Thursday, February 24, 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 with the Order Paper.
In remembrance of Robert (Bob) Armstrong
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of all members of the Legislature, I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to a long-time Yukoner and a friend of mine, Mr. Robert (Bob) Armstrong, who passed away on December 25 in Whitehorse at the age of 69.
Bob was the eldest son of Margaret and George Armstrong, and he was born in Vancouver on September 15, 1930. After completing his education, Bob worked at a variety of jobs, including that of a junior forest warden, an ambulance attendant and, eventually, a salesman, specializing in fire-protection equipment.
He married his high school sweetheart, Loverna Linney, in 1954, and later had three children. In 1962, Bob and his family moved to the Yukon, where he worked as a salesman and later became owner and operator of Yukon Sales.
As a representative of many outside companies, Bob became well known throughout the territory selling everything from bobby pins to fire trucks. Behind the scenes, he did a tremendous amount of work in helping others and bettering our community. Over the years he played an active role in the F.H. Collins Band Parents Association, the Yukon Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Whitehorse Transit Board, Crime Stoppers, the Yukon Foundation and the Whitehorse Rotary Club. In recognition of his years of service to the community, Bob was awarded the Paul Harris Fellowship Award, the highest honour that a Rotarian can be given.
Through work and volunteer efforts in various organizations, Bob was well known throughout the territory and was well-respected by those who knew him. Mr. Speaker, I first met Bob Armstrong when I ran for an election in 1985 and was doing my door-knocking. Bob never passed up an opportunity. Soon after knocking on Bob's door, he was knocking on mine, and he solicited me to work for the Heart and Stroke Foundation on Liard and Klondike, which I did for many years. Bob saw a real opportunity and couldn't pass it up. But we had more than just that kind of a relationship. Our relationship was one where we were good friends. I had an opportunity, which I'm grateful that I did, of visiting Bob on December 24 in his hospital bed, a few hours before he passed on.
And it's interesting to note that Bob Armstrong was a person who always fought for the little guy, always wanted to help others. And when I walked into his room, despite being fairly heavily sedated and resting, he sat up in bed, he pulled down his oxygen mask, and he said, "We have to do something about these city business licences for small businesses." Bob Armstrong never quit. That was something about the man who wanted to continue until the very last, fighting for the little guy.
Mr. Speaker, he captured the imagination with as many stories and a sense of humour, and at the same time he always found time for anyone who cared to share their own story and wanted to discuss a matter of their own.
He loved the outdoors, and he often could be found along the shores of Kusawa or Fox Lake. He was an avid supporter of the Yukon, and took every opportunity during his travels to promote the territory as a world-class destination.
In fact, Mr. Speaker, I think many of us who have had the opportunity to be a minister in the government have had Bob come into their office and ask for a handful of pins prior to his going on a trip. He al ways came in and collected the pins, which he passed out to people he knew.
A good person with a sense of humour and a love of life, Bob will be missed by his wife Loverna, his children and grandchildren, and remembered fondly by us all.
Bob Armstrong was a person who made our community a better place to live. It's fitting today that we're here in this House in February - Heart Month - paying tribute to Bob Armstrong, who did so much for people with respect to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
As a long-time Yukoner and a very special man, it's appropriate that we pay tribute to Robert (Bob) Armstrong here today.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any introductions of visitors?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Hardy: I ask the Legislature to join me in welcoming Linda LaMarsh and the grade 5 immersion class from Whitehorse Elementary.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Ostashek: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of the Yukon and the Government of Canada to oppose a pipeline route that is being proposed as an alternate route to the Alaska Highway pipeline route that would transport natural gas from Alaska's North Slope across the northern Yukon offshore in the Beaufort Sea to the Mackenzie Delta of the Northwest Territories and down the Mackenzie Valley to connect with pipelines in the south.
Speaker: Order please.
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Connect Yukon project, rural telephone service
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I have a few questions for the Minister of Government Services on Connect Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, when the minister announced Connect Yukon last fall, he said the project would provide high-speed Internet access to the 17 Yukon communities that are accessible by road. The capacity for data transmission to these communities would increase at least 25-fold. It is my understanding that, in fact, all 17 communities are not included and that some are being left out, including Faro and Ross River, Tagish and Marsh Lake. The minister said yesterday, "It is not our intention to leave anyone out." Of course they don't intend to leave anyone out, Mr. Speaker, but are they leaving anyone out?
Can the minister confirm that all 17 communities will be included?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I am afraid the member is wrong. We are intending to hook up all communities. The priority that we have given on this has been on the Klondike Highway, that being the major unserved route. There are some issues with Ross River-Faro that involve land acquisition and service roads that will have to be overcome.
We are planning on doing all communities, but we would be doing the Klondike Highway route first of all.
Ms. Buckway: I have been trying since last fall to get the minister to explain in the House how he's planning to make up the shortfall - that $4 million he was expecting to get from a CRTC fund, which doesn't even exist yet. Mr. Speaker, there's a $4 million gap in this project. Can the minister explain where that money is coming from?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm afraid the only gap appears to be in the logic of the member opposite. We have always said that we would make the funds available for this project, and that we would like to be able to recover from the CRTC fund as much of our cost as we can, but we have decided to proceed with this project on the premise that we are going to connect communities. We will make the attempt to collect some of our costs from the CRTC high-cost serving area. We fully expect that the high-cost serving area will be in place because, quite frankly, that is one of the premises that, for example, Northwestel is counting on for their service-improvement plan that they have been directed by the CRTC.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I know there is math, and then there's NDP math. We are missing $4 million from the Connect Yukon project. The minister isn't answering the question. Where is it coming from?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm at a bit of a loss, Mr. Speaker, to understand where this missing $4 million is. We have committed our funds. We've said how much we will be expending on this. The member doesn't appear to understand.
I said, initially, when we began the project, that we were going to make the outlay of the money. We will commit the money, and then it is our intention to try to recover some of our costs from the CRTC high-cost serving area fund. That is still our intention. We have allocated the money for this project, and we will continue to go ahead with it.
Question re: Business relationships with government, trade missions
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development.
Now, I know the minister likes to look at the papers to see if his picture is there, so he probably saw this piece that appeared in the Yukon News on February 7. It is an ad from the business summit - it was a report from the chair, one year later. The ad begins, "The current Yukon government has largely failed to take seriously the recommendations from the business summit. Most have been ignored, some have been rejected outright, and only a few have been implemented. They have missed the point."
Mr. Speaker, this is what the business community thinks of the NDP and its management of the economy. The NDP government just doesn't get it. Can the minister explain why, if he's doing such a good job, like he loves to stand up in the House and tell us he is, they are still getting this kind of negative criticism from the business community?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, we're not. That was an ad by Reg Therrien from Peacock Sales that he put in. Secondly, Mr. Speaker, this is the Chamber News, and this was from January 2000, and in it they say that they're speaking out on the issue of taxes, and it says that, "Mr. McDonald has heard our case and is hinting there may be room to cut taxes in the budget." Well, of course, history tells that we were listening. We have cut taxes.
It talks about the protected areas strategy. It says, "Mr. McDonald has promised improvements that incorporate many ideas from our submission." Of course, we're working on that. On red-tape reduction it says, "Mr. Sloan has announced changes, and the monitor" - meaning the red-tape monitor - "has moved." On the issue of workers' compensation it says, "Our primary submissions were accepted in amendments passed in the fall sitting of the Legislature." On the need for venture capital, the business community says, "The Fireweed Fund Act was passed in the fall sitting of the Legislature." When you look at the partnership involved in Trade Team Times, if the member looks at the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, the Yukon Chamber of Mines, TIA and just about every business and labour organization in the territory, there are all kinds of good news stories, success stories, growth in small business, and signs that this government listens very closely to the business community, to labour, to First Nation governments and all Yukoners.
Ms. Duncan: I'm so glad the minister introduced the topic of results and specifics. The business summit ad said - and I'll quote again - "Trade missions continue to focus on places that are fun to fly to but produce little in the way of results", such as Chile and China. The NDP is promoting tourism in China, and most Chinese people aren't even allowed to leave the country. I've asked over and over again in this House for the complete cost and evaluation of these trade missions. If the minister is so proud of these high-flying exploits, let's see the evaluation. How much did they cost? Why won't this open and accountable NDP government provide that basic information?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, first of all, Mr. Speaker, the exported goods value in this territory has skyrocketed dramatically. The value just in wood shipments alone to export markets has increased substantially. It is much over what it was when we came into government, when the wood industry was basically flat on its back under the Yukon Party.
This is a copy of a cheque that one of the contractors who is working in Chile has just received in terms of payment for one of the initiatives that they're working on. Here's a copy of an article that has appeared in a federal magazine on great small-business success stories. It's an article that quotes Gordie Duncan, from Total North Communications, talking about how 85 percent of his sales are from export, and how he's hiring 16 people, and his business is doing well, working within our new export trade agenda.
Here's a letter from the Chamber of Commerce, complimenting us on our red-tape reduction initiatives. Mr. Speaker, case closed.
Ms. Duncan: The minister might think the case is closed; Yukoners don't. There have been 29 different trade missions taken by this government. We have asked repeatedly: how much did they cost? It's a simple, basic piece of information. It wouldn't take very long to find it out. What is the minister hiding? Why won't he provide that information? How much have the trade missions cost?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm not hiding anything. I told the member in the last debate in the Legislature in the fall sitting what all the costs were. They were debated openly in this House. So the member ought not try to tell Yukoners that we haven't been up front. The costs are in the budget, and we've debated them in this House.
But if you look at the Trade Team Times, you can see from ice field instruments to innovators like Mr. Rock, who is selling Yukon equipment designed here in the territory around the world, and when you look at artists in cultural industries, like Matthew Lien, or to Chilkoot Brewery, which is now exporting into Ontario, to Elephant and Castle restaurants, and Shoeless Joe Jackson. They're looking at B.C. and Alberta markets. We have Yukon Alaska Log Homes doing tremendous business in Alaska. We have contracts that I showed her that have been signed out of Chile - potential to build 120 homes.
Why is the member opposite not getting what the rest of the world is? Because the world is changing, it's becoming more global, and if the Yukon doesn't get out there and hustle and compete, we will never diversify this economy, and expand our markets and create jobs.
Question re: Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, financial situation
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the minister responsible for the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board system has reached the crisis stage. Next year's operational costs are estimated to be $8 million dollars. Assessment penalties and levies, received as of November 30, 1999, only amounted to $7.8 million. The minister doesn't have to be an accountant to figure out Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board is in deep, deep trouble. Even using his NDP calculator, the minister should be able to figure that out. It should be noted that the $7.8-million revenue figure is somewhat optimistic. Because employers have the opportunity of adjusting their estimates based on their actual activity at the end of the year, they are required to submit their actual payroll along with their estimates for the upcoming year. With the severe decline in the economy, the assessments are bound to be going down.
Is the minister aware of this situation, and what are his plans?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, let's talk about the severe decline that the member opposite just quoted. These are the new economic statistics from the federal government. They show an increase in retail trade from December of last year to this year of an astonishing 11 percent. They show that the inflation rate in the Yukon is less than it is in the rest of Canada. The economic outlook produced by the economists at the Department of Economic Development, after three years of downturn as a result of losing the Faro mine, is now showing growth projections for the economy and for the population of this territory.
With regard to the issue of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, it is the best funded board in the country. It has among the lowest employer premiums in the country and the highest worker benefits.
With regard to the issue of administrative costs and what they're taking in, there's an operational audit to examine very closely that particular issue in accordance with a bill that I passed in this House last legislative sitting.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, WCB is still the issue. It's still self-serving. It is not looking after the workers that are injured. It is not looking after its responsibilities, Mr. Speaker. It's taking in less than $8 million. Its O&M costs, its operational cost, is projected to be $8 million next year. That is a collision course for disaster.
Now, is the minister going to sit idly by, or is he going to take action? The buck stops with the minister. What is the minister going to do?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think the member opposite must be using a Liberal calculator because, with them, you can add or subtract a billion dollars. It really doesn't make any difference.
Mr. Speaker, I want to tell the member opposite that the board and his figures are incorrect. He's mixing and matching apples and grapefruits. The board is the best funded board in the country. They have the lowest employer premiums, and they have the highest worker benefits. Now, that's not to say there can't be efficiencies created. That's why we brought forward a bill, which I brought forward in the last legislative sitting, that will have an operational audit, that will look at the whole issue of administrative costs. We're not sure yet whether it will be the Auditor General or someone who the Auditor General contracts with, but we're working on that, and I think that will go toward allaying concerns out there that business and labour may have, if they have concerns about the financial health of the board.
All of the external audits like Coles Hewitt and whatnot have expressed that there is no reason for the type of mentality the member is bringing forward - that we have a crisis on our hands.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's the minister who is wrong, and he's putting up one heck of a fine smokescreen. The reality is that we cannot continue to have assessments that are less than what the operation and maintenance costs of that board are.
Now, the initiatives that he is taking are not good enough. This crisis situation hasn't developed overnight. The minister has had nearly four years to do something about WCB's unacceptably high administration costs, but he's just starting to act, and he's starting to have a little bit of a look at it, and he hides behind the board. It's an autonomous board. But I must remind the minister, the buck stops with the minister. When is he going to get off his duff and do something about this critical situation over at WCB? There are people out there, injured workers, who are having to go on welfare because of the system that's in place.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, the rates have been subsidized by the health of the fund for a long time, so the member is trying to create a crisis that isn't a crisis. It's a tempest in a teacup.
I want to tell the member opposite that the last time that rates were increased in this territory was January 1996, by the Yukon Party administration.
Mr. Speaker, we have managed to continue, under our stewardship of this board, to have the best funding, the lowest employer premiums, and the best worker benefits in the country.
Now, as I said before, that doesn't mean we stopped there. We brought in a bill that's going to look at the issues surrounding administrative costs, look at the issues surrounding the funding of the board and where the fund should be kept to get the greatest return, and those sorts of financial issues that are of importance to business and labour.
But the member opposite, I think, is becoming a bit of a Henny-Penny, as he says the sky is falling with the board.
Question re: Taylor Highway, reopening
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism concerning the late opening of the Taylor Highway.
Mr. Speaker, if the State of Alaska fails to provide funding to plow the Taylor Highway, Yukon's tourism season will be severely shortened. The snow will not melt off that highway until late May or early June. I have been advised that, should this happen, three major tour companies will direct their tours through the interior of Alaska, rather than through Whitehorse and Dawson City. This would have a devastating effect on the Yukon's short summer tourism season.
Is the minister aware of the situation, and could he advise the House what steps he has taken and what he is doing about it?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, as the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, I have been aggressively lobbying the Alaska Legislature, from the governor on down to the many senators. We have sent out over 150 letters under my signature, to make all of the legislators of Alaska aware that this could have very significant and detrimental impacts on the Klondike area and on the Yukon in general.
So yes, Mr. Speaker, we are aware and we're working with due diligence toward solving the problem.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I commend the minister on his efforts to date.
Next month, a Yukon delegation from this House will be travelling to Juneau to speak directly to Alaska legislators. The Taylor Highway and tourism will be two of the top priority items that we will be discussing with our Alaskan neighbours. I, personally, have arranged meetings to lobby Alaskan decision makers. While the minister himself isn't on this exchange, other members of the NDP caucus are going. What instructions has the minister given his colleagues to lobby Alaskan elected officials for the early opening of the Taylor Highway?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Again, I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to answer this question.
Yes, just last evening I was speaking with Senator Randy Phillips from the Alaska Legislature, and I have been working with him to arrange meetings so that we might be able to make a presentation to the standing committee on their appropriations over there. So, things are chugging along and will continue to chug along under this New Democratic government.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, just chugging along isn't enough. We need to go a lot faster than just chugging along.
It is my understanding that the Yukon already has some Alaskan allies in the struggle to open the Taylor Highway. The Alaska State Senator Georgianna Lincoln has drafted an amendment to the state's budget to restore the $316,000 necessary for plowing the Taylor Highway. The governor can still veto this amount, as he has done in previous years.
I would like to direct my supplementary to the Government Leader, and ask him to make a personal phone call to the Governor of the State of Alaska to prevent this from happening. Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, not only have I already made contact with Governor Knowles on the subject, I have also indicated, on many occasions and recently, to the deputy governor, who will be here next week, that this is an issue for us.
