Monday, February 21, 2000 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
INTRODUCTION OF PAGES
Speaker: It gives me great pleasure to announce that the following students will be serving the House as the legislative pages for the 2000 spring sitting. They are Stephanie Beasley, Kara Hendrie, Carrie MacIntosh, Dino Rudniski, Kelly Smarch and Wade Stewart from F.H. Collins Secondary School, and Rowan Hall, Taryn Hill, Tara Martin and Darcie Profeit from Porter Creek Secondary School.
Today we have with us Rowan Hall and Wade Stewart. I would ask all members to welcome them to this House at this time.
Speaker: At this time, we'll proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: Under tabling returns and documents, I have for tabling the report of the chief electoral officer of the Yukon on the by-election of the Electoral District of Lake Laberge on October 25, 1999.
Also, I have for tabling the report of the chief electoral officer of the Yukon on the contributions to candidates during the by-election of the Electoral District of Lake Laberge, and the report of the Clerk of the Assembly, made pursuant to subsection 39(6) of the Legislative Assembly Act.
Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have a document for tabling: the government contract summary report, April 1, 1999, to January 31, 2000.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
introduction of bills
Bill No. 99: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 99, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2000-01, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 99, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2000-01 be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 99 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills to be introduced?
Bill No. 94: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 94, An Act to Amend the Assessment and Taxation Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services that Bill No. 94, entitled An Act to Amend the Assessment and Taxation Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 94 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motions?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House, in view of discussions now taking place in relation to the movement of Alaskan North Slope natural gas to market, that if the concerns of the Lysyk Inquiry could reasonably be addressed, this House urges the Yukon government to aggressively promote the movement of that Alaskan gas through southern Yukon using the Foothills Pipe Lines Ltd. right-of-way.
Mr. Cable: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) Yukoners have an interest in policy development relating to the forestry resource and the management of that resource;
(2) it is desirable that Yukoners participate in the development of those policy and management regimes to be in place on devolution of the forestry resource; and
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Minister of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development should be approached to immediately involve Yukon and First Nation governments in the development of policy and management regimes relating to the forestry resource, prior to the devolution of that resource.
Mrs. Edelman:I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that treatment and counselling services for Yukon youth with alcohol and drug addictions are inadequate, particularly in rural Yukon; and
THAT this House strongly urges the Government of Yukon to consult with Yukon communities in a meaningful way to start developing adequate services for our Yukon youth.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the child care services unit of the Department of Health and Social Services has not adequately consulted with Yukon day home operators and clients, through the Society of Yukon Family Day Homes, prior to requiring that supervised private day home play areas adhere to Canadian Standards Association guideline Z614-98;
THAT this House recognizes that
(1) CSA guideline Z614-98 is intended to apply to public, unsupervised playgrounds and not to supervised private day home play areas;
(2) the type of equipment that is typical of family day home backyards is for residential use, is homemade or is classified as toys by the Canadian Standards Association and is, therefore, not covered under CSA guideline Z614-98; and
(3) the Government of Ontario, following consultation with the Canadian Standards Association, Health Canada, the Department of Justice (Ontario) and others, ruled that CSA guideline Z614-98 does not apply to family day homes in Ontario; and
THAT this House urges the child care services unit of the Department of Health and Social Services to work with the Society of Yukon Family Day Homes to develop appropriate standards for play equipment in the family day home environment.
Mr. Fentie: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) each year thousands of travellers use the Taylor Highway in Alaska to travel to and from the Yukon interior;
(2) access via the Taylor Highway is important to the continued tourism and economic growth of Dawson City and the Yukon;
(3) continued good relations are important to both the Yukon and Alaska; and
THAT this House urges the Alaskan government to ensure the Taylor Highway is open to traffic no later than May 15 each spring.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) infrastructure development is critical to expanding the economy, creating jobs and new opportunities and attracting investment;
(2) upgrading telecommunications through Connect Yukon, extending the Whitehorse Airport runway to encourage increased visitation, purchasing property in Skagway and Haines to secure tidewater access, and reconstructing the Shakwak Highway all help to accomplish these goals; and
(3) the investigation of a rail link to B.C. and Alaska, a resource road to southeast Yukon, and pipeline construction along the Alaska Highway can enhance these efforts, while ensuring environmental standards are met.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) despite its promises to the contrary, the federal Liberal government continues to impose major cuts to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's budget;
(2) the most recent round of cuts will cancel the midday news program and over 100 jobs in radio and television;
(3) the protection of public radio and television services is very important to Canadians in the north and rural parts of Canada; and
THAT this House urges the federal Liberal government to use some of the $10-billion surplus to provide stable funding to the CBC and stop any further cuts to its programming.
I provide notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House
(1) that government has a responsibility to promote sustainable economic development in every Yukon community in partnership with local people; and
(2) that this House supports the substantive investments made to benefit all Yukon communities through a number of new initiatives, including the community development fund, fire smart program, rural road upgrade program, Connect Yukon program and training trust funds.
Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the federal Liberal government has cut health care;
(2) the Yukon government has sheltered the impact by increasing health care spending on initiatives like the Whitehorse General Hospital, recruitment and retention of nurse practitioners and construction of the extended care facility;
(3) Yukon people are suffering from Liberal health care cuts through long waiting lists for surgery at hospitals in Alberta and British Columbia; and
THAT this House demands that the federal Liberal government use a portion of its surplus to fully restore health care funding to the provinces and territories.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) since its election seven years ago, the federal Liberal government has slashed financial support for social housing throughout Canada;
(2) the establishment of a federal housing fund ignores the Yukon and other northern territories by directing no new money to the north, and thereby increasing the funding gap between the northern and southern jurisdictions; and
THAT this House urges the federal Liberal government to ensure that the Yukon, along with other territories, are provided with a portion of this assistance to help meet their growing social housing needs.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Land claims settlements, outstanding issues
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the Government Leader.
Just before Christmas, the Minister of Economic Development wrote a letter to local papers whining about the poor report card the Yukon has received from the Fraser Institute. In his letter he stated that all land claims issues pertaining to the Yukon government had been resolved.
A few weeks later another letter appeared in the newspaper, this one from the Chief of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation. The chief had this to say: "The Carcross-Tagish First Nation strongly disagrees with Mr. Harding's assertion that all matters relating to the territorial government have been resolved."
The chief went on to write, "This statement is misleading and inaccurate, since many matters under the jurisdiction of the Yukon government are outstanding at the Carcross-Tagish First Nation negotiation table. For instance, the bulk of outstanding land matters are discussions between the Carcross-Tagish First Nation and the Yukon government."
Clearly there's a difference of opinion. Does the Government Leader agree with the Chief of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation that there are outstanding Government of Yukon issues at their negotiation table?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, I first of all agree with the notion that there are two major outstanding issues that are preventing us from closing the negotiations with four First Nations and probably with the remaining three as well. Those relate to the rolling implementation of the taxation measures as well as the loan repayment. There are some ancillary land issues - minor land issues - associated with this claim. However, the discussions between governments - between the principals - have focused almost exclusively on the two items that I've mentioned, because those are acknowledged by all parties as being a holdup to the settlement of the land claim.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Chief of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation has described statements by the Government Leader's minister, and he used the words "misleading" and "inaccurate." He went on to say that comments by the Member for Faro are "unproductive and do not contribute to the finalization of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation and self-government agreements. In fact, such comments may ultimately hinder the progress of the negotiations."
Does the Government Leader agree with the statements made by the Chief of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation or with the statements made by his minister?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I believe that the member had identified a misinterpretation of what the Minister of Economic Development has said. I will repeat what the Minister of Economic Development said, and that is that there are two major outstanding items facing the land claims negotiations. One is the rolling out of implementation of taxation measures, and the second is the loan-repayment issue.
I've had a number of meetings with the federal minister. These two items have been the two exclusive items on the agenda to address, because all parties agree that these two items are preventing the closure of the land claim, and not only with Carcross-Tagish First Nation but with other First Nations as well.
In fact, Mr. Speaker, there is a principals meeting of all parties scheduled for this weekend, at which there will be two land claims issues addressed: one is section 87, taxation measures; the second is loan repayment. We all acknowledge that these are the two major outstanding items. The rest are relatively minor in comparison.
