Wednesday, November 25, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
In remembrance of Eileen Bruce-Wismark
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the Yukon Party, Mr. Speaker, and the office of the official opposition, I'd like to take this opportunity today to pay tribute to a long-time Yukoner, a former constituent and a good friend of mine, Eileen Bruce-Wismark, who passed away on September 4, 1998.
Eileen was a devoted Yukoner and northerner who was known for her dedication to her family and the Yukon.
I had an opportunity to meet Eileen the first time at her business, "A Stitch in Time", in downtown Whitehorse. I have many happy memories of meeting Eileen and, not only that, she was a constituent, so I looked forward to meeting with Eileen on my walks around the riding. I often left her home to be the very last on my walks because Eileen would be the one constituent who wanted to break open the bottle of wine and discuss the problems of the world. Most of the time, Mr. Speaker, what was interesting about the conversations I had with Eileen Bruce was that she talked more about her family than we ever did about politics. She was also very eager to listen, and I very much enjoyed the discussions we had.
Eileen was an outstanding individual and a woman who stood true to her word. She was a good person, Mr. Speaker, with a love of the Yukon and a heart of gold. She will be remembered fondly by Yukoners and missed by her husband, Max, who is with us here today, and her children, Dale, Donna, David, Alistair and Diane, and her stepchildren, Steve and John.
As a long-time Yukoner, and a very special woman, Mr. Speaker, it's appropriate that we pay tribute today to Eileen Bruce-Wismark.
Mr. Cable: On behalf of the Liberal caucus, I rise, too, to pay tribute to Eileen Bruce-Wismark.
I had the pleasure of meeting Eileen several years ago at the local contract bridge club. Bridge is a game that is meant to be enjoyed, and Eileen enjoyed it to the fullest, just as she enjoyed life and shared the joys of life with her friends.
It was always a pleasure to sit at a bridge table with Eileen. She is probably the only person that I know who could trump your ace and you would go away feeling good about it.
Before she got sick, she introduced her husband, Max, to the club, and Max turned out to be very much in the same pleasant mold.
Eileen loved the Yukon, and we can safely say that she was a true Yukoner. Our condolences to Max and to the family.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 52: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 52, entitled Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act (1998), be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 52, entitled Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act (1998), be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 52 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is the policy of our government to work with Yukon people and Yukon businesses to develop new ideas and new ways of making economic growth, to create new jobs and provide new economic opportunities.
I rise to advise the House of a significant development in our cooperative approach to supporting and encouraging Yukon business people who want to sell their goods and services outside of this territory.
As members are aware, last month I announced that our government was establishing a trade investment fund to help Yukon people develop new initiatives to increase exports and attract investment to Yukon ventures.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon is an entrepreneurial community. We believe government could play a positive role as a facilitator to encourage and support additional private sector activity and help us diversify our economy and create jobs for Yukoners.
Today I'm pleased to advise members that we have set aside $250,000 for the trade and investment fund for the remainder of this fiscal year. The internal development work to set up the fund is almost complete; draft terms of reference including grant limits and funding guidelines are being prepared.
This week a number of organizations are being asked to nominate representatives to the board that will administer the fund. Typical projects the fund will support will include developing products for export, developing business proposals to attract investment dollars, designing and carrying out export marketing and promotion, participating in trade missions, and sponsoring familiarization tours for potential investors.
These are just examples of the types of projects that would qualify. The trade and investment fund is designed to be flexible, to accommodate a wide range of possible projects.
A call for proposals will be announced by mid-January, with the first funding being approved by the end of February, and the board will set specific dates for reviewing proposals, but applications can be submitted at any time.
Through this fund, and with our ongoing and expanding trade and investment partnerships, we can help Yukon people convert ideas and potential products into exportable products and services.
This is a positive demonstration of our government's confidence in Yukon's business people. It also demonstrates our desire as a government to support a new economy that is vibrant and stable as we move forward to the new millennium.
Mr. Speaker, the private sector requested support in trade and investment, and we listened. By working with our trade and investment partners, our government is helping to create jobs and expand our business horizons.
Mr. Ostashek: Once again, we have a minister who is feeling beaten up by the general public for lack of initiatives by this government, once again re-announcing a policy we announced once before. Now he gives us the details of it.
Mr. Speaker, we've said before that we believe in trade and investment, and we believe in the export of goods and services, but we also believe that we need to put more emphasis on creating jobs now, because the problems facing Yukoners are very severe.
There's no doubt that, down the road, this may help some business to export some of their products to other jurisdictions, but I would like the minister, when he rises in rebuttal, to tell us how many jobs have been created by their trade and investment program so far - how many real jobs? Does he really believe that we can go on with the analysis, or the statement, made by his leader, that we're going to replace the jobs that are lost one job at a time? We're going to be a long, long time making up for the hundreds and hundreds of jobs we've lost from the Yukon in the last two years.
Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars for the last quarter of this year sounds good. I would like the minister, when he's on his feet, to tell the House, is the new budget that'll be tabled this spring, and their trade and investment fund, going to be increased by the same amount - $250,000 a quarter - or is this the total amount of the fund? What are we talking? Because $250,000 is not a lot of money when we have hundreds and hundreds of jobs to replace in the Yukon.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cable: I want to get on the record, on behalf of the Liberal caucus, as supporting the trade and investment fund in principle, but I do have to say, and I would draw the minister's attention to the radio broadcast this morning - there was a prospector on the radio this morning. For those of you who don't know him, he had been the Prospector of the Year a few years ago, and he was commenting on the minister's speech to the miners yesterday. He said, "He's talking, but he's not doing anything. Stop talking and do something."
Now, I'm making these points in a friendly, non-confrontational sort of way.
Here we have a ministerial statement that's talking about, "internal development work that has set up the fund being almost complete. We're going to be drafting terms of reference, including grant limits and funding guidelines."
I know what the minister is up to. He's going to issue this ministerial statement talking about talking about the fund. Then there will be a ministerial statement talking about the terms of reference and the guidelines after they are set. Then there will be a ministerial statement after the first grants are issued and the brochures are on their way to the Saka Republic.
What we, in the opposition, and the public would like to see, to paraphrase Peter Ross, is a stop to the talking and a start to the action; and we're all hopeful that when the Yukon export and diversification strategy finally reaches this House, the minister will have gestated an elephant and not a mouse.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I hope the Liberal member didn't spend all morning writing that response to the ministerial statement.
Mr. Speaker, again, more hollow vessels of criticism. Now, interestingly enough from the opposition - never any ideas, just vessels of criticism that are empty. You know, our government has launched a tax reform initiative that has never before been done in this territory. We've got full buy-in from a wide range of interests, a brand-new initiative on red tape cutting in this territory. We've launched the development of an immigrant investment fund. All of these ideas are actual, concrete initiatives. They're not talk. They are actions, Mr. Speaker, and they are actions that have never before been taken, and it must be working somewhat, because we've just had six new partners join the trade and investment diversification strategy. DIAND, Industry Canada, Yukon College, the Yukon Federation of Labour, the Association of Yukon Communities and the City of Whitehorse have all decided that they want to be part of this strategy, because it is new, it is exciting, and it is effective.
Now, the members opposite have said to us that it's all talk. Well, it's far from talk. Since we started this trade and investment strategy, we've had over 70 businesses come on as clients of the department that are working on developing and selling products outside of the territory.
What do the members think we did when we were in Alaska and when the Yukon Housing Corporation took members of the business community to Chile? They signed contracts. The government doesn't sign the contracts. We went with them to help them to facilitate those deals, which we did. That is private sector, out in front, with partners in government trying to make the economy better one job at a time, Mr. Speaker.
The members opposite should realize that when 20 percent of the gross domestic product of this territory, which was represented by the Faro mine in operation, is not being seen by the operation of that mine. It makes an impact of probably about 1,000 jobs in this territory. We have got to find new ways to do business so that we make the economy more viable and more stable, so when we have resource sector booms, we don't feel the very painful busts that occur when we get downturns of the metals cycle and the minerals cycle.
So, Mr. Speaker, that's the kind of direction that this government has set, and we're on course, and we're very pleased with the support we've received from the business community. It's evident from the fact that more and more people are coming on.
With regard to the prospector whom the member opposite quotes, he was a beneficiary this year alone of the Yukon mining incentive program, which was an initiative by a New Democrat government that got him out there banging on rocks, Mr. Speaker.
So, we do talk, and we do act.
Yesterday, I announced to the Chamber of Mines and the people who were in the territory for the Geoscience Forum that we were developing a Yukon mineral strategy - something, again, never before been done - and received very positive comments from the mining executive members. Also, Mr. Speaker, they are very, very positive about the tax reform initiative we have - again, something new.
The Yukon Party used to say that all you had to do was go down to the Cordilleran Roundup and say, "Hi, we're nice guys up here in the Yukon. Come on up and do business." It's not that way when the prices of metals are at 13- to 15-year lows. You've got the fallout in capital markets.
The members opposite seem to think that the junior mining companies haven't been affected by Bre-X. I don't know what world they're living in. They obviously haven't talked to anybody.
But Mr. Speaker, it's very important that we continue with the kinds of things we've been doing. It's seeing some results. You'll see a new mill opening up in Watson Lake; the deals that I've talked about that have led to new charter flights in this territory, which are going to be excellent for tourism. Last week, we secured the oil and gas devolution to this territory and, of course, for the here and now - that the leader of the official opposition talks about - secured Shakwak highway funding.
These are not insignificant, small developments. These are very important, substantial developments that will cause jobs in the short term and in the long term. But we can't take a short-sighted view of the world, like the Yukon Party wants us to - one that is based on taxation and government spending. We've got to have a broader view that's based on creating a more stable economy - more diverse, more vibrant, that doesn't just ride up and down with world ...
Speaker: The minister has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Harding: ... metal prices. What's important is that we focus on the short term and the long term in our strategy, and that's exactly what we're doing. I think Yukoners are responding well to that.
Mr. Speaker, for too long governments have wanted to do things, like the Yukon Party, and advance capital projects and have this total dependency on government. We have a different view of the world, and that's partnering with the private sector to create jobs and economic activity.
Tourism marketing fund
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my colleague, the Minister of Tourism, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to rise and give this House even more good news about how the government is supporting and encouraging the private sector to create jobs and pursue new economic opportunities.
My colleague has just given an update on the trade and investment fund. Today I would like to advise members of the latest development in the tourism marketing fund, which the minister first announced at the end of the Northern Tourism Partners conference.
The Department of Tourism has set aside $250,000 for the remainder of this fiscal year to provide financial assistance for tourism marketing and promotion. Yukon businesses, non-governmental organizations, First Nation governments and municipal governments will all be eligible for assistance under this fund.
Mr. Speaker, we are doing this because we realize the tremendous potential for growth in the Yukon is the tourism industry. This has been a banner year for visitations and the outlook for the next year and beyond is very positive.
At the same time, tourism is becoming increasingly competitive. Studies by the Canadian Tourism Commission have pointed out that the Yukon needs to develop new tourism products and services and to improve existing products in order to remain competitive.
We recognize that the tourism operators need to increase their activity in marketing and promoting their goods and services.
Our government is responding to these needs in a number of ways, including the tourism marketing fund. The fund will have three program elements: product development, marketing plans, marketing and promotion. We want this fund to be effective and flexible to address real needs.
For this reason, I am pleased to inform members that the tourism marketing fund will share the board and the same application process as the trade and investment fund. The board will consist of the ministers and deputy ministers of the two departments, as well as representatives from Yukon First Nations, tourism, business, mining, labour and the arts community. Two funds, one board; that is an efficient and effective way of doing things, one that cuts red tape and one that gets the job done.
I would like to acknowledge the cooperation between the Department of Tourism and Economic Development that has resulted in this creative approach.
Briefly, Mr. Speaker, this means that the board will have considerable latitude in reviewing project proposals. It can decide whether an application fits best under the tourism fund or the trade fund, and it can even decide that joint support from both funds is the best way to go. It may even decide to steer some proposals to the community development fund, if it feels that's the most appropriate avenue.
Mr. Speaker, we're responding to what the tourism community has said it needs. The tourism marketing fund will provide practical support that helps Yukon people in the tourism industry do what they do best: offering wilderness experiences and warm Yukon hospitality to people from around the world.
Our government has tremendous confidence in our tourism partners. We are proud to work with them as a facilitator to help them meet their economic objectives. We are confident that this cooperative approach will lead to a more diversified economy, with more jobs and economic benefits for Yukon people.
Mr. Phillips: It's nice to see the acting Minister of Tourism rise on his feet today to finally be able to rise in the House and take a bit of credit for a Tourism initiative because, after all, he was the Minister of Tourism for most of the summer, attending all the events and all the activities. So it's nice to see now he gets to rise in the House and make a statement.
Mr. Speaker, I was somewhat surprised, though, when I heard the statement that was made here today - a slight déjà vu. I'd been led to believe that the Minister of Tourism was going to be announcing a new program. In fact, Mr. Speaker, what we have today is a re-announcement of a program that the minister announced on October 7. What I'll do for the information of members in this House is table the press release, "New fund to help tourism operators in marketing efforts". It lays out things that the minister just said in the ministerial statement today. Months later, or six weeks later, they decided to re-announce it.
Mr. Speaker, I can only assume that the minister was not happy with the response he received from the people in the tourism industry or the media when he announced it the first time, so he's trying again.
I supported this initiative when it was announced on October 7, and I said then, when it was announced the first time, that it was a reasonably good initiative.
I believe the industry also received it well at the same time. The only thing really new in this announcement is that they're now, almost six weeks after the first announcement, getting ready to appoint a board to disburse the funds. I would have thought that the makeup of the board would have been decided when they made the announcement in the first place, on October 7, and that by now we'd be considering applications, but I guess it's not so.
What has this government been doing for the last six weeks, Mr. Speaker, other than making the announcement and hoping everybody was happy with it? I hope it doesn't take another six weeks to call the first meeting.
Mr. Speaker, this government must have thought of this idea before October 7, and now, with all the delays it's made, it looks like it will be next year or later before the industry will see any benefits from this program.
Mr. Speaker, the minister should spend less time on re-announcing his programs and more time on implementing the ones he's already announced. It's action that this economy needs, not just words that we're hearing from this government day in and day out.
Mr. Speaker, this is a positive program, so get on with it.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Riverside, in an earlier response today, noted that the government is talking about talking. This statement from the acting Minister of Tourism is an announcement about an announcement about an announcement. That's not to say it's not a good thing. Tourism marketing funds are an excellent investment in the Yukon and in this industry. I would caution the minister and the government that the investment doesn't get better just because it's announced several times over.
I will give the government credit that more details are emerging with each announcement. The minister today has indicated that there are three program elements and the Minister of Economic Development has noted that we're going to get a further announcement about the actual criteria for the applications.
I also concur with the minister that the funds will pursue economic opportunities for the Yukon. Both ministers have stated that it will create jobs.
How are we measuring the success of this investment? Show Yukoners the jobs. I look forward to the minister saying that, "One store somewhere in the Yukon has hired an extra staff member because of the success of these marketing funds." Or that one dog-mushing or canoe rental company or a wilderness tourism company has hired extra staff because of this initiative. I'm looking forward to seeing that proof that this investment has done what the ministers have promised it will do, and create jobs in the Yukon economy.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, first of all, I think I have to take some exception to the rather gratuitous comment from the Member for Riverdale North.
The fact is that the minister was doing a tremendous amount of travelling and work on behalf of his constituents, and the government. I had the opportunity on some occasions to fill in for him, and I was pleased to do that. The fact is that the minister is a very, very active minister, and a very proactive minister, and I'm pleased to work with him.
I'm a little concerned about the idea that this is a re-announcement. The minister announced this at the Northern Tourism Partners conference, and I think it was to give encouragement to the industry that we were taking this seriously, that we were working actively with the industry. And really, this is what this is about. This is about providing the means to private entrepreneurs in this territory to market their products, to develop their products and to go out aggressively into the world marketplace.
Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Liberal Party said, "Does this produce any jobs?" Last year we experienced an 11.8 percent increase in total visitations. That's $7million more in the local economy. Is the member trying to tell me that that $7 million didn't translate into additional jobs, that the seven million dollars didn't translate into additional retail sales? Does this member suggest that when we go out and when we actively increase our marketing, we actively increase our visitation, that that does not translate into real dollars in Yukoners' pockets?
I think she needs lessons on basic economics.
Tourism Yukon has entered into the United Kingdom market. We now have access to Condor Air - same-day service from Germany - and Canada 3000 - one-stop through-fare packages from Dusseldorf and Munich.
We have increased air access from North America. Canada 3000 has 80 flights into the Yukon scheduled. They are also actively promoting in the gateway cities, those cities which have same-day access from the United States, such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston, and I can tell the member that Canada 3000, for example, is very, very interested in trying to develop that market. We have also worked on joint-marketing initiatives with B.C., Alaska and Northwest Territories.
So, really, I had expected a lot more positive results on this.
This is an example of where you work with an industry. You go to them, you talk to them, you say, "What are your needs?" and this is what we're actively working with the industry in doing. I would challenge the members to go out and talk to the people in TIA, talk to the people in the Wilderness Tourism Association, and say, "Is this not a good thing?" I think they'll get a very, very interesting response.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Wolf Lake national park proposal
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Renewable Resources. Last spring, I raised the question with the minister concerning the new proposed national park in the Teslin area. When I asked the minister whether or not his government was in favour of the park, the minister said that he felt the park could, in fact, be established in the area, but the completion of the Yukon protected areas strategy must take priority before his government would agree to begin talking about any new park in the territory.
My question to the minister today: does he remain supportive of the proposed park at Wolf Lake, and is he still of the opinion that the Yukon protected areas strategy must precede this park?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We have consistently said to the people of Teslin and their renewable resource council that we would like to have our protected areas strategy in place before such a development takes place. We're aware of the interests of both Parks Canada and Teslin in a feasibility study, and we have consistently said that we would like to see the protected areas strategy in place, and that still remains our position.
Mr. Ostashek: My supplementary is to the same minister.
Last spring, the minister stated that his government would not participate in a feasibility study to examine the creation of a 10,000 square kilometre national park until such time as the protected spaces strategy was completed.
This message was apparently relayed to Parks Canada, and a decision to proceed with the feasibility study was put on hold until such time as the federal government gets a bit more information from the Yukon about the timing.
Well, it appears now that the federal government must have gotten that information. That's why I'm asking the question today, because there's a meeting in Teslin tonight to talk about the feasibility of a 10,000 square kilometre park.
Has in fact the minister given the green light to Parks Canada to go ahead with the feasibility study in the area?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, I can tell the member that it won't be long before we're announcing the protected areas strategy, but I can also say that we want any decisions in regard to the feasibility study made through the process laid out in the strategy. That is a consistent message that we gave to Parks Canada.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I thank the minister for that, but he didn't answer the question as to whether or not he has given his blessing for the feasibility study to go ahead.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Minister of Economic Development announced that his government was developing a mineral strategy as a means to provide a stable and attractive climate for mineral investment in the territory. Today we hear plans of a new national park for the Yukon going full steam ahead.
What this is sending to our mining community is mixed messages that will get us absolutely no results, as long as these mixed messages continue. So I would like to ask the minister here today: can he tell me, is this new 10,000 square kilometre proposed national park going to be over and above the protected spaces strategy? What I'm asking, Mr. Speaker, is this: is the land allotment of the 10,000 square kilometres going to be part of the encompassing protected spaces strategy, or is it going to be over and above the territorial protected spaces strategy? That's what industry wants to know.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We said that parks would be included in protected spaces, habitat protection, special management areas and so on.
Mr. Speaker, I want to, again, remind the member we have consistently said that we want to see the process go through that is laid out in the strategy, and the important part of that was having local planning teams to look at the proposal for protection and make recommendations on study area boundaries. We haven't gone away from that commitment and that direction and we consistently said that to Parks Canada.
Question re: FAS/FAE in schools
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Education and it concerns the recent comments made by one of her officials in her department, pleading poverty as the reason for not addressing the very serious issue of FAS in our schools.
Mr. Speaker, this government likes to attach blame to everyone and everybody, except themselves. This is a very serious problem.
There is no problem right now with respect to a shortage of money in the Government of Yukon. They just received $48 million from Ottawa and spent $47 million in this supplementary budget.
I'd like to ask the Minister of Education why FAS wasn't a priority that she placed on this windfall of $48 million that they received from the federal government. It's not reflected, and why is it not reflected in the budget we have before us today?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, first of all, Mr. Speaker, I have to make it very clear that the member's facts are wrong; it's Yukon Party math on the numbers he's bandying about on the windfall and is strictly not accurate.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, I think that I should advise the member that our government ministers and members have been talking with the public and have been talking with, just yesterday, First Nations education commissioners, who find it very disturbing to hear our children being treated as a political football and having harping going on in this House day after day.
Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, we have many programs in effect to meet all of the individual needs of students in our classrooms. The public schools' budget spends over $9 million on delivery of services to special needs youth.
We have 43 learning assistance teachers and program implementation teachers in the classrooms. We offer school-based counselling with 23 positions to provide school-based counsellors within the schools. There are individualized education plans developed with a school-based team that involves the teachers and the parents and other departmental staff from the special programs division who come in and do assessments when needed. This government does put money on funding the educational needs of our children, including the children with learning disabilities.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, what we've learned today is that the minister can read her briefing notes.
The government spent $47 million in the supplementary budget - $47 million. So, in the last few months, this government sat down and decided what their priorities were. We have a serious problem in our schools. The minister is accusing us of playing political football with the students. They're playing a lot more dangerous games with our students by not addressing this problem.
I'd like to ask the minister why FAS wasn't a priority with this minister? In this supplementary budget, why wasn't more emphasis put on FAS? Because one of her own senior officials said that the problem was money. Why did they not put the appropriate amount of money in the budget to deal with a very serious problem?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, what's very clear is that that member doesn't know how to listen to members of the community, and I can tell him for a fact that the members of the community have been talking to me about how very disturbed they are to see the members grandstanding on what children's special needs are.
