Tuesday, April 1, 1997 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Tribute to Margaret McCullough
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I rise today to ask all members of the House to join me in paying tribute to Margaret McCullough upon her retirement from the Yukon Human Rights Commission after an extremely distinguished career.
Margaret has devoted more than a decade to this commission, beginning as a researcher before the commission was even formally established. After its inception in 1987, Margaret became a human rights officer, before taking over as executive director in 1992.
She was born in Scotland and moved to Canada in the mid-1950s, arriving in the Yukon in 1974. I understand she plans to remain in the territory to enjoy her retirement here. We will make sure that she does enjoy her retirement here.
Margaret has had a lifelong dedication to human rights issues and contributed much of her time to groups working toward equality. She has friends on both sides of the House throughout Whitehorse and in every Yukon community.
Work at bettering the lives of all Yukoners is appreciated and will continue to be recognized for years to come.
Mr. Speaker, Margaret, whose life is infinitely more interesting and compelling than I have been able to give her credit for in this brief tribute, joins us today in the gallery.
Mr. Phillips: I, too, would like to join with the Government Leader in congratulating Margaret for her many hard years working for the Human Rights Commission and for fighting for human rights causes long before she became involved with the commission. I know the commission is going to miss the work that Margaret does over there.
I am a little more fortunate than many of the members in this House because not only is Margaret a constituent of mine, but Margaret is also a good friend of mine and my partner Dale's, and we've spent many enjoyable hours with Margaret.
I'm extremely pleased to see that she's going to retire here in the Yukon. We look forward to spending some more wonderful days out at the lake with Margaret discussing human rights issues as they come up, because I'm sure she won't just drop them after leaving the commission, and we look forward to spending some wonderful times with her there.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And again, Margaret, congratulations on a job well done and good luck in your retirement.
Mr. Cable: I was particularly pleased when Margaret took over as the executive director of the Human Rights Commission. She is one of those people with a clear philosophical view of the world and a clear attachment to the betterment of the underdog in society, and I am sure her efforts in this area won't stop with her retirement. I have to say that Margaret, in my view, handled an extremely dificult job with aplomb. She dealt with lawyers and politicians and interest groups, and I hope that her successor is cut from the same mold.
Speaker: Are there other tributes?
Introduction of visitors?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce today, in the gallery, Grand Chief Shirley Adamson and three of the individuals who were instrumental in bringing about today - today being the transfer of phase 2 of federal health programs to the territory - and I'd like to introduce in the gallery, along with Chief Adamson, Brian Harrington, Cheryl McLean and Lu Tizya. So, I do ask the House to acknowledge their presence.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Health transfer (phase 2)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to ask my colleagues in this House to join me in celebrating the addition of five new health programs to the services provided by the Department of Health and Social Services.
This is a historic day, Mr. Speaker. As of midnight, the Yukon government assumed responsibility for outstanding Yukon health programs after 43 years of federal government control and delivery, and some 27 years since transfer negotiations first began. These programs include environmental health, community health programs, dental health, mental health and the communicable disease unit, as well as the finance and administration personnel who support these program units.
I am very pleased to say that 94 percent of the Yukon people formerly employed by the federal health department have accepted offers of employment with the Department of Health and Social Services. They will continue under the direction of the Yukon government to provide health services to the residents of the Yukon today.
I would like to acknowledge and welcome these employees to our department. This is indeed a day of celebration. It marks full Yukon control of the Yukon's universal health programs.
It is also historic that the Council of Yukon First Nations and its members, the Liard First Nation, the Kaska Dena Tribal Council and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation have endorsed this transfer.
As I mentioned before, I would like to acknowledge the presence in the visitors gallery of the Council of Yukon First Nations' Grand Chief Adamson and representatives of her staff. These individuals were instrumental in working towards this transfer with us. Together with these First Nations governments, we move forward into a new era of health care provision in the Yukon. We do this in partnership with the First Nations, with Yukon communities, and everyone involved in providing and receiving health services.
With the memorandums of understanding signed by CYFN and the First Nations and this government's commitment to public participation and consultation, we can be assured that the community, as a whole, will now be involved in health service programs that this will ensure quality universal health care.
The agreements negotiated with CYFN and First Nations will ensure that the Yukon's First Nation population has a strong role and a voice in health care delivery. These agreements recognize the role that the First Nations governments must play in designing and delivering health care in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon government will receive $7.5 million annually to run the health programs. We're also receiving a one-time capital contribution of $4 million from the federal government. We will not be receiving new funds for programming in this transfer, and I caution Yukon residents that any enhancements to health programming will have to be made as a result of increased efficiencies within existing programs. However, having these programs under direct Yukon control means that it may be possible to make significant improvements in service delivery, now that we can control program direction.
I would like to assure my colleagues, Mr. Speaker, and the residents of the Yukon that there will be no immediate changes to any of the programs currently being provided. As part of this government's commitment with CYFN and the First Nations, and as part of our commitment during last fall's election, governments, communities, professionals and recipients will be involved in planning future community health services. Over the next year, community health planning and discussions will occur in each Yukon community.
Mr. Speaker, we've waited a long time for this day. Many people worked extremely hard to ensure that it happened. They deserve our thanks. They include Yukon First Nations governments, federal and territorial governmental officials and the people of the Yukon who have supported this transfer.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I am very pleased to be able to join the Minister of Health and Social Services in celebrating full Yukon control of our universal health programs. After 43 years of federal control and years since federal negotiations first began, assuming local control is indeed reason for celebration.
This control could not have been reached without the dedication and hard work of many, many people. I'd like to acknowledge the work done by the previous Minister of Health and Social Services, Mr. Phelps, for his work in reaching the landmark agreement between the Yukon government, the Government of Canada, CYI, which returned the Whitehorse General Hospital to the control of Yukon people.
I also applaud those who worked so diligently on behalf of the Council of First Nations, the Yukon First Nations themselves and the federal government. It is because of their dedication and diligence that their cultures and traditions have been protected and enshrined in Yukon health care.
Thanks must also go to those hospital employees for their patience and ability to hang in there throughout this time of uncertainty and change.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that today we have taken on responsibility of the phase 2 health transfer. It is my hope that with control of programs closer to home, there will be more input into the practical, day-to-day operations of environmental health, community health programs, dental health, mental health and the communicable disease unit.
A vital part of taking control of these programs in the public eye is to educate the public on the way these programs should or could be delivered in all Yukon communities. Now that we have taken control of environmental health, will the average Yukoner know who to call in order to report an oil spill, for example, on one of our pristine lakes? Will municipalities be aware of who is responsible for the clean-up of toxic spills and how to get the process started immediately if it is an emergency?
Now that we have control of community health programs, I hope we can rest assured that health professionals in all communities will have adequate representation from the union of their choice. Now that these same health professionals in the communities have had some input into their job reclassifications, they will have some measure of trust in the territorial government's ability to recognize what they do on a day-to-day basis.
Now that we can have control of dental health, we can hopefully fill some of the cracks that children have been falling through in the children's dental program. Perhaps we can make this system more efficient so that dental hygienists spend more time treating patients instead of doing paperwork.
Now that we have control of mental health, perhaps we can spend some time examining the support for families of mental health patients. Now that we have control of mental health, perhaps we can spend some time reviewing the Mental Health Act and looking at options for high-risk mental health patients in the community.
Now that we have control of the communicable disease unit, we can truly examine whether this service is being delivered practically in all Yukon communities.
This should be a day of celebration. This should be a day where we begin a process. Yukon health services will have to be delivered in a flexible way so that we can recognize the fact that all things in the world change. Yukon health services will have to be delivered in a practical way so that the people actually delivering the service can have some control in the day-to-day operations of their health service area, and Yukon health services will have to be delivered in such a way that we recognize and celebrate our differences in each Yukon community. This is our opportunity as Yukoners to work together with First Nations and to recognize the authority that Yukon First Nations have over First Nations' health care services.
Mr. Speaker, this is our challenge.
Speaker: I recognize the minister responsible for Yukon Energy Corporation.
Yukon Energy Corporation operating agreement
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, over the last two years the Yukon Development Corporation has been working to negotiate a new arrangement with Alberta Power Ltd. and its subsidiary, the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. I am pleased to report to the Legislature that an agreement has been achieved that provides clear direction for the publicly owned Yukon Energy Corporation.
Today I am announcing that the Yukon government is supporting the board of directors of the Yukon Energy Corporation in authorizing an agreement in principle between the Yukon Energy Corporation and Alberta Power Ltd. and its subsidiary, the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd.
The agreement is for the operation and maintenance of the generation and transmission assets owned by the people of the Yukon through the Yukon Development Corporation. This is a five-year contract that will run from January 1, 1998 to December 31, 2002. The new agreement will be consistent with our government's position of maintaining control and ownership of the Yukon's public utility.
The Yukon Energy Corporation will now assume all management, planning and control functions, including system planning, water licensing and large capital projects that are currently part of the existing management agreement, which is set to terminate on December 31st of this year.
The agreement will change the relationship with the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. to an operational, rather than a management arrangement. This is consistent with our government's position that Yukon Energy Corporation should be owned and controlled by the Yukon public and a solid asset base should be maintained.
The new agreement represents another important stepping stone toward full self-management of Yukon's energy supply system, since the utility was transferred from NCPC to the Yukon government in 1987. If it becomes necessary, this agreement will put the Yukon Energy Corporation in a position to assume full operation of its assets at the conclusion of the five-year term.
The new agreement was made with the best interests of ratepayers in mind, and represents substantial savings for Yukon ratepayers. Starting next year, when the agreement comes into effect, the board estimates it will save customers $2 million over five years and allow greater disclosure of information and accountability through the Yukon Utilities Board. This has been an issue of major concern to Yukon people.
The new agreement will give the publicly owned Yukon Energy Corporation the opportunity to focus on its key mandates: the core business of electrical power generation and transmission and services to industrial customers. It leaves residential and commercial distribution to the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. The Yukon government is prepared to enter into discussions or negotiations with the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. to provide it with legal certainty respecting its distribution service areas.
The new agreement will also contribute to additional public investment in new energy infrastructure and initiatives.
The government has embraced the Yukon Energy Corporation's board of directors' firm recommendation to reinvest the estimated $4 million to be received from the sale of certain distribution assets and new energy infrastructure initiatives, as determined by the corporation. We expect to see the aggressive pursuit of investigating options, such as grid line extensions or substation improvements. These actions will ensure that the asset base of the public utility will not change. This rationalization represents a move away from distribution, considering that Yukon Energy Corporation has less than 10 percent of electrical customers and may now focus on generation and transmission, bearing in mind that it has 95 percent of generation. It also allows Yukon Energy Corporation to invest strategically in assets related to its core activities and to move away from diesel use and reduce the pressure on Aishihik Lake.
A key feature of the deal is a buy-back option, at book value, for the distribution assets. It allows a future board or government to re-evaluate the agreement in five years to determine if the sale of distribution assets has been a satisfactory arrangement.
For the deal to come into effect, the new operating agreement must be drafted by April 30. It must respect the provisions of Yukon First Nation final agreements, and this is a condition of acceptance by the Yukon government.
I would like to advise the House that since the primary responsibility for the contract negotiations rested with the Yukon Energy Corporation and Alberta Power, representatives of these parties will release separate announcements on the agreement in principle.
In closing, it is this government's view that the new operating agreement is a major step toward full self-management of the Yukon's electrical utility. It will contribute to medium and long-term stability in electrical rates, and it will support important new investments in developing our energy infrastructure.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, this is indeed a very sad day for Yukon ratepayers and Yukoners in general. In this Legislature last Thursday, the minister of energy stood up, and I quote from page 355 of the Blues. "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."
Mr. Speaker, the minister misled this Legislature.
Speaker: Order. The speaker should not be implying that the minister has misled the House.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, call it what you like, but the fact remains, he made that statement on Thursday. Today he's made a ministerial statement where they are divesting themselves of $4 million -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Order. On the point of order, the Minister of Economic Development.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the Opposition Leader has just stated that I misled the Legislature. I would submit to the Speaker that that is clearly unparliamentary, and I would ask you to rule it as such.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I was just laying out why I believed he had.
Speaker: Under Rules of Debate, chapter 3 in the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, section 19(1)(i), it is prohibited, a member shall be called to order if a member charges another member with uttering a deliberate falsehood. So I must direct the member to withdraw that remark.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I will abide by your order and I will withdraw that remark, and I will go on public record by saying the minister has made two different statements: one on Thursday and one in his ministerial statement today, where in fact he is going to divest $4 million of the asset base of the Yukon Energy Corporation.
Mr. Speaker, I believe this minister should resign because he has just proven his incompetence in protecting Yukon's interest in some very tough and delicate negotiations.
Mr. Speaker, I want to table a letter that I received from the now Government Leader on August 8th of 1996, and I am going to quote a few clauses from that letter to show that this government has made a total about-face from what they were telling the Yukon public prior to the election and what they are doing now. I do not believe they have a mandate, a better way - all right, it's a pretty sorry way - and Yukoners are just finding that out.
Mr. Speaker, the minister chastised me for not making a decision on this issue prior to the election, yet his leader asked me not to make a decision prior to the election and that's in this letter of August the 8th that he copied to the press and to the Utilities Consumers Group, plus some bureaucrats and YECL.
I just want to hit a few clauses: given the complex nature of this issue, it is appropriate to allow for more avenues of informed public debate outside of this summer's limited consultation by Economic Development. These include a fall sitting of the Legislature and an election campaign itself.
We have not had any further public debate on this management agreement, and that government, even though they have set up an Energy Commission, have not taken it upon themselves to generate any public debate on this management agreement. Number one, he said: publicly owned energy assets should not be sold to private interests. This is the position of the NDP. Our caucus has consistently resisted covert attempts to privatize any assets - any assets - held on behalf of the Yukon people.
Mr. Speaker, he goes on to say that we believe that the disposal of public assets to a private corporation, particularly based outside the Yukon, is not in the best interests of the Yukon people. Publicly owned assets - the YEC initially owned 91 percent of Yukon's energy-related assets, with the remainder being held by YECL. YECL's share has grown by approximately 22 percent while YEC's has shrunk by 78 percent.
Mr. Speaker, they have just shrunk some more on the statement made by this minister.
This flies in the face of everything that government campaigned on, and, Mr. Speaker, it is a very sorry day for Yukoners indeed. There are many more clauses in here, and I'll get to them in debate and in Question Period. But, I do have some questions that the minister may be able to address in his rebuttal.
Mr. Speaker, the minister says in here that this was a board decision. Very convenient of this government to hide behind a board when they don't have the political fortitude to stand up for themselves. They didn't consult with a board when they politically interfered with the water licence for Aishihik Lake.
Speaker: Order. Thirty seconds, please, if you can wrap up your remarks.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I have many things to say on this, but maybe the minister can tell us when he gets up what's in this for Yukoners. What is going to happen to the operational staff of Yukon Energy Corporation? And, what is the cost of the new management agreement? And, what assets are being disposed of? Are they in fact the grids in Dawson, Mayo and Faro?
Mr. Cable: Thanks, Mr. Speaker. The ministerial statement states that the new arrangement will allow for greater disclosure of information, and it would have been useful if this practice had started right at the beginning and had extended to the agreement in principle and the specifics of the assets sold. Now, while I appreciate the minister's need to maintain an arm's-length relationship with the Yukon Energy Corporation, tantalizing this House with some of the features of the agreement - some of the features of the deal - and not others, doesn't assist the Opposition in examining and commenting on the deal. For example, if, in fact, the Dawson and Mayo generating assets are being sold, what right does the Energy Corporation have with respect to requiring the private corporation to hook up to the grid at some time in the future on grid extensions?
On a positive note, the taking over of the strategic planning by the Yukon Energy Corporation will assist the corporation and government in attaining policy goals. I think we are probably all in agreement that this cannot be done through surrogates.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have to say I'm quite in shock and amazed at the comments of the Opposition Leader. He calls this a sad day for Yukoners. The agreement that has been reached by the APL, the Yukon Energy Corporation board of directors - largely people appointed by the member opposite, himself, and that we have given concurrence to - creates savings of $2 million over five years for Yukon ratepayers. It gives Yukoners more control over the way the corporation is operated. It takes over control for decisions such as water licensing, major capital planning, gives Yukoners the say that they have always wanted.
Mr. Speaker, I said in this House that the assets would be maintained at the same level, and in my ministerial statement I gave a commitment that any money realized from the sale of poles and wires would be turned over into strategic asset investment; therefore, assets will be maintained at the same levels. It's a pretty simple equation.
I also said that we would maintain a solid asset base. So, Mr. Speaker, what we are doing, through rationalization, is taking over monies through that rationalization process and investing them in strategic asset enhancement initiatives so that Yukoners have better services and Yukon ratepayers have better rates. So, Mr. Speaker, to call it a sad day is incredibly negative.
