Monday, March 9, 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?
In remembrance of Danny Coles
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Danny Coles, who passed away suddenly on February 20, 1998, at the tender age of 22.
Danny was of northern Tutchone descent and a member of the Wolf clan of the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation. Daniel Coles was born on September 29, 1975 in Whitehorse to Sarah Johnny and Roger Coles. He attended Tantalus School in Carmacks and later moved to Drayton Valley, Alberta, where he graduated from Frank Maddock High in 1994.
Soon after returning to the Yukon in 1995, Danny became close to his mother, grandparents and other family members, spending time at his grandparents' fish camp and learning his northern Tutchone language and culture. Danny was mild mannered, gentle and understanding of others' opinions. He was always smiling, helpful to others and had a positive attitude toward life. He loved floor hockey, curling, roller hockey and ice hockey and baseball, and was always surrounded by young people.
He was also artistically talented and he won several logo competitions in the community. Danny was open to learning and became very interested in self-government. He was particularly concerned about the environment and planned his future education in the environmental field this fall.
He was also planning to put his name forward in the upcoming council position.
Danny touched the hearts of everyone he knew. He demonstrated great leadership skills and was a symbol of hope to the youth in the community.
His death shocked family, friends and the community, many of whom are still struggling with the tragic loss and have yet to come to grips with his sudden passing.
Danny will be sadly missed by his family, grandparents, girlfriend, friends and the community. They will also have fond memories of his smiling face and gentle ways, and are so much richer in having known him.
Mr. Cable: I want to say that it's difficult to understand how a young man could be in good health one week and then be taken by a fatal disease the next week. His parents and family members and friends are left to wonder about the why of Danny's death.
As the minister had just mentioned, Danny was 22, and he was born in Whitehorse to Sarah and Roger Coles. He spent about half of his life in and around Carmacks and about half in Drayton Valley and on a farm near Drayton Valley.
He received the first few years of his education at Tantulus School in Carmacks and then graduated from Drayton Valley High School.
At the time of his death, I understand he was working in the assay lab at BYG mine, at Carmacks. He was a very personable young gentleman and had a wide circle of friends in both the Drayton Valley and Carmacks areas.
He will be missed by his family and his many friends, and his girlfriend.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is my distinct pleasure to draw members' attention to the gallery to some very fortunate Yukoners who will be celebrating French culture and heritage for a couple of weeks in Paris, France. These ambassadors will be meeting some very distinguished government dignitaries besides drinking in a little bit of Parisian springtime.
In the gallery are Yannick Bédard, Phillipe Sormany-Albert, Dominique Sormany-Albert, Marie-Josée Guzman, Médéric Boucher, Yann Herry, Sylvie Baril.
And bidding adieu to them and a
lso in the gallery is the principal of l'École Émilie Tremblay, Mme Hélèn Saint-Onge.
Please join me in congratulating them and wishing them good fortune.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the Yukon Public Service Staff Relations Board's and Yukon Teachers Staff Relations Board's annual reports.
Mr. Livingston: I have a legislative return in response to an oral question asked on February 26 by the Member for Porter Creek South.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICE OF MOTION
Mr. Fentie: I rise today to give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that
(a) fire safety around the Yukon communities is a significant concern, and
(b) there are opportunities to lessen the fire risk around communities while creating jobs and accessing fibre for Yukon's forest industry;
THAT it is the opinion of this House that a community fire safety program could reduce the fire risk around our communities and create jobs by helping to address the allocation needs of the forest industry; and
THAT the federal, Yukon, First Nation and municipal governments should work together to achieve these goals.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Shipyards residents, relocation
Mr. Jenkins: My question is for the Government Leader and it's on the issue of the Shipyards expropriations on the Whitehorse waterfront.
Mr. Speaker, in the NDP book of promises, A Better Way, it states how the government treats its citizens and how it consults with people about decisions that affect them are as important as the subjects being discussed.
The residents of the Shipyards and Sleepy Hollow area discovered first hand that this commitment is but another broken plank on the NDP's ever-growing scrap heap of broken promises. The fact is that this so-called "caring government" didn't even talk to the Shipyards residents in advance. The residents were told through the media that they were being evicted.
Can the Government Leader explain to the House why his government didn't consult with the Shipyards residents prior to them being told in media reports that they were being evicted, and why they still haven't been consulted? They're just starting a consultation process, Mr. Speaker. Will the Government Leader now come clean and tell the House the truth for once?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the member won't be surprised if I disagree with his assessment about not only the government's position on this particular issue but also his assessment of the government's record in keeping promises.
First of all, it would be incorrect to say that the government, and I, particularly, did not have discussions with Shipyards residents over a long period of time. In fact, I have been discussing with them, and have raised their issues in this Legislature, on numerous occasions over the last four years, as I'm sure the member will now be informed by his colleagues.
With respect to the process for discussing the future of the Shipyards, the member will be aware that the budget speech announces the government's plans to do things; it doesn't necessarily involve having come to conclusions already by the time the budget speech is delivered. So, the government's plans in the budget itself are to hold discussions with each individual person in the Shipyards to determine how best their needs can be accommodated, all the while knowing and ensuring that when the city undertakes planning for the waterfront, the people issues there will be addressed prior to any development taking place.
Speaker: Before proceeding, the Speaker would like to remind the Member for Klondike that saying another member isn't telling the truth is out of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Well, recently, a letter bearing the signature of the Government Leader has been hand-delivered to the residents in this area. This is after the fact.
Can the Government Leader explain his comments to the media that his government didn't want a situation where he was leaving only a sliver of time to deal with residents' issues in relation to land claims and the Whitehorse waterfront development plan? Is this the excuse for the residents not being advised in advance that they were going to be evicted?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I can forgive the member for not knowing anything about the issue before coming into the Legislature and asking questions. But let me tell the member that the letter that I sent to all of the residents last week merely confirmed the many discussions that we've had together - they and I, together - over the last four years, where there was very real concern expressed by the people that when it came time to develop the waterfront, their issues would be given short shrift. My commitment to them was that I wouldn't let that happen.
Now, what is happening here, of course, is that there is no obvious development plan for the waterfront, but there is time to talk to the residents about their issues and to ensure that their needs are cared for before any steamroller comes along to develop the waterfront and before the weight of public opinion can work against the residents. What the government is in fact doing is ensuring that their issues are addressed in good time, without any deadline, so that their situation can be handled with dignity.
Mr. Jenkins: So, Mr. Speaker, it's the Government Leader that used the term "sliver of time." Can the Government Leader advise the House what he means by a sliver of time? Just how imminent is the destruction of the shipyard residents' homes? When is this very caring NDP group of bulldozers at the hands of this very sensitive and civilized Government Leader going to mow these houses down? When is that going to occur in that sliver of time, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, the member is misinterpreting the letter, clearly. What we wanted to avoid is dealing with their issues in a very short period of time. We wanted to deal with the people issues when we have time, and the member may know or may not know that I, in opposition, was trying to encourage his colleague, the now leader of the official opposition, for four solid years to start addressing the issues facing the people in the Shipyards-Sleepy Hollow area, recognizing a fact that the people there would be the first to admit - at some point - the Shipyards-Sleepy Hollow area will be reserved for all people of Whitehorse.
Now the Member for Riverdale North suggests that the government gave them an eviction notice in the paper - far from the truth. Far from the truth. The discussions that have been going on between the MLA and the residents there have dealt with this matter at some length, and they know it. If the member wants to check the newsletters from the MLA for McIntyre Takhini, they will see as well that the issue has been raised often.
So before the member starts making allegations about this government wanting to evict the people, and doing so in a very short period of time, well, check the record and ensure that they understand the issue before they ask the question.
Question re: Shipyards residents, relocation
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's just go back a little bit. After the Government Leader tabled the recent budget, it was obvious that the NDP's ability at math is not the greatest and that the Government Leader hasn't really learned anything from his previous experience in government. In fact, the Government Leader has never admitted, to this day, the previous NDP's government left a $64-million deficit in the last year that they were in office, even though his own personal signature is on the public accounts record verifying the deficit. We are heading in that same direction again. So much for truth and honesty in government.
Could I ask the Government Leader to explain how he arrived at the figure of $294,000 for the Shipyards expropriation? In media reports he has stated his government multiplied the number of residents by an arbitrary sum to come up with the figure. Could the minister provide an explanation of this "arbitrary sum"?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That ranks as one of the most convoluted preambles to a question that I've heard in a long time, bearing absolutely no relation to the issue at hand and carrying mucho, mucho mistaken facts in the delivery.
Mr. Speaker, let's go back even a little bit further. The member wants to talk about the rationale for this particular initiative.
Sometime ago, people were talking about planning and developing the waterfront. Even during the period that the Yukon Party was in office, they made statements, claims, promises about developing the waterfront. At no time was there any reference made to what was going to happen to the people who actually lived there.
The people issues were raised in this Legislature not by anybody in the past, during the Yukon Party government, not by anybody in the government, but by the MLA for the area. The commitment very clearly on the record was that those people issues would be addressed first.
Now, as the member may recall, even in the paper about a month ago, there were planning meetings advertised for people to go and plan the waterfront. Again, no recognition, no acknowledgement of the fact that there are people living there.
So the rationale for wanting to deal with people issues before something comes along is self-evident. If you want to deal with people with some dignity, take some care, take sometime, and you put their issues on the agenda, you would announce - when you were intending to raise those issues formally with people - that at some point formally; the government would announce this initiative. Beyond just simply the MLA for the area having discussions with people, there would be real discussions with key individuals and the government about their future prospects.
When it came time to providing the notion of compensation, it was clear, Mr. Speaker, that this was a different situation than that which existed with the squatter policy.
Speaker: Would the member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I'll continue answering the question when the member asks another question.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the Speaker for bringing the Government Leader to the point because there was certainly no answer to the question "an arbitrary sum," and this is a caring, socialist calculator that arrives at this arbitrary sum. And the Government Leader went so far as to state that this arbitrary amount of money set aside for the relocation should be sufficient.
Could the Government Leader please explain "arbitrary" and "sufficient" to the residents of this area that he's going to expropriate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, first of all the Yukon Party's record was to do nothing, to set aside no funds, and yet to plan the waterfront. That was the Yukon Party's prescription to this entire issue.
"Sufficient" refers to sufficient to meet needs and to ensure that the personal situation of the people there is properly addressed. Because, as I was saying, Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the old squatter policy was to find a way to ensure that people could stay in their homes.
This is a situation that is more akin to the escarpment relocation, where people are being encouraged to leave their homes, because of the so-called greater public good of wanting to have the waterfront available as a treasure to all people of Whitehorse and the Yukon. That's the purpose and that's how people have been talking about planning it.
The "arbitrary sum" in advance of discussions is simply a statement saying that we are going to put some public funds forward to try to meet real needs. We haven't focused on precisely what each individual need is, but when we have taken the time, doing it right, talking to people individually, we will be in a better position to know what precisely is required in order to meet the public objective of ensuring that the people's individual needs are met, but also to ensure that the waterfront is made available to all people of Whitehorse and the Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, for the Government Leader's information, a planning process mainly deals with people in this instance and that's the process that the Yukon Party was involved in, a planning process dealing with the people in that area as well as focusing on the -
Speaker: Order please. Stop your heckling, please.
Mr. Jenkins: On the question I raised on February 26 in this House, the Government Leader's colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services advised - he usually spends most of his time at 30,000 feet and is still climbing whether he's in an airplane or not - that the $294,000 relocation fund was just a start of the process. The Government Leader is saying, "Well, that's going to be enough."
Can the Government Leader advise the House, what's right, what's wrong and at what figure the process will end at? Will he be consulting with the Shipyards residents about the figures prior to the bulldozers knocking on their front doors?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party's initiative, with respect to the waterfront, didn't even treat people as an afterthought, let alone as a primary concern. That's pure revisionism on the member's part; it has nothing to do with reality. Pleading in this Legislature to deal with the people issues at some point fell on deaf ears with the Yukon Party ministers. The record speaks for itself.
I don't know if the nasty comments the member made about the Minister of Tourism were relevant or not - probably not. The whole point of the discussions with individuals on the waterfront is precisely to work out individual needs and to address those needs appropriately. That's the point of the discussions. The fact that there is a fairly sizeable commitment of public funds behind the process is recognition that the government is prepared to start the talking and to do it appropriately and mean business when they do the talking. That is the substantial difference between what this government is prepared to do and what the Yukon Party did.
Question re: FAS/FAE prevention
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Mr. Speaker, it is very difficult to deal with a problem, particularly a health problem, when we don't know how large or small the problem is. The Asante study of 1981, which was almost 20 years ago, shows that the incidence of fetal alcohol syndrome in the Yukon was 47 babies in every 1,000 births. In Canada in 1994, it is estimated that one or two children of every 1,000 live births is considered to have FAS or FAE. If those 1981 figures are still accurate, that means that the incidence of FAS in the Yukon is 47 times the national average. If this was any other health problem, we would consider this an epidemic.
Mr. Speaker, what is this government doing to help prevent FAS in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we're doing a considerable amount, not the least of which is working with Skookum Jim's to try and act on some of the preventable natures of it. As well, we work with Education through our Teen Parent Centre and a variety of other responses.
But it does lead me to an interesting discussion. We have, lately, been looking at some opportunities from other jurisdictions about some early intervention models. I've had a presentation very recently on those, and I'm hoping to bring forward a more detailed program in this regard very shortly.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, that's very interesting.
Now, with FAS, what goes around, comes around. According to the B.C. Prevention Resource Centre, if a woman has one child with FAS, the chance of her having another FAS child is 406 times more likely.
Mr. Speaker, FAS is the most commonly known cause of mental retardation, and it is preventable. In the Yukon there are already four highly effective FAS prenatal intervention programs operating on federal dollars only, and that would be at Skookum Jim, at the Teen Parent Centre in Whitehorse, out of the Dawson shelter, and out of Fort Liard and Watson Lake. Now, these CAP-C funds run out in the year 2000, and this NDP government said that they were putting issues around alcohol on their top priority list. That was back in December of 1997.
Will this government commit to preventing the epidemically high number of FAS births in the Yukon by funding and supporting these prenatal intervention programs?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I'm afraid the member is somewhat mistaken. We do support FAS prevention. One of the things that we have been working with has been with Skookum Jim, which he just made reference to. As well, we do support the Teen Parent Centre.
We've created a comprehensive community-based FAS/FAE prevention plan. We have established a working group. We have been developing the kit, "Alcohol and the Unborn Baby." ADS has been providing the T-ACE and TWEAK FAS/FAE screening tools - training to physicians and nurses - and we recently had one in Dawson City, and consultations have been held with the FAS/FAE advisory committee regarding the development of programs for referring pregnant women who are drinking.
I would suggest that the members' allegations that we're not doing anything is somewhat misdirected.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I hope that that support comes in the form of money when the federal money runs out in the year 2000.
Now, in the April 1995 alcohol and drug strategy implementation plan, there was a priority put on giving assistance with safe accommodation during pregnancy for high-risk mothers. Perhaps the minister can share some good news with us here. The FASSY - an FAS grass-roots volunteer advocacy group - has been trying to arrange this much-needed service through a local hotel. Now, what support has this government given this much-needed prevention service? Perhaps the minister could illuminate us on some funding that came out recently?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, first of all, the member was - and I would have to echo her diatribe there against the federal government. As a matter of fact, perhaps she could join, along with Mr. Rock, in condemning his Cabinet colleagues for their rather paltry contributions toward health, and I would certainly support her in that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: And decline it, thank you.
With regard to the idea of providing some protection, we are hoping that, with the advent of the transient shelter, one of the things we're hoping to do is provide some emergency shelter for individuals who are going through particular points of crisis, and it would be one of our goals, to try and provide that kind of support.
Question re: NovaLIS contract
Ms. Duncan: My questions today are for the Minister of Government Services. In November last year, the minister and I had several vigorous discussions in this House regarding the contract of about $450,000 to a Nova Scotia firm - NovaLIS - for GIS technology for the Yukon. After some of these vigorous discussions, the minister provided me with the contracts issued to date to NovaLIS. The last of these contracts, which was the largest, coincidentally, for $340,438, was to be completed on February 27.
Would the minister indicate if this project has been completed to the satisfaction of all parties? Is the system NovaLIS was asked to put in place complete?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: To the best of my knowledge, the most recent advice that I had on this was that it is.
Ms. Duncan: Perhaps the minister could indicate, when he's next on his feet, if it was completed at the agreed-upon price or if there were change orders.
On November 24, the Minister of Government Services committed that the balance of work on this system for the government - it's about $400,000 worth of work - would be tendered. The minister also said, and I quote, "It would be tendered in such a way as to give local companies the best opportunity."
The minister also indicated that he assumed these contracts would be tendered at the beginning of the fiscal year. Can the minister be more precise today? When does he anticipate the tenders for the balance of the GIS work?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'll have to get back to the member with that, but with regard to her assertions there, I've given direction to my department that they should be doing followup work with the folks involved in GIS and in information technology in general. We sent a letter in that regard, and I've asked our department to follow up to make contact with those folks.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm surprised at the minister's answer because he made that same commitment on November 24 last year. He said that he had committed to working with industry to develop a system in such a way that there would be maximum opportunities for local companies.
Now, the minister has said today he's given instructions to his department to work with the GIS industry. Would he come back to the House and table that letter? Why did it take three months to write?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, the letter did not take three months to write. As a matter of fact, the letter was sent earlier. What we've been waiting for is a response from the industry in that regard, and I directed the department that they should follow that up when we were waiting for a response. Since it wasn't forthcoming, I asked that our director of information services give a direct call.
Question re: School busing contract
Mr. Phillips: A few days ago, Mr. Speaker, I met with the local bus drivers for the local school bus company, Diversified Transport, to discuss busing issues and specifications within the current school busing contract, one that has yet to be awarded. I think the closing date is March 24.
During the meeting, a number of issues were raised. A particular concern was expressed by the drivers about safety standards and, more particularly, about the monitoring of compliance to ensure adequate levels of safety are maintained in any new contracts that are issued.
Mr. Speaker, I'd like to ask the minister how the government intends to conduct inspections with respect to the enforcement of the bus maintenance and safety conditions and, in fact, since some of the contracts have gone out to rural Yukon and have gone to independent owners rather than one major contractor, are we increasing our inspection frequency, and who does that, and how often are they going to be checking on the new operators to make sure that the safety conditions of the contract are all being met?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, I have to correct a couple of points in the member's preamble. The communities have always been tendered as separate contracts to encourage rural Yukon to be able to bid on providing bus services in their communities. This year a number of community-based transportation companies were awarded contracts in rural Yukon.
As well, we have put a number of requirements in the specifications in the tender to ensure that safety issues are adequately monitored in the busing contracts, both for the rural communities and for Whitehorse.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I've read the recent contract that came out from Whitehorse, and I think it's good that there are safety conditions in there.
My question to the minister was how are they going to monitor this, because it appears that, before, it was more self-monitored. In the case of Diversified, the company that had the contract, they were doing most of their training and monitoring themselves and now the government, having put it in the contract, may be required to monitor it.
So, I'd like to ask the minister: how is the minister going to monitor these new conditions or these conditions that have been put in the contract with respect to safety?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There are a number of checks in place in order to ensure that safety standards are met. There is a two times the daily rate penalty clause for non-performance of duty in the contract. The bus certification checks by mechanics have been increased to two per year to ensure that the school buses are safe. Spot checks of buses can be done, and we can engage personnel employed by Community and Transportation Services to help Education with that. As well, the requirement for driver training remains in effect.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I don't think the minister really answered my question with respect to the new conditions she's put in. Somebody's going to have to make sure that it's done. The penalty is no good, Mr. Speaker, if no one is checking whether in fact the mechanical inspections, and other things, are carried out.
During the meeting I had with the drivers, it was also brought to my attention that there was a requirement to have a performance bond to be eligible to bid on the rural school bus contract, and that was removed just a few days before the closure of the tender - in fact, so soon before the closure of the tender, I've heard, that some people didn't realize that it had been removed and didn't bid the contract.
I'd like to know who made the request to remove the security bond from the people bidding on the contract, and what security do we have now to ensure compliance with the contract, if we have no bond?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The busing implementation committee, which was struck to respond to the Matrix report on school busing, recommended that the bond criteria be removed from the Whitehorse tender. In order to be consistent with the urban tender, the department decided to remove the criteria for performance bonds from the rural tender as well, in order to encourage local bidders, Mr. Speaker.
The issue of removing the performance bond was also supported by the busing committees in place, and I'm very happy that many rural contractors were able to bid on and receive busing contracts to supply the service in their communities.
