Monday, March 1, 1999 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Tribute to Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous
Hon. Mr. Sloan: In my capacity as acting Minister of Tourism and on behalf of the Government of the Yukon, I'd like to congratulate the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Society for hosting yet another successful Rendezvous celebration, providing Yukoners and visitors alike with 35 years of unique winter activities.
This special Yukon event, combined with the running of the Yukon Quest, has become a cornerstone of winter tourism in the Yukon. As the Yukon welcomes visitors and friends from around the globe, the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous provides an opportunity for Yukoners to showcase our northern culture and arts, along with one of the greatest sporting events in the world.
Congratulations to all the mushers and sponsors who participated in the Yukon Quest. Their dedication and perseverance is a testament to the way that Yukoners have historically lived their lives, and continue to do so, in a culturally rich and diverse manner.
It is no wonder that so many visitors to the Yukon quickly learn to love this territory as much as the people who live here.
Once again, I would like to congratulate the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Society, the Yukon Quest, and their many volunteers and sponsors, for making this a special event each year and one of the top 10 events in North America.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and office of the official opposition, I would ask that members join with me in paying tribute to the hard work and efforts of participants and organizers of several events that recently took place here in the Yukon.
First, I'd like to extend congratulations to the men and women, mushers and their teams, on completing the Yukon Quest international dog sled race. What has become known as the toughest sled race in the world - the Yukon Quest - has captured the attention of dog musher enthusiasts worldwide.
For 1,000 miles, mushers not only have to contend with their fellow competitors, but must face the elements of the north that make this race the challenge of a lifetime.
I would especially like to congratulate Ramy Brooks, Mark May, Peter Buteri, Aliy Zirkle and Frank Turner for their top finishes in this race.
I would like also to take this opportunity to recognize Dawson City geologist, Peter Ledwidge, for receiving the red lantern award. While Peter did not manage to finish in the top standings, he completed the race and was one of the few mushers in the history of the race to make it into town at the end of the race in time for the banquet.
Congratulations to all the mushers, especially our Yukon mushers, on their success.
Many thanks also go to the numerous volunteers and enthusiasts who helped make this year's Yukon Quest a tremendous success, including the Canadian Rangers, who, each year, put in the Canadian portion of the Quest trail.
I would also like to take a moment to recognize members of the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous for their hard work over this last year in ensuring this year's Rendezvous was another raving success, and indeed it was, Mr. Speaker. Events were well-attended. The weather cooperated, and good times were had by all.
Over the years, the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Society has become a territory-wide event, and one to which Yukoners come together to escape from the winter blues and celebrate traditions from the past. The organization and success of each event requires a lot of hard work, perseverance and strong management skills, all of which members of the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Society have clearly demonstrated.
I'd like to especially recognize Derek Charlton, executive director of the 1999 Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous, and the board of directors. Over this last year, their efforts have been instrumental in raising the profile of Rendezvous, bringing in a wide array of sponsors and working with the Yukon Quest to develop a Yukon festival in February.
Hats off, as well, to the board of directors, volunteers and participants of the Frostbite Music Festival, which really rounds out a month of fun here in Yukon.
Not enough can be said about these events and the economic benefits that are derived from each. Again, our heartfelt congratulations to all of these organizations and individuals for a job well done.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the Yukon Liberal Party caucus to pay tribute to the thousands of volunteers who made the Yukon Quest and the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous 1999 happen.
These two Yukon events are more than a sure cure for cabin fever. They unite us as Yukoners. Together we shake off another Yukon winter, cheering on those very special four-footed athletes, the Snowshoe Cancan Dancers, and bracing ourselves for satire at the Cabin Fever Cabaret, just to mention a few events.
Together we welcome visitors who have come to witness the truly unique Yukon. Thank you to those hardworking individuals who volunteer all year to make these two very special Yukon events a reality.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I have a legislative return for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that, since its election to government, the NDP government has not lived up to its commitments made to Yukon people before and during the last election.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, operational audit
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the minister responsible for the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. Mr. Speaker, last week I asked the minister some very important questions concerning an operation audit of the WCB, as well as the review of the Workers' Compensation Act itself that is supposed to be currently underway.
As usual with this minister, I didn't receive any answers to the questions I asked, so I'm going to try again, Mr. Speaker.
The Coles Hewitt review was neither independent, nor was it an audit. It is not independent, because Coles Hewitt is the firm that normally does WC business, and it isn't an audit because all it does is compare WC administration costs here in the Yukon to those across the country.
We only have to look at the B.C. situation, where they had a scathing report of their Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board - I guess it's synonymous with an NDP government, Mr. Speaker.
So I'd like to ask if the minister still believes that the Coles Hewitt report on the review of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board administration costs is indeed an independent audit. Yes or no, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the member will forgive me if I give more of an answer than he demands, but I'm just looking at the Coles Hewitt review of administration costs.
The member just said that this firm has no credibility and has no capability whatsoever to put their stamp on something - that they're beholden. I would argue that that is quite a stretch. I think he should be careful if he makes that comment outside of this Legislature.
Mr. Speaker, I will table this report once again, for all those involved, and I'll read a couple of lines from the conclusions of the report.
Mr. Phillips: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The hon. Member for Riverdale North, on a point of order.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, the member, when asking his question, did not say anything of the kind about the firm being not credible. He talked about the firm not being independent, and the member should stand up in the House and speak to the facts.
Hon. Mr. Harding: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The hon. Member for Faro, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, this is just a rude interruption. The member opposite did, in fact, make some very scathing comments about Coles Hewitt and, through inference, said that they could not be independent. This is an argument between two members, not a point of order.
Speaker: There is no point of order. Would the member please continue?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member opposite said that this group, Coles Hewitt, was not capable of an independent review. Mr. Speaker, they said that the total administration costs for the Yukon board appeared to be reasonably consistent with those incurred by other boards when costs are compared on a basis that properly recognizes variations in the size of the various boards. Relative to smaller boards, the Yukon's administration costs are lower than the Northwest Territories but higher than those in PEI. A significant part of the difference relative to PEI is explained by PEI's relatively low expenditure on occupational health and safety.
So, I can table this report again for the member opposite. Obviously, there is room for improvements. I met with the board this morning and they're trying to make some of those.
Mr. Jenkins: I, too, was going to table a copy of the report and I'm pleased to see that the minister has finally started to read part of it. But right in the preamble of the report, Mr. Speaker, it said, "This study does not analyze the internal administration efficiencies of the Yukon or any other board", and that is the issue. We're not going to compare apples to apples. What we want to look at is our board doing what is right for the stakeholders here in the Yukon.
Can the minister advise the House if he's going to do anything with this Coles Hewitt study, as it does not analyze the internal administration efficiencies of the Yukon? Does the minister now want to admit that he was wrong in his previous assertions and that the Coles Hewitt report is an independent audit? It is not an independent audit and it does not address the issue of administration.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite just said it is an independent audit, but then he changed his mind and said it isn't an independent audit. I would argue that Coles Hewitt, when they put their stamp on something, is standing behind it professionally, and they are designated to do so. I just read two of the sections of the conclusions. I'm telling the member opposite that, rather than having a one-day wonder where we announce a Spanish inquiry of the board, we actually try and do something substantive on the ground that's going to make a real difference to the lives of injured workers and employers in this territory, and that's a legislative review of the act.
I met with the board this morning regarding that. I'm meeting with advisory groups on Thursday regarding that real-life initiative that's going to have an impact.
It's an easy hit to ask for a Spanish Inquisition into the Workers' Compensation Board, but what does it really do for people at the end of the day? Isn't it more appropriate to try and take some substantive action to benefit and improve the system?
Mr. Jenkins: That's what I'm looking for, exactly - some initiatives to improve the system - and that can best be done by the Management Board calling for and initiating an operational audit. The Coles Hewitt report, Mr. Speaker, is neither independent nor is it an audit. I am calling for an operational audit of WCB.
Will the minister take the steps necessary to initiate such an audit?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Again, Mr. Speaker, the member has just inferred that this particular firm, Coles Hewitt, is in the pocket of the Workers' Compensation Board and cannot provide an objective analysis of the important information surrounding administrative costs. I would argue that he's out on a limb in that respect.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, I would say that this government has proven that, through the creation of the workers' advocate - after I called for it for two years in opposition and the Yukon Party refused to bring that position into being, we brought that person in. We hired a neutral chair. We've gone through diligent efforts to ensure that there's good consultation surrounding the appointments to boards and some consensus between business and labour, for the most part.
And thirdly, Mr. Speaker, we're engaging in an extensive review of the legislation to try and make some substantive difference and improvement to the act. To have some sort of an operational review when I've just tabled the administrative review, I think, Mr. Speaker, would be wasteful, considering that the board is already doing a lot of that work right now.
Question re: Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, operational audit
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, it is to the minister responsible for the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
This minister is exceptionally good at making announcements about things he is going to do, but he is decidedly lacking in the follow-through. The Workers' Compensation Act review, announced four months ago, is no exception.
In view of the fact that this minister is a big fan of the workers' advocate - in fact, if I listened to him correctly, it would appear that he almost gave birth to the workers' advocate position - will the minister ensure that the workers' advocate is included on the review steering committee for amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act? Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I will say to the member opposite that he is completely incorrect about follow-through on the act review. I met with labour and employers some time ago - over a year ago - to discuss the timing of this review. We agreed - us, labour and employers, the owners of the system - that fall of 1999 was an appropriate time to conclude a review. We are completely on schedule. I have been meeting with the parties involved. Today, I met with the board.
There will be further meetings with more labour and employers beyond the citizen board that is in charge of the workers' compensation system. We intend to make good on this commitment. We intend to involve a good cross-section of labour, employers and the advisory groups in the process to ensure that there is input from the people who actually own the system. We intend to carry that out in an appropriate timeline, so that it can be delivered in the fall of 1999.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's ensure that amendments to the act are done right this time, Mr. Speaker.
Will the minister ensure that the injured workers are provided with the necessary resources to submit their own brief outlining suggested changes to this act? Will the minister put his government's money where his mouth has already been?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, the cost of the review will be borne by the board itself. That has been agreed to by the labour and employer representatives on the board. We intend to have active participation from labour and employers in the review, and the member opposite, in inferring that we have not acted, is incorrect once again.
The member is a rookie in this House, I know, but if he'd just review his Hansard, he'll know that before he blessed us with his presence in here, issues such as the workers' advocate were extremely important to injured workers in this territory. That's why when our government came in we created that position and ensured that it was funded, and even put some Yukon territorial government money toward ensuring that position was able to carry out the important work that it should and could do in this territory.
Mr. Jenkins: But what the minister fails to mention is that the injured workers have applied for funding to this government to prepare a brief and they have been denied that funding. That's the question and answer in itself, Mr. Speaker.
Now, if we look at the minister's now famous October 30 news release, he stated that, due to stakeholders' concerns, the 10-year review of the act required by the act, in 2003, has been moved up to 1999. Can the minister advise the House how this current, only partial review of the act can meet the requirements of the act itself for a full review? How can we do something partially when the act calls for a full review?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'll say to the member opposite that there are presently 16 different parties on the advisory group, for one. If every particular organization of labour and employer were to be provided funding to participate, that could become an extremely expensive proposition to the taxpayer, as well as to the owners of the system who are funding this entire operation. So, I think he should think about that before saying that everybody participating in this particular process should be paid to do so.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, I would argue that we will be able to get good solid information to make solid decisions with the owners of the system: labour and employers. I think that we'll be able to ensure that their concerns are addressed adequately through the process. I think also, as well, that our agenda has been clear to the public of the Yukon. We wanted to ensure that workers had access to fair treatment. That's why we brought in the workers' advocate. We wanted to ensure that there was neutrality in the chair. That's why we hired a neutral chair.
We wanted to ensure that there was a good legislative framework for delivering services to workers in this territory. That's why we're doing a legislative review.
Question re: Workers' Compensation Board, annual report
Mr. Cable: I have some more questions for the same minister on the operation of the Workers' Compensation Board. The Workers' Compensation Act requires the board to give its annual report to the minister by June 30 in each year - and no later than June 30 in each year. It then has to be tabled in the Legislature within 15 days after the next session begins - that would be the fall session.
The annual report first publicly saw the light of day in January, six months after the minister was supposed to get it. Could the minister explain why the board's report - that's for the year December 31, 1997 - was over six months late?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I've raised that issue with the board, Mr. Speaker. I've raised concerns about accountability. That's precisely why we are doing the legislative review, and one of the key questions will be board accountability to the stakeholders.
Mr. Cable: The most recent report that has been made public, as I indicated, was for the period ending December 31, 1997. Up to that point, the information on the Workers' Compensation Board's activities was 24 months stale and the information, when it was tabled - when it was made public - was 14 months stale.
Now, the act says the board shall - it doesn't say it may or it possibly, but it says it shall - report to the minister by June 30 in each year, unless the minister directs otherwise.
Could the minister tell the House: did he give the board the direction that it could be six months late in providing information?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I recognize that the opposition wants to be very difficult and extremely critical of the citizens who make up the Workers' Compensation Board, the workers and employers who sit on the board and the people I met with today. I will ensure him, though, that they are trying to do some reasonable work on behalf of Yukoners.
However, in this case I did not give that permission. I do believe the issue of board accountability to the stakeholders is an important one. That's why I asked that advisory groups be formed to broaden the input into the Workers' Compensation Board. They were, in conjunction with the board.
Secondly, we're conducting a legislative review and one of the key questions will be this whole area of board accountability. I do believe it can be improved.
Mr. Cable: Well, let's get the minister on the record. As I had mentioned, up until this January, the most recent information that we had on the board's activities was 24 months old. Now, if the minister will look back in his election document A Better Way, under the heading "Restoring Confidence in Workers' Compensation", he will read, "An NDP government will improve access to information, including the quick release of reports by the board."
When is this government, which is two and a half years into its mandate, going to live up to that election promise?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm just looking at the document right now. I see that we committed to establishing the workers' advocate in the commitments; we've done that. We committed to improve the accountability; we're just conducting a legislative review, which I believe will deal very fundamentally with that question. We've asked for the board to try and broaden the input from stakeholders through the creation of advisory groups on policy to the board; we've done that. We said that we would try and ensure that the board has a neutral chair; we did that.
The member too often forgets just how much we have done to try and improve the system at the board, and which we are continuing to do. And I must also correct - while I'm on my feet - a comment by the Member for Klondike, who said that an application from the Injured Workers Alliance was rejected. It was indeed deferred, not rejected, for further consideration, considering the policy implications as to the overall cost of the review for all of the stakeholders, because there are many parties who want to participate in this review. If they were all to be funded, it would add considerable costs to the employers, as well as possibly to the taxpayers.
Question re: Workers' Compensation Act review
Mr. Cable: After all, who are the injured workers? They are only the beneficiaries of the system.
I have some more questions for the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board.
The Workers' Compensation Act is up for review, as we've discussed earlier. It's unclear who is going to be doing the review. It's unclear from the minister's press release that he issued last fall as to who is going to be driving this train.
Is it some officials appointed by the minister? Is it going to be the Department of Justice? Or is it going to be the Workers' Compensation Board that's actually going to conduct the review?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I will say to the member opposite that injured workers and workers make up a broad cross-section of this community, whether it's the teamsters union, non-labour, the Yukon Federation of Labour, operating engineers, Injured Workers Alliance. "Workers" in this territory is a very broad definition, and we have to ensure that all parties have some input. If they were all to be funded, that would be an interesting proposition and that has to be analyzed somewhat further. Of course, the other owners of the system, the employers, who would be funding that, would also have to be consulted on that proposition.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, let me say to the member opposite that we intend to involve levels of government to ensure that there's a coordinated approach to the review. We are going to have to involve the stakeholders - workers and employers - in the process and we will also probably have to utilize some services from outside of government to ensure that the process is being steered through some of the hurdles that we will undoubtedly encounter in dealing with very complex, complicated, issues when trying to make some real change on the ground for injured workers and employers in this territory.
Mr. Speaker, I intend, as I said to the members opposite, to have a full meeting with the advisory groups, of which there are some 16 stakeholders involved, this coming Thursday.
Mr. Cable: Let me just play the tape back. I asked the minister who is going to be driving the review and he used the word "we". Who is "we"? Is it the minister appointing some officials? Is it the Department of Justice? Or is it the Workers' Compensation Board?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the member can play the tape back but he's still singing the same old song. What we're talking about here is niggly-piggly details. I just told him that people inside government will be involved, that the labour and employers will be involved. I just told him that we, as a political level of government, have initiated this review so we are going to be providing some direction to it as well. What more does the member need to know? We're going to be meeting on Thursday with the advisory group to discuss these conceptual approaches, and we'll be having some discussions on an ongoing basis as we ensure that we have due processes in place to effect real change in the system here in this territory, to improve it.
Mr. Cable: Let me ask this question: the information coming out of the Workers' Compensation Board is stale. Part of the review of the act will relate, I assume, to the operations of the board. What is the minister going to do? Is he going to insist that, as part of the review, the most recent information on the board's operation be made available to the public? That's the number of appeals, the financial situation, everything about the board's operations. Is that going to be made available to the public during the review, or are we going to be running on information that's stale?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, it's clear that the Yukon Party and the Liberals have no faith in the labour and employers, those citizens who sit on the board, who have been nominated by the organizations that they represent. I don't know how many letters I got from chambers of commerce about their employer reps on the board, from labour groups about selecting their people on the board. I was lobbied extensively by the Injured Workers Alliance to hire the chair that sits in that position right now, both publicly and in private letters. I was lobbied on the floor of this House by the member opposite to appoint the chair that he so quickly has dumped as someone who is incapable of delivering any kind of an agenda in the Workers' Compensation Board.
However, Mr. Speaker, having said that, I will say to the member opposite that we intend to ensure that there's improvement at the board. That's why we're conducting a legislative review. The information that the member talks about should be made public - absolutely - and it should be considered by the people who are participating in the review. That information should always be made public, whether it's an issue of this review or just ongoing business of the board, because it's important to workers and employers.
Question re: Yukon College funding cuts
Mr. Phillips: My question is to the Minister of Education. I had an opportunity to sit down with the Yukon College president and director of administration to discuss the college's financial administration and well-being. While the college appears to have done very well over recent years in reducing its administrative costs and providing a stable operating environment, it has found it very difficult to meet its present needs as a result of some financial cutbacks to the tune of $250,000 that were carried out last year by this government.
Not long ago, this news was presented to the minister and the Government Leader during a meeting with the college board of directors, and it was relayed to the minister that the college is running a deficit this year, and it has reached the point of no return. Unless an infusion of these funds that were cut from last year's budget is reinstated, the college will have no option other than to cut programs.
Mr. Speaker, despite this plea, in this budget the government chose to ignore the college request. I'd like to ask the Minister of Education why funds were not reinstated in the 1999-2000 budget to cover the 1998 shortfall, to help the college maintain a balanced budget? Why, Mr. Speaker, has the Department of Education refused to reinstate the $250,000 that it took out of the budget last year?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that the members opposite are so interested in standing up and criticizing the budget that they are failing to determine their facts before they actually do so.
Mr. Speaker, I can inform the member that not only have we as a government made a commitment to long-term stable funding for non-government organizations and other groups and guaranteed the funding grant of $10 million for a three-year basis for the operations and maintenance cost to the college, but we have in this budget also increased the capital contribution. In this budget, there is $750,000 for a capital contribution for Yukon College, which is an increase, and we have also indicated in the long-term projections that we will maintain that $750,000 for capital works over the next three years.
Mr. Phillips: Well, the minister's facts are wrong in this case, Mr. Speaker. Two years ago, the college received a $250,000 grant for a specific program. Last year, it was expected to get the grant and still had to carry on the program. It did so, despite the government cutting the $250,000 out of the budget.
This year, the government returned the money in the budget, but there still is a shortfall at the college, and the college had to dip into its reserves to come up with the shortfall.
I would like to ask the minister: would she consider increasing the budget of the college to where it should have been and reinstate the $250,000 to the Yukon College so it doesn't have to cut programs in the future for Yukon students?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, I guess the member is speaking as the expert who cut the Yukon College budget when he served as Minister of Education with the Yukon Party government.
Mr. Speaker, we have increased the funding to Yukon College. We have announced stable, long-term funding for their operations and maintenance grant, and we've increased the funding for their capital projects. We have helped to fund - the member is speaking about the banner project, which is a computer project that we helped the college to fund over a short-term basis, as they had increased capital costs. But I can assure the member that we have been following through on financial commitments to Yukon College and have increased their budget.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, the government's theory of just making a statement and hoping that no one questions it are running rather thin.
The Yukon Party government, when it was in government, did not decrease the Yukon College budget. It increased the Yukon College budget. Read the budget book.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Member for Faro said, "Read the budget book". I verified it with the college president and the college administration was there at a meeting I had last week.
