Tuesday, February 23, 1999 - 1:30 p.m.
Clerk: It is my duty, pursuant to the provisions of Section 24 of the Legislative Assembly Act, to inform the Legislative Assembly of the absence of the Speaker. In his absence, the Deputy Speaker shall take the Chair.
Deputy Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with silent prayers.
Deputy Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Tabling returns and documents.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I have today for tabling the Yukon Lottery Commission 1997-98 annual report.
Deputy Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Development assessment process: status report
Mr. Livingston: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Deputy Speaker: Mr. Phillips, on a point of order.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I believe, according to our rules in this House, that a statement by a member in the House, unless he is a commissioner or minister, is not allowed. In section 11(4), it states, "On ministerial statements, as listed in Standing Order 11(2), a member who has been designated as a Cabinet commissioner may make a short factual statement related to his or her commission."
Mr. Speaker, it is clear from the actions of the government, publicly, that the commission has in fact ended. People have been phoning the commission's office in the last few days and have been told that the commission has been disbanded and, evidently, it's turned into something called a "unit". In fact, there was some discussion about that in the Executive Council Office debate.
Mr. Speaker, the phone book that was issued in January of this year lists all of the Cabinet commissions as commissioners and, Mr. Speaker, the energy commission is no longer listed, the local hire commission is no longer listed, the commissioner responsible for the DAP is no longer listed. The only one listed as a commissioner still retaining his job is the forestry commissioner.
So, Mr. Speaker, I think there is a problem, according to our rules, of having the Member for Laberge speak out as a commissioner because it appears, according to the moves that the government makes, that he is no longer a commissioner.
We would have no problems receiving this statement if the appropriate minister, according to our rules, would give the statement. But, in our view, the commission has been disbanded and, in fact, the deputy commissioner has even left the employment of the commission, and it has been changed into a totally different type of unit. The commissioner, in fact, under the rules, no longer exists and under the publications by the Government of Yukon he no longer exists, so I would submit that you make a ruling, Mr. Speaker, on whether or not this commissioner can go forward with this statement here today or whether the appropriate minister has to give it.
Deputy Speaker: Government House Leader, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: On the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I'm so pleased that the member opposite has risen to give attention to this important statement by the commissioner on DAP. I think it's been difficult sometimes to raise the profile of this very important issue for Yukoners. We're very, very pleased the commissioner can make this statement. It's been given some profile by the official opposition, so I want him to continue in this vein.
With regard to the point of order the member made the argument that only the forest commission is still intact. Well, the forest commission has no staff, nor does the DAP commission right now. That doesn't mean that the political work surrounding the issuance of DAP is completed, Mr. Speaker. Quite the contrary.
The Member for Laberge is still the DAP commissioner, and under our rules would be in perfect standing to deliver the statement today.
I might add that the opposition is obviously sensitive to this matter, since the former government leader pronounced that he had already completed DAP when we first came into government. We had to take over a failed project, Mr. Speaker, that was going to be foisted down the throats of Yukoners, and try and deliver some sense to it. That's why we've put some hold on this particular issue, to try and hear Yukoners' views on the DAP process.
So I would say that the member's point of order is indeed spurious. The Member from Laberge is the commissioner responsible for DAP, and therefore, in keeping with the practice and the Standing Orders of this House, should be able to deliver his statement.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order. It's unclear to our caucus as to whether the commissioner can deliver the statement, and so we'd like to respectfully suggest that, until the Speaker makes a ruling on the issue, perhaps the Government Leader can deliver the statement so that we can respond to it.
Deputy Speaker's ruling
Deputy Speaker: Order please. The Chair would like to thank the official opposition House leader for having provided notice of this point of order. Standing Order 11(4) refers to members who have "been designated as Cabinet commissioners".
There is no established procedure for indicating whether a Cabinet commissioner is no longer designated as such. The Chair has not been informed, in any official way, that the Member for Lake Laberge is no longer a Cabinet commissioner.
The Cabinet Commissioner on the Development Assessment Process may, therefore, continue with his statement.
Mr. Livingston: After this long preamble, we'll get down to business.
It's my pleasure to rise and present this House with a status report on the work of the Cabinet Commission on the Development Assessment Process, or DAP.
The commission was established as one of three parties in negotiations for a new development assessment process, as called for in chapter 12 of the Yukon First Nations umbrella final agreement.
The other two parties were the federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs and the Council of Yukon First Nations. Our task as a commission has been to represent the Yukon's public government and thus, all Yukon people, in those negotiations.
The legislation itself will be federal legislation, which is not yet in place. Our government's position is that the job will only be done when there is legislation that reflects Yukon's interest for a process that is efficient, effective, timely and predictable.
We are committed to seeing the job is done right. As the Government Leader told the House yesterday, our goal is clear legislation that protects the Yukon's lands, waters and cultural heritage without imposing an unfair burden or unnecessary delays on responsible development.
Mr. Speaker, there has been a great deal of discussion and consultation about DAP, but from the responses we received to the first draft of legislation that went for public review last October, it is clear that more is needed. That is why we are holding a major DAP workshop this spring - to provide another opportunity to ensure the concerns of Yukoners are being addressed.
When the commission was established, it embarked on a comprehensive consultation process using a number of approaches to seek Yukoners' opinions on what should or should not be included in DAP.
We established a non-government DAP working group with the Chamber of Mines, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, the Yukon Conservation Society, the Klondike Placer Miners Association, the Association of Yukon Communities, and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
This group met eight times over 10 months to discuss issues such as timeliness for assessments and timelines for government decisions. It also considered enforcement provisions and what types of activities should and should not be subject to DAP.
As commissioner, I have toured Yukon communities and met with First Nations and community councils to hear their suggestions. I have met several times with representatives of various non-governmental organizations and have attended working group meetings with these NGOs.
At two Cordilleran Roundups, I have discussed DAP with specific mining companies and heard what members of the mining industry had to say. I have also met with representatives of the British Columbia environmental assessment office, the Ministry of Environment and intervenors to learn what worked and what did not work in their process.
During the annual general meeting of the Association of Yukon Communities, I heard what Yukon community leaders thought of DAP and what their concerns or interests were. The commission was also represented at the oil and gas workshop in Watson Lake and at geoscience and First Nation mining forums last fall.
We met with UFA boards and committees, including the Yukon Land Use Planning Council, the Yukon Heritage Resources Board, the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, the Yukon Surface Rights Board, the Teslin and Alsek renewable resource councils, and the Kluane Park Management Board.
When the draft of the federal legislation came out last October, we undertook to ensure that Yukon people had a chance to read, question and comment on the proposed legislation. The commission, along with the other two parties, visited every Yukon community to explain the draft legislation and how a project would go through the development assessment process.
We also met with First Nations, renewable resource councils, UFA boards, municipal and community councils, as well as with NGOs and the general public.
Approximately 1,200 DAP information packages were distributed, which indicates both the interest and the importance of the commission's work. We received many thoughtful responses that will provide invaluable guidance in the further development of the legislation.
The DAP commission has listened to Yukon concerns and has worked to make sure the other two negotiating parties understand these concerns. As we work to ensure that legislation will address the Yukon interests, we're also establishing the Yukon government offices that will administer our part of an eventual Yukon-friendly DAP process.
It is time to move on to the next steps. The new DAP directorate will coordinate the Yukon government's involvement with DAP. It will work to ensure that Yukon views are heard and that Yukon interests are reflected in our discussions with Canada and CYFN...
Deputy Speaker: Order please. The member has 10 seconds.
Mr. Livingston: ... and in the final bill that goes to Parliament.
I would like to thank Yukon people for the time and effort that they took to provide the commission with ideas, critiques, suggestions and sound advice, and to the commission -
Deputy Speaker: The member's time has expired.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the Yukon Liberal Party caucus to respond to the development assessment process statement in the Legislature today, although I would restate my colleague's point at the outset that it is our belief that it should be the Government Leader who should be addressing the House.
Over the past several months, individual Yukoners and Yukon organizations have publicly expressed their views that more time is required on the drafting of the development assessment process legislation. I support this view.
The initial drafts are incomplete and show a lack of understanding of the need for development in this territory. Our caucus has reviewed a number of the materials that have been presented. For example, one of the most basic points about the draft legislation presented so far is that clearer language is required to ensure that this landmark legislation actually works. Our caucus would suggest that the drafting of this legislation requires more than an extension of the current timelines.
One of the points made by the mining industry has been that the proposed legislation makes no attempt to incorporate some of the issues addressed in the much-discussed blue book process. The future role of the Water Board in the proposed legislation is unclear. The Yukon Conservation Society has expressed a concern respecting the ability of the public to be involved in a final review process. Municipalities have stated that there is no mechanism for their concerns to be addressed.
My caucus and I are deeply troubled over how all the legitimate concerns expressed about the draft legislation thus far can possibly be addressed - as they must be. I'm also concerned that public support and respect for the development of this legislation is waning rapidly as the Yukon economy suffers from uncertainty over the future of the legislation.
The legislation itself is required by the Yukon umbrella final agreement - and we support both the UFA and the development of DAP. It clearly requires political leadership and direction from the three leaders at the table.
This legislation, because it must pass the House of Commons, is largely seen to be driven by federal government officials. I've written to the federal minister and suggested that she take a leadership role and invite Grand Chief Shirley Adamson and Government Leader Piers McDonald to review all the very legitimate concerns presented to the governments respecting the development assessment process.
The intention to construct a simple, one-window approach to future development in the Yukon by this NDP government and other governments has failed miserably thus far and requires more effort on everyone's part.
I hope all three political leaders will take this constructive suggestion in the spirit in which it was offered.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Livingston: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's not surprising that once again the official opposition chooses to wrangle about procedural issues but what they can't get their teeth into is the substantive issues around the development assessment process.
In fact, the leader of the official opposition said two years ago that the job was done. In Hansard on December 5, he is quoted as saying, "Most of the work that needs to be done to the development assessment process has been done."
Unfortunately, that was simply untrue. The briefing notes that we received early on - in fact, prior to the commission even being established - note that, to date - this is from November 20, 1996 - agreement has been reached on an initial set of drafting instructions that address the non-controversial issues in the chapter. The parties can now focus on the more difficult issues not fully detailed in the chapter.
The easy stuff was done, Mr. Speaker. The tough stuff hadn't even begun. I appreciate the comments and the support of the leader of the third party in speaking to the federal minister on DAP. We certainly have been encouraging the minister all along to provide some leadership and to get to work on this. We know that the federal caucus on this is a huge caucus. One of our challenges, frankly, has been to try to arrive at the one-window approach, try to avoid duplication. We don't want to see both DAP and CEAA operation in the Yukon. We've had a number of rather difficult issues that we've worked on and, clearly, we've got more work to do.
That's what we heard loud and clear from the public, and we're certainly not going to shirk that responsibility.
We've had a number of comments, I think, that have been very valuable. We've had comments that are going to be somewhat addressed, I believe, through the devolution table, by increasing responsibilities for the Yukon government around lands and resources. I would concur that there needs to be clearer language in some portions of the act, and both our DAP directorate from the Yukon government, and the other parties, are working on this as well.
I believe also a great deal of the uncertainty around DAP can be addressed through workshops that specifically focus on procedures and arrive at very clear procedures that outline, for example, the relationship between DAP and the Water Board, and bring to light some of the assumptions that have been made at the negotiating table, but that are not clear in the legislation.
We will continue to work with Yukoners until we arrive at a process that is predictable, that is clear, that is efficient and can be effective. Mr. Speaker, we're going to keep working with them until we get it right.
Deputy Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Devolution
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Deputy Speaker, in the now infamous NDP election document, the so-called A Better Way, devolution was portrayed as the greatest transfer of federal resource responsibilities since the agreements with the prairie provinces in 1930 and the greatest transfer of political responsibility to the territory since the people of Yukon earned the right to elect their own Legislature. Recently, the Government Leader himself called this the "deal of the century". Mr. Speaker, that's why I'm somewhat amazed that we haven't had a ministerial statement on devolution, and it was given a whole one-third of a page in the budget address - the deal of the century.
In view of the fact, Mr. Speaker, that resource transfer agreements with Alberta and Saskatchewan, referred to in A Better Way, actually involved the transfers of ownership of land and resources, my question to the Government Leader: can he explain why he didn't instruct his negotiators to even raise the issue of Yukon ownership of land and resources at the devolution table?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, firstly, the devolution arrangement we are seeking with the federal government, in cooperation with First Nations, is indeed a major political advance for this territory. It will see the management of all lands, resources, minerals, forestry to the control of this Legislature. When it comes to ownership of lands, under the Canadian Constitution, the lands must be owned by a Crown. I can assure the member that when there is an opportunity for the Yukon to be a Crown, under the Constitution, that we will seek that status. What we have achieved is a sufficient deal to put lands and resources in the hands of Yukon people so they can decide their own future.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, that's the biggest cop-out I've heard by anybody who's supposed to be negotiating on behalf of the people of the Yukon. A former NDP leader in this Legislature said that we could own land. This government has legal opinions that say we already have a Crown. And now we have a Government Leader who's negotiating on behalf of Yukon, who's bought into a Liberal argument that we don't have a Crown in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, legislation was drafted as far back as 1985 for an amendment to the Yukon Act, which would recognize a Crown in the Yukon. And now we have this government, and this Government Leader, abrogating their responsibilities, and saying that we no longer have a Crown.
Can the Government Leader tell me, has he had any further legal opinions to one that we've had as late as 1993, that says there already is a Crown in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I can tell the member one thing, I did analyze the deal that the member himself said that he was putting forward for forestry - only forestry - back in 1993. And I can tell him that the arrangement that he thought that he could come to was much less than the arrangement that we have on the table today - much less.
In any case, Mr. Deputy Speaker, our challenge is to put the control of lands and resources in the hands of this Legislature. It is a question of fact that the Yukon government is not a Crown, under the definition of the Canadian Constitution. That day will come.
But what we will do now - instead of fighting the battles in the sky and the fantasy arguments put forward by the leader of the official opposition - is we will make a practical difference to the lives of the people of this territory, and put the future in our hands.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, what we have here is a cop-out by a government leader, an abrogation of his responsibilities to fight on behalf of Yukoners. He wants to remember that this devolution package was started by a Yukon Party government and one of the major issues in it was ownership of land and resources. Without it, we would not go ahead. Without it, we would not go ahead.
Now, the Government Leader has bought into the Liberal argument that Yukoners shouldn't have the right to own their own land.
Can the Government Leader tell me, does he believe it's fair that First Nations, under their land claim agreements, have outright ownership of land and resources - which we fully support - but does he believe that the rest of Yukoners are not entitled, through their government, to own the land and resources in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, the Government of Yukon, this government, this NDP government, has put forward and has achieved a much better package for not just forestry, which the Yukon Party was seeking, but mining, lands, waters, the environment - all the package. It was something that the Yukon Party government could never achieve and never hope to achieve.
If you just took forestry, the Yukon Party government got no funding for forest endowment, no funding for forest inventory, no protection for extraordinary years for fire suppression. Their deal was very, very limited. And did it involve ownership of land? No.
Mr. Speaker, what we are seeking is the management and control of land, minerals, forestry, water - the full package - so that we can take more control of our futures. So that we can be in a position where we can decide our fate, decide our economic and environmental fortunes.
Through this Legislature, we will fight the fight about recognition under the Constitution when the opportunity arises, but we will not wait until that moment - as the member opposite wants us to - for some ethereal constitutional conference to come. We will seek the management of those resources now. We will make a real life change in the lives of Yukoners everywhere for generations to come.
Question re: Tourism, director of marketing
Mr. Ostashek: Well, if Yukoners follow this leader, they'll never own land and resources in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, my new question: on January 14, 1999, I wrote an open letter to the government concerning the hiring of the director of tourism marketing, and in that letter, I asked two questions. Was the government aware that criminal charges were pending at the time of hire? And, were proper procedures used in filling this very important position?
Mr. Deputy Speaker, my letter was never answered, and unlike some members in this House, I do not want to engage in a character assassination. That isn't our job here. Our job here is to fix something if it's broken, and we're here to help in that respect.
My question to the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission: I'm concerned about the hiring practices of this government, and I would appreciate receiving answers to the questions that I asked in the January 14 letter - basically, was the government aware that there were criminal charges pending at the time that the former director of marketing was hired, and if not, why not?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, right on cue with the Liberals, the pack dogs in the opposition are joining in on the character assassination - quite the contrary to the leader of the official opposition's preamble. It is right on cue, Mr. Speaker.
Let me just say to the member opposite exactly what I said yesterday in response to the Liberals - they are one and the same, Mr. Speaker, on that side of the House. All due process was followed in the hiring of the director for tourism marketing. There was actually a committee for hiring established with citizens. I believe that the Tourism Industry Association was part of this responsibility. References were checked. The people who gave the references were part of the citizen board - or the board in Newfoundland that was involved as the employer in this relationship - and all of those references were trusted, as is the normal practice, as was the practice when he was the Government Leader with regard to the Public Service Commission, and all due process was followed.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Deputy Speaker, surely the minister must be aware that there's a train of thought out there in the public that this position was filled by a hand-picked candidate, that it was a fait accompli, that the interview process was just a façade, and that is why the system broke down, that there wasn't a thorough check on the references.
