Monday, December 7, 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?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, there are a number of people in the gallery who are here today because they have interest in restorative justice. I would like all members of the House to join me in welcoming many community people who are involved in human rights, community justice, crime prevention and restorative justice efforts throughout the Yukon.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have a document for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bills No. 57, 60, 66, 68, 69 and 102: French text
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I am tabling bills which combine what I believe for each of these bills to be a true copy of the English text and the true translation of that text into French.
The bills that I am tabling today are:
Bill No. 66, entitled Auxiliary Police Act, which was introduced and given first reading on November 12, 1998;
Bill No. 69, entitled Municipal Act, which was introduced and given first reading on November 17, 1998;
Bill No. 68, entitled Territorial Court Act, which was introduced and given first reading on November 19, 1998;
Bill No. 57, entitled Estate Administration Act, which was introduced and given first reading on November 10, 1998;
Bill No. 60, entitled An Act to Amend the Family Property and Support Act, which was introduced and given first reading on November 2, 1998;
Bill No. 102, entitled An Act to Amend the Children's Act, which was introduced and given first reading on November 2, 1998.
Speaker: Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Restorative justice consultations
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I rise to inform the House of a major policy initiative that demonstrates our government's goal of fostering safe, healthy communities, as well as our firm commitment to involve Yukon people in the decisions that affect them.
One of the hallmarks of any society is the way it deals with anti-social or criminal behaviour by some of its members. Too often the main approach used is to seek retribution by punishing offenders without addressing the root causes of crime.
It has been shown repeatedly, however, that such an emphasis simply does not work. It does not prevent crime. It does not address the needs and rights of victims. It frequently does not result in rehabilitation of the offender and it does not restore balance and harmony to a community affected by criminal actions.
For this reason, many jurisdictions around the world are moving toward a system of justice that is based on restoring that balance. A number of Yukon initiatives, such as community justice committees, circle sentencing, diversion programs and family group conferencing are built on restorative justice principles.
Restorative justice is a different way of delivering justice services. It looks at the effect that criminal behaviour has on the victims, the communities, and the offender, and responds to each of their needs. It involves these parties directly in repairing the harm caused by crime, while seeking new ways to prevent further criminal behaviour.
Mr. Speaker, Yukon people have made it clear that they want a voice in how to make the territory's justice system work better. We have listened, and we want to maintain an open, ongoing dialogue with Yukon people on this important matter.
Early in the new year, we will begin consultations with a variety of community groups, based on the draft paper on restorative justice that I tabled today. The groups we will be consulting with initially will include local and First Nations governments, community justice committees, the legal profession, police, criminologists, non-governmental organizations, corrections staff, and others with a special interest in this subject. In May, we will broaden our consultations through town hall meetings across the territory to get the widest possible range of views about how to make our justice system more open and more responsive to the needs of Yukon people.
The goals of a restorative justice system for the Yukon are to improve public safety, reduce repeat offending, form partnerships with other governments, communities and non-government organizations to develop alternative measures and programming for certain offender profiles, foster healthy communities through increased and ongoing support for both victims and offenders, prevent crime through greater community involvement, increase public confidence in the justice system, and improve rehabilitative programming for offenders who require secure custody.
Mr. Speaker, this is a major undertaking. It introduces a new era of partnerships in seeking interim and long-term approaches both to crime prevention and to community healing in the aftermath of crime. This ongoing process will require us to reexamine our values as a society and how we put those values into practice.
It also fulfills a major commitment of our government to involve Yukon people directly in the design and delivery of justice services so that we are not just attacking crime but successfully attacking the root causes of crime.
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and the office of the official opposition, I am pleased to take this opportunity to respond to the minister's statement regarding the restorative justice initiative. I believe, Mr. Speaker, that this is a positive initiative, and it is something that is needed.
Yukoners have come to learn all too well that there seems to be very little justice in the Yukon's legal system and have come to learn the hard way that the justice system is not working very well in this territory, as in other jurisdictions. It's a system, Mr. Speaker, that costs millions of dollars and produces little other than heartache and pain for many people who have become involved.
As recent court decisions clearly show, there is a lack of balance in the Yukon's justice system. I refer to the Susan Klassen and Maranda Peters cases, and I ask the family and friends of those individuals if they believe that justice was done in the territory. I refer to the individual who was held at knifepoint at a video store in Porter Creek, and I ask that individual if she believes justice has been served. Like other jurisdictions in Canada, the Yukon's justice system is in trouble and in need of a major overhaul. Now, more than ever, action is needed to restore the public's confidence in our justice system.
For this very reason, our caucus brought forward amendments to the Territorial Court Act that would allow for a guarantee of more members of the Judicial Council to be laypersons. Mr. Speaker, we are pleased that our suggestions to allow for more lay people in the Judicial Council was adopted, and in doing so, I firmly believe that the Judicial Council will become a better instrument for ensuring that the views of the public and that community standards are heard and listened to.
While we on this side of the House are pleased that the Government of the Yukon will be involving Yukon people in discussions regarding this initiative, what appears to be missing is that of consulting with our judiciary. I notice that they talk about the legal community in the ministerial statement, and I hope that the minister means the judiciary as well.
Members of the Yukon judiciary are a key component of our justice system and should therefore be involved in any discussions or consultations that are going to be held in the near future with respect to restoring a balance in our system.
I therefore hope, Mr. Speaker, that our judiciary offers their full participation in these discussions so that they are part of the solution and are supportive of decisions made by all Yukoners.
What appears to be front and centre in this announcement today, Mr. Speaker, is one initiative that I am very pleased with, and that is that it's going to be victim centred. I'm pleased with this approach and I believe there are many Yukoners who are of the opinion that the justice system today has not provided justice and has done more harm than good in many cases, especially with respect to the victims.
I refer to the recent use of circle sentencing in dealing with crimes of violence and how its inappropriate use is creating major inequities in the criminal justice system and eroding public confidence in our overall justice system.
Because of the judiciary's reluctance to deal with offenders themselves, victims are more often than not revictimized.
The previous Yukon Party government held extensive consultations with Yukoners in every community regarding crime and Yukon's justice system that led to the Talking About Crime report, which outlined a number of recommendations for the government to act upon.
One of the concerns raised by Yukoners during these consultations - and, I might add, raised in almost every community - was that they were tired of talking about what was wrong with our justice system and wanted to know, instead, what the government was doing in response to these concerns.
I hope, Mr. Speaker, that this is an action document, and that we will see something happening with respect to the justice system. My fear is that we might be in the process of repeating work already completed by previous governments with respect to reviewing and assessing an inventory of existing services in communities where justice initiatives already exist. We heard that complaint time and time again. Even when we did Talking About Crime, we heard the complaint about coming back to the community and asking the people what the problems were, but then going away again, and the next they heard from us was when we were back in the communities, asking the same questions. Mr. Speaker, people want action.
Perhaps the minister could tell us how these consultations will differ from consultations that took place in the past.
Last spring, Mr. Speaker, the minister also announced that the Department of Justice would be allocating more than $300,000 contribution in cash or in kind this fiscal year for restorative justice projects, including Southern Lakes Justice Committee, Carmacks Justice Committee, Dawson City Justice Committee, and the Liard Nation, to name a few.
This announcement was made last April and yet...
Speaker: Thirty seconds.
Mr. Phillips: ...it seems now we are undertaking consultation of these groups and Yukoners at large. Perhaps the minister could update us and tell us how many of these groups have received funds, and why is it only now that we're holding discussions?
Maybe the minister, in her response, could reply to these questions.
Mr. Cable: On behalf of the Liberal caucus, I'm pleased to respond to the minister's statement. The courts have repeatedly said that vengeance is not a purpose of sentencing. While anger may drive a community's reaction to a particular offence or offences, whether it's murder, or a series of acts of vandalism, designing a system around vengeance is about the best way to guarantee its failure. So the Liberal caucus is fully supportive of the minister's initiatives in the restorative justice area, in relation to both crime and criminals.
The restorative justice principles set out in the minister's draft paper are a good starting point. Making the rights of victims and public safety a first priority - emphasizing the collective good first - will help deal with some of the alienation many people feel when discussing the operation of the justice system. Emphasizing community involvement will also bring people into the system, and help to reduce that alienation.
But at the end of the day, we need to appreciate that the new initiatives are just that: they are new and, in some cases, they're untried. So determining their effectiveness - designing a feedback system - is as important as the initiatives themselves.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'd like to thank the members opposite for their support of the restorative justice statement. I think we all agree that there is room for improvement, and that using new principles to examine our existing justice system is part of ongoing evaluation and improvement. That won't change.
The Talking About Crime report was a good initiative and our government has made a number of constructive changes in the last two years to address the root causes of crime, to hold offenders accountable and to provide victims with more of a voice in the system. Some of the examples of that are the Family Violence Prevention Act and the Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act. The Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Board are now accepting funding applications for community projects for victims services and crime prevention.
The government also, in this session, has brought forward a new Territorial Court Act, which is a model that recognizes the role of community justice committees and encourages justices of the peace to work with them.
The new Territorial Court Act, which I brought forward also provides for a more open judicial selection process, more lay people to participate on the Judicial Council and for them to provide an annual report, which will be tabled in the Legislature, as well as to potentially hold discussions with members of the public.
We have given victims a voice through a number of programs and legislation, including the Limitations of Action bill that was brought forward in this session. We have seen examples of the restorative justice model in action in the work we have done to support community group conferencing in Watson Lake, Dawson City and Haines Junction, to name just a few.
People have also said that they want an opportunity to help design changes to the justice system and how it responds to crime in our community. We have been and continue to hold discussions with community justice committees. We also hope to reduce the reliance on more traditional forms of justice and apply funds to alternative measures. We want to encourage more effective rehabilitation and community-based justice measures.
Our correctional reform will address the issue of a proper balance between community models and institutional care. This is a critical step in identifying needs for replacement of Whitehorse Correctional Centre, as well as looking at what we offer in our communities.
I'm very pleased that the members opposite have supported this and I look forward to a busy year ahead as we continue our discussions with the community.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: This then bring us to Question Period.
Question re: Job creation
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Government Leader on his much-touted new Yukon, the new Yukon where we're going to create one job at a time.
With the recently released unemployment statistics for November showing that 700 fewer Yukoners are working than in October and a labour force being down 700 jobs from November of 1997, my question to the Government Leader: can he explain how, with one job at a time, he's going to replace the 700 jobs that have left the territory?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, we began by discussing the matter with the community as a whole - the business community in particular - over the last year, with the news of the Anvil Range mine was closing, because, of course, that was the major change in the economic base of the territory. With the loss of 1,000 jobs and tens of millions of dollars in revenue, of course, the impact was significant. So, we started talking with the business community and others, and from those discussions last year, this spring and this summer and this fall, we've established a number of forums to talk about everything from - and undertake some things - tax reform to new spending initiatives to encourage not only direct job creation, but also to encourage the private sector to be more active in new ways of doing business.
The difficulty that we have, Mr. Speaker - and which is the clear prescription from both the Yukon Party and the Liberals - is to spend, through direct job creation, money we don't have. But there are many things we can do, and we are doing them.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, quite clearly, Mr. Speaker, whatever this government is doing isn't working. The Faro mine shut down two years ago, and there are 2,000 fewer people working in the Yukon now than when this government took office - 2,000 fewer.
Mr. Speaker, if the 700 Yukoners who left the labour force since last November had had any confidence in the economic leadership of this government and had chosen to stay rather than leave, the unemployment rate would be 15.3 percent instead of 11.4.
Mr. Speaker, this Government Leader has an economic crisis on his hands, and he and his colleagues don't know what to do about it. So, I would ask him now: will he reconsider our suggestion of calling an economic summit early in the new year so that he can hear from all Yukoners and maybe get some direction and restore some economic leadership to this government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I think it's important for all people watching to point out the fact that the mine wasn't shut down for two years. The mine has been shut down for a year. Secondly, I would point out to the members that we are doing precisely what we can in consultation with the business community itself.
I think it's illustrative of the fact that we are working with the business community that they are not joining in the singsong with the Yukon Party in its criticism of the government, because a lot of the actions that are being taken by the government are, in fact, direct suggestions for improvement from the public itself.
Mr. Speaker, the reason why we can't go ahead with an economic summit sometime in the next three or four months - a one-day or a two-day summit - is because we've already done those things. We've had a number of discussions with precisely the people the member wants us to talk to. I've had 45 meetings with community groups in the last month alone, to talk about not only the government's budget but also the economy, and we are acting. We are at the next stage. We're well ahead of the Yukon Party's suggestions.
Mr. Ostashek: I guess that's why Yukoners are continuing to leave the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, because this government's so far ahead.
Mr. Speaker, maybe the reason that the business community isn't talking to this government is because they've given up on this government. They've tried to talk to them and they can't get through to them.
Mr. Speaker, I think it's important that this government move, and move very quickly, to engage all Yukoners - business, labour and individual Yukoners - and I urge the Government Leader to reconsider and call an economic summit for early in January to get some new ideas about how we can put the economy back on track.
Will the Government Leader do that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I have to deal with the real world in the Yukon today, and I'll tell the member one thing: the reality is that the business community is working with the government right now. Far from ignoring the government, Mr. Speaker, the business community and others in this territory are working with the government on everything from the trade and investment round table to the banking round table to the tax round table. We are acting now.
We are not waiting for next year. We are not doing this in isolation from the general public, and I'll tell the member that the comments he made in the preamble to his question, that the situation is bleak, I can tell him that it is a difficult situation that the territorial economy is facing, but there are 400 more people working in the economy now than there were when the Yukon Party was in power and the Anvil Range mine shut down.
So, the labour force is, in fact, bigger, but that doesn't reduce the fact that we do need to take short-term and long-term actions now and we are doing that with the business community today and with people around the territory.
Question re: Group home, 16 Klondike Road
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Mr. Speaker, over the weekend I had the opportunity to talk to the director of the group home at 16 Klondike. She advised me that the group home staff were working hard to improve services there, but some of the young people in their care simply shouldn't be in the home.
These are youths who have been physically abused, and some of them have FAS, who act out in such ways that aren't socially accepted, and the group home doesn't have the programs to deal with them.
Can the minister explain why these types of youth are being sent to this particular group home, when there aren't programs in place to deal with youths with these serious problems?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, what a difference a day makes. From vilifying those kids last week, now he's weeping crocodile tears for them. That's a real transformation. The fact is that the member -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: - the member is, once again, flip-flopping. After absolutely castigating those kids last week, after portraying them as criminals, now he's standing up as their defender.
I can tell the member one of the things that we are doing. With the recent changes to the residential youth treatment centre, we're able to draw away some of the more severe cases from 16 Klondike.
They, at 16 Klondike, have done a considerable amount of work. They've recruited staff in supporting and developing their programs. We have also done that with the residential youth treatment centre, and we believe that we're going to be able to give the 16 Klondike group home some relief in terms of the kinds and severity of cases, now that we have the residential youth treatment centre up and running.
As a matter of fact, we have a very considerable list of improvements, and I would suggest to the member if he really wants to track this, he could go on the Health and Social Services web site -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Mr. Phillips: It would have been nice, Mr. Speaker, if the minister himself had got on the Web site the other day so that he would have known some of the answers to the questions that I asked him, if he read his own Health and Social Services Web site.
Mr. Speaker, there seems to be a case of denial, of Health and Social Services denying that there is an FAS problem in the territory. The director of the group home is caught in a catch 22. How is the home supposed to deal with this degree of impairment of youth when the government doesn't have a treatment program for young people addicted to alcohol and drugs like cocaine?
The minister can say all he wants, but I've talked to drug and alcohol abuse people who work in the field and I've also talked to people in the group homes, and there isn't a program available. When is the minister going to develop a program that will deal with these troubled youth?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Speaker, once again, the Member for Riverdale North is doing the old "I was hitting on them last week and now I'm their best friend." The fact is, is that we do have two positions in ADS which are targeted for youth addictions. We have a caseload of 56 youth who are being treated. We have our prevention workers working primarily with younger kids; we've built our curriculums around alcohol and drug issues.
We're at the point of entering into a cost-matching agreement with Health Canada. What that would do will be seeing an additional $200,000. It's cost matching. So in other words, the services that we provide will be matched in terms of additional resources, and I have already directed that those resources, when they become available, will be directed to primarily youth, but also to women's addiction issues.
So, we are doing quite a bit and we will continue to do quite a bit. I think there are a number of issues that we could do there, but I'm glad to see that the member has seen the error of his ways and is no longer characterizing young people who have difficulties in their lives as criminals.
Mr. Phillips: The minister can try and spin it any way he wants, Mr. Speaker. The fact of the matter is that his department was sending youth to 16 Klondike that shouldn't have been sent to 16 Klondike. They had other problems, and the minister is refusing to deal with the problems. As a result of those youth going there and there being no programs there to deal with them, the youth were out, AWOL, and breaking into houses in the area. I raised that to the minister.
The minister denied it at first, like he does his FAS problem, and now, Mr. Speaker, I am asking the minister what programs is he going to put in place now at 16 Klondike, or any other group home in the territory, to deal with these kinds of troubled youth - programs that will actually deal with the problems the youth have. The minister can't deny he has a problem. The minister should just answer the question and tell us what he's going to do with respect to these kids who are still, today, going into these group homes without programs to deal with them.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, if the member would even have listened to some of the responses that I was giving and also the operator was giving, at 16 Klondike, they've engaged an educational psychologist on contract to do a review of behaviour management methods, and several revisions are in process. They've developed a clinical supervision model. They have also begun, along with Yukon College, the supported living training program, which I notice the member was not at the recent presentation on. They've also worked on such things as restraint training and behaviour management training. There has been a reduction in terms of AWOLs and late arrivals. If the member would be courteous enough to listen, he would be aware of the fact that that has declined considerably in the last period of time. They've developed protocols around AWOLs and are working with both the RCMP and the receiving home as well as residential youth treatment services in this. They've done a considerable amount of -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Question re: Gasoline prices
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Economic Development on gasoline prices.
The minister's department put out a report on gasoline prices earlier this year. One of the options in the report was the regular monitoring of local prices and the publication of these prices. The government has set up an Internet site and it has published the average prices in several Yukon communities on that site. Now, the publication of average prices on some obscure Internet site hardly seems like informing the public.
So, where is the minister going on informing the public? Are we going to see price ranges by community, or are we going to see ads in the paper, or is the Internet site - with average prices - it?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, we've been raising this issue on a number of fronts, whether it be federally with the minister responsible for competition, whether it be with the Natural Resources minister. I've joined with other colleagues across the country, particularly in northern parts of Canada, to raise concerns about gasoline pricing. As well, Mr. Speaker, we've been inquiring into sulphur exemptions and how we as a jurisdiction may be able to somehow benefit from that.
The element of our strategy that the member speaks of is but one small part. I'm not exactly sure what he's promoting in terms of pricing and the setting of prices and advertising them, so perhaps when he gets back up, he could tell us what his position is on that.
Mr. Cable: Just let me ask a couple of questions.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: We'll get to that in a moment.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: Sure we will. I can guarantee it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Mr. Cable: A couple of weeks ago, the minister talked in this House about consumer awareness. Now, there are nearly 20 service station outlets in the City of Whitehorse. It would take a consumer the better part of an hour to drive around town doing comparison shopping. If the government collects the different prices, as it appears to be doing to work out the averages, why doesn't it provide some real assistance to the consumer and publish enough information that the consumer can make some decisions, and we on this side are in favour of that, just to answer the Government Leader's heckling.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's the first time in six years in this House that the Liberals have actually taken a position, so I'm a little taken aback - but I would like to say, Mr. Speaker, that, just like a good lawyer, I shouldn't have asked a question I didn't know the answer to.
But I believe that what we are doing is a prudent method. The local retailers, I believe, have some very staunch and competitive pricing arrangements, and they are - on a constant basis - checking each other's prices out. The strategy that we have determined to go with in terms of trying to deal with the problem involves that - it's just one small element of it.
The member is advocating that we track, on an ongoing basis, all of the retail stations and do that in the rural communities. I would suspect that would not be a very prudent, or good expenditure of the taxpayers' money. Nor do I believe it would be within keeping of the time that we would want to spend on one small aspect of the work we're doing on this issue.
Mr. Cable: Let's just focus on Whitehorse for the moment, where there are a number of service stations. People can't just drive around and comparison shop in a matter of minutes.
The price differential at the retail level in Whitehorse is at least five cents a litre. Competition seems to be working at the retail level. The only missing ingredient for price pressure at the retail level is a fully informed consumer.
Now, publishing price ranges - that's ranges - in the newspaper wouldn't be seen as a socialist run at the free enterprise system. It would be seen as giving the system a tune-up.
Does the minister not think this would be useful information to the consumer - doing some comparison shopping?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I believe that the issue that the member raised is one that we are dealing with to a degree, in the posting of the average prices in the communities, and in Whitehorse. But having heard the Liberal position on that, I could engage in some more consultation with people in the community - including the chambers of commerce - and see if they feel that would be an appropriate intervention by government in the economy locally, and whether they feel it would be a prudent expenditure of the taxpayers' money. I'd be interested in their feedback, and I can report back to the member on that, now that I have his position.
Question re: Gasoline prices
Mr. Cable: Well, the Liberal caucus isn't running the government, so just let's see if we can get a yes on this issue.
The government has put a blizzard of little ads in the paper recently, patting itself on the back for its rate stabilization fund, and there have been large, one-third page ads from the stats branch on employment figures and other figures. Why can't we put in similar ads, telling consumers about the different gas prices? This would be real consumer awareness, a term that this minister used in this House a few weeks ago.
Can he not yank a few of those self-aggrandizing ads on the rate stabilization fund and substitute a few of the gas price ads?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I think the consumers should know about the rate stabilization fund and the investments that have been made by this government in energy in this territory - a massive investment in lowering bills this winter for consumers, and holding them there, at least until the year 2002. I think that's a significant change in government policy in this territory. It has never been done before. We finally dealt with a very important issue, as it affects business people, because it also pertains to commercial enterprises and the family, Mr. Speaker.
