Tuesday, April 8, 1997 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order, and we will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Speaker: At this time, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to introduce the new ombudsman for the Yukon Territory, Hank Moorlag. I would like you to join with me in welcoming him. This Assembly looks forward to working with you for many years into the future.
Are there any other introductions?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Petition No. 1 - response
Hon. Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
It gives me great pleasure to rise today in response to a petition tabled in this House on December 12th, 1996, urging the Yukon government to take action to ensure that the utilities return excess profits to electrical ratepayers, that rate subsidies be continued and revised and that electrical ratepayers have long-term, affordable and stable rates.
This petition was initiated by our caucus in response to a lack of commitment by the previous administration to continue the rate relief program.
Our government recognized the importance of this program in stabilizing electricity rates, and committed to extending the rate relief during the election campaign.
As members are aware, the program is funded from the profits of the public utility, the Yukon Energy Corporation. In December, we fulfilled this commitment and altered the program to ensure that electrical consumers in all communities receive the same rate of rate relief and implemented a ceiling of 1,500 kilowatt hours to encourage energy conservation.
The program will be reviewed this year by the Cabinet commission on energy to identify possible changes.
It is also our position that if situations arise where profits are in excess of those allowed by the Yukon Utilities Board, we'll be looking at policy options to ease rate burdens with regard to the public utility.
Yukon consumers have been under considerable pressure in the past few months. The Yukon Utilities Board recently implemented a three-percent diesel rider as a result of increases in world diesel prices and a 5.5-percent rate rider in response to a 1993 court action for the recovery of costs. Though this award by the courts was not excess profit, the government faced intense lobbying not to collect YEC's portion of these monies; however, because of the tenuous Anvil Range situation and its potential impact on ratepayers, our government believed it was more prudent to consider the effect of an extended closure of the Faro mine on the corporation.
Yukon people want affordable electrical rates, but not at the expense of rescuing their utility with taxpayers' money. We must ensure the long-term financial health of the public's utility.
Our government continues to work toward stabilizing electrical rates in the short and long term. The newly proposed operating agreement in principle with Alberta Power Ltd., approved by YEC's board of directors, will assist to achieve this goal by providing approximately $2 million in savings to electrical consumers over the next five years as annual operation fees to YECL have been lowered from $800,000 per year to approximately $375,000 per year.
As members are aware, greater accountability for these expenditures will be secured by the verification of the Yukon Utilities Board. Through the sale of approximately three percent of its assets, the agreement in principle allows Yukon Energy Corporation to direct these revenues toward new assets that could help decrease the dependence on diesel fuel and to focus on its core business of generation and transmission to ensure that the asset base of the Yukon Energy Corporation is not depleted and that the public maintains full control of the utility.
At this time, the Yukon Energy Corporation is considering an application for a general rate application as a direct result of the loss of its major customer, Anvil Range Mining Corporation.
Our government is deeply concerned about electrical consumers facing another increase in their power bills and has asked the Energy Corporation to: 1) actively pursue the outstanding monies owed by Anvil Range; 2) appear before the Legislature to offer a background to members about an application for a GRA; 3) reduce costs wherever possible; and 4) consult and meet with the intervenors to discuss the options available to mitigate any increases. Our government recognizes that Yukon Energy Corporation needs to operate at arm's length as a Crown corporation; however, we believe the government has a role in finding solutions to ratepaying issues.
The utility operates in a regulated, monopolistic environment with a guaranteed return. We believe that any private business proposing a 20-percent increase should explain the rationale to their customers prior to this occurring. Therefore, we have asked Yukon Energy Corporation to speak with their intervenors in advance of their application for a GRA to the Yukon Utilities Board. These are requests, not directives. The application will be further scrutinized when it is submitted to the Yukon Utilities Board, and the government will be able to consider its options at the same time.
Out government also realizes the importance of these issues to Yukon people. For this reason, the Cabinet commission on energy was established to develop a comprehensive energy policy to develop options for capital expansion, alternative energy projects and conservation measures. The commission has developed a workplan and started preliminary development of the policy. Through these initiatives, our government remains committed to working toward the stabilization of electrical rates in the short and long terms. We are acutely aware of the impact of the fuel and rate riders on Yukon ratepayers and believe that the steps outlined will assist considerably to reach this goal.
Speaker: Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion for the production of papers?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICE OF MOTION
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 9th, Rob McWilliam, President of the Yukon Energy Corporation, and Cam Osler of Intergroup Consultants, a company on contract with the Yukon Energy Corporation, appear as witnesses before Committee of the Whole to discuss the financial status of the corporation.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Anvil Range mine training agreement
Hon. Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to announce the signing of the Anvil Range mine training agreement. This agreement was the result of a cooperative joint effort involving the Yukon government, Anvil Range Mining Corporation and the United Steelworkers of America, Local 1051.
It will result in the development and implementation of an overall training plan for the mine's employees and is part of our government's training policy to invest in Yukon workers and provide them with the skills needed for the workplace.
Our government has been investigating ways to assist the company to ensure there are no impediments to the resumption of operations. As members are aware, the territory's recent increase in unemployment is a direct result of the shutdown of the Faro mine and it is critical that the government take appropriate action to alleviate this situation.
We believe that training is a responsible way for us to assist the mine to reopen, particularly as mining in the Yukon demands a skilled workforce and employees are often recruited from outside the territory to meet this need.
When Anvil Range announced a partial shutdown in November, they identified production problems as a contributing factor. Our participation in the training agreement works to find a solution to this matter through a constructive partnership with the union and the company.
Both Anvil Range and Local 1051 recognize that training is a top priority and will enhance the skills of their proven and productive workforce, provide the ability to enhance career opportunities and improve the mine's operations.
The Yukon government, through Economic Development and Advanced Education, and Anvil Range will each contribute $150,000 towards the training program.
A training committee consisting of representatives from Local 1051, the company and the Yukon government has been established to develop a plan to meet present and future training needs and to administer the fund. The committee is considering supervisor and equipment training and consulting with a training provider who has worked extensively with a BHP Minerals Canada Limited project in the Northwest Territories.
The training agreement monies will not be spent until operations begin at the mine.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
It appears that the ministerial statement is to diffuse some of the criticism this government's been getting for their lack of any initiatives to deal with the 15.7 percent unemployed in the Yukon. If I could just go back to a previous press release by the now Government Leader when he was Opposition, he said something about something that we'd done. "I'm sure this will be very encouraging to the unemployed people in my riding who are looking for a job or are about to lose their job." I would say the same for the minister's ministerial statement.
While it's important to have a trained workforce, this ministerial statement says nothing's going to happen until the mine goes back to work.
I believe this government should be concentrating on putting Yukoners back to work and dealing with the very serious problem in our community of 15.7 percent unemployed, and rising. Nothing in this ministerial statement is going to do anything to put anybody back to work in the near future.
Ms. Duncan: Training the Yukon workforce is a laudable objective, and investment in Yukon people is a wise choice for public funds. Training local residents for highly skilled, high-paying jobs is an excellent objective. This is a role that the Liberals believe government can play in creating employment.
In this year's budget speech, it was announced that the government had come up with $300,000 for a mining training trust fund. It would appear from this ministerial statement that, in fact, Anvil Range is contributing half of the mining training trust funds. That means that the government has actually come up with $150,000, unless of course there are more announcements to follow.
I congratulate Anvil Range on their contribution to this constructive partnership. The government, along with industry, has created a model. Where are we going with this model? I'm concerned about the lack of involvement of the balance of the mining industry in this initiative. The Yukon is about more than one mine. Where are some of the other players in Yukon mining?
The minister is talking about training a workforce with transferable skills to other types of operations. Perhaps you could identify how the other mines could become involved in this. And, with respect to the training trust committee, the Yukon Chamber of Mines is noticeably absent from that training committee. Perhaps the minister, when he responds, could identify how he intends to work with others to rectify this.
And, finally, I note that the minister states that the training agreement monies will not be spent until operations begin. He must be assuming that the money will be spent. We are all hoping the mine will reopen. In the unfortunate event that it does not, what happens to this money? I look forward to the minister's response.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker,
I'll begin by responding to the points illustrated by the Liberal member, because they were a lot more productive than the concerns that were put forward by the Yukon Party Opposition.
The mine training trust monies will all be levered with some private sector participation, if we have our way in the development of it. This money is separate from the mine training trust fund that was identified in the budget that the member alluded to. This money has mostly come out of lapsed funding. It is a separate initiative from the undertakings of the Minister of Education. It's part and parcel, because it's a joint agreement between economic development and advanced ed, but it is somewhat different.
I'm not going to speak, in detail, for my colleague, but I know the advanced education branch is very extensively in discussions with the mining industry on modular training and other kinds of initiatives to ensure that other organizations like the Yukon Chamber of Mines and operating mines have some say in training initiatives. So, I can see that those are important objectives and undertakings that the member has identified.
With regard to the comments of the Yukon Party Opposition, Mr. Speaker, I would say that one of the problems identified as a direct reason for the closure of the mine was production problems. When the company came to us to talk about ways we could assist them, they said to us that we have these problems, we'd like to enhance the workers' existing skills on the mine site so that they can be able to do their jobs and thus be more productive.
So, Mr. Speaker, if you remove that impediment, which, partially, helped yield the shutdown, it allows you to remove an impediment to the resumption of operation of that property. So, I think this is precisely what we want to do. We're investing in Yukon workers, we're investing in skills for Yukon miners to go to work to and deal with the unemployment problem.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I would also say that we can't do what the member is asking us to do. He's asking us to drive this territory into debt to finance public capital works projects that we just cannot do. We cannot spend at the level of the Yukon Party. Last year's current year deficit was $35 million. We had to bring that down to a sustainable level. We can't spend, like the Yukon Party, to put people to work in a false economy.
We can't tax like the Yukon Party, because we said we wouldn't. So, Mr. Speaker, those options just aren't available. But what we have done is we've put together an $88 million capital budget with buildings and roads and land development. We've targeted spending to the communities with the community development fund and the CPI. We've spent less on internal government operations. We've cut cars, computers and office furniture by 25 percent in the budget, Mr. Speaker, from the previous government's budget.
We've got new opportunities for the private sector in the trade investment diversification strategy. We've been working diligently with Anvil Range. We've been working with the mining industry, going to trade shows promoting investment in the Yukon. We've been putting a lot of money into tourism initiatives. The tourism minister has been busy out promoting the Yukon. We've participated in the opening of the small business centre that is being run by the Yukon Chamber of Commerce to help small businesses with business planning and financing options, training initiatives - Mr. Speaker, I could go on and on; the list is endless of the initiatives this government has taken.
I would point out to the member also that the problem with the unemployment rate in the Yukon right now is the Faro mine. As it was in 1993, after the mine was down a few months, the unemployment rate was 15.7. The unemployment rate this month is 15.7. Without a doubt, the unemployment rate in this territory is due to the shutdown of the Faro mine. Mr. Speaker, this is an initiative to try and remove impediments to the resumption of those operations, and we are very proud of it.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, rate increase
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
My question today is for the minister in charge of the Yukon Energy Corporation, or running the Yukon Energy Corporation. After promising ratepayers of the Yukon affordable and stabilized electrical rates, the NDP government instead is proposing its third rate increase since taking office six months ago, and we know that a fourth is on its way. The minister has blamed this unfortunate situation on the Yukon Energy Corporation's board of directors, claiming that its members were appointed by the previous Yukon Party government. Why is the minister blaming the board members for the political decisions being made by his government?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, that's a ridiculous question.
First of all, the NDP isn't proposing any rate increases - to take issue first with that comment by the member opposite. The rate increases that have been put forward were approved by the Utilities Board prior to our government ever coming into office. One of the rate riders - the 5.5 percent - relates back to a 1993 action when the Yukon Party was in control of the Yukon Energy Corporation and could have issued a directive from Cabinet not to proceed with the court action and let YECL, or Alberta Power, go ahead on their own.
In the second case, on the rate rider, there was a 30-percent increase in world diesel prices. There was an ongoing right by the Energy Corporation to give a rate rider to reflect those increases in world diesel prices.
Thirdly, Mr. Speaker, with regard to losing the major customer - the Anvil Range situation - we've responded in a responsible manner by asking the Energy Corporation, prior to their application, to consult with intervenors to talk to them about possible ways to mitigate this. The Energy Corporation, we believe, will be in good stead for the long term if the Energy Corporation continues on its path. We are deeply worried about the energy rate increases, though, and continue to take appropriate steps to deal with them.
Mr. Jenkins: That was a long, convoluted answer that didn't do anything. It didn't address the problem.
The minister has been constantly interfering in the operations of the Yukon Energy Corporation and directing the board, and the organization, as to what to do. The recent decision with respect to Aishihik - let's call it the 20-percent McRobb surcharge - I would ask the minister -
Speaker: Order. I'd ask you not to make reference to members in this House, but only to their appropriate titles.
Mr. Jenkins: There's not a reference to the member. There's a reference to a surcharge, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd ask the minister to apologize to the board for trying to blame them for his mistakes.
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member's question is, again, quite silly. It's a pity how uneducated he is on some of these issues.
First of all, Mr. Speaker, I've not been constantly interfering. The only directive that was issued from Cabinet was with regard to living up to our election commitment to help to mitigate the environmental impact on Aishihik Lake, something the members opposite said they were going to do, but obviously had, again, after four years in government, no intention of living up to their commitments on.
Mr. Speaker, with regard to the agreement in principle, I would invite the member to check the record of the voting patterns of the board of directors, and you'll find that they approved it before Cabinet ever did. They approved the agreement in principle operating agreement, Mr. Speaker, and the vote is clear, and the minutes of their board meetings would clearly reflect that. So that was a decision of the board.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister has been constantly using the members of the Yukon Energy Corporation Board as a public whipping post and a screen to protect himself from public criticism for the obvious incompetence he's displaying. So I'd like to ask the minister to tell the House when he's going to grow up and accept responsibility for his actions as a minister of this government.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I have to take issue with the member's comments about using the board as a public whipping post. I think that's, again, a fairly ridiculous statement.
The board minutes will reflect that there was a decision made on the agreement in principle and the operating agreement, and the board - in advance of Cabinet giving it approval - gave it approval. Obviously they had some good things to say about it. Obviously they had some concerns about it, as did we, in considering it.
