Monday, March 2, 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?
Are there any introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the Yukon College annual report for 1996-97 and the Yukon College financial statements to June 30, 1997.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Cable: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
, in view of the lack of product from the Energy Commission and the Development Assessment Process Commission, and the negative effect that such lack of progress has on investor confidence, these commissions be disbanded and the work assigned to interdepartmental working groups.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
White River First Nation negotiators' memorandum
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and inform the House that an agreement has been reached with respect to the White River First Nation final and self-government agreements.
The negotiators' memorandum, signed last Thursday by the Yukon government and the White River First Nation and Canada, is an important milestone. I want to congratulate the White River First Nation on taking a significant step toward a land claims settlement and self-government for its citizens.
The White River final agreement was negotiated over a period of less than three years. This is the shortest time period required to date to complete negotiations of a Yukon First Nation final and self-government agreement. The White River First Nation final agreement was negotiated entirely within the framework set out in the umbrella final agreement, and reflects the aspirations and interests of the three governments.
In our view, it is entirely consistent with recent judicial decisions in respect of aboriginal rights and title, such as Delgamuukw.
It should be a matter of some pride to all parties to the negotiations that the umbrella final agreement addresses the legal and equitable claims of aboriginal people in the Yukon in a manner so consistent with these recent judicial decisions.
This government has clearly stated that the completion of all outstanding First Nation final and self-government agreements is of the highest priority. This negotiatiors' memorandum is a concrete realization of that commitment. It confirms a shift from negotiation of final and self-government agreements to completion of the more technical requirements, legal drafting, legal and technical review and implementation plans for both agreements.
All substantive issues between the parties to the White River First Nation final and self-government agreements have been settled. The agreements provide for 520 square kilometres of settlement land; monetary compensation of $11.4 million, in 1998 dollars; four special management areas, to be established at Scotty Creek, Wellesley Lake, Pickhandle and the Klutlan Glacier; the establishment of a renewable resource council for the White River traditional territory; a total allowable harvest allocation for moose and caribou; provisions for local hire and economic opportunities on government projects over $2 million and on private sector projects that create more than 25 full-time jobs, per year, in the White River traditional territory; and the government and the White River First Nation to work together to preserve the Tanana and Northern Tutchone languages.
The traditional territory of the White River First Nation overlaps that of the Kluane First Nation. This overlap must be resolved before the White River First Nation final and self-government agreements can be ratified by the parties. The two First Nations have been working together to find a solution to their overlap, and I look forward to a resolution of this matter in the very near future.
I want to thank the negotiators and lawyers for all the parties and, most important, the community, for all their hard work on these negotiations. I am confident that the agreement they have created will stand the test of time.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the official opposition, the Yukon Party caucus, I, too, would like to congratulate the White River First Nation on taking this very significant step forward in the finalization of their claims. I know that there's a feeling of great accomplishment as these claims are settled and agreements are reached. All parties need to be commended for it.
I do have a couple of questions for the Government Leader that he may be able to answer for me in his wrap-up on this and, as the Government Leader is aware, there're still, I believe, five outstanding claims that have yet to be settled. I believe this government is on record as saying that they have a target date of the end of this calendar year for the finalization of all land claims. I would like the Government Leader, if he could when he's on his feet, to tell us if he believes that that goal can be met and all land claims will be finalized, or at least if the negotiations will be completed, by the end of this calendar year.
I also want to draw attention, Mr. Speaker, to the Government Leader's statement in here that he believes that the umbrella final agreement and the self-government agreement are consistent with the decisions in the recent court cases on aboriginal rights.
As the Government Leader is aware, there was a statement by the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations on the radio this morning that shed some question in this regard, or at least the First Nations have some questions in this regard and are even looking at the possibility of amendments to the umbrella final agreement.
I'm sure that statement, Mr. Speaker, has caused concern for a lot of Yukoners out there, so I would like to ask the Government Leader, when he is on his feet, if he could tell this Legislature and Yukoners if the government has sought a legal opinion on the ramifications of the recent court decisions on the umbrella final agreement and self-government agreement, and does the Government Leader and his government believe that there are no negative ramifications of these court decisions for our umbrella final agreement?
It would be a travesty, Mr. Speaker, if we were to start going backwards at this late a date in land claims settlements that have carried on for more than some 25 years in the Yukon. We need to have closure for these in as timely a manner as possible.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and once again, congratulations to the White River First Nation.
Mr. Cable: The Liberal caucus also would like to extend its congratulations to the White River First Nation and to the other two governments - the federal government and the Yukon government.
I have a number of questions, some of which were just recently touched on by the leader of the official opposition.
The Government Leader says the memorandum is consistent with the recent judicial decisions in respect of the aboriginal rights and title, such as the Delgamuukw decision. It would be useful to determine whether the memorandum actually deals with it specifically, or whether it has simply been cleared as to its compliance with the Delgamuukw decision.
The question I'm asking: are there specific provisions in the White River First Nation agreement dealing with that decision?
We need some expansion, because if, in fact, there are specific provisions, then some of the other agreements may require those provisions be inserted in them.
There's a local hire provision that seems to say that - and I'd ask the Government Leader to clear this up - in relation to projects physically within the White River First Nation traditional area. It would be useful for the Government Leader to confirm that. The leader of the official opposition has asked questions about the comments this morning on the radio by the Grand Chief of the Council for Yukon First Nations. It would be useful to hear whether this government is prepared to consider the reopening of the umbrella final agreement, if in fact that's required by the ramifications of the Delgamuukw decision.
There was also the New Brunswick forestry case, which I asked the Government Leader questions about back in December, I think it was. He assured me and the House that that decision, which relates to log-cutting rights, I believe, on Crown land in New Brunswick, would have no effect on the umbrella final agreement. It would be useful to hear whether that is his present position, in view of the Delgamuukw case.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. members for their comments and, certainly, on behalf of the Yukon government negotiators, I thank them particularly for recognizing their hard work as well as the hard work of the negotiators for the other two parties.
Clearly, land claims is a priority of ours, and this is physical proof of that, but we are interested in concluding the rest of the negotiations for the remaining five First Nations. I can tell the member that, with respect to the Ross River Dena, the Liard First Nation, the Carcross First Nation and the Kluane First Nation, we expect those negotiations to be completed by the end of the year - some earlier than that. With respect to Kwanlin Dun, we must speak to the other parties to determine, first of all, whether or not the First Nation will be funded for the purposes of negotiations and whether or not there is an opportunity for us to re-engage the Kwanlin Dun in the near future.
With respect to the Delgamuukw Supreme Court decision, we have taken the position, after receiving legal advice and reviewing the matter thoroughly, that the Yukon First Nation final agreements are, in fact, consistent with the description of aboriginal rights and aboriginal title set out in Delgamuukw. But, in fact, the First Nation final agreements are more comprehensive in their nature than even Delgamuukw, of course, particularly with respect to the provisions regarding self-government and participation in public government in traditional territories. So, in every material respect, we believe that the umbrella final agreement is the best possible negotiating framework for First Nations anywhere, and are negotiating agreements pursuant to the umbrella final agreement.
The White River agreement does not contain any special reopener clauses. No special reopener clauses have been inserted to anticipate Delgamuukw. This is an agreement pursuant to the UFA and we believe that, after the process of technical review and ratification, we will have an agreement that is final.
I think, in response to the issues raised by the Grand Chief, I would merely say that it would be responsible on her part to review all the implications of the Supreme Court case, and we should not take issue with that review.
We do believe that the negotiations pursuant to the umbrella final agreement are the best way to go. We believe that we can achieve settlements that meet the needs of all First Nations with the umbrella final agreement, and are intending to do so. As I say, the opinion we have received essentially states that the provisions of the legal decision - the Supreme Court decision - are consistent already with the UFA, and that it is for that reason that we are negotiating the land claims with those First Nations remaining.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Education, mathematics testing
Mr. Phillips: My question is to the Minister of Education and it's concerning Yukon students' proficiency in math and problem-solving. There is some good news out there in relation to a national mathematics test for 13 and 16 year olds. Unfortunately, this good news is limited to Quebec and Alberta. In nation-wide test results released this week in the Globe and Mail, the Yukon finished below average for both 13 year olds and 16 year olds.
The minister will recall, last November, I questioned her about her plans to deal with the crisis in the Yukon education system when over 100 grades nine and 10 students out of 170 failed their first-term math exams. At that time, I called upon the minister to establish an independent inquiry to overcome the problems, but obviously the minister had done nothing, as these recent results have shown. Will the minister now agree that there is a problem in Yukon schools and will she agree to establish an independent inquiry to determine how to correct the situation?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I have to say at the outset, Mr. Speaker, to respond to the preamble from the member opposite, that I don't take the same dim view of the SAIP mathematics assessment results that the member opposite does. In fact, the test results, in describing the achievement over five different levels, show that Yukon students who participated achieved average performance in a number of the categories.
Mr. Phillips: It appears that the minister is ignoring the pleas from parents and others who think there is a concern in the education system.
The inquiry that I'm asking for doesn't have to be an expensive one or last very long, because the provinces of Quebec and Alberta have already got the answers, and the recipe for their success is to have a well-defined curriculum, teacher training and a history of testing.
If the minister won't establish an inquiry, will she at least consult with her provincial colleagues in Quebec and Alberta and follow their advice in order to improve the grades of Yukon math students?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We continue to work on a collaborative basis with other jurisdictions in Canada. I think perhaps the member opposite should bear in mind that these tests may show the lack of results from the Yukon Party approach of the last four years. We are certainly working to redress this over the next 16 months.
In the component dealing with knowledge of math concepts, 65 percent of Yukon 13 year olds demonstrated achievement at the benchmark of level 2 or higher. These students performed exceptionally well and ranked third in Canada out of 17 jurisdictions. I think the member should be paying attention to all of the results.
Mr. Phillips: That's the problem. The Minister of Education is cherry-picking the results, Mr. Speaker. She's not looking at the overall results of our Yukon math students.
I'm asking the minister, Mr. Speaker, this question: would she consider looking at what Alberta and Quebec have done to improve their math marks, and would she consider doing the same for Yukon students, who deserve a quality education in this territory?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I think that the member should be aware that the high results obtained in Quebec are bearing fruit from a creative math program that they have introduced there. We do need to focus on problem-solving at an early age to achieve better results. The Yukon has introduced a new curriculum in math at grades K to 7 and 11 this year, and this new curriculum is problem-based, and that is a first step to address that area of concern.
Question re: Education, Robert Service School portables
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, we will follow that closely, because the New Democrats across the floor won't have anybody to blame in the very near future for these problems.
My question, Mr. Speaker, is again to the Minister of Education. As of January 18, the two portable classrooms that sit beside the Robert Service School in Dawson are in full contravention of the Department of Education's lease with the City of Dawson. As the minister is fully aware, the three-year agreement was signed between the two parties in an effort to provide a temporary solution to the long-standing space problem at the Robert Service School. It's my understanding that there have been meetings with the Mayor of Dawson, and a proposal has been presented to the minister that would allow the portables to stay in place until the end of the school year, at which time the department would be given six weeks to remove them.
Can the minister tell me if the government is prepared to enter into such an agreement and what plans there are at present with respect to the two portables?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I am certainly happy to have the member opposite asking that question, because I would like to put on the public record just exactly what the facts are in relation to the proposal from the City of Dawson about the portables that are sitting next to the school.
Mr. Speaker, the Mayor of Dawson proposed that the Yukon Department of Education pay more than twice market value for a number of lots that they would like to see transferred over to the Yukon government and brought in a several-page proposal that had not even been presented to the Dawson City school council before the mayor brought it down to the government.
Mr. Speaker, I think that we have been working - I know that we have been working hard in making sure that the Dawson school council is involved and, at the present time, we're working toward a solution on the fact that the city has not been exactly cooperative with the government or the school council.
Mr. Phillips: The questions that I'm asking here today are to find out what the minister is going to do about it. My concern is that three years have passed and Dawson remains without a new school. Furthermore, it's looking like Dawson will not seek another school for about three years, because we've looked at the forecasts in the budget by the government and they tell us that it's Mayo and Ross River that are going to receive the next schools and Dawson's not even in the equation.
Mr. Speaker, there exists a space problem at Robert Service School. It's long term and growing and they are in desperate need of an immediate solution. Could the minister tell us if the government has prepared a contingency plan to address the problem of space if the portables are removed from the school and, if so, could she tell us what that contingency plan is?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, here's where there's a considerable difference between the member opposite and this government. This government sat down with school councils from around the Yukon and discussed the needs throughout the Yukon to look at what schools needed to be built and what kind of scheduling was feasible.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the member knows that it isn't in the plan to build a school in Dawson within the next three years. We're building a school in Old Crow this year. We're going to build a school in Ross River next year and a school in Mayo the year after that. Any change to take a school for Dawson City and move that forward on the agenda requires the cooperation and support of all of the school councils in the Yukon, and that's the way we would deal with it.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister isn't even following the recommendations of the rural study to start with. The question is, and I'll ask the question again because the minister didn't answer it: if they're not allowed to use the portables next year, what kind of a contingency plan does the minister have in place for those students? Are we going to line them up in the hallways? Are we going to put them in the woodworking room? Are we going to rent a hall somewhere in Dawson? What contingency plan is in place for the students who possibly could not have their classrooms come next fall?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, Mr. Speaker, the member's preamble is wrong. We have paid attention to the rural school facilities study and when the school councils gave us the benefit of their advice on the construction of school projects, they used the rural school facilities study. I'm the first to acknowledge that it was a helpful document, and we're using it.
We have an agreement ready for signature to extend the leases on the portables. If the City of Dawson does not wish to see that lease extended and if the school council doesn't want to see that lease extended, I put it to him that the students would be the ones who would suffer.
Question re: Crossroads, government consultation
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. About, let's see, about five years ago, there was a letter that went from the now Minister of Education, the Member for Mount Lorne, to the then Minister of Health and Social Services, the Hon., at the time, Willard Phelps. In this letter, the member talked about consultation with the board of directors about any decisions that are made by her department in respect of funding and programming regarding Crossroads, and she notes that "it is essential that Crossroads be given the opportunity to articulate their needs and concerns through a meaningful consultative process, in order to achieve a positive working relationship with your ministry."
Now, this morning, the Minister of Health and Social Services today was on the radio talking about how, indeed, his department had consulted with the board of Crossroads. If that is the case, I wonder if the minister could provide us with minutes of that meeting with the board, the dates that those meetings occurred - hopefully they were prior to the decision being made for the closure of Crossroads - and who exactly was present at that meeting.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well I think, first of all, we need to put the letter that the member refers to in context. That was at a time when NNADAP had announced that they were withdrawing financial support for Crossroads, and there was some question around what the level of funding would be, because what that would mean was that the Government of the Yukon would then bear the entire cost.
With regard to it, by my count, since November 5, 1996, and September 21, 1997, there have been no fewer than 17 meetings between representatives from my department and either the executive director, members of the board, the board, combinations of the executive director and members of the board. There have been a fair number of meetings with the executive director in this regard, but it does go back to November 5, 1996, and covers a whole variety of issues that involve such things as issues around programming, issues around intake, et cetera.
Speaker: Final supplementary.
Mrs. Edelman: No. This is my first supplementary, Mr. Speaker.
I hope that the minister will provide minutes of those meetings, because I would certainly like to see if there's any mention in those meetings about the closure of Crossroads.
There are now going to be two locations for alcohol and drug treatment in Whitehorse, and what we're doing, then, is splitting up what's actually quite a good team, particularly for group counselling, in alcohol and drug services. What I'm wondering about now is whether they're going to be hiring any more administrative staff in particular, or any other type of staff, for alcohol treatment programs and if any of those staff will come from the former Crossroads staff members?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: At this point, we're going to be delivering the service out of existing staff; however, we are not planning to hire any further administrative staff. There may be some avenues - and I emphasize "may" - for individuals within the existing Crossroads program, to be coming over to our new program. I'm not sure right now what the vacancy status is within ADS but I believe that this has been discussed - that individuals who meet the needs could perhaps avail themselves.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, I have no idea what that was just all about. But it's my understanding, then, sort of, that the minister is sort of saying that maybe they will hire some new staff from the old Crossroads staff or maybe they won't - sort of.
Mr. Speaker, there is still a year left on the lease between the Crossroads society and the department on the Crossroads building, and it's my understanding that the society's not willing to let go of that lease. What is the department going to do about that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I should emphasize that that building does belong to the government and it is based on the idea that we will be utilizing it for delivery of alcohol and drug programs, so my assumption would be that, on April 1, when our new programs go in, that's where they will be located.
Question re: Education, school achievement indicators program
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Minister of Education regarding the scores by Yukon students in the recent school achievement indicators program.
Approximately 48,000 thirteen and 16 year old students throughout Canada wrote this national mathematics assessment in April 1997, and it included 300 thirteen and 16 year old Yukon students.
The head of the math curriculum studies at the University of British Columbia had this to say about the results: "Parents and others should be interested in finding out why Quebec and Alberta did so well in these tests and seeing what would make sense in their jurisdiction." Would the Minister of Education indicate what steps the Department of Education is taking to find out what would make sense for Yukon students?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, I do want to respond to the member's preamble. Unlike other Canadian jurisdictions, where a sample of their students participate in the assessment, all 13 and 16 year old Yukon students participated in SAIP testing; therefore, the results published in the Globe and Mail on the weekend do not reflect clearly how well Yukon students actually performed.
In the component dealing with math concepts, 65 percent of Yukon 13 year olds demonstrated achievement at the benchmark of level 2 or higher. These students performed exceptionally well.
The results in the problem-solving component were not as high as we would have liked to have seen. As I have indicated to previous questioners, we want to take steps to address this area of concern, both through new curriculum work and through ongoing inservicing available for teachers.
Ms. Duncan: Well, the minister is awfully defensive about this issue, instead of finding out what's right for Yukon children.
One of the jurisdictions that scored poorly was British Columbia. Their students received below average marks in problem-solving. In content, 16 year olds were below average and 13 year olds were below average. The Yukon currently follows the B.C. curriculum, as we all know. Indeed, the government's own website page says: "Yukon follows the British Columbia curriculum in all subject areas. This curriculum is sometimes modified, with departmental approval, to reflect local needs and conditions."
Does the minister see curriculum modifications to enhance Yukon students' results in math?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Curriculum modifications are something that the department and the teachers work on on a regular basis. We will continue to provide materials and inservicing for teachers throughout the school system for the 1998-99 school year. We want to work as hard as we can to make sure that students are getting good instruction and that they're developing good skills.
Ms. Duncan: Saskatchewan, which also ranked below the national average - which also has an NDP government, by the way - has already launched curriculum changes in elementary and secondary schools. However, the NDP Minister of Education in Saskatchewan has also said that her province now has to move the agenda along to implement changes faster.
The elementary curriculum changes the Yukon government has implemented have problems as well. The teachers, parents and school administrators are saying that the problem with the new elementary math curriculum is that it's language based and it's not working.
Does the minister intend to meet with school councils, teachers, the YTA and parents to deal with the Yukon math curriculum?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Right, and that's the problem.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. We will continue to be meeting with the Yukon Teachers Association and the Yukon school councils and to look at ways that we can improve our math programs. The superintendents and the curriculum consultants will continue to meet with each of the schools to discuss program organization, student and teacher assistance, and assessment practices.
Question re: Legal, estates of common-law partners
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Justice. It's regarding Yukon law for the estates of deceased persons that were in a common-law relationship.
Mr. Speaker, there have been some unfortunate situations arise and needless hardships created by the archaic state of Yukon laws in this area.
Individuals caught in this situation are hamstrung because of this unworkable, unwieldy legislation that prevents them from having access to the property of their common-law spouse.
Can the minister advise the House if she will be reviewing these laws this year in order to eliminate the difficulties for aggrieved persons dealing with the loss of a loved one caught in this legal boondoggle?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Speaker, we will be looking at this. There are a number of bills that relate to family property, including the Family Property and Support Act and the Intestate Succession Act. We're aware of some difficulties that have arisen and are looking at them.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the pieces of the legislation involved, as the minister clearly identified, is the Intestate Succession Act. It has a lengthy process, and the minister has indicated that she will agree to present amendments to the act - I am taking it that way. The stringent time factors and time frames in this act are one of the major hurdles to overcome, and I'm hoping she could indicate to the House that she's ready to present improvements to this legislation that are already in place in other Canadian jurisdictions. Is the minister prepared to do that, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, what I indicated in response to the first question is that we are prepared to look at what kinds of legislative changes may be needed. We are consulting with the community, including the legal community, on these changes and may have a package available later in our term.
Mr. Jenkins: The other piece of legislation is the Dependants Relief Act, and it contains a definition relating to common-law relationships, which is also extremely outdated, and I would ask the minister to bring forward amendments to this legislation as well, Mr. Speaker. I'm looking for some commitment from the minister to bring forth these amendments in the fall 1998 sitting of this Legislature.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, the legislative framework involves a number of bills. This is one reason, when we look at introducing amendments to the Family Property and Support Act, that we accepted the request for further consultation to look at the implications and all of their complexities. I am not giving a time commitment on when legislative changes may come forward. I am indicating that we will be working with the communities to look at what changes are needed.
Question re: Old Crow school
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Minister of Government Services regarding the Old Crow school; specifically the construction of the new school.
The minister indicated in this House late last week that the final design would be in government offices last Thursday. The design was to be reviewed over two weeks and then an approximately four-week period for tendering, which puts the tender out about April 3.
Could the minister indicate for the record what date the tender will be published, what date it will close and when the anticipated award date is?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can't provide that at this time, but what I will do is try to get it as soon as I possibly can. We want to go through the - there are some other issues involved, not the least of which is trying to take a look at some ways we can maximize the economic benefits for the people of Old Crow. Our project manager is meeting today with the Vuntut Gwitchin leadership to discuss some of those issues.
Just on the same point, he was able actually to drive in on the road and some of the first crews came in on the weekend on that road.
Ms. Duncan: What I was asking the Minister of Government Services for was approximate tender dates, which he tried to give late last week in the House. Assuming that last week's information was somewhat correct, we're looking at the earliest being about May 15 before construction crews could start - by the time the contract's awarded and mobilization by the successful bidder.