As well, we've invested in energy efficiency. We've put money into green power initiatives. I think that we have a right to tell the public about that.
I will take the member's point about publishing the individual retailers' stations in the public. He's promoted that position now, and I've said that I'll do some consultation on that with local people, and see if they feel that's a prudent measure of government intervention.
Mr. Cable: Just so we get it straight: what we're suggesting is putting the prices in the paper. We're not focusing on hitting individual retailers - the high price and the low price, so that when people drive by a gas station, they will know whether they're in the high price range or the low price range. That's what we're suggesting.
Just let me ask the minister this question: is the gasoline market, in the minister's view, competitive at the retail level in Whitehorse? In the minister's view, is there a price competition and, if so, would he think that informing the consumer fully would assist in this price competition?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, as I said, this is a complex issue. We've dealt with it on a number of fronts. What the member speaks of is but one element of the equation that we've been dealing with. The information that we have seen, from independent sources, does say that there is a decent level of competition in Whitehorse. However, the biggest problem we have is the volumes we deal with here do not yield the types of savings at the pump that are yielded in larger centres. The difference in margins is dramatically different here, for example, than it is in a big centre like Toronto or Vancouver.
So, the short answer to his question is, we do not have the level of competition that major centres do, nor do we get the volume discounts that show up at the pumps that would result in lower prices for Yukon consumers, which is a concern, and that's why we're dealing with it on the numerous fronts that we are.
Mr. Cable: Well, there is a nickel a litre difference between the various stations in Whitehorse, so there has to be some retail price competition.
Let me ask the minister this: he has stuck the average prices, which aren't very helpful, on the Internet site. Could he tell this House, or could he give us a return on the number of hits on that site, this unadvertised site, that took place last week since he started advertising?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I just took six hits from the member opposite, so I'll try and get that information for him.
Question re: Group home review
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Government Services on the group home review.
One of the things that two independent reviewers found most shocking in conducting the study was the attitude toward drinking in these homes. They came to the unfortunate conclusion that underage drinking is out of control and is overwhelmingly looked upon as a normal part of growing up. I also strongly suspect that some Yukon youth are heavily into drug abuse as well.
Since the findings of the review, can the minister advise the House what he has done to combat this complacent attitude toward drinking and drug abuse, both within government-run facilities and in communities themselves?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think, Mr. Speaker, that the member is characterizing that somehow we condone alcohol consumption within group facilities, and he knows that that's not indeed the case.
I listed previously some of the things that we are doing within alcohol and drug services branch, including the assignment of positions on prevention and treatment, the development of curriculum, the fact that we are directing funds that we get from Health Canada through the alcohol and drug treatment rehabilitation agreement to the tune of $200,000. We are directing those in.
We're also doing things such as a number of issues surrounding health promotions, in terms of reducing alcohol consumption, trying to get the age of when children take their first drink, and trying to reduce among young people the idea of having to binge drink as a normal social pattern. So, I think there are a number of things that we are doing.
I'm not sure where the member sees this within the purview of Government Services, but perhaps he could enlighten me on why he chose that particular field.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the reviewers stated that substance abuse by minors needs to be addressed collaboratively by group homes, the territorial government, other related government departments, including the RCMP, and the broader community. None of these groups can realistically have been expected to resolve it on their own.
Has the minister implemented this recommendation by calling all of the stakeholders together to tackle this serious problem, and if so, when and what action plan was set up at that time, and if he hasn't done it, why not?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, for one thing, every time the Member for Klondike stands up to read his questions, I'm always amazed that he is so ill-prepared and so ill-informed.
For example, if he understood the purpose of the youth investment fund - the number of things that we've done in there on reducing alcohol consumption and alcohol use among young people - and if he understood some of the things around the youth recreation leadership programs that have been run very successfully, and some of the healthy alternatives that were provided through both ourselves and Education and through Community and Transportation Services, and a number of things that we fund through the summer and for young people, he would be aware of the fact that there is a cross-departmental approach.
Some of the healthy alternatives that were provided, through both ourselves and education, through Community and Transportation Services, in a number of things that we fund through the summer and for young people, he would be aware of the fact that there is a cross-departmental approach. The Minister of Education and I cooperate very extensively in issues in this regard, particularly with regard to the youth strategy that's being developed, so we are working cooperatively, in fact.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, this report was released in August. The minister was made aware of it in August, and what is needed now is some action. Talk is cheap, Mr. Speaker, but the reviewer stated emphatically that the department can't ignore this problem any longer. So I'd like the minister to table in this House a complete listing of the 49 recommendations and the government's response to each of them, during this sitting, so that Yukoners themselves can be the judge of what is being done to combat these serious problems.
Will the minister give that undertaking here today, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, talk is cheap. Exploiting children is cheaper.
This is the progress report that we have on the 49 recommendations. If the member could actually go to the computer, go to the Government of Yukon's Web site, look up Health and Social Services, look up family and children services, he will find this. He will find what has been done, what needs to be done, and where we're going with each of these. I would suggest it's very simple to find. If he really wishes, he can run off a copy. If that's beyond his technical capabilities, we can run off a copy for him and table it.
Question re: Job creation
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the minister in charge of our faltering economy, the Minister of Economic Development. Mr. Speaker, the Statistics Canada report was released on Friday, and the report shows that the Yukon labour force has decreased by almost five percent over the last year.
Of the 15,000 Yukoners available for work, only 13,000 are actually employed.
The number of Yukoners available for work is shrinking, and so is the work available for those who are left. We've heard all kinds of talk out of this government, talk about the new Yukon, talk about diversification, talk about one job at a time.
Mr. Speaker, let's talk about jobs. Where does the Minister of Economic Development expect the jobs to be created in the new Yukon in the new year?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I would point out to the member that while we are certainly concerned about the economy - working very, very hard to deal on a number of fronts with it - that in 1993, when the Faro mine shut down, the labour force shrunk to a much smaller level than it is now.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: There are 400 more in the labour force now than there were then.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order, please. Order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: This is something that happens when 20 percent of the gross domestic product and the thousand jobs that the Faro mine represented in a small economy - it affects the numbers. And, Mr. Speaker, that's why we're so busy on tax reform, that's why we're so busy on the initiatives with developing the -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: I met, for example, Mr. Speaker, on Friday with a large cross-section of the business community - labour - to talk about the tourism and trade and investment marketing funds. There's a lot of excitement, a lot of enthusiasm from that board, who are keen on making some things happen in this territory - and yes, Mr. Speaker, one job at a time. They recognize that if we focus entirely on mega-projects, then we can set ourselves up for propagating a boom-and-bust economy.
So, Mr. Speaker, there's a mill - as I understand it, the mill in Watson Lake is now running their production shifts. They have the potential to create 120 to 150 jobs.
The member should know that we just devolved a major, historic accomplishment - the devolution of oil and gas for this territory - and I expect to see some activity there as well.
Our trade and export initiative is running full steam, with a lot of support from a lot of Yukoners. And that's the way we can continue to change and -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the statistics tell us that the job losses over the last year are by men - especially those over the age of 25. And the losses are particularly dramatic in terms of full-time work in the private sector.
We can track where we are losing people and jobs. If the government is performing as well as they say they are, statistics should also be able to tell us what sector jobs are being created in and how many.
I'll ask the minister again. How many jobs does the minister anticipate being created, and in what sector of the economy, in the new year?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, we expect to see the economy grow in a number of areas. We expect that we will take up the slack that has been created by the loss of the Faro mine, but it's not going to be done overnight. It just cannot be done overnight, but little bits and pieces like what's happening in Watson Lake with production just starting is a very positive sign. There's some seismic activity in oil and gas this spring. That's a positive sign. When I talk to some companies who are involved in the tech sector, I talked to one the other day who said that they, over the last couple of years, have increased their business from three employees to nine employees because they're finding new ways of doing things. That's a positive sign. When the work is going on in tourism to expand the runway to bring in new charter flights, to deal with new tourism strategies, to do new tourism marketing, those are positive signs. The tax reform initiative that's underway, that's a positive sign.
These are all areas of the economy where I see some optimism and I do see that we will be able to build a newer and better economy that's not going to be promulgated entirely by booms and busts.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the government committed to building the Yukon economy one job at a time. That phrase is months old now, as is the promise.
I've asked repeatedly in this House for the government to show us the jobs, to show us the numbers, show us the results. Can the minister demonstrate, in clear numbers, where this government has created one job at a time? Can the minister provide the results?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, as I understand it, the production shift is 26 jobs, one job at a time, that's underway in Watson Lake. I mentioned a company this morning that has gone from three employees to nine working in the high-tech sector. We're investing in a whole slew of initiatives. The training trust funds that we have in the territory are going to better people's skills in new and exciting ways on tech initiatives that they perhaps haven't been involved with before. The youth employment projects we've been supportive of, for example, Dana Naye Ventures - we've just entered a $200,000 program with them for youth entrepreneurships so that they can get access to capital to start their own businesses.
Mr. Speaker, we are concerned about the employment situation, and we're working very, very hard to deal with the realities of the job loss we face, the downturn in the gross domestic product as a result of the mining sector and particularly the loss of the Faro mine, and we're going to continue to work hard, continue to work with Yukoners, to try and build things back up. We're going to give it our all and we're very pleased with the support we've had from Yukoners in trying to work on a whole range of fronts.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Unanimous consent to deal with Bill No. 102
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The government House leader.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the House leaders have reached an agreement that the House should deal today with Bill No. 102, entitled An Act to Amend the Children's Act. Since this is a private member's public bill, it will require the unanimous consent of the House to allow it to be called for second reading and to be called for consideration in Committee of the Whole.
Unanimous consent will also be required to allow Bill No. 102 to be called for third reading because it is a private member's public bill, because it will already have received one reading today and because it is possible that it will be amended in Committee of the Whole.
On behalf of the House leaders, I would request the unanimous consent of the House to waive the relevant Standing Orders in order to proceed with second reading, consideration in Committee of the Whole and third reading of Bill No. 102.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted. We will now proceed to bills other than government bills.
Bills other than government bills
Bill No. 102: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 102, standing in the name of Mrs. Edelman.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, it's finally here. It's the amendment to the Children's Act to recognize the rights of grandparents during custody hearings.
Speaker: Order. Order please.
Mrs. Edelman: Pardon me, Mr. Speaker. I've never done this before; this is brand new.
I move that Bill No. 102, entitled An Act to Amend the Children's Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Riverdale South that Bill No.102, entitled An Act to Amend the Children's Act, be now read a second time.
Mrs. Edelman: It is about time. This is an amendment to the Children's Act to recognize the rights of grandparents during custody hearings. It's quite an accomplishment and something we should all be proud of.
Thank you to the Minister of Health for supporting this bill. Thank you to the official opposition for granting unanimous consent to get this bill on the floor of this Legislature for debate. Deepest thanks to Eleanor Millard, a former member of the Legislature and president of GRAY, the Grandparents' Rights Association of Yukon. Our caucus acknowledges her many years of advocacy work on behalf of the rights of Yukon grandparents.
This amending act will see grandparents specifically acknowledged as persons who have a interest in the child during custody. This small amendment will acknowledge the importance of grandparents in all phases of a child's life and help to strengthen Yukon families. This amending act also illustrates how all sides of this House can come together for the good of all Yukoners.
Some days the process works, Mr. Speaker, and this is one of those days.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: On behalf of our caucus, we're going to be supporting this bill. We think it's something, as the Member for Riverdale South has said, that is long overdue. I'll be speaking a little bit more on it when we get into Committee. We will have a couple of amendments that we believe will strengthen the bill.
I'd like to commend the Member for Riverdale South for bringing this forward. I'd also like to commend, as she has mentioned, the individuals in GRAY and, also, from my own caucus, I've had a number of people who have taken this to their hearts and have spoken to me on occasion about bringing such legislation forward.
The legislation that the member has brought forward is consistent with what we were planning on doing. I think now is an opportune time, so I'm pleased that we can cooperate on this and move forward.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and office of the official opposition, I'm pleased today to take this opportunity to say a few words regarding the proposed Act to Amend the Children's Act, and would like to offer our support to this bill.
Grandparents are very influential in their grandchildren's lives, providing emotional support, care and love, whether it may be from far away or just across the street.
Today, more and more grandparents are stepping in and taking custody of their grandchildren when the parents are unable or unwilling to provide their children with proper care for reasons of sickness, economic conditions or the like. In fact, it has been reported that over 4.5 million children in the U.S. and Canada are under grandparental care these days.
The proposed amendments before members today recognize grandparents' rights with respect to access and custody of their grandchildren. As is currently the case, grandparents are recognized as others who have interests in the child with respect to the determination of the best interests of a child for the purpose of custody or access to that child. These amendments would provide specific recognition to grandparents as having a greater say in the lives of their grandchildren.
Legislation affecting children in Canada has changed considerably in recent years, Mr. Speaker. Despite these changes, the Children's Act here in the Yukon has remained intact for well over a decade. Other jurisdictions in Canada have acknowledged the need for a greater recognition of grandparents' rights regarding a child's access to supportive and loving grandparents during and after a divorce, and have made the necessary amendments. The Grandparents' Rights Association of the Yukon has expressed the need to acknowledge grandparents as having a greater say in the lives of their grandchildren as have Yukon's First Nations.
Mr. Speaker, I believe this bill presents us with an opportunity to make these necessary changes, and I'm pleased to again offer our support to this bill as a means of guaranteeing grandparents' rights and ensuring that their views are taken into account with respect to the custody and care of grandchildren.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, once again, I'm pleased that this House so strongly and unanimously supports this bill to amend the Children's Act and acknowledges the specific rights of grandparents during custody hearings. I'd like to thank again our caucus for helping me bring forward this bill, but, Mr. Speaker, the Children's Act is an old act that needs to be reviewed and updated in a number of areas. This is just one.
Yukoners deserve good legislation from this House. It needs to be living legislation that clearly reflects the way Yukoners think today.
And, Mr. Speaker, finally I'd like to dedicate this act to my grandparents, Edson and Edna Cable, Winnifred Gibbs and Albert Gibbs, my grandfather, the last of my grandparents, who passed away just three weeks ago.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 102 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: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee will be dealing with Bill No. 102, An Act to Amend the Children's Act.
Bill No. 102 - An Act to Amend the Children's Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'm very pleased that the NDP has put this bill on the agenda, and has put their support behind it. It's an important step forward for grandparents throughout the Yukon.
The Yukon now joins British Columbia, Quebec, and Alberta as Canadian jurisdictions with such legislation, and I'm very happy to have been able to bring forward these changes, which will acknowledge the contributions that grandparents can make to their grandchildren's lives.
It's important to preserve the bond between grandparents and grandchildren, and this bill will help to accomplish that. I'm pleased to see the amendments that are coming forward from the government's side. The Yukon Liberal caucus doesn't have the resources that the government has, and I'm very pleased to see a good French translation, as well as probably a more concise wording to the act.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As I said earlier, I think this bill is designed to recognize the important place that grandparents do have in the lives of their grandchildren.
Unfortunately, I think, all too often there are times - particularly when separated parents can prevent children from spending time with their grandparents - when family conflict can prevent grandchildren from maintaining a close relationship with their grandparents. And while those situations may be rare, they do occur, and children, I think, are really the losers in this. They're the ones who are confused and hurt, because relationships with grandparents are not only a support for a child, they're also a connection with where that child's family originates from.
I know, in my own case, the fact that my grandmother lived with my family for a number of years brought a number of things to us, in terms of what our heritage was. She brought some remnants of our language: Gaelic. Some of the words that she taught me on occasion were useful phrases, which I sometimes mutter sotto voce in this Legislature. Whenever I do that, I think of my grandmother.
She was a strong influence in my life and a strong influence in the lives of my brothers.
The bill today before the Legislature is prompted, I think, by an interest in repairing the confusion and hurt that some children experience. I was particularly interested to see that in some of the proposed changes to the new Divorce Act that's been discussed in the federal Parliament, there is also a recognition of the role that grandparents play, and I think that's a recognition across the board now - that people realize that grandparents can often be that anchor for children in times of trouble and in times of family disputes.
The Yukon's law currently permits a wide range of people to apply to the Supreme Court for an order of custody or of access, such as visiting rights, to a child. Grandparents are included in the range of possible applicants to the court, but they are not specifically named in the act. What this bill would do today is to change that. It will specifically recognize the role of grandparents.
Mr. Chair, with that in mind, I am proposing by way of friendly amendments, to bring forward the following amendments that in section 30 -
Chair: Order please. I would like to remind the member that we are still in general debate, and would you mind forwarding the amendments when we get there?
Is there further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, our caucus is very pleased to support this amendment to the Children's Act. What has to be looked upon is determining, in all cases, the best interests of the child. This small amendment to the Children's Act will include grandparents and specifically name them, whereas currently they come under the classification of "other" and have to share a position with numerous other individuals.
So, I guess the concern we have - and I can understand why it's come about this way - is that there are a number of other areas of this act that should be opened up and should be looked at in amendments proposed. If that were to come from our caucus or in the case that it did, from the Liberal caucus, it would probably be in the bottom of the trash can as we sit here, but because there is only one small amendment here, it's being looked upon favourably. I do give credit and recognized the NDP in taking this position, but I'd like to encourage the minister to look at many other sections of the Children's Act with a view to bringing forth amendments, perhaps for next year.
I think that will receive a wide degree of favour in this House, as they are much-needed amendments. This Children's Act hasn't been reviewed for a considerable length of time, Mr. Chair, and I appreciate the amendments that are going to be forthcoming. They all look to be reasonable, but we'll move on to that.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITOR
Ms. Duncan: I would like, if I could, Mr. Chair, to welcome a former member of the Legislature, Eleanor Millard, to the gallery. I know she's here today.
Ms. Duncan: This act, Mr. Chair, is most of all about the children of the Yukon, and I'm very pleased as I, like a number of Yukoners - too few Yukoners - enjoy for my children that both sets, the paternal and maternal grandparents, live here in the Yukon, and I realize what an influence they are in my children's lives and how wonderful it is to have them here.
I'm pleased that, with this bill coming forward, we have in fact done what many of us set out to do, which is to make a difference in the everyday lives of people and of Yukoners.
With this particular piece of legislation, we are recognizing those very, very important people in children's lives - grandparents - and I'm pleased to see this bill come forward. I'm equally as pleased that we have here to witness it Ms. Millard, and that we have witnessed somewhat unique cooperation, in terms of bringing this bill to debate, and this amendment to the floor of the House, and hope it is just the beginning of a more frequent occurrence, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Just in responding a little bit to the comments - and, I think, very positive comments - that we've received, I would like to assure the Member for Klondike that we are anticipating in the future that we will have to be doing some changes to the Children's Act. However, a number of the very, very substantive changes that would be involved, particularly around some issues having to do with First Nations and children in care, are going to involve a fairly exhaustive consultation process. And, as well, I think there are a number of issues that are going to flow out of self-government that would make that probably more of an issue to be considered at a later date.
However, that's not to say that we don't have some concerns about the Children's Act. Internally, we have some concerns, some things that we think we need to do just for ourselves, in terms of housekeeping and clarification amendments, and we are looking ahead to what we can be doing in the future.
But, as I said, I think it's going to require a major amount of consultation.
However, as I perhaps prematurely noted, I would like at this time, if possible, to bring forward two amendments, and I'd like to express those in terms of positive amendments, or friendly amendments.
Chair: Order please. I'd like to remind the member that before we get to the amendments, we will clear general debate.
Is there any further general debate?
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I move
THAT Bill 102, entitled An Act to Amend the Children's Act, be amended in clause 2 on page 1 by deleting the said clause 2 and substituting the following clause for it:
"2. Clause 30(1)(a)(iii) of the said Act is amended by deleting the word "persons" and substituting for it the expression "persons, including grandparents,".
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It is felt that this would emphasize a list of factors that the court has to take into account in making an order for custody.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 2 agreed to as amended
On Clause 3
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I move
THAT Bill No. 102, entitled An Act to Amend the Children's Act, be amended in clause 3 on page 1 by deleting the said clause and substituting the following clause for it:
3. Subsection 33(1) of the said Act is amended by repealing the expression "any other person" and substituting for it the expression "any other person, including the grandparents".
It was felt that this will expressly acknowledge the grandparents' right to seek a court order of custody of and access to a grandchild.
Chair: Is there any debate on the amendment?
Amendment agreed to
Clause 3 agreed to as amended
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
Title agreed to
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 102, An Act to Amend the Children's Act out of Committee with amendment.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee has considered Bill No. 102, An Act to Amend the Children's Act, and has directed me to report it with amendment.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
We will now proceed to bills other than government bills.
BILLS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT BILLS
Bill No. 102: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 102, standing in the name of Mrs. Edelman.
Mrs. Edelman: I move that Bill No. 102, entitled An Act to Amend the Children's Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Riverdale South that Bill No. 102, entitled An Act to Amend the Children's Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 102 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 102 has passed this House.
We are now prepared to receive the Commissioner, in her role as Lieutenant Governor, to grant assent to the bills which have passed this House.
Commissioner enter the Chamber announced by the Sergeant-at-Arms
assent to bills
Commissioner: Please be seated.
Speaker: Madam Commissioner, the Assembly has, at its present session, passed certain bills to which, in the name and on behalf of the Assembly, I respectfully request your assent.
Clerk: Canadian Blood Agency/Canadian Blood Services Indemnification Act; An Act to Amend the Child Care Act; An Act to Amend the Securities Act; An Act to Amend the Dental Profession Act; An Act to Amend the Optometrists Act; Spousal Tort Immunity Abolition Act; An Act to Amend the Fuel Oil Tax Act; An Act to Amend the Jury Act; An Act to Amend the Limitation of Actions Act; Estate Administration Act; An Act to Amend the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act; Auxiliary Police Act; Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act (1998); An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act; An Act to Amend the Maintenance and Custody Orders Enforcement Act; An Act to Amend the Family Property and Support Act; An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act (No. 2); An Act to Amend the Wildlife Act; Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act; An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act; Municipal Act; Territorial Court Act; An Act to Amend the Children's Act.