Mr. Speaker, we have put lots of financial resources into meeting the needs of the schools. There are millions of dollars available. Individuals and parents want to have the right to determine what kind of an education their children get, and we are working with the individual parents in the school communities. We have school-based teams that do assessments and individualized education plans when needed.
We are meeting those needs, Mr. Speaker, and we're putting a lot of financial resources into doing that.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, who are they listening to? The teachers of the territory are concerned and have expressed a strong concern about the government not addressing this problem. First Nation leaders have expressed a concern about the government not dealing with this problem.
I'll ask the question again to the minister. It's a serious problem - a very serious problem. The minister knows that.
My question to the minister: why is there no new money dealing with FAS in this budget, in the Department of Education, when they sat down as a Cabinet and made a decision to spend $47 million. Why didn't they decide to spend at least one dollar dealing with this very serious problem?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This government is spending millions of dollars in educating our children, and we believe that that is money well spent. We are meeting the needs by having teachers being provided with special resources, through the counselling psychologists and the various special programs staff in the Department of Education who go and help the teachers with developing individualized education plans.
We have numerous teachers and resource rooms available, we have manuals available to help meet the learning disabilities, and there's more than one kind of learning disability out there. We are working very hard to provide the money that is needed to meet the needs of the children in the school system.
Question re: FAS/FAE testing
Mr. Cable: I have further questions on FAS for the same minister. I gather from what was said on the radio this morning, by one of the minister's officials doing down-field blocking for the minister, that money was the large factor when it comes to deciding whether to assess Yukon children for FAS and FAE. I know that the minister, with her Yukon Justice minister hat on, is assessing inmates at the jail for FAS. Could she give this House some idea of what's involved with assessment? How long does it take to assess a person for FAS and FAE, how much does it cost, and can it be done by local professionals?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, there are various levels of assessments that are done. When a child has a learning disability, and an individualized education plan is prepared, the school-based team, which includes the parent and the teacher, and the administrative staff at the school, may prepare that plan. They may also, in circumstances, depending on the needs of the child, bring in additional resources using the expertise that we have available with the staff at the special programs division. There are speech and language, occupational therapy, physical therapy, hearing and vision professionals available to help the school-based personnel work with the parents and develop a plan for the children. Those assessments, where the special-education psychologists or therapists may be brought in, can take between 30 and 36 hours.
Mr. Cable: The minister hasn't answered the question as to what it would cost. That was a proposition being put forward on the radio this morning - that there was a money problem.
Let me ask the minister this: one of the things that many people are having trouble with in relation to this problem - the screening of children for FAS and FAE - is that she is saying and the minister's officials are saying that screening isn't necessarily the best way to go about helping these children, and that the effort and the money should be better spent on prevention. This means that the government is willing to set up a program and spend public funds without having the foggiest idea on the size of the problem, and the minister can correct me if I'm wrong.
How serious is the problem in the Yukon? What is the FAS and FAE population? Is it one percent? Is it 10 percent or 20 percent? What estimate is the department working on when it's dreaming up these prevention programs?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, having prevention programs put in place is not a "dream scheme" - the member's dead wrong about that. We have prevention programs in place - National Addictions Awareness Week was earlier this month. The Minister of Health gave a statement here, where he provided an example of the work that we're doing, and the things we're giving out to school children to try and have more effective addictions prevention programs in place in our schools.
What my officials have said - and what ministers in this House have consistently said - is that it is more important to use money for programming than it is for surveys.
I can tell you that what the public are telling me is that as individual parents they have the right to consent to a survey for their children. Their children are sent to school for an education. Now, they're not sent to have a stamp or a label put on their forehead. We are meeting the needs of children, Mr. Speaker - as I have explained in this House in response to questions from the member about this - by having individualized education plans available, by spending over $9 million in our public schools' budget - that's 18 percent of the funding in a $51-million budget - on delivery of services to special needs youth.
Mr. Cable: Sometime the minister can tell us whether the inmates at the jail are consenting to FAS analysis.
Now, one of the other arguments brought out against assessment is that individualized education plans for children with learning disabilities is a substitute, and it doesn't label the child. Ignoring for the moment that this is dealing with the results of the alcohol problem, rather than the problem - is the minister saying that identification of FAS/FAE would not be part of an individualized education plan?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, first of all let me say that I think the member's premise is wrong in his preamble and in the way he's phrasing his questions. We don't count alcoholics to justify having an alcohol and drug service program.
We tackle the needs in the community. We provide programs to meet the needs of children in the school system.
Question re: Grey Mountain Primary School
Mrs. Edelman: My question's for the Minister of Education.
At the Whitehorse autumn school council chairs meeting, held last weekend, the Department of Education dropped a bombshell about the future of Grey Mountain Primary School. There isn't going to be one.
Mr. Speaker, the Riverdale capacity consolidation project is a four-year plan that ends with the closure of Grey Mountain Primary. Can the minister explain to this House, and to my constituents who send their children to this school, why she is closing it down?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I don't think that there was a bombshell dropped at the school council conference. There was discussion about the Riverdale survey of needs. There are five schools in Riverdale. We are just completing a grade reorganization project, where there have been a number of changes to both elementary and secondary schools in the City of Whitehorse. There have been changes in the public school system. The Catholic school system has a different organization of grades and, since there are now two Catholic schools in Riverdale, as well as other schools, there will be a survey of the needs in Riverdale, including Grey Mountain Primary, as one of five schools that are in the community of Riverdale.
Mrs. Edelman: The term that the department put forward was the "Riverdale capacity consolidation project". Now, Mr. Speaker, grade 3 students at Grey Mountain Primary School consistently score the highest in the Yukon on the Canadian Test of Basic Skills, and their scores are among the highest in Canada.
Parents have described to me a nurturing environment for learning, a devoted staff dedicated to high academic standards, and now, out of the blue, with no warning - no warning - to either the school council of Grey Mountain Primary - who are our partners in education - or to the school principal, this announcement is made to close Grey Mountain Primary School.
This decision has been made. Is this the last year for Grey Mountain Primary, or is this decision being put off to just after the next election?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member's got her facts wrong. The decision has not been made to close schools in the Yukon.
Let me first respond to her preamble. Our students do very well in all of our schools. Our staff in Yukon schools are dedicated to our students in all Yukon schools.
Mr. Speaker, as I said to the member in response to her first question, there are five schools in Riverdale. There is a survey being done of the needs in Riverdale and there have been no decisions made to close a school.
Mrs. Edelman: You know, Mr. Speaker, on November 18, there was a photo in the Whitehorse Star of the sign in front of Grey Mountain Primary School, and it describes Grey Mountain Primary School as "The little school that does". If the NDP have their way, it'll be "The little school that isn't".
Now, after only one year of declining enrollment and the dust barely settling after grade reorganization, the minister has decided to consolidate Grey Mountain Primary into the other Riverdale schools, why won't the minister live up to the NDP's previous commitment when they developed the plans for the new Grey Mountain Primary School? Why won't this minister save Grey Mountain Primary School, "The little school that does"?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, as the member has been saying in her questions here, at the school council conference there was a discussion about the fact that we have completed grade reorganization and that the school system in Riverdale is facing some different situations. There are different grade levels; there have been expansions to some of the schools. The Catholic school community has asked the department to think about a realignment of their grade structure in order to meld with the other system. In Riverdale, where there are five schools, there is a study being done with the full involvement and participation of the partners in education. There have been no decisions made, and the member is simply being alarmist.
Question re: FAS/FAE in schools
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Education and it's regarding FAS.
Mr. Speaker, the minister, in her answers to my questions today, claims that there is enough money in the Department of Education. They're spending enough money with respect to this problem.
Mr. Speaker, her senior officials said, "The problem is money." They don't have enough money to deal with the problem.
I'd like to ask the question one more time, Mr. Speaker. The NDP government just spent, or is going to spend, $47 million extra dollars in this supplementary budget. If the officials in her department are crying out for more money to deal with this problem, why wasn't there some money in the budget to deal with the FAS problem?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member's numbers are wrong, and we are putting significant resources into funding the education system in the Yukon. We offer a good education system for our students. We take the needs of students very seriously and we provide numerous supports for the students, their parents and the teachers in the school system.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, I apologize to the Minister of Education. My figures are somewhat wrong. Rather than $47 million in the supplementary budget I have before me, it's $47,155,000. It wasn't $47 million. I rounded it out. That was my fault and I apologize to the minister.
My question to the minister: why are her officials crying poverty when they had $47 million to disburse in this supplementary budget and the minister and the government chose not to do anything about it? Why did they not put more money in the budget to deal with FAS?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, the officials did not plead poverty. What my official said is consistent with what the ministers of this government have said in the House, which is that it is more important to put the money into programming than into surveys. And we are putting money into programming. We are putting money into meeting the needs of our children. The member is wrong in his math, and he's wrong in his budget figures. We're putting money into Shakwak, there's money into revotes, and there's money going into cross-government departments.
Mr. Phillips: But, Mr. Speaker, let me remind the minister - health and education were a priority. The minister can try and spin it any way she wants - the official said this morning that it was a matter of money. Money - that was the problem. Regardless of where they spend it - whether they spend it on the health side or the education side, the official said it was a matter of money. Why, then, didn't this government put some more money, out of the $47,155,000, into dealing with the serious problem of FAS/FAE. Why did the government not do that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This government has a priority for education and health care, and we put funding into education and health care. Mr. Speaker, I think the member didn't have his ears quite wide open when he was listening to the radio this morning. What's important is action, not words. We're putting our money into action. We're putting our money into programming for meeting the needs of the children and students in our school system, including over $9 million in special programs and in meeting the needs of children with learning disabilities in our schools.
Question re: Human resource information system
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Government Services; he's been dying to get in this debate. It concerns the human resource information system, or HRIS. Remember, this is the most-for-the-least payroll system - the most expensive system for the least labour-friendly, NDP government.
On Monday afternoon, I asked the minister what the cost of implementing this payroll system was. Can the minister confirm that this payroll system, for about 3,000 employees, has so far - and we don't know that the system works yet - cost Yukon taxpayers double the original budget, or about $3 million?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm afraid that there is a contagion running around this House, because I'm afraid that the Liberal leader is now being infected with the disease of wrong facts. She has cited this system as a payroll system. Indeed, it is much more.
What it arises out of is the 1993 Auditor General's study, if I can just quote here. It indicated that the "system is outdated, requiring extra staff and excessive paper flow, limited capacity to provide information required for a human resources system". It referred to the existing system as 15-year-old technology, as essentially a cheque-cutting system, and said that the system had to change in order to do such things as staff management, benefit management, staff training, leave accounting - leave accounting was one of the major problems - employment equity, et cetera.
Out of that, the original estimate, I think, was considerably under what it should have been. I believe the time estimates, given the scope of the problem, were underestimated, and what we've done since then is that we've adjusted the system. Yes, there have been additional costs, and they have been necessitated by the scope of the project.
Ms. Duncan: The experience across the country with the HRIS that the Government of the Yukon has chosen has been quite varied. Revenue Canada rejected the system we're going to use, basically because, if it ever worked, it was too expensive, and the western diversification fund rejected the model that the Government of the Yukon chose for the same reason: it was too expensive and there was no guarantee at the end that it worked.
There is comfort, though. The Northwest Territories chose the same model as the Government of Yukon, and they are now $1.3 million over budget, and their costs are about $5.5 million for the same system. The Government of the Yukon has - whether the minister will admit it or not - I understand, spent $3 million. How much more does the government anticipate spending on this system?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'll tell you, Mr. Speaker. First of all, I need to correct the member in the fact that this was a system that was undertaken by the previous government. We followed through on that. I'm not condemning anyone. I think that they were operating under the need, as articulated by the Auditor General, on this problem, and I think they tried to respond. Unfortunately, I think no one really realized the magnitude.
The costs are greater. The length of time is greater. We have assurances that this system will be ready to go in January. As a matter of fact, I'll make an offer to the member right here and now. Would she like me to set up a demonstration of this, since she has such a keen interest in it?
Oh, while I'm on my feet, I'd just like to remind the member that the financial management information system is on time, is on budget, as is, indeed, the land interest management system.
Ms. Duncan: Oh, so fascinating that the minister should mention my favourite subject of NovaLIS, and we've yet to see the tender for the work for local companies.
Mr. Speaker, the universities of Saskatchewan and Alberta chose similar systems that the Government of Yukon and the Government of Northwest Territories have chosen. Their payroll questions are equally, if not a whole lot more, complex than the Yukon's.
The common ground between all of these organizations using this system is that they are all over budget. They have all experienced significant time delays.
What is the government doing, either with these other groups or on their own, to have the software supplier take some responsibility for these time delays and cost overruns? Is the Government of Yukon communicating with other jurisdictions, so that the NDP and the Yukon don't make all the mistakes with this system, at the Yukon taxpayers' expense?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, but I really have to keep reminding the member. This is something that we inherited. This was not, as I think I colourfully characterized it today ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: ... this is not my -
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I believe she's referring to the PeopleSoft software, and we have been working with PeopleSoft on a number of upgrades. We have brought in extra consultants to make this venture work.
It is something that we're committed to. We're having to follow through on the initiative. We are doing it. It will be ready. I notice the member didn't take me up on my offer, but I'll make it again. If she wants to see it work, let's see it work.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 144
Clerk: Motion No. 144, standing in the name of Mr. Ostashek.
Speaker: It is moved by the leader of the official opposition
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon economy is in a current state of crisis requiring immediate action by governments in order to maintain and preserve the territory's dwindling, skilled labour force;
THAT this House urges that a two-day economic summit hosted by the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment be established in the first quarter of 1999;
THAT on the first day of the summit, representatives of Yukon's mining industry, tourism industry, forestry industry, building contractors, road construction contractors, engineering services, mining and tourism associations, the respective Chambers of Commerce, Association of Yukon Communities and other Yukoners who wish to make presentations on the following agenda items:
THAT on the second day, the Government Leader and his ministers, the Minister of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and her officials, First Nation chiefs, who wish to participate, be invited to respond to the presentations.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, the purpose for putting this motion on the Order Paper today is not to stand here all afternoon and beat up on the government. We've been doing that for a couple of years now; our message hasn't gotten through to the government, and Yukoners are facing some very serious times in the short term - in the next six months, in the next year.
Yukoners are crying out for some economic leadership. Our government continues to dismiss this - it's either not a big problem, or a problem they can't do anything about. They say they're doing good things, that Yukoners are happy with what they're doing. Mr. Speaker, I say to the government, "That is not what Yukoners are telling us. That is not what the headlines in the paper are saying."
Yukoners are very demoralized about their future and the future of their children, and they need to be able to grasp hold of something. They need a forum where they can believe that they can offer some constructive advice to the government, and they need to have the government listen.
Mr. Speaker, I believe there are things the government can do, and should do - and it doesn't take a lot of money to do it. We certainly need some positive signals to be sent from government.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the motion as presented today - I will get into clause by clause on it as I go through it. I don't intend to speak all afternoon on this motion, as I said in my opening comments. I want to hear other members speak, and I really want to see this motion come to a vote today.
I hope that the government will listen to what we're saying and take it in a vein of constructive criticism as a suggestion as to how we believe they can play a leadership role in helping to kick-start our economy.
Mr. Speaker, this type of practice is not new in the Yukon; it occurred before on at least two occasions. I just want to review them. It may be useful just to review them for the members who weren't around at that time, to see how similar the motion I presented today is. The first time I recall it was back in July of 1982 by a then-Conservative government when the Faro mine first shut down for a lengthy shutdown.
There was a difference between that motion that was debated in this Legislature and the motion that is on the Order Paper today, Mr. Speaker, in that the motion of 1982 was put on by the government benches and not the opposition benches.
Nevertheless, Mr. Speaker, I just want to read a few words of what the government leader of the day had to say. And this was entirely with regard to the economic future of the territory. "In this grave situation, Yukoners must speak with one voice." He went on to say that he has put aside partisanship in the interest of helping Yukoners, and it is his responsibility to put our case urgently and clearly to the federal government. He went on to say, "I want to demonstrate our case as effectively as possible." There were many other words. I don't intend to read his whole speech.
Mr. Speaker, it was interesting to note that the opposition of the day was the NDP, which is in government today.
One of his comments in replying to Mr. Pearson at the time was that he would urge the government leader to forego gratuitous, abusive and costly insults about the federal government, which has sometimes been his Cabinet's custom, until such time as our economy can again afford such luxuries.
Well, I believe the same holds true today, Mr. Speaker. We do get the bulk of our money from the federal government, and that's why our motion asks to include the federal government in this economic summit, because they are a major player.
It's quite interesting to note what the philosophy of the NDP in opposition was pertaining to capital budgets at the time. This comment of Mr. Penikett says: "The capital budget, about which our government boasted during the election campaign, is now a pale imitation of its former self." This leads me to believe that he wanted to see more money spent on capital projects.
He went on to say that he understood that over $3 million was budgeted for travel by officials of the government outside the territory. Many of those trips, upon examination, would, he believed, be found to be non-essential, and at a time like that, with the economy in dire straits - that's paraphrasing, Mr. Speaker - "I think that we would all believe that we ought to spend as little as possible of the Yukon taxpayers' money outside the territory, whether it's on contracts, services or whatever." And he closed by saying that the government leader is "now prepared to listen to Yukoners during this crisis, and that is good. We will cooperate." Well, I hope the government of the day will cooperate and listen to our suggestion to move ahead with this summit as quickly as possible.
Mr. Speaker, I just want to take a little time to review why we believe that the economy is in serious trouble, and we'll use the government's own statistics to do it. I also want to spend a little time to dispel the myth that it's mineral prices and it's Bre-X and it's everything except this government's inability to deal with the situation.
We need only look at the stats that have come out and see what is happening in the Yukon in the last two years - a major population drop. The figures here in the last stats that I have that came out in October were only up to the month of June, but it shows that Yukon has lost 4.1 percent of its population. The population is down to 32,000, from a high - I believe the economic forecast here said the population in 1996 was just under 34,000 people - 33,911 people. That, Mr. Speaker, is further evidence that Yukoners are not waiting around for the economy to pick up, but they are leaving, and they're leaving in large numbers. I daresay, if the figures were up to date - June was five months ago now - it would be more dramatic yet. You would see that more people have left the Yukon, and it hasn't bottomed out yet. People are continuing to leave.
Mr. Speaker, we heard yesterday, on the 5:30 p.m. news, that there are more recipients of employment insurance in the Yukon than there are in the Northwest Territories. That doesn't project a healthy economy. Real estate transactions were down 32 percent from June to June. In construction, Yukon building permits were down 29 percent. Wholesale trade has dropped, and it dropped again just lately. These figures are the old figures I'm looking at. From August to August, it was down 9.2 percent.
The only indicator that seems to be holding up, but I don't know what the reason is, no more than I did when I was in government, is retail trade. We don't know why that is, whether it's how it's calculated, or what vagaries are in there that don't seem to go with the trend of all the other economic indicators.
There are many negative indicators on the Yukon's economy, or lack of economy, in the October statistical review and, for the most part, all the indicators are down. There's nothing that seems to be up, outside of visitors to the Yukon, which is up somewhat. Vacancy rates are up, rents are down. I was looking at one here on aircraft movements, and this is very startling, in light of the fact that we have other major carriers serving the Yukon now. Yet we had a decrease of 34 percent in movements at the Whitehorse Airport, from June of 1997 to June of 1998.
Mr. Speaker, all of these things are indicators of an economy that is in trouble, an economy that doesn't seem to be able to get any momentum to start rebuilding. I think the worst part, and the part that concerns me the most, Mr. Speaker, is that Yukoners have lost optimism.
The members opposite can take it for what it's worth, and spin it whatever way they want, but many of their own supporters are disappointed in the manner that they are dealing with the economic crisis that's facing our territory.
Mr. Speaker, we were faced with a similar situation, as this government is, in 1993, when the Faro mine closed, but we were proactive. We went out and encouraged investment in the Yukon, and we were successful.
Why were we successful? Not that we had a big pool of money to draw from. We didn't have any money to draw from, but we sent a consistently positive message and we didn't send conflicting signals. And I believe that's one of the areas where this government has lacked - in sending a strong, consistent and positive message. They are viewed by many in public to be sending mixed messages. We heard it again yesterday at the Geoscience Forum.
While I'm speaking on the topic of the Geoscience conference, let's just compare. I have a headline from the Geoscience Forum, November 20 to 22, 1994, "The future of mining in the Yukon looks bright at the 22nd annual Geoscience Forum." We have Monday's headline, in 1998, at the 26th Geoscience Forum, "Mining activities plummet." A dramatic change, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, we're also not getting the positive press that we were getting in 1994, 1995 and 1996, and that is because of the mixed messages that this government is sending out. Mr. Speaker, we need only look at some of the headlines then and what some of the people were saying. The Yukon Chamber of Mines, in November of 1994, said "It's clear that next year will see a remarkable growth in employment and expenditure in hardrock mining. YTG has taken the first steps toward doing this with the appointment of Jessie Duke, the new mining facilitator." Loki Gold Corporation said, "Investment climate in the Yukon is currently amongst the most attractive in any jurisdiction in North America, with six projects being advanced to proceed into the regulatory stage."
At the same time, British Columbia was getting negative headlines on how they blew $50 billion on Windy Craggy.
Mr. Speaker, the Northern Miner, 1993 report card said, "The Yukon deserves accolades for rebuking Harcourt over the Tatshenshini-Windy Craggy wilderness fiasco".
Mr. Speaker, those didn't cost the Government of Yukon any money. They were just statements made on behalf of the people of the Yukon and what we felt about those issues and it helped to set a very positive climate for investment in the Yukon.
What we didn't have coming out were statements like we're getting now, or lack of statements. Now, I will just refer to a few of them. I don't want to go on forever on them.
We have the Member for Kluane saying, in this House, that we couldn't have exploration because if we had exploration, we might find mines and then we would have people - now he says it's not true. Look in Hansard and see exactly what he said. Read Hansard and see what he said.
Mr. Speaker, while we have some positive things going with the completion of land claims, we had one chief come out and put mining companies on notice. We didn't hear our Government Leader say anything to refute it. There are mixed messages.
