Thursday, February 26, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to take the opportunity to welcome some young people that we have in our gallery today. These are students from the Yukon College developmental studies program, level 1. They are here to observe us today, so I'd like to welcome them and ask members to join me.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: Under tabling returns and documents, I have for tabling the annual report for the Yukon Human Rights Commission for the year ending March 31, 1997.
Are there any further returns and documents for tabling?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling today the financial statements of the Yukon Hospital Corporation to March 31, 1997.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I have for tabling a document, entitled the Bonnet Plume Heritage River Management Plan.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Bonnet Plume River Heritage Management Plan
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm proud to rise in the House today to announce that the Canadian Heritage Rivers Board has accepted the Bonnet Plume heritage river management plan. With the acceptance of this plan, the Bonnet Plume joins the Alsek River and the Thirty Mile section of the Yukon River as Yukon's heritage rivers in the Canadian heritage river system.
The watershed of the Bonnet Plume extends almost 350 kilometres from the river's headwaters along the Yukon/Northwest Territories border, to where it joins the Peel River. It supports a large, healthy population of grizzly bears, wolves, moose, gyrfalcons and woodland caribou. It is largely unaltered by human activity.
The management plan was developed by the Yukon government in association with DIAND and the Mayo District Renewable Resource Council. It is fully endorsed Chief Germaine and the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun Council.
This plan is a requirement of the Bonnet Plume River's inclusion in the Canadian heritage river system. It applies to the entire 12,000 square kilometres drainage basin of this important river.
It commits three governments - Canada, the Yukon and Nacho Nyak Dun - to a cooperative management approach and confirms the role of the Mayo District Renewable Resource Council as a form for legal input into the plan implementation and decision making.
The Bonnet Plume was nominated for the Canadian heritage river status in 1992 based on studies from the 1980s that identified a number of unique aspects of the area and eventually warranted the nomination of the entire watershed, rather than the main stem of the river.
Part of the Nacho Nyak Dun land claim, which was finalized on May 29, 1993, confirms support for the nomination and sets out the formal process to be followed in the management plan preparation. This process has been followed.
The management plan was tabled with the Canadian Heritage Rivers Board on February 4 and was accepted as presented. The board recognized that the plan was one of the best prepared they had ever received. The federal DIAND Minister Jane Stewart has signed it off and the next step is implementation.
The plan respects the obligations of government under the land claims agreements. Bonnet Plume will be treated as a special management area.
The plan uses zoning in a non-traditional way by designating research zone priorities and setting out a mechanism to identify and respond to limits of acceptable change.
This approach recognizes today's reality in terms of restricted government resources and identifies opportunities for partnerships to meet the planned objectives.
In addition, further investigation since 1992 has confirmed the presence of a significant mineral occurrence in the heart of the drainage basin, including oil and gas, coal and base metals.
Given their locations, distance to markets and lack of supporting infrastructure, these resources are not likely to be exploited in the near future. However, the management plan acknowledges the potential and identifies the issues that need to be explored in the event of development proposals coming forward.
There is much work required in the implementation and management plan. However, with the cooperation and partnerships that have been formed with the three levels of government, we recognize the true value of the Bonnet Plume River and watershed. A ceremony to formally designate the Bonnet Plume to the Canadian heritage river system will be held this summer.
Mr. Speaker, I'm sure that members will join me in thanking the many people who worked so hard to bring about the recognition of this unique part of the territory's environmental heritage.
Mr. Ostashek: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and the office of the official opposition, I rise in support of the Bonnet Plume heritage river management plan.
On January 11, 1993, the Bonnet Plume River was officially nominated to the Canadian heritage river system. This project was carried out in consultation with the Mayo Renewable Resource Council and DIAND, and the river's nomination was the result of a two-year project identified in the Nacho Nyak Dun land claim agreement.
Upon being nominated, an extensive planning process was undertaken to develop a management plan, fully involving all stakeholders with an interest in the Bonnet Plume watershed. Early in the planning stage, it became very apparent that there existed vast differences of opinions and conflicts of interest among the mining industry and environmental groups as to the protection of resources and the potential of losing access to those resources.
It was at that time that an advisory committee was struck to make recommendations to the steering committee to ensure that the management plan reflected all the interests and accommodated all of those interests.
Although the process of seeking consensus, Mr. Speaker, is not always an easy task, I believe the advisory committee succeeded in finding some common ground. Arising from the discussions held among members of the committee were several substantive changes that were incorporated into the management plan, including the greater recognition of the presence of mineralization and acknowledging competing interests and different expectations.
On behalf of my caucus, I would like to thank the members of the advisory committee for their hard work and efforts to develop a management plan that reflects and accommodates everyone's interest.
As I've said on many occasions, Mr. Speaker, it is imperative that efforts are made to strike a balance between protected areas and economic development for the future and the well-being of Yukon and Yukoners.
Similar to the Bonnet Plume heritage river management plan, the protected area strategy has been a subject of concern expressed by numbers of competing interests. As the implementation of that strategy has the ability to seriously impact the state of the Yukon economy, both immediate and long term, there's much anxiety, particularly in light of Yukon's depressed economic state.
Mr. Speaker, while we on this side of the House fully support a protected area strategy, we urge the government to take caution and not rush so as to discourage investment from the territory.
As the minister has said in the past, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to leave a magnificent legacy for our children. I couldn't agree more, Mr. Speaker, but it is also true - and let us not forget it - that it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to leave jobs for those same children.
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of the Yukon Liberal Party caucus to offer our congratulations to the people involved in developing the Bonnet Plume heritage river management plan. We'd like to thank the individuals involved in this process. It is not easy to reach consensus, and we in the Liberal caucus would like to applaud their efforts.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I'd like to thank the members opposite for their comments and the support for this plan.
This nomination as a heritage river is a big plus for the Yukon and Yukoners, especially for the people in the Mayo area. It's consistent with the final agreements of the Nacho Nyak Dun, and, Mr. Speaker, we continue and will continue to work with local people and First Nations in developing management plans like this in regard to heritage rivers, special management areas and protected areas. It means, to the people in Mayo, a greater opportunity for participation in management decisions that are made about the river and in regard to development that could happen in the near future.
A permanent map notation means that the Bonnet Plume will receive, of course, more careful management and monitoring, both through existing processes and eventually through the development assessment process that will be established.
The heritage river designation means, of course, more recognition, increased recognition, for the river both nationally and internationally and, for those that don't know where it is in the Yukon, even locally, too. It means greater economic opportunities for the Mayo region through tourism, opportunities for wilderness guides and air charter companies and other tourism-related businesses.
And for the mining industry it means that the potential for mineral development is preserved and the Canadian heritage river status does not mean and does not rule out the multi-use environment.
I can provide members opposite with a memo to the Canadian Heritage Rivers Board that discussed the changes and the additional considerations that developed since the submission of the nomination document.
The plan that I tabled earlier incorporates the additional information collected following submission of the nomination document, and reflects the consultation studies which were undertaken.
Special values that are protected - the Bonnet Plume contains unique features such as the duckbill dinosaur remains, a rare Beringia refuge plant species, and scenic values that have been drawing increasingly larger numbers of river travellers every year from both North America and Europe.
I know that we have worked with the First Nation people and they look forward to having this river designated as a heritage river, and we look forward to the signing ceremony that will take place this summer some time and hope to see people there, as it is a big thing for Yukoners. It does join the other two nominations that we do have as heritage rivers.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Development assessment process: progress report
Mr. Livingston: I rise today in the House to deliver the message to the public and to advise this House on the progress in tripartite discussions on the development assessment process.
As members are aware, the new federal development assessment process legislation must be designed within the context of chapter 12 of the umbrella final agreement. The mandate of the Cabinet Commission on DAP is to represent the Yukon government at tripartite discussions with the federal government and Council of Yukon First Nations to draft this legislation.
Our government believes that an important part of designing the DAP is seeking the advice of Yukoners on what should be contained in the federal legislation. For this reason, we will continue to provide opportunities for Yukon people to get involved in developing the DAP legislation.
During the last sitting, I informed the House that we expected the draft legislation to be available for public consultation early in 1998. While substantial progress has been made, giving due consideration to all the viewpoints expressed in consultations and at the core table, it has taken longer than expected.
Our government has consistently taken the position that the interests of all Yukon people are best served by a one-progress approach that is uniformly applied across this territory, as called for in chapter 12 of the UFA.
I would like to inform the House that if the draft is completed later this spring, as expected, our government will insist on a fall consultation schedule to ensure that Yukoners have enough time to read, consider and comment on the draft act. This would not be possible with a summer consultation, since many Yukon people are too busy or not available at this time of year.
At the same time, Mr. Speaker, I would like to report on steps that have been taken already to involve Yukon people in this process.
Representatives of the Yukon and federal governments and the Council of Yukon First Nations undertook a tour of communities to give First Nations, municipal councils, renewable resource councils and community members an opportunity early in the process to review and discuss chapter 12 and to hear any suggestions or concerns they might have had regarding DAP.
Together with the federal government, we have also held workshops to seek advice on what the design of DAP should be. The commission established a non-governmental organizations working group as a way of garnering advice from non-governmental groups across this territory in the development and environmental sections, as well as community governments.
The meetings I held with Yukon community leaders in non-governmental organizations provided another opportunity for me to discuss particular aspects of DAP and to hear people's views.
The commission will continue to make recommendations to Cabinet and the government caucus respecting government policies and the implementation of DAP.
One of the major concerns I mentioned in my last report to this Legislature was the relationship between the development assessment process and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. This is still being addressed. Our position continues to be that DAP should be established as the assessment legislation in the Yukon and the developers should not have to deal with two different assessment regimes.
The federal DAP legislation will place increased responsibility on the Yukon government in its role as a DAP decision body. It will require the Yukon government to address these matters clearly, explicitly and in a timely manner before any permits or licences related to a DAP project are issued.
As I reported earlier, how the Yukon government will fulfill its commitments under the new DAP legislation will be set out in our DAP implementation strategy. The commission has already begun work on the strategy, pending completion of the draft legislation.
To summarize, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon DAP commission has made substantial progress toward completing its mandate. Along with the federal government and Council of Yukon First Nations, and in consultation with the Yukon people, we are building the framework for an efficient, effective assessment process for the territory.
Ms. Duncan: This statement contains little new information, so I will be brief. The title of this commissioner's statement contains a word that I don't believe it should. The word is "progress." There has, in fact, been little, if any, progress made on the development of DAP legislation over the last number of months. My understanding is that there's been little progress on the substantial issues being discussed.
The only new information in this statement is that the legislation is further delayed.
On December 10, 1997, the commissioner assured this Legislature that consultation would begin and work on draft DAP legislation in late February or early March. That time has now arrived and we still don't have legislation, let alone consultation.
We have heard that the draft may be ready in June or it may not. He also stated that DAP would come into force early in 1999. With consultation now delayed until fall, 1998, this will not happen.
I have a couple of questions for the commissioner on the non-governmental working group. Could the commissioner tell this House when that group last met and whether that meeting included representatives from the mining industry?
It is clear that the establishment of the DAP commission has done nothing to expedite the completion of DAP legislation. Similar to his counterpart, the Cabinet Commission on Energy, there's been a great deal of talk, but no product, from this expensive commission. Perhaps in the response the commissioner could tell the Legislature if he plans to stay on indefinitely, accomplishing nothing, or if there's any plan to dismantle the commission and continue negotiating efforts through the Executive Council Office.
Mr. Speaker, this government's inability to resolve issues, such as DAP, land claims and forestry, continues to leave a black economic cloud over the Yukon. Where there's uncertainty over land, there's uncertainty over investment. It is this government's inability to solve these issues that has contributed to the lack of investor confidence we are now suffering. For the sake of all Yukoners, I hope this government can make progress on these issues that are vital to our economic future.
Mr. Livingston: We said at the outset of our mandate that DAP was either going to be a nightmare for this territory or it was going to improve processes and be a key for future economic development and for protecting the environment within this territory. That remains true today.
I can tell members opposite, I can inform the public, that the DAP commission has, in fact, done its homework. We've arrived, in consultation with Yukoners, including the mining community, at positions that express the interests of Yukoners. We put forward those at the core table, with as much vigour as we were able to muster. The delays that are occurring there are unfortunate delays, I agree with members opposite, but I'll tell you one thing, we're not prepared to cave in on what we feel are substantive issues for Yukon: the need for there to be one assessment process in the Yukon. That's a position that we maintain, and we feel we represent all Yukoners, following our consultations with groups across this territory: the need to have a uniform set of thresholds, a uniform policy or application of assessment processes across this territory.
Mr. Speaker, we intend to stick to that agenda, and that's something that we're going to be asserting, because we know, from our consultations with Yukoners, that that's what's in the interest of the Yukon.
We have been consulting. The member asked me when the NGO working group last met. I don't have a date for her. I will get that date and I will file that with her. Whether the mining industry was present at that particular meeting, I can't tell the member opposite, but I can tell her that the mining industry has participated on an ongoing basis. I met most recently with the mining community, chambers of commerce, Association of Yukon Communities representatives, representatives of the Yukon Conservation Society, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, KPMA, and so on, in the last couple of weeks.
We've had ongoing consultations and contact with those groups, and continue to make progress.
It's worth noting, I think, that the leader of the opposition, who I believe kind of carries the DAP file for his particular party, is paying as much attention to the DAP in opposition as he did in government, and that is absolutely nothing. None. That's why no Yukoners were involved, and that's one of the reasons that we had to create a commission, in fact, in order to ensure that there was input into this tripartite process - this three-government agreement.
I can tell members of this House and inform the public as well that we're committed to a DAP - a development assessment process - for the Yukon that balances our needs for a strong economy with that of a healthy environment. We intend to have a process at the end of the day that's predictable, one that's efficient, and one that's timely. We want a DAP that's going to work effectively for all Yukoners. We're going to be at that table until we get that.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Land claims
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Government Leader on land claims - or should I say lack of settlement of land claims, lack of progress on land claims.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon is in for some very tough times and, unfortunately, the actions and the policies of this NDP government aren't going to do anything to help or to make the future any brighter. Unemployment is expected to increase dramatically over the course of the next few months, and we can't blame the entire increase on the Faro mine closure. The policies of this government have a lot to do with it.
Mr. Speaker, for example, yesterday the Yukon Territorial Water Board approved Cominco's water licence for the Kudz Ze Kayah property near Ross River. Immediately after, the Chief of the Liard First Nation threatened a legal action if the project goes ahead, because their land claims haven't been settled.
In light of that, Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Government Leader if he can assure this House today that he will make the Liard land claim a priority.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, but let me answer the preamble to the member's question as well, because I think it's worthy of some comment, Mr. Speaker.
First of all, the member, who was well-known in his final year for taking on First Nation leaders in the bitter confrontation in the public media, has no right, no authority - no moral authority - to be standing in the Legislature talking about the need to improve relations with First Nations. Certainly, he is correct that the relationship needed a lot of improving and the member will note that, since the last election, the NDP government has not engaged in the bitter confrontation between First Nation governments and the Yukon government that was the hallmark of that member's leadership and regime.
Mr. Speaker, certainly it is the case that land claims are very much a top priority for our government. I will point out that, in the last year, we did come to settlement with the Tr'ondek Hwech'in. The difficult political issues, that were in fact campaign issues in the last election, were resolved and an agreement was struck.
Mr. Speaker, there is progress being made on other fronts and we are interested in improving the economic climate of this territory, and there are a number of ways we are accomplishing that task, and we will be pursuing that task. The budget speech identified many of those areas.
So, the short answer to the member's question is, yes, indeed, the settlement of the Liard First Nation land claim is very much a priority for the Yukon government. We recognize this is a tripartite process but we will put our heart and soul into trying to ensure that that agreement is reached under the UFA.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I wonder where the Government Leader thinks he gets the moral authority to raise the expectations of First Nations people so high, as he did before the last election, and then fail to deliver. While he may not be engaged in confrontation, he is certainly being criticized quite openly by First Nation governments, and we have seen the cooperation agreements basically fall apart that he signed with such fanfare last year.
As for the Dawson land claims settlement, that was basically finished when he took office and he knows it - he knows it. The Kudz Ze Kayah property will create about 150 much-needed jobs. I would like to point out to the Government Leader that, under the Yukon Party government, Cominco was able to reach a socio-economic agreement with the Ross River Dena Council for jobs and training in relation to the Kudz Ze Kayah development. Such agreements are possible if the government, the mining companies and the First Nations show good faith and work in the best interests of all Yukoners.
I would like to ask the Government Leader if he is prepared to act as an intermediary between Cominco and the Liard First Nation to determine if a reconciliation can be reached and this property can move ahead to the development stage.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, we didn't have to raise expectations very far to promise that we wouldn't be calling First Nation leaders liars in the media. We have been able to keep that promise solidly.
Some Hon. Member: Order.
Point of order
Speaker: Point of order has been called.
Mr. Ostashek: The member knows that I never called a First Nation leader a liar. I ask that he retract that immediately.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will not retract that, because the member full well knows, and there are transcripts to prove it, that the member engaged in very, very mean and nasty confrontations with First Nation leaders throughout this territory.
Speaker: Point of order.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, of course there is no point of order.
Mr. Ostashek: If the member wants to make those allegations, I suggest he bring those documents so he can show where I called First Nation leaders liars. He knows it's not true.
