Wednesday, November 4, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Tribute to Ron Pond
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to my constituent, Mr. Ron Pond. Ron is the recipient of the Governor General's Caring Canadian award. Mr. Pond received his award for his work over the past 25 years with youth, seniors and service clubs throughout Canada.
In the Yukon, Ron has done excellent work with Big Brothers and Sisters as well as the junior skiing program and two major drug awareness programs.
It's good work, Ron, and it's good to see volunteers recognized for the good work that they do to enrich our community here in Whitehorse.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We too, on this side of the House, would like to recognize Mr. Pond for his many years of volunteering community and development work within the community, and it's still wonderful to see a person who is still involved in community work, and we wish him well, with very much sincerity, in his future activities.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Tabling returns and documents
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have the Yukon Public Service Staff Relations Board and the Yukon Teachers' Staff Relations Board annual reports for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Petition No. 8 - received
Clerk: Mr. Speaker and hon. members of the Assembly, I have had the honour to review a petition, being petition number 8 of the First Session of the Twenty-ninth Legislative Assembly as presented by the Member for Riverdale South on November 3, 1998.
This petition meets the requirements as to form of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: Petition No. 8 is accordingly deemed to be received.
Petition No. 6 - response
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to respond to the petition filed in this Legislature by Mr. Ostashek on April 23. The petition urged the government to amend the minimum wage regulation for taxi drivers. The regulation in question requires taxi companies to pay their drivers at least the minimum wage for all hours worked, including overtime. The issue was referred to the Yukon Employment Standards Board for their consideration, and I asked that they make a recommendation to me. I have now received the board's recommendation. As I believe you are all aware, the Employment Standards Board is a five-member board made up of employer and employee representatives, with a chair. They have the authority to recommend changes to any minimum wage regulation.
Over the summer, the board asked for public input on whether the regulations setting out a minimum wage for taxi drivers should be changed. They accepted written and oral presentations at hearings held in Whitehorse last June and July and considered submissions from interested people. They have also reviewed laws in other jurisdictions.
The Yukon Employment Standards Board has unanimously recommended against any changes to the minimum wage regulation that affects taxi drivers.
The board stated in their recommendations that, in their opinion, the difficulty experienced by some taxi companies is likely due to the highly competitive nature of the business operating in this present fiscal climate. The board also felt, however, that these difficulties are not a reason to pay employees less than the minimum wage. I have accepted the board's recommendation. The minimum wage provisions for taxi drivers will not be changed. Taxi drivers are entitled to be paid at least minimum wage for all hours worked, and the applicable overtime rate of pay, if they work overtime.
Labour Services continues to work with the industry to ensure compliance with the act and to ensure that both employers and employees are aware of their responsibilities under the Employment Standards Act.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Speaker: Are there any bills to be introduced?
Bill No. 50: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 50, entitled An Act to Amend the Jury Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 50, entitled An Act to Amend the Jury Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 50 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Bill No. 59: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 59, entitled An Act to Amend the Limitation of Actions Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 59, entitled An Act to Amend the Limitation of Actions Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for the introduction and first reading of Bill No. 59 agreed to
Bill No. 65: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I move that Bill No. 65, entitled An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services that Bill No. 65, entitled An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for the introduction and first reading of Bill No. 65 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Locally manufactured furniture for Yukon schools
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I saw the enthusiasm with which the media rushed to attend this important statement, and I can assure them that I deeply appreciate that kind of augur in our local press.
I'm pleased to rise today to advise members of a policy development that involves both my Department of Government Services and the Department of Education.
Our government has made a commitment, through the Yukon hire policy to find ways to ensure that government purchases provide the maximum benefit to Yukon workers and Yukon business. By doing so, we are helping to strengthen and diversify Yukon's economy. One of the best ways to do that is to develop our local processing and manufacturing capacity in order to add value to the resources that are so abundant in our territory.
This initiative also confirms our belief that government has a legitimate role to play in providing leadership and practical support to Yukon workers and businesses. The new Yukon is an entrepreneurial community, and our government is working to get the message out that we're ready to do business.
In that spirit, I am pleased to announce a joint initiative by the departments of Government Services and Education that recognizes the excellent work done by Yukon workers and manufacturers. It also provides a practical incentive for them to develop their manufacturing capacity further.
As members are aware, the Department of Education has historically purchased a significant number of Yukon-made furniture for capital projects. This has included items such as teachers' desks, library tables and book shelving.
This year, my colleague, the Minister of Education, directed her department to expand the list of furniture types that could be purchased locally. The first result of that directive was the purchase of student desks for the Chief Zzeh Gittlit School in Old Crow. A competitive bid was held with 15 manufacturers invited to submit proposals. One of the major deciding elements in selecting the successful bidder was the ability to ship desks to Old Crow unassembled so that they could be assembled by local workers in Old Crow.
I am pleased to inform members that two Yukon manufacturers received purchase contracts this year to make school furniture in Old Crow and for the two new classrooms in Christ the King Elementary in Whitehorse. These companies are Treeline Woodworks and Darcraft Cabinets and Millworks.
Since then, Mr. Speaker, my department has negotiated three-year standing offer agreements with these two contractors for future school furniture needs. This was made possible by a decision to implement a long-term program to replace old and damaged student desks at all Yukon schools with a locally manufactured alternative. This is a prime example of our government's commitment to long-term capital planning.
The Department of Education replaces approximately five percent of student desks each year, as well as buys other furniture items, such as teacher desks, classroom caddies, shelving and utility tables.
These standing offers demonstrate our government's confidence in the quality of Yukon-made furniture products, and the ability of local manufacturers to meet our needs. They also demonstrate our confidence in Yukon workers, both in manufacturing the components of locally designed products, and in assembling them at the community level.
Mr. Speaker, this joint initiative is only the beginning. With long-term planning of capital spending, and with an emphasis on making government spending work to the benefit of Yukon businesses, we can do a great deal to strengthen and diversify our economy.
There are many concrete benefits in this approach. It provides jobs and training opportunities for Yukon workers, both in the urban centre and in rural communities; it allows manufacturers to do longer term planning so that they can develop their potential to increase production and pursue business opportunities both at home and abroad; it may lead to expanded opportunities to create jobs and add value to Yukon resources, such as forest resources, which is consistent with the Yukon forest strategy. It shows potential buyers, here in the Yukon and elsewhere, that our workers and our business people are second to none when it comes to making quality products that can compete anywhere for similar items.
Mr. Speaker, this joint initiative is a winner for Yukon people, and I am proud to present it to this House.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and Office of the Official Opposition, I'm pleased to take this opportunity to respond to the minister's statement regarding locally manufactured furniture for Yukon schools.
While we on this side of the House fully support the concept of local manufacturing, we're of the opinion that locally produced products must be competitively priced and of equal quality as compared to products produced elsewhere and that the demand created for the product is driven by the market, not just government.
While it's important to support local manufacturing businesses, we must be careful that it is not at a cost of Yukon jobs in other sectors of our business community. I refer to a similar initiative introduced by a previous NDP administration to purchase Yukon-made furniture for government. This initiative ended up costing Yukoners exorbitant amounts of money and contributed to the huge debt that was left behind in 1992.
In light of this past unfortunate situation, I am hoping that with this recycled NDP program that this government has reintroduced they have learned from some of their previous mistakes. They probably haven't, but I hope that they have.
I would like the minister to provide copies to the opposition of the purchase contracts this year to make furniture for the schools for Old Crow and the two new classrooms at Christ the King Elementary School in Whitehorse.
There was only one contract listed on the Government Services Web page, Mr. Speaker. It not only already outlines some of the costs associated in the one contract, but I'd like to know the cost per unit that they are providing as well as the comparable cost of similar products produced elsewhere and provided to the Yukon through various Yukon businesses.
I would also like to receive copies of the three standing offer agreements for future school furniture needs with the two Yukon manufacturers.
Again, we would like to say that we fully support local manufacturing and look forward to hearing more about these developments as they evolve.
Ms. Duncan: I am pleased that the Yukon government is finally making an effort to see that some work on the Old Crow school is going to Yukoners. The minister has finally seen the light.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Yes, the minister has finally seen the light. We are pleased.
First, he gave the design in the design contract to a company from Yellowknife. Is Yellowknife in the Yukon? I thought it was only people outside of the territory that got that confused.
Next, he sent out a tender for floor joists and trusses that specifically excluded Yukoners. The floor joists were manufactured in Alberta. Is Alberta part of the Yukon?
Next, Mr. Speaker, we had the insulation. Again, I didn't know Alberta was considered part of the Yukon.
What's next? Flying in material this summer, material that didn't go on the winter road. Most of it was flown in from Alaska, I understand. Is Alaska part of the Yukon?
Mr. Speaker, businesses in the Yukon do their absolute best to try to hire locally. They know that money that goes into the Yukon economy, stays in the Yukon economy. The only one who doesn't know that, apparently, is the NDP government who continues to spend, spend, spend on outside contractors. NovaLIS, our favourite friends from Nova Scotia, has now passed the $1-million mark.
Again, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that we are finally purchasing materials that are actually made in the Yukon.
We've asked repeatedly in the House this week for a list of projects from the minister's colleague that will employ Yukoners. We now have one particular project that will employ Yukoners. How many?
I do have another couple of questions about this particular tender. The minister indicated that the contract was by invitation. Who was invited? How did a company get onto the invitation list? Fifteen were invited. How many proposals were received?
Also, the standing offer agreements - could the minister table copies of those agreements and perhaps outline how those companies were actually selected?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm surprised by that somewhat tepid reception, but I'm not really surprised by what's behind it. The fact is that this is a project that does use local resources and is adding value. It does add local jobs. The folks who are working for Treeline and Darcraft, the last time I looked, were all Yukoners, so I can't really see what the question is there.
I guess we're being criticized for using government money to support our local people. I didn't think that was a particular crime. I think we're also demonstrating something else; we're demonstrating some confidence in the ability of Yukon people to manufacture a project, a quality product - I was interested at the reference to quality, because my friends in the Yukon Party actually sat at many of those tables in their previous tenure.
As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, just by way of interest, that chair that you're sitting in is a locally manufactured product and it hasn't collapsed yet, so I have to assume that we do some things right up here.
So I'm a little bit surprised at this. I guess the members have some difficulties with the idea of success. We heard a few shots at some of our products. I guess they don't believe that we are capable of doing a quality product. Maybe they feel that we should be going out for inferior product. Maybe we should be going offshore.
In my time in education, I can remember that the only option that you had for ordering desks was from a company like EIF in Alberta. I forget what the other company was - Alpha-something or other - out of Quebec. So now we have some local opportunities; I would hope that we would support that.
I guess on this side, the big difference is that we believe in Yukon workers. We believe in Yukon business people. It's too bad we don't have the same support from our friends.
I guess we could buy a cheaper product and bring it in, but I really don't think that that would benefit us all.
With regard to the reference to Old Crow, I mean, I thought that was fascinating. Here we've got a local contractor building the Old Crow school. The Liberals are portraying an architect who has an office here, and has his family here, as an outside firm. I think they need to do a little bit of checking.
Just taking a look at the recent agreement that we've had with the Vuntut Gwitchin, we had a crew of 26 workers, 18 of which were VGFN. The rest of the journeymen came from the community. I guess that doesn't really count. They don't count as local people. The fact that they've been there 60,000 years, I guess, really doesn't make them local.
By way of purchasing, it's interesting. We did some stats. We've gone from 59 percent in 1995-96 to 88 percent in 1998-99 in the dollar value of all contracts issued to Yukon businesses. Ninety percent of all public tenders this year - 90 percent - have gone to local businesses. So, we've got more recent successes. The recent Teslin Correctional Centre septic system went to a Teslin contractor. The member made the shot about NovaLIS. I guess she's not counting Sorrento Systems as a local contractor, so, that doesn't count, either. Neither does the mapping work that we're planning on doing and some of the other information technology. That doesn't count. I guess it really doesn't count unless it goes through her friends in Winnipeg. So, I'm just a little bit surprised at this. We believe in local solutions, Mr. Speaker. We believe in supporting local businesses. We believe in local quality. We believe in local labour. We believe in Yukon people. Do they?
Speaker: Before going to Question Period, the Chair will provide a statement on a point of order that was raised yesterday by the Member for Riverdale North.
He raised it during an answer being given by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services in Question Period.
The Member for Riverdale North said, "I don't think we're allowed to talk about the absence of any member in the House."
The Member for Riverdale North was referring to a remark made by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services when the minister said, in part: "I do believe that the Member for Klondike did not even stick around for the vote on that budget . . ."
Annotation 481(c) in Beauchesne states: "[I]t has been sanctioned by usage that a member, while speaking, must not refer to the presence or absence of specific members."
Also, Annotation 289(3) states: "The discharge of [a member's] responsibilities will sometimes take a member away from the House. This absence from the Chamber should not be the subject of comment."
The rules on this matter, therefore, are clear, and the Chair would ask that members respect them by not commenting on the presence or absence of other members.
On a related issue, the Chair would remind members that when they are speaking to a point of order, they should be giving their Chair advice as to which rule has or has not been broken. It does not help the chair when members simply state that there is or there is not a point of order. When that is done, it sounds like members are giving the Chair direction, rather than advice.
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Department of Tourism, visitor guide
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the minister responsible for Tourism. Last year, I raised an issue about a First Nations tourism map that was produced by the minister's department, that contains some serious flaws and had to be reprinted. In response to the issue, the minister told this House that they had put measures in place to correct that problem, and in fact it wouldn't rise again.
The minister said, and I quote: "This government has, Mr. Speaker, identified these mistakes before they were brought out into the public so as not to embarrass the Yukon at large, as the previous administration has."
Mr. Speaker, I'd like to ask the minister today, is he still confident -
Speaker: The member has thirty seconds.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Is he still confident, as he was then, that safeguards are now in place, to prevent this from recurring?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I'm very confident that the member opposite is certainly mixing apples and oranges. The member opposite knows that the map was a cosmetic map. It was a lure map to bring people; it wasn't the featured map. It was not meant to guide people from tree to tree down distant rivers. It was meant to be a lure and to bring people and to show people old Yukon as well as new Yukon.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, it was not meant to be a lure. I have in my hand the new 1999 visitor guide that is meant to be a lure, and I believe the mistakes in this visitor guide seriously contradict the statements made by the minister here today.
Is the minister aware, Mr. Speaker, that some pictures in this guide that are supposedly Yukon wildlife and Yukon scenery are in fact shots from Alaska and other jurisdictions? Is the minister aware of that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for the member opposite to show and to introduce the visitor guide. As the member is well aware, the visitor guide has taken on a new character, based on very good work. I've been assured by the department about the pictures, as I had asked the question, to make certain that we do not stumble as the previous government did in one of their brochures. They assured me it wouldn't happen and it was assured that they were Yukon pictures.
Mr. Phillips: Well, somebody is stumbling here and it's the minister. He's stumbling into a huge hole. Mr. Speaker, did the minister, when he dropped into the office occasionally this summer, have a chance to proofread this visitor guide, and did the minister approve this visitor guide to go into publication?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Obviously, the member opposite does an exorbitant amount of travel, because he seems to know intimately the fishing spots wherever they might be.
Yes, Mr. Speaker, I did look at the visitor guide. I was much impressed with it. I asked the questions, I talked about it, as the member opposite knows. It is a new format. It is a good format. It shows people, it shows places and it shows beautiful Yukon moments with Yukon people. I did ask the question of the Tourism people to ensure that it was not only market driven, but that it was new and living up to the expectations of the outside world.
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It's living up to the expectations that the world has come to expect of the Yukon and will continue to do so. So, yes, it was a team effort that put this through.
Question re: Department of Tourism, visitor guide
Mr. Phillips: Well, then, Mr. Speaker, it was a team mistake. Is the minister aware that on several pages of the visitor guide, in large pictures and some smaller pictures, there are Alaskan wildlife and Alaskan scenes that are portrayed as a Yukon scene? Don't we have proper scenes in this territory and wildlife in this territory, like grizzly bears - a grizzly bear on a river in Alaska trying to catch a salmon. It's portrayed here as a Yukon bear?
Why did the minister not catch the fact that many of the lure pieces in this article, telling people that they exist in this territory, including a wilderness ski lodge -
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Mr. Phillips: - that doesn't exist is somewhere in Alaska and in a pass in Alaska? Why is all this portrayed as a mystical winter wonderland in the Yukon? Why does it say that under an Alaskan picture? Why is the Minister of Tourism for the Yukon promoting the State of Alaska in his visitor guide?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Obviously, Mr. Speaker, there were some mistakes made - certainly not in the visitor guide, as I have been assured. Obviously, the member opposite does not believe in teamwork, does not believe in even the practice of teamwork, and I'm absolutely astonished that he would take time to come down on one of our critical partners in Tourism North and elsewhere in the Yukon Territory. I'm actually appalled that he would use the negativity that he absolutely did use in terms of running down a very important partner to the territory.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, the more this minister speaks, the more I realize that he doesn't understand his own department. The Tourism North guide is separate, and we do have pictures of Yukon and Alaska in it.
This is the Yukon visitor guide, with several pictures of Alaska in it, and now, Mr. Speaker, maybe the minister can tell us: with some of these Alaskan pictures, can he confirm that there is a problem with copyright in some of these pictures, because they used the pictures without getting permission before putting them in the guide? We have Alaskan pictures in our Yukon guide trying to tell the visitors to the territory that this is the Yukon Territory. Don't we have a beautiful enough place ourselves to portray our own territory with our own pictures? What's wrong with that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I can certainly agree with the member opposite that the Yukon is a very wonderful and dear place to live and to raise children and will continue to be. As the member opposite knows at Tourism - 12 percent, my god. A 12-percent increase, and we're getting beat up for a 12-percent increase. I just can't believe it.
Mr. Speaker, again, I would like to reiterate that I am appalled that the member opposite would even think to run down one of our tourism partners. Partnerships are not specific in one area. Partnerships are, in general, trying to work together as people in the north, and we will continue to do so on this side of the House with our very important partners.
As I have also said, Mr. Speaker, I do believe in teamwork. I believe in good teamwork and working with people and not...
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: ... dictating to them. They are part of a team, Mr. Speaker. I have been assured that the scenes have been Yukon scenes, and I will check it out.
Mr. Phillips: The minister should listen and listen closely. This is not the Tourism North brochure that we partnered with Alaska. This is the Yukon brochure, and there are several pictures in this brochure out-of-focus and of very poor quality. Look at it, Mr. Speaker. We wanted to run, when we were in government, a photo contest and select the best Yukon pictures for the Yukon photo guide from local Yukon photographers, and the department told me, at that time, that they weren't of high enough quality to produce in our brochure. Well, guess what? These pictures that we got from Alaska are extremely poor quality. Full-page pictures, Mr. Speaker, that are terrible quality, in our visitor guide that's now out on the marketplace, and they're not even the Yukon.
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Mr. Phillips: Why did the minister publish pictures from outside the Yukon in a Yukon visitor guide? Why did he do that? Who was he trying to promote, Alaska or the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you again for the opportunity to address the concerns of the member opposite. Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I will attempt to make sure that all cameras, as they come through the Tourism department, or whatever, with the tourists in the territory - I will try to ensure that they are focused properly and that folks have the opportunity to get into quality design for cameras, et cetera.
Mr. Speaker, I'd also like to reiterate that we are promoting the Yukon, and we're doing it in partnership. The rubber-tire market, as the member opposite knows, is the most important market to the Yukon Territory. It's done in conjunction with all sorts of partners, of which Alaska is one.
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Specifically, we look for partnerships from our tourism partners in the north, and will continue to do so because, collectively, we can provide very good service to the north and, in particular, in our case, the Yukon.
Mr. Phillips: I hope the minister comes back ...
Speaker: Order. Member for Riverside.
Question re: Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, alternate chair
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Now, the minister has been working on an appointment to the position of alternate chair for the Workers' Compensation Board since the end of April - six months ago. Now, the present alternate chair appointment expired yesterday. The chair of the board - that's Mr. Wright - is out of the jurisdiction for a lengthy period of time, probably. The alternate chair's appointment has expired, and we need one or the other to sit on workers' appeals, and there are a large number of these appeals stacked up. So what's up? What is the minister doing about the alternate chair appointment? Is he going to re-appoint the previous alternate chair ...
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Mr. Cable: ... and for how long?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, some of the member's facts are correct; some are not. That's often the case, so I'll just have to take a bit of time to explain the issue.
The act requires that the minister consult with workers and employers in the determination of the alternate chair and the chair of Workers' Compensation Board. And I have said to the stakeholders that it's very important that consensus try and be reached among them to try to build an alternate chair and chair who have some support of both the key stakeholders and the Workers' Compensation Board. That's how the chair was chosen and that process took a long time, but we did achieve that consensus.
It is not a good situation when employers continue to support their particular representative and if workers do the same thing with someone they feel will be more sympathetic to their issues.
So, what we've been trying to do, Mr. Speaker, is get some consensus among the ...
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Harding: ... stakeholders. This takes time and we've been trying to build that consensus. In the meantime, the existing alternate chair has been re-appointed, and that has been done for a couple of reasons: one, because the consensus is not reached and two, because the chair is very busy with the APEC pepper spraying hearings that involve the member opposite and his colleagues in Ottawa.
Mr. Cable: Why did I know the minister wouldn't leave that one alone? Now part of the problem with these board appointments is that the minister has been gyrating around on the way to taking recommendations.
There was an interview panel set up earlier this year to choose a labour rep on the board, with the minister's blessing, perhaps even the minister's instigation. Representatives from organized labour, the Teachers Association and the Injured Workers Alliance sat on the panel, and someone was recommended by that panel. Then the minister pulled the pin on the procedure and appointed someone else. He was basically wasting people's time.
Where does the minister sit on this interview panel procedure for making recommendations-
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Mr. Cable: - on board appointments and why did he change his mind on the previous panel procedure?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Again, Mr. Speaker, I must say that the member's version of events is incorrect. What I try and do is build consensus among the parties in appointments, whether it's the alternate chair or the chair. In this case, it's a labour appointment, and it's important that we try to build some solid consensus around the position and the selection of that position. Some of the labour organizations had differences of opinion about the particular appointment raised by the member. Eventually, a choice was made - because of the differences of opinion among labour - to select the person who was already sitting on the board, to provide continuity, to ensure there was a level of knowledge on the board, so that good decisions could be made for workers. There was a level of education of the particular board member -
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Mr. Cable: One of the questions I was asking was, "What is the minister's position on these interview panels?" I'd like the minister to answer that question. Does he, in fact, believe in the interview panels set up of representatives from labour, in the instance where we're choosing a labour rep, or of labour and business, where we're choosing an alternate chair? Does he believe in that procedure?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, that process can work, but it only can work if there's agreement among all the parties who are participants to that panel process. What I'm telling the member is that that doesn't always happen. There are differences of opinion. In a perfect world, that might work all the time. It doesn't. Sometimes you get results as a result of that type of process, and sometimes you get splits and don't get consensus. The same thing holds true for the process of trying to pick a co-chair and a chair. For example, what often happens, if you conceive of a panel idea, is that you have employer reps picking employer nominees ...
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Harding: ... and employee reps picking employee nominees and never the twain shall meet. It is a difficult process to build that consensus, and I have said, since taking over as minister, that I would take the necessary time to do that. There's no crisis. The people who are in the positions can continue on or be reappointed as we try to build that consensus. But each player has a responsibility to come to the table and try and find solutions because it's their system ultimately, and I don't want to be the one who just dictates to them, from the mountaintop, as to who's going to -
Speaker: The member's time has elapsed.