The minister stated last week also that the goal was to have the school done by the end of the year: December 1998. The Old Crow school is an L-shaped building about 32,000 square feet. Building this size of building in Old Crow in about six months, according to some Yukon contractors, is a Herculean task, if not impossible. Others say that it can be done in that time frame if all the pieces are in place and there are no unforeseen circumstances, like the right beams having to be made and then transported to Old Crow.
Is it the minister's intention to have the completion date in the tender as December 1998 or does the minister intend to leave himself some wriggle room and have an alternative completion date?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Our preferred date is still the end of the year. Of course, we have no control over various and sundry circumstances, but I can tell the member that we are doing everything we can to make that date. This week, the piling equipment will be brought in and that particular aspect of the contract will be undertaken.
So, basically, whoever arrives will (a) have certain advantages, one being that the foundations will be in place; (b) most of the materials will be assembled there, so it will be a matter of moving from there.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the minister seems to be refusing to give any kinds of dates for awarding tenders or whether or not the date for completion will be in the final contract. Right now, the children in Old Crow are working through difficult and crowded circumstances.
Is the minister's department recommending a staged type of construction for this L-shaped school, whereby students might have a gym available first, for example, and then gradually move into the classrooms? Can the minister provide us information on that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, Mr. Speaker. We're looking at completion of the building. I should emphasize that all tenders do have completion dates and we believe that our contractors can meet that goal. Of course, the member has murmured, "Will we put that date in the contract?" Of course that will be put in the contract.
Question re: Capital project, RCMP compound
Mr. Phillips: We've heard, Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House that there is a capital project in the planning, which is to be built behind the RCMP headquarters, and could the Minister of Justice tell this House if there is such a project? Does it exist, and who is planning it, and who's funding the project, and how much is the project for?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I will have to take the member's question under advisement. I have a meeting scheduled with the RCMP to discuss any plans that they may have for a construction of that type.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, we understand that such a project may go to tender very shortly. Is the minister telling this House today that she's not aware of any planned capital project by the RCMP in their compound behind the existing building - she has no idea what it's all about, and no idea that they're going to build anything - and that's what her meeting's going to be about in the future?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm not clear on what ideas the member opposite has, or what intelligence the member opposite has that he's bringing forward to the House. What I can tell the member is, as I said in response to his first question, that I have a meeting scheduled with the RCMP to discuss their budget of next year and any capital plans that they may have in the works.
Mr. Phillips: I don't want to let the minister go that easily. Mr. Speaker, is the minister telling us that the minister or her department are not aware at this time of any capital projects that may take place on the RCMP compound and, if there is such a project planned, are there any O&M implications to the Government of the Yukon with respect to ongoing operations of any new facility that's going to be built there? And, what's the facility going to be for?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, let me assure the member I'm not going anywhere. I'm right here. Secondly, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite hasn't brought forward any facts. He's brought forward speculation. I'm telling him that I will provide him with information when I have it.
Question re: White River First Nation land claim agreement
Mr. Cable: I have some more questions for the Government Leader on the White River First Nation agreement.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order. The Speaker cannot hear.
Mr. Cable: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
During the ministerial statement and the replies and the questions that were asked, I asked the Government Leader whether the $2 million project local hire provision that was in there related solely to projects physically situated in the White River traditional territory. I wonder if he could confirm that that, in fact, is a correct reading of his ministerial statement.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, that is a correct reading of the ministerial statement. The ministerial statement is also consistent with the final agreement - the negotiators' agreement - and, indeed, pursuant to chapter 22, the local benefits provision applies to only projects within the traditional territory of the White River First Nation.
Mr. Cable: One of the other questions I asked the minister for was an enlargement and some clarification of the statement that the agreement - "the memorandum is entirely consistent with recent judicial decisions with respect to aboriginal rights and title, such as the Delgamuukw decision." What I believe he told me and what I think I understood he told me was that the agreements did not require specific provisions in them to ensure that. Is that, in fact, the case?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes.
Mr. Cable: Would the minister provide a copy of the memorandum to this House so that we can see how the negotiations were carried out and what we can expect by way of concluded agreements?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't know how the tabling of the memorandum will demonstrate to the member how the negotiations were undertaken, but perhaps with Sherlock Holmes-like care he can draw conclusions from the final negotiatiors' agreement and determine how those negotiations were undertaken.
I will undertake to report back with an answer to the member's question in detail, and I will table whatever I can, of course - whatever is standard practice to table. Certainly, if the member has any other questions he would like to ask of the government with respect to this, I can even get a briefing with the negotiators to go over the agreement with the member.
Speaker: Question Period has now elapsed.
Question of privilege
Speaker: On a question of privilege, the leader of the official opposition.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege in response to an aspersion cast upon me by the Government Leader in Question Period on Thursday, February 26, 1998.
The exchange can be found on page 2173 of Hansard, First Session, 29th Legislature, and occurred as follows:
"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.
"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,..."
Mr. Speaker, you ruled that a dispute outside the House bears no point of order, and while I accept your ruling on the point of order, I contend that there is a prima facie case of breach of privilege, and accordingly am raising it at the earliest possible opportunity.
The Government Leader's remarks inferred that I have called First Nation leaders liars in the media, and that he had transcripts to prove it.
Mr. Speaker, the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, addendum 1, "Guidelines for Oral Question Period," section 8 states: "A question must adhere to the proprieties of the House in that it must not contain inferences, impute motives or cast aspersions upon members within the House or out of it." Clearly, Mr. Speaker, the Government Leader's remarks are in contravention of this guideline.
Further, the Government Leader's remarks are in breach of Standing Order 19(1)(h) and 19(1)(j), where a member will be called to order by the Speaker if that member (h) imputes false or unavowed motives to another member; (i) use of abusive or insulting language of a nature likely to create disorder.
Remarks by the Government Leader inferring that I called First Nation leaders "liars" while pertaining to events outside the House have been introduced into the House in statements and language that are clearly unparliamentary and should be withdrawn.
The inference that I called First Nation leaders "liars" in a term that the Government Leader has used both in and out of the House is patently false.
In October of 1995, there was a dispute between me, in my capacity as Government Leader, and Grand Chief Harry Allen concerning the progress of settling land claims. Mr. Allen made a statement that the Government of Yukon was deliberately stalling the land claims process and I said at that time that this statement was absolutely not true. There was a difference of opinion between the Grand Chief and myself as to the causes of the delays in the land claims process, as there so often is, irrespective of who is the Government Leader and irrespective of who is the Grand Chief.
As the Government Leader, I was representing the interests of all Yukoners while Grand Chief Allen was representing the interests of Yukon First Nations.
Mr. Speaker, I held the utmost respect for Grand Chief Harry Allen. He was a very distinguished Yukoner whose name should not now be used to give credence to allegations made against me by the Government Leader.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask the Government Leader to voluntarily withdraw his remarks prior to your ruling, or, failing that, to make the allegation that I called First Nation leaders "liars" with his documentary proof outside of these legislative precincts so that a judicial ruling may also be obtained.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Harding: On the question of privilege, Mr. Speaker, we see no prima facie breach of privilege in this instance. Obviously, the member is grandstanding about a point that he feels very defensive about, and so he should, Mr. Speaker. It was readily apparent, to those observers in the Yukon who watched his very sad and unprofessional display of relationships with First Nation governments, that the situation was not conducive to positive, futuristic, government-to-government relations in this territory with First Nations governments.
In this House, when members are engaging in a stiff debate about important issues such as this, it is very important that members be able to speak of past events and be able to speak of past experiences and things that have taken place in the media and in the public on the floor of this Legislative Assembly.
In this case, the Government Leader did just this, and the Government Leader did not reference anybody's name. It was the member opposite who referenced names in this House, just in this argument that he is making on the question of privilege.
It is very important and key to the whole principle of democracy in this Legislature that members are free to point to events that have taken place outside of this House to give some context and some accountability, not just to the government, but also to the opposition, and particularly former governments, who set the stage for the debate that we are having today.
Mr. Speaker, that is not a prima facie case of breach of privilege in any way, shape or form. We would be willing, obviously, to concede that, in this case, the point was raised at the earliest opportunity, but we do not concede that there is any point for the simple reason that there is no prima facie breach of privilege - none whatsoever.
Speaker: Order please. The Chair will take this matter under advisement and provide the House with a ruling tomorrow.
We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Government bills.
Bill No. 9: Second Reading - continued
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 9, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald. Adjourned debate, Mr. Cable.
Speaker: Member for Riverside. Continue with debate.
Mr. Cable: Thanks, Mr. Speaker.
One of the things I've noticed in the last few months, and which I started to touch on the other day, was that I think it's safe to say that the Yukon economy is not very robust at the present time. Our main mine is down, the BYG operation is floundering through legal troubles and environmental troubles, and placer mining is in trouble.
What I've found in the street is that people are apprehensive.
The housing market is very soft, when one talks to real estate agents. Vacancy rates are up quite markedly in the apartments. While a good, healthy vacancy rate is good, of course, for tenants, when it crosses the line, we have investor confidence being reduced and future intentions being threatened with respect to the construction of new apartments.
The vacancy rate, for example, in Whitehorse, in December 1997, according to the stats branch January 1998 monthly statistical review, was 11.4 percent, as opposed to 6.9 percent in December 1996.
Building permits are down, also, from 1997 over 1996. If I've done my mathematics right, the building permits in 1997 were something of the order of $43 million, as opposed to $58.5 million in 1996.
Mineral exploration intentions are also down. We've heard the people in the Chamber of Mines and other people indicating that they anticipate a very substantial reduction with respect to mineral exploration.
The NDP government is not responsible for the world price of zinc or the world price of gold. It is not responsible for the BYG environmental problems. I'm reminded of the Member for Faro doing his Tom Jones act - his imitation of Tom Jones - where he says, "I'm not responsible." You could almost hear the music in the background. The NDP is not responsible for many of those things. But the NDP government is responsible for many of the things that are going on. They are responsible for many of those things that undermine investor confidence.
They are responsible, in part, for the lack of progress in land claims. The senior negotiating staff were rolled over rather unceremoniously during the early days of the NDP regime, and the corporate history, of course, that is carried along with the negotiating staff was moved elsewhere.
The NDP government is responsible for, in part, the lack of progress in moving the development assessment process forward. They're responsible for the speed with which the protected areas strategy moves forward and they're responsible for, in part, the gyrations relating to electricity rates and the lack of clear product in the policy area, particularly in those areas such as risk absorption and the rules relating to the Utilities Board - things that could be dealt with expeditiously. We don't need the grandstanding of 15 and 16 months to bring those issues to a conclusion.
Now I think lastly - and perhaps as importantly as anything else - the NDP government is responsible for the glacier-like pace of negotiations with public servants. With a large public service sector in the Yukon, the wage rates and benefits in the Yukon Territory public sector very much determine the wages and benefits that the private-sector employers will have to pay. When that issue is up in the air, of course, people's intentions remain up in the air.
I've heard from many people that they are nervous about this government's hand on the tiller at this time. They are nervous about the lack of fulfillment of the expectations raised by the NDP when the NDP was in opposition. They are nervous about the NDP's ability to set the stage for long-term job creation.
Now I think many items in the platform, I'm sure, had some wriggle room in, but what I'm hearing in the street is that the wriggle room is just too large. Wriggle room doesn't mean you walk away from commitments or from expectations.
So I have to say, Mr. Speaker, to support this budget, and in effect send a message of confidence in this government, would be a denial of what I am observing and what I am hearing from people in the street and the conclusions I have formed myself.
Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I have to say that, as with my colleagues in the Liberal caucus, I will not be supporting the government's budget.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm happy to rise and speak in support of this budget this afternoon.
Mr. Speaker, I'm not surprised that the members for Porter Creek don't see a better way of government in the Yukon. The Member for Porter Creek North had his way in the Yukon for four years, and we know what it was: grade reorganization, excellence awards, the Whitehorse General Hospital project going to an Alberta contractor, inflating of the land development and road construction budgets, and many, many initiatives with absolutely no consultation with the public.
We saw public sector wage restraint legislation, and, Mr. Speaker, that way in the Yukon lost the confidence of the public.
Mr. Speaker, I want to say how pleased that I am by the way our budget delivers on our stated priorities. We are creating jobs, with over $70 million in capital expenditures, including a new school in Old Crow. The education capital budget includes over $1 million in school renovations to improve the physical plants in a number of schools, including $300,000 for F.H. Collins school upgrading.
There is almost $9 million for road construction and support for mining through the geoscience program, and a new $400,000 for land and mineral assessments.
There is $200,000 in increased tourism marketing funding.
Mr. Speaker, our public expenditures in school improvements isn't just a creation of jobs and building of schools. It also demonstrates our effective communications with school councils.
The rural school facility study is a helpful document that has informed and guided some long-range decisions on school construction. School council representatives from across the Yukon helped to decide the capital spending priorities. Mr. Speaker, people like the dialogue with government that is occurring between this government and the public. It's a better way; it's a real change.
The community development fund is also creating jobs. The Member for Porter Creek South doesn't like the community development fund, which is increased to $3.5 million in this budget. People around the territory like the community development fund, which allows them to work on projects that meet local priorities. I'm amazed that the opposition doesn't support permanent housing for the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre. That was achieved through the community development fund.
The community development fund supported Signpost Seniors, the Vuntut Gwitchin youth summer camp and the Dawson City Music Festival Association, youth centre repairs and youth recreation and leadership programs. We have worked in partnership with Crime Prevention Yukon, the Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon, the Yukon International Storytelling Festival, the Yukon Trappers Association, the Klondike Snowmobile Association, and a host of community agencies.
The community development fund has supported renovations to buildings to provide access for people with disabilities. That meets a very important commitment to human rights for people with disabilities.
Mr. Speaker, we are doing what we said we would do. We consulted with the public to revise - or might I say revive, Mr. Speaker - the community development fund, and we have put lots of people to work while improving the quality of life for Yukon residents.
The $3.5 million in the 1998-99 budget for the community development fund will create more jobs and community facilities, and that's a better way.
Long-range planning helps to make limited funds better spent. This government has already made real progress in developing long-range planning in a number of areas. We are planning now to build a new school in Ross River in 1999, and planning begins in this budget year for the Mayo school construction in the year 2000. We have set aside $200,000 for the planning of a Mayo school so that we can have the time to do planning in advance and build on schedule.
The government's budget also sets a foundation for the new millennium by putting aside money for longer term projects to address community priorities. This budget sets aside $1 million for recreational infrastructure in the City of Whitehorse, which plans to host games in 2007. By setting aside $1 million per year this year and into the next century, the Yukon government will contribute to facilities for athletes, young and old, and in a variety of sports and recreational activities.
We are also setting aside $1 million per year for the next nine years for a capital project in Dawson City. Capital funds are set aside for health centres and community nursing.
There is $9 million for major highway work, which will create jobs. It will also improve the Alaska Highway, the Campbell Highway and the Top of the World Highway. These road improvements will benefit residents and visitors alike.
There is $500,000 being set aside for secondary rural roads, and there are many of those in the Yukon, as our MLAs and ministers know, Mr. Speaker, because we do travel the highways and byways of the Yukon. We are out there on those highways and on those secondary roads meeting with the people who live in the territory.
The Member for Porter Creek North says the budget shows no vision. But you know, Mr. Speaker, I ran into a friend on the street after we had tabled the budget last week and they asked, "So, does the opposition like the budget?" And I had to say, "Well, guess what, the opposition doesn't like the budget." That's their job. They don't like the budget. It's not their budget.
But I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that our budget has vision. Our vision includes a priority for youth programming. We are budgeting $200,000 for a youth strategy, so we can improve community programs for young people. This, too, is a direct response to the voice of the people in ridings throughout the Yukon who see the value of youth recreation and leadership programs. We will expand youth programs through a variety of mechanisms. We will continue to involve young people themselves through the Youth Works Board, the Association of Community Youth Initiatives; we will expand youth employment initiatives; and we will continue to support the youth entrepreneurship centre, the youth investment fund, youth apprenticeships and a full range of educational, environmental, recreational and other youth programs.
Now, the opposition admits that they liked the youth strategy but then they say the budget has no vision and it's not a good budget. It is a good budget. The vision in this budget is to create jobs, is to link training and jobs, is to invest in our youth and to invest in our communities.
Training and jobs are closely linked. This budget makes $1.5 million available for training trust funds that will help provide Yukon people with skills that do translate into jobs. We have supported a training trust fund for the mining industry, for rural communities, and we are working on agreements to support agriculture, forestry and other economic sectors, including non-government organizations.
During this year, Mr. Speaker, we will also have a draft Yukon training strategy to take out for consultation with the communities to work to ensure that the training we plan for our citizens meets the needs. Training trust funds represent an investment that will continue to provide valuable skills and economic diversification opportunities in the territory.
Yukon College will receive $10 million again this year to support their operations and maintenance and we have signed a three-year agreement to provide the college with the financial stability to prepare their budgets in advance - despite the declining federal revenues in education funding.
The federal budget does not restore the Canada health and social transfer payments to previous levels. I will continue to work with my provincial and territorial counterparts to ensure that the federal government respects education as a provincial and territorial jurisdiction.
I'd like to turn, for a moment, to some of the ways the Yukon government is supporting healthy communities. This government consults with the public and is prepared to make decisions. After community consultations, after numerous meetings between Health and Social Services and Crossroads, and after debate in this House on the need for action to mitigate the harmful effects of alcohol abuse in the Yukon, my colleague, the Minister of Health and Social Services, has introduced a new approach to drug and alcohol treatment that provides for more long-term support and encourages delivery of treatment services at the community level and with First Nations.
Mr. Speaker, we have the courage to try some new approaches, something the opposition parties urged us do in this House a few short months ago. In November 1997, we had a debate in this House and you know what the members opposite had to say then, Mr. Speaker? They were talking about what is wrong and why are we sending people from rural Yukon into Whitehorse or outside for alcohol treatment. If programs are developed at the local level, they are more responsive to local needs.
Yes, Mr. Speaker, we agree with that. We want to design programs to better fit the needs, rather than rely solely on a model that does not meet every need. We have responded to community concerns, and that is a better way. We're offering a new program that includes a residential program, as has been offered in the past, but there is also a four-day medical detox program, a 12-day treatment program and 14 days of additional residential support if required. We are bringing in an aftercare program and we'll provide a continuum of care for 24 months.
There will be limited beds available for people who need a place to stay during treatment. The new program builds in components for support when there is a relapse. In addition to offering a new program, we can adopt a program to meet the needs of specific communities and First Nations. Part of our overall plan is to support community-based programs with redirected funds and to train First Nations people to deliver the treatment programs in their communities.
We're taking action on a problem that has been identified. We are following through on recommendations that have been made to us from the communities and that, too, is a better way.
The budget also contains new money for a crime prevention coordinator. We're going to continue to fund aboriginal justice and community justice forums. Considerable work on restorative justice initiatives will take place this year and, yes, that includes a discussion paper on policing and justice priorities, so we can move forward on that.
The opposition wants to criticize our government for making progress on the protected areas strategy. The Yukon Party criticizes the government while, at the same time, claiming that they support a protected areas strategy. The fact is, during four years in office, the Yukon Party did not deliver a protected areas strategy, even though they claimed to support it, and we intend to deliver.
We're not just going to pay lip service to a protected areas strategy. We have a better way to work with communities, to seek public input and to be brave and make decisions, as one citizen stated during the Government Leader's pre-budget consultation. Like the First Nations final agreements, a protected areas strategy will provide certainty for all parties, and that will promote jobs in the environmental arena, in wilderness tourism and in resource development.
Now, the Member for Riverside was just speaking about the land claims, Mr. Speaker, and mentioned the First Nations final agreements and the fact that they bring certainty and that they're good for the territory. I really have to respond. We have made progress on land claims. The Government Leader earlier this afternoon gave details of an agreement with the White River First Nation, and we intend to continue working hard to reach agreement with First Nations on land claims.
The leader of the official opposition, in his remarks, scoffed at spending money on dumps, and he said, "Well, there's nothing new about spending any money on dumps." Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party record on Environment Act regulations is abysmal. The previous New Democratic government brought in the Environment Act, and do you know how many sets of regulations were passed during the four years that the Yukon Party was in office? Two - two sets of regulations - on the recycling fund and on the beverage containers - and both of those were in September of 1992 and October of 1992, and so work was well underway before the change in government.
Now, Mr. Speaker, since we have been in office, we've already made some progress, and for four years I asked the Minister of Community and Transportation Services about solid waste regulations and about air emission regulations while I was in opposition, and they did nothing.
Let me tell you what the Yukon New Democrat government has done since our election in the fall of 1996.
Air emission regulations are being drafted. They are now before the public for the mandatory 60-day public review, until April 6, 1998. Air emission regulations are about having clean air and protecting our environment. They did nothing; we're doing something right now.
Work on the solid waste regulations has also started. The government has released a discussion paper, "It's all about a bunch of garbage," prior to the public meetings that have been underway last month and this month. Following this consultation, the regulations on solid waste will be drafted, and a 60-day public review will be scheduled this year, in 1998.
Mr. Speaker, Yukon people care about their environment. Many community members support recycling efforts, as does this government. We will continue to act where the Yukon Party did not.
We have also enacted storage tank regulations, spills regulations and contaminated sites regulations. These regulations are based on environmental principles recommended by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. Mr. Speaker, that is a better way of governing in the Yukon.
We will continue to deliver on our agenda in this territory. We have a better way. We would welcome constructive opposition, but I have to say that the debate that I've been hearing in response to this budget has been pretty thin soup coming from the other side of the House.
I would encourage the opposition to be constructive, and I would point as an example to the role that the Member for Riverdale South played in support of family violence prevention legislation.
This government continues to work with First Nations, with women's groups, with crime prevention organization, on implementation of a family violence prevention act, so that it can help women and children in our communities to lead safer lives.
We continue to work to improve programs that are being offered in our schools and in our communities to ensure that people are safe.
This budget's creation of long-term funding savings accounts for future projects will have a net benefit for future generations. We will continue to bring long-term planning to the Yukon and to make decisions based on the valuable input that we receive from the public.