But, Mr. Speaker, I have not used the board as a public whipping post. What we've tried to do with the one directive we issued with regard to Aishihik Lake was to try to live up to our election commitment to mitigate the environmental impact on the lake. That was a decision of the Cabinet, and we stand by that decision. We think it was one consistent with what we put forward to the Yukon public in the election campaign.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, rate increase
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, a question again for the minister in charge of the Yukon Energy Corporation.
There have been two rate increases, amounting to nine percent. Now we hear that the Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Electrical Company Limited are going to be asking for a further 20-percent increase, a 29-percent increase overall in six short months, and the minister is not telling the whole story either, because a fourth increase is in the offing as a consequence of the minister selling off the gravy and keeping the grief. I refer to the sale of $4 million of Yukon Energy Corporation's assets to an Alberta corporation.
Is not a fourth rate increase in the offing?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I want to refresh the member's memory. When the Yukon Party government was presiding over this territory in 1993, there was an interim application that came forward of some 58-percent increase in power rates. I will agree that that was mitigated somewhat later, but I would ask the member to deal a bit with the reality of the situation here.
The first two rate riders, as I have explained many times to this House, were actions taken prior to this government ever even coming into office with regard to Utilities Board rulings.
With regard to the interim rate application that the Yukon Energy Corporation has been considering, we intend to bring them in to talk to legislators tomorrow night about it. They are meeting with intervenors tomorrow afternoon to talk to them about their plans. We are handling that in a responsible manner and hope to find ways to mitigate it as much as possible.
With regard to the fourth rate increase, I am not aware of what the member's talking about but I certainly don't want to ensure that I take the member's word verbatim, so I'll check it out.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. In Opposition and during the election campaign, the NDP promised to stabilize energy costs at an affordable rate, not stabilize them at a rate twice or one-and-a-half times what they are today. Every time the Faro mine starts up, the electrical rates are ratcheted up. Every time the Faro mine shuts down, the electrical rates are ratcheted up again.
Can the minister advise the House what he considers to be an affordable rate? Is it 50 percent higher, 100 percent higher than what the current rates are, and is he going to stabilize them at that level? Is that his intention, from his election campaign promise?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I would ask the member to stop criticizing the Yukon Party government. Those are his colleagues that he's criticizing. They were the ones who applied for a 58-percent rate increase in 1993. They're the ones who refused to commit to bill relief. They're the ones who were in charge the last time the Utilities Board gave an increase to residential consumers when the Faro mine came back on stream.
So, Mr. Speaker, I would ask him to stop criticizing his colleagues. It's obviously going to cause problems in caucus.
Mr. Speaker, with regard to the action we've taken, I've outlined it many times, and we committed in December to continuing on with bill relief and that's why we moved quickly, in December, to implement bill relief and to bring in a new program. And, right now, we're presently reviewing it, looking at ways we can make possible changes, and we think it was a good program and certainly, we lived up to our commitment to the public electorate, in that respect.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. Again, we have a non-answer to a direct question.
Will the minister guarantee Yukon ratepayers, and the House, that the sale of Yukon Energy Corporation's assets to Alberta Power will not lead to a further rate increase? It is a very simple question. And, if there is a rate increase as a consequence of this sale, Mr. Speaker, will the minister do the honourable thing and step down?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, this Yukon Party fires off resignation requests - this is, I think, the fourth in the last few days.
Mr. Speaker, I would have to say that given their performance over the last four years - if we were to go by their threshold, or criteria, for asking for resignations, we would have been doing it with every question in Question Period. But, we didn't think that was the responsible thing to do, although many Yukoners did, so I won't get into that exchange with the member.
But, what I will say, is that the newly proposed operating agreement in principle, that was passed by the board of directors of the Energy Corporation, appointed by the Yukon Party, will save ratepayers over $2 million over the life of the agreement, in reduced fees.
There's no transaction on the three percent of assets that are affected by the rationalization. There's no transaction until January. Only 40 percent of those assets, given the debt/equity ratio, would be eligible for any rate of return. There's plenty of time to plan the investment of the monies received in new asset infrastructure, so it won't affect the rate of return.
The member's ignoring that the money, if there's any lag time, could be invested in some interest-bearing vehicle to offset any changes in rates. And, Mr. Speaker, the numbers only have accuracy that the members opposite have put forward of those asset monies, or monies received from the assets wouldn't be invested for five years. So, he's completely out of touch with reality on that question.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, capacity
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
In the 1960s the Yukon had a population of around 18,000 people and had a hospital with 120 beds. Today, the Yukon has a population of around 30,000 and has a hospital with 49 beds. This represents, in some ways, a tremendous reduction in service. I am wondering, especially because a couple of weeks ago there was a situation where there were only 41 beds available for 69 patients, does the minister believe that the number of beds available at Whitehorse General Hospital is sufficient to meet the needs of Yukoners now and in the future when the population continues to grow?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can tell the member opposite that the figure for the beds does appear to be adequate for the purpose. As of today, there were 33 patients plus four newborns and seven short stays. When we consider that the newborns are in with parents, it doesn't appear to be a major problem.
Yes, occasionally we will reach points at which the numbers are pressed somewhat, but I would remind the member that we are still at a point at which not all the beds are on yet.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, when there are too few beds, like at Whitehorse General, you have to discharge patients early. This, in turn, puts added pressure on the home care system. Has the minister started to develop a coordinated home care plan, and especially a plan for the areas outside of Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In general, the whole question of home care is being addressed. It is being addressed in a larger sense in the fact that we are looking at an aging population. We are also looking at a hospital that has a different health care delivery system in the fact that many of the discharges in this case are done not because of a lack of beds but because it is now a procedural kind of matter, as I think is reflected across Canada. But, we are looking at the whole question of home care and the expansion of home care, as we are looking at the issue of extended care in the future, with the rapidly aging population.
Mrs. Edelman: The inadequacy of the home care system was made clear by the case of a senior Marsh Lake resident. This individual, who had had an operation and was unable to walk, was discharged from the hospital into an area where there was no home care available.
The minister says he's committed to providing quality health care and accessible services to all Yukoners. Can he explain why the system failed this senior citizen at Marsh Lake?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: In the case of home care for that particular person, I will look into the issue and try to get a message back to the member.
Question re: Education, school facility study meeting
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Minister of Education.
There was a great deal of discussion in this House last night regarding the capital planning for education. The minister provided all school council chairs with copies of the rural school facility study and the Poon Gardner or Whitehorse school facility study reports in preparation for a February 14th meeting that required school council chairs to donate yet another full day from their paid work.
Would the minister advise this House if the meeting has been rescheduled at a time convenient for school council chairs and will all the school council chairs, most especially the rural school council chairs, be present?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm pleased to respond to the member's question.
At the request of a number of school councils, the meeting was rescheduled to May 2nd and 3rd and all of the school councils in the Yukon have been sent invitations to this forum.
Ms. Duncan: School council chairs are concerned, and I'm concerned for the chairs, that they will be placed in the untenable situation of arguing, for example, that having accessible washrooms for grade 7 students at Golden Horn is more important than a fourth change room in Porter Creek's new school. Would the minister outline how she intends to have school council chairs reach consensus on this issue? What exactly will be the process for this scheduled meeting?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. Contrary to the member's assertions, I believe that school council members are happy to be respected and are happy to be consulted about what they see as priorities in education, not just for their own schools, but for other schools. They'll be discussing what is the greatest need and they'll also be discussing a number of other items that they have asked for some time to come together and to talk about. So, I believe we're meeting our commitment to working with school councils and to working with partners in education in making this forum available to them.
Ms. Duncan: I didn't dispute that the forum was a good idea; I asked for an explanation on how the process of achieving consensus will be reached. Failing the minister's answer on that, can she tell me: would the minister indicate how the construction of new schools fits on to the meeting's agenda?
For example, there has been some suggestion for the construction of an additional K to 3 primary school in Golden Horn. Who's going to be speaking for that proposed school?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the intent is that it will be a working meeting providing an opportunity for school council chairs to work together. It's not a political event. It's not a partisan activity. The issue of capital planning is something that will involve both a presentation from the department about the existing process and provide an opportunity for school council chairs to discuss their concerns and to make recommendations on what they think the process might look like in the future.
Question re: Victims of crime
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I have a question of the Minister of Justice.
There is a serious problem that exists where victims of crime are kept in the dark as to what actions are being taken to deal with their offenders. You may recall the story that was reported earlier this week involving a local Whitehorse woman in her struggle to make representation as to whether or not the individual who murdered her twin brother eight years ago will be released on day parole and will be able to live at the Whitehorse halfway house.
When the Yukon Party held office, a protocol agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of Yukon was struck that provided for the sharing of information about those individuals seeking parole. With this agreement in place, can the Minister of Justice give this House the assurance that every effort will be made to assist this woman and ensure that her interests are fully protected?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yes, we will, and I should provide the member with some facts here.
The Yukon Minister of Justice is not part of the decision making on the release of federal parolees. That is a decision that is made by the National Parole Board. There is an agreement in place where the Yukon Department of Justice is informed about the release of inmates. There is also new federal legislation, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, which provides for documenting and notifying victims when an offender has been released. What is required in order for the terms of that legislation to be met is that a victim make application to be kept informed. That is something where, if a crime pre-dates the passage of the federal Corrections and Conditional Release Act, a victim would have to come forward and make a request to be notified.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
During the election, the Yukon Party made the commitment to introduce a victims of crime act, which would include a victims' bill of rights. These initiatives would ensure that victims are kept informed of what actions are being taken at all stages of the prosecution and the outcome of all significant proceedings.
Is the government prepared to introduce legislation in this fall sitting that would address concerns of victims of crime and introduce a bill of rights for such victims as I have just mentioned?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As I announced in this House in December, our government is working on a victims of crime compensation and trust fund act. We are at a stage where we will be soon releasing the intent of the act for public comment, and certainly the whole reason for bringing that act before the Legislature - hopefully in the fall session - is to ensure that victims' needs are adequately met.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, but does it contain a bill of rights for such victims as I have just mentioned?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'll be pleased to bring information back for the member on what the specifics of the proposed victim compensation and trust fund act are, and will certainly act on his concerns.
Question re: Rainy Hollow site, ecological concerns
Ms. Duncan: I have a number of questions for the Minister of Renewable Resources with respect to contaminants in our environment and, specifically, about the Rainy Hollow site on the Haines Road.
The federal government waste program manager had this to say about the site, and I quote, "After two years and $1 million with respect to the site, there's no human health threat, but there are some ecological concerns."
A Yukon government official is supposed to have attended meetings with respect to the Rainy Hollow clean-up. Would the Minister of Renewable Resources outline his government's involvement to date and future plans for the involvement in the clean up of this project?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I thank the member for her question, and I will get back to her with some answers to them. At this time, I don't have much information on it.
Ms. Duncan: I understand that a consultant was hired by the Government of Yukon, renewable resources, to do a study of contaminants in country foods. Over 10 samples from hunters were provided to that consultant and the department offered prizes to encourage this provision of samples.
Would the minister outline the framework for that study on contaminants in country foods. Specifically, did it include a study of berries from sites such as the Haines Road Rainy Hollow area or Klukshu salmon?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I thank the member once again for her question, and I will undertake to get back to her on those questions.
Ms. Duncan: My last question is with respect again to that study. Would the minister please provide to me when that study will be completed and whether or not he'd be then prepared to table the study in the House?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I will have that information, and so on, and get back to her, and I can do that by means of a legislative return, if you please.
Question re: Unemployment
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Government Leader.
Since this government took power, there are three things in the Yukon that are on the rise. One of them is power rates. The next is unemployment. And the third is the frustration of many unemployed Yukoners at this government doing nothing about the high unemployment rate and not taking it seriously.
Unemployment in the Yukon has more than doubled in the six months that this government has been in power.
I'd like to ask the Government Leader what his government intends to do about this very serious problem and help put Yukoners back to work.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We've just entered a time warp, Mr. Speaker. That question was almost word for word asked last week, and the answer was given in some considerable detail to the member, both in the budget response and in question period.
I can go through many of the actions that we've taken already in addressing the unemployment rate in this territory, which we do regard as being a serious concern. We have to do what we can with the resources that we have. We can't spend more, much to the chagrin, I know, of some members on the opposite benches who would like us to spend beyond our means. We can't do that. We won't do that.
But we will do some very targeted spending. I indicated last week, and my colleagues have even indicated today, that the government is working with Anvil Range, in the first instance, to try to take whatever action we can to encourage a reopening and a private sector solution to getting the mine back in operation.
We are targeting our spending to create jobs, particularly in rural Yukon, even over the objections of the member himself on occasion, to try to improve infrastructure in rural communities. We are undertaking a brand new trade and investment strategy to give hope to businesses to seek markets outside the Yukon for Yukon products and goods and services. We are undertaking brand new joint tourism marketing initiatives with the tourism industry and with airlines to encourage even more high, value-added tourism activity in the Yukon, particularly in the wilderness sector.
We are supporting the small business community and my colleague, the Minister of Economic Development, will be opening the small business centre tomorrow, along with the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, a project which our predecessors refused to participate in.
We have set up commissions to deal aggressively in four key policy areas - forestry, energy, the development assessment process, and local hire - all of which will have a significant impact on the economic fortunes of this territory. We have been working extensively with the mining industry to encourage sensible mining development in the territory. We've worked with the federal government to try to expedite the review process for the five mines that are in the latter stages of the permitting process.
We are undertaking some very significant work in training, some of which was announced today, but there's a lot more to come, to ensure that the workforce itself, which is another very important part of our economic fortunes, is as trained and available and ready as it can be.
I could go on, Mr. Speaker, but perhaps I'll give the next list with the next question.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, what the Government Leader has told me is that they are doing absolutely nothing. That's what he's told me, and he talks about a time warp, Mr. Speaker.
I want to take him back to September of 1993 to a press release that he co-signed with the then Leader of the Official Opposition in regards to the very same issue: unemployment.