Question re: Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, alternate chair
Mr. Cable: Well, I think that's a very healthy attitude. So, the question is to the same minister on the same topic. He hasn't answered the question as to whether he thinks that a panel is a way to build consensus. He has said that he has gone out - I know he's getting instructions from his boss, but if he listens for a moment, maybe he will get the point.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: Good.
Is the minister in favour of this panel procedure for getting consensus from the labour and business reps? We have to do it in some fashion. The minister can't sit up in his office and shrug his shoulders and say, "Gee, boys, we just can't get it done. I'm just going to keep extending these appointments until we finally get somebody worn down to the point where we'll agree on somebody."
Does he believe in the interview panel procedure?
Hon. Mr. Harding: What a shame it is that I would actually try to wear these people down into an agreement. What a terrible thing that is, that I would actually try to build consensus.
With regard to the panel idea, I have no philosophical opposition to it. It's just that it's been tried at times and not been successful.
I haven't ruled out the idea of trying it again. I never said that I had. I'm just saying that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, and it is important that I do everything possible to try and get an agreement among the stakeholders with regard to the co-chair and, as well, if it's a labour representative, with the labour appointee.
I think it's also important that in cases surrounding things like act reviews or chair appointments, we take the same approach. It is a difficult process.
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Harding: It would be much easier to just pick somebody, but I don't think that's appropriate. I would rather be as thorough as I can be to try and ensure that as many attempts are made as I possibly can to get the right people. In the meantime, there will continuity by the continuation of the existing appointments.
Mr. Cable: There has been a never-ending litany of problems with workers' compensation in this jurisdiction. I might suggest that the minister is part of the problem and not part of the solution with all these gyrations.
Is the minister prepared to sit down and work out some process, and make it public, so that the people will know how he goes about making these appointments?
The act says he has to consult labour and employers. Is he simply going to sit up in his office and go round and round and round and wait for them to reach some consensus, when he's talking to them one at a time? That's not going to work. That should be patently obvious. Is he going to get them together in some room to work out the appointment process?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'm surprised at the member's criticism. I think the board has been doing a fine job. The new chair that the member opposite lobbied me to appoint I think has made some good innovations on the board. The government itself has hired the workers' advocate to try and help injured workers. I think that was a major advancement. We picked that neutral chair that was recommended by both labour and employers. They've struck advisory groups from the stakeholders to broaden the input into the process. We've just commenced work on a legislative review of the act for fall of next year. So I think we've made some solid, foundational, structural changes that are going to improve the system and make it fairer. It is not a perfect system, but I think we've made some significant progress.
With regard to the ideas that he presents about having a panel to make appointments, speaking of going round and round, I'll just say, once again ...
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Harding: ... that I don't rule out that prospect, but I just want to tell the member, it's not the be-all and end-all of solutions. Where we have had panels in the past, they have not always worked. I am prepared in this case, as I have always said, to try and consider anything that will work to get better consensus around the appointments, so that we have an agreement when we do these kinds of important appointments.
Mr. Cable: Now, the minister wrote to the Injured Workers Alliance in September, saying there wasn't enough time to go through the interview panel route for the alternate chair appointment this time, but that he would think about it; he would think about using that process for the next board appointment.
Just so the stakeholders know where the minister's going, when is he going to make up his mind on whether he wants to use this interview panel process? When is he going to tell the Injured Workers Alliance that it's on or off?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I spoke to a representative of the Injured Workers Alliance this morning about this very issue, and I explained some of the complexity of it, from where I sit. I think that it is an important issue. In this case, as a result of the chair participating in the APEC hearings in Vancouver, it has, I think, made the continuance of the alternate chair more paramount in the equation and, thus, there has been an extension of that appointment. That does present some more significant time to further evaluate how we can build that consensus.
I must say though, in the past, with this particular appointment, we have seen a propensity by the different stakeholders to support candidates that are ...
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Harding: ... of their particular vein, or that particular stakeholders may feel are more sympathetic to their particular point of view. That is not healthy for the system, especially when it pertains to the alternate chair and the chair, where you have to have - if you want the system to be effective - some kind of an agreement.
So I'm prepared to consider those options and to do it very quickly. We have some time now, with the extension of the appointment of the alternate chair, to have appeals heard, and all those important issues that have to be undertaken.
I also just announced recently -
Speaker: The member's time has elapsed.
Question re: Department of Tourism, visitor guide
Mr. Phillips: My question is to the Minister of Tourism again, regarding the 1999 Yukon visitor guide that is full of pictures from other jurisdictions.
A lot of people put a lot of work into this visitor guide, and the minister is the one who gives the final approval. I guess I could accept the fact that the minister wasn't here much this summer, and maybe the day he dropped in he didn't have his glasses on, so he couldn't tell whether the pictures were blurry or not, and that there were all kinds of pictures of other jurisdictions. I guess we could forgive the minister somewhat for that.
But there are a lot of people in the industry who are very concerned about the product we produced this year, Mr. Speaker. I'd like the minister, maybe, if he could come back tomorrow, and tell us, in the House, why several of the pictures are out of focus, why some of the pictures are of other jurisdictions...
Speaker: Member has thirty seconds.
Mr. Phillips:... and bring back a list of all photos in this guide that are not from the Yukon? Will the minister give us a commitment that he'll do that tomorrow?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity again to speak about tourism, and the wonders that we're doing here with tourism in the Yukon Territory. A 12 percent increase, well, 11.8 percent increase, pardon me; 26,000 people, it's wonderful here.
What are we doing? Two new airlines have made announcements that they're coming; we've created a marketing fund. Now that we do not have an anniversaries program, we're being very proactive. We're indeed looking at new strategies, and we're involving Yukoners, so I would like to think that we are going to continue to do this good work, and yes, we will continue to do this good work.
Mr. Phillips: I knew this would be a really frustrating session with this particular minister, Mr. Speaker. He didn't deal with the question at all. I wanted a commitment he would bring it back for tomorrow. I hope maybe he'll read Hansard, and tomorrow he'll know that.
I'd like to ask the minister another question about the visitor guide. In one section of the visitor guide, Mr. Speaker, there's a comment in there. We've spent hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars in the last years trying to promote summer tourism in the territory.
This is in our visitor guide in bold print: "North of 60, snow blankets the ground from October to April, sometimes even longer. Yukoners are often heard saying, 'In these parts we have eight months of winter, and four months of poor dog-sledding weather'."
What's that going to do for Yukon tourism in the summer, Mr. Speaker? I know it's a humourous saying, but these are people who are reading about the Yukon, and trying to determine what kind of product we have. Why is the Yukon government sending that kind of message out to our visitors of the future? Do they want visitors to think that it's winter year-round in this territory?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I do take offence to the third question from the member opposite. If the member opposite would listen to the very first time that I answered the question, I said that I would get back, and I will get back. I am a man of honour, as this government is, so we shall continue to do the good work, and I will follow through.
I'd also like to say that, yes, we do do good work. With limited dollars, we can actually pull leverages of up to 13 to one. Again, I say that we've marked and funded a new strategy and new airlines, but is the member opposite putting down humour? Is the member opposite putting down one of the catalysts that is a backbone of the Yukon Territory: humour - the colourful five percent? Obviously the member opposite will never become a member of the colourful five percent, because he's just a little too stiff in thinking, I do believe.
Mr. Phillips: Wow. Mr. Speaker, it's a wonder what the summer does when one takes some time off.
Mr. Speaker, I've heard some complaints from some advertisers in the new visitor guide. If the minister wants to look in his visitor guide that he said he approved, he will see when he gets to the ad section in the back of the visitor guide, there are all kinds of blank pages in the visitor guide, and yet, local businesses were refused advertisements in this particular production, for one reason or another, and to add insult to injury they weren't sent the letter of the refusal of their ad until the book was printed, so they couldn't change their mind on increasing their other ad or doing anything else. They were told that they couldn't advertise winter and summer in the guide.
Mr. Speaker, who is running -
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Mr. Phillips: The minister is not around, Mr. Speaker. Who is taking care of this for the Government of the Yukon? Will he come back with some answers tomorrow to tell us why we produce a less-than-adequate product that promotes Alaska more than it promotes the Yukon Territory?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Obviously, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite just spends a little bit too much time observing the minister of the day. I might think that there might be a fatal attraction, because as the member opposite is lurking and checking for licence plates, et cetera, he just might get run over, so the member should try to play a little more safely, if he could - just for my benefit too, because I do enjoy the safety of all people here.
If there is an opportunity to improve quality or to improve access for people, well then, that's exactly what the Tourism department will do.
Mr. Speaker, I will go back to the department and I will find out if there have been people who have been refused, and we will always work to ensure that we continue with the good work that we're doing with tourism now.
Question re: Psychiatric day program at Whitehorse Hospital
Mrs. Edelman: I'd like to take the Minister of Health and Social Services back to March of this year and ask him questions about the lack of a psychiatric day program at Whitehorse Hospital.
Now on March 25 when I asked the minister if he planned to establish such a program, he replied that he'd already done so. Mr. Speaker, as Yukoners learned over the summer, that simply wasn't the case. There is no psychiatric day program at Whitehorse General Hospital.
Now, I'll ask the same question I asked six months ago: can the minister commit to this House today that there is a will to establish a psychiatric day program at Whitehorse General Hospital and that that program can be set up within the next year?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm certainly pleased to discuss this issue. As you know, there has been a good deal of discussion on the whole question of psychiatric programs. Over the last year and a half we have been taking a look at psychiatric emergency admissions, involuntary admissions, out-of-territory facilities, et cetera. The following changes have been made: we have increased and enhanced the intake process leading to more thorough mental health assessments and greater consultation with primary-care physicians and other referral sources; a shift from one-to-one counselling to group programming. The department, in conjunction with Yukon Hospital Corporation, has struck a task force of physicians and nurses in the mental health profession.
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm sorry. I'll just continue on at a later time, but I think what we are doing is we're trying to increase the number of services available in the whole field of mental health.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, I am well aware of the task force that was created this spring to tackle these issues - and it's about time.
A memo from a meeting of this group found that hospital staff strongly believe that mental health services in the hospital need improvement. They have come to the same conclusion that everyone else has - mental health services in our territory are lacking.
Until this task force reports, it appears that the minister is prepared to continue with the status quo. Now, what is the timeline for action from the recommendations of this task force and what does the minister to do in the interim?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Quite frankly, the member is wrong. I can tell the member right now that one of the things that's going on is the process of recruiting a second psychiatrist. Two psychologist positions have been recently filled and recruitment for mental health nurses is underway.
As well, we're also doing a variety of things in terms of trying to move our mental health program from a more hospital-based model to a more community-based model, which I think is, in the long term, far more effective and far more humane for individuals.
And we're aspiring -
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you.
Mrs. Edelman: It's interesting that the minister talks about another model for psychiatric care. Now, I understand that two people from the minister's department recently visited Powell River to take a look at their mental health care services. They include a psychiatric ward at the hospital with five beds, an outpatient health centre and an after-hours psychiatric nurse. Is this government pursuing this type of model?
Hon. Mr. Sloan:The hospital is funded right now for psychiatric patients. We have been attempting to move to, as I said, a less hospital-based model. What we would ideally like to be able to do is deal with individuals in crisis to be able to do an assessment as to what the appropriate placement should be. Many of the individuals that we do have, who come in for psychiatric treatment, are individuals who are not severely mentally ill at the time - not severe bipolars, or things of that nature. They tend to be people who are going through periods of time with crises, often off their meds -
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We're trying to respond, and perhaps provide some appropriate, in-the-community treatment. That's the model we would like to work toward, both with a hospital component, but primarily with a community component, and that's the direction we're going to go.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
orders of the day
Opposition Private members' business
Motions other than government motions
Motion No. 132
Clerk: Motion No. 132, standing in the name of Ms. Duncan.
Speaker: It is moved by the leader of the third party
THAT the Government of Yukon does not have the confidence of this House and of the people of the Yukon in its management of the economy.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is a pleasure to rise today to speak to this motion that I put forward before the House.
Before I delve into the essence of this motion, I'd like to talk briefly, if I may, about some of the literal words - about the various types of confidence motions that can come before the House.
Some members of this House will remember that my colleague, the Member for Riverside, brought forward a motion of non-confidence in this House in 1995. At that time, he outlined for the House some background on confidence motions.
Some Hon. Members: (inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Ms. Duncan: I see the members opposite, Mr. Speaker, are hanging on my every word. I'm so pleased to hear that, thank you.
As I was noting, the Member for Riverside had outlined some background on non-confidence motions. As there are a number of new members, including myself, I would like to look briefly, at the beginning of my remarks, about the parliamentary idea of a confidence motion.
The interesting paper that addressed these motions, which the Member for Riverside brought forward and the Member for Faro is anxiously awaiting to hear for the second time, was by Senator Forsey. It was presented in 1985. The paper was in the context of free votes and what constituted confidence, and when Members of Parliament would be entitled to vote against the wishes of their party. It's something that has been talked about by a number of parties.
Mr. Forsey's paper said that a ministry can choose not to regard adverse votes as matters of confidence, and the Governor General should respect the ministry's choice, subject to a number of exceptions.
Some of those exceptions are: if a formal motion that the House has no confidence in the ministry is carried; if a formal vote of censure of the ministry is carried; if the budgetary policy of the government, or some other element of its policy, acknowledged by the government as central to its program, is explicitly condemned by a vote in the House; if supply is refused by the House, or an appropriation bill is defeated or amended, either substantively or symbolically, in a way that clearly indicates an intention to demonstrate the House's lack of confidence in the ministry; if a vote that the government has clearly indicated it regards as a test of confidence is lost.
Mr. Forsey went on to enlarge upon the whole idea of confidence motions: a government defeated on any motion, even a motion to adjourn, can choose to take that defeat as decisive, that is, as a vote of want of confidence entailing either the resignation of the government or a request for dissolution; a government defeated on an explicit motion of want of confidence must either resign or ask for dissolution - this is the type of motion that I have presented - a government defeated on a motion of censure - an example of this, Mr. Speaker, would be that the actions of the government have been wholly unjustifiable and utterly indefensible - the failure of the government to carry unamended the general budgetary motion provided for in Standing Orders must be regarded as an act of censure.
There was also a report of the Special Committee on Reform of the House of Commons. This goes back some time, Mr. Speaker, to June 1993. Chapter 2 is entitled, "Confidence convention re-examined". In the body of the report, it says, and this is a very important point: opposition parties should remain free to introduce non-confidence motions.
That report offered several observations on this tradition. A government should be careful before it declares or designates a vote as one of confidence. It should confine such declaration to measures central to its administration.
While a defeat on supply is a serious matter, elimination or reduction of an estimate can be accepted. If the government wishes, it can designate a succeeding vote as a test of confidence or move a direct vote of confidence. Defeats on matters not essential to the government's program do not require it, to arrange a vote of confidence, either directly or on some procedural or collateral matter.
In addition to these four items, there's a second general category where items central to government policy would be deemed, under most general circumstances - like balancing a budget or running a deficit - motions dealing with this sort of policy matter.
Those are various types of confidence motions. That's the parliamentary background, in parliamentary words.
The paper that I and my colleague referred to, "The Report of the Special Committee on Reform of the House of Commons, June 1993", also states that this type of motion should not be used capriciously. In short, the use of the term "lack of confidence" in my motion today is intended to convey the seriousness with which I and the Yukon Liberal Party caucus view the management of the economy by the NDP government.
This motion is not brought capriciously. This is not grandstanding. Our caucus gave this motion a great deal of thought, knowing precisely what a parliamentary tool we were discussing.
The documents I referred to today noted that in a parliament in command of a majority, such as we have in the Yukon, the matter of confidence has really been settled by the electorate. Short of a reversal of allegiance or some cataclysmic political event, the government and other parties could therefore have the wisdom to permit members to decide many matters in their own thoughtful, deliberative judgment. Overuse of party whips or House leaders and of confidence motions devalues these important institutions.
Mr. Speaker, knowing full well that the side opposite is quite likely to amend this motion, why would we bring it forward?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Well, I'd be delighted to answer the question for the Member for Watson Lake. Why bring it forward?
Mr. Speaker, in the time since we were last in this House, in May, my colleagues and I have spent our summer and our fall travelling throughout the Yukon, listening to people, hearing what they have to say. As members are fully aware, my colleagues and I go door to door each fall in our riding, asking our constituents what they're interested in, what's their number-one issue, what would they like us to be raising and questioning the government about. Overwhelmingly, at every single door in Porter Creek South, the economy was the number-one issue, and I know it was the number-one issue in Riverside and the number-one issue in Riverdale South. Overwhelmingly, it's the economy and this government's management of it.
That's why the seriousness with which Yukoners view this issue is reflected in the manner in which I presented this motion today. That's why I chose the format, and our caucus chose the format, of a non-confidence motion.
Having reviewed the idea of a non-confidence motion, let's deal with the matter of the economy.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Well, there are a number of definitions of the economy. As a noun, it's frugal management of money, materials, resources and the like. Most importantly, Mr. Speaker, it's freedom from extravagance and - a very old fashioned word - "thrift". The practical administration of material resources of a country, community or establishment or a territory - that's what economy is. It's also a particular system for developing and managing material resources. It's the orderly distribution and interplay of parts in a structure or a system, and it even has a theological definition. Economy is the divine plan of creation and redemption, or any specific method for an era of divine government.
Well, the theological definitions make the most sense, in view of what the NDP government's been doing. Mr. Speaker; they seem to have a sense of divine government. They've conveniently forgotten about the people in the Yukon. They've chosen that definition rather than "frugal, practical or freedom from extravagance and thrift".
The Government Leader, in his throne speech, said, and I quote, "Public finances are a matter of public trust." I could not agree with those words more.
The Government Leader also said, and again I quote, "Yukon people expect their government to live within its means without compromising the quality of public services." Yes, they also expect their government to be visionary and to plan for the future - not just to plan, but to believe in the future. They expect and they want their government to create an economic climate that speaks about hope and opportunities for young people.
When I'm at work - when any one of us are at work - talking about the future in this Legislature, in the Liberal caucus we're thinking about jobs for our children, jobs that are not necessarily in the public service. They're jobs building the Yukon.
The NDP efforts to date have been less than visionary and far less than job producing. In fact, the word "vision" didn't come out from the government until the NDP was criticized by the Yukon Liberal Party when we did their two-year review. And those words that we used in that review, and the words I used when speaking to Yukoners - they weren't my words. They were the words, the exact words, that I heard on the doorstep from my constituents and from Yukoners all summer long. Where is the vision of the future? Where is the vision of the economy? Where is the hope and where are the opportunities for young people?
This government has no vision. There is no sight beyond the end of its mandate. The government members are shaking their heads and they're busily writing down, "Oh yes, we do, and here's the list of initiatives."
Well, let's look at those initiatives in the context of the Yukon economy. Let's start with the Yukon's number one industry - the industry that built the Yukon; the industry that was responsible for the celebration this year - mining.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan:The Member for Faro is busily kibitzing that he would like to talk about mining, too. I'm so delighted that he's listening to these words and taking notes.
I would like to begin the discussion of mining with placer mining - important, given that we're celebrating the 100th anniversary of the discovery of gold. My personal acquaintance, and that of our caucus with the placer mining industry, has been long. One placer miner whom I and many, many people in the Yukon hold in high regard is Mr. Norm Ross. Many Yukoners were delighted that Norm and his partner, Sandy, were recently named by their employees as Yukon's business people of the year.
I have often heard Norm Ross address the placer mining community and the business community, and I'm confident that the Minister of Economic Development - I would like to hope that the Minister of Economic Development - took Mr. Ross' words in his acceptance speech to heart, when he was presented with his award as business person of the year.
Mr. Ross often likens the placer mine to the family farm, an integral part of a number of Canadian economies. The family farm is a small, family-run operation. Like the farmers, the fishers and like the hockey teams, placer miners always believe things are going to be better next year. They are very much next-year people.
The economic viability of their family farms, their placer mines, are affected by a number of things. One, of course, is the price of gold. The other major factor is the regulatory environment. The situation that the placer mining industry has been under for a number of years is a very troubling one.
In 1985, the miners strongly emphasized the need for a one-window approach to regulations via the Yukon Territorial Water Board. The result, some years later, was the Yukon fisheries protection authorization.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon fisheries protection authorization is in distress. It's in distress because of its implementation here in the Yukon. Understanding the Yukon fisheries placer authorization, the Liberal caucus and I have worked steadily since January of last year with federal political staff, with ministers, with federal officials, to try and resolve some of these issues.
I have yet to see word one about this major issue, publicly or privately, from the NDP government. I will compliment the Minister of Economic Development for appearing, as I did, before the Yukon Placer Miners Association at their annual general meeting in May. However, did the minister take to heart their comments about the development assessment process and the protected area strategy?
If the minister had, he would realize the importance of the Water Board to the placer mining industry, and he would have conveyed that to the DAP commissioner. When I asked yesterday in the House for the DAP commissioner to explain where the Water Board fit into the legislative process, had the minister understood the industry, had he listened to their representations, I would have received a clear and unequivocal answer - a clear, unequivocal, supported answer.
The placer mining industry in the Yukon has survived another year without any hope or help or clear messages of support from this government.
So, what about the hard rock? The operating mines in the Yukon are Viceroy, BYG and Golden Bear - although technically in B.C., Golden Bear is serviced out of Whitehorse, and has quite an impact on our economy. We know the Minister of Economic Development has visited the Viceroy operation. He got to the gold show, courtesy of their plane.
These mines are operating. They're encouraged to purchase locally, to work with local First Nations, and to hire Yukoners. Economically, in terms of managing our economy, it's up to the government to encourage that and to work with them.
Mr. Speaker, what about the potential mines? The Minister of Economic Development - as he's yelling across the floor at me now - loves to stand up and blame the federal Liberals. How many times have we heard, "The federal Liberals are to blame for this issue. They're holding up the permitting process for potential mines"? Well, if the Minister of Economic Development is that concerned about the economy of the Yukon and bringing mines on stream, what has he done about it?
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: I am more than pleased to inform the Minister of Economic Development that we offered to buy the federal minister, Jane Stewart, a pen so she could sign some water licences. The Yukon Chamber of Mines gave the minister a pen. What has this minister done? Anything? Has he intervened to the Water Board?
Instead of criticizing the federal minister, why doesn't the Minister of Economic Development stand up and tell Yukoners what he can do and what he has done? Instead, all we hear in this House is, "Well, it's their fault." It's the blame game.
I haven't mentioned United Keno Hill Mines, the Government Leader's former riding. It's everybody's favourite mine in the Yukon. It's been producing since long before I was born, and it still has tremendous proven reserves. The holdup at that particular mine is the price of silver in corporate Canada.
Now, what about the backbone of mining in the Yukon? Let's talk about exploration. Just two short years ago, just about the time Yukoners were going to the polls, $55 million was spent exploring for minerals in this territory - $55 million.
So, how much was spent this summer, two years after an NDP government was elected. Well, it's early to say, but the industry's expecting about $15 million.
Let's bring that down, Mr. Speaker, from the millions of dollars that is hard for the average family to contemplate. Let's talk about one company that did exploration this summer. A couple of years ago, in the Finlayson area, this particular company had between 45 and 60 people, and spent $1.5 million on helicopter time alone - $1.5 million at a Yukon company, on Yukon pilots, Yukon engineers, and Yukon fuel suppliers, on helicopter time alone.
