Tuesday, April 29, 1997 - 1:30 p.m.
Deputy Clerk: It is my duty, pursuant to the provisions of section 24 of the Legislative Assembly Act, to inform the Legislative Assembly of the absence of the Speaker.
Deputy Speaker takes the Chair
Deputy Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers. I would ask members to bow their heads in a moment of silent reflection.
Deputy Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have some documents for tabling.
Deputy Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Children's drug and optical program
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I rise today to inform the House of a new Health and Social Services' policy that will ensure children in low-income families have the prescription and vision care they require, regardless of their parents' ability to pay. This new children's optical and drug program will pay the cost of prescription drugs, eye examinations and corrective lenses for children who do not have access to these items through insurance or other programs.
Mr. Speaker, imagine what it's like to have a child who needs glasses in order to see the blackboard at school or to read a book, and yet as the child's parents you cannot afford to pay. Or, if you can scrape together the money, it's only by cutting back other essentials.
We are fortunate in the Yukon to have a universal dental program for our children to grade 8. Some of our children already have financial access to prescription drugs and optical care through existing programs. For example, government and some private sector employees and their dependants are eligible for insurance programs that pay some or all of the cost of these items. Status First Nation people also have access to prescription drugs and optical care through the Health Canada non-insured health benefits program.
Children in families receiving social assistance are eligible for coverage for prescription drugs and vision care. When they go off social assistance, however, they lose these benefits. One of the objectives of this program is to ease the transition from welfare to work by extending drug and optical benefits to children in low-income working families.
The Yukon children's drug and optical program is an independent Yukon government initiative that supplements our commitments to the national child benefit. The federal component of the NCB will not be fully operational until 1998. The government recognizes an urgent need to move ahead with programs to address child poverty. We intend to have the children's drug and optical program implemented in September of this year.
There are still many details to work out before the program comes into force. We are researching similar benefit programs in the Yukon and other jurisdictions to see how they work. Because the program is intended for children in low-income families, we are looking at an appropriate income test and income level at which families will be eligible. We are considering various program administration options and we will be preparing new regulations setting out eligibility and benefit coverage.
I expect to be able to provide further information about the program over the next few months, and we would like to start taking applications from parents in late summer.
Mr. Speaker, this program provides benefits to children who need them most and ensures that they receive urgently needed drug and eye care.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party caucus is pleased to see the government take this initiative to introduce such a policy. At the same time, this side of the House is disappointed that the government has not gone far enough to address the real issue at hand. The issue is child poverty.
The minister is familiar with the Yukon Party's proposal to immediately introduce and implement a $500 child tax credit that would be of particular benefit to lower income families. The government has been very critical of our proposal and has used their participation in the national child care benefit program as an excuse to not implement the child tax credit for Yukon families.
Mr. Speaker, it was reported on Friday, April 25th that the Saskatchewan NDP government is topping up benefits for low-income families in the hope that Ottawa would take the hint and get moving on its own child assistance package. The Province of Saskatchewan plans to become one of the first provinces to bring in legislation designed to increase benefits for almost 9,000 children in low-income families. By taking this action, Saskatchewan is putting weight behind its demands that Ottawa speed up the national initiative that won't take effect until July of 1998. Other provinces such as B.C. have been preparing for the federal scheme by planning to increase aid to low-income families.
Mr. Speaker, this program that's being introduced today doesn't indicate an income threshold or the cost of administration. It appears to be not well thought out.
Seeing that the Premier of Saskatchewan, Roy Romanow, and his B.C. counterpart have put some money where their mouths are, I'd like to ask the Minister of Health and Social Services if he is prepared to put some money where his mouth is.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Liberal caucus strongly supports the children's drug and optical program for low-income families. It is my hope that this program will service equally well the children of Whitehorse and the children of rural Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'd like to just acknowledge the comments that my friend across the way made. I'm interested that the Member for Klondike has referred to our friends in Saskatchewan, who are just now beginning to dig themselves out of the pit, a financial pit that five years of a Tory government brought in to bankrupt the province.
He makes reference to the B.C. family bonus. I would caution that member that perhaps he should do his homework on that one because it's highly controversial and many national poverty organizations have some serious concerns.
However, I'm so used right now to the misanthropic myopia, to use an optical allusion, with this party opposite. They seem blinded to anything that's done positively by this government. If I just might, Mr. Speaker, I'll just quote St. Matthew, who said, "The light of the body is the eye, but if thine eye be evil, the whole body is full of darkness."
Deputy Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Health and social transfer
Mr. Ostashek: My question is for the Minister of Finance regarding the Canada health and social transfer.
When the federal Liberal government cut transfer payments to the provinces and territories in the 1996-97 fiscal year, the Yukon took a cut of almost seven percent in its transfer payment, compared to 4.4 percent for the provinces. In fact, it impacted on our 1996-97 budget by some $20 million less than what we had the year before.
Yesterday, the Liberal Prime Minister of Canada announced that the federal government would not be going ahead with the announced cuts to the Canada health and social transfer in the 1998-99 and the 1999-2000 fiscal years, which will raise the federal contribution to the CHST from $11 billion to a floor of $12.5 billion. That is some $1.5 billion.
My question to the Finance minister: has he had his department calculate what increase in transfer from the federal Liberal government - that is if they should be fortunate enough to be elected - would be coming to the Yukon from this announcement yesterday?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I certainly listened with interest to the Liberal campaign promise to slow down the cuts to the health care system through the transfers of the Canada health and social services transfer payment. I immediately asked the Department of Finance to calculate the extra funds that would be otherwise coming to the Yukon and I was informed that no funds would be coming to the Yukon.
It is unfortunate, as the member is, I am sure, aware, that any increase to the Canada health and social services transfer to the Yukon will be offset by a corresponding decrease in the formula financing arrangement. Fortunately, this is not going to affect the Yukon, but it will affect it in one respect, which is that we are being treated unfairly, in my view. I consequently have sent a letter to the Prime Minister to that effect.
Mr. Ostashek: I find this somewhat hard to believe, because I was sure that because our formula financing agreement was signed for a four-year period that the proposed cuts for 1998-1999 and 1999-2000 were already incorporated into that formula financing agreement, and that is why our percentage of the cut was much higher in 1996 than what was imposed on the provinces.
Is the Finance minister telling this House that once again the north is being treated unfairly by the federal Liberals, as we have been so many times in the past? Is that what he's telling the House today?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the short answer is yes. Certainly, the member and I shared in our disagreement with the federal Liberal government's proposal to cut the Yukon transfer by seven percent.
As the members may know, as it was brought up in the Legislature on a number of occasions, the cut that was applied to the Yukon grant was calculated on the gross expenditure base in the territory, and that meant a disportionately large cut to northerners.
Now, the five-percent cut to the provinces was applied a couple of years back as well, and the federal Liberal Prime Minister's commitment, stated yesterday, was that those cuts would be slowed down and, in some, respects reversed. He did not ensure that the cuts to Yukon would be reversed. In fact, according to the proposal that we received, they will not be reversed.
So, clearly, the $1 million to $2 million that we would otherwise have gained to restore the health and social system in the Yukon will not be coming to us unless there's a reversal of the Liberal position.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I feel that's very unfortunate for Yukoners.
The Liberal government in Ottawa would not listen to Yukoners on Bill C-68, the gun control bill. We were excluded when the Liberal Prime Minister decided to give a regional veto to all regions of Canada - except the Yukon and the Northwest Territories - and it would appear to me now that the federal Liberals really don't care what happens in the north. In fact, in many cases, they act as if the north doesn't even exist.
Is the Finance minister prepared to let the federal Liberals do this unchallenged, or is he prepared to make a strong representation to the federal government on behalf of Yukoners, pointing out the unfairness of their actions? Is he prepared to do that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, I am, because the disproportionate cut in the first place to our grant cost us approximately $5 million. This cut will cost us approximately $2 million. That's $7 million we can ill afford to lose. That's not saying that we weren't prepared to take our fair share of cuts. The concern that we have is that we don't want to take more than our share. We shouldn't have to take more than our share, and it costs us in terms of the provision of services to Yukoners.
I have sent a letter to the Prime Minister today. We will be following up immediately, because we cannot, particularly now, stand and let federal Liberal policies hurt this territory any more than they already have.
Question re: Whitehorse waterfront development
Mr. Ostashek: My question is for the minister responsible for the centennial anniversaries program.
I understand that the Watson Lake aurorium was quite a hit at the TIA convention this last weekend.
My question, however, concerns another more controversial proposal and that's the Whitehorse waterfront CAP project.
I believe the last deadline for the project was the end of March, so I would like to ask the minister to advise the House if this deadline has been extended once again, or whether or not Whitehorse has effectively missed the boat when it comes to the CAP project.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I gave the proponents of the project, the Kwanlin Dun First Nation government, the City of Whitehorse, Downtown Community Association, and l'Association des Franco-Yukonnais an opportunity to come together to deal with the many various questions that were in the public with regard to the project and the direction it was going. There was also some planning money, as was part of the criteria for delivering funds for that project, given to the proponents to try and answer some questions.
My understanding of the time lines that were afforded to that project is not the same as the member opposite's. However, I am prepared to stick to the initial time lines that I gave to the proponents of that project to come together and answer the questions that have to be answered.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that. The minister is aware that all other Yukon communities had to adhere to time lines and abide by the criteria governing that program. So, can the minister advise this House if the Whitehorse CAP project will have to abide by the same criteria that's governing this program that was followed by other communities, and could the minister, when he's on his feet, tell us what the new time lines are?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, actually, Mr. Speaker, I concur with the member that there are criteria. This was a Yukon Party-initiated project. I stand by my criticism that it was over-hyped and underfunded by the previous government, but let me just say that this project was given a chance to come together. The time line is the same as I indicated in my final submission to the proponents of the project. It's May 31st. That was published very publicly, and in response to a letter from the Tourism critic, there were certain criteria that they were to meet. They were to deal with the viability of the project, detailed cost estimates, how it fit into a tourism theme. There were criteria that they wouldn't compete with existing community businesses in a competitive fashion. There were a number of criteria outlined for the Whitehorse CAP proponents, and my understanding is that they are still working out these details. Pending no successful resolution, then we'll have to make a decision.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Deputy Speaker, many Yukon communities are watching very, very closely to see what happens to the CAP project in Whitehorse, and especially if there's going to be special treatment given to the proponents of it. So, I would like to ask the minister to advise the House if he is optimistic that there will ever be a Whitehorse CAP project in place in time to celebrate the gold rush anniversaries, which are fast approaching.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I can assure the member that this isn't a case of special treatment. This is a case of inheriting a somewhat controversial project from a program that was brought forward by the previous government. They didn't make any decision with regard to this.
We have also extended the deadline with regard to Ross River, and I believe we've also given some opportunities for Teslin to come together further on their project. So, this is not a case of special treatment.
What we're doing is trying to work with these organizations on the problems and put reasonable time lines on them, but it can't go on forever. As the member is aware, there was no funding allocated on an ongoing basis. Any funding for these projects comes on a year-by-year budgetary basis, and there are many other priorities and requests from Yukoners for expenditures in their communities.
So, I'm hopeful that the proponents can come together with a plan. They have a deadline, and we'll see how they do in reaching that. There are a number of concerns that have been identified.
Question re: Fetal alcohol syndrome/fetal alcohol effects
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
There is an ad hoc committee from Health and Social Services that is studying fetal alcohol syndrome. The committee does not include any rural members. Given the fact that rural communities are strongly affected by this syndrome, can the minister tell this House why they are not represented on this committee?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, as the member is aware, last week I attended the Kluane First Nation FAS conference and it was, I would say for the very great part, rural members. I would hope that we could get some rural representation on this. I believe that the level of rural participation in the conference indicated where the concern lies and I'm hopeful that we will have some people come forward.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Deputy Speaker, there is a lack of coordination between the variety of departments that work on fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects. Now, this was identified in the 1995 alcohol and drug implementation strategy. Education, Justice, Health and Social Services departments all have a role to play in solving this problem, but their work must be brought together. The minister knew about this issue well before he took office. Why has he failed to address this lack of coordination?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I would dispute the member's allegation that we haven't done anything. If she were to follow perhaps some of my comments at the Kluane First Nation conference, I did indicate that this is the direction we wanted to go. I did indicate that we have made representation already, in a collaborative manner, with Justice. I have some particular concerns surrounding issues of young adults with FAS/FAE because I think, while there are a number of issues surrounding prevention of FAS/FAE, I think one of the things that we have to do is to take into account a population of young adults.
One of my comments was that I think we need to take a look, with the Justice system, at making some greater accessibility for alcohol counselling for individuals with FAS/FAE who are currently on probation or under sentencing. So, that's what I'll be pursuing with my colleague in Justice. The department is trying to establish some more collaborative models, and I think they're working on this right now.
Mrs. Edelman: Other than alcohol counselling for people who are young adults of fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects, what other concrete steps is the minister thinking about taking dealing with this particular age group?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: One of my concerns, I suppose, is the whole question of employability for young adults. I have had some discussions with the folks in our vocational disabilities on this, and I will be meeting them further to explore some issues in this regard, I believe later this week. As well, I've taken the opportunity to meet on a couple of occasions with the staff at Challenge, because I think they have a particular interest in working on that and have done some good work. I think it's an area that we have to take into account. I'm hoping that it's something that we can expand on in the future.
Question re: Endangered spaces, Yukon rating
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Renewable Resources.
The endangered spaces campaign has graded the Yukon once again with a C-. It's not up much from last year's D, although it is consistent with NDP governments across the country.
In the words of Prince Phillip, the endangered spaces program is intended to conserve a whole range of viable ecosystems and habitats, covering all the country's natural regions. The Yukon government committed to the endangered spaces campaign several - it feels like lifetimes - governments ago, in 1990. Yet, it isn't mentioned in the campaign literature prior to the election. It's not mentioned in any way in A Better Way. Does this government support the objectives of the endangered spaces program?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I guess the very short answer to that is yes, we do. I have said many times in this House before that we do, and we have brought the protected area strategy here. We are making sure that our commitments in the campaign are followed. We have done many things in the short time that we have been in power, including the announcement of the study area for Tombstone Park.
We are very committed to this. By the end of our term, I assure all members that we are going to show product.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for mentioning the Tombstone Park study area that his statement was about the other day.
The commitment made by the Yukon is for the protection of 23 terrestrial natural regions by the year 2000. In light of the fact that even Tombstone is going to take into the year 1999 for the consultation process, will the goal of the protection of 23 regions be met by the year 2000?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: What we have said is that of the 23 ecoregions, six of those are adequately covered off right now. We do have a lot of information in the department on the rest of the ecoregions. We'll continue to be, of course, compiling this information and working as hard and fast as we can to try and meet that goal.
As you know, if you just think about the magnitude of this, it is a tremendously aggressive program to reach the goal by the year 2000. We are committed to it and we are going to try and do the most and the best that we possibly can.
Just by way of our commitments, on page 19 we do mention territorial parks and protected spaces in A Better Way.