Mr. Speaker, I would also say to the member that there's a buy-back clause at book value for any of the poles and wires that are obtained through this rationalization. So, we have allowed for any future government or board to re-evaluate the decision and I say to Mr. Speaker that this is an excellent deal for Yukoners.
With regard to the member's comment about my incompetence, I say again, the members of the YEC board who voted for this arrangement - and I think they did it some time on Wednesday or Thursday - were appointed by the Yukon Party. Take a look at the names, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, what the Yukon New Democrats were opposed to was the wholesale privatization of Yukon Energy Corporation assets, which was the direction that was being approached by the previous Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, former minister for the Yukon Energy Corporation. We fought that very hard in this Legislature because we believed that merger discussions that were underway behind closed doors to give control over our assets and ownership of all of our assets were wrong.
Mr. Speaker, we believe that this direction is responsible. It will lead to a greater and more enhanced direction of asset investment in this territory, and I believe will lead to good things for ratepayers.
With regard to our election commitments, I have them right here in my hand. We have been clear, concise and right on line with what we laid out for the Yukon people in the election campaign - page 21 of A Better Way. Insofar as any of the details, I have offered Opposition members a briefing - it is not going to be this afternoon; I assume it will be tomorrow morning - on all of the detail work that was negotiated by the Yukon Energy Corporation, the administration of the Yukon Energy Corporation and the board of directors of the Yukon Energy Corporation.
I am announcing today, I think, a deal that is excellent for Yukon ratepayers; one that is going to yield $2 million in savings over five years; one that is going to allow us to make strategic investment decisions on assets to maintain our asset levels at the same rate that they are, and also to make asset investment decisions that are going to better Yukoners that will help us to do things such as get off of diesel, which has been a concern to many Yukoners.
I would say that I recommend this arrangement to this Legislature and the Yukon public as a good deal for Yukoners and one that will stand us in good stead for the long term.
Speaker: We are at the beginning of a new legislative sitting. We also have a number of new members, of course, in the House. I would ask that all members review the guidelines for Question Period as outlined in the Standing Orders booklet. They are found in Addendum 1 towards the back of the book. That would be a way to refresh your memories with what is appropriate during Question Period and what is not.
With that, this brings us then to Question Period.
Question re: Land claims, confidential document removal
Mr. Phillips: My question, Mr. Speaker, is for the Government Leader, and it is regarding an incident that took place on January 23 this year.
Federal and First Nations officials were meeting CYFN to discuss devolution. During the meeting, when the federal official, Mr. Rayner, left the room, confidential documents were removed from Mr. Rayner's briefcase, what I would call a very unethical and, I believe, unlawful act. I understand that the Government Leader was made aware of the incident and made aware of the individual who was caught.
Can the Government Leader confirm that he was made aware of the incident and the name of the individual who took the documents?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I'm aware of the incident, generally, and I commented on the incident that the member refers to with the media as well. I indicated that at no time was any Yukon government official involved in the meeting; at no time was any Yukon government official involved with the aftermath of the meeting. I indicated at the time that I was told who allegedly had removed the documents, and that's the extent of my knowledge.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Can the Government Leader confirm that the incident was discussed with Mr. Irwin, Grand Chief Shirley Adamson and himself at a meeting, that they were notified of the incident? Did they discuss it at all?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: At the meeting that I participated in in Ottawa, the issue was raised in a very limited way during the meeting. There was no fallout, to my knowledge, on the Yukon government or on any participant at that meeting. It was acknowledged by all persons involved, including Mr. Irwin, Ms. Adamson and myself, that this was an unfortunate incident but did not reflect poorly on any of the negotiators to the devolution agreement.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think it's a very serious incident. It happened at devolution talks. These talks, along with land claim talks, are extremely sensitive issues, and they're discussed in camera. I wonder if the Government Leader can confirm for the record that the individual who took the documents is the same individual that the Government Leader has testified in court was a superb deputy minister?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, I suppose I sort of expected that particular angle for that particular question, because I knew that a cheap shot was coming and that it was just a matter of time before it was made and delivered.
I'm not in a position to be making statements about people who are alleged to have done any particular act of this nature. That is not my responsibility. I will not be trading names with anyone without clear evidence that would support the allegation. So, I will not be the prosecutor, the judge, the jury, or the executioner. I indicated what the Government of Yukon's role is and was with respect to devolution talks. I believe the reputation of the Yukon government and their officials is superb, and I believe that that has reflected well on the devolution talks to date, and even though they are difficult, I believe that the Yukon government officials comport themselves very well.
Question re: Land claims, confidential document removal
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, the Government Leader did not answer the question. The Government Leader tells us he knows who the individual is. I asked him if it was the same individual that he has described in a recent court case as a superb deputy minister, and he did not answer the question.
Mr. Speaker, we all teach our children that they should be honest and they should be trustworthy and they should have integrity. When you talk about the devolution talks and the land claim talks, the people in the room have to have the highest integrity, the highest honesty, and I think the public has a right to know why the Government of the Yukon is not pursuing this or doing anything about it or taking any action. I understand that the Council of Yukon First Nations and some chiefs have considered not using this individual any more for any work, and that there is some consideration of banning the individual from the building at CYI.
Is the minister, the Government Leader, prepared to take similar action here to send a clear message out there to all Yukoners that this type of lack of integrity and lack of trustworthiness will not be tolerated, especially at this high level of discussion?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I understand, Mr. Speaker, that the member opposite has already held his own in-camera trial and has decided that whoever it is is guilty and is deserving of very severe punishment. I am not a prosecutor and I have indicated very clearly that, if the so-far unsubstantiated allegations are true, we do not condone such behaviour. I have made it very clear in public that it is completely inappropriate for any Yukon government official, or anybody acting on behalf of the Yukon government, to act in any other way than as a good professional, and act with honesty and integrity.
I believe the government and its representatives have behaved precisely that way.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, will the Government Leader give us this assurance then? We know that the individual is one that has been an advisor to the Government Leader from time to time, is one that has been one of his deputy ministers, a former deputy minister. He said himself that the Government Leader knows who the individual was who did this, and is he prepared to give us a commitment on the floor that he will demonstrate the highest of integrity and he will take the same steps that others are taking in not utilizing this individual for any more advice or any work for the Government of the Yukon, to send a clear message out there to all Yukoners that this type of activity will not be tolerated? It is a very serious issue.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I once again state that I know the member, in his own mind at least, has held a trial and has determined that the person involved - if such an incident absolutely occurred - is not only guilty but is deserving of the most serious of reprimands and has designed the penalty sentence, and he has got it all figured out and wants me to play the same game with him.
I won't, because, as I have indicated already, I was not present at the meeting, neither was any Government of Yukon representative. As I mentioned at the beginning, I was made aware that there were allegations made of wrongdoing, meaning that the documents had been taken from someone's briefcase. I indicated, following that, that if those allegations were true, then they were wrong, and that that kind of behaviour would not be tolerated by the Yukon government. That's the position of the Yukon government.
I believe the Yukon government has acted completely ethically in this matter, and I expect that kind of behaviour to be carried out in all of its public dealings.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, it is rather absurd that the Government Leader is suggesting that I've proven somebody guilty already. Grand Chief Shirley Adamson admitted the event happened. Other chiefs admitted the event happened. The Government Leader himself has admitted the event happened, because he was made aware of it by notification of officials. All I am asking the Government Leader to do - he knows it happened; he knows there are witnesses to who did it; this isn't a secret, it was done in front of witnesses - i
s to give assurances to this House and to the Yukon people that this lack of integrity and this lack of honesty won't be tolerated within the Yukon government, and we won't be working with any individual who conducts himself in that matter, and we won't be sending our officials into the room in the future with fear of stuff being stolen out of their briefcase by this individual. Will he give us that commitment?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, as I recall, Mr. Speaker, this member some time ago wanted the matter investigated by the police. Now, when the police didn't do his bidding, he decided, presumably, to carry out the investigation himself, and so now the investigation presumably is concluded and he has decided that maybe we'll skip the trial stage and we'll move right through to the penalty stage, and I guess at this point the member has decided that the best penalty for this particular offence, as he has characterized it, is that whoever has allegedly done this - and he has decided who it is - should never work in this territory again for this government or, presumably, for anyone else.
Now, what I have indicated, Mr. Speaker - apart from the fact that I have absolutely no faith in this member's own integrity when it comes to this particular issue - very, very firmly that I do believe that the Yukon government should not behave in a way that is anything other than professional.
Point of order
Mr. Phillips: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Order. Order.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, the minister is questioning my integrity here. I was discussing the integrity of an individual who stole some documents and he turned it around and questioned my integrity. I think that's unparliamentary.
Speaker: I would have to ask the Government Leader to withdraw his remarks.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. McDonald: On a point of order. I think the member has made a good point. For me to attack his integrity is probably unprofessional and I withdraw it. I would hope the member understands that for him to do the same thing to a person who cannot defend themselves by the rules of this House is equally reprehensible, but I do withdraw the remark.
Mr. Speaker, the Government of Yukon has acted with integrity in this matter. The Government of Yukon has behaved properly in this matter. The Government of Yukon has made statements that this kind of behaviour, if true, would not be tolerated by the government and we stand by that.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre, safety concerns
Mr. Cable: I have some further questions for the Minister of Justice on the Whitehorse Correctional institute.
Last Thursday, I asked the minister whether the minister's department generally agreed with the findings of the Barr Ryder report on the conditions of the Whitehorse Correctional institute and she said that not only have these findings been accepted, but they have been addressed. She then went on to say that a response plan is in place and that immediate life and security concerns were undertaken and are continuing to be undertaken. Now this is surprising because the Barr Ryder report identified about $3 million as the cost of the life and security upgrades needed, yet previous budgets have contained only a fraction of that amount.
The question I have for the minister is: is the minister saying that there are now no immediate life and security problems at the jail?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It's always difficult to respond when a member takes a complicated matter and tries to reduce it to a couple of sentences.
I would like to assure the member that, as I stated last week, a number of the safety issues that were identified in the Barr Ryder report in January 1995 were corrected through the spring, summer and fall and on through to 1997. I can provide, for the member, a list of various work orders that have been completed and various work that has been done. There is further work that is scheduled to be done during the coming year.
Mr. Cable: The minister evaded one of the questions I asked last week on the timing of the option plan to be provided to her by her staff, so I'll come out with a one-sentence question here.
The Barr Ryder report states that, and I quote, "Cost to provide life/safety concerns, technical upgrades and correctional upgrades to a facility are estimated at $4,378,000, or 107 percent of replacement value." Does the minister's department generally agree with this finding of the consultants?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, on the question of the timing of an option plan, certainly the department was aware that having an option plan before me by Wednesday of last week at 1:30 would've been helpful. Nonetheless, there is a lot of work that has been done in identifying both maintenance work and safety work that should be done over the course of, not just the previous couple of years, but the course of the next couple of years. That work is continuing.
Mr. Cable: Well, let me ask this question. The Barr Ryder report certainly suggests that the jail should not be redone; it should be replaced. That's the suggestion I get out of it.
Now we've been playing with this issue for over a decade. Has the minister set a target date for making a decision on whether the jail should be replaced and when?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That decision has not yet been taken. The matter will be decided in Cabinet, and when the options have all been laid out by the department, I will be taking them and discussing them with my Cabinet colleagues. I won't be making the decision here on the floor of the Legislature today.
Question re: Midwifery
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Social Services. In February of this year I called on the minister to have his department come up with a discussion paper on the topic of midwifery in the Yukon. His response at the time was that his department was already past this stage and ready to draft regulations. Given the scant attention to this topic received in the past, can the minister claim he is ready to regulate this activity?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I can tell the member opposite that we have been working on this and we have sought some advice and some direction from other jurisdictions on this. The ad hoc committee on midwifery did lay out some guidelines that they felt were key in this, and we are going to try to address all these basic safety concerns in a future document.
Mrs. Edelman: It's a little difficult to tell what the answer was there, but, Mr. Speaker, there were a number of issues that must be dealt with before midwifery becomes a regulated profession in the Yukon.
Most importantly, there is the issue of public education. Now, my discussions with a number of groups left me with the impression that a great deal more work needs to be done educating people about this topic. Can the minister assure this House and the Yukon public that he will not proceed without adequate consultation and discussion on this issue?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can assure the member opposite that we will be consulting - primarily with many of the groups that did raise those concerns - when we are in a position to bring forward some legislation or some draft or proposed legislation. We would be getting back to the groups that did raise the issues and trying to get some of their reaction on the proposed changes.
Mrs. Edelman: Legislation in other jurisdictions, namely Ontario and B.C., have exempted the First Nations from complying with midwifery regulations. Can the minister advise this House on whether he will follow a similar course of action?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: At this point, we haven't made any decision in that regard. I should note that, in some of the First Nations consultations undertaken by the ad hoc committee, many of the First Nations representatives did identify some of the similar concerns that were held in general, including such things as distance to hospital, backup, the idea that there be two qualified attendants, et cetera. Some of those criteria still came forward from many of the First Nations representatives.
Question re: Youth Empowerment and Success
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services as well. About a week, or two weeks ago now I guess, many young people gathered and took part in a rally organized by the Youth Empowerment and Success group to protest the Yukon government's decision not to provide the youth program with further funding. The previous Yukon Party government placed a lot of emphasis on Yukon's youth and it was paying off. There was a youth achievement centre and an interdepartmental working group on youth initiatives, and the youth investment fund was also created at that time.
Since then, the minister has made some announcements by way of just speaking to the press and by way of letters that he is considering funding YES but under a new program.
I would like to ask the minister if he will give assurances to this House today that the criteria for this program will be designed so that YES will have a good chance of receiving adequate funding, because it is one of those programs that has been very successful and it would be unfortunate if it slipped through the cracks.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would like to assure the member that, as a matter of fact, tomorrow, the Minister of Education and I are meeting with the director of the YES program to discuss some of the those very issues. The YES program has received funding through the youth investment fund, as the member has noted. As well, we have made some offers in terms of space for the group. The program, youth works, that we will be bringing into place, I think, offers a unique opportunity in the fact that it is going to be administered by youth for youth. So, we think that the very criteria would give a program like YES an option.
Mr. Phillips: YES is a program that is up and running now, but my understanding is that, as of March 31, they have had to lay off at least one employee and curtail their activities because their funding ran out. I would like to ask the minister, when meeting with YES tomorrow, if he would be prepared to discuss with the YES group some interim funding until such time as a proposal is put together, so that they can at least maintain their existing programs with these youth at risk that seem to be working very successfully.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, to be frank, we have not received any request in that regard. I suppose we will have to cross that bridge when we come to it.
The nature of the youth works program is designed to do some of the very things that the YES name suggests. It is a program where we are going to attempt to empower young people and make some decisions for youth. We think that will be a constructive program for YES.
Mr. Phillips: The minister did not answer my question. He reiterated that he supports the YES program, but YES is in a bit of a dilemma now, having laid off one of their employees.
I am asking the minister if he is prepared to consider some bridge financing or some support, because it is going to take more than a week or two to set the criteria for this new program, receive applications, decide on who's going to get the money and where the money is going to flow to. Meanwhile, YES will be basically sitting there, not carrying out the useful function that it has in the past.
Will the Minister consider tomorrow discussing with the YES people their needs for interim financing to continue with the individuals that they had employed before who were delivering the services at YES?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I think it's important to note that YES is not in demise. As a matter of fact, what they've done is reconfigure to cover themselves over the next period. We haven't received any request. For me to even speculate on what request we might receive would be premature in this regard. I suppose we'll just have to see what comes forward from our meeting tomorrow.
Question re: Airline services to Yukon
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question's for the Minister of Government Services. The tourism industry has identified provision of air services as critical to the viability of their industry. There have been proposals about joint marketing initiatives with airlines. Air service is something this government purchases.
In December, I asked the Minister of Government Services to request of his colleague a feasibility study or market analysis on the provision of air services to Yukoners in consultation with the tourism industry and the Department of Tourism. My question: has the Minister of Government Services undertaken this study or requested it?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. At this point, no. As the member may be aware, we went through a period of time where we had some changes with our government air travel. Right now, what this has obliged us to do is go back and look at the existing relationship that we have with Canadian Airlines, and that's currently under discussion at this point.
Ms. Duncan: The previous Minister of Tourism lobbied NWT Air to come into the Yukon and built up Yukoners' expectations for year-round service, and this was done without consultation with Government Services. Before Yukoners are disappointed again, will the Minister of Government Services ask for a market analysis in consultation with the industry on the provision of air services?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would just suggest that before we would advise either the Department of Tourism or any industry coming in here, we would want to make sure that they were fully aware of what the air traffic is, what the volume is, both at peak season and off-peak season. I suppose that one of my concerns was that Northwest Territorial perhaps was not operating on the best information at the time.
