Wednesday, March 11, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
In remembrance of Sylvester Jack, Sr.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, Sylvester Jack, Sr. was born on a trapline in the Atlin area on November 1, 1932 to Antonia and Willy Jack. He is one of 10 children. Sylvester is of the Kukhhittan and Crow clan. His Indian name is Shkuwuyet.
He married Evelyn Ried in June 1948 in Atlin, B.C. They had nine children: two boys and seven girls. Sylvester was a councillor and served as chief for 14 years and was a chief negotiator for the Taku River Tlingits up until his passing. Sylvester was renowned for his skills as an outfitter, a fisherman, a carpenter and a trapper. People often spoke of Sylvester as the most skilled hunter they have ever known. Sylvester was a kind and generous person who was willing to help others and devoted his life to people.
He began his leadership 27 years ago by reaching sobriety with his wife, Evelyn. They were the first couple to reach sobriety in the Atlin community. As a sober person, he gained respect among his people as a leader. He encouraged people to seek the same voyage to lead a sober and healthy life.
During his political career, Sylvester ensured Taku River Tlingits were involved in all court cases dealing with rights and title to their land. To demonstrate true support of aboriginal rights, Sylvester rode the Constitution train in 1982 to ensure that his people were included in section 35 of the Canadian Constitution. He was involved in the Sparrow decision, Meares Island and the Delgamuukw case.
As much as Sylvester was a political leader, he remained close to the Tlingit tradition and culture. His main priorities were his family, land and animals. His passing will leave a space in aboriginal politics, the lives of his family and friends, but will leave the challenge to pick up the torch and continue to strive for the rights of aboriginal people.
He had tremendous respect in the community, and his passing will be a significant loss to aboriginal people. He will be missed by his family and many friends.
Mr. Speaker, Sylvester is survived by his wife, nine children, many grandchildren and many great-grandchildren, his mother, Antonia, and four sisters and two brothers. Some of his family members join us today in the gallery.
Mr. Ostashek: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and the office of the official opposition, we would like to join with members on the government side of the House in paying tribute to the late Sylvester Jack, a leader of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation. Although I did not have the opportunity to work with Mr. Jack, I know that he was well-respected and well-liked by everyone who knew him, and his loss will be felt not only in Atlin, but in much of the Yukon.
Our condolences go out to his wife, Evelyn, and his children.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Mr. Fentie: I have for tabling today a legislative return.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) people in the Yukon may be subject to discrimination based on source of income when seeking accommodation, applying for work, using a public facility or receiving or requesting a public service; and
(2) denial of equal treatment based on source of income should be considered a violation of basic human rights;
THAT this House recognizes that, at present, source of income is not included as a prohibited ground of discrimination within the Yukon Human Rights Act; and
THAT this House urges the Government of the Yukon to introduce legislation which would amend the Yukon Human Rights Act to provide protection from discrimination based on source of income.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Chronic disease self-management program
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I was busy reading over my notes here and thinking about them.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to inform the House of an exciting new pilot program that has been just introduced by the Department of Health and Social Services as an example of our government's policy of fostering healthy communities.
In late February, we took the first step in an 18-month process that will improve the quality of life for many Yukon people by helping them deal with serious chronic health conditions.
With help from the University of British Columbia's Health Promotion Research Institute, the chronic disease self-management project was introduced to the first group of Yukoners. Fifteen Yukon seniors have agreed to sit on the advisory committee that will oversee this project for the next year and a half.
The impetus for this initiative is fourfold: our ageing population, an increase in chronic disease, new concepts about ageing, and the lack of health education programs for people with multiple chronic diseases.
Mr. Speaker, great medical strides this century have helped increase the average Canadian lifespan. Still, we have been unable to find ways to prevent chronic conditions, such as hypertension, arthritis, cardiovascular disease and lung disease. People over 60 years of age suffer, on average, from two of these unpreventable chronic diseases.
Yet, decline in physical and mental health is not an inevitable part of ageing. Research shows that interventions to improve lifestyle behaviours can improve physical and mental health and help people enjoy greater autonomy for a longer period of time.
Unfortunately, chronic disease has been generally limited to relieving symptoms or intervening to reverse the chronic disease process. This pilot project, the first of its kind in Canada, complements medical care by providing seniors with new skills and knowledge to help them manage their conditions.
Trained leaders will work with groups of 15 to 20 seniors for seven weeks, providing them with new tools to deal with their chronic condition. They will teach participants how to develop an exercise program and will look at breathing exercises, problem solving, cognitive symptom management, communication skills, use of medication and dealing with the emotions associated with chronic disease. At the end of 18 months, we expect to have helped some 200 Yukon seniors.
The chronic disease self-management program is based on a highly successful program designed for arthritis management. It was expanded to cover other chronic diseases and was piloted last year at California's Stanford University.
During the 12 years of experience with the arthritis program, which focused on community-based education programs, research has found that participants were generally able to reduce their pain and their use of health care services. The steps they took to manage their arthritis also resulted in a marked improvement in other conditions.
The study found that many older people were willing and able to manage their chronic condition when given appropriate instruction.
Because this is a pilot project, we have built in strong monitoring and evaluation components. We want to determine whether the program is feasible, viable and acceptable to Yukon people of all ages with chronic conditions.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. On behalf of the Yukon party caucus and office of the official opposition, I would like to offer our support for the chronic disease self-management program. With an ageing population, with people living longer and the fact that the size of our families is decreasing, there is a growing concern about meeting the future health needs of our population.
Starting in the year 2011, it is expected that the number of retired people - those over 65 years of age - will more than double, as compared to the 3.7 million in our population now. With this in mind, it is no surprise that we will be facing a big challenge in the coming decades with increasing numbers of people with chronic diseases and a declining number of people to care for them. In fact, it is predicted that there will a shortage of registered nurses in the next decade, in the range of 59,000 to 113,000 by the year 2011 as a result of an ageing nursing workforce, fewer young people entering the profession and a rapidly ageing population with increasing health care needs. Furthermore, it is estimated that the demand for registered nursing services will grow by some 46 percent between 1993 and 2011 with the increased use of hospitals.
Increasingly, all jurisdictions in Canada are finding themselves in a situation where there is an increased demand and limited dollars. Like the Yukon, we're having to look carefully at expenditures on health care to ensure that the best services possible are being delivered in the most cost-effective manner.
What is needed, Mr. Speaker, in simple terms, are more initiatives that will assist elders and seniors to continue to play an active role in their communities; that will enable elders and seniors to retire in their home communities and to continue to reside in the Yukon; that will enable elders and seniors to remain in their homes as long as they are physically able and willing to do so.
To do this, there must be an increased emphasis on the services that are required to keep people at home, services such as transportation, housing and home care. Yukon seniors currently enjoy a healthy lifestyle. Let's keep it that way.
Perhaps in his rebuttal, the minister would kindly respond to the following questions: who are the trained leaders in this program; where are they from and what are their qualifications; what will be the cost associated with this pilot project; will seniors in rural communities be involved in the project? And perhaps the minister could elaborate further as to the monitoring and evaluation that will be undertaken to determine whether the program is feasible.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Liberal caucus to give qualified support for the new chronic disease self-management program. There is no question that as our bodies age we will inevitably have to deal with at least one chronic health problem. It is up to us, however, to decide how we live with this change in our physical selves.
Mr. Speaker, over the last decade, there has been an increase in the use of complementary medicine. The use of biofeedback, meditation, preventive vitamin therapies and visualization techniques are now relatively commonplace in cancer, heart, arthritis and diabetes clinics across this country. These techniques do not replace drug therapies, but rather serve to complement the use of standard drug regimes.
I wonder if the minister could elaborate on the type of pain management techniques that will be utilized in the program. Hopefully, the use of complementary medicine will also be incorporated into this new initiative.
While the minister's on his feet next, I would like further clarification as to who will be delivering this program here in Whitehorse. Yukon nurses are leaving the territory at an alarming rate. It is my hope that this program will endeavour to utilize local medical personnel, rather than imported medical people from B.C., when putting on this program, both at the pilot stage and into the future.
Furthermore, could the minister tell us how much money is going to be spent on this project? Is there any other funding coming from elsewhere to support this project? Is there any money coming from the federal government?
Lastly, is this project going to be available to any seniors living in rural Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I can tell the members that there are quite a few questions here. I can either provide a briefing from our Health department, or I can provide this by way of a more detailed legislative return in terms of staffing, costs and types of therapies that are going to be used.
I think, however, what's important is that these are, along with our recent reinvestment, in terms of home care, some ways in which we are trying to provide people the skills with which to live at home and with which to enjoy their senior years because, certainly, people's lifespans have not only been expanded, but their quality of life has been increased over the years. From a personal sense, I have used the arthritis pain management for rheumatoid arthritis, and I found it very useful. It was delivered here. I found it very useful when I had a particularly bad bout of that. I think we're building on the success of the arthritis management program in this regard.
I will provide such things as involvement of other therapies, et cetera, by way of legislative return for the members.
Speaker: This brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Faro mine restructuring
Mr. Ostashek: My question is for the Government Leader. This morning on the news, we heard an interview with the Economic Development minister, and I was somewhat surprised by the lack of optimism that the Economic Development minister is giving to the revival of the restructuring of the Faro mine. In fact, it appears that he's written it off because he's on his way to Ottawa to start dipping in to the trust fund for reclamation work before the corpse has even been buried. Can the Government Leader confirm for this House if this is the government's view, that the Faro mine is as good as closed for good?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, it's not. The purpose of the member's visit to Ottawa to seek the option of using reclamation funds is primarily due to the fact that some reclamation can take place now, even before the mine resumes. There is a fair amount of reclamation work that needs to be done, and can be done even simultaneously with the mine operating. So, in order to ensure that there is some opportunity for some mine-related work for Faro or Yukon residents, the Minister of Economic Development is making a proposal to the federal government to consider using reclamation funds now to start the work of some environmental cleanup this summer.
Mr. Ostashek: I understood that somebody was responsible for the environmental monitoring of the mine and making sure that settling ponds didn't leak while we're going through the court proceedings. It's my understanding, Mr. Speaker, that about $20 million of the $70 million that Anvil Range owes is owed to Yukon businesses. It is further my understanding that around $6 million of that $20 million owed to Yukon creditors is owed to the Government of Yukon and the Energy Corporation. Can the Government Leader advise this House if the money owed directly or indirectly to the Yukon government has first charge over the money owed to Yukon businesses? Basically, I'm looking to see who's going to be paid out first - is it going to be the government, or is it going to be Yukon businesses?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, our legal standing aside, we do have an interest in the fate of Yukon creditors as well and, certainly, any arrangement that is struck between the creditors in the court over the fate of the Anvil Range assets and mine property should not only take into account the government's interest, which is a very legitimate interest on behalf of Yukon taxpayers, but also particularly the Yukon-based creditors as well as the workers at the mine.
So, we are looking to provide as much support for all those parties as we can.
Our primary objective, of course, is to see that whatever restructuring takes place will involve an opportunity for the mine to get started as soon as possible.
Mr. Ostashek: I wonder if the Government Leader could tell the House and Yukoners if the government has undertaken an evaluation of how many Yukon companies may find themselves facing insolvency if they're unable to recoup the money owed to them by Anvil Range? And is this government prepared to do anything to help them?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, we do know who the creditors are. We do know how much their claims are before the court. I'm not certain that they know with any degree of certainty whether or not, if those claims aren't met, those same companies would dissolve into bankruptcy. But we are very concerned with the fate of the creditors and we have attended a number of meetings that involve all lawyers, including the creditors' lawyers, Cominco's, Anvil Range's, the federal government's, et cetera, at the request, even, of the creditors to ensure that there is a clear understanding of the creditors' interests.
We are not in a position at this point to know precisely what arrangements might be struck. There are still complicated negotiations going on between the lawyers. When those negotiations become clearer, we'll be in a better position to determine what the impact will be on the various parties.
Question re: Social assistance requirements respecting child support
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Last week, I raised some concerns about the Yukon Housing Corporation clawing back 25 percent of the child support paid to custodial parents living in Yukon Housing units. I also asked the Minister of Justice to look at all areas of government that have an impact on the income of custodial parents.
Mr. Speaker, it has come to my attention that when delinquent dads default on their maintenance payments - child support payments - to their former spouses, it sometimes forces the mothers to apply for social assistance.
Is the Minister of Health and Social Services aware that single mothers applying for assistance must first use any savings in retirement registered savings plans, registered education plans for their children, and even any trust funds established for their children before they are able to qualify for social assistance?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the concept behind social assistance is that it is the measure of last resort. With regard to that, we have not significantly changed our rules from the previous government with regard to child support being part of the calculated income. That was a decision brought down by the previous government, and I believe the member was a member of Cabinet at the time that that decision was made.
Mr. Phillips: Maybe the mothers who are taking care of their children should use Mr. Bemis to lobby on their behalf. They'd probably have more success with this government.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, the member has said that it was under a previous Yukon Party administration, but his government has spoken in the throne speech about child poverty, and this is an issue that leads us right into concerns about child poverty.
Can the minister at least look into the situation where applicants are forced to exhaust any small savings, even savings that were put away for their children's future - education or security of single mothers and their children - before they can receive any help from social assistance? Would the minister at least look at that as a way of making sure that these people aren't locked into social assistance for the rest of their lives?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, we're always looking at ways to improve the social assistance program, to try to make it fair and try to make it more targeted for individuals that do need it. I should just re-emphasize, however, that the changes which did involve the calculation for all sources of income, as the basis for social assistance, were brought about by the previous government. That was a decision that was made at that time.
Mr. Phillips: Well, this government has been in government for 18 months now. It talked in the throne speech about child poverty.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Phillips: I'm raising the issue with the minister. When single mothers are forced to use their future security savings in the shape of RRSPs, RESPs and children's trust funds, they are forced to accept social assistance for a longer period of time and to be more dependent on it in their old age, not to mention the fate of the children when the RESPs and the trust funds are depleted, so that further education opportunities are lost to the kids as well, perhaps perpetuating the social assistance cycle.
What I would like to ask the minister, in light of his government's comments on child poverty is this: will the minister look into this situation and bring about some changes in the social assistance legislation or at least allow some security and independence for the unfortunate single mothers and their children? Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As I mentioned earlier, we are continually looking at ways we can make the system better and make the system fairer and more targeted toward individuals who need it the most.
I have expressed to both the Health and Social Services Council, as well as the Anti-poverty Coalition, my interest in sitting down with them in the future to look at ways in which we can make our social assistance program more targeted.
I have concerns that perhaps we're not - not just with social assistance, but with the whole plethora of programs that we have - as targeted as we should be.
I would remind the member that social assistance costs have risen quite substantially. We are trying to cope with that and we are trying to provide the best level of service for everyone.
Question re: Faro mine restructuring
Mr. Cable: I have some further questions for the Government Leader on Faro and Anvil Range. Our man in Toronto, the Economic Development minister, was on the radio this morning, and he was talking about a restructuring package, and the fact that this package would be presented to the court next week.
What is the government's position on this restructuring package? Is it in favour, and will it be instructing its lawyers to take that position in court?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The restructuring package is a moving document as the negotiations between the various parties proceed. I would suspect that the nature of the arrangement - if there can be an arrangement before a court - will evolve between now and then as well. Our primary objectives in the court are, first of all, to protect the interests of the workers at Faro, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and the creditors to the fullest extent that we can. Another objective, equally important, is that any restructuring would allow the mine to open as easily as possible, as soon as the economics permit.
Mr. Cable: Well, I had the sense from the news clips that the minister had actually seen the restructuring package, or had it presented to him and had discussions with the corporate executives on it.
Let me ask this question: the leader of the official opposition asked the Government Leader on the priority as between the government and the Yukon Energy Corporation's indebtedness and the trade creditors. What position is this government taking in court? Is it taking the position that the miners' liens that the Energy Corporation has and the government partly inherited take priority over the trade creditors, or are they prepared to share on some pro rata basis with the trade creditors?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, first of all, Mr. Speaker, I don't want to leave the impression that there is one package and that's all there's ever been and, as it sort of makes its way to court, that's what's going to happen. There are many different incarnations through the negotiations that have taken place over the last few weeks. There are many different incarnations of an arrangement, as the various parties to the discussions speak to their interests and try to make strategic alliances.
With respect to our position, particularly with respect to trade creditors, there is a willingness to share, in some measure, the loss - to the extent that there will be one - with the trade creditors.
Mr. Cable: The Economic Development minister was also talking about the use of the reclamation fund, the $14 million that's in there and that was spoken to a few moments ago. Does the use of the reclamation fund have the support of the environmental community in the Yukon, most notably the Yukon Conservation Society? Has that support been sought by the government prior to the announcement?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I'm not aware of any discussions - it doesn't mean there haven't been discussions - between the department and the conservation community. What is being proposed in principle is that some of the reclamation funds get to work and start cleaning up some of the old workings of the mine. This doesn't prevent new workings from operating and from being the foundation for new mining operations, but there are clearly workings there now that can be cleaned up. So, the proposal is to start on some of that work and, in that effort, contribute to putting some people to work who need work.
Question re: FAS/FAE, support for adults
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. When children with FAS/FAE turn 18, they will leave group homes, foster care, the justice and education system and in these systems they are greatly supported. There are currently no programs in place to support these adults once they turn 18. What is this government doing to develop programs for those individuals?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: One of the things that we have been working with is we've been continually working with our vocational rehabilitation folks as well as our partners, Challenge, to try to provide meaningful employment and training programs for such individuals.
The member is right when she says that these individuals often find themselves somewhat at odds with the world of work, and particularly the world of justice. That's a particular concern of mine. I'm interested in seeing what kinds of things we can be doing. I've had some discussions with parents of FAS/FAE children, particularly around the whole question of adult guardianship. That appears to be a major issue and I think it's something we will want to work on.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, it's interesting that the minister brings up that very issue, because it's my understanding that, when the minister spoke to FASSY, which is a grassroots advocacy group for children and adults with FAS and FAE, he gave this group an understanding that there was someone assigned in the Department of Justice to look at issues around adult guardianship. And I'm wondering where we are along that road, and whether this initiative is still in place?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, there is an internal working group that involves both our department, Health and Social Services, and Justice, and we are currently developing proposals on adult guardianship legislation. This is not a new issue and it's something that a fair degree of complex work is being done on.
There are essentially three pieces that are being proposed: enduring power of attorney, estate administration legislation, and adult guardianship. We have, so far, enacted the enduring power of attorney. That was in 1995. However, we do need to work on further legislation for people who are vulnerable, and we are continuing to work on that.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, last year I met with First Nations health directors from across the Yukon and they have major concerns about the lack of programs for adults with fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects. Any programming that is available to those people with FAS and FAE in the rural areas completely disappears at the age of 18.
Mr. Speaker, what is this government doing to develop programs for adults with FAS and FAE in rural Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: One of the things that I think we will be doing is looking at how we can extend out some of our services from our vocational department.
A major concern of ours, and I have to be very frank about this, is the proposed changes on the federal level, which might take such issues surrounding disabilities resulting from alcohol out of the loop in terms of being covered, and that would be a major impact. Somewhere around $1.2 million would hit us in that case.
Now, we have been fortunate in protecting, at least for the next three years, that funding and we are not anticipating that it will be impacted, but certainly, if I read the federal government correctly, it is their intention to take support for programs resulting from alcohol-induced disabilities out of future funding, and that would have a major impact on us.
Question re: Maintenance enforcement
Mr. Phillips: Once again, on the issue of maintenance enforcement, but this time my question is directed to the Minister of Justice, who is also responsible for the Women's Directorate.
Mr. Speaker, I must say that I am very concerned about the attitude of this government in relation to maintenance enforcement, especially in view of the strong comments that have been made and passed by the current Minister of Justice when she was in opposition.
The message, in relation to maintenance enforcement, simply hasn't gotten through to her colleagues. She spoke out strongly when she was in opposition, but the minister responsible for housing isn't getting the message, and we hear today that the minister responsible for health isn't getting the message. What's even worse, it appears that the message of help hasn't even gotten through to the minister's own Department of Justice.
Can the minister tell this House why her department reversed the policy that the Yukon Party government had in place to provide legal aid and assistance to single mothers involved in ongoing court proceedings to preserve their maintenance enforcement payments? This policy was changed by the NDP government in November. Why did they do that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member opposite is completely wrong in his allegations, and I believe he's wrong in his facts, as well. Mr. Speaker, since coming into office, we have made improvements to the maintenance enforcement program, and we will continue to do so.
We have put revised criteria in place for the application of administrative sanctions against debtors who have not paid child support. That was done in April of 1997. We have followed through in applying for motor vehicle sanctions using these revised criteria in a number of cases. The member opposite says that we're not working on improving the maintenance enforcement program, and he's wrong.
Mr. Phillips: The problem is, Mr. Speaker, that the minister might think she's doing a great job, but all the single mothers who are calling me and raising this as an issue don't think the minister is doing a very good job. In fact, I'll be requesting a meeting with the Minister of Health and the Minister of Justice, with some single mothers, to sit down and discuss the problems. I would hope that they would allow us, at least, to have a meeting.
Mr. Speaker, the court can be an extremely intimidating place, and it's totally unfair to place a single mother in a situation where she has to go to court to represent herself and face a lawyer hired by a defaulting ex-husband, who is arguing to reduce her maintenance enforcement payments. Does the minister think that's fair, now that she's changed the policy to deny legal aid to the mother who is trying to defend herself?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, it is the Legal Services Society board that self-sets the criteria for how legal aid funding is applied.
I will have to check into what the member is stating with regard to changes to the Legal Services Society board's decision and come back with an answer to the House on that.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, the minister is aware of this program. One of the individuals who has contacted me has contacted the minister and her officials and told her that it's been a problem. She knows about it. She can't say she has to check on it. She knows about the problem. And the minister has said herself that she would make changes within maintenance enforcement to help single mothers, so I'm going to ask the minister to quit hiding behind boards and committees, as both those ministers seem to do on these kinds of issues, and make a decision that will help single mothers in the territory. Will she do that, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite didn't seem to be listening to the answers that he has been getting from this side of the House. As I've indicated, we have already made improvements to the policies that govern the maintenance enforcement program. We are continuing to look at ways to improve the maintenance enforcement program, and we will do exactly that.