Ms. Duncan: The other area of concern under this program, of course, is the marine environment, and the Yukon shares responsibility for the protection of the marine environment in the Arctic, with a number of other provincial jurisdictions.
However, there was no action on formal marine protected areas by any of the governments - territorial, federal or First Nations governments. Is this government, and this minister in particular, prepared to demonstrate some leadership in this area?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We are and will be working with a number of organizations.
There are some complications, I guess, in regards to agreements out there, and we will continue to be working with people that are involved with the North Slope and with the Inuvialuit agreement. Our department will continue to work on this.
Question re: Dawson City, proposed school
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Education, and it's regarding the proposed Dawson school.
The Minister's department has received a letter from the Dawson school council, which expresses strong concerns about the uses of the site selected for the new school. It appears that the City of Dawson has asked the government to consider the site for a new mechanical sewage treatment plant.
Considerable time and money have been spent working on plans for a new school, based on using this site. This site was agreed to by most Dawson residents, to be the most suitable for the school. Can the minister assure this House and the Dawson school council that this site will remain reserved for the new school?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, as the member knows, we're not proceeding with construction of a Dawson school in this year's capital budget, but I can assure him that we have no plans to use the site for other projects.
Mr. Phillips: I hope, then, that the minister will send a letter to the Dawson council, indicating to them that that site has been pre-selected as a school site and will remain as a school site.
Can I get that assurance from the minister and, if so, would the minister also send a c.c. to the Dawson school council to let them know that the minister is going to confirm the use of that site as a new school site?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I can confirm for the member that I'll be talking to my colleague in Community and Transportation Services before I do a response to that letter, and that I'll be sure to keep the member informed.
Mr. Phillips: I thought, with the minister's first answer, that it was going to stay as a school site but now, with the second answer, she's going to consult with the Community and Transportation minister. Which is it? Have they still not decided if they're going to keep it a school site or if they're going to use it for the mechanical sewage treatment site? Can the minister tell us today that they have made a decision, that it will remain a school site, and could the minister convey that to the school council?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I do not have a decision to report to the member or to the Dawson City school council at this time. As I said, I'll be talking to my colleague and will be sure to keep the public informed.
Question re: Anti-poverty strategy
Mrs. Edelman: My question again is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Yesterday, I asked the minister whether his government had an anti-poverty strategy and he replied that he was busy trying to determine what poverty was. May I suggest that an anti-poverty strategy might apply to those people who are poor, those people who are hungry, and, most specifically, those people who are hungry because they are poor?
On page 23 of the budget address, there was reference to an anti-poverty strategy. Mr. Speaker, does the Minister of Health and Social Services have a plan to combat poverty?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, we do. We're taking a number of initiatives in this regard and I could just make reference to a few of them. For example, we've been working with the federal government on the national child benefit. We have been working on such things as youth works, the hot meal program, the optical program I just announced. We have the paper on the seniors coming forward. We have been working steadily on the transient shelter, and we're currently doing a single-parent policy review.
Yes, we're undertaking a number of initiatives.
When I raised the issue of determining poverty, I think that has a certain amount of relevance because one of the things that we've had some difficulty here in doing is if we follow the federal government's low-income cut-off index. We don't think that that's adequate for determining poverty. We think there's a far greater number of indicators in that regard. For example, the most current data that we have on levels of poverty in this territory are 1992 and we don't feel those are relevant at this point.
So I think it's important that we determine the level of poverty, what the base indicators for people's economic needs are, and I think that gaining that information has a utility.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Deputy Speaker, yesterday I also asked the minister if he is going to use the expertise of the NGO community in developing his anti-poverty strategy. Now, I received no relevant answer other than that he was going to ask the NGOs who they thought would be poor people. No matter how you define "poor", NGOs like Family Services or groups like the Anti-Poverty Coalition have considerable expertise and successful strategies for dealing with poverty.
Will the minister commit to drawing on the expertise of these groups and NGOs when he finally develops his anti-poverty strategy?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Perhaps I should bring in a hearing program as well.
Yesterday, I did say that I had met with some of these groups previously. As a matter of fact, tonight I'm meeting with the Yukon Family Services, and last week, I met with the United Way. Some of the discussion was around the whole question of poverty, and as a matter of fact, there were some very interesting comments made on federal offloading and how that's put more people into poverty. However, I digress.
With regard to this, I made the commitment yesterday that we have contracted with the Northern Research Institute to find some baseline economic indicators, and I suggested at that time it would be appropriate to consult with groups who are involved with poverty and involved with people living in poverty to get some of their input into this, because I don't believe that you can reduce poverty issues to a strict dollar and cents thing the way the federal Liberal government seems to prefer.
Mrs. Edelman: So, Mr. Speaker, does the minister have any idea or a time line about when he can present his anti-poverty strategy to this Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I suppose that if we wanted to sit on our hands, wait to develop a concerted strategy and do nothing in the interim - probably the preferred Liberal approach. However, we believe that we have to act in the interim waiting for our good federal colleagues to finally make some move on the national child benefit. So, we've taken a few pre-emptive actions here. We will continue to work on our own initiatives on poverty. At the same time, we're trying to gain some information with which we can determine such things as future social assistance rates, future social assistance levels and things of that nature and, as well, we're consulting with groups such as the Health and Social Services Council to give us some indicators of what directions we should be moving in to relieve this scourge on our society.
Question re: Dawson City, proposed school
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to direct my question to the Minister of Education again and return the minister back to Dawson City. In the first answer to my question today about the use of site for the new school, the minister said that that site would be used for the school. Then in subsequent answers, the next two answers, the minister was rather vague.
I'd like to ask the minister if the minister can give us a commitment on the floor of the House today that that site is not being considered for any use other than the school, as the school council has requested.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, we have no plans to change the designation of the site that has been designated as the site for the Dawson school.
Mr. Phillips: I wish the minister would have said that before. Well, can the minister give us assurances, Mr. Speaker, that she will send a letter forthwith to the Dawson school council, to allay their fears that have been raised by the request of the Dawson City council for the use of that land for another purpose? Would the minister send a letter right away to the Dawson school council and convey to them that that land is reserved for school use and school use only?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member seems to have a hearing problem. As I said the first time he asked the question, we have no plans to change the designation of the site for the Dawson elementary school. Yes, I will certainly respond to the letter from the Dawson school council.
Deputy Speaker: The time for Question Period is now over.
Notice of Government Private Members' Business
Hon. Mr. Harding: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), we would like to inform the House that the government private members do not wish to identify any items to be called on Wednesday, April 30th, 1997, under the heading Government Private Members' Business. Thank you.
Deputy Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is it the wish of the Committee to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1997-98 - continued
Chair: We're dealing with Community and Transportation Services, transportation division, line item bridges - numbered highways.
Department of Community and Transportation Services - continued
Transportation Division - continued
YTG Funded: - continued
Bridges - Numbered Highways - continued
Chair: Is there further debate?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, it is my privilege to stand and be able to answer questions from yesterday, and I will turn to my colleague from Government Services to answer another question.
The question was asked me of the employment and the numbers generated on the Top of the World Highway. The estimated number of full-time equivalents - the FTEs - is 12.6 within the private sector.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Just by way of interest for the Member for Klondike, the discussion came up with regard to grants-in-lieu. At that time, I thought there was a question on the health transfer grants, so I got that information and I can provide it for the member, if he wishes, at this point.
We have some $91,000 that has been transferred over as grants-in-lieu. That's a similar amount to what the federal had. The only grants-in-lieu that C&TS has in their budget that relate to health are the hospital property taxes. We have been meeting with C&TS to discuss the idea of us taking the hospital property taxes under our wing so that we're at least consistent. Thank you.
Bridges - Numbered Highways in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On South Access
South Access in the amount of $3,000,000 agreed to
On Other Roads
Other Roads in the amount of $250,000 agreed to
On Aviation/Yukon Airports
Airports in the amount of $1,110,000 agreed to
Transportation Division in the amount of $27,198,000 agreed to
On Municipal and Community Affairs Division
On Public Safety
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
On Major Facility Maintenance
Major Facility Maintenance in the amount of $22,000 agreed to
On Fire Protection
Fire Protection in the amount of $328,000 agreed to
On Recreation Facilities
Recreation Facilities in the amount of $86,000 agreed to
On Community Services
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Community Planning
Community Planning in the amount of $195,000 agreed to
On Canada/Yukon Infrastructure Program
Canada/Yukon Infrastructure Program in the amount of $816,000 agreed to
On Public Health/Roads and Streets
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
On Planning and Pre-Engineering
Planning and Pre-Engineering in the amount of $261,000 agreed to
On Water and Sewer Mains
Water and Sewer Mains in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Sewage Treatment and Disposal
Sewage Treatment and Disposal in the amount of $1,555,000 agreed to
On Solid Waste
Solid Waste in the amount of $170,000 agreed to
On Mosquito Control
Mosquito Control in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Flood/Erosion Control
Mrs. Edelman: I wonder if we can have some detail on this line item? I can see that there's going to be some work done in Old Crow. Are there any other communities that are going to be affected by this expenditure?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, the member opposite is absolutely correct. It is to provide riverbank stabilization and protection for the Porcupine River in Old Crow.
Flood/Erosion Control in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Pre-Engineering Roads and Streets
Pre-Engineering Roads and Streets in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Roads/Streets Upgrade
Roads/Streets Upgrade in the amount of $660,000 agreed to
On Quarry Development
Quarry Development in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
On Land Development
Industrial in the amount of $800,000 agreed to
Commercial in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
Recreational in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
Mrs. Edelman: I wonder if we could have some detail from the minister about how he is working with the agriculture branch in the development of this land.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly. We are doing intergovernmental work with the Department of Renewable Resources. The leadership is provided through the Department of Renewable Resources on this initiative.
Let me see if there's anything else I can add that will maybe clear up things. No, I'm sorry, that's all the information I have. It is under the auspices and leadership of the Renewable Resources department.
Mrs. Edelman: I wonder then, if that minister is here, if he can give us some information as to where these new areas for agricultural development will be.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, I can bring that information back to you. As you know, the agricultural policy is presently under internal review right now.
Agricultural in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
Residential in the amount of $6,180,000 agreed to
On Quarry Site Analysis and Development
Quarry Site Analysis and Development in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
On Land Central Services
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $55,000 agreed to
On Central Services - Recoverable
Central Services - Recoverable in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Rural Electrification and Telephone
Rural Electrification and Telephone in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Miscellaneous Projects Non-Recoverable
Miscellaneous Projects Non-Recoverable in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
Municipal and Community Affairs Division in the amount of $11,840,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Are there any questions on the transfer payments?
Capital Expenditures for Department of Community and Transportation Services in the amount of $39,298,000 agreed to
Department of Community and Transportation Services agreed to
Chair: We will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Department of Economic Development
Hon. Mr. Harding: I am pleased to introduce my first main estimates to the House. I'm sure there'll be a very short debate. There's probably not a lot of questions about economic development, but nonetheless I'm prepared to debate my estimates.
I want to read a few introductory comments and the sort of departmental speech that customarily accompanies the introduction of estimates.
I'm pleased to introduce the 1997-98 capital and O&M mains for the Department of Economic Development. Economic Development is launching some major initiatives this year and it's reflected in both O&M and capital budgets.
First of all, as this government promised last fall, we will be restoring the CDF and allotting $2 million for this program. The interim program, the CPI, has been well received by community organizations, which indicates a need and demand for this type of infrastructure, job creation and community support program. The budget includes half a million dollars for the CPI in 1997-98.
We continue to support the geological surveys program, which is cost shared with the feds. The total budget of this program is $1,391,000, and we pay half.
In this budget, $3,450,000 is allocated for the centennial anniversaries and events programs. The majority of the anniversaries infrastructure projects will be completed by this fall.
The total capital estimate for the Department of Economic Development is $9,216,000, which is a slight reduction from the forecasted level of capital in 1996-97.
The territory has been witnessing just how important it is to have a diversified economy, especially since the Faro mine shut down again.
We are investing $287,000 in a trade and investment diversification strategy in this budget. The department is focusing its efforts to enhance external trade, and promote investment in the Yukon.
The department is also expanding its oil and gas unit in order to complete oil and gas transfer and establish a Yukon oil and gas management regime.
These initiatives account for the overall 12 percent in 1997-98 O&M estimates compared to the 1996-97 forecast. The Department of Economic Development is requesting $4,199,000 in the O&M budget. The department estimates its revenue to be about $743,000, of which half a million bucks is from oil and gas royalties.
I will be pleased to answer any questions you may have on economic development.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I thank the minister for that. I have a few questions of a general nature. I guess in my opening comments I would just like to say that the minister referred to the importance of the Department of Economic Development and I couldn't agree more. He talked about how important it is to diversify our economy and I couldn't agree more with that. At the same time, we must continue to build on our strengths, and our strengths are certainly mining and tourism. I don't think that there's any doubt in anybody's mind on that.
I guess some of the concerns that I have with the Economic Development budget, although it's not a big portion of our overall budget - as the minister said, it's an important department - as I go through the budget and look at it, personnel costs are up in almost every part of the department, and I would that the minister will be able to explain for us when he gets back on his feet, why they have gone up in every department.
Also, on his trade and investment strategy, I find it somewhat surprising that we would take the time to create a department within a department when, in fact, that's what the Department of Economic Development was doing all the time. If we think that we're going to be able to satisfy the needs of Yukoners just by some window dressing and redirecting some money within the department to solve a very serious unemployment problem in the territory, Mr. Chair, I just don't think that Yukoners are prepared to buy that. I would hope that the minister, when he gets back up on his feet, could give us something concrete on which Yukoners can hang their hat - some initiatives and policy decisions that this government is going to undertake in the very near future to deal with this very serious unemployment problem.
It is quite clear to me, Mr. Chair, Yukoners haven't accepted that the first budget of the NDP government is going to do anything for unemployment in the Yukon. So, I would hope that the minister can tell us, when he gets back on his feet, what key initiatives is he going to embark on to deal with this problem.
I know that we all in this Legislature, as do many Yukoners, hope that the Faro mine goes back into production, but I don't think we can hang our hat on that.
When we look at the track record of the mine at Faro in the years that it has been in production, I believe this is the fourth closure. It's the third or fourth. I think there were three before this. I could be wrong on that, but anyhow this is a very serious closure because we're running out toward the end of life of that ore body. The projected life of the Grum deposit is only a matter of another five or six years, at best, without a substantial amount of money going into exploration for development of other ore bodies that are identified but certainly need a lot of work done on them before they would be able to be put into production.
We have the other situation where Faro has always been a very high-cost producer of zinc and lead. I think we need, as a government, to have a broader view of the Yukon economy and we need to direct resources in other directions to encourage, in the first instance, other mines to start developing so that we're not dependent on one ore body as we have been in the past.
The Faro mine shutdown this time will not impact the Yukon, I don't believe, quite as badly as it did in 1992, but that's only because we have the Viceroy mine at Dawson and because we have Mount Nansen that's employing a few people, and exploration budgets to date have been fairly good. That looks fairly tentative going into the next fiscal year as to what the final figure will be.