But my question to the minister is, surely the government is embarrassed by this. I know Yukon people are embarrassed by it, and why is the minister not doing anything to review the hiring procedure for key officials?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the member's just challenged the integrity of the citizen committee involved in the hiring. He just challenged the integrity of the entire Tourism department, the Public Service Commission, everybody involved in the administration and the hiring of this particular individual. And, of course, he's dragged this individual through the mud, with his Liberal colleagues.
Mr. Speaker, I can only say what I have said time and time again. This whole matter has been reviewed. The charges were not made prior to the hiring. References were checked. Due diligence was done. Citizens of the Yukon were involved in the hiring process. What more can the member expect? This was due process, Mr. Speaker, and I would argue that, to read Auditor General reports, and other public documents from across this country when you're doing hiring, as suggested by the Liberal Party, is out of bounds and would not be practical for hiring in this territory in the long term.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Deputy Speaker, what I'm challenging here is the integrity of the hiring process, not of the government officials involved in the process. That's what I'm challenging, and if the minister is going to take his job seriously, and his responsibility seriously, he's got to be concerned about this.
What he's trying to tell Yukoners here today is there's nothing wrong with the system, we're going to go ahead and keep on hiring people the way we've done it in the past, and this could happen again. "No big deal," is what he's saying.
My God, the least this minister could do would be to have a thorough investigation into the hiring procedures of this government and do something to tighten them up and make sure that this does not happen again to embarrass Yukoners and embarrass the government. Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, the pack dogs in the opposition in the Liberal and Yukon parties feel that they've got some blood flowing so they're continuing to zero in on Yukoners, zero in on the citizens committee that was involved in the hiring, to zero in on the Tourism department, to zero in on the Public Service Commission.
The member opposite can't back out of what he just said. He said that those people involved, those good Yukon citizens hand picked this candidate and that the whole process was a façade. I would argue nothing could be further from the case. References were checked; they were absolutely confirmed and there was due process involved in the selection. The charges were laid after the hiring.
Mr. Speaker, I would argue that the member opposite has some apologies to make to good Yukon citizens.
Question re: Tourism, director of marketing
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the minister responsible for the Department of Tourism.
Mr. Speaker, on Friday one of the minister's officials said in a media release, "It should be understood that the responsibility for personnel matters rests with me and the Department of Tourism." That was stated by the Deputy Minister of Tourism. The media release was also signed by a representative of the Department of Tourism.
Now, yesterday in this House, the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission came to the Minister of Tourism's rescue and said, "The law says that the public servants are hired by the Public Service Commission."
Now, which is it, Mr. Deputy Speaker? We have two different stories. Tourism took responsibility on Friday; the minister responsible for everything, answering for him yesterday and again today. Is the Minister of Tourism going to support his department and take responsibility for this hiring?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The other pack dog now rises to join in, Mr. Speaker, right on cue.
First of all, Mr. Speaker, the reason the Public Service Commission is responding to this question is very simple: -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Deputy Speaker: On a point of order, Member for Riverdale South.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, that is unparliamentary language.
Deputy Speaker: Mr. Harding, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: On the point of order, it is absolutely not unparliamentary language. I'm referring to the members opposite in a term that, I would argue, is not in Beauchesne. I'm simply referring to the type of vicious attack that they're making on citizens of the Yukon and the people involved.
Deputy Speaker's ruling
Deputy Speaker: Order please. The Deputy Speaker sees no point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I would say that, as the minister responsible, I'm responding to the procedures involved. That's the issue here. It's the purview of the Public Service Commission which, with the Department of Tourism, engages in the overall hiring practices of this government. They are the controlling body for those purposes.
Now, I will say to the member opposite that she's not getting two stories anywhere. She's getting one story. That story says that there was a citizen committee appointed to be involved in the hiring; that references were checked; that references from the former employer were trusted.
The member opposite can ask this question as many times as she wants. The facts will not change surrounding this hiring. Charges were laid after the hiring was done. And, Mr. Speaker, I would argue that the people involved used good judgment in the hiring of this particular individual, who they continue to drag through the mud, to their obvious joy.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I'd like to thank the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission for that lecture and for defending his fellow cabinet minister.
Again, I'd like to direct my question to the Minister of Tourism, and it concerns the Department of Tourism.
In a media release last Thursday, in black and white, printed in the paper, the Tourism department announced that they had moved the now former director of tourism marketing to a new post as manager of market and product development. The new job was sole-sourced - no public competition, no posting as an appointment without competition. The NDP government made an embarrassing situation worse last Thursday by trying to shuffle this problem to the back of the deck in a weak attempt to deflect criticism from the NDP government, which has responsibility.
Can the Minister of Tourism tell this House why the department made the move?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Deputy Speaker, let me tell the member opposite once again that in the Government of the Yukon matters pertaining to personnel - that is, hiring, firing, reclassification, deciding who gets promoted, who might not get promoted, who might be terminated - is all handled within the bureaucracy to avoid political interference and manipulation. Neither the Minister of Tourism nor the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission are the hirers in this particular case or in any other.
So, Mr. Speaker, if there were moves made that were within the purview of the deputy minister involved, that deputy minister has the right under the guidelines and policies - and the Public Service Act, I might add, which is the law which we respect - to make personnel moves within that department, and they have several different ways in which they can do that. In this case, the Deputy Minister of Tourism exercised that prerogative.
Ms. Duncan: Well, the minister responsible for everything and the Public Service Commission, who insists upon answering all the questions in all the departments, has stated here and has tried to have us believe that neither he nor any other minister gets involved in these hirings and firings. Deputy ministers report to ministers. Ministers are accountable through this House to the Yukon people.
Last Friday, a job magically opened up for an individual within the Department of Tourism. No competition. No posting. No posting of appointment without competition. Just, "Here you are." Nobody believes that this wasn't political interference at the ministerial level - not even the minister. Are we doing away with interviews and competitions and now we're just going to hand out jobs?
Mr. Deputy Speaker, the question is simple. Is this the better way under the NDP government?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I would turn that around and ask the members, is this the alternative to the politics of confrontation the Liberals promised the Yukon public?
This is an ugly week for the Yukon. You have the Liberal Party standing up on a daily basis, along with the Yukon Party - their colleagues - asking to politicize the public service of the Yukon Territory; asking to have ministers responsible for departments determining who gets hired, who gets moved within departments, who gets raises, who gets reclassified. Mr. Speaker, I can tell the member opposite that the Public Service Act - the law of this land - will be respected by the Yukon New Democratic Party government.
We will not politicize the public service, regardless that the opposition would have us do so. We will refuse to politicize the public service. Decisions are made in this government by the bureaucracy on personnel matters. In this particular case, the prerogative exists to make the move that the deputy minister made without a competition. There are other methods that can be used. There are different variations of these particular methods that are conducted by all deputy ministers of this government, and they were within their prerogative to make this move. I would also argue that that is a good level of due process.
Question re: Tourism, director of marketing
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Minister of Tourism about the overall direction of what most consider the one bright light in the Yukon economy - tourism.
The minister must surely agree that the director of marketing for the department is an incredibly important position to the industry. This individual co-chairs the Marketing Council, and works with the agency of record in setting the direction for Yukon's tourism.
An Auditor General's report in Newfoundland speaks to the way that the former director of marketing conducts government business. That report outlines how contracts are routinely handed out without following tendering procedures - no tendering for over almost half a million dollars' worth of contracts.
When did the Minister of Tourism find out about the Auditor General's report, and does he support conducting public business in this way?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member opposite continues to try and move in on this particular issue. I think it's very, very discouraging to see them politicize the public service, to try and get onto a situation that I believe is best left for dealing within the confines, the policies and procedures of the Public Service Commission.
In this case, as I said, due process was followed. References were checked. There was a trusting of the people who gave the information. The hiring was made. The charges followed.
If the member opposite asks a real tourism question, she'll get a real tourism answer. Unfortunately, these are no more than thinly veiled and disguised attempts to try to continue the attack of the pack dogs opposite.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Deputy Speaker, it's obvious that the government condones the way this individual conducts business, because he remains within the Department of Tourism. I do not believe that the Yukon's public business should be conducted this way, and incidentally, Yukoners who travel outside of this territory, who travelled outside of this territory as recently as last week on Tourism business, have said the same thing. They don't believe it either.
Does the minister believe that this will solve the problem? Does the minister believe that shuffling the deck has changed anything?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, this is a big day for the Yukon Territory. You have a Liberal leader standing up today asking the minister responsible for Tourism to see a person in the department fired. That is politicization of the public service at its highest form. One has to be very worried about this member of the Legislature being responsible, ever, for any government department if they are going to engage in such politicization and if they are going to make the decision and express her view, as she expressed today, that this person in this department should be fired. I think that member should think long and hard about setting that precedent in this House.
Mr. Speaker, I said, and I will say again, that the citizens committee involved in the hiring of this person, the Public Service Commission and the Department of Tourism exercised diligence in terms of reference checks. They got good references. They made the hiring. Subsequent to that, charges were filed, and I think she should really think long and hard about truly being the alternative to the politics of confrontation, as she promised the Yukon people.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I thank again the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission for that lecture. I have not only thought long and very, very hard about asking questions in this Legislature about this issue. I have read and reread the Auditor General's report, as have many Yukoners who have discussed this issue with me.
The minister believes that shuffling the problem to the back of the deck is a solution. I don't. I do not want Yukon public business conducted the way this individual conducted it in Newfoundland. I do not want this type of business representing Yukon or Yukoners.
By making a change, the minister has already admitted that a mistake was made by changing the job description. Can he stand in this House today and tell us how moving the problem to the backroom makes it go away? Can the minister answer that question?
Hon. Mr. Harding: First of all, the minister didn't move anybody. There's a principle in the law, in the Public Service Act, that says that the ministers do not get involved in hiring. For the members opposite to advocate that we get involved in the hiring, I think, would be a breach of the law and, second, I think would be a very bad precedent for this territory to get involved in, because that leads to patronage. That leads to systems where the party in power determines who's going to get jobs in the public service and who will not, and I would argue that would be a very bad and ugly day for the Yukon Territory. This government - this NDP government - will not get involved in that kind of politics. That may be the Liberal way in other provinces like Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker - and, thankfully, there it is changing, my home province - but it's not going to be the way of the Yukon.
We respect the Public Service Act. We respect the depoliticization, the removal from personnel matters of the political level of government from the bureaucracy, and we will continue to respect that principle strongly.
Question re: Education department, retirement benefits
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission as well, on an issue that I think will continue to haunt him until he does the right thing and awards the family of Flo Kitz the $24,000 retirement gratuity that she so deservedly earned.
Mr. Speaker, I'm hoping today that the minister will finally recognize what's right and what's wrong. In view of the minister's insistence that he will not interfere politically - and I'm not asking the minister to do that, Mr. Speaker - in the collective agreement, I'd like to ask the minister if he's prepared to honour section 47.01 of the collective agreement, which allows the minister to deal with specific issues such as this one.
Does the minister intend to honour the request that has been made by the Yukon Teachers Association, where it states that this agreement may be amended by mutual consent between the employer and the association. The association has written the minister a letter. It agrees with making the change. It's asked for a meeting with the minister to make that change, and I'd like to ask the minister today if he's prepared to sit down with YTA, as per the collective agreement, and discuss this matter.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I said to the member opposite yesterday that I was disappointed that he would use the memory of someone so well-respected as a political football in this House, and I maintain that again today.
Mr. Speaker, this is not a matter of the money involved. It's a matter of the fact that the collective agreement was very clear. The collective agreement called for the paying out of hundreds of thousands of dollars of benefits to this family. That was lived up to in severance pay - or in terms of the pensions involved, not in severance pay, because that was not provided for in the collective agreement. The same principle applies today for managers of the government and it applied under the previous administration, the Yukon Party.
Mr. Speaker, the matters of a personal nature like this should be resolved more appropriately, if it is a matter of money not being paid out - through the grievance procedure or through the collective bargaining process.
I would say once again to the member opposite that it is very disappointing that he would use this as a political football.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm somewhat surprised that this minister, who used to criticize other ministers on the other side when they were ministers about falling into the bureaucratic line of thinking, this minister's fallen right into the trap - right into the trap.
Mr. Speaker, the minister's right about one thing. Flo Kitts is well respect, but obviously not well respected by this government. He keeps raising the issue of the money that Flo Kitz' family rightfully received, and it shouldn't even be raised on the floor of this House.
What we're talking about is a problem that has arisen, that the YTA has talked about, that won't affect anybody but Flo Kitz' family, that will cost this government $24,000 - and it's got a $27 million surplus - and it can't find it in its heart to deal and do what's right for Flo Kitz' family.
I will ask the minister again if he will sit down with YTA, as they have requested through this letter, and meet with YTA to discuss this matter and do the right thing, and settle the estate of Flo Kitz the way it should have been settled long ago. It would have never had to be raised in this House if the minister would have done the right thing in the first place.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the member was right when he said that this matter shouldn't be raised on the floor of this House, and he was the one who raised it. He's using the memory of someone very well-respected and known throughout the territory as a political football - for no other purpose - and it's very disappointing, but in keeping with the tact of the members opposite.
Mr. Speaker, hundreds of thousands of dollars were paid out to this family in accordance with the collective agreement: a pension for the spouse, some benefits to one of the children who is attending an educational institution. All of that was entitled and that was paid in full and, Mr. Speaker, I would argue that that was in keeping with what the collective agreement, the collective bargaining process, yielded in terms of benefits.
In this particular case, if there was an issue about a discrepancy between the view of the Public Service Commission and the person in question, there is a grievance procedure within the collective agreement to follow up on that. Then, Mr. Speaker, there is also the collective bargaining process to engage in discussions about issues such as this. The issue of severance was not an oversight; that provision still applies today with managers of this government - under the NDP government as well as it did with the Yukon Party.
Mr. Speaker, the Public Service Commission has paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars as per the collective agreement in this particular case.
Mr. Phillips: Well, what a bunch of bunk. Mr. Speaker, this supposedly caring government has the opportunity, through the collective agreement, to settle this matter. What this is is a decision by this minister and this government that this person is not entitled to receive this benefit, and they won't sit down with YTA, as requested, to solve it.
I'd like to direct my final question to the Minister of Education because, Mr. Speaker, in this same issue there is a reference in the collective agreement, article 219.3 of the Education Act, that allows them to do the same thing.
The Public Service Commissioner doesn't have any heart, but I'd like to ask the Minister of Education if she would lobby her colleagues to sit down with the president of YTA and their people and come to some agreement on this very important issue and show that this government does have a heart and will do the right thing.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Deputy Speaker, the member opposite's rehearsed sanctimony is incredible. I am so disappointed that he would continue to use the memory of this fine woman on the floor of this House for nothing more than supposed or thought-out political gain.
This is not a matter of the money. It's a matter of what was in the collective agreement. What was in the collective agreement was that the Public Service Commission had to pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars in pensions to the spouse and children - which, of course, has been done. So, that's the principle here. What was negotiated through the collective bargaining process has been honoured.
The contract required a lot of money to be paid out in pensions. That has been done. The contract did not require severance to be paid out. That was a cognizantly negotiated provision by the Yukon Teachers Association, on behalf of its members, with the Public Service Commission. That was what was agreed to. The same provisions still exist today with the managers of this government, under the Yukon Party government and the NDP government. This matter can be further addressed through the collective bargaining process, and has been through the tentative discussions that have taken place thus far in this round of collective bargaining. That's the due process. As well, if there's an issue about monies not being paid out that were supposed to be, there's a grievance procedure, so that we don't politicize and have ministers deciding who gets what benefits according to the collective agreement.
Deputy Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of government private members' business
Hon. Mr. Harding: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to identify the item standing in the name of the government private members to be called on Wednesday, February 24, 1999. It is Motion No. 102, standing in the name of the Member for Watson Lake.
Deputy Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Deputy Speaker: Government bills.
Bill No. 14: Second Reading - previously adjourned
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 14, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald. Adjourned debate, Mr. Ostashek.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Deputy Speaker, before I get into responding to the budget speech, I want to go on the public record as voicing my concern with this government and their lack of courtesy and lack of cooperation with the opposition.
The normal practice of tabling budgets in the past was to table them on a Thursday afternoon to allow the opposition time to prepare a rebuttal speech. This government has changed that. They have a huge majority. They are going to get their way and do whatever they want anyhow, but they are using that huge majority just to bowl over the opposition and not allow them time to respond in a proper manner.
It may not be bad for members who speak further down the speaking order, but for myself, as leader of the official opposition, it makes it very difficult to prepare a speech in the short hours from the time the budget was delivered until I have to deliver it in this Legislature the next day.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, there would have been nothing wrong with the Minister of Finance tabling his budget Thursday afternoon, giving us the weekend to work on our rebuttal speeches and respond to it. But no, they chose not to do that.
When we look at this budget, I can probably understand why they did that. They don't want us to respond to it. They would like to keep the responses as brief as possible. They would like to continue to think that they can smoke this through and nobody will get into depth on it and see if there is anything in it, because there's not much substance in this budget.
Mr. Deputy Speaker - I may call you "Mr. Speaker" from time to time; that's a long title to refer to - a few years back, there was a slogan for the Department of Tourism in the Yukon. They called it "the magic and the mystery." Well I believe, Mr. Speaker, that the title for this budget should be the reality and the fantasy, and I'm going to take some time today to point out those fantasies that are in this budget.