We care deeply about the need for the early opening of the Taylor Highway. It was this government that rebuilt and finished the rebuilding of the Top of the World Highway. We think that the circle route, which includes the Top of the World, the Taylor Highway and through to the Alaska Highway, is important to the tourism industry of this territory. We are taking every conceivable human action to see that take place.
Question re: Business summit recommendations
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Minister of Economic Development - King Midas in reverse over there.
Let's look at another recommendation from the business summit. The perception of the delegates was that the Yukon does not have a clear, concise plan for current diversification initiatives. The limited resources of the Yukon need to be targeted to the key areas where development opportunities are the greatest.
What has the government done with that advice? Nothing. A year later, and this is what the business summit thinks of the NDP's diversification strategy: that the diversification strategy has produced little in the way of results. A look at the unemployment stats bears that out currently: the third highest in Canada. Why is the NDP refusing to listen to advice from business, and continuing with their non-stop travel to places like London, and New Brunswick - non-stop travel that they refuse to fully account for?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, we had calls from people involved in the business summit who said that what she's quoting is not the view of the business summit. It is the view of Reg Therrien from Peacock Sales, and if she looks carefully at the ad, it says he paid for that particular ad in the paper. Now I know he may be close to the Liberal Party and a long-time member and advocate of the member opposite, but that's not the business summit, and that's not the business summit people who were involved in that particular endeavour.
With regard to some of the work that we've been doing internationally, I just perhaps could present to the member opposite - I'll send her over a copy of the presentation that was made in London in the two days that we were there by Expatriate Resources, which is a junior mining company and which is doing a lot of work in the territory. And she may find out, in terms of the correspondence we've received from Cominco, that they welcomed the participation of this minister along with my counterparts in N.W.T. and Nunavut to present the view of the Yukon to mining analysts and investors. As a matter of fact - and I'll quote from the last page of their speech to the mining investment analyst there from Expatriate. It says, "...and lastly, because we view that the Yukon is having a favourable business climate for exploration and development." That's the kind of work we're doing in Alaska, in Alberta, in B.C., and we're doing it wherever we're called. It's a global economy, and the Yukon cannot sit back like they used to in the past. We have to get out there and hustle. We have to find diverse opportunities for business and new markets.
With regard to the business summit report, we have responded to so many of their recommendations and we've also been working with our partners in the trade team export agenda.
Ms. Duncan: The minister can quote from reports all he wants. He still refuses to answer the basic question: what are all these high-flying trips costing Yukon taxpayers? Why is the minister refusing to provide that full accounting? I don't understand why he can't do that. King Midas in reverse has completely destroyed our economy. Everything he touches doesn't turn to gold. Every time he says something, though, there's another letter to the editor.
Let's go back to what the business community thinks about this government. Another quote: "The proof is in the pudding. Nothing has changed, and the economy is in worse shape now, a year after the business summit, and the future does not look good. The present Yukon government has totally failed to respond to the true needs of Yukoners and have earned a grade F," and that F is for failure, not fantastic, as this minister seems to think he is.
When is the government going to take seriously the concerns that the Yukon business summit report raised?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't know how many times I have to tell her: That's Reg Therrien of Peacock Sales. I know he's a strong Liberal and the members wants to speak on his behalf, but retail sales are up 11 percent at this time over last year. Okay, that's a very large increase. We have been out there. We are looking at new ways to diversify the economy, and one of the ways we are looking at it is English as a second language. We had a lot of productive meetings - if the member wants to talk to Mayor Kathy Watson of the City of Whitehorse, she'll hear about the tourism opportunities and the English as a second language opportunities. If she wants to open her ears and talk to the folks who are looking at home building in Chile or the folks who are doing work in Alaska, in terms of exporting log homes - I understand the Teslin-Tlingit First Nation has just sold a home into Alaska and is looking at selling a lot more.
We have furniture manufacturing companies that are selling into Alaska. We have cultural artists who are selling into Taiwan and the Asian market. That's why we're going there. That's why we're going to all these places, to provide support.
You know, when the consortium of road builders wanted to go a world road-building conference in Malaysia, and the minister of highways went with them, they were adamant that a minister of this government should go and work with them to represent them to the rest of the world and to work with them on opening up new opportunities for them. So that's what this government is doing, and we're doing it because it's a changing global world. We have to diversify this economy and find new markets.
And if she wants to know the cost, I'll provide it to her. I did last fall, and I'll do it again. I'll be happy to.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I challenge the minister to show me where he has produced the costs of all of these trade missions. What we have are letters received as late as yesterday in response to questions from my colleague on the costs and evaluations of these trade missions, two pages of rhetoric from the minister, and not one figure. We're looking for the costs of the trade missions - 29 of them - taken by the government.
I know the minister hasn't read the business summit report. Let me tell him part of what it says. "It's the frustration of the business community of seeing solid, long-standing businesses affected by the downturn in the economy, combined with the perceived lack of compassion and understanding of the reality of the situation by those who control local factors..." the benches opposite "...that spurred the grassroots movement that started the business summit. It's the attitude problem that the NDP has with business.
"Perhaps as important as the recommendations themselves, the government continues to have an attitude problem with the private sector." It's a direct quote.
The business community is counting the days until the mandate of this government ends. Can the minister stand on his feet with any new excuses for the problem this government has with the business community?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, what the member's quoting from is a Liberal ad in the newspaper. Give me a break.
Is the member opposite listening to anything I'm saying? Why doesn't she read this? Look at the partnership. Look at all the different business and labour, First Nation governments, that are involved in this particular endeavour, working on trade and export opportunities and investment.
They sit on the editorial board that puts out this publication. Read the Chamber News, where it talks about issues that were identified by the Chamber of Commerce that were responded to by this government. Look at the retail sales increases. Look at the numbers in tourism. Look at the economic outlook. In virtually every sector, you're going to see improvement in this fiscal year.
Mr. Speaker, we responded to each item put forward by the business summit report, individually. Second, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has to learn that our competitors are in every jurisdiction across this country, and out there in the world, in a changing global marketplace. The Yukon is not an island. We cannot be isolated in tourism or in economic development or in trade. That's why we're connecting the Yukon to Internet for the entire territory. That's why we're looking at port options, so we can make sure that the Yukon doesn't become landlocked. That's why we have expanded the airport, so that we can bring in more and more flights and create more activity.
Mr. Speaker, that's why we lowered taxes in this budget, so we could be competitive.
Question re: Group home review, implementation of recommendations
Mrs. Edelman: My question today is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
In August of 1998, the results of a review into the operations of Yukon group homes was released. The review team found First Nations programming in all programs to be a major issue. The recommendations called for, "Strengthen First Nations staffing" and "Integration of First Nations programming into all aspects of the group home programs".
Eighteen months later, the Yukon Health and Social Services Council toured a number of the group homes and commented on the cultural component and programs that were still lacking. Why, after 18 months, has this major recommendation still not been implemented?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: For one thing, Mr. Speaker, it was on my recommendation that the members of the Health and Social Services Council could visit the group homes, because I felt that they needed to get a sense of what was going on in those group homes. When I met with the chair of the Health and Social Services Council, they were favourably impressed by a number of things they had seen at all the group homes.
A substantial number of those recommendations have been implemented. There are some that we would like to see implemented to a greater degree, and we will encourage the operators to move in that direction.
However, I can tell the member that I believe the operators are trying to incorporate those recommendations in the report and, they have been assisted in that regard by our department.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the reality is that there has been a lack of First Nations programming in group homes in the Yukon forever, and there was a report that came out that said we need to have First Nations programming in group homes here in the Yukon, and nothing has changed.
Another comment from the Social Services Council tour of the group homes in the fall of 1989 was quite blunt. They said, "It appears children are warehoused in the facilities." This was another reason why the review was done in the first place. Eighteen months after the review was finished, it is obvious that nothing has changed. Our youth are still being warehoused. Repeatedly in the group home review, it was suggested that youth were being warehoused because of the lack of programming and the fact that there were too many kids in each of the group homes.
The minister has a responsibility to these youth. Two years is a very long time in the life of a teenager. Why has the minister not done anything in the 18 months since this report was released to address the warehousing of Yukon youth in our group homes?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Speaker, once again, that's simply absurd. The report made 49 recommendations. As of October 1999, 30 recommendations had been implemented. There are 16 that have been substantially completed or underway, and there are three recommendations that are reviewed to determine the feasibility of implementing them, and so forth.
The highlights of the recommendations have included such things as manuals and so on. In terms of programming, we have, in conjunction with CYFN, appointed an independent individual not associated with the service system, who has provided periodic monitoring and implementation on the progress of the implementation.
The implementation planning committee involved individuals from CYFN, and the directors of family and children's services were co-chairs of that planning committee. So I would suggest that the member's interpretation of this may be somewhat skewed. I could just perhaps provide her with the e-mail address for the implementation report: it's www.governmentoftheYukon.ca/departments/hss/sframe.html - and she may go after that if she wishes.
Mrs. Edelman: How edifying, Mr. Speaker. Well, I certainly have been to that Web site; I've seen it. I was involved in the report. I helped get people to speak to the reviewers because they weren't being heard.
This is exactly what the minister did last time. I got up in this Legislature day after day after day after day, and said, "There's a problem in the group homes; there's a problem in the group homes," and the minister stood up and said, "No, there isn't; no, there isn't," and then he did a review and, "Yeah, there's a problem in the group homes."
The problem is that there's a lack of First Nations programming; there's a lack of programming period, and there are too many kids in each of the group homes. And the minister is responsible for these group homes. He is the minister responsible. He commissioned the report. What's the point of the exercise if we don't follow up on the recommendations?
Why hasn't the minister assigned someone to follow up on the recommendations from the group home reports?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, does this member perhaps have some difficulty here in understanding what I just said - that we have an implementation planning committee that was developed in concert with CYFN, and that we have worked with the CYFN to have an independent person doing periodic monitoring to make sure that we are following up on this? What is that? Does the member want someone now from our department to monitor the independent monitor? That is simply absurd.
There were 49 recommendations made; 46 of those have been either committed or substantially completed. I think that this member here is simply trying to get more mileage from something that has essentially been completed and has essentially been underway.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 99: Second Reading - adjourned debate
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 99, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald; adjourned debate.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, thank you very much again, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to respond to the budget as presented. Last evening, I took time to hopefully correct some of the incorrect statements that were coming forward and then took the time to hopefully inspire the people on the opposite side of the House so that they might be able to have those thoughts in their heads as they went to sleep, be able to digest them and be able to wake up with a great and fruitful meaning of life. I certainly hope we had that effect, because it certainly was a good opportunity, and these things certainly needed to be corrected, Mr. Speaker.
As I said, Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to once again respond to the Yukon budget in this Legislature. It is the first budget in the new millennium and in the new era of the continued success of Yukoners.
This budget will have a very positive and immediate impact on families and communities throughout the Yukon Territory. It will resonate throughout the course of time for generations of Yukoners to come.
This budget is based on what the people of the Yukon have identified as their priorities, and in developing this budget we have done what has become a hallmark of this government: involving Yukoners in decisions that affect them.
In the past, Mr. Speaker, we have succeeded in developing these budgets in partnership and consultation with Yukoners and Yukon business that reflect the needs and desires of the people of the Yukon. Previous budgets of this administration have been based on Yukon priorities and have been good for Yukoners, and this budget, again, reflects the priorities of the Yukon people.
We have always been, and will remain, committed to listening carefully to the voice of the people of the Yukon and to acting upon their advice. As we promised, we have continued to protect health care and education services, and have worked to encourage business and economic growth.
We know that declining mineral prices have contributed to tough economic times for Yukoners, and we have not backed away. We have faced the tough issues and the tough choices, and we will continue to face them. We have developed tax credits to support small business, and we have reduced personal income tax to assist the Yukoners, and we are the first to do that in many, many years. The previous governments increased the taxes, as we all know.
The administration of this government is based on the voice and the values of people who call this territory home, Mr. Speaker, and this is very much a people's budget.
An across-the-board cut to personal income tax in this budget means a 12-percent reduction for all Yukon taxpayers by the year 2002. It allows Yukoners to keep more of what they earn. Although the Yukon Party talks about this, they never did it when they had the chance. Of course, we all know that the Liberal Party supported and voted for the Yukon Party budget, and they were to increase taxes. This government does not do things in that manner.
The budget provides for the first increase in social assistance, Mr. Speaker, since 1991, in an allocation of $200,000 for Yukoners most in need. It represents a two-percent increase to social assistance rates.
Now, we recognize, Mr. Speaker, that the majority of people on social assistance do not want to be.
This budget also provides for those people who want to better themselves, and it provides a better chance for their success with $70,000 for training for social assistance recipients and a further $150,000 to increase general training allowances. A further $300,000 has been earmarked this year for community addiction programs throughout the Yukon Territory, and helping people help themselves be free of the shackles of drugs and alcohol. And I'm very pleased to say that one of the communities in my riding, the Carcross community, partook last year in some of this funding to help their community become a better place to live.
Mr. Speaker, again, the low-income family tax credit and the Yukon child benefit will continue to help families to provide a better quality of life for their children. It's a little-known fact, I guess, but in the Yukon today there are more than 1,3000 families that make less than $17,000 a year after taxes. So is this needed? Are these programs that we're developing for the family and the children and the seniors needed? Absolutely, they are needed. And acknowledging those challenges that are faced by many Yukon families, there is more than $5 million a year in this budget to support family care and child care.
Of course, there are many, many more initiatives of this government that will continue to direct or reflect the growing success and the needs of our people, both young and old. $8 million this year will be spent on a new 96-bed continuing care facility for the Yukon. It's a much-needed facility for an aging population that wants to remain here, at home, in the Yukon Territory.
We've put $1.4 million to buy and operate a new CAT scan for Yukoners, and this is saving time and expenses related to medevacs and more importantly - and most importantly - to allow for early diagnosis and in some cases to save lives. $150,000 in the healthy family initiatives will help meet the needs of children at risk, such as the fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects children. A further increase of $30,000 per year for the food for learning program, and the school in Carcross and the school in Teslin both benefit from this valuable program, and all of us as communities in society will ultimately benefit from these programs for our children and our leaders of tomorrow.
Planned construction projects for 2000 will provide many jobs for Yukoners in all sectors - in road construction, in schools and recreation facilities in the communities - and this government recognizes the importance of all the sectors of construction in business, not just simply one.
These projects reflect, quite accurately, the efforts of this government in providing a positive and a healthy environment to attract and to do business around the Yukon Territory.
Mr. Speaker, we have turned the corner in the Yukon's continuing economic growth, and some of the highlights of these initiatives include the major runway expansion and improved facilities at the Whitehorse Airport, which will provide jobs for Yukoners and continue to attract visitors from around the world.
We're seeing more flights - Balair, Condor, and the return of Air Transat, all confident in the economic climate of the Yukon Territory. Major highway improvements will provide jobs for Yukoners. $25 million of this construction season for Shakwak will provide jobs for Yukoners, which this government lobbied for and delivered. Now, I know that both sides of the House, the official opposition and the third party, say that it wasn't our initiative, but it was this NDP government that went out and aggressively lobbied for and brought home those millions of dollars for the Shakwak project.
We're putting in $1 million this year to continue the improvements to the Campbell Highway, and we're providing jobs to Yukoners through that initiative, to make the road safer for Yukoners and for visitors. And we've gone one step further in asking the communities affected along that road what their priorities might, could and should be. That is listening to the people, Mr. Speaker.
We're putting $750,000 this year to continue the improvement on the Tagish Road, and that is for the residents and visitors alike, for certainly, there is very much a hidden jewel there, too, in the Yukon Territory for tourism.
We are putting $1 million into rural roads this year, Mr. Speaker, to do upgrading throughout the territory, and that will respect the communities' priorities. Again, it provides community jobs and supports small business. Most operators in the territory who live in the communities have been affected by this, yet the official opposition continues to say that we have nothing for small business. We've taken it right into the hands of the communities for their priorities and put it into the hands of small business.
Construction of the new continuing care facility again will provide jobs for Yukoners. Construction of new community schools in Mayo and finishing off Ross River will provide jobs for Yukoners.
