Monday, February 23, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
INTRODUCTION OF PAGES
Speaker: It gives me great pleasure to announce that the following school children will be serving the House as legislative pages for the spring sitting. They are Mike Beauchamp, Jesse Butler, Samantha McCormack, Willy McKenna, Stacey Pennington and Sheena Laluk from Porter Creek Secondary School; Logan Freese and Caley Osborne from St. Elias Community School; and Kiley Aubin and Félix Des Lauriers from École Émilie-Tremblay.
Today we have with us Logan Freese and Caley Osborne from the St. Elias Community School. I would ask members to welcome them to the House at this time.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the House leaders have reached certain agreements about the management of House business for this week.
At this time, I wish to outline those agreements for the House. Today we will do the regular Daily Routine and then proceed to the budget speech, which begins second reading of the main appropriation bill for 1998-99.
The leader of the official opposition will move adjournment of debate and the House will then adjourn.
Tomorrow, when the House moves to Orders of the Day, we will go to government motions for the purpose of considering a motion respecting the Calgary Unity Declaration, the framework for discussion on relationships presented to the premiers and territorial leaders by national aboriginal organizations, and the report of the Yukon Unity Commission.
In order to proceed with this debate tomorrow, it will be necessary to obtain the unanimous consent of the House to waive the normal notice requirement of one full day. I will be requesting unanimous consent on behalf of the House leaders at the appropriate time.
On Wednesday, February 25, when the House moves to Orders of the Day, we will be debating motions other than government motions, standing in the name of the government private members, during the afternoon. In the evening, we will resume the budget debate by continuing second reading of the main appropriation bill for 1998-99.
On Thursday, February 26, the House will continue with the budget debate. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any tributes?
In remembrance of Alice Frost
Speaker: We would like to pay tribute to Alice Frost, who passed away early in January. We all know Alice was a great member of the community of Old Crow. She will be missed. She was a chief, a councillor and she also contributed her life skills to the community of Old Crow as an alcohol worker. She also contributed to cross-country skiing for many, many years.
Our condolences go to the Frost family and Njootli family. She will be missed.
Are there any more tributes?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I would like to rise to join with you in paying tribute to Alice Frost, a very well-respected elder of the Vuntut Gwitchin.
Mr. Speaker, as you have pointed out, she has been a chief and she has spoken out strongly on behalf of her people, and she has become very politically involved in the community of Old Crow in land claims and in speaking out for the lobby regarding the protection of the Porcupine caribou calving grounds.
But, Mr. Speaker, I remember Alice best as a strong advocate for education for the Vuntut Gwitchin people.
She was instrumental in having the Yukon College campus established in Old Crow and was a member of the community campus committee while she was serving as chief.
She has always been a very strong advocate for young people participating in education programming and combining that with cross-country skiing, and assisted with the TEST program, which resulted in a number of Old Crow skiers, including her daughters Shirley and Glenna, being on the national junior women's cross-country ski team.
Mr. Speaker, she is well-known, as well, for her beautiful beadwork, and we have examples of that work at my own home. She is now survived, of course, by her husband Donald and her children and many grandchildren. I would ask all members to join with us now in paying tribute to a very well-respected leader.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and the office of the official opposition, we would like to join with you and the NDP caucus in paying tribute to a life-long Yukoner and a well-respected elder of the Yukon community, who passed away earlier this year at 60 years of age, after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Over the years, I came to know and respect Alice. She was liked and respected by everyone who knew her, and her loss will be felt not only in Old Crow, but throughout the Yukon. Committed to making Old Crow a healthier and safer community to live in, Alice worked hard to bring in the alcohol ban in Old Crow and, in turn, helped create programs to help those in need of healing. These programs remain in effect today and will continue to serve the people of Old Crow, for which many are very grateful.
As a political and community leader, Alice will be remembered as an outspoken individual, determined to help her community and ensure the health of future generations. Although she herself was soft-spoken, she was always able to draw the attention of others with her words of wisdom and commonsense approach to issues of the heart.
Not only was she able to see the value in helping others, but she did her best to preserve the Yukon's traditional past. Known for her intricate beadwork that was often given to people from across Canada, Alice was recognized by many as a role model and an inspiration to her people for continuing and carrying on traditional ways of the Vuntut Gwitchin people.
Her contributions to the people of Old Crow will be remembered, as well as her wisdom, gentle humour and determination to help others to help themselves. She will be greatly missed, and we extend our deepest sympathy to her husband, Donald, and her children and family.
Ms. Duncan: I would also like to rise today to pay tribute to Alice Frost on behalf of the Yukon Liberal Party caucus.
Alice Frost was a strong community leader, as has been noted by my colleagues in the Legislature here today. Her work as Chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and as a candidate for this Assembly will live after her and history, I know, will ensure that we remember her as a wise and just individual.
Alice's gift to the Yukon is her work as chief and as a justice of the peace. Her brother, Grafton Njootli, said at the potlatch for Alice, "Our women are our leaders."
Her far greater legacy, however, is instilling in her children the strong values that she held dear - that is, the courage to act with truth and with understanding to do what is right for the people of Old Crow.
Our caucus would like to honour the memory of Alice Frost and extend our heartfelt condolences to her husband, Donald, and their children, especially to Shirley, who joins us in the Legislature today, and to Marvin Frost, who is now the chief. May each of you find strength from the teachings of your mother.
In remembrance of Moses Tizya
Speaker: I'd like to pay another tribute to Moses Tizya, who was an elder of the Vuntut Gwitchin and who passed away before Christmas. The elder was 97.
He worked very hard for his community for a long time. He was trapper, hunter, and he also was a councillor way back in his young days. He also helped the community, and he will be missed. That's Moses Tizya.
Are there any more tributes?
In remembrance of Marvin Taylor
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to the memory of Marvin Taylor. He was a very well-known White Pass man who passed away in February.
Marvin came to Alaska and the Yukon more than 50 years ago from West Virginia. He arrived with the army and stayed to work with the City of Skagway. In 1948, he went to work for White Pass, and when the job required a move to Seattle, he turned it down flat because he wanted to stay in the north.
Marvin continued to work around the port of Skagway and eventually with White Pass again. Marvin was a very hard-working man who was devoted to his family. He worked tirelessly over the years for his community and his family. Most recently, he served as chairman of the Yukon Anniversaries Commission, where he provided very strong leadership and firm leadership and direction.
Marvin will be missed by his many friends, and I ask my colleagues to join me today in sending out condolences to his wife, Van, his children, Paul, Ralph, Pat, Dallas and Delores, and his many grandchildren.
Mr. Phillips: I rise, too, to pay tribute to a very special Yukoner, Marvin Taylor.
On February 6, the Yukon lost a very dear friend in Marvin. Marvin can be described, I guess, as a doer. If you wanted a job done, and done well, you called upon Marvin Taylor to do it. He did that kind of a job for White Pass for over 42 years.
In 1993, when I was acting in my capacity as the Minister of Tourism, I needed someone to reshape and revitalize the Yukon Anniversaries Commission, and I needed to look no further than Marvin Taylor. He was at the top of my list.
Marvin Taylor was at the very heart of the commission and Yukoners will feel his loss. It is very unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, that Marvin worked for so many years on the Anniversaries Commission to see this year, and other years, become a great success, and it is extremely unfortunate that Marvin won't be here to share in the successes in this upcoming Gold Rush Centennial. But I'm sure that Marvin will be looking down on all of us and making sure that we carry out his legacy and the hard work that he did over the years.
Marvin Taylor was, first and foremost, a railroad man. He knew every square inch of the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad and loved it dearly. In fact, it's been said that diesel, rather than blood, ran through Marvin's veins, he liked the railroad so much. He ate, slept and drank the White Pass. He was the son of a West Virginia railway engineer, and I guess that's where he gained his initial interest in rail.
He arrived in Skagway in 1942 as a U.S. Army sergeant and he started to work on the White Pass and railway docks. After World War II, he did some other work, but by 1946 he was back in Skagway, working for White Pass as a baggage handler, and finally ended up running the railroad. That was Marvin's way: you start from the bottom and you work your way up.
In 1982, after the closure of the Faro mine, Marvin was forced to shut down the railway, but in 1988 Marvin revitalized the railway again with a successful tourist rail line running up to Fraser. In fact, that rail line today is probably one of the most successful tourism rail lines in the world.
Time is too limited here today to say all that I would like to say about Marvin Taylor. I knew Marvin not only on the Anniversaries Commission, but, as well, as a friend. Marvin was in my old riding of Riverdale North, which encompassed all sides of Riverdale. I remember that, although Marvin couldn't vote in Yukon elections, Marvin and I spent many a day on his lawn in front of his house discussing the pros and cons of Yukon politics, and Marvin was always quick to offer me suggestions on how to make life better for all Yukoners. Some of the suggestions, Mr. Speaker, governments have accepted in the past and have proved to serve Yukoners well.