Mr. Speaker, the minister just jumps up on her feet and makes these false statements. The minister should withdraw the statement. When she reads the budget, she should come into the House and do that.
This government prides itself for being a strong defender of education, and yet it chooses to turn its own back when our education providers ask for help. As of March 31, there is going to be a budget surplus in this government of over $60 million. The college board met with the government a few weeks ago, prior to the budget, and asked for some help; otherwise, it would have to cut programs. I would like to ask the minister to go back and sit down with the college board, and come to an agreement or an arrangement where the college doesn't have to cut programs for our students in the Yukon in the future. Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, as I've explained to the member, I have met with the college board and we have increased the funding to the college board for their capital projects, so that we can continue to guarantee that Yukon College offers good education for all Yukon students and students from outside the Yukon who come here, as well.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, in the current budget year, the Yukon government helped with the funding for the reconstruction of the new access road to the Ayamdigut campus of Yukon College. That was a very successful training project, where we met some safety concerns for providing access to the college. We also had a number of trainees employed who gained some job skills and then found permanent work.
So, we are continuing to work collaboratively with Yukon College. I am proud of that, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Day cares and day homes, direct operating grants
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Now, Mr. Speaker, there are a number of day cares and day homes in the Yukon that receive a direct operating grant. There are more day cares than day homes that do receive the direct operating grant.
Now, Mr. Speaker, what is the minister's intention with regard to the direct operating grant for Yukon day cares and day homes?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, as the member is probably aware, I believe, we're only one of two jurisdictions in Canada that offers such a grant. The total is about $1,219,000 a year. She is correct when she says that it goes into both day care centres and day homes.
I have had some meetings with the child care board and have had some discussions with them in terms of some suggestions that they may have in terms of such things as the direct operating grant and other issues surrounding day care, and we'll be bringing forward some changes or some modifications after we've had a chance to review those.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, for the record, there are almost 5,000 children below the age of nine years in the Yukon. This is a very important issue.
Now, I'll read from a letter from the Yukon Child Care Association, addressed to the minister and it says, "It is time the territorial government acknowledged its role in decreasing quality child care throughout the Yukon during the past several years."
Mr. Speaker, what is the minister's intention with regard to the day care subsidy for Yukon day cares and day homes?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that we're probably doing more than the federal Liberal government, which did promise a quarter million child care spaces, which have yet to materialize. We haven't seen them and I don't expect that we will see them, but I can tell the member that, just in the 1997-98 fiscal year, the actual volume increases have driven up the subsidies by some eight percent.
We are currently extremely competitive with other jurisdictions in Canada in terms of the subsidy levels. Across Canada, only British Columbia and the NWT's maximum subsidy rates are higher for two categories.
For the other two categories of children, we actually exceed those jurisdictions. I think we are doing a substantial amount for our children here in the territory, and I can tell the member that currently - September 1998 - there are subsidies being paid for 916 children.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, some of the minister's excuses are wearing a little bit thin, both with this side of the House and with the Yukon Child Care Association. I'll read from that same letter: "Simply, there is no commitment to child care."
Mr. Speaker, one of the areas where there's no commitment is in the education and training of child care staff, particularly in rural communities. Now, this issue, as the minister knows, has been identified continually over the past decade.
Mr. Speaker, we have expertise in early childhood education, but people cannot afford to take the courses. Now, the demographics for an average student in early childhood development is under-30, single mother, with a low income, working in the child care field. What is this government's intention with regard to accessibility for training and education for child care staff?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure that the member is aware that we do have an early childhood education program up at the college, and we've been supportive of that.
As well, we've tied some of our hoped-for changes to raising the level of child care workers, and tying it in, in that regard. Those are some of the discussions that I've had with the child care board and, as I said, we'll be bringing forward some of these in the future.
I think the member is really treading on very, very thin ground when she says we haven't done anything for child care. I would say that the entire idea of us trying to maintain levels of subsidy in the face of growing volumes - to the tune of eight percent increase just over the last year - is a very substantial commitment. I would also say that what she really needs to do is take a look at this budget and see where some of our concerns have been, and I would challenge her that she needs to get her facts correct.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with Bill No. 14, First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000. Is there any further general debate?
Bill No. 14 - First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 - continued
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, there are a number of things outstanding from last week that I'll address right now.
Firstly, perhaps I can respond to some of the things the Liberal leader addressed. She briefly indicated why the Liberal Party had voted against the budget. Perhaps that was in response to some comments I made in my follow-up remarks in second reading, wondering why the Liberal Party would vote against the budget when they had voted for so many Yukon Party budgets that were not nearly as popular as the one that we have before us today. That's something I'm certain the public will be scratching their heads about in the coming weeks.
Nevertheless, Mr. Chair, the one comment she made was that she identified, I guess, people who she thought were representative, or at least whether they're fictional or not, she made the case that there would be a number of people who would not get precisely what they wanted from this budget. I can only tell the member that this budget is not all things to all people. It was never intended to be, nor can it ever be.
The comments made that there is going to be somebody out there, or she's found somebody, who's not going to get a job resulting from this budget is undoubtedly true - whether she has a specific person in mind, or it's a fictional person, there are certainly people who will not be employed as a result of this budget. And I would hasten to add that if the government spent all its money, borrowed another $50 million and spent that too, there would still be people out there who would not be employed, because the government is just not in a position to employ everybody in the territory.
There will be people who will have been laid off from the mining industry, thanks to the fact that the mining industry is down, or is suffering rough times.
This budget, even though it creates, I think, approximately 40 private sector full-time equivalents, is not going to put every unemployed person in the territory to work. If the member is working under the assumption that a good budget will put all the people in the territory to work, then if she ever does get into government she will suffer in a big way, because that is an aspiration that cannot be achieved.
The member made some comment about what a senior citizen would see in this budget for them. As I was listening to her, I was wondering what it would take to impress this senior citizen if we weren't dedicating so much of the capital budget to extended care facilities, to opening up extended care beds, to improving the health care system in a number of key and particular areas, and even to some property tax deferral relief for seniors. What would it take to impress this person, Mr. Chair? The only thing I could think of, of course, was that if I were to sit down myself and explain to this senior citizen what is precisely in the budget and people would see, therefore, and as a consequence, there is a lot in the budget directed at seniors in the territory.
The member went on to wonder, Mr. Chair, who might be opposed to the budget and asked me for my ideas on the subject. Well, with the greatest of respect, I have to leave some work to the opposition. I can't do it all - not only develop a budget, defend a budget, but also develop the critique and provide it to the opposition too.
I believe that we have got a good balance of priorities in this budget. I believe that we have achieved a lot of varied objectives - competing and complementary objectives in this budget. We're meeting the needs of many different organizations.
We're also creating a lot of jobs. The fact that we are not putting even more money in the budget this year and reserving it for future years to meet a temporary decline in government revenues is not to say that the budget is not creating a lot of jobs. There is still a very sizable capital budget. Through direct spending, there is still a lot that can and will be done. There are a number of large building projects. There is some fairly massive road building that will be undertaken this year, thanks to the expenditures proposed in this budget, and many people will in fact be employed as a result of expenditures made in this budget.
We will not employ all people, but we will employ a lot of people. And we will have sufficient resources to keep in reserve for next year and the year after, in order to maintain stable spending. So it's quite the opposite of the contention that we are trying to raise a war chest for future years, so that we can have even greater spending in the future. The opposite is true. What we are doing is reserving some money in our bank account now so that we can maintain stable spending next year and the year after and the year after that. That's our objective. That's the objective that we wanted to meet when we came to office; that's the objective that we have met and we want to continue to meet.
Now I'm not certain what the member's position is on the subject of annual deficits. She begins her replies on the subject by being critical of any projected annual deficit. The others in the opposition want the annual deficit to be bigger. It appears that she is of the view that any saving of the savings account is inherently wrong - wrong-headed, wrong in some way. So I want to know how she reconciles that. I'll be interested in engaging in that discussion with her.
We discussed the matter briefly of the private/public partnerships and I indicated to the member, on a couple of occasions, that many of the private/public partnerships that have been proposed by various people have involved the government borrowing money, undertaking a public work through private sector sources and then the government paying the money back. That is debt financing. It may be a partnership with the private sector, but it's still debt financing, and I have resisted that kind of activity very publicly and consistently.
If the member thinks that we should get into that kind of financing arrangement, then I'd like to hear her opinion on that. She made - not this time, but this time last spring - some suggestion that we should be privatizing public services or contracting out these services and that that would be a useful model for private/public partnerships. I would be interested in hearing her suggestions on that subject. We have resisted it, but I would certainly be interested in hearing what she has to say.
There was some discussion about long-term planning. I remember the members asking last spring for long-term planning. I've got quotes here from Mr. Cable asking for long-term planning, in fact saying long-term planning is a positive - and he repeated, "it's a positive" - step.
Long-term planning now, Mr. Chair, seems to be - now that we've done it - a negative, so it was positive up until the time we do it and it's a negative once we do it. I'd be interested in hearing her or any other members' comments on that. Is long-term planning a positive or a negative?
We've already taken a position. We believe it is. We share the Member for Riverside's view - at least as of last spring - that it's a positive.
And we are undertaking some longer term planning, and we believe it's a good thing. Of course, the amount of money that's voted is an annual amount on the fiscal year, and that is what we're actually committing to as a Legislature. There is certainly no doubt that there will be some public expectations raised about undertaking some public works once we start the planning and start the construction and, if the construction's not finished before the next election, then clearly there'll be some expectation that it'll be completed.
Now, if the members object to that, I'd like to hear their comments about that. There are a lot of things I'd like to hear about. We'll have a good old dialogue with the members opposite on these subjects.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I can assure the Finance minister that he will get lots of dialogue, and he already has got a lot on it, and he'll get a lot more on it, there's no doubt about that, because I, for one, don't believe he did a very good job on the budget, and it's our job to point out to Yukoners why we don't believe he did a very good job on the budget, and why he could have done better.
I just want to briefly go back over the debate from Thursday. I've highlighted a few places, now that I've had a chance to review Hansard, and can maybe clarify some things on the public record, because, I believe, in some instances at least, there'll be a wrong impression left with the public as to actually what the finances of the government are, in comments that were made by the Finance minister.
Very early in his general debate presentation on Thursday afternoon, he stated, on page 4247, that at the end of the next fiscal year, they would still have a savings account of some $28 million. That's what he's projecting, and he added that inevitably there will be some lapses added to it.
I suggest to the member opposite, based on his record as Finance minister - and unless something changes that he hasn't told me or the Yukon public about - that his surplus will be $70 million.
He has been going along, Mr. Chair, for two years, projecting a $15-million surplus, and his budget surpluses have run from $40 million this year, to $60 million. At the end of March this year, this government is sitting on a $60.5-million projected surplus, at this point. I don't expect that will be reduced by very much when the final figures come in from departments. If anything, it may be added to.
So, a $60.5-million surplus is a substantial amount of money on a $450-million budget. So I suggest to the Finance minister he could have done more for the one segment of Yukon society that is not going to benefit that much from this budget, and that's the 15-percent unemployed that we have in the Yukon today, and growing.
His own government's short-term economic forecast says we have more to come, more bad news to come - 700-plus jobs I believe we're going to have this year. This short-term outlook itself is saying that the population, from a high of 33.5 thousand, is going to drop to 31.5 thousand by the end of this year - the end of the year 1999. I suggested to the Finance minister, in my debate on Thursday, that what I'd gleaned from what he'd told us is that he's quite prepared to have stable funding on a much smaller population base in the Yukon. He's prepared to let our skilled labour force leave the Yukon, and I, for one, believe that's wrong - totally wrong - because that's what I've gleaned from what he's told me. He wants to maintain stable government spending.
I don't criticize him for wanting to maintain stable government spending, but I do criticize him for sitting on a large surplus and not doing anything to retain the work force that we have in the Yukon here today, because I believe that is wrong. I believe Yukoners think that is wrong.
The government has the financial ability to deal with a very serious, short-term problem. The government itself, in their short-term economic outlook, doesn't see any relief for 12 to 18 months, and yet we have a Finance minister who stands here again today and says that this budget is going to create a lot of jobs. You bet it is. Every capital budget does. I'm critical of this government because it's not going to create the additional jobs that are required to carry Yukoners through the short term, and we had the financial resources to do it without jeopardizing the savings account of the Finance minister and this government. There was plenty of room for flexibility, and it wasn't done. Government could use their own priorities, but the fact that remains is that capital budgets in the Yukon do put a lot of people to work and do help tide them over until something comes on the horizon.
I've been in this Yukon for many, many, many years, and I have never witnessed an exodus of people like I have since 1996, and I've had Yukoners who have been in the Yukon much longer than I have who have also stated that to me that they haven't seen such an exodus of people - their friends leaving, their children leaving because there is no work. And it's going to be hard to attract those people back to the Yukon again. It's unfortunate. It's very unfortunate, because the government had the ability to do something about it, and they chose not to. They chose not to.
Mr. Chair, the Government Leader was saying in his presentation here today that the budget can't be all things to all people, and I agree with him, having been in the position that he's in. But I really believe that if a government is doing the job that they were elected to do, then they ought to be dealing with the crisis that we have on our hands, and I don't see this government doing that.
I don't see this government doing that at all. They are so fixated on long-term planning that they are, in fact, jeopardizing the well-being of many, many Yukoners.
One of the things that the Finance minister said in his budget summation is that they are predicting a decline of $36 million in revenue in the 1999-2000 year. That is the budget year we are debating here today, Mr. Chair. He is right, but I believe he is leaving the wrong impression with the public when he says that, because what he has included in there is the one-time census. And he says it there, but this, of course, is not unexpected, because it contains the one-time census assessment.
The reality of it is that his overall funding is not going to drop very much on a year-to-year basis. I believe that if you take the $27.8 million out of the one-time transfer - some of that will be ongoing as a result of population adjustments - I think we're talking about a $7-million or $8-million reduction that is forecast this time.
But then, if you look at how our budget is calculated on an annual basis, there is some population drop, but that is offset by an increase from Ottawa when our tax base decreases, and that shows up in his supplementary budget of this year - that in fact we have an increase in the grant because we didn't raise as much in territorial revenues as we expected.
I suggest to the Finance minister that with the expenditure base going up and the tax rate going down in all the provinces in Canada, he, in fact, will not end up with less money from Ottawa next year, outside of the one-time grant, than he had this year. He will probably end up with more than he had last year, once it's all calculated.
I believe that the amount of money we're getting from Ottawa is stable. It's a matter of the spending priorities of this government and how they spend that money.
The $37.3-million increase in O&M spending since this government has come to power concerns me, and it concerns many of my constituents. The government continues to cry wolf, and says, "We have to have stable spending." Yet, they've increased the operations and maintenance of government dramatically.
Now, the Finance minister said on Thursday, "Well, that doesn't really hold true, because some things in capital could be included in O&M, and vice versa", but then when I asked him about it, he couldn't point out anything specific.
So, Mr. Chair, I, for one, believe that the government could have done a lot better in putting Yukoners to work now, and would have really retained some of our skilled workforce.
I do have a question for the Finance minister, that I would like to ask him now. From my interpretation of what he said - that he wants to maintain stable spending from year to year to year - is he prepared to do that on a lower population base, and does that not concern him?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I find the Yukon Party's analysis to be irresponsible. I regard their thinking only about this moment, and not thinking about even next year, as being irresponsible.
It is the same kind of thinking that drove Yukon Party budgets, and the whole territory had to endure this roller-coaster ride in expenditures. One month we were talking about having to cut back, and there was a huge tax increase that the Yukon Party applied to the territory. Seven months later they were announcing a $7 million new program. The "all-clear" was sounded; everybody breathed a sigh of relief; and then only the following spring they were legislating employee rights out of existence; they were cutting back the employee wages arbitrarily; we were back into crisis again. We went through this roller coaster - crisis to good times - over and over again, throughout the Yukon Party term.
That wasn't so bad if one considered the fact that Anvil Range was providing the backstop, but it would be deadly today if the Yukon government were to contribute to that whole attitude, were to contribute to the roller-coaster ride that people were facing, which people found extremely painful, disorienting and disturbing.
Mr. Chair, the Yukon government cannot replace the Anvil Range jobs, the Anvil Range payroll. We can spent strategically in key areas where the community wants us to provide resources, but we cannot, simply cannot, through raw spending - as the member wants us to do, spent it all now - we cannot replace those jobs.
Even if we could, we would be driving down our reserves well past the danger level. Next year, only next year - is what we're talking about; next year - we would be looking at cuts to services and a fast decline in the capital spending. We would be perpetuating that same roller coaster that the Yukon Party had us riding for years.
We can't do that. That's irresponsible. That is entirely irresponsible. I don't share the member's opinion on that subject.
Mr. Chair, the member now suggests, or thinks, that we're going to have a $70-million surplus. I don't see the evidence of that. I don't see the evidence anywhere of that.
We have said we are rejecting, technically, a $49-million to $50-million surplus. I am admitting that we're going to have - publicly, in the long-term planning documents here; page 3 in the long-term plans - I am openly stating that there will be sufficient lapses to bring that up to $60 million and factoring that into the long-term expenditure analysis and the revenue analysis - the revenue analysis out of Finance - as to how much the revenue picture is going to dip over a three- or four- or five-year period.
What we've basically said is that when you calculate in the provincial-local escalator, when you calculate in the population decline, there is a decline in revenue that we can make up through the strategic spending in the short and medium term of our savings account. That provides a stable level of economic activity that the community can depend on.
So, we don't spend it all now, all in this year, have all our expectations raised and only next year we are projecting a capital budget that is substantially less than this year - substantially less. I would argue that that is nothing short of irresponsible.
Now, the member chooses to characterize this as stable spending on the backs, as he puts it, of a smaller workforce. I don't characterize it that way at all. The reality, Mr. Chair, is that the workforce has declined as a result of the mining economy dipping, the mining economy facing trouble. That's what caused the decline in employment. What the Government of Yukon is doing - and what the Yukon government did last year - is spending as much as it can, understanding the long-term, the short-term and medium-term projections on our revenue to target stable spending as an objective, both on the operations and on the capital side. Mr. Chair, I feel so confident about this particular objective being realized and it being supported that I think it is essential that we stick to the discipline.
The members opposite, who weren't at the public meetings where this precise objective was laid out, where people nodded, people expressed support, the business community expressed support and said this was the only responsible thing to do, do some long-term planning, think about where we're going, spend as much as you can on the capital, but don't be in a position where you have to cut back dramatically. We don't want the roller coaster; we want stability.
We think the government can contribute to a more stable environment. That's what they said. That's what this budget does.
The member makes the allegation that the government is fixated, as he puts it, on long-term planning. Well, last year and the year before, there was the claim that there was insufficient long-term planning, when in fact of course there was long-term planning, but now, we're so-called fixated on long-term planning and we're not doing anything for the short term. Well, good heavens, there is a $90-million capital budget here, and there is significant capital spending.
O&M, incidentally, Mr. Chair, has an enormous impact on the economy too. The private sector gets support through O&M and capital spending, but the point is that if we factor out the need to provide some long-term stability - even long-term meaning this year, next year and the year after, so not that long term - we're spending every dime we've got.
Now, the member last week said that if only the government spent another $13 million, wherever, on the capital side, he'd be hard pressed not to vote for it. Well, Mr. Chair, I'd love to have another $13 million this year to spend on capital anything, and if I didn't have to worry about next year or the year after, if somebody wasn't worrying about next year or the year after or the year after that, I'd spend it.
But it would be irresponsible to think about only this year. That would not be reasonable. You would not be able to maintain it. If you look at the long-term projections, you would not be able to maintain that stable level of spending. It would not happen.
Then what would happen next year? We'd all be sitting here, and all my defence would be, well, you guys asked me to spend our savings account so why are you so antagonistic about such a small capital budget or the fact that we've been cutting services Well, you wouldn't take responsibility for that decision. The opposition certainly wouldn't want to take responsibility for that.
Well, the government has to think responsibly and long term - short term, medium and long term - and we will.
We have not hidden anything. I have not hidden anything from members opposite in these budget documents, in terms of revenue projects, expenditures projections, our capital projects list, the current thinking around the longer-term planning for capital.
When the economic outlook came up, it was tabled. It was tabled on the same day as the budget. We know precisely the situation under which we're operating, and we're very public about what the challenges are. So, consequently, we've had umpteen discussions with the business community, with labour and with community groups and municipalities and First Nations about what we can do and what is reasonable for a government to undertake, what is a reasonable role for government - umpteen discussions.
The initiatives shown in this budget are the result of community discussions. The only thing that I've got from members opposite - or at least some of the members opposite - is just a call to spend more; just, whatever, spend it, without any notion about what this is going to mean only 14 months from today.
