Thursday, December 5, 1996 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In Remembrance of Hilda Watson, former MLA
Mr. Ostashek: I rise today to pay tribute to a very special Yukoner and a great Canadian - Hilda Watson - who passed away on July 14, 1996. Hilda moved to the Yukon in 1947 with her husband Ron. She taught intermediate grades 4, 5 and 6 in Haines Junction for about seven years before her interest in local affairs led her to pursue a career in politics. She ran for and was elected to this Legislature in 1970 as a Member for Carmacks-Kluane. In addition, she served on the first Yukon Executive Committee, in Education, and she also served as a Minister of Health. She went on to be the first elected leader of the Yukon Party and the first Canadian woman to lead a mainstream political party in Canada.
Hilda and her family owned and operated Watson's Store for seven years in Haines Junction before selling and settling in the Lower Mainland, returning to Haines Junction to be with her family in the summers and during holidays.
As a former Member of this House and a very special Yukoner, it is appropriate that we pay tribute to her here today.
Mr. McRobb: On behalf of the government and caucus, I would also like to pay tribute to the late Hilda Watson, a former Member of this Assembly. Hilda Watson was elected in 1970 and sat in this House until 1978. She was the second woman to be elected to the Yukon Legislature and in 1978 became the first Canadian woman to lead a mainstream political party when she became leader of the Yukon Progressive Conservative Party.
She was known to be fair, straightforward and firm. Through her contributions during her terms, she played a role in empowering women in the Legislature. Hilda Watson is one of those members of our society whose contribution to the Yukon will not be forgotten. She was well known in the Yukon and will be missed by many people.
Ms. Duncan: I am deeply honoured that my first occasion to rise in this Legislature is to pay tribute to a Yukon woman who was also elected to serve her constituents in this Legislative Assembly. Hilda Watson served the people of the Yukon as a representative from 1970 to 1978. One could almost term these the primary years of Yukon politics. We, in the Yukon, took our first tentative steps toward responsible government with the formation of the Executive Committee, a forerunner to the Cabinet we enjoy today.
Hilda Watson, one of the first two Members of the Executive Committee, could be considered our first Minister of Education and during her first term in office, a new Schools Ordinance was passed.
The 1970s were also the beginning of the land claim process and the introduction of medicare to the Yukon. History will be the best judge of Hilda Watson's political achievements and of her contribution to Yukon politics.
Individual Yukoners I have spoken with remember her as an incredibly hard-working Member who always had time for her constituents. Many times she met with Girl Guide and Brownie units to teach about citizenship. Her loyalty and dedication to bettering the lives of rural Yukon communities is evidenced by her actions.
Perhaps her greatest contribution is the inspiration she has left those of us who follow her. Hilda Watson was far more than a figure in Yukon politics; she was a wife, a mother and an example. Hilda Watson's family and personal life were not sacrificed because mom was a politician; they were enhanced by it. Her example is one of hard work and tireless effort on behalf of her community.
Long before women bought into the idea that we could indeed have it all, Hilda Watson did it all.
Politicians choose this particular career for many different reasons. Only a few are motivated by the very high ideal of wanting to make a difference and are able to accomplish this without sacrificing their integrity or their ideals.
Hilda Watson was such a person. Her legacy to this House and to the women politicians who followed her is the example she set.
Our tribute to her will be to perform our tasks as well.
In Remembrance of Harry Allen
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I rise to pay tribute to the passing of the much honoured and respected leader, Harry Allen.
Harry had a long and distinguished career serving his territory, his country and his people. He served as the Chief of the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation, after being elected to this position in 1969. He was involved in the early days of negotiating Yukon Indian land claims, and he joined Elijah Smith in 1973 as one of the negotiators representing status Indians.
His dedication to the achievement of land claims and self-government agreements here in the Yukon defined his career.
In the late 1970s, he was chosen Chief of the Council for Yukon Indians, a position he held for several years. He oversaw negotiations leading up to the agreement in principle on land claims. It was also under his leadership that the organizations representing status and non-status Indians in the Yukon joined with the Council for Yukon Indians as a single organization representing aboriginal people.
In the mid-1980s, Harry Allen was elected northern vice-chair of the Assembly of First Nations and worked to advance issues of concern to aboriginal people of the Yukon and Northwest Territories at the national level.
In 1995, at the urging of the General Assembly of the Council for Yukon First Nations, he left his position with the Association of First Nations to head up the Council for Yukon Indians' successor organization as Grand Chief of the CYFN. He continued to lead this organization with the devotion and inspiration that characterized his career until his untimely death this past summer.
People with the dedication and vision of the late Harry Allen are rare. He gave tirelessly of himself, and we are indebted to him for his tremendous contributions to the Yukon, to aboriginal people and to the nation.
Mr. Cable: There was an eloquent tribute paid to Harry Allen at his funeral service at Yukon College. It spoke to his life and his background, and it spoke to his associations and his work life, in both the First Nation and non-First Nation communities. It spoke to his calming influence and his mediation skills, and this is how I best remember Harry Allen. He was able to bridge the two cultures in which he found his life and deal with the stresses that that involved without losing his calm and his ability to deal with people.
What I remember most about his funeral service is Bob Charlie, singing one of the old Dean Martin hits, "Remember Me, I'm the One Who Loves You". The word love is used in the tribute in several contexts - love of family, love of friends - and the tribute ends, "
Harry, we all love you. Your examples of humour, love and patience remain as lasting gifts to us all."
It could not have been expressed better.
Mr. Phillips: I was not in the Yukon when I heard of the passing of our friend, Harry Allen. I go back a long way with Harry. I was in almost every grade of school with Harry in Whitehorse. We played hockey together.
I can tell you that, although Harry was a kind and gentle man, he was an awful big man, as far as I was concerned, and I did not like to go into the corners with Harry too often when we played hockey, because he was usually the one who came out first. He was even gentle when he got me into the corner.
Harry Allen was one of the first graduates of F.H. Collins who stood up to speak for his people, which he did very eloquently, working for the Council for Yukon Indians and the First Nations of the territory. Harry used his education to its very best and represented his people well.
He was always there, whether he was the Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, or whether he was just an advisor.
In the last few years, when Harry was again asked to step into the breach, take over and work for his people, despite knowing he had health problems, he agreed to do so. It was that kind of dedication and love for his people, and in working for his people, that made him the person he was.
Harry will be sadly missed by his wife Doris and his family. He will be missed by his many friends - First Nations and non-First Nations - throughout the territory. It is a personal loss for me, as I knew Harry for over 45 years, and worked and played and enjoyed many fine moments with him. My condolences go out to his family.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: On behalf of my colleagues I stand to pay tribute to the late Harry Allen.
Harry Allen passed away on June 8, 1996 and was born on May 18, 1945. He was a member of the Wolf Clan of the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation.
Harry was taught the traditional values of the Southern Tutchone people. He loved to participate in the summer hunts and the gatherings of his people.
Harry, like many of his people, attended the Indian mission school and later attended the F.H. Collins Secondary School. He also studied forestry in Williams Lake and eventually returned to the Yukon and to his people.
Upon his return to the Yukon, Harry met and married Doris Njootli of Old Crow. Harry and Doris were married for 32 years, and they have two fine sons, Marlin and Steve.
Harry worked in a number of jobs, including construction, mining and forestry. In 1969, he was elected Chief of the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation.
In 1973, Harry left that position to join the late Chief Elijah Smith as one of the two negotiators representing the status Indians through the Council for Yukon Indians.
In his illustrious and dedicated career, Harry served as the Chair of the Council, the national Vice-Chair of the Assembly of First Nations and the First Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations.
Harry's humour, his love and his patience and his vision and dedication to his people has provided, and will continue to provide, a lasting cornerstone for future generations of First Nation citizens, and all Yukoners, to build upon and cherish his memory.
To Harry's family we offer our most sincere condolences. On behalf of all Yukoners, we join in the recognition of achievements of this great and enduring First Nations leader and Yukoner.
Personally, I will very deeply miss Harry for his advice and his timeliness.
In Remembrance of Frank Lutz, Sr.
Mr. Fentie: I rise today to pay tribute to an elder of my community. This past weekend, the Kaska First Nation lost one of its very respected elders and long-time resident of our community - Frank Lutz, Sr.
Frank was born at Nelson Forks, British Columbia. In the 1930s, Frank was sent to Lejac Residential School in B.C., and when he returned home, he joined the RCMP to work as a guide and liaison person in Lower Post. Frank saw many changes for the Kaska people in his lifetime. He witnessed the construction of the Alaska Highway and the bridge in Upper Liard. He worked for the army to build the Watson Lake airport, and he helped clear the right-of-way for the Campbell Highway.
Frank's love and knowledge of the outdoors extended to teaching the traditional way of hunting, trapping and telling legends to his own children, nephews, nieces and other children in Upper Liard. On behalf of our caucus, I would like to express our condolences to the hereditary chief, Dixon Lutz, and his family.
In Remembrance of Sam Williams
Mr. McRobb: On behalf of the government and caucus, I would like to pay tribute to the late Sam Williams of Haines Junction, the respected elder well known throughout the Yukon.
Sam Williams was born under a full moon on December 15, 1908, near Sekulmun Lake. Sam lived the traditional lifestyle in the Aishihik area. He spent many years trapping, hunting, fishing, guiding and enjoying other activities. Later in life, he enriched the minds of young people and others with his knowledge and beliefs. Sam was taught early in life to respect all living things, especially elders and people. This was a value he passed on to others whom he touched. Sam will be remembered always for his compassion and contribution to the importance of cultural preservation.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: Under tabling returns and documents, I have for tabling the Report of the Auditor General of Canada on Other Matters for the year ended March 31, 1995, and the Report of the Auditor General of Canada on the Public Accounts of the Government of Yukon for the year ended March 31, 1996.
I also have for tabling the Annual Report for the Yukon Human Rights Commission for the year ended March 31, 1996.
Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have for tabling a report done by the Yukon Economic Development department, which is an economic and fiscal analysis of the temporary, partial closure of the Faro mine.
Speaker: Are there any petitions?
Introduction of bills. Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 21: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that Bill No. 21, entitled An Act to Amend the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission that Bill No. 21, entitled An Act to Amend the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 21 agreed to
Bill No. 2: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 2, entitled Fourth Appropriation Act, 1995-96, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government Leader that Bill No. 2, entitled Fourth Appropriation Act, 1995-96, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 2 agreed to
Bill No. 3: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 3, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1996-97, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government Leader that Bill No. 3, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1996-97, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 3 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT a special committee be established to make recommendations to the 29th Legislative Assembly on:
(a) the composition and rules of operation of a standing committee of the Legislative Assembly which will be responsible for making timely recommendations respecting appointments to boards, commissions, foundations, corporations and other similar agencies;
the names of those boards, commissions, foundations, corporations and other similar agencies which should have appointments subject to recommendation by this standing committee; and
(c) a procedure by which all Yukoners and all Yukon organizations would be invited on a regular basis to submit nominations for appointment to boards, commissions, foundations, corporations and other similar agencies.
Mr. Ostashek: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes the importance of the family in Yukon society and the need for Yukon families to better spend their money on what they need than having government spend it for them on something they might not need; and
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should introduce and implement a child tax credit that will be of particular benefit to low-income Yukon families.
Mr. Phillips: I give notice of the following two motions:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the universal licensing and registration associated with the Liberal federal government's Firearms Act (Bill C-68) will be costly and intrusive on property and civil rights, and will have little impact, if any, on reducing the criminal use of guns; and
THAT this House urges the New Democratic Party government to continue the work of the previous Yukon Party government in opposing Bill C-68 and join Ontario, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories and Manitoba in the Province of Alberta's constitutional challenge of the new gun control law and opt out of the administration of this law if the challenge fails.
The second motion is:
THAT Standing Order 45 be amended by:
(a) adding the following new provision:
"(4) At the commencement of the first session of each Legislature a Standing Committee on Appointments shall be appointed to review and report on appointment proposed by the Executive Council to those boards, commissions, councils and committees identified in the motion appointing the Committee.",
(b) renumbering the remainder of the Standing Order accordingly;
THAT the Honourable Members, Pat Duncan, Doug Phillips, Trevor Harding, Lois Moorcroft and Eric Fairclough be appointed to the Standing Committee on Appointments;
THAT the terms of reference of the Committee be as follows:
(1) The Committee may review appointments proposed by the Executive Council to:
(a) the Yukon Development Corporation Board of Directors,
(b) The Yukon Energy Corporation Board of Directors,
(c) Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board,
(d) Yukon Lottery Commission,
(e) Yukon Recreation Advisory Council,
(f) Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board,
(g) Yukon College Board of Governors,
(h) Yukon Electrical Public Utilities Board, and
(i) Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment.
The Committee may also review such other appointments proposed by the Executive Council as are referred to it by the Executive Council or as are referred to it by separate motion of the Legislative Assembly.
(3) The Committee shall prepare a report within 45 days of receipt of a proposed appointment, and such report shall contain:
(a) the decision of the Committee as to whether it would review the proposed appointment,
(b) where the Committee has decided to review the proposed appointment,
(i) the recommendation of the Committee as to whether the proposed appointment should be made, or
(ii) a statement that the Committee has chosen not to make a recommendation, and
(c) any reasoning the Committee chooses to include respecting its decisions or the recommendations.
(4) The right of the Committee to report on a proposed appointment continues in those cases where the Commissioner in Executive Council or, if applicable, a Minister has found it necessary, due to legal requirements or operational needs, to make an appointment prior to the expiration of the 45 day period.
The Chair of the Committee shall present all reports of the Committee to the Legislative Assembly. If the Legislative Assembly is not sitting at the time a report has been prepared, the Chair shall forward the report to all Members of Legislative Assembly and then release the report to the media and the public.
(6) The Committee shall hold its meetings in camera and is empowered to call proposed appointees as witnesses. The Committee may also invite Ministers to appear as witnesses.
Mrs. Edelman: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the government include in the 1997-98 capital budget the funds to reconstruct Grey Mountain Primary School, grades K to 7.
Mr. Cable: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that Committee of the Whole call the chair and president of the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board to appear as witnesses before Committee of the Whole to discuss matters relating to the board.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the House recognizes the need to help mobile home owners in the Yukon made improvements to their dwellings and provide better facilities and infrastructure, such as playgrounds for children, thereby improving the quality of life in mobile home parks and enhancing the overall security; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to address the longstanding concerns of mobile home owners by introducing a low-interest loan home repair program, and exploring the development of a condominium concept for mobile home parks, where mobile home owners would have an opportunity to own their own land and common facilities.
Speaker: Are there any statements by Ministers?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Harding: I am pleased to rise today, but before I speak, I have noticed the presence in the gallery of a former Member of this Legislature, the former Member for Riverdale South, who had a long career in this Legislature. I would like the Members of the House to join us in welcoming her back to these proceedings.
Faro mine (Anvil Range) situation: Government response
Hon. Mr. Harding: I rise to inform the House about the results of last week's consultations in Faro with officials from the Yukon government and the policy and course of action this government is taking to address the situation.
As you are aware, most of the Yukon was shocked and surprised on November 20 with the news of a temporary and partial shutdown of the Faro mining operation. The Government Leader and I met immediately with Anvil Range company executives to discuss the situation. The company has not requested any assistance from the Yukon government. Company officials have told us that the shutdown is entirely related to world metal prices, the Canadian dollar and internal operating difficulties.
Last week, a working group of government officials, representing key Yukon government departments and Human Resources and Development Canada, were in Faro to meet with community organizations to identify needs and to discuss ways in which government and the community can work together to make sure these needs are prioritized and met.
Officials heard from Faro residents on a wide range of issues and needs. One area of concern is the high level of emotional stress being placed on families, children and care givers, and the need for counselling services. Residents are also very concerned about the sudden negative impact on families from a loss of income and benefits.
Another issue identified by Faro residents is the need for people to keep active and busy during the shutdown period with a variety of educational, recreational and cultural activities that are both relevant and affordable.
Officials also heard about the impact the temporary closure is already having on the retail sector, with several layoffs, closures and postponements of expansion plans.
Perhaps the most identified need was for prompt and effective action by the federal government to anticipate and commence processing of employment insurance claims. Officials from Human Resources and Development Canada will be in Faro for several days next week to begin that process.
Above all, in these meetings, officials heard that the people of Faro want their territorial government to show that it cares about them and that it is willing to listen and act to help the community through this difficult time. They want to be seen as a Yukon community first, and not just as a mining town.
As a result of these meetings, we have encouraged the key organizations in Faro to come together to form a Faro Community Group, to coordinate activities in the community around the shutdown and identify ways to deal with it. I plan to meet with the Community Group in a few days to discuss the issues that officials heard during their visit.
