Thursday, March 27, 1997 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call this House to order, and we will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In remembrance of Roy Sam
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I rise this afternoon to pay tribute to a former chief of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, the late Roy Sam.
Mr. Sam was first elected chief in 1973 and continued to serve in this capacity until 1981. He also served as a counsellor to the First Nation in 1981 and in 1985.
He will be missed by many family and friends.
In remembrance of Daisy Smith
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Today I rise to pay tribute to Mrs. Daisy Smith. She was an honoured, respected elder. Mrs. Smith was of the [First Nation language spoken] - the Crow clan - and her Indian name is [First Nation language spoken]. She was the daughter of Ginny, from the Champagne area, and Tagish Jim.
Mrs. Smith was born in the Tagish area around 1894, but grew up in the Carcross area. Daisy met her late husband, Sam Smith, there. Sam build Mrs. Smith a home at Little Atlin Lake, and this is where she raised 10 children.
I might just say here, Mr. Speaker, that my mother often spoke very fondly of her in the days when my mother would use Mrs. Smith and the Smith family as a rest stop. She was able to feel encouraged that, at that point in time when she was mushing dogs or simply snowshoeing to get the mail to take to our homestead in Teslin, Mrs. Smith was always there for her and that she could count on a trail being broken for her. Those are the kinds of tributes that she brought to myself and my family personally.
It is no secret that Mrs. Smith loved children. At her home in Little Atlin Lake, she taught her children, her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren the values of traditional living, stewardship of the land and the importance of the family structure, and loved to tell them stories of long ago, of our history. In 1996, she was recognized by the Women's Directorate for this skill by receiving the women's award for educator and being a living example to others.
Mrs. Smith left this world peacefully on Saturday, March 8, at the age of 103 years old. Mrs. Smith is survived by her two sons, Gordon and Herschel, and many grandchildren, great-grandchildren and other family relatives. She will be deeply missed by her family, friends and relatives, and all people of the Yukon, I am sure.
Speaker: Are there introductions of visitors?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: Under tabling of returns and documents, I have for tabling the report of the Chief Electoral Officer on the 1996 general election.
Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have for tabling the Yukon Curriculum Review on Gender Bias final report.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have for tabling a legislative return.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I have for tabling the Yukon Heritage Resources Board 1995-96 Annual Report.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Gender equity in public schools policy
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I rise today to advise members that the gender equity in public schools policy, which was introduced in the House in 1996, is now entering its implementation phase.
Putting the issue of gender equity on the agenda, in our schools and in society as a whole, can reshape what young women and men come to value about themselves. One of the goals stated in the Yukon Education Act is to promote recognition of equality among Yukon people. It is our government's policy to ensure that our schools are equitable. By emphasizing respect for the entire school population, we can help create a positive change in attitudes and in society.
Yesterday morning I was pleased to make opening remarks to 15 teachers, principals and counsellors at a two-day workshop that is being held in Whitehorse as a training-the-trainer workshop on gender equity. These men and women from Whitehorse and rural Yukon communities are committed to making a positive change in attitudes within their schools. By attending this workshop, they are demonstrating their commitment to work with their entire school population to ensure that gender equity is a way of life in their schools.
Margaret Ross, who developed the B.C. teachers' guide to gender equity, is facilitating this workshop and providing everyone with a practical manual of ideas, suggestions and classroom exercises. When the participants return to their schools and communities they will be setting up gender equity teams comprised of students, teachers and parents. This collaborative approach will be used to develop action plans for their schools. The intention of the training-for-trainer model is that participants will share their experiences and information with other schools throughout the Yukon.
In 1995, the Women's Directorate released a report, A Cappella North: a survey of teenage girls in the Yukon. In this report, many young women spoke candidly about their lives. They talked about experiencing gender-based discrimination within the school system, their homes, the community and at work.
At the request of the Department of Education, the Women's Directorate agreed to provide a gender equity review of Yukon curriculum materials. I would like to acknowledge the previous government who provided funding for this contract work to be done. The gender equity curriculum review has now been compiled, printed and distributed at the gender equity workshop. Later, the Yukon Teachers Association will distribute it to teachers throughout the Yukon. I have just tabled this document in the Legislative Assembly.
Given the scope of this project, it was necessary to concentrate on a sampling of curriculum materials from K to 12, rather than examining every textbook and supplementary resource book used by teachers. Generally speaking, the review gives a taste of which materials are biased and which ones are not. The principles for determining gender bias can be used by any teacher when selecting materials for their classes.
The Yukon Curriculum Review on Gender Bias also contains guidelines for developing or selecting gender equitable learning resources. Ideas about what teachers can do about gender equity in their classrooms and an appendix of resource materials are available from the Women's Directorate library and from other areas in Canada and the United States. Similar items are available from the Learning Resource Centre in the Department of Education building.
As Minister of Education and minister responsible for the Women's Directorate, I place a high priority on the implementation of the gender equity in public schools policy. Our shared commitment to address sexism and gender inequities in Yukon schools will create a safer, more equitable society.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, we on this side believe that this is a significant step in making our schools more equitable.
I thank the minister across the floor for acknowledging the hard work that we did as a government in initiating the project and providing the funding for the project. I would like to thank personally, Mr. Speaker, the hard-working staff of the Women's Directorate, who I know worked very, very hard on this project, as well as the people in the Department of Education, and I look forward to seeing positive results from this program.
It is an issue that is very important, and it is one that I believe that, as a result of the work that's been done on this particular program, once it's implemented we will see some very positive results, and we were very pleased to play a role in that.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the minister's advice to this House regarding progress on the gender-equity public schools policy. If only we were making this kind of progress and this kind of gender-equity progress elsewhere in the institutions that govern our daily lives.
The minister's remarks did neglect to mention that there has been other work following up on the A Cappella North report, including the equity project, culminating in a workshop for Yukon youth in 1995. Many individuals, who were, by and large, volunteers who care deeply about this issue, have done a great deal of work on many fronts since the A Cappella North report was released. They have tried to effect fundamental change in some deeply held views.
The additional work on gender equity, namely the review of curriculum, is integral to this process, and I'm looking forward to reviewing this material as part of my reading over the Easter break. I'm especially pleased that the minister has noted that the Yukon Teachers Association will be making this document available to all teachers throughout the Yukon.
The implementation of the gender equity policy will not be accomplished with one document, one workshop or one action. It will not be complete in one year. Change will come, and it will happen over time. As such, we must continually re-examine the policy and ensure that it fits with our goals as a Yukon society. We must, as legislators, exercise due diligence with respect to the administration and implementation of gender equity within our schools.
I applaud the minister for her commitment to the gender equity policy and for ensuring progress in its implementation. I know that the schools my children will attend will be a better place because of her efforts in this regard.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, management agreement with YECL
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Government Leader.
Yesterday, during Question Period, the minister responsible for the Energy Corporation would not give this House, nor the people of the Yukon, any assurances that the assets of the Yukon Energy Corporation, or any assets of Yukon Energy Corporation, would be sold off to southern interests in reaching an agreement with Alberta Power.
So today I am asking the Government Leader, will he give this House the assurance that none of the assets of Yukon Energy Corporation will be divested of in order to reach an agreement with Alberta Power or any other group?
Hon. Mr. Harding: First of all, I would say that it was the Leader of the Official Opposition's party, when they were in government, who tried to sell off, wholesale, the interests of the Yukon-owned Yukon Energy Corporation and privatize it, in terms of control and asset ownership, to southern interests. That's not the policy of this government.
The policy of this government is to maintain Yukon Energy Corporation as a public utility with public control with a very strong asset base and to negotiate any new arrangement with anybody, Mr. Speaker, in the best interests of Yukon people, and in consultation and conjunction with Yukon Energy Corporation Board of Directors, which were largely appointed by the Yukon Party - their membership - except for the CYFN representatives.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, I find this quite alarming and I'm sure that Yukoners who are going to listen to this debate are going to find this quite alarming.
We talk about a government of hypocrisy - when they were sitting in these Opposition benches - and as the Minister just stated on his feet, quite wrongly, that we were trying to sell off the assets, they were adamant - adamant, absolutely adamant - that the assets of Yukon Energy Corporation should not be disposed of in any kind of arrangement.
Now, a few months later, sitting on the government benches, they're not prepared to give Yukoners that same type of commitment that they campaigned on.
Can the Government Leader tell me why?
Hon. Mr. Harding: One of our great concerns when we were in Opposition was the attempts by the previous government to privatize, wholly, the operations of the Yukon Energy Corporation and to sell off the assets and all of the control of Yukon energy supplied to southern interests.
The charge was largely led by the previous minister for the Yukon Energy Corporation, the former Member for Ross-River Southern Lakes. We objected very strenuously to that action by the previous government and that was what this particular newsletter was all about from the former Leader of the Official Opposition.
Mr. Speaker, it's the policy of this government to maintain Yukon Energy Corporation as a public utility with public control, and with a very strong asset base and to negotiate any new arrangement with anybody in the best interests of Yukon people and Yukon ratepayers.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, I can only draw one thing from that: the government has decided to divest themselves of some of YEC's assets. That's the only thing I can derive from that, and the Government Leader doesn't have the political courage to stand up and answer questions that are directed to him in this Legislature.
I will ask this last supplementary to the Government Leader.
Could he advise this House if in fact there has been an agreement reached with Canadian Utilities, and when will Cabinet be considering this agreement?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. There are three parties involved in this matter, I must reiterate. One is the Yukon Energy Corporation board, which is composed of all members, with the exception of CYFN reps, appointed by the members opposite when they were in government - appointed by the Yukon Party government. Of course, there are the Alberta Power/Yukon Electrical Company negotiators and their board, and ancillary to that is the Yukon government's role.
Mr. Speaker, I have clearly delineated what our policy is as a government. We want to protect the public utility. We want to ensure that we have a strong asset base, and I hope to make an announcement, hopefully on Tuesday, with regard to more details.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, management agreement with YECL
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, I should not be surprised, and I am not that surprised, but I am sure that there are some Yukoners who're going to be. The next thing we are going to hear is, "The Yukon NDP government supports a coal-fired project in the Yukon." That is the next thing we are going to hear. You talk about a flip-flop government.
My question again is to the leader of the government. In their election campaign literature, they made some very clear commitments to Yukon people. One was to stabilize electrical rates and keep them affordable for residents. They have already broken that one, Mr. Speaker. They've already broken that one. They've allowed the power rates to increase.
Is the Government Leader now prepared to go on record and tell the Yukon people that he is also prepared to break the next commitment, and that is to maintain the assets of the local Energy Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I thought the Leader of the Official Opposition liked coal. I mean, he talked about it. He talked about it all the time when he was in Opposition. Now he seems to be opposed to any coal electrical generation.
Mr. Speaker, with regard to our position on electrical rates, we have not broken any promise whatsoever. We said we would try and stabilize rates. The first act we did in December was to bring a new bill-relief program, something that the members of the Yukon Party had refused to give a clear commitment on. It is unfortunate that we saw an unforeseen rise of 30 percent in diesel prices, something beyond our control. As well - the member wants to talk about hypocrisy - the court action that was initiated for the 5.5 percent rate rider was initiated under the term of the Yukon Party government. All they had to do at that time was direct the Energy Corporation not to proceed with the court action in 1993, but they didn't.
So, we are dealing with that now, Mr. Speaker, and we are hoping to deal with it in the most appropriate manner. We are also taking steps to deal with the whole question of bill relief to try and help stabilize rates, and the Energy Commission will be looking at that issue this fiscal year.
Mr. Speaker, we intend to make good, as we have so far, on all of our election promises.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, they are on a good track record of breaking them. It's not only me saying that; it's many people in the public. I just find this mind-boggling. These people believe that they can say one thing one day to the general public and then turn around a few months later and say something else and expect the people of the Yukon to have any credibility or any faith in this administration. Glen Clark politics is right. They had better be careful or they may be able to join the Glenocchio club as well.
The Government Leader - the new Government Leader now, it seems like we have; the Member for Faro, the new Government Leader. I will ask the former Government Leader - the Member for McIntyre-Takhini - would he advise this House if he is in full agreement with his former boss, Mr. Penikett, that the assets of Yukon Energy Corporation ought not to be sold to southern interests, as stipulated in Mr. Penikett's newsletter release of March 1994 that I tabled yesterday?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I want to say that this side of the House stands firmly behind the comments we made in 1994, when we objected to the wholesale privatization of the Yukon Energy Corporation and the backroom deals that were being cooked up by the Yukon Party government and the former Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. Mr. Speaker, they were giving away control. They were giving away all the assets of the corporation to southern interests. We certainly opposed and objected to that strenuously and still would do if they were back in government, Mr. Speaker.
Again, I want to stress, with regard to the recent increases in power, three percent is related to a diesel rate rider, something that was approved before we came into office. In 1993, Yukon Energy Corporation went to court to try and recoup some costs that they felt they were entitled to. I wish at that time the government would have taken the action to direct them not to do that, but they didn't. We are living with that. We responded by improving and putting out a new bill relief program.
With regard to the issue of the Yukon Energy Corporation, it is our policy to maintain it as a public utility with public control and public ownership and a strong asset base.
Mr. Ostashek: It will be very hard to maintain it with a strong asset base if we are going to divest it of assets to reach agreements with other corporations. I think it is a sorry day for Yukoners - a very sorry day for Yukoners.
The members opposite in Opposition accused us severely of doing exactly what they are going to do. We did not. We went on the public record and said, when we went to consultation last summer, that one thing that was not negotiable were the assets of YEC. We said that publicly on the record.
I will again direct my question to the former Government Leader, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini. When this agreement comes to Cabinet, will the Government Leader say that they will not redivest themselves of any of the assets to reach any sort of a management agreement with anybody for the assets of YEC?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As the minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation, I would be happy to respond to that.
Firstly, the reason that we are negotiating this deal is because the Yukon Party government failed to negotiate a new arrangement with Canadian Utilities of any type and just extended the old agreement for another year - avoided making the tough decisions. So, Mr. Speaker, we are left with that. That's okay; we are doing the best we can with it. We are making the judgments in the best interests of Yukon people and we are involving the Yukon Energy Corporation Board. Ironically, all members, with the exception of the CYFN appointed delegates, were appointed by the Yukon Party. So we are working with them on this.
Mr. Speaker, with regard to the details of any negotiations or discussions between the three parties involved in this, I hope to be making a ministerial statement on Tuesday.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre, safety concerns
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Justice on the Whitehorse correctional institute.
Two years ago, a report on the conditions of the Whitehorse correctional institute was carried out by a consulting firm - Barr Ryder Architects and Planners. In that report, dated January 31, 1995, the consultants reported on a number of rather disturbing findings. In the area of what is referred to as life and safety concerns, the report states, "Should a major fire occur in the facility, loss of life to inmates and/or staff is highly probable." And in the area of what the consultants call corrections standards, the report identifies what is called six major security problem areas. I know the minister has been on the radio and has responded to the media, so just for the record in this House, does the minister's department generally agree with the findings of the Barr Ryder report as it relates to safety and security concerns?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I can assure the member opposite that the findings of the Barr Ryder report and the other reports that have been done on Whitehorse Correctional Centre have not only been accepted but have been addressed. There is a response plan in place and, as early as June of 1995, immediate life and security upgrades were undertaken by the Department of Government Services and are continuing to be undertaken.
Mr. Cable: That sounds like the minister is saying the problem is solved, and that is certainly not my understanding of the facts.
The minister was on the radio this morning, talking about her department preparing a report identifying options to deal with the jail problems. Now, these problems have been outstanding for a decade at least.