The reality, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I believe, is in the document tabled by the Minister of Economic Development yesterday, the Yukon Economic Short-term Outlook 1999. The fantasy is this budget speech given by the Minister of Finance yesterday, that does nothing to address the short-term economic outlook - absolutely nothing. In the time I have today, I'm going to try to point out some of those things so that people will understand what we really have in this budget.
I also want to talk about how little this budget does to address immediate economic needs of Yukoners. I also want to point out some of the weaknesses in this budget in the area of land claims, which is only afforded two lines, I believe, in the entire budget - two lines. Devolution is only given a third of a page, "the deal of the century" - no ministerial statement, a third of a page in the budget.
I'm going to point out that what this government is doing is raising the operation and maintenance costs of government dramatically and cutting back on capital projects. I'm going to point out that the tax initiatives by this government in this budget are very, very meager, when you consider the amount of money they have at their disposal.
I'm going to point out that their long-range planning is a façade; it's fantasy and has nothing to do with reality.
Mr. Speaker, my biggest disappointment with this budget is that it does absolutely nothing to address the short-term needs of Yukoners.
Yukoners have been crying out for three long years - two and a half years, since this government came to power - for some economic leadership. What do we get from the government? We get trade and investment strategies. We're going to sell houses to South America and to Russia. We get all kinds of studies; all kinds of forums. Look through the budget book at the number of consultants that they've hired. Consultants to facilitate this, consultants to facilitate that - typical NDP government...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: ... whether it's in the Yukon, or whether it's anywhere else. "Consulting", we hear one of the backbenchers chirping. But they don't listen to what Yukoners are telling them. He's a perfect example of that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. He blew the DAP - blew it right out of the water. Now he's trying to fix it. Now he's trying to distance himself from it.
This government, with this budget, had the opportunity to put Yukon back on the right track. Their own budget numbers say they had the money to do it. They chose not to. They chose to leave those 15 percent unemployed to continue to be unemployed. They've done nothing over the last budget to put any more Yukoners to work than they did with their budget last year. And that's not good enough, in the economic downturn that they have caused because of their policies and regulations in relation to mining in the Yukon.
They are the ones that caused it, Mr. Deputy Speaker - they're the ones that caused it. They took over a booming economy -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: - we'll get to DAP later, we don't need that chirping from the backbenchers. We'll spend a lot of time on DAP in this budget speech, and we'll point out some of the realities of DAP.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, in 1996, Yukoners were well off. The private sector was booming. Seven-and-a-half percent unemployment - and the Member for Faro was saying, "That was still too much." Now he's quite content to live with 15, 16, 17 and possible 20 percent unemployment, because this short-term economic forecast says it's not over yet, folks.
It's going to get worse. It's going to get worse. "We know that," chirps the Member for Watson Lake. They didn't do anything to address it, if they knew it. Absolutely nothing.
I guess one of the most truthful lines in this budget, Mr. Speaker, is that "...every government's budget says a number of things about that government, about the economy in which it operates..." Well, we're going to see if it says anything about the economy it operates, because I haven't seen it in here yet, but it certainly does say something - it says a number of things - about the government. It says a number of things about the government.
It says the government doesn't care about the private sector. It says the government doesn't care about the 15 percent unemployed who are out there in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, I could support this government if they didn't have the money to do anything about it, but they've increased their surplus almost $13 million. Thirteen million dollars, Mr. Speaker, puts a couple of hundred Yukoners to work - jobs that are dearly needed now to put food on families' tables. But does this government do anything? No, they store it in a war chest for the next budget, which will be their election budget.
As I said yesterday, Mr. Speaker, they're building their election war chest on the backs of the unemployed.
That's what this government is doing.
Mr. Speaker, let's talk a little about the reality and the fantasy, and I thank the Minister of Economic Development for tabling the short-term economic outlook yesterday. I don't know why he did it, because it sure gives us a lot of ammunition to deal with in the budget reply speech.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: "Open government" - listen to this open government. They won't even answer requests for information. Open government. I have a stack of letters on my desk to the Government Leader and other ministers since the last session that still haven't been addressed. We are still waiting for the travel claims of the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to justify his use of a government car. I haven't had a reply from the Government Leader on it, even though he promised it in the last session.
That's the open government that the Member for Laberge is talking about. That's the open government.
Mr. Speaker, the short-term economic outlook doesn't paint a very rosy picture for the Yukon. What we have, Mr. Speaker, is a labour force that the short-term economic outlet says is going to continue to drop. The people are going to continue to leave the Yukon and go to work in other jurisdictions.
When the NDP government, in opposition prior to the last election, were criticizing us over the awarding of the hospital contract to an outside contractor, even though the bulk of the people from the Yukon were working on it, even had the nerve to go out and put out a bumper sticker saying that we were creating jobs in other jurisdictions. What has this government done to put Yukoners to work in the two and one-half years that they've been in office? Everybody has gone. A couple of thousand people have left the Yukon, and more are leaving every, every day.
Mr. Speaker, the Finance minister puts in this budget preamble here, "Building on Solid Foundations," that Yukon people know that we can no longer rely on a highly specialized boom-and-bust economy. Well, I would suggest to you what Yukoners really know is that they can no longer depend on this government to create an environment for investment in the territory so that they'll be able to get a job here.
Their friends are going to continue to leave. Their families are going to continue to leave, and we're going to have a much smaller Yukon by the time the fall of 2000 comes along, and people have a chance to turf this government out.
We heard this morning on the radio that wholesale sales were down 15 percent last year in the Yukon. They're up 12 percent in the Northwest Territories. The retail trade grew only at less than half the national average while, in the Northwest Territories, it has exceeded the national average. What it went on to say was that retail trade is a way of judging consumer confidence in their economies. I believe it shows the consumers have lost confidence in the Yukon economy and this government's ability to lead or direct that economy.
We only need to look at page four of the short-term economic outlook, and we see spending on exploration declining from $15.4 million in 1998 - let me point out, Mr. Speaker, that was in excess of $50 million in 1996 and it dropped to $35 million in 1997, and they're estimating a further $6 million drop in 1998, and they don't believe that it's going to pick up this year. The forecast right now, I believe, is for about $10 million, and they hope that, with the tax credit, it might grow to maybe something in the neighbourhood of $15 million. A pittance, when the government's own officials will tell them that if we're going to sustain a mining industry in the Yukon we need to have at least $30 million in grassroots exploration every year.
Mr. Speaker, I suggest to you and to members opposite that people have lost confidence in their government and are no longer exploring in the Yukon. And we'll hear the rhetoric from the Member for Faro, and other members over there: "It's the Asian flu, it's the metal prices." The fact remains that that's got an impact on a number of mines operating, but what we're having right now is that people have lost confidence in this government.
Junior mining companies can no longer raise exploration dollars to spend in the Yukon. They can raise exploration dollars, Mr. Speaker, to spend in Alaska - Canadian junior mining companies can. They can raise exploration dollars to explore in the Northwest Territories, but they can't raise exploration dollars to explore in the Yukon.
While the tax credit will help, it won't be the be-all and the end-all.
Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to speak too much about tourism because we have a tourism critic who is quite capable of defending tourism in the Yukon who'll speak at great length on it, but I just want to point out - I think even in the budget the Finance minister addressed it as the one bright light in the economy of the Yukon, and yet we only see an additional $200,000 allocated for marketing of the one bright light that we have. Pretty soon that light is going to dim, also, in a half a billion dollar budget.
Let's look a little further, in the economic short-term outlook, under construction. "Yukon building construction activity in 1999 will decline as the result of a general downturn in the Yukon economy. The Department of Community and Transportation Services has forecast that the value of building permits to fall to $35 million in 1999 from an estimated $41 million in 1998." And what's the rationale for it? A lower population, higher unemployment and reduced government capital spending are contributing to the lowered spending on building construction. A very clear message, and the government did not address that in their budget - again, the reality and the fantasy.
Retail trade is down, Mr. Speaker. The Yukon's short-term economic outlook is the reality that is facing Yukoners. That is what my constituents and all Yukoners are dealing with everyday when they're looking for a job. The reality is they can't find a job and this government is sitting on a pool of money that could have been used to put many Yukoners to work and it still would have left them with a healthy surplus - and they chose not to.
The Finance minister is perfectly correct in saying that this budget says a lot about the government and what their choices are and what their priorities are. And it certainly isn't to create jobs for Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, this budget does very, very little to stimulate the economy and will not do anything to stimulate the economy.
I'll point out another fantasy in this budget, Mr. Speaker. On page 6 it says, "Keeping O&M Spending in Check in the Face of Declining Revenues" - ha.
Well, Mr. Speaker, let's look at the reality of what that really is - what they call keeping the operation and maintenance of government in check. I go back to the historical main estimates, at the back of the book, and we find that since this government took power, since the 1996-97 main estimates were tabled by my government to this year's main estimates, the operation and maintenance of government has increased by $37.3 million. That's more than $10 million a year. And Yukoners are unemployed - lots of them.
Mr. Speaker, I think a quick perusal of the new government telephone directory shows there are some 200 new phones in there. Last session, the Government Leader denied that government was growing. That's still something I'm waiting for him to get back to me on - the inconsistency in the figures from the stats branch and what he's saying the Public Service Commission is putting out. That's another response I haven't received from this open, accountable government - the be-all and end-all.
So Mr. Speaker, that's some more fiction, or fantasy, in this very glossy document that we have in front of us here today.
Mr. Speaker, the government could have done more to put Yukoners to work today. They had the money; they chose not to. And we're going to continue to point that out to them over the next couple of months, as this session winds on and we go through this budget.
Let's just compare this fantasy document with what they promised Yukoners in their now-infamous A Better Way. What did they say in there about the economy? Well, not much. They didn't say much, but they did say something in here - I believe it's on page seven.
Here's what it says - I won't read it all, there's a lot of rhetoric in it - it says, "Yukon people want to stay in their communities, without being forced by circumstance to move." Well, man.
How many people have left the Yukon? How many people have left the Member for Watson Lake's community because of an NDP government? How many have left? How many have left every other community in the Yukon? How many have left Whitehorse?
They failed. Two and a half years into their mandate, and they have failed. That's more of the fantasy in this budget here.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: That's a good question. Then we're going to find, with this government, their attempts to distance themselves from issues they can't resolve. When this government came to power, they told Yukon people, "Under a Yukon Party government, Yukon land claim negotiations have been characterized by delays and mistrust. Most Yukon people's view is that land claim negotiations have dragged on far too long."
That's what Piers McDonald told Yukoners. Now, two and a half years into his mandate, I believe there are still seven outstanding claims to be settled. He promised Yukoners and the rest of this Legislature that all claims would be finalized by December of 1997. He came in and decimated the land claims department, hired a new chief land claim negotiator who, Mr. Speaker, is no longer with us. He's gone on to greener pastures.
And now, in the budget document, we get two lines on land claims. I'm not sure if the Finance minister in his budget speech is hoping that Yukoners will think, "Oh, well, not mentioned, all land claims must be settled."
I would suggest to the government opposite that they will not have land claims settled before they leave office in the fall of the year 2000. That's what they call speeding up land claims - speeding up land claims, Mr. Speaker.
And devolution. I will go on at great length on devolution here in a few minutes.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Deputy Speaker: The hon. Member for Watson Lake, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: I would like to point out that we don't have a quorum. The opposition members should probably roust out some of their colleagues to do their job and remain in the Legislature.
Mr. Ostashek: They should get some of the government backbenchers in here. They've got 11 members in their caucus, except for the ones who are away on holidays.
Deputy Speaker: I have shut off the bells, and I will do a count. There are 11 members present; a quorum is present. We will now continue debate.
Mr. Ostashek: I know my speech is kind of dull today, but if the Finance minister would have given me more time to prepare, I would have been able to entertain you better.
Mr. Speaker, I want to continue on my analysis of this document, which I call a fantasy in the minds of the members opposite, and how it won't do anything to put Yukoners to work, and I believe I was speaking on how little ink the land claims negotiations got on this, when it's a major, major issue that is still facing Yukoners. There are six or seven claims yet that need to be done and a whole lot of them that need to be implemented, and there has been a real lack of progress in the last year on these land claims. And, as I was saying earlier, I would suggest to the members opposite that, even though they felt they were dragging under an NDP government, that I would suggest to them that there's a good possibility - a better than average possibility - that they will not have the claims finalized before they leave office in the fall of 2000. That is a reality. That is a reality.
Don't count on it.
So that is what Mr. McDonald and the NDP call A Better Way.
Mr. Speaker, I'm going to speak at length on devolution in a few minutes, but I want to just look at a few other points and their priorities and their promises to Yukoners in this great document.
Well, as I said earlier, we heard the Finance minister say that tourism was one of the bright lights on the horizon; the only bright light in the Yukon economy, basically, is what he said. In their A Better Way document, under Tourism, they promised to increase the number of tourist attractions available in parts of the territory.
Well, they only have about 18 months left in their mandate and I don't see any of these attractions that they've initiated. In fact, they've slowed down some that were in progress when they came to office, such as the Historic Resources Centre, which was supposed to go in with the Beringia Centre. That would have added more tourists to the Yukon. They stopped that project and they increased the O&M of the government by $37.5 million and yet they can't keep the Beringia Centre open 12 months of the year because they didn't complete it. They didn't put the Historic Resources Centre there, which would have given them the ability to keep it open at very little cost.
But no, here we are again - "It's a Yukon Party idea; it had to be bad. It had to be bad so we're not going to go ahead with it. We're not going to go ahead with it, Mr. Speaker, but we're going to saddle the incoming administrations with projects into the next century even though we're not going to be in power and we're not going to have to worry about paying for them."
I'll speak a little more about long-range planning in a few minutes, Mr. Speaker - we'll speak a little more about that in a few minutes.
Now, we've got another - the nice part about this budget reply, as it goes on, Mr. Speaker, is we can tell when we're starting to get under the skin of these members opposite because they start kibitzing from the back benches. You see - there you are. The Member for Whitehorse West is upset now. I'm sorry about that, but he'll be a lot more upset before I'm finished this budget speech.
Mr. Speaker, I said that the mining community had lost confidence in this government, and that in fact is the truth. We can see that when we look at how the exploration dollars have dried up in the Yukon, yet junior mining companies can raise money to explore in the Northwest Territories, they can raise money to explore in Alaska, but they can't raise money to explore in the Yukon.
And it's no wonder, when you get The Fraser Institute survey saying Yukon is among the worst places to invest in North America. That's what they said in the last survey. While we finished tenth - it wasn't tenth; I think we finished higher than that for the best category in mineral potential - no, tenth of 31 jurisdictions. We were in the top third for mineral potential. We were hampered by land claims not being finished - uncertainty - followed by infrastructure, followed by protected spaces, regulatory duplication and inconsistencies - things this government could do things about, and they haven't done them.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Now, we hear the Member for Faro talk about devolution. Do you know what the mining community is telling me? My God, it's going to be the end of everything if these guys get their hands on it.
They didn't have the fortitude or the negotiating skills to get the ownership to the land and resources. They're going to be managers on behalf of a Liberal government. That's what they're going to be. The only government in Canada that didn't think that Yukoners should own their own land was the Liberals. Now we've got two. We've got the NDP government in the Yukon. Now we've got the NDP government in the Yukon.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Faro, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I thought the member opposite might be interested to note that at least one mining company doing business in the Yukon said that the Yukon is generally -
Speaker: There's no point of order.
Would the member continue.
Mr. Ostashek: I'm not sure if that was the mining company that the minister was going to go to Germany and flog shares for a couple of years ago that said that. So, Mr. Speaker, that's what the mining industry thinks of the Yukon as a place of investment.
Mr. Speaker, let's get back to the seriousness of this debate, because it is a serious issue, when a government loses confidence of the investors. That is why we're running 15 percent unemployment and that is why unemployment is going to go higher. That's why we've got a diminishing workforce, and this government has been the cause of it all, the root cause of it all.
Mr. Speaker, this document, as I said earlier, had the ability to address the immediate concerns of Yukoners and failed to do that. I'm going to be listening intently when the Finance minister gives his rebuttal as to why he, all of a sudden, believes, after going along for two budgets prior to this, saying a $15-million surplus was adequate, we now have to go to a $27 million or a $28-million surplus - it's over $28 million I believe - this year, or $28.6 million, when you include their contingency.
That's an increase of over $13 million in surplus. That requires some explanation, and I'll be looking to the Finance minister for an explanation of that, as we move through the budget document.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'd like to draw the Speaker's attention to the number of members in the House. Most of the opposition has grown tired of his speech.
Speaker: Quorum count has been called.
Speaker: I have shut off the bells, and I will do a count. There are 10 members present. A quorum is present. We will now continue debate.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'll now continue, after being so rudely interrupted by members opposite.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I have to comment on that. My colleagues know what's right. It's the members opposite who don't know, and they ought to be the ones who are listening.
I want to move along on this budget. I know there are many more members to speak, but I have quite a few things that I need to get on the public record now.
I want to turn now to the DAP. I want to go back to A Better Way and see what this government said, before they were elected, they were going to do with DAP, the development assessment process.
Go back to that infamous document, A Better Way, which was almost as much of a fantasy as their budget is this year, when you start looking at how little of it has really been accomplished.