Question re: Shipyards residents, relocation
Mr. Cable: I have some follow-up questions on the Shipyards negotiations. The minister talked about negotiated purchases. Could he tell us who's driving the negotiation train? Is it the City of Whitehorse or the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Government of Yukon, Mr. Speaker, is committed to speaking with the Whitehorse waterfront residents about their issues and their needs. Most of the residents live on Commissioner's lands. Only a few, I believe - or at least there are a few buildings - are on what are now City of Whitehorse lands.
Mr. Cable: I was listening to a talk-in show on the radio and one of the Shipyards residents was giving the impression that he wasn't about to move. "Good luck to the government. "
What is the government's position with the use of its expropriation power, if, in fact, some of these people don't want to leave?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, as the member knows, unless the resident has their interests covered through land claims negotiations, the residents are not living on land they own. Consequently, the government will have to assess its options if a reasonable discussion and negotiation cannot produce results. At this point, I think it would be counter-productive to talk about bottom lines before the discussions have even started.
Mr. Cable: Well, I think it's productive to the members on this side of the House to determine how far the government's going to go. It has the power under the Yukon Lands Act to move on the people living down there. Is this one of the options it would be prepared to use if, in fact, these people decide that they want to stay?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, like members in the opposition, for someone who would want to see the government looking tough and sounding as if it was going to be quite brutal, then one would want to talk about bottom lines right now, so I can understand precisely where the member is coming from. Unfortunately, I can't agree that that is the appropriate option. I think that the discussions with residents should take place first.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITOR
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, if I could just interrupt for a minute, I notice that we have a former MLA, David Millar from the Klondike, who has joined us in the gallery. Please help me welcome him.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, 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 acting House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 9 - First Appropriation Act, 1998-99 - continued
Office of the Ombudsman - continued
Chair: Committee is dealing with the estimates. We are on general debate of vote 23, office of the ombudsman. Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Cable: When we concluded on Thursday, I was busy asking the Government Leader some questions on what should and should not be in the public domain, and one of the issues we were discussing was whether, in the generic sense, there was money provided by the government to a proponent outside of a program, for something such as the money that's gone to Faro on various occasions. The documents are usually made public and I believe he was going to think about whether that, as a general proposition, is acceptable to him.
Could he indicate whether he's had any further thoughts on the matter?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I haven't had a chance to advance my thinking on the subject since last Thursday afternoon, but I do appreciate the basic point the member is making and I agree with the notion that there should be a clearer sense of what should be public and private within departments.
The member asked me whether or not I share the view with him that the Access to Information Act should be a shield, as opposed to - I'm not sure I want to say "sword" but the analogy is appropriate - whether or not it was supposed to protect public servants from releasing information or whether it was supposed to be a tool which people use to extract people's legitimate right to information about their government. I think he and I agreed on the general intention of that legislation.
Clearly, the commitments that we've made in our own action plan, or our own commitments in the last election, are a reflection of a needed desire to review what is public and what is private and hopefully we get some independent view of information currently held by government and do some analysis of what can be made public and what should be routinely made public when people ask for it, so that we don't have to go through all the hurdles associated with the Access to Information Act in every case.
So, the member and I agree on that basic objective and in our mandate we have every intention of living up to the objective of reviewing public and private information.
Mr. Cable: I had referred to the federal information commissioner's report during the debate the other day and I'd like to refer the minister to the 1996-97 report. The federal information commissioner, over the course of a couple of years, made various comments on the Department of National Defence's handling of the information relating to the Somalia inquiry. Some of the information was solicited under the inquiry itself and some was solicited under the federal access to information legislation.
He has made quite a scathing report of the Department of National Defence's actions. I'm not going to read very much of this, but I would like to read some of the bullet points he makes in analyzing that particular series of events.
He said, "Canadians were given a sad lesson in what public officials are capable of doing to undermine the public's right to know." One of the bullet points was: "Giving access requests the narrowest possible interpretation so that by slavish adherence to the letter of the law, the spirit of the law was violated."
Another comment was, "Ignoring response deadlines to suit the convenience of senior officials, to facilitate lengthy sign-off processes and to enable media response lines to be developed."
Another one, and the last one I would like to read - and there were quite a few of them, actually - he said, "Following a philosophy in censoring responses to access requests which states, 'When in doubt about the likely consequences from disclosure, keep it secret,' a philosophy specifically rejected by the federal court."
I know the minister has said that A Better Way had given him a warm glow, so this report, too, if he'd like to take it to bed with him some night, I'm sure would give him another warm glow.
I would like to refer him to the chapter entitled, "Tips," where the commissioner is looking over the various reasons for delays and he poses the general question, "What causes delays in the first place? The principal reasons are these ..." and he outlined six of them. The last one is, "... insufficient knowledge of and training in the requirements of the Access to Information Act."
Let me suggest to him that his party's platform, where they talk about doing just that, is to be commended. Let me commend to the minister that his government move ahead with the training of public officials in knowledge of the act and in the giving of responses, treating the act as a sword for people who want information, rather than a shield for the government.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, Mr. Chair. Again, I agree with the member's basic assertion that the act should be used as a vehicle to ensure that information is made public and not a device to frustrate people or shield public servants unnecessarily.
I do know that using the access to information legislation and the process outlined in that legislation is often used to frustrate people. Information that should be and could be routinely delivered is only delivered after people go through this long, convoluted process. The process itself is designed, clearly, for those hard-to-measure areas, where some thoughtful consideration is given to private and public interests and that balancing act. What often happens, though, is that if some people want anything at all, they have to go through that process, and I don't believe that that was the intention of the legislation. The legislation itself was to outline a process that was meant to handle the tough requests.
There is a concern about what should be routine information, and I don't mean by that just information that is routinely requested and given, but routine information meaning the standard bureaucratic information that should be delivered because there are no sensitive policy issues or no Cabinet secrecy or no private disclosure involved - those things that might cause complications in an access-to-information request. What I've discovered - and this is a long-outstanding concern over many, many years of associating with government departments in one way or another - is that often, departments and department personnel do not know what is routine. Particularly when politicians ask for information, they clam up, and that's not the way it should be. If we had a clearer definition of what's public and what's private - or, let's put it this way, what's routine public information that should be given, and what other class of information should be run through the access-to-info mill - that would help matters an awful lot, I think, in terms of making the government more open to the people.
Hence, the commitment to do that analysis, because I think it would be a useful process for all of us, and it would also be useful as a training tool for public servants.
As I say, we are going to proceed with that commitment. I confess I have not put enough time and attention to that. I have been very preoccupied with other things, but this is an important issue. We did commit to doing it in this term, and we will do it in this term.
Mr. Cable: I don't want to belabour the point. I think the Government Leader and I are on the same wavelength. Eventually the attitude of the public service toward information requests will come to bear on the ombudsman's budget, with his information commissioner hat on, so that if in fact there is misuse of the act and an increase in the number of requests that go to him, then assumedly he will want his budget increased.
Has the Government Leader, or any of his ministers, had any conversations with the ombudsman in the setting up of the ombudsman's budget? Has he provided a forecast of files that he anticipates will be opened? Has the work load gone up in the last few months?
There was a gentleman who filled the position on an interim basis. I think everybody was anticipating a huge bulge of these requests then, later on, the bulge would disappear and they would come down to a more or less constant level of new files. Has there been any projection on new file openings, either under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act or the Ombudsman Act?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, in answer to the first question, Mr. Chair, I've had no discussions whatsoever with the ombudsman - or the incumbent in his role as privacy commissioner - personally and I have no knowledge of the pressures on his office, outside of that which I've received through the Members' Services Board.
I have not made any independent inquiries of him at all, but Members' Services Board was given some review of the operations of that office over the past year, and I think it would be fair to say that Members'Services Board came to the conclusion that we needed to have further discussions with the ombudsman about the case files, ultimately about his budget, but also about any potential changes to legislation that he may be recommending. But I have not had any - I don't know about the ministers, I don't think so - other independent inquiries into the operations of that office.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I'd just like to get into this debate for awhile because I've been listening quite closely, as the Liberal critic and Government Leader have been, to the debate on access to information and what should be made available and what shouldn't and how the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act plays in.
My interpretation is that the act ought not to be used except in very rare occasions if government is being forthcoming with information. The Government Leader says he hasn't had time to deal with it yet, and I appreciate that. I would suggest to him that he does find time to deal with this in his mandate because I think it's far more frustrating - and the Government Leader ought to know because he's been on both sides of this House - when you're on the opposition benches than when you're in government when trying to deal with government departments.
I don't think the major problem is departments not being familiar with the act. I think it's just the mode of operations of governments in general, and I'm not just singling out the Yukon territorial government. I mean all governments. I'm learning more and more every day as I spend more time in this role of opposition, trying to satisfy constituents' desires by getting information from the departments.
Rather than the department saying, when you ask for information, "Well, we'll see what we can do to get that for you," the first answer seems to be no. Then, when you pursue it, they say, "Well, we have to clear it here, we have to clear it there." It seems as if they are stalling. I'm sure the member opposite knows; he was in opposition.
The bureaucracy doesn't change just because the philosophical leadership changes. They operate on their own agenda and they're set in the ways they do things. So, it needs to be quite clearly defined.
It is frustrating. I think the first approach by the department appears to be that the opposition is looking for something to embarrass the government when in 90 percent of the instances, that's simply not the case; it's just to satisfy a request by a constituent as to why something happened or why a certain program has been administered in such and such a way.
I don't believe that it's that big an interpretation as to what should be public or what should not be public information. There are things that need to be kept confidential and that's what the privacy act is all about; so those things wouldn't be released. But the majority of information is being sought by the general public and I guess that we probably seek more on behalf of the general public than the general public does itself, unless it's a very specific instance when they're looking for personal information or something like that. But just information of a general nature does get frustrating.
I guess probably why it's highlighted is, I've been two days now trying to get information on a program that should be available just by asking for it, in my opinion. Yet half the department is still checking whether it's all right to release it to me. And that's very frustrating, and it's very frustrating to my constituents who called me last week asking me to get them more information on this.
So, I think there needs to be a change of thinking in departments and I hope the Government Leader will work on that. I know he never hopes to be back on this side of the House, but he will find himself here again some day and he will be dealing with the same frustrations as he was the last time he was here. So, in the interest of all of us in this Legislature, I hope that there will be some thought given in the departments as to how they do business with the public and what really needs to be private information and what not. I think if the attitude of the departments changes just because an opposition member is seeking information, it's not necessarily always to embarrass the government.
There are times - most of the time - when we are making legitimate requests to fulfill our duties as MLAs.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I agree with the member. I guess the heart of the access to information legislation is that, even when the point of the inquiry will end up embarrassing the government, it is still legitimate, and that is what we have to make sure we aspire to.
With respect to the atmosphere in the public service, I think, from my experience, the public servants feel intimidated by even seemingly routine calls for information. I remember when I was in opposition. Sometimes constituents could get information that I couldn't get. That's a reflection of peoples' fear in terms of dealing with Yukon politicians. Even the nicest people, such as our friend from Riverside, could, I am sure, face that same dilemma.
The challenge for us now is to set up a system that makes the rules clearer, so that we don't have to face this in the future. To the extent that we can, I would like to go through the process of starting to define, in each department, what should be public and private and involve the privacy commissioner and any other wise, experienced people who know something about the field. I think that would be quite appropriate.
If it does require changes to the legislation at some point, I can commit to the members opposite that we will, in the tradition set by the previous Government Leader, negotiate changes, so that there is three-party agreement if at all possible. I think that's the preferred approach. I would commit to that, as well.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Not seeing any, we will proceed to Office of the Ombudsman.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Ombudsman in the amount of $166,000 agreed to
On Information and Privacy Commissioner
Information and Privacy Commissioner in the amount of $41,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $207,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Chair: Is there general debate?
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Office of the Ombudsman agreed to
Executive Council Office
Chair: Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have a few opening remarks, then we can get into some exchange between us. This budget forecasts increased overall spending of $1.8 million for the Executive Council Office during fiscal year 1998-99. The net budget, excluding recoverables, is $174,000 lower than the main estimates tabled last year. Branches have cut costs in order to achieve a 2.5-percent savings.
Forty-eight percent of ECO's budget flows through 100-percent recoverable programs. The increased forecasts in recoverable programming are related to a number of individual agreements with the federal government in ECO branches land claims, aboriginal languages, French languages, and the Bureau of Statistics.
The budget proposed recognizes that, while the government must continue to contain costs, priority initiatives must be supported. This budget provides the necessary funding to support key areas.
Those are the completion and implementation of land claims and self-government agreements, the transfer of federal programs to the Yukon, the work of the Cabinet commissions on Yukon forests, energy and the development assessment process, and public participation in government decision making.
With respect to land claims, Mr. Chair, this budget continues to demonstrate the government's clear commitment to concluding outstanding land claim and self-government negotiations. The proposed increase in spending of $1,036,000 was primarily to support implementation projects as committed to in the agreements already signed. It also provides the level of staffing and operating costs necessary to support negotiating groups working to complete the land claim and implementation agreements. This budget will also support the effective implementation of agreements and the building of strong, respectful government-to-government relations with Yukon First Nations.
With respect to devolution and intergovernmental relations, the government wants Yukon people to have a greater say in the future of our resources. We need to manage these resources in a way which benefits all Yukon people both now and in the future through the promotion of sustainable development. We are pursuing this goal through discussions with the federal government and First Nations on the devolution of natural resource responsibilities to the Yukon.
Leading these discussions to successful conclusion, in concert with the departments, will be the principal task of the intergovernmental relations branch in the Executive Council Office. There is $750,000 forecasted for this branch. It has only recently been fully staffed and will be able to focus its full attention on the tasks ahead, supporting devolution and strengthening relations with First Nation governments and other governments in Canada and abroad. This branch will also ensure that Yukon's interests are effectively heard and listened to on national and circumpolar issues affecting Yukon people.
The Cabinet commissions were established to focus on Yukon people's priority areas of energy policy, the development assessment process, forestry policy and Yukon hire. The Yukon hire commission has completed its work. Its report has been distributed and is available to all Yukon people. The government is currently reviewing the commission's recommendations and will be responding shortly.
The amount of $424,000 is allocated to the Cabinet commissions. This is a reduction from last year, reflecting the conclusion of the Yukon hire commission work offset by some additional resources for the conclusion of the development assessment process work that is now non-recoverable.
With respect to public communications, the last budget established a public communication services branch; this year, the Bureau of French Language Services has been combined with the public communication services to ensure coordinated communications in both languages.
Under capital expenditures, they are forecasted to decrease $554,000. The reduction reflects the conclusion of the Land Claims Secretariat's contribution to the land information management system. This is the large capital system development project headed up by Government Services. In support of the far-reaching implications for land management, the Land Claims Secretariat included funding for this project in its previous two years' implementation plans. The secretariat's contribution is now complete.
Other expenditures for capital are minimal and support the replacement of worn out or obsolete equipment.
If members would like to engage in some discussion on some general matters, we perhaps could do it now.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Government Leader for his overview of the Executive Council budget for this year. I'll have questions in several areas here as we proceed. I'll ask a few now and let my colleagues get into the debate as we go along.
The minister said in his overview that the net O&M budget for the Executive Council Office is $174,000 lower than the forecasted estimate. Hopefully, when he gets up to respond, he can tell us where those savings are going to be, because, when I look at the budget figures on page 2-4, I see there's some reduction in "other." I don't know what "other" stands for, but I see his personnel costs are up quite dramatically. Now, I know some of that will be recoverable. And transfer payments are up quite dramatically - well, not quite dramatically: $800,000, a 43-percent increase.
And, as the minister said, a lot of the money in his office is recoverable, and we will go through that.
I believe my colleagues asked the other day if we were going to get the ministerial travel when we got into this debate this afternoon, and I believe the Government Leader said that he would be providing us with that when we got into debate. I would appreciate getting that as soon as possible so we can have a look at it.
I want to explore some of the areas with the Cabinet commissions that the minister spoke of when he gave his overview, and the level of staffing at the Land Claims Secretariat, and what he sees as the total role of the public communications - the reorganization of the public communications branch that he has now: the reorganized public communications services program.
Also, when the minister gets up, if he could tell us if there's been any change in the organizational chart of the department. I understand that the position of ADM has not been refilled. I would like to know from the minister what is happening with that position and if it's his intention to fill it during this fiscal year or exactly what is going to happen to it.
I also would like the minister to tell me what has happened to the staff of the local hire commission. There was a deputy commissioner there. I believe he was on contract. Is the contract now over and done with? If he could just give us an overview as to what has happened to the staff.
Mr. Chair, I think that, rather than to load the minister down and try to get it all at once, we'll just take it a bit at a time and let him respond to that first.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, a few things to begin. First of all, I've just handed over the travel lists for the member's information from April 1997 to February 1998.
The member asked the question about the reduction in O&M. There are any number of ways that could be characterized, of course, as the member knows, because there are increases and decreases throughout the department. In general, one could account for the reduction and the decision not to staff a position while the incumbent is on secondment for the ADM position, and also a reduction in contract services budgets throughout the department.
When we get into each individual line item, the member will see some reductions and some increases, and I can explain them as we go. They'll be pretty self-explanatory.
The decision to combine public communications with French language services was, I think, a sensible one. Given that the responsibilities to communicate in French and English are clearly outlined in our legislation and policy, it made sense to combine the two services, even though they don't have precisely the same mandate. The translation services mainly provides translations for everything from some public communications to translating detailed government documents. The fact that the two are combined, I think, allows us some efficiencies and even some savings.
I'm hunting here for local hire commission stuff.
I have to find out where they precisely went. The person on contract, of course, is not working as part of the commission any longer, but as far as the staff are concerned, on
e applied for and became the director of public communications. I don't know where the other one went. I would have to find out.
Mr. Ostashek: That's quite all right. I should've maybe rephrased my question, but they have been dispersed, and if I hear the Government Leader right, the deputy commissioner's position, which was filled by contract - the contract is now complete. The Government Leader is indicating yes.
The Government Leader also said he's not going to refill the assistant deputy minister position. Can he give me some background as to why?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the old assistant deputy minister, of course, was a very capable person and is now doing Finance and has now found even greater challenges in her new job, but in order to meet the reductions that were being requested of all departments, we made a decision not to fill this position at this time, or not in this fiscal year and not at least until the end of the term of the secondment. But it was only in the desire to seek some savings that that decision was made.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, for them to save $174,000, she was well-paid.
Mr. Chair, I'm very reluctant to mention people's names in this Legislature, so I'm going to try to get around it and see if I can get the Government Leader to understand what I'm talking about without me mentioning a person's name specifically.
I understand there's a person who is now in the Executive Council Office who has been seconded from the Department of Education who is doing some kind of work for the department, but the people who raised the issue with me didn't know what it was. If that person's position is in the chart, could the Government Leader point it out to me so I'd know what position it is. If he understands what I'm talking about, could he give me an explanation?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I can think of two potential candidates the member might be talking about. One is now the director of public communications who was, at one point, in - Is that the person? No. The only other one I can think of has been working on projects respecting Anvil Range and devolution. Is that the person?
I don't know if they are specifically in the chart or not, but that person is working on the so-called Anvil Range file, as well as working primarily on the technical details supporting devolution.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay, I thank the minister for that, and without having to get into the person's name, we've been able to communicate back and forth.
The concern raised with me was that this person doesn't come into work all the time and that he works out of his home. Is the complaint correct, or does this person have an office within the building? You know, what actually is his job? Could the minister, maybe after the break or tomorrow, bring forward the terms of reference of the job that this person is filling? Could he answer the question: is he working out of the building, or is he working out of his home?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I frankly don't know. I see lots of him. I always assume that he has an office someplace and he's working out of an office, but if he's working out of his home, I'll find out.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I appreciate that, Mr. Chair, because I don't know either, and the person that raised it with me doesn't know, so I would look forward to that.
Just staying on the organizational chart of the department, is the person who is filling the intergovernmental relations position the person that was hired last year from British Columbia? Is that the person that's filling that job?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The person, who is now the assistant deputy minister ,was hired last year and was from British Columbia most immediately. Prior to that, of course, he was the director of renewable resources at DIAND in Whitehorse.