Ms. Duncan: We're dealing with Government of Yukon issues at the Carcross-Tagish First Nation land claims negotiating table. The Government Leader's minister stated that all land claims issues pertaining to the Yukon government had been resolved. The Carcross-Tagish First Nation chief has described these statements as "misleading and inaccurate". He said, "The comments from the Member for Faro are unproductive and do not contribute to the finalization of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation and self-government agreements. In fact, these comments may ultimately hinder the progress of the negotiations." That's a direct quote, Mr. Speaker.
In light of these statements -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: And the Member for Faro is correct. For the third time, in light of these statements, what steps has the Government Leader, who has the responsibility for land claims, taken to repair the damage done by the Minister of Economic Development to these sensitive negotiations?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, there has been no damage done to the relationship between the Yukon government and First Nation governments, including the Carcross-Tagish First Nation - no damage at all.
The Government of Yukon has put enormous effort into closing the land claims agreements. We've come across two issues that are federal, which we can't close, but I have had meetings with the Chief of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation in an attempt to deal with any outstanding issues. They are minor, by comparison, with the federal issues. They are issues such as lot swapping and road easements, and minor land issues - important to resolve but, with a little effort, once the back is broken on the two big issues, it should result in a land claim we can all be proud of.
Question re: Land claims settlements, pace of negotiations
Ms. Duncan: Once again, I have a question for the Government Leader concerning the slow pace of land claims negotiations. On January 19, the former Chief of the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation told the local radio station, and these are his words, "Right now, YTG's having a field day in terms of negotiations, because they control the negotiations."
Does the Government Leader agree with this public assessment from a former chief, on the state of negotiations?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, the member is referring to Mr. Birckel. Mr. Birckel wasn't referring to the state of land claims negotiations. He was referring to the state of the taxation table that is being undertaken between governments who have already settled their claim and the Yukon and federal governments.
Mr. Speaker, we have put forward positions at those tables that have been not only accepted by First Nations, but applauded by First Nations because they are fair and they ensure that there is a good arrangement struck to ensure that the First Nations have full access to revenues generated in their territory.
So, Mr. Speaker, that was the table that Mr. Birckel was referring to, and the land claims themselves, as I say, are stuck on two federal issues: section 87, rolling implementation of the taxation measures; and, number two, the loan-repayment issue.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the NDP government made a lot of promises in 1996, and, as their mandate winds down, a lot of those promises remain unfulfilled. Settlement of land claims is at the top of the list.
The Government Leader and the Minister of Economic Development have been busy trying to lay the blame for the lack of progress on everyone but themselves. Again, the Government Leader has gone on federal issues today and not described any of the outstanding Government of Yukon issues at the table.
The Chief of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation described comments made by the Minister of Economic Development as "hindering the settlement of land claims". Is the Government Leader finally prepared to admit that the NDP government is part of the reason why land claims are not finished, and to outline the outstanding Government of Yukon issues at the table?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, Mr. Speaker, I'm not, because it's not true, and no matter how many times the Liberal leader tries to provide protection for the federal Liberal government, I will not succumb to her urgings.
Mr. Speaker, there are two major outstanding issues. We have had numerous meetings to try to deal with these. I've travelled to meet Mr. Nault on a number of occasions to try and resolve these issues. They are federal in nature. They're acknowledged to be federal in nature. The two issues revolve around taxation and loan repayment. They can only be resolved by the federal government. We are meeting on Saturday in order to try to resolve those issues so that we can bring closure to the land claims, but I can't overcome the resistance at the federal level. That is a Liberal government, and the Liberal members across the floor will not be able to encourage me to state that the problems at the land claims table are the making of the Yukon government. They are not.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the NDP government has been spending a lot of time trying to distance itself from its failures: land claims, DAP, protected areas strategy. The list goes on. Blame the federal government seems to be the answer for everything. Clearly, First Nation leaders are tired of the NDP government trying to duck responsibility for its failure to play a constructive role in the settlement of land claims. The Chief of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation has said that YTG has outstanding issues that need to be cleared up with other First Nations.
Again I ask the minister: which other First Nations have outstanding issues with the Yukon government, and what are they?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member makes mention of DAP as being a failure of the NDP government. It was the NDP government here in the territory that stood off the federal Liberal government, who wanted to impose a DAP regime on the Yukon three years ago without any consultation whatsoever. So again, the Liberal member here in the territory takes the first two opportunities in this Legislature to try to protect and cover for federal Liberal mistakes. If that is what she is doing publicly, I wonder what she's doing privately.
Mr. Speaker, we did take action to deal with DAP. We are trying to resolve even the federal issues by encouraging people to come together. We suggested the principals meeting on Saturday in order to try to bring people together and in order to resolve these federal Liberal issues. But we will, in time, resolve them.
Mr. Speaker, we have done some ground-breaking things with First Nation governments in this territory. We've signed the first intergovernmental agreements between First Nation governments, including one in your own home riding, Mr. Speaker. Those agreements strike a new working relationship between governments in this territory that will last for generations, and we're happy to be able to move ahead from the land claims period into the new era.
Question re: Land claims settlements, finalization of
Mr. Ostashek: My question is to the Government Leader, and it's on land claims, also. One of the major impediments to the Yukon economy is the lack of progress on land claim settlements. Unfortunately for Yukon First Nations and other Yukoners, this government hasn't placed much of a priority on finalizing land claims. If you'll recall, Mr. Speaker, when this government took office in 1996, there were seven outstanding claims. Today, there are still seven outstanding claims.
That is in spite of that fact that, during the 1996 election, this government, the NDP government, made a commitment to Yukoners to fast track land claims.
My question to the Government Leader: I would like him to explain to Yukoners in this House why, contrary to his election promises, his government has placed more emphasis on devolution than on the settling of land claims.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Nothing could be further from the truth. We have not put more emphasis on devolution. We have put some emphasis on devolution, clearly, and obviously advanced the file significantly. We've also put a lot of emphasis on the settling of land claims.
Mr. Speaker, the members opposite, particularly in the Yukon Party, are fond of saying that they settled seven land claims. They did not. The first four were not negotiated by the Yukon Party government. The Yukon Party government negotiated two. They failed to close on the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in claim because there were some major outstanding issues. That was done by the Yukon NDP government - this one - as was the White River closing - by this government.
The Ta'an Kwach'an claim is now going to ratification this spring and summer.
Mr. Speaker, we have advanced all the claims substantially, but we can't overcome two issues that remain and, until that can happen, we cannot close the land claims agreement, as much as we might try.
Mr. Ostashek: I'd just like to draw to the Government Leader's attention that it was an NDP government that allowed the first four land claims to die on the Order Paper when they called an election in 1996.
The lack of land claims settlements is creating uncertainty and destroying investor confidence in the Yukon. All one has to do is to look to southeast Yukon where - this winter - there is $200-million worth of oil and gas exploration on the Northwest Territories side of the Yukon border in southeast Yukon. And the projection for next winter, Mr. Speaker, is that there is going to be $400-million worth of exploration in the Northwest Territories side - and absolutely nothing on the Yukon side. So it's very important that we fast track land claims and get them settled and move on so that Yukon First Nation and all Yukoners can benefit from investment in the territory.
My question to the Government Leader: can he give this House, today, a date when the claim with the Liard First Nation is going to be settled?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First, I'd like to point out to the member that when the Yukon Party claims that they settled the land claims - and I know they've got candidates dutifully writing letters to the paper to try to amend history - but when these claims were settled and negotiated by the NDP government, the Yukon Party government changed nothing when they brought them forward for ratification in this Legislature. They changed nothing, absolutely nothing. That was because they were good agreements in the first instance.
We have done everything we can do to settle claims. We are doing what we can to settle the two remaining outstanding, large issues that separate us from an agreement on a number of different fronts.
Mr. Speaker, we have not held negotiating sessions in Liard for months because we have substantially settled the claim. There are issues with respect to Kaska and the transboundary claim that are preventing those negotiations from continuing. The Kaska, as the member may know, are suing the federal government. Consequently, the federal government has shut down the negotiating table and consequently we have no negotiating table to attend to. We can't go there because there is no negotiating table. We cannot resolve the outstanding claims on behalf of the federal Liberal government; they must do that themselves. We've been encouraging them to, providing ideas and suggestions, but it must be resolved at the federal level.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, one thing that this government did do when they came to power was to decimate the Land Claims Secretariat and, with it, a lot of corporate knowledge that went to settling land claims. That's one thing that they have on their record, and I'm sure it has helped to set back land claims quite dramatically.
Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to stand here for one minute and defend the federal Liberals and the role they're playing in the land claim negotiations, but this government needs to bear some responsibility, too. It's a tripartite agreement, and whether the issues outstanding are between the federal government and the First Nations, this government still has a role to play in there, and I don't believe they've been playing a forceful enough role.
Mr. Speaker, the Chief of the Kwanlin Dun recently spoke out and reminded the Government Leader that they have an outstanding claim that hasn't been settled yet also, and I was quite surprised to hear that the territorial government didn't even have a person at the table for months. I find it alarming that this Yukon territorial government is not there protecting the interests of their citizens. They should be at the table at all times.
I would like to ask the Government Leader: can he give us a date - since he didn't give us one for when the Liard claim would be settled - when the Kwanlin claim will be settled?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, the member's information is inaccurate. We have attended all negotiating sessions with all parties in all claims. In fact, far from decimating the Land Claims Secretariat, we added resources to the Land Claims Secretariat in order to put more energy behind these issues.
Mr. Speaker, I don't know what the member expects me to do. We have facilitated meetings. We have provided encouragement. We have suggested ideas on how to overcome the two remaining large, outstanding issues. Does he want me to pull out the cheque book? Does he want me to delve into the Yukon government's treasury to fulfill a federal obligation?
Mr. Speaker, that's the only thing that will certainly provide a breakthrough. We have encouraged meetings to take place. I've suggested a principals meeting for Saturday. It's going to happen. We have put pressure on the parties to try to resolve and overcome these issues. I can't get the federal government back to the table in the southeast Yukon with the Kaska because they refuse to negotiate when they're being sued.
The Kwanlin Dun claims are going along well, Mr. Speaker. I don't know where the member is coming from when he says that something is amiss on the Kwanlin Dun front. They're going along well. We have reports of a good atmosphere at the table. There is progress being made, and we expect progress to continue.
But, again, unless we can resolve the two remaining outstanding issues, we won't be able to close the Kwanlin Dun table either.
Question re: Gun control legislation
Mr. Phillips: My question is to the Minister of Justice. Today, the provinces of Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, as well as the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, are presenting their arguments in the Supreme Court of Canada arguing the constitutionality of Bill C-68, and that's, as we all know, the Liberal gun law.
The registration system has proven to be a multi-million-dollar boondoggle. The cost of C-68 has far exceeded the federal Liberal government's estimates. In fact, it's going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars to administer. The Ontario Solicitor-General has estimated that 1,900 front-line police officers could have been hired with what has been spent on the bill to date. Instead of hiring police officers, we're hiring 600 to 800 people to work on a registry system that won't work.
The previous Yukon Party government took a strong stand against this unjust, expensive law, and I'd like to ask the minister today if the Yukon government will be making a presentation in front of the Supreme Court of Canada, and if so, will the minister table the presentation in the House?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, let me tell the member that the same answer to the same question can be repeated again today. The Yukon government is participating in the challenge of Bill C-68. We have representatives in Ottawa who are filing the appeal with the other provinces and territories to indicate that we're opposed to Bill C-68.
Mr. Phillips: The question I asked the minister is if we are filing something. Are we filing it, or is Alberta filing it? Are we speaking out? And will the minister table the filed document in the House so other Yukoners can see that the Yukon NDP is standing up for the rights of Yukoners?
The battle over C-68 is not just between the federal government and six provinces and two territories. It seems to be a battle between urban and rural Canadians. The vast majority of Canadians in the largest cities believe that the gun registry will help reduce crime. First Nations, hunters, farmers and virtually all other rural Canadians strongly believe that it will do nothing to reduce crime.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals are only listening to urban Canadians and simply don't care what effect Bill C-68 will have on northerners and rural Canadians.
Can the minister advise the House if the provinces and the territories that are contesting this law are contemplating any kind of an education campaign to make people aware of how important firearms are to people in the north, and that they're not necessarily used, as everyone in the south might think, just to commit crimes?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the presentation that the Yukon government is making before the Supreme Court of Canada does recognize that here in the Yukon we have a high ownership level of firearms. There is no evidence to indicate that this high level of owning firearms results in an increase in crime. In fact, in the Yukon, the crime rate has been going down. We'll be pleased to provide information to the member opposite and to the public to present our position clearly. We're opposed to Bill C-68. We think there are far more responsible ways to reduce crime.
Mr. Phillips: Maybe the minister can also, when she's on her feet today, tell us who is representing the Yukon in Ottawa at the Supreme Court hearings - if we're using someone local or whether or not we've hired an individual from outside to represent Yukoners' interests.
Our local Liberals have been strongly silent on this issue, much like their silence on the misappropriation of the $1 billion dollars of Human Resources money. Mr. Speaker, I don't recall any public statements made by them on Bill C-68 since the previous leader of the local Liberal Party had someone slip a note under my door at about 2:00 in the morning as I was appearing in front of the senators to argue for Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Minister of Justice if she has received any support lately from the new Liberal leader in taking her federal counterparts to task for Bill C-68.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I think the member's question is frivolous, and he knows very well that I have not received any support from the Liberal leader in the Yukon in our opposition to the mandatory registration of each individual firearm, which we do not see as the best way of reducing crime.
I can certainly tell the member that our representation in Ottawa arguing the Yukon's case before the Supreme Court is senior counsel from the Department of Justice.
Question re: Liquor licences for recreational facilities
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation.
Mr. Speaker, the NDP began this term in office by promising to review the Liqour Act. Like so many other promises, this one has been broken.
The NDP has said one thing and then they've done another. What the NDP has chosen to do instead is, out of nowhere, send out a bunch of new policies that will drastically impact the operations of a number of Yukon businesses, and I'm referring, of course, to the revised policy guidelines for holders of recreational licences for facilities such as golf courses.
Can the minister tell the House why this government is out revising policy guidelines and creating red tape instead of doing a proper review of the Liquor Act?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, we've had people coming forward with an interest in having licences for recreation facilities and so on, and we've responded in that manner. We had our board of directors for the Liquor Corporation having meetings in the communities and listening to what people have to say. It's going to bring back all that information to us so that we can review it. We haven't done all the communities yet, and that's the process we're using to look at what interest there is in the communities right now.
We have made no commitment to review the Liquor Act in this mandate.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, in the first sitting of the Legislature, the minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation said that he was going to review the Yukon Liquor Act, and that's a matter of record, Mr. Speaker - much like the votes that the Yukon Liberal Party supported to go against C-68, it's a matter of record.
Now, I'd like to quote from a letter that the Yukon Liquor Corporation Board sent to one of the businesses that will be negatively affected by these new policies. It says, "We are unable to give specific reasons on behalf of the board for developing these policies." What an interesting statement, Mr. Speaker.
Maybe the minister can explain why this NDP government is out trying to cause problems for Yukon businesses that are trying to make a living. Why is this new red tape being created, instead of working to update this outdated piece of legislation?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, we're not creating any red tape. The member is wrong. We're out there trying to listen to people and respond to them, and they've come forward and asked about recreation facilities, and we've responded, as a corporation would with people coming forward. It was as simple as that. We're still going out into the communities and asking people for their views, and we'll collect that information and respond to the communities that are making comments to us.
Mrs. Edelman: It's interesting, Mr. Speaker, because in the last session the minister said that he was going out to the communities to talk about an operational review of the Yukon Liquor Corporation. Now he's saying that he's going out to communities to talk about the Yukon Liquor Act. It's a little hard to tell what we're doing.
The minister knows that a number of recreational licence holders have written the Yukon Liquor Corporation and asked that these revised policy guidelines be cancelled. Simply put, these rules may force some businesses to close. These businesses have asked for a full-blown review of the Liquor Act as well. Will the minister follow the advice of the business community, or will he ignore it?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The member is wrong again. We have the board of directors going to the communities and hearing views from community people on what they feel is important in regard to how the corporation is serving the people. And so we're taking those comments, and we're almost through most of the communities. They've gone everywhere from the south in Watson Lake to Old Crow, listening to what people have to say.