In fact, Mr. Speaker, this government will build schools and will continue to build schools. We built a school in Old Crow; we've completed the Porter Creek Junior Secondary School; we've built an addition to the Elijah Smith School, and we're planning for improvements to the Carmacks school.
Construction of new recreation facilities in Whitehorse will benefit Yukoners and enhance the opportunities for the 2007 Canada Winter Games.
Construction of the recreation facility in Carmacks will provide jobs for Yukoners and enhance community life.
When I was a child, Mr. Speaker, we used to have to take a day once every three or four months - and we were rather fortunate to be able to do that - to be able to come into Whitehorse to enjoy the recreational centres and the pool. And now, under this government, most Yukoners can enjoy these initiatives and these recreational facilities in their communities, because we believe in community development, and we will continue to believe in community development.
Work in Ross River on the community centre and swimming pool, again, will provide jobs. Airport improvements in Whitehorse and Old Crow will provide jobs for Yukoners. $1.75 million to develop rural residential and recreational lots throughout the territory, again, will provide jobs at the local level.
This budget provides practical ways for communities to identify and respond to local priorities. A further $3 million will be put into the community development fund, and that's going to include the support for the very popular fire smart program.
In my own riding of Ross River-Southern Lakes, there has been much government participation to help increase the quality of life of our communities and our people. I'm very proud of the communities in my riding, the way they pulled together and have participated in providing direction to government in advancing the priorities that they as communities have identified.
And the Ross River round table - what a shining example of what a community can accomplish when hearts and minds come together, Mr. Speaker, for a common cause. In the case of the Ross River round table, that common cause is a healthier community for one and for all.
The people of Ross River identified their priorities, and the government actively participated in and facilitated the opportunities to find solutions. Ross River elders and youth participated, even along with the federal government, in supporting the process and the success of the round table in Ross River. And through their efforts, Mr. Speaker, they are doing planning exercises to look at where their sewer and water would be, because this is not a government that says this is where it has to go. This is a government that will continue to work with people to identify their priorities, again, for their own healthy community.
Now, is this happening only in Ross River? No. But it's happening throughout the riding. I take my hat off to the men and women who tirelessly promote the overall health of the individual and the community in which they live, both professionally and through the admirable efforts of the volunteers who keep the engines of our communities running. It is through this dedication and participation that positive change is rooted. It is through a vision that is based on consensus that these communities are blossoming through a community-driven process. This community-driven process and community-based vision is reflected in government expenditures throughout the riding.
Here are some of the more positive highlights of this budget that directly impact the lives of the Ross River-Southern Lakes residents. A further $2 million will be spent to complete the Ross River school; $250,000 will greatly improve the recreational infrastructure in Ross River; and $125,000 will be spent to complete the new swimming pool. So no longer will children have to be swimming in the Pelly River and be subjected to any of the contamination that might be in there. No longer will they have to do that. Their parents can rest assured that their children will be safe. We're putting $50,000 into designing a walkway for the Nisutlin Bay bridge over the river at Teslin, with a capital allotment of $500,000 identified for construction in the following year. We are putting $500,000 into the community of Carcross' community infrastructure, which includes $300,000 for the Carcross sewage treatment and $200,000 to upgrade the roads that were previously not chipsealed in the Carcross area.
In building this budget, we worked hard to balance the priorities of all Yukoners. We are faced with a variety of needs and desires from all over the territory, and this government is working very hard to address them and find ways to address them - not providing excuses of why we can't do something, but looking for ways to do things.
Yukoners also want to be a part of the global marketplace, and they want access to funds and tools that will encourage involvement. We supported this desire through the continued small-business investment tax credit to encourage Yukoners to invest in Yukon business; the Yukon mineral exploration tax credit to encourage new mineral exploration work in the Yukon; the new microloan program to provide credit for developing business ideas for people who are not recognized by banks and institutions and, in many cases, those are women who cannot get out to work, to look, but they have meaningful ideas. We're providing resources for those women to stay at home, to improve the quality of life for themselves, their children and their family, and to actually participate, Mr. Speaker.
The trade and investment fund helps entrepreneurs prepare to export their product and to develop business plans. The training trust funds ensure Yukoners are trained and ready for new economic ventures.
Mr. Speaker, over two years, we're going to put $150,000 into the Teslin mill for training for them, so we can have a viable economy there, and we'll be able to use our own local people and provide local jobs for local people in Teslin.
The Connect Yukon project, which will provide reliable communication and Internet access for rural Yukon - this government listened and we acted on community needs. I know that the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party and the Yukon Party - all of the right wing - say that we're not doing the right thing, and that we don't know what we're doing but, Mr. Speaker, that is what I heard continually on the doorstep, when I was knocking on the doors and, yes, Mr. Speaker, we went out and found resources so that we might be able to provide service to over 800 families in this territory that were previously not connected. We are a team of action, Mr. Speaker, and we'll continue to be that team of action.
We worked hard for this, and this is going to provide medical advances; it's going to save lives through medical advances - this Connect Yukon project - it's going to encourage learning opportunities, and it's going to provide health and safety aspects for the bedroom communities of Tagish, et cetera.
So, Mr. Speaker, we are working and we have found ways to connect, and I know that the people are very pleased with that.
Solid-waste disposal is a concern in the territory. We have committed $200,000 toward pilot projects and non-burning solid-waste management in the town of Haines Junction, Dawson City and Mount Lorne.
This government is dedicated to the preservation of the rich heritage and culture of the Yukon. We continue to invest in heritage by providing an additional $50,000 for the Rampart House restoration project on the Porcupine River in your riding, Mr. Speaker, and $300,000 for access and landscaping around the Beringia Centre. We have committed $1.9 million in the coming year for museums, historic sites and heritage resources. That is an increase of $400,000 over the current year, from mains to mains - an increase.
Mr. Speaker, this government has not only gone out and funded capital projects in heritage, but we have provided O&M funding for those most important capital projects; hence, the community of Dawson City and their arts society. It is because we have listened, heard, believe in the empowerment of people, and will continue to work with people.
The Liberal leader implied in her recent budget speech that we had slashed heritage funding. This, of course, is not at all accurate. An increase of $400,000 over the current year is not slashing; it is enhancing. This NDP government have stepped in when others would not in heritage. The Taylor House, the White Pass buildings and the Dawson Arts Society are, again, examples that come to mind, so please stand corrected. This government is supportive of other heritage-rich measures in this territory by providing tax exemptions for designated historical sites within our jurisdiction.
So, what is important to the people of the Yukon should be our priorities as legislators. I will remind us all again that it is important to work toward the same goals. Let us not, even for a heartbeat, forget the reason why we are here and the people who have entrusted us with the responsibility of being their voice in government.
Unfortunately, what I hear from the opposition is political rhetoric. They never offer advice or alternatives. They offer political rhetoric.
We have more than a responsibility, Mr. Speaker. We have an obligation to do what is in the best interests of the Yukoners, for Yukoners, and especially to help those who need it most. It is about building trust in government. It is about delivering on promises. It is about providing Yukoners a better chance at a better quality of life, for Lord knows, we deserve it.
I want to mention the exciting initiatives of the tourism industry and the tireless efforts of the Tourism staff. We are reaping great rewards, which ripple throughout every community, every riverbed and mountain valley throughout this land of the Yukon. There are many opportunities in the Yukon for entrepreneurs and small business, and our continued support to the tourism marketing fund, the trade and investment fund and the film incentive fund reflect our commitment to those sectors and to small business. I'm pleased to say that tourism in the Yukon will continue to grow and to shine. We've always been a government committed to tourism. We have always known the potential of this special territory, and we've shown our commitment through the continued support for this industry.
We are indeed committed to continue to bring the world to our welcome mat, or behind the spruce curtain, for the benefit of all Yukoners. This budget provides the resources to further advance unprecedented growth in the Yukon tourism sector. Again, Mr. Speaker, we've provided $750,000 to the tourism marketing fund to support the efforts of Yukon business people to find new opportunities for the territory. This fund has provided many opportunities for Yukoners and for the people of Ross River-Southern Lakes who are starting out or are involved in the tourism industry. It's no secret that the Yukon has some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, and there are many talented and skilled people scattered throughout this marvellous place. The Campbell region stands out as one of the hidden jewels in the territory, and we've provided $50,000 in this budget to develop and promote this jewel, this gem.
Film and video production is another growing sector of our economy. This sector is providing growing opportunities for Yukon filmmakers. We are maintaining our commitment of $175,000 for the film location incentive fund, and an additional $40,000 will allow for the development of a location guide.
Another exciting component is our investment of $353,000 for the Northern Film and Video Industry Association to purchase a grips and electric package, and, with this equipment, we will not only encourage outside companies to create their films in the Yukon; we will provide opportunities for Yukoners to become skilled and qualified filmmakers and workers.
We are seeing interest now from Disney, from Warner Brothers, movies of the week, commercials, foreign productions - all of them interested in filming here in the Yukon and contributing to the growth of our film industry. People from all over the world want to come here to the Yukon, to visit and film and experience all that we have to offer. With the tourism strategy for 2000 and beyond, with the territory-wide consultations that we have provided to develop our strategy, we are guaranteed to produce an exciting and unique strategy that truly reflects what Yukoners want. And we have heard what Yukoners want: a tourism strategy that one, will have respect for the environment; two, respect for Yukon people; three, dialogue with Yukon people; four, sustainable communities; and five, growth and prosperity. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: this government is committed to tourism and to doing it right. We have provided $250,000 more a year for over-all tourism marketing, $300,000 a year for marketing initiatives in the Asia Pacific region, $75,000 a year toward enhanced marketing in Europe, $300,000 over the next two years for Tourism Yukon's program of cooperative marketing partnership with the industry.
Mr. Speaker, we've taken the Tourism Industry Association from being a lobby group to an advisory group, and I have got to say it's a truly wonderful feeling to be working with such a dynamic group of professionals. We've maintained $750,000 in the tourism marketing fund. We have increased funding to the Tourism Industry Association by $30,000. This, and more, results in a total investment of more than $6 million in tourism marketing for the coming year. This is a clear and direct indication of this government's strong support of tourism in the Yukon Territory.
The new millennium is a wonderful time to savour the development of the Yukon over the course of time, to take pride in who we are and to celebrate our commitment to face the future with courage and solidarity as Yukoners.
The millennium fund will help Yukoners celebrate millennium events around the territory - an opportunity to honour the past, celebrate the present, and welcome the future. The fund will support Yukoners in celebrating the millennium with exciting and innovative events and activities throughout the land of Yukon. Each community - and most groups - are working together to celebrate this joyous occasion, to celebrate it together with one another.
We're continually working to ensure that there is land available for Yukoners, and we continue to listen to Yukoners. We have maintained many residential, country residential, commercial, mobile home and industrial lots available in communities throughout the Yukon.
Again, Mr. Speaker, there's $25 million for the Shakwak project, which continues to employ many people. And, Mr. Speaker, for a moment of personal pride and historical pride, it was under an agreement signed by previous New Democratic governments. So this New Democratic government continued the legacy of Shakwak in a partnership with Alaska that New Democratic governments have successfully put in place before us. And, Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pride to be able to stand and say that.
I am very pleased to assure the people of the Yukon that our government will continue to develop budgets that are fiscally responsible and reflect the needs of the people in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, would we just do things within my department and speak of my departments? No, Mr. Speaker. What we're doing in many other areas are tax cuts, again, to provide small business the opportunity to develop their products and to continue to employ their products, training plans to train our youth - and I guess not in all cases just simply youth, but people who feel they have to be refocused in their time of life.
So people are always looking for new challenges and new ways of improving themselves, and this government is facilitating that process. Again, Mr. Speaker, -
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Under the careful tutelage of the Minister of Renewable Resources, we are bringing Tombstone, the territorial park, home, and the Fishing Branch protected areas strategy. We are putting $100,000 toward assisting Yukon recycling organizations and working on the pilot projects that we have established in Haines Junction, Dawson City and Mount Lorne so that we might be able to continue to keep the Yukon as the Yukon is known, from throughout my youth and other youths of my era. I'd like my grandchildren to have the same experience that I have.
So we're going to continue to work with all communities. All communities are affected by this budget and the New Democrat budgets of the past, and will continue to be affected. We'll continue to work to involve all Yukon people so that we might continue to preserve and protect this jewel that we have and to showcase this jewel of the Yukon to the world at large. Thank you very much for the opportunity and time to share my thoughts.
Mr. Phillips: I always enjoy the opportunity to speak in this House and follow the Minister of Tourism. It's always interesting to sit and listen to the Minister of Tourism in his own special way of how he enlightens us as to what he feels the government's record is.
I have to tell the Minister of Tourism, though, that I am somewhat disappointed today, and I say that because I only wish the cameras had been here last night when the minister started to speak and the minister was his real self, other than the prepared text that he read for us here today.
Because I would have made suggestions to the minister that, if they haven't paid for those acting lessons yet, don't send the cheque, because there's more work to be done.
Mr. Speaker, one of the things that bothers me about this budget and this government is that, as a result of being out there in the public, knocking on doors, talking to various people on the street, talking to businesses over the last few months and discussing the economic condition of the Yukon, I don't think I have heard one Yukoner, other than the few people on the side opposite, who have said things are great, things are better. In fact, what I have heard Yukoners tell me is that this government is really out of touch.
They're a government that is more bound on catering, in some cases, to special interest groups, to thinking that you can buy votes with dollars, and forgetting that what many Yukoners are more concerned about than anything else is having a decent job, having a paycheque, so that they can enjoy the wilderness on the weekend or their days off, so that they can travel wherever they want to travel in the world, but they can't do that with this government.
Nothing makes me happier, quite frankly, than to hear the Minister of Economic Development, as he did the other day, tell Yukoners that things are good, because when the Minister of Economic Development tells me that things are good, my phone starts ringing, and people tell me that he's completely out of touch.
So, to the Minister of Economic Development, keep it up. That's I want - you to keep it up, because it obviously is a clear indication to those people out there that this government cannot, will not and does not have the ability to turn this economy around.
It's the only government I think I've ever heard of in my life that has had three consecutive years with the economy going downhill, with 10 percent of the population leaving and telling us we're okay, that things are okay. Figure it out.
You know, Mr. Speaker, I've lost a lot of friends in the last three years, and I'm sure every member on the other side has lost people who have left the territory. It's not because they're tired of the Yukon. It's because they have families to support, because they need jobs, and the only way they can get work is to leave. In fact, read the newspaper today, last week, probably next week, "Moving out of Yukon" sales all over the place. Yet our wonderful economic outlook prepared by the Department of Economic Development says our population is steady. Maybe they should sit up on the highway and do their study and watch the U-Haul vans heading south. They're not coming from Alaska. They've got Canadian plates on them. They're Yukoners moving south.
People are angry. I have had people come to me, who are in the road-building industry, saying they've never seen so much pessimism. They'd never seen it as bad as it is. Many of them have opportunities and jobs that carry them through part of the winter. This winter, for I think the first time in 10 or 15 years, none of them are working. None of them are working. All of their people have gone.
Mr. Speaker, helicopter companies, airplane companies, others, are idle and are looking at this summer with no work. Usually by now, mining companies and other companies are contacting them saying, "We want to use you this summer. Here's what we're going to do, to give you an idea." It's not happening. They're scared to death. Fuel prices are rising, and they have no work.
Construction jobs - several companies that have been in this territory operating for years are telling me this is the first winter they've never had work.
What they are afraid of now is the government's big spending spree coming this summer, and most of the trades people - the qualified people - have gone elsewhere to find jobs. They've left. We are going to have a hard time attracting them back, because there's no certainty with short-term employment. They need an economy that is robust and will provide long-term employment, and this government isn't doing that.
The Minister of Economic Development says that business likes his trade missions. You bet they like his trade missions. You know what they're telling us, Mr. Speaker? It gives them an opportunity to leave the Yukon to find work, because there's no work here. The road builders are going somewhere else in the world to build roads. People are designing houses for Chile. Mr. Speaker, the people that are building the houses are in Chile; they are not in the Yukon. Some of the carpenters and their families have moved out. Other people have moved out, because the cost of living is cheaper in southern Canada than it is here. What is that doing for the Yukon economy? Mr. Speaker, what the NDP is doing is not working.
