting quotas, so I am confused. Does he bring it in, or does he not bring it in? How is it going to be brought it? What is the political direction here?
What has this government done with the Tombstone issue? Well, it has basically told the people who are concerned about creating a larger park to take a hike. It has also furthered the agenda by nothing, zero, zilch on Protected Spaces 2000. That is a commitment it signed on to but failed to live up to.
We have a Government Leader who asked, in September 1992, on the creation of parks, "Who are we saving it for anyway?" and he still believes to this day that that is a thoughtful and solid rationale. I submit to him that we are saving it for ourselves, for our families, for our children, for our future, and that there are areas in the Yukon that should be set aside for time immemorial, free from development, free from pressure, as wildlife habitat that animals can live on for years to come. That is what we are saving it for, and if we want to be just a little bit greedy and go beyond those good, solid, moral reasons, we can talk about the economic benefit from wilderness tourism and from parks and from the whole notion that the Yukon is a wild place - people come here because of that. We can also talk about aesthetic values of parks. We can talk about the fact that parks in and of themselves have value. So the answer to me is clear on who we are saving it for. We are saving it for us and for our families and for our future.
This is a government that, as far as I am concerned, has failed to live up to its commitments - with the exception of the Yukon Pride program - in the four-year plan on the environment. It has done much worse than that. It has actually done a lot of damage. So I say to those Members that that is of great concern to us.
That ends my submission on the four-year plan, on the Yukon Party's commitment for economic and environmental change.
One of the highlights of the Yukon Party's plan - four years, time for change, election 1992 - is called "meeting our commitments". In it, there is an executive summary, sources of revenue, some phony-balony numbers about how the Yukon Party will save all this money.
What actually happened after we got this crazy document - which obviously two or three people dreamed up one late night over too much coffee, or milk? In this Executive Council summary and the summary of savings for improved fiscal management, the Yukon Party said it would save $24 million a year and $96 million over four years, just through its good works. My goodness, it must be amazing - these fiscal Conservatives opposite were going to slice and dice and save, but they were not going to cut social programs or education; they were not going to cut support from mining or grants or loans. They were just going to do it. They had the political will to do it, and they were just going to save. They were not even going to cut civil servants' pay. They were not going to cut teachers' pay. Oh, no, Mr. Speaker, when we said that the Yukon Party might do that, the Government Leader wrote a letter to the paper telling everybody that that would never happen under their regime.
Actually, the truth here - I am not talking about the fiction of the four-year plan, which I have proven today is almost completely fiction, and I would just love to have the opportunity to discuss their Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century document in this session again, but we will not have that opportunity. That is another document of fiction.
This is the government that said it was going to save $96 million over four years. Well, where is that money it said it was going to save? I do not know where it is. I watch the Finance estimates pretty closely, I read the budget pretty closely, but I do not know where it is. I think the government did not save any money. I think it spent more money. I think it raised taxes - $40 million over four years. When I look at these calculations in the four-year plan, it is funny - when the government is talking about its summary of savings and revenues, I do not see anything about $40 million in tax increases over four years. It has selectively left that out of its campaign election promises, and that is quite telling. I might be reminding people of that in the next few months.
What we have here is a government that has spent more, that has taxed more, that has brought in wage restraint legislation because it said it had no money, but we all know it has more money than any government in Yukon history. It is just a question of priorities.
This is a government that has built very little. It was never reluctant to criticize construction of NDP projects and there were a lot. We have built a lot in this territory. Yet, it has built so very little in this territory. It only started building in the third year of its mandate. There was no school construction whatsoever. I remember the debate in this Legislature and schools versus highways.
Even though it built so little, it has had a significant number of cost overruns. It begs the question that, if the government would actually be investing capital in other than the Shakwak project, what would happen? I think it would have cost overruns. Now it says that they are not cost overruns; there is a good reason for everything. There is a change order. But I submit to you that when they were on this side of the House, that just did not hold water as an explanation for a cost overrun. If it was over the budget, that was a cost overrun - period. If somewhere it could find in that budget where there is a lower amount than what the actual cost was, that was a cost overrun. It did not matter if the ground was different than was originally anticipated. It did not matter if there were problems with transport or problems with materials. It was a cost overrun. It was bad planning. That is what the Members used to say.
Now that they are in government, it is no longer a cost overrun; it is simply the fact that they are, in their minds, doing the right thing. Funny, there is a whole page of things here called cost overruns. If you could believe it, there is a $30 million overrun at the college. I know the rationale behind that. It makes good politics. The fact is when the Tories decided that they were going to build it, they put a figure in and they did not know what it was going to cost. They did not have a close estimate. They lost the government and the NDP government came in, took a look, did some planning and built the college. It cost more than the original estimate made by the Tories. No matter what the explanation was, they called that a cost overrun.
We have seen a government that has raised operation and maintenance spending. The cost of government in the Yukon has actually increased under the Yukon Party. The operation and maintenance budget is much bigger than when we left office and this increase is quite contrary to the conservative ideology.
One would think that if the government was living up to its rhetoric in its four-year plan, it would be reining in spending and then cutting taxes when there is a surplus. Instead, we have a government that raised taxes, raised spending, keeps spending, acquires a surplus, spends a surplus and continues to raise taxes. That is not conservatism. I do not know what you would call it, but I certainly would not call it Conservatism.
Thank goodness there is at least one true conservative in this Legislature to keep the conservative conscience alive because I can tell you that if I was a Yukon Party Member I would be pretty upset - that would never happen, because I am far too thoughtful; I was being facetious about myself.
I want to ask the government where the savings are. The government said it was going to save $24 million a year, but last year alone it overspent its budget by some $20 million. This is a government that promised many things to Yukoners and in the four-year plan it has raised many phony issues and made many promises that it cannot keep.
This is a government that promised one thing to Yukoners and did another - in many areas. I pointed this out today on a line-by-line basis. If the Members opposite want proof that they have failed to live up to their commitments, there is no doubt in my mind that today they should feel ashamed that they have broken so many promises to Yukoners.
Today, the government continues to break promises. Today, I read a quote that said the Yukon Party is going to proclaim the conflict-of-interest bill by October 1, 1995. The Government Leader stood up and said - he knows what he said, but that is too bad.
He tried to make the argument that the bill could not be proclaimed without three Conflicts Commissioners. That is absolutely preposterous. There is nothing to prevent that Minister from proclaiming that bill, other than that the government and the Cabinet like to abuse the power of government against the Leader of the Official Opposition, but is not prepared to abide by the same rules itself. That is the reality, and it is still breaking promises.
Actually, I read an editorial today that makes reference to some of the things a Conflicts Commissioner should be looking at, given the new standards set by the Yukon Party and the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. We might be hearing more about that.
This is a government that said there would be no program cuts. What has it done? It has cut programs to women's shelters; cut funding to non-governmental organizations; cut educational assistants in schools. It failed to step in at all - when it intervened in other areas - to even look at helping out with the global education or innovators in the schools programs. Actually, the Minister of Education said something in response to that. He said he thought we had better things to do in our schools than to pay science teachers to build paper airplanes. He totally missed the point about what the innovators in the schools program is all about. It was astonishing. I could not believe the kind of - can I say "ignorance"?
I cannot. Okay.
I could not believe the attitude of that Minister.
There is a situation in the Yukon where the government said that improved fiscal management in the four-year plan will be in the order of $100 million. I have clearly pointed out that those savings are not there. I have proven my case that the four-year plan commitments have not been lived up to.
In the four-year plan, the Yukon Party said that it was possible to trim 20 percent per year in outside management consultants, personal service contracts, feasibility studies and professional services, such as polling. The Yukon Party government spent more on government contracts than the Yukon New Democrats ever did. I have the numbers here to prove that.
In this fiscal year, we are looking at - from the contract registry - in the vicinity of $131 million in contracts.
In 1987-88, we had $61 million. In 1988-89, there was $54.6 million. In 1989-90, there was $55.8 million. In 1990-91, there was $55 million. In 1991-92, there was $68.3 million. In 1992-93, there was $76 million. Then the Yukon Party was elected, and half of the amount for 1992-93 was theirs. That amount has risen every year, despite the fact that the Yukon Party said it could cut the amount by 20 percent. This was another broken promise in the era of fiscal responsibility - the Achilles' heel of the Yukon Party government.
Where is the $56 million that the government promised Yukoners that it would save? It spends anything that it gets. If it has any contingency at all, it spends it. Every time it puts a surplus in the budget, we just write it off. We know it is going to be gone because the government will spend it. This is particularly the case this year, because it is an election year.
Communities are going to get swimming pools, even if the community has not exactly asked for a swimming pool. I, for one, am going to say that when the Leader of the Official Opposition was in Old Crow over the Easter weekend, he never talked to one person who said that the swimming pool was a priority for the community. It would be nice to have the pool, but it is not a priority. The people said they would rather have the $300,000 to spend on other priorities. That situation is indicative, I believe, of this government's attitude - throw some money up against the wall and hope that some of it sticks.
The Yukon Party government said that it feels that the Executive Council Office can be trimmed by $1 million. In 1991-92, the Executive Council Office had a $8.4 million budget. In 1992-93, the amount was $9.2 million. In 1993-94, the government trimmed it. However, guess what? In 1995-96, it was $10 million. The forecast is that in 1996-97, the amount will be $9.6 million, which is bigger than the NDP ever had. The government failed on that fiscal promise as well. The government has a bigger Executive Council Office than the Yukon New Democrats ever had.
I am very concerned about the tax increases implemented by this government. When I look at the numbers for 1993-94, 1994-95, 1995-96 and 1996-97 - and I received some hard numbers the other day - in the context of what the Yukon Party said about protecting Yukoners from tax increases, the money that the Yukon Party reached into Yukoners' pockets for is greater than the year before.
Clearly, the defender of the public purse and of the private citizens' taxes is not the Yukon Party as it promised. It has tried to hide behind the guise of the Taxpayer Protection Act. I heard the Government House Leader on the radio today and almost fell out of my chair laughing about his comment about the Taxpayer Protection Act.
When the other speaker started to rebut him, it became painfully obvious that the government does not hold a lot of water on the question of taxation. If the government really believed in a referendum for taxes, it would have held one when it brought in the biggest tax increase in the Yukon's history. It could have rained some of those taxes in on subsequent budgets. People believe this government will just change the law if it gets into government again and wants to raise taxes, so it does not matter.
We have seen from this government an approach to governing that is void of vision, full of empty promises, full of vindictiveness, spite and attacks against citizens of the Yukon. We have seen this government do this when it promised Yukoners it would not engage in such activities. In my mind, the Yukon Party government has failed miserably when it comes to living up to its election commitments to Yukoners.
There are many shining examples. I have been through many, but there are others. When the government talked about making land available, and when it talked about consulting, did it tell people what it would do at the Stevens subdivision? Did it talk about what it would do with M'Clintock? Did it tell people it would not listen? Did it tell people it would not take what Yukoners want into account when it said it would provide meaningful consultation to make land available? No, it did not.