Mr. Chair, the projections in this budget, the projections that are outlined on page 3, which are an update from last year, show precisely what we think our revenue and expenditures will be in general terms.
It demonstrates that we believe that we're going to run an annual deficit this year and that there'll be one in the next year and there will be one in the year after, but the basic service levels, the basic capital level of spending, can be maintained and that will put a lot of people to work. That will achieve the objective of providing some stability for our community. So, whatever we could buy with an extra $13 million right now that we would have to lay off next year, and then some, whatever level of employment the community generally embraces now can be sustained indefinitely, as far as the capital budget, as far as the operations budget of this government is concerned.
The initiatives that are being undertaken are specifically those initiatives that have been suggested by the community and by people all around this territory, and by the business community. I know the members care deeply about our relationship with the business community. Well, look what's happening, look at what's being undertaken, look at what the business community has said about the budget, and they can see that we have hit the target.
Mr. Ostashek: A very interesting presentation, but we'll see how well this budget is accepted when the Finance minister, in his position as Government Leader, gets around to calling an election. That will be the blessing on this budget and previous budgets, and the next one if he brings one in before the next election.
The Finance minister, I suggest, should take a course in economics before he gets up and makes those types of speeches, because anybody can set a budget when they have a multitude of money, which this Finance minister has. To use the Member for Faro's line, he could slice it or dice it any way he wants; he's sitting on a $60-million surplus, and I would like him to tell me what he believes has changed that he needs to increase the projected surplus from $15 million to $28-point-something million in this budget in order to have breathing room.
In fact, consistently, both the Yukon Party government and this NDP government have underestimated their surpluses dramatically. And if in fact he is confident enough that he can admit to a $50-million surplus now for March 31 of the year 2000, then I would suggest to him it'll be substantially higher. And that's what's bothering Yukoners.
He says the business community says spend as much as you can on capital, but be careful. I suggest to him he's not spending as much as he could and he's not putting those Yukoners to work that he should be putting to work. He said here, just a few minutes ago, Mr. Chair, that it's not his fault that the mine shut down, it's not his fault that these people are leaving the Yukon, and he's just going to be a stabilizing force for whatever's left.
I think it's irresponsible for a government leader to be saying that, that he's really not concerned about the people who are leaving the Yukon, that he's not concerned about the people who have been here for years and years and years, educated their children here and now find themselves having to leave. I think that's government's role, to step in and fill in the gaps, especially when they have the financial resources to do it. And this government certainly has.
We can get into a long debate as to whether it's his fault that the mining community's in a slump or not. He knows what our feeling is on that already, and we'll take that up with his Economic Development minister.
Mr. Chair, the Finance minister said that he's targeted his capital budget this time, that he's going to create substantially more jobs than what he did with the capital dollars last year. I would like for him at some time to present us with evidence of that - how he's targeted it to create more jobs than he did in his capital budget last year, because I don't buy it. I don't buy at all that it's going to be substantially different from six or seven hundred jobs that we create every year with the capital budget, when in fact we need substantially more than that right now to be able to maintain a skilled workforce for when the economy of this territory does turn around, without having to import a bunch of new people.
That's exactly what we're headed for, Mr. Chair.
The member opposite goes on at great length about up-and-down gyrations in the budgets of the previous government, when in fact he doesn't have any evidence to support that type of an argument. What we've proven is that you can take a government that wasn't in great financial shape and, through diligent, hard work and by directing spending, you can put Yukoners to work. The Faro mine wasn't operating during that period. It shut down a week after we took office.
So, for the Finance minister to now suggest that the Faro mine was producing revenue and jobs for Yukoners for the full term of the Yukon Party mandate is wrong. It did come back in the fall of 1995, but the fact is that we proved that government spending could retain Yukoners and keep them in the Yukon during a downturn in the economy. This government should be doing everything it can in that respect to do the same thing, Mr. Chair.
Let me ask the Finance minister a question: how long is he prepared to see the population go before he's going to get concerned about it?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, what a loaded question. What a loaded and unfair question.
Mr. Chair, I recall that when the Anvil Range mine shut down during the Yukon Party regime, ministers on the government side of the House were talking about bus tickets for the people of Faro. They couldn't get them out of the territory fast enough. One minister said that Faro was a joke.
Well, Mr. Chair, the member doesn't have to lecture me on the desirability of holding our population and caring for Yukon residents, and if I had anything like the money the member opposite had, the budgets would be larger. Let's make something clear here. First of all, the member had the hospital construction project, which his government had no hand in negotiating. He had the Shakwak project, which his government had no hand in negotiating - two very large capital construction projects. And for most of his term, Anvil Range mine was operating, and there were people working throughout that term of office. And then the members go on and say that there was a period when it wasn't working. That's right. The period when it was working was when the Yukon Party Government Leader, with his full coat of caring, initiated the tax increases for the residents of the territory.
Mr. Chair, we're not going to copy the Yukon Party record. There are things that we could be spending on - for example, land development - and when the times were good, the government was inflating the amount of land development. So now we've got a glut of land developed, cash tied up in land development, so that the Auditor General is breathing down our necks because we've got a huge inventory, and that's not an opportunity for us just to create artificial employment because, when the times were good, the government was busily boosting land development activity.
Mr. Chair, the member opposite talked about this current government not really caring about the economy of this territory. The government has never been so activist in getting things done and undertaking new initiatives.
In the time that I've been in this Legislature, I've never been so activist; I've never been working harder. The people in the community groups are telling me the same thing. Why is there no echo from the member's claim? Why is there no echo from the organizations with whom we've been dealing for the last two years? That's got to say something. We don't do any polling, but the fact that the various chambers of commerce haven't criticized the budget is because they know what's in the budget.
There are dozens and dozens of activities. There are some tax reforms. It's not the kind of tax reform the Yukon Party practices, but there is tax reform in the budget, and it's precisely the kind of tax reform that people wanted.
The member says that whatever job figures we're projecting with respect to the capital budget - he doesn't buy it. Well, Mr. Chair, I am not a neophyte in this House. I'm not trying to convince the member of anything. I am not trying to convince my political opponents - who are paid to criticize me - that what I'm saying is right because they'll admit it if they did believe it. I'm not trying to convince the member. I'm not trying to put forward information and do gyrations and cartwheels to try to convince the member of anything. I'm speaking to the public.
Here is a budget before us, which objectively is supported by a lot of people in this territory - demonstrably so - yet the opposition chooses to vote against it. The member says that if we spent another $13 million he'd be hard-pressed not to support it. He wasn't even too picky about how that money could be spent, just as long as it was spent on the capital side of the budget.
We have another member who says that for any deficit - his nose goes up - oh.
Well, Mr. Chair, what we are doing, clearly, is that we've got a plan of action; we've been sticking to the plan; this budget's a reflection of that plan; it's the most recent installment of that plan. It is a plan that has been worked thoroughly with the community, with various community interests; it is meant to address a number of community needs; it's meant to address the need for job creation to the fullest extent that it can. There are some targeted spending initiatives in here that I know the member doesn't like, but which do create jobs in communities around the territory, which will have an even greater impact on job creation.
I know the members think of the CDF as - well, the member himself, the Yukon Party, has called it morally wrong. I believe the leader of the Liberal Party referred to this as holding a bone in front of a dog - we give him something and he wants even more. There was some line about that.
Mr. Chair, the reality is that, when the Anvil Range mine is closed, the unemployment rate goes up. When the Anvil Range mine was closed in 1993, the unemployment rate went up to 17.3 percent, and it was up the next year, too, for the portion of the year it was closed, or that the mine wasn't operating.
Despite all the big spending proposals by the members opposite, there was still a high unemployment rate, and it didn't improve, and it didn't change, until the Anvil Range mine went back on stream. Funny, that.
The spending proposals here, I believe, are well-targeted. They meet what communities have been suggesting we should be undertaking. They ensure that there is some stability in this community, on top of that, which is an objective that people have asked us to try to achieve, and which we are committed to trying to achieve, and it ensures we are thinking about something more than just the immediate horizon, something more than just this summer.
It's about time governments start thinking about more than just the here and now.
So, obviously the member and I are going to continue to disagree on this subject, but believe me, if the member is under any illusions that I'm trying to convince him to change his vote, that's not my intention. He's made up his mind.
Ms. Duncan: I'm pleased to enter into the debate this afternoon. I'd like to thank the Government Leader for his response to questions I asked the last time we were in the Legislature on Thursday afternoon.
The Government Leader has taken great exception to my opening my budget response by restating the position taken by the NDP during the election campaign, which was that they were dead set against - I believe the phrase was, "NDP would insist upon balanced budgets".
Now, to the public listening, tabling deficit budgets versus the Government Leader's commitments in the campaign versus what's written in the budget documents, which the Government Leader chooses to focus on maintaining a savings account - to the general public, this gets to be so much "he said, she said" in the Yukon Legislature. I tried to bring the budget discussion to very human terms, talking about the people who had reacted to the budget with me after my public reactions, and the Government Leader chose to feel that I had perhaps created a work of fiction. I assure him that I did not - that these are individuals who have spoken with me and who have very real concerns.
Now the Government Leader has said the budget is never going to be all things to all people. Well, these life-long Yukoners are concerned about what is in the budget. It's our job, over the coming weeks, to talk about it, line by line and department by department.
The Government Leader has also talked about the pre-budget consultation meetings - over 50 of them. I asked in the last budget general debate and again on Thursday - and I would like to re-ask - if the Government Leader would provide information to us on what Yukoners did say. Are there specific suggestions or positions put forward by Yukoners that, for one reason or another - I'm certain they were perfectly valid reasons - were not considered? I'm looking for that information. I'm looking for the information from Yukoners in the pre-budget consultations. Would the Government Leader provide that information?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, firstly, I can think of one project: the bridge at Dawson. It is not in the budget, other than the studies for the bridge. There's no bridge construction in the budget.
The meetings are all public. They are available to anybody and everybody. Anybody can go. If the member wants to know what people may not like about the budget, she surely cannot expect me to stand in the Legislature, hunting for ways to criticize my budget so she can say, "Okay, then me too."
Mr. Chair, I'm not going to do that.
The member can be - forgive me if I use the word "sanctimonious" - somewhat sanctimonious about some of these subjects. She often says, you know, "Forgive me, but I'm just trying to be a real person, not a politician like the rest of you guys. When people talk about a deficit, I try to bring it in human terms." Let me ask the member: does she support the fact that there is a projected annual deficit in this budget or not? Does she support it?
Ms. Duncan: It's our opportunity to ask the questions.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: If it's a dialogue, Mr. Chair, that implies listening. I don't get any sense that any comments that I make in this House are actually being listened to or responded to.
I would like to ask the Government Leader, with respect to the trade and investment fund that the minister has discussed, there was a comment made by the Economic Development minister that such funds - assuming, of course, they're realized - would be used in partnerships for the development of infrastructure. Now, the minister has said that public/private partnerships - debt financing - is not an option.
Would the minister outline what is being considered?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, with the greatest respect, the reason why the public - anybody watching this debate - will be able to detect that the Yukon Party and the NDP disagree on the principle of how big the deficit should be, is because we've expressed our positions on the subject.
The Member for Porter Creek North has said that he believes the annual deficit should be bigger. I said that it's big enough and that we're trying to save for future years.
I'd like to know from the member - this is not putting her on the spot - is a deficit under these circumstances unreasonable? And if she does believe it to be unreasonable, tell me how unreasonable so we have a clear sense, so we know where the Yukon Party stand, we know where the New Democrats stand, and where the Liberals stand on the subject. I'll be more than happy, once we clear this item, to deal with the subject of private/public partnership, and I can go through those proposals that have been put forward and explain our position on them.
Ms. Duncan: Well, if the Government Leader wants me to elaborate on what the Yukon Liberal Party platform was in the last election, we said that we'd maintain a balanced budget and stay out of debt.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Okay, so does that mean that this annual deficit, given that it has been taken from a surplus, meaning the savings account is okay? Does she support that?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I didn't make the commitment in deficit budgets in the last election. The Government Leader made the commitment. The Government Leader made the statement with respect to deficit budgets. I did not.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, Mr. Chair, sorry, but what I'm asking the member is whether or not the member believes that it is acceptable for the government to run an annual deficit if it means that the government, at the end of the year, will still have a savings account. Is that position acceptable to the member?
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I certainly do not want to make the Government Leader jump up and down. My response to him would be that it would depend on what the savings account is.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, is a savings account of at least $15 million acceptable? Maybe the member can explain.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, when I started this position, I made an effort to speak with those who were formerly involved with the Government of the Yukon finances, and I asked them. The learning curve is steep. It's not insurmountable. The question I asked was this: how much should the savings account be? That's the question I asked of those with whom I was discussing it. It is the same question that the Government Leader has asked me.
My concern is that there is enough in that account to meet liabilities, to meet any unforeseen situations. I don't ever, ever, ever want to see a Government of the Yukon in the same position that it was in in the mid-1980s. No Yukoner wants to see that situation where government employees were worrying about their jobs and where the private sector was almost non-existent here.
Nobody wants to get back to that. The issue this afternoon is this budget and I'd be delighted to engage in dialogue with the Government Leader on this budget - and I've asked specific questions. I asked about the pre-budget consultations. Yes, I understand there were public meetings. I asked if there were any records kept of those public meetings. If there were, I'd like to see them. I don't think that's unreasonable. If he wants, I'll go dig out all of the media records, but it's not the media's interpretation I want; it's the records of the meetings.
I reduce this budget to talking about real people, real situations - individuals who have looked at this budget and said, "How does it work for me?" and I'd like to continue on that theme. I think it's realistic. It's in human terms; it's what individuals have said to me and I take their comments to heart.
The minister chose to talk about the seniors. Well, we've made great efforts in recent Yukon history - and certainly all the time that I can remember - to keep seniors in their own homes in Whitehorse and throughout the Yukon. Well, the minister responded with the tax deferrals and with the long-term plans for an extended care facility. How is this addressing individuals in communities outside of Whitehorse? How is it addressing the home care needs?
Those are the sorts of issues that I want to talk about, and if the minister wants to say, "Well, let's do in line by line in Health and Social Services", fine, let's do it. If he wants to spend all afternoon talking deficit versus surplus and engaging in a "he-said, she-said" well, I think that's as a productive a use of this Legislature as standing here talking about how this budget helps Yukoners or works for Yukoners, because the general reaction is yes, there are projects in here we can support; I've publicly said that. I've said, "Yes, there are projects that our caucus can support."
But most of all, I can't get away from this gut feeling that many of us have that there are too many Yukon people who are saying, "I need a job", and there is on and on and on about training and trust funds and investment funds and tax reforms. Well, give us the numbers. The training trust funds - there isn't enough accountability in there for how those funds are spent. They aren't true trusts.
Let's start at that point, Mr. Chair. Can the minister outline where the accountability is built in for the various training trusts? My understanding of the trade and investment and the tourism funds is that there's a private-citizen board administering them. What legislative framework are we putting around them? What are we doing around the training trusts, and what about the CDF? We've asked over and over for a legislative framework around it. We don't see it, and it's $3 million of taxpayers' money.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, there are a number of questions there, but I'm going to get back to the original question, because I think all the parties in this House need to come clean on a couple of points, and I think it does not do us any service whatsoever for the -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member for Porter Creek North says he's come clean, and he has come clean. He has said that he wants another $13 million in the capital budget right now, and the member opposite has said that another annual deficit - and she's said it on a couple of occasions - at all, whether it's taken out of the bank account or otherwise, is an annual deficit, and has been critical of the government for that.
So, I want to know the answer. I mean, I think we deserve to know the answer.
The other two parties in the Legislature need to know the answer. Where does the Liberal Party stand on the subject of this annual deficit? Do they think that an annual deficit, if it leaves a bank account after all liabilities are factored in, of $15 million, or whatever amount, is unacceptable? I just want to know. It's not a hard concept, but it's not fair for us - for the rest of the Legislature, and for the public who are listening - to listen to some criticism that some people, without thinking, might buy into about, if there's an annual deficit, somehow that that's irresponsible.
I would contend that it is responsible to have an annual deficit, if you've got a substantial savings account and there's a need, and your long-term projections can support the deficit - or a deficit in this year, whatever it happens to be.
So, I really want to know. I'll stand here all afternoon and answer all the questions the member has, but can the member please answer this one question, and I will answer all those questions she's just given me, to the best of my ability.
Ms. Duncan: Well, the minister is taking great exception to my discussion and the first line in my response to the budget about the deficits. I'd like to just remind him, Whitehorse Star, September 29, 1995, "NDP would insist upon balanced budget. If the NDP forms the next government, it will introduce a law making it mandatory for the government to balance the budget."
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Well, the reporter got it from somewhere.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: The minister will forgive me, but I don't spend every night reading A Better Way. Thank you, but I have better things to do in my evenings.
You want to know my position? I'll tell you what was said in the last election campaign, and I'll say it again. Yukon Liberal Party government: maintain a balanced budget and stay out of debt. Bottom line.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Does that mean that an annual deficit is acceptable, if it meets your basic conditions?
Ms. Duncan: The Government Leader obviously -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: You know, it is absolutely amazing that this government, which refuses to answer questions day after day after day in this Legislature -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Now, they think they're in opposition.
Well, much as the working people of the Yukon would like to put them there, we're not going to get an opportunity that quickly.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Well, I'll answer that question to the Yukon people, when they ask me.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: You know, if I had a list of wishes, Mr. Chair, my next wish would be to be in government longer. I think that, thanks to the Liberal leader's recent answer, we are more likely to be in that position.
My second wish would be that I would have an opportunity to be in the opposition benches, if the chance ever came, to deal with this member. The member says, "Watch me." Well, what the member has just gone through, though very briefly - and I'm prepared to let it go, because I don't believe that the Liberal position on this has a lot of credibility in the general public, anyway. If I did, I would stick to it.
What the member has tried to do, in public and in this Legislature, is make it sound, through a few little, choice sound bites, as if the government is doing something irresponsible, and have it both ways. In fact, the reality, as the member is intimating - though she's not prepared to say it directly - is quite the opposite.
Now, there are all the questions the member put with respect to various items. First of all, she says she wants to speak to the issue of home care needs and community needs around the territory. I believe that the budget addresses a lot of needs around the territory, including home care and including hospital-to-home service improvement. I believe that the budget deals with ensuring that community governments have more resources for some bigger projects - for some capital construction projects - and that there are more resources in the community hands to deal with community issues.
The member has said that she does not believe that the community development fund has sufficient accountability, that we're not accountable to decisions that are made. There is appropriation authority for both the community development fund and for training trust funds. Decisions that are made for both the community development fund and for the training trust funds are public. Any trust fund agreement that is struck between this government and any community organization is a public document, and available to anyone who wants to read it.
I know the members opposite don't like the community development fund. I think that that's shortsighted on their part, because I believe that the citizens of this territory do. And they've made it clear over and over again, in community meetings throughout the territory, that they do support the community development fund.
The trouble they've always had with trying to work through program departments is that their projects, their priorities, are often re-worked to something that they don't even find recognizable, by the time the project's undertaken. The community development fund responds directly to their priorities, as they describe them, so they support the program.
There has been criticism opposite. I don't agree with the criticism. I've listened carefully, tried to respond to criticism, but the criticism, as I understand it, would have us going back to - if we did as the critics want - a bureaucratic approach that would not be responsive enough to community needs. So we can't go as far as the critics want us to go.
But in terms of the basic programs themselves, all the information is public. The agreements that are signed between government on either training trust funds, or on community development fund projects, are public documents, and they're available to anybody.
I understand that they have even been provided to the members opposite - when they've asked.
Mr. Chair, the members have raised the issue of private/public partnerships. I would like to get into a little bit of a dialogue on that too, because private/public partnerships have, in many cases, in many incarnations, involved the proposal that the government borrow some money to undertake a particular public work, the private sector builds it or runs it, and the government pays the money back. Well, the partnership side of the equation that involves the public is about debt financing of public works, in those circumstances, and I'm not too keen to jump on that bandwagon. Certainly, that would get a lot of work going, but people believed the same thing back in the late 1970s, and they've got a large cumulated deficit to prove it.
Mr. Chair, I don't believe that's what the public wants. Nobody in a public situation has asked me for that, and so I'm not keen on that. I'd be interested in hearing what the member opposite thinks of it.
The other private/public partnerships have involved the privatization of public services, and we've indicated a resistance to that. I'd be interested in hearing the member's comments on that.
Where there is room for manoeuvre, in my view, that meets the spirit and intent of private/public partnerships, is where there is a commercial opportunity; there is a commercial return for a particular project, and it typically involves the government securing the financing or finding some way to guarantee the financing. As long as there is a realistic opportunity for a commercial return, then those are some opportunities that we can consider.