Marvin Taylor will always be with us. Every time the train runs and every time we hear the horn blow - one day hopefully we'll hear the horn blow again in Whitehorse - we will remember Marvin Taylor and know that he has the steady hand on the throttle as the train winds its way through the land that he loved and knew so well.
Ms. Duncan: I rise today to pay tribute on behalf of the Yukon Liberal Party caucus to Marvin Taylor. Marvin was one of those unique individuals who make up the fabric that is Yukon. I knew Marvin as one of those business people that the manager of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce is called upon, from time to time, to seek opinions from and to discuss various issues of concern to the business community with. Over the years we developed a personal friendship.
Marvin Taylor would always take the time to stop and talk and, most importantly, to listen. He would offer his thoughts and his advice - frank advice. You always knew Marvin as a railway man with an uncanny attention to detail, and in the last few years I noticed a true grandfather's love for children, the future of the Yukon.
Part of the Yukon's corporate and personal history passed on with Marvin Taylor. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him, and we would like to extend our condolences to his family, many friends, the volunteers and the paid staff that Marvin enjoyed working with over the years.
Tribute to Bruce Lee, winner of the Yukon Quest, André Nadeau and Quest workers
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It does indeed give me pleasure to rise today and ask all members of the House to join me in paying tribute to Bruce Lee of Denali Park, Alaska. He's this year's winner of the Yukon Quest. Mr. Lee is a veteran long-distance musher who won the 1,000-mile race on Thursday. He completed a course from Whitehorse to Fairbanks in 11 days, 11 hours, and 27 minutes.
I'd also like to congratulate the Quebec musher, André Nadeau, who lead the race for most of the way and won the title of Rookie of the Year.
All of the mushers who participated in the Quest and the organizers and volunteers must also be recognized for their efforts in planning and working toward this event's success. Their continuing efforts will help to ensure that the Yukon Quest remains a cornerstone of Yukon winter tourism. So, congratulations to all, especially Mr. Lee.
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the office of the official opposition, I, too, would like to extend our hearty congratulations to those men and women who participated in what's become known as the toughest dog sled race in the world - those being the mushers, the handlers, the officials and the many volunteers who make the Yukon Quest such a world-renowned event and especially, Mr. Speaker, a special vote of thanks to the Yukon Rangers and the trail breakers in Alaska who do so much work prior to the race in order to make it a success.
I would especially like to congratulate Bruce Lee of Fairbanks, Alaska, and André Nadeau of Sainte Melanie, Quebec, for their top-place finishes. It was an admirable job, to say the least, in such a remarkable event.
The grueling 1,000-mile race combines the challenges of the northern frontier and the strength of character of individuals and the outstanding community spirit of the hundreds of volunteers. It's in its fourteenth consecutive year and I wish the Quest many more successes.
The remarkable international event has brought much attention to the Yukon and, in its turn, has drawn many visitors from across the world to the Yukon. One only has to look to the Yukon Quest sponsor, Fulda, and its impact on the Yukon economy. Fulda's recent visit to the territory alone resulted in a significant economic benefit to Yukon businesses ranging from hotels, rental companies, gas stations, restaurants, film developers, labourers and so on. This was a golden opportunity for the Yukon and one on which I hope we can build in the future with other companies.
In addition to the many volunteers who contributed their name and effort to make the Quest the success it's become, I believe it's fitting to also give thanks to Fulda and its representatives who view the Yukon as a special place to visit and to do business.
Mr. Cable: It's most fitting that today we should give tribute to the winner and all the participants and their support crews and the volunteers of the 1998 Yukon Quest. It's interesting to note the truly international flavour of this year's race - the sponsorship of Fulda from Europe and that company's economic commitment to the race in the territory and the winner, an American, Bruce Lee, and surely what must be the strongest performance ever by a rookie given by André Nadeau from Quebec.
Now, musher Frank Turner told one of my colleagues in this House that politics is a lot like running the Quest. He said that after running a race or two you learn what is really important and what needs to be taken along on the race. What we contribute today and remember to take along in our quest representing the people of the Yukon is the true northern spirit of everyone involved in this race.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: Under tabling of returns and documents, I have for tabling a report of the Clerk of the Assembly, made pursuant to subsection 39(6) of the Legislative Assembly Act.
Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have the report of the Yukon Unity Commission to the Twenty-ninth Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 9: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I move that the First Appropriation Act, 1998-99, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 9, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1998-99, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 9 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House
(1) that there is all-party support for the U.S.-funded maintenance and upgrades of all shared roadways, such as the Alaska Highway and the Taylor Highway, of the Yukon and the State of Alaska;
(2) that the Yukon government has been endeavouring to communicate that position to both the State of Alaska and the U.S. government with little success; and
(3) that roadways that are shared between the State of Alaska and the Yukon offer great economic benefit to local contractors and also bring many tourists and tourist dollars into our ailing economy; and
THAT this government, with all-party support, needs to find more effective ways to lobby both the U.S. government and the State of Alaska government to continue U.S.-funded maintenance and upgrade of all shared roadways of the Yukon and the State of Alaska.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the development and implementation of the Yukon protected area strategy could have a serious impact, both immediate and long-term, on the state of the Yukon economy; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to establish a protected area strategy that provides for the protection of the wilderness values and ecosystems while recognizing the importance of sustainable economic development to ensure a secure working environment for future generations.
Mr. Phillips: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that full consideration must be given to the rural school facility study, which assesses the condition of each rural school as to its architectural, structural, electrical and mechanical status, as well as forecasting future enrollments and the renovations or additional space that may be required; and
THAT the House urges the Government of the Yukon to review the rural school facility study and implement the recommendations as outlined in the report.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House
(1) that completion of a sustainable network of Yukon protected areas will ensure the protection of the territory's ecological diversity for future generations and for economic opportunities and certainty;
(2) that the Yukon protected area strategy should be developed in partnership with federal and First Nations governments, citizens and stakeholders;
(3) that commonly agreed upon guidelines and public regional processes should be employed to implement the strategy where land claims have been completed; and
THAT this House commends the Government of Yukon for its work toward the establishment of a system of Yukon protected areas.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House
(1) that alcohol and drug abuse are major problems for Yukon society; and
(2)that the cancellation of the Government of Yukon's contract with the Crossroads treatment centre will have a very serious impact on Yukoners who are trying to recover from alcohol and drug abuse; and
THAT this House urges the Government of the Yukon to maintain its funding of the Crossroads treatment centre.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that Yukoners with fixed incomes, such as senior citizens, will be particularly hard hit by massive power rate increases, and this House urges the Government of Yukon to review the pioneer utility grant and give consideration to an increase in the grant to help Yukon seniors with their heating and electrical costs.
Mr. Livingston: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House
(1) that the Yukon economy is primarily reliant on its natural resources and government spending;
(2) that our economy needs to diversify to reduce the boom and bust cycles, particularly as overall government expenditures are declining; and
(3) that this involves identifying and developing new markets for value-added Yukon products beyond our borders and encouraging investment to create jobs and new economic opportunities; and
THAT this House encourages the Yukon government to continue its aggressive development of the trade and investment diversification strategy and other efforts to help reach this goal.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) Yukon people and businesses require a range of financial services to adequately meet their individual and commercial needs;
(2) it grows increasingly difficult for small businesses to secure capital loans; and
(3) the access to capital forum, held in Whitehorse in the fall of 1997, underlined the growing need and desire for greater access to capital options; and
THAT this House supports the efforts of the Yukon government to explore and encourage alternative banking activities, such as (1) establishing credit unions and cooperatives; (2) providing for micro and small business loans; (3) creating services and assistance for small business start-ups and ongoing capital needs, and similar efforts aimed at empowering individuals, small businesses and communities to diversify the economy and create new employment opportunities.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Job creation
Mr. Ostashek: My question is to the Government Leader.
The unemployment rate in the Yukon is already at 11.3 percent and can be expected to rise dramatically as the closure of the Faro mine comes into full effect. The budget that the Government Leader will be tabling this afternoon, in his capacity as Finance minister, won't start to take effect until April 1. It will be some time after that before there will be any spinoff effects in the private sector for job creation, if there is any in the budget.
I would like to know from the Government Leader today if the government has a contingency plan to put Yukoners to work now. Can the Government Leader advise us if there are any new initiatives that he will be announcing over the next few weeks to put Yukoners to work?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, the member is quite right when he cites the loss of the Anvil Range mine as the primary reason for the projected increase in unemployment in the territory. Certainly, the government itself has spent considerable energy in ensuring that the closure of the mine, this time around, has respected the workers and their needs adequately. As we know from the last go-around, the workers suffered greatly and there was a lot of fallout from that closure that didn't need to happen. We certainly have been spending energy in ensuring that the opportunities for the workers have been secured through the court process.
