Thursday, November 18, 1999 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Tribute to raggedy ribbon campaign
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the raggedy ribbon campaign, which highlights the fight against child abuse. The campaign began two years ago and is signified by a torn ribbon. The raggedy ribbon campaign is the brainchild of the Yukon's own child abuse treatment services staff, who wanted public recognition of abused children. We wear red ribbons for AIDS awareness, white ribbons for the awareness of violence against women, pink ribbons recognizing our need for breast cancer research and grey ribbons to show our awareness of diabetes, and we wear raggedy ribbons to show everyone that we will not stand by and watch children being abused.
Saturday is National Child Day, and this year it celebrates the 10th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This convention recognizes the rights of children and youth under the age of 18. It recognizes basic human rights and gives them additional rights to protect them from harm.
We continue to celebrate raggedy ribbon and National Child Day together in an effort to give greater recognition to both causes. On Saturday, I encourage all Yukoners to celebrate with children and for children.
I also pay tribute to the release of two new Bubbles books by the raggedy ribbon campaign. These books - the second and third in the series - are used to help teach young children about keeping themselves safe from abuse. Everything that we can do as individuals, as a community, and as a government to help keep children safe is important. I would ask members to please wear the raggedy ribbon on National Child Day.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus also to pay tribute to National Child Day. National Child Day was first celebrated on November 20, 1993. It is to commemorate two important events in world history: first, the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child on November 20, 1959, and then the subsequent passing of the Convention of the Rights of the Child on November 20, 1989.
There are many ways that Canadians will be celebrating this special day, dedicated to our most cherished citizens. Here in the Yukon, we wear this raggedy ribbon, a tradition started by the dedicated staff at the child abuse treatment services, and some day it's my hope that we will celebrate this day in this Legislature with the appointment of a child advocate or child ombudsman, so that gaps in services for children will be recognized and that children will stop falling between the cracks in the system.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus, I'm pleased to rise today to pay tribute to National Child Day and the raggedy ribbon campaign.
One of our biggest challenges lies in educating the public about child abuse. To meet this challenge, it's incumbent upon each and very one of us to heighten awareness and bring about changes in attitude and behaviour. This, Mr. Speaker, is absolutely essential. Child abuse and neglect is a sad reality, but with public awareness and education, we can reduce the number of children being harmed. There is no doubt that together we can make a difference in a child's life.
We, too, on this side of the House are grateful for the efforts of those people who also share the goal of ending child abuse. I'm talking about the parents, families, teachers, the many volunteers who provide day-to-day support for our children, encouraging, enabling and inspiring them to do the very best, and to be proud of who they are.
These days raising a family is not an easy task. It requires time, patience, love, respect. To fully realize the potential of our children, we need to take time in our own lives to support these young people and recognize their potential by giving praise where it's needed. Because there are people who are showing their care, many children are happier and healthier today. Still, there is much more work to be done, as we all know, Mr. Speaker.
Regardless of our differences, we are joined by the common belief that all children have the right to be safe and should be protected from abuse. Children are the key to our future. Let us ensure that their future is a bright one.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, it's my great pleasure today to introduce some guests who are here with us in the gallery. I'd like to introduce Matts Johansson, who is manager of International Projects with AF Energikonsult; Silve Piejko - and my apologies if my pronunciation is not good - the managing director of Hotab; Gerald Mazzei, chairman of Autumn Industries; Byron Lowen, president and CEO of Autumn Industries, and Gerry Caul, who is the senior vice-president of Autumn Industries. I'd like all members to join us in welcoming these potential investors to the territory and the gallery.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have some documents for tabling on the feasibility studies surrounding the wood-based heat for potential district heating projects in the Whitehorse area.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I have a legislative return for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Legal aid funding
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Justice on legal aid funding.
The legal aid system has been chronically underfunded for several years. As a result, parents who have split up can get temporary custody orders, but there's no funding for legal assistance for permanent orders. People who are poor are hung out to dry when they need legal assistance to determine one of the most important things in their lives - the custody of their children.
Now, the Women's Directorate put out a pamphlet the other day that says, "If you have children and you want custody, you should apply for a custody order. Contact a lawyer or legal aid right away." The question I have for the Minister of Justice: what good is it for a woman who is poor to contact legal aid to get legal help to resolve a custody battle if she's turned away when she wants a permanent custody order?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I am very sympathetic to the needs of people who need legal aid, and the Legal Services Society is doing a first-class job in continuing to meet the increasing demand on their services.
Mr. Speaker, I have to point out to the member that the legal aid is cost-shared between the federal, provincial and territorial governments. The federal government has frozen their funding for several years and has been failing to negotiate to come up with a new funding agreement with provinces and territories. In fact, a meeting scheduled for early December has been cancelled without explanation by the federal Liberal government. We're very concerned about that. These have not been easy negotiations. Nonetheless, we have increased our funding to more than the 50/50 ratio that is the norm of the program and the basis of the program when it was first established.
Mr. Cable: When the minister was in opposition, she wasn't shy about asking for an increase in legal aid contribution, even in the face of the Ottawa cuts, and she said, five years ago, on June 2, 1994, "Given the unexpected healthy state of the government's finances," - this is when the Yukon Party was in power - "will the minister promise to improve legal aid delivery by restoring the funding to last year's levels?"
Given this government's large accumulated surplus - $41 million - and the fact that the Government Leader said the other day, and I quote, "We remain in a healthy financial position ...", will the minister put enough funding into legal aid to permit people who are poor to receive legal assistance in custody battles?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, our government has increased the funding to legal aid. We are going to be continuing to press the federal government to hold up their end. We can't backfill every cut that the federal government imposes on the Yukon government, whether it's in the Canada health and social transfer, or whether it's cutting post-secondary education.
We do increase the budget; we are very concerned, and we will continue to press the federal government to make their contributions back to the level that they were at 10 years ago.
Mr. Cable: Mr. Speaker, what a difference five years makes, when you leave opposition to become part of the government.
When the minister was in opposition, the minister criticized the Yukon Party's Justice minister for being part of a government that could build a $1-million liquor store in Watson Lake but couldn't fund money for legal aid.
Now, we can find money - three-quarters of a million dollars - for a rich mall developer, but we can't find money to assist poor people in custody battles. The Government Leader said the other day that their government had a balanced agenda. Is this an example of the balanced agenda?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, we have increased the funding to legal aid. We're putting in more than the 50/50 cost-share formula, and we're continuing to press the federal government to put in their share of the funding. All provinces and territories are trying to get this federal Liberal government to ante up.
We've also put money into healthy families programs; we've put significant new funds into crime prevention and to youth recreation activities. We're trying to help families and communities, and I will certainly pass on to the federal Liberal minister that the Yukon Liberals are concerned that they're not meeting their responsibilities.
Question re: Legal aid funding
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my question is also for the Minister of Justice on the same topic.
You just have to realize how unjust this is. A woman leaves an abusive relationship - she leaves an abusive relationship. She takes the children. She gets interim custody. Then he goes back to court. He has got a lawyer. She doesn't have the $7,000 it takes to retain a lawyer. He gets the kids.
Now, Mr. Speaker, in the last five years since the cut, this government has spent over $2 billion in taxpayers' money. When is this minister and this caring NDP government going to ante up and properly fund legal aid?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This government has put lots of money into supporting families and communities and creating healthier, safer places to live in the Yukon. We have made a commitment to legal aid. We have increased our funding to legal aid. I'm very sympathetic to the needs. We need to see the federal government at the table with their funding. They've cut it, they've frozen it, and they're not negotiating with the provinces and territories.
Mrs. Edelman: It has been five years since the cuts, and I have asked this minister this question for the past five years, and all I get is the same listing of programs. Now in other Canadian jurisdictions - and I've asked this before - funding for legal aid for family cases is at a significantly higher rate. In Saskatchewan, which is an NDP government, they fund at two to one, and in the N.W.T., they fund at three to one. Legal aid doesn't have enough money to pay for Yukon women to go to court and get permanent custody of their children. When is this minister going to properly fund legal aid in the long term?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the federal Liberal government does have a responsibility to meet its obligations. We are doing our share. We have increased the funding to legal aid. We're doing a lot of things on a lot of fronts to deal with the problem of violence against women and children in their communities. It would be nice to hear some concrete suggestions and help from the members opposite in making our communities safe. They vote against the budgets that support healthy families programs. They vote against the budgets that increase funding to legal aid.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, it is the same listing of the programs. Five years ago - five years ago - this minister in opposition said, "Well, guess what? Services for women cost money." Funding permanent custody orders for children cost money. This minister in this government had an $80-million surplus in March of this year. The total budget for this year is now over $500 million. When is this government and when is this minister going to start living up to the supposed commitment to Yukon women and properly fund legal aid?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, these aren't the same programs. These are new programs that this government has brought in, because we have a commitment to women and children in the Yukon. We've put new money into supporting a women's advocate position at the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre. We helped the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre to purchase a house. We increased the funding to the Legal Aid Services Society, and we're very concerned about meeting those needs, and the federal Liberal government does have an obligation to meet their responsibilities. They're not doing it. All provinces and territories are trying to bring them to the table, and what do they do? Without explanation, they cancel the meeting. They don't want to negotiate to meet their obligations to fund legal aid.
Question re: Timmers inquiry
Mr. Phillips: My question is to the same minister, the Minister of Justice. Last April, I raised the issue of the funding arrangement between the Government of the Yukon and the Council of Yukon First Nations concerning legal representation in the Timmers inquiry. The last cost figure we received from the minister was $150,000; in fact, the minister said at that time, on April 14 on page 4985 in Hansard, "Mr. Chair, we have agreed that the maximum contribution of the Yukon government would be $150,000." That's what the minister said at that time. Now, however, the Government Leader, in second reading of Bill No. 19 the other night, stated that the government has requested $475,000 for the Timmers inquest - about a 300-percent increase. Can the minister advise the House if the $475,000 is inclusive of the $150,000 figure she previously stated that was to be provided to CYFN to cover its legal costs, and can she table in this House, as she said she would, a complete breakdown of what the $475,000 was used for and who got what?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, Mr. Speaker, let me correct the member's facts. The government indicated that we would provide $150,000 to the Council of Yukon First Nations to meet legal costs for the Timmers inquest, and we will do that. The $475,000 costs are costs of the Timmers inquest for government expenditures. There were lawyers there, other than the CYFN lawyers, and the government has a responsibility to fund coroners' inquests.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, this whole funding request is certainly a precedent-setting agreement.
Can the minister advise the House if the Government of Yukon funded the total legal cost of CYFN's participation in the Timmers inquiry? Or was there a cost-sharing agreement entered into, as the minister said earlier there may be?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the CYFN costs for the Timmers inquest were more than the $150,000 that we have agreed to cost-share. They have not received all their costs and submitted their final budget resulting from all those costs. However, our portion of the funding is limited to the $150,000 that I told this member that we would cover, because we believe it is in the interests of the community that there be a full and a fair hearing of all the events surrounding the death.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, it was the Government Leader himself who said the other day that the cost of the inquest was $475,000, not $150,000.
Last April, the minister made a commitment to table the contribution agreement between this government and CYFN over the cost of the Timmers inquiry, once the documents were signed. And so I'd like to ask the minister if she'd do that now.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the cost that the Yukon government bears covers the Yukon government and lawyers from all sides. The $150,000 that we will be providing to CYFN to meet their costs will be provided. They have not had all their accounting in to prepare a final budget. When I receive that documentation, I'll be more than pleased to provide it for the member opposite.
Question re: Timmers inquiry
Mr. Phillips: Well, the minister knows full well, Mr. Speaker, that in her annual budget in the Department of Justice, there is money already in there for the coroner's office for such things as inquests and other activities.
Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Justice again - this morning we heard a report that legal aid is in a financial crisis. The legal aid budget is $931,000. It's cost-shared between the Yukon and federal government. It has been cut back from $1.4 million in previous years, yet people requiring legal aid - the requirement has jumped 10 percent because of the depressed economy in each of the past three years. Legal aid staff are worried that they won't be able to keep up even with the limited help they are now giving Yukoners.
I understand the Deputy Minister of Justice is meeting with the executive director of legal aid this week to discuss this crisis situation.
Can the minister advise the House what political instructions she is giving the deputy minister to overcome the crisis?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member's preamble was on the subject of the Timmers inquest first, so let me respond to him that, although we put funds in the budget to cover inquest costs on an annual basis, we cannot anticipate every inquest that will be held and what the cost of those inquests will be. The Timmers inquest was far more expensive because of the numbers of lawyers who were brought into it and because of the circumstances surrounding the death and the need for a full inquest.
Mr. Speaker, on the subject of the legal aid funding, I'm very sympathetic to the needs of people who require legal aid and the Yukon government has increased our portion of the funding beyond the 50/50 formula with the federal Liberal government, which has failed to match their end of the deal.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I'll look forward to the detailed expenditure, dollar by dollar, of the $475,000, and I hope the minister will be prepared to table that in the House, either in Question Period or in the regular tabling of documents, or at least when we get to the Justice debate later on next week.