When the government said there would be no cost overruns, did it tell Yukoners it would have a $10 million cost overrun on its construction of the Two Mile Hill, or a $600,000 cost overrun on the weigh scales? No, it did not.
In the four-year plan, when the government promised to have good solid highways and good road maintenance, did it tell Yukoners it would close the highway scales in Haines Junction?
Did the government tell Yukoners that it was going to close the Destruction Bay and the Tuchitua maintenance camps? No, it did not. The four-year plan said something quite different.
When the government said that it was going to build infrastructure under the four-year plan under mining, did it tell Yukoners that it was a pipe dream? Did the government tell Yukoners that it really did not mean that it would build infrastructure unless all the mines were already up and running? No, it did not. Again, the government broke its commitment.
I believe that there is something fundamentally wrong about governments that cognizantly and continually make promises. Everyone knows that governments have to be somewhat flexible and that if there are changes in policy that take place, some changes in decisions must be made at times. However, when there is such a consistent pattern that I could go through every item in the four-year plan and show where there has been little or no progress, or something done quite differently, I know that people do not like it. It makes all politicians look bad.
When the government said it was going to make government accountable and stop intimidation, did it say that it would use the power of government for base, partisan, political purposes? Did it say that it would conduct smear campaigns against Members of the Opposition and against private citizens, such as the fine gentleman who owns Re/Max Realty, the fine gentleman put his name forward for the Education Review Committee chair position? I do not think that gentleman is too happy about his name coming up again and again in this Legislature in the context of scurrilous accusations from the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, for which he has no proof.
We have a government that said in its four-year plan that it would make people accountable. What did it do? We said that when one makes scurrilous accusations, one puts one's seat on the line, as the Member himself said in this Legislature. He does not have the moral or ethical standards to uphold what he said in this Legislature. That is pretty clear. And the Government Leader is not showing enough integrity to join the Opposition by saying that if there is a ruling that is unfavourable to him, based on the allegations, that seat should be given up. That is after he told us that this is normal parliamentary practice.
Time and time again, we have a government that said it was going to do something but did not do it, particularly with regard to the items on its election platform. This is a question of trust that the voters had.
Look at the development assessment process. Here is an area ancillary to the Whitehorse mining initiative, where we are trying to get environmentalists, First Nations and developers all together to come up with a streamlined, thorough, one-window regulatory process.
The government told the Yukon people that it was going to be more accountable and conduct itself with a fortress mentality, build bridges around itself and build walls. When it said it would be more accountable, did it tell people that it meant it was going to put the muzzle on citizens of the Yukon and attack them, because it was not prepared to be more accountable?
I sincerely believe that had the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, the previous Minister, not decided to resign by himself, no matter what the conduct of that Minister was at the Carcross Community Club, the Government Leader was prepared to keep his mandate in order and to say it was okay, that Ministers should get away with that, that what is said in a bar should stay in a bar. That is a pretty low conduct and a display of low ethical standards for a Minister of the Crown.
Many people like to go out and have a good time, but when one is a Minister or a Member of the Legislative Assembly, one has to be a little bit cognizant of who one is and one cannot threaten to fundamentally cut funding to a community, which is the base reason why one is a Minister.
I read some research about a similar case in the Northwest Territories where Tagak Curley did something along the same lines by passing a note in the Legislature threatening a community concerning funding. This is another example of a Cabinet Minister forced to resign.
The Minister should gone one step further so that we would not have had to deal with the rogue Member and his allegations, but once Mr. McDonald is cleared of these allegations, we intend to see that the Minister's seat is declared vacant, because the Member did not prove his allegations. The Member told us when a Member puts a substantive motion forward, that Member puts his seat on the line, but the Member failed to do that, and I think he should have the integrity to do so.
It is not confident enough to handle the policy ramifications of that monumental task. It has let the Whitehorse mining initiatives stall and decided that it is just going to sell out totally to mining interests and ignore everyone else. There is no balance on the economy and the environment. The government is going to say that whatever a mining company wants is good for them.
I am a big supporter of mining. The bread and butter of my constituents is mining, but I have to tell you, I also believe that there is a place for solid development decisions. I believe the development assessment process could be that one-windowed approach that I desire. I believe if the government had the political will, it should be, could be and would be implementing this process.
When the government said it was going to provide meaningful consultation, did it tell the people of Burwash and Kluane First Nations that it was going to build a firehall, without consulting with them? Did they say that? I do not think so.
When the government said it was going to provide meaningful consultation, did it tell the Kwanlin Dun people that the government would not have a good relationship with them, that they were going to be provoked? Did the government tell them that it was not going to be of a mood to reach an agreement with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation? No, the government did not tell them that. This government was bitter, vindictive and spiteful.
I read the Whitehorse Star article last night and he said that it is all about resignation. He refers to Mr. McDonald, who is not even a Cabinet Minister, and not in a position of power, which is the usual case when someone is in a position of a conflict. He thinks that one should, if one is in a position of power, resign when serious charges with some proof are levied. He is not in the position to make those decisions and it is a purely vindictive approach by the Cabinet Minister - or former Cabinet Minister, I should say.
One of the disturbing things about the four-year plan that I really believe has not properly been pointed out is the fact that when the Members talk about economic development, they do not talk about anything else in terms of diversifying the economy that they have lived up to. They talk about simply promoting agriculture and forestry, but what have they actually accomplished? Very little.
In so many areas today, I have been able to point out to Yukoners that the Yukon Party has failed to meet its commitments. I say that the Yukon Party has failed the Yukon people who gave it an election mandate. The coalition has failed to deliver on what it promised Yukoners. Thank goodness that metal prices are rising because, if not, we are relying solely and totally on the massive government spending that these so-called Conservatives have injected into the economy of the Yukon.
I urge the government Members to give some sober thought to their failure to deliver to all Yukoners the commitments they made in the four-year plan. I say to them that, if they continue to try and put out the kinds of - I cannot say falsehoods - wrong information that was put out in the mid-term report, in which they tried to take credit for NDP initiatives and enhance beyond belief the small amount that they have done, then I say that we will challenge them on it, and we will win the debate. I say to them that they should work very diligently in the remaining few months to try and at least meet some of the commitments in their four-year plan.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member for Faro for leaving me 10 minutes to reply to the verbal garbage he has been putting out all afternoon, because that is exactly what it was - verbal garbage. I have never heard such a misrepresentation of fact.
I think there might be some hope for that Member yet, because he is fairly young. He reminds me of the story of a couple of people who were about 45 years old. They were talking and one said to the other, "You know, when I was 25 years old, my dad was the stupidest man on the face of this earth." Then he looked at his friend and said, "But it is surprising how much he has smartened up in the last 20 years."
There is hope for that Member yet. By the time he gets to be 40 or 45, he may be enlightened somewhat. I could not even begin in 10 minutes to respond to the garbage that came from that side of the House.
I did have an amendment I was going to propose to the motion but I am not going to do it now. It would have made the motion a good one just by deleting the one word, "not", because the truth of the matter is that the Yukon Party has lived up to its four-year plan and that is what is bothering the Official Opposition. It knows it is going to have to go back and face the people. It knows that it cannot get away with that kind of criticism when the Members get out of this Legislature, where they do not give anybody a chance to respond. They know that a lot of the things it is blaming us for are exactly the philosophy of that party.
I just want to hit on one issue, seeing that I have so little time - one major issue. The Member for Faro made a lot of remarks about us building a false economy by providing lots on which Yukoners could build. They may see that as a false economy, but one thing we do not see now, since the Yukon Party came to power, is people lining up for blocks and getting people to sleep in line for them so that they will have a chance at a lot. We have lots available for people to build on.
If we wanted to talk about building a false economy, we just need to examine some of the antics of the New Democratic Party prior to the last election in 1992. Mr. Speaker, you were part of that Legislature. You were on the Opposition benches.
When the New Democratic Party decided to give $5 million to the Curragh mine before an election, those Members knew full well - nobody had the information except the NDP, because we got it after we became the government - that $5 million would not begin to save the mine. However, the NDP was prepared to spend $5 million of the taxpayers' money to get past the election and hope that it could smoke the situation by the public and get re-elected. At that point, I am not sure what would have happened.
However, I believe that knowing the mentality of the government in power on that day, had it been re-elected, it would have given Mr. Frame the $29 million that he was asking for. Today, the Yukon would be more than $100 million in debt, and the Faro mine would still not be operating again. When the numbers all came out and everyone could see them, there were not many Yukoners who thought the government should get involved in it. We had hundreds and hundreds of calls from people commending us for not providing the $29 million to a company that could not survive. That was the type of false economy that the Members opposite were prepared to support with taxpayers' money when they were in government.
That is what they were prepared to do. They were prepared to give loans to an American oil company, to come into competition with Canadian companies. They were prepared to do that, and they got a job for one of their Cabinet Ministers in the process. Now, I believe, that former Minister is a major player in that company.
For the Member for Faro to criticize this government and twist facts, as he has done, by saying that we have not lived up to our commitments, is total folly. He knows it, and the Yukon public knows it.
What bothers the NDP Members more than anything else is that they did not have a plan when they went out to the people in 1992. They just said, "Let's keep a good thing going." That was their plan for the next four or five years - to keep a good thing going. Yukoners did keep a good thing going by turfing them out of office, and rightly so. In my opinion, the NDP government was morally and financially bankrupt.
That has been proven time and time again.
That was a government that would drop a hotel out of the Taga Ku project - probably $20 million, $25 million or maybe $30 million, I do not know; the hotel was the biggest part of the project -and not document it. That is the cavalier, reckless sort of attitude that government had toward the money of the people of the Yukon. It had no respect for the people of the Yukon and it has no respect for the people of the Yukon today. It governs by smoke and mirrors. It is not fit to govern, in my opinion, and I am sure the people will tell them that when we go to the polls.
For the Member opposite to say his government supported the mining industry is totally ridiculous.
The NDP government of the day put all of its eggs in one basket. It supported Curragh Inc. and the Faro mine and it paid lip service to the rest of the industry. The NDP government miserably failed the mining industry in the Yukon. The previous government failed the placer miners of the Yukon, and if we had not gotten elected and taken a proactive role in helping the placer miners to get water standards that they could live with so that the industry could survive, I can assure Members that the industry would be on the verge of death today.
There were so many untruths in the Member for Faro's statements that I could not begin to cover them all. One of those untruths was that it is costing us $500,000 in interest income to develop the lots. What a bunch of garbage. For that Member to stand there and make statements like that is totally irresponsible. He has a duty to the people of the Yukon -
Speaker: Order. The time being 5:30, the House will now recess until 7:30 p.m.
Debate on Motion No. 113 accordingly adjourned
Speaker: Good evening. I will now call the House to order.
We are on Government Motions.
Clerk: Motion No. 114, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Fisher.
