Wednesday, November 10, 1999 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Remembrance Day observed
Speaker: Before the House goes on to its business today, we will honour the memories of those who have given their lives in the service of this country.
Tomorrow is Remembrance Day, and services will take place throughout the Yukon. People across the territory and our country will pay tribute to the men and women who died defending Canada during the 20th century.
As this is the last Remembrance Day of this century, it is being marked in special ways. Today, the contribution of First Nations veterans is being recognized at the Elijah Smith Building. Two portraits of the late Elijah Smith, who was a veteran, will be unveiled in the building that is named after him.
Tomorrow, the Royal Canadian Legion is asking all Canadians to pause in silence for two minutes at 11 a.m.
Since the Yukon Legislative Assembly will not be sitting tomorrow, it would be appropriate for us to observe two minutes of silence today.
I would ask, therefore, that members and all others present rise, bow your heads, and reflect on war, and peace, and those who gave up everything for us.
Two minutes of silence observed
Speaker: Please be seated.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is my distinct pleasure today to introduce to the Legislature Mr. Maurio Scapigliati and Mr. Cesare Boni, who are the financial manager and operations manager, respectively, of Toys Group, a subsidiary of Mattel Toys in Milan, Italy, and Mr. Emmett Renshaw, who are in the Yukon making tourism marketing contacts to promote and increase Italian interest in the Yukon. I would like to ask all members to join me in welcoming them here today.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Petition No. 10
Mr. Phillips: I have a petition to table today. The petition is to help the Youth of Today Society to find a home, and it's addressed to the Yukon Legislature Assembly.
"This petition of the undersigned shows
"THAT youth at risk require a safe place in downtown Whitehorse where they'll be able to receive positive support in a safe, nurturing environment that will help them to make positive lifestyle choices instead of continuing on with their at-risk behaviour;
"THAT the Youth of Today Society is a non-profit society dedicated to helping youth at risk lead healthier lifestyles but requires a house in downtown Whitehorse to establish a drop-in resource centre in order to develop its programs;
"THAT the Government of the Yukon owns a house at 5131 Fifth Avenue in downtown Whitehorse opposite the Wood Street Annex that would make an ideal drop-in resource centre for youth at risk instead of its planned use as a group home for sexual offenders.
"THEREFORE, the undersigned ask the Yukon Legislative Assembly to urge the Government of the Yukon to make the House at 5131 Fifth Avenue in downtown Whitehorse available to the Youth of Today Society to operate as a drop-in resource centre for youth at risk and to find a more appropriate location for its group home for sexual offenders."
Mr. Speaker, this petition that I'm tabling today has widespread support in the City of Whitehorse, with over 1,060 names.
Speaker: Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Protected Areas Strategy
(1) is protecting environmental treasures like Tombstone Park and the Fishing Branch ecological reserve, and
(2) respects government land claims commitments and balances economic and ecological interests; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to continue to implement the Yukon Protected Areas Strategy in a responsible manner that limits the financial cost to the taxpayer.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Rural telecommunications and telephone service
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to advise the House of a new policy development by our government that will ensure access to quality, affordable telephone service for residents of rural Yukon.
Our government recently entered into a major public/private partnership to upgrade the Yukon's telecommunications infrastructure. The total investment for this Connect Yukon project will amount to nearly $21 million, including a distance-education component of over $2 million. Connect Yukon positions the territory to take its place in the modern world.
As well as bringing high-speed service to our rural communities, the project will also provide improved telephone services for up to 800 rural lots that are currently without adequate service.
As members are aware, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission recently announced plans to improve telecommunications services in remote parts of Canada. While our government wants to work cooperatively with the national regulatory agency, we are concerned that the CRTC plan does not address the needs of rural Yukon people in the best manner possible. While the CRTC has set no time limits to extend service, our government wants to ensure that service is available within the next two years. While the CRTC allows for the cheapest alternative, we want users to be able to communicate at a reasonable data speed.
To get phone service to rural lots in areas such as Tagish, Marsh Lake and Lake Laberge, we are committing $2 million over the next two years as the public sector contribution. The remainder, projected at another $2 million, will come from private sector, subscribers and service providers. We anticipate that the national fund set up to meet the cost of providing telephone service to the high-cost serving areas will eventually provide additional support for this undertaking.
Connect Yukon will include assistance to rural lot owners to finance telephone service. Under most conditions, the maximum cost for a potential telephone subscriber will be $1,000.
Technical and costing information will be available to rural lot owners early next year. The lot owner's contribution could be made as a local improvement charge on property taxes, under terms similar to existing rural telecommunications policy. This will require a vote in each service area.
Mr. Speaker, this major investment in Yukon people will make it possible for those who want to get telephone access to get it in a timely and affordable manner. This will help us ensure that Yukon people, no matter where they live, will have the same opportunities as other Canadians to participate in the global economy, to pursue distance education, and enjoy many of the benefits that modern telecommunications can bring.
And finally, I'm pleased to announce that I've asked the Member for Kluane to meet with Yukon communities over the next few months to discuss the economic and social opportunities that the Connect Yukon upgrades in telecommunications infrastructure can present. The member will also be asked to meet with industry representatives to get further input on how we can realize maximum growth potential from this public/private investment partnership.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker
Point of order
Speaker: The hon. Member for Riverdale North, on a point of order.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, I rise today to ask you to make another ruling on a ministerial statement that I believe does not conform to our current rules in this House for such statements. I believe this particular statement flies in the face of a ruling that you made in this House just two days ago.
The statement today, Mr. Speaker, is just a reannouncement of government policy that was publicly announced several times in the past few weeks. If the government wanted it to be a new announcement, it shouldn't have been so hasty when it first told us of this initiative, coincidentally, during the by-election last month, and again last week, Mr. Speaker, in the supplementary budget news release.
I want to table, for members' information, several news releases that have been tabled by this government, or released by this government: one on October 20, which talks about this project and has some of the same initiatives announced in it. There's another one: the supplementary budget increases talks about the millions that the minister is spending a day. It's another reannouncement of it, Mr. Speaker.
There is also an announcement here from the MLA of Mount Lorne that was in the newsletter that was delivered in early October, which talks about the same initiatives that the minister is using the valuable time in the House to announce here again today.
Mr. Speaker, as you can see, this has been announced several times before, and I think it's unfair to this House to abuse the privileges that we have in the House. You've dealt with this issue before and we should respect your rulings. I would remind the members that, two days ago, on Monday to be exact, you made a ruling with respect to announcing initiatives, or re-announcing initiatives.
Mr. Speaker, to refresh all members' minds, I'm going to quote from your ruling, where you said that the rule covering ministerial statements is to be found in Standing Order 11(3), which in part states, "On Ministerial Statements, ..., a Minister may make a short factual statement of government policy."
You went on to say, Mr. Speaker, that the only other direction to be found is in the second reading report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges of the Twenty-fourth Legislative Assembly, which was tabled on October 10, 1979. One of the recommendations of that committee, which was concerned with a motion of the House, stated "that the Ministerial Statements be made only on subjects of significance and primarily for the purpose of announcing new government policies."
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Faro disagreed with you, and the Member for Faro felt that you could use ministerial statements for an update on issues, and that was allowed, but you, in fact, said that wasn't accurate.
And I quote, Mr. Speaker, you said: "The difficulty with such a preposition is that the House has not changed the rules governing ministerial statements nor has it rescinded its adoption of the recommendation of the 1979 Standing Committee that ministerial statements should be made primarily for the purpose of announcing new government policies. If new rules and directions should be adopted for ministerial statements, the House should say so.
"It must be noted that this is not a new observation. Speaker Sam Johnston, in a ruling on April 6, 1988, said 'The Chair would point out that the House has not reviewed the subject of Ministerial Statements for almost nine years and that there are some matters on which the Chair has little or no guidance. .... If the House feels that it is worthwhile to address such questions or to conduct a general review of the rules for Ministerial Statements, the Chair would suggest that the matter be referred to the appropriate committee for review and recommendation.' Nothing was done and, over 10 years later, on May 5, 1998, Deputy Speaker McRobb, in yet another ruling on the content of the ministerial statements said 'The Chair would suggest to members that, if the content of ministerial statements has become a matter of major concern, it may be time to refer the matter to the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges for consideration and recommendation.'"
He went on to say, Mr. Speaker: "The Chair would further suggest that, if such a reference were made, it should direct the Committee to develop a more definite and helpful description of the purpose of ministerial statements and, also, to indicate the desired method for dealing with points of order raised about these statements."
This last issue, identified by the Deputy Speaker McRobb on May 5, 1998, repeated a point made by Speaker Johnson in 1988. That is, if the Chair were to rule a ministerial statement out of order after it has been given, it would not be possible to let proceedings continue and opposition members would be denied the chance to respond.
Mr. Speaker, to summarize: you said that "ministerial statements given on November 3, 1999 did not conform with the direction of the House and as to the content of ministerial statements made, because they were not made primarily for the purpose of announcing new government policies."
Number two: you said that "it is possible to take the position that the practices concerning the content of ministerial statements has not conformed with that direction for some period of time."
Number three: "the Chair is placed in a very difficult position in ruling on a ministerial statement because, by the time a ruling can be provided, the ministerial statement has already been given, and if it is out of order, the harm cannot be rectified."
Number four: Mr. Speaker, you said that "Speakers have asked the House for assistance in this matter for over a decade, and the House has not chosen to take any action."
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, you said that "this statement has outlined the situation regarding ministerial statements from the viewpoint of the Chair. Hopefully, it has made clear the difficulties the Chair faces when considering points of order on ministerial statements and has assisted members in gaining an understanding of the basis of any future rulings on the same subject."
Mr. Speaker, I think it's grossly unfair for the government to come forward here today with a reannouncement of another announcement that has been made in the past, which flies in the face of the ruling which you have already made.
It's unfair to you, Mr. Speaker, and it's unfair to this House to abuse the privileges of the House. You recommended that we refer this to SCREP and deal with it expeditiously, and that's what we should do, and the government should quit using this period of time to abuse the House rules.
Speaker: Minister of Economic Development, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I don't intend to speak as long as the member opposite. I think if anybody could be accused of wasting time of the House, it's the member opposite. What the government did with this ministerial statement is announce new initiatives, new policy, new directives that we have engaged in as a government around a very important public subject, such as the whole concept that I know is foreign to the members opposite, of wiring this territory for Internet access - all of rural Yukon - so that we have the same services as others in Whitehorse, that phone service is expanded so others have that ability to be more connected to the world.
Mr. Speaker, I want to say, with regard to your ruling, which obviously we respected, that that's why we announce new initiatives such as the fact that the Member for Kluane will be engaging the public on this very subject, travelling the territory. That is a tool of implementation and a policy of this government ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. Order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: ... to actually get out of Whitehorse, the capital city, and go out and talk to people throughout this territory.
I want to also point out a very important point, Mr. Speaker, that I would ask you humbly to consider as you rule on this point of order, and that is one of established practice in this territory. And when you make your ruling, I would ask you to examine very thoroughly the practice under the administration formerly of this territory, of the Yukon Party government, and the initiatives that they announced and, at times, re-announced through the use of ministerial statements.
When we talk about rules of this House - past practice and what is in this House in terms of how the rules are carried out - is very important to your rulings, Mr. Speaker.
For example, under Question Period, the specific rules are - and I'll read a couple to illustrate. First of all, Rule 2 says, "a question ought to seek information and cannot be based on a hypothesis or seek an opinion, legal or otherwise. It must not suggest its own answer or be argumentative."
Mr. Speaker, Question Period rules also say that a brief preamble will be allowed in the case of the main question, and a one-sentence preamble will be allowed in the case of each supplementary question. It further goes on to say that a question must adhere to the proprieties of the House and that it must not contain inferences, impute motives or cast aspersions upon persons within the House or out of it. That's just a small snippet of how the rules of this House are formed and changed by established practice. Obviously, Mr. Speaker, if you ruled to the letter of the law on those rules surrounding Question Period, or many other rules of this House, the members opposite would be ruled out of order on virtually every question they put to the government.
Now, Mr. Speaker, we are requesting that, in your ruling regarding this motion, which is clearly announcing a new policy, new implementation methods of carrying out that policy, and elements of how we intend to deliver on the commitment we've made to Yukoners through policy implementation and the development of initiatives that are going to lead to the conclusion that we want to see in terms of this very important project to Yukoners, you consider past practice and that you review very carefully what has been the practice of this House. I would submit that it is as important as the wording of our Standing Orders.
Mr. Speaker, there are many areas that have not been reviewed by SCREP, and certain actions that are not quite within the exact parameters of the written rules of this House are allowed to go ahead, simply because that is the practice of this House.
We, on this side, don't stand up in Question Period on a point of order, or use many other aspects of the rules of this House and say that something should be out of order because of the written rule. Apparently, Mr. Speaker, the opposition feels that, in certain areas, they should be able to go within the precise written rules and then step out of them.
We feel, on the other hand, that what we've done in this case is in keeping with the written rule. We also feel that it's in keeping with past practice. Many rules of this House are very dependent on the practice of this House.
Speaker: Order, please. I will take this under advisement.
Is there any response from the opposition on the ministerial statement?
Ms. Buckway: I'm extremely disappointed that the government has chosen to ignore the Speaker's ruling earlier this week. I would encourage the government to stop recycling ministerial statements and begin to follow the rules.
With regard to the contents of the statement, the Yukon Liberal caucus supports expanding communication services to all Yukoners. I have a number of questions with regard to this specific project, so I will reserve comment on our support of Connect Yukon until these questions are answered.
The minister said the total cost of this Connect Yukon project is almost $21 million. Could he outline all the sources of this funding, including the private sector and the federal government? The minister says, and I quote, "Under most conditions, the maximum cost to a potential telephone subscriber will be $1,000." Could the minister outline the exceptions? What will the cost be to those Yukoners who don't fall under "most conditions?"
Mr. Speaker, the minister says this will help to ensure that Yukon people, no matter where they live, will have the same opportunities as other Canadians, et cetera, et cetera, but I notice that the minister has not addressed here, or anywhere else when he has spoken about Connect Yukon, those who live in the truly remote parts of the territory.
I have a lot of constituents who are in that position, and so do several of the members. These constituents are presently served by the manual mobile service, also known as radio-telephone service, or they have no service at all. Communication is absolutely essential for these people. They live in isolation as individuals or couples, small families, in tiny camps, throughout the territory. Their safety and security depends on their ability to access the manual mobile service. Some access it directly, some do so with the help of people like the former Speaker of this Legislature, Don Taylor.
Mr. Taylor lives at Stewart Lake, near Watson Lake. There is no road to his house. He uses single side-band to talk to people throughout the north. He uses manual mobile to talk to the rest of the world. He is the lifeline for many people, and has just begun his twentieth annual winter sched, speaking nightly to a roster of people in cabins all over the Yukon.
These people cannot afford expensive technology like satellite telephones. They are, I'm sure, looking with interest at this new initiative and wondering if they're going to be the exceptions to the $1,000 limit, or if they're going to be included at all.
What's the minister's plan to include these people in this technological revolution? The government has been, so far, silent on that.
Mr. Speaker, what involvement will First Nation governments have in this project? Has the minister spoken to First Nations about their priorities and needs?
The minister has mentioned a cost of $4 million to extend phone service. The government was expecting at least part of this money to come from a national fund. There's no guarantee that this national fund money is coming. If it doesn't, how does the government plan to make up the shortfall?
Finally, Mr. Speaker, there is a memorandum of understanding, signed between the Yukon government and Northwestel, for this project. Would the minister please provide our office with a copy of that agreement?
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus, I'm pleased to respond to the ministerial statement regarding rural telecommunications and telephone service.
As has often been the case on the floor of this Legislature, this ministerial statement fails to report anything new.
Rather, the statement before members today is yet another example of another government initiative that has been announced over and over again. This government initiative to expand Internet access and telephone service to communities was announced on October 19 in a constituency newsletter by the Member for Mount Lorne, was reannounced on October 20 in a press release, was reannounced on November 1 in the government supplementary budget, and today has been re-announced yet again.
While we do not have a problem with what the announcement has to say, we believe this is an utter abuse of this Legislature's rules, as outlined just recently by the Speaker. Despite the government's apparent lack of respect for this Assembly, I do have words to say about a number of the questions, and I would like the minister to answer in his rebuttal some of my questions.
Where distances are far and places few between, phone service is essential to Yukon people. While we recognize and understand the challenges associated with providing telecommunication to northern areas as a result of geography, it is crucial that northern Canadians be afforded the same opportunities as are currently enjoyed by our counterparts to the south. If we are to become competitive in the global workplace, changes must occur to meet the growing demands of Yukoners. I believe the initiative to provide better telephone service and high-speed Internet access throughout the territory will not only improve our ability to perform better in the workplace, it will provide open-ended opportunities in the delivery of education, medical services, as well as things like mobile offices.
While we on this side of the House are pleased to support this initiative, the questions for the minister are as follows: how will these funds be advanced? Will these funds be advanced to the telco - Northwestel - and will they be included in the asset base of that telephone company?
Will the governments, directly or indirectly - will the Government of the Yukon be directly or indirectly obtaining an equity position in the Yukon's asset base of Northwestel, either through a newly formed company or initiative? Will additional capital be included in the asset base so that CRTC will allow the normal rate of return, thus adding to the basic cost of telephone service in our area?
Will those presently serviced by manual mobile or the replacement for Ruraltel be able to access either a land line or wireless means of communications through this procedure - and that's throughout the Yukon, Mr. Speaker? How will the Government of the Yukon ensure Yukon companies are guaranteed opportunities to provide labour and material to extend these services throughout the Yukon? Will local-hire provisions apply to this project? Will communications be delivered in a wired format, or wireless?
Initiatives worldwide are wireless, and I would hope we would follow this advancing trend, Mr. Speaker.
Could the minister provide a schedule of when communities will receive the services, and a breakdown of the costs associated with each community and each outlying area?
Lastly, what impact will this initiative have on Yukoners' phone bills overall? Will Yukoners see their phone bills go down, or will this addition into the asset base cause them to be increased?
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I couldn't help but notice that the Member for Kluane has been charged with the responsibility of addressing this very important area in rural Yukon. Given his dismal performance in reducing electrical rates in the Yukon, let's hope that the member does a much better service in delivering telephone service to Yukoners.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I think you see the point of why I'm obliged to reannounce these things, because the scope is so great - the questions are so great - I will probably need several other sessions in which to do this.
I'm delighted to take the opportunity to respond on so many of these issues, and perhaps - what have we got, two hours or so? I can start by just generally saying that I think this is the most exciting new project for the people of the Yukon in a long time, and I hope the members opposite get used to me speaking about this, because I'm going to spend a good deal of time talking about this.
This government will be building a telecommunications super highway throughout the Yukon. It will be improving rural phone service. It will be delivering distributed learning.
015a Now, when we talk about the entire Connect Yukon project, we're essentially talking about three components: we're talking about the rural telephones; we're talking about the high-speed Internet and data transmission; and we're talking about the distributed learning component that my colleague in Education recently announced. But together, these three services are integrated; one can't work without the other. For example, distributed learning is dependent on us building up the capacity, and the Member for Klondike has talked about the problems of analog technology up the North Klondike Highway and the problems of people being able to get access, and the people being able to get speed.
This morning, I had a call from a constituent of the Member for Laberge. He called to tell me that he was watching a fax roll off his machine. One page took 18 minutes to come through. Now, this person is a small-business person. Tell me if anybody can deal with that kind of technological restraint? I don't know. He told me it would be easier for somebody to drive out and deliver the order in person than it was for him to depend on fax. So, these are challenges we face and challenges we must move ahead with. We are going to be moving into the 21st century here, and we are going to be taking our children and businesses along to make the opportunities available.
Let's just take a look at some of the outcomes. We're proposing access to high-speed Internet service for 17 rural Yukon communities and improved telephone service to all Yukon communities. We have 800 lots in the peripheral area of Whitehorse that are either underserved or unserved - 800 lots. We know, and the Member for Riverdale North knows, how many people live in the Marsh Lake area. It's a growing area. These people are underserved. It's the fastest growing municipal area, I understand, in the territory, yet they're underserved. We have to do something about that, and we are.
We're looking at areas like Marsh Lake, Laberge, Tagish, Mendenhall - all of these areas. We're trying to get these folks good, reliable phone service - not merely voice transmission, because voice transmission is no longer sufficient. We're saying 56k modem. We are saying the ability to run a small business from your home.
If your home is in rural Yukon, we'll make those opportunities available.
Access to high-speed data services to Yukon communities for business applications, doubling of the telecom capacity for voice telephone services in every community, and it goes on and on.
We believe that there will be a number of spinoffs from this - construction jobs and physical infrastructure, towers, fibre optic cable, connections to towers, support jobs for local community workers.
We believe that the installation of data management equipment will permit us to keep experienced technicians and provide opportunities -
Speaker: Minister has one minute.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I haven't even got to the components here, but I would be very happy to provide another ministerial statement, perhaps at a future time in which I can address all these, and I'd be happy to address many of these in Question Period, if the members would choose.
But I'd just like to conclude by saying that I think this is an extremely exciting venture. I'm pleased to see that there has been some tacit support for this. I was particularly amazed by the buggy-whip boys over there, who have suddenly realized that that fellow Marconi has developed a new -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Riverdale North, on a point of order.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, that language is unparliamentary.
Speaker: I would ask the minister to withdraw that wording, please.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Of course, Mr. Speaker. I was merely referring to the rather archaic views that the -
Speaker: The minister can continue.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Devolution, mirror legislation
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Government Leader, and it concerns the mirror legislation that's going to be part of devolution.
Mr. Speaker, the Government Leader and I have talked about this mirror legislation before in this House. He has said that the NDP government plans to simply assume the federal regime. The federal legislation would simply be adopted without changes.
The Government Leader also said that the regulations pursuant to that - and the policies - we could change as we wish. An example of this would be the mining land use regulations or the Yukon water regulations.
Is the government contemplating making any changes to any of the regulations when the mirror legislation is adopted?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: The Government Leader stated that the draft, mirror legislation would be transmitted to the development and conservation communities and that, once their review was complete and once the basic elements of the agreement on devolution were satisfactory, they would be tabled in the Legislature. Does the Government Leader have a date for when this might occur, and when does he plan on passing the draft acts over to the opposition parties for review?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, in the first instance, the legislation is drafted and it is complete, as far as the Yukon government is concerned. We have a holdup in that we have asked Ottawa to consider the legislation and provide any advice with respect to whether or not they perceived any problems with the legislation to ensure that it was, in fact, mirror in its nature - meaning that it mirrored the existing federal legislation and regulations. We are hoping to hear back from the federal government on that front, and we hope to see some response by the end of this week.
The draft legislation was shared with industry groups at the DAP workshop this week. I would be more than happy to share the draft with opposition parties, and I will hope to be able to table the mirror legislation in the Legislature shortly.