The minister has talked here today about the $931,000 being provided to legal aid, and that there was an agreement of 50/50 sharing. What share is the Government of the Yukon now contributing to the $931,000? The minister said it's more than 50 percent. Is it 60 percent, 70 percent, or is it just 51 percent?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, we have put an additional $75,000 into the legal aid budget. Their total budget is $931,000 a year. We've put the increase in for the 1998-99 and for the 1999-2000 years. The federal Liberal government does need to come to the table and negotiate with provinces and territories. This is a problem that is in effect across Canada, and we need the federal government to meet their responsibilities.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, a $931,000 budget and, in over three-and-a-half years of an NDP's mandate, they've added $75,000 to an area they claim is a priority. In view of the fact that the government provided $475,000 for the Timmers inquest, which is, in a sense, legal aid, which is more money than the contribution to legal aid for all other Yukoners, will the minister responsible be responding favourably to the Legal Aid Society for requests for additional funding for those people who need legal aid?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, we've already responded favourably in increasing the budget. The Legal Services Society will be meeting with the Department of Justice. They have asked for accounting information to be provided and anticipate that, at the meeting, they will be able to go over those figures.
We will continue to press the federal Liberal government to increase their contribution to legal aid, so that this problem can be solved not just in the Yukon, but across Canada.
Question re: Alcohol and drug addictions, services for youth
Mrs. Edelman: I have some questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services. I asked the Minister of Health and Social Services yesterday to provide an update on the current caseload of the one employee who is supposed to counsel youth with alcohol addictions here in the Yukon. The minister conveniently refused to answer. I also asked the minister to indicate how long the waiting list was to get in to see this one counsellor. Our youth are waiting and waiting, and still waiting.
What's the current caseload, and how long is the waiting list for assessment and treatment for drug and alcohol addictions for youth in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I indicated yesterday that we had two counsellors working, and I gave an indication of how many individuals were on that caseload. As far as the waiting list, I can provide that for the member at a later date.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the minister also has not answered about whether he thinks that that long a wait is adequate service for Yukon youth.
Now, after a youth is lucky enough to be assessed and receive treatment, they might end up at Ancient Voices Wilderness Camp near Dawson, or for treatment outside. There are a couple of options. I've spoken with many people who've brought up some concerns about the follow-up that is available - or, in most cases, not available - after youth return from these programs. Their concern is that the follow-up programs just aren't good enough and they are not adequate.
Does the minister believe that the follow-up programs available to youth are adequate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think I indicated yesterday that one of the areas of interest that we had, and one of the areas that we want to work in, is the whole question of trying to provide more services for youth. We do have programs, not only offered up at the young offenders facility, at the Youth Achievement Centre, at the various other facilities that we have, but we also have services that we offer out of our own ADS programs, so we are trying to provide a number of services for young people on the whole question of addictions, particularly around alcohol.
What we would like to do is that we would like to get - and we have begun that process - more contact with young people at the schools. As I indicated to the member yesterday, much of our prevention program has been focused on younger children. Our goals are to raise such things as the age of the first drink, try to reduce - it's primarily focused on harm, such as trying to reduce binge drinking, which tends to be a problem among young people - and also to provide some other alternatives for young people with regard to other solutions to deal with their life issues, rather than alcohol and drugs. So I think that we're undertaking this. I think that we've identified some areas we want to move in, and that's what we're continuing to do.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, let's get back to the issue. We were talking about follow-up care.
Now, I've heard from many positive reviews - and truthfully I have - about the services at Ancient Voices, but if we continue to send these kids back to their communities without adequate support, we're setting them up for failure. Every time, we're setting them up for failure.
The Yukon government currently has one alcohol and drug worker who works with youth who need treatment. There is also another worker who does prevention, as the minister stated earlier, but there's only one who does treatment. That person is in Whitehorse. What work is underway to improve the follow-up in our communities?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I think if the member has actually been following what has been going on here, a good deal of our focus has been on such things as health family initiatives and other things.
I should also say that one of the things that we've been doing is developing partnerships with our First Nation partners there, in terms of such things as developing healing centres. Some of the healing centres that have begun - for example, the member is well aware, because she was out there at the same time. Aishihik Lake, when it was operating, had a youth orientation. We have been working with the First Nations to make available funds to develop those healing centres and to get them going and, as I indicated yesterday, we're expecting that we'll be having some announcements in that area very soon.
Question re: Protected areas strategy, Fishing Branch
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Government Leader.
The Government Leader has recently received a letter from the president of the Yukon Chamber of Mines, which was published in yesterday's paper. The letter makes some very serious allegations of how this government is implementing its protected areas strategy and that it's discriminating against the mining industry. NDP commitments to avoid areas of high mineral potential and to have in place adequate data bases have not been honoured. The time frame for the Fishing Branch was shortened to accommodate a political agenda. The letter from the government to DIAND asking for interim protection went out before the first committee was even appointed. There are a whole host of other breaches that are relayed in this letter, and the Chamber of Mines now concludes it can no longer continue to support such an unfair and dishonest process.
With the Geoscience Forum taking place this weekend, I would like to ask the Government Leader what message is this government going to deliver to the mining community to atone for its current double-dealings?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: May I suggest that that's a loaded question, Mr. Speaker, highly inaccurate, loaded and misguided?
First of all, we are not discriminating against the mining industry in any way whatsoever. In fact, we are supporting the mining industry in many crucial ways that were even unheard of by the Yukon Party, Mr. Speaker.
With respect to the protected areas strategy generally, yes, indeed, we do want to avoid highly mineralized areas, and efforts have been made to do precisely that. With respect to the geoscience work, we've added approximately $1 million a year to assessment work in these budgets in order to ensure that we have a better understanding of the geology of the territory so that it can assist people designing protected areas.
Mr. Speaker, with respect to the protected areas strategy, the announcement that we were going to seek interprotection for the Fishing Branch area came in the form of a statement in September, which is completely consistent with the protected areas strategy, so we did not breach the protected areas strategy in that respect at all.
Mr. Speaker, the member alludes to the fact that the government accelerated the process for Fishing Branch. Very true. There were concerns raised about the acceleration in order to accelerate oil and gas development in the same general region. We saw the results of the acceleration in oil and gas with the announcement of the $20-million investment that's proposed for that region by the oil and gas industry. And we've indicated to the Chamber of Mines and others that we will address the concerns about the protected areas strategy and ensure that any refinements that need to be done will be done.
Mr. Ostashek: The Government Leader seems to have lost his ability to have recall.
The Government Leader will remember that I raised this issue in April in this Legislature, that the Deputy Minister of Renewable Resources had written to DIAND requesting interim protection one week before the first planning committee meeting. I want to ask the Government Leader: has he responded to the Chamber of Mines' allegations, and if not, when does he expect to respond to them?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Firstly, Mr. Speaker, I think that the tone of the member's questions clearly suggest that he's opposed to the Fishing Branch project, period, and I'm certain the people in Old Crow will be interested in knowing that. And if the members want me to, I can assist in letting the people in Old Crow know.
Mr. Speaker, the process with respect to the formal request for interim protection for the Fishing Branch was consistent with the protected areas strategy. The concerns previous to that about the accelerated process with respect to Fishing Branch are concerns that have been registered by the government. I've had discussions with various people, including the Chamber of Mines, about those issues, and we intend to address those concerns in due course.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, we saw an example of the relationship between this government and the residents in Old Crow with the Economic Development minister's announcement on oil and gas exploration at Eagle Plains.
This government's actions clearly show why the mining investment community now considers the Yukon government to be anti-mining, and I would like to ask the Government Leader if he has received any other letters criticizing the government for the manner in which they have implemented the Yukon protected areas strategy in relationship to the Fishing Branch; and if he has, would he be prepared to table those letters?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, yes, we did get some feedback from the Gwitchin with respect to the Eagle Plains announcement. It was reported on the radio, I believe - a councillor from the Vuntut Gwitchin council indicated a need for training for oil and gas workers from Old Crow. There was support from the Tetlit Gwich'in in Northwest Territories as well. So I think, yes, we do have a really clear sense of what the situation is in Old Crow.
Apart from caring about the environment, of course, which is a reflection of the YPAS - our interest in YPAS - and apart from our very clear interest and support for the oil and gas industry, which is a reflection of the good work that the Minister of Economic Development is doing to promote that industry, we are very supportive of the mining industry as well, and we have taken actions - concrete actions - on a number of fronts to promote the mining industry in key and critical ways. So to suggest or draw conclusions that we are not is a complete fallacy - completely wrong.
Question re: Tourism strategy consultations
Ms. Duncan: I have questions today for the Minister of Tourism.
About a year ago, the Minister of Tourism announced that consultations would begin in February 1999 on a new tourism strategy for the Yukon. In April, we got the discussion paper. The discussions and community meetings took place at the height of the Yukon summer, against the advice of a number of individuals, including the opposition. The minister said that over the coming months people in every community in the Yukon are being invited to participate in the dialogue and share the vision of how we can realize the full potential of this important sector of our economy. Those are the minister's words, Mr. Speaker.
Would the minister advise the House how many people accepted his invitation and joined in dialogue with the minister this summer?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Obviously I don't have the exact number of Yukoners who came out to speak to the tourism strategy, but there were many. Many people came out from all areas of the Yukon Territory to talk about the effects of tourism on their lives, the effects that they want to see tourism have on their lives and gave us general direction. We, as a department, came back; we focused on what we have; we listened to what the industry had to say to us and said that, yes, we must go back again.
So I'm proud to say that we're going to be going out one more time here in the next little while. We're going to be targeting our consultations on key communities, on key sectors, and, of course, always leaving it open to the public so that we can continue to do a bang-up job and take the Yukon into the new millennium with tourism as it was in the past.
Ms. Duncan: Well, the plan always was to use this as a discussion paper, and then to go back to the communities with the draft paper. It's reassuring to know that the minister's on top of what's happening in his department.
For his information and recollection, he sent me a letter this summer that outlined how many people attended these meetings. In fact, in 35 meetings there were about five people per meeting - a total of 175 Yukoners.
Both opposition parties recommended to the minister that these meetings not be held in the summer. He went ahead anyway. The problem I have is with the minister's timing. You don't ask people in the middle of their busy season to close up shop and spend an evening visioning. If anybody has an evening off from their busy summer tourism season, they don't want to go to a meeting, as the minister full well knows.
As I said, Mr. Speaker, the plan in April was to have the public meetings with this discussion document, then to come back with a draft strategy. It's my understanding that the draft strategy has been made available to some parts of the tourism industry. When will the minister make the draft strategy that has been developed by the department publicly available?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, again thank you very much for the opportunity to talk about tourism. I'm almost certain that I'm hearing the official opposition saying that we shouldn't be out talking to the people; that we should be staying at home; that we should stay in the department and do what we think is right.
Well, no - this government will continue to go out and talk to Yukoners and will continue to do it on all issues of the number of things that affect people's lives. That is what our mandate is, and that's what we're going to do.
And I do believe that's why the Tourism department is so successful in driving up the numbers and creating air access from all parts of the world to the Yukon Territory.
We are going to go out, and we're going to listen to other people. We're going to focus on the strategy that we have; we're going to be coming to the summit with it - and by the way, yes, there is a summit in two weeks, and I'm surely pleased to hope that you will be there, so that you will be able to share some of the excitement from the Yukon Territory at large, and in Europe, at what's happening in the Yukon Territory, because this is and will be and will continue to always be a world-class destination.
So I would appreciate a little bit of - what would I appreciate? I'd appreciate a little positiveness and recognition of the good stuff that this government has done in tourism and including the people of the Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that NDP version of spin, but what I'd really like is an answer to the question. I asked when the draft strategy document would be available. Good speech. When is it going to be finalized? And I should say, Mr. Speaker, that there clearly was a need for this to be done. The last tourism strategy and action plan is more than 10 years old.
The question becomes, will the tourism strategy be done in time to reflect any recommended changes in the budget? For example, if the strategy suggests that we emphasize our heritage, will this recommendation be in time to restore the funding to the heritage budget that the NDP slashed last year?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, if the member does not wish to listen to what I have to say about tourism, then the member should not be bootlegging in all of these horrible, little, gossip-type stories that she puts forth. This is not a little hen session around a coffee table, my dear. This is something where we're going to go out and listen to people. The tourism strategy is going to be used as a guiding document for the next few years in Tourism and, yes, it will be ready, and it will be effective for the budget.
Would you look at the increases that we've had in the past?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Speaker: The hon. Member for Riverdale South, on a point of order.
Mrs. Edelman: Point of order, Mr. Speaker, that was not a parliamentary comment, and I'd ask the member to withdraw that comment.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: The hon. Member for Riverdale North, on the point of order.
Mr. Phillips: I don't think "a hen session" is the type of comment that a minister should be making on the floor of the House. He should apologize.
