Tuesday, November 16, 1999 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have for tabling a family violence directory of Yukon services and resources and the Yukon Utilities Board annual report for the period ending March 31, 1999.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that
(1) computerized axial tomography (CAT) scanners have become standard medical tools that aid doctors in diagnosing ailments; and
(2) the acquisition of a CAT scanner would promote the overall health of Yukoners by improving the accuracy of diagnosis, leading to earlier and better decisions on treatment; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon and the Yukon Hospital Corporation to take such action as is necessary to obtain a CAT scanner for the Whitehorse General Hospital.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Sewage systems in rural communities
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, and it's about sewage.
In 1985, all communities in the Yukon changed to the new block funding system. At that time there was a review of all the sewage systems in our rural communities, and a lot of work was done by C&TS to bring these systems up to snuff, so to speak.
One of the systems was the mechanical plant in Carmacks. Mr. Speaker, the sewage system at Carmacks is at maximum capacity; they can't hook up one more customer. The system is on its last legs. The Village of Carmacks cannot afford to rebuild this plant. What plans does this NDP have to help the people of Carmacks with this very basic need?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, the department has been working over the last couple of years with much diligence to try to solve the problem. At the meeting of mayor and council that I was at in August, we asked them to choose which was more pertinent. The community is looking to develop the recreation centre, and also may have to do improvements to the sewage lagoon.
So, much in the sense of what we've done in Dawson City, I've gone to the community and asked the community to priorize what they would like to do. They've done that formally.
We've been assured, as a government, that this is not going against the Water Board and that both can happen.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I hope that we're looking at a long-term need here in this community. Certainly, we need a recreation centre, but we also need sewage. It's very basic. We also have another problem in the Yukon with sewage. In the community of Ross River, there is no sewer system.
Now, I know that there has been a lot of good work going on in Ross River; there are schools, swimming pools and a new RCMP station, but what about the most basic need of all? What are this government's plans to bring the Ross River sewage system up to the standard of most Yukon communities?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It gives me great pleasure, indeed, to be able to speak about Ross River and what we're doing with Ross River.
We're looking to empower the community at the community's speed. We're looking to design the community around the community's needs and do that concurrently with the community.
We started this fine work a couple of years ago, and this fine work is starting to evolve now, and that community is making their decisions. I expect that they will have some type of a community plan with community priorities evolving over the winter as they continue with the round-table process, and certainly that is why we put the planning dollars forward, and that is exactly what we wish to hear because we want the communities to be able to make their own decisions, whether it's about a garbage dump or sewage or what the new school should look like.
So, we will continue to do this good work on behalf of all Yukon communities.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I hope that some of the planning dollars that the minister is speaking about go toward a sewage plant. That's about as basic as you can get.
Now, another part of the cost of maintaining municipal sewer systems is renewing water licences. Prior to 1985, C&TS paid for these water licence applications from the communities. That is to say, either the department did the work in-house or they paid consultants to do the work.
Mr. Speaker, Haines Junction just paid close to $8,000 for water licence renewal and Teslin paid $12,000. This is money that the town could have spent doing better things or things that they had as a higher priority - things like youth centres or any of those things that were very high priorities in that community.
I know that towns have already approached the government about help in this area. Are there plans to help defray the cost of water licence renewals in these communities?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As you know, in last year's mains, we did put an increase toward block funding, the first time in many years, through the Association of Yukon Communities. We have bolstered the core funding for the Association of Yukon Communities, and we will continue in that fine venue to be able to talk to communities, to work in partnership with communities, as we can and will do.
We passed the Municipal Act last year, which was an enabling piece of legislation that certainly gives the communities much lateral movement - even forward movement - to be able to generate revenues, but it was developed in partnership and, as I've said to the Association of Yukon Communities, at numerous meetings with the association and with mayors individually, we will continue to work with them to identify what their projects would be.
Question re: Telephone service to rural customers, Connect Yukon project
Ms. Buckway: I have some questions for the Minister of Government Services. There are a number of unanswered questions about the Connect Yukon project, Mr. Speaker. The minister has not addressed, when speaking about Connect Yukon, those people who live in the truly remote parts of the territory. I have constituents in that position; so do several of the members. These are the people who are served by the manual mobile system, also known as radio telephone, or they have no service at all.
Can the minister guarantee that these people will be served by this new program, Connect Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The telephone program that is being proposed does have certain limitations in terms of financing. The basic thrust of the program is that we will be determining areas that need phones and need a level of phone service. What we've done is we've proposed that there would be an initial payment of $1,000 by the resident of the lot - that the service provider, in this case, would put up $1,000 - and that we would go the next $5,000.
Now in general, for at least 700 of the 800 lots, that would be very viable. There are going to be some that, by just limitations of cost, cannot be done, or the residents in this case would choose not to do them because of the rather substantial costs. We are looking at other options in terms of what we can do in terms of satellite technology and other ways to address some of these aims but, in general, I think we have to understand that there will be some financial limitations.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I worry when the minister refers to lots. A lot of the people who live in remote Yukon don't live in what you call "lots", so I worry that he doesn't understand what I'm asking.
I have constituents who live in remote Yukon. They want communication - reliable communication, affordable communication. They are looking with interest at this new initiative, and they're wondering not only if they're going to be the exceptions to the $1,000 limit that the minister was speaking about, but also if they're going to be included at all. They are concerned.
The minister had initially promised it, but he's now backing away from it. Can the minister guarantee the participation of these people in Connect Yukon? Are they covered or not?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Speaker, this is a huge advancement. This is a major, major step we have undertaken.
We have taken a look at the primary areas of concern - people who have been in contact with us with regard to lack of service, or underservice. The major areas that will be addressed will be the peripheral areas of Whitehorse. That's where the underserved areas are. It's our estimate that there are some 800 lots.
Quite obviously, there are going to be some limitations on where you can deliver service, and even the costs of service are going to be, to some degree, driven by the critical mass of the number of lots in that area. That's just a reality.
For example, if we were talking about some areas where there is a greater concentration of lots, the overall cost to deliver service in there is going to be less, and therefore the overall cost for government and the residents will be less.
But, in general, we are trying to address all of the needs. There are going to be some unique areas. For example, in Old Crow, which is not on the current microwave system, we may have to look at some other issues. We may have to look at forms of satellite technology and so on.
But, in general, we feel that this program will deliver the results for the vast number of people who do require the service.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I'm not talking about communities. I'm talking about people who live, in effect, in the bush in isolation, one or two people at a time, a handful of families perhaps. The minister is saying, if I understand him correctly, that the people who live out in the boonies will not be affected by Connect Yukon. Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Not at all, Mr. Speaker. What I'm saying is that there are going to be certain limitations on this program, and those limitations are ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, it is, and quite frankly I'm surprised why the opposition is so opposed to this project when we are trying to deliver a service to the large majority of people around Whitehorse who don't have phones. What we're trying to do is deliver the best level of service to all the people we can in the territory. We are looking at other options that we can deliver the service by.
I have to emphasize one thing. This, to the best of our knowledge, is the first time that government has put public money into telecommunications infrastructure in this country. Certainly, on the aspect of high-speed Internet and other services, we feel that this is a major venture, a major move forward, and what I'm somewhat dismayed by is the fact that, after trying to extend this level of service, we find that the opposition is now opposed.
Question re: Protected areas strategy, Fishing Branch
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, mining exploration in the Yukon this year will come in at about $7 million. That is the lowest amount of money that mining companies have spent in the Yukon in exploration in the last 10 years. One of the reasons for this low amount being spent is the uncertainty being caused by this government's unacceptable way of implementing the protected areas strategy.
On August 30, 1999, I pointed out to the minister that the local planning team for the Fishing Branch watershed stated, in its final report, that mineral assessments were not done. This is a fundamental breach of the protected areas strategy and an election commitment made by the NDP in 1996.
Mr. Speaker, this morning, representatives of the mining industry spoke out against this flawed process for both Tombstone and Fishing Branch proposals. My question is to the Minister of Renewable Resources. Does he have any letters of support for the manner in which the government is implementing the protected areas strategy? And if he has letters of support, would he be prepared to table them in this Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We have gone and done extensive consultation in putting together the protected areas strategy. We've had people on the steering committee, from environmentalists to industry, to design the way in which the strategy is to be used.
And, Mr. Speaker, we've had people saying a lot of good things about this strategy and how it is very much a future- and forward-looking document. We're proud of the fact that we've done, I think, a good thing for Yukoners. It is something that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren would be benefiting by and be very grateful for what is going to result as a result of putting this strategy together.
With the Fishing Branch, we did speed up the process. The mining industry, the oil and gas industry knew very well that we were for the interests of oil and gas. We've talked to the First Nation about this. We've had an agreement with them to continue to look at Fishing Branch and also the interests of oil and gas in the northern part of the Yukon. And we've always presented that as very much of a balanced agenda, and that's the approach we've taken in this and will continue to be the approach that we're going to be taking.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I guess this government says, "It doesn't matter what we say to the people in an election campaign - that really doesn't matter, because the job is to get elected. It really doesn't matter what we put in a protected areas strategy, because we don't have to follow it if we don't want to."
This minister and this government are very good at patting themselves on the back and ignoring the protected areas strategy process, and that's what's curtailing investment in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker - the uncertainty being caused.
The minister has never said anything - he never, in his reply, never said whether he had letters of support, and I asked him to table them. But my supplementary to the minister is this: I would like to ask him if he has any letters expressing concerns in the manner that this government is going about using the protected areas strategy, and, if he has, would he table those letters?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Of course, this whole issue is going to generate a lot of discussion, obviously, in the mining industry and the development industry. There's going to be a bit of concern, and we knew that, in taking this task on, full well. I can tell the member that in the foyer of this building, we had a presentation of Tombstone, and on there we had a charter signed by many people in support of the protected areas strategy and having protected areas in the Yukon.
So, do we have support for this? I believe so. Every community that we've gone to has expressed a lot of interest and support in the protected areas, and asked us to continue to work in that manner. We know it's a tough job to do these things. We sped up the process in the Fishing Branch area for the interest of oil and gas. We knew there was a lot of interest in there, and, today, Mr. Speaker, with the announcement that $20 million in exploration will be spent around the Eagle Plains area, is proof that we are doing the right thing. We do have a balance here. We're going ahead with protected areas and, at the same time, looking at development in the Yukon.
Mr. Ostashek: It's unfortunate that this government has spent so many thousands of tax dollars putting together a strategy, then they don't believe they have to follow it. My final supplementary I'll direct to the Minister of Economic Development, and ask him if he has any concerns about the manner in which his government is implementing the protected areas strategy, or does he agree with the Minister of Renewable Resources that mineral assessments do not have to be done before the boundaries of the park can be established?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I don't know how many times we're going to have to repeat the message to the members opposite. The public knows full well about the strategy and the process in place. This was our very first project; we sped it up and we've got good results and the planning team is making recommendations to us and we'll be responding to it soon. The Fishing Branch is an area where the salmon and bear habitat is something huge for Yukon; it's a big accomplishment. The Yukon Party, what did they do when they were in government? Well, they signed on the protected areas strategy and everything was going to be in place by the year 2000. We don't take that approach; we think we need to have time to do things in regard to protected areas, finalize the boundary and do management plans. All that takes time, and we don't think that we're going to be near to that by the year 2000, which is not very far away.
Question re: Taylor Highway reopening
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. Once again there's going to be a problem with our western neighbour, the State of Alaska, reopening the Taylor Highway in the spring of 2000. The state doesn't plan to have the highway opened until June 1, which will seriously impact our visitor industry as well as fuel, oil and gasoline supplies for northern Yukon. Can the minister advise the House if he or his officials have met with Transportation Commissioner Joe Perkins to reach an agreement with the State of Alaska on a more timely reopening of the Taylor Highway?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes we have, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to know more about that meeting and what arrangements were reached with Commissioner Perkins.
Also, there's a problem with uniform standards for the trucking industry between Alaska, Yukon and, to a greater extent, British Columbia. Yukon truckers are caught in the regulatory squeeze.
Can the minister advise the House if he has had discussions with Commissioner Perkins on this problem, and could he just outline the overall agreement that has been reached with Commissioner Perkins?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate very much the opportunity to speak about a relationship with our Alaskan neighbours. We're working with our Alaskan neighbours not only in the tourism environment but we're working to joint marketing efforts and to just about everything that we can, including the opening of the Taylor Highway and the continuation of the highways that are existing now and their openings. We will continue to do this type of work. The department met with Mr. Perkins just yesterday afternoon. I met with Mr. Perkins late yesterday afternoon and reiterated that we have some problems that we should be solving and working on together, and the opening of the Taylor Highway and the continued maintenance of the highway was certainly one of the topics of discussion.