One of the issues that came up was the whole question of government air travel. Government air travel works out to four seats a day on average, and I don't care who you are, but I don't think any airline can make it on splitting four seats 50-50 and make that be the difference whether one makes it or not. I think any airline coming in here would have to be fully cognizant of what the economics are, and I believe it would be incumbent on Government Services to work with Tourism in giving that information out.
Ms. Duncan: If you're talking about giving this information out, the minister has to first obtain the information.
Are you prepared, once again, to undertake a feasibility study on market analysis on the provision of air services to Yukoners and Yukon industry?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, to be quite frank, Mr. Speaker, I would imagine that those figures are readily available. How those figures are presented is quite another matter. We would take a look at what the impact is of all air travel. We would be willing to provide that information, I believe, to the Department of Tourism, which would be key, I think, in making any contact with any future airline plans.
Question re: Rural Yukon needs
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. My question today is for the Government Leader.
Since being elected almost six months ago, there has been little, if any, emphasis placed on rural Yukon with your government. With the number of members elected from rural Yukon communities sitting on the opposite side, Yukoners would think that the interests of outlying communities would be well represented. Apparently, this is not so.
Does the Government Leader not feel that the needs of Yukon communities should be addressed?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, it should be no surprise to the member that I think that his analysis is flawed. I don't accept his assertions nor his allegations nor his conclusions.
It was only last week that I was listening to the dulcet tones of his leader, sitting next to him, who was telling us that the community development fund, which is directed largely at rural communities, is morally flawed because it encourages people who live in those communities to think that there is some hope for a future for those communities, because there is essentially a false economy; that people in those communities should not expect that there are good reasons for their future survival.
So, I am somewhat taken aback that now the member is coming forward saying that we have done nothing, making a bald-faced allegation that there has been nothing done. I don't accept that. I think there is a lot that the government has done in the five months we have been in government to focus our energies on rural Yukon, and I think that is demonstrated by the many good works of the members who do represent rural Yukon who are on the government side of the House.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. There are a number of examples of capital projects that have been either sidetracked or forgotten in this government's first budget. Communities that have suffered major tragedies, such as Watson Lake that lost its main administration to fire last summer and Old Crow which recently lost its school and the housing for its teachers, were virtually ignored in this budget. How does the government explain this lack of action, when during the election and in Opposition, projects such as the replacement of the school in Mayo and Carmacks were highest amongst their priorities?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, I would remind the member of his activities during the election campaign that we resist getting into the bidding war that he was such a seasoned practitioner at. In fact, he brought the bidding war to the Legislature in December and asked in one week for $70 million worth of projects for his community alone. We do not believe that that was a responsible thing for him to do. Nor was it responsible for us to trade or bid up people's expectations beyond what could be afforded.
Now, the member says that the government did nothing on Old Crow's school, nothing to help the people in Old Crow. I know that during this by-election campaign the members have been propagating the falsehood that $500,000 available for planning for the Old Crow school is all that the Old Crow school will get. While I was there over the weekend, Yukon Party supporters were suggesting that they had been told that the $500,000 would be just enough to build a tent school for Old Crow, but that the Yukon government had no commitment beyond that. That's, of course, a falsehood. Anybody who had actually listened to the budget speech would obviously know better.
The commitment to Old Crow, for example, is that in this year's budget we are going to put some $700,000 into staff housing for teachers. This should be ready for September. We are going to immediately start planning the Old Crow school in the time frame that the people of Old Crow have requested, which is an important distinction between perhaps our approach and the approach that the member would have us pursue.
The Town of Faro has not come beating down the doors of the Legislature protesting government action responding to the job crisis in Faro. They, in fact, have been very supportive of the government's actions in Faro.
With respect to the other communities around the territory, we have been undertaking many actions that have given those communities support in only the five months that we have been in office. So, quite contrary to the member's allegations, he is not right. He never was right and if he continues with this particular line, he won't be right.
Mr. Jenkins: With the employment in the Yukon now sitting at over 15 percent and rising alarmingly, the construction of new facilities - capital projects - will get the people in rural Yukon back to work. It seems as though there has been a loss of memory by this government and a change in spending priorities since the election last fall and now.
Could I again ask the Government Leader why this is, and receive some commitment that the government will honour its election commitments and address the needs of rural Yukon?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Again, I would point to the member to perhaps talk with his colleague - the member who is sitting directly next to him - and perhaps resolve this moral dilemma that they both appear to be having with each other.
Last week, it was wrong for us to create a false economy in rural communities by giving people hope that there was some future for those communities by providing some capital works in those communities. Now, the member is saying that we should be putting more money into capital works for those communities. This is a serious policy point that I would encourage the two members to resolve in their own mind before they bring the issue on to the floor of the Legislature.
The point that I am making, Mr. Speaker - and I will have a chance this afternoon, after listening to the member expand upon his theories - is that there is a lot that the Yukon government can do, even if it doesn't have the raw spending power of the Yukon Party when it was in power. There is a lot the government can do to enhance the economic lives of people in rural Yukon and, with good, wise spending I am sure that we can do plenty to help people who are in need of work.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of Government Private Members' Business
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 14(2) I would like to identify the motion, standing in the name of private member Todd Hardy, to be called for debate Wednesday, April 2, 1997. It is Motion No. 52.
Speaker: We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 4: Second Reading - adjourned debate
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 4, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. McDonald - adjourned debate: Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, what we have before us to debate is a deficit budget. That's what we're given to consider. Now, when we look at deficit budgets, they are not necessarily bad if one has the reserves in the bank to cover the overexpenditures. I am certainly not a fan of deficit budgeting and would accept this approach if the government of the day were embarking on large capital projects.
That is not the case with this budget, Mr. Speaker. What this House is being subjected to is accepting a budget based on political expediency.
In the Government Leader's budget address, this House experienced a litany of the rehash of NDP political campaign promises.
Mr. Speaker, good government is based on prudent fiscal management. What we are witnessing is a budget that attempts to address all the issues raised by many single-interest groups but ultimately cannot be sustained by the finances that this government has available to it. Over the period of time, Yukoners will have a field of broken promises as a result of this budget. Let's call them flip-flops.
The new budget does offer some comfort. Highways will continue to be maintained, teachers will still be teaching - but for how much longer, who knows. Doctors and nurses will still practice and government will continue. There are many expenditures in this budget, Mr. Speaker, that are questionable, and I certainly hope that this government will give careful consideration to the budget debate and amend this budget to take into account some of the views of the Opposition.
What is abundantly clear from this budget, Mr. Speaker, is that the greatest majority of expenditures are directed to O&M. Even the capital is down; O&M is rising. What is more alarming is that the capital and O&M dollars will all be spent in the Whitehorse area. We have a government primarily elected from rural Yukon, yet the Government Leader has the ability to pull the wool over the eyes of the backbenchers and not address the needs of rural Yukon.
Indeed, Mr. Speaker, it's not just needs. There're immediate demands that rural Yukon needs. Oh yes, we'll go through the reviews, consultations, but not by addressing solid job creation. We just went through the Question Period with the needs in Watson Lake and Old Crow, as a consequence of two disastrous fires. I wonder what the situation would be like if the Government Leader still resided in Elsa? I'm sure the picture that this government would be painting would be much different than what we are witnessing with this budget.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon is now divided more than ever into two Yukons. There's Whitehorse and there's Troy, Troy being the rest of Yukon. I can't fathom how the Government Leader has managed to dupe his backbenchers so well. Let us look at the expansion of government, these commissions. Each one of these commissions will ultimately cost a quarter of a million dollars, at a minimum, Mr. Speaker.
Oh yes, we're told that the funds will be moved around and moved over from other areas, but just look at the expenditure on the additional deputy ministers. That in itself is enough to question what these commissions will accomplish and, more to the point, at what cost. I would suggest to this House that if it were not for the Jake Epp letter, when Mr. Epp was the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs - that letter allowed the Yukon its present form of government and restricted its Cabinet to a total of six members - I'm sure, Mr. Speaker, we'd have a Cabinet, with the government of the day, to the maximum amount of the elected members possible. I'm sure as an outcome of these commissions, the next issue that this House will be asked to address is added wages and benefits for the commissioners because of the tremendous workload that they're carrying. I wouldn't be surprised to see it in the supplementary budget this fall, Mr. Speaker.
When one looks across Canada, one sees governments in all of the provinces and territories downsizing their budgets and their public sectors, living within their means, Mr. Speaker. There are two exceptions: Alberta - of course they've got control of their situation and they're starting to spend a little more - and the Yukon.
There is no way we can compare Alberta's finances to those of the Yukon. Yukon consists of a population of some 35,000 individuals, and I'm sure the make-work project that we are seeing is the enlargement of government employment. Governments in all sectors is now the largest employer in Yukon and growing in this government. Is that how we're addressing job creation, Mr. Speaker? Of course, hire Yukon means parachuting sympathetic NDP refugees from British Columbia. So much for local hire.
There are a couple of areas that the Yukon is going to benefit from, most importantly the largess of the federal government. Transfer payments under formula finance will increase. This is because of the perversity factor.
Pleased to see that there has been a decrease in corporate income tax, fuel oil tax, yet an increase in personal income tax. For the amount that is given in the budget, it would appear that the government of the day will probably hire about 300 or 400 more individuals at a $75,000 to $100,000 a year range, and their personal income tax paying would fill that gap.
Unless the Yukon economy turns around, and Faro is up and running again, I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that we will have a shortfall in revenue from those best guesstimates we have been presented with.
Mr. Speaker, the object of good government is fiscally responsible government, yet we're told that the community development fund is the end-all and do-it-all in rural Yukon. Yes, it is well received, but is it fiscally responsible spending? It is at the whim and want of the minister responsible for that area. It is just a political slush fund for the ministers in the government of the day.
One only has to look, Mr. Speaker, at all the projects that were undertaken under CDF funding. One raises the question: how many have created lasting jobs? I can't think of any. Look at all those areas that do create jobs, and where are they in the budget? They are either non-existent or virtually decreasing, with the sole exception of the growth of government. Quite the flip-flop.
Small business drives the economy. What do we see the government doing? Workers' Compensation Board rates are up by some 50 percent to 70 percent in this area - a small kick in the butt for small business. Again, we are promised by this government that electrical rates are going to remain constant and this support program will keep everything fantastic for all. I suggest to the Government Leader that he might try paying his own bill for businesses and ask businesses what they are paying tomorrow. It is a different scenario from when you're setting the criteria for the rate and paying the bill.
This NDP government was elected with a clear mandate to provide leadership and a blueprint for the next four years on the direction this Yukon is to take. What we have in this budget is an infantile attempt and appallingly expensive decisions that certainly do not address the needs of Yukoners.
We have a government that is so wound up in the process, that they have lost sight of what they are here to do. There is no vision in this budget. It is a budget I cannot support. We had a view today of the energy situation. A short time ago, Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. owned less than 10 percent of all of the assets required for power generation and transmission in Yukon. Yukon Energy Corporation owned over 90 percent. I haven't done the figures after the minister's statement of today, but the last time I looked at it, YECL now owns 30 percent and the Energy Corporation, owned by the people of the Yukon, is losing ground at an alarming rate. So much for the NDP position that, "We are not going to dispose of any assets; we are not going to get rid of anything; they're for the betterment of the people of the Yukon."
The assets required for power generation distribution in Yukon should be owned by Yukoners for the benefit of Yukoners. Here I am sitting on the opposite wing of the government over there and advocating a position that I would expect from that side of the House. Why, Mr. Speaker? Why do I take that position? Because it is in the best interest of the majority of Yukoners. Again we witness another flip-flop.
On numerous occasions, Mr. McDonald and his Cabinet have overruled the board of directors of the YEC. Just look at the Cabinet decision not to draw down Aishihik Lake, burn diesel. I'm sure this situation reeks of a backroom deal to keep the Member for Kluane quiet so he can sit in his cabin on the lake. Drive by Yukon Energy; drive by the plant right today. There are five stacks spewing out environmentally unfriendly waste as a by-product of diesel power generation. Six million more litres of fuel are being consumed to displace the water that the water licence allowed to be drawn down and used in Aishihik Lake. My gosh, where are we headed?
More and more, the electric utility is being sold to YECL. What we are going to experience is a considerable rise in electrical rates unless the government of the day intervenes, takes money out of general revenues and diverts them into rate relief in one form or another.
There are two main reasons why the government should own all of the assets for power generation in the Yukon. It is a very, very fickle market; we all know that. It is a tool of economic development; we all know that. When the electrical utility is in the hands of the private sector they are guaranteed a profit, and on that profit, Mr. Speaker, they pay income tax. It used to be that there wasn't any disadvantage to that being in the private sector, but then the federal Government of Canada rules that the income tax will not be refunded to the Government of Yukon for rate relief. So the cost of privately generated power is more expensive for that little simple reason alone.
And then we have another wonderful example of the flip-flop. Assets owned by the investor-owned utility sitting there maintain taxes looked after by the ratepayers here in all Yukon are sold at book value to the parent company. The parent company then turns around and sells off the asset. Wow, what a deal. Windfall profits for the parent company. There are two areas alone why we should be very, very cautious about getting involved in investor-owned utilities.
Let's just target another area: airports. Once again, you look at the capital and O&M money being spent on airports through the Yukon. Well, what comes up and hits you? The airport at Haines Junction. Now everybody would think that that's a heck of a fine airport, and indeed, Mr. Speaker, it is, but how many of this House have ever landed at the airport at Haines Junction? Very, very few of us.
Start looking at the statistics on airports through the Yukon. Of course Whitehorse, being the hub, has the most amount of movements, followed by Dawson, then Watson Lake, Faro, Mayo, Old Crow. The movements in Haines Junction are so low that they're not even listed in any of the routinely circulated statistical reviews.
Have a look at Carmacks, Mr. Speaker. It's the same story. Of course, there is some justification if we can get the people in Haines Junction and Government of the Yukon behind a movement to open the gates to that wonderful attraction, Kluane National Park. This government won't. Travel internationally, Mr. Speaker. There are two jewels in the crown of the Yukon that we can market as a visitor destination. One is Kluane National Park. The other one is the Klondike.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Because you're not totally ... never mind.
Mr. Speaker ... We might be yet.
Mr. Speaker, there's an opportunity to open the gates of Kluane National Park. What it's going to take is a determination of this government - some vision, dynamic leadership. Wow. There are two areas that are not spelt correctly on that side of the House and very misunderstood.
What we have is a park service in the Junction that is the keeper of the gates. I'd be very hopeful that this one area alone could be looked at. Those airports that do require improvements or relocation - Old Crow, Dawson - have bare mention in this budget. The Minister of CTS should resign.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: It might be a very good idea, Mr. Speaker, if everybody did resign. Then we could go back to square one and get on with this wonderful Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, one could go on and on about the flip-flops this government has done. I'm sure somewhere along the line this government has obviously taken lessons from the Glen Clark school of economics on deception.
I do have to commend the Government Leader, the Minister of Finance, for his ability to dupe Yukoners with tremendous weasel words. He deserves recognition in that area.
Mr. Speaker, this is not a budget any logically thinking Yukoner could support. If we're looking down the road, we have to leave something for our children. What this budget is going to do is leave them with a great deal of debt, a great deal of costs and very little vision of the future.
Needless to say, I'm extremely disappointed. I cannot support this budget, Mr. Speaker. I would be very hopeful that the Minister of Finance will consider amendments to this budget that will make it worthwhile and beneficial for all Yukoners. Thank you.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm somewhat disappointed to be standing and responding to the previous speaker's comments. We're only in week 2 of this legislative session and already we've had two calls for resignations of Cabinet ministers, and these should not just be some trite, theatrical, political trick to call for the resignation of a Cabinet minister. It's something that should be associated with a grave misconduct of duty.
The member who just sat down feels that the Minister of Community and Transportation Services should be resigning from his seat because this budget does not contain provisions to move the Old Crow and the Dawson airports.
Now Mr. Speaker, that's just simply not a reasonable proposition at all, and this is the same member who, at the beginning of his remarks, said he's not a fan of deficit budgeting - t
he weakness in the budget is that there is no vision and that we need to leave something for our future. But he would like to see us moving the Old Crow airport this year, moving the Dawson airport this year, spending more money on a capital budget for job creation, and Cabinet ministers should be resigning because we've failed to deliver on that.
Mr. Speaker, if that member is not a fan of deficit budgeting, then I have to say it's a good thing he was not part of the previous Yukon Party administration. The 1996-97 budget here that we just completed as of March 31st, last week, projected a $35 million budgeted deficit. So, I'm proud to be part of this government and I can assure the member opposite that if he's not a fan of deficit budgeting, he would have fared ill with his colleagues in the previous Yukon Party government.
The member also spoke about the rising costs in the operation and maintenance budgets. Now, I do want to speak to that issue, Mr. Speaker, because we seem to be having some revisionism occurring here, on the part of members opposite.