Mr. Speaker, it's precisely because we have had the benefit of that good advice from members of the public that we've been able to prepare a budget to meet the needs of Yukon citizens.
I'm looking forward to the challenging work ahead of us in having this budget and spending the funds that we have appropriated in our priority initiative areas and in the workings of government. Those are good jobs - both public sector and private sector jobs - that are supported by this budget. I'm happy to commend the 1998-98 budget to the House.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I'm somewhat taken aback by the message that is being delivered by this NDP government on this budget. When one looks through the preamble it says, "This budget is about jobs." On that point, I certainly have to agree with the Government Leader that this budget is about jobs. It's about the total lack of jobs that are being created here in Yukon. These are brought about by policies of this government, NDP policies that flow from their position paper, A Better Way. That paper, that election campaign paper, sold this party to the people of Yukon and raised their expectations - raised their expectations to a level that is not attainable.
They cannot be attained by the fiscal policies that are being brought forward by this government and enunciated in this budget. This budget shows no vision; no initiatives - there are a few minor ones that I agree with, Mr. Speaker - and other than jobs for NDP supporters, no jobs.
It would appear that the platform of job creation as envisioned by this government is to, number one, expand the government workforce or, if you can't fit into that category, you'd better be in a position to draw an unemployment insurance cheque. If you can't fit into that category, well, come on back and we'll get you a welfare cheque. Heck, our department will even pay your municipal property taxes if you apply. Not a problem.
The expansion of government, and NDP governments are known for big governments and the expansion that they create within government circles. Let's look at the one area that we can zero in and target: the Cabinet commissioners. According to the conflict commissioner, the Cabinet commissioners themselves are nothing more than messenger carriers to take the message from the deputy commission to the Cabinet. That's what Mr. Hughes stated in his letter and that was the information that was received by the Government Leader on a request from Mr. Hughes. That's the NDP position as to the responsibilities of a Cabinet commission.
When we look at it, there is a half a million dollars for each of these Cabinet commissions. That's just the tip of the iceberg. As everyone knows, there's about 10 percent of an iceberg showing. The other 90 percent is hidden somewhere in government and it's rising at an alarming rate.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: And as with an iceberg, we'd better recognize that 90 percent of that iceberg that is hidden or those costs in that government is still a cost of government. So much for A Better Way. Consult, consult.
Mr. Speaker, the engine that drives the economy of the Yukon is mineral exploration, mining and construction projects. The visitor industry plays a significant role.
The minister of economic devastation has virtually destroyed mineral exploration with the message he's sending out to the mining community. There is going to be no mining exploration to speak of in the Yukon, and when one compares us to Alaska, our neighbour to the west, all of the major mining companies operating in Alaska are Canadian owned. If we were to add up the total number of Canadians engaged in mining in Alaska, I'm sure that there are more Canadians working in that industry there than there are here in the Yukon.
This bodes well for this government in their ability to stimulate and encourage mineral exploration and mining activity. But then when you listen to the ministers responsible for the various departments, it's always someone else's responsibility or it's always some board or it's always some committee or some consultation process that they hide behind.
This government does not have the ability to take the bull by the horns and get on with the business of government.
Government is for the majority of the people, and the question needs to be asked: do we need all of the government that we have, and do we need it to be expanding at the rate that it is currently expanding? I'm sure that if this government were to take their time and stand back, they could subscribe to a few policies that will have long-term benefits and not be just jobs for today and tomorrow for a couple of loyal supporters, Mr. Speaker.
Let's look, Mr. Speaker, at the major capital undertaking of this NDP government today. That is the school in Old Crow. In the rural school review, the school in Old Crow was identified as sadly needing replacement, and the only reason it's being replaced at this juncture, I'm sure, is because it burned down and the government was forced into replacing it.
Let's look at the Yukon hire component and how dismally this government has done. First of all, they tender out the services for the design to a firm remote from the Yukon, a firm that has northern experience and northern exposure. Of course, they were low tender, but with clear direction from the government, they could have identified early the need for Yukon components and Yukon labour in this major capital program.
The first one we look at is the floor joists. Because of the design of the school, it went to a firm in Alberta, creating some 2,000 hours of labour to construct the floor joists and the roof trusses for this school, Mr. Speaker. Had the design been sympathetic to Yukon manufacturers, that work could have stayed local. Right now, we have all of the Yukon's own truckers, sitting here in the Yukon, watching the Alberta truckers haul the product to Old Crow.
Here we have truckers who had a job here in the Yukon, who have the equipment, who have the skill, who have the ability, who have an understanding of what they have to cope with, and yet they're sitting there, watching the trucks go by their front door - the trucks from Alberta, hauling the product from Alberta. Shame on the Minister of Government Services.
The other area that we looked at with respect to the Old Crow school is the insulation that was spec'd. We're into hard-board styrofoam, 10 truck loads, manufactured somewhere else - not in the Yukon - and trucked up to Old Crow.
Had the Minister of Government Services had the least bit of understanding about insulation, he could have grasped that there are firms in the Yukon that have spray-in-place foam insulation that meets all of the specs, would probably do a heck of a better job than hardboard styrofoam insulation because it's sprayed in place and you fill up all the cracks and grooves. You only have to look at some of the other government jobs in the north where the buildings move and occasionally shift somewhat - the museum in Dawson City that the government took upon themselves to completely refurbish, initially put in bad insulation - styrofoam - and then in order to make it work they ended up spraying it all, which they should have done in the first place.
Here we have firms in the Yukon that can do this kind of work, providing employment in the Yukon to Yukoners, and probably one truckload of 45-gallon drums of the product hauled into Old Crow by a Yukon trucker could have replaced the 10 truckloads that are going to come from Alberta carrying hardboard styrofoam insulation to Old Crow. And this is just the beginning, Mr. Speaker, of the tenders that are let.
I'm sure by the time that this Minister of Government Services is finished the Old Crow school, when we add up all the supps, will make the Taj Mahal look like it was an inexpensive construction.
When we look at the other area, it's the insurance dollars from the fire at the Old Crow school. This government is touting the fact that this is their major capital undertaking. The budgeted amount is $8.5 million. Where's the insurance money in this whole scenario? Initially, the minister indicated that the insurance payout would more than offset the building cost of the new school, less the deductible.
The construction of the road and the trucking is going to add up to the amount of insurance that we're going to recover from the destruction of the Old Crow school by fire.
The other problem we have with the capital budget is the size of it, first of all. The members opposite are touting the fact that, as a percentage of the total budget, the Yukon government has the largest percentage of the budget in the capital area. That's always been the case. It continues to be the case in the north. But, what is happening today, Mr. Speaker, is that, when one analyzes it, a lot of what were previously O&M costs are being transferred to the capital side of the budget. They're being bootlegged in there, and it inflates the capital side and deflates the O&M, which is where these costs rightfully belong.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: We have a number of areas that are of a positive nature. The home care that is being expanded by this government, I extend congratulations for. It's needed. It's an area that has to be dealt with and I certainly support it. But then when we look at the facilities for elders in the Yukon - one of the fastest growing sectors of our society - and it's a long-standing issue in rural Yukon, especially in Watson Lake and Dawson City, it's being ignored - the provision of accommodations.
This government promised that Health and Social Services would be their number-one priority. Yet the waiting list, Mr. Speaker, and the wait time to enter either Macaulay or McDonald Lodge has increased dramatically despite the significant increase in the budget of this department.
We haven't seen it all, Mr. Speaker. I'm sure when everything is said and done, the supplementaries will come in this fall and most departments will show a decrease from what was budgeted with the exception of the Minister of Health and Social Services, who will be handing out cheques to some of his supporters to pay their taxes and do whatever he needs to do to glean their support in the future.
When we look at Crossroads and the situation there, I'm just appalled. I'm just appalled, Mr. Speaker. Yes, we called for an investigation because there were difficulties, but calling for an investigation into a service that was being provided effectively and efficiently for some 20-odd years, doesn't mean that you close it down.
There's constant change, and constant change is part of good government, Mr. Speaker. What you do is look at the delivery of the programs, you look at what areas can be improved upon, and you attend to fixing the vehicle. What the government has done is thrown away the whole vehicle and gone out and bought a new one. It hasn't spec'd out what the vehicle is going to do or how it's going to be driven, and it's interesting that the program that was adopted was plucked right off the Internet. There were a few minor changes and embellishments here and there, and I would urge the minister to look on the Internet and to look at his little green pamphlet that was distributed and compare it and see what changes are in there.
Crossroads has helped an awful lot of people, and it could continue to help an awful lot of Yukoners that are afflicted with alcoholism or have other addictions. But this minister has chosen to look instead to take a different course, a different tack, and suggest to the general population that the government is going to undertake the delivery of these services and do it at less cost. Anyone in industry knows that there is no way that government is going to compete with the private sector in the delivery of services. There are very, very few areas where government can deliver a service more cost effectively than the private sector or NGOs, and this is what the minister is suggesting. Crossroads, who still has a lease on its building from the government - I'm not sure what the minister is going to do. He's probably just going to not send over any money to them and just force them out or take back the building or slap them again, and I'm sure they'll be the last ones to know. The first they'll probably know about it is when it's raised in the newspaper or the news media.
Or the sheriff will knock on the door and take back the keys. I'm not sure which way the minister's going to go, but it'll probably be either/or, or some variation, or maybe both, Mr. Speaker.
The point is that this government has not given much thought to a complete and thorough analysis of the program that was at Crossroads and how it could be improved upon before they went off on a tangent, threw it away and embarked on something totally brand new.
When one looks at the programs - the wilderness camps; and in last Friday's paper, there was an advertisement in the newspaper, asking for submissions in this area - and we look at the money that this government is spending, and the number of people who are being put through this system - we look at Old Crow, and there were 11 individuals put there, run through their camps, at a cost approaching $300,000.
These costs - I'm sure the minister has some justification for them - but how is the analysis being conducted of how efficient and effective these treatment programs are? We don't know. We just see the bills coming in and the contracts being awarded, Mr. Speaker, for some tens of thousands of dollars for this undertaking. And it appears that this initiative is continuing.
Now, at what juncture do we stand back and conduct an analysis of how effectively these are treating the people who attend these camps?
The minister hasn't indicated there at all how this is going to be undertaken or when it's going to be done, and, if the minister's asked, a lot of them are young offenders and the minister hides behind the veil of secrecy that, "We don't want to discuss it," or, "We can't discuss it because we are protected. We want to protect the identity." We're not looking for the identity of these individuals in this program, Mr. Speaker. We're looking to see and find out if the cost is justified for what comes through that system. There could be better ways of treatment than what we are looking at.
There are a few positive initiatives, as I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, in the health part of this budget. Other than that, I cannot find very much that we can count on here in the Yukon to create jobs, to stimulate our economy.
The Shakwak highway project: there was a list of the number of letters that were sent by this government to various offices of representatives and state legislators and federal senators in the U.S. to encourage the funding. But what other initiatives could this government undertake? Did the government explore going to the Government of Canada and seeing if they would advance funds? Has that been looked at?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: That's not made public. And was that avenue pursued with the same vigour as they pursued support for Shakwak funding?
It was a dismal lobbying effort on behalf of this government, from what I'm given to understand talking to people in Alaska that represent their various jurisdictions. A lot more could have been done by this government to see that the Shakwak project came to fruition a lot faster than it probably will. And there's no certainty that it will be approved in the federal budget in the U.S. this fiscal year, either.
What this government is going to have to do if we want to be successful is continue to mount a lobbying effort and keep up the pressure, keep up the pace. The system in the U.S. functions quite a bit differently than in Canada. Most of the decision making is done in the committee stage. When one gets into the Legislature or their Senate, the issues are just ratified very, very quickly.
The Yukon should be at the table. We can be invited over there quite readily to speak to a number of these issues, and I would encourage the minister, the Government Leader and the minister of highways to get involved, and to get involved more thoroughly, because these projects, initiated in that state, affect dramatically the economic well-being of Yukoners.
The ball has been dropped by this government on the Shakwak. When is it going to get picked up and when are going to get back in the ball game, Mr. Speaker? That's the question.
We look at the mine site in Faro. When it is running, it contributes extremely well to the economy of the Yukon.
We can't control the price of zinc and lead, its two principal commodities, but we can do a lot to provide the infrastructure, and some certainty to that infrastructure, and facilitate an initiative that could result in the reopening of that minesite when the prices of their products are at a level that is economically viable.
What we have is a government that passes the buck, saying Cominco has bigger pockets than the Government of Yukon - and they do. But if we stand back, this minesite, which still has four years of ore reserves at the level that it was being mined at previously - four years of work for Yukoners - something could be done.
Then we look at the effect that the opening and the closing of the mine in Faro has on the Yukon - the power rates of Yukoners. It's the government's role to provide infrastructure. That's their role. I've said it once; I'll repeat it again, Mr. Speaker. The tripod on which an economy is built are these three legs: transportation, energy and communication. Now we do have a highway from Faro to Skagway. The energy situation is about as volatile as volatile can be. In all other parts of Canada the cost of electricity is going down but in the Yukon, we're probably looking at some 20 or 30 or 40 percent increase, given what happened previously when the Faro mine shut down and a rate increase that was sought by the Yukon Energy Corporation.
That doesn't even account for the amount that is outstanding, and the power bill of Anvil Range. We have a whole set of things here in Yukon that, if the government grabbed the bull by the horns - one being energy; and we have gas fields and oil up in Eagle Plains, north of Dawson City, just off the Dempster Highway, and that gas could be utilized as a fuel here in Yukon. The oil could be used. Indeed, the oil could be burned in power-generating equipment here in Yukon.
We have oil and gas fields in the southern part of the Yukon that could be tapped into also to supply Watson Lake and that area, but these fuels are going to remain in the ground under this government for time immemorial. Unless we in Yukon address the issue of energy, we are going to continue to be a major importer. The numbers that are bandied about are that 25 cents out of every dollar that changes hands here in Yukon goes south to purchase energy. Or it probably goes west into Alaska to purchase energy from Alaska, but we are not going to get anywhere unless we address this energy issue, unless we come up with a long-term strategy for a grid for power.
I applaud the government for looking at an interconnect and a tie-in to Alaska or British Columbia. It was a stupid idea when it was advanced by the previous government, by the Yukon Party government, but now a lot of these ideas ain't all that bad.
The 40-watt lightbulb must have been changed to a 60 or something. The fiscal reality of addressing the responsibilities that you have on your plate are coming to light.
When we look at the road improvements around Yukon and the amount that we're spending on highways other than the Shakwak, we're not going to even maintain what we have with this type of a program, Mr. Speaker, and I'm very, very disappointed to see that this government hasn't even continued the planning toward a bridge across the Yukon River north of us that would tie in to Alaska. That would be at Dawson City. I think the Government Leader referred to it as the "bridge to nowhere," but yet the economic benefits that would accrue to Yukon are quite substantial. They would accrue not only to Dawson but to all Yukon. When one looks at the land development in Yukon as demonstrated in this budget, Mr. Speaker, we see virtually all, some millions and millions of dollars, flowing once again into Whitehorse.
With the mobile home strategy, it looks like the lots that they're going to be developing are going to be at higher cost than the lots that are presently available. And then the side of the equation that hasn't been looked at is what is going to be the effect of this mobile home strategy on people selling existing mobile homes. What effect is government's intervention in this marketplace going to have on the selling price of older mobile homes? These are areas that the government of the day has currently not looked at.
There are millions of dollars flowing into Whitehorse, and yet when we look at what's going outside of Whitehorse - $390,000 for country residential lots in Carcross, Dawson, Haines Junction and Ross River. That's it, $300,000, and we just look at what's happening in Whitehorse.
It looks like the Government Leader is going to be expropriating a whole lot of land down on the waterfront to build - we don't know what. There's some $294,000 being expended there. My suggestion was that it was a back door land claims deal or it could have been a deal to build another recreation centre or convention centre or something of that nature, but the Government Leader has pooh-poohed all of these areas. Some foundation for the future that this government is creating.
We look at the Education side of the budget. The O&M costs, despite this government touting that they are all for continuing education, have decreased from previous years. If you want to put it into constant dollars, it's very interesting.
Yet, we're training for jobs. There's another $1.5 million into the training trust funds to train our people to work in the mining industry that doesn't exist, to train our people to work in the forestry industry that doesn't exist, and to train our people to work in the agricultural industry.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it has a very, very narrow window of economic viability.
Our visitor sector is the one area that does employ ...
Speaker: The member has three minutes.
Mr. Jenkins: ... a tremendous number of people. The training trust fund there - I'm not sure if an analysis has been conducted to see how effective that has been to date.
This government could do a lot in supporting healthy communities by creating an economy that provides for jobs. This budget is not a budget that I can support. It does nothing to develop Yukon.
The Minister of Justice and Education went on at great lengths to expand on how many more regulations her government has brought in. We don't need more government and more regulations. We need less government and fewer regulations. We need a sweeping -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: When one looks at the erosion of the surplus created by the previous Yukon Party government, I quote you one line from NDP Leader Piers McDonald's response to the budget a few years ago. He stated, "It's more of a kamikaze budget than a responsible one. There will be a small surplus by the end of the fiscal year but it will be too small to meet the prudent one-month operating reserve." One month's operating reserve is some $40 million.
Now, we've taken the surplus left by the previous Yukon Party government and we've managed to whittle it down in two successive budgets to what we hope to be some $15 million, and I would seriously doubt that.
I'm disappointed that this government can't give more thought to the future of the Yukon and come up with more vision than what we have.
Mr. Speaker, I will not be supporting this budget.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, it certainly gives me pleasure indeed to be able to follow the previous speaker, although I guess I won't be able to follow him where he's going, because I don't think they know where they're going, Mr. Speaker, and I choose not to follow them.
Mr. Speaker, I do have some comments that I would like to share with the people of the Yukon concerning the budget. Not only concerning the budget, Mr. Speaker, but certainly on how you do things with what you have to work with.
Mr. Speaker, I'd like to say that I'm pleased to be here. I want to speak in response to the budget address that reflects so many of this government's commitments to the people of the Yukon. This budget is the result of very much thought, working in partnership with the Yukon people. It reflects our commitments to involve people in decisions that affect them, and our commitments to planning.
Mr. Speaker, in spite of declining revenues, we continue to protect the health and education services, but these are all issues that are pertinent to every budget speech.
What I think is that we should examine ourselves. Are we elected by the people to have narrow visions, to represent those narrow regional visions and, in some cases, visions that only come from a town - in some cases, a village - and that's total representation? Absolutely not, Mr. Speaker. We're to look forward to representing Yukon and all people within the Yukon. We are not here to convert the converted. We are here to bring the others and, in order to bring the others - and they're there - we must start to focus more on how we do.
Our Government Leader has said many wise things in his tenure as a politician and as a government leader and as leader of a political party and a leader of a territory, but one of the most profound statements - and I reflect on it often; and I think everybody here should - is how you do it is just as important or more important than what you do.
There, Mr. Speaker, is something that we all want to do. Everybody on that side of the House wants to sit on this side of the House, although you'd certainly never judge it, because there's only one opposition member sitting across there right now, so obviously all they have to do is make their statements and their speeches, Mr. Speaker, and go back to their cubby holes, throw their feet up on their desks and drink a cup of coffee because, Mr. Speaker, that's exactly what they're saying by their absence from this room.
Mr. Speaker, this is not ego. We should not be posturing and that is exactly what is happening. People are posturing so that they might win the next election. This government right here is putting principles in place -
Speaker: Order please. I would like to remind members that pursuant to notation 418, paragraph (c) of Beauchesne, they are not to refer to the presence or absence of any other members. Continue please.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That is very smart, yes, Mr. Speaker, although it's been used against us before, but it is good for the people to know. So thank you, Mr. Speaker, I stand corrected.
But just on that case, is it posturing? Is it visible? No, Mr. Speaker, sometimes I think that we ought to think about the old ways of doing things. I don't mean the old days and living by candles and you did not have the electricity, or anything like as such but I think that we have to think about the old ways in terms of being principle-driven, to bring the principles forward, to take what you need and leave the rest. That's called sustainability.
We should be looking at each other with respect. We should be looking at what we are here to do. We should work together. We're here to be constructive; we are not here to flaunt our egos. We're here to be - I guess now in the modern and contemporary way of politics, I guess - is that we're here to be critical, not constructive.
Mr. Speaker, I sometimes think that we should all take a deep breath and think about the principles of the past so that we might be able to integrate them.
I've heard all sorts of words in this room in the previous 15 months and even just today: "capitalism, socialism", buying new vehicles. Let me say that anybody who sits here and represents just a capitalist thought, a socialist thought or any kind of singular thought is very, very narrow in their vision.
And they will, as the previous speaker has just said, have a kamikaze budget. It will kill them, so the Government Leader was very right in defining not just their budget but their vision. Visions must be all-encompassing. Visions must be for the people of Whitehorse, for the people of Dawson, for the people of all the Yukon, not just the simple group that are my friends or of interests which they represent, but of all the Yukon. Mr. Speaker, that's exactly what this budget says and does. It's not posturing. It's not legal testimony. It's for all the people. It's not sectoral.
So, that's why I believe in this budget, and that's why I'll be supporting this budget. That's why I think all folks of this House should support the budget, because it's a budget that is credible. It's a budget that is from the people.
So, if we can practice and do what the people say and want us to do in terms of directing the budget, and if we could be focusing on construction and being kind to one another, working toward the same goals, not having such a personality-driven budget or approach to governance, but an approach driven by principles, knowing that we all want good governance. Every one of us wants good governance, but maybe it's the system that puts us into a spot where we have to say, "Well, I'm better than you, even though I don't have a record of governance," but I can be posturing and I could say, "But I'm better than you. Just trust me. Look at me and trust me, because I'm here for the people." But is there a record? No. So that's just posturing, lampooning governments, if I might say it in that way.
So let's not take such a personality, knee-jerk budget process for governing, Mr. Speaker. Let's put in place the principles. Let's put in place the process and the attitude of making the Yukon better and being good to one another and being kind.
