Wednesday, April 7, 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?
Recognition of World Health Day
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, as I have told my colleagues in this House before, aging of the world's population is one of the greatest challenges facing us as we go into the next century. It's only fitting that, today, World Health Day, has as its theme "active aging makes the difference".
It's true, Mr. Speaker, that often our seniors and elders are viewed as a homogeneous group, with little to contribute. This fallacy has been exposed in our recently released seniors strategy, Growing Older in the Yukon. We have also assisted in the celebrations of elders and seniors during the International Year of Older Persons.
We recognize that in order for our elders and seniors to play a dynamic role in society, they must remain active in all senses - physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. There is much Yukon people can do to remain active and healthy in later life. Good lifestyle choices, involvement in family and society, and a supportive environment all contribute to good health. Opportunities for physical, mental, social and spiritual activity abound. As a government, we are developing policies that will reduce social inequities and poverty and complement individual efforts toward active aging. One example, Mr. Speaker, is our seniors property tax deferral, which will be discussed in this House shortly.
As we grow older, we become more aware of the myths about aging. These myths include such absurdities as: "Most older people live in developed countries." In fact, the reverse is true - 60 percent live in developing countries. "Most older people are the same." In fact, just as in any age group and any population, older people are very diverse. "Men and women age the same way." In fact, men and women age differently. In many cases, women outlive their male counterparts by many years. "All older people are frail." In fact, the vast majority of older people remain physically fit and active well into their later years. "Older people have nothing to contribute." In fact, older people contribute substantially to families, societies and economies. "Older people are sometimes seen as a burden on society." In reality, most older people around the world continue to work in paid and unpaid jobs.
And so, on this World Health Day, I pay tribute to all elders and to all of those who are working diligently to explode the myths about aging. I remind you that we are all aging. Let's welcome this natural process and remain active in every way.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and office of the official opposition, I rise to pay tribute to World Health Day.
Established by the World Health Organization in 1948, World Health Day is observed annually on this day by 190 countries to reflect upon health conditions world wide. This year's theme, active aging makes the difference, recognizes the contribution older persons play in our lives and the importance of maintaining good health and quality of life throughout the lifespan.
By leading active lives, people of all ages are ensured greater health and well-being in the years to come, for themselves and for their communities. With regular exercise, a well-balanced diet, prevention and early detection, people of all ages are able to lead good, long lives.
To promote active aging, a series of walk events will be held around the world to commemorate good health, good living, and good company. I would encourage all members to take part in the global walk, as an opportunity to offer our support to this initiative, and to raise awareness of the importance of leading active lives.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Edelman: I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to pay tribute to World Health Day.
One of the first official acts of the World Health Organization was to designate World Health Day in 1948. Since 1950, World Health Day has focused on a specific global issue each year.
This year, in the United Nations International Year of Older Persons, the focus is on positive attitudes toward old age. Attitudes toward the elderly need to change, says the World Health Organization, and older people have a lot to contribute to society.
There are currently about 580 million older people in the world, and 355 million in developing countries.
Many of these seniors live in the 190 nations who make up the World Health Organization. Indeed, in many developing countries, fertility rates are dropping substantially so that the proportion of older people is likely to exceed that of children and teenagers by the year 2050. What a different world that would be. Issues around ageism and active aging will become even more important as time marches on.
The World Health Organization says that better health care means that a large number of elderly people may enjoy many years of active living and, furthermore, that the rising number of elderly are a direct result of medical and social advances, which have seen fallen death rates from infectious diseases and improvements in sanitation, housing and nutrition. In the end, that means that those of us in this room will probably enjoy an active, healthy and productive old age and will have lots of company. Now, it sounds like a good future for all of us.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any reports 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?
Professional development fund: health and social services area
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I rise today to advise the House of a significant initiative that reflects our government's policy of fostering healthy communities in the Yukon. One of our goals as a government is to provide the best possible health care and social services, delivered by the best trained people.
A key element in achieving that goal is to make sure that relevant, up-to-date, training opportunities are available to front-line people who provide these vital services throughout the territory.
Unique circumstances of the north, particularly in remote rural communities, require continual refinement and development of skills to meet changing needs. For that reason, our government has set aside $200,000 to establish the professional development fund for people who work in health and social services, both within government and outside. This is in addition to the $130,000 we already provide each year in training funds for nurses and nurse practitioners. We also recently introduced a bursary program to encourage Yukon students to consider nursing as a career.
The new professional development fund is being undertaken in partnership with First Nations, non-governmental organizations and professional agencies throughout the territory. Today I'm pleased to provide information about how the fund will work.
Half of the total funding amount will be set aside for training paid staff, volunteers, casual employees and contractors for agencies outside government. This includes non-governmental organizations, First Nations, private agencies that provide a direct service to the government and professional organizations other than the Yukon Medical Association.
The balance will be used for appropriately training and upgrading opportunities for public employees, such as the staff of family and children's services, for example.
Eligible costs would include tuition, travel, instructor fees and training equipment.
This fund will be established as part of the health investment fund, with similar application processes and project selection three times a year. Proposals from outside agencies will be considered by a technical review committee.
The four areas of preference for funding will be: projects that train trainers or develop mentors; projects that help develop professionals in emerging areas of practice; projects that provide training opportunities in the Yukon for participants from more than one agency; and, projects that address identified service gaps.
Mr. Speaker, this initiative recognizes how important it is to invest in services for Yukoners, delivered by the best qualified people. This commitment to professional development is entirely consistent with the goals and principles of the new Yukon training strategy.
Equally important is the long-term benefit that this professional development fund has in terms of recruiting and retaining skilled health care and social service workers, especially in rural Yukon. It is an excellent investment in the Yukon's future.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and office of the official opposition, I take this opportunity to respond to the minister's statement regarding the new professional development fund.
Mr. Speaker, when it comes to announcing and re-announcing announcements, the motto, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again", really holds true with this government. This professional development fund was first announced in the government's budget address, but because government did not receive the media coverage it wanted, it decided to re-announce the fund once again, and also re-announce this announcement on the official opposition's motion day, as it has conveniently done in the past, cutting down on our debating time.
This is another example of this government's failure to demonstrate leadership in the think-tank department.
In any event, Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to say a few words in response to this minister's statement.
As was first announced in the government's budget address, the professional development fund will help health care workers throughout the territory keep their skills up to date through training and upgrading opportunity. The delivery of health care in Canada is constantly evolving. Here at home, Yukon society is facing changing health care needs, and their expectations are ever evolving.
The initiative to provide training dollars to those who work in health and social services, both within government and outside, will indeed provide workers an opportunity to refine their skills as a means to meet these changing requirements.
Whether $200,000 is near enough a fund that is required to assist health workers in this regard is another matter that remains of concern to me. As a long-time resident of the territory and a member of rural Yukon, I can fully appreciate the importance of health care workers and their contribution to the well-being of our communities.
While the professional development fund will provide some qualified support to some of our health care workers, I believe there is much more that could, and should, be done, but isn't being done, because of this government's failure to put its money where its mouth is. If the government were sincere, in any way, about its commitment to deliver quality health care and the importance of having qualified, professional, trained staff to deliver quality health care in the territory, it would begin by addressing the immediate and longstanding concerns of our health care professionals.
As I have stated repeatedly, one of the largest challenges faced by rural Yukon is that of the attraction and retention of medical professionals to our respective communities. Today, Yukon communities are coping with a shortage of nurse practitioners as a result of this government's failure to respond to the needs of our nursing professionals and failure to provide incentives to attract new nurses to the territory. Because of this failure, many of our communities have been left underserved or without medical services altogether.
While some efforts have recently begun to recruit nurse practitioners, incentives should have been made available a year ago to avoid the unfortunate situation we are in today of having to compete with the rest of the country for an already short supply of nurses. Just as this government has failed to deal with the nursing shortages in the Yukon, it has also failed to deal with the ongoing problems faced by our rural physicians.
For over two years, doctors in rural Yukon have been calling upon this government to negotiate on-call availability fees to provide after-hours emergency coverage, yet to no avail, Mr. Speaker.
Having resided in a rural community at one time or another, the minister is fully aware of the pressures exerted upon these individuals of having to provide voluntary emergency coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Despite repeated pleas for help, the government has chosen to do nothing in this regard, as is currently the case in the City of Dawson, where doctors have had enough and have chosen to withdraw emergency services altogether until such time as the issue has been resolved. As has often been the case, the government remains unwilling to recognize there is a problem, that there is a crisis and would rather wait until Yukon communities are without medical care altogether before any action is taken.
Yukon health workers are valued members of our communities. They provide exemplary care and have managed to maintain an excellent standard of health care throughout the territory despite the challenges they face with this government. When will this government begin to recognize this and do something?
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to respond to this ministerial statement on professional development for health and social services staff.
Firstly, this ministerial statement is not announcing anything new to this House. This fund has been announced in the budget, mentioned in press releases, re-announced a number times by the Minister of Health during Question Period and during the health budget debate. There is a saying that old news is no news. So, I'm not too sure why the minister thinks he can get the media to report on this issue today by delivering the same announcement in the form of a ministerial statement because the media, after all, is in the news business, not recycling.
At any rate, the latest re-announcement of the professional development fund for health and social services people still is long on rhetoric and short on detail. As it has been noted a number of times in this House, the greatest challenge for health and social services over the next few years is going to be the increasing number of seniors in our population and the corresponding need for health and social services. Do the criteria for this fund recognize that emerging need?
Speaking of criteria, who is going to be sitting on the technical review committee? Will there be representatives from outside government? Half the fund, after all, is to train people from outside government staff. Will there be representation from First Nations?
Will there be public dissemination of the criteria for funding? When will the first group be trained, and is this a multiyear project?
Will Whitehorse General Hospital be able to access this fund to train their staff? They are, after all, at arm's-length from government.
The minister has also not been clear whether or not day care staff will be eligible for funding under this project. The average shift of a day care staff person is filled with a number of care issues and social services issues as well. The average person trying to take early childhood development courses is a single mom under 30, who has very little money because she has worked all day in a day care. Yet these are the same people to whom we entrust the most cherished members of our families - our children.
The minister also refers to the fact that this fund will be accessed by many rural professionals. Will a certain percentage be set aside to go to rural areas? Will there be 50 percent, for example, going to rural staff? Will rural applications get priority in the funding criteria? And how will this fund be specifically targeted to rural Yukon?
Now, typically, the minister doesn't respond to the questions we raise during these comments on ministerial statements, and I'd like him to break with tradition for once today, and if he does not have the information available to respond on his feet immediately to the questions that we have just raised, then could he please supply that information by way of legislative return or by note or letter, which I would be happy to receive and then pass on to our constituents.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm a little bit perplexed here. The Member for Klondike went on accusing me of using up his valuable time, to which he added a string of verbiage that would choke a horse. I see he's still continuing on in his role as the principal negotiator for the Dawson doctors. We're always pleased to see that he has a second career, since this one doesn't appear to be working out that well for him.
With respect to the actual cogent questions of the Member for Riverdale South, I will try to address some of those. The fund is going to be established within the department's budget and will be managed by a health investment review committee. We are anticipating that First Nations will be part of that from the First Nation health partnerships.
As well, we'll be seeking advice on applications from various groups on an ad hoc advisory capacity, so in other words, we might bring in people - as the member has noted - from different service areas.
We have identified some ways that individuals will be able to access the fund through a sponsoring agency, so for example they could come in as a member of, say, a group like - oh, I'm just throwing out something - like YFSA, or something of that nature. They could be sponsored by that group.
Employees can access the fund through their employers, and private practitioners will be able to access the fund through professional organizations, if there's no existing training allocations available. Some agencies may be required to cost share, if there are professional development expenditures. This could apply to government corporations, First Nation governments, et cetera. Non-profit agencies would not be required to cost share.
The eligible projects would be linked, I think, to - we've identified several core areas, the idea of professionals in emerging areas of practice. So, for example, say we had identified a need for people within the nursing home attendant area, that might be an area that we would identify as being a priority area; areas where we might find service gaps.
One of the things that I would hope that, through this, we might have individuals who might choose, for example - and just by way of example - from a registered nurse who might have an interest in being a nurse-practitioner, maybe accessing training to be able to undertake that.
We're looking at this going on, this being a continuing project. In the initial year, we don't anticipate a lot of limits on the project funding, but as we gain more experience, I think we'll be able to refine it, and the guidelines will be able to be refined there a bit.
We're anticipating the first allocations of the Health and Social Services professional development fund will be at the mid-June meeting of the committee.
The applications will be available through Health and Social Services, and I will undertake to ensure that they are as disseminated as widely as possible among health professionals, and we will try to get them out for as wide a distribution as we can.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Mining investment
Mr. Ostashek: My question's for the Minister of Economic Development. For quite some time, the official opposition has been accusing this NDP government of sending out mixed messages with respect to resource development and environmental protection. We have witnessed these mixed messages in relation to the Northern Cross application to open up old oil wells in the Eagle Plains area. We've seen it in relation to oil and gas development in the wintering range of the Porcupine caribou herd.
And, Mr. Speaker, we are not alone in this perception. I have now received the report of the Yukon business summit, entitled "Toward a Health Economy", and one of the findings of this report states the Yukon and federal governments need to clearly communicate their position regarding responsible mining development in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, many delegates felt conflicting messages are being sent out regarding mining activities, and this is hampering mining investment.
My question to the minister is, does he accept this criticism, and what does he intend to do about it?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, this government has been saying since day one that we have a balanced agenda. It includes a heavy economic agenda around a whole range of issues, from tax reform to work on forestry that, hopefully, will result in the opening of a new mill in Watson Lake, creating jobs in that particular community and for southeast Yukon. We've created the largest ever incentive for mining companies for the resource that we don't even control - the federal government has control of it - with the mineral exploration tax credit. We've been working on trade investment initiatives that see Yukon businesses doing work in Asia, doing work in Chile, doing work in Alaska, in B.C. and in Alberta, and in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker. We just announced today that our immigrant investor fund has raised over $15 million for the Yukon in two months.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon is a good place to invest, and we will continue to work on a balanced agenda on behalf of Yukoners, supporting the economy and the environment.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'd ask the minister not to shoot the messenger. We've heard that political rhetoric for two and one-half years from this government, yet it seems that the delegates at the business summit didn't think that this government is doing a very good job, and they are sending out mixed messages.
This government has three different stories: one for resource developers, one for First Nations, and another one for environmentalists, and none of those stories are the same.
In the 1999 Yukon business summit, "Delegates felt economic development in Yukon is not held by this government to be as important as environmental concerns." - page 5 of the report, Mr. Speaker.
Can the minister advise this House what he plans to do to change this perception, because when it comes to economic development in the territory, perception is reality?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, the evidence is very clear that the Yukon is a good place to invest. The investment that I just mentioned today - the immigrant investor fund - shows that we have a good reputation internationally. We are giving the same message to all Yukoners as well as people outside: we have a balanced agenda. It includes support for the economy and for the environment on a whole host of initiatives.
Thirdly, Mr. Speaker, we will deepen the partnerships that we have already formed with the business community through the trade investment fund, to the board that we put together to work on the tourism and trade investment marketing funds. We are still getting letters from representatives of the business community who want to come and be a part of that particular partnership.
So, we have fostered and created partnerships that we continue to receive support for, that we continue to receive new applicants for, so that we have to increase the role and the size of this partnership. So, we will continue to deepen and strengthen that partnership with the business community and others.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, the minister's got to admit it doesn't seem to be getting through to the business community because that's not the recommendations the report said.
One strategy I would recommend to the minister is that he immediately stop telling three different stories and, instead, have one clear and concise message - and he shouldn't try to hide behind due process of the federal government.
Can the minister explain why, on page 6 of the report, delegates expressed "a need for leadership and vision for the economy and economic development"?
If this minister is so successful as he espouses in his political rhetoric, why doesn't that perception already exist among the public?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I would say there is a large percentage of the public that is well aware of the fact that we're working on a balanced agenda, economically and environmentally, as evidenced by the fact that we have more and more business associations and business people wanting to become part of our trade and investment partnership, wanting to become part of the work we're doing in oil and gas, wanting to become part of the work we're doing in forestry, to work in southeast Yukon and other areas of the Yukon to develop that particular resource. They're excited about the fact that we're working to gain control of the resource through devolution, as of January 1 of next year.
We've been giving a very consistent and strong message - that we support a strong economy, both in the resource sector and in diversification mode, and we also support a strong environmental agenda, and we will continue to do that. The report mentioned a whole range of things, like a "red-tape review" - exactly what this government has underway, and we will do more.
Question re: Tombstone park
Mr. Ostashek: Once again, to the Minister of Economic Development on the issue of mixed messages. Let me take his most recent statements of yesterday in relation to the mining claims in the proposed Tombstone park expansion area.
Mr. Speaker, the minister is on the public record as stating that he won't take a strong stand on this issue. Once again, as with the Northern Cross application, the minister is hiding behind due process, saying that this government believes in a responsible development process. This is the message that he's giving the mining industry yet, at the same time, this government has filed an intervention with the federal government of the mining claims that are in dispute, in much stronger language, which states categorically that "no decision should be made under the mining land use regulations with respect to the core study area", which would mean, in my opinion, "no mining". That is what they're saying. How can the minister explain this doublespeak?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, we have been consistent. The member opposite's thesis is that we are hiding behind due process. Think that out for a second - hiding behind due process. What that means is that the member is advocating that somehow this government should just flip a coin and come up on one side or the other of this particular issue. What we believe a responsible government should do is set up reasonable processes and then work through them, and that's exactly what we're doing.
Mr. Speaker, if due process had been followed, the Windy Craggy situation never would have happened. But what you had there was a government who flipped over on one side of the issue. We believe in due process - same thing with the Northern Cross application. We'll continue to stand behind that.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, this minister can't have it both ways. He can't say this government is not taking a position and is relying on due process, then submit a written submission claiming that the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in land claim agreement will be violated and Dall sheep populations will be put at risk. This government is clearly opposed to Canadian United Mineral's claims in the park study area, so why doesn't the minister just admit it?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, this government isn't trying to have it both ways. The member is wrong. We have a balanced agenda. It includes, in a whole myriad of ways, the most aggressive economic agenda that any Government of Yukon has ever put forward.
In both the resource sector and more, we believe in diversification. We can't get caught up in the boom-bust cycle any more. We've got to be stronger on the ground economically. We've got to extend our tentacles into other jurisdictions so we can continue to export. We've got to create new investment vehicles and we've got to do more tax reform. All of this, Mr. Speaker, is underway by this government.
What we've done with this letter regarding this particular application is raise issues that should be addressed through due process. That's the responsible approach to take and that's what we're doing.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, the position that this NDP government has taken in respect to Canadian United Mineral claims is very similar to what the B.C. NDP did in relationship to Windy Craggy, which ruined the confidence of resource investors in British Columbia for several decades into the future.
Can this minister advise the House: what confidence can the mining industry have in this government to honour legitimate mining claims, once this government takes over administration of mining under devolution? What confidence can they have?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite's analogy to Windy Craggy is completely false. What we are doing is precisely the opposite to what the government there did in that situation. In that situation, the government ignored due process and made a political decision.
Mr. Speaker, what we're saying is that there should be due process invoked here and followed. That's completely different. The other situation is that that was a massive proven reserve that was in the mine development application stage, as opposed to this, which is an exploration initiative. And as for the claims, Mr. Speaker, we have no evidence other than to establish that they are legitimate claims.
We will stand behind due process. We believe in the mining industry. We've demonstrated that through concrete action, and we will continue to do that. We also have a balanced commitment to the environment. We'll continue to work on initiatives, such as protected spaces, such as the Yukon mineral strategy, such as the work that the minister is doing in terms of air pollution standards and working on initiatives to improve the environment in a whole host of areas.
Question re: Trade and investment fund, performance indicators
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Economic Development on the business summit. The Yukon business summit group just published the results of its two-day roundtable held in January, and one of the recommendations in their report was that measurable and publicly reported objectives and performance indicators should be established for governments and individual departments.
Now, during the debate on the budget of the minister's department, when the minister was asked about evaluation of his department's programs and, in particular, evaluation of job creation, he waffled, and he said that it was difficult to be precise in some areas.
Does the minister believe in the recommendations of the Yukon business summit: that there be some performance indicators for his programs?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's an interesting concept. It's one that we have been looking at in a whole host of areas. We will probably look at it in terms of the Yukon mining incentive program, the geoscience program, the mineral tax credit that we recently initiated. I think all of these should have some statement of how well they are stacking up and if they are doing the job that they are intended to do. We intend to fully respond to this report.
We only got it last night. There's a whole lot to go through and a whole lot that we have to respond to, and there's so much that the government is already doing. So, we will, in due course, be analyzing the recommendations in the report and responding in a responsible manner to all those good Yukoners who put forward their recommendations.
Mr. Cable: Performance indicators are not only interesting, they have been put forward by the minister's department before - himself. Now, including this budget year, over the last three years government will have spent about $7 million on trade and investment, a good part of which is spent on the trade and investment diversification strategy. The performance indicators set out in the preliminary operational plan for this program and by the minister are: one, jobs related to exports; two, exposure to export opportunities; three, dollar value of exports; four, number of companies exporting.
It has been 19 months since this program was launched. Is the minister's department collecting this information and, if so, is he prepared to share it with us?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, we've been spending in a whole host of areas through the Yukon mining incentive program. We're probably going to end up spending about $2 million this year on the mineral exploration tax credit out of general revenues. That is not a small pittance, and as a matter of fact, it's more than we're investing in the trade and export initiative.
We believe the future of the Yukon economy depends on Yukon businesses being more self-sufficient - not just being ensconced in the Yukon market, but also having opportunities to do business in the Yukon and outside, which is exactly what they're doing.
The member opposite shouldn't dismiss the fact that, as a result of a lot of the work on our strategy, we have companies doing business now in Asia, we have them doing business in Alaska. There was a company in the Yukon that was on the trade mission that I went with them to Alaska on that just signed a $1.25 million contract. They're doing work, bidding on contracts in Victoria, they're doing work in Alaska, they're doing work in Alberta, they're doing work in the Yukon.
These are important developments for the Yukon. These are things that will make us stronger back home, just like every other jurisdiction. If they're a successful trading province or territory, then they'll be stronger when you have resource downturns.
Mr. Cable: Well, all of that's interesting, but what about the question? I asked him: is he prepared to set out and gather the performance indicators that are referred to in the operational plan for the Yukon export trade and diversification strategy?
I'll go over them again, in case he's forgotten.
Number one, jobs related to exports - are we prepared to collect that information?
Number two, exposure to export opportunities - are we prepared to, and are we collecting that information?
Number three, dollar value of exports - are we collecting that information?
Number four, number of companies - what is the minister's department doing, by way of evaluation?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is forgetting what I just told him on purpose. My department is working on actually going out there and getting contracts and doing the exact objectives that we outlined in the first place in the development of this initiative.
