Wednesday, February 23, 2000 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In remembrance of Effy Croft
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, today I rise on behalf of all members of the Legislature who have bestowed upon me the honour and the duty to pay tribute to a real character in this territory, Effy Croft of Faro, my constituency.
Many people across this territory knew Effy Croft. She came to the territory some 14 years ago and, ever since her arrival, people have known exactly where she comes from in this territory. I recently attended her service, celebration of life, in Faro. It was attended by many people, both in the community and from around this territory.
Effy was a very complex person. She could be one of the most volatile people I have ever met; she was not one to shy away from some colourful language from time to time and from undertaking some colourful activities.
On the other hand, there was a side to Effy that was as caring and as touching as anyone I have ever met. She could be most gracious, and was always there for people in the community of Faro, and around this territory when she was called upon to lend a hand, or to stick up for the little person, because that's what she loved to do, and to be there when people ultimately needed her.
In the community of Faro, she was often running into issues or concerns or arguments with different citizens from time to time, but I've never seen anyone who was quicker and more able to put all that aside when people in the community needed her. She could make friends with people she had just been arguing with in a heartbeat.
Effy was also a community leader; she worked with youth in the community; she participated in alternative measures, trying to lend some guidance to the youth of the community, always there with concern. They treated her almost like a surrogate mother; she was very, very concerned about their stead.
As well, she was on the municipal council in the community of Faro, and she was always a very strong voice for community issues, and for people in the community. That was both within Faro and also at the Association of Yukon Communities level, when all the councils came together.
She worked on the AYC and at AYC functions, often terrorizing the Government Leader and opposition members and other mayors and council members from across the territory. At one point, she even brought the mayor from Dawson to serve as her slave in Faro for a few days to perform various tasks for her in the community. She had a lot of fun at his expense, and I think also the Mayor of Dawson had a good time as well.
Effy was Faro through and through, the epitome of the community, and she will be missed by Tiny, by Lenny, by her daughters and by so many of her good friends in the community of Faro and by a lot of people in this territory. We will miss her.
In recognition of Aliy Zirkle, 2000 Yukon Quest winner
Ms. Buckway: I rise to pay tribute to Aliy Zirkle, the winner of the 2000 Yukon Quest sled dog race. She crossed the finish line at Takhini Hot Springs in Lake Laberge riding at 10:59 this morning. Yukoner Thomas Tetz was second in, at 11:29, and Yukoner and past Quest champion Frank Turner is in a three-way battle for third place, expected to cross the finish line later this afternoon.
The Quest is a shining example of personal perseverance and a tie to a historical mode of transport. I pay tribute to Aliy Zirkle, the winner, and to all the Quest mushers.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Keenan:I, too, rise to pay tribute to Aliy Zirkle, the very first woman to win the Yukon Quest, and it has been around for almost two decades now. I had the chance, not to meet the young lady, but to read about her and her past history in the newspaper and follow her endeavours over the Quest.
I think Aliy is a true daughter of the Yukon Territory. She may not have been born in the Yukon Territory, but she's a true daughter of the Yukon Territory. I read with great enthusiasm and interest when she spoke about skateboards and palm trees and being dragged around on her skateboard by her dog. Now, here she is, winning the Yukon Quest - experiencing the mountains, spruce trees and the overflow. It's just phenomenal in my mind. I like to think that she has gone from skateboards and palm trees to spruce trees and dog teams.
I think of my mother and her experience and the character that has built in my mother through managing dogs. It has given my mother the strength to raise a family, such as people like me, and to carry on and be a wonderful, dynamic perk for the Yukon. I do know in my heart that Ms. Zirkle will be a community leader in the Yukon in the future.
So, on behalf of my caucus, I, too, would like to celebrate her initiative and success in life.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to join as well with the other parties in tribute to the winner of the Yukon Quest this year. Aliy Zirkle, I understand, is the first woman to win the Yukon Quest and I have to confess that I was pulling for the two Yukoners who, I believe, were running second and third, but as my mother said, never underestimate the power of a woman. And in this case, my mother was dead-on. And congratulations to Aliy, and more so congratulations to her dogs, who pulled her the thousand miles to get to Whitehorse. And we wish all the other mushers out on the trail Godspeed and hope they make the finish line. Many of them have worked very hard and trained for many months to get where they are today, and the Yukon Quest is, as we all know, the toughest dog sled race in the world and is one that we're all very proud of, and we're very proud of the winners and all the competitors who have taken part in this year's race.
Speaker: Are there any introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have for tabling the intervener's factum of the Minister of Justice for the Government of Yukon Territory in the Supreme Court of Canada on appeal from the Court of Appeal of Alberta respecting the Firearms Act.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Petition No. 12 - not received
Clerk: Mr. Speaker and hon. members of the Assembly, I have had the honour to review a petition, being Petition No. 12, of the First Session of the Twenty-ninth Legislative Assembly, as presented by the Member for Riverdale South on February 22, 2000.
This petition is not addressed to the Yukon Legislative Assembly, nor does it request the Yukon Legislative Assembly to take an action. Rather, it requests action of the board of directors of the Yukon Liquor Corporation.
Also, the petition presented by the Member for Riverdale South does not contain original signatures. The entire document is a photocopy.
This petition, therefore, does not meet the requirements as to form of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: Petition No. 12, accordingly, cannot be received.
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Connect Yukon, signing of agreement with Northwestel
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Government Services about the Connect Yukon project. This deal with Northwestel was announced by the minister last fall during the Lake Laberge by-election.
Mr. Speaker, when the House adjourned before Christmas, the actual deal between Northwestel and the Yukon government to wire the Yukon had not yet been signed. The government had committed to spending $18 million without a signed contract. The letter of intent wasn't even signed until after the minister had publicly announced the project. This is February 23, four months after Connect Yukon was announced.
Can the minister confirm that the formal agreement between the Government of Yukon and Northwestel still hasn't been signed?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, we can confirm that we are continuing to work with Northwestel. We have a letter of agreement with them. There have been a couple of changes since the original agreement was developed, most notably the changes driven by the CRTC decision, and that has changed some things in terms of the timing, the commitment that the onus is on Northwestel now to provide service to all areas that are underserved.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, it's my understanding that the Connect Yukon agreement is not likely to be signed until some time in March. Perhaps the minister should have resisted the urge to announce the project in the heat of the by-election when he didn't have a signed deal.
It's interesting that the government has embarked on an $18-million expenditure without a deal signed. $18 million dollars, and the government is operating on a gentlemen's agreement. Is it any wonder that this government has no credibility in the business community?
Will the minister admit that the announcement of this project was fast tracked to give the NDP's campaign in the Lake Laberge by-election a boost?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That is such a cheap shot, Mr. Speaker, I don't think I should dignify it. I think, as I expressed before, we had been attempting on a number of occasions to make moves in this direction. What we had had was a series of delays by the CRTC on making its announcement. So we had made a decision to move ahead when we did. We believe that working with Northwestel is a productive arrangement.
The member appears to be opposed to the extension of phone service to rural Yukon. I can tell the Member for Lake Laberge that I find that somewhat disappointing, and I'm sure her constituents do - many of her constituents, who have contacted me personally about the lack of telephone service in the Laberge area. I'm somewhat surprised that she has taken this position, opposing so many of her constituents. I find it distressing that she's going to abandon the good folks of Jackfish Bay and other areas to yet more years of being unserved. I'm at a loss to understand this.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Lake Laberge is not opposed to the extension of telephone service and is on record saying so.
Mr. Speaker, when the minister announced Connect Yukon last fall, he said the project would provide high-speed Internet service to 17 Yukon communities, better telephone service to all Yukon communities, new telephone service to many areas that presently don't have telephone service, and that every community will benefit from a doubling of the telecommunications capacity available for voice telephone services.
Is it still the government's plan to include all 17 communities in the high-speed Internet service?
Hon. Mr. Sloan:I would suggest that the member is still persisting in her opposition to the service.
We have made our commitment to reach all communities. The time schedule will be determined by us working through our commitment to serve the north Klondike Highway, which is the principal area first, and trying to reach all those communities along that way. That is still the majority of our investment in this area. We also have a schedule now - a proposed schedule - for rural telephone services, subject, of course, to CRTC approval.
I can tell the member that I met today with the deputy minister, who has just been in Ottawa, meeting with CRTC, because we wanted to make sure that our program was compatible with the CRTC direction. We have been told by the CRTC that they are very supportive of the direction that we're going with our program, and they see it as being compatible with the CRTC direction.
So we feel comfortable that we're working in the right way, and that we're working for the betterment of all individuals in the Yukon. I am glad to see, however, that the Member for Lake Laberge has managed to understand that this is a program that encompasses a good deal more than phones. Phones are one component, but high-speed Internet and data transfer are another, as well as the educational component, which, I think, unfortunately, gets very little recognition.
Question re: Connect Yukon project, rural telephone service
Ms. Buckway: I have a further question for the Minister of Government Services about the Connect Yukon project. Mr. Speaker, the minister got himself in trouble last fall when he said the Connect Yukon project would provide telephone service to all rural Yukoners. Of course, that wasn't the case, and the minister later admitted that.
It's my understand that, in fact, all 17 communities are not included in the high-speed Internet service, and that several communities, including Faro and Ross River, are being left out. Can the minister confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It is not our intention to leave anyone out. As I told the member, we are focusing on the main areas first, which involves the construction of three microwave towers, and that will be the first stage of the telecommunications project.
Ms. Buckway: The minister said last fall that part of the funding for Connect Yukon, some $4 million, was supposed to come from a CRTC national fund. Four months later, the fund doesn't exist. There's no guarantee it ever will. If it is created, there's no guarantee that the Yukon will get any part of it, yet the minister is counting on $4 million from this fund to make the deal go ahead.
Where is this shortfall coming from, Mr. Speaker? Is Alexa McDonough bringing a $4-million cheque when she visits in April - the federal NDP leader?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would put my chances of getting money from Ms. McDonough somewhat higher than I would from Ms. Stewart, who seems to have lost a billion. We may not have a great deal of money, but at least we can count.
The member is making reference to the high-cost serving area, and I think we have referred to this before. The member seems to be assuming that it is not going to take place. All of our indications are that there will be a high-cost serving area developed. Certainly that's a premise for Northwestel's service improvement plan. They have premised a good deal of their work around telecommunications infrastructure, or telephone infrastructure, upgrades, and their ability to lower tariffs in the north on the high-cost serving area.
We have said that we intend to try to access the high-cost serving area for the recovery of some of our costs, but we're not wholly dependent on that. I'm sure the member realizes that we're not depending on federal largesse. It has proved so abjectly inadequate before on everything from homelessness to other issues that we have learned better than depend on money flowing from Ottawa.
Ms. Buckway: The federal Liberals spend millions of dollars in the Yukon. The federal NDP contribute nothing to Yukoners, and I note with interest that, although he answered a lot of things, the minister did not answer the question. Mr. Speaker, the government is operating on a memorandum of understanding on the Connect Yukon project. Can the minister table that document? Has there been any more correspondence of any kind between Northwestel and the Yukon government on this project? Can the minister table those documents?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We certainly can provide documents we have that don't violate confidentiality issues or otherwise. However, with regard to the federal Liberals, they seem to be very good about coming up and trotting around and trying to support their local friends here, but I have to tell the member that we have been deeply disappointed by some of the federal Liberal actions lately. They came up not too long ago - Claudette Bradshaw came up - and promised all kinds of things to our local community and then delivered zero.
Question re: Argus Properties mall development, subsidization by government
Mr. Ostashek: My question is for the Minister of Economic Development. Last fall this government, with its misappropriation of $750,000 of Whitehorse waterfront development money to provide water and sewer services to Argus Properties, has helped create a storm of public controversy in Whitehorse. It throws into question this government's support for local businesses.
Mr. Speaker, many businesses are extremely upset with this government and its use of their tax dollars in promoting a private sector development which may put some of them out of business. If this minister has any doubts about that, he needs only read the letters to the editor that have been in the local papers this winter, criticizing the government and its actions.
My question to the minister: does he believe it's fair for his government to use taxpayers' dollars that are raised from local businesses and local residents to promote the development of outside competitive businesses?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, this is the member that constantly talks about attracting investment, and here's an investment of some $35 million in the private sector in the territory. What our government has done is consistent with the role that we've played in the past, whether it has been helping the city improve the downtown core - in this case, it is providing offsite infrastructure in water and sewer, which will extend our ability to ensure there are serviceable areas along the waterfront for a long time to come and to help develop that attractive area.
As well, we've participated with the city, for example, in the development of the trolley project, which is going to help improve the downtown core area. This is a city-led project that we have supported to the extent of the offsite infrastructure.
With regard to the business community, we've provided tons of support: small business investment tax credit; we just announced personal tax cuts; we've undertaken and made major moves on red-tape reduction; we brought in a rate stabilization fund and then extended it to commercial and businesses to lower electricity rates much below the cost of service for the business people in this territory. We've gotten letters of support from the chambers of commerce for our actions on red tape. We've gotten kudos for our actions in the labour-sponsored venture capital fund that we've created - the Fireweed Fund. We've been told that the business community is happy with the export trade agenda that we're putting forward. We've got lots of support for trade and investment and tourism marketing funds. So, Mr. Speaker, I think the member opposite is sadly out of touch.
Mr. Ostashek: The Minister of Economic Development ought not to shoot the messenger. If he'd have stayed around the Yukon this winter, he might have seen how much controversy there was over this government's actions.
During the 1996 election, the NDP made much of the issue of local hire and complained bitterly that too many jobs were leaking outside. After the election, the NDP government made the MLA for Whitehorse Centre the Yukon hire commissioner. On page 19 of his final report, the Yukon hire commission includes a section entitled, "Maximizing Opportunities for Yukon Businesses," and recommendation number 14 defines what constitutes a Yukon business for the purpose of any government preference policy.
My question to the minister: why is this government now turning its back on local businesses in favour of outside businesses?
Hon. Mr. Harding: We're not, Mr. Speaker. That's the short answer. We are doing and have done work in the past in the downtown core. What does the member think the trolley project is all about? What does the member think the work we did to improve the downtown core, partnering with the City of Whitehorse, was all about? That will improve the stead of those businesses.
Similar projects are being discussed about extending water and sewer right now to businesses like Northwestel and Trans North - same arrangements. I'm thankful for the work of the local hire commission because under our stead we've increased the dollar value of contracts from under the member opposite in the Yukon Party's administration from 59 percent that went to local companies by over 30 percent - to some 89 to 90 percent to local businesses. But we didn't stop there, just ensuring that there were better advantages and preferences for local businesses. We've done all of the other things that I mentioned in my previous answer and many, many more - oodles and streams of them - from technology information services to Connect Yukon, something the Liberals have voted against, wiring the entire territory, so that small-business people in Dawson City, Watson Lake or Teslin will have some high-speed Internet-access capability and improved phone service. So, I would say that our record, in terms of supporting small business in Whitehorse and in rural Yukon is consistent, effective and good.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, the minister has made much of his Trade Team Times that has been appearing as an insert in local newspapers. In the section on diversification in the Trade Team Yukon mandate, it states "to build on the strength of established industries".
My question for the minister: how can he say that he's meeting this mandate when he's helping to provide unfair competition to established Yukon businesses?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I've told the member twice now that we have participated in the downtown area, where those businesses are, in projects just like the trolley project that we're going to do this year to help benefit that particular area. This is an offsite infrastructure water and sewer commitment, very similar to what's being targeted right now for Trans North, a local company and Northwestel, another local company.
The Trade Team Times that he calls mine is not mine. It's put out by the partnership, which includes labour, the chambers of commerce, the Chamber of Mines, the federal government, and the editorial board that the member just chastises as being propagandist consists of citizens and business people who are involved in the development of that publication.
So, Mr. Speaker, we feel that we are doing initiatives here to encourage investment. The member opposite says that we can't attract investment. Well, here's $35 million in investment coming into this territory. Why? Because they see a bright future for the economy of the territory, as was confirmed yesterday by the economist doing the economic outlook who predicted growth in the Yukon economy, the GDP, population, and virtually every sector of the territory, as much as that pains his ears.
Question re: Local purchase, study on leakage
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, I didn't call anybody a propagandist. I just asked the minister if he was meeting the mandate that that publication was stating.
Mr. Speaker, my second question is also to the Minister of Economic Development, and I want to make it very clear that we have absolutely nothing against the Argus development project. Absolutely nothing against it. What we are concerned about is the unlevel playing field that's being created by the territorial government and the City of Whitehorse. That's what we're concerned about.
Mr. Speaker, this NDP government has always been concerned about outside leakage, about Yukoners buying products outside, and in response to the Argus Properties development on December 6 in this House, the Minister of Government Services indicated that the Department of Economic Development had addressed issues such as leakage in investigating the viability of the Argus project and promised that his colleague, the Minister of Economic Development, would make that information available.
So, I would like to ask the Minister of Economic Development if he is in a position to make the information in the study on leakage available for the Legislature now.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, of course I don't have that information at my fingertips, but the member might want to peruse the economic outlook that I tabled yesterday, to determine where some of the gaps have been identified by the economists in the Department of Economic Development, in terms of leakage.
I would also point out to the member opposite that this government has participated in offsite water and sewer infrastructure. That's the level of commitment of this government.
I would also point out that in the past the Government of Yukon participated to the tune of $1.1 million in Main Street improvements that were not charged to the businesses themselves. So to say, Mr. Speaker, that the downtown core - this was Main Street alone - has not received assistance from the government in terms of improvements for infrastructure and whatnot, would not be fair or accurate.
Mr. Speaker, we're also moving with regard to the trolley project and waterfront improvements that are going to provide a better environment for business for Main Street merchants and others in the downtown core.
So we are in the business of providing infrastructure - in this case, again, it's offsite. Local contractors, as I understand it, for the most part will be involved in the Argus development, in construction and in moving the gravel. We've worked very hard to ensure that local businesses get the best bang for their buck, and the most contracts that we can possibly allow from the Government of Yukon.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, a previous NDP leader often talked about Yukon's "leaky economy". In fact, he stated, "In our leaky economy the ore goes to Tokyo, profits go to Toronto, and the taxes go to Ottawa. The jobs go to Alberta, and Yukoners are left with a hole in the ground." That was a statement made by a previous NDP leader.
I'd like to ask the Minister of Economic Development, could he advise this House what measures his government has taken to stop this leakage and what this government is doing to support Yukon's existing businesses?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I was hoping the member opposite would ask. I just got the new retail sales, to compare the numbers of December last year to December this year. Retail sales are up an astonishing 11 percent from December last year to this year.
So, Mr. Speaker, it's obvious that the economy is turning around. In terms of the initiative that he just asked me to provide him a list of, I already have in response but, if he would like to hear them again, I can talk about the Connect Yukon initiative; I can talk about the personal income tax cut, which is going to benefit small business, citizens and consumers, allowing them to have more disposable income that's not in the hands of government.
Now, I know that he was a big proponent of tax increases. Folks will remember, Mr. Speaker, that the year that he brought in major tax increases when the Yukon Party was in government was also the year he rolled back wages, and that was in the year that there was a $20-million surplus announced, right on the same day that the legislation was tabled to roll back workers' wages in this territory.
So, the credibility problem, in terms of supporting small business for the conservative element in this Legislature, is a big, big problem for him.
Conversely, Mr. Speaker, we have been engaged in tax initiatives such as the research and development tax credit announced in the budget, all of the training we have been doing with numerous businesses around this territory, working with companies like Dakwakada and South Yukon in terms of dealing with the federal government on their resource -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Mr. Ostashek: We have heard all that political rhetoric before, but the minister failed to answer the question. I asked him what he and his government is doing about stopping leakage. He didn't answer that question. He didn't answer it at all. He went off on a big political tirade.
My final supplementary: both the Yukon Chamber of Commerce and the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce urge Yukoners to buy locally. I want to ask the minister, does he support this initiative, and what have he and his colleagues done to urge Yukoners to buy locally?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, because he strayed from the original context of his question, I also want to point out something with regard to the efforts of this government and the Main Street downtown core. We have invested heavily in heritage. The member will remember that we have fixed up the Taylor House, the White Pass Building, the fire hall. This will benefit the downtown business core as well, and that was not charged against the downtown businesses, because we believe in that kind of historic protection. As well, we believe in ensuring that the issues of the businesses come forward to us, so that we respect them. So we want to work with everybody and provide infrastructure.
We have done a number of things with regard to ensuring that businesses can expand in this territory, which will reduce leakage. For example, should a business wish to take advantage of the small business investment tax credit that this government announced, they'll be able to get local investors so that investors can invest inside the territory, should they so wish. And then they can invest in business expansion opportunities.
As well, Mr. Speaker, we believe that having more money in the pockets of consumers through the tax reductions that we have done will allow consumers to invest more in this territory. So I would say to the member opposite that we have taken so many initiatives it is impossible in the short time we have in Question Period to cover them thoroughly.
Question re: Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, appointment of permanent chair
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. The minister told us yesterday that he didn't think it was appropriate for him to be consulting with the opposition parties on the appointment of the new chair of the board. His proposition was that it would make the process partisan. Now, this wasn't his view with respect to the appointment of the previous chair. He wrote to me in February of 1997 seeking some assistance on consensus building in relation to that appointment. It was my view that the process worked. The minister now thinks he is precluded from this exercise. Why has he changed his mind?
Hon. Mr. Harding: It became readily apparent from that process that it was important first and foremost to engage the stakeholders who own the system. The member opposite wants to put forward a name; he is free to do so. I didn't receive any correspondence from him on it, and if he has some ideas, perhaps he can stand up and tell us whom he'd like to put forward.
Mr. Cable: Well, that wasn't the minister's story yesterday. He was saying that would be partisan. He must have gone back and read his file.
Now, the act says that the stakeholders - the employers and the employees - should be consulted with, but it doesn't say that anybody else can't be consulted with. The minister could consult with his dog if he wants. Is he now saying he's prepared to take input from the opposition?
Hon. Mr. Harding: We want to make sure we don't diminish the role of the people who own the system. Business and labour own this system, not the Liberal Party of the Yukon. Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite wants to put input into any process, he's free to do so. We always welcome input from the opposition. Unfortunately, most of what we get is criticism and hollow acts of trying to garner political headlines. If the member wants to make some concrete suggestions, we're always open to them.
Mr. Cable: Let me ask this question: how far has the minister got down the road with respect to the appointment of the new chair? Does he have some names, and are names being canvassed with the business and union sector in the territory? And, if so, is he prepared to canvass those names with the opposition?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Of course we have some names. We have been working for several months trying to fill the new appellant tribunal, and we've been working with the owners of the system - business and labour - to fill the chair's position and sort out who will be on what board, because, with the new legislation, we've created a new level of appeal, and so that has taken a tremendous amount of consultation. The act requires that the minister consults with business and labour on the chair and the alternate chair; we've been doing that. The act requires that, on workers' representatives, we consult with labour; we've been doing that. The act requires that we consult with employers on the employers' representatives; we've been doing that. If the member opposite would like to put forward suggestions and input, he's welcome to, but I will not diminish the roles of the people who own the system.
Question re: Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, appointment of permanent chair
Mr. Cable: The minister, after he got into office, was talking about all-party appointments. This was on December 2, 1996, and there was some flowing verbiage in the Whitehorse Star issue of December 2, 1996. The minister was saying that the idea to create an all-party committee on government appointments to boards and committees had resurrected itself. The minister was saying that they are open, as they have been in the past, to reconsidering how it's done. He'd like to be looking for trying to get some all-party participation.