Could the minister indicate what time line she has given to her officials to complete this work and report to the minister?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, I do want to go back and reassure the member on the comment he made in his preamble that the immediate life and security issues that were identified in that report have been addressed and are continuing to be addressed. A number of upgrades have taken place. There is money in both the O&M and capital budget this year to continue to respond to the problems at the Correctional Centre.
The department has in place contingency plans in the event of an emergency occurring at Whitehorse Correctional Centre if it were required to stop using that facility. As well, Teslin Community Correctional Centre is deemed as a minimum secure facility and is being used for minimum-risk prisoners.
Mr. Cable: The question I asked, of course, was what timeline she had given her officials. Perhaps she can reply to that by way of legislative return or letter.
Now, the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board is carrying out an audit of the health and safety concerns at the jail. It's my understanding that that audit was requested by the jail's staff health and safety committee, which would suggest that the problems certainly have not been addressed.
Will the minister commit to make that audit public when it's received by her department?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'll be happy to bring back information to the member to respond to his specific questions and will make sure - not simply that the report of occupational health and safety, if it can be made available, if there are no security concerns in it that are not public information - that it will be made available. As well, any new concerns that are identified will be responded to as the concerns in the Barr Ryder report have been responded to with the compilation of a plan to address all the immediate security risks and safety risks.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital staffing
Mrs. Edelman: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. In the 1996 election campaign the NDP promised that an NDP government, led by Piers McDonald, would direct the hospital board to review staffing issues to ensure employees' concerns are dealt with fairly and that service levels do not decline. Will the Minister of Health in this NDP government, led by Piers McDonald, honour this commitment?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, we made the commitment and we will follow through with the commitment. There are a number of issues surrounding the hospital and the hospital administration and we've been working with the hospital board on trying to rectify some of those situations, and to that end we've assisted them by hiring a person to come in and do an audit of staffing and organizational patterns. That's one of the things that we have done and we will continue to work with the board.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, I am pleased to hear that there's some work that's ongoing, but the problem is almost at a crisis level. Dr. Mitchell, who is the current president of the Yukon Medical Association, said that his association suspects that the Yukon Hospital Corporation is going to have to hire more nurses and CNAs to provide the same level of care that we are getting used to at Whitehorse General Hospital.
Now, Mr. Minister, I have heard from a number of staff at Whitehorse General that there's a staff crisis there. The CEO speaks of just calling staff in when there is a need. Well, with RNs afraid to answer their phones on their days off because they're afraid of being called in again, there still isn't enough staff available to staff the hospital at a safe level, according to the Yukon Medical Association.
Is the Minister of Health going to sit down with the Hospital Corporation and get them to consider the reclassification of CNAs so that CNAs are working in their profession rather than stocking shelves and thereby maintaining those safe levels of staffing at Whitehorse General Hospital?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I sort of blanch at the idea of using the word "crisis" because I think we have to be very, very careful that we don't create an alarmist situation amongst the public. I heard Dr. Mitchell's comments the other day and I believe the member should also take a look at the fact that Dr. Mitchell did acknowledge that the usage of the hospital is extremely variable, that there have been some days where it's very high and other days where it's very low.
On average, the use of beds at the hospital is 30 to 32. There are presently, as of today, 28 patients, and I can give the member a breakdown of how those beds are organized if it's in her interest, but I can also provide her with a variety of charts indicating what the level of the usage is at the hospital.
It is true that on one particular day, March 19th, there were some 50 in-patients. We had an extremely high intake in obstetrics. There were 10 mothers who had just delivered babies, and five in labour. Incidentally, that was also the day I led the Alaskan legislators around and we encountered that in the maternity ward. So, I think I would be very, very careful about using the term "alarmist". We feel that, given the hospital situation, it's manageable.
Mrs. Edelman: This has always been a concern of the NDP, especially, when they were in Opposition - safe levels and proper levels at the Whitehorse General Hospital.
Ms. Commodore had asked the minister then to provide for the participation of staff in decision making related to operational and planning matters in the hospital. Well, part of that staffing level is getting the right people in the right position.
Right now we have service levels that are not great. We have service levels that, I would like to suggest, are not appropriate. The NDP platform states that service levels will not decline at Whitehorse General Hospital.
Mr. Minister, I would like to suggest that a high school teacher cannot maintain the same high level of teaching excellence as an experienced kindergarten teacher who has experience on that level, and likewise, a pediatric nurse cannot deliver the same high level of nursing care in the operating room as a trained and experienced O.R. nurse.
Is the minister going to direct the hospital board to review this staffing issue of having specialty nurses trying to work out of their specialty area so that service levels do not decline at Whitehorse General Hospital?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: A somewhat convoluted comparison there, but having been a high school teacher and being an elementary school teacher, the principles are the same, it just requires some different skill sets.
With regards to the organization of the hospital, as the Member is no doubt aware, the hospital is an independent board. The hospital design was premised on the idea of having fewer nursing units. The present organization of the hospital is still functioning along that operational basis that you have fewer.
There has been assessment done by an evaluator who came in to give some recommendations to the board, and hopefully they will be considering some of their options in that regard.
I have not received anything from the board suggesting that they want to move in a different direction, or that they have a particular crisis in that regard. So, I will assume that the board, if they feel it is a particularly acute crisis, will approach me.
Question re: Dawson City dentist relocation
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a question today for the minister responsible for health and social services.
In rural Yukon communities, the government provides a room in the medical buildings for dental service. It contains a dental chair and other dental equipment for dentists who visit the community on a rotational basis.
Can the minister advise the House, why, in Dawson City - which has been fortunate enough to attract a resident dentist who utilizes this area, provides all his dental equipment at his own expense - the department is forcing this dentist out of the facility?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It is our understanding that we have assisted the dentist in Dawson into relocating into a different space. That was my understanding before in providing some assistance in that regard.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, what in fact is happening is that the government is forcing our dentist to relocate from his present office in the medical building, which is closely associated with all the other medical facilities, to the old court-house administration building on Front Street, and, more specifically, under new terms and conditions. I would like to know if the minister would ask his government to reconsider this move.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would suggest that we have other communities where there are dentists in private practice who are renting commercial space - Watson Lake being an example - where they do not operate out of medical facilities. Presuming that Dawson is a large enough community to support a separate facility, I would suggest that's the appropriate route to go. For example, in Whitehorse, most dentists operate out of their own facilities.
Mr. Jenkins: I am sure the minister must know how difficult it is to attract and retain a dentist in rural communities. It is not financially viable for most communities to support a dentist. Doctor Schoener has indicated in his own words that he is throwing in the towel because of the bureaucratic BS. He is now closing his practice; he is leaving Dawson City. We will be without a dentist because of this bureaucratic bungling. What is the minister prepared to do? All that I can see is additional costs being incurred by this government to provide that same service at a less service-oriented basis.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: My understanding is that we had an agreement with Doctor Schoener last year. If that has changed, I haven't been advised in that regard, and certainly, Doctor Schoener hasn't communicated with me, either directly or through the department, that he was dissatisfied with his arrangement.
Question re: Deficit budget
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Finance.
As a parent, I can't think of a single reason why I would spend my children's savings account. The Member for McIntyre-Takhini said a little over a year ago in Hansard, "I do not have a problem, nor have I ever had a problem, with the notion that the government might, for good reason, spend its savings account." What good reason does he have for spending Yukoners' savings account and tabling a $10-million deficit budget?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, Mr. Speaker, I am certain that the member is aware that we are going to be debating that very matter this afternoon in second reading debate, so under normal circumstances, this question would be out of order.
But I welcome the opportunity to answer the question for the member and indicate to the member that the position of the New Democrats has always been that if there is a significant surplus that can be used for the benefit of Yukon people, that it should be used for the benefit of Yukon people. The problem that I've had with the Liberal position, which has consistently been carried, not only in this Legislature but also by representatives of the Liberal Party outside the Legislature, is that they would have us believe that under no circumstances should any surplus ever be spent.
Now to follow that logic to its conclusion, we would lapse funds every year, as we always have. Those funds would go into the savings account. That savings account would get bigger and bigger and bigger. The public would be then asking us why we don't spend the savings account for various specific purposes - creating jobs and such like - and federal Finance would be asking us why we were intending to keep our existing formula financing arrangements when we had a very sizable savings account which we could use at any given time.
So I've never understood the logic of the Liberal position on this. A lot of people don't understand the logic of the Liberal position on this, and I've been very consistent, along with, I believe, the now Leader of the Official Opposition, that if there is a significant comfort zone - meaning a bank account - that we can spend down some of the savings that we have when there's a need to do so in order to meet the very obvious needs of the Yukon public, not only in terms of provision of services, but also provision of infrastructure.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm glad I have two supplementaries to follow up on the minister's response.
With respect to that savings account, that surplus, will the minister commit and state for this House that he will not allow it to drop below $15 million during his term as Government Leader?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I took some pains during my budget address to indicate that I believed that, given the historic level of lapsed funding, meaning money budgeted but not spent, we could restore this $10 million deficit with the lapsed funding from current fiscal year, so that we would have, on an ongoing basis, an approximately $25 million year-end surplus for which we could begin the next budget cycle.
Now, certainly we expressed some serious concern that - given the existence of the Taxpayer Protection Act - to project a surplus at the end of the year of $7 million, as our predecessors did last year, was too close to the line, because at any given time the transfer payment from Canada can vary quite dramatically. So we felt that a simple $7 million surplus was insufficient, but we believe that something in the neighbourhood of $15 million was responsible. And so we have dedicated ourselves to try to maintain that level of surplus in order to bring comfort to everyone, including ourselves, that we do have a sufficient bank account that the Yukon public can depend on.
Ms. Duncan: During the election campaign, NDP flyers promised a pay-as-you-go budget. That means spending only what you take in. At this first opportunity, the government is spending more than they are taking in. Will the Government Leader indicate to this House and apologize for not honouring that campaign commitment?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I don't apologize for the budget estimates that I presented to this House. They are completely consistent with our campaign commitments and are completely consistent with the statement that I made last August with respect to the balanced budget legislation, which was balancing your budget but being able, if you had a surplus, to use some of that surplus for the purposes of supporting the various public needs.
What I apologize for is that I didn't take more time in December to explain public budgeting to new members. But I will. I dedicate myself to try to make all members understand what the traditions of this Legislature have been with respect to public budgeting and to make them realize that, in this particular instance, this is a situation where the public requires that the government do provide some investments from our savings account to meet the various needs that have been expressed by various members in this Legislature.
Jeepers, in December, the Member for Dawson alone made upwards of $70 million worth of requests. Since this Legislature began, only a couple of days ago, there have been multi-million dollars' worth of requests coming from the Opposition benches alone. So we are prepared to spend some of the savings as long as we have a savings account, and that's what I have committed to do. I believe that the savings account that we have and the spending patterns that we have are indeed sustainable, given the level of lapsed funding and given the spending patterns that we have established.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: We are now prepared to receive the Commissioner, in the capacity as Lieutenant Governor, to give assent to the bill which has passed this House.
Commissioner enters the Chamber, announced by the Sergeant-at-Arms
ASSENT TO BILL
Commissioner: Please be seated.
Speaker: Madam Commissioner, the Assembly has, at its present session, passed a certain bill to which, in the name and on behalf of the Assembly, I respectfully request your assent.
Clerk: Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1997-98.
Commissioner: I hereby assent to the bill as enumerated by the Clerk.
Commissioner leaves the Chamber
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Bill No. 4: Second Reading - adjourned debate from March 26, 1997
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 4, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. McDonald, adjourned debate. Mr. Ostashek.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today in debate on the 1997-98 main estimates of the new government, their first budget.
I wish we could have something more positive to say about this budget. Probably, the most gracious thing I could say about this budget is, "Very disappointing."
Here we have the first budget of a new administration that goes off the radar screen in less than 24 hours. Gone. Nothing in it for Yukoners; absolutely nothing. Lots for government bureaucracy, lots to create more government bureaucracy, but nothing to help the heavy equipment operator that's living in my constituency and hoping to find some work in the Yukon this summer, nothing whatsoever, and very little for any other kind of skilled trades that are in the Yukon.
We have an unemployment rate that's in excess of 15 percent and will probably go substantially higher than that when the figures come out this next month, and probably higher than that again in May, and yet this government does not believe that this is a serious enough problem to exert some of their energy into trying to put even a couple of hundred more Yukoners to work.
They say the unemployment is caused by the Faro mine going down. I agree that the Faro mine shutdown has had dramatic impact, but, Mr. Speaker, in the last survey that was done there were 2,400 Yukoners unemployed. Not that many people are employed by the Faro mine, by a long shot.
I think its unfortunate and very alarming to me and many, many of my constituents. I guess I could say some things that aren't quite as gracious: I could say that this is a budget of deception.
I will point out some of the reasons why I am saying that as I go through my debate this afternoon. I could also say that it's a budget of hypocrisy and this is a government of hypocrisy, and we witnessed it in Question Period this afternoon. When they were on this side of the House, for many, many years they took an adamant stand that the Government of the Yukon ought not to divest itself of assets of the utility corporation. Yet, everything that I heard today, and the minister's refusal to give a strong commitment as he did when he was on this side of the House, leaves me to believe nothing else except that they have in fact divested themselves of some of the assets of Yukon Energy Corporation to reach some sort of a new agreement with Alberta Power.
Had a conservative government done that, Mr. Speaker, I think the NDP in Opposition would have been filibustering in this Legislature. Yet, they believe that because they are in power they can just change their minds, take one position while sitting in Opposition and speak that position very, very strongly, put out petitions on power, do everything else and then turn around and do exactly the opposite and go totally against what they told Yukoners they were going to do.
Two points in their energy policy - if in fact my assumption is correct that they have divested themselves of some of the assets - are that they broke two main points of their energy commitments to Yukon and that was to stabilize energy prices, because they've allowed them to rise quite dramatically, and now they're going to divest themselves of some of the assets. I find that mind-boggling and I just find that such a hypocritical position for any government to take. I can't believe it; I just can't believe it.
As I go through the budget today, I'm going to point out that this government that was elected on September 30th has no ideas of their own, has really not put any new ideas into this budget. In fact, they're so short of ideas they think nothing of plagiarizing ideas from the present Opposition when we were in government and trying to take credit for it in the budget speech as their own initiatives. That shows me a government that has no ethical fibre whatsoever.
I will point these out as I go along today, as there are many, many of them. The Government Leader, in his capacity as the finance minister, and members of his Cabinet, ever since being elected have been pleading poverty to the Yukon people. Well, Mr. Speaker, we've been down that road, and if we just relate to what the financial condition of the territory was when this new administration took over to what the financial condition of the territory was in 1992 when the Yukon Party administration took over, you can see that there's been a dramatic turnaround. And we heard for four years, very vocally, the Member for Faro, "You have lots of money; you have lots of money," that it's a matter of spending priorities. Well, I say to the Member for Faro: he has lots of money. Their administration has a lot of money, and it's just a matter of spending priorities, is all it is.
They're not prepared to admit it now. Now they're not prepared to admit it, and he's going to pay for some of that rhetoric that he espoused from these benches over here, because I've got it all laying here in front of me. Oh yes, and we'll bath them in it. We'll drown them in it.
I mean, we talk of hypocrisy. They set up a commission on local hire. Then what's their first move? Bring in people from British Columbia - high profile jobs. They campaigned on fast-tracking land claims. What do they do? They come in, they decimate the land claims department and haven't settled one claim. And now we're going into a period where there's a federal election coming, and there's many members on the benches opposite who know that there's nothing going to happen until after a federal election. And now the First Nations have been dealt another whammy, where the minister has refused to continue to pay the interest on the outstanding land claims.