Mr. Speaker, it's evidenced by the fact that so many partners in the business community - and still, even now - are trying to become a part of this agenda. And we are collecting information, Mr. Speaker, on an ongoing basis, in all of the areas that the member opposite talks about.
I just mentioned some concrete examples of specific areas where we have had incredible success. Mr. Speaker, I would also say that we believe very, very strongly that the business community is supportive. The Liberal leader, I know, attended a luncheon just a couple of weeks ago where we had five Yukon businesses stand up and say that they were very much in support of the trade investment strategy, that they felt it was the way to go for the Yukon economy, that the government should stay the course, that it's going to be a long-term investment, but it will truly pay off in dividends for diversifying this economy in the long run, and we intend to do that.
Question re: Tourism marketing fund, performance indicators
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Tourism. Mr. Speaker, we just heard the Minister of Economic Development admit that he spends thousands of dollars of public money with little evaluation. My colleague noted that, in the Yukon business summit report, which we just received, the business summit and the Yukon business people identified "The government should be obliged to have performance indicators that are meaningful and measurable by the general public."
The Minister of Tourism is spending $750,000 of public money on a tourism marketing fund. The heritage budget, Mr. Speaker, has been cut, coincidentally, by the same amount that is being put into this tourism marketing fund.
What performance indicators that are meaningful and measurable are built into the tourism marketing fund?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I think the performance indicators of the past 12-percent increase speak for themselves. I think that the government of the day has made very wise decisions when we went and spoke to people. We spoke to the industry, looking and seeking their input as to what we could do, as a government, to help the growth of the tourism industry.
So we did. We came up with the tourism marketing fund - $750,000 this year, $250,000 in a previous year - and we certainly expect that it will have a very positive influence on the territory.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the funding guidelines and criteria for the tourism marketing fund state that funding is available for projects that show demonstrable results. The heritage branch showed demonstrable results for program money. Now that budget money is being redirected to the tourism marketing fund. The funding criteria and guidelines state that this money, this fund, will show results. What are the specific results the minister is looking for from this fund? Will the results be measurable and meaningful to the general public?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: First of all, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to point out that we did not take from Paul to give to John, or from Sally to Sue. That is not exactly what we did. We've got over $400,000 worth of funding toward heritage. We expect that this is a unique and a very new and a very aggressive approach to enhancing tourism. It seems that the whole industry, and all the operators that I've spoken to - and it's been quite a number of them over the past six months - are very ecstatic or simply quite happy about what we're doing as a government to enhance the marketing initiatives of these folks.
How are we going to measure the success of them? I think the success will be measured in terms of the percentages, as we expect the increase to keep happening in the Yukon Territory and, of course, last year, it was a 12-percent increase.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the funding criteria say the project will show results, that projects are eligible for funding, joint funding, from the trade and investment fund and the tourism marketing fund, that projects are encouraged to obtain funding from various sources, that projects can request less than $5,000 and have that approved by the minister alone. The funding criteria spell out any number of things; they do not spell out what the specific results are that the projects are asked to achieve and what they're expected to achieve.
Now, the Minister of Economic Development and the Minister of Tourism can't seem to spell out what the results will be from these funds. The business summit has recommended that performance be meaningful and measurable.
Is the minister going to take this recommendation seriously and set out specific results for these funds to achieve?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Now, what will the results be? Quite simply, the result will be economic growth. We have got a 12-percent increase. What are we doing? Are we looking at just remaining status quo? Absolutely not. This government put $750,000 within the last 12 months - $1 million toward the tourism marketing fund. I think, along with the industry and the folks who are affected, that this is one of the greatest things that could ever happen to them.
As the Minister of Economic Development said just a few moments ago, we just received the report last night. We will be responding to it in a very meaningful way, and that is one of the questions I'll be responding to.
Question re: Mining investment
Mr. Ostashek: Once again to the Minister of Economic Development on the Yukon business summit report. The report contains 55 recommendations; however, on pages two and three of the executive summary, nine issues are singled out for special attention. The first one concerns the development assessment process, and it states, "This one piece of legislation has the greatest potential of any of our locally controlled factors to negatively affect the economy" and that "a poorly drafted DAP would be responsible for changing the perception of the Yukon's regulatory regime from bad to worse."
Mr. Speaker, along with that, the Fraser Institute, in its survey of mining companies operating in North America in 1998-99, scored the Yukon as the fourth worst place in North America when it comes to regulatory processes. B.C. was last. My question to the minister: does he still dismiss the findings of the Fraser Institute report?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I don't dismiss, and never have dismissed, those findings. The regulatory process in this territory is controlled by the federal Liberal government. We are negotiating the devolution of that responsibility successfully - for the first time.
Mr. Speaker, we are working with mining companies in a whole host of areas to try and improve. In the meantime, we've been working with the blue book process with the federal government, trying to get that kick-started. But we believe there are a whole range of areas that the government has to respond to. When we came into government, the member opposite told us DAP was done; it was ready to go to the legislative drafters to be completed.
Mr. Speaker, the mining industry begged us to stop from implementing the member opposite's DAP and to try to work with the federal government and First Nations to bring some sense and direction to it. That's exactly what we're doing. We could have hid behind the "do nothing" approach of the member opposite, but instead, we decided, as one partner to this particular initiative, to take as much control and influence and listen to Yukoners as much as possible and focus their views into DAP, and we're going to continue to do that. We've made statements of comfort that will take as long as it takes to try and ensure that there's some broad Yukon views and consensus around this issue.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, now we blame the federal government. Yet during the election campaign, the Government Leader himself took full ownership of DAP. He was going to make it a one-window approach. He was going to simplify the process. Mr. Speaker, if this is an example of what this government is going to do after devolution with the regulatory process, I can understand why Yukoners wouldn't be supportive of it.
Mr. Speaker, another issue identified in the report was the economic diversification, claiming that the Yukon does not have a clear and concise plan for current diversification initiatives. This is in spite of all the political rhetoric that comes forward from the Minister of Economic Development.
My question to the minister: when is he going to stop talking so much about diversification and present a clear, concise plan that the business summit is calling for?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, first of all, it's just a fact of life that the regulatory regime in the Yukon is controlled by the federal government. It's not blaming anybody. It just happens to be the case.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, we did take a brave approach with DAP. We didn't do what the member opposite did. He told us it was done when we came into government. I mean, nobody in the public knew anything about it, but he said it was done.
We decided that we would try to create, as one party of three in the negotiations, a body through a commission that would at least start to engage Yukoners on the subject, so we have welcomed their views. We have welcomed their input, and we have been factoring that in, as one party of three in these discussions, into trying to resolve issues surrounding the development assessment process and make it better.
Mr. Speaker, we have a solid diversification initiative and strategy. I would say now that there are 10 business organization partners, university or college organization partners, Association of Yukon Communities - all involved in diversification initiatives around trade and investment, and we strongly believe that as we increase our ability to export and to create new investment vehicles, and to bring on tax reform, we will continue to have a strong resource-sector economy and -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I just said to the minister that the business summit didn't want any more rhetoric. They don't believe that the government has a clear and concise diversification program. They don't believe it at all. That's why they came forward with the recommendations.
Mr. Speaker, the business summit recommendations also stated that the Yukon needs to adopt an attitude that shows it is open for business. Obviously, all of the minister's rhetoric on the issue has failed to impress the business summit delegates.
Can the minister advise this House: what concrete actions - not words - is he going to take to reduce the regulatory burdens being added by DAP and protected areas strategy so that the Yukon will receive a far more favourable rating in the next Fraser Institute report?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, there are so many concrete initiatives you don't have time in Question Period, but let me start with devolution. Finally, we'll get responsibility for the resource and the regulatory issues. That's the first one.
We'll participate in the blue-book process in the meantime, as aggressively as we have been, to try to get the federal government's process improved.
I would point out to the member opposite: we have four mines fully permitted in the Yukon right now, that aren't going ahead - not because of regulatory hurdles, but because the price for the metal that they sell and produce is terrible.
So, Mr. Speaker, I would also say in the area of tourism - the extension of the runway, all of the initiatives we have underway in new marketing; in forestry - the work we're doing in southeast Yukon, with the mill down there; the tax reform initiatives we have underway; the $15 million we just raised through the immigrant investment fund.
Mr. Speaker, the list goes on and on. The work we're doing in the training trust funds - Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party had no diversification agenda whatsoever; that is the reason we are in this predicament today.
This government will not make that same mistake. We will not rest on the laurels of when we get a rebound in the world metals prices. We're going to continue to work with the mining industry, but we're going to do a lot more to ensure that we avoid the boom-and-bust economies that the Yukon has experienced -
Speaker:The minister's time has expired.
Question re: Business summit report
Mr. Cable: I have some further questions for the Minister of Economic Development on the business summit report.
The business summit report sets out that performance indicators should be analyzed annually. With respect to his department's programs, where does the minister sit on this recommendation?
The business community is actually asking for some regular feedback. Does the minister believe in that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, one of the things that we've tried to do through the trade and investment agenda is challenge the business community to work with us as a partner - through the agenda that we've created with them - to expand their markets.
We have far too much government dependency in the territory. We have to become much more self-sufficient. The reliance on government contracts is very high. Government revenues have been declining.
Mr. Speaker, it's important that we become self-sufficient as a jurisdiction. And so we've been working in a whole host of areas, to try and work with the business community - to see not only what government can do, but what our business partners can do with us, to try and improve the economy.
The economy development is a shared responsibility, and it's very painfully evident to a lot of people, who rely totally on a worldwide, market-influenced resource economy, what boom-bust cycles can do.
Mr. Speaker, I've been in this territory now 15 years. I've been through three Faro mine shutdowns. I know what it does to the economy of this territory. We have to diversify and we're going to have to work with business partners. Everybody has a shared responsibility to this end.
Mr. Cable: Let me say to the minister that what the business community is asking is, "Mr. Minister, could you tell us whether we're getting some return on investment for this money - this taxpayers' money - that we're spending?"
Let's look at the trade and investment diversification strategy, specifically. The minister, in the Economic Development budget debate, said there might be a formal evaluation of the trade and investment diversification strategy. Where does the minister sit? Are we, somewhere down the road, going to determine whether we're getting some kind of return on investment for the taxpayers' money? Are we going to see a formal evaluation of this program?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite would like nothing for the Department of Economic Development to do but sit around and count beans all day. What we're actually out there doing on the ground is having a real impact on over 70 businesses that are now engaging in export initiatives.
Mr. Speaker, we don't have performance indicators and elaborate structures set up to review performance indicators on the whole geoscience program, nor do we have it on the prospector assistance, but we still invest there because we believe in mining in the territory and we believe it has a future.
Mr. Speaker, we are actually taking action and not just sitting back counting beans. What we want to do is evidenced in the fact that the business community has been entirely supportive of the trade and investment agenda and in the fact that they are continuing to join in large numbers - I believe we're up to 10 now on the board, including the Chamber of Mines - because they believe that the future of the Yukon depends on taking solid diversification action.
And we are accumulating some performance indicators. I've told the member opposite about some of the comments we've heard, some of the contracts that have been signed, and the fact that our trade fund that we've set up has been overwhelmingly received. A number of consortiums are taking advantage of it to increase their markets and to create more jobs in the Yukon.
Mr. Cable: I don't expect the minister's staff to sit around and count beads. I do expect them, though, to deal with the performance indicators that are in the minister's own literature.
Now, the minister mentioned earlier that there'll be a formal response to the business summit report. What sort of timeline are we operating on?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, we got it last night at about 5:30, so it's going to be a little bit longer, I'm sorry to tell the member opposite. We want to show due respect to the people who authored the report. We also might want to get some feedback from others. We want to respond comprehensively. There's so much this government is doing in a lot of areas that I've gone over and over again today, Mr. Speaker.
We're going to respond appropriately as soon as we possibly can to the business community, which authored this report, as well as to our partners in the trade investment diversification strategy - all of the people we've been working with, Mr. Speaker, throughout the Yukon on the economy.
It's not limited to the authors of this report. There are other parties that have interest in the economy in the territory. They include aboriginal people, they include labour, they include a broad cross-section of the community, including the environmental community, which also believes - areas, like protected spaces - do have economic value, and I share that view with them.
So we've got to ensure that we respond appropriately, recognizing the importance of the recommendations to us, because we do believe they are important, as well as recognizing other interests and other views in the economy in this territory.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We'll proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 165
Clerk: Motion No. 165, standing in the name of Mr. Ostashek.
Speaker: It is moved by the leader of the official opposition
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the proposal to sole source an $11 million contract for environmental cleanup work at Komakuk Beach in northern Yukon to a Northwest Territories company is unfair to Yukon contractors who are fully capable of undertaking this work, given the opportunity to bid on the project; and
THAT this House urges the Department of National Defence to publicly tender the Distant Early Warning Line cleanup project at Komakuk Beach in northern Yukon allowing Yukon contractors to submit bids on the project.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, we put this motion on the Order Paper for debate today because we feel it's a very important issue, an issue that's facing our contractors in the Yukon not being given the opportunity to bid on jobs in the Yukon, and that in itself doesn't seem right to me or my colleagues.
It has been an ongoing battle in the northern Yukon with the federal government as to who should have control of the northern Yukon. I want to take a little time today - I'm not going to be long in my debate, because I think it is important that it should come to a vote, and I would hope that we would have unanimous consent from this Legislature for the motion. But I think it's important that we review the history of what has happened in the northern Yukon, and a tremendous battle that Yukon governments in the past have had to face in challenging the federal government's right to give away large portions of the northern territory.
In the COPE agreement, which was fought very, very hard on behalf of Yukoners by their governments of the day, almost 20 years ago, Mr. Speaker, the federal government was quite prepared to give away up to possibly 10,000 square miles of the northern Yukon to the Inuvialuit. The proposal was, to start with, to create a 5,000-square-mile park - a minimum area. Along with that was an additional, I believe, 1,000 square miles of fee-simple land to the Inuvialuit along the northern shore of the Yukon, and then a total of another 10,000-square-mile possible addition to the park, which would have brought the boundary down to your home community, Mr. Speaker, of Old Crow.
The federal government was prepared to do that, and it was a very hard-fought battle by Yukon governments to get the federal government to back off and to come back with something that would be more reasonable, if not totally palatable to all Yukoners. It was important that we retain access to the northern coast, really our only ocean access. It was very important that that be retained. As I said, Mr. Speaker, that took eight years of battle by governments of the Yukon - to fight to get some common sense instilled in the federal Liberals of the day - that they couldn't do this to Yukoners, and that Yukoners would speak out, very vocally, against any such intrusion on their soil. So, that is a bit of the history behind what has happened.
With that, we ended up with the Inuvialuit final agreement, which does give some rights to the Inuvialuit people, when it comes to jobs in the park itself, in the northern Yukon. But in my review of the Inuvialuit final agreement, I cannot find anything in there that, even by the largest stretch of the imagination, could apply to the cleanup of a DEW Line site. I don't see that connection at all. I believe that our contractors have a legitimate right, and I believe that the federal government has a moral obligation, and probably a legal obligation, as well, to open this cleanup to the tendering process and allow our companies to bid on it.
Mr. Speaker, it became quite clear to me very early on, when this issue was raised with me, that this was very important to Yukon contractors at any time, but especially now, in light of the downturn in our economy and the jobs that are required by Yukoners. I believe the last figures we saw on unemployment was in excess of 15 percent. We have new numbers coming out next week, which I don't believe are going to be any better.
It would be even worse with another mine closed down, so I think it's doubly important now that we express our dissatisfaction with the federal government approach to the cleanup of the DEW Line site at Komakuk Beach.
Well, Mr. Speaker, along with that, this is a $10- or $11-million contract. We've also found out that there'll be another one let next year. The only two DEW Line sites in the Yukon, and our contractors are going to be excluded from bidding on them. I don't believe that's right.
Mr. Speaker, chapter 12 of the Inuvialuit final agreement on economic benefits says that this is special rights for Inuvialuit. The parties agree that the predominant number of persons employed in the operation and management of the parks referred to in subsections 5 and 16 should be Inuvialuit. The appropriate government shall provide training to assist the Inuvialuit in applying for that employment. That speaks specifically to parks. It doesn't say anything about the cleanup of a DEW Line site, which, from my understanding, is not even in the park at this point. It will be at some point, but it is not now, so they cannot even use the Inuvialuit final agreement as an excuse that the contracts have to go to the Inuvialuit and nobody else.
Clause 12.44 says that the Inuvialuit shall be invited to participate in the planning process for any development of the lands available for development adjacent to Pauline Cove on Herschel Island and in the economic opportunities arising out of such a development, subject to all applicable laws. The Inuvialuit shall have the right of first refusal with respect to activities in the nature of guiding related to wildlife within the Yukon North Slope. That's very specific, as to what rights the Inuvialuit have.
I, in my review of the document, never saw anywhere where it said that they have the sole and exclusive right to any jobs up there.
I was somewhat dismayed when the local Liberal leader came on and said that these jobs had to go to the Inuvialuit, that Yukoners didn't have the right to these jobs. I was somewhat dismayed, and I hope that she has taken more time to review the issue, and I would hope that we would have her support for this motion in the Legislature today, because I think it's important to our Yukon contractors that they have the support of their members in this Legislature when they are not being dealt with in a fair and equitable manner.
Mr. Speaker, the issue is very, very simple. We need to create a level playing field for our contractors. I understand that people in Ottawa have now come back and said, "Well, there's another agreement with the Inuvialuit that gives them a certain percentage of the jobs, and they have the first right of refusal on contracts, if they can supply them or not." So be it. Our contractors have proven in the past that they can live with those types of clauses of local employment, local hire - anything that's reasonable. The people are there; it's only good common sense that they hire locals, rather than import people from a long distance away.
But those are mere stipulations within a contract, Mr. Speaker. The fact remains that this is federal tax dollars - your dollars, my dollars, all Yukoners', all Canadians' dollars that are being used to clean up this DEW Line site. And when we're spending taxpayers' dollars, we should do everything within our power to see that every Canadian has the right to bid for those jobs, if they are qualified to do so, and that can be set out in the tendering process.
But to say that preference is going to be given to the Inuvialuit - not even put it out to fair tendering process, unless there's an objection to the process the federal government uses - is wrong, in my opinion. Totally wrong.
I believe that some of our contractors can do the job and do it quite professionally and quite adequately, and could satisfy the requirements of the Department of National Defence, but without the opportunity to bid on the contract, they wouldn't be able to see what our people can do and what experience they have.
As members in this House are aware, we have one contractor who built an airstrip in Antarctica, a very isolated part of the world. He not only built the airstrip but, once he got down there, they had all kinds of other work for his company because they saw the professional manner in which he was able to conduct the job that he had taken on. I'm sure that that same company wouldn't have any difficulty cleaning up the DEW Line site if they were successful on the bid. But first, Mr. Speaker, they have to be given the opportunity to bid on the job.
As I said, Mr. Speaker, Komakuk Beach is up this year and Shingle Point next year. It's important that our contractors have a chance to bid on them.
In the discussions that we've had with the people in the federal government administering the contract, they said that there was still a hope that Yukon contractors could bid on it. When we spoke with the office in Ottawa, they said that the decision to sole source the $11-million cleanup at Komakuk Beach was that the reasons for entering into a negotiated contract could be attributed to the dwindling interest in DEW Line cleanup projects over the last two years.
I just want to speak to that a bit, because one contractor I spoke to did inquire a couple of years ago about cleaning up a DEW Line site in the Northwest Territories and, in his words, was told quite clearly by the Inuvialuit, "Outsiders need not apply."
Well, there was some legitimacy for that, Mr. Speaker, because this was in the Northwest Territories. There should be some preferential treatment for their contractors over there, even though I believe in the fair tendering process and that everybody should be able to bid on it, whether they're in the Northwest Territories or not. There might have been some legitimacy in that, but there's absolutely no legitimacy in applying that same set of guidelines to two sites in the Yukon.
We also learned that the contract had not been awarded - this was last week, when we called down there. The closing date for interventions was April 14, which is next week, so there's plenty of time for this motion to be transmitted to Ottawa, if it's favourable, in support of our contractors, and in the position of an official protest.
I know the Government Leader has already written a letter, and I thank him for that. I think it's important that we all speak out on this in trying to put forward a position that is more acceptable to all Yukoners.
We also learned that, up to April 14, Mr. Speaker, the Department of National Defence will accept official protests, in writing, from individuals. They're asking that contractors outline qualifications in the bidding to complete the work.
Well, I understand that there are several Yukon contractors who, if they haven't already done so, are in the process of making that official intervention in writing.
At that time, we learned that, to date, there'd only been a couple of inquiries made to the Department of National Defence, with nothing in writing, but that stands to reason when we had one contractor tell me, when he inquired a couple of years ago, he was told he need not bother applying because there wasn't much hope in him getting it.
Mr. Speaker, we also learned that, upon reviewing submissions at the time of the closing date, the Department of National Defence will make a decision as to whether the contract will be put out to public tender, and this would depend on the level of interest expressed by companies and whether or not they were qualified to do the work.
And at the same time, Mr. Speaker, we learned that the Shingle Point cleanup contract was not expected to be issued for another year, and that was the only other DEW Line contract that would be issued and, other than that, all the rest of the DEW Line sites are in the Northwest Territories. So, I believe that this is the only area where our contractors have a good chance of winning the bid, if they are given the right to bid on the contract. As I said in this House before, this would go a long way - about $20 million for the two cleanups over the next 12 to 24 months, whatever it takes to clean up these sites - to helping put some Yukoners to work and to bring some much-needed dollars into the Yukon.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Yes, much closer than Chile.
So, Mr. Speaker, I think this is a very straightforward motion. I don't believe it should be a controversial motion. I would like the support of the Legislature in passing this motion unanimously, and then we can convey that to the Department of National Defence, and hopefully, we will give our local contractors the opportunity to bid for this job and let their qualifications speak for themselves.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, as the mover of the motion has stated, the motion before us is in response to the federal government's stated intent of sole-sourcing a $11-million contract for the cleanup of the Komakuk Beach DEW Line site. This motion should not be confused with the government's implementation obligations under the Inuvialuit final agreement, as such obligations are separate and distinct from this issue.
Mr. Speaker, it's unacceptable that the federal government continues to fail to meet its obligations under the 1989 agreement with the Inuvialuit to make Komakuk Beach part of the Ivvavik National Park.
Mr. Speaker, this commitment in the IFA presupposed that the Komakuk site would be cleaned up before becoming part of the national park. And although there were clear indications as to when this cleanup and consequent addition to the national park were made in the IFA, the federal government has still not met its obligations to the Inuvialuit.