It says in here on DAP that, "In many parts of Canada, processes like the DAP have often been cumbersome, complicated, time consuming, expensive and, worst of all, unsatisfying for most people involved: developers, environmentalists, communities and First Nations. The Yukon DAP offers a one-window approach to the environmental assessment development of federal, territorial and First Nations' interests, all rolled into one process.... An NDP government led by Mr. Piers McDonald will make the negotiating of the development assessment process a top priority in implementing Yukon land claims."
Now, what has really happened with DAP? Well, let's look at what really happened with DAP. Prior to the last election, the NDP thought there was a political issue in DAP. They were going to take a government bureaucratic process, they were going to open it up to all the public, and they were going to win a lot of brownie points with it. Well, this one really blew up in their face.
It blew up in their face so badly that they've disbanded the DAP commission, they're running and trying to hide from DAP, trying to distance themselves, trying to blame the last government yet - accusing the last government of things that weren't fact, that weren't fact at all.
Let me just give the members opposite - since their memories are so short - a brief history lesson on DAP.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party government officials, and federal officials, were negotiating a package for DAP that they could take to the public - a package that would be fairly acceptable. If it wasn't, we'd take it back for re-draft. What happened? That's what I said when DAP was basically finished. It was basically to the point where the Yukon NDP took two and a half years to get to - to take a document to the public.
That's what they took two and a half years to do. It was a very expensive commission and a lot of cost involved, and they took a document that Yukoners told them to scrap, burn, get rid of it. Mining companies won't invest in the Yukon because of the DAP document.
So, Mr. Speaker, that's what has happened with DAP. Why did it happen? Well, let me put on record what I believe happened with DAP.
The federal bureaucrats see Mr. McDonald making a big political issue out of DAP and saying, "Well, if you want DAP, we'll give you DAP." And they went and gave them DAP on top of everything else, instead of merging it.
Now we have this government trying to distance themselves and say that that's federal and that it has nothing to do with us - the same as what the Member for Watson Lake did with forestry. It's the same thing. He distanced himself from it.
Now you hear him down there beating the drum and saying, "It's a federal thing. That's a federal thing." But Mr. McDonald tried to politicize DAP, and he failed. He failed to get an agreement. Now, after leadership that was provided by the Yukon Party - not by the New Democrats - in contacting the federal government and causing a barrage of letters to go to the federal minister - including the Liberals, finally, a month later; they finally got around to writing a letter on DAP once they saw which way the public was going on it so they knew they'd be going the same way as the public. The Liberal Party is very good from leading from behind. The public out ahead of them, and then, "We're going to come out, and we'll give you leadership. We'll give you leadership." Yeah, a month later. That was a month later. It was at the Cordilleran Roundup when the leader of the Liberal Party finally spoke out on DAP. I didn't see a Liberal representative at the DAP meeting in town. I saw a NDPer, the former DAP commissioner, who snuck out early, and wouldn't even wait to hear what everybody had to say.
So, they've failed on DAP; they've failed Yukoners and now they're trying to say, "Well, we're going to stand up for you and we're not going to sign off on it until it's right." Go back and look at Hansard from last December when I asked the Government Leader what he was going to do, and he said Yukoners didn't understand DAP. He said that's all that's wrong with it; they don't understand it.
After we chose to make an issue out of it and provided the political leadership that that government should have been doing, they came onstream, and now they're doing the right thing and not signing on to DAP until it's correct. That'll probably still be outstanding when the new government takes office in the fall of 2000 - unbelievable. But that's what happened with DAP; that's exactly what happened with DAP.
Mr. Speaker, I know that DAP is a federal process. I know you have to work with federal bureaucrats to get a document, but for this government now to come along and say that they're the saviour after they told Yukoners at that meeting - I believe in December or early January - their representatives on DAP, their deputy commissioner, that this thing was going to Ottawa within a month. That's what they told Yukoners. It wasn't there for input; it was there to show them what was going to implemented. Now, they're playing catch up. Again, as with the land claims, they have failed. They have failed to provide leadership for Yukoners. It's unfortunate because it is a main obstacle of mining investment in the Yukon, and anybody who has invested in the Yukon will tell you that.
The Minister of Economic Development knows it; he just won't admit it. Stuff like DAP, stuff like the protected spaces strategy, are the wrong bills at the wrong time.
And it's not going to get any better under this administration, I'm afraid. So, that's another flip-flop for this government. They turn around, and now they want to distance themselves from it. All of a sudden, it's not a great political issue any more for them.
Let's look at what else they've done to mining in the Yukon. Let's look at the new mineral strategy they're talking about now. Let's look at what caused the birth of this mineral strategy. It came to be because they were trying to get the Yukon Chamber of Mines to accept their protected areas strategy - "Well, you sign on here, and we'll give you a mineral strategy." First, it was going to be announced at the Geoscience Forum in November. Then, it was going to be announced at the Cordilleran. I believe they even gave the Chamber of Mines $20,000 to do some work on it. The Economic Development minister comes out and says, "Oh, yeah, yeah. We'll put a mineral strategy in place. Not much to it - most of the blocks are in place already. We've got the geoscience office, we've got this, we've got that - it's all there. We've just got to pull it together - a mineral strategy."
Let me suggest to the Minister of Economic Development and his colleagues that the best mineral strategy that they could give Yukon at this time would be to bury the DAP, put a hold on protected spaces, and they might see some investment in the Yukon. That would be the best mineral strategy that you could have in the Yukon today.
Mr. Speaker, we've got a 22 percent tax credit for mining investment. Well, that sounds good on the surface. It's a refundable tax credit.
Again, I think it points out the inconsistencies of this government.
I say it's good on the surface and it could work, but not in the form that it's in. First of all, this is what they're doing with that and this is what's going to incense Yukoners. The news media will play the tapes, don't worry about it. They want to hear what I have to say. And, just for the members opposite, if they don't, I'll put out a press release tomorrow.
Now, where was I - mineral tax credit. Here's what they're doing with the mineral tax credit. First of all, it took me about two weeks from the time I wrote to the Government Leader to ask for a briefing on this before Finance could brief me on it. They came down and said they couldn't add much more to it than what I already knew. Why? Because this is in the hands of Revenue Canada, whether they accept the argument being made by the exploration company that they're entitled to it as residents of the Yukon. They don't file a tax return here, most of them, but the key word in this is "refundable" tax credit. So, what this government's going to do to mining companies that don't pay territorial tax, if they can get by Revenue Canada, they're going to cut them a cheque for 22 percent of their eligible expenses. They're going to cut them a cheque. All well and good but, on the other side of the ledger, Mr. Speaker, we have the local hire commission, which has made recommendations that are being implemented by Government Services, that a lot of Yukon businesses here don't qualify as Yukon businesses any more and they won't even give them any work with the government. How are they going to sell that to the public?
Unbelievable. That is the inconsistency. Well, we've got people coming to our office, Mr. Speaker. We've got people complaining to our office that they're being unfairly treated by this government. Forty-year residents of the Yukon, and they don't qualify to do business with the government. Unbelievable.
Yet, on the other hand, we're going to cut a cheque to mining companies that can satisfy Revenue Canada.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: No, I'm not. I'm against the inconsistencies of this government, and the inconsistencies that drive investment away.
So that's what we have going for us in the Yukon with an NDP government, and that's why our exploration is drying up to next to nothing. I don't believe there's going to be a big increase with the tax credit. First of all, it's too late for this year. It was announced with a big fanfare, and all the good things it was going to do. I don't think it's going to be a big impact on Yukon at all, and I don't think it's going to be a big impact next year. So there we go.
Then, what else do we have here to put an obstacle in front of mining? We have the protected areas strategy, a strategy that we only gave cautious support to. We said we would only be supportive depending on how it was implemented, and it was only given conditional support by the mining community.
Mr. Speaker, we are concerned about the interim protection that's going to be given to lands. We raised questions in that regard. The biggest problem we had with the protected spaces strategy still is that the government will not put any ceiling on it. The only ceiling we have is the Minister of Renewable Resources standing up in this House and saying, "Well, I can assure Yukoners it won't be 50 percent of the Yukon that's protected." What comfort that's going to give to people who want to invest in the Yukon and who want to explore in the Yukon.
Not much. Not much.
Now, where were our friends on our far left on protected spaces? Where were they? They stood up in this House and gave unequivocal support. They said it was in their campaign platform. Then the wind must have changed between last fall - in November or December, when the leader of the Liberal Party responded to the minister's statement in the House - and this is what she said: "Let there be no mistake about my position or the Yukon Liberal Party caucus. We support protecting Canada's endangered spaces, including the Yukon's. We believe in developing a protected areas strategy."
Then, all of a sudden the wind changed. She felt something blowing. She had her finger up to see which way Yukoners were going on this issue, and what did she say at the Cordilleran Roundup some two months later? Areas of concern with the protected areas strategy, the land claims process and the pending development process need to be addressed.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Mr. Harding, a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, there must be something in the air of the Legislature, because I'm totally agreeing with the leader of the official opposition on this point.
Speaker: There is no point of order. Please continue.
Mr. Ostashek: But that's what she said two weeks later, and the Liberals want to lead the Yukon. Well, what they'll do is that they'll push all Yukoners out in front of them and see which way they're going, and then they'll say, "We'll do that. We'll do that." That's what they call leadership - "Let's make sure we know which way Yukoners are going, and then we'll do that."
That's where the Liberal Party stood on that. One thing about it, whether the members opposite like it or not, they know where the Yukon Party stands on these issues. We don't change from day to day.
Let's look at another area where this government has failed, and where they've lost the confidence of investors in the Yukon. Statements made by the Government Leader, and by the Member for Faro, when they were in opposition, about protection of the Porcupine caribou herd wintering grounds - adamantly opposed to any development. The Member for Faro apparently - at the environmental hearing at the college - told the people there that he was totally against the Northern Cross. Totally against it is what he said. Then when he's asked last fall, when the issue's raised, he conveniently says, "I can't remember what I said at that forum." I mean, this is the same type of memory he had when he was fishing on Teslin Lake.
Mr. Speaker, the Government Leader himself says wintering grounds are critical habitat. We can't have development there. That was when he was in opposition. But now that he's in government, he says, "I didn't say that at all. You just can't drill on the calving grounds. And we'll develop all the wintering grounds that we want." But yet, on the opposite hand, they're giving $97,000 in CDF grants to the Caribou Commons Project, to go around North America to promote the protection of calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd from oil and gas development.
Now, here we have - and I'm not trying to belittle members opposite - this points out the ignorance of the government in their assessment of what is critical habitat and what is not.
And we have members over there who grew up in the wilderness, and I don't know why they don't grasp it - that the wintering grounds are what controls the size of the herd. Any biologist will tell you that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Absolutely not. We're not opposed to them, and we never have been. That's why people invested under a Yukon Party government. It's the inconsistencies and the mixed signals that this government is sending to Yukoners.
I accused them last year in this Legislature of having three speeches, and the same holds true. They've got one for developers, one for First Nations, and another one for the environmentalists. And that's why they've lost the confidence of the investment community. You can't take different positions to suit yourself politically and expect the people of the Yukon to trust you.
Mr. Speaker, we've seen editorials from both environmentalists and developers on this issue - more so from environmentalists than from developers, because the developers like to see the government changing position, even though they use it as a political crutch and a tool to get elected: "We ain't going to develop. No, sir, we're against Northern Cross." They even told the Old Crow people they supported their court challenge. Now he can't remember saying that.
Mr. Speaker, it's little wonder that - as stated by the editor of the Canadian Journal on Environmental Education - Mr. Bob Jickling, a friend of this government, said that the Minister of Economic Development and the Government Leader have had a Pinocchio coalition, and they're tripping over their collective noses. What goes around, comes around, Mr. Speaker - to the Member for Faro.
So, Mr. Speaker, that is some of the reason that we're in the grave economic situation we are in the Yukon - investors have lost confidence in this government, they don't know what this government stands for, they don't know if they come in here and stake ground if they'll be able to mine it, so they're not coming. They're going to other jurisdictions, and they're going in droves.
Mr. Speaker, let's move on to devolution because I'm really concerned about the response that the Government Leader gave me today in my questions about why he didn't instruct his negotiators to seek ownership of land and resources.
Now, apparently, from what he said in the House today, he is going against the former NDP position, against the position stated by a former NDP leader who was probably the most knowledgeable constitutional person in the Yukon, Mr. Penikett, who believed we already had a Crown. He's going against the thinking of Yukon governments from the early 1980s in the fact that he says now that he agrees with the federal Liberals and Liberals in general that Yukon cannot have ownership of land and resources because we do not have a Crown.
I believe that the Government Leader has failed to fight in the best interests of Yukoners, and he's taken that position without going to the full extent of the law to find out if the federal government is right or if all the constitutional experts that have been consulted on it are right. Constitutional scholars have said that we have a Crown. We have a de facto Crown here, and all it takes is an amendment to the Yukon Act.
The Member for Watson Lake had better do some research before he starts speaking out against the position I'm taking on this, because he's going to find out that many of his constituents believe that Yukoners have a fundamental right to own the land and resources and it doesn't take a constitutional amendment to do it. It's only been the Liberal governments that have ever taken that position, and that's why, prior to 1985, prior to the 1985 election, Mr. Speaker, when the Yukon Conservative Party was in power in Ottawa - the hon. Erik Nielsen was the deputy prime minister at the time - and I believe the leader of the Liberal Party was his executive assistant.
The legislation was drafted. I have the legislation here, the draft revisions, 1985, an act to provide for the Government of Yukon, and it says in here - this is a simple amendment that would have legalized the de facto Crown that we have here today. What constitutional experts say about that issue - and I'm glad that I have this forum today where I can't just get it out in Question Period because it's a very important issue to all Yukoners - is that if you don't accept that the Yukon has a Crown, then you don't accept that the Yukon can make its own laws.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: That's right. That's a darned good question. What are we doing here?
Mr. Speaker, it also says that the courts uphold our laws that are signed by the Commissioner. We have a de facto Crown, and as a result of that, all it will take is a simple amendment to the Yukon Act to give it full authority.
It's being recognized now, so the argument that we don't have the right to own land and resources is wrong, but that we need to be a province. Why do I say that? Because I think the NDP themselves know that that is not the right argument because they stated it in their A Better Way, when they made the reference here that "this represents the greatest transfer of federal responsibility since agreements with the Prairies in 1930 and the greatest transfer of political responsibility to the territory since the people of the Yukon earned the right to elect their own Legislature."
In referring to 1930, they are saying that that is when Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba were given the ownership of the lands, when in fact they were provinces at the turn of the century. It was 1905 when Alberta came in and the other ones were right around that time. They didn't own their land and resources until 1930. Now, if the Government Leader signs this devolution agreement on behalf of Yukoners, I don't believe that we will see the ability to own and control our own lands and resources in our lifetime.
And I would hope that before this session of the Legislature is over we can convince the Government Leader - because this is a very important issue, Mr. Speaker, a very, very important issue to a lot of Yukoners - that we can convince the Government Leader that he ought to refer this issue to the Supreme Court of Canada and get a ruling before he signs onto an agreement that is going to keep the federal government looking over our shoulders for many, many years in the future.
We all agree with land claims. We all agree with First Nations ability to own the land and resources on their lands. What is wrong with the rest of the Yukoners owning the rest of the land and resources through their public government on behalf of all Yukoners? It's only fairness, and the federal government has no business - and they don't have a legal right, I believe - to say, "You have to have a constitutional amendment before we can transfer the land and resources to you."
We have a legal opinion, Mr. Speaker, from January 1993. It had nothing to do with the devolution talks of the DIAND programs, but it had everything to do with devolution of the federal Crown to the territorial government. That legal opinion says that in fact we do have a de facto Crown here now, and all it will take is a simple amendment to the Yukon Act to give it full power.
So, I'm hoping to be able to convince the Government Leader that this issue is serious enough and important enough to Yukoners that we ought to take it to the Supreme Court and have the Supreme Court rule on it before he signs off on an agreement that is going to tie the hands of Yukoners forever.
There is another very important issue here that I believe is being missed, and I will be asking many questions in Question Period to get it out in the public forum for debate.
The Government Leader himself said we can provide environmental protection for the lands, we can dispose of lands after the federal government signs off on them. That may be okay. They said it's just a formality, but I'm very suspect of the federal government at any time.
What we have here in the agreement, as I've looked through it and from the briefings I've got from the negotiator, is that, after we sign the agreement, the Yukon is accepting potential environmental liability on any future developments in the Yukon, post-devolution. The federal government will retain some responsibility for mines in the Yukon now.
My question to the Government Leader and to all Yukoners is this: why would we assume environmental liability over lands we don't own? Why would we do that? Why would we want to do that? We don't own the land. The federal government still retains ownership of it, and we're going to be stuck with the potential environmental liabilities, which could run into millions and millions and millions of dollars.
I don't think Yukoners want that, and I believe that this is a fundamentally important issue.
I also want to put on the public record that, in 1996, when this process started and I was a Government Leader - it started in 1995 - when we finally got a document from the federal government just prior to the election, there was a meeting called by one of the businessmen in town who knew the consultant who was working on behalf of the federal minister, the Hon. Ron Irwin. Because that's where this thing came from - an agreement between Mr. Irwin and me that we should transfer it all at once when the forestry agreement broke down - that it should all be done at one time.