Question re: Anti-poverty strategy
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I have another question for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, last night I attended a meeting of the anti-poverty coalition, again with the member from Whitehorse Centre. One of the topics of discussion was this government's lack of an anti-poverty strategy.
Last year's budget speech and this year's budget speech indicated that this government has an anti-poverty strategy. This would imply, Mr. Speaker, a written document that outlines all the steps that this government is taking to alleviate poverty in this territory. It would include goals, objectives, time lines, implementation steps, consultation plans and funding commitments. It is not an ad hoc number of projects listed under the heading "anti-poverty strategy" in a budget speech.
Can the minister provide an anti-poverty strategy document to this Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, that is my intent during the course of this session. Since she was so studious at attending that meeting, I had attended an earlier meeting and I'd subsequently had several discussions with representatives from that group. I have urged them to bring forward to me some suggestions in terms of convening - I suppose for lack of a better term - a social forum. I've also reiterated this with our Health and Social Services Council as something that I would like them to do. I'd like them to work with this group in terms of looking at where our social priorities should be, where we should be best directing our resources in a whole range of issues.
I made that offer last fall. I've had subsequent talks with individuals in that regard about pulling this together, and I spoke with the Health and Social Services Council on Friday about this.
Speaker: Will the minister please conclude his statement.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Edelman: I asked for this document last session and I was promised the document, and I didn't receive it. So hopefully this time the minister will come through.
Now Mr. Speaker, when I questioned the minister a year ago about the anti-poverty strategy, he promised that he was out talking to NGOs and anti-poverty advocates about what to include in an anti-poverty strategy for the Yukon. Now, Mr. Speaker, I know the minister has had one closed-door meeting with the Whitehorse Anti-Poverty Coalition, but poverty extends beyond Whitehorse. In many rural communities, the unemployment rate is far higher than Whitehorse, and there are even fewer services available to those in need.
Will the minister commit today to consultations in rural communities as part of the development of a Yukon-wide anti-poverty strategy?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can tell the member that I spent a good deal of last fall and last summer travelling around to Yukon communities, talking with a whole variety of groups. I don't just go into a community and say, oh hi, I'm here to talk about one thing. I talk at length with groups such as child care; I talk at length with groups in dealing with health; I talk with interagency groups. I get a sense of some of the issues that are facing the communities. Certainly some of those issues are focused in on what we'll be looking at and where our future strategies go.
One of the things that I've heard from communities is the need for early intervention strategies, and that's something that we're currently working on right now. We hope to bring forward a very comprehensive program in that regard.
So yes, I pay attention to what goes on in rural communities. I've lived in rural communities. I've a good sense of what happens in rural communities, and I've got a very good sense of where some of the shortcomings are.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, I hope that people in rural communities feel the same way as the minister, and that they have had a chance to give their input on this particular issue.
The last time I spoke with the minister on this issue, he said that he was developing a territorial standard - or a true poverty indicator - so that the department could decide who was poor and who wasn't. What has the minister done to develop those statistics on poverty, and may I have a copy of that information?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we've had several discussions with our departments and with the stats branch on trying to do some compilation of what the true indicators are of poverty. As I went to great length on before, it is a very difficult thing to quantify. But, we are currently working with stats and getting a better sense of what the true face of poverty is. I would be happy to bring that forward to the member when we have it complete and when we have it in detail.
Question re: Fuel prices
Mr. Jenkins: My question is for the Government Leader, once again on the issue of high Yukon gasoline prices.
Last evening, on the B.C.T.V. news, there was a story about fuel prices in British Columbia being the lowest in four years. Yesterday, in this House, I advised the Government Leader that gas prices just across the border in Alaska were at an all-time low. Gas prices have been going down since August and Yukoners should have seen the prices go down at the pumps by September.
Mr. Speaker, nothing has happened and this government appears not to care that Yukoners are being hosed at the pumps.
These are tough economic times for Yukoners. I ask the Government Leader, once again, to take immediate action - and I emphasize the word "immediate" - to find out why Yukoners are paying so much for gas at our pumps here in the Yukon. Will the minister do that, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the member asked the same question yesterday, and I'll give him the same answer today. The Department of Economic Development is doing an analysis. That analysis will be made known to people once it's complete.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Yukoners don't need the expensive, $100,000, twelve-month investigation into gasoline prices. I am sure that officials within the Department of Economic Development could find some answers quite quickly, and I would ask the Government Leader to make an undertaking here today to report back with the results of the department's investigation to this House at the end of the spring break, on March 23. Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I'm happy to see the member has backed off the public inquiry route because we both now agree that...
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We both...
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well obviously, Mr. Speaker, -
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: ....that that route is not the appropriate route to take. However, we both now agree and we've taken a few questions now to cement this new relationship. We both now agree that the department should do an analysis, and I've committed that the analysis is being done now. The member has asked that it be done now and I've committed that it is being done now.
The member has asked that it be delivered by the end of the March break. I will check to see whether or not we can make public the results of the analysis by the end of the March break.
Mr. Jenkins: Finally we're getting somewhere. I raised the issue of high gasoline prices in a press release over a month ago - over a month ago, Mr. Speaker - and this government has -
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Jenkins: - sat around and has done nothing but citing the high cost of fuel inventories and Yukon taxes being responsible for high gasoline prices - totally absurd - and then suggesting that a $100,000, expensive investigation into gasoline prices is necessary. You know, that is totally absurd. What we need is a very quick review of the situation and determine what is keeping the gas prices in the Yukon as high as they are today. The minister has given us his assurances. Can the March 23 deadline be met, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, the member asked me that question already and I gave him an answer already. I will check with the Department of Economic Development to determine whether or not the analysis that they are undertaking can be ready for the end of the March break.
So, the member has asked the question a number of different times in virtually the same way and I'm giving the answer in virtually the same way. I think, after all this time, we have an understanding. I hope we do.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed and we will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
GOVERNMENT PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 92, standing in the name of Mr. McRobb.
Motion No. 92
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Kluane
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) completion of a sustainable network of Yukon protected areas will ensure the protection of the territory's ecological diversity for future generations and offer economic opportunities and certainty;
(2) the Yukon protected areas strategy should be developed in partnership with federal and First Nations governments, citizens and stakeholders; and
(3) commonly agreed-upon guidelines and public regional processes should be employed to implement the strategy where land claims have been completed; and
THAT this House commends the Government of Yukon for its work toward the establishment of a system of Yukon protected areas.
Mr. McRobb: I am proud to rise today in support of this motion and the government's work toward completing a sustainable network of Yukon protected areas.
In preparing the Yukon protected areas strategy, we are responding to the overwhelming interest in and support for getting on with the task of protecting our significant natural and cultural resources.
The protected areas strategy will be a critical tool to help maintain a sustainable environment, to preserve biodiversity, to protect spiritual and cultural places, to create jobs and economic benefits, and to maintain essential ecological processes.
Future generations will be thankful for our vision and for preserving the quality of life for all Yukon and its people.
Those who choose to fear-monger, instead of getting on with the work that Yukoners clearly support, say it's a jobs-versus-environment issue. Well, Mr. Speaker, the truth is that it's a jobs-and-environment issue.
Mr. Speaker, the official opposition would have us believe that protected areas subtract jobs from the economy. Well, logically, you can't take away jobs that haven't yet been created. It has been shown that protected areas around the world create jobs. The B.C. government has created more than 9,000 in parks alone. Perhaps - and I sincerely hope the Member for Riverdale North is listening - the Yukon Party should do something to improve their math marks.
The official opposition would also have us believe that MacMillan Bloedel layoffs in the B.C. example have been caused by what they described as "punitive NDP fiscal policy combined with a legion of anti-business and pro-preservationist government initiatives." However, Mr. Speaker, these very political musings are far from the truth. In fact, direct forestry employment shrank by one-quarter, or 27,000 jobs, from 1981 to 1991 due to automation and corporate restructuring. The trend of job losses due to those factors has continued, along with factors such as world fibre prices and the overcommitment of forests that industry is now having to face up to. Insignificant numbers of job losses due to the establishment of B.C. protected areas have been more than compensated through B.C.'s forest renewal program.
Protecting intact samples of the earth's ecosystems is an urgent global priority. Scientists agree that unless decisive action is taken now to retain our planet's biodiversity, the majority of earth species are vulnerable to extinction, including our own.
Nature is under a catastrophic assault. Species are becoming extinct worldwide each day.
Since the emergence of humankind some 100,000 years ago, 75 percent of the earth's forests have been eliminated. Half of all forest loss has occurred since 1950. In British Columbia, half of all trees ever logged have been cut since 1972.
Yukoners care a great deal about the environment and its wildlife. The wilderness values of the Yukon are the envy of the world. Visitors often come to the territory to experience these wilderness values because they have none left where they come from. These visitors have an acute sense of that loss and are very appreciative of the Yukon's intact wilderness.
Personally, Mr. Speaker, I've spoken to several tourists, business owners, and recent immigrants to the Yukon in the Haines Junction area, and they are very mindful of this. One common theme they point out is that Yukoners seem to take our wilderness for granted.
Our government has been listening, and Yukoners don't want this great asset squandered.
Yes, Mr. Speaker, the Liberals want us to know they've been listening, too.
We can protect our natural and cultural heritage and the jobs that will be created from doing that, or we can destroy both and be forced to explain to our children why we wasted their inheritance before they could ever know it.
Looking across the floor, Mr. Speaker, I see that look of disapproval on the faces of opposition members. We all know how they like to live for the moment and to heck with tomorrow. It's that prehistoric attitude that prevents real vision in political policy. If the former Member for Riverdale South is listening, I'm sure she knows what I'm referring to - those beer-drinking, back-slapping, good old boys.
Speaker: Order. Please. Please do not use abusive language.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, maybe you can indicate for me what part of that was abusive?
Speaker: Referring to a person. Withdraw that remark and continue.
Mr. McRobb: I'm sorry. I don't understand, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The reference to beer drinking and back slapping. Would you withdraw those remarks and continue please.
Mr. McRobb: I apologize for that, Mr. Speaker.
More seriously, Canadian wild places are being lost.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order. The member did not withdraw the remarks.
Speaker: Would the member please withdraw the remarks.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. McRobb: I certainly understand why the member is upset, and I will officially, for the record, ensure Hansard has it: I withdraw those remarks.
Speaker: Thank you. Continue.
Mr. McRobb: More seriously, Mr. Speaker, Canadian wild places are being lost at the rate of 100 hectares every hour. Many of the 300,000 plant and animal species in Canada, and the ecosystems that protect both them and humans, are at risk.
The Yukon Party's idea of sustainable development while they were in government was to allow an excavator to tear up the critical habitat of the Killermun Lake caribou calving grounds, while shooting wolves from a helicopter in the name of saving that same herd.
The former Government Leader went on, when he was promoting a coal plant as the answer to the Yukon's energy problems, about the mountain sheep wandering around among heavy machinery at a coal mine site near Jasper National Park in Alberta. Therefore, those sheep must not have been affected by industrial activity, he thought.
Well, if that isn't the greatest, grossest, oversimplification of species and how they function in a completely disrupted habitat I've ever heard.
The Member for Porter Creek North thinks that if you can see them, they must be surviving human activity unscathed. It's that same old rifle-scope mentality, Mr. Speaker.
The protected areas strategy will contribute to the long-term viability and growth of the tourism industry and diversification of the territorial economy. Mining is not the only industry in the Yukon. The tourism industry is a $124-million industry. Ecotourism and adventure tourism is a rapidly growing sector of that industry.
There is a great deal of evidence from other places showing that protected areas bring economic benefits and jobs to local communities, provide long-term stability, diversify the economy and ensure subsistence food harvests.
Some examples of how protected areas can create new opportunities for jobs, Mr. Speaker, are wildlife research and management, resource management and conservation research, cultural heritage research, interpretation and guiding services, construction and maintenance of park facilities and tourism services, outdoor recreation services and equipment sales. We are getting on with the task of creating protected areas. We are following through with the numerous commitments made over the years by various governments.
The government is not leading jurisdictions in its progress toward the goal that every provincial, territorial and federal jurisdiction has signed on to. The reason is the catch-up work required after the zero progress made by the previous government.
I have a letter dated November 24, 1995, signed by the former Yukon Party Minister of Economic Development, stating that a framework for a comprehensive protected areas strategy for the Yukon was expected to be completed by spring 1996. Well, Mr. Speaker, just like all the other expectations the Yukon Party goes about raising with such ease, they didn't produce that framework either.
Those in the opposition benches complain that we're moving too fast, even though they have known for a year and a half that our government has committed to accomplishing what Yukon agreed to do.
The Yukon committed to support the endangered spaces campaign in 1990. There was absolutely no progress on this commitment during the Yukon Party's term.
The endangered spaces campaign seeks to protect a representative sample of each of the country's terrestrial regions and one-third of the marine regions, to be protected by the year 2000, and to complete protection of the remaining two-thirds by the year 2010.
Setting up this network of protected areas and ensuring that these lands and waters are well-managed provides a framework of conservation. By setting aside sufficient and whole examples of habitats, we can save the wild species in all their diversity, including those species and ecosystems we are still woefully ignorant about.
All three parties supported the endangered spaces campaign commitment, Mr. Speaker. The Member for Porter Creek South, true to the Liberal tradition of fence-sitting, says she's pleased the protected areas strategy is an environmental priority for the NDP government. In the next breath, she says that the development of a protected areas strategy is causing uncertainty and impediments for the industry, in that environmental concerns are overshadowing resource concerns. The Liberals are terrified of alienating anyone by stating their real position.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
I see the member is nodding her head; she asks me to refer to Hansard. Well, Mr. Speaker, that's where I got this reference: from Hansard. It's what she said, Mr. Speaker, not too long ago.
The protected areas strategy will provide for the protection of wilderness values while recognizing the importance of sustainable development. A completed protected areas network will bring more certainty for industries such as mining and forestry regarding where they can or cannot operate.
Industry, as well as the Department of Economic Development, have been full partners in developing the strategy. Their comments and concerns are being given full consideration.
Once completed this year, the Yukon-wide protected areas strategy will clearly set out the Yukon-wide goals: commitments, targets - I see, Mr. Speaker, the leader of the official opposition has come awake at that word - and guiding principles for the establishment of protected areas. The strategy will clearly identify a proposed method to recognize, analyze and resolve conflicting interests in an equitable manner.
Investment for the mining industry depends most heavily on international metal prices, exchange rates and an ability to raise very large capital flow and investment to continue operations.
Major companies continue to say that the Yukon is a good place to invest. The protected areas strategy will make their investments more secure.
In many parts of the country, economic development interests are working cooperatively toward to the endangered spaces campaign goals. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers firmly supports Special Places 2000 in Alberta. The petroleum producers have signed an agreement with non-governmental conservation organizations on achieving the endangered spaces goals.
In Manitoba, the Chamber of Mines is working with government, conservation organizations and First Nations to achieve the endangered spaces goals.
The Whitehorse mining initiative is widely accepted across Canada. It is considered a model of cooperation in finding the middle ground between development and conservation. Stakeholders, including industry, conservation, labour and First Nations, agreed that, even when a regulatory system is working well to protect the environment, there are some places where mining or any industrial activity is inappropriate.
The Whitehorse mining initiative accord states that protected areas networks are a fundamental part of the sustainable balance of society, economy and the environment. The accord states its goal: to create and set aside from industrial development by the year 2000 those protected areas required to achieve representation of Canada's land-based natural regions.
The Yukon government has agreed to the commitments to protect areas contained in the Canadian biodiversity strategy, a statement of commitment to complete Canada's networks of protected areas, the endangered spaces campaign and the Whitehorse mining initiative.
Last year, our government started developing the protected areas strategy in an open and participatory fashion. Stakeholders have known for more than a year that we are developing a protected areas strategy. Stakeholders, including representatives from the federal government, economic development interests, commerce, conservation organizations and renewable resources councils have participated in a protected areas advisory committee during the past year. Industry stakeholders include the tourism, mining and forest sectors.
There is also a steering committee including the federal government, the Yukon government and the Council of Yukon First Nations.
Almost 400 Yukoners have participated in workshops and open houses across the territory. The February 1998 Yukon Protected Areas Public Consultation Report documents more than 100 written responses, commenting on what they want included in a protected areas strategy. Excellent progress has been made during the past year. Certainly, there have been different viewpoints on how best to establish protected areas. We have welcomed the debate because it's an indication of the importance of these issues to Yukoners.
The Yukon is a signatory to the umbrella final agreement, First Nation final agreements and the Inuvialuit final agreement, which specify requirements for protected areas and planning and development in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, I commend the White River First Nation, in my riding of Kluane, for having the foresight to establish four special management areas as part of their recently announced land claims settlement. I'll personally be there on Saturday at their celebration, and I'll be repeating these congratulations at that time.
Other First Nations have also established SMAs. First Nations in the Yukon understand the importance of protecting wildlife and habitat and preserving their traditional way of life. They are helping to achieve the endangered spaces goal.
The Yukon needs to diversify its economy. There is no better time than now to add other sectors to our economy that's overly dependent on resource extraction. Protected areas don't subtract from the economy; they add to it. Protected areas will have a serious impact on the economy; however, it will be a positive impact, Mr. Speaker.
Protected areas will open up a new sector of job opportunities, creating a more stable economy for the future. I remind the opposition members that you can't take away jobs that haven't yet been created. Most importantly, Mr. Speaker, protected areas will provide us all with priceless wealth that can't be measured in dollars or jobs.
Protected areas will help sustain a natural world that we humans are very much dependent on. Protected areas will help sustain clear air, water, soil, other living species and a diversity of living species. Protected areas will provide us with the opportunity to get in touch with ourselves and our surroundings.
Mr. Speaker, that might be most beneficial to the members opposite, and I urge them to pay special consideration to that point alone.
For many Yukoners and visitors, protected areas will provide a chance to heal and rejuvenate from the stresses and difficulties in their lives.
When opposition members complain that developing a protected area strategy is a serious threat to investment, I ask them to seriously think about how road-block arguments threaten advancement on behalf of the best interests of Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, I have plenty more to say on the topic of protected area strategy, but I'm most interested to hear what the opposition members have to say and what my colleagues have to say. I'll save my additional comments for rebuttal.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, well, well. Maybe his colleagues will have something sensible to say about the protected area strategy rather than the gobbledegook we just listened to.
Members opposite, Mr. Speaker, just don't get it, especially the Member for Kluane. They simply just don't get it. They don't believe that you can have both the protected areas strategy and economic development. They don't believe it. They think one has to take precedence over the other, and that's the weakness in their arguments, Mr. Speaker.
If the Member for Kluane would not be so bitter and so defensive, maybe he could make more sense with his arguments and people might listen to him, but I doubt that anybody would be paying much attention to that rhetoric that we just heard for the last 10 minutes. It totally adds absolutely nothing to the debate, Mr. Speaker, and it's unfortunate. It's unfortunate, because the protected areas strategy is a very important endeavour, and how it's done is going to have a very serious impact on Yukoners. It can either be a positive impact or it can be a negative impact. It has to be done right and I think that's all the opposition has been asking for.
We heard the Member for Kluane defending his cohorts, the NDP in British Columbia, and all the great things they've done with their protected areas strategy. Well, I guess he doesn't listen to the news. I guess he doesn't read the newspapers. He doesn't see the big endeavour that the Premier of British Columbia has taken on now in the last couple of months with the business people of the Yukon trying to save British Columbia from total devastation.
Jobs are leaving British Columbia in record numbers. Businesses are leaving British Columbia in record numbers. And yet, he stands here in this Legislature and tries to convince Yukoners that the greatest thing that ever happened was the parks initiatives of the B.C. government and the forestry strategy of the British Columbia government that has put thousands and thousands of British Columbians out of work. He certainly wasn't listening to the news last night about how many more thousand jobs are going to be lost in the forestry industry in the next year.
I suggest to him that he do a little better research before he stands up in this Legislature and tries to convince Yukoners that he knows something about what he's talking about, because he certainly doesn't, Mr. Speaker.
He talks about all the jobs that can be created under the protected areas strategy. Mr. Speaker, I would be the last one to say that there can't be any jobs created. But, for that member to stand on the floor of this Legislature and try to tell the people of the Yukon that mining doesn't matter, forestry doesn't matter in the Yukon and that nothing else matters except their protected areas strategy, is pure folly and it's ignorance of the problem that we're facing.
The protected areas strategy will never replace all of those jobs in his lifetime or his children's lifetime. They can add some jobs. We've never said that they wouldn't, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, we might have been able to support the motion until the members opposite prematurely patted themselves on the back that this House commends the Government of the Yukon for its work toward establishing them. Well, what I've been hearing from Yukoners - and I will lay it out in my speech this afternoon for the members opposite - is that Yukoners aren't commending this government for what they've done; they're criticizing this government for pitting one organization against another - pitting environmentalists against mining companies; pitting different groups against different groups, even at the community level, and I will point out some examples in my presentation this afternoon.
There can be economic development in the territory. There can be a protected areas strategy in the Yukon, and one need not supersede the other. But, members opposite are going to have to broaden their visions and their horizons and their thinking if it's going to happen.
It seems, Mr. Speaker, that the Member for Kluane, especially, doesn't need to worry about a job. Well, I'd like to point out to him that a lot of his constituents are worried about jobs and they aren't all going to work for the territorial government. They all can't work at the Destruction Bay maintenance camp. They all can't be park wardens. They all can't be biologists. He may not need a job, but his constituents certainly need work because this government has done nothing to help them through some very hard times.
Mr. Speaker, one of the comments that I'm hearing from the public - and this isn't just from Yukon Party supporters; this is from the public as a whole - is thank God they're only there for another two and a half years. They can't wreck the whole territory in that short a time. That's the message I'm hearing from Yukoners. That's the message I'm hearing from Yukoners.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Stop your heckling, please.
Mr. Ostashek: The Member for Kluane tries to portray himself as somebody who's informed on what he's speaking about, and nothing could be further from the truth when you listen to some of the comments that he made in this Legislature. He doesn't have a grasp of the problem. He doesn't have a grasp of the solution. He doesn't have a grasp of anything.
He speaks of the damage that was created by an excavator going into Killermun Lake. He is absolutely wrong, and if he's saying that there's damage and he knows different, then that is wrong. He ought to go and see what damage there is.