I would like to say that I think the member is fundamentally wrong when he says that Yukon truckers are being stymied by this government, because this government has gone to bat for Yukon truckers. We found ways that would create a level playing field for Yukon truckers within British Columbia and certainly the member will raise something regarding Alaska and I will certainly get that information back to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Can the minister confirm that the Taylor Highway will be open by May 15, 2000, in order to facilitate our visitor industry?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I cannot confirm that. I'm not definitely in the budget process of the Alaskan government but, with the relationship we have established with the Alaskan government, the Alaskan government does listen to the territorial government in its endeavours. I took a drive over the Taylor Highway this year and on into Alaska. I can see the certain differences. We've again reiterated that to the political people. We have reiterated that concern to the technical people in the United States government. They said that they would be going to bat to see if they could get the proper budget resources to open it. So far, I have not heard back that that has been a successful initiative but, certainly, the department and I will continue to work on that initiative.
Question re: Port access, Haines and Skagway
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Economic Development on his port access initiative that relates to the property purchases in Haines and Skagway. The government recently took out options on two Alaskan properties - one in Haines and one in Skagway. The purpose was to protect the Yukon's access to tidewater, because higher cruise-ship traffic was limiting options for moving resources through the Skagway port.
Let's look at the Skagway option first. The minister was quoted as saying: "Obviously, we'd still like to continue to utilize the existing ore terminal and dock as long as we're allowed at reasonable cost."
What, if any, negotiations have taken place with the owners of the ore dock to protect our long-term interest? Are there some prospects in this direction instead of the property purchase?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, yes, there are, Mr. Speaker. We've had numerous discussions with the owners of the White Pass dock in the past, as well as AIDA, which owns the existing ore terminal. But it's been a long-standing concern of both the Curragh mining company and Anvil Range, and in discussions I've had with the owner and CEO of Minto Explorations about the future of port access in Skagway.
Obviously, the land option is an extremely long-term one. We're thinking ahead with some vision about ensuring that the Yukon isn't landlocked.
But our first preference would be to try to tie up some long-term, consistent access in the White Pass dock and ore terminal. But it's becoming increasingly more difficult, with the Faro mine down and Minto not started up yet because of copper prices, to ensure good access there, particularly when Skagway is becoming one of the largest cruise-ship destination ports in North America, and they are clearly getting priority down there for coming in and out of that port facility.
So, we're still actively engaged in pursuing the White Pass option with the ore terminal through AIDA, but the land is a very long-term, potential option for this territory.
Mr. Cable: Okay, let's look at the Haines site. What's envisioned if the option's exercised? Yukoners will have themselves a dock, if the option is exercised. Who's going to be running the dock, and in what relationship with the government?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Haines actually is differentiating very much from the Skagway option, because it is an existing dock. There's some minimal usage right now of that particular facility. It's not very heavy - just some freezer trawler fish processing, some fairly small scale and other minor activities.
We see that as a live option. Should the due diligence work out, should everything check out in terms of the permitting we have underway right now, we see that port actually going into a functioning capacity to a greater degree quite quickly. I was discussing this with the owners of Dakwakada Forest Products in Haines Junction - very excited about the potential of having secure access to a port in Haines - just last week, as a matter of fact. I was in discussions with the Mayor of the City of Haines and the borough, who also expressed a lot of support for this particular initiative.
In terms of the operations of it, we're looking at that particular issue through the due diligence. As I stated, right now, the operations are fairly minor, but we envision them growing in the future and will have to put together some kind of an arrangement, possibly with the people of Haines, in terms of operating that facility.
Mr. Cable: I think the information on that particular option is a bit sketchy in this area. I wonder if the minister would tell us a little more. Will the relationship with the government be sorted out before the purchase or lease, and is the Haines property a money maker now, or do we anticipate putting further operating capital into it? Just where is he going on the Haines option?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the primary reason for securing secure port access at Skagway and at Haines is because we have long-term faith in the mining industry. We know that, when prices rebound, when world markets recover, we're going to have more activity in mining. We also know that the forestry industry is alive and working right now in the territory. In Watson Lake, there is a new mill. There is new a mill at Teslin; a new mill at Haines Junction; and we wanted to secure some port access for them.
We also hope that other export industries are going to continue to grow, as they have been. The level of performance in growth and exports in terms of this territory is quite staggering, when you look at the fact that we've lost the Faro mine, and you factor that out, it's absolutely incredible how much the export trade and investment strategy is working to diversify this economy. And, Mr. Speaker, we feel very good about that. We expect to work out all the issues pertaining to operation of this particular facility. This is a long-term infrastructure strategic investment by this government that I think complements the airport runway extension very well. I think it complements the investments we as a government have made in telecommunications: phone access and high-speed Internet in all the communities. These are strategic investments that the government is putting forth because we've got some vision for the long-term future of the economy of this territory.
Question re: Medevacs
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services concerning medevacs. I raised the issue with the minister before on numerous occasions while receiving little satisfaction or, for that matter, reliable information either. It is my contention that the number of medevacs from Dawson has increased dramatically because of this minister's failure to negotiate on-call availability fee arrangements with rural doctors.
The minister is sitting with his government's $82 million surplus; he's being penny-wise and pound foolish. Last March in the House, the minister stated there were 44 medevacs from Dawson in the last fiscal period, and he estimated this number would increase by five to 10 flights in the absence of physicians on call. I've asked the minister for the information; he's failed to provide it. Just how much of an increase in medevacs flights have there been out of Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I suppose the member hasn't received it, because I did sign it off. I can tell the member that there have been some increases in medevacs, but I doubt that that's a function of a physician not being on call. When I take a look at some of the stats here, the medevacs have increased, both in regular medical clinic hours when physicians in Dawson are available and on nights and weekends when they choose not to be.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I know they've increased. Just how much have they increased? The minister previously stated that they might go up by five or 10 for the whole year. Now, we're only halfway through the year, Mr. Speaker. Just how much have they increased, and at what cost?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, we know that in the period from April to September 30, the number of medevacs was 44, and the average cost of a medevac is $2,120.
Mr. Jenkins: So, for half a year, we're at the same number as we were for the total of the entire last year. Doesn't that suggest something to the minister? Would the minister not agree now that it would be more prudent for him to sit down with the doctors and negotiate an on-call availability service agreement with rural doctors? Would he not agree and will he not do that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, one of the things that the member seems to ignore is the fact that we have been endeavouring to do this for a considerable period of time. We have made a number of offers. Unfortunately, many of those offers have been rejected, and, quite frankly, the most recent cost I saw was rather considerable, and I don't think that that would be a prudent use of taxpayers' dollars.
I should point out that, of the patients medevac'd from Dawson City this year, 47 were admitted to Whitehorse General Hospital and were hospitalized for an average of four days. So, I don't think that this is particularly unique. We have also seen an increase in medevac volumes from Ross River, from April through October. We have seen an increase in medevacs from Pelly Crossing. We believe that the number of medevacs this year has been largely a function of highway accidents. There have been incidents in Dawson of bear maulings and so on. So, we don't think that this is really a function of the doctors choosing not to be on call.
We have been endeavouring to reach an agreement with the physicians in Dawson. However, the physicians in question have chosen to reject all the offers that we brought forward.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of opposition private members' business
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I'd like to identify the item standing in the name of the official opposition to be called on Wednesday, November 17, 1999. It is Motion No. 184, standing in the name of the Member for Lake Laberge.
Mr. Phillips: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I'd like to identify the item standing in the name of the third party to be called on Wednesday, November 17, 1999. It is Motion No. 170, standing in the name of the Member for Porter Creek North.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 19: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 19, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 19, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government Leader that Bill No. 19, entitled Third Appropriation Act 1999-2000, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It gives me great pleasure today to stand before you and speak to you about the estimates that are before us this afternoon. Mr. Speaker, these estimates will supplement the already substantial investments that this government has made this year in improving our economic fortunes, improving our health and social services, improving our education services and facilities, and improving community facilities throughout the territory.
Mr. Speaker, we have known for some time, particularly since the mining industry suffered some setbacks due to the decline in world metal prices, that the economy of the Yukon needed to change, needed to reform itself to ensure that our economic fortunes could improve without having to depend on a single sector or a number of resource sectors that we historically had relied upon.
Mr. Speaker, the decline in metal prices told us that we had to diversify our economy, that we had to broaden our economic base, branch out into new areas in order to make a living. Above all, it told us that we needed to make opportunities for ourselves, make things happen for ourselves, that the passive approach of waiting for investments from elsewhere to make us a living was not going to be good enough.
We understood - and we understand now better than ever - that a diversified economy that not only still continues to provide support for the mining industry, but also for the forest industry, for oil and gas, as well as support for export trade, enhanced support for tourism in key and critical areas, support for industries that are only now starting to grow, in terms of log-home construction and log-home exports to Alaska, or even the selling of CDs for our cultural industries to Taiwan, and that each of these initiatives will broaden our economic base, strengthen our economy, and allow us to withstand the fortunes of a single downturn in a particular sector better than ever before.
Mr. Speaker, we now have a clear sense of how the community at large should be diversifying itself, giving itself the tools that it needs to participate in a world economy - through a stronger and more diversified domestic economy.
This government has taken many strategic actions to meet that end. In the last two years, three years, we have undertaken a partnership with people throughout this territory: with First Nations, with chambers of commerce, with the Chamber of Mines, with the Tourism Industry Association, with the Federation of Labour, with the Association of Yukon Communities, with Yukon College and with others, to participate in strategic alliances that will allow us to explore and exploit opportunities as they arise, and to make opportunities where none existed before.
This partnership is a historic one for this territory. This partnership has not been constructed before, but it is our best chance, our best hope, for improving our economic fortunes, and I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that our economic fortunes are turning around, not because somebody else is making decisions for us and helping us out in some way but because we are making opportunities for ourselves.
We can see today that our non-lead/zinc exports are increasing dramatically year over year, from the previous year to last year and from last year to this year. These increases are showing that we are doing new things in new ways, that we are more deeply into the export market than we have been before, and people are reacting aggressively to new opportunities and making things happen.
Mr. Speaker, the government always should think that it has a role to play. In fact, we have been architects and leaders of not only the strategy but the teamwork that has led us to the point where we are today.
Mr. Speaker, we, for the first time this year, used the government's taxation system to spur on activity, to encourage things to happen in the economy, whether it be through incentives to encourage small business investment or incentives to encourage a flagging mineral exploration market. We didn't stop there. We knew that there were many individuals, many people who were consumers in our economy who needed support as well, who needed to be encouraged to participate even more in the economy, and we provided a low-income tax credit for people as well. So we have been working with the tax system, for the first time ever, not to raise taxes but to lower taxes, to provide tax incentives, to spur on activity throughout the territory. This has been instrumental in encouraging people to look at the territory and our tax structures and our investment climate in brand-new ways.
We didn't just do it by government fiat. We worked with the community through the tax round table, through meeting after meeting exploring the best possible way to target tax credits as investments into our economy. As I say, we didn't stop with the business community. We didn't start and stop with just the traditional tax credits for just the business community. We also targeted low-income people as well, because our government believes that the people most in need should have their needs addressed as well.
But, Mr. Speaker, that's not the only thing. That by itself, for many governments, would be seen to be a substantial initiative. We see in Ontario that their primary economic strategy is all about tax decreases.
We haven't stopped there. That's just the beginning.
Mr. Speaker, we moved on encouraging more direct air traffic to the Yukon. This was done through a variety of different mechanisms. It required cooperation among departments. It required good communications with the community, in partnership with the Tourism Industry Association and others.
But despite some criticism in this Legislature, we moved to extend the Whitehorse runway, to encourage large aircraft to land in the Yukon. At the same time, we had marketing agents working with charter airlines halfway around the world to bring tourists - for the first time ever - directly from Europe straight to Yukon without landing first. This was a first-time event in Yukon's history.
We worked to bring tourists to the Yukon as a destination. Only a couple of years ago, this was a pioneering event by the NDP government. This coming year we're going to have three charter airlines coming to the Yukon - three charter airlines coming to the Yukon, bringing tourists from Europe.
Do you think, Mr. Speaker, that the government will rest on its laurels with respect to that initiative, along with the partnerships with Tourism Industry Association? No.
Mr. Speaker, we are moving even further afield. We're not redirecting marketing dollars to another market. We are adding marketing dollars to encourage new opportunities for direct flights from Asia to the Yukon. And we're not even resting in terms of our efforts in Europe. We're looking to expand that as well this year.
So, Mr. Speaker, we understand that there are things that this territory can do, with a partnership between government and the community and with business; we can make things happen where things weren't happening before.
And these initiatives are creating a whole series of spinoff industries throughout the territory, even in Keno City. In that little mining museum in Keno City, they have German tourists who have got off the plane in Whitehorse, rented a car in Whitehorse, travelled up, and they're now visiting the area, the historic mining area of Elsa and Keno. These are good initiatives. People recognize these as being good, sound, solid initiatives. But they come with hard work, Mr. Speaker, and they come with good, strategic investments.