Mr. Ostashek: So that's the one assistant deputy minister, and the other one has been eliminated, or is at least not being filled, because there were two assistant deputy ministers on the flow-chart that I have here - one at the head of Land Claims Secretariat and another one that intergovernmental relations reported to. Am I correct in assuming that one of those is a position that's not going to be filled?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think there were three ADMs in the Executive Council Office. One was the assistant deputy minister or the chief land claims negotiator position. One was the assistant deputy minister for intergovernmental relations, and one was the assistant deputy minister responsible for administrative services and had all the five director positions reporting directly to her. Now they report to the deputy minister.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay, I'd just like to get this clear. The Government Leader said earlier in the debate that that position wasn't going to be filled for this year. It seems to me it's been eliminated from the department completely. It's off the flow-chart.
Is it the intention of the Government Leader not to refill that position next year or the year after?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Certainly, for the term of the secondment, it is the department's intention not to fill the position. That's two years, I believe. I can check for the exact term, but it will be our intention not to fill the position. I will check with the department if my information is any different from that.
Mr. Ostashek: So, then, if I read this flow-chart properly, the position that's been eliminated is the assistant deputy minister position, the chief Land Claims Secretariat, who was the deputy minister at the time when I was in there. I just find it a little odd because, on the same line as assistant deputy ministers, we have directors. Maybe the Government Leader can explain that to me. I just don't follow it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, essentially, Mr. Chair, my understanding of the department organization now is that it has a flatter organizational structure, rather than a more pyramidical structure. The reason why the chief land claims negotiator and the ADM for intergovernmental relations are on the same line as the director is that they all report directly to the deputy minister. Instead of having three ADMs reporting directly to the deputy minister, and then the directors reporting at various levels to an ADM, they just now report directly to the deputy minister, who also is the Cabinet secretary.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay, well, I appreciate that it's a flatter line, but I guess my concern is the payscale. Is there a different payscale for the ADMs, who are reporting directly to the deputy minister, than there is for the directors, or are they all on the same payscale?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I wouldn't think so, Mr. Chair. I would suspect that the ADM payscale is higher than the director payscale.
Mr. Ostashek: I guess that causes me some concern, because it doesn't seem like the workload is any different from what the directors have, and yet we have two different payscales. I may be wrong in that, but there doesn't seem like there's that much difference in the workload, according to the flow-chart.
I'm not going to make a national issue out of it, but I would just think that that may cause some morale problems within the department.
Let me just speak a little about devolution here, and let some of my other colleagues get in.
The target date for devolution, the last we heard from this government, was April 1 of this year. When, or is there a new target date for the devolution of the DIAND programs to the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, quickly, with respect to the organization chart, it does not denote "workload". I mean, the fact that they all report to the deputy minister together does not mean they are necessarily doing the same amount of work. The chief land claims negotiator has a large organization and huge responsibilities reporting to them. For example, the director of the public communications services has only got a few people: the director for policy and maybe one or two people - I don't know, but just the very few. It's not supposed to give an indication of the size or complexity of the job.
With respect to devolution, we are intending to proceed this year. We are trying to target June for an overall agreement with the federal government on all large outstanding issues, and we're now targeting the end of this year for the formal transfer agreement to take place. If all goes well, we may be looking at the prospect of bringing forward reference legislation this fall to assume the federal regulatory regime in the event that the transfer takes place between legislative sittings.
Certainly it is proving to be a very complicated and difficult task but, as far as I am aware, the federal government is still onside and we are still proceeding.
Mr. Ostashek: I have one more question here and then I'll let my colleagues get in. The bureau of management improvement - is that position filled now? What is happening? What is the bureau of management improvement doing now and are all positions within that part of the department full?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, in general terms, the bureau of management improvement is essentially the internal audit function of the government and still performs any obligations under the service improvement program. The audit work of the internal auditor, of course, proceeds. We just recently tabled the government's audit under the Environment Act, and that has not changed.
That responsibility has not changed. To my knowledge, we did not replace the position of the person who last held the position. We did not replace that position, and the deputy internal auditor has assumed the responsibilities of the branch. We feel that that is quite manageable and, with the workplan required, we can live within those means.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, as the Government Leader knows, it's been a very difficult position to try to fill with qualified people with the auditing background. Some of the work in the past has been done by contract auditing when we get to the financial auditing of various departments.
Is that the same method that's being used in the department now? Are they contracting out the internal audit work when it comes to financial audits of various programs or departments? And would the Government Leader be prepared to table a workplan for the department?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, Mr. Chair, many of the financial audits are contracted and we will continue to perform some of the necessary work through that mechanism. The internal auditor now has a full agenda but, with the contract services, we believe we can meet the needs of the government as well as provide a useful service.
The workplan. Yes, we can table the workplan for this year and for next.
Mr. Cable: I'd like to explore what's going on with the development assessment process. The organization chart that accompanies the budget shows a line of command from the commissions up to the deputy minister and, of course, on to the Government Leader. Are there any other participants in this process that would report to any other reporting line other than the one that's shown on the organization chart? Are there people negotiating the development assessment process legislation other than those located in or reporting to the Cabinet Commission on the Development Assessment Process?
Mr. Livingston: Mr. Chair, the lead role for negotiations of the development assessment process with the other two parties - with the Council of Yukon First Nations and with the Government of Canada - resides in the commission in the position of the deputy commissioner. He has represented the government on an ongoing basis since the formation of the Cabinet commission roughly 15 months ago. We are, of course, a team of three within the Cabinet commission - three staff members including the deputy commissioner. We do work, though, on an ongoing basis with other departments.
There is an interdepartmental working group that includes virtually all departments that may, in one way or another, be affected by the implementation of the development assessment process. When I say "affected by the implementation of DAP," I'm including both as a potential proponent as well as a department that may, in some way, shape or form, be involved in decisions that the Yukon government as a decision body would take or in any regulatory matters that the Yukon government might be involved in.
So, the short answer is that it is the deputy commissioner that is representing the Yukon government at the negotiating table with the other two parties.
Mr. Cable: Just to be certain what the commissioner just said - so, there are no other lines of communication other than through the deputy minister responsible for the DAP commission and up through the Cabinet secretary and then to the Government Leader? Is that what the commissioner is saying? These interdepartmental working groups are reporting through the commission?
Mr. Livingston: Yes, that's correct.
Mr. Cable: Now it's my understanding that, when the previous administration left power some 16 or 17 months ago, the DAP legislation was nearly ready to go, but that there have been some changes in approach to the development of that legislation. Am I correct in that assumption?
Mr. Livingston: No, that would not be the case and that's not the case on a couple of different fronts and I'd like to just refer initially to a couple of exchanges that took place in this House in March of 1995, and I think that this is, of course, roughly, I suppose, about 17 or so months before the end of the last government's mandate. The umbrella final agreement, of course, was signed off in 1993. I believe it was November or March. I don't recall the exact month, but the development assessment process, of course, was to proceed at that point in terms of the design and negotiation between the three parties.
March 1, though, the member, Mrs. Firth, asked the Government Leader of the day, Mr. Ostashek, about the progress that had been made on the development assessment process and its design. A number of interesting things were stated. This was on March 1. Her comment was, "My concern is the government is dragging its feet with respect to this issue. The Government Leader has indicated that land claims and the secretariat will be doing something, which indicates that they have not started doing anything yet." As the exchange unfolds, the member of the opposition indicates that she'd like to see the government take a lead role in doing something. She notes that the minister says that they're doing something, but can't tell the House what. Mr. Ostashek commented that all affected departments will have a role.
She goes on to ask the minister if there is one individual who's been given the authority to coordinate these activities, and Mr. Ostashek's reply was, "I'm certain that someone within the Land Claims Secretariat has been given responsibility. I wasn't sure who."
The indication is that there was not a very clear direction within government at that time. It was followed up only about a week later, March 9, with Mr. McDonald asking Mr. Fisher what was happening. There's some evidence that maybe some progress had been made over the course of the week because, by this point, when Mr. McDonald asked Mr. Fisher to elaborate on what his department was doing and what was happening with respect to DAP, Mr. Fisher replied that there is now a three-person team from government, headed up by the Executive Council Office, with a member from Economic Development and a member from Renewable Resources.
He also indicates later in the question that we expect that the process should start soon.
The fact of the matter is that, when we came to government, we were petitioned by a number of groups - by the mining community, by miners, by the conservation community, and so on - that they had been left out of the process, they did not have confidence about where DAP was going at that time, and they were certainly looking for, essentially, what we had talked about, and that is one process, one window, that would provide a predictable and an efficient process to examine how developments would proceed.
So there was a significant amount of work that needed to be done. One of the first things that we did, of course, was to establish the non-governmental working group to examine and ascertain what Yukon interests were, in fact, at the time. So, we sat down with the Klondike Placer Miners Association, we sat down with the Yukon Conservation Society, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce and the Yukon Association of Communities, in order to define, as best we could, what Yukon interests were and what the common ground was so that we could, in fact, proceed in a manner that would reflect Yukon interests in the design of the development assessment process.
So, there was, at that point, a significant amount of work to do. We in the commission have done the major portion of pulling together those interests into what we feel fits within the framework of the umbrella final agreement because, as far as we're concerned, it has to fit within the four corners of that agreement.
Our government intends to continue working at this until we get it right because, frankly, whether it's conservationists in the Yukon or whether it's the mining community, they have expectations about what DAP is going to look like. So, we're still at the table because we're not satisfied with some significant matters at the table at this point.
Mr. Cable: Let me approach it from a little different direction. It's my understanding, and the commissioner touched on this a moment ago, that the mining industry sure would like a one-stop shop for assessment and permitting. And it's my view that that's not what the DAP process is. It's an assessment process. Is that the view shared by the commissioner?
Mr. Livingston: What I think I hear the member opposite doing, in a sense, is mixing up the assessment and the regulatory processes. We recognize some of the inefficiencies that are occurring under the current regime, particularly for larger mining projects where they will go through CEAA, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, as administered by DIAND, and only once that assessment process is completely signed off will the Water Board even entertain looking at the project and begin its assessment and then its licensing process.
Certainly one of the frustrations that exists with the mining community, and I'm looking more now at the hardrock mining community, is that this does not allow things to proceed in as timely a manner as they might otherwise proceed.
So, it's certainly our intention to design the process in such a way that all of the assessment occurs in one window and that the regulatory functions will follow from that.
Mr. Cable: I think the member and I are on the same wavelength. He's using the term "regulatory" and I'm using the words "permitting". Just so we're sure that we're on the same wavelength, is it this government's view that the UFA and the DAP process and the DAP legislation will speak solely to assessment the way it's set up right now, rather than permitting or "regulatory regime", which is the term used by the commissioner? Is that the base starting point we're working from?
Mr. Livingston: Yes, that's accurate. There need to be linkages, of course, between the two, because if they're going to work reasonably well together, there needs to be some thought given to that. In order to address the concerns of the mining community - and I would suggest of all Yukoners - it's important that, in order for us to have a predictable process, we figure out how those two processes will play with each other. If we're not going to simply be extending the assessment period and the permitting period even longer, we need to ensure that relevant questions are asked one time in the process, rather than multiple numbers of times. Certainly, that is what we're intending to do. That, I believe, reflects, as well, the spirit that's in the umbrella final agreement; that we end up with a one-stop shop or, at least, a one-window process, that developers and any intervenors are able to move through in a fairly clean kind of a fashion. That's what our intention is.
Mr. Cable: I think that, as the commissioner indicated in a previous question, the issue of one-stop shopping has come up since he was appointed the commissioner. Has there been any mandate change to reflect that desire to meld what are basically devolution issues with the development assessment process issues?
Mr. Livingston: The two matters are separate matters, of course. They do relate to each other in terms of responsibilities that government will have, because, of course, with the devolution of program responsibilities around resource management, for example, we anticipate that the management of lands and resources and the environment, as well, would tend to flow from the federal government to the Yukon government.
So, we see some change in roles that would take place along with devolution, but we don't see that the two matters are necessarily linked, at least in terms of the design of DAP and in our work to try to complete that process - the design work is what I'm referring to - and basically be able to sign that off.
Mr. Cable: Well, what I'm having some problems understanding is why there are the lengthy delays. If, in fact, we can double-track these negotiations and deal with the one-stop shop separately from the assessment process, which I assume we can do, why don't we have the DAP legislation on the table at the present time?
Mr. Livingston: Well, as I think the member is aware, given the current shakedown of responsibilities between the federal government and the Yukon Territory, the DAP legislation will be a federal piece of legislation, and we would anticipate presenting territorial legislation to this Legislature following the implementation of the federal legislation, assuming that devolution has not yet occurred at that point.
Mr. Cable: I'm not sure we're talking the same language here. It would be my guess - or my estimation anyway - from the outside looking in, or from the outside hearing in, that there is nothing wrong with getting a DAP board appointed and the legislation in place, and then sort of vesting it with powers later on.
I suppose we could have it looking after dogs if we wanted it to do that, if the appropriate funding was there. It appears, on the surface, anyway, that we're trying to put round pegs in square holes, and this is holding up the development of the legislation. What is the relationship between the commissioner's commission and the people that are working on devolution? Are they part of the working group? Do they report to the commissioner, or do they have a different reporting line?
Mr. Livingston: My responsibilities, of course, as Cabinet commissioner for DAP are for DAP and not for devolution. So certainly the people working for devolution aren't reporting to me; they're reporting to the Government Leader, who's responsible for the Executive Council Office. I can tell the member, though, that there is an ongoing working relationship between the deputy commissioner for the development assessment process and the assistant deputy minister for intergovernmental affairs, for example, who has some responsibilities around devolution and the Executive Council Office generally.
The suggestion that, somehow, we can get the Yukon development assessment board up and running prior to the framework legislation, or the legislation that provides the framework for its operation, and the regulations that would guide it in its deliberations, doesn't make sense to me, I guess, because one of the messages we've had very clearly from all of the NGOs that we've operated with is that we want a pretty clear set of guidance, of direction, for the development assessment process to be functioning. We don't want something that's kind of out there, not quite sure what its particular mandate is, and so on.
So I don't foresee that we'll establish a board until we get a bit closer, at least, to knowing what that final set of legislation is going to look like. I can say, though, that there have been some initial steps taken in terms of working with the other two parties and identifying people who are working, for example, in environmental assessment with the federal government, just as - I suppose we could call it - an exercise in making sure that we're talking the same language when we're talking about assessment, and so on.
In addition, the Yukon government has taken some initial steps in a six-step implementation plan that will take us through identifying all of the areas within the Yukon government that will, in one way or another, be part of the development assessment process, in terms of identifying the kinds of roles that they will play, being informed about the process, and so on. There will inevitably be some reassignments, or realignments, within the Yukon government in dealing with assessment. I'm not sure that dogs are necessarily a part of the picture, but there are some tasks that we're beginning to take a look at.
Mr. Cable: No, I wasn't suggesting the DAP board be set up before the legislation. What I'm suggesting is that permitting and assessment are two different issues. There is a desire, I know, in the resource industry and perhaps various other places that the permitting and assessment be melded, but I don't see any reason why they can't be melded after the fact, after the DAP board is up and running, but let me leave that for a moment.
On the devolution issues - perhaps I can put this question to the Government Leader on this one-stop shopping for resource applicants. Is it the government's view that there will be a residual federal interest in interprovincial and international waters - and also in international fish - that will still require a multi-step permitting process?
Mr. Livingston: We recognize, as is outlined in chapter 12 of the umbrella final agreement that talks about DAP, that there are trans-boundary matters that CEAA and the federal government will still play a role in. There's no question about that in our minds.
But we also know that the majority of project applications we anticipate will fall within the boundaries of the Yukon.
Mr. Cable: Okay, well back to the commissioner then. Just what is going on between his commission and the devolution people who are negotiating devolution? Is that part of the mandate that there be one-stop shopping? The product that we're going to see out of this commission, is that a one-stop shopping recommendation?
Mr. Livingston: Well, I'm going to answer that in two parts, Mr. Chair. One of the ways that we intend to address the notion of one stop or one window, if you like, for developers, for example, to come to us is by running a parallel track with the assessment process and with the permitting process.
We see, for example, the opportunity to bring a technical advisory committee into play early on in the assessment process to ensure a couple of things: one, that critical questions that they want to have answered and are critical for both the assessment as well as the regulatory processes can be answered up front. One of the problems that we've observed in other jurisdictions is a situation where all of the important questions aren't asked up front and what that does is basically serve to delay the whole assessment process. It tends to stretch it out. So we want, basically, to ensure that all of the critical players are involved at the opening stages.
That's one of the ways that we want to speed up the process, bring those time lines along, and also ensure that the process is not duplicated, that we do, in fact, have one window.
The matter of trans-boundary issues is a bit more complex because we increasingly lose jurisdiction, I suppose, as a Yukon government in that process but, nevertheless, we are asserting what we feel is quite clear under the umbrella final agreement - that there be a one-window assessment process. I'm working here to not betray, I guess, the confidences of the core table in this, so I'm giving consideration as I go here to what I can appropriately be talking about. We do have some understandings on trans-boundary issues already that will ensure that we have one window rather than more than one window, and this is in areas where we share some land claims areas with other jurisdictions.
Mr. Cable: Okay. Just so we don't wander off the topic. There's a one-window assessment and then, of course, there's the one-window applications assessment plus permitting.
What is the commissioner saying? The conclusion of the development assessment process legislation - the development of it - is contingent upon the conclusion of devolution discussions, or it's not? Are there are two tracks or one track?
Mr. Livingston: The design and the completion of the development assessment process legislation is not contingent on devolution. If we have devolution, it will look somewhat different, because the Yukon government will play a greater role. If we don't have devolution, we still intend to have a development assessment process that does the job it's intended to: provide one window and be a predictable, a timely and an efficient process.
Mr. Cable: Well, okay, back to the Government Leader on devolution. It appears increasingly that there won't be early resolution of one or two of the claims. One or two of the First Nations, we think, will go beyond - what is it - the June 1998 target date that he gave the opposition leader for devolution - and perhaps even the December 1998 target date for formal transfer.
Is this government prepared to enter into and conclude the formal transfer without the conclusion of all the First Nation land claim agreements?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, we believe that we can provide comfort to those First Nations who have not yet achieved a final agreement - that their interests will not be adversely affected. Let me put it this way: we feel that we can cover off their interests even with a devolution agreement happening before their final agreements are settled. We believe the oil and gas arrangement is an example of that.
The MOUs that were signed between us in 1997 acknowledged that there can be devolution before land claims, as long as the First Nations' interests in negotiating a claim are not adversely affected. We believe we can do that. So, the answer, I suppose, is yes. We believe that there may well be a devolution before all claims are settled.
Mr. Phillips: I have some questions about land claims, while we're on that subject. There was a document that was circulated in the Carcross-Tagish-Marsh Lake area in recent weeks, from the Carcross-Tagish First Nation. I believe there was one, or maybe two, meetings that were held in the area. What it's about is a consultative process that's kind of started regarding section 24.7.0 of the umbrella final agreement, "Regional and District Structures", and 24.7.1 says a Yukon First Nation, Canada, the Yukon and Yukon municipalities may develop common administration or planning structures within a community, region or district of the Yukon, and these structures shall remain under the control of all Yukon residents within that district and include direct representation by the affected Yukon First Nations within the district.
I couldn't find anything else that explained exactly what was meant by that. So I have a few questions for the minister. I've had several calls from people in the Carcross area and Marsh Lake area who are concerned about what this means. In defence of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, they have issued a couple of notices - a concept proposal, which talks about what they would like to see, and they plan on holding future meetings. They even say that neither the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, or CAAPC - I'm not sure who that is - have gone beyond exchanging ideas and expressing a mutual interest in cooperation. Before carrying the concept any further, the CTFN and CAAPC realize the next step requires a broader dialogue about the scope of district governance with representatives from all area communities in the CTFN's traditional territory.
They talk about this including a lot of things. To highlight the combined opportunities present and stimulate discussion, the CTFN and CAAPC point to a number of possibilities and advantages of district governance, including greater opportunities and power to influence decision making at the district- rather than the municipal-type level of government, greater strength through unified purpose, goals, objectives, efforts and continuity, a common, equal voice to all communities and district residents, common administrative structure for issues of common interest, renewable and non-renewable resource management, development assessment process, economic development, lands issues, land-based planning jurisdiction, infrastructure, services, taxation, quality of life.
They want input from all residents affected at that local level, and they talk about a process. I just wonder if the Government Leader is aware of this consultation that's taking place, and my concern is, and what I've heard from the people in the area, is that they are not sure what that section 24.7.1 really means. What is the concept? What are we talking about here? Because we have, I think, hamlets in that area - the Mount Lorne hamlet, and the Carcross has a little community association. I don't believe Marsh Lake has very much at the present time.