What are the results of these trade missions? How many homes have we had manufactured in the Yukon and sent to Chile? How many? Where's the plant? I don't think we've had any. How many Chinese tourists are crowding our streets? How many have you run into, Mr. Speaker? I haven't run into too many. What commodities, if any, have we shipped to Russia, other than a couple of thank-you letters from the ministers who went over there and were wined and dined?
Mr. Speaker, the government says that small business likes them. People are calling me and saying, "Who were they talking to?" Small business likes them. The government says that we've turned the corner. They're right. Yukoners are turning the corner at the top of Two Mile Hill, and they're heading south, looking for a job, because they can't find a job in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, the government's trade and export policy is only working in one area, and that's the exporting of people, the exporting of quality, trained, skilled people, who are leaving. I don't care how the Minister of Economic Development wants to spin it, that's not good.
What we're left with is a bunch of lower paying jobs, when all our carpenters, all our miners and all the major industries have left, and we become a government-driven territory with nothing else than a small service industry to service it.
The other thing that people don't understand, Mr. Speaker, is that 3,000 people have left. You would think that if 3,000 people have left some of the cost of delivering services to those people would diminish, yet the Government of the Yukon has grown. In three successive years, the government has grown to service less people.
Not only has the Government of the Yukon grown, Mr. Speaker, as you well know, we now have 14 First Nations, seven of which have settled already, and they're independent governments. We have municipalities. We are the most over-governed territory probably in the world, and yet the Government of the Yukon has grown when people have left.
Mr. Speaker, the people of the Yukon have no confidence whatsoever in the NDP's ability to manage this economy.
This is the first time in a long time that I can ever remember, if ever, that we put country residential lots in the Whitehorse area on sale and couldn't sell them all. I mean, there used to be a lineup. There used to be 200 people line up for 30 lots. This time, we ended with a half a dozen lots left over, and then a bunch of the people found out that the planning wasn't done properly, and that there is arsenic in some of the water, and some people turned the lots back.
This is how people lose confidence in the government, when they pull stunts like this. We have a $1.4-million trailer park that, for the most part, is a forestry clear-cut operation - nothing there. Another great NDP economic idea, you know? We'll put some people who can't afford houses into trailers, but the only way they're going to be able to do it, by the sounds of it, is to give them the trailers and give them the property, and they may be heading in that direction, who knows?
What else have they done, or what else have they not done? No progress on the DAP - in fact, the progress was so poor on the DAP that the commissioner had to leave the country. He abandoned the program. He left. And surprisingly enough, there is not a peep out of anybody else on the other side now, and I can remember the first few days of the DAP commission; they were standing on their feet about every day and a half, making some kind of goofy little statement that meant nothing. And guess what? We were right. It did mean nothing; we're right back at where we started.
Land claims - this is where the blame game comes into effect. It's the Liberals' fault, until some of the First Nations' leaders say, "Just a minute. Just a minute. It's YTG's fault, too." And then there's a scramble from YTG's side to try to spin it again another way.
Connect Yukon - we've been talking about that for the last little while. Big hype, by-election - "Maybe we can buy a couple of votes. Let's announce this during the by-election." So they put it all together in a real hurry, they announced it prior to a CRTC ruling, they jumped the gun, and now the Minister of Government Services has egg all over his face. He's trying to figure out how he can honour the promise he made to everybody out there in rural Yukon on how he's going to deliver this service. And you know what, Mr. Speaker? It's like jelly on a wall; it's moving all the time. One day it's serving us all, and the next day it's serving some of us. One day it's serving the north highway, and the next day - one day the south highway is a priority, and the next day it's the north highway. One day it's this community, and the next day it's not this community.
And today I think it was every community, and nothing's changed. So it's nice we're going from A to Z and back to A again. But it's, Mr. Speaker, because nothing has been settled with this particular program. There was big election hype at the time, and now they are scrambling to honour a premature announcement. They don't even know how they are going to pay for it. They committed some funds that nobody even has in the bank yet. I mean, committing funds that no one has doesn't bother an NDP government because that's how they like to operate. They like to commit all kinds of funds that no one has.
Where were they for the past three years on legal aid for people with maintenance enforcement and custody issues? Where were they for women who needed legal aid? Where were they? The Minister of Justice stood up at least four or five times in this House when I asked the question and said that it was the federal government's fault. But guess what? In this budget the minister has some money to solve the problem. Why? Election year. So now the minister is going to do these great and wonderful things for these women who, for three years, have demanded it and should have gotten it. The minister is now, because she wants to buy a couple more votes or thinks that will work, is out there to throw the money out. I don't think the women who have so desperately needed this money for three years are going to be fooled for one minute by that minister who didn't care about them until it was time to buy their votes. She should be ashamed of herself for waiting this long to make a move like that. It's an insult to those women and children who were desperately in need of that funding years ago.
Mr. Speaker, what about Yukon Housing - penalizing people on social assistance with respect to child support for maintenance money, Mr. Speaker, that was supposed to go to the kids, which the government picks out of their pockets and takes away from the family? They still haven't moved on that. We haven't got to the Yukon Housing budget yet, but there will probably be an announcement in this session somewhere that they're going to come up with the money for that too, because that might buy a couple more votes as well.
People have figured out this NDP government, and they've figured out that the NDP government is out to buy their vote, and they're not going to go for that. The other day, I think, the Member for Whitehorse Centre was speaking, and he spoke about the liquor store in Watson Lake, and he said it was the only thing the Yukon Party built. What he doesn't know about the history of the liquor store in Watson Lake is that it was the people in Watson Lake who wanted the liquor store moved out of their public library and approached the MLA. The government listened to what the people wanted and the liquor store was moved out of the library at the time.
He said that the Yukon Party government didn't do anything for Watson Lake. Well, I wish he'd go down there and tell the people in Watson Lake who have benefited from the Northern Lights Centre. I wish he'd tell the people from Taiwan, the tourists from Taiwan, that Watson Lake went out- not with the help of the Tourism department, not until recently - that the people who went out from Watson Lake and brought some people in for the Northern Lights Centre, because the centre was there.
I was very disturbed yesterday when the Member for Klondike was speaking about the Taylor Highway. And the Member for Klondike has a strong concern. I believe he asked a question today about the Taylor Highway, and his concern was about the American government not clearing the snow off the road earlier in the year, and how it was going to reduce the season by about two weeks - the last two weeks in May - which is a critical start to the tourism season, an especially short season for the people in Dawson. And, in fact, it's not only going to affect Dawson, it's going to affect Whitehorse, Carmacks, Dawson and anywhere up on the north highway. And what disturbed me most about that is when the Member for Kluane, who is in a tourism region himself, hollered across the floo, "Just increase your room rates."
How insensitive to the well-being of all those people in Whitehorse, in Carmacks and in Dawson, and even people in his own riding -if the tourists don't come as good as they did last year, or if there's a reason why they can't come, just jack your prices up. That's the NDP way. That's how much they understand business or, Mr. Speaker, how much they don't understand business.
Mr. Speaker, I'm going to take those comments from that member, and I'm going to pass them on to all the businessmen who will be affected from Whitehorse to Dawson City what that member's approach is to this problem. That's outrageous. It's outrageous that a member would say, "Just raise your room rates." There are people's lives at stake, people who could lose their businesses - friends of yours and mine, Mr. Speaker, who, in a short 12- or 14- or 16-week season, those two weeks are absolutely critical. "Just raise your room rates," says the Member for Kluane. How insensitive.
But that's the same member, Mr. Speaker - and they wonder why they don't have any mining - when we were talking about a mine in the Kluane area, when a group was going in to explore, he said we shouldn't let them explore. For heaven's sake, what if they find a mine? Well, no wonder we don't have any miners in the territory any more, with that kind of attitude.
The Member for Whitehorse Centre made some comments about the hospital design, and he said the Yukon Party went in and killed an NDP hospital design and built this new hospital. Obviously he hasn't talked to very many people who know anything about hospitals, because, if he would have, he would have discovered that the NDP hospital design was a hospital design out of the 1960s that nobody builds any more - nobody. They were prepared to spend millions of taxpayers' dollars - $47 million of taxpayers' money - on a building that went out of date in 1960.
And when we found out what they were doing, we called in people who actually build these hospitals and said, "Look at the design. What do you think?" Their answer was quite shocking. They came back to us and said, "Don't do it. Redesign it." It was a risky chance, because there was a timeline with the federal funding. But the fact of the matter is that we built a new, redesigned hospital that today saves us hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in O&M costs, and, despite what the Member for Whitehorse Centre says, the people are enjoying their new hospital. They like their new hospital. It's a functional hospital. It's doing what hospitals in this century should be doing.
Mr. Speaker, I was interested to hear the comments of the Liberal Party, too. I don't have a lot to comment on what they said. I just do have one comment that I will say. We now know where the Liberals really stand, because one of their members stood up and said that they're not red any more; they're grey. So the Liberals are now the grey area. We all know what the grey area means to a lot of people. It's the area of the unknown. It's the area of having no idea what's going to happen next. It's an area of no positions. It's an area that you just don't know about; it's grey. It's like a fog. It's in the middle. Every so often they poke their heads out of the grey area, the fog, and they stick their fingers in the air and check which way the wind's blowing, and they sometimes take a position. But, in many cases, the position is on both sides. So we know where our Liberal colleagues stand.
I was interested to listen to the comments made by the Minister of Tourism, who spoke last, when he talked about boom and bust. He said that we no longer are experiencing the boom and bust.
He was right on. We got rid of that boom. It's just a pain. Well, you know what happens when you have a boom. It's kind of a pain to the NDP, because there are no apartments available. Right now, we have a 17-percent vacancy rate in apartments. You can get a room if you need one. Our kids work here and then they come home at night. They actually have a job here and might live in Whitehorse or something. This way, with a bust - the way it is now - they can leave. We don't see them; they don't bother us, eh?
I don't understand it. The NDP is dead on. There's no boom and bust any more. There's just bust, bust and more bust. Their idea of a booming economy is to send everybody out to jobs everywhere else. Have them working everywhere else in the world, moving their families to other locations. I don't think we're seeing any benefit in that.
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Faro - the Minister of Economic Development - has talked about retail sales. I think he said yesterday that retail sales are up 11 percent. Yet, when we try to get someone to tell us what composes the retail sales and how they are gathered, we can't get the information. It's the federal Bureau of Statistics that gather it. We asked about certain parts of retail sales, like motor vehicles and recreation vehicles, which were conveniently driving the whole retail sales issue. Then they're taken out of the equation, and when we asked why, they say that it's because there are a small number of dealers in Nunavut and they can't be publishing those kinds of numbers because someone would identify those dealers. Well, guess what? We're not Nunavut. I don't care if they don't publish the Nunavut numbers. I want the Yukon numbers. I want numbers that mean something to me.
The reason I'm hearing that our retail numbers are up is not because the stores downtown in Whitehorse are booming, it's because two or three motor vehicle businesses are selling vehicles and RVs to Alaska through an agreement based on free trade.
And free trade is something that the Member for Faro and his colleagues voted against; they said it was bad for this country; they said it was rotten; they said we shouldn't have free trade. Well, guess what? If we didn't have free trade, you wouldn't have any retail figures right now.
It just doesn't make sense, Mr. Speaker. They voted against free trade, and now they want to be known as the export government. They expect free trade everywhere they go. But it was bad for the Yukon then.
But, you know, the sad part about the motor vehicle issue is the businesses that are selling all these vehicles haven't hired a whole bunch of people, because a lot of it's paperwork. It's vehicles in/vehicles out. It hasn't created dozens of jobs. It isn't reflected - 11-percent increase in retail sales hasn't reflected in hundreds of jobs in the territory. That's why we have a huge unemployment rate, and that's why 3,000 people are leaving. If the retail sales were up as much as the minister claims they're up, then people would be hiring more people, because they couldn't keep up. But they're not hiring more people; they're cutting back, and the owners of the businesses are spending more time on their own business because they can't afford, in the winter months, to have staff on board.
And I think that's happening across the board with almost everyone I have talked to. They look at the retail figures and laugh. They don't know where the government's getting the figures from. They have no idea where this government's coming from with the figures.
Mr. Speaker, I want to talk a little bit about some of the numbers in the budget, and some of the issues in the budget.
There are some areas in this budget where I think the government has done some positive things. The first one I'll touch on is Tourism. I think that the numbers in the Tourism budget are positive. I'm glad to see that the now-Minister of Tourism is following the lead that we set - back in 1993 - in increasing our efforts in Europe, in North America, and in other areas, to attract more visitors to the territory.
I can remember back to just about 1992-93, when we wanted to go on a trip to Europe to sell the Yukon, and it was bad news. You were just going on a holiday, you shouldn't do it. And shortly after that, the Minister of Tourism, when he got elected, found out that it worked, and he hasn't even been in the territory. In fact, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Tourism has been out of the territory so much that last night in this House, when he was describing problems he was having with Ottawa, he stood up and said that our biggest problem is 3,500 miles that way, and he pointed to Japan. He's been up in the air so much in the last 12 months that he doesn't even know which way is east or west any more. For his information, Ottawa is that way, not that way. If he goes that way, he's going to be doing a lot of swimming.
Mr. Speaker, there are some positive things in the tourism budget. I'm pleased to see that there will be some funding for the Sourdough Rendezvous and the Yukon Quest and some of the other festivals that take place. I think that it has been shown in the last few years that these particular events are good events to establish a marketing program around, and that we can fill our hotel rooms up in the winter season. I think it's good. I applaud the minister and the government for those initiatives. I applaud the Tourism Industry Association, which has lobbied long and hard for those kinds of initiatives. I applaud the Sourdough Rendezvous and the Yukon Quest officials who have met and submitted, by the way, several applications to the government over the years to receive this kind of funding.
The sad part about all of this is that it didn't happen until the eve of an election, and I don't think that's just a coincidence. I don't think it's just a coincidence.
I mean, just over a year ago, the government was standing up saying that we don't core fund. And now core funding is okay, because it's convenient and it might buy some votes. I just hope, Mr. Speaker, that it does do more than buy votes for any future government, and that what it will do is bring more visitors to the territory, and I hope it does that.
Another area that I think that is positive is the money in the budget for the Alaska Highway pipeline. I didn't get an opportunity to speak to the motion yesterday, but I would have liked to, as I had a few words to say. One area that I would touch on is that, first of all, I agree with the president of the chamber, who said today that the $100,000 is a signal, but it's certainly not a very strong signal. I still believe that, a few years ago, we were rather hasty in turning down the Alaska Highway gas pipeline, because today we'd probably have more affordable fuel prices. We'd probably have our electricity provided by natural gas. We might even have natural gas in our homes, and we'd have several jobs created around natural gas. And what it would also have done is that it would have allowed us, now that we have an Oil and Gas Act, an opportunity to encourage and entice exploration companies to come here to look for natural gas because they'd have a way to get it out.
I think the Northwest Territories is years ahead of us with the support they have got. I'm pleased to see that First Nations now are coming on side. I think that the government should have put more effort in this budget to push the Alaska Highway proposal. I think they could work with First Nation, municipalities and others and let the industry out there know that we want to welcome them as quickly as we can and approach the environmental studies and all the various things that have to be done. We have the right-of-way established. We know where it's going to go - basically along the Alaska Highway - and I think that we have to move on this one fairly quickly. If the pipeline goes down the Mackenzie Valley, we will pay for that for a long, long time to come in this territory.
We will probably never see a pipeline, and the type of exploration the Northwest Territories sees now and will see in the future, if we don't get a pipeline here. The suppliers won't just drill for small amounts of gas and small markets. They want to find an area of huge gas deposits, and they want to be able to get it to the main market, which, unfortunately, is the south. If we don't get on that wagon and take advantage of it, it will be many generations down the road before the Yukon sees the benefit of that kind of development.
With respect to mining in the territory, the Minister of Tourism, when speaking about mining, said, "How can this government be accused of holding up the mining industry?" I agree with him. I don't think they can be accused of that any more, because there is no mining industry here to hold up. The mining industry has heeded the words of the Member for Kluane when he said, "My goodness, if they prospect and they find something, it might develop into a mine."