But Mr. Speaker, it's equally unacceptable that the federal government has chosen to deal with its failings by sole-sourcing a major contract, to the detriment of Yukon companies and Yukon workers. Last week, we heard a member opposite - the Liberal leader - provide comments in support of the federal government's actions being consistent with section 12 provisions of the Inuvialuit final agreement.
First of all, I would like to be very clear that the Yukon government is committed to implementing the Inuvialuit final agreement and respects the interests of other agencies in fulfilling their implementation obligations under the agreement. However, the intent to sole source a contract by the Department of National Defence for the cleanup of Komakuk Beach is not fulfilling any specific obligation under the IFA and, as such, it can't be supported.
In 1989, Canada entered into an agreement with the Inuvialuit to include the Komakuk Beach site into Ivvavik National Park. There was an arbitration award, in 1994, under the IFA, in which the arbitration board found Canada to be in breach of the agreement to add the Komakuk site to the park. Still, five years after the arbitration award, Canada has not acted on the commitment.
Instead of looking for ways to address the underlying interests that arise from their lack of action, such as including preference measures in the contract - which they're obligated to do under the IFA - the federal government has chosen to sole source a major contract as a means of potential redress. Even if the proposed approach to contracting by the federal government is intended to be a gesture of goodwill, or a commitment to the eventual inclusion of Komakuk Beach within the park, the IFA provisions do not imply any exclusive opportunity.
There are additional requirements specified in section 16 of the IFA. The provisions under section 16 of the IFA identify processes necessary to ensure all affected interests are treated fairly, in an open and transparent process, as contemplated by the parties to the agreement - by all governments who signed the agreements.
Mr. Speaker, we do have Yukon companies who can do this work. We do have companies who are experienced in incorporating local hire - community hire - into government contracts. We have an example in Old Crow today. We have a building contract that includes local people - in your riding, Mr. Speaker - through public tender, but using local people in the process of constructing the facility.
Yukon contractors are experienced in this kind of work, and they have the ability to work in difficult northern conditions. In fact, they've made their homes in the north. They know the north better than anyone. On top of that, they do know land claim obligations, land claim agreements, and how to incorporate community hire into the work that they do.
Now, federal officials have reported that they sole sourced this particular contract, because they believed that a previous tender had only been shown interest by one contractor.
Mr. Speaker, this does not give licence to the government or the Department of National Defence to assume that no contractor - given the nature of this business in the north, and given the number of companies that can do this work - can do the work or no one is interested in doing the work for all future contracts.
So, Mr. Speaker, the cleanup project at Komakuk Beach - which is slated, I guess, to close in the middle of May, or an award expected for the middle of May - still gives opportunities for contractors to protest and to file an objection. We certainly encourage them to do that.
I understand, incidentally, Mr. Speaker, after having staff speak to officials of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, that they understand that an appeal has been filed already by, they believe, a company from Ontario on this particular project, because presumably there are companies in Ontario who also have the ability to do this work, and, quite frankly, $11 million is a pretty enticing sum of money for any contractor today. It's fully half of the value of the Shakwak project is to road construction contractors in the territory in any given year. So, it's a considerable sum of money.
We do believe, Mr. Speaker, that the proposition put forward today is a reasonable one. We do believe that the mover of the motion and the people who have spoken to this issue publicly recognize that it is important to respect the Inuvialuit final agreement, and I would therefore make a suggestion to the mover of the motion and make an amendment that recognizes that fact so that all can see, in the body of the motion, that we are interested in supporting land claims agreements in spirit and intent but that we believe the agreement itself does not afford exclusive opportunity for a single claimant group in this particular area - that there are others in this part of the world who deserve an opportunity to seek work on this project and on other projects that come along as part of the DEW Line cleanup.
As the mover of the motion has indicated, there are other projects coming forward, one in the Yukon and others in the Northwest Territories, and I believe that it should be possible, on projects that are promoted by the Canadian government, for Yukon companies to bid on any of them. If they have the experience, if they have the ability, if they can meet land claims obligations in whatever area they do work, then they should be afforded an opportunity to bid.
I understand that that is also the intent of the mover of the motion, so I would move a friendly amendment, which recognizes what we all agree on. It reads as follows:
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move
THAT Motion No. 165 be amended by inserting before the first "THAT" the following:
"THAT this House recognizes and respects the terms of the Inuvialuit final agreement that give the Inuvialuit economic opportunities on a preferred basis in Ivvavik and Qikiqtaruk Parks, and provide the Inuvialuit Development Corporation a 'reasonable share' of Government of Canada contracts for goods and services in the Inuvialuit settlement region;"
and by deleting the words "at Komakuk Beach" in the last paragraph.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader
THAT Motion No. 165 be amended by inserting before the first "THAT" the following:
"THAT this House recognizes and respects the terms of the Inuvialuit final agreement that give the Inuvialuit economic opportunities on a preferred basis in Ivvavik and Qikiqtaruk Parks, and provide the Inuvialuit Development Corporation a 'reasonable share' of Government of Canada contracts for goods and services in the Inuvialuit settlement region;"
and by deleting the words "at Komakuk Beach" in the last paragraph.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, as a brief explanation, there has been some confusion as to whether or not the Government of the Yukon, the mover of the motion I believe, is showing appropriate respect for the Inuvialuit final agreement. It is absolutely the case that we should all respect the Inuvialuit final agreement - no question about it. However, we must understand that in the first instance, the Komakuk Beach site is not part of the park - not until it's cleaned up. And in the second instance, the other provisions in the IFA, which make reference to economic opportunities for Inuvialuit in their traditional territory, speaks to them receiving a reasonable share, reasonable opportunity for economic prospects - not exclusive opportunity.
I know that the decision by the federal officials to go to sole-sourcing this contract is not done as a result of the land claims obligation, but is done for other reasons that I have stated, and that any suggestion that there is not respect for the Inuvialuit final agreement is mistaken and simply wrong.
The reason for wanting to delete the words "Komakuk Beach" is only to reflect the fact that Komakuk Beach is but one of the projects coming forward and that we should be sending a message from the Legislature that all opportunities that come up - and rare enough they are - for work sponsored by the federal government in terms of DEW Line cleanup should be afforded fairly to northern companies, generally, and I believe that the track record of the Yukon companies would suggest that we would fare very well in any competitive tendering process.
So, I would move that this motion be amended, as a friendly amendment, and indicate, in summary, that we support the motion. We support the motion even without the amendment, frankly, but we want to make it clear, through the amendment, in the body of the motion, that this is not a land claims issue. This is a fairness issue, and that Yukon companies should be afforded reasonable opportunity to bid on work in our part of the country.
Mr. Ostashek: I just want to say that we have no difficulty in supporting the amendment. I believe the Government Leader will recall that, in my presentation of the motion, I spoke of economic opportunities and maybe a certain number of jobs that had to go to the Inuvialuit, and other agreements that were made. This spells it out quite clearly that we are not trying to circumvent any agreements with the Inuivialuit land claim agreements. Those are legitimate agreements, and they need to be abided by.
I also did state that our companies have experience with working with quotas and, as the Government Leader stated, even as far as down to the community level. So, I believe that our contractors can meet the obligations of any Inuvialuit final agreement, and I don't have any trouble with deleting the words "Komakuk Beach". Those were put in just because this was the issue that was raised with us at the time - Komakuk Beach. It strengthens the motion. It doesn't take away from it. I am fully supportive of the motion as amended.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, given the comments that have been made by others in this House, it may surprise members that I rise to speak not only in support of the amendment, which I think is very constructive and adds to the motion, but I also speak in support of the motion.
Speaking to the amendment, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to state quite clearly that my efforts in Question Period and publicly on this issue have been neither to defend nor chastise the federal Liberal government and the officials.
I received notification of the MERX contract award notice, as did others. The sequence of events - it is my understanding is that the Minister of Economic Development received it first. My first reaction was exactly the same as every other Yukoner - to think and to say, in a rather loud tone of voice, "Hey, Yukoners, jobs - $11 million and, boy, our companies can do this."
And when I had calmed down somewhat - I guess that is the best way to describe it, Mr. Speaker - I took a serious look at the information I was able to obtain by speaking with officials' assistants in Ottawa, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, and others. Then I did my homework on this issue.
There has been a great deal of reference to the Inuvialuit final agreement. It was signed in 1984, Mr. Speaker, and the government leader at the time was the Hon. Chris Pearson.
There have been references to section 12 and specifically 12.42.3, on whether or not Komakuk Beach is or is not part of Ivvavik National Park. The amendment brought forward by the Government Leader focuses more on the fairness, as he has stated, of this issue, and I'm not going to get into a semantic argument or a legal argument - Komakuk Beach, is it, or is it not, in Ivvavik National Park at the time this DEW Line site is to be cleaned up?
Mr. Speaker, the central point and the central argument in the amendment and the motion is that the Department of National Defence should tender, fairly, contracts for cleanups of the two DEW Line sites in the Yukon - Komakuk Beach and Shingle Point.
In 1996, flowing out of the Inuvialuit final agreement, a protocol was signed with the Inuvialuit. That protocol was for the cleanup of 21 DEW Line sites. Now, Mr. Speaker, I'm told that this was negotiated and discussed in full consultation with officials of Environment Canada, Indian Affairs and Northern Development, both the Yukon and Northwest Territories governments, and with affected communities, and that it was signed in February 1996 with the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation for the cleanup of six western sites. Now, I don't have access to all the briefing notes that are prepared for the current leader of the government or the former leader of the government, or all the correspondence on file. I have been told that this was done in full consultation, and I accept that. I've seen nothing to indicate otherwise, Mr. Speaker.
What that protocol agreement said was that after -
I should back up, Mr. Speaker.
Defence Construction Canada has the project management responsibilities for the cleanup of these DEW Line sites, and that's why they were involved with the protocol agreement. The first site that was cleaned up by the Inuvialuit was done by open public tender. In 1997, there was a public tendering process for the contract for the cleanup of BAR-4, which was Nicholson Peninsula, and after two years of open, competitive bidding, Defence Construction Canada received only one bid, and that was from the Inuvialuit. The feedback from sources was that the absence of other bids stemmed from the requirement for Inuvialuit content - significant Inuvialuit involvement - and that's why the advanced contract award notice that's referred to in this House spells that out, Mr. Speaker.
What the protocol says is that for the cleanup of each site, Defence Construction Canada will issue, under the MERX system an advanced contract award notice, which is what each of us received, Mr. Speaker. I should say that each party received it.
Basically, what the advanced contract award notice does is signal that plans are underway to negotiate a contract with the Inuvialuit. This is like a signal to other companies that there is an opportunity to express their interest in competing for the work. If the interest exists, and should the competitors feel that they meet the standard requirements, then the companies come forward via letter to Defence Construction Canada, and what happens is that the contract is open to public tender.
Now, that is what the motion has asked for - that it be open for public tender, giving Yukon companies the opportunity to bid on the work.
Mr. Speaker, there is another DEW Line site scheduled for cleanup next year, which is Shingle Point, and it's also in the Yukon. It's also part of the six-site protocol arrangement that I just spoke about between the Inuvialuit and the federal government. So, the same situation, Mr. Speaker, will apply to that. There will be an advance contract award notice on the MERX system, at which point Yukon companies can express their interest in bidding on this work. There is a requirement for significant Inuvialuit involvement.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the amendment says "That this House recognizes and respects the termsof the Inuvialuit final agreement which give the Inuvialuit economic opportunities on a preferred basis ..." The Liberal caucus supports fully and completely the terms of the Inuvialuit final agreement. I don't know how to say it more clearly than, "A deal's a deal." And that's why, when this situation was raised, I said I went back and did homework on this issue.
Clearly, Komakuk Beach and Shingle Point are both in the Inuvialuit settlement region; clearly they're both there and I would be happy to table a map of the DEW Line sites. I have one in my office.
Some members have said that the Inuvialuit final agreement does not give exclusive rights to the work to be done by federal contract in the northern part of the Yukon. The Inuvialuit final agreement, in 1984, sections 7, 10 and 16, led to a protocol after a bidding process, where other sites were cleaned up by the Inuvialuit, that was developed, to my understanding, in full consultation with officials from both territorial governments. The protocol says that for each site, Defence Construction Canada will issue, under the electronic bidding system, this advance contract award notice. What that signals is that plans are in the works to negotiate a contract with the Inuvialuit, with significant economic opportunities for the Inuvialuit, as recognized in the land claim agreement, Mr. Speaker, and as recognized in the amendment put forward by the Government Leader.
Yukon companies have an opportunity to express their interest in competing for this work. If the interest exists, and we know full well that Yukon companies are interested in projects of this magnitude. Certainly, with the economic climate in the Yukon, Yukoners are interested in work, not just in the Inuvialuit settlement region; they're interested in work in Zimbabwe, they're interested in work in Skagway, they're interested in work in Juneau, they're interested in work wherever we can market our incredible, skilled companies.
Yukon companies do good work, in the Yukon and throughout the world. So, Mr. Speaker, Yukon companies have an opportunity to express their interest in competing for the work.
There is specific Inuvialuit content contained in the terms, and significant economic opportunities - and I mentioned that that has been recognized. And I've noted, Mr. Speaker, that a deal's a deal. The question is, how do we work within these agreements to the benefit of Yukoners?
One suggestion that I would put forward - and it recognizes the spirit of the motion and the amendment - is working with the Inuvialuit to encourage partnerships with Yukoners. It's an avenue I feel we should fully explore, and that I would commend the government to examine.
Other companies can come forward through the federal process that is in place, and we fully support their right, their abilities to do so. That's never been a question from this side of the House, Mr. Speaker. What's been in question is how we work within, and respect, the agreements.
I think in the speeches we've heard so far there's actually some common ground. The leader of the official opposition and the leader of the government have said they support the Inuvialuit final agreement.
I've outlined that the protocol with Defence Construction Canada flows from that agreement, from my understanding of it - my understanding that it was negotiated in consultation with the Government of Yukon.
We also fully support Yukon contractors who are fully capable - as the motion says and the amendment supports -of undertaking this work, given the opportunity to bid, if they have an opportunity to bid under this process.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Liberal caucus supports jobs for Yukoners. We support existing land claims and we support the economic opportunities within land claims, all of them. As we know, other First Nations support and recognize that there are economic opportunities spelled out within different First Nation claims.
Mr. Speaker, in August 1984, the then-leader of the government, Mr. Pearson, said in a discussion with respect to the Inuvialuit final agreement and in a Yukon briefing - I'm not positive how that was distributed - but he did say that he felt that interests affecting Yukon with the Inuvialuit final agreement had largely been met.
Now, I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that the 1984 agreement and the 1996 protocol recognize the rights of the Inuvialuit, recognize economic opportunities. We not only recognize these agreements but, as the amendment says, we respect the terms of these agreements. We respect them, Mr. Speaker.
We also recognize and fully respect the abilities of Yukoners. We support providing Yukoners with a fair opportunity to compete for work. I believe that the process, with an opportunity for Yukoners to bid, provides them with an opportunity.
Should Yukon contractors elect to choose an opportunity to bid on this project, we wish them well. We wish them well in our recognition and respect for the process that's in place.
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, we spend a lot of time sometimes in this House in a discussion of "he-said, she-said". In this case, I'd like it to be clearly on the record that the Liberal caucus supports the amendment before us, and the motion.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the motion. I rise in support of the amendment to this motion. I think they are both excellent motions that clearly outline the direction that the Yukon should be taking in this regard, and the amendment to the motion clarifies the intent of the original motion.
I'd also, Mr. Speaker, like to compliment the leader of the third party for seeing the light and changing her position considerably. She did go to great lengths to cover her exposure, and it was quite well-defined in her initial response and questioning during Question Period as to her position. And I'm very, very pleased to see that the Liberal Party now is opposing a position taken by the federal Liberal government and its agencies.
What we're looking at, Mr. Speaker, is the issue of work - work for Canadians. When we look at Canada, there are more barriers to interprovincial trade, more barriers to interprovincial work in Canada than there are between Canada and many other countries.
What we have here that we have to recognize is the Inuvialuit final agreement, and our party and our position is one of full support of that agreement.
But that agreement clearly identifies economic opportunities for the Inuvialuit in the federal national park in the northern part of Yukon. What it doesn't give them - the Inuvialuit - is an exclusive position with respect to contracts with the Department of National Defence through their contract division, Defence Construction Canada.
Yes, there is a requirement for an Inuvialuit component in the Defence Construction Canada agreements, but it does not exclude other Canadians - specifically, Yukoners - from bidding on that work in the northern part of Yukon.
The COPE agreement established a park. There is one DEW Line site inside the park boundaries. The park will eventually encompass that DEW Line site, after DND has fully cleaned up that site.
One of the areas that we're probably missing is the tourism potential for Yukon in that area. At Komakuk Beach there's an airstrip and there are quite a number of buildings. To the west is Demarcation Bay, next to the U.S. border, and to the east - about the same distance, about 10 to 12 miles - is the mouth of the Firth River, and Herschel Island lies just to the northeast.
Herschel Island is a Yukon territorial park. The federal park in that area is just adjacent to the island. The airstrip there could be used to promote visitation to that area, which otherwise would have to rely totally on float-equipped aircraft to get into that area, Mr. Speaker.
So, there is another component that we're missing for business opportunities in that region. I recognize that we're dealing specifically with the contract and the opportunity for Yukon contractors to bid on work in that area, to clean up the DEW Line site, but there are many other areas we could explore with respect to business opportunities on the north shore, in the northern part of the Yukon, that we are paying scant attention to.
Just check around the Yukon and see how many Yukoners have actually visited that federal park or have been on to Herschel Island. Other than a handful of predominantly government officials, you won't find too many that have taken the time to visit that unique and wonderful area of the Yukon. And yes, it's the traditional area of the Inuvialuit, but that doesn't exclude Yukoners from an opportunity in that area.
What I see, Mr. Speaker, is a chance - should there be sufficient opposition to the sole-sourcing of the contract by Defence Construction Canada by a number of contractors, and hopefully Yukon contractors - that the federal government, through its agency, will take another look at how they're tendering these contracts.
We have to recognize, though, that the first cleanup campaign of a DEW Line site that was open-tendered attracted very little attention, and the information that I have received from one of the contractors who took the time to look at the initial Defence Construction Canada contract to clean up the DEW Line site is that, after carefully reviewing all aspects of the contract and the component of Inuvialuit labour content, it was virtually impossible for his firm to bid successfully on it. There were too many constraints and restrictions and very few workers that were available to him from the Inuvialuit community.
Mr. Speaker, I think Canada should be embarking on a program of breaking down many of these barriers between our respective provinces and territories. We only have to look back east to the Quebec-Ontario border where the contractors from Quebec just recently barricaded the bridge from Hull. The issue there was one of the same issues as we have here. The Province of Quebec had excluded the Province of Ontario's workforces from coming into that province, and the Province of Ontario subsequently retaliated and put in place barriers to Quebec contractors operating in their province.
We have a tremendous country, from coast to coast. We have a wonderful opportunity, but it dismays me and defies the imagination, with our abundance of raw materials from coast to coast and opportunities from coast to coast, how we are evolving into a nation where we restrict our fellow Canadians from working alongside us.
I see that as ultimately leading to our demise as a nation, Mr. Speaker.
This motion is a good motion. The amendment to this motion firmly clarifies the original intent of the motion and I am supporting the motion as amended.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cable: We will be supporting the amendment and, when we get to it, the main motion, so I don't think it's necessary for me to get into a long legal wrangle over what the Inuvialuit final agreement says. The facts that we do have and which are not in dispute are as follows: the Yukon government was a signatory to the Inuvialuit final agreement - that's the first point; secondly, the agreement gave some economic rights over some northern Yukon lands to the Inuvialuit; I think, thirdly, the cleanup site in question - the motion before the amendment, the Komakuk Beach site - is in the Yukon.
It's also my information that letters of interest have been filed in relation to the Komakuk Beach project and that it won't be sole sourced.
I think I can also say that all here would agree that land claim agreements, in general, and the Inuvialuit final agreement, in particular, have to be respected.
The amendment proposed should reinforce that issue, and to do otherwise would mean we have been wasting our time over the last 25 years negotiating agreements.
Now, I don't propose to try and define the rights under the Inuvialuit final agreement with precision, or the lands to which they relate, and I don't propose to try to define what rights there are for non-Inuvialuit contractors. For what it's worth, however, it's our view that there are some rights for non-Inuvialuit contractors, although they may have to jump through some hiring hoops.
All these issues are issues on which the lawyers can spend some time, and the Government Leader has indicated that he was obtaining a legal opinion on these issues, and I had hoped that it would have been tabled today so that we could get this further information and that we could pass this information on to the contractors. It might save them the expense of paying for their own legal opinion.
Now, we have been on the phone to the Vuntut Gwitchin, we have been on the phone to the Inuvialuit, and we've been on the phone to assistants to the federal ministers. And I think that those phone calls and this motion and, hopefully, a letter from the Government Leader backing up his Minister of Economic Development to the appropriate authorities in the federal government, will bring the issues that are still outstanding - which may be in anybody's minds here in this House - to the federal authorities so that we can ensure that the issues that are brought forward by our local Yukon contractors are made known, if they haven't already.
So, with that view in mind - and hopefully the Government Leader will commit to that exercise - we will be supporting the amendment, and we will be supporting the main motion.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Amendment to Motion No. 165 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any debate on the main motion, as amended?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'm rising to support the motion as amended - and I think it's kind of obvious. I think anybody in here would have a hard time opposing a motion such as this, and with the amendment that was brought forward, it makes much clearer the intent of the motion and what we are trying to achieve with it.
The leader of the official opposition mentioned the importance of our contractors being given an opportunity to bid. I believe that's what is really asked for here. All we want in Yukon - when there's work in the Yukon, specifically - is that the local contractors be given an opportunity. And that applies in a small scale such as a community - such as the Government Leader stated in Old Crow, where people were given the opportunity to work, first opportunity at the jobs. Small businesses are given the opportunity to supply services, labour and, through negotiations and partnerships, in the building of that project in Old Crow school, as an example, we've seen greater usage and training opportunities for the people of Old Crow and the businesses of Old Crow, giving them an opportunity to flourish.
This is the same situation, in that we would like to see the Yukon contractors and Yukon workers be given the opportunity to do the work at this site.
I've heard the statement that the reason the federal government sole sourced such a large project - $11 million; in the north, it's a very large project for many of our contractors - because there wasn't much interest expressed previously. From my understanding, one company, the Inuvialuit Corporation, came forward, so it went to them. That's kind of a lame reason why you would all of a sudden take an $11 million contract, which could have a tremendous impact upon many of the businesses and workers in the north, and move it directly into sole sourcing. Because it's so lame, I believe everybody in the Yukon has a problem with it.