Sometimes the way people are speaking in this House, Mr. Speaker, they seem to put prices on health. You know, when people start to put prices on health and education, you know what it tells me? It tells me that if you cannot afford to be privy to health programs, education programs and social programs, it tells me that other people think you're disposable, and when you become disposable in their minds, they can shut you out because you're not of use to them or their society. Yet those are the very people that have to be brought up and to be held up so that they can stand and be a part of society, not cast from society.
So often I hear that reflected in the benches of the official opposition.
The previous speaker spoke a little bit about better ways of treatment. Well, certainly there are better ways of treatment. That's exactly what this government is looking at. We're looking at focusing the treatment principles on the individual. We're looking at putting the treatment principles on the family, in some cases the clan structures and in other cases the community structure that comes from that. We're looking at a holistic society and do people think just a little bit too much herbs and spices? Does Keenan always talk - pardon me, I'm not even sure I can refer to myself. So, does this member always refer to these things?
Mr. Speaker, it's only herbs and spices if you think of it as such. But we think of it as healthy individuals, healthy families, healthy communities, which gives us a good, clean, healthy Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, that is reflected in this budget, very much reflected in this budget. With even less to spend, we're spending smarter and we're building foundations for the future with and for the people. That's why I can support this.
It's a vision of balance, Mr. Speaker. We've been very thoughtful. We've taken a deliberate approach. And why are we taking a deliberate approach? We're taking that approach so that we can leave a legacy for all of our Yukon people and for all of the world, because right now I have not inherited a position, I have not inherited Yukon. I am not, in my position, able to direct pillaging of the environment or anything like as such. I've got a responsibility, Mr. Speaker, and my responsibility is to the unborn, to the future generations of Yukoners that are yet to come, and I hope there are many of them because they will have a place to live. It will be called Yukon.
And, Mr. Speaker, we have an opportunity to work together and to be kind and considerate with one another. It doesn't mean that tough decisions can't be made. It doesn't mean that you can't get passionate. It means that you must and you should. You should be that way to sit in this House for the people, because that's what you are here for. Not yourself. You are here for the people and the future generations.
If we all think that way, this will be a much better world. Yet, some people will say, "Oh, a little too holistic. A little too much herbs and spice for me." Doggone it, Mr. Speaker, that says that we are going to leave something.
Speaker: Order. Refrain from using unparliamentary language, please.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Pardon me, Mr. Speaker. I didn't realize I used unparliamentary language. Pardon me.
We are looking and working to build partnerships toward resource development - partnerships based on sustainable principles. We know that the Yukon promotes, for tourism, a world-class attraction. We spoke about and followed the process of focus group test results. We know that people want to see pristine wilderness in the environment. We know that they want to have First Nations experiences. We know that they want to see the Beringia era. They know that the gold rush is there and they want to see it. Well, by working together and working cooperatively on that focus, we can accomplish exactly that.
I've had people in this House and people on the street saying, "What's it like to be the minister of fun? Boy, it must be nice to be the minister of fun." Let me categorically say right now, if I'm the minister of fun, I've got a big challenge ahead and a lot of work. Work can be fun. Work, to me, is very much fun, but it's not a ministry of fun. It shouldn't even be looked at in that light. The person who says it is the ministry of fun has obviously missed the point. Those types of people are not good representatives for tourism or for the future of the Yukon. If you look at what tourism is and can be, it's the future of the Yukon. It can involve every person in the Yukon somehow or other to stand on their own two feet and to bring something forth, because that is just who and what we are.
I would like to move on a little bit to the land claims process. Again, let me say for the record that I thank the official opposition for providing me with the motivation to enter into this realm of politics, because, without their motivation, I would likely not be here. But, with their motivation, I certainly am here, Mr. Speaker.
The land claims process. It is so deceiving. The land claims process is treated like a political football. Some people have the pigskin in their hand, and they're backing up, because it's the third year of their mandate and they need to win, so they throw a long bomb and they bring home two. Well, what's wrong with doing that in the first or the second year of your mandate. Show a little bit of respect. Show a little bit of dignity, because what we're doing is we're working with people's lives. We have people's lives right in the palms of our hands. We have fiduciary obligations to all peoples of the Yukon, and we have obligations not to treat it as a football - a political football.
What did I hear? The ex-Government Leader of the Yukon, what did he say today about, oh, we know that there's a real high, or something like the such, from signing a land claim. How off the mark. How off the wall. I've never heard such ludicrous statements. Expectations, or however he put it. Let's start to treat it as what it is. The land claim self-government process brings certainty, certainly, but it also provides an opportunity for communities to work together.
Mr. Speaker, I'm very fortunate to have been born and raised in the Yukon. I'm very fortunate to be 46 years old and to be born in that era, because then, people never really looked at each other in colour. They never really looked at that spruce tree as meaning pulp and paper. It meant a lot of different things, too. They looked at things in common and together for the betterment of community living, starting with the individual, the family, the village, society. That's the way things were, Mr. Speaker, when I grew up and was born and raised in this country.
Now we are taking it back that way, and if people will start to look at the land claims process and the implementation of the land claims process, not as a political football, but the meaningful development of people's lives, we'll have all moved up a little higher. In our hearts and in our minds, we'll be thinking more of the collective whole than the I: I this and I that. It's not I did this for the people, it's what can we do for the people based on principles. That's governance of the future. That's governance of the past, and that's what this budget reflects, Mr. Speaker.
It reflects a high quality of life for all, starting with the individual and ending with the community - healthy communities. Why do people want to come to the Yukon? Because of healthy communities, because of opportunity and because of the Yukon. That's why people want to come here.
Let me talk a little bit about Ross River and the Southern Lakes. The capital and O&M expenditures included in this budget cover a wide range of activities. Many of these projects will create work for contractors and workers from rural Yukon, Mr. Speaker. In Carcross, we're providing funding for the scaling and removal of rock and installation of steel mesh and rock bolts on the south Klondike Highway. We're looking at improvements to the water system. We're looking to upgrade community roads with some improved drainage. In Tagish, we're constructing firehall training rooms to bring the firehall to the standards of others in the Yukon. We'll be upgrading the sewage treatment facility. Funding has been set aside to complete street upgrade in Teslin.
Small contractors and workers in rural Yukon will benefit from the commitment of $500,000, Mr. Speaker, for the improvements to secondary roads.
Funding has been set aside for the development of a country residential subdivision in Ross River. Three hundred and sixty thousand has been budgeted to construct a swimming pool in Ross. Work will be carried in local area planning and land development and it will be based on partnership and encouraging partnership in community living.
We've budgeted for erosion control work on the Dempster Highway and, whether others in here like it or not, we have an adequate supply of land for Yukoners.
We are respecting the wishes of mayors and councils, in this particular case, of the Dawson City mayor and council, because we have offered our help to them for the subdivision that they want to build, but we also believe in empowerment and working with municipalities, Mr. Speaker, and to that end we are working with them. We are not doing for them; we are working with them to ensure that we do have an adequate supply of land.
We're looking at the same thing, not only in the outlying areas but also in and around the Whitehorse area. We're looking at country residential development, industrial development, and we're looking at it in many rural areas.
Mr. Speaker, we've been out talking to people over this winter. We've been having consultations on rural services policies so that we might be able to start a line or correlate, if I may, the tax rate and the services provided. That's what we're doing. We're doing that by talking to people. So, what I think is that we're involving people and we are an inclusive government - very much so. We are not an exclusive government; we are the people's government. We are the government of the people, inclusive. My door and telephone are ringing off the hook at all times, because people know that they can go into any Cabinet office, they know that they can go into any commission office, they know that they can go into any backbencher's office and they will be treated with dignity. They will be treated with kindness and they will be listened to. That's what'll be happening.
Now, with the previous administration, they couldn't get in - exactly - they couldn't get in, because I just gave up trying to see the previous administration.
Telephones and electric service are very difficult to assess, but this government has added a 100-percent recoverable $1.15 million and are working with the program to make it work because we want to make it work. People deserve a quality of life.
We're investigating the airport runway for $70,000 so that we can know that we can do things in concert - not knee-jerk, because this ain't a knee-jerk government. This is thoughtful, planned government. We come with plans and we move on those plans and involve people with those plans. Not knee-jerk. Oops, tourism might be an opportunity. Oops. No, thoughtful, Mr. Speaker, that's how we move ahead and we will create a world-class destination, as we have been.
We're working on transportation corridors. We're putting thought toward transportation corridors so that we might be able to move forward; not knee-jerk again, but planned and concise direction. Not because I have some buds in this industry or I have some buds in that industry but, no - promoting Yukon as Yukon. That's what'll be reflected in that.
Look at what we're doing. This government is contributing toward the costs of hosting the winter games. We're setting up a fund, Mr. Speaker. That's exactly what we're doing, and this fund will receive $1 million this year and for the next seven years, and it will grow with interest to approximately $8.2 million. The fund could be contributed toward the cost of building a new recreational facility for the games.
The second fund is a nine-year commitment of $1 million per year to help fund a capital project in Dawson City. Mr. Speaker, I am not telling the people of Dawson City what they have to do. I am working with the people of Dawson City through a process so that we might be able to come up with the best, wise usage of the fund, and that's exactly what we're doing.
The previous speaker spoke about, "What are you going to do on the waterfront?" and "What are you going to do in here?" and convention centres. My God, weren't they the ones that killed a convention centre that was going to move the Yukon economy ahead? Or was it killed, Mr. Speaker, because of racial overtones? Was it killed because of capitalism at its very, very best? I do believe so, because I've been a politician and around and a part of that process for many years. That's why I believe it was killed. Is it helping them now? No, no, no, no, no, no, no. But, everybody's got hindsight.
Mr. Speaker, my department and their technocratic energies, political energies, my government's political energies have been working with the federal Government of Canada, the federal Government of the United States and with every partnership we could conceivably work with to ensure that the Shakwak project goes on and continues to provide jobs.
Mr. Speaker, from the Prime Minister and the President on down, we have been shaking the tree to ensure that this happens. We have been doing a very good job of this. My folks within my department have been working their feet off. They've been absolutely working their feet off by trying to ensure that we have a Shakwak project, and I feel very, very confident that there will be Shakwak in the future.
Dismal lobbying, I would have said - dismal lobbying. It's lobbying with dignity, it's lobbying with respect for other governments, knowing that we want to work together in concert. Is that dismal, Mr. Speaker? I think not. I think absolutely not. But, other people are used to being bullies, threatening, deceiving - shaking the tree, saying do this, or else? Because, it has come to my attention that when people were over there - people were lobbying actively, but were we really lobbying actively for all people? Or, are we thinking about a narrow vision for the Taylor Highway, so that it might encompass one area? I think that's the point - very much the point.
So, we believe in lobbying with dignity and we're doing that. We're doing that very much at the technical level and at the political level, and it's done by the government initiative, not individuals, but the government directing - not bullying. Absolutely not.
Back in the ball game, he said. Back in the ball game. Is $90 million, people's lives and jobs a game? A game. A game - that's hideous. But, of course, that's the previous administration. What more do I have to say. That is them.
In tourism, there's such an awareness among us of the economic importance. The Department of Tourism will continue to work with First Nations, communities and industry and continue to develop tourism plans for the future. This budget provides an additional $200,000 for marketing initiatives, with which we will continue to develop key growth markets around the world and to work on a cooperative marketing partnership. Look at what partnerships can do in terms of bringing in production to the Yukon. Air Transat - there's one prime example. That wasn't just done, put in our pocket and then ignored. It was the continuing work ethic and our philosophy of tourism in the Yukon to move forward. That's why that is a success.
We've budgeted an additional $50,000 for post-anniversary product development initiatives, and that's so we can seek to increase the market - Yukon-tour product. That's what that's for, Mr. Speaker. And, we'll continue to work in those manners.
Our government's committed to developing budgets that are fiscally responsible and reflect the needs of the people of the Yukon. This budget reflects those commitments and sets a foundation for future projects and initiatives that are important to Yukoners, Mr. Speaker, very important to Yukoners, such as governance driven by principle-driven governance. That is very important.
Mr. Speaker, if we look into the past, we can see the future. This country was made on trade, prospecting, mining, freight and transportation. Well, that's exactly what's in this budget. It is a sectoral approach, because it encompasses every sector, not just one sector. Principle sustainability driven by DAP. What more could I say, Mr. Speaker.
We are looking forward to involving all people. We are looking forward to the Crossroads treatment program, to enable the Crossroads treatment program to work for the individuals so that we might have a healthy community. That's what we're doing.
We're doing it with people, because not all people are the same. Much like the Canadian unity debate. Every one of us stood and spoke very passionately, yourself included, I must say, but were you speaking of just one individual? Were you speaking of benchmarks and standards, or were you really looking at different ways to get to the same goal, but respecting different people's processes and respecting different standards. Is that what you were looking at? I think not. Absolutely, I think not.
I'll put my record on the line as you do. We'll let the people judge, and the people have judged, and the people will judge. That's what is happening, and that's what will continue to happen, because we are not simply here for industry. We are not here for the First Nations. We are not here for health and education. We're here for all of those initiatives. We represent all of those initiatives, Mr. Speaker.
TROY. Whitehorse. Oh, God. Yukon. This is not a race of communities to see who gets the rec centre, who gets a new school, who gets the health centre. No, no, no, no. This creates, with respect and dignity, a level playing field for all people, Mr. Speaker - for all people. That's exactly what it says and does. And we will do that through a very wide vision, consulting with people, continuing to consult with people. We will do that through good lobbying and not bullying, speaking of bullying. That's what we'll do and how we'll do it, and we'll do it with dignity and will continue to do so.
That's why, Mr. Speaker, I will support this budget. I will continue to support this budget and I will continue to involve the people of the Yukon in the development of budgets, and we'll do it without cutting health and education, without increasing taxes or imposing health care. We've less to spend, so we've got to spend smarter, and that's exactly what this caucus is doing and can do.
We're going to break the boom-and-bust cycle. How are we going to do that? By developing a stronger, more diversified economy that creates more jobs and business opportunities by listening to all peoples of the Yukon, even the Member for Klondike - with him, with business, with communities, with First Nations, labour, the environmental community - and we're going to encourage development that is financially and environmentally sustainable. That's what the New Democrat government is all about.
We're demonstrating our commitment to fostering healthy communities and we're doing that. We're addressing the needs of young people and low-income families, not as political footballs, but as everyday Yukoners, because there's no such thing as a disposable Yukoner, as in previous administrations there was.
We're protecting the pricelessness of the environmental heritage for the future generations. That's what we're doing. We're setting to set aside representative areas of the Yukon's 23 distinct ecoregions because we know that the Yukon is a drawing card, not only to the mining community and the logging community, but to the people who want to take pictures with their Kodak cameras and take home a chunk of pristine Yukon. Mr. Speaker, that's exactly what we're doing.
We're protecting and maintaining municipal block funding. We have been cut, but we have not passed it on. What we've done is spend smarter. We put together the community development fund, one of the most successful capital creations that have ever come to the Yukon Territory and we're increasing it by 75 percent. Now, some people should be like the snowbirds and just fly away, but they only mimic them and I would challenge some members as to what they would do with their political career after they've sat in this House and represented the people.
So, Mr. Speaker, that's what we are doing. We're working to provide a stable economic climate rather than the roller-coaster of the past and we're going to continue to do that.
Thank you very much for your time, Mr. Speaker, greatly appreciated.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's the Prozac budget: no highs, no lows, no direction and no point. Don't worry about high unemployment, rising electrical rates or our primary industry, mining leaving the Yukon. Don't worry, be happy - the NDP are taking care of you, just like they took care of the 12 laid off CNAs and the 14 laid off Crossroads workers. Be cool about the 75-percent drop in funding for road maintenance over the last two years. There's no reason to even wake up those graders to barely maintain the roads for that type of money. And those 45 engineers and techs in C&TS - they're going to have a very relaxing winter because there's nothing to do.
We aren't going to bother with those silly little capital projects this year. We're all going to be calm this winter and be one with the universe, and the people who have been consulting the Department of Health and Social Services, they can be still now. After all, the department makes decisions about things they don't even ask about in their consultations anyway.
How many people were specifically asked during the general consultation process on drug and alcohol issues about whether or not we should close down the Crossroads treatment centre without exploring any other options with the board? And how many people were asked that very specific question, I wonder?
Yes, people like the volunteer board members at Crossroads don't even have to get their energy up to be involved in decision making. There is no reason to bother. Someone who knows what's best for us has taken that responsibility out of our hands. That's where the money is going in health and social services - to the people who take care of us, just in case we've been lulled into believing that we can't take care of ourselves.
And we shouldn't worry about the moving of the Women's Directorate, because the NDP did it. Women's issues could never be less important to the NDP. Oh no, because after all, the NDP think they have a monopoly on women's issues - because they are the NDP. We have to believe that just because they move the Women's Directorate out of the high profile, high traffic location that they used to enjoy to P.O. Box oblivion on top of the Financial Plaza, we just have to believe that women's issues are still front and centre to this government because they're the NDP. You know the NDP, the party that 60 percent of Yukoners did not vote for.
Of course, if the Liberal government had moved the Women's Directorate out to the back 40 like the NDP did, well, the hue and cry would be unbelievable from the members of the NDP. The NDP wouldn't be very relaxed about that. Oh no.
And I guess because the NDP feels they have a monopoly on women's issues, they don't really have to spend any new money during consultation on the regs for the Family Violence Prevention Act, and we should be calm about that.
After all - oh, I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker. I was just lulled into feeling satisfied with the budget.
Soon, the happy people at Yukon Housing will be handing out mortgages for homes on newly developed lots and, just because we are already holding on to an excessive inventory of land, according to the Auditor General, and just because that's costing us over $1 million a year in holding costs - money that could well be invested elsewhere, anywhere else - well, we shouldn't worry about that, even if that money from the interest could feed a lot of hungry people next winter.
No, we should just calmly trust the NDP, the government that has frivolously reduced the surplus account by a whopping 37 percent.
This budget doesn't cover a lot of new ground and, you know, I really didn't think it would.
Politically, this government thinks it's guaranteed a second term. They just have to tread water right now, not tick off too many people, just hope for the best and try not to make too many enemies. After all, we live in a funny fantasyland. Everywhere else in Canada, people are waiting months for life-saving surgeries and, here, we grumble if we have to wait longer than a week to see the surgeon. Our seniors enjoy the highest levels of seniors' benefits in Canada. Our athletes enjoy world-class facilities and our facilities for the arts are excellent, bar none.
The other point about budgets: there actually is not a lot of latitude in the changes you can make. There are always long-term projects and programs that have to be maintained. There are legal commitments that have to be met. I realize that there isn't usually a lot of play in the lines, so to speak, but at some point we're going to have to make some pretty serious changes in the way we govern ourselves in the Yukon.
Some of those changes have already happened. NGOs are delivering a wide variety of services to this government; services that this government used to deliver directly 20 years ago. But the only problem with that is that there are still not enough checks and balances in the system to monitor and regulate those services. There is a wide variety of expenditures going on in the various departments but there is a dearth of policy. And policy answers a lot of questions for a lot of civil servants who survive the various mood swings of the Yukon public - you know, the swing from the loony right to the loony left.
And, speaking of civil servants, we have to be more inclusive of the civil service in our decision-making process. If we ask people about how we can save money and then actually listen to their ideas, we might not have to worry about bringing down that surplus next year.
I don't know. I think there's hope yet and I don't believe that any one of us has a monopoly on good ideas. I also don't think just because a good idea comes from this side of the floor, it should be dismissed out of hand. Despite the fact that the rules of this Legislature set us up almost like actors in mortal combat, that doesn't mean we can't work together occasionally and, on occasion, we do good stuff together. For example, I quite enjoyed our exchange this year with Juneau. The theme for all of us on this exchange was shared roadways with the United States, particularly Alaska, and I think all of us were quite surprised to find out that the rather active lobbying we were doing with the Governor of the State of Alaska and her obvious support of the Shakwak project had not been realized by either the Legislature or the Senate. The message that the Yukon supports the Shakwak is just not getting out.
Of course, we also learned on the exchange how to better lobby politicians in Alaska. Clearly, decisions are made at the committee level in Alaska and by the time an issue hits the floor of either House, the decision has already been made.
We found out that if we want to be effective in Alaskan state politics, we have to go and be heard on the committee level by either sending a delegation or by submitting testimony by teleconference. We worked well together in Juneau - all three parties of this House - and it's a shame we couldn't keep that up when we got back here.
There are many issues that could be better dealt with in all-party approach. Let's face it, the economy is in the toilet again. Next winter is looking pretty bleak. Many of the economic diversification measures that are being explored right now are relatively good. However, they are not going to affect the businesses that are closing their doors right now. Corporations are moving to Alberta and more jobs are being lost every day here in the Yukon. And there aren't many people in the Yukon. We shouldn't be discounting anyone's good advice, whether they are employees or political opponents. To discount the expertise and the ideas of people just because they hold different political party cards is, to say the least, not wise.
There are a lot of really good ideas out there. Take, for example, drug and alcohol treatment programs for youth. The Minister of Health and Social Services has alcohol and drug services in a complete state of flux, to say the least, right now. So, why not look at some of the available niches in the national drug treatment spectrum, try to fill those niches and collect on the per diems.
There are only two residential treatment programs for drug addictions for youth in Canada. Maybe we can cash in on some of that expertise we have garnered over the years and start up a youth addiction centre in the Yukon. There could be a very large outdoor education component. We certainly have a lot of space and lots of people who are familiar with bush survival skills.
The only thing holding us back right now are the people that are stuck in the past, and I don't have a lot of time for that type of attitude. It's just sheer nonsense, and we can continue to put these budgets out that continue to trace the way things have been in the past, fulfill a campaign promise or two along the way, but if we really want to move forward, we have to change. It's worked in New Brunswick and it's worked in Saskatchewan, and we can change here.
To close, I'd like to share something that comes from the YRNAs newsletter. I had to put it on large paper because aging hippies' eyesight starts to go.
It reads, "Go to the people." This is a Chinese proverb from 2,000 years ago. It reads, "Go to the people. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build on what they have. But of the best leaders, when their task is accomplished, their work is done, the people will remark, 'We have done it ourselves.'"