He says in the press release, "It appears the government is not planning to do anything substantial about getting Yukoners back to work. All they're proposing to do in the latest economic statement is to maximize job opportunities and to look into the matter. All they want to do is turn to others to solve problems, which were caused by them," he said. Well, I say this was caused by them also, because people have lost faith in them very quickly.
Mr. Speaker, he went on to say that the capital budget was really something that could put people to work, and they said in here, "Since most of the capital budget is already committed, Mr. McDonald called it a hollow exercise to re-tool the upcoming budget."
He's really had a change of heart since he's got into government, Mr. Speaker. We initiated winter works; we brought in a rate relief program for power rates, even though the Minister of Economic Development said we were going to cancel it.
As well, we advanced capital projects along with all the other things that the Government Leader stood on his feet here and said he was doing.
Mr. Speaker, I want this government to tell me something substantial they're going to do to help alleviate that 15.7 percent unemployment rate, which started in March and will be rising.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member is truly lost in a time warp.
I think he's decided that he wants to redebate all of the discussions that we had in 1993, some of which I, in fact, remember quite clearly. He forgot to mention his great economic development initiative of raising taxes.
The other thing that he forgot to mention was that the winter works program, which was supposed to aggressively respond to the unemployment situation, was put forward fully a year after they took office. We put our winter works project in within a couple of months of taking office.
He forgot to mention the fact that he and his government colleagues went out of their way to pick fights with the people of Faro, and we actually had a number of them joining us in the gallery here. In fact, they filled the gallery to share with us their thoughts about the Yukon Party government's actions respecting Faro, and with respect for the workers of Faro.
So I'm well aware, very familiar with the Yukon Party government's actions to resurrect the economy.
I'm very well aware of their one starship policy project, which was the industrial support policy, which has been ridiculed by virtually everybody who has ever come within spitting distance of this policy.
Mr. Speaker, I'm familiar with the Yukon Party's actions. What I've indicated with respect to what our actions involve is that we are working with the Anvil Range mine. We do want to see the mine resurrected. We have tried to take actions that we can reasonably take. The training trust fund was one such action, just today announced, to try to encourage reopening of that mine.
We are pursuing winter works and we are pursuing the community development fund, which the member, admittedly, does not like.
We are pursuing policy areas in a much more coordinated, long-term fashion. So, I think we are doing everything we can do. What we can't do is what the Yukon Party government did, which was to spend, spend, spend and spend again large sums of money that were donated by the federal and U.S. federal governments. We don't have that at our disposal. What we have tried to do is maintain services, focus as much money in capital works as we can, and do that in a fiscally responsible way.
Speaker: Order. I would ask both the questioner to provide just a brief preamble prior to the question and the answerer to proceed directly to the answer.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I believe we have been trying to do that, but we have been getting speeches for answers, eating up Question Period. I can understand why Yukoners are becoming increasingly frustrated with this government, because of answers like I just received from the Government Leader. Where they have absolutely no idea what to do, they're trying to say their no-jobs, no-hope budget is going to solve all the problems.
I would like to ask the Government Leader today: does the Government Leader believe that, because of his budget and the actions taken by his government, the unemployment rate next month will be down?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I apologize for giving long-winded answers, but certainly I think there is plenty of content in the answers. The member asked what the government is doing; I gave a list of 20 items - and I have only scratched the surface of what is available to us - and the member responded by saying we are doing nothing. I obviously can't satisfy him, so I will have to appeal directly to the general public to decide for themselves.
The increase in the unemployment rate is largely due to the closure of the Faro mine. We are tackling that issue specifically, and also dealing with the long-term needs of the economy of the territory at the same time.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of Opposition Private Members' Business
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The acting Official Opposition House Leader.
Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the Official Opposition to be called on Wednesday, April 9, 1997. They are Motion No. 54, standing in the name of the Leader of the Official Opposition, and Motion No. 43, standing in the name of the Leader of the Official Opposition.
Unanimous consent requested
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to an agreement with the House Leaders, I would request unanimous consent of the House to call Motion No. 55 for debate at this time.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: There is unanimous consent.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Motion No. 55
Clerk: Motion No. 55, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Harding.
Speaker: It is moved by the Hon. Government House Leader
THAT, at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 9, 1997, Rob McWilliam, president of the Yukon Energy Corporation and Cam Osler of Intergroup Consultants, a company on contract with the Yukon Energy Corporation, appear as witnesses before Committee of the Whole to discuss the financial status of the corporation.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I won't speak long. This is a motion to enable the House to have the President of the Yukon Energy Corporation and one of the people who does most of their consulting work to have considerable time to come forward to explain to the Legislature and to the public on Wednesday evening some of the reasons for the proposed interim rate application to offset the losses as a result of the Anvil Range mine closure.
The issue has been brought up in this House many times. The Liberal House Leader in the Legislature had indicated that he wanted some more technical information about the situation affecting the corporation's finances and also was interested in a report as to those issues. I believe this is an appropriate public forum for that to be done.
The people from the Energy Corporation will also be able to report on findings coming out of discussions with intervenors that took place yesterday. I would have liked to have the chair attend, but time was not permitting and he is unfortunately out of the country at this time. So, I would think this would be a good opportunity for the legislators, for the public and for the media to have some direct communication with the President of the Yukon Energy Corporation, and to get some technical information and some good numbers on the situation of the Yukon Energy Corporation, the public utility's finances, and how they are proposing to deal with the situation as a corporation and what they may be taking to the Yukon Utilities Board, and also to answer some of the questions that have been on the public's mind about rate increases and about how that's reflected in the situation with the Faro mine, with them as the major consumer.
So I think it'll be a good opportunity.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I won't speak long. I just want to say that I was somewhat taken aback by the motion when it came in because there was agreement among the House Leaders that we were going to have the president of the corporation and the vice chair of the board. At least this was the message that I received before I came into the Legislature, and I think it would have been useful to have the vice chair of the board here if we couldn't have the chair of the board, rather than the consultant that's been used for consultations. Nevertheless, we have agreed to this and we're not going to renege at this point.
Ms. Duncan: Could I, just by way of clarification, ask the Government House Leader to respond. Was the vice-chair of the board not available or was there someone from the board also not available to attend?
Speaker: The minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation, should the member speak, will close debate.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, there was relatively short notice. The board of the Yukon Energy Corporation, as I understand it, tried to contact the chair, but he was unavailable. With regard to the vice-chair, the information that I have is that, with the short notice, it wasn't entirely possible for him to attend.
Also, the information that's been requested by the Liberal caucus has been mostly of a technical nature and I thought that the president would have been able to respond adequately and disclose all of the information that the members are requesting, as well as, certainly, the person who's been on contract with Yukon Energy Corporation for several years, as I understand it, right back to the takeover from NCPC. Mr. Cam Osler can provide some of the background and allow an exploration of issues on rationale from the agreement in principle with Alberta Power to the recent questions about the financial health of the corporation, as well as the issues that have been of concern with regard to the two rate riders relating to diesel price increases, as well as the rate rider with regard to the 1993 court decision action that was taken, as well as the proposed increases as a result of the closure of the Anvil Range mine.
I believe they'll also be able to explain some of the reasons, or at least the rationale as they understand it, for the Yukon Utilities Board ruling in 1995 that did not reduce residential consumer rates when the mine went back up - just commercial rates. So, I think they'll adequately be able to address that.
At some future point, we may be able to expand it and bring board members in. I'm not so sure it'll be in this sitting, but we can certainly do it in the future.
Speaker: Are you ready for the question?
Motion No. 55 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the members' wish to take a recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Twenty minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1997-98 - continued
Executive Council Office - continued
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I indicated to members yesterday that I would return with information today, respecting a number of items.
First of all, the capital budget obviously produces jobs. I don't have the details, but I do have the information that Economic Development was planning to distribute to members.
In general terms, with respect to the direct, private sector job impacts and the indirect job impacts, the expectation is that, from figures developed by Economic Development, the capital budget of $88 million will produce 442 direct private sector jobs, and 80 indirect jobs, for a total of 522 private jobs - or as they refer to them, FTEs.
I also indicated that I would provide some information for members. I've already transmitted to the offices the statement of ministerial travel. I have for tabling, as well, information on the organization budget and the total commission mandates, which I'll distribute to members.
I'd like to return briefly to the question of land claims staffing and the update, because in checking the Blues this morning, it's obvious that one statement I made is not, in fact, true, and I want to correct the record.
I indicated yesterday that - I'm just looking for the reference here - one person who was acting in the principal negotiator position did not apply for the job. He in fact did apply for the job, but the job was under recruitment because the person was acting. So, it remains the case that two principal negotiators are in fact being recruited. I have details of this now, so I will give it to members for their information.
The Land Claims Secretariat has been reorganized to respond to the increased work on the negotiation side, and because the government's given a clear mandate to proceed apace, there have been some additions to the complement. It's currently hiring two principal negotiators and will be hiring a director of policy planning and mandates and administration in the near future. There is one implementation analyst vacancy.
The secretariat is headed by one chief negotiator and assistant deputy minister. These two responsibilities are now on the one senior management position. The chief negotiator/ADM is currently hiring, as I mentioned, two principal negotiators to make a total of three principal negotiators that will be responsible for leading all the remaining negotiations with the Yukon First Nations and the additional tables for transboundary negotiations.
Each principal negotiator is supported by a lands negotiator and an analyst. All the negotiators are supported by one cartographer, and one support person in the negotiation section has been seconded to the Energy Commission.
In the implementation area, there is one director of implementation, supported by two implementation analysts, one policy officer and a support person. Currently, one of the implementation analysts has been seconded to the Development Assessment Process Commission.
Under policy and administration, as I mentioned, there is a director of policy and administration position, and this position is supported by one senior policy officer, a research assistant and a support staff person that is shared with the ADM. And, of course, there are Department of Justice personnel who are continuing to work with the secretariat.
What I will do, as well, is provide a little more clarity as to the target dates for land claims and an update as to where each of the First Nations is.
The Little Salmon/Carmacks and Selkirk First Nation agreements are currently being ratified with the First Nations. Pending ratification, these agreements may be signed off by parties by early summer. The Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation negotiations are nearing completion and we expect to conclude these discussions by early summer. Kluane First Nation and White River First Nation negotiations could be completed within the next 12 months, or sooner. The Liard negotiations could be concluded by June 1998, while the Ross River and Carcross negotiations may extend to later in 1998.
The Ta'an negotiations have been completed to the extent possible and are pending the separation agreement with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. Once, of course, the separation is complete, the Ta'an agreements can be completed rapidly. The Kwanlin Dun First Nation is the only table that is not active. I'm certain that members are aware of the reasons for that.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the member for that rundown and correction from the statements made last night. It's kind of difficult to follow it verbatim when the member is on his feet. I wonder if the member would be able to provide us with an organizational chart for the restructured Land Claims Secretariat as soon as possible. I really would like to have it before we clear that line item in Executive Council. If we get to it and we don't have it now, I would ask the member to consider just setting that line aside until such time as we get the information, because I think it's very important now, with a new government, and the finalization of land claims, hopefully, that will occur during this mandate. I know every Government Leader, regardless of their political stripe or philosophy, has hoped the same thing for many, many years in the Yukon. I just want to say to the member, while I may differ with him on opinions and processes and how to go about it, I do wish him the best of luck and hope that he is successful in finalizing the outstanding agreements in his mandate.
I do have a few more questions in that area. I do thank him for the stuff on the Cabinet commissions, but the minister must appreciate I haven't got time to go over it right now, and I'm going to need to go over it and, again, we may have to ask him to set that line aside until we've had time to go into it in great detail. As this is a new initiative by this government, I think it's important that we ask all the questions that are necessary so that the public understands where this government's coming from and we have a chance to look at the budget, the organizational costs, and all of those things that are in there.
Hopefully, my colleagues will be back shortly and can take it over, and I'll have a chance to read that so we can get into it before we get too far along in the Executive Council debate.
I do thank the minister for the ministerial travel report this morning. Again, I have not had time to go through it in detail, as I just got it at 12:00 or 12:30, but I'm trying right now to correlate this back to a full year's travel under our administration, because it seems like - at first appearances, anyhow - it's fairly high. I will have some questions in that area on it as we go along.
I also have some questions on the reorganization of the Executive Council Office. I believe there have been several new positions added in that area. I was looking at the organizational charts. I had them here somewhere, and I will find them again, so I can get into detailed questioning on the organization of the Executive Council Office.
I also see, where I asked for the travel of the Watson Lake retreat, that in the descriptions I have here there are two lines - the 5th of November and the 4th of March for Watson Lake - marked only "staff $5,787.45". While the minister is on his feet, maybe he can tell me does that include the ministers or is this just strictly staff or is each one of the ministers listed separately to Watson Lake? I haven't had the chance to go through the detail. It doesn't look like it, but maybe they are - each one of the Caucus members.
Also, I understand that there was a dinner in Watson Lake. I would like to know, for the public record, who paid for the dinner and what was the cost of the dinner, while the minister is on his feet?
A few comments that I have just from my cursory examination of the travel of ministers is that I see that on trips to Ottawa and eastern Canada - there are a couple of them here; I haven't had a chance to go through them in detail - there has been an executive assistant travelling with the minister. We used to utilize the people in the Ottawa office to save travel expenses, and I'm wondering if the minister could tell me if that's going to be his policy or is he taking a position that the executive assistant will travel with the minister, regardless of where they go? I think it's important that, if we're going to have an Ottawa office, we utilize that office to the best extent we can, and I believe that we manage to incur a substantial amount of savings by using the people in that office as officials to attend meetings with whatever minister is in Ottawa - or maybe they had to travel to eastern Canada, because the travel costs are a lot cheaper from Ottawa than from Whitehorse.
I have to admit those are questions that I have that I've given to the minister now and maybe he can answer them while he is on his feet. I also want to know this from the minister: what is the policy on ministerial travel? What class do they ride in on aircraft? Are there any exceptions? And I would like that in fair detail. I would like him to reiterate it on his feet and possibly file a document in the Legislature so we would be able to examine it in detail. Maybe I'll just leave that rather than getting a whole bunch on the record. I'll let the minister respond now and then we'll get into some other things.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That's probably useful, Mr. Chair, so we don't put too much distance between the questions and the answers here.
With respect to the land claims organization chart, I have one here, but it's my only copy so I'll have to get copies made of that, and then I can provide those this afternoon to the member.