So, I believe the government is going to have to roll up its shirt sleeves and expend some political energy on coming up with some solutions, or some initiatives to try and encourage Yukoners, companies and businesses to invest in the Yukon, and to diversify our economy further.
The minister, in his opening comments, spoke of external trade, and the $287,000 that he's redirected within this department, and added a little bit to, along with another $160,000, I believe, that's in there somewhere. He is going to work to expand external trade. I would like him to elaborate on what he is talking about, outside of his thoughts about log homes, and those things that are a long way from creating any jobs in the Yukon today.
We heard him talk about oil and gas. I guess I could say about oil and gas: it doesn't look like it's going anywhere for a while, and I'll have more questions on that section a little later. But, with the federal election called and the legislation down on the Order Paper in Ottawa, I think we're a long ways from that, and this government has not yet introduced its legislation for an oil and gas regime in the Yukon, so I don't think that any Yukoners can hang their hats on going to work in the oil and gas industry in the Yukon in the foreseeable future.
So, rather than go on and on here, I'll let the minister try to reply to those questions first, and then we'll take it from there, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I would agree that a couple of economic staples in the Yukon are mining and tourism. We've taken a lot of action with our government to support mining and tourism. I've been extremely active on the mining front, both in Toronto, at the prospectors/developers - very high profile - as I was at the Vancouver Cordilleran Roundup - myself, the Government Leader and the development assessment commissioner were there, talking to mining companies.
We were fortunate enough, also, to have the Health and Social Services minister, who was coming back from Toronto, overnighting in Vancouver from meetings there, stop by to show his support for the mining industry. The Minister of Renewable Resources was heading to Victoria the next morning to meet with the B.C. government on some important environmental issues, and he also stopped. We had a very, very solid presence to show that, as a new government, we were supportive of the mining industry.
Also, we have worked very hard at the Yukon Geoscience Forum to say that we were open to responsible investment. We want the jobs the mining industry creates. We want to conduct ourselves with the mining industry in a responsible fashion and in a businesslike fashion.
I think that the response thus far, at least from what I've heard, according to discussions with the mining facilitator, have been quite good. Believe me, I ask him those kinds of questions and expect candid responses.
With regard to our other economic initiatives, the member is quite cognizantly, not surprisingly, ignoring the fact that we have been very busy on the forestry front in terms of policy development. There was over $40 million jet-pumped into the Yukon's economy in 1994-95 in the forestry industry. We want to make that industry viable in the long term. We are working very hard on that.
The development assessment process - we have taken over a process that was basically dead, except that the feds were in charge of the whole thing. We're trying to work through the many problems that are becoming apparent with the development assessment process and some of the concerns from both environmentalists, conservationists and industry. We're trying to work through those to come up with a reasonable process that will actually help us benefit the economy, rather than inhibit it.
Of course, we are working on local hire, so that when the government spends money on capital projects we get the most bang for the buck. I know that the commissioner has been very active around the communities and is producing, very shortly, what I think will be a fine discussion paper for Yukoners.
We feel that that is one of the most important areas for economic development in this territory. Very little was done in the last four years on energy. We have to pick that process back up and try to develop a long-term policy for the Yukon. So, we're working on that. That's another economic action underway.
Certainly the trade and investment diversification strategy is essentially putting some resources to marketing the Yukon, similar to what Tourism does to market what the Yukon has to offer abroad to visitors. We think we can do a better job of promoting Yukon business, of helping Yukon businesses expand, of helping the private sector look outward beyond our borders for export opportunities, and we have every intention of doing whatever we can to help them access those new markets.
This is a trend of many governments across the country - to start to invest heavily in trade investment diversification. I think the member will admit that some of the trade missions that have been undertaken by previous administrations have had some success in terms of opening the eyes of some Yukon businesses. I know, for example, Total North Communications was quite excited about the opportunities that they didn't even really know existed upon their return from their trade mission with the Chrétien government, and I applaud the Chrétien government for that initiative. We never criticized the former Government Leader when he was in office for embarking on those kinds of initiatives with Mr. Chrétien, because we do believe that they have a place.
I want to be very active on the same front, and it will involve some travel. I want to go with Yukon private sector businesses as much as possible to encourage investment in the Yukon abroad - not just from within the Yukon business community, but outside of it. I want to work with some of our small businesses in the key niche areas that I think we have a competitive advantage as a small jurisdiction to try to help them reach the opportunities that we know are out there, but we have different reasons. Some are related to logistics that we haven't quite accessed yet. So, we're very keen to involve the business community in this.
I think it's got to be a public/private sector partnership. It can't be just the politicians heading off to talk all the time. It's got to be the private sector and public sector working together, and that's the kind of thing we're trying to deal with.
It's also very expensive for a lot of these small businesses to travel abroad, and we want to be ensuring that we're prepared to help them where we can in terms of using avenues that are out there. Both B.C. and Alberta have trade commissions that have come forward to us and have been very enthused about helping us reach markets abroad, not just in the Far East and across the waters, but also in the southern markets.
But I think we have a real opportunity in the Far East, and I will concede to the member that this is not going to turn immediate benefits, but I do believe it has some long-term, visionary benefits. I think just the fact alone that the local business community is looking outward in a more outward fashion in terms of export is a benefit in the here and now.
I think that will create new opportunities.
With regard to the Faro mine, I believe the Faro mine will open again. The company has told us that they hope to be operating by the fall. That's all we have to go on at this point. We have not been provided a mine plan by the company as of yet. So I concur that there have been three shutdowns that I'm aware of, and it is somewhat tenuous, but the price for zinc is expected to be fairly good, according to Cominco and Anvil Range and the people we talked to, the prospectors and developers, who are in the zinc business.
So we do feel there's some help there. We're also looking at ways we may be able to assist them through the geoscience office, with exploring new ore bodies in that region, because the infrastructure is all there. The housing is there, the roads are there, there are power hookups, there's a mill there. All the capital infrastructure that Kudz Ze Kayah, for example, will have to deal with is already in place in Faro, so if there is a longer life for the mining property there, then certainly that has to be explored. We are keen to do that, in partnership with the company, using some of the resources we currently have.
The federal government also has some interesting programs that, perhaps, we might be able to tap into if we look a little harder into the future.
With regard to helping Yukon small businesses, we have invested in the Yukon Business Centre. I concur with the member opposite that there is a fear of the feds pulling away, as they pull away from so many things in the future. We've helped on the conditional basis, and I've told the chamber that, if they come knocking on the door a couple of years from now, it's going to make for some interesting conversation, but they have told me that they intend to make it pay and make it work for them. So I'm hopeful that that kind of a message has been well communicated to them.
We're also, I know, working very diligently on wilderness tourism. We think there's a long-term sustainable future there, as we continue to benefit our resource sector. We want to work in partnership with Tourism to ensure that, if we are doing marketing abroad, that we work with Tourism and the mining industry, as well, to get as much private sector input in putting a face on the Yukon as possible. I've had a lot of suggestions. I met with the chamber the other day. They're very keen to go with us, to meet with investors abroad, to work with us on these types of initiatives, and I get the same thing from the wilderness tourism industry, as well as the tourism people in the Tourism department and the minister himself. So we're keen on that.
We think there's some economic opportunities in parks and protected spaces. I know there are some who will argue, on the far right of the political spectrum, that parks and protected spaces don't pay, but I think as long as you do it carefully, do it responsibly, let people know what's coming down the pipe, and involve people, that parks and protected spaces can be a very important economic generator for the territory.
The Tombstone is the second most visited destination in the Yukon and we think, if a well-done territorial park is created there, that could be something we could really offer in a very big way to visitors to help encourage the spending of disposable income here in this territory.
So, we see both an environmental upside and an economic upside if parks and protected space is done properly.
With regard to the mining industry, we have been very active in dealing with DIAND. The Deputy Minister of Renewable Resources and Economic Development have been meeting with the regional director on mines that are in the permitting stages to see if there are any unnecessary barriers being placed before them. We have been trying to work through some of those problems. Thankfully, a few of the projects have cleared the CEAA and are headed for the Water Board. Minto Explorations is heading there for a May 14th hearing. Lutz Klingmann, the guy directing the project from Minto, was recently in to see the mining facilitator. I have met with him and he was in to see the chamber and he said things are progressing very well in that respect. We hope to have a water licence in place for Minto Explorations within three to six months of the Water Board hearing. Mr. Klingmann has informed us that Minto intends to do some $5 million in developmental work, pending a licence, and his investors are remaining solid with the project. Once they reach an agreement with Selkirk, which I think they almost have completed, and they get their water licence, then there should be some interesting sailing.
It does present some opportunities with regard to grid extensions. Minto Explorations has expressed interest in the grid and, of course, everyone knows Pelly Crossing has expressed a lot of reservations about their power generation system and it's not that far off, so there are some interesting things to pursue there. Certainly, we haven't taken any definitive positions at this point but, if Minto falls into place, it does help us somewhat.
We also, on oil and gas, have, I think, and I know the Leader of the Official Opposition will disagree, come miles with regard to oil and gas devolution and seeing the Northern Oil and Gas Accord come to fruition. The member will know that the former federal minister, whenever we try to push the devolution agenda on oil and gas and create an industry, would be lobbied extensively by Yukon First Nations against Bill C-50. We work with First Nations to resolve some of our differences to take a more, I think, futuristic-looking approach to what potential benefits there are there for all Yukoners, native and non-native, and put together a memorandum of understanding that said that Bill C-50 would be supported by the Yukon First Nations.
I think that's a far cry from taking it a penny-wise, pound-foolish approach when you look at the potential for the oil and gas industry. Yes, there is an election that could very well delay the passage of the bill in Ottawa, but we're not going to have to deal with all our own brethren as Yukoners fighting against that bill. I think that that's an important step forward.
I also would say to the member that we intend to move the legislation in the fall sitting, which is the appropriate sitting for moving ahead. The member has referenced personnel costs. We're staffing up oil and gas in the Yukon because we're going to take it over and we're going to develop the industry. So, that's why there's more personnel costs in oil and gas.
The trade investment diversification increases O&M because we are going to have to appoint people in place to deal with the demands that are going to be placed on them in that respect.
You can't have an effective Economic Development department if it's sliced and diced and julienne fried. The people there are being asked to deliver a very aggressive economic agenda. What we can't do is spend our way out of these current economic problems we have.
It never fails to amaze me. It seems like every time the mine shuts down, retail sales go up in the Yukon. I just got the February statistics, and from February of last year to February this year they actually increased $1.5 million. I don't understand that. I'm not going to try and explain it. I know the members opposite used to have the same phenomena happening when they were in government. I'm certainly not going to hide from it because they're stats going the other way, but I do feel that is a positive indicator for a more broad economy.
There are other issues we're working on. We're not prepared to make announcements on them yet, but I think the members don't have to worry, Watson Lake's sawmill two isn't one of them. I think that we're dealing with issues such as access to capital. We're looking at holding some forums on that. We're not interested in big government loan programs. I think the view in the public of those types of initiatives is not a good one, and there are all kinds of reasons for that. There are some successes, but there are always losses. When it's public money, there's more scrutiny of them. Even if the loan losses compare to a bank, for example, the fact is it's taxpayers' money.
So, there are a lot of, as the member knows, politics surrounding those types of issues. It's often people who are fiscally conservative who apply for those types of opportunities. I always assume they think they're actually a good thing, but they're also usually fiscally conservative people who criticize them. So, it's a bit of a catch-22. It is a difficult thing in the Yukon for businesses to raise access to capital, particularly in the small communities. That's one of the reasons we did participate in the Yukon Business Centre. We think it'll reach the rural communities and allow them to get business information.
We've also, I think, done a good job with regard to dealing with Anvil Range. I know the members opposite are opposed to any kind of a bail-out, or any kind of assistance to Anvil Range, but our approach has been one of caution.
As I told the members opposite, we have yet to see their mine plan. We are prepared to do what we can to assist, but we're not - we feel that a private sector solution is certainly what is more desired here, particularly with major corporations like Hyundai and Cominco, and other major shareholders with access to a lot of capital behind them. I don't think that, in this case, they should be too hard on the poor old Yukon government, in terms of getting them back on their feet.
I think there are initiatives, though, that the government could take, such as helping them with training, which was identified as one of the reasons for the shutdown, so that when they do come back into operation they would at least have some more resources and a participatory approach with the public sector, to enable them to overcome some of those production difficulties that they had that, ultimately, helped lead to the closure.
So, I won't go on any more, but there are a significant number of initiatives that this government is undertaking. We can't invent jobs; we think we can help create jobs, but we don't want to throw a bunch of money up against the problem. We want to take a measured, reasoned approach. I think a lot of the pressure, certainly, that's being put on us - and the member knows full well, politics aside, we did the same thing to him in 1992-1993, with the power rates question and the question of the Curragh mine back in 1992-1993. If you look at the tracking on the unemployment rate, it's almost déja vu with regard to the unemployment rate for 1992-1993 to now. So, I think it just shows how important the economy is affected by the Faro mine.
The other interesting thing is that the February stats showed a reduction in the number of jobs of only 100 jobs from this year to last year. Yet, there were over 350 people laid off in Faro. Now what we have is a phenomenon where we had a population increase of some 600 people, and that has created a higher unemployment rate, even though the actual number of jobs has not decreased.
If you reference the Faro mine - losing some 350 - the actual number of jobs, given those numbers, has not decreased.
So, there's some interesting things happening in the Yukon economy. I wish I could report more good news, but I think if the Faro mine does come back up, a lot of the problem will be taken care of.
On the other hand, we are working diligently to ensure that's not all we're relying on, and I've indicated a number of those areas. So, I look forward to the member's comments.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the member for that, but the member has spoken at length about what he is doing in the long term to create jobs in the Yukon. What he's doing is laudable. He's not doing anything different that hasn't been done by previous governments, both Yukon Party and NDP. I want to know what this minister and his department are going to do for the people in the Yukon this winter who are going to be looking for jobs if the Faro mine doesn't go back into production. What is plan B? Has the minister given it any thought at all?
I want the minister to go back to 1993, when the Faro mine went down. In April 1993, unemployment hit 17 percent. If the minister wants to go back and review the record from then, there was a major improvement in unemployment every month from then through until the end of our mandate. So, there are some similarities, but not direct similarities.
There are other things going that the minister has available to him that we did not have in 1992-93. He has a bit of a bank account - not a big one, but a lot better than what we had when we came into power.
The minister says nothing's been done on energy. He knows that's not right. There was a lot done on energy and we were prepared to make some moves that would have put some Yukoners to work. We heard the minister's party come out against the grid extension. Now they're talking about a possible grid extension. I want to put some Yukoners to work and investigate some jobs when Yukoners are really looking for jobs. There are things available to the minister.
We are going into the summer and we don't know this summer or next fall - we all hope Faro goes back to work, but what are we going to do if it doesn't? I believe that this administration had an opportunity with their budget to take some action to offset some of the negativity that comes out of the Faro mine closure, but they didn't do it. They chose instead to hire more people in government, to expand the operation and maintenance costs of government and not to put the money into job creation.