There are other proposals that have been made that involve public and private partnering, like the telecommunications innovation centre that involves some partnering of activities. That, historically, has not been considered part of the category of private/public partnerships. So, I'd be interested in hearing what advice the member has and I'd love to comment on it.
Ms. Duncan: Thanks, Mr. Chair, I'm sure the Government Leader would like to comment.
The question I had asked was about a reference or remark that his Minister of Economic Development had made with respect to the trade and investment fund and the comment related to partnerships using this fund to build Yukon infrastructure and the minister repeated his point about debt financing and private/public partnerships models. What is being considered? What's on the table - assuming, of course, this investment fund is fully realized and fully subscribed?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think the member may be referring to the immigrant investor fund. I've not heard of the trade and investment fund out of Economic Development being used to support or to build infrastructure. The purposes of that fund are different.
The immigrant investor fund, as a source of loan capital, is available to build infrastructure or infrastructure that supports economic activity, and it is a possibility to use that fund for proposals that come forward.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I thank the minister for that correction. There are just so many items we're waiting for results on that I tend to confuse them.
There are a number of these much-ballyhooed items as there are the number of tax reform items that the minister has mentioned in his Budget Address, and we're waiting for a list on the legislative time frames.
I'd also like to ask the minister if he has available, in his briefings from individuals, a sense of the job-creation nature of these funds? Are there, for example, estimates of numbers and is there also other information in terms of number crunching that has gone on with respect to these funds, other than in just the political terms that are outlined in a document like the budget speech? Is there a more concrete itemization of each of these initiatives and a timetable and some number crunching with each of them? Is that available to us?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, what was requested last week, as I understand it from Mr. Cable, was a list of the legislation required, or, rather, the effective date of each of the tax measures, and I've got a handout for the members that will give them some sense of the projections at this point.
Mr. Chair, I forgive the member if some of these initiatives seem confusing. There are so many initiatives and, if there's any ballyhoo, it comes from people who have actually made some proposals and are seeing some results, and I'm happy that we can work closely with them to produce those results. So, there are a number of initiatives underway. Not every detail on every initiative, of course, is complete because this is the proposal for the coming year and there will obviously be some work to do between now and the end of the fiscal year.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, another item that has been noted repeatedly by the Finance minister has been the reduction of expenditures on computer equipment and office furniture and so on, and I notice that a number of major systems undertaken by the government have also come to an end, coincidentally - the financial management information system, the human resource information system, and the land information management system. Their expenditures are substantially reduced. Is this it, then, for the major systems? Without getting into other issues which are of concern to members, is this the end of the big information systems to be undertaken by the government? The minister has said that there is certainly a reduction in expenditures on computers and so on. Is this an end to the systems?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I can't state for the member that this is the end to new systems development. In fact, I've every assurance that there are proposals underway in the bowels of some department, and I'm certain, at some point in the future, there'll be some new systems of some sort being proposed to the Legislature - not in this budget, and not planned, to my knowledge.
The land information management system is still underway. The Minister of Government Services can give the member a detailed breakdown of those systems that are being developed or promoted by the Department of Government Services. I can say, as a general proposition, that, indeed, the expenditures - not just on computing systems, but also on internal government renovations, office space, furniture, et cetera - have been reduced in this budget, once again, over previous years.
Mr. Cable: I have some questions on the long-term planning efforts of the government, which I think the Government Leader and I, in the past, have agreed is a good thing.
The long-term plans and the fact sheets that are attached to the budget speech - I wonder if the Government Leader would clarify that. Is he saying, when he presents those plans that, should they continue in office through the whole of the periods that are mentioned, those things will be done?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If the member is asking me whether or not we'll continue, while we're in office - let's put it this way: while we're in office, these things will be done. If the member's asking for our campaign platform for the next campaign, I can assure him - and this is a new-breaking or late-breaking bulletin - that these will be part of our campaign, yes. We are making our desires known, in terms of the initiatives that we would take into the future.
Mr. Cable: Okay, well, this is a hypothesis. Let's say that the NDP is re-elected. This is just a hypothesis. I know that the leader of the official opposition is probably -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: Should we get through the next election and the NDP is in power - let's say for the 2001 and 2002 forecast, is the Government Leader prepared to say at this moment that those things will be done? He indicated a moment ago that those will go on their election platform, but is he saying that, should the NDP be re-elected, those things will be done?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, it is certainly our intention that they will be done.
In the budget for this year, it is our intention that these things will be done. It is our intention that these things be done in future years. This is our plan at this point: yes, we believe that the items in the long-term capital plan will be and should be undertaken. Barring any substantial change in circumstances, this is our plan.
Mr. Cable: And that would relate both to the timing and the amount of the expenditures, as set out in the long-term plan addendum to the budget speech - is that correct? Both those items?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, there could be some advance of some projects, depending on our circumstances. We'll have to wait for the actual budget year, but this is our intention at this point.
Mr. Cable: Okay. As the Government Leader is well aware, I've been asking questions about the Whitehorse Correctional Centre over the years.
In his budget speech, the Government Leader says, "In the meantime, we are setting aside an initial $3.2 million over the next three years." I was curious as to what the Government Leader meant by "setting aside". I don't think there's been any fund created. What is the meaning of that terminology?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, we'll be making room for that amount of money, according to this schedule, for the development for new correctional facilities.
Mr. Cable: But in the conventional sense, one would think that setting aside the money means there's going to be a little pool there, much the same as what we've done with the Dawson recreational/sewage fund and the recreational facilities we're building for the City of Whitehorse for the Canada Winter Games. There is actually money set aside, but I gather from what the minister is saying is there's not going to be any special account - I think those are the words that he used a couple of budget speeches ago - set up for this particular item. It's simply notionally set aside to show that this is his intention. Is that accurate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, it's notionally set aside, as the member puts it, in the way that funding last year was notionally set aside to build the Teslin nursing station. The project is going to come to completion this year, and more funds are notionally set aside in the budget itself. So the project will be undertaken.
The special funds that were established for Dawson City and for Whitehorse were for projects that would be undertaken outside of government - they're not our projects, they're projects that'll support another government. The funds for the correctional facilities would be funds that we would vote, as we are proposing to vote this year. Those funds would be used, or revoted, into future years to support the project, depending on the pace of the project at the time.
Mr. Cable: There was a joust between the Government Leader and the leader of the official opposition last year, I believe, on the size of the public service. I believe the Government Leader said that some of the numbers that were being used were skewed by the season from which they were chosen.
What I'd like to find out - and it's perhaps an enlargement of the legislative return that he gave us - is at what juncture in the future will we be in a position to have day-by-day information on the size of the public service - both in numbers, FTEs and payroll. It's a subject that we brought up with the minister's deputy this morning. We got about three-quarters of the way through the conversation. I think he indicated that there is information that can be given on the most recent cheques that are cut, I believe, and also the HRIS can provide some information. Could we get that on the record as to at what juncture in the future will we be able to more or less instantaneously determine the size of the public service?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the number of employees actually paid at any given time on a particular cheque issue can be provided immediately. Whether that gives you a record of the size of the public service is another question. If, for example, we hire an extra 50 teacher aides or substitute teachers for whom we pay a half-a-day's pay, that amounts to an extra 50 people. That may only add up to the equivalent of one FTE equivalent. So, how one interprets the information is important. Nevertheless, the information can be secured and issued immediately.
Mr. Cable: Well, I was interested in the exchange between the leader of the official opposition and the Government Leader. I wasn't quite certain what the Government Leader's position was. Going back to September 1996, when we all got elected, and comparing that with today, what is the Government Leader's position? Has the public service grown in size in terms of FTEs?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, indeed, the legislative return says that, over the period that was identified, it grew by 16 FTEs, and we support those FTEs. The members in the Yukon Party don't support that. We do. I think the members opposite would love to have another conversation with them some time. I know the people in the opposition don't like to be questioned, but the Yukon Party loves to take credit for new expenditures in health care and all sorts of things, support it all the time, yet when there is any kind of accounting for the actual people being hired, of course they're opposed to that. So, they like to have it both ways, too.
Nevertheless, Mr. Chair, the figures that are listed on the legislative return I believe are accurate. They come from the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Cable: Okay. I think one of the -
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: There's a little bit of background noise, here, Mr. Chair. I'm sure you're going to quiet them down, and I thank you.
The period that's dealt with in the legislative return is from March 1997 to June 3, 1998. I think one of the points the Government Leader was making in the news media is that there are seasonal fluctuations.
Do we have figures that will run us back to when the Government Leader took office and take us to today, which is about nine months later from the last figure that is on the legislative return?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I can get those figures.
Mr. Ostashek: I'll get back into this debate for awhile here. I have a few more questions I'd like to touch on in general debate and hit on in more detail when we get into the departments.
The Finance minister has spoken quite frankly on his position on private/public partnerships and he doesn't want to run the government into debt, and I can agree with him on that aspect of it.
It's not always necessary to run the government into debt to entertain public-private partnerships. If, in fact, this government is not only going to talk the talk but walk the walk, then they should be pursuing those opportunities. They go to great lengths to tell the private sector that they're fully supportive of their efforts.
There are two projects announced in this budget, or future budgets, that I believe would fit the role of private/public partnerships and wouldn't incur the government going into debt to facilitate them. I'm referring to both the extended care facility and the new jail. They're run by private sector organizations in other jurisdictions and could well be in the Yukon, especially with the extended care facility, where we have a government-run one that you could have some comparisons with to see the type of quality of service and the cost of service, and so on.
So, I just have a general question now, and we can get into detail when we get into the Health department, but prior to the government announcement, did they in fact do a cost-benefit analysis or did they pursue looking at the possibility of such a facility being run by the private sector?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I will leave it for the Minister of Health and Social Services to give more background here, because there has been some thinking about the cost of extended care facilities elsewhere. Routinely, where I grew up at least, most of the extended care facilities are, in fact, privately run and regulated by the government. So, there's nothing particularly avant-garde about having private sector run extended care facilities. The question is whether or not the private sector gets to run public facilities or whether they build and run their own.
Now, the option for building and running their own, people say, the single most significant barrier to this right now is the rate the Yukon government charges people who are in the public facility. The rates are so low that the private sector can't compete.
So, the issue of rates would have to be addressed if we're going to seriously consider the introduction of the private sector into this particular field.
With respect to the running of a public facility, we are resistant, as the member I'm sure is aware, to privatizing public service jobs. Where there is a publicly funded facility, both in construction and operation, the public service union should be the representative of the employees. But there are certainly options to consider and I would like to see an arrangement whereby we do encourage the private sector to undertake or respond more to the needs in the community. I think that they've done it elsewhere and they can do it here.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, that's specific. That was basically the question that I asked the Government Leader, but it appears that he skirted around the issue. As long as we're going to building these things, how will we expect the private sector to come in if there is no need, if we're going to keep ahead of the need?
So, my question was: in general, had they even thought about this before announcing the facility? Had they thought about this with the jail as well, because in New Brunswick, I understand, they've privatized some of the jails there? They've had people come in and build them and operate them for a set fee. It was a perfect opportunity without displacing any public service people.
If you're putting in a new facility, especially with an extended care facility, the Government Leader is talking about hiring more public servants, exactly what a lot of people in the Yukon feel that we have too many of now in relation to the size of the population. It's not just I who thinks that; many people in the public think that.
So, I'm just asking the Government Leader on a philosophical level: did they explore this or did they just say, "No, the government's going to do it"?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We have - and we are - exploring various options. The option before us for the immediate term is for a government-built and run facility. The option with respect to the jail is not yet determined. But, I can point out to the member that there would be a substantial displacement of public workers if the jail was to be run privately. That goes without saying.
There are a number of options that are and can be considered, but the option before us is a public facility, publicly run.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I thank the Finance minister for that. I believe that if he was really sincere about involving the public, this would have been a perfect opportunity. He seems to think differently. That's fine.
I want to maybe put him on notice here, so that we could save a little time when we get into the debate on the tax bills. When he brings forward his bills for debate in the House - and I'll give him notice of this now so that we don't waste time then - on the small business tax credit that he has there, I would like for him to come forward with some examples. It says here, "If a particular investment meets the definition of an RRSP-qualified investment, they get the tax credit." When we bring forward the legislation, if the minister, in his introduction for his second reading speech, could come forward with some examples so that we can get our teeth into them, it would help quite a bit.
The mineral exploration tax credit, according to what I see, does it not require legislation? It seems to be not applicable. I'm not sure what's meant by that. Do we not require any legislation for the mineral tax credit?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I believe that the column -
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I understand the form now. I just took that quickly. Sorry, Mr. Chair.
Would he also bring some examples there, because I know it boils down to whether Revenue Canada - for the company to qualify, they're going to have to file a Yukon tax return and, at the Finance briefings, they've told us that they would have to abide by the criteria set out by Revenue Canada as to what it takes to be qualified for residency so that they can file their return here. Would the Finance minister also bring a couple of examples in there? What company would qualify? What company would not qualify? This is so we have a better understanding of how the federal definition will be applied, because I would just like to have a better understanding of what companies are going to be able to benefit from it, and what companies would not be able to benefit from it.
So, for these bills - especially those two, Mr. Chair. I'm not too concerned about the low-income family tax credit or the child benefit. Those aren't of great concern to me. Some people will benefit from that, and we fully support that. But especially on the small-business tax credit, and on the mineral exploration tax credit, if the minister would be good enough to bring some examples, I would appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I can do that. I may do it in the form of a handout. I don't know whether I would want it to be one of the more poetic second reading speeches from the Department of Finance, but certainly in the form of a handout, we can do that.
There are a number of issues there to address and a number of examples that we can use to describe how these initiatives will work.
Mr. Ostashek: I just have one or two more questions, and we're going to get back to this legislative return on the debate that we had on the size of the civil service.
What it appears from the legislative return is that there's a fundamental difference between PSC and Stats Canada, as to how stats are collected and reported. But in order for this to be of any real benefit to me, in comparing apples to apples, and oranges to oranges, can the minister tell me if there are any changes in the way StatsCan reported their figures from previous years?
Because that gives us the best example - if we compare StatsCan figures to StatsCan figures, not now comparing StatsCan to Public Service Commission figures. If they're wrong now, and StatsCan hasn't changed the manner of reporting, there was always that discrepancy in the past.
So what we're comparing is - what I was relying on - is StatsCan figures compared from year to year. So has there been a change in the way StatsCan collects their information or reports their information?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I'm not aware of any change in methodology employed by StatsCan, but I will check with the stats bureau.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you. The argument has always existed, I believe, between the Public Service Commission and StatsCan on the size of the civil service. I can remember some of those debates when the member opposite was in opposition and we were in government - the size of the civil service, and whose figures you were going on.
I believe, in order to be useful, we have to compare StatsCan figures of the period. We're talking about the StatsCan figures of previous periods to get a better idea.
One of the best ways of telling what size the civil service is, is the overall cost of the payroll, excluding any devolution and excluding any collective bargaining increases. That should not be a hard figure for Finance to come up with, on a year-to-year basis, to give us - over the last four years - the cost of the government payroll. I think it would be a very simple way of looking at the overall cost of the operations of government, on the personnel side, and it would be a good indication as to whether the civil service is growing or whether it is not growing.
I'll just leave that with the Finance minister, and quite possibly we could get that figure at some point. I'm not hung up on it. I'm quite satisfied that there are enough comparisons out there now for the arguments that I want to make in this Legislature.
If we're going to use PSC figures, then we have to go back year-to-year in PSC for what they said in 1996, what they said in 1997, what they said in 1995 and what they're saying in 1999. We can't just take what PSC says now and what StatsCan says now and make any rational judgment as to the size of the civil service.
Mr. Chair, I don't believe I have any further questions in general debate. The minister may have some closing comments or my colleagues may have some questions.
Ms. Duncan: Before we leave general debate, I would like to address the mining industry briefly with the minister.
The information that I was looking for with respect to these tax initiatives was a sense of numbers. For example, for the mineral exploration tax credit, the government anticipates that x number of companies will take it up and that it will have x-y-z benefit. I'm sure those numbers have been crunched and prepared in a briefing note of some kind. If they're not label-stamped "secret and confidential", I wouldn't mind having them.
When I spoke with the mining industry, and in particular with a couple of exploration companies, their comments with respect to tax incentives and so on were, "We need more progress on other issues - DAP, blue book, protected areas strategies." They need clearer rules. I make that point on the record once again.
The mineral strategy - I see funding in the budget for further work on a protected areas strategy, for further work on mapping, and so on. I don't see specific targeted funds for the development of the mining strategy.
The long-term projections, on page 3 of the budget document - are these all based on no major mines coming into or the existing operations going out of production? I recognize that this affords the Government Leader another opportunity to discuss the boom-and-bust cycles of the Yukon economy, but a straightforward factual question is: are they based on Anvil Range not coming back into production or any other major mine coming into production or the existing operations not going out of production?
On the Asian investors, there was a point made in the budget address that there were ongoing discussions with Asian investors regarding mining in the Yukon. Can the minister provide us with any update on that information?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The revenue projections in the budget document for the next few years anticipate a, shall we say, conservative scenario, where the current situation with Anvil Range being closed remains that way. If, of course, as we expect, there will be some mines opening, that should change the projections slightly, depending on the size of the mine and the size of the economic activity. Obviously, I expect that Minto, for example, will open. I don't think that Minto, by itself, will be big enough to make much of a change in these projections. If Anvil Range, of course, opens, these projections will change. We will be all the better for it, I'm sure.
With respect to the mineral exploration tax incentive, we are projecting the cost of this initiative to be approximately $2.5 million. That's the best estimate at this point.
The minister will be able to give more details with respect to the initiative specifically, but we expect to lose approximately $2.5 million in revenue. There is no doubt that there are other issues that face the development community, on which we're working - DAP and the White Pass and the mineral strategy are a number of those initiatives.
Much of the mineral strategy is being funded now, in as much as there are costs associated with certain elements of it.
We've got a skeletal framework of a mineral strategy. It includes mineral exploration tax credits, and consequently there is an expenditure associated with that element of the strategy. The strategy speaks to the keeping of the geoscience office open and, in fact, expanding geoscience office activities. This budget reflects an expansion of those activities. So much of what has cost implications for the mineral strategy are already factored into the budget itself.
On the Asian investors, the minister, the mining facilitator and deputy minister met with the same Japanese investors who have been showing some interest in mining properties in the Yukon. They attended a mineral trade show in Japan, which allowed for a continuation of discussions that they have had. I understand that those discussions are positive about the possible funding of a couple of properties, and the minister - to the extent that he could make that information known, I'll make sure that he knows about it, and he'll report in Economic Development estimates.
Chair: If there is no further general debate, we will go to the estimates book, Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Yukon Legislative Assembly
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think there is, Mr. Chair. I'm just going to find it.
I just found it, Mr. Chair. The operation and maintenance budget proposed for the Yukon Legislative Assembly for 1999-2000 totals $3,215,000, which is an increase of $38,000, or 1.2 percent over the 1998-1999 forecast. It is a $68,000 increase, or 2.2 percent over the 1998-1999 main estimates, of $3,147,000.
The capital budget proposed for the Yukon Legislative Assembly for 1999-2000 totals $5,000, which represents no change from the 1998-99 main estimates and forecast. There are six programs in this vote. In the legislative services program there is an overall decrease of $2,000.
Now, this is broken down as follows: there are increases totaling $25,000 in the Legislative Assembly activity. These are offset by the $23,000, which has been provided in the 1998-99 estimates to cover the costs of the special sitting in Dawson City. An additional $11,000 is being budgeted for MLA indemnities and expense allowances, as required by the provisions of the Legislative Assembly Act.
There is an increase in MLA pay of $11,000; $9,000 as a result of the indexing by 1.3 percent of MLA indemnities and expense allowances on April 1, 1999, which is required by subsection 39(3.1) of the Legislative Assembly Act; and $2,000 to pay for the cost of MLA fringe benefits. There is also an increase of $14,000 being budgeted for MLA travel.
Caucus funding has been increased by $9,000. Legislative committee funding has been reduced by $5,000, and there has been a reduction of $8,000 in CPA travel funds to assist in covering the costs incurred in televising a portion of the Assembly proceedings.
The estimates for the Legislative Assembly Office program are being increased by $9,000 over the 1998-99 forecast, to a total of $477,000. This increase in funding is allocated to salaries, printing, and repairs and maintenance.
The budget for the elections program is $133,000, which is $25,000 less than the 1998-99 forecast. The $11,000 increase for the Chief Electoral Office activity is largely due to preparations for the next general election and is found in contract services, supplies, printing and salary. This increase is offset by a reduction of $36,000 in the second activity, which covers the cost of school council and school board elections, and it is due to no school elections being scheduled for this fiscal year.