Ms. Duncan: We have been missing timetables on devolution, and there is some doubt in my mind that this government will meet its April 1 deadline for devolution. A confidence builder for everyone would be to see the mirror legislation tabled this fall, as the minister has indicated he hopes. Is it anticipated that we will be able to deal with that mirror legislation and have it passed before the end of this session? Is that the intention?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am hoping, Mr. Speaker, that we can pass the mirror legislation this session. It requires, of course, a commitment from the federal government that the devolution will proceed and that the federal government will provide the Yukon government with the necessary information so that we can make job offers to federal employees.
But Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated before, there are some outstanding issues with the federal government. We are interested in protecting Yukon's interests. That is our prime duty. We will not see an arrangement struck that does not satisfy Yukon's interests. Consequently, when we have an arrangement that we can support, we will trigger the devolution package and will see devolution of resource management responsibilities to the Yukon, as promised.
Question re: Government/business relationships
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Government Leader on the relationship of his government with business.
There was an article in a recent Canadian Federation of Business newsletter about the anti-business attitudes of this government. The spokesperson for the federation said, in the follow-up article in the Yukon News, that the federation doesn't rely on government funding, so that it can say what its members want to say without fear of retribution. That spokesperson went on to say, and I quote from the Yukon News article, "They're doing business with the government. They're relying on the government." That's the federation's members, and that's a consistent concern that, if they speak out, they'll be punished for it.
Mr. Speaker, what is the Government Leader doing to change this climate of fear among business people?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have no idea what the member is talking about, Mr. Speaker. In fact, the business community has entered freely into partnerships with us on a number of ventures, a number of projects, including our entire trade strategy. It was only last week, or just a couple of days ago, that the Liberal leader was referring to the business community as propagandists and losers for participating with the Yukon government in their trade strategy, and they've done so quite freely, Mr. Speaker.
Nobody twisted their arms to participate; they have engaged in trade activity in partnership with the Yukon government very freely and willingly.
And, Mr. Speaker, I recall the budget response from this last spring, where the business community and labour community both praised the government's budget, a budget that the Liberals and the Yukon Party voted against. Now, I'll remember that when the Yukon Party raised taxes, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said nothing. The Liberals supported the Yukon Party budget, which raised taxes; the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said nothing. We lower taxes; we have a partnership with business; business supports our budgets; and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, with the support of Liberals, suggests that we're anti-business. It doesn't make any sense to me at all, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cable: There are 300 members in the local chapter of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Is the Government Leader saying that there is no basis whatsoever for the federation's comments, that they're just dreaming it up? Is he saying that Suromitra Sanatani, the B.C. and Yukon regional vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, is just on a personal charge and doesn't represent the opinions of those 300 members of the organization?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, the member is obviously, hugely taken by the fact that Ms. Sanatani decided to publish the member's own picture in the Canadian Federation of Independent Business newsletter, and he's so taken by the fact that he wants to return the favour by supporting this bogus attack on the Yukon NDP government.
Mr. Speaker, I'm not dreaming when I'm saying that there is a partnership with the business community, the Tourism Industry Association, the Chamber of Mines, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce. I'm not dreaming that partnership up. It's a real working partnership, producing real results. And this partnership on trade is mirrored by a partnership that we have in telecommunications, with the telecommunications industry. The minister of highways just went with a consortium of roadbuilders to Malaysia to promote the roadbuilding industry. This is not only a single partnership; there is a multitude of partnerships that this government has - the NDP government - with the business community to promote business activities.
So, Mr. Speaker, let me tell you that when it comes time to characterize the Yukon NDP's relationship with business, I would prefer to take the business community's word for it directly than some B.C. import.
Mr. Cable: I know that the Minister of Economic Development went into a deep depression when he missed his photo op and it went to the opposition instead.
So, the question I have for the Government Leader: what, if any, attempts have been made to find out what's bothering the federation? Have there been any conversations between the Government Leader and Ms. Sanatani or the Economic Development minister. I know he tried to trivialize their comments as coming from some right-wing, wacko organization, but that doesn't fly with the 300 local members. What conversations have taken place?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, the woman's name is Sanatani, for the member's information. And I have met with the person, the representative of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, whenever she has asked for a meeting. We've had discussions about all the good works the government is doing, including everything from the tax reform round table - the first-ever attempt by a Yukon government to reduce taxes and provide small-business incentives. We've talked about the red-tape initiatives, and she gave us some suggestions on some specifics that we could undertake. I've undertaken to talk to her about the trade strategy, about going out and making things happen in this territory instead of simply waiting for something to happen - a new initiative on the part of government and the business community. We've talked about all of those things with this particular representative.
But Mr. Speaker, the relationship that I would prefer to have is one that is directly with the Yukon business community, and it is, in fact, one that we do have with the Yukon business community. It's not fiction. It's real.
Question re: Youth at risk, assistance for
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services concerning youth at risk.
The government doesn't have a very good track record when it comes to helping youth at risk. This government refused to help the Youth Empowerment and Success group maintain its youth centre when it was abandoned by the federal Liberal government, and helped cause the demise of that group. Now, we have the Youth of Today Society seeking help from the government, as witnessed by the petition, which I tabled here today. Up to this point in time, the government has refused to provide them with any assistance whatsoever.
Can the minister tell the House if it's still his position that the youth centre being planned is also intended to serve youth at risk, when he's been told directly by the youth-at-risk group that it will not meet their needs, which are immediate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Speaker, we've entered into a proposal with both the city and with a volunteer organization to bring forward a project to provide a youth centre in this city. We have offered a capital amount for the development or the acquisition of property. We've also offered ongoing O&M assistance. This is a broad-based coalition to which groups such as the Youth of Today have been invited to join. We're still holding out that hope that they will come on board. As a matter of fact, this weekend, we have a planning session, beginning on Friday and Saturday, with all the participants in this group where we're going to look at the next steps to go ahead, and we are committed to making that happen. We're committed to working with municipal partners and the volunteer organization.
I guess the thing I find astonishing is that, even though we have tried to bring in a lot of people, including youth groups, including the city, including the volunteer organization - very worthwhile organizations, I might add, such as the Lake Laberge Lions - the member finds that that somehow is deficient.
Mr. Phillips: I guess the minister just doesn't get it, Mr. Speaker. It seems like, unless an idea is the minister's idea, it doesn't fly in this territory. The minister likes to put these feathers in his cap all the time and suggest that he's doing all these great and wonderful things. I applaud the fact that they're working with some youth to establish something in the territory, but the youth at risk feel that the new centre that they're planning doesn't meet their needs. Over a thousand people have signed a petition who feel there is a real need - an immediate need - for a home for youth at risk in this territory, and I'd like to ask the minister why he continually refuses to listen to the concerns of the Youth of Today Society, which is dealing with high-risk kids.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, the member is wrong, completely wrong. The report that was written, and maybe was the genesis for this particular project, grew out of the Whitehorse Safer City strategy. It grew out of a partnership between groups such as BYTE, groups like the Lake Laberge Lions, who were interested in bringing this forward, and were supported by Crime Prevention Yukon in bringing this forward. The individuals we're bringing in this weekend - one is Toby Rabinowitz who is the individual who is involved with writing that particular proposal. The other individual, whose name just escapes me for a moment, is with the Ottawa Carleton Police Youth Centre, which was really designed to address - that centre grew out of a need for young people to try and reduce drug abuse and other youth crime issues.
So, we are looking at that as a component. We are looking at that as a way to address a number of issues. We are looking at this youth centre as a contact point where we can deliver some services to youth. And I'm sure that the city has similar goals in response to trying to reduce youth crime, youth problems, as I'm sure worthwhile and community-based organizations like the Lake Laberge Lions -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, back in 1996, there was a seminar held out at the cadet camp where the Youth Empowerment and Success had a meeting. All of the people who attended that meeting - there was an NDP representative, myself and a Liberal representative - were all asked by the youth and encouraged by the youth to develop initiatives that are worked on, and listen to their needs - worked on by the youth and listen to their needs.
The Youth of Today Society has been ignored by this government. The government seems to have its own agenda, and off the agenda is the Youth of Today Society. There are 1,000 people who have signed a petition in support of the initiative of the Youth of Today Society.
023a Is the minister prepared to rise to his feet today and say that he will support that society, either by establishing a building or some type of core funding?
Hon. Mr. Sloan:I have tried to tell the member; I guess he is just not listening. He tends to be somewhat focused on his own agenda. I would say that the Youth of Today Society has been invited, from the very start of this process, to be a part. From the very first meeting, this group was asked if they would participate, if they would be a part, and the answer was in the affirmative. We have attempted, at every point along the way, to engage this group. Even with regard to the planning session, a letter has been sent to the Youth of Today, asking them to take part.
We are trying to make this as all-encompassing as possible. Unfortunately, the member doesn't see that. This is a community agenda. It's one that has good partnerships; it's one that we feel we can be proud of; it's one that we are interested in making happen. We've had positive commitments from the city and positive commitments from the Lake Laberge Lions, and I believe this will come to fruition.
Question re: Yukon Housing Corporation, social housing
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation. Over two years ago, the federal government made changes to the Income Tax Act, in which child support payments would no longer be considered taxable income, the end result being more money for the kids, Mr. Speaker.
While this is great news, the Yukon government does not share that opinion. If it did, the Yukon Housing Corporation would have changed its policy of deducting 25 percent of child support payments for rent from the single parents who are tenants of the Yukon Housing Corporation.
When I last asked the minister if he would change the corporation's policy and give the money back to the people who deserve it, the minister stated, "We have, in our social housing, an agreement with CMHC, and they have policies that we are bound to follow." The minister went on to further say, and I quote again, "We are looking at devolving the program to the Yukon. At such a time, we will be able to have some flexibility to make changes." That was March 4, 1998.
Since then, social housing has been transferred to the Yukon government, and still it would appear that there have been no changes in policy.
Can the minister advise the House as to when these changes will be made and, if they're not going to make them, why not?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I have brought this issue up with the Housing Corporation to talk over. At this point we are not making any changes.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, here's a government that talks about reducing child poverty. It's a priority, yet - as in this case - when the minister has the ability to make changes that would put more money in single families' hands to go toward the children, he chooses to look the other way. So much for his promises; so much for the NDP better way.
When I raised the question as to whether the government has changed its policy of including child support payment as income when calculating tenants' rent - back in April of this year - the minister stated, and I quote: "We have negotiated with CMHC. It has come over to Yukon Housing. We have the ability to make changes." Despite these words, the minister admitted that it has done nothing again.
I would like to ask the minister what excuses he has for not making these very, very important changes. What excuses does he offer?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, we have been going out to the communities and talking to community people. The board of directors has been having meetings in many different communities, and we're trying to get feedback about where they would like to see Yukon Housing Corporation play a role in the communities. We've been taking their concerns down, and we haven't had a whole lot of requests for this from the community people.
Mr. Jenkins: That's bafflegab, Mr. Speaker. He should be speaking to some of the constituents from my riding, who see this as a very important and critical issue. This government is famous for all talk and no action. What's it going to take - mothers on the minister's doorstep?
For over two years, all we've heard from this minister is excuse after excuse as to why his government cannot make any changes, and I would see an end to taxing child support payments.
As far as I can see, this minister has run right out of excuses. The only thing this minister has accomplished is, he's put an additional tax on a child's juice boxes - Tetra Pak taxes.
There's a surplus of over $82 million. Why won't the government change its policy of taxing child support? How many more years do we have to wait, Mr. Speaker? How long is it going to take? What's this minister afraid of? Why won't he change it?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite obviously doesn't support things like recycling. He's constantly bringing up the issue of Tetra Paks. Obviously, if the member really supported the Yukon Housing Corporation, he himself would have made sure that he is in good standing with the corporation.
Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House have taken the approach of going to the communities, talking to community people and getting direction from them in how they would like to see the corporation play a role in their communities.
Question re: Civil servant dismissal
Mrs. Edelman: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Now, earlier this year the NDP fired an employee after he criticized the government's new alcohol and drug treatment program. This person gave an interview to the Yukon News, but only after he had tried every other way he knew to work in the system to improve this program. In a letter to the employee, the government wrote that the media interview had "rekindled debate on the merits of a new program and exposed the government to renewed scrutiny and criticism for how it had chosen to offer in-house rehab services." Imagine, questioning the government on how they do things. Why does this open and accountable NDP government fire people who publicly disagree with them?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the question from the member opposite stoops to a new low, even for that member. It's very scary that the Liberals would want to debate personnel issues on the floor of this Legislature when the Public Service Act, the law of this government, states that politicians do not engage in hiring, firing and promotion practices. That is within the purview of the Public Service Commission, and there are appropriate channels other than the floor of this Legislature so that the member opposite can try and gain some political points with dealing with that. If those items were debated and discussed and determined on the floor of this Legislature, no public servant would be safe from the members opposite with that attitude.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, there are people in the civil service here in the Yukon government who are afraid to speak out because they are afraid of being fired. This government, in A Better Way, said that they were going to put the conscience back into government.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order. Let the member continue.
Mrs. Edelman: Why did this employee have to go to the media to get this minister to look at this program in the first place, and why did he have to get fired for speaking his own mind and giving his own opinion on the issue?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, this government fired nobody. The political level of government fired nobody. The political level of government hired nobody. The political level of government promoted nobody.
Mr. Speaker, when officials or people have problems with the Public Service Act, there is a law that guides the proper redress for that. There is a collective agreement, a grievance procedure, arbitration, appropriate practices other than the floor of this Legislature. The member opposite has gone off her rocker in suggesting that this government here is going to penalize anybody for speaking out. There's a law under the Public Service Act that contains the parameters of how redress shall be handled. It is not the responsibility of any MLA, on either side of this House, to engage in this, and I think the member should think twice about what she's doing here, because it has broad-ranging implications.
Mrs. Edelman: Speaking of legislation, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Hughes, in the last conflict commissioner's report, recommended bringing in whistle-blower legislation to protect public servants. The report said public servants should not be put in the position where they must choose between protecting their employment and fulfilling their ethical obligations. "Their ethical obligations", Mr. Speaker. "To ensure that the latter is the first priority, it would be appropriate to introduce whistle-blower legislation to ensure that public servants are protected."
Will the government follow that recommendation?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I just want to reiterate to the member opposite that this government believes in the law of the Public Service Act. It's a very important principle: politicians in this Legislature and the politicians responsible for the public service do not engage in what could be politically motivated personnel management.
Mr. Speaker, we respect that law to the nth degree.
No matter how many times the Liberals ask us to enter into that area, we will not do it, because it is not right and it can lead to the converse effect with other employees, where there are calls for people to have their jobs removed. We won't get into that sort of, what I would call, archaic form of government. What we have to do, in the case of Mr. Hughes' recommendations - and the member knows full well we're discussing them with the opposition parties as we speak - is respond to the recommendations that were put forward, and we're trying to do so. We're in negotiations presently, in discussions with the opposition, and we're trying to bring in good, responsible initiatives that'll allow people to speak out within the confines of the Public Service Act and the requirements that are guiding them. I think that what the members are asking this government to do, to sort of enter in to the -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Question re: Teacher training for non-native students
Mr. Phillips: My question is to the Minister of Education on the teacher shortage. The Department of Education has a hiring protocol that establishes the priority for hiring Yukon teachers and it goes, as I understand it, like this: considered first would be graduates from the Yukon Native Teacher Education Program - that's YNTEP which operates out of the Yukon - who request to return to their traditional territory. Secondly, graduates of YNTEP - just graduates themselves, no matter what First Nation they come from, if they're from First Nations outside of the territory or not. Thirdly, First Nation graduates who receive post-secondary training outside the Yukon - that would be a Yukon First Nation student who would go to some other university to gain their education degree. And, fourth, graduates of the Yukon school system - that's all other Yukoners who are non-First Nation. And, fifth, candidates from within the community. Sixth, temporary employees with more than one year of continuous service, and seventh, all other Yukon candidates and, eighth, anyone else.
My concern, Mr. Speaker, is that non-First Nation graduates of our school system currently have to leave the territory to obtain their teaching degree, which is expensive for the families, splits families and is difficult for the students when we're offering programs -
Speaker: The member's time has expired.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I thank the member for giving a recap of the hiring protocol, and I'll just guess at what his question might be. It seems that that member has never recognized the importance of hiring Yukon First Nation teachers to serve as role models in our school system. We have approximately 20 to 25 percent of our student population who are Yukon First Nations, and I believe it's less than two percent of the teaching force who are graduates of accredited teaching programs are Yukon First Nations. So, we still support the Yukon Native Teacher Education Program; we still support giving a hiring preference to those First Nation grads. We also hire an awful lot of Yukon graduates who become teachers who are not First Nations, and we'll continue to that, as well.
Mr. Phillips: My point, Mr. Speaker, is that a non-native Yukon graduate has to leave the Yukon to gain their degree, while others don't, and I would ask the minister if she would be prepared to provide a teacher training program here in the territory for those graduates and give them a higher priority in the education hiring protocol.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, I've just stated to the member that we will continue to recognize the need to have more First Nation teachers in the classrooms and to give them a preferential hire. Having said that, it's far less than two percent of the teaching force who are First Nations. There have been questions and expressions of interest from members of the public who would like to see a teacher education program offered in the Yukon. Yukon College recently held an information session, where they invited members of the public to come forward to see if there was enough interest to offer such a program in the future. That's something I've spoken to the college board and administration about and that we've discussed in this House over the last couple of years.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, teachers are in short supply, and I've spoken to a lot of Yukon kids who have come through the Yukon system - non-native individuals - who want to teach in the Yukon and are forced to leave the territory. They're asking me why, Mr. Speaker. In some cases, First Nations from outside the Yukon are given a priority in getting a course and a program in the Yukon and priority of hiring when they can't get a job. I understand Yukon First Nations and putting more First Nation teachers into the classrooms. But some Yukon kid - a non-native kid in F.H. Collins, who has lived here all their life and has some understanding, as well, of First Nations in the territory, should, at least, be given some opportunity to be moved up higher in the protocol. All I'm asking the minister to do is consider offering a program in the territory where all Yukon kids, whether they're First Nation or not, have an opportunity to gain an education degree in the territory that some have now and others don't. That's all I'm asking the minister to consider.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure the member opposite would be the first one to recognize that the Yukon government, under the New Democrat administration in the 1980s, offered a teacher-education Yukon program, and some of those graduates are teaching in Yukon schools today.
I'm also telling the member opposite that the majority of teachers who are hired to teach in Yukon schools are non-First Nation graduates of teaching programs, some of whom may have gone outside the Yukon to get a teaching degree, and they come back and are hired to teach here. I've also told the member that we are looking into the possibility of again offering a teacher-education program here in the Yukon. I'll be happy to keep the member posted on developments. As I indicated, Yukon College held an information session just last month on that very subject.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
GOVERNMENT PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 182, standing in the name of Mr. Hardy.
Motion No. 182
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Whitehorse Centre
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
herd are critical habitat and are permanently protected from development in Yukon; and
(2) this level of protection does not exist in the core calving grounds of the 10-02 lands of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR); and
THAT this House, while recognizing that responsible development in the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd can occur with proper environmental safeguards, strongly opposes oil and gas exploration and production in the core calving grounds,
THAT this House recognizes the continuing support of the Yukon Government for international efforts to secure permanent protection of the 10-02 lands of ANWR, and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Government to continue to assist with the lobbying efforts of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and the Porcupine Caribou Management Board to ensure permanent protection of the 10-02 lands of ANWR.
Mr. Hardy: It gives me great pleasure to bring forward this motion. I believe it's very clear where we stand, firstly as a government but also as a party with a long history in lobbying for the protection of the core calving grounds of the 10-02 lands of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Our government stands behind the lobbying efforts of the Vuntut Gwitchin, the other First Nations, the Porcupine Caribou Management Board and environmental organizations and individuals.
This land is the calving grounds to - and the estimates vary, but it's safe to say - over 130,000 caribou, as well as being recognized as a complete, diverse eco-system.
The 10-02 lands include 1.5 million acres, with a 125-mile long strip of coastline, that is the only part of Alaska's coast still closed to oil development.
The Porcupine caribou winter in northeastern Alaska, the central Yukon, and the Richardson Mountains of the Northwest Territories. During the spring, the herd moves west and north to the calving grounds located mainly in the U.S. on the coastal plains of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Biologists believe that the caribou journey hundreds of miles to the coastal plains to give birth where there are few predators and where the nutrient-rich tundra plants provide essential nourishment for calves and nursing cow caribou.
In late June or early July, the herd aggregates into groups of tens of thousands - sometimes more than 100,000 animals, hence the name, "America's Serengeti" - and moves off the coastal plains. The herd continues on its annual migration, wandering hundreds of miles south and east, between Canada and Alaska, during the fall and winter.
A 1987 agreement between the Canadian and United States governments recognized that the two countries have a joint responsibility to oversee the habitat of the Porcupine caribou herd. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and President Bill Clinton have assured the Gwitchin people that they will do everything in their power to protect the calving ground of the caribou.
Representatives of the Porcupine Caribou Management Board of Canada have been making trips to Washington, D.C. and other states, to speak to members of Congress about their concerns regarding oil development on the calving grounds.
Since the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge straddles the border between Alaska and Canada, the question of its possible development as a source of oil has international as well as a national implications. The Canadian government in Ottawa established a national park on the Yukon side in 1984, specifically to prohibit drilling in the region. In midsummer of 1995, Canada's ambassador to the U.S., Raymond Chrétien, led a lobbying campaign with the U.S. centres, arguing that the region should be left pristine to ensure the future of the shared wildlife population of the Arctic coastal plain.
I know, Mr. Speaker, you've been very closely involved in all of this, and I'm just giving a bit of background history for other people.
Other contacts between Canada and the U.S., right up to the present, have stressed the former's desire to see the Arctic refuge coastal plain at least retain its present status or, more preferably, to be designated as part of a larger wilderness area.
Canada has also become a world leader in promoting what has come to be called sustainable development and sees this approach as being central to resolving questions associated with the refuge's future. In assuming this stance, government officials, along with northern indigenous residents, stress that a new global strategy is needed for sustaining life on the planet - a strategy that includes recognition of the conservation values of aboriginal cultures. Drawing on the hallmark report of the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development, called Our Common Future, the Canadians have emphasized the report's affirmation that aboriginal lifestyles, such as those of the Gwitchin First Nations and the western Inuvialuit, must be protected. In the case of the Gwitchin and, to a lesser extent, the Inuit, such protection requires careful management of a major source of food: the caribou.
This commitment was an essential element in the establishment of the three-million-acre northern Yukon national park located in the northwest corner of the Yukon bordering Alaska, in which no development is permitted. The world is linked together, suggests an indigenous Yukon government leader. We need to be responsible for one another's well-being and get away from this myth that we are only having little local effects with projects like those on the Alaskan coastal plain. In today's world, if we harm the land and resources on which we depend, with which we live, then we are harming ourselves.