The company that went in there, Mr. Speaker, even backfilled their test trenches and re-seeded them. There's not a mark on the ground where the excavator walked in there.
These are purely alarmist tactics by the members of the public, such as the Member for Kluane, who simply doesn't know what he's talking about. He doesn't know what he's talking about.
Mr. Speaker, I think that was one specifically small example. When there were environmentalists hollering that this was going to be total devastation to that area, it was proven - even the environmental people within the department will tell the member that - that within hours of that excavator walking in there, you couldn't even follow it in. It didn't have any impact on the groundcover, and there was no sign of it having walked in there. In the Killermun Lake now - if the member had ever been there, which I know he hasn't and never will be - there is not even a ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Ostashek: ... mark where the excavator was trenching.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Or played out - one of the two -I'm not sure which, Mr. Chair.
But, in any event, some of the stuff he said here in his speech is just utter garbage.
Mr. Speaker, a protected areas strategy or spaces is a very good proposition but, as anything else that we do in the public, it needs the support of all the public if it's going to work. And as long as we keep pitting organizations and different groups and industries and environmentalists against one another, government is not playing the role that they were elected to.
Another concern that we have is the amount of area that's going to be set aside for a protected spaces strategy. This government has not been clear on how much of the Yukon they want to protect. The minister responsible for the environment and Renewable Resources has not told Yukoners whether the new national parks that are going to be created in the Yukon are going to be part of the percentage of the Yukon that's going to be under the protected areas strategy, or if this is going to be over and above the protected areas strategy.
I hope that when he gets up to speak to this motion today, he will clarify that for Yukoners. Just what is the goal of this government? This government can't lay it out in plain English for Yukoners to understand. What's the secret about?
Is their goal to protect 12 percent of the Yukon over and above any national parks that are created, any future national parks that are created? Or is their goal to have 12 percent of the Yukon protected, which is an admirable goal and I think a goal that can be achieved? And if, in fact, their desire is to protect more of the Yukon, then I believe they ought to be honest with Yukoners and tell them so - and convince Yukoners that they're on the right track and not be vague about it.
Be up front. Be honest about it. Tell Yukoners how much of the Yukon you want to see protected and whether the national parks that are proposed for the Yukon or will be proposed shortly will be part of that percentage - or are they over and above, Mr. Chair?
Mr. Chair, the Member for Kluane made a lot of comments here. He talked about the B.C. forestry strategy creating jobs, which was total nonsense. He ridiculed the statement I made about the great environmental work that Luscar Coal is doing in Alberta at a coal mining project, where they had wild animals right on the property and increased the numbers dramatically. He said I don't know anything about it. Well, I suggest to the member, I've got a lifetime of working with wildlife, and that's more than he can say. And, Mr. Chair, he doesn't know what he's talking about at all, in that instance.
Mr. Chair, he also goes on to quote Alberta, about the great things that are happening in Alberta with the Special Places 2000 program in Alberta, and how they've brought industry on side, how they've brought the oil industry on side. He also knows that Alberta is creating more jobs per capita than any other place in Canada, and they aren't doing it in the protected spaces or the special places. They're doing it in industry, and industry is surviving along with Special Places 2000. They don't have the narrow-minded focus of the NDP in the Yukon.
They're concerned about jobs for their constituents. They're concerned about putting Albertans to work. And they're doing a good job of it, and they're doing a good job of the protected spaces strategy, also. I find it ironic how, on one hand, they condemn Alberta for what they're doing and, on the other hand, they praise them. That's the inconsistency of this government.
Mr. Chair, the Member for Kluane has commented several times in this Legislature about how diligently he does his constituency work. This is a great one: how diligently he does his constituency work, and how he goes to Beaver Creek once a month - once a month, I heard him say in this Legislature.
Well, I don't know how he gets there. I probably go up the highway more than he does. I probably spend more time in his constituency than he does, and none of his constituents I've talked to have ever seen him since the election - have never even seen him, even.
I made the comment the other day in a restaurant up the highway that the Member for Kluane says he goes to Beaver Creek once a month. "Where? How does he get there? Does he fly? He certainly hasn't been in my establishment since he's been elected." His constituents don't think that his actions portray the words that he's speaking in this Legislature.
Mr. Chair, I want to take a little time to go over some of the concerns we have with this government's protected areas strategy. I want to be able to convince this government that they need to do a better job of involving Yukoners. The NDP government prides themselves on consultation, yet Yukoners tell me the only consultation they want is from those people who agree with them. They don't want to hear from the people who disagree with them. And if they don't get the answer they want from one group, they go to another group. I'm going to give them at least one example of that today in my presentation.
And I think that's unfortunate, because that's pitting one group of Yukoners against another group.
The mining community would like to see a protected areas strategy - no doubt about it. I think all Yukoners would. I think all Yukoners are very supportive of it, if it's done in the proper manner and all interests are listened to, and if we don't tip the scales one way or the other, either in favour of the environmentalists or in favour of economic opportunities in the territory. It's very important that we do that.
Mr. Speaker, over the past few months, there have been numerous discussions on the protected spaces strategy since this government came out with it. I think that one of the things I found very difficult to understand - and maybe the Minister of Renewable Resources will tell us about it when he gets up - is that, from what I understood from him, they're going backwards, not forwards. The protected spaces strategy has been worked on in the departments prior to me ever being in government. It came in under the previous administration, and I believe that the target date was not set under my administration. It was set under the previous administration that 12 percent of the Yukon would be protected by the year 2000. I believed that that was the target date.
Now, I heard the Minister of Renewable Resources say, I believe, in this Legislature, that this wasn't protected spaces. This wasn't about identifying them but, rather, it was about a strategy to identify them. This is another long consultation process. Why? Because I don't believe they like the answers they're getting from the public. They don't like the message that they're hearing from the public. This is very, very similar to the energy policy that was developed by a previous NDP administration back in 1990 and 1991, where we had all these nice words. We had hundreds of thousands of dollars in consultation, where they went out and developed this huge energy policy. I don't have it with me today. I wish I did, but I don't. The message was very simple. The people wanted reasonably priced energy. That's what they were concerned about. They didn't want it generated with diesel, such as this administration is still doing.
They wanted the opportunity to buy in. Now, that strategy was developed under an NDP government, Mr. Speaker, and where did it end up?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: No it didn't, Mr. Speaker. It ended up on a shelf because they didn't like what Yukoners told them. That's where it ended up - gathering dust on a shelf because they didn't like what Yukoners told them. Now they're going out, doing a whole new round of consultation, hoping that Yukoners have changed their mind.
I say to the members opposite that they can go on for the next couple of years developing their energy policy, and Yukoners are going to tell them the same thing: we want reasonably-priced energy; we don't want it created by burning diesel fuel; and we want the opportunity to buy in. That's what they're going to tell them. They already have that information, but they're not able to -
Mr. McRobb: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, please, on the point of order, the member is talking about energy issues, energy consultation and, besides not making any sense, he's not addressing this motion, which is on Yukon protected areas strategy. So far, we've yet to hear anything of relevance from the member, and I wish he'd stick to the topic.
Speaker: Leader of the official opposition, on the point of order.
Mr. Ostashek: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, I'm responding to the Member for Kluane on his consultation with Yukoners on the protected areas strategy. I'm pointing out the weaknesses in their consultation process, which has to do with the motion that's in front of us today.
Speaker: There is no point of order. Please continue.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
So that's why Yukoners don't have much faith in their consultation on any strategy, because Yukoners aren't convinced that this government is going to act on anything.
It's the opinion of the mining industry and the forestry industry and the business community in the Yukon, as well as a lot of Yukoners - working Yukoners, wage earners - that there needs to be certainty of land use in the territory to make an attractive investment climate.
It is the view of the environmentalists that the protection of areas is needed to sustain Yukon's ecology. Currently, six of the 23 ecoregions are represented by parks and protected sites, leaving 17 regions to be identified.
In 1992, the Yukon Party signed on to the Protected Spaces 2000 to set lands aside across the territory by the year 2000. Now, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party signed it in 1992, but I just want to draw to your attention and the House's attention that the Yukon Party was elected in 1992 also. This strategy was negotiated by the previous NDP government. We signed it. That's what happens when governments change.
We believe in a protected spaces strategy or we would not have signed it. We believe it's possible to have protected spaces and a system of parks without prejudicing economic development opportunities and the mining industry in the Yukon. We believe it's possible. I know the members opposite don't and that's where the difference of opinion comes between this side of the House and that side of the House.
While we on this side of the House fully support the protected areas strategy, we have urged this government time and time and time again to take caution, not to rush. This is something, as the Member for Tatchun said, that we are going to pass on to our children, our grandchildren and their grandchildren and it's something that we ought to do right.
Governments have been working toward the year 2000 date. Now whether or not this government intends to change that date, to move it ahead or not, is not clear, but what is clear from their actions is that there's a perception in the public that they want to move the target date ahead.
I don't think we can do a good job by doing that, Mr. Speaker. We need to move very cautiously so that when we do set another area aside the mineral assessment has been done, so we don't get into a Windy Craggy situation, like they did in British Columbia, which cost not only the British Columbia people billions of dollars but Yukoners millions of dollars, as well, and many lost opportunities.
And that's been some five years now, and we're still waiting to see the jobs that are going to be created, as the Member for Kluane said, with these large protected areas that are going to offset all this economic development. I don't think there's a job there. If there is, there's no more than one or two at the most, and we could have been supporting thousands of jobs with that development.
So, it's important. Protected spaces are important, but it's also important that we don't rush to set aside a protected space that's going to be sitting over a major ore body that is going to be able to help create some jobs for Yukoners. That's the whole issue that we're facing here. We need to do it right.
Mr. Speaker, as the implementation of the strategy has the ability to seriously impact the state of the Yukon economy - as I said earlier, both in the long term and the short term - it needs to be done right, and it's a great concern to Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, we need to be sure that we aren't creating just another regulatory burden. We want to make sure that the legislation is done right. We want to make sure that the protected spaces, when set out, are not going to be challenged for development. We have been doing mineral assessment for many, many years. This government comes along and sort of portrays itself as if this was their idea that they just started and as if nothing had happened in the past. They've got a department full of people who have been working on this thing for years. A lot of the work has been done. The process goes on. It may still be going on after the Yukoners turf them out of office in two and a half years.
Mr. Speaker, we need to look at the long-term and the short-term costs associated with creating parks, and I don't think that analysis has been completed yet.
I believe some of the basic prerequisites for candidate areas are that land claims must be finalized and support received from all affected First Nations, if there are overlapping traditional territories. We're going ahead full bore with the protected spaces strategy. We've still got five bands out there who have land claims to settle. It needs to receive the support of both the federal and the territorial government and it needs to receive the support of industry as well as environmentalists.
Many Yukoners are concerned about interim protection for these spaces. The minister has heard them; the members opposite have heard them; we have heard them. Yukoners aren't that concerned about the protected spaces strategy and setting 12 percent of the Yukon aside. What they don't want to see in the interim is vast areas of the Yukon receiving interim protection which may impact on exploration.
Mr. Speaker, I want to turn now to some of the specific comments that have been made by different organizations and groups in the Yukon in regard to the protected spaces strategy, and I want, for the record, to again put in some of the press releases we've put out on it in the last few months.
The director of the Klondike Placer Mining Association says the entire Yukon is already protected. He says the whole process needs more exposure. There's no free access for mining now. You can't mine anywhere without going through permitting first. There are already many controls in place, and there are all sorts of regulations in place and guidelines in place that they have to operate under.
There was a letter to the editor from an engineering company: "Protected areas strategies, in their various forms, provide all sorts of opportunity for uncertainty, a sure-fire way to reduce investment." That's a message that we've given to government members time and time again.
We have a Yukon that is suffering a very severe economic downturn right now. We have unemployment numbers that are going to be coming out on Friday, and I believe, as many Yukoners do, that they're going to jump dramatically unless a lot of people leave the Yukon and give up all hope. That's the only thing that will save the numbers from going up.
There is not a light at the end of the tunnel on the economic side of the equation. There is no optimism out there. The government needs to move very cautiously, so as not to continue to build on the pessimism that's out there. They need to be able to create some optimism. And, Mr. Speaker, rushing with this strategy is not going to create optimism. It's not going to be conducive to investment in the Yukon with the uncertainty that it's creating.
I say to the minister, and I say to the government, whatever you do with the protected spaces strategy, be very, very clear with the public on what you're doing; be very clear about how much land you're going to set aside, and be very clear about when it's going to be completed and life can return to normal.
Mr. Speaker, that letter went on to say that the protected spaces strategy definitely could have a detrimental economic impact on the Yukon if it is left to the people who do not understand the incentives and disincentives of investment. I believe that some of those people who don't understand the difference between the incentives and disincentives to investment in the Yukon are sitting on the government benches.
Although he's making the case for the mining industry, the problem of uncertainty of land use regulations and access has the potential to affect numerous other business activities. It's a message that's come out loud and clear. Mr. Speaker, he went on in there to say that it was clear that if the Yukon is to become financially independent, it will have to do so with the wealth of its natural resources. And that is something that members opposite just don't understand or don't care to understand. They seem to be quite prepared to live on handouts from Ottawa and argue for bigger handouts. They don't seem to be prepared to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work that's necessary to make the Yukon a self-sustaining economy.
I hear the Justice minister kibitzing, but I can say to her that we did much, much more than what this government has done, and we did reduce the unemployment in the Yukon to seven and a half percent, and the NDP were crying that that was still too high.
They haven't enjoyed anything less than double-digit numbers since they came to power. That's what we did, Mr. Speaker.
The Yukon Chamber of Commerce: "Overall, we are concerned that there's no clear process in place over the long term. The concept of interim protected areas is a major concern. It is imperative that all representative groups be given the opportunity to provide their input."
A life-long Yukoner, Mr. Al Kapty, said, "This is just about enough to club the mining industry unconscious, as far as the Yukon is concerned." Members opposite ought not to laugh. That's a very serious statement.
The chairperson of the Yukon Lumbermen's Association said, "We're very concerned about your protected spaces initiative. While there have been open houses and deadlines, we recommend that you halt this process immediately. The forestry industry has been in complete turmoil for the last few years and we are nearing the end of a total revision of forestry regulations." Mr. Speaker, that's another industry that's speaking out against the strategy and the way the government's proceeding with it.
The Yukon Chamber of Mines: "Our concern was that the overall initiative was maybe going a bit too quick and that it was fairly politically driven and that we shouldn't rush into this from the start to the finish, simply because it was a political commitment to have it done by a certain date."
Mr. Chair, I think the members opposite ought to pay heed to some of these comments that are being made by different Yukoners.
There are also comments from the Chief of the Liard First Nation, urging that the government stop the process until land claims are finished.
So, it appears that the government doesn't even have support for their hurrying of this process even from some of their own supporters.
The largest area of contention seems to be the concept of interim protection, and "that any new development activities within the proposed area would be restricted on an interim basis until a final decision on the protected area is made." That is going to have a negative impact on investment in the Yukon if this government proceeds in that way.
So what questions does that raise? Well, it raises what interim protection measures, if any, should be applied prior to the local protected area strategy planning process. It also begs the question of what interim protection measures should apply during the local planning process. What level of interim protection should we have? Is it really necessary? That's the first question that has to be answered: is it really necessary?
How much area should the interim protected area be? Should it be the core? Should it be one and a half times, as I believe land claims started out in interim protection - it was 150 percent of what the final claim would be. Is that what the government's looking at?
I urge this government to be very, very clear with Yukoners. How should we define the boundaries for interim protection? What's the time frame for consideration that we're looking at? What about compensation, where a proposal for a protected area prohibits the use for which a previous right or interest has been granted? The government hasn't been very clear on that. The interest holder may claim to be entitled to compensation, and we may end up with unresolved legal issues and court challenges.
Aside from the questions of interim protection, there're also questions about the costs associated with the planning process for the remaining ecoregions that have not been identified as candidate areas for protection. For example, the planning process for the Bonnet Plume River, designated as a heritage river, cost nearly $200,000.
I urge the Minister of Renewable Resources to be very, very clear of what's going to be included in the government's protected areas strategy. Are they going to take into consideration areas such as the Bonnet Plume, that are already set aside? Are they going to take into consideration McArthur Game Sanctuary, which is already set aside? Are they going to take into consideration Kluane National Park? Are they going to take into consideration all the parks that are created now and the protected areas we have now, or are we talking 12 percent over and above what is protected now in the Yukon?
The minister needs to be very, very clear about whether future national parks - and I'm saying it in the plural because there's a strong message out there that there's more than one national park being proposed for the Yukon - are going to part of the protected areas strategy, or are they going to be over and above the 12 percent that's being set aside? Yukoners need to know this and, Mr. Speaker, they need to know it now, not after the fact.
Mr. Speaker, I was going to point out an example and I will - because I think it's very important - about where I believe this government's pitting one group against another when it comes to the protected areas strategy. I want to speak of an incident where the minister responsible for the environment went along with the federal parks person from Ottawa and attended a meeting with the renewable resource council in Teslin. They were told at that meeting, thanks, but no thanks, they weren't interested in a national park. That's what they were told.
The members of the renewable resource council are made up of ordinary Yukoners, members of the Teslin Tlingit Council. It's a group that represents all of the interests in the area, but that didn't appear to be good enough for the Minister of Renewable Resources. They then went over to the band, and the band said, yeah, go ahead. So the next thing that Yukoners and the people of the Teslin area knew was that there was a planning process in place for the park. Then the minister came out and said he's not supportive of it.
Then he made a trip to Ottawa. What message did he leave in Ottawa?
And also, I want the minister to be very clear when he gets up: is there another national park that Ottawa is looking at for the Yukon? Because the message is out there that they're looking for another one in the north, as well. I think it's an obligation of that minister to be very clear with Yukoners about what's happening.
Mr. Speaker, I don't believe it's productive to pit one group of Yukoners against another.
Mr. Speaker, we have spent a substantial amount of money now on identifying candidate areas for protected spaces. Mineral assessments have been done. Renewable Resources have identified another $500,000 in the 1998-99 budget. We need to continue with the process. We need to continue to do the mineral assessments, and we ought not to be skipping over them because we're in a hurry to put a protected spaces strategy in place. I believe the worst mistake we could make would be to set aside an area that has vast mineral potential and exclude it from exploration completely for the sake of setting up a protected area.
We are very lucky in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker. We have a lot of different ecoregions to pick from. It's not necessary to slap one right on top of a rich mineral deposit, as long as we do our homework. We cannot, in the Yukon, afford to be taking areas with highly rich mineral potential and setting them aside with no hope of development in the future. That just would not be beneficial to all Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, we in the Yukon love our lifestyle. We love the wilderness. But let's be reasonable about this. If we do not start creating more jobs for our citizens, our population is not going to grow, our children are going to continue to leave because they can't get work here, and the Yukon will eventually shrink. Now, if that's the goal of this government, I don't believe that that's the goal of Yukoners, and I don't believe that's what they were elected to do.
Mr. Speaker, we, in opposition, called on the Renewable Resources minister last November. We were concerned about the proposals in northern B.C. The minister assured Yukoners at that time that the Yukon wasn't part of that proposal, but since then we had the announcement of a national park that's going to border that part of northern B.C. that's been set aside by the British Columbia government. The study area, from what I've seen, goes right up to the B.C.-Yukon border, and we don't know where the protected spaces will end up, and the picture of the map that was put in one of the papers here is pretty scary to anybody who is looking for economic opportunities in the Yukon. It covers over half of the highly rich mineral area that's in the Yukon.
Now, I know that's a dream in the mind of environmentalists and preservationists, but it does make Yukoners nervous.
Mr. Speaker, I am going to give my colleagues some time to speak. We will, sometime later this afternoon, be proposing an amendment to the motion, which we hope will be seen as a friendly amendment by members opposite, and change the motion into a motion that we can support, because we believe the protected areas strategy is a very important part of Yukon's future but we also believe that it is very premature for this government to be patting themselves on the back for the good job that they've done.
So, thank you, Mr. Speaker, and we'll speak more later.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I'm glad to speak in support of this motion put forward by the Member for Kluane.
For many years now, people have talked about the importance of protecting representative natural areas and areas that are significant to them in the Yukon. I just need to make a couple of comments with respect to the previous speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I don't believe that the Yukon Party really knows where they're going with this protected areas strategy. On one hand, they support it and, on the other hand, they say it needs to be stopped and that the process should be slowed down and changed.
For a long time, we've known that the Yukon Party has put forward their position on protected areas when they were in power. They said they were going to complete the protected areas in the Yukon by the spring of 1996.
What happened to that? Where did that go? They don't seem to have listened to many of the things that this department has brought forward on protected areas. The strategy itself - we've laid it out to them many times in the House, done ministerial statements, and the understanding is still not there. We're developing a strategy that's going to identify ways that we go about looking at protecting areas and putting together management plans. It does not say in the strategy that we are going to be identifying protected areas; it's how we go about doing it.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party had an opportunity to do something in the last term that they were in power. The previous Yukon New Democrats, when in power, left a very good trail to follow to protect Yukon in general from being developed and being destroyed by development, and they didn't do this.
Have Yukoners voiced themselves to have parts of Yukon protected? The answer, simply, is yes.
The Member for Porter Creek North said that we weren't listening to our own supporters and spoke of the Liard First Nation's concerns. Mr. Speaker, First Nation people have voiced their concerns, as far as we know, right back to 1901, when Chief Jim Boss wrote a letter to the King stating his concerns that development was destroying wildlife and habitat out there and wanted something to be done in regard to protection.
Yukon First Nation people have maintained that position throughout land claims negotiations, back to the early 1970s. They've talked about special management areas. It's included in all their land claims agreements.
Those are areas for protection against development, and a lot of credit needs to be given to them in continually voicing themselves, not only in the Yukon, but across Canada and across the world, for cleaner water and cleaner air and the protection of our wildlife and habitat.
Finally, in the last little while, people are catching on that, yes, we are destroying the environment and we need to do something about it.
The Yukon is faced with the perfect opportunity to do something in this area. We are virtually undeveloped here. We've experienced development that has destroyed habitat. We believe that we can, along with public and industry help, get out there, identify areas that are significant to us and that need protection, and put that protection in place before they're destroyed.