We, in the last budget, announced the community development fund, among other things, which does provide for employment throughout the winter. The Minister of Economic Development has been approving projects under the community development fund that are the priority of the communities themselves. That was an innovation that, I think, people around the territory have universally accepted and embraced. So, we are doing things. We actually didn't need the Faro mine to tell us to provide some support for Yukoners but, certainly, the member is quite right that the loss of the mine has exemplified the need for that.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm sort of disappointed with the Government Leader's answer and that he doesn't have anything further to offer Yukoners besides his much-touted community development fund. It may be putting some people to work but, Mr. Speaker, the reality is unemployment is going up, not down. And the now Minister of Economic Development, when he was in opposition and we were having a seven and one-half percent unemployment rate, said that was still far too high. Yet this government is doing absolutely nothing to put Yukoners to work.
I would like to ask the Government Leader, could he name one new initiative that he's going to bring in to help those unemployed Yukoners, whose numbers are going to rise quite dramatically in the next few weeks?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I am not going to be announcing, of course, that we are going to be, between now and the end of the fiscal year, raising taxes, as I know the member has a certain penchant for that particular approach to economic development. The member, I know, will be looking forward to the budget address which will be embracing a number of new and innovative initiatives to address the needs of our economy, but to say that the government has been doing nothing besides the CDF is, of course, patently false and the member knows it well.
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Economic Development has been very aggressively supporting not only the mining activity but new oil and gas activity for this territory. We have also undertaken to review the access to capital needs of the business community and have been exploring many of the suggestions that Yukoners have provided to us to ensure that we do meet the needs of small business.
But, Mr. Speaker, there are many other things that we have done in terms of diversifying the economy. The support for the abattoir project was just one example in one sector of the territorial economy. The fact that the commissioner for forestry has been pursuing, very aggressively, a forest strategy bodes well for the future of this territory. There are many, many things that I can cite. Question Period does not allow me the time and, when we get to the budget speech, the member will be over-awed with the amount of work that this government is doing to support the economy.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, it remains to be seen if I'll be over-awed or not. I might be over-yawned by what this government has done.
The Government Leader says he's not raising taxes. The fact remains that he can't raise taxes because of the Taxpayer Protection Act. It's time he got off that band wagon, because the people of the Yukon aren't buying it.
Mr. Speaker, this government knew last December that the Faro mine was going to close down, or that there was a good possibility it was going to close down. I would like the Government Leader to explain to this House why his government has failed to prepare a contingency plan that would put Yukoners to work, in light of the Faro mine closure.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, once again, first of all, what we can't do - and clearly the budget estimates for this current year show it - and what the member would like us to do is to spend big time with money we don't have. We can't do that. We will not do that. So I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker, but if the member wants us to borrow to spend, or to tax to spend, we'll take neither course. There are other courses we can take, and we are taking, that are more creative, more innovative and provide for a more solid foundation for the future than the member's own limited vision.
First of all, we did not know that the Faro mine was going to close down last December, as the member alleged today and as the member alleged last month. That's patently false. Even the members of the board itself did not know that the mine was going to close last December. In fact, we were quite hopeful that the mine was going to continue and was going to overcome its obvious funding problems.
With respect to the so-called contingency plan, Mr. Speaker, a government is obviously very hard pressed in the short term - apart from spending big money, which the member was able to do, thanks to the negotiating efforts of the Yukon NDP government in securing the hospital and the Shakwak project funding - but the government cannot make up for a loss of a thousand jobs instantly, as he suggests. The member knows full well that his prescription lacks any kind of vision or foresight.
Question re: Crossroads
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health and Social Services - or as he is now known in the local press, the "roly-poly minister responsible for debacles and bungles" - and it concerns the Crossroads treatment centre.
Crossroads has provided recovery and healing of individuals who experience alcohol- and drug-related problems since 1972. While Crossroads did experience some difficulty for a short period of time, it has proven to be a very effective treatment centre for some 26 years. Can the minister advise the House why he cancelled the Crossroads contract without even extending the board the courtesy of consulting with them first? Why did he at least not do that, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I always say that people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.
With regard to the member's comments, I'm a little surprised because I recall, back in September, he was the one who was calling for a major investigation and was questioning the advisability of continuing to fund Crossroads. So I'm just a little surprised, I guess, that he has had one of those road-to-Damascus experiences.
With regard to this, I think it's no secret that there have been some issues surrounding Crossroads for a considerable length of time. We have chosen to move in a different direction for alcohol and drug treatment in this territory, and we've taken the according steps.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister, Mr. Speaker, is effectively replacing a proven 28-day residential treatment program with a new 14-day out-patient program in Whitehorse, combined with a yet unnamed community treatment program. Can the minister advise the House what treatment programs will be provided in the community and who will deliver these community programs?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I suppose if the member had availed himself of the opportunities that were offered to him to get a complete briefing on the program, he would be aware of the fact that he has misrepresented this program. It's considerably more than 14 days.
We are looking at quite a comprehensive program, including pretreatment, medical detoxification, treatment itself, relapse prevention. As well, we're also looking at trying to address some of the needs of people within communities and I can report today that today is the first day of us offering our new program up at Kwanlin Dun.
Mr. Jenkins: Well then, can the minister advise the House if Yukon government employees are going to replace the Crossroads workers? Does he really believe he can provide alcohol and drug treatment programs less expensively than the Crossroads board was providing them?
I'm sure if the minister believes that, I'd recommend that he himself should seek immediate treatment, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I won't rise to the rather cheap bait, but what I will say is that yes, we are going to be providing it.
Question re: Crossroads
Mrs. Edelman: The NDP government, which has already decided to close the Crossroads program without any consultation, are currently in the process of consulting Yukoners about what they want from treatment programs for alcohol and drug addictions. So what we have here is a dipsy-doodle backward kind of consultation where you make the decision, then you consult.
Now, Mr. Speaker, will the feedback from these consultations in any way affect the decision to close the Crossroads treatment program?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, it's not anticipated that it would impact on that particular aspect. If the member does recall her briefing from the director of alcohol and drug services, she will recall that there was community consultation, so I would take exception to her allegation that there was no consultation.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, that's interesting, because when I spoke with the people who were being consulted out in the rural areas by the person who came out from alcohol and drug services, they were not aware that they were talking about changing the way alcohol treatment programs were being delivered in Whitehorse.
Now, typically, health and social services that are delivered by NGOs - non-governmental organizations - are a more efficient use of tax dollars, because they bring in volunteer labour and expertise, they involve the community, they are often funded by other agencies and, in general, they are cheaper to operate.
Did the Minister of Health and Social Services look at any other NGOs, other than Crossroads, to deliver alcohol and drug programs here in Whitehorse, before the department moved in to take over the service?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Our aim in making the changes and bringing in the new program was to provide a more seamless and integrated approach. That's what we intend to do. We believe we can do it by a more appropriate incorporation of detox and ADS services.
Mrs. Edelman: Back in the election, and that was a very long 18 months ago, the NDP promised, and I quote, "people need to be consulted about the changes that affect them."
Recently, an announcement was made about the closure of the Crossroads treatment centre, and the volunteer board of Crossroads was, and I quote, "surprised by this announcement."
What is the mechanism that YTG uses to consult with volunteer NGO boards that contract with Health and Social Services?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can provide for the member a rather complete chronology of all the discussions that preceded this decision. I can tell the member that this was not something that was done instantaneously. As a matter of fact, in doing some research on this, I went back and noted that some of the issues that had emerged in some of the community consultations were some that had emerged in previous years, so there were clearly some issues that needed to be addressed. We made that decision, and proceeded with it.
Question re: Old Crow school
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Government Services. The request for proposal terms of reference for the Old Crow school replacement project clearly state that the consultant was required to meet with the Government Services business incentive officer prior to starting any design work. The meeting was to familiarize the consultant with the Yukon business incentive policy and Yukon manufactured products.
Is the minister satisfied that this condition was met and that the required meetings took place?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As to the required meetings, I'm not sure. I can check into that. What I do know is that the designer was aware of our desire to maximize the Yukon content.
Ms. Duncan: The request for proposals states that specifications must not name brands or standards of acceptance that preclude the use of Yukon manufactured materials. The local hire commission recommendation, the final report, suggests in recommendation no. 13 that contract departments discuss specifications with industry in order to ensure all opportunities and efficiencies are taken into account and that potential Yukon manufacturers are not excluded.
If the consultation in my first question took place, the tender for the floor joists should not have specified the woodeye system by Truss Joist McMillan of Canada.
Would the minister table documentation or provide it to the opposition caucuses where it clearly demonstrates that discussions with industry took place and that there was some indication that the Truss Joist McMillan product was in some way better than the Yukon manufactured product?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That's a somewhat protracted question but what I will try to do is provide some information for the member.