I'm just wondering what is meant by this, and where are we going with this kind of thing. So, maybe the minister could put something on the record so I can get back to these individuals and maybe give them some idea of what was envisioned with this section and what the Carcross First Nation is talking about.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, I was not aware that the Carcross-Tagish First Nation was out consulting on what effectively are future local-service agreements between peoples. I admire their enthusiasm, given that they have not yet got a land claim agreement. I would think that that would be pretty much a necessary first step before we get too far down the road here.
Nevertheless, the project, overall, is led by Community and Transportation Services, to the extent that the Yukon government has any involvement at all. It's a variation on local service agreements where there is a First Nation and a municipal government in a particular area, where there is a desire to ensure a coordinated delivery of local services and the services are very much focused on what is happening locally in that area.
I suspect that the Carcross-Tagish First Nation is interested in beginning discussions on coordinated service delivery with local people soon. At least, I take it from what the member read out that they are interested in starting discussions very quickly, and ultimately, perhaps, sending a constructive signal that they want coordinated action, that they want good, constructive relations with other people in their area. Ultimately, I presume, from the tone of the letter that the member read out, that they are looking to strike some arrangements shortly after the land claims final agreement is signed and in force, so that they don't miss a beat. I'm assuming that's what's happening.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I think the Government Leader can appreciate the concern that some residents have when they read this and, in fairness to the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, they talk about having discussions in the community - going out and discussing this issue with the people. But when people see things like land-base planning, infrastructure services, taxation, and those kinds of things, they get concerned.
I have a few questions for the minister and I know he may not be able to answer them on his feet here today but maybe the minister could explain for the record, or by way of a legislative return - fairly quickly because I want to get back to these people fairly quickly - what is the meaning of section 24.7.1.
The other concern I've had raised is, some of the areas actually have representation already. I think the Mount Lorne area has elected representation. Certainly, Carcross does and Tagish does, but Marsh Lake doesn't. What about the non-organized areas? Who speaks for them in any kind of an arrangement such as this?
The issue that I heard in the Marsh Lake area is this: what about overlapping claims? I was under the impression, and so are many others, that it was the Kwanlin Dun First Nation whose traditional lands went out in that Marsh Lake area and now we're hearing from the Carcross-Tagish First Nation that their traditional lands are there. So, there must be an issue of overlapping claims there, and how is that sorted out?
Maybe the minister could provide a map of the Kwanlin Dun traditional land in those three areas - Carcross, Tagish and Marsh Lake - as well as the Carcross-Tagish First Nation map or any other overlapping maps in that area, so that residents can get an idea of what is meant by that, and m
aybe some assurances from the Government Leader today.
The Government Leader indicated, on his feet today, that the first step he thought would have been the settling of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation claim, and then they would maybe move into this region or district structure section of the UFA at a later date. There would be a consultative process, I would suspect, that would drive that. This seems to be the cart a little ahead of the horse with respect to that.
I think that's what's confusing some people. They're wondering if that is actually what is being talked about at the land claims table and if a deal is going to be cut where we hear it's settled in Carcross-Tagish First Nation in an announcement like was made at White River. I think the minister should clarify that. I assured people that I didn't think that would happen and I think that there would have to be some kind of a consultative process with all residents in the area and some kind of concurrence from the three or four different areas that they would want to move into this type of local governance.
Maybe the minister could, for the record, try and allay some of the fears of people who are worried that this thing might be a fait accompli before they have a chance to discuss it.
I understand there was a meeting in Carcross, a meeting in Tagish and maybe one at Mount Lorne. I'm not quite sure of this, but three of those areas have been talked to. Marsh Lake hasn't been yet, and I'm not aware if there is a meeting set up for Marsh Lake.
My concern is that before we go much further in these kinds of issues, not just in this area, but in all areas of the Yukon, we should be pretty clear with the general public about what section 24.7.0 really means and how it will affect people with their property taxes, decision making, local governance, who they vote for, what kind of powers they'll have and what this means.
It's not clear by this what it does mean, other than they can reach an agreement. Maybe an agreement is reached by a big, long consultative process and everyone agrees to the power they have. I don't know. Maybe the minister can enlighten us on that.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I certainly will look into the matter more carefully, Mr. Chair. I wasn't aware, as I said, that this discussion was going on in a community. I know - and the member can take this to the bank - that local governance on public lands will not be negotiated at the land claims table. That's not what the UFA is all about.
There is a commitment, I know, in the land claim that at some point in the future, if it makes sense, other forms of local governance can be discussed between First Nations and local governments and that the Yukon government will participate in some constructive way. But at no time will there be a First Nation final agreement which involves the design of local governance on public lands; that's something for the general public to debate and discuss.
There is no doubt that, particularly in the environs around Whitehorse, it's a hot topic. The public will not be dealt out of that discussion by the land claims negotiations. That won't happen; not with me here.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I think there's some urgency in clearing this matter up, as to exactly what this means. The way it was raised to me by a resident of Carcross and a resident of Tagish - and one at Marsh Lake, actually - is, "Is it true that under the land claims they're going to negotiate a deal with the Carcross-Tagish First Nation where they're going to be the ones who control and levy our taxes?"
That's the kind of fears that are out there with respect to not understanding exactly what this means. I said, well - after I got a copy of this sent to me - this doesn't say that, but it does talk about taxes, services and infrastructure and the kinds of things that we now get delivered from the territorial government in those areas.
So I can understand their concern about that changing in any way where they feel they don't have an opportunity to speak to the elected representatives who make those changes, or do rezoning or planning, or levying taxes, and people were concerned about that. I just want assurances from the Government Leader that in no way, shape or form will any changes be made to private and public lands that will affect the people who are on them or occupying them now, that third-party interests will be protected, and if there are any changes whatsoever at the land claims table dealing with section 24.7.0, the Regional District Structures, that there'll be an extensive consultative process where all residents have an opportunity to participate and agree one way or the other on what they want to see these new structures cover.
I'm not necessarily for it or against it right at the present time, because I'm like a lot of other people out there: I'm not sure what's meant by that and how the structures will be set up, or how the process will take place.
If the minister could just give me those assurances, I will, for the minister's benefit, get copies of these two documents - one is a background document, and one is a concept proposal - and provide them for the minister so his officials can look at what is being passed around in those areas where people have been raising questions.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I appreciate that. All I can guess is that what is being discussed is the equivalent of local service agreements. They're being discussed in every community where there's a land claims agreement. For example, determination is made as to which government is going to provide water/sewer services, or maintenance of a water/sewer service system, or grading of roads. There are any number of issues that require coordinated delivery and, in some cases, shared delivery.
These discussions also must include issues around who pays and how they pay.
So, certainly that is a common feature of the land claims implementation that I am fully aware of. I'm not completely aware of all that is being anticipated in this proposal.
With respect to property tax and the discussion around tax room or the ordering of taxation regimes, certainly governments with a land base have the ability to tax on their own land, on settlement lands. There is no anticipation whatsoever of First Nation governments being able to tax persons on public lands. That's not anticipated in the land claim agreement, and it's not being discussed at any tax table between governments at all.
Mr. Phillips: I'm sure some people will be happy to hear that, because that's what I thought was the case, and I conveyed that very same message to those people, that they will have the ability under category A lands - any developed lands, I guess - to tax whatever, but if you were public lands at Marsh Lake, Tagish or wherever, the taxing authority was the Government of the Yukon and would remain so.
I think that when the Government Leader reads this, he'll see that it envisions a little more than a sharing. It reads, "The culture, traditions and beliefs of the peoples of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation are toward dialogue, unity and sharing of the opportunities available to all residents in their traditional territory under a joint-district governance structure." So, they're looking at a governance structure, and they quote this section of the UFA to lay out that that's the area where they feel they have the ability to do that, and like I read out before, there are some pretty heavy-duty areas in there: renewable/non-renewable resource management, development assessment - that's pretty extensive - economic development, land issues such as land-based planning and jurisdiction, infrastructure, services, taxation and quality of life.
So, those are a little more than sharing issues such as water delivery and some of the things that the minister mentioned. This envisions being a little more involved than that, and that's why some of the residents of the area who have come out and spoken to me about it are concerned.
I guess my caution to the Government Leader would be to have a look at this, and it might be just fine, but if nothing else, there is really a lot of room right here for an educational process for the general public of what some of these sections of the UFA really mean.
Maybe the minister can answer this question: does the Government of the Yukon envision that section 24.7.1 would encompass these kinds of things? Is that what it thought, or were these kinds of things talking about the water delivery and the other less important issues that the minister mentioned? That would be my concern. What did we envision when we put this in the agreement, and is there some kind of a document that was the basis for the argument for this agreement, that it was negotiated in land claims? Maybe it would be useful to table the Government of the Yukon's concept or the federal government's or the First Nations' concept of what this meant, so that people would understand more clearly before this gets too far down the road and people get too opinionated one way or the other, what exactly it's all about. It might be useful to do that.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I can tell the member I really do wish that the Government of Yukon, the federal government and the Carcross-Tagish First Nation would actually sign a First Nation final agreement. I think that's a pretty important first step.
The provisions in the UFA, which talk about district government are visionary, long-term, way-down-the-road discussion -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Or more. Certainly the immediate needs, besides settling the First Nation final agreement, is to work out local service agreements for the categories of things that I've mentioned.
The Yukon government has made no policy decision, has not considered in any way giving up any authority under DAP. DAP has not even be created yet. We haven't got our final agreement. We're not talking about giving up responsibilities in these areas. One step at a time. I would encourage the First Nation and the local people, if they felt there were things that they wanted to do together, that if they felt they could do a good job of certain things, to work together. Certainly, that would turn a corner in the Carcross area, which would be much appreciated by all residents.
I'm certain of that. But, for the here and now, what the government is doing is simply trying to negotiate a land claim. We believe there is a substance of an agreement already that, with some further negotiations, we can finish. Then we get on to the next steps. I'll have to look into it further. I don't know what the Carcross-Tagish First Nation is pursuing specifically, but if it's simple cooperation, I applaud them. If it's something complicated that is many, many years down the road, that's certainly a decision that our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren are going to have to make at some point if they want to change government structures.
The land claims agreement does speak to the issue of district government. I don't dispute that for one moment. But, we should take things one step at a time. I would think that the first step is a First Nation final agreement. That's got to be the first step.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the concern that I'm hearing is that there is a perception out there that the Government of the Yukon is somewhat supportive of this proposal. I don't think anyone's been going around exactly saying that, but no one's going around saying that it isn't, either. So, I think it's important to get it on the record from the Government Leader that he wasn't aware of this proposal, first of all, and that support certainly is not there until such time as you get a chance to read it and know one way or the other if you feel you support it. The other thing is that there are a few steps along the road, as the minister has said. One is to settle the First Nations agreement.
Maybe if the Government Leader could also give us his assurance that, on any changes whatsoever to local governance of these areas, there will be full public consultation with the residents in those areas and that they will respect the views of the majority of the residents in the areas if that's the regime they wish to move into. No one really knows quite yet what we're talking about. It might be more on the water delivery thing, it might be mild and there might be no opposition to it, but I think that if it gets into taxation, infrastructure, planning and those kinds of things, you might find that, unless it's pretty clear, there might be a lot of opposition to it. The third assurance I would like to get from the Government Leader is that we somehow get out there and explain to both First Nation and non-First Nation what some of these clauses exactly mean,
or what we interpret them to mean.
When I had residents - lay people - call me, and they looked at this section, they read it - I mean, I've read it as well, and I can pass a copy of that over to the minister. It's a section out of the UFA, 24.7. It doesn't say any of these things, but it doesn't say no, either, so it's kind of pretty general - "remain under the control of Yukon residents, include representations and may develop common administrative or planning structures within a community." That's pretty broad stuff.
So, I think we have to kind of get a better understanding of exactly what was intended at the negotiating table with respect to this particular section and the recent document that's been circulated by the Carcross-Tagish First Nation. In fact, they say the agreements therefore frame the legal and political context of government-to-government relations between the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, Canada and Yukon, specifically section 24.7.1 to the Yukon umbrella final agreement, and stipulates for the concept of regional or district governance, and then it goes on to that section.
Obviously, they believe that that section gives them the power to at least establish some dialogue with respect to this new type of government. I mean, there's a whole ton of questions there. I think there are two difference governments at the Carcross corner. You have a hamlet there, and then Tagish. Are they molded into one with Carcross? It opens up a whole can of worms in how it works. Maybe we need, before it gets too far down the road, some further clarification before people get pretty germane ideas about what's going to happen, including myself. It seems to be a pretty comprehensive proposal.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I can only add for the member that, first of all, any new structure of government in the territory would have to get the concurrence of the majority of residents in the area. That's just a basic principle that I think we've all come to adopt.
Certainly, we're not proposing to change anything in the near future, to my knowledge, notwithstanding potential changes to the Municipal Act.
With respect to the creation of new forms of government, I think the Yukon government would also have to take a conscious decision if it wanted to give up some responsibilities in one way or another. That would be a decision that people would want to make very carefully, as well.
So, it's got to be double barrelled. The Yukon government has agreed to devolve responsibilities and the local government has to, in the first instance, be created by a majority of the residents, or supported by a majority of the residents, either voting or however it is done, but certainly the sense of a majority making the decision is an important one.
Again, I would only stress that I think what we should be focusing on, in my own personal view, is getting the foundation, which is the First Nation final agreement - negotiated, and then work out the issues one by one. Then as people mature, let the generations of people who come after us work to improve life and make it even better. We need to make sure we don't skip a step, and one pretty important step not to skip is getting the final agreement.
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to ask the Government Leader some questions with regard to devolution and I apologize if I missed the answer in his earlier remarks. The minister had indicated that the target date was June 1998 for an agreement and December 1998 for formal transfer of the programs. This seems to me to be a later date than what was originally targeted by the Government Leader and I'm wondering if he is able, as much as publicly possible, to give us an indication as to what the sticking points are or why the delay? What's taking this long? I understand that devolution is a complex process, but what's happening at the discussion table?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, there are a number of complex issues to address. Certainly, the human resource side is but one, but an important one to address, but there are others. We've already gone through the due diligence process last year to determine whether or not we felt that we were in the negotiating ball park for the ongoing operating costs of the program, and we determined at that time that, yes, we felt we were.
What remained outstanding, however, were the one-time costs associated with the transfer and they are being negotiated now. There is, for example, an assessment of the environmental liability and what the financial commitment would be from the federal government for that. There is an issue around the subject of, for example, forestry and doing an analysis of our forests. What are the one-time costs associated with doing that. We're getting baseline information.
These issues are tough issues because neither government wants to leave any money on the table, so to speak. We have to be satisfied that we can basically do the job. As I've indicated to the negotiators and in the House, we're not going to buy the transfer with our funds, but we're not going to be insisting on the program being generously funded. We want it to be properly funded and we're hoping that, by June, we will come to an agreement on those matters. Hence the basic core agreement, after which the rest are important administrative details.
So, we are currently targeting June, to see if we can make that date, with an agreement on all the administrative details to be pursued by the end of the calendar year. That's our target now. I feel that it is achievable.
There are a number of complicated negotiations going on currently, but we are applying resources and time, and if time and energy are factors, we will certainly be doing our share to advance the negotiations.
Ms. Duncan: The Government Leader's answer has given rise to a number of questions. I'd like to begin with some of those.
The Government Leader mentioned forestry. Is there any suggestion that forestry might be separated from the devolution process? Is there any suggestion of that, and what is his position?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, all land management responsibilities would be transferred to the Yukon at the same time. Our position has been - and this was consistent with the federal proposal of the summer of 1996 - that the transfer should take place at once because of the way the system is managed. There are resource management officers, for example, in the communities that are responsible for everything from small environmental reviews, issuing forest permits, land use permits and doing site inspections - and all in one office and represented by one person. This is not something you can divide up easily. So, for the sake of administrative efficiency, if nothing else, the proposal is to go with the entire regime.
It sounds big by our standards, but it's certainly not unmanageable in my view, and there have been devolutions, even in the last couple of years in Canada, that are a lot better. The harmonization of the tax regime, for example, in eastern Canada involved, I think, a couple of thousand employees. That was not considered impossible. Why can't we manage the transfer of 230 employees? Not that it won't be a significant event in our lives, but I don't think it's impossible.
Ms. Duncan: I would certainly agree that it's going to be a very significant event in Yukon's history and I look forward to discussing it further.
In that regard, the Government Leader indicated December 1998 for formal transfer. Presumably then the Yukon would have to have in place a number of pieces of legislation in order to accept this. Is the minister giving an indication that preparation of this legislation is under way and that we can look forward to a rather heavy fall legislative agenda?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, yes. I'm not certain how heavy the agenda will be or how much heavier the agenda will seem if we pass reference legislation. At this point, we're not looking at changing the federal regulatory regime, but we've done some analysis and, depending on the timing, we may well come forward in the fall with reference legislation. As much as people, I know, want to change federal legislation - or there are many people out there who want to change federal legislation - we're not engaged in the process of that kind of policy review at all. That's for another generation, another time, another Legislature.
What we're proposing to do now is simply assume the federal regime, get the transfer put to bed, and then in future years go through the process of consulting with the public, determining whether or not there are any changes required to the mining legislation or the lands legislation. That would be a process for the future. It's not a process that we're anticipating doing now.
Ms. Duncan: The Government Leader will forgive me if this is too simplistic an example. What I heard him just say was that, for example, if the federal government have put in place their timber harvesting regulations, then December 1998 happens and targets are met, forestry is transferred to the Yukon, we will just go with those federal regulations until such time as we have a consultation process or some method for changing them. Is my understanding correct with that simple example?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, what I'm referring to is the legislative framework: quartz mining act, placer mining act, Yukon waters act. This legislation we would simply adopt. The regulations pursuant to that and the policies we could change as we wish. But in terms of any major overhaul of federal legislation, we've not made any commitments to it, we're not planning to do it and it will not be done in this term of government. What we're trying to do is get the transfer.
Ms. Duncan: Yes, I thank the Government Leader for that response.
The Government Leader mentioned the policies. Then we would want to have forestry policies in place by December 1998, as I understand it from the minister's answer. Could he give us a time frame as to when the forestry policy might be available for public discussion then?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I think it's probably fair to say that we're much more advanced in the forest policy development than we would be in reviewing any other legislation. So we expect that we will have a forest policy, a forest management plan and, perhaps in this term and quite likely in this term, an act, a piece of legislation. But as far as the rest of the resource management legislation that is currently managing the land in the Yukon, we're not anticipating any changes in the next three years.
Ms. Duncan: Perhaps I'll follow up further on the specific forestry issues with questions to the forest commissioner.
I have just a couple more questions for the Government Leader. In the various responses to questions and so on, I have detected a sense of optimism. In fact - I don't have Hansard in front of me - I believe the Government Leader mentioned something late this year possibly with regard to Shakwak. Are negotiations or lobbying efforts regarding Shakwak assigned to an individual in Executive Council Office or is that assigned to an individual in Community and Transportation Services? Has someone been assigned that responsibility?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, it's essentially a joint effort, Mr. Chair. Certainly, pursuing a continuation of the Shakwak program is very high on our agenda. I think it's fair to be optimistic, from the signals we've received so far, that not this summer, but next year, we will see a renewal of the program.
What we are less optimistic about, but still pursuing very aggressively, is the opportunity to advance funding from that program into the current - not the current year; we haven't finished it yet - but into the fiscal year 1998-99. While we're less optimistic about that, there is some room for optimism, in that we understand that there will be a vote in May in the U.S. Congress. Both the Senate and the House - in the big omnibus budget bill - have identified funds for Shakwak in separate amendments to that bill. As long as those amendments aren't dealt out of the equation down there, in their complicated way of doing things, we may well see some advancing of those funds.
Now, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services will make some announcement before too long on the lobbying efforts, but they are certainly extensive and they involve both departments - both ECO and the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
Ms. Duncan: I'll look forward to that announcement. I don't think there's any more information on that specific proposal forthcoming at this point in time.
I just have one final question, and it relates to a comment made by the commissioner responsible for DAP. The commissioner mentioned TAG, or technical advisory group. A technical advisory group under the structure of energy, and the way that the Utilities Board works, and the way that the companies - Yukon Energy and Yukon Electrical Company work - the technical advisory group and the bill for the TAG group with respect to Aishihik, which is expected to be quite extensive, is ultimately, as I understand it, to be paid by the ratepayers.
Who would pay for the technical advisory group under the DAP process?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I'm not certain that there is a precisely similar body. The technical advisory group for Aishihik Lake was a body with a very specific mandate. It could pursue a lot of scientific information to determine the effects of water levels on Aishihik Lake, among other things, but I don't believe there is a precisely similar arrangement for DAP. There is a public, non-government focus group that they consult with, but perhaps the commissioner for DAP can provide more details on its makeup.