Is the minister diminishing those earlier statements by trying to say that the only input or the prime input should come from the employer and employee representatives, or is he still of the mind that this House - the members on this side - have some legitimate input to the appointments of major boards and committees?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I just told the member opposite that, if he has some ideas, he's welcome to put them forward. I've received nothing from the member. We've been trying to fill this position for a long time. However, I will not diminish the role of business and labour in terms of the Workers' Compensation Board. It is separate from other boards because it is funded by employers and it is an insurance system for them and a payment system for workers. It's very, very different from other government boards. It's important that there's no dilution of the fact that they are the payers of the system, and the workers are the benefactors of the system and receive the benefits that are put forward by employers in case they're injured on the job. We can't diminish that and turn it into a simply partisan exercise. However, if the member would like to put something forward in terms of names, he's free to do that, and always has been.
Mr. Cable: The minister has appointed the Auditor General to act as the special examiner for the Workers' Compensation Board administration costs. This took place at the end of January.
Does the minister have the terms of reference for the Auditor General?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'll be gentle. Mr. Speaker. I will endeavour to find out whether the terms of reference are complete on that. However, the act does say that the Auditor General perhaps could be called in to do the investigations; however, there is room and provision in the legislation for alternative mechanisms for conducting the investigations.
Mr. Cable:Well, we're having fun in Question Period, aren't we?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: Come on, Trev, work with us here. How about telling us a little bit about this special examination? Is this going to be done solely by the Auditor General's staff, or are there going to be outside consultants used? And when is it going to start, and when is it going to be finished?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: We had a discussion with the president of the board on the operational audit. They have contacted the Auditor General's office, and we are trying to put a push on - in a very nice manner - with the Auditor General to get them in here as soon as possible.
I would like to see the operational audit begin this month or next month, in accordance with the legislation. They have done a lot of groundwork on it.
Should the Auditor General not be able to participate in an acceptable time, then I will ask the Workers' Compensation Board to get an independent organization in, or ask the Auditor General if they'd be amenable to contracting with someone from the outside, perhaps KPMG or someone of that credible nature to conduct the operational audit.
We will be providing that information to this House as soon as we can complete the terms of reference - and I can produce them for the member opposite - and we have a clearer sense of the Auditor General's timelines. It's my hope to do it as soon as possible.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 202, standing in the name of Ms. Duncan.
Motion No. 202
Speaker: It is moved by the leader of the official opposition
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.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, when discussion publicly surfaced again late last year about a northern pipeline - and I'm referring to the discussions in the media and elsewhere about Mr. André's proposal about a northern pipeline - picture, if you will, a large light bulb being turned on over the heads of many long-time Yukoners, and the words "Foothills Pipe Lines Ltd." and "Alaskan Natural Gas Transportation System". Those words were sure to follow.
Last fall during the debate on the Department of Economic Development in the supplementary, I encouraged the Minister of Economic Development to get the ball rolling, to be proactive on this issue.
I am very pleased that the NDP government has responded to this positive suggestion from the Yukon Liberal caucus, which will go a long way toward improving our economy.
The point that I am making here is that Foothills Pipe Lines Ltd. and Alaskan Natural Gas Transportation System are something we heard about in the 1970s. The Member for Whitehorse Centre will recall the discussions, as will many, many members of this House and many Yukoners. We haven't heard much in recent years, like other as yet untapped Yukon resources, such as Kudz Ze Kayah or even our wilderness as a tourism resource. It has been recognized as a potential opportunity. The important point, and the reason for bringing the motion forward today is that we want to ensure that this opportunity is not lost to Yukoners because either the government or this Legislature were not prepared. The motion is one that could reasonably be supported by all members in this House. All three parties have spoken in the past of their support for this project.
Mr. Speaker, I believe it's worthwhile to review, very briefly, the background on this issue. I know many members wish to speak this afternoon. The Alaskan Natural Gas Transportation System, ANGTS, is a pipeline megaproject intended to transport Alaskan and northern Canadian natural gas to southern markets in Canada and the U.S. It is the largest proposed pipeline project in North America, encompassing approximately 7,700 kilometres of large-diameter mainline pipe, almost half of which would be located in Canada. Once in full operation it would be capable of transporting 68 million cubic metres - 2.4 billion cubic feet - per day of Alaskan gas to southern markets. The system is also designed to accommodate the receipt and onward delivery of 34 million cubic metres - 1.2 billion cubic feet - per day of northern Canadian gas by way of connecting pipeline from the Mackenzie Delta-Beaufort Sea region.
This lateral line, known as the "Dempster lateral", would be some 2,000 kilometres, or 740 miles, in length and connecting with the main line at Whitehorse. The project was proposed as a two-phase enterprise consisting of a prebuild, which included a pipeline network originating in western Canada for transporting natural gas to markets in California and the Pacific northwest. This has happened. Gas began to flow from this part of the project over 17 years ago.
The second phase of the project was to connect Alaska to the western Canada pipeline via the Alaska Highway through the Yukon. It's the second phase that we are discussing in the motion and advocating today.
The project proposal for construction of the second phase was initially filed in the late summer of 1976 as part of the larger project. In response to the Yukon portion of the proposal - and owing to the fact that Yukon was, and in part still is, of course, a federal jurisdiction - the federal government established the board of inquiry in April 1977. This board was tasked with the important duty of reporting, in a preliminary manner, on the social and economic implications of, and public attitude toward, the proposed pipeline. The Alaska Highway Pipeline Inquiry, or the Lysyk Inquiry, as it came to be known, was chaired by Kenneth Lysyk. Edith Bohmer and Willard Phelps, a name not unfamiliar to this Legislature, also served on the board.
The federal government also established an environmental assessment review panel, yesterday's equivalent to an environmental review panel under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act of today, to prepare a preliminary statement on the environmental implications of the same proposal. The board held 22 days of formal hearings in Whitehorse, followed by 27 days of informal hearings throughout the Yukon. My colleague, the Member for Lake Laberge, recalls hearing every single word of that Lysyk Inquiry, in her former role as a Yukon broadcaster.
The inquiry was completed in a relatively short period of time, but collected testimony from many Yukoners - 576 witnesses - which, in addition to briefing, submissions and exhibits, total more that 7,000 pages - not too shabby for a preliminary hearing.
The letter that forwarded the results of the Lysyk Inquiry to the then-Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, the hon. Warren Allmand, was signed by all three members of the panel, and it's worthy of review. It was interesting to go back and look at this, and the more things change and the more we believe they have changed in the Yukon, the more they stay the same.
The opening point - the chair, Kenneth Lysyk, wrote: "It is unwise to rely with any confidence on generalizations about the north and about northerners. Certainly in many ways, the Yukon can be usefully compared with its neighbours, Alaska and the Northwest Territories, but one must be careful to recognize the differences as well as the similarities among the three regions."
How often, Mr. Speaker, do we as Yukoners and as members of this Legislature advocate that, yes, we have a northern bond and we share many northern concerns, but we in the Yukon are different and need to be treated differently. And the chair wrote, "There are important differences between the Yukon and its neighbours in their political institutions, traditions and social attitudes" - differences in political institutions that Yukoners speak of often.
There is another very telling point in the introductory letter that forwarded the preliminary report. The board said, "Although strong parallels may be drawn between the social and economic consequences of the temporary presence of a large number of construction workers on projects such as the Alaska Highway and the proposed pipeline, there can be no doubt that the continuing influence of a highway on the region through which it passes is of much greater magnitude than that of a pipeline."
"Four of the eight communities along the Yukon stretch of the Alaska Highway did not exist before its construction. Conversely, Fort Selkirk, once a major centre on the Yukon River, near its confluence with the Pelly River, was quickly abandoned when the Klondike Highway passed by.
"A pipeline has no comparable power to create or destroy communities." A very useful point from the opening and forwarding letter, and useful for us to remember during the course of the debate today and in the future.
The conditions in the impact of the pipeline section that the board of inquiry attached to the pipeline and the project - there were three. And I should note, Mr. Speaker, that in preceding the conditions attached to this project, the inquiry said, "And we agree with the majority of Yukoners who appeared before us. We think that the social and economic effects can be kept within acceptable limits, provided that certain conditions are met." And the conditions were certain financial and other resources, appropriate preventive and mitigative measures, and sufficient time before construction of the pipeline begins to complete planning and to mobilize resources.
These conditions were further elaborated on with the following measures: with respect to financial and other resources, Lysyk recommended compensation payable by the pipeline company, the amount of which would exceed $200 million.
This was a further recommendation of the National Energy Board, and it was modified with the recommendation that the money be paid into a Yukon heritage fund, supplemented annually by property tax payments made by the company, and used for community development.
This payment of financial compensation is clearly, in future, a devolution issue and, during the inquiry 23 years ago, the subjects of autonomy and devolution were frequently broached by Yukon people. Again, Mr. Speaker, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Today, in the year 2000, devolution is discussed often in this Legislature. It's a goal Yukoners continue to pursue. Now we discuss it as something that is likely to occur and we work toward having it happen sooner rather than later.
Devolution is key if Yukon is to maximize the economic benefits of this project for Yukon.
Discussing this particular project reinforces our devolution discussions and the need to have them and the need to pursue this and to work toward autonomy and local control for the Yukon.
The second recommendation was elaborated on and the suggestion was that a planning and regulatory agency be established to plan, control and monitor all aspects of pipeline activity with the duty of ensuring social and economic benefits to Yukon are maximized while adverse social and environmental effects are minimized.
The Northern Pipeline Agency was created by the Northern Pipeline Act in 1978 to oversee the planning and construction of the Alaska Highway pipeline by Foothills Pipe Lines (South Yukon) Ltd. The United States passed similar implementing legislation with the creation of the Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Act. The National Energy Board provides technical and administrative assistance to the Northern Pipeline Agency, which, under the Northern Pipeline Act, has primary responsibility for overseeing the planning and construction of the Canadian portion of the proposed Alaska natural gas transportation system by Foothills Pipe Lines Ltd.
A board member serves as administrator and designated officer of the agency. The Northern Pipeline Agency prepared a set of socio-economic terms and conditions specific to the Yukon portion of the Alaska Highway pipeline, designed specifically to ensure that economic benefits for Yukon people were maximized, while ensuring the negative social and environmental impacts were kept to a minimum.
The terms and conditions of this 1978 document require modernization before construction could begin. In fact, Foothills is required to obtain a series of specific approvals from the agency, which relate to not only socio-economic factors, but also environmental factors, routing issues, technical design and other matters.
The deferral of commencement of construction pending signing of an agreement in principle was deemed necessary to avoid prejudice in the implementation of land claims. This is the third point that was generally referred to by Lysyk in his preliminary recommendation to the minister. It is a very key point that must be recognized, must be acted upon, supported by the Legislature.
The umbrella final agreement ratified in May 1993 lays the groundwork, of course, for the settlement of all land claims in the Yukon. It's well known to all members. I would remind members that the UFA itself contains key elements necessary for the negotiation of access to lands along the route. The UFA contemplated such a project within the Yukon.
Key elements include surface rights board, provisions for regional and local land use planning, Fish and Wildlife Management Board and economic development measures.
The importance of land claims settlement cannot be overstated. Within the two existing final agreements with Teslin-Tlingit and Champagne-Aishihik First Nations, there are provisions for the collection of land taxes along the pipeline corridor. The remaining First Nations through which the pipeline will traverse do not have finalized agreements. Discussion of this opportunity reinforces the need to finish the outstanding land claims agreements. It was a top priority of this NDP government when they came to office. They have settled one agreement in three years.
The three key concerns conveyed in the cover letter, which I have elaborated on, have largely been met. The question becomes, can the remaining issues detailed in the testimony of Yukoners before the inquiry be reasonably addressed. Yes, we believe they can. Communication is the key. A project of this scope, often referred to as a megaproject, requires accurate, rapid, efficient communication and the exchange of information. The Government of the Yukon would be well-advised to ensure that this occurs. A Yukon liaison could coordinate information and responsibility and ensure Yukoners are aware of the proposed project and are allowed sufficient time to plan and prepare.
A key issue, of course, given the dismal record of the NDP government in terms of management of our economy, and as telling in the unemployment statistics, is employment. One of the components of employment to be considered is that staffing requirements will vary over the construction phase of the project but will number in the thousands. Estimates in 1978 - granted they are some years old now - suggested as many as 6,000 people would be required during peak construction, obviously a tremendous benefit to Yukoners.
Yukon workers will be able to fill many of the construction and support positions necessary for such a large project, including equipment operators, mechanics, camp personnel and utility welders. An inventory of the existing skilled and unskilled work force is required to determine what training is necessary so that we are able to maximize Yukon hire.
We need to look into developing programs endorsed and possibly funded by Foothills Pipe Lines Ltd. for training northern residents in preparation for the construction phase, should it occur. Northern hiring is contingent on local people with trade skills pertinent to the project. If Yukon people are without these skills, training must be provided, and training must begin now if they are to be fully trained and available during pipeline construction. Recruitment of Yukon residents for work on the pipeline construction and maintenance must take place in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, we have spent some time in this House discussing Yukon hire. The NDP struck a commission on Yukon hire. There are a number of recommendations in place. We have spent a great deal of time discussing it. We need to be conscious of projects like this when we are discussing those initiatives and conscious of their possibility. Outside workers, as we all know, are recruited outside, and their movement into the Yukon labour force - while we appreciate the opportunity to learn from others, we also advocate and lobby for local hire on a regular basis.
Orientation and counselling is necessary to ensure workers' sensitivity - those who are hired outside - to the environment and the local population. If workers are aware of the possible impacts this project can have on the environment and people, prevention of unnecessary situations can occur.
The development of this program would necessarily begin after completion of the public hearings concerning socio-economic and environmental impacts. Opportunity measures to ensure the hiring of qualified and interested First Nation peoples requires coordination of Yukon training and recruitment programs and consultation with interested First Nations.
Preferential usage of northern service and supply companies requires development of information packages by the proponent, outlining needs relevant to pipeline construction. Partnerships with existing service and supply companies and the development of new ones, including development corporations, would enhance and enrich Yukon's business community. Forewarning of a construction schedule would ensure that disruptions to local service and supply needs are minimized by allowing participating companies to account for increased business.
The involvement of the company of Foothills in this program is essential to facilitate northern business participation, provide an inventory of required services, ensure supply provisions are structured to allow northern business participation, develop tendering and awarding procedures, which ensure the participation of and gives preference to northern service and supply companies, and maintain an up-to-date northern bidders list. In short, working with the best of the recommendations put forward by this House.
Transportation and communications are examples of local services that could be disrupted. Every measure must be taken to ensure minimal disruption of highway services so as to minimize the impact of pipeline construction on another major industry in Yukon - tourism. Highway travellers, who visit the Yukon in record numbers, should not be subjected to noise, dust, excessive and heavy traffic, multiple exit and entry points on the highway. All of these issues raised during the initial discussions of this need to be revisited and re-examined in order to ensure they are not detrimental to tourism over the years that construction might occur.
There's the importation of vast amounts of material goods. Another point worthy of consideration: Yukoners getting right of first refusal on surplus materials being disposed of by the company would be one way of enhancing Yukon business opportunities, peripheral to the pipeline project.
Employment and socio-economic impacts are just two issues of many, many issues. Other key points to consider are ensuring the current infrastructure is not compromised - roads and utilities. There is the most obvious of community health and security concerns - housing. And most importantly, giving life and meaning in implementing the guidelines as outlined in the UFA.
Mr. Speaker, it's never too early to start this sort of information. And I'm well aware that the criticism from the benches opposite will be - in fact, the Government Leader began it this afternoon, in the concern of "raising expectations". He spoke at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon about new subdivisions being built in our community to prepare for the pipeline years ago.
It is discussion that was held some years ago; we remember it growing up - many Yukoners. And there's concern of raising expectation. There's also concern, Mr. Speaker, of the Yukon being woefully ill-prepared, and not being on the public record when these discussions take place.
The motion today is about preparing, about planning. It's not designed to raise expectations; it's not designed to say, "Yes, this is happening tomorrow."
I've taken those phone calls, as the manager of the Whitehorse Chamber, from those southern Canadians, and southern residents of the U.S., who thought the Yukon was a job mecca. Not unduly raising expectations is a key point.
It's also very important that we not lose an opportunity. It's not too early to have and to update information. The economy in the Yukon will turn around. It's important for us as legislators now to be on the record, to be discussing the future of the Yukon. We need to be thinking about issues we've dealt with in the past and their relation to the future. There is a lot of work to be done, and it should be done now and it could be done now without great expense: to set up the plan, to do more than $100,000 for technical work.
In the long term, the greatest benefit the pipeline could have for Yukoners - and one worthy of discussion - is the availability of gas to Yukon communities. Lateral lines for Yukon distribution of natural gas to Yukon communities along the pipeline route are provided for in the Northern Pipeline Act. The first question whenever you start discussing this with Yukoners who haven't thought about it in some time is this: " Now, do we get access or don't we get access?" That's the first question. It's worthy of reminding people of these provisions in the Northern Pipeline Act. All of us would be pleased, I'm sure, to see a reduction in our heating costs.
Our commercial and industrial sector could respond also, Mr. Speaker, by diversifying and maximizing their potential, given the availability of a cheaper source of energy. New Yukon-based industry could be created with the availability of natural gas. For example, kiln-drying wood for export adds value; you sell it for more money. Producing our own cement and cement products, like cinderblocks - all of this can enhance our economy in the direction of self-sufficiency.
The need for Alaskan natural gas has been spurred on by the recent development of environmentally friendly and economically efficient power generation in the United States. An ever-increasing proportion of natural gas usage in the United States is for electrical power generation purposes.
Not only could the natural gas be used as a source of heating for the commercial and residential sectors of the Yukon, in addition to this natural gas could be used to generate electricity more efficiently than our current dependence on the supplemental diesel generators. Doubly beneficial to the average Yukoner: cheaper heat, cheaper electricity.
Examination of a potential of gas-generated electrical power is a must. It's likely that, for Whitehorse, the domestic distribution of natural gas would be economically feasible. For Whitehorse and other communities along the pipeline route, economic feasibility studies of residential distribution will be required before engineering plans for the pipeline are completed and approved - again, Mr. Speaker, the importance of planning, the importance of preparation.
I've outlined some major concerns and some benefits to Yukon communities regarding this project. I've stated that information exchange and communication are keys to ensuring maximum benefit with minimum impact. I have not even begun to discuss some of the other important points that have been raised and some of the recommendations, including shareholder participation and funding opportunities for Yukon, operational and environmental compliance and other concerns and benefits that have to be discussed.
The here and now, since the days of the Lysyk Inquiry. Because of the existence of the UFA, a document that Lysyk deemed necessary to specifically address the issues of First Nations, many of the land use, cultural, fish and wildlife issues can be addressed by giving life and meaning, as I've said earlier, to this agreement.
This motion before the House is an opportunity for members to talk about an opportunity for Yukon. It's an opportunity to talk not about the negative aspects, about falsely raising expectations. It's an opportunity to talk about preparing and planning to ensure that Yukoners take advantage of an opportunity, that we are on record as being able to, should we choose, take advantage of that opportunity. There are a number of proposals that are floating around and that are being discussed in places other than this, in other houses and in other caucuses. There is a lot of talk about how natural gas would be shipped to the Lower 48.
We believe the Yukon government has to be proactive to ensure that the Alaska Highway pipeline, the ANGTS proposal, is a proposal that becomes a reality on our terms. The Yukon government can be proactive by establishing a position to facilitate the communication and information exchange. It's a proactive measure that will ensure all Yukoners' interests are met. It will improve our chances of having this proposal selected, and it could contribute to the project's success.
Mr. Speaker, there are many members of the Legislature who have indicated their desire to discuss this motion that the Liberal caucus put forward, and I look forward to hearing the comments of other members and, I hope, their support for the proactive measure that we have recommended to the Legislature.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to this motion. I find the member's comments - well, obviously her intentions are to try and pretend somehow that she has invented this issue and somehow the Liberals are the great promoters of the ANGTS pipeline. In her opening comments, she actually made the ludicrous suggestion that the government, because of the Liberals' suggestion, got started on this issue. That's laughable - absolutely laughable. The government got started on this issue long before it even popped into the Liberal leader's head. She might remember, last year, the Anderson sale and the discussion around this issue and the headlines in the Whitehorse Star and comments I was making at that time about the pipeline issue.
Before Harvie André was ever on Northbeat talking about his proposal, the Government Leader was meeting with Bob Blair of Foothills Pipe Lines talking about these issues. I have spent time with the CEO of West Coast Transmission talking about this issue and getting ready on this issue - pushing for the ANGTS pipeline. We have money in the budget that we're debating to complement the efforts already underway by the oil and gas branch on this issue.
In 1981, the now Government Leader, who was an opposition member then, was expressing his support for the ANGTS pipeline and that route - 1981, 20 years ago, standing in the House. We dug out Hansard, and I read it just the other day.
So, Mr. Speaker, I don't know, when we're doing all of that, what precisely her point is. Nonetheless, we feel it is an important issue, and it's one that, regardless of this motion, we have been acting proactively on.
You know, Mr. Speaker, we recognize that oil and gas has a strong future in this territory. And this pipeline - and all this activity that's occurring in the north, and the talk about the alliance, and the fact that we're on the radar screen - is due in large part to the fact that we've devolved - this NDP government - the resource to this territory some 14 months ago. We negotiated a common regime with Yukon First Nations.
When we came into government oil and gas was flat on its back. There was a bill tabled in this House, which we had to essentially gut, put forward by the Yukon Party government of the day - the previous government. And there was no sign of devolution of the resource, regardless of what was in the Northern Accord. Without the common regime we struck with First Nations, it was absolutely dead in the water.
So we've been building this industry, slowly, brick by brick, trying to bring the Yukon public along with us at the same time, because while there's a lot of optimism, there are also a lot of fears. You yourself, Mr. Speaker, will know about that from your community.
So, Mr. Speaker, we've been doing that step by step. The Yukon Oil and Gas Act has been called, by organizations like Akita Drilling, the most progressive in the country. They've said that publicly. We've been congratulated by Northern Cross publicly, right in front of many Yukoners, for the Yukon Oil and Gas Act, for the way we've thoughtfully managed the land sale that we had last year with Anderson Exploration, which is bringing $20 million of investment to the territory. And of course, with that discussion around the Anderson bid, a lot of discussion is focused on pipelines. So it hasn't all happened by accident. So long before Harvie André popped up, being interviewed by Paul Andrews on Northbeat, we've been out there stirring the pot on this issue.
The oil and gas strategy that we tabled last year contemplates how we'll move into being a participant in developing the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline.
We recognized a long time ago that the future is bright for the territory, as long as we have control. Just this year, we hope to move again on another land sale in areas of settled land claims. And we've been trying to ensure that we don't bring industry into a situation where land claims have not been settled unless there is a clear understanding of the environment that they'll be working within. We've received tremendous support from Canadian Forest Oil Ltd.. and Chevron and Anderson Exploration Ltd. and numerous companies on that approach because they've had a tough time in some parts of northern British Columbia and even now in some areas of Alberta dealing with issues of uncertainty. So last year we struck an accord with the Kaska First Nation that allowed some seismic work to be started. And Kotaneelee well - Anderson put $7 million to $10 million in their capital upgrades on their Kotaneelee well, and they're very interested in further activity in the territory. And there is a whole host of companies - I've just named a few - who have expressed interest in this territory.
And part and parcel of the development of this industry is our work on the pipeline. We've done a complete, thorough review well before this motion, long before even you saw the line item in the budget, through the existing finances of the oil and gas branch. Of the legal right-of-way, we've done analysis legally of the environmental review and the project approvals. We've done a complete review of all of the ANGTS background material. Everything that was brought up as a project was initially being developed. We've worked with Foothills Pipe Lines Ltd., and as I've said, it was long before Harvie André was ever on TV. I met, probably 18 months ago, with Mr. John Burrell - I believe his name is - to discuss the advancement of this project.