I should say that, in this particular case, there were some technical specifications that, given the nature of the building, given the nature of the foundations, given the rather compressed time schedule that we're working on with this project, required the architect to make some decisions.
Those decisions were reviewed. I can tell the member that, when we became aware of this problem, we did review it. We asked for further technical clarification. Given the variety of issues around this particular project, those were the technical specifications that were adopted.
Ms. Duncan: Those technical specifications clearly excluded the Yukon manufactured products. Would the minister provide documentation - he indicated that a review had taken place - of that review, and the reason why Yukon-manufactured products were excluded?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, I can provide some technical information on the decision to go with the I-beams. Suffice it to say that there were basically some decisions that were built around the nature of the pilings or the nature of the foundation and the need to retain a cold space for permafrost reasons, and some of the other technical reasons that flew out of that.
Question re: Old Crow school
Mr. Phillips: The minister's pretty thin on his answer with respect to this issue. I have questions of the same minister on that same matter.
His colleague, the Member for Whitehorse Centre, expressed outrage about the decision that the Minister of Government Services made when he chose a truss joist product that was not produced locally. In fact, he called it a "bloody big mistake". The minister admitted that he was made aware of these concerns over a month ago. In fact, I think the Member for Whitehorse Centre spoke to the minister about it and the Member for Whitehorse Centre went back to the Whitehorse suppliers of joists and told them that he had taken care of it, that things were being done and it was being worked on. Obviously, they didn't work on it very much.
Why did the Minister of Government Services, when he was made aware of it by the Member for Whitehorse Centre, not take action to ensure immediately that the contract guidelines that his department had written were followed and that Yukoners were going to be allowed to bid on this product - a product that could have been made in the territory and has been used on several other jobs in the territory already?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm glad to see that so much interest has been aroused in such a generally prosaic subject. I should remind the member that the same floor joists are used over in his pet project over there, the Tourism Business Centre.
With regard to this, I did meet with the Yukon hire commissioner. He raised some concerns. I then asked the department for clarification. We asked for some further technical information, technical justification, from the architect as to the choice. We took a look at what would have been needed, which would have been actually a very, very, very substantial change and probably a delay in the project, and we didn't feel that that could be justified to the children of Old Crow, and we're still working, I suppose, under former rules, and we have to follow those.
Mr. Phillips: Well, this minister makes excuses. It's everybody else's fault but his.
Mr. Speaker, we've known for almost a year that this government is going to build a school in Old Crow. Time constraints to design a school with Yukon-manufactured trusses - Mr. Speaker, it's not an excuse to say that he didn't have time to do that. That could have been part of the specifications. In fact, the specifications that came out ruled the Yukon trusses out.
I'd like to ask the minister responsible for Government Services, who claims to be heralding Yukon hire, why in the specifications, Mr. Speaker, did they also specify that the insulation - the batt insulation and the Styrofoam pieces of insulation to go in - are now going to have to come in from outside the territory when there are two companies in this territory who can produce foam insulation that could have been used in the project as well. Why were those Yukoners excluded from this project as well as the roof truss manufacturers? Why are we leaving out the local manufacturers?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm not quite sure what the member is getting at, but I can tell him that there have been a number of contracts let in the last few days, most of which, if not all, went to Yukon suppliers. There will always be components that can't be provided, and I suppose we always have to go by what our architects and technical people recommend, and in this case, this was the recommendation for a whole variety of reasons.
Mr. Phillips: I agree with the minister. There will always be outside components to these, but we produce trusses in this territory now that can be used in our schools. They're in the Holy Family School; they're in the Hidden Valley School. The trusses are already in some of our schools.
There are companies here that produce the insulation, the blow-in insulation. We don't have to bring in batts for this school, which are going to come from outside.
Can the minister tell me why the companies that were the agents for the truss company in the territory were called about the job in Old Crow, specifying their trusses before the tender was even public?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, one of the things we've asked the department to do is to try to ensure that we have some of these materials available and that they can be manufactured.
But I'm interested, for example, I'm a little surprised that a former Minister of Education is so unaware of the construction of both Hidden Valley and the Holy Family School because he may not have had the opportunity to tour the schools in quite the complete detail that I have and I can tell him it's a very, very different construction. For one thing, the wooden, open-web construction does not lend itself to a permafrost type of environment.
The Hidden Valley School has sprinkers. It has a heated crawl space. It also has a water tank under there. Perhaps if the member were to familiarize himself with some actual construction, he might be better informed.
Question re: Electrical rate stabilization
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation on energy rates.
The Government Leader has been quoted as saying that, with Anvil Range down, electrical rates will have to go up. Now there has been some public discussion on just what those rate increases would be. Would the minister inform this House what increase we will have if there is no further government intervention in the anticipated rate increase that will be necessary to make up for the shortfall in revenue from the closing of the Anvil Range mine?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I must say to the member this has been a challenge. Since we were sworn in, we've now twice had the Faro mine shut down and go off the grid and, as they are such a major customer of the Yukon Energy Corporation, it has - as it always has had - quite an impact on rates in this territory. However, we're also pleased that, over the last few months, we will be having three different successive energy rate decreases, which I think is a good thing for Yukoners. This new situation presents and poses for us a problem but it is difficult at this point to establish exactly what the impact will be, for two reasons: the first being the Energy Corporation was to go before the Yukon Utilities Board for a 1997 rate finalization at the time the CCAA for Anvil was announced. Subsequent to that, the courts ordered that they could not do that for a period of time. Secondly, Mr. Speaker, the Anvil Range mine has been given, as members know, a five-week extension to their restructuring plans, which will obviously have a bearing on the future operational requirements and uses of energy for the minesite.
So, at this point, the Energy Corporation is still struggling, and I'm meeting with the chair of the board of directors this week to determine exactly what that impact might be. It is still too early to tell, for the two reasons I've indicated to the member opposite.
Mr. Cable: I know the minister is astute enough politically to run the range of rate increases that we might face. So, cutting through all the bafflegab, what is the range of rate increases that we are looking at because of the Anvil Range mine closure?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I have to apologize to the member opposite. I wasn't intending to give him bafflegab. I was trying to give him very serious, very important reasons why the Energy Corporation isn't able to be clearer about what the potential impact may be of the mine going off the grid. The court's order that said that the 1997 finalization of rates could not be held is not bafflegab; it is a significant factor. Secondly, the fact that Anvil's restructuring plans have been extended by the court is not bafflegab. It is a significant fact to deal with in the finalization of rates.
I will say to the member opposite that, with regard to the scenarios put forward by the official opposition of 30 percent rate increases, the Energy Corporation is confident that, even if they were to take some kind of a worst case scenario, they wouldn't be dealing with those kinds of numbers.
Mr. Cable: I've asked the minister this question before, and we've had a few months to sort of gather our thoughts on energy rates. During the last election, this government made the promise that it would stabilize rates. It knew that Anvil Range went on and off the grid periodically.
When are the rate payers of this territory going to be looking at stable rates?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have to say again to the member that it has posed some serious challenges to this government to have the Faro mine go off the grid twice since the last election campaign, but we've been working through those issues. We've been working through the problems. We've had three rate decreases as a result of action taken by the Energy Corporation. As well, we've been going through the growing pains and organizational change of direct management. The energy utility just took that over on January 1, so there have been a significant number of challenges.
However, Mr. Speaker, with the rate decreases that have taken place, we are satisfied that there has been some easement, obviously, for our consumers. As well, we brought in a massive energy conservation program to encourage people in the private sector and residential home consumers to stop burning expensive electric heat generated by diesels. Thirdly, Mr. Speaker, the energy commission has been working very hard to come up with some initiatives for stabilization, and I'm sure they'll be looking forward to announcing them in the very near future, and the member will, I'm sure, be over-awed with the response.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Bill No. 9: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 9, standing in the name of the hon. Government Leader.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the First Appropriation Act, 1998-99, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 9, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1998-99, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Hon. members, this afternoon it is my honour to present our government's budget for capital spending and for operations and maintenance during the 1998-99 fiscal year.
This is a budget about jobs, about balancing priorities, and about a vision for the future.
It demonstrates that thoughtful choices made now can provide substantial benefits for Yukon people and their communities, both today and tomorrow.
This budget allows us to create jobs now through community projects, school construction, road building government and land development. And it helps establish a climate for job creation in the private sector.
It also sets a direction for the future, as we approach the end of the century and the beginning of a new millennium.
This is a pay-as-you-go budget that maintains an accumulated surplus of approximately $15 million. Our government believes it would be unwise to draw down our reserves below that level.
Our government is determined not to leave a legacy of debt to our children and grandchildren. Our legacy should be one of solid foundations for the future.
When we were sworn into office 16 months ago, we promised to protect public services, particularly in the vital areas of health and education.
We are doing this. And we're doing it without raising taxes or imposing health care premiums. Given the difficult choices we face, this has not been an easy task.