Speaker: The hon. Member for Watson Lake, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: The members opposite are merely trying to grandstand while the camera's on. There's no point of order here. The comment was made strictly in terms of an adjective about people sitting around and talking.
Speaker: Order please.
Speaker: There is no unparliamentary language, and the member may continue.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: So, as I was saying, Mr. Speaker, yes, we do take it not to just closed quarters, as maybe the Member for Porter Creek South would like to think that we do, but we go to the broad community. We do listen to the broad community. We're reflecting our strategy, so that will be our guiding document for our budget deliberations into the future, and we'll continue to do this with the fine public of the Yukon Territory.
Thank you very much.
Speaker:The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We'll proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. Fentie: 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.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Do the members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 19 - Third Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 - continued
Department of Renewable Resources - continued
Chair: We are dealing with the Department of Renewable Resources. Is there further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: When we left off debate in Renewable, members opposite had a few questions that I would like to respond to.
The Member for Porter Creek South asked me questions with regard to stoves that have been taken out of the kitchen shelters in the campgrounds at Quiet Lake. With this particular one, we removed the stove last year and this year simply because of the fact that they had been stolen in the last few years before that, so we're removing them to not let this happen. What we were going to do, though, is try to develop a better system of anchoring the stoves in all our campgrounds.
Since the member brought up the health and safety issue with me, I've asked the department about it, and I know that this particular campground being isolated is actually used for emergencies in the wintertime, and people do stop over.
In one instance, I know, there was a bunch of younger people on skidoos that needed a place to warm up quickly, and this was ideal for them, although in the last few years, the stoves have been gone. What I have done is directed the government to make sure that it is in, and that we start finding a better way to anchor the stove down in order to take care of those issues - the safety issues that come with that.
She had also asked me about the campground tables that we had stacked up in our compound, and every year, of course, we do maintenance in the campgrounds, whether it is tables or the shelter or the stoves or to the heating system there - with the stoves, whether it is the chimney or not. We do do that type of maintenance. At times, we do maintenance to the wood shelter - the little shelters we have - which sometimes get hit a lot from people backing their vehicles up to load wood. We do maintenance to the posts and some of the signs that sometimes get bumped by vehicles, and other, of course, clean-up maintenance and so on.
We also check the picnic tables to see whether or not they are suitable or could be used for the following year. If they do have some damage or some rot, maybe on the plywood on top, we bring them back into our compound, and we do replace the tops and the planks on the benches of those that are in reasonably good shape. Some of those remain in our compound, and we do lend them out to nonprofit organizations and that type of thing. Those that are taken from campgrounds get replaced by new tables. Those that we don't feel that we should be putting money into are auctioned off or destroyed if they're in such bad shape.
The member also brought up some issues in regard to the permits in campgrounds, and we went on in some discussion on this issue. It makes it, I guess, a lot easier for local people, as they're gassing up or buying groceries, to pick up a permit on their way out of town.
We've had some complaints, of course, from some people who feel that they should be exempt from getting a permit simply because they are a Yukoner, and that has come up several times. There are times when our parks officers are threatened by campers refusing to pay. In one instance, we had the police escort the parks officer around just to collect campground fees and so on. I did tell the member opposite that we did not hand out tickets, but in one instance there was a refusal and the person was fined $70 on that. That was the one case.
Although most of the feedback on campground permits that we have been getting to this date is quite positive, it's a lot more easily accessible, which is the biggest thing, and you don't have to play around within the campground itself. And, of course, there's the nightly pass and the seasonal pass that you stick on your windshield to make it easier, and you don't have the campground and parks attendants - park officers - bothering you when it's stuck on your windshield.
In this supplementary budget, we had some increase, like I said, to O&M, and some increase to capital, a lot of which is recoverable dollars. There are some very good ones. One, of course, we talked a little bit about. We've been trying for a couple of years - about a year and a half - to try and get the federal government to put some money into a project, and that is the Climate Change Centre.
This started mostly from just before the Kyoto protocol in Japan. We've had ministers from across Canada meet in - I'm not sure where it was - St. John's, Newfoundland, I think - and the Yukon has expressed our concerns about the north being affected the most with climate change. We said we are feeling the effects of global warming in some areas, whether it is an increase in forest fires - which we've had since 1995. There were huge fires last year and again this past summer. Those are, of course, due to the weather we are having. We've had warmer winters, and one of our big concerns is in the northern part of the Yukon, on our north coast, where it's evident that a metre of our coastline is disappearing each year due to the melting of ice. To us, that's significant. Over the next 20 years, we'll have a lot less, and maybe the coastline itself will be disappearing even more quickly if the temperature starts to rise, even one degree, or if our springs start a little bit earlier or if it is a little bit later in the year before we get freezing temperatures.
So, we continue to try to abide by some of the commitments that we've made nationally in regard to the Kyoto protocol. We've made efforts here in the Yukon to focus how we can reduce greenhouse gases, and the biggest impact we think we can have on it, of course, is to focus on energy efficiency. We have asked all the departments within government to look at this very carefully and asked that, in putting up any new buildings, they focus on energy efficiency. We've had all our older buildings and warehouses - every year, we do a little bit of work in every department to upgrade them a bit, whether for better lighting systems or putting in new windows, to try and focus on energy efficiency. And we've had a very good response.
Yukon Housing Corporation staff have come up with a good idea, too, in regard to a green mortgage. They have had some success with people applying for green mortgages. This is basically a bit of a savings for those who are building homes: one percent under the bank rates if they were to build energy-efficient homes. What we wanted to try and encourage, of course, is to have better homes built, more energy-efficient homes built. And we've had a good number of applicants to those programs, and some have accessed the Yukon Housing green mortgage.
In the supplementary budget, we've also identified some monies again for the protected areas strategy. It's just a small amount, and I can tell the members opposite that, in discussion with the communities in dealing with YPAS, there were a lot of people who voiced themselves and a lot of people who really wanted to make this work. One of the first projects we've had under YPAS, of course, was with Fishing Branch.
And it wasn't by accident that we came across this project. I've said to the members opposite that it was born out of the land claims agreement, and most of you know that the land claims agreement has been in discussion for over 20 years. Fishing Branch was identified for protection over 27 years ago, and there was a lot of work done with regard to data collection and so on.
In speaking with the First Nation - the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation - they wanted to make sure that the public out there knew the reasons why we sped up the process in YPAS. They wanted to let people know about chapter 10 of their agreement. They wanted to let people know that this was in discussion in the land claims agreement, that a lot of work has been done, and they also wanted to let people know that, in the future, they see us following the YPAS process.
There was also an agreement that we've had with the Vuntut Gwitchin to proceed with oil and gas, knowing that there was a lot of interest and knowing, of course, that the Yukon was in a recession, and we had to do other things to try to promote some jobs in the Yukon. Most recently, of course, there was an announcement of $20 million to be invested in the north for exploration work for oil and gas.
Now, with Fishing Branch being the first project in YPAS, it was a learning experience for all of us, even though we had really good consultation with the communities and the various interest groups - whether they're environmentalists or the industry. We've learned a lot from it. There is always room for improvements to the process itself, to the strategy itself. We did say that when we announced that the strategy was finalized.
We will try to address some of the issues that have been raised in regard to that. I believe that because so much work has been put into the Fishing Branch in the past that it really - that work in itself, not having to go out and do more and more research that was already done - pushed the process itself quite quickly and with that, of course, this was not a bad experience for local people in Old Crow. It was something that they wanted, they voiced quite strongly; it was part of their claims to expand beyond the core area, and I can tell you that people in Old Crow right now - elders and the young people - are all very happy that this has come forward to where it's at today.
I did tell the members opposite that I expected a response from the planning team, and I did not get that response yet. I did get it from the steering committee - the Tombstone steering committee - which again, as far as the protected areas strategy, we applied the process to Tombstone also, even though this was born again out the land claims agreement, and both these two projects were pushed ahead and the steering committee was formed out of that. And, what we have done as a government is held up our strategy and said that this is the way we would like to proceed, and tried to tie in that as close as we possibly can, even though things were laid out quite differently.
For example, steering committee is not something that we have in the YPAS strategy. In YPAS, we have local planning teams that are set up but, I would say, even the difference between the two of them is that the Tombstone having industry involved in the steering committee and having local people involved in that and making things work, have worked really hard and worked quite hard to bring recommendations to us and forward and to the general public. They had many, many different public consultations and workshops with the public to try to get to where they are today.
And we are hoping to respond to the Tombstone recommendation soon. It's going to be coming into Cabinet sometime next week, and things are moving along on the schedule that we had set out way back with the steering committee. So, things are looking really good in there.
Last year we had an increase in our campgrounds. We've done a lot of capital works in some of our campgrounds. Some of the people around here have voiced themselves to have some work done. The Member for Kluane, for example, had expressed his concerns that some work needed to be done in that area. We've invested some money - some $50,000 - in that area.
With the increase in tourism in the Yukon, we wanted to be a part of this and to try to plan ahead a little bit about what we can do to help out tourism in the Yukon, and we've had some of our campgrounds looking a little bit better over previous years. It was interesting to see people still in our campgrounds in the middle of September - those who were coming off the Frankfurt, Germany flights. It was encouraging to see tourists coming down the highway that late in the year. Hopefully, in the future here, we could expand it a little bit with our campgrounds and do a bit more work. We've done some legal surveys, as was laid out in the supplementary budget.
We've had good discussions in this House in regard to Porcupine caribou calving grounds and so on. I won't get into that very much, but I think that we in this House can still stay focused on what we've agreed to in the motion that was put forward.
We also had a dollar item in this supplementary budget, and I said to the members opposite that we are in the process of negotiations with the outfitter who applied for compensation because of the effects of a land claim settlement, and those are not completed yet. We've had some good talks with other outfitters in regard to Tombstone itself. The steering committee has had conversations and discussions with the outfitter who uses the area around Tombstone to try and see how their business can continue, and may be enhanced, or so that nothing is taken away from their business.
Mr. Chair, one of the big things that I think is really good for the Yukon and that helps us as a renewable resources department, through the land claims agreements, is the establishment of renewable resource councils. Even though there are a lot of tough things that they have been dealing with - even the shortage of dollars to operate properly because they are taking on a lot of tough issues and a lot of tasks that they did not think about when they were first formed - they have been making recommendations to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, which has related some of these to us or has dealt with it internally. There are times when they do come and make recommendations to us about issues that are specific to one area.. I find that is quite a useful tool. I think that there is a lot more work, and awareness needs to go into what the roles and responsibilities are of renewable resource councils, and I just see that whole area itself improving wildlife management in the Yukon in general.
The one small amount of dollars in here that I did mention yesterday was $5,000 to the agriculture infrastructure facility. This is basically dollars that go toward finishing off the training for the meat inspector.
A lot of the dollars that I did mention here that are not new dollars are revotes - bringing back up from the 1998-99 budget and finishing off the projects that we have been working on.
I look forward to more questions from the members opposite.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I have quite a number of questions for this minister and, seeing as how his department has come up first, it gives us the opportunity to explore some of the areas of concern.
I want to start out with the protected areas strategy because, no matter how the minister tries to spin it, their first effort has been a total disaster. Instead of bringing the community together, it has divided the community, and it has divided the community because the government has not followed the process they set out in the protected areas strategy.
That has caused headlines such as, "We cannot support this unfair process." If the strategy was supposed to work to bring everybody together to reach a consensus agreement, it appears that there are certain stakeholders who don't believe their concerns are being addressed, are not even being listened to, and that has caused divisiveness in the community.
I want to explore some of those areas with this minister and get his thoughts on the floor of this Legislature while we can in Committee, so we can get the answers to some of the questions.
I want to start out first of all with the Fishing Branch. The Fishing Branch, in my understanding, was set up as a special management area under the land claims agreement. Am I not correct in that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, that's correct, as it was an ecological reserve.
Mr. Ostashek: There have been many special management areas set up under land claims. That's all well and good, but they haven't been given national park status as Fishing Branch has - goal 1 protection. In the opinion of many of the stakeholders, it was not required to protect the salmon or to protect the grizzly in the area. Goal 1 status was not required. The Yukon protected areas strategy has discretion and a lot of flexibility in how they provide protection and what level of protection, and that seems to be one of the basic concerns of stakeholders who have not been happy with this process.
This process was rushed from the start. The Government Leader said in Question Period today that the process was followed. Well, I disagree. The process was not followed. Because if the minister will remember correctly, in April of last year, I asked him the question about his deputy minister writing a request to the Minister of DIAND for interim protection before the first planning board meeting. That is not what it says in the protected area strategy. You don't ask for interim protection before you even have a planning board meet. What's the use of setting up a planning committee if the interim boundaries have already been decided by the Cabinet?