With respect to the ECO reorganization, certainly that was a major part of the budget speech and there are some re-organization charts, or charts that outline the reorganization in the budget book itself. If the member wants more detail or if he wants to understand the reasons why we're doing what we're doing, then I invite him to put the questions to me.
The Watson Lake trip that the member refers to: the cost of that trip includes staff and MLAs, everyone together. The Watson Lake dinner that he is referring to was hosted by the community. It was a potluck dinner hosted by the First Nation and, I believe, the town. I don't have the cost, but if the member wants me or the department to contact the community organizations to estimate their costs, then I can do that, but there were no costs to the government.
With respect to executive assistants travelling, generally speaking, it is my view that executive assistants should be introduced to their counterparts in introductory meetings. I'm not convinced that, as a general proposition, this should happen on a regular basis throughout the term, but I do find there to be value in having the political staff meet their counterparts in other political offices in an introductory meeting. There will be exceptions to the rule depending on the issue, depending on the circumstances of the situation and those exceptions can be justified by the minister as we go, but as a general proposition I would agree that they don't need to travel with ministers at all times.
With respect to the use of the Ottawa office: yes, indeed, I think the Ottawa office can provide some substantial support, not only to ministers who happen to be in Ottawa, but also to attend meetings for ministers or for departments in Ottawa. And as soon as that position is recruited, the person in that position will be doing that work. The member will remember that, in my comments in December, the person that had been staffing the Ottawa office job moved to the Department of Finance and is doing financial work in Ottawa.
On the issue of ministerial travel policy, I'm not certain precisely what the member wants to get from me in terms of the travel policy. Is he talking about the class of seats - for example the business class versus the economy - or is he talking about what constitutes a good enough reason for a minister to leave the territory, or what? Can he explain that question for me?
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am not interested in why the Government Leader is sending a minister somewhere and why he's going. That's his decision. What I'm asking, what is the policy on travel?
Let me relate to him my policy on ministerial travel when I was in government, and then I will ask if any changes have been made by him. All travel on this continent was economy. The only time that we allowed ministers or, for that matter, officials, to travel business class was on overseas flights. I want to know if that policy is the same under this administration, and if there are any exceptions to that policy while travelling in continental North America.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, the policy is the same. For the overseas travel, there has been, I believe, the Team Canada mission, which, as the member knows, had its own arrangements. There has only been one overseas travel taken while we've been in government. I believe that travel took place on a business class basis for the overseas portion.
There can be exceptional circumstances, and a lot depends on whether or not there is a red-eye special that a minister might have to take, and then has to work the very next thing when they get off the plane the next morning. That could possibly be an exception, but generally speaking - and in practice as well - the policy has been to support economy-class travel only.
We have not made any restrictions on anybody, so that if they want to pay for an upgrade of their ticket themselves, they have been entitled to do that. I have not said they can't, nor has the Management Board, but the policy is economy class domestically.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that, but it also raises more questions, because I can tell the minister that I travelled economy wherever I went in North America, and many Yukoners made the comment to me that, "It's good to see you back here with the rest of the people." I would not allow my ministers to upgrade on their own, because the people who are on the aircraft don't know whether the minister paid for that upgrade himself or whether in fact the Yukon taxpayer paid for it.
I'm just laying that out for the minister. If he decides to do it, I believe he and his administration will be open to criticism, because people getting on the airplane don't know whether he or one of his ministers paid for an upgrade on their own, or in fact the taxpayers footed the bill for it. So, I had a very strict policy on travel in Canada and North America. There were no upgrades even if they paid for it themselves.
I don't need to tell the member opposite, who's been a member of this Legislature for 15 years, it's the optics of what's happening out there, is what the people relate to.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I don't disagree with the member. Certainly, perceptions do form the basis of a lot of opinions, and nobody wants to think of the government as being a separate, elite group, when, in fact, they're not, they're just simply going on business and they're travelling like everybody else.
I have discouraged people - if they've asked for my opinion - from travelling business class, particularly the Vancouver-Whitehorse runs, even at their own expense, and, believe it or not, even when they've gone on holidays, I've indicated that that is also something people don't always understand, that they're travelling for their own private purposes.
So I have given that advice but at this stage I have not issued an edict about what people do on their private time or what they do with their own money. But the member is quite correct, that they'd be well advised to keep in mind that people will not always understand, whether they're paying for it themselves, or whether they're on holidays.
Mr. Ostashek: The minister said he was going to give us an organizational chart for land claims. I suppose we'll get that after the break today, or some time during the session this afternoon? Okay.
I want to ask a few questions in regard to the office. I understand that there is a position vacant there now, because the person who was filling that position has been moved over to Finance, because a Finance person has retired. If I'm not mistaken, Raghunathan has retired now, or will be shortly. So Glenn Grant is the person who's moved over to Finance. Has the position been advertised? I'm going to ask the minister the same question he asked me when we had that position vacant. Is it going to be filled by a bureaucrat, or is it going to be made into a political position?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, quite honestly Mr. Chair, we've been doing a lot of thinking on that point in the last few months.
In the first instance, the member is quite right. The person who had been filling the job before has moved into the Finance position. The person who had been in the job, Mr. Raghunathan, is working very, very part time right now - I think it's a day a week or something like that, on average. But, it's very, very part time, and he is doing his Sanskrit scholarship work on his own time.
In terms of the job itself, there has been a lot of thought given to this job, given the importance that devolution has taken on in terms of projects under this government's mandate. I had been thinking that perhaps, initially, we should have a full deputy minister ranked person in the job in order to ensure that we have as high-level intervention in Ottawa circles as we possibly could. We have not only, as I mentioned, devolution, but also land claims and many other things, so we want to give the position as much status as possible.
There also has been some discussion, but no decision made, about perhaps making the position more of an ambassadorial role and considering a citizen for the role - a citizen who has had a lot of community experience in the Yukon who would be able to weave their way through some of the more pseudo-political issues with a Liberal government in Ottawa. There has also been a school of thought that it should be a public servant who has been, in part, the tradition of the past - a public servant who is looking for an advancement and some excitement on a short-term basis on the understanding, of course, that devolution is a short-term job. It may end up being a long-term job, I don't know.
All those thoughts are being considered or have been considered. At this point, we have not come to a conclusion yet on that point. We have not come to a conclusion on the filling of the office, and that is largely because of the evolution of the devolution debate, which has driven some indecision there.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I am going to put the Government Leader on notice right now. I am going to go back and I don't want to be rehashing old budgets or old speeches in this Legislature. But I am going to tell the Government Leader right now that if he chooses to make it a political position, I am going to have as much difficulty with it as he would have had if I had made it a political position. I believe that if he wants to call him a deputy minister, that is fine. I don't think it's necessary. I think directors have had very good access to the bureaucracy in Ottawa; have proven that they fulfill a very useful role for the territorial government down there.
If, in fact, this job is now going to be turned into a political position, I am going to have a lot of questions in this Legislature and the Yukon public is going to be wanting some answers, because I don't believe that that job should be filled in an ambassadorial position. What we need in Ottawa is somebody to communicate with the bureaucracy.
We as politicians - the Government Leader and his ministers - could communicate with the ministers, with the principal secretaries, with the political people. We need somebody to communicate with the bureaucracy. And if the government needs a lobbyist for a certain specific issue, then he has the ability to hire that on a contract basis. I don't see any necessity to put a political person in that job in Ottawa at this stage of the game - devolution, land claims, or anything else. They're coming to an end shortly.
I know the minister before was part of a government that did hire lobbyists in Ottawa. In fact, we did hire a lobbyist, for a very short period of time, to get a few things through. That ability is there.
I just want to put that upon the public record now.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I thank the member for his opinion, and that'll be taken into consideration, certainly. I am aware that governments have hired lobbyists to do this kind of work. I even met the member's government's own lobbyist, who lobbied me for lobbyist work.
Decisions about what this office will do and how it will be structured will be made shortly - I'm hoping before too long. Certainly, the member has an opinion that's worthwhile, because he's been in the job before, and I thank him for sharing it with us.
Mr. Cable: I just have a few questions. The minister indicated that he was going to issue a press release today on devolution. Does that still stand, and is it coming?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, it is, Mr. Chair. I signed off the press release, as I indicated last night. I approved the press release yesterday, and I indicated what the press release would say last night, and it's coming.
Mr. Cable: I've looked at the various agreements that were signed a couple of months ago on devolution and I do have some questions on the intent of the government.
What's the minister's pleasure? Does he want to deal with those in the lines when we get to intergovernmental relations?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Right now, if the member wants. That's fine by me.
Mr. Cable: The devolution protocol - does the Government Leader have the agreements in front of him?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I have the memorandum of agreement on oil and gas. I have summaries of the agreements. Let's see if I have the agreements themselves here. Well, perhaps I don't need the agreements. Let's see what the member's questions are.
Mr. Cable: Yes, we can try it that way, or we can deal with them later after he's had a chance to get the agreements.
The accord on the devolution of federal programs, which I believe is the master agreement, between the Council of Yukon First Nations and the Government of Yukon, at section 2.2 - I'm not going to ask the minister for his legal opinion, but I'd like to ask him what his intent was. I'll just read the section out, because the minister doesn't have it: "The parties agree that Yukon First Nations are governments in their own right and that the CYFN represents the Yukon First Nation signatories to this accord, and therefore the parties agree that the devolution negotiations with Canada are tripartite. This shall not be construed as a veto on the part of either party."
Could he explain in common, everyday English what he intended when that was signed?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, in the first instance, we intended that First Nations governments should participate in the discussions because they have a very direct interest in the transfers of federal programs and services. They have responsibilities, too, under the land claim agreement to care for - in this case, lands and resources. So, it is our view that they should be involved in those discussions.
If there was any suggestion that this translated into a veto either by us or any transfers that they achieve through their own discussions with the federal government or them having veto over any transfers that we would achieve through discussions with the federal government, we wanted to make it clear that vetoes weren't contemplated.
However, the agreement was structured as a positive statement that we want to work together. We realize that success can come from working together, and, in essence, we acknowledge that working apart has been unproductive; working together should be more productive. That was what the statement was meant to imply.
Mr. Cable: Yes, I think we're in agreement on those intentions and I have some reservations, though, about whether the agreement is structured in such a way that that will actually happen. I gather from what the minister said yesterday, and perhaps this will be enlarged in this press release, that it is the federal government that's being difficult at this time. What happens if one of the parties - one of the signatories to this agreement - is being difficult and there is agreement on the table, and one of them won't sign. What happens? Do we bounce over to the dispute resolution clause? Is that what the minister intended: that all disputes between the two signatories would be resolved by that clause?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, first of all, I don't want to suggest that at this point, certainly, that anybody is being difficult. I don't want to imply that there is anybody who's doing anything other than bargaining tough and bargaining hard. We got into this process knowing that this is going to be a tough process and nobody expected any party to the negotiations to be pushovers. So, I'm not spooked at all by the state of negotiations at this point. I think a lot of good people are very creatively trying to come to conclusions.
Now, the worst case scenario: if things just completely fell apart, then everything would fall apart, and we would have presumably no agreement and presumably a stalemate of some kind all around.
We'd be faced with exactly the same situation we were faced with prior to signing the agreement and no progress. I believe it would be an option, of course, if we all declared that everything had collapsed completely and we're all going to start again, then perhaps a new structure could be struck, or people could try more bilateral talks on productivity, or any number of things.
What we're trying to do here, I guess, is indicate that we are going to do our very best to work together and carry it right through to the last ounce of blood in the corporate bodies of each organization. That commitment is reflected in the accord.
Mr. Cable: Okay. The agreement does, though, include a dispute resolution clause, which I think is very desirable, because of the many variables and the unknowns that the parties are going to face during the course of negotiations, but I am stumbling over the dispute resolution clause. I think what I'll do - unless the minister has it in front of him - I think it would be more convenient if we got that document later on and discussed it, because I'd like to explore it with the document in front of him.
I'd like also to explore, when we get to the lines, the Northern Accord amendment, if I could call it that - the amount of money that's in trust and the amount of money that will be going to the Yukon First Nations - if we could get some documentation on that. The agreement refers to the monies that are paid by way of the contribution agreement and also the transfer of Crown royalties - if we can get some definition on that.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: With respect to the second part of the question, Mr. Chair, I'll take notice of that question and try to give as clear an answer as I can to his query. With respect to the dispute resolution section, as I understood it - and I'm working on memory - it is to ensure that any interpretation of any clause in this agreement would be referred to the principals for some sort of accord or political consensus on what the thing means. We've not had to worry about that. There's been a pretty clear understanding of what the agreement itself means, so I don't think there's ever been any call for a principals' meeting to discuss it.
The dispute resolution section doesn't, I don't believe, anticipate what would happen if everything simply just collapsed. I mean, obviously there would be principals' meetings and I would hope there would be attempts to resurrect this essentially political exercise. So far, there's been lots of goodwill on the part of all three parties and, as I understand it, the talks have been very tough but very creative, and people have been very creative, people have been very hard-working, and I've got lots of respect for the negotiators from all three organizations party to these discussions.
I will get the information with respect to the oil and gas transfer. Certainly, the Minister of Economic Development would be in a very much better position to explain the oil and gas transfer, but I'll try to get the information that he requests, even earlier than that.
Mr. Cable: Well, okay, the minister does seem to have a fairly accurate recollection of the dispute resolution clause.
It appears to say, to me, that if the negotiators cannot work out some problem, let me refer to the principals. I assume the principals are the Government Leader himself and the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations. Is that what's intended?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That's correct.
Mr. Cable: Now, let's say - and this is purely a speculative question - the Government Leader and the Grand Chief don't agree. What happens at that juncture?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, a lot depends on the Government Leader and the Grand Chief coming to some agreement and being reasonable people, I suppose.
This is a political accord. It depends on goodwill, which has to be worked on a regular basis. So that is what it would depend on. There's no outside or third party to come in and take care of us; we have to take care of ourselves.
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to follow up and just ask a few questions of the Government Leader with respect to the document that was provided to us: travel costs for Cabinet offices and outside territory travel.