Motion No. 114 - Motion to extend sitting hours
Speaker: It is moved by the Hon. Government House Leader
THAT the time for the meeting of the Assembly for Wednesday, April 17, 1996 shall be from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m;
THAT the time for the meeting of the Assembly for Thursday, April 18, Monday, April 22 and Tuesday, April 23, 1996 shall be from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m; and
THAT the time for the meeting of the Assembly for Wednesday, April 24, 1996 shall be from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and from 6:30 p.m. until such time as is necessary for the purpose of completing consideration of Bill No. 10, Bill No. 32 and Bill No. 45 in Committee of the Whole; for permitting the Assembly to consider Third Reading of the Bills which have reached that stage; and for receiving the Commissioner to give Assent to the Bills which have been passed by the House.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am only going to speak for a couple of minutes on the motion. We all spoke yesterday on a similar motion, but through our agreement we have agreed to sit for 35 days, and it is our intention on this side of the House to do whatever is necessary to live up to that commitment. I personally believe that if we break the agreement the very first time we try to live by it, there will be no value in having an agreement.
Extending sitting hours is a normal procedure that we have adopted in this House several times just in my short time in the House. It is covered under section 2(7) of the Standing Orders, so I think this is probably the very best way to try and live within the terms of the agreement.
It is noted that Mrs. Firth was not a signatory to the agreement and is therefore not bound by it. However, all of us who wanted to had an opportunity to speak to the motion. There have been things happening in the House that I do not agree with, but I live by the rules of the House. I think that we should all try to live by the rules of this House even though we do not always all agree with what has been decided.
While I am standing, I want to point out that, from 1979 to 1990, this Legislature was in session for an average of 41 days a year; and from 1979 to 1993, the average was 42.66 days per year due to the very long session of 71 days in 1993. Other legislatures - New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and the Northwest Territories - have much shorter sessions than the 60 days we allowed for the Yukon.
I believe that we can get our business done in the 60 days - 35 in the spring and 25 in the fall - but, we do need cooperation from all parties. This side of the House is perfectly willing to cooperate and we will do whatever we can to live within the agreement.
I do believe that the Member for Riverside has an amendment to my motion and if he moves that amendment, we on this side will certainly support it.
Ms. Moorcroft: The government is introducing the motion to extend sitting hours because it claims that we, the New Democrats, the Official Opposition, are not keeping our word.
We are living up to the memorandum of understanding. We will conclude debate on the main estimates within the 35 days, as set out in the agreement.
The Taxpayer Protection Act is not a budget bill. In fact, it is a piece of symbolism only. The Yukon Party government is not willing to subject itself to the standard it is bringing forward as it prepares to leave office.
There was no referendum on the largest ever tax increases in Yukon history.
To add insult to injury, after saying tax increases would be obscene and then raising taxes, the Yukon Party has brought in its taxpayer deception legislation. The government is going to call a referendum on future tax increases, not the Yukon Party tax increases, mind you-
Speaker: Order. Did the Member say the word "deception" or "protection"? I did not hear which word was used.
Ms. Moorcroft: Deception.
Speaker: The word should be "protection". I believe that is what the act is called.
Ms. Moorcroft: It is not taxpayer protection and it is not accountability; it is deceitful.
Speaker: Well, I am sorry, but I have ruled before that the word "deception" is unparliamentary.
Ms. Moorcroft: I will withdraw the word, Mr. Speaker.
By this very motion, the Yukon Party is breaking the agreement. There is nothing in the memorandum of understanding about sitting for four hours on Tuesday evening. We sit Monday and Wednesday evenings until 9:30 p.m. Normally, on Tuesdays and Thursdays we leave at 5:30 p.m.
This government is also not living up to the agreement by its refusal to answer questions. We did not know that a Cabinet Minister would resign in disgrace, leaving Ministers in charge of huge departments with tremendous impact in the territory. More than a couple of times, the Minister of Education responded to serious policy questions I raised by saying, "Darned if I know, but I will check with the department." That is not accountability.
This government is accusing the Opposition of breaking our word. The government should take a look in the mirror. The Government Leader made a commitment in the House. The Government Leader promised, after long debate on the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act, that it would proclaim that bill by October 1, 1995. He also promised that there would be conflict-of-interest standards for public servants to abide by, either by legislation or policy, at the same time that the conflict-of-interest bill was proclaimed in October 1995. He broke that promise. The Government Leader refused to even discuss it in Question Period today.
It is no wonder that the government is desperate to get out of the House. The government hates the public scrutiny it gets when we ask questions and the Ministers refuse to answer.
The government made a commitment to support a mortgage guarantee for the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre. The government said that it would help the Women's Centre find a permanent home. What happened to that promise?
As soon as we got out of the Legislature, the Cabinet held a meeting and killed the deal the Women's Centre had arranged with the Yukon Housing Corporation. It is starting to sound like a familiar pattern.
Our caucus has asked the government to bring forward the act: An Act to Amend the Historic Resources Act. We have been waiting over three years for this bill to come forward.
There was no legislative session in the fall of 1995. The memorandum of understanding and the agreement calls for two sessions a year, something we will not see under this government.
If it takes one extra day to pass the act - An Act to Amend the Historic Resources Act - then we will have had a one-day legislative session. Maybe we could call it a four-day legislative session if we include the time we have spent on the Taxpayer Protection Act and the other bills that the government has put forward.
The Government House Leader spoke about an amendment to the motion, which I understand will remove the most offensive section of this motion, which is more or less calling for closure by sitting on April 24 until completing the bills before Committee and bringing the Commissioner to the House. I have no doubt that on Wednesday, April 24, the Government House Leader fully intends to introduce a motion to sit for the purpose of completing consideration of all the bills in Committee of the Whole, to consider third reading of the bills, which have reached that stage, and to receive the Commissioner to give assent to the bills that have been passed by the House. I am sure that is what the government intends to do, but I guess it is engaging in a little window dressing, with the Member for Riverside participating.
It is unfortunate that the government is thinking about a deadline, and not about the public's interest. We hope we can finish the business before the House, that the An Act to Amend the Historic Resources Act will receive third reading, although whether or not the government will proclaim that bill is a good question, when one looks at its track record.
We are not supporting this motion. However, as the Government House Leader said, we had considerable debate on it yesterday, so I will conclude my remarks.
Mr. Cable: For the record, and to address a concern raised by the Leader of the Official Opposition yesterday, in my view the Taxpayer Protection Act, as expressed earlier to him and other people, is not a finance bill in the sense that is used in the agreement, so I do not think we have to argue about that. My support for the motion comes in balancing all the pro and con arguments, and rests on the fact that I think we should make our best efforts to adhere to the deal.
Also, for the record, while I want to give best efforts to adhering to the agreement and the 35-day target that was set after some discussion, I will not support any moves toward closure, either directly or indirectly, through indefinite House sittings. I will use my best effort to make the agreement work, the main point of argument being the 35-day target. That commitment has come out of the mouths of other Members on this side of the House.
The clock is ticking. None of us here is in a position to control debate, and there is a significant way to go in the budget, but with this motion and the amendment I will propose, which I gather will be supported, in part anyway, we should be able to achieve three things. The first is the adherence to the 35-day target and the small positive step this entails in our dealing with each other, in what is probably a very corrosive atmosphere at the present time. Secondly, it should permit proper debate on the budget, and thirdly, it is hoped that there will be a window for debate of the An Act to Amend the Historic Resources Act and the amendments to the Election Act and, I believe, the Controverted Elections Act.
I should say also, before making the amendment, that I have had a survey done of the hours of sitting for other jurisdictions. The federal House of Commons sits 31.5 hours per week, the Ontario Legislature sits 20 hours per week, Saskatchewan Legislature sits 26 hours per week, Alberta Legislature sits 16 hours per week, and the Northwest Territories Legislature sits 20 hours per week. With this amendment, we will move from 20 to 32 hours in the week, and what is proposed is an eight-hour sitting day for four days and an extension of one hour for tonight, for a total of 13 extra sitting hours over the next week. I do not think that is an onerous task. At least, I am quite prepared to do the extra sitting.
Mr. Cable: I would make an amendment to Motion No. 114
THAT Motion No. 114 be amended by deleting the last two paragraphs and substituting the following:
"That the time for the meeting of the Assembly for Thursday, April 18, Monday, April 22, Tuesday, April 23, and Wednesday, April 24, 1996 shall be from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m."
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Member for Riverside
THAT Motion No. 114 be amended by deleting the last two paragraphs and substituting the following:
"That the time for the meeting of the Assembly for Thursday, April 18, Monday, April 22, Tuesday, April 23, and Wednesday, April 24, 1996 shall be from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m."
Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Amendment to Motion No. 114 agreed to
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the motion as amended?
Mrs. Firth: I feel compelled to make a few comments after listening to that ridiculous statement by the Government House Leader.
First of all, the Government House Leader stood up and said that the extension of sitting hours was a practice he had seen many times before in the Legislature. What the Member failed to mention is that on every occasion where the sitting hours had been extended before, it was mutually agreed to. The Member is wrong when he says this situation is the same as those instances. The extension of sitting hours is not mutually agreed to. I want to make that clear first.
The Government House Leader tells me that he has to follow the rules, he says he has to compromise and, while he does not always like it, he does that. The Government House Leader tells me that I should really be a nice lady. They ignored me and my constituents, but I should be a nice lady and compromise, go along with this and follow the rules. That is absolute and utter nonsense. I am not going to be a nice lady if this government disregards me and my constituents and does not give us the same rights that everyone else has. It is ridiculous.
The memorandum of understanding is not based on the rules of this House and they are not rules that can be enforced by the Speaker, so do not give me a bunch of nonsense and expect me to be gullible and swallow it.
You know what happened? The Government Leader just did not want to include me in the memorandum of understanding. I know why and so does everyone else in the Yukon. When I stood in the House and said that I was not part of the agreement, and did not have to follow the agreement, the Government Leader had a major, ballistic fit.
It was an absolute fit. He wanted to get his way and enforce his will, and make everyone in the House suffer because Mrs. Firth ticked him off - that is spelled with a "t", not a "p". I know the game that the government is playing, as does everyone else in the public. They do not think that the government is smart, shrewd, competent or even knows what it is doing. It is very obvious what is going on.
Now the Government Leader is going to make everyone pay. It is going to be his way or the highway. What happens? The Government Leader turns red and purple, shakes and sputters and pounds the desk and says that we are going to do it his way and that everyone has to do it this way - period. That is what bullies do.
That is another thing we have never had happen here. We have had some bullies in this Legislature before, but never have I seen a government in this House bully the rest of the Members, as is being done now, and abuse its power as a government, as is being done now by this government today. I have been a Member here for quite a few years and have dealt with some bullies who are bigger than the bully we have for a Government Leader today. However, he is topping it today.
The Liberal Member is supporting both of these motions, which I find most interesting, but, as Liberals do, he has reservations. He is nervous about the accusation of closure. This is the first step toward closure.
That makes the Liberal Member uncomfortable. I heard him say about four times today that he does not support closure. He does not support closure, but he supports bullying - this kind and gentle soul.