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Yes, I was just reminded that the Minister of Renewable Resources stated that they "can explore but they can't mine." What a terrible attitude. How are we going to attract the kind of investment we need to attract in this territory with that kind of attitude?
There is a mixed message from this government. There are three speeches: one for the First Nations, one for the mining community and one for the environmental community. That has destroyed the confidence of investors in this territory.
Mr. Speaker, we are a long way from getting back on track. It took a long time, when the Yukon Party government was in power, to encourage the mining industry to come back, but they were back here fairly big time in 1996, with about $100 million in exploration and development. I think that, today, we are looking at $6 million. Anybody I've talked to in the mining industry says that they are not expecting much to happen this summer. In fact, I spoke to a pilot the other day, who flies around a lot of mining executives in the territory, Mr. Speaker, and he told me that these mining executives - and, by the way, most of the time, he is flying them from Whitehorse to Alaska - just say that they'll come back when the NDP government is gone.
They got the message. They know that it doesn't matter what the Economic Development minister says, he doesn't mean it, and they have been stung too many times by this government, and they're not taking the chance. They're not coming back to the Yukon until this government is gone.
Another point I want to touch on before I wrap up is the theory that the NDP always seems to be put out when we're debating budgets. Their theory is that, if you don't support my budget, then you're voting against your schools, or you're voting against your health care, or you're voting against some other pet project.
Well, they know, and we know, that that isn't the case. What is happening here is we are voting a lack of confidence in this government to get the economy back on track. There are some good things in this budget. There's some good money in education, health care, tourism, and some of the highway work that's going on - some of the regular stuff that governments do all the time. Our problem with this government is the messages they send out and the proof is in the fact that 3,000 people have left the territory in three years.
Some of those people probably voted for the NDP in the last election, hoping that they were going to do something different, and all they did was cost them their jobs. Yukoners are disillusioned; Yukoners are disappointed; and Yukoners are fed up. The most common question I get asked on the street today is when is the next election? When is the next election?
People don't like to vote, but they just want an opportunity to throw these guys out, because they have done a lousy job, and they have instilled no confidence in this community, Mr. Speaker. There's a concern out there that they don't have the ability -
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker - that they simply don't have the ability to turn the economy around.
Health and social services rolls have risen. The best health and social services program in the world is a good job. Three thousand people have left. Hundreds of others are going to have to leave. Dozens are desperate. Hundreds are going to Social Services for support. That's not because we have turned the corner. That's because we are still going down the hill, and we'll continue to go down the hill with this NDP government.
Mr. Speaker, I will not be supporting this budget because I, like the thousands of Yukoners out there who have spoken to me and others in the past few months and weeks, do not have any confidence in this government to manage this economy.
Mr. McRobb: It's always a pleasure to follow the Member for Riverdale North, especially because I have the opportunity to correct some of the mean rhetoric that he continues to throw out in this Legislature, Mr. Speaker. And I think I speak for quite a few members when I say we're looking forward to the day that particular member retires from this Legislature. It will be a more productive place for everybody. The Yukon won't have to be subjected to that type of mean personal attack, Mr. Speaker, and we can discuss ways to cooperate and work collectively together for the good of all Yukoners.
Just one point on that rhetoric - because it seems that in every sitting the Yukon Party doesn't fail to take the opportunity to bring it up. It relates back to my concerns expressed about three years ago on the protected areas strategy, on a motion. The comment related to the Killermun Lake example and the need for proper planning to avoid conflicts. I can recall the example I gave, and it demonstrated the need for proper land use planning to avoid conflicts in situations where different resource users meet in certain areas. This particular example - the Killermun Lake example - was in prime, very sensitive caribou habitat.
It's a very environmentally significant area. It could have mineral development. But, Mr. Speaker, quite simply, it's up to government to help prevent those types of resource conflicts by careful planning, and careful planning can be achieved through initiatives like the protected areas strategy.
So, my comments were made in that context, but several times, Mr. Speaker, in the last three years, it has been brought up in the context that I'm opposed to mining, that my comments are representative of where our party stands on mining, and then they take it farther down that dark and dirty road. So, it pleases me to have the opportunity to provide some clarification on that, and, for Yukon Party members out there who save their old newsletters, they could probably tear up most of them and throw them in the garbage because a lot of what is said in those newsletters is unfounded, just like this particular criticism was.
Now, on the subject of the budget, the fiscal budget for the year 2000-01, I would like to put on the record some of the things my constituents can expect in the riding in the next year, as well as some of the overall initiatives and spending that they'll look forward to in the next year.
Before doing that, Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk a little bit about the new way of doing business in the territory. The old way was that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Whoever moaned or yelled or complained the loudest in the media seemed to kind of get what they wanted, and that method has changed drastically under the Piers McDonald government. We have what is now known as pre-budget consultations that occur in the fall, in October every year. The Government Leader/Finance minister goes out to every community in the territory and has public meetings. He meets with every First Nation, every municipal government in the territory. The purpose of those meetings is to gather their priorities for incorporation into next year's territorial budget.
Well, Mr. Speaker, with the budget speech this past Monday that marked the culmination of that process - six months of hard work by everyone involved in making that budget - this is a responsible way of doing business, Mr. Speaker. It connects people at the community level with the Yukon government and provides the government with an opportunity to respond to those needs, as expressed at the community level. It's a very effective process, time wise - it allows for a pretty quick turnaround, in most cases within six months of identifying a concern by someone in the community. There's potential to have those concerns addressed when the budget is delivered.
It provides a very clear way of communicating priorities of the communities. It avoids confusion. Mr. Speaker, to assess this new way properly, we have to compare it to the old way -the old Yukon Party way.
One example that I'll never forget is the new subdivision in Beaver Creek, where the Yukon Party spent tens of thousands of dollars to build a new subdivision, complete with streetlights that come on every night, and the subdivision is still empty. It has been there about four years, and it's still empty. The government built something the community did not need, Mr. Speaker, and that's a shame, because it's a very ineffective way of spending taxpayers' funds. It's based on disjointed communication between the community and the government - a very bad example of the way things used to be.
A good example of the way things are now, Mr. Speaker, is, well, back to my riding again, I think of the letter from the Village of Haines Junction to the Finance minister, which outlined the village's budget priorities for the coming year. When you look at what the budget provided in the context of that letter, Mr. Speaker, it's very impressive. It is a very impressive example of how the territorial government listens to the community and provides for the priorities and needs of the communities that participate in this important budget process.
It's a fair and responsible process, Mr. Speaker. None of the old back-room boys type of meetings that showed, quite often in cases, favouritism and exclusion of the general public. These meetings are transparent, public and very representative of the community.
It also provides a predictable process. Everyone knows they occur in October, and it gives communities, First Nations, municipalities and members of the public an opportunity to gear up for those meetings and provide their priorities to the government, as opposed to the former process, where one never really knew when the budget process was happening with the government. It was a hit and miss situation. One never really knew, because the government didn't let the public know. They kind of hid from the public when it came to designing the budgets, because their time was occupied looking after the back-room boys, and they didn't have money left over for the needs of the communities and the public at large, so they didn't create a process that included those people.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm proud to be a member of the NDP government, one that has created a process that includes people and the communities in sharing the people's resources with the people of the territory.
Thank you for the opportunity to elaborate on the new way of doing business, Mr. Speaker. I've talked about it in the last couple of years, but I still find people in the communities who haven't got the message yet. Hopefully, with each passing year, more and more people will understand what the process is. It's not the old way of whining in the media and hopefully seeing the squeaky wheel get the most grease. It's a responsible, new, inclusive, consultative way of spending the territory's budget.
This past fall, Mr. Speaker, there were six meetings in the Kluane riding. As usual, I attended each and every one of those meetings. It provides me with an opportunity, as MLA in the riding, to be plugged into the process at the community, grassroots level. Although I'm not a member of Cabinet or Management Board, which makes the final budget decisions, Mr. Speaker, I do have an opportunity to reiterate the budget priorities of the people attending those meetings. Again, I certainly did this year.
I'm very pleased with the outcome and how the budget has reflected the input given in the past year from all those involved. I would like to thank members of the public in Haines Junction, Destruction Bay and Beaver Creek, as well as the three First Nations in the riding - the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation, the Kluane First Nation and White River First Nation - as well as members of the Beaver Creek community club and the public in Haines Junction, for coming out to these meetings. They make these meetings a success and contribute their input to our budget process.
It's a guaranteed way, Mr. Speaker, of helping government represent the people it governs and providing for their needs - a very effective way - and I look forward to next year being a part of it then as well.
I'd like to touch on some of the riding highlights that are specific projects in the Kluane riding. The first one is the highway upgrade project in Haines Junction. This project has been allocated $400,000. It provides for improvements to the intersection as well as street widening and street lights in the main section of Haines Junction. Mr. Speaker, this was a priority of the municipal government. It was also a priority of members of the public in Haines Junction, most notably the Haines Junction Inter-Agency Committee, which wrote letters expressing safety concerns about the intersection. This, combined with concerns we've heard from others, including the village council, led to action to resolve the problem in this year's budget. I'm aware of three options that are identified. The first option is a major reconstruction of the intersection, allowing for a wide-sweeping corner, removing the stop sign from the Alaska Highway. And the other options involve installation of islands, or rumble strips, on the highway.
So, my understanding is the Department of Community and Transportation Services will be meeting with the community in the near future to determine its priorities on which option it favours. And I look forward to construction when it does occur, because it will make Haines Junction a safer and better place and will improve the infrastructure in the community and help to give this community what it deserves.
The second project is the pilot project for recycling. There is $200,000 for the Village of Haines Junction for a pilot project next year. This responds to community requirements. It furthers the role of Haines Junction in being a leading community in the territory, Mr. Speaker, and I'm certainly proud of that. I was at the opening of the existing recycling centre - I believe it was in June 1997 - and can certainly iterate the interest of recycling in the Haines Junction community and the contribution from members of the public, including the volunteers, in keeping the facility open. That project was also one of the priorities in the letter from the Village of Haines Junction, and I'd like to thank the village council for identifying that project as one of its priorities.
I also understand there is $25,000 for the Haines Junction visitor reception centre to help design it toward the community's needs. As everyone knows, Mr. Speaker, there are many visitors in the area of the VRC each summer. It's a very busy area - across the street from the bakery - and there's new development in the area. Quite often, it seems to be the centre of activity of the community, and the VRC certainly has a major role to fill in the future. By contributing this funding toward the study, it will guarantee that the facility will better meet the needs of the community.
The fourth item, Mr. Speaker, is something that people in Haines Junction along the north highway will be very pleased to hear about, and I would imagine that there are people in Whitehorse and other Yukon communities who travel out that way who would be pleased as well. And that is in our five-year plan, starting next year, we're initiating funds to start upgrading the Alaska Highway between Haines Junction and the Mendenhall River. This is a very expensive project, Mr. Speaker. I think the total cost is in the neighbourhood of $35 million. It will be started in the 2001-02 budget year. The figure of $800,000 will be spent that year, and then about $1 million each year thereafter until this major project is completed, Mr. Speaker.
I think this is great news. It's great news to people out there who have put up with that section of the highway and its substandard condition for several years. It's good news that there will be a continuous annual program of improvements that will eventually bring the whole section up to standard. And this, combined with the Shakwak improvements, Mr. Speaker, will mean a modern highway from Whitehorse to the Alaska border, on both the Haines road and Alaska Highway.
Last night, Mr. Speaker, we heard the Member for Klondike complain that there was nothing in the budget or plan about this. But as I just indicated, Mr. Speaker, he obviously didn't do his homework, and I would draw his attention to the budget speech, which includes the long-term plans, and you can find the line item down there.
People looking for country residential lots in the Haines Junction area, Mr. Speaker, will be pleased to find there is about $250,000 in next year's budget. This is a recoverable amount that will go toward the building of country residential lots in the area, something a lot of people are looking for.
There's also $150,000 toward phase one of the space reconfiguration for the James Smith Administration Building in Haines Junction. This is something that has been a concern of the community for several years now, Mr. Speaker, with the conflict of various users in that building. Combined with the improvements the village is doing with the new fire hall and so on, this will be a significant improvement to the community of Haines Junction. Certainly, we're in support of this reconfiguration. There is $150,000, and I believe it's mainly for engineering and planning in next year's budget.
There is $110,000 for renewable resource initiatives ranging from agricultural land development to capital maintenance upgrades. Up the road in Burwash Landing, the $350,000 sewage lagoon project will proceed with $100,000, mainly in engineering design work. This was the number one priority of people in the area. I recall several discussions at the time of the last election and in subsequent years from many people about this. I recall the school principal in Destruction Bay complaining about the students in the school feeling a bit ill from the effects of the old sewage lagoon, which was downwind, and other people in the community complaining as well.
Well, we got the message and have provided a solution to that problem by this significant expenditure in excess of a third of a million dollars in the budget.
In the same area, we're providing $40,000 for museums assistance. This is mainly for the museum in Burwash Landing, and I would encourage people, Mr. Speaker, to stop by and visit this remarkable facility. It has a very interesting exhibit and friendly staff there who are quite helpful and informative to all visitors.
Very fortunately, this building was saved from destruction last June when the forest fire swept through the community. It was a very close call and I would like to thank all firefighters, not only with the Burwash volunteer fire department, but all the fire departments in the Yukon - I believe there were about 13 of them who contributed to the effort, including the Ibex fire hall - and also the federal firefighters working for forestry, who all attended to the blaze and who demonstrated extraordinary efforts to protect the community and the people in the community. Very thankfully, there were no serious injuries as a result and property damage, while significant, was kept under control. It could have been a lot worse.
I heard testimonies that the fire smart program, which had just completed its first year in that area, helped to divert the flames away from the body of the community, which could have destroyed dozens of other houses, Mr. Speaker, so it was a very fortunate series of events that prevented a much worse disaster.
I recall being up there on that day, congregating with members of the community before we were dispersed up the road to the Kluane Wilderness Village at mile 1118. I was talking to some of the people there and helping them out. Overall, everyone was very organized and behaved in a very responsible manner. As I have already said, we were in the good hands of the firefighters. I would like to thank them for their extraordinary effort; in particular, their effort in saving the museum and church in Burwash Landing.
Up the road in Beaver Creek, the new visitor reception centre is nearing completion. This is an extraordinary project, Mr. Speaker, which is at the northwestern gateway of the territory for Alaskan visitors, who may be entering the Yukon for the first time on their way back from, let's say, a marine cruise. This facility will provide them with information on attractions and facilities from Beaver Creek to Watson Lake to Faro and Dawson City - virtually every community in the Yukon will be represented in the material hosted at this new facility. The total cost for this facility was over $300,000 in the past year, which really demonstrates our commitment to improve infrastructure in our communities for the good of the whole economy, particularly small business. The VRC has a direct connection to small business. Certainly we are in support of that.
We are further demonstrating our support in next year's budget by providing $80,000 in equipment to the VRC. From what I understand, this will include audiovisual equipment and some rather interesting displays that will hopefully encourage our visitors to spend more time in Yukon communities, meet some of the people here, see some of the attractions, get to know our way of life and, of course, spend a little more money while they're here, too. That certainly would help.
The Beaver Creek volunteer fire department is also being helped out with some high-volume fire hose and pumps. With the recent infrastructure improvements within the community - which are significant, I believe well over $750,000 last year - there is a greater need to protect buildings in Beaver Creek and, through this investment, it responds to those needs.
And I would like to thank members of the Beaver Creek volunteer fire department for their continued support in contributing to a better community. I know it's a tough job. Many of them hold main jobs and they do this as a sideline. It requires training; it requires a commitment to give up much of your free time to go out and train and to respond to emergencies, and I'd like to thank that fire department, as well as other fire departments in the territory. I was at the convention last year, held in Whitehorse, and met many of the fire chiefs and look forward to attending the convention again this year.
There is also $100,000 for bridge painting in the riding. From what I am able to gather so far, this relates mainly to the Blanchard River bridge. Hopefully this will help resolve some of the priority concerns of the leader of the official opposition about the paint flaking from the bridges. It shows that we on this side of the House do listen to what they have to say, regardless of what they would like you to believe.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, the Shakwak Highway reconstruction project will see $25 million next year and the year after. This is a significant figure up from the $19 million this year, and it represents about a one-third increase in road-construction dollars.