Commissioner: I hereby assent to the bills as enumerated by the Clerk.
Commissioner leaves the Chamber
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Bill No. 13: Second Reading - continued
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 13, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald. Adjourned debate, Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. Jenkins: I am pleased to be able to continue with my response to second reading of this supplementary budget.
There is little hope of this budget creating many jobs for Yukoners, Mr. Speaker, but I believe, where I left off, I was in the midst of correcting some of the numerous factual errors put on the record by members of the government of the day, specifically the Member for Faro.
I was dealing with the Red Dog mine in Alaska and, Mr. Speaker, in a nutshell, the whole mine was privately financed by Cominco. There was a federal land trade with NANA Corporation, the native corporation in the area, which had the land to build the infrastructure, which is the owner of the Red Dog mine.
The involvement of the state was through the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Corporation, which is a state financing authority. They financed the road and port through low-interest bonds for Cominco, Mr. Speaker.
That is the extent of the State of Alaska's involvement in that area, but Cominco has paid the costs of those bonds back, Mr. Speaker, and they continue to pay for the upgrade and maintenance of that route, and the Delong Mountain terminal project - the loading facility. They pay for the maintenance, and they pay for bonds, and they pay for it at a reasonable rate of interest, and they pay for it very similarly to what Anvil Range and its predecessor, Curragh, paid to the load-out facility, to AIDEA, in Skagway, but that was the involvement. Cominco entirely financed the project on its own, unlike the information tabled by the Member for Faro.
What we have in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, is very little in the way of stimulation of this economy. We have two mines in operation - BYG and the Viceroy mine. They came into production during the reign of the previous government, the Yukon Party government.
We've seen the shutdown, again, of Anvil Range, the Faro mine and, until such time as the receivers have probably expended all of the money - we can probably pretty well calculate how long that's going to take, if we projected it at $200,000 a month - they should exhaust their funds and what they will take in in the next little while through the disposal of assets.
Then it is my suggestion, Mr. Speaker, that the mine site there will be owned totally by the Government of Canada, with its environmental liability.
The Minister of Economic Development meanwhile is off in South America. Through the annexed arm of the development portfolio, Yukon Housing Corporation, we're off to Russia, South America. Nothing is happening with the main engines that drive the economy of the Yukon.
Government's responsibility, Mr. Speaker, is to create a climate, like the government is creating in Alberta, like government is currently creating in Ontario, and like the government has created in Alaska. Send out a positive message to the oil and gas industries, to the mining industries. They can create jobs, but all this budget does, Mr. Speaker, is expand the size of government, expand the O&M size. It's probably one of the biggest O&M budgets in the history of the Yukon Territory.
We look, Mr. Speaker, at the history of the Yukon and the initiatives being brought forward by this government. There is a vacuum. There is a vacuum at the top that flows all the way through this New Democratic Party, as far as initiatives to create a positive climate so that government can be proud of what it accomplishes, other than creating additional people on the welfare rolls, additional people on the EI rolls, and chasing people away from the Yukon, and chasing people to other areas of Canada and, indeed, the world, so that they can find work, because there isn't any work here, Mr. Speaker.
There isn't any work here because of the actions - or inactions - of this government.
We can look at this economy here and compare it to a ship. What we have is a rudderless ship with a propeller at each end, driven by various parts of the NDP government and the NDP spin doctors, and it doesn't know which way to go. Furthermore, there is no captain on the ship and the ship is sailing on extremely troubled waters.
Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, all Yukoners are on this very troubled ship today and pretty soon the ship is going to be dead in the water. I'm sure the crew will eventually mutiny, unless of course we can find a captain who knows what to do and where to go. That's what government is all about: building that rudder and charting a course through these troubled times.
We have to make the best use of our resources, both human and monetary, that flow so generously to this area of Canada. If we start looking at the population base here and the per capita amount of dollars that flow from Ottawa - I hope nobody tells those people in Ottawa the total amount of dollars that flow through to this Yukon. It's pretty scary when you add up all the various pots flowing through to this region of Canada.
This money that is flowing, and this additional windfall - of almost $50 million - has already been spent. It could have been used to create the maximum number of jobs in the private sector -
Speaker: Two minutes.
Mr. Jenkins: - thank you, Mr. Speaker - rather than adding to the ever-growing cost of governments. An economic summit is suggested by the Yukon Party. It is a very good initiative that could have addressed this, but the government didn't do that - doesn't want to go there. What we have is a government that's saying, "We've been there, we've done that." But really, they're listening to their spin doctors; they're recycling old ideas - no new initiatives.
Another area that I take exception to, Mr. Speaker, is the way this government goes about bribing the various groups and organizations here in Yukon, by funding that group - whether they call it a "fee-for-service" or whatever. Bribing people to get the answers they want. That's some way to consult, but that's the NDP way.
Mr. Speaker, I can't support this budget. It does nothing for Yukoners, long term. Probably the only positive benefit is there'll be a use for a lot of the members of the government of the day - driving the windmill that's going to be used to generate green power.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I find it fascinating, Mr. Speaker - having listened to the Member for Klondike's response to the sup - that somebody could actually write that and then have enough ambition to read it.
Because it's nothing but political rhetoric, and at the very best, drivel.
I think the Member for Klondike doesn't support the budget simply because there's no $70-million expenditure for Dawson City, as he called for. However, I guess he forgot about the rest of the Yukon and the need for balance.
I'm pleased to briefly speak to the supplementary, the Third Appropriation Act, 1998-99. Again, it represents this government's consistent commitment to balance expenditures, target expenditures, try to evenly disburse expenditures, so that we get the most good from them. And yes, it's the kind of expenditure we need in this territory, given our economic situation.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Speaker: Point of order.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I don't believe we have a quorum.
Speaker: Order please. According to Standing Order 3(2), if at any time during the sitting of the Assembly, the Speaker's attention is drawn to the fact that there does not appear to be a quorum, the Speaker will cause the bells to ring for four minutes, and then do a count.
Speaker: I have shut the bells off. Now we'll do a count.
We have 14 members present. A quorum is present. We will now continue.
Mr. Fentie: As I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted, it is the kind of expenditure needed in an economic situation that we have here in the territory. It's not a knee-jerk, ad hoc-type budget or supplementary. It's planned. It's got an eye on the horizon, an eye on the future, and it's consistent with charting the course to diversify this economy and doing what government can do.
And it's true, the economy is in a very, very difficult situation, but that is due solely to one factor, and that's a major downturn in the mining industry, and there's no way that the members opposite are going to convince anybody that that situation is not the direct result of low metal prices, in other words, profitability, in this territory for mining. Southeast Yukon, the community of Watson Lake.
The downturn in the mining industry began in 1986. That's 12 long years ago when this decline in our mining industry in this territory began, and it began with the closure of a mine that wasn't even in the Yukon. It was in the Northwest Territories: Canada Tungsten. We've never ever recovered as those mines started shutting down: Cantung, Cassiar, Faro, Sa Dena Hes. This is not new. It didn't just happen because the New Democratic government came to power. It's been ongoing.
What I can say is that this government took on the hard issue of turning the corner, through its budgeting, of addressing the economic situation in this territory so that we can truly diversify.
Now, I've listened to the leader of the official opposition go on and on, pages and pages and pages of diatribe, and in all this criticism, all this negativity, there is not one solid alternative - not one. I'll tell you why, Mr. Speaker. The Yukon Party presented their economic vision to this territory in September 1996, and it was soundly rejected by Yukoners, and that is fact - soundly rejected. Their economic vision wasn't a vision at all. It was high taxation. It was spending money in virtually one sector and not addressing any of the problems that have been with us for a long, long time - not any. Not only that, they completely turned their backs on the communities. The former government leader went so far as to say that there may be some communities that won't even survive. That was his approach to the economy.
Now, they continue on and focus strictly on the one sector, but Mr. Speaker, there is growth in other sectors. There is growth in tourism. There is growth in forestry today in Watson Lake. Twenty-six Yukoners went to work. Twenty-six people from that community.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: The Member for Klondike says, "Thanks to the Yukon Party." But let me tell you something. When it came to forestry, the Yukon Party said that there was nothing they could do, that it was a federal problem, and they are sitting there today saying, "Thanks to the Yukon Party." That's a complete joke.
Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, the proponents of the sawmill are quite supportive of the direction that this government is taking in forestry through the commission's work and through the Yukon forest strategy.
Secondly, we also involved ourselves, through training dollars, to ensure that people in that community went to work at that facility.
So, there is growth in other sectors. There are jobs being created by this government's budgeting.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party continues to beat that drum, and I say again: Yukoners know better. They rejected the Yukon Party's vision on the economy and so they well should.
Now, the Liberals are doing what Liberals do, skipping along and tiptoeing along the fence, cherry picking from each side, but they offer no solid alternatives, none at all. They're merely telling people in this territory anything they want to hear, but what are they going to deliver? What do Liberals really deliver? Let's not forget the GST, one of the taxes in this country that is extremely detrimental to the north because we already pay more for goods and services. Remember the Liberals saying, "We will abolish the GST."
And remember the free trade? "We'd never sign that free trade agreement", another one of those commitments by a Liberal.
The free trade agreement right now is causing major problems in the resource sector in the west and the north. We know that. It's even causing problems for the little Yukon through legalities that come from the free trade agreement when it comes to producing forest products and those products being shipped into the States.
So, the Liberals haven't put forward any solid alternatives, either.
Mr. Speaker, I will continue to support this kind of budgeting because it sets the stage where everybody shares in this territory. Unlike the Yukon Party, whom a chosen few benefited from, this government spends its money so it's dispersed equally.
There is also a point of breaking the boom-and-bust cycle. In the Yukon Territory here we've been faced with that for years.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: It's not all bust; I just pointed out some facts, Mr. Speaker, that show we are turning the corner.
Diversification of our economy is very important, to get away from the boom-and-bust cycles.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: It's true. There are differences between this side of the House and that side of the House, Mr. Speaker, and the differences are what distinguish the parties in this Legislature. They're the same differences that distinguish fact from fiction.
So I will support the supplementary, and be proud to do so.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, sometimes it's hard to believe that this is an NDP government in power. These are supposed to be the people who represent the left in our society. The NDP are supposed to be the friend of labour, the champion of the poor, friend to the underdog, and believers in big, social budgets. What a joke the Yukon NDP has turned out to be. We hear that daily from their former supporters. They're a joke to the business community, too, because no matter how many mining and business conferences this government takes credit for, they still don't know what they're talking about. Holding press conferences in front of a chamber of commerce may make the odd NDP fanatic really believe that the local NDP are making inroads into the private sector, but this will never be translated into a business vote at the next election. And don't expect a huge seniors' vote either, or at least not from Watson Lake.
The number-one capital priority for the people of Watson Lake was an extended care facility to service this region. The minister's response has been to do a couple of small renovations to the hospital. He added a lounge, put some rooms together, just enough to keep the people quiet for awhile. We'll see how that translates into votes for the champagne socialists in the riding of Watson Lake in the next election.
The seniors here in Whitehorse need more options for housing. Three service clubs are entering into a partnership to build a seniors' complex in Whitehorse next year, but the real need is for assisted living options - you know, something between an apartment and the Thomson Centre.
There's a planning exercise underway that should show results by the spring of 1999 - results that we all know about already but, as usual, there is no commitment from this government to follow through on the recommendations from the consultations, just like there's no commitment from this government to follow through on the consultation on poverty.
It's talk, talk, talk. And while the government goes out and consults, the problem gets bigger. And more expensive. And harder to deal with - sort of like FAS and FAE. This government will spend $4.2 million on each child in the Yukon with FAS during the course of their lifetime. If this government decided to support early intervention programs, prenatal programs, and decided to support diagnosis without labelling - this government would spend only a fraction of that $4.2 million per child.
But this government only talks about FAS, or seniors housing, or poverty. Or maybe I should call it "consultation". You know, I'm beginning to think that this government really believes that by not taking any action on these issues - well, maybe they'll go away. But they won't. These issues will only get bigger, harder to deal with and more expensive. And the time for action is right now.
Municipalities are forced to deal with issues every day. Every day they provide the services that go in and out of every Yukoner's home. They have no choice. They must provide water, sewer, garbage, and fire protection services to their towns and cities - sometimes with a lot of help from other levels of government. They provide recreational facilities as well.
Representatives of local government have been providing these services to the Yukon for the past 13 years under the block funding agreement. At the time, it seemed like an opportunity to develop some autonomy, and make decisions based on what was good for their municipalities, as opposed to what was good for the territorial government of the day - the government of the day that thought the most votes would be gotten in the most responsible way at the next election.
Now, remember that this was prior to the CDF - the way that the process works today. They say that hindsight is 20/20. If Yukon municipalities knew then that their block funding was going to be frozen for the next 13 years, I wonder if they'd have been so enthusiastic about the new funding formula.
I suppose that's one of the many things I find lacking in these supplemental budgets - there is no increase in municipal block funding. During this legislative session, there was an opportunity to increase municipalities' ability to generate alternative sources of revenue, and that was quickly nipped in the bud, too.
On the days I miss serving at the municipal level, and that comes up quite often lately, I wonder how I would have dealt with the increasing demand for services, downloading of responsibilities without funding and the totally insufficient pot of municipal funding.
But at least municipal governments are going to exist in the future. Grey Mountain Primary School is destined for the chopping block. It's funny. Everything on the other side of the Riverdale bridge is looking pretty precarious. The Child Development Centre is going to have its services cut to rural communities, and Grey Mountain Primary School - "The little school that can" - well, things don't look too good there either.
Last week, the minister's officials met with the school council and, instead of offering the council assurances that the school was not going to be closed, they offered instead a totally bureaucratic letter, filled with government doublespeak that does nothing to allay the fears of the council, the parents or the staff. I sometimes wonder if poor old Riverdale gets punished for never having an NDP MLA and, of course, if this keeps up, that trend will continue.
The Yukon Liberal caucus does not support this supplemental budget. But why should we? It's all talk and no action. And at this time, when we should be taking extraordinary steps to help the economy, we seem to be heading down the same road as the NDP's counterpart in B.C.
Things look bad this winter. Sales are way down at some of our major stores. Houses are standing empty. And it looks like it's going to take a long time for the economy to recover, if it does. It looks like we're adopting B.C. economic planning.
Now, a friend of mine in Victoria recently sent me a letter. He summed it up best when he wrote, "The economy down here stinks, but we're all used to it. It has stunk for so many years, if a depression came along we wouldn't notice the difference."
Surely, we can do better for Yukoners than that.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Firstly, Mr. Speaker, let me say what a privilege it is to be able to work with colleagues that are listeners, colleagues that are doers, colleagues that are implementers but, certainly, firstly though, colleagues that are not paternalistic, colleagues that do not just pretend to simply listen but do listen - listen with their hearts, their ears and their brains, whatever it might take.
And certainly, Mr. Speaker, that gives me great pleasure to be able to stand here and say that I, too, rise in support of this bill.
Let me first of all speak about a subject that hasn't been touched on in here before, and I would like to elaborate just a little bit on it if I might, and that is the settling of land claims and the economic repercussions that that has. Now, we know that it gives certainty to mining companies and exploration, and it gives certainty to First Nations. But let me also say that by simply repatriating the self-government powers that have been recognized by all governments in Canada as being inherent, by them coming back and First Nations slowly taking over jurisdiction, working consistently to self-preservation and restoring the economic and cultural pride that we have, this government is doing that. So, while we're standing here and saying that in many cases, there is 12 to 15 percent unemployment rate, let me say now again that this government, through settling land claims, through recognizing the inherent jurisdiction of First Nations, is creating - yes, wealth; yes, training opportunities; and yes, a segment of Yukon's people are being recognized that they can do something and that they are doing something. How are we helping? We're helping by settling land claims. We're helping by sitting with First Nations and attempting to garner the support that is actually written down and signed by ministers of the federal Cabinet - and they are not going out and doing what they've said they've done - while this government is sticking with Yukon people and working with Yukon people to settle land claims and to create the jobs that come out of it and the training initiatives that come out of those land claims. And, Mr. Speaker, to me, that is a great thrill, because it is so long overdue, and its implications certainly need to have recognition in this House.
[Member spoke in native language. Translation not available] to all of the people who need it, because they certainly have a government that will listen to them and will continue to listen to them and work with them.
That is what this government is doing and will continue to do.
I'm absolutely amazed, Mr. Speaker, that the gloryhounds from across the lane here run down our rate stabilization fund, when we put $10 million into the rate stabilization fund, $3 million to the green power fund, $1 million to energy conservation and $2 million to energy research and development. All of these initiatives will go a long way to helping Yukoners both who live within any area of the Yukon Territory, where they may confirm our government support to stable and affordable electricity cost and confirm our commitment to an environmentally friendly energy.
Mr. Speaker, we're listening to Yukoners; we're consulting with communities, and we're putting their priorities first. The Government Leader, the Finance minister, goes out and embarks on well-publicized tours, tours that are shocking, to say the least, because, did they see the previous government leader out there talking to Yukoners? No, they didn't even know that the previous government leader was out talking to folks in closed-door meetings. They see our Government Leader, our Finance minister, out there talking to real people, talking about what it is that concerns them. Exchanging a dialogue, not so that we might be able to just look after the interim or the short term, but certainly, Mr. Speaker, to work collectively to the Yukon's vision.
And I have to say right now that this government does have a vision. It is not just the commercial break of the previous administration, but a true vision, and we'll continue to work with that vision.
I've heard the leader of the third party call the CDF fund a slush fund. My goodness' sakes alive. How far off the mark could you totally be? How totally far off the mark could you actually be?
The leader of the third party says that they believe in listening to Yukoners, that they will work with Yukoners, but certainly the way it has been said sounds very nice - the way it's been alluded to. Certainly when she stands up and says no to the community development fund, which empowers communities, which creates jobs, economic opportunities, which creates social opportunity to rise above it, and she characterizes it as a slush fund, that just shows how completely out of touch with the people the leader of the third party actually is.
Does a wilderness cultural camp sound like something that should come from a slush fund? What about daycare workers, tourism brochures, improvements to the EMO halls, improvement to cultural opportunities, putting people in touch with their cultures and the benefits that come from it. The Ross River youth leadership program - there's one, Mr. Speaker, that the leader of the third party stands up and slaps down and says that we're not doing a good job. Playground toys so that people might have a place to work with, and again that has been pooped on by the leader of the third party. I think, Mr. Speaker, that the leader of the third party should quit -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: On a point of order.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I think the word, you-know-what, p-o-o-p, is unparliamentary.
Speaker: Would the member withdraw that word?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, and I'll replace it with scat because, Mr. Speaker... I can't do that? Point of order.
Speaker: The minister will withdraw that word, please.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The words "pooped on" are withdrawn, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: So, Mr. Speaker, the leader of the third party will continue to look down upon, if I may, on what else? Water and sewer facilities for communities. I really say that the leader of the third party is totally out of touch with community living, that the leader of the third party should quit concentrating on the next election and certainly start to put policy together and to find exactly what the people want because there is certainly more to running a government than just pumping out a fancy brochure as was done previously by the leader of third party.
I've listened to the Member for Riverdale South speak about frozen funding. Now, that's quite a way to categorize it, Mr. Speaker. What this government has done is that this government has gone out, put together funding principles with - not for but with - the people who are involved. We've given them every opportunity to keep the funding level there.
When this government was going through cuts by the federal government, did this government pass on those cuts as every other jurisdiction in Canada did? No, Mr. Speaker, we did not, because we recognized the value of diversity in the community. And this government will continue to do that. This government will continue to work and foster safe and healthy communities for the people of the Yukon within the communities. And, yes, we will continue to do this in a very thoughtful and deliberate way so that, as the capacity of the communities grows, certainly the workload could then be looked at again, and will continue to be looked at.
So, Mr. Speaker, we're not putting something in place for perpetuity. We're putting something in place for the new Yukon, which is called evolution, and getting a grip on what we actually have and where we want to go, and we'll continue to do that.
I'm very, very pleased that finally, after I do believe it could be four years, the heritage centre in Teslin has been given the go-ahead with funding assistance from several partners, including the $500,000 grants from the centennial anniversaries project. This project, Mr. Speaker, will become the focal point for the interpretation of Tlingit culture, it will enhance the tourism potential of Teslin as a tourist destination, and will affect all the citizens of the community - all of the citizens of the community. It will provide for interpretive and interactive events, demonstrations in arts, crafts, dance, song, entertainment, traditional foods and traditional ways of doing things - economic opportunities, again, for the community at large.
Yukon materials, supplies and labour - that is included in a commitment from the Teslin Tlingit Council - that they will work toward all those ends. Because they certainly recognize - as this government recognizes - that we need to have support for a local economy in the long term and, Mr. Speaker, in the short term. And, Mr. Speaker, when you can put it off so that it tightens up, and continues to enable people to use their culture and display their communities, that's exactly what we'll have to do then, Mr. Speaker, and that's what this government will continue to do.
Mr. Speaker, we said that we were going to work toward improving life in rural Yukon, and responding to what we were told are priorities.
This past summer I announced the first round of rural road upgrades. Mr. Speaker, that round of rural road upgrades touched on practically every community within the Yukon Territory - every community, Mr. Speaker - and that is exactly what it should be. Coffee Lake Road, the old Ross River access road, 10 Mile Ranch Road, and many more - in Teslin, the Mary House Road - many projects that were administered by Community and Transportation Services. Most of the work, including culvert installation, drainage, surface improvements, the upgrade of soft spots and resurfacing; ditch upgrades, have all been performed by local contractors.
Mr. Speaker, that budget used to be $50,000. My God, what an opportunity that the previous administration had, and blew it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Continuing to blow it. That's what they did - but then this government came in and recognized that there was an opportunity to put people to work by hiring equipment, by hiring the workers. Whether it was an equipment operator or a labourer, we went ahead and did it, Mr. Speaker. Because we know that we have to work with people.