The Arctic refuge was established to protect and conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity. The 10-02 lands unfortunately do not have wilderness designation. This portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was excluded from America's strongest designation pending study of the area's potential in oil and gas. This was done quite a few years ago. Unfortunately, this has been the basis of a continuing struggle to protect the calving grounds. In almost all the studies, it has been noted that the habitat will be affected by any development. Up to a 50 percent drop in the birthing of the caribou has been estimated. This would have a profound effect on the survival of this herd, as well as the lifestyle of the Gwitchin.
There is a spiritual quality the Gwitchin have with the caribou. It goes beyond measuring all life on a southern economic scale. A Gwitchin elder named Sarah James once said, "The caribou is not just what we eat; it is who we are. It is in our dances, stories and songs and the whole way we see the world. The caribou is our boats and our mittens. The caribou is how we get from one year to another." How do such people as the Gwitchin measure progress? Is it in dollars in the pocket or in the footfalls of the caribou as they migrate by? What about our values? Are they so different? A clean environment, peaceful and safe society, healthy and strong communities, good physical health, and a time to share with neighbours and friends and the community.
The oil industry feels, in the calving grounds at least, that they can replace a way of life that's been around for over 20,000 years - a sustainable way of life - with one of their creations, one based on oil and gas, one that would affect the very roots, the very basis of existence and survival, that may only last 10 years or, maybe tops, 50 years and then be gone.
What is needed here and what is meant by the motion is to get some clarity on the positions people hold. The Vuntut Gwitchin have been very clear, through their voice and action, about protecting the calving grounds. The Porcupine Caribou Management Board is clear in their lobbying efforts, united with the Vuntut Gwitchin. Our Prime Minister, with President Clinton, has shown a willingness to do everything possible to protect the 10-02 lands. Our MP, Louise Hardy, also has joined forces with lobby groups to convince passage of wilderness designation for the 10-02 lands. We, the NDP, the Yukon government, have always supported the First Nations in their lobby efforts and have always stood by the protection of the calving grounds.
All that remains here, and what we need, is a very clear answer from the opposition parties so that we can be united in defending the calving grounds and ensuring their future.
Support for this motion and the wording as it stands today will give that indication, and I know it would go a long way for the people listening and the people within the Yukon Territory if they heard a very clear answer about the protection of the calving grounds and lobbying to have it designated as wilderness under the American government.
Ms. Duncan: I'm pleased to rise today to speak to the motion presented by the Member for Whitehorse Centre, and let there be no doubt in the mover of the motion's mind that I'm rising to speak in support of this motion. I only wish, Mr. Speaker, that I had the ability to speak as passionately and as eloquently as I have heard Vuntut Gwitchin members speak of these matters.
The Porcupine Caribou Management Board annual report is very helpful in reviewing and providing an explanation to those who are not familiar with this issue. It speaks of caribou communities, Mr. Speaker. It says that caribou have been the mainstay for people on the Porcupine caribou range for upwards of 20,000 years and for much of that time, by ancestors of the Gwitchin, Northern Tutchone, Han, Inuvialuit and Inupiat. Today, these people, whose lifestyles are a blend of ancient traditions and modern technologies, reside in 16 communities distributed across Alaska, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
Despite the many changes that these communities have experienced, their strongest bond remains with the land and its wildlife, which each culture sees as its duty to respect and protect. Every year, these bonds are renewed with the annual caribou harvest, where many of the cultures' best traditions are revitalized in training young people to observe proper rules of the hunt, sharing of meat and of giving thanks in time-honoured ways.
"From a strictly economic point of view, in such isolated communities, most of which have no road access, caribou meat provides a healthy, nutritious staple, which has no equivalent, either in dollars or quality." Mr. Speaker, that's taken from the Porcupine Caribou Management Board annual report.
Although these words are written in English and they speak of the importance of the herd to the Gwitchin people, they don't adequately explain the significance of the herd, and I'm certain that the Gwitchin words do exist to explain the significance. Vadzaih is unfortunately the only Gwitchin word I have learned so far in respect of this discussion. Mr. Speaker, I'm certain you could explain it in your language better than my attempts.
The importance of the Porcupine caribou herd to the Gwitchin people speaks to life itself: so goes the herd, so go the lives of the Gwitchin. And the Member for Whitehorse Centre raised this when he spoke of the calving grounds, and again I would refer members to the caribou management report and their section on the migratory year: "Within a range almost twice the size of New England, Porcupine caribou circulate in an annual rhythm set by the ages. Preferring the tundra, the caribou stay above the treeline until fall snowstorms force them southward to winter ranges in eastern Alaska and the Yukon. However, as soon as it is possible, the cows in particular begin to drift northward again and, by May, the spring migration toward the calving grounds is in full swing. Because weather has such a strong influence on caribou movements, each year's migration pattern is unique, with one exception - the calving grounds. No matter where caribou have spent the rest of the year, they unfailingly head for the same calving area each spring, unless snow conditions are so bad that they must calve elsewhere. Even so, they will still complete their migration to the calving and post-calving areas in the 10-02 section of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where food is best for nursing cows, predators like wolves and grizzlies are relatively scarce and there is some sanctuary from the biting flies which descend on them in July."
I'm certain, Mr. Speaker, that we can all relate to that experience.
The Member for Whitehorse Centre has used the phrase "the Serengeti". Having had an opportunity to view the Serengeti, if not the very far North Slope of the Yukon, I can fully appreciate that sentence.
I'll just close with this comment in terms of the migratory year. This faithfulness to this calving is what defines the Porcupine caribou herd as a herd and has been the cornerstone of its survival for thousands of years. Eviction from the calving grounds, for whatever reason, would throw the herd into chaos, from which it may never recover.
The first part of the motion and the spirit of the motion deals with the protection of the 10-02 lands. Albeit none of us are holding the pen to sign the order to preserve and protect the 10-02 lands, it's President Clinton who does. Were he here today, I would, without reservation, urge him to sign it.
Alaskans always come over and lobby us on this issue, and some members have tried to state my position as something else. I would like to state for all members, so there can be no misunderstanding: I would urge protection for 10-02 lands.
The Porcupine caribou herd and ANWR are, Mr. Speaker, besides being the calving grounds, also a fragile coastline, a fragile northern coastline, and one can't help but look at the map of Alaska and look at the coast and remember what happened with the Exxon Valdez. There are some places - and I have said it many times in this House - that we, as global citizens, wish to protect.
There is also an interesting section in this report, Mr. Speaker, that deals with industry, which is worthy of note.
The principal industrial activities in the Porcupine caribou herd range so far had been limited, at the time of this writing, to establishing and abandoning DEW Line sites - and we've had that discussion in this House several times - on the North Slope.
The report is dated in 1996. It was the 10th anniversary of the Porcupine Caribou Management Board, and much has happened in the few short years since that report's release.
Oil and gas has been devolved from the Government of Canada to the Government of Yukon. Oil and gas exploration had gone on in the past, and the Government of Yukon - faced with a bleak economy and one of the keys to development in their hands - wished to turn the Yukon economy around one job at a time, and were looking for development to proceed.
That is why, Mr. Speaker, we have many quotes from local newspapers; ads taken out by Friends of the Porcupine Caribou, quotes from the government - at the time the opposition - saying, "The Yukon New Democrats have a firm position and were opposed to this development until the Vuntut Gwitchin people feel that they can feel comfortable with it. If they don't feel comfortable with it, as a result of their concerns for the habitat, for the caribou that have been there for thousands of years, then we as a government, and as a party, would not be in favour of this development." That quote, Mr. Speaker, is from the Member for Faro in September 1996 at the environmental forum.
There's also a quote from a recent letter to the editor, from a citizen in Laberge, and it again quoted the Member for Faro on oil and gas development before the last election, and used the same quote.
The question asked by the citizen was this: "Why should I care too much where you stand on these issues now, if you can just pick up your feet and stand somewhere else after you've been elected?" That comment in the local media is part of the reason for the motion today, and it's also the reason for the responsible development section of the motion.
The other political motivation for the motion is to have me elaborate on my position on this issue. And what has guided me, as the leader of this party in my position, and what guides us in the Legislature and in developing responses to issues, are fundamental principles, and we have outlined them and agreed upon them as a party.
One of those principles is that the Yukon Liberal Party is committed to responsible management and conservation of natural resources in the territory and to integrating environmental and economic goals and policies. That fundamental principle has also guided that the reflection of Liberal values in government creates tolerance, compassion, opportunity and understanding in the development of public policy.
Development in this territory should not proceed until proper processes are in place. In this particular instance under discussion, it's my understanding that the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation want to be in a position with a land use plan. They have to have planning processes in place, opportunities in place to make development happen.
Recently, CBC Television did a two part North Beat special on this very issue.
One of the quotes from an individual interviewed in the program was, "What we want to see, though, is that it's done at a pace" - and he's referring to oil and gas development - "that Yukoners feel comfortable with. We want to make sure that Yukoners have full control over where oil and gas development takes place, and we want to make sure that protected areas are in place." There has also been some disagreement from a former member from Vuntut Gwitchin. Ms. Kassi has written to the local media, noting that, "The frightening thing is that this is happening without the voice of the Gwitchin people being heard and without the approved land use plan in place for the northern Yukon." She also said, "If we allow economic development, it must be done slowly, with full and open consultation with the Gwitchin people."
Mr. Speaker, we believe that First Nations have to be consulted, that Yukoners - all Yukoners - need to be able to participate in the process, and we must have these processes in place. Development cannot proceed without having our homework done. Another former member of this Legislature, Mr. Schafer representing Old Crow, has said, "In the Yukon, I think this is new to the Yukon as an oil company and to protect our environment and the habitat in the area, I think it's very important that the community would have input."
The lesson we can learn from this discussion, and from what has happened in the last few years, is that we have to get our homework done. We have to end the uncertainty. We have to deal with these tough issues of the development assessment process mandated in the umbrella final agreement. We have to deal with devolution. We have to finalize the outstanding land claims and, most importantly, Mr. Speaker, we have to give life and meaning to the implementation of the signed land claims agreement.
And we must do this, Mr. Speaker, in a respectful environment. We must set out the process and we must follow it.
Before I close, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to state again, so that there can be no misunderstanding, that, on behalf of our party, we are in support of the motion today.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I will have some comments to make about the member's speech that she just gave, and I have to give her credit. She managed to come down on both sides of this issue in her words. I will point that out in my rebuttal to those comments. I will point out precisely where she did that, but what's really going to count here is the wording of this motion and the vote at the end of the day.
Mr. Speaker, I think this is a very important debate because, right now, in the United States, there are primaries underway or just starting, candidacies have already begun, where we have an outgoing president, Bill Clinton and two challengers for his nomination: with Bradley and Gore. We have George W. Bush, the front-runner for the Republicans, a Texas oil man who has a very good shot at taking the presidency, if Pat Buchanan or Jessie the Body don't win. So it's very important now, at this time, that we push for permanent protection of the 10-02 lands.
Now, I've spoken with and met with the leadership of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. I think, four times since last November, I've been in Old Crow. I've had community meetings where I've sat and talked with different people, had agreements, had arguments. I met with elders and met with chief and council about a whole range of issues, from resource development to tourism to the Fishing Branch ecological reserve to land use planning.
But I think the one thing that unites us in common is the protection of the core calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the timing could not be more critical that this House sends a very clear message on that subject, because that's the real issue. In the winter range of the caribou herd in Alaska, there's development. In the calving grounds on the Yukon side, we have protected it for all time - the NDP government - through the negotiation of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation land claim. We're proud of that.
So, we put the protection where our mouth is, in terms of the core calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd.
Mr. Speaker, this House needs to come together on this issue. Now, does this House stand for permanent protection, as we have on our side of the House in the government, or not?
The reason we want to do this motion is because we believe the time is right: the issue around the 10-02 and its permanent protection is at its heightened momentum, if there's going to be a change prior to the next federal election. There's been a lot of good lobbying work done, and we think that, given the support of the people of the Vuntut Gwitchin, the things that I hear about a traditional way of life when I'm in Old Crow, when I speak to elders about how it was, when I speak to the passion the community has on this issue, then I know that there's one thing they all believe in. Some of them believe more in resource development than others, but one thing they all believe in is protection of the 10-02 lands.
I thank the New Democrat member for bringing the motion forward to engage the debate in this House.
One of the reasons I think it's important is because you heard the Liberal member say she supports the motion. Now, the motion says that this House, while recognizing that responsible development in the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd can occur with proper environmental safeguards, it then goes on to say about the 10-02 lands - clearly supports that there can be resource development - mining, oil and gas - with proper environmental safeguards in the winter range.
But yet, that signals a change in the Liberal position from just a few short months ago in this House, where the Liberal leader said on March 4: "My position, on behalf of our party, is that development should not proceed until the Vuntut Gwitchin is prepared for it to proceed. That was our position taken with the member of the Vuntut Gwitchin." So, this motion, which she supports, says something quite opposite from that.
As well, then in the wording of her speech, she gave the impression that no development - resource development, which includes mining - should proceed in entire north Yukon, because that's the winter range - almost all of the land north of Dawson - until land use planning is complete. So, is she telling this House no to mining exploration, no to mine development in the winter range, no to the permitting of Northern Cross, oil and gas exploration that's going to take place this winter?
It's permitted, environmentally assessed by a Liberal government in Ottawa. Is she saying no to when the permits come in November 15 for oil and gas exploration - bids on November 15. No to that, no development of any kind - mining, oil and gas - until the land use plan is complete?
Mr. Speaker, I would submit that she will not hold that position, if that's what it is. She tried to come down on both sides by supporting the development in the winter range in the motion, and then sort of hedging that it was only once land use planning was complete. That's not what the land claim says.
Now, our government is committed to land use planning, and we've been talking to the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and many others, because I would also suggest that if she's saying no development in mining, oil and gas until land use planning is complete, I would remind her that that pertains to the entire territory. There are no land use plans that are complete in the whole territory, because the land claim says in the UFA that the government may proceed with land claims planning; and we are. But we would submit that you don't have no development in this entire territory until that's complete. What we want to focus on is the 10-02 lands.
Now, the vote today is going to mean more than the words of the Liberal member. She cannot have both sides.
I would argue that anybody who believes that she could sustain the position that no development should occur anywhere in this territory until all land use planning is complete, and all DAP is complete, which is in the hands of the federal government - I can bet you, Mr. Speaker, that she will not sustain that position. It is not sustainable for mining, for oil and gas.
Mr. Speaker, I also wanted to see this motion brought forward by the Member for Whitehorse Centre because, when we were in opposition, we had a very tough time on the calving grounds issue with the Yukon Party government. When we asked them many times about their position on the calving grounds and the 10-02 lands, the answer from Mr. Ostashek at that time - March 28, 1996 - was that: "I do not mind answering that question at all. We have no position on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." He said, "I do not believe that we have the right to say that." We are saying that the habitat the integrity of the Porcupine Caribou Herd must be protected. Again we pushed on the issue of the calving grounds, the 10-02 lands. And, Mr. Speaker, he felt that: "Our position is that we do not believe it is our right to interfere with the governance of the State of Alaska, no more than it is the State of Alaska's right to interfere with the governance of the Yukon Territory."
Well, Mr. Speaker, we don't support that position, because we protected our side of the calving grounds in the Yukon under a NDP government. And we believe the same should apply to Alaska, and we take that position. So today, it will be interesting to see how the Yukon Party votes, because for them to now support this motion would be a switch of their position from when they were the Government of the Yukon. And, Mr. Speaker, let me just say that we hope they do. We hope we have unanimous support, because that's the real battleground for this issue right now. It's the issue of 10-02 lands and permanent protection.
Mr. Speaker, I think that it is incumbent upon us, as the people in this House, to send a united, strong signal. Now, we know the members opposite - the Liberal leader wanted to engage in some political aspects in the debate - reading my quotes, and I read back her quotes. I pointed out where she tried to come down on both sides of it, but the vote will tell the tale. Read the wording of the motion, and you will see that you can't have both sides of the issue. It doesn't mention land use planning in the motion. Land use planning isn't an environmental safeguard. What is an environmental safeguard is the CEAA process, which will eventually be replaced by DAP.
The comments I made regarding Northern Cross that she referenced were made before the Northern Cross permit application came through the CEAA process and was environmentally assessed. Mr. Speaker, I've always thought that the most important aspect of our debate is not the winter range of the caribou herd because, in Alaska, we've never gotten wired up about the winter range, mining and oil and gas development. There's mining going on right now in northern Yukon - resource development. You can go up and drive two posts in the ground and start mining. Of course, you can't now in Fishing Branch in Tombstone because this government stood up for - in the face of lots of opposition from the Liberals and Conservatives - the protection of those areas, and we're still getting beaten up on those issues by the Liberals and Tories, who don't think we should protect the Fishing Branch ecological reserve or who try and have both sides of that issue, as if that's not a tough challenge - to come forward with two massive protected areas, which are going to be an incredible legacy left to the people of this territory for all time.
So, our commitment on the 10-02 lands, on the calving grounds on our side of the territory, which were protected by an NDP government in the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation land claim toward ensuring that the 10-02 lands are protected - our commitment to ensuring that proper environmental safeguards are in place, before there is any development in the winter range - is clear.
And we feel that this House must focus on the real issue, and the real issue - as much as want to have our political battles - is with protecting the calving grounds.
That's what I hear from the people of Old Crow. Now, I respect the people who take out those ads and fight for the Porcupine caribou herd, and they want the whole thing protected - right north of Dawson. But I would submit that that is probably not a sustainable position, because right now mining activity and resource development can go on there.
The key is, how do we control it, and can we hold our heads high internationally? And the answer to that is, very definitely, yes - because we're not asking the Alaskans to do anything, or the federal government in the United States, anything other than what we have already done on our side of the border.
And when we worked on opening up small areas of Eagle Plains, which is in the winter range, we had many meetings with the First Nations, face to face, in Old Crow, community meetings where it was raised. We talked about environmental safeguards. When we met with leadership of the First Nation they talked about historic sites and areas that were in the land claim that should be considered through reassessment. We said we agree.
You know, there are a lot of people in that community who I talked to - Mr. Schafer was on the oil and gas trade mission with me to Calgary - who believe you can have a way to make a living, and put food on the table, and still protect that caribou herd and the calving grounds. And I believe you can too, Mr. Speaker.
And when I go to Old Crow I talk to lots of young people, and they talk about trying to find some work, and having some jobs. But you know, most of those people also talk about the caribou, and they say it's okay, it's okay to do the oil and gas, and to do the mining, and the resource stuff up here in the wintering range, as long as you protect the caribou.
And we say yeah.
Yes, we have one on our side, and we are pushing for it to happen on the Alaskan side. And people seem to acknowledge that position. Now, of course, there are voices on both sides. Some were very, very stridently pro-development and some were very, very stridently anti-development. But we have to try to accommodate the desire, which I see, by most people I talked to in Vuntut Gwitchin - and you, yourself, Mr. Speaker, have been at meetings where people have stood up and expressed many different opinions. I sit and talk with the elders and they express views of concern but also views of concern about the young people in the community with not a lot to do.
As long as we control and talk to people and work with people on the pace of any potential development in mining or oil and gas prior to land use planning and DAP, I think people, or the vast majority of them, will be reasonably comfortable.
The reaction I usually get from people is, "We accept that. That's a reasonable proposition, but let's make sure we're involved." Mr. Speaker, why do you think I've been to Vuntut Gwitchin four times in the last little while? Because I want to know what the people really have to say about this issue, and I want to hear it out.
One respected member of the First Nation stood up at a recent community meeting we were at and raised concerns about development; there were others who stood up and supported it, and we respected all points of view, and said that there were going to be processes in place. Our government's committed to protecting the caribou and the calving grounds.
So, the vote today is going to be interesting, Mr. Speaker, because the wording of the motion is clear. You can't come down on both sides of this one. You have to take a position. I pointed out the Liberals have said they're going to vote for the wording of the motion but then made a strange reference, or insinuated, that somehow no development should occur, including stuff going on right now, until land use planning is complete.
If you extrapolate that, that's a very dangerous way to approach development for mining and oil and gas throughout this entire territory, because there are no land use plans, and there are many sets of land claims. And the land claim agreement in the UFA is very clear that they don't have to track one after the other; they can parallel track. And we're working on that right now with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. Land use planning was discussed in Cabinet last week, and we're going to be making some moves in that direction.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party - we don't know what they're going to say. No doubt they're going to get up and take some shots. I look forward to that as always, but, at the end of the day, will they support the permanent protection of the 10-02 lands? That's all that really matters, I think, to the people of Vuntut Gwitchin. Are those calving grounds going to be protected? Will they assist in seeking that permanent protection? Will they stop the position they had in government, which was that they had no position on anything to do with Alaska and the 10-02 lands and the calving grounds? And there are many quotes. I could read more and more, but I don't think it's necessary. I think I've made my point.
We would welcome the Yukon Party to join us in supporting the motion that has been brought forward by the New Democratic Party Member for Whitehorse Centre. And I think it's a very timely motion. It's one that I feel proud of because I think we can hold our heads high internationally with what we've done in this territory compared to what has taken place in Alaska, and it's one, I think, we can use to help us lobby. We've provided support to the Porcupine Caribou Management Board to engage in this fight. We've worked with Norma Kassi to engage in this fight for a long time, provided support for her efforts, even though many of her efforts are critical of some of the actions of our government. We've provided support to the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation in their fight and we -
Speaker: The minister has two minutes.
Hon. Mr. Harding: And I know that you, Mr. Speaker, have been a long-standing proponent of protecting the Porcupine caribou herd and the calving grounds of that herd, so that your people can have them for another thousand years and to make sure that they are there to continue on with many of the aspects of the traditional lifestyle that are still carried out in Vuntut Gwitchin.
So with that, Mr. Speaker, I look forward to hearing what the Yukon Party - and hoping that the Yukon Party supports this motion - and I look forward to hearing really what the position really is with regard to land use planning. I'm sure the Member for Riverside will clarify it for us when he gets up.
Mr. Ostashek: It gives me great pleasure to rise and speak to this motion today. I want to respond to some of the comments made by the Member for Faro. He took great liberty in stating how fluid the Liberal position is on this issue, and there's no doubt that it is fluid, but it is no more fluid than the NDP position, and I will lay that out in the short time that I have this afternoon.
There's only one party in this Legislature that has maintained its position on the Porcupine caribou herd since day one - has not changed its position. The NDP believe this is a political exercise, that they can say one thing in opposition and totally reverse it in government, and that they believe all Yukoners should accept it without question. I'm going to point out some examples of that this afternoon blatant examples about how diametrically opposed their position today is to the position they took prior to the 1996 election, when they thought it would be politically expedient to take a different position. So much for integrity, Mr. Speaker.
We have seen numerous headlines, not by Yukon Party supporters, but by NDP supporters. I'll review some of those headlines. This is January 29, 1999, "NDP Pinocchio sold us out". It's one of their supporters. I'll get into the details of it a little later. August 13 - déjà vu, another week, another NDP government bungle. "Our government blew it again" - again, one of their supporters.