So the Government Leader can't stand on his feet today and say the process was being followed. That criticism was levied and it's in Hansard in April of this year. I asked the question in this Legislature of why the government asked for interim protection before the planning board had ever even met. Again, that same criticism is addressed in the Whitehorse Star, November 17, by the president of the Chamber of Mines when he says, in fact, a letter recommending immediate interim protection of the entire present study area was sent to senior DIAND officials prior to the first planning team meeting. Now, can the minister tell me where in the protected area strategy it says that there will be a request for interim protection before the first planning team meeting?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Of course this is a learning experience for us but back in May, I believe it was, when the letter was written, it was written to give a heads-up that we will be seeking interim protection for Fishing Branch once the boundaries are identified and we've asked for map notation at that point.
Mr. Ostashek: I'm not referring to the letter in May, and I'm sure that my staff is listening and they'll probably get me a copy of the letter here. I'm speaking of a letter that was written by the Deputy Minister of Renewable Resources in early April - for some reason the date of April 9 sticks in my mind - to the Minister of DIAND, requesting interim protection for the study area of the Fishing Branch area prior - one week prior - to the first planning team meeting. We haven't even had a meeting of the planning team and the government's asking for interim protection. That speaks to the credibility of the government in the process. We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars with input from many Yukoners in establishing a process that some people weren't comfortable with but were prepared to give it a chance to work.
It's a disservice to the process when the government itself, the first time out of the chute, doesn't follow the process. It doesn't give stakeholders much confidence that the government is sincere and doesn't have a political agenda that they're trying to lay out, rather than a protected areas agenda, which is supposed to have the input from all peoples and all parties. I don't buy the minister's argument that he didn't need to do all the work on Fishing Branch because it was done. That clearly is not the case. There have not been mineral assessments done. Not even the most fundamental and primary assessments have been done. Siltation samples have not even been done.
We have taken a vast area in the Yukon and put it off limits to exploration, not knowing what is there. Resource developers were prepared to go along with the process as long as the process was fair and was listening to their concerns. The government's own strategy says that extensive mineral assessments will be done and that areas of high mineral potential will be avoided. The NDP campaign documents say that a protected areas strategy can be accomplished without causing divisions within the community as long as we do mineral assessments and avoid areas of high mineral potential. How can the minister expect the public, as a whole, to have faith in his process if the government itself is not prepared to follow it?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the member is not taking the amount of work that was done in the past very seriously. I told the member that, for approximately 27 years, there has been interest in having Fishing Branch protected. A lot of work has been done and a lot of work was done after the local planning team was formed. The letter of May 4 clarifies the letter of April 6 a bit more. The May 4 letter asks for a map notation to reflect the proposed area of interest as a study area, and it also indicates that interim withdrawals would be sought once the study area boundaries were approved by Cabinet. That's what the May 4 letter says.
In regard to Fishing Branch, one of the main interests there, I guess, is the salmon and bear habitat, and all the ecological values that are associated with that. The local planning team, of course, have been dealing with a lot of the different information that came forward. They felt that they had enough to make recommendations to us and that's where we sit with this. We have empowered the local people and the affected people - in other words the communities or First Nations or industry - to make those decisions, and what came forward to us was consensus among the local planning team.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I'm talking about actions that were taken by this government before the local planning team even met. The letter of May 4 was a damage-control letter. On whose authority did the deputy minister write the letter of April 6? Was it on the minister's authority? Was it a Cabinet decision? Whose instructions directed him to write a letter asking for interim protection, on April 6 - one week before the planning team even met?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It was upon my request. I had asked the deputy minister to be proactive to make sure that DIAND knew and had a heads-up of what our intentions would be, again to make them aware of the YPAS that was adopted by our government in December of the previous year. Knowing full well that we did have a work plan, we were looking at Fishing Branch, and we're looking at Tombstone to take as protected areas that could result from the strategy itself and from the land claims agreements.
So, this was basically to make sure that DIAND should be aware that we would be asking for interim withdrawal.
Again, in the letter of May 4, we indicated that withdrawals would be sought once the study area boundaries were approved by Cabinet, and that's where things are going to be, once it is approved, very shortly here, either in November and December.
Mr. Ostashek: I will get a copy of that letter from the minister to refresh his memory. It was not a letter just giving the minister a heads-up. My recall of the letter was that it was a letter asking for interim protection.
Does the minister believe that he was following the Yukon protected areas strategy by instructing his deputy minister to write that letter asking for interim protection, prior to the planning team meeting?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I had said to the member opposite the reasons for having things sped up a bit with the local planning team. With things moving along, we've had a lot of interest in oil and gas in north Yukon. We have worked with the First Nation and talked about the different things we can do and tried to move things ahead, both in protected areas and in oil and gas. With all those discussions that came down between us and the local people, we wanted to make sure that we were ahead of the game. What we had done on May 4 is clarify what our position was in regard to seeking an interim withdrawal.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, if the minister and the government were in such a hurry to establish a management plan for a special management area in the Fishing Branch, they didn't have to use the protected areas strategy to do it. There have been other special management areas that have been created because of land claims and management plans implemented for those areas without a protected areas strategy.
For the minister to take a strategy, the first time it's being used, and to ignore what the strategy says, has created a lack of credibility for the strategy and for this government in establishing protected areas.
The minister says that there was a lot of work done in the 27 years prior to it, and that's why they could fast track this process.
I believe the protected areas strategy says it can be fast-tracked as long as there is consensus from all the stakeholders. Did the minister have consensus from all the stakeholders to fast track the process?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I did tell the member opposite why we were doing this. We did let industry and the industry representative know why we were speeding up the process. He could understand it at that point because of the interest in oil and gas, and the fact that there was a lot of work that was done, and, of course, the First Nation having Chapter 10 of their agreements somewhat affecting this process also.
Also, the land claims agreements having the ecological reserve as a special management area in land selection in there calls for more protection - a buffer protection - around that area. So a lot of work was done between us as a department and the First Nation. A lot of information was put forward at that time, and we've carried on with this, making sure that we do have an industry representative on the local planning team. They took all this down with the direction and recommendations to us. There was consensus on a lot of different areas. There is one area that they did not have consensus on, and that was the far corner on Cody Creek. It was a small section that they did not have consensus on, and left it basically up to us to make recommendations on that area. There was consensus on the rest of the whole Fishing Branch area - the boundaries and so on. They took into consideration oil and gas. They took into consideration mining interests. In their recommendations, they had grandfathered in six claims. They had grandfathered in the access road to Rusty Springs, and also, part of Fishing Branch - the southern portion - was a goal 2, and development could happen in goal 2.
Mr. Ostashek: Any allegations made in the letter by the president of the Chamber of Mines were in the paper yesterday. It says, "Commitments to avoid areas of high mineral potential and to have in place adequate mineral potential and biological databases have not been honoured. Geological information is scant, lacking even a regional silt sampling survey completed across most of the rest of the Yukon."
Does the minister agree with those allegations?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, that, I could say, would be an endless argument. We would never come to a conclusion on what proper mineral assessments are to be done in any protected areas.
What we would like to do is work on setting up standards and guidelines to carry out what is acceptable for ecological, resource and socio-economic assessments and, at this point, we don't have a standard, but we have made a commitment to work on some standards.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Chair; I'm glad to see you're awake.
The question I've asked the minister is very specific. The allegation is that geological information is scant, and it is lacking even regional silt sampling surveys that have been completed across most of the rest of the Yukon. Does the minister agree with that allegation?
Mr. Chair, this is a sampling that has been done over most of the Yukon but, according to the allegation, hasn't even been done in the Fishing Branch area.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: If the member is asking me whether there are adequate assessments done on silt sampling across the Yukon, I don't know, I haven't been looking. We haven't been dealing with protected areas in any other parts except for the Fishing Branch, Tombstone; we're looking at the Nordenskiold River and Horseshoe Slough as SMAs, and our next project after these would be to focus on the Eagle Plains ecological area.
Mr. Ostashek: That's not the question I asked the minister. The allegation is that there have been silt sampling surveys completed across most of the Yukon. The allegation is that that silt sampling has not been done; no regional silt sampling has been done in the Fishing Branch area. Does the minister agree with that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I would have to check with the Minister of Economic Development on whether or not that was completed. What has come back to us from the local planning team is that they felt the information that was given to them was adequate enough to make recommendations to government.
Mr. Ostashek: I would ask the minister if he would bring back a legislative return with that information as to whether or not there has been regional silt sampling done, a survey completed in the Fishing Branch area, as there has in most of the Yukon. Will he bring that back as a legislative return?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I'll be seeking that information from the Minister of Economic Development.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you. I want to move on to another allegation in this letter. Presentations of bear and fish studies describing average grizzly bear populations for the latitude in the Fishing Branch area were made in mid-October, after Cabinet approved the boundaries.
The salmon population studies showed that the south Fishing Branch River, which drains the PAMA area, becomes subgravel - blah, blah, blah, blah. Was, in fact, the presentation of the bear populations for the Fishing Branch area made after Cabinet had approved the boundaries?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I believe that was just an update.
Mr. Ostashek: Is the minister saying that the bear populations were known before the boundaries were established?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, I believe so.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, another allegation in this letter says that the chamber also takes objection to the application of October 18 for interim protection considerably prior to the October 29 deadline for submissions. How can constructive criticism from the industry be respected if the submissions postdate final government recommendations submitted in advance of the deadline. How can that be respected by the industry in good faith?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We did seek approval from Cabinet to have interim withdrawals in September, and this was basically after approvals of the study area - the area of interest.
Mr. Ostashek: But I'm asking the minister: can he not see why stakeholders are upset? He gives the stakeholders until October 29 to make submissions. They work very, very hard at making these submissions. It costs them money to make these submissions, yet Cabinet has already made the decision for interim protection. That has put the whole credibility of the protected areas strategy in jeopardy, Mr. Chair. Can the minister not see that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: What has taken place was following the process.
Mr. Ostashek: I'm not going to waste time arguing with the minister. I just want to get his thoughts on the public record.
I want to move on. I've got two more questions on the protected areas strategy. As the minister knows, I have called, time and time again, for the Yukon government to tell Yukoners how much of the Yukon will be protected and what the land quantum will be when the protected areas strategy is finished. My understanding is that, with Fishing Branch and Tombstone, we're getting very, very close to 18 percent of the Yukon already being protected, with 22 ecoregions to go.
I want to ask the minister, has any other group or person asked for this government to put a total land quantum on the protected areas strategy by the time the 22 ecoregions are completed? Has any other group asked for a land quantum figure at this time?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: When the team was in place, putting together this strategy, this was discussed many times and it was not included in the strategy.
They did look at it, and it was not approved. I can tell the member, at this point, we've had approximately six ecoregions that are adequately represented. We've covered off another one with the Fishing Branch and, right now, for protected areas, we're at 9.6 percent. That's where we are - not the numbers that the member has, because the member is including land claim selections.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I am not including land claim selections. I'm including national parks, territorial parks and special management areas. Those are all protected areas, whether the minister wants to accept that or not. Those are all protected areas. They do not have - mining companies cannot go and explore there. They can't go into a national park. Those are protected areas - 18 percent of the Yukon is now protected.
I didn't ask the minister whether it was in the strategy to identify the land quantum. I asked him a specific question. Has there been any other group - has he received a letter from any other group asking for a total amount of land quantum to be put on the protected areas strategy when it's completed? How much is the Yukon going to have protected? This is the issue that is driving investment away from the territory - it's the uncertainty.
Other provinces have said they're going to protect 12 percent. Ontario did it; Manitoba did it. Several other provinces have said they're protecting 12 percent. Canada said they're going to protect 12 percent - as a whole. Yukon is already at 18 percent. Yukoners want to know - I want to know, and I'm asking the minister - has he received any correspondence asking for a total land quantum to be set by this government?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We have had a letter from the Chamber of Commerce to maybe look at that. We've had many letters from others to carry on with what the strategy puts out to make sure that we do have adequate representation in each of the ecoregions. At this point, that is where are going with this, and the member's wrong in his percentage. We have 9.6 percent to this point, including the national parks, and SMAs are all part of protected areas.
Mr. Ostashek: I'm not going to spend the afternoon here arguing with the minister. I will ask him to bring back another legislative return and to list all the areas that make up his 9.6 percent, or whatever he said it is, as protected area. After I've had a chance to review that, I may ask the minister more questions. But if he is certain that that's what it is, I'll accept that for now. But I would like him to bring back a legislative return listing the areas that make up that 9.6 percent.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: This is the percentage that I have gotten from my department, and I will ask them to make up a list, and I can forward that to the member opposite.
Mr. Ostashek: Can the minister assure us that we'll get that list before this session is out?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Ostashek: I want to move on to another area now. I want to talk about bison for a minute. In this book, the minister put out on bison hunts the other day, under general information, it says that access permits must be obtained in order to hunt category A and category B lands in the bison management zones. And it goes on to say where you get permits. Under what law, or under what regulation, does a resident hunter have to get a permit to travel across or camp on category B lands for the non-commercial harvesting of fish and wildlife?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: If he's referring to the bison as being wildlife, they are still categorized as a transported species. What we tried to do with First Nations is work together so that we can better manage this herd, and agreements that we've put together are more for category A lands. We know that, at this point, we cannot limit hunting on category B lands - that's understandable.