I believe that there's still some flexibility in the budget - some places they could move money around - and they ought to be working on a plan B for this fall, in the event the Faro mine doesn't go back to work.
I don't think the minister should be beating himself on the chest, or feeling very good about the retail sales figures increasing, because if we look at the inflation figures for the month of March, they're almost three percent - the second highest in Canada. So inflation has a lot to do with it, and there's going to be more inflation coming along with the increased power rates, with collective bargaining agreements that are out there - they're all going to add to inflation in the territory. The minister can laugh, but he's got a very serious job ahead of him, a very important job, and he ought to get serious about it, not joke about it.
Mr. Chair, when we were in Finance debate, the Government Leader made a commitment to come back with analysis of the budget - the number of jobs that were going to come out of the budget - before we got to the Economic Development debate. Have we got that document? If not, when can we get it? Also, I would like to ask the minister if he would provide for this House a breakdown of the total cost of the travel to the Cordilleran Roundup, because they had a fairly large delegation down there, compared to what any other government has taken in the past. I want a total breakdown: the number of people that went from government - not just from any one department - and travel costs, hotel costs, the total cost of the package. I would like that, if the member could bring that back for us.
The member spoke of several mining companies that have now gotten through the CEAA process and are going to the Water Board for their licence, yet he only gave us the one, Minto. The minister, when he gets back up, I would appreciate if he would tell us what other companies are through the CEAA process and at the water licence stage now, and when he anticipates that they will be through the process.
On the oil and gas, I believe we're a long ways back, because we do have a federal election, we do have a new Minister of DIAND coming in. We're not only back on oil and gas, we're going to be going backwards on land claims. We're going to be going backwards on a lot of things. We're going to have a new DIAND minister whose priorities may be totally different than the last minister, even if we do have another Liberal government. It's going to take that minister six months to a year to get his sea legs, as they would say, and be prepared to do anything.
So, we are facing some real serious situations in the immediate future in the Yukon, and we need to know if this government plans to do anything in the event that Faro doesn't go back to work, to deal with what will be a minimum of 15-percent unemployment, as we move into next winter. We don't know what the unemployment figures for the month of April will be. They won't be out for a couple of weeks yet, but we would hope that we get them - we would hope that they are better. I don't believe that they will be.
So, those are some areas that I would like - maybe I'll just leave it at that, and the minister can answer them rather than getting a whole bunch of questions out there.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I can assure the member opposite that I take the problem very seriously. I do find some humour in the way the member approaches the issue. From a fiscal conservative's perspective, which I thought he was, I thought he would be talking about the private sector creating jobs, but unfortunately, he expects the government to create all jobs in this territory. I don't think that's the right way to go. I think government should do what they can to create an environment to work with the private sector to create jobs, but I don't think the government has the responsibility to create all the jobs in the Yukon.
Insofar as his allegation that we've increased O&M, I think that he is incorrect on that point. The member knows that devolution is the only thing that has influenced our O&M from the last budget he brought in. So, we've held the line on O&M. We made some significant cuts in areas in computers and office renovations and furniture - 25 percent from the previous Yukon Party budget - because we wanted to direct as much as possible into job creation. However, the millions that were spent on some of the projects were three- or four-year systems phase-ins, so we weren't at liberty to cancel all of these computer systems works or the large majority of them simply because of the millions that the Yukon Party had put into them, so we didn't want to be penny-wise, pound-foolish and throw all of the money away. We tried to cut as much as possible, and we ended up with some significant cuts in that respect.
That's not to say that computer systems aren't important. Given the size of the budget, the numbers aren't that outrageous. Neither are office renovations or furniture. They are all needed, but certainly you can make as many reductions as possible, and I want to tell the member that the departments, which I'm sure he probably heard, were not all that excited with our slicing and dicing.
So, we believe in economic development just as business believes that sometimes you've got to spend a little money to make a little money, and we've spent a little money on things like trade investment diversification, and we don't make any apologies for that.
On the Cordilleran Roundup - I've already provided months ago the full breakdown to the Liberal Party, and I'll provide it to the Yukon Party - we did spend more than the Yukon Party. There were some changes made.
What I found as the minister was that it was all pretty much prepared as I got into my portfolio. At this time, I knew the mining industry was watching what we were going to be doing at the Cordilleran Roundup, in terms of our message to the industry. I didn't want to send them a bunch of signals that I was going to be pulling away from a commitment that the Yukon Party was involved in, and I think they did a good job. If you wanted to talk about sending a message at the Cordilleran, then I think the Yukon Party did a good job. I think there is more that could have been done and should have been done, but they did do that, so we didn't want to send a signal to the industry that we were going to not support sending a positive investment signal to the mining companies.
With regard to projects going for their water licence, there's the Kudz Ze Kayah, there's Minto, as I outlined, United Keno Hill. Also, Grizzly Underground Exploration are going for their water licence at the Anvil property. They're looking for longer term reserves still and they're trying to bone up to that.
The member might know that Anvil also has some substantial tax pools that they inherited from Curragh and a lot of their exploration work would be very beneficial for them to undertake as a deduction, if you will, so they have some leeway there and they want to continue to explore, which is good.
With regard to the numbers for jobs, we use the same formula as the previous government for calculating jobs. The numbers we get are 442 direct private sector jobs. Those are FTEs. The economists have also predicted the creation of 80 indirect jobs, FTEs. That is not as many as - I've done some research on the claims of the former Government Leader of 500 to 600 jobs - he had claimed before, but then again we didn't have the Whitehorse Hospital or the Shakwak project funding, like the member opposite did, to spend. We just can't spend our way out of this.
There is a surplus, and I think the member is advocating that we spend more of the surplus. That may be something to be looked at but I would be leery of that, given the fact we want to pay as we go, and, secondly, the Taxpayer Protection Act, which is very clear about an accumulated deficit.
I, for one, share his fiscal conservatism on the issue of accumulated deficits. I don't and never have believed that that was a responsible way for governments to budget - in the red - so we want to maintain a reasonable bank account as we go along.
We have initiated a lot of things that I think will help in the short term and the intermediate term. I know the member is a terrible opponent of - or, I shouldn't say terrible opponent, but a strong opponent - of the community development fund and the CPI. The Liberals said the CPI was a good initiative, and I think, if you look at the list of projects, there's a significant amount of short-term employment that was created. I know it's short term. I know it's not the be-all, end-all, but sometimes short-term employment means a lot in those rural communities.
So, we think they're good initiatives. It's a commitment we made. It wasn't as if we surprised the member opposite with it. We announced it in the election campaign. It was quite well supported in the rural communities. Sure, there were problems with it. People who don't get funding when others get funding complain. That's to be expected, but I think that we're consulting on the CDF now. I think that is a vehicle for community support that makes some sense.
We're actually consulting on options for project consideration as part of the consultation process, so it will be interesting to see what turns up there.
So, I think there are a lot of initiatives that we've undertaken in this budget to create jobs. Next winter, if the mine isn't open, I expect Minto Explorations to be working to get their doors open. I see BYG has just had another profitable quarter. That's good news for Mount Nansen.
I want to work with the mining industry. I was requested by BYG, just in the last little while, to go on an investment tour with them in Europe - a five-stop, whistle-stop European city tour where they were meeting with a number of investors for financing.
I didn't feel during the session that I could do it. I was also leery about going with one company; I wanted to do some more advanced work to try and set up some appointments to a broader investment community, but we just didn't have the time, given the notice, to undertake that. I want to tell members that I won't be shying away from doing that kind of thing. I think that we should be out there, as a government, endorsing industry and export and we should be more visible on that front.
The same holds true for a mining investment tour of Australia. I was requested by industry to go - industry locally, too, I should say - I couldn't go, as it was during the legislative session. I felt that, given it was this government's first session, I wanted to be here for its entirety. I think we are missing some opportunities there to create jobs in the short term, because that investment sometimes has a quick turnaround with at least mineral exploration. It is something that we should be doing a lot more of. There's always going to be politics surrounding travel whenever the government decides to go out and promote the Yukon. There was when we were in Opposition and there has already been, vice versa, but I think we have to start looking abroad and start putting a face on the Yukon government abroad.
Those are just a few comments with regard to the member's comments, and I can assure him that I will be taking whatever action I can with regard to public expenditures to create as many jobs as possible - not just direct jobs created with government money, but also investing to create real private sector jobs.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the member for that. I just want to go back to a comment with which the member started his presentation, about not increasing the O&M of government. I just asked the member to refer to his own budget address book. In the back, there is a list of the operation and maintenance of governments, going back to 1983-84. What the minister will find is that we absorbed the $17 million first phase of the health transfer to the Yukon and decreased the operation and maintenance of government - not increased it. It's in the back of your budget address book.
You will see that, in 1993-94, it is $352 million and in 1994-95, it dropped to $346 million and then $343 million and then came back in 1996-97 as being projected to be $346 million, before the lapses come in. We were able to absorb devolution without increasing the operation and maintenance of government. This government doesn't think they can. That is the difference. That money could have gone to put some Yukoners to work.
I'm glad the minister brought up his proposed trip to Europe, because I'm going to have some questions for the minister about that.
I want to talk first on a question of a general nature and I'm sure my colleagues have some of a general nature before we start getting into the issues on an issue-by-issue basis.
When I look through the proposals - and the minister talked about the community development fund and the community initiatives projects - I'm going to go on the record once more saying here that the biggest problem that I had with them is that they were too easily abused by the minister who sits on the board. I urge the minister, if he's going to go ahead with this CDF - which he is - he put some safeguards in place and that these projects, after being approved by a board, will not be overturned by the minister, and money directed somewhere else.
The other problem that we had with the CDF is that there were some very ill-conceived projects that were funded under it. You might have created a few short-term jobs, but you created a lot of albatrosses out in a lot of those communities. I think that if we're going to play with taxpayers' money that way, we need to be a little more responsible in how we do it and we need to put some safegaurds in place so that the minister can't be accused of using it as a political slush fund. That was the biggest problem with the CDF.
Certainly the communities like it. Anytime they're going to go out there and say, "How much money do you want?", the communities are going to like it. You can't blame the communities for that. We look at this budget that's put together now by this very department and this minister and we see that the $1 million for the community initiatives project is all spoken for already, and I believe, for the most part, as we were told in the technical briefing, it's approved subject to some conditions. I'll have a few questions on some of the items that I see being funded in there when we get into the details.
I want to just go back a little bit, though. I guess this isn't really in the minister's department, it's more in the Government Leader's department on stats. There seems to be a real discrepancy between the population figures in the Yukon compared to what's being used by the government and what the census came out with. I believe the census said there were only 30,000 people in the Yukon, and we see government figures being thrown around from 32,000 to 33,000. I don't know if this minister could shed any light on that. I will ask the Government Leader, the Minister of Finance, when we get to Finance, if he can shed some light on that.
I don't believe that I or this party have ever said that we believe that government should be the vehicle to create jobs, but the minister has to agree that in a territory the size of the Yukon, where the territorial budget has such an influence on the private sector in the Yukon, that the territorial government can do a lot to create jobs in the private sector by where they direct their spending.
That's what we are saying to this government, and that's what we've been critical of in this budget - the priorities in the budget.
So, no, I don't believe governments are the best vehicles for creating jobs, but governments are the best vehicles for creating a climate for jobs. The minister spoke of all these things that he's doing to create jobs. I think the one area that he missed out on that he should seriously consider - and one of the biggest barriers to jobs, not only in the Yukon, but in Canada as a whole - are the interprovincial trade agreements, and the reluctance of British Columbia and Saskatchewan - two governments that are of the same political persuasion as the members opposite - of signing on and removing those barriers.
So, I would ask the minister, in his capacity as Economic Development minister, to use whatever influence he can to remove those barriers, because I believe that that's one of the real barriers to creating jobs in Canada. And, let's face it, if we create jobs anywhere in Canada, it's going to have a spin-off effect on the Yukon, to a certain extent - better if we can create the jobs directly here.
The member spoke about not ruling out helping out Anvil Range, yet, on the other hand, he said it publicly and he said it in the House again today, both Hyundai and Cominco have far more money than the government has. I think the minister wants to send a clear signal as to what he's going to do in that respect if, in fact, there is going to be a loan guarantee, or a loan, to help them get in operation. I don't even know if they've asked for it at this point, but I do know that one of the biggest obstacles that the Faro mine has to overcome is the price of power, and I think that's a very serious situation, because I've even - I don't know how much truth there is in it - but I've heard rumours that they're even considering generating their own power if they go back into operation, and that would have a dramatic impact on all Yukon ratepayers, if they took that approach.
So, I think that the minister has a very serious problem there that he has to deal with and try to resolve, and I don't envy him. I know it's a tough problem.
I'll just leave it at that for now. Maybe some of my colleagues have some questions of a general nature, and then I'll have quite a few more questions.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, we can do them round and round the mulberry bush on O&M. We believe we've held the line from the Yukon Party. We also believe that you have to spend money sometimes to make money, and particularly when you're investing in trade investment diversification, it takes money.
The member knows. He's been on trade missions himself. He's tried to find export markets for Yukon business, and he's been abroad with the mining facilitator. You have to do it. So, we're always going to have the debate about whether it was worthwhile or not, but I think, if we were talking privately, I would think he would agree.
On the issue of the climate for private sector investment, I think we've come miles on devolution. We've got a Yukon position now - First Nations, native and non-native. I think that is fundamentally a change in approach to the federal government that will break the barriers that have yielded very little progress on devolution, particularly over the last four years.
So, I think devolution, the investments we've made in land claims settlement, are critical. All I hear from the mining industry is, "Settle the claims, settle the claims." So we make it our first priority, we put investment in that. We're going to settle those claims, and we're going to make arrangements, deals, and we're going to be accused by the Yukon Party of selling the farm every time we make a deal. We know that, but we are going to move this territory ahead in the face of that.
On oil and gas - the member said we sold the farm on oil and gas, and I'm sure we're going to debate that. I think we believe that Yukon First Nations have a vested interest in this territory. We don't want to be penny-wise, pound-foolish, picking over the bones of the Kotaneelee oil and gas field. We think there're bigger fish to fry out there. We think there are plenty of opportunities for us to move ahead in oil and gas. We think there's opportunity to create energy in the Yukon, our own energy, and I think that that is a laudable objective and it's one we can achieve.
I'm not hung up on coal, and I think if the member, when we get into energy discussions, wants to talk about some of the opportunities for oil and gas - Northern Cross, an interesting subject - I'd love to talk about it.
Interprovincial barriers - I had a conversation with the president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce a couple of weeks ago, where he said we're not a regional economy. I disagree. I think we are a regional economy, whether we like it or not. We have very difficult, competitive disadvantages with other jurisdictions, given our small base. It's very difficult for businesses to generate a solid base with reliance. Out of a 900-plus GDP economy, the last year's territorial budget was over $500 million of that.