Speaker: A dispute outside the House bears no point of order. Please continue.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would suggest that, given the number of interruptions from the members opposite, we ought to change the rules to incorporate the rule calling for points of rude interruption, so we can formalize it in some way.
With respect to the expectations, as I was pointing out, the expectation of the First Nation leadership in this territory was clearly to be able to negotiate fairly and professionally with the Government of Yukon and I'm proud to say that we've been able to accomplish that task and we have not got into nasty confrontations with the First Nation leaders, as the member himself did when he was Government Leader. I'm proud of that, frankly.
Secondly, the cooperation agreements that the member opposite has dismissed entirely did result in our ability to pursue and complete the Yukon Oil and Gas Act, which was a historic accomplishment for this territory. So to say that there were no accomplishments at all is, of course, patently false.
With respect to the Dawson First Nation land claim, which the member also raised in his remarks, the major political outstanding issues were surrounding Tombstone, self-government rights within the City of Dawson, the Forty-Mile caribou herd management plan. Those major political issues were all outstanding, all outstanding at the time of the last election, and those were resolved, not by his administration but by this administration and it was this administration that completed that land claim.
With respect to the issues around the Liard First Nation and Cominco, Kudz Ze Kayah and the Sa Dena Hes mine, we do stand ready to work with the mining industry and First Nations to try to resolve any outstanding issues that may arise between them. We do believe that the government will play a useful role, and to the extent that that intervention will be accepted by the parties, we will play that role.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, it might be time that this government started doing something useful, because they certainly haven't accomplished much in the 14 or 15 months they've been in power, outside of decimating the Land Claims Secretariat and setting land claims back a couple of years in the territory. That is what they accomplished, Mr. Speaker, and the Government Leader can pat himself on the back all he wants. The public isn't buying it.
Mr. Speaker, the community of Watson Lake has been particularly hard hit and would welcome any economic initiatives in their area. The Silver Tip Mining Corporation is interested in developing a mine near Rancheria and held public meetings last evening in Watson Lake. This development could also be threatened by Liard First Nation.
So, I would ask the Government Leader to intercede - not wait to be asked - but to intercede with the chief, seeing as he has such great relationships with First Nations, and see what he can do to move these projects ahead.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would presume that what the member is referring to is the mining deposit that's in British Columbia, and certainly we're happy to export our good relations with First Nations to any province, Mr. Speaker. We also have a responsibility inside the territory and will be fulfilling that responsibility here, too.
Mr. Speaker, I would point out to the member who has claimed to be so responsive to First Nations interests himself that in the four years that he was in office he was able to lead a negotiating team that settled two First Nation final agreements in the last six months of his mandate, after a great push was put on. Well, I want everyone watching, everyone listening today - today is February 26 - I want everyone to listen today to the member saying, "Let's see how well you do." And perhaps on Monday we'll talk about it again, shall we?
Mr. Speaker, I think the point of the member's question was that we should be trying to ensure that mining proceeds, we should be trying to ensure that the land claims proceed, and we're doing both.
Question re: Fuel prices
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister of Economic Development. Last night, CTV did a story concerning the market downturn in crude oil prices. The story confirmed what I have told the Minister of Economic Development. Crude oil prices are at a low, and there's been a dramatic decrease in crude oil costs in just the last year.
The House will recall that, earlier this month, I asked the Minister of Economic Development to look into the issue of this downward trend in oil prices, while Yukoners continue to pay high prices at the gas pumps. Mr. Speaker, the minister's reply was that he would look into the matter when he was convinced that current prices aren't simply a result of world market conditions beyond the Yukon's control.
My question for the Minister of Economic Development: what is it going to take to get this minister to investigate the high price of gas to Yukoners in the face of the low price of crude oil?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I would first point out that part of the problem with the cost of fuel in the territory is the large tax increase imposed by the Yukon Party government on fuel in this territory some few years ago. Another part of the problem is that the federal Liberal government also increased fuel taxes, so there are some reasons that are beyond world market forces for the ever-increasing cost of fuel, and he only has to look to his leader to his right to establish where some of that comes from.
Mr. Speaker, with regard to the issue of an inquiry, I wanted to be very careful before spending some $100,000 of taxpayers' money on an inquiry. I remember one such inquiry - sort of a hit squad orchestrated by the Yukon Party called the Hughes inquiry - where they spent some $80,000 on that inquiry trying to destroy reputations of many people in the public and people in this Legislature. So, I want to be careful about spending that taxpayers' money.
I have had the department do an analysis of the situation, and what I've been told is that, in terms of the early analysis, the inventories from which the current prices today are being based are slowly being used up. Once those inventories are used up, there's usually a reflection in the now, more current, world market, which shows up at the pumps and the prices that people pay.
I would also point out that the member's quite right. I was reading an article yesterday that the crude oil price has hit quite a few lows, and I read in Alberta that actually hundreds of wells are being cut off from production. So, Mr. Speaker, I do agree it is a problem.
Mr. Jenkins: The factors that are consistent in the price of the gas are, number one, the cost of crude, the refining expenses, and the federal tax. They're virtually the same, Mr. Speaker, all across Canada.
The two variables for us here in the Yukon are, number one, transportation costs and, number two, the territorial tax. The territorial tax imposed by the Yukon is the lowest of any jurisdiction in Canada. It's 6.2 cents per litre.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: It used to be lower, and if the minister feels it should be lower, reduce it. He can reduce that. But, at the present time, it is the lowest in Canada.
Mr. Speaker, we are paying 25 to 30 cents more per litre than the people of Prince George, where the tax in British Columbia is almost double that of the Yukon. What's going on? The cost of crude is at a four-year low, Mr. Speaker. Why are Yukoners paying such high gas prices at the pump? Yukoners deserve an answer, and it's up to the minister to find that answer and give it to us.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I explained to the member that I am looking for answers. I also explained some of the preliminary analysis that my department has done.
Mr. Speaker, Yukoners will remember that the Yukon Party raised those taxes on gasoline. It would be nice to reduce the fuel tax, Mr. Speaker, but we need that money now to pay for all the millions and millions of dollars in requests from the Member for Klondike, which show up on the floor of this Legislature on a regular basis, in both O&M and capital.
In order to just try and deal with some of those needs in an era of less revenue would be a difficult challenge and a difficult balancing act.
I would say, with regard to this issue, in an exploration of the preliminary analysis it is clear that there are some world market forces at play with regard to inventories, which are having an impact on the price. I'm not an expert, nor is the member opposite, on this, and if there is some reason why $100,000 or $80,000 of taxpayers' money should be spent on an inquiry, then I would perhaps look at that, Mr. Speaker, but so far I'm not convinced.
The member will also remember that I did not call an inquiry into propane fuel pricing last year when one was called for, for the very same reasons.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, but the minister gets his gas paid for by the taxpayers. So, I know he's not too concerned about this issue. However, Yukoners know too well that when the cost of a barrel of oil increases, the price at the pumps are ratcheted up immediately.
What the minister has suggested about the inventory holds well for diesel fuel, but the flow-through for gas is considerably faster, so his explanation in that area does not hold water. We've had a decrease in crude oil prices. They are down dramatically. What world market conditions is the minister waiting for in order to get the job done and get the price of gas in the Yukon lower? When does the minister see the price of gas going down in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I can assure the member opposite that my gas is not paid for by the taxpayers. When I get my VISA bill each month, I can send him a copy of it and show him that I pay for my gas, like most other Yukoners do, at the pumps.
Now, I also want to say -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding:
My God, Mr. Speaker, this is just so bad. Anyway, I won't rise to the bait. It's so typical of the member opposite. I shouldn't even dignify it with a response.
Anyway, I want to say that I'm not looking for a world market situation. I am looking for world market explanations as to the situation. Mr. Speaker, I want to be careful before I go out and call for an expensive inquiry - $100,000 of the taxpayers' money - so that there can actually be some concrete result of it. That $100,000 could be used, as so much of our budget was, to help invest in this economy and help invest in training and Yukoners, health care and education. There are so many other needs for this money, so if we're going to spend it, we've got to spend it wisely. We've got to be sure that we're not spending money that is not going to yield some concrete results.
Once the analysis is done to ensure that there would be some use for such an inquiry, then we'll make that decision.
Question re: Telephone service to rural customers
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I will endeavour to be less verbose than the previous speakers.
My question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. Mr. Speaker, the CRTC is in the process of starting a new set of hearings. It is the intention of the CRTC to implement, by January 1 of the year 2000, safeguards or mechanisms required to address the issue of phone service to high-cost service areas. Now, most of the unserviced rural Yukon is a high-cost serving area. Parties have an option to make submissions to the CRTC by May 1 of this year on this issue.
Mr. Speaker, will the Government of Yukon be making a submission to the CRTC on this issue, and what will this government's position be on that issue?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, indeed we will be making a submission to the CRTC in May. It will be following within the footsteps of the process that we've started working on with the CRTC, calling for affordable service, calling for extension of service.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'd hoped for a little bit more detail so maybe I'll go at it again.
In order to bring telephone to high-cost serving areas, he can do a number of things. Mr. Speaker, is it the government's position that we should support the development of new infrastructure to bring new phone lines into very rural areas, for example, or does this government support lower long-distance rates so that telephone service will be delivered more cheaply to those who live in high-cost serving areas like rural Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Both, and I thank you very much for the question. Certainly, this government has put $1.5 million, as per the budget, toward the extension.
Mrs. Edelman: Thank you for the clarification.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the rural electrification telephone program, or the fund that brings phone service to high-cost serving areas, could be totally funded by phone companies like Northwestel by the year 2000. Is the minister going to wait to access this year 2000 fund, which could be completely paid for by private phone companies, or is he going to have Yukon taxpayers pay to bring phone service into remote areas of the Yukon over the next two years? In other words, does the minister believe that funding to bring phone service into remote rural areas or high-cost serving areas should be paid for by the phone company or by government taxpayer dollars?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: On the topic in question, this government said that we would facilitate the process and we are absolutely doing that: facilitating the process to extend quality service into underserved areas and areas that are not being served at all. We're doing that. We also have put together within the last CRTC submission the direction that we'd like to see: an industry-led program that would allow the extension of service also.
Question re: Anvil Range environmental liability
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Economic Development on Anvil Range. There is a large environmental liability associated with the mine operations in Faro and that's the cost of the environmental cleanup after operations cease. Now, various numbers have been bandied around in the public in relation to the cost of that cleanup. The minister has used the number of $90 million of unfunded liability and the federal government has used a figure of around $100 million. Some investment analysts were quoted recently in the media on February 16 as saying the cost of reclamation has a price tag of almost $50 million. Now, any purchaser of the Faro assets is going to have to face this environmental cleanup.
So, just for the record, is there general agreement between this government and the federal government on the cost of the cleanup, and what has to be done?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The short answer to that is no, because they are in touch and involved with the entire issue. They have not shared a lot of that information with the Yukon government and it is quite unclear, both to industry and to the Yukon government, what exactly the potential environmental liability might be.
The member is quite right that numbers have been bandied about ranging from $50 million to $120 million. Some in industry have told me that they can do it for closer to the $50 million because of some of the complex proposals that are included in the federal government's abandonment and reclamation plan.
So the number is large, regardless, but it varies quite substantially in terms of the expectations for the cost.
The problem has been that whether it's $50 million or $120 million, it's such a substantive liability that people haven't gotten down to the real crunching of what exactly and precisely it would take, that is, no company has come in and said, "We don't like your plan and we've gone out and spent $2 million to design a new plan that we hope you will approve."
Mr. Cable: I think the minister is in agreement. That is a problem for any purchaser if there is some indefinite number floating around the ether, and it varies between $50 million and $100 million.
Has this government done any independent assessment of what has to be done to restore the mine to the condition that it should be in to meet the environmental laws after the mine shuts down, and if there has been any independent assessment, would he make that assessment available to this House?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier to the member, the issue is not whether it is $80 million or $90 million. The issue is whether it's $50 million or $60 million or up to $120 million. It's still too substantive. Therefore, we haven't invested in the costly exercise of an independent assessment, and we have relied mainly on the comments we've received and the discussions we've had with industry as well as the discussions we have had with the federal government regarding the extent of the liability.
Whether it is $50 million or $120 million, it's still a significant deterrent, and the federal government has taken a very firm position that they would not relax that liability in any way, shape or form. In other words, they have said that any new company must take that existing liability and they must create a trust in the future as they operate to take that on. Anvil Range did that, and as their position is right now, I'll be expecting any new proponent - or Anvil Range, if they restructure - to do the same thing.
Mr. Cable: Well, what conversations have taken place between the minister and the federal counterpart? Has he told the minister that, "Gee, $100 million will move a lot of dirt around," or maybe it should be more than $100 million? Is there any correspondence that he can table in this House to indicate to the Yukon public what this government's position is with respect to that $100-million liability?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I would love to meet with the federal minister, and I've been trying to get a meeting with him to talk about this very issue in March, but she's refused to meet with me on the issue.
So, I hope the member can help me get in the door to talk about this very important issue, because, certainly, this government hasn't given up on the Faro mine, the workers in Faro, the people in Faro and the ore truck drivers and all those jobs that are entailed with that property. It seems that some of our federal counterparts and the member's counterparts have done so.
So, judging by, as well, the survey that the member opposite just put forward that, in terms of the results of their survey, they've washed their hands of the Faro mine and those workers. I would say that they need to reanalyze and reassess their attitude, because we believe that those workers have contributed heavily to the economy, as has the Faro mine, the Faro people and all the other spinoff jobs that are associated with it. So, if he can help me get a meeting with the federal minister, I'd appreciate it.
Question re: Whitehorse waterfront development
Mr. Jenkins: My question is for the minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services. It concerns A Better Way and making government better. In this document, which makes the Government Leader, in particular, feel all warm and fuzzy, it states, and I quote, "Piers McDonald and the New Democrats recognize that Yukon people want an open, transparent, decision-making system with full public consultation and ongoing information to bring back public confidence in the integrity and reliability of government. We believe that how government does things is just as important as what it does."
Here's a section, Mr. Speaker, that I particularly like: "How the government treats its citizens and how it consults with people about decisions that affect them are as important as the subjects being discussed."
These are fine words indeed, Mr. Speaker. Can the minister advise the House why the people residing in the Shipyards and Sleepy Hollow area of the Whitehorse waterfront weren't consulted on this government's plan to relocate them? What happened to all of these fancy words in A Better Way?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, the words quoted by the member opposite are the words that do make me feel warm and fuzzy. I think if he takes the book home and studies it at night, that he will feel warm and fuzzy all over and get a good eight hours of good, warm fuzziness. I appreciate what the member opposite is saying.
Mr. Speaker, this is not a new issue. This issue has been around for a very, very long time. We do not really consider the people, as the member opposite has said, as squatters. They are residents of an area. They're coming into conflict, maybe, with a desire of other people. But we're going to be sitting down with them, Mr. Speaker, to work toward resolving this issue and, therefore, we have put X amount of dollars - $294,000 - into the budget so that we might be able to work with these people, and we will work with these people. This is a people's process.
Mr. Jenkins: Why weren't these people spoken to before we started the process?
Another key plan to relocate these residents is the City of Whitehorse's. Yet, when I spoke with city officials, the first they heard of this relocation plan was through the media. Can the minister explain why the City of Whitehorse wasn't advised of these relocation plans?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. There certainly seems to be an echo over there. Maybe between the two of them, they can come up with one sensible question. I would certainly appreciate that.
We are working with the city. This is not a new issue, as I said. This issue has been around for a long, long time. This government had the gumption to go out and work with the people and see if we can resolve this process. I have met with the mayor and the mayor is certainly very knowledgeable about what is going on with this process and will continue to be within the loop of this process.
Mr. Jenkins: If the minister cared to read the newspapers, the mayor reported that she wasn't consulted.
It leads to the question: who initiated these relocation plans and for what purpose? Was it at the request of the City of Whitehorse, who apparently don't know very much about it, or is it a secret land claims deal with the Kwanlin Dun for some kind of tourism-related or land claims settlement? And, is the $294,000 budgeted the total cost?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, this is an open, transparent government. We will continue to work with people, as we have in the past and as we will in the future. We are here to solve problems and not create problems. We are going to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. We are going to enable ourselves to be open and honest so that we might be able to -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm sorry, Peter, but you have to be quiet while I answer. I know that the purpose here is for you to ask the questions, but the purpose is also to listen to the answers, so have a little courtesy.
Certainly, we are doing just what we said we would do.
How long has the problem been around? The problem has been around for an enormously long time. Was it looked after in the previous administration? Absolutely not. Is it going to be looked after in this term? Yes, indeed, we are working very hard toward that. We have allocated $294,000 in this budget to start the process, and that is exactly what we are going to do.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 9: Second Reading - continued
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 9, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald. Adjourned debate, the hon. Mr. Harding.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm really pleased to be able to respond to the leader of the official opposition on the budget last night. That was perhaps the worst budget reply speech that I have heard in my short five years in this Legislature. It seems like it's getting longer and longer all the time.
I want to tell the Liberals and the Tories in this House, Mr. Speaker, this government has less revenue, we've had to deal with reductions from the federal Liberal government in our revenue, and the opposition, both benches, have asked us for more O&M and more capital spending.