That same company, this year, had fewer than 20 employees working in the field in the Yukon. They had two four-person fly-in camps, one camp supported by road, and a two-person roving camp.
To bring it down even further, let's look at a typical four-person fly-in exploration camp that's supported by a helicopter. Supplies, mainly food, are flown in every week to 10 days. Samples are flown out for analysis.
The camps support local business. They don't need encouragement for that. That's what they do, as a matter of course. They use local helicopters, they lease local vehicles, they buy food from local grocery stores and they employ local Yukoners.
The cost of running such a camp - just four people we're talking about - is about $300,000 for the summer. That's one typical camp - $300,000. In a summer when $50 million is spent on exploration, we're looking at a lot of exploration camps - all buying from Yukon businesses.
And that, Mr. Speaker, doesn't include the wages of these people, some, if not most - if not all - of which is also spent in the Yukon.
The minister loves to blame corporate Canada, metal prices, worldwide trends, Asian flu, Bre-X - all of these comments on exploration: the blame game. So, if the minister will lift his head from the blame game for just a minute and say, "So, how can the government impact on mining? How can the government impact on mining and on this mining process, on mining and on mining exploration?"
It is really quite simple. An exploration company has to want to explore. They have to want to be here. Always they have to take into consideration how much production will cost, how much the permitting process will cost and how long it will take? Their budgets are small and they're continually being stretched.
The companies reach a point where they can't justify the exploration work. It doesn't matter if they don't have a potential mine; they just won't come.
In terms of maintaining and managing the economy, we need to attract exploration companies. They need to know they're welcome. That's what we can do. We can let exploration companies know that they are welcome in the Yukon. We want to know what's out there, what we've got in terms of resources. They want to know we want them out there quite simply, Mr. Speaker, picking rocks.
And they need to know that we want them here. We want them here in spite of any one of the factors the minister wants to blame this week.
Enter the NDP protected areas strategy. Now, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to note, from the government's tender contract for the production of vignettes on the protected areas strategy - a production for vignettes which was released before the final had been done - the exact words from that document, "The video producer must consider what the audience will ideally feel, think and do as a result of encountering this video .... feel protective of the Yukon's wild places and natural heritage ... urgency in the need to deal with these decisions ... confident that these decisions can be made wisely now ... think there is a strong need to act now ... think that there can be a balanced approach .. my voice can help guide this process."
Mr. Speaker, this final quote from that tender document is incredibly important: "Yukoners will want to know that addressing this now will not further damage the economy." That's from the government tender documents - this government - in talking about their protected areas strategy. Yukoners will want to know that addressing this now will not further damage the economy.
The Minister of Economic Development wants to tell this House that the Liberal caucus is opposed to the protected areas strategy. It's very important that I reflect, for the record, exactly what has been said. Our party gave qualified support to the development of a protected areas strategy. We wanted to ensure that there were a couple of important points made to the government - a couple of concepts that were critical to the process - which was the idea of Yukoners deciding what special places we wanted protected. The idea of consensus. And we supported ensuring that we have the information to protect the areas in the first place; that we knew what we were protecting.
The mining industry has recently given qualified support to the protected areas strategy. However, we also note that, with that support, the government has agreed to work cooperatively with the Chamber of Mines in developing a Yukon mineral strategy. Our caucus will be watching to ensure that the development of this strategy receives the same energy, the same effort and the same commitment - not hollow words, an actual commitment by this government that they've demonstrated to the protected areas strategy.
That's a really brief discussion about mining. Those are just a couple of points, and it doesn't even begin to touch on every issue that affects this major economic part of Yukon.
The government front bench has two former mining company employees. Surely they can do better than what they've done. That's what this industry is all about - building the economy and managing the economy.
What are we saying with this motion? Well, Mr. Speaker, we're saying that the NDP government is bad for business and for the economy. They're not doing a very good job with mining, and that's long been considered the number-one industry in the Yukon.
Well, Mr. Speaker, is it number two or is it number one? We love to talk about tourism in this House. This year was a wonderful year for tourism in the Yukon. Preliminary figures show close to a 12-percent growth over the last year. The government's long-range plans were for a three-percent growth per year.
The banner year - this year - was the culmination of a number of factors. It was the celebration we've waited a long time for, the 100th anniversary of the discovery of gold in the Klondike - and not even the former Minister of Tourism can take credit for that event, although he'd like to try.
We have a fabulous product here - every single member of this House can agree on that - and wonderful potential in terms of tourism.
Mr. Speaker, we also have to try and take advantage of that. We have to market, we have to sell our product, we have to continue to improve our product, we have to respond to the changing needs of the world marketplace. We have to manage the economy of tourism.
What's this government's answer to managing the economy of tourism, aside from the fact that they try to take credit for the anniversary year? The answer, according to the NDP members' newsletters, is to announce two cooperative marketing deals. The quote is that they should make next year's tourism season even better. Well, the marketing agreements: Canada 3000 will bring visitors from Munich and Dusseldorf twice a week next summer; as well, German-based Condor Air will provide weekly flights from Frankfurt.
Well, let's look at this initiative. Last year in this House, we spent a great deal of time talking about the $285,000 marketing agreement with Air Transat - a great deal of time. It was supposed to be a three-year agreement. I understood - although it took me several tries and many months to get detailed information - it was a three-year agreement and the dollars were federal.
With the departure of Air Transat from Yukon skies, is this now a one-year agreement? How were the dollars spent? And more importantly, what was the return on the investment?
Let's look in detail at the Air Transat passenger loads. The minister promised in the House - many times - 4,000 people coming to the Yukon on Air Transat. How many actually arrived? Twenty-six hundred.
Evaluating the success of a marketing agreement is not a criticism. It's asking the questions, as any duly elected member should do, in examining the expenditure of public funds. Did we receive value for money spent? Did we manage it well? Did the NDP government manage this economic tool well? Could we have generated more visitors had we spent this marketing money more wisely, or elsewhere? Could we have?
Asking those questions isn't critical of the tourism industry, no matter how some people are going to try and paint it. The visitors came this summer in record numbers, and they spent in record numbers. That's terrific, and every single Yukoner is proud of that.
Now, how do we do this in the future? How do we evaluate this? What are we doing and how are we going to improve upon it? What is this government's answer? What's their answer?
Well, one of the answers is the runway extension. My, oh my, oh my, isn't that generating some questions? It was a long-standing project that the government could quickly pull off the shelves to generate capital works in advance of Shakwak. Is the runway expansion on time? Is it on budget? Has the planning been done appropriately? Can the new area even be fully used? Can it?
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Can the extension even be fully used? Is there a problem with the horizon? Well, there's a problem with the NDP's economic horizon. I'll continue to speak about that.
We are delighted that a 767 can now land here - we hope - when it's done. If only it could take off fully loaded, even when the extension is done.
We have a new NDP economic tourism strategy, all right. It's called "Lure Them and Lose Them". We lure them with brochures that don't even have the right maps, and then we lose them because the plane can't take off.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order, please. Order.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
These initiatives are part of a tourism picture. We have seen no articulation of the big picture of tourism. Where are we going with this industry? Are we focusing solely on ecotourism, as discussions about the protected areas strategy would have us believe? What about air access to other communities? What about air access to Watson Lake? What about air access to Dawson? What about the rest of the Yukon? What about finally helping Watson Lake to market the Northern Lights Centre?
Most importantly, there are all kinds of tourism organizations. How does the government anticipate that all of these organizations - the Anniversaries Commission, First Nations Tourism Association, the Wilderness Tourism Association, Yukon Convention Bureau, the Department of Tourism, the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon - how does the government anticipate that all these organizations are going to work together and support tourism working together? How is the government, and these organizations, going to articulate a vision for tourism in the Yukon? We haven't seen it.
Let's talk about the one organization that's been in and out of the tourism industry for the last 10 years, sometimes funded, sometimes not: the Yukon Convention Bureau. Where do they sit? Where is the vision for how the NDP government will work with the industry and government, and the full-service marketing agency, to get the most golden eggs from the tourism goose?
The Yukon Convention Bureau is an important point to discuss. The Minister of Tourism needs to take a look at how Saskatoon has become the number-one destination spot in Canada for Canadian visitors. Saskatoon, of all places - no offense to my relatives that live there - because of the efforts of their convention bureau, and every year this government discusses whether or not they should even consider funding them.
Mining and tourism - two of the Yukon's economic mainstays. Is the NDP government managing these industries in a manner that generates confidence among Yukoners? Are they working with them? In the number of questions in the minds, not just of the Yukon Liberal Party caucus, but in the minds of Yukoners, I would suggest not.
Let's talk about the rest of the Yukon economy, one job, one business at a time. And no, Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of the Member for Faro, I'm not going to read from the phone book or the Yukon Chamber of Commerce or the Whitehorse of Commerce or the Faro chamber or any of the other chambers of commerce membership lists, although they are shrinking.
The agricultural industry in the Yukon is growing. The Minister of Economic Development loves to criticize this caucus for being confrontational and for not coming forward with constructive suggestions, not patting them on the back when they do something right. Well, I will say that the agricultural industry in the Yukon is growing. Unfortunately, it's not all to the credit of the NDP government. The minister knows full well that this caucus has been supportive of the agricultural industry in the Yukon, and we will continue to be so. We have also appreciated the federal initiatives, such as the CARD fund, that have generated good research work in Yukon agriculture and have resulted in some innovative, good projects taking place this summer.
The potato project in the Member for Kluane's riding by well-known Yukon farmer Rod Tait is just one example of successfully developing, using federal dollars in the CARD fund to help our agricultural industry grow. This government can't take the credit for managing the agricultural climate.
While we're on the subject of renewable resources, let's talk about tetrapacks. You know, it has to be something to do with the NDP. I'd like to share with members an example of the NDP and the economy. This is how the NDP governments manage the economy.
Last year in B.C., two entrepreneurs sold their Brew King home winemaking company for $2.5 million. These Prince Rupert brothers reinvested their money in a B.C. company specializing in an innovative product, an alternative to tetrapacks. The NDP B.C. government introduced a recycling deposit on all ready-to-drink containers, but they exempted tetrapacks. The response by these innovative entrepreneurs, and I quote, "We're toast," the principals sighed.
The NDP government here, in spite of their promise not to raise taxes, went ahead with the deposit this spring on tetrapack containers, and have subsequently cost Yukon families $80,000 since the tax was introduced on July 1.
I have two constructive suggestions on how the NDP government could be managing the economy in this one area alone. First of all, let's welcome these innovative entrepreneurs to the Yukon. They might not be welcome in B.C., but they sure are welcome here. And if you have to tax juice, let's quit penalizing children and families, and raise the money on beer and wine and whiskey bottles. That doesn't generate jobs when you take money from families' budgets, Mr. Speaker. It does not.
There are other areas for economic opportunity in the Department of Renewable Resources. I'd like to look at the bison hunt in terms of the Yukon economy.
I wrote to the minister strongly recommending that the lottery be open to Yukoners in a full and fair fashion. I also recommended that we get the full social and economic benefits from this hunt. Of the 34 permits, how much money could we raise to reinvest in Yukon's renewable resources and their management if we allowed only two of those permits to go outside the territory? What would a hunter from Europe or North America pay for an opportunity to hunt for just one bison? Did the minister even discuss this with the interested parties at the table? Was it even raised as an option?
Again, I'd like to point to the tourism discussion in Saskatoon. Saskatoon, a small community just north ... The Member for Porter Creek North is passing a note that he doesn't think that that could, that the option of two permits might not raise money from outside of the territory. I think it would, and I'd like to see the numbers that say it wouldn't.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: If the members are -
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the point I was going to make with respect to the bison also is that I note that a small visitor attraction just north of Saskatoon, the number-one spot in Canada for attracting Canadian visitors, is importing two live bison as an attraction, and I would point to the opportunities that are being missed in terms of wildlife-viewing in this territory.
The minister talks about one job at a time. Let's talk about one business at a time in the Yukon economy. There are half a dozen car dealerships in Whitehorse alone. Why is it that if this government is truly interested in local hire and in generating one job at a time, they buy only two types of vehicles? Why not spread the work around? This is something that government has direct control over. It's not a megaproject. It's one job at a time, if they share the opportunities. That's one suggestion.
Mr. Speaker, I'd like to talk about a couple of other ideas that have been brought forward in this House. My colleague brought forward the motion - Motion No. 98 - "That it is the opinion of this House that to encourage new investment in the Yukon economy -
Point of order
Mr. Fentie: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The Member for Watson Lake, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: We're here to debate Motion No. 132, I believe it is, and not the motion on whatever number the member was going to bring forward, and I think we should stick to that motion. It's about the non-confidence issue with this government and the economy of the Yukon Territory.
Speaker: The Member for Porter Creek South, on the point of order.
Ms. Duncan: On the point of order, the motion I was discussing is directly related to the economy and the confidence of the government.
Speaker: There is no point of order.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
As I was saying, we're talking about good ideas that have been brought forward in terms of managing and working with the Yukon economy. One of the ideas brought forward from the Yukon Liberal Party caucus was a motion to encourage the House to look at new investment in the Yukon economy, to create new jobs in Yukon businesses associated with new investment, and to diversify and stabilize the Yukon economy. The suggestion was that the government review the experiences of other jurisdictions with investment tax credit programs and introduce an investment tax credit system.
The benches opposite love to portray the Liberal caucus as not coming forward with good ideas. Well, I was delighted to see, last week, that the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce has decided to action this motion, even if the government has not.
No, the government's response is to ask the Member for Lake Laberge to monitor a suggestion box for ideas. Why does the government wait for everybody else to pick up the ball first? When are they going to take some action? When are they going to take some responsibility?
I'd like to mention a few statistics that relate to the economy, and these are from the Yukon monthly statistical review for September of this year, which I note says that these are the most current statistics available on the state of the Yukon's economy.
The economy, Mr. Speaker, is nothing without people, and we have fewer people in the Yukon than we did a year ago. In June, 32,209 people called this territory home. In June of 1997, there were 33,586 people here. That's a 4.1-percent decrease. Even the birth rate's down, but I'm not going to blame the government for that.
We have people moving in looking for new opportunities. They've come here in search of a new beginning, loving what we have to offer - the space and the freedom. Five hundred and eighty-four people moved here in April, May and June of this year. In the same time period, 849 people moved out. Long, long, long-time Yukoners are calling it quits. They've lived through economic ups and economic downs, and they can't see the next increase. They're leaving one family, one job, at a time. Every single Yukon community, except Tagish, saw their population and their tax base decrease in the last year. Tagish gained seven people. It's not surprising. The Member for Faro even kibitzed about it across the floor.
It's not surprising that the biggest loss of people was from Faro - a 13.6-percent decrease. The government's statistical review says that the population of Faro in June was 1,094. People have suggested to me that the actual population is considerably less than that.
About half of the Yukon population is employed. The unemployment rate shows a decrease: 10.4 percent in August of this year, compared to 11.7 percent in August of 1997. Ten point four percent is the lowest it's been for a year. That doesn't mean necessarily that more Yukoners are finding jobs. It means that people have given up. It means fewer people are looking for work. It means fewer people live here now.
The unemployment rate is not something the Yukon government should be proud of, because a significant percentage of the 849 people who moved out earlier this year would have stayed if they had work.
The government talks about making things better, one job at a time.
How many more families have to head south before the government will actually do something? We're losing people we cannot afford to lose, Mr. Speaker. These are skilled trade people.
Walking around the communities of the Yukon, there are empty houses everywhere - houses with for-sale signs on them, and for-rent signs on apartment buildings that always used to be full. In the spring, real estate transactions decreased by one-third in the Yukon - 32.9 percent. That's almost $13 million less than in the same period last year. The average selling price of a house is down, new construction is down, the value of building permits, in Whitehorse alone, is down almost 40 percent.
People say, "Well, what difference does a 40-percent decrease in building permits make? What difference does that make? Well, look at the businesses around Whitehorse. Look at the carpenters, the electricians, at the stores and businesses that sell the things that we use in our homes and in building our homes. Ask them if business is down. They'll tell you just how much a 40-percent decrease in building permits means to them. They'll tell you.
It's interesting that the Member for Whitehorse Centre says, "Been there, done that" and seems to make light of the arguments I'm presenting to the House today. Those people who were employed - that used to be employed - in construction in those new homes and in construction on other buildings live in my riding, and they're unemployed, and they are desperately, desperately worried about their families and about this winter. They do not want to go south.
Residential permits are down. Commercial permits are down.
Why would somebody take the risk of building a new house or a commercial building in Whitehorse now? Why would they? With the tourism figures, Mr. Speaker, retail sales were up seven percent from July 1997 to July 1998. The visitors came and the visitors spent. You also have to, though, look at the wholesale figure. The wholesale figures for the same period were down by 12 percent. It's interesting to note that one of the few areas in our economy that has increased is the sale of petroleum products and no, it's not anything to do with the minister's favourite soapbox issue: oil and gas.
The increase in the sale of petroleum products is up 14 percent in the past year. Do you know what that is? That's the sound of Yukoners packing up and going south. Moving companies have reported an absolutely record year. They have taken truckload after truckload of people's belongings to Alberta or points east, taking life-long Yukoners away.
The moving companies may be busy, but the local, small airlines are hurting. Forest fires are the only reason the helicopter industry in the Yukon was able to survive the summer. One helicopter operator said to me the other day, "There was nothing else but the forest fires."
Last Friday, Mr. Speaker, the Whitehorse office of White Pass closed its doors.
This has been a company that's been involved in every facet of transportation in the Yukon - railroad, airplane, bus, ocean freighter, oil tanker, freight truck and mail truck. That company employed hundreds of people all over the Yukon. It employed several generations of the same Yukon families, and it closed its Whitehorse office without so much as a "Thank you for being a corporate citizen in the Yukon" from this government. Over the years, White Pass has contributed to the Yukon economy.
Mr. Speaker, White Pass isn't the only company that's leaving the Yukon. We heard the other morning that North West Company -
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the other morning on the way to work, members heard that the North West Company is closing its doors. The other business that is closing down for the winter -
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Thank you. The North West Company is closing its office in Whitehorse, and the Government Leader and I had a dispute the other day about the real reason behind the closure for the winter of the River View Hotel. We'll leave that as a dispute between members. The point is that it was a discussion about the economy.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the benches across the way will try and respond with a list of initiatives - one job at a time, a long list of things they're doing about the economy. We had one today. The government had the gall to raise the Old Crow school as a model of Yukon hire. Construction of the new Old Crow school was supposed to be all-Yukon.
All the Yukon companies did was process the cheques, and a lot of money went south, a lot of money. Actually...
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Let the member continue.
Ms. Duncan: ... Mr. Speaker, some of the money went west; it didn't all go south, some of it went west. How much was spent flying material for the school into Old Crow from Alaska? How much?
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order, please. Order.
Ms. Duncan: Why did the money not go to Yukon companies, flying that material into Old Crow? Why not? They could have obtained ...
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: ... the aircraft. If this government really believed in Yukon entrepreneurs, they'd give them an opportunity. At least one company had made the inquiries, and was more than prepared to have a suitable aircraft in place. But the NDP government, in its wisdom, chose to let our neighbours to the west benefit. Why is this government so anxious to let everybody but Yukoners work? They talk about creating work one job at a time. Let's see some evidence.
Education and schools. As a former Minister of Education, many Yukoners expected more from the Government Leader. In 1994, when the Yukon Party was in government, the Member for Porter Creek North, in this throne speech, made a commitment to build new schools, and upgrade existing facilities, where there's most need. Where are those schools, Mr. Speaker?
In 1996, the Government Leader, and former Minister of Education, said in his throne speech that the government was fully committed to public education. Well, where are the new schools?
The Government Leader quizzed his predecessor at some length about the failure to build new schools. Where are they? The need has not gone away. Classrooms in many schools are in need of repair and are over-crowded.
School buildings are in desperate need of replacement - desperate need. There are jobs crying out to be created to fill this need. They're crying out. The skilled trades people who aren't building homes in Whitehorse because of the lack of building permits could be working on new schools.
And the NDP government says we don't come forward with ideas. We came forward with the idea of public-private partnerships, and we came forward with a specific idea, on more than one occasion, of a public-private partnership for a new school in Mayo - over and over and over and over again.
Public-private partnerships - the NDP have ignored the suggestion - ignored it. And they've cried out that, "Oh, it's debt." Well, they just got a one-time payment from the federal government - a one-time payment of $24 million. Couldn't some of that have gone to build a much-needed new school in this territory? It went everywhere else.
So, what are their answers, Mr. Speaker? We're talking about their ability to manage the Yukon economy. Well, let's talk about some of those initiatives. We've asked steadily this week for a list of the jobs - can't get it, but we can blame everybody. We can blame absolutely everybody, especially those federal Liberals.
Let's talk about that, one job at a time.
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, let's talk about that, one job at a time. Let's talk about what the NDP government is doing. Well, their prime, number-one point when they talk about Yukon's economy, working to make it even better - although their protected areas strategy reference is "not further damaging"; get the story straight, folks - talks about promoting the Yukon and announcing a new trade and investment fund and a trade and investment diversification strategy. Well, my, my, my, isn't that new. That's exactly the same thing the NDP government did in 1986, when the Yukon economy was in the same boat, and we still don't have any results. I've asked time, after time, after time the Minister of Economic Development to show us the results of the trade and investment diversification strategy.
Show us the jobs. Name the jobs that have been produced by this. Nothing. They will not provide a list.
The minister points to Chile. He talks about that wonderful trade mission. You're right, Mr. Speaker, you know there are opportunities in Chile. So, how come that group that travelled to Chile wasn't even briefed by the trade and investment diversification strategy officer? Where was that person briefing them? If this is the corner piece, why aren't they working together? Their offices are less than a block apart, for heaven's sake. And if this is the government's cornerstone, why isn't that strategy and why aren't those people involved in helping every single business person who travels outside of this territory? Why aren't they debriefing them? Why aren't they?
Well, Mr. Speaker, I'll tell you they're not. They're not. Why aren't they? They cannot seem to find their way out of their corner office to talk to people, to listen to Yukoners, to hear about what's going on in the Yukon economy, to hear the worry in people's voices, to hear how concerned they are. Over and over and over again, people have said, "What are we going to do come January; what are we going to do come December? What are we going to do for jobs?" And the government mewls back platitudes about trade and investment diversification strategies, and we don't see any results - any results.
The government's other corner piece for promoting the Yukon economy, promoting one job at a time, is the infamous Yukon hire. There are some elements of that work done by the Yukon hire commission that were very good. I've said that in the House. I've also questioned, over and over again, this idea of the hiring agency. Yet the government does not seem to want to back off, does not want to hear what Yukoners are saying - that they do not want this.
The Government Services minister stood up and said all these recommendations will be implemented fully now. Well, that message to the business community was: you're getting a hiring agency for the next major project in the Yukon.
That is not a constructive message to the business community of the Yukon. That is not building the Yukon economy one job at a time. That is scaring business away. That creates uncertainty. That uncertainty goes further. It goes further when there's little or no progress on Yukon land claims. It goes further when there's complete uncertainty around what DAP really means, particularly emanating from that bench over there.