We have a small customer base in the Yukon, so it's very, very difficult to compete on a large scale. So I think we have to look outwardly, but we have to also recognize, I think, that we do have a fledgling economy in the Yukon.
One of my favourite theories is the old banana fruit fly theory on the economy, and I think the department likes to laugh at me when I start talking about this, but do you have the economic approach of creating a bunch of fruit flies and eventually you'll have a banana, or do you try to take care of your banana and hope the fruit flies come along?
I think you've got to take care of your base resource sector. We do believe that the resource sector is very important to the Yukon. I'm certainly not anti-resource sector. A lot of people in the territory like to talk about the reliance on the resource sector. I think there are thousands of jobs created in this territory by the resource sector and can be for the future of the Yukon, and I think we have to work with forestry, and we have to work with oil and gas, and we have to work with the mining industry - all of the resource sectors - and I think they help lead to better diversification in the service sector and, ultimately, you can work with them to improve your economy as it pertains to tourism visitation and the opportunities that they have when they do come to the Yukon.
So, I do believe that we have a regional economy, and I think that's a fundamental, probable difference, I guess I have, with at least the president of the Chamber of Commerce, and I look forward to discussing it more with him in the future. We didn't have much time to get into it.
On the issue of Anvil's requests, no, they haven't asked for a loan or a loan guarantee. As the member is aware, they are concerned about power costs. They were concerned about power costs under the previous administration. We're looking at avenues that we may be able to use to try to deal with that situation somewhat. They've expressed some interest in generating their own power, although they've looked into that before - I'll put it that way - and it hasn't happened. We're not ruling it out this time, but we're doing our own due diligence on how we may be able to work together to deal with some of our common problems.
They have some of the same problems we do when it comes to power. Their draw on the system is a blessing, but it also can be a real problem, because of the wild rate stabilization impact they have. They also have a major draw on our system, and whether it's diesel use or Aishihik Lake or hydro, it's a major, major draw.
So, we look forward to trying to work through some of these issues with them. They say it's important to them. We believe it is, but we don't believe that we want to react, certainly in absence of their mine plan.
Mr. Cable: I have some general questions. I would like to point to some issues that, when they come up in the line items, it would be useful to get some information on.
In the briefing, I believe we asked for an update on the various policy initiatives and the time lines and whatnot. I was wondering if that's available or could be made available fairly quickly, so that we can use it for the conclusion of the general debate.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, the department tells me that they're going to be prepared to give it to me to table. My apologies to the member. The department was not prepared for the quick clearing of C&TS and the DM had to rush down here. We will try and provide it as quickly as we can.
Mr. Cable: Well, perhaps the minister could get us the list of policy initiatives for the break at 4:30 p.m., so that we can have a look at it. There will be some further questions on that.
There are a number of initiatives that are going on. Fortunately, they haven't been reduced to acronyms, but we have the trade and investment diversification strategy and, what I believe is something different, the export trade strategy. What I'd like to know is where we're heading on this. Are we looking for diversification per se or are we looking at stabilizing the economy? What is the overall goal with these strategies?
Hon. Mr. Harding: There are two components. I want to stress to the member that we've identified a problem in our economy. We've put some money toward the solution. The reason we've done that is because we have, I believe, to put a face on the Yukon as a place to invest. We also have to help our local business community learn about trade more and help them access more trade avenues to expand locally. There are two components.
The answer to both questions is, yes. We are interested in the investment component. We want to have investment flow into the territory and we want to use it to promote the territory.
The other aspect of the strategy, as we work through it - we are in constant contact with the CYFN, the chambers and TIA, talking with them about these matters - is to increase our export, to find Yukon small businesses who have something to offer, a niche.
I've been down to meet with the Asia Pacific Foundation, on my way back from the prospectors and developers, to talk about products that we could export that would have some utility in the Far East and abroad. I've also met with the B.C. trade people. The Government Leader has met with the Alberta trade people. There are a lot of resources out there that I don't think we've really tapped into to try and increase our trade and export. I think that is a long-term, mid-term and short-term way to try and help increase job activity in the Yukon and produce some value-added products.
One of the things we've talked about - and I'm sure the members opposite have had some fun with it - is pre-fabricated housing. We've met with local businesses here who have a real desire to do pre-fabricated log home construction, but really aren't clear where to start, what resources are available to them abroad - how to get started. I don't think it's pie in the sky. I really don't. It is an opportunity. Our lumber and our timber here is very much coveted, as the member knows, because of itstight growth rings, and that hasn't changed from NDP to Yukon Party to NDP governments.
We have a good product here and there's a great big market out there.
Just back to the investment side of it, we feel that we've got to do a better job of telling people outside of this territory why there are some good, competitive advantages to investing here and also why it would be in their interest to put money into the Yukon. We have a good workforce; we have a reasonable climate.
The three questions that most investors have asked me are: what is the situation with land claims, is the government supportive of mining, and can you mine here in the winter climate? They have the impression the Yukon is a cold, dark hole. The answer in all three cases has been very, very positive. So, we need to get that message out- if you'll pardon me - in a better way, and we're hoping to do that.
Mr. Cable: The question I was asking, and perhaps I wasn't connecting with the minister, is that there seems to be an equation between stabilization and diversification, which may be true. Perhaps diversification will make for stabilization of the economy, but stabilization is something broader. We have an economy that goes up and down like a yo-yo. I've been here through two or three recessions and have felt the effects of them.
Is the minister's department focused on diversification per se or on stabilization?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I think one feeds into the other. Again, if you have a more diversified economy and you're not totally reliant upon the Faro mine, then you're going to have a better stabilized economy. The two are related. I take the member's point, but I do strongly believe that a more diversified economy is going to be a more stable economy. I think the two are very much related.
In terms of the economic approach of the department, they have tried quite cognizantly not to prejudge where Yukoners want to go in terms of this strategy. They've tried to ensure that there is some partnership development along the way. A lot of it is conceptual in nature, but I think we're moving ahead on it fairly quickly, and there sure seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for trying to increase investment here and also trying to expand on trade opportunities.
Mr. Cable: The point I make is that stabilization is broader, of course, than diversification and we may be missing some pointers if we simply focus on diversification solely.
But let me go into some of the many things that are going on in the minister's department, and I'm sure when we get the list, there'll be some added to it that we're not aware of yet.
The business plan, 1995-98, which was produced to us by the last administration - and, just for the record, I gather this is being updated and reviewed and the minister's department anticipates that there will be a new version of it out in June, or it will be reviewed in June. Am I correct in that assumption?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, they're starting the review in June - the DM tells me - and they hope to have the revisions by August.
I've communicated in a very clear fashion where I want to go. I don't want to spend all of our time acting on business planning. I think that we don't want the department to think that the main task of their department is to come up with a nice, pretty business plan. I think they should have a directional sense, but I don't want them spending all of their energies on ensuring they have the best darn business plan, but the economy isn't going anywhere.
Mr. Cable: My colleague was just telling me that, hopefully, we can get rid of the fruit fly and banana analogy, or whatever it was. Firstly, we don't understand it, and there are other things to focus on.
Accompanying the business plan that came out in 1995 was the energy action plan - they came out, I believe, at the same time - and that, I gather from the briefing, has been updated. Is that correct and, if so, is there a document that can be tabled in the House?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, it was approved by Cabinet on the 13th of March, and we should be in a position to table that for the member. We'll get some more copies.
Mr. Cable: Yes, that would be convenient at some juncture, prior to the energy line items, so that we can have some time to review the updated action plan.
I should alert the minister to the fact that I'll be asking either him or his commissioner questions on the action plan, and I'd also like to alert the commissioner that I would like to explore the conflict issue that was raised with some heat in Question Period.
I would alert the commissioner also that there are some registrations down at the registry office that relate to businesses on Aishihik Lake and that, I think, should be put on the table and then taken off the table, so we can eliminate that issue. It was not dealt with definitively the other day.
Now the trade and investment diversification strategy - I gather there are terms of reference being worked on at the present time. When are those anticipated to be completed?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I indicated to the member we've been working with both chambers, TIA and CYFN about developing a terms of reference. I hope to have a meeting within the next two weeks with all of the partners.
Mr. Cable: Now the export trade strategy - are there terms of reference around for that or is that what Mr. Brandt was doing with the contract that was produced for us by the minister's department? That's a contract for $11,000, which commenced March 13th and terminated March 31st.
Hon. Mr. Harding: He's working on it.
Mr. Cable: Okay, so I misappreciated the fact then that the export trade strategy and the trade and investment diversification strategy are one and the same. Is that correct? Okay.
The contract given to Mr. Brandt, has he produced a report and is that available to the members?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I know the person the member references has been very busy. I've seen some of his preliminary work, but right now he's turned his attention and is working on bringing the partners together to come up with a forwarding agreement to move us ahead.
Mr. Cable: It appeared from the contract that something was to be done by the end of March. Was there some initial report done by that time, or have I misappreciated the way the contract was set up?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Could you repeat that question, please?
Mr. Cable: Well, it appears from Mr. Brandt's contract that the work was to be done by the end of March of this year, and I assume a report would be produced at that time. Was that in fact done?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, there was no report completed. That's why there was an extension granted, because the work wasn't completed.
Mr. Cable: We've touched briefly on the community development fund, and in a sort of global sense, the business development fund is clothed in legislation, and we have a board that - if I recollect the structure of the legislation - looks at the applications and makes decisions or recommendations to the minister. Is there any reason why we cannot clothe this community development fund in a piece of legislation and sort of remove the pork-barrel smell that the fund has had in the past over the many years?
Hon. Mr. Harding: It obviously didn't smell too bad. It was something that the communities wanted, and we put it in A Better Way, and they voted for it, so I think it smelled pretty good.
With regard to some other form or method of choosing what projects should go ahead, they are consulting right now. One of the questions we asked in an initial questionnaire was should there be a different way of choosing how funds are disbursed. So, we'll see what happens.
There is a lot of mythology around the business development fund and the setting up of a board. It does present some distance, but if the member thinks that that prevents ministers from looking at those questions and being involved, then he's wrong, and I don't think that changed from the previous government. I don't know how many people come into see me or try to see me about the business development fund loans and applications, and when I was an MLA, if they didn't get one from the board, they always wanted to put some pressure on to get one. I mean, it happens all the time, so you don't eliminate that. You create some distance, but I'm sure the ministers in the Yukon Party had lots of dealings with business development funds and lots of conversations with people about it.
There's only so much you can do in a little jurisdiction in that respect. I try to refer any matter on business development fund to the department that's working under instructions to deal with business development fund issues, but very often, they don't accept that. They might see you on the street, going to Tim Horton's to get a coffee, and ask you about it. I mean, it's a small town.
Mr. Cable: I'm not suggesting there's any clandestine meetings in dark alleys after midnight. All I'm saying is it might be a step in the right direction. Is the minister prepared to consider bringing legislative cloth in around this fund? I know he's on the hot seat in a number of other areas. I just suggest to him these 11-foot poles sometimes are a good idea.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the Energy Corporation has a board, and that doesn't stop the hot potatoes from coming up in this Legislature, and I don't expect it ever will. It certainly didn't when we were in Opposition, so I don't expect any different from the members opposite. We're prepared to look at all reasonable options in the development of any policy of this government.
Mr. Cable: Well, that sounded a wee bit wishy-washy. Is the minister prepared to have a look at it and consider a legislative backdrop to the community development fund - you know, other than sort of a general commitment to fob me off here?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I would never fob any of the member's questions off. I've said to him that we're looking at the options surrounding the delineation of what projects will go ahead and what won't. We're prepared to look at all options. If legislative backdrop is what he's asking for, then I'd be prepared to look at that option, too.
Mr. Cable: I'll take that as a firm, definitive commitment.
Questions that I would like to ask as we go through the budget - I passed a note over to the minister a few weeks back on the venture capital program and its loss history, if any, and costs and whatnot. If that could be provided, that would be helpful.
During the briefing that the department provided to the members, I put out the question on the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment and whether any questions had been put to the council since the minister's government took over. I believe the answer was no. Could the minister indicate whether he intends to involve the council in any economic development issue?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, usually the Executive Council Office is the point person for the YCEE, but our department is committed to having some involvement with YCEE in terms of providing secretariat support and some direction. We have not put questions to them yet. Obviously they have some commitments in legislation to review economic strategy, and the environment strategy, as well, so there are some legal requirements that the government has to meet. For example, the chair resigned some time ago, and so we have to ensure that it's well supported with appointees, obviously. So, we intend to be putting those questions to the YCEE and getting it up and running and performing what I think could be a pretty valuable task in terms of dealing with some of the tough issues that the Yukon has to face.
Mr. Cable: On another issue, the issue of gambling and the economic spinoffs from gambling and whatnot, my sense of the questions that the then NDP critic for Health and Social Services put to the then government was that she was very much opposed to increased gambling in the territory, and we have yet to see or hear a definitive statement out of this government.
Does this government intend to deal with that issue in the near future and produce a definitive statement on it? That's both the social side of it and the economic development side of it.
Hon. Mr. Harding: The issue has certainly not been moved on by this administration in terms of trying to increase expanded gambling. We haven't been involved in any discussions about expanded gambling, so it really doesn't seem to be an issue with us. We're not interested in doing it.
Mr. Cable: There's more to it than that. The government, of course, has a regulatory role, or they make recommendations that permit gambling, and it's an issue amongst, I know, some organizations in town. The previous administration, I believe, did a study at some juncture, and looked at both the social costs and the economic benefits, if I recollect correctly. Is that report going to be updated? Is this government going to leave the issue sort of dangling in the ether or is it going to come out with a definitive statement? We're all waiting. We know the various pressures that are on the government, or could be on the government in the future.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I can just tell the member that we have no plans to pursue expanded gambling. It's not a big priority to come out with some definitive statement. If the member wants to take Question Period to explore it thoroughly, I would welcome him to do so. I would also say that there is some gambling in the Yukon - that's KVA - and we're certainly not opposed to the KVA continuing on with their affairs.
Mr. Cable: I don't want to explore it in Question Period; the budget debate's a good place to keep coming back on the minister so he can't sort of dive for the door on the issue.
What is this government's position on increased casino gambling? Is the government prepared to do what's necessary to license further casinos?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I can't tell the member a definitive position. I'd have to take the issue to Cabinet for some further direction. At this time, we're not considering any options of expanded casino gambling.
Mr. Cable: Well, I didn't write A Better Way. That may have been one paragraph I've forgotten.
Now, on energy conservation, I gather that the minister's department is taking part of the lead in this issue, but it's Government Services that is actually taking the lead role. Have I appreciated what's going on correctly? Energy conservation, okay? Run with it.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Government Services is doing some work on energy conservation and the minister will be able to respond to that when his department comes up. With regard to government buildings and schools and the programs that we have, we try to encourage energy conservation within the government. The Energy Corporation obviously is also looking at conservation measures for the overall energy system.
Mr. Cable: What is the role of the minister's department, Economic Development, in energy conservation? Is the minister's department one of the players?