January 22, 1999: "NDP's Better Way is pure hypocrisy" - another one of their supporters, Mr. Speaker. Those are not Yukon Party supporters who wrote those articles - not one of them. Not one of them.
Here's another one from a member of the Vuntut Gwitchin. "NDP's development agenda angers me." This is November 27, 1998 - just one year ago.
Mr. Speaker, there are more and more comments here that I will get into. What has precipitated these comments? The flip-flop of the NDP and the NDP government and their position on development of the range of the Porcupine caribou herd. That's what precipitated it: statements by the Minister of Economic Development prior to being in government, statements by the Government Leader - who has taken a totally different position since he's been in government than what he did in opposition, for purely partisan political reasons.
That kind of message is a message, as we have been saying, and is discouraging investment in the Yukon. They don't know what this government's going to say from day to day. They don't know if tomorrow they'll come in with another motion opposing what they said today, because that's been the track record of this government - "We'll do whatever's politically expedient. If we can get the vote of the Old Crow people in the 1996 election by saying: "We're against all development - be it on the wintering grounds, be it on the calving grounds - on the Porcupine caribou range, then that's the position we will take so we can win this election. And then when we have to deal with the business community afterward, well, we can always change that position - no big deal. We can squirm, wiggle and move around, and say that we didn't really mean that." But their position was fairly strong, Mr. Speaker, prior to being elected government - that they opposed development on the wintering range. They opposed the Northern Cross application. All that changed once they were elected.
Now, Mr. Speaker, we have spoken time and time again in this Legislature, criticized this government, urged this government to send a clear message to investors in the Yukon, to not be changing every time the political whim in the territory changed.
Let's look at the party positions on this very crucial issue. And let me say, Mr. Speaker, that we believe in protecting the Porcupine caribou herd, not only on the calving grounds, but also on the wintering range. Let me also say that the argument being made by the NDP today - that all we have to do is make sure that we protect the 10-02 lands and that those caribou have lots of calves, and that it really isn't going to matter how much development we have on the wintering range because that's not going to affect the population. Well, I'd like to see them debate that with biologists. Whether it comes to caribou, whether it comes to moose, whether it comes to sheep, or any of these animals, the size of the herd is controlled by the size of the wintering range.
So any development, no matter where it occurs, has to be done in a very cautious manner to ensure that the integrity of the herd is not compromised. But that's not a good political exercise for the members opposite, so that's not a position they're taking. It would have been a good argument if they had taken that argument to start with and stuck with it all the way through, but no, it was more politically expedient to try to tell the Old Crow people that, "We're against the Northern Cross development; we're against development on the wintering range of the Porcupine caribou herd", but now that they're elected it's another story. Not the same story at all.
Let's get back to the positions of the different parties and let's look at the NDP position prior to the 1996 election. On the Alaska side, no development on 10-02 lands. None whatsoever. In Yukon? No development of the wintering range of the Porcupine caribou herd unless it's approved by the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. That's what they said to get elected. Another broken promise on their pile of broken election promises.
Look at the Liberal Party position prior to the last election - or prior to today; it sort of changed today a little bit; we don't know exactly which side of the issue they're on right now. Maybe it's the fact they got elevated to official opposition that they have to change their position now. They can't maintain the same position they had before. The Yukon Liberal Party said no development on 10-02 lands and no development on the wintering range of the Porcupine caribou herd unless approved by the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. Exactly the same policy as the NDP had in the last election. Exactly the same.
Now, let's look at what the Yukon Party said. The Yukon Party's position was very, very clear all the time they were in government and all the time they were in opposition. We said quite clearly any development of oil and gas, both within Alaska and the Yukon, must protect and preserve the integrity of the Porcupine caribou herd to ensure its continuing health.
And I believe that that's a statement that can be backed up and a statement that addresses the concerns of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and all Yukoners and all Alaskans. Most Alaskans don't want to see the Porcupine caribou herd decimated, no more than Yukoners do, no more than Canadians do, but when we get governments that flip-flop all over to try and win political votes, and not worry about what the fallout is from it, it doesn't create a climate for investment in the territory. We've said that time and time again.
Now, let's look at what the Government Leader said. On December 2 of last year, the Government Leader said, "We believe in responsible development and, when it comes to the core calving area of the Porcupine caribou herd, we believe in no development - core calving area, no development, responsible development elsewhere." That was the Government Leader's position in December 1998. That's in Hansard.
But then let's go back to February 21, 1996, when the Government Leader was then-leader of the official opposition, and what was his position then? This was in a debate on a motion put forward by the previous Yukon Party MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin on February 21, 1996. Piers McDonald, then -eader of the official opposition, stated, and I quote, "Also, it is equally important to note that the herd, and the integrity of the herd, could be affected by developments in the wintering grounds, right through from Alaska, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Consequently, it is important to do everything we can to ensure that the habitat, both in the calving grounds and elsewhere, is protected."
Now, if those aren't two positions that are 180 degrees apart, I don't know what are. Now they come forward with this motion and accuse the opposition of not having a position on this stuff, and that they're the only ones that have a position -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: They've got lots of positions, just whatever way the wind blows.
And, you know, those statements by the Government Leader were enforced by his Minister of Economic Development prior to the last election when they went to the meeting of the conservation people and answered the questions on oil exploration and development in the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd. Mr. Harding, at the time, said that unless the Vuntut Gwitchin people were satisfied with it, it wouldn't go ahead. They wouldn't support the Northern Cross application. That's what they said when they were trying to get elected.
And what do they do when they're criticized by people like Bob Jickling, who called them the NDP Pinocchios who sold us out? What do they do when Norma Kassi criticizes them? What do they do when Ken Madsen criticizes them? "Well, we'll give them money. We'll buy them out. We'll buy them off" - $267,000 in hush money to silence their critics, Mr. Speaker. That's what they did.
Let's just look at some examples. On November 3, 1998, criticism of the NDP - Norma Kassi in a statement to CBC: "On one hand, the government is proposing to support us as Gwitchin all the way in respect to protecting our way of life, yet we have our Government Leader going to Washington announcing he's going be opening the wintering grounds. And I have a real concern about that."
She's not the only one who has a concern about it. I think the Government Leader lacks credibility when he says that he's going to develop the wintering range and that he's going to go to Washington and lobby for protection of the 10-02 lands. I think he lacks a lot of credibility. Nevertheless, that was on November 3, 1998. On February 1, 1999, the NDP government responded - a sole-sourced contract. It was a two-month, general contract with Kassi Consulting Services for $20,000 to promote the government's message of "no development" to the Porcupine caribou herd calving grounds. That's the first example.
Example number two: January 1, 1999 - criticism of the NDP by Karen Walker, spokesperson for the caribou commons project, in a statement to CHON-FM. Following months in the Porcupine caribou calving grounds and on their migratory trails, the Yukon's wildlife concert tour, set to begin its trek from the territory, across Canada, and into the U.S., Karen Walker, with the caribou commons project, says, "Recent announcements on the further sale of exploration permits by the Yukon government and the push by Americans to develop oil projects in the area have given the project extra urgency to convince them to do otherwise." Now, Karen Walker doesn't speak only to what the Americans are doing - she speaks to what this government is doing.
So, how does the government respond? January 22, I believe it is - this was Mr. Madsen, who appeared on a CBC, 7:15 a.m., special report. "Now, the Yukon government announced - I think it was yesterday - we had Trevor Harding on talking about the government allowing some exploration, some oil work in the Yukon, which is part of the caribou's habitat. What effect do you think that will have on what you're trying to achieve?"
"Well," he says, "it's a difficult question. We, of course - our primary goal is the calving grounds." He didn't criticize the government too harshly there, but then on January 27, 1999, he received a letter from the Economic Development minister announcing additional funding of $16,175, bringing the total approved funding to $97,175.
Coincidence, again - criticism, contract; criticism, contract. Juri Peepre, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society - another one. I mean, this goes on and on and on and on. And then this government tries to say that they have a solid position, when even their own people say they don't have a position, that their position is as fluid as the Liberals. What did they say?
In the article on January 29 by Bob Jickling, that the NDP Pinocchios sold them out: "It would be good entertainment if it wasn't so tragic. That is, watching the Pinocchio coalition of Harding and McDonald tripping over their collective noses." That's Bob Jickling who said that.
Two issues at stake here are deception, smoke and mirrors, and smoke-and-mirrors economics.
First, deception. Mr. Harding might try to argue that he hasn't technically misled the Yukon public. However, people here know that revealing only half-truth, or reinvented interpretation, isn't exactly honest.
Let's consider Mr. Harding's promise at the environmental forum held during the last election. In response to the question: "I would like to ask the respective parties of their position on a company - I believe their name is Northern Cross - coming into the traditional territory of the Vuntut Gwitchin"...
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Mr. Ostashek: ... "wanting to further develop oil and gas near the Dempster Highway and in the wintering grounds." Mr. Harding's reply was, "Well, the Yukon New Democrats have a firm position. We oppose the development." That was prior to him being elected to government. "We oppose the development until the Vuntut Gwitchin people feel that they can be comfortable with it. If they don't feel comfortable with it as a result of their concerns for the habitat and for the caribou that have been there for thousands of years, then we as a Yukon government and as a party, would not be in favour of the development." That's what he said.
If I remember correctly, at the same time that the Vuntut Gwitchin people were filing a court challenge against development, yet Mr. Harding must have felt that they were comfortable with it because they went ahead. He told them he wouldn't unless they were comfortable with it, but they went ahead with it so they must have been comfortable with it.
It goes on and on and on. The NDP - here's another one, on the, 22nd - NDP's A Better Way is pure hypocrisy. The NDP government continues to amaze us with its double-speak on public consultation and a balanced approach to conservation and development. That's by Juri Peepri. Trevor Harding's giddy announcement on oil and gas development flies in the face of endless, now quite tiresome, NDP promises for integrity and open government. It goes on to say, can we trust these people any longer? Piers McDonald and Trevor Harding have shown a complete disregard for the due public process on oil and gas development questions. What hypocrisy, to establish a lengthy and onerous process for protecting a few shreds of lands we love then, in the same breath, issuing an invitation to industry for vast tracts of development of land with nary a whisper of public consultation. That -
Speaker: The member's time has expired.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I'd like to ask anyone here, did anyone detect a position coming out of the Yukon Party leader in the last 20 minutes? Did anyone figure out precisely what the Yukon Party stood for in the last 20 minutes?
Mr. Speaker, let me just take a few minutes to talk about the Yukon Party's so-called position of integrity, the position they indicate has not changed from day one. While the Yukon Party was in government, the Yukon Party leader - the member who just spoke - indicated, after blistering questioning that took most of one afternoon, that the Yukon Party did not take a position on the drilling in the core calving area - took no position whatsoever, and suggested again this afternoon that perhaps that anyone who would suggest that you should be stopping drilling in the core calving area and promoting responsible resource activity in the winter range would not have credibility.
The Yukon Party leader said that no Yukon government should even have the right to pass judgment on whether or not drilling should take place in the core calving area in Alaska.
You know what, Mr. Speaker? In the election document that the Yukon Party put out in 1996 after three years in government, they said that they continued to support the initiatives of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to ensure the integrity of the Porcupine caribou herd is maintained. Now, that's a fancy piece of double-speak, Mr. Speaker, but it does say some telling things.
Mr. Speaker, they kept on referring to the integrity of the Porcupine caribou herd, something that no one disagrees with. No one wants to see the integrity of that caribou herd challenged. But they said, "Support the initiatives of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation", which were - they knew full well - the protection of the core calving area and the no-development position in the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd. So, they were saying one thing to the First Nation and another thing to this Legislature.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party has taken two positions - two diametrically opposed positions - on the whole question of whether or not there should be development in the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd. They support the First Nation and their initiatives, and they say later in this Legislature - and earlier in this Legislature but away from the First Nation - that they don't think they should be taking any position in the core calving area in Alaska and that they do support development in the winter range of the caribou herd.
Mr. Speaker, that is double-speak. That is a flip-flop. Those are two different positions taken by the Yukon Party. Read them - two different positions on the same subject.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the Liberals - a little harder to tie down sometimes, because I've got to tell you that I don't understand them when they say, "Let me be perfectly clear. This is our position." I don't know what their position is.
Even when they say that they're being perfectly clear, I still can't figure it out. I have to scrum with my colleagues - what did they say; what did they say?
Mr. Speaker, they say they're going to support the motion. The motion says that there should be protection - no development - in the core calving area of the Porcupine caribou herd, and it says that there can be responsible resource development in the winter range of the herd. They say they're going to support that, but now they also say - I guess this is for the listening audience in Old Crow, where they're hoping people aren't reading too carefully - that they think that all land use planning should be done first.
Mr. Speaker, number one, that's not what the land claims agreements say; but number two, land use planning - even with the Vuntut Gwitchin first in line for development of a land use plan - is years off. Are they saying there should be no development at all? Are they saying to the miners near Fishing Branch, are they saying to the Northern Cross proponents, who were permitted by the Liberal government, that those people should undertake no activity whatsoever until a land use plan is in place?
And by extension, Mr. Speaker, surely they would take the position that the land claims agreements should be as much honoured down south, in the southern Yukon, as they're honoured in the northern Yukon, so are they saying, therefore, that if there's not a land use plan in place in southern Yukon, that there shouldn't be any development there either until the land use plan is in place? That appears to be what they're saying.
So they're taking two different positions even today.
What this will all boil down to this afternoon - or whenever we actually vote on this - will be a vote.
People will stand and be counted, and I can guarantee you, as I stand here today, that before this legislative sitting is over, there will be a vote on this motion. If there's any delay today, it will be called two weeks hence. If there's any delay on that day, we'll call it as a government motion. There will be a vote on this motion, and the Liberals will have to take a position, at least temporarily for the moment that they're actually voting. They will have to take a position on this particular question.
Mr. Speaker, New Democrats have said and will say and will always say that there should be no development in the core calving area of the Porcupine caribou herd. We said that to governors 10 years ago, the governor today, and we'll say it to the governors of Alaska 10 years from now. We said that to Senator Stevens, Senator Murkowski and Representative Young. I said that to them personally only in the last year, and I'll say it again. The core calving area of the Porcupine caribou herd should be protected on both sides of the border. It straddles both sides of the border. On the Canadian side of the border, the land is already protected. There are national parks. One of the national parks is a creature of the land claims agreement, which the NDP government helped to negotiate. On the Alaskan side, there should be similar protection of the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd.
We have not said there should be no development of any sort outside the calving grounds in Alaska or in the Yukon. That would be inconsistent with the position we have taken internationally with the various political leaders of the United States, where we have never commented on drilling activities in Prudhoe Bay.
We've never commented on the winter range activities of the Porcupine caribou herd, in terms of no development of any sort. Of course, Mr. Speaker, it is the case, depending on the amount of development activity that will take place, the cumulative total of that activity may affect the integrity not only of the Porcupine caribou herd, if it happens in the Porcupine caribou herd winter range, but may also affect other caribou herds in their winter ranges if development activity takes place there, too. Of course we must bear that in mind as we approve responsible resource activity anywhere in the Yukon.
So we've said consistently that sensitive areas should be protected, and we're protecting them. Responsible activity can take place outside those sensitive areas. We also understand there may be cumulative impacts if there's too much.
But we say, both at home in the Yukon, in this Legislature, in Old Crow, in front of community meetings - where I've been to a number of them in the last year - to chiefs and councils, to U.S. congressional leaders in Washington, to state leadership in Alaska, that there should be no development in the core calving area, and there can be responsible development in the winter range.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party has not ever made itself clear. They've taken two positions on this particular measure. As I've indicated this afternoon, very briefly, they have talked about supporting what the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, the government, is doing, and they have been opposed to it in this Legislature and when they've communicated with Alaskans.
And now they attempt to suggest that the NDP government is trying to buy off its critics. Well, Mr. Speaker, if there was such a nefarious campaign afoot, whatever is happening, it's not working. There is criticism; there's a contract - criticism, contract, more criticism and more criticism. Because there are some people in the community who genuinely and honestly feel that there should be no development. Period. End of story. And while I respect their views, I disagree that there should be no development of any sort on principle, because I don't believe the science supports it, and I do believe that some responsible activity can take place if it's properly permitted. Now, Mr. Speaker, as I say, the Liberals and the Yukon Party, who both think that they detect a change in NDP position, have taken numerous, different positions on this subject. This afternoon is an attempt to clear the air.
I would expect the Yukon Party, Mr. Speaker, to come down on the side of whether or not they want to support the Vuntut Gwitchin's - as they say in their election propaganda - initiatives, or whether they want to come down on the side of the statements they've made to Alaskans that they should take no position on the core calving area of the Porcupine caribou herd. We will find out this afternoon. The Liberals? We will find out this afternoon whether or not they believe that responsible development can take place before a land use plan is in place.
They'll break up a deal with the federal Liberals who permitted development after some environmental assessment, who permitted the development in the north Yukon before a land use plan was in place. And we'll see if they do decide to take that position. We will follow up tomorrow, or the next time this House convenes, and we'll be asking them why they are taking the position - a position in the north Yukon - or whether or not they will apply that position in the south Yukon. Do they respect the land claims in the north Yukon and not respect the land claims in the south Yukon? If they believe that there should be no development before land use planning, we'll find out whether or not that is a policy they'll be prepared to carry territory-wide.
But, Mr. Speaker, we can resolve this for all time this afternoon. We can show due respect for the need to protect the integrity of the porcupine caribou herd. We can speak clearly to the people of Old Crow, to the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, and state a position clearly and unequivocally. But based on all the discussion this afternoon, and all the double-speak, I don't think we'll actually be able to hear the statement about positioning until a vote is called: the standing count, and everyone can stand and be counted.
Mr. Cable: The tension builds, Mr. Speaker.
I'll be extremely brief. We in the Liberal caucus want the matter to come to a vote today, and I have to say that this motion is not just about caribou habitat. It's not just about the caribou wintering range. It's not just about development in the caribou wintering range. It's about Joe Binger. It's about the friends of the porcupine caribou, and it's about relationships between First Nations and the non-First Nations people.
It's about the NDP having taken up a firm position before the election, and another, different, firm position once in office. When the NDP candidate in the Lake Laberge by-election asked for a public debate to discuss the issues, Mr. Binger, in a letter to the editor, asked, "Why should I care too much where you stand on the issues now, if you can just pick up your feet and stand somewhere else after you've been elected?" This motion will, hopefully, stop those feet from walking. Support for the motion will, hopefully, put the issue to rest and stop the creative literature and creative dialogue - or supposed dialogue - coming out of the NDP benches.
I'd like to thank the Member for Whitehorse Centre for bringing the motion forward. The Liberal caucus will be supporting the motion, as we said earlier.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I would also like to be brief in my comments. I think that all members of this House should pay close attention to the motion that was brought up by the Member for Whitehorse Centre.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start my comments with a quote from Mary Jane Moses of Old Crow: "Since we, the Gwitchin people, truly respect the caribou and take only what we need, it is our way of conserving. We are dependent on the caribou in many ways, and we are grateful that the caribou come back our way, close to Old Crow, every year. Sometimes they are delayed. However, we still wait patiently, because the caribou have never let us down yet. Our prayers have been answered when the hunters see the caribou on Crow Mountain and call out, 'Caribou!' When we do this, everyone gets excited. Our stomachs will be full again, and we'll continue to survive and be a proud and strong nation. For this we say mahsi' cho."
Mr. Speaker, for the Vuntut Gwitchin people, the caribou is their life. It is their language. It tells history, and they are one together. The Vuntut Gwitchin people rely on the large number of caribou that migrate through their area close to home. The migration provides food on their tables, provides clothing for their people, and it also continues their way of life and their culture forever.
We see that this government should be continuing to push for permanent protection of the calving grounds and the 10-02 lands. We think that responsible development can take place within the winter range, as in any winter range in the Yukon, because the Yukon basically is a winter range, right from the north to the south, for many different caribou herds.
I hope that by the end of today the Liberal Party and the Yukon Party would find it in themselves to vote in favour of this motion so that members that are out there lobbying can take this motion and say to the people in Congress, to the senators, to the people in Washington, that the Yukon government and the Yukon Legislature - all in the Legislature - agree to this motion, and this is the way that we would like to continue on in the Yukon, with the full support of lobby efforts by the Porcupine Caribou Management Board, by the people of Vuntut Gwitchin, and continue the fight for protection - permanent protection.
I know that the Liberal Party said protection for the calving grounds, but it's permanent protection that we're looking for.
Maybe we can get this clarified.
I can't even go into what the Yukon Party is saying right now. They have many different positions, but again, I do hope that they find it in themselves to have enough in them to vote yes for this motion, and let it be a tool that can be used by the Vuntut Gwitchin people and the Porcupine Caribou Management Board.
Mr. Speaker, I'll just go quickly over some of the things that have taken place over the many years. The 10-02 lands make up approximately 1.5 million acres of coastal plains - and we in this House have been speaking to that for a long time - and this area is best referred to as the 10-02 lands, or the calving grounds.
It is 125 miles of strip along the coast, and it's the only part, I guess, in 1,100 miles of coast that is closed to oil development. Right back to the 1960s, this was given some recognition. A portion of land was put aside for protection, and then again it was brought up in the 1980s. There was more support for it in the Senate and in Congress in the States, and more protection was put forward. Approximately 84 percent of this was part of the national wilderness preservation system.
But there were still pressures from the oil and gas industry to do some drilling, to do some development in that area, and the 1.5 million acres, the 10-02 lands, didn't fall into that protection.
This has essentially been the basis for continued lobbying efforts by the Porcupine Caribou Management Board, by the Vuntut Gwitchin, to protect what they say and we say is a key area that was left out of protection in the first place with the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and that was the calving grounds. To this day, there are extensive lobbying efforts by the Porcupine Caribou Management Board, by the people of Vuntut Gwitchin, the First Nation. They're trying all they possibly can to bring recognition of the Americans to do permanent protection of this sacred place, as they would call it.
It isn't just the caribou that is being protected. It's the way of life of the Vuntut Gwitchin people. It's about plant life. It is about many different animals, the bears that are in that area - black bears, brown bears, polar bears - that live in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and many, many different bird species that migrate from the south - more than 180 different types of bird species come north and stay for the summer, then fly back. That's pretty important to us here, and it's actually pretty important to the rest of the world where these birds come from and the continued return of these birds. Muskox have been reintroduced, and there are also, of course, many other different animals there, like foxes, wolverines and wolves and different types of squirrels and so on.
Now, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has many other special features that, I think, should be taken into consideration when we approach people and ask them for protection of the calving grounds that could be affected. For example, 18 major rivers - three designated as wild. Its three major physiographic areas contain a full range of arctic and subarctic habitat.
It contains the greatest variety of plant and animal life of any conservation area in the circumpolar north. It has nine mammal species living along its coast, 36 different species of fish inhabit the rivers and lakes, and more than 300 archaeological sites have been found. The most northerly population of Dall sheep live in the refuge. And, of course, what we can't put aside - and from the experience of going up there - are the numerous types of insects that are there.