I want to deliver a very clear message: we will not slash health care and education; we will not have massive layoffs and abrogate our right to fundamental free collective bargaining, as the members opposite would obviously have us do; we will not raise taxes, as the Yukon Party did, and we will not spend our surpluses and drain down our bank account to deal in some knee-jerk fashion with a very important problem economically in this territory. That problem is an artificial economy, an over-dependence on government.
We have to ensure that, when we do receive Shakwak monies, and we will in the future, it is a bonus to this economy, not the staple of the economy. We have to diversify.
Mr. Speaker, the members opposite can try and paint it any way they want. They have asked us to do things, in terms of spending proposals, that would involve tax increases, spending our bank account, massive layoffs, slashing health care and education. That's a fact.
Yesterday, the former Government Leader, the leader of the opposition said, "Why didn't you just shave $10 million off O&M?" Well, people in the Yukon will remember that, when he brought in the wage restraint legislation, that shaved about $3.5 million off the O&M. Mr. Speaker, he just simply threw that out as some simple thing to do, and he learned very quickly that it's not easy to shave $3.5 million and abrogate the right to free collective bargaining in this territory, and we do not intend to do that. That's why we're bargaining with our employees, that's why we haven't brought on any massive layoffs, and that's why we've been budgeting in a very thoughtful, deliberate and responsible manner.
I want to say that, in terms of our approach to the economy, the former Government Leader said that this government was afraid; we were afraid to make moves. Nothing could be further from the case. This government is a government that has the courage to not act for political expediency. We know there's a problem in the economy. I've got the unemployment figures here right back from January 1992, when it was 10 percent. That was under an NDP government. In 1993, it was 13.4 percent under a Yukon Party government; in 1994, 11.4 percent under a Yukon Party government. This year it's 11.3 percent.
We are going not through a crisis, but through a cycle. We have to be careful when we deal with this economic cycle, because we are so dependent on the resource sector, that we don't overrespond and we don't overreact. We keep our eye on the horizon in terms of our economic planning and our vision.
We have to put resources in the here and now, but we cannot continue to focus only on the here and now. No matter how much the opposition would like us to cut our health care system, to cut our education system, we don't think that's the way to respond to this. We think we need more training in the Yukon. We think we need more education, better health care and we need to diversify our economy.
One of the biggest problems of the Yukon Party is that they were so narrow in their economic approach. It was a government-sponsored, artificial economy. There were big capital projects paid for by the U.S. Congress and the federal government. It was an industry that was at its peak in mining and 1992 was the worst year in Canada across this entire country in 27 years in exploration. They caught the boom for a couple of years, then Bre-X hit. The Vancouver Stock Exchange lost 50 percent of its value last year.
When I was in Chile on Team Canada, the junior mining companies weren't able to raise capital in Chile. I want to tell the members opposite, this is a Canadian phenomena in the mining sector we're dealing with now. People would talk to me about the Alberta economy and I was reading in the newspaper just yesterday that the crude oil prices have dropped to the extent that, in Alberta, where they're dependent so heavily on oil and gas, they too are starting to see and feel the effects of an economic downturn, the Asian market crisis, low gold, low base metals and the Bre-X fiasco.
Those have contributed very heavily. We have to recognize there's an immediacy in the needs of Yukoners. We have to recognize that, and our budget has delivered on that.
We have put over $70 million into capital, a larger percentage of the budget than any other jurisdiction in this country, in an era of declining revenues, and we've protected those basic services for Yukoners. We've invested in the community development fund. Mr. Speaker, there are project after project that have been proposed by communities that will involve community priorities, that will involve work in those communities.
Mr. Speaker, I'm sure that those people will be happy when those projects are approved and when those carpenters and those electricians and those people go to work on those projects in their communities.
The former Government Leader, the leader of the official opposition, said there are no new initiatives in our budget. Mr. Speaker, that is so patently ridiculous. The ideas in this budget are revolutionary in terms of thinking ahead in this territory. When we set aside the fund - $9 million for a trust fund - thinking ahead to the future, whether it's the recreation centre in Dawson, or whether it's the problems that are occurring with their water and sewer, when it's the Arctic Winter Games, Mr. Speaker - millions of dollars in funds, building ahead, thinking ahead to the future: that's the vision.
Economically, when we talk about diversifying the economy, we want to nurture and enhance our resource sector. When you talk about mining, all the Yukon Party said you had to do was go down to their Cordilleran and say you're open for business, and all the companies just come on up. Well, Mr. Speaker, we've done so much more to encourage mining, to work with the mining industry, than the Yukon Party. Mining companies tell me that they couldn't even get in to see the Yukon Party ministers. They didn't do anything except go to the Cordilleran.
We have gone and attended and met hundreds and hundreds of mining companies. We talked about our desire to settle land claims and our action to settle land claims. Mr. Speaker, the members opposite will see it, and they'll see it in not just the election year, like the Yukon Party. They'll see it in a continuous delivery on the agenda.
We talked about the need to devolve -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Point of order has been called.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, the member who's speaking is making comments that are not true. The member commented that the previous government did nothing but go to Cordilleran with the mining community, Mr. Speaker. In fact ...
Speaker: Order please.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Speaker: Order. There is no point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Before I was rudely interrupted, I will say to the member opposite that the statements I'm making are incredibly true. A lot of mining companies couldn't even get in the door with those ministers, Mr. Speaker. We've met hundreds of mining companies. We have worked extremely hard to try and deliver a good, solid message to them, to have our words be backed by our actions, and we've been doing that.
Let me just say that, with regard to the investment climate in this territory, given the world economic forces, I would say that the mining community is relatively happy with the government and our performance on the mining sector.
Mr. Speaker, we just didn't go Cordilleran. We have worked so hard to try and deliver good messages at the prospectors development conference in Toronto, where the major investment houses are. We've worked very hard on the development assessment process.
Mr. Speaker, on the development assessment process, the former Government Leader proved that he had no interest. He didn't even respond to the statement today. He paid as much attention in opposition to the DAP process as he did when he was the Government Leader, and had he had it his way, we would have had the bill delivered from Ottawa that would have bound this territory and Yukoners to legislation that would not have streamlined the development assessment process for the development community or for the environmental community, and we're going to fight for Yukoners. We are not going to sit down, sit back and let the world and the federal government dictate to this territory and to Yukoners what the development assessment process will be. The Yukon Party would have allowed that to happen. We stopped it, and we're proud of that.
I also want to say that with regard to the Fraser Institute report that was identified by the Government Leader - the former Government Leader, I should say. I always have to get that "former" in there. That Fraser Institute report picked this jurisdiction as third overall for investment climate - in this territory. Now, this is the Fraser Institute - no great friend to New Democrats across this land. As a matter of fact, they hate us. But anyway, they managed to see that we were the third best investment jurisdiction for mining, and that's what the surveys that came back to them said.
Now, Mr. Speaker, what were the negatives on policy that were identified by the mining company respondents?
Number one, land claims uncertainty. Well, Mr. Speaker, I would argue, given the Delgamuukw decision and the umbrella final agreement, brought in, negotiated by the Yukon New Democratic Party government previously, give us a competitive advantage. I think, quite frankly, the mining industry respondents were wrong and the Fraser Institute was wrong in terms of their policy grading on the belief that the land claims uncertainty was a negative. I say the UFA in this territory is a certainty positive and, given the Delgamuukw, I think that's been reinforced. That is something that I have been, since I read that report, communicating to the mining industry and, given Delgamuukw, they're now starting to agree with that.
The second policy initiative that they said was a concern to them was protected spaces. We heard the member opposite give lip service to support for protected spaces. As a matter of fact, they're the government that signed us on to the protected spaces 2000 campaign. But what did they do in four years to actually deliver on what they signed? Zippo. Zero. Nothing. More uncertainty. And that, Mr. Speaker, is why we have a problem with uncertainty. It was the lack of action by the Yukon Party government on an agenda they committed the generic Yukon territorial government to.
And you know, Mr. Speaker, it's now 1998. They've left us two and one-half years to deliver on this agenda. They did not further it one iota in their mandate.
So, Mr. Speaker, the fact that we have to move this agenda should not come as any great surprise. It wasn't protected spaces 3000. It was protected spaces 2000.
So, Mr. Speaker, I just want to say that, with regard to the investment climate in this territory, we are extremely proud of the stable force we've been in the economy, both fiscally and in terms of investor confidence. The members opposite - to say a government has pay-as-you-go budgets two years in a row predicting the same message in terms of the bank account surplus we're leaving in the economy, unlike the Yukon Party who, in their election year, had a $25 million current year deficit. They predicted leaving $7 million in the bank account. We have been a stable force.
We have committed, unlike the Yukon Party, to not raising taxes, and we haven't raised taxes. We have the second lowest corporate tax rates in this country. To say that is not good for investor confidence is patently wrong. It's uninformed.
So, I think that, with all due respect to the members opposite, I would say that they have got to change their lines, get some facts, become a little bit more educated on exactly what factors educate investor confidence and the history, the lack of action by the members opposite.
On devolution, I think the members and the Yukon public will be quite pleased when we conclude in areas, like we did on the Yukon oil and gas bill. People talk about devolution. Well, the cooperation agreement we signed with Yukon First Nations was the fundamental cornerstone of what led to the delivery of the Yukon Oil and Gas Act, which is going to create a lot of opportunities for Yukon businesses.
We can move on that agenda this year. That bill should go through Ottawa for third reading on March 8. We will take over control of that resource. Had we had a Yukon Party government - the conflict, the confrontation with Yukon First Nations - that bill would still be on the Order Paper or dead, trashed in a garbage can.
We had the vision, we had the foresight amid great criticism from the Yukon Party to steer the ship through. We did it. We delivered the bill and now we will deliver a Yukon oil and gas industry in this territory and create jobs and opportunities for Yukoners and local communities, and they will see that and Yukoners will see that.
Mr. Speaker, in the former Government Leader's reply to the speech, he talked about the $9-million road contracts he had. How he could stand here and say that is beyond me. First of all, it was the U.S. Congress's $9-million road contract, the Shakwak project. Who negotiated the original Shakwak deal; which government? Well, it was the Yukon New Democratic Party government. Who negotiated the Whitehorse Hospital contract? Well, it was the Yukon New Democratic Party government before 1992.
Those projects should've been bonuses to the economy. Unfortunately, under the Yukon Party, they became the staples of the economy. Government spending from outside that wasn't sustainable.
The road contracts that the member talked about, unfortunately, we are not able to provide this year. Hopefully next year but, Mr. Speaker, we've got to make sure that they don't become the cornerstone. We've got to do things differently here. We've got to think differently, we've got to act differently, we've got to think about being more in tune with what other jurisdictions are doing, to go out there and grab opportunities. Mr. Speaker, we are a small economy, and we cannot continue to run our economic model ŕ la prehistoric notion of the Yukon Party. We've got to move beyond that.
I really believe, if we can move through this economic cycle, do things well and thoughtfully, we will do that.
Mr. Speaker, another thing I want to say about the Yukon Party is, they didn't build any schools for four years. What choices did they leave us? You know, it comes down to the age-old debate: building construction, highway construction. For four years, they pumped all the money from Shakwak into the highway construction budget and left the school construction budget dormant.
So, Mr. Speaker, we have not pent-up expectations from communities for replacing schools. We have three we have to replace. When you put $5 million or $6 million, maybe more, in a school in a given year, what are the options you have left for highway construction? Not a lot. Even though the former Government Leader thinks he can just shave $10 million off the O&M - he tried to shave two percent off the public employees, and look what happened to him? And he abrogated the right to free collective bargaining, which I think is the fundamental point there, to me.
The members opposite have talked about the old Henny Penny scenario: it's economic Armageddon; everything has broken loose here, and we're headed for complete disaster. That's their sort of analysis of the economy. I just want to say, Mr. Speaker, that if you look at the retail sales figures for December, from 1996 to 1997, there was a 10-percent increase in retail sales in this territory. The stats branch says that's a really important indicator of economic activity.
I don't know, Mr. Speaker. I think that's probably pretty positive.
Mr. Speaker, I've got - and I read off earlier - what happened under the Yukon Party in 1994 and 1993. The unemployment rate was actually higher than it is now. That's not good. I'm not proud of 11.3 percent unemployment. I want it lower. Absolutely. But do I want to make knee-jerk decisions? Do I want to spend money I don't have? Do I want to slash health care and education? Do I want to raise taxes to do it? Absolutely not.
So, Mr. Speaker, we've got to respond to the here and now, but we have got to keep our eye on the horizon.
Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about the grid connection that we announced in the budget. Yesterday, the former Government Leader had a little bit of fun. He talked about this idea as being his idea. Well, that is completely ridiculous. First of all, did you hear the words "inter-tie with Alaska" in our budget speech? And, secondly, did you hear any reference to every jurisdiction selling power to each other, which was his brainstorm? Absolutely not.
What we talked about is that we have, unlike him, an agreement - or at least some indication from the chair of B.C. Hydro - that they are willing to participate with us. He just shot it out there. He didn't do any of the homework beforehand. He didn't have an agreement with Alaska or B.C. He didn't even have any indication that they wanted to do it.
Mr. Speaker, the members opposite will see that there are people in B.C. Hydro that do want to investigate this, and we'll bring them here, and then they can see for themselves. This is not a dream scheme. This is actually going to have real people who have real authority who can make real decisions and who can move a real agenda along - not selling power between Alaska and B.C. - everybody trying to sell power to each other. That was the folly of his vision or lack thereof.
Mr. Speaker, I stand by a responsible approach to grid connection, and if we could do that, if it is at all possible, if there is some partnership between the federal, provincial, territorial governments to do this, then I think we would be in good stead in terms of the energy needs of this territory. If it's not, well, we are looking to options, and the energy commission is obviously doing a lot of work to try and provide some background, to try and provide some good information for good decisions being made by this government in other areas of energy, as well.
Mr. Speaker, the former Government Leader talked about the Tombstone. Well, the Tombstone park was a very difficult political issue, one that the members opposite failed to resolve, and hence they did not resolve the land claims agreement with the Tr'ondek Hwech'in.
The Government Leader said today, in Question Period, that there were three substantive political issues left - the real nuts that had to be cracked in order to deliver on that agreement. Mr. Speaker, we delivered on that.
He said that we brought in an interim staking - interim protection - ban. Mr. Speaker, the federal government is in control of interim withdrawal in this territory. It's not the territorial government. Surely he should know that, as a former minister of the Executive Council Office. Staking was going on in that area long before there was any kind of interim protection announced by the federal government. So, he's absolutely, completely off base, wrong and incorrect about that statement.
I want to say another thing about our budget: $500,000 for protected spaces. Let's get this thing done and let's get it done right. There's $400,000 for mineral assessments. The biggest budget in this territory that I could find for mineral assessments was in the $150,000 to $200,000 range. We've doubled that. We've put $400,000 into that, and some of the monies from the other $500,000 will also be used for assessing what we are dealing with in terms of making these decisions. I have heard nothing but support for those initiatives. I think they're important, and I say, let's do the job right. It's going to take money.
It's going to take some O&M money, too, and we're not going to make any apologies for that, because
I don't believe it's bad to do good planning. I don't believe it's bad to pay teachers, to have teachers in the schools, even though it's O&M. I don't believe it's bad, because it's O&M, to have money invested in trade and diversification initiatives. I don't believe it's bad, because it's O&M, to pay nurses and to have nurses in our hospitals. I don't think it's bad to have all the public servants, who do good work for this territory, to receive a paycheque and to do their good deeds for Yukoners and to work through their jobs.
I don't accept the notion that, simply: O&M, bad; capital, good. The world is much more complicated than that, and the demands of Yukoners are too important to narrow the debate to such a level. So, Mr. Speaker, I think we have to think carefully about where we go.
Mr. Speaker, you hear the Yukon Party talk a lot about infrastructure. They talk a lot about infrastructure but, unfortunately, that's all they did: they talked about it. They did not build any significant infrastructure in this territory, other than the Shakwak project, which was negotiated by the NDP government.
There was not one kilowatt of new energy capacity in this territory organized by the Yukon Party government. Talk about diesel burning. They burned more diesel than the Shah of Iran, Mr. Speaker, or should I say Saddam Hussein?
It is such an ideological debate you get from the members opposite. It's not based on any facts. He doesn't put forward anything to support what he says. Infrastructure. Maybe they can stand up and tell me what they built for infrastructure, aside from the Shakwak and the hospital, which were built by the federal government and the U.S. Congress, both negotiated by the Yukon New Democratic Party government before 1992.
So, Mr. Speaker, they can talk about infrastructure. They just didn't deliver on it, and I think that upset a lot of their supporters, and probably that's what ultimately led to their defeat.
I want to say that, as we talk about devolution, we have to be cognizant of the fact that we need good deals for Yukoners, and we need deals that are done properly and done correctly. I think that when the members opposite see the product we produce, they will have to be impressed. We don't talk a lot about it. We're trying to deliver on the agenda.
You'll see the same thing in terms of land claims. We maybe don't have the fanfare of the two agreements the Yukon Party signed in the last dying days of their administration, but we will produce results.