The budget for the retirement allowances and death benefits program is $446,000, which is an increase of $16,000 over the 1998-99 forecast. This increase is due to a $4,000 increase in government contributions to the MLA pension fund, reflecting the increase in MLA pay as of April 1, 1999, and a $12,000 increase in consulting services, to cover the cost of an actuarial evaluation, which is required early in the 1999-2000 fiscal year.
The budget for the Hansard program is $407,000, which is a $40,000 increase over the 1998-99 forecast. This is due to the addition of a new activity entitled "broadcasting", for which funding will be provided for televised proceedings of the Legislative Assembly.
The conflicts commission program, under the recommendations of the conflicts commissioner, remains at $13,000. The 1999-2000 capital budget of $5,000 is to cover the cost of replacement furniture and equipment. This is the same amount that was allocated to this vote in last year's main estimates.
Mr. Ostashek: We generally don't have much debate on the Legislative Assembly Office, but I believe this is the proper place to bring up my questions about electoral boundaries review, since the elections budget is included in the Legislative Assembly Office.
The Government Leader, in his response to the media, and brief response to the motion that we entered on the Order Paper, sort of dismissed, out of hand, the idea of an electoral boundaries review, and said that we were after a boundaries review to get what we couldn't get politically.
That might be a good political statement, but the fact remains that we do have at least two constituencies in the Yukon that are far out of sync with the norm. One was in the last election - Whitehorse West - which has substantially more voters than any other constituency in the Yukon.
The next election has to be called before, I believe, September or October of the year 2000, and the information we have received from the government so far and what we have gleaned from the public is that the Faro mine will not be back in operation by that time, unless something unforeseen happens, such as mineral prices go up dramatically and someone gets interested in the property. But, the reality of it is that it doesn't look like the mine will be in operation. So, that constituency will be far out of sync with the rest of the Yukon constituencies.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms says one person, one vote, and the votes must be equal. It was challenged in the Supreme Court and ruled on in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has come down with rulings of plus or minus 25 percent, I believe.
The Government Leader also stated in the media that this wasn't normal practice, to have one after every second election. I would refer the Government Leader to the report that was tabled in the Legislature on, I believe, December 1, 1997, with recommendations. In that report, all parties agreed, including his party, that after every second election it would be an opportune time to review electoral boundaries. It also recommended that there be some enacting legislation put in, which we don't have, so we wouldn't have to pass a bill every time it happened.
Along with that, Mr. Chair, in my review of the electoral boundary commissions in the Yukon before, I find that one was in 1976, one was in 1984 and one in 1991. This was substantially less time than has transpired now, let alone including another 18 months until the next election.
Along with that, the Government Leader, in his response to the public, in response for a motion, said, "Maybe we'll look at it six months from now and weigh it."
My question to the Government Leader on this is, does he believe that if he weighs it six months from now there will be time for an electoral boundary review before the next election, or is he not concerned with the inequity of the power of vote of the Yukon electorate? Does he not believe that Yukon, like every other jurisdiction, should do everything within their power to see that we stay within the norms as set out by the Supreme Court?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, that's quite correct, Mr. Chair. My first reaction to the member's proposal - given that even though he had the opportunity, he didn't raise it with me once, even - my initial reaction, of course, was that the members were playing more political games, as usually is the case, and that I should perhaps consider it in that light. The ridings that the member chose to highlight publicly were, for example, two ridings that the NDP hold - one riding which the Yukon Party could not even find a candidate to run in.
So, one will have to forgive me if I thought that this might be politically motivated. There was no hint or suggestion that the Ross River-Southern Lakes riding, which had awkward boundaries, would even be considered. So, again, one might forgive me if I thought that this was politically motivated and far from seeking a noble goal of having a fair allocation of votes for all citizens of the territory.
What I indicated to the media was that I was going to do a review of the matter with my colleagues. Typically, I would do this review in consultation with the members in the opposition.
That may happen. But we would do a review of the situation, get some legal opinions on the subject, and then determine whether or not the situation warranted an electoral boundaries commission.
They may not wait six months; it may be sooner, I don't have the information at my fingertips. I do not feel sufficiently briefed to be in a position to make such a significant decision.
So, certainly, the subject is a current one. It is an important issue, and the government will be assessing the situation with respect to the changes in riding demographics, and numbers, as to whether they are significant or permanent, and getting some legal opinions with respect to whether it is wise or prudent to have an electoral boundaries commission.
I think historically - if my memory serves me correctly - the discussion is generally held between party leaders in the Legislature first, before any decision is made. Given that it's already sort of on the table as a big political issue, I will assess that, too.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, the Government Leader doesn't need to get so defensive about it. The fact remains that time's a-wasting. The fact is that the legislation for the last electoral boundary review was introduced one year prior to the report being handed to the Legislature. I would have thought that this government would have dealt with it in the fall session, if they didn't want to deal with legislation at the spring session. We're quite prepared to deal with it in this session.
My concern is, that if we don't deal with it in this session, then the Government Leader is basically saying that we're going to have the same electoral boundaries in this next election as we had in the last two elections.
And that goes against the report that was filed in this Legislature, which all political parties participated in, and it recommended that there be an electoral boundary review after every second election. It doesn't need to be a political issue. If I could get a commitment from the government to explore it and come forward with the legislation in this session - if he's going to do it - then it wouldn't be a political issue, and we wouldn't have to debate the motion that's on the Order Paper. We put it there to draw attention to it.
On the fact that we highlighted two areas that happen to be held by the NDP, the Government Leader has to realize that those are the two ridings that are out of sync. We didn't raise Ross River, because Ross River isn't out of sync, as far as I know, not to that extent. It's an awkward riding and always has been, and it would be reviewed in an electoral boundary review, but the fact remains that I believe Whitehorse West was out of sync in the 1996 election.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: "So what?" he says. The fact is that if we go ahead with it, the election could be challenged and overturned in the courts. That's my concern, and elections in the Yukon are generally fairly close. So every riding counts, and I think it's important that we act in a responsible manner, and if, in fact, they are out of sync, as I am suggesting to the Government Leader that they are in two ridings, and that they are permanent - he's not convinced of that, but I urge him to get advice as quickly as possible and to get together with me and the leader of the Liberal Party and see if we're going to have an electoral boundary review, and then we won't have to debate the motion. Otherwise we'll be calling the motion up for debate at some time in this session.
Chair: Order please. Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there any further debate on the Yukon Legislative Assembly?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, I would like to point out that, with respect to the electoral boundaries commission proposal, put forward by the Yukon Party, I think it's too late for it not to be a political issue. I think it is a partisan issue at this point. The question will be: to what extent can we pull it back from that brink? Most certainly it has been presented, in my mind, in that way, and we will, as I have indicated, do the analysis that we think should be done to determine whether or not there is sufficient justification for an electoral boundary review. When we're finished that analysis, I will communicate with the opposition leaders.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, let me ask the Government Leader this: does he believe that if the legislation isn't passed in this spring session, there is still time for an electoral boundary review before the next general election?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, there might be. I don't know.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, it is unfortunate that the Government Leader is so defensive on this, because it was in his hands to do with it whatever he wanted. If he just looks at the report on page 46 - the report that was tabled in this Legislature. The letter came on December 1 through the Speaker with the report of 1997. This was just a year after the Government Leader was elected. I believe that we, as the opposition, did raise with the Government Leader quite awhile ago as to whether there would be an electoral boundary review before the next election. And, at that time, he left it open. That's several years ago.
This report states quite clearly that there is no standing legislation. It lays out the dates that I laid out previously, Mr. Chair. I just want to refer the Government Leader to the recommendation on page 46: "That there be standing legislation for the establishment of an electoral district boundaries commission to review the area boundaries and name of each of the existing electoral districts, and make recommendations respecting any way in which they should be altered."
It says electoral district boundaries shall be reviewed following every two general elections - it says "shall" be - or following a third general election if two general elections have taken place in less than six years. So, quite clearly, we have exceeded the timeline quite dramatically from what's laid out in the report to the Legislative Assembly.
So I believe that the legislation would have to be passed in this spring sitting if we're going to have an electoral boundary review prior to the next general election, and we'll be fully supportive of the Government Leader bringing in that legislation this session, even though it is a budget session. It doesn't mean we can't deal with legislation of an urgent nature if it's taken into consideration and agreement reached.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I thank the member for his opinion on the subject. With respect to the report of the Chief Electoral Officer, it is useful advice. It is advice.
Secondly, the report had representation from parties. Parties, to my knowledge, do not endorse the report. But there were party representatives giving advice to the Chief Electoral Officer who is giving advice to us. Whether we choose to adopt the advice is a decision to be made.
With respect to the timing of this, as I say, I will seek legal advice on the subject first. I think the issue about the partisanship nature of the debate to date is not a reflection on my defensiveness but it is a fact, and this fact is very real, and that will be taken into account when at least 11 members of this Legislature speak out on the issue next.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to enter into this debate. It may come up again in other avenues and forums in this Legislature during this session. I would just like to ask the Government Leader, in terms of consideration of the suggestion of an electoral boundaries review, does the minister have any opinion as to what time frame is required and what the cost of such an exercise has been in the past, or an estimate of what it might be?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I don't have an opinion as to the time frame yet, Mr. Chair. Certainly, the costs are a matter of record, and whatever they would be they would be. I am certain that we could probably draw from our experience from the last time around and that would give us a sense of the ballpark costs should we proceed.
Ms. Duncan: I was just quizzing the minister to see if he happened to remember what the cost was of the previous ones, given his time frame in this Legislature.
I am concerned about the time frame required for an electoral boundaries review and, in particular, that there are some very, very real anomalies, and I am thinking, when I say that, of the Carcross-Tagish/Ross River-Southern Lakes, which is, I personally believe, very difficult in light of the growing number of individuals resident in Tagish, and in light of what we're asking of whomever the representative is to try to represent very diverse viewpoints. The Laberge and the Kluane ridings are very, very extensive in terms of area. While it may require the wisdom of Solomon to draw these boundaries, there is a question as to whether the last ones were drawn with that kind of wisdom, because there are some real questions that exist.
I am concerned. I would like to be on the record as being concerned about the time frame that is required and that the time frame is growing ever shorter. I would, for historical information, like to know what the cost is of these commissions.
I think that's a question that Yukoners will ask and should know. I'm not saying that cost should be a determining factor in whether or not this is done.
The minister has indicated that his first view is legal advice and from his comments I would anticipate that his second step in this regard is a discussion with his caucus. Perhaps the third step might be a party leader discussion with respect to options laid out before us, if I can make that suggestion.
Mr. Cable: Just to follow up on that, the session has another nine weeks attached to it. If the minister were to seek legal advice, assumedly on the disparity percentages permitted - I assume that's what he's talking about - and talk to his caucus in the next couple of weeks, there's time for a draftsman to prepare legislation. Is he rejecting the notion that there be legislation this session?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No.
Mr. Cable: Could the minister give us a little more encouragement on this? Is he saying that it's possible and, if he's saying it's possible - which would seem to flow from his answer - when would we know what his position is going to be?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I'm not sure at this point, Mr. Chair. We have to take into account, as I mentioned, the fact that we've got a partisan political debate on the street right now on this subject. This is new to me. In the time that we've had electoral boundary reviews - and I've been through some - this has not been the way it's been handled in the past, so I'm being a fairly cautious player at this point.
I don't know when we're going to come to conclusions on this subject, at this point. I would hope that, in the next month or so, I can get some good advice. I don't know even whether or not this good advice will be domestic advice or whether we'll be seeking it outside the territory, at this point.
I don't know what kind of advice is available, even, domestically. So the timing at this stage is very much up in the air. Of course, as we had already planned, I will make an effort to do the review this spring, and hypothetically, if the advice suggests to proceed, then I will make proposals to proceed this spring.
Mr. Cable: The way we've set it up now, of course, makes it a two-step procedure. We would enact a piece of legislation setting up a committee, or a commission, then when the commission reported, there'd be another piece of legislation at some later juncture, which would take many months.
The other way of doing it, of course, which would also be a two-step proposition in the first instance, would be passing a master piece of legislation that would cause it to be done automatically. Then we'd only be faced with a piece of legislation adopting the report, which I think - if we remember correctly - is a recommendation of the Electoral Officer.
Does the minister have any thoughts on that, whether we should be looking at a piece of legislation that'll roll over these commissions automatically, after either a number of elections, or a number of years?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, there are a number of recommendations of the Chief Electoral Officer, which I was assuming we were going to accept or otherwise alter, but put forward in legislation in the fall, as a result of the review of the Elections Act, and consider those matters in the course of that review.
Certainly, putting the requirement that there be a boundary review every two terms would solve one problem - it would solve the problem of having to decide whether or not there should be a review.
However, if nothing had changed in the community and we were commanded to have the review anyway, with all the attendant costs and trouble, people would wonder why we had it in legislation. So, we may be creating a problem.
That and the other issues, of course, will have to be addressed in the course of the reviewing of the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations on legislation. I wouldn't expect that that element of the question would be resolved before the fall, where legislation will come forward.
Mr. Cable: The Government Leader can correct me if I'm wrong because he was here, but it seems to me the last time the territory did this, the initial piece of legislation was passed one year and then about a year later, the other one followed, which seemed to me to be an inordinate time. I can't conceive why it would take a year for the process for somebody to come here, look at the population statistics, look at the geography and look at the initial charging act and come up with some conclusions. What does the minister see as a reasonable time for the commission, immediately after its charged, to come back with a report? Would six months be reasonable?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think that would be more than reasonable; in fact, generous, Mr. Chair. I would think that it could happen on an even more accelerated basis than that, but I'd have to review it. Certainly a year's worth of work is very excessive, but whereas there has to be some opportunity to provide for public input around the territory, as previous commissions have allowed, I don't think it requires an excessive amount of time.
Mr. Ostashek: I'm not going to prolong the debate on this issue here today. It's unfortunate that the Government Leader takes this as a political issue, when the fact is that it's a very legitimate issue that speaks to voter parity, which is of the utmost importance to all Canadians, and to having equality in the power of their vote, which I don't believe they have now.
That was the reason for the motion and that's the reason for the debate today and the questions today. I would urge the Government Leader to get his advice in as timely a manner as possible. And if he can come back with some legitimate arguments for me that an electoral boundary review is not required at this time because there isn't the disparity in the ridings, then I will listen to them. But I can assure the Government Leader that, if he thinks this debate is political so far, if we don't see any action on it, it will get political. I think it's a very important issue, and I haven't raised it because it's my issue. It's the issue of many constituents out there who asked me the question, and that's why I've raised the issue.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, I don't see any need to prolong it either. I want to reassure the member that I will vigorously debate his motion, should he decide to bring it forward, and make the situation even more partisan. I've already thought of the angle I'll take during that debate and liberally quote from the member opposite on the many times he's raised the subject of rural Yukon. That should be a fascinating and spirited debate, no doubt.
But the member will forgive me if I think that the matter is partisan because the nature and the tone of the press releases is, in fact, very partisan and not the stuff of tripartite agreements at all.
So, in my view, if there is anybody to blame, so to speak, for it becoming a partisan issue, the member should only look in his own corner.
Mr. Cable: I have another issue. I assume that that's finished.
This morning, I was rattling around, looking at the Workers' Compensation Act, and realized that there hadn't been any bound volumes for the year 1997 or 1998. It struck me that that was an inordinate length of time to have those statutes prepared. We only pass - what did we pass last fall? Maybe a dozen statutes. Fifteen perhaps.
I know it's all on the Internet, and if someone is Internet literate, they can peck away on it and get the answers, but it strikes me, particularly with the number of amendments we make to some statutes, that it's much more convenient for the bound volumes to be out in a timely fashion. I'm wondering why that isn't so.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, not being an expert on the subject, Mr. Chair, the costs associated with the binding in the old traditional way is substantial. I think that because of the fact that we're working on consolidating the statutes on a continuing basis, we have some money in the budget - the Justice minister could probably clarify this for us - that speaks to the desirability of consolidating statutes. But, we are not passing as many laws, so to speak, as we used to, even in the last six or eight years. There is less volume of new law for one reason or another.
I think the reason why we don't do more of it is simply the costs associated with doing it. But, we do provide of course, to the public, consolidated statutes upon request, when a request is made.
Mr. Cable: I'm not sure what the Government Leader is telling us. Are we doing away with the bound volumes? Because if we're not, then that cost is going to happen at some juncture in the future.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The issue is the frequency at which we rebind the volumes, and certainly there is continuing work in this area. I know there are expenditures in this area, and I would invite the member to speak to the Justice minister as to precisely what the Justice department is doing.
Mr. Cable: I think we're probably talking about two different things. The Government Leader is responding in the sense of the revised statutes. I'm talking about the annual statutes, which come out representing each year's pieces of legislation, and we're two years late on it. We don't have 1997's statutes yet, and I'm wondering what the problem is.
I can leave this question for the Justice debate. The Justice minister and the Government Leader are nodding their heads, so I'll leave it until then.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Legislative Services
Chair: For your information, that's on page 1-6.
If there is no general debate, we'll go line by line.
On Legislative Assembly
Legislative Assembly in the amount of $1,199,000 agreed to
On Caucus Support Services
Caucus Support Services in the amount of $495,000 agreed to
On Legislative Committees
Legislative Committees in the amount of $14,000 agreed to
On Commonwealth Parliamentary Association
Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in the amount of $31,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments or statistics?
Legislative Services in the amount of $1,739,000 agreed to
On Legislative Assembly Office
Chair: Is there general debate?
On Clerk's Office
Clerk's Office in the amount of $477,000 agreed to
Legislative Assembly Office in the amount of $477,000 agreed to
Chair: Any general debate?
On Chief Electoral Office
Chief Electoral Office in the amount of $130,000 agreed to
On Elections: Education Act
Elections: Education Act in the amount of $3,000 agreed to
On Elections Administration
Elections Administration in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Elections in the amount of $133,000 agreed to
On Retirement Allowances and Death Benefits
Chair: Is there general debate?
On Retirement Allowances
Retirement Allowances in the amount of $446,000 agreed to
On Death Benefits
Death Benefits in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Retirement Allowances and Death Benefits in the amount of $446,000 agreed to
On Transcription Services
Transcription Services in the amount of $367,000 agreed to
Broadcasting in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
Hansard in the amount of $407,000 agreed to
On Conflicts Commission
Conflicts Commission in the amount of $13,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Yukon Legislative Assembly in the amount of $3,215,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Legislative Assembly Office
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for Legislative Assembly Office in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Yukon Legislative Assembly agreed to
Executive Council Office
Chair: Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, this budget forecast increases overall spending of $504,000 for the Executive Council Office during fiscal year 1999-2000. The net budget, excluding recoverables, is $131,000 higher than the Supplementary No. 2, tabled last year. This increase is related to the negotiated salary increase agreements.
Forty-nine percent of ECO's budget flows through 100-percent recoverable programs.
The increased forecast in recoverable programming related to a number of individual agreements with the federal government in the ECO branches: land claims, aboriginal languages, French languages and the Bureau of Statistics. The budget proposed recognizes that, while the government must continue to contain costs, priority initiatives must be supported. This budget provides the necessary funding to support key areas: the completion and implementation of land claims and self-government agreements, the transfer of federal programs to the Yukon and the work on the development assessment process.
Under land claims, this budget continues to demonstrate the government's clear commitment to conclude outstanding land claim and self-government agreements. The proposed increase in spending of $340,000 is primarily to support implementation projects as committed to in the agreements already signed. It also provides the level of staffing and operating costs necessary to support negotiating groups working to complete the land claim and the implementation agreements.
This budget will also support the effective implementation of agreements and the building of a strong government-to-government relationship with Yukon First Nations.
On the subject of devolution and intergovernmental relations, Yukon people want to have a greater say in the future of our resources. We need to manage these resources in a way that benefits all Yukoners, both now and in the future, through the promotion of sustainable development. We are making significant progress toward achieving this goal as a result of recent discussions with the federal government and First Nations on the devolution of natural resource responsibilities to this government.
While a great deal of work remains to be done, it is my sense that critical financial issues, including the federal government's ongoing responsibility to address its environmental liabilities in Yukon, have been addressed and we can move forward to conclude a more formal transfer agreement.
Leading these discussions in concert with the departments is the principal task of the intergovernmental relations branch in the Executive Council Office; $1,183,000 is forecast for this branch.
It was only recently fully staffed and will be able to focus its full attention on the tasks ahead, supporting devolution and strengthening relations with First Nation governments and other governments in Canada and abroad. This branch will also ensure that Yukon's interests are effectively heard and listened to on national and circumpolar issues facing Yukon people.