That, in itself, would be seen as a substantial and significant investment, an initiative for any government, for an entire term. Only a few years back, the government was talking about an investment in counting tourists and investigating tourists' opinions and spending $300,000 undertaking this initiative. And you know what, Mr. Speaker? It was a good initiative. But you know what? This year, even without fanfare, we're doing that too - this year. It used to be the flagship of the Tourism department. It's now a sideshow for the Tourism department, because the Tourism department is doing so many other things.
We, Mr. Speaker, for the first time, have a film incentive fund, also sponsored by the Tourism department, which is getting many new, exciting initiatives underway with the film industry. These are essential tools to attract film development to, and commercial development in, this territory.
This is yet another opportunity for us to make a living in a new way, and it's a substantial investment - potentially in the hundreds of thousands of dollars - that this government is prepared to undertake in order to encourage a new industry, a new way of doing things.
But, Mr. Speaker, has the Minister of Tourism spent a lot of time talking about the new marketing funds that are in the main estimates budget? We put in new marketing funds every year we've been in government. In the supplementary before us today, there are new marketing funds again - even more - to encourage more visibility for Yukon throughout the world.
We're not only putting money into marketing funds that are doing good work in Europe and now in Asia, but we're also investing marketing funds for individuals and others who want to undertake their own initiatives and explore their own opportunities. This is part of our strategy, Mr. Speaker, a community strategy in our partnership. It is not only what government should be doing. It's what the community, broadly, can do. There are businesses around this territory - community governments - who have been spearheading the initiatives to seek out new opportunities in Taiwan. The Mayor of Dawson was in Europe. There are people throughout this territory who have seen and can see opportunities themselves.
We're not asking everybody to conform to the overall and broad marketing strategy. We're saying that we're going to make an investment in individuals, in community governments, in First Nations and in businesses who want to explore and exploit opportunities in tourism wherever they can make them.
And we have, in this budget, an enhancement to that program as well.
There is now fully $1-million worth of investment in tourism marketing, not for government, but for the general citizenry. This is yet another activity being undertaken through the auspices of the Department of Tourism.
But you'd think that would be enough for the good, or perhaps exhausted, Department of Tourism and its minister. It's not good enough, Mr. Speaker. It is not good enough. They must do more; they must work harder, and they are working harder.
Whether it's Whitehorse waterfront development, which, by the way, is a dream of the City of Whitehorse and many people in this territory for generations - it's happening now. The Department of Community and Transportation Services has been ensuring that there is land to develop. The Department of Tourism, in partnership with the City of Whitehorse, is looking to improve and landscape the Whitehorse waterfront, and, in this budget alone, we have $700,000 to undertake a very unique and very intriguing project, which is the waterfront trolley, an idea and a concept that was garnered from a citizen who came forward with a good idea. He suggested the idea. The Department of Tourism knows a good idea when it sees one, and you know, Mr. Speaker, there is going to be a transportation system on that waterfront that is unique and will add real character to the waterfront of Whitehorse.
That's in this budget, too, but they're not prepared to make it happen only in Whitehorse, not this Department of Tourism.
Mr. Speaker, in Dawson City, some community people came together and they had an idea for an arts school to attract people from wherever in the world to Dawson as a non-profit business, to come to Dawson and learn the fine arts - the performing arts - to experience the beauty of the territory, to take advantage of the good will of Dawson, and to ensure that they have an opportunity to combine the learning of skills in the fine arts with the experience of living in the Yukon. A good idea - the Tourism department recognized it as a good idea.
So what are they doing now? They are now helping to nurture an arts school in Dawson - first time ever.
And by the way, Mr. Speaker, the Department of Tourism is also building a visitor reception centre in Beaver Creek, and they're doing other things, too - the normal things that departments of tourism everywhere do, I'm sure.
But Mr. Speaker, that is but one example of a very entrepreneurial, very aggressive, very forward-thinking department, and a reflection of the good work that this department is doing with the community at large.
And you know, Mr. Speaker, if all of that wasn't enough, they have a tourism summit coming up in the next few weeks, which is going to bring people from around the territory together to talk about plans to launch us into the next century. Any one of these initiatives would have satisfied a department of tourism from years ago. But the department now, the people there, the minister, the community, Tourism Industry Association - the many partners that we have in the community - are working together to make a lot of things happen on many different fronts. And Mr. Speaker, that is one department.
The Department of Economic Development is not resting either. Mr. Speaker, there are many, many opportunities that the Department of Tourism has identified, and that the Department of Economic Development has identified, which are improving our situation today.
As I say, with respect to the mining industry, we have experienced a downturn in metal prices, but we have not turned our backs on the mining industry. We believe in the long-term future of the mining industry. We see it as having a real role to play in the future of our territorial economy and, when metal prices rebound, we'll be ready. We're not waiting for metal prices to rebound. The mineral exploration tax credit is designed to encourage - as much as we possibly can in a difficult market - some activity so that there will be ore bodies available to mine and to provide jobs into the future. But as the minister said today in Question Period, we can't just wait and assume things are going to work out for themselves. We must ensure that all the necessary infrastructure is in place to ensure that our economy - our mining economy, our export economy - has outlets to tidewater.
Mr. Speaker, we've identified needs to ensure secure port access in Haines and Skagway, Alaska, to ensure that the export economy here - not just 10 years from now but 50 years from now, 100 years from now - whether it be minerals, or log exports, or lumber exports, or housing log exports or whatever it happens to be - has port access to the rest of the world.
And so, for the first time ever, the Yukon government, this government, has gone into Alaska to secure property, secure opportunities there, to ensure that we have and can secure our export futures.
Mr. Speaker, when it comes to oil and gas, we see exciting, new potential. It was only last year that we secured the responsibility for managing oil and gas in this territory. It was only last year that we passed a law that said that the Yukon government should take control of our fortunes with respect to this particular industry. And only a year later, and only today, we already see some of the products, some of the fruit, of our initiative. The minister announced $20-million worth of work to be done in northern Yukon. This is historic, the first time in a generation that this has happened. This has been an opportunity that Yukoners have been waiting for for years. We knew that once we took responsibility for the resource, we could make things happen and make things happen in a sensitive way, but make things happen. And things, indeed, are happening.
We would like the opportunity to take responsibility for the forest industry. We would like the opportunity to take responsibility for the mining industry, because we know that, as tough as some of those issues are to address, we can breathe life into those industries, and that they can be sustainable, and that we can meet the broad interests of the community at large and weave our way through the competing interests. We know it's hard work. Oil and gas development has been hard work. It takes effort not only inside the territory, bringing people together. We have a common regime with First Nations, a first ever.
We've done a lot of work with First Nations and others in other resource development areas, but we know we can make things happen if we have the responsibility, and we know we can do things appropriately if we have the responsibility. With hard work and good community partnerships, we can do a lot.
But, Mr. Speaker, as you know, it would be the easiest thing in the world for us to simply state that the mining industry and forestry industry are federal responsibilities. The Yukon Party certainly took that position. Whenever there was a problem, it was the Liberal government. We have been working with the government.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yeah, well, that's true. The Liberal government still is a problem.
But we are still working with the federal government to try to sort out some of the tough regulatory issues that they, as regulator, face. The Minister of Economic Development has been working very hard with the federal government to bring about what is referred to as the blue-book process. The blue-book process is a mechanism to make the regulatory environment for the mining industry efficient and effective - a long-term sore point that that industry has had. They've asked the obvious question: why does it take four years to permit a mine? Why does it take four years to permit a mine? Surely, Mr. Speaker, the environmental issues and other things can be worked out more efficiently than that.
The Member for Watson Lake, the forest commissioner, has worked closely with the federal government to try to improve the forest management activity in this territory. As frustrating as I know that has been for the Member for Watson Lake, one can argue that he has provided good advice, worked hard, done some good community work to improve a situation that could be worse.
We have today, Mr. Speaker, something we didn't have three years ago. We have three mills - three mills - in this territory. There has been investment from both First Nation governments and from the private sector in this territory because they see an opportunity. They would like to see the devolution of resource management to the Yukon but, nevertheless, they still see opportunity here in this territory, and with some of our help - in terms of training funds and training support - and with support from the forest commissioner, we now see jobs - jobs in Watson Lake, jobs in Teslin, jobs in Haines Junction.
Mr. Speaker, that industry, if properly managed, does have a long-term future and clearly will provide, can provide, sustainable jobs, not only in cutting down trees, not only in silviculture, not only in terms of mill workers, but also in terms of the secondary processing, because already the forest commissioner is sitting down with industry people and others to talk about a tax regime that will encourage secondary processing after devolution takes place. So, we're thinking ahead on every front about what we can do now and what we can do well into the future, and seeking out opportunity.
Now I know there have been some skeptics in this Legislature who believe that Yukon is not a good place to invest but, as I say, there has been private sector investment in everything from forest mills. We see the results of the immigrant investor fund - which the Minister of Economic Development pursued to bring foreign investment to this territory so that we could undertake various activities. There were some naysayers in the opposition benches who didn't believe we could even secure $3 million, let alone the $26 million that was achieved.
Mr. Speaker, we see developments in Whitehorse itself, a number of private sector developments in Whitehorse itself, which involve a lot - tens of millions of private sector dollars.
So despite the fact that the opposition - the Liberals and Yukon Party - don't seem to have the same sort of faith in our economic fortunes, we can see citizens throughout the territory who do.
We can see them engaging in new business activities, investing infrastructure in the communities and in Whitehorse. We can see people throughout this territory doing things.
Now, I think it was an unfortunate point for the Liberal leader to make, in her remarks in Question Period, about the business sector and people involved in our trade and investment strategy being propagandists and losers. Mr. Speaker, people throughout this territory are doing things. They're engaging in new business activities. They're trying to make things happen. They don't regard themselves as losers. They regard themselves as winners, as people who can do things. And with the right partnership with government on these many different fronts we can, indeed, improve our economic fortunes, and things, indeed, are turning around.
But you know, Mr. Speaker, we need tools. We need tools. What are those tools? People said throughout the territory that the tool of the future - the tool that everyone needs - is improved telecommunications technology, and access to high-speed data transmission, access to the Internet, better phone access, the ability to video-conference so that we can bring people together. It's not only good for the mining industry; it's not only good for education; it's good for all of us throughout the territory.
And this tool, Mr. Speaker, is the tool that's going to launch us into the next century, literally. I know we all talk about millennium, and about future thinking, and turning the century over, and all that sort of thing, and how we need to be future-oriented. Well, telecommunications is a tool that is essential for our participation in a world economy.
In the economic conferences that the government is sponsoring with its partners now in the territory, speaker after speaker, expert in one industry after another, kept mentioning that we need to ensure that we are full participants in the information age, that we have the technology, we have the tools to participate in the wider world. This government has listened to that. It required that we set a precedent. We had to set a number of precedents. We had to invest directly in telephone service. We've never done that before. We had to take the leap of faith and work with the regulated monopoly and essentially get into a business venture to ensure that there is sufficient hardware to do the task as efficiently as possible. And we had to invest millions of dollars in this effort.
Now, that by itself would have been quite an accomplishment, and it is quite an accomplishment. But immediately people throughout the government, throughout the community, saw opportunity. The education system sees an opportunity in the creation of virtual classrooms so that students who live in a small school environment in one part of the territory can participate and take advantage of resources not only throughout the territory, but throughout the world. There are opportunities that people never even dreamed of before this technology was available to us.
And, you know, Mr. Speaker, just last weekend when I was in a video store, somebody came up to me and they were excited, saying that they could now undertake to do new things, that it had opened up new possibilities for her company, and she was excited that this might just turn a corner for her. Now, Mr. Speaker, this is but one tool. It's not the only tool, and it's not a tool that we should be a slave to. But it's a tool that we can use to enhance our opportunities throughout the world.
Mr. Speaker, I've talked about port facilities as important infrastructure. What I haven't done is talk about training. We have a record investment in training trust funds targeted to communities throughout this territory, to industries, to governments - even to non-governmental organizations - to the health sector and others, as an investment in us.
We've talked about the economic conferences and the education conferences being an investment in people and an investment in us, and in our understanding, broadening our understanding, deepening our knowledge, heightening our expertise. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that the training investments, as well, do precisely that.
You know, Mr. Speaker, there has been one common theme for people who've been listening to those who have come and shared their experiences from outside the territory and even many from inside the territory. We've been talking about the economy and how we can expand our fortunes. They have said two consistent things: you need the tools, meaning telecommunications technology; you need to be at least literate in that area - and connected - but you also have to acknowledge one of your greatest strengths. Overall, you've got a highly educated population, a population that can react well to change, a population that can take advantage of new opportunities, and that's a competitive advantage you should retain. We have literally millions of dollars invested in retaining that advantage. It's an investment in us; it's an investment in our understanding; it's an investment in our opportunities - it's everything from business opportunities to, as I say, NGOs, and it's expertise in running services that are important to this territory.
And we will continue making those investments, not just in Whitehorse, not just through the college, but strategically throughout the territory where opportunities arise. In this supplementary budget, there is even greater investment in those areas.