Hon. Mr. Harding: There are people in the department who do work in coordinating interdepartmentally with Government Services and Education, the big players and the big departments on the conservation strategy within government.
Mr. Cable: Is there some sort of coordinating committee? Am I hearing the minister correctly?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes.
Mr. Cable: Could we get the structure of that committee, like what departments are on it?
The minister is vigorously shaking his head in the positive, so -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: Okay, that's a yes.
What sort of forecasts does the minister's department do for the future? We have the short-term economic outlook, which met with universal approval in this House. Is there any long-term forecasts that are carried out by the minister's department?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The practice has been, as I understand it, that it has only been short term, but I'll check on that. The DM hasn't been in the department that long, but I think they're short-term forecasts that are completed.
Mr. Cable: Just one last question. The Government Leader made this trip to Asia, and as far as I know there was never any report made to the House. It was primarily an economic development trip. Is the minister's department in a position to report on that Asian trip, and what sort of product came out of it?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, the Department of Economic Development is not reporting on that; it was handled through the Executive Council Office. I've certainly had many conversations, as has my DM, with the Government Leader in debriefing on the trip. Part of what we've done with trade investment diversification stems out of that trip.
Also, the DM of Economic Development has had numerous discussions with the private sector person who accompanied them on the trip, about trade investment diversification, and some initiatives that we may undertake to work with the private sector on.
So, that's the kind of role that Economic Development has had in terms of debriefing from that trip. I do think there was considerable value in it, and I've complimented the Prime Minister for his good initiative there with that trade mission.
Mr. Cable: That would be the federal Liberal Prime Minister would it?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: I see.
Now, were these debriefings brought together in a single report? You know how the Opposition like reports, because that is how we keep tabs on the government, or was this a bunch of ad hoc conversations that took place?
Hon. Mr. Harding: We haven't done a report on the trip. I know that notes were taken - considerable note-taking was done of the occurrences on the trip - but it hasn't been encapsulated in a formal report, nor do I think it necessarily has to be.
However, there have been many discussions of a formal and ad hoc nature coming out of the trip with regard to trade investment diversification, both with the public sector and with the private, and with employer organizations.
So, there has been some formal delineation of the occurrences on the trip. Formal notes were taken about the events of the trip, but no formal report has been prepared, nor do I think there needs to be.
Mr. Phillips: I have a few questions for the minister. I was interested to hear the minister talk about a proposed trip to Europe that he was going to make and some of the other journeys that he's made, telling us how it is important for the Yukon to show the flag. I couldn't agree more.
It seems to me to be a bit of a far cry from what we used to hear from that member when he sat on this side of the House about any minister in our government who went anywhere to promote the Yukon or promote economic development, from the Cordilleran to a marketing trip I made to Florida and to a marketing trip I made to Europe. It's nice that the lights have gone on in the minister's office and he now sees that it is useful to be out there. I have to tell the minister that it does make a difference when the minister is there first hand, explaining to those individuals exactly where the Government of the Yukon is coming from.
I have a suggestion for the minister, one that I would like him to take very seriously, because I see a real economic opportunity. It is something that has actually been raised in the House before with other ministers, but kind of sloughed off as a not-my-responsibility kind of approach, and that is the building of the new Trans-Canada Trail. I raise it with the minister because there are other provinces taking a great deal of advantage of the Trans-Canada Trail. I know that in the east coast of Canada, they are ahead of us in the development of the trail, and his deputy, who is from that area, may be aware that they've developed the trail in some of those regions in eastern Canada and now there are many businesses that operate tours on the Trans-Canada Trail, from hiking to biking to snowmobiling to skiing. It has produced quite a few new businesses throughout the country.
We could probably be a little bit more pro-active than many of the provinces, who are a little slower moving than we can be, simply because we're so small. I would encourage the minister to look at what his department can do with respect to the various communities in the Yukon along the Trans-Canada Trail and developing that trail to the standard that is set out.
What I see here is an opportunity for dog mushers or people who run or rent skidoos, people who want to take people on bicycle trips, and that kind of thing, to utilize the trail. There are an awful lot of people now, throughout the world, who are becoming more aware of this national trail that is going to cross the country. It is something that could be a very useful thing to do. People would come here specifically to do this part of the Trans-Canada Trail and it would provide employment for people in the upgrading and building of the trail. It would also provide employment for people who set up businesses for guiding along the trail or doing interpretive-type work along the trail.
I'll leave that with the minister as a suggestion. I'd like to hear how the minister feels about that initiative. It is a great opportunity. It fits in very nicely with our idea of the Yukon wilderness and the outdoors. The trail would be a designated trail that would allow visitors to see parts of the Yukon that they never would see otherwise, so I'd like to hear what the minister thinks about that.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I will take the member's representation under advisement. It may have some merit. Certainly Peter Lougheed thinks it does, and it might be a good idea. I just would also say to the member, I know that the City of Whitehorse is doing some work on the issue and perhaps my department could assist. I think Renewable Resources and Tourism also would have a stake in this issue.
With regard to the issue of travel, I never did criticize the Cordilleran. That was the only thing that the Yukon Party did for mining. I didn't think that was consistent. I never opposed them going down to the Cordilleran.
With regard to some of the other trips that the member made, I think some were more valuable than others but, Mr. Chair, I may have been wrong in Opposition.
Mr. Phillips: To get back to the trail for a moment, I was at a meeting in Riverdale North about a week and a half ago. The Riverdale association met and talked about the Trans-Canada Trail, and the minister is correct. The city is involved in the Trans-Canada Trail through the City of Whitehorse, but there are some territorial lands. I think the trail will also go through some First Nation lands as well as federal lands. All I'm suggesting to the minister is that it sounds to me, at the present time, that there isn't one single agency that is coordinating the trail through the Yukon. The city was sort of doing a little bit through the City of Whitehorse but they didn't know who was doing the rest of it.
So, all I'm suggesting to the minister is that there is an opportunity here, and the opportunity is one that I don't think would be extremely costly because the type of trail they build is not super-expensive to build. It certainly could create employment in the short term but benefits in the long term, and that's all I'm suggesting to the minister. Maybe his agency, Economic Development, in looking at how to diversify the economy - I mean, this is a trail that can be used summer and winter and fall and spring - year-round - so they should give very serious consideration to being the coordinating agency and working with all these other Yukon government agencies as well as First Nation governments and federal governments and civic governments, and putting this thing together so that we can develop it a little faster than it's happening now.
I think it would be something that could be very positive for the Yukon in the long run.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I think the member's suggestion may have some merit. I will investigate it further. My department is very, very busy now. It's working on a number of priorities, but we may be able to present a more coordinated approach to this issue. I'm not entirely sure what Renewable Resources or Tourism may be doing, so I'll ask my department to investigate that further, and I'm sure we'll be in this debate for a while, so I might be able --
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Okay.
Ms. Duncan: I have a number of comments with respect to general debate in this department.
I thank the department for the technical briefing. It was useful information.
Going through the line-by-line detail provided by the department raised a number of serious concerns with me. To continue with the fruit fly analogy, this department is like a fat little spider in the cupboard - a very fat little spider. We've got $3,000 alone identified in the line item called "Entertainment". In strategic management, there is no amount, and yet, I contrast this with the Renewable Resources briefing. The explanatory notes for five of the six items of capital say, "No, we couldn't do it due to fiscal restraint" and "a decrease of $4,000 due to fiscal restraint for purchase of office furniture and equipment, such as photocopiers and desks." So, while we have one department entertaining at the Ritz, we have another department working off cardboard boxes, by the looks of things. It seems grossly unfair and in need of a second look by this minister, and some very, very serious questions asked.
In the travel, another line item that's identified, there is $153,000. Is this department travelling by its own Lear jet? Why can't they take the bus to some of these meetings?
I'm being slightly facetious, but in all seriousness, I really believe that this travel budget needs to be justified. It needs to be explained, because, the minister was quite right, we had the costs for the Cordilleran Roundup tabled, and yet there's another $17,000 identified in here, and that doesn't include the booth rental at these trade shows.
I can appreciate the minister has said you have to spend money to make money. Yes, I understand that. I've been in business. This still seems to be extraordinarily high cost for a small department - extraordinarily high cost. With the number of unemployed Yukoners - 15.5 to 15.7 percent - and people travelling to conferences, could it be better spent looking for innovative job creation projects at home? I don't know what the answer is; I wasn't elected to find the answers. I was elected to ask the questions.
The staffing in the budget - the colleagues to the far right have raised the point that the staffing has increased. It has, and the people in the business community that talk to me come to me over and over again and say, "What do those people in Economic Development do?"
I'm not here slamming people who work in Economic Development. I have the utmost respect for the public servants. I need an explanation. There are a lot of people. What programs? Maybe I'll get that when the minister tables the list of policy initiatives. I'd like to be able to go back to the business community with it.
The minister thinks this is hugely funny. Well, I have spent time in the business community, and these are questions that have been asked of me, and I want to be able to provide some answers.
Could I just ask a final two points? The minister talked about having a difference of opinion with the president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce with respect to the regional economy, and I would like the minister, if he could, to elaborate on that.
One other point with respect to the fat little spider in the cupboard - there's also $410,000 in contracts, I thought, in going through this. How are those contracts being tendered? Eleven thousand dollars here, $11,000 there, $12,000 here and there can add up to a nice little job, and I'd like some more detail on that. I'd like to hear the minister's response initially to that.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I couldn't disagree more that the department has a fat little spider. I'm sorry she doesn't appreciate the banana fruit fly theory. It's an old one that's been talked about for many, many years in economics. It has to do with whether you can create a strong economy by developing small service businesses first, and your economic mainstays come as a result of that, or whether you take care of your economic mainstays first and the service sector is spawned by that. It's an old theory. It's been around for a long time.
I know the member was in business. I've been involved in business. I have a business degree. I don't think that's the debate we want to have here.
Secondly, the entertainment; I don't think it's high. I think it's pretty consistent with what has been spent in the past by this government, and there's a reason that the Economic Development department does have an entertainment budget, and it's usually not very fat.
What it relates to is the fact that there are dozens and hundreds and even thousands, I would say, requests for meetings with the private sector for lunches or suppers. Sometimes you can only get the meetings. For example, Cominco comes into town, or their vice-president comes up. You don't like to say to them, no, we can't meet with you, because they are an important company. They could contribute a lot to the territorial economy, so oftentimes the only time you could meet would be on a supper break from the House, so you go out.
The question is: how often do you accept their payment, or do you accept their payment of dinner? I think there are cases where it would be acceptable if it's a generic thing, but there are also times where I think the government has to pay so the government generically is not seen to be beholden to particular companies. So, that's the reason for entertainment and I think it's a valid one.
Our system's a lot different from the States. In the States it's no problem. The private sectors buys things all the time for the politicians and the bureaucrats, and it's not an issue, but here in Canada, I think there has to be a bit of a tit for tat. I think the government has a responsibility to not become too beholden to a particular company, and entertainment funds are used for that.
There are so many meetings. I've literally had hundreds of meetings with the mining industry since I've been elected in six months, and I know the bureaucracy is constantly engaged in similar meetings - the mining facilitator - and I don't think the private sector should always be paying for times when supper or luncheon meetings are required. And, I don't think that meetings should always be at supper or lunch, and as much as possible during normal business hours.
So, that's my view on entertainment. The budget should be modest, but I think it is given the number of meetings that take place and the busy schedules, particularly with some of the senior officials in the department who are so often meeting with companies from all different industries.
I don't accept that it's not a fiscally responsible approach, I think it is just that: basically saying to the private sector that we'll pay our own way most times - "You don't have to provide us with a nice meal and a bunch of wine", so I think that's why the budget is in there and I think it's a responsible approach.
There's no entertaining at the Ritz. There is the odd meal at the Cellar and some of the local businesses. There's also the odd meal at the Talisman and other restaurants around town, when they do take place.
That's not the only reason. When you go to conferences, whether it's the Cordilleran or the prospectors/developers meeting or the Geoscience Forum, there are meetings that take place. Sometimes coffee is provided; sometimes there's food, sometimes there's not. Those are the reasons. I would encourage the member to support that kind of activity. Because of the principle involved, I think it would be a major policy decision to open up our system so that the private sector always pays and that there's some sense of beholding.
With regard to travel, I think the department has got to do a lot of that work. I think they have to get out there. I hadn't intended to go to the prospectors and developers meeting in Toronto until probably a few days beforehand, but I was really glad that I did. It was good for the industry. I talked to a lot of people. I met the federal minister and had a good discussion with her. I was involved in a mine ministers table, where we were recognized. I had many conversations with some of the top mining people in Canada - top companies.
I think that the presence we had at the prospectors and developers meeting was noticed, and the officials did a heck of a job in terms of their booths promoting the Yukon. You can't just stand there. There's a lot of competition for attention at those things - it's huge. The same thing happens at the Cordilleran. To just stand there with a sign saying, "Invest in the Yukon," wouldn't go very far.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: That's right. Sometimes right after you're a parade marshall.
The former Minister of Tourism knows full well that it costs a lot of bucks to promote the tourism industry abroad, and there are a lot of bucks spent on it. The same principle is in place when you talk about investment from the business community in the Yukon.
The tickets that are booked for the officials when they go domestically are always economy, and they try to book two to three weeks in advance, as much as possible. Very rarely do we have to pay for a ticket when there's travel abroad, but sometimes, from time to time, like through, for example, these devolution discussions, meetings pop up that are impromptu and it costs 2,500 bucks to get an economy ticket to Ottawa, but you can't not go. You don't want to be penny-wise, pound-foolish. You just have to be there. Sometimes the officials, if I may say so myself, really put themselves before family and always before comfort, taking those red-eyes back east, so I applaud them for that.
I've really been watching the issue of travel. We try and make sure we justify every trip. Every trip that comes out of the department is authorized by the minister. I usually ask a number of questions. The deputy minister is the first screener, and he usually actually screens them quite thoroughly.
So, I think there's a lot of good work that's done. It does cost money, though. We're a long way away from a lot of things in this country and abroad.
On that issue, I think we have to continue to look abroad. I talked to people from the N.W.T. who've had a lot of experience with their approach to business investment tourism. They all tell me they appreciate the Yukon's approach and they think the Yukon has to do more. I think that's imperative.
With regard to staffing in the department and the questions of the business community about what the people in Economic Development do, I can assure the member that they are working pretty hard. We've given them a lot of direction, a huge agenda in economic development. There are a number of policy areas we've been working on, from devolution, MOUs, to developing our oil and gas regime, to getting our regulations in place, to working on those MOUs, to trade investment diversification, to setting up the Yukon's Business Centre, to community development consultations, to defining the problem with access to capital in the territory and coming up with solutions, to developing economic forecasts, to developing alternatives to industrial support for the Yukon government.
I mean, the number of things the department is doing is pretty staggering.
It doesn't always show up in the business community on a direct basis, and I guess probably therein lies a lot of the questions. I understand those questions. When I first took over as minister, I asked the same questions, and then I started asking the department to do things and then to do more and more things. They started to have, in many cases, too many things to do and then you have to pull back and say which are the clear priorities. So, I think they're working fairly hard and I've asked them to undertake a lot of initiatives and have a pretty aggressive agenda. That hasn't changed.