And the Government Leader met with Bob Blair, and there have been further meetings. We met recently - my officials - with Alaskan and B.C. government officials to initiate cooperation and support for the project. That's extremely key, because obviously the producers and the pipeline developers are going to have to be linked together so that we can ensure that there is support at the producer level for the project. And, of course, the project will have to go through Alaska on probably federal and state lands and, of course, involve the B.C. government.
We have commissioned the consulting firm of Purvin & Gertz to complete an overview of the factors that are driving demand for northern gas, the various competing projects, including the one put forward along the north coast, and a strategy to facilitate the construction of ANGTS. As I said earlier, we have held preliminary meetings with the pipeline companies. The hon. Jake Epp will be in the territory within the next couple of weeks to meet with me from Trans Canada. We have had meetings with BP Amoco Canada and, of course, they're the producer. And, of course, we have had preliminary discussions with the Yukon and Whitehorse chambers of commerce re this pipeline. So a lot of work is being done with the existing resources of the branch.
The $100,000 in this budget that we announced on Monday is to further complement that work, and I'm sure that we'll be funding this quite a bit more into the future as we move into the next stages. However, it has not been our government's style to just go out and promote things until they are clearer. In this case, we have to get a better sense with the Yukon public of the timelines of the project. We have to get a better sense of the reality of the project. Yukoners don't want to hurry up and wait this time and see nothing happen. So we haven't hyped the project by putting motions forward like the Liberals are trying to do today.
We have tried to do our work. And it's important that we do that work because when you talk to some Yukoners about the pipeline, you get varying degrees of response. Some don't like it, some think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread, and some instantly think about all the issues that will have to be dealt with. Even though the permitting and right-of-way have been established, there will be a lot to do. We are welcoming that task, and we're out there, aggressively preparing the groundwork for making this a reality.
Mr. Speaker, just think about the impact of such a project on the territory. As one person from the tourism industry said to me the other day - more boom and bust. And I said that there definitely would be an inability to sustain the construction phase of such a megaproject, but fundamentally, you could change the economics of the territory, in terms of the investment dollars that would come in, the oil and gas parcels that would, all of a sudden, become so economic. That would produce royalties for First Nations, for the territorial government to invest in infrastructure, schools and roads. It would provide work opportunities for people. As well, it would quite conceivably lower the cost of energy production in the territory over time, which would be a major incentive to companies in industry, such as mining companies, that are constantly concerned about the cost of energy in the territory as a cost of doing business.
So, even though it would have some repercussions from a boom-and-bust perspective, overall I think the benefit would be substantially very, very good for this territory. If we manage that well and thought that through well in advance, like we are starting to do now, we will lessen the impact of the down cycle after the construction. I think that if Yukoners face that reality head on, we'll be able to prepare that much better for it. Some of the efforts that our government has underway to diversify the economy are designed for just that reason.
We're so pleased right now to see such great economic signs out there. Just from last year to this year, we have 11-percent increases in retail sales. We see growth being predicted for the economy by the economists. We see the population expected to rise, and growth in new sectors in technology, cultural industries.
I was just reading an article the other day in a publication that's put out by the federal government. It's a focus on the Yukon, and it quotes such notable local business people as Gord Duncan from Total North Communications, talking about the number of employees and how he's getting out there in the world. I think it says 85 percent of his sales are based on exports.
Mr. Speaker, I think that the Yukon is coming of age economically, as we see fields like Total North, where it's in the telecommunications business, where we can get out there and compete in the world and find new opportunities. This market is so small. With 30,000 to 33,000 people traditionally over the last few years, it's very hard for businesses to expand when there's a loss of a major economic producer, such as the Faro mine. All of a sudden, the economy shrinks 20 percent overnight.
That's why, Mr. Speaker, we have been opening up new areas like forestry, and you see the benefits in Watson Lake, where probably about 100 people, if you count the people in the bush, are now working on logging and value-added, and trying to ensure that that mill is operating, and it's producing jobs. Dakwakada in Haines Junction is shipping all over the United States. Their markets are very diversified, and I think that that's an incredible statement and symbol of what Yukoners can do. Just because we're small doesn't mean we have to think small, and it's the same thing with the Alaska Highway pipeline.
We can make that project happen. We can be a constructive partner. We're obviously not the only partner and player but, if we're out there, if we're vocal, we can ensure that we can bring that project through this territory.
I want to say something about the competing proposals right now. The Yukon is absolutely, completely, fundamentally opposed to the plan that puts a pipeline off the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd, in the sea ice. To us, the Alaska Highway pipeline is by far the superior economic and environmental route. We will not take it lightly if anyone expects to put a pipeline off our north shore, in key habitat areas, the calving grounds of the caribou herd. We will align ourselves with any voice that is prepared to speak out about such an environmentally potentially damaging proposal.
We have national parks along the north coast protecting the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd. There are huge technological issues surrounding the technology of burying the pipe in the sea ice off our coast. We do not believe that this is a reasonable nor an economically sustainable proposal, nor do we believe it is worth the risk.
So, while now people may calculate that it is the closest route to market - some people who are backing this proposal - for the record on behalf of this Government of the Yukon Territory, it will not have our approval, and we will fight it strenuously.
The cost of such a proposal has not been considered yet by our good friends who are promoting this project in Canada and the United States, simply because they have not factored in the environmental issues that will be raised by the Yukon government, by, I am almost certain, Yukon First Nations, by this Legislature, and by the people of this territory. And I would hazard a guess that the Sierra Club and environmental organizations around the world will cast their eyes toward the idea of putting this pipeline in such close proximity to the calving grounds and national parks and the 10-02 lands of the Porcupine caribou herd.
So the people who are considering this proposal should think long and hard about the position of this territory and the position of the people in this Legislature, and in the coffee shops, and in the First Nation government buildings around this territory.
I see huge economic opportunities, should they wish to pursue a route that is already permanent, that is far less environmentally intrusive. I know that there are First Nations out there that will willingly participate with Foothills and their partners, trying to put this project together. Of course local citizens and Yukon First Nations will want benefits. How could you put a route through the Yukon and not see Whitehorse, for example, considered for distribution of natural gas?
There are some public policy issues that would have to be addressed. We need to work on lead time so that we can ensure that local contractors and business people are geared up. And I think we're becoming, as we become more diversified, better prepared for that challenge - where you see an oil and gas industry developing in the territory, where you see forestry developing, where you see cultural industries, where you see infrastructure investments like the ports that we're investigating purchasing. We're almost closed on the deal for Skagway, for land there for a future potential site. We're still investigating the due diligence on Haines, where we'll have access to tidewater that's guaranteed in western Yukon. Think of the potential there as a staging area for shipping and barging, and moving north up the Haines highway to supply the north highway of the Yukon as this project is underway.
A lot of people who raised fears about the Alaska Highway route probably envision a pipeline that would be above the ground. It's my understanding that the technological basis for this pipeline right now - and the assumptions are that it would be a pipeline that is buried. It's not even visible.
So, we expect that that will have an even less impacting position on the environment and the aesthetics of the territory.
So, Mr. Speaker, it all adds up, and we have been out there, selling that message to the companies, to BP Amoco which, I guess, will perhaps soon include Asarco. I believe they have a merger proposal that's being considered. When I was over in London for two days at a mining seminar on the Canadian north with my counterparts from Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, in front of the investment community there, I met with the ambassador, the hon. Roy McLaren, who used to be a minister for the prime minister. He's now the ambassador to Great Britain from Canada, and we met in London. He had been talking to the chairman of BP, and he was talking about the pipeline. I asked the ambassador to talk to him, as well, about our positioning on the issue of the pipeline and the routes that are being proposed.
It was interesting, because the ambassador, in that meeting, stated that the subject had been brought up by the chairman himself to the ambassador, at a meeting that they had recently attended together, and that the excitement surrounding it was starting to reach a strong pitch.
As well, Mr. Speaker, I want to point out that there has been significant media around this issue prior to this motion coming forward. If you look at a press release put out by Foothills, November 9, 1999 - this was some time after the meeting between Bob Pierce and the Government Leader. It's pretty apparent that they are looking, once again, very strongly. We actually urged them to put out this communication, because we wanted to let people know in the territory that, although there were many questions, many factors, they were starting to think much more seriously about engaging this particular issue again.
That was back in November. That was back before - I guess the meeting took place sometime in September or so, between the Government Leader and Mr. Pierce, and this press release came out after Harvie André, subsequent to that meeting, was on the radio and in the papers worldwide talking about the proposal that he's putting forward.
We intend to meet with those folks as well, too, I should add, and we're trying to set up some meetings right now to engage them further. They have made claims that Yukoners perhaps don't understand their proposal well enough, and we intend on following up in terms of meeting them as well.
There has also been an article, which we just were looking at, from the National Post of February 11, 2000. The headline is "Economics revives Alaska Highway pipeline project". It talks about Foothills holding talks and that the scheme has been dormant for more than 20 years. And we've been putting as much pressure as we can, in a constructive fashion, on Foothills, and held discussions with Westcoast about moving forward on this particular proposal.
Everybody knows that with the alliance pipeline being created across the United States, with the push politically to reduce greenhouse gases across North America, with the benefits that natural gas brings to energy production, it makes a lot of sense to make the move that has been considered for so long to try and ensure that this particular pipeline is a reality.
The Mackenzie route, while it has received significant support from First Nations along the route - who, as I understand, have been offered equity participation - I think we can still work with them, and the ANGTS pipeline route, to ensure that they get the benefits of the extraction of that resource, and still get their product to markets in the south, and that Northwest Territories people will benefit.
The intrusive aspect of running that mine across our north coast is far too much for this Yukon government to bear, and we've been very upfront about that.
We also believe that the ANGTS pipeline makes other deposits, other reserves - I'm talking mining terminology when I talk "deposits", I guess - but it makes other reserves economically feasible. Certainly it would be of interest to people in Eagle Plains. And we can do it in a manner that's responsive to the important goal of protecting the 10-02 lands, and the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd.
We see the issue of infrastructure not just being the pipeline as well. We've participated in the whole issue of the railroad corridor that's being proposed by certain folks in Alaska. We just participated recently in a conference in Vancouver about the issue of the railroad development. And while this is another megaproject that has even more questions, we see that it's still worthwhile to be willing participants in the discussions.
As well, we have offered to put forward some funding for feasibility. The Liberal government in Ottawa, however, has decided to snuff out the flame regarding this proposal, and is not prepared to even look at the feasibility of it - a very disappointing position from the Liberal government.
Then again, as they've handled mining and forestry for so many years in this territory, it's very clear to see that their interest is not on the economy of the Yukon Territory.
You know, Mr. Speaker, just think what we could have done with the billion dollars that the Liberal government lost in Ottawa with regard to this pipeline. We could have gotten the first portion of it built. I mean, it's only $6 billion, and if you've got another $5 billion, it's complete. We could get Whitehorse started and be off to -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: We could lower fuel prices. If only the Liberals hadn't lost a billion dollars in their dismal record - it has been almost painful watching Jane Stewart fumble around on this particular issue, but it couldn't happen to a better Northern Affairs minister, Mr. Speaker, given the fact that we tried so hard to get the mine -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: The Liberal leader again defending her colleague, her good friend, the Liberals in Ottawa, her good friend, Gordon Campbell, the Liberal leader in B.C. - she's getting her dander up here. The hon. Jane Stewart was a very bad Northern Affairs minister. I gave her every chance to try and work on the issues of mine permitting in this territory. I sat with the Chamber of Mines at a summit we held with her at the Mt. McIntyre Recreation Centre on the blue-book proposal. She assured me at that meeting that she would take direct action. I remember the media came up to me after and asked me if I had any comments. I said, "Well, it's all positive." They said, "Well, we don't want to talk to you then." So, at that point, I said, "Well, you know, that's kind of funny. Like, don't you want to hear how the meeting went?" They said, "No, not unless you want to take a shot at the federal minister." I said, "No, you know, we'll see how she does." Well, a year later, nothing had happened - absolutely nothing.
Finally, we held some meetings with federal officials, and we, as a Yukon government, had to pay to get the blue-book process underway.
So, the Liberals asked me what that has to do with the pipeline. Well, the federal government - the Liberals - are going to have a lot to do with this pipeline and, if we get the same kind of lackadaisical attitude and dismal record on the economy of the territory and how they have handled mining and forestry, I am worried. And that has a lot to do with the pipeline.
The other thing with regard to the Liberals is how nice it would be to have land claims resolved in this territory. You know, the NDP government previously settled the umbrella final agreement and reached four final agreements with bands. We came in, we settled the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in claim in this latest round, and the White River claim. The Liard First Nation has publicly stated that their claim is 99 percent completed. The two big issues in so many of the claims, with Carcross-Tagish First Nation and many others, is the responsibility of the federal Liberal government revolving around taxation and revolving around loan repayment. I understand that there is a principals' meeting this weekend to deal with these important issues, and if the Liberals bring something to the table to resolve this, then we'll be able to settle the claims in the territory, because the Yukon government has dealt with all the major substantive issues. We have settled them all.
Well, the member opposite talks about the Carcross-Tagish First Nation. We've been to closing meetings where we believe that we put forward offers to close. However, we were told that the issues surrounding the loan repayment and the issue of taxation would not allow us a closing. And, in terms of the Kaska claim, with regard to the transboundary, there's a suit being launched by the Kaska against the Liberal government and that has shut down the table there.
So it's nice for the local opposition here to try and tag the territorial government, but the Liberals have some work to do to help us. And that would certainly help make it all that much easier to deal with certainty surrounding our promotion of this pipeline as the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly option.
But you know, Mr. Speaker, when you look at the infrastructure that this government has developed, from the airport expansion to the ground-breaking work we are doing on purchasing port options for this territory on the east and western side, you see that the Yukon is really coming of age. When you look at the exports that are starting to happen in this territory - $6.9 million, just of lumber alone, was shipped out of this territory between January and November of 1999. When we came into government, that issue was dead in the water. The Ostashek government had washed their hands of the whole forestry issue. They weren't participating at all.
We didn't take that position with the feds. With mining, we got right in there on the blue book. We got them to stop the development assessment process from being rammed down our throats after it was endorsed by the Yukon Party. I can read the quote in Hansard. The former Government Leader, the Yukon Party leader, said that it's all done, it's all ready to go. No problem. We showed that to the Chamber of Mines, and they just about fell out of their chair and had a heart attack. They begged us not to allow that to come forward, so we had the Liberal government in Ottawa supported by the Yukon Party here in the territory telling us when we came into government that DAP was all ready to go.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yeah, well, you know, you hear the clucking of the Member for Klondike in the back, and you know, talking to people in the business, they found it pretty tough - $230 gold - to make a living in a free market economy, running a business. The price of their product at the end of the day is not worth what it cost to produce it. That's been very tough for them, and that's had an impact on mining. But we haven't divorced ourselves from the issue, as the conservatives did under the Yukon Party. You know, they told all the foresters down in Watson Lake that it's not our issue.
It's all just a federal problem. There were infamous meetings down at Watson Lake where the Yukon Party leader said, "Well, I'd better not say anything bad about the feds or they might get mad at me." But what did he accomplish? Remember the desperation moves in the election campaign? He tried to buy off the people in the industry by offering a million-dollar stumpage subsidy. Then, the coup de grâce, was the Alaskan mediator, or the American mediator. He flew into Watson Lake and announced they were going to hire an American mediator to sort out the forestry issue. Well, that was the kiss of death to the former mayor and candidate for the Yukon Party. Someone even joked to me, "Did you hear him hit the floor when the announcement was made?"
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: I haven't even started yet.
So, Mr. Speaker, our vision of this territory goes far beyond a more diversified economy and infrastructure investments like the ports, like the airport expansion, like the pipeline, like our work that we've been doing investigating the railroad options. We also have been wiring the territory and will be putting forward the Connect Yukon proposal that will start construction this year.
So, technologically, our infrastructure vision is modern and it's diversified. But, you know, we don't even stop there, Mr. Speaker. We've been engaged in discussions and working on the issue of resource roads in southeast Yukon, and pushing open areas for responsible development for the forest industry and for access into oil and gas lands and fields.
It's a big issue, along with the whole elements of the forestry strategy that were developed by the Member for Watson Lake and the forestry commissioner, who's such an active and helpful participant, in trying to push forward the proposals for consideration of the railroad, for looking at resource access roads in southeast Yukon and, as well, the pipeline, which would obviously be of great benefit to the community he represents, and the area that he represents.
Mr. Speaker, our vision and our whole strategy has been to think about the economy in new ways, to recognize it's a changing world out there, to recognize the realities. At the last mines ministers conference, the national associations got up and said that this industry is in crisis across this country. It wasn't just in the Yukon. Look at the N.W.T. Look at the national news, the gold mine that shut down there with the huge environmental liability, with massive layoffs in Yellowknife, all kinds of problems. Look at what happened with the diamond mine in the N.W.T., permitted by the Liberal government. I guess they have lost another year on that now.
Look at Alaska this year; exploration is way down. Look at all the high-risk capital and where it's going. Take a look at the Nasdaq stock exchange and compare it to the Vancouver Stock Exchange, the venture capital markets, and you'll see that money is flowing into stocks like Qualcomm and Research In Motion, Oracle, America Online. Qualcomm had an 1,800 percent return last year. It's not flowing in to mining stocks yet. Slowly, slowly, more is coming back and, with any luck, with some mines going into production, with prices coming back in copper and zinc, we'll get more activity and more focus on the territory. With devolution, we'll be responsible for the regulatory function.
A lot of damage was done to the reputation of the territory with the problems that Western Copper and New Millennium had dealing with the Liberal government and the permitting process.
I got a letter from a contractor today in the Yukon, who said the Liberals were the fly in the ointment when it came to mining in this territory - appreciated the work we'd done on the blue-book project, and training trust funds for Minto. And you know, Mr. Speaker, I think that contractor, who is a major employer in this territory, is right.
Devolution is the only answer. The blue-book project is a worthy one. We've invested time and money in it. But we have to have local, political accountability, not so that there's constant interference in permitting processes, but so that they are effective and streamlined and provide environmental protection, so that there are clear policies and guidelines, so that companies know what goal posts they have to achieve.
You know, Northern Cross put forward their permit to do a geochemical analysis. It took the Liberal government six months to turn around a permit. We did it in one day out of our branch after devolution of oil and gas.
The unfortunate thing about Northern Cross right now - and their ability in their business plan - is that they were going to use their sweet light crude - as I think it's referred - in local markets, like the Faro mine, which got wiped out by the Asian crisis. People remember the price of zinc at 79 cents. It dropped to 49 cents virtually overnight, and then it hit 40 cents. They need those types of markets.
Along the way, the NWT power corporation abandoned trying to burn the local fuel in their generators, and so put a bit of a damper on what they want to do. However, judging by the speech that the president and CEO of Northern Cross gave to the joint chambers some months ago - I think during the Geoscience Forum, if I'm correct - they're still bullish on the territory.
We have been working with them on some initiatives that hopefully - the Member for Klondike doesn't have a clue what he's talking about. They have not renewed their land use permit. They couldn't for two reasons this year: one, the Faro mine is down; two, they had a serious difficulty with the weather and the lack of snow on the Dempster in the Eagle Plains area. So, he doesn't really know what he's talking about, but most Yukoners are aware of that fact when that member speaks. He's often ill-informed.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: You know, it was nice - the member opposite talks about Northern Cross. He should have been at the luncheon where we were publicly congratulated in front of a couple hundred Yukoners for the developments that the NDP government has made in oil and gas development in this territory. It was just after the successful land sale, the first in 20 years we have held in Eagle Plains, and they were quite pleased about that.
But when your strategy is to serve local markets, and you have technical problems, in terms of burning it in diesel-generating, electricity-producing facilities, and when you're going to supply the Faro mine, and the price of zinc is in the 40s, then you have to look at other options. That's what we're doing with them right now.
So, Mr. Speaker, we look at the whole issue of the Alaska Highway pipeline as part of the economic equation, but we don't want to base our whole future just on megaprojects alone, because sometimes they just don't happen. That's the reality. People learned that lesson the hard way in the 1980s.
That's why we've been rewarding, working with and recognizing companies that are hiring small - if you talk to Hyperborean, or if you talk to Hypertech, or if you talk about some of the plans that Chilkoot Brewing Co. Ltd. has - going from three to nine employees and increasing their workforce. Job by job, you know - small business is driving this economy, creating new businesses. It's quite encouraging to see.
That is very encouraging to see. We enjoy seeing that kind of success. We enjoy seeing business reach new markets. We enjoy working with the companies that are meeting the challenges of an ever-changing global world. And like globalization or not, you can't argue with the fact that it is a reality. You can argue against it and some of the protesters in Seattle did that, dramatically, recently at the World Trade Organization - and there's a place for that debate - but the reality that we face is, the Yukon is not an island. We have to reach out to new markets. The government can't provide a living or contract for every private sector business out there, nor can we continue to grow with no limitation - government.
We will invest in health care and education - those are our priorities in operation and maintenance of government. We will invest in tourism and economic development initiatives, but invariably the private sector has to grow, diversify and find new markets, find new ways of doing business. The Alaska Highway pipeline would certainly accelerate all of that in a big way, but we can't look for a silver bullet economically. We've got to recognize the opportunities that we have right in front of our faces.
So, whether it's small or not doesn't mean that it should not be pursued. When you look at opportunities like English as a second language and combine that with wilderness tourism opportunities, you see a whole new growth area. I see that complementing the Yukon protected areas strategy and providing economic benefit. I don't believe for one minute that they're mutually exclusive proposals, that protected areas means you can't have economic activity that's sustainable.
I believe the two go part and parcel, and I believe there are economic benefits from protected areas. I believe very strongly in the health of the resource sector - mining, forestry, oil and gas. Stalwarts. Forestry and oil and gas, dead when this government came into power. Mining, suffering from the throes of world economic forces that have been pounding them, bringing about the lowest prices - I think gold last year, was at the lowest price, around $230 - in some 15 to 20 years. Base metals seeing 15- to 20-year lows. Investor confidence was completely shattered in the junior sector. Vancouver Stock Exchange cut its value in half almost overnight.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: The Member for Klondike says they're investing in Alaska. The largest portion of any mineral investment - and it's down over 25 percent there in exploration - is underground exploration around the Pogo. And that's because they had a major discovery. Underground exploration is the most expensive - I think there is $18 million going into underground Pogo exploration. The overall exploration budget is down about 25 percent there. And there's nothing going on on federal lands. When I see companies like I travelled with to the seminar that we did in London, such as Cominco, Expatriate and Barramundi Gold, they talked about the Yukon government as an excellent and helpful government. They told all the investors in the investment community in London that the Yukon is an excellent place to invest. Expatriate - and I'll have to get a copy of that speech for the Member for Klondike - said, "The Yukon is an excellent place to do business."
And they have big plans in the Yukon, and we're pleased with that. Barramundi Gold Ltd. has just struck a deal with Newmont Mining, and you know what they said in one of our discussions? I think it was $400,000 or $500,000. They said that, prior to Bre-X, it probably would have been $10 million. Of course they agreed, because the whole market is changed; it's very tough now to raise financing.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member opposite says they're pulling their drill. What hogwash. Read the deal they just struck with Newmont. The member opposite should get a grip. I'll send him over the press release between Barramundi and Newmont and the arrangement they just struck.
Mr. Speaker, they're getting a lot of interest in their property, and that's why majors like Newmont are showing an interest in the territory again. And if there's a large discovery in the Tintina gold belt, you'll see the kind of activity you saw at Pogo; but that's what it'll take. All the hype around Kudz Ze Kayah, Wolverine, led to a staking rush prior to Bre-X, sustained activity. And so the whole equation has changed, and we need to continue to work to develop the mining industry, but we also need to look to new sectors.