Mr. Speaker, we have even responded to the agricultural industry. Twenty years ago, or 18 years ago when I first came to this Legislature, the agricultural industry was an open joke on the floor of this Legislature. It's now serious business. Someone had the faith that agriculture could add to our economic fortunes, and this government has faith in the agricultural industry as well, but they need the tools. One of our first investments was in an abattoir. They've been discussing the need for farm-financing options. Only last week we sponsored a conference in Whitehorse to discuss how we might improve financing opportunities for the agricultural industry.
So, we can move together with a community on a variety of different fronts. The agricultural industry has been a regular participant at the tax round table. There are many things we can do together to encourage growth in local industry, to encourage buy-Yukon, which we are, in fact, doing today. The Minister of Government Services, only a couple of days ago, spoke to the need for and the initiatives in improving our access to what we can do for ourselves to reduce leakage in our economy, even more than NDP governments have historically done in this territory. Everything from purchasing local products and produce to designing tenders for contracts to ensure that our buildings, in the first instance, are designed in ways that can maximize local input.
The furniture that we put in the buildings can be produced locally. So, on many different fronts, we see opportunity, and we seize the opportunity.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the common criticism that we've received in the Legislature when we tabled our first budgets - even though we didn't get a lot of criticism from the communities, we certainly got some spirited criticism from the Liberals and the Yukon Party. But there was a call for even more spending - spend more on infrastructure, spend more on public works.
Well, I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, this government has been no slouch when it comes to public works. In virtually every community I've travelled to this year, Mr. Speaker, there have been major public works underway. As far away as Beaver Creek, there are community recreation facilities and a visitor reception centre being undertaken to supplement the health centre that we just renovated.
In Watson Lake, there are new recreation facilities in that community. In Dawson City, there is the arts school. And Mr. Speaker, there is school construction underway; there's school construction planned. The extended care facility is planned. These are not just meeting a true human community need; they're also producing jobs and economic development.
The difficulty we had when we first came to office, Mr. Speaker, was that there was no building construction planned. But now we've found our footing, Mr. Speaker. Now we have our cadence. We have things underway. We renegotiated the Shakwak project and we have major highway construction underway. We have community building construction - in Teslin, the health centre. We're hoping to see the Whitehorse recreation facility; we've certainly invested in it.
There are many things that we can and are doing throughout the territory, in every community.
But, you know, Mr. Speaker - and I know this is something the Liberal and the Yukon Party love to criticize - the community development fund has done more to promote community development than any other single program undertaken by this government. And, you know, despite what I hear in this Legislature, I hear support for the community development fund in every community. I hear support for the community development fund in Old Crow, in Watson Lake, Haines Junction, Carmacks, Ross River, Pelly, Mayo, Keno, Dawson City, Whitehorse, Carcross, Teslin, everywhere, Destruction Bay. Did I forget someone? Everywhere in this territory I've heard support for the community development fund, because it responds to community priority. It puts local people to work. It meets their aspirations.
Now, the Liberals, they don't like it. They don't like it, and they've said so on I don't know how many occasions. We've got all the quotes we need for the next election. We don't need any more. If the Liberal leader wants to give us more today, that's fine. But we don't need any more. We're fine. We're covered.
But, Mr. Speaker, we have done many things with the community development fund throughout the territory. We have created employment through community partnerships. We have met real community needs throughout the territory, and we're going to continue to do that. And in this budget, over the objections of the Liberals, we will do more, because that is what the community wants. That is what citizens want, and that is what we will deliver.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we have done other things and there are other enhancements in this budget. The fire smart program, universally accepted - I have not heard a single criticism of the program, and I'm sure if the Liberals could find one, they would deliver it with some flourish in this Legislature. I know that certainly the Yukon Party would if they could think of one or find somebody. But, Mr. Speaker, this is a program that meets community needs as well. It encourages employment, obviously, but it also ensures that communities have a fighting chance of survival in the case of a flash fire. Now, one would say that's a federal responsibility, and I guess technically it is, but you know, Mr. Speaker, if a fire ravages one of our communities, the community looks to the Yukon government, and the Yukon government realizes that it has a responsibility to respond to some of those needs.
In this budget, for the community of Burwash, there's almost $1 million in response to that community's fire. It won't satisfy everybody, Mr. Speaker, but it's a substantial investment in rebuilding that community and rebuilding people's lives after the fire swept through a portion of the community.
Mr. Speaker, another program that responds to community needs is the rural roads program. That's a program that clearly respond to communities throughout the territory. What's happened so often in the past is that the government has focused on a construction project and directed so much of its resources to one or two construction projects that it has allowed other communities' needs to languish. We now have a program, for the first time ever, which responds specifically to community needs throughout the territory with a substantial investment.
And it also, of course, puts people to work. The list is long and, in fact, it goes on and on and on. You know, only a couple of years ago, the Liberals and the Yukon Party were saying that they were going to come into the Legislature and just slam the government over electrical rates, that we weren't going to hear the end of it. Well, in that legislative sitting, we heard virtually nothing about electrical rates. There were a few questions around the edges, but the NDP government was there again, working with the Energy Corporation, with good work from the energy commission. We had a comprehensive approach to dealing with energy issues in this territory, and we've had a restabilization fund, which has kept rates stable when the community needed it most, because one of those unfortunate consequences of the Anvil Range mine's failure, which it had a tendency to do far too often in the last 15 years, is that energy rise as the single customer leaves the system. But there, in the last couple of years, energy rates in fact have been stabilized, and people have been able to take a breather from the high costs of energy through direct government action.
One of the dreams of some of the people in this territory has been for us to encourage new ways to generate energy. Now we have coming forward a new wind generator, the first time ever, one megawatt - a new project, a new exciting project. We've got a green power fund that is now currently underway that is encouraging new forms of energy production that is not diesel.
So we're doing so many things on so many fronts. I don't have all the time it takes to describe what this government and its community partners are doing to respond to community needs and to launch us into the next century. Mr. Speaker, it is a balanced agenda. We have education; we have strategic investments in education. Some of them are in this supplementary. We have strategic investments in everything from seniors care and seniors programming to child care. Some of that's in the supplementary. We've got initiatives underway in environmental protection that are clearly upsetting the Liberals and the Yukon Party, but it is a part of a balanced agenda, and a necessary part, a future-thinking part, that will ensure the protection of the environment that we love, not just for ourselves and our children today, but for people and generations to come.
We've even made, Mr. Speaker, investments in the public service - substantial investments in the public service, which must be a breath of fresh air from the ravaging it took from our predecessors. We're prepared to work with the public servants, provide enhancements to them, and ensure not only do they have one of the most exciting jobs on the planet, but they're being properly and fairly remunerated for it.
Mr. Speaker, the supplementary before us, as I say, updates our spending plans for this current fiscal year. The net impact on our accumulated surplus, our bottom line of these estimates is to increase that surplus by some $11.7 million.
This is approximately equal to the sum of the revotes that have lapsed in 1998-99 spending, in the amount of $11 million, which are contained in the supplementary.
These lapses, of course, contributed to a larger than predicted accumulated surplus at the end of the 1998-99 fiscal year.
However, Mr. Speaker, as I've already mentioned, this bill does more than merely revote lapsed money. Our revenues under formula financing are now estimated to be about $8 million more than shown in the previous supplementary for the year, and our own locally raised revenues are almost $1 million more. We have chosen to put these monies to work on a number of worthwhile initiatives, which will employ Yukoners and enhance our quality of life.
We are well aware, as I said, of the current depressed state of the world mining industry, and this cannot help but have an adverse impact on our economic state. The additional monies that we are spending through the supplementary will help cushion that situation somewhat in the short term and, more importantly, advance our efforts to diversify and, as I say, strengthen our economy in the future.
In this supplementary there are new monies for the economic forums, and the trade and investment and tourism marketing funds. Funds have been provided to help us secure access to tidewater, and we have set aside over $250,000 for European- and Asia-specific tourism marketing initiatives.
Millennium fund monies are being brought forward for next year to meet the heavy demand being made upon the fund from a variety of sources, and $100,000 more has also been set aside for product and resource assessment in the Department of Tourism. We've also included new funds for our important new telecommunications infrastructure initiative, and $750,000 is being requested for the waterfront trolley car project.
These are only a sample of the economic initiatives being undertaken via the supplementary, but they are a firm indication of our commitment to help Yukon business people develop a new economy.
At the same time, we wish to ensure that our environment is not neglected, and to that end, funds are being allotted to the Climate Change Centre at Yukon College, the Thandlot study for work in icefields.
In the social affairs field, we are increasing child care operating funding, women's shelter capital funding, and are contributing $150,000 for a Whitehorse community-based youth centre.
We have also requested $475,000 for the Timmers inquest and about $300,000 for policing costs as a result of their new collective agreement. There's an additional $400,000 in new money included in the supplementary for training trust funds and funds that have been set aside to purchase additional land for the Tantalus School in Carmacks. Our conversations in education initiative will receive new money, and over $1 million is required for the cost of the collective agreement previously negotiated with the Yukon Teachers Association. The importance of the community development fund cannot be overstated, and in recognition of its contribution to the well-being of our communities, we are asking for an additional $500,000 for that fund in this bill.
The supplementary contains funds in excess of one million dollars required as a result of the Burwash fire and additional monies for land development. Finally, Mr. Speaker, an additional $1 million has been included in these estimates as recoverable expenditures for work on the devolution of the northern affairs program of DIAND.
It is apparent from this partial recitation of the contents of the supplementary that our government is active on many fronts. With a balanced agenda, aimed at bettering the lives of Yukoners through economic diversification, caring for the environment and protecting and enhancing social programs, we remain in a healthy financial position. With care, we can maintain all our essential programs into the future. That is why, Mr. Speaker, we must continue and succeed in our efforts to help the private sector develop a diversified, export-oriented economy, to supplement or add to the traditional resource sector that has supported our economy for so long. I would hope that members will agree that these are appropriate and worthwhile goals, and I look forward to their support.
Ms. Duncan: I rise today to respond to the supplementary budget tabled by the NDP government. Mr. Speaker, I've addressed several NDP budgets and supplementary budgets in this Legislature now, and I will not belabour the point at great length.
There are only so many ways that one can say that the NDP cannot, are not and will not, if voters have their way, manage the Yukon's economy.
The supplementary budget will be debated line by line in some detail in the coming days. In summary, however - and the Government Leader referred to it at the tail end of his remarks today, the NDP government has taken in almost a million additional dollars in territorial revenue, and another $8 million in more money from Ottawa. That and the recovery amount to $11.5 million in extra income. Between that and the revotes, the expenditures are close to $25 million, almost double.
The key note in the supplementary is that the surplus we have accumulated - and, Mr. Speaker, I would remind members of the additional $30 million in the last supplementary - is being spent by the NDP government in a desperate attempt to convince voters of two things: that they know what they're doing, and that the economy has turned around, thanks to their initiatives.
Voters will grade each member of the government on their performance next time around. Let the voters decide if the NDP know what they're doing, and let the NDP try to convince voters that they have a plan. We'd like to believe that the bottom has been reached and the Yukon economy has turned around. However, at the risk of being labelled "Madam Doom" by the Member for Faro, and likewise many Yukoners being labelled the same, there are still far, far too many Yukoners looking at a very bleak winter.
The Liberal caucus does not believe we have the NDP government to thank for any turnaround in the economy. We could argue that we could still see the corner.
Mr. Speaker, the unemployed heavy equipment operator whom the Member for Porter Creek North speaks so fondly of in all of his speeches, lives in Porter Creek South too, and they're not just restricted to those two ridings. So does the owner of a travel business who sees fewer and fewer Yukoners with any disposable income to even consider a winter holiday, and who face higher and higher costs of doing business.
The store owner forced to close because of a poor economic outlook is a resident of my riding - or was, if they're able to stay in the Yukon while recovering from this financial setback. Think back to the recent by-election held in the Yukon. The for-sale signs came close to outnumbering the campaign signs. We have a 10.9 percent unemployment rate, under an Economic Development minister who said seven percent was too high.
We would like to believe the whirling ministers when they return from yet another trade mission and announce great things for the Yukon. The problem, Mr. Speaker, is that we've heard it all before.
When the first NDP government in the territory was elected in 1985, between 1982 and 1985, to quote then-Government Leader Tony Penikett, "The Yukon watched events abroad, closed its mines, mills and railroads. Even after the local leaders helped forge a deal to reopen the Faro mine, we were still painfully aware that a bad day at the London metal markets, or an Asian smelter, could ruin our lives."
Well, events in Asia, and elsewhere abroad, like Bre-X, certainly have spoiled a number of the current Minister of Economic Development's days. So, Mr. Speaker, what should the government do?
Well, the last NDP government, in a desperate search for solutions, created Yukon 2000 - a Yukon economic strategy - with the help of a whole lot of Yukoners. One of the key recommendations, again I quote from Yukon 2000: "Yukon Government hopes to encourage development of a diversity of healthy industries that will give the territorial economy strength and stability."