Mr. Ostashek: The minister himself just passed a regulation that made the buffalo a big-game animal. He did that last spring. He made it a big-game animal. Now he's saying that resident hunters have to get a permit to hunt a big-game animal on category B lands.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We did pass that, deeming the bison as big game, but they're still not considered wildlife under the First Nation final agreement.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, it seems highly unusual to me, and to many Yukoners who have raised this issue with me. A resident can go on class B lands to hunt a sheep, hunt a moose, hunt a caribou, hunt a bear, but they have to get a permit to hunt a buffalo. There's a lot of inconsistency in that, and I would look to the minister to try to clarify that. I appreciate what we're trying to do in working with the First Nations, and we can still work with the First Nations to harvest bison without reading things into the land claims agreements that are not in the land claims agreements. This is a concern.
I don't believe that it would jeopardize working with the First Nations in the management of bison in any manner whatsoever.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I'm not sure if there was a question there, and if there was, I would ask the member to repeat it.
Mr. Ostashek: I'm asking the minister if he doesn't see the inconsistencies in a resident hunter being able to go on category B lands, to cross them, camp on them - unoccupied category B lands - and hunt sheep, moose, caribou and fish, yet to hunt a bison, they have to apply for a permit. Isn't that inconsistent?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The big difference is that the bison are still considered transplanted animals, and that's the approach we have been taking. As the member knows, First Nations, on their land selections, can manage wildlife, and what we're trying to do is work in conjunction with them and build partnerships. It's not about making a difference between the different types of wildlife. We know full well, and so do they, that bison are still considered a transplanted animal.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm not going to prolong the debate on that issue. I just wanted to let the minister know that there are many Yukoners who are unhappy with the manner in which the bison hunt permits are being handled, and are very unhappy that they have to get a permit to hunt bison when they don't need to get a permit to hunt anything else on category B lands. I'm giving that to the minister for his information. I believe that the government should do what they can to clear up inconsistencies.
I want to ask the minister another question or two before I close off general debate. Once again, we've had his department destroy valuable grizzly bears that have been coming into Whitehorse. How many bears have been destroyed this year?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: There have been a few. We don't have the numbers with us. I can bring the numbers back to the members opposite; I don't think it's more than six in the Whitehorse area.
Mr. Ostashek: In my opinion, six is six too many. And the minister used the argument, when he first fenced the dump, that these were garbage bears he was shooting. He can't make that argument any more; the dump has been fenced for several years now. Bears are still coming into Whitehorse. What is the government going to do to keep from having to destroy bears that are coming into the settled areas of Whitehorse? Has the government got any plan, or are we just going to continue to shoot these bears and get rid of them? These are valuable animals; they're on the endangered species list in other countries and yet here we're just literally destroying them. If we total them all up, it's under this minister's administration that there have been a substantial number of grizzly bears shot by his officials. Is there any management plan, or are they working on any management plan? Are they going to try to do something so they don't have to keep destroying these bears?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: There are times when our department and our conservation officers do move bears to another location, we would never - I don't think - ever stop bears from coming into communities. The City of Whitehorse is spread out quite widely, and it is in the path that they travel in. They will come into the outskirts of towns and, if it's a safety issue that's being expressed by the general public, then our conservation officers are called in to take care of what could turn out to be some bad news and to prevent, I guess, people from getting hurt. And I don't think we'd ever stop that.
The numbers, of course, have gone down dramatically; what we haven't been seeing in the Whitehorse landfill is the garbage bears eating garbage. Who knows what they could have been taking in and cutting their paws on, digging around for garbage. Because of the electric fence, we haven't seen that, although the smell will still, of course, attract bears, as would garbage anywhere else in the city. What we have been doing is encouraging people in the city to be careful about how they store garbage in their backyards or in their garbage cans, to prevent bears from destroying property, whether it's garbage cans or homes or whether they are digging up yards and so on.
So, we've tried to encourage that. We have been working, of course, in regard to safety - as I mentioned in this supplementary budget - in putting together a bear safety video that we could use. This doesn't just apply, of course, to towns. It's for any camps that are being established where people could use good practices to try to keep bears away.
Mr. Ostashek: I just want to draw the minister's attention to something. Prior to fencing the dump, it was very rare that a bear was shot within residential areas of Whitehorse. Now, the minister may not have liked the bears in the dump - I don't think anybody does - but the fact remains that, since they fenced the dump, they have caused the problem, and they seem to think it's quite all right to just destroy these bears now.
Would the minister bring back for me, for my information, in the five years previous to fencing the dump, how many bears were destroyed within the City of Whitehorse and how many bears have been destroyed since the fencing of the dump? Could the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I can work on getting this information to the member opposite. I can tell the member that there are communities in the Yukon that have put up electric fences to keep bears out. It is a safety issue, even with those who are taking garbage to the landfills, to not be confronted by bears in the dump, and to minimize some people possibly being hurt by bears. The towns of Faro and Haines Junction have used this method for a long time to keep bears out, and those communities that don't have fences are still attracting bears. They are still coming back to those landfills, and they're being destroyed because of that. The Yukon is being looked at as a place that is being proactive in trying to save bears by simply installing something as simple as an electric fence around landfills.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have some questions relating to the Yukon protected areas secretariat. This spring in the debate, the minister said they would be bringing in amendments to the Yukon Parks Act this fall, as "current legislation is not adequate to meet the requirements for protection as outlined in YPAS."
In the workplan, under "Targets" it says: draft amendments approved for public review, spring 1999; public review completed, fall 1999; preparation of final draft, fall 1999; and introduction into the Legislature for proclamation, fall 1999. When will we be seeing these amendments? Could the minister tell us?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We won't be seeing amendments to the Parks Act in this legislative sitting. We do plan to bring one forward in the fall of 2000, one that we could do a bit more work on and, hopefully at that point, include some of the things that will come over to our department once devolution happens.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I would like to know how the government plans to make changes to the protected areas strategy. In media reports this week, the minister is suggesting that some are necessary. How does he plan to do that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, what I said in the past - even when the strategy was in development - was that there could be some possible improvements and so on to the strategy itself. What we want to make changes to is not the strategy but the implementation of the strategy.
Ms. Buckway: Could the minister outline how he plans to make changes to the implementation, and what steps he will follow, and will the public be involved, et cetera?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: During discussion with the leader of the third party, I talked about how we are working on standards and guidelines - for example, for mineral assessments and resource assessments, wildlife and ecological assessments and so on. We're continuing to work on that. That would be improvements to implementing the strategy because, right now, what we don't have, of course, is what is an adequate assessment before the local planning team makes recommendations to government for a study area. That section, I said, could be improved. Now that we've done this as a first project, we could look at how we could improve a bit of the process, of course, with talking with stakeholders and so on. This being the first project, we've learned a lot from it. We've said that, in the future, we would be making sure that proper work is put in place for resource assessment, whether it's cultural values or whatnot. We'll work to make sure that the local planning teams that are being developed are very much aware of this. We want to make sure that the local planning teams that are set up are balanced and have proper representation on both sides, including local people. Those are the types of things we would like to see. Of course, more will probably come up in trying to improve the process of implementing the strategy.
Ms. Buckway: Does the minister expect that change, then, will be an ongoing thing, or is there a finite date when things should be completed?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, every local planning team that is set up to look at what is necessary for adequate protection in an ecoregion would be different from the other. Right now, what we've come up with is Fishing Branch, resulting from claims and the fact that we had to work on the buffer area; Tombstone, of course, has all kinds of direction in the claims itself to spell out how we do things. We have to take it, I guess, with each planning team.
I would say that the strategy itself is a how-to book. It tells us how to go about doing things and putting protected areas in ecoregions. I don't think it's something that can't change. We've had so much discussion and public consultation on this, and a variety of views and so on, and the team that put together the strategy, I would say, had a very difficult task in coming forward and making recommendations to us.
Now, as we go ahead and put together the planning teams, and they use the strategy as a how-to book and they follow the process and so on, I would say that, all the way down the road, right to the last protected areas, we've looked at ways of doing improvements.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, changing when the land will be withdrawn, at the beginning of the process rather than at the end, is a huge difference. It's not simply an issue of implementation- it's a fundamental change. How does the minister plan to accomplish this?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, we have looked at this whole issue. This interim protection up front has been asked for by many people.
When the team was set up and putting together the strategy - the interest of the mining industry and the development industry, in working cooperatively with one another - it was asked that we go and do map notations and follow along once a boundary is set up. We haven't made changes to that, although we are looking at the interest that has been expressed by numerous Yukoners on this whole issue.
Ms. Buckway: The Yukon Liberal caucus would also appreciate a list of the protected areas making up the minister's 9.6 percent, if the minister could provide us with that.
It's my understanding that the Yukon protected areas secretariat has an acting director right now. When will there be a permanent director?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We were hoping that we would have filled this position awhile back. We're in the process of making of an offer, and hopefully by January we will have a person in place.
Ms. Buckway: One more question on the protected areas strategy: are the Department of Renewable Resources and the Department of Economic Development of the same mind on the protected areas strategy? Are they working in concert on this? Can the minister tell us?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Buckway: The minister noted last night that there is $105,000, I believe, in recoveries to make agricultural land available. Can the minister explain where this land is going to be located? How many lots? What size?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I don't have the notes here. Maybe they are here, but I don't see them right now. I don't have the proper sizes of lots, but we are looking at lots in the Haines Junction area within the Kluane land use plan area. We're looking at the Ibex hamlet local area and Takhini River Road for land suitable for agriculture.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, when does the minister anticipate this land will be available for sale?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, the work is being done to identify them right now, and they should be available by the summer of 2000.
Ms. Buckway: If the minister could supply us at some point with the number of lots and the size of the lots, it would be appreciated.
What type of sale does the minister anticipate this will be - lottery or first come-first served, or what?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: How we've done it in the past is by lottery. At this point, I haven't had any indication that we'd be moving in any other way than lottery.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'm wondering if the minister can talk about the agricultural policy for a bit. I'm wondering if it has been completed. I understand the contractor was working on it in the spring. When will we see it?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The review of the policy has been completed, and right now we're working internally to put it together and to make it available for the general public.
Ms. Buckway: Has the Agricultural Association seen this work in progress, and if so, what was their response?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, they are aware of the review of the policies, both the agricultural and grazing lease policies. They have been on the committee that has been set up, and the feedback that I've been getting from them has been very favourable.
Ms. Buckway: There is an area that's of some concern, Mr. Chair, and that's with the game farmers. It's difficult for them to get title to their land unless they follow the same standards as the grain farmers, in effect. A grain grower doesn't need 80 percent of the land to be arable. It's better for their crop, the elk or whatever they're raising, if so much of the land isn't cleared. Their land is often not as easy to clear because it doesn't need to be as flat. According to the policy now, as I understand it, game farmers are being told that they can just lease the land, whereas the grain farmers can get title, just because they're clearing 80 percent of it. The game farmers would prefer to be able to get title to the land. Can the policy not be adapted to fit the type of farming? It doesn't seem fair the way it is. It's like fitting square pegs into round holes.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I'll have to refer back to the department to see whether or not any of the work has been done toward that. I believe, as the member said, that it's still the status quo.
Ms. Buckway: I would appreciate a reply from the minister whenever he has it.
Moving on to the abattoir, I have a few questions about that. Is the government collecting any statistics on how it's being used? Can the minister table the production for the abattoir and how well it's doing?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, we have been working and have been in contact with the owner of the abattoir, and I can tell the member that, when they first started out, they were processing more chickens than anything else. This year, they have done a lot of chickens. They've gone into turkeys, hogs and also beef. It says here, by October 31, 1999, a total of 3,438 chickens, 127 turkeys, 12 hogs and 32 head of beef will have been slaughtered through the abattoir.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, has a survey been done to see what the users think of the abattoir?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, we haven't done a survey of that. Those who have been using the facility, of course, have been quite satisfied in having it available. We've had people who have brought their beef in from the south part of Whitehorse here all the way up to Partridge Creek Farm to take it through the abattoir. So, I think there is a bit more interest building in having this facility available to the farmers.
Ms. Buckway: I've heard complaints from farmers in my riding that the abattoir isn't necessarily cost effective due to its location. Has the minister heard any complaints about the location?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, at the beginning, before we had put some funds toward the abattoir, there was some concern about that, about those even around the Watson Lake area having to come all this distance to take the animals through an abattoir that is basically a little bit north of Stewart Crossing, although we do have a lot of agriculture that does take place in the northern part of the Yukon.
And so, in that case, people are happy in the north that they don't have to go that distance, so there are some concerns that have been expressed about the distance.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, does the minister have any plans to include in the future other animals, such as buffalo, to be slaughtered?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I believe that the abattoir is equipped to take animals such as bison through the abattoir and process them. They can take wild game through there - making sure that they do the proper clean-up and so on before they do that, or before they bring chickens or turkeys through, to make sure the place is very clean. So I believe that this abattoir can handle bison.