Now, sole sourcing has a purpose. The City of Whitehorse, municipalities, and the Yukon government all use sole sourcing, but they all have limits on their sole sourcing, to ensure that there's a fairness to it. I believe that's what the federal government should be applying, as well. I also believe that it's the responsibility of the federal government to ensure that the contractors and workers in the north are aware of the cleanup projects that are coming up, are given the opportunity to see the scale of them, and be given the opportunity to put in a price. It's a failure of a government if it doesn't create those opportunities.
It's the choice of a contractor or worker whether they take a job, but that choice has to be there. In this case, that choice wasn't allowed, although I believe the federal government will now be opening that up again and giving opportunities. That's wonderful. And the message that we're sending from this Legislature will only reinforce that.
It also reinforces the position of the local Liberals, and we can see why they have adopted and supported this. In many cases, it's because the people of the Yukon want it. I hope that's a strong reason. I hope that's the strongest reason. I hope the reason is not because the feds have flip-flopped so they have to catch up. I hope that's not the reason.
When they change in midstream, it's kind of hard to keep up with what your compatriots are doing outside, but I really believe, as my colleague from down below here mentions, the Liberals have seen the light - which riding is that, anyway - the Liberals have seen the light and heard the message loud and clear from the contractors, from the working people of the territory, and have come forward and supported this motion.
Now, it is a great opportunity for the Inuvialuit's development corporation to be able to do this type of work and, in the final agreement, they have the opportunity to do a tremendous amount of the work. But, where possible, we also want to see that great opportunity for Yukon contractors.
And, where possible, we want to see the opportunity for the training to be made available for Yukon workers. There's a great opportunity here to have the type of training for cleaning up contaminated sites that apply to other parts of Canada, to other parts of the world. There's a tremendous amount of contamination that exists in the north that was left over from the DEW Line and other activities during the military days in the north.
This would give tremendous opportunity for all people in the north to continue growing, to continue expanding, to continue developing their industries, developing their skills to make them more employable, to create an economic future for many of the companies, but also to help benefit many of the small communities throughout the north - $100,000 spent in a small community has a tremendous impact; $500,000 spent in a small community has a tremendous impact. When you are talking millions in some of these very small communities, that has an impact that lasts for years, whether it's through training, whether it's through financial wealth, a sense of well-being, expansion of their businesses, and an opportunity to believe that they can do more. And when we ask to be included, and we ask for our companies and our workers to be included in projects such as this, we're asking for them to believe in the people of the north, to believe that they can do it across the great northern sphere - the Yukon, Nunavut, the N.W.T. - and allow fair opportunities for all people.
In the Yukon, we've moved into local hire in a very strong way. We've brought in many changes that allow Yukon hire, local hire. There are incentives, there are fair wages, there are classifications, there is encouragement, there is training, and all for Yukon hire.
That's just another part of it. We would like to see the supply. Eleven million dollars is a lot of money for a lot of people. We'd like to see that spread around.
So, I support this motion as amended and I hope each and every person in here does as well.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the motion as amended. It's been an interesting day in the House. This is a motion that I think is necessary and is also timely with respect to the work that's going to take place in northern Yukon.
I listened with interest to the comments made by our Liberal colleagues to our left and, in general, I think the speeches were reasonable. But I really have to say, Mr. Speaker, that I think it was a pretty poor example of trying to cover up a mistake.
Let me, sort of, go over the events so we know exactly what happened. We heard about this issue a few days ago and spoke to some local contractors and found out some information from the federal government. We found out that the federal Liberal government was going to go ahead and sole source this contract.
We researched the issue along, I guess, with the government members and looked at the Inuvialuit agreement and the agreement in northern Yukon and found that there is no agreement to give the Inuvialuit exclusivity as far as work goes in northern Yukon - preferential, an opportunity to bid, yes, but not exclusive.
So the matter was raised in the House by the opposition House leader, and the government responded. I think that's where the issue took a turn for the worse for our local Liberal Party. They quickly contacted their counterparts in Ottawa, and Ottawa gave them their line - that everything's okay, we can do this this way, because the agreement says we can - and without any further research, the Liberal leader rushed into the House, jumped up, and tried to defend her colleagues in Ottawa, at the expense of Yukon workers, which I thought was unfortunate.
The Liberal leader, I guess, since that time, has looked at a map of the Yukon - because she said she has one in her office - and decided that the two sites in question - the $22 million that's going to be spent in the Yukon - that actually the sites are in the Yukon. So she's discovered that much.
She also, as Liberals do from time to time, held her finger in the air and checked the direction of the wind. In this case, standing at Komakuk Beach in the Yukon, with her finger in the air, the wind from the south was rather hot, and it was Yukoners who were very upset about not having enough opportunity to bid.
So they came in here today in support of the motion, and I applaud the fact that they've come to support the motion, but it would've been better if they had just come in and said, Mr. Speaker, we didn't read the agreement as clearly as we should have and we made a mistake.
In fact, they did exactly the opposite. They came in and said the agreement still says that Yukoners can't be involved and, if they want to be involved, we should form a partnership with the Inuvialuit, and suggested a partnership. So Yukoners can get work in the Yukon, we should have a partnership with somebody?
The agreement doesn't even say that. The agreement doesn't say "exclusive" or "excluding Yukoners". The agreement says that Yukoners can be included. And, in fact, even now her federal colleagues, who have received a lot of heat over this from an awful lot of people, have changed their minds, which is good, as well.
I would have hoped, Mr. Speaker, that the local Liberal Party - which is made up of the federal and territorial Liberal Party, who are, coincidentally, the same people - would have communicated with their counterparts in Ottawa and -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Member for Riverside says that when the Conservatives stunk in Ottawa, we changed our name. Well, when the Conservatives stunk in Ottawa, one Conservative ran over to join the leader of the Liberal Party. So, I mean, talk about running.
Now, the Liberal Party has made a mistake here. The Liberal leader stuck her nose out, and Yukon contractors are upset with the actions of the Liberal leader, and they're going to be more upset when they read today's debate. They're going to see that the Yukon Liberal Party said, "Yeah, we think Yukoners should be involved, but we should strike a partnership with the Inuvialuit." That's outrageous - to think that for Yukoners to work in their own territory - with 15-percent unemployment and federal Liberal government cutbacks all across this country - we should go to the Inuvialuit and beg them for a job. That is outrageous, and the 15-percent unemployed Yukoners in this territory know where the Liberal Party of the Yukon stands, that it will, no matter what the odds are, stand by their colleagues in Ottawa, who should have understood. I mean, the statistics we get every month about our unemployment in the territory, Mr. Speaker, are statistics that every province and the federal government gets laid on their desks once a month.
Once a month we get this laid on our desks and the federal Liberal government should be looking at those high unemployment statistics for the Yukon, working with the Yukon government, working with the Liberal caucus, asking, "How can we help Yukoners go to work?" Instead, they try to sole source an $11-million contract in northern Yukon, with our 15-percent unemployment, and then the local Liberals stand up and say, "Yukoners can work there. They just have to work out a partnership with the Inuvialuit."
Well, I don't buy that. Yukoners have a right to work there. They have a right to work there, not be excluded, and this agreement doesn't say that they have to strike a partnership. This agreement just says there can be preferential treatment given to the Inuvialuit for some jobs but not for every single job in the Yukon, as our local Liberal leader likes to talk about.
Mr. Speaker, this is a positive motion that's before us. Unfortunately, the local Liberals, instead of admitting that they made a mistake, have done what politicians do from time to time and said, "We agree with this, but on the other hand..." and they've thrown all kinds of qualifiers into it. Instead of just standing up for the Yukoners who are unemployed in their ridings, who are looking for jobs, instead of standing up for those Yukoners like we in the Yukon Party are, like the members of the NDP are, saying, "Yukoners should have those jobs," the Liberals are saying, "Go up there on your hands and knees, Yukoners, and beg for a partnership and maybe you'll get a job." No, no, no, no, no. That's not what we were elected to do on behalf of Yukoners in this Legislature. That's not what the Liberal leader was elected to do on behalf of the members of her constituency, 15 percent of whom are unemployed. Those Yukoners in that constituency - that member should be standing up in this House and maybe even adding to the motion to condemn the federal Liberals for even thinking of sole sourcing it this way.
Now the Liberals want me to do their homework. The Liberals are saying. "Make an amendment." They want me to amend the motion.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party today is true to its colours - it's embarrassed. It's red. It's red and embarrassed today over the position it's taken. It's had to flip-flop - a fairly significant flip-flop, and they're going to run out here with their spin doctor, and he's probably in the backroom already. He's probably the one who gave them the idea to take this position in the first place, and they're probably spinning a press release out that Liberals support Yukoners getting jobs in northern Yukon. You know, "Geez, I hope they buy this. I hope they buy this."
I can just see it now. "Liberals support Yukoners getting jobs in northern Yukon", you know. It's too bad we couldn't amend the press releases to just say in the back of it, "finally".
You know, the wind has changed - the Liberal leader held her finger in the air, and felt the breeze coming from Yukoners who are unemployed, and said, "Geez, I don't know, I think we went too far on this one." And so now they're on board.
And I'm glad they're on board, but I hope they've learned a bit of a lesson from this - not to just stand up and echo the very words of her counterparts in Ottawa, that they maybe should check first with their constituents, find out how Yukoners feel about it. And more than anything else, when it comes to agreements like the Inuvialuit final agreement, really do their homework and understand what the agreement says.
The Liberal leader said here in Question Period that the Yukon Party and the NDP did not understand what was in the agreement. But guess what. It's the Liberal leader who doesn't understand what's in the agreement.
The Liberal leader also said that day, in the House, that they know that the leader of the official opposition doesn't understand obligations under land claims agreements, and we've seen his treatments of First Nations when he was government leader.
That's what she said.
I'll ask the Liberal leader to go to the Yukon Archives and look at the first four final agreements that were signed in the Yukon and check the signature on the bottom - check the signature on the bottom. It's Mr. Ostashek's signature - the leader of the official opposition when he was Government Leader. Talk with some of the people in land claims and some of the First Nation people over the four years that the Yukon Party was in power, and ask them if the Yukon government and the now-leader of the official opposition was in support of land claims agreements, because he was, and a lot of work was done in those periods of time. A lot of work was done.
So, I mean, to say that he doesn't understand the obligations is not true. So, the Liberal leader doesn't know what she's talking about when she talks about land claims and land claims agreements and who is involved and who supports and who doesn't support land claims agreements.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Yes, the leader of the official opposition has just reminded me that in the last territorial election, it was the Liberal leader's party who said that they were going to review all the positions in land claims. They were going to put everyone on the carpet in land claims and check everybody's credentials before they moved on if they were elected government. Well, we know what happened there.
Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I support the motion that's before us here today. I am even happy to see the Liberal flip-flop and the change, that they decided that it's in their best interest now to actually support the idea that Yukoners should get jobs in the Yukon. I think that's a novel idea that we have here in this House, and I'm glad to see that the Liberals, after their phones were ringing off the hook and running into the people on the street and talking to people in the various businesses, have decided that maybe the position they took initially, where it's in the agreement and we shouldn't get it and we should form a partnership with the Inuvialiut, wasn't a good one, and that they've switched their position.
So, Mr. Speaker, I will be supporting the motion that's before us. I would hope that the federal government, in the future, for any work that's to be carried out in the Yukon by them, that there will be full consultation with the Government of Yukon, that there will be consideration of the high unemployment and the economy of the Yukon today so that Yukoners can have an opportunity, at least, to bid the jobs and to be employed so that they can better their lives in the territory.
I think, Mr. Speaker, that this is a good motion; it's a timely motion; it's one that the federal Liberal government should pay heed to - that we are here - and some of us are keeping a close eye on what the federal Liberal government is doing in Ottawa.
I think both motions on the Order Paper here today recognize the fact that we're keeping a close eye on what the federal Liberal government is doing and not doing in Ottawa. So, I would encourage all members to support this motion and encourage its passage in the House.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Ostashek: Now, Mr. Speaker, I won't be long in summation. I just want to thank all members in this House for supporting this motion, including our colleagues on our left here. I'm glad to see that they've seen the light and errors of their way last week.
Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of things I need to clear up in closing, though, in response to some of the things said by the Liberal leader when she said she did her homework. I think she ought to do it a little better because she still doesn't understand what the agreements mean when she has taken the position that we should be going into partnership with the Inuvialuit and our contractors don't have the legitimate right to bid on their own.
Partnerships are fine if necessary and there is nothing wrong with them, but I think our contractors know how to live under the land claim agreements. They've been doing a pretty good job of it.
Also, still her defence of the Liberal government, in that the MERX thing that came out on the wire on March 26 was very clear, was not all that clear at all. It said quite clearly, and over a very short period of time - it came out on March 26, and the closing was April 14, at 2:00 p.m. EST - that it is an open bidding process. The solicitation method is open. It goes on to say what the contract is for - the demolition and earth removing. It goes on to lay out in detail what needs to be done. It does on to say, "To meet the terms of the agreement between the Department of National Defence and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, the contract will include a minimum of Inuvialuit content - 80 percent for human resources, or 80 percent of total contract labour, and 60 percent of total contract dollar value will go to Inuvialuit businesses. That's what it says.
Then it says that the contract closes on May 15, and that the cost of the project is in the order of $11 million. But then comes the kicker, Mr. Speaker. It's a sole-source justification clause in the MERX agreement that says, "Based on the above, it has been determined that at this time, Inuvialuit Projects Incorporated" - that's the corporate arm of the Inuvialuit people up there - "is the only firm in the region that can meet the requirements of the contract."
There is nowhere in this thing that advised our contractors that if they protest before April 14 they would have a chance at the contract - absolutely nothing in here that says that. The only way we found that out was by phoning Ottawa and being given that information by telephone. So, it wasn't clear. The contractors didn't know that they had a right to bid on it. In fact, they were being told that Yukon contractors need not apply because it's being sole sourced to the Inuvialuit.
That's what the abstract of the contract says. So, it isn't quite clear and I believe the Liberal leader, as she gains more experience in this Legislature, will find out that there's not much political mileage in defending the federal government, be it Liberal or any other federal government, against the wishes and desires of her constituents. I believe she's got her roles reversed there a little, but I'm sure she'll learn and be able to contribute to the debates in this House.
Mr. Speaker, the amendment put forward by the Government Leader strengthens the motion, and we're fully supportive of it and I'm pleased to see that the Liberals are also supporting the motion. With that, Mr. Speaker, I will allow you to put it to a vote.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Amendment agreed to
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the motion as amended?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I think the ayes have it.
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. Livingston: Agree.
Mr. Ostashek: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Mr. Cable: Agree.
Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 16 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 165 agreed to as amended
Motion No. 166
Clerk: Motion No. 166, standing in the name of Mr. Jenkins.
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Klondike
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the federal Liberal government is failing to meet its special fiduciary responsibility to Yukon First Nations by offloading health and social costs for Yukon First Nation citizens on to the Yukon government;
THAT this House recognizes that:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to advise Yukon First Nations, the Council of Yukon First Nations and the Assembly of First Nations of this serious breach by the federal Liberal government of its fiduciary responsibility to First Nations and to encourage them, as well as the Government of Yukon itself, to protest this breach in the strongest possible terms to the Prime Minister of Canada and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the motion we have on the floor this afternoon is the contents of much of the Auditor General's report to the Legislative Assembly for 1997. When you look at the number of pages in that report that are devoted to the issue, it is quite outstanding - the financial statement issues - and it starts with "due from Canada." The amount due from Canada has increased by some $30 million in the two fiscal years from 1995 to 1997, and the majority of the increase relates to billings for Indian and Inuit services by the Department of Health and Social Services, and the departments accrued receivables under various cost-sharing agreements.
It goes on to say, Mr. Speaker, that at March 31, 1997, approximately 65 percent of these amounts have been outstanding for more than a year due to disputes over the amounts billed and supporting documentation required, and the need to devote sufficient resources to resolve the issues related to collection.
And it goes on in the report with basically a slap on the wrist for the Department of Finance. The only department of the Government of Yukon that overexpended its vote in operation and maintenance was Health and Social Services, and this, Mr. Speaker, is, in a large part, to meet the obligations of the Government of the Yukon to provide health care services to First Nations.
Mr. Speaker, the federal Liberal government in Ottawa is becoming much the experts at offloading and downloading their expenditures to the provinces and territories.
Now, the Department of Indian Affairs is responsible for the health care needs - for the financial side of it - for all status Indians in the Yukon. Well, what are they doing about it?
The services are being delivered, and the services are being delivered without exception. And on the floor for debate today is not that area, Mr. Speaker. I want to make it abundantly clear that our party fully supports the provisions of these services to Yukon First Nations. I also want to make it further abundantly clear that we are not advocating in any manner whatsoever that we deny Yukon First Nations their right to the health care system that currently exists here in the Yukon.
What is on the floor for debate is the issue of the federal Liberals not meeting their obligations - not meeting their obligations and paying their bills.
We go back in history - and this was an issue within the Department of Indian Affairs for quite some time. It has been cleared up for certain periods, and if you read further in the Auditor General's report the background information, it's very interesting. The government performs services and projects on behalf of Canada. The government has entered into various cost-sharing agreements with Canada. Of the total gross receivables, excluding allowances of $49.2 million at the 31st of March, 1997, the Department of Health and Social Services accounts for approximately $33 million, or 67 percent of the total.
Sixty-five percent has been outstanding for more than a year. When you go into the various areas that are covered, it gets further convoluted, and why the federal Liberals are not addressing their responsibilities is beyond any stretch of the imagination.
The conclusion reached by the Auditor General is that Indian and Inuit billings are not being paid and received in a timely fashion. There are some intergovernmental communications and coordinated problems and the issue resolution process between the department and DIAND is not functioning in an effective manner. There is a lack of proper current agreements in place.
When you explore this further with the Department of Health and Social Services, they've tried, they've tried and they've tried again to get agreements in place to obtain a resolution of these outstanding accounts receivable, but they are being stonewalled once again by those federal Liberals in Ottawa that manage that Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.
If you start looking at the various programs that this would affect, Mr. Speaker, and it's virtually the whole gamut, the vocational rehabilitation development program has gross accruals of $4.3 million, of which $3.1 million is past due over several years.
The Canada Assistance Plan has gross accruals of $3 million, all of which apply to years prior to 1996-97. The Young Offenders Act has gross accruals of $2.1 million, of which $1.1 million was due over a year ago. This report is as of the fiscal year-end 1997, and it was tabled in this session, Mr. Speaker.
What should we be doing? Well, the federal government knows full well that the services to First Nations will not be cut off by the Yukon government. What we have is a clear abuse of power by Ottawa and of Yukon taxpayers' money. A clear abuse, Mr. Speaker. The federal government has to own up to its responsibility and, if it did, many other projects in the Yukon could possibly go ahead. This clearly is a case of the federal government abrogating its fiduciary responsibility for Yukon First Nation individuals here in the Yukon. This could very well have a serious impact on First Nations if and when they assume control of these powers from the federal government.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The Member for Riverdale South, on a point of order.
Mrs. Edelman: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to draw the Speaker's attention to the fact that we have less than a quorum in the House.
Speaker: Order please. According to Standing Order 3(2), if, at any time during a sitting of the Assembly, the Speaker's attention is drawn to the fact that there does not appear to be a quorum, the Speaker will cause the bells to ring for four minutes and then do a count.
Speaker: Order please. I have shut off the bell, and I will do a count.
There are 11 members. There is a quorum. We will now continue.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, as I was saying earlier, this non-payment of the bills to the Government of Yukon by the federal government could have a very serious impact on Yukon First Nations, if and when they assume control of those powers from the federal government. And Yukon First Nations are in a position to draw down those powers under their respective land claim agreements and put in place their own health care system.
I think the message that will go out from our debate here today to Yukon First Nations is that they'd be well-advised to seriously look at this area, because there is a chance that they're going to have the same problem as the Government of Yukon has in collecting from the federal government, despite ample documentation, in spite of a tremendous amount of documentation and in spite of bills going out on a regular and continuing basis. This is just one example of the federal Liberal government's offloading to the Yukon. We only have to look at the list, and the list grows longer as time goes on.
We look at the youth empowerment success program; Skookum Jim Friendship Centre. We look at the federal government's cancellation of the Canada Assistance Plan. That reduced departmental recoveries by some $12 million per year, Mr. Speaker.
The financial cuts to the employability program for disabled persons; we looked at the reduction in the Canada drug program. We looked at the federal cuts to the employment insurance program, and the training program cuts. We look at the reduction in funding to the tobacco reduction program and that strategy. All of these areas are clearly, clearly areas of federal government initiation and federal government cost centres. The refusal to continue the cost of treatment for status Indians puts a cap on program funding for alcohol and drug use and abuse.
The federal funding to post-secondary education has been cut. We only have to look at a couple of the offices here - the geoscience office, the weather centre, the Whitehorse tower, which is indirectly controlled through the federal government, although at arm's length - we're referring to the airport. Then we only have to look at the fires that could have devastated Pelly Crossing and Old Crow, and the resulting evacuation that took place when those forest fires were upon us.
The Government of the Yukon still hasn't been paid by the federal Liberal government for these areas. They're still outstanding. Yet, we have the federal disaster relief fund, we have the federal forest fire, and we have all sorts of plans in place, and yet the federal government will not honour their commitment under these backstop plans.
They won't even honour their commitments under the basic plans that they have.
The federal Liberals failing to live up to their responsibility to the First Nations people of the Yukon means that there will be fewer dollars, because it does affect the cashflow here in the Yukon. There will be fewer dollars flowing into other areas of the Yukon's economy, Mr. Speaker.
And let us make it abundantly clear once again that health care, social services and child care for Yukon First Nation people are the responsibilities of our federal government here in Canada.
The issue is that as time goes on, the longer this amount remains outstanding, the less chance we will have of collecting these outstanding sums of money.
I might remind Yukoners of the federal Liberal 1997 election platform. It said, "We are committed to maintaining a universal health care system in which Canadians are assured equal access to appropriate, high quality care as needed. We must build a public medicare system that will meet the emerging needs of the 21st century. We are committed to fairness, compassion and collective responsibility. We believe that all Canadians should have equal opportunity to achieve health and well-being and to receive quality health care according to their needs. Canadians want to work together for the common good and, above all, for a health care system that continues to guarantee equal access and quality care to all, and the Liberal government is committed to seeing aboriginal communities become stronger and healthier, and to further their progress toward self-government, well-being and economic independence."
The Liberal government went on in their platform to say that "Recognizing aboriginal people means working with them to improve their quality of life and to expand the opportunities available to them. Economic development, health care, programs for healthy child development, alternate community-based justice initiatives, Yukon employment opportunities, and many other services are critical elements of our efforts to ensure that aboriginal people can participate fully and equally in our Canadian society."
The Liberal Party went on at great lengths to spell out the areas that they recognized they had to address in their 1997 election platform. But what do we see after they've been re-elected? We see the health care system delivering the service by the respective provinces and territories. What we don't see is the federal Liberals paying the bills, like they are charged with.