The former Finance minister, the leader of the official opposition, talked about the surplus being reduced. This is the person who tabled a bank account of $7 million in his last budget going into the election campaign, and he has the audacity to criticize us for leaving two successive years of $15 million bank accounts in the main estimates, which they know full well, with lapsed funding, will no doubt be larger than that. We think that's sustainable spending. That's not the roller coaster approach to finances that the Yukon Party had.
Mr. Speaker, the former Minister of Finance amazed me with his lack of understanding of the budgets. He talked about the 17-percent reduction in O&M in Economic Development. He said that O&M reduction was a bad one, if you can believe that. The O&M reduction is the result of a supplementary that was brought in in the fall for a $1.5 million loan to YEC regarding Anvil arrears.
The actual base of the Economic Development department has not been cut. Actually what has happened is that there's been an increase to deal with the trade investment and diversification strategy.
The former Government Leader talked about, if you can believe this one, a $2 million increase in the O&M - O&M, bad - for the ECO budget. Well, that's recoverable money. That's new programs from the federal government. That's not a net increase in the O&M of the Yukon government's budget. Surely he should know that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Language programs. And a very good initiative by the federal Liberal government. I give them full credit for that. We thank them wholeheartedly.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite went on and on about B.C. I don't know if he's sometimes in a time warp from his old home days in Alberta or if he really realizes that this isn't B.C. This is the Yukon. B.C. has their problems. They've been dealing with the Asian market crisis, as well. They've got major stumpage hikes as a result of free trade, and certainly the U.S. tariffs have hit them hard. They have their own problems to deal with. We have our problems. We have our agenda. It's very different and it's very unique to what we want to do for Yukon people.
I don't like to talk or spend a lot of time dealing with those critiques, any more than I like dealing with Alberta, Saskatchewan or Ontario, for that matter.
Mr. Speaker, the vision the last time, and I read out the unemployment figures in 1993 - they were 13.4 percent in January and they were over the unemployment rate the next year, even. His response to that economic situation - the Yukon Party response; his so-called vision - was massive tax increases and it was a gambling casino for the Yukon. What else? It was big, huge budgets. They were over $500 million - half a billion dollars. Artificial economic support. That was his vision for the economy. Ours is not that vision. Let me explain what our vision is.
Our vision is good fiscal responsibility, which we've been delivering. It is pay-as-you-go budgets. It is no tax increases. Our vision is fostering and enhancing and working on the tough issues faced by our resource sector. It's the delivery on the Yukon oil and gas bill. It's making good forestry policy - something the Yukon Party failed to do. It was so bad, they had to promise during the election to fly in an American mediator from Oregon or somewhere to solve it for us, and then they promised a million-dollar stumpage fee and that went nowhere, as well.
It's dealing with the tough issues in the mining industry, like the development assessment process where they failed to stand up for Yukoners. It's going out and marketing what we have to offer in this territory. We've been doing more of that than the Yukon Party ever dreamed of.
That will produce results. It's investing in the mining industry: the mine training trust fund, $300,000, signed with the Chamber of Mines.
It's going beyond that, though. Our vision goes beyond that base. Our vision is that everybody isn't dependent on the government for the next capital project, that everybody isn't dependent on the government for the next O&M expenditure, that we think more outwardly as a territory, that we work on export trade initiatives, but we don't stop there. We also work on investment initiatives so we garner investment in many different sectors through different vehicles, through being more aggressive in our marketing. But I don't want to stop there. We're proposing to develop an immigrant investment fund in this territory.
The Yukon Party - why did they not do that? They did not have the political courage to do that. We know it's risky. Other funds have had problems, but we think we've got to get more investment in this territory and we've got to find appropriate vehicles to do it and we're going to do it.
Mr. Speaker, when I talk with people, they appreciate those initiatives. But our vision even goes deeper than that. We talk about protected spaces, but the Yukon Party always says it's an economic detractor. I say protected spaces done well will be an economic certainty creator and will be an economic activity generator. I think you're talking about sustainable economic impact there and that the tourism industry will benefit and that Yukoners will benefit from protected spaces.
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, when we talk about an abattoir, roundly criticized by members of the opposition, particularly the Yukon Party, I say: it's a risk, but we are trying to develop different sectors of the economy. That's agriculture.
Mr. Speaker, we're trying to get our policies in order. We're dealing with small business issues like access to capital. The members opposite and the Liberal have proposed an investment tax credit. We're going to be looking at those kinds of opportunities to try and stimulate investment access to capital. We're looking at arts, the cultural industries, trying to come up with ideas - some of them will be risky - to try and foster that other side of the economy.
Of course, Mr. Speaker, devolution, settling claims are high on our priority list and will be delivered.
So, Mr. Speaker, let me just say as well, as I conclude, that we have not given up on the Faro mine. The people that I hear in this territory giving up on the Faro mine bring a real bad feeling in my stomach, because that mine has produced so much. When I hear the Yukon Liberal Party announce the findings of their survey, basically jumping in and saying, right on, we wash our hands of the Faro mine, we wash our hands of the people and workers in Faro and around this territory who are benefiting from that mine, I think that's wrong.
What I need from the opposition is help. I need ideas as to how we can help support this project, how we can help keep that mine operating, how we can help generate activity for this economy, for those 700 to 1,000 workers who will benefit in this territory, as well as all the other spinoffs. Mr. Speaker, I really think we have got to take another look at approaching the Faro mine, because it is something that is very, very important to the economy, and I don't like to see Yukoners throw out the baby with the bathwater. It is an important vehicle, an economic generator and, when it is economically feasible ...
Speaker: The member's time has elapsed.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Thank you. ... it should be started up as soon as possible.
Ms. Duncan: It is with great pleasure that I rise to respond to address this budget. At the outset, I would like to correct some of the misrepresentations of the previous speaker that our party has somehow washed its hands of the mine at Faro. I would remind the member that this party - and in particular the three members on this side of the House - have had a long and historic involvement that is fully and completely supportive of, not only the people at Faro, the mining industry as a whole, and that mine in particular. I would be delighted to have the member attend at the archives and examine my own personal involvement with that.
It is with pleasure that I rise as leader of the Yukon Liberal Party to respond to this budget. However, the first words that came to mind when I reviewed this budget was a distinct tie between uninspired and underwhelmed.
The New Democratic Party raised a great deal of expectations during the last election. With this budget, they have, for the second time, failed to deliver. Expectations of progress on economic, environmental and social issues remain unfulfilled. Months into their mandate, this government has gained a reputation as underachievers and caretakers, not governors, who raised expectations and promised the world while they were in opposition and have been unable to follow through with action and accomplishments. To put it in the sports language that some of the members of this House are so fond of, there are no goal-scorers on that front bench.
The main failure has been the failure of this government to maintain a healthy investor confidence in our territory. The Economic Development minister and the former Government Leader have referred to the Fraser Institute. What would their rating be next year?
It isn't about maintaining an outside-of-government rating. It's about inspiration. It's about inspiring investor confidence. Uncertainty remains today because there has been a distinct lack of progress on land claims - their number one priority. There has been a lack of progress on devolution, a lack of progress on DAP, a lack of progress on electricity issues and a lack of progress on forestry policy. It has taken the NDP in the Yukon only some 16 months what it took their counterparts in B.C. years to accomplish: to make the Yukon a questionable place to invest and do business.
The impacts of this style of government are on full display now in the province south of us, with B.C. trailing the rest of Canada in job creation.
In the second paragraph of the Budget Address, the Finance minister said that this budget is about jobs. Yes, Mr. Speaker, if you have a job, you're all right. T
here are at least 1,600 Yukoners who do not have jobs. Stop at the gas station and ask how many people they have laid off in the last two months. Phone any Yukon business and ask if they have gone to nine-day fortnights or how many staff they've laid off or how many people are no longer working. Yukoners cannot look to this budget for job creation.
It's not the role of government to create jobs through sheer spending power. It is the job of government to create the climate for investment to flourish, and this is not happening under the NDP government.
With the capital budget for highways at only $12 million, there certainly will not be many Yukoners going to work on our highways this summer. There are some who say it's hardly worth starting up the graders. In many summers past there have been single projects worth more than $12 million.
This government has been pleading poverty since they took office. At the same time, they've reduced the surplus, our bank account, to only $15 million. Obviously the money has to be going somewhere. It's clearly not being spent on putting Yukoners back to work.
What Yukoners see is the cost of operating and maintenance for government remaining stagnant while the money available to put Yukoners to work is reduced.
I, for one, think that says a lot about the priorities of that government.
Mr. Speaker, the most disturbing aspect of this budget is the NDP's continued reliance on deficit financing. We will see a territorial surplus shrink to around $15 million in March 1999 under this NDP government. With governments across the country balancing budgets and producing surpluses, this government continues to spend money they don't have on things we don't need. Even their NDP counterparts in Saskatchewan have achieved a balanced budget. On the other hand, the worst offenders continue to be the B.C. NDP, who continue to run up more deficits and debts.
As we move closer and closer to a negative bank balance, I hope the Finance minister looks to his counterparts in Saskatchewan, as opposed to British Columbia. We do not need the Glen Clark school of economics in the Yukon.
Perhaps some of the government members could outline in their responses to this budget where the government plans to make up the shortfalls?
What areas are going to be cut? What fees or taxes are going to go up? With the Taxpayer Protection Act, it will not be possible to take this territory into a debt scenario. As the surplus shrinks and spending continues, that's exactly where we're headed.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: The kibitzing from the front benches - "Show me the money." They're going to have to show Yukoners the money.
The Government Leader, when he was in opposition, was a big supporter of balanced budgets. Now in office, he's abandoned the idea.
It's not entirely unexpected. In fact, it's quite a common NDP practice. Flip-flops on issues, such as wolf kill, stabilizing energy rates, reducing unemployment, supporting the CNAs at Whitehorse General Hospital and local hire have characterized this government from day one.
The NDP platform stated that a growing cynicism about government can be reversed if the government is more accountable for its actions. Hello. These reversals on the part of the NDP continue to erode confidence in the Yukon government. It's this practice of saying one thing before you get elected and doing completely the opposite after you get elected that infuriates Yukoners. It's what erodes people's trust in our public institutions. It is something that the NDP pledged not to do. Unfortunately, they haven't kept that campaign commitment either.
Two events on the horizon are putting added pressure on what the Government Leader has described as, "not a crisis but a serious challenge in our finances." I am referring to the hike in electricity rates that is just around the corner and the unsettled negotiations with Yukon government employees.
We know at least one of these will occur this year - the electrical rate increase. We've heard numbers like 30 percent thrown around, and we have some vague statements in the budget speech about measures to reduce the potential rate shock. It remains to be seen how much the consumer will pay and how much the government will absorb.
The end result is more government dollars going up in diesel smoke without a future plan.
The wage settlement with YGEU might occur this year; it might not. Based on the snail's pace that the negotiations are proceeding at, it's difficult to say. However, the Yukon Teachers Association could be back at the bargaining table as early as April this year.
In the area of education, I have only a couple of comments, and I'll leave the rest to the departmental debate. The government has indicated that there are plans to construct three schools in rural communities. The projects in Mayo and Ross River have been identified as priorities in the rural school assessment, and I'm extremely pleased that the minister responsible for Government Services has confirmed that the first of these projects, the replacement school in Old Crow, will be on time and on or under budget at $8.5 million - on time this year. Well, he needn't rest on his laurels. The questions on that project aren't over.
Mr. Speaker, I spoke earlier about the need to watch the Yukon's bottom line, and the Minister of Economic Development is constantly asking for suggestions about how we could promote economic development and, at the same time, keep the books in order. Well, I hope that the Minister for Economic Development has seen that recent movie release, Air Force One. There's a line in it wherein the lead actor quotes from a children's book, If you give a mouse a cookie - and I would highly, highly recommend it to the Minister of Economic Development. "If you give a mouse a cookie, chances are he'll want a glass of milk." That's a really good way to look at the community development fund.
One step the government could take is to abolish the CDF or at least change the mechanism for distributing the money. The Liberals support spending money with communities to support economic development. What we are opposed to is three Cabinet ministers dispensing these goodies - $3.5 million worth of goodies - to communities all over the Yukon, building infrastructure in communities that is then called upon by municipalities to support.
We have to have a long-range vision. What we have proposed in the past and what I'm repeating today is that there should be legislation. There should be a governance, there should be a framework developed to administer this program. Legislation should include the appointment of an independent board to review projects and disburse dollars. This would eliminate the pork barrel smell that surrounded the fund in the past and continues to linger today.
While it's obvious we need economic development, we need a plan, not an ad hoc creation of half-million-dollar facilities with long-term O&M commitments. Handing out money always makes governments popular in the short term. It's not a substitute for long-term economic planning or long-term economic development in our communities.
And while we're on the topic of balancing the budget and cutting government expenses, let's turn to another area where the government could save some money: the four Cabinet commissions.
This year, $424,000 is set aside for commissions. That brings the total to over $1.1 million in two and one-half years. What have we got to show for it? A local hire report, which I praised publicly and which the Government Services minister ignores every single time he looks at it or has anything to do with spending any money. We have a DAP commissioner; we still don't have any legislation. We have no energy policy, but, boy, have we got some paper. And we don't have a forestry policy.
Only one of four commissions has produced any results and, as I said, its results have gone unheeded and ignored. The DAP legislation is delayed again and it might not even be ready for the House of Commons this fall.
With regard to forestry, we have seen a great deal of paper and reports, but little in the way of product. To the credit of the forestry commissioner, it does appear that this commission at least has the players all on side and participating in the process.
It's a good sign and a good start.
The energy commission, on the other hand, continues to short circuit from one missed deadline to the next missed deadline. We were treated in this Legislature to the unveiling of a new final workplan for the commission this week. If you miss the deadlines in your first workplan, why, you just create a new workplan, and hope nobody notices. We noticed. Is that the plan of the commission? The issues that are being examined are important ones; ones that have to be addressed.
The lack of product, as my colleague from Riverside has noted, is the problem with this commission - the energy commission. It's time for the energy commissioner to stop talking about talking; it's time to move on to some action.
Mr. Speaker, this budget is significant for what it contains and for what it fails to mention or to emphasize. At the top of the list of items given scant attention are land claims and devolution. Neither of these topics figure prominently in the budget address, although they are probably the two topics that will have the most impact on the future of the territory. Given the fact that the NDP has made the completion of land claims their number-one priority, I'm surprised at this lack of emphasis.
Perhaps their failure to sign off any land claims in the first 16-some months of their mandate is the reason.
On the topic of devolution, I was most surprised that it warranted only a passing mention in the budget speech. The transfer of the Northern Affairs program will have a huge impact on the Yukon in areas of forestry, mining and Yukon society as a whole. I can only assume that the lack of progress in this initiative is the reason it's been given such low billing.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon government has identified the protected areas strategy as their top environmental priority. This was the top priority in the Yukon Liberal Party environmental platform.
I'm pleased that the NDP has put it at the top of their list. I have heard the criticism that the process has been somewhat one-sided, with environmental concerns overshadowing resource concerns. The main issue is that of land.
It is this uncertainty that has been identified as the major impediment to both mining and oil and gas industries. The analogy I have heard is that mining companies are not opposed to, for example, a staking ban on 12 percent of the territory for one year while areas are selected. What they are opposed to is 50 percent of the territory over a 10-year period.
Mr. Speaker, the last section of the budget talks about consultation and partnership with Yukoners. The Government Leader gives himself a pat on the back for the NDP record on consultation. I believe it is premature for this government to be patting itself on the back for anything. The NDP record on consultation has been anything but stellar. A lack of consultation on important issues, such as domestic violence legislation and the closure of Crossroads, have demonstrated this government's selective approach and selective hearing to consultation.
Another example of the selective approach to consultation is contained in the certain recommendations of the local hire commission final report. I refer to the recommendations that advocate the creation of a new ministry of labour and the creation of a hiring agency for projects involving Yukon government funds.
In both these examples, the government went in with preconceived plans to include these as recommendations. The fact that the hiring agency was not supported during the consultations was irrelevant to the commissioner, who had already made up his mind. Similarly, the creation of more government was not recommended by the people at these consultations.
This type of phony consultation does not build trust in government. In fact, it does quite the opposite.
People are asked to give their opinions, and they're ignored. People are asked to put their trust in government, and they're betrayed. They feel betrayed when their suggestions are ignored. It's insulting, just as the Member for Whitehorse Centre has said, to individuals who take the time to participate, and it ensures they will not participate in the future. Individuals who take the time from their personal lives to attend meetings must feel that their positions have been heard.
Now, the Minister of Economic Development is very fond of calling across the floor of the House that "those confrontational Liberals are not offering anything constructive." Well, I'd like to offer something constructive to the government in my budget response. I'd like to commend the government on some very specific choices that they made when they put together this budget - the fund for Dawson City's capital projects, the $530,000 increase for Whitehorse General Hospital, the increase in funding for the Land Claims Secretariat, the increase in funding for home care, the $1.5 million on mental health services, and the Canada Games building fund, which will be spent over seven years. These are very good initiatives by the government, very good choices. I realize that, in putting together the budget, there was an array of choices before the government. Those are selections that I would compliment them on. Good choice. Had I been on that side, I probably would have done the same.
The other speakers have suggested that we've got to move beyond the prehistoric model of creating budgets and attributed that to the Yukon Party, and I would like to suggest that we've got to move beyond the uninspired, underwhelming, sheer cure for insomnia that we could label this budget.