We had a meeting with a Mr. Wright, and there were many Yukoners around that table, probably 30-35 Yukoners, and I spoke on the issue of ownership. There were past commissioners there, there were other people who spoke on it. Mr. Wright took the federal Liberal position that you can't own it because it takes a constitutional amendment, and the Prime Minister won't entertain that. I said he was wrong. Other Yukoners said he was wrong. And what I gleaned from that meeting was that those people around that table felt that that was a clause that needed to be addressed at the negotiating table, and Yukoners should have the fundamental right to own their land and resources.
So I encourage the government and the Government Leader to fight hard on behalf of Yukoners and to not buy into the Liberal argument that we can't own our land and resources, because we don't have a Crown - when in fact it's quite the opposite.
In the provinces, they were provinces before they even owned their own land. Owning land has nothing to do with provincial status. Provincial status means the federal government can no longer make laws on your land. You make your own laws. That's what it is. It has nothing to do with ownership, and they can, in fact, give us that. And we already have a Crown.
I put it on the public record, and I'm going to be speaking more on it in the future, because it's a very important issue to me.
I want to speak a little bit about the tax breaks in this budget. We're all in favour of tax breaks.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Here we go again. Here we go again - we raised taxes. We raised taxes to cover up the mistakes of the previous NDP government - to pay off the bills. They argued in the Legislature that the taxes weren't required, yet they turned around and they won't give them back to Yukoners.
In the first session of this Legislature, right after the election, we brought in a motion on a child tax credit, which was voted down by members opposite. It would only have cost about $600,000 to give a break to all parents in the Yukon - all parents. Now, they've decided to target those who really need it. But what they've done is target a lot of people who don't even pay income tax or pay very little income tax. It's cut off at $22,000. I don't believe anybody under $20,000 pays taxes any more in Canada. And I think that's been raised with the new federal budget that the Finance minister just tabled in Ottawa.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: The point is, that they could have given a tax break to all parents - that's my point - so people making over $35,000, $40,000 a year don't get anything out of this; they get absolutely nothing out of this.
And they have a hard time making it sometimes, too.
So, while we can support tax breaks that, you know, are directed at certain wage earners, I believe that the government could have gone much further, especially with the fact that they're getting windfall transfers from the federal government because of tax cuts in other jurisdictions. Over $10 million they've gleaned already in the two and a half years that they've been in power.
The Member for Whitehorse West frowns. Well, go ask the Finance department. We've been pushed closer to the national average every budget that comes out across this country. And in fact Yukoners are paying more in taxes under an NDP government than they were under a Yukon Party government because of tax cuts in other jurisdictions.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: That's right. That's right. It's the truth. That's why, Mr. Speaker.
So, Mr. Speaker, they could have done much better in that area.
One of the things that I want to talk about here is - I'm just going to go back one bit on devolution and on responsibilities and on forestry and on lack of leadership by this government, and I think it was demonstrated again quite clearly on the forestry, on the sawmill in Watson Lake. It was the Yukon Party again that provided the leadership by writing a letter to the Minister of DIAND to get these DIAND officials here to clean up their act and get some timber permits out. A couple of days later, the Member for Watson Lake decided to write a letter, after the Yukon Party took the lead. Then a couple of days later, the Minister of Economic Development said, "Well, by God, I better get on the bandwagon too, and I better write a letter." And then a few weeks later, along came the Liberals, and they get on the bandwagon after they saw which way Yukoners were going.
I have just one more thing to point out about the lack of leadership of the Liberals. The same thing happened with the director of marketing. We came out on January 14, and the Member for Porter Creek South came out on January 18, after she sees the editorials in the papers and knows that she's on the right side of the issue - the "me too" party, Mr. Speaker. So, so much for leadership.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Point of order.
Mr. Fentie: The statement by the leader of the official opposition that the Yukon Party supplies leadership is so ridiculous, it must be unparliamentary.
Speaker: There is no point of order. Please continue.
Mr. Ostashek: You can sure tell when you're getting under the skin of the members opposite, when you point out that they're not doing the job they were elected to do. It gets to them.
Mr. Speaker, I have a couple more points I want to make on this budget, and I'm going to have plenty of time to debate the other issues as we go through the budget on a clause-by-clause basis.
I want to speak a little bit about this long-range planning. The government wants to engage in multi-year projects. That's fine, but they should have brought them in in the first year of their mandate and paid for them from revenues that were coming to the Yukon during the term of their mandate. They should not be imposing their will on future governments by starting projects that future governments are going to have to continue. That is not right. If these are their pet projects, and they want them to continue, then they had better have the money in this budget and the next budget before they go to the people.
That's what they should be doing. To come in with 18 months left in their mandate, and start planning for things in the year 2003 is wrong. I would suggest to you, if those members were in opposition, and any other government tried that, they would be totally incensed.
Oh, now we hear the Member for Faro saying, "The CAP". The CAP was almost paid for by the time this government got in. It was ready to expire. It was a multi-year project that ran during the life of our government. So it's much different from planning projects that aren't even going to hardly be off the shelf before the next government comes along. That, in my opinion, is not right - not morally right, and I'm not even sure it's legally right, Mr. Speaker.
I want to turn now to another area about the fantasy of this budget, and the reality of a short-term economic outlook that didn't get what it wished for in there. It says on page 6 of the short-term economic forecast, Mr. Speaker, "Highway construction in Yukon will get a boost in 1999 with increased funding from the United States for the Shakwak project. The inflow of capital, combined with other Yukon highway spending and spending on the Whitehorse airport runway extension, should provide much needed gain to the Yukon economy."
That's what the short-term economic outlook is looking for. What did the budget do? Well, let's go to Community and Transportation Services' capital budget. This is with Shakwak funding included. This is what they did. The overall capital expenditure budget of the Department of Highways only increased by $2 million, and that's with $19 million of Shakwak funding.
Last year, the Government of the Yukon paid $10.1 million in highway construction in their budget.
This year they're paying $3.6 million. Yukoners are not benefiting from the Shakwak project in the manner that they should be benefiting. The government is using it to make it look like they're spending a lot of money when, in fact, they've cut back $7 million out of highways construction in this budget. That's what they have done. They have not increased it. They have cut and cut badly, and that's exactly what we said in this Legislature when the Shakwak funding came in.
I believe I said it - or I believe the Yukon Party critic for highways said it - that they didn't want to see the territorial government in the next budget cutting their highways budget because of the Shakwak budget - and they did.
They could've put a lot of Yukoners to work for that extra $7 million. Why didn't they do it? Why didn't they address the very pressing problem of the 15 percent unemployed in the Yukon today? It's fine to plan for the future, but if there is nobody here, what's the good of planning for it?
If we continue in the manner that this government is going, the population in the Yukon is going to be a lot smaller by the time this mandate runs out. It's a lot smaller now than when they came to office and it's going to be smaller yet, and that's not right when we have a surplus. They built the surplus to $28.6 million and they don't put Yukoners to work. They don't put Yukoners to work, and then they say that they're providing economic leadership.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: The Minister of Economic Development says, "Buy people off." We're not trying to buy people off; we're trying to put Yukoners to work. We're trying to put food on their table.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, they were able for two years to keep a $15-million surplus. The surplus this year - we had a forecast of $15 million last year - on March 31 is projected to be $60 million.
And they're not putting Yukoners to work. This is the time that government should be intervening and putting people to work while the mining industry is down, while other things are down. But no, they're going to sit on their hands and build monuments to themselves in the year 2003 and not put Yukoners to work now. So therefore they are not providing good government, and that's why I say that this is a fantasy document, and when the rest of Yukoners dig through it, they are going to see it for what it really is.
Mr. Speaker, if we had a government that was concerned about the unemployed in the Yukon, the people who can't get jobs, the people whose employment insurance has run out, people who are on welfare rolls, they would have taken at least that extra $13 million, which they've stashed away for their election year, and put Yukoners to work. That's a lot of jobs, $13 million. They still would have had an ample reserve for any unforeseen circumstances. They had managed it in prior years. As I said, the budget projection for March 31 this year is $60 million. That $28.6 million that they've got put aside for next year, if we go on historical fact, is going to be in the neighbourhood of $70 million, and Yukoners need jobs. Why has this budget not delivered jobs?
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I am so pleased to follow the leader of the official opposition in my budget reply. I have been struck by the criticism of the Liberal and Yukon Party opposition to this budget.
I'm not criticizing, Mr. Speaker. There is constructive criticism. There is bad criticism. There is weak criticism, and there is weaker criticism. I would argue that the Liberal and Yukon Party leaders have hit the top end of the Richter scale on the weakest criticisms of this budget that could possibly be contrived. Now, I know they only had a couple of hours from the budget lock-up until the time they hit the media, but surely a decent opposition could have found something more productive and constructive to say.
Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, if you analyze the criticism of the opposition, the so-called fiscally conservative Yukon Party leader is stating that government should spend more. A $21 million current-year deficit to invest in Yukoners isn't enough for him. He says we should drive the entire territory into debt and propagate a boom-bust spending cycle on capital projects that if we take money out of this year is going to yield more hardship for Yukoners in the following years to come.
There will be consequences to action if you spend down in this fiscal year. Anybody who runs a government knows that.
You have to engage in stable spending. We said, when we took over government, we were going to have stable, predictable spending patterns. It would be extremely irresponsible for us to spend on our savings account to a point that we cannot sustain, just in one year - take the easy road. We've got to be thinking one, two, three, four, five years into the future.
Mr. Speaker, Yukoners will remember the boom-bust spending patterns of the previous government. One year they were spending big time, then they were sending out signals that the government was broke, then they were raising taxes and implementing wage cuts, then the all-clear sign was once again given and they had big spending money to slap into capital. People grew tired of that. Then they wrapped themselves around megaproject mentality. The only way we could develop economically was to have megaprojects. Well, this side of the House wants megaprojects but we don't focus entirely on them, because you're setting yourself up to further propagate a boom-bust economy.
You've got to diversify, you've got to stabilize that economy, and you've got to work the resource sector so that, when the big projects come along, they're a bonus to the economy but not the entire base.
Mr. Speaker, we're not going to fall into that spending pattern of the Yukon Party, no matter how much the leader of the official opposition argues that we should spend, spend, spend. We felt that a $21 million current-year deficit tapping into the savings was enough. It was sustainable.
With regard to the Liberal leader, she said - if you can believe this - "There's no substance in the budget." Fifty new initiatives - innovative initiatives - in this budget - initiatives never before seen by Yukoners: on tax credits, on technology innovations, on tourism marketing funds. Support for municipalities - we've fundamentally changed the way municipalities will govern themselves, and become very responsible - a heightened level of responsible development, even more responsible than they are now. They'll be taking the governing of municipalities to a new level.
That's a fundamental change, and a lot of Yukoners don't recognize that yet. But that's going to allow people on the ground in the communities to make decisions that they couldn't make before, which is going to be to the benefit of Yukoners. And it's a risk - I think we're the only jurisdiction in the country that's doing this, but we have faith in the municipal politicians, that they'll be able to accept that responsibility, and deal responsibly in their communities. We know that they will.
Mr. Speaker, these are all ground-breaking initiatives in this budget, and for the member opposite to say, "Well, when you really look at the budget, there's no substance," is the weakest criticism I've heard. At least the leader of the official opposition said something.
When you really look through it, the lack of substance isn't in the budget, it's in the leadership of the Liberal Party, and their inability to put forward any alternatives. They stated to Yukoners that they'd be the alternative to the "politics of confrontation". But what we've seen from the Liberal Party is anything but that. They are more encouraged - even further out in front of the bloodthirsty politics practiced by the Yukon Party. Witness the last two days of Question Period as one example, where they've gone after the throat of the Tourism ministry, gone after public servants, they've gone after citizens on hiring committees - all the smell of blood in the water.
And, Mr. Speaker, what I want to tell them is that they're taking the easy route in that criticism, as well. But that criticism, when you push it too far, will end up coming back on you. And that's exactly what I'm hearing from Yukoners. They're not responding in any way, shape or form to what they're hearing from the opposition because the reality on the ground is that our budget has been derived from listening to people. That's a cliché in politics, but I've got to tell you that I'm more proud of this budget than any of the budgets I've seen in the seven years that we've worked in this Legislature, because it truly does respond to all of the meetings we've had with communities, with municipal governments, with First Nations, with business groups, with labour interest, with women's groups, with the seniors. It is responding with new extended care facilities, with anti-poverty groups in trying to put more income in the hands of those who need it most.
Mr. Speaker, this budget is about balance, and it's about listening to people and responding to their needs. I can truly say - and this is not just a political cliché - that we are very, very proud of the response we've gotten from Yukoners because they're telling us that they spoke to us, and we listened. You don't hear that very often in this business, so I've got to say that we've got to produce more of the same.
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to talk a little bit about something very important - the devolution process and the criticism levied by the leader of the official opposition. I cannot, for the life of me, understand where the member opposite is coming from, if it's not just plain bitterness - if it's not just plain dissatisfaction with his efforts as a Government Leader, which failed on the devolution score.
Mr. Speaker, this government has devolved oil and gas responsibility to this territory. We have delivered mining, forestry, management of lands, water - all to the people of the Yukon Territory and this Legislature. That's a monumental achievement. And, Mr. Speaker, we didn't do it - like the leader of the official opposition tried - without First Nation governments. We involved them in the entire process.
We had tripartite agreements never before seen in the Yukon Territory bringing people along with us and, Mr. Speaker, that's something that the member opposite ought not to criticize. It's something that I know is very popular. If the member talks to people in Watson Lake about this deal, he'll find out that if he tries to make that argument down there, he'll be shouted out of the room, because they want the management of the resources.
And legal opinions aside, I want to tell the member opposite that when we did the oil and gas transfer, we had a legal opinion that said we didn't have to follow the Northern Accord as it was set out, because the will of this Legislature was paramount, and they had violated the Northern Accord too. That didn't matter. The federal government still said, "If you don't do it, we're not going to give it to you." Well, I said, "We've got to put food on the table for Yukoners; we've got to get the job done here." So, I came in this House, and I repassed the bill, not because I believed that we had to, but because I wanted to develop oil and gas for Yukoners to raise revenues for government to invest in the economy and to put people to work.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I also want to say that with the legal opinion that the member references on devolution, it's complete hogwash. We felt we had to make a fundamental change. We had to do something on the ground. We had to take responsibility as a government for our actions, and I'm sure that it's a daunting prospect for the Yukon government, just as I'm sure that other issues that have been raised from municipalities in this budget - giving them new responsibilities - are somewhat daunting.
Well, we'll rise to the challenge. We did something on the ground for Yukoners that is going to fundamentally affect this territory for years to come.
And, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite says that we shouldn't have taken this deal because of the environmental liability issue. Well, I want to say to him that we're not accepting environmental liability for decisions made before the transfer, but we must take responsibility for consequences and decisions we make. The umbilical cord to the federal government has got to end if we are going to be a truly responsible government in control of the resources of this territory - all of the resources.
Mr. Speaker, the dependency relationship that is promoted by the Yukon Party on Ottawa and on government spending has got to stop. This economy and this territory only grow when we have responsibility and take control of managing our resources. It will only grow when the economy and economic players come together. I'm talking about First Nations; I'm talking about municipal governments, territorial governments, the business community, labour interests. When we all start talking about how we can help each other accomplish an agenda that is a betterment of Yukon people, then we will truly succeed.
Mr. Speaker, I've got to say that I'm starting to see that in the Yukon community. I'm starting to hear that from people. They're saying, "Government can't change the commodity markets around the world. We know our economy's been based on government, mining and tourism - and mining has been in trouble and government has less revenues - so what can we do in a new way?"
So, what do we do as a government? We put 50 new initiatives in the budget - never before seen, all innovative, all as a response to what we heard from people.
Mr. Speaker, governing is not easy, but if you recognize that if you listen to the people and you involve them in those decisions, they're going to respond well for the most part and we're really pleased about this budget.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite, the leader of the official opposition, said we're building a war chest on the backs of the unemployed. What a ridiculous comment. We are spending in a stable manner, as I said before. We're investing millions of dollars in capital projects, from the Watson Lake recreational centre to the extended care facility to the airport runway extension to millions of dollars in highway construction, school construction - something the Yukon Party didn't build; one school in their entire term of office. We're going to be building three.
Mr. Speaker, we just don't believe that all of the economy should ride on government spending. That's why we balanced out our capital spending with tax incentives like the mineral exploration tax credit, like the small business tax credit. You can imagine, Mr. Speaker, what that's going to do. A person can invest $100,000 in a business in the Yukon.
And if they have any tax payable going three years back or seven years ahead, they're going to be able to write off $25,000 of that $100,000 investment, thus reducing the risk - yeah, three years back, seven years ahead - thus reducing the risk quotient of their investment 25 percent. Now, if the investment goes well, then they also gain from the equity on the initial $75,000 they put in, to go with the $25,000 tax credit. That's not substance? That's monumental for this territory, to see the government use the tax system to encourage development. We saw the Yukon Party approach. That was to raise taxes, obscenely, the biggest in Yukon history. That was the Yukon Party approach. Ours is to try and encourage development, new thinking, creative thought, through a completely different angle.