This, Mr. Speaker, is a grave miscarriage of justice. The amount outstanding, if we take into consideration the current bill up to the fiscal year that is just ended, 1998-99, which ended March 31 of this year - we'd probably find about approximately another $10 million, or thereabouts, due.
The minister responsible for Health and Social Services - I guess he's gone back and had it calculated - comes up to some $36 point something million, which represents fully eight percent of the total budget, including capital, of the government of Yukon - or over 10 percent of our total O&M budget annually.
That, in itself, Mr. Speaker, is a considerable sum of money. A considerable sum of money that the federal government is depriving the Yukon of.
When we refer back to the Auditor General's report to the Yukon Legislative Assembly, it does go into great lengths with respect to recommendations. It says, "The Department of Health and Social Services should take steps to reduce the DIAND receivables. The department should ensure the completeness of all outstanding claims, improve its processing for documents and resolving outstanding billing issues. The department should assign a high priority to the negotiations of appropriate agreements with DIAND to resolve the financial and eligibility issues and to streamline the claims process for future billing. If necessary, the government may need to take measures to effectively negotiate with DIAND to resolve the billing and payment issue."
Now, Mr. Speaker, you can read into that what you want, but what it says is that the government may need to take measures to effectively negotiate with DIAND. That's not just a strong letter. That's more than a strong letter. It means that we might ultimately have to resort to the courts.
The recommendations go on to state, "The department should ensure that claims under cost-sharing programs are documented and filed with Canada, and issues are cleared up on a timely basis. While subsequent efforts appear to have eliminated much of the accrued receivable backlog, the department should continue to pay attention to eliminating completely the final claims backlog and ensure that all future claims are filed and settled on a timely basis."
There is almost three-quarters of a page of management's comments with respect to this issue, Mr. Speaker, and I have not seen that much management comment with respect to an outstanding issue for quite some time in the Auditor General's report. That, in itself, is significant.
The Government of Yukon is aware of the outstanding issue. The local representatives from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs are well-aware of it. The Government of Yukon's officials have gone to great lengths to verify, confirm, cross-check, provide all sorts of backup to the Department of Indian Affairs, and yet every year the amount outstanding that is due to the Government of Yukon increases.
Mr. Speaker, I guess when you look at the wonderful ways in which the federal Liberals are balancing the budget, we can all take lessons from Mr. Martin: if you don't honour your commitments under various programs and if you don't pay the bills, you'll have money in your bank account, you'll have a surplus with which to pay down other national debt.
This issue of outstanding billing doesn't bode well for our federal government. It does not address the issue of their ongoing responsibilities and it does raise serious concerns as to when and how they're going to manoeuver out of their obligations in this area.
I am appalled with the federal Liberal government in this regard, Mr. Speaker. I think they can do a much better job of meeting their commitments in a timely fashion.
Mr. Speaker, I'll look forward to hearing what other members in this House have to say about this very important issue. I would urge all members to support this motion because it is very, very important for members of the Yukon's First Nation communities, for our health care system, and for all of us here in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would like to thank my colleague from Klondike for bringing this issue forward. It's something that we have discussed in the past. In bringing it forward, I think what we're doing is probably bringing to the attention of the federal government that all members of this House - I am presuming at this point that we're going to see a spirited defence of this from our Liberal members, because I am sure they've been in contact with Ottawa and have made their concerns known. The phone lines have probably been buzzing.
With respect to the position that the Member for Klondike has put forward, I certainly cannot argue with that from a philosophical point of view. We feel that the federal government, in refusing to pay this debt owed to the Yukon government, is not recognizing its fiduciary responsibility for First Nations. Basically, we think that, even though they are continuing through delays in payments to the Yukon government and the ongoing accumulation of this debt, this does not sever Canada's responsibility and relationship to First Nations.
A relationship exists. By simply not paying it, they cannot absolve themselves of that fiduciary responsibility. We, as a government, continue to be concerned by the federal government's refusal to pay its bills, and this approach, I think, as the member has alluded to, is somewhat ominous. I think it's somewhat ominous for First Nations that are currently negotiating agreements with the federal government - that they receive adequate implementation funds from Canada.
I think the lesson that they may take from our struggle with the federal government is that, if they're assuming, for example, negotiations around program service transfer agreements, in terms of federal programs, they will need to assert that the federal government come to the table prepared to meet their obligations under this agreement.
We recognize our role as a public government, and will continue to deliver the essential services for all citizens - First Nation and non-First Nation - in this territory. By doing that, we're ensuring that people here do receive the services that they deserve, but, at the same time, we recognize that the federal government is stepping away - and I think, in a rather frightening way - from some of its responsibilities.
I mentioned before that this is an issue that has been a continual theme at a number of federal-provincial meetings. For myself, during the negotiations on the social union framework agreement, the ongoing issue for myself was in terms of the language that the federal government persisted in bringing back to the table, time and time and time again, where they tried to raise the issue of governments and the fiduciary responsibility to the First Nations.
First Nations have not bought that. They have recognized that the primary fiduciary responsibility in this country for aboriginal people resides with the federal government.
The Member for Klondike has accurately indicated that this has been an ongoing struggle. When I asked for some documentation on this, this is some of the material that I was given, and I was assured by the department that if I actually wanted to get into further detail, there probably are a few boxes of ongoing documentation that have been supplied to the federal government that we've been wrestling around with.
I asked for a chronology, and essentially this chronology goes back over a decade - and I'll get into that chronology in just a moment - but we have persisted in negotiating for payment for these services. As the member has indicated, we have $26.1 million right now, and if we factor in probably the further outstanding, we're probably looking in the neighbourhood of around $36 million. The last payment we received for Department of Indian Affairs for previous years was a $4-million payment received in December 1998, and that was actually against our 1994-95 child welfare claim.
The principal driver that's pushed the child welfare total so high - and it is the major factor of this $26 million, and it represents $20.8 million - has been Department of Indian Affairs' refusal to pay actual costs, and rather than continue to dedicate our resources to the preparation and filing of final claims that DIA would reject, we disengaged from that cycle to focus on the resolution of the basic principles - the basic principles under which our costs could be supported.
This has been a fairly protracted struggle, but we think, and we're hopeful, that we are leading to a desired result. Our goal is a formal agreement based on the Province of British Columbia model. And if we take a look at the British Columbia model, it recognizes - and I'm using the 1994-95 model - something closer to the actual rates that are charged. So this is our goal.
We have agreed on some basic terms, and DIA has been reviewing the financial formula. We are continuing to be concerned about the length of time that they've taken to review the materials that we've prepared. We've been meeting with senior officials to try to get the process moving forward. We've also drawn in our legal services folks to provide some advice on the draft agreement.
DIA has agreed in writing to pay the undisputed portion of the child welfare claims for previous years, in parallel with the completion of the above process. Once we've completed all the documentation filings of final claims and they have an opportunity to review them, the disputed days and costs will be set aside and addressed after a formal agreement is in place.
After child welfare, the largest area of dispute has been on the Thomson Centre residence, and that represents about $3.8 million through 1997-98. Essentially there, the reluctance of DIA has been to accept the normal practice of basing the coverage on the Canada Assistance Plan's rating of the facility. We've been taking steps, as I indicated earlier in this Legislature, to correct this, and we expect some resolution. We will continue to pursue them.
But let's take a look at what has gone on in this regard.
Basically, when you go back and look at this over a decade, we found that we and previous governments have struggled with this, and I think it does point to the fact that, probably underlying this whole struggle - and I'm just speculating - there is probably a method to their madness. And I think the method is that, essentially, what DIA wants to do, as the member has indicated, is offload responsibilities, and the easiest way to offload them is simply by not paying them.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The Member for Porter Creek South, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: I would draw the Speaker's attention to the fact that there is not a quorum in the House.
Speaker: Order please. According to Standing Order 3(2), if, at any time during a sitting of the Assembly, the Speaker's attention is drawn to the fact that there does not appear to be a quorum, the Speaker will cause the bells to ring for four minutes and then do a count.
Speaker: I have shut off the bells and will now do a count. There are 11 members present. There is a quorum. We will now continue debate.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As I said before quorum was called, I believe that there is an underlying method to the madness, and I think we have seen this characterized in other areas where the federal government has stepped away from responsibilities.
The Member for Klondike has identified some programs that the federal government has stepped away from, and the so-called boutique programs that Health Canada has been so fond of initiating and then running for a couple years and stepping away from their responsibilities are one example.
The other example has been what I believe is a rather systematic reduction of services for First Nation people across this country, and I believe we've seen it manifested in the removal of services for off-reserve throughout Canada. The fact is that, increasingly, the major area of First Nation population growth has been in the urban areas, and what we're seeing, I think, is the federal government trying to step away from that and off-loading, in particular, social responsibilities.
But I've also heard, too, in my visits to First Nation communities, concerns raised time and time again about what is felt are further restrictions of services, particularly in the area of what are called the non-insured benefits. First Nations themselves have become very cognizant of this. They've become cognizant of the fact that restrictions, for example, on alcohol and drug services to First Nation people has resulted in some of their folks not being able to access some of these services.
We have seen that there has been a real reluctance on the part of the federal government, for example, to support some of the regional community healing centres that we have been partnering with with our First Nation partners, but unfortunately what we haven't seen is the federal government come forward in this area to the degree that we would like. We feel that if they did, it would make many of these centres much more viable.
So, these are things that I've heard from First Nation communities as I've travelled around. For example, on the issue of medical travel, this is one of the most common concerns that I've heard from First Nation people.
So, I think what we're seeing is that, as the member has indicated, one way to balance your budget is by not paying the bills, and I think this is one way that the federal government has found - a very systematic way - to reduce some of their costs. You simply don't pay the bills; you now have $26 million or $36 million to the good. It does impact on us, primarily in the area of cashflow, and that continues to be a major concern.
Just with respect to this, I asked the department to go back and do a bit of an investigation and do me up a bit of a chronology on this, and when I asked them to, this is when they said, "How much material do you want, because it goes on and on and on and on." I said, well, why don't we push it back to around 1994 and see where we go from there.
Looking at it, beginning in June '94, we have been sort of pushing on this. In June '94, we have letters to the regional director general, trying to reinitiate a number of negotiations on this. In December 1994, final claims were submitted. Prior discussions with DIA led us to believe that we should allocate all direct service costs to bed categories, so the direct portion of staff - about $1million - and the Kaska and Champagne-Aishihik social services contributions were included and allocated in the direct costs. In January 1995, we sent a draft agreement to DIA - as the Auditor General has suggested - related to billing for social services.
In March 1995, DIA advised us that they didn't like the format, and we were told by the federal government to stop calculating actual costs. Well, actual costs are what we pay. DIA suggests that they'll pay direct payments to third parties and apply their Indian band formula to everything else. So, in other words, what they're doing is taking the formula that is in current use in Western Canada at that time, and saying that that's the formula they will apply, not realizing the degree of cost we have here. There is no agreement, but we agree, at that point, that we'll try to restructure the claim, and we'll look at the impact of their formula.
Later on in March 1995, we advise them that we had completed a review of the Thomson Centre, and we have it agreed to as a level 2 facility, a nursing home under the CAP agreement, and therefore, it is not a health facility, but a social service facility, and it does deserve support from DIA.
We compute the billings and agree to send them in. In June 1995, we sent in our revised billing and, once again, we don't get too many results there. In some of our follow up, it comes to light that, if we accepted the formula that DIA is proposing, it would cost us roughly $1 million in indirect costs, not to mention the other implications.
We also find that DIA is not satisfied with the presentation of our costs. They suggested some of our direct costs, including day care, including psychological assessments, including individual care workers - these are direct costs, real costs, real dollars - are not appropriate under their policy and they will not be corrected by direct costs. It's shameful, Mr. Speaker.
Discussions continue over DIA's responsibility for status children who don't have a band status number when they're taken into care. So, I mean, they're arguing even if a child - if they don't have a band number, they're basically arguing, "Well, we shouldn't be identifying them." We turn around and we make a gesture that, if they'll accept our direct costs and our claim as presented, we will accept the amount provided for the indirect costs under the formula. They agree but, in a following letter, they propose a solution that would result in a recovery shortfall of over $2 million. We respond rejecting this, and on it goes. July 31, 1995, we sent in the invoices for Thomson.
Now, here's an interesting tack when you're trying to deal with your bills. I think we could all probably take a lesson from DIA. They don't acknowledge them. So, in other words, you send them the bill; they don't acknowledge them.
So, from this point, we include Thomson in our regular billing, and DIA continues to ignore them.
It's an interesting technique. Let's try that. I would suggest we would try this the next time we get our Mastercard bill. You know, we just simply say, "Didn't get it, didn't get it."
Residential care - in November 1995, residential care for severely handicapped adults, they suggested of eight First Nation adults at Teegatha'Oh Zheh and Aspen, "DIA will pay for half". And DIA refuses to accept its responsibility. There's also been one adult placed in Quebec for years that DIA doesn't accept responsibility for.
So, basically, we start to forward some costs for SA - some of the shelter components - and DIA refuses to acknowledge these bills. So this is a very interesting technique that they've developed. They said, "We don't acknowledge them."
In December 1995 we end up with the -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That's true. They refuse to pay a portion of the 1992-93 rates for Kaushee's Place and the Dawson shelter. They refused to pay the portion for McDonald Lodge. They still haven't accepted responsibility for the Thomson Centre.
Wilderness placement camps - they simply reject these costs on the grounds that these must be for young offenders. Well, they're not for young offenders. Many of these kids are put there under the child welfare special placements. DIA simply says, "Well, it's young offenders, so we won't pay for that, because that's covered under a separate agreement."
This brings us now to January 1996.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It is almost criminal.
This is kind of neat - YTG has been using November 1991 rates on interim invoices, and has been relying on the final claim to adjust actual costs.
However, since DIA stopped paying the interim invoices, starting in 1994-95, we decided to go to the point of saying, "Okay, we've been using the 1991 rates; let's bring in our actual costs." So we did. DIA expressed shock at the increase. This didn't result in them paying, but they expressed shock.
We go on.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well sure. You don't worry about the size of the bill. I mean, you can be shocked at the size of the bill and still not pay it.
I would like to see us all go out - let's try this as a bit of an exercise. We'll call it the DIA cost accounting method. I would suggest that all members of this Legislature go out at the supper break, we all go to a restaurant, and we order the best meal we can get, and then we adopt the DIA cost accounting, by expressing shock at the cost and refusing to pay the portion. Instead, what we suggest is that we will pay the portion that we feel was applicable in November 1991.
Now, how many people here would think that we would all be here at 7:30? I doubt it. The Member for Kluane indicates that he will be.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: And the Member for Riverdale North suggests, but we do know that he has a practice of going in, ordering a meal, and then running out.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The member suggested that he would opt for circle sentencing. I would say that he would really need a very sympathetic judge and, given his track record, they're few and far between.
So I would suggest that he try to stay out of the social system.
Furthermore, in January 1996, there was an effort made to clarify and document exactly what costs Department of Indian Affairs wouldn't accept. The hope was that this would ultimately aid a negotiated settlement or allow for some kind of partial payment. Once again, Department of Indian Affairs' response was simply not to get back to you.
In April 1996, there was the interesting issue of band lists. We had been requesting lists from Department of Indian Affairs for a number of years as a way of simplifying billing and as a resolution. Department of Indian Affairs refuses to supply the lists to YTG on the grounds that we may use them to deny service. Well, we've never denied service to anyone, but this is their position. In essence, basically, the Department of Indian Affairs staff locally says that the referral of a status client to Department of Indian Affairs office constitutes a denial of service. The Department of Indian Affairs office referred the person to the Human Rights Commission, and on we go. We don't believe that we can accept Department of Indian Affairs' position on this.
We, once again, in September 1996, pursued the issue of regular band lists, and very little comes forward on it. In April 1997, we made a formal request to the deputy minister for a memorandum of understanding modelled on the Alberta agreement - if we can't get the B.C., then let's try for the Alberta. On June 23, 1997, back on the Thomson Centre - we do a review document that indicates that the classification is a facility issue, not an individual issue, and we cite the example that in B.C. people are routinely placed in a level 2 facility and that they are routinely covered.
So, the Thomson Centre confirms that.
On July 2, 1997 -
I've just received a note here that indicates that we may have solved the problem. Apparently, the cheque was sent to Komakuk Beach and it may be in the hands of the Inuvialuit Corporation, so we'll follow up on that issue as soon as we can. We'd better check where we've been asking them to send the billings. It could be, you know, Box 303, Komakuk Beach.
Well apparently, that is where the federal Liberal government sends all the cheques now.
Where was I? We have asked the federal government and Health Canada to review the responsibility for the Thomson Centre billings. This was agreed to and the request was forwarded to Ottawa. There was a child welfare meeting in July 1997. DIA agrees, at that point, to issue partial payments for the undisputed amount for each year, and a meeting was arranged with DIAND B.C. to assess the suitability of adapting the B.C. agreement to the Yukon. Now, this was July 1997. We're now in April 1999, and we still haven't got the agreement.
On July 17, 1997, there was a letter of understanding by DIA and we got a payment.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, we did. It covered the postage to Komakuk Beach.
There was a phone call in September 1997 to an officer in the B.C. claims office. This confirmed that in B.C. they actually do pay the actual cost, but there are some differences from the Yukon related to reserves and our greater focus on preventative measures. So, we actually try to bring in some preventative measures and for that, we are penalized.
There was a further meeting in September 1997 on the whole question of child welfare with the B.C. region DIA. We determined that the clear outcome was that DIA pays the actual costs in B.C. and that a grace period has been defined for status children not yet registered. In other words, for the issue of children who don't have a band number, a grace period has been brought in and a formula is used to represent actual costs as a simplified method for processing claims.
I should emphasize that this is all we've been really asking for - a similar agreement to that in B.C. that would address the issue of actual costs.
We have communicated following this to CYFN, and we have forwarded the details of all our child welfare claims to CYFN, pointing out where we feel the federal government is stepping away from its fiduciary responsibilities.
In October 1997, we filed with DIA, complete with a back-up on bed-day details. In November 1997, we sent a draft memorandum of understanding, modelled on the B.C. agreement, to DIA for review. In November 1997 - band lists. DIA indicates that they are "bogged down with work and unable to deal with the issue." I guess it was a further sort of addendum to the not-paying-your-bills bit.
It goes on. We have further communications in January 1998. In March 1998, we sent a revised memorandum of understanding to DIA, addressing the concerns that DIA had raised about it.
On April 1, 1998 - the Thomson Centre again - we communicate with the federal government about the earlier designation of the Thomson Centre as a level 2, but we receive nothing back. Essentially, Health Canada and DIA simply refused to supply us with a copy of the report that did identify the Thomson Centre as a level 2.
We added financial appendices in the spring of 1998 to the child welfare agreement. Our draft was based on the B.C. model. We sent it to DIA. We met with DIA in August 1998 to review and clarify. DIA requested some presentation changes, and on and on it goes.
We compiled and sent documents on August 18, 1998.
September 1998 - a victory of sorts. DIA finally indicates that they're willing to negotiate an agreement on the sharing of band lists, and DIA region is to initiate the negotiations.
October 2, 1998 - a letter of understanding for 1994-95 child welfare. Following months of periodic requests, DIA signs a letter of understanding to pay the Yukon government $4.2 million for 1994-95.
December 1, 1998 - once again a letter to the regional director general, which reviewed our outstanding claim issues for child welfare in Thomson, stressing the urgency to resolve them. We wanted to clear up the anomaly between the Canada assistance plan and the Health Canada position that the Thomson Centre is a nursing home; DIA has refused to acknowledge its responsibility.
Letter of understanding, December 24, 1998, just before Christmas. We finally got $4 million just in time for Christmas.
December 1998 to February 1999 - DIA forwarded a copy of their policy branch comments on our draft agreement. This is the draft agreement we were trying to get earlier. We corresponded with our lawyer. We sent it back.
February 5, 1999 - financial appendices to child welfare. After hearing nothing from DIA, we finally got asked for more cost detail related to the drafts. We responded, and so on and so forth.
Finally, culminating on March 8, 1999, when we got a meeting with some of the DIA regional staff, we presented our issues and we end up getting a person sent up from B.C. to complete work on the child welfare agreement. The regional director was to find a way that the Finance branch will permit partial child welfare payments, and it was determined that Thomson Centre clients are not receiving hospital services, and we clarified the issue that the Thomson Centre is, indeed, a continuing care facility.
Mr. Speaker, the reason I went through that litany is to illustrate that this sorry chapter has been going on and on, regardless of which government is in place in the territory. The fact is that, as the Member for Klondike indicated, we have been stonewalled, and it has not been from lack of effort on our part. We have attempted, on every turn, to work with the federal government, to make our case, to bring forward the issues, to bring forward the information that they have required.
We have attempted at every turn to meet their needs, in terms of the kind of information that is necessary for them and, at each point, we have either received no response or received partial response, we've received some counter proposals, or we received basically an ongoing questioning.
I guess, fundamentally, what we're wrestling with here is the fact that the Department of Indian Affairs seems to be trying to force on to the Yukon government and, I believe, ultimately, Yukon First Nations, fiduciary responsibility for, first of all, what we see as social services, but I believe, ultimately, unless we can arrest this rather disturbing trend, health care.
And I do feel that it's in the wind. I do feel that we have to take some strong steps in this regard.
You know, in this most recent federal budget, we saw a great deal of ballyhoo around programs that the federal government is going to bring in for aboriginal health. I would just strongly caution - and perhaps by dint of experience here - against First Nations getting too wound up in this, and believing that too much will actually flow, because I think that, if our experience has been anything, what we'll see is that actually money will be tied up in certain areas, and very little will actually get out to the people who need it.
And I believe that there are key issues - I believe that there are crucial issues for First Nation health. There are issues around child nutrition, child development, that are very crucial in First Nation communities. I believe that we've only begun to scratch the surface of some of the health problems that plague First Nation communities - particularly diabetes. And while it's okay for the federal government to announce the expenditures in this regard, I'm very afraid that what will actually happen is that, when the actual delivery model comes into place, very little money will actually flow to individual First Nations, and individual First Nations citizens - if our experience has been any marker.
The fact is that, under our Constitution, the federal government does have the fiduciary responsibilities for health and social services for First Nation citizens.
We deliver certain services for all Yukoners, but we expect that when we do deliver the services for First Nation citizens, we will be adequately and justly compensated for our expenditures in that regard. We're not asking for anything huge. We're not asking for anything startling. What we're basically asking for is just a simple resolution of an outstanding debt that we had incurred. We do not distinguish in this territory between our aboriginal and non-aboriginal citizens, but the federal government does distinguish. They distinguish in how we are paid. They distinguish in terms of our formula financing, and that has been on the understanding that there will be compensatory payments made for us when we do expend funds in this regard. That is not happening.