This budget lacks inspiration. The creativity is without detail. Where there is some, like the immigrant investor fund - it is one of the more enlightened ideas in this budget - there is one very small paragraph and without detail. How come we couldn't come forward in our budget with some good ideas?
If it represented a challenge, then the government hasn't met that challenge.
I have many more observations and ideas on how this government is handling our finances. I have suggestions, as do my colleagues, the critics for other areas, and very specific suggestions in the departmental debate that will follow in the coming weeks and, Mr. Speaker, we look forward to that debate as we continue to offer thoughtful criticism, pointed criticism and pointed questions, which the government must be prepared to face and should have some answers for, not simply for our party in this House, but for Yukoners as a whole.
We will continue to put forward constructive suggestions, ideas, better ideas, on how this budget could have been put together and on how Yukoners' money should be spent.
I look forward to offering those suggestions to the government in the coming weeks.
Mr. Livingston: I'm pleased, I guess, with the member's last comments, that she wants to try to become a more constructive opposition, she wants to try to take a more constructive approach. I think that's good news. That's good news for Yukoners, because our objective here is to provide good government leadership, as far as government leadership should extend, to a sustainable kind of operation in terms of the kinds of services that government provides, and in terms of the way that we can set the stage here in the Yukon, the way that we can create an environment, the kinds of things that we can do to encourage a strong private sector development in this territory. Because we know, Mr. Speaker, that with declining government revenues - and we've seen this coming; this is no surprise - fewer and fewer and fewer people, fewer and fewer and fewer Yukoners, are going to be able to rely on direct government spending for their livelihoods.
In the words of Alanis Morissette, this is rather ironic that we see the two opposition parties, both the Liberal Party and the Yukon Party, while they talk quite the talk about the private sector and limiting government involvement and so on, they've been unable to reach beyond this vision of a Yukon economy built primarily on government dollars. That's been, I think, one of the significant failings of the opposition parties.
We understand, Mr. Speaker, that with declining government revenues, there will be the need for a stronger and a more vibrant private sector economy in this territory, and one of the things that, as we keep our eye on the horizon, we're working to create is that kind of environment: an environment that is good for all Yukoners and good for Yukoners who work in the private sector.
I was pleased to note, as well, that the previous speaker likes a number of things that are in the budget. She likes this government's long-term planning that results, for example, in the Dawson capital project being established. It results in the Canada Games capital fund being established, and I would note as well that it puts additional resources into the Land Claims Secretariat, because we know how important that work is for the future of this territory.
Interestingly enough, despite the fact that we heard Mr. Chrétien saying on the radio this morning that, by God, we're not going to spend any more federal dollars on health care - and we've seen that; we've seen the decline in their support for health care - I'm pleased to note the member opposite's support for our increases in grants to the Hospital Corporation, our considerable expansion of the home care program in this territory really turning a corner into a new era for home care in this territory, and our new initiative in terms of mental health services, basically moving it to more of a community-based model of mental health services. Those, I would agree, are significant initiatives, and I'm pleased to note the member opposite's support.
I think that there's a lot of other things that the member opposite has missed in terms of new initiatives, new positive initiatives, that this government has undertaken and I'm going to turn to those just a little bit later. But I would like to respond to some of the comments that have been made by this speaker.
She talks about the importance of getting Yukoners back to work. Well, our government couldn't agree more on that notion, that we want to get Yukoners back to work, but I think once again we find a view that relies on the importance of the public dollar and neglects, really, what the potential of the private sector in the Yukon is. We know that Yukoners are innovative, creative individuals, and these individuals form a variety of communities, form a variety of enterprises. Yukoners are willing to take a chance, to get out and to make their economies work, and what we want to do is set a stage that provides some sense of security, an economy in which they can move forward with some confidence.
The member went on at some length about deficit financing, about how this government is financing using a deficit and notes what's going on in a number of other jurisdictions. My sense is that maybe the member opposite doesn't have much of a sense of financial management, certain financial management over a longer term. A quick examination of the Yukon's economic record over the last 10 years shows a lot of examples, a boom and a bust and a boom again, and we know that that's in part due to our reliance on just a few sectors: the mining sector, tourism sector, the government sector.
My colleague, the Minister of Economic Development, spoke at some length about the rocky ride that, particularly, contractors in this territory have faced because of the artificial boom and bust that has been created in fact by government spending.
Mr. Speaker, we're not about to pull all of those dollars from capital projects, even though we're running a very small deficit. We are committed to sustained spending, to sustained spending patterns over the longer term, because we know that that's going to have a positive and a good impact on this territory. We know that that's going to mean that when contractors are established in the Yukon and begin to work, they'll have a sense of the kinds of dollars, the amounts of dollars, that are going to be spent from year to year to year, and aren't going to have to be moving in and moving out and moving in.
We'd like nothing more than for additional federal dollars to come in and build another project. That's what happened in the case of the hospital project, and when you look at a $40-million project, or thereabouts, in an economy in which the government spends only 10 times that in a given year - 10 or 12 times that - that's a significant input of dollars. When those federal dollars dry up, we simply don't have the wherewithal to sustain that. So what we're aiming for, Mr. Speaker, are sustained spending patterns that can help us to set a more stable economic stage for all Yukoners.
I'm pleased to note that, last week, following a legislative exchange that occurred with the Alaskan state representatives - senators and representatives from the House - one of the members opposite who participated in the exchange issued a press release that chronicled this government's ongoing commitment and pressure to have additional funds from the U.S. Congress for the Shakwak Highway.
Now, that's a plum that can certainly help to put some Yukoners to work. It hasn't historically done that, but we can always be hopeful that more Yukoners will be put to work on that project. But, in addition, Mr. Speaker, we do know that some of those dollars are spent within the service industry in this territory and do make a difference.
This government will continue to ensure that the U.S. Congress takes note, not just of the Yukon's interest in this regard, but of the voice that's been expressed by provinces and states and territories in the northwest in support of that project, and I'm hopeful that we'll see that project come to life again.
It's ironic again that, while the Yukon Party was in power for four years and frankly realized the benefits of the NDP's negotiated Shakwak project, they did not seek a renewal of this particular project, so we find ourselves in a bit of a gap here, trying to fill that gap. It's one that I'm hoping will be filled in the not-too-distant future.
Mr. Speaker, it's not fair. It's not fair to people, particularly in the private sector, to be experiencing the roller-coaster of boom and bust, to see, for example, government expenditures balloon in one year and then fall flat to the floor in the next. It really jerks people around out there and it's simply not an acceptable way, in my view, for us to budget.
That's one of the reasons why this government is committed to longer range planning - longer range planning that is going to result in sustained spending patterns over the longer term. The member opposite talks about deficit financing. Well, I'll tell you, the proof will be in the pudding. We'll see, over the next couple of years, whether or not this spending pattern is sustainable, and I invite further debate over the next couple of years on this very question.
Mr. Speaker, our government is doing what we said we'd do. The references, the veiled references by the previous member, to saying one thing and doing another thing once we got into office - basically of lying to the people - are simply unfounded. We've followed through on a number of commitments to date and I can assure all Yukoners that we will be working hard to deliver on the commitments that we made to the Yukon public 16 short months ago. That's something that we'll be continuing to work at over the next two and a half or so years.
It's interesting; we heard a fair bit from the member opposite about, on the one hand, consultation - there hasn't been enough consultation - and then we also hear concerns that the energy commission is doing too much consultation. On one hand, we're not getting enough; on the other hand, we're having too much opportunity to talk about the various matters, and so on.
There seems to be some inconsistency here. There seems to be an inconsistent message from the member opposite about this government's commitment to consultation. We've made a commitment to the Yukon public to consult on significant matters that affect them and we continue to do that, day in and day out. That's not just an event, Mr. Speaker, that's how this government goes about doing business.
I can tell all members of this House and members of the public that that's something that we see, not only in the four policy development commissions that were established initially - one of them which has wrapped up - but we've also seen it in the forestry commission's efforts to work, not just with Yukoners, but in recognition of the role that the Council of Yukon First Nations plays and recognition of the continued legal responsibility that the Government of Canada has. They have, in a responsible manner, tried to continue working with those two parties.
Well, that's in addition to numerous public meetings, where people have simply dropped in to offer their comments about the progress that's being made on the development of a forest strategy for the Yukon. That's in addition to the more formal workshops that have had facilitators that are involved in the resource industries and forest industries, facilitators that are involved in regulatory processes, facilitators that are involved in various aspects - secondary processes in that particular industry - and I'm quite pleased with the work that's being done by the forestry commission in terms of consultation.
In the area of energy, I know that the energy commission certainly has had its work cut out for them. After four years of no additional power being put onto the grid and no additional work being done around both kinds of power issues, the commission is searching with Yukoners for some longer term strategies around security of supply, reasonable rates and affordable rates, and is committed to doing that work.
Once again, the commission is not going to act in a knee-jerk kind of manner. I have every confidence that it's going to work along with Yukoners. It's going to consider all of the information. It's going to act in a calm and deliberate and a thoughtful manner, and I think that Yukoners expect no less.
The local hire commission is done. It involved many, many Yukoners - roughly 800 Yukoners - in its consultations. That's no small feat for it to have begun and completed its work within roughly a year and to have delivered a series of recommendations - a fairly comprehensive series of recommendations - that this government is now considering how best to implement and how to begin our implementation to ensure that more and more Yukoners work and receive contracts from the Yukon government.
I remember, Mr. Speaker, the great hue and cry from the party opposite, from the Liberals in particular, about the constitutionality of this question, about whether or not it was in the purview of the Yukon government to work for Yukon workers and ensure that Yukon workers got their fair share of work coming out of Yukon government dollars. I remember the big noises that came out of that Liberal Party caucus, and I'm proud that this government has proceeded on that, and that we now have something solid with which we can move forward.
It's interesting that the fourth commission, the commission that I made a statement about in this House - I won't go into a great deal of detail - but we hear the criticism from the Liberal Party, which is associated, I guess, with its federal Liberal counterparts. I would hope that, in the interests of Yukoners, maybe they could take some time to express some of the interest that Yukoners have to ensure that we can reach a resolution sooner rather than later on our DAP commission work, on our forestry work. This leads me right into some thoughts about the devolution process and the incredible step that this will be for Yukoners, in terms of taking control, or managing matters in our own House here at home.
Devolution is a huge step. It's not a huge step because Yukoners can't manage those kinds of matters, manage the forests that are in the Yukon, manage the environmental assessment processes in the Yukon, manage the wildlife and many of the other matters that, typically, provinces and so on have jurisdiction over.
That's not the tough part of negotiating devolution. I can tell you what the tough part of negotiating devolution is here. It's about the accompanying dollars that will help to support that, and will support, as well, the resolution of land claims and the empowerment of First Nations to carry on with their responsibilities as was agreed to, in fact, by our federal Liberal government in 1993 - sorry, by the Yukon government as well - and by the Council of Yukon First Nations. We have a three-cornered agreement here. In order for us to move forward on devolution, we essentially need the support and the assurances that we are going to be able to deliver on our responsibilities that we have the wherewithal and the financial resources to do that.
I am hopeful that, over the coming months, the federal Liberal government will fully understand what its responsibilities are in terms of supporting the umbrella final agreement and the rights of the First Nations under the umbrella final agreement and the responsibilities and the cost that they must carry, as well as the Yukon government's obligations.
Any devolution of program responsibilities needs to take place with adequate funding. S
o, I hope that our Liberal counterparts will be taking that message to their counterparts in Ottawa.
One of the other comments that was made by the member opposite was about our lack of progress on land claims. Well, this view is patently wrong. This government has made progress on land claims. I know that we will be hearing more about that in the coming days and weeks. This is despite a climate that is certainly being muddied a bit by the Delgamuukw decision, but we are very fortunate in the Yukon to have an umbrella final agreement negotiated by the New Democratic government, because that provides us with a framework with which we can move forward.
It's with that general mandate that we're moving forward, and I'm hopeful that we will see some progress in the near future. But, once again, it's rather ironic, Mr. Speaker, that we hear from the member opposite about her concern about land claims and devolution. I note in recent months the new Liberal leader is beginning to schmooze more and more with Mr. Campbell, the opposition leader in British Columbia, and I note - I happen to have a letter from -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Livingston: That's right. My colleague says, "A new friend of the Liberal leader here." That's what Mr. Campbell is - he's got a relationship that's being nurtured between the Liberal leader here in the Yukon and the one in B.C. In his comments about land claims to the Premier of British Columbia, he says that the premier has made unjustified concessions to First Nations claims and has pretended that the result of this approach will be prosperity for all. Mr. Campbell is unalterably opposed to the successful completion of land claims agreements and he makes that clear time and time again. I think the growing alliance between the Yukon Liberal Party and the British Columbia Liberal Party should be a danger signal for all Yukoners.
I trust that, in the coming weeks and months, we'll have the Liberal leader recommitted to the constructive resolution of land claims in this territory.
Now, the leader of the Liberal Party had a quote from a recent movie. She said, "If you give a mouse a cookie, there's a good chance he'll want a glass of milk." Well, I'm not sure what the value of that particular wisdom is. I like cookies and milk and I kind of like them together, and I think that, as we draw our budget together for Yukoners, we're hoping that they're not going to - you know, there's the old saying of "You want your cake and you want to eat it, too". Well, guess what folks, there's not much point in having the cake if you can't eat it, too. We basically want to be able to put a full agenda, a full meal deal, if you like, before Yukoners.
There's not much point in us doing half of a meal. We want to basically put a budget before Yukoners that is sustainable over the longer haul. We don't want something that's simply going to result in more boom-and-bust cycles, cycles that throw the contracting industry, throw the service industries, throw all Yukoners into a tizzy every time we start the downward slide again.
Our Yukon government can play an important role in providing some greater stability in the Yukon economy and how we spend our dollars.
I note that the Liberal leader also is opposed to the community development fund and the curling rinks, the wilderness trails, disabled access to community buildings - agendas that are put together by Yukon communities, where Yukon communities and nongovernmental organizations come to the Yukon and say, "We'd like support for this project or that project." There are tourism-related initiatives, there are community construction projects that are undertaken - a wide variety of projects requested by Yukoners. I cannot believe that the Liberal Party is not prepared to support the community development fund and the needs that are identified by communities and the benefits that accrue to those communities. It's just amazing, Mr. Speaker.
I think I heard the Liberal leader speaking out of both sides of her mouth on the protected areas strategy. On the one hand, she says she's pleased; on the other hand, she says there are some issues about land, and so on. Well, indeed, one of the reasons that we move forward on things like the protected areas strategy is to provide some certainty for the environmental community, for developers and for all Yukoners, in how the territory is going to develop.
That's why, Mr. Speaker, the protected areas strategy initial public meetings were held almost a year ago. We're not prepared to delay and delay and delay, because we want to provide some certainty for all Yukoners on protected areas.
So, Mr. Speaker, the Liberal leader is uninspired and underwhelmed, she says. I would suggest that this budget provides a lot of things for Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, I represent a riding that's quite diverse. It could really be considered a microcosm of the entire territory. We have mobile homes in Lake Laberge, with the MacKenzie Trailer Court. We have urban areas at Porter Creek West and Crestview. McPherson and Hidden Valley are city, but they are country residential lots within the city, and as well, there are many neighbourhoods - agricultural neighbourhoods like the Hotsprings Road, Mayo Road, Shallow Bay and Grizzly Valley - that also have rural residential lots in them. Some tourism potential is there as well. Jackfish Bay, Deep Creek and Braeburn have somewhat different communities. It's a very diverse riding, Mr. Speaker. There are also First Nations people. The Ta'an Kwach'an have their main territory within the riding as well.
It's also one of the fastest growing ridings in the territory. There are considerable pressures for development, and so in that sense I believe that I speak for many parts of the territory in the sense that there are quite diverse interests represented in my riding.
Mr. Speaker, the budget is doing a lot of things for the Yukon economy right now. We know that, with the decline of the Faro mine, for the moment at least, people are looking for the initiatives around jobs. I can tell Yukoners that this budget, while it's a pay-as-you-go kind of a budget, it's got an emphasis around jobs and what we can do for Yukoners today in terms of ensuring that there are jobs and trying to build around that whole theme of jobs, jobs, jobs.
In spite of declining revenues, we're creating jobs by putting more than $70 million back into the economy in capital spending, and that's more than twice as much, Mr. Speaker, as any other province has put into their capital budget.
At the same time, we're protecting important services, such as health and education, without increasing taxes or imposing health care fees. This notion that somehow this is a drain, this is a bottomless pit and this has no impact on the Yukon economy, how silly can you get, Mr. Speaker? I know we have people in this community that go to school and want those teachers in the schools. I know that we have people everyday visiting the hospital and they're expecting to find good quality health care, and this government is committed to good quality health care. We have people who expect their roads to be ploughed and we're going to do that, too. We have a variety of services that we're committed to continuing and maintaining because Yukoners expect to see those services maintained.
And you know what, Mr. Speaker? Every one of those workers turns around and spends their dollars on Main Street in Whitehorse, on Main Street in Dawson City, at the stores in Watson Lake. Every one of those workers is spending dollars in their communities.