Well, the Government Leader restated that recommendation today, as he has restated it before, and before that, and before that. We have to quit talking about it and start doing it, to actually see some results. The government says they've done it. The Member for Faro takes great pride in pointing to his - the last count was 29 - trade missions, and saying they've done it. "We've done it; we've done it." Well, they might be frequent flyers; unfortunately, their luggage - the actual results - has never arrived.
They point to a complete variety of funds and programs, and they talk about endless possibilities. But actual results, or measurements of success - sorry, you'll just have to wait and see. We're talking about actual results, not paid advertising; not results in the increase in the number of moving vans that are going south. We're talking about results that are not an increase in the unemployment rate. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, we're still waiting.
Despite all the things the Government Leader talked about, there is still a 10.9 percent unemployment rate; 3,000 people have left the territory, and exploration is down to $7 million. Uncertainty rules, and we are still waiting for results from the endless list and variety of funds and programs.
Now, the government's thinking is that the best defence for their poor economic showing is a good offence, so they like to stand in the benches opposite and say, "So, what are your good ideas? Well, the Liberals don't have any. Now, what are your good ideas?" Well, Mr. Speaker, if they're so seriously interested in how the Yukon Liberal Party would construct a budget to the benefit of Yukoners, call an election. In the meantime, over the past three years, let me refresh their memories.
We pointed out the shortfall in funding for the CDC. We asked them to return just $1 million to the education partnership, into programming in the schools, yet we still hear of waiting lists for assessment. Ask any parent what they've paid for so far this year in school fundraising efforts.
We've pointed to the CDF, and yes, Mr. Speaker, I'd be delighted to provide the Government Leader with more quotes on the CDF today. Every single time we ask about this fund, we talk about a legislative framework, we talk about results and measurements of success. We ask them to put legislation around it, and their response? They put more money in it.
We've talked and asked and we've discussed and debated the need for dealing with the Correctional Centre. They responded with a long-term IOU in February this year. We asked in Question Period about the seven beds in the Thomson Centre and they have responded.
Those are specific instances, Mr. Speaker. The Government Leader says that the Liberals say "spend more". The Liberals have said "spend specifically". We've asked and made specific recommendations. Unfortunately, he's missed the point when we talk about and ask for the results of the spending.
The Government Leader talked about the new health centre, or new health centres. The results of that spending: how will you staff that in the future? Some ministers have stood in this House and in their media releases and talked about X number of work weeks of employment for specific projects. What happens when the specific project is done? How do we continue with this? What's the overall plan?
The Government Leader has criticized specific suggestions, or, in some cases, the government has responded, Mr. Speaker. We've also put forward larger ideas. We've talked about the public/private partnerships. We've talked about labour-sponsored venture capital fund. We've talked about tax investments. We have come forward, in spite of the rhetoric opposite, with good ideas. And some of them have been implemented, with support from this side of the House, by the NDP. Unfortunately, we will be kept waiting for results.
The Government Leader went on at great length about the record of this government and their supplementary budget. And, Mr. Speaker, it's not all bad.
There are some good initiatives in this budget, and some initiatives that we are very pleased to see. I am personally very pleased to see the restoration of some money to heritage. Critics have expressed their positive views on the resources added to the Campbell Highway. I'm looking forward to discussing and learning more what the bear management proposal is, and the increase in funding in Renewable Resources.
There is the anticipated increase in oil and gas revenue. There are people expenditures. Agriculture has long been supported by our caucus, and the land development line items in Renewable Resources, as well as the global warming analysis - we're glad they're there.
Overall, however, we do not see - and we have not seen - concrete, measurable results of the action we see taken. We'll go through the questions, line by line, in the budget debate, and we want to see the delivery of the product, we want to see the deal finalized.
Mr. Speaker, we're tired of seeing announcements without the details - announcements like Connect Yukon. Where are the details? Is it a true public/private partnership like we've talked about? Will we get answers to our questions? We hope to in the supp, and when we actually get to debate this project. We don't see the details. We don't see an overall plan. What we see is, "We've got an idea; we've got a fund; we've got a knee-jerk reaction." Where's the overall plan? Where are the measurements of success? Where are the results? Where's the finalization of these deals?
We've got 29 trade missions. Where are the results?
Mr. Speaker, while we see some expenditures that are positive, there are many where we have yet to see results from the expenditures. We have yet to see that decrease in the unemployment rate. We have yet to see Yukoners who are not - unfortunately - looking at a very bleak winter.
We heard it over and over, at the doors, in our fall visits, and in the Laberge by-election. And - as I said at the beginning, Mr. Speaker - there are only so many ways one can say that the NDP cannot, and are not, managing the Yukon's economy. They're not managing it in this supplementary budget, and for that reason we will not be supporting it.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, first of all, I have to thank the Liberal leader for actually responding to the budget this afternoon. That's not something that the Yukon Party has cared to do. That's too bad. I can only say that at least I can - the one little bit of credit that I'd want to give the Liberal leader this afternoon is that she cared enough to raise the issues. Certainly that's an improvement on her performance previously when we tried to raise the topic of the economy in the Legislature.
One would presumably think that sponsoring a debate about the economy was something that people wanted to do.
Federal parliamentarians are always insisting that special debates be called to undertake a discussion around issues of public importance, but here in the Legislature, apparently, it appears that it's not sufficiently important for members to speak. So, I thank the Liberal member for at least choosing to contribute to the discussion this afternoon.
Having said that, I don't understand the Liberal approach to this whole equation. Mr. Speaker, the Yukon NDP government develops relationships and partnerships with people throughout the territory in every community. The NDP government works hard to form plans of actions with citizens themselves in virtually every walk of life in this territory, trying new things, exploring new ways of doing things, and yet the Liberals come forward with no response.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite keeps saying to the NDP, with respect to our support for the community development fund, "Where are the results?" Well, how about the months and years and years of employment that people have as a result of the expenditures? These are initiatives that come, not from the minds of the Liberal brain trust, but these are ideas that come from the communities themselves. This is an application-based program. A community wants to do something; they think it's important for community development; they make a proposal; we respond to the proposal. And her response is to come into this Legislature and demand why the government didn't come up with better ideas. We're responding to community ideas. These are citizens' ideas and citizens' jobs - hundreds of jobs throughout the territory, in every community.
What is wrong with that?
Mr. Speaker, when the member, with great fanfare, was leading up to the moment where she was going to give us her response to the economy, what she was going to do, and she said at that point that the best thing the NDP could do in order to find out - if we really wanted to find out where the Liberals stood on anything - was wait for the election campaign. Call an election, then we'll find out. Only then will we find out what the Liberals stand for. Well, the Legislature is where we're supposed to explore ideas. If there are competing opinions, competing visions, we're supposed to explain them. At least the Yukon Party does say where they stand. I don't always agree, but you've got to respect them for doing it.
But, Mr. Speaker, the Liberals want to be able, in private, in their whisper campaign on the doorstep, to say anything they want to anybody. They want to take all sides of all issues.
Well, Mr. Speaker, now is the time, if there is a difference of opinion - if the members even have an opinion - now is the time to have it - on the floor of the Legislature, with the world watching. This is the time, if there was ever a time, to actually explain yourself, to suggest that you might have an opinion or a principle that you want to promote. Now is the time, in the Legislature, in this institution, in this place, this grand place, this place of parliamentary democracy where people express who they are, what they believe in. If there was ever a time, it's now. Why wait till the whisper campaign where the members can manipulate. If there are tough issues, take a position.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite's response to the economy was, number one, they had some concerns about some programming in the public school system. They wanted us to fund the Child Development Centre, which we did, because we talked with the Child Development Centre, and they wanted some funding for rural support.
They criticize the community development fund. They wanted us to replace the Correctional Centre, which we are. They wanted us to open the seven beds in the Thomson Centre, which we did. This is their economic program. What are the results of the seven beds opening in the Thomson Centre? Well, seven beds filled, a number of people employed, a public expenditure on the O&M side - that's the result. We met a need. Okay, is that an economic program? Does that pass for an economic program?
Mr. Speaker, she said that it's all fine and well for the Government of Yukon to be building health centres, but how are they going to be staffed. Well, with employees. Employees will be working in those health centres, to be sure. I guarantee it. We have the staff. Actually, we have the staff on staff right now. They'll be working in better facilities.
The member says they talked about the labour-sponsored venture capital corporation, which was raised by the Federation of Labour. There is no point in trying to appropriate that idea when it's already on the table through the community. I have not even attempted to appropriate ideas that are not NDP ideas. I'm saying that these ideas are community ideas, and the government had the good sense, the wit, to take them up.
But labour-sponsored venture capital corporation because they happened to transmit an idea from the community into the Legislature - suddenly this is their ownership? I think the member is spending too much time with the Member for Riverside, who, during the Yukon Party government, simply asked the question, and suddenly he was the owner of the issue. It was amazing. I was impressed.
You don't even have to take a position. You don't have to say whether you are supportive of a labour-sponsored venture capital corporation. You just have to ask the question, and suddenly, if it was good, you like it; if it was bad, the government screwed up. But it's your issue. Hey, that's quite a formula. Gotta love the guy, Mr. Speaker.
The member made some mention about tax credits. Well, lots of people made mention of tax credits. Even the Yukon Party did.
Well, Mr. Speaker, as I say, I've got to give the Yukon Party credit, because they won't speak up for themselves.
The member asked, where are the results of trade missions. Mr. Speaker, there are results from trade missions. There are businesses that come back saying they've got business. They're in this piece of paper that the Liberal member calls propaganda, which is sponsored by Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, the Tourism Industry Association, the Council of Yukon First Nations, Yukon Federation of Labour, Yukon College, the federal government and the Yukon government. So this propaganda, from what she's previously referred to as coming from losers, does demonstrate progress; there are things happening today.
People are working very hard throughout this territory, turning things around to make the economy stronger, to diversify the economy, to make new investments. And there is new investment. There is the $20 million proposed today from the oil and gas industry, the Argus project, which the Liberals don't like, which is going to put some of those heavy equipment operators to work and, in fact, has put people to work. There's not a project that comes forward on this side that the members either nitpick around the edges or criticize it outright.
But where is the substance? Where is the beef when it comes to identifying a Liberal position on virtually anything, but particularly on the economy? There is criticism, criticism, negativity, negativity, no suggestions of any sort. We can announce five initiatives in one day to reduce leakage from the economy, to buying local furniture, to redesigning government buildings, by Yukon, and she dismisses it all, just with one hand - the NDP is doing nothing.
So there are actually people working, building local furniture today, but that is worth nothing. It doesn't count; those aren't real jobs; the government's done nothing.
Well, Mr. Speaker, how many things does the government have to do to impress the Liberals? How can the community at large, which is partnered with the government and is doing things - how can it get out from under this yoke of being called losers by the Liberals?
I can tell you one thing, Mr. Speaker, at least those people are trying to do something, at least they have a position, at least they're doing something concrete.
Mr. Speaker, those people are working hard to improve the economy. They're working hard, and they're doing things. They're doing new things in new ways throughout this territory. They are not losers; they're winners, because they're trying hard, and they do not deserve to be dismissed by the Liberal Party.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that this supplementary budget is a good budget. It reflects many different initiatives of value throughout this territory; it responds to many different requests that people have put to this government. It's the result of hundreds and hundreds of hours of work by people not just in government but outside government, in terms of putting together opportunities and making things happen on a wide variety of fronts: the economy, the environment, social services, education, training, fire smart - on many different fronts.
And you know, Mr. Speaker, this budget is worth supporting, because this is a good budget.
And, Mr. Speaker, while I didn't detect what the Liberals were going to do, I'm looking forward to seeing whether or not they are prepared to support yet another good budget. It is a fiscally responsible budget. It is a budget that responds to community needs, and it is a budget that we will support.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order. Order. Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Mr. Cable: Disagree.
Mrs. Edelman: Disagree.
Ms. Buckway: Disagree.
Mr. Ostashek: Disagree.
Mr. Phillips: Disagree.
Mr. Jenkins: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are nine yea, seven nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 19 agreed to
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Do members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee will be dealing with Bill No. 19, the supplementary estimates.
Bill No. 19 - Third Appropriation Act, 1999-2000
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This bill requests additional money for the current fiscal year, in addition to those previously voted. I spoke at some length in my remarks on second reading about the contents of this appropriation, so I'll be brief in my remarks on this occasion.
We're asking for approximately $25 million in new funds - $7 million in O&M and $18 million in capital. Of the capital being sought, about $11 million is merely the revoting of lapsed 1998-99 spending authority. This sum is almost equal to the increase in our forecast deficit for the year from $27 million to $39 million. Therefore, the remaining $14 million in spending for the year is being financed, more or less, out of increased revenues and recoveries.