The Member for Klondike has pointed out that this could rise to, say, eight percent or 10 percent of the overall budget. Yes, that's true, and I think whenever we find ourselves in a position where we simply can't collect that which is legitimately owed to us, we are in a very poor position. We are planning to continue in this regard. We are planning to pursue this.
The member has indicated that perhaps ultimately the courts may be the way to resolve this. That may be our final outcome. I would hope not. I would hope that we can come to an agreement. I would hope that we can resolve this issue. But what it really does is make us, as a government, very, very leery about how future developments will go. I know that I've met with groups who have told me, "Don't worry about this particular project, because after all, Indian Affairs will come up with the money."
I have not been reticent about saying, "Don't count your chickens." I've been fairly blunt about that. Don't count on that being a major source of funding because if our experience is anything, you could end up with a very, very substantial bill.
The Member for Riverdale North has said that the chickens have been plucked. Not only have they been plucked, they've been deep-fried and skewered.
The issue really comes down to, I think, one of trust and one of faith. Further, it sends an alarming message - and it should send a very alarming message to some of our First Nations in this territory who may be contemplating, at a future juncture, to draw down services. I believe, ultimately, within First Nation self-government, there will be a desire to draw down certain services.
My caution to some of those First Nations is that they should get very, very clear direction, a very clear sense, very clear guarantees that those funds will, in fact, be there because they cannot count on the goodwill of the federal government.
I think that we are in agreement with our colleague, the Member for Klondike. I think he has raised some strong issues here; I think he has raised some strong concerns. I was pleased to see that he did go on record right off the bat by suggesting that he and his party were not interested in any sort of reduction or restriction of services. That was very reassuring for me, because I think, even though I may have considerable issue with the federal government and may experience extreme frustration on this issue, I could never, in good conscience, acquiesce to any kind of action which might restrict services to Yukon citizens of First Nation background. I could never do that. It simply runs against the grain, so I was reassured when he indicated that that wasn't his intention either.
We agree that this is a clear action of abrogation of responsibility on the part of the federal government toward its First Nation citizens. We agree that, in doing this, they are sending a message, which I believe is quite damaging to relations between the Yukon territorial government and the federal government. And ultimately, I believe it will send a very bad message about possible future relations between the federal and First Nation governments, as they evolve.
So, I am very concerned about the resolution of this. I'm very concerned that the federal government take this seriously. We are continuing to work. I'm grateful for the level of support that we've received on this. I can assure the members that it continues to be a major priority for us. We will continue to pursue it. I'll keep the members updated, and I think we will all need to remind our federal Liberal counterparts that they cannot end the deficit on the backs of Canadians and, certainly, they cannot end the deficit on the backs of First Nation Canadians.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, there can be little doubt that the federal government owes us a very large amount of money, and it should be paid forthwith. Unfortunately, things don't always go the way you want.
Over the past two and a half years, we have heard the Minister of Health talk about his ongoing battle with the federal government over unpaid health bills. Some of these dollars are for beds at the Thomson Centre, some of the amounts are for children in care, and other dollars are for straight health care services.
There are a number of areas where the federal government has failed to live up to its responsibilities to pay for the services that this government has provided to Yukon's First Nations people. The just-released Auditor General's report has noted that these dollars are outstanding and they agree with the territorial government that these are dollars that are owing to YTG from the federal government. That's quite a significant statement, as this has been one of the biggest stumbling blocks in settling these accounts.
The Government of Canada, you see, has been unwilling to pay a reasonable amount for the services provided to Yukon First Nations people, and they have been unwilling to agree on the amount outstanding, and they have been unwilling at times to agree on which services should be paid for by DIAND.
It's been a very troublesome negotiation over the years. It's also been a very expensive one for Yukoners.
This money could have been spent on other health services, and the negotiation process could have gone better and been more respectful of Yukon government positions. And, there is no logical reason for this negotiation to have gone on for so long.
A couple of years ago there was some movement in negotiations and a very sizable amount of the oldest billings were finally paid by the feds, but since then there has been little or no progress.
Now, the Minister of Health has assured this House a number of times during the Health debate these past two weeks that he was doing everything in his power to keep this issue on the national agenda. Indeed, he was even going to bring this issue up again at the next Health ministers meeting. He has told us this a number of times over the past two and one-half years, but alas he seems to have had little effect on the national scene because the bills remain unpaid.
The latest tack from the Health minister is to hope that Yukon's First Nation leaders will also put pressure on Ottawa, and I hope they have better luck than the Minister of Health. This issue needs to be resolved. Our bills should be paid respectfully and in a timely manner.
We should settle for nothing less. During the health debate, the minister also suggested that his department was negotiating with a new person at DIAND, and he was optimistic that some sort of progress would be made by the end of the month - that was by the end of April 1999.
Our caucus is also optimistic that some progress will be made shortly, and that the old bills will be cleared up and the ongoing billing process will become more efficient. That isn't a lot to ask for - municipalities expect the same from the territorial government, and that courtesy or expectation is even enshrined in legislation. It's called the Municipal Act. Junior levels of government should expect some sort of recognition and timeliness of payment for receivables. After all, we've all got bills to pay.
The minister has also been very open with the position that under no circumstances is he willing to withhold services from Yukon's First Nations people until the bills are paid by the feds, and that's very admirable, but it's also incredibly obvious.
But the minister has not said what sort of legal remedies he will be pursuing if there is not a substantial movement on the outstanding claims by the end of April of 1999. As a matter of fact, the minister has been quite coy about this point. At one point during the Health debate, when this side was trying to pin the minister down on exactly what legal remedies he would pursue, the minister went on and on in some flight of fantasy, where the Yukon Liberal caucus - one of the opposition parties - was going to get on the red phone, and contact Ottawa directly, and get that funding for the territorial government.
Well, that's silly - absolutely silly. We're not the government in power. I'm not the Minister of Health. I'm the critic from the third party.
It is the minister's responsibility to deal with this very serious issue - not play silly political games with over $30-million worth of outstanding bills.
At the same point in the Health debate, our caucus tried to pin the minister down on exactly what letters or documents had been sent by this government, and previous governments, on a political level, that addressed the issue of the outstanding Health and Social Services billings to the federal government.
And once again, the minister went on and on in some rant about those nasty Liberals in Ottawa, but he didn't come up with any letters. And you know, I don't think those letters exist. I'm not sure that this government has done everything that they can do to deal with these outstanding bills, but our caucus has. We sent a letter to Paul Martin, outlining our concerns about this matter. As only a third party in this Legislature that is everything that we can do, and I hope the Minister of Health has a few more negotiating ploys up his sleeve.
We would like to see those letters that have been sent on a political level about those outstanding bills. We would like to know exactly what legal remedies this minister is going to pursue if there is not substantial movement on these accounts by month end.
We would like to know that for $30 million this government is going to get serious about collecting the money owed to us, the money owed to Yukoners, the Yukoners who are represented in this Legislature, the Yukoners who deserve our best efforts.
The federal government owes us a lot of money, and they should pay, and that's the reason why the Yukon Liberal caucus will be supporting this motion today.
Ms. Duncan: I rise today to speak to the motion and to emphasize the words that my colleague, the Member for Riverdale South, has noted in this House.
It's a fact that the federal government has failed to pay a very large, outstanding debt owed to the Government of the Yukon. The Auditor General's report notes this as well, and, Mr. Speaker, the point that the Auditor General has noted this in the report has been stated by the Member for Klondike. To me and to many Yukoners and many Canadians who hold that particular office in such high regard and with such respect, that truly was a stinging point that the federal government has to acknowledge and take note of.
The one point that hasn't been made is the length of time that this debt and outstanding billings have gone on. The Minister of Health has talked about a book of letters, an ongoing dispute, and some payments. "Over a decade," the minister is kibitzing from the sidelines. I would suggest to the minister that it has gone on far longer than a decade. It would seem to me, since the days of YHIS, or Yukon hospital insurance services, that we, the Yukon, have been arguing with the federal government over what's been paid, what's not been paid, and what's still outstanding.
In any business relationship, there are accounts receivable, and there are usually one or two customers who kind of waiver in and out of that accounts-receivable section. Sometimes they're 30, sometimes they're 60, and sometimes they're 90 days in arrears. The point is that there are times when one likes to offer credit, and there are times when one's cashflow demands that bills are paid on time and in a timely manner.
In a respectful government-to-government relationship, one would assume that we could not have disputes like this drag on for far more than a decade, but we could have a respectful relationship that pays the bills on time, the sort of respectful relationship that we are encouraging when we work, and we try to walk the talk and encourage with others to promote that respectful environment, to pay our bills on time, and to observe one another's own responsibilities.
The motion says that, by failing to pay these outstanding bills, that the government is offloading health and social costs onto the Yukon government, and I would agree with that statement, Mr. Speaker, that failing to meet one's financial obligations and to observe and respect the fiduciary responsibilities is not honouring that commitment.
Mr. Speaker, it's interesting that the motion should speak of offloading in this manner, because we have raised that very issue in the House with the behaviour by this government with respect to municipalities.
Mr. Speaker, I would encourage - since the minister has expressed his support for the motion - that he also consider, in his Cabinet discussions, walking the talk in his dealings with other levels of government and other governments.
The point has not been made, Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, that this dispute has gone on for far more than 10 years. The point has also not been made that we've had changes in the federal government over the past 10 or 20 years. We've had those changes as well and, Mr. Speaker, the point should be made that, regardless of who is in power in Ottawa, this dispute has gone on for far too long, and it really requires some political will to resolve it at this point.
Obviously, those exchanges of letters and boxes of letters and years of dispute have not resolved this issue. Mr. Speaker, it's time for the politicians to demonstrate some leadership and resolve this issue.
And if that requires a third party to act as a mediator or act as an arbitrator, then so be it, although, Mr. Speaker, it seems very clear to me that the Auditor General has stated very clearly that these bills are due and owing, so pay them.
For heaven's sake, I would strongly urge, as I have done and my colleague has noted, not just the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development but also the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board and everyone else who's involved in these financial discussions to sit down and recognize the value of the Auditor General's comment, and pay the bills - pay the bills, Mr. Speaker, and not just pay the outstanding bills but start paying these ongoing bills in a timely and respectful manner, such as we tried to encourage the government to do on a government to government basis.
Mr. Speaker, this matter is particularly urgent in light of the devolution discussions.
The Government Leader has referred to devolution as the deal of the century and he has talked about its importance to Yukoners, and we've talked about the importance of devolution in a variety of aspects in this House.
I believe one of the members raised it today, with respect to mining. The point is, Mr. Speaker, before devolution proceeds any further, this is one outstanding issue that has to be resolved. The leader of the official opposition has raised the point, and it was also raised today, regarding outstanding bills for the evacuation of Old Crow and the bills outstanding from the fire near Pelly Crossing - as still unpaid accounts.
Before we move forward in any new kind of relationship - or non-relationship - with the federal government, we have to resolve these old, old, old, old disputes. They've gone on far too long, and the bills should be paid.
And, Mr. Speaker, I would strongly encourage - not just that side of the House - the federal ministers responsible as well to resolve this matter and get on with the payment. The Minister of Health has said, "Cut the cheque by month end, get on with it." And if he doesn't see the cheque by month end, well, we don't really know what he's going to do. "Aw shucks."
Let's end the "Aw shucks" attitude and let's get on with it. Let's say, "Come on. Pay the bill. We've got major issues happening here; let's pay the bill."
We would like, Mr. Speaker, to express, as the Member for Riverdale South has done, our support for the motion and encourage all members to make absolute best efforts to encourage all politicians to resolve this matter at the political level and have the federal government pay the outstanding bills to the Government of the Yukon.
Mr. Cable: I'm going to give the minister some free legal advice. This is the first time I've ever done this in my life, so I want recognition for it. By the way, I'm going to sit down at 5:29 p.m. so we can vote on this.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: Quite so. Quite so.
I've heard this argument about the federal government owing us this money for quite some time, and I think the minister is spinning his tires. I also think this motion, which we are going to support and we're going to vote on, is not strong enough. I think we most definitely have to deal with this crew the way that any lawyer would deal with a foot-dragger or a deadbeat. First of all, you write them a letter.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: That's right.
You give them 60 days to cough up. And I'm going to give the minister this: it's called the Commercial Arbitration Act. I think the Member for Klondike has talked about arbitration, so I'll give him credit for the idea.
It does a deal with the Crown. Write a letter to the minister, tell the minister she's got 60 days to operate under that act, and if she doesn't operate, then we're going to get these Department of Justice tigers to go after the minister.
I know this government has been big on alternate dispute resolution. They've talked about it; a letter went out from the Government Leader shortly after he got into power, talking about the things they wanted to do for the people of the Yukon, and that was to bring in mediation and arbitration.
So, let's put this into practice. Let's give the federal minister a chance to go the route of alternate dispute resolution and, failing that, within the 60-day period - that's about the time it'll take the federal bureaucracy to get up in the morning, and run around and figure out the problem - then if they don't come up with the money, then get a writ, have it ready to go, right on the sixtieth day. That's the way to deal with people who foot-drag.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question? Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. Livingston: Agree.
Mr. Ostashek: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Mr. Cable: Agree.
Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 16 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 166 agreed to
Speaker: The time being past 5:30 p.m., the House stands recessed until 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is on the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
Bill No. 14 - First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 - continued
Department of Community and Transportation Services - continued
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, when we left general debate yesterday we were dealing with some of the super bloopers that occurred in Community and Transportation Services. We left off with the airport and we'll have to get back to that after I've had a full opportunity to review Hansard and put into proper context the way the minister tried to waffle on his position and his responsibilities.
Let's go to another area, Mr. Chair. Let's go to the Whitehorse waterfront, the Shipyards Sleepy Hollow area, and the relocation of the squatters in that area.
In the 1998-99 budget, we were told this was going to cost some $294,000. Now, in the 1999-2000 budget, we're told that it's going to cost another $669,000, so we're at almost $1 million to relocate these individuals.
The Government Leader did table the pricing principles - the compensation package for the relocation of the Whitehorse area waterfront squatters. It reads as follows, Mr. Chair: "They were to receive the equivalent replacement value of improvements ..." - not the land. I guess not. They didn't own the land. "... and the cost of replacing the improvements with that of a similar utility and taking into account the market price in the Whitehorse area".
Now, in addition to the replacement value of their improvements, they received a basic, flat rate equity of anywhere from $3,000 up to $5,000, and this was equitable compensation for release of their interest in those structures that had little or no inherent value. So, what we're looking at is that they get replacement value of their improvements, and then they get compensated to give up their structure. Then, in addition to that, they received long-term occupancy for up to 45 years, and it's called a justifiably earned equity adjustment that might be considered for those who have occupied the areas for an extended period of time - so up to $45,000 if the residents had been there for 45 years.
That's a significant sum in itself, Mr. Chair, for avoiding the laws and squatting in that area. Now, in addition to that, we have a special allowance for senior citizens - for anyone over 65 years of age - another $10,000, and then moving expenses up to $5,000. This is an allowance to cover the expenses incurred in moving and relocation of their personal household effects.
Now, last time I checked, you could probably move virtually anywhere in Canada for about $5,000, depending on the contents or the amount of household goods, but that in itself is a sizable sum. What we're looking at, Mr. Chair, is a major, major cost to the taxpayers of Yukon in dealing with the squatters.
This is a very, very generous package in itself, Mr. Chair, but then we go on to the individuals who resided there and if, during the course of their occupancy of that area, they paid taxes, the City of Whitehorse cut a deal with the territorial government and the City of Whitehorse refunded their taxes - fine. Now, if they didn't pay taxes, they were written off.
Now, I'm not aware of any other example, Mr. Chair, where taxes, if they were paid, have been refunded. The only time I know that they have been written off is when the assets or the lands were subsequently taken over through the tax lien procedure or were a totally uncollectable debt.
Now, this cushy arrangement was agreed to between the City of Whitehorse and the Government of Yukon. Well, that in itself would appear to any citizen of the Yukon who has had the opportunity to acquire land as being a very, very generous package - a very generous package indeed, Mr. Chair.
But then we come across what is happening to the relocation of these individuals. We look at the relocation of the individuals, the Fireweed Drive area in Mary Lake - a parkland. An area set aside as parkland was taken over to be rezoned, and divvied up to a number of these individuals.
Now, that in itself does not appear to be fair, Mr. Chair, nor does it appear to be reasonable. And after it was raised in this Legislature, I guess common sense prevailed over there, and this super blooper was kind of backed away from by this NDP government, and rightly so, Mr. Chair.
Then we move onto the other area in rural Whitehorse - the Hot Springs Road area. There we have a parcel of agricultural land, Mr. Chair, that a number of Yukoners have applied for. They have been told that it's not available - I'm referring specifically to lot 1247. And once again, we have a resident from the Whitehorse squatters area being relocated to that area. The people in the area were informed by the manager of lands disposition section by way of letter from the Government of the Yukon, dated February 25, of their intended land disposition of kilometre 5 Hot Springs Road land. Well, is that fair, Mr. Chair?
Here we have a parcel of land, zoned agricultural. Numerous Yukoners have applied for it. They are told that it's not available. They're told that they can't have access to it, and all of a sudden, some of these same individuals that have applied for that parcel of land receive a letter from the Government of the Yukon saying, "We're offering it, and we're going to relocate a squatter or squatters from the Whitehorse waterfront area to this lot on the Hot Springs Road area."
Is that fair? Is that due process, Mr. Chair? I don't think so. I don't feel you could find very many Yukoners who would feel that that is fair.
During Question Period in this Legislature, the minister stood up and said, "Yes, we're going to treat the squatters fairly, and we're going to relocate one or two to that area, despite the fact that in the City of Whitehorse we have over 200 developed, vacant lots that are ready to go and are completely serviced. No, we've identified these parcels of land, this agricultural land, and we're going to relocate a squatter to that land.
Now, when we look at the Government of Yukon's agricultural policy, the Department of Renewable Resources has quite an extensive policy and way that land is acquired for agricultural purposes, and yet in this House during questioning the minister said, "Well, these individuals will be following the agricultural policy and zoning, but they won't be following the rest of the agricultural policy - just the zoning." They don't have to jump through all of these hoops that the rest of Yukoners who have applied for agricultural land have had to. Now, is that fair?
When we look at the Crown land for agricultural use, the Department of Renewable Resources says in its paper that there are currently 61 agricultural land applications under active consideration. There are an additional 44 on hold and an additional 26 awaiting federal orders-in-council transferring them to the Yukon government, for a total of 131 applications in process.
Well, Mr. Chair, that means there are 131 Yukoners or Yukon families out there that are prepared, that have or are jumping through all of the hoops that government has set in place for the acquisition of agricultural land. Is it fair that a squatter from the Whitehorse waterfront should be rushed and moved to the front of that line, be granted priority over those other 131 applicants, and who knows how many other Yukoners want agricultural land but are deterred by the process? They look at the process, they shake their head, and they walk away.
What this government is sending out is a clear message to Yukoners that the way to acquire land in the Yukon is to squat. If we don't legitimize you in your squatting role, heck, we might even buy you out and pay you, through the pricing principles formula, for flat-rate equity, long-term occupation, senior citizen allowance, and moving expenses. Now it's up to a hundred-odd thousand dollars in some cases, Mr. Chair. Is that fair?
Is that fair to Yukoners?
Then we look at this NDP government that prides itself in consulting with the people, speaking with the people, moving around as the Minister of Community and Transportation Services suggests, and talking to the folks. I don't know who he spoke with with respect to this process; I'm sure it must have been a major, major issue.
But let's go through these areas one at a time.
Let's ask the minister to explain, Mr. Chair, the issues initially surrounding the taxes. How was the decision arrived at that if the Whitehorse waterfront squatters didn't pay their taxes, it was written off and if they did pay their taxes, it was refunded? Now, this arrangement was between his government and the City of Whitehorse. How was that arrangement arrived at, this fair arrangement? Could the minister kindly explain that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I can explain that. I can elaborate on many things and I do believe I'll take the opportunity to do just that.
I'd like to, first of all, tell the member and talk to the Member for Klondike a little bit about fairness. The member used the word "fair" many, many times. He used it in a sardonic manner; he used in a very funny fashion, I guess you might say. Is that fair? Well, Mr. Chair, I'd appreciate - as the majority of Yukoners do, I'm sure - looking at the big picture. We are one community here in the Yukon Territory and we must act as one community in the Yukon Territory.
I'll get back to fairness now, though, because I spoke about a sense of community and how the community is. There are 30,000-plus people in the Yukon Territory. If anybody could get along, it should be us. Of course, we are who we are and we do have a political system and it's unfortunate at times that politics has to get in the way of real people's lives. It's unfortunate that certain members would twist it so that politics is something to be scorned. Certainly that is not the way I want it to be and certainly that's not the way I want my life to be.
Back to fairness - what is fair? When the Member for Klondike quite elegantly or quite passionately, I might say, spoke about how for 45 years senior citizens have been living on the waterfront as residents - longer than some of the ages of the people who are sitting in this House representing people I know here.
Do they have a right? Did they have a choice? Is it fair that they get to do that?
Well, certainly, I can remember back 45 years ago - maybe not all so clear, because I was just a two-year old at the time - but I can certainly recall the life of Whitehorse at that time. To go to Porter Creek - where we have two members, one from the Yukon Party, and one from the Liberal Party representing there - used to be a major excursion. It was a real major excursion.
To go up there it was like going to a land far away or a different neighbourhood. It was the kind of idea that you had not just to jump in your car, take the transit bus and go up there - it was an excursion. So there were neighbourhoods, and the waterfront residents were a very viable neighbourhood.
Did I visit there? Did I see people there? Absolutely. And I think some other people in this room were so lucky as to have grown up in that era of Yukon, and to enjoy the folk of the Yukon.
Now, I know that the Member for Klondike is disgusted when I use the word "folk" - to go and talk to some folk. That's exactly how I feel people should be treated, and that's how I expect to be treated - as an everyday person that you can stop - just one of the folks.
That's kind of what I like about the Yukon Territory, because if you do have something to say, you should have, and do have, the right to go ahead and to say it. Not one person in this room, in this House, or even in the Yukon Territory, can say that I asked them to leave my office because it was a tough decision.
When people come to my office, and they want to talk about land availability - or anything that is within my authority as the minister for C&TS - I welcome them into my office.
Do I say, "No, you're wrong", and duke it out with them? Absolutely not. The member very well knows that I have a hearing problem, so it must take me much more time. I must listen very closely to hear what people say, so I'm very intent on listening to people, and working with people - all people, because all people do have a choice.
So I put it back to the Member for Klondike - is it fair? Is it fair that you should talk about them in this House, talk in a demeaning fashion?
In the House, they're "squatters", but in a full-page advertisement, they're "waterfront residents".