So we know, Mr. Speaker, that that's one of the ways that we can - by maintaining those programs, maintaining the services that Yukoners have come to expect - ensure a stable and secure kind of economy in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, this year we have about $9 million to improve principal roads. We've also set aside a half-million-dollar fund to assist in putting people to work in the communities on secondary roads. That's a new initiative. It's a good initiative. It's one that supports some additional development in our rural areas in particular.
Our increased commitment to the community development fund, by 75 percent to $3.5 million, will create additional jobs in communities across the territory, in Whitehorse and the riding of Lake Laberge. It's also got the double benefit of meeting community priorities.
This government has also committed to trying to fill the gap, fill the need, for some additional country and urban residential lot development, and also to provide for affordable home lots that Yukon mobile home residents are able to move on to and have title to, have the dignity of being able to control where they live, control their destiny to a greater degree, by having title to those mobile home lots.
So, Mr. Speaker, this government is committed to spending smarter and building foundations for the future. But you know, Mr. Speaker, we're not content with just looking at today and looking at tomorrow. We want to look at next year, we want to look at the next decade, we want to look at the longer haul. We know how important it is for a government to keep its eye on the horizon. In that vein, we're committed to strengthening and diversifying the Yukon economy for the future.
We recognize the need to break those boom-and-bust cycles by developing a stronger and more diversified economy that creates more jobs and business opportunities.
I want to talk a little bit about a diversified economy and what that looks like. A lot of jurisdictions, over the years, talked about diversified economies. We've seen examples of diversification that involved individual sectors. Instead of just mining gold, we're also going to mine some copper. We've seen diversification that looks a little bit beyond that, and says we don't want to just exploit, or we don't want to just develop, our mining industry, we also want to develop our forest industry; we want to go beyond that.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we have a vision about diversifying the economy that goes beyond even that. We recognize that the economy is a multi-layered economy. It has its resource extraction industries, and that's a good thing. It means that we can use some of the advantages the Yukon offers, in terms of the wealth that does exist here, to support many of the other programs that Yukoners have come to expect.
We also know, Mr. Speaker, that it's not just resource extraction, it's not just mining the minerals and using the forests in a responsible way, but it's also processing as much as we're able to do with our relatively small economy here. We encourage, we want to support additional processing, additional manufacturing across the Yukon, particularly with the resources that the Yukon has. Also, we're certainly willing to look at and interested in looking at resources that may come from outside, with the processing to take place here.
One of the largest growth areas in the economy over the last 50 years has been not the manufacturing, not the primary production, but has been in the service sectors and in the information industries. It's in these areas as well that we see the potential for some growth. The service sector, certainly tourism, is an important cornerstone of the Yukon economy and one that this government wants to continue to encourage and continue to support, but we know that there's potential for more out there. Lots of different kinds of businesses manage information, from financial to other types of information - educational information and so on - and we recognize that, with our long distances, that's an area where we'd probably have a particular advantage because it doesn't cost much to send information through the airwaves. So, any of those management-of-information kinds of businesses, that sector is certainly one that's ripe for the picking, and I think it's particularly ripe for us because of the well-educated population that we have in the Yukon, the young population that we have in the Yukon, and I am sure that many of you know, as I do, if you have young sons or daughters at home, how inept they can make us look when they sit down in front of a computer and begin managing and manipulating information.
So I think, Mr. Speaker, there's a lot of potential and this government is going to go about working to try to expand the kinds of businesses, the kinds of industry and the private sector. And the way that it looks today, we hope to see that diversified down the road.
Mr. Speaker, this government is actively promoting trade opportunities abroad and elsewhere in Canada under the trade and investment diversification strategy, and I look forward to the opportunity to debate further on that in coming weeks. Those are significant initiatives. They talk about accessing capital and providing access to capital for Yukon businesses.
It also talks about nurturing export opportunities for businesses, and that's not something that just happens, it's something that's got to be worked at. So the advantage of having someone available as a consultant to assist with that is a very valuable thing.
The immigrant investor fund is another fund that can attract new investment for Yukon businesses. It has had some success in other areas, and it's a very innovative way for us to attract additional capital to the Yukon to help to support the growth of new businesses and to sustain businesses that are already in existence. One of the matters, of course, that we discussed and we had unanimous consent on yesterday in the House was the whole notion of finding alternative sources of capital, so I'm pleased to note the general support for those kinds of initiatives on the part of our government.
Mr. Speaker, we continue to talk to other regions through the Pacific northwest region and the circumpolar regional groups, and that offers us opportunities to do some networking, identify opportunities and move forward.
The work of the local hire commission will also help us to implement the means by which we can ensure that Yukon workers and Yukon contractors are able to take advantage of new initiatives and of the longer range planning that we've done around schools - Old Crow in 1998, Ross River in 1999, Mayo in the year 2000 - around partnerships with B.C., including the possibility of an electricity grid interconnection, around the CDF and how those dollars are spent, and indeed, down the road, for the multi-year savings accounts for capital projects like the Canada Winter Games and the Dawson City sewage treatment.
So, there are a number of things that we can do. I'm also pleased to note that this government has continued to look for some of the additional plums, if you like, around capital spending. We have seen more than a dozen - the record that was filed by a member of the opposition on February 19 - contacts that have taken place, including face-to-face meetings among our government and Alaskan and U.S. representatives to try and encourage the Shakwak funding to come forward from this year's American Congressional budget. I continue to be hopeful that we will see some progress on that, and that will be an additional infusion ...
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Mr. Livingston: ... that's not included in the budget that will be good for the Yukon.
The budget also works to support the social agenda that this government has: additional dollars for the hospital, home care, the two-year pilot project in community-based mental health, our new approach to drug and alcohol treatment that provides more long-term support and encourages the delivery of treatment services at the community and First Nations level.
This is a good-news budget for Yukoners. Hardly a day goes by that we don't hear from Yukoners looking for services in health care and education. I'm pleased to note that this government has continued its commitment. We continue in our commitment to protect the environment - a half a million dollars for the Yukon protected areas strategy - and extensive public consultation on that as well as the Tombstone and the forest strategy and monies for the land and mineral assessments. Mr. Speaker, this government is committed to working on a broad front for Yukoners.
I'm pleased to offer my support for our government's budget. I think it's a pay-as-you-go budget. It's a budget that's good for Yukoners. It's a budget that is going to provide a measure of stability and security for Yukoners over the longer haul. I'm pleased to support the 1998-99 Yukon budget.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise today to speak to the budget that's been presented by the New Democratic Party, the second consecutive budget that they've presented that is running a deficit - a trend, I believe, that is making a lot of Yukoners rather nervous, because we all have memories of past New Democratic Party governments who were very good at spending the bank account down to zero. In fact, we all recall 1992, when we ended up with a $64-million deficit, created by New Democrats.
I want to speak a little bit, first of all, about some of the comments that were made earlier today by the Member for Faro - as I like to call him, the minister of economic devastation, who is at the helm of the Yukon ship when we appear to be going under.
I have been in this House for 13 years. I am somewhat disappointed with the approach that the Member for Faro was taking to our debates. He has a tendency, Mr. Speaker, to rise in this House and reinvent history. Now, one of the things that I was told, and one of the things that I strongly believed in when I was elected to this office, was to come into this Legislature and, when you rise on your feet, if you do nothing else, you have an obligation to tell the truth - to speak the truth.
Unfortunately, the Member for Faro has difficulty doing that. His interpretation of history is somewhat flawed. He spoke today about the Cordilleran Roundup and said that all the Yukon Party did was go to the Cordilleran. That's false. It's patently false. He knows it's false. It's terribly false. There were all kinds of meetings with mining companies, mining officials in the Yukon, outside the Yukon, in our offices up here, discussions that took place, agreements that happened with respect to the Loki project in Dawson. So to stand on your feet and make a statement that nothing else happened but that, is not the truth. We're obligated in this House to stand on our feet and speak the truth. If we can't do that, Mr. Speaker, we shouldn't be in the House. But it's not uncommon for me to hear things outside of this House about that member who doesn't tell the truth to constituents.
Mr. Speaker, he stood up in the House today and talked about this budget being about diversifying the economy. Well, I see very little in this budget about diversifying the economy, very little. In fact, he complained that, in four years of the Yukon Party government, there wasn't much economic diversification, and that's why we're in trouble today, but he forgets one little thing. That little thing is that, eight years prior to that, we were under an NDP regime that used to stand in the House every year in their budgets as they've done here the other day, and say we have to diversify the economy. Well, what happened to their plan for eight years? They were unsuccessful.
Mr. Speaker, I have strong concerns about what this government is doing about the Yukon economy. I look at this budget, I look at the various sectors in the Yukon, and I don't think there's a sector out there that isn't concerned right now about the Yukon economy.
He says we're going through a cycle. It's the world's problems, not his problems. Granted, there are some problems out there in the world with respect to the purchase of raw materials, the metal prices and that kind of thing, but there are things that governments can do, and we did them when we were in government. We didn't wait until the spring, after the mine closed down, to bring in projects that would put Yukoners to work.
We brought in programs immediately. We accelerated some of the highway work. We accelerated some of the brush clearing, some of the other work that went on. We put Yukoners out there, Mr. Speaker, and hopefully gave them some hope for future employment.
The Member for Faro said we can't overreact. Well, he's got to at least get out of bed. He's got to react somehow.
Mr. Speaker, I have had an opportunity in the last week to talk to dozens of Yukoners about this budget, and there are members in this House today, sitting here, who have gone home to their ridings and spoken to the people in their ridings about where the economy is going and what's happening to the Yukon economy. This is a little more than a cycle.
Mining's down. The forestry industry is down. There's total, complete uncertainty building out there. He talked about the certainty of land claims, that there's more certainty in land claims now than there was before.
I disagree. In some sectors, there are. With some people, there are. But there are also mixed messages going out there right now, Mr. Speaker, to the investment industry. And the one the leader of the opposition talked about today is one that I've heard from the investment industry. They're wondering where the Government of the Yukon is when some of these things are going on. Why aren't they offering to go and work with the Liard First Nation and Cominco and other interests in that area to try and work something out so we can put people to work in that area? Why do we have to wait to be asked? It's going to be too late next summer.
It's going to be too late after both parties are in court fighting over something. Let's get at it now. Let's try and solve the problem.
There was an incident that happened this year. We just brought in the Oil and Gas Act in December, and one of the first things that's happened is that we had an application to build a road off the Dempster Highway to the Northern Cross project to look at a couple of wells that were dug, and the Vuntut Gwitchin people in Old Crow - Mr. Speaker, in your riding - were very concerned about that road and expressed concerns over the permission to grant and build the road.
Mr. Speaker, there was a process involved there that all parties participated in, and the federal government, in its ruling, said that they could build the road. The company that was involved in the exploration was very concerned that, although it had support initially from the Government of Yukon, after they had gone through the process, the government was silent.
Now, those people talk to other people in the oil and gas industry about those kinds of things, and we have to make sure there is certainty. We've all talked about that in this House. We've all talked about the mining community, the forestry community and the oil and gas community having certainty, so when we set up processes - and that was a process - and the proponents went through the process and were granted the right to explore and the right to go ahead, we have to continue to express our views about support for the process.
If you don't do that, if you back away and just let the parties just fight it out in court, Mr. Speaker, we won't have any investment in this territory. There will be no jobs in this territory, because investors will take their money and go elsewhere. It's too difficult these days to make money on your investments even when there is a good political climate, and if you don't send a strong message out there and let people know that you at least support the processes or you at least want to get the two parties together as quickly as possible, then that message reverberates through the industry very quickly.
I know, Mr. Speaker, that the Government Leader is going to hear from a lot of people in the near future who are very concerned about the approach that this government is taking, because they're talking to me, and they're talking to other members of this Legislature, I'm sure, telling them that they're concerned about their jobs. The biggest concern that I've heard is that many of these companies are being forced to downsize and, in being forced to downsize, they are having to let go people who have worked for them for 12, 15, 16, 20 years. They're letting go long-time Yukoners who are forced, because of no other employment, to leave the territory. These people are leaving on their own to look for jobs elsewhere, or uprooting their families and leaving the territory. This is the skilled workforce that we're going to need in the future.
It's a real concern, Mr. Speaker, that we're losing our workforce. I spoke to an individual the other day who had to let go some of his most key people that he's worked with for over 10 to 15 years. It was an extremely difficult day for this individual to tell everybody they were laid off for the first time in 15 years. They've got no hope here, and no hope for work here, at least for this year, and probably for next year. They're talking about liquidating their assets so they can get their costs down and moving into other fields. I don't think that's what we want happening in this territory, Mr. Speaker.
The minister of economic devastation who spoke earlier, the Member for Faro, talked about the mining downturn as a Canadian phenomena, but he hasn't done anything. He knew before Christmas, because he told us in this House that he knew that the mine was going to go down, and he didn't do a thing to help look for or protect, or at least find some alternative for the 400 jobs of people in his own constituency.
Nothing has been done for those people, other than to send a group of people up there to talk to them about how you relocate, where you relocate and that kind of thing. No hope for a job.
One of the initiatives in this budget that I am somewhat supportive of is the trade and investment. But, I have to tell you, I am not alone, as a Yukoner, when I wonder what the trip to South America is going to do for the Yukon business person. I haven't talked to a lot of people yet who are convinced that that particular trip to South America is going to see the Yukon reap a great deal of benefits, unless we are trying to convince the South Americans to buy our trusses or to maybe employ our people who do the foam insulation, and that kind of thing.
It is interesting. We are down there promoting Yukon products. We are down there saying, "We want to trade with you and we want to promote Yukon products," but the sad part is that this government hasn't been prepared and isn't prepared to shop at home for the same products. They are good enough for export, but they're not good enough for us.
The Old Crow school in your riding is an unmitigated disaster from the beginning. I believe, as do other people in this House, that we should do whatever we can to employ as many people as possible on that school, including the Old Crow people. But, this government and this government Minister of Government Services let it get away on him. He first hired an outside architect. Then, shortly after that, he or someone was conned into thinking that this truss system was better than one that we manufacture locally and have used before.
The minister spoke to the media when he was first questioned about and said it was a fire rating or a fire hazard issue - it was reported in the media.
And the architect said that the minister was wrong. His own architect, that he's paying, said the minister was dead wrong. So then the minister said, "Well, maybe if it isn't heat, maybe it's the cold," so the next thing he tried on us was the permafrost. That's the reason we can't buy the trusses locally - because it's the permafrost. We have to have different trusses because of the permafrost. Well, guess what, Mr. Speaker. He accused me the other day of not knowing too much about buildings.
But guess what. For the minister's information, if you design the foundation, you can design the foundation to fit any kind of trusses. Whether you want a crawl-space under it or not, a heated crawl-space or a cold crawl-space, you just design the foundation that way. If the government had realized that and thought about the employment of the local people, they would have designed the building so that Yukoners would have at least had the chance to bid on the job. They didn't do that. That's pretty embarrassing.
I can hear -
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Okay, Mr. Speaker, now I've got the floor, I get a chance to speak.
The Government Services Minister says we don't care about Arctic Inland. You bet we care about Arctic Inland, and I'm glad that at least some of these Yukon agents of suppliers got the contracts. I'm glad they got the contracts, but let's look at the facts. How many Yukoners are going to go to work because of that? I'll bet you that Arctic Inland isn't hiring four or five people to build trusses for that job, but I'll bet you the Edmonton or Calgary company's going to do that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Five thousand man hours; that's right. Five thousand man hours to build them. Do you know how many of those man hours are going to be paid man hours in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, because of that minister's decision? Zero. Not one hour.
This is the minister, the champion of local hire, local purchase, local initiatives. He doesn't give a hoot about local hire.
Mr. Speaker, this budget, as the leader of the official opposition says, is rather deceptive when you read through it. They announce all kinds of programs that were ongoing before. They take credit for all kinds of money that has to be voted this year but was committed three or four years ago in the centennial anniversaries and centennial events program and other programs, and they announced it in the budget as if it's new money to try and fool people, to try and make the people feel that they're actually doing something different.
The Member for Faro, the minister of economic devastation, said another one of his mistruths when he stood up in the House and said that this government did not build one school when they were in power.
Well, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. This government finished off the building of the Holy Family School. This government started the building of the French school. This government did the addition to the Porter Creek school. This government started all kinds of education capital projects when it was in government - millions of dollars of capital projects when it was in government.
Then, Mr. Speaker, the same minister of economic devastation stood up on his feet and said, "And this year we've got a great capital budget and all these things are happening and you know what we did? We protected health and social services and education. We didn't cut those departments. We didn't cut those departments." Well, Mr. Speaker, look at the budget.
I guess if you read the column in the centre, where it talks about the percentages of the increase or decrease in education, it does read zero. It reads no increase or no decrease, but when you read the numbers, there are thousands of dollars less in the Department of Education.
So to say that they're increasing and focusing on education is a joke. The Education budget this time, whether you like it or not, in the O&M, saw a decrease. It's the first time in years that it saw a decrease.
Mr. Speaker, I was the former Education minister, and I can recall the side opposite, when they were in opposition, talking about the Education capital budget, and they kept saying that, when they were in government, it was $13 million, $16 million, $12 million, $15 million and, when we were in government, it was only $7 million or $8 million. Well, it's back down there now, but they don't seem to worry about that. It was okay for them to criticize that at that time, but they're not worried about it now.