Once these actions have been discussed with and supported by the community, I will be outlining an action plan for the information of Members and the public. This plan must be community led and supported. It must also be affordable by the government. Priorities must be identified and focused on. The policy of this government is to assist the people of Faro in this way.
We will also be working with the federal government to address the employment insurance needs of residents, as well as others directly affected, such as the Lomak trucking employees, most of whom reside in Whitehorse. We will also be working with the community of Ross River to identify and mitigate impacts on that community, as well as Whitehorse.
In addition to the social and economic impact of the temporary, partial shutdown, our government is also keeping a watchful eye on the possible environmental effects.
Earlier today, I tabled a document that outlines the anticipated impact of the temporary, partial closure on the Yukon economy. This report was prepared by officials in the Departments of Economic Development and Finance. What Members are receiving today is the same information that was presented to me.
The report indicates that a temporary, partial closure of about three months would have minimal impact on Government of Yukon revenues; however, an indefinite shutdown would have a very serious impact on both government revenues and the formula financing agreement.
As you can see, our priorities are for the people of the community. This government will work closely with them to reduce the negative impacts of the temporary, partial shutdown in a coordinated and thoughtful manner.
Faro is a community that has weathered many difficulties in the past. I have been there myself, together with many others, through those tough times.
From first-hand experience and from many discussions with my constituents in Faro over the past couple of weeks, I know the anxiety they are feeling and I can identify with the difficulties that they are now facing.
With the support of this government and the federal government, and by working together with the good people and organizations in Faro and throughout the Yukon, I believe that we can get through this period of uncertainty in pretty good shape.
While I am at it, I want to pay tribute to all of the people in government who are working so diligently on this very serious matter. Their efforts are appreciated by the people in my community and the Members of this government.
Mr. Ostashek: It is really ironic what happens when the outcome of an election has previous Members of the Opposition sitting on the government side of the House.
In his presentation to the House, the Minister of Economic Development stated that he accepts the argument from Anvil Range company officials that the reason for the closure of the Faro mine is due to low metal prices on the world market that have caused the shutdown. Yet, during the election campaign the Member for Faro stated that metal prices have increased dramatically in the territory and all of the mining activity in the territory was due to the high metal prices and had nothing to do with the previous Yukon Party government. Things do change.
Nevertheless, Members in my party also sympathize with the people in the community of Faro. We find it very unfair for people to be put through the trauma of another mine shutdown right before Christmas, a situation similar to what happened when the mine last closed, four years ago, in Faro.
I am pleased to see that the Minister of Economic Development has decided to use the process that the previous government used, being an intergovernmental committee, to assist the people of Faro through these serious times and to provide them with the help that they will need. This committee worked well for us when we were the government, and I am sure it will work for the Minister's government.
I want to say that I believe the severity of the downturn created by the closure of the Faro mine will not have as great an impact on the Yukon economy this time around. To some degree, that is thanks to the efforts of the previous Yukon Party government, which has the Yukon economy moving quite dramatically, with a lot more opportunities for people today than in 1992, when we took over the government.
Nevertheless, I hope the Faro shutdown is short and the mine is operating again in a very short time.
Mr. Cable: I thank the Minister for his statement. I assume this is just the first part of the answer to the many questions that are being asked.
I think a number of questions can be cleared up quickly. The Minister will remember the acrimonious debate in this House on the need for direct contributions to Anvil Range's predecessor, Curragh, for purposes of stripping. It is my understanding the corporation has not requested assistance. It would be useful to hear the Minister confirm whether or not my information is correct and, if it is incorrect, to hear what this government's position is.
Secondly, much of what the government will do in Faro should be determined by an assessment of whether or not the mine will reopen in the near future or at all. It would be useful to hear the Minister advise what his assessment is at the present time. I know he is reported as suggesting to the workers in Faro that if they have another job somewhere they should take it. That signal should be cleared up.
The Minister has indicated he was tabling financial information on the revenue side. It would be useful to obtain the financial information on the expenditure side. With the mine closure, I am sure there will be increased social assistance. If the Minister is in the process of obtaining this information, it would be useful to hear about it.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I thank the Members opposite for their comments. I would point out to the Member for Porter Creek North that there has been a rise in a lot of metal prices, just not in zinc, unfortunately. There has been an increase in the price of lead, but zinc is the main saleable component produced in Faro. Unfortunately, there has not been a corresponding rise in that base metal price.
We believe that this government has - and did have, when we were government - a good relationship with the industry. We do not believe that this news is in any way related to us being in government, as was at least subtly implied by the Yukon Party Opposition.
I would say that I thank the Members for their comments. With regard to the need for direct contributions or requests, as the Member for Riverside alluded to, I can confirm that, to my knowledge, there has been no request for any financial action from the government for the company. I also want to say that the Member quoting some comments on the radio were camments taken totally out of context by the media. I have said that there is some room for optimism in Faro. I really believe that.
On the expenditure side, I would say to the Member also that we are calculating, based on the needs that have been identified and the expected impact, some expenditures that will obviously be made to try to help mitigate this. I hope to have that information once we are through the process of consulting with the people affected.
I would also say that this situation is somewhat different from the situation in 1992. Anvil Range, as a company, does not have the $300 million debt that Curragh Resources had. That is one reason for optimism. Also, Anvil Range put over $100 million in capital expenditures up front. It did not even ship any concentrate from November 1994 until, I believe, August, as the company prepared for stripping the Grum and getting the mill and facilities in good order, and that type of work. We are told that it has an exposed ore body now that is approximately 22 million tonnes, or five years. That is in the Grum ore body. There is also good potential underground.
Therefore, I do believe that there is some optimism. People in Faro are obviously making very solid personal choices. They are deciding if they can ride out the anxiety surrounding this. They are deciding if they have other places to go. Some of them have received other job offers of concrete jobs, and they know full well that they could come back, if they want to, if things did not quite work out in a speedy way in Faro. They are making personal choices. I give them the best information that I can.
I do not have a crystal ball of the situation, but we are certainly trying to keep in close contact with the company. We are analysing the prospects from the outside and doing the best job of forecasting that we can. We will continue to do that. As we get more information, we will be communicating it to the public and Members opposite.
National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women - December 6th
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I rise today as the Minister responsible for Justice, the Women's Directorate and Education to recognize December 6 as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women. Tomorrow we will remember and mourn the 14 women killed in Montreal in 1989 at L'Ecole Polytechnique. We mourn and we also work for change.
Tomorrow in Whitehorse, at the Elijah Smith Building, a commemoration of the Montreal massacre will be held from noon to 1 p.m. I encourage all of you to attend.
Marking this day each year encourages people in Canada to take action to eliminate violence against women in our society. Despite increased public awareness and more services to victims and offenders, violence against women is still a major problem. This was made shockingly clear once again last spring with the murder of Rajwar Chahal and eight members of her family at the hands of Ms. Chahal's estranged spouse in Vernon, B.C.
The violence must be stopped. For my part, I intend to make the reduction of violence against women and children a top priority of the Department of Justice. To this end, I will identify, develop and implement deliberate and practical steps that will have a real effect on reducing the incidence of family violence in the Yukon.
With this in mind, I have requested the Justice department to lead a government review of the 29 recommendations of the B.C. Coroner's inquest on the Vernon massacre. They will determine whether any of those recommendations can be implemented here.
We also deal with violence through the delivery of victim services programs. The victim services unit helps victims lead safer and healthier lives.
The capacity of the Department of Justice to deliver victim services has been expanded. There are now part-time services located in Dawson and Watson Lake. This will greatly improve access to victim services in these communities. Training is ongoing in other communities, with the goal of developing resources throughout the Yukon to allow community-based victim services to eventually be offered in other communities as well.
We are also enhancing the information systems in the Department of Justice to electronically link offenders' names with the names of their victims. This will allow the department to provide victims with more accurate and up-to-date information about the status of offenders in the justice system and greatly help to keep victims of spousal assault informed.
However, while all of these are truly worthy initiatives, the hard reality is that we will need to commit more resources to the problem of violence against women and children if we are going to make a difference; yet we must also respect the demands of fiscal responsibility. I am therefore pleased to announce that in the fall legislative session I will be introducing a bill to create a crime prevention and victim services trust fund. This trust fund will allow community-based groups to apply for funding for locally developed programs that will prevent crime and provide services to victims. The criteria that we will be developing for guiding how the trust will be expended will focus on encouraging projects designed to reduce violence against women and children.
We will give communities the means to harness the creativity of their residents to meet violence head on. It is important to stress that we will be establishing the trust fund without relying on new money voted by the Legislature, nor will we be drawing funding from other Justice core programs.
Revenue for the trust will be found by combining revenues from the following sources: revenue from the 15-percent victim surcharge that is levied on all court fines for funding victim services. This money is currently held in a separate account but has never been used. It has grown to an amount in excess of $245,000.
Also, there is interest revenue from money held in trust by the courts. This has been carefully managed for several years, and has accumulated to over $250,000.
In addition, we will be negotiating with the federal government for a fair share of the revenue raised by the federal government from Criminal Code fines levied in the territory. An amount of over $235,000 has accumulated in the Criminal Code fine account.
Finally, we will be looking at diverting the income the government receives from the slot machine agreement with the Klondike Visitors Association. At the present time, this income goes directly into general revenue. We feel it would be more appropriately used as revenue for the crime prevention and victim services trust fund. Last year, slot machine income was approximately $190,000.
If we can successfully convert these accumulated amounts to trust money, we can establish a trust with an opening balance in excess of $700,000. In the space of two to four years, the trust could grow to a value of over $2 million. When this goal is reached, it is hoped that a very effective funding program can be operated on the interest from the principal of the trust alone, allowing the trust to sustain itself over time and make a permanent contribution toward violence reduction.
I mention this today to illustrate the planning and priority setting that I have directed to deal with the continuing harm being suffered by women and children in our communities.
In announcing these initiatives, I am making a commitment toward making the reduction of violence our top priority. As we remember the women who lost their lives in Montreal, in Vernon, in the Yukon and elsewhere, I believe we will have some basis for looking to the future with hope.
Mr. Phillips: I applaud the Minister of Justice for coming forward with this initiative today.
Reading through the ministerial statement, I recognize many of the initiatives that were started by the previous Yukon Party government. In fact, all of the initiatives announced today had already been announced, were in the works, were almost ready to be announced or were announced in the election campaign. I am pleased to see that this government is following the policies of the Yukon Party government with regard to this very important issue.
I think that is the route to go. A lot of work was done with the creating safer communities initiative. I know the Minister was supportive of that initiative at the time, and my understanding is that she is supportive of many of its recommendations. I applaud her for going forward with the implementation of those recommendations. We heard what people thought we should do to improve in these areas and I believe this is the right direction to take.
The crime trust fund the Minister is setting up is one that was announced by our party during the election campaign. The money came from the same areas of the same fund, so I again applaud the Minister for following through on a Yukon Party initiative. I believe this will bode well for people in the future.
I have some questions about the fund. I do not need the answers right now, but I would like the Minister to provide me with the criteria for the applications to the fund and who would sit on the board and decide which groups receive money.
In the ministerial statement, the Minister pointed out that, after four years, there would be an accumulation of approximately $2 million in the fund, but she seems to indicate that we will not be using any of the interest prior to that. Perhaps the Minister could clear that up. If we accumulate $700,000, as we have now, are we planning to use that money or the interest from that this fiscal year and so on, or will we wait until we build the fund to a total of $2 million and then start utilizing it in various programs?
Again, I commend the Minister for carrying forward this Yukon Party initiative. As long as the Minister stays to the course with the results we think should be achieved, we will be supportive of programs such as this.
Mrs. Edelman: I am most pleased to hear the Minister's pledge to create a crime prevention and victim services trust fund. Women and children in abusive situations need all the help they can get from the community. The most intriguing part of the Minister's statement is about the part of the fund that will go toward crime prevention initiatives. This type of long-term policy is to be applauded. My only concern is that this fund should also consider issues of property damage to women and children, as well as to all families in the Yukon.
The Minister's goal to enhance information systems in the Department of Justice, so that victims of spousal assault are kept better informed on the status of offenders in the justice system, makes infinite sense.
Lastly, I hope that victim services in the communities becomes a reality in the very near future. Victims of abuse are isolated by their circumstances. The lack of services in their communities further increase the isolation of the victim. It is hoped that all Yukoners will have access to services in the very near future.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I am pleased to hear that both of the Opposition parties are in support of proceeding with the crime prevention and victim services trust fund. As I indicated in the ministerial statement, the legislation will be developed for the fall. We are increasing community-based victim services already and will involve the Opposition, through the legislative process, in determining the criteria of how the funding will be expended.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Land Claims Secretariat, negotiators removed
Mr. Ostashek: I have a question for the Government Leader, in his capacity as the Minister responsible for land claims.
In the Speech from the Throne yesterday, settling land claims was set out as a top priority of his government, yet the actions taken by him and his government in decimating the Land Claims Secretariat fly in the face of such an objective. Would the Government Leader explain to this House who demanded the removal of these three top negotiators?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is so unfortunate that so soon into the new Legislature, I am going to have to take issue with the preamble that the Member has stated, particularly with respect to the allegations that the Land Claims Secretariat has been decimated.
First of all, I would point out that the chief land claims negotiator was transferred to a position - a position which he chose not to accept. The other two individuals, about whom I am certain the Member is speaking, remain with land claims, and will remain with land claims until they are replaced.
So, it is absolutely the case that settling land claims is very much our top priority. We have a lot of work to do. We do have some very significant deadlines to face. It probably will not be very long before we are facing probably seven negotiating tables at once. Clearly, we must get some progress in the coming year, because we know that by February of this coming year, the First Nations that have not yet settled are going to be facing some significant penalties. So, we know there is a lot of work that must be done. We will have sufficient resources available to us, to at least hold up our end.
I have every confidence that the Land Claims Secretariat and all of the other staff - there are approximately 20 staff members in the secretariat - are up to the task.
Mr. Ostashek: The Government Leader can take issue with my preamble if he likes, but he did not answer the question.
The three top negotiators and the most knowledgeable people in the Land Claims Secretariat, who have proven themselves as competent negotiators, have been removed from their positions. Why have these individuals been removed?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, I would like to point out that I did answer the Member's question.
I indicated to the Member that these individuals had not been removed. In the case of the chief land claims negotiator, that individual had been offered a transfer, which he chose not to accept.
The other two individuals have not been removed, so I must continue to take issue with the Member's statement. I would point out that all of the people who are in the Land Claims Secretariat are going to remain in their positions until such time as they are transferred or replaced in the future.
I believe that there are sufficient personnel in the department to meet the task at hand, and I have every confidence that these individuals can do the job.
Despite the significant deadlines that are approaching, I am encouraged that the job can be done.
Mr. Ostashek: The Government Leader is going to have to give a much better answer than that.
There are so many conflicting stories that have been reported about the Government Leader's actions and those of his government in dealing with the Land Claims Secretariat. T
he Government Leader has one story, the Deputy Minister of the Land Claims Secretariat has another story and today the Government Leader is saying that no one has been removed from their positions.
Yesterday, the deputy minister was saying that no one had been removed and the Government Leader was saying that they were removed. I think the public deserves an answer to this question.
The Government Leader was quoted in the newspaper yesterday as saying that, in terms of the two people in question from the department, one had left a position voluntarily and the other person was being reassigned. The Government Leader stated that these individuals had been removed from their duties as head land claims negotiators. Why? Who demanded the removal of these individuals?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would urge the Member for Porter Creek North not to lose his self-control so early in the session. We have a long way to go and there is a lot of public business to transact. It would not do us any good to lose it so soon.
I have already indicated to the Member that the two employees that I think he is referring to have not left their positions. They will remain in their positions until they are replaced by other personnel. There will be no vacancies in those important positions.
We know that there is a lot of important work to be done with the land claims negotiations. It is the top priority of this government. We will fulfill our mandate and we do have full confidence in the Land Claims Secretariat.
Question re: Land Claims Secretariat, negotiators removed
Mr. Ostashek: I beg to differ with the Government Leader. He still has not answered to the Yukon public, and I can see that this will be a very, very long session unless he starts coming clean and answering to the Yukon public and being accountable for his actions.
The Government Leader needs to explain to the Yukon public why the three most experienced people in the Land Claims Secretariat were removed from their duties as land claim negotiators. The objective of settling land claims by February will not be met by removing the most competent people in the process.
I ask the Government Leader once again to tell the people why they were removed and how he hopes to accomplish meeting the February deadline by removing them.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will have to answer the question once again by saying that only one person was offered a transfer - the chief land claims negotiator - a transfer that he did not accept and consequently he resigned. The other two people to whom the Member is referring are people who will be in their positions until successful replacements are found.
