Tuesday, March 2, 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?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Thomson Centre, new kitchen
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. The Thomson Centre was built by a previous NDP government, and it was designed and constructed to be dependent upon the Whitehorse General Hospital for the provision of many of its facilities and services. In fact, the Thomson Centre design effectively dictated the location of the new Whitehorse General Hospital.
The recent decision by the Thomson Centre to build its own kitchen and cancel its contract with the hospital for the provision of food services, shows that the two institutions are working at cross-purposes. While the physical design intended the two structures to have common management and services, that's not the case.
My question for the minister is: can he advise the House what steps he has taken to bring the two institutions under common management?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I would suggest that the hospital, being the acute-care facility, and the Thomson Centre, being a long-term or extended care facility, have somewhat different purposes. One does not treat people in the acute-care facility in the same manner, nor should they, as folks in extended care, and vice versa.
I presume that the member is leading up to some questions on the meal service, and I'll be happy to answer those if he gets around to them.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the decision to put the two facilities together was made by this NDP government, and it was made on the premise that we were going to effect some savings as a consequence, by using common management and sharing a lot of the services.
Does the minister believe that it makes economic sense for the Thomson Centre and the hospital to continue to work at cross-purposes, costing Yukon taxpayers more money to operate both facilities separately and independently? What does the minister plan to do about this costly duplication?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As a matter of fact, we do share services. We share pharmaceutical services, we share laundry services and, until very recently, we've been sharing food services.
However, the Thomson Centre's contribution agreement with the hospital had been at $240,000. We were assured that that would be the target figure that we would be working with with the hospital. Subsequent to that, in April 1998, they advised us that they were increasing the amount to $472,000, plus extra costs for unit food supplies, dietician and supervisory hours. That's far beyond our scope. It would approximately work out to somewhere in the neighbourhood of $30 per resident per day, as opposed to a cost that we had budgeted, which was around $22.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, after all's said and done, it'll be interesting to see if there is indeed a cost-saving because anyone I've spoken to has said it's not recognized as being possible.
Last November 24, I was briefed by the CEO of the hospital. I specifically raised the issue about the Hospital Corporation assuming the management of the Thomson Centre, and he indicated that no discussions with the government about such a transfer of responsibilities had taken place. I'd like to know why we can't operate both these facilities under a common management. They serve different functions, but a lot of the functions are similar.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As a matter of fact, I would contend that the functions are indeed very separate. An acute-care hospital, by its very nature, has, as its direction, the treatment of illness and it is premised on the idea of a rapid discharge of patients. Their operating mode and their staffing is all geared toward that.
A long-term care facility such as the Thomson Centre is, in fact, a home for the residents. For many of these residents, this will be their home for the rest of their lives. We have young adults there who are going to remain the rest of, probably, their natural lives in a centre like that. We have elderly people, we have people with Alzheimer's.
These are people with different needs, different social needs, different dietary needs, different care needs. They are very different facilities and I would suggest that the member is missing the point of extended care when he tries to lump them together with an acute-care facility.
Question re: Thomson Centre, new kitchen
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister is the one who's missing the point. The exercise of government is to provide the highest consistent level of service at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer, and that is not being done by separating the functions of these two facilities. There's a lot that can work in common; there's a lot that can be done to effect savings.
We now have a situation, Mr. Speaker, whereby the Thomson Centre is installing its own kitchen, effective April 1, and the reason given was because it isn't satisfied with the hospital's food service and because it believes it can provide a better food service at a reduced cost.
The hospital is reportedly providing meals to the Thomson Centre at $33 per day per person, whereas the minister's department believes it can provide meals at $22 per day, as well as provide better meals.
I would ask the minister if he believes the Thomson Centre is going to save money by providing its own food? And can he explain why the food cooked in one institution is going to be better than food cooked and prepared in another institution?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, let's address the issue of quality. Quality issues have been a concern of ours for some time. We have a number of elderly patients; we have a number of people, also, in our special care unit, that do have special dietary needs. Those cannot be handled, currently, under the present arrangement at the hospital.
The other fact of the matter is that the hospital operates on a particular cycle of menus. That's fine. If you're in for two or three days, you're not likely to get the same thing. But for our residents, who are there for a long period of time, the cycle becomes somewhat monotonous.
There are also some issues around the delivery of the food in a timely manner. There are also issues such as the need to change to adapt to residents' special dietary needs, and sometimes special care needs. So, there are issues around quality; there are also issues around price.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if the minister's trying to suggest that they can't cook different types of meals in the same kitchen, that is pure bunk. In fact, it's ridiculous, Mr. Speaker.
Yukoners are now faced with the situation whereby the hospital staff is going to be under utilized. Some of its staff is also going to be laid off. At the same time, the Thomson Centre is constructing its own kitchen at some $77,000 in cost, plans to have its own meals partly prepared at Macaulay Lodge and delivered to the Thomson Centre to be completed.
The transportation of prepared food, in itself, is rather costly.
I would ask the minister if he's prepared to intervene in the dispute and bring reason to bear in the interest of protecting Yukon taxpayers. The exercise that he's engaged in is providing the highest level of service at the lowest possible cost. He can do that by ensuring the clientele of both the hospital and the Thomson Centre receive a quality, cost-effective food service from the one institution.
Will he undertake to do that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We're still continuing to discuss with the hospital. My deputy minister is meeting with the CEO of the hospital. I met with both the CEO and the chair of the hospital board last week. We had some discussions, but I can tell you quite frankly that, if the member is suggesting that we basically say, "Okay, you name the price; we'll buy into it," he's sadly mistaken, because that's what he seems to be suggesting.
With regard to quality, one of the things that the hospital suggested was basically a cook-and-chill service. That's simply not acceptable for our residents. So I have to tell the member that we have made efforts since last April - April 24, May 26, June 3, June 15, July 17, September 8, October 13, and so on and so on - to reach a resolution to this.
The number that we now have is $415,000 for food services only, plus add-ons. We could not meet that price, and we have said that we will sit down with the hospital; we'll discuss it; but we have some issues on quality, we have some issues on service, and those are our bottom lines.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister can solve the dilemma by putting both operations under one umbrella, and I would ask the minister to go a step further and order the Thomson Centre to put its separate food service plans on hold and arrange a meeting between the two warring administrations to ascertain if a more cost-effective solution to the current dispute can be achieved. There's got to be a way where, when you have an entity that is up and operating, you can address and fix a problem, rather than building a whole new one, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The members from the Yukon Party still continue with this rather bellicose attitude. They want to declare war with everyone. What we have said is that we are willing to sit down and discuss with the hospital some common areas of interest, some common usages of services. However, we do have some needs. We have some clear needs and responsibilities to our own residents, responsibilities in terms of quality, responsibilities to the Yukon taxpayers, whom the member seems to forget about now and then - the Yukon taxpayer - by trying to get the best quality food for the best quality price. The member seems to be ignoring that.
Question re: Red-tape initiative
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Government Services on his red-tape initiative.
A couple of months ago, there was a picture in one of the newspapers of the smiling face of the minister - very photogenic. He's in the picture with the president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and he's pointing to a red-tape reduction monitor. This was a gauge that was put up by the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce to measure progress on the minister's code of regulatory reform that was announced last September.
I walked by the chamber office the other day to see if the gauge had moved - this is six weeks after this photograph - and there was not a bit of movement; there has been no red-tape reduction recorded yet.
Now, the initiative was announced last September 30. When are we going to see some product? When are we going to see this gauge move?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, one of the things that I need to emphasize to the member is that we're not doing this alone. We're doing this in concert with the Chamber of Commerce, and as a matter of fact, we have held round-table discussions with businesses to discuss priorities for red-tape reduction. We've been involved in the design of the questionnaire that was mailed out to Yukon businesses. When we get the business input through these questionnaires, we're going to be using that in concert with the Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations to identify those priority areas where we would start to reduce red tape, take a look at non-regulatory means of enforcement, and so on. We've made this commitment. We're working with the Chamber of Commerce.
I understand that our friends across the floor don't believe in working in partnership with business and labour, but we do.
Mr. Cable: Okay. Let's talk about that prioritization of the statutes and regulations that are posing problems for business. The minister just mentioned that they are working on that. What's the target date for completion of that part of the initiative?
There were two parts of the initiative. One was looking at present statutes and regulations, and the other was a process that was set up to deal with new regulations as they arise. What about the first part? When is that going to be completed? What's the target date?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I think the member is believing that we start and we stop; we get all the regulations through, and you get them changed by a particular date. The member is clearly aware of the number of regulations and the number of statutes in this territory. He must be, being a former - well, I suppose he is still a member of the bar.
With regard to this, we've embarked on a three-phase consultation. The first one was the round table with a group of stakeholders, plus an internal round table from YTG of individuals who enforce regulations. The second stage, which I just referred to, was the idea of a questionnaire to all stakeholders, and that is to be completed by early March. The third phase is a series of open houses where the results of the questionnaires will be given to all stakeholders and implementation options will be tested.
So, we have made a commitment to this. The Government Leader discussed it last Wednesday with the chamber, and they've indicated pleasure with the process so far.
Mr. Cable: Now, the red-tape initiative, as initially broadcast by the minister, only related to statutes and regulations. I wrote to the minister on an issue that had arisen relating to red tape that a person had encountered with the government. I got the reply back from the minister - I had written to his colleague and him jointly - as to whether the initiative was going to include policy and the administration of statutes and regulations. Could the minister confirm that his initiative is not restricted simply to reviews of regulations and statutes, but will include the way that these regulations and statutes are administered?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, certainly, we would presume that when one changes regulations or one changes statutes, that is going to change policies internally and how policies are enforced. We've basically said that we don't necessarily need regulations. They are not necessarily the way to go. We would be willing to look at other ways to accomplish this, whether it is in such things as business licences or whatever. We can do that.
We're certainly willing to work with our business partners to try to find the most effective way and the least restrictive way to deal with business.
Question re: Nurses, rural
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my question is also for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Last fall, there was a great debate here in the Legislature about rural nurses, and the lack of rural nurses in some of our communities. About two weeks ago, the minister was on a local radio station, talking about a possible incentive program to bring nurses to the Yukon.
Can the minister tell Yukoners what this incentive program is, when it's going to start, how much it's going to cost, and whether our incentive program stacks up well against other jurisdictions, like B.C., with whom we are competing for nurses?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think what the member may be referring to is when I was discussing some things that we are trying to do to create an atmosphere where not only nurses but all health care professionals can flourish.
Since it was prior to the budget, I was making reference there - albeit somewhat circumspect - to the idea of bringing in a professional development fund to create opportunities for nurses to develop their skills, to create incentives for individuals who may be considering going into nursing or considering going into, perhaps, nurse practitioners - those kinds of things. That's what I was alluding to.
I can tell the member that we have, I believe, four Yukon nurses who are attending the nurse practitioner program that is running in Manitoba and will be coming back with additional credits toward their nurse practitioner certificate. They'll be attending in March and April and, I believe, they're finished in May.
Mrs. Edelman: So, I suppose I need to be clear then. The minister has not developed an incentive program to either bring new nurses to the Yukon nor to retain the nurses that we already have. We lost a lot of nurses in the health transfer - a lot of them. Has the minister talked to some of the nurses who left the Yukon at that time and has the minister talked to the Yukon Registered Nurses Association and talked to the nurses out in the field about what we should be doing to bring nurses to the Yukon and to retain them here in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes.
Mrs. Edelman: I just want to note right here, Mr. Speaker, that that was the shortest and the best answer that that minister has ever given. It also wasn't very descriptive.
What is the nature of the incentive program? How do we stack up against other jurisdictions? Is there an incentive program, and what was the nature of the consultation with the YRNA, the rural nurses and the nurses who may have left?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I've been touring around to all communities. I did it again, just in the early part of the year. I tried to get out both in the summer and fall, and I tried to get out in the winter. I've gone to a number of nursing stations; I've talked to nurses.
I've talked about working conditions; I've talked about some of the issues that face them. Quite surprisingly, the single issue that was mentioned most frequently was satellite TV.
I can tell the member that I have met with the YRNA to discuss the whole question of the national nurse shortage. We've discussed some options that we have with regard to nurse training with UNBC. I've met with UNBC, discussing the possibility of us going together on programs there.
We have increased the wage schedule for nurses, through the reclassification. I have also discussed with our department - we've gone on a very, very aggressive recruitment campaign. We've been to nursing fairs; we've been down to universities - Edmonton, down east - trying to encourage people to come. It's beginning to bear fruit.
As I reminded the member before, as far as nurse practitioners go, we're competing for a nursing force that's less than one percent of the national nursing force. We're competing for about 1,500 people.
Wage schedule-wise - I can provide information to the member. I can tell her that our wage schedule is very attractive when compared to other jurisdictions.
Question re: Historic resources centre
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the acting Minister of Tourism.
Prior to the 1996 territorial election, at an AGM of the Yukon Tourism Industry Association - at a meeting that was held in Haines, Alaska, a commitment was made by all three political parties - and I think the member will remember, he was the critic at the time for tourism. As well, the Liberal leader was there, on behalf of the Liberal Party.
A question was asked about the historic resources centre.
A commitment was made by all three political parties at that time that the historic resources centre would be built. Despite this promise, we've yet to see any monies dedicated to the centre from this government.
When money didn't come through in the first budget - 1997-98 - the real Minister of Tourism, at that time, promised that financing would be looked at in the next budget. The next budget came and went, and there was still no funding for the centre and, again, the real Minister of Tourism stated that the centre was still being considered, pending the resources that we go through for the budgetary process. So what happened?
I'd like to ask the acting Minister of Tourism if the government still remains supportive of the historic resources centre and, if so, why is there no money in the 1999-2000 budget for the centre, especially when the government says that this budget shows their next five-year capital plan? Is it not in the plan and works for the next five years of this NDP government?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, the member can certainly appreciate that we can't do everything all at once. As a matter of fact, I think we were condemned for doing actual projections into the future, something that the previous government had done.