That uncertainty goes on and gets worse when there's an inability to deal with First Nations on forestry. That uncertainty doesn't build the Yukon economy. It holds us back. It doesn't create a sense of hope and opportunity. It doesn't create jobs for Yukoners. What it creates is a business community elsewhere that says, "You know what? Call us when you've finally got your act together." That's what it creates.
The NDP government in British Columbia - you know, Mr. Speaker, you would really think that we, in the Yukon, could learn something from their mistakes. Instead, the Minister of Economic Development seems to get his lessons in finance from them. The NDP in B.C. have managed to destroy the most vibrant economy in Canada in the last three years. This NDP government isn't doing much better.
Mr. Speaker, in previous years in the Yukon, Yukoners have enjoyed the benefits of what's known as economic development agreements. A great deal of work has been done on assessing these agreements: where they were successful, where they weren't and how we could make better use of these sorts of agreements. Every other jurisdiction in Canada is enjoying these, using them and creating and building their economies.
There was a line in the federal Minister of Finance's budget about building a new vision, a new economy, in the north. What has this government done to take up that offer?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Ms. Duncan: I've obviously touched a nerve, because the benches opposite finally seem to have acted on that suggestion. That was February; this is November. Excuse me, where has this government been? If they're that interested in creating one job at a time and managing the Yukon economy, where have they been? Why weren't they at the door, saying, "Right, here you go, here's our vision, we've got a plan, let's get on with it, let's do something." No, we dilly-dally, talk about all sorts of initiatives. Talk, talk, talk. Let's see some action from the government. Let's see some concrete initiatives, some steps that will tell us what jobs have been created. Not gabfests, as my colleague refers to them quite appropriately. Let's actually see some jobs.
The members opposite really want to stand up and espouse the government's record. They really want to say, "Yes, we have generated confidence in the economy; we really have generated one job at a time." Mr. Speaker, if they have, then prove it. All I can say to them, and show to them, over and over again are people, unemployed, in my riding. People whose addresses now read "Edmonton", "Calgary", "Ontario"; visionary people, skilled people, life-long Yukoners, who have left in despair over the economy.
The NDP government is failing to live up to its responsibility to the people of Yukon. It's not coping well with the economic difficulties that we're facing.
This government has put most of the economic hope on one industry - one golden egg - tourism. They're hoping that it's going to save the territory. Tourism is a strong, wonderful opportunity for Yukoners. Let's not lose it because we've mismanaged it.
This government has an opportunity. If ever there was a chance to say that you had a choice, this is it. They have a choice. They have an opportunity. They could be far more supportive of mining, which has long been the backbone of our economy. Stand up, take some responsibility and tell Yukoners, not what you can't do, but what you can do; what you are going to do, how you're going to do it. Give us the timeline; give us the results.
The NDP government fails to react quickly. It fails to plan adequately. It's failing to diversify sufficiently, and most of all, Mr. Speaker - most importantly - they're failing to provide Yukoners with the proof that one job at a time is actually being created and that one Yukoner at a time is actually seeing work this winter, seeing hope for the future and seeing a job and job prospects in February and March and April and next summer.
The NDP government fails to see beyond the end of this current mandate. It's failing to ensure that our children have hope for the future; that they have an opportunity for a job that will continue to build this territory.
Mr. Speaker, the government may not always listen to me. In fact, quite frequently, they don't listen to the constructive suggestions from our caucus. If the government benches cannot take constructive criticism, and they cannot take constructive suggestions from us, then let's take it from Yukoners. Let's listen to what they have to say. Let's hear what they are saying when they are having coffee, when they're grocery shopping, when they're talking to one another as they're packing their belongings and saying goodbye to friends. Let's listen to what they have to say.
I support the motion I have brought forward today, and I would urge members to strongly think about it - to actually set aside their egos for 30 seconds and think about what I said. Think about it. Can you stand on the floor of the House and say, as members of the government, "Yes, we have actually done X, Y and Z. We've been there when the mining companies have asked. We've been there. I've talked to the geologists as they've come up"? Can the government say any of those things, Mr. Speaker? Can they? And can they show Yukoners one job at a time? Can they show them? Where are they? Where are the jobs for Yukoners? - not the list of these same old NDP consultants and the B.C. hires. Where are the Yukoners that are hired? Where are the jobs? Where are they? This isn't an issue that Yukoners take lightly, however much the government benches think that this is a capricious motion, or that I have brought forward this motion because I chose to somehow provide an opportunity to grandstand, or to somehow make light of this issue.
Mr. Speaker, that is not my intent. I said at the beginning, and I'll repeat it, so perhaps members can open their ears and listen. This is a serious issue; it's a serious issue to Yukoners. I've pointed out areas where there are ongoing questions. Question after question. Where has the government been on the mining industry? Not who's to blame, but where has this government been? Where's the vision for the tourism future? Where are the jobs in our small Yukon businesses? Where are they?
This government has an opportunity. Where have they said, "Hey, we can create more jobs if we simply contract the purchase of cars differently"? That's an opportunity, and the government ignores it. Where does the government say, "You know, if we took the time and looked at contracts, we could ensure that more Yukoners have opportunities"?
Instead of creating one job at a time, Mr. Speaker, the NDP government is losing one job at a time.
I commend this motion to the House, and ask members to seriously consider it, prior to their vote.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have never felt better about our government's position on the economy, after listening to that particular speech by the Liberal leader, the supposed leader of the Liberal Party.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite didn't need to take two hours with that hollow, empty vessel of a speech. I could sum it up in three words: yada, yada, yada.
That was all -
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: The Liberal plan, the answer, we've learned, for the economy, is a bison permit auction. That is how the member opposite, the leader of the Liberal Party, will systematically deal with the crises and the issues that face Yukon families by raising money through a bison permit auction. Next thing you know, it'll be Duncan's Bison Burgers down by the riverfront, perhaps a little hut that we'll be hucking these bison burgers out of, and that will be the salvation.
Mr. Speaker, there was not one constructive suggestion - not one constructive idea - just a litany of hollow criticism. Lectures, with much less than the facts about the situation. There were just interpretations designed for base, partisan, political reasons, put together in a confrontational manner, which is completely the opposite to what they promised the Yukon people in the last election.
I challenge Yukoners to read that speech and find anything substantive in the way of a new idea, that was truly developed by the Yukon Party - by the Liberal Party. Well, I get the Liberals and the Yukon Party confused a lot, Mr. Speaker. The reason for that, Mr. Speaker, is because they are one and the same. Unite the right is going on right here in this room.
When we saw the Liberals here in the Yukon and the Liberals in B.C. wanting to get closer together, when the Liberal leader here flew down as an emissary to B.C. to meet with Gordon Campbell, the Liberal leader, to discuss the Liberal position on land claims and to take their marching orders on how they would deep-six the Nisga'a treaty. We learned just how right wing -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Porter Creek South, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: On a point of order, the member is not stating the facts. The member is wrong in that assumption and I will table the documentation to prove it.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Speaker: The Minister of Economic Development, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member opposite is very embarrassed by her close connection to the Liberal Party in B.C. and is raising no point of order.
Speaker: A dispute between members as to the facts is not a point of order. Also I will repeat that when members rise to speak to a point of order, I would remind them that the Chair would be looking for advice as to which rule has or has not been broken. It does not help the Chair when members simply state that there is or there is not a point of order. When that is done, it sounds like members are giving the Chair direction rather than advice.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, before I was so rudely interrupted by the Liberal member and Liberal leader, whom I just endured for two hours, I was talking about the close relationship between the Liberal Party in B.C. and the Yukon Liberal Party in their opposition to the Nisga'a treaty and that, I think, has a very big impact on the economy - negatively - because what that process is about is bringing certainty to the British Columbia and it's about giving aboriginal people the rights that we already have entrenched here in the Yukon, and that includes self-government. I think that's a major advancement for the economy because we are indeed speaking about the economy. That's why our government is so supportive of the Nisga'a treaty and why we believe that that's going to be good for that province as well as our province in the future.
Absolutely. Now, Mr. Speaker, the members opposite have been, for their own base, partisan, political reasons, talking about their view of the economy, with the utmost in gloom and doom, trying to sour any confidence whatsoever in the economy. Now, this is done, not to help the business community, not to help workers, not to create any optimism, not to help Yukon people, their families, but it's done because the members opposite in the Yukon Liberal Party want to be in government. They want to be in government, so they can trot around and espouse the kind of empty rhetoric that the speech from the Liberal leader just contained two hours of.
I believe firmly that Yukon people see through those attempts. They know what this is about - this gloom and doom, Mr. Doom of the Yukon Party, Ms. Gloom of the Liberals - nothing but politics. It's not about helping families; it's not about helping Yukoners; it's not about talking about the optimism that does exist in the economy, the bright lights, the facts. It's got nothing to do with that. It's about a very selfish desire by the members in the opposition, in the face of the economy of the Yukon and the people of the Yukon, to try and sour any optimism.
But it's not working, because I talked to a lot of Yukoners and, yes, they are concerned about the economy, but they also say that they like a lot of what the government is doing. They recognize that when the government talks about the fact that base metals and precious metals - with the exception of diamonds - are at extreme lows, they know that that has an impact on the mining industry.
The members opposite, who are supposedly experts in business - they like to tell us that - should know that what you get for your product has an impact, not only on exploration - because a lot of times the producers buy the properties off the junior mining companies - but also on the majors like Inco, and Falconbridge, and Cominco, and all those companies that, right now, have seen their share prices and their values and their ability to make operating profits dramatically decrease, mostly as a result of the Asian flu. That is not an excuse; that is a fact.
That doesn't mean that this government takes no responsibility for the economy. We're just simply pointing out the environment, which we are presently living in and working within. That doesn't mean we're not doing a whole myriad of things that are positive, new advancements in our economy, that have never before been done. We take full responsibility for producing and delivering on those initiatives in areas that we can control, and Mr. Speaker, we have been doing so much. You will not hear from us the hollow vessel of a speech that you heard from the Liberal leader.
I'm going to go through the initiatives, the actual action steps, the product of what we are producing, and I challenge either party, in their rebuttal speeches, to come up with some ideas of their own, to help grab the rope and pull the Yukon along instead of trying to drag it down for their own base, partisan, political reasons in the face of Yukoners who know very well - particularly business people - that optimism breeds opportunity, and that it is only for selfish reasons that members opposite would engage in the behaviour that they behave in.
Mr. Speaker, the members opposite haven't seemed to grasp yet what our new vision for the Yukon is, a new Yukon economy. We've been talking about this since we got into government, because we knew, we were poised for a downturn in the resource sector. Throughout the years 1993 to 1997, there was unprecedented growth across this country, and even in the world, in those areas.
The Vancouver Stock Exchange was humming for the junior mining companies. Stock prices for Cominco and other big mining companies were in the 40s and 50s. Now, Mr. Speaker, we're dealing in the environment of the Bre-X fallout, where juniors can't raise capital for exploration. Only in the hottest plays in North America is there any money flowing into these properties, and usually those properties were found before Bre-X.
We are dealing in the environment where blue-chip stocks were returning returns of 40 or 50 percent to investors. Why would they invest in small mining properties in northern Canada and across this country, when they could get 40 to 50 percent on a bank stock?
Those are the realities. Those aren't excuses. Those are facts.
Mr. Speaker, we recognize that the mining industry is so critical to the Yukon economy, and we saw what was happening with Bre-X and with the Asian flu, and we said, "We cannot propagate the boom-bust economy into the future. We've got to change our strategy as a territory. We've got to think more about the future - about thinking outside of the box."
The Yukon Party answer to the economy was big mega-projects. Usually, they were negotiated by the NDP government, like the Shakwak project, or they were the $50-million hospital project, or it was the railway to Carmacks or other kinds of dream schemes that never worked, that never had a chance of being successful.
Their other answer to the economy was putting all their faith in massive government budgets. They even raised taxes to increase the capital budget to, so-called, put people to work. They took the money out of Yukoners' pockets, put it into capital works and called that economic development. I call that an artificial economy.
We made a commitment not to raise taxes, and we're not going to tease Yukoners by taking the money out of their pockets and then building some capital project that's going to create some job for a very short period of time, and then it will be gone, and the Yukoners' taxes will still be high.
Mr. Speaker, we saw that the economy must change, that we've got to think outside the box. We've got to create an economy that can stand on its own through tough times in a cyclical resource sector. We know the mining industry is going to come back. We're making a lot of progress, in terms of working to ensure that that's going to happen. I'm going to focus on mining a little more later and some of the good comments we've had from the industry and from people involved in the mining sector. I'll table them for the member opposite, as she snorts over there at my comments.
Mr. Speaker, let me just say that what the members opposite, in the united right wing of this Legislature - the Liberals and Tories - would do is have us further permeate that attitude of "when the economy is good cyclically in the resource sector, everything is great".
They put us back into that boom-bust scenario. What we want to do is build a new Yukon - a more diversified and a more stable economy that focuses on new areas of job creation, like the infrastructure in telecommunications, infrastructure in new communication vehicles, utilizing new tools we have to move to improve our economy, like improving Internet access around the territory.
We want to talk about new export opportunities, so that businesses - like one I was recently at a press conference with, before our trade mission to Alaska; they said that in 1996, when they started focusing heavily on the internal and external economy outside the Yukon, they've gone from three to nine jobs. Now, to me, that makes sense. That's a small, applied technology company that is creating jobs and a good living for Yukon families.
I see nothing wrong with that. This, in large part, was one of the companies that I've talked to who felt very good about the direction the government is taking in terms of improving our ability to export outside the Yukon and making the companies at home much more stable.
We've also been looking at new investment vehicles, so that we're not a cyclical resource sector, up-and-down economy. We are a more diversified, stable, job-producing economy that can ride out the highs and the lows.
Mr. Speaker, that, unfortunately, is not something that the members opposite share as an objective. They would rather get us right back into that false sense of security, where when metal prices are good, everything is wonderful, and when metal prices are bad, they would call it Armageddon.
We don't subscribe to that theory. We have a different opinion than the members opposite.
The Liberals, in their speech, proposed one other alternative. They somehow think that they invented this so-called three-P process, the so-called public-private sector partnership.
Our position is that we'll engage those ideas, as long as they don't involve long-term obligations to future Yukon families, and they don't involve debt. In most cases, almost every one I've seen, there are either long-term obligations that other governments and other Yukon families will have to bear, and there's also debt, which will mean fewer choices for future generations.
Now, I'm not saying it's not a quick fix. It's great for people who want to get elected, in some cases, because they can go out and they can promise new schools - which I'm sure the Liberals will do. They actually promised a bridge in Dawson, with a toll booth. Everybody remember that during the last election? And that was a three-P project, where the private sector would do it. It only would be bond financing.
Now, Mr. Speaker, what is bond financing? Well, that's debt financing, Mr. Speaker. So here you would've had a Liberal government in the territory prepared to plunge us into a deficit and give us existing interest payment obligations to meet, to give future generations fewer choices, so they could satisfy a quick-and-dirty election commitment that they made.
That's the kind of ideas that the members opposite have. They're stale; for the most part, they're nonexistent; and Mr. Speaker, they have nothing to do with vision. They have nothing to do with a new economy that's more stable and diverse. They have nothing to do with concrete ideas. They are hollow, empty vessels of criticism. Two hours we were subjected to, and the best they could come up with was three Ps and a bison permit auction.
Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about some of the initiatives that this government has underway. I'm going to go into some detail about them, because I think they're worthy of some discussion, because they're real actions. We're not sitting there, nitter-natting for two hours, picking away - pick, pick, pick - and offering nothing up as a way of a solution - nothing. A bison permit auction and three Ps.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is heckling over investment tax credits. We're well underway in dealing with investment tax credits. We're the first government ever, in the Yukon, to bring them into effect.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member opposite says she gave us the idea. Next she'll tell me she invented the light bulb, too.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I've never heard anything so ridiculous - she gave me the idea. Because she said it once in here, she gave us the idea. She has a high value of her opinion, Mr. Speaker.
We have been bringing about new ideas and new initiatives, because we believe our economy has to be the resource sector, and more. We strongly believe that. So, we put a lot of work in the resource sector, because those are the core, long-term, economic generators for the Yukon, traditionally.
But we've been expanding that in oil and gas. We've been doing new things, such as developing the mineral strategy with the mining sector - that's never been done. But, Mr. Speaker, we're not going to focus solely in that area. That's why our export trade and investment strategy has been so successful. We have had business partners right now: the Tourism Industry Association, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, the college has asked to be on it, the Yukon Chamber of Mines and the Yukon Federation of Labour. We've had requests from both the City of Whitehorse and the Association of Yukon Communities.
There are just so many, Mr. Speaker. I hope I'm not doing a disservice, because the amount of people and the interest in this particular initiative is very, very strong. I hope I haven't left somebody out. If I have, it's not for lack of ensuring that all their views are important to the initiative.
But my point is that this particular initiative is popular because it is a vision for the future. It is a real opportunity. That's why, when the businesses go on trade missions, like the recent one to Alaska, they talk to Yukoners. I have some press clippings and letters here, from businesses that say that it was an excellent experience. I have letters to the editor that say they actually signed contracts, and that the Yukon government should do more of this.
There are comments on the radio saying Yukon businesses have a lot to offer both in the Yukon and outside in innovative new ways. That's not me speaking; those are the businesses we're working with. There are businesses that are saying that the government opened the doors for them on these trade missions and that they got invitations to bid. In one case, I know one person who five times increased their business. Yesterday I had a call from a business person who just got a contract for 700 cases of their product to a major global distributor. We've been working with them on the export trade strategy.
Mr. Speaker, did you know we have over 70 businesses now working with them on case files for improving export opportunities - over 70. Now these businesses employ real Yukoners who have real jobs and real families. Now, that's action and that's sustainable and that is the resource sector and more, and that's what we've been talking about.
So, Mr. Speaker, I know it's painful for the Liberal caucus to hear positive things. They don't want to hear them, but I don't think they can even, in all their negativity, claim that if it was not a good initiative more and more organizations and people wouldn't want to be getting on the band wagon, and that's what we see. If it was a dud, truly, they couldn't look at themselves in the mirror and say, people would be asking to be on this initiative and in this partnership.
The Council of Yukon First Nations is prominent. The Yukon First Nations Tourism Association participates from time to time. Why? Because they believe in the initiative.
So, the members opposite can try - I know because it's ours, it's painful for them - and knock it down, beat it down like everything else that's a bright light in the economy for their own selfish political benefit, but it's a good thing. It's a good thing for Yukon workers and Yukon businesses and that's a fact. There is testimonial after testimonial after testimonial - not from me, but from those people and from those workers who will say that.
Mr. Speaker, with regard to that trade mission, there were many deals announced.
The trade mission that we went on to South America with Team Canada - four of the businesses that went with us, three of them are still actively participating in what they did on that trade mission. One has been back already since. One, I think, is going again this month, and one is still working on some regulatory issues. I think they've engaged a contractor to deal with some of the issues that were identified in one of the South American countries and are still advancing with their project.
Every one of those businesses said that this was a good thing, that this is a good thing for government to do.
Now, the members opposite call it a junket, because again, they are jealous. For their own selfish political reasons, they can't stand it when this government is out there doing positive things. It makes them ill, because when they hear others saying that this is a good thing, they have to find some way to knock it down. Most of the time that's ineffective.
We've just recently seen the Housing Corporation, which has been a great help with our export trade diversification strategy, getting very aggressive in terms of helping businesses. These are the clients that I'm talking about. They are doing some work down in Chile, Mr. Speaker. Now, the members opposite will say: "Well, that's no good. All the work should be here in the Yukon. Yukon businesses shouldn't do work anywhere else." I believe that Yukon businesses will be stronger back home for Yukon workers if they have work in the Yukon and outside, just like businesses in Alberta and British Columbia and Saskatchewan and Ontario and Nova Scotia.
You can't be so myopic in your view. You've got to broaden your view. You've got to have a vision. You've got to take concrete steps, make concrete suggestions if you want to be a good opposition. So far, I haven't seen that.
Mr. Speaker, the trade investment fund that we've just announced - lots of support from the business community on the trade investment fund. The communities that are going to be participating in the tourism marketing fund are so excited, because this government has seen that there are good ideas out in those communities. And if they are outside the normal marketing approach, we'll be there to give them support and work with them in a partnership to try to make their projects a reality.
What's wrong with that, Mr. Speaker? That's a concrete action.
Now, let's talk about another concrete action. That's the tax reform table. Now, Mr. Speaker, again, tremendous support from the local business community. We have broadened the base from the business community at the tax table to include other voices in labour, the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment.
Now, the Liberals would have us just shoot from the hip, or so they intimate, and just announce some tax program. We'd rather involve Yukoners in that, because we know that this is the first time in Yukon history that taxes have actually been modified to try and create opportunities - the first time in history.
The Yukon Party's economic strategy, conversely, when they were in, was to bring in the most massive and obscene tax rate increases in the history of the Yukon. Then they took that money and plowed it into capital projects, and called that economic development. And they call that democracy.
Mr. Speaker, I call it not democracy, nor do I call it an economic strategy. What I call it is an artificial economy. That is, in large part, what is responsible for the economic situation we have today.
Now, I take responsibility for dealing with the problems we have in this situation, but I will not hesitate to state the facts of the environment we're dealing with.
One of the tax reforms we've talked about involves the mining industry, and it's just one element, and that's in the area of exploration. That's a hard, concrete step that we're going to take. If it makes sense, if it adds up through the consultation, then we'll be there. We've put a very excellent MLA in charge of heading up that table, the MLA for Laberge, who's got a very consultative approach. He wants to hear what people have to say. He wants to take steps that are going to be very proactive.
Mr. Speaker, just a couple of weeks ago in the paper, there was a great picture of the Chamber of Commerce and the Minister of Government Services cutting red tape. And what did I hear from the business community? They said that this is a great idea; we've got to do more of this; we're glad the government's doing this.
What did the opposition say? Well, of course, they mocked it. Why? Because of selfish, partisan, political reasons.
Because it's our idea. Mr. Speaker, the members opposite say, "It's got no teeth." I challenge the member opposite to read her speech tomorrow, when it comes out in Hansard - no teeth, no substance, void. It was the Swiss cheese of Liberal speeches, the angel food cake - light and fluffy. I felt like I was going to be asked to go to the back for a strap after; a hollow lecture, no ideas.
Yet, Mr. Speaker, we put forward concrete ideas, we work with the business community, we implement ideas, and what do we hear? "There's nothing to it." Well, it's just not real. It's just not believable.
I'm proud of the work that the Minister of Government Services is doing. We are working very closely together with Economic Development and the Housing Corporation on new initiatives and building this new economy, and there's interdepartmental cooperation among the deputy ministers like I've never seen before. They're sweating blood, and they're putting in lots of time, and they're doing a great job of working together to try and meet our objective.
I think they deserve a lot of credit for that. The officials that work with them, the managers, are really putting a lot of effort into working together, dealing with these problems. They're not shirking their responsibility for this economy, and I'm really pleased with some of the excitement I've seen within the government, as well as within the people of the Yukon, for these new initiatives.
Because, Mr. Speaker, one job at a time, we're going to build a stronger, more diversified and better economy in this territory. And when we do get metal prices rebounding, that's going to be gravy, Mr. Speaker, and the numbers will reflect that.