You know, the Yukon government, when we came in - the problem with the economy was there was absolutely no diversification. We had all our eggs in one basket in a cyclical industry. Yukon Party conservatives had no action on forestry, no action on oil and gas - dead in the water. So what happens? We lose Faro - hadn't even got the phones hooked up yet. Boom, 20 percent of the economy - numbers dropped, I think 10 percent per year in GDP. It wasn't 18 percent like in 1993 when the Yukon Party was in. Slowly we've turned that around. I had to table three economic forecasts in a row annually in this territory that were all quite negative.
This year, it's very clear that the economy is turning around. There's optimism. Read the section on oil and gas, read the section on tourism, read the section on forestry, read the section on mining, read the section on new industries, read the section that talks about export potential, read the section that talks about the population, and you'll see that there's a renewed sense of confidence.
I was pleased today to get the retail sales numbers; 11 percent is a huge jump over last year, proof positive of an economy that's turning around.
Revisionist history is a hallmark in the hallucinogenic world that the ideological conservatives opposite live in. They refuse to acknowledge world economic forces, change and even globalization, if you can believe that. They think somehow the Yukon is immune. He forgets his response to the Faro mine shutdown and a drop of 20 percent in the GDP in 1993 - no government action except to raise taxes. And that was somehow a hallmark of his administration.
Of course, this government has been hugely proactive in terms of dealing with the Faro mine loss and a worldwide downturn in the mining industry - an industry in crisis in Canada, as it's described by the senior mining association lobbyists and executives.
Mr. Speaker, so much of what we've done in terms of the pipeline we are doing with a very strong and renewed sense of vigour, and we've been doing it for months. We've been doing it because we believe the project has potential. We believe the time is right to make a move. We put money in the budget. We've allocated resources within the branch in the past. We've made the meetings, we've had the discussions, and we're upping the ante.
But we have not been - as other promoters of other routes have been - as vocal publicly, because we know that Yukoners do not want to see too much hype. They want to see action, and that's precisely what we're doing. That's identified front and centre in the budget. It has been prevalent in the discussions that we have had in the public surrounding the oil and gas strategy, the development of the Yukon Oil and Gas Act, the common regime that we developed, the workshops that we have held all over this territory that have potential for oil and gas development - from Vuntut Gwitchin to Watson Lake, we've been there.
Even constituents of mine were working this year in the oil and gas industry in southeast Yukon. Constituents of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes were working in southeast Yukon on oil and gas.
It's expected that we'll see probably $3 million to $4 million in seismic activity by Anderson alone on the parcels that they have put a bid on this coming year. And we hope very strongly that we can engage in more activity, and we're going to be working very hard this weekend and into the future on settling land claims and, as that is accomplished, it will make the picture even clearer for the Whitehorse trough and other sedimentary basins that hold known oil and gas reserves.
I was meeting with gas companies over the last two weeks, who were in the territory talking about the capital city and its potential for being piped for propane, natural gas - a lot of questions about the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline, because invariably, in a stand-alone way - unless you take the Inuvik model - the economics are extremely tough for natural gas.
But, hey, if there's a pipeline going by, it makes it all that much easier. So, the interest is real. And some of the hoteliers, who have seen executive after executive of oil and gas companies checking into this territory, know the territory has a good investment climate, and they know that these people wouldn't be here otherwise. You don't make investments of $20 million on the heels of a poor market in oil and gas, particularly oil, in an area with no pipeline, if you don't think there's a good investment climate.
So, Mr. Speaker, our vision is very broad in the economy. It's very diversified. We put forward a position that small is beautiful, that small is economically good, that diversified is good. But we have to keep watching, working and be mindful, vigilant and promoting the larger projects, as well, without building unnecessary expectations.
The Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline is one venture that we think is very realistic. We think the railroad is a much bigger challenge, but we're participating in that. We think a resource road in southeast Yukon for access to fibre, to oil and gas reserves - at the same time, we're considering that the key habitat areas of that region is also a direction that we should take.
We see other infrastructure pieces in our vision: moving on port access for increasing exports, shipping opportunities for moving goods and services that the territory can produce, import and export, Skagway and Haines. We see telecommunications as being a really key area. We have taken a back seat to what's going on in the rest of the world. That's why we're doing Connect Yukon, which is going to have educational, business and health care opportunities for many, many Yukoners.
We've expanded the airport because we believe that the Yukon has a future in tourism that is much more than it is right now, and right now it's excellent. We believe that the Yukon can become a destination and not just a stopping point for more and more people. We believe that there are markets out there that we haven't tapped to their full potential. We believe that there are benefits in business incentive and in events, tourism, and that we haven't tapped their full potential. So, we have a vision that is broad, that includes small business, small growth, but also includes a lot of work on projects such as the one we're debating today.
So, Mr. Speaker, when we make initiatives come to life like the Fireweed Fund or when we, for the first time in this territory, create a fund like the immigrant investor fund and go out and market it and sell it - I remember the opposition saying we weren't going to sell the minimum required amount of investment. They were very doubtful. They were on Northbeat saying to Yukoners that they didn't think it could be done. We proved just how good an investment climate the Yukon is and raised almost $30 million in immigrant investment, which is now helping us build the Connect Yukon project.
Mr. Speaker, when we bring in tax cuts - you now, that's another part of a broad vision. What I'm most proud of is that we didn't do it like Mike Harris or Ralph Klein. We didn't hack and slash health care and education, the poorest in society. In the same year we brought in tax reductions for every citizen in this territory, we increased health care, education and social assistance rates.
Mr. Speaker, that is something I'm extremely proud of. It's so easy with the idealogues opposite, the conservatives in the Liberal Party and the Yukon Party across the floor, to get hepped up in the mantra of the so-called "common-sense revolution" in Ontario - take a hatchet to health care and education, take a hatchet to public employees. Not us, Mr. Speaker.
And did I mention that in the same year that we reduced taxes, increased health care and education and training, and increased social assistance rates, we bargained a successful contract with our employees. We didn't attack them either. That's social democracy to me. It's not attacking the citizens of the territory, trying to build bogeymen out of different people, or groups, or governments in our society. It's about trying to ensure that government keeps a mindful eye, a helping hand, a sense of community with all citizens.
And I'm most proud of that in this budget, Mr. Speaker, because not only does it think about the big things like the Alaska Highway pipeline; it thinks about the people out there who have the least in our society - little things, like allowing people on social assistance to take part-time courses to improve their education. I would hazard to guess that there's no other party in this country - and certainly not in this territory - who would think of little things like that. But they mean a lot to those people.
So when we go out as a government and we strike, for the first time, government-to-government protocols with First Nations to talk about a new way of conducting public business, we're proud of that.
And I know some people on the left get excited about tax cuts, as if it's a right-wing agenda. Well, Mr. Speaker, I believe that governments should only take what they need to provide an appropriate level of service to the public, and we are doing that. We're steadily reversing the damage done by the Yukon Party to this territory.
I heard the floundering of the conservative leader the other morning, saying how it was, in his estimation, a different environment back then when he had to raise taxes. But, you know, the same year he raised taxes in the same budget, and the same year on the same day that he rolled back wages and killed collective bargaining for public employees, the Auditor General tabled the surplus - it was over $20 million. And the Liberals voted for that budget.
When people say in this territory the Liberals don't have a record, oh, Mr. Speaker, they most certainly do have a record. And it's linked, joined at the hip with the Yukon Party conservatives. And really, that's what they are. They're people who have grown tired of the leadership, of the prehistoric view of the Yukon Party, and they have decided to start their own new conservative party. In federal level, they call it the CRAP party; here in the territory it's called the Liberal Party.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: The Liberal leader says, "Excuse me?" But what was she doing with Erik Nielsen all those years, working for him? What was she doing, campaigning? I even heard she worked on the Member for Klondike's campaign at one point, the Yukon Party. And she somehow says now that she's not a conservative.
You know, remember those days when the Liberal leader was tromping around with the old PCs, working on the Member for Klondike's campaign? Really, what the Liberals are are just disgruntled Tories. They are still Tories, but they don't like the Member for Porter Creek North, so they formed their own reform party of the Yukon - reform, the Canadian alliance party. The CRAP party - it's called "the Liberals" in the Yukon.
You know, some Tories even told me that the Liberal leader wanted to run for them in the last territorial election, but they wouldn't promise her an uncontested nomination, so she became a Liberal - boom - overnight.
And you know, Mr. Speaker, when you read between the lines when she talks about certainty and balance when it comes to our environmental agenda, any environmentalist out there who doesn't think the Liberals would bail on protected areas in a heartbeat, would be sorely, sorely disappointed, I think, that they put any faith in the Liberal Party, because it's tough politics, and land use decisions in this territory are extremely controversial. There are no group hugs. It's all about trying to work through the tough issues, and that's what we're doing.
That's what we have done in land claims, and we're hoping to do it this weekend - break the back of two - the two - most substantial issues still left on the table in the land claims process. And the federal minister gave some opening of the door there to First Nations.
We can talk about the "blame game", as all members on each side of this House often do, but the undeniable fact remains that those key issues rest in the hands of the Liberal government. The issues around mine permitting rest in the hands of the Liberal government. Issues around forestry rest in the hands of the Liberal government.
Issues that we will have to deal with around this pipeline rest in the hands of the federal government. For example, we will be expecting the Liberal government to join us in opposing a route off the North Shore and the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd and the national parks.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: The Member for Klondike has just shown the Yukon Party position. He says that we won't have to worry about that option, putting the pipeline off the north coast of the Yukon and not going to the Alaska Highway. I would argue with him that the Yukon Party would be better serving the Yukon public by taking the position that it is a worry that the pipeline might be considered to be going off the north shore of the Yukon - such flip-flopping of position. We have seen it on taxes; we have seen it on public servant wages; we see it with the Liberals virtually every day.
Remember on taxes, when they said that they didn't have a position, that they wouldn't make any commitments to cutting taxes? And lo and behold, only a couple of months later, boom, we should have cut more. So, they didn't know that they could not cut some taxes and how much they could cut. How could they know that we should cut more?
Mr. Speaker, this particular project is one that we think is of incredible importance to this territory. It's one that we have been working on for months. It's one that we have funded through the oil and gas branch and supplemented that funding in this particular budget. It's one that we have been meeting on with Foothills for months - the Government Leader and myself. It's one that we have been meeting on with Westcoast Transmission Co.'s CEO. It's one we'll be meeting on with Jake Epp, who has a lot of familiarity with trans Canada, with the Yukon. It's one that we have been meeting on on an officials level with BP Amoco. It's one that we have been meeting on with B.C. government officials, with Alaskan officials, and it's one that we have been discussing with the proponents of the Mackenzie route pipeline.
So, Mr. Speaker, we have been working on this issue very diligently. It was somehow alluded to by the Liberal leader's comments that somehow she mentioned it and we ran out and got started, but that couldn't be further from the truth. The reality is that we haven't been hyping our efforts because we don't want to create unnecessary expectations until we have a clearer sense that this will be a reality for Yukoners.
So our efforts are focused on big infrastructure, like the pipeline, like expanding the airport, like telecommunications infrastructure throughout the territory, like ports, like resource roads and access in the southeast. But we're also thinking about the small business and the person who hires one or two more people, or three or four or five or six, who contribute to our economy. There are so many of those stories out there. And I know it has been a tough time for some contractors and businesses who have traditionally supported the mining industry while it's in crisis across this country. But we see a rebound occurring in that industry globally, slowly, as commodity prices rise and markets correct.
Mr. Speaker, we will be there working very diligently on this Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline. We think there's a good opportunity there for the territory, and we're fully in support of that route.
Mr. Jenkins: That's a pretty tough act to follow - all of that rhetoric, meaningless as it is, rewriting the history book of the Yukon, rewriting the various roles that the various individuals in this Legislature and the various parties have played over the past little while.
The Alaska Highway pipeline, Mr. Speaker, is an initiative that has been around for quite some time. It went through an extensive process a number of years ago that established the route that outlined the environmental concerns and dealt with a lot of the consequences of the construction of such an undertaking.
All of this information is on the history books. It's there; it's on the records, Mr. Speaker. We only have to go back and read what has been said in the past. We don't have to reinvent the wheel in this case.
And pipelines in the north are not new. There were extensive undertakings in the State of Alaska, extensive background information that was assembled, and an inquiry that was quite comprehensive.
That pipeline was constructed; it has had very little, if any, impact on the environment of the state that has been anything but positive, Mr. Speaker.
In fact, one of the bumper stickers that was quite prevalent a number of years ago in Alaska was, "Please God, let there be another pipeline, and we promise we won't mess it up this time".
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: I'm advised by the Member for Kluane that that's not what it said, and I'm sure he'll be capable of reading into the record, Mr. Speaker, verbatim, what the bumper sticker said, but to my recollection it went along the lines that I said in the House.
We also have the example of the oil pipeline in the Mackenzie Valley up to Norman Wells. That has been in place for quite some time, and that has brought oil from the wells down into the refineries in the Edmonton area. In fact, a lot of that product, as does the product from the North Slope of Alaska, ends up here in the Yukon. We're fortunate to be served from both of these pipelines.
The economic spinoffs that we will derive as a consequence of the construction of an Alaska Highway pipeline involve, by and large, a short-term boom during the construction phase, but then we settle into the ongoing O&M, which will create a number of positions here in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, our party fully supports such an initiative and this route. The concern out there today is that the pipeline may not follow the Alaska Highway route, a route that has already been established and approved. It might go across the northern part of the Yukon, out in the ocean, out in an area, which, due to this NDP government not doing its homework, we have no care and control over. It's outside the territorial limits of Yukon. It's not outside the territorial limits of the new territory of Nunavut or the Northwest Territories, but the Yukon has not seen its way clear to establish jurisdiction - insist upon it in the devolution process from the feds - so that we have control over that area of the Yukon. That is a concern. That pipeline is in Canadian waters.
And it could link up in the Mackenzie Valley, and the pipeline route might be down the Mackenzie Valley. Then what are we looking at as far as economic spinoffs, Mr. Speaker? They will be few and they will be far between.
I don't know currently how many high-pressure welding tickets exist among the welders here in the Yukon but, the last time I checked, there weren't that many that were current. Our workforce has gone south. Alberta has been the prime recipient of the majority of Yukoners. Our skilled trade workforce has ended up in that province, and a number of them have gone back east to other provinces - Ontario, even some of the maritime provinces have benefited from our skilled trades people moving there. Why? Because this NDP government, Mr. Speaker, has failed miserably to attract investment, to create an atmosphere and an environment that is conducive to attracting capital, to attracting industry. They have been unable to do that. Shame.
Mind you, we have more government now than ever before. Government spending is up some 13 percent since this NDP came to power. The population has come down probably 10 percent or more since this NDP government came to power. And you only have to look at the economic forecast and some of the papers that were attached to it to see that the population, according to the Department of Finance, is going to hold steady for the next five years. In 2005, I believe, the Department of Finance has indicated that there is going to be no increase in the economic growth per se in the Yukon. We're going to trail all of the leading indicators in the world. All one has to look at, Mr. Speaker, is the Yukon Economic Outlook 2000, tabled by the Minister of Economic Development - the global economic forecast in real GDP growth.
The worst performing area is Europe and Central Asia, anticipated to have a 2.5-percent growth. We come under that. We're anticipating two-percent growth here in the Yukon, and that's only a forecast, a forecast that I'm not sure is being based on the realities of what is going on here in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker - but on a lot of political information supplied to the forecasting people.
North America, by and large, is going to grow by 3.4 percent; East Asia and the Pacific, 6.2 percent; Latin American and the Caribbean, 2.7 percent; the Middle East and North Africa, 3.2; Europe and Central Asia, 2.5; the bottom of the list is Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, now when we look across the whole gamut of areas, we will be able to find other areas in the world that will not perform as well as the Yukon, but we're really going to have to look. That might be an undertaking for the Member for Whitehorse Centre to see if he can find another area in the world that's going to perform as well as the Yukon. It will probably be British Columbia.
Mr. Speaker, this Alaska Highway pipeline is an initiative that could have many, many benefits. Substations along its route to supply natural gas to Whitehorse and perhaps some of the smaller markets are some of the benefits that could accrue to Yukon.
The ongoing maintenance of these substations and the distribution of natural gas will have benefits for Yukon. Our reliance on natural gas, which is more environmentally friendly as a heating substance and for power generation, will have benefits for Yukon. It is much more beneficial to generate power using natural gas than heavy fossil fuel, in that the emissions are considerably less. For heating, the same holds true.
Hopefully, if this NDP government plays its cards a little bit better than it has in the mining industry and every other industry that has come our way, we might have an opportunity to see this project come to fruition. I was hopeful, many, many years ago, that it would occur. It still could. It still might.
The downside is the price of natural gas today and its markets. What we have is a product that tracks the price of crude, in many respects, and many individuals and many companies and many power generators can use a multitude of fuels, and they go to the fuel that is the least expensive to use. They can derive the best cost benefit from the product being used to generate that power.
Mr. Speaker, this is a motion that is very straightforward. To say anything other than positive things about this motion, after it has gone through the extensive vetting process that it has gone through, would not be in the best interests of anyone here.
About the only thing it does is present an opportunity for the Minister of Economic Development - or devastation, whichever one you prefer, whichever one is more appropriate - to sound off quite extensively on what he has failed to do. In that respect, I'm disappointed with the time that the House has spent listening to that type of rhetoric.
Mr. Speaker, this motion is a motion our party supports. We'd very much like to see a natural gas pipeline paralleling the Alaska Highway in the corridor that was set aside for it, and we'd like to see this project come into our jurisdiction as soon as possible.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: Well, as I begin, Mr. Speaker - and looking at the motion, I don't think anybody would oppose the possibility or the eventual construction of a gas pipeline through the Yukon Territory following the Alaska Highway route.
It comes to mind, though, and I wonder what really the Liberals are trying to do here, because if they had been paying attention, they'd see clearly that, in this budget that has been tabled recently in this Legislature, we are focusing on that very fact - the pipeline. We are focusing on the Alaska Highway route.
Therefore, it is important to note that with all that is going on in this territory today, the Liberals are actually wanting us to debate something that we are already doing. Firstly, we have budgeted to further this initiative. We support this initiative, as I think everybody in this House does, and I believe that across this territory there is support for the Alaska Highway pipeline.
There are some other things that we have already been doing, Mr. Speaker, and those are coming out of our Department of Economic Development, which, by the way, is very busy and focused on this particular project. We have completed a legal review on the status of the right-of-way, to ensure that we know exactly - given the fact that that right-of-way has been established - where that sits today. We have looked at environmental review on project approvals of the ANGTS project to ensure that what we do now coincides with all that has been done to date so that we do not have to reinvent the wheel or start over in any way.
This particular point gives this route, over the Mackenzie Valley route, a huge benefit in comparison, given the fact that all the work that has been completed to date on the Alaska Highway route has yet to be done on the Mackenzie Valley line. The department has conducted a review and analysis of the background material relating to this project - again, to better understand where this project is now and what is the best approach for us to take. We have worked cooperatively with Foothills, the proponent of the pipeline, to facilitate the advancement of this project.
Yet, the Liberals are urging us to aggressively promote. We are promoting. We are working on this project. Surely there would be more important issues coming from the Liberal benches that we, in this House, could debate today.
We have met with Alaska and B.C. government officials to initiate cooperation and support for the project - paving the way, beginning to work with other governments to ensure that we are all on the same page to better expedite this project, should it start and become a reality for this territory.
We have commissioned the consulting firm of Purvin & Gertz to complete an overview of the factors driving demand for northern gas. There are probably many factors, but I think we can look at one example, in particular. As we discuss this particular initiative today, right now, starting in Fort St. John, B.C., and continuing on through the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, eventually ending in Chicago, Illinois, is the Alliance Pipeline. There is no question that there is a huge market out there, and it's in the Lower 48 of the United States of America. The Alliance Pipeline is being constructed because of that very fact. It is also, then, reasonable to conclude, given that fact and given the large market to the south of us, that there is going to be a need for gas. There will be a need to move product.
So, we are commencing with more studies of the factors that are driving this demand to get a better idea on exactly what buttons we should push, here in this territory, to give this project every opportunity to become a reality.
We've also held preliminary discussions with pipeline companies and BP Amoco Canada, who in all likelihood will, at some juncture, at some point, be participants. We have initiated preliminary discussions with the Yukon and Whitehorse chambers of commerce to inform the public in this territory what is happening to date.
So again, I point out to my Liberal colleagues across the floor that we are debating a motion that you have tabled here today, a motion of which the content speaks to exactly what is going on, what the Government of the Yukon is already doing, and it brings to mind the question of why are we debating that in this Legislature with so many other important things at hand.
When we look at benefits, I don't think anybody disputes the fact that the benefits are going to be huge and many to the Yukon Territory should this project become a reality.
Firstly, the construction phase - this is one massive project. It would be unreal to even try and explain the scope and the size of what would take place if this begins and continues to fruition.
We also have to realize that, after the construction, after the dirt moving, the right-of-way clearing, the pipe that must be welded together and laid and X-rayed, and all the safeguards and safety application ensuring that there are excess flow valves and batteries along the route and the ability to contain any problems in terms of leakage and spills - the list goes on and on and on. We then get into the continued operation of the mine and that is where many, many communities will benefit in jobs.
We also have to realize that it gives us access to a cheap source of fuel that can supply energy in this territory. We have an agreement to date - a Canada/U.S. agreement - that was struck over 20 years ago - 23 years ago to be exact - in September 1977. And that agreement also deals with benefits for the Yukon. The agreement states that the owner of the pipeline in Yukon - whomever that may be; obviously that's probably going to be Foothills - will make arrangements to provide gas to the communities along the route. Those communities are Beaver Creek, Burwash Landing, Destruction Bay, Haines Junction, Whitehorse, Teslin, Upper Liard and Watson Lake. That in itself is benefit that has no bounds. Mr. Speaker, that type of benefit coming into those communities certainly improves our ability to utilize cheaper energy, cut the costs, improve economic development, cut the costs of everyday living, and also improve our ability to attract investment and economic development.
I'd like to point out also that, in listening to the mover of the motion, I was somewhat confused from time to time exactly what it is she wants us to do. We have to consider the fact that this is a massive undertaking, which could cost - and I stand corrected, because I don't know the exact figures, but we're dealing in the neighbourhood of $6 billion.
This government, this territory, though it will play a role, is certainly not going to be able to deal with that type of expenditure. It's going to take a number of governments - Alaska, Yukon, the federal government of the States, the Government of Canada - private enterprise, stakeholders, industry. The partnership here that must be put together is quite extensive.
Now, let me for a moment rebut a few of the Yukon Party comments coming from the Member for Klondike, who managed to disintegrate into a government-bashing harangue that didn't mean a whole lot, because none of it is based in fact - none of it is based in fact at all, Mr. Speaker. It's merely a conceptual fabrication in the member's mind. It has nothing to do with the realities on the ground in this territory.
First, let me point out - workforce gone south. Well, if anybody had been watching the recent CBC program Northbeat, they would have found out that, now in this territory, in a community like Watson Lake, people are moving back in. Businesses are reopening.
The reason that is happening is because we are attracting investment. We are developing the resource sector, and people have a very positive view of our future. We are poised in the southeast, and in fact the Yukon as a whole, to head into much better times.
And some of the reasons for that are, because of good governance at the seat of government; effective representation in the communities from the communities at the seat of government; allowing our constituents to expand and enhance their talents and capacity by creating an environment for investment to come to this territory.
That has been done by this government, Mr. Speaker, and the Yukon Party. I know it bugs them. They're the champions of free enterprise, but they couldn't get it right when they had the reins of power for four years. In fact, they downright blew it.