I notice that there's only one minister listed as attending the Cordilleran. Is this an error in this listing? As I believe there were others that attended, were there not?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, there were others that attended, Mr. Chair. The member will note from the travel schedules of others that, in doing other business, they were in Vancouver at the time the Cordilleran Roundup was undertaken.
For example, I had a meeting with Ron Irwin in Ottawa at the same time, and so, on the way back, I attended the Cordilleron Roundup along with my colleague.
Ms. Duncan: That's a reasonable explanation. I appreciate that clarification. Could I also just ask for clarification, and it could be provided at a later date: t
here seems to be huge disparities in some of the costs for various trips to various locations, and I just wonder if we could have a bit more detail.
For example, there's a meeting that the Minister of Economic Development attended in Toronto, and the cost for that trip is $4,214. There's a meeting that the Minister of Health attended in Toronto, which was only $1,282. There seems to be huge disparities and different costs. Rather than simply list the cost, could we have some more detail, please, broken down as to what was airfare, and what were hotel costs?
Also, I note that the trip to Europe seems to be a rather large expenditure, so it would be useful to know what portion of that was airfare and what portion was hotel. Could I have that broken down at some point in time, please?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Ostashek: While we're on the travel - and I know I never asked for it, but I think it's important because we have caucus members travelling a lot; I know one caucus member that's not listed in here was at the Cordilleran Roundup - could we have a listing as soon as possible of caucus travel as well?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay, thank you.
I just want to follow up on just a couple of questions on the devolution that my colleague, the Member for Riverside, started on. Under the umbrella final agreement, the signatories to devolution are the territorial government and the federal government. Has there been any change in that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, what we're trying to do is to structure an arrangement where First Nations participate in the devolution discussions. Then there will presumably be some bilateral arrangements when the transfer is actually struck - actually signed off with the dollars and cents attached, et cetera - between the federal government and the Yukon government, and federal government and First Nations government, for their portion of what they will receive.
Mr. Ostashek: If I follow the minister right then, there will be no amendments required to the umbrella final agreement.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That's correct.
Mr. Ostashek: I just want to explore devolution a little further. I believe the minister said last night that there'd been a two-month extension to reach an agreement in principle with DIAND on the whole package of devolution and the global financial figure - is that all included in the agreement in principle, or is the agreement in principle just an agreement to sit down and negotiate the finances and the finite details of the devolution?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The difficulty that negotiators faced upon the whole issue of fiscal fairness was that, from the Yukon's perspective - and I realize this is a biased perspective - we wanted a net fiscal benefit to the Yukon for the transfer, meaning we did not want to have to pay for the transfer of services. At the same time, we also were promoting the concept of comparability of service, meaning that we want to ensure that whatever programs - in terms of land management, water management, forestry or mining we would be able to provide a standard of service in those areas that is comparable with the provinces.
The federal government was not prepared to agree to that principle and was not prepared to give us the language we wanted with respect to net benefit. Their position was that, essentially, "what you see is what you get". Now, of course, we can't see everything. We would need, in any case, to look into the books to see whether or not the envelope that they've identified for transfer is, in fact, sufficient to meet our needs.
So, rather than trying to write in these imperatives in a principles document, in the AIP, there was a decision made to instead do due diligence first - go into the federal books, explore whether or not the envelope is big enough, and if, by June 1st, we determine that it is in general terms big enough we send the signal that we proceed to the balance of the negotiations on the transfer itself.
If we go into the federal books and discover that the envelope is substantially smaller than we need and that we would effectively have to buy the transfers, then we can say, "The deal's not good enough and there's no reason why we should all be wasting our time."
That's what we're essentially doing. We're giving ourselves two months to, as I said last night, rummage through the federal books and find out the size of the financial envelope and then to make a decision after that point as to whether or not it's sufficiently large to meet our purposes.
Mr. Ostashek: I'd just like to pursue that a little bit so I can have a clear understanding. I have just come out of the position that the Government Leader now finds himself in in dealing with federal government at a time of cutbacks and federal restraints. I don't know what the exact figure was, but I believe the federal government put forth a figure somewhere in the neighbourhood of $30 million for the entire DIAND package. The minister can correct me if I'm wrong on that.
So, what the minister is saying to me today is that they've got an extension till June 1st and they're going to do their due diligence to see if this figure of $30 million, or in that neighbourhood, that DIAND has put out is, in fact, sufficient for the devolution of all DIAND programs to the Yukon.
Now, I don't believe that devolution includes the Crown Attorney's office because that's not in DIAND. Am I correct in that assumption then that he will be doing his due diligence first; he will be seeing if the figure that the federal government is offering is in the ballpark, or at that point he will say to the federal government, "Either divvy up some more money or we're out of here until such time as you're more focused on devolution." Am I correct in that assumption?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That's correct. There are going to be some tough decisions to be made, of course. One of them is that, as the member pointed out last night, the federal government is also cutting back its programs and services. So, there may have to be a decision made at some point as to whether or not we refuse to take it because it's insufficient and the federal government can continue to be politically responsible for these programs and services, or whether or not we cut our losses and try to - given that the federal government is cutting back or has promised to cut back in these areas - just take it as it is. So, that's going to be a tough decision to make at some point.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I appreciate that from the member. I know it's a tough decision, and sometimes it's not all bad to say no to the federal government. A case in point is when we said no to the federal forestry transfer. They have beefed up their staff since then, and certainly that'll have to be included in the calculations when they go to look at it again. So there was a plus there.
I do believe, though, that the federal government, in their proposal, said they were prepared to freeze the level of funding once an AIP had been reached, pending final negotiation. Am I correct on that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, and that's part of the negotiators' agreement that we're talking about approving and signing, and that will be attached to the press release that is being issued today.
Now the government Cabinet has not approved the negotiators' agreement, but I would expect they will consider that this week.
Mr. Ostashek: I know we've hired a new devolution person from British Columbia, but how many people do we have that are totally dedicated to devolution at this point?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Three. I believe there'll be three. I can have the matter checked. Three including the ADM responsible for devolution.
Mr. Ostashek: I know the minister doesn't want to look at the negative, but in the event an agreement wasn't reached by June 1st, and the territorial government decided to put devolution on hold, then I assume the Government Leader would be disbanding his devolution people, or assigning them to other duties.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the section itself is responsible for intergovernmental relations generally, and there will be some other tasks assigned to them. There are some other tasks for them to do anyway. I do think there would be an opportunity, at that point, rather than to simply say no to any further devolution talks, to take stock again, think creatively and see what we can do to make some progress in this area. This would be my preferred option, rather than simply putting everything on hold and just stopping everything for a while.
Mr. Ostashek: In the new organizational chart that the minister gave us for the Executive Council Office, it's very difficult to follow the number of bodies, because, as we look at it, we have it from the deputy minister, Cabinet secretary, down to the assistant deputy minister, to intergovernmental relations, and then another line down says "intergovernmental relations" again, but there's no identification of the number of staff in each one of these various departments. I will get to that a little later, though, as I want to explore a few more questions on devolution.
What's happening with oil and gas?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, we expect that the oil and gas legislation will be passed through the Legislature in the fall sitting of this Legislature. The federal government has committed that they will also pass the oil and gas legislation, so there should be no further delays.
Mr. Ostashek: The oil and gas legislation is on the Order Paper in Ottawa now. I believe it's in second reading in the House of Commons - it has been for sometime. It was put on last summer, and the minister was talking about passing it and not proclaiming it until July 1st of 1998, which we agreed to.
Has the minister received a commitment from the federal government that their oil and gas legislation, which will rescind their authority for oil and gas responsibilities in the north -will be in fact passed prior to the federal election, which we all expect in June?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, yes, Mr. Chair.
The concern that has been expressed by First Nations was over the issue of the issuance of oil and gas rights in traditional territories where land selections have not been made.
Now, the minister indicated that it's already the federal government's policy not to issue those oil and gas rights. First Nations requested that the act itself be amended in order to say the same thing as the policy. The federal minister said that to do that would delay the legislation passed this spring, in his view.
So, the compromise struck and accepted was that the minister would simply restate that commitment in a letter to everyone - First Nations and the government and anyone who cares to ask - and that he would proceed with the legislation this spring.
So, I'm expecting, because he didn't want to amend the legislation, to reflect that little policy change, consistent with their existing policy, that he wasn't seriously intending to proceed with this legislation now. So, I'm holding him to that.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I thank the member for that, but I think today is the 8th of April. If there's a federal election on June 1st, I imagine the House will be prorogued by the 15th or 20th of April. Time is running out, and I'm very, very concerned because I believe, whether the minister opposite agrees with me or not, there are some tremendous economic opportunities there for Yukon, once we've received that transfer. I know that there will be better economic opportunities once the land claims are finalized and First Nations are satisfied. There are a lot of areas of the Yukon now where land selections are completed and there will be the opportunity for the government to issue some licences in those areas.
So, I am very concerned about it and I know the minister is very, very busy but he may want to consider giving the minister a call to see if the commitment is still there on the oil and gas.
So, what are we looking at now? We're looking at June 1st for a decision by this administration as to whether they want to pursue devolution. That would be aside from the oil and gas legislation, I presume. The minister is shaking his head "yes" so I won't ask him to get up. So the oil and gas will go ahead but that would include forestry and all other DIAND programs.
When, then, is the target date for devolution?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the original target date, as I mentioned yesterday, was April 1st, 1998, for an MOU. Obviously, that's still our target but it may be backed off a bit because of the fact that we've extended the investigation stage by a couple of months. I would still expect that the summer of 1998 would be a target date for the MOU. Now, the unknowns, of course, are who the new minister is, whether or not it's a priority, who the new federal minister is, et cetera, whether or not we can get some reasonable agreement with the new federal government. Those we can't control, but we, for our part, are going to put lots of resources in, trying to make it work generally within the time lines that I have indicated.
So, summer of 1998, at this point, would seem to be realistic, barring any unforeseen circumstances.
Mr. Ostashek: I agree with the minister that with a federal election coming up and a new minister taking over, there is no doubt that that time line is going to get pushed back, besides the fact that there is a very good possibility that the Prime Minister could lose his own seat in this next election. I think things will be in quite a tussle.
The Member for Porter Creek South is giving me dirty looks, but, in fact, that's what all the political pundits are saying: that the Prime Minister has a tremendous race on his hands in his own little riding in Shawinigan and that he may be defeated by the separatists. So, there may be some real time of indecision after the next federal election.
I want to just move back to land claims for a second. I will have more questions after the break when we get into organizational charts. The position has been combined: the ADM and the chief land claims negotiator. When that position was filled and the position for the devolution officer was advertised, who drew up the job description for it?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would have thought the member had this all figured out. He's already got his mind made up. We have to debate the motion on the Order Paper tomorrow afternoon. What is the point of me doing the member's homework?
I do not know precisely who drafted the job description. I could find out, but I sure would like to hear the member's debate so I do not have to do his homework for him, because I would like to see what kind of information he has that would cause anyone to draw the conclusion that the hiring of the land claims negotiator was done improperly.
Mr. Ostashek: I think the member has heard my views on that quite extensively in this Legislature. In fact, he readily admitted last night that he didn't blame me for asking the questions, and he almost said that if he were in my position, he would be doing the same thing. I did get that much out of the Government Leader last night.
I really would like to know who drew up the job description and if the government would be prepared to table a copy of the job description in this Legislature, so that we could see what was being asked for in a chief land claims negotiator and a devolution officer, since it appears nobody in the Yukon was capable of filling the positions.
Also, could the minister tell me what the salary range is for the two positions?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, I want to make it very clear. The reason I checked myself is because I realized that I was not the member opposite, and I do not think like the member opposite, and so consequently I would not do what the member was saying. I would not do what he's doing.
I want to make it clear, too, with respect to the certification, I did not say that nobody in the Yukon could do this job. I said nobody who applied met the basic qualifications. There is a difference.
And yes, I can provide the job descriptions and salary ranges. That should be a matter of public record.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I was reading over the debate last night. Last night, I was a little concerned about what I heard from the Government Leader, but reading over Hansard today, on page 505, the Government Leader was basically asked what the government's position is at the land claims table and what their role is at the table, and the Government Leader said that it - and I quote - "in general terms, is, and I think ought to be, that we want to make sure that land claims meets the basic objective, meaning that First Nations people will have a claim that they can use to protect their culture and ensure economic prosperity well into the future. It will ensure that the interests of all the people of the Yukon are enhanced by the claim itself, and it also has narrow interest with respect to the government's delivery of services. So, that's the balancing act. I think that that's a position that is reflected in the chief land claims negotiator."
I guess my concern, and the concern that I have heard from Yukoners, is that Yukoners have asked me what our role is at the table. I have explained that our role at the table is similar to what the Government Leader says, but we've also stressed that our role at the table as the Government of Yukon is to express the views of all Yukoners - native and non-native Yukoners - and, in some cases, to protect the interests of non-native Yukoners or third-party interests. I didn't hear that from the Government Leader when he said that was the role that they have now. Is that a change, or is it just that the Government Leader didn't elaborate on that. I know there are a lot of Yukoners out there that expect the Government of Yukon to be at the table supporting First Nations claims but also ensuring that other Yukoners have their rights protected, and so that possibly the federal government or others don't make changes that would affect those rights and privileges that other Yukoners have at the present time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the reason I took the position I did last night, Mr. Chair, was because obviously some of my colleagues took severe exception to what they understood the approach taken by the member's colleague is, with respect to what the Yukon government's role. If that was a misunderstanding, then that can be clarified. Certainly the understanding about what was being proposed last night - and the member has not repeated it this afternoon - was that the Yukon government represented non-First Nations; First Nations could look after themselves; the Yukon government looked after essentially non-First Nations people.
I can't support that notion. My notion is more akin to what the member just referred - it is to ensure that a land claims works - that's what we're in this for - for Yukoners who are going to be the beneficiary of the land claim. It's also, as the member notes, to protect the interest of other Yukoners who will be affected by land claims, and to ensure that everyone's life is enhanced by the whole process.
So that's our orientation. It was the orientation when we negotiated the UFA and when we negotiated the first four First Nation final agreements and self-government agreements. If anyone is concerned about the kind of agreements the New Democrats negotiate, they have only to look to the UFA and to the first four First Nation final agreements. Those are the kinds of negotiations that we contemplate.