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to rise today and speak in support of this budget. There are a number of reasons why I support the budget, but having listened to the opposite side for the last few days, I think that's reason enough. Their approach has no vision. Their only criticism lies in O&M and capital. O&M is no good. We've got to have capital expenditures. Well, they should be telling the Yukon public what O&M we cut to increase those capital expenditures.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Well, here we go again. The Member for Riverdale North - or where do you live now? I think it's some lake, isn't it? Marsh Lake.
Let's look at the leader of the official opposition's comedic approach in his response to this budget. It was indeed quite comical, Mr. Speaker. In fact, it was a comedy: a comedy of errors. Let's take, for example, forestry.
The leader of the official opposition criticized this government's forestry policy and its work through the commission on forestry. He continually ties this to the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. In his words, the work to date that has been done by this government with the forest commission has already been done by the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. That is completely incorrect. Let's look at the facts as to why.
That particular council made recommendations on how to proceed with forestry in this territory. Let's look at one of the recommendations: "Establish a board to build consensus with regard to vision." Well that, Mr. Speaker, is the Yukon Forest Advisory Committee, a committee that this government played a major role in enhancing and giving a mandate to to make recommendations to governments - and that's all governments - when it comes to forestry in the Yukon.
The second recommendation was to undertake a program to educate the public on forest issues. That's exactly what we've been doing over the course of the last 14 months - raising awareness, educating the public and allowing it to play a meaningful role.
Another recommendation was to establish small, locally controlled community-based forestry. There has been much work done on community-based forest management to date, Mr. Speaker. I think you can see that the responses coming from that side of the House on this budget have no substance. I think they should have spent a little more time thinking about it.
This budget reflects the input of Yukoners. Though we are suffering through declines in revenues and a downturn in the economy, we still have managed to present a budget that has no tax increases, no health care fees, and no cuts to services that people in the Yukon have come to expect, such as health care and education.
The opposition continues to say the O&M budget is too large. Well, that's an insult to Yukoners, Mr. Speaker. What organizations, what areas of operation and maintenance should we cut? How about the Signpost Seniors and their home care program? How about the hospitals? How about day cares, and maybe some highway maintenance - school, alcohol and drug workers, social workers, teachers? Where should we cut? I think the opposition party should be telling the Yukon public what their views on that are.
The leader of the official opposition says that we could have found another $10 million and put it into capital expenditures. Again, I ask, where? What programs would we cut? Should we lay off some public servants, some nurses? Mr. Speaker, the opposition must understand that we are receiving less revenue. We have to learn to spend smarter, and we have to ensure that an artificial economy is not created by government expenditures, which does much in the way of contributing to the boom-and-bust economy of the past government.
We, in the last election, committed to Yukon people that we would support programs and services that people want, and that's exactly what this budget has done. This budget has taken a balanced approach in those areas. We are protecting important services without rolling back wages and laying off people.
I'm pleased, for example, that this budget continues to support programs like the Signpost Seniors, the Help and Hope Society in my community, which does a great deal of positive work, especially when it comes to the issue of family violence.
There are also capital dollars being spent on the hospital and the Campbell Highway. There is a possibility of community road upgrades, industrial lots in the community, and also the community development fund has been increased by 75 percent, of which, in past years, Watson Lake and many other communities in this territory have taken advantage of to provide excellent infrastructure and facilities in their respective communities.
And I certainly continue to encourage my community to access this fund in the way of creating jobs, short-term jobs.
Now, let's talk about the commissions for a moment. We continually hear from the opposite side of the House that these commissions are such a drastic expense. I know the Member for Klondike is starting to get with it. Let me explain that, maybe instead of doing the work that I am doing on the forest commission, I could just sit here and stare out the window. I would have been paid anyway, Mr. Speaker, a wage to be the MLA for Watson Lake, but I've also added the commission to my duties. I've been charged with the task of developing a made-in-Yukon forest strategy, and I haven't taken any increase in wages whatsoever, and the staff of my commission are all staff that would have been paid by this government whether they worked for the commission or the departments they came out of. So that argument is complete rubbish.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Well, there you go. There's the Member for Klondike, who just recently tried to give us a million-dollar response to the budget with a nickel's worth of thought and substance.
As far as the forest commission is concerned, we are on target. We will deliver a product, and that product will be delivered in a draft form this spring.
As far as the social agenda, Mr. Speaker, it reflects our government's commitment during the election to support and protect health care and education programs.
The Whitehorse General Hospital will receive increased funding. Even though the federal Liberal government recently stated there will be no increase to transfer payments in health care, we will still maintain the levels of health care in this territory that Yukoners have come to expect and rightly deserve.
In a country as rich as Canada, Mr. Speaker, it's very sad that poverty exists at all but, unfortunately, it's a reality. We don't have to accept it as far as that's the way it's always going to be. This government is increasing spending in priority areas, such as the development of an anti-poverty strategy, looking at the development of a seniors strategy, with much support in the way of our youth in this territory, who of course are our most important resource.
There is also money for assistance in optical care and prescription drug programs for children of low-income families, people who need our assistance. In fact, I would submit, Mr. Speaker, that the O&M goes a long way in improving the lives of Yukon people, so where should we cut it?
What we are doing today with this budget is building the foundation for a stronger and more diversified economy, a sustainable economy that is not victim to the boom-and-bust cycles of the past. One of the major initiatives in this budget is the trade and diversification strategy.
This government has committed to work with the businesses of Yukon, the communities of the Yukon, the First Nations, labour groups and other groups, to encourage development that is sustainable and will maximize benefits for all Yukoners, and that is a priority of this government.
Highway construction - granted, it is lower than it has been in recent years, but without the Shakwak funding, that's understandable, but we are still putting, I think, in the neighbourhood of $9 million into highway upgrades and improvements with this budget. I keep hearing from the Yukon Party side of the House about the necessity to pour large capital dollars into our highways. I would ask, in the four years they were in power, why, as they were spending all those millions of dollars on Yukon highways, did they not have the foresight to negotiate with the Americans and the Alaskan government an increase to the Shakwak funding, which this government has to take upon themselves to do?
Mr. Speaker, I will be voting for this budget. It's an intelligent, well-thought out budget with a balanced approach, and it goes a long way in charting a course toward social and economic certainty and stability in this territory.
Mr. McRobb: I rise today in support of our government's budget for 1998-99.
Mr. Speaker, over the past year, my job hasn't changed too much. There are basically three different aspects to it. There is the government part of the job that includes the Legislature and dealing with matters like the budget and so on. There's the constituency part, which involves doing casework for constituents, travelling throughout the riding, visiting the communities, talking to the people, the groups and the other governments - the municipality and so on. It also includes the energy commission, which, as the Member for Watson Lake so eloquently pointed out, is a volunteer position that adds to our duties.
What I would like to do is start off with the government part of the job and respond to a few of the issues raised, as well as point out some of the parts of the budget that I am particularly impressed with, Mr. Speaker.
The opposition tried to make a big issue out of the fact that government O&M is somehow spending money on government - spending money on itself - and somehow that is bad; O&M spending is somehow the enemy of working people in the construction trade and so on. Well, I'd like to respond a little bit to that unjustified attack by saying that there are many people in the Kluane riding who rely on government O&M for their employment.
And that employment recirculates their wages throughout the economy, time and time again. That money doesn't go to pay for building materials such as lumber or cement from Alberta or asphalt for road building from Alberta, Mr. Speaker, as some capital projects would have it. Their wages are circulated into the local grocery store and into other local community businesses, which are again recirculated throughout the community. And a very strong case can be made - I won't make it today - that O&M spending is a very efficient and constructive way to maintain dollars in the Yukon economy.
There are many other falsehoods propagated by the opposition but, as the Member for Mount Lorne pointed out this afternoon, that's their job. Their job is to make this budget look bad. Their job is to make the people mad and to make their supporters glad. So, it's the bad, mad and glad show.
Mr. Speaker, I see the opposition members. They're nodding their heads in agreement. I think finally they're starting to come around. They're sad.
Well, Mr. Speaker, this budget reflects the balanced approach we are taking that protects not only our social agenda in education but also it creates economic opportunities and protects our environment. It works in partnership, involving people in decision making. That's the consultation word; somehow that is a bad word for the opposition - this consultation. It makes them mad when they hear that bad word. But consultation is a good word for us because it's a way that we can be honest with the Yukon people, show them what it is we're working on, show them what sort of options are on the table, listen to the members of the public and hear if they can add options; listen to them as well to see which options they prefer.
In advance of this, Mr. Speaker, we've produced information to bring the public up to speed, to inform them of the issues. After the consultation takes place, recommendations are developed, and so on and so forth. Consultation is something I am certainly not ashamed of, no matter how many times we get whacked by the opposition on consultation, them demanding product. Frankly, I don't care, because it means nothing. It's just a way for them to grandstand, maybe grab a headline and be seen active in the political circle, but that's all it is - it's some political activity, very little constructiveness. They're not working on behalf of Yukoners a lot of the time.
Certainly my commission comrades and I are volunteering our time to make life better for Yukoners, and I'm not ashamed of that. I'm not a message boy. I spend a lot of my time helping with the material going out to the public, making sure it's accurate, making sure it's consistent with our philosophy, and making sure that the Yukon people want to read it and will read it. A message boy - not.
On the other hand, Mr. Speaker, the former leader of the third party introduced a motion today to disband a couple of our commissions, including my own. Well, I'm of mixed feelings because, in some ways, I could support it, because it's been a long time since I've had a weekend off, an evening off, because my time goes into the commission work - for which I'm not paid. Well, Mr. Speaker, if I gave it up, you know, I could join them on the golf course. I could join them out fishing on the lake, and yes, Mr. Speaker, I'd bring my fishing licence. That's not an issue.
Mr. Speaker, maybe I'd even have time to reel in the odd press release slamming them for something I could dream up for a headline, too, but I'm too busy working, and I'll be glad when the day comes when I'll have some time to go fishing or go out on the golf course, believe me. I'm sure the opposition members will be glad to see me out there.
I'd like to speak a little bit now about the environment and the impact it has on the budget, but not before noting, Mr. Speaker, that the leader of the third party over there is in complete agreement now that they do spend a lot of time golfing, and I'm glad to put that on the record.
The environment, Mr. Speaker, is important to our government. We have invested in long-term projects such as the protected areas strategy that will leave a legacy for our children, grandchildren and future generations - one they will be proud of. The protected areas strategy and other environmental initiatives reflect our respect for the environment and what Yukon people have indicated must remain at the forefront of our agenda.
Climate change and its effect on the Yukon is an issue that our government takes very seriously. It is for that reason and to bring national and international attention to the Yukon's vulnerable situation that the Minister of Renewable Resources attended the World Summit on Climate Change in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997.
The effects of climate change in the Yukon will be felt moreso than elsewhere in the world, given the delicate nature of our environment. This environment, as you know, Mr. Speaker, being from the constituency of Old Crow, is one that is sensitive to temperature change. It's one where permafrost can be found throughout the region. The wildlife, the vegetation and everything depends a lot on the temperatures, and global climate change is important.
I'd like to spend some time now looking at jobs and the economy. The Yukon has suffered many boom-and-bust cycles over the years, and our government has taken steps to diversify the economy. For example, $500,000 has been budgeted for promotion, as outlined in the trade and investment strategy. There is $200,000 more for marketing initiatives.
Yukon communities have not been forgotten in this budget, Mr. Speaker. The community development fund has been increased by 75 percent to a total of $3.5 million. This will be welcome news for the communities throughout the Yukon. CDF creates many jobs and develops much-needed infrastructure, as determined by the communities.
I can recall again, Mr. Speaker, some frivolous attacks from the opposition that the CDF isn't any good. Well, I invite them to go to communities like Beaver Creek and put that on the table at a public meeting, Mr. Speaker.
They voted against the CDF, as the Minister of Economic Development points out. They voted against the new hall, too. That's absolutely outrageous. That's not what I stand for; not what our government stands for. We believe in the communities. We believe in economic development in the communities, and we believe in targeting our spending to produce the maximum number of jobs and the maximum product for Yukoners, and that's what the CDF does.
Mr. Speaker, there are provisions for increased tourism in this budget. All of Yukon, including my riding of Kluane, will benefit from the tourism initiatives announced, such as the $150,000 set aside for community activities to celebrate the past 100 years in the Yukon.
The Department of Tourism will be spending $200,000 in marketing initiatives. In keeping with our goal to diversify the economy, we will be reviewing with interest groups the wilderness tourism licensing act. This review, Mr. Speaker, is very important to several people in the Kluane riding, several businesses, who have taken the time to write in a response to this initiative. Our government anticipates wilderness tourism to play a positive role in our future economic development. Given the wilderness values of the Kluane region, I suspect wilderness tourism will have a significant impact.
Also this year, Mr. Speaker, is the creation of a new Kluane regional tourism plan. From recent conversations with the department, this plan is expected to get underway shortly. Talking with some of the major groups and governments, materials and interviews will occur over the summer, with a major workshop in the fall to produce a new Kluane regional tourism plan. This plan identifies economic opportunities as well as community priorities for development, and that's exactly what the Kluane region deserves: community people making community decisions, not something imposed on them they don't want, like a road into Kluane Park that doesn't make economic sense.
I look across, Mr. Speaker, and see the Member for Klondike. I can recall last August hearing him on the radio, saying that the decision was struck down because of back-packers and tree-huggers. Well, I'll tell you, Mr. Speaker, I challenge him to go into Haines Junction and call a public meeting and say that, and see what happens. He would be challenged by the public, and he'd be lucky to get out of there in one piece, because people there do not reflect that point of view.
He was in the wrong riding. If he went maybe 400 or 500 miles north, people up there would agree with him - log it, mine it, pave it - but not in the Haines Junction area, with Kluane National Park.
I heard several very interesting comments about the member's remarks that were quite telling.
Our government's budget addresses training. As we look toward the new millennium, our priority will focus on the need for training as we face a changing labour market. To address this, our government has increased the training trust funds by 50 percent, to a total of $1.5 million. The Yukon training strategy is being revised, and final consultations will take place this spring.
There are provisions for roads in our budget, as well. Our government has made some major investments for improving roads in the territory, the details of which have been iterated by my colleagues. However, I would like to point out that $500,000 has been budgeted for the improvement of secondary roads throughout the Yukon. Not only is this good news for smaller communities, as it will provide opportunities for many rural residents and small contractors, it will also improve the quality of our local roads.
Well, the Member for Klondike mentioned the Shakwak project a little while ago. The member also accompanied me and a couple of my colleagues - the Member for Lake Laberge, the Member for Whitehorse West and the Member for Riverdale South. We all went to Juneau a couple of weeks ago. We talked to departmental officials about the Shakwak. We talked to senators about the Shakwak. We spoke to other politicians about the Shakwak. There were a lot of questions, a lot of answers and a lot of discussion.
When I got back, it wasn't too long before a press release from the member came across my desk, and I couldn't believe it. I wasn't sure if he was with us on the same trip or not. And he even points out that Senator Randy Phillips only had one letter on file about the Shakwak. Well, Mr. Speaker, to point out -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Klondike is shaking his head, yes, there was only one letter. Well, I want to take this occasion to go from the broad picture down to the detailed picture to give an example of what I'm talking about when I say the opposition takes a mean-spirited negative slant to just about everything that happens, dresses them up in a press release, fires them out the door and more often than not, they end up in the media. I was sitting right beside the Member for Klondike when he asked Senator Randy Phillips for those letters. The senator asked his assistant to find the letters. The assistant came back in a matter of a few minutes and said, "I can only find one because our files are in disarray. I cannot find the others, although I do remember there were some others."
Well, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Klondike, in his press release, says, "The senator had only one letter." And then he condemns this government for doing nothing, for not writing any letters, other than that one, to the State of Alaska.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Klondike is sounding pretty mean. His ears are turning red. As a matter of fact, his whole face is red now. It's redder than a baboon's behind and for darned good reason: he's embarrassed.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: I'm looking at it right now. Mr. Speaker, back to more constructive thoughts.
Sorry, looking across the way, sometimes I get dragged down to a lower level.
One of the things we found out about the Shakwak is that the Alaskan senators really are totally disassociated with the decision making. To put it in a context Yukoners may be familiar with, Mr. Speaker, it's like Yukoners going to see the Member for Klondike about getting highway improvements passed in our budget. Those are the politics of the Alaskan situation.
Furthermore, we were informed that it's in the federal agenda. The feds in the United States will be dealing with Shakwak this month, and it's expected that near the end of the summer we'll have an announcement and even possibly have funds in this fiscal year. The Member for Klondike was there with us, Mr. Speaker. This isn't privileged information. All of us heard the same information, but our views - and judging by the member's press release - certainly took a different perspective.
Those are the examples I wanted to highlight that certainly demonstrate the type of angles that the opposition members put on things to make government look bad even when it's not deserved, Mr. Speaker.
The budget also addresses the Public Service Commission, and I spoke before about O&M and what it means to communities. In Haines Junction, our government has a total of 77 employees. Of those 77 employees, there are a number of nurses, teachers, home care workers, social workers, conservation officers, managers, trades people, heavy equipment operators: all kinds of different people who contribute to the economy as well as contribute to government in the Yukon.
Those employees don't deserve to be insulted like they are in press releases from the opposition parties. Those employees deserve recognition of the fine work they do.
I can recall late last year, Mr. Speaker, the long-service awards. I attended on three separate occasions. I attended each and every one of those awards, and I congratulated government workers from the Kluane riding on the fine job they are doing, and they certainly do appreciate recognition from government because, as we can certainly all understand, it's not every day that they get that sort of recognition from the public.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Klondike speaks up again and, judging from his comment, he might be voting for me next time around, if the occasion comes about, but certainly I'm not sure if I could return the favour.
These people, these government workers, Mr. Speaker, live in the community, they spend money in the community, yet there's been criticism that the O&M part of our government is too big, that more should be spent on capital projects. This, as I referred to, is illogical thinking. It's just another tool used by the opposition to create a press release and another headline in the paper - grandstanding, if you will, Mr. Speaker, but very little of it makes sense.
I don't think we should minimize the significant role the O&M and government employees play in the economics of the entire Yukon, in particular my riding of Kluane, which I'd like to turn to now and speak of, Mr. Speaker.
There are several things in the budget for people in Kluane. For those not familiar with the geography of the riding, I can say that it extends from the Whitehorse city limits all the way to the Alaska border past Beaver Creek, the Alaska border past Blanchard Camp on the Haines Road, and includes other side roads like the Kusawa Lake road, the Aishihik Lake road. It also includes the Fish Lake road beyond the Whitehorse city limits and the Jackson Lake road.
So, it's quite a diverse riding. It's several hundred miles long. It contains about 10 different communities. There are three First Nations, as well. One of them we heard about today, settling their land claims agreement. I congratulate the White River First Nation and look forward to working with them in the future, especially in their new administration building, brought about by the community development fund. That project, I understand, will be opening in a couple of weeks. I certainly plan to be there.
As mentioned earlier, our government has not forgotten the communities. I am pleased with the capital and other budgeted items in this year's budget address that will benefit all communities in the Yukon, and especially the communities in the Kluane riding.
Despite these times of fiscal constraint and tough choices, the municipal block funding for the Village of Haines Junction will be maintained at its current level. Other projects designated in that community include $20,000 for a relocation of the dump. Well, Mr. Speaker, I know there will be several constituents glad to see the dump moved. It's in a terrible location. It's in a location that not only invites bears and other unwanted wildlife into the vicinity of the suburb, but it also creates unsightly smoke and, certainly, an unpleasant odour to a lot of tourists passing by the highway whenever someone decides to set fire to garbage in the dump. This budget will allow for the relocation of that dump, which is something that will certainly enhance the attractiveness and livability of the Haines Junction community.
This budget also provides $100,000 for the development of country residential lots. Well, Mr. Speaker, I know there'll be several residents and non-residents very pleased to see the availability of other lots on which to build, on which to further promote the local building industry, including contractors, carpenters, and so on.
This budget includes $10,000 for continuing the review of the greater Kluane land use plan with First Nations and other interest groups. Mr. Speaker, this is the expensive plan that has sat on the shelf since it was revised in 1992. I'll be very pleased to see the final approval of this plan this year.
This budget also allocates a certain amount of expenditure for evaluation of the Aishihik caribou recovery program. I believe this is the final year of that program. In Haines Junction, there is $33,000 designated for that purpose.
This budget also allocates $25,000 for an outdoor recreation system plan. This is referred to also as the spruce bark beetle interpretive forest trail. Well, Mr. Speaker, the Kluane constituency takes great pride in their trails as tourist attractions, as recreational facilities, as part of the community and the building blocks for tourism attractions of the region. Certainly they will be pleased to see this funding to bring in yet another attraction to this beautiful community.
This budget also designates $15,000 for the Haines Junction health centre renovations. This is painting the inside of the health centre and to insulate and drywall the basement of the residence. This is certainly needed. The nurses and staff at the Haines Junction health centre certainly have the support of the community. They are a very special group, a very talented group. They serve above and beyond the call of duty, Mr. Speaker. They have the respect of the community, and I'm proud to be part of a government that recognizes that and will help make their building a better place to work in.
This budget also allocates $20,000 in total for renovations and rehabilitation of non-profit and staff housing in the Haines Junction area, and as you might imagine, Mr. Speaker, that will be much appreciated as well.
In the community of Beaver Creek, this budget assigns $5,000 for a recreation plan contract, something that residents in Beaver Creek will really look forward to. It will enhance the tourism attractions of the community, Mr. Speaker.
As I mentioned in this House before, the highway beautification project in Beaver Creek - I was at the opening last July 1 - is a source of pride to the community - for those who volunteered the time and efforts to bring it about, but also as a tourist attraction to the community. It helps retain the rubber tire traffic for longer periods of time. They might stay over for an extra meal. They might stay over for an extra night in a hotel, breakfast in the morning, spending money in some of the other local businesses. It adds benefit to the community. That $5,000, while it's just a drop in the bucket, in the territory-wide budget, means a lot to a small community like Beaver Creek. It can produce big returns.