Our locally-raised revenues are now projected to be some $952,000 higher than previously shown. This is entirely the result of oil and gas revenues, which are now expected to total $2.8 million for the year. This increase is the result of increased production at the Kotaneelee field and higher prices for natural gas. Recoveries are also increasing. These are a function of expenditures, and the principal reason for the increase is recoverable expenditures for devolution-related activities in the Executive Council Office.
There are also significant recoveries associated with the revotes included in the supplementary. The formula financing grant has increased significantly, slightly more than $8 million. This is the result of higher provincial local escalator figures for previous years, which flow into the current year into a higher revised population outlook.
Mr. Chair, we've chosen to put these new revenues to work immediately, and hence the additional spending contained in the estimates. These new funds will put many Yukoners to work this winter and will be of significant benefit to Yukon businesses. The initiatives we have undertaken to diversify our economy will in time bear fruit and make us less dependent upon government. In the meantime though, I believe government has a responsibility to use surpluses wisely and to the benefit of the citizens in difficult times, and that is what we are doing in this supplementary.
Mr. Chair, I spoke already in second reading generally on the initiatives and would be happy to answer any questions the members may have.
Ms. Duncan: The minister indicated that he has spoken at some length on the initiatives in the budget, and I've spoken briefly on my lack of confidence in their management of some of those initiatives, and I'm delighted to be able to deal with some of the specifics.
The Government Leader just noted an additional expenditure respecting devolution and coinciding recoveries outlined in the budget. There's an opportunity at this point for the minister to update us on the status of devolution discussions. I wonder if he'd care to do that.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, the devolution discussions have reached a point where I think the decision will have to be made by the federal government as to whether they are prepared to proceed. There are some outstanding issues to address, but I believe that they can be addressed by negotiators, if those negotiators have a reasonable mandate.
We experienced some delays in the last few weeks. The reason for the delay was simply that agreed-upon language in the agreement was reversed by federal lawyers, and this language largely centered around the federal government's fiduciary responsibility to the aboriginal people. This change in language caused considerable upset and concern at the table, both from the Yukon government's perspective and from the perspective of First Nation negotiators.
We have attempted to try to reverse some of that setback, and it would be my intention to speak to the federal minister on the weekend to ascertain his degree of interest in concluding the devolution arrangement.
I would point out to members that we are responding to a federal initiative, tabled in 1996. The terms of devolution proposed at that time were terms that we studied and agreed we could work with in seeking the devolution of resource management responsibilities to the Yukon. Those involved some detailed and heavy work by negotiators, and certainly the Yukon negotiators work extremely hard to try to bring this initiative home.
We signed a devolution accord with First Nation governments in 1997, which indicated that we would all agree to pursue the devolution initiative as long as there still was interest in completing land claims as a top priority and that various First Nation issues were addressed in the context of the negotiations. I believe, for the most part, those issues that First Nations have identified have been addressed. There are, as I say, some small, outstanding items and I would expect and hope that we can conclude the discussions and that the projected timelines can be met.
As a government, we have spent a whole lot of energy preparing ourselves for devolution. We have personnel in a few departments who are dedicated to seeing the smooth transition of responsibilities from the federal to the Yukon government and there is no reason in my mind that we couldn't assume the responsibilities reasonably smoothly.
It will require, of course, some mirror legislation approved by this Legislature. As members know, the mirror legislation has been drafted and is going through its final checks. I've indicated to the department that, should the development community or the conservation community wish to seek legal advice to reassure themselves that the mirror legislation will, in fact, achieve the objective of copying but not enhancing or changing in any way the existing federal laws, then we will provide that legal support.
I would hope that we could see some developments on this front shortly, but I have to determine whether or not there is a federal willingness to conclude.
Ms. Duncan: There was a lot of detail in the minister's answer, and I thank him for that answer. There are a few questions still arising out of it. It seems to me that, last December, we were at the point of it being a go or no-go on devolution. The Government Leader was meeting with the former Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development at that time, and there were four outstanding issues at that time.
Now, it would appear, in listening to the Government Leader's answer, that we have largely resolved those, and that his upcoming meeting with the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development this weekend is not a go, no-go decision, that it's fixing of timetables.
Am I hearing the minister correctly? Are we past the point of no return, so to speak? Are we going to meet the deadlines, or are we still at the yes-we-are, no-we-aren't point?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, we've closed the gap in terms of the major outstanding issues, and I would say that the negotiators have done a fine job in closing the gap in key significant areas - the human resources issues, the environmental issues. There's still some work in terms of finalizing the language that makes it clear that the federal government is financially responsible for any outstanding liability prior to the devolution; the Yukon government is responsible for outstanding liabilities after devolution.
That is a principle we've agreed to, but it's got to be addressed fully and thoroughly in writing. There are a few other issues here and there that are outstanding. There is the issue of forest fire suppression costs and what constitutes the average cost over the last few years. In the last couple of years, we've seen some pretty substantial increases in forest fire suppression costs, and we've made notice that the historic budget level is inadequate, and that we want to see it closed.
I don't anticipate, frankly, that that would be a difficult issue to overcome. There were some issues that were addressed in the last little while that were a problem, particularly to the First Nation negotiators, around the federal government retention of fiduciary responsibility for First Nation peoples. While we thought we had that covered, we had some reversals, and we've had to work on those, and I think that, with some clear direction from the federal minister, we can get back on track. I'm hoping we can.
So we are still there. We still think we can, if there is political will, meet the targets. I do not want to keep this going on indefinitely, because it's not the right thing to do by the federal employees involved. It's very insecure for them not to know what's going to happen.
There are many citizens who have an interest in forestry and other things, and they're interested in seeing the change, and they're biding their time and hoping that a change can be made.
It's not fair to them to just keep it riding out indefinitely. We've got to make a decision - in my opinion, very soon. I want to get a clear indication from the minister as to the depth of his resolve.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'd like to restate at the outset that we are supportive of government's efforts to reach the best deal for Yukoners, in terms of devolution.
We have discussed the federal legislative timetable in terms of devolution before. What about the federal cabinet timetable? What is the process? From following the minister's meetings with the federal minister, what next steps does the minister anticipate then?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, of course there would have to be changes to the Yukon Act, as the member knows, and we have not yet heard, of course, from the commission in the Yukon as to what their recommendations are with respect to this particular measure. It may be that they suggest that we have a modest objective or a broader objective. If there are some tough issues they would like us to undertake in the longer term, that may be possible. In order for devolution to proceed, we still have to get some changes, I believe, for oil and gas - some modest changes in order to make that happen.
I am prepared to play it either way and to seek whatever level of changes that the public seems comfortable with. I am personally of the view that it would be wise to seek the political changes or the changes to reflect our existing institutions at the same time, because I think that people have wanted to see that happen for a very long time. If the public or the commission wants to see some delay on that front - and I genuinely don't know - then we'll opt for a delay. But the changes respecting the need to bring about the devolution project, of course, can be modest in nature and can involve very little drafting time, and that objective should be met by the federal government in a timely way.
Of course, once we get a signal as to whether or not this is a project that the federal minister is going to make a priority, we will have to make some judgments as to how we can help the federal minister through the process. And if there is an initiative we can employ to provide some assistance with some lobbying efforts, I'm certain the government will try to do what it can, and it will request of the opposition that they help.
I don't know precisely the steps that the federal minister feels he has to take in order to get full approval. There will have to be a Treasury Board application as I understand it, and that is going to require some special help and other ministers to provide some support as well. So, we will do what we can, based on our understanding of what the federal procedures are to usher this project through to completion and provide what help we can to the federal government to make it as smooth as possible.
Ms. Duncan: In his first response, he mentioned land claims, and in previous discussions in Question Period around progress on land claims, the minister has indicated that the issues that were outstanding were federal issues. Is the minister saying then that all matters to deal with the territorial government at the land claims table have been resolved?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, it depends on the land claim. With respect to, for example, the Carcross-Tagish land claim, there are some minor lands issues that I'm certain can be resolved very quickly. They don't appear to me to be significant, but they are not what's holding up the land claim. As I indicated, there are some issues - loan repayment issues - that are large and that are shared by Kluane, Carcross and certainly the Kaska, who have expressed strong opinions on that point. I'm certain that Kwanlin Dun would have interest as well, although I haven't specifically heard of their interest in that issue.
There were also tax issues that fall out from people's interpretation of the Nisga'a claim and also fall out from the concerns that some First Nations that are settling late have with respect to their ability to enjoy a certain tax holiday after the claim is negotiated, similar to that which was enjoyed by the first four First Nations that had a four-year tax holiday after the claim was negotiated. And it is an issue with respect to that which the First Nations have raised with the federal government. There are as well some ongoing inherent right negotiations, which I believe should not hold up negotiations but there are certainly sufficient irritations on that front to cause trouble for the land claims negotiating tables.
And there are a couple of small issues in a couple of claims that are different in nature, which are also holding it up. One is the ability of the First Nation in Kluane to select lands inside the national park. The other is for the Ta'an Kwach'an; it's a funding issue, which, if not resolved, will certainly affect the ongoing self-government funding that the First Nation will receive. So, that is also holding up that claim. But there have been virtually no negotiations scheduled with the Yukon government on most of those claims because there's nothing to negotiate other than these big issues.
In terms of the Kaska claim, as the member knows, the Liard claim is complete, with the exception of addressing the transboundary issues in order to ensure certainty for public government.
The Ross River claim is still being negotiated and progress is being made with that claim. Depending on what happens in the near future with respect to the federal policy on no negotiations if there is litigation, I would hope that we can conclude that claim.
The transboundary claim for the Kaska is on hold and that's meant that we cannot finalize the other Kaska claims, the Liard and the Ross River claims. It's on hold because the Kaska have filed a suit in federal court against the federal government and the federal government, which has a policy of not negotiating if they are being sued, has shut down that table.
Then, of course, there's Kwanlin Dun. While there was a period where very little of substance was going on at Kwanlin Dun, that has changed and negotiations are going along at pace, and we are continuing to try and conclude that claim.
So, that's a brief dissertation of where those stand. I can tell the member that some concerns that First Nations have with respect to PSTA negotiations and self-government funding are causing some anxiety for the First Nations that have not concluded, and they are looking for stronger commitments from the federal government to pay for self-government.
But a lot has been accomplished and, with the exception of those outstanding issues, I would suspect that we could settle four claims tomorrow.
Ms. Duncan: In light of the Government Leader's oft-stated comment that settlement of land claims is a top priority, and in view of what the minister has outlined, I would expect that he would be discussing the progress of the land claims negotiation with Minister Nault in his upcoming meeting. Related to that, has the minister had an indication from Minister Nault whether or not he is prepared to work toward an extension of the Treasury Board mandate for the negotiations of land claims?
Perhaps when the minister is on his feet, he could also outline what else he intends to discuss with Minister Nault, and whether or not he'll be asking Minister Nault for a contribution to the labour-sponsored venture capital fund, as he indicated earlier.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will be discussing the state of negotiations with the federal minister, as a top priority, along with implementation issues as an equally high priority, along with devolution. The outstanding issues do require some clarification of the federal position. The federal minister's indicated to First Nations that there is the potential for some change in the federal mandate, and the extent to which there might be change, we should find out right away. We need to know. If, for example, you're going to repay portions of the negotiating loans or not collect as much for the other loans, then we should know right away, because the uncertainty is causing delay.
If we had a clear position from the federal minister, I would suspect that we could meet the deadline of March 31 reasonably comfortably for a number of those claims.
I don't know that we could do that for Kwanlin Dun, and I don't know that we could do that for the Kaska transboundary, but I do believe that we could meet the others. We are so close that we should be able to close the negotiations in a matter of weeks, if we had a clear sense of what the federal mandate is, and if there were some sort of sense of agreement between the federal government and First Nation. So my answer to the question of whether or not we agree with the extension of the mandate, I think, depends on our sense of how clear the federal mandate is on a number of key questions. I'm hoping the minister's going to be addressing those shortly.
As I say, the transboundary negotiations for the Kaska are not advanced. While we have a negotiating mandate ourselves, we've not had the time, given that the table was shut down this summer, to explore or to make advances at that table or on that front.
In terms of the financial support for the labour-sponsored venture capital corporation, I am going to make a pitch that the federal minister provide some funding on a loan basis to the corporation, and that they do support this venture capital corporation as an initiative not unlike that which they've done elsewhere in the country. This is nothing new for the federal government, and I would hope that they would see the circumstances in the north as being especially in need of attention, because of the difficulty that we have securing venture capital funding for business, and the need for our economies to diversify.
Now, I can say that, so far, Mr. Nault has said all the right things in terms of support for the economy, and I'm eager to hear what he may say in terms of some concrete suggestions.
I would not be too terribly enthusiastic about a planning process, or some sort of public consultation, that would simply delay financial support, but we all know that there are many things that we can do in terms of making financial commitments to infrastructure and to other things that he may want to consider. We've suggested telecommunications as one area where there are going to be new applications and, while I'm certain he won't want to participate to the stage where we are right now, there will be new applications, there will be new initiatives, and he can have the federal government participate at the phase two level, and so I'll certainly welcome any support he may have on that front.