I believe, at least until I'm corrected and it's suggested otherwise, that all parties in this Legislature support those agreements that have already been reached. So I think that those agreements do strike that balance of all persons' interests. So that's what I believe in terms of how it should be negotiated in the end.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, the Government Leader didn't say that last night, and that's what bothered me last night. He didn't talk about the protection of third-party interests. Some members in the House, as the minister has said, have talked about the First Nations having their representative at the table, and they have that, and they make very good representations at that table. So I see a very strong role for the Government of the Yukon to not only represent First Nations, but also to represent all other Yukoners at that table in a very strong way. There are times when the Yukon government, at the table, has to take sides and may have to say no to the Yukon First Nations on certain issues to protect the rights of others. I want to make sure that this government is taking that position, that it is saying no to some land selections in some cases, maybe for one reason or another, saying no to some rights and privileges in some cases, and does take a strong stand. The federal government, after all, is pretty far away from the Yukon and may not understand the issues and problems and the lifestyles of Yukoners, and that may not be reflected in their position.
So, he might readily give away some of these things in a bargaining sense, which other Yukoners would be rather upset about. The Government Leader said that the NDP signed the initial umbrella final agreement and that Yukoners are pretty pleased with that. Well, my reading of that is that probably about 90 percent of Yukoners don't know much about it - even today don't know much about it and are just starting to find out about it.
In fact, I think if you did a poll during the campaign or did a poll now and said, "Yukoners, would you like to see land claims settled?" Probably about 95 percent of them - First Nations and non-First Nations - would say, "Yes, right away. This thing's gone on long enough." Both would say that.
I don't know how we solve this problem because I know they've had public information sessions explaining lands selections and explaining other aspects of land claims. Quite frankly, most Yukoners don't understand it and I'll bet you, Mr. Chair, if we went around this room with a little test quiz for all the members in this Legislature, there are a lot of us that don't understand it. It's pretty complicated; pretty involved. The signing of the umbrella final agreements and the First Nation agreements is only one stage. The implementation is another huge stage, probably even bigger than the negotiations themselves overall.
A lot of these things are going to affect Yukoners for a long time to come: the justice initiatives, the health and social services initiatives. It's an extremely complicated process and I don't think a lot of Yukoners understand it. I think a lot of Yukoners, First Nations and others want to see it settled and people getting on with their lives, but I really don't think they understand it.
I would suggest to the Government Leader that maybe some type of a public process is necessary to start explaining the nuts and bolts of it. It might be that it has gone on so long, that maybe no one would want to listen and no one would show up at the meetings again because, as I've said, they just want it over with.
I know First Nations have a better understanding of the agreements than others. And I've even heard from some First Nations that they are very concerned about what's in the agreements. You know, some of the bands have expressed concerns to their leadership that they don't even understand what's in it and they've had meetings to try to explain it. It's a very, very complicated process. So, I would hope that the Government of the Yukon is at the table urging the federal government to settle the claim, but one of their primary reasons for being at the table is to ensure that all Yukoners, all third-party rights, are protected, and that Yukoners overall, First Nation and non-First Nation, will benefit from the land claims settlement. And I would hope that's the position the government's taking. I know the Government Leader didn't say that last night, and maybe he was focusing on what someone else had said in the House. But, I would hope that he would never again rise to his feet and talk about the Government of the Yukon's role without giving confidence to other Yukoners that he's there, as well, to protect their rights.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, my interpretation of what the member just read out and what was said last night is different from his.
I certainly implied protection of everyone, that everyone's lives would be enhanced by this process - not damaged by the process, enhanced by the process.
So, I was trying to give it as positive a twist as I could, given the very near meltdown we had last night in terms of people's thoughts about what the basic orientation was between the governing party in the Legislature and the party in the Official Opposition with respect to land claims. And, I recall some heated exchange. Not just one-sided, but heated exchange. It was very important to settle things down, because if not, that kind of exchange, I don't believe, in the context of this kind of discussion, is productive.
My understanding is that all three political parties represented in this Legislature, no matter what individuals believe or understand, support the UFA - understand what they are supporting and support it - and if any party leader believes differently, I would ask them stand this afternoon and say so.
I stand on behalf of the Yukon New Democrats and I say, "Yes, indeed, we support the UFA."
Now, the member is quite right that the knowledge of the UFA and self-government agreements - First Nation final agreements and self-government agreements - is not widely understood in the general public; nor is it widely understood, I believe, within the Government of Yukon or in First Nation governments or in municipal governments. I believe that that is obviously the case, and few would admit otherwise.
That's one of the reasons why we wanted to promote a new initiative in the Public Service Commission, which was to not only share personnel but also - with other governments, through personnel exchanges - share training and also undertake land claims training so that everyone would have a common understanding of what the duties and obligations are.
The minister responsible for the Public Service Commission can get into more detail as to how that's going to be structured, but I believe it is a respectable initiative that will at least help in achieving a common understanding of our obligations under the land claims agreements.
The member asked whether or not the Yukon government would ever take a position that's contrary to a position taken by a First Nation at the land claims table. Of course, from time to time that is absolutely the case, and it's always been the case, and there will be tensions that will arise. Having been involved with the negotiation of the first four First Nation final agreements, at least in a peripheral sense, I happen to know that tensions arose and I happen to know that people got upset from time to time because they didn't get perhaps everything they wanted. A balance had to be struck and it had to be negotiated.
That's going to be true in this case, too. With every table that we've got, there are going to be some tensions that arise from time to time. They are unavoidable.
And the principles with respect to protection of third-party interests are well-defined in the UFA, a document once again that was negotiated with the NDP government. So, nothing on that front has changed.
In terms of implementation, the member is absolutely right. The implementation process will probably take a generation, I would suspect, if not longer. I don't think we have to rush into it. I think we'd like to do things right. We want to respond to First Nations as they ready themselves for some self-government activities. There are PSTAs being negotiated. They had been started some time ago. They are continuing through the negotiation process. One of the biggest concerns that I have, frankly, is that, knowing that federal Finance has very little time for the Yukon claim and the cost implications of the Yukon claim, I am concerned about whether the federal government will, in fact, live up to its financial commitments under this claim. That's a huge concern of mine.
So, I am certain that that will be played out long after I am out of this Legislature. There will be generations of legislators who will be working the details of this through for quite a while, I am certain.
Were there any other questions you were asking? Anyway, that's what I have to say on that subject.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you. Well, I do want to thank the Government Leader for getting up and clarifying that position, because I believe - I know I do - that the government is there to protect everyone's interests - all Yukoners' interests. That is their role.
Certainly, in the heat of exchange, by kibitzing from the backbenches when the question wasn't addressed to the member, that is unfortunate. I was just trying to make the point that there is some nervousness in public with the reorganization of the land claims table in the eleventh hour and new people being brought in from outside. That was the point I was making. It has been raised with me by many Yukoners. There is a nervousness there. I hope that what the Government Leader has had to say today will help to alleviate some of that nervousness and we'll be able to move on with the process.
I have some more questions on devolution yet - I am not completely through with that - before we move on somewhere else. Land ownership is a big question and it certainly isn't addressed in the devolution proposal that was put forward by the Minister of DIAND. I know that when I was in government and in the position that the Government Leader is in now, we were insisting that there be some language in the devolution agreement that would eventually lead to amendments to the Yukon Act that would provide for Crown lands to be owned by Yukon.
The federal government seems very reluctant to give up that ownership. They say they can't do it because they need amendments, constitutional changes. I disagree. I don't think they need constitutional changes. The Yukon Act is an act. It is not a constitution. I believe that, by changes to the Yukon Act, we could establish a Crown in the Yukon. Two things that are hinging on that are land ownership and the transfer of the Crown attorney's office, which the federal government says they can't do because we don't have a Crown in our own right.
I find that our party was very, very vocal in meetings with Mr. Wright, who was working on behalf of the minister, trying to find a road through this maze of devolution and to reach consensus. I wasn't able to convince Mr. Wright. Shortly after the election, I was called to a meeting of a very diversified group of Yukoners of every political persuasion by Mr. Hougen with Mr. Wright. There was consensus around the table that, in fact, there should be amendments to the Yukon Act to provide for land ownership in the Yukon.
I know that it can't happen now. The federal government's saying, "Well, one step at a time, do this then we'll look at that." I would feel a lot more comfortable if the government was insisting on some language in the devolution agreement that, over a period of time - whatever period of time is appropriate - that this in fact would take place, so we would at least have some commitment from the federal government.
The federal government, for some reason, doesn't want to let go completely of either the Northwest Territories or the Yukon. I don't think that's right. I think we're quite capable of looking after our own interests here without having to go to the federal government, even after devolution, cap in hand for spot land transfers. They say they'll do them, all the legislation is there that they can do them, but I suggest to the Government Leader that it depends entirely on who the Minister of DIAND is whether they'll do it or not, and whether they'll do it in a time frame that's acceptable to the territorial government.
So I would like the Government Leader to maybe give us his thoughts on those three issues - land ownership, the transfer of the Crown attorney's office and amendments to the Yukon Act - so that those two transfers could, in fact, be a reality for Yukoners.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will answer those questions, but first of all I just have one closing remark on the Land Claims Secretariat.
I believe that the Land Claims Secretariat has been reorganized to manage a lot of tables at once. People have said you can't have more than three tables at once. Of course, you can have more than three tables at once. Any principal negotiator can have a number of files, and we are going to be faced with a lot of negotiating at once, and I believe that the organization of the Land Claims Secretariat will accomplish that task.
Our responsibility is to protect all Yukoners' interests in the negotiations. We also - and I want to make this point very clear - we also want to make it clear that we want the land claims to work. It's not a matter of Yukon government trying to beat back First Nation interests at the table without giving thought to the fact that this package has to meet the expectations that we all set out for negotiating the land claims in the first place. So, that's something that we have to bear in mind as well, and that's part of this government's thinking. It's only reasonable, and that's the way I thought all negotiations were going up till now.
I want to be very careful about making a statement, Mr. Chair, that the Yukon Act is only an act. Now, there's a very big debate in this territory, and I attended one such debate that was undertaken. Erik Nielsen was present, and there was Ken McKinnon who, incidentally, just announced his candidacy for the nomination today. I saw the news transcript.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Possibly, but I heard both the gentlemen take two sides of the equation, not that they're constitutional scholars, but they did make some very interesting points about what the meaning of the Yukon Act is at this time. The member may remember that, a number of years ago, the Yukon government went to court trying to achieve some recognition through the courts of Yukon's involved status as an entity within the Constitution, and I think the best we achieved at that point was some reference in the judgment to Yukon being a mini-province. So I am not entirely prepared, as a bald statement, to simply say we're a creature of the federal government, they can do whatever they want any time they make changes to the Yukon Act. I'm not prepared to say that because there may be a need to go to a court and argue a constitutional case, which I'm hoping won't be needed, but if necessary at the time, I would like to study the thoughts of a number of constitutional experts as to what our status actually is, and present it as strenuously as I can, if the need arises.
Now certainly, the transfer that we've been talking about so far is the transfer of programs and services. It's also a transfer of legislative authority. This, in my view, has always implied a change to the Yukon Act to ensure that we do have the legislative authority to manage lands and dispose of lands in the Yukon. So, effectively, we exercise all the rights of an owner, no matter what we are technically in terms of ownership.
So, the practical effect of what we're doing is to be the governing body of the day for lands and resources in the Yukon, which is something more than a simple surrogate.
In terms of the land ownership, that's a question that I have asked to get an opinion on, in terms of pure ownership - what it means in constitutional terms - so that we can bring some clarity to the thinking on the subject. If the member wishes, I can share with him the information I get on that point.
It's interesting to note, though, speaking of federal commitments, that I remember seeing a letter addressed to Tony Penikett from Bill McKnight admitting that all land remaining in the territory after a land claim would be transferred to the Yukon government. We had sought that. We had requested that from the federal minister and the minister had provided it. Obviously, ministers come and go, governments change, things change, and we won't get the thing finalized at least until devolution takes place.
But the question the member raises is an interesting one. I think there are some complexities to it that I want to have addressed before we take a clear position with the federal government. I'm well aware that any position we take now may either enhance any court cases that we might have to fight in the future or compromise them. So, I want to be very careful about what we say and when we say it.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I thank the member for that and I certainly wouldn't want him to do anything that could jeopardize a court challenge if, in fact, we have to go that way. I think as leader of the government he has that responsibility to keep that door open.
But, the member says that there's an implied view that there's going to have to be changes to the Yukon Act in order for us to have the legislative authority to deal with this land. I agree that there's an implied view there, but there is no specific commitment from the federal government to do it.
From all of the discussions that I had with Mr. Wright, Mr. Irwin and all of his officials, it was, yes, we'll have the legislative authority, but we will still have to apply for spot land transfers, on a spot land basis, as we make decisions. That means that, whether or not we have the legislative authority, if the changes aren't made to the Yukon Act, then we are in fact still at the mercy of the federal government and the Minister of DIAND, and I don't think that's right.
Under the land claims agreement, First Nations are getting outright ownership of certain lands, which they're entitled to, but I really believe that other Yukoners are entitled, by Mr. McKnight's letter, to the ownership of the rest of the lands that aren't included. All Yukoners, including First Nations - it includes them all; it includes all Yukoners - are entitled to the ownership of the rest of the land.
So, I would hope that we have more than just an implied view from the federal government, because I can see all kinds of pitfalls in it.
If I could just say to the Government Leader now: I think the federal government has shown their hand quite clearly in what's happened in the Northwest Territories with the diamond find that's there. They don't want to let go now. They want the revenues from that resource; they don't want to let go. The Northwest Territories government is having a terrible time trying to come to an agreement with the federal government.
So, you know, I think it would be much easier to deal with those issues before we have something like that that is going to focus the government on it. It could be that after the oil and gas legislation is found and we, the Government of the Yukon, start issuing some leases, there's a major oil field discovery. I can see all kinds of pitfalls trying to deal with the federal government after that.
So, I just want to say to the Government Leader that he is as cognizant as I am that we are still in this Legislature working on the basis of a letter from a Minister of DIAND, the Hon. Jake Epp, in 1979 that gives us the authority to have this elected body and to allow a Cabinet to function in a Legislature similar to the provinces, but it has never proceeded past the basis of that letter.