This budget also allocates $20,000 for capital maintenance and upgrade to the visitor reception centre in Beaver Creek. This includes foundation work to stabilize the building. I was in the building last fall, Mr. Speaker. I believe it was the last day it was open for the season, and I spoke to the person there. I think the person had the understanding that there would be a new building this year, but unfortunately that's not possible in this era of cutbacks brought about by our friendly Liberals in Ottawa. But we are making do with what we got. We're making the best with what we have, and the people there will appreciate it.
This budget also brings $42,000 to Beaver Creek to upgrade security in the fire alarm systems of the Beaver Creak health centre. This will also include exterior retrofitting, including windows. Well, Mr. Speaker, I've been in that building and it needs it. It needs it very badly and the nurses and staff, as well as members in that community, will all appreciate this money being well-spent.
In Destruction Bay, our budget provides $150,000 for a sewage treatment facility. Well, I think Yukoners with an eye to the media, maybe with an ear to our legislative radio station, are familiar with this issue because it's been dragging on for years and years and years. The sewage lagoon in Destruction Bay - what are we going to do with it? Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm proud to be of a part of a government that finally does something to rectify the problem. People in the community of Destruction Bay - a lot of them - have expressed their environmental concerns about the pollution from the sewage lagoon to the lake and I want to thank the Minister of Community and Transportation Services for recognizing the concern in the community, and for that, I bow to him.
This budget provides $34,000 to the Destruction Bay area to complete the final year of the Aishihik caribou recovery program. It also provides $2,000 to build a security system for the Destruction Bay health centre.
In Burwash Landing, Mr. Speaker, the budget provides $34,000 for the final year of the Aishihik caribou recovery program. I mentioned a little bit before about Shakwak. It was last fall when I raised a motion in this House about Shakwak funding and indicated that the project is two-thirds complete as provided in the agreement between the American and Canadian governments.
Well, I'm pleased that $1.5 million is projected for the Shakwak reconstruction from kilometre 1634 to 1966, and I won't have to speak on the importance of that project, Mr. Speaker. A lot of the members have already addressed that issue.
The Hamlet of Ibex Valley will also benefit from this budget, as it provides $20,000 to the hamlet's zoning regulations.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to talk about the third part of my job, the energy commission, in the time I have left. On February 24, I tabled the discussion paper on energy options and informed the House about the Cabinet Commission on Energy's plan for public consultation toward developing a comprehensive energy policy for the territory.
Speaker: The member has three minutes.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Along with the energy options paper, which links all energy policy initiatives together into a comprehensive package, several discussion papers have been produced. For those who missed that discussion, I'd like to briefly round up the information.
The energy options companion papers, the rate stabilization fund, green power fund, energy efficiency investment risk, supply options principles and community energy management - that is all product - will be released in advance of our community and stakeholder consultations scheduled to occur both this month and next.
The six resource papers on wind, coal, wood, hydro, oil and gas, and alternatives, along with a public discussion paper and a technical paper on rate relief, will be useful to stimulate discussion and provide options during the consultations.
Last fall, we heard from Yukon people who said they wanted greater stability in their electrical bills. Now, Mr. Speaker, we want to hear their views on improving the rate relief program.
This is not cancelling the rate relief program. It's improving it. It's addressing more of it to solve the future problem of rate shock and the money is still there in the program. It's just a matter of delivering it for the benefit of Yukoners.
I see that the Member for Klondike now is finally getting the picture. He's nodding his head in approval.
The leader of the official opposition recently criticized the commissioner as nothing more than a messenger between the commission and the Cabinet. Well, Mr. Speaker, as is evidenced in what has been produced to date, the energy commission has done a lot of work and is about to embark on a major consultation on a comprehensive energy policy for the Yukon. His remarks and press release of last week fall in the same category as the Shakwak press release from the Member for Klondike - it's garbage, not to be believed. It's an opportunity for grandstanding. It's another plank in their platform of grandstanding and trying to be seen as -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: The Liberal member who, today, introduced the motion to disband the commission should be paying more attention and perhaps taking some lessons in listening.
We know the Liberals have been doing an awful lot of listening lately - at least some of them. Maybe they should listen a little harder and realize how much work the energy commission has done to date.
Mr. Hardy: I rise in support of the budget. Contrary to the members opposite, I do support this budget and recognize the value it will have for the people of the Yukon.
I also recognize the tremendous amount of input that has been put into this budget. It is input from the people of the Yukon through a consultation process. That means people throughout the Yukon were part of the development of this budget - something that hasn't been done in the past by the previous government, even though I see that they have an ad in the paper now that they're willing to go out and talk to the people. They didn't do it for four years when they were in. Maybe that's why they're sitting over there now. It's a little late - a lot late.
There were interesting comments today and the other day on the budget debate. There are a lot of areas that people are going to talk about, especially as they go through line-by-line items in various departments.
The budget that we have before us is one that is attempting to balance a lot of inequalities that have existed over the last four years. So often the opposition keeps screaming for bridges worth $20 million, and you have cries that there is not enough consultation with the people that they like.
I put to them that we consulted everybody, and we will continue to consult everybody. I know it's offensive to them because it erodes their arguments, and they can criticize as much as they want, but that's the way we're going to operate over here, and we'll continue to function in that manner.
The CDF - a wonderful program, well-received by the communities. What do we get? Criticism for it. Why do we get criticism? Because money's going out to the communities for the communities initiatives of what projects they want. It's not we who go out there and tell them what they can and can't have or what they should or shouldn't build. It's the initiative from the communities, initiatives from various groups, that bring forward these ideas and receive the money to enhance the lives of the people out in the communities and in the groups that they work with.
I'd like to just list some of the organizations that have benefited that have addresses in my riding: Sacred Heart Cathedral, community kitchen facility, $100,000; Yukon First Nation tourism, $25,000 for a First Nations tourism guide; Red Cross Society, Yukon region, abuse prevention services, $64,000; l'Association des Franco-Yukonnais, management training sessions, $14,000; Yukon International Storytelling Festival, $10,565 for public awareness; YukonNet Operating Society, for community Internet training sessions, $18,000; Youth Employment and Success, to hire temporary coordinator, $5,500; Downtown Urban Garden Society, $9,000 for a community garden; Learning Disabilities Association of the Yukon, for learning disability workshops, $15,000; Playcare Centre Society, to upgrade windows and outdoor equipment, $15,000.
So, those who disapprove of the CDF obviously disapprove of all these. They don't believe that these organizations are worthwhile with this type of money and the work that they do - many, many hours of volunteer work. That's the position that they take: very narrow, very self-interested, very focused upon what they want for their own people. This is for everybody. These people applied, they have got the money, and they will contribute to the well-being of all Yukon people.
But they're going to vote against the budget. I find very interesting the comment made earlier about voting against the budget by the Member for Riverside, of the Liberals. I hear out on the street a lot of people saying, and I hear it in here as well, "What's the difference between the Liberals and the Yukon Party?" Well, I can't answer that, because I don't see a difference. So, I say, "Maybe you have to look a little bit deeper. Why don't you look at how they vote in this House and see if they actually are different?" Well, we can look. I believe that in the last government the Liberals voted with the Yukon Party on the budget, voted with the Yukon Party on wage restraint. I believe they voted with the Yukon Party, but in this one, they vote against the NDP, they vote against this budget, and they vote with the Yukon Party again.
So, there's a consistency here. There's a message being brought out and people out there are not fooled. They can see the facade that exists around the social conscience of the Liberal Party: it doesn't exist. This is a right-wing attack from six right-wingers sitting over there because their voting patterns have shown it, their arguments have shown it, their attack against the workers, their attack against the people that work for this government, the attack against the unions. But we can't forget about the Liberal leader's great attack against $7,000 that was going to a union organization, but ignoring the million dollars that go to business organizations. We cannot forget about that and we won't forget about it. They can pretend they walk down the middle path, but it's a middle path in a right-wing garden and more and more people out there are recognizing it. If it smells the same and sounds the same, I guess it is the same and I'm glad the Liberal leader acknowledges that because most of the Yukon has already; she's just catching up to them.
Now the opposition claims that the O&M is government spending money on itself and it's an insult to Yukon people. Well, O&M is what allows government to provide day-to-day services, services that people want. O&M pays for teachers, nurses, social workers, maintenance workers, janitors, addiction counsellors, police officers.
Real people. Wake up. Wake up, opposition members. Wake up and quit insulting all these people in the Yukon. These are real people, doing real jobs, contributing to our society. For some reason, there's an attitude from the opposition members that if you work for the government you're less than human - you don't have a real job - but if you work for business, you're great. Wake up. These are real people, too, with families. They work hard and they contribute to this economy, and they're proud of the work that they do.
Now, there's also this hue and cry about, "What's the NDP doing about creating jobs to support the Yukon economy?" Well, there's been a tremendous imbalance, in my view, in our economy over the last few years. The buildings have suffered, maintenance has gone down, there are a lot of needs out there for new facilities for people, for schools, and what we have done is try to find a better balance and start to shift the imbalance that existed to a balanced budget today.
What we got is a new school in Old Crow for $5.2 million, and over $1 million in school improvements; $9 million to improve principal roads; $500,000 for secondary roads; of course the community development fund that I mentioned - that many organization that have offices in my riding have already benefited from, and indirectly, of course, the people in the territory will be benefiting from - a 75-percent increase to $3.5 million to go into this, and that will create jobs in the communities; $4 million in country and urban residential lot development and $2.6 million for affordable mobile home lots. The list is long. But, we're not doing enough, as usual. Not by their standards, anyway.
And how does this strengthen and diversity of the Yukon economy? Well, we live in boom-and-bust cycles of the past. There have to be more opportunities. We have to create access to capital, which is a forum that was presented last year by the Minister of Economic Development. There were many ideas that came out of it, and we had to reach out more. We had to go out into the communities. We were doing that, just as this budget was developed, by the leader going out into the communities and talking to people. We have to make this government work better, and we're doing that, because it sure wasn't working before.
We're using the business community to improve. We're taking their suggestions and working with them. We're trying to help the small, rural and home-based businesses.
There's a multi-year savings account for capital projects. There's $7 million and a seven-year commitment for Canada winter games in the year 2007; $9 million and a nine-year commitment to Dawson City. There was a lobbying effort with the U.S. government for the Shakwak highway construction. Unfortunately, we had to pick up an area where it wasn't worked on, but we're quite optimistic that there will be more work on that highway, and hopefully it will be next year.
The forest commission work - oh, the word "commission". That always gets a rise out of the members opposite. How dare we even have a commission? Well, the forest commission has worked very hard and is doing a lot of good work. All you have to do is go and ask the people who participate. They're happy to be involved. They're happy to be able to set policy and give direction, and that's what we're finding out there. They have been neglected and ignored for too long.
That will create jobs, especially once we get the federal government to start to listen to the people of the north on this issue. DAP's a process that's going to help the developers. It's going to create some certainty in a climate of uncertainty.
The energy commission is working hard to find out what people want, what options there are, and how we can address these concerns. We're trying to find stable, affordable electricity, and the commission is addressing this. It does take consultation, because we believe in that. It truly does involve all the people of the Yukon.
It takes time, but let's get it right the first time, and let's keep working on it, and that's what this caucus over here believes and will continue to do - work and not just throw rocks.
Settling and implementing land claims - it was a wonderful announcement today about White River. I noticed it was very quiet over there, because we actually made an announcement that they can't criticize, but I'm sure they'll find something to criticize about it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Well, that's refreshing to hear. The member opposite says, "Good enough," so that's cool.
We're putting $1.5 million into training trust funds, which will help the training strategy, and there's an abattoir that's going ahead.
And what about the services to health and education? You know, one of the suggestions I've heard is, "Well, let's have a user fee." That's not part of our philosophy. We believe it's accessible to everybody, and the moment you put a user fee on, you start down that path of a user fee for this, a user fee for that, and the next thing you know, you don't have something that's totally accessible, and we'll resist that as long as possible.
Even with the restrictions that we face from the federal government, they seem to believe that there is enough money out there. Most of the provinces and territories don't. Some list: $305,000 in new funds to extend home care throughout the territory - excellent; $128,000 for the first year of a two-year pilot project in community-based mental health - good stuff; a new approach in drug and alcohol treatment that provides more long-term support and encourages delivery of treatment services at a community and First Nations level.
There has been a lot of talk about Crossroads.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: We're out of Crossroads. Beside me, the Member for Watson Lake says we're out of Crossroads and we are. We obviously have a difference of opinion here. We have the opposition howling like mad about changes - not taking a serious look at the changes that we actually are putting in place, just howling about change. Change is very important, especially when something needs to be changed. Crossroads is a program that's been in existence for quite a long time and I haven't heard anybody really speak from personal experience here and I can't necessarily speak from direct experience, but I can speak from a family experience. I'll tell you right now, I support the changes that are happening and I support the changes because Crossroads did not meet the requirements of a family member of mine.
Now, that's not to say Crossroads is bad, but it's to say that there has to be more to this program for treatment, and Crossroads is not broad enough - as it exists today - to meet all the requirements of alcohol abuse. We've heard that time and time again from many, many people. The changes that we're making hopefully will broaden the treatment options that people will have, which will allow all people in various circumstances to be able to get the help that they need to address serious substance abuse problems.
We're not all carbon copies. We can't all be treated the same. This is a positive change, and I really support the minister on this, because I believe this is going to be a better program in the long run, and this will help more people.
So, the opposition shouldn't be so worried about change. The people voted for a change in government. The people voted to make three Liberals instead of one. It still hasn't made much difference, but change is good. It's well-thought out, which this government is about, and it has a vision and a direction that it's going in, and that's what this government's about as well.
Stable funding for NGOs - absolutely important in this society. And, of course, a transient shelter for men and women, which I'm very, very proud to see. No matter what people say, there is no truth to this: that the only reason we're killing Crossroads is to have a shelter. Give me a break - geez. If that's the only reason they can come up with, then they're really desperate.
Moving on, the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre was mentioned earlier by the Member for Mount Lorne. They finally have a permanent home that they can work out of after many, many years of fighting for one. As the Member for Faro says, CDF is part of that, and that's great.
Another important thing: there are more women appointed to boards and committees - a better balance. There is $300,000 to implement optical care; school nutrition programs; $200,000 toward anti-poverty strategies; minimum wage will be increased. Whoa, we'd better be careful about that, or the right wing will rise up and swat me, I'm sure, with their duck bill.
The Justice minister has been very outspoken about ending the defence of provocation - wonderful stuff. And, a five-point youth strategy, a youth entrepreneurship centre, a youth investment fund, Youth Works, youth programs in communities and youth employment initiatives with other jurisdictions.
And, of course, what affects many of my constituents is the seniors strategy that's going to be held and will hopefully identify many of the needs for the Yukon seniors and help us to address those concerns and needs - excellent, excellent stuff in this budget. You have to read it; you just can't criticize it.
The environment - $500,000 more for the Yukon protected areas strategy; interim protection for an expanded Tombstone park until we can finally get the boundaries determined; ongoing efforts to ensure that the Porcupine caribou calving grounds in the ANWR region of Alaska are protected; completing field studies in the Aishihik caribou recovery plan; implementing the greater Kluane area land use plan; construction and design standards to make buildings more energy efficient; Yukon Housing Corporation programs for energy-efficient electric heat. All of these are very good. The environment is extremely important. I would say that everybody in the Yukon is very sensitive about the environment, and that's the direction we got from the people in our consultations, and we're moving on that.
And of course, Yukon hire. Now there is no longer a commission and I'm no longer a commissioner, so the stones don't hit any more. They get thrown, but they don't hit. I'm no longer in that job. I wrapped mine up. Mine's done and there were a lot of points that were brought forward, and there was heavy consultation.
Over 800 people and organizations were involved in the drafting of this and there is a lot of good in it. I won't go through it all. I was actually going to read a few of them but I think the members opposite have read it. I hope they have because if you are going to criticize something, you should read it.
I want to touch on one last theme here and I think it's extremely important, and that's the MAI. I went to a trade ministers conference and I spoke at that conference about the MAI and the Yukon's position. I'm happy to report that the motion we had before the House last fall basically has been supported at the trade ministers meeting, in that it fell in very correctly with the action that they were going to take and move forward on.
So, in some ways, we did have an effect. We have directed international negotiations and they have listened to our concerns.
And many of our concerns have been concerns brought forward by the provinces and territories. We haven't been alone in this, and we have to continue that. We can't neglect the negotiations that are happening at the international level that are going to have profound effects upon the ability of the Yukon to operate as a jurisdiction and have say over what and how they will live their lives up here.
My firm belief is, if the MAI had been signed as it was drafted by the federal government, it would have had a profound effect on everybody in the Yukon and we would have lost a lot of our democracy and we would have lost a lot of our control over how we live our lives up here and how we develop our economic future, because it would have been turned over to interests that are outside our borders.
And that ties in with the Yukon hire commission and Health and Social Services. It ties in with education. It ties in with everything we try to do as a government in the Yukon.
So, this budget speaks to that as well, and I'm very proud to be able to support this budget and support my colleagues in this budget as we go into debate.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 5:30, the Speaker will now leave the Chair until 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed with the continuation of the second reading debate of Bill No. 9.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of this 1997-98 budget. This government has been able to propose a budget that protects health care and education and puts more of its resources into capital spending than any of the provinces, and lays a sound foundation for the future despite tough times, shrinking federal transfers and an end to the U.S. government Shakwak funding.
Mr. Speaker, it does this without proposing health care fees or tax increases. It's putting money into jobs, health care, education and training, and making strategic investment in the youth and environment, trade and diversification.
This budget didn't come together easily and it didn't come together by accident. It is Cabinet and caucus that have talked to hundreds of people as it was being developed.
The Government Leader personally met with people in almost every community and from most sectors specifically to hear what people felt should be in the budget. We were told that people were tired of the wild swings of a boom-and-bust economy and that they wanted a broader economic base for the territory. People are looking for stability and a deliberate, thoughtful approach to government, and we're delivering.
Despite opposition calls for deficit financing and an extended construction boom by inflating the capital budget, we have chosen a more responsible course of action that recognizes that government is not just about building roads, it's about laying a foundation for the future.
It is interesting to note that in four years of record high capital budgets, the Yukon Party did not build one new school in the territory, and it wasn't because the population was not growing or that schools did not need replacement - there were reports that documented the need for that - it was simply because they put their priorities in other places, and I'm very pleased to note this budget's commitment to get on with the construction of the Old Crow school this year, the Ross River school in 1999, and the replacement of the J.V. Clark School in Mayo in the year 2000.
I know that my constituents will be happy to see budgeted $200,000 for planning for a new school in Mayo. We want to be ready to build when the time comes and not be delayed because of poor planning.
Mr. Speaker, it's a tribute to the school councils of the Yukon and a government that believes in working with people that priorities set for new school construction are widely supported by people involved in education throughout the territory. The joint review of school facilities by school council representatives and the department allowed people to cooperatively determine what work should be tackled next. We like that direction and we will be following it. It is consistent with our views of supporting education in rural Yukon.
I think we would all appreciate the predictability that this kind of cooperative, consultative approach brings to the scheduling of new capital construction. It sure beats the situation under the previous governments where parents and schools fought to access funding and government used that as an excuse to do nothing. This government believes that children are our future, and that investment in education and health care is money well-spent.
Well-educated, healthy, optimistic, young people will be better equipped to make a constructive contribution to the future of this territory. That's only common sense, and I don't understand the opposition's constant attack on a stable operation and maintenance budget that pays for teachers, educational assistants, nurses and other public service workers. I believe their work is essential to our common well-being.
A stable operation and maintenance budget makes sure that our schools are well-equipped and staffed and that our children are encouraged to achieve their full potential. A stable O&M level means that the Yukon health care system will be able to look after us when we run into problems, in spite of federal Liberal cuts in health care funding.
It seems strange to me that the opposition doesn't realize the services they rely on every day, from ploughed highways to our children's education, and the high standard of medical care we receive, all have value. It's even more strange that they don't seem to appreciate that people who deliver these public services buy homes, raise families, pay taxes and buy goods and services locally. And I don't understand why they want us to put all of the YTG eggs in one capital budget - even eggs we don't have.
It seems to me this kind of approach creates a false economy, a flash in the pan, a boom that would lead to bust or tax increases down the road. If we were to go down the road, we would have to cut services we rely on and dig deeply into our surpluses. When all the indications are that territorial revenues are not going to increase, that would be irresponsible. Unlike the Yukon Party government that increased taxes so it could spend more money, this budget has no tax increases. This government is proposing no tax increases and no new taxes.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that our paced, deliberate approach to capital budgets makes a lot more sense. We are maintaining and improving our capital infrastructure. In addition to funding for new schools, over $1 million will be invested in school improvements. We will continue to develop our roads and highways with over $5 million invested in Alaska highway improvements and $2 million allocated for reconstruction and surfacing of the Campbell Highway. Although much of the Campbell Highway work will be done between Watson Lake and Ross River, there will be some resurfacing done between Carmacks and Ross River, and I think Carmacks people will eventually benefit from the increased tourism and recreational loop to the east and central Yukon.
I hope that the $763,000 worth of work on the Top of the World Highway will have a similar effect, as more people would be encouraged to leave the Alaska Highway and travel the circle route through Carmacks, Pelly and Stewart to Dawson and back down the Alaska Highway.
I look forward to seeing local benefits from the special allotment of the $500,000 to improve secondary roads. Much of this will be handled in small contracts and will allow local contractors to bid competitively.
If you only listen to the opposition, you might get the sense that we've abandoned the idea of highway improvements and the jobs that go along with them. That's not so. In total, almost $9 million will be spent on highways and bridge improvements over the next fiscal year.
This government has also placed a lot of faith in our communities. Many of our members have their roots in rural communities, including myself, and we know that there's a Yukon outside of Whitehorse.
Last year we demonstrated our commitment to rural Yukon and community jobs by reactivating the community development fund. That plan was not popular with the Yukon Party, who cancelled it, but it is especially important to rural communities. This year, we're increasing the size of the fund 75 percent so that $3.5 million will be available to finance community-identified priority projects. This means training, jobs and improved community facilities.
In my riding over the last year, money from the CDF and the interim community projects initiative has meant not only jobs but a youth centre, community forestry planning in Mayo, child care improvements in Carmacks, and also an improved curling rink facility in Pelly Crossing.