There have been questions raised here in the Legislature about essentially a new EDA kind of programming, and I don't know whether the federal minister has explored that option, but I'd be interested in hearing what he has to say on that front. We did do a lot of tourism marketing through the EDA in the olden days, and I would think that we could use some more investment on that front, too. But we'll see what the minister has in mind. I've got many suggestions, and certainly the labour-sponsored venture capital corporation is one area that I think is deserving of some support.
Ms. Duncan: There are a number of questions that I could follow up on, a form of what-if questions, various permutations of: What if he gets a clear signal from the minister on some land claims areas and not others? Will devolution proceed? Will it not? Rather than present all those different scenarios and go on at length in this House, I would look for an update from the minister - from the Government Leader - when he returns from that meeting.
The Government Leader indicated that there would be many items discussed with Minister Nault with regard to economic development. A loan for the labour-sponsored venture capital corporation would be but one suggestion put forward. I believe in earlier debate on this, the Government Leader has indicated perhaps as much or as little as a $15-million loan. Is that the figure that the Government Leader is specifically asking for?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is the figure that the proponents - or at least the Federation of Labour or the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce - have suggested would be a necessary critical mass for the fund to operate in its early days. It would be $15 million. The funding that we would request would be provided to the corporation on a loan basis, with a plan as part of its business plan to repay that loan to the federal government. In the interim, the corporation would use interest from the loan to replenish its fund, to account for any losses and to pay for administration, and I would hope that that would be an acceptable proposition to the federal minister.
Ms. Duncan: This is a fairly specific request with an amount attached to it, and the minister has outlined some other ideas that will be asked. Are there specific money amounts and specific suggestions that the Government Leader is putting to Minister Nault? For example, is the Government Leader suggesting there be a $5-million EDA in this meeting, or are the other proposals that are going to be discussed just in general terms?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I guess many of the proposals we put in general terms, because I need to know what it is we're looking at in terms of what is realistic. I did send a letter to the federal Minister of Northern Affairs a couple of years ago after the federal budget, which laid out a whole series of requests, everything from road construction to telecommunications, et cetera, and I think that that letter, at least internally, only served to raise expectations.
As much as I'd love to seek large amounts of money, I would rather deal in the world of the possible. If the federal minister says that he's looking at something like $5 million to $10 million over two or three years, or if he's looking at $10 million a year, or if he's looking at $1 million over five years, I think it's important that we know what the nature of that commitment is, so that we know what we can be suggesting that has some utility for us.
We've suggested projects that he may want the federal government to assist in. We've invited the federal government to assist on many different fronts, from time to time, and Industry Canada has responded on the telecommunications side. But apart from that, we haven't got a clear signal as to how the federal government is going to respond to its commitment of a couple of years ago, and we want to explore with the minister what he has in mind. Now, I understand he's taking a proposal to Cabinet soon, so obviously he or his department has something in mind. I'll just get a sense of scope and then we can help him out with suggestions.
In general terms, many different suggestions have been put on the table for his consideration, and we're hoping that he does respond positively.
Ms. Duncan: The Government of Canada has responded to some suggestions from the territory. Recent Arts Centre funding is a good example of that. The Government Leader also notes that the Government of Canada has not responded to the economic ideas that were previously put forward. I, and I'm sure many Yukoners, hope that the Government Leader gets a positive response to his meetings this weekend, and a specific commitment, and I look forward to discussing that when the Government Leader returns.
The Government Leader has had several consultation meetings in communities around the territory with respect to budget and government finances. What specific priorities have been identified in those discussions with the Government Leader and additional specific issues, in addition to settlement of land claims and devolution - the obvious?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Firstly, Mr. Chair, I want to make it clear that this funding that we're speaking to the federal minister about, with respect to the economic support, is specifically related to the promise made by the federal Finance minister in a budget two years ago, which referred to economic development support in the north. This was meant to, in some way, acknowledge the fact - presumably - that northern economies were suffering as a result of the downturn in the mining industry and, secondly, to respond to the fact that the EDAs had dried up and there was no economic development funding for the north while, for the provinces, there is federal funding, through the diversification funds - the western diversification fund and the one for the east.
So, we did not have any vehicle that involved federal commitment. One of the elements of the Yukon Act incidentally, Mr. Chair, has the federal Minister of Northern Affairs being responsible for the Yukon economy. As anachronistic as that may seem, one might suggest that there perhaps is a role that they can play to provide some support, not dissimilar to the support they provide to other jurisdictions in the country.
So, we're speaking to that. We're not speaking to other program funding that we get from time to time. We're certainly thankful that the federal millennium fund provided some support to the Arts Centre to match the Yukon government's commitment, and this should make for some exciting events and activities for the Yukon communities, sponsored by the Arts Centre over the course of the next year.
In terms of the community consultations, Mr. Chair, I have discovered them to be very useful in the past and they've helped us to craft and direct government expenditures as well as we possibly can, given our limitations. There have obviously been many different suggestions for how the government can spend its money or what it can do to improve the situation of people throughout the territory.
I have to get a sense from the member as to what specific areas she thinks I can help her with in terms of identifying what the community mood is, because there are so many different subjects, so many different issues to address.
There have been some consistent issues raised, such as dump management, which are common to many different rural communities. She may not like to know that people have insisted that the community development fund continue - I think that's a pretty common theme - and that there be support for the fire smart program, and that the rural roads program - they are very important in meeting various community needs. Those are some of the needs that people talk about continuously. As I say, they've talked in the last couple of years about being connected through the Internet, and having greater data transmission capabilities for every community, and not just for the more populated areas, and of course, we're responding to that now and will be over the course of the next year.
So, certainly the mood has been very positive overall, and I take great sustenance from the community discussions.
Chair: Do members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on the supplementary estimates?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, when we took the short break, we were discussing the Government Leader's community consultation tours and the priorities of the communities. The Government Leader mentioned, for example, that dumps and dealing with garbage and waste in our communities had been discussed. I'm asking a more specific question.
I'd like to take a specific example, if I could, and perhaps the minister could elaborate. Consultations took place in Carcross - I believe I noticed in the newspaper - prior to Mr. Raghunathan's retirement function - on that particular date. There has been a tremendous increase in the number of cruise ship visitors to Skagway, leading one to believe that there is a potential in Carcross for some development, some opportunity there for that community to take advantage of that traffic to the south of them, and I'm interested to know if, during the budget discussions, the community identified infrastructure priorities or specific funding priorities for Carcross to take advantage of that economic opportunity to the south of them.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: On the consultation in Carcross with the First Nation and then the community, the issue of White Pass access to Carcross was not a priority, but there are indications that there is interest, from other discussions I've had with the community people, in seeing the train come to Carcross and that there be business opportunities for people in Carcross, including the First Nation, to provide service to passengers on the train. As a consequence, we have indicated to White Pass that this would be a very good move on their part, to expand rail opportunities into Carcross. I do know that the First Nation waterfront development plan ultimately does involve some servicing of people on the train. I would suspect that once White Pass makes the decision public as to its intention, I'm certain that many people in the community would respond and rise to the challenge of extracting economic opportunities from the train.
There are in Carcross, as there are in other communities, requests for community facilities of one sort or another, or services, et cetera that are unique to each community. As a general proposition, we try to work with the community. Once the community's top priority is established, we try to work on the top priority.
And we're generally pretty successful in meeting the top priority of the communities.
So, a variety of issues were raised. Community involvement issues were raised in Carcross, and, while nothing on the pre-budget tour respecting the White Pass train, there have been meetings both with me and with others respecting the desirability of seeing a train come at least as far as Carcross.
Ms. Duncan: There are, I suspect, other infrastructure possibilities for that particular community to enhance its tourism potential. What I was looking for was, perhaps the minister could provide some more detailed information by way of letter or notes of the pre-budget consultation meetings to indicate what other priorities might have been identified in the communities.
Another forum, if you will, for the community consultation on government spending and economic issues is the economic forums that have been undertaken by the government. And, there's a lengthy series of summits and discussions planned on into the new year. What is the overall agenda for the economic forums? I previously dealt with the costs with the minister in Question Period, and I'm assuming his answer has not increased in the overall cost of the economic forums, but I would like to know the plan. And, so that the minister doesn't have to keep popping up and down, could he outline in his response the expected product - a report, an agenda, an action plan? What does the minister anticipate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, there are a number of objectives. First of all, the primary objective, clearly, is not a report. There will be written summaries and that sort of thing, but that's not the objective of the economic forum. The primary objective is to bring people together to identify problems, suggest solutions and, in fact, do some problem solving at a very practical level.
For example, in the IT weekend workshop, there were entire panel discussions, and I was in a workshop myself where Internet marketers were explaining how to better sell goods and services over the Internet to people who were in that business in the Yukon. It was a very practical, problem-solving discussion and quite spirited, where people were talking about how they could overcome certain problems, make best use of marketing dollars, and be seen and noticed on the Internet.
One suggestion, for example - they can be big and small. One small suggestion that has been made is that there is a problem right now with airlines that are coming to the Yukon, being unable to rent people RVs that can be dropped off in Alaska. So this is an opportunity for us to bring Customs people together, bring insurance people together, those who are involved in renting vehicles, tourist operators, and try to solve that problem - to the extent that we can bring the people together in the same room at the same time.
We can sponsor that discussion and solve a practical problem that people raise. Apart from the inspirational speakers and the people who have experiences that they can share with us, which is always good, and it helps our understanding of the broader world, this encourages us. Another objective of workshops is to solve problems and undertake an advance in our thinking on various subjects. This was recommended strongly by the small-business people with whom I had meetings following the business summit. When we put forward our response to the business summit report, we also undertook to have meetings with everyone who went to the business summit who wanted to have meetings. And so, I had a number of meetings with various business people and one thing they all suggested was that we undertake what we're doing now, which is the economic summits - the accommodation of sharing or bringing somebody to share the Irish experience, the big picture. How did the Irish government, in the context of the European community, resurrect its fortunes and move from a have-not jurisdiction to a jurisdiction that is actually a hotbed of activity.
From a big picture, there were discussions ranging from that through to the small, practical, problem-solving missions that we would undertake, discussions that we would convene, which would solve a specific problem in a specific industry. So consequently, many of the discussions in the workshops are being developed with industry representatives. We are doing it jointly and identifying people who can provide some value-added to the discussions jointly with the industry group. For example, TIA and the Tourism department are working together along with our support from the Executive Council Office to, well, the tourism summit.
The same is true for the information technology that was sponsored by Government Services and local business. The statement is true for the mining industry, et cetera, so we're working together to try to ensure that we identify good speakers. Largely, these are meetings for industry to talk to industry, people who can provide some added understanding to come to the Yukon and help. We also invite local experts, of course, and people who've got something to add, to provide keynote opportunities to address people or to lead discussion groups.
So it's a combination of things. There's no set format, other than the fact that there will be weekend workshops to focus on various industries. There are also speakers and, where we don't need to mobilize large resources to tackle a problem, we can target it very specifically, such as the RV issue. We don't need to make it a big deal. We just find a meeting room, get the right people and solve the problem, if we can.
Ms. Duncan: In that detailed response, the Government Leader didn't indicate an overall sense of time frame and, although I appreciate his remarks about our not needing another report, I do believe we do need a tracking mechanism of some kind. For example, with the local hire provisions and the local hire commissioner's report, I have been able to go back to Government Services. They've said, "There are the recommendations; here's what we've done; here's what we haven't done; here's why." It's more than just another report; it is a tracking mechanism.
Does the Government Leader anticipate something like that, say, in April or May? Does the Government Leader anticipate commissioning another Conference Board of Canada report? What is anticipated at, say, the conclusion or after the last forum has been held?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Firstly, there will, of course, be a record and a report. That's not the objective. I don't want to make it seem as if there's going to be something, some xerox, bound thing that we're all striving to achieve. I've reassured the business community that that's not what we're looking for, because they have made it very clear to me that they don't want to participate if that's what we're doing. So, this is about problem-solving. This is about bringing resources together to better define problems and solve problems, practical problems, problems people face every day, as well as some bigger-picture discussion, which some of us - the member opposite - have witnessed, and some of it's very good, very interesting, and it opens our eyes and gives us a broader understanding of the world around us, which can only help.
I don't know that there is going to be an end to this initiative. People have indicated to me that they would like to see some of this activity go on for a long time because they appreciate the opportunity to bring resources together to solve problems in creative ways, and they have indicated to me that they would not necessarily like to see this approach or this attitude end.
So, I have not made a decision with respect to that matter; it may go on at a lower level of activity, but it may still continue, and I think that the response that I've been getting from people who have participated has been very positive. People are already thinking about follow-ups. From the IT workshop, people are saying, "Well now, the next area that we should really focus on - let's try something in May and really focus on these issues and bring together these resources and see if we can't improve our situation through further discussion." And so it is conceivable that we do continue, particularly if we get the kind of response that we've been getting so far.