I would point out to the Member, as well, that the statement that people were removed from their positions is inaccurate. Whether he chooses to accept that or not, there is nothing much I can do to help him.
With respect to the deadlines the Member cites - February 14 of this coming year - it is no fault of this government or of the land claims negotiators, for their part, that we have had so little success in achieving First Nation final agreements between the time that the land claims bill was signed into law and the present time.
The fact remains, though, that we do have deadlines that we have to face, and we do have to ensure that we are well and truly able to negotiate with the remaining First Nation governments on First Nation final agreements and self-government agreements, and we will do so, and I do have faith in the entire Land Claims Secretariat that it can do the job.
Mr. Ostashek: It is a funny way of showing that one has faith by politically interfering and removing people from jobs that they were doing competently.
I will have more questions on that topic for the Government Leader when we get into Committee debate; I can assure him of that. I would like to know at this point, can the Government Leader tell us: were these negotiators removed because they were seen as obstacles in recent land claims settlements? Is that why they were removed?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have to refer the Member to the answers to the previous four questions because in order to answer the Member's questions I have to indicate to him that the people he has identified are not removed, first of all, from the government. There was a voluntary transfer as far as I am aware. There was no political interference at all. There are so many things to answer that I am looking forward to the Committee debates so that we can explore perhaps a little further the Member's allegations and perhaps introduce some factual information into the discussions.
Mr. Ostashek: Getting some factual information from the Government Leader will certainly be a change. The Government Leader has said that these people are being removed as soon as replacements are found. They are going to be reassigned other duties. He has not said why they are being reassigned other duties. Can the Government Leader tell the House how many Land Claims Secretariat staff have left their jobs since his government took office?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is a detailed question that I am not familiar with. I will check on the answer for the Member. If anyone has left the Land Claims Secretariat, I will find out about it. The only person that I know of who has been offered a transfer by me was the chief land claims negotiator. I understand that the person chose not to accept. That is the fact; that is the truth. The Member's allegations, no matter how he puts them, will not change that basic reality.
Question re: Deputy ministers, replacement of
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Government Leader about the deputy minister shuffles that took place last month. There has been considerable public discussion surrounding the firing and reassigning of deputy ministers. One aspect that has piqued my curiosity relates to the presidents of the two Crown Corporations: Yukon Housing Corporation and the Yukon Development Corporation. As the Government Leader knows, the Yukon Housing Corporation president is appointed by the board of that corporation.
The president of the Yukon Development Corporation is appointed by the Minister on the recommendation of the board. They are both arm's-length corporations. We had an election on September 30 and, on October 19, the two presidents were gone and replacements were in place.
Can the Government Leader tell me who initiated the release of the two presidents of the two arm's-length corporations? Was it the boards or was it the Government Leader?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It was the government Cabinet that made the changes with respect to the deputy heads of both of the Crown corporations and the departments. As the Member may know, if he looks at the legislation with respect to government corporations, only the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board is a board from which the Cabinet cannot simply remove any particular employee, including the president. All the other corporations have always had their deputy heads appointed by Cabinet.
Mr. Cable: What was the involvement of the two boards? Were there meetings with the boards? Did the boards become involved with the reassignments in any way? Were there minutes of the board meetings ratifying the terminations and new appointments?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would refer the Member to the acts governing both corporations. They do not require the boards to ratify the appointments or transfers of any president of a corporation. In our government, it has always been the tradition that the decision is made by the government Cabinet. It is on the recommendation of the Government Leader. That tradition has been maintained in this particular case.
To answer the specific question, as far as I am aware, the boards of the corporations did not ratify, or otherwise comment on, the changes of the deputy heads or presidents of those two corporations.
Mr. Cable: All these moves took place in the period between September 30 - the date of the election - and October 19, when the new government was sworn in. I was not aware of any public competition for any of these jobs, either the jobs people were removed from - the two presidents - or the jobs into which they were placed.
What was the reason for there being no public competition for these jobs?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Quite typically, what often happens is that deputy heads of governments are, in fact, transferred from one position to another, from time to time. It was the case in the Pearson, Penikett and Ostashek governments, and it is the case in this government. When deputy heads are transferred from one position to another, they usually do not have to go through a recruitment process or any kind of review process or competition. They are simply transferred and appointed. That has been the tradition for some considerable time - for as long as I have been here - and it was not broken in this particular case, either.
Question re: Deputy commissioners, status and salary of
Ms. Duncan: My question is also for the Government Leader.
Statements and media releases appear to indicate that the deputy commissioners are to be regarded as deputy ministers of this government. Would the Government Leader confirm for the House that the deputy commissioners do, in fact, have the same status and salary as deputy ministers serving the government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, indeed they do. The deputy commissioners are deputy heads under the Public Service Commission Act. It does not necessarily mean they are competent to manage departments, though I know some of them are, but it does mean that they are competent and capable of managing an interdepartmental policy work group.
They were given the deputy head status for two significant reasons. The first reason is that they are required to work with public service leaders of other departments at the deputy minister committee level, in order to ensure that the significant issues that are raised through the commissions are addressed at the highest level of the public service. The second reason is that these deputy commissioners must liaise with other governments at the highest level of the other governments. Essentially, they require the status of deputy head in order to get through the door.
It so happens that the people chosen have basic credibility and also the status to ensure that the important work they do is recognized by other governments as well.
Ms. Duncan: The Government Leader has also previously indicated that the work of the commissions has a shelf life and that the commissions will come to an end. When these commissions end, will the deputy commissioners also receive the deputy head severance policy tabled by the previous government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, I do not believe so, but I will certainly check that particular detail. It depends on the deputy commissioner, but I will have to provide the specific information. It is certainly the case that the commissions do have a shelf life, as the Member pointed out. When the policy work is done, their work will be concluded and the job will end. After that time, the deputy commissioners may be assumed by the government department, they may do other things, or they may go to private life; they may do anything.
Ms. Duncan: Two of these deputy commissioners were hired off the street. If the current severance policy does apply to these deputy commissioners, as the Government Leader has indicated, they would be entitled to six months' severance pay upon the completion of the commission's work.
Would the Government Leader confirm that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Perhaps the Member did not hear my answer. I indicated I did not believe that, in all cases, the deputy head severance pay policy applied. That is a detail I can check. We are very much aware that these commissions do have a shelf life. Those people who are coming into government to perform a specific task would be considered differently from those people who have been long-term public servants.
That is a detail I will certainly rush to provide the Member with answers to and ensure she is satisfied on this point.
Question re: Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, increases in assessments
Mr. Jenkins: I have questions of the Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Yukon employers are faced with astronomical increases in their 1997 rates due to the increased assessments and due to the elimination of the merit rebate program. For some organizations and businesses, the increases amount to 70 to 80 percent; businesses, 40 to 50 percent.
Since the NDP promised Yukoners during the recent election campaign that there would be no tax increases - which, effectively, these increases are - would he please tell the House what he is going to do about these increases?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I am pleased to see the constructiveness of the Opposition Members. I just recently received a copy of the press release issued by the Member opposite. I would point out to the Member that the board announced in January 1996 that they were going to go ahead with assessment increases, that the previous Yukon Party government were obviously in agreement with it - we never heard a ripple from them about it. I would also point out that it is highly unusual, as I note in this press release, for a Member to make a direct lobby through the media or through this Legislature for their own business.
But I will say that I am glad to pass on to the employer representatives on the Workers' Compensation Board the legitimate concerns that have been identified by the Member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Will the Minister raise the issue of these huge increases and what can be done to mitigate them with the board?
When the announcements were first made about the increases, they were expressed in percentages - very small percentages. There was no mention made of the merit rebate program going by the board, which has become the case. Would the Minister please advise us if he will be raising this issue with the board?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I will point out to the Member that these increases were made known to me by the chair who was appointed by the Members opposite upon my first meeting with them. There were other indications made by the board publicly in January of 1996, when the previous government was in power for a considerable length of time after that.
I will gladly point out the legitimate concerns to the independent Workers' Compensation Board and the employer representatives on that board, who obviously are appointed by the chambers of commerce, or nominated for appointment by the chambers of commerce, and in this case, I believe, have the support of the chambers of commerce. So, I will pass the Member's concerns on to the Workers' Compensation Board.
Mr. Jenkins: The previous NDP government had plans to utilize the Workers' Compensation Board funds for low-interest business mortgages for various forestry and tourism operations. Is the Minister contemplating any changes in legislation and initiatives in this regard?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I can see the new Member has been led astray by his long-time colleagues on the front benches. That was never a position of the previous New Democrat Party government, nor is it a position of this one. It is nonsense.
Question re: PCPs in Carcross
Mrs. Edelman: The community of Carcross has been contaminated by a chemical commonly referred to as PCP, which is a known carcinogen. We have been told there is testing going on in Carcross for dioxins and ferons, but the community is most interested in the second phase of the testing project, which will identify where these carcinogens are located and where they may have migrated to in the last few years.
Is the Minister prepared to help identify the extent of the contamination in Carcross and take on the expense of the second phase of the contamination study in Carcross?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank the Member opposite for the question, but I believe that, between our two departments, the Minister of Renewable Resources does have the lead on that. I would refer the question to that Minister.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: There is obviously a very serious situation in Carcross. I and the Minister of the Department of Community and Transportation Services have recently had meetings with the chief of the First Nation to try to resolve this issue.
The Member is correct. There needs to be testing in the next little while. We want to do this right and bring to the people a position that is working for them so that, in the future, they will feel comfort at having this problem resolved.
We have some information that leads to the responsible party, which we are still working on. We have set up an advisory group from our department, one member of which is from the First Nation, to start dealing with information coming from the First Nation and the community, so that the communication is proper and we do get the information necessary for this. We are looking into the testing that needs to be done, although other parties have been pulled in, such as White Pass.
Mrs. Edelman: My question has not been answered. What does one do under these circumstances, repeat the question?
I do not think the Village of Carcross cares who has to pay for the clean-up. They care about these cancer-causing agents being removed from their village. Part of that process is to complete phase 2 of this clean-up project and have it paid for.
Does the Minister not feel any responsibility for the health of the citizens of Carcross?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We feel for the safety and health of the people in the community of Carcross, and the government has been working on the issue.
The time of the year is important. We hope some testing can be conducted throughout the winter months, along with additional testing in the spring. Although it is not within the territorial government's jurisdiction at this point, it is necessary for the territorial government to pass contaminated site regulations in order to have White Pass address this issue.
Mrs. Edelman: Will the government make the commitment to the people of Carcross - whomever is the owner of the property and whatever parties are liable for the contaminants - that this serious health hazard will be cleaned up?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The government is committed to ensuring that the contaminants are cleaned up.
As I stated previously, the government is working on this issue. There have been advisory groups set up to deal with this problem. It is the government's intention to deal with this issue as soon as possible, and yes, we are committed.
Question re: Workers' Compensation building renovations
Mr. Jenkins: I have another question for the Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
This board is charged with the responsibility of taking all of the employers' money. It is an insurance program to address the needs of workers who require assistance when injured on the job.
Recently the board has invested $100,000 in office renovations, such as changing colours and buying new furniture, in order to meet the needs of injured workers. Since the previous NDP government constructed this building, I would like to know if the Minister is in agreement with this approach to softening the corporation's image?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I attended the annual general meeting and information session of the board last evening. Incidentally, I was the only politician who bothered to show up. The board was a little disappointed, because it wanted to communicate with the Member directly about some of the issues that have been raised. It is an independent board. The board made the decision.
I will ensure that the employer representatives, who have been nominated and appointed by the Minister at the request of the chambers of commerce, are made aware of the legitimate concerns identified by the Member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Having attended the after business hours Chamber of Commerce meeting, I had a set of priorities last night and unfortunately could not attend that meeting.
The Gladish Inquiry, which the Minister strongly opposed when he was in Opposition, included 50 recommendations. I would like to know if the Minister has had a change of heart since assuming office and if he now supports those recommendations?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I would be remiss if I did not point out to the Member opposite that what the Yukon New Democratic Party in Opposition opposed was the fact that there was no consultation on the terms of reference with the Opposition, labour, injured workers and business. What we opposed, when we were in Opposition, was the fact that people were not involved in the selection of the person to do the inquiry. We felt that there should have been a significant amount of buy in by the stakeholders in terms of the terms of reference and the person to do the report.
Nonetheless, there were some good things pointed out in the report. I have communicated my thoughts on that to the board. They are charged with the responsibility of developing policy. They are an independent board. I have made my concerns known to them, and I hope that my concerns will be taken into consideration.
There are employer and employee representatives on the board, nominated by worker and labour organizations, and by the chambers of commerce.
I invite the Member to make his concerns known to them. I will do so on his behalf as well.
Mr. Jenkins: The mandate of the Workers' Compensation Board is to look after injured workers. That does not appear to be occurring. The present focus is somewhat distorted, in the public's view. In light of this, what is the Minister going to do to get the Workers' Compensation Board back on track?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I would agree that there has been some mixed priorities and signals sent to injured workers. That is why this government, after the previous government doddled for so long, has worked very quickly to implement a workers' advocate so that workers have equal and fair access to the system. That is why this government is conducting a review of the selection appointment process of the current chair and vice chair that was undertaken by the previous government to re-establish credibility in the board. That is why this government is committed to conducting a legislative review of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
We want emphasis put on helping injured workers. We want emphasis put on good financial practices of the board. We will be taking that direction to the board. We hope that with a good selection process and the board having good credibility, the stakeholders in the Chamber of Commerce and the stakeholders in worker and labour organizations will be more satisfied with the results they are getting from the Workers' Compensation Board.
I, too, share some of the Member's concerns.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Mr. Cable: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The hon. Member for Riverside on a point of order.
Point of order regarding recognition of Official Opposition
Mr. Cable: I rise on the issue of the recognition by the Chair of the Official Opposition, and I would like to present some issues to you. Prior to doing so, however, I would like to table a briefing note that we have prepared, if the Page would be good enough to give that to the Clerk.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
The Leader of the Yukon Party is asking me if I am done. I suppose that is a bit of wishful thinking on his part.
I have some preliminary comments that I would like to make to you, by way of opening. I would say firstly that there is no dispute with respect to the Speaker's jurisdiction. I would say also that, in my view, there is not exclusive jurisdiction in the Speaker. The issue can be dealt with by the House directly or it can be dealt with on the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges after referral to that committee.
I would say also that, in my view, the House has final jurisdiction in the matter, either before or after a ruling by the Speaker, and you will find in the brief where there is a referral to a committee that was thought appropriate. I would refer you to tab 9, where the Speaker in the federal House, in 1963, referred that issue to the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges.
So, there is a battery of procedures and a battery of routes that we can take.
The second preliminary point that I would like to make is that the splitting of the Opposition role is not offensive to parliamentary practice, and the setting up of a rotation of the Official Opposition status is not offensive to parliamentary practice.
I would refer you, Mr. Speaker, to tab 10 at page 21. This is an excerpt from a document called The Table, which is a journal of the Society of Clerks at the Table in Commonwealth parliaments, and this is a paper done by Gordon Barnhart, Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan, entitled Tie in Opposition. I would like to read a very brief excerpt, at page 21.
"Another argument put forward was that, in an Assembly based on the British parliamentary system, it is necessary to have an official leader of the opposition. The role of leader of the opposition is certainly an essential element in the traditional parliamentary system. The duties and functions of that office have never been prescribed by rule or law but are based on parliamentary custom. The primary constitutional purpose for having a leader of the opposition is to provide an alternative leader for the party, capable of assuming office and forming a government should the existing government resign."
He goes on to say, "To have two leaders of opposition parties in the Assembly does not violate this principle. The Lieutenant Governor presumably has the right to call upon whichever Member he felt was capable of forming a new government. "
I would refer Members also to tab 7, which is a commentary done by one of the Speakers of the British House of Commons, relating to a situation where the Speaker facilitated the splitting of the role and the setting up of a rotation.
Another preliminary point that I would like to make is that a rotation of the role, a splitting of the role, is not offensive to the rules of this House or the Legislative Assembly Act. Our rules can accommodate a rotation system.
The final, preliminary point that I would like to make is that this point of order relates solely to the recognition of the status and the priorities that follow that recognition.
The distribution of financial allotments is for another body and I am not asking you, Mr. Speaker, to make a ruling on the financial allotment.
In Canada, we have a first-past-the-post system. We do not have a system like the one that they have in Australia and some of the jurisdictions in Europe where they have sequential voting and eventually somebody obtains, through the various mechanics that are set up, a majority of the votes.
In Canada and in the Yukon, the person with the most votes wins, whether or not there is a majority of the votes garnered.