When we look at the operation and maintenance budget, the total is slightly up, overall, from last year. We must, however, remind members to include, when they're considering the total overall spending in the O&M estimates, that there are two new program areas that have been devolved from Ottawa. One is the A airports and one is community health.
We had a ministerial statement this morning on the transfer of the community health from federal to territorial control, with the involvement of First Nations, and those transfers of program areas from the federal government bring their own money with them.
When the new responsibilities are factored in, our O&M expenditures are lower than the previous government's projection from last year's main estimates.
The member who just concluded his remarks also indicated that he felt that all of the money was being spent in the Whitehorse area. Mr. Speaker, such is not the case.
I remind that member that the previous New Democrat government tried to have decentralization of government positions from Whitehorse into rural communities. It was the Yukon Party administration who pulled people from Dawson City and moved their jobs back to Whitehorse. I didn't hear that member's criticisms at that time, but I can take comfort in the fact that this budget is responsible in meeting both the needs of the people in Whitehorse and in rural communities.
The member also spoke about the commissions being a waste of money, and this is a criticism that members opposite like to levy against us and I have to reject that criticism. I know that people in the community are pleased to see that our government is taking seriously its responsibilities to come up with a forestry policy that is responsible, that works with both the federal government, with First Nations and with various interests, so that we can have a sustainable forest industry in the future, and so that we can protect our environment.
This work is being done, as is true in other commissions, within existing resources. There have been secondments from the departments of, I believe, all the ministers sitting on the front bench here. We've had people who were working in economic development or government services or justice working in commissions in order to ensure that we have not just a forestry policy, but that we work on energy policy. The development assessment process is a legislative commitment. It is something that our government cannot ignore and chose not to ignore and gave it serious commitments by setting up a commission to continue with the work of coming up with the necessary DAP legislation.
Our party promised to stabilize electrical rates to keep them affordable for residents and small business and improve the subsidy programs so Yukon people can have a greater share in the profits of the Yukon Energy Corporation. Both of those are long-term goals. That commitment is why we have set up an Energy Commission. We have already extended the rate relief program and made it more consistent across the territory and structured it to encourage energy conservation.
The member was being critical about the new management agreement that was announced by ministerial statement this morning and conveniently forgot that the Yukon Energy Corporation will now assume management planning and control functions, including system planning, water licensing, and large capital projects that are currently part of the existing management agreement. Those are concerns that I know my constituents had - that I've heard raised in other parts of the Yukon - that the Yukon Energy Commission should be working in those policy areas, and that is one of the benefits of the new operating agreement.
This agreement was made with the best interests of ratepayers in mind and it represents substantial savings. Starting next year, when the agreement comes into effect, the board estimates that it will save customers $2 million over five years and allow for greater exposure of information and accountability through the Yukon Utilities Board.
The members opposite have raised their concerns about being fiscally responsible and leaving something for our children but, again, I say this is a very responsible budget and I find the member's criticism somewhat hard to swallow when, at the same time that they are touting the virtues of being fiscally responsible, they are calling for moving airports here and there and spending millions of dollars on bridges, and on and on the list goes.
I am pleased to speak in support of this year's budget. It is a sustainable budget. This budget plans for the future. I believe that it clearly states our goals and provides a framework for reaching them. We are in the first year of our mandate and the changes will take time; nonetheless, I am proud to know that our budget decision making was based on the priorities which were part of our election campaign.
The Department of Education plays a significant role in this year's budget. We are spending approximately $7 million to complete the renovations and staff changes required by the grade reorganization project in Whitehorse.
During the coming year, F.H. Collins and Porter Creek Secondary will be much larger high schools. The Department of Education is committed to working with school councils, parents, students and administrators to ensure that the transition years will serve students well. As the transition evolves, we will continue to welcome the participation of people who are eager to be involved in their children's education.
As the budget indicates, we are responding in a timely and sensitive fashion to the crisis in Old Crow. As members know, the school burned down early in the new year. This year, we are making a major commitment of $500,000 to provide for interim needs, including temporary classrooms and careful planning for a new school. We are working in partnership with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to develop a replacement school that meets community needs. The Old Crow community has been involved in setting up a building advisory committee made up of community representatives, along with the superintendent for that area from the Department of Education and project management advisors. This committee is active and busy. In fact, there is an initial meeting scheduled for later this week.
So, Mr. Speaker, unlike the remarks made by the side opposite, the needs in Old Crow have not been virtually ignored. There is, in addition to the $500,000 in the budget for planning a new school facility, the insurance money available to proceed with construction if the community building advisory committee has progressed to the point of being ready to proceed with construction during the current budget year.
In addition, there is $700,000 within the Yukon Housing Corporation budget for a teachers residence so that we can have teachers housed in September. It's very difficult to keep teachers working in a remote arctic community like Old Crow, in a fly-in community, when they have lost their home and all their possessions. That's why we felt it was very important to very quickly build a new teachers residence so that we could at least offer them stability in housing while they are in temporary accommodations for classrooms and the planning work is being done for a new school.
As part of our strategy to help Yukon people get jobs, the Department of Education will work with the Yukon Hire Commission, Yukon College, the Department of Economic Development and other partners to update and improve the Yukon training strategy.
In support of increased economic diversification, we want to ensure that the government and the college respond appropriately to the many training needs of industry, labour, governments, non-government organizations, social assistance recipients and people who are entering or re-entering the workforce.
Our current budget commits $1 million to establish new training trust funds to support training needs throughout the Yukon. Part of those funds will be designated for youth works. The youth works initiative is designed to help prepare young people for life and work. A youth advisory committee is being struck, which will work with department staff to identify the challenges our youth face as they make the transition into the workforce. The youth advisory steering committee will be developing a mandate for the youth works program. They will be involved in evaluating creative ideas to assist youth and will set up terms of reference for the administration of the $200,000, which has been set aside for youth works groups.
At the September 1996 Northern Lights Yukon Youth Conference, young people identified the need for youth-initiated projects. The youth works initiative responds to the recommendations that were voiced by our young people.
The education department has also set aside $300,000 this year for a mine-training trust fund. We want to make sure that Yukon workers have the skills they need for jobs in the mining sector and that mining companies can rely on ready access to trained local workers.
Yukon College training programs in this area have been very successful in a number of rural communities and we want to ensure that that good work continues.
The education department has also made room for expansion of the high school apprenticeship program. More youth will have access to opportunities with more trades this year.
The community projects initiative has already improved funding which helps with some job creation projects. As an example, an amount of $125,000 has been approved to provide training for construction workers with Kwanlin Dun First Nation. Through programs such as this, Yukon people get the skills they need to get the jobs they want.
This budget makes an investment of $316,000 in the reading recovery program. This is a long-range, early intervention initiative involving the training of classroom teachers to work in a very specific way with at-risk children in grade 1. In keeping with our commitment to early intervention, we feel it's important to focus on those beginning years in school.
A Yukon teacher has been trained as a teacher-leader and will train eight additional teachers as reading recovery specialists this year. By closing the learning gap, we can help to keep at-risk students on track and prevent later school drop-outs.
In conversations with students and meetings with school councils, it's clear that everyone wants our education system to serve students well during their school years and teach them skills that will serve them well all their lives. They need to learn research skills, problem-solving skills and they need to appreciate the value of life-long learning.
There are many active young people in the Yukon who are involved in such groups as Youth 2000 or enrolled in alternative high school programs, such as MADD and ACES. Some students are currently lobbying for curriculum work on peer mediation and conflict resolution. These activities promote skills that strengthen our communities today and tomorrow. It may well be that young people will find that some of those projects are ones that they think youth works should help to support.
I am pleased that this budget supports the work of the together toward safer schools committee. We have funding for a coordinator to provide support for initiatives that will promote safe learning environments for Yukon students. The coordinator helps schools involved in the accreditation process under the Education Act.
Through this process, evaluation teams help schools develop plans for improvement. As schools complete their school improvement plans, they will outline ways to ensure their schools better meet students' needs.
Clearly, there are rural school facilities that need upgrading. The current budget addresses some of the identified needs this year. Later this month, I will be consulting with school councils from all around the territory to involve them in the capital planning process. We have some tough decisions to make, and we need to make them together.
Each community is unique and has its own needs and priorities. This budget outlines a number of initiatives to foster strong, healthy communities across the territory.
The Department of Justice is working with the RCMP to increase community policing initiatives, and I will be speaking more about this during a joint press conference this evening. We are working on crime prevention projects and community justice alternatives to make our communities more responsive to crime.
Family group conferencing is one such intervention that supports families in communities and helps make people aware that there are consequences to the harm they cause. Family group conferencing is being used as a diversion approach for both youth and adult offenders and will be piloted in Whitehorse and rural communities.
This budget also makes room for the expansion in rural areas of some much needed justice programs. We will spend an additional $160,000 in the family violence prevention unit and $80,000 more in victim services.
This funding will be used to make the sex offender risk management coordinator position a permanent one. This program is currently monitoring 45 sex offenders, including approximately 25 risk management teams.
The additional funding will also be used to increase the availability of victim services in the rural communities of Dawson City, Watson Lake, Mayo, Pelly and Carmacks by creating part-time victim services officers in Dawson City, Watson Lake and Mayo. These communities were chosen based on identified need.
We will also be establishing a family violence prevention outreach worker position that will travel to the communities to offer batterers groups and training and coaching of community resource people to run groups for offenders.
The demand has been high and we anticipate having the outreach worker will enable the family violence prevention unit to respond to requests from the communities in more timely fashion, and to help people in the communities to develop the ability to offer those programs themselves.
Federal child support guidelines are coming into effect on May the 1st, which will affect the court services department. Our government will pay $130,000 for implementation initiatives, which are recoverable from the Government of Canada.
Our government is concerned about youth. The Department of Justice is working with health and social services, community and transportation services, the RCMP, crime prevention Yukon and Yukon First Nations to introduce a community leadership project in two communities in rural Yukon.
This is a community-based summer leadership and recreation project that works as a crime prevention measure by helping youth develop positive attitudes and leadership skills. It will be tailored to meet the needs of the communities and will promote cooperative involvement in the communities and respect for the environment.
Mr. Speaker, I am looking forward to seeing more positive outcomes from the collaborative efforts that we are encouraging our departments to take in a number of areas.
As the Minister of Justice, I have had the opportunity to support the work of many local people who are concerned about violence against women. I was able to bring their concerns to the national agenda at a meeting of federal, provincial and territorial ministers of justice in New Brunswick in February.
These proposals were to review the provisions of the Criminal Code relating to homicide in the heat of passion, which is frequently called with a provocation defence. I know that many people agree that offenders should be held accountable for their actions. I know that many people criticize the ability to excuse criminal behaviour because people have been provoked by what someone else has said or done.
A second recommendation was to provide some guidance in the Criminal Code, or at least model jury instructions, for cases where a man has killed his partner, where a judge would be required to instruct the jury on gender bias and how the jury might consider that in their deliberations.
Thirdly, I made a proposal to amend the Criminal Code to make previous convictions of stalking, assault, threatening or any other aggressive act against a partner, such as damaging personal property or breaking a peace bond, admissible in evidence in a prosecution for murder or manslaughter.
These proposals were a direct result of concerns expressed in the community and reflect recommendations made by the public. Hundreds of Yukoners endorsed my proposed actions on this matter and corresponded directly with federal Minister of Justice Allan Rock.
Provincial and territorial officials have already begun work on these proposals in order to make recommendations to the next meeting of federal, provincial and territorial justice ministers. The Yukon department will continue to play a lead role in this area.
I am also continuing the work to actively pursue the transfer of the Crown prosecutor's office from the federal government. Ultimately, when this transfer is completed we will have the ability to ensure that the actions taken by the prosecutor follow policy guidelines established in the territory and address local priorities, such as the high levels of family violence.
Positive changes to the way that the justice system responds to violent crimes against women and children will continue to be a priority for the government and for the justice department. I appreciate expressions of support from the Opposition parties for some of these proposed legislative changes.
The Yukon will become a safer place for women through the contributions of the victim services and crime prevention trust fund that will be established under legislation later this year. The trust will make money available for community-based victim services and crime prevention projects, with the emphasis on funding projects designed to reduce violence against women. The trust will be funded by several sources of revenue available to the Department of Justice.
Our government's priorities outlined in this budget show financial support for solutions to the problems that are particular to women. We are working with the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre to find a stable home where they can provide services to women. We have also increased their base funding level to $20,000 this year. The Women's Directorate is developing a strategy for integrating gender-based analysis in all government policies and programs to identify differing effects on men and women of government actions, and to therefore ensure more equitable planning is done.
As minister responsible for the Women's Directorate, I have invited women's groups to define how they see government playing a more effective role in improving the status of women. I have asked the directorate to strengthen its support for, and working relationships with, women's organizations seeking to advance equality for women.
Together we want to expose and address the discriminatory practices that impede women's economic, social, political and legal equality. Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, women enjoy a legal right to equality. These legal rights, unfortunately, are not always recognized in fact in our daily lives. Yukon women want to take part in decision making and to transfer our legal rights into reality in today's economy and society.
A key to promoting equality issues in society at large is to be vigilant about educating our children. The Women's Directorate is working closely with the Department of Education to implement the gender equity in public schools policy. I was pleased to meet last week with a group of teachers representing all Yukon schools. They were participating in a workshop to learn practical teaching techniques designed to increase awareness of gender equity issues in our schools.
Mr. Speaker, talking about educating our children makes me hopeful about our future. Children and adults are committed to making improvements, and I am looking forward to my work with them in the coming years.
I can reassure my constituents in Mount Lorne that this budget is one which plans for the future. Although we do not have a magic pool of funds that is large enough to pay for everyone's ideas for meeting needs in our society, we have produced a realistic and sustainable budget which moves us toward meeting our long-term goals. This budget provides the means for us to work for Yukon people over the term of our mandate and into the next century.
I know that many people in the ridings see this budget as a responsible, thoughtful mandate for government spending. There are areas where my constituents and others wish the government were spending more freely, but I think people understand that this budget is constrained by two main factors: the cuts to federal programs and the expensive commitments from the previous government that we are obliged to honour.
We promised not to raise taxes. We have produced a budget that maintains the current level of services to Yukoners without raising taxes. I listened to my constituents who were concerned about recent property assessments done in the riding and made sure that they had every opportunity to understand and appeal those assessments. I have worked with my Cabinet colleagues on this issue. The Minister of Community and Transportation Services will soon be making a statement about property assessments.
Mr. Speaker, we promised to make settling land claims a priority. We are working in a new spirit of cooperation with First Nations governments toward the completion of the land claims process and self-government agreements. This is something that affects all ministries in all departments, and it's a responsibility that we have been taking seriously and, I believe, making good progress towards.
This budget makes room for a new land claims negotiating table that will help keep the process moving at a steady pace.
We promise to involve local people in decision making. Money has been set aside for land use planning that involves local residents. I am pleased that the Minister of Community and Transportation Services has budgeted for development of a Golden Horn local area plan this year. Residents of Golden Horn will benefit from the security that comes with increased clarity about land use in the area.
Land use is a complex issue that involves many different partners with a variety of interests and responsibilities. There are many sensitive challenges that we are working to resolve. Many people in my riding are concerned about protecting public access to multi-use recreational trails. I am committed to working towards a solution with the various government departments, First Nations and constituents involved.
This new budget also reflects our respect for the environment and campaign commitments in that area. We are fulfilling our promise to create a protected area strategy to preserve our Yukon wilderness ecosystem. Our government will continue work to improve the environmental and health status of Yukon residents.
Later this year, the Marsh Lake solid waste study will be completed. I am working with the Department of Community and Transportation Services, the Hamlet of Mount Lorne council and community members toward finding both interim and long-term solutions to waste management problems and will respond to my constituents' ideas for change.
People in Mount Lorne, as in other ridings, have asked me to bring their concerns about phone service to the political agenda. Together with a number of caucus colleagues, I spoke on their behalf to the president of Northwestel and will do so again at a follow-up meeting later this month.
The budget speech made it clear that our government wants to protect Yukon people from the effects of cutbacks and downsizing. I firmly believe that we must work in partnership with Northwestel to promote adequate provision of services in rural ridings.
Although the national economy is experiencing cutbacks and layoffs, our government has promised to do all it can to further job creation for Yukoners, together with local business.
My riding is dotted with small, home-based businesses that will benefit from the work of the Yukon Hire Commission developing policies to maximize local content in negotiated contracts. New attempts at diversifying our local economy will also be supported by the Department of Government Services' initiative to establish a regulatory code of conduct.
The re-establishment of the community development fund will be another way to stimulate job creation in the territory, and I am sure that groups from Mount Lorne will be taking advantage of the opportunity to apply for funding, as many groups and constituents around the territory have already done with the community projects initiative.