Some major tier 3 projects funded by CDF will be announced very shortly.
Mr. Speaker, it is also important to point out that this budget maintains block funding that was to municipal governments at its current level. Unlike other governments in Canada, we're not trying to make up our lost income by passing the buck to local governments. We recognize the need to spend smarter and make the best use of the revenues we have, and we know that cutting transfers and dumping responsibility on other levels of government may look good in the books but it really means the local taxpayer would have to pick up the burden.
And, Mr. Speaker, in addition to offering stability and preserving basic services, I think that this budget is particularly significant for the foundation that it is laying for the future. This budget offers forward-looking approaches to the economy, social issues and the environment.
Many people have long recognized the need for a broader economic base in the Yukon. As the needs of world economy change, it is important to look at what the Yukon can offer.
Although we think of ourselves as a resource-based economy, resource industries make up one leg of a three-legged stool that also includes government spending and an increase in tourism. This is a tippy situation when metal prices fall or when there is a cutback in transfer payments from other levels of governments.
There is obviously a need to diversify the future and look for ways to build a broader, more stable base for the territory.
This budget recognizes the fact that a half a million dollars is dedicated to trade and diversification strategies.
Some Yukon businesses have demonstrated that they can compete in the national and international markets and others are looking for opportunities to do the same. One example is Jerry Alfred from Pelly Crossing, who has gained national recognition through his Juno-winning CD. Matthew Lien has arrangements to market his music in Asia. These people sell their music around the world, but still make their homes here in the Yukon. Others have developed software products that have done very well in a highly competitive market.
Some Yukon highway construction companies have done very well on projects outside of the Yukon, as well. I think it's important that this government is prepared to look beyond the traditional resource sector and seek trade opportunities through other vehicles, such as the Team Canada missions and others.
Equally important is a commitment to seek investment to assist the growth and development of Yukon companies with an interest in developing their products and expanding their markets.
This is not to say that traditional industries have been ignored. This government continues to promote the Yukon mineral industry and is making a major $400,000 investment this year in mineral resource inventory work.
In tourism, too, we are looking ahead. Our success in attracting direct air service from Europe is being supported by a $70,000 investigation of options to expand the Whitehorse airport runway to support larger aircraft.
The protected areas strategy commitment to establish a network of protected areas representing 23 ecoregions of the territory will ensure that people will visit the Yukon for years to come and enjoy the wilderness we experience every day as residents.
The Renewable Resources budget has been increased by $500,000 so that work can proceed with the involvement of the public and affected interests.
Over 100 people participated in a recent workshop to develop the outline for a protected areas strategy that will guide the establishment of systems. The designation of protected areas ensures residents and visitors alike that there will always be a wild Yukon and places to go that preserve ecology and the wilderness that many value so highly.
As we attract more people to the Yukon wilds, it is important that we recognize the responsibility to manage the impact that those visitors might have on the values that we want to protect. The wilderness licensing act that we will introduce in the fall legislative session will provide us with an important tool to begin to monitor and manage visitor traffic in wilderness areas.
Mr. Speaker, in any efforts to diversify the economy, we need to keep in mind what we want to get out of new developments. I think that most of us see jobs and investment that benefit Yukon people, and that's why I'm happy that this budget puts a lot of weight on training. The Budget Address refers to one man in Carmacks who told the Government Leader in a pre-budget consultation that what was needed most was training, training and more training, and I agree with him. This budget increases funding for training trust funds by 50 percent, bringing the total to $1.5 million.
We also hope to use the new labour force development agreement with the federal government to generate still more training to equip people with the skills they need to benefit from new economic opportunities.
I look forward to government's response to the Yukon hire commission's recommendation and additional measures to put Yukoners to work. This government recognizes that it has a responsibility to provide a stable social framework for Yukon people and has already spoken to our commitment to health care and education.
In addition to a $1-million increase in the Whitehorse General Hospital base budget last year, this year we are increasing the commitment by an additional $530,000. Almost $14 million, as the budget address noted, will go into community health programs and nursing, and $305,000 will be devoted to home care and after care.
Institutional services are not always the best option for those problems. For many elderly people who prefer to stay in their own homes and are capable of doing that, with some help, we hope that the additional home care funding will make that possible for more elders and seniors.
The sum of $128,000 of a $1.5 million mental health services budget will go toward a two-year pilot program for community-based mental health care. If people can be helped where they are, there will be less family disruption and less disorientation for people experiencing difficulties.
It has often been said that the youth are our future, and I've already talked about our commitment to education, both through school systems and through training. This budget recognizes that youth can be encouraged to achieve their potential through involvement in recreation and other activities. Many people may have already been aware of our youth strategy and the creation of Youth Works, operating in association with community youth initiatives. We've also been involved in recreation leadership programs in several communities. This year, an additional $200,000 will go toward programming for young people, and we are continuing to work with the youth employment and initiatives.
Mr. Speaker, there is much that a government can do, even with limited resources, to improve the quality of life for the people of the territory.
Some national trends show that some of the poorest families are being hardest hit by economic change in federal social program transfer cutbacks and changes to employment insurance. For people working at minimum wage, this is tough and we recognize and believe that we have a duty to help. We have implemented a school nutrition program over the last year and this year we are setting aside almost $300,000 to cover costs of optical care and prescription drugs for children of lower income families.
Mr. Speaker, I'm proud to be part of a government that is thinking ahead and seeing clearly and acting upon problems that confront us as a territory. We have mentioned in our campaign our commitment to those living in unhealthy and unsafe homes and we'll be working with the community to try and sort out that problem for the owners of mobile homes.
We're still committing and working hard to develop a protected areas strategy along with the people of the Yukon and industry and interested people. We know that that strategy will be beneficial to all people of the Yukon, including the mining industry, the outfitters and so on.
Mr. Speaker, many who have spoken to the budget have brought up many of the issues that affect the Yukon. I don't think that I need to go on about it. I look forward to hearing the Government Leader's response to others who have mentioned things here in the Legislature. I think that this budget is a good one and I encourage all members to support it. If members choose not to, I remind them that they will be voting against good standards of health care and education. They will be voting against new programs for seniors and youth. They will be voting against a strong environmental agenda and work toward a system of protected areas. They will be voting against thoughtful and considered approaches toward diversifying the economy. They will be voting against a fiscally responsible approach that respects our financial limitations and maintains an accumulated surplus.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am pleased to finally be given an opportunity to respond to some of the comments made by members in the House over the last couple of sitting days. It was a fascinating experience listening to the criticisms coming from the opposition benches, and I can say, Mr. Speaker, that from my experience, a great deal of the criticism is obviously manufactured. Some of the criticism is interesting and probably worth pursuing in debate. Most of the criticism I will deal with in summary fashion in my few remarks this evening.
Mr. Speaker, I found it fascinating that we saw some of the seasoned veterans in the opposition caucuses coming out criticizing the budget even before they had time to consider the details. That shows, presumably, that they are experienced in opposition. We had some of the new recruits in the opposition benches - I think the Member for Riverdale South is an example - who could not contain the fact that she thought there were some good things in the budget and said so, only to be reminded that she didn't like the budget and to say as much during the budget replies.
Mr. Speaker, that's a fascinating study in the dynamics of opposition benches, and it does suggest that at some point there is a great deal that is artificial to the entire debate in this Legislature, and that probably is too bad. But most Yukon veteran observers sift the fictional, artificial criticism from the real criticism and the constructive criticism, and I'm sure this budget debate will be no exception.
Mr. Speaker, we have heard in the last couple of days, from the opposition benches, particularly, that the budget, in their view, lacks vision. But, whenever they speak to the long term, particularly the long term with respect to economic growth in the territory or even the environmental agenda for the territory, they contain themselves simply to proposals to spend money and spend lots of it.
Despite the fact that the leader of the Liberal Party, for example, has indicated - what was the quote again: "It's not the role of government to create jobs by sheer spending" - within one sentence, she's already complaining about the size of the capital budget and the need to spend more.
Mr. Speaker, there's a fixation in the opposition that vision equals raw spending power - spend it now, spend it big - and that equates, somehow, to an appropriate future for this territory. There's no sense from them as to where the territory should go in the long term. There's no sense from the opposition about what groundwork they would provide for creating a better community. Their clarion call simply comes down to spend big.
Now, the opposition is somewhat divided on this point, and I've been trying to study the two parties, which are masquerading as different parties but are essentially the same. As time goes on, I'm certain that they will speak in harmony and, pretty soon, they will all actually look alike at some point.
Right now, the Liberals have not quite caught up to the Yukon Party in the criticism. The Yukon Party is very clear: capital spending is good, O&M spending is bad. The ex-Government Leader just gave me a thumbs up on both. That simplistic and somewhat simple-minded view of the world is very clearly ingrained in Yukon Party policy.
Now, the Liberals are not sure about that yet, because they have complained about the O&M spending in the government as being stagnant, whatever that means, but that capital spending must be up in order for this to be a good budget.
Apart from that one minor distinguishing feature between the two parties, they essentially are delivering exactly the same message.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the Member for Klondike pipes up - and the Member for Klondike is the most practiced of all the opposition members of the grand request for public funds. For a person who has always been critical, he says, of government overspending, he can't contain himself from putting new spending proposals on the table virtually every day.
Mr. Speaker, the member, I think, has set some kind of a record here in his first week in the Legislature. I was just completely overawed by how someone in one week, from their seat, could ask for upwards of $70 million of requests. Nevertheless, the member seems to be able to go to sleep at night, and that is an interesting study in that member's inner workings.
In any case, Mr. Speaker, the opposition criticism is also a bit of a fascinating study, again, in crafting guile. The members opposite will quite commonly refer to O&M being up and also, at the same time, to Health and Social Services being down. Of course, they are comparing mains to mains or forecasted mains or comparing any number of figures just so they can try to make a point, even if one point contradicts the other. It doesn't really matter, but as I was trying to piece together the leader of the official opposition's basic thesis, I found myself getting quite confused because the member was contradicting himself over and over and over again.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Now, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Klondike pipes up. I guess he hasn't really come to terms yet with the fact that his speech was like the speech for the B.C. Children's Hospital - a great class act and the stuff of legends. He doesn't need to worry. It will be published, and unfortunately for the Yukon taxpayer, it will be published hardbound.
We'll be able to read it at great length in the future.
Mr. Speaker, the leader of the official opposition spent some time talking about this budget's vision. He said that it had no vision because, of course, it does not have giant spending proposals. He took great umbrage at the Yukon NDP's predilection to consult with people and thought that this was not being decisive enough. I noticed the Yukon Party ad in the paper, entitled, "What's Your Role in Government", talking about this, and it's a field full of sheep pictured on the cover. I think that's a Yukon Party convention or something. This is the Yukon Party's attempt at consulting with the community on various things. They don't say what. Again, they just say to come out and talk to something called the Yukon Party advisory committee. I think if anyone in the public wants to give the Yukon Party a hand, please give them a hand. They do need some assistance.
There are a number of things I found quite fascinating, emanating from the opposition leader and what he chose to highlight in his speech - in his complaints. He started off by complaining that we had failed to reach collective agreements with our employees. This was the leader of the government that decided that collective agreements were not required with his employees. When he was Government Leader, he simply legislated the agreements. That was decisive enough. He certainly did make sure that terms and conditions, when dealing with employees, were well in hand - he just prescribed them.
But for him to come along now and complain that collective agreements are not yet complete is inconsistent with his own actions.
He does complain, of course, about the fact that capital spending is not as high as we would have liked it. He does talk about capital spending putting people to work. He dismisses, of course, all the good work that the O&M budget does undertake. He seems to have little regard for the many public servants who provide a service.
I would point out to him that increases in the Health and Social Services budget last fall were for things such as out-of-territory medical health costs. It was for things such as the costs associated with the hospital. Clearly, these are items that the Yukon Party does not have very much respect for. At least I can tell from the Member for Porter Creek North that he has, and always has had, very little respect for public servants, if that is his view.
He complains about mental health funding. He doesn't like it - the $128,000 put toward mental health funding. That's okay; at least we understand where he's coming from. He wouldn't have done it; we did. It is a difference of opinion. He indicated that that was not something he would support. He didn't have much faith in the NDP youth strategy either. He said that the new money was not new, and of course it is.
He thought that the Aishihik caribou recovery program is an old idea. Well, let's just go back in time a little bit on this one particular issue. The Aishihik caribou recovery program was not designed by the Yukon Party at all. The wolf management plan that was a backdrop to that program was not developed by the Yukon Party at all; it was developed by the New Democrats. The program was going ahead at the time of the election and the New Democrats said it was going to go ahead. They created the program.
The member goes on to say that the funding that we've put into the budget supporting the Aishihik caribou recovery program is something that would have happened anyway. Well, Mr. Speaker, it would have happened because the NDP created a program and of course it would have happened because the NDP supports its programs.
The member goes on to say, as he jumps around throughout this budget, that - well, he criticized the government's progress on land claims, which I found fascinating, but nevertheless I will deal with that in more debate when we get into Committee.
One of the things - and I won't refer to every comment that he made - that I started to get a little bit concerned about was the member's obvious reluctance to accept even an annual deficit as being appropriate. He went on, Mr. Speaker, at some length to say that two consecutive deficits are problematic and that because we're only projecting a $15-million surplus bank account, year-end, this is somehow irresponsible. And he went on to lecture that deficit spending is not sustainable.
Well, Mr. Speaker, he has had a conversion, of course, in the last few years, because he was the Minister of Finance who in fact did table a deficit budget - did table deficit budgets - but in the most recent budget of 1996-97, projected a deficit for the year of over $24 million - almost $25 million - and projected a year-end surplus of $7 million. That didn't seem to bother him then. It does seem to bother him now that we do something even less offensive because we, of course, are proposing to provide for sustainable spending.
We have, on many occasions, indicated to the members opposite - many occasions indeed - that the spending plans that we're proposing to the Legislature now are in fact sustainable and we're not, as the members allege, spending money we don't have. We are spending money we do have.
And when we talk about a projected deficit for the beginning of the year, we are referring to there being a fairly sizeable surplus by year-end. And we have said, on many occasions, that the spending proposals that we have put forward, and are putting forward this year, are clearly sustainable if lapsed funding from previous years is any measure and any judge.
Mr. Speaker, what the Yukon Party would have us do, and presumably the Liberal prescription for deficit financing, is to have us save the money year after year, building a bigger bank account, and then presumably, at some point, there would be a massive spending program. So, the boom and bust that is so much characteristic of the private sector economy, particularly the mining economy, would be mirrored by the fiscal policies of both the Yukon Party and the Liberals. And this is not what people are asking for. This is not what people want, and they find the proposals from both Liberals and the Yukon Party irresponsible, to say the least.
Mr. Speaker, it is wrong - wrong - to develop spending patterns that create artificial economies. Now, the Yukon Party - quite consistently and for years, even when the economy was hot - invested money in things like land development and overheated the land development economy to the point that now we've got a surplus of lots in this territory. We are in no position, because of the size of the land inventory, to develop more.
We're developing more lots that sell. That's a difference in policy.
And the proposal just to spend more and to create more of an artificial economy, supported by these spending patterns, is not right. It's not humane and it should not be pursued.
Mr. Speaker, just so that the Yukon Party doesn't think that I'm only picking on them, I would turn my remarks briefly to their clones on their left, the Liberal Party, and indicate that I was surprised at the criticism.
First of all, I was pleasantly surprised that the Liberals had taken some time to congratulate the government on the good things that the government was doing, and I thought for once they were going to live up to their election promise. They made one election promise, Mr. Speaker, that they knew they could keep, that they knew they'd have to keep, and that was that they were going to be non-confrontational. They knew they didn't have to do much more than that, because after all, there weren't many people outside of the Liberal Party that thought they would have any chance whatsoever of forming a government.
Mr. Speaker, they've broken that promise of being non-confrontational. Only a few years ago when the Yukon Party was tabling budgets that had tax increases and were slashing public servants' wages, the Liberals were busy voting for those budgets. But now, when we table a budget that the public likes, the Liberal Party votes against it.
Mr. Speaker, the only criticism that we've been hearing is from six people in this Legislature sitting on the other side of the House. There are people -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Riverside says that we haven't heard anybody. First of all - and I've been around a long time - there have been lots of people who have been saying that this budget is well-balanced; it meets its basic objectives; it's responsible; it covers off most bases; and it does what it can with the spending it's got. That's what most people have been saying - and dare I say this, because I don't want to hang on this person's source - including the editors of both newspapers in town.
So, Mr. Speaker, the members in the Liberal Party have done yeoman service in trying to manufacture as much criticism around this budget as they possibly can. This is as far removed from non-confrontational activity in the Legislature as one can get.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals, in December 1996, were talking about the community projects initiative as being a positive thing.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, one of the members said that this minister has done a good thing this Christmas by putting money through the community projects initiative. That program, by the way, was virtually identical to the community development fund.
Now, the Liberals are saying that the best thing the NDP could do is to remove the community development fund. When they raise criticisms, they have this way of putting their words to make it sound as if the government side ought to get their heads examined. There's this feeling from the leader of the Liberal Party that she knows best, she can give these little parables that will set us straight, if only we had the wisdom to follow her recommendations.
On February 26, she says, "Mr. Speaker, if you give a mouse a cookie, chances are he'll want a glass of milk." That's really a good way to look at the community development fund. Mr. Speaker, I've spoken with people around this territory who like the community development fund because it is they who put applications forward. These are community-driven applications. These are recommendations from community groups, community governments, First Nation governments around this territory, who set the priorities and make the suggestions, and the government responds.
Well, according to the Liberal leader, if you give people what they want, chances are they'll want more. Now, Mr. Speaker, if I didn't know the Liberal leader better, I would have thought that that was very paternalistic and quite arrogant. But that is the nature of the criticism they are reaching to deliver toward the government benches because they can't find good things to say about the government, even though only a year ago, they were saying things that supported virtually the same program.
Well, the Liberal leader didn't leave that alone, of course. They talked about not wanting to create half-million dollar facilities and long-term O&M commitments. That's another vote of confidence in the community governments. And it's not the member - well, I'll leave that comment until later.
Mr. Speaker, the members opposite also complain about the uncertainty that is associated with policy work, as yet incomplete.
This is a theme that they have chosen to latch on to, because they feel that, somehow, this does respond to their shared constituency - presumably the large business community - who feel, they think, that the government's work on DAP and the government's work on energy policy or forestry policy are things, presumably, that are creating uncertainty for the community and, ultimately, are creating a climate that would make it difficult for investors to invest in the Yukon.
The Liberals have said that the Yukon is now a questionable place to do business. The Yukon Party has said - and they've quoted the Fraser Institute report, as well - that, ultimately, the Yukon ranks low on the policy scale and that there are so many outstanding policy issues that, ultimately, this is creating a bad climate for business.
Mr. Speaker, let me tell you something. The Yukon NDP government came into office in November 1996. The DAP was about to go to the federal government's lawyers for final drafting. Land claims were mired in angry confrontations with the Yukon Party government. Protected spaces was on a fast track to completion by the year 2000, at least according to the ministers, if you can believe them, and the permitting process was, as it is still now, in the hands of the federal government.
The Liberals tabled a motion just today that they wanted the DAP commission to be disbanded. Because there has not been a final agreement with respect to the development assessment process, the Yukon NDP government should down its tools and walk away. Well, the NDP government is not going to walk away from DAP. The Yukon NDP government indicated, from day one, that we wanted a single window, efficient process for reviewing developments in this territory, and we are bound that we are going to get it.
Mr. Speaker, we said, and the DAP commissioner repeated this the other day, that DAP can either be one of the best things that ever happened to this territory or it can be its worst nightmare. We will not be told by the Liberals that we should be giving up the ghost. We will not be told by the Yukon Party that we should back away or step away from this process. After all, it was they who believed that the process was already completed over a year ago.
I can tell them that people in the mining community, the development community and the conservation community all came to us and said, "For gosh sakes, do not let this through. Somebody has to stand up for Yukoners. Somebody has to ensure that Yukon voices are heard in this process." And that's what the DAP commission is doing and we're not going to let this project go until we meet our objective.
Mr. Speaker, the members opposite, to an extent, I think, are supporting the protected areas campaign. From time to time, they make the grand gesture saying that they support the campaign, then the rest of their speeches are all about perhaps stepping back or not committing to it.
Well, Mr. Speaker, what we have planned to do with respect to protected spaces as one project - and an important project - is that we have indicated that we want the project done properly. We want the project to involve Yukon people. We haven't set up artificial deadlines, that we're going to have the whole thing done by the year 2000 as the Yukon Party has promised. We're going to ensure that the public, the conservation community, development interests, everyone has a chance not only to help design the protected area strategy itself but also ensure that the design of the individual management plans also involve community people from a variety of interests. We're not going to back away from that objective.
Mr. Speaker, this budget is all about keeping our promises. We said that we are going to, for example, pursue the protected areas strategy. We're going to pursue it successfully because we believe in it. We want it to happen. We want it to happen well.
Mr. Speaker, back to the Liberals for a moment. The Liberals have said, on a number of occasions, in their pat, cliché-driven way that substitutes, I suppose, for real policy that the NDP are under-achievers. They are merely a caretaker government. They haven't done anything. Well, my gosh, Mr. Speaker, think of what has happened in just the last 16 months. Think of what has been accomplished.
Mr. Speaker, with respect to the projects already undertaken, we have tabled budgets without tax hikes, which may seem like a small accomplishment to the Liberals, but I'm certain to the Yukon Party it is an incredible accomplishment because the Yukon Party had to raise taxes within a year of coming to office.
The fact that we've restored collective bargaining seems to be taken for granted. The fact is that we have implemented a Yukon trade and investment strategy, established Youth Works, established a youth employment strategy, have had an access to capital forum and are already pursuing ideas that are merely thoughts in the minds of some Liberals with respect to improving the investment capital situation for the territory.