With respect to DAP, resources for the conclusion of DAP - the development assessment process - work has been allocated under Cabinet and management support. Until legislation is passed in Parliament, the expenses are covered under the implementation funds. Once it is passed, the federal government will be requested to provide adequate funding.
With respect to the commissions, all commissions have completed their work. The remaining staff has been reassigned and the remaining budget has been reallocated to devolution work.
The capital expenditures are forecast to increase $72,000. This increase reflects the Land Claims Secretariat's contribution to capital-funded projects throughout the government. Other expenditures for capital are minimal and support for the replacement of worn out or obsolete equipment has sufficient funding, I believe, to support it.
I know that there are a number of issues that the members will want to raise. I would be happy to engage in general discussion on those subjects.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for his brief overview of his department. I have a number of questions that I would like to explore with the member in general debate on the Executive Council Office to find out what this government has done in the past year and what they hope to accomplish in the next year. The areas I want to cover are land claims - what is happening there - and I want to spend some time on devolution, as well, as this is the proper department in which to be raising this at this particular time.
There is a four-percent increase in the Executive Council Office budget overall, even though we've removed some of the Cabinet commissions that don't have a budget this year, but the budget has still gone up. I'll be looking for further explanation from the minister responsible on that. I believe he said some of it was wages, but we'd like to see if we could get a better handle on some $2 million that it's up since 1997-98. It's not up dramatically from last year, but overall there's still a four-percent increase in the Executive Council Office as a whole. So, we'd like to see where that is and whether they are recoverable items. If you look at the allotments page of 2-4 of the budget book, you see that personnel is increased by almost $600,000.
Some of the other expenditures have gone down a little bit. Transfer payments seem to remain fairly consistent, but up quite dramatically since 1997-98, so we'll be trying to explore some of those areas. We should know what's happening in the Ottawa office, as well as the statistics branch, which this minister is responsible for.
I want to start though by maybe just taking it in pieces, and try to get through them without having to jump all over the place.
I'm concerned with what's happening in land claims and what apparently appears to be a lack of progress in finalizing the claims. The Government Leader is on record, shortly after getting into office, where he said that December 1997 seemed like a good date for the conclusion of all land claims in the Yukon.
Quite clearly, that date has been missed. I'm not exactly sure of the number of claims that are out there now, but I believe about half of them are still out there that have to be finalized - six or seven anyhow.
I would like a progress report from the minister on land claims. I know that during the fall session - there was no major announcement in the House - but I believe in the debate he said that some agreements had been finalized, were initialled and were due for announcement in the near future. We haven't heard any more about those agreements. Kwanlin Dun, I believe, is still at a standstill with no progress on it. I want to know what is happening there.
So, maybe we could just start asking the minister to give an update on what is happening at the land claims, and when does he think he's going to have concluded all the land claims in the Yukon? Is he going to have concluded them during the rest of this mandate, or are there still going to be claims outstanding when the election is called?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, there has been, in fact, substantial progress on land claims. There are some outstanding claims that have yet to be negotiated, and I'll explain where the work remains to be done.
As the member will know, as of the time that he left office, there were six claims completed at the negotiators' stage. The first four were Teslin, Vuntut Gwitchin, Champagne-Aishihik and Nacho Nyak Dun. At the negotiators' level, they had completed two more: Little Salmon-Carmacks and Selkirk First Nation.
That is the way it was left in 1996. The member is shaking his head. That's the way it was left in 1996. Well, we disagree then.
The work that had to be done was work on the Tr'ondek land claim. That, of course, has been signed off and completed. The White River negotiations, of course, are done, and the negotiators have signed off that agreement. The Ta'an agreement is still outstanding. There were a number of hurdles to cross. They have been crossed, with the exception of one, which is implementation funding. That I regard as a federal First Nation issue. Kluane is substantially complete. Not only are the negotiations finished but the legal drafting is complete. Carcross-Tagish First Nation - there are negotiations established for the first few days of this month. The outstanding issues are largely tax issues relating to section 87 and the role implementation of - the request that the First Nations who come after the first four have a role in the implementation of the provisions respecting taxation.
Liard First Nation is substantially complete. There are no negotiations planned. Our negotiators feel that we have the makings of the final agreement. We have yet to hear from Liard First Nation or the new chief and council as to their position on the matter.
Ross River - I would characterize it, or the land claims negotiators characterize it, as being 75-percent complete.
That progress is still underway. There is further discussion about the Kaska transboundary claim, and those discussions will be underway this month, pursuant to the UFA.
With respect to Kwanlin Dun's final agreement, there hasn't been any substantial progress made on this file over the last two years. We have worked on a land protocol arrangement to allow for more comfort to all concerned on the alienation of community lands in the Whitehorse area in advance of a land claims agreement, but we've not had serious active negotiations for quite some time, and don't expect to, until a new chief and council is elected.
Mr. Ostashek: Just for the record, I believe that the Ta'an agreement was initialled by the negotiators, too, when we left office. The Ta'an agreement was initialled as completed. There was a lot of work to do on the separation from Kwanlin Dun.
The negotiations were basically complete on it.
The minister has stated that some of these are completed. When are we going to have a public announcement about these agreements? The minister told me back in December that some of these agreements were basically completed. There doesn't appear to have been any progress on that since then.
The minister didn't answer my question about when he believes all land claims will be concluded in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, for the record, whatever the negotiators signed during the member's term for the Ta'an agreement, the outstanding issues were more than the separation agreement, and those issues had to be addressed during our term of office. While I don't want to minimize the amount of work that has been happening on this claim in the last year, to say otherwise would just not be true.
With respect to the claims agreements that are done, I am encouraging First Nations to conclude or say that they have concluded. They are not substantial issues. There are ones, unfortunately, where there are outstanding issues, like Ross River.
The Carcross-Tagish First Nation has still got the outstanding tax issue. It's not an issue that directly affects the Yukon government. The other First Nations, Kluane and Ta'an Kwach'an, I think are substantially complete. There is an implementation funding element, as I mentioned, for Ta'an, which is not concluded. I'm trusting that the federal government will conclude it. So, the issues that are outstanding are not primarily, with the exception of Ross River and I think Kwanlin Dun, or substantially in our court to do anything about.
We still participate, we still have positions, we're still encouraging the negotiations to conclude, we're still encouraging First Nations to go through the public ratification process, but there is not substantial policy work to do, and I would expect that we can complete the outstanding claims in the Yukon - perhaps with the exception of Kwanlin Dun, depending on what happens with Kwanlin Dun in the next little while - we can do that before the end of the term.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, Kwanlin Dun is probably going to be the toughest claim of all to settle to the satisfaction of First Nations and to the satisfaction of all Yukoners because there are many, many conflicting interests, and the fact that nothing has happened on the claim for over three years really doesn't bode well. It's almost starting from square one again, because you have new players in the game, you have people with different priorities, and the dynamics are changing on an everyday basis, so I think we're back to square one on that, and I don't know when that will be settled.
I'll just ask a question of the Government Leader now: does he not believe that he would have moved these claims ahead a lot faster had he not reorganized the land claims office and got rid of all the expertise that we had there, and brought in somebody who didn't stay in the Yukon very long and has left again now? Does the Government Leader still believe it was a wise move to do that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, first of all, Mr. Chair, the Kwanlin Dun claim has, as I said, not shown substantial progress.
I should point out, though, that at every turn, wherever there has been a selection made at the lands table in the past, Kwanlin Dun has reminded us that they have made certain selections for the purposes of discouraging certain activity on their land. So, they are still active. I mean, the administration of Kwanlin Dun is still active, but at the political level, some things obviously need to be sorted out and I'm hoping that the election coming forward will help us in that endeavour.
Mr. Chair, for the umpteenth time, I did not reorganize and reallocate staff in the Land Claims Secretariat. That is mythology, propagated by a few in the Yukon News and the members of the opposition. It is not reality, and in any case the expertise - the front-line negotiators - remained in the saddle, worked hard and did well. The expertise that left the Land Claims Secretariat was not of government. The expertise that was added to the Land Claims Secretariat performed well. A lot of good work has been done in the last two years and I'm expecting that, by the end of the term, we'll have publicly made substantial progress.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, the Government Leader's going to have a difficult time convincing the public that he didn't have a hand in the reorganization of the land claims office, when the deputy minister of the Executive Council Office, along with the chief land claim negotiator and the devolution officer, all came from British Columbia at the same time, after the Government Leader made a trip to British Columbia. A lot of coincidences are involved there that I think the Government Leader will have a hard time explaining away to the public, regardless of what he says today in the Legislature, as to what role he played in the reorganization of the land claims secretariat.
Nevertheless, we did lose a lot of expertise there, in my opinion and in the opinion of many Yukoners.
Land claims - as this Government Leader has stated, and government leaders before him, this government continues to state - finalization of all land claims is key in future economic well-being of the territory. Land claims themselves give the First Nations the ability to participate in economic opportunities as they arise, as well as give certainty to investors that they know what lands First Nations have.
I would suggest to the Government Leader right now that, even though there is quite substantial progress being made in land claims, there are still a lot of unknowns there.
Mr. Chair, I understand it is 5:30 p.m. We'll continue at 7:30 p.m.
Chair: Order. Committee will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are on Executive Council Office. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, prior to the break we were discussing land claims and the progress, or lack of progress - however you interpret it - on land claims. When the break came, I was just wrapping up by saying that it was important to all segments of Yukon society that claims would be finished in the near future, and that we can all get on with our lives in the post-claim era, which I think should create a better climate for investment in the Yukon. I'm sure the Government Leader feels the same way.
The claims, in the opinion of many Yukoners, have dragged on far too long, and the sooner they're over with, the better, in the interest of all Yukoners.
Can the Government Leader tell me, once our internal claims are finished - he referred a couple of times in his replies today to transboundary claims - in his judgment, how long are we going to have to keep the Land Claims Secretariat in place to deal with claims, whether they are internal claims or transboundary claims? Does he see the Yukon government always having to maintain a Land Claims Secretariat?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Personally, no, Mr. Chair. I see the Land Claims Secretariat's primary responsibility being that of negotiating the land claim. I see the implementation of the land claim being the next major phase for the government. I see, ultimately, the role for intergovernmental relations taking on those central functions that were required to maintain an ongoing relationship with First Nations and to meet the central commitments that the Yukon government will continue to have with First Nations that emanate from the land claims agreement.
The implementation of the claim is certainly now much more the focus than it ever has been from the Land Claims Secretariat and, as I mentioned in my remarks earlier, the functions of the land claims are moving from negotiation to implementation.
The member prefaced his question by speaking to the issue of transboundary claims. We have, as he knows, in the UFA an obligation to negotiate those transboundary claims. One significant claim, of course, is the Kaska claim, and we are preparing to meet the Kaska on the transboundary claim.
I have already had discussions with the Government of British Columbia about their mandate and about the issues that affect transboundary claims from B.C. into the Yukon and from the Yukon into B.C., and we're working now on what might be a joint government position respecting transboundary claims.
That has yet to be determined. But transboundary claims is an ongoing obligation, and it will be until we get those completed, too.
Mr. Ostashek: The minister said, "A joint government position." With what government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, we're working with British Columbia right now to determine whether or not what we have in common and what issues may arise should we go to the table with the Kaska on a transboundary claim. The Kaska, of course, haven't settled in B.C., which makes it all the more troublesome, or difficult, to reach a quick claim.
Mr. Ostashek: In the transboundary claims there are four players, actually, I suppose. There's the federal government, the territorial government, the British Columbia government and the Kaska. Am I not correct?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, there are actually just a tad more players than that. In that particular traditional territory, the Deh Cho show the Northwest Territories also have an interest in the same lands. They all seem to - for convenience, I guess - sort of overlap on well-known oil and gas properties in the southeast Yukon.
There are a number of those interests. We've had to determine who speaks for the Kaska on a transboundary claim. The Kaska will be meeting with me this week, I think, to clarify that position. We will meet our obligations to negotiate the transboundary claim as the UFA dictates.
Mr. Ostashek: For the record, I'd like the Government Leader to put it on the public record: in the negotiation of transboundary claims, is the Yukon going to be subjected to any more loss of lands other than what's already been negotiated with our First Nations?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, as the member knows, the position of the Government of Yukon has been to, to this stage, provide some acceptance of site-specific properties from transboundary claimants into the Yukon. We have not been enthusiastic about a Tetlit Gwitch'in-like claim in the Yukon from other transboundary claimants.
We believe that substantial resource lands have been allocated under the UFA to domestic land claims claimants and, at this point, we would be prepared to consider site specifics for transboundary claimant groups. We haven't, at this point, changed that position.
Mr. Ostashek: I want to explore this a little further. The land quantum for land claims was set many, many years ago in the negotiation of the umbrella final agreement, which said that X number of square kilometres of land would be allocated to First Nations, divided up as they saw fit. They were given the ability to choose which bands got more and which bands got less.
The Government Leader said that he was prepared to negotiate, site specific. I would like to clarify what he means by "site specific", what size of blocks of land he's talking about, how much land they involve, and I also want to know if there is any change in the government's position on land quantum for transboundary claims.
I know that our First Nations claim on the B.C. side or the Northwest Territories' side. We found out what happened in the Tetlit Gwich'in claim where they were given a block of land on this side, but yet when the Nacho Nyak Dun band made a similar claim on the other side, the federal government dismissed it and wouldn't even talk about it.
So I think it's important that we know the position that the government is negotiating from today. Is it an outright no, that we're not going to increase the land quantum for transboundary claims? And what size is the minister talking about with site specific, and how many?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I'm not going to veer from the position that we've taken in the past that I'm not going to negotiate the claim on the floor of the Legislature. However, let me say this: I'm not aware of a position being taken at transboundary claimant tables and I'm not aware that we've been in a negotiating session with transboundary claimant groups. The Tetlit Gwich'in was not a negotiated settlement; it was an imposed settlement.
The position of the Government of Yukon respecting transboundary claimants at this stage is site specific. That means proven use of a particular area for specific purposes. There's a definition at the land claims table as to what that generally refers to. It is what generally we are looking to achieve in the negotiations. That is, those negotiations are at a very preliminary stage at this point. I am well-aware of the difficulties facing the Yukon when the negotiations begin.
Mr. Ostashek: I just want to get back, again, to where we're talking about when we can get done with this and when we can get rid of the Land Claims Secretariat. What raised the issue in my mind was that, while I don't see it changed in the budget book, I've heard it referred to as land claims and implementation secretariat. I've got some concerns about that, because I believe that the sooner we move departments - we are going to have to deal with this for time immemorial - and the sooner that we deal with looking after the implementation on a department-by-department basis, the further ahead we are going to be.
We have established a lot of positions in government departments to deal with land claims. I'm concerned that when we take the secretariat - while it doesn't seem to be officially renamed; and I'm going to ask the Government Leader if it has been or whether it was just the way it was referred to by probably himself and perhaps some other people as the land claims and implementation secretariat - that it might be around for a substantial amount of time yet.
Is it going to be necessary to keep the Land Claims Secretariat in place until all transboundary claims are completed? Is the Government Leader prepared to put a best-guess estimate on when that would be?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, firstly, the land claims negotiating side of the secretariat is already scaling down because, as I mentioned already, a number of claims - all but two claims, really - are already substantially complete. There is no point in keeping all the negotiating infrastructure around for two claims - one that will be inactive at least until the Kwanlin Dun elections. So, we're keeping negotiators and their smaller teams available. One negotiator, for example, also doubles as a senior official in Government Services because the Kwanlin Dun table is relatively inactive at this point. So, the negotiating side of the Land Claims Secretariat is scaling back and will continue to do so as the negotiations wind up.
The transboundary claim table will probably be as active as opportunity allows. We want to encourage the claims to proceed. Certainly, the Kaska claim is a significant one, but there is also the Taku River Tlingit claim, and we haven't even given that any consideration at all. No one has given notice to negotiate, or anything, but there is known to be an interest, and ultimately that interest will be expressed somehow. As I mentioned, there is a claimant group in the Northwest Territories who believe they have a claim in the Yukon that has been entertained by the federal government.
So, those claims will have to be settled at some point. We have an obligation to the UFA to negotiate and to settle and, furthermore, there is always the potential for court action, or the threat of court action, if we fail to negotiate and settle - or to show good faith, at least, in the negotiations, and I'm well aware of that. So, the government is showing good faith by expressing a willingness to sit and discuss the transboundary claims, in the first instance with the Kaska, and then with others, as they come along. The secretariat is moving to what I would refer to as a transition phase. I do believe that ultimately there will be some ongoing responsibilities of a central department, in terms of dealing with First Nation issues and some global issues emanating from land claims agreements.
I see that role ultimately being undertaken by the intergovernmental unit of the Executive Council Office, and there will be a period where we move from negotiations and focus on what is referred to as implementation, a large portion of which will be PSTA negotiations and self-government negotiations. Following that, there will be this phase, which I believe will take us into more of a normal intergovernmental relationship. The responsibilities for maintaining that relationship and promoting that relationship would be through the intergovernmental affairs unit of the Executive Council Office.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I've got just a question or two left and then I'll let some of my colleagues get in for awhile. There are many areas I want to cover in this department.
Just to follow up on land claims, there are several First Nations, aside from Liard, that have transboundary claims in British Columbia - the Teslin and the Champagne-Aishihik people I'm aware of, and there may be others that I'm not aware of. What role does the territorial government play in the negotiations on claims that are outside of our territory? Does the Yukon land claim team play any role in that at all?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: To this date, not much, I understand. There have been claims or active negotiations between Champagne-Aishihik and the Government of British Columbia, and some claim work between the Teslin Tlingit Council and British Columbia in B.C. I'm not aware of any active role in those negotiations by the Government of Yukon other than to be informed as to what has been happening and to have a good understanding of transboundary claim policies that are being promoted by British Columbia.
The situation for the Kaska is a slightly different situation now, because I've made overtures to the Government of British Columbia to ask that our officials get together to discuss the state of play in the negotiations to ensure that we all work from the same knowledge base.
It would make the transboundary claim in Yukon easier to negotiate if there are active negotiations in British Columbia for the domestic claim in British Columbia. And that has been our objective.
Mr. Phillips: While we are on land claims, Mr. Chair, I have a couple of questions of clarification for the minister.
There is a section in the UFA under the hunting agreement, section 16.12.3. In my interpretation of that section as it says, and I'll read the section: "...any person has a right of access to enter and stay upon undeveloped category B settlement land without the consent of the affected Yukon First Nation for the purpose of non-commercial harvesting of fish and wildlife, if permitted by, and in accordance with laws which apply under the administration and control of the Commissioner."
What I understand that to mean, and the interpretation that I believe we were told in the past, is that one has to receive permission from the First Nation to hunt and fish on category A lands. But on category B, the right to hunt and fish for non-commercial purposes is allowed, and there are no restrictions whatsoever, other than the Yukon Wildlife Act, which controls people's hunting and fishing on those lands.
Is that a correct interpretation?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, whether it's correct or not, it's my interpretation. But I can get further clarification from department officials, to see if it's corroborated by them.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you. The next section is 16.12.4. I'll read it out to the minister. "The minister of the Yukon responsible for the fish and wildlife may, on his initiative or at the request of a person or entity holding title to any parcel which is or was category B settlement land from which the public access for wildlife harvesting is reserved, release and discharge the public access for wildlife harvesting in respect of that parcel in whole or in part on such terms and conditions as he decides."
Now, that sounds like the minister can make a change to the previous clause. And I know, just reading it, it's difficult for the minister to understand. I've read it about six times, and I'm still trying to figure out what it really means.
Maybe the minister can come back with an example of when or how the minister would make a change in the previous one, if in fact it allows him to do that. I'm not sure what that clause is for, and I want an interpretation of why that clause is in there, and what the purpose of it is. Somebody asked me that, and I read it over several times, and we were trying to figure out whether it was maybe a small piece of land that was an agricultural lease, or whatever, that somebody didn't want hunting on. I don't know.
So, if the minister could come back with that information tomorrow - and I know that the minister, after my reading the clause to him probably doesn't have a very good understanding of what it means exactly because, even if you read it three or four times, it's one of those ones that you need a couple of lawyers to help you interpret. In fact, you may get two different opinions if you ask two lawyers to interpret it - I would appreciate having that so I could clarify for these individuals what exactly that means.
I would hope, if that second clause allows a change to it, maybe they could give me some examples of what the change might be and how the change would take place in a public forum, because everyone I have talked to understands that you have to receive permission for category A, but for category B lands, for the residents of the territory who are hunting and fishing, there is guaranteed access. I think that's what everyone understands it to be, so maybe the minister could tell me if the interpretation differs on my assumption.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Okay, Mr. Chair, I will seek the opinion of one lawyer on the grounds that we want to keep this as simple as possible.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to ask the Government Leader a number of questions with respect to land claims. I have just a couple to start off with and I would like to review some of the previous answers he has given and reserve the option to come back with other questions.