We know that we're not here to dictate to people. Just this previous week, Mr. Speaker, the youth investment fund - my god, what a wonderful thing that you can have a government that will continue to work with people, and it gives me great pleasure to be able to stand here and speak about it, Mr. Speaker, because so often we don't have the opportunity.
But that's your government at work. The Carcross judo club received $935 for their weekly judo club; the Tagish Community Association received $5,400 for youth programs; the Canadian Red Cross received $6,900 to facilitate swimming lessons for youth in Old Crow, in Burwash, Destruction Bay and in Teslin; in Ross River, we're putting together a new multi-million dollar school. In anticipation of this, $30,000 has been provided this fall from the Department of Education, through advanced training fund, for a skilled trades pre-qualifier course in Ross River.
Mr. Speaker, there was an initial enrollment of 18 local residents to gain the basic qualifications to work on a level 1 apprenticeship training program in the new year. Again, Mr. Speaker, a very clear demonstration of our government's ability to create jobs and economic opportunities in rural Yukon.
Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars for the tourism marketing fund. The fund will help tourism operators to develop and market their products and services, as we know many of those products and services are in the communities. The four pillars of tourism, and where we're to go with tourism into the future, they are there. This government has put their money where their mouth is, and is working to develop and improve new and existing tourism products and services.
Fifty thousand dollars for a film incentive program. Again, the ripple effect of those dollars spent in the territory will be greatly appreciated by the hotel industry, by the service industry, and this government will continue to work in that way.
We recognize, Mr. Speaker, the important contribution of the tourism industry, and we will continue to invest in its development. This past year saw record visitation to the territory, and it is up to us, up to this government, to ensure that the growth in tourism will continue.
Mr. Speaker, what else have we done? We've promised that we will maintain services such as education and health in the communities without raising taxes or imposing fees, and we continue to work in many new initiatives to do that.
So, Mr. Speaker, do I support this bill? Absolutely. Absolutely. Why? Because we have a government implementing the Yukon hire commission report. We have a government implementing the increased minimum wage. We have extended electricity rate relief. We're working with the workers' advocate, the neutral chair for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, the trade and investment diversification fund. We've re-established the CDF fund. Youth Works is established. The youth employment strategy is developed. We have a labour force development agreement with Ottawa. We've held access to capital forums. We've signed deals with airlines. Marketing of Gold Rush Centennial events is a done deal, but certainly, it was there, and the gold rush and the Klondike will continue to be a draw. We have oil and gas legislation. We've approved the abattoir to support the agricultural industry, established training trust funds, successfully lobbied - much to the chagrin of others in this House - for future Shakwak dollars to continue to keep our operators employed and to continue to work with our American partners for the health and safety of all tourists that travel in our Yukon Territory. We've had public consultation on the development assessment process; a forest policy; an energy policy. We continue with our support of the Yukon geoscience program, the development of legislation for wilderness tourism licensing.
Mr. Speaker, the list does go on and on and on and on, and certainly we will continue to work within these realms of reality. With what we have left over, we will continue to do that.
And why? Because we have been mandated to look at a new Yukon, a new way of Yukon, and we will continue to do that, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all Yukon people.
So, Mr. Speaker, I very much absolutely stand up in support of this bill, and I thank you for the opportunity to speak to it.
Mr. Phillips: The Yukon economy: what's wrong with the Yukon economy? Well, Mr. Speaker, we've been given lots of reasons for the problems of the Yukon economy. It's been Bre-X, Anvil Range closing down, the federal government's cutbacks, the former Yukon Party government - it was their fault - gas prices.
Mr. Speaker, the NDP government has been in power for two years and, for two years, they've been blaming everybody but themselves for the depressed Yukon economy.
I'm not going to be able to support this supplementary budget, because I don't think it does very much for this depressed economy that we have here today. What I'd like to lay out for members here today, Mr. Speaker, are some of the concerns that I have, and some of the concerns that have been shared by other Yukoners with respect to where we're going with this economy.
People in my riding are quickly losing confidence in the ability of the NDP to control costs and to promote a strong economy. I don't think I've ever seen an economy as badly depressed as the one we have here today, and with so little optimism for the future.
Politics, as it is, people will spin things the way they want from time to time, but I've never seen as much spinning go on in this Legislature as that done by the NDP in the past few years.
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Faro and the Government Leader talk about the Yukon Party's excessive budgets.
They criticized the big spending of the Yukon Party government. At the same time, Mr. Speaker, when we talk about how we had high employment in those days, they say the reason for the high employment in those days was because we had the hospital - which was the federal government. And we had the Shakwak - which was the federal government. And that's why there were all kinds of people working, Mr. Speaker.
Well, you can't have it both ways. You can't criticize us for spending that money, and then put the blame or responsibility on someone else. We spent the money where we wanted to spend the money, in requests we made to the federal government in the past.
Mr. Speaker, they like to twist things around, in this Legislature, and we've heard many commitments that were made, prior to the election, that have been reversed, once they formed the government on the side opposite. Mistrust - the public in the Yukon is beginning to mistrust this government.
Let's go through some of the things that the government promised. When it was in opposition, it criticized us for the two-percent rollback to the government employees, and the teachers. And, Mr. Speaker, whether they like it or not, they promised to reinstate the two percent...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible).
Mr. Phillips:... until they got elected. And then they started to split and divide the words, and say, "That isn't exactly what we said." Well, Mr. Speaker, even today, the government employees and the teachers don't believe a word that the Minister of Finance and Government Leader will say now. He lost their trust. He said one thing then - and one thing later.
The Member for Faro, in a meeting at Yukon College, said when they get in government, they would kill the predator control program.
Mr. Speaker, guess what? They let the program run to the end of its mandate. They didn't kill it. They didn't make any changes to it. They broke another promise.
Mr. Speaker, just the other day in the Legislature, I was quite surprised to hear the Government Leader rise to his feet in this Legislature and admit that twice on the floor of the Legislature he didn't tell the truth. Twice, the Government Leader admitted that he'd made statements in this House that weren't the truth.
Mr. Speaker, that is a very serious thing to admit. It's wrong for me to accuse another member on the other side of the House of not telling the truth, but the member himself admitted twice that he didn't tell the truth. I wonder what our rules say about that, when one admits that he's done that in this House.
Again, that goes to show the Yukon public that this government can't be trusted.
Mr. Speaker, we heard today the Minister of Economic Development talk about the business community and how the business community is so supportive of it. Well, they're living in a dream world. They're living in a dream world. They don't get out there and talk to the business community. They don't get out there, walk up and down the streets, stop in at Beaver Lumber, stop in at Kilrich, stop in at some of the other businesses - the transport companies, the freight companies - stop and go in and ask them if they think the economy's doing okay.
Mr. Speaker, you know what really angers Yukoners? It's when the Minister of Economic Development, the Government Leader and other members of that Legislature of the NDP stand up in this House and say, "Everything's okay. We're doing the right thing."
You know why it really angers them, Mr. Speaker? It angers them because many of those Yukoners who are listening to us in the Question Period or who are reading the newspapers and listening to what's going on in this House and hearing what the ministers are saying in this House, this year and in the last 18 months, have lost some of their very best friends who have had to leave this territory - qualified, trained people who have had to leave this territory because there are no jobs.
Mr. Speaker, last week the Member for Laberge stood up in this House and replied to this budget and talked about the employment rate in the Yukon and he said, "When we look, for example, at the Yukon employment, it's been a tough year in the Yukon with a major mine closing down." But he forgets that it was the year before that that happened. "Yet, when we look at the Bureau of Statistics' report on employment for October 1998, we have a labour force of 15,400 and employed workers of 14,000." He says, "Mr. Speaker, that compares favourably with years over the last decade."
He can spin that any way he wants, but that doesn't help all the unemployed Yukoners out there, the people who are calling my office on a daily basis, the people who can't make their mortgage payments, the people whose husbands and wives have had to go to Alberta or Manitoba or Saskatchewan or Ontario to try to find employment to support their families.
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Laberge also talks about the number of people who were working in 1995 and 1996.
Well, guess what? Why were there more people working in 1995 and 1996? Because, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party government went out, sent a strong message to the mining community and, in those years, we had the start-up of two mines - Loki and BYG, who hired a bunch of employees. You know what, Mr. Speaker? If the Yukon Party hadn't done that, can you imagine what the employment figures would be today, if we didn't have those two mines running?
The Member for Watson Lake rose in his place today in the House and talked about the NDP vision - which, I admit, is very short-sighted - and he talked about the Yukon Party, the bad times under the Yukon Party.
Well, I'm amazed that it only took two short years for his left-wing colleagues to brainwash him into thinking that 1996 was worse than 1998 - two short years. Seven-percent unemployment, I'll remind the member, in 1996, and not only seven-percent unemployment, but a growing population: people coming to the territory, not leaving the territory.
Mr. Speaker, we now have 11-percent unemployment, and rising, and the right-wing socialist from Watson Lake thinks that's good. It's amazing what happens to one when his right arm gets cut off.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: On a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Just to prove both arms are on, so the member is spewing out false statements.
Speaker: There is no point of order. Please continue.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Watson Lake talked about the good things that they were doing in this government today. I know that member fairly well, but I can't help but wonder how the member is under the delusion that things are better today than they were in 1996.
Mr. Speaker, the member goes back to his community from time to time, and the unemployment rate in Whitehorse is probably 11 percent. It's probably 24 or 25 percent in his community.
He talks about a new mill that they opened up in Watson Lake. They were investors from outside the territory who came into the territory and have established the mill. The Yukon government had very little to do with it, other than the training trust fund. The mill today is still concerned and worried whether they are going to get the timber they need to operate, because the Member for Watson Lake, when he was in opposition and when he was running for government, was going to fix the forestry problem immediately. Within months they were going to have it devolved to the Government of the Yukon, and it was going to be solved.
Well, Mr. Speaker, today, when we have the possibility of a mill opening up in Watson Lake, we have no timber, and the investors are extremely worried. And I wish them well in obtaining the necessary timber that they need to run the mill, because Watson Lake does need the jobs. But there are people who haven't been doing their job, and that's the NDP government and the Member for Watson Lake, who haven't devolved forestry to the Government of the Yukon and created some jobs.
I don't accept, at all, the rationale of the Member for Watson Lake, that things are better today than they were in 1996, Mr. Speaker. Go out there and ask people. Just go and ask people. Many of his constituents were working in 1996 and they're not working now - those who are left. Many have left the territory.
Power rates - only an NDP government, only an NDP government, Mr. Speaker, would move into government, jack the power rates up in the first two years, higher than they'd ever been before, and then lower them with a rate relief - a gift from the federal government, I might add, not any money that they actually saved or earned. Actually, it was money earned by the Yukon Party government when the economy was growing and all the people arrived in the Yukon. That's where they got the money from: the Yukon Party government. So now, what have they done? They're trying to brainwash Yukoners. They've brainwashed the Member for Watson Lake. He believes that the power rates are lower now. Well, they're not going to be lower this month. They were lower under the Yukon Party government; lower than they are going to be in December when they put this rate stabilization plan in place.
Mr. Speaker, they like to spin it the way they want to spin it, but do you know what? Yukoners can take out their 1996 power bill and set it beside their 1998 power bill in December when we get these power bills, and guess which one will be bigger? That's the NDP rate relief plan, because the NDP one will be bigger.
Mr. Speaker, they've picked our pockets for two years, got a windfall from the federal Liberal government, bless their hearts, and now they're trying to take credit for it. They're trying to take credit for it. That's shameful, Mr. Speaker, that's shameful.
Mr. Speaker, this government has done a couple of positive things. It's made some positive initiatives in tourism with respect to the airport, except it made a minor glitch there, a minor problem. The Minister of Tourism couldn't see the power line for the trees -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips:He couldn't see the power line for the trees, Mr. Speaker -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, call 9-1-1; I think the Minister of Tourism just lost it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: We can medivac him out of here, but we can only use one end of the airport.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker - that's a positive move - but Mr. Speaker, here we are again. They all talk about the positive tourism initiatives; they forget to mention - the Minister of Tourism knows it - the 1998 celebration success where the people that came to the Yukon wasn't all because of what the NDP did. It was because of what the marketing branch has been doing for at least five or six years with respect to the gold rush.
Even before my time, during my time and after my time they were doing it. But they like to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that the reason the Gold Rush Centennial was so successful was because they did it all.
So they have an opportunity to do something more. They get $48-million surplus - $48 million extra to spend, Mr. Speaker - and how much did they spend on tourism and tourism marketing to make sure it's better? A quarter of a million dollars -$250,000.
And you know what, Mr. Speaker? The announcement was made a month or two ago - made two or three times now - but it was made a month or two ago, and you know what? The industry is still wondering what the minister means by the announcement. No one knows today exactly how the money's going to be disbursed, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Now, the minister's catcalling across the floor. Well, Mr. Speaker, I've spoken to some industry people and they're still saying, "How does this work?" And they say, "Nobody knows."
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Nobody knows it, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Laberge talked about the economy booming, and that the monthly retail sales report - more money was spent the month of September 1998 than was spent the month of September 1997.
Well, Mr. Speaker, let me make a suggestion to the Member for Laberge. He is doing this tax thing - which I'm going to talk about in a minute - and he's talking to a few business people about tax breaks for the business people. I want him to ask those business people if they think the retail sales figures accurately reflect what's going on in the territory. I want him to ask them that because I know they don't, but I want the Member for Laberge -
Speaker: The member has two seconds, or rather two minutes.
Mr. Phillips: Two seconds, Mr. Speaker. You give everybody else two minutes. I've been cut off but not that short.
I'll just wrap up on the tax reform initiatives. The members opposite hang their hat on the tax reform initiatives. I want to tell the member that I'd like for him to come with me to the Yukon and Whitehorse chambers of commerce. We can go tomorrow. He keeps talking about how they've been working on tax reform for months. Mr. Speaker, I was at the Chamber of Commerce about two or three weeks ago when they told me the very first they heard about the tax reform was the announcement by the government opposite in the spring and then the next time they heard about it was about a week into the session. No work's been done on it, not even a committee has been struck. So, they're talking about working on tax reform but they've done diddly-squat.
Mr. Speaker, this government is sitting by, pretending everything's pink and rosy, and the economy is in trouble. They should do the right thing. They should go out and talk to the business community and find out what's really going on and get out of this delusion that we can actually sell houses to Chile or deal with Russia, which is paying its teachers in vodka. I mean, no one else in the world is dealing with Russia because of the economic conditions there, but only an NDP government would dream of going to Russia to make a dollar.
Mr. Speaker, these are the anti-free traders who are running all over the world. The problem is they don't know which country has any money or currency that you can actually exchange for anything. Mr. Speaker, it's a joke.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Watson Lake says it's a joke. Well, the Member for Watson Lake should maybe try and privatize the highway system, like he recommended when he was a private citizen in Watson Lake, and then maybe he could get some people working in Watson Lake.
I'll wrap up, Mr. Speaker, by telling the members that I cannot support this budget. I believe -
Speaker: The member's time has expired.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mercifully, that came to an abrupt end. The amount of gas that was being produced, I was afraid of another Hindenberg disaster. Oh, the humanity.
Well, I can tell you right now, it's going to be really tough to unite the right when we've got one part of the right wing over here saying spend, spend, spend, and another group lambasting us for supposedly spending too much.
Mr. Speaker, I can't see the difference, I'm afraid. I'd like to speak a little bit about the provision of monies in the supplementary budget and how they fulfill the government's commitment to long-term planning. We've done that with guidance from people on decisions that will affect their lives.
I represent a riding that, in a sense, is a bit of a microcosm. It has everything from rural areas, to suburban neighbourhoods, to people living in sort of bush conditions on Squatters Road. I've got single parents living in mobile homes in some areas, seniors living in established neighbourhoods. I've got a diverse population. Actually, I think I've probably got the biggest arts colony in the territory up on Squatters Road, because there's a large number of artists living up there.
There are First Nations people, people who've been new immigrants to Canada, people who've settled in Whitehorse West since World War II. And, it's also one of the fastest growing areas.
I know that people in my riding are concerned about their future. I go out every weekend and bang on doors and talk to them. They want to be involved in decisions that affect their future and their children's futures.
Sometimes I go out, and in this rarefied atmosphere we often hear that we should be spending, spending, spending, and we should be doing more of this and more of that. Well, I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that when I go out, that isn't what I hear. I do hear some thoughtful ideas brought forward on issues having to do with health and a variety of things, and I appreciate the fact that I've got people who can look beyond the rhetoric and the cant that goes on sometimes here and actually give some positive ideas.
We do believe in listening to Yukon people, and we do believe in following up on the issues that affect them. I've been recently talking to some of my constituents about the issues having to do with water pressure up in Granger. We're going to see where we can go with that.
I've been talking to my constituents in Logan and Hillcrest who have got concerns about the proximity of the fire this past summer to their residences and want to talk some proactive measures. In response to some of the concerns that we've heard in this territory, we brought in the fire smart communities initiative in providing over $500,000 in community development funding.
We've vowed to return the community development funding to provide opportunities to Yukon communities, and after listening to Yukon people during consultations, I think we've improved the CDF. Some of the ones that I'm most familiar with are the Yukon Transportation Museum, the Whitehorse Montessori Society, Yukon Amateur Hockey Association, the ski society up at Mount Sima, the Logan Community Association, École Émilie Tremblay, the Society for the Advancement of Yukon Culture and Communications, La garderie de petit cheval blanc. They have all been beneficiaries of this program.
Along with the kind of growth that comes in Whitehorse also comes some concerns about how that growth will occur. Certainly in Hillcrest and Squatters Road, how municipalities' plans are going to affect them are foremost in their minds. I've heard a great deal about issues surrounding McLean Lake, Whitehorse Copper and so forth.
That's the protection of the area, the greenbelt, up around Hillcrest and the issue of the tank farm. So, we've been meeting with people. We've been discussing with them some things we can do. I've raised issues with my colleagues and I've received support on a whole variety of issues that impact on the riding.
I think, when we're talking about how a government progresses and how a government plans for the future, we have to take a measured, balanced approach to devolvement, not only in our own ridings but in the Yukon in general. I think we have to provide for an appropriate mix of growth and also stable funding.
We have brought in stable funding for organizations. We have brought in such things as stabilizing the funding of the hospital. That was woefully underfunded by the previous government and I think that led to a great deal of the problems within that organization, and I think, by returning the funding to a stable sense, we have given the hospital at least the ability to understand that they can proceed in a responsible way with responsible development.
What we're not going to do is we're not going to be shovelling out the money the same way that the Liberals have suggested. We've got these guys here as the last of the big-time spenders. I counted in the Member for Riverdale South. So far, she asked for increased block funding to municipalities. She wants us to pick up every federally funded program that the feds, in their wisdom, decide to dump off. She wants us to raise taxes. She wants us to build new facilities. She wants us to give - I think, if I understand it, she wants us to build a new school in her riding.
I mean, where does it stop? This is traditional federal Liberal thinking. Dump money in, pull money out, and leave the provinces and territories to pick up the rest.
Well, Mr. Speaker, that's not how you run a government. That's not how you run a balanced budget. That's not how you try to manage your resources in times of scarcity. How in heaven's name could that level of funding be sustained? It cannot be sustained, Mr. Speaker. It simply cannot. I'm a bit concerned at the irresponsible financial planning, or lack of planning, that I'm hearing from the opposite side.
Quite frankly, I'm afraid, at that rate, the Liberals are competing with the Member for Klondike, in terms of gimme, gimme, gimme. I mean, that should be the slogan - "Gimme" - for both sides.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, we don't take, Mr. Speaker. That's the thing. What we try to do is to balance out what we can spend with what we have.
The Member for Klondike is the guy who wants the bridge. He wants a sewage plant. Why don't we throw in a couple of schools, a few other things, because, after all -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yeah, you name it, he wants it, and there is absolutely no thought given to accurate planning.
I'd just like to take exception to some of the things the Member for Riverdale South said. She said we haven't done anything in Watson Lake. Well, she's wrong.
I went down this past year and I met with the seniors in Watson Lake. They were talking about an extended care facility. I asked them some questions, asked them to clarify their position, and increasingly, as I asked them to clarify their position as to the level that they thought they could manage, I pointed out some of the limitations that it would have. What it really turned out was that what they were seeking was respite care in the hospital, which we have moved on, as well as making sure that some of the housing units there, which were originally built for seniors, are dedicated to seniors. I've talked to my colleague, the minister responsible for Yukon Housing, and he has been supportive in that aspect.
The whole question of working with the business community - I mean, they seem to think that they're the only people who have any sort of sense of talking with the business community.
Well, they're wrong. Mr. Speaker. We're out speaking with the business community. I meet with representatives of the business community. I meet with individuals from the business community. I meet with representatives from the Chamber of Commerce. I meet with the Contractors Association. When they bring concerns to us, we try to work with them and we have tried to work with them.
We've worked with them on such things as regulatory code; we've worked with them on such things as trying to cut red tape; we've worked with them on trying to work on issues around the Yukon hire and the possible impact on them. So, they can't wrap themselves in the business cloak and spread their wings and pretend that they're the angels on this. They haven't got a lock on understanding the business community.
We have individuals in this caucus who have worked with business and who have families involved in business. So where do they get off on this idea that they're the only people who understand the business community. I find that, quite frankly, somewhat patronizing.
Furthermore, I'd just like to sort of comment on that. I think they're severely off base because in talking with people in the business community, one of the things people from the business community are very concerned about is the whole question of governments going into debt. Business people who have to watch the bottom line are concerned that governments maintain a balanced approach to spending.
We've discussed such things as capital spending and how that can impact on the business climate and they don't want us to shovel off money; what they want us to do is to approach this in a balanced, thoughtful way.
I heard the Member for Riverdale South say, "Well, all we're doing is consulting." Mr. Speaker, one of the things you do when you want to find out what kinds of issues you need to face and how you can proceed is to actually talk to people.