Mr. Speaker, unlike the previous member's comments that were critical of this budget for its lack of job creation, I would point out that there is $88 million in a capital budget. We are looking at targeted spending, because we don't have big money. We are spending less on internal government operations and more on projects like the community development fund, which supports rural communities.
This budget reflects our commitment to become a government that is more open and accountable. We are making room to improve how we help our constituents achieve our common goals for a healthy society and a stable economy. I'm happy to commend the budget to the House.
Mr. Cable: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In the budget speech it's interesting to note that the government is attempting to dampen expectations and this has been the government line, both publicly and in this House.
In the budget speech under "Charting a Positive Course", we have the following negative comments: "Mr. Speaker, with every budget, and particularly with the first budget of a new government, community expectations rise."
"This budget is no different. And while I might wish that our government could meet every expectation that Yukon people have, it is not possible to do so." That was the Government Leader speaking.
I have to say that expectations didn't rise with this budget, Mr. Speaker; they were there a long time before the budget.
Over the last four years, expectations have been very carefully and systematically raised by the now governing party.
We have been led to believe that the relationships with the government unions would be sweetness and light, and now we have a comment in the Yukon Teachers Association newsletter that says the honeymoon is over.
We have been led to believe that non-government organizations would be funded under a policy that would permit them to do multi-year budgeting. Well, we'll see. We'll see.
We have been led to believe that electricity rates would be stabilized, and here we have a petition that was taken by the now governing party, in the summer - it was filed in December - talking about that sort of thing. Well we'll see; we'll see whether they can handle all of the variables that one has to handle in the electricity area.
Now we have been led to believe that a party that would move money out of roads in an amendment to the Yukon Party's first budget four years ago, for the purpose of building Grey Mountain and Mayo schools, would, four years later, signal to the respective school councils that just maybe those schools would be built.
We're waiting. Now, we have been led to believe also that the weak would be looked after, that the NDP would bring us into a new Jerusalem, and there is a law in physics that says that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So, why is it a surprise that people have expectations?
I would refer you, Mr. Speaker, to page 23 of the NDP platform. It says under the heading, "Greater Accountability" "Piers MacDonald and the New Democrats believe the growing cynicism about government can be reversed if the government is more accountable for its actions." Well, it's accountability time. It's fulfillment-of-expectations time. Now, this budget doesn't cut it. On the fulfillment-of-expectations index, it's about a one.
Now, this is the first NDP budget and the signals are unclear. It is notable not for what it says but for what it doesn't say. As Fotheringham might say, it fuzzifies where the government is going, what political debts are going to be paid, and what are going to be ignored.
By way of general comment on the budgetary process, there are many things that we in the Yukon have to deal with. One of them is that, out of the $447 million that we are going to receive in revenues, $345 million are going to come from Ottawa in the form of the Canada health and social transfer and the transfer payment in the phase 1 health transfer and the Government of Canada recoveries.
We also have no debt; Ottawa has a $600 billion debt, an albatross around its neck. And on a per capita basis, we get considerably more than Newfoundland - the financial basket case of Confederation - so you don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that there may be some pressure from Ottawa on the federal contributions.
So what we need to know is where this government is going, what long-term planning it is doing. There are many high risks in the economic environment that the Finance minister finds himself. Many unknowns. There's devolution and what will follow from devolution on the revenue side. There's the land claims and what's going to be the involvement of our local government, and there are some disturbing international mining trends, with money fleeing to Third World countries, and perhaps back into our country with the latest involvements.
So what do we have on long-term planning? Again, if I could refer to A Better Way, the NDP platform document, at page 24, we have this statement: "With each annual budget, present a five-year financial plan so Yukon people know what direction the government is moving in." And that's following the preamble that states, "An NDP government led by Piers McDonald will ..." and that's one of the things it will do, and not the first year.
Now I have to say that the recognition of long-term planning is a positive. It's a positive. The high risks and the many unknowns and the dependency we have on Ottawa dictate that there be long-term planning. I think the Government Leader, when he was quoted in the Whitehorse Star not too long ago - and he was talking about the platform promise to do the five-year financial plan with each annual budget - said, "'It wasn't possible to do it this year since the government had only a few months to accomplish what usually takes eight months,' McDonald said."
Well, the government was sworn in on October 19th or 20th, whenever it was, and eight months from that date we'll be looking forward to see this five-year financial plan, and hopefully we'll have a vigorous debate in the legislative session that's going to follow in the fall. Hopefully that's one of the promises that's going to be fulfilled.
Now there are many benchmarks against which to judge a government's performance, and the expectations that have been raised and the ability to fulfill those expectations will be one of the benchmarks.
Now in forecasting the reliability of this budget, we have, in Canada, several different approaches. We have the Michael Wilson approach where the country lurches into financial crises while the Minister of Finance puts out phony, unbelievable predictions.
This used to be followed by many of the provinces, including the Glen Clark New Democrats in their first incarnation. Then we have the Paul Martin approach, where realistic targets are set, and this seems to be the approach in Canada now, including the present B.C. NDP government who are now talking about "prudent forecasts".
Then we have the quotes of the finance minister. He must have been talking about Andrew Petter, because he seems to have gone the route of the prudent forecast. It was interesting to hear last week, and I must admit that I was pleased to hear, that he will be assuming, for his forecast that Faro will stay down - not that he is expecting that that will be the case, but that he is not going to go overboard on his predictions. So the prudence is oozing north over the B.C. border.
One of the disturbing things in the budget, however, are these blank cheques. There are little pockets of money squirreled away everywhere. We have the $5 million contingency fund with no terms of reference. The Member for Faro, I think, was on the radio not too long ago - it might be used for Faro, it might be used for this, it might be used for that. It might be used for pay raises for the public service, or the commissioners - there is that possibility.
Then we have the community development fund. We have a budget line item. At the same time, we have this incredible community consultation going on, which would suggest that we have the cart before the horse. We can dip into the pot without much in the way of rules.
Then we have the training trust fund. Half a million dollars is not yet fully identified.
And then we have, over in the Yukon Development Corporation, this nice little $10 million pot sitting there waiting for a hit. It's not a budgetary item, but we don't really know where this government's going with that little pot of money. We don't know what the terms of reference are going to be.
Now, this budget in my view is a holding pattern document. It doesn't really say where we are going. There are no real long-term signals. There is no real indication of where our educational plant is going and when it's going to be renewed - one of the issues that the NDP raised on many occasions.
There is no indication of when the jail will be replaced or if it is going to be replaced, for that matter.
One of the things that I have found in 27 years in the Yukon is that this is a place of perpetual apprehensions. We have a major mine that goes up and down like a yo-yo, crashing the economy when it goes down. We have this huge dependency on Ottawa and we have the primary industry economy with all its vagaries. One of government's main jobs is to put these apprehensions to rest. Whether this budget does it for the Yukon public remains to be seen, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I am pleased to speak today in response to the budget address, which, I believe, lays out a responsible and sustainable economic course for the Yukon.
This budget maintains high standards of health care and good government services, with no territorial sales tax, no layoffs and no increases in taxes. It does that while maintaining an adequate budget surplus.
Mr. Speaker, the stability which this budget offers has been achieved despite a changing and complicated government environment, where the Government of Canada is cutting basic funding to this territory, but at the same time transferring programs with resources to the Yukon.
The only growth in this year's operation and maintenance budget has come through phase 2 health transfer, and the responsibility that we have assumed through the A airports.
These programs aside, we have been able to keep operation and maintenance funding just slightly below last year's level while, at the same time, protecting the quality of the Yukon health care and government services.
Although our capital budget is smaller this year, because of reductions and recoveries to the hospital construction and the Shakwak project - work on the north Alaska Highway - we still have been able to put a substantial $88.6 million into capital projects.
Many people will be working on road building and construction this season, and I am particularly pleased to see that $2.7 million will be spent on the Robert Campbell Highway. I am also pleased to see the active role that my government is taking in cooperation with legislatures in Alaska to secure additional funding for the Shakwak project, which had employed many people over the last several years under an agreement signed by the last New Democratic government.
Mr. Speaker, I know that some people would like to see us use up all the surplus this year and allow for more capital projects, but I believe the balanced approach that we have chosen looks to the future. This government's budget invests in the future with significant dollars put aside for the training trust funds and major commitments to education. In fact, Mr. Speaker, as the budget address noted, one-fifth of our government's total estimated expenditures will be invested in education.
I am also proud to see several new significant initiatives which will help children make the most of their education. The $400,000 commitment to the reading recovery early intervention program is targeted to provide support for children at risk. It is a very sad thing to see children left behind by their peers, growing more and more frustrated by their inability to keep up. If these children are not helped, they act out against the school and against society.
The commitment of $270,000 to provide optical care and prescription drugs to children of low-income families shows this government's commitment to social values and so does the commitment to extend the hot lunch programs and to make sure that the children's dental program is maintained.
Mr. Speaker, this budget recognizes that education is a life-long process. It is in an increasingly complex and changing world, and few of us are able to rely on the skills we learned in grade school. A number of the initiatives in this budget recognize this.
The youth work program will help prepare our young people for life and work. A total of $1 million will be invested in a training trust fund, including the youth works and mine-training trust fund. I know that in my riding, Mr. Speaker, a good number of people are now working in the mining industry and I know that there are many others who would appreciate an opportunity to access training that might make them more employable.
As the Government of Canada reduces its commitments to training, it's going to be important to develop a strong Yukon approach, and I am pleased to see a commitment to a cooperative Yukon training strategy, which will involve the Yukon Hire Commission, the Department of Education, Economic Development and Yukon College.
And I hope that this initiative will also involve other organizations involved in offering training, such as the Northern Tutchone Training Institute.
I am also happy to see that the Yukon government is prepared to share the training opportunities offered through its Public Service Commission with other levels of government and non-government organizations, and I think that increased opportunities for job exchanges also makes sense. Learning new approaches to a wide range of issues, which face all organizations, will better equip us to face the challenges of the future.
Mr. Speaker, as a member of this Legislature who represents a very large rural constituency, it gives me particular pleasure to speak in support of this budget, because I see it as a strong vote of confidence in the communities of this territory. Despite the changes in the formula financing arrangements, we have been able to maintain municipal block funding at current levels so that communities can continue to offer their normal range of services.
Mr. Speaker, this budget makes a commitment of $2 million to restore the community development fund, and I think that anyone who has lived in the Yukon for more than the past few years will recognize the significance of the return of this fund. Over the years the CDF funded many projects throughout the Yukon. These projects improved the quality of community life and contributed to facilities such as child care, recreation centres, parks, which will serve their community for many years to come. And, I also think that it's good that the temporary community projects initiative has been put in place so that the community priorities can be acted on in the meantime.
It is important to note that the views of the community people are being actively solicited before the guidelines of the new community development fund are developed. Our government believes that the people of the Yukon have a lot of sound advice to offer on how government can best serve them. Mr. Speaker, it makes good sense that the Department of Community and Transportation Services talks to people about the kinds of services and facilities their particular community needs before it develops its rural service policy paper.
I think people in my riding are going to be reassured that this government's budget commitments to get on with land claims and the implementation, and to assist the establishment of the development and assessment process, a commission which will consult widely to make sure that the legislation does a thorough and balanced job of assessing the environmental, social and economic effects of development, is a good idea.
Mr. Speaker, for many rural communities, final land claims agreements are going to provide a major economic and social boost.
People in my riding have watched Mayo develop in two years since the effective date of their claims. Both Pelly and Carmacks are anxious to get on with the job and develop their own self-government capabilities.
People are looking forward to the opportunity to have more say about how things will happen in their region.
Mr. Speaker, Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation has had some success with the development agreements with mining companies, which have provided some jobs and training opportunities. But, I think that many people in both Pelly and Carmacks are looking forward to the establishment of their own renewable resource councils, which will let people sit down together, talk about things that are important to them, like fish and wildlife and forests.
People feel that more local control will open a way to a range of new economic opportunities, including tourism, and I am pleased to see the government's support for the First Nation Tourism Association, which is working to develop a whole new sector in the Yukon industry.
Yukon tourism's support for the arts has a lot of potential. People are proud of Jerry Alfred, a Juno Award winning musician, nominated again this year, promoting the Northern Tutchone songs and language around the world, and it's great to see that musicians like Jerry show the way when it comes to producing value-added export products.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to close my remarks with a few words on the major projects that I will be working on over the next four years as Minister of Renewable Resources.
For too long, Mr. Speaker, we have taken the wilderness of the Yukon for granted. Over the years, a range of development activities has eaten away at that wilderness. Roads and exploration, trails, camps of one kind or another, forestry, agricultural leases and tourism activities have all had their effects. Wilderness cannot be taken for granted.
I support the work of the Forest Commission and its sensible three-party approach to developing forest policy to guide the management of our forests.
The time has come to set aside special places and protect them for the future. The time has come to protect key wildlife habitats and the spectacular natural features and productive wetlands that we have.
And Mr. Speaker, I am privileged to have the responsibility for leading the development of a protected area strategy for the Yukon. The Yukon government, over the years, has made a variety of commitments to protected areas. During the last New Democratic government, significant progress was made on gathering information to support development of a system of protected areas. It's time to share what we know about the Yukon's special places and to learn from others who know their own areas better than a scientist ever will.
It's time to bring people together and decide what deserves protection, and what kind of protection will ensure that special places are there for our future generations to use and enjoy.
Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the challenge, and I encourage the members of this House to give that initiative and the sound, balanced approach of this budget their favourable consideration.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am very pleased to stand today in this House to respond to the first budget of this new government. As a neophyte to politics, I'm especially delighted that this government has brought in a budget I am proud to support. This budget rightly places the emphasis on Yukon people. They are our priority. One just has to look at how spending is being realigned to ensure that the people are the beneficiaries of sustainable, responsible, targeted spending.
As the MLA from a small community hit very hard economically, I am very confident we are on the right track to correct the neglect of four years of a Yukon Party government. Recently the caucus spent some time in Watson Lake, and they're well aware of the problems there left by their legacy.
The leader of the third party has bragged about the Paul Martin approach. Maybe he's forgotten the Marc Lalonde approach to government, which is to go on a massive spending spree to fund anything that had the potential to buy votes for the Liberal Party. The Paul Martin approach has been to recognize Marc Lalonde's chickens coming home to roost. What Mr. Martin's been doing, as we will debate tomorrow afternoon, is to dismantle everything that has been built up over the years, regardless of the social cost to communities.
Mr. Speaker, maintaining the social safety net is extremely important to this government, especially as the federal Liberals continue their slash-and-burn philosophy of off-loading programs. It's frustrating to me, and I know to many of the NGOs in this territory, to fall victim to funding cuts, especially after having their expectations raised and money provided to get these programs started.
It seems, once the community becomes dependent upon these federally funded programs, they are brutally cut off with no thought to how people's lives are being affected.
In Watson Lake we have a volunteer organization called Signpost Seniors who have done an incredible job of looking after seniors in our community. One of the trends that seems to be evolving in Watson Lake is that our elderly people are not leaving to spend their retirement years in the south, but have chosen to stay in Watson Lake in their homes, near the families they have raised there.
Signpost Seniors, as an NGO, provides home care for seniors who are not ill enough to stay in a hospital but need a little help to enable them to stay at home and have someone come in to assist them. Unfortunately, Signpost Seniors is one of the organizations profoundly affected by federal cuts. The New Horizons program provided much-needed funding to Signpost Seniors and helped get this group started, but now that they are up and running, now that seniors have become dependent upon this service, now that the hospital stay for seniors has dropped as many are being taken care of in their own homes, they are suddenly informed that federal funding will no longer be available.
As a government we believe our seniors deserve to live out their lives with the respect and dignity that they have earned. This government is committed to ensuring that the needs of seniors are met, and we will fight any further erosion of their programs by the federal Liberals.
The Liberal Member for Riverdale South, in her speech last week, spoke of the need for Watson Lake to have a new ambulance station, fire hall and town office. It's obvious the Member for Riverdale South seems to be as out of touch with what is going on in Watson Lake as is the Leader of the Official Opposition. Earlier this year, government officials met with the Mayor of Watson Lake and the Chief of the Liard First Nation and have agreed to a feasibility study to look at the possibility of all three levels of government - municipal, First Nation and territorial - sharing a new office space.
We are all aware that money must be spent more wisely and more creatively. We can do that if we work in partnership and pool our resources, such as the Town of Watson Lake, Liard First Nation and the Yukon government are looking at. This government will not be so arrogant as to decide what's best for the community. The community knows best what its priorities are, and they should be very involved in the decision making.
I am extremely pleased to see that the community development fund is being resurrected. The community of Watson Lake benefited from the old CDF with the building of the wildlife park, which has become a drawing point for the community of Watson Lake. The park has been extensively used by tourists driving through the gateway to the Yukon, as well as by the community at large.