Mr. Speaker, we are attracting investment in this territory, not in spite of the government but because of the good works that this government is doing in most sectors that we deal with. The oil and gas industry, for the first time in decades - we now have millions of dollars pouring into that sector. The Yukon Party, the champions of free enterprise, couldn't even get an agreement internally in this territory with the First Nations to proceed with the legislation. It sat on the shelf, useless, going nowhere. It took this government to come into power, straighten out the mess, get the First Nations involved and participating in a meaningful way, develop a common regime and developing legislation, which, by the way, has been trumpeted by industry across this country as one of the better ones. Not attracting investment? Nothing could be farther from the truth, Mr. Speaker - millions in oil and gas.
Another area in which the Yukon Party failed miserably was forestry. Forestry, along with oil and gas, and mining and tourism, will be one of our main economic engines driving this economy in the Yukon, and today it's helping greatly to diversify that economy. We have attracted investment in that area - millions of dollars again, creating jobs and benefit from a local resource for Yukoners. One example is the South Yukon Forest Corporation in Watson Lake. They began operations May 5, 1999. Through the good works of this government, working with the federal government, First Nations, industry, environmentalists, community, stakeholders, we have now seen a consistent flow of fibre into the industry's hands, something the Yukon Party just could not grapple with, could not deal with. They threw up their hands and told Yukoners that there was nothing could do and it's a federal problem.
Yet, they accuse us of not being able to attract investment. It's because of facts like that that investment has been brought into this sector. This mill in the southeast Yukon is now poised, by the end of one year of operation, given all of the factors that assisted and created the environment and climate within which they work, will be producing a total of 50 million board feet of raw lumber to be shipped out of this territory. That translates into $15 million of revenue at today's lumber prices. Yet, the Member for Klondike stands in this Legislature, wasting our time and Yukoners' time, accusing this side of the House of not being able to attract investment. What a joke, Mr. Speaker.
There's no question - and once we get the silviculture program really tuned up, you'll find us taking credit for that, too. All you have to do is stand by and watch, because that's all you did the last time. You watched it happen. On this side of the House, we're making it happen, and the Liberals, on that side of the House, sitting on the fence, wondering which side to get off on, are wondering what's happening. That's why they're calling for a new policy, when all around them there is activity and investment - and there is a policy being implemented. The Liberals aren't quite sure what's happening.
At any rate, Mr. Speaker, we agree that this is an extremely important initiative for this territory. It will launch us into another level of development and our ability to attract investment, over and above where we're at today. There's no question about it.
To that end, Mr. Speaker, in looking at the body of the motion, it's evident, as I pointed out earlier, that the Liberals, who moved the motion, the Liberal leader, just simply will not admit that this is happening and is merely trying to make political hay, political points, with a motion tabled in this House that we're spending the rest of the afternoon debating - debating what is already in the works, what is already happening.
So, Mr. Speaker, to that end, as we have stated, we support this initiative. We support the Alaska Highway pipeline. We oppose categorically the Mackenzie project, the Mackenzie option, regardless of where ownership lies out in the Arctic Ocean, 12 kilometres offshore from the Yukon. We see no sense in that route whatsoever. The potential environmental damage alone ...
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Mr. Fentie: ... rules that out.
So, Mr. Speaker, based on the fact that we agree with the concept, I move a motion to bring this particular motion tabled by the Liberals back into line with what's going on.
Mr. Fentie: To amend the motion, Mr. Speaker, I move
THAT Motion No. 202 be amended by:
(a) deleting the words "aggressively promote" and replacing them with "continue its initiatives in promoting"; and
(b) deleting the word "that" before the words "Alaskan gas".
I believe that this amendment truly does put this motion in line with what's happening -
Speaker: Order please.
It has been moved by the hon. Member for Watson Lake
THAT Motion No. 202 be amended by
(a) deleting the words "aggressively promote" and replacing them with "continue its initiatives in promoting"; and
(b) deleting the word "that" before the words "Alaskan gas".
Mr. Fentie: We believe on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, that this amendment brings this motion back in line with the realities of the day. The fact is that this government is aggressively already dealing with this issue, and I look forward to some comments from the opposite side of this House, and I'm sure they'll agree with this amendment improving the motion itself.
Mr. Cable: Speaking to the amendment, you know, there have been a number of suggestions put forward both by the minister and by the Member for Watson Lake, who would like to be the minister, that we're simply stirring the pot on this issue. Well, he's right. The minister's absolutely right, and the Member for Watson Lake is absolutely right. We are stirring the pot on the issue.
We're trying to get some public discussion going. We're trying to get it out of the files of the government, out of the cloister of the government, and get something on to the floor here.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order, please. Order. I would ask members from both sides of the House -
Mr. Cable: Both the minister and the Member for Watson Lake are looking for accolades. They've got them: here are some accolades for you. Here's a pat on the back. If the minister and the Member for Watson Lake want some credit for getting ahead of the issue, here's the credit. You've got all the credit you want. I'll even sign a document if Hansard isn't good enough for you. If it's thought that the motion is for purposes of creating hype, that's not the case. This is a very important issue. It's time we got some discussion going in this House to help define the issues and see if we're on the same wavelength.
Now I'm having some incredible difficulty finding out where the Member for Watson Lake is coming from. I think he's out on the planet Org somewhere. You know, he put forward a motion in the House the other day; here's what the Member for Watson Lake said, Motion 207, "THAT it is the opinion on this House that
"(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."
He puts the motion forward to get some discussion going. Now he's blaming us for doing the same thing.
Where is this member coming from? Where is he coming from? He's telling us there's more important things to discuss, then he takes his full 20 minutes. But he wants to discuss the issue in his motion. He wants to get up first and give the back pat. If the back pat is what's wanted, you've got it. You'll have a whole afternoon of back pats, if that's what you need to keep you going.
Now, there are some pretty obvious impacts from the pipeline. There was an inquiry 23 years ago. There were many people who expressed reservations, and there were many people who wanted to talk about the issues. We had a three-member panel set up, which took the evidence for many, many months and came out with a report. Those impacts that were raised need to be revisited. They need to be talked about, and this Chamber is a good place to get some discussions going.
It may be that, when we're finished, we'll find that we're generally in agreement on what has to be done. From what I've heard today, there seems to be a consensus coming out of the discussions that a pipeline across the northern part of the territories - our own territory and the Northwest Territories - would not meet with this House's approval. We've accomplished something. That is something we can say to the powers that be, to the permitting authorities, to the federal government - that a pipeline moving across the northern territories is not in the interests of Yukoners and should not go ahead for a whole variety of reasons.
Now, there are some obvious advantages to the Foothills proposal.
There are jobs, there are construction jobs, and when the pipeline is finished and it's pumping gas, there are operations and maintenance jobs - good, high-quality, high-paying jobs. And there are taxation revenues for all governments - First Nation governments, municipal governments and the territorial government. And there are economic spinoffs. Truckers are going to have work. Retailers are going to have work selling to the construction workers. There is a potential - I don't know how realistic it is - for, if the gas is passing down the Alaskan corridor, the gas to be taken out of the system for heating and industrial use.
But there are concerns, and there were concerns raised, and those concerns have to be dealt with. There are the social impacts that many of the people who presented to the Lysyk Inquiry raised. With the large influx of people, we, of course, can expect social problems. And there are environmental impacts. All those things need to be talked about. Just let me go into a little more detail on some of them.
From what I garner from reading the Lysyk report, the Alaska Highway Pipeline Inquiry, the initial jobs are going to be something in excess of 2,000, of which perhaps 1,500 could be filled by Yukoners. Just think about that. Our unemployment rate, I think, is something in excess of 12 percent. There are large numbers of unemployed people in this territory, tradesmen and otherwise, who would be available to fill the construction workforce, reducing our unemployment rate and reducing our social costs for the unemployed, at least during the construction period, and that's a plus.
The unemployed persons who are looking for work want and need employment. And after the construction phase, there is something in the order of 200, probably, high-paying, long-term jobs. These will have a real stabilizing effect on the economy. These are some of the numbers bandied around 23 years ago, and presumably they would be approximately correct today.
And then we have the multiplier effect. There were quite a few numbers bandied around by Foothills and the interveners at the Lysyk Inquiry, and I'm not going to attempt to figure out who was right, but I think it's safe to say that considerable ancillary jobs during the construction phase would be created through the multiplier effect, and this will reduce the unemployment rate even further. With unemployment at 12 percent, it's difficult to conceive that the economy would be overheated. And those 200 permanent jobs, of course, will have some other spinoff jobs. You know, sales from retailers assumedly would create additional retail positions. So, there are some good things that can come from the movement of the gas through a pipeline constructed through the Foothills right-of-way.
Then there is the issue of the tax revenues. I don't pretend to fully understand all the interrelationship between the umbrella final agreement and the Northern Pipeline Act.
But the numbers I have are that the Yukon property tax will not exceed $30 million per year. That has an inflation rider on it, so I assume it's something up to the order of $50 million.
Now, that's about five percent of our territorial gross product, so that amount of money flowing into the Yukon, for very little effort other than going to the cash register, is certainly a big plus. But the social impacts also need to be fully analyzed. There's the transient nature of part of the construction workforce, which will create some obvious social problems. And if there's an influx of permanent workers into some of the smaller communities, at least for the construction phase - and perhaps for the operations and maintenance phase - this will cause some adjustments. I'm not suggesting that these adjustments can't be made, or couldn't be made, but they need to be talked about.
Then there are the environmental impacts. Even coming down the Alaska Highway right-of-way, and even burying the pipeline, there are obviously going to be some impacts on the environment. We need to hear from the environmental community.
Now, these issues are complex, and they need further discussion. They are matters - as the Economic Development minister said - of public policy, and public policy issues require public discussion.
Whatever we've heard to date - and that's been precious little; it's only in the last few days we've fully appreciated what the government's been doing - every Yukoner is going to be affected to a greater or lesser extent, and many to a considerable extent.
Those things need to be taken into account, and those things need to be discussed.
Now, as I mentioned, we have no problem with the government taking some accolades. If they will feel better by getting a pat on the back, we'll give them the pat on the back. We support the member's amendment. If he wants to replace the verbiage "aggressively promote" with the verbiage "continue its initiatives in promoting", so be it. We're in favour. And if he wants to correct the English, so be it. We're in favour. You've got it. Mr. Speaker, we're in favour of this amendment, and we're in favour of the motion.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This has been one of those interesting debates. It's a debate that probably will extend about as long as the pipeline consideration does.
I was thinking the other day, when I first saw this pipeline motion come up - I remember back to some 20-odd years ago, when the pipeline was still an omen of currency in this territory. I remember coming in from Pelly Crossing on several occasions and coming out of the government building. There used to be that giant acrylic timeline on the wall. I don't know if the members remember that. There was a big, plastic timeline about all the things that were supposed to happen at various points and everything like that. I remember coming in one time, and I guess I must have walked past it on my way to some offices. I came up, and the first thing I noticed was that the pipeline timeline was gone. I think that was the signal that this project might have a longer shelf life than what we had assumed.
But, I digress. I think what we're really discussing here - and I intend to digress further, because I really think what we're talking about here is infrastructure development. And, first of all, I want to acknowledge that I am supporting the amendment.
I'd like to talk a little bit about the whole concept of infrastructure and infrastructure development. I think - and I was talking about this before - that infrastructure is key to the development of any economy. I think, if we look at it, that such things as roads have led to the development of various industries throughout Canada. I think in earlier times, the rivers were, in a sense, a form of road, and then other roads were developed, and I think infrastructure changes, as a society and as an economy changes. If we think about how our economy - the economy of this country and of the north, in fact - has changed from the period of time of the fur trade, when rivers and trails were an early form of infrastructure development and people essentially moved by foot or by water. I think that was one form of infrastructure that served in the economy of that scale and of that period. Now thankfully, some of our ancestors and some of those who have come on before us who, whether by ingenuity or by some kind of exhaustion, figured out how to adapt domestic animals - beasts, if you will - for transportation. And, to some degree, our transportation infrastructure is a reflection of that.
Today we had an example of an individual using a very old form of transportation, that of a sled and dogs to accomplish something. So, even though some types of transportation have been surpassed by others, we still cling to some of those elements of our heritage and I think we cherish those to some degree.
I can think back to when we look at infrastructure, one of the first, actual forms of infrastructure - and I don't use the term "concrete" as a pun. But if we think about, perhaps, the Roman world, where the Romans were most notable for developing public infrastructure, and it was one of those examples of an early society where, through governmental direction, all kinds of infrastructure developed, whether it's roads or aqueducts or public buildings or public coliseums. They were all forms of public infrastructure that a government at that time - and a centralized government - saw as being part of the public good and realized that, for a society to develop, there had to be a form of infrastructure - public investment in infrastructure.
I came across something very interesting in my research, when I was doing some research with regard to the trolley and doing some background research on such things as railway gauges. One of the questions that was asked was about the whole question of railway gauges. We have a narrow-gauge railroad here that was built during the latter part of the - oh, the previous to the last century. I keep thinking we're in the new one here. It was in the early part of the 1900s. That railway has a narrow gauge. One of the questions that has been asked of me by some people who have expressed interest in the trolley project has been about the narrow gauge.
The interesting element about the narrow-gauge railway is that it's -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, if the member will bear with me, I'll just explain something, because I think, as I go through this kind of complex analogy, there is a part, and that part, Mr. Speaker, will become self-evident as I wend my way through an explanation of the narrow gauge, because it really does have a relevance to the Member for Klondike. When I reach that point, he will suddenly understand how I have linked the narrow gauge to the Member for Klondike.
The standard U.S. railway gauge, which is the distance between the rails, is four feet, eight and a half inches. Now, that's a very, very odd number. Why was that gauge used? The Member for Klondike asked why it was used. Well, because that's the way they built them in England, and most U.S. railways were built by English expatriates. Now we have to go to the question of why did the English build railways like that. Well, because the first railways were built by the same people who built the pre-railway tramways, and that's the gauge that they used.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Riverdale North, on a point of order.
Mr. Phillips: This motion is talking about pipelines and not railways, and I ask the member to get back to the motion that is in front of him.
Speaker: I would ask the member to speak to the amendment.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: By all means, Mr. Speaker. I would be happy to. But I think you'll appreciate that I am pursuing an analogy here. What I'm really trying to do is illustrate that infrastructure changes. It changes a society, and economies change. I think we can certainly appreciate that.
When I used the railroad analogy, I think what I'm trying to illustrate is that, as we were based on an agrarian and perhaps an economy that was based on the movement of farm products, forestry products, and so on, railways made evident sense. What I'm also trying to illustrate is that, as an economy changes, in the post-war Canadian economy, the focus moved on to the development of roads. And, as we move into the period, certainly pre-war, but most clearly post-war, the development of such things as the Trans-Canada Pipeline and others, pipelines became a form of transportation to move, in this case, petroleum and natural gas products.
Excuse me, Mr. Speaker. I'm just looking for my glasses here, because I do have so many other relevant points about how we arrived at the standard railway gauge, but we are moving toward the narrow gauge as we go along.
What I really wanted to talk about is the nature of the importance of infrastructure and how that infrastructure changes as technology develops. As I said, we've moved to vehicular transportation, planes, automobiles, trains and other forms of wheeled traffic to move goods around. Now, as we have to move massive amounts of oil and gas, particularly from areas in the north, the pipeline becomes one of the most accessible ways to transport those products.
I think the pipeline that we're discussing today was partially inspired by the so-called petroleum crisis in the 1970s, and world powers at that time, who were the most heavy petroleum resource users, got nervous about the affordability of supplies, got nervous about the security of those supplies, and began to look at other accessible amounts of petroleum and gas. The northern parts of this country became more and more popular in that area. Certainly, the strikes on the North Slope of Alaska were in one of those areas, and this was an area that was somewhat different from other regions of Canada where petroleum had been developed because there wasn't, in many cases, a well-developed road and rail network as there has been, perhaps, in the western provinces, the Leduc fields and areas of that kind, as well as areas in some places such as Petrolia in southern Ontario and so on.
So pipelines did become the preferred option for getting the product to market. And I think many of us who lived here during that period of time remember the huge excitement and the huge sort of speculation that revolved around that. I remember one resident who - one person of my acquaintance - who lived on a piece of property near Minto, and was absolutely convinced that he was going to make a killing when the pipeline rolled through his property. He was thinking of the so-called Dempster lateral line at that point, which was another sort of side issue.
But I remember having coffee with him one time, and he was telling me how he was going to absolutely - this was his retirement plan. The pipeline was going to roll through his property, and he was going to make a million dollars and retire. And I remember saying, "Well, what happens if they go to the other side of the road?" And that hadn't occurred to him. I hope I didn't put a damper on his day. He's long gone now, so I hope I didn't contribute to his passing.
However, as the scheme went on, and I think as engineers began looking at it, the interest in a pipeline through Alaska, and marine transportation from the coast of Valdez, took on more of an interest - the idea of shipping it out by deep-water port, and the idea of liquefying the natural gas - took on even more interest.
Though petroleum products aren't by any means new, I think the means of transportation had to be adjusted to reflect the realities of northern transportation, and the limits of northern transportation. Some members have indicated some, I suppose, doubt about the viability of the proposed line running up the Mackenzie Valley and across the Beaufort. I think probably some of those concerns are very well-founded.
I believe there are some major, major environmental liabilities in that particular route. And I think, quite frankly, given some of the issues, in terms of access, which will be a key from the Alaska Highway - the ability to transport supplies, parts, crews and so on - the Alaska Highway line is far more attractive, just in basic accessibility - basically, being able to get people to where they need to build at a particular point.
So, I think from the point of view of the economics of an Alaska Highway pipeline, I think that the economics certainly favour this route, as opposed to a Mackenzie-Beaufort route. I think that on the environmental side there are still many, many things to resolve with respect to the Alaska Highway pipeline. In reviewing some of the material from the Lysyk Inquiry, I don't believe that probably all of the environmental issues were looked at to the degree that they would be looked at now. We're talking about an inquiry that's over 20 years old. I think there are things that have changed, and I think there are probably some issues that have changed. As well, I think there are some issues around the socio-economic impact. I think that some communities will have to take a look at the kind of social, I suppose, and health infrastructure that is required, if this pipeline should go through.
My friend from Watson Lake has referred to his riding. I know that Watson Lake, close to 20 years ago - a good deal of the infrastructure at that time had been built in anticipation of Watson Lake being a major centre for pipeline construction, as it had been in the period of the Alaska Highway construction during the Second World War.
I think many people in the town were concerned about the ability of the physical infrastructure of the town to be able to accommodate that. I recall that there were people at that time who criticized, for example, the building of the school, because they felt that the school was too large for the community. I think, to some degree, the school size was determined by the potential for an influx of people and the potential for Watson Lake becoming a centre for the development - I suppose, the pumping - of natural gas.
So I think that's something that we have to look at as well. I think that not only do we have to take a look at the physical infrastructure that we have here available to facilitate the development of the pipeline, but I think one of the things we will have to do is take a look at our own infrastructure in terms of what kinds of services do we have, what kinds of services will we require, do we have the sufficient level of health and social, educational infrastructure that is going to be needed. As this project moves further along, I think we will have to take a look at some things, such as the level of training. I think there will be issues there and implications for training, implications for developing a skilled workforce, not only - and I have to say this - for the construction period, but the post-construction period and the maintenance of such a line.
I think we also have to take a serious look at how this line can complement the infrastructure that we have in terms of highway development. I think we also have to take a look at how this line meshes, in a sense, with what we're hoping to do in terms of telecom because, quite frankly, I regard telecom services, and the ideas of the Connect Yukon, as a form of pipeline. It's a pipeline for information.
Just as we, in the 1970s and the 1980s, talked about pipelines -
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Good heavens - move toward commodities. I think the new commodity - one of the new types of information that we have to be able to move - is that of information. And I think we have to be able to develop that particular pipeline - the Connect Yukon pipeline, the telecom pipeline in the future.
Now, as I said earlier, I promised the Member for Klondike just a little bit, because I know that he has a fascination with transportation of all kinds, and he has referred to it. As I referred to earlier, the standard railway gauge was set at four feet, eight and a half inches. Now, that goes back to the idea of the early roads. Now, there's something fascinating about the early roads: why did the early roads reach that point? And I hope that member will take this in the spirit in which it's being offered. The early roads were set because they were based on a Roman road system. The Roman road system was based on the maximum width -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Riverdale North, on a point of order.
Mr. Phillips: The minister is roaming from the topic and has been warned by you, Mr. Speaker, to stay away from railroads because we're talking about pipelines, and he's trying to squeeze it in in his last minute despite your ruling. And I think the minister is out of order in roaming into the railroad realm.
Speaker: The Member for Watson Lake, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: I think what the member is trying to do, as he pointed out, is that he's trying to put forward an analogy on the width of a road as it relates to being able to run the pipeline down that road and using it as the right-of-way.
Speaker:Would the member go back to speaking on the amendment and start speaking about the gas?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that, by my comments, I'm trying to relate it to the Member for Klondike -
Speaker: The member's time has expired.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you for that ruling, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, again, one of these wasted Wednesdays, totally wasted Wednesdays - we've watched this Legislature go all over the map. First of all, we start out with a motion that really doesn't make much sense of any kind. Then we watch the government side amend the motion to pat themselves on the back, and we have the Liberals agreeing with them. The Liberals are agreeing with them. First of all, they put a motion there condemning the government because they're not doing enough. The government amends it, saying, "We're great guys," patting themselves on the back, and the Liberals say, "Fine, fine" - what a wasted Wednesday. Then we have the Minister of Government Services stand up and try to give us a history lesson. It is quite amusing, Mr. Speaker.
We've seen a lot of different things happen here today. We've watched a government, which has maintained year after year after year after year that they're against megaprojects, that they're totally against megaprojects. All of a sudden, this is a great deal. They can support this megaproject - talk about flip-flops. It's not hard to see, though, when we've got a Reformer sitting with the NDP.
Mr. Speaker, we had the Minister of Economic Development give us an hour and a half of his political rhetoric again and added nothing to the debate on the issue. We had him chastising the federal government for the billion dollars lost by Jane Stewart, and we had the Liberals defending Jane Stewart for losing the billion dollars - all in a pipeline debate, all in a pipeline debate, Mr. Speaker.
I thought it was quite amusing, Mr. Speaker, that when the government was chastising the local Liberals with their cousins in Ottawa losing a billion dollars - the leader of the Liberal Party kibitzing here, "Yeah, but how much came to the Yukon?" It seems that her position is that as long as we get our share, it doesn't matter what the federal government does, or how they account for it. They can lose a billion dollars if they like. They can lose a billion dollars if they like, and it's okay with the local Liberals. It's okay with the local Liberals.
Mr. Speaker, I'm really not certain what the mover of the motion was hoping to accomplish with the motion. There is a right-of-way along the Alaska Highway that has been maintained by Foothills for many, many years now. Foothills makes an annual trip to the Yukon, briefs all political parties on what they are doing. They still hope that someday they'll be able to build this pipeline.
There are competing routes that are being promoted by other jurisdictions, and I think it's very critical that the Yukon government and the Yukon people - and especially the Yukon government - play a leadership role to see that the other routes do not make this one unattractive.
That's where I start having the difficulties, though, because we heard - or I heard - the Minister of Economic Development say something to the effect that the proposal of the route through the Beaufort, across the northern Yukon, out in the Beaufort Sea - I believe his words were - was far too much for this government to bear. Yet, Mr. Speaker, that is one of the proposed alternatives that is currently being promoted. That would see the pipeline from Alaska being built in Yukon's offshore waters, across the Mackenzie Delta and down the Mackenzie to connect with pipelines in the south. At the present time that could happen, and Yukoners wouldn't have a say, because we don't have any jurisdiction in the Beaufort. Our jurisdiction stops at the low-water mark of the Beaufort Sea. It is one of the issues that I have been raising continuously that should be addressed in the proposed amendments to the Yukon Act. It's a very serious deficiency, and it really limits what powers we have to stop such a proposal when we don't have any jurisdiction. And it is unfair to Yukoners that our newest territory, Nunavut, has jurisdiction out to the 12-mile limit and Yukon doesn't.