We've begun the consultations on the seniors strategy. We are committed to following through on those. There are going to be coming out of that, I hope, some very clear signals on issues for seniors.
We've committed to following through on them. Can we follow through on all of them at once? No, we can't, because that would be irresponsible and, I think, extremely ill-advised.
We will take the issues that have been raised, work with the groups that have raised them, and try to prioritize where we can go - very much in the same line that we've followed with the question on poverty.
All we hear is this idea, "More, gimme more, gimme more, gimme more." What we don't really hear are the questions being raised about what is the appropriate level of government spending, where should we be directing our resources? We don't hear that from them. All we hear is this "more" business.
And the one thing that I have learned is that on that side there's often very little thought to actually looking at the whole question of what kinds of services do we need to provide, and whom do we need to provide them most to? That is the question we'll all have to wrestle with in this country.
The whole idea of the social safety net - the whole idea of the social safety structure - is to support people in need. When I come forward with the issues in my section of the supplementary budget, I'll be addressing those; I'll be addressing the fact that we are trying to help people in need. It's not because we've decided to shovel money out the window. The issues in the Health and Social Services budget are issues which are driven by people's needs. They're driven by what we have to do.
Many of those -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: - many of those - the Member for Klondike is rattling away. Does he suppose that we create the need for people to go out for medical care? Does he suppose we create the need for additional physician services? Does he -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: - oh, please, please, Mr. Speaker, don't have him go down that road. Don't have him go down that road.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, the issue is that there are certain things such as health costs that we have made a commitment on; there are certain things such as medical travel we've made a commitment on, and we'll follow through on our commitments. What we don't do is butcher the social programs the same way that the Member for Klondike's party did in the previous time. We're not going to do that. We're going to work with people to try and look at where our priorities should be and where we should be spending our resources.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, the member said "Crossroads". This is the guy who was telling us to kill Crossroads. And then, as soon as he sensed a little bit of political wind, he said, "Oh, no. Save Crossroads." These guys over there, we're going to be awash in crocodile tears from that side over there. My gosh, we had the Member for Riverdale North banging on the desk there and demanding we hang 'em high, those rotten kids. Today, my gosh, I never saw such things. I thought he was seeking beatification. I'll be sending a letter to the Pope next - St. Dougie of Riverdale.
Mr. Speaker, all I really want to say is that what we've got here is the idea of, "You've got to spend money." Somehow, there's this monetarist kind of idea out there. "Lard on the money," - oh, we've been joined by his eminence - "Lard on the money" and somehow everything will just go.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't know if the member there really follows any economics. I don't know if he has any concept beyond, "Let's grab the money and gouge." What he has is the idea that somehow, if we just spend money, everything will suddenly roll. That's a monetarist idea. It's old stuff. It's discredited economic theory. And if they want to languish away in the ideas of Ronald Reagan, fine, let them do it, but it isn't going to work.
You've got to look at where you can balance your budget. You've got to look at where you can spend your resources. You've got to look at what kinds of priorities you can set. What you can't do is you can't be irresponsible, you can't be specious about your presentations. You must be, I think, aware of the fact that there are social pressures. You need to be aware of the fact that you need to meet social needs. You need to be aware of the fact that there are going to be demands, there are going to be increasing demands in certain areas in society, and you have to plan for them. That's what you have to do. You have to plan, and that's, I believe, what this budget does, and I believe that's what the economic program -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, plan. You have to think ahead, Mr. Speaker. I know that's a radical concept, and I know that that's not really in keeping with the knee-jerk policies of the Yukon Party, and it's probably not in keeping with the idea of the manna-from-heaven policy of the Liberal Party, because they seem to feel that all will be solved by the largesse of the federal government and, somehow, all we have to do is just pray properly and the money will drop.
So, Mr. Speaker, just in winding up, I'd just like to add -
Speaker: The minister has two minutes.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Two hours? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I'd just like to say that I think we are working to foster communities and help support them. I think we are working at making reasonable, thoughtful decisions. We are looking at where we can direct our resources in the best way. We look at things such as the optical and pharmaceuticals program for children. I look at such things as the school nutrition program. Both programs we're interested in supporting and continuing to support and, I think, meet a need.
So we're going to be spending our money. We're going to be spending our money in thoughtful ways. We're going to be spending our money in meaningful ways.
This budget is designed to promote sustainable spending levels. It's a budget that allows us to fulfill our promises without compromising the future of Yukon people by providing funding that's fair, balanced and taking in the needs of all Yukon people.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cable: That last speech just sort of confirms what I've been thinking about. "Beware of the wolf in the sheep's clothing. Beware of an NDP government wearing right-wing clothes."
Now, there has been quite a lot of talk in this Legislature relating to the state of the economy. There has been a loss of jobs, and there are the difficulties that some retailers are experiencing. There is the general feeling of apprehension that most people have here in the Yukon, and it's there in the street. Those places where discretionary income is spent, such as the restaurant sector, are quiet.
It's not a matter of doom and gloom. I think we'd be flattering ourselves if we thought that the debate in this House is a major influence on the economy.
The Anvil Range mine was in trouble two years ago when we got elected. It shut down over a year and a half ago. One of the major engines of the economy has been out of action for many months.
I think it would be foolish to pretend that this government has been responsible for the drop in metal prices or the collapse of the Asian economies. It would be foolish also to suggest that the Yukon government should be the only engine for job creation.
Now, having said that, I have to say that there is a certain cobra-before-the-mongoose act out there on the part of this government, and it's very strange. The NDP mantra - "We are not responsible" - is about all we hear - Bre-X. There is virtually no action.
There is a disturbing lack of action on the part of this government. They seem to be sleepwalking through government. They're on their own timetable, not the people's timetable. They're frozen in time. There is an investment and trade strategy with lazy timetables. We're talking about talking about action.
Here we have a government, Mr. Speaker, that, in one breath, whines about the controls from Ottawa and in the next breath, whines about the difficulties in finding $90,000 for the Child Development Centre because Ottawa won't send it. This, despite the fact that Ottawa has just finished sending a 737 full of loonies our way, and the interest alone on that money would keep many child development centres running for many, many years.
Then there is this government's secrecy. This government, even for an NDP thought-control type of government, has a penchant for secrecy that is unnerving. The Whitehorse Correctional Centre has troubles. We all know that. Instead of putting the recent report on the public's table, it's hidden. First there were privacy issues. Then we had to wait for the implementation plan. I don't know what the next excuse is going to be.
Then there was the Gibbs Home first draft. The Access to Information Act is used as a shield by the government when it was intended to be used as a sword by the public.
The issue of privacy arises again. Something that could be dealt with in a matter of minutes - as sure as the sun gets up in the morning, that report or the refusal to issue the report will take the whole 30 days, as given under the act, so that those people who want to see the report will have to wait.
Now the fine words of the debate relating to the Access to Information Act should be read and re-read by government ministers.
There's a school of thought in some governments that says, if you have a difficult report to deal with - a difficult issue - put it out earlier rather than later. Take your hits early and deal with it - "Here, opposition, fill your boots."
The ministers of this government think that unfavourable news has to be digested and spun, and spun and digested. Let me remind these ministers that the open and accountable refrain that was in A Better Way should be paid heed to.
Then there's the community development fund. I have this recurring dream - actually, it's a nightmare. It's the Minister of Economic Development. He's dressed up like a 1700s king - you know, the three-cornered hat and the funny shoes and the velvet coat - and he's sitting in the back of this carriage and he's throwing coins out to the needy people. And if we dare suggest that the community development fund has some down sides to it, we're accused of being against widows and orphans, and that's nonsense. What we're asking for is some accountability, before the fact, not after the fact, not when we read these never-ending series of press releases about $10,000 here and $10,000 there.
Over one percent of the budget - over $5 million, if this supplemental passes - is spent under a blank cheque. There's no statute, there's no legislation, no regulations - just the king, riding in his carriage, dispensing largesse on a whim.
Then there's the NDP labour relations. There's teacher baiting, letters to the unions during the election. They said the rollback bill would be fully rescinded - fully rescinded. And we know it wasn't fully rescinded. Strange misuse of the English language, but we're going to get spun on that one, I'm sure.
We have this government taking the unions for granted, as if they owned the union members. I think it would be an insult if we were to support this supplemental budget. We would be endorsing secrecy, sleepwalking through the economy, and poor labour relations, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough:Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I'll be short in my comments. After listening to the Member for Riverside's pipe dream, I would ask him maybe to cut back maybe on the quantum.
Mr. Speaker, I just want to mention a couple of things that have really affected my community, and some of the communities in the Yukon. In this supplementary budget we have mentioned that dollars were going toward territorial agents in several communities. Four communities were listed there, and one of them was Carmacks. The other three are Ross River, Teslin and Carcross.
This small initiative that was put forward has a great deal of meaning to the people in the communities. It means that they will not have to take a trip to Whitehorse, and get a room at their own expense - because often there are lineups that they have to stand in. This would mean that they have the convenience of a territorial agent in their community that they can deal with. I think this is something that should not have disappeared from the communities.
It's not much money to put toward that and it's a big service to the communities.
We identified dollars that were going toward the rate stabilization fund. This, itself, has not been talked about a whole lot in regard to what it means to the people of the Yukon and the fact that this is a big amount of money that's going toward, basically, lowering their power bills.
Many people have commented on this to us, in putting this forward. They know the roller-coaster ride of the Faro mine closing and opening up again and what it means to their power bill, and people wanted to see things level out and be more stable. And this, I think, by using the dollars that came forward as a one-time census from federal government toward this is putting money back into the pockets of Yukoners.
We have put money toward training. I think this was very important in trying to address some of the initiatives and some of the interests of the people in the communities. There was a tremendous need, and still will be in the next little while, for training and people getting up to par with putting them into the workforce.
I think we've had a lot of very good cooperation and support from Yukon College and the communities in identifying areas that we could be working on. The tourism marketing fund will certainly help Yukoners to pursue initiatives in this area.
We've had a very successful year this past year. We feel that we're going to have success in the tourism industry in the years to come. We're looking at trying to change the focus and involve a lot more communities in this initiative. Places like Carmacks and those places along the Klondike Highway are very much interested in trying to improve tourism within their communities. Announcements like the improvements to the airport runway are certainly of interest to the people, because they do bring people into the Yukon and people do spend money while they are here, and it is reflected, I guess, in the stores around Whitehorse, mostly.
We have the trade and investment fund. I know that the official opposition doesn't support this fully or doesn't support this at all. I think that the Department of Economic Development is trying to diversify our economy with this initiative, and it is one that many, many Yukoners have talked about over the past years, and Yukoners are very much aware of the roller coaster ride of the Faro mine and what mining does here. To be able to identify areas and resources that we could export is very much in the interest of Yukoners.
Now, the very few things that we have done to support this, in taking the trade mission trips, and having people go to Chile and Alaska, and even Russia, to scope things out, and to try to pave the way for the future, is being talked about by community people, and they're very interested in it, in trying to do other things, knowing that the Yukon has a lot to offer and we can, and we do have, the resources to export.
In particular with housing, we have technology here that we sometimes take for granted. We use it in our everyday building, and people are quite interested in the way we do things here, and the guidelines and regulations that we do follow are quite tight here, compared to places like Alaska, where they don't have a tight frame on their inspections of housing. The way we do things here is quite a bit different. We do have, and we have been, focusing on energy efficiency, and people are quite interested in what we have here.
We also believe that we can build houses at a lot lower cost than the people in Alaska can.
So why haven't there been people trading over there? Well, I think that, simply put, people just don't know that there's a market out there and the potential of having their products being exported there.
We're working toward that, and I think Yukoners are demanding that of us, to go out there and find things, and do something new, and try to create an industry out there that Yukoners can rely on for years to come that is not so dependent on the mining industry.
We have had people from the Yukon Housing Corporation over in Russia. I know people have laughed at that, and say that the economy there is bad, but we were there to look at the way they have mortgages, and the way they do mortgages, which is basically non-existent, but that is going to be coming into place there.
Even though the economy is down, the amount of money that is in people's pockets in Russia is more than what is being circulated in the United States. So I think there is a tremendous amount of dollars over there. There is a huge demand for housing. Russia's asking and looking at building over 20 million units. Can the Yukon be part of that? I think we can. I think we need to be very careful in the way we get people set up to do business there in making sure that they do get paid.
The Northwest Territories' construction businesses have been doing business over in Russia and have been very successful. There is some fighting over huge amounts of money on our part, but small in regard to the overall amount in contracts that they did get, the $3 million that they were talking about. This particular company has done over $100 million worth of work over there, and I think that the Yukon, again, can play a big role in that.
For some of the companies here in the Yukon, the Chile trip, I think, was successful. There is potential for contracts being signed there and I look forward to the day that they do get signed.
Mr. Speaker, we have, I think, done a lot over the past year. We've made some changes in our budget. Although we carried on with a lot of work and a lot of consultation with communities and the different industries and the people in regard to the protected areas strategy, we do now have a working document that I think can carry on the work and improve the tourism industry in the Yukon along with the First Nation final agreements.
I think there's a lot we can do to improve and have protected areas for Yukon. Just with the Tombstone park, for example, there is, right in the agreements, a mechanism to set up planning and so on. That's being put together as we speak and should be up and running so that they can go and look at the study area that has been identified.
We did put together a core area that's protected, and I look forward to the day when we eventually get this park up and running, with the cooperation and involvement of the Dawson First Nation.
Mr. Speaker, we had an increase in the community development fund. As members on this side know, a lot of us come from rural communities, and this particular fund is of great interest to community people. They feel that the community is starting to build itself a bit by having dollars targeted toward areas where they feel they can help the community, whether it is youth centres or day cares. Mr. Speaker, I think it's important that we continue to help communities build infrastructure in their communities so that they can continue to build and become stronger and healthier communities.
We've had dollars in there for construction of administration buildings and recreation centres and planning of rec centres and so on. This is very important, and we've had direction from community people to continue with this initiative, to increase it, so that they can benefit more. It's community people, not only in rural communities, but Whitehorse has also benefited a lot from the CDF. You've seen a lot of work, right down to the animal shelter.
Mr. Speaker, I think we have identified a need for training, and we will continue with that over the years to come. It's all about working with people, working with the communities, building up infrastructure, and continuing to try to build healthier communities.
In putting together the protected areas strategy, we've had to work with many sectors of the economy, including the mining industry, and they've supported the protected areas strategy. We continue to work with Yukoners in developing a mineral strategy to help improve the economy here. I think that people in the Yukon are quite conscious of the fact that it isn't government that controls this. We've gone through the boom-and-bust of the mining industry in the Yukon for a long time now, and people want something more stable.
We still continue to work with the mining industry, in trying to promote mining, and I think we have some potential out there, over the next couple of years, to have some new mines come on and have people continue to work. In my community, it's been a bit of a blessing to have BYG still operating.
We have shown support for them in a couple of ways. We have put money into improving the roads, and to try to keep the road a bit more safe by taking out some of the bad corners that have been there. There hasn't been a person since BYG opened up who died on that road.
We will continue to make small improvements like that with them.
Mr. Speaker, we continue to put a lot of money into health care and education. We're hopeful that the school in Old Crow will be done soon and that we continue with Ross River and into Mayo. I think it's quite important to paint a picture for the people in rural communities who are operating out of run-down schools or old trailers to see a brighter future in this aspect.
We have talked to many, many people in regard to improving the economic situation and trying to branch out a bit. We've talked to small businesses and are looking at what we can do in regard to tax reform and reducing taxes, which is quite a different aspect than the Yukon Party took in increasing taxes and cutting people's wages back.
Mr. Speaker, I think that this supplementary budget has a lot of good things in it. We talked about dollars going back into the pockets of Yukoners, and we will continue to try to work with the Yukon people over the planning of the next budget so that we can build healthier communities.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The Member for Klondike - Kluane.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you very much for that correction, Mr. Speaker. It would be embarrassing to be recognized and misinterpreted for the Member for Klondike.
It gives me great pleasure to stand in support of the supplementary budget, Mr. Speaker.
This supplementary updates our spending picture for the current fiscal year.
I'd like to spend my 20 minutes today talking about our government initiatives that are allowed by this supplementary budget, in general, and for the Kluane riding. If there's time, Mr. Speaker, I would find great pleasure in responding to some of the erroneous rhetoric continued to be espoused by members of the opposition.
The supplementary budget is based on this government's desire to listen to the people. I know this to be true, Mr. Speaker, because I attended several meetings in the riding with the Government Leader, both this fall and the previous fall. We held meetings in Haines Junction, Destruction Bay and Burwash Landing, Beaver Creek, both with the public and with the various governments in those communities.
We also met with them again this year and, from what I understand, we'll be meeting with the Hamlet of Ibex Valley next month.
These meetings give the opportunity for anyone to come out and discuss budget-related matters with both me, the MLA, and the Government Leader. Mr. Speaker, this should not be confused, as the opposition would like people to believe, with a closed government that doesn't listen, that doesn't care, and that doesn't want to hear what the people want to say, because it's my understanding these types of budget consultations never occurred before. This is a new initiative started by our Government Leader last year.
It's quite a good initiative, Mr. Speaker, because at the meetings we hear everything from rather small issues, budget issues, to more of a general picture of the direction the Yukon Territory should go in. In a way, it's sort of a brainstorming session to allow input for new ideas into the decision-making process by government.
Fortunately, there are some good ideas that do get incorporated in the decision making and find their way into the budgets that result in initiatives taken at a Yukon level, at a constituency level, that provide jobs for Yukon people, that help to build up communities, that help to provide services for communities, that help to build the infrastructure to attract industry to the territory and other larger territorial initiatives.
Personally, Mr. Speaker, I am very much in favour of these consultations and I hope they continue.
The supplementary budget contains many different projects, and I want to identify a few of them that I especially appreciate. The Public Service Alliance collective agreement represents about $3 million and, for government workers across the territory and in my riding in particular, I know they're pleased to have collective bargaining restored - and certainly that is what our government did. Although some would like to have more of an increase - I'm sure, generally, everybody would - in these times of fiscal restraint, we have to recognize certain financial constraints that we must live by. Nevertheless, Mr. Speaker, this restoration of the collective bargaining process allowed for this increase to take place.
If I could just jump back to something the Member for Klondike mentioned a little while ago, he was quite critical in what this budget stood for. As I was listening to his words and trying to figure out a rationale for what he was saying, it occurred to me that as a business owner in Dawson City, an employer of several people, that one of the things that he objected to was the restoration of collective bargaining that is contained in the budget.
I couldn't help but wonder what he would do if he had his hands on the lever of power. What would he do? I was left with the conclusion, Mr. Speaker, that he would follow a precedent exampled by the leader of the official opposition; he would roll back wages; he would roll them back.
So, this supplementary budget, if it had a Yukon Party stamp on it, would already be $3 million less because they don't believe in giving raises to our civil service.
Some of the other initiatives in the budget are the trade and investment strategy, with $250,000 for the remainder of this year. This will help to encourage local businesses to export goods and hone new markets. I know that some of the trade missions have been very popular and already the forest trade missions that are planned for April, I believe, to Alaska and, I believe, northern Alberta, are already gathering a lot of support and interest from people across the territory, and in the Kluane riding in particular.
I know these people hope to develop contacts, to build markets for their value-added products. Of course, Mr. Speaker, when you speak "value-added" you're talking about local jobs, so there's a lot of potential to spin off economic growth by establishing initiatives like trade and investment. That's another reason why I'm in support of the supplementary budget.
The opposition likes to heavily criticize our $16 million in energy announcements, Mr. Speaker, and I would like to review briefly exactly what they are.
I'll be brief, Mr. Speaker, because I don't want to disappoint my friends in the media - although it's been a couple of weeks since they've heard me elaborate in any detail on these initiatives.
The rate stabilization fund - $10 million; green power program - $3 million; a new wind generator, a commercial size wind generator atop Haeckel Hill - $2 million; conservation programs - $1 million dollars.
Mr. Speaker, the main point of these programs is to fulfill our commitment to stable and affordable electricity bills for Yukoners and encourage environmentally friendly energy in the territory. This $16 million will achieve that for many years to come.
The opposition tries to criticize it because they believe their rate relief fund was better. I'd like to speak to that for a moment. Their rate relief fund was not better, Mr. Speaker. As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, it was clear the Yukon Party was going to cancel the rate relief program.
I look across at the members of the former government, and I see that they are nodding in agreement with me, Mr. Speaker. They were going to cancel this program. Shame on them. Shame on them for standing here today - and other days - and lambasting us for continuing their program when, in reality, it wouldn't exist today if there were a Yukon Party government. Let's be clear about that.
One major difference, Mr. Speaker, is that these energy initiatives are not funded by the Yukon Development Corporation like the previous rate relief program was. This money comes from the Yukon government, not from ratepayers, and this is a major difference that I believe has been largely overlooked, and it's a very significant factor. By funding these initiatives through the Yukon government, this $16 million remains in the coffers of the Yukon Development Corporation to pursue other priorities, such as longer term rate stabilization initiatives.
So, Mr. Speaker, because the program was designed in such a way, with external funds, the ratepayers of the territory will have double the benefit because it's government money, and their ratepayer money in the form of profits will be there to spend on other initiatives.
I believe that it was back in September when I had a morning interview at CBC, Mr. Speaker, and I was asked what the difference was between our rate stabilization fund and the previous rate relief policy, and I identified a couple of reasons at that time.
One of them was, we're intentionally designing this program to be a long-term program. The previous rate relief program was a short term, stop-gap measure, which was intended to only last two or three years. So that's a major difference. We're setting this up to last for many years in the future, to be a self-financing mechanism, to protect the Yukon consumers of electricity.
The second major difference, Mr. Speaker, was that this program was designed in consultation with Yukoners. It wasn't designed in the back rooms of the Yukon Party government. I've spoken before at length on the consultation process. I believe it was a very good one. It sets an example of how to do consultation right in the territory, regardless of the complexity of issues, and we all know just how complex these energy issues are.