Mr. Speaker, the recent shutdown of the Anvil Range mine in Faro leaves the Yukon once again confronting the boom-and-bust risks involved in an economy that is subject to market forces over which we have little direct control.
Our government is acting in a responsible manner to address the current situation and is taking thoughtful measures to broaden the territory's economic base in the long term.
In keeping with the need to look forward and plan for balanced growth, we are increasing our commitments to economic diversification, protected areas, health care, education, training, programs for young people and measures to combat poverty.
Yukon people want a balance between economic programs and social programs, just as they want a balance between resource development and environmental protection.
They want government to provide leadership and to work with them in respectful partnerships.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a budget that meets these expectations.
The budget I am tabling today shows projected income for the coming fiscal year of $437 million. This is a decrease of over $10 million from last year's main estimates. While this is not a crisis, it does present a serious challenge in terms of maintaining services and creating jobs, yet still living within our means.
This decrease in income results from reduced transfer payments for social programs, combined with the closure of the Faro mine. A further constraint is the lack of revenue recoveries from major construction projects, such as the Shakwak highway reconstruction, that provided a stimulus to the Yukon's economy in previous years.
Along with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, I have actively sought support from the Governor of Alaska and others for the completion of the Shakwak Highway project. While we look forward to a positive decision, the matter is currently tied up in the complex budgeting process of the United States Congress. As a result, we are not planning to receive any new revenue from that project at this time.
Offsetting the decrease in the transfer from Canada resulting from the mine closure is an $8 million increase under formula financing, which we expect to receive as a result of growth in the Yukon's population.
This is expected to show up in the official census figures to be released later this year.
Half of this sum is likely to be ongoing, while half is a one-time catch-up payment, which we have shown separately in our budget documents.
These figures should not be considered definitive, and the final census adjustment could result in increased revenue to be addressed in a supplementary estimate.
The 1998-99 estimates are also based on an assumption that the Anvil Range mine in Faro will not be in operation during the coming fiscal year.
Although our government still believes in the potential of the Faro mine property, the collapse of Asian markets and the decline in base metal prices suggest that it would not be prudent to budget for a resumption of mining activity at the Faro mine.
At the same time, we are working with the mine's owners and investors, with labour and the community.
We are willing to explore reasonable avenues to get an economically viable mine back into operation as quickly as possible.
Our government remains confident about the long-term potential of mining in the Yukon.
We will provide a supportive climate for responsible mineral development, as we have done all along. Mining companies continue to say they consider the Yukon a worthwhile place to invest and operate, once world metal prices and the climate for raising exploration capital improve.
Mr. Speaker, on the expenditure side, we are seeking authority for total spending of just over $441 million, in addition to $4.5 million set aside to meet contingencies.
This is $11 million less than least year's main estimates. It projects an operating deficit for this fiscal year of $8.7 million.
Even before lapses from the current year are taken into account, this will leave an accumulated surplus of $15 million at the end of March 1999.
This is consistent with the pattern of sustainable spending outlined in last year's budget address. It also reinforces our government's commitment to thoughtful, responsible stewardship of public funds.
In the estimates for operations and maintenance, this budget seeks authority for total spending of $370.4 million. This allows us to maintain services to Yukon people.
As members realize, last year we faced a sizeable increase in health and social services costs. This called for a careful rebalancing of priorities by all departments.
The increase in this year's O&M budget over last year's main estimates reflects decisions already made to support priority areas.
Mr. Speaker, we are also seeking authority for $70.6 million in capital spending, of which $22 million is recoverable.
While it should be acknowledged that this is the lowest level of gross capital spending in some time, it reflects the reality of preserving health and education services along with reduced overall income.
With the federal government now projecting balanced budgets and even surpluses, the Yukon will keep up its efforts with other jurisdictions to press Ottawa to abandon policies that are eroding Canada's social safety net.
At the same time, we will continue to seek ways to deliver important public services in an effective manner, ensuring that our programs provide the maximum benefit to Yukon people and their communities.
I should also point out that this year, once again, capital expenditures comprise a much higher percentage of our total budget than they do in any other province or territory.
Our capital spending will be done in a thoughtful, balanced way to give Yukon taxpayers maximum value for their money.
For example, we have once again cut spending on furniture, equipment and systems for internal government operations. A 15-percent reduction in these items this year puts more capital dollars to work in higher priority areas.
Mr. Speaker, this budget has had the benefit of considerable input from people in every community in the Yukon through a series of public consultations this past fall and winter.
This process is consistent with our pledge to listen to Yukon people and involve them directly in decisions that affect their lives.
It is also consistent with our commitment to lengthen our planning framework to ensure a measure of stability and predictability in government spending patterns. One clear example on the capital side is our planning for school construction.
In this fiscal year, $5.2 million will be spent to build the new Chief Zzeh Gittlit School in Old Crow. This is in addition to almost $650,000 currently being spent for a winter road to carry in building supplies and furnishings.
Our government also intends to build a new school in Ross River in the summer of 1999, and a new school in Mayo in the year 2000.
By setting these construction targets, our government is creating jobs now and helping to provide future stability for those who work in the building industry.
As part of its capital budget of $12.2 million, the Department of Education will spend over $1 million this year on other school improvements. This includes $450,000 to alter various school facilities, $300,000 to upgrade F.H. Collins Secondary School, and $250,000 for renovations to the Christ the King Elementary School.
Mr. Speaker, our capital budget will also create jobs this year through major investments to improve Yukon roads.
The Department of Community and Transportation Services will spend $3.7 million on upgrading the Alaska Highway. An additional $1.5 million in recoverable spending is projected for the Shakwak portion of the highway.
A further $2 million will go toward reconstruction and surfacing of the Campbell Highway.
Much of this work will take place on the south Campbell Highway between Ross River and Watson Lake. Besides providing jobs and other direct benefits to local people, this will improve safety and travel conditions for businesses, industrial, recreational and tourist travellers in east-central Yukon.
A total of $763,000 is set aside to complete work on the section of the Top of the World Highway between Dawson City and the U.S. border.
The Government of Alaska has announced that it will begin work on its portion of the highway in the year 2001. Once the upgrading is completed, this spectacular route will be even more attractive to visitors to the Yukon.
Other items, including major bridge repainting, bring total capital spending on the territory's principal roads this year to almost $9 million.
I'm also very pleased to announce that we are making a special allotment of $500,000 to improve secondary roads throughout the territory.
This will create work for many small contractors and workers in rural Yukon. It will also raise the standards of local roads for the benefit of residents and visitors alike.
Capital expenditures on community infrastructure include $360,000 for a swimming pool in Ross River and $150,000 for sewage treatment facilities in Destruction Bay.
Mr. Speaker, one of the most significant steps our government took last year in putting Yukon people to work and strengthening our communities was to establish the new community development fund.
People in one community after another have told us the CDF is a positive force in creating employment and helping them meet other community goals.
Some of the smaller projects already approved in tiers 1 and 2 this year include improved ski trails for the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, improvements to the Yukon Transportation Museum, and interior renovations and a new roof for the Dawson City Music Festival office.
The CDF also funded a wheelchair ramp and an accessible washroom for the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, as well as renovations to the Emergency Measures Organization hall in Carcross and the White River First Nation's administration complex.
Major projects under tier 3 of the program will be announced in the near future.
These are just a few examples of the CDF providing jobs and training opportunities year round, and helping Yukon people improve their communities with projects they identify as community priorities.
In that light, and in order to do even more to create jobs, I'm pleased to announce a 75-percent increase in the community development fund for 1998-99. This will bring it to a total of $3.5 million.
The Department of Economic Development is also reviewing its procedures to streamline the processing of applications, so that money can be disbursed more quickly to create jobs and meeting community needs in a more timely manner.
Another area of capital spending that will help put Yukon people to work this year is land development.
Our government has often spoken about the need to provide Yukon people with a range of options in terms of residential land to reflect both income levels and lifestyle choices. This budget responds to that need in a number of ways.
A total of $580,000 has been designated in the Community and Transportation Services budget to develop a greater supply of country residential lots in Whitehorse. There is a further $390,000 for country residential lots in Carcross, Dawson City, Haines Junction and Ross River.
There is also a major investment of $3 million for urban residential lots in phase 2 of the Copper Ridge subdivision in Whitehorse.
Today, I am announcing a major step forward in the context of our mobile home strategy. It is one result of ongoing discussions among mobile home owners and residents, the City of Whitehorse and the Yukon Housing Corporation. Security of land tenure is one of the prime concerns of mobile home dwellers. This is particularly important for people in older units that do not meet the standards for existing mobile home subdivisions within the City of Whitehorse.
The Yukon Housing Corporation recently concluded preliminary plans for a 50-lot mobile home development in the Range Road area. The corporation is undertaking this $2 million condominium project as part of its $13.9 million overall capital budget. Construction is scheduled for this summer. The result will be a safe, well-landscaped, residential area with wide roads and attractive recreational areas.