Mr. Speaker, we've just seen an example of mixed messages again. We had one today in Question Period with the feasibility study on the proposed national park going ahead. The minister said last spring that they didn't have his blessing at the time. He wanted protected spaces to go ahead. Now, it appears that it has his blessing, according to Parks Canada, otherwise I don't know why they're going ahead with it. They said they were going to consult with the minister over the summer. I'm led to believe that now they have the blessing of the territorial government.
The protected areas strategy; we believe in it. We've always believed in it. We also believe in the target of 12 percent of the Yukon being set aside.
This government will not tell Yukoners, will not tell the investment community, how much of the Yukon will be set aside after the protected spaces strategy is complete. The minister will not say today whether the 10,000 square kilometres of the national park are going to part of that percentage or if they're going to be on top of that percentage.
These are the kinds of things that make investors nervous. Investors want to know that if they find something, they will have the ability to put it into production.
The DAP - the Government Leader took ownership of it when he took over government. He stood in this House and made very strong statements of how happy the mining community was, that they were now finally getting input into DAP.
Mr. Speaker, I attended DAP the other night; there were 60 or 70 people there. When asked the question, how many of them would invest in the Yukon under the draft DAP proposal, not one person, not one company, put their hand up - not one.
The NDP made a big issue of DAP being a simplified process. It isn't - it's blown up. The federal government won't let go of it. And what we have is a process that's going to be far more complicated than what it was under the previous environmental review process.
They haven't convinced investors, they haven't convinced the mining community, or anybody else who wants to use our wilderness resources, that DAP is going to be a fair system that's going to be able to give them an answer to their project in a timely manner.
"Yes", they say, they have timelines, but the timelines don't even kick in until the application is accepted. It could be years before the application is ever accepted for environmental review - and nothing to force the government to deal with it in a timely manner.
Those are the kinds of things that this government could do very, very quickly to clear up the misunderstandings in the public's mind, as to where they stand on development in the Yukon.
That needs to be done. That doesn't take any money. That just takes a solid message that is consistent, day in and day out, from all the ministers and all the representatives of that government. That would go a long way to helping build some optimism in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, I spoke of the one time that motions such as this were in front of the House, and an exercise like this took place in the Yukon back in 1993 when we were faced with a situation similar to what this government is going through now. We didn't wait for two years to do it, and we didn't have a huge summit, but we did bring together people from the private sector along with government and labour, and we got them to bang their heads together to see what the government could do with what limited resources we had to create jobs in the Yukon that winter, and it was a very successful exercise. We came to the House and said that we were going to spend $7 million and create a total of 3,700 person-weeks of direct and indirect employment.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we thought it was a positive move. The opposition was after us day after day after day as to how we could quantify and what evidence did we have that we were going to create those jobs. Nevertheless, we did it; it worked, and we did put Yukoners to work that winter, and I think it worked well, and that's why I would like to see this government embark on a similar exercise. Even with the fact that we have lost some ground, hopefully we can make some of the ground back up again and get the economy back on track.
Mr. Speaker, I want to turn now to the economic review for a few minutes to dispel this myth - and this is the 1997 NDP government's Yukon economic review. We hear the Minister of Economic Development, the minister who blames everybody else and everything else - except the actions of his government for the economic situation we find ourselves in in the Yukon.
It's not his fault; it's not their fault, and they're doing the best they can under some very severe constraints that are being placed on them by metal prices, by Bre-X, by the Pogo discovery in Alaska, and anything that he can grab on to to use for an excuse.
Mr. Speaker, that just isn't cutting it with the Yukon public. They're not looking for excuses. They're looking for economic leadership.
I want to turn to page 5 of the Yukon Economic Review of 1997. The Minister of Economic Development is on record, time and time again, saying what a dramatic drop there's been in metal prices, and that's why we have the situation we have in the Yukon. But, Mr. Speaker, his own economic review doesn't substantiate that - not for one minute.
We have here the annual average prices of gold and metals from 1993 to 1997. Gold has the most fluctuation - in 1993 at $364.10 U.S. an ounce to $329.65 U.S. as an average for 1997. It went as high as $384.00, and $329.00 was the lowest. That is in American dollars, and for most of those years, up until 1997, we're talking about a Canadian dollar that was worth 74 cents compared to the U.S. dollar today that is a 65-cent dollar, which offsets some of that.
Let's look at some of the other ones. Let's look at silver. Silver today is at $5. It hasn't gone down. Silver prices are very, very good and, in fact, if you take the exchange rate into consideration, they're higher than they have been for many, many years - with a 65-cent dollar.
Lead, for the average in 1997, was 10 cents a pound higher than it was in 1993, in U.S. dollars, and with the exchange rate, it was substantially higher. Zinc - the average price of zinc in 1993 was 43.58 cents a pound. Mr. Speaker, in 1997, zinc was 59.80 cents a pound.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: I'm not making these figures up, Mr. Speaker. They come out of the Yukon Economic Review. That's where they come from.
You take 59.8 cents in 1997 for zinc, calculate in a 65-cent dollar, vis-à-vis a 74-cent dollar, and it's a substantial difference in price. Copper, again, was higher in 1997 than it was in 1993 - 87 cents in 1993; $1.02 in 1997.
So the myth that metal prices are having a negative impact on the Yukon is just that: myth. The same metal prices have existed all through the time, yet we were able to take exploration from $10 million in 1992 to a high of $55 million in 1996.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: The Member for Kluane says, "What a farce." It's not a farce; it's a fact.
Mr. Speaker, this year our understanding is that exploration in the Yukon will be under $15 million. I think the last projected figure I saw was $14.5 million.
So metal prices are not having the negative impact on exploration that this government would like us to believe. Alaska, the Northwest Territories, and every other jurisdiction is subjected to those same metal prices.
Exploration dollars flow long ahead of mines coming into production - 10, 20 years ahead of mines coming into production.
And if we don't have grassroots exploration, we won't have mines in the future. It's been said time and time and time again, and I know, when I was Minister of Economic Development, the people in our department responsible for mining said that, if we were to maintain a mining industry in the Yukon, we needed to have at least $30 million a year in grassroots exploration.
Well, we're at half of that in 1998. We've got to get that back up again, and we can get it back up again just by sending some positive signals to the industry and doing some positive things as to how we get rid of some of the red tape and how these people, if they find something, will be able to put it into production. We can't do it when we have policies or legislation like that coming forward. That is going to do nothing to give any comfort to industry that they're going to be able to develop in the Yukon.
I heard the Minister of Economic Development trying to distance himself yesterday from DAP, saying that the regulatory review process was a federal process. We know it is, but this government took ownership of it through DAP when they took over government, and they were going to make it better.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I hear the Member for Laberge kibitzing in the background, but I don't see that he's added much to DAP. In fact, I attended the DAP meeting the other night and, unless somebody knew him, they wouldn't even have known he was there. He wasn't introduced as a player in the DAP, it wasn't acknowledged that he was even at the meeting, and in fact he didn't even stay until the end of the meeting to hear what Yukoners had to say. So, I think our analysis that he's nothing but a messenger boy between the commission and Cabinet was fairly accurate.
So, Mr. Speaker, we do believe that, if this government was to take on an initiative such as suggested in this motion, there would be some good ideas come out of it, and maybe there would be something there that this government could grasp on to and run with.
There is one thing that I know, Mr. Speaker, that it would do. It would create some optimism in the Yukon community, optimism that is badly needed now. We can't continue to go on the approach that it's out of our hands, there's nothing we can do about it, we don't have the budgets, we don't have the money. We can do something, and we should be doing something.
Mr. Speaker, you know, the oil and gas legislation has just been passed. A lot of Yukoners are looking to that to create some jobs but, on the other hand, we go to the DAP meeting the other night, and a lot of these oil projects, from what I can understand, have to go through the DAP. Well, if it's going to take forever to get through DAP, how are we going to put any people to work?
So I'm hoping that this government makes a strong stand with the federal government and doesn't accept the legislation as proposed, and holds out for some major, major revisions that will give some comfort to the investors who are going to invest in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, we need to get those exploration dollars back. We need them back quickly. We are competing with other jurisdictions that have the exploration dollars flowing to them, even in this time of what they call depressed metal prices. Alaska had one of their best exploration years, and I heard either the Government Leader or the Minister of Economic Development say that it's because the Alaska government put hundreds of thousands of dollars into subsidizing the industry.
I haven't been able to find any evidence of that. In fact, when I checked with Alaska, all of the Red Dog stuff that was done by Cominco there was done with private funding - no government funding whatsoever.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: We checked. We checked there; there is no taxpayer funding in it, Mr. Speaker.
The Northwest Territories is enjoying exploration. The Minister of Economic Development says, "Well, it's the Pogo deposit. That's what's attracted everything in Alaska; it's the Pogo deposit. If we had a big deposit like that, we would have exploration."
Well, Mr. Speaker, we need only look at Alaska's golden arch that doesn't stop at the border of Alaska; it goes all the way down, south of Whitehorse, Ross River, almost to Watson Lake. It's interesting to note that some of the major deposits in there are in the Yukon and were discovered long before the Pogo deposit. How come we lost those exploration dollars? How come they went to Alaska? That's what the government needs to be asking themselves, and finding out why those dollars fled the Yukon and went to Alaska.
Brewery Creek is in the same formation as the Pogo deposit. It was going into production. Dublin Gulch, which is hung up in a regulatory process - same thing. And another one close to Mayo. There are three of them that are very promising deposits, but the money isn't being spent on them. We need to get those investment dollars back.
Mr. Speaker, we cannot go on making excuses and saying that we can't do anything about it because we can and we should be doing something about it. Whether it comes to mining, whether it comes to logging, whether it comes to trade and export, we need to be proactive and we need to be proactive in the short term, not only in the long term.
I commend the government on what they're doing on trade and investment - it's good. It's good, but it is not going to stop our skilled tradespeople from leaving the Yukon now. We've had a dramatic drop in population - well over 2,000 people. We've had a drop in the workforce. We've had all kinds of drops here, and the only thing that's going up is government employees and social assistance. Those are the things that are going up, and we're having a bigger government to serve a smaller population.
We just saw this government come forward with a supplementary budget, where they got a very nice population adjustment from Ottawa - I believe $24 million in one-time funds, plus some $7 million in ongoing population adjustments. But Mr. Speaker, those - from my understanding - are based on 1996 population estimates, when the census was done - I believe it was 1996. It will catch up to us, and we will take a hit from Ottawa, unless we can get that population back up again. And unless there's something for people to do, we won't be able to get that population back up again.
Mr. Speaker, we can't all work for government. We need to have private sector investment, we need to diversify our economy, but we can't do that at the expense of our biggest job creator of all, and the history that the Yukon was built on - and that's the mining industry.
We can work so that we're not so dependent on the mining industry over a long period of time, but we need to do everything in our power to get that industry back here, get it investing in the Yukon, feeling good about investing in the Yukon - and creating those high-paying jobs that are going to make our economy go along and provide for the kind of lifestyle that Yukoners are entitled to.
Mr. Speaker, the government members opposite have said, time and time again, when they reply to questions from this side of the House, that we're nothing but negative - we don't have any ideas. Now, I have put forward an idea for this government to consider here today. I would hope that they would put partisan politics aside and deal with this issue in a responsible manner, and stand up and say that they realize that we have a serious situation in front of us and more could be done to turn our economy around in the short term, rather than just to sit by and wait for it to happen on its own - because that may take a long, long time.
So, Mr. Speaker, I'm going to be interested to hear what members opposite have to say today. I hope that we don't play politics with this motion, like we do with a lot of motions on Wednesdays, and that we allow this to come to a vote. I hope that members opposite will support this motion in the manner it's given: as constructive criticism.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would not have known that the member wanted us to respond in a non-partisan fashion until virtually the last paragraph of his speech. The member opposite presented one of the most in-your-face partisan attacks today that he's ever presented in the Legislature and then he hopes that the response will be a non-partisan, passive acceptance of the fantasy propositions that he's put on the table.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite wants us to believe that the members in the opposition only want to create a sense of optimism about the Yukon economy.
All they want to do is be helpful, but the reality, of course, is that day after day, both inside and outside the Legislature, when it's sitting and when it's not, there is at least one negative message coming out of both opposition caucuses. When the members opposite are vacationing, we can still expect that their scribes will be putting forth at least one negative message per day.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite calls it his job, to put forth one negative message a day. Every presentation of every proposal put forward by the government, whether it be trade and investment, which they routinely pooh-pooh, or whether it's the charter of airline trips that the Liberals love to be negative about, whatever it happens to be, there's a negative twist to it. So, let's not be fooling ourselves. The opposition is not interested in putting forward a positive message. That's not what this is all about. You can't be subjected to negative messages day after day in this Legislature - and even when the opposition are on four-month holidays - you cannot listen to that and believe that there's any attempt on their part to be positive or constructive. Quite the opposite.
What really disturbs them more than anything else is the fact that the chambers of commerce, the Tourism Industry Association, and others in the business community support what the government is doing. That bugs their butts, because the reality is, Mr. Speaker, that we do get support from the community in the face of the economic circumstances that we face today.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has said that he has been trying for two years to get the Yukon Party vision across to the government. For two years, he has been trying to impress upon the NDP government that the Yukon Party's vision of economic prosperity should be copied by this government.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I'll get back to the Yukon Party's vision on the economy in a few moments, to the extent that there ever was one, and I will talk about how it may not be the best thing for our economy to mimic the inaction of the previous government.
Now, the member began his remarks by stating that he felt that there had been a history of economic conferences that had provided useful service and provided the government with interesting and new ideas. Of course, there is a history of such conferences. He didn't mention the entire Yukon economic strategy that involved people throughout the territory, including members in his own party. He only mentioned two summits. One I didn't attend, because it was secret, and the second one I did attend, back in 1982.
But back in 1982, Mr. Speaker, the situation was fundamentally different than it is today, even though we did have the shared concern about the Faro mine once again being down - or at least it was down for the first time at that point. In those days, the government's primary pitch was to secure more funding from the federal government because they couldn't make payroll, and one of the options that they considered and approved was to pursue a nine-day fortnight, and they had difficulty just making ends meet.
The primary focus was to get more money from Ottawa. The member is quite right; I do recall Mr. Penikett saying it is not helpful to make raw, negative partisan attacks on the federal government in order to secure extra funding - negotiate, don't bash them. I remember that. There is a fundamental difference between then and now.
We, on our side of the Legislature, are not saying that the improvement to the Yukon's economy is going to come through massive new transfers from the federal government. We have not said that. We've not sought the big public spending solution that seems to be championed by both the Yukon Party and the Liberals. We have indicated that the private sector economy must evolve to something more than the resource sector. It must evolve into something that does create jobs locally and will not be solved by massive public works, which is clearly a short-term fix.
And not once have you heard any minister in this government demand extra funds, that we need to get more money from the federal government to improve our economic fortunes.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite goes on in his attempt to create a fantasy about what the Yukon NDP government is all about. He uses such bogus statistics as the fact that there is a major population drop now, it's getting worse, but fails to recognize that when the Faro mine shut down in 1993 - a period over which he was presiding - the labour force was less than it is today. Yet then he didn't characterize it as a crisis; today he does characterize it as a crisis.
Mr. Speaker, he made the point that - and he's fond of using these statistics and I'll get back to his statistical trail here - there are more EI recipients in the Yukon than there are in the Northwest Territories. Of course, he didn't compare the welfare rates in the two jurisdictions. We have a very high rate of employment here, generally, when the mining industry is not down.
He didn't mention the fact that EI claims in Alberta are way up as a result of the downturn in the oil industry. In his recounting of statistics, he now claims that he doesn't really understand the real reasons behind the growth in retail trade any more. He did before - when it was the only indicator that he could turn to to show, when he was government leader, that there was some sort of prosperity in the territory. He could understand it then.
But now he can't understand it, and thinks that it must be flawed, because the positive indicator is happening during a period when he's not in government, and the NDP is.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the member went on to say the second opportunity that the government had to set up a committee in similar circumstances - the first was during Chris Pearson's era, and I was there.
The second committee was when he was in government and he set up a committee and he said, in his words, he called it - and I wrote it down here- "It wasn't a big conference."
No, it wasn't a big conference. It was, in fact, what they referred to as a "blue-ribbon committee" that sat in secret, and made some suggestions to the government about how it could spend its money. And he is suggesting that we should copy this process, and this would constitute good public consultation.
Now, Mr. Speaker, part of his message has been that the Yukon NDP government is sending what he calls "mixed messages." But part of the problem we face here - and we faced during this legislative sitting alone, on many occasions - is that the opposition routinely, willfully, misrepresents the government's position on so many positions.
We've had the opposition, on many occasions - even today - suggest that the NDP government was opposed to exploration. Well, how patently false.
He's indicated that the NDP government was not in favour of development in the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd. Well, that's patently false. As a matter of fact, that was a position that the Yukon Party didn't even try to take when they were in government.
The member goes on to say that if only we had simple messages - maybe he means simple-minded messages - that people could understand; that way they would all understand where we are and where we're coming from.
Well, the NDP government has a balanced agenda. We have an agenda for jobs in the short term and the long term. We have an agenda that wants to encourage resource development, wants to expand our economic activity into new areas, wants to expand the tourism industry, and we also have an environmental agenda that incorporates a desire to provide, not only regulations pursuant to the Environment Act, but also a protected areas strategy. And we're honest about those things.
Mr. Speaker, the point that the member made in his initial remarks that I found most astounding was that he tried to make the case - if you can believe this - that mineral prices are not the problem, and that mineral prices aren't, in fact, down at all. Now, I really don't know who he's talking to. Maybe we simply are talking to different people. Maybe he's talking to the hard-core Yukon Party, who work in his office and work for him, and maybe we're just talking to the mining industry and to the business community. Maybe we are talking to different people.
As an example, he made the case that the zinc price was low in 1993 and was higher in 1996. So, how can that demonstrate that there is any problem?
Well, in 1993, as my colleagues have pointed out, the Faro mine was closed and in 1996 it was open and in 1997 it was closed because the mineral price went down again.
Mr. Speaker, this will hurt him when I say that the highest exploration spending years were not, in fact, during Yukon Party regime. In fact, the highest exploration spending years were during an NDP administration. The highest spending in production was also during NDP administrations. Now, this will hurt, and I'm certain he'll try to find some statistic that may challenge the figures, but that's the reality.
The member opposite went on to try to make the case that there were so many things that were seeming to muddy the waters or to send mixed messages, such as our interest in getting a new DAP underway, and he indicated that, if only we were to send a simple message, we would be able to send the right signals to the mining industry and then the mining industry would just go, irrespective of metal prices. He's saying mineral prices aren't the problem. Mineral prices are in fact up. It's his fantasy, shared by only him and his colleagues in the opposition.
But, Mr. Speaker, the reality is that we have to deal with some tough issues. DAP is one of them: the development assessment process. The member opposite said this afternoon that the Yukon NDP government had taken responsibility for the federal regulatory process because they wanted to improve the development assessment process.
This suggests to me at least two things. Number one, he doesn't know what he's talking about, and number two, he doesn't know what he's talking about. The reality is, Mr. Speaker, that the federal regulatory process is not the assessment process. Regulations are still in the hands of the federal government. The regulatory regime is in the hands of the federal government. The assessment process is a result of the land claims agreement, and it was set up to establish a way to assess developments - not to regulate them, to assess them.
Now he says that we took responsibility for DAP, and he said further that he - and I quote; I wrote this quote down - he hopes this government takes a strong stand with the federal government when it comes to DAP, because obviously we want a DAP that's one window, we want a DAP that's efficient, we want a DAP that does its job, and does a reasonable job when it comes to assessing various development proposals.
Where was this same gentleman in 1996, when the federal government was busily going off, developing the development assessment legislation with the support of his administration at the administrative level? Where was this gentleman when he wanted the Government of Yukon to take a strong stand to ensure there's a one-window approach?
When we established a process, with some political support and with some administrative support, to try to improve the development assessment process, the leader of the official opposition - the leader of the Yukon Party - said, "No need to worry. That expenditure is not necessary. The work's already done." So, two years later, he's encouraging us and me to take a strong stand with the federal government on a piece of legislation that we've spent two years trying to improve and have improved, even though it still needs work.
Surely anyone witnessing this exchange can see the difference between action and words - even if the member can't - and can distinguish between fantasy and fact.
The member goes on in his typical, partisan way to make claims about government employees - we don't all have to work with the government, we don't want to all work for the government; government employees are way up; the number of employees is way up.
Well, there's another piece of sleight of hand on the part of the opposition. He said that the employment rate was up 378 people over last year. What a clever little way of trying to manipulate the facts. They compared a period before the devolution of the health transfer, which was 200 people, in the wintertime, with the next year after the devolution, in the summertime, which incorporated summer employment. They didn't compare a summer to a summer; they compared winter before devolution to summer after devolution.
So the population is largely taken up with those two factors alone, yet this doesn't justify the fantasy, ideological commitment these folks have to attack the public service, to attack O&M spending, to attack public services, to make snide innuendo about the growth in government.
All the while, they themselves are demanding increased expenditures literally every single day in this Legislature. They did it today. There's no limit to the O&M spending on a daily incremental basis, but look out once all the figures are in, once the balance sheet is all tallied up. Look out.
I tried that exercise with the Member for Klondike. After the first week, I was just flabbergasted at what was only one project a day, in terms of Question Period, but by the time the short session was over, it turned out, in the first two weeks, it was $70-million worth of requests.
Mr. Speaker, we deal in the real world and the real world does involve - like it or not - the fact that the Yukon's economy is largely an export economy. It always has been. The mining economy is an export economy. We sell our minerals outside the territory. We don't sell them to smelters inside the territory. We don't fabricate products inside the territory to sell to Yukoners; we sell our materials outside the territory. It's an export economy, and what happens outside this territory affects the people of this territory very, very much. That is a working, living reality and the opposition should get used to it.
Mr. Speaker, there is a depressed metal market, irrespective of lame attempts today to try to make the case that mineral prices aren't a problem when one needs only to look at the national newspapers, international newspapers or the trade journals to know that the Asian crisis and mineral prices are a problem, and no fantasy creation will change that reality.