I know the Government Leader has responded to the Member for Porter Creek North with respect to land claims progress in terms of the fact that we're close on a number of the claims. Are there any dates set for signing ceremonies? Is there a point at which a number of signing ceremonies have been set?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No specific dates at this point, Mr. Chair. White River is going to ratification. They are very close. Well, they are all very close. As I mentioned, for Kluane, while the negotiators have not initialled the negotiators' agreement, we are already past that stage, and the lawyers have already finished the detailed drafting of the language for the final agreement. So, there is no set pattern to how these are being processed. It really rests with the First Nation to indicate when they want to ratify. We're ready any time.
Ms. Duncan: In the briefing, we were advised that there are two new positions that have now been filled in the land claims implementation branch and that they are now fully staffed with 11 - I believe that it's 11 - overall FTEs. Now being up to full staff, are the efforts of the individuals more focused on implementation, or is there some additional information that the minister can provide?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, they are more focused on implementation. They are still focused primarily on the finalizing of the outstanding negotiations. As I mentioned, we have not achieved an agreement with Ross River and we have not achieved an agreement with Kwanlin Dun. They will remain of the utmost priority for us. But the general focus of the branch has certainly shifted to implementation.
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to move to another area of intergovernmental relations. Does the minister have meetings scheduled, forthcoming, with the Alaskan governor and the British Columbia premier - the tripartite meetings? Are there some scheduled for this spring?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, so far there have been no tripartite meetings scheduled, despite our efforts, with the Premier of British Columbia and the Governor of Alaska, largely on the grounds that the Premier of British Columbia and the Governor of Alaska did not want to have such a meeting.
They've indicated a willingness and eagerness to meet with me bilaterally. I have met with the Premier of British Columbia recently. I'll be meeting with the Governor of Alaska shortly, and our issues will be addressed. Hopefully, all can come together in the spirit of good will and camaraderie and we can start the tripartite meetings at some point in the future.
Ms. Duncan: We have a new government leader in the Northwest Territories. Is the Government Leader meeting with that individual soon, and is the Northwest Territories bid preference policy on the agenda?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I met with Premier Jim Antoine of the Northwest Territories at the last first ministers conference. We signed an intergovernmental cooperation agreement. We did not discuss, at that time, the bid preference, but trade issues are something that we are raising. There are issues going to be raised at the western premiers conference in Drumheller.
As I mentioned, I've already met with the Premier of the Northwest Territories, and we have set a plan to have a northern leaders meeting some time in June after Nunavut has elected its leader.
Ms. Duncan: The minister, in his opening remarks, referred to the commissions, and indicated that the work, in his view, had largely been completed. With respect to the forestry commission, can the minister indicate what is currently happening with the forestry group - if he doesn't like the term "commission" - and are First Nations on board yet with the Yukon forest strategy?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the forest commission, as the member knows, wound up operations this last year. The staff of the commission - those who were seconded - are working in the government in various locations.
The forest commissioner remains as commissioner, but the work to develop legislation, which was the next step, is on hold.
Certainly, that may change in the coming months with devolution, but at this point, it's on hold.
Well, the First Nations have an opportunity to continue discussions with the government. We've had a number of discussions with First Nations about forest strategy. They've been very amicable. I think everyone realizes, at this stage, that the next big project is legislation, and we're not there yet.
Ms. Duncan: The minister indicated that the next big project with respect to forestry is legislation. I would take it from that that there are no efforts - in light of the progress in devolution discussions - on the part of the Yukon government to look at co-management of the resource or working alongside the federal government officials until the transfer is complete. There are no initiatives in this regard - is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I would urge the member to be precise. When she says "co-management", does she mean co-management, or does she mean "common regime"? There's certainly a huge difference.
Ms. Duncan: Let me rephrase the question for the minister. The minister indicated that there is no work, at this point, being done on legislation, and that that is seen as the next big project. I would take it, then, that there are no Government of Yukon staff working with Government of Canada people, with respect to forestry issues. Other than the lobbying efforts by the Member for Watson Lake, there is no forestry unit developing in the Department of Renewable Resources and that further work - the next big project being legislation - is on hold until devolution is signed, sealed and delivered, so to speak.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, there are, of course, some responsibilities in both Renewable Resources and Economic Development for forestry. Those have been there for some considerable time. The forest commissioner works with the members of those departments and liaises with the federal government to try to provide good advice to the federal government, whether they choose to take it or not, and liaises with industry people and other interests - conservation, community, and others - on forestry issues. We are not, at this point, working on legislation.
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to move further into the discussion of devolution. The minister indicated, in previous discussions in this House in December, that additional resources might be required for some of the human resource planning, job classification and so on.
Could the minister outline where those additional resources are identified in this budget, if they are identified, and whether the minister anticipates resources over and above those that the federal government is contributing as outlined in the devolution briefing?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: When the federal government agrees to the basic terms of the devolution that were negotiated recently in Vancouver, then I expect some one-time funding to flow to allow various issues to be addressed immediately.
At the operational level, I understand the relationship has been very good with the federal government, and some work that has not cost a lot of money has been undertaken. But where there is work to be done that's going to require money and extra assistance, then I would expect that the money that's identified in the devolution deal would flow to the Yukon this year. It's not budgeted yet because we haven't signed the arrangement yet, but it would flow to the Yukon and the Yukon could undertake the work.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the discussions indicated that of the one-time funding costs to be paid for by Canada, about $800,000 or so would be dealing with some of the human resources issues, and of that $800,000, a substantial portion was to deal with official languages. Does the minister feel that that's going to be enough to deal with all of the human resources issues, the reclassification issues and all of these outstanding matters - while I believe negotiators are making best efforts to deal with this and the individuals involved are supportive of the processes - that this is enough to deal with the number of human resource issues on the table?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I believe that the financial terms of the negotiators' deal is sufficient to meet our needs as a government, and I've been reassured at some length by negotiators and by department officials that they can perform their task more than adequately with the resources that we have negotiated.
There are a number of different funds available to us. There are, of course, some significant responsibilities for us, but I believe we're sufficiently covered.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for that reassurance. The human resource issues were also, I believe, a major concern of the federal minister. Is the minister equally as confident that these issues - and there are some of concern to both sides - can be dealt with in the short term, and is he equally as confident of the time frame as he is of the financial resources?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I'm certain that the federal minister would be satisfied that the resources to handle the human resource implications are sufficient, because we're dealing with essentially the federal offer - their latest offer - and if they were genuinely concerned, then surely they would feel confident that their offer was sufficient. We believe that the offer is sufficient to adequately address our needs.
With respect to the timing, I've always been very much an optimist on this subject. It has required an infinite amount of patience. I'm certain that there will be other hurdles to overcome. We have some big initiatives to undertake. The rewriting of the Yukon Act is but one. The drafting of reference legislation is another. There are personnel issues, and then there is the integration of the federal and territorial policy. These are all major undertakings by the government, in cooperation with others.
I'm hoping that we can work this arrangement out within the next year. I've set a target of April of next year to complete the transfer. I'm hoping that we can meet that target.
Ms. Duncan: I certainly will continue to follow this particular issue, and I'd like to express my thanks to the Government Leader and the staff for providing the briefings. They have been very helpful to our caucus, and we appreciate that they have been helpful to us.
The devolution resources, if you will, and efforts, as I understand - some of them are included under intergovernmental relations. There is a certain line item, however, noted for the DAP, and I was told in the briefing that it is now a permanent office. Can the minister give an outline as to what the time frame is for progress on DAP? The draft legislation seems to have reached a stalemate in a number of spots. What's the minister's time frame and sense of the future of this particular piece of legislation?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, as the DAP commissioner has pointed out on a number of occasions, we intend to proceed with some more public discussions; a workshop is planned. The date of the workshop will be announced by the commissioner when it is set. We have indicated on many occasions that we want to pay less attention to putting down artificial deadlines and more attention to getting the job done right. That is our focus.
The federal government is interested, I know, and seeking an opportunity to determine when they have to reserve time in their legislative calendar for DAP legislation. I think that while we can shoot for various dates, the focus of the government will be on getting it right, more than anything else.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the minister to outline how the DAP office works and how the spring workshop will function in co-operation with the efforts by the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment? Are these two separate and distinct public processes, yet again, on DAP? Or is the idea for these to work together, in some way, shape, or form?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the DAP section of the Executive Council Office is the location of the DAP office for Yukon. This is where the decision body would be for the Yukon.
That office works with the commissioner at the DAP core negotiating table, and would be instrumental in designing and helping to manage a public workshop on issues - hopefully with others, but certainly it would be a prime operator.
The Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment has taken upon itself to provide some help and assistance, and has made recommendations - as I know both the member and the leader of the official opposition know - on how to improve the legislation, and they want to continue to provide advice from time to time as the process proceeds. I'm more than happy to hear their advice, and to get whatever guidance they may refer to us.
The more energy people put into the project, I'm certain the more chance the project will be successful.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would like to forward to the minister a couple of questions with respect to this, rather than one single one.
The DAP commission in the House has said that the Government of the Yukon has problems with the existing drafts. Certainly, the public has heard from various industry groups. The Yukon Conservation Society has provided a brief, and others have made their comments.
Can the minister outline what specifics the Government of Yukon is unhappy about? What areas do they have about which they are expressing concerns? Perhaps there could be some clarification as to how the government views the Water Board's role within DAP. That would be of interest, I know, to a number of Yukoners.
The process, at this point, is certainly not clear. The minister has talked about a spring workshop. It is, of course, federal legislation. People are interested in it. Some are interested in having it on the fall agenda in the House of Commons. What does the government see as the process and the agenda at this point for this tripartite piece of legislation?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, at some point we should let the commissioner speak for himself on this. But let me say this to begin: first of all, with respect to the Water Board, the Water Board is a recognized entity in the UFA and will be there, in some form, forever, unless the UFA is changed.
The process, as I mentioned, for us continues with the negotiating table. The paramountcy of the negotiating table is unquestioned - the negotiating table of the three governments, working together to try and bring forward good legislation.
The Yukon government has committed - as have each of the parties in their own way - to working with their constituencies: First Nations with First Nations members and the federal government with other bureaucrats, and the Yukon government with citizens of the territory.
We have worked in a variety of ways - the Commissioner can explain the variety of ways we've worked already with various interests, in advisory group capacity. We are proposing we do more in-depth work with our citizens - people to whom we report - through a workshop format, and we're trying to choose the most opportune time for that format and get that organized. If the other parties to the negotiation want to participate, then all the power to them, but the Yukon government will not be swayed from wanting to have good, thorough discussions with the citizens of this territory on the provisions of DAP and then carry forward those recommendations to the core table.
Mr. Livingston: I don't have a great deal to add, I think, to what Mr. McDonald outlined. As I have mentioned in the House before, a number of the concerns that have been brought forward to us I think relate partly to the devolution table - people seeking a greater responsibility for the Yukon government, on behalf of Yukon citizens and Yukon interests.
A second area, that I think we've clearly identified, where more work needs to be done, is in the whole area of clarifying some of the provisions within the legislation itself - adding sets of criteria, for example, that would signal how a particular project would be dealt with or how a project would move from one level of assessment to another.
A third area, I think, is what I've described as "that black box of procedures". The legislation itself was never intended to deal with procedures, and yet a great deal of uncertainty arises, I think, from being unsure, or maybe expecting the worst case, in terms of what the procedures would actually look like. I think the relationship between DAP and the Water Board is something that you've asked about on more than a couple of occasions. That's one of those areas, it seems to me, where sitting down with the various potential users of the process and working through what procedures can provide for an effective DAP can be very useful, and I believe will help to allay some of the uncertainties because it will help to clarify some of the procedures.
So, those are three areas that I foresee, and I think the reality is that the three parties are still sharing the submissions they've received from various members of the public, and we're still digesting all of the input that we've had at this point.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, we're on draft 12, 13, 14 of the DAP legislation now. When are we looking at - and I understand the Government of Yukon is only one party of a three-party table; I understand that - saying yes, this is the best we can get on behalf of our citizens? Is it hopeful for this fall? Is it a year down the road? Is there any sense, once this spring workshop has taken place, of when we might see a draft DAP that Yukoners could live with?
Mr. Livingston: I think, as Mr. McDonald has stated already, we're really focusing on the what rather than the when. We want to see something that we're satisfied is going to meet the interest of Yukoners adequately - in fact, more than adequately. We believe that, at the end of the day, it can be an improvement over existing processes.
Mr. Ostashek: I want to get into this debate with the Government Leader on DAP and I want to get, from his perspective as the leader of the government, how he feels on it.
The issue in front of us, as seen by a lot of people in the industry and investors - people who are going to have to work within this legislation - say that tinkering with it won't do, that they believe it needs a complete redraft if it's going to address the concerns that have been raised by them.
I'm very concerned about a comment the Government Leader made in response to the leader of the third party that the Water Board will remain in some form. That's the crux of the problem. Many people in the industry believe the Water Board is being neutered by the DAP process. The fact that it remains, if it doesn't have any powers, really doesn't give them a lot of comfort.
The Government Leader talked about having the workshops, and my question on that is, along with the other questions of what powers he feels the Water Board will have after DAP: is it his perception as the Government Leader, because I believe he said this in the House before, that people don't understand DAP and that's why they're afraid of it?
There are some very intelligent people who have made analyses of this and just say it won't work. So, I want to know if he is still of the opinion that it's just a matter of educating the industry that the DAP isn't as harmful as they believe it's going to be or if, in fact, the legislation is fundamentally flawed and is going to be a detriment and a liability to investment in the Yukon, not an asset and a help to it. What does he believe the powers of the Water Board are going to be or what does he perceive the powers of the Water Board should be after the DAP legislation is completed?
Mr. Livingston: One of the things, I think, that we need as a starting point, really, for the discussion about the DAP, and indeed the discussion about the Water Board in the post-UFA period, is the UFA itself. Chapter 12 and chapter 14, I believe it is, with respect to the Water Board, clearly outlined what the relationship between the DAP and the Water Board will be, at least with respect to the decision-making parameters of both the DAP and the Water Board.
As I said earlier to the leader of the Liberal Party, the clarification of what the procedures will look like and of some of the assumptions that have been made about the procedures, can go some way toward clearing up this uncertainty and some of the fears around DAP.
I would say, however, that the whole purpose of public consultation, of even taking this whole bit of legislation to public consultation was, in fact, to get the kind of feedback - the substantial feedback that we did receive - to help us to be clear about what kind of things still need work.
As the leader of the Liberal Party pointed out, they say that we are a one party in a three-party process. We will continue to work in the spirit of compromise, but will not compromise our key and primary goal, which is to end up with a process that's going to be effective and one that's going to work.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I want to speak to the Government Leader on this issue again, because I want to get his opinion on the record, not just that of his former commissioner, because I think it's important for everybody in the industry to hear what the Government Leader thinks and this is our opportunity to get that on the public record.
The fact that the Water Board will be there - because it says so in chapter 12 and chapter 14 of the umbrella final agreement - really doesn't give any comfort to the people who believe that the Water Board will not be playing the role that they have played in the past with the issuing of licences, and there will really be a redundant process that will not be required.
We heard numerous times at the meeting - which I attended - from the territorial deputy commissioner, who was there explaining his way through DAP, that this was not a matter of just getting input from the public. This was the final kick they had at it before it went to the federal government in March of this year. They had a very short time, really, except for the public outcry that slowed the process down, and they are very, very concerned about the process. They feel it has failed them and failed them badly, and that's why they don't believe it can be tinkered with and fixed.
There is also a thought out there - and I would like to ask the Government Leader if there is any truth to it - that the territorial government has commissioned an independent group to review the DAP legislation and give them an impartial view as to what impact it would have on the Yukon. The rumour says that Price Waterhouse has been engaged in that. Can the Government Leader tell me, is there is any truth to that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think I'd better interject here briefly. There is a misunderstanding about the role of the commissioner. The DAP commissioner is not a former commissioner. The DAP commissioner is the commissioner, and -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, he did not say that he was giving a last report in the Legislature. That was somebody's interpretation and maybe wishful thinking on the opposition's part, but it is not the position of the government. The commissioner is not the former commissioner. He is the commissioner, and he does speak for the government on this matter.
I have every confidence in the Member for Laberge to perform well here.
With respect to the matter of the independent review, indeed, there is an independent review funded through Economic Development on DAP. Not only that, I'm hoping that there will be some participants from outside the territory, both from industry and government, who have experience with review processes of that nature to participate in the workshop, so that we have some further independent voices that can provide yet another perspective. The commissioner can add to that if he wishes.
Mr. Livingston: Well, I do have one additional comment to make. It is simply about the attitude, really, of the leader of the official opposition. Since the outset of the commission two and a half years ago - since it was established - the leader of the official opposition has chosen basically to make this a personal kind of battle. He has refused to accept even the existence of the commission. He simply continues to do so today.
What we need, of course, at the end of the day, is a more constructive kind of an environment where we are able to build a process that's going to work for Yukoners. That's where we need to get to; that's where we are committed to getting to.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, the Government Leader said that there is, indeed, an independent assessment being done. When does the Government Leader expect that that assessment will be completed, and will it be shared with the public?
Mr. Livingston: We are going through the various submissions that we've received. The independent assessment is but another one of those pieces of advice that we are considering. At some point, we will be releasing that, along with the other pieces of public submissions - those that we have permission to release.
Chair: Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with Executive Council Office. Is there further debate?
Mr. Ostashek: Just prior to the break, we were talking about whether there is a DAP commission or not, and it doesn't appear that the government even knows what's going on because they say now the DAP commission is still here, but the commissioner's statement given in this House on February 23, 1999, third paragraph from the end, says: "While the work of the DAP commission is now officially finished ...". Mr. Speaker, I believe the minister should be responding to questions asked in this House, and not the former DAP commissioner.
Mr. Livingston: Mr. Chair, I don't have the commissioner's statement in front of me, but if the leader of the opposition will look at, probably the third last paragraph, it notes that the commissioner is still doing work on behalf of this government on the whole subject of DAP.
Ms. Duncan: Well, we'll no doubt be coming back to the discussion of DAP as we proceed in these discussions. As other individuals have noted, there is still a great deal of discussion and work to be done.
I'd like to ask the Government Leader about the Bureau of Management Improvement. Where is the internal audit function in that bureau? Do we still have one?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It's in the Bureau of Management Improvement.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you. I noted in an old Auditor General's report that it used to be referred to as the Bureau of Management Improvement, Audit and Evaluation. How much of the Bureau of Management Improvement resources, in terms of FTEs, if not specific financial resources, are dedicated to an internal audit or evaluation function?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I'll have to wait until we get to the line, Mr. Chair, but the internal audit evaluation function, whether it's done by the internal auditor or by contract workers from around Whitehorse primarily, the internal audit work is continuing to be done. There is an internal audit plan. There is an internal audit committee, which I chair. There are a number of initiatives undertaken every year. This has been work that's standard, ongoing work. It's been going on for years and years and years and years and continues to go on. That work is done. Reports are made. The reports are public, and nothing's changed.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would take it then nothing has changed. Are there no vacancies in this particular section of the Executive Council Office? Are all positions fully staffed in this particular section?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In this particular section, Mr. Chair, the person who is performing the lead in terms of internal audit was seconded, I believe, to Justice, or maybe to some other department - I believe it was Justice. Nevertheless, the internal audit work continues to be done by contractors.
Ms. Duncan: The Bureau of French Language Services - my understanding from the briefing is that the majority of these costs are cost-recoverable. One of the points yet to be addressed in the devolution discussions is the funding level for the continuation of the translation of documents and so on. This is one of the points yet to be negotiated in devolution. Is that understanding correct?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In terms of the detail, that is correct. We are going to ensure that we meet our French language services obligations under our own legislation for all services that we provide in the territory.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I understand that there were some concerns raised with respect to the level of French language services offered at the hospital, located in Whitehorse, and that there were substantial efforts and resources dedicated to improving the services offered.
Can the minister outline what those improvements were and have they been deemed to be successful? Did we meet the benchmarks? Have we staff that are able to offer bilingual services on an as-needed basis around the clock? What improvements have been made? Have we made substantial progress in this area?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, I believe we have. There is on-call service for persons who wish to communicate with a doctor or with medical personnel in French. To my knowledge, these services are being provided by the hospital as we speak. I can ask the Minister of Health and Social Services to give a more detailed evaluation of this, if the member wishes to receive it, but to my knowledge, the services are adequate.
Mr. Ostashek: I would like to turn to another topic this evening, in the time that I have left.