So, we're not going to do the review of the Liquor Act in this mandate. I've said that to the member opposite in the past. We feel that we could be dealing with the communities with the corporation board of directors, listening to what they have to say, and working on that front instead of doing a full-blown review, which we know would be very controversial at this time, from one end of the spectrum to the other.
But, at this point, we're trying to deal with the interests that have come forward from businesses for licences. I know that the board of directors put out a suggestion that had a lot of reaction from the general public, and they know that there's a lot of interest in it, and they will be having full public participation and discussion about those issues that the member brought up.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 99: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 99, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 99 be read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 99, entitled First Appropriation Act 2000-01, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege today to present a budget that responds to the priorities Yukon people themselves have expressed and sets out our government's vision for the territory for this year and beyond.
This is a budget for people. It reflects the Yukon's core values as a caring and compassionate society, with extensive investments in health care and education and increased support for social programs. It honours our commitment to manage the public purse responsibly and to make strategic investments that will create jobs and stimulate growth.
This budget addresses the needs of Yukon families and provides new measures to improve life for people at the lower end of the income scale.
It continues the tax reforms we began last year, with several new initiatives that will result in lower taxes for all Yukoners.
It responds to the needs of Yukon communities and the volunteer groups that contribute so much to the fabric of our lives.
On the economic front, it supports the bold steps our government is taking, in partnership with the community, to develop an economy that is stronger and more diverse.
This new economy will allow Yukon people to pursue emerging opportunities, while respecting our cultural diversity and environmental heritage.
This budget recognizes the continued importance of sectors such as mining, tourism, construction and forestry. It will also foster growth in new activities such as oil and gas, film production and knowledge-based industries.
It contains new initiatives that will increase our ability to compete, that will help attract investment, and that will encourage creativity and innovation.
This budget represents a balanced agenda that respects who we are and where we have come from, as we chart a course for the future. Yukon people want a lifestyle that is economically and environmentally sustainable. We want to live in a community of people who care about each other. We believe that each of us deserves the opportunity to achieve our full potential. Government does its part by listening to the community and responding to what it hears, and it shows leadership by taking decisive action. As this budget demonstrates, we are listening to Yukon people, we are responding, and we are providing leadership as the territory takes its place in a changing world.
We have just entered a new century of expanding opportunities. Our task as a community is to choose directions that allow us to benefit from those opportunities and achieve our common goals. This task does not belong to government alone. This budget demonstrates faith in the ability of Yukon people to make the informed choices that will take us forward together.
Before moving on to the specific details of the main estimates for 2000-01, I would like to provide a snapshot of where our economy stands at the moment.
The export of Yukon products, other than minerals, has risen dramatically in the past three years. This is a direct result of Yukon business people looking outward and carving out their own niche in a global economy.
We all know of the difficulties faced by the mining sector in the past three years, with the Faro mine closure, low base metal and gold prices, decreased demand for minerals due to the Asian financial collapse, and the problems junior mining companies have had attracting investors.
Through the resilience and ingenuity of Yukon people, we have been able to offset some of the impact of those realities. Who could have predicted five years ago that fish spawned in the Yukon would be served in restaurants in China, that Yukon home-building expertise would be at work in Chile, or that a Yukon singer/songwriter would be a top-selling musician in Taiwan? For that matter, who would have predicted even two years ago that Yukon-made beer would be selling in Ontario, or that Yukon-made log homes, furniture and computer software, would be finding promising markets in Alaska?
Yukon entrepreneurs are not sitting back and waiting. They are aggressively seeking opportunities beyond our borders. Last year, the value of forest products exported from the Yukon was $5.7 million, more that 400 percent above the 1998 level.
The growth in value-added processing of forest products, with new sawmills in Watson Lake, Haines Junction and Teslin, is providing jobs for many Yukoners.
The good news continues on the tourism front, as well. Last year the number of tourist visits to the Yukon set a new record for the third year in a row. Between May and September, more than a quarter of a million people visited the territory - nearly six percent more than in 1998. The steady rise in retail sales shows the positive impact of increased tourism, as well as a basic confidence of Yukon consumers. The territory is getting set for another banner year in tourism, with the centenary of the White Pass and Yukon Route and three direct flights from Europe by three charter airlines this summer - two more than last year. A longer runway and other improvements at the Whitehorse International Airport were key factors in attracting this transcontinental traffic. Scheduled flights by both Canadian Airlines and Canada 3000 are also expected to continue.
Last year also saw a 20-percent growth in the building construction sector, with public and private construction projects totalling nearly $50 million. The performance of this sector is expected to remain strong this year. Construction and highway projects already planned for 2000 represent an investment of about $90 million by government and the private sector combined. This will provide many jobs for Yukon workers throughout the territory.
Another expanding area is agriculture, with nearly $4 million in production last year. Much of that was in livestock and poultry products, which are increasingly available for sale in the Yukon, thanks in part to the territory's new abattoir.
Improved performance in these areas is not happening by accident. It is happening because of careful planning and hard work. It is happening because Yukon people know how to rise above adversity and move forward together.
In its study of the Yukon's economic prospects last fall, the Conference Board of Canada confirmed that our economy has turned the corner and is rebounding. That study forecast a 2.3-percent annual increase in our gross domestic product for the next decade. Specifically, it predicted continued growth in tourism, construction, service-related industries, oil and gas, forestry, and cultural industries.
The Conference Board and economists from several Canadian and international banks also predict a gradual improvement in commodity prices as Asian markets recover and the economies of Canada, the U.S. and Europe remain healthy. As mining regains strength with increased metal prices, it will be part of a stronger, more broadly based Yukon economy. The future success of this economy will be built on mining and more, as we move into new areas of activity.
As we consider how to shape our economic future, there is no doubt that we must accept the challenges of change. The Yukon economic forums have presented several thought-provoking speakers and provided workshops and other opportunities for Yukon people to engage in a dialogue about new economic options. Much of that dialogue has revolved around a basic message that our future success will depend on five key elements: a well-educated and well-trained workforce; appropriate infrastructure to support economic activity, including technology infrastructure; an attractive quality of life; a diversified economy and a community that encourages innovation and creativity. Our government's vision is based on these elements.
We will continue to honour our commitment to make sure Yukon students have access to quality education. We have invested millions of dollars in training to help ensure that Yukoners can take advantage of new job opportunities and that new economic ventures will have access to well-trained local workers.
The massive investments we have already made in infrastructure will support growth well into the future. These include a major runway expansion and development of a multi-year plan to improve facilities at the Whitehorse Airport; a multi-million dollar investment in energy initiatives to keep electrical rates stable for municipal, commercial and residential users; a commercial-scale wind turbine and other energy innovations to reduce our dependence on high-cost imported diesel fuel; major highway improvements every year that benefit commercial operators and tourists, as well as Yukon residents and a commitment of millions of dollars for communications infrastructure throughout the territory.
Mr. Speaker, our efforts to provide the tools for a stronger economic future don't stop there. We have taken bold steps to secure long-term access to tidewater port facilities in Alaska. This will support the export of Yukon products to world markets.
Besides helping to investigate the feasibility of a rail link from Alaska, our government will work with the community to gain better access to forest and other natural resources in southeast Yukon.
We are also advocating the Alaska Highway route for a natural gas pipeline.
Another key element that contributes to economic growth is our attractive quality of life. This includes an excellent health care system, safe and healthy communities and a wealth of cultural and recreational opportunities.
As well, the Yukon is a community of resourceful people who are open to new ideas and willing to try new things. The challenge we face is to make sure the transition to a new economy respects the values that make the Yukon special.
The balanced agenda this budget represents will help ensure that we are prepared to meet that challenge.
Mr. Speaker, our government has repeatedly stressed the importance of a responsible, sustainable spending pattern that meets the needs of Yukoners without raising taxes. We have repeatedly promised to maintain a workable savings account in the form of an accumulated surplus. Once again this budget honours those promises.
It continues our record of sustainable spending over time. It strikes a reasonable balance in meeting the priorities Yukon people have expressed. It once again demonstrates our commitment to long-range planning.