The opposition would have Yukoners believe that if the Faro mine and its 1,000 jobs go away - that's 18 percent of the gross domestic product - that somehow isn't going to show up in the statistics. Well, I've got news for them. It has for time immemorial. If you look at the numbers from 1993-94, for all this talk of everybody leaving, that's completely false. I have the numbers right here that compare very clearly that in 1993-94, when the Yukon Party was the government and that particular shutdown occurred, the workforce was smaller, and the number of employed was smaller. In 1996, in August alone, we had the largest workforce in the history of the Yukon: 16,700 people.
That's the largest workforce in the history of the Yukon, and they claim that everybody has left. It's just not true, but it's their way of dealing with the fact that the unemployment rate is 8.9 percent. Of course, that's moderately good news. It's on the way down, and they don't want to deal with that.
You'll notice that in the Liberal leader's speech, she mentioned last month's unemployment rate, which was over 10 percent. She didn't mention 8.9 percent. Very cute, very clever, but hardly - actually, I can't give her credit for being clever on that. It's just a violation of what they told the Yukon people they were going to be about. It's not the alternative to the politics of confrontation. In fact, it's very selective use of statistics to try and make a partisan, political point. It doesn't help Yukoners. It's just more doom and gloom.
Mr. Speaker, when we look at the numbers in 1993, the workforce totalled 15,000 people. There was 13,300 employed. That was September. In August, there were 15,100 in the workforce and 13,500 employed. In 1994, in September, we had 15,400 and in the workforce, 13,800. Then we go to this year and we see that in August, we had 16,700 in the labour force and 15,000 employed. Those are huge numbers. And the opposition would have the public believe that everyone has left; that the Yukon's lights have been turned out and everyone's gone back to Alberta. The Government Leader's gone back to his birthplace - the former government leader, I should say.
That is just not the case. Because the former Yukon Party president - a two-time Yukon Party candidate - wrote hate mail on his way out of the territory, it doesn't mean it's true.
I'm dealing with concrete steps here and I'm really trying to show the difference between us - our new visions, our new economy, diversifying it, building it stronger for the future and the resource sector and more. I really want to express the difference between our views - my speech versus hers.
Mr. Speaker, the immigrant investment fund, which we've contracted to be delivered in this territory is, again, somewhat controversial, but we know that to build a new economy, we can't lag behind the rest of the country. We're the only jurisdiction that does not have this in place. Why the Yukon Party didn't do it, I don't know. I think it's because they felt comfortable with a booming mining industry across this country and their reliance on tax increases and big government spending, but we have a different view and our view is that we have to use these vehicles to try and create jobs. We'll be developing that and once again, we've had nothing but rave reviews from business people and from people who employ people. We have had from Yukon workers nothing but rave reviews on this particular initiative that we're undertaking. Again, the opposition will say, "That's nothing".
Mr. Speaker, I can't believe the negativity, the gloom and doom on another major initiative that the government has undertaken. The new tourism strategy that the Minister of Tourism has kicked off has been extremely well received. Yukoners are crying out to speak to the government about where we're going with tourism in this territory. They want to know what the future is going to be. The former Tourism minister was so myopic and had such tunnel vision, he spent hours up in his own office going over pictures and pamphlets and editing them. That's what he thought his job was: editing pamphlets. Maybe, you know, he put in a couple of extra shifts at the VRC so he could hand out some pamphlets. And, of course, there was the Beringia Centre, of which his ideas are so ancient they should be housed there.
The Minister of Tourism has launched something that's visionary, that works together with Yukoners to get us past this fixation on just the anniversaries. He's not the pamphlet editor; he's the minister. He's the person portraying the vision that this government is undertaking to build a new, stronger and more diverse tourism industry that's not just rubber-tire based, but that also folds into the work that we're doing with protected spaces to develop ecotourism, along with the Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act. All that work fits together to help build a new, stronger, more diverse and vibrant economy.
What did the opposition say about that new concrete initiative? Well, they said it's nothing. They pooh-poohed it, like everything else, for base, partisan, political reasons. And they're out of touch with the Yukoners who really commented on it, the real people of the Yukon, not the opposition - so hungry for government, they're prepared to say or do anything to try and get there.
Mr. Speaker, I'm really proud of the work that's gone on with the new flights that are coming in that the Tourism minister has undertaken. Again, a new concrete initiative, and the members opposite are so jealous, they're stuck in such a rut, they keep talking about the Air Transat deal. Well, the horse is out of the barn; the horse is gone; we're already galloping down the fairway. We're on the home stretch. They've still got the shovel, ready to clean the stall. We're way ahead of them. We've been and gone. And more people are coming.
The Yukon Party would have you believe the Boeing 747s are circling over the airport right now, ready to land. Mr. Speaker, we weren't going to put the runway lights in until next year. We haven't even paved it yet, and we didn't intend to. That's next year; that's another good initiative.
So, Mr. Speaker, I'm proud of the jobs that are being traded in the short term there for Yukoners, and I'm proud of that initiative, that we had the guts to go and do something that had to be done.
Tourism marketing fund - the people in Watson Lake, for example. The member opposite asked us about what we're doing for Watson Lake and the Northern Lights Centre. I couldn't believe that. We've been working with the economic development officer in Watson Lake. We just participated and partnered with them to send them to Taiwan with their tour group, DAP International. Why? Because we believe very strongly in what they're doing. And, Mr. Speaker, we partnered with them to do that. We have been helping them promote the Northern Lights Centre.
I just had 270 people in Watson Lake two weekends ago showing people from the oil and gas industry the Northern Lights Centre, and they were all put through the shows, they watched Pink Floyd, The Wall, they saw the northern lights show. They were impressed, and this government had that conference there just for that reason, because we wanted to show them the oil and gas industry in Yukon, show them we were welcoming development. But also, we wanted to enhance the ability of the community of Watson Lake to show what they had to offer these people from outside.
Mr. Speaker, to say anything else, other than that we have been supportive of the tourism initiatives of the community of Watson Lake would be completely ridiculous. And again, it's not true.
That's another concrete initiative, and our tourism marketing fund will do more of the same, and there is a lot more planned, and I can tell the members opposite are going to be a lot more jealous and a lot more selfish as we continue to unveil these economic announcements and concrete initiatives that we have been unveiling over the last couple of months.
So, Mr. Speaker, it was good to hear the Liberal Party come out of the closet on protected areas and express their opposition to protected areas. Now, that's not only a violation of their election campaign promise, in which the Liberal Party said that they would implement it.
Here are the Yukon Liberals on the environment. Remember the election campaign? It said that the Yukon Liberal government will establish a comprehensive protected areas system in the Yukon within the framework of Yukon First Nation final agreements.
Well, Mr. Speaker, that has not occurred. We have heard no support from them for this government's initiative. They are opposed to it. The right has united. The Yukon Party and the Liberals are opposed to the protected areas strategy, and I'm glad they came out of the closet on that today. They want to sit around and pick, pick, pick around the edges of the good initiatives that we have and sit on the fence. They've been doing that for the last year, but today we finally heard, and I'll make sure that the Yukon Conservation Society and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society know what the Liberal leader has to say about protected spaces. I will make sure that they know, because it's obvious that, through the veiled discussion about the protected areas, they are opposed to it, and they were chiming the lines of the Yukon Party about the devastation of the mining industry as a result of it, and then they are going to try to convince people who are concerned about the environment that they really mean that they support the protected areas strategy?
Did the members opposite mention the ecotourism opportunities that will be created through our initiative? Absolutely not. Mr. Speaker, the Wilderness Tourism Association knows about those economic opportunities, and I'm going to let them know that the members opposite are opposed to protected areas.
Thanks for coming out of the closet. This debate has been good for us.
Mr. Speaker, we just got a letter today - a press release from the Chamber of Mines. The Chamber of Mines says: "Many of the changes we suggested have been incorporated in this draft and agree that YPAS can now be implemented without impeding the Yukon mining industry, and we look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure that happens." That's good stuff. It was readily apparent that the members opposite would find something negative to say about it, but that's good stuff. That means we're working together with the mining industry; that they say we can do what we've done without impeding the mining industry.
The member opposite took a great run today at protected spaces, and I'm glad that they finally have come down on the side of negativity over that particular issue. It took a long time to smoke them out, but now they're there.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite also talked about - her knowledge of the mining industry is so inadequate - an exploration project of $3 million to be spent next year. She has no knowledge of what's actually going on. Is she aware that Boliden, the company that bought the Wolverine project, has declared it worthless? They've written it off the books. Why? Because of selenium in the deposit.
That's not my fault, Mr. Speaker. Absolutely -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: The Liberal Member for Riverside says, "Yes, it is." You know, that's the kind of attitude that we hear from the Liberal Party. The reason there's not $3 million being spent on exploration on the Wolverine property is because the company that owns it has declared it worthless.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I don't think that property is worthless, and I would argue to the contrary, but that's the environment. That's the environment the investor has declared, given the selenium that they have to work within.
The members opposite talked about the Kudz Ze Kayah. Well, the Kudz Ze Kayah, which is owned by Cominco, is ready to go. The member opposite says she didn't mention Kudz Ze Kayah. No, that's right. She mentioned Wolverine and talked about the fact that there's no exploration going on, without mentioning that it's been declared worthless by Boliden.
Mr. Speaker, with regard to Cominco and Kudz Ze Kayah, let's talk about the mining industry. Let's get into that for a little while. The member opposite talked about the mining industry, and I just want to read a comment. This is from The Fraser Institute. This is a right-wing think tank, not great friends of our government, by any way, shape or form. Here's what they say in an interview on Monday, October 19, about the mining industry. And, of course, they're speaking about a survey where we were ranked very high in Canada in an interview with the junior mining companies. On October 19, 1998 - that's this year - she said, "Well, I think, you know, number one, there's so much uncertainty on the side of just discovering a deposit that minimizing uncertainty about what it's going to take once you discover a deposit, so that you'd like to develop it into a mine, minimizing the uncertainty is critical. So, minimizing the lengthiness of the permitting process, particularly getting environmental permits, makes companies feel secure, when they find a good deposit, things will happen within a reasonable time frame. These are critical factors."
I had to sit here and listen to the Liberal member criticize me for the permitting process of the Yukon for the mining industry, which is controlled by the federal Liberal government in Ottawa. And, Mr. Speaker, let me tell her that it took eight months to get the Minto water licence signed by the federal minister, after they were in the permitting process for years. And the Western Copper property has been in permitting purgatory for four years. There could have been jobs for Yukoners. There could have been jobs for Yukoners with the Dublin Gulch property.
Mr. Speaker, I have had numerous meetings with the proponents of the Dublin Gulch property who are extremely frustrated with the permitting process - after three and a half years. There are jobs for Yukoners in the areas of Mayo, Elsa and Keno, where they badly need those jobs.
How dare the Liberal member have the audacity to stand here in this Legislature and criticize me for the federal Liberal government's permitting process? Let me just say that I didn't stop there just with hollow criticism like the member opposite. Our government and my department participated fully this spring with the Chamber of Mines in devising what we call "the blue book process" to try and improve the permitting process with the federal government. We went to a big meeting with all the mining companies doing business in the Yukon, and we sat there with the federal minister, and all the mining companies around the table, and the Chamber of Mines, talking about the permitting process and the problems you were having. And the federal minister said they would cooperate with this government to try and improve that process. And do you know what has happened, Mr. Speaker? Nothing, absolutely nothing on the permitting process. Four years for Dublin Gulch, four years for Western Copper, eight months to sign a water licence for Minto, no jobs, and don't lecture this government about the permitting process.
Now, Mr. Speaker, it was funny after that meeting. There was a lot of media up there to listen to the federal minister's comments. They came up to me after, and I said, "Well, do you want to talk to the big gun here from the federal government or this little pipsqueak here from the Yukon government?" and the media asked me, "Well, do you have anything negative to say?" I said, "Well, no I don't, because we had a good meeting here today on the blue book and I'm encouraged by what the federal minister said." I really think the mining industry here, as does the Fraser Institute - whose comments I just read - is key. Mining, permitting process, environmental water licensing, is critical to the successful mining industry in the territory.
Do you know, Mr. Speaker, I took the high road, and I was convinced - I had a little side discussion with the federal minister - there'd be a lot of energy put in to trying to improve this permitting process. And I must say that I'm extremely disappointed that I haven't seen the results of that. If the federal government is now willing to get back on track with the blue book process, our government will be there to try and improve it.
I'm not interested in selfish negativity, like the opposition Liberals and Tories. If the federal government does good things on the blue book, we'll be there, standing right beside them, saying, "That's good stuff." If we can get mines permitted, environmentally and properly, which I believe we can, and get those mines into production, or ready for production when they get good prices, this territory will be a lot better off.
So, Mr. Speaker, don't lecture this government about environmental permitting. That's a critical issue for the mining industry. The federal government has control and the members opposite know that and should be helping, not trying to drag this territory down as an investment jurisdiction. That's shameful.
Now, the member opposite asked what we did about problems that Minto Exploration was having with BYG. I've got here one, two, three, four letters, aside from a trip I made to Ottawa to meet with the parliamentary secretary to the federal minister. The minister wouldn't meet with me. She was busy, apparently. So, I won't get into that. There may very well have been good reasons, but I thought it was important enough to meet with me, but anyway, we raised, in a very professional manner, the problems that we were having in the funding process and the problems that Minto was having.
After Minto finally did get their water licence, the company - speaking of investment jurisdictions - flew up Asarco Inc., who is the backer of the Minto, from New York and thanked me personally for the good work that we did in terms of supporting them in dealing with this issue, and said that this was their only new mining investment in North America and they come where they feel welcome. The Yukon government made them feel welcome. And that, Mr. Speaker, is a true story, not the fiction propagated by the opposition.
So, they also tell me that if copper prices come off their 12-year low, which they've recently hit, they will make good on the production work that they've done this year because they've poured the footings and continue to advance with the development of that mining property. That's good news. That's a mining property on settlement A land. It's going to be good news for the Selkirk First Nation and good news for all Yukon people. So, I'm hopeful we'll get that rebound in metal prices. Then we can see that mine come into production, but we're not pinning all our hopes on that.
Mr. Speaker, I've only got to a few of the numerous concrete initiatives that this government has undertaken. Just the other day, the energy commissioner, who did so much work on energy policy in the Yukon, got his response to four key areas that he felt needed action; that he delineated through the energy commission report.
Mr. Speaker, this government did an unprecedented thing. We brought in a solution, an actual solution, to the throes of roller-coaster rides of rate bills that have permeated this territory with the shutdowns and the startups of the Faro mine. This is not something that was created by the NDP, as the Yukon Party would like to propose.
Here are some headlines from papers in 1993. This is June 11, 1993. This is the Yukon Party government time: "Power Hikes Tough on Local Industry." This a June 15, 1993, headline: "Ignore Power Bills, Gallup urges." There's a blast from the past. Here's Friday, July 1993: "Mayor Blows Fuse Over Power Rates." Here's another one on October 12, 1993: "Power Utilities Want 30 Percent Rate Boost." Here's another headline in 1993: "Power Rates Up, Service Down." Here's another one: "Power Rate Hike Would Raise Taxes." On and on they go.
Mr. Speaker, finally, you had a government with the courage to deal with this problem, to bring in a rate stabilization fund that will reduce bills this winter, put more money in Yukoners pockets and protect Yukoners from rate increases until the year 2002 into the next millennium. Mr. Speaker, that is a concrete step. That's not hollow, empty vessels of criticism propagated by the Yukon Liberal Party that we've heard today in this House.
We didn't stop there. You know, when the energy commission report was announced, what did the critics say from the Liberal Party? He said, "Well, it's not green enough," if you can believe that. So, we bring in millions of dollars in investments and green power initiatives in energy efficiency, in buying a commercial wind generator for research and development that has the potential to really produce a lot of power -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: The Member for Klondike knows all about power. We know -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member from Dawson, he's famous for his knowledge of power, but anyway, Mr. Speaker, what did the Liberal Member for Riverside, the critic, say? Not one positive thing. Not one alternative to the politics of confrontation. He didn't give us credit for all of those incredibly good initiatives that finally a government in this territory seized a hold of.
That I find quite distasteful and depressing, and I was surprised, actually, that there couldn't be one word of support from the Liberal Party but, then again, as they move to the right, as they move to unite with their colleagues in the Yukon Party, it's becoming more and more apparent that there is only one real alternative in this territory, and that's the Yukon New Democrats.
Those energy initiatives are also good for the economy. Then, of course, Mr. Speaker, you have the initiatives we've been undertaking on the fiscal side: pay-as-you-go budgets, stability between year-end surpluses and main estimates - every year, lining up, boom, boom, boom - and no capital tax. The second lowest corporate tax rate in Canada, no sales tax, tax freeze. Mr. Speaker, contrast that with the Yukon Party, the biggest tax increase in Yukon history, the obscene tax increase - Yukoners will never forget it.
As a word of advice, we hope that the leader of the official opposition stays on, and we throw all our support behind him for the next election.
I would say that, when we -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the Liberals can't understand it. The reason is, we like the leader of the official opposition; we want him to stay right where he is, as the leader of the official opposition, because the leader of the official opposition and the leader of the third party have mutually acceptable ideas. They see eye to eye on all the issues, as is becoming more and more apparent, and we think that they're the best united right alternative to us, so we'd like them to stay together, right where they are.
Let me also talk about the forest strategy that was recently released. The forest strategy is an excellent document, providing a good policy base for when we take over forestry, and it was done with extensive consultation with Yukoners, at absolutely minimal cost. The members opposite have said that there's no support within the First Nations. That's not true. Mr. Speaker, that is just not true.
Secondly, the federal government is going to be using the concrete initiatives to try and improve the system that has really been a major problem for this territory in the long term.
We also have so many suggestions and recommendations in that forest strategy, they are going to form the basis of an excellent action statement, when we finally get the forestry resource. In the meantime, they serve as excellent advice to the federal government, because it comes from a consultative approach with all Yukoners to try to develop it. So, I'm really proud of the work that the forestry commissioner did.
Mr. Speaker, the local hire issue - now, once again, we heard the Liberals today. Now, we know the Yukon Party is opposed to local hire initiatives. They said that today, in response to the ministerial statement. We know the Liberal Party is opposed. They're the big free traders. They brought in NAFTA. They would be opposed to local hire. Of course, they try and pick and choose when they're free traders and when they're local hire people. But the numbers bear out the great advances in local hire that have been initiated by this government. If you look at the numbers and the percentages of purchases, bids, and advertisements, the numbers are way up on local hire.
Now, of course, there will always be the odd contract that goes outside. The members opposite picked on three or four of them today. That's in the face of thousands that have gone locally - absolute thousands that have gone locally. Of course, that creates - or tries to create - a false impression. But the reality is that our local hire initiatives have been tremendous successes. We believe that a new economy can be utilized by making the best use of the resources that we have as a government, as well as trying very hard to utilize the good entrepreneurial spirit of Yukoners to improve the economy.
Mr. Speaker, another very important initiative that we've undertaken - very, very important and something that cannot be understated - is the tremendous investment this government has made in health care and education. Increasing the funding to health care. That's in the face of billions being taken out of it by the federal Liberal government - billions removed from health care. Every day, the critic for Health and Social Services from the Liberals stands up and asks for more expenditures in health care and social services at a time when we've increased those budgets. This is after her friends in Ottawa have taken $8 billion out of the system.
And, Mr. Speaker, they have done that, and that has become the number-one issue with Canadians, what they have done to the health care system. I find it amazing that she can actually have the audacity to stand up and do that, but she does. Every day it's more money, more expenditure, every day.
The investment we've made in health, in education - look at what's happening in Ontario, where that Conservative government is slicing and dicing the education system. It's a travesty.
We have moved the other way, Mr. Speaker. We have engaged in free collective bargaining with our employees, another commitment we've met. And collective bargaining includes binding arbitration, it includes conciliation, and we have struck agreements. We're very proud that we kept our commitment to reinstate collective bargaining in this territory.
I want to talk a little bit about the work that's been done in the development assessment process, another extremely complex project, because it involves First Nation government, and the federal government. We could have shied away from that project, like the Yukon Party did; just sat back and let the federal government bring in the legislation. Instead, Mr. Speaker, we took it on headfirst. We said Yukoners have to be heard in this important process.
It would have been easier just to sit back and criticize, as the opposition does with this government, and present no alternatives. Instead, we got in there, we rolled up our sleeves, got our uniforms dirty, we got in there, we heard from Yukoners, and we tried really hard to present their views in the process.
What's the result of that? Again, Mr. Speaker, I have a lot of pride in the work the DAP commissioner did. He brought in a process that's actually going to set some timelines in the process of permitting projects. What it's going to do is to try and involve at an earlier stage the other agencies, the other regulatory regimes, such as the Water Board.
The member opposite - I want to stop there for a second - because she mentioned the Water Board, and the placer mining industry's concern. Mr. Speaker, the Water Board is in the umbrella final agreement. It's not going to be replaced by DAP. That's just silly.
But what we are going to try and do is deal with the concern that mining companies have raised with me. That's the fact that the processes don't parallel each other at all; that they have to go through the four-year federal government's environmental permitting process - if they get a permit, at all - and then they have to go through the Water Board process.
What the DAP tries to do is change that, and the DAP tries to ensure that there's dialogue earlier on in the process, between the Water Board and the decision bodies who are looking at the documents, to try and ensure that there's not that huge lag, that it is not a parallel process, but it is an improved process.
Mr. Speaker, what it does, too, is it gets the whole issue of impact benefit agreements, just like the Oil and Gas Act does, out of the back rooms. It presents more accountability, because when decisions are turned away, it is sent back with written reasons why those decisions have been made. That is accountability that does not exist in the process right now.
So, Mr. Speaker, for those reasons I'm pleased with the work the federal government did, the Yukon First Nations and the Yukon government, because these are complex and difficult issues, but I do believe that the process that we've developed is going to be an advancement. It will have its challenges; we knew that. We could've sat back and done nothing and just criticized. We chose to be more courageous, to take concrete action, and we've done that.
I want to talk about youth, and concrete action in the area of youth. That's the future of this territory. That's an area where I'm extremely concerned about employment and opportunities. Just some of the initiatives that we've undertaken for youth are staggering, from Youth Works, the youth strategy that just marches out initiative after initiative, the work we've done to try to work with Dena Naye to enhance their youth business program, investing money from the community development fund, so that young entrepreneurs can access capital where it would otherwise be difficult to do so.
Mr. Speaker, the initiatives that we put forward from not just the basic monies that have been forwarded for the grants for youth, of course, and the training allowances, but all the work we've done through the community development fund and youth works, have made real contributions, I believe, to not only funding youth but educating youth, but also listening to youth. Those are the important initiatives that this government has brought forward, and I think they really resonate with the youth of this territory and the general public, because that's our future. That is a solid, concrete economic initiative that we have undertaken.
I want to talk about training, because this government has trained like never before. I remember when the Yukon Party was in, the President of the Chamber of Mines said on the radio that the Yukon government - it was the Yukon Party at that time - missed the boat on training to take advantage of the cyclical uptake of the mining industry. That was very true when he said that.
Mr. Speaker, we have seen that we need to have a well-skilled, well-educated workforce ready to be involved in those new jobs that are going to be created in the economy, so we have been training like never before. The training trust funds are very well received out there in the communities.
Let me just read off a few of them: the Southeast Yukon Forest Corporation, $160,000; the Watson Lake training agreement, $200,000; the Carmacks training agreement, $150,000; the forestry training trust fund, $200,000, and; the agricultural training trust fund, $100,000.