This new supply of strata title lots will greatly increase the options for affordable home ownership available to people who want to relocate and upgrade their mobile home units.
In addition to this project, Community and Transportation Services will spend $600,000 this year to develop affordable mobile home lots in the Whitehorse area.
On a final note about new housing initiatives, we are spending $294,000 this year to help home owners on the Whitehorse waterfront to relocate. This is necessary for future waterfront development, and our government wants to ensure that the relocation respects the needs and dignity of the people involved.
Mr. Speaker, my remarks so far have concentrated primarily on how our government's spending priorities for this year will create jobs and economic benefits in the short term.
For the remainder of my remarks, I would like to turn to the long-term impacts of the decisions we are making now.
These decisions reflect our commitment to providing an economic vision, a social vision and an environmental vision for the territory as we approach the third millennium.
With respect to the economy, the shutdown of the Faro mine once again reminds us how important it is to counteract the boom-and-bust cycles that have traditionally characterized the Yukon's economy.
We need to foster and enhance our traditional mineral resource sector, but we also need to take creative steps to diversify our economy.
In areas such as forestry, oil and gas development, and agriculture, for example, we must seek opportunities to add local value to our resources in the form of jobs and other economic spinoffs.
Broadening the Yukon's economic base is not something that can be accomplished overnight, but our government is working hard to prepare the groundwork for a more stable, balanced and diversified economy.
In last year's budget speech, we promised to expand the role of the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment.
The recommendations the council brings forward from Yukon people should suggest practical ways to strengthen and diversify the economy.
During the past year, the Department of Economic Development has been implementing our government's trade and investment diversification strategy.
This has involved considerable cooperation with the business community and Yukon First Nations.
Our efforts in this area reflect an awareness that we cannot continue to rely so heavily on mining and government spending as the principal means of maintaining our standard of living.
We need to look forward and outward to pursue ways to broaden our local economy.
Today I am announcing a substantial increase of $500,000 in the budget for the trade and investment diversification strategy.
One goal of this strategy is to help local businesses develop the capacity to sell their goods and services outside the Yukon. We believe this will make Yukon companies stronger financially and create more Yukon jobs.
An example of how we are doing this is our participation in trade missions. The business people who took part in this year's Team Canada trade mission to Latin America have spoken highly of the long-term opportunities such activities present.
The Yukon's involvement in future trade missions should expand to include representatives of labour and First Nations, as well as more local business people.
At the same time, we believe that economic benefits here must not come at the expense of decent labour, health, safety and environmental standards in other parts of the world.
During last month's Team Canada mission we spoke out in favour of fairer trade, and we will continue to do so.
In the debate on the multilateral agreement on investment last fall, our caucus took a stand against any international arrangements that would limit our ability to enact measures to protect our people and our environment.
The trade and investment diversification strategy also involves taking advantage of investment and trade opportunities closer to home.
Our government will continue to be well-represented at industry conferences and other activities, and to pursue new partnerships with our neighbours in Alaska, the provinces and the Northwest Territories.
We recognize that achieving success in international and interprovincial trade takes time. Our government is committed to the long haul.
Another goal of the trade and investment diversification strategy is to identify ways that government can help Yukon entrepreneurs gain access to the capital they need to establish, expand or diversify their businesses.
Small business owners, especially those in rural communities, or those who operate from their homes, often find it difficult to secure even modest financial support.
During this sitting, the Minister of Economic Development will announce steps his department is taking to follow up on recommendations from the access to capital forum help in Whitehorse last fall.
His officials are also working to set up an immigrant investor fund to attract investment from outside the territory that is appropriate to the goals and values of Yukon people and will help create jobs here.
One potential area for outside investment is the development of the territory's petroleum resources under the new Yukon Oil and Gas Act.
The department will be launching a major marketing campaign this spring to raise awareness about the act and the Yukon's oil and gas potential.
Responsible development of these resources could go a long way to create employment, reduce energy costs and generate revenue for health, education and other public services in the Yukon.
Another area for potential investment is forestry. The Yukon forest commission has held extensive consultations on a made-in-Yukon forest policy to prepare for the transfer of responsibilities for lands and resources from the federal government to Yukon control.
Responsible, sustainable management of the Yukon's forest resources could help add value to the economy by creating jobs in local manufacturing.
The steps we are taking now to promote sustainable economic development are part of a multi-year approach to broaden the Yukon's economic base and provide security for the future.
The current uncertainty about the mining industry and metal markets serves to highlight the importance of tourism as another major component of the Yukon's private sector economic activity.
Recent efforts by the Department of Tourism have resulted in significant developments to increase the number of visitors to the Yukon.
One example is the deal signed last year with Air Transat, which will see regular direct flights from Frankfurt, Germany, to Whitehorse starting this summer.
This year's capital budget for Community and Transportation Services includes $70,000 to study options for runway expansion at the Whitehorse Airport to accommodate larger aircraft.
I would also like to acknowledge the work done by the people of Watson Lake to attract winter visitors from Taiwan. This is the kind of initiative that other communities could pursue to help raise awareness of the Yukon as a year-round tourist destination.
This year the Department of Tourism will spend an additional $200,000 on marketing initiatives. Next month, the Minister of Tourism will travel to Europe to continue his efforts to attract visitors to the territory.
As members know, Mr. Speaker, this is the year Yukon people look back and celebrate our first 100 years of membership in the Canadian family.
It also marks the centenary of the famous Klondike Gold Rush that brought our territory to the world's attention.
I'm pleased to announce that this budget provides funding of $150,000 this year for community activities to celebrate the centennials.
As we play host to people from every corner of the globe, I'm sure the pride and enthusiasm we feel as Yukoners will rub off on all of them.
While we celebrate the past 100 years, it is equally important to set our sights on the next 100 years.
The Speech from the Throne on December 1996, spoke of the need to present the territory's natural beauty and cultural heritage to the world in a positive, respectful and sustainable way. We also made a commitment at that time to work with industry, communities and First Nations to develop a tourism plan for the future. This budget sets aside $50,000 for consultations on a long-term tourism strategy.
As members are aware, a draft wilderness tourism licensing act is now being reviewed by interested groups. Our government expects adventure tourism that respects our majestic landscape and pristine environment to play a positive role in our future economic development.
The protected areas strategy, which is one of our government's major environmental initiatives, can also make a significant contribution to diversifying the economy. By identifying and setting aside representative areas of the territory's 23 distinct ecoregions, the protected areas strategy will provide an additional incentive for visitors from around the world to experience and learn from the Yukon's unique outdoor opportunities.
Mr. Speaker, as we look ahead to a more balanced economy, with new jobs and economic opportunities, it is essential to take steps now so that Yukon people will be in a position to benefit from those opportunities. Training Yukon workers for the specific needs of a changing labour market is a high priority for our government.
During our pre-budget consultations, many people stressed the importance of training. I recall one man in Carmacks emphatically stating that what his community needs most is "training, training and more training."
Last year's capital budget for the Department of Education set aside $1 million for training trust funds, including Youth Works and mine industry training. This year, we are increasing that commitment by 50 per cent with an allocation for training trust funds of $1.5 million. Of that amount, $200,000 is being earmarked to design and deliver training programs for jobs in the forest industry.
The Minister of Education will provide details about other trust funds, such as training to support non-governmental organizations, once negotiations are concluded. The increased funding will make it possible to design training programs that address the particular needs and goals of Yukon workers and employers.
The Yukon government recently concluded a labour force development agreement with the federal government that outlines how our two governments will share responsibility for training.
In order to ensure that these efforts meet local needs now and in the future, advanced education has been revising the Yukon training strategy. Final consultations will take place this spring.
Mr. Speaker, when our government took office just over a year ago, we made a commitment to increase opportunities for Yukon workers and businesses. We said we would take steps to ensure that local people would be the first to benefit from publicly funded projects.
The Yukon Hire Commission did an excellent job of listening to the views of hundreds of Yukon people about how government spending could have a more positive impact in the Yukon.
The commission concluded its work by making many practical suggestions about how to achieve the goal of putting public funds to work in the community.
The Department of Government Services has been working with other departments to develop a coordinated response to the commission's recommendations. In the next few weeks, the minister will outline that implementation plan in the House.
This is another example of foundations being built now to benefit Yukon workers and businesses for years to come.
Mr. Speaker, another economic planning issue I want to highlight is what our government is doing now to stabilize electricity rates in the future for Yukon residents and businesses.
The shutdown of the Faro mine has increased public concern about electricity costs.
As members are aware, whenever the Yukon Energy Corporation's largest customer goes off the system, the result has traditionally been a substantial rate increase for other ratepayers.
This is because the fixed costs, or mortgage, associated with the Yukon's electricity assets must be paid whether the mine is operating or not.