In brief, Mr. Speaker, the main estimates for 2000-01 call for a total expenditure of $508.7 million, including a contingency of $5.9 million against revenues of $481.1 million.
An estimated operating deficit for the year of $27.6 million will leave an accumulated surplus - or savings account - of $13.7 million before lapses at March 31, 2001.
This is reflected in our long-range expenditure and revenue projections, which allow for drawing down on our savings to meet short-term needs.
It lets us meet our commitments in health care, education and social services. It supports economic growth, and it continues the program of tax reform we began with last year's budget.
Total spending on operations and maintenance in the coming year is set at $398.7 million. It includes a contingency amount to cover wage settlements with the public sector bargaining units, as well as increased investments in health care and education.
The capital budget for the 2000-01 fiscal year calls for a net expenditure of just under $58 million. On the revenue side, this budget reflects the impact of tax cuts and incentives we introduced last year as well as several new tax initiatives. This impact is projected at slightly over $4 million over the next fiscal year.
Today we are introducing another major tax measure that will provide a benefit for all Yukon people and families. By managing our financial resources wisely, we have kept our promise to protect the quality of health care and education without increasing taxes or imposing health care premiums. As a result, we are in a position to reduce the personal income tax paid by all Yukon people. Within the 2000-01 fiscal year, the territory's personal income tax rate will go down from 50 percent to 46 percent of the basic federal income tax payable. On January 1, 2002, this rate will drop to 44 percent. This means that all Yukon taxpayers will be paying 12 percent less territorial income tax in 2002. Combined with other measures being introduced today, this will help Yukon people keep more of what they earn to use for other priorities.
Mr. Speaker, I will now outline our spending commitments for the 2000-01 fiscal year in more detail, beginning with what we are doing to help Yukon realize its economic potential.
In communities throughout the territory, people tell us how helpful initiatives like the community development fund, fire smart and the rural roads upgrading program are to them. We agree, and we're maintaining these programs at the levels set in the 1999-2000 main estimates. Similarly, tourist operators and other business people have told us how much they appreciate the support provided by the trade and investment fund and the tourism marketing fund. These funds are also being maintained at $750,000 each.
With this budget, we are also addressing a need expressed by several tourism-related organizations. They will now be able to apply for long-term support for their activities through the tourism marketing fund. This should be helpful for organizers of significant tourism activities such as the Yukon Quest, the Sourdough Rendezvous, or summer festivals, which do a great deal to promote the Yukon.
This budget supports continuing growth in tourism and export trade in several other ways. In tourism, for example, we are making substantial new investments to promote the Yukon as a place to visit. These investments include: $250,000 more a year for overall tourism marketing, with $50,000 of that set aside to increase marketing of the Campbell region near Ross River and Faro; $300,000 a year for marketing initiatives aimed at the Asia-Pacific region; an additional $75,000 a year toward enhanced marketing in Europe; $300,000 over the next two years for the Department of Tourism to continue its program of cooperative marketing partnerships; and an additional annual contribution of $30,000 to the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon to enhance its work on behalf of this expanding industry.
Other ongoing marketing support includes annual contributions totalling over $375,000 to groups such as the Yukon Convention Bureau Society, the Alaska Tourism Marketing Council and the Wilderness Tourism Association of Yukon. These investments are part of a total tourism marketing effort that will exceed $6 million in the coming year.
Mr. Speaker, we are building on existing markets and pursuing new markets for what the Yukon has to offer, both in the summer season and at other times of the year. One outstanding example of winter activities is the Arctic Winter Games, which will open two weeks from now. Athletes, performers and mission staff from around the circumpolar north will be here to take part in friendly sporting competition, to develop new friendships and learn more about each other's cultures.
While visitors from around the world are discovering the territory, Yukon people have been looking beyond our borders to discover new economic prospects. Today, I am pleased to announce new programs to expand those efforts. We are investing $60,000 to establish a student trade ambassador program. Through this program, post-secondary students from the Yukon will be able to spend a year helping local companies identify opportunities in international markets in Asia and elsewhere. They will spend part of that time overseas and the rest here, with experienced Yukon business people acting as mentors.
Tourism and advanced education will administer this program, which is expected to meet the criteria for federal funding under the youth international program. Besides gaining valuable work experience, students will qualify for academic credit through the program.
Tourism will undertake another overseas initiative with considerable potential to bring long-term economic benefits to our growing adventure tourism sector. With initial funding of $50,000, the department will conduct a program to attract overseas students to come here and combine English language studies with adventure tourism throughout the territory. Our vast wilderness, excellent educational facilities and skilled tourism operators give the Yukon many advantages in seeking business opportunities in this field.
In a related initiative, advanced education will receive $100,000 for a contribution agreement to help Yukon College develop other opportunities to generate revenues by serving students from the circumpolar region and elsewhere.
One of the main roles of our trade and investment strategy is to seek new investment in Yukon ventures. The success of the immigrant investor fund, combined with other government investments, has allowed us to commit $14.5 million in public funds toward communications infrastructure. The Connect Yukon project, which we are undertaking with the private sector, will make reliable, affordable telephone service accessible to rural residents. It will also increase data-transmission capacity substantially, making quick and reliable access to the Internet a reality in rural Yukon.
Other infrastructure investments that directly support economic growth and help create jobs include: $1.5 million as the Yukon's share of a two-year, $2.3-million project to improve water pressure to the Whitehorse Airport and potential developments in the adjacent area; $25 million in each of the next three years on the Shakwak Highway project; $1 million this year to continue improvements to the Campbell Highway, which is becoming a more significant commercial and tourist route and $750,000 this year to initiate improvements to the Tagish Road.
Another investment that could lead to economic growth in the future is a $100,000 amount for technical analysis related to the proposed Alaska Highway pipeline. While there are competing proposals for a pipeline from Alaska to southern markets, our government favours this route, which has already been surveyed and permitted. This enormous multi-year project would cost about $6 billion U.S. It would be the largest capital development ever undertaken in on Yukon soil and would provide a large number of jobs for Yukon people.
The oil and gas sector is a bright light on our economic horizon, with a potential of $10 million in exploration and $5 million dollars in development this year. Over the next six years, one company alone is committed to investing $20 million in exploration in the Eagle Plain Basin.
A second sale of exploration rights in this basin and the Peel Plateau is planned for this year.
Mr. Speaker, our government firmly believes, as well, that mining will remain an important part of the Yukon's economy.
The enormous potential of the Tintina gold belt straddling the Yukon-Alaska boundary, for example, was the focus of attention at last month's Cordilleran Roundup in Vancouver. This promising region is just part of the Yukon's tremendous resource endowment.
This budget confirms our ongoing support for the Yukon geoscience program and the Yukon mineral incentive program. It also sets aside $520,000 for resource assessments.
We will continue to work with the mining industry on the blue-book process to help find ways to streamline the federal government's permitting process, prior to the Yukon assuming responsibility for this sector.
In cooperation with industry, we will also continue to develop and implement the Yukon mineral strategy.
We are also assisting the mining industry through investments in training. In this budget we are specifically setting aside $200,000 in training funds for Minto Resources when its copper mining project near Pelly goes ahead. With improved copper prices, that could take place this year.
Training assistance will also be made available to other mines coming on stream, which will provide employment opportunities to Yukon workers. As other resource-based activities begin, similar training assistance will be provided.
Our commitment to training trust funds and other initiatives has helped many communities, businesses and volunteer organizations provide Yukon people with the skills they need to participate in the economy.
This important effort will continue with an ongoing commitment of $1.5 million in the training trust fund account.
Another way our government is creating a positive climate for economic growth is by reforming our tax regime. Last year, following a series of tax reform round tables, we introduced several new tax measures that were a first for the territory. One of these was the Yukon mineral exploration tax credit of 22 percent on eligible investments, which runs until March 2001. We are now establishing two new tables to discuss steps we could take in future to make the Yukon a competitive tax regime for both mining and forestry.
Another tax initiative we introduced last year was a small business investment tax credit, which provides an incentive for Yukon people to invest in local businesses. In the fall sitting, we passed legislation to establish a labour-sponsored venture capital fund - the Fireweed Fund - which was another idea from last year's tax round tables. Today, we are setting our rate for the investment tax credits under the fund at 25 percent. With the federal rate of 15 percent, this means a total tax credit for eligible investments of 40 percent. The Fireweed Fund has the potential to make a large pool of investment capital available to support economic ventures in the Yukon.