So, Mr. Speaker, while they have said one thing, they have done something else on every occasion, and these are so numerous that the people of Yukon are going around confused. They don't know what this government stands for. They don't know what this government hopes to accomplish. This government has set no goals or objectives for itself. It has given the Yukon people no vision of what they intend to achieve in their four years in government. How can they expect the Yukon public to have any faith in them?
Position on the Faro mine - another example of hypocrisy to the greatest degree by the Member for Faro, and I will read his quotes back to him during my debate this afternoon - his quotes now and his quotes then.
The Cordilleran Roundup - another one. The industrial support policy. Talk of government hypocrisy.
Their budget address highlights one of the high priorities - land claims settlement commitment. This is a commitment that has been made by every administration in this Legislature since 1980. And, I hope that this government is successful in finalizing land claims. I really do. I will be the first to congratulate them. But they have done nothing in the six months or seven months that they have been in power to speed up the land claims process. In fact, if they've done anything, they've set it back a year, at least a year. As difficult as land claims are - and I know, having been in office for four years - we were progressing, and I know that had we retained the government, we would have had at least one or two more signed off by now. We would not have been sitting where we are today in the Yukon. They took perfectly competent people and removed them, for no valid reason, from the Land Claims Secretariat - politically removed them - and brought in newcomers to try to fast-track land claims. Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't accept that, and many Yukoners cannot accept that, that we can bring in new people at the 11th hour that are going to fast-track the process unless the government has abandoned any principles in the land claims settlement and just said, "We are going to settle at any price." It is very difficult, and there are members on the other side - I see the Member for Tatchun sitting there who was involved in the land claims process, and he knows how difficult it is. He knows how long it takes to get the claims moving. He knows how long it is to reach consensus on decisions. These things don't happen overnight no matter what government you are, or how badly you want to settle it. They move at their own pace. They take on a life of their own, as they will under this administration.
So, it is very disappointing to get a budget like this at a very critical time in the history of the Yukon, and such a very important time. This is a budget that I don't believe will do anything to advance the economies in the Yukon, to advance the well-being of Yukoners. If anything, it will be setting them back.
I find a few other discrepancies and items that I call "hypocrisy" or avoiding truths, or whatever you want to call them.
The government benches opposite say, "There will be no new taxes, no increases in taxes." Right on. But, Mr. Speaker, this is a government that today has been crying poverty since the day they were elected - in fact, trying to misrepresent the finances of government, to dampen expectations in the general public, expectations that they created - no one else. They created them themselves. And they have been trying to do everything they can to dampen them down. No new tax increases. Fine. I agree with no new tax increases. But this government, in fact, is getting tax increases and they are not prepared to admit it; they are not prepared to give them back to the public, and they have no intention of doing that. Yet, this is the same government - and I will lay it out for the member. He is sitting there looking bewildered, and I can understand why he is bewildered. I will explain it to him before the afternoon is over.
This is the same government that is pleading poverty now, that said, during my administration, that tax increases were absolutely not required, wage freezes and wage rollbacks were not required, yet they have been pleading poverty since the day they took office. All it is is a matter of spending priorities. They have lots of money.
They accused us of the biggest budgets ever. Well, Mr. Speaker, they are not doing any different. They aren't doing one thing different. They are spending every dollar that's coming to the Yukon, and a little bit more. That's what they're doing.
I mean, what's all the political rhetoric? I want to start by going through the budget address, and I will address the clauses as I go through.
I will start out on the tax increase. No new taxes. Fine, we accept that. But the government is in fact getting a de facto tax increase because of tax cuts in other jurisdictions in our formula financing agreement.
The Yukon today is one of the lowest tax jurisdictions in Canada; if not the lowest, it's the second lowest. And I believe that is where we should be, because of the high cost of living. But this government, because of the cuts in taxes in other jurisdictions, is going to allow the Yukon to move up to scale toward the middle of the pack. As a result, they get more revenue every year. Last year, we got default taxes that we never raised ourselves, to the tune of $1.5 million. This year, it'll be another couple of million dollars.
As the other jurisdictions cut their taxes, Yukon will move closer to the national average and our perversity will not have near the effect that it is having now. Yet, this government is not even prepared to give that back to the Yukon public. They are going to continue to spend it. They are going to continue to cry poverty when the fact is that they were left in a very healthy financial position, and it is time that they decided to govern and not sit there and whine about what happened in the past, because they have been left with some very healthy finances. It is their decision now as to how they spend them and they will be held accountable for them. But I believe it is time that they started making some decisions.
This budget address goes on in many areas throughout here as to what has been put out in a very clever manner as initiatives of this new administration. They are not saying the words, "This is a new administration", they are putting it in a budget so that it would be viewed by the public as something that this government is doing. I want to cover a few of them to show that this is what I call a budget of deception, because, in fact, these programs were started before this administration came into power. The mining training trust fund; they are going to continue it. Good, glad to hear it. I thought it was a great initiative.
The previous NDP administration cancelled the apprenticeship program they had in government because their union colleagues did not like it. They did not like it, so they cancelled it - they threw it out. We reinstituted it and expanded it. Now they are going to expand it some more - fine, I commend them for that, but don't try to take credit that they're starting it.
Enhance relations with Alaska. This one really, really gets me. They have the audacity to stand up there and say that we didn't do any work on trying to negotiate a new Shakwak agreement, when, in fact, officials worked very, very hard for two years to reach an agreement so that we would have a new agreement in place before this one lapsed. That didn't happen, and it's important that these people do continue to work and that we do get a new agreement with Alaska in the near future.
We see a government that has started out very early in their mandate to be very confrontational and it is shown not just by me saying it, but I draw your attention to a document that was, I understand, posted on school bulletin boards and delivered to teachers that says the honeymoon is over. Now we hear negotiations have broken off completely for a while.
Just to give you one quote out of this, and this only is more evidence than what I have been hearing from other Yukoners: when the government MLAs start to talk to you in a condescending manner, "We'll do what we want because we can," that attitude is all over. When government members stop returning phone calls, it's all over. Those are the kinds of comments that we're getting from the public of a very new administration. The honeymoon is over - a very short honeymoon.
This government has come, in this budget speech, and has stolen a lot of things from the previous administration that I think they are trying to take credit for now, and I started in to them. One that I really want to point out is a quote in the budget speech here where I was just looking - here we are - of the Alaskan visit over here the other day and of the meeting with the Mayor of Skagway to discuss Yukon's interest in promoting the Port of Skagway.
Well, my God, Mr. Speaker, we started those talks 18 months ago. I'm glad to see the government following up on them, but they ought not to be trying to steal it and take credit for it and say they are the ones that instituted it. I mean it's ridiculous; totally ridiculous.
That they would be so short on ideas of their own that they have to steal -
Point of order
Speaker: Order. Member for Kluane on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Point of order, Mr. Speaker. I believe the member opposite has cast an aspersion against a member on this side of the House and that should be recognized.
Mr. Ostashek: On the point of order, I don't see a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: As Speaker I didn't hear the aspersion cast, but I have heard today, on both sides of the House, references to "hypocrite", references made to members opposite being misleading, and I would ask members to watch their language and keep it parliamentary.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I hope I didn't call anybody a hypocrite. I spoke of the government hypocrisy, but I didn't name anybody as a hypocrite. I think there's a great difference there.
Mr. Speaker, I hear the sniper from the back benches, a real fine difference, but it's a little fine difference about whether you take credit for a document of somebody else's and put it in as one of your own or whether you acknowledge that it was from a previous administration, which was not done in this budget speech anywhere - $35 million deficit. Mr. Speaker, they're going to be left with about a $50 million surplus. That's what the reality of it is. For them to be trying to plead poverty and cry wolf to the people of the Yukon, it just isn't selling at all.
I can remember the harsh debate in here when there was a real debt of $13 million, and how they were so adamant that there was none and that they had left the books in good shape, and then the Auditor General told them quite differently.
Mr. Speaker, I want to point out another place in this budget speech where there's some real discrepancy, not so much from what was said between our administration and their administration, but between a previous administration and their administration. The Minister of Finance went on at great length in his talking of supporting Yukon communities of all the jobs that are going to be created in the Yukon and all the different methods they're going to use to create jobs. And one of the things that this administration appears to be hanging their hat on is the ill-fated community development fund as a be-all and end-all to help them with the unemployment problem in the Yukon.
Well Mr. Speaker, many Yukoners saw what happened under the last community development fund.
I don't think that any of them are holding their breaths to wait to to get help with that, get them off of social assistance or off of employment insurance. But I want to just go a little deeper into the community development fund, because I think it's a wrong move by this government. It's a wrong move. The community development fund, when we look at some of the projects it's funded in the past and some of the horror stories from the community development fund, I would think that the members opposite would be very cautious about reinstituting it.
Monies from the community development fund, and also even the budget allocations in C&TS for communities, have gone to some very ill-fated projects over the years, and while they may have created some short-term jobs for a few months and allowed people to go back on unemployment insurance, they really didn't address the question that we have to address. How do we find an economic base for those people living in rural Yukon that want that lifestyle? How do you get it so we can have an economic base that can sustain, without continual government funding?
I think that programs such as the community development program are morally wrong. They are holding up a flickering candle of light to somebody in a small community that says, "My God. If the government is going to invest some money there, there is more reason to stay." They say we create enough work for them to go back on UI for another six months or eight months, then we find a few more months' work for them, be it a seasonal job on the highways, and they go back on that for a few months and then back on UI, and we get them into a life cycle that I don't think is very productive for the Yukon as a whole and is certainly not a good use of taxpayers' money. We see money from the community development fund go into such projects as the Elsa curling rink that never had a sheet of ice put in it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: I believe there was.
But I want to just go to one quote that the finance minister has put in his budget here. "While the final terms of reference will be designed after consultation, CDF is expected to be the kind of vehicle that would allow such projects as the Kluane First Nation's proposed community centre in Burwash to be realized." The government highlighted this in their budget speech. Well, some time during the debate of the budget, I'm going to ask the Government Leader how often he thinks a community should be entitled to a community centre.
Because if that's what the creation of this community development fund was for, I would draw the finance minister's attention to the main estimates of 1988-89, where, under community projects, there was $300,000 given to the Kluane First Nation for a community centre. Now, a few years later, we're going to fund another one under the CDF.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Yeah, in 1988-89, $300,000 went into a community centre. One community centre every five years? One every 10 years? I find this mind-boggling.
There have been many projects that have been funded under the community development fund that there is absolutely nothing being done with today. But not only the community development fund. I think we ought to be careful what we fund under the - what do they call it - the community affairs program in municipal affairs. We take a community like Destruction Bay, who, about the same time as this community centre in Burwash was being built, the government funded a curling rink there, a curling rink and a camp that they knew was eventually going to be eliminated, and even though they extended it for one year now, it will eventually be eliminated. There are no people there. Yet we have a very beautiful facility sitting that's not being utilized by anybody. That's not spending tax dollars very wisely, especially from a government that's pleading poverty to the people of the Yukon every time one of the ministers gets up to speak. Those are not the type of projects that I believe are going to do anything except create a few short-term jobs in the Yukon and will do absolutely nothing to create an economic base for rural Yukon.
As I spoke earlier about, I believe this government is continuing on initiatives that we instigated and trying to portray them as new initiatives that they've created.
When we look at the section here on violence and prevention and victim services, my God, the Yukon Party government proposed and implemented a whole range of strategic initiatives on family violence to combat crime and vandalism and to try to tackle alcohol and substance abuse. Creating safer communities - all of this work was underway. These are all things that were being done prior to this administration taking over.
So this budget is sadly lacking in any new initiatives on either the social front, the economic front or any other front, for that matter, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I spoke many times of government, who has said one thing in Opposition and is now saying something else while in government. I just want to take a minute and point some of them out to the members opposite.
I have here the news transcript from Tuesday, March 25. The Member for Faro, the Minister of Economic Development: "Trevor Harding says part of the government's $5 million contingency fund may be used to help the Faro mine, but he would prefer the company to get help from the private sector. 'Hyundai has $25 million in equity in this company that they stand to lose if they do not find a private sector solution. Cominco has $10 million invested. We think there is lots of room for corporations much bigger than the government to get involved in the financing. That is really not our business.' " That is what the Minister of Economic Development said last Tuesday. That is what he said.
What he said on April 28, 1993, in this Legislature - on motion day, he brought forward a motion, "THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of the Yukon should show economic leadership by actively supporting the immediate stripping of the Grum ore deposit in the vicinity of Faro as an infrastructure investment to stimulate economic activity, to keep thousands of Yukon people working and to stave off private sector economic collapse due to lack of any other immediate private sector opportunities..." Absolutely, he says. As he said to me one day in his office, "Well, we're in government now, we have a different agenda." Yeah, they sure do. We can just change our stripes and expect everybody to believe them.
Another one of theirs was the wolf kill. Not only no, but "We are going to stop that program. We are going to stop it right now. That is the end of it." Then they do a 180-degree about-face. It is no wonder that the public does not have any faith in this government so early in their administration.
I am going to read a couple more things he said during the debate on that motion: "The people believe that it is the government's responsibility to exhaust all efforts to see the crisis economic problem resolved. The people of Faro believe that the government has a responsibility to ensure that the economy remains strong or to do whatever it can to ensure that that is the case. They also believe that it is the responsibility of the government to help Yukoners. If that means that Curragh has to receive some sort of support to save thousands of jobs and many businesses in the territory, then so be it." So be it. My God, that's not the song sheet he's singing from today, Mr. Speaker. That's not the song sheet he sang from before. He goes on to say that the issue is the responsibility of the member to create a strong economy. Let's see what else he says. He goes on and on. Talk about a 180-degree turn.
Read all the yellow ones out, do you? You could go on and on all day on it.
These are blatant examples of what this administration is doing, compared to what they said in Opposition. Now we see in this budget that they have projects funded under the industrial support policy. My God. I want to just read to you, Mr. Speaker, to this Legislature, some of the comments of the now Government Leader, then Leader of the Official Opposition, in his reply to the ministerial statement: "I cannot believe that we waited so long for so little by way of results. The policy has nothing..." blah, blah, blah - virtually nothing. The government talks about blah, blah, blah. "The government, in my opinion, has to be kidding. Who do they talk to? Who advises them on policy? This policy has no value whatsoever. I am truly sorry for Yukoners because I cannot find a single positive thing to say about the statement. It is complete rubbish." And now they are utilizing it to fund projects.
Talk about a flip-flop government. It's unbelievable what these guys will do to get elected and then what they will do after they are elected. It is just totally unbelievable. Same as on the power, Mr. Speaker.
And, Mr. Speaker, child tax benefits. We felt there was lots of room to give low-income Yukoners some relief directly, and yet this government will not move on it. There was a motion on the floor in December. They are not moving on it now. They are, in fact, going to be getting money back from the federal government that they are going to invest in poverty in the Yukon, but there is going to be no new money, no new money at all.
Mr. Speaker, the greatest concern I have with this budget is the direction that it is going to take Yukon and where the Yukon is going to be in a few years.
But before I get to that, I want to just comment on a couple of things, and I want to point out something else here that amazes me in this budget. I can't understand why it is in here, and I hope that during the debate of the budget, we'll get it out.
We talk of these commissions that the Government Leader is so high on, which he still maintains are not costing the taxpayers any extra money, which nobody in the public believes - absolutely nobody in the public believes. When you go and hire four new DMs to start with, it is almost impossible not to cost any more money. There is going to be more travel. There are going to be more costs involved. There is going to be more process involved. And I guess I wouldn't have any difficulty with that if we were going and embarking on some of the new initiatives, but all we're doing again is basically what's laid out in the budget speech and what they are following up from the previous administration: window dressing.