I'm not as familiar with the budgetary priorities of the Department of Tourism. I can certainly follow up and get back to the member when I have a chance to talk with both the department and my colleague.
Mr. Phillips: I shouldn't have to remind the member that he was at the meeting in Haines. It was video-taped. It's clear that the minister's on video tape, speaking on behalf of his colleagues on the other side of the House, saying that the historic resources centre was a priority of the NDP government, and that, yes, they would build it.
But when we see their long-term plans, there's no historic resources centre anywhere to be seen or to be found. In fact, some money that was in the budget a few years ago is now gone.
So I would have thought that the acting Minister of Tourism would have been leaning on his colleagues, or at least reminding them, that he made a commitment on their behalf for the future of a historic resources centre in the Yukon.
I'd like to ask the minister why he didn't make that representation to his colleagues during the budgetary process. Did he just forget about it? Was he not interested in it? Is heritage not a priority with this government any more? What's the reason why he didn't raise the issue with his colleagues in the budgetary process?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I fail to see where the member's going with regard to heritage. I think we've indicated support for heritage, considerably more than the previous government, who failed to pass the Historic Resources Act in a timely manner.
We have committed to preserving heritage and enhancing heritage. I think one only has to look at the developments on Main Street, look at the developments at the White Pass building, look at the developments on the waterfront, to see that we have a commitment to heritage. However, what we also have a commitment to is to build infrastructure, infrastructure that serves people, and that's what we intend to do. We've also brought in some incentives to make heritage properties more attractive for people to retain.
So, I really fail to see where he is in the position to condemn us for our commitment to heritage when the previous government's commitment to heritage was rather poor.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, the minister should have taken the time, as the acting Minister of Tourism, to glance at the budget when he talks about whose commitment is rather poor.
Mr. Speaker, let's look at the budget. On the museum side of the budget, from 1996-97, the last budget of the Yukon Party, in the capital side it's down 21 percent since then with the NDP. In historic sites, it's down 31 percent. In museums assistance, it was $467,000 in 1996-97; it's $314,000, down 33 percent. Interpretation and signage was $245,000; it's $125,000 now, down 49 percent - 49 percent. And a commitment, a promise, that that member made on behalf of his own party at a meeting that was called by the tourism community to discuss heritage, among other things, was made by the minister at that particular meeting that the historic resources centre was a priority, and it's not even in the budget any more. I guess a promise doesn't mean anything to the member's side opposite.
But I'd like to ask the member why heritage seems to have taken a beating in this budget, with respect to the capital side, in support for our local museums and support for the historic resources centre. Why has this government, which talked the talk about heritage being important, left out heritage in this budget that is tabled here before us today?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The heritage tax credit is, I think, an example of our following through on our commitments to heritage.
Perhaps the reason that the capital budget is down is because when we completed all of the Ozymandias-like structures of the Member for Riverdale North, there wasn't a need for huge structures to glorify the Member for Riverdale North. We felt that, instead, we should put our resources into actual things that do serve heritage.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We saved the Taylor house. We have taken White Pass, one of the gems of this town, and have actually done something to it to restore it. It had fallen into dereliction under the previous government. It was suffering major structural damage. We've actually done something with it. We've done something with the downtown space. We've done something with the waterfront properties. What did they do? Nothing. What they did was they built a monument to themselves - two monuments to themselves - and they said, "We're wonderful. That's heritage." It's not heritage. I really don't think that, you know, we're going to put up a plaque and say, "The Member for Riverdale North stood here." I don't think that's going to mean a great deal in 100 years.
Question re: Pensions of government employees
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. The minister and I have had several discussions about patriating the Government of the Yukon employees' and teachers' pensions from the federal Treasury Board in Ottawa, and the minister has stated repeatedly that the withdrawal from the federal plan will only occur after consultation and with the concurrence of both YEU and the YTA.
My question for the minister: does the minister have the written support from the YTA and the YEU to proceed, and is there a formal structure in place to ensure that consultation takes place on this specific issue?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, obviously these benefits are of incredible importance to the employees of the government, to the Yukon Teachers Association, and we have been ensuring that great caution is taken surrounding any discussions about the patriation of pension. We have successfully worked out patriation of benefits for our employees with our employees, and any other discussion about patriation of pensions would have to follow that same model. The request from the YTA to start to delve into this came during the time, I believe, of a couple of YTA presidents ago, Mr. Ken Taylor.
We've been very cautious about proceeding. We want to ensure that there is respectful consultation around these issues.
If the employees of the government and the YTA don't want their pensions patriated, then I don't believe it should happen.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I would agree with the minister on that point. What I asked was if the minister had the support of the employees. I didn't, unfortunately, get an answer to that question.
I would like to move on to another question. We will return to that initial one another day.
One of the critical factors to the patriation is the support. Another critical factor is the details of the transfer - ensuring that the Yukon gets all the money it's entitled to. We have these critical factors on the Yukon side, and on the federal side we have the Treasury Board bringing public sector pension reform to the House of Commons in March. Although the Treasury Board decisions have quite an impact on the Yukon, we haven't been part of the overall national discussions.
So, Mr. Speaker, now what? The Government of Yukon has a couple of choices. They can take the terms of the patriation being offered, as of late December. We can continue to be part of the plan after the reform has taken place, which has very expensive implications for the Government of the Yukon - and some other unpopular options - or we can try and get more favourable terms for the Yukon to get out of the federal plan after pension reform.
Which option, if any of these, is the minister pursuing? The minister did not answer the first question about whether or not employees were on side. Is the minister pursuing any of these options?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The answer to the question is that I received correspondence - or the Government of the Yukon did; it was before my time - from YTA, saying that they wanted to investigate pursuing the patriation of benefits. As I understand it, there has been some change in terms of their position. We are perfectly prepared to accept that, whatever they want. If they don't want to patriate the pensions, that's fine. We want to work with them on that.
Secondly, yes, the Liberal government is trying to stick it to Yukon taxpayers with their changes to the pension plan. I've written the minister. I think it would be very detrimental to Yukon taxpayers if the Liberal government went ahead with these changes. We don't believe they should take place.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, that's what we're trying to determine here - who's sticking up for the Yukoners.
The minister has sidestepped the question of whether or not he's working with the Yukon's professional workforce in this respect. He has not indicated whether or not we have it on record that YEU supports this initiative. He has not indicated if there are current discussions underway with the Yukon Teachers Association.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: If the minister would wait for the question., I would like to know if the minister is having discussions with YEU and YTA on the patriation of Yukon's pension plan benefits.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member changes her question, and the preamble is full of questions. It is harder for me in terms of answering them to understand whether or not she is talking about the process of public sector pension reform initiated by the Liberal government or the patriation of the pension plan to the Yukon territorial government from the federal government. They are completely different issues.
Mr. Speaker, with regard to the Liberal government and their public sector pension reform, again I say I welcome the member's support, because we're trying to stick up for Yukoners. We've been working with our employees on this issue because it's of concern to them. If the federal Liberal government goes ahead with these changes, it's going to cost Yukon taxpayers millions of dollars, which would mean less money for health care, education, for roads, for infrastructure, for economic programming. This is very important to the Yukon, so we're working with our employees on that matter.
On the other matter of patriation of the benefits plan, it's going to be the call of the employees of the Yukon. Whether they be the Yukon Employees Union, whether they be the YTA, we will await their feelings. The YEU has indicated - at least some time ago - that they were still interested in pursuing it. The YTA had indicated they were interested in pursuing it, but among the new leadership - which I understand from my discussions with the new president anyway - there is some question about it, which I think has to be sorted out.
In any case, this government is not interested in pursuing that initiative without the support of -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired. 017
The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of opposition private members' business
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the item standing in the name of the third party, to be called on Wednesday, March 3, 1999: Motion No. 153, standing in the name of the Member for Porter Creek South.
Mr. Phillips: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the item standing in the name of the official opposition, to be called on Wednesday, March 3, 1999: Motion No. 25, standing in the name of the Member for Klondike.
Speaker: We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
orders of the day
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move 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 wish of the members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee will continue with general debate in Executive Council Office.
Bill No. 14 - First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 - continued
Executive Council Office - continued
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Mr. Ostashek: I want to move on a little bit in general debate in Executive Council Office and just get a few short questions in, and maybe short responses from the minister, to see where we're going with this. Could the minister start out by telling me if there have been any new positions added to the Executive Council Office in this budget or in the last short while? Has there been an increase in staffing in the Executive Council Office? Could he elaborate if there is?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Apart from the development assessment working group, I'm not aware of new staffing being added to the department. The decision was made to select the Executive Council Office as a relatively independent department, free from the assessment fray, so to speak, as the decision-making body - the location of the decision making for the development assessment process.
That is the reason why the development assessment process is located in the Executive Council Office, or the development assessment secretariat will be located in the Executive Council Office, rather than in Renewable Resources or Economic Development.
So, there is some addition there that will be permanent in nature unless the decision is made to relocate it to another department at some point in the future.
I'll check for the member. I'm not aware of any other staffing additions.
Mr. Ostashek: My understanding then is that the Government Leader is telling me that the DAP secretariat - or unit; whatever he wants to call it - is going to be a permanent fixture of our government for time immemorial and he's not certain at this time whether it will remain in the Executive Council Office, but it's parked there for now until they see it's got a better fit somewhere else?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Certainly the Yukon government is a decision-making body under DAP, as the UFA predicts, and that decision-making body has to be someplace. The decision was that it should not be in Renewable Resources - without making it sound too crass or too simplistic - with its pro-environment orientation, or Economic Development, with its pro-development orientation, but that it should be in some other agency that is neither. The Executive Council Office affords that opportunity.
At some point in the future, should there be a reorganization of government, which does not have a department that has a clear bias of any particular nature, then presumably a development assessment secretariat or working group could find a new home someplace else within government.
Mr. Ostashek: Given what the Government Leader has just told me, I would suggest to him that by locating it in the Executive Council Office it could be perceived by some to be in a political office. The Executive Council Office of government is perceived to have close ties to the political party that's in power at whatever time we're at. I guess for myself, I would prefer to see a unit such as this that has to deal with all aspects of the Yukon society be situated in a department that could be seen more as an impartial department, such as the Department of Justice, where it may have a better fit.
I can understand the Government Leader parking it here in the short term, but I think some serious thought has to be given to whether or not the best home for it is in the Executive Council Office, which is seen by many Yukoners as a political office.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I'll admit to the member that I'm ambivalent about the decision in the first place, not because I believe that the department is seen as partisan in this nature but because the department is supposed to play another role in government, which is to be a team leader of all departments and not an arbitrator between departments. And so, conceptually, if there was a better fit, I think it would be worthy of seeking such a location elsewhere.
For the time being, the Executive Council Office is seen as the best fit in the short term, and so the DAP working group will be a permanent fixture - perhaps semi-permanent - in the Executive Council Office.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that. If devolution goes ahead, I would suspect that there's going to have to be a lot of thought given to a major restructuring of the government to integrate the people from the federal level. There will be some duplication and some realignment of services that will be required. That may be the time to look at where DAP fits into the bigger picture. The duties of DAP will be somewhat different after devolution than they are prior to devolution.
Mr. Chair, while I'm on my feet, could I ask the Government Leader if there are any changes in the Ottawa office, or any contemplated?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the member is, of course, quite right in terms of the need to have a look at all the functions of government at some point once devolution is complete. There are a variety of issues to address and resolve in the future. Not in this government's mandate, but in other governments' mandates, I'm sure that they'll be encouraged to have a clearheaded look at the organization of government overall and determine whether or not the Yukon government, which is essentially a patchwork quilt of transferred federal programs, can be better ordered and better structured to meet the needs of Yukon people.
I would suspect that that will be undertaken in the fullness of time. It's not part of the devolution process itself, however, at this point.
The Ottawa office is made up of a director, Mr. Harley Trudeau; Glenn Grant is there for the Department of Finance, as is Mr. Raghunathan. We have, of course, the long-standing administrative support at the office.
That is the structure of the office at this point. I have not made any decisions with respect to changes to that office at this point.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, while we're in the Executive Council Office, I want to move now to devolution so we can have a bit of a back-and-forth discussion to get our views, and the Government Leader's views, on the record once more of just where we're going with devolution.
Following up on the questions I asked in Question Period, I want to start by asking the Government Leader if he's aware of the legal opinion that was obtained by the Government of Yukon on January 15, 1993, and has he had a chance to review that legal opinion?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, Mr. Chair, I haven't. I have it, though. I've asked the lead person in the Executive Council Office, Mr. Byers, for a legal review, as I promised I would in Question Period. He has provided me with that opinion. He has also provided some other background work done by various people that we might find useful in clarifying the questions at hand.
The question of whether or not there is a Crown already in the Yukon government is a legal question over which there is some legal debate. As I've mentioned before, the primary issue in the devolution talks is to secure the resource management responsibilities from the federal government, and that is our primary target. If we can overreach that target, that is all for the better, but our primary target, the target for which we will settle, is to ensure that there is land and resource management decision making in the Yukon for Yukoners.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I agree with the Government Leader that that was his primary target in the negotiations, and it is a step forward.
Our position is that if we're going to be making amendments to the Yukon Act, and if in fact all it takes is an amendment to the Yukon Act for Yukoners to own their lands and resources, held in trust by their government, then we should be doing it at this time and not leaving the issue out there.
And I have many reasons for that, as to why I think it's important at this time. And I guess I could say to the Government Leader, while the legal opinion of January 15, 1993 was basically in relation to devolution of the Crown attorney functions, which stated in that legal opinion, which he will be reviewing - or having the same person giving him an assessment of it as obtained the legal opinion for us when we were in government, Mr. Byers.