The previous member who spoke went on and on about the sad state of affairs of road construction, how people were moving to Chile, how the road construction companies have to go down there, apparently, because there is nothing up here. Well, Mr. Speaker, $25 million, just on this one project, is a significant amount. I have personally spoken to the road construction companies, and they're very pleased with our lobby efforts to recontinue the Shakwak project. I know this was not an easy task, Mr. Speaker. I can recall, a couple of years ago, I believe it was in the Business To Business Magazine. Boy, there was a scathing article in there about how we were unable to lobby the United States for funding. Well, Mr. Speaker, at about the same time that article appeared, the good news came with it that our lobby efforts were successful. I know constituents who are working on that project from Beaver Creek to Whitehorse, in fact, and they're very thankful for our efforts in that area.
They're also very thankful for the training trust funds, which last year trained 10 members of the workforce to be employed as heavy-equipment operators on the Shakwak. I understand virtually every one of those trained workers was hired, Mr. Speaker, and that certainly validates the effectiveness of these training trust funds, when they're directed appropriately, as I'm sure they all are.
I would like to move on now to some of the general highlights of interest to Kluane constituents, which may also be of interest to other Yukoners, of course.
I'd like to start with the area of tourism, where there are many exciting initiatives. This is one of the areas, Mr. Speaker, that I personally find very appealing - the area of tourism - not only because Kluane is a favourite spot for visitors and the fact that there are many tourism-related businesses, but because I personally enjoy meeting many of the tourists, Mr. Speaker, and helping to promote tourism in the territory.
There is a total investment of $6 million in this budget toward tourism marketing next year. It's a very significant amount - $6 million. It includes a further $750,000 to the TMF, the tourism marketing fund. I'm aware of several businesses that have successfully applied through that to promote marketing for their small businesses in the region, and certainly this is something I support. There's ongoing support for industry organizations. There are additional improvements at the Whitehorse International Airport, in the order of $200,000. This builds on recent improvements, which have produced three direct flights from Europe each week, Mr. Speaker. This is something that several of the other members have touched upon. This is something that is very important to businesses in the Kluane area, because that is a destination of many of the people who get off those flights and spend time in the territory, Mr. Speaker, and it provides direct clientele to those businesses, and direct revenue as a result.
There is $175,000 toward the film incentive program and $383,000 for specialized equipment. This is a growing industry, Mr. Speaker, in the whole territory but, more significantly, for the Kluane region because of the park, mainly. There are many films and commercials shot in the region. I personally discussed this with several crews last summer, and I also met with representatives from Parks Canada to help build our relationship together toward assisting the film industry. From what I understand, that was a productive meeting, resulting in a better relationship between our government people and Parks Canada, in trying to overcome some of the hurdles that were in place before, and to promote filming in the region.
I just heard the other day from the owner of the High Country Inn that there is a German film crew staying at his hotel who are filming out in the Fish Lake area, which is also part of my riding. This seems to be becoming more commonplace. I remember 25 years ago in the Yukon, if there was ever a film crew here it was major news, major news for several years, and now we're getting what seems to be several companies each month, particularly in the summertime, coming over, doing the same thing.
So, certainly our support for this growing industry is validated, and I look forward to discussing the results again next year at this time, Mr. Speaker.
I'd like to move now to some of the things we're doing to build stronger, safer communities. At the top of the list is the community development fund, which is refinanced with another $3 million next year. As everyone knows, this is a great program that helps people, organizations, and other governments get the funds they need to make their projects happen. It provides them with fast access to funds, provided they meet the funding criteria. It sidesteps the hurdles that may exist otherwise when dealing with government. It is a very effective way of pushing those specific buttons, Mr. Speaker, and helping to promote everything from community events to community infrastructure, and making the Yukon a better place to live. So that is something that I believe all Yukoners support.
The rural road upgrading program is getting financed with another million dollars next year. While this program looks at projects from all over the territory, I know there are several roads in the Kluane region that have been considered for funding, and I look forward to more applications next year.
I was one of the original proponents of this particular program, recognizing the need to improve our secondary highways - highways that a lot of Yukoners use on a frequent basis, as well as tourists, when they want to get off the beaten trail in the territory, get out in the back woods, maybe do a bit of fishing, whatever. With the state of those secondary roads -
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. McRobb: My, how time flies when you're having fun, Mr. Speaker. There is obviously too much in this budget to talk about. Maybe I should have just shortened it up and dealt with the general categories instead of going on specific points. Maybe if I speed it up, I can get a few more things in.
There is increased block funding to the communities and the comprehensive municipal grant. This was the other thing expressed in the letter from the Village of Haines Junction, Mr. Speaker. I'm very pleased with our overall response to the needs of that community. There is increased funding to the Association of Yukon Communities and $100,000 to the community access program. In the areas of natural and cultural heritage, of particular interest to Kluane constituents, is $100,000 toward general recycling, $75,000 toward the Climate Xchange program, green power fund initiatives, a $2-million wind turbine, and $1.9 million in museums, historical sites and heritage. For health care, there is a 96-bed continuing care facility for $7.9 million. There is the CAT scan at Whitehorse General Hospital for $1.4 million. There is $50,000 for the health summit in the year 2000, following up on last fall's successful summit. There is $150,000 for the healthy families initiative, and $300,000 for the community addiction treatment fund. Recently, there were successful applications from both the Kluane First Nation and the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation. There is $30,000 for the food for learning program.
This commitment to health care, Mr. Speaker -
Speaker: Order please. Your time has expired.
Mr. Cable:The Liberal caucus periodically puts out a questionnaire to a number of people to determine what's on their minds and what sort of issues people are concerned with. It's not a scientific poll. It's not very large, and the people are not selected at random.
But it does buttress the anecdotal, what we as individuals in the caucus hear in the grocery stores and on the streets. We feel we have an obligation to determine Yukoners' concerns so that we can respond to them in this House and out on the streets. The number one concern - top of the list - has always been the economy and jobs. Now we work and live in a work culture and our population has been dropping and our unemployment rates are high, so it's not surprising when people in the Yukon tell us that what's foremost on their minds is the economy and jobs. And I'm sure every member in this Chamber has reached the same conclusion. So I've listened with interest to the debates in this House on the state of the economy over the last few years, and of course they're very predictable. The government has gone on at length about the Yukon's economy being subject to forces beyond its control. There's the standard litany of low metal prices, and the effect of Bre-X on mining company financing, and the closing of Anvil Range, and the Asian flu; these factors are chanted as a mantra - it's a form of escapism, I suppose. Now, there's probably some truth in the chant, but it's not the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The Economic Development minister gave us his economic statement the other day, and I don't criticize him for looking for the silver linings; there are some statistics that can be used to put on a happy face, but they're pretty thin.
Well, it's natural, Mr. Speaker, that an Economic Development minister would want to be upbeat, and not wring his hands in public in order not to cast a negative pall on investors. Putting on a happy face in the development of public policy is another matter. Public policy should be based on what's actually going on.
We say to the government what I have found out is going on out there - outside the hothouse of this Chamber. There's a feeling of unease out there. There's a feeling that there's a whole bunch of government members over there, behind the steering wheel, trying desperately to steer, but the linkage between the steering wheel and the tires is broken.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: That's right.
Or we can draw another analogy. We can be on a sailing ship. They're all desperately turning this wheel with Captain Ahab, and the linkage is broken. The rudder's out of commission.
Business people are concerned about their businesses and whether they have enough liquidity to weather the storm, and employees - particularly in the private sector - are concerned about their employers' businesses. They are worried about their job prospects. And students who go outside for their education wonder whether there will ever be opportunities in the Yukon in the near future, for when they are finished their education.
So there is a lot of unease out there, and I'm sure we have all run across it. And where there is unease, there is a lack of confidence. And where there is a lack of confidence, people hunker down. Fortunately for us and fortunately for Yukoners, there is a large public sector base. Our public servants have good salaries, and they have a fairly substantial purchasing power. The use of this purchasing power stabilizes the economy.
But the merchants I have talked to are walking on tiptoes and are crossing their fingers, hoping this large base of spending power won't retrench, and this fragile deck of cards called "the Yukon economy" won't collapse further.
Anybody who likes reading about history has heard the stories about 1929 and the overheated economies and the overly inflated stock market, and you realize that behind all numbers, such as the numbers chanted by the Minister of Economic Development the other day, is a very subjective, human factor. It may be subjective, but it is what drives people to invest and create jobs. And, Mr. Speaker, despite the trade papers and the promotional hype we have heard over the last few years, and the trade missions and the programs and the seminars, the confidence is not out there. The confidence in government is not out there. People get their confidence from government when things are happening, not when they are simply talked about. We need some closure on many of the items of hype that we have heard in this House and in the newspapers.
Where's the wood-burning plant at the college, for example? Are we going to see it, and when? Where's the pre-fab housing plant the Yukon Housing Corporation talked about?
We can't just dip our toe in the economic waters. We need to make something happen.
And where's the evaluation of the many programs and training trusts? Money is just fluttering out the window without much feedback - one of the points raised at the business summit about a year ago. The business summit, for the benefit of the unwashed, took place about a year ago and involved many, many business people, and this government went to the length of responding.
Just how many jobs are there in the Yukon today that would not be here without government assistance? Do we know that number, or is it all speculation? I suspect it's all speculation.
Now, confidence is also built on trust, and there have been too many flip-flops for the business community to rely on this government's assertions. We've had the somewhat specious claim of stabilizing electrical rates, prior to the last election and, of course, we all saw them stabilized after a few years, after a lot of gyrations. They were stabilized a lot higher. We saw the flip-flops and heard the many voices and the many positions that were talked about by this government on the wintering grounds of the caribou.
We've had the talk about the adherence to the protected areas strategy procedures, and the smoke and mirrors of the Connect Yukon project, released during the last by-election, in the hopes that the NDP vote would be moved from 17.5 percent to 18 percent. They were probably successful in that. Then we have had the government's never-ending claim that it's the federal government that is responsible for land claim closures. And we have had the chief of the Carcross-Tagish Band tell us differently. Yes, I don't believe it. It takes three parties to sign a three-party contract.
Now, the stock in trade of NDP governments generally has always been an appeal to the underprivileged and disenfranchised in society. And there is some good stuff in the budget that does, in fact, pitch in that direction. I'm pleased to see the CAT scan unit and the additional Handy Bus money. The Minister of Health and Social Services must have a little clout in Cabinet.
But, there is an air of smoke and mirrors about what they say. There's talk about priorities and people programs, but what do they do in practice? I can remember the complaints about the social assistance fraud investigations that took place in this House. They were probably justified complaints, but their righteous umbrage just oozed into every corner of this Chamber.
Yet we see in this budget a four-percent increase in social assistance, the first increase since 1991, an increase that only makes up for a small part of the effect of inflation on rates, a very positive move. But what does that say about the actual change in the rates since 1991, after we factor in inflation?
Then there's the $125,000 for continuing legal aid funding - not enough. It's a move in the right direction, but not enough to meet the needs of all single mothers in custody matters and other family matters.
Here we have the so-called people government, a government supposedly that would look after the underprivileged and disenfranchised in society, yarding out money to Argus. The money given to Argus would meet the additional needs of the Legal Aid Society for two or three years, so that family matters could be dealt with. But instead, we have money for the glib and greedy, but not the real needy. We have money that started out as waterfront development money, that changed its face into economic development money on some pretty specious rationalizations.
Yes, to answer the Member for Whitehorse Centre, there are some good things in this budget. I think it would be foolish to suggest there are not. It would also be foolish to suggest that one should vote for this budget to show confidence.
From what I've heard in the street, people do not have confidence in this administration, and nor do I, and for that reason I will not be supporting the budget.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I'm able to speak to this budget. I think that this budget reflects the needs and concerns expressed by Yukoners and by the people in my riding of Mayo-Tatchun, and throughout the territory. I believe that this budget, like other budgets we introduced to this Legislature, has been developed by communities and by the voters of the Yukon. The Government Leader has gone to all the communities, has sat down in public meetings, and has been given direction as to what the community priorities are. He sat down with First Nations, with villages and municipalities, and talked with them as to what their priorities are.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that a lot of what they have said to us is reflected in this budget. This budget shows what our NDP government stands for. A good economy is measured not only in dollars and cents, but by strong, healthy communities, care for our environment, and a well-educated and trained population, and opportunities for all Yukoners to succeed.
I appreciate the hard work that the people in my riding are doing to make life better for the communities of Mayo-Tatchun.
Many hours have been spent putting together proposals, holding meetings, running programs and making tough decisions about community priorities. And again, it has been a pleasure for our government to be working with them and meeting these priorities, as you'll see reflected again in this budget. We are proud as a government to invest in Yukon people and in Yukon communities, even if we receive criticism from the parties opposite - the Liberals and the Yukon Party. They continue to vote against balanced budgets that we bring forward time and time again.
And, Mr. Speaker, I'll give you some of the examples that they do vote against. I know that the Liberals like to cherry-pick and say, "This is what we like out of this budget, and this is what we like out of that one." Every year, they cherry-pick what they think they like, but in the end they turn and vote against our budgets, and they call every budget that we do bring forward a "campaign budget". And they vote with the Yukon Party. They've always voted with the Yukon Party, and I know that they will continue to vote with the Yukon Party again. And they vote against things like upgrades to daycares in the community of Carmacks. That's a CDF project. They didn't like it. What they would like to do is review it, which means that they'll scrap it. They vote against things like $2,500 for public Internet access at the library in Carmacks. Those are the types of things they vote against. It's shameful.
Mr. Speaker, CDF projects go to many different projects, and one of those that was very popular in the community of Carmacks, which the students from Carcross attended, was a cooking course. I happened to be there on the final day with the graduates, and they were appreciative of the government's support for this. It was a $26,000 item for a CDF project, but it was something the community wanted, a priority that the community had.
And they voted against that, too. Even though we don't have control of our forests yet, we are still investing money in the communities for the fire guards. In Carmacks, $119,000 went toward that. Not only did it put people to work, but it also gave them a sense of safety. When you start looking at the big fires that have taken place around Fox Lake and Minto, which came very close to the communities, this is another community development fund project - part of the community development fund project - that was very appreciated by communities. Mr. Speaker, the Liberals, along with the Yukon Party, voted against that.
We have had monies go toward things like the Yukon River host program. For a long time the community of Carmacks wanted to see upgrades to their ball diamond. It wasn't very much. They wanted to see bleachers and so on installed, and they applied for this through the community development fund program and got dollars to do upgrade to the ball diamond - $16,983. And the Liberals voted against that, along with the Yukon Party. It doesn't seem to me that they support recreation outside of Whitehorse. They have called for monies for a baseball field in Whitehorse, but when it comes to upgrades of ball fields elsewhere in the communities, they vote against that. They don't seem to be supportive of communities at all.
Mr. Speaker, in this budget we show $200,000 that is going toward a renovation of a First Nation health and social service programs building. I know that the opposition doesn't like the CDF projects, but the $200,000 is approximately one-third of the cost of that building, and the First Nation is putting in the rest of it.
It is approximately a $600,000 project. Again, this is something that the side opposite will vote against. This is not a CDF project, but it is also reflected here in this budget. We had a million dollars going toward Carmacks again for a recreation facility. This is going to be reflected as $1 million next year. The Village of Carmacks is putting $500,000 toward this. It's going to be a much improved infrastructure for the community of Carmacks, and you should see a lot more activities happening because something like this is being built. This is another initiative that our government is doing to build healthier communities and support communities and their priorities.
What does the Liberal Party do? They'll vote against it, along with the Yukon Party. We can't tell the difference between the two parties any more.
With regard to this particular project, the Government Leader sat down with the First Nation and the Village of Carmacks and asked them what their priorities were for government support, and this was one of them. The other that, of course, is going to be coming up, is a sewage treatment centre, which Carmacks is working on right now. They are working with the First Nation to try to develop something different from what they had, because they do have a mechanical plant in the community, which serves - and again, this shows how well the Yukon Party knows the communities - only about 40 percent of the community. The leader of the official opposition, the leader of the Liberal Party, says that people in Carmacks don't flush. That's what she said.