The members opposite love to chant Bre-X as if every time we mention Bre-X this is a lame attempt on the part of the government to disavow itself of any responsibility for the mining industry.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Then they say, "or anything else." Mr. Speaker, they seem to suggest that the fact that we are dealing with reality - a reality that included the Bre-X scandal, which did shake confidence in junior mining companies and did make it difficult for them to find money - is something that they just simply can't accept. The reality certainly does include the fact that the mining industry throughout the world is suffering.
It does include the fact that mining exploration is suffering. The fantasy creation on the part of some scribes and the opposition that mining is booming in Alaska, booming in the Northwest Territories, but is suffering in the Yukon, needs to be challenged. Somebody has to stand up and challenge this fantasy creation on their part.
There were real miners laid off in the Northwest Territories in the last year; real mines closed, real families disrupted; and the fact that the diamond mine's in the Northwest Territories does not change that fact. The mining industry in Alaska, on the production side, is largely attributable to the Red Dog mine. The Red Dog mine did, in fact, receive large subsidies for a port development from the State of Alaska.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I'm right.
And, Mr. Speaker, the exploration activity does have a real reason, because there is a deposit that people are looking at that's a rare deposit and that has boosted the exploration figures.
Well, Mr. Speaker, there has to be some acknowledgment by somebody outside this Legislature, and there certainly is, and there should be some acknowledgment by the opposition members. Even when they're sitting by themselves and having to face their own consciences, there has to be some acknowledgment or recognition that the mining industry is suffering everywhere, and that it is not a fantasy to think that there is a problem with price.
Now, I know the members opposite in the Yukon Party like to champion themselves as the support for the miners. They didn't actually introduce any new programs, other than the industrial support program, which I may get to later, which was this two-page document that said, come-and-ask-any-Cabinet-minister-for-money-and-he-may-give-it-to-you policy. The reality was that the programs that were in place in the 1992-96 period - programs supporting the mining industry - were programs that were created by the New Democrats. And, in fact, not only did the New Democrats create the programs, but the New Democrats got good write-ups in the Northern Miner, too, for being precisely the good friends of mining that they are.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I will get to the Yukon Party record. The leader of the official opposition did say that he has been trying desperately to get us to understand his vision and to accept his vision of the economy. I will spend a few minutes on that vision, and I will spend probably one-quarter of the time on the Liberal Party vision, because I still haven't been able to detect it. I will also speak a little bit about the NDP approach, and then I will get to the motion itself and provide some thoughts on the motion, as it's written.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party has been trying to get us to repeat its performance since the last election. They have indicated that their record in office is something that should be emulated by us, and something that we should take great care to copy where we can. I would just point out to members, who may have some short memories, what that record was all about.
On the fiscal side, that record included a roller coaster that has not been seen in this territory for decades.
We were up, and we were down. We were facing crises, and we were facing record spending. We were facing tax increases. We were facing employee cutbacks. We were facing ministers wanting to cut funding to NGOs, and we were facing record spending on the north Alaska Highway. Talking about mixed messages, we were doing all kinds of things, spending big, taxing big, declaring crises for four years. We don't want to repeat that.
Mr. Speaker, we saw a government that confronted its employees. We saw a government that confronted and had angry confrontations with NGOs and First Nations. We saw a government that pioneered tax increases in a way that had not been seen in this Legislature for years. We saw a government that spent the largest budgets ever in the history of the territory. We're still millions of dollars behind what the members opposite were spending on an annual basis.
We saw a government that, when it came to support for the Faro mine, took a hands-off approach to helping that mine get started. Even the mine promoters were saying that there was more interest in Toronto in seeing the Faro mine get started than there was in the Yukon Party Cabinet, and yet when the minister got started, all the economic indicators improved. Unemployment went down. Employment went up. Building starts went up. And yet, did the Yukon Party have any role to play? No.
We had a government that claimed that it was doing some of the tough policy work that was going to set this territory on the right track. In their first throne speech, they were talking about a comprehensive energy policy by the end of its term, and it produced nothing.
When it came to concerns about the forestry industry, the Yukon Party government did nothing to help the forest industry - absolutely nothing. The members in the Yukon Party said it was a federal concern, right up until the election time, when there was this unseemly attempt to try to bribe the foresters with a $1-million fund. When they couldn't do the policy work themselves - or were unable to convince the federal government that they'd been bashing that they were a useful and constructive partner - they made the suggestion that, "We should find some American mediator to come in and try to help things out" at the last second.
Mr. Speaker, this is a government that said that they supported the mining industry, and they were going to show their expression of support, with what they referred to as "industrial support policy." This policy, Mr. Speaker, after years in the making, turned out to be a two-page statement of principles. And this policy was a policy which simply said to the mining industry - or any developer - "Please come to us, talk to us about how much money you need, and we'll make some backroom deals again." That was all the policy said.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party was the government that criticized and cut the community development fund - and still criticizes the community development fund and every project it's supported. This is the government that dealt with access-to-capital issues through its one program, the venture guarantee program, for which there's one applicant - and none while they were in office. One applicant - that's their response to the access- to-capital issue.
This is a government that knew that there was a DAP coming, knew that the development assessment process had been developed, knew it had been developed by the federal government, and were quite happy to see it sent into the federal system without any public discussion in the Yukon.
This was a government that, when it did have some major capital works - capital works incidentally that the Yukon Party had no hand in negotiating, like the Shakwak and the hospital construction project - this is a government that, when it came time to actually tender the hospital project, told Yukon general contractors that they need not apply.
This is a government that saw electrical rates go up. This is a government that introduced rate relief, a positive measure, but before the election promised to phase it out. This is a government that signed on to the Yukon protected areas strategy and said it was going to be completed - he's saying now 12 percent protection; I don't remember the 12 percent - but said it was going to be completed by the year 2000.
So, Mr. Speaker, even if I were to agree with the member and say that it was 12 percent by the year 2000, and I do remember the year 2000, can you imagine what it would have been like, under a Yukon Party government, to try to develop parks throughout this territory all by the year 2000? It would have been awful. It certainly wouldn't have been a participatory process. It would have been clearly a catastrophe for the development community and for the conservation community.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party was a government whose economic message was filled with dreams of railways, mines in the permitting process - there were dozens of mines in the permitting process. What was it? Two got started in all that period of prosperity and high metal prices and all the Cordilleran Roundups and all the other - two, was it? Two? Yes.
Mr. Speaker, this was a government that kept spending money on roads, investing in roads, which turned out to be the north Alaska Highway. There were no roads to any particular mine, other than the Viceroy mine, which we're helping to support. It was a government that focused its energies on dreams, dreams that were never realized, dreams that disappointed, dreams that were not realistic at all.
Mr. Speaker, the NDP government has taken a fundamentally different approach to our economic circumstances. First of all, the NDP government recognizes that we should support the traditional resource economy, but we need to diversify and seek new ways of making a living beyond the resource economy.
We don't want to adopt a passive approach to economic development - fluff up our feathers and hope somebody comes. We want to go out and hustle for work. We want to ensure that the approach that is taken is not an approach associated with dependency, either on big projects that they proceed somewhere else or whether it is determined on the basis of the need or desire for giant public works, which I know is the favoured response from the Member for Klondike. The Member for Klondike does not know of any other economic development other than big public spending.
Mr. Speaker, this NDP government must hustle for new opportunity, whether it be pursuing housing exports, which I know the members of the opposition are opposed to, or whether it's the sale of technology that we have developed in this territory, or whether it's the sale of bottled water or any product that we can sell.
We need to find new ways of making a living to supplement the traditional cornerstones of the economy. We have to take action on those things over which we can take control.
Now, Mr. Speaker, when I travel in the territory, people everywhere say to me that Yukon people must be more in control of their economic destiny. They do support, as we do, of course, the traditional resource economy - mining, oil and gas, forestry - but we must expand our horizons to new things.
Now, when I've had discussions with communities, I've indicated to them a couple of things. First of all, the government's role is to protect the basics, protect health care and education, and that's what we've supported. We've also indicated that we need to support our partners and not attack them as the Yukon Party did - the non-government organizations, which provide important support to the territorial population. We want to be a stabilizing force. We want stable spending, not roller-coaster spending, which was the practice of the Yukon Party. We want to ensure that the tax system suits our needs. We don't want to raise taxes as the Yukon Party did. We want to strategically lower them in order to encourage economic activity. And we need to respect employees' needs. Well, Mr. Speaker, we've done all of those things, and we have invested millions of dollars in supporting those things.
The problem, Mr. Speaker, with the motion - and I'll get to the motion, and I'll return to our approach - is perhaps best described by the Member for Riverdale North in Question Period today.
He said, "It's action this economy needs, not words." The problem with the motion, Mr. Speaker, whether it be a proposal to set up a blue-ribbon, secret committee, which the Yukon Party leader has suggested could happen, or whether it has the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment have a one- or two-day conference, or whether it's a conference of the sort that the NDP has sponsored in the past, the reality is that all of that duplicates the discussions we are having, and will be having, with the people throughout this territory now.
We've had, in the last five months, many meetings with the chambers of commerce, Chamber of Mines and the Tourism Industry Association about the economy, about everything from triple-P initiatives, to support, to tax review, to programming support - many of the things that have shown up in this Legislature today. In the last month, I have had 38 meetings in the territory, with people throughout the territory, to discuss with the government what role the government might play in improving the territory's economic performance and how the people of the territory might themselves play a stronger role in improving the economy.
We've had meetings set up on everything from trade and diversification, to tourism, to a discussion around taxation, to a discussion around the regulatory review with partners in our community, to ensure there are active discussions in key areas that should be improved, in order to improve our economic performance.
And, incidentally, Mr. Speaker, for the leader of the official opposition, we've invited labour. I hope he doesn't mind. And we've invited women's groups. I hope he doesn't mind. But there are other people in this territory who have an interest in the economy other than simply the chambers of commerce.
So clearly, Mr. Speaker, what we have been doing is undertaking a great deal of discussion already and have working groups set up with the citizenry of this territory already to tackle many of the issues that this Legislature has discussed and that are suggested in this motion.
And that's not even mentioning, Mr. Speaker, the targeted consultation that we've undertaken with respect to everything from local hire, forestry, to energy policy - all comprehensive public discussions to try to improve the policy framework, to improve the economic fortunes of this territory, and to ensure that we have both a short-term and a long-term future where there are jobs and economic opportunities.
So, Mr. Speaker, the fact that it is duplicating the discussions in fact ignores the fact that these discussions have taken place and are taking place, ignores the fact that there are people who are working hard at the tax round table, working hard at the trade and investment partnership forums, working hard at the discussions we're having around the regulatory review. This motion essentially dismisses all of that work and suggests that a two-day conference next spring, on the same subjects, is going to be value added to the economic debate of this territory.
Mr. Speaker, we need to act now and we are acting now. We needed to act last year and we acted last year, and we do not want to wait till next spring.
Mr. Speaker, we also need to have a broader base of discussions with the people in this territory.
It is not appropriate to suggest that the economic activity of this territory should only be discussed through a dialogue between some representatives of the business community and the government. People in rural Yukon need to participate in discussions. They have asked to participate in the discussions, and they have been folding into many of the discussions taking place today.
First Nations people have a real interest in the economic activity of this territory and are taking an active role in improving the economic fortunes of the people of this territory, and are major players in the economy.
Labour, and others, people who represent the workers, they have an interest in economic discussions. Mr. Speaker, any public consultation that we would sponsor would have to have a broader vision than that which is anticipated by this suggestion that the leader of the Yukon Party has put on the table today.
Mr. Speaker, last month, I invited and asked the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment to hold public discussions around the territory, not about what the government could do for them, but what they can do for themselves with the help of government. This is a fundamentally different concept than the government-dependent concept that seems to be championed by the Yukon Party.
They will be undertaking public discussions throughout the territory to enhance the discussion that's already taking place - not one-shot wonders, but carrying on an ongoing dialogue with people who care about their economic fortunes.
It won't be the blue-ribbon, secret committee that the Yukon Party had, but it will be something much better, and much more participatory.
Now, one of the reasons why I was surprised by this motion, Mr. Speaker, is that it is the old politics of 20 years ago. It is the old way of looking at things, the same way of looking at things that were very much the norm when I first entered this Legislature. It is a government-dependent, government-centred vision of economic prosperity. It is all about what the government can do to improve the economic fortunes of the territory. It's a sad, lame, old-fashioned, out-of-date, arcane, wrong approach to economic prosperity.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Now, the Member for Klondike says that it works historically. This dependency upon government works historically. Mr. Speaker, this is the Yukon Party. This is the Conservative Party, which is ostensibly the party that believes that the private sector should lead the way, that only the real jobs are in the private sector. The public sector doesn't - that's a false economy. These are the same ones who are completely dependent upon public spending. The Member for Klondike says, "But it works." Mr. Speaker, that's a reflection of the problems that we face today.
Mr. Speaker, we need to wean ourselves from that dependency. We need to wean ourselves from the boom-bust economy. We need to have a private sector that is vibrant, that's got some depth, that is diversified.
We cannot share the vision of the Member for Klondike, the member who put $70-million worth of requests on the table in the first week, in his first introduction to this Legislature, hat in hand, saying the only way to improve the economy of this territory is to seek more public spending. That's the only vision that they have, Mr. Speaker. It doesn't have anything to do with business activity. It's all how business can take whatever scraps come their way from government or from other big, private sector jobs.
It is a limited vision and I urge everybody to disavow themselves of the Member for Klondike's vision. It's a wrong vision. It is not good for this territory and not good for the future of this territory.
The time has come for the public and the private sector to work together to encourage real economic activity along with the government spending ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: ... to help the economy. But they'll only be looking at what public spending can do as a poverty of vision. I can't share it, don't share it and I would venture to bet most of the people of the territory don't share it either.
Mr. Speaker, I'll tell members one thing we will not do, though. Despite the fact that they have a completely government-dependent vision of economic prosperity, one thing we, on this side of the House, will not do is convene discussions about ways we can privatize the public sector. That is a wrong vision.
The motion before us today asks that this conference - this two-day wonder - should encourage discussion around government services that could be delivered more cost effectively and efficiently by the private sector - i.e., alias, AKA, privatization of the public sector.
So, Mr. Speaker, I know this vision is not shared by everybody. It's the not Yukon NDP government's vision. I know that the Yukon Party does believe in privatization of the public sector. They have practised it before when they were the Progressive Conservatives. They tried to privatize the Energy Corporation. I'm very interested in what the Liberal Party has to say on this subject. I want to know. I'll be interested this afternoon in hearing their response on that particular question.
But, you know, privatization - the old saw from the right wing. Well, Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of people in British Columbia today who would have wished that the right wing had not had a chance to privatize highway maintenance in British Columbia. That is a regrettable and irreversible unfortunate decision. It was born of the right-wing ideologues. It was taken as a matter of faith that the service would be better, and it would be more cost effective. The reality is that service was worse. The reality is that workers' wages were the target for any so-called savings, and no one would suggest that highway maintenance in British Columbia has improved after privatization. So, that is a conference we will not convene. We will not convene it in public, and we will not, in accordance with Yukon Party practice, convene it in private, either.
Mr. Speaker, the next element of the motion speaks to the need to essentially reduce red tape. Well, we don't need to have a conference next year to talk about reducing red tape when we've already had discussions this last spring, this summer, this fall with people. We've set up a process to review red tape and to try to reduce red tape. We're doing that now. We don't need to wait for next spring to have it told to us through this elite summit that the member is promoting.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite talks about wanting to consider some tax measures that may help the economy.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we have a tax round table, which involves people from business and industry throughout this territory, already reviewing various tax proposals for this budget in February. So if we do as the member is suggesting, the best we could hope for out of this summit would be to do what? - well, probably set up a tax round table, something we've already done, because someone would have to do the work.
Now, it doesn't seem necessary to duplicate, or to ignore, the work that's already been done by so many people. We need to do things now.
Mr. Speaker, the member's final point is that he wants us to explore ways that the government can spend more money to improve the economy - advancing public works so that we can put people to work through public expenditures.
Mr. Speaker, we already have done some advance public works. These public works have been ridiculed by the opposition: the airport runway extension, where they tried to create this artificial concern about the nature of the construction project. They tried everything they could to undermine the project, to tear it down - even though it was a completely bogus claim. The claims they made about the concerns with the Whitehorse Airport construction project were completely bogus. That never comes out in the debate, does it? Because it's always the accusation that makes the headlines, but the fact that the ...
Hon. Mr. McDonald: ... Mr. Speaker, for one second, I was lost in trying to understand the leader of the Liberal opposition, and I regret taking your time.
Mr. Speaker, the bogus claims about the various projects that have been undertaken serve only to add an air of negativity around something that is inherently good and positive and without concern. The reality is that we have done some public works but we cannot spend more than what we have. We cannot spend out way out of our economic malaise. This was what was practised in the 1970s and governments are still paying down the debt from that period.
The members opposite would have us take our surplus - put it immediately into public works, recognizing of course that whatever we did we could never replace Faro mine's payroll - that we would put all this money into public works now, and then next year what would happen? We would have everybody working now. Next year there would be no reserves; we're back to the roller coaster. And we would be even less well positioned to protect public services than we are today.
We need to provide stability to the territory. If the government's going to contribute something to the territorial economy, it ought to be stability, and not participate in this boom-bust activity and high-spending activity that the Yukon Party practised in its short tenure. It is not sustainable. That kind of response to our economic future is not sustainable.
There is no doubt, Mr. Speaker, with our $70-million capital budget, that we're putting some people to work, but we must ensure that we have money next year and the year after, and the year after that, to ensure that our infrastructure needs and our capital needs are met down the line. You can't look at this as simply a short-term problem. That would be irresponsible.
And that is the reason why I can't buy into the Yukon Party vision.
Mr. Speaker, there are many ways of improving the economy. There are many ways of showing leadership, and there have been many suggestions made by the people of this territory on what the government can do or contribute to the debate.
I've had many discussions, as I mentioned, around the territory during pre-budget, both this year and last year. I've also had many discussions with the business community of various sorts throughout the year and particularly this fall. We have been talking about a broad range of issues, and it's interesting that the business community has in fact bought in, has in fact joined us, in pursuing these initiatives.
They have embraced these initiatives. There has been no press release to my knowledge of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce condemning our tax reform initiative. I have not heard the Chamber of Mines condemning our trade and investment strategy. I've not heard the Tourism Industry Association saying that the Yukon government is falling down on the job when it comes to tourism development. These representative organizations of the business sector have not been attacking our agenda. Not only have they not been attacking, they've been joining with us in a true partnership to actually make changes on a whole series of fronts.
We in this Legislature can stand up day after day and announce new initiatives, and the opposition will simply say, "But you're not doing anything. But you're not doing anything." We announce the trade and investment fund - "But you're not doing anything." We announce new charter flights from Europe - "But you're not doing anything." New tourism marketing - "But you're not doing anything." Expanding the airport - "But you're not doing anything." New mineral strategy - "But you're not doing anything." New tax reduction, tax reform - "But you're not doing anything." Red tape reduction - "But you're not doing anything." Training trust funds around the territory - "But you're not doing anything."
You want to build an investment fund, but you're not doing anything. The list goes on and on. We announce something; their response is, "You're not doing anything." We developed these initiatives in concert with the private sector and the community organizations and community groups, but we're not doing anything. The community groups and the business sector are not attacking us, but we're still not doing anything.
At what point, Mr. Speaker, will the members in the opposition recognize and acknowledge not only the work that the government is doing, but the fact that the people of this territory - the citizens, their voters - are participating in those initiatives, like those initiatives, tell me the initiatives are good - because, in many cases, they suggested them - and say that this is what the territory needs and wants.
Do we have to live completely in a fantasy land in this Legislature where we explain all the work that we're doing with the community on various levels on various fronts, and the opposition does nothing but say, "No, the situation is a disaster. It's gloom and doom. There's hardly a positive signal on the horizon, and you're not doing anything."
Is this Legislature going to be relevant at all to the people in this territory? Is it? If the members opposite will not acknowledge what the citizens are doing, will not acknowledge the hard work of the citizens, will not acknowledge that the chambers of commerce are participating in so many initiatives - initiatives that they suggested themselves - what is the relevance of the debate of this Legislature? One can only ask oneself.
Here we have a situation where the member from the Yukon Party is asking us to do tax reform, and we've got it underway. We've got it underway, and there are people who are participating in round tables right now on tax reform, and yet the member opposite is asking for it as if it's never happened, it's a brand-new idea. Is he saying that the work of the people who are actually considering tax proposals is irrelevant? Is he saying that their participation lacks importance?
Surely there has to be some recognition by the so-called elected representatives of the public in the opposition that the citizens, whom they are supposedly representing, are actually doing some good work.
Mr. Speaker, the members in the opposition promised, a week before the Legislature started, that they were going to come into this Legislature, they were going to deal with the economy, they were going to deal with energy rates, and they were going to hammer the government on the Yukon protected areas strategy. After day one, we didn't get any more questions on the economy. What did we get? We got questions about criticizing the amount of time somebody took a car out of a car pool, on day two or three of the legislative session - they're supposed to be focusing on the economy.
This was a criticism from people who hadn't seen the Minister of Tourism for four months. Why? It's not because the Minister of Tourism wasn't working. It was because the members of the opposition were on holidays. And they were telling me, outside this Legislature, that life in the opposition was the good life. They had their feet up, out at Marsh Lake, they were enjoying themselves, they hadn't seen the need to do any work, they had their scribe in the opposition offices throwing out the negative press releases day after day. They didn't have to do any work. So, they come back from their vacation - they come into their hole - they don't see the Minister of Tourism, so they put out a press release on it. "Where's the Minister of Tourism? I don't see him." Well, he's up in Ross River. So, they say, "Well, he's not doing anything." Well, then they say that he's put 4,000 miles on a government car, going around the territory working - and he's still not doing anything. He's been taking holidays. The fantasy creations coming out of the mouths of the opposition are mind-numbing.
So, the members come back, and they're coming on full-gun on protected areas. Mr. Speaker, apart from some discussion around this Wolf Lake national park today - incidentally, our position is that it be done through the protected areas strategy, that any park development will be done through the protected areas strategy.