The discussion I had with the president of the chamber was a discussion we had just briefly at the Yukon Business Centre opening. We were talking about trade investment diversification and local hire. His views were that, in a global economy, we couldn't be recognized as a regional economy and we should be thinking more globally. I expressed some views that I think we do have a regional economy and that shouldn't prevent us from thinking outwardly, but we do have some significant disadvantages that we have to deal with and recognize in terms of population base, logistics and tax base. So, we have some work to do there.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for some of those answers.
With respect to the entertainment, I am fully aware of the need to reciprocate and the way our system works. My concern with that, as well as with the meetings and travel, is this: was the minister, when he came to office, asking the department the tough questions? Is this trip really necessary? What are we going to get out of it? Is your attendance at this conference going to help Yukon business? The minister assures me that yes, he is asking those questions, and he's gone through it with a fine-tooth comb. Well, I'll accept that explanation from him.
I also would like, at some point this year, a list of the conferences. Did we send someone to hear a futurist speak about trends in business? What have we done with this travel?
With respect to the list of what the department is doing, there were a number of initiatives mentioned by the minister; however, there were two glaring holes. I didn't hear one single mention about growth in home-based business. I didn't hear a single mention about workplace and family challenges. Now, it may be that the minister wishes to deal with the second one in the Public Service Commission debate, in which case I'll be glad to hold my discussion until then. But home-based business is a growing opportunity and I would have liked to have heard that the department was working more in this area.
The minister didn't respond - and perhaps it was because it was the tail-end of my comments - about the amount of contracting done by this department. It seems to be rather a large amount. Each section under admin seems to have a little bit of money - funds, flex-room - built into contract services for this, that and the other thing, and it seems to be rather high.
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member was asking about whether I asked the tough questions. As I told her at Cordilleran, this was something that happened shortly after I came into office and a lot of the planning was already underway. I asked questions about it, and I expressed some concern that it seemed like a very large presence and there were some costs to it - some extensive costs. I was assured by the department that it was indeed a wise investment; certainly, the now Official Opposition had always indicated it was.
I did not want, this year, to rock the boat in terms of the messages to the mining industry. I wanted them to feel comfortable that we were going to continue with a strong presence to invite investment to the Yukon at the Cordilleran. I didn't have a lot of time to respond to it.
I've asked a number of questions of the deputy minister on travel and are we targeting our expenditures where we want to? Are we spending too much at the PDAC and should we be spending more on external trade and marketing in the Far East?
I asked all those questions, and I think, as we develop the trade investment diversification strategy, I'm going to get better answers to those questions.
We want to make sure that our expenditures are meeting the need, and I think the member's point is a good one. I don't want to be sending people off haphazardly all around the place. I want to have a strategy that says we're trying to target a market. If it's mining, the PDAC, for example, is a good place to invest, and we've been working on that.
We've also tried to partner at some of these things with the private sector for room rental and that kind of thing, whether it's Canadian Airlines or whether it's the Westmark, so that costs are reduced and we're partnering with the private sector to put on a good face for the Yukon. Sometimes the private sector likes to purchase alcohol for people, and I guess that's the way they do business. Certainly, we have not done that in the public sector.
I would also say that the issue of the growth of home-based business is a good point by the member. The Yukon Business Centre is one step for the development of home-based businesses and access to information for them that they can get directly. I'd be interested in more suggestions from the member opposite in that vein.
On the issue of contracts, a lot of the contracts that are let out right now, or have been let out, are with regard to the development of the oil and gas regime and are very technical. There are not a lot of people in the Yukon, because there has not been a lot of oil and gas work done, so they're quite limited. Whenever possible, unless it's a highly technical field or you need some very specialized work done, they try and tender as many as possible.
Chair: Is it members' wish to take a break?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on Economic Development.
Mrs. Edelman: Further to some of the remarks made by the Member for Riverdale North, the meeting that we attended - actually, technically, the constituency of Riverside - spoke a lot about trail development in that area. Now, one of the things that's happened over time in the Yukon is that trail development, the mapping and the marking of trails has been done by societies.
So, for example, the Snowmobile Association or the Yukon Conservation Society put out a number of publications to do with hikes, hiking and biking trails, snowmobile trails, et cetera. What I'm wondering about is whether the department, in a general sense, is endeavoring to develop partnerships with other groups in areas not so much just for hiking, which is, of course, very much related to ecotourism, but in other areas, and how those partnerships are being developed. Is there any sort of general sense or a policy in that area?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the department has a number of priorities that I've given them. Trail development, unfortunately, was not one. That's something that's usually handled either through applications under the community development fund or it can be handled by Renewable Resources, and I think Tourism would also want to play a role in developing trails, because they would want to strategize about the best opportunities in particular if they're going beyond recreational opportunities for the local people, which is a fine initiative and is something that is desired by many people.
So, I can take the member's representation under advisement and pass it on to the department and see if there are departments that I'm not aware of doing more work on this issue than we are.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I just want to say to the member that a while back, when he was replying to the Member for Riverdale North, he said that he never criticized this government for going to Cordilleran. Well, I'll have to go back and pull some of the Hansard, but I believe one of the statements that was made by that member when he was in Opposition was that, "It will take more than a cocktail party to attract mining industries to the Yukon," and I think those were his words, and there were many criticisms from this side of the House when those members were here about the initiatives we were taking to attract mining to the Yukon. And then, this time, they blew her in spades. They went all out.
But telling the mining companies that you support mining is one thing. The actions that you do as a government is what's really going to count with mining companies.
I understand the minister met with the board of directors of the Chamber of Mines a couple of weeks ago, and I would like to ask him if the proposed staking ban - the request that the Government Leader is going to make to Ottawa to expand - was discussed with the board of directors?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes.
Mr. Ostashek: Would the minister care to tell the Committee what the position of the Chamber of Mines was?
Hon. Mr. Harding: They didn't indicate to me a formal position. We had a very informal discussion with the board. One of the people at the table, who is a former executive director, said that he felt it was a short-term approach or an incorrect approach to land use planning. There wasn't any disagreement from anyone else, but I'm not aware if that was a formal position from the Chamber of Mines, although I saw a newspaper article in the Yukon News last Wednesday where a similar position was echoed by the now-director, who I think has maybe one day or two days left in his time in that position as executive director.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, but I understand that the interview that was done with the executive director was done prior to the meeting that was held by the minister and the board of directors. Am I not correct?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, after the article came out in Wednesday's paper, I contacted the executive director, because we had Cabinet on Thursday morning, to let him know what was coming out of land claims, which is not my department. At that time, he indicated to me that he had made those comments to the paper the previous Monday. I think I met with him on Tuesday evening, so I think the member is correct.
Mr. Ostashek: As I said, it's not what a government says, it's what a government does, as to whether mining companies are going to be encouraged to invest in the Yukon or whether they're going to take their money and go and invest somewhere else. I guess that one will play itself out. I haven't seen a formal response yet from the Chamber of Mines, either, as to what their position is on a proposed staking ban.
I do want to say to the minister - he is the minister responsible for economic development and mining in the territory - by taking this approach...
First of all, maybe the minister could explain to me why we're going to a 2,300 square kilometre study area, yet we're only asking for the staking ban to be expanded to twice the size of what the proposed park is now. What's the rationale behind that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I don't anticipate getting much support on protected spaces or park creation from the members opposite. Even though they signed on to the endangered spaces campaign, there was very little done. This government is not going to hold up its entire environmental agenda. Commitments are made and were made publicly. They were even made by the previous government because of Bre-X. I know it's touchy there right now in the financing world, but the public of the Yukon has spoken and wants some action.
I think that actions are important. I also think that the actions we've taken have been very responsible. I know the member is going to try a strategy of saying the Tombstone is a Windy Craggy. He's got a very difficult case to make. If he chooses to go down that path, it would be very indicative to a lot of Yukoners as to why there was no park creation over the last four years.
So, that's fine, if that's his political strategy. I think I have a pretty open relationship with the chamber. I hope so, anyway. I try. I think I understand their issues quite well. I'm no stranger to mining. I come from a community that makes its living on mining. I think I have a pretty decent understanding of where their issues are coming from.
The rationale for the 2,300 study area is quite simple: there is an area removed from staking. It was removed in agreement with the previous government. There is another critical area just north of that, that has been the issue of much discussion at the land claims table. However, although we are committed to Tombstone Park, we did not want to create it through private discussions or discussions that were not out in the general public. We wanted to ensure that there was a public process.
The public process has identified a larger area than the area removed from staking. Even if the federal government accepts the staking ban - which I'm not sure if they will or not - simply to ensure the public is aware that we are prepared and serious about a public process in terms of the ultimate definition of the park boundaries, had we chosen a very small area to study, we would have been criticized for not being serious about a real public process in terms of determining the final boundaries of the park.
We also have informed people who are interested in staking the area that the area that will be subjected to the public process may indeed - some of the areas, at least - become a park in the near future, so they get a heads-up on it. They also got a heads-up on the Tombstone out of the election. This has been an issue since the byelection in February of 1996, which saw the new Member for Whitehorse West come to this Legislature.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, as I said, it's not what the government says, it's what the government does that's going to indicate whether this government supports mining or not. The issue here is that there has been a mineral assessment done in the Tombstone area already. It was done prior to the park boundaries being set for the first park - the boundaries that are in place now for the land claims table. We know, and the member opposite knows, that there's a very high mineral potential in those mountains.
What the member has done, or what the member's government has done, by going public with a policy and proposal that's only half-baked at this time, and saying that we're going to put out a 2,300 square kilometre study area, but we're only going to be asking the federal government for another 360 kilometres of a staking ban, he's sending some very mixed signals to the mining community. I would suggest to him that they may have even increased the staking activity in that area, in the interim between now and when they can get the federal government to agree, if they do get the federal government to agree, to a further staking ban.
One way to create activity is to say you're going to put something off-limits, and you may have all kinds of nuisance staking going on now because of the fact that they know the government is going to be looking for a moratorium on it. I don't believe that on any of those claims in those areas - even if somebody were to go and stake them now - you would get any credible mining company to invest any money in them to develop them, when we have a signal from the government that they may not allow mining in that area.
So I think they are sending some very mixed signals. Could the minister tell when the maps are going to be available of where the proposed moratorium is going to be asked for?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the stakeholders have the maps now, so they will be able to give the Opposition maps if they want. I would say to him that I'm not surprised that he's objecting to our agenda in this area. There's a clear difference between us and them on the subject of parks and protected spaces. Even though they signed on to a commitment to do it, we're actually going to do it. So, there's a clear difference there.
Mr. Chair, I would say that we went to great lengths to avoid the known mineral deposits, as confirmed by the mining facilitator at the press briefing. What the member is saying is that the environmental parks agenda of the public and the government should be held up on the basis of sheer speculation. I think that is poor public policy making and we disagree.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, we certainly will disagree, Mr. Chair, because in the establishment of the protected spaces policy that the government has worked on for many, many years now, was on the basis of a mineral assessment first to see if some of these conflicts could be avoided. Now we have a government that's making knee-jerk reactions, trying to satisfy different segments of their support and creating a bigger problem than we had before.
Can I ask the minister: is it this government's intention to ask for a mineral staking withdrawal on any of the proposed Protected Spaces 2000 project that's going ahead and is going to have 16 more areas protected in the Yukon. Are they going to withdraw them from staking prior to making a decision as to where these areas are going to be?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, first of all, Mr. Chair, this is not a knee-jerk reaction. We telegraphed to the industry and to the general public since February 1996 that we intended to pursue a larger park. I told the public. I went to the environment forum during the election campaign and told hundreds of Yukoners that we were committed to a larger park. I was asked whether it was going to be 500, 600, 700, 800 or 1,000 or larger, and I said that I wasn't going to commit to the exact size. We thought that should finally be determined by a public process. So, that's exactly what we're doing. It's not knee-jerk; it's well planned and well thought out.
With regard to the member's assertion that it's a based on trying to shore up some of our support, I would suggest to him that there are a lot of Yukoners who support a park at Tombstone, and some of them are even miners - like myself.
With regard to the parks and protected spaces agenda, I would also say to him that the Tombstone is a special case because of the issue that was raised at election time - the fact that it was a very public issue. There were specific commitments made. It is not the same as the rest of the protected spaces agenda, and I certainly have no plans - nor does this government that I'm aware of - to initiate staking bans in all the areas that might be identified in the future for the protected spaces agenda.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, the minister may not think there is any association between what they're doing here and what an NDP government in British Columbia did with Windy Craggy, but I'm sure there would be many Yukoners that would have a difference of opinion with him on that issue. We'll see how it plays out.
I want to move on now to what the policy of the department is on ministerial travel. The minister said he was going to be doing a lot more travel abroad and in the country promoting mining and investment in the Yukon. Does the government have a policy on where the minister will go, and where the minister won't go? Could the minister elaborate if there is a policy?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, that's an interesting question. I don't know precisely where the member is going. Perhaps when he stands up again, he'll let me know.
With regard to the policy on ministerial travel, I think where there's an area identified that has some significant benefit for the Yukon - or at least a potential benefit - either the minister or the departmental officials will be considered to attend.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, then let me expand a little further on that, Mr. Chair. The minister alluded to it earlier. I was going to bring it up even if he hadn't alluded to it.
It's my understanding that the minister made a commitment to go to Europe with a group of junior mining companies who were, as the industry says, on a share-flogging trip. This was not a mining symposium. This was not a mining convention. This was a group, or a string of three that I know of - one in Paris, one in London, and one in Geneva - by invitation only for investors. Does the minister feel it's appropriate for a government minister to be involved in that type of promotion of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member's assertion that I made a commitment is false. I'd argue that with anybody. I was asked, at different times by a number of companies, if I would accompany them to speak to investors. I have taken the position that, if it makes sense for the Yukon, we would consider it and I've always maintained to mining companies that have asked me, and in this specific case, I've said, "Let us know what the trip is, who's going to be spoken to, give us lots of notice and we'll consider it." That was not a commitment to attend.
Subsequent to that, at the PDAC, I met with the same company and a French investor of theirs. I did sit down and meet with them and talk to them about our government's position on mining. I also spoke to them about the situation with regard to First Nations governments in the Yukon, the land claims settlement and mining experiences in the Yukon, mostly on a generic basis.