Mr. Speaker, this makes up an ecoregion. We, as Yukoners and as Canadians, have taken the steps to do protection on our side of the border, with the Vuntut National Park and Ivvavik National Park, and also the special management area that's attached to that. We've gone beyond that. The winter range, the Tombstone area, is part of that. The Fishing Branch, which we're dealing with quite rapidly - and, hopefully, conclusions can be reached on that quite soon - is part of the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd.
So, Mr. Speaker, we'll continue to show our support to the people that are lobbying on behalf of the Porcupine caribou herd. Over the years since the formation of the Porcupine Caribou Management Board, they've done an extensive lobbying effort, all the way from first formation, I guess, to lobbying across Canada to the States. Basically, their mandate was to manage the Porcupine caribou herd and its habitat in Canada to ensure continuance of the herd for subsistence use by native users, while recognizing the use of other people as well. So they had, I would say, a big challenge ahead of them to try to get people persuaded to protect this special place, the calving grounds, and they've most recently done many slide shows across Canada and in the Yukon Territory here, in the States, to try and get people focused on this.
Our government has been very supportive of that. We've provided resources to the Porcupine Caribou Management Board to help them in their efforts in lobbying, even though we know the difficulties that they've been having over the past years.
Mr. Speaker, I think that what we should be doing here in this Legislature is focusing on the future and what the future holds for the Porcupine Caribou Management Board. We know that there's increased pressures from oil and gas companies in the States to do drilling and exploration work and to continue their pipeline over to the 10-02 lands and the calving grounds.
So far, the battle for protection by the Gwitchin people right across the Yukon and into the States and Northwest Territories has been fairly effective but we're running into a critical time here. We do have support by Bill Clinton, who had vetoed past bills to go ahead and do development in the 10-02 lands. His time is running out and we need to start lobbying hard - having the Porcupine Caribou Management Board and people from Old Crow lobbying hard to try and get some more assurance, maybe some protection, permanent protection out of the Americans for the continued existence of the herd.
Even though there have been a lot of comments in regard to the Fishing Branch and Tombstone, I have to ask the members opposite to really think hard on their support for this. We want the numbers of the caribou herd to be high, and still maintain high - their numbers are high today and the calving rates are quite good. There are approximately 160,000 caribou in this herd. They have a huge area that they migrate in and we, on the Yukon side, need to make sure as with other herds in the Yukon, and moose and everything else that any development that does take place involves people, involves industry and make some decision - careful decisions - with sustainable development so that these animals can exist for a hundred years or more. I think we shouldn't be looking at any short range; we need to look way beyond our time here on earth.
Mr. Speaker, I ask, once again, that members opposite look carefully at the motion that has been put forward, take careful consideration of it, and find it in themselves to support this, so that we can take this to the people lobbying on our behalf as a tool that they can use, and show our true feelings toward this.
What the Porcupine Caribou Management Board and the people of Old Crow want to do is draw more attention, nationally and internationally, to this herd. One of the things they plan to do in the summer of 2000 is the Millennium Trek. They have some very high-profile people - some movie stars - who are going to be going along on this trek. I think it's quite important that they give a lot of recognition to this, so that it does get into people's minds that this is a special place, and a very special area that people have been talking about for many, many years.
The lobbying efforts have gone on for over 10 years. The Porcupine Caribou Management Board was formed in 1985, to try to bring more attention to what was missed in the 1980s - decisions for protection of the Porcupine caribou herd in the 1980s and even before that.
We have shown that we are committed to the calving grounds. On the Yukon side there's protection through the parks system, and through, of course, the efforts of Vuntut Gwitchin in negotiating the park in a special management area. The First Nation has the largest land selection of all the First Nations...
Speaker: Minister has two minutes.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: ...in the Yukon at 3,000 square miles of category A. Of course, that would be very helpful.
We have a fairly large area in Fishing Branch for bear habitat and salmon habitat that is protected. We have Tombstone area that we need to look at. Once again, I urge the members across the floor that we do not waste the time, that we do vote on this and bring it to a conclusion so that we can tell the general public out there that we collectively, here in the House, have one common position on this: protection of the calving ground; responsible development in the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I, too, am very pleased to rise and speak to this motion today. The issue before us is one of paramount importance to the well-being of the First Nation people that live in the northern part of Yukon. And well it should be; it's part of their traditional ways, traditional lifestyles. The caribou have played an extremely important part in the evolution of the First Nation people of that area to where they are today.
Preserving those traditional ways is also very important to the people of Old Crow and surrounding areas, as well as for ourselves, to ensure that they can continue in the lifestyle that they have chosen. One only has to look, Mr. Speaker, to the area that's being referred to today, the 10-02 lands in northern Alaska, and look at what has transpired in that area since oil and gas exploration first took place, since the gathering plants were first constructed, and the pipeline was built.
There has been quite a change. There has been quite a change in the lifestyle of the primarily Eskimos living in very close proximity to the ocean there. That has come about as a consequence of the oil and gas development that took place on the North Slope of Alaska.
Not too many individuals in this House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have had the opportunity to visit that area. I look upon myself as being one of the fortunate ones to have had the opportunity to travel the highway on a number of occasions from Fairbanks right up to Deadhorse. Also, prior to it being open to the general public for general traffic, I have flown in to Deadhorse, or Prudhoe Bay, and had a tour of that whole area. Arco was the sponsoring group, and, yes, it was slanted and biased in favour of what they've done and what they've accomplished with respect to protecting the environment, integrating the First Nations residents in that area into their system, and providing benefits to the First Nations living in that surrounding area.
Mr. Speaker, I can assure you that that area was probably - well, no, not probably. It was the cleanest area that I have ever visited anywhere in the many, many parts of northern Canada where I've been, or the northern parts of Yukon.
In among the processing plant in Prudhoe Bay, the pumping station, the vegetation was lush and caribou mingled very freely. They were all up and down the pipeline throughout that area.
When you look and travel further to the west, and I spent a couple of occasions in Barrow, Alaska, where a number of the First Nation people live who work in Deadhorse, start asking them what has changed in their lifestyle and, as a consequence of the oil and gas industry in Alaska, they've had their homes rebuilt, they've had water and sewer systems built at costs that you and I find astronomical, Mr. Speaker.
We're talking hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of expenditure in Barrow to put in a water and sewer system to service the needs of that community. We're talking a gas plant there for the incineration that - first of all, the natural gas is distributed throughout the whole community to provide heating sources. In addition to that, an incinerator there disposes of their waste, rather than being dumped into the sanitary landfill site.
All of those benefits have accrued as a consequence of the oil and gas industry, and I guess what is of more importance to those residents of the State of Alaska is the fact that they have a permanent fund. With the money flowing from the oil and gas industry into this permanent fund, the people of Alaska - the long-term residents - do not pay any state income tax.
In fact, Mr. Speaker, they get a dividend cheque every year. For this year, recently issued, every person that's a U.S. citizen in the State of Alaska, it was over $1,700 per person - $1,700 per person, U.S. And those are real dollars. They are U.S. dollars that come as a consequence of the development of the oil and gas industry in that area. When you start looking at the amount of state taxes that these individuals are paying compared to ourselves, the contrast is astronomical.
I'm sure the members opposite are going to raise the issue that, yes, they have a deficit budget this year, but every time there is a change of one dollar in the price of a barrel of oil, the revenues flowing to the state coffers over there are unbelievable, and I'd suggest to the members opposite that they want to have a look at it, given that the price of a barrel of oil has virtually doubled in the last several months.
Just have a look at the areas, the smaller communities outside of Barrow, back toward Deadhorse or Prudhoe Bay, all of those communities - communities of 50, 75, 100 - just about all First Nations people - are now getting water and sewer systems, electricity, all the amenities that you and I take for granted. And they're receiving all those amenities as a consequence of the benefits accruing to that state and to their specific borough, from oil and gas exploration and production. And the caribou still calve in that area, they still wander and feed through that area, and they're still harvested by all of those First Nations in the traditional manner.
The exercise we have to entertain is that development of oil and gas on lands both within Alaska and Yukon must protect and preserve the integrity of the Porcupine caribou herd and its habitat.
It's a simple exercise. Multi-use of areas can occur, and it can occur and protect the integrity of the caribou as well as allow other areas of commerce and trade to continue, such as mining, oil and gas, or the construction of a community for the First Nations who choose to live in that area because of their proximity to the caribou, because of the abundance of caribou and because of their traditional lifestyles.
If one were to take the time, Mr. Speaker, and travel the haul road or the Dalton Highway, stop in at Coldfoot, have a chat with the people there, or at Wiseman, which is an old mining community, and cross over through Anatuvik Pass over the Brooks Range, there's an abundance of wildlife that struck me. Wildlife existed all the way up and down. It was primarily on the pipeline, and I asked that question: well, why is it on the pipeline? It's because when they went to re-seed that area, they seeded it with a high-yield and fast-growing type of vegetation that they located in the north, and it took and it has grown, and the caribou like it so they gravitate to those areas and feed on that vegetation and move around quite freely and coexist with the people who are either there for development purposes or are First Nations who live in their land.
Mr. Speaker, this issue is a motherhood issue for many of the First Nations in the northern part of this vast country of ours.
When we look at the position taken by the respective parties, the only party that has been consistent in its application of what it has stated, and what its position is, has been the Yukon Party.
The NDP has moved back and forth, depending on if they want to win the election, or whom they want to please. Back and forth - flip-flop, flip-flop.
If we start looking at the NDP's A Better Way, we start looking at the Pinocchio coalition, as it was defined by Mr. Jickling - these lines are not mine, Mr. Speaker. They are the stated positions of quite a number of learned individuals in and around the north primarily NDP supporters, Mr. Speaker, who have come out against positions taken currently by this NDP government. That is because of the NDP flip-flops.
They are inconsistent in their application of their policies, Mr. Speaker, time and time and time again. The exercise is not to be up front, sincere, and address an issue, build an economy and look after the well-being of all people. It's: get elected; stay elected; pay off who you have to pay off, one way or another; support them in any manner that's needed to get their support, should you lose it; give them a CDF grant for travel purposes; get them to offer advice to the NDP, one way or the other.
It just goes on and on, Mr. Speaker, as to the flip-flops in this area, and this is one of the major areas where they've see-sawed back and forth and now it's time to come out with a firm position, finally. I commend the Member for Whitehorse Centre for moving this motion today. This motion is a government private member's motion, but it specifically spells out the position of this NDP government, and I would hope that the Member for Faro will take heed as to the contents of this motion so his position will be very straightforward from here on and not as fluid as it is before an election until after the election.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: The suggestion is for a 30-day guarantee, and I would ask that the minister provide a guarantee for at least until after the next election, when he can probably change his position once again and flip-flop back to something else.
We look at the Liberal Party position, which, in my opinion, firmly plants one foot on each side of the fence, and I'm sure, with their short legs and even shorter fence, they won't have difficulty maintaining that posture. But today I'm sure the Liberals will support this motion when it comes to a vote. The Member for Riverside has so stated, the leader of the Yukon Liberal Party - or, I'm sorry, the former leader.
But there's a mixed message still being sent out to industry by this NDP government. The message on one hand is that we have to protect this, secure this. On the other hand, when the Government Leader is questioned in the House - "Well, as long as that oil and gas or exploration company comes in, follows due process, adheres to all the rules, they'll get their permits to go into that area and do the exploration. And then we'll back them." When those questions were questions raised in the House, of the Government Leader, the way he responded was the only way that he could respond, because the process is there. If someone chooses to follow the process, short of voiding the permits at the end of the road, or at the end of the day, or making the area one great big park and disallowing any exploration in that area, which appears to be the case with much of this land, Mr. Speaker...
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Mr. Jenkins: ... we have a government that flips back and forth, sends a very, very poor message out to industry.
The Yukon has the same potential for oil and gas development and oil and gas exploration as has the State of Alaska in many, many areas. Why we are not doing this to the extent possible is beyond my comprehension. I guess it's just because of the tremendous dollars that are flowing into the Yukon from Ottawa. We don't have to look after ourselves to any extent. Mr. Speaker, this is a disservice to Yukoners. I would be very, very hopeful that this government of the day could see its way clear to allowing Yukoners to become more self-sustaining. We have a wonderful opportunity out there to develop oil and gas, to enhance our financial position, to even eliminate income tax here in Yukon, Mr. Speaker. What a novel idea.
If it does amount to significant dollars, we can invest that money into a dividend fund and pay all Yukoners a dividend at the end of the day. This government today, Mr. Speaker, is sitting on a surplus of some $80 million. Most of it will probably be spent on their friends, trying to get re-elected.
Our position, Mr. Speaker, is the same as it was when we first started; that is, development of oil and gas on lands within Alaska and Yukon must protect and preserve the integrity of the Porcupine caribou herd and its habitat.
Speaker: The member's time has expired.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: What a bunch of hot air. Talk about flip-flop, Mr. Speaker. Now, they want to decrease taxes. When they were in government, they jacked them up - unbelievable.
On the motion, Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise in support of this motion today. I think the objective here this afternoon is to send a collective message to Ottawa and to Washington, D.C. on the immediacy of permanently protecting the 10-02 lands of the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve.
This matter is urgent, Mr. Speaker. It's felt this must be done before President Clinton leaves office. This was the message from former MLA Norma Kassi at the recent Caribou Commons Wildlands Benefit Concert in Haines Junction that I attended. People were encouraged to contact their Yukon MP, Louise Hardy, and pass their views along, to have the 10-02 lands protected. People were also urged to call the DIAND minister, and, I think, we heard last week that his phone number is 1-800-BobNault. So, give him a call and express your views.
The Porcupine caribou are an important part of the culture of the Vuntut Gwitchin. Over the past 10 years, there have been a couple of health scares concerning the Porcupine caribou herd. This has caused the Vuntut Gwitchin considerable concern - and scientists as well, Mr. Speaker. Following the explosion of the 1986 nuclear reactor explosion in Chernobyl, levels of radioactive cesium rose in the herd for some time and, in response to this, the Porcupine Caribou Management Board conducted an expensive public education campaign and arranged for the residents of the main caribou communities to be tested for contamination and no health risk to people, even on a steady diet of caribou.
With potential nuclear disasters still a concern, Mr. Speaker - we hear about abandoned Soviet nuclear submarines that are rusting away in the north; there's some concern about Y2K in the former Soviet Union - this potential threat is still alive, and we need to take action to do what we can to protect this herd.
The Vuntut Gwitchin and others will be undertaking a Millennium Trek project, which is a project that will bring world attention to the Gwitchin culture of the Yukon and Northwest Territories, through a journey of unprecedented significance in the history of this First Nation. This comes at a time when the foundation of their society is in imminent peril.
The Gwitchin, Mr. Speaker, as you know, are known as the caribou people. The Gwitchin tradition holds the calving grounds of the caribou herd as a most sacred place, and hunting or even travel there has always been forbidden.
To celebrate the achievement, the Millennium Trek will constitute the only opportunity for Gwitchin people to demonstrate to the nation of Canada and the world that, in the face of many adversities, they have ultimately prevailed and brought to the millennium an aboriginal culture that has successfully preserved its spiritual and traditional connection with the land in what is probably the most successful blend of ancient practices and wisdom within modern social standards.
Before I give some of the political background of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, I want to make sure that I get on the record from Hansard some quotes from April 14, earlier this year, when, on a motion discussing the Yukon protected areas strategy, I pointed out that the Liberal leader, who is still the current Liberal leader, told Alaskan senators that she felt the people in Old Crow had too much say when it came to the -
Some Hon. Member:Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: Leader of the official opposition, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: Point of order. The member is making statements, which I do not believe are on the record. The member is making allegations about me when I would ask that he withdraw them.
Speaker: Mr. McRobb, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, I am merely quoting from page 4962 of Hansard, April 14, 1999.
Speaker: There is no point of order. The member can continue.
Mr. McRobb: The Liberal leader told the senators from Alaska that the people in Old Crow, the Vuntut Gwitchin, have too much say when it comes to the development of oil and gas in that region.
I know this, Mr. Speaker, because I was there, and my wife was there, and later on I challenged her to rebuke that statement. And all she did was - on page 4971 of the same Hansard - challenge me to prove it.
Well, Mr. Speaker, what am I supposed to do? Bring a tape recorder, when we had dinner with the Alaskan senators, and record everything, just in case she might say something like that again?
Mr. Speaker, what I can do is - if she still wants evidence - I can pledge to sign an affidavit confirming my belief in those remarks. I'll be glad to do so, Mr. Speaker, and I'm sure my wife would too. She was beside me, and she heard those comments as well. I doubt that it would be as easy getting an affidavit from the Alaskan senators. But we know what we heard; we know what we heard.
Mr. Speaker, this is an urgent matter. The Republican presidential candidate, George W. Bush, is a Texas oilman. Where do his interests lie, Mr. Speaker? We need to permanently protect the 10-02 lands now.
The Web site for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is northern.org/refuge. There is some very good information to be found there, Mr. Speaker.
This is not the first battle to protect the area now called the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Since before the 1960s, conservationists have worked to maintain the area in a natural, wild state. The refuge was first protected by executive order by President Eisenhower in 1960. In 1987 the Reagan administration introduced legislation to open the Arctic refuge to oil and gas drilling. That legislation was close to passage when the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker spilled 11 million gallons of north slope crude into Prince William Sound. This spill led environmentalists to initiate a nation-wide campaign to permanently protect the area as wilderness.
In November 1991, proposed national energy policy legislation included a provision to open the Arctic refuge to drilling. This bill was defeated thanks to grassroots opposition which led senators to champion a major filibuster on the Senate floor. A February 1992 effort to add Arctic refuge drilling to a Senate energy bill was dropped due to limited support. With the 1994 election of Republican majorities in the House and Senate and the rise to power of Alaska's delegation, industry is once again poised to launch a major campaign to open the coastal plain to oil drilling.
For the first time, the pro-development Alaska congressional delegation is in Congress and is positioned to set national resource policy for the entire nation, leading key environmental committees along the way. Representative Don Young, chairman of House Resources, and Senator Frank Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee, and Senator Ted Stevens, chair of the Senate Rules at the time, are seizing this political opportunity to revive interest in drilling the Arctic refuge. The coastal plain has never been more threatened. Once again, we have a short window of opportunity to protect the 10-02 lands.
I would urge all members of this House to vote in support of this motion today so that we can collectively send the message to Ottawa and Washington, D.C., to protect the caribou for the benefit of not only the caribou but the Vuntut Gwitchin and others on this planet.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in support of this motion. Let me repeat that for the members opposite. I rise to speak in support of this motion.
Thank you to the Member for Whitehorse Centre for bringing this motion forward. Protecting the core calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd is of prime importance. The herd is a major resource to the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and to all Yukoners. That the Yukon government does not want to see oil and gas exploration in the core calving grounds is commendable in this time of distressed territorial economy. I had thought perhaps that this position would have changed but I'm pleased that it hasn't. Economics of a different sort are the priority here: to see the caribou herd protected as a source of food and of cultural and spiritual strength to the Vuntut Gwitchin.
This is a good thing. The Yukon Liberal caucus supports this completely.
That the core calving grounds within the 10-02 lands in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge across the border in Alaska are not permanently protected from development is a disgrace. Alaskans are divided on this issue. Some would have the exploration crews in there tomorrow and too bad for the caribou and for the people who depend upon them. Others have lobbied long and hard to keep development out.
I feel strongly that the Yukon government should continue lobbying the United States and promoting international efforts to protect the core calving grounds in the 10-02 lands. Let us continue to lobby in support of the Vuntut Gwitchin and of the Porcupine Caribou Management Board.
The order that will see the 10-02 lands permanently protected is, I understand, on President Clinton's desk. I hope he sees fit to sign it soon.
This is, on the surface, a motherhood motion that we're dealing with this afternoon, but it's very carefully crafted. Mr. Speaker, I believe the heart of this motion lies in the phrase "while recognizing that responsible development in the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd can occur with proper environmental safeguards". It really deserves more prominence than the NDP government is choosing to give it in this motion. This is not only about opposing development in the 10-02 lands. It is very clearly about permitting development in the winter range. No doubt the government has the wheels already moving, being sure this motion will pass.
This is a change of position for the NDP government. I find it interesting that just before the last general election, on September 23, 1996, they said they were opposed to development anywhere the caribou roamed until the Vuntut Gwitchin were ready. Isn't that interesting, Mr. Speaker? Now, they're saying "while recognizing that responsible development in the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd can occur with proper environmental safeguards". That's a little phrase with a big message. If we were to take that phrase out, the motion would have quite a different look and feel.
Now that the Yukon has taken over responsibility for oil and gas development, the NDP government is raring to go. What happened to waiting until the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation is ready? The NDP government is now starting to sound like the Americans, who favour development in the 10-02 lands.
Mr. Speaker, the best defence is a good offence. The real issue here is the NDP reversal. The government is really defensive, having been publicly embarrassed over this issue for the last three years with their flip-flops. They love to take a specific statement from the opposition and turn it into a global pronouncement for all time and all situations. It's time to cut the nonsense and focus on the issue at hand, instead of playing "he said-she said" all afternoon.
The Porcupine caribou herd is vitally important, Mr. Speaker. We must consider carefully any action that will affect it.
The Member for Klondike spoke glowingly of the benefits of the development on Alaska's North Slope - the rebuilt houses, the water and sewer, the incinerator, the electricity. Those are the trappings of industrialized society. Not everyone wants to live such a lifestyle. If they did, surely we'd all be in New York or Los Angeles, and development here would have its way. I shudder to contemplate the idea.
There are other important things in life besides electricity, water and sewer, and an incinerator. There is clean air, fresh water, open space, uninhabited by people but full of wildlife. That is of great value beyond price.
The Yukon's development assessment process would be the logical place to refer this issue. Unfortunately, DAP isn't complete.
The Yukon Liberal caucus believes there should be a process in place for land use and economic planning. The Vuntut Gwitchin should, obviously, be very involved in that process. It will have a direct effect on their daily lives, much more so than for the majority of Yukoners.
We believe in economic development, but we also believe in protecting our environment. That's essential. We don't advocate putting a padlock around the Yukon and calling it a park, Mr. Speaker, but neither do we advocate drilling and bulldozing and clearing the entire territory. There has to be a balance.
Despite what my colleagues next door and across the House would have Yukoners believe, that is not fence-sitting. It is the view of the majority of Yukon residents. I believe there is room for responsible development in the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd. I believe that proper environmental safeguards can be in place, but it is irresponsible of the NDP government to go ahead without consultation with, and the cooperation of, the Vuntut Gwitchin.
Once again, Mr. Speaker, let me be perfectly clear that I am in support of this motion.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise to speak to the motion today, and I want to take the opportunity to thank the Member for Whitehorse Centre for bringing this motion forward, so we can have an opportunity to discuss it.