We haven't had any questions on protected areas strategy. Protected areas strategy hasn't registered in this Legislature yet, and yet the week before, they were going to come in here full-guns. But where is it?
Mr. Speaker, even though they had ostensibly bought into protected areas, they were going to come in and criticize it. Why? Because they'd heard somebody was criticizing it. But when that person ceased criticizing it, they had nothing to say. What a shallow concern they must have had a week before.
Then they said they were going to hammer us on energy rates. Boy, this government was going to really go down on energy rates. Mr. Speaker, where are the questions? Wouldn't you think there would have been, even in the interests of constructive opposition that we've been talking about, even an acknowledgment of the fact that the action the government has taken on restabilization would be even partially effective? No. There's no discussion here in the Legislature. There is some nit-picking at the edges from the leader of the official opposition, the Yukon Party, but virtually no acknowledgment of a major initiative.
And, Mr. Speaker, the questions on the economy ended after the first day. They ended after the first day, and then we were on to all kinds of other little things. What else did the opposition go after? Well, they were, of course, after the airport, because they wanted to be negative about that initiative, so they tried to make it seem as if there were obstructions at the airport that were preventing planes from landing. It was all, of course, untrue, and yet we spent a few days working that one out. We had the - let's see here, Mr. Speaker, what else was going on last week, the last couple of weeks?
We've had claims by the opposition that the Yukon Housing Corporation didn't have any permits to develop the Range Road development. Of course, you know, that was wrong. Certainly, it was made clear later, but the claim was made with some gusto by the Yukon Party.
They made the claim that the Yukon government was trying to contract out highway maintenance to First Nations. Of course, that claim was wrong, but nevertheless they made the claim with some gusto, which is kind of fascinating, Mr. Speaker, because now they are seeking ways on how we can privatize things like highway maintenance and inviting the private sector to come in and make some suggestions on that subject.
Well, Mr. Speaker, that's what has been dominating this legislative session. Those are the issues, but the big things that they had announced that they were going to come with some gusto into this Legislature on, to really have a good vigorous debate on, were protected areas, energy rates and the economy. There has been nothing of any substance on any of those issues.
Mr. Speaker, the fact that the government has put money, not only into a rate stabilization fund, but also into a green power fund, is something that pretty much should be embraced by members of this Legislature. Clearly, the investment to reduce our dependency on fossil fuel - diesel fuel - is something that ought to be supported by people. But we haven't heard anything from the opposition on that front.
Obviously, we're not doing anything, in their view. We're putting money into applied wind research on Haeckel Hill. I guess that's another example of doing nothing, in their view.
Mr. Speaker, on trade and investment, we had the trade mission to Alaska. We had 19 companies participating. We had a number of companies in the Yukon develop some promising contacts.
I can talk about the potential for signing lucrative contracts, but I guess that's an example of "them doing nothing" because this doesn't register on the Yukon Party at all.
The fact that the Yukon Housing Corporation is a local company that's going down to Chile to do some work was, in fact, criticized by the members of the opposition - ridiculed by the members of the opposition. Imagine, a business person of this territory going to another country to try to sign contracts to sell homes made by Yukoners. Imagine that being actually ridiculed by the opposition of this legislature. That's astounding - and yet they'll say, "The government's doing nothing."
We are assisting over 70 local companies with product development to ensure that they have a better chance of seeking work outside the territory. And this has been pooh-poohed and ridiculed, particularly by the Yukon Party.
Imagine, Mr. Speaker, companies finding economic opportunities outside the Yukon and that being ridiculed on the floor of the Yukon Legislature - Yukon companies making progress in expanding their business and opportunities in the world, and that's actually ridiculed by the opposition in the Yukon Legislature. I find that astounding.
There are businesses all over this country doing business around the world. And the moment that we encourage Yukon business activity outside the boundaries of the territory, there's actually criticism coming from the opposition.
The announcement today - the details of the trade and investment fund - both the Liberals and the Yukon Party didn't mention one single thing about how this project would do good things for the territory, but simply criticized the fact that they had heard about it before.
Yet they still try to maintain this fantasy that they are trying to be positive. In the face of all this positive news, they can still be negative.
We're in the process of creating an immigrant investor fund. Mr. Speaker, is that doing nothing? We've just secured, for the first time ever in Yukon history, responsibility for managing oil and gas. The oil and gas industry is showing some excitement about what may happen in the territory. We might actually have an oil and gas industry for the first time - a serious one in this territory. Is this an example, once again, of the Government of Yukon doing nothing?
We, in the NDP government, established a competitive common oil regulatory regime with First Nations to give the Yukon a competitive advantage over other jurisdictions in this country and put all the hard work into making that happen and yet, again, the opposition says, "The government is doing nothing."
We had the workshop in Watson Lake where 70 representatives from oil and gas companies came to the territory to talk business, and the opposition continues to claim that the Yukon NDP government is doing nothing.
Mr. Speaker, we have seen, in this last year in the tourism industry, record increases in visitation. This has not even registered with the opposition, the opposition who claims to be the constructive alternative. They haven't even noted this reality or exclaimed, "Yeah, that's good."
Mr. Speaker, we have secured air charter access - last year with Air Transat, this year with Air Condor and with Canada 3000 and we're looking at expanding Canada 3000 - yet, that has been met with some criticism, with eye-rolling from the opposition and with negativity.
This is a positive development, but it is yet another example of where the Yukon government has done nothing, in their view.
Mr. Speaker, we established the tourism marketing fund, a tourism marketing fund which puts more marketing dollars into the economy. That's beyond the $200,000 that we increased in marketing this year. There's another $250,000. Three or four years ago, under the Yukon Party government, this would have been heralded, championed, announced, re-announced, announced again, announced again, and announced again, time after time after time. Yet, for us, it's just one of many things or a couple of many things that we're doing, and yet the opposition has this negative, this mind-numbing negativity, about all these initiatives.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon government has announced the development of a mineral strategy - well, again a knee-jerk reaction coming out of the opposition - this is terrible, it's only talk. Then they found out the mining industry asked for it. Then they had to modify their claims a bit because this is what the mining industry wants. It is an important development.
Of course, there is a snide innuendo by the leader of the official opposition, the Yukon Party, that the only reason that the Chamber of Mines supported the protected areas strategy was because of some nefarious deal in securing a mineral strategy. That says a lot for the Chamber of Mines.
That says a lot about the integrity of the Chamber of Mines, doesn't it? Well, I'll tell you something - what has happened in the mining industry, what has happened, in terms of government programs - real, active, on-the-ground programs - is that that support for the mining industry has happened, almost exclusively with NDP government, whether it's the mineral incentive program, or whether it's the geoscience office - which, incidentally, received hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars extra this year alone - or whether it's the work on devolution. These are all actions taken by the NDP government to support the mining industry.
We've spoken briefly about the Yukon forest strategy. I've got to tell you, Mr. Speaker, once again, even after a lot of work had been done by a lot of citizens of this territory to draft a forest strategy that actually makes some sense and brings some order, balance and hope for the forest industry and to all those interested in maintaining the integrity of our forests themselves, even that project received criticism from the opposition. And all the work that citizens did on it - I've spoken to a number of them who said, "Where do those guys get off criticizing us, after the dozens of meetings we've had with the forest commission, the federal government and others? Where do those people in the opposition get off criticizing our work? They weren't there; their inspiration isn't in it. They're just negative."
The forest strategy, now supported by the federal government, was the work of a lot of people. It was a constructive approach to dealing with forest issues.
It's not the hands-off, we-can't-do-anything-about-it, it's-a-federal-problem, go-and-beat-on-the-feds response. It was, "Let's try to work this out and see if we can, through good public consultation, provide some thoughts about some guidelines, some framework on how the forest industry might operate in this territory." And yet, it was just mind-numbing criticism coming out of the opposition. It was picked at. It was sneered at. All the work that the citizens and the people of this territory did was dismissed by members in the opposition.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, Mr. Speaker, that is arrogant.
Mr. Speaker, I'm certain that when the forest commissioner takes a fam tour with the forest industry and others to tour Alaska shortly and to have essentially a trade mission for the forest industry into Alaska, I am certain that we'll be faced with exactly the same mind-numbing criticism from the opposition. They will either nitpick around the edges or, if it receives lots of public support, which so many of the initiatives of the government do, they will sneer at it, pooh-pooh it, giggle to the members in the media who are sitting there in the stands watching, as is so often the case, and just generally dismiss it. And the work that the people do, whatever it is, whatever contracts they sign, whatever insights they achieve, whatever growth the industry may have, will not be recognized on the floor of this Legislature. It will not be recognized by the representatives of the people in the opposition. It will be dismissed. It will be criticized. It will be another example of the mind-numbing negativity coming out of the opposition.
We've indicated a desire to do so many things, everything from a regulatory code of conduct - which the members in opposition really haven't seen fit to acknowledge or register at all. We have, of course, done some good work with land claims. That was the one positive thing that the leader of the official opposition actually recognized today. I may be wrong. He may have said two things out of 100 negative things that were positive, but certainly recognized the fact that we're doing some good work in settling land claims, and he's right: we are. This is good for not only the First Nation people, but it's also good for the territorial economy. It also brings certainty for land tenure in this territory.
Mr. Speaker, there's been no discussion in this Legislature about the banking round table that we're having, because people are interested in access to capital and better banking services. It's been announced, but there's been no discussion about it. There's been no acknowledgement, recognition of the work that the people are doing.
There's been no discussion, Mr. Speaker, about all the training initiatives that we've undertaken, whether it be with the forest company in Watson Lake, or whether it be training trust funds with various communities around the territory. There are millions of dollars' worth of investment in people, which is what our economy is all about.
The Yukon Party's old vision used to be roads and power. Our vision is much broader because, after all, it's a truism to say, you know, what about the United Keno Hill Mines, which has a road, it has power, it has a water licence, but doesn't have a mine. What's wrong?
There are all kinds of reasons why some things aren't happening but, Mr. Speaker, we do believe in investing in infrastructure - infrastructure meaning roads and power lines - and people themselves, to ensure that they do have the skills to take advantage of economic opportunities.
In that one-day wonder conference that the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment had three or four years ago, to talk about mining, they came up with four recommendations. One of those recommendations, Mr. Speaker, said that we needed to provide more training for the mining industry. Well, we're providing the training for the mining industry.
And it's interesting, as I have this in my hand and it's called "Yukon Mining, the Next Century", it is a report done in June 1995 for the Yukon Party government. It's interesting, Mr. Speaker, that there are four recommendations. The recommendations include asking the Yukon government to use its influence to ensure that the stakeholders are included in the process that will determine the structure and requirements of the development assessment act. This was the Yukon Party's attempt at public consultation, and they had their conference. Recommendation number 1 is: pay attention to the DAP. They didn't do it. They ignored that particular recommendation.
Mr. Speaker, they went on to talk about training. Recommendation number 3 is all about training. We are the ones putting money into mining training, training, training, and training.
Mr. Speaker, number 4 asked the Yukon government to hasten its inventories of critical wildlife habitats and populations, and to make this information widely available. They didn't do that. The Yukon Party government didn't do that.
Now, there is the final recommendation, which says, "We further recommend adoption and implementation of the recommendations of the Yukon Mining Advisory Committee on land use regulation, on exploration activities, on claims, at an early date." Whether they did anything on that recommendation, I have absolutely no idea.
Mr. Speaker, the last consultation they had on mining, there were four recommendations, and they ignored one completely, and I'm not sure they did anything on any of the others. So, it is one thing to simply consult; it's another thing to actually act. This government is acting on a whole series of fronts.
Now, I'd like to turn my attention briefly to the Liberal Party. I'm trying to look for my tiny little scrap of paper on which the Liberal Party vision is contained here. I'm trying to find the Liberal Party vision.
I think, Mr. Speaker, the problem that we face in this Legislature is that the Liberal Party has not come to this Legislature with any notion of a vision at all. We may disagree with the Yukon Party vision, and we may not think it's much of a vision, but one can't argue they don't have any vision.
The Liberal Party is another story altogether. They are so mesmerized by Svengali-O in the Yukon Party that they have no vision themselves of where they want to go.
Now that they are most sensitive about the fact that they have so little policy, and so little vision, that they come on the attack on the question of vision. So we can say, "We're doing a thousand things," and they'll say we're doing nothing.
But where do they stand? Have they been drinking out of the same water glasses as the Yukon Party? Mr. Speaker, I'd advise the members in the Liberal opposition to stop inhaling when the Yukon Party's exhaling, because I can tell you that is a recipe for disaster.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal opposition have tried to characterize themselves as the "party of the constructive alternative". But every day in this Legislature, the negativity that comes out of the Liberal Party on virtually every front completely denies any association with the notion of being constructive. They will use every trick in the book - in their thin book - to be critical, to be alarmist, to be negative on the economy and on everything else that they can.
They are a chapter of the same Yukon Party book. They have no new ideas, and they are as critical as anyone ever, in this legislature. When they do come forward with ideas, when it's on the revenue side, it's a pancake breakfast. On the expenditure side, you name it - there are new requests every day. But when it comes to the economy, though, Mr. Speaker, the one angle you can always count on the Liberal Party for, is that they will support the federal Liberal government.
It doesn't matter what the issue is, it doesn't matter where the federal government's going, it doesn't matter whether the federal government's acting in accordance with the Yukon's best interests - we know where the Yukon Liberal Party will stand.
They won't take a position on banking until the federal Liberal caucus takes a position on banking. If somebody criticizes the federal Liberal government on mine permitting, which is a criticism widely held in this territory, they will still stick up for the federal Liberal government.
I've got to tell them, Mr. Speaker, that there are only so many seats in the Senate, and only so many opportunities for advancement.
I can understand that they're not actually anticipating being in government, or at least being in the Yukon government. It may be their federal aspirations that they're looking to promote.
But I've got to tell them that there has to be someone in this Legislature who will stick up for Yukon interests, even when it is inconsistent with federal Liberal interests. I caution them to speak for their constituents first.
Mr. Speaker, I wish I did know about the Liberal Party's agenda, when it comes to the economy. They have consistently criticized everything the Yukon NDP have done, even when that is well-grounded in support in the community. They have criticized airline charters, and they took the federal government's side on the oil and gas transfer, even though that was clearly an example of where the federal government messed up. Federal ministers themselves told me personally that they messed up, but you can sure count on the Yukon Liberals - federal Liberals, Yukon Liberals, what the heck; they're one and the same.
You can sure count on the Liberals in this legislative chamber to take the federal side. Even when the federal Liberals were apologizing for a mess-up, the Yukon Liberals will have none of it. They will still attack the government, and they will still attack Yukon interests - it doesn't matter what it is.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I am happy to say that many people have noticed what I have noticed about the Yukon Liberal Party's approach to politics in this Legislature. Many people are aware of the fact that the Yukon Liberals have had no constructive alternative to present. What was it last week that they were promoting? It was a couple of weeks ago -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Oh, yes. The sale of buffalo burgers. That was our recipe to economic fortune. Well, the sale of buffalo burgers and pancake breakfasts are all in the food service industry. It's all consistent, but it's not the stuff that jobs and economic prosperity is made of. So, I would encourage them, Mr. Speaker, to do some policy work and think a little more carefully about what it is they are promoting.
The NDP government has undertaken many, many challenges in the last two years. We have taken on the tougher issues around devolution and land claims. We have shown clear and considerable progress on both fronts. We have struck new relationships with First Nation governments to ensure that we have a good chance of making progress on an intergovernmental basis with other governments in this territory, so that when we speak to our economic or social prosperity, we will have a solid dialogue going on among peoples; we will be in a position where we are working constructively with each other and not attacking each other, as was the case during the Yukon Party era.
This has necessitated a lot of work between our government and First Nation leaders.
It has resulted not only in land claims being negotiated but it has also resulted in a much better working environment.
Mr. Speaker, that is the kind of government that I wish to associate myself with. It is a government that has taken on the tougher issues, the tougher policy issues, and has explored them fully with the people of the territory.
We have been criticized for our approach. Not only have we been criticized by the fact that we are doing so many things, but we are also being criticized for the fact that we are consulting so thoroughly, that we are encouraging the participation of so many people around the territory. Well, Mr. Speaker, that is the only way, in my view, to address the complex policy issues of our day. Members of the opposition suggest we consult too much, suggest we listen too much to boards and committees, to citizens who are participating in government activities. Well, good government today demands proper participation by people throughout this territory, and it does demand that we tackle the tough issues but in a consultative way.
So, Mr. Speaker, when we come to the Legislature and we say that we have a trade and investment partnership that is pursuing new ways of doing business in this territory, we are saying that after having many, many meetings and discussions with the business community and others in this territory and we are coming with the results of our work, not just the government's work but the work of the government and the private sector. And we are presenting that work before this Legislature.
You can see how humiliating it is for the citizens who have worked so hard and participated in those projects, how humiliating it is for them to have their work ridiculed and sneered at by members in the opposition.
Mr. Speaker, it is important that the Government of Yukon continue its tack of involving people in decision making.
We are going to do so despite the criticism from the opposition. We're going to reassure those people that the work that they do is important. It may be sneered at by the opposition, but it is still important, it is still necessary, it still will result in an expanding economy, a more prosperous economy, a stronger economy, both in the short term and in the long term.
When we ask them to spend endless volunteer hours working through the issues on taxation, on regulatory review, on trade initiatives, on tourism initiatives, whatever it happens to be, that this work is useful, this work will produce results. Whether they are covered properly by the media or not is irrelevant. They should stand above the base criticism coming from the opposition. They should be thinking about where they want the territory to go, what vision they have for the territory and ignore the naysayers and the negativists, those who don't have a productive thing to say, those who are searching for the headlines, the alarmists, the people who have no new ideas, no good ideas. Those people are people who should not deter the citizens of this territory and this government from seeking the economic prosperity that this territory deserves.
When we turn away from the old way of doing things, the government-dependent way of doing things that has been championed by the Member for Klondike, we start looking for a true partnership where the people and the government work together to expand the economy, to diversify the economy, where we work together to try to improve our economic fortunes on the resource development side, where we tackle the tough environmental issues of our day and not ignore them, where we have a balanced agenda for the here and now and for the future.
We should not be swayed by the petty critics. We should not be deterred by those with no ideas. People of this territory deserve better.
Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that our government will not be deterred from the direction that we have taken, because we do believe in the value of the discussion, the ideas, the imagination and the creativity of the people that we've been talking to for the past two years and before who have put many of the ideas on the table. The tourism marketing fund - an idea that's grounded in the public. Tax reform - grounded in the public. Energy ideas - grounded in the public. Forest policy - ideas from the public.
Mr. Speaker, whatever the strategy has been, it has been the result of good, creative work by citizens, and we, as spokespeople for those initiatives, will defend their work in this Legislature against the shallow critic, against the naysayer and the doomsday-sayer.
Mr. Speaker, we don't have to look very far to see where the opportunities lie.
We recognize that we're living in a world now where there are economic difficulties being experienced by our neighbours and by ourselves. The headlines about Alberta now are showing real danger signals, as a result of the decline in oil price. We see the mining industry, for base metals and for precious metals, suffering throughout western North America, and around the world.
What we know that we have to do is to take control of our economic fortunes as we've never done before. We must seek out opportunities in a way that's not been done before. We must put aside the parochialism of the past and look to a society and a world of opportunity. We must look beyond our borders. We must recognize for the first time that we are part of a bigger world, that there is opportunity to pursue and that we can still promote resource development without jeopardizing opportunity to do other things.
And this is a challenge that the private sector has embraced in this territory. This is a challenge that citizens around the territory have embraced, in community meetings from Old Crow to Beaver Creek to Watson Lake. People throughout this territory have recognized that there has got to be a better way of doing things, and that the communities must take their futures in their hands.
It is not the old way of doing things; it is a new way. It is a new Yukon that they are looking at pursuing - taking the strengths of the past and adding to them with new opportunities.
They are disavowing themselves of the old way, the dependent way. It's like the mussel on a rock, waiting for something to happen, waiting for the nutrients to pass you by and hoping that you'll survive. People don't want an economy that has those characteristics. They want an economy where people seek opportunity, hustle for opportunity, and work with the government as a community. This is not a situation where we're promoting some neo-conservative idea that the government does nothing with the economy. This is a highly participatory approach. Government workers in my government have never worked so hard as they are right now at improving the economic fortunes of this territory, in fleshing out the details of the ideas presented by citizens. They've never worked so hard, but it is the community that will advance - not just a few individuals - into the next millennium.
This community will advance in new ways. But the people out there I've met are quite contrary to the members of the opposition and do, in fact, have hope. They have hope because the government is doing many of the things they suggested. They have hope because they have faith in themselves to make opportunities happen, and they have hope because they are breaking the bonds of the old, dependent vision that characterized the boom-bust economy of the last many years. They have faith in themselves.
Whether the members in the opposition choose to recognize that or not, the people of this territory, the people that I've spoken to in the many community meetings, almost 40 in the last month just on pre-budget alone - just pre-budget - those folks do have faith in themselves and they do see a future for this territory.
So, Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, this motion is talk and no action. This motion asks the citizens of this territory to engage in the debate too late. This motion duplicates work that they are doing now. It ignores the work that they're doing now. This motion asks a Yukon NDP government to entertain proposals to privatize public service.
This motion is not an advancement of our interests. It is a throwback; it turns back the clock and, with a little right-wing rhetoric thrown into the mix, this motion is not good for the people of the territory. It's not where they're going. They want much more public discussion. They want much more detailed discussion. They don't want a one-day wonder. They don't want the blue-ribbon committee, a few narrow interests telling the government how it can save them. Its orientation is dependent. The connotations of this motion are all about dependency and not about partnership.
This motion is not the way of the future, Mr. Speaker, and we can't support it.
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to thank the Government Leader for that speech. It isn't often that we hear at such great length from the Government Leader.
Someone gave me a piece of advice quite recently - a legislator of some years' experience, who told me that he had learned in his many years not to listen on Wednesdays and other afternoons. Now I know what that person was referring to.