It seems to tell me that we're playing with a two-headed nickel or something like as such that you can flip around and you can fob around. If you catch it, you can do that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: A wooden nickel. Thank you very much.
So, you can make it your choice, how you depict it, how you present it to the people at large. That's your choice on how you do it.
So, there are very viable neighbourhoods down there - Sleepy Hollow. I mean, right where the government building is at this time. We used to walk from school and stop and visit people here, because they lived here. Other members of your caucus know this.
So, were those folks giving up something? Did those folks have a common-law right? We've got some pro bono information today from one of the lawyers in the building, and maybe at some point in time, we can get more pro bono advice from the lawyers that are in the room. And I would think that maybe those people do have a right. Whether it's a right in common law or whether it's registered, there is a right - a legal right, I would anticipate.
But let's talk about the moral rights, the obligations of good citizenship and working together as a community. That is a civic responsibility of the MLAs - everybody in this room at this point in time. It is our civic responsibility to treat people as individuals, as who they are, and treat them the way you like to be treated, the way I like to be treated. That's the way I treat people. And yes, in some cases, I do think there might be a legal right, an absolute legal right.
Now, the famous Rasputin - "Would the member please get a legal opinion? I challenge him. Get a legal opinion on it." That's not why I'm doing it. We can call it a problem, if you wish, or we can call it a challenge.
Let me say that the people have been living on the waterfront, as you said, for some 45 years. So, were we just to herd them off, round them up and get them out - yahoo? Nope, because they are people. Now, I said 45 years. Let me also say that within that 45-year span, the Yukon Party - the Conservative Party - had tenure of the government for certain, short, sporadic jurisdictions during that 45-year term. They did. Did they take up the challenge, the opportunity, or even the obligation to work with the people in that situation? Absolutely not. I challenge you to show me where you did - because you didn't.
You had life pretty good. Life was very good, thanks to the New Democratic government before that that put things into place for the economy. It was good, so you didn't really have to force yourselves or to bother with that. It was just a minor little bump and, what the heck, it was within the city's jurisdiction.
Well, certainly, the majority are within the city's jurisdiction, but that is not how this government expects to be treated by a senior government or another level of government. We are a senior government over other junior levels of government. That's not how we expect to be treated.
You've heard me say it, and I do believe that every member in this House who's had the opportunity to speak on this side has spoken about respect and cooperation among governments. And that's exactly what we did.
We spoke with the city and we asked if they had the political will and the desire to work cooperatively with us. Of course, there are two First Nation governments that are also involved in the process, so there are actually four players at the table at this point in time.
But we took up the challenge. I took it upon myself to go and speak to people. My Government Leader, the hon. Piers McDonald, and his constituency had chats with me and we talked about, "Well, you know, maybe we should go and talk to the folk." So, both the Government Leader, the MLA, and I, as the minister, went down and we had a talk with people. Now, it's been said that the Government Leader went down with a cut cheque hanging right out of his pocket, like this, for $100,000 to have a cup of tea; and that he bought a cup of tea and, "There you go, ma'am." It's even been depicted in the paper that it was for a Scottish holiday. My God, man, what will people do to get elected? It's absolutely amazing sometimes.
It's called working with the people, talking with the people, and getting an understanding of what the people would like, because they're not cattle to be herded up and to be prodded and to be boinked along the road and to be pushed out. They're to talk with and to work with. And that's exactly what we did. We took up the challenge. As we sat with those folk - pardon me for saying words that are certainly not in your vocabulary, we took up the challenge with the people, with the folk, the residents and asked, for the greater good, what would it be? Well, man, I got varying degrees of answers. I got answers from the right, from the left, from the middle. "I don't know, Dave, you've been around a long time, what do you think?" That's the type of discussion I went in with, and it wasn't with a cheque cut in my pocket and an, "Oh, yes, shucks, I'll have a cup of tea because I guess that's what I've got to do." It was with meaning, that I knew there was an opportunity.
The people on the waterfront, they knew what they were living in. They knew what the conditions were. The squatters policy, which did apply to them at one point in time, came into effect in 1984 or 1985 - 1987? It came into effect in 1987. Well, if the Member for Klondike will remember, because I certainly remember - I was here in the Yukon at that time, as you were - there was quite a kerfuffle from the folks down there because a lot of them said, "I ain't leaving. This is my right. This is my place."
I mean, my God, if you can characterize it as a problem, the problem was been generations in the making.
So, it's very likely that the solution would be generational.
They did speak when I went down to them again. They said, "Yeah, you know, Dave, you're right. There are a lot of memories here. You see here, that's when little Johnny was eight years old; this was when little Johnny was 12 years old; this was when little Johnny was 14 years old."
So, squatters having children and families? My God. The Member for Klondike has a family and must have had a measuring stick where he measured them and watched them grow. I know it seems awfully funny when depicting everyday life of common, ordinary people. I mean, other people who consider themselves from other classes might be able to smirk at it, to laugh it off, but certainly I do not do that. Nobody on this side of the House does that because we work with people and we treat people well.
So, we chatted with them. I said, "Well, you know, I don't have an open-ended cheque book. Certainly, we can put together some principles of length and those types of things."
I won't begin to reiterate what those principles are. They're right here. The member read them into the record already so everybody in the House knows what the principles are. That's where the basis of the principles came from: from some brainstorming, some talking together, working with folk, talking to folk, understanding that there are benchmarks that are very near and dear to them.
I talked about the greater community good when I was there. I spoke about Whitehorse being the centre. The Member for Klondike was consistently and constantly talking about rural Yukon. I did point out that rural Yukon is well-represented on this side of the House. Certainly it is.
I spoke to those folks about rural Yukon, the community of Yukon, the fact that everybody wants a recreation centre, everybody wants a sewage treatment plant and everybody wants a hospital. Everybody wants these things, but you folks are sitting on the waterfront. We're working with the city on the idea of waterfront development for the greater community good, for the greater blessing of the Yukon community.
You have a government here that is willing to work with you, to talk with you and to listen with you, and most importantly to listen with you. We talked to the city, and we said basically the same message to the city. We took up the challenge and some people were saying, "No, never." Others, as they watched, I guess, each other go and struggle with the problems that they had had, whatever their problem might be, took up the challenge and left. Now, why? Again, I have to repeat a little bit of a why.
It was for the greater community good. Now, what is the "greater community good" mean? The waterfront, as it sits from where we are here has great potential, fantastic potential. The potential is phenomenal for the greater community of the Yukon Territory. Those people said they would move for that vision. And that is a vision that is collective between the territorial government, the city and the First Nations governments, so that we might have something happen, so we can have some economic generation happening. And it comes, and the dollars will come, and we all need dollars in our pocket, because we all have families, we all want a better quality of life for our people, and that's what I work for. That's what the folks on the waterfront do, and that is part of the vision that the folks on the waterfront have lived up to. They've lived up to that part of it.
So, yes, they do have a sense of history. They do have a life that they would live. They do. They do buy into the picture of one community, the one big picture, and that's what it is.
Now, the member spoke about - "and they were refunded their taxes." You don't have to say it in such a derogatory, mean way. I am not the taxing authority. The City of Whitehorse is the taxing authority. The City of Whitehorse has been willing to work with us. I never had to suggest what they had to do. All I suggested to them is that if we're willing to work and you're willing to work, let us find ways to work together. So, within their authority, they have.
Now, I guess if life was smooth and perfect, and if I was the perfect human being - and I am the first to stand up and admit that I'm not the perfect human being. I mean, I would challenge others in the room, and I'm sure that they would stand up upon the challenge and say that they are the perfect specimens - "We have the noble outlook."
Well, that's a point for debate, too. So there might have been a few hiccups, or something like as such - if you want, a couple of hiccups along the way.
But those are hiccups that would happen in the normal course of life. Life is not [member whistles], it's ba-boom, ba-boom, ba-boom, kind of. And people who have principles and values of respect, honesty, and yes, love and spirituality in their hearts can get over those hiccups - because it's an everyday part of life.
Some folks say that they've got too much stress in life, but some very wise folks have also said that we should just call that life. Now I'm talking to you, Member for Klondike, and I surely hope you're listening a little bit, because there are messages in here for you that would make a better life for yourself.
Now, let me speak about some of the hiccups, I guess - if I might. I did work and talk with the city - oh, gosh, it was way back last August, or last summer sometime - and asked them if they would work with us, and they said that absolutely, they would work with us.
We talked about, well, choices, you know. Do we really want to do this? Yes, we really want to do this. Do we have a specific place for them? Naw, we don't have a real specific place, because I wasn't into saying, "Okay, you all get herded up down here and you come into here and then we're going to take you collectively and plunk you over to here." No, no, no, no, no, no.
That's never been what it is, because as people at Mary Lake, Hot Springs Road area, Pilot Mountain, Mount Lorne, any of the suburbs that are within the city or surrounding the city - they all have choices, too. Much to the chagrin, maybe, of the Member for Klondike, but the folks - the waterfront residents - have choices, too.
Now, I guess it's up to people like myself and the government to make sure that we don't have conflict - or minimal conflict, if there's going to be conflict - to have very minimal conflict.
Now, in the case of Mary Lake, the city did put in a zoning application - they have their process to go through, I'm sure the member knows the city process as well as he knows the YTG process - and they did.
They went forth with zoning. Now, I know that there were cries from the neighbourhood. I'd spoken to one of the folks, a young lady, who was involved with Mary Lake. One of the first things out of my mouth on the phone after I managed to get hold of her - I tried one evening and couldn't, and then tried the next day to chat with those folks, and then spoke about them having a point of view. They did have an honest-to-God point of view, and that they could make their point of view known to me, and that I will consider, look, and do the right thing with that point of view, as I talk to people and come forth with these positions.
Now, they had bought the property under the anticipation that it was going to be a greenbelt, or a park space, at that place. They felt that it would be detrimental to their property value if another lot were there. I listened to that with absolute reason. I had to read it, and I talked to the folks about it, but not once did I hear a prejudiced statement come out of those people's mouths, or the folks that I spoke to - not once.
And I was very pleased and proud of that, because there are some people who have issues and will work within the process and put forth their issues to be considered. That's exactly what I had. We had the chat and I said, "No, I appreciate that you had not made a prejudiced statement. I appreciate that."
I am a born-and-raised Yukoner, as are very many in this room. People know I have been a past chief of the Teslin Tlingit Council, and people also know that my daddy is 100 percent pure Irish - or was. Pardon me. So, maybe I look at life just a tad differently - well, maybe quite a bit differently, actually, according to you guys. Maybe I look at life quite a bit differently but, by golly, I like my outlook on life, because it's an all-encompassing outlook. It has the basic principles. I work from those basic principles, taught to me by my parents, and that's what I appreciated about that. I appreciated that they would look at it in that light. I looked at it, and I said, "You know, if I were in your shoes, I'd feel the same way." If that was the expectation I had when it was time to buy, and as they bought, then I would be disappointed, and I would be angry, and I would do something to see if I could change it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Oh, I'm going to get there, my friend. You just hang in and listen.
So, as I looked at it, I said yes, they have a right, an opportunity to speak, and they did. Is that fair? You betcha it's fair. That's a government working with people. That's what we have to do, should do and can do and will do. We will do that, Mr. Speaker.
Now, if you go to the Hot Springs Road and you talk about that - well, what was going on out at the Hot Springs Road? Folks at the Hot Springs Road said that - and there are two parts to this, so you'll have to bear with me, but I know the Member for Riverdale North will interrupt and give me some direction halfway through, which will certainly be of a help, I imagine, in his mind. But on the Hot Springs Road, zoning did take place in 1994 - no, in 1996, zoning took place. The people were involved with the process. I wasn't personally involved with the process but certainly the people involved were involved in the process. Hence, it became agricultural land, and I've been informed by the Department of Renewable Resources that it's marginal at best but it fits within agricultural land policy so it is agricultural land.
Now, let's get this picture, okay? At Mary Lake, it's one issue. It's zoned one way, country residential I do believe. It conforms. We looked at the issue of additional lots, said no, it's not a commonsense thing to do so therefore we're not going to do it. We have to take up the greater challenge of finding a spot that's suitable for the people we're talking about, and also how does it conform to the neighbourhood they're moving into? How does it conform to that? People have rights.
Now, on the Hot Springs Road, the zoning issues were taking place in 1996. It was zoned for agricultural land. The residents - so help me God, I don't know who the residents are, and I guess that's the best way for me, because I don't want to look at it as this resident over this resident, and this resident is more powerful than this neighbourhood, and this neighbourhood is over this resident. No, no, no, no, it's not the way we have got to look at things like that.
So, they are desirous of that parcel of land - not the whole chunk, and if I can remember off the top of my head again, it's something just a little under 30 hectares, I believe, or something like as such. Within that, they would receive the six hectares. So, are they getting the whole kit and caboodle. No, no, no, that's not a land grab or anything. It's a fair and due process. They are desirous of the land.
Now, do they have to conform? They said that they were going to conform. I accept their word. They have said that they are going to live up to the requirements of the zoning. Okay, they've said that.
Now, the agricultural policy - if I can recall, and heaven forbid if I don't know it off by heart, because it's certainly not within my department. It's in Renewable Resources, but I know just a tad about it. It says that you have to do a development plan, and you have to submit the development plan, and you have to say that this is how you're going to do it. Well, now that was waived. That was waived, because they did say that they are going to conform to the requirements of the land.
So, the people were consulted. The people talked about it. They had their input to the zoning requirement; hence it came out of agricultural land. Now, the people from the waterfront are desirous of living up to the confirmation of their zoning requirement.
So, it comes down to, I guess, one question now and this is the question that the Member for Klondike is asking: why? Why do they get this land? Can't we just move them all up to Granger? Those people don't want to move to Granger. Again, I can't take up a cattle prod and "moo". No, no, no, you can't go this way, you've got to go that way. I'm not going to do that. Working with people, talking with people - that's what we're going to do.
So, they're desirous of that chunk of land and that's a good thing, because I think that the Member for Klondike, or the whole Yukon Party, is supportive of waterfront development.
Now, I know they never support the budgets. They beat the tar out of me all day long here as much as they want - and other ministers - just thump, thump, thump.
Chair: Order please. The member has one minute.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We can talk about those things, but they do have choices. They do have obligations that they're going to live up to and we're going to continue to work with them. We are not going to create a situation of homeless people. We have enough of that in the Yukon Territory as it is, but we are going to and we'll continue to work with people.
Now, Mr. Chair, I know I've taken up quite an amount of time, a half hour, I guess or close to it on speaking about this, but the one thing I want is development of the Yukon. I want to do it with people. I want to make sure that the principle of "not in my backyard" is not adhered to, but I want people to understand that we will and I will work personally with them based on their principles for the greater community good.
I hope that fits within the time frame.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Livingston: Mr. Chair, I'd like to just briefly interrupt the discussion to welcome constituents of the Hot Springs Road area and more particularly, to ask members to join with me in welcoming a former member of the House who is no stranger to this House, the former MLA, Mickey Fisher.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, just looking back and reflecting on what the minister has just said, he just doesn't get it. He just doesn't understand the issue. We're not disputing the fair treatment of the Whitehorse waterfront residents, the squatters in that area. They have been given a very, very lucrative buyout package - an extremely lucrative buyout package that is without precedent in the Yukon. We only have to look at some of the expropriations for the escarpment over here in Whitehorse to see what those individuals were paid, those property owners who had legal title to their land, and compare it to what the Whitehorse waterfront squatters have received and what they are receiving. They have a very lucrative package.
But, from there, the wheels fall off the minister's cart. Mr. Chair, it is without precedent that taxes are refunded or that when taxes are not paid, they're written off in such a case. The minister hides behind, "Well, the Government of the Yukon is not the taxing authority," but the Government of Yukon went to the City of Whitehorse and jointly developed this refund policy or write-off policy, so that if the individuals residing in the Whitehorse waterfront area had paid taxes, they got a refund cheque. If they hadn't paid taxes, it was written off. Now, that in itself is very precedent setting.
The super blooper on the Mary Lake Road was recognized by the government and they backed off there, but the next area we look at is the Hot Springs Road and the issue surrounding the agricultural policy there.
The minister has no explanation whatsoever why the Whitehorse waterfront residents who they're looking to relocate to the Hot Springs Road, number one, can come to the front of the line - jump the queue - in front of any other Yukoner who is looking for agricultural land. Many Yukoners today are still looking for agricultural land and, indeed Mr. Chair, many Yukoners have applied for this exact parcel of land and it's been denied by the same Government of Yukon - denied.
And then, Mr. Chair, the squatters - after they're relocated to the Hot Springs Road - are exempt from the agricultural policy with respect to its development - exempt. That, Mr. Chair, is without exception - without exception, anywhere in the Yukon. It has not been done before, to the best of my knowledge, and I have checked back. It hasn't been done before.
So what we have is a situation, Mr. Chair, where the Member for Lake Laberge goes out to his constituency and he says to his neighbours out there, "Get used to it, you're going to have new neighbours." Very interesting overview, Mr. Chair.
But if you look at all of the hoops that anyone acquiring agricultural land has to jump through to even be considered for that agricultural land, that's one issue. These individuals are jumping to the head of that line.
And after they acquire that agricultural land, Mr. Chair, what they have to do is very interesting: be a Canadian citizen or a resident of Canada - I would think that virtually all those people qualify; have resided in the Yukon for one continuous year or maintain residency in the Yukon for one year prior to entering into an agreement for sale on agricultural land.
Now, if I read the minister correctly, these individuals don't even enter into an agreement for sale. They're given some quasi-type arrangement, where they have earned equity.
And they get the title. The next requirement is that they be 19 years of age or older - which I think that they all are - and not have sold a titled parcel of agricultural land or signed an agricultural agreement for sale for at least one year. Okay, fair ball.
Now, the next area - I don't know how they would circumvent this one: "Be a company incorporated under the laws of the Yukon or of Canada, where the majority of shares are held by Yukon residents qualifying under requirements (a) to (d) above, and which will utilize the agricultural land for the exclusive benefit of the shareholder" or "Be a non-profit society registered in the Yukon, whose members and officers meet the requirements under (a) to (d) above", and "Yukon residency must be maintained through the term of the agreement for sale on agricultural land."
Those are a horrendous group of rules and regulations that all Yukoners were expected to follow, with the exception of these precedent-setting individuals who are moved to the head of the line to initially acquire this agricultural land that no one else can get title to, or are not even considered, and then they don't have to conform to the agricultural policy. Well, that's absurd, Mr. Chair. It virtually stands out as an example of the steps and risks this government is willing to take to accomplish their political aims.
Nothing else, because it's a slap in the face for virtually all Yukoners - that a process would be set up that this government would circumvent and that rules, once you acquire that land, are set up that this government could circumvent. Why? Why would the government even entertain this kind of an approach when there has been a more-than-fair compensation package provided to the Whitehorse waterfront squatters?
You can't just promise to conform, Mr. Chair. You have to conform, or you lose it. You don't get to purchase the land otherwise. You have to conform as a Yukoner.
But these people are just going to acquire agricultural land, be moved to the head of the line, given the agricultural land on a sweetheart-type deal, and all they have to do is promise, "I'm going to be using it for the purpose it was intended. Promise." Sounds like a real sweetheart deal and a slap in the face to all those individuals, all those Yukoners, who have followed due process, who have stood in line waiting to get their name drawn to be able to acquire agricultural land, sweated to put in the necessary work and labour.
Until you have title for that agricultural land, the bank isn't going to give you any money. You have to pledge other chattels, other goods, or have a back pocket full of cash or some other means to the funds to develop that land before you can get a mortgage on it, because you have to have title for the bank to hold - not these people that the government is relocating to that area. It looks like - and we've failed to have it confirmed - Yukon Housing Corporation is involved, that Yukon Housing Corporation is involved in providing financing. And I'm sure that once we get to the bottom of it - another sweetheart arrangement for these individuals.
We can't call them farmers. They might be residing on agricultural land. What can we call them? The minister has circumvented virtually every rule in the book to move these individuals to the head of the line, having them promise what they're going to do, Mr. Chair - promise.
Mr. Chair, we can only hope and wish that this minister cared as much about legitimate applicants as he does about the Whitehorse waterfront squatters.
Now, in this House the Minister of Renewable Resources has been questioned about financing for agricultural land - some sort of a program so that those who have legitimately acquired, through due process, agricultural land and wish to develop it could find some sort of way to arrange financing. That hasn't been dealt with. It's not an issue. I guess that's because it's for bona fide Yukoners who followed due process.
Mr. Chair, where is the fairness in this government? There just does not appear to be any with this minister with respect to this issue.
Now, we're on super blooper number three. Number one was the Whitehorse Airport and the methods that the minister and his officials used to go ahead and ramrod through that project without due process. Super blooper number two is the relocation of the Whitehorse waterfront squatters to the Mary Lake subdivision. I'm very, very pleased the minister saw the light out there and cancelled that.
Now, we have the issue of the Hot Springs Road, and what I am urging the minister here to do today is treat that parcel of land in the same manner that any other agricultural parcel is treated here in the Yukon.
Put it up for a draw. Now, if the squatter, with his very generous payout from this government, wishes to apply, so be it. And if he's the successful proponent, that's fine. As long as that individual follows the game plan and the rules, the same as any other Yukoner would who acquires agricultural land through this policy. That's only fair, that's only reasonable, and that's a very legitimate request, Mr. Chair.
Now, will the minister undertake to do that, with respect to this parcel of land?
Chair: Do members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is on the Department of Community and Transportation Services. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Just before the break, I asked the minister a question with respect to cancelling the present give-away of the agricultural land under the terms and conditions - well, there really are no terms and conditions, other than a promise. Would the minister consider putting this piece of agricultural land into a draw and allowing all Yukoners access to this parcel of land? If any of the Whitehorse waterfront - the squatters from that area - wish to do so, they could also bid on that parcel of land with the more-than-generous compensation package they've received from this government. But it would be with the stipulation, Mr. Chair, that anyone acquiring this land would have to follow the agricultural policy as set out by the Department of Renewable Resources, should they be the successful proponent in the draw. Would the minister consider that approach?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, again, for the opportunity to speak to the issue.
The member asked that question in about a minute but, previous to the break, the same question took approximately 15 minutes to ask, so I'm going to deal with some of the preamble, if I might.
"Lucrative deal", "sweetheart deal" and the one I liked the best, "the wheels fell off the minister's cart". That's an insult. "Super blooper number three" - sounds like he's going to give Don Cherry some competition for his rock 'em, sock 'em, talk 'em and Super Bloopers, so we do have the mark here from the Klondike full of ideas and insults. Well, I won't let that bother me, bother me, bother me, bother me.
I want to first of all talk - the Member for Klondike said that the same parcel was denied. Let me straighten that out a little bit.