Our government is taking direct measures to reduce the potential rate shock to other ratepayers from the recent mine shutdown and to stabilize electricity rates in future. Those measures will be announced soon.
Mr. Speaker, as members are aware, the Cabinet Commission on Energy has been doing extensive work with stakeholders and experts in the energy field.
Starting next month, it will begin holding public consultation on a broad range of energy-related issues.
One focus of these consultations will be a set of options for an improved rate relief program that would come into effect next fall.
These options include a targeted rate relief program to help people who need it the most.
Another option the commission will present for discussion is a seasonal rate relief program to help residential consumers during the coldest and darkest time of the year.
This year the publicly owned Yukon Energy Corporation took over direct management of the territory's electricity assets.
This gives Yukon people more control over the energy system.
The YEC board of directors is examining ways to reduce expenses while improving services and infrastructure.
In the meantime, our government is looking at various energy supply options that would provide reliable, lower cost power and reduce our dependence on diesel fuel.
One option we are examining is the feasibility of interconnecting Yukon's electrical grid with our nearest neighbours.
This would be a major, long-term project that could promote sustainable development for the future by utilizing surplus hydro from British Columbia, for example.
This budget sets aside $100,000 as the Yukon's contribution toward a feasibility study. Both B.C. Hydro and the Government of British Columbia have expressed interest in pursuing this initiative with us.
Mr. Speaker, as we turn the corner into the new millennium, it is important to consider how we can best use our limited resources to meet the major capital needs of Yukon communities in the future.
One way is to incur long-term debt, and transfer the burden to coming generations. As I said earlier, our government is opposed to this approach.
A more creative solution is to set aside money now in special savings accounts that can accumulate funds for major projects that would be too expensive to undertake in any one budget year.
I'm pleased to announce the creation of two such savings accounts in this year's capital budget, as ongoing commitments for several years to come.
The first is a Canada Winter Games building fund. This would finance the territorial government's contribution toward the City of Whitehorse building requirements to host this exciting national event in the year 2007.
A total of $1 million is being set aside this year. This building fund will receive the same amount for each of the following six years. With accrued interest, the total contribution from the Yukon government will be approximately $8.2 million.
This will help provide new recreational facilities to welcome Canada's top athletes to our capital city, and create a lasting legacy for the enjoyment of Yukon people.
The second special savings account we are introducing is a nine-year commitment of $1 million a year for a major capital project in Dawson City.
On behalf of the community, the mayor has identified a recreation centre as Dawson's top capital priority.
We also recognize that the town faces a significant capital expenditure for a new sewage treatment facility, which we are prepared to help finance.
Should the water licensing authorities decide that a sewage treatment facility is not required by the year 2005, our government is prepared to use the special savings account for a recreation centre.
Setting our contribution aside in advance is a concrete example of planning now to meet the future needs of Yukon communities.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to turn now to what our government is doing to provide social programs for Yukon people in the present and the foundations we are building for the future.
In the first year of our mandate, we undertook a major exercise in long-term planning, involving all departments, Crown corporations and agencies. The result was an action agenda for the years 1997 to 2000 to meet the priorities that Yukon people want their government to address.
That agenda will be reviewed and updated regularly to make sure it reflects the changing needs and choices of a dynamic society. One of the five principal commitments at the heart of that agenda is to foster healthy communities. As a demonstration of that commitment, this budget shows that spending on Health and Social Services, Education and Justice continues to account for more than half of our operation and maintenance spending. Of the total O&M budget of $370 million, these three areas alone account for almost $220 million, with an additional $16 million in the capital budget.
At a time when the federal government has reduced its support in these areas, and many Canadian jurisdictions have closed hospitals and schools, we are maintaining levels of spending for these important public services.
Once again, I would like to stress that we are doing this without raising taxes or imposing health care premiums.
During my recent pre-budget consultations across the territory, some people suggested a health care premium, especially since rising health and social service costs continue to pose a major challenge.
However, our government believes universal access to high-quality, publicly funded health care should be a fundamental right for all Canadians. We will continue to resist imposing a medicare fee on Yukon families.
We are also making good on our promise to provide stable funding to non-governmental organizations for the valuable services they provide to people in our communities.
This budget increases our commitment to the territory's largest health care facility, the Whitehorse General Hospital, by $530,000.
This is over and above last year's increase to the hospital's base budget of almost $1 million.
Last year, the Yukon took over responsibility for community and public health programs.
This year, our spending on community health programs and community nursing will total almost $14 million.
Mr. Speaker, we also recognize that hospitals and nursing stations are only part of the picture when it comes to delivering health care services.
Aftercare in a patient's own home is often required or preferred.
With this in mind, I'm happy to report that we are making a major investment in home care throughout the territory.
This year, we will spend an additional $305,000 on this important service. This will allow many patients to leave hospital sooner and complete their recuperation in the comfort of their own homes.
Another important initiative is an additional $128,000 a year for a two-year pilot program for community-based mental health care.
This is part of an overall commitment to mental health services of approximately $1.5 million.
This new funding is designed to help avoid unnecessary hospital admissions for mental health clients and to ease the transition from hospital to community.
It will also help provide mental health clients with autonomy and independence in the community.
Our government's goal is to develop less expensive, less intrusive, ways to provide support for Yukon people who are experiencing difficulties.
The Department of Health and Social Services is also changing the way it delivers drug and alcohol treatment services.
The heart of this new approach is a 14-day medical detoxification period, followed by a 12-day therapy program and an additional 14-day community integration program. This will be part of a two-year process involving other services to prevent relapses.
The new program will allow greater flexibility in service delivery. It will also make room for some support to First Nations and other Yukon communities to deliver culturally appropriate services at the community level.
Mr. Speaker, a core element of any vision for the Yukon's future is the way we prepare our young people to meet the challenges of life and work.
The cornerstone of our commitment to Yukon youth is maintaining a high standard of public education.
This budget upholds our commitment to public education with a total O&M expenditure of $81 million and capital spending of $12.2 million.
But educational spending is only one aspect of building a solid foundation for young people. Yukon people frequently raise the social and recreational needs of young people as a top priority for their communities.
From Carcross to Old Crow, community members have said their youth need recreational activities and other programs to provide positive outlets for their energies and to help prepare them for adulthood.
This is a general concern for all young people, not just those who've been in trouble with the law or who are at risk.
We recognize that the vast majority of Yukon children respect the law and the rights of others. We also recognize that all young people need opportunities to take part in worthwhile activities.
Our government's youth strategy includes a variety of elements, such as the youth entrepreneurship centre and the youth investment fund.
Another component of our youth strategy is the major investment we made in young people last year with the creation of Youth Works. Its purpose was to involve young people themselves in making key decisions about programs that would help prepare them for work and for life.
Youth Works is up and running under the Societies Act as the Association for Community Youth Initiatives, directed by a board consisting of six young people and four adults from across the territory.
We are continuing our support for Youth Works this year.
Last summer, our government initiated highly successful recreation leadership programs with young people in Ross River, Upper Liard and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation.
Besides providing summer job opportunities, these programs offered constructive activities that allowed young people to develop their personal skills.
This summer the youth recreation leadership program will be expanded to at least five communities across the territory, and similar programs could be developed for other times of the year.
Mr. Speaker, today I am announcing a further contribution of $200,000 toward programming for young people.
This funding will allow us to develop flexible, creative programs that will engage youth of all ages in enjoyable, meaningful activities in their own communities.
The Minister of Education will provide details about some of these program options during this legislative sitting.
Mr. Speaker, first ministers across Canada have identified high unemployment among young people aged 15 to 19 as a priority concern.
Along with other jurisdictions, the Yukon will explore further youth employment initiative to create work and training opportunities for young people.
An important focus of these initiatives is addressing social and cultural barriers that prevent young people from participating fully in the work force. The needs of aboriginal youth and youth at risk will also be addressed with practical help in the form of work transition and mentorship programs.
Mr. Speaker, another hallmark of how we foster healthy communities now and in the future can be seen in how we respond to public safety concerns.
Our government is undertaking a number of joint initiatives through the departments of Health and Social Services, Education and Justice, as well as the Women's Directorate, to reduce violence in schools, homes and places of work.
This budget shows our continuing commitment to work with the RCMP, parent groups, communities, social agencies and young people to reduce crime in our communities, to attack the root causes of crime, and to reduce the impact of crime on victims.
Some practical examples include family group conferencing programs, the work of the RCMP with high-risk youth and the community on patrol pilot project that is part of a growing emphasis on community-based policing.
We have also created a territorial crime prevention coordinator's position and seconded a victim services worker to the RCMP to assist victims of property crime.
The department's O&M budget of $29.8 million demonstrates ongoing support for community-based justice initiatives and continuing partnerships with Yukon people to make our justice system more responsive to community needs and wishes.
Our goal is a justice system that promotes a strong sense of personal and collective responsibility, enhances public safety in our communities, respects the rights and needs of victims and is effective at restoring offenders to productive membership in our society.