As one result of this year's tax round tables, today we are introducing another tax measure to stimulate the economy. This is a Yukon research and development tax credit, which is aimed at encouraging local research and development and promoting ingenuity. The territorial rate for eligible investments will be 15 percent, and the credit will be refundable. Combined with the federal credit, a significant benefit will be available for eligible expenditures.
Last year, we demonstrated our belief in Yukon innovators by establishing the Technology Innovation Centre, based in the Northern Research Institute. In the coming year, we will invest a further $275,000 in the centre to show our ongoing support for knowledge-based economic activity.
We are also introducing another program to encourage innovative Yukoners to develop their good ideas into workable small business ventures. This is a micro-loan program, which will provide initial loans of up to $2,000 for people who don't qualify for conventional credit, to get their projects off the ground. Administered by Dana Naye Ventures, this program will include a mentoring and training component, as well as a cooperative support system for people who receive these micro-loans. As loan recipients develop a successful track record, the loan ceiling could be raised.
Mr. Speaker, another growing sector of our economy is film and video production, which is making a significant contribution to the local economy. Because last year's investment of $175,000 in the film incentive program helped attract a number of production crews to the territory, we are maintaining it in the coming year.
This year's budget also includes $40,000 to develop a Yukon location guide to bring Yukon sites to the attention of outside producers. We are also making a one-time investment of $353,000 for the Northern Film and Video Industry Association to complete the purchase of specialized equipment, called a "grip and electrics" package, needed for professional productions. Having this equipment available locally will encourage more activity by reducing costs for outside commercial productions to come here. The association will rent out the equipment at Vancouver rates and use the revenues to help train more Yukon residents for film and video work.
Mr. Speaker, diversifying our economy also involves encouraging smaller areas of activity, and I would like to mention two more items that will have a significant impact on the industries involved.
During pre-budget consultations, we heard that Yukon trappers needed help marketing their products to offset low prices for furs. In response, we are providing new support for this important part of the Yukon's traditional economy. This budget provides an annual amount of $40,000 to support the efforts of the Trappers Association to market furs harvested in the territory.
We will also contribute an ongoing amount of $20,000 to help the Yukon Agricultural Association organize its annual Klondyke Harvest Fair. This fair is helping make Yukoners and visitors alike more aware of the excellent quality and variety of Yukon agricultural products.
Another way we are helping provide a climate for economic growth is by identifying ways to ease the burden of government regulations. We are doing this through a code of regulatory conduct that commits government departments to consult with those affected by new laws or regulations, and use the least intrusive measures that will achieve the desired results.
We are also doing it through a government-wide program to reduce the red tape involved in dealing with government.
Several red-tape reduction initiatives have been taken already. These include providing longer terms of certain licences; making more services available electronically and eliminating outdated regulations representing almost one-third of the regulations on the territory's books.
Consultations are ongoing in different communities and with specific sectors to get more input on how to reduce red tape further and make it easier for the private sector and people everywhere to do business with the Yukon government.
Our government will continue to support new ideas and encourage hard work, creativity and innovation that will help diversify and strengthen the Yukon economy.
We will continue to work with Yukon businesses in their efforts to attract new investment and to research, develop and market new goods and services, and we will continue to invest in training and in the infrastructure needed for sustainable economic growth, so that Yukon can realize its economic potential.
Mr. Speaker, one of the fundamental responsibilities of a democratic society is to ensure its citizens have access to the things they need for a decent and dignified lifestyle, regardless of their source or level of income.
Among other things, these include proper food, shelter and health care, access to education, a safe environment and guaranteed human and civil rights, including the right to equal and fair treatment before the law.
Our government believes that universal, publicly funded health care is a basic right. The Yukon is fortunate to have a health care system that ranks with the very best in Canada. We have promised to protect that priceless legacy. With rising costs and constrained revenues, this has required belt tightening in other areas.
With all other provinces and territories, we have been urging the federal government to restore funding for the Canada health and social transfer to its 1994 level, which would allow us to improve health care, social services and post-secondary education.
As part of the Yukon's commitment to improved health services, last year we opened seven additional extended care beds at the Thomson Centre. We also promised to build a new continuing care facility in Whitehorse. Construction begins this summer, with over $7.9 million in this year's budget.
The new facility will be completed in 2002, with an additional investment of more than $8 million in the succeeding two years.
Today we are announcing another significant health care investment, with a capital contribution of $1.4 million for new equipment at the Whitehorse General Hospital. Of that amount, $1 million will go toward the purchase of a computerized tomography unit, better known as a CAT scan.
The Yukon Hospital Corporation and many in the medical community have identified this as their first priority for new equipment, and we are pleased to respond.
Having this valuable diagnostic tool available in the Yukon will make it more convenient and less stressful for Yukon people to receive diagnoses. It will also save some of the costs and risks involved in medevac flights to hospitals outside.
This budget also commits an ongoing amount of $400,000 a year to operate the unit. We are also increasing our contribution toward the hospital's operating and maintenance costs by $340,000 in 2000-01.
While other parts of Canada face a health system in crisis, Yukon people have reason to be proud of the health care available here. At the same time, it is important to look ahead and decide as a community where to put our priorities for the future.
Last fall, 100 people from around the Yukon took part in a special Health Summit. During the two-day event, delegates discussed a wide variety of issues and made many suggestions about where the territory should focus its attention in order to improve the health status of Yukon people.
We have allocated $50,000 in this year's budget to follow up on last year's conference with a Health Summit 2000. The focus will be on how to prevent illness by promoting healthier lifestyle choices. One example of our support for healthy lifestyles is the community addictions treatment fund we established last fall. This budget confirms that health investment with an ongoing contribution of $300,000.
We also know that early intervention with children at risk helps prevent serious problems later. One of the leading experts in learning disabilities, Dr. Fraser Mustard, reminded Yukon audiences of this fact last fall. Early intervention is also cost-effective. Research shows that each dollar spent early in the life of a child at risk saves as much as $7 dealing with serious behavioural and other problems later on.
Last year, we increased our support for the Child Development Centre's work in rural Yukon with preschool children at risk. To further address the needs of children at risk, such as those with fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects, we're investing a further $150,000 in a healthy families initiative. Similarly, we are providing an additional $150,000 for the reading recovery program, which is proving successful at helping school-aged children. Another school-based program that is helping to meet the needs of Yukon children is food for learning. This program has had the benefit of a great deal of community support from Yukon people and businesses. To build on our initial investment three years ago, we are increasing support for that program by $30,000 a year.
Mr. Speaker, last year, we introduced tax reform initiatives to help address the needs of low-income Yukon families. One was a low-income family tax credit, or LIFT credit, which provides a benefit of up to $300 per year for people with less than $25,000 in net income. Another was the Yukon child benefit, which provides up to $300 a year per child for families with a net income below $16,700. About 1,300 Yukon families, representing 2,500 children, are now receiving those benefits each month.
To further help Yukon people with low incomes meet their daily costs, we are introducing other new measures. These are an ongoing allocation of $200,000 to support the first increase in social assistance rates since 1991 to help those in our society who are in the greatest need. We are also introducing a $70,000 a year amount in tuition support to encourage people receiving social assistance benefits to take part-time training programs at Yukon College.
Another example of our commitment to Yukon families and children can be seen in our investment of over $5 million a year in child care subsidies and direct operating grants to child care providers.
These initiatives related to health and family security represent just some of the ways our government is reinforcing the social foundations of Yukon society.
As another example, with this budget we're providing $30,000 more a year for the Handy Bus service in Whitehorse as a practical way to help meet the needs of people with disabilities.
Mr. Speaker, this budget includes $50,000 for a Yukon-wide social justice forum this year. This will provide a venue for a focused discussion on how we, as a society, support one another in times of difficulty.
Our government recognizes the need to use available resources efficiently in providing services to Yukon people. During the coming year, we will begin a comprehensive review of how we can best deliver these services and what opportunities there may be to integrate facilities, resources or activities. While it is important to avoid duplication and overlapping of services, it is equally important to identify gaps that need to be filled.