What is that saying to the people of Carmacks? We, on the other hand, have made a commitment to the Village of Carmacks that, should they come up with a design to suit the town needs, we will be participating and putting monies forward to help them with their sewage system, the same commitment we made with the City of Dawson, the same commitment we made with other communities in the territory. And the Liberal Party is going to vote against that, because they don't see building rural communities as important, Mr. Speaker.
Pelly Crossing had received $9,500 for equipment for a youth centre. It wasn't much, but that was what they asked for, and the Liberals voted against that. That was in previous budgets. Pelly Crossing is primarily a First Nation community and not a municipality. Basically, the only government in town is a First Nation government, which is expanding. They have a self-government agreement. They're taking more control and more responsibility over their lands and their peoples, expanding more, now that they do have a self-government agreement in place. They need office space, like a lands office and so on. There were monies put into that building, into their administration - $225,000 to expand that building so that they can have office space. There is no other place to look for office space in the community of Pelly Crossing.
That was a priority for them, and we responded. There was also another project that went toward the Tatlmain Lake trail improvement - close to $20,000. As the members know, there's a treatment centre out at Tatlmain Lake, and the way they get out there is by snowmobile or by four-wheelers, and one of the concerns they had was the trail being so rough and some of the corners being really bad, and this was a priority again in the community, and we responded to them by having a program in place that they can go to. If these community development funds weren't in place, then where would they go for improvements? But the Yukon Party and the Liberals voted against that, too.
Mr. Speaker, there is a building going up in Pelly Crossing right now, and it's going to be very visible from the highway. It's between the store and the garage. It's one that's much needed. It is a store that they're putting up. It's built from logs from the Liard area. They went through the Yukon Alaska Log Homes. It's a very attractive building. It's close to a $1-million project. The First Nation is putting all kinds of money into this to make it work. There's nowhere else for them to look. Banks won't respond to them, and we have put money toward that too, for training, through the CDF - $175,000. Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party and the Liberals voted against that.
Mr. Speaker, there is another big building that's going up in Pelly Crossing. That's the arena. As many people know, the people in Pelly Crossing are into sports. They've got the best ball field, I would say, in the Yukon Territory. They have a curling rink with artificial ice, another bit of CDF monies that go into that, and what they wanted to do was improve their skating rink and wanted to build a facility. And we responded to that.
We put $720,000 toward that; the First Nation put in the rest. It's over a million-dollar project, and they have an excellent facility that they will most benefit from for years to come. They've always had, in the past, competitive hockey teams, and you will see - by this government putting money into recreational facilities in the communities - increased competition from the communities in years to come. And the Liberals voted against that, Mr. Speaker. The Yukon Party voted against that. Unbelievable - supporting rural communities.
Mr. Speaker, another one of the communities in my riding - the community of Mayo - was quite active in wanting to access monies from the CDF. It was close to $10,000 - $9,742 went to a reprint of tourism brochures. It's important to the community of Mayo, which is off the main highways and hard to attract tourism. It was important to them, but the Liberals, they voted against that, too.
Mr. Speaker, I know that this one was very appreciative of the community in Mayo, particularly the kids. There was an application to the CDF again for improvements to replace the swimming pool and change rooms and other upgrades. This was a $95,000 item, and I was there when they completed the project and had kids in the swimming pool. I know that the community is very appreciative of that. They also were successful in an application to the CDF for $30,026 to build a community playground.
To me, Mr. Speaker, this is about improving communities. Where else would they go for dollars like this? The Yukon Party would have done away with the CDF. The Liberals want to review it; in other words, they're going to scrap it, too.
There was also an application for $17,000 over the past year for improvements to the foot trails and travel routes around Mayo. Again, they benefited from our initiatives for fire safety in the communities; $101,000 went to the community fireguard, putting a few people to work. The Liberals voted against that and the Yukon Party voted against it, too. There was $20,000 to reprint Gold and Galena, something the community wanted to continue.
There was also $18,316 for the Stewart River watershed wetlands assessment. This was through the CDF again. Again, not supporting communities, this budget or this government's direction, the Liberals and the Yukon Party voted against that, too.
There is $15,000 toward a stewardship program, $21,000 to upgrade the Bennett House exhibits and photo displays. Mayo wants to attract tourists too, and I know the Minister of Tourism is responding to that, something that the Liberals and the Yukon Party voted against. Even small things they voted against. In Keno City and Elsa, for example, $17,654 went toward artifact shelters in the community of Keno City, and they voted against that. And this is one that I know the leader of the Liberal Party talked about a lot, and she laughed at it. She laughed at the community for this. This was a project that the renewable resource council wanted to do because they saw it as important, but it wasn't important to the Liberals.
There was $12,453 for a butterfly management plan, which the Liberals and the Yukon Party continue to criticize. It might not be important to them, but in Keno City there is an area that is unique for butterflies. People come from all over the world to see them, and sometimes they take them.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It is definitely an attraction for the tourists. This is a community initiative, supported by the renewable resource council, but what did the Liberals do? They voted against that. So did the Yukon Party. There was $20,000 to paint a mural for Keno City, and they voted against that. This is important to the people of Keno, but the Liberals would rather talk about green Jell-O in the hospital.
Mr. Speaker, again, we are putting monies into the community development fund, including fire smart. There is $3 million going into that, and I know this might not sound like very much to members opposite, but we're the only ones who have done this. The Yukon Party hasn't made any increases at all to the municipal grants, and we have put a two-percent annual increase in the municipal grants - for $232,000. That's money into the communities.
Here's another one that's important to the people of Keno. It's only $20,000, but it's still a lot of money and still important to them. It's for upgrades on the Keno City water truck - new tires, a vehicle that they need because they do haul water to households. There's $9,000 for upgrades to the Mayo campground.
Mr. Speaker, this budget also reflects $60,000 to the community addictions treatment fund, toward the Tatlmain Lake treatment centre. The Yukon Party, as far as their actions against the problems that we're having in the Yukon with regard to alcohol and so on, was building liquor stores, and the Liberals supported them. They weren't building schools; they were building liquor stores.
Another thing I know that's very appreciated by the people in Mayo and Pelly and Carmacks, thanks to the Minister of Health and Social Services, is a new resident doctor for Mayo. Mr. Speaker, Mayo hasn't had a doctor for over eight years. It has been something that they have talked about for a long time, and we're responding to their needs.
Members know that there is $1.4 million to buy and operate a CAT scan for the Whitehorse General Hospital. This seemed to be very popular in the Yukon. I think it's much needed if you compare us to, say, the Northwest Territories. We can do a lot more in the Yukon Territory than our neighbours in Canada, in the north.
Mr. Speaker, we have a further $150,000 for healthy families initiatives to help children at risk, such as those with fetal alcohol syndrome. I know the Liberal Party talked a lot about this in our last sitting, but they flip-flopped and changed. All of a sudden in this sitting they're talking about how businesses should operate and have more people in the establishments drinking, because the businesses would not survive without a licence. So, they flip-flop back and forth and I think Yukoners really see that. Whenever there is an opportunity, they jump at it. I think they're taking lessons from their Liberal cousins in Ottawa. Whatever is popular at the time, and maybe change their mind later after they get elected.
There is ongoing commitment again for $300,000 for the community addictions treatment fund, continued support for a diabetes program and a children's drug and optical program, expanded home care services and expanded dental and optical benefits for seniors. And I know the Liberals are going to vote against that.
Mr. Speaker, we have roads and infrastructure chipseal on some portions of the Campbell Highway north of Carmacks. There are also monies going to improving the safety of a couple of corners on the Campbell Highway between Faro and Ross River.
The community, I know, is very appreciative of that, wanting to have increased tourist travel on that highway. We've also had work on the Pelly Farm road - the rural roads program, Mr. Speaker - $50,000 went into the Duncan Creek road in Mayo, and I know a lot of people are talking about that.
And this, again, might not be important to the members opposite, but there are a lot of people who like to go to scenic places, and a lot of times this is up on mountain tops. One of the most scenic places around is up near Keno, and $10,000 went into the Keno Signpost Road; $50,000 on the Silver Trail road, and $30,000 on the rural roads programs, on the Frenchman-Tatchun Lake road near Carmacks.
Now, this budget, again, has $1 million for rural roads, and this commitment will continue over the next three years. I'm sure communities will appreciate even the smaller dollars to do improvements to roads.
There's $25 million again this season to the Shakwak Highway project. Our government was again successful in negotiating an agreement with the Americans, where the Yukon Party failed to do that and left us in a jam, and we had to go back and make things right, and try to get improvements to a highway that are much needed - $25 million, Mr. Speaker; $25 million, and the Yukon Party couldn't even go out and try to secure these dollars for improvements to the Yukon Territory.
There's $2.9 million this year toward the Connect Yukon project. Mr. Speaker, I know that this is very much talked about, and communities are really supportive of this initiative that this government has brought forward. Some communities, like the community of Carmacks, had taken steps years ago to anticipate something like this happening. The community campus in Carmacks, for example, is ready for this. As a matter of fact, if this didn't happen, they would have gone ahead and tried to get things like classes taught in the community that are taught, say, in Whitehorse or the States.
But now, having this improvement to our infrastructure is going to make it a lot easier for, perhaps, them to access in the school in Carmacks and in every other community in the Yukon Territory - members know right now that if they get on the phone and phone Pelly Crossing, you would hear static on the telephone. They see this as a major improvement to the community. The Liberals are laughing at that.
I have mentioned the two-year commitment - the $2-million commitment, with $1 million this year for the recreation centre in Carmacks. I have seen the design that they have done, and it looks very good. There is also, in this budget, $100,000 for road upgrades in the Mayo area. We have funds for the Silver Trail Tourism Association from the tourism marketing fund - $16,900. I know the members opposite like this, and they have said so, and so do we in the Yukon Territory and in Mayo-Tatchun - $250,000 more a year for tourism marketing, including $50,000 set aside for increased marketing in the Campbell region. There is $750,000 in the tourism marketing fund to help Yukoners market their tourism products outside the territory. More and more communities are becoming more interested in tourism, with the big change in the economy in the Yukon.
I see that in mining, people are looking at diversifying and getting more and more into things like tourism, and, Mr. Speaker, there is going to be a total investment of $6 million in tourism marketing over the coming year - $50,000 for Tourism Yukon to look at the business potential for attracting students to Yukon to study English as a second language.
Mr. Speaker, this budget has $70,000 more per year for sports and recreation grants available through the Yukon Recreation Advisory Council, and an across-the-board cut, of course, in personal income tax paid by all Yukoners. Members opposite may think that this is not enough. The Yukon Party is saying the same thing, but what did they do? They increased taxes, and they cut wages. We're changing that.
We've also got $200,000 ongoing for the first increase in social assistance since 1991, $30,000 more per year for food for learning for school nutrition programs, continued funding for kids recreation programs, $60,000 continued funding for low-income family tax credit and Yukon child benefit, and I know the Liberals are going to vote against that - shameful - and an ongoing $125,000 in the annual contribution to the legal aid program to expand service to include civil matters such as custody and maintenance, and $350,000 to youth strategy initiatives. This budget also includes $2.5 million in student grants and scholarships, and $70,000 a year in tuition support for people receiving social assistance.
Mr. Speaker, here's one that has been of interest to the people of Mayo for many, many years: $5.5 million to begin construction of the new Mayo school. What did the Liberals do in their last election campaign? What did they say for new schools? There's one in there: the Grey Mountain Primary School. They didn't think of communities outside of Whitehorse. What would they have done to the community of Old Crow to replace the school? Put all the students in tents? What would they have done to people in Ross River? Well, there's no commitments there to build schools? What they wanted to do was build a bridge for $20 million. What would they have said to the people in Mayo? "You have to wait another 10 years, and your school is good for 10 more years." We made a commitment to build schools, and we stuck to that commitment. I know the members opposite may not like it, but our constituents do, and the people in the Yukon do.
We need good infrastructure. We're working on good telephone lines and improvements to access to the Internet, schools. It's what people want when they come and want to live in the Yukon - good schools, good infrastructure, good highways. And monies have all gone toward that.
There's $1.5 million in training trust funds to help Yukon workers gain skills they need to have when new employment opportunities arise. Mr. Speaker, as was mentioned by the Government Leader in his introduction to the budget, $200,000 is going to training to support Minto Explorations when its copper mine near Carmacks and Pelly goes ahead. We've done this in the past with the sawmill in Watson Lake, and it was very successful. This is the type of thing - training, education - that members opposite are going to vote against. Liberals will vote against that.
It is shameful. We have a new microloan program and a Yukon mineral exploration tax credit. It is the highest in the country and will continue until March 31, 2001. There is a small-business investment tax credit, which will continue. There is an ongoing commitment of $750,000 for trade and investment to help Yukon entrepreneurs develop and market their products for export. I know that the members opposite are going to try to criticize and put down the industries that are trying to get out there and do something different for the economy, whether it's building houses in Chile or exporting homes to Alaska, but people out there are trying to do new things.
There is a $100,000 investment to do a technical analysis of a proposed Alaska Highway pipeline. There's lots of talk about it brought forward in this House. Mr. Speaker, we all know that, even though this could be far off down the road, it is a big impact to the Yukon Territory. We need to start doing something here, and we are showing that by putting $100,000 toward this. We know that the impact to the Yukon from this pipeline could be very big and, even though the dollars are not flowing this way yet, we need to be doing something. It will double the population of the Yukon Territory, in my mind, and bring approximately $6 billion worth of work on this pipeline.
Speaker:Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, we have also supported the Trappers Association with $40,000. I know just from talking to the Government Leader in his tours, and just by saying that you might want something, you just might get it. Even if it's small, such as $20,000 for the Fish and Game Association, to help them.
Mr. Speaker, we have $260,000 for the parks system planning, $260,000 for resource assessment, which is necessary for the strategy and implementation.
This might hurt the members opposite, but it's furthering our commitment to YPAS, and it's going to be here for a good long time. And there is another $100,000 to recycling organizations to help implement a territory-wide recycling program. And there is a further $75,000 to a Climate Xchange program to further study the impacts of global warming in a northern environment.
Mr. Speaker, I think this is a very good budget, and I will definitely be supporting this budget. It helps the communities, and I thank you for the time for me to respond.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I am pleased to rise and speak in support of the budget this afternoon. When our government came into office four years ago, we made the commitment to involve people in the decisions that would affect them. A fundamental demonstration of that commitment has been the Government Leader's tour of all Yukon communities for a pre-budget consultation. The Government Leader has travelled around the Yukon. He has been in my community. He has been in the ridings of every member of this Legislative Assembly to listen to what people have to say. The budgets that we bring forward in this Legislature represent the needs of the Yukon public.
Our government has a balanced agenda that respects who we are and what we care about. This is a budget for people. This is a budget with strong investments in health, in education and in social programs. This budget recognizes the need to develop a stronger and a more diverse economy. The world is changing. Ten years ago, there was no software industry.
Today, the growth of a knowledge-based economy demands investment in technology. The Connect Yukon project represents an investment of millions of dollars to make fast and reliable Internet access a reality in rural Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, in 1996, when I was running for office and campaigning in Mount Lorne, I made the commitment that I would work to improve telephone service in Mount Lorne. There are parts of my riding that do not have phone service today. Marsh Lake is one of those. As a result of the Connect Yukon project, phone service will be extended, and people in Marsh Lake will be able to make telephone calls.
Connect Yukon investments in technology and telecommunications will provide an information infrastructure for community, social and economic development. In the very near future, we will see improvements within the subdivisions of Whitehorse on the Alaska Highway south in the Wolf Creek, Mary Lake and Pineridge areas.
Telephone and Internet service will be improved throughout the Yukon.
In 2000-01, we have put $300,000 for the education component of the Connect Yukon technology project. Connect Yukon will not just put the capacity for Internet service into the communities; it will provide Internet connections into every school, every public library and each college campus throughout the Yukon.
Right now, successful distributed learning projects are being offered in many communities. We can expand the course offerings in rural Yukon through this investment. There is curriculum available in many subject areas, at both the public school and the post-secondary level, that is of extreme interest to people in our communities.
I'm very proud of the work of the Government Services minister on the Connect Yukon project, and very pleased that we can look forward to seeing this in our communities.