In that legal opinion, it says quite clearly on page 2, that to deny the existence of an independent Crown right, exercisable by the Government of the Yukon, is to deny the existence of responsible government.
My understanding is that the person who gave us this legal opinion is now a member of the Queen's Bench in Ottawa. I think Mr. Byers told me that the other day, in a coffee shop, if I'm not mistaken.
What it goes on to say is that this flies in the face of the last 13 years of letter of instruction to the commissioner, and would seem an incredible assertion. Further, it creates certain anomolies, such as the fact that territorial legislation, once signed by the Commissioner, has the full force of law without further intervention by a representative of the Crown.
So, the lawyer who made that argument made a very strong argument, in my opinion, as to the fact that we have a Crown. I know the federal government is taking the position that we can't own land and resources because we don't have a Crown, but I do know that, back prior to 1985, there were other constitutional experts, David Elliott for one, and this document, I believe, is in the Government Leader's files. If it isn't and he'd like it, I can give him a copy of it. It makes the argument, I believe, that we should be able to own land and resources even if we don't have a Crown.
I guess where I'm coming from on this is that I would like to see this issue put to rest before we accept just the management of the resources. If it can be accomplished all at the same time and we can refute the federal government's argument that, in fact, it doesn't take a constitutional amendment to give Yukoners ownership of their land and resources, then we should be moving ahead with it at this time. I don't know what the argument to the federal government would be. At the very least, what there should be, in my opinion, is a clause in the agreement that it can be accomplished. If there is some rational argument that the federal government has for not doing it right now, it must be acknowledged by the federal government that it can be done within the Yukon Act if, in fact, that is the legal opinion.
That's why I asked the Government Leader if he would refer it to the Court of Appeal on constitutional matters, to get a ruling on it prior to signing off on the devolution agreement. I think it's a very important issue and, before we go any further on this issue, I'd like the Government Leader to respond to that.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, first of all, as I indicated to the member in Question Period, the matter would be referred, in the first instance, for a legal review and then I'll take the time to pursue the arguments and the suggestions that the member has made in determining what our position on the matter would be.
It strikes me at this point that if there is a healthy, legal argument that we are already a Crown, then not only is devolution going to affect it, it could only enhance the situation as it currently exists, which would essentially make the need to go forward with some special, acknowledged arrangement with the federal government less important, because we already have a legal argument, we already have legal standing, and devolution can only help that standing, not hurt it.
The question of putting it forward to a court for an opinion is something that we will be considering as well. The member has asked for it. I indicated in Question Period that because he asked, he'll get it, and it's always an interesting question in any case, and certainly of interest to many of us.
The bottom line for me - and I say it once again - is that I will pursue resource management responsibilities, and I will take resource management responsibilities if I can get them. I would like to have full support of all members of this House if I can get it, too. But if progress would be halted, delayed or perhaps indefinitely delayed on the basis of the need to pursue a technical constitutional legal argument, that would weigh against doing that, because the people have overwhelmingly told me, over and over again and in every venue, that they want to see resource management responsibilities at home in the Yukon right away. Their economic livelihoods depend on it. That's what they have told me, and that is the objective that we are primarily pursuing at this point.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I thank the Government Leader for that and there ought to be no reason why the devolution should be held up, but I want the Government Leader to know that there are many Yukoners who feel that they ought not to be treated as second-class citizens in their own land and they believe that First Nations have obtained outright ownership to land and resources under the land claims agreements, which they fully support and we fully support.
Yukoners should be able to own the rest of the Crown lands and resources in the Yukon without a constitutional amendment, which I don't believe is required. That's why I'm pushing the Government Leader to go to that Court of Appeal and get that ruling. If the ruling says, "You're wrong, we need a constitutional amendment", by all means, you have my full support for devolution for the management of the resources. I can't give him that assurance here now that he would have that without us having that issue settled. Even if it doesn't happen now, I'd like to see that issue settled so we know where we're going in the Yukon, and I think it's important.
Yukoners are proud people and they want to be able to own the land and the resources; they don't just want to be managers of the resources on behalf of the federal government. I'm concerned that the Government Leader, in a media interview the other day, treated the ownership of land as a mere technicality. I think it's much bigger than a mere technicality.
The fact that we still have to continue to go to Ottawa for some bureaucrat to sign block land transfers because the federal government has taken a position that we're not responsible enough to do it our own, then I think it's more than a technicality and it's unacceptable.
If you were going to expand that - if, in fact, the Government Leader was correctly quoted - then why did the First Nations go for ownership if not just management and control? What we're trying to do here is work on behalf of all Yukoners to get everything that they rightfully deserve and not because some political party says they don't believe they should have it.
I think that's happened, because there have been two trains of thought. The Government Leader has been around this Legislature a long time. They've even addressed the issue in their A Better Way book, which I'll get into shortly, on land ownership. I know that they have fought long and hard on behalf of Yukoners' rights in the past. All I want to do is make sure that all of these issues are dealt with before we sign on the dotted line.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There may be a misunderstanding here as to what the objective is, Mr. Chair. First of all, we would not accept a devolution agreement where the transfer and management of lands would continue to be held by Canada and was not delegated to the Yukon government. We would not ever accept the arrangement where every time somebody requests land, we process the application, then we go off to Ottawa and get some sort of approval from some bureaucrat. That is completely unacceptable and, in my opinion, not an advance in the situation at all.
What we are essentially saying is that the land management responsibilities, both surface and subsurface, of all Crown lands - current federal Crown lands as well as Commissioner's lands - would be controlled by the Yukon government. Effectively, all lands that are not continuing to be held by the federal government through parks or whatever purpose would all be Commissioner's lands, in effect. Everything would be Commissioner's lands, with the addition that we would have the right to determine or dispose of, in one way or another, subsurface rights to those lands. We would have the works. That's the only way that this can work. It is the only way I would consider this an advance at all.
Some brokered highbred of keeping federal bureaucracies involved in land management in the Yukon is not acceptable to me. It is not acceptable to most Yukoners, and I'm certain it's not acceptable to members opposite in either party, as far as I'm aware.
We are talking about the need to transfer, fully, land management responsibilities to the Yukon at once, so all Crown lands that were federal Crown in the Yukon that have not already been alienated for a particular purpose - like a park or like lands that are owned by some department or something - all the other lands will be transferred to Yukon for the Yukon government - transferred in terms of the management responsibilities. The Yukon can dispose of those lands the way they dispose of Commissioner's lands, with the addition of the subsurface rights.
So it exists right now, if land is transferred as Commissioner's lands to the Yukon. Yukon government can sell those lands, and they are, in fact, sold lands. The transaction is actually carried out, and there is actually - if the member has ever bought land from the Yukon government, presumably he believes that he owns that land, and he does own that land, even though it's Commissioner's lands. As far as some people are concerned, at least at the Ottawa end, it's delegated responsibility from the federal government, as it is, in fact - at its core - federal Crown lands.
The real test, with the member, is not going to be a referral to a court as to whether or not Yukon is a Crown, and the court coming back and saying, "Yes, it is already." The test will be if the court says, "Yes, it can be, with a simple amendment to the Yukon Act", and then the federal government says, "No." If the federal government says, "No", the member has to make a decision as to whether or not he will support an arrangement which effectively affords us all the powers of land managers - both surface and subsurface - for all lands on a delegated basis; or whether you hold out for some technical definition as to whether or not Yukon is - or can become - a Crown in its own right.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I think we're close, but we're not right on the same wavelength yet, because what the Government Leader just described is ownership of lands and resources. If we can get rid of it and sell it, do whatever we want with it, without a signature from Ottawa, that's ownership. The federal government has said, "No, we'll delegate the responsibility to you, but you can't own the land and resources. It takes a constitutional amendment." That's what they're telling us, and what the member said is absolutely right. If it comes to the point where the court says that yes, it can be done with a simple amendment to the Yukon Act, then we'll have the debate as to whether we should go ahead with devolution or not if the federal government says no.
I think Yukoners have a right to have that information before we sign off on this package, because it's a very important issue, and where it gets really important is on oil and gas revenues.
I'd like to know from the minister - because I don't believe there have been any negotiations on the oil and gas side on this devolution package in front of us now, at least negotiators never mentioned it. I have the layout of the revenue sharing with the federal government under the Northern Accord, which, once we reach 75 percent of our formula of our transfer - 72.43 percent - there is just one line that says "the offset rate to be negotiated." Well, I would much sooner have that negotiated before we find and develop a major oil and gas field in the Yukon, rather than go to the federal government after there are millions of dollars in resources pouring in to try and renegotiate that agreement. I think it's critical, and that's why I think that ownership of the land and resources is very, very critical, because when you look at the potential for vast sums of money flowing to the Yukon from oil and gas revenues, it's very real.
And that could happen in a very short period of time. I'm not saying it will, but it could. The possibility is there.
We have two gas wells in the Yukon now, and they're producing a million dollars' worth of revenues for us. Simple math tells you it wouldn't take many oil and gas wells to offset our entire base, and I think that's a critical issue that needs to be addressed.
The formula, when it was negotiated, was quite all right. There were no oil and gas wells in the Yukon, nothing big on the horizon, land claims were still outstanding, and it was a step in the right direction. But I think we need something with more surety than that if we're ever going to have the ability to be self-sufficient in the Yukon. And I think that's a very important issue that needs to be dealt with.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I think the member and I should sit down with a couple of lawyers because, from what I understand from the member, I don't think there is any light between our positions at all.
The position that we're taking is, essentially, that for all lands not alienated - meaning all lands in the Yukon that are not owned by a federal department, for a park or whatever, community lands that are not already settlement lands or will be settlement lands - the management of these lands will be transferred to the Yukon. All of it. Every bit of it, both the surface and subsurface rights of the entire landmass of the Yukon Territory. All that's remaining would be transferred to the Yukon government. That's what we're talking about doing.
Anything less than that is not acceptable in this transfer arrangement. It is completely unacceptable for us to go through the process of, say, issuing a recreation lot at some point, as we do right now for Commissioner's lands up in, you know, Copper Ridge subdivision, where we have Commissioner's lands, we develop a lot, and we sell it. We don't go to the federal government and say, "Okay, now, we've sold this lot. Can you please sanctify this arrangement?" and tug our forelocks. We don't do that, and I wouldn't dream of doing that in the arena of land resource management, either, for the rest of the territory.
It would not be acceptable for us to go through the process of, say, permitting a new mine and then still having to get some federal minister's signature. That's ridiculous. Where's the advance? There's no advance at all to the Yukon. It might even be considered duplication. It would not be considered a positive thing at all. The policy decisions have to be made here and only here. The administrative decisions have to be made in this territory and only in this territory. We have to stand by those decisions. We have to take responsibility for those decisions.
I find that a perfectly acceptable arrangement. So, for me, the issue of land ownership is either there or it's not, already, because I'm holding out for complete and total management of surface and subsurface. That's the only acceptable motion, that is what we're seeking and that is what has been proffered, at least at the negotiator level, by the federal government.
With respect to oil and gas revenues, the member is making a good point that when the oil and gas was being negotiated, there wasn't much happening. Well, we've changed that. We've excited industry. Industry is interested. The two wells in the Kotaneelee gas field boosted their production enormously. We suddenly got an enormous jump in revenues ourselves as a result of that exchange. There is every reason to believe that, in the next 20 years, oil and gas could be a very significant player in the Yukon economy. We should be starting to prepare for that.
Technically, all oil and gas and all mineral resource revenues come to the Yukon. The issue is how much that is going to offset the transfers that already come to the Yukon. That is the issue. If we got, say, $500-million worth of revenue from the oil and gas industry per year, if we were going to live that fantasy for just one moment, without any agreement with the federal agreement, what that would effectively do is simply offset the existing transfer totally, and we would have a net benefit of $180 million or so. This would be a net benefit to us, because all the money would come and the federal government would deduct it all from the transfer agreement.
We would be a net contributor to Confederation as a result. So, it's a formula financing question, not a resource revenue-sharing question, if the member catches my drift. Whatever we get in new revenues will be offset from the transfers we're entitled to under the formula financing agreement.
Mr. Ostashek: That's right and I think it's an issue that should be dealt with before we start getting to revenues rather than after we have the revenues, and I think it is an important issue.
What the Government Leader has described to me is land ownership. I'm not sure if it's still on here, but under the first package that was given, I understood that, yes, we would make all the policy decisions here; yes, all the administration would be here; yes, we would dispose of the oil and gas leases here, but the federal government said they had to retain ownership of the land and resources because we weren't a Crown, we weren't a province. That's the position that the Liberal government was taking.
I take the member back to a meeting that I had just prior to the election in 1996 when the first devolution package for all DIAND's programs was put in front of us by Minister Irwin and his lead hand on the devolution file, John Wright from Toronto, was up here and had a meeting with a group of Yukon people, a wide variety of people and to which I was invited. I think it was Rolf Hougen who set up the meeting on behalf of John Wright. This issue was raised at that time and John Wright was very adamant that we could have the management and control of the resources but we couldn't have the outright ownership of the land and resources and that didn't sit well with people around the table, I can assure the Government Leader of that.
At that point, the talk was that the whole argument that we're talking about here - whether it required a constitutional amendment or whether it required an amendment to the Yukon Act to facilitate that - was the issue on the table, and the position that the federal government has taken and that Mr. Wright was taking on behalf of the Prime Minister, who is still in office today, was that this was a constitutional issue, and the prime minister wasn't interested in talking about constitutional amendments.
So that's why I think it's very important to find out if in fact it is a constitutional issue, or if it's just a matter of being a legislative issue and a change to the Yukon Act, as a lot of constitutional scholars - or several constitutional scholars, anyhow - are telling us. I think it's important that we do that before the final devolution agreement is signed.