Ms. Buckway: Is there an intention to train more meat inspectors? Can the minister advise us on that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The member knows that we do have a small dollar amount in here for completion of a meat inspector - and I believe we only do have one. I can check with the department to see if there was an increase in demand - having this as one place, I guess, that he has to inspect as animals are being processed through the abattoir. I can check with the department to see whether there was a huge demand for more.
What we wanted to do, though, throughout this past year, was make sure that the inspector had proper training so that he can call the shots properly when doing inspections in places like the abattoir.
Ms. Buckway: Can the minister advise what the department's thinking is on where agriculture in general is and should be going? Is any area being emphasized now - like fruits and vegetables perhaps, cereal production, poultry, game farming? Is there any emphasis the department sees?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It's kind of interesting when I do attend the banquet - the agricultural branch banquet - to see, every year, the variety, I guess, of things that are being produced off the land. At this point we have gone from a production of wheat to chickens. You know, it's all over the place right now. What we're trying to do as far as the evaluation of the policy is to make sure that we start putting together planned areas instead of spot land areas for agricultural land, and I know there's a lot of interest right now. We've met with the federal government to try to get them to help us out a little bit more in recognizing the industry, to help build it up, and I think there's a lot of excitement out there right now about the agricultural industry growing in the Yukon.
Ms. Buckway: What is the current value of agricultural production in the territory? Does the minister have the most recent figures?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I don't have those figures in front of me. I can ask the department to forward that to the member opposite.
Ms. Buckway: There were studies done probably 10 years ago, I think, on a cold-storage facility for potatoes and other root crops. Has the department been looking into this at all?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Over the last couple of years, there has been some discussion about it. There has been some interest expressed by the Agricultural Association in having a warehouse-type place built in Whitehorse somewhere. The big problem with that, of course, is dollars and the amount of dollars it does take to put a unit like that up. In our department, we have had some discussions with the association, and so far they are very much at the beginning, with nothing very serious at this point.
Ms. Buckway: Does the minister have any idea what such a facility could potentially cost?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, there were some options, I believe, out there for the different sizes and so on. I don't know what those dollar amounts are.
Ms. Buckway: Would the minister be aware if the root crop production in the Yukon increased in recent years? Is this an area of the agricultural industry that's growing?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, all sections of the agricultural industry are growing a bit. We have gone from a point where, in the Yukon at one time, we were able to supply Yukoners right after the gold rush and in the 1930s, I believe, to the point where there was very little taking place out there on the land as far as agriculture goes. Now we're to the point where there's a lot of interest in the communities in starting to look at plots of land that they think are suitable for agriculture, so the interest is building more and more. And by doing this evaluation of the agricultural policy and bringing it to communities to comment on, I think that's just furthering the interest in the agricultural industry.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as a born and bred Yukoner who grew up in a family that tried to be as self-sufficient as it could - growing our own vegetables and eating moose in the winter - I'm glad to hear that.
I'd like to move on to another area, Mr. Chair. One of the oldest industries in the Yukon is in crisis. Trapping is in trouble. Prices are low, and fewer and fewer people are going out. New trappers aren't being recruited.
I was shocked to discover that the median age of trappers in the territory now is between 50 and 60. Younger people can't afford to be out there any more and, if this trend keeps up, trapping as a commercial enterprise will die.
Other industries are receiving assistance from the government. Does the minister have any plans to help the trappers?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I am aware of the member's concerns. Of course, there are a lot of younger people who are not going out there and taking up trapping. We're trying to find ways of sparking the interest again. Of course, the price of fur was the biggest deterrent to people going out there trapping. Also we've had to face the fact that, out there in the general public, those countries that are buying our fur are being harassed by people who believe that trapping is cruel to animals.
What we have been doing is working with the European Union across Canada to try to bring more humane traps to the trapping industry, and we've been trying to implement new traps into the Yukon, and it's supported by the Trappers Association. They're a very good group to work with; there's no discrimination among them - both native and non-native trappers have been working toward trying to improve their trapping methods, to the point where Yukon is actually taking the lead, at some point, in bringing humane trapping methods to trappers.
One of the things we wanted to be able to do Canada-wide here is to be able to put a stamp on the fur that we do export. It would be a certified stamp, and that stamp would basically reflect the fact that these animals were caught by humane traps.
We've been fighting, I guess, an uphill battle with the European Union, which buys our fur - that's where our market is - to try to make any improvements we possibly can to try to boost that trapping industry. It's very difficult right now to get out there on the land. Of course, you're using snowmobiles, and the price of gas to operate these snowmobiles is to the point where you're either breaking even or you're going in the hole with that. It's very difficult at this point to try to bring some interest in the trapping industry, but we'll continue to work with them and try to find ways to make improvements.
Ms. Buckway: I'm aware that the Trappers Association and the department have been working very hard for close to 20 years now to advance the cause of humane trapping. Does the minister have any idea what the value of the fur harvest was in the Yukon in the previous few seasons, and has it been consistently dropping? Is it a case of volume decreasing as well as prices being low?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I don't have that type of information with me. I'd have to refer back to the department to bring the numbers forward.
Ms. Buckway: I would appreciate that, Mr. Chair. The minister had mentioned, going through the line items, outfitter compensation, which prompted me to wonder, are there any ongoing cases about trappers and compensation, where land claims or other interests have affected their livelihood by impeding their use of their line? Are there any ongoing case of that sort?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I think that we do have one - I'm trying to recall one that is south of Whitehorse here - in regard to being affected by land claims, although I know the agreements call for an eventual 70 percent of these trapper concessions to be eventually within First Nation hands.
Right now, trappers are looking at compensation to development that has been taking place on their trapline that affects the amount of fur that they do harvest, and some have been successful in working privately with people like mining industries, and so on. Others are finding it difficult to get anything happening.
The Trans Canada Trail, for example, is one that has sparked a lot of interest in the trappers about how it would affect their trapping, because the trail does follow a lot of the trapline trails and, once that takes place, of course, there is a safety factor that kicks in. You can't set traps in certain places where people are hiking through there, or skiing, or even running their dogs through. There's a lot of concern about the compensation in that aspect, and that work is still ongoing. There has been one that I could recall that has been settled, where some compensation dollars were paid out in regard to the Trans Canada Trail, and some work in regard to building another trail for them had taken place.
Ms. Buckway: Could the minister advise how close to that 70-percent figure we're getting?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: This 70-percent figure is in the UFA. It's reflected in the First Nation final agreements and, of course, is for those who have ratified their final agreements. Some places already have them, and some are very close, and some are seeking for lots that do come open to be passed over to the First Nation. Dawson, for example, is one of them. Teslin has over 70 percent. So, some places have them, some don't.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, changing subjects again - there's a small line item for an energy management project - just a few thousand dollars. Could the minister explain what that project is and provide an outline?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It's a revote from the previous year. It's a $5,000 amount, and it's basically a retrofit of lighting and lighting fixtures in the parks workshop that was not completed by year-end.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, which I believe is jointly funded by the Department of Renewable Resources and the Department of Economic Development, was working on a sustainable economy report. Could the minister advise how that report is coming along?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I have to check on that. I believe that the work has been done - I don't know to what completion of putting it forward. I have to check on that with the department.
Ms. Buckway: I have a couple of questions about greenhouse gases. The minister had talked previously about the Kyoto agreement - the international accord for the reduction of greenhouse gases - and I'm remembering something from the past about greenhouse gas trade-offs.
Was there not an agreement where, for example, industry in Alberta would buy a greenhouse gas credit from the Yukon, because we were doing something positive and they couldn't meet a deadline? Does the minister remember? And if so, were there any dollars transferred to the territory as a result?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: There's no money exchange to this Canada-wide. Rather than having a huge impact on one province versus another - Quebec having basically very little air emissions, versus Alberta, which relies a lot on coal, for example, to generate electricity - it would be very tough for them to get out of that and do something else.
What can we do Canada-wide as a country to say we are reducing greenhouse gases? We'd have to work with one another. We've talked about carbon sinks and carbon credits, and so on. One of the things, of course, that Alberta is doing to promote less greenhouse gases - and other places, too - is the export of things like natural gas into the U.S., and that in turn is used as credit in that Canada is doing something to reduce greenhouse gases.
It's a gray area right now. It's not really defined as to what it really means overall to every other country that has been involved in this. But Canada is trying to work as one to reduce greenhouse gases, and some places, of course, have been quite successful. In Yukon, of course, we don't have a big industry that produces a lot of CO2s. Vehicles is one thing that we can do worldwide to reduce CO2 emissions.
What we're doing here is focusing on energy efficiency.
Ms. Buckway: Could the minister go into a little more detail on these energy-efficiency ideas. I mean, I presume we could all walk to work, but are there specific initiatives that the minister can address?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We have taken this on as a government. We have asked that every department respond to see in what ways they can reduce CO2. We have been focusing on energy efficiencies in any of the new buildings that we're putting up. They have to be at a certain standard of energy efficiency, to reduce, I guess, energy use. We have been doing retrofits to our buildings in the different departments, whether it comes to replacing doors, windows or lighting, or increasing insulation. We've been working on that, mostly in that area. An unfortunate part, I guess, with having Anvil Range shut down - really we're ahead of the game, because we don't have the use of diesel as we did in the past. But we continue, even this year, even in this budget, to try to bring all our buildings up to a good energy-efficient standard.
As I said earlier, Yukon Housing has gone further than that. They have introduced a green mortgage, which is the first time that we are having such a program through the Housing Corporation. The mortgage is one percent less than what is offered by the banks. Again, this is to promote energy efficiency. We had, I believe, 12 applications for this green mortgage, and eight have successfully used the green mortgage. More and more people are starting to build. What Yukon Housing did, basically, is make banks take a good, close look at what they could do too to reduce bank rates and encourage energy efficiency. So that was, I think, a very good move on behalf of the Housing Corporation.
And those are the types of things we are doing in government - whatever we can do to reduce and improve energy efficiency.
Ms. Buckway: I had understood that there was supposed to be a new one-megawatt windmill on Haeckel Hill in place by now, but I gather there has been a delay. Can the minister advise when it will be operational?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: That's one area, of course, I missed. It's important to us - basically, green power. We were hoping that it would have been in place this fall. It looks like we won't have it until the following year. We've had some delays with regard to getting the whole units, I guess, up here.
We do have the pilot project there that has been working really well. We had tried to resolve some of the problems that could come out as a result of having such a huge unit up there. With the wind turbine, in regard to the blades and ice packing up on the blades and it becoming a problem, these types of things, of course, are going to come out a lot more once the unit is up and running. It is my hope that we continue to work on those types of lines of having clean energy brought to Yukon.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have a couple of questions about devolution: it's not clear to me who is going to be administering some of these functions. Can the minister explain which responsibilities will devolve to the Renewable Resources department?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the majority of those that are being devolved to the Yukon are going to be in the Renewable Resources department - basically lands and resources.
Ms. Buckway: So, that would include water and forestry and things like that? Is the department ready for devolution? Are the staff in place, over and above the staff that will be transferred? Have you hired additional staff?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We have been trying to prepare the department for devolution. The small things that we need to do in making sure that we do look at a bit of restructuring, but also look at things like job descriptions and the different categories of positions that are there with the federal government versus the territorial government; it affects pay and benefits and that type of thing, and we're trying to make sure that they come over and fit in in a smooth manner.
Ms. Buckway: How many additional staff does the minister anticipate bringing on?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I can't remember what the numbers were - I believe it's between 150 and 200.
Ms. Buckway: Can the minister advise if the Renewable Resources department, with less than six weeks to go, is ready for Y2K?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, we will be.
Mr. Ostashek: I just want to go back to the debate earlier with the minister when we were talking about the letter that was written by his deputy minister - as the minister has said, on his instructions, on April 6, 1999. The letter was written to the Regional Director General of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada in Whitehorse, and the letter's talking re: the proposed Fishing Branch protected area.
In the last paragraph on the first page, it says the process will include full public consultation with all stakeholders. Then the next paragraph says, "To these ends, the Yukon overnment is requesting that a map notation be made as soon as possible to identify the lands as noted on the enclosed map. The Yukon government further requests an interim withdrawal from surface and subsurface disposition for a period of 18 months, to allow for the final boundary determination process and management planning to be completed.
"A letter from our minister to Minister Jane Stewart asking for her support for the expedited withdrawal will be forthcoming."
Mr. Chair, what I want to point out to the minister is that this was not a letter to give the federal government a heads-up. This was a letter that was written by the Deputy Minister of Renewable Resources on the instructions of the minister to withdraw the land for a period of 18 months.
This letter was dated one week prior to the first planning team meeting on the Fishing Branch. I ask the minister: does he not believe that that contravenes the protected areas strategy?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I've said to the member many times why we have sped up the process, and we're looking at all the interests that were out there at the time - oil and gas being one of them, and of course working with the First Nation being the other. What I did tell the member is that the letter of May 4 that we did write was a letter clarifying our intentions and so on, with regard to the April 6 letter.