The 2000-01 budget also helps to create jobs. Building construction and highway projects are a major part of our $58 million capital budget. This building season, we will break ground for a new continuing care facility in Whitehorse. This facility will have 79 beds for seniors and people with disabilities who need specialized care. This will mean construction jobs for the present but, more important, it will mean that we're expanding the health care services that we're able to provide for residents of the Yukon.
We've budgeted $5.5 million to begin construction of a new community school in Mayo, and $2.2 million to complete construction of a new community school in Ross River. This government has worked with school councils to respond to Yukon priorities for capital expenditure for education needs in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, when we came into office, we resolved to restore the partnership in education. We resolved to work cooperatively with school councils. We've provided funding for school councils to come together and to meet twice a year so that they can build relationships with one another, and so that they can help by providing us with advice on how to respond to the needs in the communities.
Some years ago, when we first went to the school councils to seek their input on capital projects, the Liberal leader decried that and said that it would just create a bidding war and division among the communities. That's not what happened. Our trust in people and our faith in the ability of school council members to recognize needs in other areas proved to be valid.
We have completed the new school in Old Crow, and I know that the residents of your riding are making good use of the new Chief Zzeh Gittlit School as a community centre and as a school. The rural school facilities study laid out the needs territory-wide. We have to consider the needs throughout the Yukon, not simply in the Whitehorse area.
The budget contains $25 million for the Shakwak highway project. This will continue to support our tourism industry, which is growing, and will provide jobs in a traditional sector. The $1 million in the rural roads upgrading program benefits residents throughout rural Yukon. The Minister of Community and Transportation Services and his department receive dozens of requests, and they balance the needs and priorities of people living in all ridings who want their roads improved. This budget also includes $101,000 to improve approaches to the M'Clintock River bridge on the Alaska Highway near Marsh Lake. There is $295,000 for intersection improvements along the Alaska Highway. There is $55,000 allotted in the Community and Transportation Services budget for the replacement of the Wheaton River bridge, which was washed out last spring.
The tourism sector has represented a strong area of economic growth in recent years. Our government is developing a new tourism strategy to continue this growth. I'm very pleased that we're moving beyond anniversaries to celebrate all of the potential benefits of the tourism sector. We brought forward a new Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act to support a growing industry that respects the need to protect wilderness so that present and future generations can enjoy what Yukon has to offer. Tourists and operators alike want to know that the wilderness tourism industry is operating under guidelines that protect the environment and ensure that when they're enjoying river travel or winter travel, the land will be there for future generations. There is a total investment of more than $6 million in tourism marketing over the coming years, which will attract visitors from all over the world.
I'm pleased to see the establishment of a student trade ambassador program through which post-secondary students would get experience here and overseas helping Yukon companies identify international opportunities. There is $50,000 for Tourism Yukon to attract overseas students to come here and combine English language studies with adventure tourism throughout the territory. Yukon College is working with Tourism Yukon on this new venture.
We have also budgeted $100,000 to support Yukon College's desire to expand international programs, and I'll speak more about that later.
The opposition is slow to recognize the changing economy, to live in the 21st century. Listening to the Yukon Party leader, I'm sometimes wondering if they're thinking in the 19th century, and they certainly don't acknowledge that society and the economy is changing.
The opposition charges that we do not support mining. What a load of nonsense. Mining will remain part of the Yukon economy. This budget confirms our ongoing support for the Yukon geoscience program and the Yukon mineral incentive program. We are developing and implementing the Yukon mineral strategy in cooperation with industry. Training assistance has been provided for resource-based activities. The Yukon Mining and Exploration Training Trust Fund Board has developed a three-year training action plan. This budget has $1.5 million for training trust funds, which will include support for training funds for Minto Explorations when its copper mining project near Carmacks goes ahead.
The training trust funds recognize the need to train in new and traditional economic sectors. We are supporting training in forestry, agriculture, construction, tourism, the cultural industries, environmental groups, family care providers, transition home workers, oil and gas, art, culture and business training, and rural Yukon communities. This helps Yukon people improve their skills to participate in the economy.
The Yukon government's investments in training are worth every penny. That's why the Association of Yukon Communities, the Tourism Industry Association, unions, First Nations and other governments support our training trust funds.
I've stood here in this Legislature on many occasions to provide an accounting of how the training trust fund expenditures are set, and what jobs they have supported. It's unfortunate that the opposition does not support this investment. I'm proud of it.
Our support for the Technology Innovation Centre, which is based in the Northern Research Institute, at $275,000 this budget year, shows our ongoing support for knowledge-based economic activity.
One of the cultural industries experiencing growth is film and video production. The film incentive program has attracted production crews, and this budget makes an additional investment to allow the Northern Film and Video Industry Association to purchase a grips and electrics package, so commercial productions can rent the equipment they need to film here. Yukon residents are being trained and employed in this economic sector and, with our support, it will continue to grow. The Yukon features a wealth of cultural talent, as our music festivals, theatre productions, film and arts events demonstrate. Many people enjoyed the Frostbite activities held at Yukon College over this past weekend, and even this week there are continuing concerts and venues so that some of the musical talent that we offer can be enjoyed by Yukon residents.
The Liberal Member for Riverdale South stood in this Legislature in her response to the budget speech, and expressed her confusion that she's not sure who we are. Let me remind her that Yukon New Democrats respect people - all people - and believe that governments have a responsibility to ensure its citizens can lead a decent and a dignified life, regardless of their source or level of income.
In this mandate of our government, we expanded the definition of human rights to include source of income, so that it is illegal to discriminate against a person because they are poor or on social assistance, under the Yukon Human Rights Act.
Mr. Speaker, I thought the opposition would vote in favour of that. Are they reconsidering? Or are they confused about what they voted for, as well as what they vote against?
This budget provides a two-percent increase in social assistance rates. Will the Liberals vote against that? I guess we'll see.
We believe citizens should have the right to participate in decision making. We believe that basic needs of families should be met for food, shelter and safety, for publicly funded health care, access to education, a safe environment, and guaranteed human and civil rights, including the right to equal and fair treatment before the law.
We believe in fair settlement and implementation of First Nation land claims and self-government agreements. We're working respectfully with First Nations governments. We have new intergovernmental accords with Yukon First Nations as one demonstration of our commitment to make these new relationships work.
As social democrats, our government demonstrates its commitment to people in the way we craft our budgets. This budget, like our previous budgets, ensures we have a good system of health care, education and social services. In a new century and in a changing world, we must support a high-quality education system from kindergarten through college.
This budget puts an additional $150,000 to train teachers to deliver the reading recovery program in all communities.
This highly successful early intervention program helps children read well in the primary grades. Reading is a basic skill required as a foundation to life-long learning. If we can help young children to do well so that they can keep their reading skills up throughout their school years, they will do well in life.
We are also investing a further $150,000 to the healthy families initiative. This is another early intervention program that offers home-based family support to parents of newborns. A unique element of the healthy families program is the conscious attention to the parent-child relationship. These kinds of programs have proven beneficial elsewhere. By identifying potential problems early and providing support to families, we are creating an environment where children do well and are better prepared for school. Training has been provided for workers from rural communities. The Child Development Centre and the Head Start program at Kwanlin Dun have also benefited from the training and are sharing their knowledge with others throughout these training programs.
Because we acknowledge the value of education and training, we have introduced several new measures to help reduce poverty. We have the $200,000 to support the first increase in social assistance rates since 1991. We have also provided $70,000 for tuition support to encourage people receiving social assistance benefits to take part in part-time training programs at Yukon College. The Education budget includes a 10-percent increase in the general training allowance, with an annual investment of $150,000. This will benefit close to 450 Yukon students.
Our annual investment in student grants and scholarships is $2.5 million. We have increased funding to Yukon College, which is engaged in some exciting work to promote international studies. They have taken a lead role in developing a virtual university, the new University of the Arctic. Yukon College is a founding member of the interim board of governors of this new virtual university, which encourages circumpolar student and faculty studies in post-secondary education. It represents an enormous potential for social, educational and economic development through education. The Department of Tourism and Yukon College are also developing an English as a second language travel program. The college is partnering with the University of New Brunswick, which has an ESL program and strong market connections. We anticipate seeing ESL students in language-based tourism in the Yukon this year.
Last year, we established the Technology Innovation Centre, which is based in the Northern Research Institute. The current year budget, which provides an additional $275,000, shows our belief in the value of this work at the Technology Innovation Centre. We are complementing this with a new Yukon research and development tax credit to encourage local research and promote ingenuity. This helps create more employment in the education field.
Yukon per capita spending on public education is the highest in Canada. The Yukon Education Act acknowledges the responsibility of the whole community. We share the responsibility for educating our young people. The needs of public education are evolving as society changes. That is why we have invited the public to participate in Conversations in Education.
There has been a keen interest in exchanging views. The people who have heard different thought-provoking guest speakers do not underestimate the power we have to create change. Small-group discussions, known as Educhats, as part of our Conversations in Education, have captured people's imaginations. For example, in Pelly Crossing, school staff, parents and the school council are hosting public meetings to consider FAS and FAE, First Nations curriculum development, learning disabilities and the four-R relationships in the classroom. The benefits of learning another language, improving interaction between home-educated students and the schools, the Montessori method, student progress, and learning through movement are just some of the topics groups of citizens have discussed.
Last night, Laurie Lapierre spoke to a group at the Beringia Centre while he was here to promote heritage fairs in the Yukon. Today, he's visiting a number of Yukon schools. Last year, at Whitehorse Elementary, I saw some wonderful student projects that were created as part of the first heritage fair. I look forward, this May, to seeing even more schools participating in the heritage fair. Next month, Susan Annis from the arts smart program will be here to speak to another important topic, "The Arts are not a Frill."
These Conversations in Education are laying the groundwork for completing a review of the Education Act. School councils, First Nations, the Yukon Teachers Association and the Department of Education are working now on designing an Education Act review process. This is another demonstration of the fact that we have restored a partnership in education. This budget includes $272,000 for the required review of the Education Act, which will begin later this year.
It is critical to involve young people themselves in all of this. At the recent youth conference held at Yukon College, Yukon youth from all communities gathered for workshops, recreation, and a chance to question territorial leaders from the Government of the Yukon, First Nations, and the City of Whitehorse.
Our youth strategy was developed in response to the 1996 youth conference held in Mary Lake - in Mount Lorne. Throughout the four years of our mandate, we have put significant resources into addressing youth needs, as they were identified by young people themselves at that conference. At their recommendations, we've been funding youth conferences, which are becoming an annual event.
Following the last Youth Plan to Take Over the World Conference that we funded, Yukon youth launched a newspaper, Toxic Blend. An active youth organization, Bringing Youth Towards Equality, has been meeting at Wood Street, working in the Entrepreneurship Centre there, and hosting Friday night open microphone events.
This year's Yukon youth conference was coordinated by BYTE; Youth Plan to Take Over the World Conspiracy Tour 2000 was another success.
Youth requested more of a voice in decision making, and we meet regularly with the new Youth Shaping the Future Council to seek their input on government decisions. We have appointed youth to boards. Through newspaper ads, poster campaigns, and a booth at the youth conference, we're encouraging more youth participation.
Youth requested support for entrepreneurial activities. We provided Dana Naye Ventures with $250,000 to support a loan program for young business people.
We've launched numerous new recreation programs in Yukon communities for both winter and summer. These youth recreation and leadership programs provide training and employment for Yukon youth, as well as fun activities - skateboard parks, woodworking, lacrosse, fish camp, arts projects and wilderness camps. These healthy alternatives have also resulted in a decrease in crime statistics.
We are actively participating in the youth centre task force. We have indicated our commitment of $100,000 toward a youth centre as a capital contribution and $30,000 for operations and maintenance. Recently, the Rotary Club indicated that they would match that $30,000 for operations and maintenance for the youth centre. We are putting $350,000 into youth strategy initiatives this year to continue the many popular and effective youth programs.
My belief in social justice has guided our work over the past three and half years to make our communities safer for all members of society. Abuse of women and children is a terrible crime, which must be prevented and condemned. I have brought forward new legislation, such as the Family Violence Prevention Act and the crime prevention services trust fund. We have introduced amendments to maintenance enforcement, family property and support and sexual assault limitation of action to make improvements. We have new space and funding for Crime Prevention Yukon. We have pilot projects on gender equity in Yukon schools. The Circumpolar Women's Conference recently held at Yukon College shared progress that has been made, not just here in the Yukon, but around the circumpolar world on dealing with Yukon's concerns.
We have another conference coming up this spring at Yukon College, with the Association of Canadian Community Colleges, which will also result in a number of delegates enjoying what the Yukon has to offer as a host.
Early in our mandate, we provided a new home for Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre so that they would be able to focus their energies on offering services to women, which is what they do best - not moving from pillar to pillar, or should I say from hall closet to basement suite. In this budget, we have provided an increase of $50,000 for the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre to support their advocacy work on behalf of women in need.
In support of restorative justice, we see individuals and communities taking on responsibilities for themselves and their neighbours, to be safe and healthy. We have put $50,000 for a social justice forum to be held this year. We are also developing an action plan to improve the community justice services and correctional services, and offer reform of correctional programs and enhancing victims' rights and court reform as part of restorative justice. We have provided $125,000 in the Justice budget for increases to legal aid. We want legal aid to be able to offer more services to civil law for women in need who are dealing with maintenance or custody matters.
At the same time, federal contributions for legal aid programs has continued to decline. The Yukon government provides more than 50 percent, despite the cost-shared agreement, as we have done for the past several years. We're conducting an operational review of legal aid.
The Legal Services Society Board, the Department of Justice, the Law Society, Justice Canada and other interested parties will participate in this review. Much of the services provided at present is determined by the Canada/Yukon agreement on legal aid. The review will consider future possibilities to improve legal aid after consideration of finances, the board, our caseload, the staffing and administration.
This budget also sets out a long-term commitment for replacement of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. In keeping with restorative justice, the new facility will support correctional reform and program improvements to help offenders lead productive lives after any period of incarceration.
Yukon people have a strong interest in protecting the environment. Two months ago, we achieved a milestone with the announcement of the final boundaries of the Tombstone Territorial Park and Fishing Branch protected area.
The Tombstone Territorial Park, over 2,000 square kilometres, protects a unique and beautiful region for future generations.
This is the first territorial park to be created in over 10 years. The fishing branch protected area also represents a significant accomplishment. This government is committed to working with other governments, conservation groups and the resource sector to implement the Yukon protected areas strategy, for the benefit of Yukon people. We have demonstrated our commitment to setting aside a representative sample of all 23 of the unique ecoregions in the Yukon.
There is $250,000 in the budget for a park system planning and $100,000 for a territory-wide recycling program. In my own riding at the Mile Nine dump, they have an active recycling program, and are leading the way in improving our solid waste management. At the present time, the portable solar panels, which are part of the green power initiative, are parked at the Mile Nine dump, providing energy for the facility. There is support for the continued operations of this facility in the current year budget.
There is an environmental citizen program being supported in this budget, as well. The funds in the Education budget will increase environmental awareness in our schools.
This is sponsored by the Environmental Education Association of the Yukon. I am very pleased. It is so important to involve young people, not just to provide programs that are for the adult population.
Mr. Speaker, I want to mention some of the highlights in Mount Lorne, not just in this budget but the work in past budgets. I have already spoken about Connect Yukon and the importance of improving the telephone service and providing Internet access, not just in every Yukon rural community but in parts of my riding that do not presently have phone service.
The fire smart program has provided funding for Marsh Lake, for Pineridge and for the Hamlet of Mount Lorne. The Lorne Mountain Community Association has received funding through the community development fund for upgrading the rink. They have a very active recreational facility, and I'm pleased to see them with an active group of volunteers and still continuing to improve.
This Saturday is the opening of the new bay at the Marsh Lake fire hall. Activities and local planning and local governance have been underway in the Golden Horn and Marsh Lake areas.
The Yukon is a very special place. We live in a region where we can look forward to an exciting future. Our government has been listening to people and respecting their views. We have put forward budgets that act on the views of the people, and I'm very proud to commend it to the House.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I move that debate be adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader that debate be now adjourned.
Motion to adjourn debate on second reading of Bill No. 99 agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:30 p.m.