Again, what a bunch of nonsense - absolute nonsense. There is not one person on the street who can understand why this government is opposed to sitting for another day, another two days or coming back for a third day. There is no one who can understand what the big deal is. What happens on April 25? What is the big deal? It is perceived to be an unreasonable position, but this government is famous for unreasonable positions. People just shrug and say, "Oh well, they are going to be gone in five months anyway, so let us just ride it out."
What I find very distressing is since yesterday, the government Members have had this kind of cocky, jovial attitude. I walked up the steps through the Members' lounge to get a coffee last night and I heard the usual hilarity and saw them slapping each other on the back saying, "We will ask the Opposition Member these questions and see how they like that," or "We will tell them this and see how they like that," - you know - yuk, yuk, yuk.
It was fairly disgusting to hear a bunch of grown men standing there talking like a bunch of - well, I do not even insult anyone by making a comparison, but "jackass" comes to my mind for some reason.
Speaker: Order. Unparliamentary language.
Mrs. Firth: A jackass is a donkey.
Speaker: Please withdraw it.
Mrs. Firth: Jackass is an animal.
Speaker: The Member does not mean it that way and she knows it. Withdraw it.
Mrs. Firth: It is not as if I called them a bunch of horses. That would be unparliamentary and I would not do that. I withdraw it, Mr. Speaker, and I will call them a bunch of donkeys.
Speaker: Order. We do not refer to people as animals. I asked the Member to withdraw it.
Mrs. Firth: I withdraw it, Mr. Speaker. I will not call them animals. Can I call them animals? No, I cannot?
If I speak long enough, I am sure something to compare them to will come to me. However, it was very disgusting and not unlike comments I have heard the public make to me about overhearing conversations of the Ministers in restaurants - not the Talisman one. These are other conversations about their high regard for women, which I hear a lot about - the complimentary things they say about women.
I think it is time people were told exactly what kind of guys we have running the government. A lot of people know, but I think it is time that it is put on the record.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: The Member raises a good point. If I said exactly what I am feeling and what I have heard, it would be unparliamentary; it would be undignified and it would be disgusting, like the conversations I heard when going to get a cup of coffee last night.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: The House Leader says this speech is disgusting. That is just too bad, because I found his speech fairly disgusting also.
It will be interesting to see what happens next week, if we are not finished the business, to see how far the government is prepared to push it, to see how the Liberal Member will vote and whether or not he will support the government Members pushing it to the limit. I truly believe that they are prepared to do that, that they believe it is their right to do that, that they believe it is their right to be the government, and that they believe it is their turn to be the government.
Whatever they stood for as Opposition Members has all of a sudden completely vanished. Do you know what? They are doing exactly the same terrible things they stood up in the House and complained about the previous government doing, only they are doing it 10 times worse. That is really astonishing.
I do not support the amendment that is intended to try to get the Liberal Leader off the hook of supporting closure. I think it is a feeble attempt to salvage his or the Liberal Party's reputation with respect to this issue.
With respect to this issue, it will give us some indication of what style of government we are going to get if we ever get a Liberal government here, but I do not think that will ever happen.
I really have to take a look at these fellows. The last couple of days have given me a lot of time to just take a look at the people we are dealing with across the floor, and I think I can see why the electorate is so unhappy with them. I can see it clearer now than I ever have been able to before.
I will not support this motion and I am here to tell the Government Leader that I do not care if we sit until midnight every night or until two in the morning or whatever, if we have not finished the business on the April 24, I am still going to be here asking questions and he has to be here, too.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question? Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Agree.
Mr. Schafer: Agree.
Mr. Millar: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Agree.
Mr. McDonald: Disagree.
Ms. Moorcroft: Disagree.
Ms. Commodore: Disagree.
Mr. Joe: Disagree.
Mr. Harding: Disagree.
Mr. Cable: Agree.
Mrs. Firth: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are nine yea, six nay.
Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 114 agreed to as amended
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 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 will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We are dealing with Bill No. 10, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1996-97. We are discussing the Government Services capital budget. Is there any further general debate?
Bill No. 10 - First Appropriation Act, 1996-97 - continued
Department of Government Services - continued
On Capital Expenditures - continued
On Corporate Services - continued
On Office Facilities and Equipment - continued
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This program supports the department-wide acquisition of furniture, photocopiers, fax machines, computer workstations, printers and the business needs of the systems development initiatives of the department. It is down 19 percent from last year due to a decrease in the budget for office furniture and equipment and photocopiers.
Officer Facilities and Equipment in the amount of $374,000 agreed to
Corporate Services in the amount of $851,000 agreed to
On Information Services
Chair: Is there any general debate on information services?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The information services branch capital program is composed of all information resources, including mainframe computers, telecommunications networks, application servers and software, the use of which is shared by all departments. In addition, records services equipment is acquired to support the government-wide records function.
The reason for the 12-percent increase this year is due to the human resource information system that we discussed earlier.
Ms. Moorcroft: In general debate during operation and maintenance about the information services program, I had some questions for the Minister about the information technology in the government and the integrated systems there. This one line item here is for $3.7 million. Could the Minister advise us if the mainframe, networks and other services are integrated throughout government?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: My understanding is that the systems are not completely integrated across all departments. They are interfaced so that most departments can communicate with each other, but it is not complete integration as of yet.
Ms. Moorcroft: There is a considerable amount of money spent on computer equipment throughout the government. The Minister just said that these systems are able to interface. I would just like his reassurance that we are not spending money on systems that are incompatible with each other, so that we are not creating more problems in the future when departments cannot work together on common goals.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: As much as I possibly can, and with the assurance of my department, it is happening and we are working on integrated systems. We are not purchasing anything that is incompatible.
Mr. McDonald: I wonder if the Minister could give us a breakdown of the $3,785,000. I know from my own experience that there are probably a number of different projects. The Minister identified one project that might account for at least 12 percent of the total. Can the Minister give us an explanation of the total?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will run through the numbers. The breakdown of the $3,785,000 is as follows: common applications, $1,854,000; integrated services for $175,000; operating software for $95,000; operating hardware for $222,000; network for $445,000; information services branch administration and operations for $128,000; and departmental impacts for $866,000.
The major projects for 1996-97 are broken down as follows: the human resource information system for $1,074,000; the land interest management system implementation for $600,000; departmental impacts and the systems development projects for $486,000; network infrastructure and management for $445,000; local area network development projects for departments for $240,000; a corporate server for $150,000; and the office automation strategy for $100,000.
Mr. McDonald: This particular branch is famous for using computer lingo to explain itself. It does not help people like me to understand any more clearly what it is up to. This department knows, of course, that it is from time to time under greater scrutiny than others, because it is so indecipherable to the general public. It does, however, see very large amounts of money being invested in this particular area. Can the Minister explain the $600,000 for - I think this is the title of the project - the land interest management?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That is the conversion of data from the federal government and the geographic information systems that we are developing.
Mr. McDonald: Are there obligations that the government has with the federal or First Nations governments to perform this service? What is the intended impact? What does it mean to the citizenry in practical terms and in common language? In other words, how are the lives of citizens going to be improved by this particular project?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It means that we are obtaining information from the federal government and sharing it. We are going from paper maps to digital maps. It will improve the land titles systems by having the data on this system.
Mr. McDonald: This has been essentially requested by whom? Which are the client groups that are served by this? Have they requested this? Is this a longstanding request that is being met now?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This is not an implementation requested by Government Services. It was requested by Community and Transportation Services, Renewable Resources, Justice and the Executive Council Office.
Mr. McDonald: All the departments are getting together to have one common system that is digitized, I take it. Is that the terminology we are using? The purpose is to take all existing land-based information and put it into one system so all departments can make use of the system and it can be cross-referenced. Is that the general intention?
If so, how does this service relate to the imperatives under the land claim agreement for mapping?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The answer is "yes" to the preamble. With respect to land claims, we do not have the detail of how it relates. Apparently the Executive Council Office has had a lot of input into this. I cannot tell the Member right now how it will affect land claims, but I can find that out.
I can only say that that was the Executive Council Office's involvement in this system.
Mr. McDonald: The second project the Minister mentioned was systems development. What projects is he particularly referring to?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That is all related to departmental impacts. We discussed it a bit last night between Community and Transportation Services and Justice. It is also for upgrading our e-mail system. It is trying to make the departments more compatible with each other.
Apparently the court registry is the big one in this line item.
Mr. McDonald: We were listening to Ministers in the past developing court registry systems. I think that was about two years ago. Can the Minister give us the total cost for the court registry system by the time it is finished? What phase are we at in this particular budget?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not have that here, but I can find that out for the Member. I can say by experience that before I became a Member of the government and was involved in the court system, the court registry information system was not nearly what the legal community, the media and the court registry expected of it. I cannot tell what the total cost has been, but I certainly can tell the Member, from personal experience, that the system that was in place was not adequate to serve the needs of the court system, the lawyers who dealt with it or the media that went over to look for information.
Mr. McDonald: Yes, I am aware of that, too. The only point I am making is that I have heard this explanation in the past, including in the not-too-distant past, and I am wondering what kind of life this project has and when and where it is going to end. Certainly, the basic objective to improve information services at the court is worthwhile, but not necessarily at any cost. If the Minister could provide us with some detailed information about the project, I would appreciate it.
Was the court registry system the only project in the systems development line item that is significant?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is the most significant and I will bring information back for the Member because now that he has mentioned it, I am curious about the cost of improving that system, too. There are many other smaller applications to other departments.
Mr. McDonald: Perhaps. I know it ought to be fairly easy to give us the information at some point. When the Minister returns with the information about the court registry, perhaps he could just give us a dollar breakdown of the other projects in this particular area the government is proposing to spend money on. Perhaps he could give us the explanation, or the department could give us an explanation in common language, or user-friendly language - if that is what it takes to communicate with the department - so that the citizenry can understand and so people such as I can understand what public benefit is going to be achieved by each particular application.
The third project the Minister mentioned was called nework-something. I was writing it down as quickly as I could as he listed the projects. Could he just explain that for me please?
Ms. Moorcroft: While the officials are looking up the information in response to my colleague's question, I would just like to follow up on the court registry information service. I would like to ask the Minister if he could, when he brings back the information to the Opposition, also relate it to the questions I was asking last night about integrating the court registry systems with motor vehicles and with the Department of Justice.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will do that for the Member for Mount Lorne and bring along with it the detail of the departmental impact systems development projects, the $486,000. The network infrastructure management, at $445,000, is broken down as follows, and again I foresee the Leader of the Official Opposition wanting this detailed in layman's language but I will give him the description that I have. It is broken down into a wide area network, or WAN, $50,000; TCP/IP conversion migration, $30,000; transmission speed enhancements, $100,000; business continuity, $85,000; network design and prototyping, $50,000; system network management, $100,000; security $30,000; for the total of $445,000.