This review will involve all government departments and agencies responsible for direct services to the public, as well as non-governmental groups that provide services on behalf of government.
Mr. Speaker, another vital part of our social fabric is the educational opportunities available, both in childhood and throughout life. Our public education system is founded on the Yukon Education Act, which acknowledges the responsibility the whole community shares for educating our young people.
This budget includes $272,000 for the required review of the act, which will begin later this year. A steering committee is already at work defining the term of the review and how it will take place.
As society changes, the needs of public education are constantly evolving. In recognition of that fact, the department has been sponsoring a series of public lectures, workshops and informal discussions to encourage Yukon people to share their ideas about what education in the territory should look like. These thought provoking and sometimes controversial Conversations in Education will take place throughout the coming year.
The 2000-01 budget continues a three-year school replacement program that began in 1998 in response to the priorities expressed by school councils across the territory. The new Chief Zzeh Gittlit School in Old Crow opened last fall. In the 2000-01 fiscal year, we will spend $5.5 million to begin construction of the long-awaited replacement for the J.V. Clark community school in Mayo this summer. Also this summer, construction of the new community school in Ross River will be completed, with an investment in this year's budget of $2 million.
Mr. Speaker, we will invest $300,000 during 2000-01 in the ongoing education component of Connect Yukon. This will open new avenues of learning for Yukon students through teleconferencing and other distance education techniques throughout the territory. Part of this year's investment will go toward training teachers and administrators in how to use new information technology effectively in the schools.
Other investments in Yukon young people in this budget include an additional $60,000 for the kids recreation fund, which will continue in future years. We are also putting $350,000 into youth strategy initiatives in the coming year, to continue a number of popular and effective youth leadership and recreation programs across the territory.
Involving young people in decisions that affect them remains a key part of our government's youth strategy. This budget also reflects our ongoing commitment to post-secondary education, with an annual investment of $2.5 million in student grants and scholarships. We also provide annual funding totalling $11.3 million to Yukon College for capital and operations. This budget increases the contribution for operations and maintenance by $280,000. Another inclusion in this budget allows for a 10-percent increase in the general training allowance rate, with an annual investment of $150,000. Our government also supports the development of the new University of the Arctic, of which Yukon College is a founding partner. We look forward to the opportunities this university without walls will present for Yukon students and other northerners to pursue post-secondary education here in the north.
Mr. Speaker, reinforcing our social foundations also involves major commitments in the area of justice. Last year's community consultations on restorative justice brought forward a number of excellent ideas about how we can make the justice system work better for Yukon people. The coming years will see the redirection of programs and resources to meet the principles of restorative justice. At the same time, we recognize that ensuring community safety also involves providing secure facilities to accommodate offenders who require incarceration. The 2000-01 capital estimates include $1 million dollars for planning and preparation for a facility to replace the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
This budget also increases the territory's contribution to the legal aid program by an ongoing amount of $125,000 a year. This will expand the ability of the legal aid service to deal with civil matters such as custody and maintenance issues. Helping Yukon people deal with the legal system accounts for $1.5 million in this budget. This includes over $1 million for legal aid, $344,000 for the native court workers program, and an $85,000 contribution to the Yukon Public Legal Education Association. To further address issues that affect women in particular, we are increasing our annual contribution the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre by $50,000 to support its advocacy work on behalf of women in need.
Our commitment to reinforcing the territory's social foundations includes a promise we made at the beginning of our mandate to provide stable funding for community organizations that provide services to Yukon people on behalf of government. We have kept that promise, and we will continue to do so.
Mr. Speaker, one thing both Yukon residents and visitors value most about the territory is its outstanding natural legacy. Yukon people expect their government to exercise responsible stewardship over our environmental heritage, as well as our human and cultural heritage. As last year's budget address stated unequivocally, safeguarding the environment is a matter of great importance to the people of the territory. We owe that to our children and to all future generations.
Two months ago, our commitment to Yukon's environment achieved a historic landmark with the announcement of the final boundaries for the Tombstone Territorial Park and the Fishing Branch protected area. The Tombstone Steering Committee and the Northern Yukon Local Planning Team will develop management plans for these two regions during the next year.
Designating these two areas symbolizes the major legacy they represent from our generation to future generations. As one of the speakers in the Conversations in Education series said, "The trees we plant now will shelter generations you and I will never meet." This year, our government will work with other governments, conservation groups, the resource industry and other stakeholders to implement the Yukon protected areas strategy in a way that benefits all Yukon people.
Our goal of protecting representative areas of all 23 of the territory's distinct ecoregions remains intact. With the experience gained in establishing the Fishing Branch protected area, we are reviewing the processes in the protected areas strategy to make sure they address the needs of all affected interests. In this budget Renewable Resources has an allocation of $260,000 for resource assessments related to the implementation of that strategy. There is an additional amount of $260,000 for park system planning.
Our government is supporting a number of other initiatives to protect the environment through the 2000-01 budget, Mr. Speaker. We recognize, for example, the importance of proper sewage treatment in keeping Yukon lakes and rivers healthy. This budget provides $300,000 this fiscal year for the development of sewage treatment and disposal facilities in Carcross. This is part of a three-year investment totalling almost $1.4 million. We are also contributing $100,000 in 2000-01 toward construction of the sewage lagoon in Burwash Landing. This project will receive a further $250,000 during the following two fiscal years. In addition, part of our long-term contribution to capital projects in Dawson City is for a sewage treatment facility in that town.
Mr. Speaker, Yukon people have demonstrated a great deal of commitment to recycling as a way to help protect the environment.
Many Yukon communities have established recycling programs of one kind or another. One challenge they face, however, is how to meet the transportation costs associated with recycling. This year's budget sets aside $100,000 in direct assistance to Yukon recycling organizations to implement a territory-wide recycling program.
Another environmental challenge confronting us is the unknown impact of global warming, especially on the fragile northern environment. Last year, in conjunction with the federal Department of Natural Resources, we established the Climate Xchange program, based at the Northern Research Institute. This fiscal year we will invest a further $75,000 in the Climate Xchange program.
The budget for 2000-01 also includes $150,000 to combat riverbank erosion on the Porcupine River in Old Crow, which may be of some interest to you particularly, Mr. Speaker.
Before the current budget was tabled, we committed some $6 million to a variety of energy efficiency and alternate energy projects as part of implementing the recommendation of the Cabinet Commission on Energy. This year, we will see concrete results from this investment, including projects in cogeneration and waste heat recovery supported by the green power fund.
Another project being undertaken by the Yukon Development Corporation is the $2-million commercial-scale wind turbine being erected on Haeckel Hill this summer. Our environmental commitment can also be seen in the residential energy management program, and in the expansion of the commercial energy management program to include financial assistance to First Nation and municipal governments. These programs have helped residential and business consumers reduce their use of electricity, particularly in winter months. This will result in both cost-savings and less use of imported fuels to generate electricity.
To increase environmental awareness in our schools, this year's budget provides support for the environmental citizenship program sponsored by the Environmental Education Association of the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, the settlement of land claims has increased the work of many volunteer organizations that provide input and advice on environmental and wildlife management issues. The Yukon Fish and Game Association is one such organization. Beginning with this budget, we will contribute $20,000 annually to the Fish and Game Association to support its work on behalf of Yukon anglers and hunters. With $30,000 from the Renewable Resources budget, we will also work with the association to conduct a survey of the territory's deer population to determine if a limited harvest of deer would be sustainable.
Besides supporting our environmental heritage, the 2000-01 budget main estimates contain substantial investments in preserving our human and cultural heritage. These capital investments total $1.9 million in the coming year for museums, historic sites and heritage resources, which is an increase of $400,000 over the current year's main estimates.
In addition to upgrading a number of landmark historic buildings in recent years, such as the White Pass railway station, our government will introduce legislation this sitting to recognize in law our policy of property-tax exemptions for heritage buildings where the Yukon government is the taxing authority. Our investments in heritage in this budget include $50,000 more for the Rampart House restoration project on the Porcupine River and $300,000 for enhancements to other heritage sites around the territory. We are also increasing the annual contribution to the Yukon Historical and Museums Association by $25,000 to encourage its work preserving and promoting the Yukon's human heritage.