Mr. Speaker, the list for oil and gas: skills inventories for oil and gas; oil and gas training in Dawson City; work that's being done through the Faro Industrial Adjustment Services Committee, and work that's being done in Old Crow - the list is incredibly impressive.
Mr. Speaker, those are concrete initiatives. That's not the hollow criticism, the angel food cake of the opposition. That is real work, real dollars and real investment in this territory.
I said I was going to contrast the rhetoric of the Liberal leader with action steps, and I've been talking about this for over an hour now, and we've just barely scratched the surface of the bright lights in the economy and the good initiatives that we've undertaken. But I'm going to continue, because I know the members opposite like to hear the positive so much.
Now, Mr. Speaker, let's talk about land claims settlements, shall we? When we came in, the environment with Yukon First Nations was extremely hostile. The Yukon Party had burned all bridges. There was really a lot of work to be done. We tried very hard to repair those relationships and have made great strides. We've had many meetings and retreats with First Nation leaders to try to understand, on a government-to-government basis, each other's issues to move this territory ahead.
They've been successful. We've finalized incredibly tough issues in the Tr'ondëk Hwëchin agreement, which never would have happened under the Yukon government, namely Tombstone Park. We've settled the White River First Nation. I know the Government Leader and other First Nations have recently made very positive overtures about the settlement of a number of other claims in the near future. We're proud of that.
And you know, Mr. Speaker, we're doing that in the face of the B.C.-Yukon Liberal Party and their opposition to the Nisga'a treaty, which has not helped. You take that shortsighted, negative, gut-reaction approach that's just appealing to the worst in people and try and promote that. That's what we're seeing in B.C. and that's what we're seeing here in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, every time we turn around, we see the Yukon Party and opposition attacking First Nations, trying to play to issues of gender and race. I think it's very disturbing, and it sets this territory back. Our new economy and our new vision for this territory that we've been promoting and working on in partnership with Yukon people doesn't include opportunities for the Yukon Party to play those kinds of games with old-standing prejudices. It involves people coming together like never before with constitutionally entrenched land claims agreements, working together on economic and social initiatives. It's a more diversified, stronger economy that includes the resource sector, and a heck of a lot more.
Mr. Speaker, that's what we're about - not the old ways, the old non-existent vision. The members opposite are stuck in the past, and they are stuck in a rut that would only serve to propagate further boom-bust, cyclical economies. We'll have our booms, but we want to make sure the busts are a lot smaller when we deal with the ups and downs of the Faro mine and the cyclical world economies of the mining industry, crude oil prices, and all of those factors that really have an impression on what actually goes on with a resource economy.
Let me just read a comment from the former Economic Development minister, one hon. Lyle M. Fisher, who was the Yukon Party's Economic Development minister - and did a great job, according to the former Government Leader.
Here's what he said on February 13, 1995, and I think what this comment really brings close to home a true sense of what the reality is - not excuses, as the members opposite would say - but the reality. He says, and I like this, because he starts with "in truth". That's how he starts the quote and, really, that's what we should all be seeking here is the truth, is it not?
We should be seeking the truth.
It says, "In truth, resource industries are more affected by world markets than any action that could be taken by our government." Of course, Mr. Speaker, that was at a time when the Yukon Party was claiming it was all their doing - the fact that world metal prices were on a roll. Bre-X was a hot share to purchase at that time. It was the biggest mining play in the world, the Busang gold find. The stocks were skyrocketing. The Bre-X company moved into their huge highrise in Calgary. People were buying those stocks left, right and centre. The junior mining sector was just skyrocketing from 1993 through 1997 in this country. World metal prices were at extremely good levels.
The Asian flu was the Asian tiger. Fifteen-percent growth in countries like China, Malaysia and Taiwan. Mr. Speaker, that environment doesn't exist anymore today. You know, when the hon. Lyle M. Fisher made those comments, he spoke the truth, and I think there should be more of that coming from the opposition.
Also, because I'm on the subject of mining - just again, I floated back to it - let me just read some comments. This is from an article just recently in the Ottawa Citizen, and this is Bruce McKnight, Executive Director of the B.C. and Yukon Chamber of Mines. I'll read the story.
It says, "Bruce McKnight, Executive Director of the B.C. and Yukon Chamber of Mines, says that the Yukon is in fact more inviting than many provinces. 'It's a more positive situation than B.C., that's for sure. The territory is much further ahead in their land claim agreements,' he commented."
Then it goes on to talk about the population of the Yukon. Then it says, "McKnight said the Yukon is more supportive of mining companies than southern communities, which tend to look down on mining."
I think that's a fair statement. Mr. Speaker; I think that's a good indication of how this government feels about the mining industry.
I've talked so much about the numerous initiatives that are underway. I want to just comment briefly on one of the initiatives that the Liberal member talked about in her hollow critique. She talked about no support from this government for the Yukon Convention Bureau. Well, Mr. Speaker, I have in my hand a letter to the hon. Dave Keenan that says, "Our efforts and attendance" - it's from the Yukon Convention Bureau, by the way - "our efforts" - meaning us, the Yukon NDP government - "and attendance were very worthwhile and beneficial. Your contributions played no small part in our endeavours and we are extremely appreciative. Once again, we thank you for your demonstrated commitment to the work of the Convention Bureau. Marj Eschak, President, Yukon Convention Bureau." That was nice to receive.
So, Mr. Speaker, it's plain to see that we do back up our stated commitments with action steps, unlike the members opposite who are full of nothing but basically non-existent initiatives.
I want to move now to the issues of bright lights on the economic horizon, because I refuse to buy into the Armageddon theme of the opposition.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, we get from the peanut gallery in the Yukon Party - the future leader of that party - heckling about Alaska. If the member opposite knew anything about anything, he would know that Alberta has suffered dramatically this year. Their oil exploration season is going to be way down. Why? Because the price of crude oil is hitting $13 or $14 a barrel. And this year - no, it's not. I think it was $13.98 this morning - and the price of crude oil is way down. Let me just tell the member opposite that the problem with that is that the companies can't make money anymore so they're not doing as much drilling or exploration or as much production. The Alberta economy actually has control over their own resources, which makes it a little more different. The other thing they have going for them is that they're a little bit more diversified.
Mr. Speaker, that's the message that the Yukon Party and the Liberals aren't getting. We've got to do that. We've got to get more diversified, because when they have a downturn in crude oil prices, they have tourism, they have forestry, they have new technologies, they have technology industries, they have natural gas. All of these things help to -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the member opposite mentions the heritage fund.
They have all of these things that help them withstand the downturns. We've got to be more like that. We've got to get more diversity.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite talks about the Northwest Territories mining industry being in great shape. Well, that's just completely ludicrous. The facts don't bear that out. The Colomac mine, the Con mine, the Lupin Mine - all down. I think Con might be running a little bit, because they have a huge environmental liability, but the reality is that those mines shut down because of low prices last year. Now, there's a diamond mine that opened up, but that is one of the few metals - or stones or precious gems - that is doing well - diamonds - and, of course, it's controlled by the De Beers corporation, so they pretty much do whatever they want anyway.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, okay. The member opposite mentions Red Dog. Well, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite should take a look at what's happened with Cominco. Their stock has gone from $42 to $16. Their profit margin - operating profit - has been reduced dramatically, and I'm not so sure they are going to even make an operating profit this year. Why? Because the price of zinc is 42 cents. Now, Red Dog is their flagship operation. They have put over $800 million in that property, and they are going to run that come heck or high water.
But, Mr. Speaker, let's also look at what the Alaskan government did through their development agencies. There was over $150 million of public money put into infrastructure development for that specific property. Now that's the kind of economics that the member opposite likes. I know he's fond of government money, but we don't have $150 million.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, we wouldn't know how to find it, Mr. Speaker, because it doesn't exist in this territory.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the two situations are very different. The Pogo and Fort Knox deposits in Alaska were essentially found before the Bre-X disaster ever occurred, and they are one of the few hot plays in the entire continent of North America right now. There are some in Mexico, that Western Copper found, but that's about it.
I want to talk about another initiative...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: ... that's a bright light. The member opposite somehow thinks that these companies weren't operating outside Canada, when the Yukon Party government was in. You know, when there were palm trees growing on Fourth Avenue in Whitehorse, and in the streets of Dawson City. Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is deluded, as usual.
I want to talk about the other bright lights on the economic horizon. Some of them I've mentioned, but I think what we did the weekend before last in oil and gas development is a significant achievement. Of course, the federal government now has the responsibility, as they had before Monday, to now pass the Oil and Gas Act, and transfer that to this territory.
Let me tell the members opposite, when they talk about no initiatives by this government, that the Oil and Gas Act is ground breaking in this country, with its common regime, with its upfront dealing of impact-benefit agreements, with its well-abandonment plan, with the regulatory regime that we're bringing in, where the royalty regime will be ultra-competitive.
And, Mr. Speaker, that was done by this NDP government, when the no-development Yukon Party couldn't get that bill off first base. They had absolutely no idea how to strike any partnership with Yukon First Nations.
So we're extremely proud of developing that Oil and Gas Act. We're going to put that act into being; we're hoping the federal government will now finally pass the bill. We're proud that we got that bill forward when we did, because we believe that the will of this Legislature, and the votes of these people in this House mean something. We will stand by that position, even if the opposition, for base, partisan, political reasons, doesn't want to believe that their yes vote for that oil and gas means anything. That, according to them, means nothing.
Ironically, even though the federal government backed out on their commitment to us on the act, I want to say that we've got to move beyond this. A lot of hard feelings were created with the federal government over this, because I consider it an affront to the jurisdiction of this territory. But, now that the act has been re-passed at their request, we've done that, and it's time to move on. Let's do the transfer, and let's move on, in a spirit of greater cooperation.
Hopefully, Mr. Speaker, the Liberals, who are lying in the weeds, will, for the first time, rise above partisan politics and do what's right for Yukoners, in terms of supporting the initiatives in the oil and gas industry. And when people come in from the industry, they don't pick those times to try to defend their friends in Ottawa over the wishes of Yukoners. And you know, Mr. Speaker, that's the message I heard over and over again at the workshop in Watson Lake. In this little, loony-toony world of this Legislature, it might sound good, but out there, in the public, it just doesn't wash.
Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about another initiative of this government that's created hundreds of jobs: the community development fund. Today, I went to a ceremony at lunch. The Liberals, ironically, were at that ceremony on our coattails. This is the Liberal Party that voted against the budgets that had the CDF. They voted against CDF constantly. Look at the list of projects. Today was another one. They had the audacity to actually show up. It was all the grace I could muster not to mention that the member, who was here from the Liberal Party, voted against this animal shelter. But, I'm not like the Yukon Party Member for Klondike, who stuck both feet in his mouth at the Cordilleran Roundup, trashing all over the Yukon government in front of our guests. Anyway, I got apology letters from the mining industry for that. But I summoned the courage to do what was right and not to point out to all the people there that the Liberal Party voted against this new animal shelter and the community development fund.
Mr. Speaker, look at the jobs that were created: the work we've done at Skookum Jim; the work we've done at workshops for learning disabilities; the work we've done with the Storytelling Festival and the Quest. Look at the work we've done at the Watson Lake Day Care Society, creating jobs down there.
How about the work we've done at the Help and Hope Society in Watson Lake, with their new renovations? How about the Miles Canyon historical railway? How about the work we've done for options for independence for FAS and FAE? How about the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre, which we supported through the community development fund? All of these projects were voted against by the Liberals and Tories. We will take great pleasure in pointing out, project by project, the voting record of the members opposite when the time comes. When the times comes, we won't do it in such a silly, negative capacity like the Liberals, as they sort of do during this year-end run when nobody's paying attention. We'll wait till it really matters.
Then there's the Yukon Council on Aging, the Agricultural Association, the Klondike Snowmobile Association, Dancers with Latitude, North American Indigenous Games, the Yukon Fish and Game Association, the Jazz Society of the Yukon, sponsoring art and cultural events, the work we did with the Sacred Heart Cathedral and the renovations there. I mean, there are pages and pages of investments and concrete action by this government, not the hollow criticism of the two-hour Liberal dissertation, which was complete fluff - actual real initiatives, actual real investments.
I know that it's not the buffalo permit auction, or the three Ps, but they're real initiatives.
There's also an area of the economy that we've been supporting as well, that we believe is often misrepresented, not thought of enough, and that's art and cultural industries. The list of initiatives that we funded for arts and culture is impressive, from the Film Society to the MacBride Museum, to some of the other art organizations, to the Nakai Theatre, the Dancers with Latitude. These organizations are deserving of public support. They contribute to the economy, and we believe that they're a bright light to the future of the Yukon, and we will work and continue to contribute to them. That is an actual initiative that we have undertaken.
Mr. Speaker, let me also go into the issues surrounding some of the other initiatives that we've undertaken to support areas of the economy not often considered, and that is agriculture with the abattoir, the agricultural training trust fund that we've initiated with the agriculture industry. There was a great article in the paper the other day about the abattoir and the future that that will bring to help support the agricultural industry. That's a concrete initiative; not hollow fluff like we heard from the Liberal Party.
Mr. Speaker, I just found a release from the Liberal Party I want to talk about. It goes back to the energy issues and the actual, real, concrete initiatives we announced on energy the other day. It's dated August 19, 1997, and it says, "It's time to get serious on energy conservation." If you look at it, it talks about our commitments in A Better Way to get serious about energy conservation - on the back page. When we invested, the other day, $16 million in energy conservation in a wind generator, in energy efficiency and in green power initiatives, the members opposite couldn't find it within themselves to say one positive word.
Now, Mr. Speaker, Yukon people will see through this. If we have to go through the opposition and go through the media, I believe they will see this. It's very important that people realize that the opposition is bent on doom and gloom. They're interested in Yukon families or Yukon people or Yukon jobs; they're interested in hollow criticism, producing no initiatives, no alternatives. They're interested in base, partisan, political desires to be government.
That's wrong for the Yukon. That's wrong for this territory. I think it's very indicative of the reason why they've been unsuccessful electorally in the past. They are so out of touch with the issues of rural Yukon that they try and glean from just sort of sitting in this House and the odd phone call that they make to the elite in communities, for the most part, that they really don't know what's happening on the ground. There's no rural base.
And that's why, because there's an artificial environment in this Legislature that they just haven't learned. They always skirt over the surface.
Mr. Speaker, we deal with the issues. Through initiative after initiative, we provide concrete action steps. I'm proud that the government was able to negotiate and secure further Shakwak funding, putting people to work in the territory, but I don't want to just stop there with capital projects. That's the Yukon Party view of the world - government spending is the only answer, government taxation is the only answer and a cyclical mining industry. I believe that government spending is helpful. The mining industry is helpful, but we've got to do more.
Mr. Speaker, we're pleased that some of the Yukon contractors and their employees are going to work on those projects, and we're pleased that we were able to secure that funding. We're not going to stop there though.
Look at what's happening in Watson Lake. Speaking of concrete bright lights, I just toured, a couple of weekends ago, a brand-new mill in Watson Lake. If the federal government can ensure that there is some timber supply to that particular mill, there are going to be jobs. They have told me that the potential is to create 150 jobs in Watson Lake, and I think that that is a very encouraging bright light. Now, of course, we'll never hear about that from the opposition. We'll never hear that there is something good happening, because that is not in their interest. Their interest is gloom and doom - propagating negativity. Their interest is base, partisan, political reasons and wanting to be government. That's not what's good for Yukon families and Yukon people.
Mr. Speaker, we're going to talk about those positive initiatives out there in the economy, because we believe that they are going to lead to real jobs, and we're going to need help from the opposition, not just salvos. We're going to need help in terms of dealing with a federal government that doesn't want to devolve mining, forestry and lands to us, and that we had major difficulties with. We're going to need them to devolve.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: The Member for Mount Lorne - or should I say, Riverdale North - he says to me, Mr. Speaker, "Call an election". He's feeling pretty puffy today.
He just read a newspaper article or something, and he's feeling pretty puffy. It's going to take a lot more than a newspaper article to -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'm sure the government's going to go down on that newspaper article.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: The minister responsible for Tourism pamphlets, when he was in government, obviously is feeling pretty puffy today. Unfortunately, the Yukon Party is old news in this territory. They talk to people out there. They don't see the three amigos opposite as really having the potential to do much or to present to anybody any new alternatives, any new ideas or any new suggestions to take this economy forward - or this territory forward - into the future.
Another area that the Liberal Party here could help us with is the issue of unemployment insurance. Now it's called employment insurance. Mr. Speaker, there's a $20-billion fund that was taken from workers and businesses by the federal Finance minister. I have 28 constituents and former constituents who are being asked right now to pay back money that they received as severance from Curragh in 1993 - thousands of dollars.
They're expected to go to a hearing - and they were asked to go to Toronto, if you can believe it - six years later, to pay this money back in the thousands of dollars. This is after they wrote off this money for some B.C. native fishermen a couple of years ago, and they've done it in other communities, but they refuse to do it for Yukoners.
Here are these constituents of mine, who are Yukoners in most cases, who need this money, and here is the federal Liberal government, once again, sitting on a $20-billion surplus, keeping the money that they contributed to, and asking them to go to this appeal in Toronto. Most of these workers are unemployed. That's just shameful.
So, Mr. Speaker, if there's anything that they can do to help us with that, that would be good.
Mr. Speaker, we also need some help on the gun control position because we believe that there's a waste of money -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, let me just back it up, so I'll say it slowly for the Member for Klondike - the gun control position of the federal Liberal government and their desire to ram that down the throats of Yukoners.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the Member for Riverdale North thinks he invented opposition to gun control. What a joke. I stood up in front of hundreds of Yukoners, speaking out about Bill C-68. Our position, as the Yukon New Democrats, has been crystal clear from day one. He thinks he invented opposition. What does he think these court cases with the NWT, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and the Yukon are all about? They're about this government's action - not his, but this government's action. I'm sorry, but he's not the minister anymore. We have taken a strong position, Mr. Speaker, because we believe that money could be better invested in the economy.
I want to tell him that my constituents know where our government stands on this bill, and it's solidly in opposition. They don't even remember who the member opposite is or was.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: The members of the Liberal Party voted against it.
I know that when the Yukon Party government was down lobbying against this bill, I know how little the Yukon Liberal Party did to try and help. Only at the last minute did they send the former Justice minister a go-get-'em-guys fax. That was the extent of their involvement.
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: It's like people in the New Democrats who have kept up this fight, right from opposition into government, to say this is bad for the economy - absolutely. It's very bad for the economy. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being blown and could be better spent on economic programs or justice initiatives - very bad for the economy.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Ken who?
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite in the Liberal Party also talked about the funding in the budget. Now, I really have been waiting to get to this particular point in my speech.
She made mention of the federal government's budget's stated commitment to funding for new northern economic strategies. Mr. Speaker, she's asking, "Where is it?" Well, that's a darn good question. We've written and asked for it, and we haven't seen a penny yet and, Mr. Speaker, we've made proposals for that money. The federal Finance minister wasn't even aware it was in the budget. That was thrown in there at the last minute. Now, we're hopeful we get some funding, and we have proposed concrete proposals to the federal government. We've met with them on it. We don't know quite yet what the proposal's going to be, but we're sure hopeful that they're going to come through with their commitment. It's taken a year now. I guess that was released in February of last year.
So, we've had meetings with the federal Finance minister to discuss this and, so far, we've not seen anything. We don't need the federal government, big brother, coming in and designing an economic strategy for us, thank you very much. Yukoners have done that by themselves. There are lots of proposals out there, Mr. Speaker. Just show us the money.
So to say to us that that's somehow our fault is really stretching the envelope, Mr. Speaker.
What have we done? Well, we haven't gotten the money yet, because it hasn't been given to us, but we've sure as heck asked for it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yeah, Mr. Speaker, maybe we'll use it ...
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: ... for the bison diversification hunt.
Then, the member opposite talked about economic development funding for this territory, and she talked about the federal government. Why haven't we asked for money under the western diversification fund, and why haven't we asked for money, like the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency?
We've asked time and time and time again for that funding, because we believe Yukon trade and exporters should be eligible for that money, but it's the federal government who's told us no. A lot of work is done through export, through the western diversification fund.
Unfortunately, the federal government has not seemed to grace us with any of those monies. It's not for lack of trying. The reason is that they are saying "no."
So, Mr. Speaker, let me just say that there are a lot of issues that demand attention in the economy that we're working on - many concrete initiatives. I've listed dozens off today, with real funding dollars, real commitments. I've read letters of testimonial from the chamber organizations, from people who see our jurisdiction as a good place for investment. I've talked about the desire that we have to build a new, stronger, more diversified economy in the territory.
Mr. Speaker, let me just say that without a doubt there's a difference between the two sides of this House. The members opposite -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: The former government leader is yelling, "You've got that right." Absolutely.
The difference is that the united right - between the Yukon Party and the Liberals - is hell-bent on taking the territory back in time to an economy that they desire that's based on government spending and government taxation and big government alone - that's the record of the Yukon Party - and a cyclical mining industry, and that's it.
Mr. Speaker, our vision is broader. It includes good capital works by government, but it doesn't include the major tax increases that the Yukon Party brought in to just develop capital projects and try to support that artificial economy. It involves the mining industry. It involves the oil and gas industry for the first time in the territory. It involves export trade and new investment vehicles. It involves a more diversified and stronger economy with a stronger base. It involves new technologies and new communications.
Mr. Speaker, you do not hear the hollow, empty rhetoric that you hear from the Liberal Party today on this side of the House, and whenever we do announce those concrete initiatives, they are soundly and flatly criticized to the detriment of the Yukon economy, to the detriment of Yukon families and people, just for simple partisan reasons.
So, Mr. Speaker, we feel very good about the projects and initiatives that we have developed as a government. We feel that we have demonstrated, through extensive action, leadership on the economy.
I want to say to members of the Yukon Party, who somehow forget about the past, that 1993-94 was a rough year for this territory. Unemployment hit over 17 percent. A full year later into 1994, unemployment was over 14 percent in this territory in the fall. That's as a result of losing 1,000 jobs in the Faro mine. Power rates shot up. But what did they do? They got us right back into the roller-coaster ride; right back into no diversification whatsoever. They were comfortable there because, as I've said, the world markets were good. Bre-X was a good thing; the Asian tiger was roaring.
We've got to have a stronger vision, partly created from a stronger economy that's diversified and partly created by necessity, but also partly created by our true and sincere desire to move this territory ahead so that can avoid, for the most part, the throes of cyclical resource industries. So, when we do have the downturns - and we will have the upturns and we do have the downturns - we've got a stronger base to work within.
Mr. Speaker, that's the difference between us in the New Democrats and the Yukon Party/Liberal coalition. We have a new vision in this territory.
And, Mr. Speaker, the members opposite, they heckle across tunnel vision. The myopic vision is on that side of the House. I challenge the Liberal member opposite to take a highlighter tomorrow through her speech, her pages and pages of rhetoric, and find anything that's really a Yukon Liberal idea.
I challenge her to give that to me. There is nothing in there, absolutely not one initiative. I can't believe that, in her own mind, her own myopic vision of the world, her own view, that she really believes that they've got any answers. They're nibbling around the edges, Mr. Speaker, with no ideas.
What we've got are real alternatives for people, real initiatives that involve real people. We tackle the tough issues, whether it's forestry policy, or the development assessment process, or local hire. When we did local hire, we knew that if we gave 99 contracts to Yukon businesses, and one went outside, it would come up on the floor of this Legislature. We could have shied away from it, but we didn't, because we believe that we delivered on a commitment to put more Yukon workers to work on Yukon jobs, when government monies are involved. We've done that, and the numbers bear that out.