We've had a very interesting afternoon, Mr. Speaker. We've heard the NDP take two or more positions. We've heard the Yukon Party being accused of taking two or more positions. We've heard the Liberal Party take four or more positions. It's been rather an interesting debate, to say the least, as the Member for Laberge talked about - the "he said-she said" scenario we've heard here today.
So now it's time for me to say where I stand on this issue.
I have some difficulty with the wording of the motion, primarily because I'm not sure that the mover of the motion, or the members on the other side who have spoken in favour of it - if there's enough evidence out there to show us that there are good reasons to provide more protection to one area than another.
From anyone I've talked to in Old Crow - I mean, what the motion says is to have no development whatsoever on the calving grounds, but some development that meets an environmental standard on the rest of the grounds, on the wintering grounds. That's an interesting concept, because I've never understood wildlife to be managed that way, where the only important area to the wildlife is their calving grounds, or their breeding grounds.
What I'm concerned about, Mr. Speaker, is that when you talk, for example, about maybe the birds of the Yukon and the marshes that they reside in, those are very important habitat for them.
And just to afford protection to that might not preserve the species forever and ever. For example, we may afford some protection to the north coast where the birds may nest, but if we didn't afford any protection to Swan Haven or some of the other staging areas, or some other areas in the future, and even areas where they just gather food, it wouldn't matter what we did in the nesting area.
And I know from members I spoke to in your riding, Mr. Speaker, in Old Crow, their feeling is that the wintering grounds are just as important as the calving grounds, and that if we don't ensure paramount protection of the wintering grounds, the calving grounds won't matter a hoot.
And so I get a little nervous when we start to - as lay people, and we are lay people here, none of us are biologists, none of us understand the real technical issue here with respect to these wildlife - when we start to say that the calving grounds are far more important than any other area -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: No, I don't think anybody knows that. I don't think there's any information that shows that. We know they're extremely important but the caribou can't live their whole life in the calving grounds, and we know that and that's why they migrate and that's why they move. And that's why the position of the Yukon Party has been, and still remains today, that any development of oil and gas, both within Alaska and Yukon, must protect and preserve the integrity of the caribou herd and its habitat - all of it, not just the calving grounds with one level of protection and other areas with other levels of protection.
And that's the difficulty I have with the motion that's before us today, that we seem to be making a decision in this House that one is more important than the other, and I don't know if that's true, and I don't know if we should be making that kind of decision here. I support protecting the integrity of the herd, whatever it takes, wherever it takes, and I think that is a position we should be taking, as opposed to sort of picking and choosing. I mean we could have all kinds of motions that arise on this floor in the future to protect the habitat of moose in the southern Yukon just in their calving grounds, or other caribou herds just in their calving grounds.
We don't do that with other species. We don't do that in particular with the caribou in the Finlayson Lake herd. We've put several restrictions on there with respect to hunting bulls or cows or the time limits and those kinds of things. And if there's a development application that goes through for an area, the development assessment process, or whatever process we have in place, evaluates whether or not that particular development will have an impact on the wildlife in the area. We don't pick and choose, as politicians, which is more important to the caribou. Which is more important - the calving grounds or the wintering grounds? I don't know. I think they're both extremely important to those caribou, as well as the migration route that's extremely important to the caribou. In fact, the Porcupine Caribou Management Board recognized that just two weeks ago when they closed the road for a week when the caribou crossed. They realize the importance of that. And so we manage it in different ways.
My point is that I get a little concerned when we bring a motion in here to say that there shouldn't be any development in one area because, if we don't, the caribou won't exist, but it's okay to develop other areas to some extent as long as we ensure they do it. Shouldn't it say that we should ensure that wherever we develop in the future, the integrity and importance of the herd should be protected, should be paramount and should be protected?
I hope, with the passage of this motion today, that the side opposite, the NDP government, is listening, because this government has changed its position dramatically with respect to the protection of that herd in your area, Mr. Speaker, and I'll give you an example. It's an example that angered me to no end and angered some people in Old Crow to no end, and it was when the Member for Old Crow years ago, Ms. Kassi, was in this House and lobbied the NDP government of the day to build a road behind Old Crow up onto the mountain so that people could take the opportunity of hunting caribou in that area, in behind the mountain, and you know the road I'm talking about, Mr. Speaker.
Now, I don't have a problem with that proposal. But what I had a problem with at the time is that nobody - the First Nation, the Government of Yukon, or anybody else - applied for any permits to build that road. It was just built. It was a political decision. What bothers me about that - the Member from Teslin can speak later, if he wants - is that I want to make sure that we preserve the integrity of the herd in the future. And it doesn't bode well for our argument if we, ourselves, abuse the process and then go to the Americans and say, "You shouldn't develop on your north coast," and yet, we don't live by the rules in our own area. Nobody did a study to determine if that road would harm, hurt or help - or do anything to the caribou herd. Nobody took out a permit.
I asked the question in this House several times: why wasn't something done? Do you know, what, Mr. Speaker? I couldn't get an answer from the NDP government of the day because - you know why? - it was a political decision to build the road. Like I said, I'm not opposed to the road; I'm opposed to the process that was taken at the time. It was politically expedient at the time to do what they did.
And do you know what? It's at the expense of that herd in the long run, when we're trying to make arguments to the general public that we're doing everything we can to protect the herd.
Now, times have changed, and people have changed their attitudes - I hope. And I hope that if any more development takes place in Old Crow or anywhere else in the territory that we make the proper application for the proper permits to ensure that no one can come back on us later.
Mr. Speaker, I know we heard the Member for Faro make a politically expedient statement a few years ago, when he wanted to get elected to government, which has come back to haunt him today - about development in the wintering grounds. He confused the people of Old Crow, and he confused the environmental side of the equation - and supporters of the NDP, who thought that what they stood for was the total protection of the herd, because that's what they told people about - and then they changed their mind.
That erodes the trust in politicians, Mr. Speaker. Just because it was politically expedient at the time the Member for Faro just said it - didn't care, just said it: "I need the votes today; I'll worry about what happens tomorrow."
I hope, if we pass this motion here today, that this is the last position of the NDP government, that we're not going to see us flop over this way next time, or over this way, depending on where the wind's blowing. They're starting to sound more like the Liberals, which is pretty scary.
My concern, Mr. Speaker - today we also heard the Member for Laberge make a comment about criticizing the Member for Klondike for his remarks on the development and improvement of services on Alaska's north coast, and she said that's not the kind of lifestyle that everybody wants, and I agree with that. That's not the lifestyle that everybody wants, but the Member for Laberge shouldn't discount the fact that it wasn't the oil companies and the developers that rammed that kind of development - electricity and power and septic systems and sewage disposal - down the throats of the First Nations that are in that area. They asked for it; they wanted it. They wanted to have proper health facilities for the disposal of their waste. Not all of them probably agree, but the majority of them certainly did, and many of them are better off health-wise and economy-wise today because of decisions they made in those days. Many of them are. Some are still not happy, but I don't think we should discount the fact that development brings a little more wealth, and people can afford a few more things.
I mean, after all, the government has a whole bunch of money in the bank, and it's going to bring rural telephone service to the member's riding. Now, there are some people in the member's riding who don't like telephone service, but I can tell you what - there's an awful lot of people in the riding who are happy that they're getting better telephone service - an awful lot of people are.
So I just don't think we should discount the fact that this was a wish of the people to improve their lifestyle, their social life, the amenities that we all take for granted. I mean, I don't want to see the Statue of Liberty going up on the north coast of the Yukon or Alaska, but neither do they. They just wanted some basic amenities like power and water and sewage disposal, and garbage disposal, and that kind of thing, and many of them got it because of the development that took place there.
I would hope in the future, that when we do issue oil and gas permits in the Yukon and the revenues start to flow to the Yukon government, that all communities, including Old Crow, will see enormous benefits from the revenue that's derived from the development that'll take place and, at the same time, we will protect the integrity of the Porcupine caribou herd, and that has to be paramount.
So all the "he said-she said" aside, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party's position is, has, and always will be that any development anywhere of oil and gas lands, both within Alaska and Yukon, must protect and preserve the integrity of the Porcupine caribou herd and its habitat. And there will be, and there should be, environmental safeguards in place to make sure that it's protected.
I don't know, Mr. Speaker, if we're going to be able to stop this one. I applaud the effort of the Member for Whitehorse Centre, and other members here, who are trying to rise today and speak in favour of the motion.
But there's a big move afoot, and we should do whatever we can to ensure the protection of the integrity of that herd, and if it takes a motion like this, so be it. If there's a change in government in Washington, then I think we're going to see some changes in development on the north coast of Alaska, which may or may not be in the best interest of the caribou that go over there.
But, again, Mr. Speaker, in closing, my concern about the motion is the fact that we're picking and choosing what's more important to those caribou, and I don't think we know that. In fact, I know we don't know that, because I know that those caribou couldn't live without their wintering grounds, as they couldn't live without their calving grounds. Both are paramount to those caribou. Both are paramount to the people of Old Crow, and we should keep that in mind.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, after that on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand speech from the Member for Riverdale North, I would submit that it's the third party critic on the side opposite who was confused.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon government is committed to protecting the Porcupine caribou herd critical habitat in the territory. We support measures to ensure that oil and gas development does not interfere with the Porcupine caribou herd calving grounds in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on the Alaska North Slope or the waters off the coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
In June of this year, the Yukon government provided a contribution of $100,000 to the Porcupine Caribou Management Board to lobby the U.S. Congress for the full protection of the 10-02 lands of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The board is working with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, native organizations, northern environmental groups and other concerned people on this initiative. The Yukon Party called this "hush money". One thing that's certain is that Yukon citizens are and will remain confident of their ability to state their opinions publicly. That's healthy. The practice of quoting letters to the editor in this House, which occurred today in the debate on this motion, is proof of that. I look forward to continuing to read citizens expressing their views publicly, whether they support or oppose the government.
The purpose of this motion is to put everyone's position on the record. The Yukon government recognizes that responsible development in the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd can occur with proper environmental safeguards.
We strongly oppose oil and gas exploration and production in the core calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd. Mr. Speaker, that's our position. I look forward to the vote.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Hardy: Before I wrap up here, Mr. Speaker, I just wish to once again acknowledge you and your people in the north. In some ways, it is with tremendous regret that you have not had the opportunity to speak on behalf of your people because you sit in the Speaker's Chair. So, I will bring forward what I heard, while in Old Crow, from the people I talked to, my own views, and the views of many of what people call "critics of the proposal", in the motion, just to ensure that I respect your position, wisdom and your people's.
I was in Old Crow this spring for a couple of days. On the second day, all of a sudden a stir went through the community. It was like a ripple, a feeling that started moving around, and you could feel it. There was a vibrancy, an excitement, a tremendous amount of life exploding, and the word I heard going around was that the caribou were coming. The caribou had been spotted across the river and were swimming across. During that time when I was there, I really felt the deep attachment and connection that your people, the Vuntut Gwitchin, have to the caribou and how extremely important it is to your cultural and spiritual growth and society.
It was a tremendous experience; I've never felt anything like that in any community I've ever been in and it gave me a tremendous appreciation of that connection to the land and the animals on it and how you've managed to maintain that connection where so many of us, living in our artificial environments, sheltered from much of nature, have lost and struggled to retain it to gain it back. So, that was a tremendous experience and I'm very thankful for that, and I speak from that experience as well.
A lot of what comes down here is that the people themselves have a choice, and my understanding is that they've chosen the need to protect the calving grounds. We can talk about all the other side issues and all the other areas we can explore - and what was said in the past and what's said now - but the truth of the matter is, as the Member for Kluane stated, it's essential that we make a move now. The calving grounds are under threat once again, and we can't dilly-dally and argue and point out all our mistakes right now. We have to make a move. We have to lobby now. We have to support the protection of the calving grounds.
So, just for clarification, I was listening to the opposition and every once in awhile they say something that makes me wonder what they mean. I guess one of the problems I had was that the leader of the official opposition, the Member for Porter Creek South, mentioned land use planning, but I don't think she meant it in the context that everything shuts down until we have land use planning, when we have a situation of this magnitude approaching.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: You're nodding your head. You're in agreement with that? Okay, thank you.
The reality of it all is that we can have all the land use planning in the Yukon that we want. The lands that are threatened have nothing to do with the Yukon, other than the migration routes of the people and the caribou. So, bringing in that kind of argument doesn't help much in this situation. We have to deal with that.
The other point that one of my colleagues pointed out is that we on this side have done our job of protecting a portion of the calving grounds. In Canada and in Yukon, the NDP have stood behind that and have done that job. The problem exists in the United States, in Alaska, where, once again, there's tremendous pressure, and we have to lobby; we have to fight for it, and we have to take the direction from the people of that land. Again, I say that they have to have the choice. It is my understanding that that choice has been made.
Now, we heard a lot of quotes from the leader of the third party. All he said - he took 20 minutes in here, not to talk about this motion, not to talk about the importance of the calving grounds, not to talk about the people, the Vuntut Gwitchin. He spent the whole time reading quotes and criticisms of us. That's a pure waste of time. That's not a person who is really concerned about what's happening up there, and it bothers me deeply. All it is is an attack on a party - an attack on the government, and it ignored the whole motion. We can't have that kind of behaviour when there are crucial issues such as the calving grounds facing the Vuntut Gwitchin and the other First Nations that are connected to it.
We heard from the Member for Klondike about the rosy picture of pipelines, oil pumping, caribou mingling freely among the pipes, socializing in behind the bunkhouses. He's seen all this on one of his journeys up there. More plants growing than ever before on the tundra. I have to wonder if they're not a native crop that's been planted. We heard all that. He's seen all that. I don't know how long he was up there, wandering around among the pipes and buildings, and I'm not sure which caribou he talked to to get their impression. Maybe we should go interview some of them as well.
But there's another side to it, and if you really want to hear it, you have to go and talk to the people. You can't just wander around with oil executives who show you the nice side. There are other sides. That's already been reported. There have been many reports concerning that that have been brought down.
There has been massive social dislocation up in Barrow. He didn't mention that. There are all the trappings of our society transferred into another culture that has no defences against them. Those are concerns as well. They were mentioned by the Member for Lake Laberge. She's correct in that regard, that our lifestyle and all our trappings and all our goods and bads are not necessarily something that people may want. Sometimes they're forced on them.
My concern is that we are, from our perspective, forcing too much on the people, and not listening to what they want.
I'd like to make another point. All development is not beneficial to people.
We've seen that in this world, and the world is suffering. It's up to us as leaders, representatives of people, to know the difference and know when to say, "No development. Hands off this area," and when to say, "Development can happen" and what amount of development, and to find that balance and work with that balance, and have some sustainable development, one that allows all societies to function and one that does not ask us to take our society and ram it down another culture - take our culture and force it on another culture. We have a lot to learn about that, and we should be more open.
So, regarding this motion, I hope there is unanimous consent on it. I hope the language is clear enough for everybody to vote on it and know what they're voting on. There's no ambiguity on this side. There never was, no matter how many times people want to spin it. We've always taken our position as a party, as a government. We've always spoken for the protection of the calving grounds, and we hope that this motion deals with that, and we hope it also puts to rest some of the ambiguities that exist among the other parties - find out where they stand, and we can move on from there.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: 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. Hardy: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Mr. Cable: Agree.
Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Mr. Ostashek: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Could I have order in the House. The Speaker can't hear.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 15 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 182 agreed to
Speaker: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., the Speaker will now leave the Chair until 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed with government bills.
Bill No. 82: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 82, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Moorcroft.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 82, entitled Elections Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 82, entitled Elections Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: It is my pleasure to speak to the provisions of the Elections Act amendments. Elections are fundamental to our democratic system. Rules on who can vote, how they vote, when they vote, who counts the votes and how, what are fair and unfair practices - all these are elements of a fair electoral system. The main purpose of an elections act is to set out these rules and provide for fair and impartial administration of elections.
Winston Churchill remarked, "Many forms of government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except all those others that have been tried from time to time."
This act proposes a number of amendments to the current Elections Act. The values underpinning these amendments are accountability, accessibility and certainty. We made a commitment to increase government accountability. During the 1996 election campaign, we stated that we would review the Elections Act, and bring in amendments to enhance accountability for candidates and political parties, through full disclosure of campaign revenues and expenses.
Accountability to the public is demonstrated in this bill, largely through new provisions for financial disclosure, as well as protection of privacy, and setting out permitted rules for the voters lists.
Accessibility is found through simplifying and clarifying some of the language, and producing one consolidated act, as opposed to a many-amended act.
Accessibility is also provided by including the former Controverted Elections Act under the Elections Act, so that only one piece of legislation governs all aspects of an election.
Certainty is met by the introduction of regular reviews of electoral boundaries, the first time in the Yukon that this has been done in legislation. Every 10 years, following the decennial Canada census, electoral boundaries will be reviewed. That's a fact that can be relied on.
Other changes that bring certainty include removing some provisions from regulations and putting them into legislation, particularly the provisions formally found in the Income Tax Act regulations, which have now been incorporated into the Elections Act. There are three main purposes to this set of amendments: first, to clarify and simplify routine matters, based largely on the Chief Electoral Officer's report; second, for the first time, to set up a process for regular reviews of riding boundaries; and finally, to fulfill a government commitment to amend the Elections Act to increase accountability of political parties and candidates for election finances.
We are now acting on the commitment we made in the 1996 election campaign, to enhance disclosure of party and candidate financing. The Liberals echoed that commitment. The 1997 report of the Chief Electoral Officer outlined many recommendations. Public input was sought on various aspects of this act, but the response from the general public was limited.
I would like to acknowledge the work of representatives of all three territorial parties who worked together to make recommendations to the Chief Electoral Officer on ways to improve the administration of elections.
The Chief Electoral Officer also acknowledged in his report that the input offered by the representatives of the Yukon's registered political parties was very helpful in the preparation of the Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Yukon on Elections of Members of the Legislative Assembly and Other Related Matters.
He went on to say, Mr. Speaker: "It was understood that the committee would provide input on the items to be reviewed, but that the process would not require consensus for each recommendation. This report, then, is the sole responsibility of the Chief Electoral Officer. It does not purport to present conclusions or recommendations that have been agreed to by members of the review committee."
The government did carefully consider all of the many recommendations of the Chief Electoral Officer. In most cases these were accepted, but in a few cases no change is being proposed at this time.
I would like to spend a little time describing the basic structure of the proposed act in front of us. Because of the high number of amendments, it was felt that the best approach would be to produce a consolidated document rather than a lengthy bill amending another lengthy bill and adding in yet other lengthy bills and regulations.
Instead, we produced a consolidated document. This will make the Elections Act simpler and easier to use.
The bill follows the same structure as the current Elections Act. It is divided into logical segments grouped according to the chronology of main events during an election. This is a very long act with eight major parts.
Part 1 sets out the basics, definitions and administration of elections. Part 2 is the largest section, which covers the entire election process from enumeration and revision of voters lists through to polling day, counting ballots and reporting the results of an election. In part 3, we find the election requirements. Part 4 covers proceedings. Part 5 deals with controverted elections. Part 6 is another new section on financial disclosure of election financing. Part 7 outlines the process for electoral boundaries review. Finally, part 8 is miscellaneous items.
In part 1, the basic fundamentals are dealt with first, such as residency, election officers, fees, polling divisions and registered political parties. This covers the first 49 sections of the bill. Part 2 deals with the election period, the writs of election, proclamations, key dates in the election period, enumerators, voters lists, unforeseen circumstances and enumeration.
The procedures for events closer to election day, such as special ballots, proxy voting, candidates and official agents, withdrawal or death of a candidate, revision of the voters list, mail-in polling divisions, setting up of polling stations, provision of ballot boxes, printing of ballot paper, duties of deputy returning officers and poll clerks, and advance polls are set out. This part also covers all the main elements relating to election day itself, from polling in a nursing or retirement home, rules for candidates' agents, polling day, manner of voting and counting of the ballots. Finally, this part covers events after election day, such as the official addition, recounts, tie votes and election return. This covers sections 50 through to 308.
Part 3 deals with election requirements, such as time off for voting, the report of the Chief Electoral Officer, election documents, notices and advertising, declarations and affidavits. Compared to the previous part, this is relatively small, as it covers sections 309 to 332.
Part 4 is proceedings, such as offences, conduct at polling station, powers of the Chief Electoral Officer and so on. It runs from sections 333 to 353.
The first four parts, in the main, revise the existing act and put it into clearer language.
Some parts of the act are basically new, or have been substantially altered. These include importing the former Controverted Elections Act, financial disclosure provisions, and a mandatory review of electoral boundaries.
Part 5 is basically the Controverted Elections Act, amended to bring it up to date. A controverted election is when a judge declares a seat vacant, where it has been proven in court that irregularities occurred, which may have affected the result of the election. An example might be the inclusion of an ineligible voter on the voters list.
The Controverted Elections Act has not been amended since 1902, other than minor changes. Some of the fundamental changes in this bill are as follows: no need to name a successful candidate as a respondent in court proceedings; all parties and the Chief Electoral Officer can be parties to the proceedings; it sets out clearer grounds for controvert, and these cannot be the same as grounds for a judicial recount.
In addition, the cost of the applicant will now be paid by the Chief Electoral Officer, unless the court orders the Chief Electoral Officer to recover costs from any other person, rather than the successful candidate automatically being responsible.
Part 6 is a new provision regarding financial disclosure. The disclosure provisions have been tailored to the small size of the Yukon and the need to avoid over burdening political volunteers, while still meeting the need for accountability.
The proposed provisions regarding donations from unincorporated groups are less restrictive and onerous than in many other jurisdictions. For example, in some jurisdictions - such as Ontario, Alberta, Newfoundland and New Brunswick - contributions from unincorporated groups are prohibited outright.
This legislation proposes that there be no restrictions on contributions from unincorporated groups, beyond some disclosure requirements, similar to Manitoba and Nova Scotia.
Unincorporated groups will not be able to completely hide behind closed doors. The name and address of at least one principal of the group will need to be identified and will be publicly available, where the group gives over $50.
A trade union, like a corporation, is a legal entity that can, in law, act as a person. The financial disclosure provisions, therefore, do apply to trade unions, corporations and political parties.
The proposed amendments make no change to the level of disclosure. They will not eliminate anonymous donations. They will simply set a limit of $50 for any anonymous donation. In addition, this limit will be cumulative. That is to say, a person cannot give $50 in one quarter and $45 in another quarter and retain their anonymity. There is no change to the level at which a donor's identity must be made public. A contributor must give more than $250 before their name will be published.
Another new feature is that, for the first time, in-kind contributions will need to be disclosed. Parties and candidates will not be able to bypass disclosure by accepting certain services or goods in lieu of cash donations.
The government carefully reviewed the question of whether to set limits on expenditures. No major push for expenditure limits arose during public consultation on elections conducted in 1997. Given the new disclosure requirements and the somewhat increased burden on election volunteers, it was felt that setting limits would be premature. After some experience with disclosure, if it turns out there is a public demand for limits, the government can reconsider this decision.