The CDF, in the past, provided numerous opportunities for communities to improve their infrastructure. I know that many people in the communities are looking forward to having this program available to them once again.
Another very important aspect of this budget is the additional $160,000 to be spent on family violence prevention and $80,000 more for victim services. Watson Lake will directly benefit from this funding.
Along with many other communities in the Yukon, the community of Watson Lake also suffers the scourge of family violence. Since it opened in 1991, the Help and Hope for Families home has provided services to 4,661 women and children. During the four years of Yukon Party government, Help and Hope had to struggle to continue the level of service they could provide for the community. I know this additional funding for programs will certainly be well received.
Young people in the Yukon have suffered most acutely from both federal off-loading of youth programs, such as YES, and the loss of educational and job opportunities. The youth works investment program will be most welcome to the young people from my community to help prepare them for life and work. As adults, we often fail to recognize that young people have many good ideas about what works best for them, and I am pleased to note that this program allows the young people themselves to design and administer youth works in association with the Department of Education.
I would like to talk about the Forest Commission now. The development of a forest policy and a management plan will have a great impact on diversifying our economy and creating jobs. This is a very high priority for this government. That is why I am excited with the opportunity to head up the Yukon Forest Cabinet Commission. In setting up Cabinet commissions, our government has realized early on that we need new ways of undertaking public business in the Yukon.
The Yukon Forest Cabinet Commission is not set up to be the sole expert on forest issues, nor was it set up to be the so-called owner of forest policy and advice in the Yukon. The commission was established to provide leadership within the Yukon government and to work in partnership with the First Nation governments, the federal government and the Yukon public to create an approach to managing Yukon forests that is acceptable to all Yukon people. We must build a sustainable forest industry in order to maximize the benefits of our forests for generations to come.
We have witnessed far too long the problems of not working together in the Yukon. We all remember the failed attempt by the Yukon Party to develop a forest policy. Our forests and our communities have suffered the consequences. We have all seen the anguish that the Watson Lake community has gone through as a result of unclear and uncooperative approaches to forest policy decision making in the Yukon by the previous government.
I do not have to tell anyone here the importance of forest management to my home community.
Just over the past four years, I've seen this community go through an incredible boom-and-bust cycle with our forest operators. This boom and bust, Mr. Speaker, was about an inability to find a common solution to the interim problems in the forest sector.
Why was there any inability? Because agencies have not been working together. What has happened in Watson Lake? We have seen the forest sector and the forest economy being reduced to a fraction of its former self. This has impacted our community significantly. People are out of work. Businesses are no longer profitable. Bills are unpaid. We need to work hard to find an interim way through this mess, Mr. Speaker. We cannot let bad policy impact our communities this way again.
The Leader of the Official Opposition mentioned in his speech the other day that the commissions are doing the same work that is already being done. I disagree with that assessment, Mr. Speaker. When I joined government, I was amazed to learn that some people in different government agencies that deal with forest management issues had actually never met. We can't afford to operate that way any longer. The time for separate solitudes between governments, between agencies or between community interests is over.
Mr. Speaker, we are moving toward a transfer of forest resources to Yukon. As we all know, forest management has been a sore public issue in recent years. There is a clear need to develop a new system of forest management in the Yukon, and that's what the Forest Commission will do in a cost-effective manner. We are quite focused on the devolution of the forest resource from the federal government, but let us not forget that devolving the resource is one step. What we do with that resource is the next and important question. In working together, we can help determine the long-term shared vision and approach to managing our forests.
The Yukon Forest Commission was established in recognition of the diversity of values and interests over Yukon forest lands and the need for made-in-Yukon forest policy.
Mr. Speaker, in the short time that the commission has been established, we have come a long way in recognizing these values and helping to facilitate a partnership in the forest.
The commission has built key partnerships within the Yukon government, creating a Yukon government forest team to focus and integrate the government's efforts in the forest. The commission has proposed and begun work on a set of intergovernmental forest teams from federal, First Nation and Yukon government agencies. These teams will work together at the technical level under one work plan to build a single forest policy in the Yukon.
The commission has begun working with renewable resource councils to find an effective way to focus forest decision making at the community level. The commission has been working directly with the First Nation governments to find a meaningful way for them to participate on forest policy discussions. The commission has facilitated the revision of the Yukon Forest Advisory Committee so that it reports to three orders of government instead of to a Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development official.
The Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief, the Government Leader and the DIAND minister agreed to this at their February 3rd meeting. The commission has also ensured that renewable resource councils would be full members of the YFAC, recognizing their role in forest management decisions under the umbrella final agreement.
The commission is continuing to work with YFAC and governments to begin the drafting of a common approach to development of a Yukon forest strategy. In short, Mr. Speaker, this government, through the Yukon Forest Commission, has accomplished more in regards to the development of a forest policy for the Yukon in five months than the previous government accomplished in four years. Unlike the previous government, who were approached numerous times by Yukon operators to assist them in working with the federal government to help keep this fledging industry going were told repeatedly, "There is nothing we can do; it's a federal problem," and yet during the election campaign the Government Leader was willing to offer operators in the Yukon a stumpage subsidy that would have amounted to $1 million in cost to the Yukon and to hire a facilitator to deal with the federal government on behalf of the forest industry - and he calls the commission an expensive sham. That is a laugher.
Mr. Speaker, all communities in Yukon are, to some degree, dependent on the forest around them. In working together, we can help determine the long-term vision and approach to managing our forests.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I would like to reiterate that it's my pleasure to support this budget, which is sustainable, responsible and targetted to the needs of all Yukon people.
Ms. Duncan: It's an honour for me to stand today to respond to this government's budget. As I committed to the people of Porter Creek South during the election campaign, I shall endeavour to serve them well.
I'm pleased to review this budget from several perspectives. I am a new member of this House and, to some degree, learning the rules. I am not, however, new to generally accepted accounting principles, or to balancing budgets, or to accounting for assets.
I come to this House with the perspective of having worked for a number of Yukon businesses in bookkeeping and in administration.
I know exactly what it feels like to lie awake on the 14th of the month and wonder, "Have we met payroll?" "Can we pay the Receiver General tomorrow?" "Can we continue to keep these people employed?"
I believe that careful management of money, looking after the pence so that the pounds will look after themselves, applies equally to private and to public money. Looking after public money is even more important because, in business, it might be your mortgage on the line, but with public money, it's everybody's mortgage.
I might use terms that everyone can understand, such as mortgages and children's savings accounts. However, let me assure all the members of this House, and the public, that I am fully aware of what the terms accumulated surplus, estimates versus mains, and debt versus deficit, mean.
I know, as does every Yukoner, that this was a deficit budget, when we were promised pay-as-you-go government.
Yukoners will also recall the former Opposition Leader that promised balanced budget legislation, and who said he would be willing to consider penalties to the finance minister if the budget wasn't balanced. This is, as we on this side well know, just the beginning. There will be more budgets to come from this government. Perhaps balanced-budget legislation is on the legislative agenda for later.
Balance, on the balance sheet, is having an equal number of assets and liabilities. Recently, the newsletter of the committee on monetary and economic reform, in an open letter to the Prime Minister, raised the idea of capital investment, or accounting for fixed capital assets.
This note, in particular, struck a chord with me. "...the public accounts makes no distinction between current spending of the federal government and capital investment. The Canada Year Book informs us that 'fixed capital assets, such as government buildings and public works, are charged to budgetary expenditures at the time of acquisition or construction, and are shown on the statement of assets and liabilities at a nominal value of $1.00.' "
"The investment of the government in physical and human capital should be recognized as such and amortized over the period of its likely usefulness."
I'm concerned about how this government accounts for its assets. There's some 26-odd schools in the Yukon. There are visitor reception centres in a number of communities and there are renewable resources offices in a number of communities. That just covers three of my critic areas. Yukoners should have been presented, with the budget documents, a clear statement of the number of buildings they own, listed by community, the value of the buildings and the replacement cost. It should also be outlined, I believe, in the budget documents which of these buildings are insured and for how much.
We have to replace two of these buildings - government-owned - in the near future. If, heaven forbid, we should have to replace the other buildings, how much of our assets have we lost? How much are we on the hook for? I believe we should be discussing our assets when we discuss our finances. That's not unheard of in accounting circles.
Fortunately for members, how the government does its accounting and spends its money is also reviewed elsewhere. It's reviewed in the Public Accounts Committee, and I for one am looking forward to serving on this committee, representing the Liberal caucus. The Public Accounts Committee can be a powerful tool of this Legislature and of the public. I'm giving notice to all members that I, for one, value this tool and take service on this committee very, very seriously. I intend to work hard at this role and would expect the same from other members of the committee and of this House.
There are a number of areas that the Public Accounts Committee could examine, and one suggestion I might have is for the funding of non-government organizations. Mr. Speaker, I did a quick calculation through the budget documents and identified some $8.2 million to 56 different non-government organizations. We've been promised a policy on non-government organization funding from the Minister of Health and Social Services. I'm sure my colleague, the critic for this area, looks forward to reviewing his policy.
Unfortunately, there are far more than just the health and social service non-government organizations funding that's at stake here. There are many, many other non-government organizations that are funded. Some of these organizations have been funded for over 10 years, at the same level of funding consistently. Has anybody ever asked these organizations about their accounting methods? Does anyone ever read the financial statements that they submit to see how public money is being spent? Do we even know if the funding to some of these organizations is adequate for the job we are asking them to do? Does anybody ever check to see if the non-government organizations are being funded by two or three different departments to do the same job? Is funding for non-government organizations intended to be a job creation vehicle?
Questions about the accounting for funding of non-government organizations are not the only broad-based accounting questions raised by the budget documents. The $5 million line item labeled "contingency," the unlegislated training funds, the community - we hope - development fund, will be monitored and questioned closely by our caucus.
The budget documents are not just accounting documents of the government. They also outline for public review and discussion, and question in this Legislature, the approach of the government, the vision of the future.
I am concerned about the vision that is articulated in the government budget documents. In Education, the vision I see in the budget is a maintained commitment to some of the initiatives started by the previous government. I'm pleased the Porter Creek Secondary School will be completed. I have had the opportunity to actually view the Wiggleworks part of the reading recovery early intervention program during one of my visits to a school council meeting. Wiggleworks is a great program. I hope that the schools can afford the computer that's required to run the program.
There's a vision of a renovated and repaired F.H. Collins School. There is not a vision of Grey Mountain Primary School. When are members of this Legislature going to come clean with the parents and the students of children who attend that school? Will we or will we not have a new Grey Mountain School?
A vision of a repaired and renovated Jack Hulland School is absent.
Those are just some of the Whitehorse schools.
The vision articulated in the rural school facility study is absent from the budget.
They have done only the necessary to meet the health and safety concerns, but an overall, clear, long-term vision of education is absent.
I don't see a clear, long-term vision of the renewable resources of the territory. There's a commitment to comprehensive protected areas, which actually remains to be seen, and there is finally the adoption of the Kluane land use management plan. There's no discussion about a wildlife viewing program, or of a commitment to all the renewable resources in the Yukon, not just a concentration on larger animals. Where is the commitment to actually make use of the information gained out of the Arctic Institute's snowshoe hare study?
Those are just a couple of areas that the government budget fails, in my view, to articulate a clear vision for Yukoners to see. I don't see a clear vision. I don't see jobs, and I don't see balance. I do, however, see a very healthy opportunity in the coming days for a vigorous discussion in this House on the best use of public money, and I, for one, am looking forward to it.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I rise in support of our government's budget; our first budget, which comes after only five months in government. It addresses our spending priorities in the first year, although more than $20 million of this budget was spent by the previous government.
I want to talk about what this budget means for the territory and for my constituents. I also want to comment on some of the accusations advanced by the Opposition. In fact, I see, as part of my responsibilities as a member of government, to hold the Opposition responsible and accountable for what they say in order to promote intelligent debate in this House.
This is a budget for the people of the Yukon, and it shows our confidence in the future of the territory. It is fiscally responsible, spends within our means and on a sustainable basis. It is very strong in support of communities, youth, working people and the environment. The community development fund - community projects initiative - received a huge positive response from Yukoners, Mr. Speaker. The protected areas strategy - my colleague from Mayo-Tatchun, Minister of Renewable Resources, spoke about the economic potential of a protected-area strategy and what it could mean to Yukoners. Well, our government took that initiative; we just didn't talk about it, we took that initiative.
This budget maintains social services, promotes training and youth works initiatives, and has incentives for the small business community. It confirms our commitment to settling land claims and self-government agreements.
The four Cabinet commissions - they will promote economic development on a sustainable basis through a process which consults with Yukoners, not dictates to them.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, there are many other initiatives, but I want to discuss how this budget is good news, particularly for the people in the Kluane riding.
First of all, no cuts to municipal funding. This allows municipalities, such as the Village of Haines Junction, to continue to plan its budget without having to cut back on the services it provides. The greater Kluane land use plan - the Member for Porter Creek South spoke about the plan and how our government is adopting it for the benefit of the area. This plan has been sitting on a shelf for the last four years, gathering dust, although more than $3 million was spent to develop it. The lack of a land use plan in the Kluane area has created significant concern in relation to such land use issues as agricultural leases and timber harvesting.
Through approval of the plan, our government will be listening to the people and reducing these kinds of confrontations in the future.
Our government is currently renegotiating a new agreement with the Alaskans to complete the Shakwak Highway reconstruction project on the north Alaska Highway between Haines Junction and Beaver Creek. When this agreement is reached, we don't plan to simply continue on with how things have been done in the past, we want to ensure maximum benefit to Yukoners, especially rural Yukoners, who live in the vicinity of this multi-million dollar project.
I had the opportunity to attend a meeting held in Haines Junction by the local hire commissioner, my colleague from Whitehorse Centre. He and his deputy commissioner had just returned from meetings in Beaver Creek, Burwash Landing and Destruction Bay. They had talked to many people in those communities, not backroom boys, as the Member for Klondike suggests, but real people, skilled workers, lodge owners, unemployed workers who were unable to get a job on the Shakwak in the past four years.
He estimated that these people had benefited by less than half of one percent of the total spent to date on the Shakwak Highway project, estimated at $190 million. This is atrocious. Our government, through the Cabinet Commission on Yukon Hire will develop policy to promote maximum benefits to community workers and businesses. This type of smart spending has potential to make a huge improvement to rural Yukoners. This example shows how our government can and will do more with less.
Our government believes in our youth and that's why the Department of Education is investing $200,000 this year to establish the youth works program. I know there are many young people in the Kluane riding who will appreciate this type of commitment.
The community development fund is welcome news for many people in the Kluane riding. I am aware of several applications so far. This demonstrates the high level of interest in the communities. Perhaps this is not surprising, Mr. Speaker, considering how they were treated over the past four years.
A commitment to complete land claims and self-government agreements is a high priority of this government. There are three First Nations in the Kluane riding, two of which have yet to reach land claims agreements. The First Nations have tremendous potential to become actively involved in the economic future of the Kluane area and I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, we will work with the First Nations in good faith to reach these agreements.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I want to address some of the conduct shown by the members of the Opposition in speaking to this budget and respond to some of the points they made. The Official Opposition has levied several attacks on this budget - several unfair attacks - some of them even on a personal level, that are not founded on fact, but are based on sensationalism and negativity.
Early in the first sitting I mentioned how I hoped we could all work together more cooperatively. Now, instead of promoting cooperation, it seems the Opposition has decided to take an approach that promotes negativity and mean-spirited attacks. At the centre of this vindictiveness is a very bitter former Government Leader who now has adopted an approach to attack for headlines.
He accuses us of plagiarizing ideas from the previous government, and how we try to take credit as if they were our own initiatives. He goes on to conclude from this supposition that our government has no ethical fibre whatsoever. Mr. Speaker, it is this type of conclusion, this type of attack, that I want to address, and I'll review some of these on a case-by-case basis.
The former Government Leader says there's a dramatic turnaround between the situation our government is faced with and what the situation was in his first year of government back in 1992-1993. But what about the harsh measures, Mr. Speaker, his government imposed back then, such as government cutbacks, tax increases, layoffs, freezing all travel, funding cutbacks to NGOs, et cetera? Our government has found a better way to deal with the significant economic challenges resultant from the Faro mine closure, and we will not take a vindictive approach to the people of the Yukon.
The former Government Leader attacks the Yukon Hire Commission because the Public Service Commission selected job applicants from outside the Yukon. Our government made a commitment to consult Yukoners on how to best achieve a Yukon hire policy before implementing measures, and I am confident that's exactly what my colleague, the Member for Whitehorse Centre, will achieve with his Yukon Hire Commission. So when the Leader of the Official Opposition criticizes our government in regard to PSC hirings, he is really criticizing the very policies that his government failed to change, and which our government will change, but not until we've heard from Yukoners. Our government believes in public consultation, not confrontation, as Yukoners experienced during the past four years, Mr. Speaker.