I support the initiative in the budget with respect to the immigrant investor fund. It'll be interesting to see what kind of guidelines are put on that fund, because there are some immigrant investors who will want to come in here and set up possibly some kind of a business or an investment in the territory. We're also in the process, in our local hire/local purchase plans, of putting in a regime that might limit some of the activities that one might want to do there, so it'll be interesting to see what happens with that one.
The Member for Faro also talked about tourism, and the Government Leader and the Member for Faro keep talking about Air Transat. Recent efforts by the Department of Tourism resulted in significant developments to increase the number of visitors to the Yukon. One example in the deal signed last year with Air Transat will see regular direct flights from Frankfurt, Germany to Whitehorse starting this summer. Good job, good job. But, don't herald it as something new.
Don't herald it as more tourists than we had before. Let's look at the facts. With the Air Transat arrivals and the number of people that are going to come here with Air Transat, we're going to come up to maybe half and maybe a little bit more than half of what we had two years ago from Europe. It's good. I'm glad we got it, but don't pretend that it's the be-all and end-all. We're still only halfway to where we were a couple of years ago.
The minister of economic devastation, who likes to think he knows something about tourism, every time he shoots from the lip and comments on tourism, he displays his ignorance.
He spoke in the last couple of days about the previous government planning nothing for after the anniversary celebrations. That's patently false. False. You know what? Even worse than that, it's an insult. It's not only an insult to the government that was there at the time - the Yukon Party government - but it's more of an insult to the Tourism Industry Association, the marketing council, the people of Watson Lake, and other people who have planned attractions for the future - nothing to do with the gold rush, but things that have been planned for the future.
All kinds of marketing went on at Rendezvous Canada, two years ago and three years ago, with respect to development of First Nations tourism and to the development of the Yukon after the anniversaries. The display from that member opposite, who says nothing was done, makes it clear to me and the tourism industry that that member knows nothing about tourism - nothing.
People have spent hundreds of hours in the Tourism Industry Association and in the marketing council, in planning initiatives that were post gold rush and that are in place - marketing initiatives that are in place right now in the marketplace, and that member doesn't even know about it. He doesn't even know about it. He's the Minister of Economic Development, who's supposed to know what's really happening in the Yukon economy, and he doesn't even know about it.
Maybe he should sit down with the Minister of Tourism and the officials in the Tourism department and get the full briefing before he shoots his mouth off any more, because he's scaring the living daylights out of a tourism industry that one day this guy might have something to do with. What a scary thought that would be, Mr. Speaker.
The Government Leader talked in his speech about taking direct measures to reduce the potential rate shock to other ratepayers from the recent mine shutdown in Faro, and they use this magic New Democratic word that's got a new meaning in the encyclopedia. The word is "stabilize." Stabilize, in the New Democratic Party dictionary, means raising higher. They're going to stabilize it at the highest level they can find, is what they're going to do, I think, Mr. Speaker. That means it's going to keep on going up. So, we're going to look forward to the actions of this government on that.
Mr. Speaker, they talk about special projects, planning for the millennium. They seem to feel that they have this long-range vision, but I don't know what the problem is. They might be looking through rose-coloured glasses or something, but they certainly have forgotten about the short term.
We're going to have an awful lot of Yukoners out of work in the next eight to 10 months, in this so-called cycle that the minister of economic devastation describes.
This minister feels that that's where we're at, it's just a cycle, don't worry about it, it'll go away; if we just ignore it, it'll go away. Mr. Speaker. It's not going to go away, but I'll tell you what is going to go away. Our trained workforce is going to go away. Many of the people that live in the territory that we've called neighbours for years are going to go away because they haven't got jobs. I've heard of many, many people - long-term Yukoners - who are planning to leave this territory.
It's interesting to look at some of the other initiatives in health services, for example. One of the things I'll be checking on in this session is the whereabouts of our elusive taxpayer, Mr. Bemis, if he's come back to the territory and if we've found the taxpayer. We're seeing our health costs rising and I'm just wondering if it's partly because of the many people we've got trying to find Mr. Bemis out there, travelling all over trying to locate him. I don't know what the situation is there, but I would hope that one day the minister will bring us up to date on whether or not he actually came back to the territory and whether everything's hunky dory and whether or not he did violate the health care regulations by leaving the territory when he did - when he wasn't supposed to.
Land claims and devolution. I can remember being in this House when we presented a budget and the critique of the budget after it was presented - the largest critique of the budget was given by the leader of the opposition, the now Government Leader, when he said, "We know where these guys are coming from. Look what they did with land claims and devolution. They put them right at the back of the book and there was only one paragraph of mention in the book, and that's their priority. They put it in the list of priorities and they put it way at the back of the book." That was a big issue, but it's interesting, in this budget, that that's where it is.
It's hardly a paragraph and it's right at the back of the book, so I'm not sure whether the same line of thought applies to this budget that the Government Leader liked to try and apply to our budget.
Mr. Speaker, there is some emphasis in this budget on jobs and training, and I'm pleased to see that. I think that it is important to train people and there may be an opportunity now to train people, but I think we should be careful. I talked to a young apprentice the other day, a carpenter apprentice, who has just finished his training and is ready to move into the workforce and has virtually been told that it doesn't look like there's any work this summer. He just completed the courses, finished them here and finished up the ones outside that he had to do. He has lived here most of his life and now has a trade, and it looks like he's going to have to re-locate to get a job.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Member for Watson Lake, Mr. Speaker, says, "What would you have done if you'd been in the position?" Well, all you have to do is go back and look at the record where the unemployment rate was at seven percent - the lowest it's been in years in this territory - and all you have to do is look at the efforts that were made by the government to put people to work - the training and other initiatives that went on at that time. The record speaks for itself. People were put to work then. Seven percent unemployment is a lot better than 11 percent, and 11 is not an honest figure right now because we know that there are over 400 more people from Faro unemployed. It's probably somewhere near 13 or 14 or 15 percent, and may go higher, and I think the members know that.
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Watson Lake is saying, "What would you have done?" Well, it was that Member for Watson Lake who chastised our government for not putting people to work in the forest industry, and guess what? I mean, they've been working on the forestry commission, but not a lot of logs have come out of the bush and put a lot of Yukoners to work. An awful lot of people in the forest industry in that very member's riding are unemployed, and they're wondering about the broken promises made by that member in the last election.
Mr. Speaker, one of the government's main issues in the budget is the establishment of the community development fund, which they did in the last budget and they doubled it, I believe, in this budget. They rant and rave about the community development fund.
If they really believe strongly that this was a really good program, then let's try and get rid of the political criticism of the program. In the past when it was under the NDP government, it was government ministers who sat down and made the decision on who got the money. Why don't they set up an independent board of representatives and people from the communities who would sit down and make the decisions on who gets the money and make it so a minister couldn't overrule them like they did the last time and put money into projects like the Elsa curling rink and other projects that floundered terribly. Maybe they might find that the people in the communities might have some better ideas of where this money could be put.
Mr. Speaker, I spoke a little bit about the New Democratic Party statement about supporting a healthy mining community. Well, they've gone to Cordilleran. They've made the noises at Cordilleran, but they haven't followed up as well as they should have and could have with respect to sending the messages out locally.
I think that they've got to support the mining community and listen to the views of the mining community when it comes to sending messages out there to the investors and I don't think they've done that. I think that one of the main concerns the mining community has right now - whether the New Democratic Party likes it or not - is with respect to the uncertainty around land claims and some of the statements that are being made and the uncertainty around the protected area strategy. I think we have to move on these issues and involve the mining community on them so that we can get more certainty and bring jobs to all people of the territory.
I was going through the budget, looking at the various areas. One of the areas that they talked about was the Tourism budget and their commitment to tourism. The problem I have is that, when you read the budget more closely, it appears, Mr. Speaker, that there is no increase in money for Tourism. In fact, there's going to be a decrease in money for Tourism. Let me explain why.
First of all, the $200,000 that they have in new marketing money is a good idea. It's not much money, but it's a good idea.
But it's not new money. It's money that really came from the Anniversaries Commission, from the Tourism budget. So it's not new money. The Anniversaries Commission has been reduced by about some $210,000, and they just rolled that money into the Tourism marketing budget.
That's good; I applaud that; that's a good idea, as long as there are no strings attached to that money; as long as they put it into the marketing department's budget and let the marketing department work with the marketing council and decide where that money should be spent.
There are other problems, as well, with the Tourism budget. There is no allowance in this budget for the difference in the Canadian and American dollar and the international currencies. We buy our advertising in U.S. funds and in international funds. Because of the change in the Canadian dollar, we have lost, in my estimation, between $75,000 and $100,000 worth of buying power in the Tourism budget. That means that the $200,000 that we have now is reduced to about $100,000 of new money, because we've lost some buying power with it.
When we were in government, we had a policy that we put in place for, I believe, two or three years, where we could come in with a supplementary about halfway through the year, when we determined what the exchange rate was, and the Tourism department, after it bought most of its advertising, would be given the difference. So, when it went to the U.S. market to buy $1 million worth of advertising, it bought $1 million worth of advertising; it didn't buy $700,000.
So, we did that every year for two or three years, and the Canadian dollar then stabilized. So we removed that and put a certain amount in the A-base budget. Since that time, the Canadian dollar has dropped again and there's nothing in this budget to compensate for that. So, Tourism has lost several hundred thousand dollars more.
There is another problem I have with the budget, Mr. Speaker. When I was in Haines, Alaska, I attended a TIA meeting with the leader of the Liberal Party and ...
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Mr. Phillips: ... the Minister responsible for Government Services, and there was a commitment made by all three parties at that time to build a historic resources centre. That has been removed completely from this budget. The commitment has gone from the NDP to build a historic resources centre. It's gone out of the budget completely.
Aside from that, they committed strongly to supporting heritage. They've always talked about heritage. Yet, in two years, Mr. Speaker, the heritage budget has been slashed by some $400,000 from what it was under our Yukon Party government. It was $2.1 or $2.2 million a couple of years ago, and it's $350,000 to $400,000 less today, including such popular projects such as the Canyon City archaeological dig and other projects that were tourist attractions in the territory.
Mr. Speaker, this budget is not a jobs budget, as described by the Government Leader. The minister of economic devastation told us that the private sector supported the budget and it was good. I don't know who he was talking to in the private sector, because everybody that I've heard in the private sector has said that this is a terrible budget for them. And we've heard several of them on the local news media say that they have to leave the territory.
So, I won't be supporting this budget. I think this is a bad budget for Yukoners. It is going to create higher unemployment. There's no vision in this budget whatsoever, especially short-term vision for all those Yukoners who are going to be badly in need of jobs this summer.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Just before I start, I would like to raise a couple of concerns about the particular tone, particularly with regard to the Member for Riverdale North with his terminology of the Minister of Economic Development. I understood that, in this House, we were supposed to use correct nomenclature. What he's done is he's resorted to, as many of his colleagues over there, simple cheap shots or something that he thinks is quite funny.
I would venture that this is improper language and I would hope that we could have that redressed in the future.
Let she who is without sin cast the first stone.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I'd like to talk a little bit about this budget and perhaps we can spend some time taking a look at some of the positive aspects of the budget, rather than wading back into the frosty realm of history, as the Member for Riverdale North has. I think he's going to fight the election every day in this Chamber for the rest of his natural life. He can't seem to get over the fact that he's no longer the Grand Poobah of Tourism, so he'll just have to resolve that for himself.
I was interested in noting that he did claim that we're not doing anything for tourism, but, as I understood from my colleague, the Minister of Tourism, there is an additional $200,000 in Tourism marketing.
What I would like to do is talk a little bit about the riding that I represent and how I think this budget reflects some of the concerns that I've heard from people in this regard. My riding, like many - and I'm sure that this is nothing new - is fairly diverse and is a very interesting riding in many ways, because it represents a rural, urban, traditional kind of established community, with newer neighborhoods and mobile home areas. It is a very diverse kind of area. I have folks living out on the Alaska Highway, in the Squatter's Row area and in and around MacRae, who are essentially living a very rural lifestyle.
I have folks in Lobird and Arkell and Logan who live in mobile homes. We have new home owners in Granger, Logan, Copper Ridge and Arkell, many of whom are younger families. It's kind of interesting. I have a number of people in established neighbourhoods - the established neighbourhood of Hillcrest. So, it's an interesting riding. I suppose, in many ways, the kinds of concerns that I've heard from people in my riding go to reflect some of the things that I think this budget reflects. Certainly, when we sit down to discuss budget and budget priorities, I have to take into account the kinds of needs that I hear from people.
I guess one of the things that I find really interesting is that this is characterized as a no-jobs budget. Now, Mr. Speaker, the last time I looked, O&M was jobs. I suppose the members would like to characterize people who work for governments and non-governmental organizations as not being value-added. I suppose they think that teachers, nurses, social workers, police officers, people who maintain our highways, people who maintain our services, don't kick anything into the economy.
I would suggest that these are real people with real jobs, who not only deserve our thanks and respect for the kinds of services that they provide to people, but I also think that they inject a tremendous amount of value into this economy.
I'm quite pleased that we've got a government that isn't prepared to slash existing jobs that take care of Yukon families and put millions of dollars into an economy every year in kind of an artificial capital inflation. I suppose I would have to ask, as Mr. Martin asked rather rhetorically yesterday in the House, which service would they like us to shut down? Which school would they like us to shut down? Whose grandmother would they like to have kicked out of a seniors facility? Which neighbourhood would they prefer that we don't encourage the RCMP to patrol on our behalf? Which stretches of the highway would we not like to have maintained? Which communities would we not like to serve with various services, such as family counselling?
I suppose that's a rhetorical question, but in a very real way, that's what some of this comes down to. O&M should not be seen as a drain, and I'm quite surprised that people would see it in that manner. O&M is the basic driving cost of our government. We have people that perform tasks. We have costs that we incur in government, and those are costs which we have to maintain.
I would say that our government is committed to promoting the well-being of people, and, you know, if you take a look at it, we haven't slashed municipal block funding. We didn't do that. The community development fund is something that I've heard, not only in my riding but also in my travels around the community. People asked about it. People saw this as an opportunity to do projects, to get certain things done. We've increased that by 75 percent, trying to create jobs and trying to meet some priority community needs.
I guess we have to assume that the opposition is opposed to us taking a look into the future when we talk about the Canada Winter Games and set aside money for that. I'm a little surprised that there is such a narrow view as well on the major capital projects that we're beginning to fund in Dawson City. I guess those aren't seen as having any kind of value.
We have increased the CDF by $3.5 million. We've added, I believe, $500,000 to upgrade rural roads. So, I'm quite surprised that this is how this budget is seen - a no-jobs budget. I'm sure that all those folks that work for government, that work in government, that work for agencies that serve government, will be pleased to know from the members opposite that they are seen as a drain and that they are not seen as adding value into this community, and I think that is a very, very tragic reflection on how we view both public servants and people who work for non-governmental agencies.
Certainly when I was out in Whitehorse West I didn't hear people asking me to cut services. I did not hear that. I did not hear people asking for fewer teachers. I did not hear people asking for fewer learning assistants. I did not hear people asking for fewer nursing services. I did not hear people asking for fewer social services. I didn't hear that. If anything, I heard the opposite. I heard from people about the need to maintain educational services and, if possible, enhance them.
I heard the need to try and address some of the needs in our health care system. One of the things I heard particularly from some of the senior citizens in my community was the whole question of home care. There were concerns raised about seniors coming home from hospital.
Well, we've addressed that. We've addressed that with an increase of $305,000 in home care services, part of which is earmarked - and I'll be giving further details - for a special program to provide intravenous services for individuals who are discharged from hospital, because we have found that that's one of the problems that seniors incur.
So, when I hear people on the opposite side doing this bashing of government for O&M costs, I'm somewhat disturbed. I've met, in the past months in Granger, Hillcrest, Squatters Road. I've met with Squatters Road residents and city officials, trying to get a handle on what the city's plans are for the neighbourhoods. I've worked with the folks in Squatters Road on some areas that they have around development and some of those issues, and I certainly don't hear that we should be slashing back services. I haven't heard that.
I haven't heard from people that have found projects funded by the community development fund complaining about that, either. One of the more interesting projects, I think, was the boreal alternate energy centre for the wind monitoring up on Haeckel Hill. It's a project that received assistance from CDF.
Interestingly enough, I have a close connection with Elijah Smith Elementary School in my riding and went up to see the nutritional program. I sure didn't hear people say, "This is a lousy idea, we ought to scrap it." I didn't hear that at all. I didn't hear, when I spoke with people at that school that the idea of vision screening for children, particularly children of limited economic circumstances, and the provision for optical and pharmaceutical care, I didn't hear that that was something we should scrap. I didn't hear that that should be axed. I didn't hear those kinds of things at all.
So, I'm somewhat puzzled as to what this idea is that somehow O&M, somehow delivering the basic services for people, is a bad thing. Since when has been taking care of people a bad thing? Since when has been addressing the basic services that people require in health, education and social services been a bad thing? It's only bad to the neo-con ideas over there. Only the people that see everything in a strict monetarist kind of system see people as being a negative aspect of the economy. I'm sorry. I just can't see that.