Yet, we have the Liberal leader joining the Government Leader, going to Ottawa to sell a package of amendments to the Yukon Act that does not include jurisdiction in those offshore waters.
I find that totally unacceptable, Mr. Speaker. It's a sellout, a sellout of Yukon interests. It's a sellout of Yukon interests.
Mr. Speaker, there's the opportunity that, with the amendments to the Yukon Act, we could regain that control that we lost many years ago, and it's something that our party has been fighting for since 1979 and will continue to fight for. We have to regain control in the Beaufort. We have to be treated as equal citizens in the north. We cannot accept that the newest territory has authority in jurisdictions that isn't being given to the Yukon. And we believe that, with the amendments to the Yukon Act, we can regain that control and get a level playing field again.
Mr. Speaker, if the Liberals are wanting to create debate on promoting the Alaska Highway as a route, I don't have any difficulty with that. I don't have any difficulty with it at all. But it appears from the motion that the Liberals want to do something more than just be promoting the route, but only if it addresses the concerns raised in the Lysyk Inquiry, which was done 20 some years ago. Then the government should aggressively promote it. I think we might be putting the cart ahead of the horse here a little bit, because I believe that we should be aggressively promoting this route, subject to all concerns being addressed.
We can't go out and have hearings on a pipeline when the pipeline isn't even happening. All that we're doing is aggressively promoting the route.
My understanding is that, if the pipeline went ahead, it would have to go through the same regulatory process as any other development in the Yukon - major environmental hearings, socio-economic impact statements. All of that would come. I think it's important that our government play a leadership role in aggressively promoting the Alaska Highway pipeline route and the Dempster lateral. I have hardly heard a word mentioned today about the Dempster lateral, unless I missed it in somebody's presentation. That is as important as the Alaska Highway route, Mr. Speaker.
I, for one, and our party, believe that we ought to be aggressively promoting this, and there will be plenty of time, if we are successful in convincing everybody that this is the right route to go - through the environmental review process - that all the outstanding issues will be dealt with. I participated in the Lysyk hearings when they were held in the 1970s in the communities along the route. I talked to a lot of Foothills people and, in fact, I did some work on that pipeline when they were going through the Kluane area. One of our aircraft was employed by Foothills at the time, doing reconnaissance work.
People were excited about it. People were very excited about it and hoped it would happen. It would have been the best thing to happen to Yukon for many, many years. And yes, there are concerns. There are concerns with every project, and we do have much stricter regulatory processes now than what we had in the 1970s. But other things have happened since then, as well. When the project was being proposed in the 1970s, it had a price tag of $11 billion on it.
Because of new methods and improved technologies, that cost has been cut almost in half. So it makes the package a lot more attractive. But I don't believe for one minute that it's going to happen on its own, without aggressive lobbying by Yukoners, and pushing that they want this route to come this way, and doing everything in their power to dissuade the pipeline companies from going down the Mackenzie Valley, because the Mackenzie Valley is an attractive route, too, because of all the gas discoveries along the way, and the Yukon is far behind in that. We don't have any gas to put into the pipeline yet, outside of the gas that's coming from the members opposite, and that won't do much to fill the pipeline, Mr. Speaker.
Well, Mr. Speaker, it is important that we lobby aggressively for this route - that we all do - and that we don't let it go down the Mackenzie Valley, where other pipeline companies want it to go, and they have some very valid arguments, too.
It's important to finalize land claims in the Yukon to make sure that the project does go ahead - very important. I don't buy the Minister of Economic Development's argument that it's all the federal government's fault. I don't buy that at all.
It is their fault, to a certain extent. The Government of Yukon can't sit on the sidelines and say, "There's nothing we can do about this." They're at the table. They are representing the interests of all Yukoners, and they ought to be doing that very aggressively, not taking a defeatist attitude and saying, "Well, when the feds and the First Nations have it sorted out, then we'll move along." That's not how it's going to be accomplished at all, Mr. Speaker. The Member for Faro may think it's going to be, but it certainly isn't.
So, Mr. Speaker, the pipeline would be good for jobs for Yukoners - construction jobs, absolutely. We could use a lot of those jobs. It was quite notable in an editorial recently, probably in today's paper, where it said that, at the pace that this government's going in creating jobs in the Yukon, one job at a time, it will take until the year 3000 for them to replace just the thousand jobs that were lost because of the Faro mine, not taking into consideration all the other jobs that have left the Yukon because of the policies of this administration, so we could use a megaproject that's so despised by the members opposite. Now we have the Member for Whitehorse West loving megaprojects.
Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to speak forever on this. I think I have said all I need to say on it and, if the Liberals want to pat the government - the NDP - on the back, that doesn't surprise me, because we have always said there's a very similar nature in their policies, so that shouldn't surprise us at all. And what we would like to - I could propose another amendment here but I won't bother. I will just say that, either way - well, I support the motion over the amended motion, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I'll be brief and I think the House rules will ensure that - five minutes' time remaining.
The pipeline is a project that would be very important for the Yukon Territory and, as anyone familiar with the geography here knows, a large part of it would span across the Kluane riding and several communities in the area and, therefore, would have a significant impact on those communities.
In looking through some background information on this, the agreement that's in place is certainly very interesting. It guarantees the rights of those communities to tap into the energy potential from the line and the benefits there from it.
There's also something here that's a little noteworthy. On the Northern Pipeline Act, I notice that the minister in charge of that now is Pierre Pettigrew - the same minister, Mr. Speaker, who has to face some of the problems in HRDC, the same minister who refused to fall on the sword, so to speak, and anyone familiar with This Hour last week would know that this same minister was implicated in that he might cause a trade war if his same performance record continued in his department.
So, that's the reason for some concern, Mr. Speaker.
On the comments from the third party, I'd like to point out that the concerns about the North Slope and the Yukon's rights are a red herring. To believe that, Mr. Speaker, would be like believing the Vuntut Gwitchin have no say in the development of the 10-02 lands. I firmly believe the Yukon Territory would have a strong say in any federal permit given out to any pipeline company crossing the North Slope, so that whole argument is a red herring. The Yukon Party continues to espouse that argument in press releases in this Legislature and it really makes no sense whatsoever.
On a final point, the whole purpose of this motion, I believe, is a bit questionable. The pipeline is mentioned in this government's budget and is supported with a $100,000 expenditure for technical review. That, Mr. Speaker, could have been debated in Committee of the Whole, and certainly it may yet be debated in Committee of the Whole. It raises the question about the Liberals' priorities for discussion on motion day. Is this the best they could do, Mr. Speaker? Were there no other issues important to the Liberal Party to bring forward for discussion this afternoon? Were there no issues related to the economy, something that is not being attended to that is perhaps worthy of discussion? Is there nothing related to health care, treatment programs, job training, education, social programs?
Mr. Speaker, this says a lot about the Liberals' priorities. Quite simply, they don't have much to talk about over there, and instead they choose to talk about something that is already being addressed. We have to understand that the Yukon is a very small player in the context of a $6-billion pipeline project that may or may not come our way. It won't be a case of a yea or nay on what the Yukon says. Certainly, the Yukon can be an important player once a decision has been made, but let's face it, Mr. Speaker, this decision is beyond our realm.
Bringing this motion forward today is really questionable. The Liberals accused us several times of having a wasted Wednesday and rattling on a whole bunch about nothing. Mr. Speaker, I would say they have to look at themselves on the record for bringing this motion forward today, and I think Yukoners - anyone listening to the Legislature, anyone reading Hansard - should ask themselves if this the better alternative to what we have discussed here, Mr. Speaker.
Debate on Motion No. 202 accordingly adjourned
Speaker: The time being 5:30 p.m., the Speaker will now leave the Chair until 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Bill No. 99: Second Reading - adjourned debate
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 99, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald; adjourned debate, Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to be given an opportunity to respond to this budget for the next fiscal period of the Yukon. Mr. Speaker, the budget is a tool that governments and businesses use to plot the financial direction that that government or business is planning on taking.
Now, normally a budget and a business plan go together. We have the budget, but the business plan is virtually political rhetoric as far as where the Yukon has been for the last three years, and where it's going for the next year.
We have, probably, somewhat of an election plan, although we know it's going to happen. We just don't know if it's going to be a spring, a fall, or a summer election, Mr. Speaker.
Today in the Yukon, we have an economy that really can't get much worse, yet we have the largest budget that any Yukon government in the history of the Yukon has ever put forward. Since the NDP came to power in 1996, the budget has increased some 13 percent, and yet the population is down at least 10 percent since that time.
A $50-million surplus that was accumulated by the NDP government has been whittled down to a projected $13-million surplus. Now, I find nothing wrong with spending a surplus, as long as the government does it addressing its normal responsibilities, and the surplus goes to benefiting Yukoners by developing our economy.
Yet, what we see is this massive O&M budget not doing that. We have what NDP governments are famous for: more big, massive government than ever before, no stimulation to our economy, in spite of what this Minister of Economic Development has told us in his Yukon Economic Outlook 2000.
Now, the NDP Government Leader is quite consistent. He says that it has to be a pay-as-you-go government. Well, he's consistent. He's consistent when he's spending someone else's money and not creating new wealth, and he's consistent when things go right - the NDP did it. But, when things go wrong, boy, oh boy, it's someone else's responsibility. It is Bre-X, Asian flu, the federal government process, the federal Liberals, the Yukon Party, and even the weather gets its fair shake for the blame or responsibility for what's gone or what's going wrong in the Yukon.
We start looking, Mr. Speaker, at the economic outlook for 2000, and we look at what is transpiring around the globe. It's on page 1, the global economic forecast, real GDP growth. The Yukon is at the bottom of the pile, as far as projected economic growth. It's forecasted for North America to be 3.4 percent; for east Asia and the Pacific to be 6.2 percent. The lowest category is Europe and central Asia at 2.5 percent. Latin America and the Caribbean are 2.7 percent and the Middle East and North Africa are at 3.2 percent. Where is the Yukon? We're down there somewhere.
We hope we can meet the projected growth in GDP. That is yet to be told.
Yet, when we look at the figures given to us in a briefing by the Department of Finance, the department projects that the population of the Yukon is going to be steady until 2005 at 30,633 people.
Doesn't the Department of Finance talk to the Department of Economic Development? I guess Economic Development must take more political direction than the Department of Finance. The Department of Finance is black and white. It deals with reality. It deals with hard numbers. Economic Development has to run around, pick up the pieces after the minister has made a grandiose presentation and put it into an order that is palatable, and spin it so that the minister is saved from disgrace of not forecasting or not doing anything that he is responsible for.
Mr. Speaker, we start looking at some of the other areas that this government is taking kudos for - education, the highest dollars spent per student overall in Canada. Well, that's great, but how did it come about?
The Department of Education funding has been constant. We've lost over a thousand students from our education system. That's great. That's how we achieve these numbers. There isn't anything in there about the type of education, or the product of the education system, or the results the students are achieving. Oh no, no, no. We spend the highest amount of dollars per student overall in Canada. Let's have a look and see how that's achieved.
You start looking on the Internet and comparing the results that our students have achieved here in Yukon and in the B.C. education system. They're readily accessible to all. They're a little difficult to find. But we've slipped here in the Yukon. Our students have slipped in spite of our government spending the highest amount per student of anywhere in Canada.
The other area that I heard mention of in the last little while was that we might be looking at English as a second language as an opportunity, and to the best of my knowledge, all the members of this NDP government have English as their first language.
Perhaps that's where the training should start, learning the fundamentals of the language, so that they can have the feedback from the people, and grasp what the people are saying with respect to the economy. As soon as that occurs, maybe we'll get somewhere, Mr. Speaker. But as it stands now, we have a government that doesn't understand what's going on with the economy; it can't address its responsibilities with respect to building an economy and we have watched it deteriorate sadly.
About the best opportunity for the last little while has been a moving truck to haul people and their personal effects south - not north, south.
Now, I'm not sure if this government has killed, or is continuing to kill the private sector economy. Now, the investor climate is created by government, and investment knows no boundaries. Dollars flow where they feel confident they're going to receive a good rate of return and there's an opportunity to make more with that investment. I take exception, Mr. Speaker, to government investment in the private sector when it's done in a manner that disrupts a playing field as far as business is concerned.
I don't have any trouble with government investing in the private sector, but it must be in a manner that keeps the playing field level.
Now, we're getting all sorts of investments that are not doing that, and eventually they are going to destroy other businesses that have been established here in the Yukon, and they're going to be bankrupting small businesses, or they'll just fold up and go away, as a lot of them have done in the last little while, Mr. Speaker. So, government has to be very cognizant as to how it invests when it is looking at the private sector. But it can be done. It can be done.
Let's have a look at some of the top exported goods. The Minister of Economic Development stands up and says that we've bottomed out, we've turned around, we're coming back up, that our international exports are increasing and have increased dramatically the last number of years. Mind you, we can't look at the base metals that have driven the economy in the past. When we exclude all of the base metals - and indeed, it's even questionable as to whether the precious metals are involved in the overview, because gold production last year in the Yukon was virtually at an all-time low. You have to go back to the 1970s to find gold production that produced fewer ounces than were produced in the Yukon last year. Gold has historically been lower over the past decades than it has over the last 20 years. It was only in the late 1970s that gold increased dramatically, Mr. Speaker. It reached a high of almost $1,000 Canadian a troy ounce.
But you start looking at the total number of ounces produced here in the Yukon, and that is a very true indicator of what is happening. That is in spite of a gold mine - Viceroy - that produces a considerable amount of gold and had that gold sold forward at a higher price than the London gold price that is established daily. So their production at Viceroy was sold forward for quite a period of time, and even with that in the equation, Mr. Speaker - the high price that Viceroy attained for the gold they produced - gold production was at one of the lowest the Yukon has seen in both troy ounces and in dollars. All other base metal production was virtually non-existent.
We have made some advances in lumber, but when you factor in the amount that we're now paying to the federal government for stumpage and reforestation - I believe it's $5.00 per cubic metre of timber for reforestation and $2.00 and something cents for basic stumpage -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: $2.62, the member opposite advises me. So you're looking at $7.62 per cubic metre of production that is paid to the federal government. When you factor that into the total amount of wood that is sold, just what is the net amount received by producers here in Yukon?
We start looking, Mr. Speaker, at some of the other areas of the Yukon's top 25 internationally exported goods. We have mechanical shovels and excavators with a 360-degree revolving superstructure. Now, the last time I looked around the Yukon, there was no place that produced mechanical shovels. The ones that I'm familiar with were all located at the Anvil mine in Faro, and they were sold at liquidation prices and removed from the Yukon. But these are Yukon exports, Mr. Speaker. These are Yukon exports. Then the third highest of the 25 internationally exported goods from the Yukon are bulldozers and angle dozers - track laying. Now, these would appear to be Caterpillar, Komatsu. None of these are produced in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker. Yet, a lot of them were imported when the economy was booming. They were imported for mining production, for road building, and this is now an export. We're liquidating all of these pieces of equipment and they're going south, and the government has the audacity to stand up and say that these are some of the top exports that are driving our economy.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we only have so many of these shovels; we only have so many of these bulldozers and angle dozers. We don't manufacture them here in the Yukon. They were imported, some from Japan, some from the U.S.
They went to work here; they worked here for a long time - or a short time as the case may have been - and they have been sold. We get into dumpers designed for off-highway use - machines and mechanical appliances having individual functions; bodies for motor vehicles other than automobiles; boring or sinking machinery - not self-propelled - including offshore platforms for oil and gas. Oh yeah. We have a great big manufacturing plant here in the Yukon producing these, Mr. Speaker. And yet, the sale of these items is what is driving the exports.
We start looking at some of the other areas. Liquefied petroleum, or hypocarbon gaseous propane; they're from the Kotaneelee field in the southern part of the Yukon that has been producing gas. We have motor vehicles, special non-transport purposes. We have animal carving material and articles made from them. Now there's probably one area where we're making a bit of headway - the arts community. Surveying, hydrographic, oceanographic, meteorological or geophysical instruments - oh, we have a big manufacturing of those commodities and those pieces of equipment here, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: As my colleague said, "We've probably moved the weather office, so we have to move all the equipment down south." It goes on and on - self-propelled work trucks, not powered by an electric motor. You really have to think about what some of these areas apply to.
Now, I don't know if it has been done for the purpose of misleading or distracting our attention from other areas, but it came under the minister's signature, so it must be correct. It must be correct as to how well we're doing selling goods internationally. This is what the NDP government is hanging its hat on. As far as the economy - it has bottomed out, it's recovering; it's recovering because of these tremendous exports that we are shipping abroad.
We start getting into some of the other areas. We have a one-percent reduction in personal income tax that comes into place this calendar year. Now, that's commendable, but when you start looking at how many people it applies to and what the benefit to Yukoners will be - and there is a benefit, Mr. Speaker - the other side of the equation is quite significant. And the other side of the equation is that the Government of Yukon has not kept step with the other jurisdictions in Canada as far as lowering taxes. If you start looking at Ontario, which has the lowest effective income tax as a percentage of the federal tax in Canada today, you start looking at the formula which money flows through to the Yukon on, we have a little factor in there that's called the "perversity factor". By maintaining the tax rates as high as this government has - not lowering them and keeping them in line with other provinces - that perversity factor gives the Yukon government a significant benefit. In fact, in the last fiscal period, I believe it amounted to some $40 million.
Now, if we hadn't lowered the tax this year, I'm sure there would be another significant increase in the transfer payments, had the status quo been maintained across the board, Mr. Speaker. But with the population shrinking, the amount of personal income tax paid to the federal government - withholding tax - will be down again this year. The economy is shrinking; it's not growing.
That perversity factor has benefited this NDP government significantly this last three fiscal periods, and it will continue to benefit this NDP government for this next fiscal period, given that all the other jurisdictions in Canada, by and large - over half of them - have lowered the personal rate of income tax.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Now, start looking -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Now, let's not blame someone else for anything. Let's look at prudent fiscal management and under the previous NDP government - before the Yukon Party took office - there was a deficit. The coffers were empty; the NDP government left the Yukon Party government a $64-million deficit, and a debt was part of that deficit, and that had to be recovered.
Now, the only thing that's really keeping the government going is the prudent fiscal management of the previous Yukon Party, that left them with a significant surplus to invest.
And yet in spite of this tremendous spending, I don't believe that the economy of the Yukon has yet bottomed out. I don't grasp that it has turned the corner and is coming back.
Look at the NDP's platform when it was last elected. It says that they are keeping our promises. They are going to stabilize electrical rates. They stabilized them. They are now so far up in the air that, boy, people are starting to complain - and complain bitterly - about the cost of electricity. If you start looking at the added charges, the Government Leader said, "No new taxes." But, all the other areas that have been addressed have added significantly to the cost of maintaining a family home: recycling fees, garbage fees, waste-management costs have risen significantly. For a bottle of beer, the deposit is the same as the refund. For any beverage that a child would take to school, that is not the case. That has not been addressed, Mr. Speaker.
When you start looking at what the government is currently saying it is investing its money in, it's making a social investment in Yukon children and Yukon seniors. Well, if you start looking at the cross-section of our population, we now have more children and more seniors than ever. The whole skilled population - the workforce, primarily consisting of skilled individuals in the 25 to 45-plus age bracket - has gone. They have gone somewhere else, looking for employment, because this NDP government has killed the economy here. They killed it.
But we start looking. Seniors count, children count. What I'm pointing out, Mr. Speaker, is that this government has decimated that whole population group in the 20- to 45-year age group, the working population that is gone. They are the individuals who have skills who have gone, who have moved somewhere else. They're no longer here. Children matter. Seniors matter. Their needs have to be addressed, but the population age group that is the wealth creator, that does the work, is gone. They are missing. They have moved out of the Yukon.
If we start looking at some of the other initiatives - and there are a few that should be addressed and commented on. You start looking at the increase in the municipal block funding, which is a very positive move. But when you start looking at the distribution of that municipal block funding for the year 2000, you'll find that Whitehorse receives $5.3 million; Faro receives $1.268 million; Watson Lake receives $1.214 million; Dawson receives $1.198 million; Haines Junction, $695,000; Mayo, $766,000; Teslin, $658,000; Carmacks, $670,000. And you look at it and say, "This doesn't look right. How could it be?" Because the comprehensive grants to the various municipalities are supposed to be based on a formula that takes into consideration the number of dwelling units, the assessment, the population.
And you look at Faro and seek an explanation. Mr. Speaker, Faro is having tough times, but to change and massage the figures to come up with these kinds of numbers and distributions is unfair to the other communities here in the Yukon. Let's take Faro, single it out for special treatment, provide for its needs and say so up front, rather than massaging the figures in order to flow that kind of money to Faro.
You start looking at Haines Junction, which is going to suffer a significant decrease in its municipal block funding. It has got a bigger population. Mayo has a larger population than Faro. You start looking at Carmacks and Teslin - now, why are we treating our smaller communities the way we are? They deserve to have an understanding of the money that they're going to receive, and it's going to have to be kept more consistent than what is being done here today, Mr. Speaker.
I do acknowledge and recognize that more money has been put into municipal block funding, and that is a positive step. But then, if you start looking at the downloading of responsibilities that this government has moved on to the shoulders of the municipal governments - and at the time, they said there would be no additional costs to that municipal government. Yet, at the end of the day, you see what that municipal government is having to spend to uphold its end of the bargain and the understanding with the senior level of government. It is quite a significant cost and way in excess of what the block funding is providing.
Mr. Speaker, there are numerous other areas, if we want to look around the Yukon, where there is a disparity in the way in which we are treating communities. One only has to look at highway lighting. It was an unfortunate accident on the road into Ross River that finally prodded this government into installing street lights in that community. I have spoken a number of times to the minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services about street lighting in other areas of rural Yukon. I was pleased to see that going into Pelly, they have been installed on the bridge. But there are other bridges and there are other areas that are more heavily travelled than these bridges and these roads that require street lighting.
The traffic count from Dawson City proper out to Henderson Corner is very, very significant, and yet this budget ignores the safety factor of the people in the Klondike, and that I am appalled with. That should and must be addressed.
One of the other initiatives - which is a positive initiative - is the footbridge that is going to be erected over the Nisutlin at Teslin. Now those are very positive initiatives.
But overall, the department of highway's capital budget, if you take out the Shakwak funding, has been decimated. We have an opportunity to upgrade the Alaska Highway west of Whitehorse - just the initial stages. It should be done. It would have to be a YTG initiative now, but there is no movement on that. The right-of-way has been cleared, established. There is no movement on that. We'll see what's happening.
The Government of Yukon is looking at the money for the Shakwak project as being the main driver. That's it, and when you look at how much money of that is actually YTG money, it's actually less than $2 million. Let's thank Uncle Sam for his major contribution of some $25 million Canadian for creating the employment that he has and will be creating here in the Yukon.
We start looking at another one, and -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: The Member for Kluane is talking about the Taylor Highway. He's clearly demonstrating his lack of understanding of what the Taylor Highway does for the economy of the Yukon. Now, if it's not opened at the time that it's normally opened, which is mid-May - and it is allowed to open later - this year we will have a whole series of tours that are scheduled to come into Whitehorse and travel up to Dawson not coming that route. They won't be coming that way. It is sad.