Again, for fear of shirking my Ministerial responsibility, and if the Members would like, I could provide them access to officials in the information services branch to provide a technical briefing or to try to put this in layman's language.
Mr. McDonald: I think the operative term here is "layman's language". No matter how the information is communicated, I am not sure we are talking about computer language or astro-physics, frankly. I do not understand any of the terminology.
It might be an interesting exercise for the department to lay out, in layman's language, a brief description of what is being done and how people's daily lives are improved by these particular expenditures. I would appreciate that information and it might be worthwhile for the department to get used to providing that kind of explanation to foster good communication.
I do not want to put people to extra work and I do not want the Minister to ask them to provide information in a way that I know they probably cannot, but if the department can briefly explain to us how people's lives are improved, I would appreciate it. I think it would be a good exercise for the branch and it would be helpful for us to know that this is a wise expenditure. Can the Minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes. I will do that. I do not think it would be a waste of time to have them do that. I can understand the meaning of transmission speed enhancements and the security. I have heard the term "firewall" used instead of what amounts to security. I do not think that it would hurt for them to put their jargon into layman's terms for all of us. I will ask them to do that and provide it to the Leader of the Official Opposition and to the Liberal Member, and also to the Member for Riverdale South.
Mr. McDonald: I appreciate that.
The Minister has cited a number of other projects: LAN, corporate server, office-something or other - I did not get the entire title - and departmental impacts. Rather than go through each one in length and listen to an explanation that I cannot understand - based on the information that has already been provided, I suspect that I would not be able to understand it even if he gives it to me - can the Minister ask the department to simply provide some sort of explanation about each of these areas? It does not have to be more than a paragraph on each one, but it should focus on common language explanations, who benefits and how they benefit. The department could put it in the following context: in the Legislature, we debate at some length about whether or not Kaushee's Place gets $70,000 less than it got last year and that sort of thing, and yet we can go through the process of approving $3.78 million with hardly a blink of an eye and without really understanding what the impact is. If the department can briefly explain to us in common language the impact of each of these other areas, we can all feel more comfortable with the competition for money between, for example, Kaushee's Place and this. It would make this expenditure understandable and supportable. If we can do that now and in the future, it might make the whole process of understanding and supporting this expenditure easier for legislators this year and in future years. Can the Minister ask the department to do that?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I will. That is the challenge for the department - to identify the benefits that are received and the client focus in these expenditures. I will ask the branch to do that.
Chair: Are we prepared to go line by line?
On Information Resources Infrastructure
Information Resources Infrastructure in the amount of $3,785,000 agreed to
Information Services in the amount of $3,785,000 agreed to
On Supply Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This funding is allocated for the purchase of suitable used assets from other levels of government and government agencies when they become available. The ability to purchase these assets minimizes government expenditures and increases the ability to respond to short-term or emergency requirements.
The only substantial change from the previous year is that fleet vehicles have become a special operating agency. There is $700,000 for the revolving fund. Under transportation, the motor vehicles line item is reduced by $1 million, which was vehicle purchases in the past year.
Mr. McDonald: In general debate on the finance bill, I indicated to the Government Leader that I was interested in understanding better how the revolving fund works and what sort of accountability to the Legislature the department plans to undertake, so that we know what the purchases are each year.
Can the Minister describe how the revolving fund works and how it plans to report its activities to the Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It will be reported essentially the same as a bank account or a bank reconciliation, where all amounts expended and all amounts returned to the fund are included, and it will be reported in the year-end annual report. It seems to be quite simple and clear but I think I understand what the Leader of the Official Opposition is getting at because Community and Transportation Services has had revolving funds for a number of years and I, as a Member, have no idea what goes on with them or how accountable they are.
I will bring back to the Member the difference in reporting the fleet vehicles and property management revolving funds as compared to Community and Transportation Services, because I know we will be reporting the activities of our fund in our annual report. Maybe the Leader of the Official Opposition understands better than I do the Community and Transportation Services revolving fund that we just do not seem to see or scrutinize in the Legislature.
Mr. McDonald: That is right. I suppose the Auditor General does review whether or not expenditures made under the fund are consistent with the revolving fund rules of purchase. In general terms, that is about as much accountability as there is. However, the Minister will remember that, in the past, there has been some concern - for example, in the Community and Transportation Services revolving fund - that the types of equipment and the uses of that equipment might expand the type of activity that Community and Transportation Services historically does into work that the private sector is doing. I remember the Member for Porter Creek East asking every year, almost like clockwork, whether or not the government was purchasing vehicles in Community and Transportation Services that were similar in size and type to the vehicles that were typically provided by the private sector.
That is only one example of a desire to know what is going on. Is there going to be a very specific set of rules for what is purchased, how it is purchased, when things can be purchased, and will those be made public? I presume they will through the annual report or through some other mechanism. Will all expenditures at some point in the year be tested against the rules governing the fund?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, the agency will be responsible for reporting at the end of the year.
Mr. McDonald: How is the fund ultimately funded? There will be an initial expenditure to get the fund operating. What keeps the fund and the purchasing power in place? Will the fund also be fed by the sale of used equipment? Can the Minister explain the process?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is anticipated that this $700,000 will make it a self-sustaining fund. The return from the sale of used vehicles and the revenues generated from the rental of vehicles to other departments will sustain the revolving fund.
Mr. McDonald: Is this fund expected to be $700,000? Is that the total that the department will need to sustain the fund? Can the Minister tell us what the fund anticipates in terms of new vehicle purchases and whether or not that level of purchases will be consistent with previous years?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The purchases will be a lot less in future years, because we have a fairly new fleet of vehicles. We spent over $1 million last year on vehicles. We expect that this level of funding will sustain the fleet.
Mr. McDonald: For example, in a given year - next year, for example - how much would the department spend out of the revolving fund on new vehicle purchases?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We expect it will be about $400,000 this year, but that will bring most of the fleet vehicles to new or almost new stock. I can check that for the Member. I believe it is a five- to seven-year cycle in which vehicles will be replaced.
Mr. McDonald: Is that a significant change from the past? I recall the vehicles being older than that before being replaced. Is that a change? If so, what is the reason for the change?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The reason for the change is simply life-cycle costing. It is the maximum return that we could get on the sale of the vehicles at that age. It has changed from the past, because what we did in the past was simply keep them as long as we possibly could and as long as it made economic sense to continue repairing them. Then we found out that there was really no residual value. We had vehicles that ran that were 10, 12 and 15 years old, but there was no disposal value to them.
Mr. McDonald: I think I understand what the Minister is saying, and I do not necessarily disagree with him, but I will tell him that I will not spare him any Member-for-Porter Creek speeches about his beater, that if it is good for him it is good for the government.
The Minister indicated that the life-cycle costing was approximately five years. Would that mean in future years approximately one-fifth of the fund would be used? Typically, once the fund is up and running, are we looking at $400,000 a year out of the fund, or $300,000? What amount are we looking at for the purchase of new vehicles?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The estimate is somewhere between $300,000 and $400,000 per year.
Chair: Are Members prepared to proceed line by line?
On Acquisition of Used Assets
Acquisition of Used Assets in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Queen's Printer Equipment
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This amount is a little bit less than the year before. I will provide a breakdown of the $98,000.
The interest on the capital lease of the DocuTech is for $15,000; subscription management equipment, $10,000; electronic networking interface, $8,000; forms management server, $20,000; replacement of publishing equipment hardware, $30,000 and a replacement of the Xerox 5052 copier for $15,000.
Mr. McDonald: I will not ask any detailed questions about that for fear that I will be asking the same question that I asked in the information services line. What is the DocuTech interest expenditure? I know it is not very much money, but what is it?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is a lease, but it is in capital so that is the annual interest on the capital lease.
Mr. McDonald: Is the primary cost associated with the DocuTech information services or the copying services and publishing services contract found in the operations budget?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The DocuTech is essentially paid for. We paid for it in the first year and this is the annual interest costs on the lease, but it was $378,000 the first year.
Mr. McDonald: I am not sure I understand the answer, but I will not belabour it much. Could the Minister refresh my memory as to what the other revolving fund in the finance bill is?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That is in property management and we will get to that in the next department.
Queen's Printer Equipment in the amount of $98,000 agreed to
On Special Operating Agency (Fleet Vehicle Agency)
Special Operating Agency (Fleet Vehicle Agency) in the amount of $700,000 agreed to
Supply Services in the amount of $803,000 agreed to
On Property Management
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know if there are any general debate questions. I am prepared to go line by line. The first item is building development overhead, which is the majority of the money.
Chair: Are we prepared to go line by line at this time?
On Building Development Overhead
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Eighty-four percent of this line consists of personnel costs to provide a pool of skilled personnel resources to carry out the planning and management of projects that are sponsored and funded by other departments. The remaining dollars - $235,000 - are support costs for those personnel, communications, supplies and travel.
There are 19.5 indeterminate positions and one auxiliary position in this line.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister explain the two-percent increase, which is actually significantly higher than the 1994-95 actuals. Can he tell us what is happening here? Can he also tell us if there has been any reorganization in this particular area?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: There are no more positions. My understanding is that it simply represents merit increases and the fact that we are budgeting to be fully staffed in 1996-97.
Mr. McDonald: What was the estimate for 1995-96? I do not have my other budget book here.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not have it here either. I do not know what the budget was. I do not know what time we will take a break but I do have the budget upstairs and could get that figure for the Member for after the break.
Mr. McDonald: I have my other budget somewhere else too. I was just interested because, having been Minister of the department, I do recall the figure in this area being around the $1,100,000 mark for a considerable period of time. It just now struck me as interesting that it is now $1.5 million. If the Minister is saying that there is no reorganization, there are no additional person years and nothing is new other than being fully staffed, then I will take that as the explanation and assume that it is complete.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The only thing that I can say to the Member - and I will check on it - is that we have made property management responsible for the maintenance of several more buildings since the Leader of the Official Opposition was Minister responsible for this department.
Building Development Overhead in the amount of $1,515,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The amount is the same as last year, but this has been a new item for the last couple of years. The pre-engineering component was established to provide departments with winter planning funds for smaller projects in order to facilitate early project commencement in the spring.
Mr. McDonald: Consequently, is there demonstrable improvement in projects being delivered earlier in the spring? Is there any justification for it? Does the Minister feel that the money is well spent?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Apparently it has improved the timing of the tendering of projects. It has not really changed the money, but it has allowed the department to do its plan earlier and get the tenders out earlier. It has had a positive effect.
Pre-Engineering in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Capital Maintenance and Upgrade
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This is considerably reduced from last year, simply because there are not as many capital maintenance jobs and upgrades to be done. There are 39 facilities supported by this line: 16 government office buildings, eight warehouse storage facilities, seven workshop/ambulance/firehalls, five Yukon Place buildings, two residential units and Chateau Jomini.