In priorities and speaking privileges, who is government and who is Opposition is determined by the number of seats in the House, not the popular vote. If it were otherwise, we would have Gordon Campbell running British Columbia and we may have had the Progressive Conservatives running the territory in 1985.
If we want to individualize it and take it down to the individual level, you, Mr. Speaker, are no less important than the Member for Faro, because you received 68 votes and the Member for Faro received over 500 votes. I think the Member for Porter Creek South would be the first to tell us that she is no more important to the operation of this House than the Member for Porter Creek North, simply because she received more votes than he did.
With one exception, all of the precedents and all of the comments that I have provided support the proposition that the popular vote is irrelevant.
I would refer you to the Speaker Parent decision at tab 4, page 18 of the excerpt.
One will notice in reading the document, there was an application made by the Reform Party of Canada to take over official Opposition status earlier this year when the numbers of the Bloc Quebeçois had been reduced to 52, equaling the Reform Party of Canada's seats.
In discussing a presentation made by the Reform Party, he had this to say: "Basing a decision on factors outside Parliament opens a door or invites future decisions with no basis in parliamentary precedents or practice. With one noted exception, that of Alberta, the Official Opposition has been determined by the number of seats held by the party, not by its popular vote."
This commentary is reinforced also by Clerk Gordon Barnhart's observations at tab 10, page 20. Apparently, the two Opposition parties that were equal in number had gone part-way down the road to working out a deal and then had floundered on point.
The Clerk, in his article says, "Could the situation have been handled differently? It has been argued that the Opposition party with the largest popular vote should have been recognized as the Official Opposition party. Leaving aside the statutory provision" - this is in Saskatchewan and it has a provision that divides the financial allotments - "the popular vote argument was not sound.
"The determination of governments, and therefore Oppositions, have been determined by the number of seats held by each party, not by their popular vote. In the case of two constituencies in which Members switched party allegiance between elections, would the popular vote in that constituency be credited to the party for which the Member had won the election originally, or for the party to which he now belongs?"
This sort of reasoning was adopted by the New Brunswick Speaker, shown under tab 5.
It is my submission to you, Mr. Speaker, that this proposition put forward by these Speakers and by the Clerk I have quoted, applies whether the numbers change during a mandate or whether the debate follows immediately following an election. I would again refer again to tab 5, the British House of Commons, where the deal to split the Opposition and rotate the status was brokered by the British Speaker immediately following an election.
The second point that has been raised publicly, and which I think requires some comment - I believe the popular vote argument does merit some comment. I am not sure some of the other arguments do. The second point that has been raised and has some significance is the argument of incumbency. The Yukon Party released a press release that talks about the issue of incumbency. The Yukon Party has a Member who was here, in the House, from 1985 to 1989, and the party has experience in government.
I have to say, after viewing all of the precedents, that the issue of incumbency is not relevant here. There is no incumbent. The issues of incumbency arise in situations where there is an existing incumbent in the particular Parliament at the time the application is made and where Speakers have a reluctance to disturb the status quo. Here we have no incumbent Opposition. Even if we were to extend the theory to permit you, Mr. Speaker, to look at the past Legislature, the incumbent now sits across the floor, and the only incumbent Opposition Member is the Member who sits in this chair here.
So I say that the only two serious arguments put forward have either been rejected by other Speakers or are not relevant.
With respect to the remaining arguments put forward by the Yukon Party, they have about them the look of a curriculum vitae, or resume, and the suggestion is that you, Mr. Speaker, should review the credentials, review our respective resumes, and then decide who is most fit to fill the role of Official Opposition - what we have done in the past, where we have been, and all that sort of thing. I would suggest that this is not the role of the Speaker, to be running a job application and to be making qualitative judgments on the fitness of the six Members involved.
I would refer Members to Speaker Parent's ruling, which again is at tab 4, page 16. This is after the submissions of the Reform Party.
"I must respectfully differ with the hon. Member. Your Speaker of the House has no role to play in the selection of a government. In our system, the Speaker chooses neither the government nor the government-in-waiting. That prerogative belongs to the Governor General of Canada on the advice of his Privy Council. To put the Speaker in a position in which he would be choosing not only the Official Opposition but perhaps the next government, based not on any objective criteria, such as numbers in the House, but rather on a qualitative judgment about the performance of the current Official Opposition Party, seems to me an untenable proposition. It would also be an encroachment on the royal prerogative and a violation of our long established constitutional practices."
I could make a number of arguments to mirror-image the arguments put forward by the Yukon Party in its press release. The Liberal Party vote is on the ascendency; the Yukon Party vote is going down. The Yukon Party is dropping in voter confidence and ours is rising.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: The percentage went up? There we are, we are getting help from the Yukon Party.
We could also make the representation argument.
We have some noise from this side. The noise is supposed to come from the other side.
I understand in the eastern Arctic, in Nunavut, they are looking at a constitutional gender-equity amendment with respect to seats in Parliament. We could quite easily put forward the representation argument on gender equity.
All these arguments have some academic attractiveness to them. Some of the arguments in the Yukon Party's press release also have some academic attractiveness. The representation arguments are interesting.
Let me put this question to you, Mr. Speaker: if you were to go through all those arguments - not the popular vote argument, which needs some discussion, but all the others - and put after each the question, "So what?". The Yukon Party formed the previous Yukon government, and two former Cabinet Ministers are represented in the Yukon Party caucus; so what? The Yukon Party was recognized as the Official Opposition from 1985 to 1992, and one of its Members has served in this role since 1985; so what? What has that to do with the operation of this House? The Yukon Party Leader has been elected to the House; so what?
What we have is the stringing together of a number of arguments. To paraphrase some comments put forward by the Yukon Party Leader, they have the faint smell of straw about them. We have a number of weak arguments struck together with a hope there will be a strong argument in the result. I suggest that the linking and grouping of a number of superficial arguments does not a strong argument make.
Upon reading of the precedents, I would suggest there is no persuasive argument for or against either party - not on the reading of some creative press release.
We would like the sole hold on the Opposition status, and I make that application to the Speaker. However, if Mr. Speaker is not so disposed - and I would not be surprised at that - I suggest the approach used by the British Speaker, shown at tab 7.
I should point out that the British Speaker brokered a deal between the parties.
In the Speaker's commentary, at page 251, he stated, "Before the new Parliament met, I was confronted with the difficulty of deciding which party constituted His Majesty's Opposition."
On page 252, the Speaker goes on to say, "I therefore solved it in the usual British fashion by compromise in the nature of Solomon's judgment, suggesting that the leadership should be divided between Sir Donald Maclean and Mr. Adamson. This course was adopted and during the duration of the Parliament, Sir Donald and Mr. Adamson used in alternate weeks to exercise their privilege as leader of asking the formal questions as to the future business of the House - the only Parliamentary act, which, by tradition, is the prerogative of the Leader of His Majesty's Opposition."
Mr. Speaker, if you were to give a signal that there is no clear winning argument in this situation, that this is also your view and you were prepared to broker such a rotational arrangement - a fair arrangement between those three Members of the Yukon Party and the three Members of the Yukon Liberal Party, which I am sure would reflect the equity of the situation and the fact that the three Members to my right are no better or no worse, and no more entitled or no less entitled to privileges than the three Members sitting in the Yukon Liberal Party caucus - that is what I would invite you to do, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Hon. Member for Porter Creek North on the point of order.
Mr. Ostashek: I could probably sum up the arguments that the Liberal Member for Riverside has made by adding two words: so what? That is what he has said in response to every argument we put forward.
Mr. Speaker, I am going to present a few points explaining why I believe the Yukon Party should be recognized as the Official Opposition. There are six factors that I would like you to consider in your deliberations about which party can provide the most effective Official Opposition and fulfill that role as Her Majesty's Official Opposition. While my colleague to my left - no pun intended - may say, "So what?", I disagree with him.
Before I give you those points, I want to comment on some of the comments that my learned colleague has made, because I will not get a chance to speak again on this. He said that if it were decided by popular vote, the B.C. Liberals would be the government today. I do not follow his rationale, because the NDP government got more seats. So, that is not an argument at all. That is a ridiculous statement to make. The New Democratic Party got more seats in British Columbia. He is claiming now that if the popular vote counted, the Liberals should have been given the government. That is very weak.
I do want to point out that the Yukon Liberal Party has continued to move the goal posts for why it should be the Official Opposition. It started out with a gender argument about two of its Members. When that did not fly in public, it thought, "Half a loaf is better than nothing. We might as well go for a shared Opposition."
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party refutes that. We are not interested in that.
I want to refute some of the other things that my learned colleague has said, because I take issue with some of them. In his brief, he concludes by stating that there are no precedents that favour either the Yukon Liberal Party or the Yukon Party in relation to the Official Opposition. We beg to differ.
One of the arguments he has given us is a quote by Speaker Parent when the Reform Party made a move for Official Opposition status part way through a mandate. I think there is a big difference between a move for Official Opposition status part way through a mandate than at the beginning.
Furthermore, I believe that there is a lot of argument in our favour in the example that my learned colleague has brought forward. Quite clearly, Speaker Parent did not divide the Opposition between the Reform Party and the Bloc Quebeçois, even though there was an equal number of seats.
My colleague goes on to say that this current situation is very similar to the one in Ottawa. I disagree. Neither the Bloc Quebeçois or the Reform Party ever were the Government of Canada. My learned colleague may again say, "So what?", but I believe that it is a valid point.
The assertion that neither the Yukon Party nor the Liberal Party has ever had Official Opposition status is clearly wrong. I will point that out again in the points I will present.
On the recommendation that the Official Opposition be rotated weekly, yearly or by session, based on the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act, I would draw Speaker's attention to the fact that our Yukon Legislative Assembly Act does not contain such a clause. In our act, the Leader of the Official Opposition means the recognized leader of the party with the largest number of Members in Opposition to the party or coalition that forms that government or party.
I believe that it is important to our Legislature that we have a strong and viable Official Opposition. I do not believe that rotation is the way to do it.
I would like to make these arguments now, after refuting some of the things my colleague has said.
For the record, I would like to explain that the Yukon Party has always been the Yukon Party. The name was adopted by our party when it was formed in 1978 and was recorded as such in our party constitution.
"So what?", my colleague says. Well, so what that the Liberals are on the rise. I do not think that is a valid argument, either.
In 1987, the definition of the Yukon Party was amended to mean the PC Yukon Party. In October of 1991, the previous session of this Legislature when the NDP was in power, the Yukon Party simply deleted the definition of what Yukon Party stood for.
The Liberals' claim that the Yukon Party never had Official Opposition status is clearly wrong, and I see that they are starting to waiver a little bit on that argument today.
I also want to draw to your attention, Mr. Speaker - because I believe it is an important point for you to consider - that the Yukon Party Leader was elected to this Chamber and the Liberal Leader was not. I draw to your attention that the Leader of the Liberal Party noted in a media report of Tuesday, December 3, how difficult it was to lead his party without his having a seat in this House. He is quoted as saying, "I think it is a real handicap to a party to have a leader not in the Legislature for that long period of time." Again I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that is another point that we want to make.
One of the most pertinent reasons that we can give for asking your consideration of us as the Official Opposition is that we were the previous government and two of our Members, who were re-elected, are previous Cabinet Ministers.
Also, our Elections Act takes great pains to divide our constituencies in order for us to have both rural and urban representation. Great pains are taken to create a balance of representation in this Legislature. I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that we have that balance in our caucus, while the Liberals do not. We have one rural and two urban Members elected to this Legislature.
I believe the fact that great pains were taken to have that distribution of ridings in that respect was not only for the people who form the government but also for the people who formed the Opposition, so that all Yukoners would have a valid voice in the Official Opposition of this Chamber.
My Liberal friends submit that my brief virtually focused on one factor alone against arguing for the popular vote, that it was only accepted in Alberta and nowhere else. One legislature did consider popular vote. Whether my colleagues want to discount popular vote, I believe that it is an important factor - not the only factor, but it is a factor that you, Mr. Speaker, must take into consideration in your deliberations.
Also, Mr. Speaker, you know full well yourself that if it were not for the coffee cup draw, in which you were successful, you would not have been in this Legislature today. We had to go by the rules that were in place. I think we also have to go by the rules in the Legislative Assembly Act, which do not describe any way for a divided Opposition. We did not like it and I am sure you do not feel that comfortable with it, Mr. Speaker, but, nevertheless, those are the rules that were in place. Perhaps in the future the Legislature will want to change the Legislative Assembly Act so that this can be taken into account if it ever happens in the future, but it is not there now.
Had we won that draw, there would have been no argument in the Legislature today. We would have had four Members; the Liberals would have had three.
In conclusion, we believe that if one takes into consideration the sum total of all of the points we have made today, we do make a strong case for being recognized as the Official Opposition. Mr. Speaker, while I appreciate the difficulty of your decision, and how difficult the deliberations will be, I ask you to please make the decision. Do not come back with a non-decision by dividing the duties of Official Opposition equally between both parties.
I will accept your decision but I respectfully submit to you that I urge you to make a decision. Please do not come back with a non-decision.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Hon. Member for Riverside on the point of order.
Mr. Cable: By way of a brief reply, the sixth and final argument put forward by the Yukon Party in its press release - which should particularly interest Mr. Speaker, and which was briefly related by the Leader of the Yukon Party - was that the Yukon Party MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin was not defeated, as he tied the NDP candidate in votes, but lost in a "coffee cup draw". If he had won, it would automatically have made the Yukon Party the Official Opposition.
That is a perceptive view of the facts. The corollary of the proposition that he was not defeated is that you did not win. The question would be why are you sitting there? I would suggest that what one gives by way of weight to that argument one gives by way of weight to the remaining arguments.
There seems to be some stumbling over the rotational system, and whether or not it will work. I would refer Mr. Speaker to the British precedent. If the mother of all parliaments can make a rotational system work, I am sure the 17 Members sitting in this House can make a rotational system work. It worked there and it also works in Saskatchewan. I am sure we can also make it work.
Speaker: I thank the Members for their advice on the point of order. I will take the matter under advisement and give the House my ruling on Monday.
We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
ADDRESS IN REPLY TO THE SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Mr. McRobb: I move
THAT the following address be presented to the Commissioner of the Yukon:
MAY IT PLEASE THE COMMISSIONER:
We, the Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, beg leave to offer our humble thanks for the gracious Speech which you have addressed to the House.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Member for Kluane
THAT the following address be presented to the Commissioner of the Yukon:
MAY IT PLEASE THE COMMISSIONER:
We, the Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, beg leave to offer our humble thanks for the gracious Speech which you have addressed to the House.
Mr. McRobb: I am privileged and honoured to be speaking for the first time to the Legislative Assembly in reply to the Speech from the Throne. I want to begin by thanking the constituents of Kluane for electing me their MLA. I also want to thank all the volunteers who made my campaign a success. Congratulations to all Members of this twenty-ninth Legislature on their election success.
My experience in the September campaign and in recent months has certainly given me greater respect for those who choose public life.
I know that Members on both sides of this House will not always agree - a healthy situation in a democracy, but we all have something in common: the trust placed in us by our constituents and the responsibility to represent them to the best of our ability.
I wish every Member all the best in doing an exemplary job for the people of the territory.
I will endeavour to carry out my responsibilities in this House constructively and to maintain the decorum Yukon citizens expect from their elected officials. I hope we all make that effort.
In this reply I will focus on three topics: the Speech from the Throne, the Kluane riding and the Energy Commission.
First, I would like to say a few words about how I came to be here. I have lived in the Yukon for 25 years, and for the last 12 years I have lived in the Kluane riding at Aishihik Lake. My role during the past six years has frequently felt like an up-hill battle, fighting for things I believe in, namely protecting the environment at Aishihik Lake and protecting the interest of consumers of electricity and telephone services.
At times I have been disillusioned by what government has offered its citizens in terms of acting in the public interest. I am sure this feeling is shared by many members of public-interest and advocacy groups who volunteer their time working to achieve a better society.
I saw first hand what it was like. This explains what motivated me to become involved in political life, to promote open and accountable government that recognizes public concerns and respects individuals who act in the public interest.
Four years ago, my predecessor, as the Member for the Legislative Assembly for Kluane, said this in response to his government's throne speech: "It is my opinion that lobby groups or members of the general public who find fault with government should run for election if they feel they are capable of running the government better than us."
Three months ago, I signed up as a member of a political party for the first time in my life. I then signed up 100 more new members in the Kluane riding. I won a contested nomination, chartered an airplane and was elected the first New Democratic Party candidate ever to represent Kluane.
I thank my predecessor for his advice, and I extend very warm wishes to him and his wife now that they can enjoy their retirement in Kluane.