Mr. Speaker, our government's vision for the Yukon is of a society where barriers to full participation are lowered.
It is shameful that, in a society as privileged as Canada, many people, including more than three million children, continue to live in conditions of poverty.
A recent report of the National Anti-Poverty Organization points out that the richest 20 percent of Canadians saw their average incomes increase by $2,000 between the years 1995 and 1996.
At the same time, the poorest 20 percent saw their incomes actually fall by $500.
That report also pointed out that federal cash transfers for social programs fell by more than 40 percent in real per capita terms between 1993 and 1997.
In an economy like the Yukon's, with many jobs being seasonal in nature, the recent changes in employment insurance have also had a negative impact on income.
In this territory, as elsewhere, many people who struggle daily to make ends meet live in single-income families or could be described as working poor.
Our government is determined to address the needs of lower-income Yukon people by continuing our efforts to create jobs and economic opportunities, and by expanding our anti-poverty strategy.
We recognize, for example, that many Yukon people work at the minimum wage. This year the territory's minimum wage will increase in two stages to make it the highest in Canada.
Recently we took measures to replace the services formerly provided by Maryhouse and the St. Joseph's Shelter by establishing a transient shelter for men and women in downtown Whitehorse. The new shelter will open on April 1st.
At the beginning of the current school year, we implemented a school nutrition program. This has been very successful in many schools and will continue this year.
Last month we introduced a pilot project to provide free optical care and prescription drugs for children of families with low incomes. I am pleased to advise members that we have set aside nearly $300,000 to implement this program fully in the coming year.
As members know, the new national child benefit comes into effect this year. As savings from that program become available, we expect to invest an additional $200,000 to augment the Yukon's anti-poverty strategy. The Minister of Health and Social Services will be making a statement about this increased support for low-income families during this sitting.
Our planning for the future must also take into account the fact that the Yukon's population consists of a growing number of older people. This trend will continue as the baby-boom generation approaches retirement age. The Department of Health and Social Services will begin work this year to develop a long-term seniors strategy for the territory.
Mr. Speaker, I've referred to this budget as an instrument that provides balance and vision as we build foundations for the Yukon's future.
Nowhere is it more important to take a long view than in protecting our natural environment.
Indeed, respect for our environment is one of the principal commitments on which we are basing our long-term strategic planning.
Early in our mandate, we announced that the Aishihik caribou recovery program would be concluded by an independent scientific evaluation of the results.
Renewable Resources will spend $134,000 this year for the final field work on that program.
Solid waste management is a major component of environmental protection. This year alone, the Department of Community and Transportation Services will spend $290,000 on dump facilities around the territory.
At the same time, Renewable Resources has been consulting Yukon people on regulations to encourage environmentally-responsible solid waste disposal.
We are also seeking public comments on draft air emission regulations.
Our government's emphasis on low-impact wilderness adventure tourism and preservation of heritage resources also demonstrates awareness of the need to protect our priceless environmental and cultural inheritance.
Mr. Speaker, the Tombstone area along the Dempster Highway is without doubt one of the most scenic wilderness areas of the world. It has the potential to be a major recreational attraction for Yukon residents and visitors.
Our government moved decisively to ensure interim protection of that area from development while boundaries for an expanded Tombstone Park are determined.
Future consultations on park management and final boundaries will include input from many individuals and groups representing a broad spectrum of interests. This will help us find an appropriate balance between preservation and development.
The expansion of Tombstone Park is a major element in the Yukon protected areas strategy.
This is one of our government's most important initiatives. Along with the designation of special management areas under the Yukon First Nations umbrella final agreement, it is a key element of the environmental legacy we will leave for generations to come.
Protecting representative areas of our 23 distinct ecoregions will bring many economic benefits to the territory. Public consultations on the draft protected areas strategy will continue this spring.
I am pleased to announce that the O&M budget for Renewable Resources this year includes an additional $500,000 for this important initiative.
Mr. Speaker, decisions about protecting wilderness areas must be based on solid scientific data.
We also recognize the important contribution of resource development to the Yukon's economy. To that end, this budget provides $400,000 for land and mineral assessments associated with the identification of protected spaces and special management areas.
This commitment is in addition to our ongoing support for the Yukon Geoscience Forum. We intend to engage a variety of partners in conducting these assessments, to help make the best decisions regarding future use of our wilderness resources.
These partners include federal, First Nation and municipal governments, conservation organizations and development interests, such as the Yukon mining community.
Mr. Speaker, the work of the Cabinet Commission on the Development Assessment Process provides another example of how we are striving to balance a variety of interests.
This work will result in a process for assessing social, economic, environmental and cultural aspects of proposed developments.
For potential developers and all Yukon people, it will provide one clear, predictable process for determining the conditions under which projects will proceed.
The work of the Yukon Forest Commission demonstrates a similar need for balance.
It addresses the needs of local industry in creating jobs and adding economic value to Yukon forests.
It also recognizes the wide range of other forest values that we need to protect for the future.
Another important environmental issue our government takes seriously is climate change.
The Minister of Renewable Resources recently attended the world summit on this topic in Kyoto, Japan.
This budget reinforces his efforts to bring national and international attention to the potential impact of climate change on northern regions.
We are setting aside $50,000 this year to initiate a multi-year analysis and action plan to deal with the Yukon implications of global climate change.
This project will be undertaken in partnerships with interested governments, non-governmental organizations and technical and scientific communities.
Using reliable analytical techniques, this work will provide a solid basis for practical strategies the Yukon can employ to reduce the effects of climate change on our environment.
The work of the Cabinet Commission on Energy will also make a positive contribution.
Its public consultations will promote discussion and public awareness about energy conservation.
It will also present alternatives for community energy management and for methods of generating electricity that reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
This budget continues to support the Yukon Housing Corporation's home-improvement programs to make buildings more energy-efficient and to help people replace electricity with other methods of heating their homes.
Government Services is also playing a role by adopting new design and construction standards for public buildings and pursuing other ways for the Yukon government to reduce energy consumption.
Mr. Speaker, this budget reflects our fundamental belief that government can be a positive and stabilizing force in society. During our pre-budget consultations, many people told us they share this view. Their message was clear: "Listen to us, work with us, and provide responsible, balanced leadership for the future."
We have been actively consulting Yukon people about decisions that affect them, and have listened to their advice.
We will continue to respect the partnerships that good government requires.
For example, this budget maintains our commitment to the operations of Yukon College, as well as the current level of block funding to municipalities.
Our partnership with the City of Whitehorse can be seen in the two-year commitment we are making to help it host the Arctic Winter Games in the year 2000. This year's contribution is $200,000.
We have respected our partnerships with First Nations and the federal government.
This budget shows our determination to settle outstanding land claims and self-government agreements.
It is essential to bring clarity and certainty to the new relationships among governments in the territory far into the future.
We have made considerable progress, and we expect several new agreements to be completed in the near future.
With this budget, we are stepping up our efforts to meet the challenges of implementing the First Nations' final and self-government agreements.
We will also continue to work with federal and First Nation governments toward the transfer of Northern Affairs programs from the federal government to the Yukon.
It is important for all Yukon people that their public government hold firm to the principle that appropriate funding to maintain those programs must be part of any transfer.
I would also like to mention that the Public Service Commission budget includes an additional investment of $200,000 to make the public service more representative of Yukon society as a whole.
This is an obligation under the umbrella final agreement.
This funding will also provide training for government employees in all departments to increase awareness of the impact that land claims and self-government agreements will have on the provisions of public services.
We will also encourage the exchange of skills and knowledge among employees of territorial, municipal, First Nation and federal governments, as well as non-governmental organizations.
Mr. Speaker, these are just a few examples of the bold, positive steps we are taking to build public trust in government.
We recognize that good government does not come from impulsive decisions based on political expediency.
It comes from calm, deliberate decisions that address current challenges realistically and help prepare solid foundations for the future.
The budget that I have outlined briefly in these remarks meets those criteria.
As I said at the outset, Mr. Speaker, this budget is about jobs.
It is about balancing priorities.
It is about articulating a vision for the future that is shared by Yukon people.
We will continue to work with Yukon people to develop balanced policies for social programs, for the economy, and for the environment.
Mr. Speaker, I commend this budget to the members of this House and to the Yukon people for their approval and support.
I look forward to a positive and constructive debate about the details over the weeks to come.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I move that debate be now adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the official opposition that debate be now adjourned.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 3:20 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled February 23, 1998:
Deductions from the indemnities of Members of the Legislative Assembly made pursuant to subsection 39(6) of the Legislative Assembly Act: Report of the Clerk of the Yukon Legislative Assembly (dated February 23, 1998) (Speaker Bruce)
Yukon Unity Commission: Report to the Twenty-ninth Legislative Assembly (dated February 1998) (McDonald)