The former Government Leader also criticized us for dampening expectations in the general public, expectations that he said we created. Well, Mr. Speaker, I think the now Leader of the Official Opposition is trying to rewrite history. It wasn't our party who made all the expensive campaign promises, because we knew it would be unsustainable to continue overspending in the midst of increased federal cutbacks. The Dawson bridge - what colour paint? We'll build it. We promised to be fiscally responsible, and that's exactly what this budget does. It does more with less. We're not spending $7.4 million on computers and furniture like his government did, Mr. Speaker.
Our budget uses our financial resources wisely by creating the most jobs and accomplishing the greatest possible benefit for Yukon people with the resources available. This is a fiscally responsible approach.
May I remind the former Government Leader about his party's mass mailings last summer - the Yukon Party Caucus News, better known as the Yukon Party hype, broadcast headlines based on pure hype. Please allow me to jog his memory with a few of them. "Nine Mines in the Offing" - hype Mr. Speaker, pure hype. Nine mines - where are they?
"Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, 2000 More Jobs by 1999" - what a joke Mr. Speaker, what a joke. "Settle all Land Claims before February 1997" - sure, Mr. Speaker. I know the First Nations really believe that one.
"Back to Full Collective Bargaining" - what a joke, Mr. Speaker. Talk about raising expectations. Under the current economic circumstances, a Yukon Party government would likely be rolling back wages again.
"Land, Land, Land". Mr. Speaker, the availability of land is a serious concern for Yukoners. I know that in the Kluane riding there's demand for mixed lots, especially in the Haines Junction area. But what did the previous government do? It built a subdivision in Beaver Creek that nobody lives in. That's right, Mr. Speaker - it's completely empty, a fully-serviced subdivision sitting there empty, costing taxpayers. From what I understand, there's no demand for those lots in sight. What a waste. What's more, the street lights come on automatically every night. The electrical ratepayers of the territory will be comforted to know that.
"Saving Aishihik Lake". They weren't going to save it, Mr. Speaker, they were going to drain it. I heard the Member for Klondike today accusing us of not draining the last two feet of the lake because I've got a cabin on the lake. Well, Mr. Speaker, his facts are partially right. I've got a cabin on the lake, but that's not why we protected that last two feet. It was in response to environmental concerns expressed by First Nations. The chief of the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation raised significant public concern on this issue.
We know that the Official Opposition doesn't listen to First Nations concerns. This is merely another example of how they ignore concerns from First Nations.
"Seeking a Brighter Energy Future" - a brighter energy future, Mr. Speaker. Sure, you can bet that I'll be commenting on that one at a later time.
So you see, it wasn't us who raised the hype. It was the previous government. All we're merely trying to do is get people's expectations back to reality, which is a challenge given the hype they've been subjected to in the past.
The former Government Leader accused us of trying to take credit for programs his government started, such as the apprenticeship program. Mr. Speaker, I didn't believe that accusation was fair and went back to the budget speech and found the reference. It merely said, "At a time when the federal government is reducing its commitments to post-secondary education, I am pleased to report that our government is maintaining its commitment to Yukon College and the Yukon apprentices program." Again, it is proven that the honourable member has exaggerated the truth. We didn't say we created the program. We said we would be maintaining it.
The former Government Leader scoffed at our relations with Alaska, for working towards an agreement to allocate $94 million towards completing the Shakwak project. His reason this time was that the department officials had already reached an agreement before the old one lapsed. Rubbish, Mr. Speaker. Pure rubbish. I can tell you that, within a month of taking office, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, his assistant, his senior departmental official, drove with me to Beaver Creek to see the highway reconstruction project for ourselves. During that trip, it was learned there was no agreement in place - absolutely nothing - everything was still in the air. No jobs for people in the future. They did nothing.
The progress mentioned by the Government Leader in the budget speech was a result of negotiations by our government with the Alaskans. What the former Government Leader failed to do in four years, we achieved within four months.
The former Government Leader attacked us for planning to create jobs for people in the communities through our community development fund. According to him, the program is morally wrong because it doesn't provide an economic base in the communities that is sustainable. While I agree that is a laudable goal, it is simply beyond the ability of a first-year government strapped with a hangover of hefty spending commitments from a previous government - a big hangover, Mr. Speaker, a big hangover. In fact, his government in the previous four years, did nothing to develop a sustainable economic base in the communities. Instead, they centralized government workers back to Whitehorse and ignored much of rural Yukon - until election time. Then they talked all about the communities and what they were going to do for them if re-elected in the coming four years. What rubbish.
The former Government Leader criticized Kluane First Nation's proposed community centre in Burwash Landing, saying there was such a building constructed nearly 10 years ago. Certainly there was, but for years now it's been used as an administration office by the First Nation because the previous government ignored the needs of that community for four years. Mr. Speaker, ask anybody from the Kluane First Nation about how the Yukon Party treated them and you are bound to get an earful.
The former Government Leader accused us of doublespeak on the wolf kill. Now, I'm in a position to speak to this issue, because I bore the brunt of Yukon Party tactics to capitalize on a media misquote during the last week of September's election. At the candidates forum in Haines Junction, I made it quite clear that the moratorium was intended to give our government the opportunity to assess the program before any decision that it would be continued. The moratorium did not mean the program would be halted but, lo and behold, within two days, the Yukon Party bombarded Haines Junction and other communities in the Kluane riding with a newsletter that intentionally spread misinformation and promoted fear that the program would be terminated by an NDP government - highly unfair but not surprising in the least, Mr. Speaker. They even used the former Member for Kluane, Mr. Brewster, as the one endorsing that newsletter, because they knew they themselves had no credibility. They had to rely on the past reputation of Mr. Brewster to spread that message, incorrect as it was.
The former Government Leader took specific aim at the Energy Commission, attacking it for planning to review the regulatory process used by the Yukon Utilities Board. We want to encourage greater public participation and increase accountability for the benefit of the electrical consumers. Although he was correct in saying I was involved in the review, which took place under his government two years ago, I was not the only one who didn't agree with the changes made before the last rate hearings. In fact, nearly every participant at that hearing was dissatisfied with the changes. Some even vowed not to return until some semblance of fairness was reinstituted in the process.
The Yukon Party government called it streamlining the process, but those involved knew it as streamlining the profits. The proof was in the pudding, Mr. Speaker. Yukon consumers of electricity watched how, under the new rules, the electrical utility companies were permitted to abscond with ratepayers' money as extra profits, instead of lowering consumer power rates.
Quite simply, the cost savings to ratepayers were nowhere near the $10 million saved in the previous hearing. There is lots more, Mr. Speaker, but I'll save that for another day. I can promise to return to this issue with more information that will no doubt make the former Government Leader and his colleague from Riverdale North, the former justice minister who was responsible for streamlining the profits, feel very uncomfortable for attacking the Energy Commission, for wanting to review this process and all rate costs on behalf of all consumers.
The former Government Leader attacked our government for continuing the rate relief program, which was improved for 1997 with a price signal to conserve electricity. It also ended the discrimination against people in the communities who now share the subsidy for consumption up to 1,500 kilowatt hours per month. We believe this subsidy, which varies up to nearly $20 a month, depending on the level of consumption, is still required to offset the huge rate increase that occurred during his government's tenure, and the Energy Commission will soon be consulting with Yukoners on the best way to deal with this program in the future.
Even though he promised to also continue the rate relief program, albeit in the dying days of his election campaign, he chooses now to criticize the program, calling it a short-term, stop-gap measure. Well, well, well, Mr. Speaker, talk about a flip-flop Opposition Leader. It wasn't long ago that he promised Yukoners that, if re-elected, his government would continue the program and not phase it out until somewhere in the neighbourhood of seven to 10 years. Now he wants to cut it off this year. Maybe he can afford to live with higher electrical bills, but I know of many Yukoners who can't.
The former Government Leader attacked us for not using funds from the Yukon Development Corporation to create quick jobs for the unemployed workers at Faro, but what did he do under similar circumstances? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. His approach was to await a solution from the private sector. Now he wants our government to intervene and quickly spend ratepayers' money on whatever project might create jobs. Maybe there are some fencepost poles that need digging, Mr. Speaker. Spend it on anything.
That is not sensible, long-term planning, and certainly is not consistent with promoting a sustainable economy for all Yukoners. As the Government Leader said, reckless decisions must be avoided.
The former Government Leader told us that one of his biggest concerns is our increased operation and maintenance costs. He went on public record saying that there is going to be a substantial increase in the operation and maintenance cost of this budget compared to any budget that he presented in this Legislature.
This is nothing more than sensational hype, Mr. Speaker. As my colleague for Whitehorse West pointed out, there's actually been a slight decrease in the O&M budget, if you consider the $7.8 million Health phase 2 transfer. The approach taken by the former Government Leader certainly is not an approach you'd expect from a credible and effective Opposition.
What I am discovering all too suddenly, I'm afraid, is that the Official Opposition has chosen an approach founded, not on principles and facts, but on vindictiveness and sensationalism. While this approach might make for good headlines, it rejects Yukoners' wishes for more cooperation in the Legislature and less time on meaningless political attacks.
I'll leave it at that, Mr. Speaker. Maybe we could all think about it for a while. Thank you.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, when the Government Leader, the Minister of Finance, tabled his budget a short while ago, I had great expectations, as other members in this House have commented on. At first blush, I looked at the budget, and it didn't do a lot for me. There wasn't a lot in the budget that I saw that had been changed from before, and I decided to take a look through the budget and see what there is in this budget that could benefit, in particular, my constituents in Riverdale North and, in particular, the 15 percent plus people in the Yukon that were currently unemployed.
I guess I have to say, Mr. Speaker, that I'm extremely disappointed in what I found. I can remember early last spring, when the unemployment rate was at nine and a half percent and we were being severely chastised by the Opposition then - and now the Minister of Economic Development, in particular - who was telling us that nine percent unemployment was outrageous - despite the fact that retail sales had been consistently going up every month for the last year and that unemployment had been consistently going down - that the economy was still suffering and we weren't doing enough and we hadn't done enough and the Yukon was in a sorry state under a Yukon Party government.
But now, Mr. Speaker, we have 15 percent unemployment and we haven't even factored in the latest layoffs in Faro and the latest layoffs that I heard about today from the United Keno Hill mines and other layoffs that are coming. We haven't factored any of that in.
We haven't factored any of that in, and the government is saying that our whole economy is tied to Faro, and that's why things are the way they are now. But, that isn't what they said back in 1992, 1993 and 1994. Mr. Speaker, it was exactly the opposite.
I'd like to get some things out of the way first. I found there were some positive things in this budget. I was encouraged by the increased spending in the family violence prevention area. I think that that's a positive initiative. I think that flowed primarily from the many studies and work that had been done with respect to family violence and the needs that were identified out there by various people. And so I expected that there would be something in the budget, especially since this government had talked about that as an issue during the election campaign. So, I was pleased to see that.
I was surprised and pleased to see increased spending in some of the areas of tourism, because the side opposite had continually criticized us in tourism, despite the ever-increasing numbers. Of course, it wasn't anything that we did, it was something that someone else did in the world - the Gold Rush Anniversaries, that's what it was, that's what made the Yukon a popular place, the Gold Rush Anniversaries, and that's why more people were coming, it had nothing to do with the marketing plan.
Interestingly enough, now that they're in government they're following the exact same marketing plan, and the exact same recommendations that were made by the officials.
I was somewhat disappointed by the comments made by the Government Leader in the budget speech presentation, and the Member for Kluane commented on it today in a rather sensitive way, that he was upset that we made comments about them taking credit for some of our programs.
I think it's interesting to comment on programs that are ongoing and that you're going to continue them. But, on the other hand, it's all about the way it's written in the budget speech and I know the Government Leader, the Minister of Finance, talked about crime prevention initiatives and they were all ongoing under the old government, and I don't see anything new in those initiatives.
I was encouraged today by the Minister of Justice's comments, but there isn't anything the Minister of Justice said today that wasn't in the planning six months ago or eight months ago, so I wasn't surprised by that.
I'm pleased by the initiatives. I think, in honesty, the Minister of Justice, even in Opposition, supported some of those initiatives and wasn't critical of them, so I fully expected him to carry them out.
The safe school program is going to continue. Well, I'm glad it's going to continue; it's a good program. The art's policy - that was a program that we initiated and I started as the Minister of Tourism, and it's written up in the budget like this is the first time that anyone's ever done this kind of thing.
The industrial support policy was a piece of junk, according to the economic development minister back in 1993-94, but it's a very useful tool today.
Land claims - we've done nothing to settle land claims in four years and yet we're now talking about ... We know and they know that there was an awful lot of discussions and meetings and things were in the final stages in at least four of the land claims that are going to be ratified in the near future: Carmacks, Pelly and a couple of others that a lot of work had been done on. It bothers me sometimes to hear members of the Opposition say we did nothing in land claims when in fact the Chief of the Carmacks First Nation was involved in a lot of those discussions and reached many of those agreements over a period of years.
Now, it may not have been in a time frame that everyone wanted, but to say that nothing has been done is quite a way from the truth. There was a lot of work done, and the Member for Carmacks was involved in a lot of that and did a lot of the work, and I give him an awful lot of credit for that, but so was the Government of the Yukon and the Yukon Party involved in those negotiations as a partner.
In the budget, it talks about more money for the sewage treatment plan in Whitehorse and I know that the members opposite spoke quite a bit about the commitment the previous government made - we saddled them with $20 million of commitment is what they've said. I think the Member for Kluane talked about the outrageous spending commitments that we have. Well, I guess, Mr. Speaker, that that member is not in favour of the new Kluane convention centre, which is going to help the Kluane National Park region. I guess he's not in favour of that, but he was bound by our commitments and couldn't say no to it, but he said today that we're bound by these commitments; I'm not in favour of them.
I guess they're still smarting and hurting from the Beringia interpretive centre, which I think will one day be a significant player in attracting visitors to the Yukon. It'll be real interesting, after all the negative stuff they said about the Beringia interpretive centre and when they have the official opening, to see who actually speaks at the official opening and what they say. I sure hope it isn't the Government Leader, because we know how he felt about the Beringia interpretive centre over the years and he probably couldn't stand there with a straight face and say anything nice about it.
Mind you, I will remind the Government Leader as well that he was the individual that questioned me vehemently about the revenue of the Beringia interpretive centre. He went up one side and down the other about our forecasted figures, but guess what? When you open the budget up and look at the projected revenues for this government, in the revenue side of the budget is $300,000 revenue for the Beringia interpretive centre - our numbers.
It was okay to say that there's no way you could achieve that when you were in Opposition, but when you're in government, you plug it into your budget so you have a smaller deficit. You can't have it both ways, Mr. Speaker.
The Member for Kluane talked earlier today about their government believing in consultation. The Leader of the Opposition tabled a letter today that was written by the Government Leader, when he was in Opposition, that talked about consultation with respect to YDC, YECL, and anything that would take place with that. Where's the public consultation with that? A major decision has been made to divest some of YEC assets to a private corporation - an absolute no-no according to the former Leader of the Official Opposition, now the Government Leader - and a scathing letter saying, "we will consult and you have to consult and give us assurances that you will consult" - not a word of consultation.
The Member for Kluane made a comment about our projection of 2,000 new jobs by 1999. Guess what, Mr. Speaker? We're heading in the opposite direction right now. If we keep going the way we are, we're going to have 2,000 fewer jobs in 1999, the way this government's economic policies are on the table.
They talk about increase in the O&M budget, and there's been some discussion about that. Well, if this is a jobs budget - and the Government Leader would like us to think it's a jobs budget - the new O&M jobs, that are government jobs, are not new jobs. They're devolution jobs. The people are already working; the people are already here. Not one new cent is going to flow into the economy of the Yukon with these new jobs - or with these old jobs that are just changed. The signature on the cheque will change from the federal government to the territorial government.
Let's look at where this government is coming from in the budget. One of the most disappointing things I find in the way the government has laid out its plan is the flip-flop on so many issues. I'm getting comments from people out there now in the public that are concerned about what they said they would do before the election and what they're doing after the election.
I have to give them credit though, Mr. Speaker. The members on the side opposite are masters at twisting words around. We heard it today from the Minister of Economic Development and the minister responsible for the Development Corporation, when he tried to tell us that we weren't going to get rid of any of our assets. Yet, three days later, he announced that we were selling some of those assets. He said he didn't really say what he said the day before - he didn't mean what he said the day before - in fact, he weaseled words around so that he tried to work his way out of it.
The people aren't going to buy it, Mr. Speaker, because this member has done this forever. Let's go through what I call the Glen Clark school of politics that the NDP on the other side seem to be following.