Listening to the throne speech yesterday made me proud to be a Member of a government that accepts its responsibility to Yukon citizens who expect to be treated with respect as partners in a democratic process.
It is our duty to provide honest information about what this government is doing and planning to do, and to work diligently on the people's behalf.
I am pleased that our government is striving to maintain a health care system and social safety net. I am excited that, at long last, serious and thoughtful effort is being made by government to develop energy and forestry policies that make sense for this territory.
I am glad to be part of a government that cares about communities, equality, fairness and freedom for all Yukon citizens.
I believe that this government has developed a thoughtful plan of action to be effective in dealing with the many issues it is faced with.
The transfer of federal programs to Yukon control is one of the biggest challenges facing our government.
With the future devolution of jurisdiction over land, water, forest and minerals, all Yukon people will have an opportunity to establish policies and management that work for the Yukon.
However, many people do not think that the current federal proposal is financially good for the territory. It will be up to this government to ensure that a fair deal for Yukoners is negotiated.
Federal cutbacks are presenting significant challenges to hang on to what is ours as Canadians. The Yukon is particularly vulnerable to federal cutbacks, and we will do all we can to ensure high program standards.
We can all look forward to the Yukon government participating in land claims negotiations in good faith and with the flexibility that reflects the unique circumstances and aspirations of each First Nation. We can all look forward to more stability and opportunities as the Yukon moves into the post-land claims era.
Our government is fulfilling the requirements of the Yukon First Nations umbrella final agreement to create a development assessment process. The Commission on the Development Assessment Process will provide the leadership and action to get this underway.
The partial and temporary shutdown of the Faro mine highlights the need to diversify the Yukon's economy, to create more jobs for Yukoners and to move away from the boom-and-bust swings that come with our dependence on resource extraction. Greater economic stability will come from encouraging the production of value-added exports. By supporting activities that are economically, culturally and ecologically sustainable, we will see the long-term benefits that come with stability.
Unlike other parts of Canada, a significant number of people in the north depend on traditional land-based economies. The resource that makes up these economies must be preserved for the health and well-being of future generations.
Community economic development and encouragement for small business will help to create long-term stability.
Yukoners can look forward to being the first to benefit from jobs resulting from public spending through the work of the Yukon Hire Commission. Our government will work to provide Yukon people with skills necessary to make a living here.
Our government has committed to providing greater economic security by keeping its books debt free and maintaining its savings while preventing any tax increases.
None of this is about expensive and grandiose schemes to build infrastructure that leaves Yukon people with nebulous short-term benefits and long-term capital risk. It is about creating stability for communities instead of uncertainty about the future.
None of this is about sacrificing the ecological health of the land and water for the almighty dollar. It is about being good stewards while making a living that does not put other species and biodiversity, and their economic potential, at risk. Regional planning that considers cumulative effects will provide more certainty for every economic activity.
In short, I commend this throne speech for providing a thoughtful, balanced approach to the Yukon's public affairs for the next year.
I believe I can I speak for all Members of our government by saying that we do not apologize for committing to what some Members of the Opposition call the "C-word." Our government prefers to act on behalf of the people by consulting them, and not by dictating to them.
The Kluane riding covers a large expanse of land, from the northwestern outskirts of Whitehorse to the Alaska border at Beaver Creek and along the Haines Road. I have had the pleasant experience of travelling through the riding on many occasions during the past few months. I am struck by the beauty of the land: the majestic St. Elias range, the spectacular colours of lakes like Kluane, Dezadeash and Aishihik, the splendour of great rivers like the Donjek and the Tatshenshini, and, of course, the world renowned Kluane National Park. This land is the habitat for a diversity of fish and wildlife species that have sustained First Nations people for centuries and attracted tourists from around the world.
Many people in Kluane have expressed the importance of preserving the wilderness in Kluane, not only for its own sake, but also for the tourism benefits and jobs it provides in the communities. According to the Yukon State of the Environment report, about 80 percent of the Yukon is still wilderness - much more than the estimated three percent of Europe and 41 percent of all of North and Central America. We should be mindful of the saying, "Sometimes you do not truly appreciate something until it is gone."
There is tremendous potential in wilderness tourism in Kluane, a potential that springs from recognizing that our territory still has what has been lost elsewhere in the world. This potential will continue to grow as wilderness continues to disappear elsewhere.
In Kluane this is not a new concept. Many people have chosen the area as their home for its beauty and lack of urban sprawl - the same reasons Europeans come to see it. Many are combining their love of the Kluane landscape with a business in wilderness tourism that inspires respect for the land. I see wilderness tourism as a great opportunity for people in Kluane to derive economic benefits and employment while preserving a lifestyle they have chosen.
Along the Alaska Highway, there are several communities with their own unique characteristics, spanning from the country residential areas in Ibex to the rural areas further up the highway.
The three First Nations in the Kluane riding make this one of the richest areas in the Yukon with respect to history and cultural diversity.
The Village of Haines Junction, in the centre of the riding, has a strong degree of community involvement. The attendance at public meetings is truly remarkable. I have been to six meetings there in the past three months along with no less than 50 and as many as 140 others who took the time and made the effort to attend. I am impressed by the significant level of interest demonstrated by people in Haines Junction, and I congratulate each and every one of them for taking an active part in making their community a better place to live.
I have attended several meetings about forestry in the Kluane area. People living in the Y-06 forestry district are concerned that certain types of land use may occur without community approval. Many have said they support small-scale economic development and jobs, but not at the price of unsustainable harvesting.
Recently I helped communicate some of the community's concerns to the federal government, which still has jurisdiction over Yukon forests. I will urge that more consideration be given to local control and community input on these controversial issues prior to the implementation of a forest management plan and a Yukon forest policy.
Many of my constituents, including the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation and the Village of Haines Junction, are persuading our government to adopt a Greater Kluane Land Use Plan. Had the plan been adopted by previous territorial and federal governments when it was completed at a cost of more than $3 million, the current turmoil over how federal forest management in the Kluane region is proceeding may have been avoided. The Department of Renewable Resources is currently reviewing the plan and I will be encouraging our government to adopt it.
The Yukon is sparsely populated and remote, but we cannot pretend we are unaffected by the world around us. We must recognize the need to balance development pressures with local environmental and socio-economic concerns. In fact, that need has been demonstrated for many years in the territory, but often ignored by decision makers.
There are two classic examples of this balance being ignored in the Kluane riding: the sustainability of some forestry decisions and the effect of the hydro dam on the ecosystems of Aishihik Lake. There are constructive ways to strike a balance. It takes hard work and political will to consult with people and work toward the best solutions.
When 140 people make the effort to attend a public meeting on an issue, it is time to really listen to what they are saying, not just simply maintain the status quo when a change for the better is obviously required.
While going door to door during the election campaign, I heard people in Kluane express their views about several issues. Many of my constituents said their needs had been ignored for years and territorial budgets had glossed over them. This applied particularly to the area of tourism. It was clear that many people shared a common concern for issues such as cutbacks to various government services, including health care, child care, education, alcohol and drug services and highway maintenance, while being forced to pay higher living costs due to increases in gasoline prices, power and telephone rates and personal income taxes, to name a few.
I quickly learned that each community had its own specific needs, and I will be working with the Ministers responsible to meet these needs. I am looking forward to seeing the benefits provided to communities and people in Kluane from programs like the community projects initiative that was mentioned in yesterday's throne speech, and the community development fund, which will come about during the next year.
I will work with people in Kluane and my colleague, the Minister of Tourism, to facilitate the development of a tourism action plan for the Kluane area. Our government has made a commitment to mitigate the environmental impacts of the hydro facility at Aishihik Lake. On behalf of my constituents, I will work with my government colleagues to meet this objective.
I am pleased that our government is examining the rationale of the previous government's decision to close the grader station at Destruction Bay. The community has spoken loud and clear about the need to continue the current standard of road maintenance required for safe travel in the vicinity of Kluane Lake, along the North Alaska Highway.
In addition to representing my constituents, I am very excited to be working on a project that has long been an area of interest to me: energy policy.
Our government has created four commissions to fulfill its election promises by immediately prioritizing the development of important policies affecting forestry, local hire, the development assessment process and energy.
Like the other three commissions, the energy commission is an action-oriented, policy-making team that will operate at no extra cost to the taxpayer, despite what one may hear. The commission will bring together a team of people with energy-related responsibilities from various government departments to focus on developing policy through public consultation.
The challenges with respect to energy policy have been ignored for too long, and our government is demonstrating its willingness to produce results that meet with the approval of Yukoners.
As energy commissioner, I will work to develop a comprehensive energy policy that promotes an economically and environmentally sustainable course for the future.
With the development of this policy, consumers can look forward to affordable and reliable energy in the future.
I look forward to the challenges ahead.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cable: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will be very brief.
It has been said to me on a number of occasions that much of the three parties' platforms overlap and that there is a large degree of commonality among what we have put forward, what the Yukon Party has put forward and what the NDP has put forward.
There are many issues that cross party lines and philosophies. There are issues about better government, the way that we conduct ourselves in the House, the appointment process and the amendments to the rules to make the process more efficient.
There is the protection of the health and security nets; there is the financial integrity of the territory. I would suggest that one of our main jobs as Members, whether we be rightist, leftist or centrist, in the next four years will be first to discover those issues where we can work harmoniously and where there is common ground. Of course, this is not to say that there will not be any disagreements, but it is my wish and hope that we will devote a considerable part of our energies in this direction: discovering common ground.
I know all of the Members in the House - some well and some not so well - and there is no one in this House who is so far off the political and philosophical spectrum that they and their ideas should be taken lightly. There may not be agreement, but there will be respect, so there is a foundation for a Legislature that will work. It will work in the sense that the voters will get their money's worth and it will work in the sense that the many problems facing Yukoners that require political or legislative attention will get that attention.
Let us look at one of the problems: land claims. In the government's election platform it said that it would make the completion of negotiations and the cooperative implementation of land claim agreements its top priority over the next four years.
I think that is a statement to which everyone in this House can easily subscribe. It is certainly a position with which my party agrees.
The uncertainty that flows from the incomplete claims process affects everyone. It affects the relationships between our peoples in the communities. The government, in its election platform, spoke to the enhancing of training programs for public servants, in order to ensure that they are equipped to fulfill the government's new approach in its relations with First Nations. We in the Liberal Party will certainly want to explore the government's general goals in this area. I think we will also want some clarification of what has happened in the Land Claims Secretariat and the events of the last few days. The government, quite properly, in its platform - as in other platforms - spoke about openness and accountability. Openness and accountability on this issue should be the guiding light in the conduct of the next few days. We will want to explore what is going on with the Land Claims Secretariat - how it is to be staffed, how it will meet the goals and how it is going to meet the time lines. We will also want to know what the government is doing with devolution.
There are many other issues that we will want to explore. We will want to find out whether or not we are in agreement or in opposition. We will want to know if we have something constructive to add to the government's posture or if we think we can persuade the government to go in a certain direction.
My riding contains many of the institutions in this territory. The main administration building of the Yukon territorial government is standing in my riding. If Members have problems, they can come to me as their representative.
I also have, in my riding, Macaulay Lodge and the Thomson Centre, where we will all go someday - some of us sooner than others. There is a little levity in the speeches here today.
I also have the hospital and two schools in my riding. I also have one hotel in my riding. We also have the Sports Yukon building and the Golden Age Society.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: The Member for Riverdale North is in a joyous mood. He is a little on the mouthy side, but we will overlook that.
We also have the swimming pool. We have Rotary Park. I do not wish to make too much levity at this time, but I have to say that I have a very diverse riding.
When I went banging on this person's door, I found out that there was a farm far out on the Long Lake Road, a good-sized farm, right near the river. I did not know this before. It is a brand new farm, I should add, to deal with the Yukon Party Leader's - what is the word? - sotto voce. Some of us unkind people would say "mutterings".
I also have many apartments in my riding. It is high density living. The tenants are usually young people with young kids. I have many seniors, and they have problems that need to be addressed. Over the course of the next four years, I will be dealing with all of the needs of those people who either work or live in my riding.
In closing, I would like to go back to the original thesis. The tenor of this House and what we accomplish will very much depend on what we want to accomplish. If we want to beat the political drum at the expense of the taxpayers and at the expense of the voters, we will suffer and they will suffer. It is my fervent hope and wish that we will put them first and our own interests second.
Mr. Livingston: I would like to congratulate Members on this side and the Members opposite on their election to this House, and I look forward to working with them over the next four years.
I am indeed honoured to be able to stand and represent the people of Lake Laberge in the Legislature today. Like the Member who just spoke, I also represent quite a diverse riding. I know the Member opposite will have some awareness of that, as he is a resident of the riding.
I am particularly pleased to be a Member of this new government. As outlined yesterday, this is a government that will be, and already is, working on behalf of the people of the Yukon. This government intends to work in such a way as to build hope, security and confidence among Yukon citizens. We intend to be a government that has as its core an attitude of service, a planning approach, and a willingness to work in partnership with Yukoners.
This would be a cruel message if there were not some substance to it, if the government was not committed to an approach and a series of actions to build hope and confidence and to work with the people of the Yukon. I am pleased to say that this government has already taken steps with members of the community to begin just such a journey.
This government is working to build a sense of hope for people in the Yukon. This government will strive, throughout its mandate, to instill hope for those who find themselves lacking in hope - for those without work, who number approximately one in 12 men and women in the Yukon today; and for the homeless and the destitute - I understand that 40 to 50 people turn out on weekends at the soup kitchen - hope for children and youth who face a bleak future - I note that the Minister of Health and Social Services has just returned to the Yukon from national meetings, where increased numbers of children living in poverty have made it on to the national agenda - and hope for parents, teachers and community support people who work with youth at risk, including the estimated 500 youth in the Yukon suffering from FAS/FAE. This government will strive to instill hope for all of us as we face a changing and uncertain future.
A sense of hope will come, at least partially, through a sense of security. It is important that Yukon people have a sense of security about access to adequate health care, to a quality education, and about the prospect of meaningful work. It is important that Yukoners feel secure in their ability to retire with a sense of dignity, secure about their own democratic rights and freedoms, and secure about their community's ability to handle change.
From this sense of security, a renewed confidence will grow, and being able to act with a sense of confidence is critical to our growth and development, both individually and as a community.
In Canada and the Yukon, the government has a role to play. It has a role to play in helping to create a sense of security, in ensuring adequate health care and building on the existing education system. The Yukon government has a role in moderating the social and economic impacts of a boom-and-bust economy. We have a role to ensure Yukon people, and especially our youth, have ample opportunities here at home.
The Yukon government has an obligation to take a longer view and to renew confidence in our ability to manage change for the benefit of all Yukon society.
I am pleased with the announcement yesterday that the Yukon government intends to work with various partners in extending and refining the apprenticeship program and in developing new training initiatives. This is particularly important following the recently announced shutdown of the mine in Faro, temporary though we hope it is. It is also a message of support for all Yukoners in their quest for personal skills development and security.
The work with community organizations to ensure adequate shelters in various communities and to provide secure funding for non-government organizations, such as Kaushee's Place, is good news, and I join with the Minister of Justice during this week of remembrance and action of violence against women to call on all Members here and the Yukon public to rededicate themselves to reducing all forms of violence in our society.
The settlement of land claims, as guided by the umbrella final agreement, is a priority for this government. This work should help create that sense of security and hope for First Nations people and inspire confidence as we move forward together in the Yukon.
The establishment of a workers' advocate for injured workers is an important step toward ensuring those people who find themselves in the weakest position are ably represented and treated fairly and with respect.
Another way our government offers renewed hope is by applying special political effort and a focused approach to four areas requiring our attention in the short term: to address the need for fair and effective development assessment process; to develop forestry policy that serves our longer term economic and environmental needs; to ensure a long-term supply of affordable energy for both residential and commercial industrial consumers; and to direct Yukon resources to serve the people of the Yukon, especially when it comes to jobs and government contracts.
These are high priorities for various segments of Yukon society.
The commissions are this government's tools to address these issues in as timely a manner as possible, while at the same time involving interested Yukoners in discussions about these various issues.
I have talked about the role for government. I should hasten to add that the Yukon government is not here to constrain citizens, but to serve citizens.
The Yukon Legislature is here to reflect the wishes and the mood of Yukoners and to deliver and maintain those values and services that will serve Yukoners well.
Our government commits to work with the interested public in exploring ways to provide the best service possible.
Part of working more closely with the Yukon public is this government's commitment to be open and accessible. The door will be open.
As the Member for Lake Laberge, I commit to regular newsletters and visits to keep constituents informed about issues that we are currently faced with and the action that is being taken. I invite residents to call or visit my office when they have questions or comments.