Last December in the House, I asked the Government Leader to come back with a legislative return that would verify the legitimacy of the list of travel that he put out for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services' use of a government vehicle. I asked the question, and he stated in his legislative return - "With that is a travel claim that is authorized by the Government Leader, and I would like him to table the travel claims for these legitimate trips. Will the Government Leader do that?" The Government Leader agreed to do that, but when we get the form outlining the travel, what we get is one travel authorization, made out from July 8 to July 20, on one form. It says, "No claim".
Mr. Chair, that doesn't even hold the credibility of the list that the minister put forward the first time to justify the travel, let alone do anything to provide any information that the travel was legitimate.
This is certainly a big deviation from the way that travel claims have been done in the past under my administration and previous administrations that I'm aware of. We make one travel claim from July 8 to July 20, covering ministerial travel to these communities, and saying, "No claim." If these were legitimate trips, then I suggest to you that there had to be some claims for them. There had to be some costs that the minister paid out of his own pocket that ought to have been itemized and put in for. I, for one, cannot accept one travel authorization that appears to be entirely done - I couldn't say for sure, but done in the Government Leader's own printing and then signed off by him, which, I believe is different from what normal procedure is for these travel claims, and I would ask the Government Leader: is this all he intends to provide for the House to legitimize the travel that was criticized so severely in this Legislature last fall?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, the fact that the members opposite criticize the travel doesn't mean it was illegitimate at all. First of all, the minister did make no claim, and if the member is saying that for it to be legitimate, he had to make a claim and we're going to force him to take some money for his expenses when he didn't make a claim for them, I don't see why we should do that. The minister didn't make a claim, because there is a cost to the travel to the government. It's the cost of the pool car. But the minister did not make a claim and, in reviewing the situation with the minister, it is not uncommon for him not to make claims, but I will pass on the member's thoughts about that to the minister.
The member did indicate last December that it was never the case that the government ministers used a pool car to travel to their ridings. I've checked, and that's not true.
There are many cases where a government minister travelled to their riding for meetings with people in their own riding, using a pool car, and even using their own private car charged against the Executive Council Office. So, what the Minister of Community and Transportation Services has done is not a precedent.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, this is totally ridiculous, and the Government Leader knows it. He doesn't have a leg to stand on on this one.
First of all, let's point at what he has given us here: the travel authorization claim, July 8 to July 20. Then we go to the next page in the legislative return, and for that particular minister, July 8 to August 4, 1998.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Big difference. Big difference. There's nothing - this, in my opinion, is a cover-up. This is trying to legitimize something that the Government Leader knows is not legitimate. Why doesn't he just admit that the minister, during that period - it's common knowledge - didn't have a vehicle of his own. It was broken down; it was in the garage. And he was using the government car, not only for ministerial work, but for his own private travel as well. Why doesn't the Government Leader just come clean and admit it, instead of playing these games?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the member makes a pretty hefty allegation there. Pretty hefty allegation. Last year, Mr. Chair - last December - the member swore up and down that it was never the case - never the case - that pool cars were used by the Yukon Party government, by ministers in office. And the member swore that this was a precedent, that this had never happened while he was the Government Leader.
Well, Mr. Chair, there are lots of examples where government ministers did precisely that during the Yukon Party term of office. Precisely that. So when the member comes along here and says in this sanctimonious way that this is a precedent, that a minister of the government might use a pool car to go to their riding, and do ministerial business, then I'm telling the members opposite, that the precedent - if there was a precedent - began with the Yukon Party.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, we've got ministers here going to community meetings, on a community tour, meetings with their own village council, in the Yukon Party, charged against the Executive Council Office, with pool cars, and with their own private cars, charged against the Executive Council Office.
Mr. Ostashek: So what?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: So, the member says, "So what?". God.
Mr. Ostashek: If the minister wasn't -
Chair: Order please. I would like to remind members to wait to be introduced.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, if the minister wasn't trying to hide this, he would go and look and see that there were probably advertisements for ministerial meetings in the community that the minister happened to be from; they were for legitimate ministerial travel and he shouldn't be trying to blow smoke past the people to cover up for something that happened under his watch that certainly doesn't hold any credibility at all. He certainly can't come back with a travel claim where any minister during my watch had a car signed out for over a month and no travel claim issued. This is pure bunk and the Government Leader knows it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I wonder if the member can tell me whether or not this is a precedent, that on March 4 to 11, 1996, for the whole week, one minister went to his riding for what are described as constituency meetings - one week, using a pool car.
What about a week that a minister went, from May 12 to 15, to travel to his home town to meet with the weigh scale operators, the town council and the town chamber of commerce using a pool car? What about the MLA meetings described for one minister to take a week with a pool car to go to his riding?
Mr. Chair, what about the week that a minister charged a private car to go to their riding to discuss matters with the First Nation, and they weren't the minister responsible?
What about all of those? What about those examples? Are these examples legitimate? These are moments when a minister uses a pool car to go to a riding to do ministerial business.
The examples I gave were three weeks' worth of pool car use for what are described in the vehicle transportation business lading report as "community tour, constituency meetings and meetings with community groups in the community".
Mr. Phillips: There's the Government Leader again, using his information in a selective way to cover up some inappropriate action from his own ministers. He mentioned one, in particular, that I beg to differ on. He talked about a minister going to a riding with respect to a weigh scale. He knows what that was all about. He knows that was a decision by this government to close down the weigh scales, and the Minister of Community and Transportation Services at the time was requested by the community and others to come and meet and discuss the issue of the weigh scale closing, which was going to affect jobs in his community. And the minister did what he should do, as a minister. He went there, met with those individuals. He used a pool car for it, and that's what pool cars are for.
Mr. Chair, what we're talking about here is somebody using a car for over a month, and when we get a travel claim, we get a blank travel claim that looks like it was made out by the Government Leader. The dates don't even correspond to the dates on the second sheet of paper that we got at the same time. People saw this minister driving around the riding and complained to us that he was using the car for personal reasons. Isn't the minister concerned about that - that his minister has a car for a month, and drives around the riding for a month? The minister admitted himself that it wasn't necessarily ministerial business. It was constituency business, and many times it was on weekends - where he drove home to his riding on a weekend, when he normally would take his vehicle.
At the same time, we know that, for a good part of this time, the minister's own personal vehicle, was inoperable. So he had no vehicle. So he abused his ministerial privilege, with the signature of the Government Leader, who is now trying to cover it up, and said, "Just use one of the cars, Dave."
Now, the Government Leader should, for once in this House, be honest with himself and admit, Mr. Chair, that somebody abused a privilege here. If he was on this side of the House, he'd be screaming bloody murder about this kind of abuse and wouldn't put up with it for a minute. And now, because he's responsible, he's become worse than many politicians I've known in the past by not admitting any wrongdoing of any kind whatsoever, trying to dig up mud on other people, and mud that isn't even mud. The Government Leader should be ashamed of himself for attacking the Member for Kluane, who he knows has more integrity than he'll ever have in his life.
It's disgusting that that Government Leader will come into this House and resort to that kind of attack to protect inappropriate actions by his minister - and even inappropriate actions by himself - to make up this bogus claim that it looks like he did in his own handwriting. Maybe he can tell us on the floor today if he did write this out himself, did the printing and then signed it? Because it sure looks like the same pen, the same handwriting, and it's not even dated. It looks like the minister said, "I want this off my desk. Let's just fill out a bogus claim, and we'll just write 'no claim' across it. We won't put any dates in it or anything else." And the dates that somebody gave me in the office - when he had to table the document, he must have got a little nervous because they didn't even coincide with the dates when the minister had the car out. There are a couple of weeks there that are unaccounted for.
But there have been a couple of weeks, and even more, in the last summer when the minister wasn't even accounted for, either, other than the people who saw him driving around in a government car, abusing his privilege of a minister in his own riding.
Surely to goodness the Government Leader would do his job and speak to his minister, discipline his minister and straighten it up so that it doesn't happen again and so that ministers using government cars use them for appropriate government business and not because their own vehicle is broken down. I think that is what happened in this case, and the minister is trying to cover it up.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, if anyone I respected gave the same kind of vindictive and spiteful personal attack that that member just delivered, I would be upset - if it came from somebody I respected.
Mr. Chair, the government's policy with respect to the use of cars has not changed. I am persuaded that the minister used the government car to conduct ministerial business. I have asked him and he has indicated to me that that is the case. The only evidence to the contrary has been the verbal submissions from the members opposite, who bring innuendo, unsubstantiated allegations and spiteful, vindictive vitriol to the equation. I can't share it and I will not join with them in that approach.
The members opposite indicated, in defence of their attack, that the use of government cars had never been done before for constituency business. That was proven false. That was a falsehood. I have determined satisfactorily that the use of the government cars for constituency business has been undertaken by ministers in the past for legitimate purposes, both for the Yukon Party government and the NDP government. That policy has not changed; that policy will continue.
Mr. Ostashek: It just doesn't wash. It just doesn't wash.
The saddest part about all of this is that today's Government Leader was part of a government that got rid of ministerial cars because of what was perceived abuse. Then he has the nerve to come in here with a skimpy document like this to justify his minister's abuse of the privileges of a pool car. I don't believe that he can go back anywhere, in any government, and find where a minister has had a car signed out from July 8 to August 4, at one time, and where we have Government Services phoning every week to find out what the status of the car is.
And then we get a feeble excuse that it was left for another week or 10 days in the parking lot because they forgot to return it. How many different stories are we going to get on this?
What we want to see is some legitimacy as to the use of pool cars for ministerial use and not for personal use, and my colleague is absolutely right. If that member was on this side of the House and that occurred under my watch, we would have been in this House for months answering questions on it. If we tried to come back here to the House with this kind of a skimpy defence - nothing adds up; anybody can see through it - to know that he promised the legislative return and he had to bring something back. That does absolutely nothing to justify the abuse of a pool car.
His values are substantially different since he's Government Leader, and I too take great exception to the Government Leader questioning the integrity of the former Member for Kluane, who has proven beyond the doubt in anybody's mind in this Legislature in the Yukon that he was a person of great integrity and would not take five cents that didn't belong to him.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, if the members were listening at all, the members would note that I wasn't questioning the Member for Kluane's integrity at all. But if the member thinks that what the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has done by using a pool car for constituency business is wrong, then they are making the judgment on the Member for Kluane and the previous Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, not I, because it is absolutely the case that pool cars were used for constituency business by previous members - absolutely was the case, undoubtedly, without any, any reservation whatsoever. So, if there is any concern about the integrity, it is not I who is making the allegations. The members opposite are making the allegation, if anything.
And, Mr. Chair, I feel very confident. Let's put it this way. If I were to take the word of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes over the member's words, I would do it any day, based on the performance that they've put forward in this Legislature.
So, Mr. Chair, I feel very confident that that is the situation.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the Government Leader for providing me with a complete listing of ministerial use of government vehicles, for each of his Cabinet ministers for the period commencing June 1, 1998, and ending October 31, 1998. It also indicates the government business that was attended to each time a government vehicle was used.
Mr. Chair, as I go through this list, everything appears to be more than reasonable - Dave Sloan using a vehicle for a couple of days in June, quite specific for travelling to Teslin, Carcross, the reasons given; and again Mr. Sloan using a vehicle from June 10 to 16; Ms. Moorcroft, Mr. Sloan, yourself as the Government Leader, and so on down.
The only one that sticks out like a sore thumb is this July 8 to August 4 period, when Mr. Keenan used a vehicle for a number of trips, and some 3,000-odd kilometres. And coupled with that, the travel authorization and claim form, signed by the Government Leader.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Yeah, I guess it would probably be more appropriate if we say "concocted" by someone in the department, or the Government Leader himself. I'm not sure whose printing this is, but it doesn't appear to be Mr. Keenan's. So perhaps it's the Government Leader's, saying, "No claim".
And I'm sure, Mr. Chair, if we went through all the other areas where a pool car was used, there was a travel authorization and claim form attached for the minister and for the expenses they incurred in the course of carrying out their duties.
Mr. Chair, it is a stretch for anyone to believe that during a period of some 27 days a minister carrying out his duties wouldn't have incurred any expense for hotels or meals during that time. And, the Government Leader, I noticed, was very, very careful when he responded. He said, "I am persuaded ...". That was the statement that the Government Leader used, Mr. Chair, which would imply that either the Government Leader has had the wool pulled over his eyes or he's backing his minister or he's not really sure of what went on, but he's going to give the minister the benefit of the doubt.
Could the minister advise the House, after all this has taken place, if the Government Leader now has a handle on the ministerial use of fleet vehicles?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: What is the intent of the question? Is the member saying: is the Government Leader satisfied that there are policies and procedures in place for government vehicles, that there is a process for signing in and signing out government vehicles or that there must be a rationale for signing out government vehicles? Is he saying that? Because, if he is saying that, then yes, indeed.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the policy hasn't changed. It appears that there is an interpretation change for one minister. What I want to know from the Government Leader is: why is there a considerable difference between one minister and the balance of the ministers within his government? Why is there such a tremendous difference in the way that fleet vehicles are used? Can the Government Leader offer an explanation?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The pattern for travel is determined by individual ministers. They go around the territory as their jobs demand. That is presumably true of ministers in the previous government who went on ministerial business to their own ridings and constituency business to their own ridings using pool cars. Presumably, that hasn't changed in this case, to my knowledge.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, let's go through this a little more with the minister. If you look at some of the examples that are given on the very page that the minister was questioning, let's look at the legitimate travel: June 10 to 16, 1998, Mr. Sloan, the minister responsible for Health. In that particular six days, the minister went to Ross River, Faro, Carmacks, Dawson City, Mayo, Pelly Crossing, and back to Whitehorse - legitimate. That's legitimate. I have no problem with that at all.
On June 25 to 27, 1998, the same minister again - a legitimate travel claim that appears on paper. He went to Haines Junction, Beaver Creek, Destruction Bay, and back to Whitehorse in a three-day period. That's legitimate. It makes sense.
But now, let's go to Mr. Keenan, who took a car out on July 8, 1998, and didn't return it for 26 or so days later. He went to Carmacks, Teslin, Ross River, back to Teslin, Tagish and Carcross, and put 3,000 kilometres on. That meant that he spent five or six days in each community at these meetings. Now, we know that Teslin Council General Assembly took place over a weekend, so that's a couple of days. He met with Ross River Chief Smith, Ross River Development Corporation and the highway maintenance camp - that could take a couple of days. He met with the Teslin mayor and the chief in Teslin. That would take a day. Even if he met with each of them on separate days, that's a couple of days. Carcross-Tagish First Nation, Chief Carvill and the officials at the highway maintenance camp - give the minister the benefit of the doubt and say three days there. And then the Carmacks CFN General Assembly and the maintenance camp - give the minister three days there. You still don't even come up to a total of half the time the minister had the car - and no expenses for even the legitimate trips. Didn't the minister responsible - the Government Leader - even question that when the car was gone for almost a month and there were only half a dozen meetings that took place in the month listed on the travel claim? Does that not ring a bell with this minister, or is he too busy to read the details?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm not going to engage in the sort of kangaroo court tactics of the member opposite. There are a number of trips that have been undertaken by ministers in this government and by previous ministers, which list in a very cursory form the meetings that are held. There is a whole week's worth of meetings for the use of a pool car for a Yukon Party minister that were described as "constituency meetings". That took a full week. Actually, "constituency meeting" with a pool car. So, clearly, the policy has not changed.
With respect to the time and use of the car, I am persuaded that the minister was using it for the purposes intended and was entitled to do so. When the car was in use in terms of going to various communities, the mileage was put on and, apart from the very anecdotal comments made by the members opposite, the charge was vitriol, very biased, making accusations about personal use, assuming all kinds of things, and I'm not going to buy into it and I don't.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, we're only trying to do our job over here. You know, if the Government Leader was on this side of the House he, too, would be asking some of these very questions about why a minister had a car for almost a month when people in some of the ridings were calling the minister saying that the minister has this personal car and he's driving all around. In fact, we even had reports that I don't think we've raised in the House here yet that the minister, on official government business, was gassing up the car at lots of the gas stations that aren't the ones that the government recommends, that his own department recommends he use. In fact, I think he gassed it up quite a few times at the Carcross Corner, which didn't have the contract at the time to sell the gas. It was just a convenient place to stop and gas up. And, although the minister had given a directive to all his other employees in the government to use certain gas stations who provided a better price to the government on a bid process, he saw fit that he didn't have to abide by that. But maybe it was because he was using it for his own personal use, and thought he could buy gas wherever he wanted.
Coincidentally, he charged it to us, the taxpayer, which makes it a little more difficult to understand.
Mr. Chair, what I want to try and find out is if the Government Leader even questioned his minister on the use of the car. Wouldn't the Government Leader suspect that if a minister had a car for almost a month, in light of his criticism of government cars for ministers in the past - wouldn't it ring a bell that he would at least confront the minister and say, "What's going on here? Where is the car?" I would think that that would at least cross the minister's mind. I'm trying to find out the train of thought of the minister with respect to why he thought this was all legitimate. I would think that he would have at least checked with the minister partway through.
Maybe the minister can answer this: at any time in the period of the month, did any official in the government make him aware that the car was out and was not returned? If and when he was made aware of that, what did he do about it?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, unlike the members opposite, I don't check the parking lot. I do know that they do. When they are in town and when they are working, that is what they engage their time in. I don't.
In any respect, I am persuaded, as I mentioned before, that the travel that the minister did was legitimate government business and that he was working, in fact, on government business. The information that the members opposite have put forward is biased, unreliable, speculative and wholly unsupportable. They have only used innuendo to try to make a case and make a conviction in their own minds.
Mr. Chair, I hope members don't assume what I would do on that side of the House and what they would do on this side of the House. Firstly, I know what they do on this side of the House. When they want to concoct a story, they employ a battery of government lawyers. They get the public service to work overtime and they zero right in on you and they hold a public inquiry into this concocted story.
That's what they do, and you guys do everything you can to defend yourselves, using your own resources, to survive. That's what the Yukon Party does. They have precisely the same kind of concocted story, no evidence - innuendo - and they try to make a case, and they won't end until they go as far as they can.
Thank goodness the Yukon Party is on the opposition side and not on the government side, because on the government side, they would use all the powers of the state. They would use the resources of the state to try to make a case and to victimize not only people in the opposition but citizens as well.
So, they say, "Well, what could the minister have possibly been doing?" They are suggesting that the minister has got the car and he went to a ministerial meeting, and what could he possibly have been doing in between times? They are making the assumption that the minister could not have been doing government business at all. They make that assumption. They have no evidence to make that assumption. They just make the assumption.
Mr. Chair, there are travel claims that would have been signed by the Yukon Party leader, which listed a week's worth of pool car, and on top of the travel warrant, it says, "constituency meeting" - for a week.
Was there an inquisition about that, Mr. Chair? Clearly not.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: For a constituency meeting in one town, a Yukon Party minister gets a pool car. Where was the inquisition then? Where were the moralistic, imperious statements then? There was nothing.
Yes, listening to the members opposite - listening to the Member for Klondike particularly; listening to the Member for Riverdale North as well - I am entirely persuaded that they have no case, that they've made no case, they have no case. They live on innuendo, they live on speculation, they live on vindictive and personal attacks, but they do not bring substance to the debate. They bring no substance.
They make grand claims about what the policy was, what precedents were, and when it's shown to be patently false, they just raise their voice, shout a little harder, and try to bull their way through, making the same unsubstantiated case they've made all along. Nothing new - the same unsubstantiated case continues.
What, one would ask, under the circumstances, Mr. Chair, is: why would the Yukon Party, in opposition now, decide that they're going to target a particular minister who did some of the same things that Yukon Party ministers did?
Well, it's because they want to victimize somebody endlessly because they think they've got an easy target, because the Minister for Community and Transportation Services is such a blustery nice guy. He allows them to get away with all kinds of things that I would never dream of letting these characters get away with. He allows it to happen virtually every day because he's such a nice guy. And what do these guys do? They try to victimize him on trumped up charges and bogus claims about what policies were for transportation to make it sound as if it's all something new.
Well, Mr. Chair, I want to tell you something. The Minister of Community and Transportation Services is seen often in rural Yukon. Many of the people whom I have met independently have said that Mr. Keenan works hard. He listens not only to his own constituency but all over rural Yukon regularly, often and for good purpose. This person works with community groups, works through hard and difficult problems, and is out constantly working in rural Yukon to make life better for people. This person, Mr. Chair, has an incredible record for good works in the rural communities.
He does have a good reputation in his riding for that purpose.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I stand on my reputation, and I would match my reputation with the members opposite, all together, any day of the week.
Mr. Chair, I move that we report progress on this bill.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 14, First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:29 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled March 1, 1999:
Government employees (number of): different method of calculation by Statistics Canada and the Yukon Public Service Commission (McDonald)
Discussion, Hansard, p. 3973