Mr. Speaker, the leader of the official opposition stood up and said that our government is making commitments that a further government will have to honour in capital, and that's not right, thus criticizing us laying out an agenda, developed with Yukon people, over the long term. Well, that's completely wrong. That's completely different from what we've heard from Yukoners. People in the business community have told us, "Give us the long-term plan, so we can plan, so we can get geared up to try and take advantage of these opportunities." It's wrong, in terms of what we heard from Yukon people, about involving them in decisions that make them, that yield these capital decisions. And it's completely contrary to what they practised as a government.
Because when I came into office, I know when we sat around our caucus room and our budget table, we had to finish the Beringia Centre - a commitment of the previous government. We're still working on CAP projects, and we're into the second year. They made a five-year commitment for the CAP project and didn't fund anything but the first year. They made a five year, $9-million commitment. Ten million dollars in grade reorganization. That was a capital decision made by the Yukon Party in the last year of their mandate that we're still paying for - one that was done with no consultation with Yukon people.
The historic resources centre was announced and not one penny was put in the budget. Yet, Mr. Speaker, the leader of the official opposition condemns us for putting long-term capital planning in the budget, and hard money to back it up. Incredible. You talk about a flip-flop.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite says we've raised the cost of government dramatically. That's completely false. The only increase is very minor and it's as a result of the wage negotiations with public employees. I guess, from listening to his comments, it's pretty clear what public employees would get at the negotiating table with the Yukon Party government - exactly what they got last time. They didn't collectively bargain. They killed the table. There were no negotiations; collective bargaining was dead, and they rolled them back two percent.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I think people are going to see through that. The only increase we had that was a cost to government was about one percent and the wage settlement we had was about 1.3 percent. So, we've actually asked budgets to eat into part of that wage increase.
Mr. Speaker, what he says is wrong.
Mr. Speaker, I want to talk a little bit about forestry. It's one of my favourite subjects. The leader of the official opposition said that he was so proud of the fact that he wrote a letter about forestry. He was really proud of that earth-shattering action that he took on behalf of Yukon people. It took him a long time to even get around to that action, because when he was Government Leader and people in Watson Lake and around the territory asked for action on the federal government on the issue of forestry, he said, "There's nothing we can do. We don't control it. It's got nothing to do with us. Go someplace else."
Well, he's now graduated to writing a letter. Isn't that fantastic? While he was taking several weeks in the midst of this crisis to write a letter, the Member for Watson Lake was out in the bush getting logs, dealing with the problem, talking to people in the community, working on the issue, solving the issue, getting timber moving. Mr. Speaker, that is action.
He didn't have time to write letters. He's too busy solving the problem.
So, Mr. Speaker, there are different ways to approach issues. But I do congratulate the leader of the official opposition on graduating from doing nothing, to writing a letter a month later. He's so proud of this initiative that he's shown.
Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about the comment that the leader of the official opposition said, on "meager" tax measures; that was his quote, "meagre".
Well, I would argue that compared to his $10million tax hike that he foisted upon Yukoners, these initiatives are somewhat meagre, because they're not increases at all; they're actually credits and incentives to protect historic resources; to work with seniors; to encourage mineral exploration; to attract labour-sponsored venture capital involving tax credits, small-business tax credits; the film-industry incentive fund - which I think is going to yield big bucks next year, incidentally, and I'm sure we'll be able to make some announcements on that.
These are all new initiatives that our government has initiated. There's plenty of substance there.
Mr. Speaker, the former government leader believes that we should build a box around the Yukon, that it's a failure of the Yukon government, when Yukon businesses work outside of the territory. I would argue that nothing is further from the truth. When Yukon businesses work in the Yukon and outside, they are going to be stronger back at home.
The former government leader talks about Alberta all the time - his holy land. Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the member opposite that Albertans recognize that export is critical, and they do it in a big way. They don't consider it a failure when they do work in Alberta and outside. That's a victory. That's a stronger economy. I was just in Tokyo - the Alberta office has 30 people working in their Japanese office, because they do trade in the Far East, because it's a victory.
I heard the leader of the official opposition again criticize Yukoners who are trying to do housing arrangements in Chile.
To me, that is unbelievable. Here are these Yukoners looking at expanding their horizons, making themselves stronger at home - as one business put it to me last week, having their cake and eating it too - living in the Yukon, working in the Yukon and working elsewhere; enjoying the benefits of being a Yukoner. He criticized that initiative.
You know, it's funny. I was recently at an Economic Development ministers conference. The Deputy Premier for Manitoba was there, and he was on Team Canada with us in South America, and I asked him, while having coffee, "So, how did Team Canada work out for Manitoba?" He said, "Oh great. We are selling some houses down in Chile. We've got our businesses down there. They're working in Chile. They're making window parts and manufacturing, and it's really exciting." I said to him - and this is a Progressive Conservative government - "Well, you know, that's amazing, because in the Yukon, according to the opposition, that's a negative, not a positive." Because the Yukon Party believes that, if you don't do everything through government spending or provide every work opportunity as a government for the private sector in the Yukon, you've failed.
I can't believe they call themselves free-enterprisers, because we believe that we've got to be out there aggressively promoting export trade and new investment in vehicles like the immigrant investment fund, like the tax measures we have proposed, like the work we're doing with Japanese mining companies to get long-term investing in the Yukon. Mr. Speaker, those are the answers to a stronger, more diversified economy. That's the only way.
When I talk to people - whether they be from the Yukon or from the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, or the Yukon Federation of Labour, or the Association of Yukon Communities, or the Yukon College, or all the other partners, including DIAND and Industry Canada, who have got on board with the trade investment agenda - and I look around the table and we discuss this, they still point at government and say that there are things you can do more and things you can do better, but they also say, "We know that we've got a responsibility here, too."
That's the kind of message and that's the kind of way that we're going to rebuild the Yukon's economy. When we get the mines open again, which we will - when Faro opens up again, when Sa Dena Hes goes, when Kudz Ze Kayah opens, which is going to happen eventually, according to my discussions with Cominco, when they see prices rebound - then you'll see the resource sector be gravy and not the base entirely. That's the way we build a more diversified Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, I want to talk a little bit about the development assessment process. The Member for Lake Laberge made an excellent statement today about our government's position on DAP. You know, when we came into this government, DAP was a mess. The former Government Leader of the Yukon Party was ready to ram DAP down the throats of Yukoners with the federal minister. They had absolutely nothing, in terms of reasonable public consultation.
Here's a quote from the former Government Leader, Mr. Ostashek - this is just after we came into government, December 5, 1996 - "Furthermore, the government has done absolutely nothing new in DAP than what was already done before they came to power." Then he said, the day before, in December 1996: "The government has not presented anything new to the public from what my government was doing with the development assessment process. Most of the work that needs to be done on DAP has been done."
That's what he said in 1996. What was he ready to push down the throats of Yukoners? I'm going to challenge that member to table his DAP in this House - the perfect DAP that the Yukon Party came up with - because we want to compare notes. We want to show the stakeholders the Yukon Party's DAP that was done by the time we came in. Mr. Speaker, the reality - the DAPrence - here is that we're involving Yukoners. We came in and took over a situation that was a complete shambles. The member opposite was trying, in secret, to ram DAP down the throats of people in the Yukon.
We said as one party to tripartite negotiations we know that we are going to have a DAP; it's in the UFA, which, incidentally, was signed by the leader of the official opposition, who supposedly, we thought, in good faith, was going to honour DAP commitments. Well, I guess he did because he said it was done when we came into government - but anyway.
We said that we would form a funnel for Yukon opinion as one player into the process. We would listen to Yukoners and we would try to involve them in the process and try to have their views reflected in the final product. We put a kibosh on the Yukon Party disaster.
Mr. Speaker, that is still what we're doing. And we've made it very clear that DAP is not going to go ahead, if we have anything to say about it - it's federal legislation - unless Yukoners are reasonably comfortable with the outcomes we have.
Mr. Speaker, that is good government, and I know a lot of people are raising concerns about that. I think they should, and we welcome it, because this is going to be with us forever, and it's a commitment we've got to make. There's going to be a DAP. The member opposite said we should just bury DAP. Well, that's kind of easy, but there's a UFA that says there's going to be a DAP. It might score political points in some bar the member's talking about, but I can tell you it's not going to work in real life, because we'll be taken to court by somebody on the DAP.
We've got to come up with a DAP that works, and that's what we're doing, and that's tough stuff. We're not doing it with the same approach as the member opposite.
So, Mr. Speaker, DAP, even though the member said was finished, wasn't finished. It's not finished now, and it won't be until we can get some reasonable response from Yukoners, where they get some reasonable level of comfort, and the DAP commissioner's working with people to try and come to that conclusion.
And we, as one party, are going to put everything we have into trying to make it work, so when we get Yukoners saying, coming to the conclusion, okay, we're going to have this thing, let's make it work, then we'll be at the point where we'll get those brokered agreements. They're going to be tough, but we can do it. We've proven it on devolution, and we've proven it in this budget.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite started to criticize the mineral exploration tax credit, and I now know that they are opposed to the mineral exploration tax credits. It was interesting to hear him sort of weave around, in a Liberal way, his position on this particular subject.
He tried to compare the mineral exploration tax credit to a local hire policy. Well, doesn't the member know that most mining companies live outside the territory? That's just a fact. Their financial base is in Vancouver, Calgary - particularly the junior mining companies. We've tried to recognize that in terms of our approach to this particular issue. Most exploration companies do not live in the Yukon. That's a fact, and I doubt that's going to change, so we've got to respond to that reality, in terms of our industry incentives.
Now, I've got to tell the member opposite, he's on the outside looking in, big time, on this particular issue, which is not uncommon these days, in terms of his public comment.
I want to read a couple of comments that were made in the local media about the particular initiative by one particular company from outside of the territory that is doing work in the Yukon. They said that as good as it is, the rebate program isn't likely to create a flurry of new exploration investments in the territory because of the larger circumstances surrounding the mineral market. The quote was, "The industry is in such a state of turmoil right now with the commodity prices and low mineral market being depressed, it is hard to get the guys jumping up and down at this point."
Well, I don't disagree with that at all. The market fundamentals out there are extremely difficult and we don't expect, just by this one measure, that somehow that's miraculously going to change. As the leader of the official opposition, he thinks he's the tooth fairy or something and he can just tap his little magic wand and somehow the mineral exploration is going to take off. Well, Mr. Speaker, that's ridiculous.
What we did as a government is we said that even though we don't control the resource, we believe in this industry, we will make a contribution to its development. We worked with them on developing a mineral strategy. We've done a lot of work on that. There will be a mineral strategy. There will be a lot of discussion with the mining industry on issues that affect them, like we're doing right now with DAP.
Mr. Speaker, that is the way to approach these issues.
Incidentally, Mr. Speaker, I want to read another little statement from this particular company. They went on to describe the territory's NDP government as progressive and willing to help. They said that the minister is doing a good job and the Yukon is generally seen within the mining industry as a good place to do work.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, actually, Trevor Harding didn't write that. That was written by a mining company.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes. Incidentally, the guy also said he hates New Democrats and then he went on to say this. So, that tells you that this is not a partisan statement.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I'll pass that comment on to you.
Mr. Speaker, let me also highlight a couple of reality checks for the Yukon Party; these guys who operate in the environment of the pre-Bre-X of the high metal prices and the pre-Asian flu.
Here's a comment - this is the business section of the Globe and Mail, the bible of the Yukon Party - and it says - this is the front page of the report on business, it's on mining - here's what people who know about something say. It says, "Observers familiar with the junior mining sector say it's impossible to overestimate how damaging the Bre-X Minerals Limited gold-mining scam has been to investor psychology."
"Impossible to overestimate". Think about that for a second. Now, the members opposite like to say, "You can't blame it on Bre-X. It's got nothing to do with Bre-X." That's just completely preposterous. And when the leader of the official opposition and the Liberal leader say it's got nothing to do with metal prices, that completely destroys any thesis on free-market economics. Imagine if this so-called Conservative stands up and says, "Well, price has got nothing to do with the market. The price of the product has nothing to do with the market." Who believes that?
This Globe and Mail also went on to say, "With copper and gold prices in a deep slump, analysts fear that the bear market for junior stocks may continue for at least another year."
Mr. Speaker, here's the front page of the business section of the National Post, the new national newspaper. Here's a quote from a mining analyst. The headline is, "Junior explorer still suffering from post-Bre-X jitters." It says, "The mood in the world's commodity markets has turned ugly. Metal prices are in a mess. Demand has slipped while production and inventories have climbed. Nickel and copper hover around 11-year lows, and gold continues to resist the psychological barrier of $300 an ounce. The junior exploration market continues to suffer post-Bre-X jitters."
If you don't believe me when I say that that's a reality, please believe the National Post and the Globe and Mail.
Mr. Speaker, companies are already talking about the benefits of our mineral exploration tax credit in their submissions. Here's one from Columbia Gold, that's doing work at Fire Lake and up near Faro.
Mr. Speaker, the evidence is clear that the Yukon Party and Liberals are on the outside looking out. They're 10 steps behind us on every turn. The only criticism they give me credit for in the media are the cheap shots, when they're going after the tourism marketing director or they're trying to put on some sanctimonious display in here on other issues.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, the member opposite also says - if you can believe this one, I mean this rebuttal to the speech by the former government leader was incredible, and I emphasize "former" - he says that we're not doing anything in tourism. My goodness, how bogus a statement is that?
Millions of dollars for a runway extension, direct flights coming in from overseas; $750,000 for a brand-new tourism marketing fund; increasing the tourism marketing budget.
How about the visitor exit survey that we're doing? How can the members opposite credibly carry that argument to the public of the Yukon? Frankly, I don't think they can, and I'd take them up on it any day of the week.
We're also doing tourism product development, tourism sites, areas where we think the Yukon could fundamentally benefit from major development. I've been talking to hoteliers who are interested in major investments in five-star hotels in the territory. We're working on that, and will continue to do so.
How can the member credibly carry that argument in public? It's not doable.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I also want to talk about the Yukon protected areas strategy - the money in the budget for that particular initiative. The leader of the official opposition - let's go back in time. The hon. Mickey Fisher - Lyle M. Fisher - signed the agreement that committed the Yukon to the Yukon protected areas strategy, Endangered Spaces 2000. That was the Yukon Party minister. Talk about making a commitment for a following government.
Well, now the former government leader does the flip-flop. And he says, "We'd shelve protected spaces; that'd be the end of it." And that, somehow, would miraculously change the world commodity prices.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, talk about taking two different positions. He says, on protected spaces, he wouldn't change his position from day to day; well, what's that?
He said he supported - he announced that he supported - protected spaces, yet, Mr. Speaker, he now argues that it should be kiboshed. That goes along with UFA commitments like DAP.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite said that Yukon businesses are not benefiting from this government and the work we're doing to try to encourage local purchasing and local goods and local hire. Well, there has been extensive work done on that little bit of rhetoric, and there is a graph in the budget that has been done by the Department of Government Services, and it shows that we have been extremely successful in increasing the percentage overall dollar value of contracts issued to Yukon businesses.
When we took over government, it was 59 percent. For the following two years, it was 77 percent. This year, 1998-99, it was 89 percent of dollar value of the contracts we issued to businesses. That's staggering progress. How can the members opposite criticize that? Of course, they'll focus on the 11 percent that don't, but what about the other 89? I guess that means nothing.
Mr. Speaker, I want to talk a little bit about the issue of oil and gas development in the Yukon.
Oh my goodness, I've just been handed some of the local media comment on the budget. The headline is, "Budget wins approval of business and labour." No substance, I guess.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, that's right. The Liberal member reminds me of something. The Liberals used to vote for the Yukon Party budgets, but they vote against the NDP budgets. I guess they don't like the extended care facility, the income benefits for poor people, the mineral exploration tax credits. I think they like the tax increases and the wage rollbacks that the Yukon Party foisted on Yukoners. That's why the Liberals voted for their budgets and vote against ours.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: I can't see the difference. Can you see the difference?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, it's true. The only difference between the Member for Riverside and the Member for Riverdale North is that the Member for Riverdale North still has hair.
In case I be accused of attacking the Member for Riverside, I'm just following on his comment. I love people with less than a full head of hair, including the Member for Riverside.
Mr. Speaker, let's look at the forestry devolution deal - the differences, because I can see the differences in this deal. They're very clear. In 1993, the former Government Leader of the Yukon Party tried to swindle past Yukoners an agreement on the components of forestry that had a base transfer of $14.9 million. What's the base transfer on the NDP proposal? Thirty-three million dollars.
Mr. Speaker, let's look at the comparison between the 1993 deal of the former Government Leader -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Speaker: On a point of order.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, the member is using words like "swindle". I think that's accusing members of something illegal, and I don't think anything illegal was done. I think the member should withdraw that part. I think it's unparliamentary.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, you need not make a ruling. I'll happily withdraw that, and I will say that he tried to ram it down the throats of Yukoners.
Speaker: Will the member continue.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the one-time cost negotiated by the Yukon Party was $2.5 million in total - no forestry endowment, no forest inventory work, no fire-suppression transition funds. It was $2.5 million for forestry capital infrastructure.
Mr. Speaker, our deal: forestry endowment, $4.5 million; forest inventory work, $3 million; fire-suppression transition funds, $7.5 million and $1.5 million for five years; forestry capital infrastructure, $6.28 million.