As the Commissioner for the Development Assessment Process, I similarly commit to regular communications regarding the commission's work. In both cases, I will be soliciting input and involvement from constituents through surveys, discussions, public meetings and through new media like the Internet.
I will also be encouraging regular citizen involvement through meaningful discussions and through work on boards, committees and working groups.
Another factor that can help to build an appreciation for service is the sense that government is acting in a fair manner. In addition to the opportunity for people to participate in decisions that affect them, a sense that rules and practices are applied fairly helps to build confidence in the service and leadership provided by government.
This government has committed to a regulatory code of conduct that will guide the Yukon government's approach to establishing and changing regulations. This code will guarantee interested parties, including small business and other organizations, that they will have the opportunity to participate in discussions about, and changes in, regulations that affect them.
I know this will be welcomed by both the workers and contractors in the riding of Lake Laberge.
I am pleased to note how quickly the Minister Community and Transportation Services has responded to maintenance concerns in the Lake Laberge riding, and most particularly to the resolution of longstanding problems with the city for Strawberry Lane maintenance and as well, outside of the city limits, work in the Rivendale Road area. These are examples of the service that is already being delivered.
A combination of communication and involvement will help us to govern better. Communication and involvement will help to lay the basis for a constructive partnership between members of the community and their government.
I would like to turn now to that whole notion of partnership. This Legislature passed an act about six years ago - the Education Act - that talks about partnership, and I would like to make reference to the preamble of that act.
It says basically, and this is not a quote, that a high-quality education system - and I would suggest that any system - recognizes that meaningful partnerships with greater parental and public participation are valuable to creating good systems that work for people.
One of the key partnerships for the Yukon government is a constructive relationship with First Nation governments. This government's top priority is to settle outstanding land claims, and this is good news for the people of this territory. For people of First Nations ancestry, this is a message of hope and of one of fairness. As we proceed to the task of carrying out this commitment, First Nations will be able to see the goodwill of the Yukon government as we tackle these claims in a straightforward and respectful manner. Indeed benefits for all Yukoners will be achieved through the timely resolution of matters related to land claims and I look forward to working particularly with the people of the Ta'an Kwach'an First Nation over the coming years to do just that.
I was pleased to hear the Opposition comments about the throne speech on the radio this morning. They noted there was nothing much new in the throne speech. And that is the way it should be. We have just come through an election where we New Democrats shared our plans with the voters. If we are doing our job well, there should not be a great number of surprises about what we are going to do. As for specifics, over the next few months we will develop program specifics and in many cases we will be doing it with partners in the community.
Over the next few months, this government's Minister of Economic Development will be consulting with the public on the framework for a new and revitalized community development plan. This community development fund program is an opportunity to provide local employment opportunities, build community infrastructure, enhance recreational and leisure pursuits and support both arts and heritage activities.
Another area where the spirit of consultation and partnership will be rebuilt is through consultation with the school councils who represent the parents and clients of our education system, and with the Yukon Teachers Association, representing educators. This model of consultation is a sound one, and one that has the potential to address issues of concern to all members of the school community, rural and urban, students, parents, First Nations and educators. It can provide balanced leadership for our schools into the next century in areas like curriculum, the organization of schools to best meet student needs, expanded instructional strategies, nurturing school-community connections, professional development and, of course, identifying priorities for school construction.
One of the key partnerships our government will work to restore immediately is the relationship between this government and its workers. I look forward with great anticipation to the tabling of legislation in this House - which has just occurred - to return the public service, public educators and this government to the bargaining table. Free collective bargaining will once again be the way we do business.
In the Lake Laberge riding, I have received over 50 concerns about land use. Some of these have to do with changing regulations and trying to gain a clear understanding of what rules apply and what is fair. The majority of these concerns are from the rural part of my riding and include rural residential, agricultural and forest industry concerns. I will continue to advocate on behalf of my constituents in Lake Laberge that rules be applied fairly and consistently for all.
Community organizations, such as the Deep Creek Community Association, established in November of this year, will be an important forum for community discussion and for advocating community interests. Likewise, the Crestview Community Association, the Mayo Road Planning Committee, Grizzly Valley and Hotsprings Road Planning Committees, will all continue to provide this service for people in their areas.
In both the urban and rural areas of Lake Laberge, the proximity of industrial development to residential and agricultural neighbourhoods has been a concern. These concerns underline the need for some work with communities, as well as with industrial, commercial and environmental interests, to consider land use interests over a longer term. As the MLA for Lake Laberge, I am committed to working with others to address this need for longer range planning.
These community examples are constructive partnerships that will enhance good planning. Good planning will ensure that the needs of most citizens are addressed and that our lives and communities have some level of predictability.
Good planning can provide a sense of security once the hard work is done.
I am sure that communities in the riding of Lake Laberge will be examining their goals and plans to determine how they might be met by making use of the community projects initiative. I know that, after some consultation with communities, it will become the community development fund that was announced yesterday.
I would like to turn to finances, because we have applied the concept of good planning to finances as well. It is one more area where this government is prepared to take the longer view. Solutions to problems may take a while as we sort out and address our various priorities. This will not be a government with knee-jerk reactions, quick to spend money on the first problem that comes along, leaving no resources for the next problem. Our government intends to maintain all core programs through good planning and without raising taxes or incurring long-term debt.
I have mentioned the work of the commissions. They are an example of how the government will be taking up the challenge of planning for our future in partnership. In the months leading up to the last election, I circulated a petition on energy options and rates. I began in Crestview, and it very quickly became clear to me that energy issues are a matter of great concern to people in my riding. Concerns about stable electricity rates and the management and control of the Yukon Energy Corporation were regularly raised by citizens on the doorstep. The recently announced Energy Commission will service all people well by identifying policy options related to affordable rates, utility management and security of supply.
One of the most compelling messages I heard at the doorstep in Lake Laberge during August and September was from Yukon workers. Whether union members or contractors, both big and small, the message was the same: "Why am I unable to get work in the Yukon on building construction contracts, road building, doing media work, providing engineering and control services and doing brush work." The message was the same. There was a very real sense from professionals and labourers that they would not even be considered for work that involved Yukon government money. This very serious problem is one that this government intends to address. One way or another, we will address this problem. The commission on local hire has been established to address the best means to making sure that Yukon workers can get Yukon jobs. I applaud this first step.
Another of our planning challenges involves balancing our economic needs with our need for a sustainable environment. We want to ensure a degree of certainty for the mining industry, but we want to do it in a manner that is environmentally friendly and provides for protective spaces and wildlife habitat.
That is precisely what the development assessment process, or DAP, is intended to do when it is up and running.
I know that local journalists described the work of the DAP commission as drudgery. I can tell Members that I was crestfallen - absolutely crestfallen. I had images of watching paint dry. I must say that I was pleased to know that this same journalist talked about the importance of doing a good job of designing and implementing DAP. I appreciate that he recognized its importance. "As simple as possible but not simpler," instructed Albert Einstein. That is precicely what we intend to do with the DAP. It will be a made-in-Yukon solution that addresses our land use and project-review issues. DAP must be timely, consistent and cost effective. It has to set clear guidelines on what is expected of project components. Of course, DAP will follow from the framework provided in the Yukon umbrella final agreement signed with Yukon First Nations and the Government of Canada.
I want to make clear how our made-in-Yukon development assessment process will be achieved. The Yukon government remains committed to working with both First Nations and the Government of Canada to complete the design and implementation plan in as timely a manner as possible. We continue to work with them at the table. The opportunity offered through the DAP commission is to focus the Yukon government's research, policy development and decision-making with respect to DAP.
It is our intention to ensure that both industry and the environmental community do not lose sight of the process or product as it is developed in partnership.
I would like to take this opportunity to invite all Members of the House to provide me with their positions, suggestions and input to the DAP commission. This can only strengthen our efforts in articulating the interests of the Yukon at the DAP table.
I would also welcome opportunities to address the House on an ongoing basis regarding the work of the development assessment process commission in more detail.
I have one last story about planning that was told me by one of my constituents on the night before the recent election. It related to a library at Oxford University in England. It was a fine old stone building, with a roof held up by huge oak beams. The old library caught fire and the oak beams were destroyed. As people assembled to plan the rebuilding of this old landmark, one of the builders asked where on earth they were going to find timber to replace these oak beams. The university forester replied that this was not a problem. When the library was constructed some two or three centuries before, two oak trees had been planted in the king's forest as replacements for the roof beams in the library, just in case the need should arise. When they went to the forest, the trees were found just where they were expected to be.
I do not expect us to start planting oak trees in the Yukon, but surely this is a good lesson for us as we proceed to develop new policies on Yukon forests.
The challenge before the commission will be to take the long view for our forests. The living forests are a life support system and wildlife habitat. They are also a renewable resource that can support a level of sustained use. I have confidence that this commission will work effectively with the various parties to identify our policy options, options that will maintain healthy forests and, at the same time, offer employment and economic opportunities for residents of Yukon communities.
In closing, this government will go about business in a thoughtful, intentional and active manner. This government will strive to create a climate of hopefulness by restoring and maintaining basic securities. Our government will be a service-oriented government. By working in partnership with Yukon people, this government will engage in solid planning that should provide for quality health and education services, a sound economy, and healthy wild lands. It is my hope that this groundwork will provide the platform for Yukoners to stride confidently into the 21st century.
I commit that, over the next four years, I will listen well and work hard on behalf of all citizens of the Yukon and, most particularly, for the people residing in the Lake Laberge riding.
Mr. Ostashek: It gives me great pleasure to rise in the Legislature today - a new session of the Legislature and a new government in power, and new Opposition Members.
I did not choose to be on the Opposition side of the House, but this is where the voters of the Yukon have put us, and they have my commitment that we will do an effective job of holding the government accountable.
I want to thank the constituents of Porter Creek North for once again putting their faith in me. I promise them that I will continue to give them the strong representation that I have given them over the last four years. Constituency issues are very important issues, and that is something we, as Members in the Legislature, cannot lose sight of, no matter which side of the House we are on.
I was somewhat disappointed by the throne speech yesterday. Throne speeches are known to have a lot of fluff in them, but I was expecting the government to set up some goal posts in the throne speech as to what it hopes to accomplish, so that the people of the Yukon could measure the effectiveness of this new government.
Well, those goal posts are not in this throne speech. The government has set no objectives. The whole paper is about consultation, consultation, consultation. There is nothing wrong with consultation. Every government does consultation. Our government did lots of consultation.
I know the Member for Faro is muttering under his breath that he does not think the previous government consulted with anyone, but it did. This government of the day is now reaping the benefits of those consultations, because that party did not come up with one new idea during the election campaign or in the Speech from the Throne.
I have come to the conclusion that the New Democratic Party was elected by accident. The NDP did not expect to be elected but was due to the good graces of the Liberal Party - who, by the way, the New Democratic Party should be sending Christmas presents to, and who the NDP should ensure remain in good health - because 60 percent of Yukoners said that they did not want a New Democratic Party government.
I think it is important for this government to put up some goal posts by which to measure their achievements. I want to go through some of the fluff in this throne speech and make some comments about it.
Again, I would hope that this government would set out some objectives so we can measure its performance, because none have been set out in the government's throne speech.
I want to start where the government talks about the settlement of land claims as a priority. We have seen some actions by the Government Leader and this government, in the early stages of its mandate, which point to a very vindictive government, a government that says, "My government values the efforts, expertise and loyalty of its public employees who provide essential services to the public on a daily basis. We believe they deserve to work in a positive environment free of harassment and intimidation."
I do not think many people in the Land Claims Secretariat today would give this government very high marks for dealing with employees.
This government dealt with employees in a very heavy-handed, arrogant and vindictive manner. I believe this government is carrying out someone else's agenda, and I hope we can get to the bottom of that during this session of the Legislature.
I said publicly that there is nothing wrong with changing employees or deputy ministers when a new government comes in. However, for a government to get rid of or move four deputy ministers before it is even sworn into office, there had to be a hidden agenda. We will try to ferret that out during this session of the Legislature.
The Deputy Minister of the Executive Council Office said one thing, the Government Leader said another, then the Government Leader changed his position today and said he did not say that. Perhaps when we read the papers tonight, the deputy minister will say he did not say it either. There seems to be a real breakdown in communications between the bureaucratic and political sides of government already. It is very early in this mandate.
We will be looking for the answers to a lot of questions during this session. We have a lot of questions on what has transpired in land claims. Many Yukoners are very concerned about what has happened. The Government Leader said he had to put a different face on it and that nothing was being accomplished in land claims. Over the four years we were in government, there were seven land claims agreements completed, finalized and put into place. There were a whole slew of implementation agreements drawn up.
The NDP government was so committed to land claims, it let the legislative authority for the four First Nations agreements die on the Order Paper when it called the election in 1992. That is how committed that party was to the land claims process.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: The hon. Member should stand up if she wants to speak.
We know Christmas is coming and the government wants to have a very short session. The new House Leader says we should be out of here in four days. If we get all the answers to our questions in four days, we will be out of here, but I would not hold my breath.
This government has made much of working with other governments to achieve made-in-Yukon solutions to devolution matters. It must recognize that the process must be open to public scrutiny. It says it wants to be an open and accountable government. I hope it is, and I hope we get answers to the questions we ask in this Legislature. It would certainly help to facilitate business.
We are going to have questions about the finances of government. I have some questions for the Minister of Finance when we get into that debate, or possibly in Question Period. I do want to say that the Yukon Party left the incoming government in a sound financial position, and I would hope that it will maintain that sound financial position. I do want to say that we listened for four years to some of the Members who sit on the other side of the House speak of the biggest budgets ever in the Yukon - bigger and bigger budgets and record spending. I will put the Government Leader on notice now that we expect to see smaller budgets or we will be reminding the Members opposite of their criticisms when they were in Opposition. We will be quoting them from Hansard. If they achieve it, I will congratulate them.
We see that the government is going to reinstitute the community development fund. They call it an economic vehicle. I have some questions that I will be asking as to how it will be an economic vehicle. I am not a fan of the previous community development fund that the previous NDP government had in place. In my opinion that fund was a slush fund for the Ministers. That is all it was. There are very few things the Members opposite can point at in the communities that were accomplished through that community development fund that are of a lasting nature and contribute to the economic benefit of the community.
Since it is going to be instituting a community development fund, I am going to be urging the government - and I will not just be standing up here saying, "No, no, no" - to act in an open and accountable manner, which it professes it will do and put an independent board in charge of administrating this community development fund - a board that cannot be over-ruled by the Minister. If the government does that, the fund may work. We will be urging it to do that.
In the jobs and economy portion of the throne speech, there is mention of strong support of the mining industry. The members of the mining industry and the Members on this side of the House are waiting with baited breath to see what the government's actions are going to be. There have been some very nice words - words of comfort - but the proof will be in the pudding. We will see what it does to develop the infrastructure of the Yukon. We will see what it does to diversify the economy further than that of the Yukon Party. It is hoped that it will not narrow it down.
I am very disappointed that the throne speech says so little about tourism in the Yukon. Tourism is one of the mainstays of our economic well-being. It seems to be downplayed in this throne speech. I hope that the Minister of Tourism will be able to set aside my concerns before this session is over. There are many people who are employed in the tourism industry in the Yukon. We do need to take advantage of the anniversaries to promote the Yukon for the next millennium. We need to attract people here, and we need to have things for people to do. We need to have infrastructure in place, and we need to have attractions. Our wildlife and wilderness is an attraction, but we cannot survive with just that in the tourism industry. The tourism industry is a very competitive industry, and I would have preferred to see a little more emphasis put on it in the throne speech. I think it has been downplayed. I hope that the Members opposite will be able to give some comfort to the tourism industry that they have not forgot about them. Ask the mining industry.
I want to talk a little bit about the Cabinet commissions, because we are going to have a lot of questions about them. There have been statements made by the Government Leader that these positions will not cost the taxpayers any money and that they will be paid for out of existing budgets. I cannot accept that. They will cost money. I believe that the Government Leader has to tell the public that they will cost money and what the cost will be. Everything the government does is paid out of existing budgets.
He is on record with the press saying it, and yet in the first supplementary, we see $260,000. There is $167,000 for operation and maintenance, and another $93,000 for capital for his Cabinet commissions. I think this is a very expensive way to do consultation.
We will be asking many questions in this Legislature about how these commissions are going to work and which Ministers - not which backbenchers - will be responsible for them. To which Ministers will the backbenchers be answering?
They speak quite a bit in here about the Cabinet Commission on Energy. I heard the Member for Kluane talking a little about it. A lot of work has been done on energy in the territory, not only by my administration, but by a previous NDP administration that spent, I believe, hundreds of thousands of dollars having a report on energy in the Yukon done. When they received the report, they did not like the recommendations contained in it, so that report is sitting somewhere on a shelf today, with none of it being implemented.