The particular motion before us says that there's a current state of crisis in the Yukon economy. Mr. Speaker, there is very, very little confidence in the Yukon economy right now. There isn't a lot happening. I speak with people daily, as we all do, who are worried about their jobs come January, February, March and April next year. They're worried about their jobs, they're worried about their companies and they're worried about how they're going to make the mortgage payments. They're very concerned. They don't see a lot of hope on the horizon.
The metals we mine have decreased in price. Fourteen hundred fewer people live here this year. Building permits and real estate transactions are down by 30 percent. There is more than twice the rental space available this year over last year, and food prices are higher.
There's very little confidence in the B.C. economy either - our neighbours to the south. The Toronto Dominion Bank reported that British Columbia's economy will be the worst in Canada this year and for the next two years after that. The TD Bank is forecasting .0 percent economic growth this year, 0.5 percent next and only 1.5 percent in the year 2000.
Mr. Speaker, this is by far the worst forecast for any Canadian province.
In addition, B.C. is the only province forecasted to lose jobs in 1998. I suppose that this is about the only time that Yukoners can say, "Well, we're glad we weren't included on those charts and statistics and surveys that they do," because no one thinks our economy would look any better.
Both the Yukon and British Columbia have some of the same things happening, some very similar situations - major shutdowns of resource-dependent projects, mines. Prices for these products have dropped. Resource towns are endangered. Small business bankruptcies are up. Markets far away from us are affecting the prices here. And, Mr. Speaker, it should be noted that the governments of both jurisdictions are New Democrat.
The motion requires immediate actions by governments. I would argue, Mr. Speaker, that this situation requires immediate action by all Yukoners. Leadership on this issue must come from the leaders.
It's interesting that the Government Leader opened his remarks by noting the negativity coming from the opposition caucuses. Well, I'd like to remind the Government Leader that it is our job in opposition to ask questions. If we're polite, we're accused of being patronizing and condescending. If we're loud, we're accused of being confrontational.
Mr. Speaker, the side opposite isn't even hearing the kudos when they're given. I said in this House two weeks ago that the tourism industry was doing well, kudos to the government. I said it again today. I said that investment in the tourism industry is a good thing. It doesn't matter how often you say it, that side doesn't seem to hear it.
Mr. Speaker, when the government makes announcements, it's our job to ask questions. Why on earth would we not ask for measurements, and show us the results? Were they on this side, I'm certain they would be doing the same thing.
What is the government doing to deal with the Yukon economy? How is this government demonstrating leadership, that I called upon from all Yukoners in dealing with an economic crisis? Well, Mr. Speaker, I gave that speech two weeks ago and endured two hours of personal attack from the Minister of Economic Development. This debate today has turned into a big, partisan fight. The same old "he said, he said, he said," from one side to the other.
The fact is, the Yukon economy is suffering. We have a problem. We need to deal with it. This doesn't have to be a big, partisan debate. We know we disagree on economic philosophy. Everyone in this House should agree that our economy needs some work.
Let's try, Mr. Speaker, let's make an attempt for some constructive debate in this House. Let's talk about this idea and the motion before us, an economic summit. Well, what could be better than hearing success stories from Yukoners and former Yukoners? The Minister of Economic Development alluded a couple of weeks ago to real initiatives in Alaska. There are many of us in this House who are quite well aware of them. These entrepreneurs have got information and expertise to offer to all Yukoners.
There are born-and-raised Yukoners who come up every summer, and do what they do best - pick rocks. Let's ask them what they found this summer. What's it going to take to get what they found into production?
Mr. Speaker, what about the former Yukoners? I think it was the Government Leader, it may have been the leader of the official opposition, who mentioned exports. Well, one of the things we do export is our expertise. One former Yukoner - in fact, a former chamber president - is the operator of an incredibly successful resort elsewhere in this country, someone who is very familiar with the Yukon tourism industry. Why not ask that individual to come back and take another look at the Yukon? Give us some suggestions with the benefit that a few years away can sometimes give your perspective.
I'd like to hear from individuals who've been part of bigger businesses in the Yukon, and gone on inside the corporations they work for. What's their view of the Yukon economy, and what can we be doing to improve it?
The Government Leader said that Yukon people need to be more in control. He talked about the budget discussions. Well, did the Minister of Finance seek ideas on how to - even the Minister of Education referred to it today as a windfall - spend that census money? How to invest it? How to work with Yukoners?
The minister talked about -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: The Government Leader referenced 38 different meetings in the past month alone. Well, consultation is one thing - listening to what people have to say is the most important part of that.
The Government Leader went on and wants to know the Liberal position on a number of issues. I'm glad he's so interested in our party. I'd be happy to sell him a membership. He particularly referenced what our position was on the privatization of highways. Now I know where that dirty little campaign rumour came from during the last election - amazing where some things start.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Which one - yes.
The notion that is in the motion is that government services can be delivered more cost effectively and efficiently - that initial part of that motion. Well, that's something that my colleague from Riverdale South mentions in this House every single time we have a budget discussion. How often have we gone back and asked the people who work in the public service what their good ideas are for running the government and delivering better services, more efficiently, to Yukoners and saving taxpayers' dollars - not just asked for their suggestions, but actually listened to them?
The other part of the motion talks about government legislation policies and procedures that are adversely affecting the economy. The immediate ones that come to mind, of course, are DAP and this hiring agency model that the Minister of Government Services indicated he was going to implement right away. Well, thank goodness he hasn't, because that was one that was very much objected to by the business community.
The DAP legislation is federal legislation. I'm glad that the Minister of Economic Development recognizes that. Everyone seems to want to blame DAP and say that they've done the best job on it. There is absolutely no question in my mind that there are some serious questions that have to be dealt with, in terms of my initial reading of that legislation - some real serious issues and questions I've asked in this House and have yet to get an answer for, from anyone.
I'm glad that some members of this House recognize that the DAP legislation, as it's been circulated now, is draft number 11 or 12, and that it is a discussion document. Let's roll up our sleeves, discuss it and make the necessary changes to ensure it's the right legislation for the Yukon.
Another point that was made in the motion and that was discussed briefly already was the idea of government projects creating employment. Well, Mr. Speaker, I've said publicly and privately many times over that we could have advanced another school as an investment in the future and in our children. We could have used a portion of that one-time payment census money to try the public-private partnership model and advance one of the much-needed schools in the territory ahead a couple of years in the agenda.
Well, it's really unfortunate and it goes back to the comments that have been made earlier. That was a suggestion, a constructive suggestion, put forward by this caucus on no less than half a dozen occasions. However, this government does not want to listen to that suggestion and it's absolutely contrary to what happens in this Legislature.
You know, Mr. Speaker, the Government Leader was very, very good this afternoon at righteous indignation. How could we not stand up and salute his government's fine initiatives? How could we not do that? Well, I'll give the Government Leader two good reasons why we didn't stand up and say, "Hallelujah" when he announced his tax reform round table. I'll give him two good reasons.
Number one, the initial proposal for that - remember, we don't come forward with constructive ideas - came from this caucus, and he darned well knows it, Mr. Speaker, and so does every member over there. Go back and look at the motion. Read Hansard.
Number two, Mr. Speaker, have you ever noticed that whenever the Government Leader doesn't want a task done, he gives it to the Member for Laberge? Have you noticed that? The all-party committee that this government absolutely supported - this government was going to give us all-party committee appointments. Yes, they were. The Member for Laberge got it. Guess what? Nothing happened. We were going to televise proceedings. Guess who got it? The Member for Laberge. DAP? Nothing happened.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I will assure you, as I will assure all members of the public, we will be more than happy to stand up and give credit where credit is due. Credit hasn't been earned, and the Government Leader can practice all the righteous indignation he wants, but you have to do something in order to get applauded for it.
Mr. Speaker, hearing from Yukoners is a good thing. It's a very good idea. Hearing from Yukoners, hearing from former Yukoners, is a really good idea. There are two groups that have been left out of the motion proposed by the Member for Porter Creek North. The Member for Porter Creek North has not included labour in this motion.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: He hasn't.
The former government leader, the Member for Porter Creek North, hasn't included ex-Yukoners in this motion either, and I think both of those groups have a contribution to make.
We can learn. We are not going to progress, Mr. Speaker, we are not going to progress in turning our economy around unless we have all the partners at the table, and that includes labour, and we can benefit from the experience of Yukoners who have gone on. We can benefit from them.
The agenda that has been suggested - the topics are starting points. I don't think they're everything that should be discussed. I don't believe we should limit our discussion to only these agenda items. We need to hear from the people who, right now in the Yukon economy, are just waiting for that one final approval on the deal, that one increase in price before they go ahead and say, "Yes, we're prepared to open up our hiring offices to Yukoners." We need to hear from them. What is that one -
Speaker: The leader of the third party has two minutes.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I think we need to hear from these people. We also need to hear from those who work for the public service, at all levels. They can make good, concrete suggestions on how we can do government better, how we can improve the Yukon economy. Let's face it. There are a number of individuals who are employed in the public service in this territory. We need to hear from them.
The other idea in the motion is that government, at the end, would respond. There are alternatives to this suggestion. I believe that government and all Yukoners should be listening and talking to one another. Then it's up to all of us to hold all Yukoners at the table accountable for the results. We, as Yukoners, need to move our economy forward.
Government is not going to do it alone. Yukon industry isn't going to do it alone, and we can't be waiting for some great white knight - however much of a knight they might think they are - to show up. We need to talk collectively about the ways to fix our economy. Hearing from the private sector, First Nations, governments, and labour can't hurt. Everyone in this Legislature, and many people in the Yukon, heard, listened, and read about the business summit held in British Columbia.
Speaker: Leader of the third party, time has expired.
Hon. Mr. Harding: It is my pleasure to rise today, because this motion is a battle. It's a battle between an old, tired, cyclical, myopic view of the world - visions shared by the Liberal and Conservative parties of this territory - and a new, bolder vision that's more vibrant and seeks to enhance and encourage a resource sector and go much further beyond that in this territory.
Mr. Speaker, it's interesting today to get the Liberal Party on the record, in terms of their support for the privatization agenda that's clearly envisioned in this motion. And we're more than happy that we smoked the Liberal Party out, in terms of what they intend to do and what their real agenda is, in terms of this territory and their support of the Yukon Party.
Mr. Speaker, you can just drive the Liberal leaders, past and present, right out of this Legislature with a few words. It's amazing - even the senator might leave.
Mr. Speaker, our agenda is incredibly aggressive, and I refuse to focus on the gloom and doom of this economy as the opposition does, for pure, partisan, political purposes. I see activity out there in this economy. I see a new mill opening up in Watson Lake, Mr. Speaker, that's going to employ what they tell me is about 100 to 150 Yukoners.
I see a record tourism year; I see new flights in this territory - new charter flights arranged by the Minister of Tourism, which I think are fundamental improvements on what we've had in the past. I see a vision - unlike the Yukon Party, which was completely focused on anniversaries. They could not see beyond the anniversaries, Mr. Speaker. We have a Tourism minister who has a vision that goes beyond the anniversaries, that seeks out public participation in developing and shaping a tourism strategy for this territory.
In the mining sector, I do see encouraging signs. I see the Minto mine - if we can get copper to rebound a little bit- coming on stream this year. I see Cominco going through the permitting process, getting their water licence in the near future. They're not going to open up at 42-cent zinc, Mr. Speaker, but they will open up in the future.
I see all kinds of positive signs in the oil and gas sector, with 270 people registered at a workshop in this territory, which I think shows that there's lots of potential.
Mr. Speaker, this motion that has been put forward is age-old, classic Yukon Party-Liberal lack of vision.
What it speaks of is complete government dependence. There is no question in this motion about how the private sector and Yukoners can work together to take responsibility for helping improve the Yukon instead with government support. What this is, Mr. Speaker, is the age-old Yukon Party, big capital spending, big government spending, big taxing, Yukon Party/Liberal coalition view of the world, and we can't afford to do that, because it's what has propagated the whole boom-bust economy in this territory.
We know that next year will be a better year for the mining industry, but we can't rest on those laurels when those arrows start to go off in terms of the economic statistics, which are always battling in this House. We know that we can't sit down and rest on our laurels. I've seen it in my own community in Faro where, whenever the mine is down, there is this incredible flurry of activity to diversify, diversify. When the mine goes back up, everybody takes a seat at the back and doesn't come forward with new ideas. Mr. Speaker, we can't do that.
Now, the resource economy is incredibly important; it's what this territory and this country were built on, but it's got to be bigger. It's got to be enhanced by doing more new, different things, and that's exactly what this government is doing.
When we talk about tax reform, when we talk about immigrant investment funds, when we talk about the regulatory code of conduct or a mineral strategy, or devolving oil and gas and completing an oil and gas strategy, or the millions of dollars that are being invested in training around this territory or working with the youth of this territory with the youth strategy and employing, as I understand it, in one program, 19 out of 20 placements in the communities.
These are the kinds of solid initiatives. Now, of course, they are always pooh-poohed by the opposition. They always say, as the Government Leader said, "Well, you're not doing anything." We can list off dozens of things that the government is doing that are productive, that have the support of the public, and that are grounded out there in partnerships that we're working with Yukoners on, and they stand up and say, "But you're not doing anything."
Mr. Speaker, it's completely inaccurate. It's completely hollow, and it's void of any substance, just like the speeches we heard from the leader of the official opposition and the leader of the third party.
Mr. Speaker, this motion talks about advancing capital projects. Well, we did some of that. I'm very proud of the new runway extension that's going to open up next year on budget and on time. I think that's going to provide some opportunities for Yukoners.
What the opposition doesn't understand is that if you continually, with a knee-jerk reaction and a narrow, short-sighted view of the world, try to artificially pump up an economy with higher injections of capital, or any other spending for that matter, what you do is take out a mortgage on the following budget year. Then, Mr. Speaker, you have less money to provide stability in the economy, which I believe is a fundamental role that government should play.
Mr. Speaker, a lot has been made in this Legislature by the Yukon Party-Liberal coalition on the economies of B.C., Alberta and Northwest Territories. I want to tell the members opposite that those are comparisons that are quite dangerous, because they're not accurate.
They don't really, on a relative basis, add up. Mr. Speaker, I read yesterday that B.C., for example, had the biggest year ever in oil and gas exploration spending. Well, I'm not going to say that that has a relative effect or should be compared to this territory in any way, shape or form. I probably won't say, Mr. Speaker, when I look at the paper today and I see the headline in the Whitehorse Star, "Alberta economy slowing down" and I read the stories about the stagnant economy that's starting to turn down in Alberta as a result of the dependence of the resource sector, I don't think I'll stand here and try to claim some virtuous effect on the programs and initiatives of this government, because they stand on their own.
When I look in the Whitehorse Star today and I see the story with the headline, "Gold discovery fuelling Alaska mining industry" and I read that at least one geologist in Alaska says about 50 percent of their exploration expenditures, in an industry that has gone down this particular year, is related to the Pogo discovery, I'm not going to stand here and crow about the virtues of our initiatives, like the mineral strategy or tax incentives for mineral exploration, on the basis of what's happening in Alberta or B.C. - or Alaska for that matter - because our initiatives stand alone. And I think it's a dangerous game for the opposition.
You know, Mr. Speaker, we believe that the economy has to be diversified in this territory, and it can't be totally dependent on government. When we sit down and meet with our partners in the trade and investment diversification strategy, to a person we get the response that is consistent with what I just said.
That is, we're all in this together. We all have to work together. And, Mr. Speaker, we don't have the luxury of waiting for six months, like this motion by the Yukon Party, for a two-day, one-shot wonder. We're constantly meeting. In the last week, I had two meetings with mining representatives from the territory, I've met with a number of companies - local and from abroad - on mining issues. Last Friday, we had a very good working meeting with the business community and agreed to actually broaden the membership of the Yukon trade and investment diversification strategy to Yukon Federation of Labour, the federal government, the college, the Association of Yukon Communities - all who had requested to be participants. So, we can't wait, like this motion implies.
I really had to fall out of my chair when I read the last bullet of this particular motion by the opposition. It says that the Yukon savings investment plan and other tax measures be discussed to kick-start the economy. Mr. Speaker, where has the opposition been? What have they been doing? Obviously taking those long, extensive summer holidays, sitting on the veranda, faxing in press releases from the office, written up by the spin doctors. That's obviously what they were doing, because they're so far behind the eight ball and so far out of touch on tax reform in this territory that they should know that we can't wait. People don't want to wait for another five or six months to have a one- or two-day discussion about tax reform.
We have to get busy right now like we're doing, and I think it's really unfair, Mr. Speaker, of the opposition to criticize all of the hard work that's being put in by so many Yukon organizations on regulatory code of conduct change, on immigrant investment fund development, on initiatives like tax reform and on initiatives like the trade and investment diversification. I think it's completely inappropriate and unfair for the Liberals and Tories to be dismissing all of the work that those fine people are doing on these initiatives, and they're stating that they're positive toward them, that they think that they are important.
So, Mr. Speaker, I ask the members - implore the members - to stop dismissing the good work that is being undertaken.
You know, we've talked a lot in this Legislature about the economy right now in this territory - actually, not as much as I would like, because you'll notice that after the first day, when the opposition was going to come in just guns ablaze on energy, protected spaces and the economy, they left with their tails between their legs on those particular issues, and we haven't heard from them since. That's indicative that our government is leading the agenda. That's indicative that our government is way out in front of the opposition.
Now, it's easy to stand up in the Legislature in the opposition - I did it for four years - and pick away. You know, was it an Alaskan brown bear or was it a Yukon brown bear or a Yukon grizzly bear. It's easy to ask about all kinds of things that are, I think, quite ancillary to one of the most important issues to Yukoners right now.
The member opposite says "jobs". Absolutely. The Member for Riverdale North of the Yukon Party is right. Jobs are important to Yukoners and that's why we're doing so much work on them, and the reason that the opposition is failing on being able to carry a critique in this House through Question Period and other vehicles is because they don't have any initiatives. They don't have any ideas other than major government spending. They have a narrow, old, tired, cyclical boom-bust-perpetuating view of the economy, and we have a new, more vibrant way of looking at the economy that means that there are going to be new initiatives, new ideas, and we want to involve Yukoners in that.
Mr. Speaker, the members opposite are heckling over studies, studies and more studies. That's the Yukon Party and the Liberals, who've just proposed to this floor today, with audacity, that we wait for five months to have a two-day conference on the economy. Where are they? Where are their heads? Surely, they've got to put some more thought into the motions they bring before this House.
To sit here and listen to the Liberal member criticize the good work of the Member for Laberge on the development assessment process is quite appalling, given it's a federal legislative process, quite appalling considering we have created a commission to try and channel Yukoners' views into the process to improve it.
It's appall -
Speaker: Order please. The time being 5:30, the Speaker will leave the Chair until 7:30.
Debate on Motion No. 144 accordingly adjourned
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Bill No. 68: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 68, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Moorcroft.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 68, entitled Territorial Court Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 68, entitled Territorial Court Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: People have been telling me that the justice system needs to be more open and accountable to the public it serves. The values that must inform our justice system are mercy and compassion and respect for all people. Community involvement is what will make the justice system work better. We have a lot to gain by working together as a community to solve the problems of criminal behaviour by working together to support individuals and families, and by working together to create safe neighbourhoods.
Mr. Speaker, because I saw the need to improve the present justice system and to make it more relevant, effective and accountable, I met with Ted Hughes in June of 1997 to determine if he was interested in reviewing the Yukon's administration of justice and making recommendations to me on how to improve the justice system into the next century.
I want to thank all of the members of the public, the legal community and the judiciary who responded to the call from Mr. Hughes for submissions on how to make our justice system more open and accountable.
Mr. Speaker, the legislation before the House during this session has been about our justice system. Our government's social justice agenda during this session is demonstrated by the Limitations of Actions Act, which allows victims of sexual or physical abuse to bring forward an action to hold the offender accountable. It's important that governments pass laws that ensure victims will be heard.
I appreciate the all-party support for this new law that gives victims their day in court.
Amendments to the Family Property and Support Act make parents accountable for meeting their children's needs by bringing into effect new child support guidelines. Our government recognizes the need to act now for the benefit of children whose parents divorce or separate.
Similarly, the maintenance enforcement amendments strengthen our ability to ensure that parents pay their child support orders so that fewer families will live in poverty when children and their parents live in separate households. The tough new enforcement measures improve the integrity of the court system.
The Auxiliary Police Act recognizes the desire of the Yukon government to actively encourage increased public participation in the development and delivery of police services within the territory. The RCMP's and the Yukon government's shared leadership vision statement and our collaboration with the auxiliary police demonstrate our commitment to auxiliary policing and to community policing. The auxiliary police model is one that focuses on promoting community safety and crime prevention, including youth-oriented crime prevention, business and public safety programs, public education and working with community justice committees.
Our government's amendments to the Jury Act recognized First Nation self-government rights by exempting chiefs, as heads of their governments, from jury duty.
All of these bills, Mr. Speaker, like the Territorial Court Act, are ways in which our government demonstrates its commitment to fostering healthy communities and making the justice system serve the public better by increasing the public's involvement and confidence in that system.
The Territorial Court Act seeks to do many things important to our democratic way of life. Universal franchise, representation by population, a free press and an independent judiciary have been identified as four cornerstones of a modern liberal democracy.
The recent Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Prince Edward Island referenced case established one of the means by which independence of the judiciary is to be secured; namely, the mechanism by which the remuneration of the court is to be established.
Following that case, we received the benefit of Ted Hughes' analysis during his inquiry and his recommendations, which are largely contained within this new bill.
But there is more, of course, to justice than the judges' pay. Concern for the proper administration of justice is as old as the law. Since the Magna Carta, there have been complaints about the functioning of justice. In some cases, there has been good cause, blaming a system for being at times overly complex, partially inaccessible, and slow.
Many complaints stem from fear that the system is more caught up in the technicalities of the law and less concerned with the equitable distribution of justice.
In the year of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, it seems appropriate to restate the principle that all people, regardless of income, race, class, sex, sexual orientation, or personal beliefs have a right to participate in society, and in particular with respect to the laws that govern behaviour.
This bill, Mr. Speaker, dramatically increases the degree to which the public may participate in the business of the court, while yet maintaining a balance which observes the court's constitutional guarantee of independence.