But how do we go about doing this? The simplest way to do it is to involve the people, and we've done that and we're doing that in creating this strategy. Now this strategy is not going to be identifying the percentage of land that needs to be out there. We've said over and over that we are looking at ecoregions and making sure that we have protection of habitat, wetlands or even recreation areas in these ecoregions so that they may be maintained as ecoregions for future generations.
The Member for Porter Creek North said that there's no clear process in place to go about doing this and they had an opportunity to put this process in place but did not.
Mr. Speaker, the strategy we speak of today and that we've put forward over the past year or so speaks about a process. It talks about how we go about identifying representative areas and how we go about putting management plans in place, and I can't understand why he would say that it's not really necessary and that we are not involving the general public and that we are not involving industry.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we have an advisory committee that's made up of just that. We have the mining industry, conservationists, outfitters and the general public trying to put together something that we, in the Yukon, can all live with.
We have obligations in place to put management plans in place for the Yukon. We have First Nations agreements that identify special management areas, and we need to be working on them.
He mentioned $200,000 being spent on Bonnet Plume. Well, there was an agreement that we had with the First Nation to work on this as a heritage river. The same with the Tatshenshini River; we need to do the same thing. So, we have obligations to work toward these goals. It's not about sitting back and saying that you've signed an agreement and not doing anything about it.
We feel that the protected areas strategy is going to lay out a process for Yukoners. It will identify and give certainty to industry, to First Nations, and it's nothing but positive from our point of view, Mr. Speaker.
First Nations have maintained their position on the protection of lands from the time of land claims negotiations. Since the early 1970s, when negotiations were started, First Nations people spoke of the importance of having lands set aside and bringing down some control to the local people. Right now, we don't really have that. We have agreements in place. We said that the protected areas strategy, as it is being implemented, would be working with those First Nations in areas where the First Nations have agreements, and that it would not be interfering with negotiations with First Nations that are still at the table.
Now, he brought up a couple of things in regard to Wolf Lake and the proposed park that the federal government has put forward. Well, I wasn't at any of the meetings in Teslin, but we know that the department has been involved with the RRC and the First Nations, and there are a lot of concerns that come forward with a sudden proposal, even though it's been around since the 1970s, to set aside a large tract of land. We understand that this would have come forward; we understand that the local people need to be involved, and that's why we put together this strategy - to really involve local people.
Now, I wrote a letter to the secretariat of state parks in Ottawa recently - to Andy Mitchell - stating our position on their proposed park, and if the Member for Porter Creek North would like to see that letter, I can have that forwarded to him.
Mr. Speaker, the member said we can't set aside areas that are mineral rich. The whole purpose of this strategy was to involve local people and industry to identify areas that they felt would best represent ecoregions and have full involvement by industry and, at that point those concerns could be raised with them. We're not going to have a strategy that identifies a certain percentage of Yukon that's going to be protected. We have SMAs that are identified through land claims. We have habitat areas and wetlands that we would like to look at. All of these are going to be included in the strategy in how we think protected areas should be and how Yukoners think protected areas should be.
And we are not pitting people against each other. We're working with all the people, and we've said that over and over again.
I guess that's a new concept to the Yukon Party, because they have not done that in the past. We said we were going to be strong on consultation, and we have been. It's been so strong that a lot of people are speaking of the protected areas strategy in the Yukon, moreso than at any other time, and people feel that there's an opportunity for Yukon government to identify and work with the people and come up with some areas that we think Yukon will benefit from.
We feel that a lot of jobs could be created out of protected areas and parks - not just in the parks but in the spinoffs and so on.
Mr. Speaker, there's a history of work that goes back more than 10 years. In the late 1980s, people from all walks of life, representing a wide range of economic, conservation and social interests, helped to develop the conservation strategy.
The conservation strategy laid out plans for making sure that we would not lose many of the things that Yukon people value, things like - and we say it over and over again in the strategy - wilderness, clean air and water. These are basic things that really make up Yukon and how people remember Yukon when they come here. What they want to see is the land and its beauty, things like diversity of wildlife and the opportunity to hunt and fish, things like the opportunity to paddle unspoiled rivers and hike on mountain tops and enjoy nature. The conservation strategy adopted in 1990 by the New Democratic Party government of the day made a commitment to set aside representative areas of the Yukon ecoregions.
So Mr. Speaker, there's a lot of work that was put in place far before the Yukon Party was in power, and far before the New Democrats were in power before that. Yukoners have voiced themselves loud and clear that, before development happens and we go beyond the point of preserving areas, we want areas to be protected. That came out loud and clear during our campaign, and we will continue to honour those concerns that have been brought forward to us.
The conservation strategy identified the need to provide legislative protection for the diversity of wildlife habitats. It also called for protection of important and spectacular wilderness areas and, in some ways, it led the country. At that time, it was clearly recognized that we had a unique opportunity to identify areas for protection before they were compromised by development.
While the Yukon government was developing this strategy, other initiatives were underway that spoke to some of the same issues. The endangered species campaign, to which all Canadian governments eventually signed on, was getting underway in 1990. Following that year, in 1991, the New Democratic Party government passed the Environment Act, which called for the maintenance of essential ecological processes and the preservation of biological diversity.
The act also recognizes the government's obligation to protect the collective interests of people of the Yukon and the quality of the natural environment, and to ensure its protection for the benefit of present and future generations.
Of course, we weren't the only jurisdiction looking at issues like this. In 1991, the federal government adopted a policy on wetland conservation that called for preservation of wetlands of significance to Canadians.
In 1992, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity called for conservation of biological diversity and the protection of wildlife habitat. Just to go over a couple more, Mr. Speaker, it also called for representative land-based natural regions by the year 2000 and the use of interim protection measures to ensure that the Canadian protected areas are not compromised by development.
It also called for legislation and policies to support protection for the use of public participation and sound information to identify protected areas.
By the time of the change of government in 1992, the Yukon government had formally adopted the Yukon parks system plan, which called for ecological representation of the territory's ecoregions by the year 2000, as well as protection for rare species of plants and animals, landscape features and natural processes.
In the 1992 elections, both the New Democrats and the Liberals supported the 1992 World Wildlife Fund call for the protection of ecoregion and representation.
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Some politician of the day took exception to that. The Yukon Party leader stated his opposition for setting aside large tracts of land for parks. The Member for Porter Creek North told the Yukon News that he maybe could see setting aside small areas, but that he was opposed to the World Wildlife Fund call for protection of ecological representative areas. And he thought it was just another example of an outside organization dictating to Yukoners the needs of Yukoners.
Our government was given a mandate by Yukon people to set aside areas for protection that are significant to Yukon people that would protect habitat, wetlands and wildlife, and we will not let them down. We will work strongly in putting together this strategy and continue to work with the general public and industry in making sure that we come out, in the end, with a strong strategy that will work for present Yukoners and the future generations of Yukoners.
I can't understand how the Yukon Party is flip-flopping around on their views on protected areas. We feel we are going to have all Yukoners represented here in this strategy, including the mining industry and outfitters, and we feel that the strategy that we would come up with is a very good one, and Yukoners will be glad that our party, the Yukon New Democrats, have worked hard, in consultation with the general public, to bring this forward to them.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: I'm pleased to rise to speak to this motion.
I'd like to begin my remarks by putting a bit of historical background on the record. I believe it's important that we know and agree on what the background is, in order to further this issue. The Yukon protected areas strategy, in essence, was launched the end of May with a two-day workshop for partners and stakeholders. At the time of that launch, the Nacho Nyak Dun chief, Billy Germaine, said, "Right now, it's like 10 spiders trying to build one web." I think that was a very accurate assessment of what was trying to be accomplished by the government.
The report from that workshop recognizes the protected areas strategy is consistent with the umbrella final agreement and First Nation individual agreements, that the protected areas strategy must be a community-driven process, and it recommends that a public advisory committee be established. There was product at the end of that workshop - a discussion paper.
On November 6, 1997, there was a ministerial statement in the House. In essence, what the minister communicated was that the government believed it had a mandate, as spoken by the people in October 1996, to set aside representative areas of 23 ecoregions. The discussion paper set out the principles for the protected areas strategy process. It outlined the issues that needed to be addressed before adopting a plan to identify, select and ultimately protect special places. And, that ministerial statement established the 18-member public advisory committee. It said that, at the end of the day, the protected areas strategy will be a how-to book for identifying and establishing protected areas throughout the Yukon. It would not be a set of proposed protected areas.
My response on behalf of the Liberal Party caucus in this House was very supportive of the process. I also noted that nothing worth doing is very easy, and that it would not be easy to reach consensus. I also recognized that all interests need to be represented, that the strategy must be achieved by consensus, that it must be done well. I would urge members, in quoting my position on that and my response, that it would behoove them to have the courtesy to quote that stance correctly. I was, at the time, on behalf of my party and my caucus, supportive of the protected areas strategy, and I remain so.
Let me state, in the balance of my remarks, clearly, for the record, my position. I have a personal acquaintance and a first-hand understanding of the goals of the World Wildlife Fund - particularly, the endangered spaces campaign. I believe that environmental stewardship is a responsibility that I hold near and dear, and I have held such since one of my first jobs working in Kluane National Park.
I don't just mouth the words, Mr. Speaker, I have walked the walk.
I believe in the land and that we have a responsibility to protect it and yes, to set aside certain areas, to, in fact, protect Canada's endangered spaces. Had I been in government at the time that the Charter was signed on to, I would have signed on as well.
The current NDP Government of Yukon, in an effort to reach the protection by the year 2000, has embarked upon a protected areas strategy. There have been all sorts of charges and counter-charges about the government's efforts, about jobs versus environment, about Alberta's good examples and Alberta's bad examples and that's the same old ping-pong politics that Yukoners are sick of and that that's all we've heard in the last decade.
I believe that the truth and the answer for Yukoners lies in balance and in a balanced perspective. The government's efforts at establishing a protected areas strategy are not perfect, as the government says, nor are they entirely imperfect, as some members of the opposition would have us believe.
The idea of a how-to book at the end of the current process, is a good one and it's an important point. I am told by some members of the 18-member public advisory committee that we will reach that stage at the end of June, or thereabouts. Good work. That good work and a pat on the back goes to the advisory committee and to the people and facilitators working with them. It doesn't go to the government. Commending the government is premature at this stage.
Accusing the government of wholesale abandonment of any development and rushing through the process isn't entirely correct either.
Saying that the government must set targets of 12 percent is not something that I agree with. I would like, at this time, to just remind members, as I'm sure others are going to do afterwards, of the Protecting Canada's Endangered Spaces book, particularly the paragraph about the 12 percent and how the 12 percent came to be bandied about.
The goal of the endangered spaces campaign was to establish a network of protected areas representing all natural regions of Canada by the year 2000. They included 12 percent in their original statement, because, on the one hand, if they wanted people to believe they were serious and, instead of having a vague unfinishable agenda, they set a target. Of course, they were accused by some that that target wasn't high enough. The 12-percent discussion loses sight of what we are trying to do, which is to protect those areas that we, as Yukoners, agree should be protected.
The leader of the official opposition has cited interim protection as an issue in the discussion of the protected areas strategy. He's absolutely right. It is an issue at the table. It's an issue at the advisory table and between members of the public advisory committee. Members have said this to me.
I also have faith that that public advisory committee can reach an agreement on that. Given time, given good facilitation and given hard work and application, they can reach an agreement on what that interim protection should or should not be and how it should be dealt with.
I'm a little less confident that this government will listen. Their consultation record has not been stellar and I would caution them that they must listen to the advice of that 18-member advisory committee.
Issue has been taken with the view that the protected areas strategy is causing uncertainty. Some members are saying that that's an alarmist viewpoint. Well, part of our job is to reflect here what we hear outside of this Chamber and what people tell us.
It's our job to reflect that. I have heard that. I heard that without exception, throughout the room, by members of the mining industry at the Cordilleran.
I think the government could correct that in developing this protected areas strategy. I think that issues of uncertainty could be corrected quite easily in fact. There are a couple of points in that regard. How the message is getting out and the message that's getting out is one issue. The message that should be getting out is that this is about developing a process. Everybody wants to have a process. They want certainty. I think that message has to get out and it's not right now. That's not saying that the government's wrong or that the strategy is wrong, it's just that the message needs to be delivered more accurately.
I would also like to make several points about the way that the protected areas strategy discussions are presented. This is not a criticism of the people involved. It is absolutely not a criticism; it is an observation as to how a message is being put out. I attended an introductory session of the public workshop that was held, I think, in late January, here, that members of the public attended - the minister's remarks and the opening discussion of the process. Lest the Member for Whitehorse Centre accuse me of ducking out of the workshop, that is the part of the workshop that I felt it was my responsibility to be at; a discussion of the process, not the actual decision making. That's for the people involved. My opportunity to input into that comes here.
I also attended the protected areas strategy presentation that was given to the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce at their luncheon. That presentation outlines that this is a desire to create a how-to book. Great. That is the message that should be getting out there. There was a slide show. The slide show showed some of the most beautiful areas in the Yukon and reinforced the desire of anyone who looked at it to protect those areas. Unfortunately, the slides they chose to show of industry were not stellar examples of industry.
They show placer mining. They show a clear cut - logging. They show other - I can't think of the other two examples off the top of my head, but those two leapt out at me immediately.
If you're going to have a picture, why not show an area where reclamation has occurred, where the environment has coexisted well with industry, and the Yukon is not without those examples. We have them. Why not show the selective logging practices or, if you're going to show the clear cut, explain at the same time the discussion that I've had with others about whether or not that's an environmentally sound practice. It's the way the message is being presented, and every talk of economic activity always focuses on ecotourism.
There are other economic opportunities that can coexist with the protected area strategy.
It was coincidentally at that Chamber of Commerce luncheon that Mr. Kapty's remarks were made that the leader of the official opposition has quoted, and they're completely understandable, when you watch that initial presentation, because it's not a balanced opening. It needs to be refined.
The SMA issue in the public needs greater clarity. The minister's remarks could have been clearer at the opening workshop, and I think that that's an issue that should be discussed and should be outlined in clear fashion for the Yukon public.
These comments are based not solely on my impressions of attending these workshops. They're based upon listening to people and reflecting their views. They were ideas and issues that were raised with me. They are ideas and issues that I have discussed with members of the public advisory committee, from both sides of this issue, if you consider the conservation one side and industry the other. I've heard them from both sides. I've presented this perspective.
These are not confrontational issues that I'm putting on the floor of this House. They're constructive suggestions that I'm offering the minister, in terms of how we can better develop the protected areas strategy - how we finish up the work that we're asking this group to do by the end of June.
If I can conclude my remarks, the protected areas strategy that's underway right now by the Government of Yukon is about developing a how-to book. It's not about listing off and signing off the areas that we wish protected.
I think it's very, very important that we agree as Yukoners on a process of how to select the areas - that we, as the leader of the official opposition has said, do our homework. We have to do our homework. And all sides will agree with that, and all sides support that notion. I've heard it from government benches, as well: it's important to do our homework on this issue.
I'm certain that other members will have a great deal to say, and perhaps we'll see some amendments or changes to this motion come forward today. But let there be no mistake about the position of me or the Yukon Liberal Party caucus: we support protecting Canada's endangered spaces, including the Yukon's. We believe in developing a protected areas strategy, and we believe in doing it with consultation from Yukoners.
Another politician, Stephen Kakfwi, from the Northwest Territories, when they were developing their strategy, said, and I think he said it best - I know he's a more experienced politician than I am. He said, "This must be a community-driven process. Northern people must design and develop a protected areas strategy that reflects and responds to our social, cultural, economic and environmental priorities."
I believe in developing a community-driven process, which is what the protected areas strategy is doing now, and should be doing, provided the government is listening to it.
We must do it. We must do it not simply because we are seeking some sort of other recognition further down the road; we must do it because it's the right thing to do. And I would urge the government to listen carefully, to work with the public advisory committee that has been struck, and, as I said on November 6, 1997, it's not going to be easy, but it's a process worth doing, and I wish them luck with it.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Livingston: I am pleased today to be able to rise in the House and speak in favour of the motion supporting our government's protected areas strategy.
Mr. Speaker, this government, our government, is committed to a balanced approach, an approach that balances both environment and economy. We recognize that that's the kind of fashion in which we need to move forward.
The protected areas strategy, of course, is intended to preserve a network of representative parks and protected areas - some of them established as part of land claims and others established separately - that will preserve unique ecoregions and features across the Yukon Territory. We recognize the importance of having a predictable process, Mr. Speaker, a predictable set of steps for all of our community - the miners, people who work in the forests, people who work in the traditional economy, people who work in the tourism industry, the wilderness tourism industry, outfitters, people in agriculture and so on. That includes, Mr. Speaker, Yukoners who simply use the wildlands in the Yukon for their recreation, whether they enjoy canoeing in it, hiking, sightseeing or simply appreciating all of the wildlife, the plants and the animals that are found in abundance in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, I heard both the leader of the Yukon Party, the leader of the official opposition, and the leader of the third party go on at some length about the protected areas strategy.
I can tell members of this House and all Yukon people that this government is not interested in dividing the Yukon community among those who want to preserve every last blade of grass or those who want to mow every last blade of grass, Mr. Speaker. We are looking for a balanced approach that accommodates all Yukon people in the Yukon, and that's why we're not moving forward on the protected areas strategy alone, but of course are moving forward in all of the other areas on the economy that this government is, in fact, engaged in.
The leader of the Liberal Party actually quotes Billy Germaine talking about 10 spiders trying to build one web. She didn't really give us a context for that other than to say that it took place at the end of the first workshop almost a year ago, but I like to think about it, I guess, a little bit more like a group of ants building a system, building a mound, building a system, because that's what we want. We want all interests, a variety of interests, many people, coming together to make sure that this system is going to work well.
The leader of the Liberal Party talked about the how-to book, the protected areas strategy handbook that's being prepared right now by the minister's department, by the Minister of Renewable Resources and his department, and gives the book - or at least the process for developing the book, I think I heard her say - some good marks, but she makes the point that the government certainly can't deserve any credit on this, even though it's this government, Mr. Speaker, that has set up the process. I would suggest it has some significant consultation involved in it.
The intergovernmental steering committee and the departmental working group were established initially before May to begin work on the Yukon protected areas strategy. A successful workshop with key participants and stakeholders was held in Whitehorse in May of last year. As I say, it's about 10 months ago. The workshop report was, of course, distributed following that. I know that there was considerable work that went into the preparation of that workshop report, trying to bring together the various views, reflect the various views that Yukoners had, and I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that there was good representation in those initial stages.
I have to give the minister and his department credit for pulling together, I think, a strategy that does include all Yukoners.
Here are some of the things that Yukoners from a variety of walks of life in the Yukon had to say about protected areas and what a Yukon protected areas strategy should look like. The Yukon Chamber of Commerce said that "the Yukon protected areas strategy should provide a set of commonly agreed-upon guidelines that assist in the identification, selection, designation, management and protection of unique and special Yukon land areas." Mr. Speaker, that sounds like an endorsement of a process that is going to do a deliberate and a predictable job of setting aside some special Yukon land areas. They go on to say that "the application of guidelines will make best efforts to balance the needs for ecological integrity, economic development, and cultural significance, with the objective of providing future generations of Canadians with a rich mix of wilderness activity, cultural enrichment and economic sustainability."
That's what we heard from the Yukon Chamber of Commerce on the public consultation report of the Yukon protected areas strategy issued in February of this year. And that, of course, was based on some of the visioning that took place at previous workshops.
The Wilderness Tourism Association of Yukon also had some things to say. Their comment was that "the wilderness tourism industry obviously needs intact wilderness if there's to be any future for wilderness tourism in the Yukon. We also realize that we're able to contribute to the long-term sustainability of the Yukon economy by attracting visitors to the Yukon. We're able to lure people to the territory only because of its reputation of having large, unbroken tracts of intact wilderness and wildlife habitat."
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Conservation Society talks about the planning process, "the planning steps should be fairly consistent from region to region to ensure that agreed-upon targets and guidelines are being met and that the process remains accessible to all interested parties."
Mr. Speaker, I hear people from the conservation community, people from the Chamber of Commerce, calling for a predictable process that ensures all Yukoners' interests are represented as best as can be done in this process.
The Yukon Chamber of Mines: "A system that will see an equal and balanced common-sense use of land by all participating groups, including those making use of the natural resources."
I see that we have reached, even at these early stages, at least some consensus in terms of the vision among Yukoners about what we want to see in terms of having a predictable process, Mr. Speaker. A predictable process is good for both the conservation community and for the mining community. It's good for people in the wilderness tourism industry, and it's good for people who are interested in using the streams and the trails, and so on, in their back yards, for recreation and other uses.
Mr. Speaker, I think that this government has done some work around consultation, and I think it's to be credited for the work that has been done to date in terms of developing the protected areas strategy, such as it is. Of course, Mr. Speaker, the work is not done yet. As has been pointed out in the House today, the how-to book will be the next item that I expect we'll see in this protected areas strategy for the Yukon.
So, I would suggest that the consultation is ongoing, and it's ongoing in a constructive kind of way. Of course, it has been going on for some time. As the leader of the Yukon Party pointed out, it's been going on, in fact, for a number of years.
What we're doing is really trying to pick up the ball that was dropped after four years of inactivity in this area under a Yukon Party government.
I'm going to suggest to the leader of the third party that the uncertainty that she wants to see addressed will be addressed as we, in fact, nail down the strategy, and nail down the process and the predictable steps as this how-to book is delivered.
It's interesting to note the leader of the Liberal Party talking, at some length, about her party's stand on the protected areas strategy. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, I note in the election literature that was passed around prior to the 1996 election in the Yukon, that one of the commitments of the Yukon Liberals on the environment was to establish a comprehensive protected areas system.
But, you know, I guess the old saying is that talk is cheap. I have to say that throughout the campaign we didn't see anything more from the Liberals on the protected areas strategy. The Yukon Liberals did an ad that said, "the Yukon Liberal team: the first 100 days". You know, Mr. Speaker, there's no mention about protected areas in this particular ad. There's mention of the development assessment process and the need to finish it, but there's no mention of the protected areas strategy.
In fact, I think that a check of the records and the news releases that were issued will reveal that, in fact, there was nothing further said about the protected areas strategy.