Mr. Livingston: I'm not sure exactly what the member is asking for regarding DAP, but certainly there are opportunities for public involvement. In the early stages, there will be public registry, for example, of any project applications and opportunity for involvement early on for the public in any assessment process.
Ms. Duncan: Perhaps I could redirect the question to the DAP commissioner, since he was the one who first raised it.
He made reference in response to my colleague about a technical advisory group. I'm just wanting the DAP commissioner, in short form, to elaborate on that precise format. If it's simply interested members of the public, that's one thing; however, if it's a technical group, such as the Government Leader's just noted is in place with Aishihik Lake - it's very technical and very scientific answers that are being generated - who pays is my question for that technical advisory group? In the case of Aishihik Lake, it's the ratepayers. Who pays under DAP?
Mr. Livingston: I think the member will be able to appreciate that I am not able to provide the member with an answer with that kind of detail in any definitive kind of way. The fact of the matter is that we haven't completed the negotiations under DAP. I can say in general terms that we do envision a technical advisory committee providing advice, and that that technical advisory committee would, in all likelihood, vary with the type of project that was before the assessment process, and that would be a regular feature of projects that require that kind of advice.
Chair: The time being 4:30, is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on the Executive Council Office.
Mr. Livingston: Mr. Chair, just to provide a little bit further clarification on the matter raised just prior to the break, the technical advisory committee that is envisioned, or at least that we envision for the development assessment process, is just that. It's one that will provide technical advice on information that will be solicited by the assessment board or the designated officer if, in fact, it was a more local type of a project. It's not a public forum. The technical advisory committee is not intended to be some type of a public forum that draws in a great deal of public information.
So, it would be reasonable to anticipate - and we have not got to this level and of course this is not just the Yukon government's work but, rather, the work of the core table, and eventually the development assessment board will provide some further direction in this - that it is the technical advisory committee that will be providing advice that's been solicited by the process, and the assessment board will be paying for that.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what I understand the commissioner responsible for the development assessment process to have just said is that should the DAP process require technical advice, they would then go out for it, and it would be paid for by the DAP process. Now, I also understand that this is all in the negotiations. My concern and question was this: where are we at in terms of the discussion? My concern was whether or not this was a cost that would be passed on to the proponents of the project or whether it would be considered part of the cost of doing governments, so to speak.
Mr. Livingston: As I say, Mr. Chair, it would be reasonable to assume that the board that is soliciting the technical expertise in order to make appropriate decisions would bear the costs. If the member has any particular concerns or a particular desire about how that process works, I'll certainly pass that along to the commission.
Mr. Cable: In response to some questions from my colleague on the formal transfer of the federal powers in the resource area, the Government Leader used the term "reference legislation," which I assume simply means adopting the federal legislation and changing the names of the players. Is that apprehension of the process correct?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Cable: Okay. At the present time, of course, the federal legislation doesn't have this one-stop shopping that we've been talking about, either in the assessment area or in the combined assessment and permitting area. Does that mean that we will be adopting the multi-approach initially and then cleaning it up after the fact? Is that what the Government Leader has in mind?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I'm not familiar with the federal legislation at this point with respect to how decisions are made and whether or not they can be improved to incorporate more efficiencies. But, it's fair to say that we have not - and probably will not - put a lot of thought into making policy changes with respect to the legislation at all; that we will adopt the legislation essentially as is and then let the governments in the future make decisions that might improve the process or improve the policy framework that underlies the bills.
In any case, that's not part of our action plan at this point and we've got many other things to do between now and the end of the term, and that's not one of them. Unless there are some very obvious administrative improvements that can be made, if they don't carry a lot of policy consequences to them, we may well do something early. I'm not familiar with the legislation, so I can't tell the member, but, in terms of the basic policy framework, we're not anticipating changing that, no.
Mr. Cable: I'm not sure "mixed messages" would be the appropriate phraseology, but I guess I'm a little confused. I had thought that this government was responding to the people in the resource industry who are apprehensive about the various layers of environmental assessment and economic assessment and permitting, and that they had hoped to do something about that, assumedly before this government's mandate is up. The only way to do that would be to meld these various resource statutes together in some sort of single-layer assessment process and perhaps a single-layer permitting process.
It sounds like we are going to be left, though, when this federal legislation is adopted, with a water permit - if one uses water or impinges on water - a land use permit under the land use regulations, and of course the DAP process will have kicked into gear by then. What else do we have? Fish ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: ... EARP, or whatever it is - I'm not sure where the acronyms sit these days. It seems to me there will be still a very complicated regime that the resource people are quite apprehensive about. I had thought this government was in the process of at least thinking about clearing that up. Am I mistaken in that?
Mr. Livingston: The development assessment process, as I stated earlier, is intended to provide one window, and that continues to be our commitment. We are, of course, constrained by all kinds of things, including the fact that DAP is going to have to meet or beat all CEAA standards, all the CEAA requirements, and that certainly means that the breadth of the field that DAP has to apply to is going to be just as broad as it is currently. And, as I indicated earlier, one of the purposes of the technical advisory committee is to have two processes running parallel, if you like; to have the assessment process occurring but to ensure that some of the key questions, in fact all of the key questions that would need to be asked that would be useful in both the assessment and the permitting processes, would be asked in that process as well. The umbrella final agreement is also very clear that any permits or licences that are issued must not conflict with the assessment decision document; in other words, decisions that come out of the assessment process.
So I think that, while we certainly have to work within the four corners of the umbrella final agreement, there are some opportunities for us to provide a more predictable process and one that's timely as well.
Mr. Cable: Let me just ask the question another way. After the formal transfer of the federal powers - the DIAND powers - and the control over the resources, and after the DAP legislation hits the floor, are we going to have the one-stop shopping, at least on assessment? Let's leave out permitting for a moment. Is that the goal of this government?
Mr. Livingston: Yes, that's clearly the goal of this government.
Mr. Cable: Okay. Well, to do that, if we adopt the federal legislation by reference - I think that is the term that was used - there will have to be some cleanup in that legislation. That would be my view anyway. Is that view shared by the commissioner?
Mr. Livingston: Our view is that when we arrive at the design for the DAP legislation, we will have ended up with a single layer of assessment occurring in the Yukon, with the exception of trans-boundary disputes or trans-boundary matters, where there may be other governments and other assessment processes involved.
In terms of projects planned for within the Yukon, yes, we would see one-window assessment occurring in the Yukon after the passage of DAP legislation, regardless of whether devolution occurs.
Mr. Cable: Okay, well, I don't know how the government is going to do that, but I'll leave that with the government. That is a stated goal and I take it that there will be one-stop shopping on assessment come December 31, 1998. Am I hearing the commissioner correctly?
Mr. Livingston: Yes, as I'm sure the member is aware, the framework provided by the umbrella final agreement is that we have one assessment process that reflects the interest of three orders of government and their constituents. So that is what DAP is intended to do; that's what we expect it will do.
Mr. Cable: Okay, the Government Leader was talking about the policy regime for forestry and when the federal legislation is adopted here by reference - I assume that's the phrase that's used - where do the federal regulations sit? I think most of the policy now and most of the policy that is causing the foresters and other people problems is in the regulations - or a good part of it anyway. Is that policy that this government wants to adopt going to be reflected in a new regulatory regime?
Mr. Fentie: In fact the member is correct. What we have today in the Yukon to enable us to manage our forests and to deal with the issue of permitting or access to the forest is a set of timber regulations. That is all that's here today in the absence of a forest management plan and a Yukon forest act. So what is happening now is the federal government is working on changing the regulations to make them more effective here in the territory.
As he alluded to, it's causing a lot of problems for people in the industry and the changes that they are attempting to bring forward are meant to address some of those concerns, given the fact that the timber regulations are the only tools we have today with which to manage our forest here in the territory. So, if that addresses the member opposite's question, maybe we can clear it up a little more if he has some more to ask on it.
Mr. Cable: It is my understanding that the forestry commissioner is going to complete his work, or his initial draft anyway, in April of this year. At some juncture, the commission report will either be accepted or rejected or modified or whatever by Cabinet, assumably sometime after April. Then, the reference legislation will come in sometime in the fall sitting. At that time, the government would then be able to enact regulations.
What I'm wondering about is whether that timetable, which appears to be a fairly tight timetable, will permit much consultation with the stakeholders.
How close are we to having a made-in-Yukon regulatory regime that will replace the federal regulatory regime - not the statutes, but the regulations?
Mr. Fentie: You're incorrect in one item there. The legislation is not slated for this fall. The plan here is, first off, to bring forward the Yukon forest strategy by this spring. Then, there will be a much broader public consultation on that strategy. That's the ingredient that will lead to legislation in the Yukon forest act. There will be much more consultation with the Yukon public around the strategy.
We also must keep in mind that as long as the federal government has jurisdiction they are the people in charge here. They are responsible at this time. What we are preparing for is the day that devolution occurs, so that we have the means by which we can take over and manage our forests. What we would like to see is a common regime so that we can have a smooth transition and not go through the whole process over again. That's one of the reasons why the process very much involves the Yukon territorial government, the federal government and the First Nations, working together on the strategy.
Mr. Cable: What I got out of the debate this afternoon is that there will eventually be a Yukon forest act. But pending that, prior to the end of December 1998, there will be an adoption, holus-bolus, of the federal act, which will be the permissive, or the legislative, starting framework. Under that, I assume that the federal regulations will die, and there'll have to be some new regulatory regime in place. So we're not waiting until the new forest act is in place. I'm just wondering whether we're on the same wavelength.
Could the commissioner tell us whether my appreciation is correct: there'll firstly be an act brought here by reference - I think the Government Leader used that term. Then that will require the necessity, at least, for some interim regulations. Then, down the road, there'll be this forest act, and then some permanent regulations.
Do I appreciate the situation correctly?
Mr. Fentie: You have it fairly well figured out. Beyond that, again we must allude to the fact that if the feds maintain control, some of the things we are doing may or may not be part of the overall process.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: The Member for Riverdale North says we were going to solve it. Well, let's just look at the fact that the work done to date by this government far exceeds what our wonderful Yukon Party government did in four years. Let's not forget that you said to the Yukon public there's nothing we can do, it's a federal problem.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: No, I said we're working with the federal government. It might help if you listened once in awhile, instead of acting like a group of comedians.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Yes, please do that.
The Member for Riverside does have it fairly well figured out. You're on the right track.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. May I remind members not to refer to other members in the first term, "you."
Mr. Cable: Hopefully we won't have any sugar for supper.
The commissioner, I think, has been fairly outspoken against some of the federal forestry regulatory practices, and I think this government has been - and in fact we have been, and the Yukon Party has been - outspoken against some of the administrative practices that the federal forestry department has engaged in in the administration of the forest resource in this territory. So, I had expected that there would be some sort of quantum leap at the end of this year, that there would be some improvement in the regulatory regime, that there would be something that would tell us about raw log exports and value-added and royalty regimes and all that sort of thing, and silviculture.
Is the commissioner telling us that there won't be any real market change in the regulatory regime come December 31, 1998?
Mr. Fentie: No, that's not what I'm saying, and I'd like to remind the member that we're not developing a plan here to mow the lawn. What we have to do, based on ecosystem management principles, based on the Canada Forest Accord and our participation in that, is address the much more comprehensive, broader need for a process to develop a forest management plan.
Let me get back to the fact that you alluded to me criticizing the federal government's regime, and I think that we should clear that up a little bit. We are working with the federal government. The federal government has taken a number of steps since the 1994 spike in activity here, which posed a lot of problems for them, and they are moving toward getting some of the things you speak of in place.
Chair: Order please. Would the member not refer to other members as "you."
Mr. Fentie: Pardon me, Mr. Chair. There is now a reforestation fee that can be levied. There has been an increase in stumpage fees. There has been work done to date to allow us to better understand what the sustainable yield is in terms of inventories.
These are all things that the federal government is today doing to be a part of or a major component of the overall plan, if that helps the member out.
Mr. Cable: Okay. Just for the record, then, we'll acknowledge that the member wasn't criticizing the federal government.
But there has been criticism directed toward the regulatory regime and I think this member, the forestry commissioner, recognizes some problems with respect to the regulatory regime.
Is he saying that there will be no significant changes after December 31, 1998, from the present regime? Is that going to wait for sometime down the road? I'm not sure exactly what he's saying. Is the member's commission going to deal with the several prominent issues surrounding the forestry resource?
Mr. Fentie: I'm assuming some of the "prominent issues" are the fact that we need to know sustainable yields, we need to be able to better understand how we can issue long-term tenures, and those types of things.
Let me put it this way: the significant changes that you are asking about are, in the first instance, going to be in the changes to the timber regulations themselves as we go through the whole process. So, the timber rate changes will be in the very front end of the overall strategy. Then a lot more of the work that you're talking about is going to be done within that strategy, which will then lead us to a Yukon forest act.
I'm not quite sure what the member meant by "significant changes". I think everybody in this territory agrees that the existing method of managing our forest is unacceptable and that's why this work is being done.
Mr. Cable: That's correct. We're in agreement that far. Where we go from there is the question. I know the commissioner is going to introduce his report. Is that report going to have recommendations on a draft set of regulations to administer the forestry resource? Does he intend to give that to Cabinet for review?
Mr. Fentie: In actual fact, the Yukon government is working with the federal government on the timber rate changes that are coming into effect for this year. The slated changes are for the summer of 1998. Those changes, and the rates themselves as they exist after the changes have been implemented will be in the front end of the strategy. That will be inclusive of the overall strategy, a draft of which I intend to table sometime in April, on target and on budget, by the way, if that helps the member.
The member has to understand that the regs that we're changing and the policies that go with them - we are working on them with the federal government. They will be in the front end, as far as the overall strategy is concerned.
Mr. Cable: Okay, the commissioner has answered the question. We have achieved something here. Could he also answer the question - and he can do it by legislative return - could he indicate what significant changes to the present regulations are being worked on with the federal government and when he anticipates that those will be adopted by the federal government? If he is, in fact, working with them on, I assume, a fairly close basis, maybe he could fill us in on where we're going. Could he do that?
Mr. Fentie: We'll table all the proposed changes as they exist today by a legislative return.
Mr. Livingston: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I just need to correct what I think was a miscommunication earlier this afternoon. I'm led to understand that the member opposite suggested that the DAP would be implemented by December 31, 1998. That is not going to be the case. Quite clearly, if we're moving to a consultation schedule that will likely be held this fall of 1998, the legislation, once it's revised as a result of any consultation, won't reach the federal Parliament until late in 1998. Clearly, we won't be in a position to implement DAP by the end of this calendar year.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, it seems what we're hearing this afternoon is the government members trying to put a good spin on a bad situation - where everything has come to a standstill and nobody seems to have any answers, although they had them all when they were in opposition.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to clear up some of the things that are on the record. Either I'm mistaken or members opposite are mistaken, and I'm not sure which at this point.
I heard the Government Leader say that they were going to basically adopt the federal legislation and then work on it as time permitted. I recall that with the Oil and Gas Act we had to have legislation drafted; whether we adopted the federal act, or whatever, it had to be drafted, passed in this House, put through the federal House of Commons and rescinded before we could take over responsibility for the resource. Is the Government Leader telling me that that is not going to be the same for the rest of the DIAND programs; that we're not going to need a forestry act in place before we take over forestry - and any other legislation that is required to take the DIAND programs over? Has there been a change in the position of the federal government in this instance?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is inconceivable that the Yukon government can do the kind of work that it did with the Oil and Gas Act and the kind of work it has been doing with the forestry act - and even the forestry act is not going to be ready for this fall; it's due later in the mandate. It's inconceivable that we could have a transfer take place of the Northern Affairs program and review all resource legislation that DIAND currently administers.
Now the Member for Riverside said that there should be some opportunity for us at some point early or perhaps even when we pass this legislation to clear up some issues for the development industry. I want to tell all members that the moment any of those pieces of legislation are opened up for possible review, there will be a lot of Yukoners on all sides of the equation who'll want to be there.
I can tell them, particularly when it comes to legislation like lands legislation, there'll be a humungous amount of interest in that particular piece of legislation. Any talk of opening up the quartz and placer mining acts, the water acts, will be very, very big projects for any Yukon government.
We need to have some legislative framework in order to assume the responsibility. We cannot take it over otherwise. So while it's probably fair to say that, when DAP is passed, there'll be some consequential amendments to other bills, we're not anticipating that there will be any thorough review of any of the legislation prior to the transfer. There can't be, otherwise the transfer would be a good 10 years away, because that would be as long as it would take to go through all the various federal bills - if history's any judge - and get policy agreements in the Yukon about what that legislation should be all about.
So what we have anticipated doing is, apart from those bills that we clearly have already targeted for changes - and I include the forest act, for example, sometime later in the mandate - we would be passing reference legislation, which would merely be adopting the federal legislation so that, when the time comes for transfer, we will have the legislative authority to carry out our responsibilities.
There's no doubt that there will be Yukoners both in the development community - and very much in the environmental community - who'll have a lot to say the moment anybody raises their hand and says they're about to start a review of the policy that underlies those pieces of resource management legislation. They will be big projects for the government.
We are not in a position to be able to undertake those and still get the devolution.
It happened. So we have to pass, basically adopt, the federal regime and then work from there.
Mr. Ostashek: I don't want the Government Leader to get me wrong. I'm not debating that with the Government Leader at all. I know that it's a huge undertaking. I'm just asking him, has he got agreement from the federal government that they will transfer, devolve, the responsibility for those resources on that basis? It appears to me that they still need to pass some legislation through the House of Commons before we can take over, and that takes time, and that's why I think the Government Leader is being very optimistic when he looks at a transfer this fall, because I know how long it took for them to get the legislation in on the land claims, let alone the Oil and Gas Act, before we could take over. It was a couple of years after the agreements were all signed and everything else.
Has the Government Leader got a commitment from the federal government that they will have the necessary legislation to be brought into the House of Commons this fall, if in fact the agreement goes ahead? Or is this still something that needs to be negotiated with the federal government after we reach an agreement in principle on a target date that I believe the Government Leader has set for June. I called it the "AIP", basically, but I know there are a lot of negotiations to go on after that. I'm just looking at the optimism of the Government Leader's timetable for taking over all these resources. I'm a skeptic.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I must admit that I am optimistic and I'm hoping that that optimism is well-placed. The understanding and the discussions that are taking place now is, yes indeed, whenever it happens, the Yukon will pass reference legislation adopting the federal legislation. The federal government will pass changes to the Yukon Act which expand the authorities of the Yukon government and, at the same time, rescind their own legislative framework in terms of resource management.
So, all of that would have to take place. But, basically, that is the general procedure that we're talking about undertaking in order to see the changes happen.
I am looking to the fall as the initial target date. If we can't meet that, I may be coming to everyone in the spring and saying that this is an extraordinary circumstance. Even though it's a budget sitting, we may have to do it in the spring. I don't know yet. But, we are working on that situation now.
All I can say is that we're not looking at creating brand new pieces of legislation, as we did with the Oil and Gas Act. This is a different situation. We want to take the transfer, and then when we have the transfer we will conduct all the public consultation around the legislative changes ourselves. The complication with the Oil and Gas Act, of course, was that there's a federal government. You had to please the federal government, as well as try and get accommodation inside the territory.
If we can avoid that, it would be good. But the challenge for a new government - I'm not saying this government - will be to announce what they are going to do with all that legislation, bearing in mind that there are expectations - pretty deep-rooted, long-time expectations - that, at some point, once the Yukon Legislature was responsible, there will be some review. I can only say to the next Legislature that they've got their work cut out for them.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, if ever there was a government in a position of handing a time bomb for the next Legislature, whether it's their own or some other political party, this is probably the timetable.
I'm not concerned about this government being able to meet the target of getting that legislation in place to adopt federal legislation in this Legislature. I'm just saying to the Government Leader that I'm not optimistic about the time line, because I know how the federal government works. For them, to draft the legislation they need to change the Yukon Act - not only for us to take over; there's going to be royalty resource-sharing that's going to have to be included in that on the minerals, as there was on the oil and gas.
That legislation has got to be drafted at the federal level before we can take over. I just believe that it's being overly optimistic to think that the federal government is going to have their act together to the point where, if the Government Leader signs an agreement in principle in June, they're going to have the necessary legislation in place to introduce it into the next session of Parliament after the summer break. Doesn't the Government Leader agree with me on that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, yes, in a way I do, Mr. Chair. We are talking about doing precisely that, but if things slip, then clearly it will be in the spring. But I am interested in putting forward some disciplined timetables, as a party to the discussions, to ensure that people realize that we have got to work to some sort of deadline. I don't want to give a lot of flexibility that can shoot this project off into the ether someplace, because this is the kind of project that, without some discipline, will go nowhere.