We have to lobby and lobby effectively - the governor, the representatives and the senators over in Alaska - to ensure that the Taylor Highway is opened in time, because it's going to have an impact on the economy of the Yukon, not just Dawson City - Whitehorse also, because the tour companies are currently making arrangements to keep their people in Alaska to take them to the interior of Alaska and not bring them through the Yukon.
Now we're going to miss two weeks of business, and I don't have to tell anyone who's looking at amortizing a business over about 120 days what 14 days out of that 120 days maximum is going to do, Mr. Speaker. It's not going to be a pretty sight, but the figures are up internationally. The one light on the horizon that is doing well is our visitor industry. We have a fantastic product; the Tourism budget this year appears to address the needs of that department, and all we have to do is ensure that that funding is spent in the appropriate manner to build upon what we have.
Let's look at what's happening in the oil and gas industry. That's not the case there. Northern Cross - they've pulled out of Eagle Plains, they're pulling out starting yesterday - Tuesday. They're mothballing all their equipment. Mining shows couldn't get land use permits; they had to access property from Alaska. They're pulling out drills. They're mothballing on the mining front. There is very, very little activity in that sector.
I ran into a friend I knew quite a number of years ago who was extremely active here in the Yukon, in the mining sector. I ran into him at the Vancouver Airport a little while ago. "Hi, how are you? Where've you been? What are you up to?" and he said, "Oh, we're just pulling everything out of South America, out of Peru and Ecuador, and coming back." I said, "Jeez, lots of opportunities for exploration in the Yukon." And his comment to me was, "You know, we're not going back to the Yukon for awhile. At least in South America we can see who's pointing the guns at us, and we know what they're firing at us." That was his comment.
Down there they know they're going to get shot at. Up here they don't know what's coming their way.
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Mr. Jenkins: They don't know what's coming their way, Mr. Speaker, as far as regulations. The playing field for business in the mining sector is not level. It is not conducive to attracting exploration dollars.
The message has to change from this government. It has to be a clear, concise message that has to go out to the mining community to attract those exploration dollars and encourage development.
Mr. Speaker, I only have 40 minutes today, and I could have gone on a great length as to what we need to do to turn the economy around. There are many, many things that can be done. This government has ample opportunity and ample money to do it, but it has failed. It has failed miserably, because they don't know how. I'm extremely disappointed. I won't be supporting this budget. There are parts of it that are beneficial to all Yukoners. The basic infrastructure will be maintained, the roads will be plowed, our hospitals will be operating, and our schools will be running, but above and beyond that, we are static. I guess the word that best expresses it is "comatose".
Mr. Hardy: Well, well, well, I'm so glad to look across and see my comrades in the House, waiting with bated breath for the words from my lips.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: I actually do believe that we are comrades in here. It's a lovely word. We are working together to try and solve many of the problems facing the Yukon and facing Yukon families.
I also believe that, deep in their hearts, they accept this budget and recognize the qualities, honesty and fairness of this budget, and that they are quite glad to see us bring forward a budget such as this, knowing that it will help many people.
Regrettably, a lot of rhetoric comes out, and everyone takes sides on certain points. I remember the beginning of the debate, a day or two ago, when the leader of the official opposition said that she will critique this budget but will also praise the parts of it that she felt deserved it, and so will her colleagues. I listened very closely. Regrettably, I didn't hear any praise. All I heard was condemnation. I heard attacks. Interestingly enough, the only praise I've heard so far has come from the Member for Klondike, who just spoke previously, and he actually did identify a couple of areas that he felt deserved recognition.
Now, it seems like there is a twist here because the Liberals ran on a campaign to take out confrontation, and they say that they are going to, and even two days ago they were going to recognize what they view as good in the budget, but they couldn't do it. In the end, it had to be all negative, all spite.
This budget, as Mr. McDonald said, was developed with thorough consultation with communities and people, and that kind of criticism is a criticism of the people who had input into this budget, something that previous governments haven't done. Mr. McDonald makes it a policy, and one that I think will go on for many, many years, that all budgets are developed with the input from communities, with the input from people from all walks of life. He goes out. He tours. We go out. We talk. And out of that is how the budget is shaped. It has been mentioned in the paper that this is his method. I don't know if it is criticism or praise, but it's a bland way of doing it, or steady as she goes, this consultation is bringing everybody in and everybody gets a little piece of the action and helps shape the budget. Is this good or bad? Well, I think it's a good budget. I think it's good that people have a chance to participate in it.
Going through the budget, you can see a lot of footprints of people from the communities, people from the City of Whitehorse, people from areas that often have never had a chance to contribute to a budget formation - people from Old Crow, Dawson City, Ross River, Mayo, Watson Lake, Teslin, Tagish, all those places, and more, Haines Junction, Beaver Creek, you could go forever. All the communities have had a chance, and the people do come out and participate, and it is reflected in this budget.
So, I'm actually very honoured to speak to this budget. I really believe that this is a budget that is reflective of the Yukon and will have an impact on the lives of many people in the Yukon in a positive light, in a positive way. I will go through some of those areas. They have been touched on before, but they definitely need to be touched on again.
Now, it was mentioned earlier by the previous speaker, the Member for Klondike - he did mention the GDP, which always brings up a pet area of mine, as a measurement. I brought forward a motion about the GDP and the GPI. It's my belief that if we were using the GPI, the genuine progress indicator, this budget would score very, very high. I believe it is a more accurate measurement of the quality of a budget and the quality of the society that we're living in. But we've been using a system - and the member opposite mentioned it, so I'm going to talk about it just for a minute - that was never meant to reflect whether our society is doing well, whether it's a healthy society, whether it's a progressive society, because its measurements are inaccurate, are perverse.
Just to give you an indication of what I mean by that, the GDP is a gross measure of market activity. If you are relating it to a budget as an indicator of growth and investment, you would look at it this way: gross measure of market activity, of money changing hands. It makes no distinction whatsoever between the desirable and undesirable or costs and gains. On top of that, it looks only at the portion of reality the economists choose to acknowledge. The part involves monetary transactions.
As a result, the GDP not only masks the breakdown of a social structure and the natural habitat upon which the economy and life itself ultimately depends. Worse, it actually portrays such breakdowns as economic gains. So when we use the GDP as a measuring stick on success or investment, we have to recognize what the GDP really measures, and do we say society is doing well or not depending on our GDP? What is the measure? The GDP treats crime, divorce and natural disasters as economic gain. It treats the depletion of natural capital as income. It increases with polluting activities and again with cleanups. The GDP ignores the drawbacks of living on foreign assets, and the GDP ignores the depletion and degradation of natural resources. So I have a problem when I hear the GDP used as a critique, because to me, what we're hearing are those measurements, and to me that doesn't give me an indication of whether or not we are advancing in our society. Is this a better society with the actions that we take, such as this budget? And is it what we value? Do we feel we're doing better when the GDP rises because we've had the Exxon Valdez oil spill? Well, that's what happened. In Alaska, they had a huge GDP increase. I think they call it GNP or something in the States, but it's the same as the GDP. But when the Exxon Valdez oil spill happened, there was a huge increase in the measurement, and it looked like Alaska was booming, and everybody trumpeted Alaska. Well, the truth of the matter was that it was booming because a natural disaster was going to have long-term effect.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Hardy: There was a lot of oil waste as the Member for Kluane says.
Now, that's not the kind of progress I want to see in a society, nor is it the kind of basis for evaluating how well we're doing, whereas the general progress indicator measures natural resources including soils, forests, fisheries, and non-renewable energy sources. It assesses the sustainability of our harvesting practices, consumption habits and transportation systems.
It measures and values unpaid voluntary and household work, and it counts crime, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, road accidents and other liabilities as economic cost, not gain.
So, I believe that this is a budget that is directed toward the values that the GPI, the general progress indicator, would measure in a positive light. That's why I can look at this budget and feel really proud. I don't use the GDP as the measurement. I would use the GPI, and I would encourage other people to start to use the GPI in their assessment of the Yukon and the actions taken by this government and past governments. You can use it in hindsight.
We've heard a lot of doom and gloom from the opposition parties. We've heard a lot of naysaying, and I'd say that the Liberals are leading the charge on the doom and gloom, and the Yukon Party is leading the charge on the naysaying. So, we've got the doom-and-gloom party and the naysayer party. I guess it's to be expected in this system.
Now, this government has invested a lot in a lot of areas, and I'd like to go over some of them. Each one of these has an impact on people's lives, and some, more than others. In the tax cuts, in the tax incentives and development along those lines - we've done it for the last few years and we continue to do it in this budget.
There's a lot of debate about that, and it's interesting that I haven't heard that debate in here, so I'm assuming that all members opposite are in favour of tax cuts. Is that what I can assume? They all agree that tax cuts are a good thing. And yet, curiously enough, there's a huge debate in the public and among economists, governments and caucus members - and I'm sure there's debate within all parties - about the benefits of tax cuts. But I haven't heard any in here.
I'm not sure if the reason I haven't heard anything in here is because everyone agrees with tax cuts as a way to stimulate the economy. That is one of the ideas that is out there: tax cuts as a way to ensure that more people have more money, and therefore they can spend more money and become greater consumers, so that the economy grows and everyone has more stuff. Or perhaps it just helps those who need more money. I haven't heard the debate in here, so I have to assume that that is where everyone is at.
In some ways, I find it kind of odd, because there are really two camps on tax cuts. One camp says that we have to have tax cuts, our taxes are too high in Canada, just look at the United States. We should look across the border and compare ourselves to the United States. Go down into their inner cities and tell me that it's really nice down there. Personally, I don't compare myself to the States. I think that the States should try to compare themselves to us. But I don't look at the States and say, "Well, we have to get down to that level in tax cuts and so on." But, that's one of the arguments. Get the taxes down." Alberta is leading the charge.
There's nothing wrong with having a fair tax level. I believe that this budget addresses a fair tax level. There's a 12-percent cut in taxes over two years. Now that is pretty substantial as far as I'm concerned. Twelve percent is a lot. We can spin it any way. We can say that it's only $75 this year and $300 the year after, or it's only going to add one tank of gas. Well, I think the leader of the official opposition would probably revise that statement the way gas is going up. It may only amount to enough gas to drive from Porter Creek to downtown and back in your sports utility vehicle.
I'd probably recommend to the leader of the official opposition that the SUV might get a little too expensive, the way the gas prices are going. So we get a tax cut on one side; we get the tax increase on the other, so what do we have? We went nowhere, unfortunately, in that sense, I guess - if you look at it that way.
But it's not just tax cuts here - there's a 12-percent tax cut, and it brings us in line with the other territories and provinces - I believe it's only one province - it brings us very close to that. But there are tax incentives. A tax incentive is an interesting thing, because I believe that they're directed toward a goal, and the goal is to stimulate, like the mining incentive tax credit. That is a very directed incentive, and that's for mining - to help stimulate, to help kick-start, to help investment. That's a good thing, I think, but we have criticism about that.
I think what we have to do is take the debate over the taxes - and hopefully that'll happen over the next few weeks - and separate them a little bit and recognize what each category of tax incentive or tax deduction is doing, where it's helping. You can look at them as tax credits, tax incentives, opportunities, tax investments - because you get an opportunity to lower your tax bracket. For instance, one of mine I'm very proud to see - not mine, I should say, but one of those that I'm very proud to see is the Fireweed Fund, the labour-sponsored venture capital fund.
Now, this is not a new idea. There's no one over here that's saying, "We created this fund, this idea." Absolutely not. If we look anywhere where this came from, we have to give credit to Quebec. But Manitoba has one; I believe Saskatchewan has one; B.C. has one. I'm not sure about Ontario - probably. I know there's one in Cape Breton, I believe; New Brunswick.
This is a local investment fund that will allow local businesses, Yukon businesses, to access investment money.
This allows people in the Yukon to invest in those businesses and get a tax break up to 25 percent - 15-percent federal credit. Now this has tremendous potential. People can invest in the Yukon, get a bigger break - much bigger than you're going to get anywhere else. Businesses in the Yukon can access this fund to grow, to expand, to start up. I look at it as a no-lose situation. It's a wonderful idea, and we could have heard that praise. I take that back. Pardon me. I did hear kudos from the official opposition in the last sitting, I believe it was. So, I did hear that. So I'll take back criticizing them on that. But I think we could still hear it. It's now in place and going forward, and I'm very excited that in a few years this is going to be a very active fund. People are going to benefit on all sides.
The research and development tax credit - this is great and something that we have been hammering at the federal Liberals to reinstate or to expand. I can't say whether it was the Conservatives or the Liberals in the last 10 or 15 years who have really cut back on research grants and tax credit investments, but whichever one did it, it has caused, to me, a disaster in an area where Canada always led throughout the world and was recognized for, and I'm hoping that our work here will stimulate research and development in the Yukon, and, hopefully, we'll see the feds put more money in that direction.
The trade and investment fund - this will help entrepreneurs develop and market goods and services for export. There is $750,000 in this. This is excellent stuff. And there is a further investment of $275,000 in a technology innovation centre at the Northern Research Institute. This will support innovative, technologically-based economic activity.
One I'm glad to see - but a lot of people have reservations about, possibly from the past - is the microloan program. I heard on doorsteps in my riding - definitely, I heard it - that there was a need for a small amount of money. People don't want to go into a huge amount of debt when they're starting out, when they have an idea or their business is trying to grow. They can't get money from the banks, they can't get money from any other source, and they don't want to have to borrow a large amount or mortgage their bloody home. To me, this is a small amount of money that's going to be administered very well, with mentoring and support, and has the potential of really kick-starting a lot of really neat family-run businesses, as well as home businesses. I know there are a lot of people who need this in my riding, and there are a lot of good ideas. I know this will help them.
Another area that I'm really excited to see is the film incentive program. There is an ongoing investment of $175,000 in this, plus the one-time investment of $353,000 for specialized film equipment and $40,000 for a guide to Yukon locales. This is really great, because I think everybody here can agree that the film industry and the arts industry are growing in the Yukon. There is a lot of interest from outside. There are great people in the Yukon with good ideas and a tremendous amount of talent, and this is really going to help them. I can see this as a really booming industry - tremendous benefit. And this benefit goes beyond just being financial. This is the kind of benefit that helps the seniors to be involved and the youth to have something to look forward to, and they don't have to go outside to get involved in the film industry. They can stay here. There are opportunities in training. And the film industry and the arts industry go beyond just being an actor, for instance. It's all the positions that are involved for the creative juices to flow and for the film to be produced. I know a few people in my riding who have already, in the last year or two - I shouldn't say "get on the bandwagon" in this sense - really started to work toward developing their own little businesses that will feed into this kind of work that's happening in the Yukon. We have so many beautiful locations here - absolutely gorgeous places. With this guide, we'll be able to promote it a little bit better and get the word out a lot more. And, of course, with the work that's being done in tourism, it's a no-lose situation.
Training trust funds have helped a lot of people with their ongoing training that is being delivered by many organizations, businesses, mines, unions and associations. They're all contributing. First Nations are involved. It's a real hands-on, direct access to money and programs to help meet the needs as they come up. Connect Yukon is a great program. All these are helping the economy in the Yukon.
There is a project from my background - I'm a construction worker. I'm a carpenter and have been for 22 or 23 years. I've worked in construction, whether it was road construction or building construction since I was about 15. I was 15 years old when I first worked in construction in the Yukon. I worked on the Dempster Highway. I remember those projects. So, for me, when I see budgets that contain good projects that are designed to utilize the skills that we have up here - not buildings, if we're talking about buildings - not buildings that have such a design that needs training that you only get, say, in a large urban centre and skills from that area, but buildings that reflect the talent and skills that we have in the Yukon, as well as the materials that we have up here. I get excited.
I also get really excited when I see a project that not only delivers a lot of jobs, because it's designed to put people to work, and not only substantial projects that people know they will have an income from for a period of time that will allow them to build up earnings, but also a project that meets the needs and that goes beyond just being another building - projects with meaning, projects that have an impact on people's quality of life. The continuing care facility is one of them.
This is a project that's going to assist a substantial number of people over the next 40 to 50 years - if the life of the building is 40 to 50 years, that is how long it will affect them. There are ninety-some beds. But it is not only beds; it's homes.
I believe this is a project that, from its conception, has been to ensure that there is a quality of life in a continuing care facility, one that ensures that people can live with dignity, quality, privacy, also a sense of village. And this is going to have a tremendous impact on those who will be using it. And I'll use an example of the comparison of the philosophy that this government takes and the philosophy that the Yukon Party took with their projects. We believe in something like this. We recognize the need for a building, a home, a place for seniors and elders, those who need continuing care, and we went forward with this project. The Yukon Party, on the other hand, they're major contribution was a liquor store in Watson Lake. Now, let me get this right. A liquor store in Watson Lake is going to benefit whom? A brand new liquor store - over a million bucks, I believe, in Watson Lake. And I've been down to Watson Lake many times and -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: - the price keeps growing. And I've been down to Watson Lake and it sits off in the bush where they threw it, by itself -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy:They paved the parking lot so people can drive up there and get their liquor and drive away. That was their pride and joy, but that is their philosophy. That is what they contributed. Because they didn't contribute to the hospital, as everybody knows. The hospital was an agreement that was negotiated by the NDP. What the Yukon Party did was build a liquor store in Watson Lake. What we have done, is we have built how many schools?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Let's see. Old Crow, I hear. Ross River.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: We're working on Mayo now.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Absolutely, Watson. What's up -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Oh that's right; there was an addition on Elijah Smith. That was definitely needed by the children, by the parents, by the community.
And we're doing this continuing care facility. So, I'll put that record up. I'll put that any day to three and a half years, or however long the Yukon Party dragged out that painful period in Yukon history. I will put our record of our delivery to the needs of the Yukon and the communities in the Yukon up against what they put in.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Now, the member across the way says, "People were working." Well, I would like to know who those people were, because I know that a lot of people were unemployed when they were in government. I will tell you that the greatest single project done was the one done by the NDP, negotiated by the NDP, and that was the hospital. All they could do, because they were so angry with us, was rip apart the design, redesigned it, ignored all the input that was given by the nurse practitioners, the nurses and the professionals over there. They took a design from Alberta, so that they could have their mark on it. It was a disastrous mark. They used the money that we negotiated - the previous NDP - and then tried to lay claim to it and say that people were working. Most people know who delivered that project. Most people know who jerked it around, as well.
But, now they are proud of their liquor stores. So, good for them.
On recreation facilities - this is a budget that is trying to address the needs for recreation facilities throughout the Yukon: Dawson City, Ross River and other places like that, including Whitehorse. We have contributed a substantial amount of money to the City of Whitehorse to help them kick-start and advance the project that they wish, that, in their consultations, they feel they have come up with. It is a substantial project. The swimming pool will supposedly start this spring, and then it will lead on to the other connections to it, which I believe are the arenas and other rooms that they would use.
There's also Watson Lake. We advanced money to forward one beautiful recreation complex happening down in Watson Lake. If anyone has been down there lately, they will see how beautiful that is. I walked through it, and I was very impressed and envious of the Town of Watson Lake. Man, it is nice. They are going to have-
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Well, the Member for Watson Lake says it will be second to none. I have to agree with him. For a community, that's going to rival anything.
I believe they have a skating rink with artificial ice now. They have a curling rink. I believe that has artificial ice. They're going to have squash courts in there. They'll have rooms -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Bowling - they're going to have a bowling alley. I mean, this is a community on the move. This is a community that with our help - this is a community that is going to be able to have a facility where the people can come together with their youth, from all walks of life, and live a healthy lifestyle. They're going to have rooms for martial arts, for wrestling. It's a fabulous facility, and I take my hat off to them, and it's great to see them go, and I also take my hat off to this government for advancing that money to them and encouraging them.
Now, we've done a lot in this budget for Yukon families and youth. I want to go over some of these, because here in the rebuttals I really haven't heard anybody go over all our contributions in working for the families in the Yukon and the youth. So I'm going to take a couple of minutes here and go over them, if you don't mind.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Thank you, thank you. I always do enjoy encouragement from the opposite side when I'm speaking, so any time you want to encourage me, I'm quite willing to talk more. Thank you, thank you.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy:This will have a big impact for my constituents.
One of them has actually had a - I coach a lot with youth, I work a lot with youth, and there was always difficulty with some families that just didn't have the money for the sports, especially a sport like hockey. It's very expensive. Equipment is brutal, you know, if you have a lower income, or if you're a single mother and you have a couple of children, a couple of girls or boys playing it. It's very hard to make it. But a couple of years ago we came up with the kids recreation fund.
I was talking to the Member for Whitehorse West a while back, and he had mentioned the tremendous uptake on that fund. He is quite proud of that fund that came out of his department, and I see that there is more money going to be put into it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: As he says, it's being doubled. I know there has been a tremendous uptake on it, just from the people I talk to and the kids that I coach. It has definitely enabled at least three children and families that I'm directly involved with to be involved in the last two years in hockey, and I'll tell you something. Yukon children eat, sleep and drink hockey once they have played it. You can't get it out of their system, and anything we can do to encourage youth to stay in the sport, and especially remove the stigma of not being able to afford it, or old equipment, even the signing up and feeling like beggars, this is good.
Speaker:The member has two minutes.
Mr. Hardy: I'd like to close - I don't have enough time to go over all the benefits. There is the Yukon child benefit, of course - the family tax credit. There's another tax credit there that has been brought in. There are just so many of them that are going to help those with lower incomes.
My riding is affectionately known by many people who live downtown as old town Whitehorse. The reason it got called that is because it's the last area - the area I'm in - that hasn't been rebuilt-
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Or paved, yes, the member opposite says "or paved." Yes, three-quarters of it is not paved, so it feels like it's really old town Whitehorse. And there's an ongoing debate with the city about the cost of paving and what type of services and finish that people want.
It's a unique riding in the sense that it's very urban, connected very closely to the rural, but it's one of our really only urban ridings, downtown urban, with a lot of the problems that exist. But over the last few years, crime has dropped down there. I have seen a lot of rebirth and growth, and for the first time in many years, I have actually seen a lot of young families.
To me, that is great to see, because my children grew up in that riding when there were very few young families. So what I'm seeing is a lot of new people move in. They're mixing with the seniors, and it's a really positive experience, especially when you see the revitalization of these old houses. Many of the programs we have, such as those through Yukon Housing for the rehabilitation of places, have allowed them -
Speaker: Order please. The member's time has expired.
Ms. Buckway: It's my pleasure to speak this evening about the 2000-01 territorial budget. I have no confidence in the ability of this NDP government to manage the territory's economy, and neither do the majority of Yukoners. The members opposite act like a bunch of sled dogs wandering around in the bush. They're not in harness and working together, and they're not on any trail. They have no plan, except to be back in the dog yard in time for supper. Their only goal is re-election, and they'll do anything to achieve that goal.
There is a lot of economic uncertainty in the Yukon. Ask any 10 people on the street, and that's the first thing all of them will tell you. One of the members opposite was saying yesterday that people need more money in their pockets. Well, the way the NDP is managing the economy, Yukoners hardly need pockets; they have nothing to put in them.
There are four major reasons for the economic uncertainty in the Yukon. The Yukon government has it in their power to change all of those things and improve the economy, but they don't have the political will to do it. What are those four things? They are the settlement of land claims, the development assessment process, making changes to the protected areas strategy to fix the mess that became obvious before Christmas, and a more business-friendly attitude. I'll look at that last point first.
The NDP government just doesn't get it when it comes to the business community. It is not in their nature to understand business. During the Lake Laberge by-election, I heard that over and over on the doorstep. That's one of the reasons I'm in this Legislature, Mr. Speaker, and that suits me just fine. People were so unhappy with the way the NDP government was doing business, or, rather, failing to do business, that they felt it was time for a change.