Speaker: The minister has two minutes.
Hon. Mr. Harding: My goodness, how time flies when you're having fun.
Mr. Speaker, forest fire suppression risk sharing, none by the Yukon Party. By us, fire suppression, five years at 80 percent sharing by DIAND, 20 percent by YTG in year one, to 40 percent DIAND and 60 percent YTG in year five.
Mr. Speaker, there's such a difference. Unforeseen events reference - we've even negotiated that.
Mr. Speaker, the bottom line is we're moving ahead with the economy through vehicles like this budget in a number of areas. We believe we've got to have the resource sector in more. We believe that every job counts in this territory. We are determined to set a stable course of predictable spending for the Yukon public. We are not going to exacerbate boom-bust economic cycles with boom-bust government spending.
Further, Mr. Speaker, we intend to continue to invest in growth industries like tourism, like our budget shows. We will continue to pursue new immigrant investments and other vehicles to try to develop new access to capital in this territory. We will continue to use the tax incentives, not to raise taxes like the Yukon Party, but to stimulate new areas of growth. We'll continue to invest in areas of technology and research and development, like we're doing with the technological innovation centre. We'll continue to give the municipal governments of this territory more control over their affairs, in passing the Municipal Act and making fundamental changes to how they spend money.
Mr. Speaker, we'll continue to invest in seniors through extended care facilities and put new dollars in health care and education and training and investment in Yukon people, so that they can feel good about their territory and live a prosperous quality of life in this territory.
We will continue to say to Yukoners that there is a better way. We've got it, let's work together on a partnership, economically and socially, to make -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise to respond to address this budget. This is my second response as leader of the Yukon Liberal Party, and it's the third consecutive deficit budget from the NDP government.
Let's go back, for the moment, to 1995 and the state of affairs then. This is the - and I use the term loosely - information piece that the NDP caucus used to put out. December 1995, Mr. Speaker, "Here's the plan", it says, "balanced budget legislation proposed by New Democrat opposition leader Piers McDonald would require the government to do the following: present balanced budgets to the elected representatives of the Legislative Assembly..." So, when can we expect one?
There have been three in a row, all with deficits, Mr. Speaker, of $10 million, $8 million and $21 million. Every year, the NDP spends more money than they have. It kind of reminds me of a guy named Glenn Clark. He's not so good with the cheque book either, Mr. Speaker. One day, perhaps, we'll see a balanced budget from this government. It's not likely, however, with an election looming in the not-too-distant future.
There are two lines about land claims, the top priority in the A Better Way. There are two lines in this budget - so much for top priority.
We are constantly told that the claims are almost done; they're really close. I'm hearing kibitzing, "Wait, just wait a couple months." Well, the fact remains that there are too many claims unsettled. The NDP were not the missing ingredient after all. Two and a half years into this mandate and there is no real progress to report. If the deals are signed, announce them.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon NDP has been taking lessons from the federal government - yes, the federal Liberals. Unfortunately, they've been learning the bad lessons from the federal government. What they've learned is that if you announce money that you're going to spend over a period of years all at once, it sounds like a whole lot more.
Let's start with the jail. Big news - $3.2 million is being spent on a new jail. Guess what the amount of money is for this year? It's $200,000. The rest, a long-term IOU from the NDP.
Mayo school - $7.3 million is being spent on the new school in Mayo - finally. The amount of money actually being spent this year? A paltry $100,000. The rest, $7.2 million, is another long-term IOU from the NDP.
New health care facility - $14.3 million. How much of that is this year? Two million. The IOU from the NDP is $12.2 million. The total of these three promises is $22.5 million. Mr. Speaker, time will tell whether or not it will amount to empty promises from the NDP.
Mr. Speaker, the Government Leader's budget speech began with this quote: "Every government's budget says a number of things about that government, about the economy in which it operates, and about the priorities of the society it serves." I agree with that statement. It is from there on that the views of the Liberal caucus begin to diverge from that of the NDP government.
Let's look at the economy and the NDP solutions for our current problems, problems that they themselves helped to create, problems like a lack of investor confidence in the territory created the day that this NDP government took office and started taking lessons on economics from their counterparts in B.C.
Economy 2000 - an interesting title for an economic platform. It reminds me of something called, "Yukon 2000." Remember that? You might have heard of it. It was a big 1980s road show, which set out to diversify, under Mr. Penikett, the Yukon economy. Guess what? It didn't work. We had initiatives like the trade and investment strategy that went nowhere, similar to the trade and investment strategy that is underway under the ever so watchful eye of the Minister of Economic Development.
Mr. Speaker, recycled promises, recycled workbooks from the 1980s are not a solution to our economic problems.
Yukon 2000 didn't work. Let's retitle it "Economy 2000", and hope we get a different result.
Mr. Speaker, let's look for a moment at page 9 of the budget, where the NDP have outlined some of their successes. Trade missions to Alaska, South America and Russia. A lot of hype and a whole lot of press releases over these initiatives. A lot of media interviews from the Minister of Economic Development. When it comes to the crunch, where are the results, where are the jobs? It's then that the Harding-hype falls silent. It's then that the whirling dervish stops. And what does it reveal? No results, no followup whatsoever.
Page 9 again - the Minister of Economic Development just returned from another trip to Asia. He spends more time on the road than his favourite hockey team. He calls in with results from the road. Remember that movie "E.T. Phone Home"? We have our own - "T.H. Phone Home". "Yeah, yeah. Lots of interest. Lots of interest. Deals are close. I'm working really hard on these initiatives," but what we never hear are the results. We never hear that the deal is signed, that jobs are created, that people are working. It's all hype and no results.
Mr. Speaker, there are some things missing from this budget. Some I wish were there; others I'm glad not to see. I'm glad, for example, that for the first time under the NDP there is no money budgeted for the Cabinet commissions. We spent over $1.1 million on these commissions, and let's see what we have.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we have no DAP. Zero for one. No forestry strategy, because they couldn't get a deal with CYFN and forged ahead anyway without First Nation support. That's zero for two. Local hire - perhaps the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission could table the results for the last five years for local hire?
Let him table the number of people who have been hired for YTG jobs. It's actually gone down since the local hire policy was brought in. That's zero for three. Energy - ha. Nothing needs to be said. That's truly zero for four. Three Ps are not in the budget. Why not? Whenever we ask the government, publicly or privately, they go on and on and on about mortgaging our children's future. Well, if public/private partnerships are mortgaging our children's future, what's a $22.5 million IOU - hello?
What's in the budget that we like? Labour-sponsored venture capital fund. We proposed it. It would have been better if they'd done it when we actually suggested it 18 months ago. Immigrant investor fund - same thing. Why did the minister sit on his hands for 18 months after the idea was raised? Now, he's already looking for someone to blame, when it's his own fault for waiting around. He's now asking the federal government for an extension to cover his mistakes. He went to Asia with a lot of hype, and came home with his tail between his tails, empty pockets, and lame excuses about the lunar New Year - two people were too busy partying to listen to him and invest with him. Where was the NDP when the economy was slowing down 18 months ago, when we were asking them to act? Good ideas - too little, too late.
We do note that the budget documents state that seven beds at the Thomson Centre will be reopened. We asked for that in Question Period. There is an additional $200,000 for nurses. My colleague from Riverdale South has lobbied long and hard for this - long and hard.
There are some budget myths here that need to be dispelled, such as the declining revenues on page 6. We got $455 million in 1998; $495 million in 1999, which includes $28 million for the census; $459 million in 2000. Even with NDP math, that's not going down.
No new taxes - well, hello. The Minister of Renewable Resources, thank you for the juice box tax. The minister himself sent me a letter that said that $60,000 had been collected on this. Where did that come from? It came from Yukon families.
There's $2.3 million allocated for protected areas, and there's been a lot of rhetoric flying around in this Legislature this afternoon about protected areas, most of it belonging someplace other than this House. However, I would like to restate, for the record, that the Yukon Liberal Party has always supported protected areas. It was in our platform. We have some real problems with how the NDP has politicized this issue and divided Yukoners. We support the concept.
There's no money for the mineral strategy - some commitment. There's $6 million in slush money - training trust funds, tourism marketing funds, trade and investment funds. No rules - where are the rules?
And you know, this government goes on and on and on about its partners. Here they've established an incredible amount of money in training trust funds, and it's not going through Yukon College. They're not working with Yukon College. There's no answer for the constituent who spent hours on the phone with me, as shortly ago as yesterday afternoon, saying, "You know, I've been doing my level best. I have gone and taken the training in tourism at Yukon College. I have done everything I can. I have looked in the programs, and I cannot get off social assistance. There aren't the jobs out there."
And I said, "You know what? The NDP tabled a budget document yesterday. I can't point to new jobs, I can't point to a job for you, either."
How are we supposed to answer these constituents?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: No, the real budget document was tabled by the Minister of Economic Development yesterday.
He hoped that, with all the attention over the budget, this piece of bad news would just kind of float by Yukoners, like the Harding hype with no substance.
He quoted the paper. Well, he missed this other page, which said Yukon's economic outlook is grim for 1999. Aw gee, could you just let this economic forecast just kind of slip by. It's only a couple of pages - who wants to take notice? Well, Yukoners know.
You know, they are also - although they don't like to stand up and take any credit for the bad economy or for the economic frustration and devastation that Yukoners feel - they are trying to take credit for a number of things, including $5 million for a rec centre in Watson Lake. The NDP are trying to take credit for an initiative that was the work of the town and of the First Nations, not of the NDP government. Don't go and try to take credit for this. Your own member, and the member representing that community, voted against a motion last year to spend more money in the community.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: The Shakwak money -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. There is much ballyhoo and self-congratulation over the Shakwak funding in this budget. That's something else the NDP are trying to take credit for. There is $1.5 million for a trailer park that no one lives in, in Whitehorse. There's $100,000 contributed for caribou lobbying to mend some fences. There is $900,000, almost $1 million, for a party for photo opportunities for NDP Cabinet ministers. What have Yukoners got to celebrate when what they're looking for is a job? They're looking to again believe in this territory, believe in the hope and opportunity in this territory.
The NDP budget does nothing to create that. Nothing.
Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot of rhetoric flying around this House this afternoon. The real issue here is the budget that the NDP has tabled. The budget can best be described as a shell game by the masters of spin. The real substance of the budget will be revealed and understood fully in the line-by-line debate, where we will truly see where the spending priorities are of the NDP government, and just how big the IOU is that they are putting out there.
We in the Liberal caucus are very much looking forward to that line-by-line debate, Mr. Speaker, and revealing the budget for what it is.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased to rise and respond to the budget speech that was delivered in this House yesterday, and I'm happy to be rising in support of the budget. It's a great budget. It's a budget for Yukon families and Yukon people of all ages. It's a balanced budget that meets the needs of communities, of workers and business, of the resource sector, and that supports a sustainable environment.
Mr. Speaker, it's really clear that the opposition parties are clutching at straws. The Yukon Liberal Party leader just stood and said that she wants balanced budgets. We promised to bring forward pay-as-you-go budgets. Her argument is that we should build the bank account and spend no surplus. Spend all the money now. We would have the federal government taking the surplus away. I mean, we have sustainable spending, and we need to keep a bank account. Then we have the Yukon Party saying, "Spend more. Spend it all now."
Mr. Speaker, the member who just spoke said that there was no substance in the budget, and then she stood there and took credit for ideas in the budget and said, "Well, you needed to open those beds in the Thomson Centre sooner."
Let me just talk for a minute about opening up the beds in the Thomson Centre. It's a really good trick that the federal Finance minister has. First, they cut the Canada health and social transfer by $20 million, cut funding for post-secondary education for colleges and universities, cut funding for health care and, this year, we're getting $2 million back for health care funding. Now we can apply some of that money to opening beds in the Thomson Centre.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party has finally stated that they don't believe in the boom-and-bust economy. Well, I wish they'd seen the light before they left office. They believed in boom and bust then. It was boom, spend, spend, spend. Spend the money as fast as you can. Then it was bust, and it was cut, cut, cut. Cut money for women's shelters, cut public sector wages, raise taxes - huge tax increases.
The Liberals have said - and the Yukon Party - that we're not spending money this year. Well, Mr. Speaker, take a look at the budget. Take a look at the actual expenditures. The millennium fund is $300,000 this year. The continuing care facility includes $2 million in this budget. The Ross River school will be $5 million; $2.5 million for the Watson Lake recreation centre.
The member opposite is criticizing the government, saying we're trying to take credit. Mr. Speaker, what we're taking credit for is putting $2.5 million in the budget to support that facility in Watson Lake, which we believe is a good one and which will create jobs in Watson Lake and support that community.
We have a million dollars being spent in rural roads programs and the Robert Campbell Highway.
Mr. Speaker, their calls are nonsense. They're saying we're not spending money this year, but they need to take a look at the budget.
Mr. Speaker, we're also building schools. We're meeting with school councils twice a year. We're building and re-building partnerships with the education community. We've initiated a process that respects the partnership in education model and that respects community-based decision making in the school councils.
The Liberal leader was afraid that there was a bidding war when we said that this was what we were going to do. Once again, she was fear-mongering that school councils wouldn't be responsible and wouldn't be able to come up with an agreement. Well, what happened? School councils demonstrated the confidence that we placed in them was well-placed. They reached a consensus, and we started a three-year planning cycle, which is something that Yukon people want, Mr. Speaker. We began that with schools and, in this budget, we've tabled a three-year spending pattern for the entire capital budget.
The Old Crow school is now nearing completion. That has meant jobs. The Ross River school will have $5.1 million, and the construction will start in the new budget year. In the Mayo school, planning and design does take time, and I think the opposition should recognize that. We have in place a model that has building advisory committees, where we involve the communities in the planning and design work, and there is $5 million in the next year's budget to do the construction in Mayo. Mr. Speaker, in your home community we've also implemented a model that is working very well and has served the community well.
We hired a project manager trainee in Old Crow, and we had local hire of Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation members on the construction project of the school in Old Crow. We are presently recruiting in Ross River for a project manager trainee. We want to take that successful experience in Old Crow and use it elsewhere in the territory.
In Ross River, in order to ensure local hire, we've done an inventory of the skills that people presently have and the training needs, so that we can further local hire. We'll be offering carpentry training in Ross River, so that as many people as possible from Ross River can get jobs.
Mr. Speaker, a fundamental commitment of our government was to involve people in making the decisions, and we have done this with this budget. We have done this by talking to hundreds of individuals, community groups, business and labour. We've also involved youth in the decision making. Recently, there was a youth conference in Whitehorse. When I got ready to attend that conference, with hundreds of youth delegates from around the territory, from all Yukon communities, I believe, I took a look at what youth said in September 1996, the last time there was a youth conference. They said, first and foremost, that they wanted to be listened to, they wanted to be involved in the decision making, and they recommended that government develop a youth strategy with youth and community groups' input.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we did that. We worked with the Positive Action for Yukon Youth Coalition and built on the results of their survey of youth in all Yukon communities. We also consulted with youth directly ourselves. The City of Whitehorse did a survey of their youth programs, and we found that information helpful, too. In fact, the community development fund helped to pay for that City of Whitehorse survey.
Youth also told us that they wanted to see youth serving on boards. In our Government of Yukon youth strategy, we're establishing a youth on boards program. We've already appointed youth to some boards, and we're going to continue to appoint more youth to boards. We will be establishing a youth advisory board to review the existing government programs available for youth and to look at how we can improve them. We believe, and we've demonstrated our commitment to recognizing, that youth should have a direct say in the kinds of programs we offer for their benefit.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I just heard some critical comments about training trust funds. Youth Works was one training trust fund that we established that has a board of both youth and adults. That board supported the recent youth conference, and youth have been telling us that they believe that there should be an annual youth conference. So we're very pleased that the youth training trust fund supported the youth conference, as did our government departments, and we're also working on our youth strategy to ensure that there are annual youth conferences available.
This budget also has $200,000 in new money for youth recreation funding. There have been a number of youth recreation activities that took place last summer throughout the Yukon. When we visit the communities, we hear how much youth and their families appreciate those programs in the communities. We're going to continue to offer them.
Mr. Speaker, that's good news. That's part of what makes this a good budget.
I want to speak for a moment about restorative justice. It's a major project that I'll be working on over this year and the next year. I introduced in the fall a restorative justice paper that talked about our goals of supporting crime prevention initiatives and of working with community groups to find community solutions.
People want to take a healing approach. People want to recognize that offenders are members of our community, and that they need support when they return to the community to live a life free from crime. We have stated that we will support a victim-centered approach, and we're doing that. We're also addressing the causes of crime. We set up a Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act, which is now receiving applications for a number of projects in communities that can help stop crime.
There have also been a number of student Crimestoppers programs, and crime prevention programs.
Recently, the Southern Lakes Community Justice Committee held a conference where community justice committees from around the Yukon came to speak about how they are improving life in their communities. People are excited that we're interested in hearing their ideas about how to improve the way we do business. People want correctional reform. They don't want us to do the same old things in the same old way, and we don't want to replace Whitehorse Correctional Centre with a facility that will be obsolete only a couple of years after it is built. We want to support alternatives. We see the RCMP supporting alternatives with their community policing model and their family group conferencing programs. We see projects like Dena Keh in Watson Lake, which are supporting alternatives.