Then we at least know where we're at so we don't leave that hanging out there with the territorial government having one interpretation of it and the federal government having another.
My question to the Government Leader: his thought process seems to be identical to mine on devolution, but can he tell me what in his mind is the difference between control of the land and resources and ownership of the land and resources? What is the difference? Is it provincehood? What is it? What does the Government Leader think it is?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, that is a tough question, because I'll tell the member this. What we are seeking is full management and control, as I mentioned, of surface and subsurface rights for all lands not alienated. How that differs technically from the Yukon being a Crown, I'm not certain I know right now. That's one of the reasons why I've agreed to the member's request for a legal review.
If the fact is that the federal government is avoiding the whole issue of creating another Crown through the backdoor, so to speak, because they are fearful of alienating other provinces and the constitutional makeup, which is at best a very delicate balance in this country, and they would just as soon let legal limbo be retained and let people get on with their lives and see some progress - if that's the federal government's orientation, then the issue may already be decided.
If the legal arguments that have already been made through John Wright, if the legal opinions are persuasive to a court, then there is a Crown already - a mini-Crown, or some form of a Crown already - and that decision may be made.
The question is, though: what practical implications does that have? Provincehood is all about - in my mind - the relationship between political jurisdictions in this country and the federal government and provinces and each other. The characteristic of a province is that it has, embedded in the Constitution, certain rights and responsibilities, which are clear and defined. These rights and responsibilities are not only defined but they can't be reversed by a federal act of Parliament.
So how that all relates to each other is a legal limbo. We can try to define it better, at this point, but I'm not certain that we can get formal acknowledgement by the federal government that there is a Crown because they may see - even if they agree with our legal opinion - the public acknowledgement of that legal reality as being troublesome or problematic with other jurisdictions in the country that may feel that it interferes - or may interfere at some point - with the amending formula of the Constitution, which, of course, is of major, or prime, importance to other provinces, particularly the big ones. It may affect - for those provinces that care - the formula for determining the selection of senators. There are a number of implications that affect the rest of provincial Canada, and the federal government may not want to be making a statement on that, but may want to simply transfer land and resource management to the Yukon.
So, I'm not certain what their orientation is. What I am certain of is that we've got a bottom line here. That is, get land and resource management, surface and subsurface, for all lands in the territory to this Legislature as soon as possible with reasonable terms.
I actually find the subject quite fascinating, and trying to figure out all the technical constitutional implications of this is quite interesting. I remember sitting in on a debate held at the college that involved, among others, Ken McKinnon and Erik Nielsen, talking about constitutional development. I don't know who else was there from the Legislature but it was an interesting sight. People were quite emotional about the subject, and they had every right to be. That's why I think what we're doing now, even securing just land and resource management, is a tremendous advance because, right now, technically, the Commissioner should be sitting right here, chairing Cabinet, and we'd all be advising the Commissioner as to what should be going on. That's technically where we're at and I think we'd better shuck that past as soon as possible and advance to at least where we are today.
Mr. Ostashek: I couldn't agree more with the Government Leader on that position, and that's basically what this legal opinion of 1993 said - that if the Government of Canada doesn't recognize the existence of the Crown, then that flies in the face of the last 13 years of responsible government in the territory. That's exactly what they said, and I'm in complete agreement with the Government Leader on that.
When we talk about constitutional change for the Yukon, the document that was done by D. W. Elliott back in the early '80s laid out a timeline for the changes leading up to provincehood in the territory, "In the first 10 years from 1985-1995 we should have control of all land and resources and ownership of the land and resources long before we ever become a province."
I think the Government Leader and I are on the same wavelength here. Let me put it this way: after he's got his legal opinions and has been fully briefed by the legal people and knows exactly where they believe we're at in the evolution of responsible government, and whether or not we have the ability to own the land, and if, in fact, the management and the control are de facto ownership, I could probably accept that, if it is de facto ownership and the federal government just doesn't want to recognize it because of problems in other jurisdictions. That is fair game. That is legitimate. The federal government can make a valid argument for that.
I think while the Government Leader is exploring this - and that's why I want to put it on the public record today, while I have the opportunity - is that while these questions are being asked, I think one of the questions that needs to also be asked is if we, in fact, have to have a recognized Crown in order for the federal government to transfer land ownership and resources to us. There are two different opinions on that, also, from what I understand. People who have been advising this government and previous governments in the Yukon Territory for the last 20 years have said there's no relationship between the Crown and ownership of land and resources. There is no relationship between them.
The federal government is arguing that we need to have a Crown, so, our people come back and say, "Well, you do have a Crown," so that argument is out the window. That is another area that needs to be explored when we're doing this.
I think it's only in the best interest of all of our constituents and all of us in this Legislature who make laws on behalf of constituents and fight for Yukoners' rights in the bigger political arenas that we know exactly where we stand.
As I say, the Government Leader says it's a tough question - whether it's ownership of the land or not - well, it's a question I would like answered. I believe that the Government Leader and I are on side with that and that we will be exploring that before we make the final decision to sign on the dotted line that we know exactly what we're getting into.
I'm not saying for one minute that we walk away from the devolution agreement. I don't want the Government Leader to get me wrong.
I just believe that if there is more that can be had with a simple amendment that's not going to cause problems to the federal government or to the rest of Canada, then we ought to be able to get it now and not have to wait for it. That's the position that I'm taking.
I think it's going to be a very important issue if we get fortunate and get lucky in the Yukon, and all of a sudden have 200 or 300 oil and gas wells producing, and all of a sudden become a have-province or a have-territory and can contribute to the Confederation rather than being a drain on Confederation, I think that would be the proudest day of all of the Yukon. I know it would be my proudest day, and I want to have that ability for Yukoners to do that, and that's all I'm fighting for here. It's not a principle thing that I'm hung up on, that I have to have ownership of the lands. I believe that we need to have them to do that.
And when I look at A Better Way that came out prior to the last election, when we talk about devolution - let me just see if we have a bit of a debate on this - "the New Democrats believe that devolution will be good for everyone. The Yukon economy can be strengthened, become more diverse and stable with provincial-type control of natural resources, such as mining, water, forestry, lands and oil and gas." What did the Government Leader and his party mean by "provincial-type control of natural resources" in that document?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, it seems pretty straightforward to me. The ability to dispose of or not dispose of all lands and mineral resources - surface and subsurface - is a provincial-like power. We didn't say "provincial control," that the Yukon could display provincial control, because that assumes provincehood, and that's a debate in this territory that has not taken place. We don't have a position on provincehood in that respect.
We do have a position that we should have provincial-like powers and that is what we have been seeking in the last couple of years, and it's the control of lands and resources, water, et cetera - the Northern Affairs program responsibilities - that will provide us that provincial-like control.
I guess the point of devolution is to have the control. If we don't have the control, we haven't made the advance that we're seeking, and that's clearly a deal breaker if we don't have the control. We don't want to take responsibility for dozens and dozens of public servants - bureaucrats in the Yukon - and still have to call Ottawa for approvals. That just makes no sense at all.
I think, in my own mind, the issue here is that there is constitutional development going on, whether anyone wants to acknowledge it or not. I do believe that we are advancing, just as other provinces in this country have advanced incrementally in an evolutionary way over many years.
It didn't all just happen, in most cases, where somebody just carved out of the wilderness a full province with all the resource management responsibilities of a modern-day jurisdiction. It was a question of evolution, and I think we're evolving and, I think, with this last stage, we're evolving very, very quickly.
I think, in that respect, it is the deal of the century, because it is the most significant advance in our constitutional development. How much the development constitutes an advance is perhaps a legal question, but this is a significant development, in any case.
At some point, whether there is a Crown or not, the extent that we want to be a player in the national context - that will definitely require a constitutional amendment, and some pitch before all our brothers and sisters across the country, in the various jurisdictions. Because I think, at some point, if there is a constitutional conference, what we want - what I suspect most Yukoners would want - if it were not full provincehood in the sense that they were like PEI, or like some other province - which, of course, is a matter of some debate - they would want, at least, some formal recognition under the Constitution, as a territory, or as another order of government, that we are a self-governing jurisdiction, with a certain range of responsibilities, that cannot be reversed by an act of Parliament. Because we're seeking this advance through an act of Parliament.
Presumably we want - in the next constitutional development - to at least ensure that that could not be reversed by a single government in this country, without the approval of this Legislature. So I think there needs to be some further advance beyond where we are today, in order to cement - where we would be today with devolution - in order to cement the gains that the amended Yukon Act will provide.
Mr. Ostashek: It took us a couple of hours to get here, but I think we got to the crux of the matter with the Government Leader.
Just before I get into my summation on that, I probably should have read the rest of the paragraph to the member opposite. I didn't know whether he had the document in front of him or not, though, but when he says, "Full control", which I believe the New Democrats basically meant ownership in this document, because they go on to say that this represents the greatest transfer of federal resource responsibility since the agreements of the provinces in 1930.
They are referring to the ownership of the land and resources being transferred to the provinces in 1930. The provinces were provinces in the first decade, but they didn't own the land and resources until 1930. So, there's a difference between land ownership and being a province, and I think the Government Leader and I are probably on the same wavelength there.
I think the Government Leader hit it right on the head. The federal government says they need to retain control. They could give us the ownership of land and resources under the Yukon Act, which could be changed by future legislation. That doesn't give us provincehood. We're a long way from provincehood. That's why I believe there's the argument - and it comes from constitutional scholars - that the federal government can delegate this. They can give us ownership of the land and they can give us ownership of the resources, and we're still a long way from being a province, because they can still make laws in the territory, which they wouldn't be able to do if we were a province, without cooperation from the territory. We don't have representatives in the Senate, thank God, and other things that go along with being a province.
So, I believe we're on the same wavelength there, and I will look forward to hearing from the Government Leader on the legal advice that he gets on this and if, in fact, we can come to the position, regardless of whether it's spelled out in black and white, where the government at least acknowledges that we do have full ownership of land and resources. So, we won't need to go to Ottawa, in some form, for a signature or whatever, to be able to make our own decisions to dispose of all or none of the land at the discretion of this Legislature and government, selected by the people of the Yukon, then I can accept that as being ownership. Being ownership is what it is.
If it's ownership through the back door, fine. But I think ownership is important, and I just want to reiterate for the record that I encourage the Government Leader to start exploring with his Finance officials the future of oil and gas revenues and the impact they'll have once we reach 72 percent of the formula - what impact they're going to have on the formula and what's going to happen.
I think it's an important issue that needs to be decided before the fact, not after the fact. It may be a little premature now, but I don't believe it is. We're going into land sales, the government has announced, in the near future for oil and gas exploration. I think this is the time to deal with that issue. I don't think we want to get into the debate with the federal government that I believe the Northwest Territories is in now, with the royalties off the diamonds.
That's happening and causing all kinds of problems. So, with that, I'm prepared to leave this section. My colleagues may have something to say on it, but I've covered off the ground that I want, and I thank the Government Leader for that.
Ms. Duncan: This takes me back this afternoon. This has certainly been a very interesting debate between the Government Leader and the leader of the Yukon Party on constitutional aspects of devolution and constitutional status for the Yukon.
The report that the leader of the official opposition talked about - David Elliott's paper - I certainly have a copy of that. However, I don't believe I have a copy of the 1993 legal opinion, and I'm wondering if the Government Leader would share that with us.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, I can, Mr. Chair. As I've indicated to both members for Porter Creek, and to the fullest extent that I possibly can, I would intend that the work that we do on this subject in terms of devolution - particularly on the political and constitutional side, and particularly in as much as it reflects the work that needs to be done to the Yukon Act - would be a non-partisan endeavour. Given that this is essentially - if I may use the lay term - the Constitution of this territory, it is important, in my view, that we have all-party support in terms of the particulars.
So, I will share the information that we have with the members, and in the not too distant future - probably the near future - have a discussion with them on the subject of the Yukon Act reform. There are some significant issues, as I've mentioned to them, that need to be addressed. When one reads the Yukon Act today, one is struck by the fact of how out of date it is.
This really does not reflect the political working reality of this territory at all and we do need to do some work in that regard.
So, I will provide whatever I get on this subject to other members.
Ms. Duncan: Thanks, Mr. Chair. I couldn't agree more with the Government Leader that this needs to be a non-partisan discussion - the constitutional aspects of the Government of Yukon.
I believe there is even - certainly, if I dig through my old archives enough - I know there is a brochure and it seems to me it has Legislative Assembly stamped on the cover of it and that brochure talked about some constitutional aspects and talked about and references some of these legal discussions, and so on. I do believe it has to be a non-partisan discussion. It's at this point where we cease to be members of various political parties and react to the debate and the discussion as Yukoners, as we should.
I look forward to actually revisiting theses issues, because I feel like we've been talking about them for years and years and years and years. Certainly the 1979 Epp letter is 20 years old - I would correct the Yukon Party leader, the Member for Porter Creek North.
I was very interested in the discussion by the Government Leader about the practical realities of the devolution agreement to date and the practical discussion about land ownership and resource ownership, and so on. The resource revenue sharing is detailed, and the Member for Porter Creek North has talked about the impact on the formula and having it spelled out.
Could I ask the Government Leader to outline - in the devolution discussions to date - where he might be at with some of the other royalties. I'm thinking particularly in terms of minerals, especially precious gems, because we're all celebrating the emerald find of this summer.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I know the member has been given a briefing, so I won't get into the details. What we have negotiated is essentially a net benefit agreement that there shall be a net benefit to the Yukon of guaranteeing the first $3 million in revenues to the Yukon for a particular period of time.
I will point out to the other Member for Porter Creek that, once the revenues from resources equals or exceeds the transfer payment from Canada, 100 percent of the revenue comes to the Yukon. All the revenue comes to the Yukon.