That's not going to stop the media from writing about the odd contract that goes outside. But, Mr. Speaker, that doesn't mean that it's not a good policy, and we're prepared to accept those risks.
The energy commission: well, Mr. Speaker, we could have just left things alone, like the Yukon Party. Not one megawatt added to the grid, nothing. The Yukon Party invented the use of diesel in this territory. No energy alternatives. Nothing added to the grid.
Mr. Speaker, there's nothing but smoke going up the stacks of that diesel - chugging away. We've taken the hard choices, we've developed energy policy, we've brought in a rate stabilization fund - new generation alternatives. The Energy Corporation is busy, on their way to developing some new ones. So, the granddaddy of diesel power, the Yukon Party, is going by the wayside.
Let me just say, as well, when it comes to the environment - something very often trod on by the Liberals and the Yukon Party, the Liberal Party, who has today announced their opposition to protected spaces - I think the environment is worth a lot to Yukoners. It's the future of the Yukon. When they take those shots at protected spaces - we've now even been told by the Chamber of Mines that they feel it can be a productive thing for the future of the Yukon - I think they're doing a disservice to the future of the Yukon.
I don't just want to talk about the environment in economic terms. I want to talk about the intrinsic value of the environment, of protective spaces, because I believe that they're important to Yukoners, as well. I don't believe they've been given the proper service by the opposition's speech today - the Liberal leader, who just completely ignored the environment in her speech.
The Minister of Renewable Resources, I'm sure, will be communicating to the environmental community that the member opposite talked about the economy for two hours and did not mention the protected spaces in anything other than a negative light, and did not mention the environment once, other than in an negative tone.
That shows that the pied piper from the Yukon Party is tooting away his effect on her, and she's dancing the dance. She slides back and forth to the gentle, soothing rhythms of her conservative roots, the old Erik Nielsen days. She's a-comin' home, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: As the Member for Porter Creek North pipes away, we see the assaults on labour unions and on working people. We see the support for Gordon Campbell's anti-land claims policies coming out.
That former assistant to the Conservative Member of Parliament still has her roots. We're glad that she's true to them, and we'll be pleased to point that out to the people out there who are concerned about the environment - legitimately so.
In closing, I would like to thank the Liberal Party for bringing forward their motion today. I enjoyed it immensely. It gave me a lot of time to clear up for the placer mining industry our commitment to the Water Board. It gave me a chance to explain, with the exception of one subject I didn't touch on - the Elsa mine - near and dear to our hearts on this side of the floor and the Yukon New Democratic government. I just want to tell the member opposite that I was really impressed. I spent some time at a number of investment brokers' houses, trying to help Keno Hill to raise money. They are working away on that project. I think that we've shown a good level of support in dealing with them, as well.
I also wanted to say to the members opposite, as they attack the people of Old Crow - the workers who worked on that school, and the good people of the Vuntut Gwitchin who put in a lot of work on that school - that the Liberal Party shouldn't get away with that. They somehow tried to tell Yukoners today that the high percentage of Yukon workers and people from Vuntut Gwitchin, who worked on that particular building project, were not worthy of mention today by the Liberal Party.
I think that's a travesty, because our local hire policies are all about that. They're all about recognizing Yukon workers and Yukon people, and the numbers bear that out. The Minister of Government Services read off all of the people from Vuntut Gwitchin and from around the Yukon, the contractors, the immense proportion of which were Yukoners, Mr. Speaker, and he produced the numbers to back that up, and I produced further numbers.
I think it's a shame what the Yukon Liberal Party did today to people who respect the environment, to the people of Vuntut Gwitchin, to people who are actually trying to work with us in partnership on new economic ideas and stimulus. I think it's a shame, the message they sent out to outside investors, that they try and sour through gloom and doom.
I urge the opposition to move ahead with us. Get out of the Dark Ages. Let's build a new vision, a new economy -
Speaker: Order please. The time being 5:30, the Speaker will now leave the Chair until 7:30.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: 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 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
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 54.
Bill No. 54 - An Act to Amend the Maintenance and Custody Orders Enforcement Act - continued
Deputy Chair: Is there any further debate on clause 10?
On Clause 10 - continued
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: When we left this yesterday, we were on clause 10, which is the section that pertains to garnishment orders. There were some questions on that. I would like to respond and see if there are any further questions that members have.
The garnishment process is designed to ensure that at least the monthly amount of court-ordered maintenance is being paid. Up to 25 percent of the amount of wages then remaining can be garnisheed to pay arrears. The percentage can be adjusted by an administrative decision. If a respondent disputes the fact that the amount of money being garnisheed is excessive, they may go back to the court that issued the order to apply for a variation of the amount of the monthly maintenance payment and/or the arrears.
The respondent cannot appeal the fact that the garnishment order has been issued. The court has already issued an order, which states that a certain amount of money is owing each month. The garnishment is designed to ensure consistent payment of maintenance for the children. If the parent who is the respondent complies with the court order, there will be no need for garnishment or other enforcement action.
The respondent will be sent a copy of the garnishment. If the garnishee disputes the fact that money is owing to the respondent, the garnishee can file a statement to that effect with the director.
Under section 10.3(2), it says that the respondent, claimant or director may apply to the court for a determination as to whether the income resource is required to pay the money to the director or order a hearing or trial about this. If the garnishee cannot comply with the garnishment because the respondent will not be left with any money to live on, the director can summon the respondent to appear before the court for a default hearing to determine the respondent's ability to pay.
Now, the Member for Riverside was also asking how the director takes evidence to substantiate that administrative order for a garnishee. The process remains essentially the same as under the current legislation. Where there are arrears outstanding, a claimant who files a maintenance order with the maintenance enforcement program must swear an affidavit of arrears as to the amount owing. So, the claimant files an affidavit. After the claimant registers with the maintenance enforcement program, the director of maintenance enforcement sends a letter advising the respondent of the registration, the monthly maintenance payment owing, the current amount of arrears, where to make payments and how to contact the program office.
This process is all based on the court order that sets out how much the respondent must pay to the claimant. The respondent then has 30 days to reply to the letter. If there is no reply, the director will commence enforcement proceedings. If the claimant has been unable to provide information about possible income sources, the program staff will investigate the respondent's sources of income.
Any information provided by the claimant will be confirmed before the garnishment proceedings begin. If the officer finds that the respondent is employed, or has other sources of income, a garnishment order will be sent to the income source.
If a respondent is making some payment, and misses a payment, the officer employed at the maintenance enforcement program will phone to find out why payments have ceased, and when the next payment can be expected. Other, similar, follow-up action can be taken to contact a respondent if a cheque is NSF.
If garnishment and writs of seizure and sale are not successful, as a last resort the director can impose administrative sanctions by requesting the registrar of motor vehicles to withhold, suspend or cancel drivers' licences and vehicle registrations.
Mr. Cable: That was quite a mouthful there. I appreciate the minister answering the questions, but I think I'm going to have to walk through it just a little slower. There were a number of sections mentioned by the minister.
Now, yesterday I think the minister made the point that if the respondent - that's the person who owes the money - wants to vary the administrative order or the garnishment or wants to tackle the validity of the garnishment, they can't do that unless the income source - I think is the verbiage that's used in the act - actually files a statement. They have to go back and tackle the original maintenance order. Have I appreciated the situation correctly so far?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, that is correct, Mr. Chair. I think it's also important to note, though, that if the respondent, when they receive a copy of the garnishment, disputes the fact that money is owing, they can file a statement to that effect with the director.
That would be in the regulations.
Mr. Cable: Well, why isn't it in the act? We have a whole complicated procedure for challenging garnishments by the income source. You mean we're going to vest people with legal rights in regulations, as opposed to the act?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There will be regulations set up under the act that will cover portions of the administrative models.
Mr. Cable: No. I heard the minister correctly. The question I'm asking is that there are rights of dispute given to the income source. That is, if someone were garnisheeing the Government of Yukon against some money that I owed, the income source would be the Yukon government. The Yukon government can file a dispute, but I don't see where in the act the respondent can actually dispute the garnishment.
If I'm in error, could the minister point that out?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: What the respondent can do is dispute the base order for child support, which establishes both the amount of the monthly cheque and the arrears. Any respondent can now apply to the court and will continue to be able to apply to the court.
Mr. Cable: Okay, I think we agreed on that a few moments ago. So, just to be clear, there's no right of dispute in the respondent to the garnishment directly. The respondent must go and tackle the base order - as the minister has termed it. Is my appreciation correct, then? - except what might be given to the respondent under the regulations, in relation to some transaction with the director.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Are you asking whether the respondent is able to dispute the amount of the garnishment or the garnishment itself?
Mr. Cable: I'm asking whether the respondent can dispute the amount of the garnishment, which could be anywhere from zero to any unlimited sum of money.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The garnishment only sets out what's in the order. The courts make an order that a respondent will pay a certain amount of monthly child support. If they fail to pay, the claimant can come to the director of the program and say, "I need the child support, and I'm not getting it."
The claimant must swear an affidavit that this money is owing. The director can then file a garnishment to recover the maintenance payments that have not been paid.
In swearing an affidavit, the respondent has to provide some proof that the child support payments have, in fact, not been made. If the respondent states that they have, in fact, made those payments, they can come to the director of maintenance enforcement - they receive a written notice from the director before the garnishment is applied - and say, "This garnishment isn't right. I've made the payments. Here are the cheques. Here's the proof that I have, in fact, made the payments."
Mr. Cable: Okay. Just walk through the act for me, will you, and tell me where it says that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The actual administrative process is not in the act, just as it doesn't state in the act that the claimant who files the maintenance order must swear an affidavit of arrears. The procedures of working with the maintenance enforcement program will be set up under regulations. What we have used as a model is the legislation in Nova Scotia. The amendments create a basic framework of an administrative model, and there will be regulations established with this legislation to lay out the procedures. The forms will be different, and there will be a guide to garnishment and a letter of instruction to help garnishees.
Would it help the member if I slowly went through the various sections of what they do cover, so that he can satisfy himself as to what might not be covered and what would be in the regulations?
Mr. Cable: Yes, that would be a very good idea.
I'll tell you where I'm coming from. There are maintenance orders that might be issued, say, on September 1, and there may be some payments made under the maintenance order. So, the maintenance order, on the face of it, doesn't reflect all of the facts. That has to be brought to the director by way of affidavit. So, on the face of the documents that would back up the garnishment, there may be areas where the respondent may wish to issue a challenge. What the minister, I think, is telling me is that, well, that challenge has to take place after the garnishment is issued and the money frozen in front of the director.
I'd like to find out, firstly, whether my appreciation of the situation is right, and secondly, how can the director unfreeze a garnishment by way of regulation as opposed to some statutory provision where the garnishment is set up under statutory provision?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm not quite sure where to start. There are several clauses in this section. I think it might help the member if I explain that more and then respond to his concern about whether the garnishment is, in fact, legitimate, or challenged by a respondent.
The amendments under garnishment orders create an administrative model for garnishment, based on the Nova Scotia legislation. The director, rather than the court, can issue a garnishment order that would not have time limits, as is presently the case - there is a one-year time limit. Garnishment orders would remain in effect until withdrawn by the director.
The procedures will be set in place with the forms and the guide to garnishment and a letter of instruction will help the garnishees.
In clause 10(2), a garnishment order binds every income source served by the director with the order, regardless of whether the income source is named in the order. So, the definition of income source is set out in the definitions section of the bill.
In clause 10(3), the director may include in the amount required to be deducted and pay to the director part or all of any arrears under the maintenance order, and any fees of the director prescribed by regulation.
Regulations that follow the Nova Scotia precedent are being drafted. The director will require payment of the monthly maintenance amount and deduction of up to 25 percent of gross income toward arrears. No fees are currently being contemplated.
Under section 10(4), the director may serve a garnishment order by ordinary mail, addressed to each income source from which payment is sought. This section enables the MEP to serve garnishees by ordinary mail. To provide proof of service, an administrative affidavit will be sworn in at the time of service.
Each case will be considered on its own merits. Personal service on a garnishee may be more effective in cases where the garnishee does not acknowledge receipt of the garnishment order.
In section 10(5), the director shall send a copy of the garnishment order to the respondent by ordinary mail at the last address of the respondent shown on the records of the director. This ensures that the respondent is aware of the garnishment, and I would suggest to the member opposite, Mr. Chair, that if the respondent has a concern with the garnishment, when they have received notice, they can then contact the director's office.
Under Section 10(6), failure to comply with the sections on notice does not render the garnishment ineffective, so long as it has, in fact, been served on the income source. That is to provide for other forms of service, such as personal service or certified mail.
I see the member has a question. Maybe I'll pause here.
Mr. Cable: Yes, I think we can chip away at this, slowly but surely. The minister says that the respondent can contact the director's office if there's a problem. Where does it say that in the act?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, it does not say that in the act. The entire purpose of this act, though, is to set up an effective maintenance enforcement program where the director of maintenance enforcement intervenes in cases where a respondent is not making their child support payments to a claimant.
The maintenance enforcement program staff make every effort to try to resolve this by contacting both parties and by encouraging parents to pay their child support. It is only in the cases where someone does not pay and has not responded to the letters that have been sent and the phone calls that are made, by which the program staff endeavour to seek payment.
The entire premise is that, by contacting respondents, we can encourage them to make their payments. They know that they can deal with the maintenance enforcement program staff because the program staff contact them and try to encourage them to make the payments of their child support.
Mr. Cable: Well, we're not arguing about that. I think the principle behind the bill is a good one: keep the cost down and expedite maintenance payments. I'm sure the minister is aware that two spouses sometimes have very different views of the world. What I'd like to find out is if the person who is supposedly owing money doesn't agree, what rights does that person, male or female, have? What I'm told is that they can contact the director's office and maybe the director can withdraw the garnishee, but I'm not sure the act says that. Maybe the minister could speak to her officer and find out if those sorts of provisions are, in fact, in the act. I don't see them; maybe I'm just missing them.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the member's question was, "By what right does the respondent contact the maintenance enforcement program?" The act does not set up how either a respondent or a claimant contacts the office. They both have the ability to contact the office. It's part of the process that there is communication between the maintenance enforcement program staff and the respondent, the maintenance enforcement program staff and the claimant. Under administrative law and the rules of court, the respondent may go to court if there is a dispute.
The onus is - and should be - on the respondent to pay the child support payments. If they are not paying, then a claimant must swear an affidavit that there are, in fact, arrears. I am fully aware that there may be disputes between separated or divorced parents, who find themselves in a situation where there is a court-ordered child maintenance. I don't believe that that means that a claimant will be swearing a false affidavit in relation to the arrears. If they are, the respondent may avail himself of the court process.
Mr. Cable: Well, the respondent may be, of course, a him or a her.
It appears that we have not built into the system the same efficiency for a challenge as we have for issuing the garnishment in the first place. I can hear what the minister is saying. She is saying that, in the interests of efficiency, keeping the costs down and expediting payments, the enforcement staff will take one party's affidavit and act on that. Where I'm coming from is that sometimes people intentionally or inadvertently are prepared to swear false affidavits. There doesn't seem to be any ready redress directly to the director set out in the act to set aside a garnishment order, which may be freezing somebody's paycheque. That's my concern. I've heard what the minister has had to say, and I'll leave that part of it alone.
But let me express to the minister a further concern where you don't have a maintenance order, but the underlying action is based on the domestic contract. There is no finding by a judge after hearing evidence. There is simply what I assume is an affidavit sworn by the applicant. Am I right on that assumption?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, the garnishment provisions that are set up in this section of the act only apply to court-ordered maintenance enforcement. This would not apply to domestic contracts. This is not an act to enforce domestic contracts. This is an act to enforce court-ordered child support payments.
Mr. Cable: If I could refer the minister to page 4 of this amending bill, in subsection 4 of section 3 of the amending bill. It is at the bottom of page 4: "(1.1) A provision in a domestic contract as defined in the Family Property and Support Act or an affiliation agreement or maintenance agreement or other agreement for the payment of money as maintenance or support, including a provision of the type mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (j) of the definition of maintenance, that is enforceable in the Yukon may be dealt with as a maintenance order ..." And then the garnishment provisions talk about maintenance orders.
So, what they're saying is that this may be dealt with as a maintenance order, except for garnishments.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I would refer the member to the definitions of a maintenance order in the previous clause of (a) through (j), and the provision in (4)(1.1) must have a quantifiable amount that is for the care of the child and must meet the definitions that are expressed in the section above.
Mr. Cable: Could the minister run that up the flagpole again, slowly?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: In order to be accepted as a maintenance order under the act, there must be a quantifiable amount for the care of the child in an agreement. The maintenance order sets out in that section the definitions of the various provisions about paying, whether the amount is periodically or annually or a lump sum or in trust and matrimonial homes, and so forth. So, the maintenance order must meet criteria as defined in that whole previous section.
Mr. Cable: Well, what's intended then under section 3(4) of the amending bill, where it says that the provision in a domestic contract that is enforceable in the Yukon may be dealt with as a maintenance order under this act? What's the scope of that? What does it mean?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The enforcement of a domestic contract would be covered under the act if it was for a set amount of money, if it were for a quantifiable amount. So, if there was a specific sum identified in a domestic contract of $250 a month or $500 a month for the care of a child, then it would be enforceable as a maintenance order under the act.
Mr. Cable: And the garnishment then could flow? Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes.
Mr. Cable: So, there would be no court proceeding then. They would simply have a contract in front of the director and the garnishment order would flow. I think we just established a few moments ago that if you want to challenge it, you have to go back to the underlying court order. So, what does the respondent do if there isn't any court order?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member is putting forward the supposition that the person who is having the garnishment applied, the respondent, may want to challenge the domestic contract, and they may want to make the case that the arrears are not owed under the domestic contract. Okay. The domestic contract, in order to be defined as a maintenance order, has to, like a maintenance order, set out a certain amount of money per month to be paid for the support of the child. So, that would be a continuing amount. If there are arrears that they dispute, it would be the same as if they disputed the arrears of a court order. If it is the amount that is being paid under the domestic contract, the respondent would have to take independent action to set aside the contract. If the domestic contract were to say that my child support payments are $200 per month and the claimant has gone to the director of maintenance enforcement and said, "I have this domestic contract, but I'm not receiving the $200 a month, and there are arrears. Can you help me get the money?" If the respondent is disputing that there are arrears or disputing that they should pay the $200 a month, they can say, "Well, this domestic contract is no longer something that we mutually agree to" and they can take it to the court and apply to have the amount varied or set aside.
Mr. Cable: I'm not talking about an instance where there is a dispute on the existence of the contract. I'm talking about a dispute on arrears. See, somebody could waltz into the director's office and say, "Here, in this domestic contract, I'm owed $1,000." And then they swear some affidavit, and this launches off into some garnishment proceeding, or maybe even a writ of execution, and there's been no court hearing. All the respondent can do - well, what can the respondent do? Go back into the director's office, and do what?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: What they can do, Mr. Chair, is they can walk into the director's office and show proof of payment if they dispute the arrears.
Mr. Cable: And then what?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Then the director would adjust the arrears according to the proof of payment.
Mr. Chair, the intent of these legislative amendments is to simplify the process for collecting child support payments because families need them. I certainly hope that the legislation will be clear and a smoother process than the questions going back and forth this evening. I have to say that the program is fair and reasonable, that due process is available to all parties, that the courts are available if there are disputes over the amount of payment that should be made, and that all of these provisions only apply to people who do not pay their child support.
Now, the member is suggesting that there may be families that have unhappy relationships after a union has broken down and that one parent may come in and swear a false affidavit that child support payments have not been made. If, in fact, a false affidavit is sworn, the respondent can contact the director's office. The act sets out a fair and reasonable process where they're served notice of garnishment, where they have the ability to come in and say, "I've made payments. Here's my proof of payment." The maintenance enforcement staff are familiar with the act, they're reasonable, and they will adjust the amount of arrears owing according to the proof of payment.
If there are further disputes, the court process is open.
Mr. Cable: I don't think there's any problem with the principle of what the minister's doing, and I asserted that earlier, so I don't think we have to get into that. What I'm saying is that, in the interests of efficiency, we shouldn't be forgetting that there are people involved, and they may just have valid arguments.
People can come into the director's office and say that, "Shucks, there's $1,000 in arrears owing", but it may very well be that the respondent says, "Well, look, I gave him or her a car worth $1,000". So, there may be some arguments, and it may not even be where people are talking about false affidavits. There are some legitimate arguments. I'm sure the minister has seen couples breaking up, and all the spurious arguments that go back and forth. So, there should be some protection for people, and there should be some ready access to the respondent to rebut the assertions of the claimant.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, first of all let me say, as an aside, that if someone wants to provide a car that's worth $1,000 as a child support payment, while the car may be worth $1,000, it's not a child support payment that enables a parent to pay the rent, buy the groceries, buy the kids clothes, and cover their monthly living expenses.
I'm pleased that the member has no problem with the principle, and I would like to assure him that we are not forgetting the people involved.
People who come into the maintenance enforcement program office can't just say, "Shucks, there's arrears." They have to swear an affidavit. They cannot proceed to set the wheels in motion to have a garnishment order placed on someone's paycheque without providing some evidence and swearing an affidavit.
There is also, in fact, as I'm sure the member is aware, a common-law right to challenge the legality of any administrative action in the Supreme Court.
Mr. Cable: Well, that's what I'm concerned about - the costs associated for the respondent. The claimant appears to have a fairly ready access to a speedy procedure, but the respondent does not. But let me leave that, because it doesn't seem that we're getting anywhere with the discussion.
Let me ask this question: how does the garnishment order get withdrawn by the director? Where in the act is there a withdrawal provision?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Look under section 10.1(5), which is just a little further down in the section. If the maintenance order for which the garnishment order was served is varied, then the director shall withdraw the garnishment order as shall the income source.
The efficiency that we want to build into the act is that the program director will have the power to issue a garnishment and the power to withdraw a garnishment. Both a claimant and a respondent can come before the program staff and lay their evidence either that a garnishment is needed or that the payments are being made satisfactorily without a garnishment, and have the director respond appropriately to that information.
Mr. Cable: I'm sorry. The minister mentioned a section 10.1(5). Is she talking about 10.1(5)? Because we've got original bills, we've got amending bill numbers and we've got page numbers.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Okay, I'll read the section, which is section 10.1(6): "The director may at any time replace a garnishment order with a new one in different terms." In 10.1(5), there are withdrawal provisions.
Mr. Cable: What is the methodology for the withdrawal? It says in 10.1(5)(a), "the director shall ... withdraw the garnishment order ..."
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: When the judgment is complete, under the present act, the director writes a letter to the income source and says that the writ is now satisfied and the garnishment is withdrawn. The director will continue to act in that way and to withdraw the garnishment where it is not needed.
Deputy Chair: Do you want the whole section 10 clause to carry or do you want to go through section by section within the clause?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Deputy Chair: You want to go through section 10.