Respect for our past and respect for the future are the hallmarks of a society that takes pride in what it is and where it exists. Our government will continue to reinforce those values.
Mr. Speaker, we are also proud of our record in supporting Yukon communities. From Old Crow in the north to Beaver Creek and Watson Lake in the south, and all the communities in-between, Yukon people have seen first-hand how our government continues to respond to their needs. For example, since we re-introduced the community development fund, it has provided more than $13 million in direct support for community-driven projects. This budget continues that commitment with $3 million in ongoing support for the CDF.
Another source of support for organized communities is the annual block grant we provide to Yukon municipalities. Last year, we increased this grant for the first time since 1992. That process continues in this budget, with additional ongoing funding of $232,000. This represents an increase of two percent in the comprehensive municipal grant.
Many communities have told us one of the new challenges they face is how to manage solid wastes better. This increase will help them meet that challenge. At the same time, we are contributing an additional $200,000 for a one-year pilot project in non-burning solid waste management. The Haines Junction village council has expressed interest in taking a leadership role in finding more environmentally friendly alternatives to burning as a way to dispose of solid wastes.
We are also increasing the annual grant to the Association of Yukon Communities by $25,000, to a total of $100,000, to support the growing need of municipalities to promote economic activities.
Another common request by many communities in the past has been for improved recreational facilities. As the result of recent Yukon government support, a number of recreation projects are underway around the territory. Pelly Crossing has a new skating rink, Watson Lake is completing a new recreational facility, and construction has begun on a new recreation centre in Dawson City.
The City of Whitehorse will break ground for its new swimming pool this spring, as our long-term commitment to recreational facilities in the Yukon's capital continues at the rate of $1 million a year. The Yukon government's total contribution to the pool project will be $9 million.
For Dawson City, we have increased our long-term commitment for two capital projects, from $9 million to $10.4 million. This will contribute to both the needed recreational facilities and Dawson's choice of sewage treatment. As a result of an acceleration in the payment schedule, our annual investment over the next three years has been set at $2.1 million. This budget includes $1 million as the first half of a two-year commitment to a new recreation centre in Carmacks.
It also includes $250,000 for renovations to the community centre and $125,000 for a swimming pool roof in Ross River. We are also increasing the sports and recreation grant to the Yukon Recreation and Arts Council by $70,000 on an ongoing basis.
Some of the other priorities communities told us about, which we are pleased to support in the budget for 2000-01, include a community bus for Old Crow, at a cost of $120,000; a major upgrading for the intersection of the Haines and Alaska highways, worth $400,000 in the coming year; street upgrading in Carcross, worth $200,000; and a new building for l'Association franco-yukonnaise, financed in part by a territorial contribution of $475,000.
In Old Crow, we are investing $835,000 over the next three years for a new airport terminal building and improvements to the runway apron. The investment in the coming fiscal year is $215,000. This budget includes an additional $200,000 for the Whitehorse International Airport for paving aircraft parking areas. Work on the new Mayo Road fire hall will also be completed this year, with an investment of $350,000 in the 2000-01 main estimates. This budget also includes $350,000 for rural electrification and $100,000 as a final payment on the Yukon share of the community access program.
With our vast geography and extreme climate, investing in an extensive system of roads and highways is a major part of the Yukon government's capital spending each year. In addition to the highway construction projects already mentioned, this budget supports a number of other highway and road projects to improve safety and convenience throughout the territory. Among others, these include $85,000 to install a bridge on the Nahanni Range Road; $101,000 to improve the approaches to the M'Clintock River bridge; $295,000 for intersection improvements in various locations along the Alaska Highway; $2.3 million for improvements to Hamilton Boulevard and associated sewer main construction; and $50,000 to design a pedestrian walkway on the Nisutlin River bridge in Teslin as the first part of a two-year project that would include $450,000 to construct the walkway in 2001-2002.
Over the past two years, our government has substantially increased its investment in upgrading rural roads throughout the territory. This has provided work for local contractors and other residents in rural communities. It has also served the important goal of improving transportation infrastructure in rural areas for the benefit of both residents and visitors. This budget honours our ongoing commitment to this program with $1 million in the 2000-01 fiscal year.
Another way we are responding to the needs of our communities is by making serviced lots available that support a variety of housing options for Yukon people. The main estimates for 2000-01 include a total investment of $1.75 million to develop rural residential and recreational lots throughout the territory. This includes $420,000 for country residential lots on the road to Mt. Sima, and an additional $880,000 for Whitehorse country residential lots.
As we respond to the demand for residential lots, this budget contains nearly $1.8 million for urban residential lots in Copper Ridge in the coming fiscal year. It also sets aside $500,000 for commercial lots in Whitehorse in 2000-01, as part of a total investment of $750,000 over the next two years.
Mr. Speaker, this is a special year in the Yukon. The beginning of a new century - a new millennium - provides an opportunity to celebrate who we are and where we live. That's why our government established the Yukon millennium celebration fund, with a two-year commitment of $900,000, to help Yukon communities and organizations honour the past, celebrate the present, and welcome the future.
The year 2000 promises to be busy and memorable throughout the territory. I am pleased to announce a further contribution of $200,000 to the Yukon Arts Centre for its View from the Top series of concerts and cultural events. The Arts Centre is working in conjunction with several arts organizations and communities to present these exciting events as a way to help Yukon people celebrate the new millennium.
Another example of our support for the arts can be seen in Dawson City, where the old Oddfellows Hall has been refurbished as a community arts centre, with help from the community development fund. This budget commits an additional $50,000 a year to support the programming of the Dawson Arts Society in the new centre. This will bring our annual contribution to the society to $100,000.
We are also contributing $130,000 this year for the Yukon Arts Centre to commission a collection of sculptures by Yukon artists. These sculptures will be installed on the Whitehorse waterfront to celebrate the new century.
This summer, residents and visitors alike will also be treated to the unusual sight of a trolley car making its way along the bank of the Yukon River. This project, which we are undertaking in concert with the Miles Canyon Historic Railway Society, will make a significant contribution to the beautification and development of the waterfront area. Besides providing a pleasant transportation alternative, the trolley will contribute to the local economy by attracting tourists and residents to Main Street and the downtown core.
Mr. Speaker, Yukon people have many reasons to feel proud and confident as we enter the new millennium. We have made substantial progress toward completing and implementing land claims and self-government agreements with Yukon First Nations. Half of these agreements have been completed and several others are very near conclusion.
It is our hope that the two remaining land claims issues of major substance and complexity - taxation and repayment of loans - will soon be resolved. One result of this process, which has been going on for over two decades, is new government-to-government relations based on a clear and cooperative sharing of responsibilities. We have further defined this relationship with new intergovernmental agreements between Yukon and First Nation governments. These help to establish practical ways for our governments to work together.
Another major step forward in our development as a society is set to take place on April 1, 2001, when responsibility for Yukon lands and resources is transferred to Yukon hands. This will virtually complete the devolution of all province-like powers to the territory and give Yukon people more control of their economic and social development. This will stand for all time as a symbol of our coming of age.
Mr. Speaker, as we enter a new century and a new millennium, this is truly an exciting time to live in the Yukon. It is a time to look with pride on what we have already accomplished together. It is a time for celebrating who we are and what we have to offer each other and the world. It is a time to enjoy the special place in which we live. It is a time to move forward together, confident in our abilities as individuals and as a community. It is time to tell others what we already know, that we, the people of the Yukon, are taking our place in a changing world.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I move that debate be now adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the official opposition that the debate be now adjourned.
Motion to adjourn debate on second reading of Bill No. 99 agreed to
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 3:13 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled February 21, 2000:
Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Yukon on a By-Election in Lake Laberge, October 25, 1999 (Speaker Bruce)
Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Yukon on Contributions to Candidates, October 25, 1999 Lake Laberge By-Election (Speaker Bruce)
Deductions from the indemnities of Members of the Legislative Assembly made pursuant to subsection 39(6) of the Legislative Assembly Act: Report of the Clerk of Yukon Legislative Assembly (dated February 21, 2000) (Speaker Bruce)
Government Contracting Summary Report by Department (April 1, 1999 to January 31, 2000) (Sloan)