That leaves me somewhat uncomfortable. When I look, for example, at what other Liberal governments have done across this country, I'm left even more uncomfortable. I note, for example, Mr. Speaker, that a Liberal member of the Legislature in British Columbia says, on June 17, 1993 - this is the Liberal critic on the issue of the day - "We'd let them mine the hell out of it." That's his reference to protected areas in British Columbia. He went on, and that's repeated a number of times.
I would go on to say, Mr. Speaker, that if we look at the federal Liberal Party and the federal Liberal government and what they've done with our contaminated sites and our military waste sites and the Marwell contaminated sites, it leaves me less than confident about the Liberal Party's commitment, in fact, to deliver on this kind of an environmental agenda.
So, I heard what the Liberal leader said. I only wish that I had the kind of confidence in what the Liberal Party would be able to deliver and what they would be prepared to deliver were they ever in a position to do so.
One of the comments, of course, was made with respect to special management areas and how the processes for special management areas and protected areas strategies need to be clearly enunciated and clearly set out. And, of course, what the member seems to ignore or to be unaware of is that the special management areas, established under land claims agreements, are really established under a different process.
So, that negotiation process, that process of sitting around a table and establishing what that looks like, is certainly a different process than we see with the protected areas strategy. Nevertheless, we see the potential for establishing, in cooperation with First Nations, special management areas as a part of the protected areas strategy, and I am pleased to note that work on that matter is going ahead.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon electors made the protected areas strategy a priority. That's clear, partly from the election results - and I know in my own riding in Lake Laberge, many people on the doorstep talk about the need for park areas, the need to preserve critical habitat, the need to preserve recreational and other types of park areas within the Yukon Territory. That was certainly a message that was out there.
I note also that the environment is coming back as a top issue among Yukoners generally, according to Doug Miller, president of Environics, who mentioned it this month at an Ottawa conference on climate change. He notes that the trend cuts across age groups, sexes and geographic regions, and he said the public is demanding environmental protection today, despite its possible economic costs, to prevent environmental damage in the future. And one of the things that he goes on to say is, "The important thing is that it's because they believe the two - that is, a clean environment and a healthy economy - go together. They don't think it's a trade-off."
So, Mr. Speaker, not only do Yukoners believe that preserving the environment is important, but it would appear that there is a large portion of Canadians that believe that keeping a good environment is part and parcel of keeping a good economy over the longer haul, and they support that kind of initiative.
Mr. Speaker, this government has already begun to take steps with the expansion of Tombstone park. The initial work, of course, has begun on that, and I'm pleased to see that moving forward.
The establishment of protected areas, in and of itself, will be a contribution for the Yukon people, for the Yukon environment and, indeed, for the Yukon economy. For the Yukon environment, we expect and intend to see the protected areas strategy protect the Yukon's abundance of wildlife and plant species, and protect rare and endangered plants and animals, protect clean waters and natural water flows, and take care of sensitive areas, such as wetlands, watersheds, flood plain areas and critical wildlife habitat. That's part of the biodiversity that the protected areas strategy will work to preserve. That's important because whether it's talking about the source of medicines from wild plants as, certainly, one of its key origins, or simply the way that it sustains Yukon people, as we spend our time out in the wild lands, whether it's in the canoe or on the hiking trails, it's an important part of what we want to preserve.
The protected areas strategy will also support workers and will provide jobs. We know that today there are 2,000 jobs that are directly dependent on tourism - about 11 percent of the jobs. That's the largest private sector within the Yukon's economy. We know, as well, that Parks Canada's economic impact in the Yukon is about $10 million annually, and we know that a protected areas system could increase the gross domestic product within Yukon by millions of dollars on an annual kind of basis.
It's interesting to note that in the United States, the communities that are growing the fastest are those nearest the wilderness and parks areas. This trend can have its own problems, but I think what it does underline is that there is work for people, and that there is a link between environmental quality and community development and business investment, and that's a good message -
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Mr. Livingston: Mr. Speaker, I need to take the leader of the Yukon Party to task on a couple of points. He's urging us on the one hand to go slow, then on the other hand he's saying that reworking the strategy in concert with Yukoners is going backwards. He's asking us to go slow on the one hand and speed up on the other. I'm not sure what he means. I expect that Yukoners aren't quite sure about that either.
Mr. Speaker, I know that this government is committed to doing its homework. That's why we've committed half a million dollars this year to the parks and protected spaces strategy. We've committed $400,000 to do land-based inventories of wildlife, forests, minerals and trails that will involve local knowledge and input.
Mr. Speaker, we're looking for sustainable development in this territory and the parks and protected spaces strategy is a part of that.
I think former Prime Minister Brundtland, in the Brundtland Commission from the United Nations in 1987, said it very well: "Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" is the kind of approach that this government supports. Protected areas contribute to the health of our communities. It's an insurance policy for the future and will lead to diversification, job creation opportunities for all Yukoners, and to a healthy environment that is good for all of the Yukon.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I'm pleased to support this motion.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the concept of a Yukon protected areas strategy is a good one. How it's implemented and how we achieve the goals that we haven't quite set out yet are the issues that we have to address.
When one looks at the total land mass of the Yukon, it's interesting to note what is in place and to overlay a map of Yukon, first with the federal parks that exist in the Yukon, then with the Yukon parks, then overlay the wildlife sanctuaries, the heritage river systems, the ecological reserves, and the special management areas. Then have a look and see what land mass is left over.
Then overlay the map of Yukon containing the land selections of the Yukon First Nations. What amount of land does the government aim to protect under the protected areas strategy? How much of the total mass? Are the parks proposed in addition to the ones already existing within that protected areas strategy amount of land? These are some of the questions that leave a lot of Yukoners very concerned with what is happening.
Then, when we look at the total land mass in the Yukon, over 90 percent is federal Crown land. There is a process in place for all types of economic development that the Yukon is normally associated with. We need a system if we're going to be developing this strategy that has a buy-in and support from all sectors: from governments, from First Nations and from all industry.
What we have now is uncertainty about the future, especially when we look at the area of issuing interim protection for vast tracts of land. The land mass surrounding the proposed Tombstone park and the amount of land that's going to be protected in areas that have tremendous mineral potential are causing concerns to industry. Contrary to what we have heard from a number of individuals about B.C. - the argument that protecting areas will bring mining exploration, that is advanced by some of the environmental groups - investment in mining follows the metal prices for both precious and base metals.
They're trying to suggest that there's no relationship in Canada between the growth in protected areas and exploration and development expenditures. I think, Mr. Speaker, all one has to do is look at what is happening in Canada, specifically in western Canada - in B.C. and the Yukon - today, and see how the message that NDP governments in both of these two jurisdictions are sending out to the mining community has caused the mining community to react. There's virtually no mineral exploration, to speak of, of a magnitude that occurred in these two areas several years ago. To a large part, that results from the message originating from the governments in power in these two jurisdictions.
Let's get back to the protected areas strategy. How are we going to achieve it? We can't force it down people's throats. We can't just look at one section of society to provide the advice, and we can't just take from one section of society the advice they offer. We have to listen to all Yukoners in this area. We have to be concerned with what all sectors say, and we still need jobs, Mr. Speaker.
The Yukon is still based on mineral extraction. Our economy, to a large extent, goes up and down with the mineral extraction here in Yukon. That is our major industry. Yes, our visitor industry is also important, but the major industry that drives the engine of the Yukon is mining, has been mining, was mining when the Yukon was established 100 years ago, Mr. Speaker, and it has maintained the Yukon continuously through all that period. Yes, there have been ups and downs, and we're going through another downturn as we are here today, Mr. Speaker, but overall, it has been that mining.
Now, the message coming out of this strategy to the mining industry is causing concern, causing concern about the future. There doesn't appear to be time lines on the process, other than the consultation-type process, and the impact it's going to have on exploration here in the Yukon.
We're going to have to look at some sort of a cost-benefit analysis and look at who is going to be responsible ultimately, because it's going to be the people of the Yukon that do not have jobs. We can't all work for government. We can't all continuously rely on Ottawa for funding.
If we are going to ever achieve in the Yukon a measure of self-reliance, we're going to have to develop a number of our core industries. We're going to have to develop our own energy sources rather than rely on imported oils to generate electricity. We are going to have to rely on our own abilities to develop these resources, and we can do it, Mr. Speaker, but there has to be a political will, and that political will that exists today is leaning very much to the environmental side and to the environmentalists and special interest groups that, to a large degree, support the government in power here in the Yukon.
It's interesting when we start looking at the First Nations who have rights on a lot of the land in question, and they're advocating, in some cases, a go-slow until the land claims are completed. How does the government view the concerns of the First Nations in this regard, or is the government of the opinion that this protected areas strategy can be superimposed over First Nations land claims without their support? I don't believe so, Mr. Speaker.
When we have this all said and done, who's going to bear the cost of compensation to buy out any people aggrieved in these areas? We only have one example that has recently come to light as to what it cost the federal government to buy out some mining claims in Lousetown to settle the First Nations land claims there. It was $1 million; and we have other examples where compensation has been paid out in very significant sums of money.
The Minister of Renewable Resources in his remarks made a statement that I agreed with. In his summation, he said, "We need something we can all live with." The key word is "all." As this protected areas strategy is being advanced, I think it's somewhat premature for us in this House to commend the Government of the Yukon for its work toward the establishment of the system of Yukon protected areas.
The first part of the motion, Mr. Speaker, we certainly can concur with. In the interests of getting all party support for this motion, I am proposing a friendly amendment to the motion, and that would read as follows:
Mr. Jenkins: I move
THAT Motion No. 92 be amended by deleting the words after the expression "THAT this House" in the second paragraph and substituting for them the following: "urges the Government of Yukon to consider the concerns of the mining and forestry industries in relation to not discouraging investment in resource development in the government's work toward the establishment of a system of Yukon protected areas".
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Klondike that Motion No. 92 be amended by deleting the words after the expression "THAT this House" in the second paragraph and substituting for them the following: "urges the Government of Yukon to consider the concerns of the mining and forestry industries in relation to not discouraging investment in resource development in the government's work toward the establishment of a system of Yukon protected areas".
Mr. Jenkins: On the amendment to the motion, Mr. Speaker, this is a friendly amendment to the motion, because we believe in the protected areas strategy. We have concerns with the process that has been adopted and we'd like very much to support the motion as amended.
We are very, very hopeful, Mr. Speaker, that with this friendly amendment to the motion, this House will achieve all-party support on this motion, something that I'm sure the Member for Kluane would like to see in this House.
This amendment urges the Government of the Yukon to consider the concerns of the mining and forestry industries. The weighting of the advice being given to this government is such that these industries appear to be taking a back seat. Yet the mining industry is one of the major engines that drives the economy of Yukon, Mr. Speaker. It provides jobs, it provides tremendous spinoffs and, with the correct delivery, it could help and assist all Yukoners - the delivery of the protected areas strategy, that is, Mr. Speaker.
Proceeding in the way that this government is proceeding on the protected area strategy, we are going to be pitting one group against another.
I really don't believe that is going to be beneficial, in the long run, for the Yukon. Our economy is resource-driven and relies on the mining sector and could rely very heavily on the forestry sector. Both of these areas are still under the domain of the federal Government of Canada. Both are going to have to be lobbied and encouraged to have tremendous input into the protected areas strategy and the message that the government of the day sends out must be to encourage these industries to develop, not to sit on the sidelines and wait for all the t's to be crossed and the i's to be dotted in the protected areas strategy that is being proposed.
So in closing, I would encourage this House to support this friendly amendment so that we can get on with the business of developing this protected areas strategy for all Yukoners, Mr. Speaker.
Thank you very much.
Speaker: Member for Klondike - sorry - Kluane.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you for amending that, Mr. Speaker. The opposition said that this is a friendly amendment. What it really is is a shenanigan. There is nothing constructive about this whatsoever. Our consultation in the mandate includes all stakeholders. All stakeholders are included in the consultations and that's the way it will be.
I want to start by responding to a few of the remarks made by the leader of the official opposition, which were completely nonsensical. I want to start with his statement that our government is pitting stakeholders against each other.
Well, Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. We are involving all stakeholders in our consultations: stakeholders such as the Chamber of Mines, the business community, representatives from the forest industry, the tourism industry - all kinds of stakeholders from those sectors, in addition to stakeholders representing environmental or cultural values.
Just to make the point on this, one comment I heard from a person who was at the consultations - I think it was on February 6 - pointed out that industry really showed up in force to that meeting. They were well-represented during that consultation. So, therefore, I have very little sympathy for this notion that somehow we are trying to barnstorm over industry, pit one group against another, and so on. We are striving to achieve consensus on these issues to deliver a very important strategy for the Yukon.
As I mentioned before, Mr. Speaker, nature is under assault, and we're expected to do something now to avoid losing what many Yukoners cherish.
The former Government Leader also suggested that a protected areas strategy won't add jobs in my lifetime or in successive generations. Mr. Speaker, in my opening remarks, I referred to a number of jobs created in the provinces south of the Yukon related to protected areas. Already in the Yukon, we have a number of jobs here related to protected areas, such as Kluane National Park, and there will be more jobs produced. I read down a list and pointed out at least half a dozen types of jobs that can result from a Yukon protected areas strategy. These are not somewhere at the end of the rainbow; these will be in the short term.
The leader of the official opposition also tried to counter the point with the Killermun Lake example, and his point was that the tracks were backfilled, and so on, but I think he really missed the point. The main point, as I understand it from that particular controversy, which ended up before the federal courts of the country, was what if they had discovered a resource there worth extracting, worth exploiting, Mr. Speaker? What would happen if it is economical, where the miner can make a buck and they end up with a mine there, and the caribou calving ground is immediately surrounding this area - what would happen in that type of a circumstance? What type of a claim would this miner be able to sue the government for? What type of a conflict would we have in a situation like this? How would the former Government Leader resolve this problem? Would he move the caribou calving grounds? Mr. Speaker, I know you know better than that. Caribou calving grounds simply can't be moved like an excavator, a piece of equipment. You're tampering with the entire biodiversity of the region.
The main intent behind our Yukon protected areas strategy is to try to avoid these conflicts before they happen. Instead of sending people up a valley, who want to protect the biodiversity, and at the same time send prospectors up the same valley, instead of having a conflict, this strategy will identify areas for protection and identify areas for multiple use and so on, in order to avoid those types of conflicts.
Mr. Speaker, if you take that example and apply it to what we heard from the former Government Leader - that we're trying to pit stakeholders against each other - he should see how nonsensical his argument really is. It is they who are pitting values and people and cultures and everything else against each other. We are trying to deal with the problem to prevent conflicts in the future and, by bringing forward a Yukon protected areas strategy, those conflicts will be averted and Yukoners can rest assured their environment will be protected as well.
He also pointed out that I don't know anything about wildlife. Mr. Speaker, what a joke. He knows that I have lived at Aishihik Lake for over 10 years. He's flown over my property in his airplane. He knows that a lot of my early concerns about fish in the lake and the environmental impact of low water levels have been vindicated and proven by studies done by the very Yukon government that he headed up until just a year and a half ago. He forgets about all that, but, instead, stands here on his feet and says that I don't know anything about wildlife.
Well, just because somebody doesn't have wildlife in the sights of their rifle, doesn't mean that they don't know anything about it.
He also says that my constituents don't see me very often. He was in the coffee shop and they weren't sure who I was. Again, what a joke. What a joke. Nothing could be further from the truth. In my trips to Beaver Creek, I can say that constituents have been quite impressed with my frequent visits, my concerns about them and my attention to their concerns. They feel that they have someone they can relate to in government who can deliver on their concerns and speak for them in this Legislature.
I mentioned on the Shakwak motion how the White River First Nation commented to me that they hadn't seen the previous MLA for years. This is the same concern that I heard from the Kluane First Nation and the same concern from countless others.
I don't want to speak too negatively of my predecessor, because in many ways I admire the fine job he did. I also acknowledge the time requirements that go along with being a minister in this government and how difficult it is to get away from Whitehorse, especially when the Legislature is sitting. However, for the former Government Leader to stand there and attack me for not speaking to people in my riding is absolutely ludicrous.
I felt that was something I had to respond to. Sure, there are some people I haven't met or talked to, but I plan on spending a lot of time this summer, Mr. Speaker, once the energy -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Let's get back to the motion, please.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I plan to talk to a number of my constituents this summer about how they feel about the Yukon protected areas strategy, and that includes people I haven't met yet and haven't had a chance to talk to. I know there aren't too many of them, but I will definitely be out there listening to what they have to say, and not by telephone...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Mr. McRobb: ... but by person.
The former Government Leader says we're moving too fast. Well, Mr. Speaker, it seems it's either too fast or too slow, or maybe not quite the right way or the left way. They always have some criticism, and we all know that's their job - to criticize. It's also our job to hold them accountable for some of the things they say, and that's what I'm doing by pointing out how these types of comments are nonsensical.
What about the former minister's letter saying they would have a protected areas strategy complete by 1996? Compare that to the concerns now in 1998 that we're moving too fast. Mr. Speaker, it seems there's a bit of a time warp here between what they said before and what they're saying now. Judging from the front page of tonight's paper, maybe a beam of light has interfered with their thinking somewhere along the way.
The former Government Leader also -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: I've been advised, Mr. Speaker, by the Minister of Justice not to comment on that remark from ...
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Mr. McRobb: ... the Member for Riverdale North.
I have here, Mr. Speaker, a publication that will go down in Yukon history as being quite notorious, no doubt. It's the Yukon Party Caucus News, May 1996 edition.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Yes, the member is saying that they probably hoped these weekend flyers wouldn't see the light of day in this Legislature, but they have. In this particular version is an editorial by the former Minister of Renewable Resources, with a headline "Meeting our Environmental Commitments." This is the Yukon Party's commitment to the people of how they would meet environmental commitments. So, what does it say?
It says that the Yukon government is working to meet its commitment to protect 12 percent of its area by the year 2000. Well, Mr. Speaker, maybe it's been awhile since they saw a calendar, but the year 2000 isn't all that far away.
How do we get there? We have to get on with it now - through consultations. This takes time. To get to 2000, we have to be working now - something they failed to do in their four years in power.
This type of a statement was designed more to get votes than stand up under the test of scrutiny. We all understand that, and I won't criticize them for doing that, but at the same time we must realize the difference between this type of propaganda and reality.
The leader of the official opposition also pointed out that the NDP government doesn't believe in consultation. Well, Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. We believe in consulting with Yukoners, getting meaningful input, hearing what they have to say, and acting on their concerns and input. I've spoken about this before. I guess they're not listening, if I have to keep repeating myself.
I have to keep repeating myself. They don't listen. They don't listen to me; they don't listen to us; they don't listen to Yukoners and they proved that in their four years in this government, they didn't listen.
Mr. Speaker, at election time, one of the top things I heard was people hoping we would form the government and listen, and that's exactly what we're doing. We have an extensive consultation process for the protected areas strategy, elaborated on by the Minister of Renewable Resources, and we believe in the consultative process and that's the way it's going to be.
He also mocked the previous government back in 1992 for developing a comprehensive energy policy but not implementing it. Well, Mr. Speaker, he kind of folded that into his argument about consultation and somehow derived the conclusion that we're not listening to Yukoners because this policy wasn't implemented. However, Mr. Speaker, there wasn't a legislative sitting between the time the strategy was prepared and the election of October 19, 1992. That begs the question: why didn't the previous government, the Yukon Party government, implement that strategy?
Going back in Hansard, Mr. Speaker, we can find clips dating back to December 1993 where the Minister of Economic Development promised to have a comprehensive energy policy within a few months. As I'm sure the Member for Riverside can appreciate, because he asked on numerous occasions where that policy was, it never came to fruition. It never happened; another job left unfinished by the Yukon Party. Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm going to be very pleased to be standing here next session announcing the completely finalized comprehensive energy policy for the territory brought about through meaningful consultation, just like the Yukon protected areas strategy ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Mr. McRobb: ... will be developed and implemented in time.
He also criticized the commission for going out and overconsulting on something we already heard that Yukoners want - reasonably priced power, and that's about it, and so on. How negative. How uninformed. How ridiculous.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: It's an outrage, is right.
The energy commission will be consulting on several exciting initiatives over the course of the next two months. If the Yukon Party isn't plugged into them by now, then maybe they won't even find out by the time they are implemented. These are exciting initiatives, including community energy management, implementing district heat -
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes on the amendment.
Mr. McRobb: I'll just speak briefly to wrap up the rest of the consultation topics - improving the rate relief program, not cancelling it but improving it. Nevertheless, we hear repeated claims by the opposition that we're cancelling rate relief - not true. We are responding to the wishes of Yukoners to spend this money differently on better programs and policies than rate relief, and that's what we will do. We are listening to Yukoners. We're not coming in with a pre-determined agenda; we're listening to them.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Klondike continues to ask very simple questions, and I guess that resembles the level of thought he's at. What I want to emphasize is that we believe in -
Speaker: Order please. Stop the heckling, please.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It's getting a little out of hand.
We believe in meaningful consultation. The protected areas strategy is very meaningful to us. It will be produced after consultation, and it's something that we know the majority of Yukoners are looking forward to, and we will produce it. It won't sit on the shelf for four years like the previous energy -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It won't sit on the shelf for four years like the energy strategy under the previous government. This strategy will be implemented long before the -
Speaker: Time has now elapsed.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, our caucus supports this amendment with one exception, and I'll speak to that momentarily.
Land use planning is always a good exercise. Knowing what sort of activities are allowable ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Mrs. Edelman: ... or desirable on a piece of land is the sort of knowledge that will ultimately open up this territory for development and for protection, whether that's in the mining sector or in the ever-growing field of ecotourism. Giving certainty to land development also gives government direction to direction to develop policy and allocate resources wisely.
The only problem that I have with this particular amendment, therefore, is the lack of the mention of local government in this clause. The NDP are purported to be interested in giving Yukoners a say in the decisions that affect them, and the Yukon Party also has spoken about this issue.
Yukoners are sick of people who don't live in their town making decisions about the issues that affect them. This government has recognized that fact in their consultations with various municipalities about garbage and about rural services. Regional land use planning is the wave of the future. Common sense tells us that the person who deals with the land every day knows a lot more about the issues than the guy who lives in Whitehorse who may never have had to use the dump or access fire protection in that locale.