I think that's not a position that I feel very comfortable with in the Yukon, as to how we progress into the future. I would appreciate the member sharing with me any information he gets as this progresses, as to how we go along. But, I do want to urge the minister, in his negotiations, to try to get a firmer commitment of some kind from the federal government, other than just the implied view that there will be changes to the Yukon Act.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, first of all, what is not implied, what is absolutely part of the process, is that when this transfer is made, it is my view that the Yukon government should have full authority to manage and dispose of all other lands. Now, how that is constructed in legislation, I'm prepared to consider options. Whether it means a formal land transfer under some legislation to the Yukon, or whether there is other federal legislation which says that the Yukon government has the power to manage and dispose of land, I'm not clear yet as to which that would be, but certainly we have to have the authority to manage and dispose of lands in the Yukon.
On the question of the Crown attorney function, certainly there has been a long-standing request for the Crown attorney function to be transferred to the Yukon. I understand that the federal justice minister has indicated an interest in proceeding with this transfer, but I also understand that there's going to be some consultations on the transfer as well. Perhaps the member, when we get to Justice, can pursue this in greater detail, as he might want to pursue in greater detail the oil and gas transfer with the Minister of Economic Development.
With respect to Jake Epp's letter and what it means, that's a very, very good question, and I believe the jury is out on that score. I know Erik Nielsen took the position in this public debate that it means nothing, it was a giant sellout and has no force and effect at all. There were other people at the meeting, including people who are constitutional experts or who studied the Constitution, who felt that we had long since passed Jake Epp's letter, and, in their view, our constitutional status was much more entrenched than even the letter would imply.
I am not a constitutional expert, but I do want to proceed along these lines very deliberately and carefully. I think our general objective, between the two of us - the member and me - are shared. I am aware that there can be bumps in the road and there may be times when we have to present a case through the courts rather than through political accord, so I want to make sure that anything we say and do now or in the future will only enhance our case in court and not detract from it, so that we don't take short-term political moves that would ultimately jeopardize a case in the court system.
I am prepared to enhance Yukon's interests politically or through the justice system - whatever it takes. We will go to the wall to enhance our constitutional aspirations.
Perhaps, Mr. Chair - the member had asked for the organization charts for land claims - if we were to take a brief recess, I am certain that it will probably be ready by now and then we can get into that subject.
Chair: All right. We will take a brief recess - 10 minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there any further general debate on Executive Council Office?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I passed around the organization chart for the newly reorganized Land Claims Secretariat. The members can see that the position of ADM/Chief Negotiator has five people reporting to it, including the three principal negotiators. I would point out that one principal negotiator position is new and two are under recruitment. The director of policy mandates is new and under recruitment, or about to be recruited. I don't know if it's under recruitment or not, but it's about to be recruited. There is one other vacancy, implementation analyst, for the members' information, and presumably that would be recruited at some point.
I would point out that in the three negotiating tables, in the first negotiating table headed by the principal negotiator, the two lands negotiators there are, in fact, half-time positions and really count for one position. So the three tables all have the equivalent of one full-time lands negotiator and one negotiation implementation analyst, and they all have the cartographer/researcher reporting to them.
So, that's the reorganization.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the member for that
The member said that of the three principal negotiators, two are under recruitment now and only one position is filled. If he could, who is the one principal negotiator that we have now?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Flynn is the one negotiator we have now. As I indicated before, and I corrected this afternoon, there were two positions under recruitment. I had made a mistake last night and said that the acting person had not applied for the position and, in fact, did apply - I was corrected today - for the position of principal negotiator, but there are two principal negotiators under recruitment and one filled.
Mr. Ostashek: There are two principal negotiators under recruitment, one policy analyst under recruitment and one implementation analyst is under recruitment, or is that position going to be filled at a later date?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not certain that it is actively being recruited at this moment, but it is vacant and will be filled. The director of policy mandates, which is the position to the far left top, is a position that is vacant and is to be recruited.
Mr. Ostashek: Is that one under recruitment at this time?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: My note says, "recruitment imminent", so whether or not "imminent" means - it is probably "imminent." But, I don't know whether it has actually been filed with the newspapers or made public or that sort of thing. If it is not under recruitment, it shortly will be.
Mr. Ostashek: I see the organization chart. There doesn't appear to be any of the legal staff listed here. Have they been put back into justice? I know Lesley McCullough was there and I believe there were one or two other legal people. Could the minister enlighten me?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, they are technically not in the Land Claims Secretariat. They are technically justice personnel and they are all still with the Land Claims Secretariat, or at least have office in the Land Claims Secretariat area, and are supporting the land claims secretariat.
Mr. Ostashek: These positions that are under recruitment now - when does the minister expect they will be filled?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I understand that recruitment for the positions for principal negotiator has been closed, and PSC and the secretariat are going through the process now to go through interviews and all that sort of thing.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay, I thank the member for that. When we get to the line item, I may have another question or two on that. Right now, I just want to move on to a few other things here, of a general nature.
The funding agreements for aboriginal languages and French languages - I think they're almost up for renewal again. Could the minister tell me when they're supposed to be up?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I might have that information, Mr. Chair. I'll just check.
Okay, the information I have here - I'm just reading from a note, as the member can guess, so I'll just give it virtually verbatim, "
In 1988, Canada agreed under the terms of the languages agreement to provide funding on an ongoing basis, from year-to-year, under contribution agreements, to bear all costs incurred in developing, enhancing and implementing French language rights and services in the Yukon.
Through previous funding agreements, 1989-93 have been renegotiated, and the federal government has agreed to a renewal of funding. The negotiations are scheduled to begin in the spring and then well before the agreement expires in March 1998.
The Bureau of French Language Services has completed an evaluation of the 1993-98 Canada-Yukon funding agreement. As is required under the terms of the agreement, they have consulted extensively with the Francophone community groups. They've assisted the departments to prepare a five-year, French language service plan. They've met with Canadian Heritage officials to discuss options for delivery of federal funding, and they have consulted with departments with respect to a five-year plan for direct services prepared by the l'association des Franco-Yukonnais, as well, so they've consulted with l'AFY.
Mr. Ostashek: So we're in the last year of the agreement. It appears to me that it's going to expire on March 31st, 1998. Have there been any preliminary negotiations with the federal government, and has there been any indication by the federal government if, in fact, they want to cut these areas again?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: What I know is that we've received no signals from the federal government that they would cut. I doubt very much that they would announce any such cuts before an election campaign, in any case. So, I think by the fall we'll have a pretty clear idea of where we're going with the funding arrangements and probably a more honest appreciation of what the federal government commitment will be.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I have one question for the member, and I don't want to go back to past history, but the member opposite has said in this Legislature several times since taking over the government that I had three deputy ministers in the Executive Council Office. I only know of two that I had, one being the chief land claims negotiator who was at the deputy minister level, and the deputy minister of the Executive Council Office. Now, I don't know if the member opposite is referring to the 30-day period that I had in September when Mr. McWilliam was back, and he hadn't been assigned a new portfolio. Is that what he's referring to when he says that I had three deputy ministers in the Executive Council Office?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, Mr. Chair. The positions were all filled, and there were three deputy ministers in the Executive Council Office. At least, three were working out of the Executive Council Office. Now, if Mr. McWilliam had been assigned to another department, then I stand to be corrected, and there would be two deputy ministers in another department and two deputy ministers in this department. As far as I was aware, Mr. McWilliam was working - or at least being assigned - on a daily basis out of the Executive Council Office.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, surely, the minister was also aware that Mr. McWilliam had just returned from a two-year leave of absence on September 1st, and an election had been called, and I didn't feel it was appropriate to re-assign him to a department prior to the election. So, again, when we talk about statements that aren't totally accurate - I mean it was only for a 30-day period that I had three deputy ministers in the Executive Council Office, and the only reason was that Mr. McWilliam had just returned from a two-year leave of absence.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Perhaps the minister can enlighten us as to what he would have done. The other positions were filled. Was he planning to create another position which Mr. McWilliam could fit himself into? Was there a contemplation that another deputy minister would leave, or be forced to leave, in order to make room for Mr. McWilliam? These are all the choices that I faced. People weren't offering to leave and obviously something had to be done, so I had to do that.
Whether he was back for 30 days or three minutes, the fact remains that he was standing, ready to go to work as a deputy minister, and the jobs were all taken.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, the reality of it is that he was promised a job when he came back in two years, and I fulfilled that commitment to put him back to work and told him that he would be reassigned after the election. There's no secret, as I've said before, that this government, had we been re-elected, was looking at a major realignment of departments in government, and we would have picked people who best fit the job at that time.
I believe that the minister left the impression that for four years I had three deputy ministers, which was not an accurate statement at all.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I didn't leave that impression, Mr. Chair, at least not in my own mind and not the minds of many others. The impression that I did want to leave, which I believe is quite accurate, was that when the time came to assign deputy minister postings, we had two too many in this department, and we had to find assignments for people. We wanted to find assignments for people to fit the people into the various jobs.
As far as I was aware from the Public Service Commission, Mr. McWilliam was entitled to a deputy status job. If we were to continue his employment, he would have to be at the deputy level. There were only so many deputy jobs open, and I certainly tried to accommodate as many as we could. What we did with respect to the deputy ministers who ultimately did leave is a matter of public record, but I certainly did try to find work for as many as possible and was faced with this conundrum: what to do with these deputy ministers. We tried to make the best choices with the resources we had.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'm not going to belabour this. I just want to make a point that that wasn't the impression that was left with some of my colleagues here. In fact, they were asking me how come I had three for a mandate.
Just in closing on that one, I just want to say to the Government Leader that, when we took over from his administration, there were in fact three deputy ministers in Executive Council Office: a chief land claim negotiator, an executive council, and Mr. Byers, that was doing odd assignments in the Executive Council Office. So we were faced with the same conundrum as the member opposite.
I want to move on to the reorganization in the Executive Council Office. When I look at the organizational chart that has been put forward with the new reorganization, there appear to be several new positions created in the Executive Council Office. Can the minister tell me how many more positions he has now from what there was when he took over government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would have to add them up, Mr. Chair. I have them catalogued by branch, and we just went through the land claims secretariat, so I will provide a precise number tomorrow when we get back into this. I've got them organized by branch and I was going to deal with it on a branch-by-branch basis, but I can get the information for the member.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I have a couple more questions here before we get into the commissions.
When we look at the Land Claims Secretariat, it has increased by over $1 million. Personnel has increased by $300,000. The "other" has almost doubled. We've asked for the salary range of the ADM and principal negotiators, which the member opposite is going to bring back.
Is most of this $1 million recoverable? Is that coming out of the implementation funding that we negotiated with the federal government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes. Of the total, $691,000 is recoverable spending on implementation. Two hundred and five thousand dollars is an increase in personnel spending, and $21,000 is an increase in travel spending to support community negotiations.
Mr. Ostashek: I believe there is a $14,000 increase in Cabinet and management support staff. Does this include the Ottawa office? I believe that when we were in government, we used to classify the Ottawa office under Cabinet and management support. Is the Ottawa office included in there?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: One moment, Mr. Chair. I think if the member will turn to the intergovernmental relations branch, the Ottawa office is contained within that expenditure.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay. The member said, when he was on his feet before, that there is one vacancy in the Ottawa office that he hadn't decided how he was going to fill yet. We have had that debate, but I just want to ask if there is any intentions by the minister to expand the number of positions in the Ottawa office?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay, thanks.
I want to go to Cabinet commissions a little and see if I can get some clarification here from the member. I have not had time to study this in detail - we just got it - but I asked the Government Leader if he would give us a total breakdown of costs. When I look at the details of the calculations for the 1997-98 commissions, I am having trouble following the costs. It's got personnel for $211 - is that $211,000? Is that what we're talking about?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is either 211 Mitchell Sharps or it is $211,000. I suspect it is the latter.
The personnel - if the member will turn the page to the commission organization chart, I will help explain what the costs are with respect to the organization chart and this chart.
Now the personnel costs associated with the calculation on the page that the member has identified, $211,000 refers exclusively to two-and-a-half deputy commissioners: the deputy commissioner for Yukon hire, deputy commissioner for energy and half the cost of the deputy commissioner for forestry. The other half is paid for by the Department of Economic Development. The deputy commissioner for DAP is a wholly recoverable item under the land claims implementation costs.
Now, the other policy officers that the member sees - the other people who are working in the commissions, the two each per commission - are paid for by the host departments. The secretary, or the casual ECO secretary-receptionist, is paid for by the Executive Council Office. These were contributions made by those departments to the commission's work.
Mr. Ostashek: But is that cost all calculated in this $499,000 figure that we have when we talk about the financial analysis of that? What we're trying to do is get the total cost regardless of where they're being paid from. I would like it if the member could replace that sheet with some figures that are a little more realistic so we could know exactly where we're at with it. I will leave the finances alone until we get to that line item in the Executive Council Office.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I can add up the full costs, including the policy officer. We can get the information from the departments as to the cost of the contributions that they are making toward this work and provide that to the member. I would point out as well - something that I've pointed out before - that the cost, the full $499,000 cost here, which includes travel and everything else, is a cost that has been extracted from departmental basis.
Mr. Ostashek: When we look at the organizational chart, and the way I see it, we have six people seconded from ECO, one from Renewable, one from Health and Social Services and one from education. My question to the minister is: have there been any people hired to replace those seconded positions in the departments?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: One moment, Mr. Chair. You're bouncing around a little bit here, so if you'll just give me a little bit of time.
Okay, I'll just read out the note here, that's probably the easiest thing to do.
Eight employees have been seconded from departments to the Cabinet commissions. These employees have brought their salary funds with them - in other words, their salary costs are being paid for by their home departments.
Education, and Health and Social Services have backfilled the employees they have provided to the local hire commission, because these employees were not working on issues related to these commissions. This has involved the backfilling of an administrative position in Health and Social Services and a vice-principal in Education.
The Executive Council Office has provided two of its policy officers to the commission. The ECO is also providing one secretary serving all the commissions.
I indicated this information already on record.