The dialogue with communities that we are holding and will be conducting over the next year is very important. Mr. Speaker, the $210,000 for planning money is a good start, and we have to do it right.
The other $3 million that is budgeted to be spent over the next two years will lead to actual design and site preparation work so that we can construct a new facility. First, we want to hear what kinds of alternatives are available that people support. First, we want to know what kinds of community facilities can be used, and that's important work, Mr. Speaker.
Now, Mr. Speaker, we've heard a lot of discussion about fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects. I'm really pleased to see the significant financial resources that are going to improve the way that we respond to this problem. The Child Development Centre will be getting $200,000 to spend to support outreach in rural communities. This will go to ensure that workers in rural communities and families in rural communities can have increased access to the services that the Child Development Centre provides.
We also have a $228,000 increase to the healthy family program. Mr. Speaker, this is a program that helps families, and mothers with prenatal care, with post-natal care and with infant care. These programs increase the response to families that have children with FAS.
We also will be putting money in this budget toward developing an alcohol treatment program for women. We will be working with community groups to develop a holistic approach that recognizes the need to develop an addictions treatment program that deals specifically with women's needs. We believe there is a need for a program of that nature, Mr. Speaker. We've heard women and community groups tell us that that would be a good program to offer and we're going ensure that money in this budget will be spent to support it.
Mr. Speaker, this budget has a number of good investments in Yukon communities. We've increased municipal block funding for the first time since 1991, and we'll be bringing forward new authority from municipalities to decide on the balance between capital and operational spending. Municipalities are pleased with this and it will be a good measure to support municipal decision making.
Members opposite have been saying that there is no tourism support in this budget. Well, Mr. Speaker, there is a tourism marketing fund of $750,000. There is an additional $200,000 in tourism marketing to build on the successful marketing efforts that have already taken place in Europe, the United States and other parts of Canada.
There is $175,000 in the new Yukon film location incentive fund. Mr. Speaker, this is a growing industry. This is an industry that creates jobs in the Yukon.
There is $900,000 over two years for the millennium fund, which will be administered by the Tourism arts branch.
This will make the territory an exciting place to be in 2000 and, Mr. Speaker, those events and that tourism marketing will create jobs in the Yukon.
We have a labour-sponsored venture capital corporation that was proposed by the tax round table and we'll be introducing that. It will support both Yukon workers and all Yukon investors.
Mr. Speaker, we have money in the budget for training trust funds, and I'm very supportive of them. I'm really surprised to hear members opposite standing up and failing to recognize the needs that they serve.
Yukon College has been involved in the work of training trust funds. In many of the training trust funds, there is Yukon College representation on the boards, and the training trust funds are encouraged to work with the college as a post-secondary institution that does offer education in all Yukon communities. The training trust funds have supported the agriculture sector, forestry, mining, tourism, municipalities, and the AYC tourism training trust fund. We also brought forward a training trust fund for transition home workers for the community of Carmacks and of Haines Junction. We have a training trust fund developed for the environmental community.
Mr. Speaker, those are initiatives that help support both training and jobs in Yukon communities.
I want to acknowledge, as well, the anti-poverty measures in the budget with the new tax credits. We have the child/family credit that will not be deducted from social assistance payments. There is $500,000 for the Yukon child benefit for families with children where their net family income is less than $22,000 a year. There is $500,000 for a new low-income family tax credit. We have heard what Yukon people have said about responding to families who most need support.
We're proud that we listened to what Yukon people have had to say. Mr. Speaker, when my colleagues and I met with constituents in Marsh Lake, they told us of the need to invest in community infrastructure and about the rise in the number of older people retiring in our community and the need for there to be care for them when they need it most. The new extended care facility will respond to that. The new seniors tax credit will also respond to the needs of seniors. The property tax deferral would give seniors in my riding, who live in their own homes outside of Whitehorse, the option to defer payment of their property taxes until their home changes hands. These are good measures that meet community needs.
Mr. Speaker, I also want to speak to our priority of protecting the environment. The Yukon protected areas strategy is the cornerstone of our environmental agenda. There was a public process that supported the protected areas strategy, and it will lead for protection of representative areas in all 23 distinct Yukon eco-regions. There is $50,000 being contributed in this budget for community environment groups to study the impact of climate change on our northern environment. There is $100,000 to extend lobbying efforts to protect the critical calving habitat of the Porcupine caribou herd. It's important to recognize that the environment is of value to all Yukon residents and to the visitors who come here and appreciate it.
So, Mr. Speaker, this budget responds to both the present needs of the Yukon and their future needs. It is a budget that has been crafted with input from people across the Yukon who will benefit - families and workers, youth and businesses. This budget responds to what people have been asking for and presents a vision of a new Yukon economy based on partnerships and shared responsibility. I'm happy to support it.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, when I look at this budget, I carry on from where the leader of our party came from. The magic and the mystery - well, we have the reality and the fantasy.
This Yukon short-term economic outlook is certainly the reality. It spells out where the Yukon is going and what is happening.
This budget holds out a great deal of promises, holds out a great deal of initiatives, but is in large part a fantasy.
When the Minister of Finance first opened his remarks, he said that it was a budget that balanced priorities to deliver a strong economic agenda, a strong social agenda, and a strong environmental agenda.
One would think that by those words all three of those agendas would be on the same level playing field. Such is not the case. This budget is balanced very heavily in favour of everything but a strong economic agenda.
The Minister of Finance went on to say, "It demonstrates a thoughtful and innovative approach to the management of public funds." Yes, it certainly does, Mr. Speaker. It certainly does.
If you want to look at the growth in the public sector, if you want to look at the money that is being spent in the Executive Council Office to support the costs and the cause of the NDP, if you want to look at the costs that we are incurring to forward the cause of the NDP, yes, it certainly demonstrates a thoughtful and innovative approach to the management of public funds.
But when we look at the reality of the Yukon and our economy here today, there are only two facets that are still producing income in the Yukon: our visitor industry and government. Government is growing. Government is expanding, especially the Yukon government.
Our population is shrinking. People are leaving the Yukon in record numbers. In fact, one has to question the statistics produced by the branch responsible for that area as to the exact population of various Yukon communities, including Whitehorse - question them as to accuracy. The feedback that I receive is that our population here in the Yukon today is probably dropping below 30,000 individuals. It's probably on its way down further.
We look at the excuses being offered by the Minister of Finance as to why this is occurring. It's all because of the Asian flu, the continuing low precious-metal prices, the continuing low base-metal prices.
We look at the reasons given why our mining exploration is virtually at an all-time low in the Yukon and the bells must start ringing for some of you over there on the other side of the House as to why that is occurring. It's because we have elected an NDP government here in the Yukon and business, specifically mining, does not trust that form of government. They do not trust the rules and the regulations that are put in place because the goal posts keep moving.
When we play any game, the rules are established, Mr. Speaker. When we get involved in any business venture, we have to understand the rules that we are to play by, and when those rules are in a constant state of flux, like they are here in the Yukon, when we don't know what's coming down the pike next, whether it be DAP, whether it be protected areas, whatever it might be, I guess the next set of regulations we bring in are ZAP because they're virtually zapping every initiative that we've ever thought of bringing forward.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there are some awfully good suggestions, Mr. Speaker, coming from the NDP as to what we should call it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we could probably bottle it anyway you want it. What we have here, Mr. Speaker, is an economy that is in the toilet.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: It's in the toilet, Mr. Speaker, and if you want to look specifically at the mining sector -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Mount Lorne, on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member opposite is really engaging in an awful lot of scatological humour and I think that there's been enough of these bathroom jokes for today.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, there is no point of order.
Speaker: There is no point of order. Please continue.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Now, after I was rudely interrupted by the member ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Jenkins: ... the Minister of Education and couldn't get on with what I had to say, we were dealing with the issue of mining exploration in the Yukon.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Speaker: Point of order has been called.
Mr. Fentie: A member can be called to order if he persists in needless repetition, and I would submit that the Member for Klondike is merely repeating his colleague's response to the budget speech.
Mr. Ostashek: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, every member has the right to speak in this Legislature, whether the members opposite like it or not. He's abiding by the rules and he should be allowed to continue.
Speaker: There is no point of order. Would the member please continue.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, rudely interrupted twice, but I do have a few minutes during which I would like to share some wonderful words of wisdom with the NDP caucus that is present here today and see if they might derive some kind of an insight into what it's going to take to get this economy turned around.
The message the mining industry wants to hear is that this is a safe place to invest in; this is a safe place to do your exploration because, if you do uncover a mining deposit, there is a process that is consistent, that is not going to change, to put that deposit into production. Now, that's the message the mining industry wants to hear.
We only have to look to Alaska and what's going on in that state, Mr. Speaker. That state is attracting a great number of Canadian mining companies, a great deal of Canadian capital, to invest in that area. We only have to look at the Northwest Territories and you can see they have also done the same.
Now, the only thing we have in common with Alaska and the Northwest Territories is we know we're in the same mineralized zones, we know we have a great potential for oil and gas, we know we have a great potential for large mineral deposits, but we are tarred with the same brush as British Columbia. We have an NDP government that is not conducive to allowing mining companies to get involved.
The mining tax credit is one way. It's a good way of approaching a bad situation, and it will attract some money. It will attract some mining exploration, Mr. Speaker, but when it's all said and done, unless the rules of the day are there and established and do not change, we're going to have a heck of a time maintaining any kind of level of mining exploration.
We look further in the Minister of Finance's budget. We look at "Keeping Our Promises". Well, the first one is, "We promised not to raise taxes." Then we look at the reality of it. We only have to look at the recycling fee - our wonderful tetrapaks - on which we have a new levy on the foods of Yukoners. And further to that, there's GST charged on part of that deposit. So when you look at this situation alone, this government hasn't kept this promise. They have raised new taxes. Now, if that isn't a tax - you can call it anything you want - but it's ultimately the same thing. It's an additional tax - an additional tax on the food basket of Yukoners, Mr. Speaker.
Then we look down the road at some of the other areas - some of the additional charges that this government has got involved in. User fees have gone up in so many different categories that - what do you call it? Another tax?
If you want to look at lease fees, we raised the assessments on land. Lease fees is a percentage of the assessment. Land values are maintaining their high value here, in choice locations around water courses, because they're not - the federal government and the territorial government - are not putting into place any more land in these country residential areas. Their values are going up and up. Anyone who has a lease on those areas, their lease fees are increasing. They are increasing disproportionately to the values. The justification for some of these land values? It's very subjective, Mr. Speaker, but we can call it another tax. It's this government digging deeper and deeper into the pockets of Yukoners - Yukoners that have land, that have chosen to build their homes on these lands, and occupy it.
But then we look at the other side of that equation. In this budget, we put in another $600,000-odd to buy out the people who are living on the waterfronts here in Whitehorse. When it's all said and done, we're approaching $1 million to acquire the land on the Whitehorse waterfront, and paying out some sums of money that are very, very abnormally high, given the formula that this government is using for length of residency. Everyone else in the Yukon, if they live on land - they own it, they pay taxes, and they go to sell it for fair market price, except here along the Whitehorse waterfront. The governments refund the taxes to these individuals, then they pay them for the appraised value, or the assessed value, and then they pay them so much a year for every year they lived there. So, Mr. Speaker, what's the incentive for Yukoners to live on land, other than to squat on land?
You can get paid to squat on government land - a heck of a deal.
We look further down "Keeping our promise", and on the issue of electricity - electrical prices stable and affordable - "and we kept that promise." Well, if you look at the initial block of electricity, take everything into consideration, that cost is up over what it was under the Yukon Party, Mr. Speaker.
There is $10 million that has been transferred from general revenues to the Energy Corporation to maintain that, so we've bought stabilized rates at a cost of $10 million. Now, reality is going to set in at the end of that period of time when that $10 million is used up. Then what, Mr. Speaker? We're talking about long-range goals, long-range planning, but this is just a band-aid approach, currently, of putting in $10 million.
Some of the other initiatives coming out of the Energy Corporation are certainly questionable as to their cost effectiveness and validity to the Yukon economy, and it's the role of government here in the Yukon to provide stable, affordable power. When is it going to happen?
We start looking, Mr. Speaker, at the capital budget. We start looking at it department by department. Some of the initiatives -
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Jenkins: If we look at Community and Transportation Services, Mr. Speaker, as to the amount of money that they are spending in capital, and we take away the Shakwak money, there is very little in C&TS in the way of highways - very little, not even consistent with last year, Mr. Speaker.
When we look at the accumulated surplus and we add it all up, by the end of this fiscal period and March 31 of next year, this government, by their own accounting, will have about $60 million in reserves. They will have one heck of a war chest to fight the next election and it will be interesting at that juncture to see how much, in the way of promises and pledges, they will be giving out to their friends and how many individuals they're going to try and buy with projects at that time. How many votes can we buy and what does it take per vote?
Now, here is another very good line, Mr. Speaker, "This government is keeping O&M spending in check in the face of declining revenues." Well, where are the O&M revenues being kept in check, Mr. Speaker? Because government, under this NDP government, is expanding. It's expanding in virtually every area, with the exception of some Cabinet commissioners who are going bye-bye. Mind you, there is still the same staff and staffing complement there, but the number of dollars being spent on O&M is increasing.
Now, how can the Minister of Finance say that they're keeping O&M spending in check? Now, what does that actually mean? In my opinion, Mr. Speaker, it means that it's expanding at a rate corresponding to the rate of inflation. That would be a logical explanation for keeping it in check. The reality of it is, it's expanding considerably faster than the rate of inflation for Canada.
If we look at the one area - and there are a number of areas where this government deserves some credit for making some initiatives on - it's the additional $2 million derived from the federal government for health programs. For that, I will give credit. But then, when I look at the health budget and I look at the opening of additional beds at the Thomson Centre and I look at the cost that is going to be incurred, there has to be more there than what is given to us - that they're opening X number of beds at this cost. What it appears to cover is an entirely new kitchen for the Thomson Centre, for what purpose I don't know. Here we have a facility, the Thomson Centre, that was built under a previous NDP government, and the hospital that was built adjacent to it so that facilities could be used in common, such as the kitchen. Now we are striking off in a new direction and we're installing a commercial kitchen in the Thomson Centre. For what purpose? I can't get a thorough explanation.
It could be serviced out of the existing kitchen, and I'm sure a way can be found -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: - and I have an answer from the minister responsible for Health and Social Services that they get hosed for the price of meals.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I've been in the food business for some 25 years, and I can tell the minister that if he plans on doing the job any better, at any less cost, he's dreaming in technicolor. It's one of the hardest areas in which to provide a consistent and uniform product at a price that is acceptable, and it's extremely volatile.
So after we've spent some hundreds of thousands of dollars -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: - some hundreds of thousands of dollars -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: - some hundreds of thousands of dollars for a new kitchen, what have we got? We'll have two kitchens operating side by side - to what purpose? To what purpose, Mr. Speaker? We could probably best spend that money on opening additional beds in the Thomson Centre that are much needed.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister says, once again, "There are more beds." I don't know where he's hiding them, but certainly with the expenditure that we're doing on the kitchen, we can probably add a couple more beds there.
We start looking at some of the other fantasies. We look at the Economy 2000, as it's entitled in the Minister of Finance's presentation. We have trade missions to Alaska, South America and Russia. I was hoping that the minister responsible would table an overview as to how much business we are realizing out of South America and Russia after all these trade missions have been completed.
Now, Alaska I will buy into. There is some potential there for some Yukon products.
We have an opportunity to attract capital from the Orient and the potential for us realizing anything through the immigration investors fund - that could come to fruition. I was hoping I could ask the minister responsible if he could table a paper at the end of the period of time that this program is in place about what we finally realize in the way of investment.
We look further down the budget to the small business investment tax credit. That's a wonderful initiative during times when the economy is buoyant and there is a profit level on the businesses. It would be an excellent initiative, but there won't be very much uptake currently, Mr. Speaker, on this small business investment tax credit, given the current viability of many small businesses.
Business in the Yukon, if the minister is not aware, is having a tough time. Personal bankruptcies, business bankruptcies are up. They are twice the national average here in the Yukon. It is a good initiative, but you have to get the economy going in order to be able to access a tax credit, and there has to be a favourable investment climate created here in the Yukon. Under the NDP government, those do not exist.
When we look at the tourism industry - the one shining light in the Yukon today, the one sector of our economy that has potential - and we look at the $200,000 that we're going to add into the marketing program in Europe, given the number of airlines that are flying in, given the potential over there - that is a drop in the bucket, Mr. Speaker.
Two hundred thousand additional dollars into the European and U.S. market is a drop in the bucket, given the potential that the Yukon has to attract visitors from Europe. I'm just tremendously upset that the minister could not see his way clear to convince his colleagues at the table to attract more funds into his department. Perhaps we just have a weak minister in the Tourism portfolio who cannot convince his colleagues that the one shining light in the economy of the Yukon needs more money. That is the one area that is attracting income, that is attracting money to the Yukon, and we can only do that little for it.
If we look at the expenditure on the Whitehorse runway and then we start looking, Mr. Speaker, at the second busiest airport in the Yukon and what this government is doing -
Speaker: The time being 5:30 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
Debate on second reading of Bill No. 14 accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 5:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled February 23, 1999:
Yukon Lottery Commission 1997-98 Annual Report (Keenan)