Once again, it's not our agreement to share a certain percentage of the revenues from resource management activities. So, for the first billion dollars, the Yukon will get 50 percent. What we're doing is agreeing on how much the new revenues we will receive will offset the substantial transfers that we currently receive. That's what the negotiations are all about.
Technically, we get it all, but the federal government can choose to offset it as much as they want. Right now, it's dollar for dollar for new revenue that is not achieved through a tax increase. What we've got is something better than that. We've got a net benefit. For the case of forestry and mining, it's the first $3 million net benefit. After that, the federal government gets their cut. That's meant to provide some incentive to the Yukon to actually promote these resources. Of course, we are eager to do that in any case.
I think that's what the member was asking for.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, did the Government Leader outline a time frame for discussions, with respect to the Yukon Act? Have we given individuals a time frame to get back with some of the details and opinions that the Member for Porter Creek North asked for, and has he a date in mind for the discussions between the leaders, regarding the Yukon Act?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, that was one of the questions I was going to be raising with the Members for Porter Creek outside the House, but I can simply state that we have to determine what the windows are for the federal government to undertake the change. Secondly, we have to ensure that the Yukon government reference legislation takes place after the Yukon Act is changed, if we accept - and we have to accept because we don't have any bargaining leverage on the subject - the argument that the federal government put forward with respect to the oil and gas transfer.
Now, in the interim, I think it would be unacceptable for people in the Yukon to have the Yukon Act changed - even if we only changed it to meet the status quo - if we did that without any public discussion at all. And I think it would be desirable to design an opportunity for people who want to have some input to participate, to give their piece.
As I mentioned to the member, there are a number of issues that, if we wanted to open up those issues, would spark some spirited discussions in the territory that are beyond simply acknowledging the existence of the Legislature and the powers associated with this Legislature, et cetera. These issues have some grounding in the existing act and in history that we may have to address, or may choose to bypass. That will have to be a decision that we make in the context of the review.
So, as I've mentioned before, we're targeting the next fiscal year as the time when the transfer can take place.
We have to do a number of things, starting with the formal transfer agreement, concluding with some legislation passed in this Legislature, which will give effect to the transfer in total, and hopefully that will all take place in the coming year.
Mr. Cable: I've been following the discussion with interest and it seems to me the lands in and around Whitehorse were turned over to the Commissioner about 1970 - the management and the control; I think what we'd call the beneficial interest. I believe this government gets all the proceeds when a title is cut and the land is sold, and I believe it's this government that cuts the title under our own Land Titles Act. And I believe it's this government that controls the use of the land through subdivision and zoning controls that are delegated down to the municipality, and I'm not sure, but I think the surveys are all approved by our own lands branch.
So, while there is not a federal Crown involved, I wouldn't see any difference. I'm not quite sure what the issue is that would, in fact, be in any way different with respect to the control of the disposition of the land and the receipt of the proceeds.
Has the minister got his head around that? I think he talked about it briefly before.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the member can be forgiven for being somewhat puzzled by the whole debate this afternoon because that's precisely the point I've been making. What is different, by the way, is that subsurface rights are also being transferred. The Yukon doesn't, of course, even for Commissioner's lands, control those. But for all other resources on these lands, the Yukon is the effective manager on Commissioner's lands, and what we're seeking is that, effectively, all the lands in the Yukon that are not held by a federal department or held as a park or as part of the land claims process or held by third parties, be transferred to the Yukon, as they normally are, with the addition that we have subsurface rights. We have the right to dispose of subsurface rights.
So, it is a fairly esoteric debate as to what land ownership versus land management means. We are seeking land management. All that the Northern Affairs program currently does is what we're seeking and as I understand it, that's what's on the table. That's what is being offered by the federal government, and that's what we're accepting.
Mr. Cable: I assume that the federal government has got some genuine constitutional concerns, and that's why we're not creating a local Crown. Let's assume, for the moment, that that position is genuine.
One of the other points that was raised was that, if in fact we're not created a Crown, the land ownership could be revoked, but I think that principle would equally apply to any statute that was passed that wasn't entrenched in the Constitution. Isn't that accurate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, that's the subject of some debate, I suppose. I'm treading on thin ice here, because I'm not a constitutional expert by any means at all, but as I remember the debate, there is the evolutionary versus revolutionary theory of constitutional development.
"Revolutionary" refers to constitutional development. It comes from constitutional conferences and specific, conscious decisions to make an advance. It could be the form of the British North America Act. It could be the patriation of the Constitution in the early 1980s. Those are the big, seminal events.
There is the evolutionary form of constitutional development, which suggests that there are many stages between those big events that are equally valid in constitutional terms and, as a jurisdiction evolves under Confederation, this evolution can't be turned back simply because it has not been recognized as one of the big seminal events.
So, I don't know if I'm making this clear to the member, but there is a body of opinion that suggests that in the Yukon - even though the Yukon Act does not recognize the paramountcy of Cabinet government in the Yukon - it would be challengeable through the court should the federal government try to reverse even the Epp letter, and that we could make a decent case that we have evolved, and that this has essentially - even though it's not been recognized by an event - been conscientiously acknowledged and supported by the Canadian family.
That was the character of the debate between Mr. McKinnon and Mr. Nielsen and others at the archives meeting room. So, one could argue that if we believe in the evolutionary form of constitutional development, if you thought that that was a reasonable proposition or that that was legally supportable, one could argue that once the Yukon Act is passed in Parliament and we've lived with it a bit, it would not be an easy thing for the federal Parliament simply to reverse or to vary that act without consent of this Legislature, but we would have a legal case to stop it from doing that.
Now, equally, if you accept that notion, then the federal government has expressed some concerns about essentially acknowledging that before other provincial jurisdictions that do not want another partner at this time in Confederation, who feel it's pretty congested as it is by a lot of little jurisdictions. I would suspect that that's the reason why the federal government is very sensitive about doing and saying things symbolically that may cause the evolution of responsible government in the Yukon to become a national issue and get them into trouble with other jurisdictions.
I'm inclined to support the evolution - or at least I want to support - the evolutionary notion of constitutional development. I think that every step we're taking, in fact, is an advance and would be worth fighting for in court, and there is, according to some of these opinions, good reason to believe that you'd be successful.
But I'm not a constitutional expert, Mr. Chair, and I don't know that I can help the member more than that.
Mr. Cable: I'm pleased to see that the legal opinions are going to be produced, because I think - if I'm reading the leader of the official opposition correctly, he wants his comfort level increased on this issue, and I think we would also.
So it would be useful for whoever gives a legal opinion to state fairly clearly whether the transfer of the beneficial interests is really all we need, and - if, in fact, this is the case - that the creation of a Crown is not necessary, to give us all that we as Yukoners need to control and manage, and receive the proceeds from the land. That's the land side of it, and that would be the first question, hopefully, that will be answered.
With respect to resources - on the transfer, the devolution handout that was given to us, I think the minister has clarified this - basically, what he's saying, if I could feed back to him, is that there's no resource sharing per se. It's just that, if we hit the motherlode, there's going to be some reduction in our transfer payments; much the same as if Mr. Tobin, in Newfoundland, hits the motherlode with Voisey Bay. Their equalization payments are going to be reduced.
Is that the basic theory that's happening?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That's correct. Without any action being taken on our part, at all, any change to our revenue would be offset. We've talked about dollar for dollar - whatever it happens to be at the time. Basically, it would be equally offset.
What we've tried to do in oil and gas and in the devolution agreement is to provide some net benefit to the Yukon, so that we don't have to wait until we can offset the federal grant completely, before we get a net benefit. There should be some net benefit in the short term, so that not only is there an incentive for us to be more self-sufficient, but we were able to better pay for the attending rise in service requirements - with, perhaps an increasing population. I don't know, maybe with oil and gas, it may not be that necessary, but, certainly, for other resource activities, there are often attending needs that have to be addressed. We want to be able to address those as we develop the resources.
That's the basic theory. The question is - and it is always a judgment call - do you want to take a straight percentage or a straight dollar amount for a particular period of time? What do you want to do? Right now, where there's obviously not a lot of activity, but with some good resource management policy work and some hustle, I expect that the government and the territory can do substantially better than we're doing right now, and I'm going to think about that possibility.
Mr. Ostashek: I don't have much more. There's just one more area I would like to explore with the Government Leader. He probably doesn't have the answer on his feet, but we can get back to it for further discussion.
I guess what I would be looking for from the legal people is, if the federal government somehow retains ownership of the land and resources, they have to keep legislation at the federal level and our legislation would have to mirror that legislation, which, to me, would be a very convoluted and complex way of handling things. When the legal people are looking at that, I would like to know, if we don't have ownership, how is the legislation going to work? How can we pass legislation if we don't have outright ownership of the land?
I think that's an issue that has to be addressed, because I can see how we would end up in a situation where the federal government, if they continue to own the land and resources, would have to have laws on the federal books to deal with those land resources in some way. If we get into a controversy, whose legislation will supersede whose? There's a very complex issue - well, it's complex to me, anyway. Let me put it that way. Maybe it's not complex to people who are dealing with it.
I would really like a briefing on it at some point, or some explanation as to how it's going to work, once we get those other issues out of the way. It's premature now. I just want to put that on the record, in Hansard, so that it's there for department officials to look at when they're looking at the whole devolution issue.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I'll ask our legal advisors to assist the member in terms of trying to work through some of these issues, and I'll just tell him this. I'd always anticipated that what we're seeking to do here is have a very simple Yukon Act, a new Yukon Act - shorter even - that essentially identifies the fact that we've got an executive council, as do the other founding acts of the various provinces - executive council, Legislature and blah, blah, blah, be empowered to make rules and all that sort of thing, and then list the responsibilities that that Legislature would have, just as the provinces do now. We'd just list them out.
Then the Yukon Legislature, taking its so-called power from that list, would enact laws that sort of fill the legislative void. The laws that, at least initially, we would pass would simply adopt federal laws, adopt all the federal laws, regulations, the whole thing. And then, in time, if we wanted to amend those laws or change those laws, we could do that without ever making reference back to the federal government. They would rescind their own laws in the same field and we would occupy that field.
So, it's not like the income tax collection agreement, where there is joint management, and every time they do something we've got to mirror it. It's not like that. It would be like when they transfer Commissioner's lands to the Yukon - that's not the right technical term, but I think the member understands what I mean - we can pass laws that don't need to be mirrored back in Ottawa for those lands. I would expect that what we're simply doing is expanding our Commissioner's lands to include everything, so that, basically, all lands would be Commissioner's lands, and we would have full rights to pass resource management laws on all those lands or to amend the old federal laws, which we would have adopted, because when one rescinds we have to have another immediately and we don't have the time to pass all brand new regimes.
I'm certain that most people would be scared silly by the thought that we'd try to do that in the space of a year, in any case, but we'd do that, and the federal government would no longer have an operational role whatsoever to play in land management responsibilities. That's what I anticipate happening.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, the Government Leader can call it what he likes. I can call it what I like. The leader of the Liberal Party can call it what they like. But what the Government Leader just explained to me is ownership of the land and resources.
Ms. Duncan: This has, as I said before, been one of the more interesting debates that I've witnessed in this Legislature - constitutional aspects of the development of the Yukon - and I thank the Government Leader for the frank discussion.
Before we leave the general debate on the Executive Council Office, I have a few other questions I would like to ask. On the issue of land claims, I had asked the Government Leader if the land claims staff had been returned to a full complement and if he can confirm that that is 11 FTEs in this particular branch.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Let's just see here, Mr. Chair.
According to my notes here, Mr. Chair, there is an increase of 3.2 FTEs that are associated with implementation funding, so they are 100-percent recoverable. There is a total of 21.15 FTEs in the secretariat, and there are 16 FTEs located throughout the government. Sixteen are funded through implementation funds. As I mentioned, there are 21.15 FTEs in the secretariat - this is headed by the ADM.
The negotiations unit has 9.35; implementation has eight and the mandate policy administration unit has 2.8.
Ms. Duncan: There is an individual hired by the Yukon government - Mr. Brant. He was in the Yukon for a very short time. He has now left that position, as I understand it. Was this a resignation from a position or was it the completion of a fixed contract with the government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I believe it was a resignation.
Ms. Duncan: Can the minister confirm that there were extraordinary moving costs outside of the existing government policies associated with Mr. Brant's arrival or departure from the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I don't believe so. I will check, but I don't believe so, no.
Ms. Duncan: The Government Leader and I had a discussion yesterday regarding forestry, and co-management versus common regime. The government spent a great deal of time talking about the development of a common regime for oil and gas. A similar situation has not occurred with respect to forestry, in that the government has not talked about developing a common regime with First Nations. Why not?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, we're not responsible for the management of that resource. It would be very hard for us to do that.
The difference between this situation and oil and gas is that we are responsible for oil and gas. We do make regulatory decisions for oil and gas. With respect to forestry, mining or anything else, we are not the managers. We would like to be. We feel we have an arrangement that will allow us to be, but we, at this time, are not. All we can do is use our good offices to provide good, sound advice to the regulator and to other governments, who may want to hear what we have to say. We have tried, through the offices of the forest commission, to involve First Nations as successfully as possible in forest policy.
We have committed that if devolution does take place, we would like to pursue the notion of a common regime, because it makes sense for us to do that. It makes administrative sense for us to have a single regime rather than a multitude of regimes. So if we can, we will, and that would take some work with First Nations and with other governments that have a large land base to see whether or not we can achieve that objective.
Ms. Duncan: Well, the government has talked about devolution being close - we hope we're going to achieve this - and the minister has said that efforts will be made to develop a similar common regime to the oil and gas. What are the sticking points? Are we discussing this now? Are we working with First Nations, saying, "This is the model we want to use on forestry. How do you feel about it?" What progress are we making so that we're not on April 1 going, "Wow, now what?" and starting at square one? What progress and effort are we making to work with First Nations now on this particular issue?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, I've already indicated to First Nations, to the CYFN leadership and to the Kaska and the Kwanlin Dun on a number of occasions that we are prepared to attempt to develop common regimes for resource management over time. Oil and gas is a good example of how it can work positively.