The wolf kill - the Member for Kluane mentioned the wolf kill. During the election, the NDP said, "We're going to stop it." They can't say it any other way, Mr. Speaker. There was a big uproar. The Member for Kluane had people tell him they were upset about it. The interpretation the people got was that the NDP were going to kill it, and the Member for Faro stood up and strongly said they were going to kill it.
After they got in, and they got a bit of heat from the First Nations, and the Member for Kluane himself and others had said, "Hey, you guys, we've got to do something about this", they decided they would evaluate it. They'd continue it this year and evaluate it. Well, even the evaluation and the money in the budget for the evaluation isn't anything new. That was all part of the program. That was all part of the plan. After the removal had been completed, there was supposed to be a comprehensive evaluation. This isn't a new evaluation or another evaluation. This is part of the plan. So, Mr. Speaker, it's nothing new.
Yukon Energy - I mentioned earlier that the NDP government and the then Leader of the Opposition said, "We won't sell any of the assets, not one asset of the Yukon Development Corporation." Well, don't look now, Mr. Speaker, but they're heading out the door, and this corporation that was a no-no when they were in Opposition is being the beneficiary.
I don't necessarily disagree with the approach they are taking, but I do have a great deal of problem with the fact that they said they wouldn't do what they are doing. That is the Glen Clark school of politics, Mr. Speaker.
The Old Crow school - they rushed up there after the school burned down and said, "We'll rebuild the school right away." And, the Government Leader said today that somebody's running around from the Yukon Party saying they're building a tent school, and I don't think anybody's saying that at all. That might be just what the Leader of the NDP thinks. But I know what the people of Old Crow do think, and I know what people are saying, and I know what the facts are - $500,000 will not build a new school for Old Crow. It will only do the planning, and very little of that money will go to Old Crow.
That would be unfortunate.
Electric rates - electric rates would be stabilized and would probably go down under an NDP administration. Well, they've gone up.
Mr. Speaker, we heard about the power rates and we've heard about the costs of the decisions that the NDP have made lately. I have concerns about the environment at Aishihik Lake as well. We heard about the tirade that the Member for Kluane threw at some meetings demanding that there be no more draining down of Aishihik Lake, despite the views of all of the experts who said clearly that you could still drain some water down in the lake and you could still maintain the environment in the area, and the Member for Kluane said, "Look, I've stood on this issue all along and no one is going to drain down that lake one more inch and it'll be over my dead body."
He threw a tantrum in a meeting and the Government Leader had to sort of step in and calm him down. He threw a great big tantrum and he got his way. So, what's happening, Mr. Speaker? What's happening? Well, I'll tell you what's happening and it's really quite disgusting. Drive by the South Access. Drive by the six or seven diesels that've got a black cloud pumping CO2 emissions into the air, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, burning millions of dollars of diesel fuel and pumping CO2 emissions into the air. Not a word about that from the side opposite, the environmentalists.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Well, the Member for Faro said it should be coal. Well, they actually touched a bit on it in their budget and in a few years they'll probably be going over there because that's what they've done with everything else.
The Minister of Economic Development said he had to go out. I was reading his speech. It was quite interesting because, boy, he's a sensitive guy, Mr. Speaker. He's a really sensitive guy and I know he's feeling a lot of pressure from his job and I know he's been on the job now for over a couple of months straight without a holiday and he's kind of a sensitive guy. He's had almost six weeks without taking a break and only weekends and evenings off.
But it's a tough job and he'll handle it, he's a tough fella; he can do it, Mr. Speaker. But, I'm glad he's out there hustling for jobs, because he gets his job.
I remember sitting in the House and the Member for Faro stood up here, Mr. Speaker and - this is the fun part of my speech, I really like this part, because this particular member was quite good when he was in Opposition - he talked about Cordilleran and cocktail parties and the exploration had nothing to do with what we were doing, it had everything to do with just the mining prices going up - they weren't - but he just said that.
The metal prices were going up, and it had everything to do with that and it had nothing to do with what we were doing at the Cordilleran, we really shouldn't be there and it was just a cocktail party.
He belittled the Minister of Economic Development and our Speaker at the time, and it was a sad thing in the House. It was even sadder when he couldn't get to Cordilleran fast enough and they couldn't take enough people with them to try and tell the people that they're not the Glen Clarks of the world, even though they have the Glen Clark school of politics as their bible.
They were a different type of New Democrats; they wanted development and they wanted lots of development and "Don't be afraid of us and we'll hold a party, we won't have booze at the party, but we'll do that."
Unemployment was nine percent in the spring last year and we were being chastised for the nine percent. Well, it's 15 percent now and the Member for Faro has become an ostrich. His head is in the sand. When unemployment went to 15 percent and Faro shut down, I think three years ago in 1992, the Member for Faro said the government's got to do something; the government's got to give Clifford Frame $30 million; you've got to help Clifford Frame out. Mr. Speaker, four years later, almost an identical situation, when the Curragh mine went down and unemployment is 15.5 percent, the only thing the Member for Faro was worrying about was where his next tequila was going to come from when he was lying on the beach in Mexico. And from his beach chair in Mexico, he said to his constituents, "My advice to you is to leave the Yukon."
Speaker: Order. Would the member please relate to me how this relates back to the bill that is being debated?
Mr. Phillips: No problem, Mr. Speaker. It relates completely to the bill that's being debated. We have 15 percent unemployment in the Yukon Territory. This budget is supposed to create jobs. The budget was supposed to have been drafted between December and March, when it was delivered, and the Member for Faro was on a holiday in Mexico. While the people were unemployed and trying to find work, this member was on a holiday. He was resting because he'd worked three months straight.
That's how it relates, Mr. Speaker. And I thank you for asking me that.
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Faro also mentioned in his speech that nothing was done on renegotiating the Shakwak agreement, and so did the Member for Kluane. He said nothing was done. I don't know. I guess there are two explanations for their statements. One of them is that both members simply don't have the facts, or they just don't want us to know the facts because I was involved in the previous government, and I know there were lots of discussions that took place between senior officials. There were lots of discussions that took place between politicians on both sides - the American side and our side - and with the people in the American senate with respect to this. So, maybe we didn't reach an agreement, but to say that nothing was done is inaccurate. If we're going to rise on our feet here in this House and make statements, surely to goodness they should be accurate.
No wonder people don't trust us as politicians when members on the other side jump up and say that, because there are people in the bureaucracy who spent a lot of time working on discussions and putting proposals together and putting ideas together and looking at how we'd approach the problem. The side opposite says that nobody did anything. I'm sorry; I commend those people in the bureaucracy that did a lot of work on those proposals, you know, that they're using today.
Local hire - there was an announcement during the election by the commissioner of local hire that said, "You elect an NDP government and we'll have a policy together in three months, and we'll address the issue of local hire, because we're going to stem this flow of people from outside the territory coming in. "
So, that was back in September when the election was called. The NDP took power in October. November, December, January - no policy. February, no policy. March, no policy. April, no policy. Six months, no policy. A couple of road trips, a couple of ideas, but no policy.
I'd like to send a word of caution to the commissioner responsible for local hire. There's a lot of talk out there about the people on the north highway who didn't get jobs in Shakwak, or the people in Carmacks who didn't get a job building a school.
I have a real strong concern about the direction we appear to be taking. I'm a firm believer that, as Yukoners and as Canadians, we should have some mobility, an ability to move from place to place to get jobs. I can understand, in some way, having some kind of protection so that Yukon companies can receive Yukon contracts.
And that's built into the business incentive policy. But if you get into the idea, Mr. Speaker, that only the people in Carmacks can work in Carmacks, then what do you do when, in the next capital budget, there isn't a new school in Carmacks, and there isn't any other capital works in Carmacks? Can these people not go to Pelly? Can they not work in Dawson? Can they not work in Mayo? Because the policy will be that you have to live in the community where you want to work. And, unfortunately, we have a very small economy in the territory, and if someone buys himself a dumptruck and a loader and a backhoe, that individual has to be able to work in each and every community in this territory to pay the payments on the backhoe, on the truck, and so I caution the member responsible for the local hire commission to keep that in mind, because there are many companies that couldn't survive from year to year to year. They might have a great year in 1997 in Old Crow, but it'd be a sad day if no one from Old Crow could ever work anywhere else in the Yukon for the next 10 years because there wasn't any capital projects in Old Crow.
The commissions themselves, Mr. Speaker - where did we hear that in the election campaign, or did I just miss something?
It's interesting, Mr. Speaker. That's another one of the so-called hidden agenda of the party opposite.
There was a commitment for funding in the campaign, and I was at the meeting out at the cadet camp with the YES group,. The NDP candidate spoke very eloquently about YES, listened to what the people had to say and said that youth is an extremely high priority for our government, and yet, until there was enormous pressure put on the minister himself by a march in the Legislature, there was no real money that showed up. And still, today, no commitment, no real money. In fact, YES had to lay people off.
When the NDP were in Opposition, Mr. Speaker, they supported, in very strong words and terms, removing money from the Alaska Highway project into the Grey Mountain and Mayo schools as a priority.
Well, they're there now; they had the ability to go into that budget and take $4 million or $5 million of the highway money, if they wished to, and move it over to the Grey Mountain and Mayo schools as a priority. It's not there.
These are all commitments and promises that were made, or commitments that are now showing up that no one heard about.
Mr. Speaker, the expectations are high. What's not in the budget: the Old Crow school, other rural school replacements, the Watson Lake administration building, the new correctional facility. There is no money in the budget for contract settlements. We get this be-all and end-all - the $5 million contingency fund - and that money is already spent in spades. We heard it could be used for the contract negotiations. Well, that would probably eat up the whole $5 million in a modest wage increase.
The Member for Faro the other day said that that money might be used for the Faro bail-out, if it came to that. It is interesting. They've only got $5 million, but they are using it for about six or seven different pots.
Mr. Speaker, this budget will do very little to put people in the Yukon to work. I know the government on the side opposite criticized us in a couple of areas in the budget, and one that comes to mind is they talked about the previous commitments and they also talked about the excessive land development that our government did in the past. Well, I went through the budget. In land development, the previous government had $630,000 in industrial development; they have $800,000.
We had $30,000 in commercial development. They've got $50,000. In recreational development, they've dropped from $100,000 to $50,000. They've dropped on the agricultural side. By the way, Mr. Speaker, the agricultural side was a priority of the side opposite when they were in Opposition. They were going to do lots for the agricultural community. In fact, they put $100,000 in the budget and said they were going to build an abattoir. Well, guess what? You're not building an abattoir for $100,000. So that's another hidden cost that's going to show up down the road. An abattoir is going to cost probably $300,000, $400,000 or $500,000.
But go to one other figure - the residential side - where they said we were heating up the economy and spending too much money. Well, we spent $6.8 million last year on that, and they're spending $6.1 million. A 10-percent reduction for a massively overheated economy - far too many lots on the market, it's terrible - but they're spending roughly the same amount of money. And overall, it's not 10 percent. In fact, it's probably a one- or two-percent decrease overall.
Mr. Speaker, I think that the figures are going to speak for themselves. I'd maybe like the Minister of Finance to explain for us, when he's on his feet later on, some of the projections in the budget. There's a projection on page S-10 of the personal income tax. Although there are no projected income tax increases in this budget, there's a nine percent change from $34 million to $37 million of revenue the government's going to receive from income tax. Yet we all know that we've just lost 500 people in Faro, and this budget's not supposed to be predicated on Faro, so we've lost 500 good-paying jobs in Faro, and we're projecting a $3 million increase in income tax revenue. So maybe the Government Leader knows something that I don't that's coming down the road.
So, I'll be interested in his comments there. He may say it's as a result of other jurisdictions lowering their income tax and we'll receive more money there, but that's why we'd get more in that particular area.
Also, on the same page under other revenue, there's an 82-percent increase from $882,000 to $1.6 million. I'd like to know what that is, if there are no increases in taxes or fees and if the government plans on increasing any taxes or fees, such as fishing and hunting licenses and those kinds of things.
Mr. Speaker, they talk in the budget speech about negotiations with the teachers association and, as other speakers have said before me, we understand that negotiations have broken down or at least stalled, and nothing's happening there. So, I'd be interested in knowing what position the government has taken in negotiations and what they're offering the employees of the Government of the Yukon and what they figure is fair. I'd be interested to know what kind of arrangements are made there.
Some members - the Member for Whitehorse Centre, I believe - talked about Maryhouse and the Saint Joseph's shelter for men, and they talk about the temporary arrangements that the government has made, but I haven't been able to find anywhere in the budget a line for the new facilities that they are going to build for that particular group or if that is included in the budget.
As well, if the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre finds a suitable home, I understand they are going to make an arrangement with them, and I am not sure where I would find that in the budget, if it would be in the Yukon Housing section of the budget, or what other section it would be in the budget. I would be interested to find that.
I mentioned earlier they talk about the obligations passed on by our government that they will honour, although they have considerable ongoing impact to both capital and operation and maintenance, and that sort of says to me that they are sort of bound by these; they don't support them at all, but they are bound by them, and these include the school grade reorganization. They don't support the grade reorganization? I thought the side opposite did.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Faro said we didn't tell them how much it cost. Well, let me tell the Member for Faro something. If he could sit down with the Minister of Education and have a briefing from the officials on the capital side, and they talk to you about the options that were presented at that time, you could see exactly that it would actually cost less for grade reorganization than it did to go the other route. It costs less. So, it's actually going to save them money in the long run, not cost them money.
They're complaining about the Beringia centre, of course, and the downtown visitor reception and tourism business centre, and this is something that they'll never like. They just didn't like what we did to that ugly building up on the hill, and they just can't...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Yeah, it won an award. Yeah, it was nominated. It was sort of like the job applications of the Government of the Yukon; it was nominated, selected and judged by the guy who built it or designed it sort of thing. The criteria was that "I've done nice buildings before and this is another one, so give me the award again", and they did.
The side opposite - I was at a tourism annual general meeting in Haines, Alaska, and I was there with the Member for Porter Creek South and the Member for Whitehorse West. We were up on a stage and they had a video camera and they asked us a bunch of questions. We were all sealed in time, I guess, in our commitments to what we were going to do and one of the questions was: "Would you continue building the Beringia interpretive centre and the historic resources centre?" and we said "Right on, right on. That's our commitment and we'll do it."
So, the Member for Whitehorse West said we'll do that, and the Member for Porter Creek South said we'll do that, and we said we'll do that. And then we get a budget and one of the things that's slashed out of the budget is the historic resources centre.
Now, I can remember being beat up by that same member on the other side of the House about the Taylor House and my commitment to heritage. Well, what does the budget say, because these guys are committed to heritage, right? That's what they told you. Well, the Beringia interpretive centre, of course, that project is ending. The historic resources centre is gone. Three-plus million dollars is gone. Museums assistance, committed to heritage, is down 16 percent. Exhibit assistance is down 25 percent.
Speaker: Order. The Member has four minutes remaining in which to conclude his remarks in debate.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, that went by so fast.
There are a lot of things in this budget that forget to deal with the issue of heritage, and I'll be asking the minister responsible for heritage, when I have the opportunity, about heritage and why it was short-shifted in this particular budget.
I know the Member for Whitehorse West said, "Well, this is only our first budget. You'll see it in other budgets." Well, seeing is believing. We'll wait. You've got three more of these to go, and it'll be interesting to see whether or not it shows up.
My concern about the historic resources centre is, part of the reason for building it up in that site was that it was tied to Beringia and it would help keep Beringia open in the winter months and reduce the O&M costs overall to keep it open - the same that we have the business centre attached to this building, to help keep the overall cost down.
The Member for Whitehorse West said that this building across the road cost us $158,000 more. Well, Mr. Speaker, guess what? He should go over there one day and look at the number of visitors that have gone into that centre while it's been open in the winter and see how much the centre is being used. He should walk up and down the main streets of Whitehorse and talk to the business people and ask them if they saw any benefits from it before he starts to criticize the $158,000, because there have been direct benefits from it.
Mr. Speaker, this budget was projected as a jobs budget: we'll hold the line; we don't have that much money; we have to take it easy. They've raised expectations out there to almost every individual group in the territory and, unfortunately, they've met very few of them. We're going to see that a lot of those groups in the next few years are going to be knocking at their door, asking them why they're not honouring the commitments they made in the election campaign.
Mr. Speaker, although there are a couple of things in this budget that I mentioned that I think are positive initiatives, there are many more things in this budget that I cannot support.
Mr. Speaker, for that reason I'm not going to be supporting the budget in second reading.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to move adjournment.
Speaker: It would be out of order for me to recognize the Government House Leader on this matter, because he's already spoken to the debate. The time being 5:30 however, this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
Debate on second reading of Bill No. 4 accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 5:30 p.m.
The following Document was filed April 1, 1997:
Managing Yukon's Power System: letter dated August 8, 1996, to (former) Government Leader John Ostashek from the (former) Leader of the Official Opposition, Piers McDonald (Ostashek)