Mining has been a mainstay of the Yukon economy for a century. Under the NDP, it has virtually disappeared. Mining exploration figures for this coming summer are for between $5 million and $8 million worth of work. That's down from $9 million last year, $15 million the year before, and $35 million the year before that. The mining industry has simply given up on this NDP government, and the numbers bear that out.
Three months ago, we had the Minister of Renewable Resources telling mining companies they could explore in the Tombstone Park area, but if they find anything - so sorry, we can't let you do anything about it. Hello, Mr. Speaker, what's wrong with this picture? There is nothing in the budget that will entice mining companies back to the Yukon, nothing to improve confidence in the mining industry. The Yukon government has the power to change this situation, but it isn't going to do anything to change it. In the budget, there is one line about the Yukon mineral strategy and not a penny - no money.
We have a balance problem here, Mr. Speaker. We need to balance the need to protect our environment with the need to support our resource-based economy. The Yukon cannot be one big park. It can't be one big mine either. It can be some of each, like a doughnut assortment from Tim Hortons. But the government doesn't see that. It's all or nothing with them, black or white, this or that - no in-between.
They put money in the budget for the protected areas strategy, which is good - don't get me wrong - but they don't have a penny for the Yukon mineral strategy for the second year in a row. There is no strategy, and there certainly isn't any balance. The mineral strategy should have equal importance with the PAS. We need rules developed fairly, applied fairly, and we need the government to follow those rules.
The protected areas strategy has a whole page in the budget speech and some money: $260,000 for resource assessments and $260,000 for park system planning. There is a lot of support in the Yukon for the protection of our special places. The Yukon Liberal caucus is strongly in support of protecting special places, but as we saw in the House last fall, over and over, this NDP government has not followed the process as it was laid out. That's a matter of public record. The Government Leader and other Cabinet ministers have admitted that they did not follow the process.
The Yukon Liberal caucus wants the government to call the public committee responsible for the protected areas strategy back together.
We want them to do two things: look at the guidelines for mineral and economic assessments that must be done first, before land is set aside, so we know what's being protected; and help us with what the protected areas legislation will look like.
If the government breaks a policy now, that's too bad. The public can't do anything about it. We want the protected areas strategy enshrined in law. If you break the law, there's a penalty. But the government doesn't want to do that. Instead, the government says they're probably going to review the processes in the protected areas strategy so all interests can be addressed.
When the first protected area was established, most logical Yukoners would have thought that would happen then, not under the NDP government. The NDP said there would be complete mineral assessments as part of the first area to be protected. Not a chance. The mineral assessments that were done were rushed and incomplete. They were meeting a political deadline. Nobody has faith in this process, Mr. Speaker. The Chamber of Mines, which was optimistic at first, no longer supports the protected areas strategy.
Now, let's talk about land claims. The NDP made a very big deal about land claims in their first budget speech in 1997. They said it was their number one priority, and Yukoners believed them. Now, it's obviously slipped onto the back burner. Land claims are mentioned late in the budget speech on the second to last page. So what do Yukoners believe now? Land claims is no longer the number one priority.
If it were, all issues between the First Nations and the Yukon government would be settled, yet the government has made little progress in the past three and a half years.
The Minister of Economic Development said in the local newspapers that all land claims issues pertaining to the Yukon government had been resolved. The Chief of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation didn't agree with the minister. He said, "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."
There are outstanding issues between the federal government and the First Nations. Everyone knows that.
The minister wants Yukoners to believe that the Yukon government and the First Nations are done - no issues left to resolve. As the chief from Carcross pointed out, this is not the case. The position of the Liberal caucus is that the government must keep land claims at the top of the list. Land claims doesn't do very well in the budget. It does do better than the development assessment process, or DAP. That isn't mentioned at all. Yukoners need certainty of land tenure. Yukoners need to know what environmental regulations will be in place by the time a mine goes into production. Yukoners need to know what the rules are. The uncertainty has all but killed the Yukon economy.
The NDP government in general - and the Minister of Economic Development in particular - complains constantly that the official opposition doesn't provide them with suggestions on how to improve the economy. I have spent the last several minutes outlining some concrete things that this government could do. The problem is not a lack of good ideas from the opposition benches. It is an unwillingness to accept those ideas simply because they come from the opposition. The government is so reluctant to admit that anyone else could have a good idea. That is the problem.
Mr. Speaker, of course it's not all bad. This NDP government has adopted a number of initiatives that have come from the Yukon Liberal caucus, including setting up the Fireweed Fund, a labour-sponsored venture capital fund; setting up the small-business investment tax credit; adopting the Family Violence Prevention Act; enshrining grandparents rights in the Children's Act; and examining the concept of public/private partnerships, or P3s, to build infrastructure. These ideas, straight from the Liberal caucus office, have been adopted by the government, which then claims credit for them. If they would just listen on issues such as land claims, DAP and protected areas, we'd have an economy. Come to think of it, Mr. Speaker, instead of us presenting these ideas and the NDP adopting them, why don't we just remove the middleman. I urge the Government Leader to take that short walk to the Commissioner's office and drop the writ.
Mr. Speaker, I should remind the government that it is their responsibility to look after the welfare of the Yukon and its citizens. They have the authority, for now. And may I state again, for the record, that it is not only the task, it is the duty of the official opposition to keep government accountable, to criticize its performance.
If the government is out of ideas on how to stimulate the economy, or is simply unwilling to implement good ideas, the solution is so simple: call an election. Let's have the voters decide if they're happy with this government's economic performance. About 18 percent of the voters in Lake Laberge were happy with this government's performance last fall. About 72 percent were not. That's a pretty clear message, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Buckway: One of the members opposite said that the Liberals think the world doesn't extend far out of Whitehorse. I know it will come as a great surprise to the government members, but there are Liberals all over the territory. The Liberal caucus has strong ties to rural Yukon, and they've got me. I'm committed to fighting for the rights of rural residents, as well as those inside city or town limits. I've lived in rural Yukon and will do so again, and I'm proud to represent a riding that is part urban, part country residential, part rural and part truly remote. The diversity of Yukon people and Yukon life is something I've enjoyed all my life.
Today, my riding is part dog team as well, Mr. Speaker, with the finish line of the Yukon Quest at Takhini Hot Springs. The members opposite know well my passion for the Quest. I'm pleased that the government has finally recognized the economic contribution that event makes to the territory, and has made a change in the criteria for the tourism marketing fund to allow organizers of winter events like the Quest and Rendezvous, and summer festivals as well, to apply for long-term support. These groups have been struggling for years to make ends meet. But why did it take the government so long to figure out that a little money spent on these groups would benefit the territory a hundredfold?
Mr. Speaker, this is the fourth budget tabled by this NDP government. Let's take a look at what the first three budgets have done to our Yukon economy. The speech on the economic outlook tabled Tuesday by the Minister of Economic Development is a fairy tale. It's what the members opposite wish the economy were like. It is not what the economy is. Let's talk about some of the numbers that the minister didn't bring up yesterday. Our population dropped by 3.9 percent in 1998. Our population dropped by 3.3 percent in 1999. Since the NDP came to office, we have lost approximately 3,000 people.
After three years of NDP government, our unemployment rate is expected to be 12.5 percent, one of the highest in the country. In 1997, it averaged 13.3 percent. In 1998, it averaged 12.7 percent. In 1998, only Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island had higher unemployment rates than the Yukon. Is this the better way, Mr. Speaker?
Conveniently missing from the economic outlook are the numbers on mineral exploration. These numbers are readily available, yet they don't appear in the forecast. Is the government embarrassed that our exploration has dropped from $35 million to $5 million since they took office? The economic outlook tabled on Tuesday also noted that our gross domestic product is expected to grow by only two percent. This is well below the Canadian rate of 3.5 percent.
Mr. Speaker, there is more troubling news on the economic front. The Brewery Creek mine may not reopen. That would mean that 60 people won't be working, and it would mean a loss of income for business in the Dawson City area and in Whitehorse.
Some communities will do well in this budget, and some won't. I note that Watson Lake is largely ignored, and I wonder why, Mr. Speaker. There is $1.5 million in the budget to address the water flow problem at the Whitehorse Airport and in the Hillcrest area. Those problems have been known for 20 years. Why did it take the destruction of the Trans North hangar for the government to finally decide to do something about it? If there were a fire inside the airport terminal today, the sprinklers would spit. They wouldn't spray; they would spit. Spitting sprinklers aren't going to put out a fire. The government has been playing with fire, so to speak. I'm pleased to see this expenditure in the budget.
The Minister of Government Services went on for quite some time on Tuesday afternoon about the NDP government trying to meet community needs and desires. Speaking on the amendment to the motion this afternoon, he said that infrastructure is key to the development of any economy.
Mr. Speaker, is that why Ross River is getting a swimming pool roof, but no sewage system? This is the NDP putting the sled in front of the dogs again, Mr. Speaker. Repeat after me: infrastructure first - water and sewer and fire protection and electricity and telephones first.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Buckway: There's great barking and howling from across the floor. These members should be on a Quest team. But several of them, especially the Minister of Economic Development, wouldn't make the cut. That minister has all the attributes of a sled dog that never made the team. He has selective hearing impairment; he barks a lot. He's all bark and no performance.
The proposed fire hall, to be located in the vicinity of the North Klondike Highway-Hot Springs Road intersection is something we in the Laberge riding have needed for a long time. The Hootalinqua Fire Protection Association was founded thanks to the efforts of the late Don Jacobs. A hardworking executive is carrying on his work. A large number of potential volunteer firefighters are eager to be trained. They're from the length of the Hot Springs Road, from Pilot Mountain, from the Mayo Road and every side road all the way out to Grizzly Valley, and beyond to Deep Creek.
There are efforts underway now to locate a suitable piece of land on which to build the fire hall. That may affect the timeline for the project. We hope not, but it may. We welcome this item in the budget.
I note with appreciation that the government has included some money for the Fish and Game Association - money for a deer survey, and money for the Yukon Trappers' Association to help market Yukon furs.
However, Mr. Speaker, I note that the O&M budget for emergency measures is down by 46 percent. That, I think, would relate to the Burwash fire, and perhaps also to Y2K. But I want to stress that funding for emergency measures is essential.
On Monday night this week, there was a tractor-trailer accident on the North Klondike Highway, near the Deep Creek Road turnoff in my riding. There was a danger of a spill of hydrochloric acid. The emergency measures people - part of the C&TS department were on the scene, along with the federal environmental protection crew. I would not want the ability of EMO to deal with disasters compromised by lack of money. I want Yukoners to feel confident that somebody who knows what they're doing will respond to situations like this and minimize any danger to people in the affected area.
Connect Yukon is an initiative announced by the Yukon government during the Lake Laberge by-election last fall. Coincidentally, one of the big issues for people in the riding is rural telephone service. However, the deal between Northwestel and the Yukon government is not signed yet. The government committed to an $18-million project four months ago, and the deal isn't signed yet. This is another example of how shallow the NDP business commitment is. I gather the signing is supposed to happen some time in March.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Buckway: Several members of the NDP government obviously believe it's their job to heckle. I don't believe Yukoners elected the members opposite to do that.
Yukoners were under the impression three and a half years ago that they were electing responsible people. Yukoners believed they were electing people who would represent their ridings well, who would behave like adults in this Chamber. Yukoners believed that they were electing people who would treat each other with respect. Instead, when they chose the members opposite, they were electing people who would be right at home in the World Wrestling Federation, on the Jerry Springer Show, people who would be expelled from kindergarten.
I was under the impression not so long ago that government set an example, a standard to which other Yukoners would aspire, but Yukoners told me on the doorstep they thought the antics in the House were like a kids' sandbox. In less than four months on the job, Mr. Speaker, I have come to agree with them. This is a standard most Yukoners wouldn't care to stoop to.
Now then, back to Connect Yukon.
The government is blaming the CRTC for changes to Connect Yukon, but the government knew full well when it made the premature announcement about Connect Yukon that the CRTC decision was imminent. The government should have anticipated the possibility that changes would be required, or it should have waited until the CRTC decision was out. Less than a week, Mr. Speaker - that's all they needed to wait. Perhaps this project should be called "Crow Yukon" because, since it has been announced, the Minister of Government Services has been eating crow every time I ask him about it.
First - and perhaps, it was during the heat of the by-election - the minister announced that everybody in the Yukon was going to be connected. After the by-election, the minister admitted that, well, that wasn't really the case. They didn't really mean "everybody". Next, the minister said it was only going to cost $1,000 for the people who were going to be hooked up. Then the minister admitted that some people would be paying significantly more than that - like, up to five times more. Now, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is telling people in Tagish that they won't have to pay anything beyond the normal hook-up fee to get phone service - eeny, meeny, miny, mo.
Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of unanswered questions about this project. There is the small matter of where all the money is going to come from. The minister was expecting $4 million from a national telecommunications fund. That fund doesn't exist yet. It may never exist. Some of the money is supposed to come from the immigrant investor fund. The minister has failed to explain how that money will be paid back and who will be paying it back.
This is an election year. I'm very aware of that. This is a catch-up budget. This is a desperation budget, and the NDP is attempting to buy the votes of Yukoners with their own money. Mr. Speaker, I would like to mention the tax cut - 12 percent sounds like a lot, but this year's Yukon tax cut of two percent is $17, if you make $30,000. It's $50 if you make $45,000, and for a family making $65,000, it is $63. That's a couple of bags of dog food or about three-quarters of a tank of gas these days. It's stamps for your Christmas cards.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Americans for the $25 million that they're giving us for capital spending on the Shakwak project. If it weren't for the generosity of the Americans, the Yukon government would be spending less than $4 million on highway capital projects this summer. Is it any wonder that our engineering and road-building companies have lost faith in this NDP government? Of course, the Shakwak project dollars are for the north Alaska Highway and the Haines Road - that part of the Yukon connecting the panhandle with the rest of Alaska. That leaves a lot of roads that won't get attention this summer. That's been a pattern under this NDP government.
Mr. Speaker, I could go on and on about the budget, but I won't at this time. I will save the rest for general debate.
If I were to support this budget, the members opposite would react with shock and horror if I then attempted to criticize any little part of it. When I don't support it, they can't understand why I would favour any little part of it. That's the problem with the NDP government. It is black or white, this or that, left or right. To the members opposite, there is nothing in between. On the one hand, there is the NDP government, which has had its chance for the last three and a half years. We've seen bad times get worse. On the other hand, there's the Yukon Party, which had its chance before that. During their four years in office, the Yukon Party successfully alienated women, First Nations and civil servants. Well, Mr. Speaker, that covers most of the territory.
Now, though, there is something in between. It's the many, many shades of gray - neither black nor white, in between the two absolutes, in between the two extremes. In between is the Yukon Liberal Party. Most Yukoners are not this or that. Their viewpoints are not far left or far right. They believe in a blending of the extremes. They favour a moderate view.
There are parts of the budget I like. There are parts of the budget I don't like. The members opposite want me to buy into their vision of the future 100 percent - all or nothing. I can't do that. Their vision of the future, three and a half years ago, is what has landed us in this pretty ugly present.
I also don't reject their budget 100 percent, but the deciding factor for me is that I have no faith in the ability of this NDP government to manage the economy, and neither do most Yukoners.
Hon. Mr. Keenan:Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to be able to follow up on the previous speaker. The previous speaker has much experience in speaking to the public and coming across with a booming voice, sounding great. It's a wonderful thing, because so often over the years, I have heard that voice on the radio. Now, I have come to the sound conclusion that that is where I prefer to hear it.
Mr. Speaker, this government does not work toward sound bites. This government works with and listens to the people and will continue to do that. I'd like to ask the previous speaker just what colour is the sky in the world that she lives in - la-la land. What colour is the sky there? You talk about getting out and dog teams and being who you are and how you have been around dogs all your time. Well, I would say it was time to get out of the kennel and onto the trail because it's a heck of a lot different when you're out of the kennel. There's a difference between a lead dog and a wheel dog, and all of them in between, and wherever you would put the sleigh - well, I'd like to see where you'd put that sleigh, because I think you would have them tugging against one another, because that's the experience you get in a kennel.
So, Mr. Speaker, I would like to continue on a little bit here. The member opposite talks about business friendly, Yukon protected areas strategy, the development assessment process and land claims. Well, Mr. Speaker, I have been involved with business. I have been involved in all these subjects that she has brought out and is talking about. I have been involved in the land claims process, where they say they would initiate and get land claims settled. Well, that's about as false as the Yukon Party saying that they settled land claims, because they did not. It was a New Democratic Party that brought forth the policy, through their wisdom and their vision of a community and a Yukon that could and would and will work together.
Now, it's much like those growing pains of growing from a youth to becoming the lead dog. It does take time. It takes some time, Mr. Speaker, and we are not a government that is going to force things down people's throats. We are a government that is going to continue to work with people, so that we may have that good, socialist view where people are equal, and we have one thing to use and we'll continue to use that one thing, and that is each other and what we have around us.
Mr. Speaker, I remember when one of the members across was wooing me to run for their party, and I have to say that I quite enjoyed some of those conversations, because we spoke about the antics in this House, of which he was a part at the time, and I spoke about bringing something different to the House. Talk about the arrogance. I see arrogance reflected in that side of the floor at this point in time, Mr. Speaker.
I don't see it here. I see people working together, and for the members opposite to stand on their feet and to slap people - to run down people - selective hearing and handicaps. Mr. Speaker, I can only take that one way; it as an arrogant insult. And when they do turn up and say that they have wonderful things and can support the things in the budget, they vote against the budget. And I would like to, one more time, remind the people of the Yukon Territory that there is only one right-wing party in the Yukon, and they're together, they sleep in the same bed and I'm not sure if its a king-size or a queen-size, but it's certainly appropriate.
Mr. Speaker, they were quoting extensively on the first day of the session, and by the third day they ran out of questions. But on the first day, what did they do? They quoted the chief. Did they ever actually sit and talk with the chief? No, but doggone, it proves that they got people out there who can read a newspaper for them. It also proves that they've got ghost writers out there, because the gentlemen who write the letters about me and my country-boy attitude - God forbid my long hair and half-bald head. What are they looking at? They're looking at the body, they're not looking at the soul. And so continue to hammer my body; I got skin to the bone and I can take it, my friend, because we are going to continue to do the right thing for this Yukon, which I call my home.
They say, "We've taken a position." I don't see a position; you said it yourself, "Middle of the road." And there we are in the middle. Well, by God, it's like teeter-totter - woooooh, and I fall off the edge -you never know whether you're going to fall to the right or the left. And I look forward to the day that the member crashes because I will see where she lands, and the splash that it makes, and then we will be there to help pick her up. That is certainly a part of it. They say, "We're here to offer consolidated advice. We're here to give you direction." I haven't seen that. I've seen the critiques. I've seen condemning. I've seen them being critical. And does that remind you of the non-confrontational efforts that they set three years ago? "We're going to be non-confrontational."
And they still haven't lived up to it, but they brought on their second-string quarterback a year ago, and now we're going to do it again - oh yes.
Well, Mr. Speaker, what this budget does is it lays out a planned future, a methodical future, and we'll continue to follow that because I do believe that the people of the Yukon are tired of the knee-jerk, boom-and-bust cycle that has continually plagued this Yukon for the past 100 years. This government is going to solve that problem. We are going to involve people and continue to involve people and work with them.
The member opposite again talked about what we have done with land claims. Well, Mr. Speaker, there is nobody on that side of the House who has any credibility in land claims. There are certainly people who signed land claims agreements, who had their picture taken for the papers and shook the hands of the different ministers and felt so good about it, and then walked away from it and had a beer and forgot all about it. I don't see that change over there at all.
We will finish land claims, and we will do it in concert with the people, and we'll continue to do it in concert with the people, and we will do it when the time is right. And the time is coming to that point now because of the work that we've done in the last three years. If we could only get the federal Liberal government to do for the Yukon what they have done for the other parts of the country - and set the precedents in other parts of the country - we'd have the land claims finished in a very short time, Mr. Speaker.
The development assessment process - I was a part of that process when we put that chapter together, and listen to it - development assessment, a very positive thing. It's said that way because we do encourage development. We want it assessed, and we want it done in the right way. We want it done to preserve and enhance the economy. We want it done so that we can preserve land, which we all walk on, which we feel a part of, and we love to call the Yukon our home.
Our Government Leader said that it was going to be done right. Where is the holdup? Well, it's about 3,500 miles that-a-way. I think it's that-a-way. It's back east, anyway. It's back east in those hallowed halls where they waste $1-billion boondoggles, and they go and do all of those wonderful things, Mr. Speaker. They send money to bankrupt companies, for God's sake, and they cannot come through with a few measly million dollars to help out this economy or to preserve and enhance the land claim and settle them? No, because they're too busy padding each other. That's typical Liberal arrogance - and then the Prime Minister will walk away from it; he will not even admit to it.
Oh, Mr. Speaker, I guess the Liberal sky over there is the same colour as the Liberal sky in the Yukon Territory, and I don't know what colour that is, Mr. Speaker. I do believe that it is probably very gloomy and very doomy because, surely, they are only the little brother or the little sister on the right. They still live in the shadow of the infamous right to your left. That's where you live. As soon as you start to recognize that you should get out of that shadow, you might start to get some credibility. But right now, I don't think you have any credibility - not the way you stand here and hammer away at things.
And mining - my God, Mr. Speaker. How can this government be accused of holding up the mining industry? How can we be accused of that? Were we responsible for Bre-X? My God, maybe I should run to the House of Lords in London to explain to them that they should not dump all the gold on the market at this time because it affects different places.
Well, those are all incremental factors that build up to it, Mr. Speaker. They build up to what we have now, and Mr. Speaker, it is definitely going to get better.
So, Mr. Speaker, the development assessment process and mining will be done in the Yukon. It will conform to what Yukon people want and will enhance Yukon people's lives, because Yukoners do want mining. I've made many a paycheque off mining - both underground and placer; walking down the street and looking at golden gravel beds, but I won't tell you where.
So, Mr. Speaker, I heard the member previously speak about that not being just one big park. Sounded like a heck of a sound bite to me, but I don't think people were here to catch the sound bite at the time.
The Yukon protected areas strategy - I heard the Member for Klondike talking about the tourism doing pretty well, and they can see it going this way. Well, Mr. Speaker, why has it done well? Because we've put the resources to it, as we have. We've put resources to every segment and sector of our economy, and we'll continue to work in that manner.
But let's talk about the value of the Yukon protected areas strategy, because there is a lot of value. There's a deep value; it's called "tourism" - 6 million people. All sorts of things, Mr. Speaker, happened like that. So there is a quantified quality dollar for what we have in the Yukon protected areas strategy.
I know that the member sits over there, shakes her head and goes, "Huh?" I encourage the member opposite to listen, because certainly communication skills are in the talking and in the listening.
So, in the Yukon protected areas strategy, Mr. Speaker, what has caused the six-percent increases over the previous few years? Certainly the energy that this government has put into it, but the Yukon can sell itself, Mr. Speaker, with a bit of a massage from the government. It can sell itself.
Why is it becoming a world-class destination? Because we are preserving the different areas of the Yukon Territory exactly for that factor - exactly. So that they will have something to come to that is raw, wild and pristine wilderness. The Member for Klondike certainly enjoys those moments in his area. Why? Because it's fruitful to him, too.
So, Mr. Speaker, the member is not speaking from passion or compassion to the right. He's speaking as the capitalist. And there are many of them in this territory, Mr. Speaker, and we are here for them, too. We do not represent just the NDP ridings. We represent the Yukon in its entirety.
Therefore, we look at the health and safety concerns of all ridings. We look at the recreational values of all ridings and what they need.
Speaker: The time being 9:30 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled February 23, 2000:
Firearms Act, S.C. 1995, Chapter 39 appeal: intervener's factum, the Minister of Justice, Yukon government (Moorcroft)