Forestry is obviously the next resource management area that is crying out for new legislation and new policy, and we are prepared and would like to seek out an opportunity to develop a common regime with First Nations in forest management planning and forest legislation development. We believe that that's a reasonable proposition, and we've committed to First Nations to undertake that route.
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to also follow up on questions I asked with respect to the Bureau of Management Improvement - I'm just making sure I have the title right, Mr. Chair.
The last document that I have available is the amended annual workplan for the year ending March 31, 1998. Is there an assessment of the work that has been done? Is there a public report available? Can we have the minister table the workplan for April 1, 1998, to March 31, 1999 - what was accomplished, a review and the public documents that are available, and the workplan for the forthcoming fiscal year? Is that available and can we have it?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, Mr. Chair, I can provide that.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Seeing none, we will go to page 2-6, Cabinet and Management Support/DAP.
On Cabinet and Management Support/DAP
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister tell us how much of this is scheduled for the spring workshop, or is that going to be covered under the communications branch?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The spring workshop will be covered under this line item, Mr. Chair, but we still haven't worked out the details of the spring workshop, so we're not aware of what the costs are going to finally be. I'd point out that there's still a potential that other partners may join us. One of those partners may actually bring along some resources, I don't know, but it is our intention to proceed with a spring workshop and maybe even more workshops - whatever it takes.
Administration/Secretariat/DAP in the amount of $1,053,000 agreed to
Cabinet and Management Support /DAP in the amount of $1,053,000 agreed to
On Land Claims Secretariat
Chair: Is there general debate?
Mr. Ostashek:I just want to get some information on implementation. If I remember right, there were implementation funding agreements that were negotiated to expire, I think, in 10 years, and we are now - the first four, I believe, are five years old now. We should be halfway through the implementation of the first five claims, if my memory serves me right.
I would just like to get a handle on the implementation funding. I knew it at one time, but I probably forgot it. I was probably briefed on it at one time.
Did we get all of the money as a bulk figure, or do we get it on an annual basis from Ottawa, and is it divided on a band-by-band basis? Could the minister give me a rundown on how the implementation funding - how we receive it from the federal government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: My understanding is that we receive it on an annual basis, on a formula that's been negotiated, by the time of the legislation. It's not allocated on a band-by-band basis; it's certainly not spent on a band-by-band basis. There is a multitude of projects that are approved, both on the capital and the O&M side.
In terms of the funding for this year, $3.9 million was identified for implementation projects and funding to UFA boards and committees. This is an increase of $340,000 over previous years.
I can provide the member a list of those projects, if he'd like.
Mr. Ostashek: I'm not too worried about specific items that are being funded under implementation funding. What I'm concerned about is that I know that when the agreements were negotiated under previous administrations and signed off by my administration, there was a concern of, I think, all parties that were in the House at the time, because it was a time of federal government restraint, and the implementation funding to us and First Nations was cut back quite dramatically from what was asked for. And if we had had the money flowing - I believe it's five years now. I believe it was 1995 when the first - well, four years anyhow. So, we have five or six years left on the funding. Will that mean that all the implementation funding will be exhausted at the end of 10 years, and what happens to the implementation of First Nations who are still left with agreements to finalize and haven't even started on the implementation? That's going to carry forward for at least another decade - well, longer than that. It would probably be somewhere around the outside figure of 15 years. Where is the money going to come from? Is it going to come out of general revenues of the Yukon government after the 10 years has expired? That's the point I'm trying to get at.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, my understanding is that we have to negotiate, once again, a renewal. My understanding of the negotiations to date is that there was an agreement to provide for implementation funding that was, I think, secured in the late 1980s, and when it came time to close the negotiations, the federal government basically presented all other parties a take-it or leave-it package. Rather than hold up the negotiations, the government took it.
The agreement, as I understand it - and I will have to check with officials - is that it provides for reviews after three years and eight years, based on our experience. Whether we get more money in those reviews is another matter.
At this point, I'm not aware of something that would be considered an implementation project that the Yukon government is funding. There has always been a gray area between what the Yukon government should fund, as public government in the territory, and what is considered to be a fiduciary responsibility of the federal government. That has been a gray area for some time. Even though we like to keep it as clear as possible, there is still a gray area.
I'm not aware - and no one has made me aware - of any shortage of funds. I think it's true to say that the expectations have been substantially reduced, based on the offer made and accepted by the governments in terms of the funding available. But, I'm not aware of the Yukon government appropriating funds to meet implementation responsibilities.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, the Government Leader said that there was supposed to be a three-year and eight-year review. Well, I'm certain that we're past three years into the implementation with the first four First Nations. Has there been a review done and what were the results of it?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: My understanding was that if a review was done it was done in 1995 or 1996. I don't know. If the member doesn't remember the review, I will have to check to see what happened. I'm not aware of any conscious renegotiations of the implementation funding agreement while I've been the minister, but I will check on any negotiations that might have taken place before my time.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I appreciate that, because I don't recall one being done when I was the Government Leader, but the fact remains that I guess you have to go back and look at the agreement and see whether or not it was three years from when it was signed or whether it was three years from when it was enacted, which was a couple of years lapsed.
The self-government agreements were tabled in the Legislature here first in 1992. They died on the Order Paper, were reintroduced in 1993, and I believe the effective date of the land claims is February 14, 1994 or 1995. So, I don't recall a review being done and I'd appreciate getting that information from the member.
I also would like to know - just to add a little bit of history on what happens because I know it was a 10-year implementation agreement that was first negotiated. The Government Leader says there are reviews at three and eight years. I don't know if the review was done at three years, but the results of that review were: what happens to the bands after 10 years if we've used up all the implementation money in the first 10 years implementing it and doing the implementation, not only for the bands but in anticipation of the other bands?
I understand what the Government Leader is saying there. It's not on a band-by-band basis, but if the funding runs out after the end of 10 years, what do we do for implementation funding? Does it come out of general revenues?
I'm sure the Government Leader doesn't have that answer now, but I would like that in either a letter to me or in a legislative return at some point.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I'll be happy to do that, Mr. Chair. I want to make sure that we get the right information. I can tell the member that I would hope that there is no expectation of the Yukon government to provide for implementation of the land claim agreement outside those very specific articles in the agreements that refer to a Yukon government financial obligation - whether it be trappers compensation or whatever it happens to be. Those are very specific provisions and the direction that I have given and the direction I know was intended under the negotiations was that that was the exhaustive list of our financial obligations.
It wasn't the starting point for funding. It was the total of our funding commitment, and that's the way I would like to see it kept. I'm expecting that the federal government will consent to our further - and I know there will be further implementation projects to fund, and I expect the federal government to pay for those.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, that's just what I was trying to get my head around, because I think we both agree that there was a global figure that was going to be given to the territorial government by the federal government for the implementation of land claims, and there was another figure given to First Nation governments or CYFN - whoever it was, some First Nation organization - for their implementation costs.
I guess I want to know what balance is left in that global figure that was negotiated. Is it going to run out in year 10, because we now - I believe at the time it was negotiated, it was anticipated that all land claims would be done in a very timely fashion, and 10 years after the signing of the umbrella final agreement or from the signing of the first four agreements - whichever date was being used - within 10 years we would be through the implementation phase. Quite clearly, that's not going to happen now, and I think the Government Leader agrees that it's going to be long past the 10 years.
If the funding is going to run out at year 10, what is going to happen to the implementation? Because there are going to be costs associated with the other bands that are in the process of negotiating their agreements now, and I agree with the Government Leader, we don't want the Yukon taxpayer picking up the costs for a federal responsibility.
So, I look forward to a detailed letter or return on it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will give it to the member. I think the member will agree with me when he sees, for example, in the protected areas strategy, the areas that were developed with management plans as part of the protected areas strategy are, in fact, SMAs. And the first areas on the whole workplan, really, are SMAs that were negotiated in the first round of negotiations, basically 10 years ago.
So, the new SMAs, if they are going to be negotiated from a current agreement, well, we can expect that the implementation will take some time to do it right. So, I believe that there will be ongoing obligations, and I will expect the federal government to pay for those obligations. Now, they may offer another take-it-or-leave-it package, but I still expect them in principle to pay.
Mr. Phillips: Yesterday, I asked the minister some questions about clarification on land claims - a couple of questions regarding a couple of clauses - and I'm wondering if he has had the opportunity to get clarification and come back to the House with it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I haven't had the opportunity to get clarification, but I have had the opportunity to communicate the requirement to get clarification to the Land Claims Secretariat.
Mr. Phillips: If I could get that fairly soon, I would appreciate that.
I'll tell the minister why I'm asking. I've been trying to figure out how some programs are working, and the one issue that has come to the forefront and been brought to me by several people is the issue of access to category B lands by residents.
The minister is certainly aware of the recent bison draw that was held in the Champagne-Aishihik area, and in one area - in the Aishihik area - the lands that non-native people are not allowed to hunt on are category A lands, and that's what everyone understands with respect to the land claims agreements. But around the Hutshi Lake and Taye Lake area, those are category B lands, and category B lands, as negotiated under the land claim, allow, as it says here, "access to enter and stay on 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 in accordance with the laws which apply to lands within the administration and control of the Commissioner."
What's happened is that it appears that for some reason one had to apply to the First Nation and pay $50 for an access permit to go onto category B lands to hunt the bison on those lands. And to make it even more complicated, it was called an access permit. But when individuals applied for the permit - I think about 100 or more applied, and I believe only 13 or so were chosen. It was described as an access permit, but the other 80 or 90 people didn't get any money back, even though they couldn't access the land. Somebody asked me the question, "How can it be described as an access permit?"
It's fine to call it an access permit, I guess, if you actually have an ability to access the land, but if the minister and I weren't even drawn, and then we were told, "Well, you paid $50 for an access permit", it's like the Arts Centre selling 600 tickets for a show and turning 200 people away at the door, saying, "Well, you bought a ticket", you know.
Some people were very upset about that. It's category B lands, which we all thought - and I'm sure the minister thought as well as myself - that category B lands were land that was accessible, that it was only category A lands that were ruled out.
Obviously, somebody has spun something here in a way that is rather difficult to understand, so I'd like the minister to come back with some kind of an explanation of how we did this. Bison, first of all, are not included in the UFA. In fact, one provision in the UFA describes wildlife to mean vertebrate animal of any species or sub-species that is wild in the Yukon, but does not include fish, does not include exotic species or transplanted population, unless otherwise agreed to by the parties in the Yukon First Nations final agreement.
Well, there isn't a definition of transplanted species, which are the bison. They were brought in from Alberta. There is no doubt about it. They didn't genetically arrive here. They arrived on a transport truck, and so they are transplanted species.
The concern that I have is that what we're doing is taking an exotic, or transplanted, species like bison, and we're using the boundaries of category B lands as a barrier for some Yukon residents not to hunt. I'm not sure whether that was ever intended by the UFA. I'm not even sure if it's legal. Maybe I'll ask the minister. If I had a permit, or the minister had a permit, and we went on to the category B lands and shot a bison, but we didn't have a permit for those lands - we had it for the other lands - could anybody charge us with anything? I don't think they can. I think, if I went over there tomorrow and, as long as I had a permit, I could shoot one on the open lands or the category B lands. I don't know under what law in the Yukon Territory we could prosecute somebody.
I think it's a confusing issue, because there are a lot of clauses that are cross-clauses in the UFA, which you have to check over. I don't know how this all came about, because if bison are excluded completely from the UFA, how could he use the category B lands boundaries as an area where you can hunt or not? Is this just something government can do? Can it pick an area of the Yukon and just say that it's out of bounds for some people? I didn't know that, without some kind of public consultation, the government could do that.
Some people are concerned about that. Others are concerned that they paid for an access permit, didn't get drawn, aren't going to access the area and are not going to see any of their money. They basically said to me that, if this happens in the future, what they would like to see happen is just some kind of a fee that everyone pays. In fact, what it's doing is building racial tension in the territory. To make matters worse, the non-native people who applied to access those category B lands didn't get their $50 back.
The First Nation people who applied for permits on those lands didn't even have to pay the $50 on category B. They didn't have to pay. So, as the minister must see, it's creating some problems out there for people who are saying, "What's going on? What's this all about?" Especially in light of the bison where, in this case, the Yukon taxpayer, in general, paid to bring the bison in, paid to manage the bison and paid to take care of them, and now we're using, it appears, part of at least the boundaries of some lands set aside, category B, to control who goes into an area and who doesn't. I think it's a real tricky question and I wouldn't be surprised if somebody went in there and shot one of those bison on those category B lands. I don't know, but I don't think anyone could charge them with anything, and I don't think that should happen. Unless there's some clarification, the racial tension with respect to the way this has all come about is going to increase. I can tell the minister that right now. There's a lot of tension out there about what's going on and how this came about.
There needs to be some explanation to the general public on how this came about, how we're using a species that's not included in the UFA and covering it with a description of land or boundaries of certain land that is included in the UFA. How can you do that?