With regard to an investment trip, I declined to go on this particular trip for a number of reasons. Number one, it was during session. Things were very busy with regard to the Faro mine shutdown, and the impact of an interim rate application. Secondly, there was very little notice, two or three weeks, which didn't allow for advanced booking. The finalized agenda didn't come in. And thirdly, in order to take this trip, we would have wanted to have arranged meetings with a number of companies who have a number of investors over there. We spoke to a number of companies about broadening the base of the people we would speak to but there just wasn't enough time to do it. I spoke to the Chamber of Mines after that, locally, and they felt that it would be an excellent idea for us to do that if we could do it on a more broad-based basis. I concur with them on that. They were quite amenable and thought it would be a good idea, for example, if they were to meet with some of the brokerage houses in some of the major European cities. If, on the same trip, you were meeting to speak generically about your government's position on mining for an investor for a particular company, I don't think that's a problem as long as you don't make specific commitments on behalf of a particular company.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I'm concerned with the member's answers. He says he didn't make a commitment, but I have in front of me a notice of a luncheon in Geneva on the 16th of April, Wednesday. It's a by-invitation luncheon. There were 15 investors invited to it, from my understanding. It was put on by a group of junior companies here. It says that the reception starts at 11:45 a.m. At 12:15 p.m., there's a presentation. At 12:45 p.m., there's a luncheon with a question and answer session. At 2:00 p.m., it's over.
The next line says that the presentation will be given by the president of BYG, assisted by the vice-president of one of the other companies that was there and the president of Omni Resources. Then it goes on to say that the special guest will be the Hon. Trevor Harding, Minister of Economic Development for the Yukon Territory.
I received a copy of this on about the 7th or 8th of April, and the minister says he didn't make a commitment. Is the minister saying that his name was advertised without him making a commitment to go to the meeting?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I actually met with the president of the company in Toronto at the PDAC on the 49th floor in his lawyer's office in Toronto. I met with a French investor and a number of people at that time. At that meeting, he expressed an interest in my attending his trip. I said that I would try and I would consider it and that I would need as much notice as possible after the meeting was over. I said that he should send me a copy of his agenda as soon as possible and that we would have to try and organize some meetings with some other companies.
Subsequent to that, the formal agenda didn't come until maybe two or maybe just three weeks prior to the departure date on which they wanted to go. I had to decline for the three reasons I identified to the member. I had asked the mining facilitator to arrange some meetings with other investors over there, other companies. Attempts were made to contact other companies and their investors. They all thought it was a good idea, but there wasn't enough time.
I had to explain to the company in question that, for the three reasons I indicated in my previous answer, it wasn't possible for me to attend, but that if at some time in the future we were provided enough advance notice and I had the opportunity to represent the Government of the Yukon, generically, to a broader base, and appear on behalf of other companies, it would be a possibility.
Mr. Ostashek: This notice was distributed by BYG on the 14th of March in Europe, saying that the minister was going to be speaking on the 16th of April.
Now, I do have some concerns about it, and I think the government, if it doesn't have a policy, ought to develop one, because this was a junior company going out to raise capital to work on their properties in the Yukon.
I don't believe it's appropriate for a minister of the Crown to be working at a private luncheon with these mining companies. If he was speaking at a forum or, as he said, investment houses, or anything, I think that's quite appropriate. I think other Yukoners will have concerns with this.
There could be all kinds of demands on the minister. There are junior mining companies of all types that go out on fund-raising trips every year. Is the minister going to make himself available to everybody, to a select few, or who?
Again, I ask the minister because this circular was distributed in Europe to select investors on the 14th of March, advertising that the minister was going to be there.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, how can I say this? The company did not have my authorization to do that, and I've raised it with the company, we've discussed it. They jumped the gun. They were not given a commitment - period. I hope that's plain enough for the member opposite. I only found out about that after I had already declined to go. So, I can't be responsible for what a junior mining company puts on their notice.
I told the company that if they could provide me with an agenda, if we had adequate time, I could take a look at expanding the investor base. I talked about some of the bigger London brokerage houses. I talked about it with the Chamber of Mines the other night; they thought it was a great idea. But, I told the company in question here that I would take a look at what they were proposing.
When I met with them in Toronto, I told them the same thing. I told them to get me the agenda as quickly as possible. What they did is what they did, not what I did. So, I've taken that up with the company. I found out, after I had already declined.
Subsequent to that, they asked if we could send someone from the department. I declined doing that for the very same reasons. With regard to our policy, if it's more broad-based, in terms of the investment community, if we're speaking generically to investors, if there are a number of companies that are included, I think it's possible.
You know, the member opposite, when he was the Government Leader, went with a specific company overseas to speak to specific investors. Maybe his distinction is that one is a junior mining company and one is not, but this junior mining company in question has an operating mine in the Yukon right now.
Mr. Ostashek: There's quite a distinction between when I went with Curragh Resources to raise funding to put their mine back into operation, with full support of the members opposite.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: No, the priniciple is quite different, Mr. Chair. This is a select few companies. In fact, they say that the capital raised here will be for development in the near future. They're not going for a specific project. This was a share-flogging trip. Who is the minister going to say no to, if he would have accepted this? But I still have some concerns on it, and I want to get further on that.
Along with that, there was a letter from the Government Leader that was distributed by them that I think is quite legitimate. It says "To whom it may concern," dated November 1st, on the government's position on mining in Yukon. I think that's quite legitimate. But the minister says he never made a commitment to go on this trip. Yet he wrote a letter to the company on April 9th to wish them every success in their upcoming trip to Europe, "which I had hoped to attend. In my absence, I'm asking you to convey this to your investors, that I couldn't make it."
From the letter that the minister wrote on April 9th, I believe that there was a commitment made to go. If there was, why did the minister change his mind? If he felt it was important, he felt it was proper, why did he change his mind?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member's got it wrong, and I hope he brings it up in Question Period, because I'd like to tell the rest of the public how wrong he's got it.
First of all, I told the company that I was not going to attend and, Mr. Chair, what they did was to erroneously put out information that I was going to attend. I had hoped to attend but, unfortunately, because I was not provided enough notice to make it more broad-based, I could not attend. That's why I did not attend.
Subsequent to that, I sent them a letter saying, good luck with your investment. We, in the Yukon government, are very supportive of mining. I had hoped to attend. In the future, if we can make it more broad-based, I could attend.
So, I don't know what the member's issue is. The member himself went across, overseas, with Curragh, with Clifford Frame, and met with specific investors, but he's trying to split hairs now on this particular issue. I would say to him that that's the very same principle that he's speaking of here. The only thing is, he went, I didn't go. So, fly at it.
Mr. Ostashek: I will fly at it, because this is way different. I think the minister went and made an off-the-cuff commitment and then got chastized by his Government Leader. I think that's what happened, because the letter that he wrote certainly doesn't say what he just stood on his feet and said. This letter gives me every indication there was a commitment made to go.
All I'm asking the minister is, if he felt it was right to make the commitment to go, why didn't he go? He could have gone. Why didn't he let Yukoners know that he was planning on going? Why was it being kept so quiet?
Hon. Mr. Harding: How many times do I have to say it? I didn't make a commitment to attend. I don't care what the member says. I don't care what anybody else says. I know what commitment I made. I had hoped to attend but, unfortunately, there was not enough notice given. We could not get a broad enough base of investment. The precedent was established, though, by the Yukon Party when they attended with Clifford Frame to meet specific investors to put a mine back into production.
I could also say that there are many parallels to be drawn from what the member did with this case had I gone, but it is a fact that BYG is indeed an operating property in this territory and are looking to expand their ore reserve base.
However, I would also say that they erroneously put that on their invitation and confirmed that they did that to me personally. So, I sent them a letter as a result of not being able to attend, stating that I was supportive of mining; our government was supportive of mining and i
f there is a future trip that they are making to Europe, they should let me know. I would hope to attend. I would hope to attend meetings with other companies while I'm over there. I would hope to attend a meeting with a London brokerage house. So, that's what I hope to attend.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, that's certainly not what the minister stated in his letter when he wrote back to Mr. Stack, ironically on April the 9th, the same day he was questioned in the Legislature about his first-class travel - I'm sure it's just a coincidence, but, ironically, it's the same day. It's the same day that this letter was written on April the 9th - one week before he was supposed to speak there. He doesn't say to the company that they had made a mistake or that he had never made a commitment. This letter indicates that he had made a commitment and now he has had a change of heart.
I guess the question I have is that when I did go to Korea, we didn't hide it from the public. I stood up in this Legislature and said we were going. We had support of the Opposition. The minister hadn't told anybody that he planned on making this trip, and I'm just saying that if it is this government's policy to support every company that's going out on a fundraising mission, the minister is going to be very, very busy travelling. You know, how is the minister going to pick whom he's going to go with and whom he's not going to go with, if he feels this is an appropriate forum to promote the Yukon? How is he going to pick?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, what I intend to do after this is to phone BYG and clear it up, and I'll give the member a letter stating that I had not made a firm commitment. Should they disagree with me, then I will take issue with BYG on that. So, I'll present that to the member.
Secondly, Mr. Chair, I guess the member is suggesting that I shouldn't have told BYG investors to invest in the Yukon. I think the company is looking at building a pressure oxidation plant and creating a lot of jobs here in the Yukon, so I think I should be telling the people to invest in the Yukon, and I resent the member's suggestion that I should be telling people not to invest in the Yukon.
With regard to his allegation about the first-class travel that was on an economy ticket, I'll use a first-class upgrade sticker again on ministerial travel, if I had one. I don't have one, but I will do it. I'm just telling the member now, and they can stand up and ask in Question Period again. I could care less.
Now, Mr. Chair, I will also, next time, be prepared for the cheap shots and have a little information to provide in response to the members opposite for that, so I hope they ask it again, because I have done a little digging.
Also, Mr. Chair, I would say to the member opposite that had I gone, it would have been very public, but I didn't go. Had I made a commitment to go, it would have been very public, but I didn't make a commitment. So, the member's assertions are incorrect. They are wrong, as usual, and I think I should be telling people to invest in the Yukon, and I'll continue to do that.
Mr. Ostashek: Absolutely. The minister should be telling people to invest in the Yukon. What we have here is a very inexperienced minister who, I think, didn't think before he made some commitments and, after talking it over with his boss, had some second thoughts. But I would just suggest to him that he ought to have been a little more clear to the company when he withdrew from the trip and not left the door wide open for another invitation of the same kind. I'm going to be pursuing with him and his Government Leader whether they are going to be developing a policy as to what forums are appropriate for Cabinet ministers to speak in.
I have some great difficulty when it's an invited luncheon that only a select few investors are invited to, and the minister is going with that company because when he does that, if he did that - he didn't do it in this case, and I agree with the minister it's probably a good thing that he didn't go. Now they have time to put a policy in place on how to deal with it. But once these mining companies, who are raising money every year - and there are hundreds of them working in the Yukon, and they all have properties that they hope will develop into mines, and they all have monies that they're trying to raise to develop those properties - they are all going to be making demands on the minister to go with them on a share-flogging trip.
The minister just couldn't begin to satisfy all of them. We'd have to be picking and causing great turmoil in the marketplace, I believe.
I give the minister full support - not to travel first class, I don't. I think that's being very arrogant of the minister, but it doesn't surprise me. Overseas is one thing; Canada and North America is another. There's such arrogance over there. Mr. Chair, the policy of our government allowed officials to go business class when they went overseas, certainly not between Whitehorse and Vancouver.
I would suggest to the minister that they develop a clear policy.
Hon. Mr. Harding: First of all, I didn't go on the trip, so I don't know what the member is on about. I made no commitment. BYG was incorrect in their publication of my attendance at the meeting. I sent them a letter as a result of not going, informing them that we welcome investment in the Yukon and good luck on their investment tour.
The reasons I didn't go was because I didn't have enough time; they didn't send me the agenda. I didn't have enough time to make it more broad-based. I wasn't even aware of what kind of meeting it was or what investors they wanted me to talk to. It was news to me. I hadn't even seen the announcement. I had heard about it. The member has it; I don't have it.
I've never seen it, so go ahead - table it. I'm doubting it exists; I know it exists, but it's the first I've seen it. I hadn't seen the agenda whatsoever.
I am certainly not prepared ... We hired a mining facilitator - or actually, the previous government did - to encourage and help companies find investment, to help them work through some of the problems they're having in terms of mining the Yukon, and we don't make any apologies for that. We certainly want to help create investment and jobs in this territory. I don't know what position, other than that, the member opposite will want me to take.
Now, I also want to say that he set a precedent when he went with Curragh to meet with specific investors in Korea, and I bet you anything he flew first class. Mr. Chair, the member has got to be more consistent if he's going to try and raise this. So, Mr. Chair, fly at 'er.
Mr. Ostashek: The minister is totally wrong, because he was fully aware that I was going to Korea. I stood in this House and had the full support of the Opposition parties. Now he says I can't have anything different; I'm not looking for anything different. I'm asking for a clear-cut policy by this government. Is it appropriate for ministers to go on share-flogging trips? Or, what is the policy? That's what I'm asking for. The minister still hasn't answered me whether he feels this was an appropriate forum or not. Maybe he could answer that.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I don't have many details on the forum because I've only heard about the advertisement. I didn't go on the trip, so, Mr. Chair, I don't know what the member is on about. If he calls it a share-flogging trip - if his definition of a share-flogging trip is when you go and spend a bunch of taxpayers' money to go with one company and you only meet with their company and you tell them that you're in favour of their project and not others - then I would say that's inappropriate. I didn't do that and, had I gone, it would have been very public and I would have let everyone know that I was doing it. But I didn't go.
The member has a fundamental problem with his questioning. He's also got a problem because he set a very clear precedent by travelling - whether he told the public or not. The only reason the public didn't know about this trip is because I didn't go, for very many reasons.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member opposite says I'm hiding it. How do you hide something like that in the middle of a legislative session? There'd be an empty chair here while I'm over in Europe. What a ridiculous, stupid response that is. I think the members would have slowly picked up on it after a day or two of Question Period.
Mr. Chair, "the member is acting stupid" is unparliamentary and I apologize if that was an unparliamentary remark.
Chair: Order please. I believe the language "stupid comment", if it is directed towards a person as stupid would be unparliamentary. To say it's a stupid comment or a stupid statement is not.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'm sorry I even put you in the position of having to rule on that. I would withdraw the comment, but I will say to the member opposite that I didn't go. The member's dead wrong that I made a commitment. I'm going to have to confirm that with BYG for the member, just so he's clear, just so he knows.
Mr. Chair, I'll also tell him that, if at some point in the future a number of companies want me to go and speak about the Yukon to their investors in the Yukon on a broad-based forum and I have lots of advance notice and it makes sense for the Yukon to encourage investment, then I'll be there. If it means jobs in the territory, I'll do it.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, it's just about time to quit. We'll carry on with this tomorrow, but I do want to say to the minister by the fact that his name was advertised as being at this private luncheon, I know of one investor who went there specifically to see the minister and was very disturbed when the minister wasn't there. So, if it was a mistake by BYG, I hope the minister does get it cleared up.
Mr. Chair, I move you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Deputy Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker resumes the Chair
Deputy Speaker: May the House have a report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Hardy: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 1997-98, and directed me to report progress on it.
Deputy Speaker: You have heard the report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:27 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled April 29, 1997:
Staffing of Special Education teachers: explanation of process; status; Public Schools Staffing Protocol (Moorcroft)
Oral, Hansard, p. 709
Whitehorse school principal positions: selection process and cost per person for two positions (Moorcroft)
Oral, Hansard, p. 675