I mean, you can characterize it like that - "Ahh, it deserves this." Yes, people previously, as I've been briefed, had applied for the land and did want the land for agricultural purposes, but by gosh and by golly, that was pre-consultation, pre-zoning. And I can't remember the folks' names right now. I think it was a man and a wife. I can't remember their names right now, but it was a couple who wanted it. They accepted that it was not available at that point in time, and they are quite happily living now, I've been told, on another piece of agricultural land.
So, it's not quite the same as deny, deny, deny. No, no, no, not quite the same. Let's keep apples as apples and oranges as oranges here, and explain it just a little more, and not go for the sensational headline. So, it wasn't absolutely denied.
Again, the Member for Klondike says that I'm going to hide behind the city. Well, no, I'm not hiding behind the city. You don't hide behind the people that work with people. You stand beside them, you can communicate to them at every level - the administrative level, the bureaucratic level, the financial level, the political level. That's exactly what we did. Eyeball to eyeball, we looked at them, and we talked about a problem - if you want to characterize it like that - that we have mutually together.
We talked about - the technical people, my deputy minister, the ADM, directors, some of the other folks that work within the department - about what is there. What is all out and about? And they did - not "we" in this time, of course I am the head of the department, as others can attest to. But there were suppositions thrown around - what if this was done, what if that was done, what if this was done? And again, the city made up its own mind as to what they would do with the taxation. I didn't make up their mind - I did not make up their mind for them. The city is governed by councillors and a mayor. They set the policy. They go to the polls every three years. They live with the mandate, or lack of a mandate.
So again, it's a bit of posturing, it's a bit of illusion - of course, the member could be the master of illusion - but that's what it is, it's a bit of illusion - because it's not correct. The Member for Klondike is absolutely wrong in that fact. We did not say, "We're going to do this, and you do that." We talked about all the parameters that have to be done.
Reasonable people understand that as a process. Reasonable people know that you have to work together in those minds.
Now, before I answer the member's question, I'm going to talk a little bit more about land. Because certainly the previous minister of C&TS - and even the previous minister to the previous minister - encountered the same problems in land development that I do, as the minister of the day.
Not in my backyard, not in my backyard, not in my backyard - that's quite a principle. That principle - did I just make that up? No, no, no. Of course, the previous ministers to me that go back almost two decades encountered the same problem. I'll tell you, I feel for them because, yeah, in this job you do sweat blood, sweat, tears - and maybe the occasional beer, I'm not sure - but you surely do a lot of sweating when you're working with and for the people.
What I am going to do and I said I was going to do - and with no prodding, because there are all sorts of challenges that come out from the other side: I know we were in government for four years and we didn't do it but I challenge you to do it. I challenge you to go and meet those people. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.
My God, that's kind of an empty challenge, if I may say so. It's an empty challenge, because you had four years tenure to do it, but no, I'm going to wait until that Keenan comes up and then I'm going to nail him with that.
So, what we're going to do here is continue with the legacy of the previous ministers for land development. Only what we're going to do - and I'm committed to it publicly, privately, professionally - is that I'm going to be a part of that team, and I want to go out and I want to talk to people within the City of Whitehorse. It's not my jurisdiction, but I've got to work with the city again. I've got to tell them what to do. That's what you suppose. It's not true. I'm going to work with the city and maybe suggest ways that we can work together within their jurisdiction - and I respect their jurisdiction - and outside of their jurisdiction with the people - with the people.
Well, at least I've gone from a cart to a truck. Yahoo - I'll get up to a limo next. The guy's going to have a limo for me here. Now, if you're smart, you'll think of some smart thing to say to that. But, you know, we'll wait for you to think of that.
So, what we're going to do - I guess before I get too far involved in this, let's talk about devolution a minute. How much land does the territorial government own? How much actual land do we own? I suggest not even 15 percent of the territory. But if we work with devolution, and we bring the ownership and the land tenure over to the territorial government, then it's incumbent upon us to find better ways to dispense of the land and to develop the land.
Now, am I speaking of the people in this room, the legislators? No. I'm saying it's incumbent upon the people of the Yukon Territory to think of the greater community good and where we want to go. There's land for all. Heaven forbid, the First Nation governments - all 14 of them - accept that. All 14 First Nation governments accept that principle of sharing with one another.
Now, if we want to talk about parkland and trails, we could go back 1,000 years with them, yet they're willing to do it - for the greater good, my friend. For the greater good. They accept that because they're part of the community fabric. Now, I've heard the members talk about true Yukoners, real Yukoners. "You're not a Yukoner, but I'm a Yukoner, and you're not a Yukoner because I am." Ftttt. I guess if that was spelled out, it would be "Ftttt". That's how it would be spelled.
There's no such thing as a real Yukoner. We have a responsibility, as Yukon people, to work together, to get along with people, so that we might have meaningful development because everybody in the Yukon has the right to a dream, to a vision, and has the right to implement that dream or that vision. It's incumbent upon me, as a minister, and you, as a legislator, and everyone else in this room, to work toward that picture - the evolvement, the implementation of that vision. That is our responsibility, and I challenge you to work with me on that responsibility. I challenge you, so I guess I do have a few challenges up my sleeve, too.
So, as we get into the debate on our budget - right here, this book - over $100 million within my department, one department alone, we've allocated $3,760,000 for the development of land. Now, the Member for Riverdale South has thoughts on that, too. We've spoken about those thoughts. We know that the Auditor General has had comments. We're working with the Auditor General's comments to keep a reasonable land supply, and I know we're going to get into this debate sooner or later with you folks in this House within the next three weeks.
So, there are constraints, but there are also implications that we have to work together. So, I would say to the people, yes, let's go out there and look at land development. We know that we have development that could happen in the periphery of Whitehorse. We know that the city has before them, now, zoning applications in their governance structure.
So, why don't we all just work together? Why don't we find country residential lots; why don't we find recreational lots? There's a great demand for recreational lots. Country residential lots are in super demand, just super demand. So we zone agricultural land - absolutely. It's incumbent upon us to do it.
So, I want to go out and I'm going to talk to people about how do we do this, and they're going to say, "Well, Dave," - hopefully they call me Dave; they could say a lot of things but hopefully they'll say, "Well, Dave, I have a trail; I have a parkland; I have a feeling or a presence on this land, whatever it is," and we can respect those type of issues. Yeah, we can respect those types of issues and we will respect those types of issues.
The MLA for Lake Laberge, Mr. Livingston, has gone to two meetings now, I understand, and has spoken to the people about the ability to work with them - the ability to work. Do you guys understand the ability to work? Sit down, folks, just sit down boys and I'll keep talking to you so you'll understand.
So, we can protect principles. We can protect trails. But at the same time, should we not allow development to go through so that we don't get ourselves into a donnybrook about this, because really, we shouldn't be getting into a donnybrook about it. I think that if people really reached down into their souls, their aspirations, know that we want to get along with one another, we can find a way around this quagmire that we're in. We can definitely find a way around it, because this is a government, and yes, this is a consultative government that takes pride in listening to people and working with people. I take very much a personal pride in that, because that's the only way to work with people. But at the same time, the principle of NIMBY must be put to bed. It must be put to bed, put away.
Is it harmful and hurtful? You bet your boots it is. You bet you it's harmful and hurtful. I mean, we have businesses in this town that live from the development of land - the equipment operators, the equipment owners, the construction companies, Beaver Lumber, Irly Bird, the hardware stores. All of those do, even the recreational suppliers. We all benefit from the development of land. It's called economic growth. That's what it's called. And we have to take that into consideration as we move forward with this situation, because it's not simply "them thar squatters versus them folks". No, no, no, no; it's called Yukon people getting along together, working together, being with one another, protecting each other's treasures, and you know what? Before you can protect somebody's treasure, you have to understand somebody's treasure. So, I want to take the time to go and understand what their treasures are.
Now I know, you're saying that I should just shut up for a minute so you can get your attention again.
So, that's what we're going to do. We're going to work with people, so that we can have meaningful solutions to the betterment of individual lives, family lives, community life, and for economic growth.
If the Member for Klondike is tired, he should just go home. That's all you should do. I mean, if you can't sit and listen - or at least try to listen - and understand what I'm saying about the big picture, you're never going to get it. You'll be on an incremental approach to nowhere - and it doesn't matter what type of approach when you're going nowhere, you just go nowhere.
So would you please listen to the picture - to the vision of land development -
Chair: Order please. Would members please address their comments through the Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I stand corrected.
So that's where I want to go; that's what I want to do. And you know what? We're not talking in isolation about Mary Lake, the Hot Springs Road, Pilot Mountain, Mount Lorne or Teslin, where I come from. No, no, no, no, no. We're talking the greater community again. We're talking about waterfront development at the same time.
So that we'll have more visitation, maybe, from tourists, so that we'll get away from this knee-jerk economy that we've been constantly in, the resource economy - which you boys just loved - Mr. Chair.
So I would challenge you - the official opposition - to buy into the big picture, to find a way to work with me and the people of the Yukon so we might protect our treasures and we might have meaningful development, because you consistently, and most conservatively, say, "You're not doing anything for the economy and you've gotta do something for the economy."
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Phillips, on a point of order.
Mr. Phillips: On the point of order, Mr. Chair, the member's gone on for about 20 minutes now. The question was a simple question: will he make the disposition of agricultural land fair to all Yukoners? That was the question he's refused to answer.
Chair: There is no point of order.
Mr. Keenan, please continue.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much. I needed that commercial break.
I would like now, maybe, to address the situation. Do Yukoners have a right to land? You betcha. Yukoners have a right to land.
Are we going to do everything we can to work with Yukoners to get them the right to land? You betcha. I take it as a personal initiative, not a challenge.
I guess a sweet compromise is something that we have to live with as people in the Yukon Territory. People of the Yukon Territory are made up of a multi-mosaic of nationalities and people but one thing that binds them to the Yukon is the Yukon and the ability to work with one another.
So, I want to take that feeling, if I might - now that might be a little bit too much herbs and spices for the fellow from Klondike, Mr. Chair - but certainly, I want to take that feeling and I want to work with people, because everybody has the right to land, everybody has the right to protect their treasures.
Let's look at what the waterfront residents are giving up. They're giving up a way of life; they're giving up some land. Many of them have been there for 45 years, as I've already said. We've set the principles toward that.
In this situation, the zoning is done. The zoning was done in 1996. The application fits with the zoning. Now, I know, Mr. Chair, that the Member for Klondike doesn't believe in a handshake deal. Well, I guess, you know, we all get burnt at some point in time, obviously, and that's why we need lawyers. Thank God some of them do pro bono, but I guess that's why we need them.
Certainly, these folks want the land. They said that they're going to work within the zoning regulations. It's not that they're not going to conform to policy - and I think those were the exact words from the Member for Klondike. They're saying that they're going to conform to the zoning requirements, but move them to the front of the line? Yes, yes, absolutely yes in this case, because they fit with the zoning; they truly do.
Look what they're giving up, also. What does the Member for Klondike, Mr. Chair, or others in the room want? You want me to go down to Super Valu, or whatever the store, so I can get a push cart so I can put them in a pushcart? Absolutely not, and I don't think that's what the people of the Yukon Territory want - not at all do they want that.
So, Mr. Chair, I do believe that if people work together, and want to work together, we can continue to work together, and will work together. I suggest that we can work, and are working, within the process. I ask that people will continue to work with me, so that we might be able to have land available, so that we won't get into these donnybrooks at any time, anymore. It's certainly not something that I enjoy, but I will rise to the occasion. I don't necessarily have to enjoy it. But I would encourage all members of this House, the legislators, to buy into the bigger picture because we do have a responsibility - may be coming down the pike, through the terms of the devolution and the natural resources of the Yukon Territory. And that's exactly the way this government is going to be administering - with the people, for the people and by the people. That's exactly what we're going to do. So, I'd ask, and definitely challenge, people to work with me on this situation - not to grasp the cheap headlines, the flamboyant headlines, because that's what the press will catch up on. When you give them a reason, they just go right by that. This ain't a press bash. This is just reality - absolute reality is all it is.
So, yes, I offer you the greater challenge of working with me, and to encourage the Yukon people to work with me, so that I might be able to protect their treasures and they might, in turn, be able to enhance the economic growth of the Yukon Territory. Truly, Mr. Chair, that is what I am here for. Thank you for the ability and the time to answer that question.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, let the record clearly reflect that the minister has failed to answer the question - failed miserably. In fact, this super blooper will probably go down in the history of the Department of Community and Transportation Services as the greatest occasion when the wheels completely fall off the cart of the minister of towns and trucks.
You know, the minister speaks of the big picture. But what about fairness? What about fairness to Yukoners who have gone through the whole, legitimate process over years to acquire their land?
Is the minister suggesting that the people from rural Yukon in the gallery here tonight are not reasonable people? They've had to follow due process. They've had to follow it extensively.
Mr. Chair, our party put out a questionnaire to Yukoners on this issue. We've only received a couple of hundred of them back, as of yet, and here's what Yukoners are saying. Perhaps the minister, who prides himself in consulting with Yukoners, would care to listen.
"We waited for seven years, jumping through hoops of all kinds to obtain our property, after which we were bound to do a specific amount of work before we were granted title. What's fair is fair, and this is not."
Another one says, "As Yukoners for over 30 years, my family has worked very hard to legally purchase the land on which we now live. My only compassion would be to elders who no longer can work, but even at that, I believe no squatter should have priority access to obtaining land. They can wait in line and pay the price, just like everyone else here in the Yukon."
That's what Yukoners are saying, Mr. Chair.
And here's one that probably sums it up quite succinctly, "The longer you break the law, the greater the reward. Give me a break."
Another individual goes on to say, "Why were others told this land was not available?" The minister says, "Well, no one's really applied." Well, people have applied for that parcel of land, and the last occasion on which people applied for that parcel of land, lands branch wouldn't even accept their application. They said that it's not available, there's no use putting in an application.
Why is this problem being shoved down the throats of the Hot Springs Road residents? That's exactly what the minister is doing.
"Squatters should not be given any relocation compensation nor priority in obtaining access to any property." That's another Yukoner's opinion.
"These people have lived long enough rent and tax free. Is there something special about them? It's time for them to start paying for their needs like the rest of us." That's another Yukoner's opinion. And it goes on and on and on and on, Mr. Chair. But the issue before us is one of fairness. It's fairness to all Yukoners. It's fairness for a process that was agreed to and put in place through this Legislature. The Department of Renewable Resources agricultural land - it goes on. It consists of three pages.
And when you get right down to it, some of the hoops that these people have to jump through - you have to go through the Agricultural Land Application Review Committee, ALARC. If the application receives a favourable review at ALARC, it is forwarded to the Land Application Review Committee, LARC, and First Nations which hold traditional territory in the area under application. Following consultation with the First Nations, an agreement for sale may be prepared, setting out the terms and conditions which must be met in order for the applicant to obtain title to the land. If the application is on federal Crown land rather than Commissioner's land, the application must be approved by the Federal/Territorial Land Advisory Committee, FTLAC. Now, finally an order-in-council must be approved by the federal Cabinet, transferring the land to the Commissioner for disposition.
Going to all of these groups that everyone normally has to jump through - this alphabet soup of groups, Mr. Chair - is what normal Yukoners routinely have done to obtain agricultural land, and all of a sudden, the minister moves the Whitehorse residents who were squatting to the front of the line. They have been bought out. They have been dealt a very reasonable compensation package. In fact, some would question that the pricing principles of the compensation package that was used to purchase out the Whitehorse waterfront squatters was more than generous, more than reasonable, and it more than amply compensated them for their assets and for them having lived there, Mr. Chair.
But to move them to the front of the line, there's no justification, Mr. Chair, no justification whatsoever. And further, to allow them onto agricultural land - they don't even have to conform to the rules that have been put in place for the development of agricultural land. They just do it on a promise.
What about all of these people up here who have agricultural land under agreement for sale? Can they just come to the minister, and is he prepared to tear up their agreement? And can they just undertake to do it on a promise and get title?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: A handshake, like the minister would like to suggest these people will work under. Is that the way the minister wants to take the department? Is that the way the minister wants to deal with Yukoners?
Well, let's deal with all Yukoners the same way, not just one or two, who suit the political direction that the minister wants to take. Let's allow the same opportunities, equally, to all Yukoners, Mr. Chair.
And what's wrong with allowing equal opportunities for all Yukoners, including the squatters? Does the minister have problems with that? Does the minister have real problems with that?
I see the minister is receiving advice from his colleagues. Notes are being passed back and forth. Hopefully, we can get some information flowing to the minister, Mr. Chair, that will allow the minister to answer the question that was posed to him.
Will the minister look at taking this parcel of agricultural land on the Hot Springs Road - it is lot 1247 - and deal with it in the same manner as any other agricultural parcel of land is dealt with - hold a lottery; hold a lottery in which any Yukoner - and there are a lot of Yukoners who want agricultural land - can enter that lottery, Mr. Chair?
And then, after the draw, that individual, if it's fortunate enough to be one of the Whitehorse waterfront squatters who had the luck of the draw, can enter into an agreement for sale with that individual under the same terms and conditions as the Department of Renewable Resources has spelled out in their agricultural land policy. What's wrong with that, Mr. Chair? That's a fair way of conducting business.
There are many, many Yukoners who have applied for land and gone through this process, but here we have the minister and his government - and I'm sure for an issue as important as this it was discussed at the Cabinet table and it was agreed to among all, because this is a real break from tradition; this is a real break, usurping the policies that are in place.
Normally, policies are set aside. They're set aside or changed, but the department would not let anyone jump to the head of the line unless there was political direction provided to the officials to tell them that this was what the government of the day wanted and this is the way they were to proceed, because a policy is a policy, and the policy was developed after due consultation with all Yukoners.
Now, what's the problem, Mr. Chair, with reviewing the decision with regard to the Hot Springs Road area in the same manner as I am sure this government reviewed their decision to proceed with the Mary Lake Road lots? Why can't we go back and review our decision in this area?
Will the minister give consideration to reviewing their decision to move the Whitehorse waterfront squatters to the front of the line for the agricultural land on the Hot Springs Road, and cancel that plan and put that land out for a draw by the general public, for all of those Yukoners who want agricultural land? I guess, when the minister responds, the other issue is: will he consult? Will he go out there and consult with the residents of the Hot Springs Road area, and tell them what he's done and why he's done it and that, really, they have no choice?
Like the Member for Lake Laberge says, "You've got new neighbours moving in. You'd better get used to it." It was on different terms and conditions that all the people out on the Hot Springs Road area acquired their agricultural parcel of land. Where is the fairness? Well, Mr. Chair, will the minister give consideration to that request?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I asked the Member for Klondike to buy into the big picture and to consider the big picture and obviously, he hasn't even got past the headline because he certainly is not talking as if there is a meaningful grasp on the issue which I have before me.
I am seeking meaningful solutions for the governance of the Yukon - and that's governance, on and for and on behalf of all Yukoners.
As the Member for Klondike was speaking about, it is time to isolate it so that it is a singular problem - down on the waterfront, but don't bother me over here. That's not it. It's not a single issue. It's not taking a human being and saying, "You're going to go over here, and this is the way it is." It's so much more than that.
Now, I know that until the Member for Klondike and I sit in the old folks home, whether it's here in Whitehorse or in Dawson, we are never going to agree because we do not share the same philosophical approach to life. We do not share that.
I accept that. I absolutely understand that and accept that. Does it mean that I'll walk away from the Member for Klondike? No. Even when we're both not legislators, and that day will come, I will still have respect for the Member for Klondike.
So, obviously, we can never be close. We'll never be blood brothers, or however you want to characterize it - bosom buds. We'll never be that. But we will be legislators, and we will have debate in this House tonight and further into the future. This is a picture for the Yukon Territory's economic growth and the community of the Yukon.
We're very desirous of developing the waterfront; we're very desirous of working with the waterfront residents from the waterfront. We're very desirous of doing that. I'm very desirous of working with the people at large in the Yukon community so that we might have meaningful development.
As I said, we have over $3 million - close to $4 million - within our budget for land development. And I want to do that with Yukoners - with Yukoners.
The member asked me, will I go out and take a personal hand in this? Well, I suggest I will. The Member for Lake Laberge, the hon. Mr. Livingston, has consistently kept in touch with his constituents. In 1994 to 9696, there was a process that went on through zoning. There was definitely a process that went on. The people were consulted. The people did talk about that.
So, obviously, the member has narrowed it down to one issue, and I'm going to try and help focus the member a little bit, because I don't think the member's saying that he wants to separate people, because I don't think we're that far apart in our philosophical differences - I really don't.
I've grown to understand the Member for Klondike over the last two and one-half years here. It's taken quite an understanding but I've grown to understand and I don't think that he's a prejudiced person at all. I don't think that at all, but I do think that sometimes, if they can create or cloud issues to their benefit, then that's exactly what they'll do. I think that's what they're doing in this situation. They're trying to make it a single issue where they're saying that people don't want to live with people because these people come from here and I don't want to live with these people. For God's sake, look at what we're talking about. Look what - well, that's another story I won't even get into. I won't get into the global community because we can't even talk about the territorial community, so I won't go that far with you gentlemen, Mr. Chair.
So, Mr. Chair, we are going to continue to try to resolve the problem. We are going to work with people -
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. Let the member speak.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. If I have to concentrate to listen, then I surely appreciate when other people have to do that, too.
Well, sometimes you've got to get into a revival preaching to get some things understood, and I do believe that you should sit in that bench a little longer, and I'll even stay until 10 o'clock with you if you want.
So, it is not a single issue. I mean, my God, read the Blues in the morning. Read the Blues. And for those that don't know what the Blues are in this House, the Blues are the Hansard before they are really translated into Hansard. You have a chance, but you are going to listen to yourselves speak. You're going to speak about "waterfront residents," "normal Yukoners."
I mean, of course, I have the utmost respect for the people and the citizenship of the Yukon Territory - the utmost respect. I open my land and I open my heart to those people, and you know what? The Yukon is going to prosper one day, because the people that are here in the Yukon now are people that are going to ride out the rough wave that we're in right now. They're going to ride it out. That's the challenge that we have as a people. The challenge that we have as legislators is to work together because there are always going to be bumps. Do not think, Mr. Chair, that if the Member for Klondike was sitting on this side of the House it would be any different. I beg to think that it would be a heck of a lot worse.
Do you know what they'd be doing? They'd be doing a lot of different things, but they wouldn't be taking up the immediate challenge. No, no, no. They wouldn't take up the tough challenge of working with people. Well, we will, Mr. Chair. So, this is an issue - not as the member is trying to depict it to be, but this is a Yukon-wide issue. This is not classified to lot such-and-such, group such-and-such. It's not that. This is a Yukon Territory-wide issue, and that's how we're going to approach it. And why do we approach it that way?
Aw, shucks, you guys want me to call -
Mr. Chair, reluctantly, I ask that you report progress.
Chair: Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Mr. Fentie: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 14, First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
The time being 9:30, this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.