Maybe the minister could come back with some kind of explanation. I imagine it would be pretty complicated, if it's got anything to do with the UFA, but, hopefully, he will come back with something that I can take to some of these people and explain to them how this came about.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As I indicated yesterday, Mr. Chair, I'll ask one lawyer for an opinion. I could ask for more opinions, but we'll ask for at least one and see what the legal advice is on these issues. I would be inclined to believe, based on what the member has been saying, that perhaps the "access permit" is a misnomer and that "lottery ticket" might be more -
I recognize that there are complications here and to the extent that the member needs a legal opinion, I'll make sure that the members have it prior to the time we get into Renewable Resources, when I'm certain the member is going to explore the matter further.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, what I'd like to know as well, along with the legal opinion - if they're using the UFA in this case to manage the species, is there any intent to manage any other species? There are elk in the same area. There are also transplanted species of freshwater fish in various areas of the territory as well in landlocked lakes, which, I suppose, if you stretch it and use bison, you can probably, in the same clause, include exotic species, transplanted populations and fish. It could include fish and that kind of thing, so you could stretch it to that.
So, I just want to kind of know where the government is going with this. Is this something new and different? Is it included in the UFA? Is it something completely separate from that? If it is, why did they use the boundaries of the UFA to describe the makeup of the program?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, I don't claim to be an expert on this subject and this has been handled by the Department of Renewable Resources but, as I understand it, there was a complication not anticipated in the UFA. If animals like buffalo just happen to hang around a particular area, and that area happened to be category A lands, then the First Nation had the ability to prevent hunting on those lands, but they didn't have the right to harvest those buffalo themselves. So, there was a desire to negotiate a term so that culling of the buffalo herds could take place by citizens.
I'm not familiar with the details, and I will ask the Minister of Renewable Resources to prepare for the discussion, and I will ask for the legal advice and transmit it to members with respect to the questions that have been put.
Mr. Phillips: I'm sure this is not a novel idea, but I'm a little concerned that the minister said that there was a complication with respect to the First Nation on category A land - that they feel the First Nations might have been able to go out and just harvest those bison themselves.
Is that what the minister said? Because it seemed to me that he was saying that they could go out and harvest them. My solution to the bison - I know there was a concern from the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation with respect to the bison on some of their lands, and how it was affecting other wildlife - is make it equal for everybody, have a permit system, lottery system - however you do it, structure it however you do it. Let everybody be on the same basis, equal, nobody preferred.
And if you really think you have a problem on the First Nations category A lands, or even on the category B lands, then target the people who win to those lands. There are subzones in the Wildlife Act, and we could say, "Here are the areas where we want you to remove the bison." It would solve two problems. It would be a fair draw, and we would also maybe avoid some of the - I mean, because some of these people who aren't drawn on that are going to take bison from an area that isn't affecting the category A or the category B lands where the First Nations are concerned.
So, if you just open it up to everybody, but maybe direct it, on an equal basis, and you direct it to those category A or category B lands where the First Nations have strong concerns, then you go in and remove more animals from that area, and you solve those concerns at the same time. I make that suggestion to the minister, and then you don't create the accusation, which I'm hearing time and time again out there, that we're managing wildlife by race in this particular case, and people are upset about that - very angry, very upset.
They look at the way it's been crafted this time and they feel that that's how it has been set up. I think that there's some damage control that has to be done here and some fairness that has to be injected into the system. I would hope that that would be done before we go any further along on this road, because I can see it creating a great deal of problems in the future for this government and people in general in the territory. The relationship between First Nations and non-First Nations in the territory is suffering as a result of the way this particular program was put together this time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I'll pass the comments on to the Minister of Renewable Resources and, as I say, I'll ensure that the legal advice is provided prior to that discussion. I'm certain the member and the minister can thrash it out in some way.
As I understand it, there will be, in coming months and years, the need to continue to cull the herd, and so obviously there will have to be some accommodation made.
Land Claims Secretariat in the amount of $5,573,000 agreed to
On Intergovernmental Relations
Chair: Is there general debate?
Mr. Ostashek: I overlooked one question I wanted to ask on devolution, and I feel it's probably appropriate if I bring it up under intergovernmental relations.
It's not directly dealing with devolution, but I asked the people who briefed us on it, and I want to get it on the public record. I want to get the Government Leader's response on the public record.
There's an outstanding issue with DIAND that I don't believe is resolved yet, and that is the evacuation of Old Crow back in the early 1990s. It cost Yukon territorial taxpayers a substantial amount of dollars in relation to evacuation because of the forest fire.
There was the evacuation of the Pelly Crossing twice, in the summer of 1995 or 1996, for which there's an outstanding bill to the federal government. I know when I was still in office they'd acknowledge the bill for Old Crow, but never paid it at that time.
My question to the Government Leader: have the bills been cleared up; have we received the money? Or how are they being dealt with, with the devolution of DIAND to the territorial government? Are these just going to be lost? A substantial amount of money was involved in both those evacuations. What's going to happen with it?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, to my knowledge, these bills have not been paid by the federal government. They are not going to be ignored. I expect that they should be paid and, like so many other things, it's hard at times to get the federal authorities to do what they know they must do.
But we will continue to seek the outstanding payments - devolution or not.
Mr. Ostashek: The reason I bring them up this time, and raise them in devolution, is because they're expenses that should be directly borne by DIAND, with the evacuation of those communities. Forest fire-fighting funds should have done it, and so this is the opportune time, while we're dealing with the devolution package, to get the ledger cleaned off and get the money that's entitled to Yukon taxpayers, and I appreciate the Government Leader's answer that it won't be ignored and that it will be dealt with, and I hope he's successful in collecting it.
On Intergovernmental Relations
Intergovernmental Relations in the amount of $1,183,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there general debate?
Policy in the amount of $518,000 agreed to
On Public Communication Services
Chair: Before we proceed with general debate, is it the members' wish to take a brief recess? Ten minutes?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee is now dealing with the Executive Council Office, public communication services branch. Is there any general debate?
Mr. Ostashek: My head is sort of plugged up today. I'm not feeling very well.
I got up to ask a question on French language services. Did we just negotiate a new agreement? Where are we at with agreements with the federal government? Can the minister just bring me up to date as to where we are?
I know we used to negotiate five-year agreements. Where are we at?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, we have negotiated a new agreement with the federal minister. I am hesitant to be perfectly final because I remember that, just today, I received some correspondence or some information - some missive from the federal minister - about French language services. So, whatever I say may be affected by whatever the federal minister is announcing.
The agreement has been renewed. We have expressed some concern about the level of funding for French language services, not only in the Yukon, but across Canada. I hosted, as members will remember, the ministerial council of French language ministers last summer. There was a concern expressed by all that the amount of funding available was starting to slip, and that the demands from francophone organizations across the country were being transferred to provincial and territorial governments.
We have made it very clear that we expect to receive sufficient funding from the federal government for this particular area. We have seen, as I understand it, some slight decline but it's not substantial.
What we're worried about is the longer-term trajectory of the program and what the longer-term implications are. We were assured at one point by the federal minister not to worry, that this was a priority. Whatever it is, it's not sufficiently a priority to actually keep funding levels up. So we'll have to continue fighting or debating that issue with federal authorities.
Mr. Ostashek: Is the 1999-2000 estimate based on the new five-year funding arrangement?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, what we anticipate is the first year of the new arrangement, yes.
On Public Communication Services
Public Communication Services in the amount of $675,000 agreed to
On French Language Services
French Language Services in the amount of $1,526,000 agreed to
Public Communication Services in the amount of $2,201,000 agreed to
On Aboriginal Language Services
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I have the same question in aboriginal languages. Where are we in the funding arrangement and the agreement with the federal government? Is this a new agreement also?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, this agreement was signed last year. It's a new five-year funding arrangement. It provides for a slight increase. The 1999-2000 year, which is this budget's review year - this year there's an expectation that there would be a review of the program in relation to the transfer of some responsibilities from the Yukon government to First Nations governments pursuant to PSTAs - transferring of some aboriginal language services to First Nations, taking them down into PSTAs. There's an anticipation that this'll be one of the first such programs. We have not had detailed discussions on this matter, but the agreement does anticipate that there will be some taking down of responsibilities at some point.
Mr. Ostashek: Is it the objective, or the desire, of the Government Leader, at some point, to have the aboriginal people themselves responsible for all aboriginal language services? I mean, I've got a little difficulty with that, and I'll tell the Government Leader why.
I can understand that the aboriginal people would like to look after their own language services, but I believe that as a territorial government we have a constitutional obligation to provide the service - or a territorial obligation, whether it's constitutional or not. Unless we could step right out of the funding - that the funding was negotiated directly between the federal government and the aboriginal government - that in the event - and I'm not speculating it's going to happen - that the funding wasn't enough for the aboriginal people to fund an aboriginal translation services, and stuff like that that's required, that we wouldn't end up, as a taxpayer of the Yukon, having to pick up the bill or step in to provide the service.
That's a concern of mine, and I'd just appreciate hearing the Government Leader's thoughts on how he's going to handle that to have a safety net in place so the taxpayers of the Yukon don't get stuck with picking up additional costs, if something should happen.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the member has touched upon an important issue for us. As I recall, the agreement to provide some funding for aboriginal language services actually followed a commitment by the federal government to provide French language services, pursuant to the Yukon government's French language services act. It was done in order to ensure parity between the francophone community, the aboriginal community and the number of languages here that are spoken by First Nations people.
I've indicated to First Nations and others that we are prepared to allow the taking down of responsibilities by First Nations for their own programs. However, with these resources, in some manner or other, there must be translation services provided, particularly in the area of hospital and the court system, where they're regularly used - health services, rather, not just hospital; the health services and the court system, where they're regularly used.
So where we currently have ongoing translation needs, that somehow should be accommodated with these resources after the so-called taking down of responsibilities by First Nations.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you. I see that the Government Leader is aware and has the same concerns that I had when I was in that office. I don't have anything further on it at this point.
On Aboriginal Language Services
Aboriginal Language Services in the amount of $1,100,000 agreed to
On Bureau of Management Improvement
Chair: Is there general debate?
Mrs. Edelman: Every year at this time, I ask the same question. Indeed, I note that the Government Leader, back in 1996, asked the same question of the then Government Leader, Mr. Ostashek, and what he was asking about was the program that's under this Bureau of Management Improvement called the service improvement program. The service improvement program is an opportunity for people who work with the government to give their good suggestions on ways to improve the services delivered by territorial government employees, and I'll ask the Government Leader again: what is the progress on this initiative? Is there any uptake on the program? Is anyone giving any suggestions, or are we using any of those suggestions? Is there any other opportunity for government employees to give suggestions on ways to improve service?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, of course there are opportunities for government employees to make suggestions. There is no change with respect to the program from last year, other than that we are intending to do a test of government response times as part of our regulation red-tape initiative and, in concert with this bureau, to test the response times to public requests for information and to the application for permits of one sort or another, and to go through the process of determining how quickly the public service responds and how efficiently they respond to normal, everyday events that involve calling in of citizens to various branches and departments of the government. So, we'll be undertaking that this year.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, beyond, I guess, another audit of the way services are provided, are there any suggestions being taken in by the service improvement program or is there any sort of action in this particular program at all?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There is not a lot of increase, no. There has not been a lot of take-up, there have not been a lot of suggestions made.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, there are programs like this in other provinces that are tremendously successful and they save the various governments million and millions of dollars a year.
Last year, the minister talked about looking at the B.C. program or at least having some of his staff take a look at the B.C. program. Are we using this program at all and, if we're not using the program, are we going to be ending the program?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, as I've indicated, Mr. Chair, we have come to the conclusion that we have to do some testing of response times ourselves. There is obviously an opportunity for people to make thoughts known to the program about proposals. Those new ideas dried up a long time ago.
So, rather than simply set up a suggestion box, which has not proven particularly successful, we are going to be attempting to test the response time for the public service in terms of performing or responding to people's needs in a variety of ways this year, and that is what the thrust of the program will be.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I find it very strange that all new good ideas have dried up from government employees. I think that that's a little unrealistic, because I know that there are people who work for the government who are always interested in improving the way that they deliver services to territorial citizens.
If this programs isn't working or if the government is not interested in hearing these suggestions in this format, why do we still have the program?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The bulk of the expenditures here are for internal audit activities. Secondly, the thrust of our review is going to be to test response times to public requests for information for service. That's going to be the bulk of our activity. We're not suppressing good ideas, by any means. Good ideas should always be accepted and embraced. I'm certain that public servants, every day, suggest good ideas for how work and service can be improved, and the public service is responding.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, testing the response time for requests for information or some sort of services is a very different proposition than bringing in suggestions from territorial government employees about how they can improve services. Is there a cheaper way of building a road? Is there a cheaper way of painting a bridge?
There are lots of possibilities out there, and this program, like programs in every other province and territory in the country, has been very successful in saving government money. Is the Government Leader no longer interested in this particular program - this particular venue - for getting suggestions from government employees?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, this particular program, while we were pumping this well, was not producing any results some time ago. The fact that we had personnel and a committee waiting to hear good ideas that weren't coming forward, had to say something. So, rather than pump the dry well, there are suggestions to do other things to improve the service and make for more efficient public service.
We are seeking other ways of doing that now.
Mrs. Edelman: Plainly, this was a program that was started under the past government, and this government is not interested in continuing it.
If the way this is set up now is not working and if there is a dry well and suddenly government employees don't have any new or good ideas, which I find very hard to believe, then why aren't we looking at that venue? Why aren't we looking at other ways of reworking this program so that it is more effective? The B.C. program runs completely differently than ours and it's very, very successful. If we're not going to be using it, why do we have it?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I'll pass on the compliments to the B.C. government, Mr. Chair. I'm sure they don't get many from the Liberal opposition down there, so the Liberal opposition up here will have to suffice.
I didn't say, Mr. Chair, that public servants don't come up with new ideas or that new ideas aren't embraced or that there's an unwillingness to explore new ideas. What I am saying is that the program, as it existed before, was clearly producing excellent results.
What I am saying is that the Bureau of Management Improvement, to the extent that they can improve service to the public, is going to be concentrating on doing tests of those services to determine how efficient they are. That's what they're going to do. That's their primary function now.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, plainly I'm not getting anywhere. The Government Leader is not interested in reworking this particular program. He's just waiting for it to fail completely, which apparently it has done. Perhaps next year we'll have a different set of questions.