They're continuing the same work that was being done. They are repackaging it, giving it out to the public as if this is something totally new. Well, it's not. It is continuing ongoing work, work that has to be done. But to highlight it as a great accomplishment - policy making in government goes on on a day-to-day basis. I think we need to look at the most cost-effective way of developing policy, and not all the bells and whistles that we see happening with this administration.
I have another clause in here that really is mind-boggling to me. By January of 1998, the Energy Commission will make recommendations on ways to streamline the Yukon Utilities Board process and encourage public participation. My God, we just went through that process. We just went through that process less than two years ago - a fully public process that the Member for Kluane was even involved in. He was probably the only one in the process that didn't agree with it. Maybe that is why they are going to go back and look at it again. But, Mr. Speaker, the process worked very well during the last rate hearings. It was very cost-effective for the government, and let me say this: I don't expect you're going to see court cases flowing out of the decisions made at that rate hearing as you did that was held in 1992. We're not going to see the court cases flowing, because it was handled in a professional manner and a proper manner.
Now, something that's working well and even all the participants who were involved in it say it's working well, and this government's going to streamline it. My God Almighty. Well, we'll see how the energy commissioner makes out in bringing rates down. This government has done absolutely nothing so far.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Yeah, sell off the assets.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, as I started out to say, I guess my biggest concern is the direction this government's going that's increasing the operation and maintenance costs to government, when no other jurisdiction in Canada is going that route. Every jurisdiction in Canada is trying to curtail their operation and maintenance costs, yet we have this government gradually increasing, and they're going to be increasing more.
And I know they've done... The budget speech is always a political document, and sometimes craftily put together, sometimes not so craftily put together, and I don't think this one has been very craftily put together. It's pretty obvious from the media reports that they haven't bought any of it.
But when we look at how the budget's put together, and I know you have to compare estimates to estimates and mains to mains - I don't have much difficulty with that, but I do have some difficulty with the political rhetoric that comes around with it that says we're going to spend less, because the last actual figures that we can go to for my administration are from '95-'96, and these estimates that they have now coming in in '97-'98 are being compared to the '96-'97 estimates, which are not final figures and will be figures that will be a mixture of two administrations.
So in reality, before the taxpayers can really see what the mettle of this government is, it's going to be this budget that's in front of us today, and when the Auditor General puts in his report in the fall of 1998, that's when we'll first be able to see the actual comparisons, and I would have no difficulty in going on the public record now and saying that there is going to be a substantial increase in the operation and maintenance costs of this budget, compared to any budget that we presented in this Legislature.
There's absolutely no doubt in my mind, Mr. Speaker. The Member for Faro just spoke up and jogged my memory again; he should've kept quiet.
I just want to point out another area where I feel that this government has acted in a manner that just does not create any public trust. I can remember the belittling that my economic development minister took when he went to the Cordilleran Roundup and waved the flag for the Yukon. I can remember - not the last year or the year before here when we were in session - the members opposite would not pair with the economic minister to go down "to a cocktail party," as they said. They would not even pair with him to go down. I went down because the Leader of the Liberal Party paired with me, but the Official Opposition would not pair with the minister to go down. Yet, we go down there this time - I was there this time - and we see five NDP Cabinet ministers there.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: That's how much you care about mining all right.
And what are they doing? They've got a hospitality room. They're buying drinks; buying cocktails for the mining community. They went after my minister day after day after day. The Leader of the Official Opposition at the time, and even the Member for Faro, said on March 22, 1993, "Mining exploration in the Yukon is expected to double this year." That's wonderful. It was our claim that most mining activity was planned under the previous administration. Well, so much for that.
The Yukon economy: we're not going to split hairs about that. We think it's wonderful. The Government of Yukon, yessiree, now has hospitality suites in Vancouver and is giving away free booze to the mining community. They're open for business. We do not think that you need to have expensive hospitality suites to encourage business, says the minister.
As for what the Minister of Economic Development did at the conference he attended, he walked around saying the Yukon is open for business, Mr. Speaker. This is blatant, blatant, totally blatant.
Mr. Penikett, the then Leader of the Official Opposition, questioned Mr. Devries here during Committee debate relentlessly as to the participation in the Cordilleran Roundup and the hospitality night, and Mr. Devries was telling the House how successful it was. Mr. Penikett said, "We have proof there are no mines now." "The minister said he had lots of thank-you notes." "They saw the hospitality suites." "Canadians are very polite people; they usually very gratefully buy him drinks." "Can the minister show us any definite results of his hospitality suite other than thank-you notes?"
Now we have an administration that took hours of the taxpayers' time debating those things in this Legislature and condemning those initiatives so openly and so hard, and now they are doing the same thing. These are not isolated instances that I am pointing out. This is on almost every issue.
Even the now Government Leader himself, in the debate with Mr. Fisher over the Cordilleran Roundup on February 13, 1995 - Mr. Fisher said that 1,500 people had attended, but only 200 were at the British Columbia night. Mr. McDonald asked if there was free liquor at Yukon night. Well, questions like that. Yet, I was down there this year, and I understand that the Government of the Yukon had a hospitality suite other than the Yukon night. Oh, yeah, just beer and wine. I just cannot believe the flip-flops of this government.
We are happy to see that they have finally seen the light, but they should apologize to the people of the Yukon for their actions of the past. Be forthcoming. That is what they campaigned on - open and accountable government.
As I said, this budget is setting a course for the Yukon that is going to blow up, if not in this administration's face, then the next one that comes behind it. We cannot sustain increasing the operation and maintenance costs of this government, even though the transfer payments are going up. Even though the finance minister says he hasn't got money, the transfer payments in fact are up this year. They are not down. They were down last year and they are up more than just devolution. As I said, we will also be getting a couple of million in windfall profits from taxes because we are going to be creeping closer to the national average. Therefore, that type of growth cannot be sustained.
The finance minister has gone on at great length about how the size of deficits we ran could not be sustained. Well, we were running them against very huge surpluses, Mr. Speaker. As long as you have a huge surplus, you can run a large deficit. I do agree in that respect with the Government Leader and now finance minister, as we heard in Question Period today with the Member for Porter Creek South. I do believe you need to spend your surpluses, but in a responsible manner.
But I also do believe that you have to invest in some infrastructure in the Yukon that's going to eventually create enough momentum that there's going to be more benefits to the Yukon than just the actual work that was there to put that infrastructure in place. What I mean by that is a good highway system so our freight rates can come down. We have seen what has happened over the last 20 years in the Yukon. We can haul freight up the highway today at a far more reasonable cost than we could 20 years ago. That has reduced costs to the Yukon people, to the Yukon businesses.
Mr. Speaker, we are going to have to some day be able to embark on a Yukon-wide energy grid. We are going to have to be able to get a reasonable price for power. It's not just taking the profits of the Energy Corp. and putting them back into rate relief. That's a short-time fix and does absolutely nothing to lower energy costs to Yukoners, or to businesses to be competitive in world markets, and we need to do that.
We have a situation in Mayo now where we have a million dollars' worth of diesel fuel going over that dam every month in lost generation, and it has to be replaced with diesel fuel. CO2 emissions, which the NDP government is totally against, as we are too, but for nine years that has been happening. That's $9 million that could have gone towards establishing a grid. A grid to Mayo is in the $30-million range. The capacity of the dam can be expanded to almost double its size. To amortize a power grid -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Oh, yes. That's the NDP answer - sell off the assets. But $9 million - amortize it at $1 million a year - 30 years is not a short period to amortize a hydro grid over. Fifty, 60, 75 years. It's a very small investment. We'd have another couple of communities off diesel fuel and we would also be putting people to work. As long as we continue to import that diesel fuel, we are going to continue to export jobs out of the Yukon. We are not going to be able to create jobs in the Yukon as long as we keep using diesel fuel to create our energy. That's just not the answer.
We heard the Member for Kluane sniping from the background, "What did we do?" Everything is in place. All it needs is for decisions to be made.
We went out in August of last year for expressions of interest. There are a lot of them sitting over there at the Energy Corporation; some good ideas. All it takes is some party now with the political courage to make the decision. It took us four years to get to that.
The NDP before that worked on an energy policy for seven and a half years for Yukoners. There's a lot of policy work that's been done, folks. Let's just get it gathered and let's get the political will to come forward with your project.
You want to dam another river? Fine. You want to put a coal project in, whatever you want to do - oil and gas - but, do something and let's debate what you're going to do. That's what we were striving to do and that's what we're working toward. Unfortunately, we didn't get the second mandate to do it, for I can assure you, we would have been moving very, very quickly.
Until we do some things like that, until we've reduced the cost of energy, we are going to be faced with a problem in the Yukon of attracting businesses that can be competitive in world markets, and I believe that the Government Leader is realizing very quickly that if we're to succeed here, without forever living on government handouts, which are going down and down all the time, we are going to have to develop a self-reliant society.
Power is one resource that we have that could help us get there. All it needs is some vision and some investment - calculated investment. Some risk? A little bit, not a lot.
Any province that's developed it had a government rural electrical policy. They didn't ask the ratepayers to pay for it; the taxpayers paid for it, paid it back over years. Power was put into many places in British Columbia like that and in Alberta. Now the provinces are electrified, now they can compete, they have lower rates. What are we paying? Eight cents? Eight and a half cents a kilowatt?
We now have the Anvil Range mine coming to the government for a rate subsidy. That's not the answer; that's not the answer at all and it's expensive. For every one cent a kilowatt that we subsidize Anvil Range is a million dollars a year, and that's just going out the door; that's not going to do anything to develop energy needs in the Yukon.
Rate relief is not going to do anything to develop energy needs in the Yukon. Those are short-term, stop-gap measures to be used to reduce the impact of volatile rates, but we need to have a long plan, we need to continue to work on that long plan and, Mr. Speaker, it's just not in this budget. There is nothing here that gives me any comfort that the government is even working in that direction and I'm sorry for that.
There was enough money in the Development Corp. to start some projects, to start working in some direction and to make a substantial investment in it, create some jobs in the Yukon while they're doing it, at a time when we have a skilled workforce that is looking for jobs and is going to leave the Yukon. It's going to leave the Yukon very quickly, if we don't give them something to do.
So, Mr. Speaker, I urge the government to seriously look at what direction they're taking this territory and to give serious consideration to some sort of a development that's going to, in the long term, reduce energy costs. There's no magic cure. There's no miracle fix, but ever since we took over NCPC, we have not been moving in the right direction. We needed more power; we brought in another diesel generator. Now, as my colleague from Riverside says, we're even going to give that to Alberta Power to generate, and we're going to get right away from that. We're going to sell off the assets, and I just think that's very unfortunate. But we'll say more about that as we get into debate in this Legislature in the days and weeks to come.
Mr. Speaker, I see a clause in this budget speech, and if it's as it says, I can support it wholeheartedly. I hope it is, and that's the commitment for protected areas and a major boundary expansion to Tombstone Territorial Park. The way I read the budget speech, I would hope that, when the finance minister stands up in his rebuttal, he could verify whether I'm right or, if I'm not, say so. The way I read it is the land claims agreements with the Dawson First Nation, which hope to be completed this year, will include establishing a process for setting those boundaries.
Well, if it's a public process that is going to be used, then I am wholeheartedly in favour of it. That's what I have said from day one. I don't believe that the boundaries of the park should be expanded in the closed shop of the land claims settlement. Parks are near and dear to the hearts of all Yukoners, and if all Yukoners have a say in the expansion of the new boundaries, then I will wholeheartedly support it.
I hope that that is what that means when the final decisions are made.
The budget speech goes on, "Charting a Positive Course". And then a little highlight, "Reckless decisions must be avoided", and I agree. Reckless decisions must be avoided, but, Mr. Speaker, decisions have to be made. We cannot continue to put together a huge process that nothing is going to come out of. We've been doing that for years and years. It's time to make decisions. There's study after study after study on almost everything that's happening in the Yukon now. What is needed now is for the government of the day, a large majority government, who has the opportunity - not an opportunity I had, but the opportunity that they have with the large majority - to make a decision on what direction they want to go in the area of forestry, in the area of energy, and make those decisions, and let's get moving with them. Let's just not talk about process.
I think people in the Yukon First Nations and other Yukoners are sick to death of process and negotiations. It's time to move on with our lives.
Diversifying the economy is always good, but we also need to expand on the things that we do best, and that's mining and tourism. And the ourism minister will speak when it gets to his turn in budget debate and what he sees or what he feels are the shortcomings in this budget on ourism. I just want to say that I believe that we need to continue to build good infrastructure in the Yukon and, by good infrastructure, I mean good telecommunications. Power is a major crippling problem for development in the Yukon - another bureaucratic process that's going to cost taxpayers a fortune and they will see very little results come out of, I'm afraid. There's a lot of information. We need to make some decisions.
Local hire is going to be a very interesting one, too. What is local hire? I'm not sure that anybody over there knows. Does local hire mean that someone working in Beaver Creek can't go bid on a job in Burwash Landing? Does that mean that a Whitehorse contract can't go bid on a job in Burwash Landing? I've had reports of some of the meetings that the local hire commissioner has had, and they've been quite hilarious, to say the least. I think they've bit off one here that they're going to have to try and find a way to back away from.
They were going to challenge the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and everything else. Not any more.
I am very disappointed in the budget. I am not going to go on any longer on this. We'll be getting into it in department-by-department debate. There is nothing in the budget to give me any encouragement. There is nothing that gives me any encouragement to tell constituents that are sitting in my area waiting to go to work this summer that when this budget is implemented there will be jobs for them. I can't go out and say that to them. Yet, that is what this was touted to be before it came in earlier in the year, when unemployment was starting to rise and I was asking for the government to take some initiatives to put people to work. The finance minister and the Government Leader said, "Wait for the budget". Well, we did. I'm sorry, there is nothing in it - absolutely nothing. That is unfortunate.
I hope the next budget that this administration presents to this House will have a little more imagination and a little more initiative, and will set out a little bit of a vision for the Yukon, because there is absolutely nothing in here that gives me any idea of where this administration wants to take the Yukon in the next four years. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is indeed a pleasure to follow the Leader of the Official Opposition, the man who, when he was Government Leader, led the biggest taxing-and-spending government in Yukon history - the Yukon Party government.
In the context of that reality, I will deliver a response and I am going to concentrate mostly on rebuttal of a lot of the completely erroneous information that was just put forward by the Leader of the Official Opposition.
First of all, Mr. Speaker, this budget is much smaller than the Yukon Party budget, to the tune of over $50 million. We have no tax increases in the budget - no tax increases that were the norm under the Yukon Party administration - the largest tax increases in Yukon history - tax increases that were called obscene by the member when he was the Yukon Party leader prior to the 1992 election. Yukoners have never forgotten the fact that the Yukon Party told the public of the Yukon that tax increases would be obscene and then promptly raised taxes.
The Leader of the Official Opposition said there was lots of bureaucracy in this budget. Well, Mr. Speaker, that is completely false. We have actually reduced the O&M costs to government and still protected health care, still protected education, still done more family violence programming, still done more training and still done so many more new initiatives that the Yukon Party never even contemplated.
Mr. Speaker, we have done more with less. The Leader of the Official Opposition, when he was in government, used to say, "Government doesn't create jobs. Government creates the environment for the private sector to create jobs." But now he is carrying that old Conservative mantra that "the best social program is a job" just one step further. He is saying that the new NDP government should spend, spend, spend, spend, spend, to the point where, with government money, we would give everybody in the Yukon a job. Well, we just can't do that. We'd like to. We'd like to ensure that everybody is working. We are concerned about unemployment, but to be fiscally responsible and to be true to Yukoners, as we said, we are going to pay as we go.