The benefit to people in the Kluane riding is significant. We have the Shakwak project, a $10-million project producing local jobs. I've personally spoken to many constituents who are employed on this project. I'd also like to mention that I understand that 10 people from Burwash Landing, who were employed under a training program, now have full-time jobs on the Shakwak project. Certainly this is quite an achievement. It's something the workers are proud of. It's something our government's proud of, to help deliver training to these people who were in need of employment, and now have employment, are able to sustain their families with this employment, and contribute to the local economy.
The supplementary budget also provides enhanced funds for the community development fund. I'm aware of several projects in the Kluane riding. One of them is a wood chip boiler in Burwash Landing, Mr. Speaker, and I'd like to take a moment to talk about that because I visited the site and saw the boiler, as did the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. We travelled there together.
This wood chip boiler, Mr. Speaker, will employ local people and it will eliminate the need for imported fossil fuels to heat several large buildings in Burwash Landing. What this is doing is converting the loss of precious Yukon dollars escaping our local economy. It's converting that loss into the gain of local resource development and local employment, and it's certainly something we're proud to endorse and it's certainly something that the people of Burwash Landing should be proud of. And that's just one example of how the community development fund can work to make the Yukon a better place to be.
The fire smart communities initiative will, I believe in the very near future, be dealing with approvals of applications. From what I understand, three out of five applications received have been from the Kluane riding, and I would like to congratulate the people in Ibex Valley, Haines Junction and Destruction Bay for getting those applications in. I think it's very appropriate, given the severe dryness in areas of the Kluane riding, in addition to the presence of several long-term, old-growth forests in that area and the significant fire hazard as well.
As my colleague, the forest commissioner, the MLA for Watson Lake has described in this House, Mr. Speaker, the fire smart communities initiative is designed to reduce fuel loading inside Yukon communities or in areas such as Mendenhall subdivision, which aren't established communities by any formal standards at least. This produces immediate employment. It produces employment to people with a minimum level of skills; it reduces the risk from fire and has several other advantages. So certainly, that program is well-received in the riding, as it is in the entire territory.
I'm not sure how much time is left, Mr. Speaker, but I have some copies of Hansard from last week on comments made by the Members for Porter Creek North, Porter Creek South and Klondike that I'd like to respond to, if I can.
Let's begin with the former government leader.
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Mr. McRobb: The former government leader, in his rebuttal, mentioned that the rate stabilization fund doesn't give the same level of financial comfort as his rate relief policy did. Well, Mr. Speaker, that's incorrect. He's wrong again, as usual.
Come this spring, the financial benefit, as I described two weeks ago, will be significantly higher than the maximum ever given out under the Yukon Party's program. In addition, put this in the context, Mr. Speaker, of what I spoke about a few minutes ago that there would be no rate relief program if there were a Yukon Party government.
The member also accused us of blowing smoke past Yukoners, but he continues to espouse the virtues of this big coal plant that he would have built, and as I'm sitting here watching him go on and on, I couldn't help but ask myself what he would have done if the census rebate had gone to him. Horror of horrors, I can't help but conclude that we would probably see the big, black elephant up the highway, which would double your power bill. It would double your power bill, Mr. Speaker, and every one of the other 34,000-odd people in the territory. All of their power bills would be doubled.
So, the Yukon Party logic, Mr. Speaker, is one that is very scary.
The Member for Porter Creek North, the leader of the third party, says that we should go consult before giving rebates to people -
Speaker: The member's time has expired.
Mr. Hardy: There are many things that have happened in the last couple of years in the Yukon, and they are brought about by good government. I feel that we have delivered good government to date, and the supplementary budget points to some very good government.
One of the things we've done that's a big change from before is involvement. What we have done is reach out to every person who wants to participate throughout the Yukon, and allow them an opportunity to have a voice to shape the direction of the Yukon. That's a huge change from what was seen previously, and was one of the promises that was made that we would do, and one that we've lived up to. My belief, from what I've heard in talking to many people, is that we've met that challenge and we are delivering on that promise. There's a lot of excitement in being able to shape the destiny of the Yukon.
Another thing that we've done is empowerment - we've empowered people. It's not just that we asked them to send in their comments or that we read letters to the editor that may not be in the direction we want, and maybe respond to them - or respond to the opposition members on their requests and concerns about the direction of government, but it's also that we've actually involved people and empowered them so that when they become involved they feel like their voice will have an effect upon this government.
And it's been noticed through many of the strategies that we've conducted, the commissions that have been out there for the last couple of years and have done their work - with the forestry commission, with the energy commission, with the DAP commission and, my favourite, the local hire commission.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Yes.
Youth strategy - we've been involving the youth, and they're quite excited about some of the opportunities that they're going to have, and for the first time ever they're going to be able to sit on boards - certain boards and committees. Their voice will be heard on those boards and committees, and they will have the ability, not just, as I said earlier, to shape the direction of this government, shape the direction of the Yukon, but also to develop their own personal skills. That's extremely important for all of us.
The youth have to be given the opportunity to develop skills, and it's not just in a school setting or in a home or in activities where there's arts or sports or social activities they may have, but we have to invite them in to our deliberations, our concerns, our discussions, give them our ear and let them speak. That's our future. I strongly believe that's our future.
The expanded roles of boards and committees - they're alive again. Under the Yukon Party, they shrivelled; they almost died. There were many people who were cut from the boards and committees, though they were doing good work. They were cut for political reasons.
Many of the boards and committees were shrunk down. That was under the auspices of saving money. Yet, there seemed to be a lot of money during that period. The way the Yukon Party talks, everybody was working, everybody had a job and everything was rosy, yet they were cutting the boards and committees, they were cutting the voice of people. We've opened that up, and that's resulted in our budget discussions that our leader has taken around throughout the territory, as well as many of the other initiatives that have been developed and brought forward.
We've involved people from all walks of life, from young and old, people from labour backgrounds, people from business - on equal footing. The First Nations are playing a stronger and stronger role in the development of the Yukon. The youth and elders are all participating, and this is extremely important, in my view, extremely important for the future. So what we do now will be for the future.
The environment - last week, it was the protected areas strategy, a very proud moment in this territory to finally see that brought forward.
The lobbying that this government has done for the feds to clean up or take responsibility for the environmental impact of the contaminated sites that are throughout the Yukon, which are still under their jurisdiction; the clean up of the mines that are still under their jurisdiction, that they're supposed to be responsible for if the properties are abandoned - we continue to lobby them to address those concerns. Those are long-term goals - long term - and we can't let them go because they will come back to haunt us down the road.
Land claims - lots of sincere work has been done in that area and we're moving forward, trying to finish up the outstanding claims and also honour the existing ones. There are problems there. There are three at the table and, at times, it feels like one of the parties may not want to honour what was signed under the umbrella final agreement. We, as this government, are committed to ensuring that everybody lives up to their side of the agreement and brings those land claims forward so that a wrong can be righted.
Labour relations are mentioned an awful lot. Now, I find it kind of interesting that the Liberals try to portray themselves as the voice of labour. Personally, they may be a voice of a few people but I'm from the labour background and I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, they are not the voice of labour. Often, what is said in this House is not necessarily what is being said among the labour organizations throughout the Yukon.
Business - we work with business, just as we work with labour, and for the first time in a long time they're being treated as equals.
Their voices are heard on an equal basis, not one above the other, not as it was with the Yukon Party, and now they are all invited to the table to help shape the future of the Yukon. They are contributing with their depth of knowledge and backgrounds, and we get the best direction when we do have that diversity.
Energy has been mentioned many times. A rate stabilization fund of $10 million to assist all Yukoners, a green power fund of $3 million, an energy conservation and efficiency fund in the amount of $1 million, a $2-million allotment for applied energy research and development in the form of a major wind-power generator, are all excellent initiatives that are coming forward.
Now, the NDP in the past - the previous NDP government - and in this term did a lot of negotiations. Some of the results of those negotiations carried us through the hard times of the experience under the Yukon Party. One would be the hospital. All of those negotiations were done with the previous NDP. That job and money that flowed here - the workers and families that benefited - all was initiated and developed under the previous NDP.
The Shakwak project was negotiated under the NDP. It wasn't negotiated under the Yukon Party, although how they like to spin that it was. That's not true.
Once again, our leaders stepped forward when there was uncertainty about the Shakwak project, and became active participants. We managed to convince reinvestment of close to another $100 million into that project and get an advance to have some of that work start this year to help with employment in the territory. That was the NDP, not the Yukon Party, and I'd quite happily put our record against theirs any day.
I was very fortunate this last couple of days. I spent time with a group of young Russian people, ages 18 to 22. There were eight of them, plus about eight young Canadians. I met with them and we discussed politics, both Canadian and Russian politics.
We discussed the Canadian economy and Russian economy. We discussed Canadian holidays and Russian holidays and cultures and lifestyles and comparisons. The counsellor who travelled across with them said that, under communism, they feel that communism can be described as being fear and then greed that drove people, but capitalism is greed and then fear, and they really are not comfortable with either. They don't want communism. They don't want to go back to what they had, but nor do they want the capitalism that they're seeing over here, the phenomenal materialistic race, the pressure of buying, that they feel they're under. They don't have much money.
Interestingly enough, these are not poor Russians back in their country. The people I talked to are not the poor Russians. They would be considered upper middle class, if not fairly wealthy, back there, yet they don't even come in comparison to an average salaried person here. They're just amazed at the different culture and the different way we approach our culture.
Now, there's been criticism about going over to Russia and looking at housing, and seeing if we can work with the Russians on their needs in housing. My belief is, I don't want that reaching out to Russia to be driven by our greed. I don't want us to be going to Russia because we want to exploit them. They're having a hard enough time as it is.
I don't want to be part of a group that goes over there thinking what can they extract from this country? What can they extract from these people? And I don't think that we are. I think we are acting in a manner - a socialist - that we will go over there and assist and work with them, and help them. And there are a lot of needs in their housing, for sure, over there.
What made Canada great, many years ago, after the war - before the war? What made Canada great? Throughout the world, internationally, why was it that Canadians can travel just about anywhere in the world, and we're welcomed with open arms?
Why was it that so many Americans would put Canadian flags on their backpacks, and then act like they're Canadians? Because they knew the welcome throughout the world was tremendous. The reception they would receive would be profound in the welcoming they would receive. Why was that? It was because Canada, I believe very strongly, did not act from a point of greed, nor did it act from a point of fear. We never used our military might to impose certain standards of living on others, nor did we exploit them. We went and helped. We had lots. We still have lots. We're still an extremely rich country. Maybe the distribution is wrong now. Maybe the wealth is not being spread out the way it should be. Maybe we are changing and becoming greedier for ourselves, looking as individuals, but throughout the world we travel and we help many countries. We did it because it's the right thing to do. There was a need and we could help, and we did help. And that's how we were seen throughout the world: peacemakers.
We were seen as peacemakers, as people who came when there were needs and lent money or gave money, sent workers, helped rebuild villages, helped in catastrophes, helped countries that were in need, lent expertise, brought people over and trained them, extended a hand to lift them up or to try to lift them up to our standard. That's what made Canada great, and that's what we should still be doing, and we have to work with countries such as Russia. It's easy to put them down, but it is a country in need, I believe.
We have to go over there. We have to work with them. We have to help them, and I say that in the end the value that we get will be far greater than if we just exploit.
That's what we are as people, I believe, in Canada, and definitely in the Yukon. We give a lot, and we don't have to ask for much. We have a high standard of living, and we should want all people to be able to share with us that living that we have.
Now, we're moving forward -
Speaker: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., the Speaker will leave the Chair until 7:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
The motion before the House is
THAT Bill No. 13, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1998-99, be now read a second time.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Cable: Mr. Speaker, I wonder, before we get to that, whether I can introduce the visitors here tonight. We have the 4th Whitehorse Scout Troop, and their scout leader, Mark Van Dyke, and I gather there's a scout here who is the nephew of one of the members here.
Bill No. 13: Second Reading - continued
Mr. Hardy: I'm just going to wrap up what I was saying earlier. I know it had everybody spellbound and kept them in their seats before supper, and I will see if I can raise the level of debate higher. Oh, Mondays, they can be long, too, just like Wednesdays. It doesn't matter. It just seems to blend after awhile, and jetlag does have a factor in it.
A point I hadn't gotten to yet was the commitment this government has made to health care, education and social services, and we've managed to keep that commitment, as we promised, and you can see that by our spending in our budget without raising taxes or imposing medicare premiums.
That is almost unheard of today in Canada, and I'm very proud that we've been able to do that. It's a commitment, I'm sure, that we're going to continue.
I talked earlier a little bit about the situation in Russia and the youth I met this weekend. That was in reference to investment in Russia and the attitude some people take about why we should be going in there, if there doesn't seem to be any return. I believe, as I said earlier, that Canada has a role to play in assisting countries throughout the world, and our payback is very, very big. We have seen that historically. We can't always look at short-term goals and short-term greed factors that may drive people.
The youth I talked to from Russia, although their country is going through tremendous upheaval, are very positive. This ties in with the budget because budgets federally, provincially or territorially are, hopefully, all based upon trying to assist the development of individuals, towns, villages and people in their life and improving the conditions of their life.
The youth were very knowledgeable about budgets in their own area in Russia. When we talk about investment, we've got to remember that Russia is a massive country. It's the largest country in the world. We're second to Russia in size. The interesting point about it we should remember is that there are a lot of areas in Russia that are doing very well. These youth were from those areas.
We can invest. We can reach out - as the minister responsible for the Housing Corporation was looking at doing - into those areas that are doing quite well and grow from there.
So, not all of Russia is devastated when you talk about the problems they are suffering and so our investment and our expertise can be taken into those areas.
It also gives opportunity for training, not just in building, but in training for the businesses that want to develop a broader base to sell their products and open up new markets. It also gives us an opportunity in the various fields of expertise, such as housing, to go over and teach and it gives us an opportunity to exchange information and build those links that will be so beneficial for northern regions, the circumpolar regions of the north. I think there is a tremendous opportunity there for the Yukon, a role to play that was neglected in the past and that we are working on now.
Speaker: Time has expired.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm pleased to rise in support of the bill before us in second reading.
Mr. Speaker, we cannot spend our way out of economic difficulties and create an artificial economy in the way that the Yukon Party and the Liberals advocate. Fiscal recklessness with public funds will not lead to a more stable, diversified economy.
Our government is fulfilling its commitment to not increase tax rates, and to provide pay-as-you-go budgets. We can - and do - maintain stable funding, and fully fund education and other social programs.
We also understand the importance of stable and affordable electricity costs for all electrical consumers, and have established a $10-million rate stabilization fund, to benefit residential consumers who will see a decrease in their electricity bills beginning December 1. The rate stabilization fund will ensure that electricity bills for residential, commercial and municipal customers will not increase for at least the next four years.
We're investing in a green power program to develop alternative energy projects that will create jobs, develop local expertise, and be friendly to the environment.
We've set aside $2 million for applied wind research and development to expand the Haeckel Hill project.
Mr. Speaker, during the course of this debate, the opposition has made a number of false claims. Let's start with their claim that we're not fulfilling our promises. I want to take a minute to review our record of keeping our promises.
Firstly, in completing land claims, treating First Nations with respect, government to government, proceeding with plans for a representative public service, and amending the Wildlife Act to reflect the responsibilities under the Inuvialuit final agreement. Mr. Speaker, in this session alone, we've seen legislation to recognize self-government rights. We've seen amendments to the Jury Act to exempt First Nations chiefs from jury duty, as well as the amendments needed to the Wildlife Act to bring it into line with the Inuvialuit agreement.
Secondly, creating employment and economic opportunities, the government is implementing the Yukon hire commission report. We've brought forward legislation and policy changes, as we said we would do. We have increased minimum wage. A major campaign commitment that we kept was to establish the community development fund. Some of the projects that have been supported by the community development fund include a wilderness cultural camp, a recycling depot in Dawson City, and wheelchair access at Moosehide. The Ta-tra Raven Dancers have hired youth to perform traditional singing and dancing.
We have supported the youth leadership projects in Ross River, Liard and Kwanlin Dun First Nations. The Help and Hope Society received funding to build an addition on their shelter for program and therapy. We've supported the Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon for learning disabilities workshops; a youth arts festival put on by the Yukon Arts Council; an outdoor youth education camp at the Yukon Fish and Game Association.
We've also funded options for independence for adults with FAS and FAE, a summer music camp that the Yukon Music Teachers Association put on, and a summer art program for the Society of Yukon Artists of Native Ancestry. Those are only a few of the community projects that the CDF has supported that create employment and build our communities.
We're working on a youth employment strategy and have concluded a labour force development agreement with Ottawa. We're working constructively with all orders of government: First Nations, Ottawa, municipalities.
We've seen oil and gas legislation passed and the transfer of the oil and gas again building a common regime with First Nation governments and having the training trust fund to support training in the oil and gas arena as we build for future employment.
We've continued support for the Yukon geoscience program and developed legislation for licensing wilderness tourism.
In fostering healthy communities, we've provided a new home for the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre.
I can't understand why the opposition likes to malign the community development fund, when the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre now has a permanent home. They've renovated their building, which provided for local employment; they have rental suites that help cover the O&M costs; and there are many new programs offered by Victoria Faulkner's Women's Centre, as they continue to play an important role in our community. Achieving women's equality is a real goal for this government, and one we're working toward.
We are restoring partnerships in education, and have worked with school councils on identifying capital spending priorities. As a result, we developed a three-year plan for building schools in Old Crow, Ross River and Mayo. We've offered training in those communities, and we're creating local jobs in partnerships with community groups and other governments.
We've brought forward legislation on family violence prevention, crime prevention, and victim services, as well as tougher laws for impaired drivers.
We are protecting the level of health services provided to Yukon patients.
Let's consider for a moment how we're keeping our promise to respect the environment. This session we tabled a comprehensive Yukon protected areas strategy that is a major accomplishment, in and of itself. We're protecting the Tombstone area. We are implementing Environment Act regulations, and have had consultations on solid waste disposal, and air emission regulations.
We're also building trust in government by consulting the Yukon public on a number of decisions that affect them - through commissions, through budget consultations, and ongoing discussions with the public about government initiatives.
We've named Audrey McLaughlin as our first circumpolar ambassador for the Yukon. I attended a circumpolar ministers' education conference this fall, and supported a proposal for a circumpolar university of the Arctic, which is a very exciting initiative - not just for the Yukon, but for the circumpolar north.
We've involved the public in the budgeting process and developed a three-year capital plan. We implemented full political rights for public employees, consistent with the Charter.
The community development fund has already provided $4.5 million to Yukon communities, and created many short-term jobs. We realized the success of this program, and for this reason increased funding by $500,000, to implement a fire-suppression initiative, which will improve the safety of our communities, and provide employment for people this winter.
We're using local suppliers, such as in the manufacturing of school desks. Those are just some of the commitments that we've kept and some of the many initiatives that this government has taken in keeping with our campaign promises.
Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Liberal Party has said that Education officials have pleaded poverty. Mr. Speaker, the member obviously doesn't understand the meaning of the term, "living within our means." The Liberal caucus members say, "We want dollars here, dollars there, dollars, dollars everywhere." Every day they have a new flavour. Heaven help us if they ever had to govern. We must and do maintain a reasonable balance in meeting the public's needs and spending within our needs.
This government has and will continue to maintain stable funding for education and health care and other social services and economic development. We've increased funding for a number of initiatives that affect youth and adults.
If I may speak for a moment about the youth strategy titled, Young Voices: The Key to Our Future. We're supporting work and recreation and leisure and community activities for all Yukon young people in partnerships with other organizations and government. We've given opportunities for youth to develop leadership and entrepreneurial skills. We're supporting initiatives that encourage youth to participate; as an example, bringing youth in to serve on boards and committees. We're promoting healthy lifestyles and also evaluating our youth programs to ensure that they fill the identified needs and reduce duplication.
Mr. Speaker, I've mentioned the youth recreation leadership program that has been offered in a number of communities. We've had the youth investment fund support the Watson Lake Secondary School on a program to develop plays about students against drunk driving. We've supported a youth-run radio station at Ecole Emilie Tremblay. There has been a program to initiate youth crime stoppers at F.H. Collins, which has recently been given funding to expand to Vanier and Porter Creek high schools. We have a safe teen project underway and a tobacco reduction strategy - again, using educational theatre to help Yukon youth recognize that tobacco is dangerous and that they should use other alternatives.
We've supported swimming lessons for youth in rural communities.
In the youth employment strategy, we've recently announced the creation of 20 jobs for young people in six communities. Learning doesn't stop when school is out for the summer. We've funded a number of projects to encourage youth to be active in theatre camp or computer camp throughout the summer months.
We're updating our training strategy with a focus on our youth and a changing economy. We've put money in this budget for increased support for training trust funds to meet future employment needs in mining, agriculture, forestry, oil and gas, rural communities, just to name a few.
We're supporting early intervention. The healthy family program has a component of both prenatal and postnatal care. We're dealing with prevention of alcohol and other addictions. We're recognizing learning disabilities at an early age so that we can respond appropriately.
We are also acting to increase crime prevention and victim services and to encourage public participation in the justice system. Some of the examples of that are the student crime stoppers, the crime prevention and victim services trust fund, which is now accepting applications, the Family Violence Prevention Act, and, in this session, amendments to the Statute of Limitations Act to ensure that victims have their legitimate voice in the justice system.
We're encouraging public participation through the Auxiliary Police Act, which has been passed in this House. The Territorial Court Act establishes a more open process for the selection of members of the judiciary. The Territorial Court Act sets up a new Judicial Council, which includes more lay members and which provides for an annual report to be tabled in the House, as well as working with the community on identifying emerging needs in the justice system.
Those are all new efforts, Mr. Speaker, that our government has brought forward.
The official opposition justice critic sat on the Judicial Council as a layperson and said that he had no voice. That member served four years in government and we saw no change to the Judicial Council. We saw no change to the Territorial Court Act. I've now brought forward a Territorial Court Act that does open up the justice system and it's a bill that all members of this House can be proud of.