I think that this budget is building a basis for the future. It might not be bells and whistles. It might not be hugely glamorous. But I think, if one takes a look at it, it is a balanced budget in more ways than one. It is balanced in trying to address the social needs. It is balanced in the idea of trying to protect the environment. It is balanced in the idea of protecting health care and education. And I think it reflects what a deliberate and thoughtful process can do.
It establishes some long-term planning. We're not going to find ourselves in 2007 suddenly having to cough up a substantial amount of money for a project that we know is coming. It is not going to mean that, in several years, we're going to face a massive capital cost trying to help the community of Dawson meet their needs. What we've done is we've begun the process of trying to plan for that and trying to set money aside. I think it fulfills our commitments to the ideas of fostering healthy communities.
We haven't imposed health care premiums, but I challenge the members on the other side to take a look at what's happening elsewhere in Canada. Take a look at Manitoba, where gurneys are lined up in the hallways of hospitals. Take a look at Ontario, where hospitals are closing. Take a look at Quebec, where patients die in waiting rooms, with one doctor on and 54 patients lined up. Take a look, and then take a look at what we're doing. Take a look: $500,000 more in this hospital, despite the fact that Jean Chrétien led us to believe that there was going to be a health dividend from the big surpluses. Well, where is it now? Well, we don't quite have it, do we?
Where's the reinvestment? They decide not to chop off our legs, and then they say, "Well, we left you with at least part of it." That's what you call a reinvestment? They were going to take it down to $10 billion, now they take it to $12 billion, and they say, "We are grateful; we are so grateful."
Maybe ask some of the premiers. It might be a good idea to ask Ernie Eves of Ontario what he thinks of it. It might be a good idea to ask Mike Harris what he thinks of it. There was profound disappointment in the fact that the federal government did not reinvest in health care - the area that people in this country told them is most essential to them, told them is most meaningful.
I think, quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, that that is disgraceful.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you. We're just warming up to our sermon now.
Some other things that we've done here - and this one was interesting. I had a call yesterday from a person in an NGO who said, "Oh, our funding remained the same." I said, "Yeah." He said, "Well, we didn't think it would." I said, "Did we give a commitment to stable funding?" "Yes." Stable funding is there. We haven't axed NGOs.
Let's take a look at some of the other things that we're doing here. I mentioned before the children's drug and optical. That was a commitment we made. We made that commitment before the introduction of the NCB. We introduced it as a pilot. We said we would do it. We followed it through, and I can tell you this: I will make a commitment, and this government will make a commitment, that if future benefits flow out of the NCB, they will go back to programs for children. They will not go into some slush fund that would disappear elsewhere. They will go into direct programs for children.
I've taken a look at some of the things that we could be doing. I would like to direct some of those funds, if and when they become available, to programs such as early intervention for children.
We talked about the $305,000 for home care enhancement. We have a demographic issue here. We have a growing population of people who need services. The $305,000 in home care enhancement is an attempt to address that problem. It's an attempt to address some of the issues that are facing our senior population here. We have a responsibility to people who have built their lives in this territory, people who have raised their families, who have chosen to stay here. We have a responsibility to them, but then I suppose our good friends in the neo-conservative right would tell us, "Yeah, but it's O&M. It's a deficit." So when did people become a social deficit? When did that equation change?
What, because they don't produce an extra dollar? Because they are retired people? Because they are senior citizens, they don't deserve a better range of services than what we can be providing? We have an obligation to these people. We have an obligation to children, as well. They don't produce a dollar, so should we let them go?
We've begun this year on trying to take a look at some people in our society who are vulnerable. We have a hospital population where individuals with sometimes mental health problems have a higher than national representation in our hospitals. In other words, where other jurisdictions may have probably an average rate of about six percent of their in-patient beds being utilized in psychiatric services, ours are much higher. That, to me, represents a problem. That, to me, represents the idea that we're not addressing people. We're not treating people in a way that allows them their own dignity; that allows them to remain in the community; that allows us to support people in a non-intrusive way.
One of the things that we've done this year is invest money in a pilot mental health program where we're going to be trying to address some of those people. We're going to be trying to see what kinds of things we can do to support people who are at risk and who are in need. They probably don't turn over that many bucks, so they're probably just another drain, according to our friends over on the right.
Is this how we see people? Do we bring them down to a cash equivalent? So much for a grader operator, but you only get so much for a kid. So much for a retail worker, but you only get so much for a senior citizen. Is this how we've begun to equate people now?
Other things that we're doing, we're trying to address some of the problems that we have up here. We have problems that are peculiar to - I suppose not peculiar, but more pronounced here. One of those is the diabetes problem. Later on this year, we're going to be introducing a diabetes education program, working with the hospital, ourselves and CYFN, to try and address the problem of diabetes education in this territory. Now that's not going to turn over too many bucks, I don't think. It's not going to kick up the gross national product a heck of a lot, but what it's going to do is help people, and that's what I call responsible budgeting. My friends across the floor might not think so, but once again, we are investing in people.
We're continuing to support community health care. We're trying to address some of the problems that we have out in communities. We're working with NGOs in trying to deliver services to a greater degree out in the communities.
We've begun this year, and we will be beginning, some senior policy work. As I mentioned earlier, we've got a population that we need to be addressing. We need to be looking at how we're going to deal with future services for our seniors, and I'm looking forward to that as being a good point for discussion, a good point for work and a good point for planning in the future.
A lot in here has been said about some of the initiatives we have taken. One of those has been the whole question of alcohol and drug treatment in the Yukon. We've heard the Member for Klondike go on, languishing in his own ignorance, because he hasn't taken advantage of taking a look at what that program is. We're looking at trying to deliver a program that is more comprehensive, that addresses more needs for people. We're looking at a program that recognizes that addictions are a life-long issue.
We're looking at recovery as a 24-month program. We're talking about detoxification, 10-day continuous intake, pre-treatment and post-treatment. We're taking a look at the 14-day community integration aspect, community addictions workers, aftercare. All of these might not be big bucks, but they are investments in people.
As well, we're going to try and empower some of our First Nations by giving them support for some of their own treatment programs. It probably doesn't crank over, as I said, a great deal into the gross national product, but it does invest in people.
I'd like to sort of take a look at some of the things that we have been doing. I think my colleague there, the Minister for Economic Development, just announced a half a million dollars for trade and investment diversification. We have money going into training trust funds. We have a youth employment strategy. Now, I realize that those aren't huge dollar amounts again, but gosh, they're just people, aren't they? That's O&M. That doesn't increase things.
Oh, just wait.
So, here we've got a government that I think is approaching a balanced view toward government, toward spending. It's not going to be on a roller-coaster, boom-bust, spend-your-way-into-an-election kind of cycle, the way that we had with the Yukon Party. The one thing that I'm very proud of, and the one thing that I'm very pleased with in this particular budget, is that we are seeing a recognition of environmental concerns, something that was woefully absent from the previous government. We are investing money in protected area spaces.
I heard the members opposite go on at great length about land claims and devolution. I can tell them that this government is moving ahead with land claims and devolution. Now, they might not want to admit it, but we are, and we're looking at that as a way, once again, to invest in this territory's future and invest in this territory's people.
I believe that the steps that are being taken right now will lead toward completion of a number of final settlements, and I believe that the door is open to devolution, and I believe that we're going to be working on it to a greater degree.
We heard a lot of slamming against the Yukon hire commission. My colleague, the former Yukon Hire Commissioner, did bring forward a Yukon hire commission report. He brought it forward. We are respecting it. Right now, my Department of Government Services is currently working on the Yukon hire commission. We have a number of departmental responses coming forward. We expect that we will be bringing forward an implementation plan in the near future, and we will be delivering more on that later on in the session. Read it and weep, Peter.
So, we are going to bring that forward. We're going to ensure that in future ways that government responds to people. We're going to try to reduce the amount of impediments to people by bringing in a regulatory code of conduct. That code -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I see the Member for Porter Creek South has made a verbal comment there, but I can tell her that that regulatory code is coming forward, and that regulatory code, I think, will be something that is well worthwhile.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: A non-spoken verbal comment. A rude noise, but I won't honour that.
One of the things that we are looking at doing is we are going to be looking at ways that we can address such things as providing communities with the most community-beneficial way with regard to office space and future developments. We're working currently with my colleague, the Member for Watson Lake, on some of the space requirements there, and we're trying to resolve some of the issues that are still outstanding there.
We are also looking at ways, as I said earlier, of honouring our obligations under section 22 to try to maximize the economic benefits that flow out of local projects for First Nations communities. This will be a central focus when we are into the tendering process for Old Crow, and it's also going to be a central focus for our future developments in the communities of Ross River and Mayo, when we get into building schools there.
I should remind the members there that, by golly, we've got a schedule for these things and they're going on. We know when Ross River is going to come on. We know when Mayo is going to come on, which is a heck of a lot more than what we knew with the previous government. It was a hit-or-miss, ad hoc kind of basis. Oh, we're going to have a two-tier system. So, no research, no thought. All of a sudden, it's not going to happen; now it's going to happen. So, let's hurry up and try to get something in place. It was the most absurd educational planning that I ever saw and, once again, it reflects that kind of up and down, boom and bust roller-coaster ride that they had.
The opposition leader yesterday made a rather snide comment about some things that we've been doing in terms of contracts, and he made a comment that we hadn't provided contracts in a timely manner. I just went back to take a look at that and, in receiving these letters here - I think one was dated February 2; the other one was dated January 30. They were both received February 4.
With regar- to the one for Government Services, that was provided on February 19. It took 15 days to assemble all that contract material. I believe that was 17 contracts. The 45 contracts - yes, we did deliver on the 23rd, but if the member had any measure of honesty, he would take a look at those. I don't imagine that he has, because I think he's just looking at it for paper. He's not really looking at substance. He would realize that many of those contracts have to do with young people and many of them have to do with individuals and there's a tremendous amount of backup that had to be provided. As well, such things as names and things like that of individuals had to be screened out for confidentiality's sake.
So I took a look at that and I thought, well, that's not particularly bad, considering the amount of paper that we had to assembley in that regard. However, now I know that this is a tough one, but they might want to go into the government's website, and they might want to pull up contracts, and they might want to see what's there. Because it's there. It's there, back to 1987.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Now, let me just comment that one of the first things that my colleague, the former Yukon hire commissioner, suggested in his report was that we had intended to put it on the web. The recommendation of the commission was that we should try to do it as expeditiously as possible. We followed up on that. It's on the web.
Now, I know that it's going to take a real challenge to go to the mouse and click on the Yukon government web page, Internet Explorer; you find it there and then you have to go to departments and you have to click on Government Services and you have to read down. But it's there.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Oh, here he goes. Stonewall. Stonewall. What he can't do is he can't accept the fact that there was a response to an issue that was raised by a commission, and we've responded. You're going to find, quite frankly, that many of the things that the Yukon hire commission has requested, and have suggested, and that we can do in an expeditious way, we're going to try and do in anticipation of what the various departments feed into us.
I had a report yesterday that indicates that we're getting a very positive response from departments as to how they intend to implement this, and what their views are. I'm hoping, quite frankly, to bring these forward at a very early date and release it as a document for consideration by Cabinet.
So I guess, as I take a look at this budget, I have to say that I'm profoundly disturbed at an opposition that sees people as a loss, that sees people as a deficit, that sees people as a social deficit. I'm profoundly disturbed at the kind of the manner that these members have, where they see people, where they see O&M, where they see government workers, as a loss.
I'm profoundly disturbed by an opposition that sees teachers as a loss, that sees health care workers as a loss, that sees the people that serve us every day as a loss - the people that reinvest their money in this economy, the people that buy homes, the people that patronize our stores.
I get very disturbed when I see people diminished in that way, and that's what I'm hearing from this group over here. I'm hearing that O&M is so, so bad. That's what I'm hearing. I'm sorry, but that's the message that we're getting. The message that we're hearing is that we're spending money on ourselves. We're hearing that people that work in this government are a loss, that people in this government that work and contribute are not worth that recognition. I am very disturbed at that. I am in support of this budget because this is a people budget. This is a budget that supports people. This is a budget that supports health care. This is a budget that supports education, and this is a budget that supports the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, these neo-conservatives on the other side have got such a narrow mind-set. The Liberals and Tories are locked in that neo-conservative embrace as they dance around praising the great god, supply-side management. That's what they see. There's no difference. I don't see the difference. Do you see the difference? We don't see the difference.
Where would you cut? Where would you cut? Where will you cut? You don't have an answer. Thank you.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker.
If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Cable: I suppose if I were to yell, that would mean that what I had to say was more effective, judging by the performance of the last speaker, who was blossoming in the House with noise, rather than wisdom.
An interesting questionnaire we put out from the Liberal caucus to a number of people, to sample people's concerns and attitudes, gave us some very interesting answers. It wasn't a scientific poll. It wasn't a scientific questionnaire. The people were not chosen at random. They were selected as being politically astute, so we're not suggesting this poll was in any way scientific, but it did give us some very interesting responses.
There had been a previous poll put out by the CBC and Maclean's magazine about five years ago, and we fashioned one of the questions after that. It was a question related to politics and politicians, and what people's attitudes were toward these people, our brethren here in the House.
One of questions we asked is: "What in your view is the main reason why so many people do not regard politicians very highly these days?" All the responses aren't in yet. We hope to get a few more, but one of the answers that got the most attention was: "Politicians no longer seem to have answers to the country's problems."
Another question that received a large response was: "Politicians spend too much time talking among themselves and not enough time with the people." Well, we have the cheering squad on the opposite side talking about the old consultation mantra - you know, this excuse for not doing anything. Well, we have to go out and consult again and again and again: the old consultation mantra.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: That's right. My colleague here has indicated at least every once in awhile we produce some product beside another game plan for further consultation.
So, where does that bring us here in the Yukon? We have this attitude that people have toward politicians. Where does this take us in relation to the budget that the Government Leader has brought down?
What I have picked up in the streets and what we have picked up from this questionnaire is that people do not have a lot of confidence in politicians. What I've picked up in the street, of course, is that people in the Yukon don't have a lot of confidence in this government. I was trying to figure out just what that was attributable to.
Going over the past two or three years in the run-up to the election, and during the election and after the election, what do we have coming out of this NDP? We have the NDP letting the First Nation people think that, once they got in, there were no more problems.
Land claims would be settled and race relations would be improved. All would be hunky dory, but that hasn't turned out to be the case. I think it's been debated fairly heartily back and forth here in the House, the record of this government on the settlement of land claims - one of the major social issues in this territory in this last part of the 20th century - the improvement of the relations between the peoples of the Yukon and the settlement of the long-outstanding grievances of our First Nation people. Surely a government which indirectly promised that things would improve could have in fact produced more product than we have seen to date.
Then we have the public service expectations. We know that the public servants who were sitting in this gallery on many occasions during the wage rollback debate were expecting something better. We repealed the rollback legislation over a year ago and we don't have a collective agreement. I think this government has let our public servants down and if one wants to read the Public Service Alliance of Canada bulletin that was put out and circulated among our public servants, one would see that their expectations were not achieved.
Those expectations were very slyly raised by this NDP government when it was in opposition, and they have not produced.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: And that's another point I'd like to raise. The Member for Faro has just reminded me of one of his sleights of hand. I've seen his sleight of hand on the Yukon Party. He's claimed they were going to revoke rate relief, and I think he's been discredited on rate relief, and I'm sure he's been discredited on that heartily. I think he goes into his office and hangs his head in shame. And now he's misrepresenting our position on Faro today. Misrepresentation is the undercurrent with the NDP's approach to public issues. We always have to keep them very carefully. . .
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: Oh, the Government Leader says I'm borderline. At 26 minutes after five, he's calling me borderline.
Then we have the Government Leader - I'm glad the Government Leader is speaking, because he reminds me of that comment he made in the Yukon Teachers Association letter that went out before the election.
He was asked what his position would be on the Yukon excellence awards, and if you read that very carefully you would get the impression that this government and this Government Leader were going to do away with the Yukon excellence awards. Now, if in fact the Government Leader thinks that's misrepresentation, I invite him to go back into the Yukon Teachers Association letter and read the letter and come back to this House and tell us whether a reasonable person would have thought that the representation that was put out by him would lead people to believe that the Yukon excellence awards were going to be revoked.
And then, what did we have prior to the election, on electrical rates? We have this corny petition that went around the territory saying that the Yukon Party people were just terrible people with Yukon electrical rates, and that, as soon as the NDP got into power, they were going to stabilize rates. What a representation that was. I won't call it a misrepresentation because I don't want the Government Leader to get all excited, or his henchman beside him there.
And what have we got so far? And what have we got so far?
Mr. Livingston: Point of order.
Point of order
Mr. Cable: There's a point of order, I'm sure. Was the member going to rise?
Mr. Livingston: It is inappropriate, it seems to me, for a member of this House to describe another member of this House as a henchman. That's a reprehensible term.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Cable: I didn't notice the Member for Faro blanching at all, but if his feelings are hurt, I certainly would withdraw the comment. I won't call him a henchman again.
Speaker: The time being 5:30 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. next Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled February 26, 1998:
Yukon Human Rights Commission, 1996-97 Annual Report (Speaker Bruce)
Yukon Hospital Corporation financial statements, for year ended March 31, 1997 (Sloan)
Bonnet Plume heritage river management plan (dated November 1997) (Fairclough)