The discussion has been good; the response from the community has been very good, and I think people understand this for what it is. It's not an attempt by the government to sell its wares; it's an attempt to bring the right people together at the right time in the right way to solve problems, and do it in an interesting and creative way.
So it may be that we want to do that forever. It may be that we've turned a corner and will want to sponsor that kind of discussion indefinitely. I certainly think it has got some potential.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I won't disagree with the minister that there is certainly some potential. The discussions that I've witnessed at the economic forums have been - "thought provoking" is fairly mild - it's not as emphatic a word. I would hate to see, however, some of the suggestions that are made in the economic forums not tracked through the system. So I would appreciate that, while the business community doesn't want a report that's going to sit on a shelf, I do believe that there would be an appreciation for a tracking mechanism whereby recommendations that are made in the forum that there's an ability of this government - future governments - to go back and look and say, "Oh, that's how the problem was solved; it's been resolved. Yes, the economy moved forward" or "No, it hasn't and these issues can be revisited."
I think that is helpful, and I appreciate that there is some recording of the economic forums that will enable us to do that.
While we're on the theme of community consultation and community development, the community development fund is much discussed in this Legislature.
Would the Government Leader indicate why there is reluctance on the part of the NDP government to put a legislative framework around this fund?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Firstly, let me just respond to the first comment. As I say, there will be a record and, while it's not the primary objective, we do want to track what suggestions are made. I want to point out that this is not about directing suggestions on how the government can do more for everybody else; this is about how people can work for themselves. That is the whole theme of these discussions. They're about how people can help themselves, improve their fortunes, work with other businesses, find opportunities - economic opportunities, business opportunities - and how they can improve the economy, so there is a genuine, private sector economy - people working with each other to expand opportunities. And I think that's a very healthy approach. There's no shortage of suggestions on how we can spend what available public dollars there are; it's just endless, but I think there's a recognition - and this is widespread now - that the government is not going to be, by itself, the answer to everything. It can act as a catalyst, and that's what the economic forums are supposed to be doing. We're providing a service to people by bringing things and people together so that they can solve their problems with each other in their own way. And that is a new process. I don't recall government trying to do these things this way before, and I think it's very useful for all of us and I'll support it.
With respect to the CDF, the challenge really is this: in the past, the government - when I first got into the Legislature, every community hall roof, every single, individual expenditure was passed through this Legislature, and I can tell the member we had one very, very frustrated public.
The public indicated - and I'm making some generalizations here but, for the purposes of this discussion, I think they're fair - the public generally indicated that, number one, the time taken to get the bureaucracy to support a particular project, see it go through the entire budget review process and show up on the floor of this Legislature was time-consuming and with too many filters. Not only that but the time taken to actually deliver a project could be as much as 18 months between the time a suggestion was made and the time a project was delivered.
On top of that, the delivery of this project was often not sensitive to the community itself. The community wanted to deliver the projects themselves. So, the question was how to respond more adeptly, more quickly, more efficiently to community needs, as the people themselves expressed it. What we call the local employment opportunities program was created back in the middle 1980s, which was the precursor to the community development fund, which was an application base, meaning the community groups themselves decided what they wanted to do, and they put forward the proposal within the program guidelines. It was their priorities that were identified. The accountability as to whether or not there is a fair apportionment of projects comes through public disclosure of what decisions are made. And we have discussions in the House as to whether or not one project was funded and another one wasn't. That's perfectly fair. It happens, and it should happen.
The projects, in the first instance, are suggested by the community and, in the second instance, they are approved by the government in an efficient way, if they are approved. I have not seen much criticism from the community as to this program. In fact, I've seen quite the opposite - very, very significant support.
Ms. Duncan: The minister's response is a useful discourse on the history of how the community development fund came about. The minister made reference to a frustrated public. The minister has made reference in the past to pitting one group against another. The problem is that that's what we see now. The problem is that we have groups in our office, people in our offices, stopping us in the street, in the communities, asking, "Why this project and not that project; why not this particular project, which would generate one long-term job in the community and enable us to have a staff person, and then establish funding in future years, because that person could do what we as volunteers can't?" But they're told no, because we don't fund specific long-term jobs. They got turned down at the community development fund.
Another group stops us and says, well, this job is for organizations that are all Yukon-wide, and we're united in this specific project, but we can't do it because it's going to buy a specific piece of infrastructure that would generate future income.
The minister has not indicated a willingness to put a legislative framework around the community development fund. Is there willingness to examine other methods, somehow, that we would not see this pitting of one group against another? And there is a satisfied public out there that says that funding for a soup kitchen is a good idea, yes. No one is going to stand up and say no, you shouldn't do that, but pitting one group against another puts everybody in a difficult position. Why this softball field and not that softball field?
There has to be a better way to do the CDF, other than just to say no, we're not willing to look at a legislative framework. There has to be an alternative out there. Now, is the minister considering it? Is the government open to discussions on that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, yes, Mr. Chair, I'm open to discussions. I'm here right now, and if a member has suggestions, make them to me or to the minister responsible for the community development fund - probably even more appropriately.
But what I can say to the member is that this program, like all programs, are going to have some guidelines - some limitations. And it's not just anything that can be funded through the community development fund. It's not meant to be core funding for an organization. That has to be approved through different mechanisms.
This is meant to respond to emerging community needs. That's not to say that we won't provide some core funding for a particular community organization through a different vehicle. In fact, we are providing core funding in key areas - now even long-term funding through our NGO funding policy, and people may see a vehicle for getting funding through another arm of government, but not through the community development fund because it doesn't fit the program guidelines of the community development fund. They're pretty broad guidelines, but they're still guidelines, and if the member thinks that the community development fund should fund core programming, then give us a good reason. If there's a really good reason why the community development fund should do that, then let's talk about it.
One guideline is not buying certain assets. That's a guideline. If it were legislated or if it were just a guideline, it's still a guideline and it's going to limit what can be applied for. It doesn't mean the government's not going to do anything else for anybody else. It has other programs that are meant to do different things.
If somebody comes along and says, "I want to do some tourism marketing," and applies to the community development fund, then somebody's going to say, "Well, it doesn't fit the guidelines. There's a tourism marketing fund that's set up to respond to that."
There are going to be limitations, and it's not a matter of pitting one person against another. There will be some who will be approved and some who won't. In some cases, Dawson for example, has been very well-served by the community development fund. There's some desire to ensure that everybody gets some support. So in any given year, I'm certain that there are many creative ideas that come out of, say, the City of Dawson, for projects, and we will try to respond to what we understand to be the top priorities there. It may be that we say no to some people in Dawson because it's already well-supported in a given year, and we'll say yes to a similar kind of project in Mayo or Kluane someplace. That would happen whether all the program guidelines were legislated and rigid, or whether they were just program guidelines. No matter what, that would still be the case.
If there's a concern about a judgment call, the accountability is right here. We try to be as sensitive as we can, and if people take issue with some of the things we're doing, then they can raise them. We'll try to respond as adeptly and as sensitively as we can, but the one feature that people like most about the community development fund is the efficiency - the speed - with which things are responded to. A community has a suggestion, and we are able to respond as quickly as possible while still bearing in mind that we need to be mindful of taxpayers' interests and taxpayers' concerns. We have to investigate applications carefully, and do a thorough review of the proposals at the administrative level before we could make a judgment call.
In any case, all the applications that are approved are applications that have been promoted by the community. We do not, in government, write out the applications or give approvals without support from the community organization.
So, I think it's a good way of responding to a certain band of activity in our communities. It doesn't do everything. It won't build schools; it won't do tourism marketing; it won't fund a trade mission; but it can do many different things, and, as long as we're not making a long-term commitment to something but just simply meeting an immediate need, then the community development fund can respond to emerging and immediate needs. If something turns into a long-term commitment, then there are other government programs and other government budgets that may or may not be employed, if it's a priority, to provide support.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, the Government Leader mentioned a number of things - the speed with which these funds, the community development fund and other funds, are able to respond to community needs - and did not accept the criticism that I have heard that it does pit one group against another.
I'd like to see a response to the clearly expressed community needs, like support for the Yukon Quest - not specific projects, but the jobs they would create in the community, like support for the request put forward jointly by three different winter tourism organizations for a specific asset that's been bumped all over to different funds.
A really simple, small item - like the purchase of bleachers - makes sense for us to do; it makes sense because it would enhance those events, and the Government Leader has received this note that yep, they've funded Quest and they've given them all this different tourism marketing fund. Yes, I appreciate that. I also, having been involved with a non-profit organization, appreciate their frustration in working for months on applications to CDF and being turned down.
I don't want to get into a why-fund-this-project-and-not-the-other. My point to the minister is that there are occasions where groups say this pits one against the other. The minister asked for specific suggestions. On the funding application, there is a request - the job generation. And for that kind of statistic then the minister, or whoever is responsible, can respond to that. That is one method in tracking the effectiveness of the funds or not.
Another would be a long term: for example, the CDF has funded the Trans Canada Trail and work on the Trans Canada Trail. In their application, what about a request for the long-term potential of that? That's also useful information. That also would be useful information in making a decision on it. Those sorts of - or long-term costs - the minister mentioned roofs on various buildings. That's certainly a need in a number of community recreational facilities. How do we deal with the long-term O&M of those projects? That's the sort of - we've talked about legislative framework, also tracking of this funding. That kind of future tracking is useful, not just to opposition members, but to others when they're evaluating funds.
I do not want to get into an argument that one project is better than another project. I mean, presumably that's the advice that is given to the minister, and the government makes choices on it.
The problem is that it does pit one group against another, and that's a common complaint that we hear. It's a criticism, and I would like to hear the minister's suggestion for perhaps other ways - in light of their rejection of a legislative framework - what other ways could we evaluate that we perhaps could avoid that discussion?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, I guess, to begin, I'd like to say that the community development fund or any government program is going to mean choices have to be made. Whether this is a program that only funded core funding for somebody, there would still be - I could almost guarantee to the member - there would be more applications and more requests for funding than there is available funding. So a decision would have to be made.
However it's structured, however the box is defined, in terms of the guidelines, there will be more requests than funding. Somebody has to make a decision, one way or another, as to who can have support and what projects are lower priority. I mean, the priorities have to be set somehow.
In terms of the community development fund as a program itself, the program is meant to meet emerging needs in a community. It's not meant to provide ongoing support. If we agreed to provide ongoing support through the community development fund, it wouldn't be long before the available funding for emerging needs would shrink as the ongoing support component expanded. Then people would be saying to us: why didn't you create a program for emerging need; we only need this much money at this particular time for one thing; what about a new program that meets that need?
And you know, again, you have to make decisions, there's only so much money, and you have to have limits.
Now, there is an issue that should be addressed - and I've spoken to the Minister of Tourism, and, after some consideration while we've tried to provide some options for people to consider, after we've discussed it with the community, in terms of some activities that, like the Quest, like Rendezvous, like others who come year after year for program support of one sort or another, are clearly a community priority, it may be worth while for us to consider, if we believe that the government should play a role in a particular case - we should consider perhaps providing some ongoing support, not through the community development fund, because it doesn't fit the community development fund, but in some other way, because these are undertakings that have broad community support. They have some payback to the community, and there's a good volunteer sector. There could be a number of criteria that could guide the extent to which government would provide that support. We're providing that support anyway through bits and pieces of programs.
There may be a way that we can collapse some of that activity and provide support for that band of undertakings, such as the Quest, for example. Certainly, there is some potential for that in the coming year. In the meantime, the community development fund is one vehicle that we've got and should be employed to the limit of not only its funding, but its guidelines.
In terms of the guidelines, one of the guidelines is that if a community or somebody wants to build O&M, they've got to have an answer for the O&M associated with that facility in the application for support. We don't simply - and we haven't actually for years. I don't think the Government of the Yukon has done this consciously for many years, including the years before the NDP. We don't simply consciously ignore the O&M obligations of a particular capital expenditure. So, there is an obligation on the part of the proponent that they have an answer for and can provide for any operation costs associated with a facility or with any physical infrastructure after they have it funded through the community development fund or any other program.
That is something that I think is quite a wise thing to do. That improvement in the way the government responds and addresses community needs was done after a great deal of debate in this Legislature about that very issue. So I think that there is a clearer understanding of the issues, and so, consequently, we do have program guidelines that address that item.
In terms of jobs created, that information actually is tracked, and it should be available from the Minister of Economic Development. Each application form does require people to identify how many jobs will be created and what they will be doing, how many weeks of employment, or months or years of employment will be associated with a particular initiative. So as a performance indicator, so to speak, if one of the performance indicators is not only meeting a community need but employing people, that's certainly information that's very readily available right now.
So having said that, perhaps I'll just take the opportunity to move progress on Bill No. 19.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Fentie: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 19, Third Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, 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.
Mr. Fentie: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 16, 1999:
Family Violence: A Yukon Directory of Services and Resources 1999 (Moorcroft)
Yukon Utilities Board 1998-99 Annual Report (Moorcroft)