We need not go out on another expensive, high profile consultation process. What the people of the Yukon want to see is some action being taken. They also want to see what this government is going to do. At least, during the campaign, we put forward what we were going to do. That is not something the NDP did. All I heard from the NDP was about windmills, micro-hydro and 40-watt lightbulbs. Well, that may sound good, but it is not going to solve the Yukon's energy problems.
The Government Leader is laughing, but it is the truth, and it is a very difficult issue that the government is going to have to deal with, and deal with very quickly.
We have heard a lot of words about the high profile that the development assessment process has been given. In my opinion, the Government Leader has diminished the importance of DAP by turning it over to a backbencher. In our administration, the Land Claims Secretariat, through the chief land claims negotiator, answering directly to the Government Leader - me - was responsible for DAP. The Government Leader has dismissed it from his office. Furthermore, the government has done absolutely nothing new in DAP than what was already done before they came to power. There was an inter-governmental committee in place, over 30 consultation meetings have been held across the Yukon, a person was designated to head up the DAP process, and now the only thing I see that has been added to it is a backbencher and a new deputy minister at great cost to the taxpayers of the Yukon.
On the one hand, the government says these commissions are not going to cost any money, but the Government Leader has essentially increased the deputy ministers in this government by 25 percent. He has gone from having 16 to 20 deputy ministers. That is what he has done, and you cannot tell me or the Yukon public that it does not cost anything because they are not buying it at all.
We are going to have a lot of questions about that matter.
The development assessment process was supposed be finalized, I believe by next year, and I hope that the government is successful in finalizing it. Most of the work that needs to be done on the development assessment process has been done. The hard work that needs to be done is convincing the First Nations and the federal government to buy into that process. That is the hard work that needs to be done.
The government has not presented anything new to the public from what my government was doing with the development assessment process.
In its throne speech, the government went on for two pages about strong, safe communities, and I commend them for that. There are a lot of good things in there, if carried through, will help the people of the Yukon.
One of the most crucial issues facing the people of the Yukon and students of the Yukon is violence in our schools, and that is not even mentioned in the throne speech. I am very concerned about that and the manner in which violence in our schools has been downplayed. I think it is incumbent upon this government to provide a safe environment so that the people of the Yukon can send their children to school in what they feel is a safe environment and have some level of comfort that their kids are going to be coming back home without first going to the emergency ward at the hospital.
I am flabbergasted that this issue is not addressed in the throne speech, and I am very disappointed in the government. We will be asking more questions of this government about what it intends to do about violence in the schools. This is a very serious issue in our community.
As I said, the throne speech certainly does not say much. I hope that during debate the government will set out some of the goals and objectives that it hopes to accomplish in the next few years.
The government will have a budget speech coming out in the spring. Let us hope that there are some goals and objectives in that so that we can then see if this government is being effective or ineffective.
It is interesting, because we hear so many conflicting reports coming from the Members opposite. They do one thing and say something else.
I can remember the Member for Faro in debate after debate after debate in this Legislature asking what the previous government was going to do to help the people in Faro and what the government was going to do to keep people working until the mine started up again.
What does the Member for Faro do when the company announces a temporary closure? He tells the people of Faro that if they have another job they should take it, pack up and leave Faro. Now the Member says he was misquoted. I am going to go back to the newspaper to see if he was misquoted, because I do not believe he was.
That is what he said. He made some statements at an environmental forum that they would kill the Aishihik caribou enhancement program; they would put a moratorium on it. We have a moratorium on it. I believe the government, in its wisdom, I hope, will continue that program and not waste millions of taxpayers' dollars without having the program completed and being able to analyze the results.
Let me draw something to the attention of the Members opposite. In the election of 1992, all three political party leaders at the political forum were asked if they would implement such a program if elected. All three political leaders said they would, including the leader of the NDP at that time.
They can use political rhetoric when in Opposition, but it will come back to haunt them when they are in government.
This government is very vague about what it intends to do with Tombstone Park, if it intends to increase its size at the land claims table or go to a full public process if it wants to change that park's boundaries. These are some very difficult decisions this government will have to make.
I have great concerns that the actions taken by the Government Leader in his handling of land claims personnel and the statements he made in this throne speech and in public about land claims being a high priority are not consistent. We will be looking for a lot of answers in those areas.
Along with that, we want to see what the government will do for infrastructure in the Yukon. Without infrastructure, our economy cannot continue to expand and create jobs for Yukoners.
I found it interesting to listen to the Member for Laberge. I marked down that he said that all he heard at the doors was that people could not get a job. I do not know where he was campaigning, because all the people I talked to were working, all the tradesmen were working more hours than they wanted to; they could not hire enough of them in the Yukon. People were going outside to bring people in to do jobs because they could not hire enough Yukoners. I do not know who that Member was talking to. I believe it is just more political rhetoric from the other side of the House.
We will see how successful the Members opposite are in job creation. I think that we have set up the goal posts for that one that the present government will be measured against to see what it does about job creation in the Yukon.
I will close at this time. I just want to say to the Members opposite that the Yukon Party caucus is prepared to work with them to expedite the business of the House. I know that there will be times when we will disagree on different issues and will debate them in this Legislature. However, if we are all working for the interests of all Yukoners, I would hope that the Members opposite will listen to some of the recommendations coming from the Opposition benches.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I am very pleased to once again represent the people who live in the riding of Mount Lorne. It is great to know that I stand here because many of the residents of my riding share my priorities. I would not be here without their support, and I would like to thank all the residents who contributed their efforts to the democratic process.
I would also like to congratulate all the Members present and to welcome all the new Members to this House.
Those of us who are elected to serve in public office gain attention for our political efforts. I want to acknowledge the people who volunteer on hamlet and school councils, sports teams and community associations, and who also put in long hours each month. These people, who contribute to public debate, listen with concern to the problems of the day and then strategize for and advocate change, are the people who make Mount Lorne a good place to live.
Over the past four years, I have worked with the Hamlet of Mount Lorne, the Marsh Lake and Mount Lorne community associations, Golden Horn School Council, City of Whitehorse residents and city council, as well as many other groups that have had an important role in fanning the sparks of local politics. The people who elected me have come to expect a lot from me. I am committed to bringing them a better way of governing. It is a real challenge and a real pleasure to accept the challenges of my three Cabinet portfolios. I take very seriously my responsibilities in these roles to bring good government to all Yukoners.
The people who elected me want a government that listens. I am listening to Yukoners from my riding and from all over the territory. I will be very busy over the next few months as Minister of Education and Justice, and as Minister responsible for the Women's Directorate.
In October, after I was sworn in as the Minister of Education, I travelled to Old Crow for a conference on their vision of education in a remote Arctic village. Their priorities include bringing First Nations culture and history into the classroom and taking the classes out to the land. As the Speaker would know, the community wants to play a role in determining education priorities rather than accepting a system imposed solely by government.
People from Alaska and the Northwest Territories were in Old Crow, providing a circumpolar perspective on innovative cultural and technological education. My work has taken me to Faro, Haines Junction, Ross River and Teslin since then. Being in the communities is an important way to hear and see firsthand about the issues that need resolving. I look forward to travelling to schools I have not yet visited and to meeting with school and student councils and staff in the communities.
We have a dynamic new caucus. The former Government Leader has referred to us as an accidental caucus. I do not think it is an accident that our party had a responsible platform that appealed to a majority of the Yukon public. It is not an accident that we had a good team of candidates. It is not an accident that we have good leadership and now form a majority government. Our caucus feels it is important to have a whole range of Yukon voices represented in government. Listening to diverse opinions will help us to develop policies that truly reflect the will of the people. I am happy to be working with my new caucus colleagues and working together to make sound decisions.
While I am busy listening to my colleagues, I will continue to make time for my constituents. My riding of Mount Lorne is mainly a rural riding. I listen to my constituents, and I know that they want me to work on issues that affect them.
One value that people hold in common is our love for the Yukon landscape. Many Mount Lorne residents choose to live in the Yukon because they have a profound appreciation for the environment. Habitat protection is a major concern for my constituents, and they look for government policies that permit wildlife conservation in the area. We all want to see effective protection measures for the Southern Lakes caribou herd and the Marsh Lake shore wetlands. I know that my constituents will expect me to continue my efforts in cooperation with my colleague, the Minister of Renewable Resources.
People in Mount Lorne appreciate our wildlife, our clean lakes and rivers, fresh air and forests. They want to protect the environment where they live. They are also concerned about waste management. I am working with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to make progress toward a healthy and economically responsible solution to hazardous situations, such as burning garbage at the Mile 9 dump on the Carcross Road, which is used by city and rural residents alike. I look forward to the opportunity for open communication and collaboration with the community and the City of Whitehorse to find a responsible solution that includes reducing our waste and increasing our recycling efforts.
This problem is only one example of the need for cooperative relations between the City of Whitehorse and the Yukon government.
Rural residents are frustrated by the lack of adequate telephone services. As a government Member, I am continuing my efforts to encourage Northwestel to reduce the unfair long distance rates between Marsh Lake and Whitehorse. I am working with several MLAs from rural ridings to increase the pressure to provide telephones to areas that are currently without this basic service. I also hope that rural residents will be able to have access to Internet services and be active travellers on the information highway.
Our government has made a strong commitment to land claims as a priority. That is just one of the goals that is set out in the throne speech. Completion of land claims will restore to Yukon First Nations a land base that was taken from them just over 100 years ago. We understand that First Nations people and all Yukoners are looking for clear and equitable settlements that will give us the certainty to plan for the future together.
Women and men in my riding are also concerned about land development. Decisions about land use and development deeply affect the members of any community. We must ensure that land development protects the natural habitat of the area. We need lots where families can build homes and lots that foster the growth of home-based businesses. We need recreational spaces for people to play and commercial spaces where businesses can attract customers and provide an economic base for the community.
Making decisions about needs and priorities is very important. I will make sure that people from Mount Lorne can count on full consultation before changes occur.
Whitehorse area First Nations involved in land claims must be part of any discussion of land use planning in Mount Lorne. I am proud to be part of a government that clearly sets out its commitment to a meaningful process for a fair resolution of land claims issues.
People in the riding are concerned about young offenders and vandalism. They want to see alternatives in the justice system for dealing with their young neighbours who break the law. They want avenues for community intervention so that they can help correct and guide the behaviour of children or teenagers who are acting destructively.
As the Minister of Justice, I will work with communities to develop a justice strategy that recognizes the unique needs of each community. I will work with the department to help us move away from the punitive system, which has traditionally been ineffective in dealing with crime. We intend to move toward a more restorative justice system that requires those who break our laws to make some retribution to the community and allows them to understand the consequences of their actions on the lives of their victims.
There are a number of community justice initiatives that are bringing new models for people to become involved in policing and justice priorities. Alternative-measures programs, such as diversion, already exist for young offenders to keep them out of the traditional justice system.
We are also looking at the development of alternative measures for adult offenders in order to find better ways to make the system work in response to community needs.
The devolution of responsibility for justice issues to First Nations governments is a priority for my department. We are looking to pursue clear discussions of the vision for community justice programs under self-government agreements. We recognize First Nations governments' rights under these agreements to assume increased responsibility and control over the administration of justice, and we want to work with them. We will also work with the federal government on the devolution of Crown justice duties and priorities for the territory.
I am proud of the work done by the family violence prevention unit to help families caught in abusive relationships. The unit offers programs that teach men to take responsibility for their abusive behaviour and teaches ways for both men and women to keep their families safe from further violence. The Keeping Kids Safe program helps to protect the vulnerable in our society. The Yukon government and mental health services are in partnership with the Council of Yukon First Nations to keep kids safe from child sexual abuse. The program works to reduce the risk that sex offenders pose to children, and trains people in communities to share responsibility for protecting children.
The Justice department and the RCMP are delivering and increasing community policing that is receptive to the needs of the people they serve. Each community needs police services that are effective and accountable. Family group conferencing is one example of a precharge disposition initiative designed to promote community involvement in justice decisions, to strengthen the relationship between the community and police, and to reduce the number of cases appearing in territorial court.
Next week there will be a training session to provide more Yukoners with the skills to promote family group conferencing in their communities. Many places have established community justice committees to work on new ways to administer justice. I know from the communities I have already visited that this is a priority for Yukoners. I also know that community policing is something that is actually happening in the communities, because when I visit them I see the police working with the students in the schools.
We are working with First Nations and the federal government to develop First Nations policing that is culturally appropriate and allows for the full participation of First Nations in decision making for community justice.
There are currently 13 constables involved in the First Nations policing directive. We will work in partnership with other governments to establish solid community policing arrangements throughout the Yukon.
As I announced this morning, we will work to develop a bill to establish a crime prevention and victim services trust fund. This can be an important mechanism for bringing crime prevention to Yukon communities.
During the campaign and following the election, many women told me they do not consider the justice system to be responsive to their needs. The Justice department will work to further equip staff with skills and sensitivity in dealing with women who are victims of violence. Women have identified the problem that the judicial system often fails to recognize women's needs. As we mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, I am firmly committed to improving women's status, both in society as a whole and in the territorial justice and education systems.
I am conscious that I have a special responsibility to represent Yukon women. I am glad to have responsibility for the Women's Directorate. My goal as Minister is to build stronger relationships between government and non-government organizations dedicated to women's equality, such as the Yukon Status of Women Council. This work will begin with an opportunity for government and women's equality groups to speak to each other about their different roles and how they can effectively help each other to achieve our common goals.
I want to be very clear that our government will consider effects on Yukon women when making decisions. I have already met with the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre to set out a plan for helping it to find a new home. The Women's Directorate will help our government better serve the needs of women by providing good policy to bridge the equity gaps within government and in society.
Many people fear the word "feminist". I am proud to be a feminist who has long fought for an inclusive system of government and who has spoken out to bring women's concerns to the attention of the public and the decision makers. I have a unique opportunity to bring together the ministries of Justice, Education and the Women's Directorate toward achieving a more equal society. Although many decision makers seem unwilling to recognize the existence of gender bias, I am pleased to tell you that our government will listen to women's equality groups. Our government will involve women in making decisions.
Economic decisions affect women as much as men. Environmental decisions affect women as much as men. As many like-minded men and women, I want our schools, our judicial system and our economy to be fair to girls and boys, men and women. I believe all MLAs have a responsibility to keep in touch with women's concerns and women's experience. Women's needs are too often ignored. Sometimes we try to keep our language gender free by using generic terms like "everyone". We cannot assume that women's needs are the same as everyone's. Everyone has often been defined from a very limited perspective.
When women are sincerely listened to, the wider interests of everyone will be served.
Yukon women have told me that they are concerned about poverty. I believe in collaboration and I will look for opportunities to work with the Minister of Economic Development on job creation strategies that consider the needs of women, including job sharing and alternative work arrangements.
The Minister of Health and Social Services and I have already asked our departments to examine areas where our programs overlap in delivering improved services to women, such as the social assistance and maintenance enforcement programs.
Yukon women are also concerned about violence. At a recent forum on safe neighbourhoods an eloquent young woman made it clear that our youth see violence as a problem in our society. They see it as a problem that will not go away if we do not talk about it openly. We cannot expect our teachers and our schools to be solely responsible for reducing violence.
What I saw happening at the community forum was that teachers, parents, community members and students came together with some helpful ideas about how we can solve the problem. Our government will continue to work with the community in solving the problem.
A contributing factor to poverty and family violence is a lack of support to families generally. Yukon families come in all shapes and sizes. Some families have the privilege of several generations living here in the territory and others rely on the postal system to keep in touch with far away grandparents. Some children have same-sex parents and others have brothers and sisters who live with them, but have different mothers and fathers. All families need support.
Many families do not have an employment income that will cover their basic needs or adequate financial support when there is no job. The stress of poverty can lead to intense frustration and violence. All families need people they can turn to for support when communication gets difficult, especially in hard times when all families need advocates in the community to help guide them through the bureaucracy and tangles of modern living.
A strong social safety net is the key to preventing family violence. I am pleased to be working with a social democratic government that clearly puts the needs of its people first. We will need patience and time, but together we will find practical solutions to the economic and social pressures of life today.
I look forward to some positive and constructive suggestions from the Members opposite, which they have indicated they would like to provide.
It is not just Yukon women who have identified violence as an issue. The community as a whole has shown support for the premise that violence must also be addressed as it relates to our children. Our government is committed to creating strong, safe communities where children can flourish.