At some point in the future, we may have regional local governments, but currently local decision making is done by the local government, and in the Yukon that is by the local First Nation and the local municipal government.
Mr. Speaker, I think we need to add municipal government to the list of governments noted in clause 2. It is the position of the Association of Yukon Communities, and I will quote this, "that whoever is the AYC representative on the protected areas strategy advisory committee take the AYC position that, in the protection of any area, decision making must include consultation with the appropriate or affected municipalities."
Mr. Speaker, municipal governments, although they are a junior government, must be recognized as full partners in government in this territorial initiative. The Municipal Act empowers local governments to make decisions about local matters. The protected areas strategy is a local issue. The protected areas strategy will speak to the provision of jobs in tourism, and those people with those jobs will live in the various towns and cities of the Yukon. The protected areas strategy speaks to the development of recreation areas that are used by the local residents of Yukon's municipalities. Mr. Speaker, the protected areas strategy will reduce or increase jobs to Yukon's miners, and they live and pay taxes in Yukon towns, cities and hamlets. The closest municipality should always be involved in the decisions that affect them. Local residents must have a say.
Whatever the development or the initiative, the local town is the local service centre for that development. In that sense, municipalities service the entire territory. The input of this level of government must be recognized by all those who take part in this process. Local government delivers services. Surely they should be recognized formally in the process. It is difficult enough for municipalities to not be included formally in the DAP. Not respecting local input from municipal governments would be a step away from a government that supposedly respects the rights of every other level of government, be it federal or First Nations government.
Mr. Hardy: I rise to speak to the amendment and definitely speak against the amendment. I don't approve of it. I even have to question a little bit as to whether it's valid. But I am going to read something here. I thought it was very well written, and it kind of reflects how we live in the Yukon and our views of the wilderness. There are a lot of reasons why we live up here, whether we are born here or we come here, and why we don't necessarily want to go back down south if we are from there.
"I'm writing this preface in an isolated cabin by a frozen northern lake. Inside, my wood fire crackles out warmth. Outside the lake ice creaks and grumbles under an arctic cold front, breaking a spell of silence cast by winter constellations. At times like this, I ask myself, am I one of the last? One of the last to enjoy a star-filled night sky unspoiled by light pollution? One of the last to dip a paddle into the river and drink cold water as it streams down the blade. One of the last to see a bald eagle or a grizzly bear or small white ladyslipper orchid. One of the last to have the choice to experience these things, or to at least know they're out there, or to pass that choice on to my children.
"It strikes me that many other people have been one of the last, without realizing it at the time. They lived their lives while crucial options were being lost, and they did nothing about it - not because they didn't care, but because they simply didn't know what was at stake.
"I believe you and I live at precisely such a time in Canada. Unlike previous generations, however, we cannot offer ignorance as an excuse for inaction. We have a once-only opportunity to ensure that significant parts of our country remain in a wild, natural state, changing only at the hands of nature, serving as benchmarks for measuring the changes we are making to so much of the rest of our lands and waters. But it's truly a time-limited offer. I don't want to be one of the last. Do you?"
Now, that was written by Monty Hummel at Loon Lake, December 1994. I think it captures a lot of the people's views of this great land called Canada, and especially the greatest part of Canada, the Yukon. What I hear from the other side is often that everybody else, it seems, in their perspective, is a special interest group unless they agree with them, and then they're not a special interest group.
So if they agree with the Yukon Party, of course they're the general public and everybody should listen to them, but if they dare have a different opinion, they're a special interest group.
Now the Member for Klondike likes to label everybody that he doesn't like as a special interest group. So let's take a look at who he talks about as special interest groups. He said that the majority of people don't want protected areas - or we don't consult enough; we'll get into that.
Let's look at the people who do want protected areas, do want endangered species legislation and do want wildlife habitats.
What are some of the figures? The StatsCan study in 1987, The Importance of Wildlife to Canadians, indicated that 90 percent of Canadians participated in some form of wildlife-related activities. The enjoyment and appreciation of wildlife is intrinsic to our lifestyle. It's a big part of who we are. That's why over 60 percent of respondents in that national survey indicated a willingness to pay increased taxes - and we all know how much Canadians hate taxes - or higher user prices, if needed, to conserve wetlands, forests, and other wildlife habitat. What does he do? He labels them as special interest groups - 60 percent of the population in Canada is a special interest group, and 90 percent of the people attach some some value. They're another special interest group.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Mr. Hardy: So, it's very easy to stand on the other side and say that special interest groups are driving this, and special interest groups are doing this, and special interest groups are doing that, and we're opposed to them - and I'm just going to get it right here. Let's take a look at some more special interest groups that that party might find interesting. World Wildlife Canada was founded in 1967. He considered that a special interest group. It was formed by prominent members of the business community, in partnership with leading scientists from across the country. Well, there's another special interest group. This was at a time when there was no Department of the Environment or an Environmental Protection Act. Since then, more than 500 Canadian corporations have provided financial support and 100 businessmen and women have provided volunteer leadership to the WWF Canada by serving on the board. This is a special interest group that he refers to.
The endangered species campaign has been supported by two successive resolutions passed in 1991 and 1993 by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce - another special interest group, because they dare support protected spaces or endangered species. Financial supporters have included more than 20 of the country's blue chip companies and a dozen private foundations. To date, its combined financial commitments to endangered species campaign exceeds $5 million.
Well, that's not as much as the banks give the Liberals, but it's close, on a yearly basis.
Many influential members of the Canadian business community believe in what we're trying to do with parks and protected areas strategy and that support is an important element in this campaign.
We have to be sensitive to business and work with them - this special interest group, as the Member for Klondike likes to call them, because they happen to support this. When he talks about special interest groups that support parks, does he put those ones aside and doesn't want to see them? Maybe it's over half of our population, this special interest group called women. Maybe that's what he's talking about.
What about the Canadian Wilderness Charter? It says, "(6.) Whereas Canada's once vast wilderness has deeply shaped the national identity and continues to profoundly influence how we view ourselves as Canadians; whereas Canada's aboriginal people hold deep and direct ties to the wilderness areas throughout Canada and seek to maintain options for traditional wilderness use; whereas protected areas can serve a variety of purposes including preserving a generic reservoir of wild plants and animals for future use and appreciation by citizens of Canada and the world, producing economic benefits from an environmentally-sensitive tourism, offering opportunities for research and environmental education; whereas the opportunity to complete a national network of protected areas must be grasped and acted upon during the next 10 years or be lost.; the federal, provincial, territorial governments and conservation agencies, on behalf of all Canadians, to develop action plans by 1990 for achieving these goals by the year 2000."
I say to you, that's what we're working toward. That was a pledge that was made in 1990 across Canada, and it's a pledge that Yukon is honouring and working toward, and it's a shame that we have people on the other side who want to create a rift between employment and the environment.
A rift does not exist, but they want to create that rift.
Now, the amendment needs a lot of work. I think that the best amount of work that can happen with the amendment is to hit file 13. It doesn't talk about consultation and input from all interests, and that's a concern, something that this side firmly believes in and something that this side is following through with.
It's always been very clear why the Yukon Party doesn't support our original motion and why they've come up with this absolutely ridiculous amendment. A comment made by the Member for Klondike, who has got some brilliant lines - and I often sit here and listen. I don't dare step out because I want to capture some of that tremendous wisdom that he has.
He's not that eager to have more regulations. He's often spoken about us being overregulated, and the Yukon Party speaks about this as well. Okay, maybe he's got a point, but when you talk about that, what regulations are you suggesting that we get rid of in the environment?
How about the contaminated sites regulations? How about spills regulations? How about ozone-depleting substances regulations? How about special waste regulations? How about pesticide regulations - pesticides are causing tremendous devastation in many of the Third World countries and even in Canada, the United States and the industrialized countries, with sicknesses and disease. Recycling fund regulations? Beverage container regulations? Regulations around electricity?
Shall we just start dropping the regulations - they're not that important? Where do we start with them?
There have been promises made by the Yukon Party in the past. The former Minister of Economic Development promised a comprehensive protected areas strategy in the Yukon by spring 1996. He never made it. You would figure that the Yukon Party would be very happy that we would be doing this work. They were going to do it.
I would hope that they would have gone out and consulted people, like we have. I would hope they'd have taken into consideration all interests and allow a forum where people could speak - all people, and that includes the person who likes to walk their dog down a trail, the person who likes to canoe down a river, the businessperson who sells the outdoor equipment, the mining interests that would like to see some interest in the areas marked off where they know they have assurances that they can mine and areas where they don't have to waste their money.
They won't go in those areas, but they've been marked off and they're protected. They don't have to look after that. They can spend their resources and energy in areas they know are open for development.
But, that raises a philosophical point, and it is something I often find arises in the Legislature here: it is the six on one side and us on the other. My colleague beside me here from Watson Lake has talked about balance. He says, "Look at us two, Todd. I am considered far on the right." What was in the paper? More right than Attila the Hun, I believe. And I was considered more left than Lech Walesa - someone like that. Yet, we could work side by side. We have shared interests and shared values. One of those values is protected areas - the wilderness out there that we truly love and want to see for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren and want in place, so that we can enjoy the economic benefits and jobs - the green jobs that will come from protecting wilderness.
Tourism is going to benefit phenomenally from having these spaces. There's absolutely no question, because the rest of the world is suffering.
And we're one of the few places in the world that still has wilderness that's untouched, and it's increasing in value, and it's something that we have to protect. It's not something that we exploit and exploit and exploit like they did down south, Mr. Speaker, because this is a treasure, and it's in our hands. We have to respect it. We have to ensure that it's here for generations to come. And this is not like mining, where you may mine for 10 years and move on. This can be here for a thousand years, a hundred thousand years.
Now, the leader of the official opposition said, "Is it necessary?" He said it four or five times. I think he was stuck like a broken record. But I'll tell you, I'll answer that. Get on a plane, fly down south, see the urban jungles, see the pollution, see the devastation to wilderness habitat. You want to go into a park, you pay $20, and you have to park in a little stall, and it's packed because people are so desperate to get a little piece of their wilderness for sanity, and it's not there. It's overpolluted - being pressured and crunched by development - and there was no protection put in place in time, and now they are scrambling to get it back, Mr. Speaker.
They're fighting to get it back, and it's costing billions and billions of dollars. I don't know if it's too late, but it's pollution, and the pollution is coming up here. It's devastation to our fisheries. If we had protected some areas in our oceans, we wouldn't have the collapse of the fisheries. If we had said growth is not always good, sustainable development is good, Mr. Speaker.
The extinction of species is happening at a vicious rate, and we could be one of those species in the end, and that could be our legacy.
There are increases in illness in our society, and the destruction of traditional values and lifestyles that are sustainable, that we've managed to corrupt and twist.
What we have to look at, Mr. Speaker, is sustainable development, something that has a recognition of localities and respect for community, respect for employment, the wilderness, lifestyles, health.
Not this continuous growth, in the sense that that growth is always good. It's not always good. There is a point where we cannot maintain it, and things collapse. What we're talking about is the earth, as a biosphere. There is a limit to what the world can take. We're starting to see the holes in the ozone layer, and we're starting to see many species die off. I don't believe that's the way to go. I believe -
Speaker: The member has two minutes on the amendment.
Hon. Mr. Hardy: I believe, like many people out there, that we can be part of this earth, be part of the Yukon, and not destroy it, not harm it. We can coexist, live healthy, and we can have green jobs. We can have mining, we can have forestry, we can have fisheries, we can have trapping, but it's got to be sustainable.
And we have to be very honest about it. We can't just keep getting pulled in one direction or the other direction: "Well, if we don't do this, all these jobs are going to be lost," or "If we don't do this, the river's going to be polluted." We've got to sit down together and come up with a long-term solution, because what I feel is, over the last 100 years, the industrial revolution, it's all been short-term projections and we are in a state now where we have devastation in many countries, mass destruction of forests, medicines, fisheries, as an example. We see the destruction of the cod fishery on the east coast and then, of course, out of that is the total devastation of the communities. Do we want to see that up here? Do we want to just log, log, log for the next 10 years and see the economy collapse in 10 years and then have nothing left behind? Can't even take the tourists down the rivers or out into the valleys. They'll stop coming here, as they're an important part of the economics of the Yukon today, too.
I believe that -
Speaker: Order. The member's time has now elapsed.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you.
Mr. Phillips: So much to say and so little time to say it in. After listening to that last speaker, I think there are grounds here to launch a study into the air quality in Whitehorse Centre. I think there's a shortage of oxygen in that area.
There are some elected people coming to this House and saying some very strange things, and one of them, Mr. Speaker, which I will be quoting for years to come, is the profound statement from the Member for Whitehorse Centre. When we have 11 percent unemployment, we have a no-jobs budget, we are probably going to 15 percent or 17 percent unemployment and you know what this member stood up and said in the House today, Mr. Speaker? It was unbelievable: "Growth is not always good." When Yukoners need jobs -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Phillips: When Yukoners want to work, this member is saying, "Growth is not always -
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: On a point of order, the Member for Kluane.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker. You know, we've heard everything now. I would like to remind the member that he's speaking to the motion and just so he doesn't lose sight of the amendment to the motion, I want to make sure that he's got it straight.
And it reads, "THAT Motion No. 92 be amended by deleting the words after the expression "THAT this House" in the second paragraph and substituting for them the following: "urges the Government of the Yukon to consider the concerns of ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. McRobb: ... mining and forestry industries...
Speaker: There is no point of order.
The Member for Riverdale North, please continue.
Mr. Phillips: The Member for Kluane is an embarrassment to his constituents, Mr. Speaker. Unfortunately, he's more insensitive about his own feelings than he is about the -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, what we have seen here today with the amendment is the New Democratic Party first of all saying that growth is not always good, but we've also seen the New Democratic Party here reject a friendly amendment, Mr. Speaker, and all it says, when you read the amendment, is it urges the Government of the Yukon -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: It urges the Government of Yukon to consider the concerns of the mining and forest industries in relation to not discouraging investment of resource development of the Yukon, work toward the establishment of a system of Yukon protected areas.
Mr. Speaker, the New Democratic Party is not interested, by saying no to this, in working with the mining community. The messages they've been sending out are negative, from agreeing with the B.C. government, who's chased investment out of the country and the B.C. forest industry - the Member for Watson Lake should have been hiding his head in the forest when he listened to his colleague talk about the great things that happened in the forest industry. Thousands of jobs have gone down the tube and more are leaving. The mining industry is defunct in B.C. and disappearing completely.
We have the Cordilleran Roundup. The people at the Cordilleran Roundup -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Mr. Phillips: The mining community talks about B.C. and the Yukon all in one sentence. They're afraid of what's happening. They see the wannabe Glen Clark clone - the leader of the Government of the Yukon - wanting to get his name in lights by developing parks all over the country.
I don't disagree with having a protected areas strategy. Where I have problems is when the whole focus is on protected areas and there isn't a focus on the balanced approach. It's a false approach.
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Mr. Phillips: It's a false approach that the members opposite are taking. But, of course, Mr. Speaker, growth is not always good, with 11-percent unemployment, but we are going to get a lot of growth out of the attitude of this government. Unemployment is going to grow. Mr. Speaker, the other thing we're going to get out of this government is that we're going to watch the population of the Yukon decrease because people are going to leave the territory to try and find jobs elsewhere, because they're not going to find them here - not under this government, and they know that.
They talk about the protected spaces being the be-all and end-all for the tourism industry, but that's not necessarily the case. If you talk to some people in the tourism industry, one of the main concerns for regulations in the tourism industry is to control some access in some areas right now because the wilderness is getting too crowded.
Debate on Motion No. 92 and the amendment accordingly adjourned
Speaker: Order. The time being 5:30, the Speaker will now leave the Chair until 7:30 tonight.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: 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 government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 9 - First Appropriation Act, 1998-99 - continued
Executive Council Office - continued
On Cabinet Commissions - continued
Chair: We are on the general debate, on the program Cabinet commissions.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, a question was asked yesterday respecting intergovernmental relations. I have a handout for members to look at.
Mr. Ostashek: I just have a question. I thought we were on the line item on the intergovernmental part of the department because we were asking questions in regard to the internal trade agreement. I could be wrong, but I know when we closed debatethat's where we were, according to the Blues here.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The debate wandered last night. We were on commissions, and the debate wandered into internal agreement on trade because there was reference to a commissioner. We seemed to find ourselves in that direction last night.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Ostashek: No, I'm going to have to review the Blues. I guess if we can't ask the questions now, then we will have to bring them up in Question Period tomorrow. I will go by the Chair's ruling on it, if we're not on the intergovernmental line, because I believe that's where we were when we left debate yesterday.
Chair: For the record, the Chair is advised by the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly that we're on Cabinet commissions. We will proceed.
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions about the local hire commission and the recommendations and when they will be implemented. My colleague has asked questions regarding the local hire commission. I am refreshing my memory from the Blues, and it would appear that the Government Services minister answered the question and indicated that - although there are a variety of issues, I don't see a date here - they will go into the Deputy Ministers Review Committee and then they would be going to the Cabinet meeting the week after next.
He doesn't indicate, as near as I can tell from the Blues, when we would see some of the recommendations from the local hire commission being implemented.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Speaker, that would largely depend on the nature of the complexity of the recommendation and what kind of resources the particular department would require, as well as their own time line about implementing changes. Some of the issues will be fairly simplistic in nature. Some of them, as a matter of fact, could be probably done - and have been done - to some degree, in anticipation of the actual report itself; for example, the contract list on the web and that kind of thing. Those were some initial ones.
I can't give anything more definitive than that because, after deputy ministers have had a chance to review them overall, they'll probably be having recommendations. I don't foresee this simply as an implementation phase; I would see a number of things happening at different points.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the government minister has indicated that he sees this happening over a period of time and, as noted, there are some changes that are quite straightforward and could be done right away. Let me ask the question another way: does the minister anticipate that some of the changes might be made prior to the tendering of the general contract for the Old Crow school?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That's very difficult to anticipate. Probably, there are some things within the contractual realm that might be able to be done, but as yet I haven't seen any analysis from DMRC and I haven't had the chance to review the document with my Cabinet colleagues.
Ms. Duncan: Perhaps the Government Leader may wish to address this question. There are some residual issues that were not dealt with by the Yukon hire commission, and I'm thinking specifically of the Northwest Territories bid preference policy. That has been raised with me as a concern, particularly in relation again to the Old Crow school, and the sense is that, given the methodology employed over there, in effect we could have a Northwest Territories general contractor bidding at 10 percent or 15 percent below what a Yukoner could bid the contract at. There's a lot of concern about that, and that issue isn't really addressed in the Yukon hire commission final report.
The minister has indicated it has gone on to DMRC - Deputy Ministers Review Committee. How does the government intend to deal with residual issues such as that? Is there an additional commission to be struck? Is there any sense of how those residual issues might be dealt with?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, with regard to contracting, I think there is some very definite direction within the local hire commission in terms of such things as where the business itself is located, qualifications for being regarded as a Yukon business, et cetera.
I think there are a number of recommendations within the Yukon hire commission's initial report that, I think, could provide a very positive framework for Yukon businesses here. I don't want to jump ahead in anticipation of where we would go there, but certainly we're going to try to maximize whatever we can in terms of Yukon hire.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, am I to understand then that the minister is not taking any position on recommendation no. 39 of the local hire commission, that functions relating to contracting and labour should be consolidated into a department of labour?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, with regard to that, I think the member has hit upon the idea of consolidation. Whether that's into a department of labour or whether the recommendation is to look at perhaps consolidating certain functions within certain departments, I think, remains to be seen. That's quite an ambitious aspect, and there would be a fair degree of, I suppose, restructuring that would be entailed there, and I don't want to prejudge how that particular recommendation would be implemented.
Ms. Duncan: There is one final issue that I would like to seek clarification on, and it's regarding the signing of the interprovincial trade agreement amendments. There seems to be a bit of a mixed message emanating from the front benches of the government as to why this agreement is not being signed. Would the Government Leader clarify that for us please?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the issue, as I've indicated before, is not that we're not prepared to sign, because we have substantive disagreements with the proposed annex 502. What we haven't done is make a decision yet, so we're not in a position to reject or accept until we've made a decision. There are issues, of course, that are still being dealt with by municipalities. The AYC is expected to respond on the municipal procurement sections by the end of March, after which we will take their advice and make a decision.
Ms. Duncan: Then, is the Government Leader indicating that we would be looking at April or later on in the summer before a decision is taken on that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I don't know that, Mr. Chair. I don't want to prejudge what the government may do, because the government hasn't been seized of that decision yet. But, I would think that it would be sooner rather than later.
Mr. Ostashek: I got clarification through the Chair about how we got on to this. We were talking about commissions and local hire and the representation that was made in Ottawa by the commissioner of local hire's internal trade meeting. The Government Leader got somewhat frustrated yesterday, right at the end of the session, saying that the local hire commissioner was not representing the government at the internal trade meeting pertaining to the amendments, if I understand him correctly. There were two items on the agenda: one was the MAI, and the other was the amendments to the internal trade agreement.
I guess what I don't understand, and Yukoners don't understand, is that on Thursday, February 19, the local hire commissioner is reported, in an interview from Ottawa, which states quite clearly that, "NDP MLA Todd Hardy is representing the government at the gathering." The line before that said, "The agreement on internal trade is being discussed at the meetings in Ottawa today." And, "The local hire commissioner went on to say that he'll be expressing the territory's position about trying to maximize local employment and the use of local businesses, and if that position puts the Yukon in contravention of the agreement, the territory might have to challenge the trade deal."
Again, I'd like clarification from the Government Leader: was the local hire commissioner speaking to the internal trade agreement as a representative of the government? If he wasn't, why did he do this interview?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I can't explain the ways that reporters report on stories. That's not my business. I indicated to the member on numerous occasions what the Member for Whitehorse Centre did. There were government officials at the meeting who verified with me that that's precisely what happened. So, I know what happened at the meeting. I know what the intention was at the meeting, and I know what happened. The intention was, and what happened was, that the Member for Whitehorse Centre was present for and spoke to the issue of the MAI. He was not present for and did not speak to the issue of the internal agreement on trade.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay, if that's the Government Leader's position, yet there was no correction made to this article when it was reported on February 19, that the local hire commissioner was not representing the Yukon government on the amendments to the internal trade. Yukoners believe he was there. "Local hire goal could contravene trade pact" is what the headline of the story said. Yet, there was no correction put out by the Government Leader's government on this issue.