This year, we reached a sustainable level of spending. We took the $35 million deficit left to us by the Yukon Party last year, we cut it down to about $10 million, so we have a sustainable level of spending, given lapses, or money that is not spent from this fiscal year, historically, which will lead us to a level of spending that is going to be sustainable for Yukoners and is going to keep a bank account - precisely as we said during the election campaign. I dug out the press release on balanced budget legislation, and there is a line in there that says, "Our legislation will allow for surpluses to be spent if required." If a 15-percent unemployment rate doesn't require that you dip in to invest a little bit in Yukon people, I don't know what is. It's certainly not the $35 million in the election year spending frenzy that the Yukon Party got themselves into. Mr. Speaker, we had to clean that mess up, and we are doing it.
Mr. Speaker, not only did we cut O&M in government and still protect health care and education and create jobs, we repealed the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act and are back in collective bargaining discussions - negotiations; in the process.
Not only that, we have to live with all of the big spending O&M commitments of the previous government, like the Beringia, like the tourism business centre. The tax bill for the tourism business centre alone is $51,000 a year. The O&M costs run into the millions for all the O&M we have been bequeathed by the Yukon Party. Still they had their local point person on the political panel the other day talking about big government. Mr. Speaker, we have shrunk government from the Yukon Party and we have still managed to protect health care and education, address child poverty issues, keep our commitment to social services and those less fortunate, and do all kinds of economic initiatives.
Mr. Speaker, I want to put right up front what some of the job creation initiatives in this budget are. First of all, there's $88 million in buildings, roads, land development. We have targeted spending for short-term jobs in the communities, for CPI, community development fund.
We've spent less on internal government operations. The Yukon Party was the biggest purveyor of cars, computers and office equipment ever seen in the history of the Yukon. Mr. Speaker, we cut that 25 percent. So, we wanted, in this fiscal year, with the unemployment rate as it is, to take as much of those types of expenditures, cut them down as much as we could and make sure that the money was out on the street so people were working as much as possible with government money. We can't spend as much as the Member for Dawson and the Leader of the Official Opposition would like, but Mr. Speaker we can spend responsibly, and we can target our spending.
Mr. Speaker, there are other initiatives that we've been up to. We've been getting out new opportunities for the private sector in this budget with trade investment strategies and an action plan, working with the local chambers of commerce and TIA and trying to generate some interest in expanding markets and creating value-added products back home that can create jobs here.
We've had discussions with Anvil Range continuously, about their situation. And I stand by the comments that I made back in 1992 that this government has a responsibility to work with that major employer to see if there is not some sort of - and I'll use the same words I used back then - way they can assist. We're caught in this catch 22 by the Opposition, where they say do something about unemployment - but don't help Faro.
Well, Mr. Speaker, the unemployment rate in the Yukon is the Faro mine right now and the spin-offs and the fact that 600 new people have come into this territory.
So, Mr. Speaker, what we've seen under the Yukon Party was not the economy that they boasted of, but rather a false economy. The private sector drive behind it was the Anvil Range mine, the Faro mine, as always, in the Yukon, but in reality we had an economy that was over heated with government expenditures, deficit financing, over-heated land development. Two agreements that are no longer with us that were negotiated by the NDP: the Shakwak project, the highway. So, we had a false economy, artificially boosted up, especially in the election year where they spent $35 million of the surplus to try and improve their chances in the upcoming territorial election. That could not be sustained; that cannot be sustained. We said that in opposition and we are watching the results of it now.
Someone had to make the tough decision. Someone had to get the ship off the rocks and get the bull by the horns. We did it, Mr. Speaker and we're very proud of our budget.
Mr. Speaker, we are extremely concerned, and I want to go back to a few more of the initiatives about the unemployment situation and that's why we've been working with the mining industry. We've been out at conventions, out at trade shows, working with them on the problems, listening to their issues.
Mr. Speaker, I've been to the prospectors and developers. I've been to the Cordilleran. I want to get something straight with the members opposite. We never criticized them going down to the Cordilleran Roundup - clearly not. What we were criticizing them for was that they went so far as to buy a bunch of booze for the miners the first year they did it. We, on the other hand, held a reception for the mining industry. We talked with the mining industry. We make no bones about that, but you'd better believe we didn't buy any booze for the mining industry. And no, we did not fly there business class either.
So, Mr. Speaker, I want to say that we've been out talking about it. We've been doing more than that. The problem with the Yukon Party was that all they did was go to the Cordilleran Roundup for mining. That was all they did and that's what we said.
What have we been doing for mining? Well, we've been actually bringing some focus to the development assessment process, dealing with the tough policy issues that were left dormant by the Yukon Party. They were going to let the federal government dictate to us what the development assessment process was going to be. Someone had to get that ship off the rocks, too, Mr. Speaker, and that's what we're doing with that process. Making sure Yukoners' interests are protected, not leaving it up to Ottawa like the Yukon Party.
Mr. Speaker, we're going out there and we're settling land claims and we're putting investment into rebuilding torn relationships by the Yukon Party.
After four years of no progress, we have no new agreements finalized since the Yukon Party took office in 1992. We're having to bring closure to agreements that are close. We're having to deal with the issues that are still out there. We're having to deal with the seven final remaining agreements that the Yukon Party could not solve.
What are we doing for the mining industry on devolution? In four months we came further on devolution than the Yukon Party did in four years. We finally got an agreement with Yukon First Nations that they would support us in the advancement of this territory, in terms of partnerships, in terms of working together, in terms of strengthening the economic and social framework - something the Yukon Party failed miserably at. They actually took the Yukon and split them apart. We're trying to put it back together and move ahead, move into the next century economically and socially and get a greater understanding of each other's cultures.
On mines that are in the permitting stage right now and are having trouble with their water licences, we went to Ottawa, we met with the federal minister, we talked to him about these problems and we talked to him about the unemployment rate. We said that if these projects can be environmentally permanent, responsibly, we want them to go ahead. What can we do?
So, Mr. Speaker, we've been having meetings on an ongoing basis with the regional director since then and I think it has resulted in some of the projects moving ahead. As you've seen, their applications are going before the water board in the very near future.
We've got renewable resources and economic development departments involved with the regional director at the highest level to try and ensure that appropriate goal posts are set that the companies can meet, because we want those jobs in the communities. If they can responsibly be up and operating, then they should be.
Mr. Speaker, we've got major tourism initiatives in this budget. The Minister of Tourism has been over to Germany. He's been to Europe and he's been out promoting the industry. I was beating the streets in Vancouver and Toronto going to meet with companies, telling them that we want responsible investment in the Yukon. We want people who are going to create jobs, who are going to work with the local community, who are going to take care of the environment.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite heckles me about a 7-day holiday that I took. Well, I think this government has been working extremely hard, not just since we came into office, we actually worked when we were in Opposition, we just didn't work when we were in government; that's the reason that we're over here and the members opposite, over there. But, we make no apologies for taking some modest time off to try and recuperate and to try and ensure that we can put the best energies possible into the public service and that's what we'll do.
So, Mr. Speaker, we've also established a good relationship with the Yukon Chamber of Commerce. We've helped fund the small business information centre to ensure that appropriate information is on the information highway; it's getting out to the rural communities, which is where we had economic development officers retrenched by the previous administration in the cutback to the economic development agreement. We have got the government services minister working on a regulatory code of conduct for our government so that we can measure up to the private sector.
With our commissions, we finally have somebody doing something in the key areas of energy, development assessment process, forestry and local hire - big issues in the last election campaign. The Yukon Party was failing miserably at forestry, hopelessly floundering. They didn't know what to do. They had a whole department. They had an Energy Corporation. They had a whole department in economic development. They had people in renewable resources. They had people pulling out of the development process for forestry left, right and centre. Every interest group who would and should, and every stakeholder who would and should participate, pulled out. They had no partnerships at a government-to-government-to-government level. They had chaos. Someone had to get a hold of that. That's what we've done, and it's tough, and there are going to be problems, and there are going to be rough spots, but we don't think for a second in the areas of the commissions that there's not going to be rough spots. There already have been. But, Mr. Speaker, somebody has got to do something about it. That's why we're here. That's what we were elected to do, and that's what we're doing.
Mr. Speaker, we've been working on transportation strategies, trying to open up corridors, trying to secure agreements with Alaska and Skagway on port access, to open up corridors so that we can access the Far East, the Asia Pacific.
We've put money into training initiatives, like the Yukon Party never dreamed of. That's how we create jobs. We don't, like the Yukon Party says, "Spend, spend, spend. Put all your money into creating jobs for people with government money." We can't do that. We will spend what we can to create jobs, but we can't spend our way into debt and spend our way out of this problem. If we would have continued on the spending pattern of the $35-million deficit last year - the Yukon Party - we would have no surplus now.
Mr. Speaker, on the issue of the Yukon Energy Corporation, the Yukon Energy Corporation board of directors and the discussions with regard to Yukon Energy Corporation, Yukon Electrical, the old management contract, they are progressing, and I hope, as I said, to make an announcement on Tuesday.
There is, as the members opposite are well aware, a board of directors, and we will certainly be looking at their recommendations. I understand they've been having some discussions with their president, and there are three parties to the agreement. But, Mr. Speaker, I want to say this: our government policy is to maintain a publicly owned, publicly controlled Yukon Energy Corporation with a strong asset base, and I want to assure everybody that the assets held by the Yukon Energy Corporation are going to remain at the levels that they are presently. We will invest in assets to ensure that we continue to have ratios with Yukon Electrical. And this government is not prepared to expropriate YECL, as some would have us do, but we are prepared to reach reasonable agreements, agreements that can be supported by the Yukon Energy Corporation board of directors, all appointed by the Yukon Party, with the exception of CYFN reps.
Point of order
Some Hon. Member: On a point of order.
Deputy Speaker: A point of order has been raised by the Member for Riverside.
Mr. Cable: Do we have a quorum? I don't want the member to lose his audience.
Deputy Speaker: The Member for Riverside has raised the question of quorum. Pursuant to Rule 3(3) of the standing orders, I will cause the bells to ring for four minutes and then do a count.
Deputy Speaker: I recognize that there is now a quorum. We shall continue.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The former Government Leader - now Leader of the Opposition - said that our budget was dull and boring. Well, from my way of looking at it, dull and boring budgets are good news because they say that the people give it tacit acceptance. It's hard to get rave reviews on a budget.
The Yukon Party had a lot of exciting budgets in their day. They had big-spending budgets, they had big tax increase budgets, they had Taga Ku announcement budgets, and usually those exciting budgets led to protests in the gallery, protests in the foyer and a lot of people very unhappy with their government. So, my way of looking at it is that boring budgets aren't exactly bad.
But that's not to say we have no new ideas. Mr. Speaker; we have some very exciting training initiatives in the budget. We have an employment equity initiative in the budget that we're extremely proud of. We're trying to change the corporate culture of government and change the culture and the understanding of land claims agreements, starting from the Cabinet room down through all the levels of government, ensuring that we know what is in the land claims agreement, ensuring that we understand, trying to talk about things like secondments and exchanges with other governments, so that we get a culture of understanding within government. We think that's a good initiative. It makes good on our commitment to working toward a representative workforce that's in the land claims agreement.
One of our new ideas is actually to try and get some agreements in land claims. That has to be called a new idea, after the last four years.
Mr. Speaker, we have taken initiatives on child poverty - new ideas - drug programs, specs for tots - I think those are good initiatives - extending the school lunch. The ways we have structured our commissions are entirely new. That's why the Opposition doesn't like them. Actually giving a private member a major political task to accomplish on the public's behalf - good idea. Another new idea: no tax increases in the budget. The Yukon Party - biggest tax increases in Yukon history. The New Democratic Party said we wouldn't raise taxes, didn't raise taxes.
Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Official Opposition talked about the financial position of the government, compared to when they took over in 1992 versus when we took over. It's well known and well documated that the members cooked the books to make the previous government look bad in 1992. When we came in, we said we weren't going to do that. We weren't going to ensure that there were headlines on the front page of the Whitehorse Star saying, "Government is broke," because we didn't want to impact on consumer confidence. It very easily could have been done with a little bit of creative accounting - and I'm sure the auditor general would have accepted it, as he did in 1993. All you have to do is write off everything under the sun that affects the accumulated position of government.
We chose not to do that. The finance minister did not want to send that message to the public. He did not want to say that things were great, there were big, big bucks to hand out to everybody, but he did want to say what was the truth: that there was some serious spending pressure as a result of the election year, capital budget spending over the balanced budget position that was undertaken by the Yukon Party, to the tune of about $35 million. That wasn't outrageous but it did make for some interesting budgeting challenges considering what we had to do to try and bring things back into rein.
Mr. Speaker, on the Faro mine, I have given a good Liberal answer. On the one hand, on the other hand - straight down the middle. I have said we are not going to dismiss things out of hand; we are not going to prove things out of hand. It would be irresponsible when there is a thousand jobs at stake to do that, one way or the other. Someone asked me the other day in the media, "Could the $5 million contingency fund be used for Anvil Range?" I said, "Well, possibly." So, I didn't rule it out. Well, I have come to learn that, in politics, never is a very, very long time.
So, although I don't think that it will be used for Anvil Range, and there are no plans to use it for Anvil Range, it is always a possibility. I am not going to rule it out out of hand. At some point, I might be able to, but I want to take a look at the situation. Government does have a responsibility to deal with this situation and find some sort of ways they can assist. We've already done that. I outlined some of them the other day. I am working with the company extensively. Training trust, I can't for the life of me understand why the Leader of the Official Opposition would say that that was a non-initiative, that investing in Yukon workers is a non-issue, is not assisting. I don't know if he is advocating for us to extend the $29 million loan guarantee offer as he did to Curragh. I dug out the press release the other day, just to refresh my memory on that offer by the Yukon Party.
I never once said - they've never been able to read a quote by me where I said, "Write a cheque for $29 million to Clifford Frame." Never once. Some sort of assistance. The problem with the Yukon Party approach to the Faro mine situation was that they had an economic development minister telling jokes about how to raise the IQ of the Yukon by shutting the mine down. The problem was the message to the people, that they had no responsibility. They have never quite understood that.
I have people in my riding tell me all the time, "Take it easy with that Anvil Range. They are looking to see what they can get out of government. Watch what you're doing. Be responsible." And, I'm saying, "Don't worry. That's what we're doing." They have Hyundai Corporation, Cominco. They have no debt. They paid the banks out. Go out and get the financing there. We'll take a look at ways we can assist if we need to, but we need some commitments from them as well. No bail-out, Mr. Speaker.
The editors of the local dailies or bi-weeklies can put whatever headline on my comments they want. My comments were the same to both reporters. It wasn't I that said "bail-out;" it was them, in both cases actually, except the Whitehorse Star, when they asked me, "Will there be a bail-out?", and I said, "No, there won't be a bail-out."
Mr. Speaker, I know the Yukon Party, as it appeared in Question Period the other day, is advocating for a bail-out. Well, we prefer to do other things, like investigate training trust funds, see what we can do about energy issues, talk to them about some of the pressure points they have for the company and how they can be more competitive, and what pressures government is placing on them. I know the Yukon Party raised bulk haulage fees 30 percent when they were in office, and that has certainly been identified as a pressure point.
Mr. Speaker, with regard to the Yukon industrial support policy, the members have made, or tried to make, great issue of the fact that we have a couple of commitments under that in our budget. What were we going to tell Viceroy Resources? The commitment was made on the road. We said we'd honour the commitment of the Yukon Party, so we put $400,000 in the budget for it. It doesn't mean I'm in love with the Yukon industrial support policy. I just know that Viceroy Resources is an important part of the economy here, and we're going to honour the commitments of the previous government that were already made.
All kinds of expectations were built by the previous government. There was going to be some funding for road work. We weren't successful in accommodating the road work on the Mount Nansen road as much as we would've liked, but, Mr. Speaker. We did what we could to try and assist them.