We got the Air Transat deal to help tourism, which the leader of the official opposition calls nickels and dimes, that will put a full plane a week of new tourists into the Yukon. Well, the critic for Tourism is dismissing this as being a minor accomplishment. Yet I attended a ceremony with the Tourism Industry Association, which was attended probably by about 40 or 50 people who were all saying that this was a fantastic accomplishment and were happy to see it happen - quite the opposite of the Yukon Party's Tourism critic's dismissive attitude toward the whole project. It was a major accomplishment.
Mr. Speaker, of course we all know that the opposition don't like the CDF fund. That's all right. The fact that they've dismissed the oil and gas legislation as not being very significant is quite a puzzle. The fact that we have set up training trust funds, they seem to have dismissed. The fact that we are developing a new forest policy and actually making headway is something that they try to dismiss all the time.
What is fascinating is the criticism about the Shakwak project that seemed to be levelled by virtually every member on the opposite side, particularly the Yukon Party, because, after all, the Yukon Party knew how to spend the funds that the NDP negotiated.
Unfortunately for us, they didn't know how to negotiate new funds.
So, Mr. Speaker, on top of that, of course, they're starting to carry on a campaign criticizing the NDP for not being able to negotiate new funds in record time. Somehow, with all the effort that has been put in by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and me and others to renew funding - and, of course, we have now got agreement for Shakwak funding next year - the members opposite feel that somehow the NDP has failed to do its duty. Well, that is absolute hypocrisy by my estimation.
The Yukon Party, for its sake, has only known how to actually spend the money that the NDP negotiates. They certainly knew how to spend the hospital funding. They certainly knew how to spend the Shakwak funding, but the moment those funds dry up, the new NDP government doesn't have new sources of funds, and they accuse the NDP government of not having vision. "You should have had vision. There should have been more funding on a road. If you would spend more money on a road, you'd have vision." What nonsense, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, the members opposite have laid out as much criticism of this budget as they could possibly muster. They have criticized a budget that virtually no one else would. They have criticized spending practices. The Yukon Party particularly has criticized spending practices that it employed itself, to an extent. The Liberal Party has decided that a budget that they generally liked at the beginning, they decided they don't like, because they are doing everything they can to align themselves with the Yukon Party.
Well, Mr. Speaker, it does certainly help the government to know where the criticism is coming from.
When we hear the leader of the official opposition speak, we'll know that in at least a couple of weeks, the Liberal Party will be saying the same thing. But you have to give them time, Mr. Speaker, because they're new. They have a new vision for the territory. It takes a little while to be cast, but I'm certain that the guru of the leader of the official opposition will, at some point, in his Svengali-like way, lead the Liberals through to the promised land.
Well, Mr. Speaker, for my part, I am not susceptible to the voodoo-like leadership skills of the leader of the official opposition and cannot support the vision that he has for this territory.
Speaker: The member has three minutes.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There's been no discussion from the opposition benches, Mr. Speaker, about the long-term future of the territory or what it will look like. There are no eyes on the horizon. All eyes on the opposition benches are on their feet, and they know nothing other than to spend big, spend big, spend big - that is their vision. It is as limited, as narrow a vision as any opposition party/parties could every muster.
And, Mr. Speaker, as the Member for Kluane has pointed out quite clearly - that's just not sustainable. It's not good for the territory and it will not produce a better territory. For that reason, I'm happy if both opposition parties want to choose to vote against this budget because that shows the poverty of their vision.
We, on the other hand, are proud of the direction we're taking this territory in, and we do believe there will be major payoffs, without debt, for the future. There will be major payoffs for this territory - a territory that will be something that we want to bequeath to our children.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. Livingston: Agree.
Mr. Ostashek: Disagree.
Mr. Phillips: Disagree.
Mr. Jenkins: Disagree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Mr. Cable: Disagree.
Mrs. Edelman: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are nine yea, six nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 9 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: It's good to see the right united.
I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Chair: Before proceeding to general debate on Bill No. 9, the Chair would like to remind members of the process to be followed during estimates debate in Committee of the Whole.
First, there will be general debate on the entire budget.
Following this, Committee will go to the estimates book. As we get to each department, there will be general debate covering both operation and maintenance and capital expenditures on the whole department.
Once that is completed, we will move to each program within the department. Following general debate on each program, and may I remind you that this should be general debate and not specific to any particular line item, Committee will go line by line. The Chair will follow the practice of waiting to hear "clear" from the opposition members before moving to the next line item.
Once all line items in a program have cleared, I will ask if there are any questions on the recoveries and revenues or the statistics or supplementary information, if applicable, and then I will ask to carry the total O&M or capital for the program.
Once all programs have been debated, I will ask if the total O&M or the total capital carries and when debate on the department has been completed, I will ask if the total for the department carries.
We will then move on to the next department until the process is complete.
If members have any questions about the process, I will be happy to answer them. If not, we will proceed to general debate on the estimates.
We will now proceed to general debate.
Bill No. 9 - First Appropriation Act, 1998-99
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I spoke to the estimates extensively in the budget address and therefore I won't take up much of members' time. We are, of course, seeking appropriation authority for a total spending of $446.7 million. Approximately $5.8 million of this sum simply reflects potential loans to municipalities and a repayment of the principal and interest on old borrowings, which were undertaken to finance municipal loans.
The heart of the appropriation is the $441 million required for O&M and capital spending.
The $370.4 million in operations and maintenance represents a very small increase over the forecast spending for 1997-98 of $750,000 and, in percentage terms, rounds to nil.
Our capital spending will decline 34 percent, some $36 million from that we are anticipating for the current fiscal year.
I'll speak to these more extensively in a moment.
On the other side of the ledger, our inflow of funds also shows a decline, one of almost $17 million or four percent. The difference between these revenues and expenditures and allowing for a contingency of $4.5 million is an annual deficit of a little over $8.7 million. Excluding any lapses of current year O&M spending or positive revenue adjustments, this will leave us with an accumulated surplus of $15.1 million at the end of the new fiscal year, March 31, 1999.
Members will recall that $15 million is the minimum savings account that we've always said we wanted. Our total income, as I said previously, is down considerably. However, members will note that the territorial revenue component is up some $6.4 million. This is entirely due to income tax estimates received from Revenue Canada. These estimates are based on national averages and are undoubtedly optimistic given recent events in the Yukon. In addition, the 1997-98 figures contain some unfavourable adjustments of prior years' taxes, and this has the effect of increasing the differential between the two years.
Any reduction in the 1998-99 tax year figures as a result of revised future estimates will, however, have a relatively minor impact on our total income, given the workings of formula financing and its failsafe arrangements.
The closure of the Faro mine does not impact upon the 1998-99 income tax receipts because of the delay in actual data and monies flowing to us from Revenue Canada. This impact will begin to be felt in 1999-2000.
The Canada health and social transfer is down somewhat because of the reduction in this transfer previously announced by the federal government. These reductions are failsafed through formula financing on a dollar-for-dollar basis and are therefore revenue neutral as far as we're concerned.
Our transfer from Canada, our formula financing grant, has been broken into two parts, and the sum of the two is only slightly less than is the current year's forecast. However, the new budget figures include $8 million in anticipated adjustments as a result of the final census figures. These final figures should be released in September, when StatsCan have completed their census and their count calculations. Raw data suggests that there will be an adjustment of at least the magnitude shown.
Of the $8 million, one-half is assumed to be one-time as an adjustment of previous years' census data used in formula calculations over the course of the last five years. The remaining $4 million is assumed to be ongoing.
I'd be remiss if I did not mention that, had it not been for the arbitrary five-percent cut to the formula's gross expenditure base imposed on us by the federal government several years ago, the transfer from Canada would be some $20 million greater than it is today.
Finally, there is a very large, 23-percent decrease in recoveries. This is comprised entirely of capital and is due, in large part, to the winding down of the hospital construction and the present hiatus in the Shakwak project. Members will know the very extensive efforts our government is making to see the latter project reactivated, hopefully in the very near future.
In my Budget Address, I spoke at some length to a number of the expenditure initiatives that are integral to the budget. Since we'll be debating and discussing them in some detail later on in the sitting, I won't talk about them here, except to say that I believe we've been able to accommodate a number of important initiatives and pressing needs with limited funds. This challenge is likely to be a way of life in the future, but is one we believe that we can handle and still maintain the quality of service Yukoners deserve and have come to expect.
Finally, we have provided for a $4.5 million contingency fund. This is one-half million less than the sum we had in last year's main estimates, but we feel it is adequate to cover those items that will inevitably be required to be funded in the coming year and for which there is no provision in departmental estimates.
I'm prepared at this time to answer any questions members may have.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Finance minister for that. It's good to get down to where we can start discussing the numbers instead of all the political rhetoric going across the floor of this Legislature for the last few days, and there was a lot of that.
I am going to have quite a few questions of a general nature. I need to get my head around what the philosophy of this government is in putting their budgets together, and how they rationalize some of the things that they're doing in their budget now that they were totally against when they were in opposition. I want to know from the Government Leader how they reconcile those things, and whether they've had a change of heart or whether comments that they were making in opposition were for purely partisan, political reasons and really had no basis in fact. There are many, many discrepancies between what this government is doing today and what they were criticizing us for when they were in opposition.
I think, just to highlight it for the minister, one example is what my colleague brought up today. When they were in opposition, they criticized us for not keeping a one-month surplus, yet we've heard the Government Leader say time and time again that he's quite satisfied with the $15-million surplus. I would like to know from the Finance minister at some point why he had a change of heart on that.
We have also heard this government time and time again say that tax increases weren't required, that the wage rollbacks weren't required. I want to explore with the Government Leader tonight - and I can maybe give some notice to his deputy there now that one of the things I will want to know this evening if possible and, if not, tomorrow morning - is how much revenue, on an annual basis, are the tax increases bringing into the coffers of the Yukon territorial government.
I would also like to know from the Finance minister - and I would give him some notice of it now because I know this stuff takes time - how much money has the government saved because of the wage freeze and the two-percent rollback? I want to know those figures so that we can have a good debate on some of the positions that are being taken by this government in relation to those two issues.
I also want to explore with the Finance minister and the Government Leader, which makes it very handy when we're debating these budget because the Government Leader has a lot of influence over the what the Finance minister does and I don't think there's much disagreement between the two of them, so we can probably get it wrapped up fairly quickly that way.
I want to point out to the Finance minister what our biggest concern is with this budget and why we don't believe that it is sustainable. Putting all political rhetoric aside, I think we only need to look in his budget address book and look at the historical main estimates of governments over the years. There was a lot of political rhetoric about the biggest budgets ever under a Yukon Party government, of huge capital spending under a Yukon Party government and that we were cutting health and education, when in fact we increased them during our four-year mandate. If we are to review the main estimates - and this is comparing apples to apples, and I know these are only estimates - I think it gives you some indication of what was happening. We will find that the main estimates for operation and maintenance government, after four years of Yukon Party government, were actually lower in 1996-97 than they were in 1993-94.
Now, it's a balancing act and I know the Finance minister said that and I couldn't agree more that it's a balancing act. We need to have a certain level of civil service to provide services to the people, but what we have seen since the NDP government has come to power is that operation and maintenance budget jump from $346,821,000 in 1996-97 - that was the estimate for that year - to a 1998-99 estimate in this budget of some $370,360,000. That's an increase of a little over $23.5 million.
Now, that's a substantial increase in the operation and maintenance cost to government. I know that we have to provide services to Yukoners, and civil services are worthwhile. Hence, the political rhetoric - and we don't believe that the civil service is wrong. What we're concerned about is the size of the civil service and the growth in the civil service.
We are now entering a period in the Yukon where almost every private sector company is downsizing. Yet, on the opposite side of the equation, we have a government that's increasing in size.
I want to know how the Finance minister reconciles that.
What I see and what I fear with this, Mr. Chair, is that I'm not concerned about this year. I'm not concerned about the projections this year. I know there are going to be lapsed funds. The Government Leader sort of touched on it in his reply to the budget speech tonight. I will be asking him if he can give us some indication as to what they are, because I know that last year he said that the surpluses are getting smaller because capital projects are shrinking. The only surpluses that really count in here are surpluses on the operation and maintenance side because, for the most part, capital surpluses are just revoted again because projects aren't finished at the end of the year.
I'm not going to be asking the Finance minister for any hard and fast figures on what he feels the surplus would be, but I would like to get an indication from him as to what his gut feeling is, Mr. Chair, if I could put it in those terms, as to what the surplus will be when everything's all said and done. And I know that he has to have some sort of a ballpark that's he trying to work in for what the parameters are.
Another couple of areas of concern for me with the operation and maintenance budget that's been tabled by the member are that, when we were being briefed on the budget, I think we I know did and I think maybe my colleagues to the left did, too, ask two specific questions. Whatever is going to come out of collective bargaining, I don't expect we're going to see a decrease in the wage, we're going to see an increase. And we were told that that has not been budgeted for in the main estimates; it will be covered under the contingency.
I know that the government can't send any signals to the bargaining units of the unions as to what they're prepared to pay. We do know now, from media newscasts last week, that there's a wide discrepancy between what the government is offering and what the public sector union wants. Nevertheless, they're not included in these figures, so they're going to eat into that surplus to a certain extent, and I think probably quite substantially.
Another major expenditure that is not budgeted for in here, according to Finance officials, is what will be a fairly husky power rate increase because of the Faro mine being down. My understanding is that the departments have not budgeted for that, as well.
Those are a couple of areas where I see the operation and maintenance budget still continuing to grow when the Finance minister comes in with a supplementary budget this fall.
I guess one of the questions I have for the Finance minister that he may be able to reply to when he gets back on his feet is this: is the Finance minister anticipating that, although power rate increases have not been budgeted for, the departments will be asked to pick them up out of the money that they've received or will they be included in a supplementary budget this fall? I would like to know that. It may help us to rationalize this budget.
My concern about the second consecutive deficit budget is that, from all the signals that are being sent out by the Finance minister, I don't see a light at the end of the tunnel, and neither do Yukoners, that his next budget is going to come in at even a break even or with a surplus. I believe that what's not sustainable is a continuation of the erosion of what little surplus we have. And I have great difficulty in seeing the operation and maintenance of government increasing when the private sector is downsizing. We are going to have, quite possibly - unless something breaks very quickly - fewer people to service. That is an unknown at this time, I know that, but I believe that efforts have to be made to curtail the size of growth in the civil service.
I don't believe there's another government in Canada that believes that they can allow their civil service to grow by the kind of percentages that we see - not so much this year, but last year - in this budget. Now, I know that the Finance minister is going to say, "Well, we had the second phase of the health transfer." Well, yes, we did, but we had the first phase of the health transfer during our mandate, too, and we didn't touch health services. We found money elsewhere to pay the extra and additional health service costs.
One of the other things I'd like to know from the Finance minister while we're in general debate on the main estimates - on the budget entirely - is: does he see the operation and maintenance continuing to grow, or does he see that there's going to be a levelling off, or maybe even a bit of retrenching?
Nobody on this side of the House said that the civil service is not important and that employees of the government don't have real jobs, as the Member for Whitehorse Centre said today we insinuated. I don't think we insinuated that at all. I do think we have a major concern when we continue to see the operation and maintenance side of the budget growing.
I want to speak a little bit about the capital, because there have been some allegations from the other side of the House that I disagree with very strongly. The members over there say that we, on the right-hand side of the political spectrum, believe that big capital budgets are good and small operation and maintenance budgets are good. I think the Finance minister will agree with me that there have been numerous studies done.
I know we had this debate during the last Faro mine closure, when the Yukon Party government was in power, as to where the government gets the biggest bang for their buck in putting people to work. Quite clearly, the economists that we had reports from said it was on the capital side of the budget. The capital side put more Yukoners to work than did the operation and maintenance side. Now, I would think that, at a time when we're facing the Faro mine shutdown and a dramatic growth in our unemployment rolls, this government ought to have paid more attention to that.
Can we have the big capital budgets we had when we were under the Yukon Party government? No. I don't for one minute say that we can have them, but I believe the Yukon Party government realized that, and that's why they were curtailing the operation and maintenance costs of government so that there would be money for capital.
I know that the Finance minister, in his presentation, put in a graph there where we have the highest per capita capital of anywhere in Canada. He's absolutely right. We do, but I believe that our infrastructure is still lacking in the Yukon, and I believe that it's the government's role to provide infrastructure so that the private sector can create the much needed jobs that are required to put Yukoners to work. We can't all work for the government, and we need to be able to concentrate on creating private sector jobs to be able to sustain the quality of life that we have in the Yukon.
I don't think any of us on this side of the House said that the whole budget was bad. I know my caucus pointed out some good things that we can support in this budget, but when we look at the overall budget, we're having great difficulty.
So, I'll sit down and let the minister respond to that before we get too much on the record here, and what he misses we'll pick up in Hansard tomorrow and come back and get some more clarification.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, the member has put a lot of questions on the table, and I'll try to deal with some of them tonight, and deal with the others tomorrow.
The member - perhaps we can forgive him this - is spending a whole lot of time thinking about the Yukon Party's term in office and focusing on that. It was obviously a seminal period in his life, and clearly focusing on that period is something that is very understandable, psychologically, for the member to do.
And certainly, Mr. Chair, I'd be happy to go through the various issues the member has identified and have a discussion with him.
I'd like to spend a few minutes, perhaps, on his last point first. The member, I guess, is searching for some sense of the New Democrats' philosophy when it comes to spending priorities. It's something that I thought was fairly clear in the budget speech but I can understand the intent of the member's question.
As the member pointed out, rhetoric aside, the contention that the NDP governments love to spend operations money, as the opposition puts it, on themselves, is not entirely borne out by the facts. In fact, it's not borne out by the facts at all.
If the member wants to compare O&M from the time that we began office, starting with the first supplementary for, I think, the year 1996-97 through to our first main estimates last year and these main estimates this year, one can see that the spending priorities clearly are in health care, in Health and Social Services, and education. If one looks only to the supplementary last November, one can see that there are spending reductions in most departments on the operation side, from the main estimates, which were, in essence, the same as the forecast for the last year the Yukon Party was in office.
So, to suggest that the NDP simply likes to increase the operations budget just for the sake of it is not true. In order to help pay for the overexpenditures last year in Health and Social Services and Education, the departments, as I indicated during the supplementary debate last year, were all asked to absorb a 1.5-percent cut on the operating side. That 1.5-percent cut is carried into this year.
There are a number of departments here, of course, that do not have increases, so, in effect, they are working with budget levels on the operations side that are 1.5 percent less than the forecast of the Yukon Party's last year. To offset that, and then some, of course, are the overages in health care and Education.
Clearly, to characterize the expenditures in health care as the NDP greedily spending money on itself is patently false. The spending proposals that were debated only a couple of months ago - we were only here a couple of months ago - were all about outside-of-territory medical health costs, physician fees, hospital costs. This was a government that was spending money on people priorities.
It was not a government that was eagerly spending more money on computing systems and internal governing operations or anything of the sort. So, to simply characterize the government as being O&M-hungry, capital-poor is, of course, not the case.
Now with respect to the capital budget itself, the capital budget is not dissimilar in net spending to the first two budgets that the Yukon Party itself introduced in this Legislature. The net spending is an indication of the government's interest in putting discretionary funds in a particular area.
What the government members quite rightly pointed out, what the government is unable to do, is to spend money on recoverable projects because the recoverable projects don't exist. The money from the federal government doesn't exist. The money from the U.S. Congress, at this point, does not exist, so we're not in a position to spend money in that area. We can't divide this money from thin air. This is not something available to us.
Our philosophy is not to resist spending money that would otherwise come to the territory. It's not a question of basic philosophy. If the Shakwak funding was available, we'd spend it on the Shakwak project, and the capital budget consequently would be that much higher. So we're not resisting, holding back the tides; we're in fact out there hustling trying to get more.
That's what we did in 1989, 1990, 1991 - the years that led up to the first major Shakwak agreement with this government. After all, the Shakwak agreement, as we discussed before, the agreement between the federal government and the U.S. federal government was, in fact, initiated many, many years ago. The most recent spending balloon was clearly initiated by the Yukon government, at the time an NDP government.
So, we weren't philosophically prone not to want to spend this money because, after all, we negotiated the money. Now, it would be inconsistent to negotiate it and not spend it because we had some philosophical predilection not to. It doesn't make any sense to me. That's not something I said in opposition - that we were opposed to. We said on numerous occasions that we were supportive of the expenditure for the Shakwak and for the hospital, both projects that were negotiated by the NDP government.
The member makes the obvious point, and the correct point, that we can't all work for the government. But what is sad about our economic state of affairs in 1997-98 and 1998-99 is the fact that the government being unable to spend an extra $20 million or $30 million on capital is a major event in this territory and the subject of major criticism from the opposition benches.
Because we don't have the extra capital, it only serves to show that there is a large dependency upon government spending for both O&M and for capital. Clearly, if one were to state a concern, it would be that the dependency upon government spending for O&M and for capital is very much at play here in this territory today.
I've got a quote someplace from the member - I've never had an opportunity to use it - but the Member for Porter Creek North said, "Government spending doesn't create an artificial economy; government overspending does."
I've got to tell the member that there we agree, because if the spending is not sustainable in the long term, artificial economies are created, and in some respects the Shakwak project is an artificial economy. It's an artificial economy that we embrace because we're happy to have the money and we're happy to see the infrastructure improve. But let me tell the member that when the funding evaporates there is no obvious opportunity for us - fishes and loaves - to divine new activity with the existing resources.
And, clearly, there's going to be the after-effect of that decline in spending, no matter how it's cut.
If, for example - and we're expecting in every way that the Shakwak project will proceed again next year, for the following four years - it proceeds, there will be a time when there won't be Shakwak project funding and there may not be an obvious opportunity for the government of the day to simply negotiate another great big capital project by someone who wants to build infrastructure in the territory.
We can try to work to ensure that the mines operate. We can do our best to encourage our forestry industry. What we can't do is simply replace big sums of money that have been supporting the economy.
The member has asked many other questions. I want to give him full opportunity to explore those tomorrow. I would move that you report progress, Mr. Chair, on this bill.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, First Appropriation Act, 1998-99, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the acting Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stand adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:29 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled March 2, 1998:
Yukon College 1996-97 Annual Report (Moorcroft)
Yukon College financial statements, June 30, 1997 (Moorcroft)