Mr. Ostashek: I just want to ask the minister this: does he not believe that this request contravened the Yukon protected area strategy? It's very simple. Does he not believe it - yes or no? Did it contravene it, or did it not, in his mind? That's all I want to know.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I just answered that question. I told the member the reasons for speeding the process up, and we were being proactive. We were writing letters to make sure that DIAND knew what was taking place in the Yukon, and the letter of May 4, again, does clarify what our intentions were.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, the April 6 letter requests the land be withdrawn for a period of 18 months. That flies in the face of the protected areas strategy. Can the minister not see that? This is the reason why the credibility of the strategy is now in question - by the actions of this minister and his government. Does the minister not agree that that flies in the face of the protected areas strategy? Never mind the explanation and the letter that was basically a damage-control letter, which was written in May. The letter of April 6, before the planning team ever met, requested a withdrawal of surface and subsurface for a period of 18 months.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I've already answered that question twice.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I just have a couple of days of questions in general debate. I listened with interest to the comments that were made by members earlier, and I want to go back to one matter that the minister addressed when the debate came up last night, but I'd like some more information about it. The minister was asked a question about campground tables.
Having driven by the compound up top of the hill in the Quartz Road area, I notice that there are literally hundreds of campground tables stacked one on top of the other in the compound. I hesitate to stop and count them, but I know that they are a couple of hundred feet long and 20 or 30 feet high, and it appears to be more campground tables than we've ever had in the history of the Yukon. I thought, when I first saw them, that maybe we went around the territory and removed every table we had, but I have been contacted by some individuals who tell me that there may be a problem with the tables that we have in the compound, and that it isn't just as the minister said last night. I think he said that the surface itself and the new plywood and paint and other things - the minister gave the impression that we were just fixing the tables because they'd been exposed to air for quite a few years and it was time to fix them up.
What I've heard is that there was a complaint about the tables, and somebody complained about the type of wood used in the tables, that it was PWF wood or something on the tops of the tables, and someone figures that's toxic, so all the tables we built had to be brought back, at a fairly significant expense, and we're going to remove the tops of the tables, or get rid of the tables. I don't know what we're doing with them but, right now, they're just sitting there in the snowdrift. I'm asking the minister if that in fact happened. Was it the problem that the tops of the tables were considered to be toxic to people, and so that's why we're replacing them?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, that's not the reason why we're replacing the tops of the tables. That concern had come up previously, but that's not the reason why we're replacing them.
Mr. Phillips: Why are we replacing them? Is it annually or every five years or something that we fix up the tables we have out there? They look fairly new. The ones that I saw looked like relatively new tables. The concern I've heard from some individuals is that we either overbuilt or ordered more than we needed, or there was a problem with the tables. I'm just trying to find out from the minister what is the case. Are these tables that have been brought in from every campground in the territory, tables that looked like they needed repair and are going to be worked on all winter? Is that the plan?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It is correct. They will be working on it throughout the winter. The complaints that we have been getting over the past were, I guess, about the surface of the table being rough and it was hard to keep things balanced when they were built in the past, and what we want to do is to replace it with a much flatter and smoother surface. Some of them had planks that were twisted and had bigger gaps in them, and, I believe, what is being proposed now is to put the plywood back on, like they used to have, with a smooth surface.
Chair: Do the 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 Department of Renewable Resources?
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I probably have a couple of questions for the minister on one of my more favourite topics that the minister and I have discussed in this House from time to time, and that is catch-and-release.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: I hear the Liberals groaning in the corner. I know they haven't supported it, but it is an issue out there for people, so I do want to ask some questions about it. One of the things, I think, that came up during the recent discussions on catch-and-release was the monitoring of fishing regulations and hunting regulations in the territory. There was a lot of concern raised about the number of hours that the conservation officers actually spend in the field, and there were some questions asked with respect to that. The senior officials who are responsible for conservation officers - I believe their answer was that it's getting to be about 70 percent office work and 30 percent in the field. At the same time, we're asking the conservation officers to do more things in the field, like with the Environment Act and the Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act and the Wildlife Act and all the various things they're responsible for that make demands on them to be in the field actually checking people out.
I know that, probably, one of the recommendations from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board - because it was a strong point of discussion - was that there has to be some commitment from government, whoever is in government. If we're going to make these regulations and bring in rules and laws, we have to be able to enforce them, and, at the present time, we are grossly understaffed with respect to conservation officers. I think there was a comparison made with respect to Kluane National Park that had 13 or 14 or 15 wardens in a park where there was no hunting and quite a few restrictions. In our case we had fewer Yukon conservation officers to cover the whole rest of the territory, and they had way more responsibility and way more acts to administer. And every time we make a new law in this House, we tie their hands a little more and require them to spend more time in the office, so, in many cases, most people who are out in the wilderness in the territory rarely see a conservation officer, simply because we've burdened them with paperwork and office administration.
So, I wonder what the minister's thoughts are about the number of conservation officers we have. Maybe he could talk a little bit about another program that has been proposed in the past. We have it for urban security, and that's the COP program, citizens on patrol, and there has been some thought of that type of a program with respect to conservation officers or protection, other than the TIPS program. Is there any thought of developing some kind of an auxiliary conservation officer program that will actually get more people in the field more often, or even some kind of program where some of these people who are trained could maybe do more of the day-to-day paperwork in the office? Then we'd actually get the conservation officers out in the field a little more. Has any thought been given to that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The department has this concern also. We're trying to find ways of doing better management out there, and working with renewable resource councils and local people right now. If we were to increase the number of conservation officers, of course, that would mean an increase in FTEs, and it would be a budget issue. I know that it's something that the department has been looking at possibly increasing in auxiliaries - and more summer students and that type of thing - working with the department to try to do some increases there.
Beyond that, with the number of issues that are coming forward to our department, I guess, from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and renewable resource councils, it is coming to the point where more and more people want us to be paying more attention to what is taking place out on the land.
Mr. Phillips: Well, that's my point, as well. I'm hearing the same thing the minister's hearing. The discussion that took place at the catch-and-release seminar was exactly that. People said, you know, we can make all the more rules we want, but if there's no one there at all to enforce them, and no one is out on the lakes on the weekend, and no one is monitoring what's going on - you can rely somewhat on the private citizen reporting things and that kind of thing. But I know when I go to Alaska, or even to British Columbia, I've been confronted more times there by conservation officers - and I mean, if you just know they're around, if you know they're present, it deters some of those people who may take a chance and abuse things, you know?
I know even on Teslin Lake on the Yukon side, you rarely see a conservation officer. I know some people have been stopped on the B.C. side and have noticed conservation officers and know that they're in the area from time to time, and so it sort of deters those kinds of people who might abuse fishing privileges. It makes them think twice about fishing without a licence or getting a Yukon licence, or a transboundary licence, or a B.C. licence, if they're going into British Columbia - those kinds of things.
So it just might deter people a little more if they knew that our conservation officers were spending more time on the lakes or in the bush. I know it's a budgetary issue for the minister, and I know I'm sort of suggesting here that they might look at increasing their conservation officers. I really don't have a problem with that in the light of the fact we're giving them a lot more work to do. I know five years ago, or 10 years ago, they were out in the field a lot more, you saw them out there, and they worked with the communities and community groups, but I know even talking to some conservation officers - I mean many of them got into this field primarily because they are outdoors-oriented people and they love being out there and are now somewhat frustrated because they just don't get out there any more. They're sitting in the office filling out forms and reports and advising people on various things, and it's frustrating for them as well. They want to get out in the field and, by getting out there, they can interact with the people who are hunting and fishing and using the resources. They can also get a better understanding, just from general observations, about what's going on out there. But if they are stuck in the office filling out reports up the ying-yang, then it's not serving any purpose at all. So, I would -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Ying-yang.
Filling out endless and never-ending reports - I'm hearing about the frustration they experience doing that, so I would hope that the minister would consider looking at that more seriously. I know he's going to get recommendations from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, and that brings me back to my next question, and that is about catch-and-release.
I tabled a petition in the House here some time ago, and it was as a result of some statements that were made by the minister, who has since changed his mind a couple of times on this issue.
What I'd like to know from the minister is this: do we have a full accounting of what it cost to do this exercise with respect to catch-and-release, what it has cost the Fish and Wildlife Management Board in total for all of the consultation that has gone on, what it has cost the department in total for all the consultation that has gone on? Because it kind of looks like we're getting close to the recommendation stage, and the sense I got from the meetings that were held in Whitehorse is that they're going to recommend that catch-and-release is a management tool, which it said in the petition. It's going to recommend that we continue with it. It's going to recommend better ways to catch-and-release. It's going to recommend an educational program.
And so we're getting right back to what was recommended in the first place, a couple of years ago, but it has probably taken us quite a few thousand dollars to get there.
I'm just wondering what it has cost, and could the minister bring back - or does he have in the House today - a total cost of what this consultation exercise with respect to catch-and-release has cost us?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, I don't have those figures. This has been a task that was taken on by the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and, rather than make a recommendation straight out to us, they wanted to take it out there to the general public and get some feedback on it. They've gone into communities and have worked, I guess, quite hard on this. What had resulted - and the member is right - is that there has been a lot of interest to continue to use catch-and-release as a management tool. There are still some concerns that were raised by that in those meetings, to the methods - more of an ethical issue, I guess, than anything else.
I wait for the recommendations to come forward from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. I don't believe it's just going to say to continue to use this as a management tool. I believe there will be other things tied to that. I'm not sure to what extent they have gone in putting these recommendations to us, but we'll see once that comes forward to us.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I'll look forward to the report as well. I was kind of hoping that, when I attended the meetings - which I initially wasn't invited to but, after some discussions with some people, they did invite me to the meetings and I attended - I was somewhat disappointed to see that the minister wasn't there, because I think myself and many of the people who attended the meeting learned a great deal at that one meeting, and I think it would have been useful for the minister as well. It might have changed his mind on catch-and-release. I know he was dead against it here a few months ago, when he first raised it on the floor of the House, and it would have helped him understand a little more about that, as it helped others understand First Nation views and values with respect to catch-and-release and handling a fish as well.
So I think that, although it was probably an extremely costly exercise, the one thing it did do, at least the three-day session I attended, was to make people realize that there are many sides to this story and that it is about ethics and it is about values, and it's all about respecting everybody's values, both First Nation and non-First Nation, from all sides. I think we will find that that will be one of the recommendations coming out of that report and, if that's what it takes to do it, I guess that's what it takes.
I'm going to ask the minister this question: has the government's commitment to carry out this exercise been somewhat costly?
So, I want a commitment from the minister today that he will commit at least as much in funding to carrying out the recommendations of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board on catch-and-release - at least as much in funding for an education program for catch-and-release - as he has to the exercise of trying to find out what people want, because I would be disappointed if we've spent $60,000 to $80,000 to $90,000 to $100,000 in the consultation exercise with catch-and-release, and then we come up with a $15,000 education program. I think the minister will find that it'll recommend ongoing education, long term. It won't be just for this year; there will also be some interpretive signage.
There'll be some other things it's going to recommend, but I would hope that the minister will be as committed to following the recommendations financially as he has been committed financially to carrying out what I think has been a fairly costly exercise to come to a conclusion that we're going to come to. Because I don't think it's going to be much different in the end than what probably would have happened if we would have taken $60,000 and said, "Let's go out and develop a really good, comprehensive catch-and-release program that will educate our visitors, educate Yukoners and educate others with respect to managing our fishers' resource in the territory." As well, that also means including First Nation ethical values and that kind of thing in something like that. That could have been done right in the beginning with the $60,000 or $70,000 or $80,000 that we spent on this exercise.
I think the education process itself will encompass some of the things that were said at that three-day meeting that helped First Nation and non-First Nation people understand each other's values. I'm sure that's what the program will be all about, and I would hope that the minister's commitment will be as strong financially to what the recommendations are with respect to what the government has paid to actually get there. Will he commit to that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, first of all, to remind the member opposite again, this wasn't an issue this government brought up. It was brought up by the Fish and Wildlife Management Board.
What we have consistently said to the member opposite is that we continue to use catch-and-release as a management tool. He brings forward a petition, basically stating exactly what we're doing. He did a lot of work to reassure that the government is doing what it's doing, Mr. Speaker. We didn't bring it forward. We spent very little money on this public consultation. The Fish and Wildlife Management Board was the one that went out. We provided some information and technical assistance to this whole thing, and spent very little money on that whole issue.
Now, we haven't got a recommendation back from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board on this point. I know that during the workshop there were concerns raised about catch-and-release. It's something that needs to be addressed, and I'm sure that the Fish and Wildlife Management Board will do that in their recommendations to us. What was consensus as far as using this as a management tool, we still think that, and we haven't varied at all from the past practice of using catch-and-release as a management tool. We haven't gone any differently.