We're already actively looking at changing the industrial support policy and developing a new policy. In the meantime, I've got a whole bunch of other things on my plate including going out and hustling for the economy, hustling for jobs, talking about forestry, developing oil and gas, beating the streets in Vancouver and Toronto, talking to the investment community, talking to miners about the Yukon.
I mean it's such a cheap shot. You know, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party used to take all kinds of holidays, Las Vegas and such. People were on social assistance, people were unemployed; they used to go for months at a time. They ran from the Legislature once for nine months.
Mr. Speaker, with regard to the other issues that have been raised, the former Government Leader said in the election campaign that we created expectations in the election campaign. We weren't the ones who upped the bidding war on schools and told the electorate, "Just tell us what colour paint you want the bridge." We refused to get into the bidding war with the Yukon Party and the Liberals. We weren't the ones who raised expectations. We're just living with those raised expectations now as government, but we have honoured our commitments.
I can't believe the Yukon Party would stand up and say we've broken our commitment on electric rates. We never promised to freeze electrical rates. We brought in bill relief in December. We were only sworn in in October. It's not what we said. Show me where it's said.
So, Mr. Speaker, what we have is a situation where there's a 1993 court case. The Yukon Court of Appeal started in 1993 and the Yukon Party sat back, didn't direct the public utility not to go after this money. It was given back eventually through the courts to the Energy Corporation as a reimbursement of cost, not excess profits, as was the case which prompted the issue in 1994-95.
Mr. Speaker, that was awarded and the ruling was upheld in terms of how it was going to be distributed by the Utilities Board. I would have dearly loved to have written that off. I would have dearly loved it if the Government Leader, in 1993, would've said that the Yukon Energy Corporation should not go after that funding, but he didn't. So, now we have to deal with the problem.
With the situation with Anvil Range, I have to ensure the utility remains solvent and in good shape financially and it is just not prudent right now, without looking at all the factors to make decisions that can give some political relief in the short term, but perhaps create some problems for Yukoners in the long term, so we have to look at these decisions very carefully.
On the issue of wage freezes, I can't believe that the Leader of the Official Opposition would actually comment on recent media reports about YTA negotiations. That is the government that brought in the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act when they had a $20-million surplus. They complimented the YTA for their bargaining in 1992-93, for their conciliatory approach, and then rewarded them with wage restraint. And to stand here and say because we are in the process now of negotiations, and there is some work being done outside the process in the media, that somehow that's a failure - I doubt it. We're in the process. We're going to negotiate; we're going to try and get an agreement. I look forward to working with the YTA to that end.
I almost fell out of my chair laughing at the former Government Leader's de facto tax increase argument, with his voodoo logic, talking about factors in the formula financing agreement and other provinces impacting us so, therefore, we have actually raised taxes. Mr. Speaker, I challenge him to try and make that case in the public. I think he will be met with deaf ears.
With regard to the apprenticeship training program that was mentioned, that somehow the NDP cancelled, well the private sector was so strong during the reign of the last NDP government, there was no more need for the government to run the apprenticeship program. We had the private sector doing it. That's the approach we took. Had there been a need - if we would have gotten another term - I'm sure we would have responded to that need, if it existed.
On the issue of Shakwak, the Yukon Party failed again. The Yukon Party came in to reap the benefits in terms of job creation with an agreement negotiated by the NDP on Shakwak. But for four years, they failed. They didn't do anything to try and get us a new agreement on Shakwak. So now all those contractors, who don't have as much work as they would've liked, should know squarely where to lay that blame. The Yukon Party government should have been more pro-active on Shakwak. And it's a shame that they weren't. Mr. Speaker, we'll have to pick up those pieces, as well.
I want to just go back to the negotiations for a second with regard to YTA. We are certainly willing to get an agreement. With regard to the newsletter that was quoted by the former Government Leader, I can't control what the president of the YTA writes, but I can say that I've always returned my phone calls, that I'm aware of what I've received from the YTA, and I look forward to a respectful, good working relationship with them.
Now, I want to talk a little bit about the CDF. You know Mr. Speaker, the CDF has been described by the Yukon Party as the ill-fated CDF.
That was a clear election commitment we made to restore the CDF. We put it out to the public of the Yukon. We said, this is what we want to do. They said "do it." You know, it's no wonder they have one rural seat, because everywhere we went in rural Yukon they said "You need some funding vehicle to help out rural communities."
The former Government Leader actually said it was morally wrong to raise expectations with the CDF.
Now, the Yukon Party's the architect of the centennial anniversaries program, where they have made no commitment to paying O&M. By his own logic, he's just called his own program morally wrong - not that I agree with his logic, Mr. Speaker.
The CDF created all kinds of projects, like the first Wye Lake Park in Watson Lake that was supported by the Yukon Party candidate in the last election in Watson Lake.
How about Dawson waterfront development, supported by the former mayor of Dawson, who's now a member of this Legislature and sitting beside the Leader of the Official Opposition?
How about the ball park in Pelly? Mr. Speaker, they don't complain about the CDF.
How about the Mountainview golf club, that so many Yukoners benefit from? CDF. Look it up.
The Dawson women's shelter. Now there's a worthwhile enterprise. Something good for the communities created by the CDF.
Mr. Speaker, we in the Yukon New Democrats are very proud of our budget. We feel that it's responsible, that it's created jobs, that it's responding to the situation of the Yukon in the interim and in the short term, but it's also taking a visionary approach to the long term. It has a strong commitment in it to the environment, to jobs, to health care, to education, to social services, to child poverty, to training, and it is smaller and it honours our commitments to no tax increases.
Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I'm very proud to commend the first budget of the Yukon New Democratic Party government to this House.
Mr. Speaker, it's always exciting when a new government brings down its budget. This is a general indication, or blueprint if you will, of the direction that this new government will take over the length of their mandate. But apparently this is not always the case. There are some really good initiatives in this budget, and I was quite pleased to see that more money is being allocated to prevention and programming for family violence in the communities. Hopefully, in the fall legislative sitting there will also be at least one new act to back up some of these program dollars.
I was also pleased to see dollars being allocated for the school hot lunch pilot projects. The many school councils that have been lobbying for this project, that was started under the Canadian living program, will be pleased to see that, for a while at least, some money is being spent responding to this need in the communities.
Of course, there was the usual complaint that there wasn't enough federal funding being transferred to the territorial government, and this complaint was voiced over and over again by the government in the budget address. Apparently the $306 million that was sent this year - $4 million more than last year - well, it just wasn't enough, and this complaint from a government that, for the 10th year in a row, has frozen transfer funding to the Yukon municipalities.
The budget address includes a section on responding to community needs. There is sewage backing into homes in Dawson City. Dawson City is also the only community in the territory that does not have a recreation centre. Watson Lake needs a new ambulance station, firehall, town office, YTG office, library and band office, and all of these buildings burned to the ground over a year ago. Show me the money.
There's also a section of the budget that recognizes the need for affordable housing. What this budget fails to recognize is that housing for seniors is necessary. There are too few buildings that are set aside for seniors only in the Yukon. The waiting list for subsidized seniors housing is consistent, and it is long.
Compounding this problem is the fact that 50 percent of the population of the Yukon is part of the baby-boomer generation. That's us. Baby boomers are getting older, and we're getting older as we speak. And where will we live? This situation is only going to get worse. Show me the housing. Highway improvements - whenever I travel to a place where there is highway work going on, I am very much aware that although this is a minor inconvenience, it is also a good indicator that there is money in that economy. The budget has cut the heart out of highways. Show me the roads.
The budget address says that this budget will create jobs. All the jobs in this budget come from tried and true NDP philosophies, namely government intervention in the economy. This is supposed to happen through capital works. Well, capital spending is down and O&M spending is up, so I am not sure how this will create jobs. Maybe the $2 million out of a $483-million budget that is dedicated to the community development fund will create the 2,500 jobs that Yukoners need. The only problem is that, once those summer works program jobs are over, then we are back to the unemployment lines. So how many jobs from the last community development fund exist today? These were only short-term jobs.
The biggest job creator in any economy is small business and, interestingly enough, this is pointed out in the NDP platform.
Maybe some more short-term jobs are going to be created in this budget, but the best investment in our future is long-term employment for those 2,500 Yukoners out of work today. Show me the jobs. And where is the vision?
Quite frankly, besides small program changes, this budget is remarkably similar to the last 10 Yukon budgets, and this cannot continue. The $11,500 per Yukoner per year that we get from the federal government is not going to come here forever, and maybe it shouldn't. Maybe we've got to learn how to stand on our own two feet economically. Maybe it's time to diversify our economy, as promised in the NDP platform document. There has been plenty of talk about this topic in the past, and it remains to be seen if the NDP will act. It's going to take a great deal of courage, strength and true leadership.
This budget, while it's not exactly earth-shaking stuff, it is, to paraphrase a local reporter, "pretty boring", and that's unfortunate. As a new government, the first budget was an opportunity to make things better for Yukoners in the short term and in the long term, and that opportunity has been lost. I ask you to take up the challenge and lead us into the next millennium with daring and with vision - find ways to do things differently, not just do more with less.
And, please be aware, that if you can't change the way you think, as is reflected in your budget this year, things will change anyway.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would like to just say a few words today in response to my Liberal colleague over there, and in response to some of the general comments I've heard on the budget today.
Before I get started, I would just like to tell a little bit about the area that I represent. My area of Whitehorse West takes in a remarkably diverse area in Whitehorse. It takes in areas such as MacRae, which is essentially an industrial area. It takes in areas such as Canyon Crescent, Squatters Row, Lobird, Hillcrest. Is my decorum not appropriate, Mr. Speaker? I can return the jacket if you wish.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Okay. Well, far be it for me to... Oh. The Speaker has returned. Far be it for me to upset the decorum here. I shall clad myself appropriately, put on the armour of righteousness, so to speak. I hope I didn't take the tone up the member previously spoke about. She spoke about boring. Well, the Member for Riverside spoke about being boring. I just thought I'd add a little excitement into otherwise pedestrian proceedings.
Anyhow, just in speaking a little bit about my riding, it is a very diverse riding both economically and socially, and I believe that the constituents in my riding will be relieved to see a budget that reflects a commitment to responsible and sustainable spending. I am pleased to be able to reassure my constituents that this budget is one that allows us to begin fulfilling our campaign promises without compromising the future of Yukon people.
The previous speaker did mention some of the initiatives that we have begun here, and I will address those later. But I think it is important to set the tone or set the setting of what the position was that we were in previously. Quite frankly, the previous government was running a rather exorbitant debt. We have accepted the fact that we are maintaining a sustainable surplus. We plan on having a bank account in the $15 million range, unlike the dangerously low surplus of only $7 million of the previous administration.
Incidentally, I was interested in the fact that, earlier in the day, we'd talked about the bank account and how much we were running it down. I just took an opportunity to go up and take a look at the Liberal electoral promises, and they came to $40 million, including a multi-level bridge and some new schools. So I guess my question would be, how would the Liberals have planned tp pay for this and still run an effective government? I think there are some questions there. That's right, they have the direct line to Paul Martin, so probably the money would have flowed. A tap would have turned on and the dollars would have flowed out in a continuous stream.
Let's take a look at where some of our O&M increases have come about this year. One of the key points in increasing the O&M expenditure this year was the $7.8 million, which was the phase 2 transfer. Now I should mention that this is an expenditure that we are making for existing health services, for which we are being compensated by the federal government. If you factor out the devolution of the federal health and the airport responsibilities - believe me, it wasn't done generously by the federal government, either - there has actually been a slight decrease in O&M budget: one-tenth of one percent, from the 1996-97 forecast.
Let's talk about the federal cuts. We've had a five-percent federal transfer payment cut, which translates to $20 million. People are going to say, "Well, other jurisdictions got 11." Well, that's true, but other jurisdictions have a larger tax base, they have more royalties, they have more diverse economies, so the hits here were particularly acute. I think we have to recognize that.
The fact is that not only are our federal Liberal counterparts cutting back on transfer payments, but we're also seeing an off-loading of services in significant areas to Yukon people including if I just might comment on some of my findings at recent meetings with my other provincial counterparts, substantial fiduciary responsibilities to First Nations in western Canada, including health services, have been cut.
Here, in the territory, we are being impacted by the curtailment of the Canada drug strategy. I know there's been a great deal of discussion around the question of Youth Empowerment and Success, but I think it's also important to mention that the Canada drug strategy is in place in other communities, and they are also going to be impacted. The New Horizons program, which provides funding for seniors and elders in communities, has been curtailed. We've seen that there will be a curtailment in the tobacco reduction program - a very, very substantial amount in this territory.
So, while my Liberal counterparts have been acquiescing to the federal agenda, I haven't seen anything come out in support, except a rather tepid response from the Leader of the Liberal Party. I haven't seen people coming out and condemning the federal government for some of their cutbacks. I haven't seen some of our Liberal aspirants for the federal seat come out. I haven't seen Mr. Gaber or Mr. Smith or Ms. Cabott come out and say, "Restore some of these things to the territory." I haven't seen them do that. I haven't seen anyone or heard of anyone picking up the telephone and calling Mr. Martin or Mr. Dingwall. I haven't seen that. So, where are they? You know, give Dave a ding. Thank you.
So, we've got this whole process where we've got Paul Martin doing his deficit cutting on the backs of Canadians who can least afford it. Now, incidentally, he's doing this while he's letting corporate Canada off the hook. This is the government that has kept the family trusts in place, Mr. Speaker. This is the federal government that claims to protect the poor, the weak, but yet are maintaining drug-patent protection. Drug-patent protection adds substantial costs to health care in this country, but the Liberals in the federal government are continuing on with this drug-patent protection, which keeps generics off the market and drives the cost of systems like ours up.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan:
Oh no, I'm just warming up. I'm just moving myself into the proper mode before I begin to get into the substance of my -
Basically, what I am saying is that I've seen a considerable amount of disappointment with the rather tepid response from our Liberal counterparts to some of this slashing and burning that their federal counterparts are doing, and I would hope that they would take a more pro-active approach to some of the things that are going on which have inflicted some real hardships on Yukon people.
I heard an interesting comment about the things that we're not doing, one of which was the Watson Lake administration building, and I find that fascinating. My colleague from Watson Lake got that in the press yesterday.
It may not be well known, but we have been working with the community of Watson Lake on this project for some substantial time.
We had originally begun discussions with them as to how we wanted to proceed with this project. They gave us an indication that they would prefer to move in a different direction. We have stepped back. They are pursuing an option right now which would see them doing a joint proposal with the Liard First Nation and perhaps us coming in as a partner or as a tenant, and we thought this was an excellent exercise in community building, so it's not a case of not doing anything in Watson Lake. We're trying to work creatively with the community and listen to the community about what they want. So, I think that was an interesting comment that I found.
Just a couple of things that were mentioned earlier on were such things as jobs. I think the key aspect in this territory has been to see how we can respond to the whole Anvil Range closure, and it's our government's position to respond to community needs in a timely fashion. We're trying to work with the Town of Faro; we're trying to work with the company involved to see what we can develop. We believe that the private sector solution is preferable to direct government assistance.
So, for example, there've been things where we feel we can work creatively, such as the mining trust fund, where we're trying to work creatively with the community and work with the company.
Some other areas that the Member for Riverside mentioned, the question of small business - I'm sorry, Riverdale South; I apologize - i
n terms of small business, one of the things that we have mentioned in the budget was our interest in developing a regulatory code of conduct. This is basically to see what kinds of things we can do to remove some of the impediments for small business. We believe that small business is a major engine of economic development in this territory and we're interested in trying to remove what impediments we can.