Finally, unlike a number of jurisdictions, there is no proposal for public funding of election and candidate expenditures, aside from the tax credit system. This reduces the rationale for expenditure limits used by Canada and others.
I might point out, Mr. Speaker, that other jurisdictions that provide for expenditure limits have called for public funding of candidate expenditures. We do not endorse that proposal. Candidates must continue to raise election funding for themselves, with the financial help of other individuals, businesses, trade unions and political parties.
The government believes these provisions are consistent with open and accountable government, while not over-burdening election volunteers and candidates with unnecessary red tape.
Nevertheless, it's after some experience with the new disclosure requirements there is a public demand for expenditure limits. The government was more than willing to consider this.
Part 7 of the act implements the government's commitment from last April regarding regular electoral boundary reviews. For the first time, there will now be a mandatory, legislated review of electoral boundaries conducted by the Chief Electoral Officer and reported to the Legislature. Within 60 days of the publication of population data from the 2001 census, the Chief Electoral Officer will report to the Legislature on whether a commission is needed to review boundaries of any or all of the electoral districts. Similar reports will then be done every 10 years. A provision also provides that the government must respond within six months, unless a bill is tabled to establish an electoral boundaries commission sooner than that.
The language is modelled on Canada and Saskatchewan. Other jurisdictions, which followed the 10-year model or are linked to the census, include Manitoba, Newfoundland, the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut and Ontario. So, Mr. Speaker, eight other Canadian jurisdictions use a model for electoral boundary review similar to the one we propose in this bill.
After some consideration, a two-step process was decided upon rather than automatically establishing a commission, which has cost a lot of money in the past. The proposal is to have the Chief Electoral Officer make a preliminary recommendation on whether there have been sufficient changes or shifts in population to warrant a commission with all of its costs.
Considerable discussion in this Legislature of electoral boundary reform has already taken place. My Government Leader has stated our position clearly, which is reflected in the bill before us. We must take a reasonable approach, and we need reliable population information, which we will have, following the next census that will be conducted in 2001, before considering an electoral boundary review. This is the thoughtful approach that we believe will be legally supportable and financially supportable by the people of the territory.
This is a bit unique in Canada, where population changes are frequent and sufficiently large that commissions are almost always automatically warranted, or where the decision is left entirely up to the government of the day with no reference to the Legislature.
The amendments before us also provide for inclusive language, and plain language has been the goal, wherever possible, in such a complex piece of legislation.
I cannot close without commenting on the history of the vote in Yukon. At the beginning of this century, Mr. Speaker, only men of property over the age of 21 could vote. The number of people who were allowed to vote was smaller than the number who were not. A natural-born or naturalized male British subject of the full age of 21 years and who had resided in the territory for a period of 12 months prior to the date of the election was the language used in the Yukon Act at the time.
Mr. Speaker, I have here a copy of a petition that was presented on September 8, 1916, to Commissioner George Black, from the members of the Yukon Women's Protective League and Franchise Movement. This petition states: "There are some who contend that women's proper place is at home, but when those same critics go further and insist that women's interests, energies and activities should be confined within the four walls of her home and must not extend to the community at large, we waive such assertions aside with all the contempt they deserve, and we women of the 20th century count ourselves as blessed indeed among women, inasmuch as ours is the privilege to hail the dawn of a new existence for us and all the world, and we women of the Yukon Territory do not intend to be the last to place ourselves on record in demanding the rights that have so long been withheld from us, and so we have come to you, the head of our local administration, and asked to be instructed as to the best and most speedy method of obtaining the franchise."
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Women's Protective League presented that petition in 1916. The Yukon Act was amended on April 3, 1919 to allow women to vote in elections for Territorial Council, which was the precursor to the Yukon Legislative Assembly. I'm very pleased to be introducing an elections act on the eve of the next century that continues the tradition of improving democracy.
Mary Clendenan, a women's rights advocate, said in 1915: "If democracy is right, women should have the vote. If it isn't, men shouldn't." Although she was speaking about the right of women to vote, there is no doubt her remarks apply to many other situations. If you review the history of voting rights and voting methods, it's amazing how far we have come from the days when people without property could not vote, when aboriginal peoples were denied the right to vote, and when secret ballots were not the norm. It was only in 1961 that Yukon First Nation citizens won the right to vote in federal and territorial elections. That's very sobering to contemplate, Mr. Speaker, and I'm proud to be a member of a caucus with three Yukon First Nation citizens serving the public good, including yourself, Mr. Speaker.
The key values behind this bill are that an elections act must meet the test for good government through accessibility, accountability and certainty. This bill before the House today will provide Yukon people, Yukon voters, with election laws that provide more accessibility, more accountability and more certainty than ever before in our history. This is in keeping with the great democratic tradition of our country and our territory. Canadians and Yukoners have come to expect a high level of fairness in their democratic system of government, starting with the election laws that elect individual members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly to represent their constituents in these chambers.
Mr. Speaker, when we look around the world today, with the difficulties that many countries have with their governments and with their elections - where elections are held, we can truly appreciate the electoral system we have in this country and in this territory. The election laws we openly debate and adopt are our covenant with voters. It is a covenant between elected representatives and voters that ensures a better, stronger and fairer system of elections.
Today, Mr. Speaker, with this bill we are strengthening that covenant, and we are delivering on our commitment to voters for stronger, fairer and more accountable election laws. What that does is strengthen our democracy, and I therefore commend this bill to the House.
One final word - I would like to remind members of an old Irish saying, "Anything that keeps a politician humble is healthy for democracy." I am sure that, Mr. Speaker, as we review the process for elections in the Yukon, we will all be reminded of that saying.
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to thank the Minister of Justice for her opening remarks in the second reading speech on this act. It was, indeed, food for thought, and I certainly appreciate her remarks. I must confess, I was waiting for the quote, which I know at least one individual in this building has in their office, and I know I also have the quote from the Canada Elections Act: "No idiot, lunatic, criminal or woman shall vote." It makes you stop and think about the phrases that are contained in our various pieces of legislation.
Fortunately, our Elections Act, which we are trying to revisit, doesn't contain such phrases. These are the rules of the game, and they are how each of us get to this place - or not, as the case may be, and it's very important that these rules be fair and that they be clear and very well-understood by everyone - those who seek office now, and those who will seek office in the future.
I'd like to compliment, first of all, the party officials who gave so willingly of their time, and recognize that, yes indeed, they are all political aficionados, for lack of a better word, but they do give a lot of their volunteer time in running elections, in being involved in politics and being part of our parties, and they gave yet more time in June, in the Yukon, when many of us would rather be doing something else with our summer than thinking about politics, and they gave a lot of effort. And they are also individuals you wouldn't always find in the same room together, so it's to their credit that they have put such hard work into this.
The draftspeople have also done an excellent job in their clarification of language, and I understand there are some new individuals involved, and I certainly welcome them aboard.
This Elections Act is very timely for all of us, having just been through a by-election process and a refamiliarization process with these rules, in terms of re-examining proxy voting and enumerators lists, and election financing. It's very timely for us as a Legislature to be dealing with this now, as we've all just revisited that process.
I'd like to speak very briefly about the specific provisions of the act before us. The cleaner language, the inclusive language, makes this a better piece of legislation. I'm very pleased that we have dealt with such issues and allowed ourselves flexibility in terms of how we communicate in this modern age, and how we communicate materials. The world is changing very rapidly around us, and we have left ourselves some options in this respect.
Proxy voting is far easier in this legislation, and that's a really important point that all three parties arrived at unanimously, and something that is very important. It's not unheard of for an individual who fully expected to fly back from Vancouver on voting day to, in January, find that, because of ice fog or something, they couldn't get back, and this allows them to vote. And that franchise is so important to all of us. Many of our ancestors worked very hard to ensure that we had that franchise, and it's important that we exercise it, and I'm very pleased that that proxy voting is easier.
The review of the recommendations from the Chief Electoral Officer - some of them have been accepted, others have not. It's a large, complex bill, and we're still sifting through section by section, rereading, and rereading, to ensure that we have grasped all the points that are covered off.
I note that there are additional efforts scheduled for party officials to review this act before us, before we fully debate it and conclude our efforts. I'd also note that the Minister of Justice has been open to discussing concerns and working on amendments, where sections were not clear. Our caucus appreciates those efforts, and I look forward to full and open debate - as the minister herself described - on these discussions.
It's not to say that the bill before us is perfect. There are some concerns; there are discussions to be held yet, regarding, for example, resolution of tie votes. We have had some discussions among our caucus, and we are working through that section.
The financing section, in spite of the best efforts, is still somewhat convoluted, and we'd like to see this section clarified and easier to understand. We'd like to work through some questions on that section.
The other section of keen interest, of course, is the electoral boundaries - and the minister has made reference to the census in 2001.
The process, as set out in the act, has the Chief Electoral Officer reporting and then offering options and then tabling a report six months later. Then there is action to be taken or not, depending on the recommendations.
It seems, at first blush, to be a rather long, drawn-out process, and every 10 years seems to be, in our Yukon - which can change so rapidly - a very long time frame.
This is a section of the bill that will no doubt be discussed at some length in this House.
I think the frustration with this section, Mr. Speaker, is that the current boundaries that we're dealing with have their share of frustrations for everyone in this House, and every single party can point to examples where they feel the boundaries are somewhat less than the best they could be - ridings that stretch from Porter Creek to Braeburn, and ridings where four houses vote in one riding and the remainder of the houses vote in another. It will be very interesting to see, with the new act, the provisions that have the number of voters in a poll set at 400, and that will, of course, pose some interesting questions and interesting results for Whitehorse West. We will be able to debate this section and the others for some time, and I'm certain that everyone in the House will have an opinion on it.
As I mentioned at the outset, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice has made several remarks with respect to the importance of this bill, democracy and exercising our franchise. I'm very pleased that this bill has come forward to the House. I'm looking forward to debating it in the clause-by-clause, and I look forward, as the minister herself has said, to a full and fair debate on each section.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't intend to speak long. I think it's probably a good idea to get into Committee and get moving on this bill. We've put a tremendous amount of work into it - the three parties over the last few months. It's boiled down to a lot of consensus and a few contentious issues, probably which we won't all agree on.
The minister who is sponsoring the bill indicates some acceptance of some of the propositions that have been put forward and discussions by the Liberal Party for consideration, and we wouldn't be totally opposed to that. We think that there's some merit in that process.
I will say that our position on the electoral boundaries is firm. We have always seen what was proposed by the Liberals and Conservatives in the last legislative sitting as a serious detriment and loss of power for rural Yukon at the hands of Whitehorse.
As it affected my constituency, we felt it was a thinly veiled attempt to move into removing the political boundary in Faro, which would have put that community, which has had a tradition of going up and down quite dramatically in terms of numbers, into a precarious position where they would probably, through a boundary redistribution, either be lumped in with a Teslin-Carcross-Ross River riding, or be put within the Mayo-Keno-Pelly Crossing-Carmacks-Little Salmon riding. That certainly would have undermined the ability of that community to have representation, and we thought that was premature and we brought forward a legal opinion to that end. We think the process we have put forward to bring an electoral boundary to the forefront in a responsible manner, based on the next census and with a well-established timeline, is a good course of action to take.
So, we have put forward those kinds of positions in this electoral boundaries review, and we don't want to see a situation where there is just too much representation, and the capital city at the hands of rural Yukon. That recently happened in the Northwest Territories. They have a number of new seats in the capital and I believe it's to the detriment of rural Northwest Territories. I think we have to be mindful of that and not be too quick to eliminate rural seats and to jump on situations that haven't fully played themselves out yet.
There are some concerns identified about some Whitehorse seats, but at the end of the day, the population spreads we're talking about are not alarming at all. If you used the same logic as you use on a comparative basis to, say, a community like Faro, which clearly should be entitled to representation as a riding and has had traditional ups and downs, the disparity of votes in, say, communities like Whitehorse West that were targeted by the opposition, between this next election and the previous, is certainly not that alarming.
To compare it at all to seats in other areas of the country, it's barely a drop in the bucket, and here I think it's not a situation that has to be cause for anybody to have any alarm. We've heard from many people in Whitehorse West that -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding:Mr. Speaker, it's hard to hear over the severe whispering, heckling of the members opposite.
But, Mr. Speaker, I would just say in closing that I think the bill is a good one. The aspects of it about disclosure, I think, are helpful. I think it's a step forward, and we're fully committed to that process. We look forward to full support from the opposition parties.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I'm going to take what time I have tonight to speak to this bill, and I can tell you from the onset that we're not happy with this bill at all, and I'm going to point out major weaknesses in this bill and why we believe that this bill is not the right bill to be entering this Legislature at this time.
First of all, Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about method of how this bill arrived here. After the 1996 election, there was an all-political-party committee struck with representation from all three political parties to advise the chief Clerk on changes that they would like to see in the act. I believe that almost every area of the act was canvassed by those representatives who worked very, very hard on behalf of their political parties and reached consensus, which is very hard to do when you have three different political parties who have different philosophical beliefs. But they did; they reached consensus, made recommendations, and now they watch while the government cherry-picks through those recommendations and takes the ones that they desire and hides behind the committee, saying, "Well, we consulted." It's the typical way this NDP government has operated, and NDP governments in the past - to cherry-pick through the recommendations, not to listen to what the member said.
Mr. Speaker, there are lots of areas in this act where we have questions, but there are two areas where we have major concerns that I want to spend my time on tonight. Those are the elections financing disclosures section and the electoral boundaries section.
In the presentation at second reading, the Minister of Justice said that this was an election promise by the NDP for full disclosure, and it was something that Yukoners wanted. I can tell you that in the two election campaigns that I participated in - two general elections and three by-elections now - it is not an issue that kept coming up at the door - election financing or election disclosure. It was not a major issue with thousands of Yukoners whom I've talked to over the years.
I have grave concerns with that section - and not only with disclosure - but with the bureaucracy that's going to have to be set up to administer it and the demands that we're making on our political parties - who are all volunteers - in keeping records. In my reading of this act, that's going to be a monumental task.
I'll speak to that first, before I get to electoral boundaries. I just want to relay what my interpretation of the act is, and hopefully somebody on the other side of the House is going to be able to tell me that I'm wrong.
The way I read this act is that everything - any donation over $50 - is going to have to be fully disclosed, a record kept of the name of the person who gave it, whether they want a receipt or not, and this is going to have to be put into an annual report to the Chief Electoral Officer by the party.
So that means a party decides to have a silent auction. They sell, maybe, 100 items in a year, with most of them being over $50. My reading of this act is, every one of those needs to be recorded, and turned into the Chief Electoral Officer. Put on a fundraising dinner, and charge $75 a plate. It has to be reported. Each and every donation, each and every ticket that was purchased has to be accounted for.
This seems like overkill to me - a tremendous amount of overkill - and I don't know why. I would hope that there are going to be some members on the other side who are going to tell me what the problem was that precipitated this whole section in the act. I believe that it's going to make it more difficult for political parties to raise funding to fight elections. Now, it may not be for the NDP, because the trade unions cut them a cheque, but I believe that for the Liberal Party and Yukon Party it is going to be more difficult to raise funding, for the simple reason that the Yukon is such a small community. And we hear it time and time again. Even when businesses or constituents come to us with complaints, they don't want their name used for fear of retaliation by the government.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, it is not the Yukon Party they're afraid of. Let me assure the Member for Whitehorse Centre of that.
But, Mr. Speaker, we heard in Question Period today, where the Canadian Federation of Independent Business spoke out on behalf of a group of businesses because of the anti-business attitude of this government, and the businesses did not want to be identified for fear of retaliation. The same thing is going to be happening when parties are trying to raise election financing.
And if there was a problem that needed to be addressed, I would like to know what the problem was. What precipitated this type of disclosure, this type of record-keeping by volunteers that work for these political parties? This is going to be an onerous task for them, and it's also going to be an onerous task for whoever is delegated the responsibility in government to police this. There is clause after clause after clause - donations in kind, anything over $50. I just think it's a massive overkill of a problem that didn't exist.
The committee addressed party financing and reached a consensus that it was fine the way it was, from my understanding of the discussions that went on and what I was apprised of what was going on. This issue was discussed. None of the political parties in those discussions had a problem with it. All of a sudden the NDP government brings in this overkill piece of legislation.
We're not a territory of a couple of million people. No political party is getting tens of thousands of dollars, let alone hundreds of thousands of dollars in political donations so that people are buying elections. But, for some reason, this government thinks they need to know everybody who donates $50 or more to a political party, what their political beliefs are, and who they're donating to. Well, I don't. I believe we brought in a very heavy hand for a problem that didn't exist - doesn't exist.
But, Mr. Speaker, that is not my biggest problem with this bill. My biggest problem is the section on electoral boundaries, and this government is trying to spin this now to their satisfaction, to their interpretation of how things should be done.
First of all, Mr. Speaker, let me say that the three political parties, in their recommendations to the Chief Electoral Officer, stated quite clearly that there should be an electoral boundary review after every second election. That report was filed in this Legislature on December of 1997, two years ago. This government waits until now to move on the recommendations.
Let me say something else, Mr. Speaker. If there is an issue that's come up at the door time and time and time again while I have been campaigning the Yukon, it's been electoral boundaries and when are we going to have an electoral boundary reform. That is an issue with the Yukon voters. It has been nine years now, Mr. Speaker - eight years for sure - since we've had an electoral boundary review, longer than any other time in the history of party politics in the Yukon, and we're not going to have one till 2001 and it's not going to take effect until the election in 2004. If this government were sincere in what they're saying about wanting to tie it to census, they should have done it with the 1996 census. It was pointed out in the 1996 election that there were constituencies that were out of sync with the norm - badly out of sync. This government seems to believe that the electoral boundaries favour them so they're not going to do anything about it. They're going to leave it, for a period of 13 or 14 years. Yukoners, who are living on the edges of some of these electoral boundaries, are incensed now. It came up in the by-election in Laberge again; it came up in Whitehorse West during the general election; it has come up in many ridings, and it comes up in every riding in the Yukon, because they see the unfairness of it.
Further to that, this government is leaving the next election open to legal challenge by not having an electoral boundary review before the next election. They're leaving the Yukon open to legal challenge, and they were told so by their own justice department. And they ignored that.
One good recommendation that was made in here and ignored by this government in presenting this bill was that, in the event of a tie, there'd be an automatic election again, that they'd have another by-election if it's in the general election, another vote in that riding. I think that's fair, and it's not that costly. The enumeration has already been done. It's just a matter of holding another vote six weeks or 30 days, whatever it is, after the official vote, rather than having a coin toss.
I think that's grossly unfair to the people involved in the process. If this government wants to talk about fairness and equality, then they ought to look at what they've done with that clause, when they just threw it out, disregarded what the committee said and said, "We'll do it this way." Again, as I said, it's cherry picking through the recommendations.
Mr. Speaker, I would hope that one of the speakers somewhere along the road will lay out for us what precipitated the whole chapter on election financing, and why, if we are making amendments to it for more disclosure - I know a lot of people would like to know who's donating to political parties and, within reason, I think that's probably a reasonable request. But when we're getting down to a $50 donation, what I see in this is an onerous amount of bookkeeping that's going to have to be done by volunteers who work in these political parties on our behalf. And I think that is unfair.
If there were a problem that needed to be dealt with, I would probably have more sympathy to that clause and could be able to support it, but with the way it is, I can't, Mr. Speaker. As I said earlier, it doesn't matter whether a Yukoner donates to a political party, or whether they have a problem with government, or whether they want to make a statement - as some businesses feel, rightly or wrongly, that this government has an anti-business attitude, but yet they don't want to be identified for fear of retaliation. That's how small a community we're operating in. Outside, it really doesn't matter; I don't think anybody pays much attention unless there is a donation of $100,000 or, say, in the Yukon if there was even a $10,000 or $15,000 donation. Then somebody might raise their eyebrows.
But I think we have election financing disclosure to make sure that there's nobody buying elections. Now, maybe this government's going to be able to tell us why they believe that somebody has tried to buy an election in the Yukon, and why we needed to have such an onerous chapter in our Elections Act to deal with a problem that I wasn't even aware was out there. It certainly wasn't raised to me on the doorsteps by Yukoners whom I've consulted with over the seven or eight years that I've been in political office and campaigning. It certainly wasn't a problem.
Mr. Speaker, that causes me a concern. I don't believe there's any justification for this government ignoring the report of the Chief Electoral Officer, on the recommendation of all three political parties that we should have an electoral boundary review after every second election.
It's all well and good to say every 10 years like they do in the provinces, but our elections are four years apart in the Yukon. In the provinces, they do it after every second election. We are now going to go three elections before we have an electoral boundary review, and I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that's going to make a lot of Yukoners very, very angry, because they've been looking for one for several years now, especially since the 1996 election, when they saw how skewed some of the ridings were.
Mr. Speaker, we cannot support this bill in principle. We will not be supporting it in principle.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do support the bill in principle, and I'll explain the reasons why I do.
Firstly, the reasons why I support the bill in principle probably cover the same subject areas that the leader of the Yukon Party raised. I believe that the issues, particularly with respect to disclosure, are timely and important. They are an election campaign commitment by the New Democrats, clearly; but they're also in step with public opinion today.
The public does expect accountability. The public does expect to know about who is supporting the candidates who are running for office. But I must say, Mr. Speaker, as much as I agree that those provisions are important and necessary, I think the Member for Porter Creek North has misunderstood the bill before us, because the bill before us does not say that people who make a donation of $50, or over $50, between $50 and $250, must have their names disclosed. The bill does not say that. The bill says that the disclosure provisions are there for people who make donations of over $250.
That is, presumably, something that the member can live with, because it conforms with existing practice. The $50 cut-off refers to the need for a party to provide a receipt for amounts between $50 and $250.
Mr. Speaker, the member seems to think that this is onerous and unnecessary, and he goes on to say that this is going to make real trouble for political parties. I know the member may have some experience with federal elections. He'll probably know, therefore, that every donation is receipted for federal elections. In fact, for federal elections, the disclosure provisions refer to donations over $100 - not $250, as we're proposing in this bill.
So I must say that I would like to fight for disclosure as a principle, but I must say that the leader of the Yukon Party doesn't understand what's in the bill. He's clearly got it wrong already.
Mr. Speaker, the debate in Committee, I'm presuming, is going to be an important contributor to bringing an understanding of precisely what's being proposed in the legislation, because the leader of the Yukon Party has announced that he's going to reject the bill on principle, and he doesn't understand the principle.
Now, we've had a fair amount of debate on the subject of electoral boundaries in this Legislature, and I must say, Mr. Speaker, despite what some commentators may say, and what some members in the opposition may say, my political antennae tell me that there is a thinly veiled attempt, by the Yukon Party particularly, to attack the Member for Faro. They thought they saw an opening, and they went for it. And they thought that they could disenfranchise Faro as much as they could by tackling the issue through electoral boundary review.