People have been working on those details all through the winter and are working through the details now in the spring, in terms of things like financial calculations, calculation on net benefit, what that would mean in terms of a new formula financing arrangement. I mean, those things are being worked on, and there are lots of those issues to address, to be sure.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I'm pleased to hear the Government Leader say that because the reality is, I would be quite amazed if the federal government's even started on theirs until such time as they've reached an agreement in principle here, because they don't seem to move that fast. As the Government Leader said, there're many, many issues. There are other issues that are still clouding devolution and that's in spite of the agreements that have been signed by the Government Leader and First Nations on devolution and land claims. We have heard several First Nations speak out quite strongly and quite adamantly over the last six, seven or eight months that there'll be no devolution until land claims are settled. How is the Government Leader going to reconcile that, or has he reconciled it?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, the arrangements that we identified with First Nations are indeed lined up in the MOUs that we did sign and it's my view that devolution and land claims can take place simultaneously and even devolution can precede the last final agreement or, as some people have said, the last trans-boundary agreement, which may be 10 or 15 years from now in terms of its signing. I don't know.
The agreements that we signed with First Nations said that. I'm taking people at their word that they will be negotiating in good faith and working to see all these projects happen.
Now it's incumbent upon us as a government to try to ensure that their issues are addressed, too. The biggest concern right now is the concern around PSTAs - program service transfer agreements. The concern is essentially that the First Nation that wants to assume responsibility for some element of self-government pursuant to their final agreement is having difficulty getting agreement from the federal government, which has a fiduciary responsibility to First Nations, to actually fund those arrangements.
Consequently, they're nervous that the commitment and the promise in the land claim agreement won't be realized. I have said to First Nations that the Yukon government is not financially able nor would it be willing to fund self-government, so anyone who says that we should have devolution wait until all self-government is determined in the areas of resource management is suggesting that, somehow, the Yukon government has, therefore, fiduciary responsibility to First Nations to fund self-government.
We don't, and we won't, any more so than we would have that same obligation in education or child welfare or health care, or anything.
This is, and remains, a federal responsibility, devolution of the Northern Affairs program or not, and that is the message that we are carrying consistently to all tables, particularly the tables with the federal government present. As long as that understanding is clear, then we should be able to proceed on a number of different fronts in a satisfactory way.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that. His position hasn't changed from any previous government when it comes to devolution and land claims and fiduciary responsibility, but it seems like the federal government is pretty good at downloading fiduciary responsibility, especially in areas of health and social services, when we have huge outstanding claims against the federal government for services that we believe we've provided on behalf of First Nations people, for which they have a fiduciary responsibility. And it's not an easy question to answer.
Setting all that aside, though, we do have First Nations speaking out publicly, in spite of all the agreements that have been signed with the Government Leader, that devolution and land claims can proceed hand in hand. We have heard several statements in the press, especially from the southwest Yukon, where they say absolutely no devolution until land claims are settled.
I heard the Government Leader say that it's his responsibility to give some comfort to them, but my question to the Government Leader is this: if you can't give comfort to them - and I don't want to broach this in terms of whether he's going to go ahead without First Nations, because it's in everyone's best interest that they're onside - what view is the federal government taking when it comes to devolution, when we have First Nation organizations, which are governments in their own right, even though they haven't received their responsibilities under the land claims or self-government yet -what position is the federal government taking under the new minister when the Government Leader knows quite well that the last minister, while he wouldn't come out publicly and state a position, really dragged his feet when First Nations were making vocal statements in the press that they wanted none of this until that happened. As a result, the federal government just dragged their feet.
Does the minister have a clear understanding with the new minister of DIAND as to how this is going to proceed?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, the new Minister of DIAND has, of course, said, even in the face of some criticism from a couple of First Nations, that devolution can proceed and believes that the two projects are not incompatible. I share that view and feel that we can work through the various difficulties - or perceived difficulties, more appropriately.
I would like to be able to say that the situation is going to proceed smoothly. I know with some surety that the situation is going to proceed smoothly, but it may not and there may be people who have various agendas that may change or evolve. The Yukon government's agenda is fairly clear - very transparent - and we'll try to play a constructive role at all tables. We still do believe that devolution and land claims are compatible projects. We believe that First Nations' interests with respect to PSTAs and the funding of PSTAs can be resolved.
If, in fact, First Nations want to come along, even in the face of some resistance to see them adequately funded by some federal authorities, these are all complications, and I would be the first to admit to the member that this is as complicated an intergovernmental arrangement, or set of negotiations, as I've ever experienced; but, the stakes are high.
I am anxious that the Yukon play a very stable, predictable, consistent role in those discussions, that our objectives are not evolving or changing, that they remain the same, that we try to work through the problems. If the Yukon government, with its energy and creativity, can encourage something good to happen on all these fronts, then I think the Yukon will be all the better for it. But we can't necessarily manage the other parties' positions at the table, and they may change or evolve, and that may change the outcomes. But the Yukon will be a solid, consistent partner to these discussions.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, we've heard from the Government Leader this afternoon - Yukoners have heard - that devolution is going to proceed. Hopefully it will be completed by the end of this calendar year, and the territorial government will be responsible for all DIAND programs in the Yukon, but nothing's going to change. There's going to be no appreciable change because we're going to be working under federal legislation, under federal policy, under federal regulations. So I'm sure that there're going to be a lot of disappointed Yukoners out there.
I appreciate the monumental task that's facing the government, but there were a lot of commitments made by the NDP as to the changes that were going to take place in A Better Way in this mandate. From what the Government Leader is telling me now, even forestry is not going to change dramatically during this mandate. It's probably going to be the next mandate before we have any. That's quite a diversion from what was promised to Yukoners in A Better Way, Mr. Chair.
Chair: The time being 5:30 p.m., we will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will continue with general debate on the Executive Council Office.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I feel like it's déjà vu all over again, so I'll ask the same question I ask every time there's a debate. It's about the service improvement program out of the Bureau of Service Improvement.
The last two times, the minister said he was waiting for the position to be filled permanently, and I understand now that the position will not be filled permanently. Where does this put us with the service improvement program; in particular, I wonder if the minister has had anyone look at the B.C. program, which has been so successful in the past?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, to the last question, the government has made itself aware of what the B.C. program and other programs are all about. We're looking at ways to improve the service improvement program, based on the desirability of ensuring that employees have an outlet, so that they can speak up and raise issues that may result in efficiencies being created.
As I indicated before, we believe that we can meet our obligations for not only the service improvement program, but also the internal audit with the existing staff. We don't feel we need to recruit for the other position.
Mrs. Edelman: That's a very interesting statement. Now that the department is familiar with the program, I wonder if we're going to look at implementing that program at some point in the future and when we would be implementing that program.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We haven't made a decision with respect to that at this point, Mr. Chair, but we are assessing our options.
Mrs. Edelman: It's always good to be assessing our options.
I suppose that what I'm wondering about is whether there will be an opportunity for this program to come into existence in the 1998-99 budget year - whether that's a possibility.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, to the extent that we'll be making changes, they will be made in the budget years that are coming.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I'd like to get back to where we left off before the break this afternoon and to the debate that was going on then with regard to devolution. The statements made by the side opposite this afternoon led me to believe - and I believe Yukoners who will be reviewing Hansard will be led to believe - that while devolution may take place, nothing is going to change.
As I said before the break, that's going to be a disappointment to Yukoners, because they expected that when the Yukon government takes over, there would be changes. I think they were led to believe that there would be changes, especially in the areas of forestry.
The Member for Watson Lake was very critical when he was in the private sector about the Yukon Party not moving quickly enough on forestry policy development.
Yet we heard him say in this House this afternoon that when he files this report in April that's only the beginning of the process. That's not the end by any means; that's just the start. What he led me to believe is that we're going to be consulting for four years for the term of the mandate for this government and there's no hope of having any forestry legislation until maybe the last year of the mandate, if they're lucky. They don't have any forestry policy yet, even though they were very critical of the lack of progress by a territorial government.
We also heard something very interesting this afternoon from the Member for Watson Lake on how closely they were working with the federal government on forestry policy and forestry regulations because when they took over, those would be the regulations that they would be working under. That is a very dramatic change of heart from June 13, 1997.
That same member said in the media, and I quote what it says here by a reporter, "While Dennis Fentie, the NDP MLA for Watson Lake and the forestry commissioner, attended the 25-person conference...", this was one that the federal officials held, "...he said the territory wasn't officially participating." He went on to say that, "Their non-participation doesn't reflect negatively on DIAND regulations but shows that the government is becoming more aware of its role and its rights as a government in this type of issue."
Well, that's all well and good. But then he says, today, how closely he's working with federal forestry officials. I mean, these guys don't know which side of the wagon they're on. They don't know if they're on or off the wagon.
What we have is a bunch of high-priced commissions that have failed to deliver any product and now we have a government who says that, even if they do deliver a product, nothing's going to change.
Is it any wonder that Yukoners are pessimistic? For the life of me, I don't understand how this government can take different positions on devolution - and we were chastised severely when we were in government by some of the members who are on the government benches now about what little progress we had made in devolution. I believe what members on the government benches were doing this afternoon is putting the best spin they could on something that's come to a standstill, if not gone backwards. We have even seen the person responsible for devolution appointed as Cabinet secretary now, I understand, because there isn't enough work to keep him busy in devolution. That, I don't call progress. I call that going backwards.
There was nothing said this afternoon that gives me optimism that we are any closer to devolution than when this government took over their mandate, some 18 months ago, and I doubt that it would be any closer six months from now.
I find it mind boggling that the government can stand there and make the statements that they made today and think that we are going to believe that devolution is imminent, that it's going to happen, that we're going to have an agreement in principle in June, that we're going to have a full transfer before the end of December. Well, there are going to have to be some dramatic changes from what has transpired over the last 18 months if those things are to become a reality.
We saw agreements in principle - negotiating agreements - signed with First Nations with much fanfare, much cooperation that was going to transpire in devolution, and now we have First Nations coming out and saying, "No devolution until land claims are over." Not once, not twice, but several times in the last six months. Yet, the Government Leader says that he still believes that things are going well, that everything will fall in place and that the world will evolve in the way that he thinks it should, and that Yukoners will have responsibility for all DIAND programs before the end of the year.
Well, all well and good, except that nothing is going to change. We're going to still operate under federal government legislation. It isn't going to be any easier for anybody to get a piece of land in the Yukon. It isn't going to be any easier for a hard-rock miner to work under the Quartz Mining Act. It isn't going to be any easier for a placer miner operating under the Placer Mining Act. It isn't going to be any easier for anybody working in the forestry industry.
What are we accomplishing here?
I just can't believe that we heard what we did this afternoon. I can't believe that these members opposite believe that, after all the impressions they left with the public about how things were going to proceed if only they were elected to government; that was all that was required.
Where are we at with energy? We've gone backwards. It's a giant step backwards. The only thing Yukoners have seen is a government who professed that the Yukon Party was going to get out of rate relief; they've watched this government do it in a very short period of time. They weren't in there very long before they were clawing back rate relief. Now, they're getting out of it completely.
But, then, they turn around and tell the Yukon public that they're not getting out of rate relief; they're just going to re-evaluate the program, saying, "We'll come back with another program next winter." In the meantime, Yukoners are stuck with high power bills.
So, Mr. Chair, I'm very disappointed in what I heard from the Government Leader this afternoon. I am very disappointed in what I heard from his commissioners. I don't very many people in the Yukon who read this debate are going to be very optimistic that anything is going to happen under this administration.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, the member clearly can't blame that completely ridiculous approach and line of attack on what he had for dinner, because he made the same pitch just before dinner. Whatever it was, it is not indigestion.
The member made the most ridiculous allegation - that the NDP, in A Better Way, promised not only that devolution should occur but, as well, that the NDP promised that all federal land management and mining legislation would all be revamped at the same time. I challenge him to find anything like that in A Better Way. It's not there. So, the member's assertions are ludicrous, to say the least.
Now, this is, of course, the member who had such great success with what he stated was a very high priority for his government: the devolution of forestry. He made it very clear from the very beginning that whatever the pre-1992 NDP government was doing, it wasn't good enough, and forestry was going to be a priority. So, now that we have completed four years of Yukon Party government without forestry having been achieved, what am I to do now? Take the member opposite's comments seriously? Is he the expert on devolution in his vast experience on the subject? I don't think so.
Mr. Chair, the assumption that we are going to be reviewing all land and mineral resource legislation upon assumption of new responsibilities has never been something that we've stated we were going to do. The member was probably not in the room. I don't know.
The issues did come up this afternoon with respect to forestry and whether or not the government was going to be proceeding with changes to the forestry regime, and we indicated that indeed we were. There was a whole long discussion about that very subject this afternoon. So, for the member to say, from what he's heard this afternoon, that we are not going to proceed with forestry flies in the face of everything that was said this afternoon.
Then the member extrapolates that particular thesis and goes on to believe that somehow we had made a commitment to review all federal land legislation before next fall or all federal mining legislation before next fall. He's never raised this concern before, but maybe it's just the kind of approach that the member would have taken had he been in government and had been fortunate enough and had the wherewithal to see a transfer of the Northern Affairs program to the Yukon. This is the same member who was telling us in December of 1996 that the development assessment process legislation was all done, that that project was completed.
And we walked out of this Legislature and people were phoning us left, right and centre saying, "Wait a minute, don't believe that. If it was completed, we don't agree. Make sure that you hear Yukoners' voices because it's Yukoners who are going to have to live with the results of whatever it is that the Ostashek government and the federal government have dreamed up."
They did not want it to be finished. Maybe the member wanted it to be finished. Maybe in his mind it was finished, but we knew that there was going to be public consultation, public discussion around issues as important as the development assessment process.
If the member is thinking now that somehow we have an opportunity to simply redraft all the federal legislation and change all the policies without even having a chance to bring it before the public, that's outrageous and it's completely contrary to everything this government stands for - to undertake changes of that massive a scale in that way. So for the members opposite to be advocating that takes place may be very much a feature of their way of doing business, but it has nothing to do with how we do business.
The member makes the most incredible assumption that because the assistant deputy minister responsible for intergovernmental relations, which is the unit that is responsible for devolution, has now become the assistant Cabinet secretary, that somehow means that devolution is on the back burner. That is the most ridiculous kind of coffee-shop assumption that one would accept from somebody who knows absolutely nothing about government, absolutely nothing about the way the Executive Council Office works and it is the last thing that you would expect from somebody who was nominally a Government Leader for four years, because clearly anybody who knows anything will know that whether a person named assistant or deputy Cabinet secretary is no reflection whatsoever on their ability to perform an important task, such as pursuing devolution with the federal government.
Mr. Chair, the Government of Yukon is pursuing devolution with the federal government. We believe that we have got a recipe for success. We realize it is a complicated and difficult subject and, when the devolution takes place, there will be an opportunity for governments because we will have patriated the public government responsibilities for legislation to this territory and to this Legislature. There will be an opportunity at that point for government to ensure that the public has an opportunity to speak about changes to that legislation. But what we will not do is close off debate, decide everything between officials, make wholesale major policy changes to legislation without involving the public.
Mr. Ostashek: I know the Government Leader's very sensitive about his lack of progress in these areas and we can see it when he gets up and loses his cool right away and starts raising his voice as if he's going to intimidate the opposition. Well, I can assure him that he's not going to intimidate the opposition and he can raise his voice as high as he likes.
The fact remains that they left an impression with Yukoners that there was no progress on devolution, there was no progress in other areas, and that they were going to do a much better job, and that's what's happening. Well, I'm sorry, that's not what's happening.
What is happening is that these people who are in government now are finding out that the task is far more difficult than sitting over here criticizing what was going on in government. They're finding that out.
The other fact remains that I didn't for one minute say I expected this government to have all the legislation in place. I'm saying that's the impression they left with the public - that things were going to change very quickly under this administration.
They were going to have forestry devolved right quick like. They were going to have a forestry policy. They were going to have all of these things done, and nothing has happened.
We heard the DAP commissioner stand here and babble for an hour this afternoon to basically tell Yukoners that there's been no progress made on DAP.
Certainly, we want a one-window approach. Well, I don't think anybody listening to the debate this afternoon has very much confidence that this government is going to succeed in getting a one-window approach. They might get a one-window approach, but they're not going to get a one-process approach. That's the sad reality of it, Mr. Chair. I don't think they're any further advanced than they were when they took over office - if, in fact, they have not put the time clock back, not only on DAP, but on devolution, as well.
Mr. Chair, a simple fact - I did not say that the person who is now the assistant Cabinet secretary was not capable of doing both jobs. It was no reflection on that person whatsoever. It was a reflection on the priorities of this government - that he's not busy enough in the DAP position that he can have other responsibilities. That's what that was all about.
So, we haven't had any progress on forestry, we don't expect - even if we do get a policy at some point, we've got a long way to go before anything is going to be incorporated. We're going to continue to work under the federal regulations - and that's fine, but tell the public that. This is the first indication the public has had of that since this government has been in power. They have never once sent that message out to the Yukon public.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: They sort of went for a walk in the woods. We'll let that one sit for the time being.
But the fact remains that Yukoners were expecting more from members who were very critical when they were in opposition, and in the private sector, as the Member for Watson Lake, who stood at a meeting in Watson and told me I hadn't done enough, yet he's been there for 18 months and has done nothing to move forestry ahead in the Yukon. We still have the loggers unemployed. We still have the same situation that was around before. I just find that very disheartening, as I'm sure Yukoners do, because they had all the answers when they were in opposition.
Now, we have Alberta loggers coming up. We have machinery coming up from Alberta now. Where is the Yukon hire, Mr. Chair?
I want to get back to some of the things that I feel were omissions this afternoon in the debate. When we talk about taking over responsibility from the federal government and having an acting legislation here, which I don't disagree with the Government Leader on - it's the only way you can go, but it's time that Yukoners were aware of it. Now they are. This is the first they've been aware of it.
Also, the federal government has to pass enacting legislation. We talk about a one-window approach for DAP. We talk about how that's what everybody wants. We know that's what everybody wants. But, I want to draw to the government's attention that, in a study done on mining in Canada by the Fraser Institute that I quoted the other day, one of the shining lights for the Yukon was that there was only one environmental process, because the federal government looked after it. In the provinces - in every province in Canada - there are two environmental processes. There's a provincial process and there's a federal process.
My question to the Government Leader: has he received a commitment from the federal government that the Yukon is going to be treated differently by Environment Canada and that they are going to give up their control over the environmental review process and allow the territorial government to do it?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In answer to the member's last question, I will let the member responsible for the development assessment process expand on that point, because he will give a typically thoughtful response. I am going to respond to all the other points the member raised.
I noticed when I was standing here challenging the member to show us where, in A Better Way, we said that we were going to not only seek out devolution, but that we were going to change federal policies on federal mineral and land policies. Tell us where it says that. It doesn't say that in A Better Way. I want the record to show that. I want the record also to show that the member produced nothing to prove his case.
He won't find anything to prove his case. We did say that we wanted to work on forestry, and we are showing good progress on forestry, and before the night is out, the forest commissioner will let the member know a little more about that particular subject.
The member keeps saying that finally the New Democrats have been able to find out how difficult it is to be in government, as if, somehow, the New Democrats are having some kind of come-uppance because they made some criticisms of the way the Yukon Party government operated while they were in office, and now they find out how difficult it is to manage the heavy responsibilities of public office. Mr. Chair, is the member aware that there is, for example - and if the two of us want to compare experiences - that I have been in government probably three times as long as the member was? Is the member saying that somehow I am surprised, now that I'm back in government again, with the weight of responsibility? I'm not surprised, Mr. Chair. I was quite aware of what many of the difficulties are of being in government, and I'm fascinated by this whole approach that the member opposite often takes. Well, I can assure him that I am very much aware of how difficult public policy making is, and I'm very much aware of what the life in this Legislature can be all about.
The member will note from A Better Way that it does not say at all that we would not only pursue devolution but change all federal policies on all fronts before devolution takes place. In fact, the reference to devolution is to ensure that it does not conflict with the land claims process. That's the reference to devolution, and the provisions respecting forestry are very targeted to the forest industry, and we are, in fact, putting a lot of energy - witness the forest commission - into proceeding with forest policy development, because we did see how unproductive our predecessors' approach was with respect to forestry policy development and how little they were accomplishing in the years that they were trying to pursue forestry devolution and the years they were trying to influence federal forestry policy development.