If the local hire commissioner was not representing the government at the part of the meeting on internal trade and the amendments, who was?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, Mr. Chair, it would be a full-time job if we were to try to correct bad information, wrong information, in the media. I've made it my business not to try to take issue with people in the media as much as I can. And I'm fallible. I sometimes react, but I try not to.
With respect to the internal agreement on trade, there was a government official present at that point, and was not instructed to take a position, because Cabinet had not taken a position on the MASH sector.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, this is a very important issue to Yukoners. The Government Leader says he takes the position not to correct the press. That's contrary to what we're seeing in letters to the editor by ministers on a continual basis trying to correct not only news reports but also editorials that aren't that favourable to the government. I would think that an issue like this should have been corrected forthwith by the people who look after media relations in his government.
This article leaves the impression with the Yukon public that the local hire commissioner was there representing the government on the amendments to the internal trade pact, and was even going to veto it if it didn't go along with the desires of this government. And that was not corrected by the government. It was left to stay out there in the media, and now the Government Leader is saying no, he wasn't, and he can't control what the media says, but they do in many other instances, and I could bring up numerous examples of letters to the editor from ministers in the year and one-half that he's been in government, trying to correct the public record.
Mr. Chair, we have a government that talks about being fiscally responsible. Yet, we have a meeting in Ottawa where we have an MLA who is going to represent the government on one part of the meeting and we're sending bureaucrats to represent the government on the other part. Why did we need two different representations at this meeting? Could the local hire commission not have represented the government, listened and taken notes as some bureaucrat did?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Government of Yukon chose to speak out on the MAI because the Government of Yukon has a position on the MAI. The Government of Yukon does not yet have a position on the annex to the internal trade agreement, which was the other item, so the Government of Yukon had an official at that portion of the meeting. The Member for Whitehorse Centre happened to be in Ottawa and was the spokesperson for this government with respect to raising the issue of the MAI. It seemed appropriate that the person would be speaking out on the MAI and did so, and I'm happy that he did so. But the government did not have a position on the internal trade agreement annex, and the responsibility of the Government of Yukon official was to take notes and get a sense of what was happening at the meeting. That was the purpose of their involvement.
Mr. Ostashek: Let's try to simplify this. The Government Leader says that the local hire commissioner was there to speak to the MAI. He said he was in Ottawa. Was he sent by the Government Leader and were his expenses paid for by the Government of Yukon for the trip to Ottawa?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I'm not sure what expenses may have been paid in Ottawa. He was in Ottawa already on his own and I don't know whether or not a hotel night was paid for, but he was there on his own already.
Mr. Ostashek: Could the Government Leader bring back a legislative return and clarify whether or not there were any monies paid to the member as a representative of the government while he was in Ottawa?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes.
Mr. Phillips: I want to follow up on this as well, just to make sure that we're clear on this.
The Government Leader said that the Member for Whitehorse Centre, the local hire commissioner, went to the meeting and he spoke about MAI, but he didn't speak about internal trade. Can the minister tell us why, then, he gave an interview from there as if he was speaking on behalf of the government about internal trade? Why did he give that interview? And there are quotes in the paper, Mr. Chair, that are attributed to him.
So, it's kind of confusing that he said, "Of course, the outcome of that would be to have contacts with the head office sitting down in Toronto, which is what we definitely don't want." He's talking about internal trade to this reporter, but the minister is saying that he didn't attend the meeting to speak on internal trade, so it's kind of confusing. I mean, he attended the meeting where internal trade was on the agenda. He didn't speak to internal trade, but then when he was asked by a reporter about the issue, he gave the Yukon government's position on internal trade, and now the Government Leader is saying they didn't take a position on internal trade.
I mean, what are the true goods here? Does he speak for the government, or was he just spouting off on his own, or was he down there with no authority? Was he just wandering around Ottawa and decided to check in on the meeting and make a statement to the media? What happened?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, I'll try one more time for this member. The Member for Whitehorse Centre was in Ottawa. The Member for Whitehorse Centre has already spoken out on the MAI, eloquently. On the subject of the MAI, he attended the meeting to speak to the MAI and only the MAI. The portion of the meeting that dealt with the internal agreement on trade, he did not attend and did not speak out on it at the meeting.
I would suspect that a reporter asked him a question on his general thoughts about internal trade, and he answered.
Mr. Phillips: I'm going to check the facts here, because this is not an Ottawa reporter, it's a local reporter here that spoke to the local hire commissioner. I will just read it for the record, "The NDP MLA Todd Hardy is representing the Yukon at the gathering." Now, that could be the reporter's words. But, the reporter goes on to say, "Speaking from Ottawa Wednesday afternoon, Hardy said he will be expressing the territory's position about trying to maximize local employment and the use of local businesses. If that position puts the government in contravention with the agreement, the territory might have to challenge the trade deal, said Hardy." Said Hardy.
Is the minister saying that he didn't talk about internal trade with the Whitehorse Star reporter? I'm sure the Whitehorse Star reporter has notes of the conversation and maybe even recorded it, so we can verify later what the two said, but it seems that the minister is saying that he was just in the area, showed up at the MAI, spoke to the MAI and the reporter called him later and he was expressing his own views. But, this story says he was expressing the government's views. I would just like to clarify whether he was there on official government business.
Maybe the Government Leader doesn't have a lot of control over some of his members and they were just spouting off and regretting it now.
I don't know what the situation is, but it seems to me that this story clearly leaves the impression in the minds of Yukoners that it was Mr. Hardy that talked about internal trade and it was Mr. Hardy that said that the position that he was taking was contrary to the agreement that was there. We have to clarify it.
Like the leader of the official opposition says, the Government Leader's party is very quick to dash off letters to try to clarify other areas to the media. You would think that when they are moving on trade initiatives and they have a minister who wrote a letter that talked about trade and removing barriers, if there was something there that completely reversed that position, they would make sure they clarified it.
In fact, in the letter here, written by Mr. Trevor Harding, Minister of Economic Development, to the Speaker on July 3, 1997, one of the sentences says that, "All parties to the agreement also agreed to eliminate trade restrictive practices and to treat businesses and residents of other jurisdictions the same as they treat their own businesses and residents." We seem to have a contrary opinion, and that's signed by the Minister of Economic Development.
So, there's confusion in the public and you would have thought that the government would have been quick to distance themselves from the comments of the Member for Whitehorse Centre who, as the reporter has reported it - and some of the quotes are attributed to Mr. Hardy, and they have the quotation marks around them - it is clear that Mr. Hardy was talking about internal trade.
Doesn't the minister agree that the government should have done some damage control, that it should have made it clear to the general public that, in fact, he wasn't there representing anybody? He might have been there visiting some people and he happened to drop in on the meeting. Just let people know that he wasn't there representing the Government of the Yukon, as he claimed he was.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: He's finished, Mr. Chair. Well, the Member for Whitehorse Centre was in Ottawa and spoke to the issue on the multilateral agreement on investment, and this agreement would, in our estimation, do damage to local hire provisions and it is for that reason that we are opposed to the multilateral agreement on investment. And that is something that the member spoke to at the meeting.
With respect to the internal agreement on trade, the member did not speak to the meeting on that subject. That's largely because the government has not taken a position on that subject, and that position will be taken in due course.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay, I just want one clarification from the Government Leader and then we're going to move on.
The Government Leader is saying that what was reported in this article is not true. This is not the government's position. I would like a simple yes or no on that. If that's the case, the reporter made a mistake or whatever happened; I just want the Government Leader to stand up tonight and tell us that that is not the government's position, or it is the government's position. One of the two.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, the government has not taken a position on the internal agreement on trade annex, and that position will be taken after consultation with the Association of Yukon Communities, and then it will be made public.
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the forestry commissioner, and I thank him for the quick turnaround on the legislative return. The forestry commissioner says he aims to please, so we'll draw conclusions after the question.
Attached to the legislative return are the present timber regulations and the proposed Yukon timber regulations. If I recollect what the commissioner said yesterday, he and his commission were involved in the production of these proposed Yukon timber regulations - is that correct?
Mr. Fentie: No, that's not correct. The proposed changes were produced by the federal government. The Yukon territorial government is involved in working on a policy that will go with these timber regs and the proposed changes, as far as a policy to implement them here in the territory. So, we were not involved in the proposed changes. Those were crafted by the federal government, but we have been working alongside the feds on a policy to implement the regs and the proposed changes.
Mr. Cable: Is the commissioner saying that he and his commission were not consulted at all on the proposed regulations?
Mr. Fentie: No, that's not what I'm saying at all. The government, the First Nations, the Yukon public, the Yukon Forest Advisory Committee, and just about everybody I can think of, involved in this process as the federal government began to produce changes to the timber regs.
Mr. Cable: At the risk of being overly particular, could we get the answer to the specific question: was the forestry commission actually involved in the production of the regulations, by way of consultation, by the federal government?
Mr. Fentie: Again, I'll repeat for the member opposite that we were involved in the policy development that coincides with the timber regs. The federal government is the agency, here in the Yukon, that developed the proposed changes to the Yukon timber regulations.
Mr. Cable: The commissioner is coming along fine. I don't think I've got a precise answer to my question. Let me ask this question: I'm sure the commission has gone over the regulations with tender, loving care - or due diligence, as my colleague has said. Is the commission and the government in favour of the proposed regulations?
Mr. Fentie: I'm assuming you mean the proposed changes. The existing regulations as they are, pre any changes, have been in this territory for many, many years, and we do support the proposed changes providing that we can come up with a proper policy around those changes to be able to implement them here in the territory.
Mr. Cable: Okay, fair enough. What are the policy issues that have to be resolved: raw log exports, inventories of wood and clearcuts? Are those the sort of policy issues that the commissioner is talking about?
Mr. Fentie: Exports will be one of them, of course. As for harvest practices, that's more involved in the overall forest management plan. Allocation procedures would be very much a part of the policy around the timber regulations changes, how timber is allocated and to whom - those types of things.
Mr. Cable: When is the forestry commissioner going to be doing the implementation work that he referred to earlier - the implementation of these regulations - so that when the resource is turned over we have a set of Yukon timber regulations and an implementation regime that's suitable to the Government of Yukon?
Mr. Fentie: In the first instance, on the existing regulations - because we have a new harvest season upon us, April 1, 1998 - until the changes come into effect, we will be dealing with the existing regulations. To the best of my knowledge, the federal government feels that they will be able to put the regulations changes through their system, which requires an order-in-council; for example, sometime early this summer.
Mr. Cable: When is it expected that this government will have in place policies relating to, among other things, raw log exports - whether or not raw log exports will be permitted and, if so, the regime under which they would be permitted?
Mr. Fentie: I intended to have items such as the position on raw log exports here sometime in April in conjunction with our draft strategy.
Mr. Cable: I thank the commissioner. I have some questions for the Government Leader on the energy commission. The way the energy commission's workplan is set up, it contemplates a comprehensive energy policy, and I would read that as meaning that all the various elements will come together at one time and they won't be dealt with disjointedly. Among other things, governance of the Energy Corporation and the role and the rules surrounding the Yukon Utilities Board will be dealt with as part of a package. Am I correct in that assumption, or are those two particular issues going to be dealt with prior to the production of the full, comprehensive energy policy?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I know the member would like to hear from the energy commissioner himself, and it is unfortunate that the energy commissioner is in the chair.
Mr. Chair, the comprehensive energy policy, as I understand it, will be taken out for public consultation this spring, and the final report will be submitted to the government in the spring or early summer of this year.
With respect to the Yukon Utilities Board streamlining, my understanding is that some recommendations have been submitted to the Minister of Justice, but no changes have yet been contemplated.
Mr. Cable: There have been some energy policy initiatives taken by the government over the past year and a half - the changes to rate relief and the conservation program and the Aishihik Lake level directives. Is there any reason these issues need to be dealt with at a later date, or can they not be dealt with now and then rolled into the comprehensive energy policy as the other elements are produced?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, certainly some things can be done before the comprehensive energy policy is produced, and there will be some announcements made this spring during this sitting with respect to a number of matters. The Minister of Economic Development would be in a better position to provide the member with precise information, and I will defer further questions to him.
Mr. Cable: Well, just one question, which I think may have reached the Government Leader's desk, is the elimination of the Public Utilities Board an option that is being considered? The elimination of the board and the replacement of a rate-setting process that doesn't involve a quasi-judicial board - is that option being considered?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I would hate to leave anybody out there who puts forward a good idea with the impression that we're just simply going to not address it at all, but I would say that that would be pretty much a long shot and pretty far fetched at this point.
Mr. Cable: We've had questions asked in the House on the governance issue and the arm's-length relationship between the government and the Energy Corporation. What are the Government Leader's thoughts on the desirable relationship? Does he feel most comfortable with an arm's-length relationship or a relationship where the Energy Corporation is brought back into government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I will have to answer the question in very general terms, Mr. Chair, because I'm certain that the minister responsible for the Energy Corporation, during Economic Development estimates, could give the member more precise information, which I'm sure the member is more interested in. But, with respect to the matter in very general terms, an arm's-length relationship is better than a departmental relationship.
Mr. Cable: Okay, just back to the commission's report, then, and the comprehensive energy policy, I think the minister said he expected to receive that in Cabinet in spring or early summer, and there has been a workplan produced. What are the Government Leader's present thoughts on when the policy will actually go into operation. What is his own particular goal?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I'm trusting that the energy commission will have completed this work by that time. One has to assess what policies and proposals the commission proposes and the government adopts before one can determine when a particular policy would come into effect. We'll have to wait - I'll have to wait - before I can answer that question adequately. Once the commission gives us a sense of what it would like to see happen and the government makes its decision with respect to those matters, we'll know better about the timetable respecting the implementation.
Mr. Cable: Well, the issues such as governance and the issues relating to the Public Utilities Board may require legislative changes, depending on what the recommendations are. Does the minister anticipate that those legislative changes would be ready for the fall legislative session?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, the member is not going to be satisfied with my response - I know that - but this is the best response I can give. And that is maybe; they might be. They might be required and they might be ready. I just don't know. I don't know how significant they would be. I don't have a good feeling for that at this moment, personally. The member may want to explore the matter with the minister.
Mr. Cable: Well, there is a timetable that's been set out, I believe, and correct me if I'm wrong. It anticipates the policy will be in place at the end of this year, which presumably, if, in fact, there are recommendations that require legislative changes, would have to be in place to be operational. That's the reason I'm asking the question. If there are deadlines or workplans set out, presumably the fact of legislative changes has been contemplated.
I'm a little surprised that this issue, which has been on the table for so long - and, of course, the energy commissioner this afternoon was talking about the work that had been done in 1992 - of possible legislative change wouldn't have been dealt with and some target dates set.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, I've been around a little while and I know that to contemplate legislation and to determine what the legislative changes might involve before one has completed one's policy work, and presumably in some respect even the consultation, is viewed by the general public as very presumptuous and, consequently, they frown on that sort of thing.
I would suggest, Mr. Chair, that the member, because I don't want him to be disappointed and I don't want him to be frustrated, will probably want to take this up with the minister and perhaps we can arrange to have the commission chair talk about the subject matter, too, in which case I'm certain the member will be more satisfied with the answers than I can give about a fairly big picture view of the matter at this point. I can tell the member when I think the energy commission should be concluded. I can tell the member what our general expectations are, as I have, but the member should be pursuing the subject with the minister.
On Cabinet Commissions
Cabinet Commissions in the amount of $424,000 agreed to
On Public Inquiries and Plebiscites
Chair: Is there any general debate?
On Public Inquiries
Public Inquiries in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Mr. Cable: In Question Period today, there were questions on the gasoline prices. What sort of costs would be attached to having a public inquiry on gasoline prices, assumedly somewhat similar to the inquiry that was conducted by the previous NDP regime? Does the minister, offhand, have a rough idea about that cost?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I seem to remember a figure over $100,000 for the fuel price inquiry. A lot depends on whether or not there are technical witnesses being called and any technical information that's required. But I have to be precise. I have to check with the record to determine what that would be.
Mr. Cable: I don't want to wander too far off the mark here, but there is a federal competition tribunal, which, assumedly, would do the job for nothing. Has the Government Leader and his minister put any thought on that - to laying a complaint against whatever practices are going on and keeping the prices high to the competition tribunal?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The minister and the department may have, but they haven't brought it to my attention. What I do know is that the Department of Economic Development is doing an analysis of the situation.
Plebiscites in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Public Inquiries and Plebiscites in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Executive Council Office in the amount of $13,178,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Chair: We will proceed to capital. Is there general debate?
Mr. Ostashek: I'd just like to ask the Government Leader if he has an overview on the capital budget, or should we just move right into questions?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, if we move right into questions, it's not a particularly complicated budget, as I'm sure the member is aware. Ninety-two percent of this budget is recoverable funds, either for the Land Claims Secretariat and the land claims implementation projects. Also, there's a little bit in French Language Services and the Bureau of Statistics for equipment and computing systems and that sort of thing.
The only non-recoverable spending is the $25,000 in Cabinet management support for a photocopier and the rest are all recoverables and, in my view, fairly straightforward.
Mr. Ostashek: I was wondering if the Government Leader could just give us an explanation on what constitutes capital in the Land Claims Secretariat. I see last year's estimates for $800,000 and this year they're $259,000. I probably should know it but forgive me, I have forgotten what it is. If he has it available, could he make it available to me?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I have a list of projects, Mr. Chair, that include things like a heritage resource manual for tourism. There are various SMA plans. There is one for Forty mile. There's some work at Fort Selkirk, work at Lansing, work at Rampart House. A lot of these projects emanate from commitments made under the land claims agreements already signed for Selkirk, Carmacks-Little Salmon, Vuntut Gwitchin, and they relate to the other implementation projects, which are on the O&M side. I can provide the member with a list of projects for this year that add up to the $259,000, if he likes.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I would appreciate it at some point if the member could provide us with the list. I have some difficulty sometimes in how departments account for capital vis-à-vis O&M, so I would just like to see what the capital - even though I know they're all probable, but they're still taxpayers' dollars, and I think if we have questions, we should be asking them. So, if the member could provide me with the list, I'd appreciate it.
On Cabinet and Management Support
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
Cabinet Management and Support in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Land Claims Secretariat
Chair: Is there general debate?
Implementation in the amount of $259,000 agreed to
Land Claims Secretariat in the amount of $259,000 agreed to
On Public Communication Services
Chair: Is there general debate?
On French Language Services
On Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems
Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
Public Service Communication Services in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
On Bureau of Statistics
Chair: Is there general debate?
On Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems
Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
Bureau of Statistics in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
Chair: Before I carry that, are there any questions on the recoveries?
Capital Expenditures for the Executive Council Office in the amount of $296,000 agreed to
Executive Council Office agreed to
Chair: 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.
Department of Education
Chair: We will now go to the Department of Education. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: A little bit, I would imagine, Mr. Chair. I am pleased to provide details of Education's 1998-99 budget.
The overall O&M budget for the coming fiscal year is $81,083,000. Mr. Chair, I am pleased to present the budget without any decrease in total and one that reflects the changing needs of our education system.
Of the total departmental budget of $81,083,000, an amount of $53,452,000, or approximately 66 percent of the estimated cost, is for salaries and benefits. The remaining $27,631,000, or 34 percent, comprises program costs and transfer payments to individuals and organizations.
Providing a framework for success for our youth is a goal of this government. To achieve this, in advanced education we continue to fund, at the same level, student financial assistance, Yukon excellence awards, as well as the student training and employment programs: Shad Valley, Canada-Yukon summer program, computer camp, and youth exploring trades.
There is also a new youth fund. We are adding $200,000 for youth strategy initiatives. This $200,000, plus $50,000 in training development and $80,000 for special initiatives, such as Yukon hire and programs service transfer agreements, give an increase of nearly $400,000 in advanced education funding that will have a direct, positive impact on Yukon people.
I am also pleased to report that the level of funding will remain the same for the Yukon native teachers education program, the bachelor of social work program and Yukon College. As I have indicated in this House, we have signed a three-year agreement with Yukon College to provide them with stable operation and maintenance funding in the amount of the $10 million grant that you will also see in this year's budget.
Meeting changing needs, while allowing for a transition period, requires careful managing of funds and identifying priorities. I believe we are doing that in public schools. Public schools full-time equivalent personnel covered in this budget are 794.17 out of a total 882.36 for the Department of Education; 90 percent is directly related to school-based staff, including teaching personnel, secretarial, custodial and Gadzoosdaa residence.
This number also includes the reading recovery teachers and increased clerical support for school libraries. There is also increased time for remedial tutors to provide one-on-one support for students.
In program support, there is an increase of $22,000 in professional development and an increase of $99,463 in learning materials.
School libraries show a small decrease, as more funds are allotted to learning materials that directly support the curriculum.
The educational support services branch is slightly less in total for 1998-99. This decrease reflects the completion of the busing review and the First Nation program review.
The increase in personnel is due to reorganization and the transfer of a capital personnel position to operation and maintenance and a human resource information services person to educational support services. There is also an adjustment for merit increases.
Libraries and archives remains approximately the same in their allocation. The slight decrease is a transfer of lease costs for Teslin and Ross River libraries.
Mr. Chair, the Department of Education provides a wide and changing variety of services to Yukon people. These range from giving a boost to grade one students learning to read to supporting youth in training programs to administering a request under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, so these and new initiatives can continue to advance.
I would be pleased to answer questions with respect to this budget.
Mr. Phillips: In the minister's opening remarks, Mr. Chair, she talked about the amount in the budget, $81,083,000, and she couched it with the term, "without any decrease in total." I know we've been having some discussions in this House over math and adding and subtracting, but when I looked at the budget, I do see a decrease in total.
Maybe the minister can correct me if I'm wrong, but the 1997-98 forecast right now is at $81,183,000, and the new budget is $81,083,000. That is a decrease in total. Would the minister agree that there is actually a decrease in funding in O&M for Education?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the bottom line of the first page of the budget book shows the mains from 1997-98 and from 1998-99, and indicates a percentage change of zero percent.