On Section 10(1)
Section 10(1) agreed to
On Section 10(2)
Section 10(2) agreed to
On Section 10(3)
Section 10(3) agreed to
On Section 10(4)
Section 10(4) agreed to
On Section 10(5)
Section 10(5) agreed to
On Section 10(6)
Section 10(6) agreed to
On Section 10.1(1)
Section 10.1(1) agreed to
On Section 10.1(2)
Mr. Cable: On subsection 2, we've talked about a discharge of the garnishments, but the garnishment assumedly would be a continuing garnishment? In 10.1(2) in sub-subsection (a) it talks about "hold back the money then due, and money from time to time accruing due". Are we anticipating the situation where there is an order for arrears and the garnishment picks up the arrears and picks up a monthly payment and then it is all up to date and then, a few weeks later, it picks up another monthly payment? Is that what we're anticipating?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The intent of the garnishment order is to pick up the monthly payment, month by month by month, so that if the court order is for $250 a month, the garnishment order will pick up $250 a month for September, October, November, and so forth, unless and until such time as there is a court ordered variation in the amount, or if the director is satisfied that the amount is being paid without the requirement of a garnishment.
Mr. Phillips: I'll get into this debate. My concern here - the minister just said until the director is satisfied that the garnishment is not needed. Garnishments can sometimes be onerous on some people, and they can sometimes force people to come up with the money they rightfully owe. My concern here would be how long to keep the garnishment on. The individual could be in some difficult times and, for one reason or another, didn't pay, but finally got a job and finally started to make payments. A garnishment isn't a great thing on anyone's record to follow him or her around, and they may want it removed. There's no time frame here.
Does the minister think there should be a two-, three- or six-month time frame where, if the individual has overcome some of their hardships and realizes they have to pay and, in fact, realizes that the new legislation forces them to pay, one way or the other, and they started to honour the maintenance enforcement order and pay on a regular basis?
The way this reads, if the director got busy, or if the director had his or her own difficulties with this individual, they could keep this on forever and ever, and there would be no controls over it ever coming off. That might be unfair, if someone, say, for a year or so, was not making their payments and then, all of a sudden, smartened up or maybe got a job where they got their life straightened around a bit and made regular payments. Maybe there should be a time frame here, or something, because you can always put a garnishment back on again if the individual fails. But I can see here some possible misuse, where the garnishment could be just left on, because it's easier to do it that way. The individual could be forced to have to explain that, or whatever. The garnishment would be on his or her wages forever and ever.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: A couple of points in response to the member. A garnishment only applies as the wages fall due and as the maintenance falls due. A garnishment does not proceed forever and ever. The garnishment would be in effect for no longer than until the child reaches the age of majority.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, the member opposite can laugh. Maybe he doesn't think that parents should have to pay child support until the child reaches the age of majority.
If a parent, as the member puts forward, has a job, is able to pay, and wants to pay voluntarily, the garnishment order can be removed at any time that a parent chooses to pay their court-ordered child support, on a voluntary basis.
Mr. Phillips: We could be talking about 17 or 18 years, though, if a child was a year old or six months old when an order was placed. The individual could - it couldn't be forever and ever - but it could be for 17 or 18 years, which is a long time.
The minister's saying two different things here. Earlier, the minister said that it was at the discretion of the director. When the director felt that the individual was paying on a regular basis, the director could remove the garnishment order. Then, just now, she said something a little bit different.
So, I'm left a little confused; either the director has the discretion of how long it stays on or there's a time limit, one or the other. You can only have it either way. Maybe the minister could explain herself a little better.
My feeling on it is that if this is simplifying it in the way we are, with this new legislation, and the director has the discretion to put on a garnishment order, and there already was one on an individual, and the individual started to pay for six months straight or four months straight, without any problems, picked up the arrears, paid on a regular basis, then there would be no need to have that garnishment order sitting on that individual's record any longer.
So, the director could remove that, but that will only happen if the director, first of all, decides that it should happen. I would like to see something in there that was a fixed time period. Because it looks to me that it would be very simple if, after the fixed time period, the individual let a couple of months go by and then refused to pay again, to follow through with another garnishment order. Because the director is doing it, we're not going through the whole court system. It can be done quite simply, quite quickly, and we could be back to that level again. But there should be something in there.
The reason for this legislation is to force individuals to pay the child support that they should. But once they start paying it, there's no need for the government to necessarily be involved, as long as they continue to pay it. What I'm suggesting to the minister is that if there's a given period of time set out in the act - six months, four months, I don't know it would be; I would think six months might be a reasonable period of time - then you could remove it. As I said, a garnishment is an onerous thing to be on anybody's wages when they're out there trying to live their life, and maybe straighten out their life.
They could have been through some hard times prior to that, and for some reason or another they thought they shouldn't pay when they should have paid, so I think there is a little bit more discretion left to the director with respect to removing the garnishment than I would feel comfortable with.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the director can presently issue a continuing garnishment. If a continuing garnishment is required, then I have no problem defending a continuing garnishment in cases where a parent is not paying voluntarily. The act allows for the director to respond if they are satisfied on reasonable grounds that the amount of a garnishment order would reduce the respondent's income to an unreasonable level; then they can reduce the amount that can be paid out to the claimant. As we've discussed at some length earlier this evening, the amounts can also be varied by going back to court.
Yes, 17 years is a long time, and I would say to the member that 17 years is an awful long time to raise a child without any financial support from a non-custodial parent.
In the vast majority of cases, the child support payments are made, and at any time, a parent may voluntarily choose to make those payments, and the garnishment orders would not be in effect.
Chair: Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess? Ten minutes.
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are debating Bill No. 54. We're still on clause 10. We are on 10.1(2)
Mr. Phillips: When we left off, I was about to rise and respond to some comments that the minister had made.
I'm offended somewhat by the comments the minister has made here this evening, not only to me, but even to the Member for Riverside, and insinuations about other members of the House about not seeming to care for the children of people who are supposed to receive child support payments.
I think the minister knows that this is the furthest thing from the truth. It is the furthest thing from the truth. She knows from discussions she has had with officials in her department, including the maintenance enforcement officials, that I, particularly, on this side have worked long and hard as the Minister of Justice to enforce the maintenance enforcement laws that we have out there. I have always been supportive and am supportive today of the initiatives that the minister is making to strengthen the legislation.
I always have been and always will be, and I really am offended when the minister tries to play politics in the House, when we're here trying to put together a good bill, a bill that will make sure that the kids that need the money, receive the money; but on the other hand, Mr. Chair, we have to make sure that we protect others in laws that we make as well. That was my issue here.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Well, the Member for Faro is chirping in the corner again. Mr. Chair, the Member for Faro had his chance this afternoon, and he burbled on all day long.
Mr. Chair, I hope that the minister will refrain from accusing any member in this House - on her side or this side - of not wanting to improve legislation that makes sure that the kids that are due maintenance money - the mothers or fathers who are due the maintenance money - actually receive it, and I hope that's the end of it. I hope we don't hear that noise from the minister any longer, because it's unfair, and it simply is not true that the members on this side don't care.
Mr. Chair, I want to get back to the concern I have about a time frame for a garnishment. Garnishments are used in all cases. Let's take, for example, a case where an individual buys a vehicle. In that case, the garnishment is removed at the time, I suppose, when the vehicle is paid for. But there's a credit rating. It's a blemish on the person's credit. That also is removed after a period of time. Credit ratings and garnishments are on people's records.
What I'm suggesting is that I don't think it's right. I would think it's really fair for an individual who was behind at one time in their payments or didn't pay on a regular basis at one time to, after a certain period of time - fixed in legislation - be given the opportunity to be a good, supportive parent because they pay on a regular basis. It shouldn't just be left to the discretion of someone in the government. It should be something that we clearly spell out to say that after a certain period of time you start from square one. If you mess up, we have a quick cure - to reinforce another garnishment and collect the money owing. That's all I'm suggesting to the minister.
It is some protection for those moms or dads who see fit to pay on a regular monthly basis and don't have to rely on the judgment of a government official as to whether or not the garnishment is removed; that there is actually something in the legislation that says it will be removed. That's what I'd like the minister to comment on to see if the minister thinks it warrants putting something like that in the bill.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, first let me say that I'm very pleased - I'm absolutely delighted - to hear that the member supports the principles of the bill. Let me assure him that there's no need for him to be offended. What I am somewhat puzzled by is the member's statements. The member says he supports the bill, but he seems to be arguing against the very purpose of the bill to provide enforcement measures only against parents who won't pay and have the means to pay.
I'd like the member to be aware that there are, in fact, many parents who come in and say, "I have difficulty managing my budget; I'd like a voluntary garnishment", and they have a voluntary garnishment in effect.
As well, as the member is very well aware, under the existing legislation, if a parent makes a voluntary arrangement to pay their child support, the garnishment is withdrawn.
I believe the member has confidence in the officials. I know he did have confidence in the officials when he was on this side of the House. They act according to the legislation; there will be regulations in place; they have policy guidelines. And under all of those, at the present time, the maintenance enforcement program staff will withdraw a garnishment - and a continuing garnishment is provided for in the present legislation - if a parent is making voluntary arrangements to pay their child support.
That's what he supported under the existing legislation. We are trying to bring in some improvements, but that same basic principle applies: that if a parent makes a voluntary arrangement, the garnishment is withdrawn, without any difficulty. And the maintenance enforcement program staff will continue to do that.
Mr. Phillips: So, what the minister is saying then is, if a garnishment is applied to an individual, and the individual comes in shortly after garnishment is applied, and says, "I want to voluntarily contribute on a monthly basis," it's going to be removed right away. Or does the garnishment stay on until the director is satisfied that the individual is going to honour his or her commitment to pay?
That's my point. This type of legislation could force someone, who wasn't paying before, to come in immediately. It might be someone who, in fact, for one reason or another, has been avoiding paying for quite some time, and this may be the only thing that forces the individual to come forward.
Once the individual realizes how strong it is, they may want to pay immediately. They may want to continue to pay. What I'm concerned about is how long it goes on. The minister has said that once the person says that they are going to volunteer to pay on a regular basis, the director may do that. But, that is the discretion of the director again.
What would the minister feel is a reasonable time frame, after someone comes in and says that, before we say, "Okay, we're going to remove the garnishment"? What is a reasonable time frame?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The director of maintenance enforcement advises me that when a parent comes in and wants to make a voluntary arrangement to pay their child support payments, the garnishment is removed immediately. The parent who comes in to voluntarily pay will make satisfactory arrangements. There may be postdated cheques and the garnishment is removed.
The director knows, as all parties know - and there is also a very aggressive public education campaign, and I think most members of the public are aware of the program - that the director has the ability to put a garnishment back in place if the voluntary payment ceases.
The present administration that was in effect when that member was responsible for it provided for a continuing garnishee, in cases where a continuing garnishee was needed. It also provided for a garnishment to be withdrawn if a parent would voluntarily pay their child support. I think that's fair. And that would still be the circumstance.
Mr. Phillips: So let me put it this way. If a garnishee is put in place on an individual who is in arrears or who hasn't been paying, the individual gets notice, I guess by way of letter, that the garnishee is in place. The individual immediately rushes over to the maintenance enforcement office and says, "I want to straighten this out. Here are my X number of dollars that're in arrears." Is there a requirement, or do we have some kind of a standard where we say we want 12 postdated cheques for the next 12 months? Or if the individual says, "I'll make an agreement or an arrangement with you that I'll come in every month and make a payment." Do they have to give you postdated cheques or do they sign a contract to say that the cheque will be here every month on a certain date? What is the process? And at that period of time, can the director remove the garnishment immediately upon either receiving the cheques or receiving a commitment in writing - I guess it would have to be - or even a verbal commitment? Maybe the minister can tell me whether or not a verbal commitment is any good with respect to a promise to pay.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: What the director of maintenance enforcement would like to see in order to accommodate the willingness to make a voluntary payments is at least the next payment, whether it's a postdated cheque or a payment, and an indication of an effort to pay.
There may be a series of postdated cheques. There may be a verbal commitment that is acceptable, and if the respondent fails to follow through with that, then there is an ability to put a garnishment in effect.
Mr. Phillips: So, if the individual provides the arrears and one other cheque for the next month and a verbal commitment, would that be good enough for the director to remove the garnishment order?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, it would.
Mr. Jenkins: I've sat back, Mr. Chair, and listened with great interest to the debate that has been going on on this subject and, to a great extent, I recognize the need for such legislation but am concerned as to how it's being applied and how it's being enforced.
Over the course of the last number of years as an employer, I have had occasion to receive a number of garnishees on employees for such amounts that they had owed or that remained outstanding for supporting their offspring. Most were valid, and most were someone running away to the Yukon to hide, to avoid these payments. They were eventually caught up with, and this interjurisdictional arrangement appears to be working because most of these garnishees were from other areas of Canada. But I did encounter a couple of occasions where employees were garnisheed who came to us and said, "Well, I've made all those payments. Here are all my receipts. I've explained it to the office, but I can't seem to get anywhere."
Now, what we have before us, Mr. Chair, is an act that perpetuates that whole scenario, in that the individual, the respondent, virtually has to enter into an ongoing dialogue with the enforcement office to try and come to some arrangement. There is no legal avenue for the respondent to seek recourse, other than going back to the original order which, in a multitude of cases, is totally impractical. I guess, rather than enshrining a lot of this in regulations and leaving a great deal to the interpretation of the officials responsible for it, what we're looking for is a clearly defined avenue for all parties and, in this case, specifically for the respondent to address this issue, should they feel that the office is not quite accurate in garnisheeing. A writ of continuing garnishment goes on for quite some time. I'm not sure if this has a two-year statutory limitation or if it goes on continuously.
What it does to an employer is just frustrates the heck out of that employer because eventually that employee comes to them and says, "The heck with you", and moves on. That happens more often than you can imagine and will continue to happen unless there is some avenue where the respondent can gain access to a bona fide hearing, and that bona fide hearing should be through a legal path, clearly spelled out and clearly defined in this act.
Now, can the minister undertake to clearly define a path in this act for the respondent to seek recourse in the event that the garnishee could be not quite accurate in its application? Can the minister undertake to provide that assurance?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, again I find myself somewhat puzzled by the inconsistency between the statement of supporting the legislation and speaking against the avenues that are in here that I have been attempting to explain to the members opposite.
In the second reading debate, the official opposition critic indicated that he felt we had a need to move to be at the leading edge of the country and, in fact, the amendments that I am bringing forward to the maintenance enforcement legislation now are in line with various improvements that have been made in Nova Scotia, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.
The Member for Klondike cites the specific situation of an employee who has come to him, as the employer, and said, "I have this garnishment, but I've made my payments and I've gone to the maintenance enforcement program staff and told them that I've made my payments, but I just haven't got anywhere." If that is indeed the fact, the member can express that to his employer, but more to the point, the parent, the respondent, has the avenue to go to the court.
If the respondent has presented proof of payment that the maintenance enforcement staff haven't accepted, then they do have a legal avenue available to them.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister clearly outline the legal recourse that the respondent would have? Most of these garnishees originate from a jurisdiction outside the Yukon. They are sent up here for enforcement purposes. The avenue leading back to the originator of that writ of garnishee is quite a tedious path to follow.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As the member is referencing, we do have reciprocal enforcement measures in place with most jurisdictions in Canada and some outside of Canada, as well.
If a respondent is in the Yukon Territory and the garnishment was issued in Alberta, and there is a reciprocal enforcement in place - as there is - the respondent still has the ability to appeal. If the respondent believes that the garnishment is not properly legal, they have legal grounds to appeal to the Yukon Supreme Court. It is a principle of administrative law.
Mrs. Edelman: I hate to dare to question this legislation, but that is my job as a legislator. What we want to do in the long run here is have good legislation for Yukoners. Part of that process is this back and forth, where we ask questions about the legislation that's in front of us.
Now, the principles of natural justice say that there should be a venue for appeal. A venue for appeal in this case - what the minister is talking about - is going back to court. Going back to court is a very expensive process, and we could eliminate a lot of that by putting in a policy so that there is a regular review of the garnishee, say, every six month. I don't think that's an unreasonable request and I think it's a good suggestion. I hope the minister will think about that and say whether or not she is willing to consider it.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I'd like to thank the member for her suggestion. I believe that it is reasonable to review the files.
At the present time, the director of maintenance enforcement and her staff review the files every 30 days. There are policy considerations in effect that cover much of what we're discussing here. There are continuing garnishments in effect, and there are continuing garnishments that can be withdrawn, if parents are able to make voluntary arrangements.
The officials who work in the program make every effort to be fair and reasonable to all parties, both the party who is responsible to pay and the parent who needs the child support payment in order to provide for their child.
Mrs. Edelman: It's good to hear that there's a regular review of the files. If there is a regular review of the files right now, every 30 days, then why are we still having problems? The Member for Klondike talked about being an employer, and is regularly running up against this issue. We're also employers at our various locations, and we run up against this issue constantly.
I can't see what the difference is going to be with this new legislation. You talked about the legislation that was in place when the Yukon Party was in power and how this is going to solve all those problems. Yet you're talking about a policy review that occurs every 30 days that doesn't solve the problem. What other policy initiatives is the department going to be undertaking to help with this regular review of the files and updating of the cases?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The intent of this bill is to make improvements to the administration of the maintenance enforcement program and to make it more administratively efficient to see the payment of child support going from the parent who is responsible to pay to the parent who is raising a child in a home, and needs to provide for them.
The member's suggestion was that the files should be reviewed every six months. Is she suggesting that there should be a different kind of review every six months, or what is the suggestion?
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, if there has been a problem in the past with the every-30-day review, which there has been - that's been clearly identified, and that was probably one of the reasons that this act is in front of us right now - then perhaps there should be some sort of review updating the cases. Does it hurt to make the occasional phone call? Are we talking about just looking over the documents, or are we talking about doing an actual investigation or having a regular check-in? What are the policies that you're looking at right now, and how can we improve them?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, what I would like to suggest for the member is that I provide her with a copy of the policy that is in use. There are a number of various improvements in this legislation. I think it would be repetitive for me to go over them all again.
We are on section 10(2), which is that: "A garnishment order binds every income source served by the director with the order regardless of whether the income source is named in the order." Now, I'm happy to provide the policy information for the member opposite that speaks specifically to the employer, since this section is about garnishment orders binding income source. There was extensive public consultation done regarding these amendments, and no employers replied telling us of problems. So, if the member could be more specific about how she thinks a problem could be resolved with this section of the bill, I'd be very pleased to hear it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the suggestion I would offer to the minister, Mr. Chair, is that the respondent has the right to file a dispute when a garnishee is served on his employer. At present, an employer receives a writ of garnishee and there's a number of boxes he checks off about whether the individual continues to be employed. Then you get into the exact amount of the calculation, as to what percentage you can pay in of his total wages, and that sum is all clearly outlined, and then the cheque is cut for the amount, along with the garnishee writ, and sent in. Now, usually, the employee is called in and told of the garnishee. By and large, there is not a dispute. He recognizes - I might add that in all cases, it's been a "he" - that it's owing and pays, shrugs his shoulders, and either goes back to work or, in a lot of cases, quits and walks out the door.
I can cite a number of cases where individuals have made every effort to meet their obligations - and these were from other jurisdictions - and did so, and had backup to support what they did, but could not get the message through to the authorities having jurisdiction. Now, the only way it would appear that these individuals could be satisfied is if they had the right to dispute the garnishee writ served on their employer or have immediate access back through the court system.
But to go back to the beginning and dispute the original - that's too expensive and too convoluted a process, and it usually originated out of another jurisdiction in Canada. Most of these individuals migrate up here, seeking work during the summer months, and most of them are hard-working and wanting to pay. I don't dispute that there are occasions where they come up here to hide out and duck their obligations in this respect.
The scales of justice are not being properly balanced if everything here is set in regulations and it is at the whim and complete discretion of an official. There has to be immediate or a legal recourse for the respondent that is much more direct and much easier than what is being suggested by the minister, Mr. Chair. Would the minister give consideration to allowing the respondent to file a dispute to the writ of garnishee?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I'd like to ask the Member for Klondike to take a look at section 10.4(1) and see if that might, in fact, answer his first question.
The income source or the respondent or the claimant may apply to determine whether the income source, in fact, is required to pay the remuneration to the director. He can have a look at that and we can deal with 10.4(1) when we get there. I do want to respond to his comments by saying that if they want to pay - he talks about the good employee who wants to pay - why don't they just pay? I also don't share the evident distrust of public officials that the member opposite implies when he states that they are putting forward a garnishment on a whim and at the complete discretion of officials. Every jurisdiction in the country respects existing court orders, whether the court order was initiated in a province on the west coast or the east coast or the Northwest Territories or the Yukon.
I think it's important that the maintenance enforcement legislation across the country be as similar and as uniform as possible. We are bringing into effect here some improvements that are in line with other improvements, which have been made across the country, to ensure that parents receive the child support that they need.
There is an ability on the part of the respondent to make their case, both to the director and, if that fails, to the courts, to dispute that a garnishment if necessary. There is the ability at any time, by every parent, to voluntarily pay their child support. That's what we all would like to encourage parents to do.
For the parents who do not voluntarily pay, I believe we need measures in effect that ensure that the funds needed to raise a child can be recovered and paid to the parent who is paying the bills - who is paying the rent, buying the groceries and the clothing and paying for hockey or the piano lessons. It is an expensive proposition to raise a child, and it's a difficult task for a single parent. This legislation only comes into effect in the cases where parents do not voluntarily pay.
If the member has further questions on this section, I would be pleased to hear them.
Mr. Jenkins: Yes, I have further questions on this section. Obviously, the message isn't sinking in over there.
What we have in Canada - and it's becoming more and more clear - is an ability of government to not enforce things in specific acts but to put them into regulations. That, I don't feel, is reasonable and fair in all cases. More and more we're going into regulations than we are having things spelled out and well defined in the act. Now, I think it is required of us as legislators to deal with things up front and have them clearly spelled out and defined.
That being said, Mr. Chair, I resent the minister's insinuation that we're opposed to this whole area in principle, or however she wants to term it. We support the principles that are advanced here. Now, on the methodology that is being prescribed by regulations, we have reason to be concerned with how they are being advanced.
The minister mentioned that a respondent has the right to dispute to the director or through the courts. What we're looking for, Mr. Chair, is a clearly defined path to the courts for the respondent to dispute a garnishee. Not to go right back to the beginning - to the original court order - but to dispute the garnishee that is in place at that time when they have clear evidence that they have made the payments.
They've honoured their commitments, and in a lot of cases, we're dealing interjurisdictionally with other areas of Canada that sends the garnishment up to the Yukon - for somebody originating out of Ontario, or anywhere in Canada, pretty well, today - and it takes a long time for the wheels of justice to turn over. Why couldn't the minister come back tomorrow, Mr. Chair, and suggest some sort of a compromise that would allow this to flow into this legislation?
Would the minister consider that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member's own words expressed very clearly where he stands, when he says to a great extent he supports it, and I think he's been articulating for himself to what extent that he supports it.
This evening I have explained to the member what procedures are available for someone who does not believe that a garnishment is legitimate. If the member would be more satisfied with having that in writing, then I can take his suggestion and come back with something tomorrow and see whether or not it satisfies him.
But Mr. Chair, let me just repeat that we are concerned about fair and reasonable process for all parties and that this legislation sets up the ability to ensure that families who need support receive it.
It is not unfair to respondents. They have fair and due process available to them, just as the claimant does.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 54.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 54, An Act to Amend the Maintenance and Custody Orders Enforcement Act, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 4, 1998:
Yukon Teachers' Staff Relations Board 1997-98 Annual Report (Harding)
Yukon Public Service Staff Relations Board 1997-98 Annual Report (Harding)