So, clearly, we made very specific commitments with respect to forestry, and we're following through on those commitments.
Mr. Chair, we indicated very clearly that we wanted to patriate responsibility for the Northern Affairs program. The only way that we can patriate the Northern Affairs program without going through what ought to be a very thorough public process for determining changes to legislation is to pass reference legislation, adopt the federal policies and then, once the ability to influence those policies is then vested in this Legislature, commit to the public that changes can be made, changes that will involve only us, not the third party, the federal government, which is what we would have to do if we were trying to go through a public consultation process with the responsibility still in federal hands, which is what we did with oil and gas, and which we're doing with forestry.
This will allow us, Yukoners, an opportunity to design our own future ourselves.
So I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing. In fact, I think the process to patriate that legislation and that law-making ability is a good way to go and will ultimately put decision making in our hands completely.
Mr. Chair, we have not led the public to believe anything other than what we are doing. We said that we cared about the development assessment process and raised lots of questions about it in the last Legislature. We set up a policy team. We've dedicated the guidance of a politician to ensure that it has the best chance of success, a person who would speak out and fight for Yukoners' interests. We did that with the development assessment process.
We raised lots of questions about forestry policy development. We responded when we came to government with not only an interdepartmental working group, but with the assignment of a capable politician to lead the process for the Yukon government, recognizing again that it's a tripartite process, and we're showing progress on that front, too.
So, where we said we were going to do something, where we identified there being a particular issue or problem, we are in fact doing it. The only thing that we're doing now, Mr. Chair, that we did not made a commitment to do is actually proceed aggressively with devolution itself, because if members will look at A Better Way, they will see that there is no grand commitment to move on devolution, move on it right away. Devolution is raised in the context of wanting to ensure that we not only respond as governments will respond to the proposals from the federal government of the time, but that we will not interfere with the land claims process, that that will still proceed, and we're living up to that commitment, too.
We did not make a big show of devolution in the last election campaign. That's where we are differing from our election commitments. We are actually putting a lot more energy into devolution now that there's an opportunity. We even said so in the last campaign. So for the member to stand up tonight and say that we misled Yukoners into believing that not only were we going to have devolution, but we're also going to pursue major changes to the federal regulatory regime immediately upon assumption of those responsibilities is simply untrue, simply not the case. I disagree 100 percent with that assertion.
Mr. Chair, the member asked about the environmental process. After the member has had his chance to respond, I'll allow the development assessment commissioner to respond to that question.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, the member opposite can disagree 100 percent if he likes or so chooses. I wouldn't expect him to agree with me, but we'll let the Yukon public decide that.
What they do say in devolution doesn't say anything about enacting legislation. It doesn't say that even if they do devolve things anything would change in the Yukon - in fact, quite the opposite. They talk about us being better off with local control. Yet today, while we may have local control, we're going to be operating in the same manner as the federal government.
That's what it says in A Better Way. It says, "This represents the greatest transfer of federal resource responsibilities since agreements with the prairie provinces in 1930 and the greatest transfer of political responsibility to the territory since the Yukon people earned the right to elect their own Legislature. We are better off with local control. Not remote control. New Democrats believe the Yukon people can turn devolution into a great opportunity if properly done."
Now, I am not putting forth any argument to the Government Leader that they ought not to proceed with enacting legislation. What I'm saying to the Government Leader is that that's not the impression they left with the Yukon public.
When we look at what they said on forestry, and they even mention forestry here: "The past four years of fruitless forestry negotiations under the Yukon Party is a way not to go." Then when we go over to where they talk about forestry and commonsense forestry, what they say is: "Over the past several years, forestry management has been in chaos." Well, it's still in chaos. You need only ask the operators in the business whether they think anything's changed or not. They still think it's in chaos after 18 months of an NDP government.
They say the Yukon Party announced several dates for the transfer of forestry responsibility, but repeatedly failed to deliver. Piers McDonald and the New Democrats offer a better way. That's what they say in their A Better Way document with regard to that. Yukoners are still waiting to see what that better way is, Mr. Chair.
No government in the past - my government or the previous NDP government - has ever put devolution ahead of land claims. We are of the same opinion that the Government Leader is now; that they could proceed in tandem. We are of the same opinion. There is no change in any government policy on that, so he has not made any startling revelations to the Yukon public by stating that in the Legislature again tonight. I think all Yukoners are aware of that.
Yukoners do want to see the devolution of their resources. Yukoners do want to be making decisions. But, what this Government Leader and this government said today is that they are going to devolve resources, hopefully before the end of this mandate, but Yukoners still are not going to be making their own decisions until another Legislature has the time to deal with all the acts that have to go along with it. We heard the forestry commissioner say today that we're going to be operating under federal forestry regulations. And yet, they say in A Better Way that that led to chaos in the Yukon. That's what they said in A Better Way. The forestry industry is in total chaos. I quoted it verbatim.
That's what it says. So, I'm just saying that they can talk the talk, but they're not walking the walk, and Yukoners are starting to realize that more and more every day.
Mr. Chair, I want to hear from the Government Leader, or his representative, an answer to my question that I asked on whether Environment Canada is prepared to give up its rights to do environmental hearings here and turn it over to the DAP process. Have they got that commitment?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, the member, in reading out of A Better Way was very crafty - very, very crafty, indeed. The member talks about A Better Way speaking to the issue of devolution and quotes saying, "We are better off with local control, not remote control." He's quite right.
What does the NDP government promise to do? What are the bullets that it promises to do? It says, "Start a public process to involve the full participation of interested Yukon people and organizations in the discussion of devolution and to review proposed devolution arrangements." That's what it says. It says, "Consult with public servants." That's what it says. It says, "Report regularly on devolution discussions." That's what it says. "Ensure that program devolution comes with sufficient funding." That's what it says, and that's what we've committed to.
Mr. Chair, the members opposite - this member opposite, particularly - seem to be under the impression that that which I just read out also says that when devolution takes place, an NDP government will ensure that, when transferred, mineral legislation will be changed, and lands legislation will be changed. The member says that would be nice, but it doesn't say that here. It doesn't say that in the document.
The member is sitting back with a Cheshire cat-like grin, Mr. Chair. He knows that his assumptions and assertions are pure bunkum.
Mr. Chair, what we promised to do was to involve people in the discussions. What we promised to do was to address the issue of forestry, particularly, and put a lot of energy into forest policy development. I know it hurts the member opposite to even remember the old issue of forestry. I mean, that was a painful period in the member's life. Even though he wasn't responsible for the resource, he still seemed to cause so much anxiety in Watson Lake and around the territory. Even though he wasn't even responsible for it, he still faced significant trouble and was the butt of jokes in coffee shops around the territory.
The member said that the whole system is still in chaos. That does presume an admission that it was in chaos before, an admission that the member would not agree with at the time in the Legislature.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, for the listening audience, if only the listeners could actually hear what the official opposition leader was saying in his kibitzing of my remarks, they would probably appreciate my comments even more.
In any case, Mr. Chair, the situation with respect to forestry is, in fact, being advanced by the participation of the Yukon government, and that is a fact of which we are proud. The fact that the development assessment process commissioner has been fighting for Yukon interests, fighting to involve Yukon people - developers, conservationists and others - in the process to ensure that that process is satisfactory to Yukon people who have to live with the results is something that we're proud of as well, because we made a commitment that we wanted, if humanly possibly, to have a process that people of this territory could live with, and not, as was suggested by some other members and the leader of the official opposition, be a process that should have been accelerated and concluded without public participation. That was wrong. That would have been tremendously troublesome, and we heard all kinds of concern about that approach.
Mr. Chair, we are doing what we said we were going to do. We are meeting our commitments. We are ensuring that devolution takes place carefully and thoughtfully. When it comes time to pursue any changes to other regulations with respect to mining or lands, I am certain that in A Better Way, Mark II, we'll be talking about involving the public in any changes that are involved in that particular field, because I can tell you, Mr. Chair, people want to be consulted, and they would resist enormously if they weren't, because that is important to them, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, we can go on and on. There's absolutely no way the Government Leader and I are going to agree that he's doing a good job. I mean, if he thinks he can convince me, well, he's wrong. His chore is to convince Yukoners and there are lots of very unhappy Yukoners out there right now, I can tell the Government Leader. More and more are calling our office every day.
The Government Leader talks about me being selective when he reads A Better Way. He was very selective himself when he read it, and I notice he skipped over the commonsense forestry section completely and never bothered with it, because there hasn't been a lot of progress and nothing has changed. He says the forestry must have been in chaos when we were in government. It sure was. The federal government was handling it and they still are. We heard the Member for Watson Lake say that today: "No matter what we do" - he wouldn't accept this when we were in government - "in developing policy, as long as the federal government has control, there ain't a lot we can do." He wouldn't accept that from the Yukon Party when they were in government. He wouldn't accept that. He wouldn't accept that at all. Now, he thinks it's a very legitimate statement to be making to the Yukon public. Well, the Yukon public will judge him on those types of statements.
We could be back over there very quickly.
Mr. Chair, I do want to move on and I still want to find out, if I can - I doubt that I can - if the federal government has agreed to give up the EARP process and turn it over to DAP.
Mr. Livingston: Mr. Chair, the member opposite has just asked about the EARP process and whether or not the Canadian government is going to give us a gift by simply saying, "You do the DAP in Yukon and we won't bother with EARP any more." I can't help but think that he's really making excuses for the lack of progress we saw during the four years of the Yukon Party government, and I'm going to draw the member's attention again to the questioning of his government that took place in March of 1995.
Mrs. Firth asks, "How well are things going with DAP? My concern is that the government is dragging its feet with respect to this issue, and the Government Leader has indicated that they are doing something but not sure what." Mr. Ostashek replies in a very general way, "All affected departments will have a role." And Mrs. Firth goes on to say, "I would like to see this government take a lead role in doing something. The minister says they are doing something, but he cannot tell us what. Can the minister tell us if there's an individual who's been given the authority? "
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Livingston: Well, I'll get to that, but let's look at the background. He made comments earlier about this government's Government Leader saying to the opposition leader, "Let's find out what's happening today." We'll get to that.
The fact is, there was not much done, and at the end of the day, Mr. Ostashek, in reply to Mrs. Firth, says, "She expects the minister to stand here and know these intimate details. We can't be expected to stand on our feet and relay that information when there are thousands of things to deal with."
The fact is that DAP was not an important part of the previous government's portfolio. It wasn't something that they were carrying forward and it's not something that they were asserting Yukon's interest in.
The opposition leader says, "So what's the position of the current government, or has the federal government given us a gift and said, don't bother with it." The fact is, that's one of the things that we're still at the table ensuring. We're prepared to stay there as long as it takes to make sure that DAP is the one process in the Yukon that goes ahead. I'll tell you that, when we look at the umbrella final agreement and the four corners of that agreement, it talks about an assessment process that's not going to be duplicated. It's going to be one process in the Yukon. That's what we're going to ensure takes place, whether the federal government is prepared to agree to that today or not.
I think it's interesting to note that when we were first elected by the Yukon electorate, we had a lot of people coming to us and saying that they weren't satisfied with where DAP was at. I can tell the member opposite that we consulted with lots and lots of Yukoners and we have a lot of Yukoners who've come to the table. I heard the Liberals earlier this afternoon sounding like their federal counterparts: a rather legalistic, uneven kind of a playing field. We're not prepared to stand for that. We want to see a level playing field across the Yukon and we're going to ensure that that takes place. We're going to ensure that there's one process for the Yukon.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, I guess that's exactly what I got out of the debate this afternoon: absolutely no progress on DAP, because that's where we were at when we left government. We wouldn't accept it either. The only thing is that we didn't take ownership like the Government Leader did and make a big issue out of it and say that we're going to solve this problem and we don't care what the federal government thinks.
He was going to make a big issue out of it. Well, he's made a big issue out of it. He's done zip. Absolutely nothing. It hasn't progressed any further than when we were in power. The federal government still says they're going to have their environmental review process. We didn't agree with it. This government doesn't agree with it. None of the mining companies agree with it, but this government hasn't made any progress on it and they ought to be prepared to admit it.
Mr. Livingston: Well, that's not quite the case, Mr. Chair. The fact is that we have made significant progress on a number of items. We've got a lot of the details in place. It continues to be an outstanding matter that we're going to continue to work on at the table. We have made some progress on it in the last couple of months, but it has been a thorny one. I know that the opposition leader talked about how slow the federal government works. Well, we're getting to experience that in spades. The fact is that they do have a large table. We're up in the far corner and we've got to fight hard. We're not going to simply sit down and give up on Yukon interests, as the member opposite would have us do.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, the member opposite always has a way of eliciting a response from me. I don't know what it is. If the member thinks I'm trying to convince him that what we're doing is right or good, he is quite right, we will not convince him. Believe me, that's not a test we're prepared to adopt, because we would never find satisfaction from the member opposite.
However, the member said at some point in the last few minutes that we chose to make a big issue of DAP, whereas he knew that his government couldn't make any progress and that, basically, the federal government was going to do whatever the federal government wanted to do. Well, the member is right. We weren't going to roll over and we're not going to roll over. The member is right. We're going to fight for Yukoners and we're going to keep fighting for Yukoners until we get a product that is satisfactory for Yukoners.
The member is right.
The member opposite - the leader of the Yukon Party - said it was all over. He did say that it was all over. He said the legislation was all done and why were we even setting up a commission, because the work was all finished by the Yukon Party. That's what he said. He said that. We said, no, no, no. Hold the phone. Yukoners haven't had enough of a share of the discussion. We're not prepared to simply lay down and accept the product that was concocted, presumably by the federal government. Obviously, the member opposite didn't agree with the federal initiatives to that point.
No, he never said, "We haven't shown progress. We haven't achieved what we want." Well, Mr. Chair, I say that fighting for Yukoners is a good thing. I say that fighting for Yukon citizens, even if we don't get progress - if progress means a product that the public doesn't like, but will still have to live with for a hundred years, then we're not interested in that. We don't want that, and we'll keep fighting until we do get what we need and what we want.
So, Mr. Chair, the member is right - the NDP is not going to roll over. The member is right. The New Democrat government is going to fight for Yukon's interests, and we're going to keep fighting for Yukoners' interests until we get a product that we like. The member is right - the Yukon Party and the NDP are different when it comes to DAP and many other things.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I don't think they're a lot different at all. The Yukon Party wasn't accepting DAP the way it was, either. The only thing is that we weren't making a headline issue of it, like the Government Leader tried to do - make it an election issue, and he was going to solve it overnight. All they had to was elect him, and he had all the answers. That's the only difference.
We never signed DAP. We knew there was a long way to go. We knew it had to be a one-window approach. Not for one minute did I think it was going to be easy to get. But we were also trying to work quietly behind the scenes and get the agreement that would give us a one-window approach. That didn't happen.
This government made a big issue by setting up a commission that's done nothing, except for probably ticking the federal bureaucrats off and setting the negotiations on DAP back, not ahead. And they spent a half million dollars, too - I'm sorry, I forgot about that little detail - so they could blow their horns and pound their chests and try to find an issue that the public would grasp on to well.
DAP legislation is very important to industry in the Yukon - very, very important. But it's about as exciting as watching paint dry for the ordinary Yukoner. That's about how much excitement is in it. I mean, it's a bureaucratic process that has to be worked out at a bureaucratic level, and you state your position, and you stick to it. But to make a political issue out of it, I don't think it gained very many points for the NDP.
Mr. Chair, I want to move on. I don't want to spend the next two, three or four days going back and forth because neither one of us is going to change our position on it.
I just want to know the Government Leader's view of what he perceives as the winding down of land claims and having almost all of the claims negotiated by the end of the year. I would just like to get him on the record as to what he sees as the future of the Land Claims Secretariat. Is he going to be winding it down and moving personnel into the departments for implementation? Does he believe we need a separate secretariat for implementation? Just what are his thoughts, and what direction is he going to be going?
I know this is a bit premature yet, because we still have, I believe, five claims out there that need to be settled. But, if we listen to the Government Leader's timetable, some of those should be signed in the next couple of months, and as we get down toward the end of the process, we ought not need as many personnel. So, I would just like to hear from the Government Leader what his thoughts are on the Land Claims Secretariat.
Mr. Livingston: Just before we get to the Land Claims Secretariat, there were a number of comments made about DAP, and I do need to respond to them. One of the comments was about the expense of the commissions. Well, it's interesting to note, again in March of 1995 after the first questions from Mrs. Firth about what the dickens is going on with DAP - is anything going on with DAP? - and the Government Leader of the day having to search around to find out if anything was going on with DAP. Eight days later, there was another question asked in the House, "So what's the land claims and the secretariat doing? Are they doing anything?" At this point, Mr. Fisher was able to rise, and he pointed out that there was now a three-person team from government - a three-person team. It was headed up by the Executive Council Office with a member from Economic Development and a member from Renewable Resources. Well, you know, Mr. Chair, this sounds awfully like a commission, a three-person commission, that's going to work.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Livingston: Well, you're talking about expenses. There is not a lot of extra expense here, is there? I'm afraid that that's just not the case. "What are we doing?" the leader of the official opposition asks. Well, I'll tell you that one of the first things we did was to go out and talk to Yukoners. We went out and talked to the mining community. We met with them early. We've met with them lately. And we met with members of the conservation community, and so on, as well. Our most recent meeting with miners and the conservation community was just in the last month - indications of continuing support for the kinds of positions that we're taking at the table and an acknowledgment of the progress that we've made on a number of issues.
And that's good news for Yukoners, and it's something that we're going to stick around, and we're going to make sure that we keep working on it until we get it right.
Chair: Order please. The time being 8:30, is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will continue with general debate on the Executive Council Office.
Mr. Cable: Mr. Chair, the commissioner for the development assessment process, before the break, was telling us about standing up for Yukon and various groups. Could he tell us what the major issues are that are separating his government from the federal government and from the First Nations, if there are any issues outstanding between this government and the First Nations?
Mr. Livingston: Mr. Chair, we are working with First Nations to try to resolve, on behalf of all Yukoners, vis-à-vis the federal government, and certainly DAP is one of them that still requires resolution. And having the development assessment process - the member opposite is shaking his head - in the Yukon, displacing CEAA and its role in the Yukon, is certainly one of the important issues.
Now there is a precedent for this at least in draft legislation in the Mackenzie Valley and I see no reason that we would want to simply duplicate the processes that the leader of the official opposition has already said are not working particularly well in the provinces. We're not interested in simply going down that path and that's why we're quite determined to follow what we believe is the letter of the agreement, the umbrella final agreement in terms of having DAP be the one process in the Yukon.
Mr. Cable: Just for the record, I wasn't shaking my head; I was cocking my ear because I hadn't heard what the commissioner had to say. He uses the word "position" in the plural. He had indicated before the break that he was putting forth positions in response to the industry. What other issues are there that positions are being taken on that his government has disagreement with the federal government on beside the displacement of the CEAA process?
Mr. Livingston: Mr. Chair, I'm not prepared to negotiate on the floor of the Legislature with either of the other two parties. I don't think it's in the interest of completing DAP. The fact is that there are some outstanding issues and we're going to resolve them. We're going to continue to work, I hope, with the federal government and with the Council of Yukon First Nations to try to resolve the issues.
We have an interest, as I've stated before, in having a level playing field across the Yukon.
The member opposite was making some references this afternoon to what I assume may be a reflection of some of his discussions with federal counterparts. I don't know. It was rather fuzzy, but he talked about somehow having both federal and territorial parts of the assessment process. We're not interested in a process that's divided between two different windows, if you like, and we're not interested in a process that has an uneven playing field across the Yukon. So, that's really all that I'm prepared to talk about in the Legislature today.
Mr. Cable: Just before the break, the commissioner indicated that he had talked to some of the stakeholders - I assume some of the people representing the resource industries - and said he was putting forth positions on their behalf, or he was going over those positions on some issues. We can play back Hansard when we get it on the Internet and get his exact words. Is he telling this House that he is prepared to discuss what the government's position on issues is with the stakeholder, but he's not prepared to talk to the House on those issues and those positions?
Mr. Livingston: No, I'm not doing that at all. The member asked me who we're having the outstanding disagreements with and asked me to characterize the disagreements in that context. I'm not prepared to do that, but I am prepared to talk about DAP displacing CEAA - that that's one of our primary interests. In addition, we want to ensure that there is a level playing field across the Yukon. We have some concerns right now with some of the proposals before the core table that would create potentially 15 different playing fields across the Yukon for each of the First Nations and the Yukon government. I guess 16, if you want to throw in federal government land, as well, at least prior to devolution.