The major projects for 1996-97 are the Watson Lake administrative building upgrade phase 2, $100,000; roof repairs to this building, the Law Centre and 201 Range Road, $50,000; repairs to the flooring in the Law Centre, $50,000; reflooring in this building and Yukon College, $40,000; upgrading the heating system in this building, $35,000; rebalancing the heating and cooling system in the Law Centre, $30,000; and, various small projects, including boiler replacement, painting, fencing and walkway replacement, $55,000.
Mr. McDonald: I would begin quickly by noting that in my travels today, I discovered the people who work in the courts, particularly people who work in Courtroom No. 2, were complaining about the air supply in those particular chambers. I would pass that concern on to the Minister.
The Minister mentioned the roofing will be redone on this building. Virtually every year I have been a legislator, roofing seems to have been done on this building. Whoever was responsible for designing this building must also have been in the roofing business.
The project that I am interested in is the Watson Lake administration building. Could the Minister tell what the plans are for this particular building? Who are the tenants going to be and what kind of renovations are anticipated?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I think the building is well known to most of us in the House. The space, formerly occupied by the Yukon Liquor Corporation, has been renovated to accommodate an expanded library, health and social services, as well as improved office accommodation for Economic Development and the public safety branch of the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
It was a three-year project to upgrade the building that began in the fall of 1995.
Mr. McDonald: Where is the court going to be located? Will it still be located upstairs? If so, this has been a complaint that I have heard about on numerous occasions, because witnesses, plaintiffs and defendants stand in the hallway waiting for the court. This is an issue that caused some irritation for a long time. Has that problem been resolved in the process of this redesign and upgrade?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, not to our knowledge. I do not know if the Department of Justice has approached us to make any significant changes to the location of the court services branch.
In this budget, court services remains upstairs. I have not heard the complaints that the Leader of the Official Opposition has just mentioned.
Mr. McDonald: I am certain that Mr. Speaker has heard the complaints. If he has not, then we are talking to different people in Watson Lake. Certainly this has been of some concern, as has the issue of accessibility for people who are disabled or who have difficulty climbing stairs. Can the Minister tell us what is happening with respect to accessibility to the upper floor?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure. I will check on it. The Member for Watson Lake informs me that court services got the former Department of Economic Development office that was also upstairs, so they do have rooms for interviewing, and witnesses do not have to be waiting in the hallway like they used to be. I am not sure about accessibility. I will check on it.
Capital Maintenance and Upgrade in the amount of $360,000 agreed to
On Energy Conservation Retrofits
Mr. Cable: The Minister provided a letter to me, which was copied to other Members here, on the savings and the payback periods. It appears that savings in the light upgrading for this building here amount to $75,000 and the payback is a little less than two years. The payback period for the Takhini School was 4.2 years. I assume that is primarily in savings in electricity. Would that be accurate?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes.
Mr. Cable: If we add those savings together, we have a saving of three-quarters of a million kilowatt hours, if I have done my math right, which would indicate to me that we cannot afford not to proceed with this expeditiously. We have, according to the statistics pages in the O&M part of the budget, 81 buildings leased and owned, and I believe that is exclusive of schools. I would guess that there would be a savings of over $1 million a year by moving expeditiously to upgrade the lighting in all the buildings - I believe these fluorescent lights in the ceiling here are the lower-wattage fluorescent lights - and it would give the government a leadership role in energy conservation, which I think the government has been criticized for not assuming in the past.
As a guesstimate, are we looking at a possible $1 million per year saving if we move on all of our buildings in the near future?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know, but I do not doubt the Member's calculations at all. He raises an issue that is a bone of contention for me, as Minister of Government Services. We pay for utilities at somewhere between 140 and 150 percent of the cost of the generation of power. I know that the schools are moving toward energy-efficient lighting, and I think that that will be a significant saving to the government.
Mr. Cable: Out of curiosity, and in view of the short pay-back periods, which I think are really quite short in relation to what one uses as a rule of thumb for investment in business, why is the government not leaping into this with gusto and moving on its buildings much more rapidly than what I think it is doing?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We are, with some gusto, but there is the competing interest of the Yukon Energy Corporation and its ability to earn a profit. Every other issue comes into it - rate relief, residential consumer, and so on. If the government reduces its payments to the Yukon Energy Corporation, there is less profit for the corporation, and that causes other effects. It is not as if we are all independent of each other. There are effects of our reduction, although I have no hesitation in encouraging property management and the schools to do everything they can to reduce the usage of energy, and therefore the costs.
Mr. Cable: I would have to remind the Minister that we are moving toward full cost of service, so I think the charitable inclination he may have may be misplaced. We are also talking about burning coal - which has a lot of drawbacks - to increase our generating capacity. So, if the Minister responsible for government buildings were to leap into the fray and start encouraging conversions - lighting conversions, at the very least - he might have his government set an example in energy conservation. Could I encourage the Minister to pick up the pace a little?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Sure. The Member can do that. My officials are listening and I will certainly pass it on to the Department of Education.
Mr. McDonald: I have been looking for a reason to agree with the Liberal Member all night. I did not want to start the night out with bad feelings about the House hours and all that. It just does not feel comfortable being in a situation where I cannot agree with the Member at least once in the evening.
I could not agree with him more in this particular case. In the spirit of generosity that we have somehow adopted this evening, I am going to commit to the Minister that I am going to resist putting out a press release tomorrow morning regarding the Minister's desire to ensure that the Yukon Energy Corporation makes a profit and is forsaking conservation in order to ensure that that happens. If the Minister thinks about it for a moment, he will understand that energy conservation is a good thing. It means that we have less dependence on fossil fuels, and so on.
The Yukon Energy Corporation can look after itself and, believe me, no matter what the Minister does or says, the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. are going to make a healthy profit. We do not have to worry about them at all.
Can the Minister tell us what projects the government has in mind? If he has a brief explanation for the $30,000, I would appreciate it. What projects does the Minister have in mind for energy retrofits - not just for electrical upgrading, but for building retrofits?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I do not have the specific dollar breakdown for the $30,000, but I do have the projects. The projects include photocells on exterior lights, programmable thermostats, car plug temperature sensors, motion occupancy light sensor and some installation of energy efficient lighting.
Energy Conservation Retrofits in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
On Common Facilities
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The Member for Whitehorse West was on his feet, but I will quickly read the explanation I have. If he has a question, I will respond to it.
Most of these funds are requested to prepare office space plans for Haines Junction and to continue space planning in Whitehorse.
Mr. Sloan: That was my question.
What is the office space primarily for in Haines Junction? Which department?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is for the full range in Haines Junction. I have certainly heard this from the Member for Kluane. Community and Transportation Services, Renewable Resources, Government Services and the liquor store are in this space. I think that even Health and Social Services is there. It is trying to organize and coordinate all government space in Haines Junction. We do not know exactly what we will do with it.
Mr. Sloan: The reason I ask is that some time ago I know there was some concern about locating some of the college facilities. The facilities did not require a high square footage area, but they were seeking space. I was just wondering if they had been located in the same complex.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No. The college is part of it, too. I may not be answering the Member's question completely. My official was talking to me about the need to look at the whole space. The library is there. The college needs space.
Haines Junction is not nearly as organized and coordinated as it should be. There has even been consideration given to moving the liquor store out of that administration building and into its own building, and consolidating the other government offices in that building. This seems to make the most sense, but no decision has been made yet.
Common Facilities in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Property Management Equipment
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This is simply for the purchase of tools and equipment for the building trades, workers and custodial workers as new equipment needs arise, new buildings are added, tools wear out and changes in technology make old maintenance equipment obsolete. It is simply an equipment replacement fund.
Mr. Sloan: This is just a normal amount. This is nothing unusual and it is fairly routine? There are a certain amount of tools every year?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Exactly. It is down a little from 1994-95. Ladders, hand tools, shop machinery, vacuum cleaners, that sort of thing is needed.
Property Management Equipment in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
Property Management in the amount of $2,070,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $7,509,000 agreed to
Department of Government Services agreed to
Chair: We will now move to general debate on the Department of Health and Social Services.
Department of Health and Social Services
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am pleased to introduce today the 1996-97 operation and maintenance and capital budgets for the Department of Health and Social Services. I am requesting $93,772,000 for operation and maintenance for the department and $20,799,000 for capital.
Recoveries for operation and maintenance for the department are reduced by 53 percent, from $22,746,000 to $10,672,000, which largely reflects the demise of the Canada assistance plan. The new social program funding arrangement, called the Canada Health and Social Transfer, which replaces the Canada assistance plan, and the established program funding now appear in the income statement under the financial summary for the government.
Capital recoveries are estimated at $17,659,000, which reflects the amount expected to be spent on the hospital construction project in 1996-97.
This project is fully funded by the federal government.
This budget reflects the strong, ongoing commitment of the government to fund health programs and social services in the Yukon that are effective, efficient and affordable.
The one-percent increase in operation and maintenance funding reflects the balance of two goals.
First, the modest increase supports the efforts of this government to maintain its level of social spending, while at the same time enhancing programs and services. As you are aware, the reform activities related to health programs and social assistance have increased efficiencies in spending. The government has refocused its expenditures to those most in need, and the savings from these efforts have been reinvested in the department to enhance many programs and services. The government has not taken the approach of many other jurisdictions that have slashed social program budgets.
Second, the government has successfully curtailed the high rate of growth in spending that was apparent under the previous administration. This was necessary because costs were increasing at a rate that was unsustainable for any government. The government has managed that rate of growth and in 1996-97, we expect to hold the line on overall department expenditures.
We will hold the line and we will continue to enhance and improve services and programs that are aimed at increasing the health and social well-being of all citizens of the Yukon.
This budget reflects the balance needed to ensure a strong commitment to social program spending and responsible fiscal management.
As Members are aware, the department embarked upon a public consultation process this winter to address some of the key issues facing the department with respect to health and social assistance programs.
The results of these consultations will be made public following the completion of a report in early June. The results will be used over the next while to make informed decisions related to the repatriation of community health programs, the children's dental program, continuing care regulations, midwifery and social assistance reform.
With respect to the 1996-97 operation and maintenance budget, I would like to highlight some of our plans for the coming year. Under family and children's services, we are requesting a two percent increase. Child care supports have been increased in recognition of additional employment and educational opportunities for women, many of whom were formerly dependent on public assistance. Enhancements are included to increase services in support of the FAS/FAE strategy and child abuse treatment services.
The family violence shelter funding policy will see increases to both the Dawson and Watson Lake shelters. While the budget shows a decrease to Kaushee's in 1996-97, an agreement has been reached with Kaushee's board to defer this decrease for another year.
Respite services for special needs youth will be fully implemented. A number of new activities related to youth at risk will also be implemented.
Under the social services program, I am requesting an increase of $336,000, or two percent, over 1995-96. Enhancements are planned to increase home care nursing positions, increased coverage in alcohol and drug services and increased placements under vocational rehabilitation services.
We will continue with the implementation of the alcohol and drug strategy, including working with the Department of Education on a pilot project that will improve an alcohol and drug prevention theme into the regular school curriculum. We will also be undertaking a review of all programs to ensure they are being provided in the most effective and efficient manner possible, that they are targeted to those in greatest need, and that the most vulnerable are protected.