We on the government side did, I think, the responsible thing, and got a legal opinion. The legal opinion did not suggest that it was timely to be reviewing - that anyone would think it reasonable that we'd be reviewing the electoral boundaries for Faro at this time, because Faro, of course, historically has gone up and down in size, and it was premature to be thinking about a permanent solution for the Town of Faro at this time.
Most certainly, the Justice department did not say that the next election would be open to challenge. They said no such thing. The provisions in the bill before us do something that has not been the case in this Legislature in the past. It regularizes the call for electoral boundary reviews and ensures that these reviews are done in an appropriate period of time following a census. I think that's a perfectly reasonable proposition. Not only that, Mr. Speaker, this practice is followed by a number of jurisdictions in Canada, both large and small. So, I think it's eminently reasonable that we follow that course, as well.
Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Yukon Party suggested that there was something inherently unfair about settling a tie vote with a coin toss and suggested that the best approach would be to have a by-election. Well, I think I'd be interested in exploring this issue with the member at greater length, because one could easily argue that a by-election after a general election is unfair because the government is known. It could easily give one candidate an advantage over another, now that they know who is going to be in government and who is going to be in opposition. So, clearly, it may not be as fair as the member imagines. It is certainly the case of Old Crow, Mr. Speaker - your own community. If Old Crow had to endure yet another election, after having endured, in your particular case, two elections in a row, this would have been hugely divisive and terribly difficult for the people of that community. So, the suggestion that it is a simple proposition to simply pursue a by-election is not so simple.
So, I guess the Yukon Party will vote against the bill. I think the bill is largely the result of good work done by representatives of all parties. There's a lot in this bill that is supportable. There is a fair amount that is not only supportable, but it is also ground-breaking and an important electoral reform for this territory, and I think this bill is worth supporting.
I would encourage the Minister of Justice to explain some of the principles to the leader of the Yukon Party, particularly around the issue of campaign financing, because I don't think he understands what is in the legislation. The debate that we've had on electoral boundaries we can have again, certainly, in Committee, but I think that what is being proposed here is eminently reasonable. I'm certain there will be other changes proposed by members. I know that the Minister of Justice has telegraphed to her colleagues on this side of the House that the Liberals have suggested some changes that may be quite reasonable and that we should consider those seriously, so I'm looking forward to a constructive debate on that front.
I support the principle of the bill and look forward to the continuation of the discussion in Committee.
Mr. Cable: Firstly, let me thank the Chief Electoral Officer for his report of a couple of years ago, and I would like to thank the representatives of the political parties who, I know, spent quite a bit of time working with the Chief Electoral Officer to review what is a very complex act.
One of the main goals of the changes is to make the Elections Act user-friendly, or voter-friendly, and I think we have probably accomplished that. There are simplifications in the clarifications and clearer language, and there is a roll-in of the Controverted Elections Act, so one only has to deal with one statute on election matters.
The Chief Electoral Officer, in his report, made many recommendations, most of which were accepted, but some of the recommendations were not accepted and these will give rise to questions as to the rationale for not accepting them.
There's the principle of a regular review of electoral boundaries. The principle is sound, but the mechanics chosen give rise to a number of questions that need answering, so that when the members are finished here, they can, in the result, feel confident they've chosen the best option. We live in a jurisdiction with large percentage population changes, so the option chosen, with its indeterminateness, may not be the best option.
I should indicate that I have a lot of reservations about putting a public servant in the position of doing a screening test that I think properly belongs to a commission.
Now, I have heard the Member for Faro indicate some sort of political predetermination on whether the boundaries need revision, and I think he is acting for his constituents, which is fair ball, but I think he should realize that those members here, who are somewhat concerned about the boundaries in Whitehorse, have legitimate concerns. I hope his opening remarks, where he indicated some flexibility, do in fact represent the government position.
I've spent about half an hour on the election finance provisions, and I'll have to admit they're pretty heavy going, and I want to spend some more time on them. I'm glad to see that - or at least hopefully - we won't get to those tonight, so that I'll have some further time to have a look at them.
The Minister of Justice is saying that no way, it's well into the 400s.
I should point out that the Yukon Liberal Party, in the last election, as part of its platform, indicated that we were in favour of introducing election finance legislation to increase the accountability of political parties for election spending, that being accomplished primarily by disclosure, so that principle behind those provisions is sound. We think the voters should know who is financing political parties, should know who is making significant contributions.
Whether or not the need to issue receipts is meeting a problem and solving that problem, I would like to have some more comment from the Government Leader on that and from the Minister of Justice, just so we're satisfied that we're not voting in a piece of work for the volunteers.
Now, we look forward to seeing how flexible the government is in accepting the recommendations that will come from the opposition, and we look forward to receiving explanations of why some of the recommendations that were put forward by the Chief Electoral Officer were not accepted.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Buckway: I'm pleased to speak to the new Elections Act at second reading.
Of all the MLAs who are sitting in this Chamber, my experience with the Elections Act is the most recent. One of the concerns I had about proxy votes has been addressed in this new act. I'm also pleased that the rules concerning nomination papers have been tightened.
I have a number of specific questions on the electoral boundaries issue and on the financial section of the bill. I'll save those for Committee of the Whole.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Liberal caucus strongly believes that the voting public should have access to financial information about donations to all parties; it's a very important part of the democratic process. These are the rules by which elections are conducted. I think it's imperative that all members take part in the debate. I would also like to thank the members of the respective parties who have contributed to the changes we will be discussing.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, she will close debate. Does another member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I thank the members opposite and all members for their comments. The main item for discussion has been on the issue of election financing, so I would like to expand a little on the need for full disclosure.
The basic principle with the financial disclosure provisions of this bill is that the public has a right to know who finances political campaigns. The reason for this is clear. The public wants and needs and has a right to know who provides the support to the parties and candidates who are ultimately elected to the Legislature and to government. The public needs to know who made it possible for candidates and parties to get elected to office so that, when positions are taken and when decisions are made, it is clear who helped make it possible for the candidates and parties to get elected in the first place. The Yukon public is entitled to know who finances these campaigns to ensure transparency and accountability. That is fundamental to our democratic system of government.
Obviously, the Yukon Party disagrees. I think their point of view is out of step with public expectations and with public thinking.
Long ago, Canada and the provinces adopted full disclosure. The Yukon now is just catching up. Some say it does not go far enough. The leader of the third party spoke about a fear of retaliation by government on the part of people who may make contributions to political parties that are not elected to government.
Mr. Speaker, as you will know, each year there is a report of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Yukon on contributions to political parties that is tabled in this House. We have reviewed this report for the last several years, which does contain the names of those who have contributed more than $250 to any given political party. It's a matter of public record that government contracts, worth millions of dollars, have been awarded to many businesses who give money to political parties other than the governing party. There is no need to fear retribution or retaliation. Individuals and businesses have a right to make contributions to political parties, and the contracting practices of the government are fair and are governed by open rules.
The leader of the Yukon Party also spoke about what he considered the onerous task of issuing receipts for financial contributions of more than $50.
Mr. Speaker, it's not a difficult proposition to issue a receipt for a financial contribution. In federal elections, all political parties issue receipts for all contributions. We recognize that it will take more time on the part of volunteers, and we took that into account as we were drafting the bill.
I also must point out again that the law is the same. I have to correct the record for the leader of the Third Party. A contributor must provide more than $250 to a political party before the contribution becomes a matter of public record. This is the same as what is presently in the Elections Act.
Many other jurisdictions, Mr. Speaker, call for a greater level of accountability than what is proposed in this bill. Parties and candidates in other jurisdictions have to fill out complicated forms and need to hire accountants to do that for them. In return, the public funds - or partially funds - those activities.
We feel that the Yukon, at this time, needs more accountability, but somewhat less than that level of detail. This act is a good step forward. It's an increase in accountability that the Yukon public is seeking, whether the leader of the Yukon Party recognizes that or not. This is a commitment that we have made that we believe is supported by the public.
The opposition has also commented on the electoral boundary review. The leader of the Yukon Party said that the next election would be subject to a legal challenge and would be overturned because there was not an electoral boundary review conducted. Well, that's not the case, Mr. Speaker. The courts look to legislatures to legislate, rather than issue a ruling. The courts only intervene where the legislature has not dealt with a subject.
In this case, with this bill, we establish a clear and fair process for conducting electoral boundary reviews. We use a model that is used in Canada, that is used in the Northwest Territories and in the majority of the provinces.
Every 10 years, following the completion of a census, we will look to whether there is a need for an electoral boundary review. As was commented by the members of the opposition, this means that if we require an electoral boundary review, there will be one in place prior to the election in 2004.
Mr. Speaker, I'm happy to support this bill. I believe it is a good piece of legislation, and I hope, during the debate in Committee, that we can continue to explain what the bill covers, and perhaps make some changes that make things more clear and that accommodate the views of members of this House.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Order please. 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. Hardy: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Mr. Cable: Agree.
Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Mr. Ostashek: Disagree.
Mr. Phillips: Disagree.
Mr. Jenkins: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 12 yea, three nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 82 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the acting government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with Bill No. 82, Elections Act.
Bill No. 82 - Elections Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Do the members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Five minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee is dealing with Bill No. 82, Elections Act. Is there general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we've just had our second reading speeches on this bill, so I don't anticipate that there would be a lot of general debate. I did want to make again the comment that the Chief Electoral Officer and the government have sought input from all three registered political parties in the Yukon. Last week, I provided embargoed copies of the bill to opposition party leaders and followed that up by having meetings with them and offering to sit down together and consider potential changes on some items.
I also would like to note that, as well as providing a technical briefing for members of the opposition, we have offered a briefing for representatives of the political parties. I would encourage the Yukon Party leader to let his party people participate in a meeting on Friday to discuss the bill. I think it might be helpful for him to send party reps - the treasurer or the president of his party - to the briefing, and I hope he might reconsider his position of refusing to have his party officials take part in that briefing.
Ms. Duncan: As the Minister of Justice has noted, the party officials have been invited to a discussion on Friday, and I am somewhat reluctant to debate the clause-by-clause in the event that there are issues that those very capable individuals bring forward that we might miss. However, in the short time that we have tonight, I do believe it's productive to go forward with some general concerns that I understand are - well, from the second reading debate tonight, there are clearly concerns and differences between the parties.
One of the areas is the election finances, and, as I noted in my second reading speech, this is an area that the Minister of Justice and I have been working on, and it's an area where I would not like to get into the general debate at this point in time because we are going to be working on it.
I would like to return to the issue of the electoral district boundaries, which is part 7 of this very large bill, clause 407. Could the minister just explain the rationale for the specific choice of the 2001 census? She made a note that some provinces use the census, and there are those provinces that do not. What was the rationale for the choice of that specific census? If she could answer that question to start, I would appreciate it.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, boundary reviews every 10 years are common in other jurisdictions. As I indicated, the majority of jurisdictions in Canada do link their electoral boundary reviews to the census that's conducted every 10 years. It makes sense to review the riding map in the Yukon after the next Canada census in 2001, which will be a decade since the last review that was done in the Yukon.
The reason for linking it to the 2001 census is that that's the next Canada census that will be conducted here in the Yukon in less than two years.
Ms. Duncan: In the review of the provincial statutes that are similar, could the minister just outline again for the record which provinces use the census, and which use other methods, and what other methods are used?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Government of Canada has standing legislation that provides for electoral district boundaries review after every decennial census. This also applies in Saskatchewan. In Manitoba there is a review every 10 years, as there is in Newfoundland, the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia and Nunavut.
Ontario follows the federal government's legislation; that is to say, after every decennial census. In New Brunswick there are no set rules, and the premier's office appoints a commission.
Ms. Duncan:One of the other difficulties is that the 2001 census will be conducted in that year. It will be some time before we receive the report. The Chief Electoral Officer is then to review that report within 60 days, and then there's a further convolution of the process in that the Chief Electoral Officer makes some recommendations, and then the report is passed to the Legislative Assembly members, and then a member of the Executive Council delivers a response to that and has six months, essentially, to do that.
So, theoretically, we could be looking at some time in the year 2002 before it's even determined that an electoral district boundary commission should take place, and that can take a further length of time. So we are looking at, at least, two more elections before electoral boundaries could be changed, or might be changed. That seems to be, given that there are some very clear changes that are seen by many. It seems to have dragged out this process quite substantially.
I wonder if the minister could address that timing issue.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, there are time frames built into the various steps in the process for the review of electoral boundaries. The member is correct that, after a census is conducted by Statistics Canada, it takes some time for them to present their report to the Government of Yukon to provide some population numbers.
Nevertheless, there are a number of time frames that are set out in the act to try and expedite the electoral district boundary review process. The Chief Electoral Officer has a deadline for the report, which is in the legislation, that says "within 60 days of receiving the information from Statistics Canada, he shall provide his report to the members of the Legislature". The government then must also respond within six months by either establishing an electoral boundary review or not.
The electoral boundary review process also takes some time, but we envision that it is entirely feasible for the entire process to be completed before an election in 2004. The timelines that are set out in the act provide for all of the parties to deal with matters quickly and expeditiously.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister has said that it is conceivable that this could happen in 2004. I think she has outlined the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is that it could be, at a minimum, two more elections before this actually takes place.
Does the minister not agree that the steps she has outlined are best case scenarios and that, in reality, it quite likely might be two more elections before the boundaries are reviewed? A boundary commission may come back and say yes, these are fine; go with them. They also may not, and it's conceivable it might be two elections hence.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I think it's entirely possible under this legislation to conduct a review of boundaries prior to a 2004 election. We have taken the position that we should wait until after the next census to get the reliable population information and then set up a process to determine whether or not we should have a boundaries review. We have built into the act time frames to try to accomplish an electoral boundaries review without undue delay.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, that time frame could be shortened if one of these steps were amended. It's quite a convoluted process. The Chief Electoral Officer gets the report. Then he or she looks at it. He or she writes a report that says one of three things should happen: no electoral boundaries commission, electoral boundaries commission to look at just some of the ridings, an electoral district to examine all the ridings. So, the report is written. The report is delivered, and then there are six months until the member of the Executive Council delivers a response. And no response is required where there's a bill to establish an electoral district boundaries commission. No response from the government is required where a bill is put forward that would establish a commission. The bill is the response.
Has the government any flexibility on the six-month time frame, in perhaps shortening that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I don't believe that the process is unduly onerous. The Chief Electoral Officer is aware of the issues. I think the Chief Electoral Officer has the ability to be prepared for a quick response. The potential for drafting legislation to conduct an electoral boundaries review does require some time. Six months seemed like a reasonable time frame. I'm not certain whether that could be shortened. I'd have to speak with our advisors and get back to the member on that. But we do see, as I've indicated several times now, that it is entirely feasible to have an electoral boundary review process established and completed prior to an election in 2004.
Ms. Duncan: The last time I went through this process as a member of the public, it was a lengthy process. It was very lengthy. Public hearings and submissions by groups and so on and so forth. The boundaries commission can take a very long time.
Is the government at all flexible in reducing that six-month time frame? The legislation for establishing a boundary commission could be written any time and available, whether it's needed or not. It's basically the same legislation, so there doesn't need to be a waiting period to draft the legislation. The waiting period is only required for the summoning of the Legislature, that I can see. Is there any flexibility on the part of the government to reducing that six-month time frame?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, on the issue of the electoral boundary commission taking some time, there might be a factor in the availability of the person conducting the review, and they could potentially conduct the review while allowing for an adequate length of time for the public to put forward their views. It wouldn't take an inordinate amount of time. I've indicated to the member in response to the question when she asked it the first time that I'd be prepared to consider if the time frame could be shortened, and that I would speak with our advisors and my colleagues.
Mr. Phillips: I just want to make it clear, Mr. Chair. As we said, we voted against this bill in second reading, and we voted against it for several reasons, and one of them was the election financing area, but that's not our primary concern. Our primary concern is the electoral boundaries and the electoral boundaries commission and establishing it after the next census. I just want to make it clear to the minister that, first of all, the Canadian census, although it's a reflection of the overall Yukon Territory's population, it doesn't, as far as I know, break down the City of Whitehorse with respect to ridings. It would do the City of Whitehorse proper and then do the peripheral area, I suppose. And so it's not a clear indication, other than just general population trends - rural versus urban - of whether there's a change.
I'm wondering if it's the best mechanism to use to determine whether or not there should be electoral boundaries. I think the best mechanism to use, in fact, is probably a territorial election, and the territorial election that we had in 1996 showed a clear indication of trends and changes - significant changes. We also had a Canada census just prior to that, too, that showed a change.
It seems to me that we're stalling, and I know that the Member for Faro is really sensitive, because he's worried about his riding, and the Government Leader thinks that this was a veiled attempt by the Yukon Party to attack the Faro riding. Well, that's the furthest thing from the truth.
The fact of the matter is that one of the ridings that has the biggest significant change is Whitehorse West. And I think in every electoral boundaries review that I've been involved with in my 15 years of politics in the territory, every time the boundaries have changed, it has affected my riding, too. My riding has changed every single time.
So, I mean, it's not just going to affect the Member for Faro, or the Member for Whitehorse West, or the Member for Laberge. It's going to affect the Member for Riverdale North and the Member for Riverdale South. That's the concern that I have. This isn't just picking on the government, so to speak. It's just realizing that the facts are there, and there's nothing denying - and I just can't believe that people are somewhat in denial when it comes to the population changes, especially in the City of Whitehorse when we see how much the Granger subdivision of the Whitehorse West riding has grown. I mean, you don't need a census to tell you that it's out of whack. It was out of whack in the last election. It has to be way out of whack now. There are about three more areas up there that have been opened up since then.
So what we're doing by proceeding now, and not doing anything until after the next election - and maybe not even then. It might even end up, as the leader of the Liberal Party said, being after two elections. You're denying democracy to a bunch of those people in Whitehorse West, because their vote is not going to be anywhere worth the value of the people in Riverdale North, or the people in Mayo, or the people in Faro, or the people in Old Crow, or the people anywhere else. I mean, their vote is not anywhere near the worth of the others.
Now, we've got the Member for Faro mumbling in the background again, Mr. Chair, as he usually does. He can have the floor, if he wants, somewhere down the road.
Mr. Chair, the concern I have is that it appears that this particular section of the act is more than doing something to conform to what others are doing. It's more of a political move by the government to try and maintain the ridings the way they are. Well, I'm telling the Justice minister that I'm almost certain that if there were an electoral boundary review, there would be some changes to some ridings. And I'm almost certain that there would also be some changes to my riding - maybe Riverdale South, maybe some of the downtown Whitehorse ridings, and certainly the Porter Creeks, Whitehorse West, Mount Lorne, and the Laberge riding. They would all change somewhat, but they would change for the better to give people in those ridings the opportunity to have more of a democratic voice in the House. This isn't about a member. This is about fair representation for the constituents out there.
So I want to make it clear, from the Yukon Party standpoint, that our main opposition to this is that we're denying an equal vote to many Yukoners. We appreciate the need to have a rural/urban split and some fairness in that. We appreciate that.
We don't have that now, and we don't even have it within the City of Whitehorse, and we all know it. There isn't a person in this room right now who could stand on their feet and honestly say that all the ridings in Whitehorse right now, in the whole Yukon, are equally and fairly distributed. I'll bet there isn't a person in this room who could say that with a straight face, that could say that they were all equally distributed. There probably isn't a person who could say that.
So, who are we kidding, and what are we waiting for? It just makes me think it's more of a political exercise than it really is an exercise to improve the Elections Act and make it better. I mean, even the government's own legal opinion has stated that there's a possibility of challenges in the future - a probability of challenges in the future - probability, not possibility.
I mean, there are all kinds of legal precedent across the country, you know. I mean, the Member for Faro used the example of the Northwest Territories where the court made a decision. Well, do we want that, because we failed to act when we knew that there was a problem?
Mr. Chair, that's the problem I have with it. There are going to be some changes. There have been dramatic changes. The minister had notices in the paper that she was knocking on doors in the Marsh Lake area - although I can't find anybody who saw her this summer. If she was actually doing that, she would have discovered that there are all kinds of new people living in that riding full time now. I could probably name a dozen families right now that have moved out, full time in the past year-and-a-half, two years, and are living between the Yukon River bridge and Judas Creek, and dozens more before that.
We know there have been changes, so I don't know what we're fiddling around with here. It's just unfortunate that we appear to be playing politics with it and stalling it off. Obviously, the Member for Faro has a lot more clout in the Cabinet than anyone else, because he seems to think it's a personal attack on him. He seems to be afraid of this. Maybe the Member for Faro is worried about losing his riding and he knows he couldn't get elected anywhere else.
Maybe that's why he's afraid. Because you know, Mr. Chair, I never thought of that before. That is kind of a pleasant thought.
I just don't know what the reluctance is. I guess the reluctance is that power is where it's at, and if you think you can maintain it with where you are now, and the ridings the way they are, and it's not going to affect you, well, let's just hang on, no matter what.
I mean, if the side opposite were sitting over here, and the roles were reversed, I can just hear the screaming and shouting and hollering that would go on for months, demanding electoral boundaries changes. This is more about the Member for Faro trying to save his political skin that it is about giving Yukoners a fair and democratic vote, and it's unfortunate that we've gone down that route. That's the reason, Mr. Chair, why the Yukon Party is not supporting this. We believe that there are a lot of Yukoners out there who care deeply about voting for their MLAs, and feel deeply about having fair and equal representation in this House, and feel deeply about their votes counting for something. And they also know, as we all know, that the population shifts in this territory in the last five or six years have been dramatic and feel it would only be fair that they get their representation in the House.
The Member for Whitehorse West, I'm sure he doesn't want to deny his constituents, Mr. Chair, the right and equal vote in the House, or at least a representative vote in the House. He may say he's a good MLA and he's representing all those people in Whitehorse West, but I can tell you, Mr. Chair, that some of his constituents in Whitehorse West are not very happy that their vote doesn't count as much as other people's in the territory. That's why we have electoral boundaries commissions, and that's why we have fair and equal representation across the country, and that's why the courts have ruled on that, so that people can have fair representation.
The Member for Faro stood in the House today - according to the great historian from Faro, who rewrites history every time he stands on his feet - and said there's not much deviation from what it was in the past. Everything's almost the same as it was. This is the guy who, four years ago, had 300 or 400 students in his school and has I think 75 or something now.
There were 1,200 or 1,300 people in Faro a few years ago, and there might be 300 now. Mr. Chair, hundreds of people moved up into the Granger subdivision.
Mr. Chair, those very people are concerned about fair and equal representation. The Member for Mount Lorne, the Justice minister who has brought the bill before the House, doesn't even know that anybody new has moved into her riding. I had to beg for a newsletter just so I knew what the member looked like, because I never see her at the door. Mr. Chair, the -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Moorcroft, on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, on the point of order, I move that you report progress.
Chair: The Chair sees no point of order.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I move you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 82, Elections Act, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
The time being 9:30 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until next Monday.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
The following Document was filed November 10, 1999:
Connect Yukon project - rural telephone service information sheet; Yukon government news releases, dated October 20, 1999, and November 1, 1999, re Connect Yukon (Phillips)