Today, I announced the restorative justice strategy, which will give victims, offenders and the community a legitimate voice in the justice system. Through restorative justice, we will hold offenders accountable and deal with the root causes of crime and with rehabilitation. We will proceed with correctional reform.
We have supported community group conferencing with youth and adults, and that has been very well received. That's restorative justice, Mr. Speaker. That's supporting our youth.
It seems that we have to spend quite a bit of time in this House correcting the record. The Member for Klondike stood up and said that the Employment Standards Act amendments will kill home-based business. Well, as the kids say, Mr. Speaker, "Not." The common-law test that's used to determine whether a person is a contractor or an employee is one that has been used for a great many years and is commonly used in all Canadian jurisdictions, including Alberta. The changes that have been made to the Employment Standards Act during this session will not make a person who is a contractor into an employee, and it will not make a person who is an employee into a contractor.
The definition in the act was recommended, in part, to protect small business. There will be a further public education campaign, and I encourage the Member for Klondike and businesses throughout the Yukon to contact labour services and ask, given the specific circumstances and the specific work that is done, whether that person would be an employee or a contractor. Economic dependence and subordination have been the test and will remain the test.
There is a financial risk to small business if they make a mistake about whether a person is a contractor or an employee. There is an unfair competitive disadvantage where an employer is misusing the legal definitions. That's why the Yukon hire commission received those recommendations for change, and that's why we've acted on them. We helped small business owners, and, in fact, all businesses, avoid unnecessary and unexpected liabilities.
We've also improved workers' rights by amending the Jury Act to make sure that a citizen who is called in to serve on a jury, which is a fundamental right of citizens to participate in the justice system, is protected.
An employer cannot threaten to fire, or fire, or discipline an employee for serving on a jury.
Let's turn for a minute to the Member for Riverdale South, who accused me of double-speak and bafflegab in a recent letter to the Grey Mountain Primary school council. Let me quote from the letter I sent to the Grey Mountain Primary School council about the future of Grey Mountain Primary School: "I can assure you that our government has no plans to close your school. The Department of Education is committed to maintaining the school as a safe and healthy building through the regular capital maintenance process.
"As discussed at the school council conference a few weeks ago, your school council will have opportunities to participate in a general review of elementary-level capacity in Riverdale. This review will help us assess the best use of school resources in Riverdale. Despite what you might have heard in the Legislature or through local media, it is wrong to interpret the announcement of the Riverdale capacity review as a decision to close Grey Mountain Primary School.
"The review process will begin sometime before spring. All Riverdale elementary school councils are invited to participate as full partners in this review process, and I look forward to your input."
Mr. Speaker, once again, the Member for Riverdale South is fear-mongering. Copies of this letter were sent to the chairs of the Christ the King Elementary school council and Selkirk Elementary school council. This is a clear statement of the facts and a clear statement of our intent to continue to involve our partners in education decision making.
The Member for Riverside spoke about labour. I'm pleased that . . .
Speaker: The minister has two minutes.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: . . . the member voted in support of changes to the Employment Standards Act. I would remind the Member for Riverside, however, that he voted for the Yukon Party budget that legislated wage cuts, and he voted against the NDP budget that included negotiated wage increases, after we restored free collective bargaining for public servants. The Liberals also supported the Yukon Party motion on the economic summit that wants to move toward privatization of public servants. That's not labour friendly, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, the supplementary budget contains revotes for capital projects, increases to cover the personnel costs for negotiated collective agreement increases, increases for the training trust funds and the community development fund, and a number of items specific to my departmental budgets that I will be pleased to defend in Committee.
This supplementary budget deserves our support, Mr. Speaker, and I am pleased to endorse it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I'd like to thank all members for the comments that they've made. I'll take the opportunity to comment in my final remarks in second reading, and then we'll carry on the discussion in Committee - because I think there's a lot to say. I will take some time this evening, and tomorrow, and perhaps the next day to expand on some of the issues that have been raised.
Mr. Speaker, it's always a pleasure to come into the legislature and seek the advice and direction from the opposition. From what I've heard in the last day or so is a chapter that could only have been written by Lewis Carroll. Mr. Speaker, everything that seems upright is, in fact, the complete opposite. Everything that's right side up is upside-down - if you were to listen to the opposition, Mr. Speaker - everything that the government is doing is wrong. Everything that seems to make empirical sense is wrong.
Mr. Speaker, the advice from the opposition itself, however, is a conflicting jumble of statements and ideas, both ideological in their nature - perhaps they had a bad day yesterday and consequently they've taken their concerns directly into the Legislature from some comment that they've heard on the street.
Mr. Speaker, we've heard from the opposition that they want more spending. More spending - we've also heard from the opposition that they want us to set up large savings accounts. We've heard from the opposition, Mr. Speaker, that we need to spend more money on ongoing programs. In fact, every day in this Legislature, every day in Question Period, there are requests for more funding for ongoing programs.
Yet, Mr. Speaker, we also hear from the opposition that O&M spending is far too high already, and should be cut back, because O&M spending is "not good, not healthy - capital spending is the only kind of healthy spending that exists."
I would like to ask the opposition, that if we were to come into this Legislature, having done, in reality, nothing, and then advocated only that we have a conference next March to discuss what might happen, or what could happen with respect to tax reform, or what we could do to privatize the public service - as has been advocated in the motion itself that the Yukon Party put forward, and the Liberals supported - do you think, Mr. Speaker, that there might be a legitimate criticism that the government was doing too little, or not enough?
The fact that the government itself is developing tourism strategies, has got many things on the go in tourism, has devolved oil and gas, is working with the mining companies to promote responsible mining development, is completing a forest policy, a new comprehensive energy policy, setting up trade and investment funds, new tourism marketing funds, has initiated a tax round table, is talking about banking reform - if all of these things that we are doing were not being done, Mr. Speaker, do you think it might be a legitimate criticism that the government was not doing anything about the economic trials that the territory is facing?
If we had come forward instead with this lame proposition, put forward by the leader of the official opposition, that we're going to have a two-day conference to ask the business community to tell us what we can do to spend more money, to consider tax reform and to privatize the public service, do you think, Mr. Speaker, that we might have faced a little bit of criticism? I suspect so.
Mr. Speaker, the proposition that the opposition continually lays on this government is that whatever funds we have, we should spend them now - blow the wad now. I would remind the listening public that that was the same prescription as they delivered to us over a year ago, and two years ago - that without big spending, Yukon had no vision.
The vision from the Liberal Party and the Yukon Party has traditionally been only identifiable if we're spending large amounts of money. Well, if we had spent, Mr. Speaker, I put to you, whatever savings we had last year, does it not cross anyone's mind that those savings wouldn't be available for this year, or for next year?
Mr. Speaker, that irresponsible approach to spend now, live for the moment, ignore even the medium term or longer term, is not something that a responsible government in this territory can do, and it's not what the Yukon people deserve.
The opposition, both Liberals and the Yukon Party, have indicated that this is a budget that they cannot support. Well, what is this budget about? What does this budget do?
Well, Mr. Speaker, this budget does a few things. Firstly, the budget proposes to spend money on the Shakwak project.
The Shakwak project, the project which was negotiated by the Yukon NDP government to rebuild the north Alaska Highway, putting people to work, is something that the opposition members feel they can't support.
What else does it do? Well, Mr. Speaker, it revotes funding from last year for capital works that were not spent last year. That puts people to work and the opposition is going to vote and is about to vote against that.
Mr. Speaker, there is perhaps a bit of a difference between the Liberals and the Yukon Party in some respects. The Yukon Party only feels comfortable when it's cutting public sector wages and this budget actually puts money back into public sector wages and so I can understand why the Yukon Party would feel somewhat queasy about voting for that particular proposition, but I'm surprised that the members in the Liberal Party feel that they can't vote for that proposition either.
Now it brings to mind, Mr. Speaker, that when the Yukon Party, while in government, arbitrarily cut back public sector wages through legislation, the Liberals voted with the Yukon Party for the budget that saw that happen. Now we are putting money back into public sector wages and the Liberals announce that they can't support that proposition. That tells me a lot about where the Liberals truly stand on this particular issue.
What else does this budget do? This budget puts money into rate stabilization, into a system that brings down rates from existing levels and keeps them stable over a period of four years when the economy, I would suspect - not only the overall economy, not only the business economy, but the economy around everybody's home and everybody's family - needs that kind of support. This money, this $10 million in rate stabilization, is direct support into every ratepayer's pocket, from Old Crow to Watson Lake to Beaver Creek to Whitehorse, everywhere there is electricity used. This is a direct contribution to every family, every business, every home in this territory, and the members in the opposition want to vote against this proposition.
What else does this budget do? Mr. Speaker, we're proposing to put $3 million into green power. There has been a lot of discussion in this Legislature about the generation of electrical power in environmentally unsound ways.
The Government of the Yukon is proposing to invest $3 million into new initiatives for increased supply that are environmentally sensitive. The opposition, at this stage in the game, after all the high rhetoric about caring about energy-efficient and environmentally sensitive power sources, is going to vote against this recommendation, this suggestion.
Mr. Speaker, there is going to be $1 million invested in energy efficiency. The members in the opposition are going to vote against that proposition.
Mr. Speaker, there is going to be $2 million invested in new energy supply through wind generation. The members in the opposition, both Liberals and Yukon Party, are going to vote against that proposition.
Mr. Speaker, the government is going to be investing in trade and investment and tourism marketing funds. Both of these funds and these resources are going to be investing in our business community, which is going to, in turn, be creating jobs for this territory. The people who are going to be helping to determine the priorities of these funds will be the public itself, our partners in the trade and investment strategy, with everybody from the business community to labour and to the conservation groups - people are going to be sharing in the decision making around the investments pursuant to these funds. I point out, Mr. Speaker, that these were ideas that were not only suggested to the business community in particular, but were also supported by the business community.
Now, the members opposite are proposing to vote against $500,000 for training Yukoners. We're proposing to invest an extra $500,000 in the training trust funds to put money into the hands of communities and community organizations so that training can actually take place in this territory, so we can build people's skills so that they can have hope, so that they can take advantage of opportunities and create opportunities for themselves. The members of the Yukon Party and the Liberals are voting against that expenditure.
Mr. Speaker, what else does this budget do? The members' favourite whipping post is the community development fund. They don't like the community development fund. They've said so clearly. They would prefer to have the Legislature scrutinize every community project before it goes ahead, but I want to point out the obvious. The communities like the community development fund, and whether the members in the opposition - the Liberals or the Yukon Party - care or not, wherever I go - and I've had 45 meetings in the last month - people do support the community development fund, because the projects that are being supported are the projects that the community itself proposes.
It's not divined by some brilliant idea coming out of the minds of the members of the opposition. These are projects that are put forward by community organizations, community groups, NGOs. One of the projects, Mr. Speaker, that has received a lot of community support is the safer communities fund, to protect communities from the ravages of forest fires by thinning out combustible materials around communities. People were talking about it all summer, and they've been talking about it all fall. We invested $500,000 toward making their homes and businesses safer, and the members of the Liberals and Yukon Party are going to vote against that proposition.
Now, Mr. Speaker, this budget, in terms of new spending, doesn't go much farther than that. I've just listed out what's in the supplementary budget. This is a supplementary budget. These aren't main estimates. It's not much more complicated than that. But the members in the opposition have taken all of those projects, cited many of them, and said they're not going to vote for this budget.
Well, Mr. Speaker, the NDP government indicated that they were going to undertake these initiatives - they wanted to undertake these initiatives - to seek approval from the Legislature, and we're going to do that without increasing taxes. We're not going to follow the prescription of the Yukon Party, that when times got tough - you remember that time, back in 1993, Mr. Speaker, when the Faro mine closed down. Remember, the times were tough here? Remember the fact that the GDP took a nosedive? Remember when the Energy Corporation, under the Yukon Party, asked for almost a 60-percent rate increase? Remember that the unemployment rate skyrocketed? It was the highest in the last five or six years.
Remember what the Yukon Party's prescription was for economic rejuvenation? Well, the very first thing they did, in their very first spring budget, was that they jacked up the Health and Social Services budget from $60 million to $90 million. They increased taxes to the highest - well, I had never experienced that before. They promised that they were going to deliver on a comprehensive energy policy. They promised that they were going to develop an industrial support policy, the first of which never came, and the second of which came in the form of a two-page document, which basically translated into, "Come and see us. We've got some money we can give you."
Mr. Speaker, that was the sum total of the Yukon Party government response to the economy. Now, if we had waited an extra year and the Anvil Range mine still hadn't opened, then I think we would have seen that one-day conference. I think they would have had a conference, where he would have invited the business community to come and tell them how they could spend money. We could have heard stories about how the Yukon Party wanted to lower the taxes they'd just raised. Whatever they would have done, one can only imagine, but we're getting a clue from the suggestions being made by the members in the opposition in the debate this week.
Mr. Speaker, a lot of bad information has hit the floor of this Legislature in the last few weeks. The member in the opposition, the leader of the official opposition, has said on a number of occasions that the government is growing. The ...
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: ... members in the opposition are saying that the government is growing, and the leader of the official opposition says, "Well, look, I'm going to make the claim, I'm going to make this allegation," which turns out to be false, "I'm going to make this allegation that government is growing and I'm sure the leader of the government's going to stand up and he's going to say that 200 of those jobs were for the transfer of the rural health care," and then he's going to stand up and he's going to say, "We were comparing winter employment with summer employment, and that accounts for by far most of the other jobs. But don't listen to the Government Leader, even though that's the truth, because when we were in government and the hospital was transferred to us, we cut some of that funding and we didn't have as much money associated with the health transfer or with health services when the Yukon Party took on devolution."
Mr. Speaker, what spurious logic. First of all, the member is correct in one assumption. Yes, the growth in government employment is entirely very explainable through devolution and through the summer employment initiatives.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, we have been living with the results of the Yukon Party's actions around the hospital transfer from the time we were re-elected. The reality was that when the Yukon Party did see the transfer of the hospital - precisely as the Yukon Party leader indicated - they did cut the expenditures. We had to take a strike; we had to reinstate funding to the hospital in order to put it back on track.
So, that's the Yukon Party legacy. That's what we've had to face in the last year and a half. But I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that the criticism that the members have raised - and when we get into Committee I'm going to pursue these criticisms with the members, and we'll ensure that accurate information is on the table.
But the point of the matter is that the Yukon Party, and the Liberal Party's criticism has been shallow. The criticism has been filled with rhetoric, has lacked any kind of substance.
Speaker: Two minutes.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Liberals have come forward with suggestions on the revenue side for buffalo burger sales, and pancake sales, but every day the members in the Liberal Party opposition have been talking, on the expenditure side, about new demands for spending money on operations - virtually every single day. I'm glad that Question Period is only half an hour, because I want the Minister of Health to come up for air.
Every single day, new demands are being made by the opposition for new spending, growth in O&M - and yet by the time the list of demands has been made, the reality is that they don't want O&M spending, because they think O&M spending is bad.
So, their prescription, Mr. Speaker, is to simply ask for everything; it doesn't matter whether it conflicts or not - more spending on the O&M, less spending on the O&M; more spending on capital, but don't go into debt. It's an endless series of contradictions, spurious logic, hopeless rhetoric. It has no substance whatsoever.
I'm happy to support these expenditures and I commend them to the Legislature.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. Livingston: Agree.
Mr. Ostashek: Disagree.
Mr. Phillips: Disagree.
Mr. Jenkins: Disagree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Mr. Cable: Disagree.
Mrs. Edelman: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 10 yea, six nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No.13 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved 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: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 13 - Third Appropriation Act, 1998-99
Chair: Committee will be dealing with the supplementary estimates. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, there are many things I know we want to get into, and I have some issues, too, that I want to raise in general debate, but I should go through the process of giving the normal speech notes - a little more than normal - explanation for what is in the supplementary.
By means of the bill, we'll be approving an additional $47.2 million in gross spending for the current fiscal year. This increase is more or less matched by a $48.6 million increase in our gross income. During my remarks on second reading, I spoke at some length about this latter increase, but I'll refresh members' memories by taking a moment to explain the figures again.
There is a slight decrease of $160,000 in our locally raised revenues. This is made up of a number of items: small declines in personal income tax and licences, fees, registration and permits, offset by an increase in investment income and oil and gas royalties.
The oil and gas royalties are increasing because we are grossing up the figure that was in the main estimates by the amount we are sharing with First Nations. In other words, the main estimates contained only the oil and gas revenues that YTG would keep and excluded those royalties to be shared with First Nations. The grossing up of revenues is accompanied by a corresponding expenditure item in the Department of Economic Development to reflect a payment of the additional sum to First Nations. These revenues are being treated in this manner because it is felt it is more appropriate, given the wording of the land claim agreement, which speaks of the Yukon government sharing its revenues with First Nations.
The increase in the Canada health and social transfer and established programs financing of over $1.3 million is largely due to adjustments to these calculations as a result of final census numbers being available to the federal government. Established program financing, or EPF, was done away with by the federal government several years ago in favour of the Canada health and social transfer, but the census adjustment has an impact on years when it was in effect and we are therefore receiving adjustments for those years.
Recoveries have gone up by more than $9.2 million, and this is largely due to the additional $10 million for the Shakwak project, which we will be receiving this year. There are also new capital recoveries of more than $1 million from both Education and Government Services. In the case of Government Services, these relate mainly to the project management services the department will carry out for the federal government. The recovery is accompanied by a similar increase in expenditures.
Education is recovering insurance monies for the Old Crow School and from the contractor for the fire at Jack Hulland School.
These new recoveries are offset to some extent by a decrease in capital recoveries in the Yukon Housing Corporation.
And finally, by far the largest rise in income shown in the supplementary is in the form of a financing grant, where we are projecting an additional $24 million as a one-time census adjustment and another $14 million in the general formula calculation. The $24 million is, of course, entirely due to the census, and of the $14 million, about $7 million is census-related, and ongoing.
The census was conducted in 1996, the last one being undertaken in 1991. I don't think it's a surprise to anyone that the population increased over that period. However, it is rather surprising that the Canadian population figures flowing out of the census were not as high as might have been expected, and it is this differential - as between our population's growth, and Canada's - that is important to the formula financing calculations.
If our rate of population growth exceeds the rate of growth in Canada's population, our formula-financing base escalates at a higher rate. Since the differential between these two is quite significant in statistical terms, the adjustment to our base was of corresponding significance.
This adjustment was inputted into the base for the previous five years, and the result is a large, cumulative, one-time adjustment shown in the supplementary. We cannot, of course, rely on such adjustments every year and we therefore decided to devote a good portion of the $16 million of these one-time monies to the benefit of Yukoners in the form of a grant to the Development Corporation to use for several energy-related purposes.
As members will know, there are four specific components to this grant. Ten million is for a rate stabilization fund that will keep energy rates stable and affordable for a number of years to come. This will obviously be of direct benefit to all citizens of the territory and will help eliminate the roller-coaster ride of rate fluctuations we've experienced in the past.
The remaining $6 million is for a green power fund and energy conservation and efficiency fund and for applied energy research and development. These initiatives will promote the development of clean and efficient energy sources for the future and reduce our dependence upon imported and environmentally unfriendly fossil fuel.
We are fortunate in having funding available to implement these important programs and I'm proud that our government has made the decision to use these funds in this manner and thereby help improve the quality of life for our citizens.
I'm certain all members will agree that this is an important goal and will support the appropriation of funds for these purposes - all members except, obviously, the opposition members.
The $16 million I have spoken about is part of the sum of $47.2 million in the additional appropriations being sought in this supplementary.
In the O&M side of the ledger, we are seeking some $8 million for a variety of purposes, including over $3 million to fund the cost for this year of the new collective agreement with the Public Service Alliance.
An increase of $2.2 million is being requested for the Department of Finance. This is merely the result of collecting and recording monies received from the court in regard to the old Curragh Resources receivables in the previous fiscal year instead of this year where their receipt was budgeted in the main estimates.
Some of the other departments also require funds, principally for new initiatives that our government is undertaking, and ministers, of course, will speak to these when we get to the line item debate under the departments.
Additional capital funding of $39.2 million is also being requested, and I've already spoken to why $16 million of this increase is required. Revotes of lapsed 1997-1998 capital spending amount to some $10.7 million, and I expect little explanation of the principle behind this item, because these, of course, were voted for in the main estimates last year.
Ministers will provide details of the specific projects involved when their departments are being discussed in Committee.
The Shakwak project accounts for another $10 million, and I don't need to speak of how welcome this development is to us and, I am certain, to the people of the territory.
There are numerous other important, though smaller, capital sums included in the supplementary that will go far to ensuring that we have healthy communities in the territory. To name but several, there is $500,000 in new training trust monies in the Department of Education; $500,000 for trade and investment and tourism marketing funds; $1.5 million for the community development fund; and $149,000 for tele-medicine in the Department of Health and Social Services.
Mr. Chair, the list is not much longer than that, but I know that the members will have an opportunity to explore issues and items with ministers now, when we get into further discussions on the matters that were raised in the Legislature in second reading.
Mr. Ostashek: I have several questions in general debate on the budget that I'd like to explore with the minister when we have the opportunity. I just have some opening comments.
The Finance minister spoke of setting $3 million or $2 million aside for green power because they care for the environment. On the other hand, we continue to burn excessive amounts of diesel fuel to generate electricity in the Yukon. I don't see anything in this budget to wean us off of diesel fuel - just one of the inconsistencies that we see.
I have quite a few questions I'd like to cover off here. I think it's a real bonus that we got the one-time transfer, but I'm concerned about the impact that we're going to be faced with and I'd like to find out from the Finance minister some timelines as to when we're going to face it. I'm sure the Finance minister won't disagree with me on the fact that we have lost a lot of people from the Yukon in this last year, some couple of thousand by the last figures we have, and at some point in time we're going to have to account for that loss, and it will be in a reduction to our grant.