The courts exist to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of people. However, the application of criminal sanctions, penalties and consequences, crime prevention, the principles of restorative justice, victims' rights and protections, along with procedural guarantees, are often complex, often interrelated concepts, in which all citizens have a vested interest. As a society, we cannot afford a court system that becomes the embodiment of erroneous perceptions simply by becoming preoccupied with itself as an institution and neglecting the needs of the very people it is designed to serve and protect.
The courts are the result of the necessity to settle disputes and restore harmony. People turn to the courts for resolution in times of conflict and abide by their decisions. The courts continue to exist because people must ultimately turn to them for the vindication of their rights and the fair assessment of their liabilities. Preserving confidence in the integrity of the court system is paramount, therefore, to any effort that strives to improve the judicial process.
Our government believes, Mr. Speaker, that the Territorial Court Act will help to accomplish these objectives.
The preamble to the bill is a statement of principles to which, I believe, we all subscribe. We recognize that an independent judiciary is one of the cornerstones of a free and democratic society, and we recognize that the justice system requires the respect and confidence of the public it serves. We recognize that the quality of justice for the citizens of the Yukon is a matter of concern for all who live or visit here. We recognize that it is both desirable and necessary to have a working relationship between the government and the Territorial Court of Yukon that is characterized by mutual respect and cooperation. We recognize that community-based justice activities augment and support the work of the Territorial Court, and we recognize that the remuneration of the Territorial Court must be established by a process that is impartial, reasonable and fair.
Mr. Speaker, the mainstream justice system is changing. There is an interest in exploring new avenues that rely on a cooperative approach to problem solving. Throughout the Yukon, communities are interested in seeking alternatives to the criminal justice system to provide for greater community accountability, quicker responses and a wider range of options to deal with offenders.
Carol LaPrairie wrote, "The criminal justice system, as it presently operates, ignores the social context in which crime and disorder occur, and in doing so, decontextualizes the offence and marginalizes various players. In contrast, restorative justice is designed to provide the context for ensuring that social rather than legal goals are met."
The expected end result is that communities and individuals are empowered in dealing with their problems and in influencing the direction of the criminal justice process. So, formal punishment and incarceration become less relied upon sanctions. Restorative justice promises a new paradigm, a new and better way of doing justice where justice becomes everybody's business."
It is particularly important to make the justice system more responsive to the needs of First Nations. It is in the interests of all Yukon people for us to work together to create a system that ultimately blends the best of both cultural legacies. To that end, the Department of Justice is pursuing a strategy of restorative justice, working closely with First Nations, municipalities, the judiciary, other members of the justice system, and community service organizations. The department has introduced a one-window approach that is intended to improve the identification, support and management of community-based programs and services in a coordinated and cohesive fashion. Efforts to date include the native courtworker program, circle sentencing courts, police-based diversion schemes, community mediation services, and family group conferencing, as well as other culturally appropriate and effective justice initiatives.
Restorative justice is designed to shift the focus from the government to the community by giving it more responsibility, more input and, in the end, more command over its own future. In other words, by giving the community the tools to get the job done.
Restorative justice is about how community power can replace state power, a goal very much in line with First Nations aspirations for self-determination and control over institutions.
This does not necessarily limit the role for government because the state must ensure that justice and fairness are maintained by local community groups, and it must deal with crimes that go beyond their limited boundaries and authorities.
Mr. Speaker, we have an obligation to ensure that a proper legislative framework exists to meet a wide range of justice needs.
There are several parts to the Territorial Court Act, some of which I wish to touch upon briefly.
Under part 2, dealing with judicial appointments, we have introduced a number of changes, including the assurance that vacancies to be filled will have widespread publication and specific criteria, which candidates much be measured against. Some of these are the need to have a bench which is demographically representative of the community it serves; the scholarship and other attainments of the applicant; the experience and maturity of the applicant; the familiarity of the applicant with and the involvement of them in northern communities; the familiarity of the applicant with and their understanding of Yukon First Nations' issues and concerns; and, their record of community service. There are other criteria which the Judicial Council may think appropriate and which have been publicly established in advance that may be considered.
Part 3 deals with judicial compensation. Mr. Hughes recommended that the recommendations of the judicial compensation commission be binding on this government, and we have accepted that. I think it's important to set out his reasons. Mr. Hughes sets out his reasons in his report: "I wish to make clear my view that without a provision making the recommendations binding, a judiciary dissatisfied with the rejection of one or more of the commission's recommendations by the Legislature could initiate proceedings in the Supreme Court of Yukon, where those who would cause the rejection would be required to justify their positions in that court of law. The Chief Justice of Canada said in the P.E.I. reference case, "If, after turning its mind to the report of the commission, the Legislature chooses not to accept one or more of the recommendations in that report, it must be prepared to justify this decision, if necessary, in a court of law. An unjustified decision could potentially lead to a finding of unconstitutionality." Mr. Hughes continued by adding, "Litigation of that kind could be costly, take time and result in a declaration of unconstitutionality. It could also be seriously damaging to the respect for the integrity of the court and its members within the Yukon community. A three-member court should not be in the position of being pitted against the Legislative Assembly in a public debate of that kind.
"In a much more populated jurisdiction, perhaps that consideration would not be of the critical importance that I attach to it. It is a fact, however, that some other jurisdictions, such as Ontario and Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Northwest Territories, have put in place binding commissions with respect to salaries to be paid to the judiciary. Also, sight should not be lost of the fact that both government and judiciary have had fair and equal opportunity with respect to the selection of commission membership.
"Unquestionably over the last three or four months, significant improvements have occurred in the opening and extension of communication lines within the justice system of the Yukon. I am satisfied that government and judiciary alike are sincere in the positions they have taken in that regard and are committed to a common goal of entering the 21st century with a relevant justice system in place to serve Yukoners.
"The endeavours that have gone into the effort to successfully achieve that goal should not be put to the unnecessary strain and risk that a non-binding provision could well do. The preservation of what has been so recently achieved prompts me about all else to recommend as I have on this issue."
We have every reason to believe a judicial compensation committee will act responsibly. Mr. Hughes recommended, for the greater assurance of proper balance and fairness, that the commission must consider and address these factors: the current financial position of the government; the need to provide reasonable compensation to the judiciary; the need to build a strong court by attracting qualified applicants; the unique nature of the Yukon; the overall compensation provided to the judiciary in the Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan; the laws of the Yukon; and, the cost of living in the Yukon, including the growth or decline in real per capita income.
Mr. Speaker, we have put these requirements in this bill. Under part 4, we have established a new Judicial Council to make recommendations respecting who will become judges in the Yukon. The new Judicial Council will achieve a more community-based approach. Future panels will have two members nominated by the minister, one of whom shall be a member of the Law Society of the Yukon.
Our government is committed to completing the negotiations of land claims and self-government agreements for all 14 Yukon First Nations. We need to see the First Nations' perspective, who represent 25 percent of our population, in forming the mainstream justice system.
Accordingly, the Judicial Council will have two members nominated by Yukon First Nations, one of whom may be a lawyer. It is our desire to recognize the unfortunate fact that Yukon First Nations are disproportionately represented in our justice system at present, as well as acknowledge the principle for a representative public service. I will be introducing an amendment to this effect as we proceed.
The Judicial Council will also have one member nominated by the Law Society of the Yukon, one member nominated by the court, one member nominated by justices - or officers exercising those powers under part 6 of this act - and a resident member of the Supreme Court, nominated by the senior judge, who may, ex officio, participate in the affairs of the council, other than complaints and discipline.
Mr. Speaker, under this part, we have made the handling of complaints against judges simpler, clearer and, at the same time, consistent with constitutional principles.
Under part 6, justices of the peace may be designated as either presiding or administrative justices.
The next millennium is less than two years away. While it may be practical to think of the administration and delivery of justice in small, manageable increments, it may be equally beneficial to think about our place in a continually evolving justice system. We need to support the participation of members of the public, both in the work of the Judicial Council and in the justice system, in the role of justices of the peace.
We also need to reflect on a process that takes into account the cultural and spiritual heritage of both our First Nations and our Anglo-Canadian legal traditions. This challenge will set new ideas in motion, the effects of which may endure for generations to come. How well the two systems interact depends on how much foresight we weave into what we do today.
Innovation of any sort is constantly being created, tested and implemented by the community. We have to design a system that respects judicial independence while seeking to improve communications between the government and the judiciary.
Some of the measures that we have introduced in Bill No. 68 reflect a public need and desire for restorative and community-based justice. Others reflect the need for finding more cost-effective ways to deliver mainstream justice.
Our intention in the new Territorial Court Act is to provide the means by which greater integration and greater community involvement can occur with respect to the central apparatus of justice.
While communities, through their justices of the peace, will be empowered, it is nevertheless important to limit those powers, as this has been urged by the legal community. So if there is to be any significant deprivation of liberty or a permanent wardship of a child sought to be ordered, then that will occur only before a judge who has been trained in all of the legal implications of the due process guarantees that our Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to conclude with a passage from my department's submission to the Hughes inquiry, which Mr. Hughes cited with approval in his report.
"It is particularly important to make the justice system more responsive to the needs of First Nations. While some First Nations are moving towards the implementation of a separate process through administration of justice negotiations under their self-government agreements, others are interested in working within the mainstream system to make it more responsive to their needs. While First Nations clearly have the ability to establish their own approach to justice, it may be in the interests of all Yukon people to work together for reasons that border on the ordinary, such as efficiency, simplicity and ease of understanding, but also border on the extraordinary, such as creating a system which ultimately and essentially blends the best of both cultural legacies. To that end, the Department of Justice is pursuing restorative justice."
Mr. Speaker, I believe that this bill moves us much closer to a more open and accountable system that is founded on the principles of restorative justice.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, generally, I can support this bill in principle. There are many things in the bill that I do support, but before we get too far into my comments this evening, the minister must have received a letter from the president of the local Canadian Bar Association for the Yukon, Laura Cabott. I received the letter this afternoon at about 5:15 p.m., and the letter basically starts out by thanking the minister for allowing the Canadian Bar Association to comment on the draft Territorial Court Act, and it goes on to say: "Our respective submissions will be brief and to the point, considering the amount of time we were given to respond to the legislation."
Mr. Speaker, this is another example of the government tabling legislation one day and, shortly thereafter, moving to second reading and then moving on to the legislation. Now, I contacted lawyers when the legislation was tabled and asked them to have a look at it and to get back to me. When I was informed this afternoon at about lunchtime by the House leader that we were changing our agenda this evening, because of the illness of a member, I hurriedly had the staff make phone calls to the lawyers to try to get a response, and we haven't received the response yet from some of the people we have contacted. So, I have to say to the minister that, although I am supportive of some of the issues in here and not so supportive of others, I want to reserve many of my comments until Committee of the Whole, and I would hope that the minister would respect the views of the local bar regarding this fairly significant change and, before we charge into Committee of the Whole, she will wait until members start to receive some response.
And I would like, Mr. Speaker, before we go to Committee of the Whole, a written response from the minister with respect to the letter written by the president of the Yukon CBA. And I would appreciate receiving that before we get into Committee of the Whole - not moments before, but hopefully a day before we go into Committee of the Whole - so we can have a chance to review the response from the minister.
Mr. Speaker, I do have some specific problems with some parts of the act. The minister claimed that this would be a more open and accountable justice system when this act is passed. The minister also claimed that this act will restore confidence in the justice system, and I could not disagree more with the minister, with respect to one aspect of this act.
Let me touch briefly, Mr. Speaker, on some areas where I see some specific problems in this act.
The first is section 2, and that deals with the judges. I understand the Government of the Yukon wanted to appoint its territorial judges for a period of 15 years, yet in the act we're appointing them until they reach retirement at age 65. So I'd be interested in knowing the minister's comments on that, and I'd like to know from the minister what other jurisdictions do, as well, with respect to the appointment of their judges.
I noted that we have changed the sabbatical that we granted to our judges in the past, where a judge could work for four years, and then take a year off with, I believe, about 80 percent of their salary - in a sabbatical.
This was clearly a very generous perk in the position of a judge, one that no one else in government enjoys - or in the private sector, for that matter. Now the government still wants to provide a sabbatical, but without pay, and it appears that a Yukon judge, if they sat for 10 years on the Yukon bench, could take two of those years off. Meanwhile the Yukon taxpayer will still have to pick up the cost of a deputy judge, which is much higher than our existing judges.
I'd like to ask the officials to provide me with evidence of what is done in other jurisdictions. I asked for that at our briefing, and it would have been nice if the minister would table that information early, rather than waiting until we get to Committee. It would be nice to have the answers to the questions we asked in the briefing ahead of time, so we're not trying to scramble and read through them as we proceed through the bill.
Mr. Speaker, I'd like to know what's done in other jurisdictions, as I said, and I hope that I can receive this before we get into Committee. I understand that, right now, the Northwest Territories is the only other jurisdiction that provides this one-year sabbatical, so I'd like to know what other jurisdictions do.
Mr. Speaker, another issue I'd like to see this government deal with are the number of hours that our Yukon judges actually spend on the bench, compared to other provincial judges. Manitoba has done such a study, and why don't we? We pay our bench reasonably well, and we should know how well they're dealing with their workload. What is our backlog at the present time? I'm told by some people from across the country in the legal fraternity that to become a judge in the Yukon is one of the best jobs in the country with respect to the workload. I'd like to know what our workload is in the territory. I think when we're looking at value for dollars with respect to providing an efficient and effective justice system, one that doesn't necessarily have a backlog, it would be interesting to know how many hours our judges spend every month dealing with their judicial duties.
Part 3 deals with the Judicial Council, and this is an area of the bill that I believe is seriously flawed. The first area is the makeup of the Judicial Council. The minister mentioned today that she is going to be making an amendment to the bill, which I believe would be classed as a very significant amendment to the minister's bill. I would have thought that, by the time the bill arrived on our desks in this Legislature, that the makeup of the Judicial Council would have been very well thought out. Obviously, it wasn't. Obviously, someone, somewhere, got to the minister in the last couple of days, since we had our briefing - because this wasn't mentioned in the briefing - and suggested to the minister that we need another member on the Judicial Council.
The minister went quickly through her speech, so I'm not quite sure what the makeup is of the Judicial Council. So, maybe when the minister responds, I'd be interested in hearing what the member sees as members of the Judicial Council.
One of the issues that I have spoken about before is my concern about who sits on the Judicial Council. Now, the Judicial Council as it's constituted, is made up of a majority of lawyers and judges with, I believe, one or two lay people on the council.
My concern is that that balance had to change for the general public to gain confidence in the work of the Judicial Council. So I waited with great anticipation to see what the minister was going to do. So, let's see who we have on the Judicial Council. We have two members nominated by the minister, one who will be a member of the Law Society of the Yukon. We have one member of a Yukon First Nation. Now, the minister said today that that would be two members, if I am reading her correctly, and one would be a lawyer. One member, nominated by the Law Society, and of course that individual would be a lawyer. One member, nominated by the Chief Judge; that individual will be a judge or from the legal fraternity. One member was nominated by the justices. I would imagine that would be a JP, another individual who was very much involved in the justice system. There would be a resident judge of the Supreme Court, which is again another judge. And then the council may - not "will", but "may" - appoint one further member, who might be a lay person.
Mr. Speaker, talk about imbalance. You have a Judicial Council, which members of the public can lay complaints to about the judiciary, that is composed of, more than likely, six lawyers or judges and possibly two lay people; more than likely, though, six lawyers or judges and one lay person.
Mr. Speaker, how in the world does the minister think that the general public will think this is a group of individuals to whom they will be able to speak their minds and their voices will be heard, when the odds seem to be stacked completely in favour of judges who work with each other or lawyers who have to appear before these judges from time to time?
Mr. Speaker, I don't think that a member of the Yukon public could have any confidence in filing a complaint about a judge when the individual would have to present it to six lawyers and judges, with one member of the public there. A fair hearing? I don't think so. If the minister believes this is fair, she has a lot more confidence in this process than I do. I sat on the previous Judicial Council years ago. There was an imbalance then, and the minister's making it worse today.
Mr. Speaker, I think this is probably the most seriously flawed part of this act. Again, Yukoners who are victimized and revictimized, Yukoners who have concerns about the judiciary and the justice system, have nowhere to go, nowhere to complain. It's a closed shop. I don't know why the minister would even waste her time putting a lay person on this Judicial Council because that person will be a pretty silent, little voice in the background.
Mr. Speaker, there are some sections in this act which I can support, such as the need for a better balance on the bench reflecting Yukon's population. I do support the establishment of the commission to set the judges' salaries, and I also support the expanded mandate of the Judicial Council, but I would like the minister to give us some examples of things they would do. For example, would they do things like talking-about-crime consultations? Because now, in the new act, they will be carrying on education and doing other things with respect to justice in the territory.
I can support the changes to the justice of the peace in section 6, but I would like the minister to elaborate more on the training of our existing JPs in the territory. I certainly can support the proposed changes to the administration of our courts.
In general, Mr. Speaker, I support the bill that is before us. It's like other bills that we've had from time to time, where there are some sections that are very difficult to support, but there is more in this bill that's positive than some of the negative aspects of it.
I am more convinced now, with the way the minister has made up the membership of the Judicial Council, that the reason that they've put in the other sections in the bill for the Judicial Council to carry on education and do some other things is because it won't have any effect whatsoever when it comes to complaints against a judge. It will go nowhere. I think Yukoners who have very little faith in our justice system to start with are going to have less as a result of the recommendations of the minister that are in this bill.
In closing, I would again ask the minister in her rebuttal to give us a commitment on the floor of the House today that we won't proceed any further with this particular piece of legislation until we see, in writing, the comments from the minister with respect to the questions and suggestions that were posed by the president of the Canadian Bar Association, Yukon division. I would hope that the minister can give us assurances that we would not proceed until we at least had an opportunity to hear from the minister on those concerns.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I will listen to what the other members have to say with respect to this legislation, and look forward to the minister's response and to debating the issue in Committee of the Whole. I will have many, many questions in Committee of the Whole on several of the clauses, too numerous for me to cover at this point. I think I will wait until we get into Committee of the Whole and address those questions to the minister then.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cable: Mr. Speaker, there has been much public discussion of the justice system over the last several years, and there are undoubtedly some perception problems associated with the system. The principal players involved in the system would be the first to admit this. The players would also be the first to admit that, unless the system becomes more transparent, it will lose public support, and that, without this support, the system will not work effectively. We live in a democratic society where the last vestiges of elitism are disappearing. It's no longer good enough for a powerful elite, whether they are doctors or lawyers or whomever, to say, "Trust us." That trust must be earned.
I am pleased to see that some of the problems associated with the system are being addressed, but I think this act, by itself, is only a first step. By itself, it will not do the job of restoring confidence in the system. There is a ways to go, and the major player in restoring that confidence, I think, has to be our elected government. So, I am pleased to hear the minister lump her efforts on restorative justice in with her efforts on the act.
The Liberal caucus will be supporting the bill in principle, but there is a lot to talk about. I would like to thank the minister's officials for giving us a detailed briefing, and there were some things brought up in the briefing.
One of the points that has been made publicly by both me and the Yukon Party Justice critic was the desirability of having legislative appointments to the Judicial Council. In that vein, we had asked the minister's officials to provide to us a recapitulation of the method of appointment and the method of removal of appointees on the Judicial Councils in other jurisdictions in Canada. We had also asked for a recapitulation of what sort of lay representation is found on Judicial Councils in other jurisdictions.
I have to say that I agree with the Yukon Party Justice critic. It's easy for any profession to become intellectually incestuous, and while Mr. Hughes' points of view are to be respected, I don't think his suggestions are the only suggestions on improvement of the system that we should be looking at.
Now I'd written the minister, on October 21, a letter that was in response to a letter of hers, eliciting my opinion on the Hughes' report. I made a number of points, and during the Committee debate I would like to hear the minister's opinions on the points that were raised, because only one of them appears to have been accepted.
The first point was the desirability, as I said, of having the appointments made by this Legislative Assembly, rather than by the minister herself, so that the perception of independence can be nurtured, it being important that the Judicial Council not only be seen to be independent, but be independent.
I also stated to the minister that if in fact she wanted to ensure female representation on the council then this should be spelled out. If there's an affirmative action move on the part of the government, then that should be transparent and visible. It shouldn't be lurking between the lines of the act; it should be there for everybody to see.
I also questioned the minister as to why we would have the Judicial Council making recommendations on appointments to itself. It seems to me to be highly irregular and I think will only reinforce the fact that it will be dominated by the legal profession.
I think it would be useful - I think the minister is probably in the same position that we in opposition are in. There are papers flying back and forth and bouncing off walls and coming out of faxes, and there's verbal communication back and forth. We need something on paper. Besides those things that I've asked for, and the Yukon Party Justice critic has asked for, I'd like some sort of recapitulation of whether there are any Hughes' inquiry recommendations that were not accepted. If so, I'd also like the minister's response and comments to the points that were raised in the Law Society's letter of September 17, 1998.
They had a number of comments on the appointment of justices of the peace. I have not thumbed through the act to see whether they're all accepted or all rejected, so that would be helpful if the comments that were delivered in that letter received a written response to this side of the House, so we know if she has dealt with the issues that were raised.
Just to reinforce what was said earlier by the previous member, I would like some sort of written response to the Yukon branch of the Canadian Bar Association's comments in the letter of today's date.
The minister talked about an amendment. It would be useful to get that amendment, prior to the Committee discussion.
I hope the minister fully appreciates that, while she has many officials to brief her, we have to rely on a variety of sources, some of whom just don't jump when we ask them to. So, we need some time to get responses, and we need some time to sift them through our minds and adopt positions on the various issues.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Let me start by indicating to the members opposite that the new Territorial Court Act does respond to all of Ted Hughes' recommendations in some form.
I would also like to again state for the record that the composition of the Judicial Council is not a closed shop. It is much more representative of the public, both in its composition and in the rules that govern it. Under the new Territorial Court Act, rules of proceedings will be established for the Judicial Council. The Judicial Council will also provide an annual report, which will be tabled in the Legislature.