What we have expressed to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, as it goes to the communities to talk about catch-and-release, is to start focusing a lot on education and the proper handling of fish, and what it really means to our lakes and our rivers to use this as a management tool.
So that's the approach we have taken, and at this point we don't know what will be coming forward from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. I do believe, though, that what will be part of that is to recommend to government again to continue to use catch-and-release as a management tool.
So I look forward to those recommendations from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board.
Mr. Phillips: Part of what the minister has said, he has got wrong, dead wrong. The minister said a few moments ago - and I'll review Hansard again tomorrow - the minister said we haven't spent any money on this, it's the Fish and Wildlife Management Board.
Well, for the minister's information, we have spent money. We - we being the Yukon government - fund the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. We - meaning the minister's department - fund the department, the budget of the department. Lots of people in the minister's department gave presentations, lots of people did a lot of work on this, lots of people spent a lot of money on this, so we have spent a lot of money on this issue. So the minister can't come in the House and say we haven't spent any money. That's exactly what we've done - we've spent a lot of money on this issue.
The minister also said that - I'd remind the minister of what he said back in the House here a few months ago - he said he hasn't changed his mind on catch-and-release fishing. Well, it wasn't me who came into the House and said that hundreds of fish were dying as a result of catch-and-release fishing. It was I who said to the minister, "Show me the reports; show me the reports that hundreds or thousands of fish are dying because of catch-and-release fishing."
And you know what, Mr. Chair? One of the reasons I was disappointed the minister didn't go to the conference is because I did; and of all the information that was presented at the conference, there wasn't any information presented at the conference that said that hundreds or thousands or even hundreds of fish were dying. Even in the reports that were done by the minister's own department, nowhere - nowhere - has anyone shown any proof that hundreds of fish were dying. There was in fact - and I would recommend them as good reading to the minister - three reports: a First Nation report and, I believe, a catch-and-release mortality study, and a sports economic value report was done on fishing in the territory.
I would recommend them as bedtime reading for the minister, because he obviously hasn't read them, or maybe doesn't want to read them, but they clearly point out that there's no evidence other than anecdotal evidence to show that there's a high mortality rate in catch-and-release fishing in the territory, or even any reports of it. In fact, his officials at the meeting, the minister's own officials at the meeting - who, by the way, were being paid by the Yukon taxpayer, so we did spend some money - told us that the fish have a better chance of surviving catch-and-release in colder Yukon waters than they do in the south, and there are several studies to show that that's a fact.
There's a lot more we can do educating people on the proper way to do it, and that's probably what part of the education program will be, but I just want to remind the minister that there is a lot of evidence out there to show that this is a good practice, and there's no evidence out there to show that the statements the minister made here in the House earlier were anything but anecdotal.
So, I would beg to differ with the minister on those issues, and I would really beg to differ with the minister that this didn't cost us any money, because the Fish and Wildlife Management Board doesn't hold raffles, and it doesn't get donations from corporate groups; it gets its money through authority of this Legislature, and it's taxpayers' money. I want to make sure, as a member of this Legislature, that the money is spent wisely.
In this particular case, my view still is that history is going to show that this is going to be a very costly exercise to come to a conclusion that we could have come to a lot sooner and could have had a comprehensive program out there of education and understanding people's values with respect to the use of wildlife. This has been a really long way around, and a very expensive long way around, to get to the same conclusion.
So, I won't belabour it any more with the minister. I think we'll have to wait till we see the report, and I'll make judgments on the final report when I see it. Like I said, I think that the one meeting I attended for those three days was useful, and the information was provided, but I think it could have been provided in a much less costly way overall, and I would have hoped that the government would have chosen that. It didn't. It's too late for that now, but I guess we'll have to wait and see what recommendations we come down with.
I'm very pleased to see that the minister has changed his position from being against catch-and-release in the beginning, to realizing now that it's a useful management tool.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The member is wrong again. He has been wrong on this whole issue right from the beginning. He has actually gone out and written a petition for people to sign, which states exactly what the government is doing. We've said it over and over in this House: we provide money to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. The member doesn't think that those monies are spent wisely. Obviously, he doesn't support that board at all.
I would say the biggest waste of money on this catch-and-release is the discussion that took place in this Legislature by the members opposite. How much time was spent talking about catch-and-release? Maybe we should add it up and give that to the member opposite - the amount of money that was spent just talking about catch-and-release, something the government was already doing. We never changed our ways.
We talked about using this as a management tool, and the Fish and Wildlife Management Board had people come forward to them with concerns about the way fish were being handled, whether or not this was a proper tool. And they said, "Well, we'll go out to the general public and we'll get their view on it and talk about this more, because it's a big issue, not just here in the Yukon but in other places." So they did that. It wasn't directed by us. We don't direct the Fish and Wildlife Management Board where to go and how to spend their monies and so on. They have a fully functional board that directs how those dollars are being spent.
We have said to the members opposite that we know there is a mortality rate. It's not high; it's low. It's around 10 percent, and that still is out there, and there's still, I would say, a bit of concern with that. We're not changing our ways until we receive direction from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. That has always been our position. Members opposite might not believe that. He might not believe the way this government has operated, but it hasn't changed in any way since the Yukon Party has been in government. So, Mr. Chair, he has a -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: That's in regard to catch-and-release. We haven't changed the way we do things from the previous government in regard to catch-and-release.
The way the members have done it in the past is - the reason why they brought it forward must be they had plans to do changes themselves, and it just didn't work out.
We think we'll use the proper avenues in working with the Fish and Wildlife Management Board to go out and do public consultations, to go out and do research. That's what part of their function as a board is, and we have been working as closely as we possibly can with them. Renewable resource councils, of course, have been formed and are putting more recommendations out there to us, and we'll take them, and we'll work with them to try to make the right choice in how we manage our fish and our wildlife.
Mr. Speaker, the member's wrong. He was wrong right from the beginning with catch-and-release, you know. He's been telling the general public out there things that are incorrect about how our government has been handling things and, if the member would like, he can go and do some research into the department to see if we have made any changes. He will find that we have been continuing to use catch-and-release as a management tool, and nothing has changed there.
So, Mr. Chair, I think the member owes an apology to the general public about bringing this forward, and doing a big hype about it, and putting a scare into people that should not have been there, and also getting people to sign a petition about what government is already doing. What does that tell you about that member's understanding of what government is doing? When they were in government, they knew what this department was doing with regard to catch-and-release. No changes were made - there were no changes made. He goes out there and tells the general public that we're doing something different, which we haven't. Nowhere in our department will you see that.
Mr. Chair, we worked with the general public out there and we worked with the communities, and in regard to this we await the Fish and Wildlife Management Board's recommendation to us. They took it to the general public. The dollars to operate the Fish and Wildlife Management Board are monies that do come from our government of course, but we don't tell them how to spend their dollars. They have a set plan of setting up committees, and those committees go out and do some research and meet with people. I would say that the Fish and Wildlife Management Board did the right thing. Catch-and-release, they knew, has been used by government as a management tool, and there have been concerns expressed to them in the general public and the communities to the point where they had to do something if they were going to make any recommendations to us. They did the right thing; they went to the public and asked the public what they think of catch-and-release. Well, that's a good thing. They should be thanked. Members opposite should thank them - they did the right thing.
Now, what are we doing? Waiting for recommendations to come back from Fish and Wildlife Management Board and, like I said in the past, I do believe that part of their recommendation would be to continue to use catch-and-release as a management tool. Of course, there would be other things I would think that are in there, probably a lot more direction to have education out there with anglers. There could be things like barbless hooks that are part of the recommendations. Even with that, even with the recommendations that do come back to us - and at that point of course we're going to do a review, but there are people out there who are working with governments and First Nations, for example, who are putting management plans in lakes, and I look forward to what recommendations come out of that - because it may be that it's exactly the same as what the Fish and Wildlife Management Board comes up with.
Or it could be something different. There are a lot of different ways you can go about enhancing the fish population, and so on. We believe in the sports fishing industry in the Yukon. It's still big. We think though that, even in the stores that sell fishing gear and so on, they should have a little better knowledge of what catch-and-release is all about and promote things like barbless hooks and so on.
So, the approach we're going to take is to make no changes, wait for the Fish and Wildlife Management Board to come back and make recommendations to us, work with the renewable resource councils, and also with the First Nations, putting management plans in place, work with the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and carry on the way we have been doing things with them from day one.
Catch-and-release? Their issue, not ours. I know the member opposite can't understand that. I brought up the fact that there was a mortality rate to catch-and-release. The member doesn't believe it, and I can't do anything about that. He takes it out to the general public and scores points with it. But it hasn't changed what we're doing. All the work he has done out there with a petition and having people sign up hasn't changed what we're doing. We continue to use catch-and-release as a management tool, and that's the way we'll operate.
I know the member is going to get up and try to accuse us again of trying to change our ways. We haven't. From day one, we have said that this is what we are using until such time as we are directed by the general public or we are directed by the Fish and Wildlife Management Board.
Mr. Chair, I thought by now that the member opposite would have dropped this issue. I mean, what more is there to know on it? We've had a lot of discussions in every sitting that we've had in here on catch-and-release. He talks about a waste of dollars, dollars that weren't spent wisely. This is money that this government gives to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board to do research, to give recommendations to us, to work with the local people and communities and so on.
That member across the way, Mr. Chair, thinks that's a waste of money, they are monies that aren't spent wisely. Having the issue as big as it is - created by the member opposite - and it being an issue elsewhere in this country, I think the Fish and Wildlife Management Board did the right thing, to take it to the public. It's nice to know that they follow directions - the same directions, the same methods, that this government does - going to the public and bringing their concerns forward.
So, Mr. Speaker, they have held workshops; they've held meetings with people; they've formed a committee to deal specifically with catch-and-release. They have had all kinds of feedback from the general public, from one scale to the other. There are a lot of concerns that came forward from people involved with sports fishing.
They got a lot of feedback from the general public who go out there and catch fish to eat. They got a lot of feedback from First Nations, and a lot of them go out there and catch fish for that simple reason of feeding themselves and their families. They have talked about the difference in catch-and-release for freshwater fish versus salmon in the Yukon River. They talked about the effects of nets versus barbless hooks. They had all of this compiled and talked about it in the workshop that the member opposite attended. What was a result of that? Recommendations that this be used as a management tool. Well, what's the alternative to catch-and-release? Catch and keep? Is that an alternative? Stricter regulations on lakes? Do we follow what's written up in our fishing synopsis about certain sizes being released?
All of these types of things were discussed and taken into consideration in these meetings. From the reports that came out in the newspapers, the general direction from some people who thought that this was consensus - and I do believe it is too - was that this is the way to go. It's the status quo with some improvements: education, for one; making sure people know how to catch-and-release. Many people don't take their equipment out with them when they go fishing out on the lake, don't take the proper equipment out with them.
Also, in the papers, concerns were still expressed with this method. So, I know the Fish and Wildlife Management Board is going to make that as part of their recommendation, and I know that there are still concerns out there with catch-and-release, and I don't think it's an issue that's ever going to go away.
In spending money wisely in this House, I know the member opposite is going to bring it up again and, after we put something more solid in place, maybe etched in stone or something, to show the member that this is what we're doing, I don't believe he's going to quit bringing this whole thing forward. I believe he is going to be gone out of this Legislature before less talk on catch-and-release is here in this Legislature.
Mr. Speaker, we haven't changed our ways. We continue to use this as a management tool and, until such time as recommendations come back from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board with improvements to the way we do things, then we'll look at that and consider it a lot more closely.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
Chair: Are you agreed?
Motion agreed to
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 19, Third Appropriation Act, 1999 - 2000, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Point of personal privilege re: apology for remarks
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'd appreciate the opportunity to clarify some remarks this afternoon. Although I had made remarks during Question Period in answer to the leader of the official opposition, it was ruled that it was not unparliamentary. Upon reflection - immediate reflection - I would like to offer my sincerest and most heartfelt apology for my remarks. I was raised better than to say something like that. I have brought a bit of shame to myself for saying that. My mother and my father have raised me differently from that. I believe strongly in equality for all peoples of the world.
I do express sincerest regret for what I have said. Although it is not exactly the way it is read does not mean how I meant it at all, so I wish to express my apologies to the Legislature and women in general.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. next Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:25 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 18, 1999:
Wood-based heat for Whitehorse city central: feasibility study prepared by Autumn Industries Inc. and the Yukon government (November 1999) (Harding)
Wood-based heat for Range Road: feasibility study prepared by Autumn Industries Inc. and the Yukon government (November 1999) (Harding)
Wood-based heat for Yukon College: feasibility study prepared by Autumn Industries Inc. and the Yukon government (November 1999) (Harding)
The following Legislative Return was tabled November 18, 1999:
Yukon trust-related tax credit proposals: letter dated November 5, 1999, from assistant deputy minister, federal Department of Finance to deputy minister, Yukon Department of Finance (McDonald)
Oral, Hansard, p. 5614 to 5615