I'd like to know from the Finance minister when we can expect to take the hit, and how bad is he projecting it's going to be if nothing turns around? I don't believe we'll feel the impact of it in the next allotment, but will we feel the impact of it in the 2000-2001 budget? Will we get a hit then from the drop that we're experiencing in the population now? This is 1998 and we're just starting to get the benefits of the 1996 census. How long before we're going to get hit with the negative side of this one-time-only grant?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, I'll respond to the member's items in the order they were given.
First of all, the member mentions the fact that, of course, we're going to be investing $3 million in a green power fund, and then mentions the fact that we're going to be investing another $1 million - he mentioned $2 million; it's $1 million - in energy efficiency programming. I would point out that we'll also be investing another $2 million in wind generation R&D - a wind generator - for a total of $6 million. But the member goes on to bemoan the fact that we're doing nothing to get off diesel.
Mr. Speaker, I don't understand that calculation. At what point do the actions of the government register with the members in the opposition? Maybe they never do. Maybe that's the point. Maybe I shouldn't try to convince members in the opposition of anything, but speak directly to the general public and say that we are investing $6 million in new green power initiatives, in environmentally friendly supply projects and energy efficiency programs, and this complements the existing energy efficiency programs we already have to encourage people to use more energy-efficient means of heating their homes and businesses.
Mr. Chair, I would argue that the work we are doing to wean ourselves gradually from fossil-fueled electrical generation projects is a substantial step forward. I would argue that the work we are doing is financially sensible for this jurisdiction. I would argue, as the member opposite has, that seeking new energy-generating projects that use coal, diesel or some other fuel of that nature do little to help the territory when it comes to a move to environmentally friendly energy supply projects.
The investment of $6 million is a substantial investment in the right direction.
The member went on to talk about the loss of population and its effect on the formula financing grant and the member is quite, of course, correct that there will be an impact. I'm informed that there will be a slight impact on the year 2000-01, but if the change in population is sustained, if it stays down, then the impact on the revenue on our grant will be felt. Of course, there are other factors to take into account. It's not only the population factor, but there are other factors and they will have to be thrown into the mix in estimating what we project our revenue to be into the longer term. One would expect, as I understand it, that the population drops, but then will climb naturally as it has in the past, barring the experience of an economic resurgence once mineral prices return and the world economy improves. Then one would expect that the population will climb once again.
There are many different factors that will have an impact on the formula grant and we will do our best when it comes to the spring sitting to take all those factors into account and include the one the member cites in estimating our revenue for not only next year, but for the following two years.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, we're going to pay for the loss in population. Even if the population comes back, we're going to get hit somewhere along the line for the number of people who are leaving now, at whatever point that the federal government calculates it. I know it's a number that keeps moving; the goal posts keep moving. I know that the Finance minister won't have the actual amounts calculated at this point, but I believe he's answered my question that we will take a small hit in 2000-01. I would like him to quantify that for us, if he could, when he gets back on his feet, as to what he calls "a small hit". Is it going to be $1 million, $5 million? What will it be?
I know that the failsafe part of the formula will kick in at a certain point, and as much as we hate this formula, in some instances it's pretty good, especially when you get a downturn in population.
Just back to the other topic for just a minute, because I'll take it up with the energy minister when we get there, but if this Finance minister's trying to tell me and Yukoners tonight in this Legislature that this investment in green power is going to reduce the power bills in the future - well, I have some ocean-front property I'd like to sell to him, a long ways from the ocean, because green power, in every project I've looked at, comes in about half again as much as diesel power. So if it's this government's goal to replace the diesel with green power, I think Yukoners are in for a very rough ride for many years in the future when it comes to power.
Nevertheless, I will take that up with the energy minister when we get to Economic Development, or somewhere along the line.
Another comment that the Finance minister made in his Committee speech here was that - I believe he said that the oil and gas revenues were accounted for in the main estimates of the budget that we're working on now. I'd just like him to clarify that, if he would, when he gets on his feet. And I would also ask him just to refresh my memory as to what the revenue-sharing agreement is with the First Nations on oil and gas revenues. What is the percentage and what is the cap on it? Is there a cap on it? At what point does it start flowing to the federal government?
Maybe we'll just take that bite at this time, and then move on later, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, on the question of the population. The effect of the population going down and staying down - and we're hypothetically saying it's going to stay down, won't climb; it will stay down.
For that one factor alone, it'll be over $5 million. There are other factors to take into account as well, and they will mitigate that, and we'll do the calculation on all the factors put together to determine what the overall grand calculations will be.
So I don't want to be alarmist, because there are other factors, and it may not be that much. There may even be an increase, for all we know at this point.
With respect to the other matter that I would raise, too - another wild card, as the member puts it - is the fact that we're going to be having new formula financing negotiations. In my view, we should be receiving a fairly reasonable formula agreement with the federal government, given the fact that they have settled a fairly reasonable agreement with Nunavut in the Northwest Territories, so I'm expecting that we will be treated fairly.
Now, the member went on to talk about power bills and the green power fund, and I think it's important that we don't mix apples and oranges here. The primary objective of the green power fund is to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and to promote and encourage environmentally friendly energy supply projects. That is what the fund is meant to do, given the fact that some of the supply projects are small, and consequently, the economies of scale do not work in those projects' favour. And some of the projects are more expensive than diesel, and that's one of the reasons why we use diesel so thoroughly today, because it is a very cheap, by comparison, supply mechanism.
The initiative to stabilize rates comes to another fund, and that's another investment of $10 million that the Government of the Yukon is making directly to people in the territory to reduce and stabilize people's energy bills.
With respect to the exact formula, Mr. Chair, I don't have the exact formula with me, but I can get the formula for the member. Maybe the member can clarify for me whether or not he wants a formula between the Government of the Yukon and First Nations, or between Government of the Yukon and each First Nation. But it is a formula where we share 50/50 to a certain dollar limit - and I think it's around $2 million, but I'll check that - and the other elements of the formula I can relate tomorrow.
Mr. Ostashek: That's fine. Tomorrow will be fine for that. Mr. Chair, I would like to know what the arrangement is with First Nations. I don't need it with individual First Nations. I also would like to know what the arrangement is with the federal government, because there's a certain amount that flows back to federal government off the oil and gas revenues. We don't get to keep it all in the Yukon, and I don't believe we've been dealt with as favourably as the provinces. That's one of the realities of life in the north.
The Finance minister talked about the rate stabilization fund and that $10 million was put into it. I just have a general question for him on that. We've injected $10 million. Now, under the old rate relief program that the Yukon Party had, that was being funded from the dividends from the Energy Corporation. What is going to happen to the dividends that are coming from the Energy Corporation now if we've injected $10 million into the rate stabilization fund? Are the dividends going to continue to go into it to a maximum level, or what's going to happen with them?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will get the information with respect to the oil and gas revenue sharing arrangement with the First Nations. The member will know, and I'm certain the member does know, that the federal government, both in the context of the oil and gas agreement and also in the context of devolution discussions to this point, have made it very clear that, while the Government of Yukon can expand the resource sector a substantial amount, the federal government's going to want a pretty substantial return itself. In return for the rather substantial subsidies that they've provided to the north, they expect that when the economic house is in order in the north - hopefully put together by the northern governments - they will be in a position to pay back the national government substantially.
With respect to the rate stabilization fund and the return to the Energy Corporation, I suspect, Mr. Chair, that by far most of the resources that the Development Corporation receives in dividends from the Energy Corporation will be invested back into infrastructure projects in the territory.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, the Finance minister said earlier that they were going to be going into formula financing negotiations with the federal government. I thought our formula expired on March 31, and I would have thought that negotiations would have started long before now. Have I got my date wrong for the expiration of the present agreement?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, we have, of course, been negotiating. The agreement expires on March 31, 1999, and we are well on our way to seeking a new agreement. We have not announced it and have not finalized it at this point.
Mr. Ostashek: The Finance minister said he expected to be treated fairly favourably because Nunavut had reached a fairly favourable agreement with the federal government for their start-up. One of our biggest fears always was that we wouldn't be treated as favourably once Nunavut kicked in. Have the sentiments of the federal government changed in that regard?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I put the proposition to the federal Finance minister and to the Minister of DIAND on a number of occasions that the position of the Yukon government was - and I was making the assumption that it was for my predecessor, as well - that any incremental increase in funding to pay for Nunavut should be borne by the Canadian taxpayer - which includes, to a limited extent, Yukon residents, as well - and should not be borne by the existing northern envelope of funding. The federal Finance minister indicated on every occasion that it was their intention to support Nunavut through new funding, and I believe they announced - I can't remember exactly how much they announced in new funding, but they did announce new funding for Nunavut and Northwest Territories to pay for the transition and for the incremental increased costs associated with the two governments doing the work of the previous Northwest Territories government.
It amounts to $60 million more for the two territories. We have not detected any reduction in funding to the Yukon as a result of this negotiation.
Mr. Ostashek: The minister says that they're getting $60 million more. Is that ongoing funding or is that one-time-only funding that they're getting for the transition, because I believe they are getting special money for transition. Also, I'd like to know this from the Finance minister: are we now negotiating separately from the Northwest Territories for a new formula financing agreement, or is it a joint negotiation as it has been in the past for the new formula financing agreement? Are we doing it on our own or are we still working with the Northwest Territories negotiating a formula financing that is consistent within both jurisdictions?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, in this particular round of negotiations, we have been undertaking these negotiations on our own. The Northwest Territories government observed our negotiations. We wanted to ensure that any principles associated with the Nunavut negotiations, over which we had no direct influence, would not be automatically applied to our negotiations for fear that they may not favour the Yukon. So consequently, while we've been interested observers in the negotiations for Nunavut and the Northwest Territories and they've been an interested observer of ours, the negotiations have essentially been separate.
I understand, Mr. Chair, that the increased, ongoing funding that the Northwest Territories and that Nunavut received was to pay for the fact that the economies of scale work even further against those two governments now that they've had to separate and duplicate government functions.
Mr. Ostashek: I have one more question and then I'll let some of my colleagues in. I would to know from the Finance minister - we are getting some real financial benefits from tax cuts in other jurisdictions. When I left office, I believe we then had it calculated that we were going to benefit by about $1.5 million because our taxes remained stable and other jurisdictions have reduced theirs quite dramatically across the country. I don't need it tonight, but I would like to have it before the supplementary budget debate is over - possibly when we get to the Finance department - as to what benefits we are reaping from the tax cuts that have taken place so far in the provinces and the ones that will be kicking in this next fiscal year.
I believe that adds up to a very tidy sum of money.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, this year in the formula calculation it's worth about $2.1 million to the Yukon.
Mr. Ostashek: Has that been consistent for the last several years, or has it been going up, and what's it going to do in the next year?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It's going up gradually.
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to begin the general debate on the supplementary by asking the Finance minister if he could indicate when the government first learned of the additional census payment. I recall from budgeting in the spring that it was noted as $4 million. When did the Finance minister first learn that it was in fact closer to $24 million?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Department of Finance got a preliminary figure in the middle of September, and the final calculation was made known at the end of September or beginning of October.
Ms. Duncan: As I said at the opening of my remarks, it was originally put at $4 million, when we discussed the budget last spring. When did the minister start to get a sense that it would, in fact, be much larger?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The member will remember that in the spring I indicated to members that there were some wide differences of opinion between statisticians across the country as to what the changes in numbers would mean. And I indicated publicly that this was the case, when speaking to public groups and the media, back in the early fall, that this debate was continuing.
We knew that there would be an increase. We didn't know how much the increase would be, of course. We knew there would have to be an increase, because we can read numbers as well as anyone can read numbers.
But there were some serious objections being levelled, primarily by Quebec, which has a very large department of statisticians.
We were disputing the numbers, and we were objecting strenuously. There was a reason to believe, based on some history, that the federal government may side with Quebec and, in the end, they substantially did not and, in fact, agreed with the more objective calculations coming out of StatsCan, so we knew by the end of September or early October that the information that was being provided by Statistics Canada and the final calculations that were being made known at that time, that the change in numbers would result in the results that are in the budget now.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would like to move on and revisit a few questions regarding the formula finance funding agreement, and I note that May 1998 was the fifteenth year that we've had this agreement in place.
The minister said in response to a question on the status of negotiations that the government is well on their way to negotiating the next agreement.
Can the minister, without putting him in a difficult position, be more definitive with that comment, "well on our way"?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, the government, of course, does want a good agreement, and we are negotiating with the federal government. The existing agreement expires at the end of March. Historically, we have not signed agreements until sometimes long after the expiry date of the old agreements.
We are a little more aggressive this time around in terms of wanting an agreement earlier, and I would hope that we could have an agreement to sign before the end of March, before this one expires. That's our objective. We want terms that are at least as beneficial to Yukon as the old agreement and if we can, in some small ways, improve it, then we will try.
I will point out to the member that I probably left the impression that the only objector to the statistics being published by Stats Can was the Province of Quebec. That's not correct. There were other provinces that also objected to the low numbers, as this would affect equalization negatively for them. So, there was a pretty furious debate, if such a thing can happen between statisticians, because of course the stakes are very high. We happen to be a beneficiary. Other provinces are net losers.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, just to respond to the minister's comments, the minister indicated that the Government of Yukon could read numbers as well as anyone. In that case, $4 million must have been a very, very conservative estimate, and certainly, when one is doing budgets, conservative estimates are entirely appropriate.
One of the issues that is constantly discussed with respect to the formula finance funding arrangement is the perversity factor. What is the current status, and is this a major item for discussion at present with the federal government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald:Mr. Chair, firstly, with respect to the calculations that we were doing in the spring, we were making some calculations based on some very raw data that Stats Canada was producing. We had no way of knowing at that point, other than that there was going to be an increase, how much the increase would be. We had a sense that it would be larger than normal and, consequently, we did something that was unprecedented. We thought there was going to be an increase of $8 million, which was quite large, in my view.
Over the course of the summer, as the numbers were coming in and the debate became more intense between provinces and territories, the numbers were starting to firm up, as I mentioned, at the end of September, and we got a clearer figure by the end of September as to what those would be. Most importantly, we also got a sense that they would not be manipulated for any other reason - no one would abandon the formulas for political reasons, and so we are a net gainer. We just happen to be.
With respect to the perversity factor, because of tax rate increases in other jurisdictions, we're getting close to even right now, in terms of dollar for dollar.
Ms. Duncan: The Minister of Finance mentioned in his opening remarks the $160,000 decline in tax revenues, fees, et cetera. Can the minister be more exact? Is this reduction simply a decrease in numbers due to a decrease in population, or does it also relate to decreases in actual fees charged across the board? It seems to me that our fees have remained fairly static, in spite of Auditor Generals' reports. So, is this simply a decrease in population?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, fees are a very, very miniscule portion of our revenues, and the primary reason for charging fees - there are other reasons, other than simply wanting revenue for that purpose. Certainly, while there may be a fee increase here and there, there's been no conscious desire to raise fees or to respond to Auditor Generals reports, or anything else. Certainly, any small change in any fee is not going to affect the revenue calculations in this budget at this macro level.
The primary reason for the change is, as the revenue summary by source page shows on page S-8, the reduction in personal income tax.
The other changes are so small that we don't register any change at all.
Ms. Duncan: My last question in general debate in this regard at the moment concerns the training trust funds, and not simply just training trust funds, but various trust funds. There are quite a number of them in different departments, and there are varying degrees of accountability, if you will, in terms of how these funds are administered. Is all of the information regarding these various funds collected within the Department of Finance? Is there somewhere where we can look at it? For example, some years ago, there was the tourism training fund. It took them two years to spend money out of that fund. There is a board. The fund sits at X amount currently. Is all of that information collected somewhere?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, the funds themselves are all administered out of advanced education in the Department of Education. They are not administered by line departments, but advanced education is the one that leads - along, sometimes, with a department - the negotiations and tracks the agreements to make sure that appropriate, real training takes place.
There is an administrative agreement that is struck between the government and each recipient of a training trust fund, signed by both. The terms can be different, depending on the purposes of the training trust fund and the organization that is the recipient, and they can all be made available to the member upon request.
Mr. Cable: Last spring, the minister gave us a memorandum dated April 27, 1998, with about nine pages of attachments, and it ran over the worst case scenarios and best case scenarios and projections on population, and projections and effects of the difference in the perversity factor.
Could the minister, for the Finance debate, update the handout that was given with that memorandum of April 27? It would be useful to get that information to see whether there is any significant change in the numbers that were given to us at the time. I think it has been asked for in part by other members on this side.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Certainly the projections for revenues and expenditures for the next year are going to be part and parcel of the main estimates, which I will be tabling in two months. That is when we will be redoing the long-term projections and doing recalculations of where we may be going in the longer term.
We don't project - apart from what we see on the table today - any significant change as it is, but I will be updating those, having the Department of Finance redo all the calculations in order to provide proper context for the estimates that we will be presenting in the Legislature shortly.
Mr. Cable: It would be useful to hear, though, whether there's any significant change in that data that's anticipated at this time. I don't expect the minister or the minister's staff to go through all that data and regurgitate it, but just advise the House whether they see any significant changes in the data.
In particular, the covering memorandum covers the value of the change of one percent in the perversity factor, and that's set at $540,000. It would be useful to hear that information.
On another question, we've talked about the concurrent negotiations going on in the other two territories. I note with interest, in the September 1998 Fraser Forum magazine - that I think all the elected members get - there was a recapitulation of all the money going to the provinces and the territories. They worked out the per capita cash and tax transfers to the Northwest Territories and the Yukon Territory for 1997-98. The Northwest Territories total transfer per person was $13,547 and ours was $9,852.
I am just wondering why the significant difference between those two numbers?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, there are historical reasons for that as well as the fact that the Northwest Territories, generally speaking, given the size of the territory, the sparsely populated nature of the territory and the fact that there is very little infrastructure between communities, is an extraordinarily expensive jurisdiction to run and it is clearly more expensive to run than the Yukon.
I could suggest some other reasons why that might be the case and, frankly, the fact of there being party politics in the Yukon, believe it or not, I think is a factor as well. I can certainly expand on that if the member wishes.
The reasons are largely historic in nature, meaning that they've evolved over time. The Northwest Territories has always received substantially more than the Yukon on a per capita basis. Even though I'm not a faithful reader of the Fraser Forum, I would suspect that their numbers are probably accurate and they probably draw them from federal figures in any case.
The officials also indicate that there are other factors. They have devolved forestry services, firefighting. That, of course, means that the gross transfers and the consequent per capita transfer to the Northwest Territories would be that much greater as a result of the transfer.
Their tax capacity, of course, given that they have a very limited private sector, is much less and therefore their grant is higher in order to compensate.
In any case, there are a number of reasons for it, as I am sure the member is aware.
I'll ask the Department of Finance if they can give us any preliminary reading of any significant changes to the best/worst projections for revenue that we can detect at this point. I don't know. I will try to bring that information forward, and I can indicate to the member that we will be providing more definitive figures in the context of the main estimates.
Mr. Ostashek: I have a couple of questions yet in general debate.
There's going to be a drop in territorial revenue next year, based on the decrease in economic activity that we're experiencing now. How much of a drop will we feel next year, and will it be offset by the formula? Will it be failsafed by the formula?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The general projection now, Mr. Chair, is that we expect to lose a bit overall. Obviously, I will be in a better position to indicate what that is in the context of the main estimates. These are only supplementary estimates. We have not finalized the figures for next year, and I won't be able to do that - when I say next year, I mean two months from now. We will not do that until we get to finalizing the main estimates themselves.
Mr. Ostashek: I understand that, but we use the federal government's taxation projections to set out budgets. That's what we're told all the time, anyhow - that we do it based on Revenue Canada's projections. What is the cut-off date? What date do we use for next year's formula for the basis of what we're going to be getting in taxes? Will it all be fail-safed, or will we lose a portion?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, the best I can do at this point is say that we feel, at this point, that we will lose a bit if revenues go down. It's not all fail-safed. Certainly, at this stage in our calculations, we will be thinking forward with that in mind.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you. We'll leave it at that for now.
Mr. Chair, I want to just turn to another topic, and that's the Faro mine. The government must be doing some planning as to how they're going to deal with that situation if the mine comes back or if it doesn't come back. What price of zinc is the government using as a calculation where they feel optimistic the mine will go back into production? The price of zinc we hear - the minister's always saying it's depressed metal prices that has caused the downturn in Yukon's economy, yet when we look at Yukon stats, the short-term economic review, we see that zinc was 59 cents a pound for 1997, and we see that lead was 28 cents a pound. What prices are the Finance minister's department using for when they would get optimistic about the mine going back into production?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Firstly, Mr. Chair, the price varies. The price that one would require to operate the mine varies depending on who the operator is. For example, consistently just after the Anvil Range mine shut down, the operators were saying that if only they had 55 or 57 cent zinc and a particular lead price, they would be back in operation or they wouldn't have shut down.
If one were to talk to Cominco at that time, Cominco had said and has consistently said that they want a 70-cent zinc price. A lot depends on what the corporate entity is thinking if they are in charge of considering a reopening.
We're not going to be the operators. It is very difficult to determine what price it would take to get the mine open. We are trying to create conditions to have the mine open at the earliest possible opportunity, with some understanding that it would stay open if it could, but it's a very imprecise science. Certainly, there is no price that I know of that most commentators would say is definitive.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on the bill.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 13, Third Appropriation Act, 1998-99, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled December 7, 1998:
Restorative justice in Yukon (draft dated December 1998) (Moorcroft)
Auxiliary Police Act (Bill No. 66): French text (Moorcroft)
Municipal Act (Bill No. 69): French text (Moorcroft)
Territorial Court Act (Bill No. 68): French text (Moorcroft)
Estate Administration Act (Bill No. 57): French text (Moorcroft)
An Act to Amend the Family Property and Support Act (Bill No. 60): French text (Moorcroft)
An Act to Amend the Children's Act (Bill No. 102): French text (Moorcroft)