We're not interested in that kind of a model. The intent of DAP, in our view, is to have a single window, to have a common threshold, if you like, across the Yukon - one that is fairly predictable. One that is a predictable process for all users of the process, including miners and conservation communities - a predictable process for all Yukoners. One that is clean and one that is efficient.
Mr. Cable: I think we've established this afternoon that that's going to be sometime down the road.
The commissioner indicated that he had put forth positions with the industry stakeholders. I'm not trying to put words in his mouth, but that's my recollection roughly of what he said just before the break. Is he prepared to tell us what those positions were? Is he prepared to listen, either by way of answer at the moment or by way of legislative return, so we can define the issues and the positions that he took on behalf of those people?
Mr. Livingston: I can certainly outline the interests - I think that's probably the word that I've used. That's the word that I've been trying to use, because I think it most accurately expresses the type of approach that we've tried to take. It's one of determining and expressing Yukon interests at the table, and I would certainly be prepared to go into some greater detail in a legislative return on the interests that we're asserting on behalf of Yukoners.
They have to do, as I've expressed already, about DAP displacing CEAA, about the level playing field. Those are two of the critical ones in my view, but there are other matters as well around definitions of projects and determination of decision bodies, and so on. It gets a little bit technical, but it all must add up at the end of the day to something that works well.
Mr. Cable: Okay, well, I take it that the commissioner is somewhat reversing himself. He is, in fact, going to tell us what the issues are, and I would ask him - and just for the record - to go back into Hansard and check his verbiage. I don't have a complete recollection of what he talked about, but if he used the word "positions," which I think he said, then advise us as to what those positions are. Is the commissioner prepared to do that?
Mr. Livingston: Well, I certainly will check the record. As I stated just now, certainly the approach that we've tried to take is one of asserting interests and to work from those interests. So, I will certainly do that and will provide some additional detail.
Mr. Cable: Just for the record, there was no suggestion this afternoon that the one-window approach was not desirable. That's what we're all working toward. What the questions were directed toward was some understanding of how the commission and this government are getting to that point.
I have some questions for the Government Leader, j
ust a general question on the commission budgets. When we get to that line item, it would be useful to have detailed budgets in the fashion that were given to us, I think last year, before the budget debate on the commissions. Is the Government Leader prepared to give us those detailed budgets, for tomorrow I assume?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, Mr. Chair.
While I'm on my feet, Mr. Chair, I'd like to get back into the discussion, too. As I was listening to some little revisionist history this evening, I thought that my memory was somewhat faulty as to what the leader of the official opposition had been saying about DAP a year ago because, after all, this evening he said that DAP was something that he had been working on very hard and that, according to him tonight, DAP had a long way to go and that they were going to work quietly behind the scenes and they took issue with the fact that we had made a point of standing up for Yukoners publicly on the subject.
I've got a quiz, Mr. Chair. Who said, on December 5, 1996, that, "Most of the work that needs to be done on the development assessment process has been done. The hard work that needs to be done is convincing the First Nations and the federal government to buy into that process." Who said that, Mr. Chair?
Well, that was our friend, the leader of the official opposition, who last year said the work had all been done and tonight he said that at the time he knew they had a long way to go.
Well, what the heck, Mr. Chair. Why bother worrying about those details? Certainly, the commission has not been worried about ticking off a few federal public servants. It has been thinking about what it takes to develop a process, which actually responds well to the needs of Yukon people. That's what the commission has been doing. It's been working appropriately through the negotiation process and has been resolute in insisting that non-government organizations, mining interests, conservation interests and others participate and understand what's going on at the table, provide their views, and ensure that their views are heard by all people who have a chance to speak to the subject. So, Mr. Chair, the record will obviously determine where everyone stands, and we're happy with the fact that we are putting more energy into it and doing so publicly.
The member asked about the future of the Land Claims Secretariat and where it was going. I can tell the member that the Land Claims Secretariat itself is starting to focus more of its intention on implementation issues and is anticipating to place less of an emphasis on negotiations over the next year, once the agreements are concluded.
Each agreement, of course, comes with new obligations. Each new agreement, for example, will have an SMA, a special management area, or one responsibility or another for the Yukon government to carry out. The Land Claims Secretariat, in the first instance, is ensuring that those obligations are met. I see the long-term role of the Land Claims Secretariat evolving to focus more on implementation for a period of time, and then ultimately I would see that it deals itself out of the equation altogether. As the normal government relations are struck and departments and First Nation governments are working with each other, I would see the role of the Land Claims Secretariat ultimately - hopefully - evaporating.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I think I got part of what the Government Leader said on that. I'm not entirely certain yet. I believe what the Government Leader told me was that, as the land claims wrap up, the focus of the Land Claims Secretariat will be on implementation. I guess my concern is that implementation is going to be an ongoing process for many, many years with land claims. I don't know that we'll ever be finished with implementation.
A lot of that work is going to be done with various government departments, rather than a focus of a secretariat that had a mandate to negotiate a claim, so I guess my question to the Government Leader is: does he feel it's good use of taxpayers' money to have a department, such as the Land Claims Secretariat, for the implementation of the claims when in fact most of that work is going to be spread across various government departments, and would it not be more cost effective to roll these different people who are going to be staying on in the implementation process into the various, different departments that are going to be dealing with it? That was what I was trying to find out and what the Government Leader's timetable is for that.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, certainly in the longer term, the experience in the Land Claims Secretariat, from the negotiating table, will serve departments very well in terms of understanding their obligations, but initially there is going to be a lot of work that has to be done - and is being done by the Land Claims Secretariat who are responsible for the implementation funds right now - to meet a lot of heavy commitments that are front-end loaded from the final agreements and so they will be coordinating a lot of that activity initially.
The goal - and this is a goal that is being pursued with the Public Service Commission - is to ensure that all departments know and understand their obligations themselves so they, themselves, can respond to the intergovernmental obligations and hence, the land claims training that's going on and is sponsored by the Public Service Commission, as well as the advice and assistance that's currently being provided by the Land Claims Secretariat to all departments to bring them up to speed as to their obligations.
So, initially I see a role for the Land Claims Secretariat, after the period of the final negotiations, but I do see that role evolving to the point that departments will have the expertise themselves to be able to respond on an ongoing basis to First Nations, to address First Nations issues and ensure that there is good intergovernmental cooperation. I see that that capacity in departments will be increased.
Mr. Ostashek: We have a substantial number of personnel within departments now who are dedicating the biggest majority of their time to land claims implementation, in Renewable Resources and Community and Transportation Services and other government departments. What time frame does the Government Leader see, if in fact he does see one, where at some point we no longer have a Land Claims Secretariat, regardless of what they were doing.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I haven't come to any conclusions about that, because we're still very much doing both - negotiations and implementation - but I am getting another reading on what the nature of the discussions around the program service transfer agreements is all about, how that will impact on the government and whether or not there should be some kind of central agency in government, like the Land Claims Secretariat, that would manage the discussions or lead the discussions for the government, so that there is a consistent approach across the government when we respond to requests from First Nations to take down one responsibility or another under the self-government agreements.
Right now, there is no formal process in place. Well, there is a formal process in place, of course, for program service transfer agreements - PSTAs - but, so far, there has not been any transfer of responsibility. There's been no First Nation that has taken down, already, any responsibility but there ought to be some capacity in government to guide those discussions, so government policy is consistent applied when a First Nation proceeds under a self-government to take any responsibility that is currently held by the Yukon government.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I appreciate what the Government Leader is saying. I have great difficulty accepting that we need a body as large as the Land Claims Secretariat to focus the discussions of service contracts that may be negotiated with the municipal affairs branch of the territorial government, or some service contracts being negotiated with Renewable Resources. Do we need a whole department for that? I think it would be a very positive message to Yukoners if the Government Leader, at some point - don't get me wrong, I don't expect it now, but at some point - when the claims settlements are over, there was an announcement that we are dismantling the Land Claims Secretariat. I think that would be a very positive message. I can appreciate what the government's saying - that we may need a central focus so that we're consistent in agreements - but is the Government Leader saying that he believes we need a department or a group of people as large as the Land Claims Secretariat is today?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I sure hope not, Mr. Chair. My vision had been that, ultimately, the intergovernmental relations unit would deal with intergovernmental issues, including not only just with other governments around the country and around the world, but also other governments inside the territory, other than municipal governments, and that they would play, essentially, that coordinating role. But, in any case, the people dedicated to the task of responding to PSTAs would be, I would suspect, very small in number, and nothing like the size of the Land Claims Secretariat currently.
Mr. Ostashek: I think that's one place the Government Leader and I are in agreement. I think the intergovernmental relations unit is probably the proper place for that type of process to take place, because right now, we have - I don't know how many - some lawyers over at the Land Claims Secretariat that I would imagine would move back to the Justice department, if they are required there, or there would be a reallocation of staff. I would hope that, at some point, we would be able to signal to the Yukon public that, after all of these years, there has been an accomplishment and claims are settled, and we no longer need something that's called the Land Claims Secretariat.
As we were winding down to the final days that we were in office, there was a great desire by First Nations people to start drawing down self-government powers and responsibilities from the territorial government and also from the federal government, and the Government Leader says there are none in the process right now. Has the sentiment of the First Nations changed in regard to drawing down these powers? Have they put them on the back burner? Maybe the Government Leader can bring us up to date on that.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If I left the impression that nothing is happening, I apologize. What I meant to say, if I didn't say it, was that no programs have been drawn down to First Nation governments. That's not to say that First Nations don't have lists of programs that they would like to see drawn down. They certainly do, and they have given formal notice, as per their obligation under the self-government agreements, of which areas they would like to see drawn down.
The problem lies, as I'm sure the member is aware, in the first instance as to who pays for the program. My contention, our reading, our contention of the final agreements is quite simply that if a First Nation wishes to take over a service, they have the right, under the agreement, to run or manage comparable levels of service with those which currently exist today, which means that they have the right to have those funds to provide for those services.
Now, the Yukon government has an obligation to determine, in the first instance, what it would cost, without First Nations people receiving the service, to provide the service to the rest of the public in a particular area. And they have the right to keep sufficient resources to provide that service and then any savings that they have they can return to the federal government, who will provide the savings and the incremental increased costs to the First Nation to provide the service.
It's a great theory, and it is the law, in my opinion. It's also being resisted by the federal government, and it's being resisted because they see the potential for funding 15 parallel governments all doing the same thing.
So, that is essentially where the PSTA - and it's a lot more complicated, as the member knows, but that's essentially where it is right now. We have not broken the back of that issue, so we've got all three parties agreeing that what is happening is a good thing. The Yukon government is prepared to live up to the spirit of the agreement, but we have to retain sufficient resources to provide the same level of services to non-First Nation citizens as we provide today. And the First Nations want to provide comparable levels of services but complain they don't have the money. And the federal government is saying, "We don't want to fund all these governments, no matter what the agreement has to say."
It's a conundrum. Now, the obligation on Yukon citizens, in my view, is to try to determine how governments can use existing resources to respond to the political imperatives of public government and imperatives of First Nation governments.
I will give you a for instance. If a First Nation decides that it wants to pass a law to further limit hunting on category A lands, then it may not require a full-blown conservation officer to carry out that law. It can easily be a case that the Yukon government's conservation officer can simply apply that law on those lands and public laws on public lands.
The same is true for building inspections. It may be a possibility that we can carry out minor variations of, say, building code standards on settlement A lands with the same building inspections public servants that exist today.
The place it becomes more complicated is when responding to various government needs there is an incremental cost of doing that. At that point, we will have to turn to the federal government and say, "You have the fiduciary responsibility to First Nations. We have a public government responsibility, and we've gone as far as we can to work things out between governments - as far as we can - but we can't go any farther." That is a discussion that will ultimately have to take place, and we need the federal government to be there, on side and willing to retain its fiduciary responsibility and provide whatever funding is required.
Mr. Ostashek: I appreciate what the Government Leader is telling me and I'm fully aware of the conundrum we're in when it comes to the dividing of financial resources when in fact there may not be a saving to the territorial government, even though they're not providing the service to the number of people. The other issue that I see is, from a First Nations point of view - and rightfully so - is that now that they have their land claims and now that they have their self-government, they are trying to create employment for their people. While the Government Leader is quite right, it might not take a whole conservation officer to enforce that law they transfer down, but they would prefer to do it themselves. As a result, we do have a big problem on our hands.
It was my distinct feeling, when I was in the position that the Government Leader is in now, that although the federal government had signed the umbrella final agreement and the model self-government agreement in good faith, they were really very reluctant to start moving into devolving their responsibilities to the First Nations people. I don't know. Maybe I should ask the Government Leader what his feelings are on that.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I don't know what went through the federal mind between the time of the signing and the time of the implementation. It may be that federal Finance inserted themselves into the equation, costed the agreement and provided some institutional resistance. But, it is no secret that they have been heavily resistant to any notion that there is going to be lots of new money rolling into the territory to fund self-government and to fund the land claim outside of the compensation dollars and the initial implementation dollars. They have not been eager to offer funds to provide for self-government.
They have, instead, suggested on a number of occasions, at different times, that somehow the Yukon government, in areas where it is currently responsible, can somehow divide things up and make everybody happy.
We can't fund self-government and we won't fund self-government. So that's the dilemma we're in and the land claims agreement says so. I've had this discussion with federal and First Nations people and they understand completely that this is a reasonable position for us to take, but somehow, if we want to breathe life into the land claim agreement, there has to be some break in this situation and we've got to try to work through some of these issues and see if we can't get some reasonable accommodation.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Government Leader for that. I have a couple of questions here. If the Government Leader can't answer them or doesn't want to answer them, we can get into it in the line by line, but if I can get it now, I don't have to bring it up during line by line.
I see that there's been an increase in the O&M for the aboriginal language program. Are we getting more money from the federal government for that now? Is there a new agreement in place? The old agreement must have just about expired. If there is, can the Government Leader bring us up to date and if there is, I'd like to see a copy of it if I could.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, there is a new negotiators' agreement. It has not been signed yet by me. It has not proceeded through Cabinet, but a negotiators agreement has been concluded. It does mean additional funds and that's the reason for the increase here. It does mean additional funds to the Yukon for a five-year period. The negotiators agreement, I think, is $1.1 million for five years - or around $1.1 million for five years.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you. On the same topic, under the public communications services where the minister said earlier in his reply that he's moved French language in there as well, is that the reason for the $400,000 increase? Has there been an increase in the federal government's funding to the French languages as well as aboriginal languages? Has there been a new agreement there as well that would give us more money?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, well, the increase is obviously largely in French language services and that, of course, is recoverable. This increase is anticipated to be provided under the Canada-Yukon Funding Agreement for 1998-99. We're not certain about the final figures; however, though we should know, I think, now that the federal government's budget is out, what the precise figures are because they will be listed in the departmental detail, which I think comes out this month.
But when this budget was put together, we didn't know precisely what the amount would be.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay, so the Government Leader is telling us that we have a new aboriginal language agreement for five years in the neighbourhood of $1.1 million per year, which has not been finalized yet - or it has been finalized but has not been signed off. Do we also have a new French languages agreement, then? Are the negotiations complete on that as well, or is that still outstanding?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It's still outstanding, Mr. Chair, but with the notice that the member has given, I will provide more information tomorrow.
Mr. Jenkins: If I could just explore a couple of areas with the Government Leader on costs to municipal governments of land claims: when land claims were first introduced and the initial dialogue took place between municipal governments and the Government of Yukon, the statement was made, "There will be no cost to municipal governments for land claims implementation or for negotiation." Is that still the case, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Presumably the member, at some point in the discussion this evening, is going to get around to the City of Dawson's claim that any tax holiday associated with settlement land in the City of Dawson is putting a burden on them that they dispute and have consequently followed up with a reference to the courts.
I've learned about this situation recently, Mr. Chair, and I will be able to respond in more detail tomorrow.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, but if we could just go right back to the initial question of the Government Leader that, when the land claims were first discussed with municipal governments, there was to be no additional costs to municipal governments. Does the Government Leader still subscribe to that position, or has he altered that position?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As the member wants to raise it as a general proposition, I don't remember that proposition ever being made. So, to ask me if it's still a proposition - that's a very awkward question to answer. However, I believe that neither the municipal governments or the Yukon government should be bearing any additional costs associated with a land claims settlement, other than that which is specifically identified in the agreements.
Mr. Jenkins: The Government Leader was very careful to couch his remark with "other than those costs identified in the land claims agreements". So, it just takes us right back to the initial question, and that was a position of the NDP government of the day that, during the land claims, there were to be no additional costs borne by municipal governments as a consequence of land claims or its implementation. Now, why the Government Leader has managed to carefully avoid this question - I'm quite amazed but, true to his fashion, I guess, he's very capable in that regard. So, it leads us right back, full circle, to the original question.
Now, could the Government Leader please remove that section, other than that negotiated in the land claims? Would that be the premise, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I don't understand the member's question.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess, Mr. Chair, we'll ask a simple question. No incremental costs to municipal governments as a consequence of land claims - that was a previous position of the government. Is that still the position of the government today?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I'm not certain that there are no additional costs in the land claims agreements to municipal governments. So, the member again asked me the same question that again is difficult to answer. He is making an assertion about the policy, which I don't know to be true, and saying, "if it's still the case." That's inappropriate. That's an inappropriate question. I can't answer that question. If the Member for Riverdale North wants to ask the question, perhaps he's the one who's sort of giving the direction. Maybe he can do it, but -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Do it. I'm not going anywhere.
So, I don't know that the member's assertion, in the first place, is true.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, but I will find that in hard copy. That was, in fact, the position advanced by this government when they were in power in a previous term, and it was amplified loud and clear at various meetings of the Association of Yukon Communities by various officials of the Government of the Yukon. Now we are starting to lose sight of that position.
Let's pose the question a different way. If there are additional costs as a consequence of land claims negotiated by the Government of the Yukon and the federal government, will the Government of the Yukon be prepared and will they be picking up those additional costs?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Again, the member is talking in generalities. If the member has a specific instance, he can put it on the table and I will review that.
Mr. Jenkins: We were going to lead up to the situation that occurred in Dawson City, but the minister suggested that perhaps it would be more appropriate if he respond to that tomorrow.
I'm sure that municipalities will be very gravely concerned if they are now going to be forced to bear costs associated with land claims implementation. That seems to be the message that the minister is coming through with this evening.
So, let's go back to the issue of taxation and let's deal in general terms with the revenues derived previously from the federal government in grant-in-lieu payments that are now going to be replaced with a direct payment from the recipients of that land.
Does the Government Leader not feel that those sums should be at least equal, that there should be no net loss to municipal governments?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, again the member has made the assertion about land claims policy that I don't know to be true. He's made the assertion that there are no costs to any municipalities and he's making the assertion that, in the case of Dawson City, there is a cost to the municipality.
I want to investigate the entire situation before I can agree with the member on the basic assertions. He is making a case. I don't know if it's the truth, and I can't speculate. It would not be right or responsible for me to speculate until I understand more of the circumstances surrounding the subject.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm not asking the Government Leader to speculate; I'm asking the Government Leader what his policies are in this area. Does he feel it's appropriate that there'll be a net loss to municipal governments in taxing authority and taxing room as a consequence of land claims?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I don't know what the member means by loss of tax room. That question doesn't make any sense. They haven't lost any taxing authority, so I don't think they've lost any tax room or tax authority. What the member's concerned about is that they've lost tax income or they may lose tax income. I think the federal government should pay the same grant-in-lieu that they paid before land claims; they should pay the same after land claims - through the First Nation.
I'm trying to figure out what the member might have been considering with respect to this issue of tax room, but I can't think of anything at the present time. Perhaps tomorrow, Mr. Chair, the member can collect his thoughts and we may be able to have fruitful discussions. The member suggests I should think about it and have some good answers. I was trying to be kind. I could've said, "The member doesn't know what he's talking about when he is talking about tax room."
He doesn't know what he's talking about when he's talking about tax authority, but I didn't say so until the member heckled me. He forced it out of me.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 9.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: 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 the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1998-99, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: I declare the report 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 stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:27 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled March 9, 1998:
Yukon Public Service Staff Relations Board 1996-97 Annual Report (Moorcroft)
Yukon Teachers' Staff Relations Board 1996-97 Annual Report (Moorcroft)
The following Legislative Return was tabled March 9, 1998:
Development assessment process/non-government organizations working group: meetings held (September 1997 to February 1998) (Livingston)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2171