The positions that have been backfilled are the two positions that I've identified, because the government was not previously doing work in the area of local hire.
Mr. Ostashek: Is the minister saying that two of the positions had to be backfilled to replace people that were seconded to the commissions? Is that what he's telling me?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In the case of the local hire commission, that's correct.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I would appreciate a total figure. The people have come over departments with salaries, and we really don't care which department's paying the salary. It's all coming out of the same pool of money.
I want to see if we can't get a fixed cost of what the total commission is costing. And, the only way that we can do that is if those salaries are included in the commission costs, because that's where these people are working now. So if the member could give me the commitment that he'll bring that back to us as soon as possible, I would appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I can.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you. I have just a few more questions on the commissions. I'm not going to get into great detail on them, but I really would appreciate...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Yes, I hope that the back-fill costs will be included in that figure too.
Could the minister - certainly he must have some time lines for these commissions. He says they're not going to be going on forever, Could he capsulize for us at this time what he sees as the time lines of each of these commissions? I know he can't have a hard and fast figure, but he must have some idea in his mind as to how long these commissions are going to be in place.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, each commission has a workplan, and I will invite the commissioners to speak to their workplans.
Certainly, we know more or less when the DAP Commission is going to conclude. They've got a September 19th deadline for completing the DAP project, and then there will be some implementation months, after which I would suspect that there will be no further work required. I believe I made the energy workplan public.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Certainly, I can make the energy workplan public shortly.
With respect to local hire, the member responsible for the local hire commission has already announced his workplan in the House with a sense of when they will be completing their activities, and I would invite the Member for Watson Lake to participate in describing the workplan for the Forestry Commission.
Mr. Fentie: With regard to the Forest Commission, we have a target date of April 1998 to have a draft policy in place, which would coincide with the date of devolution. This is a preliminary time frame, and we will do our best to stick to that.
Mr. Ostashek: Let's just take the Forest Commission for an example. Is it the minister's intention to disband this commission if they were able to meet the April 1, 1998 deadline? I guess my major concern is - and I'll put it on the record right now, so the minister is not guessing this - is that these commissions take on a life of their own, and they'll be a fixture of government for many, many years to come.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, if that criticism is valid, it's probably a criticism that could be applied to any number of policy workers who work for government.
If the member was standing in this place here and he was answering questions respecting the forest policy paper that the previous government was doing, and would presumably continue to be doing, one would ask whether or not the people that they were hiring would be working on forest policy indefinitely or whether they would be disbanded at some point.
Having said that, the commission as an entity will be disbanded when the forest policy is achieved. Certainly, the people will go back to the departments, et cetera, in order to support the ongoing work of the departments, presumably.
The member asked if the commission will be disbanded if the April 1 deadline is not achieved. I can't commit to that, because if this thing is right around the corner, I can't be pointing to the federal government and the First Nations government, saying, "Well, I made a commitment in the House that we're going to disband, so that's it; it's over." I can't obviously make that kind of commitment.
If things have completely collapsed, which I highly doubt, then we'll make a decision as to the future of the commission at that point, but my impression will be that we'll probably be pretty close and the commission will be there until the completion of this mandate.
Mr. Ostashek: I hope I didn't leave the impression that I asked the minister if it's going to be disbanded April 1st. I said "if" an agreement was reached. I'm just responding to what the minister has said publicly, that these commissions have a finite life, that they're not permanent fixtures of government. I'm just trying to make some sense of what that finite life is and what Yukoners can expect from these commissioners. That's all I'm trying to do.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Once the work plan is complete, once the objectives of the commission are complete, then, absolutely, the commissions will be disbanded.
As a matter of fact, as the member will recall, in the context of discussing the severance policy of deputy ministers and deputy commissioners, it was made very clear that, even in that context, deputy commissioners were essentially given a term basis upon which they were operating. In one case, I remember indicating to the member that when the project is done the deputy commissioner leaves with no severance.
Mr. Ostashek: That opens up a few more questions, though, because we have two deputy commissioners, I believe - two that are former deputy ministers - who, if they are relieved their severance would apply. Am I not correct?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I guess that's true, of course, and in the case of two of them, neither of them will be leaving government, presumably. One will go back to Economic Development. One will be reassigned in government someplace, presumably. The other deputy commissioners are a different story. They leave when the project is over, and when the project is over there is no severance entitlement.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to ask some general questions about the Cabinet commissions, as well, and in particular with reference to the document that was tabled. There is a note that the principal secretary, the Deputy Minister of Finance and the Public Service Commissioner are ex officio members of each Cabinet subcommittee. For the Yukon Hire Commission, that appointment would make sense, but perhaps the minister could enlighten me as to why the Public Service Commissioner would be an ex officio member with respect to Energy, DAP and the Forest Commissions.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Those members are also ex officio members of Management Board. They provide advice to all policy-making circles of government on the subject of finance and public service consequences of things we do. In order to keep them in the loop, they are members of these committees, as well.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for that.
Going through these mandates and information that was provided, I note that the DAP Commission will prepare monthly written reports for Cabinet and caucus. Given that the DAP Commission has been at work for five or six months, depending on your interpretation, could we have those monthly reports tabled?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The monthly reports are done verbally in the Cabinet subcommittee. There have been about three or four of these meetings already. I don't know how many precisely, but there have been a number of meetings to give an update as to the work of the DAP Commission.
Ms. Duncan: One would assume that Cabinet minutes are confidential, therefore that's why we didn't get them.
On the Energy Commission, there's no reference to work done previously or that there will be a review of studies, et cetera on energy prior to the Cabinet commission being appointed. I'm thinking specifically of the 2000 series that was done. I was absent from the territory at the time, but there's no reference that that material will be reviewed or that any credence will be given to it, and I'm curious as to why. The way that it's written with respect to the Energy Commission time frame, it says, "The Cabinet Commission on Energy will cease to exist when strategies to implement the energy policy are completed." Does that translate into, "When we get the answer we want, ignoring the previous material, we'll quit?" What is the purpose of that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, certainly the work that has gone on before will be part of the work to be reviewed by the Cabinet commission; there's not doubt about that.
The policy papers and discussion papers that were tabled in 1992 are part of it. Dare I say there'll even be a review of whatever work the previous government did, even and including coal, presumably, and that any work that has some value will be considered. All that will be read to determine whether it has value for the purposes of policy development.
The energy commissioner will be making a statement in the House shortly with respect to that in more detail and I would encourage members to speak to that then.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that assurance.
I appreciate the previous work will be reviewed, and I think that's important to have on the public record.
With the Yukon Hire Cabinet Commission, I have real cause for concern that we have, listed in the chart that lists which people are associated with which Cabinet commission, an economist, a social worker and a teacher, and we don't have anyone who has actually owned and operated a Yukon business involved in this Yukon Hire Commission, particularly when its lead line is "putting Yukon businesses first". That expertise is readily available in the Yukon business community. Why would business be so blatantly ignored when we are staffing this commission?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, first of all, Mr. Chair, the deputy commissioner was a separate hire for this particular position and was hired presumably on the basis that he has good credentials as an economist. The other people who were hired in the commission were public servant transfers, and they were not hired from the private sector. They were hired from the public service.
The reason for these particular people? I'm not certain why these particular people were chosen, and I wouldn't care to speculate why these people were chosen. I understand that they are capable people who understand everything from policy development to training, and they were selected for those reasons.
Ms. Duncan: I would suggest to the minister that he calls into question the credibility of the Yukon Hire Cabinet Commission, when I'm confident, were they asked, a member of the private sector would have gladly taken on the deputy commissioner role, considering also that it has a finite life, and public servant staff - Economic Development, Government Services - seem far more logical choices as support staff to that important commission.
I was really pleased to see the means of measuring the success of the policy put into the mandate in this information on the Yukon Hire Commission. I think that's the first one that I noted that.
I was, however, very concerned that in the workplan there's note of striking two other committees. The commissioner will create a Yukon hire policy committee; the commission will create an advisory and implementation working group. It does not appear to me that the Yukon hire has a finite life.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, it does, Mr. Chair. The process for proceeding with policy development includes the involvement of the public, and for some of the reasons the member identified, you need to have people in the private sector, and labour people too - business owners and labour people - participating in the process of pursuing and checking the work of the government.
So, presumably, that's why they are there. They're not there to check the work indefinitely. This commission is going to be making some recommendations for changes to government policy and, if adopted by Cabinet, they will be implemented; the Yukon Hire Commission will have completed its work.
Now, obviously, there may be some possibilities to always improve our local hire record, but this commission does not see itself as providing that kind of role over the long term. They see themselves as a short-term project, a short-term initiative.
With respect to the deputy commissioner, I understand that this person was hired out of the private sector. He wasn't in the retail business, but he was not a government employee when he was hired. He is an economist, and I think those are good credentials for this particular position.
Having said that, there's obviously a need to discuss local hire, not only with the business community but also with labour, too, and people who presumably want jobs out there. So there's a heavy obligation on the part of this commission, and all the commissions and all the policy work by the government, to involve people who are affected by decisions in the decision-making process. Because, clearly, the practical experience of people in the public is not always within the capabilities or the experience of the public service.
So that's one of the reasons why we've made such an effort to try to demonstrate that we are going to involve people in decisions that affect them. That's the basic initiative of the government. Setting up working groups to undertake policy is a bit of a hallmark to ensure that people who will actually be impacted by regulation will actually be sitting down and working through the issues with the support of the public service, rather than simply being told what the regulatory environment will be. That's very consistent with the government's overall approach.
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister revisit the question that I had asked with respect to the Yukon Hire Cabinet Commission creating a Yukon hire policy committee and creating an advisory and implementation working group? Are these sub-committees of the Yukon Hire Cabinet Commission, and do they as such have a finite life, or are they the bodies that will carry on the work of the commission?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I will ask the Cabinet committee for an answer to that question.
Ms. Duncan: This is the only Cabinet commission where I could note that there was no report to Cabinet and caucus. Would the minister confirm that all of the Cabinet commissions supply regular, I understand, verbal reports to Cabinet on their progress?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, in fact they do, Mr. Chair. There is a Cabinet sub-committee for Yukon hire that is set up. They have had meetings as well. They report their work to the sub-committee, and the sub-committee is listed, I think, on the third sheet of the handout that I provided. They do, certainly, report their work to the Cabinet and the caucus.
Mr. Cable: I'd like to go back to October when the Government Leader was setting these commissions up. Did he give the four commissioners a target date for completion of their work or was this left up in the air?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, as the mandates were being developed, target dates and workplans were being established at the same time. The commission mandates were made public already. A lot of the work itself to define the length of the project was left up to, in some cases, pretty significant consultation with stakeholders, but in every case each commissioner has a workplan and projects outlined. They'll be making statements in the House with respect to those plans and they are all finite.
Mr. Cable: I appreciate that's where we are right now, but I was wondering where we were back in October. Did the Government Leader have some appreciation as to the timelines that he wanted the commissioners to operate under? Did he have some idea when he wanted this local hire report in his hands, for example, at the time he appointed the local hire commissioner?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Ideally, as soon as possible, but the workplan helps define when the commission can report - as soon as the issue is scoped out better. We know what we wanted to achieve, generally. We know we wanted these to be finite projects, with the exception of DAP, which at the time had a very, very tight time frame. We thought at the time that the DAP commission had to report by February 14th. In fact, the first work of the DAP commission was to try to extend that time frame so that the public could be involved in the development of the development assessment process as well. And that was extended through to December.
So, each one has slightly different time frames. Each one has different kinds of projects, but they all have in common that they are significant policy projects that are important to this government, important to complete. Certainly they should all be completed as soon as possible but they have a mandate to involve the public and I am sure that they will build as much of a consensus around the policy proposals they make as they can.
Mr. Cable: I fully appreciate that. I don't think we're connecting on the question, though. Usually, when somebody is appointed to a job that has a conclusion to it, some rough estimate of the time frame would be given to the person performing the job. Was there a rough estimate given to any of the commissioners as to when the Government Leader would like the product received by Cabinet?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I thought I answered that question. The primary goal was to identify the job, and we had a reasonably clear sense in general terms what the job was. That was clarified more during the design of the workplan.
There were some hints - some feelings - about when forest policy could be developed, when the DAP Commission had to report - the Energy Commission too, in terms of some projects, and as soon as possible in some areas.
There was some sense, in general terms, as to when certain projects could be completed, but I was very careful then and in December - and I state now, very careful - not to define the specific time lines until such a time as the mandate review had been complete and the work has been complete. They are all now complete.
Mr. Cable: There have been words bandied around the House describing the commissions as being cost effective, and I think the Member for Watson Lake used the verbiage to that effect - or cost efficient.
It appears that the time lines were, at the time of appointment, fairly vague. Was there any estimate made of the total cost to completion of the product at the time that the commissioners were appointed? For example, did the Government Leader say to the energy commissioner, "Look, you can run up to one million bucks and that is the end of it; you'd better have your job finished." Did he give him some rough idea of what the total costs were going to be?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The total costs would be associated with the costs of the commission.
You know, this is a very interesting line of questioning. I have never heard of it before. I have never heard this line of questioning before. It is interesting that the focus is so much on these commissions and the work. I never heard anybody say to my predecessor or to his predecessor or to his predecessor, "How much is the forest policy work you're doing going to cost? And can we please have all the costs, travel costs, the works on, say, things like the forestry policy, or a time line. How can you justify getting started on this project until you can give us a guarantee about the time line? Is it cost effective, et cetera?" This is really rather amazing.
The point that I would make is that while the -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I didn't say cost-effective. I'm saying it's cost effective, because I'm showing what the costs are.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I simply find the whole debate fascinating. I find it very one-sided, frankly. I find it fascinating, given that I've never heard any of these members express any interest in determining the cost effectiveness of any policy development before, on any subject, in 15 years. Only when we set up an interdepartmental working group, that reports to a private member, is there such incredible micro-interest in everything that the group does. It says a whole lot about the intentions and the objectives of the members asking the questions.
Mr. Cable: Well, these were actually not low-ball questions.
Perhaps we can continue this line of questioning tomorrow.
I move that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 1997-98, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:28 p.m.
The following document was filed April 8, 1997:
Cabinet Commissions: Organization, Budget and Commission Mandates (McDonald)