We are also interested in working with the business community, particularly the small business community, and seeing what we can do in terms of contract regulation to make the contracting process fairer and more equitable and more accessible to Yukon companies. Those are some things that we're doing in that regard.
I guess, having said that, I would just like to move on to some of the issues that have come up in this House and some things that we feel that are contained in the budget that we would like to address.
In terms of the Energy Commission, I think it's encumbent on people here in this territory to reduce our reliance on diesel, for a variety of reasons. Not only is it the cost - I mean, the cost is a major factor - but from an environmental point of view I think we need to take a look at seriously reducing the CO2 emissions. In terms of some of the direction that the Energy Commission will be doing, we are hoping that they are going to be exploring some policy options, including such things as geothermal, micro-hydro, and wind generation. We are hoping to get some good ideas coming out of the Energy Commission and some things that can help us to make sound environmental decisions and exploring some alternative energy options.
The DAP Commission, which we've heard a bit about, is actually the result of a legal obligation that this government has. We are legally obliged to find a solution to the whole development assessment process within a legislated time frame, and we believe that the DAP process is making important steps towards a one-window policy approach for assessing development. It's our hope that this will assist future developments, not only in the area of mining but in the area of forestry, et cetera, to proceed.
The Forestry Commission - I have made reference to my colleague from Watson Lake - was formed in response to local people's frustrations with a crisis largely created by the federal Liberal government and its inaction on the forestry issue.
Are we getting a thematic approach here? I wonder.
So the only federal action so far was to really permit some rather wasteful logging practices, so the Forestry Commission is a tool by which we can pursue a rational forestry policy, and I would like to commend my colleague from Watson Lake on the very sound work that he has done here. Only after a day or so in office, he responded very quickly to some local concerns and really did some outstanding actions, so I would like to note the Forestry Commission.
The Yukon Hire Commission, for which my colleague for Whitehorse Centre is responsible, has begun a series of public consultation with communities all over the territory, and these results, we believe, will have a positive impact. I am particularly interested in this because many of the areas overlap with my responsibility as Minister of Government Services, and I am hoping that there will be some positive ideas come forward that we can incorporate with some of the things we have been doing with Government Services in this regard.
I know the people in my riding are fairly concerned about their future. They want to be involved in making decisions which affect their futures and their children's futures. This government actually believes in listening to Yukon people speak out about issues that are important to them, and we believe in making opportunities for people to ask questions while decisions are being considered. And so, with this idea in mind, I have recently held a meeting with residents of my riding, particularly from the areas of MacRae, Canyon Crescent and along the Alaska Highway, to address some questions to representatives from BYG Resources. BYG, as many members will be aware, is looking at developing a major project near the Mount Sima area, in the old Whitehorse Copper area. So, we thought it was important that people have a sense of what's being planned. I think there were a number of people there who were pleased that the project has potential to create some long-term jobs in this area, not only in the construction area, but also in the long term aspect, and could create economic spinoffs for the local businesses. So, when we talk about creating jobs - the kind of permanent jobs - this is the kind of project we mean and the kind of project that we're interested in.
But, of course, it is necessary also to make sure that this is done in an environmentally sensitive way, and so part of that was to bring some of the residents of the area and the company together so that there could be questions answered and some ideas exchanged.
And, I think this kind of information night that we held at Mount Sima was a way that elected representatives can build some bridges - sorry, my colleague here from Klondike is no longer with us - some actual real bridges between business and the community, and the local residents were given an opportunity to make contact with company representatives and begin an ongoing dialogue, an on-going process.
I happen to believe that working together with community members, our government can make a difference. For example, people in Lobird and Arkell will be glad to know that this budget allows us to develop a comprehensive, affordable housing strategy to address some complex issues that affect mobile home residents, including questions of land tenure, zoning, mobile home improvement funding, health and safety regulations. Yukon Housing Corporation is working with the City of Whitehorse to finalize a cooperative strategy and it plans on the delivery of new services as early as this summer.
I believe in listening to my constituents. When people in my riding voice concerns about potential harm to the rock gardens because of the city's proposal, I conveyed the concerns to the city. I met with the city engineer to look at changing the proposal to preserve the natural and recreational areas of the rock gardens, and I am particularly pleased that this budget emphasizes the need for public consultation and participation on land use issues.
Similarly, along this, I was pleased to meet with the Hillcrest Community Association to discuss the whole question of the expansion of Hamilton Boulevard. It's my belief that this community has done a good job over the years to try and preserve the local nature of the Hillcrest neighbourhood, and I'll try to work with other neighbourhoods to try to preserve that distinctiveness of our communities.
It's often said that budgets may not be exciting. They're probably not the glamour aspects of legislation or the Legislative Assembly, but I believe that they do have a purpose - boring perhaps, or prosaic, as they may sometimes be. I think that this budget has a measured approach to development in my riding. I think we have a lot of potential, because it's a very fast growing area, but it has to be done at an appropriate pace.
We have to provide for an appropriate or adequate mix of types of housing, ensure that there are opportunities for a variety of families to live in new residential areas. We need to find some way to provide more affordable lots. This is a concern that I've heard voiced particularly of some of the areas up Copper Ridge: the question of lot price.
We need to look at an adequate mix of lots, different sizes, different types. We need to plan carefully for the infrastructure, such as parks and schools, to adequately meet, but not yet exceed, the demand for such services.
In the budget, for example, one of the issues that has been addressed is the question of the Elijah Smith Elementary School, which has been affected by grade reorganization. This government is working on the crowding situation and an expansion - we'll be adding four new classrooms this summer.
I've long advocated with the school community to try and keep a speed limit on Hamilton Boulevard. One of my concerns is the whole question of keeping children in that area safe. I think we have to develop such facilities as schools, parks, et cetera, in conjunction with the city, working cooperatively with them, to make sure the kinds of infrastructure we put in there are appropriate.
And I believe, quite frankly, that people in the riding will appreciate this budget, because for one thing, despite cuts to social services that are across this country, this budget allows us to maintain and even make some enhancements to social services with no increase in taxes - with no increase in taxes.
I have to admit that many of the neighbourhoods that I represent are fairly generally prosperous. However, there are people in my riding that I find will benefit from the Department of Health and Social Services' efforts to provide more services to the young children.
In my role as a minister, I've been working with the federal and provincial governments on the whole question of child poverty. I'll be making announcements soon about our participation in the national child benefit program. I expect that in April we will have a fairly functioning model of how this will work. We believe that this program will help many Yukon families, both those on social assistance and those on modest incomes, to provide their children with a better lifestyle.
But in addition - and I'd just like to sort of bring this forward for my colleague for Riverdale South - it will allow us to free up some money that we can target toward some more specific programs. Now in this budget we did bring in the rather colourfully named specs for tots program that my good friend from Faro identified. We prefer to think of it as the children's optical and pharmaceutical program. That's one way in which we can direct some efforts toward families that do really need some assistance.
I would hate to think of some child trying to go through school, struggling with school, because the family could not afford glasses for that child. Along with this, I've asked my colleague, the Minister of Education, to consider instituting a vision testing program in the schools in the fall that will help us identify children that do need this sort of service.
I guess if I do have a disappointment - and I hate to harp on this - with the national child benefit, it's the date of implementation. As I've said in this House, we have been trying to work on a cooperative federalism basis with the federal minister and I was very, very optimistic. I thought we were well on our way to realizing some of these options. I guess my disappointment is the fact that despite representations from the territories and the provinces, the federal government has chosen the date of July 1998 to implement this, but we are going to continue to push for an earlier implementation because we believe that if the federal government can move this date up, this national child benefit initiative will form the basis for future programming to alleviate child poverty.
So, in the meantime, we are going to be working to try and foster some healthy and safe communities by increasing our contribution to the health investment. As we've said, the $30,000 will be available for school councils to set up school nutrition programs. We did this in a very deliberate way. Rather than simply throw the money out, we have made it available through the health investment fund, with the idea that individual school councils can make some decisions as to the kind of nutrition programs they want. For example, some schools may choose to go with a lunch program, others may choose breakfast programs. I have also heard from some school councils that they feel that one of the needs is for snacks for kindergarten children, particularly in some schools where the socio-economic base is a bit lower. So what we've done is we're going to put it out in the hands of school councils, so that they can make some decisions in this regard. We're also encouraging them to seek other partners - parent volunteer groups, et cetera.
We would hope that this would form the basis of some good school nutrition programs and help us maybe expand this in the future, hopefully, when we get some of the federal dollars released, because I really do believe, as a former educator, that there is a very serious link between the whole question of nutrition, learning and poverty, and statistics bear this out. We will be relying on our school councils - people who know their communities and know the needs in their schools - to help us deliver this.
We're also trying to address some of the problems of children in our communities from the kids-at-risk strategy. There's a collaborative effort aimed at early intervention, trying to identify young children at risk of becoming permanent recipients of costly social services. This program will focus on children from the prenatal to six years of age. And I'll be providing more details on that program in the days to come.
Through the current health and social services support of local non-governmental organizations, some important programs are being delivered. Yukon Family Services has been offering such things as postpartum counselling to help new parents manage stress and deal with the inevitable changes in lifestyle. Some of the early intervention work by the Child Development Centre helps children in the years prior to going to school. We believe that programs like this strengthen the network of support for local families.
We all have a responsibility to address probably one of the worst scourges of children up here, and that is the scourge of FAS/FAE in the communities. I've recently asked our Health and Social Services Council, which is an advisory body to the minister, to seek input from different sectors, including justice, education and employment, about the cumulative effects of FAS/FAE in our society.
I think, unfortunately, up to now we've tended to think of FAS/FAE solely in educational terms as being an issue which only addresses children in school. In reality, I think we're moving toward a point where we have a number of young adults afflicted by FAS/FAE coming into the justice system, who will be continually over-represented in the justice system. There's some serious employment issues surrounding young adults with FAS/FAE, so I think we have to take a look at a more concerted approach in that regard.
We've developed an FAS/FAE kit for schools, which is providing training for prevention consultants, and we've set up a community-based ad hoc committee to provide some leadership. We have some further work in this area to address both the needs of FAS/FAE.
I just recently received a report on some suggested strategies, which I think we'll be incorporating into some of our future work.
I've already spoken about the question of the rather colourfully named specs for tots, so I won't beleaguer that any more. But I really do believe that one of the ways that we can address alleviating child poverty is through ongoing, supportive child care programs. We do have increases in demands for child care subsidies, which have increased our day care expenditures. We are committed to maintaining our support for day care services, despite the increased volume, even in an area where funding for social services has been cut nation wide.
So this budget, I think, is designed to promote sustainable spending levels rather than irresponsible spending levels, which might have a long-term detrimental effect. As we talk about sustainable, I think one of the things that we have expressed our commitment to has been our commitment to stable sustainable funding for non-governmental organizations, which are providing services on behalf of this government. And despite recent media reports, Health and Social Services has maintained the funding for NGOs and, in some cases, there have been modest increases. So we have been able to maintain that and, quite frankly, I was a little bewildered when I saw that some NGOs were saying that they were being cut. But who knows what the vagaries of the media will do.
Our goal, basically, in working with NGOs is designed to formulate a partnership with NGOs, and we're looking at trying to develop a method for stable and ongoing funding which would cover a three-year term. While it doesn't necessarily mean increases in funding, it will allow some security for people delivering programs, and this new model would allow for long-term planning. The theme that I've heard over and over again from all NGOs is that they have an effective life of about nine months when they can actually do the programs.
In the next three months, they're busy trying to plan for the forthcoming year. So our goal was to try and provide them a little more security and allow them to use their time in a more effective way. It'll also do such things as reduce the time that it takes to prepare funding applications and not have to go through some of the gymnastics about trying to project into the future whether they'll make it with this particular component of their program or not.
We have drafted a paper which will soon be available as a basis for consultation with the partner NGOs, and I hope to be getting together with the NGOs in the near future to sort of discuss some of their ideas and how this could be delivered.
Together with one local agency, the department is negotiating the administration of a transient shelter in Whitehorse, fulfilling a campaign promise. We hope that the transient shelter can be a community-directed project involving volunteers, the labour community, local businesses and input from a number of government departments, including the Yukon Housing Corporation, on which I have to commend my colleague, the Minister for Yukon Housing. His staff have really provided some good service in trying to locate facilities. As well, I would be remiss if I didn't commend my own realty services from Government Services, who have really spent a tremendous amount of time assessing properties and trying to locate properties.
Speaker: Order please. I would ask the Minister to wrap up his remarks in the next two minutes.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Good heavens, Mr. Speaker. I was just getting to the good part.
Perhaps I could just touch on some highlights. I see the Member for Riverside is relieved, as he knows I'm moving towards the point where I may actually criticize the Liberals.
There are a couple of commitments I would like to mention with regards to our commitment to invest in youth. One of the programs we're beginning is the northern recreational leadership program, which is going to be co-sponsored by Health and Social Services, Justice, Education and the RCMP, trying to provide some meaningful recreational experiences. This was developed under Creating Safer Communities.
Some of the programs that we will be beginning under the youth works project, we're hoping will perhaps provide some access to federal funding. I will not take another run at Mr. Dingwall at this point yet, but we have been somewhat distressed by the curtailment of the federal drug strategy.
I guess, after talking about youth and children, I should talk about our seniors.
Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. I've been given a reprieve. My friends opposite will be relieved to know that the Speaker has given me seven minutes rather than the rather truncated two.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It's bad enough that I have to endure the jibes of my own colleagues here on the length of my speeches.
I would like to address some of the concerns of some of our seniors, because a substantial number of Yukoners are staying on in the territory. As this happens, some of our health priorities will change. We will be addressing such things as the need to activate more beds at the Thomson Centre. We hope to do that by June: bring on another seven beds.
We have allocated funds for upgrading Mcdonald Lodge in Dawson. This department is continuing support for the Signpost Seniors in Watson Lake, and over the term of our mandate, we hope to take a look at the long-term needs of seniors and changes that would be required as our population ages. Because, as the member has so clearly noted, we are all getting older, and perhaps we're getting older as the speech goes on in the afternoon.
Did I begin this on Wednesday?
By the way, I would like to just say something about an event which is going to occur on Tuesday, and that's going to be the phase 2 transfer of health, which will see the transfer of the remaining health services from the federal government to the territory.
This has been 27 years in the making and we're about to bring it to a fruition on Tuesday, and I'm hoping that our counterparts and our partners from the First Nations will be joining us that day, because this was a process where we did follow the idea of working on a government-to-government basis with our First Nation partners and we were able to achieve the phase 2 transfer with their help.
We believe that this is going to provide a way to deliver health service in a more responsive and appropriate way for each community. And, just on that note, last week the First Nations' health transfer conference took place at CYFN and this will form the basis for future community consultations.
Part of our aspect on working with First Nations will be an upcoming traditional medicine conference, which is co-sponsored by the Department of Health and CYFN.
Last year, and I'll try to get this in for the Member for Riverdale South, the department consulted with the public and all Yukon communities and listened as people identified local priorities.
One expressed need was an active midwifery program. Our department is currently reviewing midwifery legislation in other jurisdictions as a step toward developing a proposal based on Yukon needs and visions.
We respect the long-standing tradition of midwifery and home births, which have been part of the Yukon history, and look forward to input from all who are concerned. So, as that legislation on midwifery comes forward, we will be meeting with the groups that gave us representation and trying to formulate our own legislation in that regard.
I fear my time may be... two minutes. My heavens, Mr. Speaker, these two minutes just go on and on. This will allow me yet a few more pages. I'm just warming up now.