There is a potential, under the composition of the Judicial Council, for as many as five lay people out of nine. It cannot be, as a matter of law, a body dominated by lay people. We have to assume that our appointees will act responsibly and with care.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is heckling about whether lay people do that. I believe that both lay people and members of the legal community and members of the bench who are appointed to the Judicial Council will act responsibly.
Mr. Speaker, there was also a question about the training of justices of the peace. That will be greatly facilitated by the new act. There is no reason why, through the new mechanisms in the Territorial Court Act, we can't look at workload.
The Yukon Party critic seems to have missed something in his comments about sabbatical. We are not providing a paid sabbatical for members of the judiciary. In the same measure that many other members of society in various positions and various employment are able to take a leave that is self-funded, there will be the ability to take a leave. I do not find this to be an offensive provision, and I think the members should consider that as being of benefit, both to the judiciary and to the public.
Mr. Hughes also recommends public discussions and that joint working groups and open workshops be held to engage people in thinking about how we build justice services and how we deliver justice services into the 21st century. First Nations and the Yukon government and municipal government should take the lead in promoting these discussions.
Mr. Speaker, in bringing this act before the House, we intend to make all that work easier for the public to participate in.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. Livingston: Agree.
Mr. Ostashek: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Mr. Cable: Agree.
Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 13 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 68 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and 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
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Bill No. 69 - Municipal Act - continued
Clause 22 - continued
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee will be dealing with Bill No. 69, Municipal Act. We are on clause 22. Is there further debate?
Mr. Jenkins: When we left this section, I was asking the minister for timelines on the Commissioner in Executive Council or for the minister to act or render a decision, and the minister was favourably impressed as he recognized that there had been issues in the past surrounding timelines in which a decision came down. Is there some decision rendered by the officials advising the minister in this regard, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, there are no timelines set out in the act for the Cabinet making final decisions on the alteration of or forming or dissolving municipal boundaries. However, Cabinet will respond to the issue. Every situation is different, but Cabinet will respond in a timely way, as is presently the case.
Mr. Jenkins: If that had been the case in the past, I wouldn't have come here seeking kind of an assurance that there'd be timelines. What I'm suggesting to the minister, Mr. Chair, is a six-month to a year timeline. Would six months do?
What we're looking at is a six-month period for rendering a decision, which would be an appropriate period of time. Then if we're looking at municipal boundary changes either shrinking or growing, they would come into force, as usual, on the first of the year. The time period from when a Municipal Board gives its recommendations to the minister and from that time to when a decision is forthcoming, in a lot of cases, Mr. Chair, has been stretched considerably.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as the member is aware, there were no timelines in the act previously. There are different situations when it comes to expanding or altering municipal boundaries in any way. Some may be more complicated and require more time.
I would add, Mr. Chair, that the decisions are made when the facts are known and Cabinet is able to make a final order.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister filling in for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services is doing an admirable job but it still doesn't hold any water as to where we're headed. There have been instances in the past where decisions have not been forthcoming, and the uncertainty surrounding that adds considerably to the anguish that residents who could be annexed or could be reduced - could be outside of municipal boundaries - have to bear, and decisions have to be made.
So, the whole process is quite timely. A bylaw has to be raised by the municipal government. It has to go through its period of hearings. It has to go through till the end, Mr. Chair, and at that time the minister has - after the Municipal Board is heard, they deliberate very carefully over these issues, and then they give a report to the minister.
There are timelines for all these other functions to take place, but when it gets to the minister's desk there's very often a roadblock there to a decision occurring. What I'm recommending is that we put in another section, Mr. Chair, saying that the minister must render a decision within six months, which appears to be a reasonable request.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member is correct that sometimes there are very long time frames if the alteration of the boundary under consideration is a complicated one. Nonetheless, Mr. Chair, the minister and the Commissioner in Executive Council do make an effort to have a decision rendered on a timely basis. The previous legislation did not set out a time frame. Nor does this one.
The member has been assured by the minister yesterday in debate on clause 22, and again this evening, that government will respond to the recommendations from the Municipal Board in a timely manner.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm sorry, Mr. Chair. That just won't wash. I'm looking for timelines in there. I'm looking for an amendment that would propose a timeline of six months, and I see no reason why something like that couldn't be added.
Mr. Jenkins: I move
THAT Bill No. 69, entitled Municipal Act, be amended in clause 22, at page 29, by adding the following new subsection: "22(6) The Commissioner in Executive Council, after considering the report of the Yukon Municipal Board, must render a decision concerning the report of the Municipal Board within six months of the receipt of the report."
Mr. Chair, that would read, "The Commissioner in Executive Council, after considering the report of the Yukon Municipal Board, must render a decision concerning the report of the Municipal Board within six months of the receipt of the report."
Chair: Excuse me, please. Would members wait to be recognized?
Is there any debate on the proposed amendment?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As the minister has stated in debate on this act, the Municipal Act before us is the result of an extensive period of discussion and consultation with the Municipal Act Review Committee. This is a consensus document. The previous legislation did not have a time frame in it for rendering a decision on the reports of the Municipal Board. Governments in the past have acted in good faith; the government in the future will act in good faith. We do not support the amendment.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, having worked with the Municipal Board, sometimes the Municipal Board is functional and sometimes it is not. While you wait for decisions and you wait for people to get appointed and for things to get moving along, you're talking about people's livelihoods in many cases, and you're talking about land issues. It is extremely important that there be some sort of timeline attached to those types of decisions.
If we're talking about the principles of natural justice, having a timeline is one of those principles. It is something that we would support. We certainly support this amendment. I don't think there's anything unreasonable about it. Certainly, if it's normal for the Municipal Board to render decisions prior to the six-month period, then this is just stating what's already happening. There's nothing wrong with that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the Municipal Board only provides recommendations. They do not make decisions. The government, in the past, has not had a time frame for making those decisions. Governments act responsibly. The act before us is a consensus bill. The amendment is not necessary and is not supported.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I think the minister is very inaccurate in her overview of this section of the Municipal Act. In fact, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services was looking quite reasonably on it, if you care to read Hansard from the other day.
What we have now is advice being given to the fill-in minister for the evening that doesn't probably accurately reflect how the minister feels in most cases. I'm sure that the fill-in minister can get to the minister when he's well and back in the House and apprise him of her decisions in this regard.
Mr. Chair, the principles of natural justice require decisions to flow in a timely fashion. Of all of the cases that I am aware of that have gone before the Municipal Board, and the flow of documentation and requirements that have to be met leading up to that point, they have all been well addressed, well received and done in a timely fashion.
The Municipal Board makes recommendations to the minister. That's a given. But in the past, the whole process has stalled at the minister's desk. Now, I'm not sure of the reason why it's stalled there. Usually, some of the bureaucrats want to get back in and mess it all up again, or it's not flowing the way that they envisioned it to flow or they're giving bad advice to the minister of the day. But there is an issue there, and that issue, Mr. Chair, has prompted this friendly amendment, which I'm sure, if we sit back and look at it, could be supported and could be supported because it is reasonable.
It would speed the process. It would allow for a certainty as to the timing of that decision to be known. It would allow people to make decisions based on where that Municipal Board is heading and where the minister has decided to act on that Municipal Board recommendation. It would provide for a certainty in a timely fashion. It would follow the principles of justice. Natural justice would prevail, Mr. Chair.
Now, if the Minister of Justice herself can find fault with natural justice, I really have to take exception. So, if the Minister of Justice could stand on her feet as the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and tell me why she doesn't adhere to the principles of natural justice, I'd like to hear them.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, first let me assure the member that in acting as the Minister of Community and Transportation Services this evening in the absence of my colleague, I have spoken with him about the Municipal Act. I have worked with him on the Municipal Act, and that we do not support this amendment.
The member's amendment is not necessary. The procedure that we follow now is one where governments act responsibly and act after hearing the advice of the Municipal Board.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'm not too sure that I agree with the Member for Klondike that things are always stalled at the minister's desk. I think they're stalled at both levels and, either way, it can be a very difficult situation for the people who are waiting and waiting and waiting for these life-altering decisions to come forward.
I'm wondering - because we do have over 300 other clauses that we could go through tonight - whether we could put this particular clause aside and maybe come back and talk about it on another day.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I've indicated during the debate this evening that I'm acting on behalf of my colleague and have presented the government's view on clause 22. This section makes Cabinet responsible for making final decisions on altering or dissolving or adding to municipal boundaries. After considering the recommendations of the Municipal Board, Cabinet may issue an order and will do so in a timely manner.
Mr. Jenkins: I don't find anywhere in section 22 that the decision has to be rendered in a timely manner. Could the minister point that out in 22(1), (2), (3), (4) or (5) where it says "in a timely manner", Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, what I said in response to the member's question is that governments do act responsibly and that governments do act on the recommendations they receive from the Municipal Board in a timely manner. The legislation before us is the same as the Municipal Act that was previously in place. There is no timeline for the Commissioner in Executive Council to make an order in council. As I understand it, we are debating the amendment, which the government does not support.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister cite me examples of the timelines from when the Municipal Board made a recommendation to when Cabinet made their final decision? Is she aware of the timelines in, say, the last four or five decisions that the Municipal Board has reported on, and the time from that decision being rendered to Cabinet to the time that a decision was made? And we can cite Whitehorse or we can cite the pending case from Dawson. What timelines are we looking at currently?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: If the member would like me to have the officials provide the information on the timelines over the last four years in government for various alterations of municipal boundaries and how long either the previous government or the present government has taken to act on the recommendations of the Municipal Board, I can have a legislative return prepared for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: I would appreciate receiving that information, and can we stand aside clause 22(1) until we receive that legislative return in order to deal with it in a knowledgeable manner, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we have agreement on the Municipal Act. We've had all of the members stand in the House during second reading and indicate all-party support for the Municipal Act. This bill has been devised after years of work in cooperation with the Association of Yukon Communities, with municipalities and the Municipal Act Review Committee. The act before us is supported by MARC and is supported by the members opposite. I do not agree to set aside clause 22.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, am I to understand, from what the minister has just said, that there's actually no point for us to be sitting here in Committee of the Whole discussing this line by line and having debate back and forth because we've agreed to the whole thing lock, stock and barrel? Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, Mr. Chair, that's not what I said. The purpose of the Committee debate is to have discussions on the sections before us. Right now we're dealing with section 22, "Orders of the Commissioner in Executive Council", to do with altering municipal boundaries.
The Member for Klondike has proposed an amendment, which we have been discussing, and I have indicated the reasons that we do not believe the amendment to be required, and do not support the amendment.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I had a microsecond to look at this amendment, prior to us starting discussion on it. We have not received the information from the department - it hasn't even been prepared - about the timelines that we have been using for the boundaries over the last four years.
We have 371 clauses in this act, and we don't have an awful lot of time. I'd like to do a little bit more productive work tonight, and talk about some of the other clauses, and come back to this one. That's not an unreasonable request.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I would suggest to the member that that's a reason why it might be more productive to move forward from section 22. I have indicated that I have spoken with my colleague; that none of the municipalities, the Municipal Board, or the Municipal Act Review Committee raised as a concern the need to insert a new clause into the act to impose a time frame for the Commissioner in Executive Council to make an order, following the recommendation from a Municipal Board.
Previous and present governments have acted responsibly. Future governments will continue to do so. The amendment is not required.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, let's go back to why we have debate. Debate is back and forth, and hopefully I would have information to give the best I can to this debate.
Part of that is having the opportunity to examine the information that's going to be coming from the department. It is not unreasonable for us to go ahead, put this aside for now, and come back to it at some other time, when we all have the information and we can come at it with an intelligent, well thought out and well-considered viewpoint on this particular clause.
Regardless of the fact that MARC has been examining this for three years, we certainly have not, and we are the legislators. We are here as critics in this area representing our constituents. If the minister would just do us the courtesy of giving us a little time here, it would be greatly appreciated.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as has been indicated by the members, there are 360 clauses to this bill. This is clause 22. If we start standing aside a clause every time there is an amendment, we will not be able to make progress and to move forward. I am completely respectful of the member's amendments, of the member's questions, and I'm doing my best to respond to them.
The line-by-line debate is for discussion and clarification of the bill before us. The orders of the Commissioner in Executive Council are made by Cabinet after due consideration of the recommendations of the Yukon Municipal Board.
The officials who are with me have advised me that the normal time frame for Cabinet to make a decision after receiving the report of the Municipal Board ranges from six to 12 months. Governments will continue to observe that process. The government does not support the amendment before us. Are there any new questions on clause 22?
Mr. Jenkins: Can we look at just standing this aside until the information is brought back from the department as to the length of time that the previous decisions - say, in the last couple of years - have taken, Mr. Chair, so that the information is before us? We're not asking very much, and we've stood aside other items in other acts.
We can move on, we have a lot to do, and we can spend our time in a lot of these other sections. I know the House leader is shaking his head, but he shook his head very adamantly the other night when the minister was dealing with one of the other acts. I'm not sure if he was in Renewable Resources or where, and until he let his own personal knowledge and understanding of the issues sway him to standing the issues aside until he brought back the information - you know, we stood those aside, and it speeded up the business of the House. We have a lot to accomplish here. I don't want to waste the time of the House dealing with a small matter like this.
Now, if you want to bully it through, like the Member for Faro wishes to do - bully, bully, bully - let's get on with it - we've got the majority, we're just going to ram it through without allowing the opposition the opportunity to even get answers to questions that are valid and pertain to this section.
You know, you're not being reasonable, you're not being fair, Mr. Chair.
Now, can we stand this line aside and come back to it? That is a reasonable request at this juncture, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I am not being a bully. The member has put forward an amendment that asks that the Commissioner render a decision within six months. I have provided the information to the member that Cabinet normally takes between six months and a year to respond to the recommendations of the Yukon Municipal Board. I do not see how a legislative return with further specifics of which Municipal Board decisions and which municipal boundary alterations were decided on what dates is going to provide any further information that will help along the debate. It would not clarify it any further.
Mrs. Edelman: The fact that the minister can't see our point of view isn't relevant. The point is that the people on this side of the House are trying to tell the people on that side of the House that we have a problem with this. We would like to consider it a little bit longer.
This is not a power play. This is not a power play, like certain individuals constantly go through in this House. This is just a simple request for a little bit more time. I would love to hear more information about section 29, for example, and I would like to discuss that this evening.
This is not unreasonable. It is not a power play. We have lots of other things that we could be doing.
Chair: Are members prepared for the question on the proposed amendment?
Mr. Jenkins: No, Mr. Chair, we're not prepared for the question on the proposed amendment. We're prepared to discuss it and we're prepared to wait until perhaps the minister has had another break, can assemble that information and bring it back. I guess we can go the other way and look at 22(1), "The Commissioner in Executive Council, after considering the report of the Yukon Municipal Board, may ..." - forthwith. Can we add the word "forthwith" in there? Would the minister consider that?
Well, we've got another stubborn minister who's not going to rise and say anything in the House and respond to any decent questions. What I've asked the minister, Mr. Chair, is, would the minister consider adding the word "forthwith" in clause 22(1), "The Commissioner in Executive Council, after considering the report of the Yukon Municipal Board may forthwith ..."
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Harding, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I believe the member has already proposed an amendment before this House in Committee of the Whole, and now he seems to be proposing some other form of amendment, and I think the debates here are restricted to the initial amendment, and we've already tried to attempt to call question on that particular amendment.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I believe the Member for Klondike is trying to proceed and move the debate forward, and all he's looking for is if the minister is going to give some other consideration before we vote on amendment before the House.
I think the requests made by the members on this side have been very, very reasonable. We have a long bill to go through. Because the government has a large majority, there's no need for them to bull this stuff through. The Minister of Renewable Resources, in the wilderness act, after he quit listening to the Member for Faro, moved ahead with the debate and got his bill through in the same afternoon because he was accommodating.
All we've asked for is a small accommodation until the legislative return is brought back so they can weigh the information in the legislative return and proceed. In the meantime, we've wasted about 20 minutes already this evening.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: The government has wasted 20 minutes by being arrogant.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. Order please. Order please.
Chair: It is my understanding that the member cannot be interrupted when on a point of order. However, all members should stick to the point of order. Finally, I'd like to read, for the benefit of all members, from the Parliamentary Rules and Forms, the section on amendments to a bill, "For the convenience of the Committee, the chairman frequently permits debate to range over several amendments, which raise different aspects of the proposal in the actual amendment under consideration."
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, the government clearly has the opposition outnumbered and if they want to use their majority, they can bull anything they want through this Legislature. I heard the minister who is filling in for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services make the comment that because we voted for this bill in principle in second reading, we have no right to question it, that we have no right to propose amendments to it.
Well, I'm sorry, we do have that legislative right and I don't care how many committees it's gone through, it's up to us in opposition to question these bills and to make them better legislation than what they were coming into this Legislature. That's our role as opposition and we're going to fulfill that role.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Harding, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Now that the chair has ruled that you can't be interrupted on a point of order, I should get a bit of latitude with this point of order.
Mr. Chair, let me just say that the member's recollection of what the minister said is completely errant. What the member said was that Committee of the Whole was a place for debate on the bill before us. She also said that there's been years of extensive consultation on this particular bill. The minister spent a great amount of time with a lot of the proponents of this bill reaching a consensus. We are not going to make fly-by-night changes to the bill on the floor of this Legislature.
Chair: Order please. Could the member please get to the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, with respect, Mr. Chair, I will, and I will also raise some question with regard to the latitude given to the last speaker, but I will get to the issue at hand with respect to the ruling that you just rendered. But, Mr. Chair, I would argue I am speaking to the point of order raised by the member opposite and I would argue further that the minister was very clear and concise in terms of her response to the debate and the questions opposite.
Mr. Chair, what's important here is that it would be recognized that this amendment is of a minor nature. We have many, many clauses in this bill that have to be covered and it is not appropriate to be making fly-by-night changes on the floor of this Legislature, nor to be standing over every clause the members have questions about. That would not be practical.
Chair: The Chair sees no point of order.
On the amendment, are members prepared for the question?
Mr. Jenkins: No, Mr. Chair, we're not. The information that the Chair read to the House allowed us some flexibility in pursuing various amendments to this section. What I could suggest further to this type of amendment that is before us is exploring the alternative of adding, in clause 22(1), after "Municipal Board, may ...", the word "forthwith" in there. That is another option for an amendment that could be entertained, that would change very little, other than ensuring that a decision was rendered in a timely manner.
Right now, Mr. Chair, what we're taking is - the minister has, on occasion in the past, taken way in excess of a year to render a decision on these matters.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: No, it's way beyond that in many cases, Mr. Chair. And then, when the information finally comes down and the decision from the minister is made, it's usually January 1 of the next year before it can be implemented. So, the timelines from when the process is started at the municipal level, or at whatever level it's started, to the time you could see this process through to completion is very well defined, until the point where the Municipal Board renders its decision and submits its report to the minister. From that time on, all we're looking at is a measure of comfort with respect to the time that the minister has to bring down a decision.
I'm prepared to entertain both ways, and I think it would be important, Mr. Chair, if the minister has her officials assemble the information on the various items and find out certainly when the Municipal Board reports were rendered and the time that they were acted upon and a decision flowed from the minister.
Chair: Is it the member's wish to withdraw the proposed amendment that's been tabled and propose the alternative one?
Mr. Jenkins: No, Mr. Chair, I'm looking at either/or - whatever the minister appears to be ready to accept. Now, we have a proposed amendment before us. If the minister would like to accept the alternate, we could vote on the proposed amendment that would become 22(6) down, and add forthwith, under 22(1), right after "Municipal Board, may".
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member is aware, as I have stated previously, that this act has been extensively reviewed by the Municipal Act Review Committee, by the municipalities and Association of Yukon Communities, as well as the legal authorities. This is not an issue that has been raised by any of those parties and, as I've indicated in response to the questions from the members when he was proposing his amendment, the government - the Commissioner in Executive Council - makes an order after due consideration of the Yukon Municipal Board's advice. The governments, both past and present and of different political persuasions, have not had a concern raised about the timelines. Governments do make their decisions after due consideration and without undue delay. I've indicated that I've spoken with my colleague and that we do not support this amendment.
Chair: The question before the Committee is on the amendment
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, we're probably going to be finishing off debate very shortly, and I'd look forward to the minister bringing that legislative return, or the information orally to us tomorrow, before we get back into debate on this clause. I'm looking for her assurance on that matter.
Chair: Are we agreed on the proposed amendment?
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Mr. Jenkins: We never even got to that point. You're again pushing things through. What I'm looking for is an answer -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Chair: Order please. I believe it's contrary to the rules of this Legislature to accuse the Chair of pushing something through.
Now, if you just please give me a minute, we'll get things sorted out here, and we'll take it from there.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Harding, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, this is a very serious issue, and I hope all are listening. The Chair called question, asked the question, the question was put. It was clear the "disagrees" had it, we should move on.
Chair: On the point of order, what should have been asked is: "Are you prepared for the question?" I'll ask that question now. Are you prepared for the question?
Mr. Jenkins: I still have another question for the minister. It's obvious that we're not going to get through this matter this evening, Mr. Chair, and I hope that the minister could bring back the information that has been requested, either by way of legislative return tomorrow or by way of an oral response to the question.
Now, that information is readily available, and on the six to 12 months that the minister has mentioned, I'm aware of situations where the decision at the ministerial level has taken much longer than that to come down and I'm aware of situations, if we want to go back to since the inception of this previous Municipal Act, where decisions have not been forthcoming for quite a period of time.
I believe that the principles of natural justice should apply, and those principles should be there to ensure that the government acts forthwith.
Now, we can do it either with a clause in that one section, Mr. Chair, or we can do it by way of an amendment.
Mr. Chair, I move that we report progress.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Chair: The nays have it. Is there further debate on the amendment?
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. There is further debate on the amendment. I was looking through section 22(1) to see if there was another area where that amendment could be more readily applied, Mr. Chair. I was hoping that it would easily fit in 22(6), right at the end, but it's not imperative that it fit right into 22(6). It could go into another section, and I'd be willing to entertain any kind of serious input that the minister might have on that matter to ensure that this kind of a clause fits in in an appropriate manner.
Chair: The time being about 9:30 p.m., I will rise and report progress.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker:May the House have the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 69, the Municipal Act. I now report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the 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 now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:29 p.m.