With respect to our social assistance program, we have identified increased funding to ensure that public expenditures are going to those who are eligible for the program. Detecting and preventing fraud and abuse related to social assistance is a responsible action this government has undertaken to ensure that this part of the social safety net is protected, and that public expenditures are going to those who truly require assistance.
As Members are aware, the public consultations held recently raised the issue of social assistance rates. At this point in time, this government has not taken any action or decision with respect to changing rates.
I will be considering very carefully the many factors associated with this issue, including the comments made by the public during the consultation process.
This budget shows a decrease in spending associated with the social assistance program. The decrease reflects the continuing downward trend we have been experiencing in social assistance volume and does not reflect any rate adjustments whatsoever, as no decision has been taken on that issue.
For health services, the 1996-97 budget represents a one-percent increase over the 1995-96 forecast. This increase is primarily due to a modest net increase in health insurance costs and a reduction due to the completion of planning for phase two of the health transfer. With respect to this repatriation of community health programs, we are still proceeding with the tentative target date of October 1, 1996. Our community focus continues in the area of health promotion and prevention programs. The youth investment fund has been established, and funding is being provided to Yukon College to increase ambulance training for employees and community volunteers.
Through continuing care, we are offering an assessment and stabilization program, which assists clients to remain in their homes with their families in the communities.
Through our regional services program, we are requesting increases to extend the Yukon Family Services Association pilot project for a full year. Through this program, itinerant counsellors are providing services to Teslin, Haines Junction, Carmacks and Mayo. We are also requesting an increase to the Kaska family support and alcohol and drug pilot projects to extend coverage there for a full year.
Over the coming year, systems development within the department will concentrate on case management systems, which will allow for increased and more efficient client services. The implementation of this system will increase the department's client load capacity so that services can be provided to more clients without increasing the workforce.
With respect to the capital budget estimates, the majority of capital funding being requested is to continue with the hospital construction progress. I am pleased at this time to once again report that this project remains on schedule and on budget with part of the new facility scheduled to open during the coming year.
Capital funding is also being requested to complete the new Ross River health centre and to design and begin construction of a new health centre in Teslin.
Finally I would like to highlight for Members that the department will soon be finalizing a three-year strategic business plan that will focus on the development and implementation of outcome measures. This initiative has been under development for the past year and is the beginning of a long term, ongoing, strategic and business planning process that will be incorporated into the regular annual planning cycle of the department.
These are some of the highlights for the Department of Health and Social Services for 1996-97. I would just like to mention that I have the deputy minister with me. As Members are aware, I have only been in this portfolio for a very short time. If there are questions that neither I nor the deputy minister can answer, we do have people who are listening who can provide the answers within this session.
Chair: We will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are in general debate on the Department of Health and Social Services.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to make some comments about the budget. The Minister has read the list of things that this budget will accomplish this year. It includes many things.
I do have a lot of questions to ask about the budget. The department was aware of some of the things that I was interested in. I let it know what those interests were, and I think it would have passed that information on to the Minister, so he would have had a chance to get briefed on many things. I do understand that he may not be able to answer all of my questions. There are some things that I am interested in getting answers to while we are still in session. Some answers I can wait for, but people are waiting for answers to other questions.
One of the questions that I was asking in Question Period today concerned the evaluations of non-government organizations. I do not think the Minister knew exactly what I was talking about.
I was asking questions about the process for the evaluations that were going to be done. The department indicated that there was $33,000 in the budget this year for an evaluation on one non-government organization. At the time, I had asked for a copy of the evaluation process methodology. I was told that the department had a draft copy only, and that it would be passed on to me as soon as it was completed.
I did not get answers to the questions I was asking today, nor did the Minister know exactly what I was talking about. I can accept that. I will be wanting answers to those questions, however. As the Minister said, department people are listening to this debate and would provide answers to the Minister, if they were able to.
I do have a number of questions. Without making a long speech, perhaps I can just get to some of the concerns I have.
In Question Period, I asked the Minister about a gag order that the department had. I was not sure whether or not it was only included in juvenile justice.
The computer printout that I had was signed by a T. Brady from that branch and I had read from the computer printout during Question Period. At the time, the Minister said the manner in which he thought those questions were dealt with was that if there were an inquiry from the Opposition and it went to the department, the department would provide as much information as it was permitted to give, and I understand that.
That was the way I understood it when I was a Minister. The people in the department would provide an Opposition Member with as much information as they could. We found that in the Department of Health and Social Services it was not the case. Then, I found out why when I got a copy of this computer printout. We were having a great deal of difficulty trying to get that kind of information from the department. I did not really appreciate some of the remarks that were made to the people who work in our office.
I am not going to table this in the House, but here is an example of a list of all of the people who call our office concerning all the different departments. They require all kinds of information. As MLAs, we want to do the right thing and to provide them with the information that they want from us. In a lot of cases, they are asking for help in some way because they appear to have problems.
I would like to ask the Minister if he can let me know whether or not this gag order is going to be lifted from the department so that we can get quicker answers. We have had letters that have been written to us in the past saying from now on to please direct questions to the Minister's office. I have read into the record how long it took us to get a response from the department. It was almost three months. What we did not know in the meantime was that it was already being dealt with by people in the department, but no one told me nor did they tell the father.
I do not want to have to wait that long. I do appreciate that people in the department are very busy. Would he let me know exactly where he is coming from in regard to the kinds of requests that go to the department from Opposition Members. We are not asking for anything for our own benefit. It generally is, as I said, for the hundreds of people who call us every single day to get information.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member is quite aware, I believe, that I worked as a bureaucrat for government for some eight to nine years. One of the problems that someone in the civil service has when a politician phones is that they are afraid that if they give too much information they will be getting into policy, or something like that. Getting a call from a politician really makes a civil servant nervous.
I have no problem whatsoever with someone phoning somebody in the department for specific information that is public information, but a lot of times the employees themselves are not very willing to talk to a politician.
I am not terribly familiar with Health and Social Services but I do know that there is a lot of confidential information in that department. Whether the person who is called can actually divulge that information is something they sometimes have to check on with their supervisor.
What I would suggest is that if the inquiry can come through my office, especially if it concerns clients, I would prefer it that way. If it is something that is definitely public information, then maybe the best way would be for whomever is called to tell the politician that they will get back, and then check with a supervisor and immediately get back to the Member.
I can certainly appreciate the Member's concern that it is three months before she gets an answer. That is not intended and it is not the way I would like to see it.
Ms. Commodore: I understand what the Minister is saying. I know that there are some individuals who are a bit nervous about providing information. The understanding that we always had is that there is a policy in place that says how much information an MLA is allowed to get. As a matter of fact, it was provided to me when I was the Minister of Justice for the Department of Justice. It was something that they were able to look at in order to find out how much information could be given.
A lot of things are confidential and we would not expect that that kind of information would be given to us, unless we had the permission from someone who wanted information and we knew that the department could do it. In a general sense, most of the people who phone us have simple requests, and want information that is not going to cause a great deal of nervousness in the departments.
This is not just for Health and Social Services; it is a list for all the departments in which MLAs respond. They are concerns such as insurance problems, old age pensions, someone wanting to set up a tourism business, road work near Minto, campgrounds too close, a bus at Army Beach or a pond flooding a basement - those kinds of things. They are not usually something of a confidential nature.
In the last little while, it has been very difficult to get that information. I know that the people who work in our office were often insulted by some of the responses that they got. I do know that we had many problems working with the former Minister, because he was not very open about providing us with information. A lot of the letters that we received from the department were written in a very rude manner. I did mention it to the Minister. I was reading some of the letters that I had received a while ago and I could not believe that I accepted them, as some of them were downright rude. They did not have to be so, as we were trying to get information for the benefit of the individuals who came to us.
I do not know whether or not we have a standard set of procedures or if there is a policy about how we deal with it. However, if it is a simple request that I think our researchers can get from an individual in the department and does not require confidential information, I would like them to feel that they can get that information without a problem. We could always pretty well determine whether or not it would be a difficult thing to get, especially if it might be a confidential matter. We would not even want something like that if we did not have the permission of the individual.
Many people call us to find out information on their behalf and leave us their names and problems. However, the hardest thing to do is try and get the information from the department when the people do not want us to tell employees in the department their names. It makes it difficult to get the information. We write letters on people's behalf saying that a person requires this information or is having a problem, which makes it very difficult for the department to respond to if it does not know the circumstances.
I will wait for the Minister to respond. I have a couple of things that I want on the record tonight, because these people are waiting for a response. Will the Minister ask his department to respond to these questions, at least by Monday?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are two or three items to respond to, but I think the main thing is client-specific information. I believe there is a process in place where someone wanting that type of information has to get a waiver from the client.
I am not sure, and I cannot recall from my days of employment with the government whether or not there is an overall policy, or if each department has its own policy. However, I will find out for the Member.
People are very reluctant to give out information, even if it is public information. If a politician phones asking questions, people automatically wonder why they need the information and are immediately reluctant to provide the information.
Years ago at the Department of Community and Transportation Services, we were required to make notations of requests for information from politicians and provide that to the deputy minister. I do not know if that was an internal policy in that department.
Again, I do not have a problem with public information. It does not matter if it is a politician or a member of the public requesting the information. I do not see a difference, but this is a decision that is made by the deputy minister. I do not think I will be giving the deputy minister explicit instructions about how he manages his department.
I will definitely check out the overall policy to see if there is one for government.
Ms. Commodore: From being in government for seven years, I know information is given to the Opposition according to what the Minister's own policies were, and some were more open than others. It varied from department to department, as it does now. I look for some improvement in that, and I hope this happens. Most of our questions are of a serious nature, and we are trying to find that information for our constituents.
One of the things I would like to bring up now is something the deputy minister will know about, as there has been correspondence back and forth. It is in regard to the Lewises, who are looking after a Mr. Erik Enns. They have been into the department to talk about the situation they are in right now, where they are giving excellent care to an individual.
I wrote a letter to the former Minister on March 5, after we had meetings with them. They gave us a lot of information with regard to the care they were giving this individual. Things had gone on between them and the department. They are not faulting the decisions that were made, but they have a question in regard to the manner in which the payments are being made to them.
Decisions were made and recommendations came from the department that were positive for the care of this individual. The care they were providing was 24 hours long - to this individual as well as to other people - and excellent care, according to everyone to whom we talked. The care this person required was of a nature that possibly could have warranted this person being put into Macaulay Lodge or the extended care facility, which would have cost thousands of dollars more than what it is costing now.
I did not get a response from the former Minister, so I wrote a letter dated March 21 to this Minister. I have not yet had a response to it. I do not think that the Lewis' have heard any more information. It is a worthy case.