On Internal Audit
Ms. Duncan: When I asked the Government Leader about this in general debate, he mentioned the contract employees - that there were a number of contracts that were let, looking at specific subjects. How much of this expenditure would be contracted out?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Are we talking about the Bureau of Management Improvement? Are we talking about the internal audit survey?
This year, because of the secondment, all the audit work is being contracted out.
Mr. Ostashek: I just have one question on the audit work. Is the minister saying that the estimate of $157,000 is, he believes, sufficient to cover all the audit work, or are there going to be specific contracts that are going to be given for each audit, and this is just the general cost of running that segment of the Executive Council Office internal audit? Is that the way it's going to work? Does it work that when you go to - supposing you decided to audit Government Services, and you hired an outside auditor. Is there going to be another contract given for that? You don't expect that to come out of the $157,000?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I recall - and this is off the top of my head - that there have been cases where other departments, when they have not been able to get on the audit list for a particular year, have offered to pay for some audit work to be done to help them get a handle on some administrative issue.
I anticipate, at this point, that this will be sufficient to do the audit work that we are planning for next year. I've also indicated that I'll provide the audit plan to members opposite, in terms of what has happened.
I'll just make one clarification here. The audit work that was done in the current year - the year that we're in now; the current fiscal year - is work that was done largely by contract, thanks to the secondment.
The secondment will be finished at some point in the coming year, and the internal auditor will return to doing internal audit work, and there will be a combination of contract work and the internal auditor doing some work to meet the audit plan next year.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I recall that when I was occupying the seat opposite that the Government Leader is occupying now, we used to have a workplan for audits of what was going to happen in the fiscal year, and there was always some department or part of a department that was on that workplan for the functions of the internal audit. I just want to go on the public record here, because I believe that - and I was probably as guilty of it as the member opposite when I was there - the function of the internal audit is a very important function in a government that portrays itself as being fiscally responsible, and it's a good check and balance to keep departments on their toes and to make sure that they're doing the job they're doing.
I'm not saying that you have to be a policeman, but sometimes the internal audit can help the department to get its financial activities into a manner that's acceptable and following government policy. But I don't believe we've been utilizing the internal audit to the extent that we should, and I guess that one of the reasons was that, when the Government Leader was part of a former administration, prior to me taking over, it was almost completely impossible to fill that position with a qualified person, and that's why we went to outside contracts to do the audits.
But I wonder if I can just get the Government Leader's thoughts. Does he not feel that this office could play a far more active role in helping departments with their financial problems? It could be another check and balance in the system to make sure that everything is on track and we're getting the best value for our dollar. Does the Government Leader not believe that we ought to be making more use of that internal audit function?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, as a matter of fact, Mr. Chair, I do respect the work of the internal auditor and have found that the work at times to be very useful for ensuring that the departments are not only aware that there are people watching, which is only one function of this branch, but also that there is a helpful force to assist departments in resolving administrative problems.
Quite often it is the case that departments ask for an audit to be done in a particular area where they want to have some second opinions on how things are done and how they might be done better.
The list of projects that come forward in any given year includes a majority of which are requests by departments to have audits done, and I think it is a very useful function.
In this last year, for example, in the 1998-99 fiscal year, C&TS requested that a land inventory review be done, a review of the methods of maintaining and accounting for the land inventory, based on some concerns that had been expressed and based on the fact that we have a very long-standing and a very large inventory and one in which some lands have been held for decades. So, how that land is accounted for and how we manage the inventory is something that is worthy of review. And that was a project for this past year.
So certainly, I do agree with the member that this is a useful function. I am less inclined to get involved, even though I have been involved in the past in major zero-based reviews and all this sort of thing, as if that is the magic bullet to make departments more efficient.
I do find that the work the internal auditor does or the contractors do to be quite useful and, if it's targeted properly, can answer the questions well if the questions are right.
I'm supportive of the function.
Mr. Ostashek: Can the Government Leader tell me if the practice of making a workplan for the next 12 months is still carried on, and would he be prepared to make that workplan available to us?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, I will, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: The contracts for work out of this department - there's quite a discussion about major - with boards and so on, that I've served on - of the usefulness of changing one's auditor on a regular basis. Are the contracts that are let under this department let to one particular firm, or is each project bid on specifically?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: They're tendered. Companies - Graham & Associates, MacKay & Partners, others - regularly bid on these contracts.
Ms. Duncan: Thanks. Then, what I understand the minister to have told me is that what we have in place is in practice - a matter of not using one particular firm all the time. We, by nature of the tendering process, have that independence. Thank you.
Internal Audit in the amount of $157,000 agreed to
Bureau of Management Improvement in the amount of $157,000 agreed to
On Bureau of Statistics
Chair: Is there general debate?
On Management and Information Services
Management and Information Services in the amount of $325,000 agreed to
On Operations and Research Services
Operations and Research Services in the amount of $353,000 agreed to
Bureau of Statistics in the amount of $678,000 agreed to
On Office of the Commissioner
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I don't want to get into a big debate on this department but could the Government Leader just elaborate on the increase? It's not big, but I'd like to know.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There are two reasons for the increase. One is that the wages and benefits for the Commissioner's staff are borne by this department. The costs of the potlatch that the Commissioner put on last summer are borne by this branch and this is now an annual event, or will be. It's called a Gathering of Traditions, the Commissioner's Potlatch. The costs associated with this will be borne by this branch and part of the Commissioner's budget.
As I mentioned before, it includes $5,000 for entertainment, and as far as I know, nothing has changed on that front.
Mr. Ostashek: Where was that paid for in 1998-99, if we have to have an increase this year?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It was paid for by the Department of Tourism.
Office of the Commissioner in the amount of $126,000 agreed to
On Cabinet Offices
Ministers in the amount of $131,000 agreed to
On OIC Personnel
OIC Personnel in the amount of $1,171,000 agreed to
Cabinet Offices in the amount of $1,302,000 agreed to
On Cabinet Commissions
Chair: Is there general debate?
On Prior Years' Activities
Prior Years' Activities in the amount of nil agreed to
Cabinet Commissions in the amount of nil agreed to
On Public Inquiries and Plebiscites
On Public Inquiries
Public Inquiries in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Plebiscites in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Public Inquiries and Plebiscites agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Executive Council Office in the amount of $13,891,000 agreed to
Mr. Ostashek: Before you go to capital, I have a question on recoveries.
Chair: Mr. Ostashek, on the question of the recoveries for O&M.
Mr. Ostashek: Just looking at the statistics for the Bureau of Statistics, there is a dramatic drop. Was there something special they were doing last year?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Last year, Mr. Chair, there was the third round of the longitudinal health survey. That's been completed and will not be part of this year's activity.
Chair: We'll go to capital.
On Capital Expenditures
Chair: It is suggested to have all general debate up front. That is fine.
Is there any general debate?
On Cabinet and Management Support/DAP
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Cabinet and Management Support/DAP in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Land Claims Secretariat
Implementation in the amount of $351,000 agreed to
Land Claims Secretariat in the amount of $351,000 agreed to
On Public Communication Services
On French Language Services
On Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems
Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
Public Communications Systems in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
On Bureau of Statistics
On Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems
Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
Bureau of Statistics in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Executive Council Office in the amount of $363,000 agreed to
Executive Council Office agreed to
Department of Economic Development
Chair: Committee will now go on to the Department of Economic Development. Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I am pleased to introduce the 1999-2000 budget estimates for the Department of Economic Development. We will be reviewing it in the order of operations and maintenance expenditures, then capital.
These expenditures reflect our desire to invest heavily in export trade and investment vehicles. As well, we are doing a lot of work in mineral and oil and gas development to ensure that we are appropriately able to meet the challenge of moving into the control of our resource.
Mr. Chair, we also are investing heavily in the capital side, in community development funding and other initiatives that we believe will meet the priorities of the communities around the Yukon. There are a number of changes that we will go over in more detail, I am sure, as we go through general debate and line by line. With that, I am prepared to answer questions.
Mr. Cable: In the briefing that was accorded to the opposition yesterday, I asked the department officials to come up with what they were doing to determine how many jobs are going to be created by the various initiatives that the minister has underway in his department. I haven't seen that yet, and, of course, that's not surprising. It has been only one day. But I would like to see that for tomorrow, if that's possible, so I just alert the minister to that.
Most of these initiatives that he is working on are expressed to be job creation initiatives, so I want to see how we're determining the number of jobs that are going to be created by the initiatives, and what sort of aftercare is going to be done after the credits are afforded or the money is invested. That's number one.
The second point - and this was not something I asked for in the briefing, but it is something that we discussed briefly - was the energy supply options planning allotment of $25,000. I would like to find out what the terms of reference are.
If the minister would just hang tough a second here, it will all come out in a moment.
Just let me roll the tape back on that one. There is $25,000 for the mining environment research group, and I'd like to get the terms of reference for that research group. Those are the things that, if we can get them for tomorrow, would be useful.
Now, as a general question, there are a number of initiatives in the budget that appear to be driven by the minister's department, and I'd just like to get confirmation to that effect.
There's a Yukon small business investment tax credit, there is a Yukon mineral exploration tax credit, there's an immigrant investor fund, and there is a labour-sponsored venture capital corporation. Could the minister confirm that, outside of the amendments that are required with respect to income tax, it is his department that is driving those initiatives?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, just to begin with the question about the jobs created, I look forward to that debate, because it's always a difficult question than we discussed in the last session. It's difficult to quantify sometimes.
I know, for example, with the export trade initiative, some of the businesses that were on the trade mission to Alaska with me, signed contracts. They got a lot of work out of it. One company got five times the business out of a meeting that they had, with a previous customer that they had, but can the government claim that we created new jobs? It's hard to say. Can they claim that had they not gotten this contract that jobs would have been lost and they were otherwise saved by this? It's hard to quantify and, if we do quantify them, I'm sure that will spark lots of debate from the opposition about whether we should have or shouldn't have. So, I look forward to that.
Nonetheless, I understand where the member is getting. He's talking about the subject of so-called performance indicators, which we discussed last session, and I said that the fact that - well, I met with businesses yesterday, three business people, prominent business people who were talking about the fact that they're having great success in the export field, and it's largely as a result of our government's heightened emphasis on this particular initiative and that, two years ago, they weren't even thinking about it; now they are; and that our client list has grown to very dramatic heights. The fact that our partners have grown, more and more people want to be a part of this initiative.
So, I consider those performance indicators as well, but I look forward to that.
With regard to the Yukon small business tax credit and the other initiatives, we have largely driven the immigrant investment fund initiative. We're also working on a couple of other key initiatives that we haven't announced yet. We're saving that for when we have a rainy day.
We have such a multitude of good news in this budget, and it's been so well received by virtually all Yukoners, that we feel we'll be very careful to ensure we have our i's dotted, our t's crossed with some of the other initiatives.
But the small business investment tax credit came out of the tax reform table, headed up by the Member for Laberge, and it really is no secret. It was an idea that we had been considering as a government. When we got the players together, they were also thinking about it. I know the member opposite has talked about them before, and we just got the job done. On the issue of the labour-sponsored venture capital corporation, that's mostly driven by Finance. However, we obviously have a role to play.
Was there another initiative?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: The mineral exploration tax credit was driven by the tax reform table, and the lead in deliveries is Economic Development.
The labour-sponsored venture capital corporation is largely financed. It's somewhat difficult, within government, because the Economic Development department is the lead in terms of trying to deliver and act on the mineral exploration tax credit, but Finance is the department that liaises with the federal Finance department and Revenue Canada. So it requires co-operation, and sometimes difficult issues have to be addressed with a number of parties involved.
Mr. Cable: The minister is sort of coming out of his corner, there, anticipating a vigorous debate but I have to tell him that we, on this side, are with the government and we're here to help him. We're with the small "g" government. We're here to help the minister.
Shortly after the minister and I, back in 1992, got elected I was asking a number of questions of the government on the economic development agreements and the business development fund. A number of returns came out of the department on job creation. One of the things that struck me was that there wasn't a lot of after-care on determining jobs. While jobs, of course, are not the only indicator, I think - "performance indicator" is the term that the minister used - it would be one of the major ones and that's the prime reason to pump up the economy and give Yukoners jobs.
So, what I'd like to hear and what I'd like to get the debate going on is just how we are determining, when the applications come in or when people ask for tax credits, how many jobs are going to be created. And, after the credit is granted, are we going to have any followup to see whether the performance indicator is working?
So, that's where I'm coming from and I encourage the minister to come up with something. I know a lot of these programs have a certain element of intuition about them but there are some things that are capable of quantification, and hopefully jobs would be one of those.
Something I asked the minister about last December, I think it was, was the Economic Development Act. It has in it a provision that requires regulations, in my view anyway, for programs. While the tax credits themselves are going to be authorized by taxation legislation, the terms of reference for those programs are assumedly going to be set up by the minister. Does he anticipate a slew of regulations relating to the operations of, say, the small business investment tax credit and the Yukon mineral exploration tax credit, and these other programs where his department is either taking the lead or sharing the lead with Finance?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, some of the issues surrounding regulation legislation will be addressed by the Finance minister. I'm not entirely sure, on my feet, whether it's going to require regulation for all of the initiatives that we've undertaken. I know that there are obviously some eligibility criteria, but we're finding more and more that that's largely being developed by the federal government and Revenue Canada.
Mr. Cable: Well, that's something that maybe the minister could bone up on overnight with his officials, and let us know what shape the terms of reference are going to take and how they're going to mesh with the red-tape initiative that the Minister of Government Services has announced. That was a very good point raised by the Member for Riverdale North.
Those are the sorts of things we can talk about tomorrow.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: The 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 the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:27 p.m.