The percentage change is calculated between the forecast from 1997-98 and the O&M main estimates for 1998-99. There is a difference of $100,000 between these two columns, which represent a zero percent overall increase in O&M for the Department of Education.
This decrease is due to changes in the transfer payments allotment, namely completion of the interprovincial computer exam project for $27,000, the end of the cooperative education third-party funding with the federal government of $50,000 and the base transfer to Government Services of $23,000 for leases of libraries in Teslin and Ross River.
Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite will note from his years of experience in this House, the percentage change is calculated at zero percent because, on the budget of over $81 million, the difference of $100,000 is zero percent.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, we're going to be here a long time tonight if the minister doesn't admit that that's less money in the education budget than last time. Her colleagues have been saying, the Government Leader has said and other colleagues have been saying in the House that education and social programs are a priority and have not been reduced in this government. I don't care what programs have been completed. The fact of the matter is there is a reduction of $100,000 in the Education budget. Is that not correct?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, the member opposite didn't seem to be listening to my answer. Yes, there is a difference of $100,000 between the two columns from 1997-98 forecast and 1998-99 estimates, and I've explained to him the details of the difference and I will not repeat that.
Mr. Phillips: So, then, Mr. Chair, if there is a difference of $100,000 and it is lower than last year, then the statement the minister made in her opening remarks, "without any decrease in total", was not accurate. In fact, there is a decrease in total. They've rounded off the percentages to read zero percent, but it is inaccurate to say there were no decreases in total. There is a decrease in total.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I do not see the dispute between numbers. Does the member have a question?
Mr. Phillips: The question, Mr. Chair, is, now that we've pointed out that there is a decrease in the total, that the minister's statement at the beginning of her presentation was inaccurate. To say "without any decrease in total" is inaccurate. Can the minister agree that that's true? That her statement initially was inaccurate.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I'm going to have to agree with the member opposite that this will, indeed, be a long debate if he is not prepared to listen to the responses that I'm giving to his question.
There is a difference of $100,000 between the two columns in the budget, which shows as a zero percentage difference, as I've explained. Yes, there is a difference of $100,000.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, there is a difference of $100,000. It is lower. The statement the minister made, "without any decrease in total" - we're not talking percentages now; we're talking money - that statement, "without any decrease in total", is inaccurate, and I want the minister to correct the record.
I'm giving the minister the opportunity to correct the record. The figures in front of us that the minister presented today, and even read out, show that there is a decrease. The minister told us in the House and we're supposed to be truthful and honest with everyone in the House, "without a decrease in the total amount of dollars". Mr. Chair, there is a decrease.
Will the minister admit that, yes, there is a decrease and, yes, her opening remark, "without a decrease in total," was inaccurate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I have answered that question. Yes, there is a decrease of $100,000 in the O&M budget. If he wants to call the statement an inaccuracy because it is shown as representing a zero percentage overall increase or decrease, he may do that.
Mr. Phillips: We're going to get this out of the minister, one way or another. If the minister had said "without a decrease in percentage", I would have agreed it was an accurate statement. The minister said "without a decrease in total". That statement is inaccurate, based on the information the minister has tabled in the House. Will she admit that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Let me see if I can help the member out here so that we can move on. Let me say that we will correct the record to read "without a decrease in the total percentage".
Mr. Phillips: No, no, no, no, no. I'm not going to let the minister get off the hook that easily. It boggles my mind sometimes how politicians twist things around. No wonder we get a reputation, Mr. Chair, for not being as honourable as we could be. Mr. Chair, the minister should do the honourable thing and realize that she made a mistake in her opening remarks and that there is a decrease in the total amount in dollars. The Education budget has gone down in dollars. All she is talking about when she talks about it being "the same" is that we round off. But if you want to be accurate, as I know the Government Leader and the members across the side claim they like to be - the Education budget has gone down. There's no doubt about it. The minister should just get up and do the honourable thing, and we can get on with the other questions that are fairly important, but I want the minister to rise in the House and speak the truth about her budget. I don't think the minister has been accurate when she made her opening remarks.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I think that the member opposite is not doing an honourable thing in casting aspersions on all politicians. I also think the member is not doing an honourable thing in refusing to listen to my responses to his statements. I have stated for the record that there is a difference of $100,000 between the two columns for the 1997-98 and 1998-99 budgets. This decrease is a zero percent in looking at the percentages. Yes, it is a decrease in actual numbers.
Mr. Phillips: We're pretty close. I would just like the member to take note of what she said tonight, that there is an actual decrease in the Education budget this time and that she will remind all her colleagues on that front bench that they can't stand up any more and say that we haven't decreased Education, because they have - that they haven't cut Education, because they have, by $100,000. So, they can't make the argument that they profess to do, that they are holding the line on Education and Health and Social Services, because they're not.
Mr. Chair, I will move on, because obviously the minister has now admitted that the Education budget is less than it was last year. I think educators will be interested to follow this budget in the future to see what this government does.
One of the other things the government did when we were in opposition was that they criticized us fairly severely for small capital budgets, overall. I wonder why there's been a bit of turnaround here where their capital budget is roughly the same size as ours was. Do they not believe what they said years ago when they used to talk about having $12 million, $15 million and $16 million capital budgets - that these were important in Education - and why did they choose to pick a much smaller figure for capital this year?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, we are in general debate on the Education budget. We have had considerable debate in the debate on the budget speech itself on the fact that the capital budget is not as large as we may have liked because of limited funds available.
Nonetheless, I want to return first of all to some of the member's earlier comments. There have been, as I stated, no decreases in resources for education. The decrease of $100,000 between the two columns from 1997-98 to 1998-99 is due to changes in the transfer payments allotment.
Now, on the size of the capital budget, as the member will know from the general debate on the capital budget, we have monies allotted for the construction of a school in Old Crow. We have monies allotted for planning of a new school in Mayo. We have almost $1 million available for facility construction and maintenance in a number of schools around the territory, including F.H. Collins High School in Whitehorse.
The total capital budget for public schools is $7,680,000, and there is also a capital budget in the other program areas in Education. I know, Mr. Chair, that educators can read. The member was talking about making sure that educators knew what was happening. Educators know what is happening with the departmental budget, and they care about programs, and they will be pleased that we have been able to maintain programs and to set aside a total capital vote of $12,211,000.
That is broken down as follows: $2,030,000 for education support services; $7,680,000 for public schools; $2,275,000 for advanced education; and $226,000 for libraries and archives.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, they say they haven't reduced programs, but we'll get into that later, because I believe they have reduced programs in at least one area, which we will talk about as we go through the budget.
What I want to bring up to the minister is to remind the minister that when that minister was on this side of the House, it didn't matter if we had a $64-million deficit, it didn't matter what money was available, the question was, why isn't the capital budget in Education higher?
Now, Mr. Chair, the same excuses that the minister is giving us today for their capital budget are similar excuses that she wouldn't accept when she was on this side of the House. That's my point. So you sometimes have to be careful what you say when you're on this side of the House because it does come back to haunt you. And we found that out with many of the ministers that are on that side now that used to be over here and some of the comments that they've made - that they're doing exactly the opposite of what they said when they were on the other side.
Mr. Chair, first of all, before I get too far into the budget, I do want to thank the officials in the department for the briefing that they gave us. It was a useful briefing that we had with the two officials over at the Education building, and they were very forthcoming with information, but we did ask some questions about specific programs - both I and the Liberal critic - and I haven't received any information on the questions.
I don't know if the Liberal critic has. I assumed that because we'd had a briefing quite a while ago that we would have received answers to those questions prior to being here tonight. So I hope that early tomorrow morning we can be provided with answers to the questions that we asked a few days ago, so that we can have a constructive debate, because those were some of the ones that were unanswered at the time and that the officials were going to get back to us on.
I think it's important, not just for this department but for all departments that if we ask for the information that we get before the debate so it can be a constructive debate and it can be dealt with in a timely fashion.
Mr. Chair, this budget covers increases to wages for teachers reached at negotations, as we were advised. Maybe the minister can tell us what the plans are for the new contract negotiations, when does this contract run out exactly and when do they expect to resume contract talks with the teachers' union?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The department officials who provided the technical briefing to the opposition and others have been working very hard at preparing answers for the members opposite on their questions, as well as doing the preparatory work to come forward to the House with this budget. I hope that I will be able to provide the members opposite with a written response for tomorrow. I will certainly get it to them as soon as it is available.
The contract expiry date is April of this year. I do not have with me details on the dates for opening of negotiations.
Mr. Phillips: Have they received a letter from the union yet asking them to sit down at the table? Does the minister recall that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'll have to speak with my colleague, the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, to confirm the status of that.
Mr. Phillips: Yes, if we could get that tomorrow as well, Mr. Chair, I'd just like to know what the status is so that we have an idea where we're going with this.
Faro - do we know how many students now are planning to leave? I know when we spoke to the officials the other day, they said there are some indications that some people might be leaving at spring break and, of course, some will probably be leaving at the end of the school year. Have we done any sort of questionnaire that has gone out to the families in Faro trying to get some indication of where we're going to be next year so we can plan for that with respect to the teachers who are going to be left there?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, the department is monitoring enrollment in Faro. On February 12, there were 198 students, and there was no change on February 19. The principal anticipates a drop of approximately 25 students by the March break, which would result in a school population of approximately 160. Families are contacting the school to share their plans and request information, and this contact helps to project the enrollment patterns.
Mr. Phillips: I know that there's real uncertainty over what's going to happen there. I think more and more people are starting to feel that the mine is certainly not going to be opening up in the near future. I know that indications from the Economic Development Minister the other day were that he's not too optimistic about an early opening, at least as long as metal prices are where they're at.
I think, last time, a questionnaire went out to the parents of the students that tried to get a feel for what was going to happen in June. Are we planning to do that, or are we just going to monitor every couple of weeks, kind of thing? What are we planning to do with respect to a little bit more longer term planning? Because I would imagine that many people are feeling the way some of us are here with respect to the short-term future of that mine, so many of those people will probably be looking at leaving and moving. So, many of those people may know now that they're going to be leaving at the end of the school year. Have we determined that at all?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, Mr. Chair, I want to reassure people that the Department of Education will continue to provide existing services. They will remain intact for the remainder of the 1997-98 school year or, indeed, as long as required. The school will continue to be staffed at existing levels as long as the current programs are required.
As far as doing a questionnaire in the future to determine how enrollment may change, I believe we'll be able to do that. Certainly, we are monitoring what's happening in the community now and will continue to do so.
Mr. Phillips: They say there were 199 students in February, and probably 160 after school break. Is there any anticipated change in the number of teachers between now and the end of the school year in June?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, there are not. As I just indicated, the school will continue to be staffed at existing levels.
Mr. Phillips: Does the government have any kind of contingency plan if, in fact, 85 or 90 percent of the students leave next year? Would we still continue to operate that school? Is there a level that we might set where we would consider doing something? That's an awfully big school, if we end up with 15 or 20 students in it. So, is there some kind of magic level, or contingency plan, that the government has looked at, to maybe move into another building that might be less expensive to operate if the population drops dramatically?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: It's kind of difficult to predict exactly what the future school year will hold. We will, as I've said, maintain program levels. Is it possible to close sections of that school, if the enrollment decreases to a level that it's necessary to close sections of the school. We don't contemplate the necessity for something as drastic as having to relocate where classes would be offered.
Mr. Phillips: I thank the minister for that. I wasn't aware that you could close down certain sections of that school and maybe turn the heat off, or whatever you had to do, to kind of reduce the overall O&M costs.
Speaking of O&M costs, we were told in the budget briefing that there was no amount put in the budget for, as we know, future contract talks with the union - the future discussions they might have. So, if there is a settlement in this year, there will have to be more money put into the budget for that, and I know we don't normally put it in the budget ahead of time, anyway, but just to get it on the record that there probably will be some discussions and some monetary costs to those discussions.
The other one is the power costs, with Anvil Range going down. We were told the other day that, in a rough estimate for all of our school facilities, that it's about $200,000. Is that an accurate figure? Has that changed at all now, since the government has had a little more time to look at what sort of forecast increased costs would have? I think the government pays about 140 percent of the cost of producing power, so with all of our school and educational facilities, we would face a fairly large brunt of that because we probably have most of the buildings. Can the minister give us an idea of what that might cost? Is $200,000 an accurate figure?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, again, the member's question is somewhat hypothetical in nature. Let me speak, first of all, to the issue he raised of staffing and wages. As considerable time was spent in general debate on the budget as a whole, the Government Leader has indicated that the contingency amount of $4,500,000, which is in this budget, will be used to provide for any wage increases that are negotiated. With respect to the energy rates, again it is difficult to predict an exact amount. That is a somewhat hypothetical question. The officials will take a look and see what information we may be able to bring back to respond to the member's line of questioning on that.
Mr. Phillips: The only caution I would give to the minister is that, although the Government Leader has said that he would use the contingency fund for things such as wage increases, I think we found about four or five other items in the budget where that contingency was probably already used up and that they would have to look elsewhere for more money because in fact there were all kinds of things that are going to crop up this year that are not in the budget.
This last year, I understand there were some problems. Were you over budget a bit in the Department of Education? Could the minister tell us where that is? I was told that there was an overexpenditure in the Department of Education and I wonder if the minister could elaborate on that. Have we got a handle on that if there was one?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I don't have the supplementary estimates with me here that we brought in during the last session, but, as the member knows, there were increases in the Education budget in the supplementaries. I can have the details available for tomorrow.
Mr. Phillips: Yes. If the minister could do that. I'm more concerned with the O&M side of the budget. With capital, of course, one can end up with fires or other things that we have no control over, but I would like to know, on the O&M side, about overexpenditures there. I know it was in the last budget, but I would like to know what we've done to make sure we don't have the same thing in this budget and if the numbers reflected in this budget are accurate numbers.
So, if the minister could bring those back, I would appreciate it.
Mr. Chair, the busing. I talked about that in Question Period. I asked the minister a couple of questions, and I had a few more with respect to busing. I wasn't quite satisfied with the minister's answer with respect to the bonding issue. I understand that we removed the bonds so that probably smaller companies or maybe community-based companies could bid on the busing. I don't have a problem with that, but what I'd like to know from the minister is, the bonding was there as security for performance, and so if the bonding is gone, what are we using for security for performance in case somebody failed to deliver the service we've asked them to do before we could fall back on the bonding issue? Is there anything we can fall back on now if one or more of these companies failed to perform?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, Mr. Chair, in response to the questions about the increase in the departmental estimates from last year, I believe that the principal cost increase was related to Faro. When we prepared the budget, Faro was closed down. During the course of the year, the Faro mine reopened, and additional teachers were hired. Again, as I indicated earlier, I will come back tomorrow with further details for the member on that.
In relation to the busing and the busing tender process and the removal of the performance bond, the performance bond criteria was removed from the rural contract. This was as a result of the Matrix review, the busing review, and as a result of discussions with the Busing Review Implementation Committee, and subsequently, having removed the performance bond criteria from the rural tender, we determined that the fair approach was to remove it from the Whitehorse tender, as well, to remain consistent.
This criteria does encourage local bidders. There are a number of mechanisms by which we ensure that safety standards are high for the busing contracts.
And those include, as I indicated during Question Period, the fact that we will have safety inspections conducted twice a year by Community and Transportation Services personnel who are nationally certified, and we will be monitoring the contractors to ensure that they are following the contract requirements. There will be bus certification checks. There is also in place a twice-the-daily-rate penalty clause for non-performance of the contract.
In addition, in order to ensure that the safety of the students is primary, drivers will still need training in assertive discipline, first aid and CPR, and defensive driver training and they will be operating according to the Motor Vehicle Act school bus regulations.
Mr. Phillips: If the minister is satisfied, then, that the bonding issue is taken care of with provisions in the new contract, I guess all we can do is wait and see. I guess we'll just have to wait and see. I don't think we can say much more about that.
Mr. Chair, when I met with the bus drivers a couple of weeks ago, they did tell me that they felt a little slighted when we did the busing study and we left the drivers really out of the equation until near the last minute. They were kind of called in at the last minute and they felt, as bus drivers who were concerned about the safety of the children, that they had a fair amount to contribute. Many of these bus drivers treat these kids almost as their own and they are very concerned about the safety of the children, and expressed concerns to me that they were kind of left out and, until they lobbied the minister, they didn't really get called by the contractor when they were doing the study.
So, I'm just expressing that on their behalf.
One of the things that they did ask me to raise is - the minister mentioned the busing committee and I know that the bus drivers have had a meeting with the minister and asked if they could have a little more input into the busing. One of the ways to have input was to ask to be represented on the busing committee and I believe the minister, in that meeting, agreed to do that. So, the question I have for the minister, and the question that I think the bus drivers are concerned with, is when are they going to receive an appointment to the school busing committee so that they can have their representative on the committee. That was a concern they had. I think the meeting they had with the minister was late last year in November, I believe, when they had the discussion with the minister and the minister said she would consider doing that. They haven't heard any further word on that and I think they're anxious to know when the minister will honour that commitment.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, it's always interesting responding to questions that are kind of repeating and going back with somebody's statements being relayed through a third party and having the member opposite asking me questions about what it is that I said at the meeting. I can certainly answer and respond to what was discussed at this meeting and what commitments have been made and, in fact, I have responded to the Teamsters subsequent to the meeting that I recently held with them.
Mr. Chair, when we looked at the question of the performance bond - and the member did say he'd be willing to just adopt a wait-and-see attitude as to whether we were satisfied that this would not lead to problems for us - we did survey other jurisdictions and, in fact, there are no jurisdictions in Canada that use a performance bond for their school bus services.
Now, the Matrix review of the busing service did include interviews with school bus drivers. In addition, the Diversified Transportation Limited management, who provide the Whitehorse busing, were contacted on several occasions to gain an understanding of their current operations and to clarify several issues of concern to parents.
The bus drivers attended two open houses and, at the second one, representatives from Matrix arranged for a separate meeting with the bus drivers, which occurred around March 1. The meeting was attended by approximately 20 drivers, and I don't believe it was a struggle for the bus drivers to have a meeting. In fact, they had been involved throughout the open houses and the public consultation.
The member has asked a question about the busing committee. The busing review recommended some changes to how the busing committee would function and, indeed, would exist, and so the structure of that may change somewhat. I believe that having a voice for the bus drivers would be a good thing, and have also indicated that we would be finding a mechanism for the bus drivers to participate in informing decisions that are made about busing.
That having been said, the busing implementation committee and the report itself have recommended some changes to how the busing committee operates. I've requested that this new structure accommodate having representatives from the bus drivers able to speak on busing issues.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, being able to speak on busing issues and being on the committee itself could very well be two different things. My impression, from the bus drivers I met, is that the minister gave them a commitment that they would receive an appointment to the committee. What the minister has said here today - the minister hasn't been clear - is that there would be a committee and a process by which the bus drivers could input to the committee. Or, is the minister saying that the bus drivers would be part of the committee that make the decisions? What exactly is the minister saying?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: What I'm saying to the member, in response to his question, is that the Whitehorse Busing Committee, as presently constituted, is the elected members of the school councils. There are school council representatives who sit on the committee. They are the only members of the committee who have a vote. There are also representatives from the department who attend.
The structure of that committee may very well be changing, as the busing review has recommended. Subcommittees may also exist. I think it's important that the bus drivers are represented. How they are represented - whether the busing committee changes, whether there are certain subcommittees in effect and if the bus drivers serve on some of those are details that the school councils and the department will be looking at.
Mr. Phillips: Maybe the minister could just be clearer, because I have to get back to these people. I told them I'd be asking some questions about this. Is the minister saying that she did not tell the bus drivers she met with that they would be full members of the committee and she just told them they would have representation? Or did she tell them, in fact - my understanding is that she told them that they would be on the committee, they would have a voting voice on the committee.
Did the minister tell them they could have a voting voice on the committee, or are they just going to be called upon from time to time to give advice to the committee or some other structure? I just want the minister to be very clear on exactly what role she sees the bus drivers playing. Are they going to be on the actual committee or are they going to be just advisors to the committee?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, what I said is that I would respond to their request to serve on the busing committee. I also indicated that, pursuant to the busing review, a recommendation had been made to possibly change the structure of the busing committee. I have responded to the bus drivers to give them an update on what is happening now, which is that the busing committee is looking at the recommendation of how the structure of that committee may change. There should be and there will be a role for the bus drivers. We will discuss with them and report to them the exact form that that role takes, as I indicated in my correspondence to the bus drivers, when those decisions are made.
Mr. Phillips: Maybe the minister could provide me with a copy of that correspondence. I'd appreciate getting that.
Just so we're clear, the minister at no time told the bus drivers that they would be full-fledged members of the busing committee.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That's correct, Mr. Chair. What I said is that I would respond to their request, and I responded in writing to that request and I will be happy to provide a copy of the letter that I sent to them for the member opposite.
Mr. Phillips: When did the minister send that letter? Could she tell us that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I believe it was within the last two weeks. I do not have with me the date of the meeting or the date of the letter of response, but it was recently.
Mr. Phillips: Okay.
Mr. Chair, this is along the same line, but I would hope that the Chair will allow me to bootleg this in here a little bit.
The Teamsters Union, Local 31, wrote to the chair of the Employment Standards Board with respect to the Fair Wage Act and schedule, requesting that bus drivers be put back on that fair wage schedule. I know we're revamping the fair wage schedule at the present time.
What are the minister's views on that? Can the minister tell us how she feels about the bus drivers being put back on the fair wage schedule? I believe they're not on there at the present time.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, how things change with a change in position. We now have the member opposite standing up in this House - a member opposite who brought forward wage restraint legislation to impose wage restraints on public servants - finding himself in the role of the union advocate. Strange indeed.
The member's asking a completely inaccurate question in asking whether we will put the bus drivers back in the fair wage schedule. As the member should know, contracts for public works between the Government of Yukon and contractors are subject to the fair wage schedule, and the fair wage schedule applies to the following public works: building construction, heavy construction and road, sewer and water main construction. The fair wage schedule has never applied to school bus drivers, so it would not be a matter of putting them back into the fair wage schedule.
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?
Mr. McRobb: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1998-99, and has 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.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, 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 9:28 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled March 11, 1998:
Timber (Yukon) regulations: proposed federal revisions (Fentie)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2359