The situation is a little bit different from most situations. The doctor who recommended that this kind of care be provided to him mentioned that he was now a Yukon resident. As of March, he has been in the Yukon for a year. I would like the Minister to go back and look at the situation to find out whether or not more thought could be put into the matter. The situation is a little bit different than a lot of others. As I said, there have been positive recommendations made by the department. I would not mind getting an answer back about that before the session is over, with enough time to possibly ask the Minister more questions. I would appreciate it if he would let me know.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am aware of this particular case. I was given a fairly good briefing on it about 10 days ago, so I asked the department to do an assessment of the person. This person is quite ill. There are medical problems and other problems. The assessment has been completed, and the department is putting together some options for what can be done for him.
My number-one concern, from my limited knowledge, is that the person get the proper care. I am not saying that he is not getting that care where he is, but we want to be absolutely certain that he can get the type of care he needs. The options should be ready to discuss tomorrow.
I thought I had signed the letter that the Member referred to. If I have not signed it, then I have at least seen a draft of it. It should be coming to the Member in the next very few days.
Ms. Commodore: I do not have a response to that. If the Minister has signed it, then I should be receiving it soon. I think the thing we are looking at right now is that, in order to provide him with the care he needs, there may be a possibility of having to hire people to come and work with him. Even under those circumstances, it would probably cost less than it would if he were to go to the extended care facility, or wherever else he might be able to go to. I do look forward to hearing from the Minister. If he has already signed the letter, I certainly hope that it will be on my desk tomorrow. I will wait for that. If the Minister has not met with these people, I can say that - as far as I can see - they are excellent people, who provide a valuable service to Yukoners who need that care.
The other question I have is with respect to the chronic disease program. We do have people coming to us with different circumstances that cause them to become concerned about how much it is costing them.
I have written a letter to the Minister, asking about a constituent of mine, Mr. Leduc. My constituent does not have a problem with me telling the Minister his name in this House. He was expecting that I would ask these questions in Question Period, but I had not done that because I just had not got around to it. Now that we are in debate in this department, I will not be able to. I have the paperwork on him. He is having a difficult time with not being able to afford to buy the drugs he has to have all the time. One of the things, of course, that he has been told is that, every so often, a review is done of the list of drugs that are covered under this program, at which time it is decided if any new drugs are to be added or others taken off. He feels that because of the high cost of the drugs that he has to pay for every month, that he should be entitled to get the kind of drugs that he needs without him having to go further in the hole.
He is a taxi driver and he does not make a whole lot of money. The information I have is this: he is a taxi driver who has a chronic disease known as restless leg syndrome. I do not know what the medical term for that is. He has been prescribed a drug and applied to the program to have it paid for. It costs him about $120 a month, and it appeared on the drug formulary. It was denied because it was not under the chronic disease list.
When he appealed to the formulary working group that this be added to the chronic disease program, he was denied on the basis of fiscal restraint. I can understand that the government has had to look at this seriously, because the former Minister had mentioned how high spending went when they put all sorts of diseases on that list. This individual feels that there should be some consideration put into reviewing the list again to find out whether or not this disease can be included on that list, because it is a chronic condition that he has to have medication for on a regular basis. He cannot help it. He does not have any insurance or anything else that might cover it.
He has been in to see me day after day after day, so I did let him know that I would be putting this to the Minister tonight, or while we were in this budget debate, and that I would wait for the Minister to respond to my question and his concerns. The Minister may stand up and let me know exactly what is happening in regard to this one issue, but certainly I would like something at least in writing so that I can pass it on to this individual, who is having a very rough time trying to pay for this medication on a monthly basis.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that there is a list of diseases that are covered, and there are requests on a more or less continuous basis for additions. I also understand that this has not been reviewed for some time, and it may possibly be time to have a review, but it would likely mean that one could go through the list and drop the ones for which there is little request and add something new. That is about all I know of it - that there has not been a review for some time. I do not know how long it takes to do a review. I am not sure who is involved, but I would expect it to involve physicians and pharmacists, and those kinds of people.
What I will do is give the Member the commitment to look into it, with the idea of possibly reviewing the list.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister will probably be getting letters from other MLAs with regard to the concerns that have been brought to us by individuals. I do not have permission to divulge those names at this time, so I will not do so. I only had the consent of this one individual who has been coming to me about that.
He said he did not know when he was going to do it and did not know if it could be done or how soon they were going to be able to review the list and make recommendations. Could I get a response back to my constituent in the form of a letter, because I do not think it will take the department that long to do that, before we are out of this House?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have a chronic disease committee, a group of people who actually look at this. I do not think the review can happen as quickly as the Member would like, but what I can do is provide a letter of commitment to have the committee review it to see if some matters can be reprioritized.
Ms. Commodore: I look forward to receiving that response. Would the Minister let us know if he has had contact with the committee about the review and when the committee is going to do it?
I have some further questions about the certified nursing assistants at the hospital. I understand that the Minister has an interest in this because he does support local hire. The majority of the CNAs at the Whitehorse General Hospital are long-time Yukoners. Most have trained in the Yukon to allow them to work at the hospital.
Both the Minister and the hospital have indicated that no one would be laid off, at least in the near future. Although that sounds like a good thing, what we are looking at are individuals who are trained to do a specific job. They are certified nursing assistants. They take that training because they want to do a job. It is mostly patient care.
What they are hearing right now is that they will not be laid off but will be given other jobs that they are more than qualified to do. As one person said to me, where does one go after looking after patients and doing the kind of work one is trained to do and has experience at - from working in a ward for 10 or more years, such as the medical or surgical wards or the operating room?
The proposal is to use more registered nurses to do the duties that the certified nursing assistants were doing. They are not pleased that they will have to do other jobs, such as stocking cupboards, working in a central supply room or other jobs that they do not really want to have, as it is not why they entered that profession.
I asked the Minister if he had considered further training for those individuals. I know that the certified nursing assistant program was cancelled at the college one or two years ago. We have looked at other jurisdictions where they have gone through this process of trying to be more cost effective and have laid off CNAs. Once they started using RNs more, in some cases they found that they were hiring back all their CNAs.
What they are doing in those other jurisdictions is providing the kind of training that they will need. For instance, CNAs are not allowed to give medication.
They are not allowed to do IVs and they are not allowed to do a number of other things. Other jurisdictions are putting courses in place to allow the certified nursing assistants to take that kind of training so that they can continue with their profession.
I would like to ask the Minister if he has had a chance to look at that possibility here, since the news in the media last week. He is the Minister responsible for Health and he does provide the money to the hospital, and the Hospital Corporation does make its decisions and it is short on independence - it is not as independent as Workers' Compensation.
If the Minister could at least respond to that, I would appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are not going to be more registered nurses in the hospital. My understanding is that there is going to be something like eight full-time equivalent certified nursing assistant positions that will no longer be required, and I think this is over a period of time. It will not happen instantly. These people are being offered new jobs.
As the Member said, they are not necessarily the same type of job. The other thing is that there are continually new programs, and some of these people may fit into those new programs. There is also a turnover in any staffing situation. For instance, if a certified nursing assistant were to quit for whatever reason, it is quite likely that another CNA would not be hired for the job, that a clerical person in support services or something similar might fill the position.
As far as the training at the college, I believe that it is something like the Renewable Resources course that is offered. The college will offer a course for a certain period of time and then defer it for a period of time because there are more people trained than there are positions for. I believe that is the case with the CNAs. Right now there is no need for that particular type of training, so the college has deferred the CNA training for a period of time.
As for providing training outside for the CNAs to possibly become RNs, that would require a fairly major policy decision on the part of the Yukon government. I certainly could not commit to that here and now. There is some merit to the idea, but I am certainly not going to commit to it now. I might look into the cost to government to do it, and if there is a benefit for the Yukon, it may be something that we could look at. Again, I think it is a very major policy decision. I suspect that it would be quite costly. For those reasons I am not going to commit to it here tonight.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to ask the Minister if he would look at what is happening in other jurisdictions. We are not looking at CNAs taking further training to become registered nurses. We are looking at expanded roles, where the CNAs are provided with the kind of training they need to allow them to do more things in the hospital. I have a list here of some of the jurisdictions. In Nova Scotia they are provided with 60 hours of training for medication, or train them for so many hours to do different things.
There is a pilot project in Nova Scotia where home community health is being done with IV therapy and pain pumps - I do not know what pain pumps are.
The role of the certified nursing assistant is being expanded. I do know that in outside jurisdictions, where there are more hospitals, equipment and treatment provided, a certified nursing assistant would receive more training than they would here. In other jurisdictions, they are looking at changing the name to licensed practical nurse. I understand that that would be someone who has been provided with more training, in order to allow them to expand their role, although they would not become a practical nurse. It has been a long, long time since I trained in Vancouver, in a number of different hospitals, but at the end of the training, I was a licensed practical nurse. When I came to work here, I found that the training I received was much more extensive than what was provided here.
They are looking at the possibility of expanding the roles to allow them to continue doing the work they want done. I would like to ask the Minister if he, someone in his department or the Yukon Hospital Corporation has looked into further training so that the corporation will not have to look at laying off all of the certified nursing assistants.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I guess that the first thing we need to do is talk to the Yukon Hospital Corporation board. The main thing is to determine what their needs are and how these people can fit into those needs. If there are some small training courses that the Member is referring to - for example, the 60-hour courses - I am sure that between the corporation and possibly ourselves, those kinds of things may very well be possible. The other thing is that some of these people may be able to fit into places like Macaulay Lodge or the Thomson Centre, and, as I said before, there are new programs that the hospital continually looks at.
It may be that most of these people will be fitted in somewhere in the organizations that are here. Very few may have to take a job that they have not actually been trained for.
Ms. Commodore: I have asked about one of the things that did come to our attention, which was with regard to meetings with the Hospital Corporation about some of the changes that were going to take place. The CNAs did not appear to know some of the decisions that were being made about them until someone sat down with them and told them. They were requesting, at least until last week, a meeting with the Hospital Board. I was asking the Minister about that. He thought that they had met with them. I think they might have met with some of the administration and discussed their problems, but they felt that they were not as involved as they should be, according to the regulations of the act. They felt that there should have been more involvement from them if they were going to look at changing the roles of those individuals. They would have felt, at least, that their input was valuable, rather than hearing, right at the end of the day, what was going to happen.
They were upset, and the Minister knows they were upset, because they were on the radio. It was news for a couple of days that there were going to be some layoffs - maybe not today - but down the road because they did not know how long those other jobs that they might get as a result of this change would continue.
There are a few months between now and when the new hospital opens and I would like to ask the Minister if he would at least look at some of the representation that has been made by me and some of the things that he is aware of with regard to the possibility of making things a little bit more acceptable to the certified nursing assistants who do not want to change but want, between now and when any final decisions are made, input.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have a meeting scheduled with the Yukon Hospital Corporation board for May 1 and that certainly will be one of the topics discussed. I cannot say what the outcome will be right now, but I am quite willing to take the Member's representation to that meeting.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 10.
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. 10, First Appropriation Act, 1996-97, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the 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 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 10:28 p.m.