Our government is committed to delivering and creating some employment opportunities, and as I've said before, we're trying to remove some of the impediments to small local business. We are working to recognize the entrepreneurial spirit of many Yukoners by trying to establish a regulatory code of conduct. We hope to have something in place for the fall. Together with our colleagues on the Yukon Hire Commission, we're working to revise contract regulations and maximize Yukon content. We're also looking at trying to work on some ways to tighten up the contract administration process. We believe in the importance of accountability and having contracts completed on time and on budget, and we recognize the importance of solid and trusting relationships with local businesses. We value the work done by local contractors, and we hope to strengthen trust on both sides of the contract process.
We've learned some positive, valuable lessons, I think, from the business community, and we're applying them to the creation of the special operating agencies within government. The latest to be created will be Queen's Printer, and we believe the Queen's Printer will improve its efficiency by adding networking capabilities. We're also committed to working with other departments in the Yukon. We've been working with the Vuntut Gwitchin and the Department of Education to manage the effects of the school crisis in Old Crow. The provision of temporary classrooms and the clean-up of the burn site have been fully cooperative ventures with the Vuntut Gwitchin.
This government has promised to be efficient and accountable. The Department of Government Services will be implementing a new computer system, HRIS, the human resource information system, to make delivery of services somewhat more effective. This will include government payroll activities, including time recording benefits, et cetera. We hope to have this - at least some aspects of this - in place by April 1. Some other components will become available in May.
Another computer system that will be allowing government to be more accessible is the land interest management system. This will allow a one-window approach for the public in all land-related programs operated by the Yukon and federal governments.
And as I move toward the culmination here, this budget reflects the government's commitment to put people in the forefront. We are focused on the efficient and economic delivery of services to Yukon people. We hope to improve our property management system and careful management of energy use in public buildings. We've committed $135,000 toward the retrofits which will increase energy conservation.
The main goals of our energy plan are to reduce fuel costs, reduce fuel emissions and use local fuels whenever possible.
So, Government Services will be reviewing issues around buildings and design standards for buildings as well. We want to ensure that Yukoners can gather in environments that are safe, that meet our needs and reflect our cultural diversity.
Our mandate in Government Services has been to develop effective and economical ways to deliver services to other departments.
Speaker: Order. Minister of Health and Social Services, I regret that your time is up. I regret that I misinformed you about the times earlier, but we've got that straight.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That's fine, Mr. Speaker. I will save some of my pithier comments until a later date. Thank you.
Mr. Hardy: I rise to support the budget our government has brought forth. This is a budget which amply demonstrates how it is indeed possible to address the critical issues of our territory and spend responsibly, without slashing social programs, without overburdening working Yukoners or targeting the poor, whether through taxes or cutbacks, without exploiting the environment for short-term gain.
This budget reflects a different approach and a different philosophy. Each party in here would approach forming a budget in a different manner. The previous government approached their budgets, I believe, from a very conservative philosophy - even though they were not necessarily called Conservatives, I felt it was quite conservative. Often, that philosophy is greed is good; more for the better; getting more is better for a few.
The Liberals also share partly in that philosophy. They also believe that greed is good, except they like their little people. They like the poor. Even the Prime Minister happens to have a homeless pet he talks to on the way to work, I hear. He stops and acknowledges him, gives him a pat on the shoulder and tells him, "Gee, that's tough, being homeless. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and I'll see you later, maybe on the way home." Often, they try to do both sides. It's a very difficult balancing act, because like so many of the more conservative parties, such as the Reform, they are usually director-controlled by multinationals, big business and banks.
The socialist approach is slightly different. Actually, it is quite radically different. It is nice to know in some parts of this country it's accepted, as in the Yukon. This government is different and how we approach the budget is quite a bit different. We are the poor. We are the workers. We are the operating engineer in a riding up in Porter Creek somewhere. We are the small business owners with a social conscience. We are people trying to get by without the advantage of friends in high places. We believe in protection of the environment, often over immediate profits. We believe in slowing down development to ensure that the environment will be there for generations to come.
This budget reflects this. The Faro mine, once again, is subject to the whims of big business and global marketplaces, but Faro mine is not a business for the people that live up there. Faro is a home, and the people that make Faro a home don't want to leave. They don't want to be journey people, wandering from job to job all their life, hoping they're going to find something that lasts three or five years. They've made their stake there - many of them for decades - and they've seen them come and go. I worked in Faro during what can be considered a huge boom in the Yukon: the 1979-80-81 period. And it was. There were more jobs than we, in the Yukon, could supply, and many, many people came from outside. It was a wonderful time, because working people got paid a decent salary, because we were in demand and there wasn't an artificial or a created unemployment level to make sure the wages don't rise, as some political parties believe has to happen to ensure that there's a fair marketplace for labour.
My heart goes out for those people in Faro once again, because I got to know that area. I got to know a lot of the people up there, and the tremendous strength that they have. Our government responded very fast to the crisis of a shutdown once again, and we immediately put in place a person who will assist these people and who has been assisting these people, and from my understanding talking to people from Faro, has done a wonderful job in their transition from employment to once again unemployment to once again maybe not even being able to collect unemployment, but no future - but people with a belief that that is their home and they are not going to give up.
We've taken a pro-active approach, and I applaud this government and I applaud the minister responsible for that immediate response to the needs of the people of the Yukon. It's no fault of the people in Faro. They didn't bring this on themselves. Once again, we talk about the global marketplace and how we all have to get on board. We all have to jump on board and buy into it, because it's going to create prosperity. NAFTA. Free trade.
Well, that type of economics, those type of deals, has crippled this country and this budget demonstrates that there is another way, and this government believes in another way.
The problems facing our youth today - and I'd like to read a few statistics about youth and employment. Many of my constituents in my riding are young, looking for jobs, and my riding happens to be, of course, right downtown, except the downtown core. If they're not living there a lot of them are coming there every day looking for employment, walking the streets, wondering what kind of future they're going to have.
In 1995, fully 45 percent of young, working Canadians, mostly women, were in part-time jobs. This compares to 23.6 percent, just 15 years earlier, Mr. Speaker - phenomenal change.
The part-time options may work as a short-term solution, but not for long. Most of these are Mcjobs that offer low pay, low skill development and is unlikely to lead to a future career - dead end.
Average earnings for Canadian youth are low and getting lower, compared to other workers. The real earnings of workers over 50 years of age have increased by about 31 percent over the past 25 years, while wages paid to young Canadians have hardly changed - 25 years and they have hardly changed.
The education option is the best solution for young people, and in fact, many young Canadians are pursuing higher education and I'm going to tell you why it's their best option, and why this budget works towards addressing those concerns.
Education pays off in high employment rates for young workers. Youth who do not finish high school pay the price.
In 1995, the unemployment rate among 15 to 24 year olds who had not finished high school was 22.1 percent. The rate for those with university degrees was 9.6 percent. Young people who do not complete high school do not do any better as they age, but university graduates saw their unemployment rate continue to drop.
Some people say, well we shouldn't always just invest in education, just get them a job and get them out there. Those statistics, I believe, prove that education does have an extreme value, long term, for this country and for the people. We have begun to address those in this budget. Education is not being cut. Our education minister committed to ensuring that there is opportunity for Yukon youth. As well, there is a youth program - youth works - which is going to go a long ways toward helping the youth set some priorities themselves and directions, and that is a strong commitment by this government, and I am very proud to be part of that kind of commitment. The PSC has committed $250,000 to provide opportunities for training, direct training, that will benefit young people and others.
Despite the fact that this government has far less to play with in its budget than the previous government, given the way they squandered opportunities by spending outside and given the increase in federal cutbacks and downloading or replacing, we have done what I believe is a good job of keeping our commitments to Yukoners.
We introduced some important initiatives, and it seems like one of them has caused a lot of anxiety and stress, and I hope it doesn't go any farther, because I'd hate to see serious illness out of this, but it is the commissions. Now, what can somebody be so scared of? What causes such fear in a person, because backbenchers are involved and responsible? Why would somebody be so scared of it? I think it is a wonderful initiative, and it gives us all an opportunity to work to make Yukon a better place. In energy, a major problem has been addressed by a very competent person. In forestry, I call it a crisis in the industry, when we came in, and what was the other party going to do? What was the previous government going to do? Send in a PR man from the United States to address the crisis in our forest industry.
Wonderful, another brilliant, brilliant idea. What have we done? We've put somebody in charge to work, to find resolution, to bring the parties together and to move forward.
Ah, the DAP process, my favourite. It's probably going to have the biggest impact in the territory in the long term than any other. It takes a lot of work and dedication to try to get it right the first time. Do we want to just kind of let it float along from department to department, maybe sometimes talk to the federal Liberals - sometimes they want to play ball with us and sometimes they don't. Do we want to sometimes include the First Nations, sometimes not, depending on our whim? Do we want to actually talk to the people of the Yukon? Do we want to go into communities? It's never been done before, something like this. I am very proud that the commissioner leading it up has taken that initiative and is going out to the communities, talking to the players, talking to the people that will be affected long term.
It's very interesting that people in the communities like to be talked with. It's been years since they've been talked to.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Four years? Has it been four? Yeah, I believe it. In some cases they didn't know what a minister was or what an MLA was. They hadn't seen one in four years. They're responding to it. They're excited. They're part of the process once again.
In this budget we've demonstrated that the Yukon people share in the direction that this government will go in.
Yukon hire is the commission I'm looking after. It's an important part of this government's commitment. We're committed to spending more intelligently. We are committed to ensuring that Yukoners benefit from the fair share of government spending.
We don't want to see another mess like the hospital. The hospital and other examples bring issues forward in a big way. During the election, almost every door we went to we heard about job opportunities, being able to bid on jobs, being able to work on jobs.
The hospital seemed to be a catalyst for that. We remember very clearly the denial of two very prominent, proven companies to bid on that project and the investigation in the Combines Act because of some, what they considered unethical, price fixing. It was considered a boondoggle, the whole project. And what's the employment rate on that, for local people? Fifty-five, 60 percent. And why is that? Because there actually are some unions on there that do local hire first. Where there aren't, it drops down to about 15 or 20-percent local hire. Thirty two million dollars, and people not working in the territory.
And there are other examples: north highway construction - an opportunity to get local people working up there, but in most cases the communities haven't benefited. Something that has to be looked at, something that has to be addressed, and that's what this local hire commission is about.
We've heard from a lot of people out there. We've heard from working people, from unions - and don't cringe when you hear the word "union" over there. I know it's difficult for you - and we've heard from businesses, and we've heard from contractors, and the unemployed - as my colleague says, many of them - from the rural communities, from the First Nations. We've had a wonderful response, and they want to be part of this, and they believe there are solutions, that there's a better way of doing it.
I see the member opposite is kind of hung up on B.C. Alberta used to be the favourite hiring place, but I guess now they're mad their friends aren't here.
Old Crow - there's a wonderful example of the government's response to a crisis. Apprenticeship programs will be made available. We're looking at different types of training to ensure communities' needs are met where our apprenticeship programs do not fit in. We're looking at ensuring that maximum employment will happen for that community on that project, and that takes planning, but it's worthwhile in the end. The community sure believes so, and they're willing to make a commitment to that. And I think we'll find out that on April 1st.
Community development fund, there has been criticism about it. Generally, the criticism comes from lack of understanding, fear of the unknown.
This is a program that has been around before and many communities benefited from it, including Dawson City, and they've asked for it back.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
The member opposite doesn't seem to like it and maybe he should go back to his community and tell them that he disapproves of any application towards the CDF. I'm sure he'll get a very interesting message back. That's what it's all about: politics.
My riding is made up of a fair amount of poor and a lot of people needing assistance. In the riding there was a place called St. Joseph's, and it was condemned. Maryhouse couldn't carry it any longer; it was a very difficult period.
This government stepped in, and through the assistance and help of another constituent in that riding who believes very strongly in helping the poor, helping the destitute, she has made her establishment available to assist during this transition while we find another place to have a shelter such as St. Joseph's. I'd like to take my hat off to her. It takes a lot to step forward and offer your establishment at rates that are affordable for the government that allow people to live in some dignity when they don't have a place to stay that night.
We're working for that shelter and this is at a time when governments across Canada, and the federal government itself, are withdrawing services from the poor and the underprivileged at an alarming rate. I'm very, very pleased that our government has made that commitment to those people.
I'll give some figures: in 1994, 247 men went through the shelter for 769 nights; women and children, 103, for 343 nights, in Whitehorse - this is during boom times, by the way, with the previous regime; of course we had boom times with them - 1995, 352, for 1,205 nights - that's a huge increase, a 30 percent increase - 91 women and children for 255 nights in the shelter; 1996, 293, for 1,068 nights; for women, 68, for 142 nights - that was May 1996, when the shelter was closed; that's why those figures did drop, but they were seeing a huge increase.
The Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre, we made a commitment to them.
The previous government wouldn't do it. They started a process, and then they pulled out. That was never fully explained. Maybe they didn't think they would vote for them - I don't know.
We are very close to accomplishing that goal so this valuable organization can focus all its energies in serving our community instead of worrying about how to continue to meet ever-increasing demands placed on it, while operating out of cramped and inadequate quarters. It will be a wonderful day when they move into their new home that they so deservingly need.
Stable funding for NGOs - another solid commitment that we are living up to - Kaushee's and other shelters. I remember what happened a couple of years ago - the attack on Kaushee's Place, the attempt to destroy that shelter for women and children. Throw them back on the streets. Take it over. A caring government previous? I don't think so. For the other NGOs, stabilized funding so they can actually plan a little farther in advance instead of always worrying about whether they are going to have some kind of funding to get them through the next year or the next month or the next three months, depending on the conditions that the government places on them. They will actually be able to plan what really matters most, and that's helping and assisting people - assistance to children of lower incomes.
We are seeing a huge increase in child poverty across Canada, and it is here, too. This budget begins to address some of that. Eye care, prescription drugs, hot lunch programs all help a little bit for people in need. And, of course, restoring collective bargaining - scary thought, isn't it? You might actually have to talk to some people, negotiate, disagree, but in the end, resolve your differences, sign an agreement for however long a period of time, and live by that agreement, and live up to it, and not cancel it, not change it, not override it, but actually honour it. This government is committed to that and has demonstrated that already.
I'm just about finished here. I won't go on much longer.
The riding I represent has kind of an interesting situation. It's an urban riding. There are a few parks down there, and that's it. I don't represent the vast wilderness, the beautiful landscapes outside of Whitehorse. Mine is streets, houses - a lot of them impoverished - people live down there.
One of the biggest issues I have encountered over the last few months in talking to my constituents is their sense of love and respect and desire for the protection of the environmental spaces that surround them. Often, maybe because they don't live directly in the rural settings, they have a greater appreciation for it. That happened to me. I lived out in a rural setting and took it for granted after a while; it was the same drive every day and the same view. It was beautiful, but after a while I didn't see it as well. Since I've moved into town, it means a lot to me to be able to go out and walk in pristine wilderness and to paddle down clear lakes and rivers.
This government is committed to the environment, just as its committed to working people. There is a balance that can be reached. I believe this budget is a demonstration of a balanced, well-thought-out budget that deals with the residue of problems from the previous government and moves us into another world that's better for all Yukoners.
Mr. Jenkins: I move that debate be now adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Klondike that debate be now adjourned.
Speaker: I'll call the question.
The nays have it.
Just for the Chair to get a sense of direction here, I'm going to call for a vote again on this. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Motion to adjourn debate on Bill No. 4 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 1, 1997.
The House adjourned at 5:18 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled March 27, 1997:
Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Yukon on the 1996 general election (Speaker Livingston)
Yukon curriculum review on gender bias: final report (dated 1996) (Moorcroft)
Yukon Heritage Resources Board 1995-96 Annual Report (Keenan)
The following Legislative Return was tabled March 27, 1997:
Rate relief program: explanation of rate relief for 1996 and 1997 (Harding)
Oral, Hansard, p. 150