We need to promote the safe schools policy, so that children learn about violence prevention and intervention. We must teach our children about respect - self-respect and respect for different people and all cultures. We must offer them alternatives to violence and new ways to make themselves heard. In order to reduce violence, we must expose the profound inequalities of the sex role stereotypes of male aggression and female subordination, which is so prevalent in our mass media and our society. Recognizing and promoting women, which is one of our government's employment equity goals, can provide positive role models for our boys and girls. The implementation of gender equity policies in our schools will continue as part of our government's response to the concerns identified in A Cappella North, a survey of teenage girls in the Yukon.
Equipping our students with skills for conflict resolution and mediation will help to create safe schools and safe communities. Young people are learning about negotiation and communication through initiatives like the school peacemakers event in Whitehorse this weekend. Training Yukoners to develop leadership and consensus-building skills will enrich the social fabric of our communities.
Peer counselling is another way to get teens helping teens. Often people respond more openly to a confidante who has shared a similar experience. Our young people must be encouraged to support each other and work toward their own solutions.
As we strengthen leadership skills for Yukon students, we must also provide them with the information they require to work in the culture of tomorrow. Many people in rural Yukon have asked for curriculum to provide students with a clear understanding of land claims issues and self-government agreements. This will help them as adults in a changing Yukon society.
I am pleased to be working as the Minister of Education. I have enjoyed years of involvement with education in Mount Lorne. I have enjoyed my work in the last four years as Education critic. Six years ago, I had a strong commitment and was inspired by the vision of the Education Act. I still believe that meaningful partnerships with parents, students and school staff are vital for a healthy education system in the Yukon. I hope to be part of a community effort to bring the goals of the Education Act into effect.
We will work to further develop a curriculum that respects the diverse cultural heritage of all Yukoners. We respect the right of First Nations governments to clarify their expectations for an education process that fits the needs of their people.
Implementing the Education Act will mean a return to the bargaining table in order to provide teachers with a new collective agreement.
Teachers are an important resource, and we respect them in their roles with our students. As social democrats, our caucus has spoken in the House, on previous occasions, about our belief that free collective bargaining is a fundamental democratic right. I am proud that we introduced An Act to Amend the Public Sector Compensation Wage Restraint Act, 1994 today, as we began this first session.
I will work hard to support a smooth implementation of the grade reorganization project, as I know that this change affects many Whitehorse parents and students. My visits to rural Yukon have shown me that rural needs for facility improvements are sometimes critical and do not always get the attention they should, far from these Legislative Chambers here in Whitehorse. In a time of limited financial resources, it will be difficult to make decisions about which community should benefit from new schools or renovations. We have the work that has been done in the rural and Whitehorse school facility study to guide us in that. In my own riding, there was already overcrowding at the Golden Horn Elementary School. A growing population in Mount Lorne is a good sign that people are choosing to live in our community, but it puts a strain on the current educational facilities there, as elsewhere around the territory.
As a department, we will rely heavily on public consultation and open discussion about the choices we face. We are prepared to make tough decisions, but will count on a process of public input, so that our choices will be thoughtful and well informed. Working with education issues means working with people of all ages and finding ways to teach youth and adults the skills they need to cope with a changing society. On a recent tour of Yukon College, I was pleased to see the variety of programs offered there as part of its mission to provide relevant, affordable and excellent adult education to northerners. Our apprenticeship program is presently larger than ever before in its 32-year history. We are proud of that work and will continue to support apprenticeship and training.
When I think about the majority of public school students who are children and teens, I recognize that spending money on education is clearly an investment in our future. We can choose to equip our children with the skills they need to interpret the world around them and the skills that will help them find employment as adult members of society. We can choose to stimulate their creativity and teach them how to solve problems - even to help us solve the problems we are facing now.
I believe in the importance of an education system that finds appropriate ways to evaluate student development. Under the Education Act, we will work to emphasize the development of the whole person so that youth become confident adults who are able to make their own unique contributions to society.
Listening to our youth is another way to get fresh perspectives. Sometimes young people look at issues with new clarity, and their observations can be helpful to our decision making. I want the young people in my riding to know that I am working toward making Mount Lorne a good place for them to grow up. I want them to know that they have a government that they can believe in.
In closing, I want to again thank the many dedicated and hard-working women and men who contributed to my success. I pledge to do my best to uphold the trust that they have placed in me. I hope to serve the public's interest with integrity and honesty over the next four years.
Mrs. Edelman: I was most pleased to hear the throne speech yesterday as I sat here for the first time in the Yukon Legislature as an elected MLA. I was most pleased to hear that this government plans to maintain our high standards in health care and social services and the fact that this government has pledged to help the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre and to provide long-term funding to those non-governmental organizations that provide social services in the community. That needs to be applauded.
The initiative to provide support to the families at risk speaks to the need for early intervention. It is my hope that such support will include funding to organizations like the Child Development Centre, which provides early assessment and support to families who live not just here in Whitehorse, but in all Yukon communities.
It is apparent that this government values the health and social services available to Yukon people. I would speculate that, as such, perhaps this government will at some future date create yet another commission to deal with health and social services standards and policies, which are so important to all Yukoners and Canadians. Perhaps a commission on health could examine the Yukon's greatest health and social service issue, and that is the same problem that is dealt with in justice and education. That problem is the abuse of alcohol: the abuse of alcohol that exacerbates domestic violence, creates children with fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol affects; the abuse of alcohol that leads to impaired driving, chronic disease, violent crimes and wasted lives.
The throne speech also spoke of the community development fund that was first introduced under the former NDP government. I hope that, this time, when the criteria for funding is developed, there will be participatory consultation with all affected communities, or a review of what was right and what was wrong with the previous community development fund, that will be integrated into the final guidelines for funding.
It is hoped the community project initiative that will be the interim community development fund this winter will help out the Town of Faro and other communities, such as Dawson City, that face immediate funding shortages in paying off its crushing long-term debts to YTG. Perhaps there will be help in the community development initiative for these small communities where they are forced to take on huge infrastructure projects, such as water and sewer systems that they cannot afford.
It seems that the world becomes smaller every day and it is pleasing to hear in the throne speech that this government will be maintaining positive relations with our neighbours in the Northwest Territories, B.C. and Alaska. It is my hope that the maintenance of road links, such as the Dempster Highway, the Skagway Road and the Alaska Highway, will continue to be a priority with this government.
I was somewhat disappointed to hear little about land development in the Speech from the Throne. Certainly, the development of mobile home lots was a very big issue in the Government Leader's riding during the election campaign, yet I heard nothing yesterday about this vital issue: land availability. Whether or not it is for residential, commercial, agricultural or even agricultural use, it is an issue that is very near and very dear to most Yukoners' hearts. I hope that this government will allow for active participation on consultation on land issues throughout the Yukon. I also hope that there will be an active search for options on Yukon housing alternatives.
Lastly, I had hoped to hear about the issue that most affects my Riverdale South constituents: will there ever be a new Grey Mountain School under an NDP government? Will the noise of the Whitehorse dam abate in the relatively near future so that my constituents and I can enjoy a peaceful night's sleep? Will there be a partnership development with the City of Whitehorse to tackle air-quality issues, such as wood smoke and diesel emissions from the dam?
Naturally, I am offering my positive support to this non-heckling Legislature and hope that there will be much productive and reasonable discussion in the non-heckling Legislature and in the House. We all live here in this wonderful territory. Surely we can work together to make things better, not only for ourselves, but for our children.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I am proud and honoured to have the opportunity to stand and speak in this House in response to the Speech to the Throne. I am also proud to represent the constituency of the Mayo-Tatchun riding and follow in the footsteps of people who have represented the riding with such distinction: Danny Joe and Piers McDonald.
I am happy to speak to this throne speech, because it sets out plans to build a better Yukon and offers opportunities for people to become more involved in decisions that affect their lives.
This kind of approach makes sense to me. I have grown up in the Yukon and I have watched things change, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse, but often without local people having much say about the changes taking place.
As Chief of the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, I worked hard for six years to give voice to the concerns of my people through the land claims agreements with government and through socio-economic agreements with developers. I worked to build a more self-determined First Nation.
With my participation in the establishment of the Northern Tutchone Council, I worked to build partnerships with the NaCho Ny'ak Dun First Nation and the Selkirk First Nation people who share common concerns and values and worked with consensus toward common goals. I know that far more can be achieved by cooperation than by confrontation, and I am happy to be part of a New Democratic government that is committed to working with people.
In my new role as a Member of the Legislative Assembly and a representative of all people living in the Carmacks, Pelly, Mayo, Elsa, Keno, Stewart and Little Salmon areas, I look forward to building new partnerships.
I look forward to the challenge of representing a large and diverse riding - the largest riding in this territory - which includes two villages, three First Nations and three unincorporated communities serviced by two major highways.
The residents of my riding are involved in a wide range of occupations, ranging from mining and tourism, to trapping and farming, and from education and health care to construction, business and traditional medicines.
I hope that my experience in First Nation government will serve me well as a Minister of the Yukon government. I believe that what I have learned about working with people, and working toward consensus, should help me do a good job in representing my constituents and exercising my responsibilities.
These are challenging times that we have ahead of all of us. As claims are settled, both the Yukon and First Nations governments must adapt to new roles. As powers are transferred from Canada, governments in the Yukon will assume new responsibilities and all governments must adjust to new fiscal realities. I have confidence in the step-by-step approach my government proposes to claims, devolution and such major projects as local hire and the development assessment process, as well as to forestry and Yukon energy policy.
It is clear to me that claims need to be settled and properly implemented and that new, respectful relationships need to be developed between governments, and I hope to help to build those links. I am impressed by the progress that has been made in some communities where land claims agreements are now being implemented. Both the Yukon and First Nation governments have an obligation to follow the agreements that they have ratified. I expect to see more attention paid to this area.
Final agreements bodies, such as the Mayo Renewable Resource Council, with three First Nation members and three government appointments, are demonstrating that local people can work together to deliver more responsive renewable resource management than was ever possible before.
I look forward to the ratification of agreements for Selkirk and Carmacks First Nations, and a new partnership in management that will result. I believe the settlement of land claims will give all areas of the territory the tools needed to build stable, healthy communities.
I also believe that the settlement of land claims across the territory will give us all more certainty and security, and will give the Yukon the boost it needs toward sustainable community-centred economic growth.
I was very concerned about how quickly the Government of Canada was proposing to off-load federal programs to the Yukon. It often takes some time to do a good job and involve people in the decisions that affect them.
I think it is dangerous to take on new responsibilities without assurance that one has the proper resources to manage them. Given the governmental responsibilities that are being assumed by First Nations, I strongly support my government's commitment to involve First Nation governments in devolution decisions before major new responsibilities are devolved to the territory.
In the short time I have served as a Cabinet Minister, I have come to appreciate how time-consuming a job it is to be responsible for a department and for two corporations. It helps me to appreciate the wisdom of establishing commissions led by people who do not have to deal with the day-to-day responsibilities. It makes good sense to put intelligent, energetic members of the government caucus to work on some of the key policy challenges facing the territory.
In my riding, I have witnessed the frustration of residents who saw construction in the area done by workers from outside of the territory. When Yukon community people are able to work, they put money back into the communities and pay their taxes in the territory. I strongly support the Member for Whitehorse Centre regarding policies to encourage local hire.
As Chief of the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, I pushed for early discussions with developers who are planning projects in our traditional territory. My council and I were willing to work with mining companies, and discovered that they were willing to negotiate agreements, which have meant jobs and economic benefits.
But Carmacks is still trying to come to terms with the new social pressures that development has brought with it. Many people are not yet equipped with the skills that they need for work. I can clearly see the need for a development assessment process that would help people anticipate both the benefits and the problems associated with development proposals.
If the proposed development assessment process is effective, people will have the information they need to make good decisions and prepare to benefit from development. Thanks to the development assessment commission, under the capable leadership of the Member for Laberge, Yukon negotiators at the DAP table should have a very good idea about what the public expects from a development assessment process. Unlike most jurisdictions, the Yukon will end up with one set of rules to guide the consideration of development proposals and a one-window approach for developers.
With clear, responsible rules, high mineral potential and the demonstrated capacity of people here to work with and for the mining industry, the Yukon should be able to benefit from mining for a long time. I know that my riding has a great deal of mining potential, and I want to be able to benefit from that kind of activity without it affecting too much of our natural environment.
My riding of Mayo-Tatchun has a long record of experience in small-scale forestry, from cutting in the Mayo area for the United Keno Hill mines and firewood cutting in the Pelly burn, to a more recent commercial harvest around Braeburn. I believe that the Yukon needs a policy to guide the future management, harvesting and processing of our forest resources.
Although people in my department worked toward the development of a forest policy under the previous government, their efforts were compromised from the beginning due to the lack of partnership between the levels of governments with forest responsibilities. I am confident that the forest commission led by the Member for Watson Lake will pull people together and construct consensus on how Yukon forests should be used and managed. By including all three levels of government in the development of policies, a solid foundation can be laid for devolution of the forest management to the territory.
Every time I hear people talk about the need for a big power development, and every time the Faro mine closes, I realize again that the Yukon needs a sane energy policy. It has to be a policy that takes into account the fact that there are not too many people here, and that some of the biggest consumers of power, such as the mine in Faro or the Keno Hill mine, may be operating one day and shut down the next. I know that people in my riding are looking for a sensible power solution, not megaprojects. People in Pelly, for example, look at the fuel wood in their area, and think that a wood chip fire generator might be a logical project.
The energy commission led by the Member for Kluane has a complicated and difficult job to do. I believe that my government has done the right thing by establishing the four commissions, and I applaud the vision and commitment to the long-term planning they demonstrate.
Of course, a government is not often judged on the preparation it makes for the future; more often people look at what it offers them today.
As the Speech from the Throne emphasizes, my government is committed to working toward a society that provides opportunities for people and protection for those who need it. Strong, safe communities that support healthy families will help more of us achieve our potential and contribute to our society.
I believe it is very important to offer our children the best start possible in life. What happens to children in their first years of life is of the utmost importance to a good future and healthy living.
Many people in my community and my riding were taken away from their families at a very young age and spent the early part of their lives in mission schools. These people lost the opportunity to learn parenting skills from elders, and some lost their identity and a lot of hope.
I strongly support my government's commitment to work with First Nation governments, community people and parents in support of families at risk.
I recognize the importance of work being done by non-government organizations to help parents and families with their problems. I think it is sensible to offer security to these organizations by negotiating long-term funding agreements. These efforts and community-based justice initiatives are very important investments to our future.
It is significant that my government puts its primary emphasis on investing in people through support for families, through the encouragement of training opportunities, and by offering true partnership in education.
Of course, people rely on government for some basic infrastructure and people's lives are enriched by good facilities such as roads, schools and community recreational facilities. I know that, in the past, communities in my riding benefited from the funding that was made available through the community development fund. Access to territorial dollars to support community priorities made our community a much better place to live in. In towns such as Mayo, it is almost as if time has stood still over the past four years. There was so little funding available for even the most modest of community improvements. I know that people in my constituency are relieved to see the return of the community development fund.
When it is set up and running, people will have some place to turn for help to get community projects underway, whether it is extra room for the children's day care or renovations of the community hall.
I think it is good that my government is also committed to sitting down with community people to discuss guidelines and procedures for the fund. I know that there are immediate needs out there and putting the community projects initiative in place this winter makes good sense so that the work can get under way during this slow time of year. I would like to see training opportunities offered in my riding this winter to prepare people to work at the mines that are under development and those that are now in production.
As I mentioned when I began my response, Carmacks is feeling some of the pressure of development. With BYG now in production and more trucks hauling to and from the mine, it is becoming obvious that roads need to be improved.
In fairness to the village residents, serious attention needs to be paid to the idea of constructing a bypass road so that the industrial hauling is not routed through residential areas.
Residents of my riding also have concerns about the condition of the Robert Campbell Highway and I will be working with my colleague, the Minister of Department of Community and Transportation Services, on these types of issues.
Speaker: The time being 5:30 p.m., I must interrupt the Member.
Notice re: Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne
Hon. Mr. Harding: I wish to inform the House, pursuant to Standing Order 26, that consideration for a motion for an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne shall take place on Monday, December 9, 1996.
I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday next.
The House adjourned at 5:31 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled December 5, 1996:
Auditor General: Report on Other Matters for the year ended March 31, 1995 (Speaker Bruce)
Auditor General: Report on the Financial Statements of the Government of the Yukon for the year ended March 31, 1996 (Speaker Bruce)
Yukon Human Rights Commission Annual Report: year ended March 31, 1996 (Speaker Bruce)
Faro mine: economic impact of temporary, partial shutdown (dated November 28, 1996) (Harding)
Official Opposition status: briefing notes submitted by the Member for Riverside (Jack Cable), Leader of the Liberal Party caucus (Cable)